He watched them from a distance as always, watching them live their pathetic mortal lives, surrender to their pathetic mortal passions, fight their pathetic mortal fights. Sometimes he tired of his little pet humans on his little pet ship, but today they intrigued him. Today
he watched that fiery little hybrid... what was her name.. oh right... Torres... he watched her break out in a sweat from the sheer fury she threw about. Her curses were loud and biting, and he had no doubt that soon, if she were any sort of klingon to speak of, objects
would start making their way quickly across the room. Even immortal as he was, he did not at this time envy that cocky pilot Captain Kate had steering her trophy ship. The pilot’s name escaped him at the moment; damn humans, they couldn’t just keep with one title like the continuum, no, they always had to make things complicated. Well, never mind, the feisty one just screamed his name loud enough for him to hear; Paris. He found himself wondering exactly what it was that Paris had done to anger the small klingon, and having nothing else to do at the moment, settled down at the window to watch the events play out. Perhaps, if things got boring, he'd even step in to keep everything interesting.
Yes, humans really were such pathetic creatures, but their loves did run deep. He recalled that time with Picard (now he snickers, Picard fell for it every time) and that disturbing little tramp he ran around with for some time.. Vash.. oh right... the dear Lady Marion.
Picard had never adequately thanked him for making him realize how important Vash had become to his inconsequential little life; perhaps the little beings aboard Voyager would feel differently. After all, with a mere flick of his finger he could... but no, for now he would just watch.
With a snap of his fingers, Q materialized a bowl of popcorn and settled himself into a lounge chair that seemed to keep pace with the warp speed of the little ship beside him. He gave a sharp laugh as the unlucky pilot dodged a vase that sped towards his head. Perhaps today wouldn’t be as boring as it had originally appeared.
Another vase was thrown in his direction, and as Tom dove to the side he was left to wonder when the hell they had gotten so many flowers in his quarters. He didn’t remember them being there, ah hell, she'd probably brought them in when she set up the TV. The TV that was, at the moment, in mortal danger.
Tom dove towards the television set, catching a data padd that headed directly for the fragile view screen.
"B'Elanna, for Christ's sake, BE CAREFUL!"
Her snarl of pure anger was not welcome. Tom shook his head, he still didn't know what he'd done to incite this. He sent his mind back through the morning trying desperately to put his finger upon what exactly he had to apologize for. He'd woken up with her in his arms, a strange enough feeling as that was. Generally she was out of his bed long before his alarm went off, but that morning she had stayed. He'd gotten up and taken a shower letting her sleep in a bit, she always did work too hard. He'd checked the duty roster and discovered that B'Elanna wasn’t due in Engineering until the afternoon, so he slipped
quietly from his quarters and headed to the mess hall to grab some breakfast with Harry before making his way to sickbay for a morning shift with the Doc.
B'Elanna must have woken up on her own and made her own way to the mess hall, because he'd barely sat down between Harry and the Delany sisters, before B'Elanna had entered. He hadn’t noticed her at first, but he had noticed the paling of Harry's cheeks a moment before Tom's breakfast tray had ended up over his head. He hadn't gotten her name out of his mouth before she'd stormed back to his quarters to gather her things, so he'd followed, to be greeted by this.
Very suddenly he clued in. "Oh, Christ. B'Elanna, you don’t think I was.. with the Delanys.. you're JEALOUS!"
Of course, being male he really shouldn’t be expected to understand the grave mistake he made in pointing out that fact to his lover and mate.
"Jealous????? Tom Paris, I’ll have you know that when you're involved there is nothing for me to be jealous of. Let the Delanys have you, my pity on them! I apparently have no use for you!"
Tom sighed, at least she was no longer throwing things. He positioned himself a few feet in front and to the side of her, and began to speak in his most soothing voice.
"Are you going to tell me what this is really about now?"
"Do you know how hard I had to work to get this morning off? I worked my ass off half the night, traded rations with Carey, AND had to requisition a half day off from the Captain just so that for one god- damned night I could sleep in your arms and wake up with you and have a nice quiet breakfast! But what do I find when I wake up? Cold sheets, a wet towel on the bathroom floor, and you in a Delany twin sandwich! Well that’s just fine, Paris!"
B’Elanna spun on her heel and stormed out of Tom’s quarters, snarling at some poor bloke that just happened to be walking by at the wrong moment. Tom, for his part, had the good sense not to follow her this time, and sank down on his sofa for a brief rest. He couldn’t afford much more, since now he had to take yet another shower, find a fresh
uniform and still make it to sick bay in... twenty three minutes. He sighed. This day was starting out just beautifully.
He hauled himself back to his feet and began to restart his morning ritual. After this explosive beginning, the last thing he needed was yet another lecture from the good doctor on tardiness and the importance of being punctual in a medical environment.
End Chapter One
Q laughed wildly, rolling about in the faux leather of the lounge chair that comfortably seated him for this live performance of mortal emotion. Oh this was just too good. He had to get a hand in here. He could hardly resist the impulse to snap his fingers and see
what they made of the plan that was slowly beginning to take form in his mind. He wondered suddenly how the feisty little Torres would feel about being chained in a brothel, being forced to service man after man while fending off the advances of a fool. And how good a fool that Paris would make. Oh, yes, he would make such an excellent
idiot of himself when it came time to fight off those men threatening the perceived virtue of the one he believed he loved. Perhaps he'd even throw in a role or two for that ostentatious Ensign Kim, and maybe a little something for Chuckles. He seemed to dislike Paris enough.. Q grinned like a madman, oh yes, given a bit of time for preparation, this would be perfect. Even better than Sherwood Forest.
Oh, the detail he could put in this, the poor unsuspecting creatures aboard Voyager would never know what hit their little lives. Oh, no, not even Captain Kate would figure this one out until it was too late. He wouldn't show himself in advance this time, perhaps he won't
even take part in the play that was about to unfold. In the end, they’d all know it was him that either saved the sanity of the crew of Voyager, or at last put an end to this tempestuous relationship that they seemed to have fooled themselves into believing would work.
Why mortals continued to trick themselves into believing that they could ever achieve the level of immortal love was beyond even his vast comprehension. Only immortal beings could ever truly love or hate; those emotions spanned the depths of time and space. No mortal could ever possibly live long enough to truly understand the concept of either, but being that he was completely bored, and that Q had taken Q to who knew where, well, he had nothing better to do.
Q grinned once more. Eat your heart out, Jean-Luc my old friend, Sherwood Forest and Robin Hood are creations of my past. Now... onto La Mancha!
End Chapter 2
She threw her tools to the ground and stormed back into her office. No matter what she told herself, no matter how hard she tried, B'Elanna Torres just couldn’t for the life of her convince herself to stand down. She was pissed off, and even she hardly understood why.
It wasn’t like she'd told Tom of her intentions for the morning, and hell, she knew he had to be in Sickbay for a morning shift. Why should she have expected him to lay waiting for her to wake when he had things to do just as important as her own plans? It wasn't his
fault that they hadn’t had ten consecutive hours together in over a month. Hell, it wasn't really anybody's fault. After the stunt they pulled on the Borg Cube, Voyager had taken such heavy damage that it had taken the last month of constant repair just to get Voyager
back into half decent shape. She honestly wasn’t even angry at Tom; he’d been understanding, helpful and down right dedicated once she had returned from the cube.
All he ever wanted to do was take care of her and make sure that she had the best life had to offer, and yet, she resented it. She could take care of herself.
She wondered for a moment if that was why she was so angry, her frustrations over her life. Lately, she'd felt chained to Voyager, as if Janeway owned her and no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t escape the confines of engineering. She was just... restless.
Standing alone in her office, staring at the mass of padds littering her usually neat desk, she never saw the flash of light that transported her away from her ship. There was no one else around to notice that she was gone.
She had to make him late, didn't she? Tom Paris tried to control the roll threatening to send his eyes skyward as the Doctor droned on incessantly about his timing or lack there of. Finally, fed up with everything he had to deal with that morning (and it wasn’t even
09h00!) Tom groaned.
"Ease off, would you, Doc? There were no emergencies in the four minutes I wasn't here. You didn't disintegrate. The crew didn't all die from some mysterious disease. And we're not going to have to deal with a rush of bloody plasma burns anytime soon. You know what I missed by being late? Sitting here cleaning medical supplies, twiddling my thumbs, thinking about what better things I could be doing with my time." He almost (almost!) regretted the words once they had been spoken, but he was in such a bad mood right now, he really didn’t care.
The doctor for his part was flustered, and for probably the first time since he had been activated, he was speechless. His jaw dropped, then snapped shut. He could clearly see the challenge written in Tom's eyes; the young man was just aching for a confrontation
that he could really bite into. The doctor merely mumbled something about making up the time at the end of his shift and retreated to his office.
In the end that was how Tom came to be left alone in the medical supply closet, taking what should have been an extremely routine, boring inventory of what they had and needed. Out of sight of the doctor and of the lone person lying in a bio bed, no one noticed when he flashed out of Voyager’s existence.
Q chuckled to himself. He could just leave them alone to play with created characters, he was quite sure Torres and Paris could more than adequately make their way along without the aide of their crewmates, but where would be the fun in that? He loved making things public to the entire crew, so giving up on subtlety, he snapped his fingers.
Captain Kathryn Janeway recognized the sound and the brilliant flash of white light only a millisecond before Commander Chakotay and Ensign Harry Kim blinked out of her view. She turned, checking to see that they hadn't been planted elsewhere upon the bridge, but
there was no trace of them.
"Q!!!" She hissed angrily, but there was no response from the omnipotent being.
This time, Janeway was not to be part of the game.
End Chapter Three
When Tom realized that he was no longer aboard Voyager, he blinked rapidly to clear the fog that had momentarily clouded his brain. He found himself in a dingy little cottage, walls filled with what appeared to be quite ancient texts, floor dirty, and the blue sky visible through the glass empty holes that passed for windows.
"What the hell?" He moved his hand to tap his communicator, but instead of feeling the gold pressed against the soft fabric of his uniform, his fingers rapped hollowly upon tin.
"What the HELL?" Tom moved to the nearest mirror available, a dirty, grundgy, cracked mirror, but at least it was full length. On his head he wore a metal pot, his chest was covered by what appeared to be a tin shield, his legs ensconced in similar tin armor. He shook his head, immediately dropping the metal pot to the floor. What fool would dress in such a manner?
Tom moved to the door, glancing outside. Hobbled in the front yard was an ancient horse. Its back swayed from years of intense weight, its flesh draping off bones sallow from ages of malnutrition, its eyes barring the spark that would define life. Upon its back lay a make shift saddle, another tin pot thrown across the poor creature's head in an attempt of appearing like armor. Tom shook his head.
He called out as loudly as he could, hoping that someone who could explain all this would be nearby.
"Is anybody there?!"
His voice echoed back through to him, bouncing off the hills of the valley. Tom sighed, walking towards the desecrated old horse and resting a hand upon its forehead.
"Looks like it's just you and me, old boy. Do you want to tell me what the hell is going on?"
The horse knickered softly, but, of course, made no verbal response. Still, in the distance, Tom’s ears picked up the uneven plodding of hooves, and he turned to greet whomever was approaching. At the sight of the familiar form upon the back of a run down mule, Tom’s face brightened.
Harry laughed aloud. "Tom! Thank God! I was beginning to think I was the only one stuck in this ancient play."
Tom blinked. "Play?"
"Play, story, whatever." Tom’s face remained blank, and Harry stared at him incredulously. "Don't tell me you don't know where we are!"
"Harry, I don't know where we are."
"Did you sleep through every class you ever took? You don't remember reading that ancient text by Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha?"
Harry sighed. "I figured it out myself when this woman who was supposed to be my wife kept calling me Sancho and told me to go see Quixada."
"Quixada? I thought you said Quixote?"
"Tom! Quixada was a senile old man that fancied himself a great knight called Don Quixote de..."
"La Mancha. Right. Is anyone else here?"
"Not that I've seen. I wish I had my tricorder on me, or my com badge."
"You're not the only one, buddy. All right, if we're here I take it we’re supposed to play but the story, right? So what is this? Some kind of spiced up holodeck?"
"I don't think so, Tom. I saw Chakotay disappear right before I did.. I think it's Q."
Tom groaned. "Q?? Wonderful."
"On the upside, at least we know that to get out of this we play his game. And we likely won't be hurt."
"And you say this because?"
"He's never hurt us yet. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt."
"You, Harry Kim, are one trusting man." Tom sighed. "Fine. What first?"
Harry shrugged. "If I remember right, this is your great stallion, Rocinante. We're supposed to ride off, fight monsters, and rescue the beautiful Dulcenae."
"Okay... Sancho.." Tom grinned mischievously as he dragged himself into the saddle. "Let's get those monsters out of the way so that we can get to the beautiful maiden. On, Rocinante!"
Harry rolled his eyes. From somewhere above them, Q’s voice filtered downwards, and began to sing.
"I am my Don Quixote, the lord of La Mancha
My destiny calls and I go.
And the wild winds of fortune,
Will carry me yonder.
Wither so ever they blow.
Wither so ever they blow....
Onward to glory I go!"
Harry had to grin. He remembered the words to all this from when his profs made his class watch The Man of La Mancha on viddisk. So he too began to sing.
"I’m Sancho, yes I’m Sancho,
I’ll follow my master until the end.
I’m Sancho, yes I’m Sancho.
I’m his squire. I’m his friend."
As Tom and Harry rode across the floor of the valley, heading out towards the plains heading for the larger towns to their east, Q's voice and Harry's intermingled until their words were overlapping and the sun began to set.
End Chapter Four
As the sun slowly continued to descend, and it felt like they had been on this trail for an eternity rather than three hours, Tom, at last, saw the monsters in question in the distance. He straightened up in his saddle, and kicked Rocinante in the haunch, spurring him from a
dragging walk into a slightly less dragging walk. Harry kicked on his mule, riding along side Tom.
"What do you see?"
"The monsters... aliens.. whatever up there in the distance. Can't you see them? They're on that hill to the south of us."
Harry looked over to the direction Tom was pointing. "Uh, Tom.. all I see are windmills."
"Harry, they're right there, clear as day! Crap! You stay here, they've got swords as long as my entire body!" Tom pulled the rickety wooden sword he carried in a sheath at his waist out and spurred Rocinante on even faster.
"Tom! WAIT! Trust me! They're only windmills! TOM!!! It's part of the.." But Tom had ridden out of hearing distance. Harry sighed. "It's part of the story." He shook his head; sometimes he wondered about his friend.
Where Harry saw ancient windmills upon the hill top, Tom Paris saw giant humanoid creatures, brandishing their weapons at him with their many arms. He road towards them as fast as Rocinante would travel, and slashed out at those giant arms with his pathetic wooden sword. Slash after slash he took at those many arms, until one reached down and grabbed Tom by the back of his armor, and hauled him off the back of Rocinante, and up into the air.
Tom found himself traveling in a circle upon that arm, counter clockwise, down one side, scraping across the ground, then back up to peak at the top. All of the sudden his mind cleared and he realized what had happened.
"Harry! Get me off this blasted thing!"
One hand of the windmill had become entangled in Tom's makeshift armor, making it impossible for the man to free himself without help. Kicking out impatiently, he waited for Harry to make his way over, trying to hide his laughter as he worked on unhitching his senior officer and best friend.
"Told you they were windmills."
"Yea well, they were giants at first. Trust me, I saw it. They just turned into windmills out of fright or sorcery or something once I began to attack them."
Harry stared at Tom in pure amazement. "They were always windmills!"
"Harry, if I say they were giants, they were giants, get me?"
Harry shook his head as he watched Tom mount Rocinante and continue the journey down the road. "I think you're losing it, man." But he was left with nothing else to do beyond follow Tom down the pathway, heading for the lodging they could just barely make out in the distance.
Q would have giggled like a school girl if it wouldn’t be so undignified. Instead he settled for a great guffaw as he watched Harry lower Tom from the arms of the windmill and Paris continue to insist that he had been fighting giants. True, it depleted his energy somewhat to carry on two separate scenes for each man, while having them interact
together, but it was just so much fun watching Kim begin to believe that Paris was going insane. He couldn't wait for the next step in his plan, the lodge. Oh it would be perfect.. and it brought into effect the next two pawns in his little game.
Q rubbed his hands together as he waited upon their approach, a snap of his fingers had him dressed in barkeep's apparel, and suddenly the lodge filled with sweating, stinking ale guzzling earthen slobs.
Perfect. Everything was perfect!
"Come on, Harry. Move your ass before it starts to rain, I don't feel like getting wet wearing this crap. Let's head into that lodge and inn over there, and take a break."
Harry blinked and double blinked. Lodge and inn? It was a bar! And a scummy bar at that. "Tom.. that is no inn."
Tom almost groaned. "Harry, someone's playing with your mind. Look, there's the gate keeper now. I’m sure he'll have a boy to take our horses to the stable, and we'll have warm rooms to sleep in for the night."
Q stood at the gate and beckoned Harry and Tom forward, closing the gate behind them. Harry recognized him immediately, his eyes narrowing as he opened his mouth to call forward Tom's attention, but Tom had finally seemed to come to his senses.
"Q! I knew it was you involved in all of this!"
Oh, sure, Harry thought miserably, after I pointed it out. Once again, Tom will get all the honor, and I’ll be an ensign for life.
"Of course, Mr. Paris. I thought you may enjoy a break from your dreary lives aboard Voyager. Come in come in and rest well in my establishment. For this game, I am merely a humble inn keeper, honored to be catering to the great Don Quixote de la Mancha." Q
reached out and patted Tom on the shoulder, a spark of light going up from where his hand connected with Tom's body.
Tom’s brain began to fog, and the vision of Q slipped into that of a humble barkeep and Tom slid into his role. Q grinned greedily at the sight of Tom falling so easily for his game. What easy minds these humans had to tamper with.
"Rest well, great knight! You shall have nothing but the best! Are you hungry? Stew and ale all around! Aldonza! ALDONZA!"
Dressed in a dress that was more holes than cloth, pieces of it falling from her body, she exited the "inn" and came to stand before Q.
"You bellowed you intergalactic son of a.."
"Temper temper my little whore. Mind your manners or you’ll receive the whipping of your life."
Her eyes narrowed, and a low growl issued from her throat, but she restrained herself, and turned to face Tom and Harry. Harry's eyes widened in surprise, his hand stopping in mid air as he started to reach out for her. He turned and glanced at Tom, waiting for a
reaction, any reaction, at all. Instead, Tom leaned in and took the barmaid's hand.
"Oh gracious beauty! You are a wonder to behold! You must be the beautiful lady Dulcenae, who’s beauty and charms are spoken of across the land. Sancho! Have some manners and greet this glorious creature in the manner she so deserves."
Harry’s heart sank as he realized that somehow Q was completely affecting Tom's mind now. He turned to face B'Elanna, whose eyes mirrored his own confusion.
"Harry, please, what the hell is going on?!"
They both turned to glare at Q, who was innocently leaning back upon the now latched gate, watching them with a grin of pure amusement. Yes, this was going to be his best game ever.
End Chapter Five.
Q gave no response to either Harry or B'Elanna as they ground accusations in his face and demanded their return to Voyager. There was nothing they could do to him, everyone knew it, so he back handed B'Elanna roughly, sending her to her knees.
"Bring these men stew and ale, wench, then return to your post in the barn. There are men waiting for your.. companionship."
B'Elanna scowled, it taking every ounce of strength in her tiny body to stop herself from decking Q right then and there and risking everyone's lives.
"Fucking goddamn know it all alien bastards," she muttered under her breath as Q led Harry and Tom to a table, and sat them down.
"What was that Aldonza?"
She scowled, grinding her fingernails into her palm as she turned on her heel and began to walk away.
"Aldonza! You speak when you’re told!"
"NOTHING MASTER!" Bile threatened to free itself from her body as she choked out the disgusting word. "I will soon return with food and drink for the great knight and his squire." Bitterness was written across the face of the half klingon as she stormed through the dingy bar, tossing tables over in her wake before finally coming to rest in the kitchen. With angry swipes of her hands she slopped stew into wooden bowls and dumped ale into wooden mugs before returning to their table. Tom smiled lovingly up at her, and B'Elanna rolled her eyes.
"You are so beautiful, Dulcenae."
"B'Elanna. My name is B'Elanna!"
"No, you do not have the name of a serving wench, you have the name of the empress of La Mancha, and my beloved, Dulcenea."
"You're beautiful." He reached out and took a hold of her wrist delicately, his thumb tracing over the pulsing vein he found there. They both paused for a moment as even that minor contact sent sheets of white hot arousal through their bodies, and then B'Elanna
yanked her arm away.
"Keep your distance, Paris. Just because we're stuck in this warped sense of reality, don't think you can charm your way back into my bed."
Tom blinked in confusion. "My dear maiden, you misunderstand my intentions. I am in love with you, with your beauty, your innocence, your purity. I would do nothing to violate any part of you."
"Oh for CHRIST'S SAKE TOM! We've been sleeping together for three years! And worse, in character my persona is a WHORE! She sleeps with men for money! Get over yourself!" B'Elanna dragged her hand through her mussed hair, a piece of her sleeve tearing off her dress and landing on Tom’s lap.
Tom chuckled. "Oh fair Dulcenae, your gift honors me. I shall cherish your piece of satin and lace for all time, and carry it with me through battles for luck and good will. You have saved my life, dear one, with your kind gesture."
B'Elanna growled deeply out of frustration, slamming their food on the table, splashing Tom with the hot stew. "Eat, pig! When we get back to Voyager you won’t have teeth to chew with."
She spun around and stormed back into the inn, not even willing for the moment to speak with Harry. She had to get to the bottom of this, find out what was the matter with Tom.. scratch that. She knew what was wrong with the pilot, Q. Somehow the being was controlling Tom's thoughts, and she had to break that control. Maybe if she made Tom remember.. just a little.. just enough to release Tom's mind from the cloud.. give him enough to regain control.. yes.. it just might work. Sitting back against the bar, B’Elanna thought back to her first year at the academy when they studied this pointless play. She
put her mind to recalling every detail she could fathom about Aldonza/ Dulcenae, and put her plan slowly to work.
If she couldn't shake the moron's mind free, she was going to seduce him straight out of that cloud. After all, Aldonza was supposed to be a whore.. who would think twice about her setting up a trick.
She grinned. Perhaps Q wasn’t as smart as he may have thought.
End Chapter Six.
Harry sat quietly watching as Tom finished his third mug of ale. He sighed and shook his head; Tom was acting less and less like himself and more like Don Quixote with the passing of every second. A horn sounded in the distance as the last rays of the sun slipped below the horizon. Harry sighed, he wished it were that easy for Janeway to call
him home as far away he could see a flock of sheep returning obediently to their shepherd. The flock shifted direction and they headed towards the inn.
Tom’s ears perked up at the sound of the horn, and he began gazing about suspiciously. "There's a battle in the distance, Sancho. We should prepare ourselves."
Harry shook his head in despair. "Tom, it's a shepherd calling his flock home for the night. It's not a battle."
Tom glared at Harry in disappointment. "Sancho, my dear friend, you may be an excellent squire, but I am an errant knight. I know the sounds of a battle when I hear one."
Harry looked longingly at the rapidly emptying pitcher of ale. He had never wished more in his life to drink himself into a stupor than that very moment.
The night grew darker still, and the herd moved closer. With every thump of their hooves hitting ground, Tom grew more tense. Finally, he drew his sword. "Stay here, Sancho," he muttered quietly, "The soldiers approach stealthily. I must protect the respected patrons of this establishment."
Harry rolled his eyes, even Tom’s language was becoming more erratic. "What ever, go attack your flock of sheep, I really don’t care anymore."
Harry watched silently as Tom moved off, sliding to the side to circle around the approaching "soldiers" and surprise them. This had started out as amusing to the young ensign, kind of like a holodeck adventure, but now it was a pain and starting to get dangerous. He was no longer amused. Still, he did get a slight kick out of watching Tom issue a sharp battle cry, and dive into the flock, his wooden sword waving mightily. The sheep balked at the stranger in their midst, bawling and crying as they moved about restlessly. Sheep were not the brightest creatures, and as Tom struck one and then another followed by yet another upon the heads, knocking them down, they milled about in confusion. Tom continued to curse at the sheep, calling them soldiers of ill fortune as he felled them. Finally, out of pure fear, the sheep turned towards him as one, and Tom fell under their force, as hoof after hoof threatened to crush his skull. He cried out in pain as one hoof struck his shoulder, another his leg, and the sheep ran terrified into the night.
Once the dust settled, Tom lay moaning on the ground. "Sancho," he cried out pitifully, "Sancho, I've been felled."
Harry walked over to him and looked down, his gaze subdued. "Serves you right for attacking a flock of sheep."
"They were soldiers I tell you!"
"Yea, and the windmills were giants, and this dive is an inn castle whatever. I remember. Come on, let's get you inside and maybe B'Elanna will fix you up, if she doesn't pick apart what's left of you first."
Tom sighed, "Yes.. take me to Dulcenae, she will cure what ails me."
Harry bit back a groan, and pulled Tom to his feet, helping him favor his wounded leg as they made their way inside.
B'Elanna gasped as she caught sight of the blood covering Tom. "Harry, what happened?"
Harry shrugged. "He just saved this place from a few dozen sheep, who didn't appreciate being clocked by his sword."
Amusement flashed across B'Elanna's generally serious face. "He seriously attacked SHEEP?" She shook her head, and pulled a few strips of cloth off a towel and began to clean up Tom. With a gentle pat she bandaged his minor wounds, and nodded at Harry that he could be taken away.
Just after they disappeared back to their table, she heard Q call her from a distance. "Aldonza.. oh dearest Aldonza."
She shuddered silently at the highly amused tone in the omnipotent being’s voice. "Yea yea, I’m coming."
Moving to stand in front of the being she, at that moment, intensely despised, the glint in his eyes made her suddenly suspicious. "My dearest little Aldonza. You have a job. In the stables. They’re paying good money, so don’t disappoint."
"Job?" She drew the word out slowly, suddenly beginning to understand.
"Why, yes, my dear. You are aware that you're a whore, aren't you? Five men, two hours. You have thirty minutes to prepare." He smiled sweetly. "And don't try warning your knight in rusted armor; he has to live the story himself. Poor Don Quixote, to see his fallen empress with her legs spread." He grinned.
B'Elanna shuddered with revulsion. She wouldn't go down without a fight.
End Chapter Seven
The klingon in her was riled, the woman in her terrified. She knew what happened to Aldonza. Quixote didn't get there in time, rather he found her laying destroyed in the stable. B'Elanna couldn't risk that happening to her, and there was no way she was going to willingly let a man other than Tom even touch her.
So she put on her "working" dress, and slipped a butcher knife out of the kitchen, tying it securely to her wrist. No man would take her tonight except her own mate, whether or not it cost her her life. She couldn’t believe that Q was taking this so far; from everything she had heard and observed about him, he was playful, a games master, but was not out to hurt them. Something between then and now must have happened to sour him; he seemed darker, more ominent this time around, and B’Elanna had the intense feeling that no matter what happened, they would not be able to count on him for help.
She took a deep breath, braced her shoulders, and grabbed the platter that she was to take to the barn. With determined steps she moved out of the kitchen and across the dirty yard to where the men were waiting. Stepping inside the barn, she shuddered. There
were five men waiting. Two were in the hay loft, looking down at her with leering eyes; one was leaning up against a post, staring at her with malicious intent. One sat at a table, thoughtfully picking at his teeth with a knife. One slammed the door to the barn shut behind B'Elanna, latching it securely.
"Lookie here, gents. A pretty little whore come to do our bidding."
And B'Elanna dropped the trays, bracing herself against the attack that would surely follow.
"Tom, you've gotta snap out of this, NOW." Harry put his hands on Tom’s shoulders, shaking him ungently. "We need to get back to Voyager. I was wrong. We can't complete this "game" of Q's. Someone's going to get hurt."
"Sancho, we are here merely to rest and relax. There is no danger here. On the road, we will meet our adventures, here we eat and sleep."
"TOM!! YOU ARE NOT DON QUIXOTE! Now listen. B'Elanna's alone.
We've got to find her before she gets in trouble, and you know she will."
"Yes, let's find the lovely Dulcenae. Hands of her quality should not be made to work. Let's rescue her from the duldgeries of everyday life, and treat her as the empress she is."
"Fine. Whatever. Let's just find her and get the hell out of here."
Tom and Harry rose from their seats, and moved into the tavern. Looking about they saw no sign of B'Elanna, so they stopped another of the working girls. Harry gave her a friendly smile.
"Excuse me, can you tell me where.. Aldonza is?"
"Aye, she's got a job. I can take care of you better than her for the proper price, though." She winked at him and gave Harry a smile of half teeth. Harry shuddered internally.
"No, thank you, ma'am. We need Aldonza. Do you know where she is?"
The woman frowned at him, her eyes sparking with jealousy. "Aye, she's in the barn with the barron's blokes. You don't want to interfere."
It struck Harry at last. Aldonza was a prostitute.. B’Elanna was on a job. "Oh, hell!" he muttered. "Tom, grab your things. We've got to move now!"
With a curse, he grabbed onto Tom’s arm and began running for the barn behind the building, praying they weren’t too late. Half way there, Harry heard a scream of pain, and another of pure fury. He closed his eyes briefly and redoubled his speed.
Tom had heard the screaming as well, and for a brief moment his mind became clear as fear inched it’s way into his heart.
"B'Elanna?" He half stopped half stumbled as he recognized hers as the second scream. "Jesus, Harry, what's going on?!"
".. Explain.. Later... have to.. hurry!" Harry panted as they both increased speed once more, slamming as one into the heavy wooden door barring their access to the barn. Harry looked around desperately as he realized the door was latched.
"Tom, the axe.. grab it!"
Tom wasted no time as he hauled the large chopping axe out of a nearby log, and shoved Harry out of the way of the door. Focusing on the crack in the wood where the door opened, Tom took long, heavy swings at the barrier. First swing.. wood chips flew everywhere, pelting them both. Second swing... more wood chips, a groan from the
trembling door. Third swing.. a great CRACK. Fourth swing.. the door howled one more time and swung open.
The first image to greet Tom and Harry was B'Elanna looking in their direction in shock, blood covering her clothing and flesh. Around her lay two men, obviously dead. One man lay a few feet to her left, hollering in agony as blood poured from where his hand had once been. Two more men circled B’Elanna threateningly.
Tom and Harry approached one man each from behind, readying their stance for hand to hand combat. The men took one look at Tom and Harry, and a last look at B'Elanna, before turning on their heels and running out of the barn. The man with the severed hand struggled to his feet, following more slowly, wavering as he took each step.
Tom and Harry both turned back to face B'Elanna, who was shaking and pale.
Tom moved to her side, taking the knife from her and handing it to Harry before enfolding her into an embrace. Softly he stroked her hair and back as her shaking eased. "Are you all right?" He asked quietly as she finally eased away from him.
"I'm not really sure. I think I need someone to explain what's been happening around here. I'm not sure I remember a whole lot of it." He paused for a moment and turned back to Harry. "Uh, Har.. tell me something. I didn't get attacked by a windmill did I?"
Harry laughed suddenly. "Nope, but one did beat you up. A few years in space and he forgets how to fight completely."
As they talked for a moment, none of the noticed Q appear at the ravished doorway to the barn until he shook his head, clucking his tongue.
"Killing wasn’t in the game, my dear." He said quietly, looking at the two bodies on the floor, and the severed hand not far from where Tom and B'Elanna stood. "Oh well, you ruined all my fun. Half the angst in the story was Quioxte’s comforting of Dulcenae after the rape, but I suppose we'll just have to move on. That's the problem with
interactive stories, do one stupid thing and the entire plot changes."
Q moved to stand closer to the three of them, inching quietly towards Tom. Harry watched him for a moment, before butting in between Tom and Q.
"Q, I think it would be a good idea if you chose not to touch Tom at this time."
"Excuse me?" Tom looked at Harry, confused.
Q raised an eyebrow. "What he said," speaking in a tone of semi interest.
"Tom, whenever he touches you, you forget who you are. You become Don Quixote. I just didn't want it to happen again."
Q growled lowly in the back of his throat. "You humans are all the same. No fun at all. All you do is whine and fight and then whine about fighting. Why can't you just live life a little?"
"We were living life just fine where we were, Q. If you really wanted to be of help, you could just send us back to the Alpha Quadrant and be done with us." B'Elanna's voice was acid, her eyes cold.
"And where would the fun in that be, pet? Oh come on, tell me it doesn't do your little klingon heart good to see Mr. Paris here come back to his senses all because your measly life was in danger. Doesn’t that just ooze the power of love?"
"Send us back to Voyager, Q. Now."
"But the game isn't over yet. You don't want to go home without finding Mr. Chuckles.. err.. Chakotay do you? You'd leave your great native american leader behind? I don't think so."
B'Elanna charged forward, "Where is he, Q? What have you done with him?"
"My dear, I did the same thing with him as I have done with all of you. He is merely a part of the story now. Of course, if you don’t mind sacrificing him to my world.. then by all means, just ask and I will send you back to your little lives aboard your little ship and go back to watching silently as you fight for your way home."
"Or we could get on with this game. Play it out to it's conclusion, see what happens, and I'll send you all home."
"What do we have to do?"
Q reached a hand out towards Tom, twitching his index finger slightly. "Come now, you can't possibly be that unintelligent."
Tom looked at B'Elanna, who shrugged. It was his decision. He nodded quietly. "All right, Q, we'll finish your little game. Get it over with."
Q smiled his self loving know it all grin, and brought his finger into contact with Tom's forehead. Before all their watching eyes, Tom's eyes clouded over, and then there was only Quixote.
End Chapter Eight
B'Elanna and Harry walked slowly towards the Inn, with Tom walking slightly ahead of them.
"Where do we go from here?"
"I guess we just wait until Q sees fit to send the next chapter our way."
"We can't just wait! Not with Chakotay still out there alone! We have to do something!"
"What do you suggest we do, then, Maquis?"
B'Elanna sighed. "I guess we wait."
Harry grinned. "On the upside, I don't think Q will make us wait for long."
"What is the next chapter anyway? I don't remember much about this stupid play."
"Sleeping through class again, Maquis? You and Tom really are perfect for each other. If I remember correctly, the big battle comes next. Quixote against the Mirrored Sorcerer or something to that effect."
"The Mirrored Sorcerer?"
Harry shrugs. "Hey, I didn't write this."
B'Elanna paused a moment before asking. "Starfleet, what happens to Quixote in the end of this play?"
Harry paused as well, looking thoughtfully at Tom’s back. "He dies... in Dulcenae's arms."
B'Elanna blinked. "We are NOT going to let that happen."
Harry nodded. "So we keep an eye on him until he regains his senses. You don't suppose Chakotay is the Mirrored Sorcerer do you?"
"I hope so, Harry. The faster we find him, the faster we can get out of this blasted game. I'm sick of this."
"Nah, you're just bitter because you had to be the whore."
"Harry, has anyone ever told you it's not a good idea to piss off a Klingon?"
"Since I've met you, Maquis? Many times." He grinned teasingly, and B’Elanna shook her head.
They were almost back to the inn when Tom's head suddenly reared back.
"Who's here, Tom?"
"The sorcerer that has terrorized this land. The one we're here to destroy." Tom pointed up towards the cliff behind the inn. Harry and B'Elanna shaded their eyes, looking up to where Tom was pointing. The sun glinted off something metallic, and it took a moment before either of them realized that they were staring at the shape of a man.
"Chakotay?" Harry murmered quietly to B'Elanna.
"Yes. Even under all that crap I can see his shape."
"Then this is it?"
"I guess so, Har... TOM!" B'Elanna jerked her eyes back down to Tom's retreating form. The blonde man began to run haphazardly towards the cliff, reaching the bottom before Harry and B'Elanna had a chance to react. "Wonderful. Lovely. We’re supposed to be protecting him!"
B'Elanna and Harry took off after Tom, cursing as their hands and knees were cut into by rocks as they climbed. Glancing down, Harry could see Q at the base of the cliff, laughter writing across his face.
Higher and higher they climbed until at last they reached the summit, and collapsed onto the flat ground. Taking a moment to catch their breath, they noticed Tom and Chakotay facing off. Tom had taken out his little wooden sword and was circling Chakotay, who was facing Tom with a dangerously determined glint in his eyes.
"Harry, Q wouldn’t have taken over both their minds would he?"
"With Q, you never know. I think to be safe we'll have to assume yes. So let's get in there and break them up."
They climbed to their feet, and began the trek forward, just as Tom lunged at Chakotay. Chakotay drew his own sword, settling for the moment for striking out against Tom with his fists, connecting solidly with the younger man's jaw. Tom fell backwards, crying out harshly.
"Quixote wasn't much of a fighter, was he?"
"Not judging by the way Tom's handling himself."
Tom had gotten back up to his feet, only to be knocked down by Chakotay once more. Chakotay moved towards Tom, saying something as he raised his hand over Tom. Tom’s foot came up, connecting solidly with Chakotay's mid section, knocking the older
man to his knees. B'Elanna threw herself forward the instant she was close enough, landing atop Tom, keeping him pinned to the ground. Harry moved behind Chakotay, grabbing the commander around the waist, dragging him back.
The men relaxed for a moment, panting in their captivity, as they each sized up the other.
"Harry, B'Elanna, what the hell is wrong with him?!"
Harry and B'Elanna heaved sighs of relief. Chakotay was Chakotay. At least they had a chance in this. "Q's taken over his mind. All he knows is that you’re a threat and he’s supposed to destroy you."
"That’s just great. What are we going to do about it?"
"Q refuses to end the game until we play it out. You'll have to fight Tom, we have no choice."
Chakotay rumbled deep in his chest as he moved to where B'Elanna had Tom pinned to the ground. Tom lunged upwards, but B'Elanna's grip stayed fast.
"Paris, look at me! I am not your enemy." Tom's eyes spit pure hatred as he glared up at the commander. Chakotay sighed. "I don't want to fight you, Tom. You've got to snap out of this."
Harry blinked as he watched Chakotay talk. Something tickled at the back of his brain before becoming a full blown idea. He paused, then started forward. "Commander, make him look into the mirror on your chest. Quixote was felled in battle because he looked into that mirror and realized he was nothing but Quixada. It has to work here too."
"B'Elanna, get his attention."
B'Elanna leaned down, grabbing Tom by the sides of his head, making her meet his eyes. "Tom, come on, Tom look at me."
"Lovely lady, you do yourself harm in this battle."
"We're going to help you, Tom, but you've got to help us too." She leaned down and brushed a quick kiss across his lips as Chakotay moved into position behind her.
"I’m ready, B'Elanna." Chakotay said quietly.
B'Elanna removed her lips from Tom's, sliding slightly out of the way, but still keeping her weight upon his chest. Tom's eyes fluttered open, settling upon his own image in the reflective coating of Chakotay's armor. His eyes widened, his body jerking as he realized exactly what he looked like upon the ground. He caught B'Elanna's image in the reflection as well, her head near his own, her eyes bleeding concern for his well being. He blinked. His jaw dropped softly, his lips working to form words that wouldn’t come. He closed his eyes once more as memories began flooding back into his mind.
"Remind me to kill Q one of these days." He said brokenly, reaching a hand up to console his throbbing head. He opened his eyes once more. “Although, I wouldn’t mind a few more of our adventures ending up with you sitting on my chest.” He grinned.
There was a collective whoosh of release from his friends, before B'Elanna gently knocked him upside the head and climbed to her feet. She reached a hand down to him and helped him up, and together they moved to stand beside Harry and Chakotay.
"Q!" Chakotay called from his position on the ridge. "We've finished your game. Send us home!"
Q appeared behind them, looking at them from veiled eyes. He cocked his head to the side. "Just.. send us home? No lessons learned?"
"What lessons were you trying to teach us?" Tom’s face betrayed nothing.
"Love. Friendship. Honesty. People, think about it. Paris, you showed great love for B’Elanna when you regained all your memories during her moment of danger. You showed great friendship for Chakotay when you were willing to sacrifice your memories to rescue him. Harry and B’Elanna showed great friendship by standing by you all this time. B’Elanna showed her love by risking life and limb to make sure you were all right. Come on, people! It’s all right there in front of your little mortal faces!"
B’Elanna shook her head in exasperation as Harry stepped forward. "We already knew all that Q!"
"You sure as hell have a poor way of showing it then. All I ever see is you pathetic mortals fighting away your short moments of existence!"
"We fight because we care!" B’Elanna frowned deeply.
"Then mortals are more stupid than I first thought."
Chakotay stepped forward, suddenly realizing that something was very wrong with the Q entity. "Why do you say that, Q?" he asked slowly.
"Because all of you will at one point let one little fight get in your ways and you’ll destroy the times you have left. What’s the sense of considering yourself in love if all you do is scream at each other and hurl things across rooms in attempts to kill one another." He looked pointedly at B’Elanna, who had the grace to blush.
"Q.. did you have a fight with Q?" Understanding suddenly dawned in Chakotay’s eyes.
"Fight no. She decided I wasn’t "mature" enough to be a husband and a father, so she left. Won’t tell me where. Won’t tell me if she’s coming back. She’s just gone. Probably created herself a little universe to hide in until Q is old enough to make his own choices."
"Q, come back to Voyager with us. I’m sure if we sat down and talked things out, we could find some way to bring Q back to you." Please, thought Chakotay, anything to get him out of our hair.
Q nodded, snapping his fingers. Reality blinked, and each of them were back on Voyager. Tom and B'Elanna found themselves in Tom's bed, and they looked at each other in surprise. Harry found himself in the corridor outside Seven's cargo bay, and he looked at the door in horror before turning on his heel and running in the other direction.
Chakotay found himself in Captain Janeway’s ready room with Q, moments before Janeway herself blinked into the room. The three of them settled down together to discuss Q's marital problems.
Tom and B'Elanna slid out of their dirty clothing, running a warm bubble bath, neither of them speaking a word. They had no illusions as to whether or not they would fight again. They both knew they would, likely on the morrow, but for tonight, a warm bath, slow love making, and deep sleep seemed to be the answer. They'd had a hard day, and now was the time to relax.
Tom turned to look at B'Elanna as they at last settled between his soft sheets, and she curled into his embrace. "What were we fighting about, anyway?"
"Dunno. Forgot. As' me t'morrow," she whispered upon a yawn.
Tom breathed in the deep scent of her flesh and hair, and closed his eyes as he settled his face against the back of her neck. No matter what life had been offered to him, no matter what trials he had faced and would be facing, he decided that being plain old Tom Paris wasn't so bad.
Not when you had this to come home to every night.