A Star Trek: Voyager story. Copyright 1998. Paramount and Viacom own the rights to these characters and everything else that is Trek in this world of ours . This story carries on the theme of Tom‘s teddy. Many thanks goes towards Betty Phipps for first creating this focal point of inspiration, and Janet for encouraging me to write my own stories (I guess I needed someone to tell me to get off my duff and not only to read stories, but also to create them). This creation of mine takes place after Ensign Samantha Wildman is injured on an Away Mission, and has to stay in Sickbay overnight for observation. Tom volunteers to take care of Naomi, her daughter. It is rated G and is a bit fluffy. It takes place before Day of Honour. Snippets may remind you of the Paris Nocturne Series by B. Antrim and is derived from ‚Thoughts‘. Also, if it reminds you of the Naomi series by J. Monroe, this is not to be, as I wrote this while waiting for an important phone call in the club office last October. Thanks go towards Joanna for beta-reading this for me. Miss Wildman‘s Teddy Bear
A.Blunt offofthedeck@hotmail.com
As the doors open, young Naomi Wildman bounced inside the quarters of Tom Paris, who would be looking after her that night. She was sorry and worried about her mommy being hurt on the planet below, but it let her spend some time with her Uncle Tommy. She had a lot of aunts and uncles, but he was one of her favourites. This was because he was not afraid of letting her run around (it was a holodeck! How could people get hurt?), always told her stories and let her eat ice cream and other treats that her mother would not let her have all the time. But most of all, he made her laugh, and laughed along with her, not at her. They would also sing and play games and he seemed to have fun while doing all of these things with her. He once told her that he was really a big kid in disguise to infiltrate the big bad grown-ups. Maybe he really was a big kid. But she had never stayed overnight at his place before. She quickly began to explore as Tom can in with a backpack full of stuff. He saw what was happening and smiled.

"Naomi, I‘m just going to put this into the other room, okay?" he said. Naomi nodded. She saw a book on the end table by the couch and went to investigate. She opened it. It made no sense to her. She could read a little, but the words here made no sense. They were just gibberish! Tom came back and saw her with the opened book.

"Tu comprends?" he asked. Naomi looked up with a quizzical expression upon her face.

"I asked you if you understood what you were reading, but I guess not," he explained.

"What‘s to understand? These aren‘t real, just made up!" she exclaimed. Tom moved to sit beside her.

"No. These are real words. The reason why you can‘t understand them is because it‘s in another language, French," he explained gently.

"You can understand it?" she asked.

"Oui, je suis bilingue. I am bilingual. My dad was English - Anglais. My mom was French - Francais," Tom answered.

"Is it easy to learn?"

Tom paused before answering Naomi‘s next question. "To be honest, it depends on the person. For some, it is easy to learn. For others, it‘s not as easy. Some have been known to take years before learning it well," he said. Naomi thought about this.

"How old were you when you learned?" she inquired. Tom smiled and bent his head conspiratorially.

"Want to know a secret?" he asked. Naomi nodded her head. "It was the first language I knew. I didn‘t know English very well until I was almost four."

Young Wildman‘s eyes opened wide. ‚Four!‘ she thought. Just then her stomach grumbled. She looked up with a sheepish expression that made Tom want to laugh, but he didn‘t. Instead, he just got up and Naomi was about to follow him when she noticed that he was not going towards the door, but to the replicator.

"We‘re not going to Uncle Neelix‘s for dinner?" she asked. She adored Neelix-after all, he was her godfather-but sometimes she did not like his food. She did not tell him that though; Mom said that would be impolite and hurt his feelings.

Tom came back with two plates. On top them were big squares of some sort of sauce, cheese and noodles. It smelled good and her stomach grumbled again. She looked at him as he set the plate before her and cut the square into bite-sized pieces, so that she could eat it better.

"It‘s called ‚lasagna‘, the way that my grandmother made it. It shouldn‘t really be replicated, but it‘s still good," Tom explained, as he went to the replicator to get her a glass of brown liquid.

"This is chocolate milk. It‘s regular milk, but with chocolate in it," Tom said, as Naomi took a mouthful of the pasta. It was good! It was certainly better than Uncle Neelix‘s cooking. She later washed it down with the chocolate milk. The milk was good too. She would have to talk to her mom about letting her have chocolate milk more often. Afterwards, they had butter pecan ice cream. This was new to her as she usually had vanilla. She liked the fact that it had nuts in it, and quickly ate them first. Butter pecan even had a better taste to it than plain vanilla.

Naomi was having fun just goofing around with her Uncle Tom, and was glad to be spending the night here, when she remembered why she was doing so. She then began to worry about her mom and wondered how she was doing. She asked Tom if it would be all right to visit her mom in Sickbay. Tom contacted the Doctor and asked if it would be okay for Miss. Wildman to visit her mother, and to give her a goodnight hug and kiss. There was a bit of a pause, and for a moment, Naomi was afraid that the Doctor would say no. But he said that it would be fine-however, not at the moment, for the ensign was resting. Perhaps, in an hour, before Naomi‘s bedtime?

"Will do, Doc," was Paris‘ reply. When the comm was cut off, he turned to Naomi. "Is there anything in particular you want to do now?" Naomi thought for a moment. When she told Tom, he seemed a bit surprised.

She wanted to learn French.

"Are you sure about this?" he asked his young charge of the night. Naomi nodded her head yes. Tom went over to his console and downloaded into a few PADD‘s, beginner‘s French He then went to the coffee table and sat on the floor, as Naomi moved to sit beside him. As Tom began to teach her a few words, he noticed that she seemed very enthusiastic about the lesson. He hoped that she wanted to learn the language for herself and not to please him, but she kept asking him questions of ‚How do you say this?‘, and "Why this said like that?‘ It seemed as though she was really into it. It also appeared that the more he taught, the more she wanted to know. Tom was pleased, but he made sure not to apply any pressure on Naomi to learn at warp speed, and went at a leisurely pace. Finally, the time came when they could go to Sickbay. As the doors opened, Naomi ran through them and straight to her mother. Samantha picked up her daughter and brought her onto the biobed. Tom stood by the bed as Naomi told her mom about the lasagna, ice cream, chocolate milk and even about the book she saw.

"And you know what Mom? He can speak and read French! And he‘s teaching me too!" Naomi exclaimed proudly. Both the Doctor and Ensign looked up in surprise. It had never occurred to them that Tom might know more than one language. Tom noticed this.

"You seem a bit surprised, Doc," he said to the EMH with that tone of voice the Doctor was well familiarised with.

"I don‘t see why I should. It has been my experience that with you, Mr. Paris, anything is possible." The two adult humanoids smiled at this.

"It‘s because his mom was French! She taught him!" Naomi continued. She then turned to Tom. "What‘s her name?"

"Chantal," he answered softly.

"She must be a good person," Samantha commented, as she remembered of all the times that Tom had helped her out-along with many others, when they needed him.

"She‘s been dead for a few years now," Tom remarked. The room went quiet. Samantha looked a bit embarrassed.

"I‘m sorry. She must have been a very special person," Samantha said. It had have been more than a few years, but she could still see the hurt and pain in his eyes. Tom gave a weak smile.

"I like to think so," he replied. Samantha smiled back and then looked at her fidgeting daughter. Naomi noticed that everyone was looking at her and looked up at them. As she did so, she gave a great big yawn.

"And you my little pumpkin, are going to bed right now," Samantha said.

"No, I wanna stay here with you."

"No. You are going to spend the night at Uncle Tom‘s. But I promise you, that I will see you first thing tomorrow morning. Okay?" Samantha said, while trying to be firm with her youngster.

Naomi looked up at her mother. "Is that a pinky swear?" she inquired, as she held out her little finger. Her mother shook her head.

"No. It‘s a hug swear." Samantha answered, as she enveloped Naomi in a bear hug.

"Bonne nuit, ma mere. Je t‘aime," Naomi said, as she was released from the hug. Samantha looked first at her daughter, then her friend.

"Okay, what is this? Some new secret language between the two of you?" she joked.

"No, Mom. It means good-night and I love you," Naomi translated with a laugh. Samantha gave a small chuckle at this.

"I love you too, Sweetheart. Now promise me that you‘ll behave for Uncle Tommy, okay?" The Ensign‘s daughter nodded. Tom went over to the biobed and picked up Naomi.

"How would you like to have a piggy-back ride?" he asked. Naomi nodded yes and so with the help of her mother, got onto Tom‘s back. As they were going through the corridors of the ship, they received many smiles and looks as Naomi bade everyone goodnight to all in both French and English. It also occurred to many of the onlookers that it almost seemed natural at the sight of Tom Paris with a child. Many shook their heads and smiled to themselves with this thought.

As Naomi was brushing her teeth before she went to bed, Tom sat down on his bed. He leaned over to his night table and opened a drawer. He brought out a picture and looked at it. Naomi came bouncing in the room, jumped onto the bed and looked over his shoulder. She saw a very beautiful woman who had a young face, pretty eyes, and a laughing smile.

"Is that your mom?" she wondered. Tom set the picture down onto the flat surface of the table and pulled the covers of the bed.

"Yep, that‘s her," he confirmed.

"She‘s pretty."

"That she was," agreed Tom. "And she liked to sing too. She had a very beautiful voice," he said, as he tucked Naomi into bed.

"Do you miss your mom?"

Tom sat on the bed beside her. He looked at the floor for a moment and then back at her. "Yes. Very much."

"When did she die?" Naomi was curious. The Doctor and her Mom did not know Uncle Tom could speak French, and it seemed that no one really knew him (at least to her).

"She died when I was six years old," Tom answered. Naomi‘s eyes went wide open at this statement. She would be that old in a couple of years. She did not want her Mom to die and she felt a bit afraid. Tom recognised this. "But that doesn‘t mean that the same will happen to you," Tom quickly said, to put Naomi at ease. She still looked uncertain. Tom then bent down and got from underneath his bed, a teddy bear. It seemed old, and appeared that it had been repaired more than a few times. Tom tucked the bear under the covers with her. "This here is Teddy. My mom gave him to me the day that I was born and he‘s very special to me. Teddy is cuddly and is a very good listener. Now, if you promise to take very good care of him, you can sleep with him tonight, okay?"

"He‘s a nice bear. Can I keep him?" she asked.

"No, you can‘t keep him. Besides, don‘t you have a bear of your own?" Naomi shook her head no. Tom seemed surprised. "You mean that no one has ever given you a Teddy Bear?"

"No," was the quiet answer. Tom was surprised at this. He had never known a child without a teddy bear before.

"Well, why don‘t you go to sleep now? Maybe you can dream of getting a teddy, okay?" Tom suggested. A dreamy look appeared on Naomi‘s face.

"Yeah. That would be nice. A Teddy of my own. Good night Uncle Tommy," she sang out, as she gave Tom a hug.

"Goodnight Naomi. Pleasant dreams." Naomi nodded at this, and snuggled with Teddy. For some reason, she felt safe with Teddy here, and was now sure that her mommy would be all right. She quickly fell asleep.

When Tom checked on his young charge and found her asleep, he pressed his commbadge. "Paris to Kim."

"Kim here. What‘s going on? Baby-sitting has finally gotten you down?" Tom made a face, though Kim could not see it. Still, Harry knew that it was there.

"Ha, ha. I was just wondering of how many replicator rations you had left?"

Kim closed his eyes before answering. "What are you up to know?"

"Nothing bad. If you have the time, you could come over here and I‘ll explain everything to you," Tom said.

"Sorry, Tom. I have none left. Besides, I‘m working on a project that Captain Janeway asked me to do. But if you want, I can warn her in advance of any nerferious plots, that her chief flight controller is about to do with the replicators," Kim teased. Tom closed his eyes as he knew what Harry was referring to.

The last time, Tom had been in the mood for one of his favourite treats-Italian poutine-he had a bit of trouble of programming it into the computer (it got to the point where he threatened it with a sledgehammer if it did not cooperate), but he finally got it in. He replicated a nice plate of hot Italian poutine and had a great snack.

But it did not end there.

It appeared that while he was tinkering with the computer, he sort of put a wire the wrong way, and instead of the poutine staying in his replicator unit, the recipe went to every unit on the ship. And that was what they all made for the rest of the day. If someone ordered coffee, they got Italian poutine. If they ordered prime rib, they got Italian poutine. However, on the plus side, when someone asked for water, they got water (but no one appreciated that). While everyone did not really like the green and blue wobbly stuff that Neelix was serving that day (since it also smelled like an elephant‘s habitat), it seemed that no one wanted melted mozzarella cheese and spaghetti sauce on top of French fries for breakfast, or lunch. Tom did not really know what was going on, until B‘Elanna contacted the Captain while he was at the helm, and told her that she found the source of the problem. When it was said out loud, everyone on the bridge looked at him. He looked at his console and went bright red (the curse of having a fair complexion). But he had to admit that no one really wanted to do him bodily harm for that incident.

That was always a good sign.

"No, nothing like that," Tom replied, blushing a little at the memory.

"Okay, but be forewarned; I know nothing, if the Captain finds out that you reworked the replicators."

"Oh ye of little faith. All right, good luck on your little project. Paris out."

Tom sat down on the couch and picked up the book that Naomi held earlier. The ‚Brothers Kamarov‘, by Dostevesky-in French no less. He wanted to read it next in the Russian version, and counted himself lucky that his roommate from Marseilles was Russian. They had made a deal: Tom would teach him French, and Vasily would teach him Russian. He was probably rusty, but he hoped that he had not lost it. He opened the book and ran a hand down the pages. For some reason, he really missed his mom tonight. Her laughter, her smile, the light in her eyes. He missed the way she would make dinner, asking him to help her. He missed their day trips to all sorts of places. She was the one who got him interested in rock climbing, by bringing him to her friends‘ place in British Columbia. His eyes were misting over as the door chimed.

"Enter at your own risk," he playfully called out, fully expecting it to be Harry. Maybe his friend changed his mind after all. The door opened and B‘Elanna‘s form appeared.

She paused for a moment before coming in. "Am I interrupting anything?" she asked.

"No," Tom replied, as he got up to put the book away. "Just remembering stuff." B‘Elanna grabbed it from his hands and looked at the title questioningly.

"It‘s French," Tom answered to her unasked inquiry.

B‘Elanna looked at him skeptically.

"You speak French?" It was more of a statement than a question.

Oui, Je parle français. Je suis bilingue. And I can read it too," he retorted, as he grabbed his book back.

B‘Elanna looked at him with an almost impressed look upon her face. "Okay, I believe you. But you do realise that it‘s because I basically have no idea what you just said. You said it so fast, that I could only make out a few words. How many others know of this surprisingly hidden talent of yours?" she asked with a grin.

"Only the Doctor, Sam Wildman and Naomi. As for the talent, I‘m multi-faceted." B‘Elanna gave a small laugh.

"Speaking of which, I came by to see how she was doing. I heard that Sam was injured on the away mission, and when scuttlebutt had it that you were looking after Naomi..." she trailed.

"You wanted to know if a) I was still alive, and not dead of exhaustion, or b) to make sure that I haven‘t corrupted little children‘s minds?" Tom said this last part, going towards B‘Elanna with hands up in a menacing manner. She laughed again.

"I just wanted to know how‘s she taking it, being away from her mom for the first time. Sam is a wonderful mother. At times, I wish mine had been more like her," she said candidly. She stopped when she realised what she had let slip. Tom smiled at this. At least she was a bit comfortable with him if she shared this tidbit with him-even if she didn‘t mean to say it.

"She‘s okay. We had supper, then ice cream, went to see Sam, then she went to bed. I only hope that she doesn‘t hurt him." The last sentence was muttered under his breath, but B‘Elanna heard it just the same.

"Hurt who?" she questioned.

Tom looked defensive, but knew that there was no way to get out of it. "My Teddy, okay? Yes, I am a grown man who still has his Teddy with him. My mom gave him to me. No matter where I went, I always brought him with me."

"Even to prison?"

"Yes, even there. But gods, you know how hard it was to try to hide it back there? Very hard! And when some of the inmates found out, they started to badger me, and one guy actually took him! But he didn‘t have Teddy for very long," Tom said smugly and with pride.

"Why? Did Teddy scare him?" B‘Elanna teased with a smile.

She found this highly amusing.

"No. I punched the guy until he gave me my bear back," Tom explained, as he put the book onto a shelf. "He then went to the infirmary."

"You sent a guy to the infirmary...over a bear?!?" B‘Elanna did not understand.

"As I said, my mom gave him to me. She‘s been dead since I was a child. Life afterwards didn‘t get any better, with the Admiral being around all the time. With Teddy, I remember a time when someone cared about me unconditionally, who loved me unconditionally, for who I was. Not because of what they expected or wanted me to be. She was a special lady and I remember her every night when I look at him. Satisfied?" Tom asked as he went into a defensive posture, arms crossed. He became a bit embarrassed over his little outburst. He went to check on Naomi. She was still asleep. When he came back, B‘Elanna was on the couch. She looked up and said two words: "I‘m sorry."

"It‘s okay," he said, as he sat down beside her.

"It sounds like we‘ve both come from lousy single parental units," B‘Elanna commented. Tom laughed at the phrasing of what she said.

"Yep, sure sounds like it. But I bet that I can beat you."

B‘Elanna looked at him. "At what?"

"At who had the worst parent."

"Easy. Mine. Tops. Mine expected me to follow Klingon traditions."

"Dad expected me to become the youngest Captain in Starfleet history."

"My mom never fully forgave me for being half-Klingon. She never liked my human side. It reminded her too much of my dad."

"My dad never liked me to speak French around the house. It reminded him of my mom."

"My mom thought that my human side was making me weak and that she had to raise me along Klingon lines better," B‘Elanna retorted. Tom stopped for a moment.

"Isn‘t that kind of hard to do when you‘re the only Klingons in a human colony?" he asked.

"Tell me about it!" she muttered.

"My dad once said out of the blue when I was ten, that I was not living up to the Paris name. That I wasn‘t good enough to be his son, that I was an embarrassment to him, who could never do anything right in his life," Tom said. B‘Elanna was shocked. No matter what her mother was like, no matter how much they never got along, that was never spoken to her. It may have been hinted at times, but never said aloud. No wonder why it seemed that Tom had low expectations of himself. She then wondered how many more demons Tom had hidden inside, and what kind of man and father Admiral Paris really was.

"You win," she simply said.

Tom grimaced at this. He may love his father, but at times he hated the Admiral. There was a dark side to Owen Paris which no one really saw, that he hid from the public. Tom followed suite. Only let them see what you want them to see. Captain Janeway admired his father, so he never spoke ill of him. No matter how much he felt like it at times.

"So," B‘Elanna began, "What were you doing before I came in?" Things were becoming a bit dark, and she knew that Tom did not like to think about his father, much less dwell on him.

"Nothing much. I asked Harry now much replicator rations he lad left." He turned and saw B‘Elanna shaking her head. "No, nothing like that...poutine fiasco. Naomi doesn‘t have a teddy bear. I was sort of going to replicate one for her. I have some rations left, but not enough."

"You mean that she doesn‘t have a bear already?" she asked. Tom shook his head. She thought for a moment. "If you want, I could help out. I have some rations saved which could turn out a fair sized bear." Tom‘s face lit up and gave her one of the biggest and happiest smiles she had ever seen from him. This she liked.

"I wouldn‘t mind, but if you‘ve saved up that many rations, you must have had a reason." Tom would not have minded borrowing the rations, but he did not want them if they were going towards something special.

"No. They were for the next time Freddie Bristow asked me to dinner. I wanted an excuse not to go. He usually asks me whenever Neelix cooks something...more unusual then he normally does." She noticed the look on his face. Annoyance. Jealously. " He‘s a nice kid, but not my type."

"In that case, maybe you ought to save them," Tom said, with a bit more feeling than he wanted to let on. He just hoped that B‘Elanna did not notice. Things had got back on track after Sakari IV, only a few months ago. However, she did notice, and she felt good about it. She felt as though someone did truly care about her-for who she was. She knew that he was not lying about his feelings-or at least what he said in the turbolift after Sakari. She tried to keep from smiling. She did not want him to know that she caught on to the hard edge of his voice of what he just said.

"No. This is for a good cause." She noticed that he was going to speak-probably to raise some protest, but continued. "I know not having dinner with Freddie is a good cause-for me," ‚and for you,‘ she thought. "But for some reason, you total humans place sentimental value on stuffed animals. For whatever reason, I may never figure out. But if it makes Naomi happy-and keeps her from taking your bear-I‘m game."

"Thank-you," Tom said, giving her another genuine smile. B‘Elanna felt elated at that. They went over to the computer terminal and picked out what kind of bear they were going to replicate. At first, they had no idea of what kind to give her, but eventually decided upon one. B‘Elanna left two hours later saying that she would be by in the morning before Naomi got up. She wanted to see the child‘s reaction of her new playmate.

The next morning, Naomi was awoken by Tom. He was in uniform already, and had taken Teddy from the pillows beside her. She could also see B‘Elanna Torres by the door.

"Naomi, wake up. Teddy has a surprise here for you," he coaxed, as the youngster got up. She walked into the living room and found on the couch, a medium sized traditional bear. It was medium brown, and inside of the ears was a lighter brown. He also had a black nose, black eyes, and a smile. She rushed over, grabbed it and hugged it. As she did so, she felt a small tail. It had a tail to it! She turned and saw the two adults looking at her with smiles on their faces.

"Teddy can‘t go home with you Naomi, as he already has one.

But his friend here, has no home..." Tom began.

Naomi was horrified at this idea. "He has no home?!?!" she exclaimed.

B‘Elanna nodded and continued. "He has no home, and needs one. He needs someone who can love him, take care of him and treasure him."

"Like Uncle Tommy does for Teddy?" interrupted Naomi.

B‘Elanna smiled as Tom went a bit red.

"Yes, like Tom does for Teddy. Teddy told him about this little girl his Tommy knows..."

"Am I that little girl?"

Tom bent down to the child‘s level. "Yes, you are that little girl. Anyway, Teddy told his friend that you had no bear, and this bear," Tom pointed to the one she was holding, "has no home. So we were wondering if maybe, you would like to give him a home."

Naomi‘s face lit up. "Really?"

"Really," confirmed B‘Elanna

"I can keep him?"

"He‘ll be your bear from now on if you want him," Tom said. "But you have to promise that you will love him." Naomi‘s head bobbed up and down in answer. "Now if you want, you can get washed and dressed and show him to your mom." Naomi went back to the bedroom to change. Tom turned to the couch where he slept last night to fold his blanket. As he did so, he faced Torres and suggestively held up two ends.

B‘Elanna went over and grabbed the other ends. Her smile

never left her face as they finished the task. Naomi later

came out, washed, dressed and ready to visit her mother

All three of them went to Sickbay together. Naomi was bouncing up and down, running around, and showing everyone ‚Teddy Bear Junior‘, while telling them the story of how she acquired him. People smiled and looked at Paris, who blushed every single time while B‘Elanna laughed. When they finally got to Sickbay, Naomi flew in to show her mother her new bear, and to tell her that they would have someone else living with them.

"And Mommy, Teddy Junior needs lots of love and attention; so while you‘re at work, I‘ll have to look after him and not interrupt you anymore, okay?" Naomi instructed, with a stern and almost adult-like tone. Samantha Wildman looked down at her daughter with a smile.

"Okay," she said, then hugged her. She looked up and saw Paris and Torres looking at them. "So, Lieutenant Paris has a Teddy Bear, huh?" The Doctor looked at Tom. Paris blushed again.

"Geez, Doc. I don‘t think that you could give me a light sunburn so that I‘ll have a good excuse to be this colour?" Tom asked.

"I would advise against it, Mr. Paris," the Doctor said, in that tone of voice.

"Didn‘t hurt to ask. Samantha, Naomi, we have to go now," Tom said. Naomi rushed over to her ‚uncle‘.

"Thank-you for letting me stay at your place last night Uncle Tommy! Can you also thank Teddy for me? He told Teddy Junior about me, so now I also have a Teddy Bear!" After this was said, she hugged Tom, who returned the hug.

"Of course I will. I promise." He gave her a small peck on the cheek and let her go. She then went to hug B‘Elanna who also returned it.

When the two lieutenants got to the bridge, they went to their stations. At first, everything was business as usual. But then the conversation changed.

"I hear that Naomi Wildman had a new confidant," Chakotay began.

"Really? Who?" Janeway replied. It was obvious that this was rehearsed. Paris knew that he was in for a good ribbing. It appeared that it was nearing the end of his ‚bad boy‘ reputation. He looked over his shoulder and saw Harry looking as though he wanted to laugh. When he saw Tom glancing at him, he quickly turned his head downwards. The only one on the bridge not reacting to any of this was Tuvok. Tom took in a deep breath.

It was going to be a long day.

As he once told B‘Elanna, "Remember the good old days, when it was hard to keep a secret on a ship this size?" By the end of breakfast, most of the ship knew what happened, and by noon everyone knew. Even Neelix started getting into the game. By now, Tom was getting a bit tired and knew that this would continue for the next few days, so he ate quickly then went to his quarters after lunch. But after dinner that night, Samantha Wildman stopped him as he was leaving the mess hall.

"Tom, I just want to thank-you for looking after Naomi last night. She had a wonderful time, and wouldn‘t mind learning French again," Samantha said with a laugh.

Tom smiled. "Sure, anytime."

"I would also like to thank-you for the bear. She won‘t let got of it. I can honestly say, that TJ is her most precious possession. And her best friend. Thank-you."

"Well, B‘Elanna kicked in a lot of replicator rations, too.

She should also be thanked," Tom put in.

"I already did. But you are the one who came up with the idea. Your reputation is wrong, Lieutenant. You do have a good heart. And I think that for the first time, people are beginning to see it. Some can be a bit slow in changing their opinions about someone-not like the rest of us," Sam replied. For the umpteenth time that day, Tom blushed. But he could now add speechless to the list.

Later that night, the chimes to Tom‘s quarters rang.

"Computer, who‘s at the door?" Tom inquired. He had some visitors over earlier, who wanted to rub in the bear thing. He was now screening to keep ‚certain individuals‘ out.

Lieutenant B‘Elanna Torres

"Come in," he called out. B‘Elanna came in with a smile.

"What‘s up with you?" Tom asked.

"You," was the answer.

"I‘m not sure that I‘m going to like this."

"You‘re good with kids. You have a warm and caring heart. That‘s very surprising to a lot on the ship," B‘Elanna began.

"Yeah, well, don‘t let it get around, okay? I have a reputation to think of."

B‘Elanna sat down on the couch. "Can I ask you a question?" she asked. Tom nodded. "Why is it that you want people to think that you‘re someone, you really aren‘t? I mean, I know you. You are not shallow, or mean, or a womanizer. You are someone who cares of what happens to others, will risk his own life to save others, who likes kids, who likes to read," she points to the bookshelf, "and is actually intelligent. But most of all, you can‘t live with lies." Tom looked down. He knows that she‘s referring to Caldik Prime. "I know this, because if you could live with lies, you would have stayed in Starfleet. Your father would have been pleased."

Tom snorted at this. "B‘Elanna, my father was never proud of me. He always told me that I was never good enough to bear the almighty Paris name, that I was never living up to my potential, that I was never good enough for him. Nothing I ever did pleased him. I was a silent disgrace to him. But after Caldik Prime, he could be open about his feelings towards me. He disowned me when I was sent to prison." He looked down at the floor. "I‘ve always hated him-for not being there when I needed him most. For letting me down all the time. For making me feel low. But despite all that, when he disowned me, I felt orphaned for a second time. Abandoned. My mother left me. She didn‘t want to, but she did so just the same. Then my father left me. Actually, he ran the other way warp factor 10."

"You mean he turned into a alien salamander?" teased B‘Elanna, referring to the time when Tom went Warp 10. That experience had resulted in turning him into a new life form. Tom laughed at this.

"No, but I wish that he did. That bear is the only reminder of the happy times that I had as a kid, when my mom was alive. Because at that time, I knew that I was loved and wanted by at least someone," Tom stated.

"Excuse me? Tom, you are still loved and wanted by many. Do you know how many people have had no choice, but to change their opinion of you after everything that you‘ve done for them? For the ship?" B‘Elanna asked. Tom was going to interrupt but never had the chance. "Let me finish. Everyone to a degree has done what I‘ve said. Okay, there were some that were a bit unsure, but then this thing with Naomi, it showed them that you have heart. That you care. That yes, under all of that cockiness and self-assurance, is a person who can love, and care and feel like everyone else." Tom smiled a little. "Besides, you may have to add another volume to that little black book of yours soon enough," B‘Elanna said, putting in a twentieth century reference she learned from the pilot.

Tom groaned. "Why?"

"The Doctor told Jennifer Delaney about your reaction, when you mentioned your mom yesterday in Sickbay. And when it was found out of what happened in Sickbay this morning, she had a nice talk with Sam-who had nothing but glowing words to say about you. She was very moved," B‘Elanna replied.

"Moved enough to blab it to everyone in Stellar Cartography-who as we know, are some of the biggest gossip‘s on the ship, right?" Tom asked rhetorically. B‘Elanna smiled her answer. Tom shook his head.

"But if you want, I can help protect you," she half-whispered. Tom looked up. Her tone was different from what it just was previously. It was the voice that she used when they flirted with each other. However, he also looked into her eyes, and noticed a sparkle in them. And something else that he had been praying for.

Tom then gave her the most loving smiles, that she had ever seen.

The End