Le Rossignole (Paris Nocturne II) by Brenda Antrim, (c) 1996. A Star Trek : Voyager story, continuing the character exploration of Tom Paris. Paramount owns the characters, Cole Porter owns the songs, Pierre de Ronsard and Paul Verlaine own the poetry, Wendi Arant owns the translations. No infringement on copyright intended. Rated PG13 for language and adult themes.

<rossignole - nightingale>

Whatever he had been expecting, it had not been what he saw, or what he felt. At this point, he wasn't sure of either, so he tried not to think about it.

<<Rossignol, mon mignon, qui dans cette saulaye>>

{Nightingale, my little one, in this willow tree}

He'd never chosen the safe route, and he often set himself up to fail. Perhaps he knew, deep in his subconscious where he didn't have to examine it too closely, that it was the only way he could justify feeling like such a failure to himself, give truth to his father's words. Imagine them, again, here, years from his accusatory eyes, the weight of disappointment in his voice, over and over and over ... you're no son of mine. I came to you for forgiveness, Dad. I came to you for acceptance. Toleration, even if I couldn't find love. And got what I always got.


<<Toutesfois, Rossignol, nous differons d'un point. C'est que tu es aime, et je ne le suis point...>>

{Always, Nightingale, we differ from a point. It is that you are loved, and I am not at all...}

The ship rocked under the Vidian ship's fire, and his hands dove over the controls, expertly whipping Voyager over and around the smaller but still deadly enemy ship. Without any effort, his hands slipped into the cadence of the song filling the back of his mind, and his movements took on an effortless choreography in perfect timing to the rhythm in his head. It was a knack he'd always had, and one he was counting on to keep himself and his crewmates out of another hell hole prison. When others had asked how he could do it, how he could calculate maneuvers so quickly when it was well known he wasn't particularly brilliant with physics or quantum mechanics or any of the things that were supposed to go into making the Perfect Star Fleet Pilot, he'd just smile. They'd think he was trying to be cocky and mysterious, but in truth they wouldn't understand. Not unless they heard the music too, not unless they had ever felt what it was like to merge with a ship, feel her responses almost before she made them, work with her, feel her come alive under his hands and do everything he asked, coaxed from her like notes from a keyboard. Like the notes running through his mind.

Chakotay and Tuvok, working in tandem with an effortlessness that belied their personal animosity, lay down a combined weapons shower that finally cut through the last of the Vidians defenses. The Captain was almost too tired to react when the crew gave a small victory cheer. One sweeping look around the bridge restored order. Face safely to the front, he allowed himself a self-satisfied smirk, but it faded into something softer, something dreamier, as he realized that the timbre to the notes he heard had changed. He felt the phantom wings stir his hair, could almost feel the tiny beak touch his cheek affectionately, then the sweet trilling mellowed back into the previous sound, and he wished his spirit guide good luck, wherever she was going. In the heat of the battle, she'd been at his side, and he hadn't truly noticed her until it was over. He smiled again, sweetly this time, and shook his head. He wanted to see her again, talk to her. But not here. Not now. And not until he was sure she wasn't some sort of delusion.

<<Vas seul de branche en branche a ton gre voletant,

Degoisant a l'envy de moi, qui vois chantant

Celle, qui faut tousjours due dans la bouche j'aie>>

{Soar solitary from branch to branch, at your pleasure, fluttering,

Trumpeting to my envy, watching you sing

What must always be in my mouth}

"Damage report, Mr. Paris? Is there something you're not telling me?"

The faintly sarcastic edge to Captain Janeway's voice brought the pilot out of his reverie, and he heard a choked sound from behind him. Harry hadn't quite managed to stifle that one. That was okay, he'd get him for it later. He straightened in his seat and relayed the good news from the conn.

"No damages, Captain. Navigational controls are stable, all systems operating at full capacity."

"The weapons systems bore the brunt of the attack, Captain."

Tuvok's dry, precise voice joined in the conversation, and Tom monitored the rest of the report with only half of his attention. Other than keeping an eye out for more harvesting Vidians, not much had been going on lately. He hated to say it, but in a way, the battles were a godsend. They kept him from thinking too much, and tired him out so he could usually sleep. He glanced up to find Chakotay watching his solemnly, and winced before he could catch himself. He really did have to talk to the commander. He couldn't avoid it much longer. Their counseling sessions were keeping him in the pilot's chair ... but he still couldn't quite bring himself to talk about all of it, the nightmares in his past that were knocking his present out of kilter. He wasn't even all that sure he had remembered all of it. He wasn't sure he wanted to.

Too any people were privy to too many secrets. He had never been good at trusting. If you trusted someone, you gave them a little piece of yourself, and he'd been hurt too many times to easily allow others in. His thoughts skittered around the bridge, to Harry, his best friend, who didn't know him at all, not really. To the Captain, who knew much more than he wanted her to know, but he was willing to accept that, because she had accepted him. Chakotay, an unexpected source of comfort, and one that still made him uneasy, no matter his motives. And Tuvok, who had actually seen his thoughts, shared his mind, and whom he couldn't read at all. An image of B'Elanna Torres flickered before his mind's eye, but he steadfastly refused to think of her. Ever since that bar fight, when she had taken him back to his quarters and patched him up, they had maintained a cautious distance. He didn't want to think of her reaction to his music ... or the way she had held him when he freaked out and lost control of his emotions. Too many people. Too close.

The rest of the shift was almost routine, taken up with damage reports and patching systems up and trying to get themselves back on course. When it finally ended, he gave the conn over to his relief with a concise briefing, and headed quickly for the lift. Before the doors shut, Chakotay slipped between them. Great. Just what he needed.

They stood in silence for a few moments, each waiting for the other to speak. Tom resolutely kept his eyes forward, shifting slightly, uncomfortable in the silence. He took it as long as he could, then glanced at Chakotay. The big Maquis was just waiting, watching him. Tom sighed, and one side of his mouth quirked upward with a twitch that might have passed for a smile.

"So." Not much of a conversational gambit, but all he could think of to say.

"Free tonight?" That was Chakotay. Straight to the point.

"Yes." He might as well get it over with. "2100 okay?"

Chakotay nodded. The silence descended in the turbolift again, until the doors swished open and Tom stepped out.

"Don't look like you're heading for the executioner, Paris. It's not that bad."

He kept walking, a slight dip of his head the only indication he had heard. The commander should speak for himself, he grumbled internally. Bad didn't even begin to cover it.


"I haven't been told the results from your talk with the Captain, Paris. She left that up to you. You can talk to me, or not, that's your choice." Chakotay's soft, impassive voice was calming almost in spite of what he was saying. Tom nodded, and waited for the commander to continue. For a pinch-hitter ship's counselor, Chakotay wasn't half bad. He smiled at the mix of images, then tuned back into the other man's words. "But you do need to talk about your experiences with someone. Your emotional well being is tied directly to your physical performance, and we need you healthy if you're going to be able to help us all get home."

Paris took a deep breath, staring at the small piece of animal skin with the paraphernalia of Chakotay's faith spread out upon it. No way in hell was he going to talk about this with Chakotay, of all people. "I think I need to see my spirit guide again. Nothing personal, but I'd like to talk it over with her before I do anything else." Yeah. Right. He needed to talk to an imaginary bird before he could confess all to Chakotay. Why was he here? Sure, he'd felt better last time after this weird walk in the spirit world, but maybe it was some sort of self induced hypnosis brought on by too many nightmares and not enough sleep? Before his self doubts could drive him completely from the room, Chakotay guided his hand to the small black device. Tom took another deep breath, and with a mental shrug, let his mind wander.

Back in the rainforest. God, it was beautiful. He could hear birdsong, but he saw no animals, either in the branches filtering the gentle sunlight overhead or the dense mossy undergrowth beneath his feet. He made his way to a stump that looked familiar, hearing Chakotay's voice droning in the back of his mind, something about being safe. He heard her before he saw her, drifting lightly down, riding the faint air current to circle his head. Her previous playfulness was missing, and she seemed to sense his somber mood. She chirped, an interrogatory sound, then landed lightly on his shoulder. Once more, he felt the soft head rub against his cheek, felt the hard edge of her beak as she groomed the short hair behind his ear. A smile forced its way to his face, and he finally began to relax.

<<Nous soupirons tous deux, ta douce vois s'essaie

De flechir celle-la, qui te va tourmentant

Et moi, je suis aussi cette-la regrettant

Qui m'a fait dans le couer une se aigre plaie.>>

{We sigh together, your sweet path tries

To sway that which is distressing you

And me, I am regretting that as well

Which makes in my heart a bitter pain}

He glanced to the side, and saw bright dark eyes peering at him from a tiny, sweet face. His nightingale. Or was he hers? He didn't know for certain. Without conscious volition, his mind began to replay the nightmares of the past several nights. Different than those he had had before, those dreams of helplessness and pain. These dreams horrified him, partly because he didn't see clearly what had happened in them, and partly because he knew that they were true. What he had done was hidden in these dreams. And he was afraid to face it. To deal with the consequences of his actions. He had never been very good at that.

A soft, insistent trill began to weave through the air, and he let himself fall into the web of melody. As he rested there, safe in her care, the shadows gradually solidified. She led him through a familiar place, cold, frightening, the thin strand of light that was her song guiding him through the darkness. A building, an office. Bright sunlight outside the window, but not bright enough to cover the darkness inside. A man, with power over him, one who had hurt him. One who would hurt him again, and allow others to hurt him as well. The powerlessness, stealing over him, paralyzing him, the sure knowledge that it was going to happen another time, and more times after that. Until he was broken. Until he was dead, inside if not in actuality. He was a commodity here, for others, not even for himself. He had to stop it. Could not, would not, allow them, allow him, had to end it before it all began again noyoucan'tyoumustn'tyouWILLNOT

<<quand la jongle s'obscurcit>>

{when the jungle shadows fall}

<<la tu te degages>>

{you free yourself}

The melody was drowned out by his screams, rage and fear and hatred intermingled. The fragile cradle of her song was crushed.


Chakotay reached out for the shaking figure of the pilot, but Paris moved too fast for him. Before he could stop the swinging arm, Paris had thrown the device as hard as he could against the far wall. The sudden, shocking sound of metal components shattering wrenched Paris from his trance, and he stared in horror at the pieces of delicate machinery that were all that remained of Chakotay's meditation enhancer.

"Oh, shit, I'm sorry." He forced himself to look at Chakotay, who was staring at him with the most expression he'd ever seen on the normally impassive face. Chakotay's mouth was slightly open, his eyes wide. He swallowed, and visibly gathered his composure. Tom waited, half afraid of the Indian's reaction. After all, he'd just flipped out and crushed Chakotay's high tech peyote button. God only knew what he'd do. He stared at him and wondered if he should run for it while he had the chance. Finally, Chakotay cleared his throat and addressed the younger man.

"You want to tell me what happened?" His control was back, only a slight tremor in his voice betraying his shock.

"Can you replicate another one?" Tom started toward the small pile of metal fragments, kneeling to gather them up.

"What *happened*, Paris?"

Tom ignored the implied command and concentrated on gathering up the debris. Chakotay reconsidered his approach.

"It really seems to have gotten to you, Tom." Coaxing now, as if the pilot was a wild animal who's confidence he was trying to win. "Perhaps if you could tell me what it was you discovered, or remembered-"

"Nothing!" Tom's hand clenched around the mess in his hand, and he flinched and cursed softly under his breath when a ragged edge bit into his palm. "Damnit. That's sharp." He looked up at Chakotay, and the older man sighed in frustration when he saw the defenses firmly back in place behind those deceptively clear blue eyes. "D'you think it can be salvaged?"

"Leave it, Paris. I can replicate another one." He sounded tired. This hadn't worked out the way he'd hoped, but then he really hadn't expected much, the way Paris had been avoiding him all week. Obviously, whatever it was, he didn't want to share it, at least not with him.

"Use my replicator rations," Tom offered, insisting when Chakotay started to shake his head. "I broke the damned thing, I'll pay for replacing it!"

Chakotay stared at him for a long moment, then set his jaw and nodded. "This is getting us nowhere," he admitted. "Why don't you go ahead and get some rest. I'll discuss with the Doctor what he recommends we try next."

Paris nodded. Whatever it took to stay in the pilot's seat ... and right now, to get out of Chakotay's quarters. The images he had seen in the spirit plane were too vivid, and he needed time to process them. Without another word, he dropped the mangled metal onto the end table and walked from the room. Chakotay watched him leave, eyes narrowed in thought. Time to talk to the Captain.


The commander's report of his aborted counseling session with Lieutenant Paris gnawed at Captain Janeway's mind. She found herself staring at the back of Paris' burnished head, wondering what was going on in there, almost as if the weight of her desire to help could psychically burrow into his brain and force him to open up to her. It wasn't working. With a silent sigh, she nodded to Chakotay.

"You have the bridge, Commander. I'll be in my ready room."

"Yes, Captain." He'd seen her concerned looks. He knew what she was heading off to do.

Once in the privacy of her 'office', Janeway quickly opened a channel to sickbay. The Doctor gave the screen a peculiarly intense stare, and she realized she had interrupted one of his tests. Again. Too bad. She felt some measure of sympathy for the hologram, but her concern over her pilot was stronger.

"Have you reviewed Commander Chakotay's report on his most recent counseling session with Mr. Paris, Doctor?"

"Yes, Captain, I have," he returned, looking vaguely insulted that she would even ask.

"Your recommendations?"

"I have done everything medically feasible to assist Mr. Paris in the healing process, Captain. All of the damage caused when the false memories were implanted into Mr. Paris' brain has been healed, the neural pathways are strong and whole. He is in possibly the best health he has enjoyed in years." He paused at her look of patent disbelief, and sniffed. "Aside from the continuing problem with the nightmares and insomnia associated with same, of course."

"What can we do about that, Doctor?" She tented her fingers in front of her chin and stared at him. "Surely there is something that can help him."

"Other than mild sedatives, no. The only thing that can help Mr. Paris at this point is if and when Mr. Paris decides to confront the root causes of his emotional dysfunction and deal with them. Until that time, medical science has nothing further than can be of any assistance." His firm tone brooked no argument, and she sighed deeply.

"In other words, it's up to Mr. Paris." Her tone was pensive.

"Precisely. Now, Captain, if that is all?" He was abrupt, and somewhat irascible. Typical, she thought. She nodded and cut the connection. Perhaps it was up to Paris, but he could still use a little help from his friends. Her eyes narrowed in thought as she tried to find the best way to approach him.


Another long day, filled with trying to make one part stretch to do the job of three. There were times when she was thankful that she had so much experience in the Maquis. If nothing else, she had learned to jury-rig with the best, and the knowledge was coming in handy.

B'Elanna gave the now-humming tube an affectionate pat, then looked around Engineering. Shift change had come and gone long ago, while she was involved in replacing the harmonics modulator. Harry would have long since retired to his quarters, and she had a feeling that Chakotay would be busy ... with the Captain, if she guessed right. She absently swiped the last of the hydraulic fluid from her hands and waved good-night to the night OIC. She supposed she could look up Marika, or L'renm, or one of her handful of friends, and wind down from a stressful day. She mentally reviewed her options as her steps found their way automatically to the holosuites. Stopping outside the doors, she took a deep breath.

She wasn't going anywhere except Sandrine's. She and Paris had been tiptoeing around one another like targs at a feeding pit, and she was tired of it. Patience had never been her strong suit.

"Computer, locate Lieutenant Paris."

"Lieutenant Paris is in Holosuite Two." That answered that question. He was here. Now, if she could just get him to talk to her. Unconsciously, she squared her shoulders and stepped through the door.

He hadn't put on the privacy lock, and glancing at her chronometer she could see why. 0127. Most people were sound asleep by now. She paused outside the door to the bar, breathing in the foggy pseudo-Marseilles air, and listened. The clear notes drifted through the still air, and her lips curved in anticipation. He was singing. Maybe, if she was very, very quiet, he wouldn't notice she was there until after he finished the song. Last time she'd surprised him in the middle of singing he'd nearly broken the piano shutting the keyboard up. She wanted to listen to him, and this might be her only chance. She slipped as silently as a shadow into the dim bar, staying along the walls, out of the light. She didn't understand why he was so secretive about his music. He was good. Even with her limited knowledge of the art she could tell that he had talent. He just didn't seem to want anyone else to know about it. She found a small table near the side of the bar, screened from the stage by the holopatrons swaying on the minuscule dance floor. Fixing her eyes on the shining head bent over the gleaming old piano, she waved away the waitress and concentrated on the music. She didn't understand a word he was saying, but she didn't need to. The longing in his voice and the trembling of the notes his skilled hands coaxed from the worn keys were all she needed to understand.

Nuit et jour tu es mon choix

Rien que toi sous la lune d'or ou sous le ciel bleu

Eloignee ou pres de moi

Peu importe 'darling' ou tu es,

Je songe a toi, nuit a jour, jour et nuit

His fingers rippled over the keys, and she could have sworn the instrument was crying. A complicated series of notes, like an audible waterfall, surrounded her, and his voice blended in naturally. When the cool perfume of the bar owner, Sandrine, settled beside her, she didn't spare her a glance, too caught up in the magic of the music. The whispered translation wove itself perfectly into the melody.

<night and day, you are the one,

Only you beneath the moon and under the sun.

Whether near to me or far

It's no matter, darling, where you are

I think of you night and day, day and night>

B'Elanna's tense muscles began to relax under the soothing influence of the music. Her face softened into a smile, and she dropped her chin to rest it in one hand, completely captivated. This brought back memories, good memories, of the one thing she and her mother had been able to share and enjoy together.

Pourquoi, dismoi,

Fautil qu'un desir brulant me poursuive partout?

Dans le bruit de la ville,

Dans le silence de ma chambre

Je songe a toi, nuit et jour,

nuit et jour

<Why is it so

That this longing for you follows wherever I go?

In the roaring traffic's boom

In the silence of my lonely room

I think of you, night and day, night and day>

She found herself drawn forward, the sad words pulling at something inside herself that she didn't recognize. The movement caught his eye, pulling him away from the pool of concentration he was maintaining, and she froze. He saw her face clearly through the dancers, and easily read her expression, letting his hands wander through variations on harmony as he made up his mind. She knew, already, and he didn't know if he could explain why he felt so hesitant about sharing this part of himself. For a moment, he felt the silky caress of a small round head along his jaw, and he gave in. Holding her eyes with his, he slid gracefully back into the melody. He could swear he heard a trilling voice weaving in counterpoint through the music.

Les jours se succedent plus troublants les uns que les autres.

Mais ce tourment cessera,

Quand je pourrai te tenir dans mes bras, cherie

jour et nuit, nuit et jour, Nuit et jour.

This time she didn't need Sandrine's whispered translation, as Paris muted the underlying piano and allowed his voice to carry the final verse, in Standard, so she would understand him.

There's such a hungry yearning, burning inside of me.

And it's torment won't be through

'Til you let me spend my life making love to you

day and night, night and day, Night and day

He trailed his right hand almost languidly across the upper keys, sending a cascade of tinkling notes over the dancers, then finished with a diminishing chord with his left hand. The final reverberations seemed to fade for a very long time, allowing the listeners to gradually come out from the spell they had been under. A softly spoken command from Paris, and a previously unseen jazz quartet began to play quietly in the corner. B'Elanna straightened in her seat as Tom made his way across the floor to her table. Before he arrived, Sandrine rose and laid one hand lightly on B'Elanna's shoulder.

"I think perhaps you will do well for my Thomas." B'Elanna gave the holograph a brief, confused look, and Sandrine smiled softly. "You are much alike." Before B'Elanna could respond, the blonde woman swayed past the table, pausing only briefly to caress Tom's cheek with the palm of her hand. Paris grinned at her, then sobered as he stopped at the small table.

"This seat taken?" He gestured at the chair Sandrine had just vacated.

"It's your program," she shrugged, feeling a little uncomfortable, but determined to stick it out. He grinned again, and relaxed a little.

"I was surprised to see you here ." A glass of red wine appeared on the table in front of him, and he cocked his head at B'Elanna. She looked up at the hovering waitress.

"I don't suppose you have any blood wine?" The waitress nodded, and B'Elanna pursed her lips. "That'll do." The drink appeared almost before she closed her mouth on the words.

"Benefits of a bar in a holosuite, B'Elanna. Best service around." He lifted his glass in a quick toast, and she did the same. After they had both sipped, she put her mug down and began to fiddle with the handle. He watched her for a moment, drawing one fingertip around and around the rim of his glass.

"I didn't mean to-"

"What did you think of-"

Their voices overlapped, and they stopped speaking simultaneously. With a slice of grin, he waved his hand in invitation.

"Ladies first." She snorted indelicately, and the grin widened.

"I didn't mean to butt in." Her tone was truculent, her expression guarded. He licked his lips and took a deep breath. It was no wonder she felt that way ... the first and only time she'd wandered in while he was playing he'd closed up the piano so fast it was a wonder he hadn't cracked the keyboard.

"You didn't." To his own surprise, he realized he meant it.

"You're really good." At his instinctive head shake, she pressed forward. "No, you are. I don't know a lot about Earth classics, and I don't know French from Andorian, but I ... my mom and I used to watch a lot of musicvids when I was a kid." Her voice softened, and he leaned forward a little to hear her. "It was one of the few things, maybe the only thing, that we could actually do together, without one of us pissing off the other and getting into a screaming match." She glanced up, and saw his intent expression. Suddenly embarrassed, she continued gruffly, "So I know good when I hear it. How come you're so touchy about it?"

He was silent for so long she didn't think he was going to answer. When he did, his voice was as quiet as hers had been.

"My mother was a nightclub singer. She gave up her career when she married my father, because even then there were just some things that the wife of a rising Star Fleet officer did not do." The bitterness underlying the words told her much more than he intended about his relationship with his father. She sipped her wine and kept her eyes fixed on his face. "I never did figure out why she thought he was worth the sacrifice. I don't remember very much about her, she died when I was three. But I heard enough when I was growing up. Couldn't speak French in the house, because she'd been French, and he didn't want to hear that language."

"So of course you became fluent in it," B'Elanna interjected dryly. His eyes gleamed in the semidarkness of the bar.

"D'accord. Learned to play the piano, too. And sing. 'Though I couldn't do that around the house, either. God forbid I should do anything that was not the model of a proper admiral's son." An expression of distaste wrinkled his nose, and for a moment she thought he'd actually spit. "No hanging out in the clubs, no wasting my time on that stupid music when I should be drilling myself on physics and tactics and history and, oh god, can't forget the protocol." She shook her head in sympathy, and he laughed at himself. "So I became a barfly when I was supposed to be in class. Still don't really understand physics, 'specially the temporal kind. Tactics must be in my genes, because I sure as hell didn't learn them at the academy, but I am a damned good pilot. History? Who the hell cares, they're all dead anyway. As for protocol," he lifted his glass to her one more time, "we all know how adept I am at *that*!" He poured the rest of the wine down his throat, and wagged the glass at the bar. When the waitress brought the wine jug over, he caught her wrist. "Just leave it, darlin', and bring over the lady's bottle, too." He stared at B'Elanna, almost challengingly. "So, that's my tale of a misspent youth. What's yours?"

She grinned. "You name it, I beat it up." She surprised a crack of laughter out of him, and he grabbed the newer bottle and filled her mug.

"This I've got to hear."


They talked for over three hours, until the wine was gone and they had to report for duty in just a few more hours. B'Elanna stretched and rolled her head from shoulder to shoulder, loosening the muscles in her neck.

"If I'm not going to sleep anyway, this is the best way to not sleep," she sighed.

"What, yapping 'til all hours of the night in a bar?" he teased, and she grinned at him.

"Might as well. At least it's better than pool!"

He terminated the program, and they walked slowly down the corridor toward her quarters. Their tongues were tired, and they felt more relaxed around one another than they ever had. Stopping in front of her door, she turned to him with a serious expression.

"Thanks for not stopping when you noticed me, Paris."

He swallowed, still not quite able to explain why he had kept singing. Sucking in his lower lip, he lifted one shoulder in a half shrug.

"Glad you liked it," he offered.

"Yes. I did," she stated firmly, hooking one finger into his collar. Before he could quite figure out her intentions, she pulled his face easily down to her level, and captured his mouth in a kiss. Almost as soon as it began, it was over. Wide cerulean eyes locked with deep brown, and she let him go with a satisfied smirk. The door closed behind her before he could gather his scattered wits enough to respond. He stared at the closed door for a long moment, half lifted a hand to press the chime, then absently pressed his fingertips to his lips, instead. He had to think about this.


If it wasn't one mad enemy, it was another, Paris thought, then felt the ship shudder around his body as one of the Kazon phasers cut a little too close to the engines. Like he needed this, coming off of a sleepless night. Damage reports were streaming in from all sides, the shields were beginning to fail, and there were reinforcements coming. For the Kazon, of course. Just once, he groaned to himself, just once I'd like to see *us* with an ally out here.

A sparkling shower of fire from a nearby console distracted him for a moment, but he couldn't worry about it right then. Two Kazon warships were pincering the Voyager and a third was arrowing up under her belly. He didn't have time to call out warning, and Janeway must have read his mind, because she gave Tuvok the order to fire at will at the same moment he abandoned the programmed evasive maneuvers and tossed the ship into a corkscrew pattern, erupting from the hostile web of fire to flip and come back over, giving Tuvok a free range of fire that allowed him to quickly disable the largest of the ships. He shot through the remaining two warships, the inertial dampers straining to keep up as he put her through maneuvers she was never intended to perform. But his Voyager didn't let him down. Coming across belly up, Tuvok raked the remaining warships with sustained phaser fire, and another ship exploded. Paris sent them careening through the remains of the second ship, exploding out from the debris at the perfect angle for Tuvok to fire one compressed burst at the main weapon battery of the sole remaining Kazon ship, and it joined its brothers in oblivion. It was almost as if Tuvok and Paris were sharing their thoughts, they worked so smoothly together.

Clear of the immediate threat, bearing in mind Harry Kim's warnings of more on the way, Janeway ordered a tactical retreat, and B'Elanna pushed her abused engines to their limits, taking them to relative safety. The crew breathed a sigh of relief when it was over. It had been close.

"Inspired flying, Mr. Paris," the Captain complimented him wryly, patting him on the shoulder. "I'm not sure B'Elanna will ever forgive you, however." He shared an exhausted smile with her. When he turned back to the screen, she frowned with concen at his pallor. When they had time ... always when there was time ...

Repairs took most of the day, and Paris was drafted to help out in sickbay. The Kazon had managed to take them by surprise, hiding in an asteroid belt with an unusually dense debris cloud floating around it, using the shifting variations in the electromagnetic field to confuse the Voyager's sensors. As a result, there were more casualties than the Doctor and Kes could handle. As he darted from one patient to another, taking care of basic triage, Paris didn't have a chance to catch his breath. Kes shadowed the doctor, handing him instruments before he had to ask, calming frightened crewmen, and keeping a close eye on Tom. He was patently exhausted, and her empathic antenna were quivering. Something was seriously wrong with her friend.

Six hours and almost seventy injured crewmembers later, Kes and Tom finally finished up with the last of the patients. Those who needed further care were safely in their biobeds, and the rest had been patched up and sent back to their quarters. After ascertaining that Kes was all right, and asking after Paris as an afterthought, the Doctor deactivated his program. Kes stopped Paris on the way out the door.

"Tom?" The concern in her gentle voice caught his attention, even as spaced out with fatigue as he was. "Are you all right?"

He looked at her for a heartbeat. "Uhm, well," he started, then shook his head. "I'm fine, Kes." He tried to smile at her, but it didn't quite work. "Just tired. I'll be okay once I get a little sleep. Been a hel-- a long day." He reached out and patted her hand as it rested on his arm, and she smiled at him. She didn't believe a word of it, but she wouldn't pressure him.

"If you ever need to talk..." she trailed off, allowing him to take the initiative. He smiled with tired gratitude, but didn't take her up on the offer.

"'Night, Kes," he squeezed her hand gently and let her go. Her gaze followed him as he wandered down the corridor toward the lift, worry shadowing the normally sparkling blue eyes. She couldn't help unless he asked, she decided, but he had better ask soon. Before something gave and he got caught up in the emotional backlash.


He hadn't been this exhausted since those first few weeks at the penal colony. Barely finding the energy to strip off his uniform and kick off his boots, Tom fell into bed and rolled over onto his back. If he was very, very lucky he would sleep through the night ... but then, his luck always had sucked, he admitted to himself. Staring at the ceiling, he repeated his nightly mantra in hopes of staving off the nightmares and finally getting some rest. 'I am safe. On the Voyager. I am safe here.' Gradually, the cadence of the words soothed his restless mind, and he slipped into sleep.

It waited until he was in the deepest pattern of sleep before it came upon him, at his most defenseless. Thought the horror was over, was just starting to feel sort of safe again. Then the bastard got promoted. The one who had helped them, who had joined them. The guard who had let them into his room and had cuffed his hands to the bedframe, who had held him down, who was one of them. Now he was more than a guard, he was warden of the whole fucking cell block. And he was currying favor with some of the hard core prisoners, the longtimers who were the real power structure in the penal colony. And Paris was on the list as an offering in that bribe.

It had happened once, to put him in his place, to punish him and teach him where he stood in the pecking order. But this was more than that. This was a planned continuing abuse, and he was a pawn in the middle, a prize for others. The vulnerability from the first time rocked him to the core again, and he knew, then, that he couldn't let it happen.

Star Fleet wouldn't help him, those who were supposed to protect him and hadn't. He could seek out an inmate protector, but he wasn't willing to sell himself to another, and that was the only payment he could give. Besides, why would they want to protect him when they could all share him, with the block commander's blessing? No. It was up to him. He had to stop them. Had to stop *him*. Had to make them afraid, as afraid as he had been. It was the only way he could ever be safe.

He had a friend. An old prisoner, irredeemable murderer, been there for thirty years. He took care of the gardens, a funny task for a killer. But Tom liked him, and he liked Tom. And he would help.

Paris thrashed in the tangled bedcovers, sweat breaking out along his skin as the emotions came back, the fear, anticipation, determination. His fists clenched against the sheet, and his entire body grew rigid with tension.

The scene shifted, and he was there again, in the bright dark room with the man who would hurt him. Playing along, pretending acquiescence. He didn't have to fake the fear. Lying to him, telling him he'd go along, just don't hurt him, don't make him go through that again.

<<quand la jongle s'obscurcit>>

Begging, all the time drawing him up from the desk, over to the open window. Gritting his teeth, allowing the touches, distracting him with his body while his hand slipped below the sill to the small containment box his old friend had left for him. Drawing him nearer, all his attention on what he was holding, bringing his arms up as if to pull the bastard closer. One hand at his neck, tugging at his collar, he could play passion even with the bile rising in his throat. The other hand, index finger flicking the tiny button, the precious cargo dumped so quickly down the gap in the back of his collar. One arm now holding the collar tight to his neck, one arm in an iron grip around his waist, holding the son of a bitch so that the spider could do it's work.

{when the jungle shadows fall}

Seeing the cold light eyes, greedy with lust moments before, widening in shock, the jerk of his body against his own as the bites began, couldn't let him scream, couldn't take the chance that the medics would get there in time, covering his mouth with his own to muffle the screams, gagging but forcing himself. The convulsions began then, anaphylactic shock squeezing the life from his enemy. He drew back, no danger of screams now, dropped the corpse in front of the window, hit the second tiny button on the little box and watched it self destruct.

<<la tu te degages>>

Swallowing the gorge rising in his throat, slipping out the door, glad the bastard had insisted on this meeting being private, had to protect his little schemes, as if anyone would care what happened to a prisoner, especially one like him.

{you free yourself}

Making it to his quarters, biting back the scream trembling in his throat, stumbling to the head and vomiting, waiting for them to come. They knew. Now, he would be safe.


Another secret to stain his soul, one so close to the lie that had been forced on his mind, but this one was true.

One deck above Tom Paris' haunted quarters, another shared his ghosts.

Tuvok's eyes shot open, and he sat upright in bed in one swift, controlled jerk. His breath was coming rapidly, and a fine sheen of perspiration covered his dark skin. He stared into the darkness, his mind sorting through the images he had been unwillingly sharing, trying to make sense of what he had seen. And why he had seen it. Drawing a deep breath, he imposed discipline on his rioting thoughts, sitting perfectly still until his heart and respiration rates were normal. The details of the dream were not completely clear, as if he had seen them through a scrying mirror or in the reflection of slowly moving water. But the emotions were sharp, the acrid taste of Human fear, the stone cold determination, the sick horror.

Something would definitely have to be done about Lieutenant Paris.


Janeway sighed to herself, concern showing in her clear gray eyes. Tom looked, if anything, worse than he had the previous day. True, they could all stand a little break between hostile aggressors, and some R & R would certainly help, but the finely drawn tension in her pilot's shoulders and his drained face worried her. Near the end of the shift, a blissfully uneventful one, she stood.

"Commander, you have the conn. Mr. Paris, my ready room." Her command voice gave no indication of her trepidation. She didn't want to force any sort of confrontation, but something had to be done. With Paris at her heels, she headed into the adjoining room, and went directly to the replicators. He stopped in front of her desk, looking somewhat confused.

"Would you like anything, Mr. Paris? I could certainly use some coffee after this shift." Her smile encouraged him to relax, and he gave her a tentative smile in return.

"Nothing for me, thanks, Captain." As he stood there indecisively, she wrapped her fingers around a steaming mug and lowered herself onto the end of her couch.

"Have a seat, Mr. Paris," she invited, patting the cushion beside her. He stepped forward with some hesitation and gingerly perched on the edge of the seat. She was irresistibly reminded of a feral cat that had lived by her parents' apartment, a wiry, underfed beast with a coat the color of a lion and eyes that held only wariness. She never had been able to get it to come close enough to pat it. Her father had told her it was just as well, that it probably had fleas or a disease of some sort, but she had always been disappointed that it had not learned to trust her. Shaking herself from the memory, she gazed solemnly at the young man beside her.

"You don't look like you've been getting much sleep, Tom."

He dropped his eyes, looking at the strong hands twisting together in his lap. She followed the movement, and he noticed her watching him. Forcing his fingers to stay still, he attempted a nonchalant shrug. "Been a busy couple of days, Captain."

She chewed the corner of her mouth for a moment, then set the cup down, leaning slightly toward him, inviting confidence. "This has been going on for longer than a couple of days, Tom. Are you still having the nightmares?"

He took a deep breath. "No, Captain. Not ... those nightmares." As far as he knew, she was the only one who knew the full truth about the attacks he had suffered at the penal colony. And he wasn't actually lying. His recent nightmares weren't specifically about the ... his mind shied from the word rape.

"Have you talked to the Doctor about getting a sleeping aid?"

"Oh, that's no good, Captain. Just makes it even harder to wake up from the-" He stopped abruptly, realizing what he had just let slip. He must be tired, he groaned to himself.

Of course, she caught it. "So if you're not having the type of nightmares you were plagued with before, then what are you so anxious to wake up from, Tom?" Her tone was gentle, concerned. He stared at her for a long moment, face drawn with the conflicting need to tell her and the need to protect himself. In the end, as it always had, self-preservation won out.

"I'm not really sure, Captain," he lied through his teeth, feeling like he was betraying her trust in him but unable to admit the truth to her. "Just emotions and flashes of memory."

"Would further regressive hypnotherapy sessions help uncover these memories?"

He shuddered involuntarily, and she reached out to lay a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I ... don't think I'm quite ready for that, Captain." His voice shook slightly.

"Well, think about it, Tom. Talk to me, or Chakotay, or one of your friends. Talk to Harry, he cares about you and he has a good head on his shoulders." She squeezed his shoulder briefly and let him go. "This can't go on much longer, Tom."

He smiled lopsidedly at her and nodded acknowledgment. Somehow, he really couldn't see talking this over with the kid. But she was right, he had to do something. He was just damned if he knew what. "Thanks, Captain, I'll work on it."

"We are your friends here, Tom. Let us help." He rose, nodding again, and she watched him until the door closed behind him. Picking up her nearly cold coffee, she swished the liquid thoughtfully. Maybe it hadn't helped much, but at least he knew the door was open.


Tuvok caught up with Commander Chakotay as the big Maquis was sitting down to lunch. Chakotay looked up at him with some surprise. Tuvok typically ate alone, and normally avoided him like the plague, but here he was, standing at the side of the table holding a tray.

"May I join you?" No telling from the typical lack of inflection what the purpose behind this visit might be.

The commander raised a brow, then gestured with one hand. "Be my guest."

Tuvok settled himself with a minimum of fuss across from Chakotay, then contemplated the stringy mass of light yellow mush on his plate, perfectly complimented by the chartreuse boiled root laying beside it. The other man looked at that offering, looked at his own strange concoction of pale brown spongy stuff with light purple specks, and sighed.

"Well, the food isn't a good topic of conversation, so what do you propose we talk about, Tuvok?"

Tuvok managed to stifle his instinctive distaste at the first bite, forcing his throat to swallow, then laid his spoon aside. He really wasn't all that hungry. Looking up to meet Chakotay's curious gaze, he ignored his tray and addressed his reason for forgoing his usual solitary lunch.

"I do not mean to pry, Commander, but I was curious about the progress of your counseling sessions with Mr. Paris."

"What were you wondering about, Tuvok?" This, a little suspiciously. Chakotay's rivalry with and slight distrust of Tuvok had only grown over the course of the last several months.

"It is not necessary to betray any details or confidences, but I would like to know if you feel that any progress is being made in assisting Lieutenant Paris to face the events in his past which have caused him emotional trauma."

"Why?" A little more blunt now, but he had the feeling there was something the Vulcan wasn't telling him.

"He is our most competent pilot. I am concerned that his emotional state may affect his performance. Also, as head of Security, it is my duty to ascertain whether crew members with a past history for emotionally-motivated violence are dealing with those emotions in such a way as to avert future incidents." Serene dark eyes met suspicious ones, and the suspicions gradually softened. That explanation made perfect sense.

Chakotay poked fitfully at his, what, casserole? He shook his head and gave up the attempt to classify his lunch. Glop would have to do. "I think we've hit a stalemate, Tuvok. He has issues he can't comfortably discuss with me, and trying to force him to open up will only drive the pain deeper. At this point, I think he just needs some time." Glancing at the wall chrono, he gathered up his tray and rose to leave. "You'll have to excuse me, break's over. Back to the bridge."

Tuvok nodded acknowledgment, and slowly wound some yellow strings around his fork. Perhaps Lieutenant Paris did need time, but he also needed help. And it appeared as though he would have to be the one to offer it to him.


Captain Janeway was surprised to see Tuvok at her door after dinner that evening. She'd known him a long time, and she could see the concern beneath his calm mien.

"Tuvok! Come in. Is something wrong?" She waved him to a chair, pouring a second mug of creamy Darjeeling for him and handing it to him without having to ask. He accepted the tea and settled into the high backed chair opposite her small sofa, marshaling his thoughts.

"Captain, I am ... disturbed about Lieutenant Paris." When he didn't go on, she nodded encouragingly.

"So am I. He's not sleeping, and while it hasn't affected his piloting yet, it is worrisome. I think his nightmares have come back, if they ever really left."

"That is precisely what worries me, Captain." He took a single sip of tea, then set the mug down on the side table and bent forward to address Kathryn. "I have spoken with Commander Chakotay. Without going into any detail that would be unacceptable under patient/counselor confidentiality, he has made it plain to me that he and Mr. Paris are at an impasse. He believes that Mr. Paris needs time to process the memories that he has recently accessed. However, there is a factor that Commander Chakotay is unaware of, as is, I believe, Mr. Paris himself."

The captain sat wide-eyed. "What is that, Tuvok? If it will help..."

"There is some sort of psychic connection between Mr. Paris' subconscious and my own." She sat bolt upright, and he continued. "I have been privy to the contents of Mr. Paris' nightmares in the past few weeks, since the inception of his regressive hypnotherapy sessions with the Doctor. As time passes, the images are becoming more vivid and more urgent. I am, in essence, dreaming Mr. Paris' dreams."

"How is that possible?" Janeway asked quietly. "And why Tom?"

"It is my hypothesis that there was a connection formed between Mr. Paris' mind and my own when we engaged in the mindmeld to determine his innocence in the murder of the scientist several weeks ago. It would seem that my entering Mr. Paris' mind when he was both physically and psychologically torn by the neural implants has had an unexpected side effect."

"But the Doctor said that all the damage to the neural pathways had been healed. Could this be some sort of residual aftereffect?"

"I do not believe so, Captain. I took the liberty of accessing Mr. Paris' psychological evaluation and the psychic profiles taken while he was at Star Fleet academy. Mr. Paris scored unusually high in telepathic psi, not highly enough to be classified as a functional telepath, but certainly within the range to where a subconscious connection with a telepath with whom he has shared a meld is not only feasible, but quite likely. There is also some indication that his mother was a low level telepath. It is unusual that no attempts were made when he was young to explore this possible genetic talent."

"Given what we have discovered about his childhood, Tuvok, it might not be that surprising." She took a long swallow of tea, and cocked her head at Tuvok. "Would you be willing to approach Mr. Paris and offer your services as a listener, Tuvok? He won't open up to me, or Chakotay, and as far as I've been able to tell he won't talk to any of his friends about it either."

"It has come to my attention that, contrary to Mr. Paris' reputation as a social being, he spends most of his time either with Ensign Kim, Lieutenant Torres, or alone. Perhaps he does not feel comfortable delving into these memories with either Mr. Kim or Mr. Torres." He paused to finish his tea, not completely comfortable with the idea of sharing these memories with Paris himself. On the other hand, he already was an unwilling participant. If speaking with Paris would alleviate the problem, he was willing to try. "I will approach him tomorrow, then, Captain."

"Excellent. And Tuvok, use your judgment. If what Mr. Paris tells you doesn't affect the crew or the ship, you will of course keep it in confidence. Let him come to others in his own time, as much as possible."

The Vulcan nodded his agreement, then rose and took the mug over to the replicator to be recycled. "Thank you for the tea."

"You're welcome, Tuvok." As he reached the door, her voice followed him. "Let me know how it turns out, and ... good luck."


The ship could use the break, he didn't doubt, but these long, dull shifts with nothing to do but steer her in a straight course very nearly made him crazy. Tom slouched against his bed, idly flipping cards into an impromptu basket he'd fashioned out of his discarded tunic. One thing was for certain. He was bored out of his skull. Maybe talking to somebody might not be such a bad idea. True, he didn't want to freak Harry out, but maybe if he skipped the particulars and sort of brought it up in a round about way ... Without giving himself time to think of all the reasons he did *not* want Harry to learn the details his time in the penal colony, Tom grabbed a raw silk shirt from his closet, stuffing his arms in the sleeves and pushing the tails into the waistband of his pants. Might as well see what ol' Harry was up to.

He could hear the piercing sweetness of the clarinet as soon as the door to his friend's quarters slid open. "Sorry, Harry, I didn't mean to interrupt-"

Harry dropped the end of the instrument down and gave Tom a 'don't be an ass' look from under his brows. Tom grinned in response and flopped on the couch in his customary spot. He stayed unusually silent as Kim worked his way through the melancholy second movement of the Mozart piece he was working on, then dropped the mouthpiece from his lips. Taking a soft cloth and efficiently breaking the clarinet down to clean it, he folded his legs under him and sat next to Tom on the couch.

"I was nearly finished anyway. That second movement is a real challenge."

"I liked it." Tom's voice was soft, his eyes not quite focused.

"Oh, no," Harry laughed slightly, "This isn't about Kes, is it?"

Tom came back to the present, and grinned back at him. "Nah, that's been hashed out. Me and Neelix, we're buddies now."

Harry considered this for a moment. "Does that mean he cooks specially for you?" The mischief in his tone was mirrored in his eyes, but he managed to keep a straight face.

"God, no!" Paris retorted. "I said were we friends, not that he wanted to kill me!" Both men laughed, and for a little while they were content in the silence. Harry finished cleaning his instrument and carefully placed it on the plain wooden stand Chakotay had helped him carve. He looked down at his friend's distracted countenance, and licked his top lip. Wonder how long it'll be before he spills, he thought, and Tom reacted as if he'd spoken aloud.

"Harry," he began slowly, choosing his words carefully. "I ... know this guy." God, Tom, oldest cliche in the book, Paris winced, but he kept going anyway, not meeting Harry's eyes. "He did something awhile back, and it was a sort of self defense kind of thing, but if anybody ever found out about it he'd be in deep kimshee. Real deep."

"Kimshee?" Harry interjected. "Isn't that some kind of Korean food?"

Tom sighed. "Well, it, um, smells, if you're not used to it, and it sounds better than saying he'd be in deep shit. Okay?" He glared briefly at Harry, and the younger man nodded for him to continue. At least his interruption had gotten Tom to look at him. "Anyway, he was in a bind, and he took some ... drastic steps to, sort of, protect himself. And nobody knew, well, actually, they did know, but nobody said anything, and it's not like there's any official record, because if they started digging into it they'd turn over way too many rocks and who knows what might come crawling out, and they sure as hell wouldn't want some of their dirty little secrets to see the light of day." He stopped, tangled up in his own words. This wasn't going to work. "Oh, forget it."

"What did you remember, Tom?" Harry's voice was very gentle. Tom lifted startled eyes to his face, taken somewhat aback by the understanding he saw there. He took a deep breath, and let it out all at once.

"I don't think I can tell you, Harry." He closed his eyes for a moment at the hurt in his friend's face, then tried to explain. "Not just you. Anybody. I ... did something. It was something I had to do at the time, but no one else will see it that way. I know they won't. There's ... too much goes into it, too much I don't want to explain to anyone. If people find out, then all the work I've been trying to do to change, to start over, it'll be no good, I'll be an outcast again." His eyes had darkened until they were almost cobalt, and Harry could feel the pain the older man was trying to suppress. "I don't know what to do," Tom almost whispered.

Harry was silent for a long time, letting the words sift through his thoughts, trying to find some way to help. Reaching out to push Tom's hair back from his forehead, feeling at a loss, he gave the only advice he could. "It sounds like it comes down to trust, Tom. Who do you trust with this information? And what do you think they'll do with it? Do to you?" From the involuntary shudder that went through Paris at his words, he obviously wasn't happy with the answers to those questions. Harry's voice dropped, coaxing his friend to listen. "You have to trust somebody sometime, Tom. Trust your friends. Trust the Captain." Tom's eyes widened. "Trust yourself." Harry sat back and watched him. Tom took another deep breath and sat up wearily.

"I don't know if I can, Harry."

Kim watched him rise and head for the door. As he disappeared into the hall, he murmured, "Try."

Tom wasn't paying much attention to his steps, so of course they led him directly to the holodeck. He leaned one hand against the wall outside the door and dropped his head. He wasn't in the mood for Sandrine's ... it wasn't late enough, there would be crewmembers there, he wouldn't be able to get lost in his music. He didn't want to go back to his quarters. Harry sure didn't need him dumping any more on him. Before he could come up with a viable alternative to acting like a door guard to the holosuite or giving up and running away to hide in the hydroponics bay, he heard a firm step behind him.

"Paris!" He lifted his head to see B'Elanna Torres standing beside him, dressed in soft trousers and a coarsely woven blouse. She carried a small basket in one hand.

"Whatcha doing?" He grinned. "Going for a picnic?"

She stared back at him, one corner of her mouth curling up. He undoubtedly knew just how the sapphire of his shirt brought out the color of his eyes, and how that particular combination of silk and skin would make most females in the area react, as well as a lot of the males. But he wasn't pushing, tonight, and she decided to invite him along.

"Yeah, actually, I am. Want to join me?" His eyes widened with surprise, then the grin softened into a sweet smile. Her mouth went a little dry. This could be fun.

"Sure. I'd like that," he nodded. "Thanks."

"I was wanting to continue our conversation from a few nights ago, anyway." She preceded him through the door and he checked for a moment. Conversation. She had kissed him. He swallowed, his throat suddenly tight. Interesting.

B'Elanna ordered one of her favorite scenes, a re-creation of a forest on one of the border worlds she had visited as a member of the Maquis. At Paris' pleased exclamation, she looked inquiringly at him.

"This place - it looks a lot like the Olympic Rainforest back on Earth. It's sort of a special place for me." He stopped, unsure of himself, but she seemed interested, so he went on. "After I got out of the Academy, I had three weeks coming to me before I reported to my first assignment. No way I wanted to waste them at my father's-" she noticed he didn't say 'home.' "-so I went off on an extended hike through the Rainforest. It was incredible. I've never seen so many shades of green in my whole life. And animals, all sorts of animals, and some of the biggest trees I think there are anywhere. It was so, I don't know. Safe." He stopped again, and laughed a little. "Kind of silly, I guess, but it made a big impression on me."

"Obviously," she replied, regarding him seriously. "It sounds like a place of beauty, and peace. Not silly at all." She smiled at him, then, and he caught his breath.

They walked for awhile, enjoying the sunshine, the soft give of the mossy growth under their feet, the strange hoots and clucks of the birds overhead. His foot slipped once, and she instinctively reached out to pull him up. When he had his footing, he left his hand in hers. It felt natural there.

His stomach finally grumbled, and she took that as a hint, laughing at his slight blush and wry grin, and handing him the spread for the fallen log they had chosen for their dinner table. She had laid out the delicacies, Surellian pears, Godiva chocolates, spiced Terweon steak strips. And nestled in the top of the basket, a chilled bottle of Andorian Ale. He remembered the last time they had drunk ale together, and handed the bottle to her reluctantly. He didn't want to bring up bad memories. She took it from him and stared at the sparkling blue liquid for a long, quiet moment before pouring some into a glass and handing it to him. Filling her own glass, she moved from the log to settle herself on the ground, resting her back against the bulk of the log and staring into the sunlight filtering through the trees. After a slight hesitation, he took his own glass and a handful of the candied pears and settled himself beside her. He handed her some bits of pear and she popped one in her mouth.

"You think you know something. Think that things are clear cut. A person is what you see. They fit the tag you give them. You can never tell," she started quietly.

"Never tell what?" he prompted gently, when she gave no sign that she would go on.

"What the tag leaves out." She leaned her head back against the log. "I was always stronger than the other kids, being about the only Klingon in a settlement will do that to you, even a half Klingon. I never did know why Mom didn't leave, but she didn't. I was always the weird one, with my wrinkled forehead and my temper." She paused to take a drink of ale, and dropped her head back again. "It wasn't what you'd call a normal way to grow up. The others left me alone, for the most part. When I was thirteen, a boy tried to rape me." Tom started, but she didn't look at him, concentrating on her memories. "I broke both his arms and his jaw. His parents would have sued my Mom for the hospital bills, but one of the teachers had seen the whole thing, and Mom threatened to bring the boy up on charges if they tried anything. So they backed off."

Paris grinned savagely at the thought of B'Elanna defending herself so well, then abruptly sobered at the thought of what had nearly happened. Thirteen. Merde. She took another drink of ale, and he reached up with the bottle to give her a refill. She didn't seem to notice.

"The second time I was sixteen. They'd learned from the first one's mistakes. There were three of them, all older than me. They caught me out behind the tanning shed, and made sure no one saw." She heard his strangled curse, but didn't stop her tale. "They took turns. Then they beat the crap out of me. One of the tanners found me a couple hours later. I was still conscious, but they'd broken my legs, several ribs, and my jaw in two places. Made sure I wouldn't go get help." She turned her face to his, aware that at sometime during her story he had moved very close to her, not quite touching, but there if she decided she needed the support. Tears to match her own were slowly tracking down from the corners of his eyes as he sat beside her, his head also leaning back against the log.

"I'm sorry, B'Elanna." His voice was thick.

"Not your fault," she mumbled.

"No, but I'm sorry you had to go through that." The words sounded like he was having a hard time forcing them from his throat.

"Me, too." She studied him for a moment, then hooked a finger around his chin and turned his face toward hers. "Tell me, Paris. How did you get the same look in your eyes that I saw in mine that night?"

His lips parted as he tried to draw air into lungs that suddenly refused to cooperate. He jerked away from her hand, but stayed seated beside her. She could feel his body trembling next to hers. She watched his profile as she went on.

"I recognized the look, Tom. I've been there. And the night you and I almost got together ... I thought you were just getting hot for me when you twisted like that underneath me, pulled against my hold on your wrists. But it wasn't want, was it? It was fear. And the night of the bar fight, when you couldn't tell me why you'd had told me no, when I was so mad at you, when you couldn't explain. When, how did it happen, Tom?"

He clenched his jaw and squeezed his eyes shut. She did deserve an explanation, although she'd figured it out pretty well on her own. He just wasn't sure how much he could tell her. How much he could face. Unlocking his jaw with a determined effort, still not able to meet her eyes, he gulped the rest of his ale and stared at the empty glass.

"Happened about a year and a half ago. In prison." She nodded. That was what she'd expected. "I don't really remember all the details. Doc had to do some hypnosis on me to get me to remember it at all. It was ... a guard and some of the inmates."

"Some?" she asked softly.

"Three. Well, plus the guard. So, four, all told. I was asleep, and they came into my cell. By the time I woke up it was already too late, I was tied down, nowhere to go." He shuddered at the memory, and she shivered in response. No wonder she had recognized the look. "I wasn't found until the next day, when I didn't show up for work. There wasn't any report or anything-"

"Why the hell not?" Her anger on his behalf surprised him a little.

"I knew better," he stated simply. "Everyone from the doc on down told me that it was something that happened sometimes. They call it a 'blanket party' ... not that it's much of a party for the victim. If I'd filed a formal complaint the only thing it would have done was piss off the people involved. And it would have happened again, only even worse, to teach me to keep my mouth shut. Where was I gonna go? It wasn't like I could move to another city to get away from them. And who would they believe? A cashiered Fleeter in jail for treason for flying for the Maquis or a guard who was a full lieutenant with a spotless record? Oh, yeah," he responded to her quirked brow, "the bastard had an excellent record. He always made sure he only hurt the ones who wouldn't, or couldn't, squawk."

They let the silence envelope them for a long time, each digesting what they had learned of the other. After awhile, B'Elanna reached over and popped her last bit of candied pear into Paris' mouth. He chewed thoughtfully, staring at her intense dark eyes. She remained kneeling beside him, one hand on his shoulder, as she leaned in and kissed him, an exploratory nibble around his lips that only slowly developed into a full, deep kiss. When she was finished, she pulled away, taking in his flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes with some satisfaction. Settling back against the log again, she reached for his hand, playing with the long, elegant fingers as she spoke.

"It took me a very long time to get past the fear, Tom. I'm still not very good at the trust part, as you may have noticed."

"You've been pretty open with me," he protested.

"Because I saw me in you." She sighed. "For some reason, maybe because you've been there too, I feel ... safe with you."

He smirked at her. "I'm not sure that's a compliment." She clasped his face between her hands and pulled him around until his face was centimeters from her own.

"It's the highest compliment I can pay you. And eventually, you will feel safe with me."

His eyes grew wide, then closed as she leaned forward to kiss him again. As he started to relax into the caress, the old memories began to beat at the back of his mind, and he stiffened. He tried to fight the tension in his muscles, but he couldn't, and he broke away in frustration.

"Damnit, B'Elanna, you deserve better than this!" he growled, frustration and anger warring in his voice.

She looked at him measuringly. "Someone gentle? Unscarred? Pure? Like, oh, Harry for example?" He glanced quickly at her, nodding before dropping his eyes moodily to the carpet of needles and leaves surrounding them. "I don't *think* so." His head swung up at her decisive tone. "Harry is a nice kid. He's a friend, to both of us. But I need someone different. Someone I don't have to fear shocking when I tell him the truth. Someone who's been there." She ducked her head to see his face. "You."

He slowly raised his head, reading the truth of her statements shining in her eyes. He swallowed heavily. He hadn't the faintest idea what to do next. This wasn't someone he could flirt with then steer to someone else. This was B'Elanna. And the fact that she could read him like a book, knew him clear to his soul, and wanted him anyway, scared the life out of him. She read the fear and the need in his clouded blue eyes, and grinned her best Klingon hunting grin at him. "So prepare to be boarded, Fleeter!"

Her suddenly piratical pose startled a laugh out of him, and he reached out to trace the angle of her cheek. "It may take me awhile to get used to this, B'Elanna."

She caught his hand, and brought it around to her lips to nibble gently at his fingers. "That's okay, Paris. We have time."

He looked at the unique beauty sharing the forest with him and for the first time in a very long time, allowed himself to hope. The subtle song of a nightingale wove into the birdsong above their heads, and he smiled. "Mon couer maintenant chanter."

She looked askance at him, and he leaned forward to whisper, "You make my heart sing."


He had kept a close eye on Lieutenant Paris throughout the duty day, but there had been no private moments during which he could have approached him. Tuvok waited patiently until Paris finished his dinner, reluctant to approach him with Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Kim at his side. A distress call from the OIC in engineering pried Torres away, and Kim left for what appeared to be a prior engagement with Ensign Chaoris from xenobotany. As Neelix settled in to chat with Paris, Tuvok released what in a less controlled being might be called an irritated sigh. Taking up his tray and depositing the remains of his dinner in the recycler, he made his way deliberately to Paris' table.

Neelix looked up to see his favorite Vulcan friend, well, his *only* Vulcan friend, bearing down on them. "Oh, good! Mr. Tuvok has decided to join us!"

Oh, great, thought Tom, but he tried to keep it from his face. The only reason he could come up with for Tuvok to brave Neelix's enthusiasm and join them was if he had done something really bad that he didn't know about yet. He'd managed most of a night's sleep the night before, and things were finally starting to turn around for him. Problems with the Security chief he did *not* need.

"Hi, Tuvok," he managed.

"Mr. Paris," the other man returned. "If I might have a word with you."

"Of course," Tom replied brightly, thinking furiously to try to figure out what he'd screwed up this time. Neelix's twinkling gaze bounced from one to the other as if he was at a sporting match, preparing himself to thorough enjoy whatever would come.

"In private," Tuvok added, with a deadpan glance at the Talaxian. Neelix moued in disappointment. Paris' lips twitched, but he held back his grin.

"Sure, Tuvok." He smiled at the chagrined cook. "Thanks for the soup, Neelix. It was ... interesting!" Taking the tray to the nearest recycler, he muttered sotto voce, "Unrecognizable, inedible, and kind of scary, but interesting." In a normal voice he continued, "Your place or mine, Tuvok?"

As expected, the Vulcan didn't respond to his attempt at humor. "Perhaps we would be more comfortable in your quarters, Lieutenant." Paris mentally reviewed the state of his quarters, and cast a measuring eye at the impeccable man beside him.

"Yours would probably be better," he admitted.

"Very well." They boarded the turbolift and made the short trip in silence, Paris waiting for Tuvok to bring up the reason for this meeting, Tuvok quite willing to wait until they reached the privacy of his quarters, neither really in the mood for small talk. Not that Tuvok was much for small talk at any time, but especially not when he had some very delicate matters to broach with the Human walking beside him.

The doors closed behind them and Tuvok ordered the lights up. Tom looked around the room with keen interest. There were very few personal belongings in evidence. Most crewmembers hadn't brought much with them, expecting only to be gone for a few short weeks. Tuvok had even less, since he had been undercover with the Maquis at the time they'd all ended up in the Delta quadrant. Anything too personal would not have been in keeping with his cover, and even the few articles he had brought had been lost when the Maquis ship was destroyed. The items he had spent his replicator rations on showed more of his character than he might have realized.

A crystal garden, still in the early stages, was being carefully cultivated along one counter, and two small bins of what looked very much like irises were poking from rich loam along another. An altar, complete with the icons and cups necessary for the religious rites of his people, and a small meditation bench, took up the third wall. Hanging on a sturdy metal rack was a simple wooden lyre, the polish gleaming dully in the light, the strings precisely adjusted, the pegs placed with exactitude, the whole instrument obviously for use, and not for show.

Tuvok allowed Paris to prowl his quarters, both in order to increase the Human's comfort level in the unfamiliar surroundings and to gain a little more time to decide on his approach. He noticed Tom's preoccupation with the harp, and moved to stand beside him.

"You play?" Not really a question, more of a statement. There was no way an instrument so recently created would look so worn unless it was used, and used often.

"Yes." Tuvok watched Paris, wondering at the depth of his fascination. His mental file quickly supplied the information that Paris' mother had been a musician, and he nodded. Perhaps a short conversation on a topic of mutual interest would make speaking of the more personal topic of his nightmares easier. "I find that the creation of music is an effective exercise to reduce stress."

Paris glanced at him quickly. That was one way of putting it. "Yeah, I have to agree with you there. It doesn't seem to matter how bad the day's been, you sit down at the pia- instrument, and the music starts, and you can just, I don't know, drift away on it. Nothing there but you and the music. It kind of balances out all the bad things that happen, helps you keep your grip."

Tuvok raised one brow. "While that is not precisely how I would describe the effect of making music, it does adequately explain the necessary counterbalance of art and work in one's life."

"Uh-huh," Paris sighed. Yeah. What he said. Trying to ignore the sarcastic voice in the back of his mind, he turned to the Vulcan. "Why am I here, Tuvok?"

The security chief stared at him for a moment. So much for finding common ground. Even when he and Mr. Paris found it, they had such differing viewpoints that it wasn't recognizable as common. Squaring his shoulders, he decided to be as blunt as Paris was being.

"It is because of your nightmares, Mr. Paris."

"Oh great, so now they've roped you in on it, too?" Tom couldn't believe it. "The Captain couldn't get it out of me, Chakotay was a dead loss, so now you're up to bat?"

Tuvok regarded the agitated Human impassively. "The Captain and Commander Chakotay did not 'drag me' into this, Mr. Paris. You have unwittingly done so yourself."

"Me?" He didn't believe what he was hearing. Had he asked for Tuvok's help? No, he didn't think so!

"For the past several weeks you have been having nightmares." Tom snorted. Tell him something he didn't know. "For that same period of time, but more extensively since the recent regressive hypnotherapy that the Doctor performed with you and the resultant clarification of your memories, I have also been having these dreams."

Paris suddenly went very pale and swayed. Tuvok watched him with some concern, ready to catch him if he should faint.

"As time progresses, the images from the dreams grow more vivid and detailed. The most recent dreams are exceedingly strong."

At this point, Paris' legs seemed to go out from under him, and he landed ungracefully on the stool next to the harp stand. His eyes were huge as he stared up at Tuvok.

"How much did you-" his voice sounded rusty, and he had a hard time getting the words out. So much for beginning to hope again. So much for second chances. The damned head of Security had seen into his dreams, knew what he had done. "Why were you in my head?" The words came out in a snarl.

Tuvok noted the white knuckled grip the young man had on the edges of his stool, and pursed his lips. "It was not voluntary, I assure you, Mr. Paris. Testing indicates that you have unusually strong psi readings for a non-telepath. The mind meld that we shared while you were suffering neural damage appears to have left a sort of subconscious linkage between us. I have not been able to ascertain the exact workings of this link, and therefore have not been able to circumvent it. I am, however, working on a solution." Paris seemed slightly relieved, but he still looked like he was going to be ill. "Until such time as I can shut down this link, we are left with the current situation. Captain Janeway is aware of the fact that I am sharing your nightmares," an uplifted hand stopped Paris' protest before it left his mouth, "but she is not aware of their content. She has also left it up to my discretion whether the confidences exchanged in this conversation are put on record, as I am in the role of counselor at this point, and therefore our conversation is privileged. If in the course of our conversation I determine that any facts uncovered constitute a threat to this ship or her crew, then my duties as head of Security override this, and I will inform you before we proceed further from that point."

Paris stared at him for a moment, then took a shallow breath. "In that case, I'm screwed."

A fleeting expression of incomprehension shadowed Tuvok's face. "What brings you to that conclusion?"

"You were there, Tuvok. You saw. I'm a murderer." He nearly choked on the sentence.


"Counselor or Security?" Paris hissed.

"Counselor," Tuvok responded calmly.

Tom took several breaths, each deeper than the last, trying to adjust to the thought of Tuvok living through what he had done, knowing what had happened. Forcing his fingers to uncurl from the edge of the seat only to have them twist around one another, the tension drove him to his feet and he began to pace.

"What did you see?" he threw at Tuvok.

"You were in an office at what I took to be the penal colony. The primary emotions associated with the office's occupant were fear and repugnance. You appeared to be pleading with him, then you began to seduce him."

Tom's pace broke and he wrapped his arms around himself. Tuvok noted the signs of revulsion with interest, but continued his catalog of events. "Having gotten him into your embrace, you then loosed what appeared to be a poisonous insect down the back of his uniform and held him so that he would not be able to remove the insect or cry for help. When the insect had bitten him to the extent that he expired, you placed the body under the open window in an apparent attempt to make it appear as if the insect had crawled into his uniform of it's own accord. Then you returned to your cell and vomited."

By this point in the narration, Tom had sunk back onto the bench and was curled up in a ball, rocking backward and forward slightly, his eyes fixed on something no one else could see.

"You know, then," he croaked out, still rocking, still staring. "Nothing left for me to add."

"On the contrary, Mr. Paris." Tuvok lowered himself easily onto the floor next to the bench, so that he was slightly lower than eye level with the distraught Human. "There are important things to add. The motive. The outcome. The aftermath. The details of why you would do such a thing and why you were not punished." Paris managed to drag his gaze back to the dark face in front of him, and sighed shakily.

"Yeah, I guess it would be pretty obvious he didn't really die of natural causes. But that ... that was intentional. I had to give them a message. They had to know it was me."

Tuvok stared hard into the fixed, damp eyes before him. "What message, Mr. Paris? To whom? And why?"

"They weren't gonna do that to me again. He'd gotten promoted, y'see, and he was gonna use me to pay off favors with the prisoners who had the most influence. Keep 'em happy, so they'd make sure the other prisoners wouldn't give him any trouble. I was just some meat to throw to the dogs. But I couldn't let him do that. Not again. I wouldn't have made it if they did it to me again."

The Vulcan sat even more upright, if that was possible, sorting through the words to find the meaning behind them. He read absolute conviction in Paris' features. The younger man sincerely believed that if he had not killed this officer, he would have been used as some sort of bribe.

"This block commander. You knew him?" Softly, trying to piece together the puzzle.

"He was one of them. He was the guard, he let 'em in, he was one of 'em." Paris' voice had dropped to a dull monotone as he relived his worst nightmare.

"And when you killed the block commander, the threat of further abuse was removed?"

"Yeah. They wouldn't touch me. Called me Poison."

"So. This man whom you killed was one of the men who originally attacked, raped and beat you. He was then promoted, and threatened to make a bribe of you to long term powerful inmates in an attempt to curry their favor and use them to police the other inmates in the block. Am I correct thus far?"

Paris stared at him through narrowed eyes, ignoring the slight track of tears that were escaping down the sides of his cheeks. "He didn't threaten. He'd already made the arrangements for the first ones to take me."

Tuvok considered this. "So the threat was an immediate one." Paris nodded jerkily, and Tuvok continued. "You arranged to kill the block commander in such a way that the immediate threat was removed and those in the prison who would take vengeance or continue to threaten you would be afraid to do so, believing that they would meet the same fate, thus removing the future threat of such actions against you."

Paris nodded again, and closed his eyes. "I was afraid to tell anyone," he managed to whisper. "After awhile, it started to seem so far away, almost surreal. Nobody bothered me anymore, just left me alone, and I buried it, tried to forget it all, just got on with surviving. Then the Captain got me out of there, and we ended up here," he waved vaguely toward the hull. "And I had a chance to start over. Nobody knew. Then all that mess happened, with them screwing around in my head, screwing with my memories, and all the stuff I'd managed to forget came back on me." He buried his face in his hands, shaking under the force of the pain in those memories, and the lost chance to begin fresh. His voice was muffled, but still clear enough for Tuvok to make out the words. "Now that's over. I s'pose you'll lock me up now. That's what you do with murderers."

"You are not a murderer." The quiet words broke through his misery, and he looked over at Tuvok incredulously. "It was the duty of the block commander to protect you, not to abuse you. He failed in that duty, in fact, subverted it, both as a guard and as a warden. The others in power around you willfully refused to carry out their duty to ensure your protection. Revenge was a motivating factor in the death of the block commander at your hands, but a much deeper and more immediate motivation was self preservation."

Paris' eyes began to widen with the beginning of hope. He might just have a chance here after all.

"You seem to forget, Mr. Paris, that I was privy to your dreams as you relived the events in your past. *All* of the dreams. I was as powerless as you, and experienced the depths of fear and helplessness that you experienced. Legally, there is no proof aside from an unwilling confession, that you killed the block commander. Nightmares are not legally submissable evidence. On the other hand, there is an abundance of physical evidence surrounding the attacks carried out upon you while incarcerated. Given my experience in similar cases, it is my belief that were we on Earth, an inquiry into the matter would result in a ruling of manslaughter under extreme provocation. That makes you a desperate man, Mr. Paris, not a murderer."

Tom felt the shaking finally begin to subside. He managed to draw a deep breath and pull himself upright on the bench.

"It is my opinion that the events described in this conversation do not pose a threat to the safety or security of Voyager or any member of her crew."

Paris slowly lifted himself from the bench, and Tuvok rose to face him.

"Counselor or security?" Tom asked again, softly this time.

"Counselor, Mr. Paris. If and when we return to Earth, all of the evidence in this case will be laid out before the proper authorities, and any further action will stem from their investigative efforts. At that time you will be called to account for the consequences of your actions. My opinion of your culpability stands as I have stated, that the killing was in self defense, and it will go in my personal logs as such." The Human nodded his acceptance. It was much more than he had expected.

"Thank you, Tuvok." He laughed unsteadily. "I always seem to be saying that."

"There is no need to thank me, Mr. Paris. Until such time as I can determine the underlying link between your subconscious and my own, and dissolve it, it is only logical to remove the source of anxiety causing the nightmares that we are sharing."

Paris looked long and hard at Tuvok, past the stoic expression to the man beneath. Tuvok stared back, in a moment of complete nonverbal understanding. Then Tom gave him a fleeting smile, turned, and left Tuvok's quarters. The Vulcan considered the harp hanging on it's stand, then reached out to unhook it. Settling the familiar weight against his body, he sat on the bench recently occupied by Tom Paris and began to pluck the strings. Upon further reflection, perhaps 'drift away' was an apt description, after all.


He was glad he hadn't asked Chakotay, this time. There had to be something to this, because he had never been one for meditation, and yet, here he was, in his own bed, and out in the rainforest at the same time. Some small part of his mind insisted he must be dreaming, but the voice was drowned out by the birdsong. Her melody was back, recovered from the damage his rage and fear had caused the last time she had visited him. He put out his hand to her, and she lit delicately on the palm. Bringing it slowly to eye level, he couldn't help grinning at her. She looked so happy. And he felt so much lighter. The darkness hadn't all been chased away, but so many of the secrets had been revealed, and he was still whole. More whole, by far, than he had been while the doors had remained locked.

<<Rossignol, mon mignon...degoisant ... tu es aime>>

{Nightingale, my little one ... trumpeting ... you are loved}

She hopped from his hand to his shoulder, and he bent his head to allow her to brush her feathery little head against his cheek. She clutched at his earlobe with one tiny claw, and he chuckled at the tickling sensation. Confident that she had his attention, she began to sing in earnest, and he focused on the notes, the suggestions she gave, a way to leave the past behind him, where it belonged. He could trust these people. They had proven themselves his friends, and it was time they knew more of him, time that he trusted them with more of the Tom Paris he so jealously guarded. He wanted to thank them, the only way he could, and she sang sweetly, guiding him, as she always had, as she always would.


They'd never seen a sign quite like it on the door of Sandrine's. Private party. Paris. The few crewmembers who would have wandered in were turned away by the sign and the cheerful holo- image guarding the door. They didn't grumble too much, after all, he had reserved the suite, and it was after hours.

Tuvok was already seated, sharing a table with Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay, one man on either side of the Captain. Conversation was sporadic, but Chakotay had at least an idea of what to expect, and Janeway knew from experience that they were in for a treat. Considering Tom's reaction the last time she had seen this particular configuration of the bar, this was a major step forward for the young pilot. She couldn't restrain her smile. The two men sharing the table with her sent her questioning looks, but she merely sipped her wine. Let them be surprised. She certainly had been.

Neelix and Kes were the next to arrive, the little Talaxian bubbling over at the mysterious invitation from his friend Tom. Kes was quiet, as usual, but her eyes glowed. Something had changed for Tom, she could feel it, and it was for the better. She had a very good feeling about tonight, whatever it would entail.

Harry escorted B'Elanna into the club, waiting for her to take a deep breath and throw her shoulders back before coming through the door. He didn't dare tell her that the confidence-boosting straightening of her spine simply made the unusually elegant outfit she was wearing accentuate her figure even more. He was too busy trying to remember to breathe every time he looked at her. His buddy was a lucky guy. B'Elanna damped down the unaccustomed nerves and nodded at the Captain and the other members of the small group. She, better than anyone, knew just what this unveiling meant to Tom, and she wanted it to go perfectly. And if that meant popping some hard earned replicator rations on an Orion spidersilk overtunic and tights, she'd damned well do it. Anticipation of Tom's private reaction later in the evening brought a wicked smile to her lips. Before Harry could gather his courage and ask her about the expression lighting her face, the lights dimmed, and a soft spot lit the small stage, highlighting the gleaming wood of the piano.

Tom's voice came quietly from the shadows at the side of the stage. "Thank you for accepting my invitation tonight. It has been a hard time for me, in the last few months, and the only way I've gotten through it is with the help of my friends."

Kes and Neelix clasped hands, and smiled at one another. Harry winked at B'Elanna, and she was nonplused to find herself blushing. Tuvok cocked his head to one side, and Chakotay and Janeway shared a relieved look.

"This isn't something I've ever done before, so I hope it works. It's my way of saying thanks." With that he came forward from the shadows. Given the surroundings, Janeway half expected him to be in a formal tuxedo, but he was dressed simply, in a cream colored shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a pair of dark blue trousers. Harry looked again at his companion and realized that the combination of colors perfectly echoed the tones in her dress. He wondered if they planned this, then the connotations of the setting hit him. Tom played, and he'd never told him! He turned to the stage with a musician's keen anticipation, determined to grill his friend about this unexpected side of him when he got the chance.

With no fuss, Tom settled himself on the bench and flexed his fingers. B'Elanna recognized the nerves behind the gesture and grinned fiercely when he shook them off. He had more depths to him than she ever would have guessed, and now she'd have the opportunity to explore all of them. She looked forward to the challenge.

The first rippling notes set the mood, a little melancholy, but with an underpinning of hope soaring through them. He didn't look at his audience after he began to play. As it always did, the music took him away, and he went with it willingly.

Tous mes souvenirs s'abattent sur moi

{All my memories swoop around me}

Tuvok nodded to himself. Now he clearly understood Paris' comments. The lieutenant did indeed appear to be drifting away on the music. He allowed his own musician's instincts to come to the fore, and relaxed to appreciate the talent of the man at the piano.

Plus rein que la voix

De l'oiseau que fut mon premier amour, et qui chante encor comme au premier jour

{Nothing but the voice

Of the bird that was my earliest love singing still as on that earliest day}

Chords wrapped around one another, individual tones seeming to spring from nowhere before falling effortlessly back into the pattern of the melody, the occasional hint of a descant soaring above, sounding remarkably like the song of a nightingale. Chakotay found his eyes closing, the music taking him to places he had not seen in too long, an invitation he couldn't resist. In the distance, blending with the birdsong, was the haunting echo of a wolf's cry.

Pliene de silence et d'obscurite, Berce sur l'azur qu'un vent doux effleure L'arbre qui frissonne et l'oiseau qui pleure

{Full of silence and obscurity, Lulls in the sky that a soft wind caresses The quivering tree and the weeping bird.}

As the final lingering notes fell into the waiting silence of the bar, a solitary line of melody, picked out by a sure right hand, was gradually supported by a swelling series of chords, building confidently, delicately, from sadness to pure joy.

Whatever the days would bring him, he was no longer alone.

Le Rossignole.