Standard Disclaimer: Voyager, her characters, and everything that is Star Trek, belong to Paramount and Viacom. No copyright infringement is intended. Besides, It‘s not like I‘m going to be making any money off of this little endeavour. I guess that this can‘t be an archivist‘s challenge, as it does not deal with the letter per say (as to what was written on it). Instead, it deals with of what could have happened if the letter did come through but B‘Elanna deleted it and Tom found out. There were many responses to the challenge, and all of them were good, but make believe that the Admiral‘s letter was not of a pleasant nature. I could have wrote a letter to accompany this story, as I do have the imagination to think up of something nasty (right Janet and Nick?); however, I didn‘t feel like it. Many thanks go to Nick for beta-reading this text (next time that I go to your place, I‘ll bring Random Thoughts, so that you can understand the Mari part). Also, thanks go to Janet, for telling me to get off my duff and to write something (I guess that someone needed to tell me that). If there are any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, they are of my doing, and mine only. However, be forewarned that this story is done in Canadian spelling (which can resemble the British style). This story is rated ‚PG‘ (or ‚PG-13‘, as Tom thinks of a name for Admiral Paris), and is set after ‚Hunters‘. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Finding Out the TruthAfter the party, Tom went back to his quarters. Harry would be re-reading his letter right now in his quarters, and B‘Elanna was in hers. She had, for the most part, remained silent throughout the party and later excused herself, saying that she was not in the party mood. Tom assumed that this was because of the news that the Maquis received. He remembered what she was like in the Astrometrics lab and he could understand her need for solitude, so he let her be. He smiled at thinking of Harry. At least he got something. Tom was glad for his friend for that. B‘Elanna on the other hand, he felt sorry for. She had found out that most of her friends had died, due to Dominion hands. It was not something that he would have chosen for the Maquis to get, but at least they got a message too. He might have also, but lost it. The letter with ‚Admiral Owen‘ went missing, when the array was destroyed; ‚Admiral Owen,‘ being his father. Even though the letter had been lost, he remembered what had happened regarding ‚Insurrection Alpha‘. B‘Elanna had retrieved that program when Tuvok had deleted it. He also remembered what Janeway and Seven had also said: that everything had come in together, but jumbled. There was no time to sort through the wording to correct it, as they had to get as much information as possible in what little time they had. So the information was saved. All of it. B‘Elanna had said that Voyager had received some of the message—he knew this because she called him from the bridge. Even though most of the message was lost, there must have been parts that were saved. He rushed to Astrometrics and found Seven of Nine there, as he knew she would be.
"Lieutenant," she greeted, when she saw who her visitor was.
"Seven," he returned before the doors closed behind him. He walked to her, and quickly explained why he was there. A few hours later, he left the lab with a PADD in hand, and was reading it on the way to Deck 7. With each line, his colour became a shade lighter, his eyes darkening. Finally, the turbolift stopped, and he walked rapidly to his door. He punched the code and hurried inside. He leaned against the wall, eyes closed. Tom then walked to the window, throwing the PADD onto the couch. He opened his eyes slowly. Pain. Hurt. Agony. Anguish. They were all present not only in his eyes, but also on his face.
‚She must have known,‘ Tom realised. ‚She had to have known.‘ A single tear came down his cheek. After a while, he left his quarters. He did not know where he was going, until he found himself outside of B‘Elanna‘s quarters. Without thinking, he pressed the chimes. The door opened, showing B‘Elanna dressed in her red lounging suit.
"Hi," said a surprised B‘Elanna.
Tom went inside. "Why did you lie?"
He turned to her. "You heard me. Why did you lie?"
B‘Elanna went a bit pale. "About what?"
"About the fact, that my father‘s letter was lost!"
B‘Elanna closed her eyes. The jig was up. "How did you find out?" she asked.
"Whatever came in—in order to be retrieved—had to be saved, in order for it to be sorted out later. During the party, I thought about this. I also remembered what happened with ‚Insurrection Alpha.‘ I went to Astrometrics and asked Seven if she could try to retrieve the letter." He held up a hand before B‘Elanna could protest. He felt that he had to protect Seven. After all, he did ask her to do it. "Or else if she liked, I could have made it an order. So she complied. She checked and said that it had been deleted." Tom closed his eyes.
"Tom," she began with a shaky voice. Somewhere, inside of her, she knew that what she did was wrong; that he had a right to know what his father had written. A right to know the truth. But she only wanted to protect him! Couldn‘t he see that? Looking at him right now, as he opened his eyes, she could see the pain in them. Pain was drenched all over his face, and he held himself rigidly—almost at attention.
"Besides that program, I also know from previous experience, that some deleted files can be accessed—prison can teach you a few things—so I had her bring it up," Tom continued. He walked over to the window, and gazed at the passing stars. "I then had her put it on a PADD, so that I could read it." He gave a small laugh. "Imagine my surprise, when she didn‘t want to give it to me. She said that ‚it had been in her experience, that sometimes what a person says, may not be what they want.‘" Tom turned around to face B‘Elanna. "I said that she was right. However, sometimes it may be in that person‘s best interests to know the truth. No matter how much it hurts them," he choked out. B‘Elanna could only stand there by the door, remaining silent. He was right about that. It had hurt the Captain, when she received news that her fiancee Mark, had carried on with his life, and had gotten married. But she had wanted to know. She had a right to know. With this thought, B‘Elanna stopped. She had a feeling of what direction Tom was going in. "So, Seven gave it to me, and I read it on the way to my quarters. Needless to say, it was a good thing that I didn‘t run into anyone on the way, because I honestly don‘t know how I would have handled it. Then it all made sense; the way you were at the party, how you hedged my questions. How you were so adamant of how I should only think of the positive." He laughed.
"Tom," B‘Elanna said when she found her voice. "I only wanted to protect you! I didn‘t want you to get hurt!"
"Dammit!" Tom yelled, "I think I know that! I think that I sort of figured it out!" He walked over to her with sadness in his eyes. "But I did get hurt. Sure, I was hurt by what was in the letter. But I was hurt more, by the fact that you kept this from me," he said in a soft voice.
"But what? What would have been better for me? To know the truth, knowing what was in the letter? Or believing that maybe, someday, my father would have welcomed me back into the fold?"
"He still may," she pointed out.
"Maybe. But I won‘t go on hoping it. I can‘t. What good would it do me, to wish for something that may or may not happen? To get my hopes up, only to be let down? I can‘t set myself up for something like that. Because what do you think would happen if I did that—let my hopes up, believe that my father cared about me, let me back into the family—only to find out the opposite when we got back home? What would it do to me? How would I handle it? What kind of person would I become?"
B‘Elanna lowered her head. Her eyes were closed, but tears still spilled onto her cheeks. She knew that he was right. About everything. She did not even want to contemplate what could have happened if they did get back home; if Tom went to face his father, only to be told the same of what was in the letter. "I‘m sorry," was all that she could manage.
"So am I," Tom replied, with tears swimming in his eyes.
"I‘m sorry that you couldn‘t trust me with handling the truth. I‘m sorry that you didn‘t have any faith in me." He looked above her head. She wanted to reach out to him, but did not—afraid that he may jerk away from her. "Tom…"
He drew in a shaky breath. "I‘m leaving now. I need some time to think," he announced, as he moved past her to take position in front of the door.
"May I ask about what?" she inquired, as she folded her arms; her head turned to catch a glimpse of him, while their backs faced each other. She was half-afraid of the answer.
"Everything. The letter. My dad. Us. You know, I thought that I could trust you. Now, I‘m not so sure of what I can trust you with anymore," he said in a choked voice. "You can trust me."
"Really, now?" he said as he turned to her. "How can you say that, after that stunt you just pulled?"
B‘Elanna turned around to face Tom. "You would have done the same for me," she defended.
"You know what? I wouldn‘t have. One thing that life has taught me, is that a person deserves to know the truth. It may hurt, but you‘ll come out stronger in the end. Besides, I would not have the right to keep something like that from you. No matter how much I would have wanted too! I would have been there for you! I would have tried to help you anyway I could! From telling you that what they said didn‘t matter—and that you were a better person than they could ever be—to just holding you, letting you know that I loved you, and what they said did not matter to me. Because I know who you are, the person that you have become. The person with whom I fell madly in love with. Obviously, you didn‘t think likewise," he spat out, before leaving.
B‘Elanna waited until the door was closed, before wrapping her arms around herself, shaking. She walked to the couch, sat down and curled up into a fetal position. She then laid her head against the back of the couch, and started sobbing. The anger, sadness and pain she felt when Chakotay told her about their fallen comrades, now mixed in with those same feelings she felt towards Admiral Paris. Then she added the guilt she felt, for not telling Tom the truth. She should have. You don‘t build a relationship on lies. And man, did she ever tell a doozy! She screwed up. Big time. And now she shook Tom‘s trust in her—just as he was opening up more to her. And it hurt to know, that she hurt him. That she helped cause some of that pain, he now felt. He had said ‚us‘. He had to think about them, as a couple. She put this upon herself. She could only hope and pray that Tom would come back to her—even if it meant that she had to do everything in her power, to regain any lost trust. To regain any love, that may have been lost. She doubted that he would lose his love for her though. But still, with what she did…. She almost lost it, at this thought. No. He loved her, and nothing would ever change that. Not even this. She hoped. Tom had not said those three little words to her before. He said during his outburst that he did love her, but that was said out of anger. She knew from experience, that some things said out of anger, did not necessarily denote what was spoken. But she knew that he meant it. He may not have said them before, but he certainly showed that he did.
After reading the Admiral‘s letter, B‘Elanna realised why Tom had a hard time opening up; had a hard time of letting anyone in. She had gotten in, though. She had seen past the facade, and wondered if she would ever get past all of the defense mechanisms that he built up. How many walls was he now in the process of building, because of her? This thought made her cry even harder. A few minutes later, the chimes rang. B‘Elanna looked up in half-horror. She quickly wiped her tears, with the sleeve of her uniform, and ordered the computer to dim the lights by a third. When it complied, only then, did she answer. "Come in." The doors opened and in stepped Kathryn Janeway. B‘Elanna looked up in surprise. "Captain. Hello. Can I help you with anything?"
Janeway moved closer. "I wanted to thank-you once again, for getting out as many messages as you could. You know how much they meant to everyone. Especially to a certain young ensign, assigned to Ops."
B‘Elanna smiled. "Tell me about it." Thinking about Harry‘s good fortune with his parents, only reminded her of Tom‘s letter. Her shoulders gave a little shake against her will. This did not go unnoticed.
"B‘Elanna? Are you all right?" Janeway asked, as she moved to sit next to B‘Elanna on the couch.
The younger woman looked up. "Certainly, Captain. It‘s just a bit chilly, that‘s all."
Janeway examined the Klingon‘s eyes. They were bloodshot. B‘Elanna saw this, and lowered her face. "Somehow, I doubt that‘s it. B‘Elanna, what‘s wrong? You can confide in me, if you want. It won‘t go any further than this." The young woman made no move, so Janeway pressed on. "B‘Elanna, I not only think of myself as your commanding officer, but also as a friend. Now, do you think the same of me?"
B‘Elanna looked up in surprise. "What? Yes, Captain. I do."
"Then please tell me, of what is troubling you. Does it involve Tom?" The Klingon nodded. "Did the two of you have an argument?" Once again, B‘Elanna nodded. Kathryn sighed. "I love him like a brother, but I see that I may have to talk to him, about arguing with a Klingon."
Torres shook her head. "No. He has every right to be upset with me. I should not have done, what I did."
Janeway‘s interest perked up. "Oh?" B‘Elanna hesitated to go on. "I‘m sure that he knows, that you didn‘t mean whatever you did."
B‘Elanna shook her head once more. "But I did mean it! I thought that what I was doing, was more humane than letting him know the truth! But he found out anyway, and now he‘s in so much pain. And I‘m ashamed of myself, because I helped that pain by not telling him the truth! By not telling him, period!" she cried out, then began to sob. Janeway hugged her friend, trying to comfort her. "I hurt him by hiding it. You should have heard the pain in his voice; in his eyes. The hurt. I‘m afraid that I‘ve lost him," she confessed.
Kathryn pulled back, and looked at her chief engineer with a shocked expression. "B‘Elanna, no matter what you did, I‘m
sure that it‘s not true. Granted that Tom may be a bit upset now, but when his head clears…"
"You don‘t understand!" Torres interrupted. "When he left, he said that he had to think! Not only about the letter, but also about us! He said that he didn‘t know what he could trust me with anymore!"
Janeway was puzzled. "Letter? But, I thought that you said that Admiral Paris‘ letter, did not come through," she said, as clarity dawned upon her. This was confirmed with B‘Elanna shaking her head.
"No. It came through. All of it. But I wish to god that it hadn‘t!"
"It could not have been that bad," Janeway tried to console, for B‘Elanna‘s sake. With the way that the lieutenant was talking, it seemed as though the letter, was not of a civil nature. B‘Elanna gave a cruel laugh as she got up, went to her desk, and retrieved a PADD. As she handed it to her superior, the latter also realised that it was not only for B‘Elanna‘s sake, but also for her own. She did not want to believe that her mentor, could have written such a letter. As she grasped the PADD and began to read, her face paled, and demeanor changed. Her image of Admiral Owen Paris, as a mentor, teacher and friend, was metamorphosing into something much harsher. She was finding that she could hardly believe what she was reading. Was this the same Owen Paris who had continually praised his son? She had a difficult time reconciling herself with the two images. But she had to admit that everything now made sense, with the way Tom reacted when someone mentioned his father.
"What gets me, is that this is what he predicted! This is exactly what he said, his father was like! And I didn‘t believe him! I said for him to give his father a chance, because it appeared that his dad was reaching out. Because I didn‘t think that it would be that bad. How little I knew."
"How little we both knew," Janeway corrected.
"When I brought Harry‘s letter to the bridge," B‘Elanna continued, as she sat back down, "I lied to Tom. I said that we lost his. I only wanted to protect him! He said that he had actually gotten himself, looking forward to reading it. What could I say? The truth?"
The Captain looked at her. "Actually, yes. You should have. No matter how much, it would have hurt him. But this is with the luxury of hindsight. You didn‘t have that back then. You made a choice, which you thought was best."
"But would you have done that? Would you have deleted the letter?"
Janeway cocked her head. "Truthfully?" B‘Elanna nodded. "No, I wouldn‘t have. I couldn‘t. I don‘t think, that I would have the right, to keep something like this from him. Or anyone else for that matter."
B‘Elanna closed her eyes. "I messed up. I messed up, and if I didn‘t lose him already, he won‘t trust me. At least, not like before."
Kathryn put her hand on the young woman‘s shoulder. "I‘m sure that it‘s not that serious."
"I got through! I got to see what else there was to him! He trusted me enough to let his guard down, so that he could be himself around me! I‘m afraid that I‘ve lost that," Torres confessed.
The Captain looked sympathetically at her. "Would you like to talk to Chakotay?"
B‘Elanna shook her head. "No. I can‘t keep running to him, whenever I have a problem. Besides, I got myself into this. I‘ll try to fix it on my own."
Janeway got up to leave, and put the PADD onto the coffee table. "If you want to talk about this later on, please do not hesitate to come to me. Okay?"
The Klingon gave a small smile. "Okay." The older woman smiled back, then left.
‚How to fix this. How to fix this,‘ she kept wondering.
Kathryn had meant what she said, in her engineer‘s quarters. She did think of B‘Elanna as a friend, and Tom as a younger brother of sorts. They meant the world to her, and to each other. Perfectly matched. One of them would always keep the other in line. If anyone deserved to be together, it was them. If she could help, she would not hesitate to do so. She soon found herself outside of Tom‘s quarters. Funny, she did not remember ordering the turbolift to come to this deck. Come to think of it, she didn‘t even remember entering the turbolift itself! She pressed the chimes.
"Come in," was the reply that she received. The doors opened, and in she went. Tom was still in his uniform, listening to jazz, sprawled out on the couch. When he saw who was inside his darkened quarters, he quickly sat up. "Captain," he greeted her, surprised at her presence. "Computer, lights on full." The computer complied. The young man turned to face her fully, and got up. "What can I do for you? Would you like some coffee?"
"You know me Lieutenant; I never turn down an offer like that," Janeway quipped, as she walked to sit on the couch.
"Spoken like a true addict," Tom replied, as he walked to the replicator. He came back with two handle-free mugs, and handed one to her. Janeway looked at it with puzzlement. "It‘s an old navy style. Well, at least according to Tom Clancy." Janeway looked at him. "An old twentieth-century author. So, Captain, what can I do for you?"
Janeway put her coffee onto a coaster on the table, leaned back, and laced her fingers together. "The truth? I just came from B‘Elanna‘s."
"Oh," came a soft voice, as Tom sat down. "How is she?"
"Upset. Hurt." Tom only nodded. "She was crying—sobbing—when I saw her. She did not mean to hurt you, Tom. You must believe that," Janeway chided.
"You know what? I do," he replied, looking at his Captain, straight in the eyes. "Trust me, I do. But it still hurts. I believed her, when she said that the letter was lost. I trusted her, when she said that. It hurts that she lied to me, about something like this. Something important. She couldn‘t trust me to handle this."
"She tried to protect you."
"Captain, after she stated that my father‘s letter was lost, she told me to think that maybe he was proud of me. That he loved me." He reached for a PADD on the coffee table, and handed it to her. Even though she knew the contents, Kathryn played along. Tom was already upset with B‘Elanna; she did not want to add any ammunition and get the Klingon into any more trouble. "Does this letter relay any sentiments of love, or a father‘s pride for his son?" Tom asked. Janeway shook her head. "Now what do you think would have happened if, say we got home next week due to some miracle, and I see him. I see my father. Me, filled with hope, seeing the very same man who wrote this letter. And finding out, that he had not changed his feelings towards me! That he still felt the same about me as he did four, five years ago! How would you feel? To be despised by your own flesh and blood?" Tom paused for a moment, as he leaned against the back of the couch. Janeway remained silent, as he closed his eyes. "How would you feel, if the person with whom you were in love with, knew that the entire letter had come in, and deleted it?" He knew that he had her there.
Janeway reached for her coffee. "What would you have done, if the roles were reversed? Would you have given the letter to her?" she challenged.
"Yes. Yes, I would have."
"Are you sure about that? Are you sure, that you would not have tried to shield her, as she did for you?" she prodded.
Tom opened his eyes, and turned to look at his superior. "Yes, Captain. I am sure. I would have given her that letter. I may not have wanted to, and felt guilty for doing so later on, but I would have. For one thing, she would have a right to know what was written; a right to know the truth. For another, I would not have had a peaceful conscience. I would have buckled sooner or later. Besides, I would have just been protecting her with a lie. One that would have been uncovered sooner or later."
"Tom, she tried to protect you. Granted, it may have not been the right thing to do, but her heart was in the right place." Janeway took a few sips of her coffee. "She thinks that she may have lost you. Has she?"
Tom choked on his coffee. "What?" he exclaimed, between coughs. After he got it under control, he continued. "No! Of course not! Don‘t be ridiculous!"
"She seems to think so. Has your trust in her been shaken?" Tom lowered his head, but did not answer. Janeway did not know how to interpret this. "Is she locked out?" The flight controller remained silent. "B‘Elanna mentioned that, she got through that facade of yours. That you could be yourself around her. She is afraid that she has lost that, and it‘s tearing her apart." Janeway paused to sip her coffee. "She loves you, Tom. It‘s plain for everyone to see that. She‘s almost in a near-panic, because she realises that what she did, was wrong."
"I‘m sorry. I didn‘t know."
"How could you? She broke down crying after you left. She let you inside Tom. She‘s hurting, because you‘re hurting. And it pains her even more, to know that she‘s partially responsible."
Tom put his mug onto the table, and turned to face his mentor. His anguish was plain to see. Tears were threatening to spill over. "I can understand what her motivation was—considering what was in the letter—but I don‘t know if I can condone it."
"How would you feel, if B‘Elanna was completely cut out, from your life?" Kathryn asked her protégé.
Tom‘s face paled. "I don‘t even want to think about it," he quickly returned.
"So then she has not lost you," the Captain surmised.
Tom sighed. "No, Captain. She didn‘t—even though, I probably gave her that impression. I‘ll have to apologise to her for that."
She smiled. "Good. Now, has your trust in her—your faith in her—been shaken?"
Paris remained silent, while formulating an answer. "My faith in her has not been shaken. I do trust her." He expelled some air. "I was angry and hurt at the time, so maybe I did meant it a little, when I said it. But I was hurting, and just like a little kid, I wanted someone else to hurt too. So she became an outlet. I know that too, was not right. I‘ll also apologise to her, about that." He gave a small laugh of disgust. "You know, I‘m really ashamed of myself. All I basically did, was act like a little kid. I guess, we have some things to talk about."
"Then do it!" Janeway urged.
Tom shook his head. "No, I can‘t. Not right now. I‘m still upset with what she did. And if I see her, I may get mad again, and say something I really don‘t mean."
"In other words, you have too much pride, and are acting like a man."
Tom laughed. "Something like that. But I‘m not kidding about getting mad. I‘m half-Irish, half-Italian. Sicilian, actually. We don‘t really forget, and can hold grudges for a while."
"At least you don‘t put contracts out on people."
Tom gave a sly smile. "Well, Chakotay doesn‘t really know my entire history, before the Maquis."
"Tom," Janeway warned.
Janeway smiled. "Well, the sooner the two of you talk, the better. She needs to hear that she has not lost you."
Tom cocked his head. "Is this advice coming from my friend, or my commanding officer?" he teased.
"Just call me ‚big sister!"
"Really?" inquired an amused Tom.
"I meant what I told B‘Elanna. I do consider you to be my little brother. Of sorts. You are one of the few people, who has an inkling, of what it‘s like to be part of a career Starfleet family."
Tom contemplated this. "Yeah, but mine probably has yours beat."
Tom paused. "I‘ll talk to her tomorrow. I have to get my emotions in check first."
"They appear to be in check right now," Kathryn pointed out.
"That‘s because I‘m not talking about my father at the moment. Or what he wrote. However, as soon as you leave, that combined with what you told me about B‘Elanna—about how I helped hurt her, and lord knows I did!--will probably make me start bawling like a baby." Janeway laughed and drank the rest of her coffee.
Well," she began, rising from her seat, "My work here is done."
"Apparently so. Thanks for the advice, Captain."
"When it‘s just you and me, please call me Kathryn."
His eyebrows rose in surprise. "Really? He asked. So nodded in confirmation. "Gee, thanks."
"My pleasure," she replied as the doors opened. "Oh, and Tom?" He looked at her. "Don‘t let it get to your head," she commented before the doors closed behind her. Tom could only laugh.
The next day, with the exception of the morning briefing, Tom had managed to avoid B‘Elanna. He could understand why she deleted the letter and lied about it. He may not have liked it, or have done it himself, but he could understand. He despised himself for hurting B‘Elanna. He had not been in a good mood, when he spoke to her last night. The Captain was correct in her assessment, in that he had to tell the woman he loved, that she did not lose him. That he still trusted her. He had to apologise to her. But, he had a plan worked out. He booked the holodeck for that night (he had also talked to his ‚big sister‘ regarding this. She had granted his request whole-heartedly), but he did not know what to program in. He needed a place where not only he felt comfortable, but B‘Elanna too. He could not really think of a place, so he called up Sandrines. After being cashiered out of Starfleet and the Paris household, Sandrine had given him a room above the tavern. Ever since the holographic Sandrine had first met B‘Elanna, she knew that her and Tom were meant to be together. She even told him this, as Tom sent B‘Elanna a message in her computer terminal, of where to meet him. Evidently, he had also programmed in Sandrine‘s intuition, he mused, as he finished all other preparations for that evening. Though he had no idea of how he could have accomplished that. Now, he just hoped that she would come.
B‘Elanna went back to her quarters after her shift, exhausted. It may have only been a fourteen hour day (shorter than usual), but what her and her engineering team had worked on, was draining. At first, she was going to continue working, to keep her mind off of Tom. However, the Captain had come in, and told her to leave it to Carey and the nightshift crew. She did not like it, but who could argue with the Captain? She was changing out of her uniform, when she noticed her computer terminal blinking. She strolled to her desk and pressed a button.
I would very much like to be in your company tonight. If, after last night, you do not feel likewise, I totally understand. However, I do hope that you will come to Holodeck Two at 22:30.
Love, TomP.S. Knowing you, you didn‘t have any dinner, so I‘m using my rations to conjure something up for you.
B‘Elanna looked at the message. A part of her was afraid to go. She did not know what would happen. However, the other part was ecstatic by the fact, that he was reaching out to her. Maybe the Captain was right, and she had not lost him after all! She was deathly afraid of that happening. She had never let someone affect her like this before, and from her conversations with Tom, she suspected that the same went for him. It was 22:15, but she decided to leave now, and arrive early. She was impatient, and scurried to Holodeck Two, after changing into slim fitting pants, and a knit sweater. She saw that only she was to be admitted, and a privacy seal was labeled. After giving her identity, she was let inside and found herself outside of Sandrine‘s. She no longer minded hanging around there, as much as she used too. For one thing, Ricky was no longer there (B‘Elanna really hated that hologram!), and another reason, was Sandrine herself. B‘Elanna could see what Tom saw in the owner of his favourite watering hole. Sandrine was a good friend to him. And B‘Elanna was glad that the Frenchwoman had given him a place to stay, when no one else would. But the kicker of it all, was that as soon as the holographic characters found out that she was dating Tom, they treated her with respect! Even that ‚pig‘ had stopped making overtures to her! As he once said, she was now ‚Tommy‘s girl‘, and he wanted to live. But there was more to it than that. They all respected the pilot. She would have to find out why. She opened the door to the tavern, and noticed that with the exception of Sandrine, it was totally empty.
"Ah, B‘Elanna!" Sandrine greeted, as soon as she heard the door. Even though her head was down and looking at invoices on the bar, she knew that it had to be the engineer. As she looked up, this was confirmed. Sandrine gave a big smile that was returned. "Thomas is upstairs, waiting for you."
"Where is everyone else?" B‘Elanna inquired.
"Dehors. Out," was the answer. "Thomas told them to ‚scram‘. He does have a way with words, does he not?"
B‘Elanna laughed. "That he does," she agreed.
Sandrine smiled at this. "Go," she ordered, pointing to the door that led to the back. "He is eagerly awaiting you."
"You‘re welcome. Bonne nuit."
B‘Elanna went through the door, and up the stairs. She went to Tom‘s room, and found him getting dinner ready. She tapped on the half-opened door. "Hello," she said.
"Bella! You‘re early!" Tom replied, rushing to the door.
"I saw your message, and decided to come a bit early. Do you mind?"
"Mind? No, of course not! How does lasagna sound?" he inquired, giving her a quick peck on the lips.
"Your Nonna Lazzarino‘s recipe?" she asked.
"Certo!" Tom exclaimed, as he pulled out her chair. She sat down, and was slightly pushed in. He then went to his chair, and seated himself. Some Chianti was poured into their glasses. The two only talked about surface topics during dinner. It was only during dessert, that B‘Elanna felt comfortable to speak of what was really on their minds.
"Tom, about last night; I think that we need to talk about it."
"You‘re right," he agreed. "Some things need to be clarified. And please, let me start." When he heard no rebuttals, he continued. "I‘m sorry for the way that I acted last night. I know that you were doing what you thought was best; that you were only trying to protect me. I shouldn‘t have reacted as forcefully as I did. Hell, I shouldn‘t have reacted that way at all! It was pretty juvenile behaviour."
"No. You had every right too," B‘Elanna countered. "You were right about what you said. It was better for you to know the truth—no matter how much it would have hurt. I can admit that you were right about maybe facing your father one day. It would have hurt you even more, to hear it from him; live and in living colour. I don‘t even want to think of how you would have reacted to it; what you would have done. To what you could have become. The Tom Paris in front of me, is the real Tom Paris. The man with whom I fell in love with."
"I‘m glad. Because it is this Tom Paris, that has fallen head over heels, in love with you. B‘Elanna Torres, you own my body, my heart, and my soul. If something should ever happen to you, I don‘t know how I would handle it," he confessed. "I mean, I almost bugged out about what happened with the Mari."
"I remember," she said soberly. And she did. She remembered that very well. The night that she had been returned to Voyager, she and Tom, had a rather physical evening. It was the first time that they had made love. No one had ever made her feel the way that her companion had. It was Tom‘s way of making sure that she was all right—and he did examine her thoroughly. And she reveled in it.
"I got a visit from Captain Janeway last night, and she told me how you were handling yourself." He held up a hand, as she was about to protest what their Commanding Officer did. "Please don‘t get mad at her. My big sister was only worried about us. She only wanted to help."
"I‘m glad she did. Big sister?" she asked playfully.
"Yes. But don‘t tell anyone else that! Not even Harry or Chakotay!" Tom warned her.
"Yes, Master," B‘Elanna teased.
Tom smiled at this. "Anyway, I wanted to tell you, that you didn‘t lose me. I love you too much, to let you get away from me. Even though I wouldn‘t have done the same to you, I would have been strongly tempted to do so. And for some reason, I didn‘t really want to admit that."
"Well, I‘m glad that you can tell me this. After last night, I was not sure of what would happen. I was afraid that I may have lost you," B‘Elanna voiced. "And you have every reason not to trust me. I lied to you, I deleted your dad‘s letter, and encouraged you to think of something that was not true."
"True," Tom disclosed. "But I do trust you, B‘Elanna. I never stopped trusting you."
"It was anger that spoke those words. Hurt and anger. By not telling me about the letter—by hiding it—it really hurt me. Then, that hurt mixed with the bitterness I felt towards the letter and my father. When I went to ask you why you had lied to me, you became the object of my rage. You became my outlet," he explained. "And that should not have happened. I should not have done that. And I‘m ashamed of myself. I hurt you badly, and that was the last thing that I ever wanted to do."
"I‘m sorry too. I should not have done what I did. It‘s just that after what I told you about maybe your dad not being the same, and then finding out that you were right and I was wrong…" she trailed. Tom knew that it was not pride that prevented her from telling him the truth. It was his father. The bastard had not changed after all these years. He got up, and moved her chair. He grasped her hands, and brought her to sit on the nearby loveseat. He tucked her head under his, and enveloped her in his arms. "I remember how I felt when my dad left," she continued. "I had thought that what he did, could have been the worst thing for a parent to do to their child. Leave without explaining why; letting the child think that maybe, they were the cause for going away. I remember the pain I felt when that happened." She maneuvered around so that she could wrap her arms around him, and moistened his shirt with tears. "But that was nothing compared to what I felt, when I read your dad‘s letter. How could he ever say such things? How could he even believe them?"
"You don‘t know my dad, Bella," Tom comforted. "Janeway only saw his public personna. I didn‘t. I was a Paris. I had to be the best. Perfect."
B‘Elanna moved her head to look at him. "What? Tom, no one can be perfect."
"Tell that to the Admiral," he retorted.
"Was it really that bad? Growing up with him?" she asked.
Tom gathered his thoughts. "Not all of it. There were times when he could be a really great guy. Even fun. Then, there were times when I would always try; but it was not good enough for him. So then I would try harder, but with the same results. I‘d try not to let it bother me though."
"But it did. It still does," she pointed out.
He nodded. "True. But now, I know what‘s ahead of me if we do get home. I can prepare for it. Now that I know he still doesn‘t care very much for me, I can try to not let it affect me as much."
"If he‘s that closed-minded, he doesn‘t deserve to know the person that you‘ve become. The Thomas Eugene Paris, that we‘ve all come to know and love," "B‘Elanna said simply.
"Maybe," Tom conceded.
Both spent the rest of the time telling—getting—everything that needed to be said. Spoken. They then fell asleep on the loveseat, still wrapped in the comfort of each other‘s arms.
B‘Elanna felt a nudge, then a disentangling of arms.
"Hmmm?" she asked groggily.
"It‘s 03:00. We have to go on duty in five hours," Tom said.
"We‘re still in the Holodeck."
B‘Elanna leaned onto Tom‘s chest. "I like it here."
"So do I, Sweetheart; but this loveseat will put a crink in our backs," Tom pointed out.
"Then let‘s go to the bed," she replied, logically.
"Fine with me," he put in. As B‘Elanna tried to get up, she nearly fell onto the floor because her leg was asleep. Luckily, Tom caught her in time, and carried her to bed. He took off their shoes, pulled the covers apart, and placed her underneath—fully clothed. He then joined her, in the same state of dress. As he pulled her next to him, she leaned into his embrace and deeply breathed in his scent.
"I love you, Tom," she said.
"I love you too, Bee," he returned, kissing the nape of her neck.
"It certainly took you long enough to say it, helmboy."
"Call me a slow learner."
"No. You just have this fear of not being loved back. After reading your dad‘s letter, I can understand why you don‘t like to open yourself up to others."
Tom smiled as he heard B‘Elanna‘s analysis of him. "I do love you. I‘m just sorry that it took me so long to say it."
"I understand. Now, Tom?"
"Go to sleep."
Tom gave a wry grin. "Yes, Ma‘am. Computer, set alarm for 06:30."
Alarm is set, the computer announced. Tom smiled at this and snuggled next to B‘Elanna. His B‘Elanna. He was sure that with her by his side, he would be able to face his past, his present, his future, and his father. Maybe one day, how the Admiral viewed him, his opinion of Tom, would not matter anymore. He hoped so. On the other hand, B‘Elanna‘s view, her opinion, would matter. That‘s all that he was aiming for right now.
"Remind me to thank big sister, for her interference," he spoke to the dark.
B‘Elanna, semi-awake, heard this and smiled. Yes, she thought, Janeway would have to be thanked. Maybe a nice, semi-romantic dinner with a certain first officer of hers, would do the trick she mused. "Are you thinking what I‘m thinking?" she asked Tom.
"I think so. But god help him if his intentions towards my sister, are anything less than honourable! Then little brother will have to bear his teeth, and act like the half-Irish, half-Sicilian his heritage stipulates!" Tom began to rant. B‘Elanna smiled at this. God help them all, when this man became a father! Actually, god help the man who would ever become interested in his daughter (if he ever had one). He would make a wonderful father, though. Better than his own. Tom knew that he was not perfect, and knew his limitations (most of the time). But most of all, he would never treat his child the same as he was, and would never cause a child that much pain. It would kill him if he did. B‘Elanna doubted that the Admiral felt the same way, or else he would not have done so. It was Owen Paris‘s loss, for refusing to think that perhaps, his son could change. But it was her gain. She would be the one to help ease Tom‘s pain. To help make him whole once again. She was looking forward to it; to the future. Their future. Now all she needed, was to get him to stop talking!
She rolled over, so that her front faced his. She silenced him with a kiss. "Tom," she began, while replacing her mouth with her finger, "I love you very much. However, if you don‘t shut up, I‘ll have to hurt you."
"Is that a promise?" he asked playfully.
B‘Elanna chuckled. "Go to bed," she persisted.
"I am in bed."
"Go to sleep."
"Yes, Master," Tom said, as he hugged her. B‘Elanna wrapped her arm around Tom‘s chest, feeling warm and content. And safe. Before Tom, she had not felt that way for a long time. She relished in the safe cavern she found, in his arms. And fell asleep like that.