Title: Blood Fever Revisited
Author: Brigid
Email: brigidandmike@juno.com
Rating: [PG-13, adult situations]
Part: 1/1

Synopsis: P/T What might have happened if Vorik had delayed his trip to the planet by just a bit? Minor spoilers for Blood Fever, Displaced, Worst Case Scenario, Time and Again, Scorpion, The Gift and Day of Honor.

Disclaimer: Paramount owns the characters but I love to play with them.

Thanks to BR for being a fantastic beta and for holding my hand as this saga grew and grew. Thanks also to Chris Dionne for allowing me to borrow the Mandorian rose.

Posting Date: July 2001
 

Blood Fever Revisited

Tom Paris lay on his bed staring at the ceiling. The Doc had said "Get some rest." ĎRight,í he thought, Ďlike thatís going to happen!í And so, instead, he thought of his day, it had held such promiseÖ.

B'Elanna has asked him to go climbing with her. Of course Neelix had come along to chaperone but Tom didnít mind. Spending the day with B'Elanna, getting in some climbing, and helping her in her search for galacite sounded like a good time to him. But the day had quickly deteriorated. Vorik had passed his Vulcan mating instinct, his pon farr, on to B'Elanna before she left the ship and she felt the urge to mate. This urge was so strong that it would kill her if it werenít satisfied. She had chosen Tom and he had the bite on his face to prove it. Tom remembered fighting her and telling her she didnít really want this, he knew all she wanted was to be friends. He hadnít really given up on a relationship with her but he knew she wasnít ready. He knew in his heart that giving in to this sexual urge would probably ruin any chance he had of building a lasting relationship, so he had fought her mating urge as long as he could. He had fought it until Tuvok had told him there was no other way to save her life.

Tom closed his eyes and remembered the mating. It had been quick, but fiercely satisfying. Not exactly what he had imagined when B'Elanna had invaded his dreams; and she had been a permanent invading force in his dreams since about six months after Voyager had been stranded in the Delta quadrant. Before that she had just been an object of his fantasies. B'Elanna Torres was the most fascinating woman he had ever met: Maquis warrior, brilliant engineer, Starfleet officer and a lost and lonely little girl with some serious abandonment issues. And he was in love with her. Today might have ruined any hopes he had of her returning his love.

His mind drifted to Vorik, the Vulcan P'Tak who had started this whole mess by choosing B'Elanna as his mate and initiating a mind meld. When Vorik had escaped from sickbay and transported down to the planet to finish claiming his mate, he had found Tom and B'Elanna fully dressed again and starting to question the wisdom of what they had done. Unaware of what had just transpired Vorik was still demanding that B'Elanna mate with him. Tuvok had intervened and pointed out that the battle for his mate could also act as a resolution for the Vulcan. Tom was willing to fight for her, but B'Elanna was mad enough to take on 10 Vulcans and had proceeded to beat the pon farr out of Vorik.

She had collapsed in Tomís arms after the battle and he had held her close, hoping to shelter her from anything else that could hurt her today. Once the transporters had finally become operational he had carried her to sickbay and stayed with her until the Doc had thrown him out with assurances that "Lt. Torres will be fine, all she needs is to rest, alone." And Tom had left her to the Docís tender mercies.

That was three hours ago and Tom was still staring at his ceiling. Finally he got up, pulled on jeans and a soft denim shirt and started to wander Voyagerís corridors. Eventually he found himself in the deserted messhall nursing a cup of Neelixís lukewarm coffee and staring out the viewport.

Captain Janeway noticed him there when she came to replenish her own supply of coffee. ĎTodayís blend had been one of Neelixís better efforts,í she mused. She pondered for a moment before joining her helmsman at his table. "How are you doing?" she asked.

"Great, just great," he answered unconvincingly. "Have you checked on B'Elanna? Doc wonít let me back in sickbay."

"Sheís okay," Janeway assured him, "resting comfortably."

Tom nodded and resumed staring out the viewport.

Janeway took another sip from her cup and decided to try a different tactic. "I have Tuvok and Chakotayís reports on todayís away mission but I donít have yours yet. Anything you want to tell me?"

"No, maíam, not particularly." Tom responded.

"It might help to get it off your chest. I know Iím not a counselor and you might do better with Tuvok, but Iím willing to listen if it will help." The captain could see that her young officer was miserable and she suspected todayís events were causing that misery.

Tom looked at his captain and considered her offer. He was tired, his whole body ached, he felt like hell both mentally and physically, and he wanted to tell someone how he felt; but the captain would have been the last person heíd have thought of confiding in. Usually Harry was his first point of contact after any adventure but Harry didnít need to hear about this day. ĎToo much information for Harry.í He shook his head to clear the picture of Harry that had formed in his mind: a horrified Harry.

Maybe it was because of his exhaustion, maybe it was because of his despair, but Tom figured he didnít have that much more to lose today so he gave the captain a thumbnail account of the events on the planet.

"We had barely started the descent when Neelix was hurt. B'Elanna was already acting strange. She blew up at Neelix for falling and when I tried to defend him she bit me." Tom looked a little shamefaced but he continued. "She had started off on her own when Chakotay and Tuvok came down. We got separated from them again and thatís when she started trying to Ö trying to Ö seduce me, I guess you could say." Tom was really turning red now and wondering why he had even started this conversation.

"I told her that this wasnít her talking it was the pon farr. She tried to convince me it really was what she wanted. Said she had felt this way for a long time." Tomís voice was softer now. "All I could say was I hope sheíd say that again to me sometime and really mean it. Thatís when she really let me have it. She said Iíd rather see her die than help her."

The captain could see this was difficult for Tom but she hoped it was cathartic too. She listened in sympathy as he continued.

"After we finally got out of the cave we couldnít make contact with Voyager for a transport and B'Elanna was getting worse by the minute. Tuvok finally told me that there was only one way to save her." He slowed his tale a little when he came to the resolution of the pon farr but Janeway could figure out what he was glossing over. "We, uh.. we Ö took care of the pon farr before Vorik beamed down. He was still full of the urge and I was planning on beating it out of him myself but B'Elanna wanted that privilege. I hated watching her fight him, every blow he landed felt like Iíd just been sucker punched. When theyíd finally worn each other out Tuvok declared the pon farr resolved. We were able to transport to sickbay after that. I guess you know the rest of the story."

"How do you feel about what happened?" Janeway asked quietly.

Tom gave a mirthless laugh, "It was everything I dreamed of," he answered sarcastically.

Janeway raised an eyebrow and gave him a look full of annoyance. "Is that all it was to you, Lieutenant, a joke?"

"No, Captain, it was the end of a dream that I had been indulging in for about two years. The end of a friendship that I had been carefully building, hoping it would lead to something more." Tomís words held a lot of bitterness.

"Tom, B'Elanna is not going to hold this against you. You did what you had to do to save her life. Sheíll understand your motives." Janeway tried to reassure him.

"You donít understand, Captain. B'Elanna is such a private person, she will hate me for violating that privacy. Sheíll keep me at arm's length now just to prove to everyone on this ship that I mean nothing to her. Iíve seen her vulnerability, again, and she isnít going to be happy with me at all

"Sheíll get over it, Tom."

Tom nodded, "Maybe. Maybe she will but I want more. You may not have noticed but Iím in love with B'Elanna, have been for quite some time. What happened on that planet could ruin whatever chance I ever hadÖ we ever had, of seeing if this relationship could go anywhere. I donít want her to just get over it, I want her to love me like I love her, and that may not be possible now. Down there it was just sex, I wanted our first time to be more, a lot more." Tom had bared his soul and he was embarrassed but strangely relieved. He couldnít help but give his captain a sidelong look and add with his trademark wit, "ready to turn in your counseling credentials yet?"

Kathryn Janeway smiled. She couldnít help herself, he did have some very endearing qualities, not the least of which was his candor. "Tom, I donít believe you have ruined any chance of a relationship with B'Elanna. It may take a little more time, but all good things take time to build. And you must admit we seem to have plenty of time left on this ship. Weíll be here long enough for you to make another attempt or two."

"Thanks, Captain," Tom said as he let out a mighty yawn that surprised even him. "Excuse me," he choked out. "The day must be catching up with me." He shook his head to clear out the cobwebs that were starting to form.

"Then get some rest, Lieutenant. Thatís an order." Her look held affection.

"Yes, maíam," he answered with a smile and another shake of his head. He actually did feel like he could sleep now. ĎConfession must be good for the soul,í he mused to himself as he rose to return to his quarters. "Good night, Captain."

"Good night, Tom. Iíll see you tomorrow."

***

B'Elanna Torres wasnít feeling any better about the day than Tom was. Sickbay was not her favorite place and seeing Ensign Vorik in the bed next to hers was renewing her desire to pound his face in. The doctor had assured her that her blood chemistry had returned to normal but he wanted her to stay overnight just for observation, to be sure there were no other after effects of this Vulcan pon farr.

Tom hadnít been back to see her. The doctor had sent him to his quarters to rest. And she really didnít want to see him after what she had done today. Blood Fever or not, she had behaved like a whore and probably lost any little bit of respect he might have had for her. What she couldnít figure out was why that hurt so much. Why should she care what the cocky, womanizing pilot thought of her? He probably didnít care one way or the other, she theorized. He chased every skirt on the ship and she was sure he had caught more than one or two. Sheíd just be another notch on his beltÖ

But he had fought her. He had told her that he knew she wasnít interested in him as a lover; he had said he wanted to be her friend. When she had asked him to make love to her he had said "I hope youíll say that again some day and mean it." She remembered the kisses, and wishing they could go on forever, but Tom had stopped. It wasnít until Tuvok practically ordered him to have sex with her that Tom had finally broken down and Ö. She didnít want to think about that. She was attracted to Tom, and she had thought of sex with him more than once. But she would rather have had him as a willing partner not someone under orders to service her.

If this got around the ship they would both be the objects of intense speculation and she was not interested in feeding the rumor mills on Voyager. Better to just pretend nothing had happened and try to avoid Tom whenever possible. Too bad, she really enjoyed Harryís company, and he and Tom were constant companions. She really enjoyed Tomís company tooÖ better not go there either. Sleep, she needed to sleep. Maybe she should ask the Doctor for something to help her rest. No, he would just try to get her to talk again and she wasnít about to share this particular experience with anyone. Better to just lay here and try to relaxÖ and wonder how Tom was doing now.

***

The moment she had dreaded came two days later. Tom entered the lift and quickly broke the uncomfortable silence with small talk, inquiries about her return to duty which she had countered with the state of the warp coil refit. Tom had stopped the lift and demanded that they talk about the encounter but she wasnít ready for that. She needed to keep her distance until she could face him without the profound dread that she was feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Tom had been gentle though, assuring her that he had seen her "big, scary, Klingon side" and he wasnít afraid of it. It fact, he said he "wouldnít mind seeing it again."

"Be careful what you wish for." She couldnít believe that she had said that to Tom as she left the lift. Maybe it wouldnít be so hard to look him in the eye again. Maybe he didnít think of her as a conquest; maybe they could still be friends after all. That was good, she really would have missed HarryÖ but not as much as she would have missed Tom.

***

Their lives were settling back to normal, or what could be considered normal on Voyager. Tom had been careful to treat her like nothing had changed between them. And he had obviously not told Harry anything at all about their activities on the planet. B'Elanna was grateful for that, and little by little she was allowing Tom further into her life. Meals with him and Harry had been part of their routine for months, even before the Sakari IV episode, but now she had accepted a few private invitations, and seemed to enjoy his company even when Harry wasnít with them. Kes had noticed and seemed very pleased at the turn their relationship was taking. After her foray into the future Kes had been quietly encouraging the two lieutenants to at least pause in their almost constant bickering and listen to what the other had to say, and why they were saying it.

Tom had continued his exploration of Klingon heritage. He knew B'Elanna would always fight him on that but it was part of who she was. The Klingon exercise program had been one heíd worked on for hours as a surprise for B'Elanna. To say she was surprised would have been putting it mildly. Hostile was a better word to explain her reaction to it. Tom had thought it was great workout while B'Elanna had deemed it "meaningless posturing." They had nearly come to blows over it when a mild-mannered Nyrian had suddenly appeared next to them in the corridor distracting them from their personal conflict.

As Delta quadrant aliens went, these Nyrians were a pretty sneaky bunch. They had transported voyagerís crew to their habitat ship one by one. The command team was trying to find a means of escape using every tool possible, including turning the doctor into a tricorder, looking for portals to their holographic environment.

B'Elanna had tried to apologize to Tom as she worked on reprogramming the doctor for his new career. Tom seemed to have accepted the apology but once the doctor had his say the whole fight started over.

Forced to collaborate in the escape attempt they had discovered that they worked better together than apart. B'Elannaís skill as an engineer had aided in their escape and Tom had encouraged her to keep going in that frozen habitat on the Nyrian ship. The fact that the aliens had transported them back into the midst of their shipmates with their arms around each other hadnít upset her nearly as much as Tom thought it would. That was a good sign. And she had actually come looking for him in the resort program. It did feel good to be warm again, Tom mused.

***

Mercurial. Unpredictable. Those were words that Tom often associated with B'Elanna and they certainly seemed to fit today. Breakfast had been fine, or so he thought. He and Harry had met B'Elanna in the messhall as usual. They had laughed, teased, and talked about their respective schedules for the day. Tom had left the messhall with Harry to head for the bridge with a smile on his face. Maybe there was hope.

B'Elanna hadnít met them for lunch but that wasnít all that unusual. She often worked through lunch, her engines needed her and she was devoted to them. The Engineers who did make it to the messhall looked a little worse for wear and rumor had it that things werenít going well in engineering, but Tom hadnít noticed anything unusual at the helm. Voyager seemed to be running smoothly, all systems within normal parameters.

When B'Elanna didnít meet them for dinner Harry contacted her and was soundly rebuffed. She was busy. She didnít sound that busy, she sounded upset, but Harryís question "Are you okay?" was met with a growled "Iím fine, leave me alone." So they left her alone.

Later that evening Tom noticed Harry eyeing him curiously as they played pool in Sandrineís. "What?" Tom asked, trying not to sound irritated.

"Have you said or done something to upset B'Elanna?" Harry asked innocently.

"Nothing that I can think of, but with B'Elanna you donít always know when youíve done something to upset her." Tom answered as he lined up his shot.

Harry nodded in agreement. "Maybe it really was just a bad day in Engineering."

Joe Carey had been watching the game from his barstool but felt compelled to defend the engineering staff. "It wasnít that bad for anyone except the chief. She was in a rotten mood when she came in and nothing was going to please her after that. We had less problems with this ship than we have had in months but nothing pleased her today. It was like she needed to break something so she could think about fixing it instead of whatever she was actually thinking about, and the ship was letting her down by running smoothly." Joe shook his head perplexed by the dayís events.

"What was she thinking about?" Harry ventured.

"I donít know," Joe replied, "sometimes she just sat in her office and stared at the wall. Iíve never seen her do that before."

Tom and Harry looked at each other and back at Joe. "Do you think we should try to talk to her?" Tom asked.

Joe and Harry both answered, "No!" Harry continued. "Just let her be for the time being, she would rather solve her problems on her own. Iím sure she will have it figured out by tomorrow." Tom wasnít so sure this was the best idea but he respected Harryís opinion.

B'Elanna didnít meet them the next morning either, nor did she meet them for lunch. Tom and Harry had agreed that if she didnít show up that night they would go looking for her.

The first thing Harry and Tom noticed when they walked into the messhall for dinner was B'Elanna sitting by herself in a corner. The rest of the crewmen in the room seemed to be making a conscious effort to stay as far away as possible. Not one to be deterred by public opinion Harry marched over and sat next to the chief engineer who obviously wanted to be alone. Tom followed him to sit across from her. They were rewarded with a glare.

Nervously, Harry began the conversation, "How have you been, Maquis? We havenít seen you around for a couple of days."

"Iím fine. I just need to be alone," she answered him not looking up from her plate.

Harry looked at Tom who shrugged and decided to give it a try himself, "Whatís on your mind, anything we can help with?"

"No." Her answer was terse, barely concealing the rage behind it.

"B'Elanna, whatís wrong?" Tom began again. "You seem upset about something. Are you sure you donít want to tell us about it? Maybe we can help."

This time the rage was not concealed. "Get out of my face, Paris. If fact, get the hell out of my life." Her raised voice attracted the attention of everyone in the room.

"What did I do?" Tom yelled back.

"Nothing, not one damn thing. Iím just tired of having you hanging around. Find something else to amuse you," she answered. B'Elanna grabbed her tray with her untouched meal and shoved it into the recycler as she left the room.

Chakotay had entered the room just then and tried to stop her, asking her what she was so upset about. B'Elanna jerked her arm away from his hand. "Iím fine," she spit at him and gave him a look that dared him to continue his line of inquiry. Without further information Chakotay wasnít going to pursue the matter, and allowed her to leave. His glance fell on Tom and Harry who were still staring in confusion at the door where B'Elanna had just disappeared.

"What happened?" Chakotay inquired as he stood next to the table where the perplexed officers still sat.

Harry began, "I have no idea, Commander. We havenít seen B'Elanna for a couple of days and when we sat down tonight to talk to her she just got mad. All we asked was what was bothering her. Thatís when she started to yell at us."

Chakotay nodded thoughtfully, "Paris, have you pulled any of your tricks lately?"

Tom was in no mood to put up with Chakotayís snide remarks, but B'Elanna had asked him to give Chakotay a chance and to try not to irritate him so much. He responded with "No, Sir, I havenít pulled any tricks lately."

Chakotay seemed to accept his answer, "Well, maybe sheís got something else on her mind. Iíll try to talk to her tomorrow." He turned and left Tom and Harry alone to stare at the dinner they no longer wanted.

"Maybe we should try to find her and talk to her," Tom began.

"I donít think so. Letís give her some time to herself. Whatever it is will blow over in a couple of days." Harryís survival instincts were sometimes better than Tomís. But then Harry knew that he wasnít coming at this from the same place as Tom. He had been aware for quite some time how Tom felt about B'Elanna, and he was pretty sure B'Elanna felt the same way about Tom. He also knew that when B'Elanna was this mad it was just safer to leave her alone, that way her Klingon killer instincts might stay dormant for a little while longer.

***

B'Elanna didnít get over whatever was bothering her. It had been a week and she was still avoiding Tom, leaving rooms when he walked in, changing her shift so her meals never coincided with his, sitting in stony silence at the briefings they had to attend together. Chakotayís efforts to find out what the problem was had been rebuffed. Harry had finally broken down and tried to talk to her but she shared nothing with him, just assured him that she could take care of herself. That worried him more than anything.

Tom tried once too in the turbolift, but was met with a death stare. Confused and hurt, he buried himself in his work and tried to forget the hope he had begun to feel again.

Tonight Harry had other plans so Tom was alone on the holodeck. He was running a climbing program in spite of the fact that it reminded him of Sakari. He needed to feel the pain of a real physical workout and he was hoping this would let him finally get a good nightís sleep. B'Elanna was still invading his dreams and disturbing his sleep. He could accept that she didnít want anything to do with him but he would really like to know what he had done wrong.

He had put his fears behind him that Sakari was going to affect their relationship. It had been three months ago and things had been going so well until the last week. As he rappelled down the mountain his mind was on every contact he had had with B'Elanna in the last two weeks, trying to come up with an answer. His mind was not on his holoprogram and that distraction caused him to miss his footing and slam into the side of the mountain. His carelessness rewarded him with a sprained wrist and a nasty rope burn on his forearm.

ĎDamn,í he thought cursing himself for his stupidity. Assessing his injuries he decided that he would be better off letting the doc look at it, although he wasnít really in the mood for one of docís lectures on holodeck safety.

Tom ended his program and slowly began his trek to sickbay. The halls were almost deserted and Tom realized that it was nearly 2400 hours. Most of Voyagerís crew would be sleeping now and he would like to have been among them, but that wasnít going to happen any time soon.

He stopped just inside the door of sickbay and was ready to call for the EMH activation when he noticed that the doc was already activated and he was in consultation with someone: B'Elanna. They didnít seem to notice him so he moved closer assuming he would attract their attention but they were intent on their discussion.

The doctor seemed to be admonishing B'Elanna and Tom couldnít help but overhear. "Lieutenant, you have to tell the captain about your condition. Sheís your commanding officer and has a right to know."

"My condition is not affecting my ability to work," she returned heatedly. "I am still a competent engineer."

"I have no doubt that you are but you are placed in dangerous situations and exposed to radiation at times. Those kind of things could affect the health of your baby."

Tomís breath caught in his throat, Ďbaby, B'Elannaís pregnant?í

B'Elanna didnít sound so defensive when she answered, "Iím being careful, Doctor, I really am."

The doctor looked at her skeptically but chose to change the subject. Gently he asked, "Have you told Lieutenant Paris yet?" ĎTold me? My baby?í Tomís thoughts were starting to trip over each other. Suddenly the last week made a lot more sense, and Sakari IV held a lot more meaning.

"No," she answered softly.

"Your condition is only going to become more obvious, donít you think he has a right to know?"

"I canít Ö" Her voice had trailed off to a whisper.

Tom felt like he had been hit in the gut. B'Elanna was carrying his baby and she couldnít even bring herself to tell him. He loved her but she just considered him a friend. At least he had thought that was what she considered him. He knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her but why would anyone as beautiful and talented as B'Elanna want to spend her life with a Starfleet reject and an ex-con to boot? No matter how much he loved her he could never ask her to do that. He knew how the Klingons valued honor. And he had no honor to offer her. But he could offer her his support, as a friend. Maybe she would accept that. ĎPlease, let her accept at least that.í

He was surprised to hear his own voice speaking as the thoughts tumbled through his head. "When were you planning on telling me?" Tomís voice held all the hurt that had been building inside him for the last week.

B'Elanna and the doctor both jumped at the interruption. B'Elannaís face held a look of dismay. The doctorís face actually showed relief.

"Tom," B'Elanna began, "what are you doing here?"

Tom crossed the small office to stand in front of her while the doctor quietly left, busying himself in another area of sickbay. He was glad to leave the stubborn Klingon to someone else for a while. For a moment Tom just looked at B'Elanna, studying her face, trying to find some explanation. "When were you going to tell me?" he repeated.

"This isnít your problem, Tom. I can handle it myself." B'Elanna began defensively.

"B'Elanna, whatever else I am, Iím your friend. Please let me help you with this." His eyes were pleading with her to listen to him.

"No, this isnít your fault, you shouldnít have to pay for something you did just to help out a friend. You didnít really have any choice in the matter." She was trying to protect him, couldnít he see that?

"Itís not our babyís fault either. A baby deserves to have two parents who love him. I know Iím not any prize, and I would never ask you to spend the rest of your life with me, but let me help you with this. I want to be there for you and for our baby." Tom sounded so sincere and B'Elanna couldnít help but notice that he said "our baby," not "yours" or "mine," but ours. It was more than B'Elanna could emotionally handle and she put her face in her hands and began to cry.

Tom reacted to her tears by instinctively putting his arms around her. He held her while she released all the tension and fear that she had harbored for the last week. When her tears were spent they sat and talked in the Doctorís office.

"Are you okay?" Tom began. "Why are you in sickbay in the middle of the night?"

"Itís usually quiet at this time, and I didnít want anyone to see me here. You know how fast gossip spreads on this ship. The Doc says Iím fine and the babyís fine." Her speech was still muffled from her tears.

"How long have you known?" Tom asked, and then answered himself, "Öyou only found out a week ago, didnít you?"

B'Elanna mutely nodded.

"Thatís why you were so angry with me this last week."

"No, Tom, I wasnít angry with you, I was just angry. Itís such a huge complication in our already complicated lives. I guess I was trying to protect you by driving you away." B'Elanna sounded unsure of her motives. "I was scared and confused and shocked."

"Yeah, how did this happen? I know the Doc checked you over thoroughly when we came back from the planet." Tom asked, his face showing a little confusion.

"The doctor says that not much is known about the pon farr, and almost nothing is known about how it affects other species. I guess our hormones were a little more active than we thought possible. The precautions he took just werenít effective. Iím sorry, Tom, Iím so sorry." B'Elanna was crying again.

"Hey, itís okay. Weíre in this together. You, me, and the kid. Youíll see, heíll be the happiest, best-loved kid in the Delta quadrant."

"She," B'Elanna corrected. "Itís a girl."

"Really?" the grin on Tomís face was genuine and infectious.

"Yes, really," B'Elanna smiled back at him.

"Wow! A daughter. Weíre going to have a daughter." His voice was full of awe.

B'Elanna looked at him in wonder. He never ceased to amaze her. His enthusiasm was going to have her in tears again pretty soon. His next question brought her back to reality.

"When are you going to tell the captain?"

"I donít know."

"B'Elanna, she needs to know and she needs to know now. Sheís your commanding officer, the health and safety of all of the crew are her primary concern."

"Iím not sick, Tom, Iím pregnant. That doesnít make me unfit for duty." B'Elanna bristled at his insinuation.

"No one is saying you are, but you have two peopleís safety to consider now, and so does she." Tomís answer was firm and B'Elanna knew he was right. He could see he was winning, and decided to press his advantage. "Iíll go with you. We can go right now and get it over with so you donít have to think about it any more."

B'Elanna took a deep breath and nodded. "Okay, it would have to be easier to just get it over with."

"Good." Tom stood and asked the computer to locate Captain Janeway. The computer gave them the information that the captain was in her quarters. When questioned again the computer indicated that yes she was alone. He touched his combadge, "Paris to Janeway."

"Go ahead," came the immediate reply.

"Captain, I need to see you about a personal matter." Tom began.

"Canít this wait till morning, Mr. Paris?"

"No, maíam. I really would like to talk to you tonight."

"All right. Come to my quarters."

"Thank you, Captain. Weíll be right there."

"We, Mr. Paris?"

"Yes, maíam. B'Elanna is with me."

"All right. Iíll see you in a few minutes. Janeway out."

The doctor met him at the door of his office. "I take it you are on your way to see the captain," he began.

Tom and B'Elanna looked at each other and nodded.

"Why donít you let me look at that arm first, Mr. Paris?" The doctor asked patiently.

"My arm?" Tom looked down at the rope burn on his arm. Heíd completely forgotten about it.

B'Elanna was horrified. "Tom, Iím so sorry, I didnít even notice."

"I guess Iíd better let you. Sorry, Doc, I got distracted." The Doctor rolled his eyes and picked up the dermal regenerator. After a short examination he discovered the sprained wrist and repaired it also.

"That wrist is going to be sore for a while, Lieutenant. Try to use it as little as possible for at least the next couple of days."

"Thanks, Doc." Tom slid off the biobed and looked at B'Elanna. "Are you ready?"

"No," she replied.

Tom grinned and said, "Okay, well, letís get it over with anyway." His answer was a nod from B'Elanna.

***

They made their way to the captainís quarters and paused outside her door. B'Elanna turned to Tom, "You donít have to do this."

"I told you we were in this together."

B'Elanna nodded and asked for admittance to her commanding officerís quarters.

Captain Janeway greeted them and directed the two officers to sit on her couch. She was dressed casually and had obviously been up reading, which made Tom feel a little better about the interruption. Janeway took the chair across from them. "Now, what is so important that it canít wait until a reasonable hour of the morning?" Her question held humor and a little concern.

After an awkward few moments Tom spoke, "We have something we need to tell you. ItÖ, uhÖwe didnít want to wait."

B'Elanna still seemed at a loss for words, embarrassment obvious on her face.

Tom glanced at B'Elanna again and continued, "B'ElannaÖ, I mean, weÖ weíre going to have a baby."

Years of training was the only thing that kept Kathryn Janewayís face carefully neutral. Inside she was feeling shock, and a little despair. "When did all this happen?" she asked.

"Sakari IV," Tom replied.

"But that was two months ago," the captain looked just a little startled.

"Yes, Maíam." Tom answered again.

"How long have you known about this pregnancy?"

B'Elanna answered this time, "The doctor discovered it a week ago while I was doing his regular diagnostic. I made some kind of off-handed remark about feeling strange. I had no appetite but I was gaining weight anyway. So, he did an examination. Tom has only known for an hour or so."

Captain Janeway nodded, unwilling to show her apprehension. "How do you two feel about this?"

Tom and B'Elanna looked at each other uncomfortably. So far all theyíd been doing was reacting. Stating how they felt was going to be difficult, particularly for Tom. He hadnít had time to feel yet. But he began anyway, "Captain, this is another bizarre chapter in a bizarre situation. But none of this is our daughterís fault. She deserves to have the best we can give her and thatís all we care about right now. Whatís best for her."

"B'Elanna, how do you feel?" Janeway asked.

"At first I was angry, but Iíve worked out a lot of that anger in the last week." B'Elanna began.

ĎAt my expense,í Tom thought but he remained silent.

"Now, I guess Iíve accepted it, and Iím trying to figure out how to handle it. Iím taking it day by day." B'Elanna admitted tentatively.

Janeway silently crossed the room to look out her viewport. After a few moments she walked back to where Tom and B'Elanna were staring at the floor, making an effort not to look at each other.

"Tom, I would like to talk to B'Elanna alone, if you donít mind."

Tom stood and looked at B'Elanna, "Of course, Captain. Iíll wait outside."

B'Elanna stood also, "You donít have to do that, Tom. Iíll talk to you tomorrow."

"Iíll wait," was all Tom said, but his tone allowed no argument. B'Elanna nodded in agreement.

After Tom had left Captain Janeway resumed her seat. "B'Elanna, are you sure you want to have this baby?" Her question was very gentle but the meaning was evident. Janeway knew she had to ask it, although it still gave her some pain.

B'Elanna looked startled and gasped as she stared at her captain. Her breathing quickened, and her reflexes went into an instinctive defense mode. She crossed her arms across her abdomen as she answered. "Yes, Captain. Iím sure." Her voice was soft but firm.

"Iím not trying to interfere but I have to be sure that Lt. Paris isnít trying to force you into something you donít want to do."

"Tom didnít even know about the baby until an hour ago. Iíve known for over a week, Captain, and never once in that time did I consider the alternative that you are suggesting." B'Elanna voice had taken on a coldness now.

Janeway reached out to take B'Elannaís hand. "Iím sorry, I just had to be certain. You are taking on a huge responsibility here, and apparently taking it on alone unless you and Mr. Paris have left something out of your story."

"No, we havenít left anything out. It was an accident. Tom was just trying to help me. He shouldnít have to pay for something that wasnít his fault."

"He seems interested in helping you."

"I know, and I think he will. It wonít be easy but I think together we can figure out how to take care of this baby; how to give her a good life on Voyager. Tom said every baby just needs two parents who love her. I think we can give her that." B'Elannaís voice was still soft and sure.

"Youíre putting a lot of trust in Lt. Paris," the captain replied.

"Is that trust misplaced?" B'Elanna asked, her voice now sounded less sure.

Kathryn Janeway thought for only a moment before she smiled, "No, I donít think so. I think it is very well placed."

B'Elanna nodded gratefully as the Captain continued, "Youíre not going to be able to keep this secret for much longer."

"I know, Captain, but gossip spreads like wild fire on this ship and I just want to keep it to ourselves for a little while longer." B'Elanna pleaded.

"All right, B'Elanna, but the senior staff has to be told now, and your second in command has to be told."

"Let Tom and I tell Harry, please. He deserves to hear it from us, not through the rumor mills. And Iíll tell Lt. Carey tomorrow, I promise." B'Elanna wanted to protect at least one of her friends. Sheíd hurt Tom, but maybe she could still spare Harry just a little.

Janeway agreed to let Tom and B'Elanna tell Harry, and after a warm embrace B'Elanna was ready to join Tom and return to her quarters.

***

Tom had tried standing in the corridor outside of the captainís quarters but it was well after 2400 hours and it had been a long day. Hell, it had been a long week, so he allowed himself to slide down until he was sitting against the wall. Thatís where Commander Chakotay found him a few minutes later.

"Lieutenant," Chakotay began, "may I ask why you are lurking outside the Captainís quarters?"

Chakotay didnít like Tom and Tom knew it, but tonight he was just too tired to care. His reply wasnít really designed to be inflammatory, but it came out that way. "Iím waiting for B'Elanna," he said.

Chakotay had not been happy when Tom and B'Elanna started seeing each other, and had breathed a sigh of relief when they had apparently had a falling out this last week. Tomís cockiness was only one of the strikes that Chakotay held against him.

"Excuse me?"

"Iím waiting for B'Elanna, Sir."

Tom was spared Chakotayís answer by the door to the captainís quarters opening to allow them to see B'Elanna ready to depart. Tom quickly rose to his feet and moved forward to make sure that B'Elanna was okay. Her half smile and nod gave him a little peace of mind.

"Good night, you two. Weíll talk tomorrow." Captain Janeway sent them on their way with a reassuring smile. As they moved off Tom put his arm around B'Elannaís shoulders. She looked at him and shook her head but she let his arm remain.

Chakotayís displeasure with Tom was obvious as Janeway tilted her head to the side and gazed at him. "Care to come in, Commander? I have a story which you might find interesting." He followed her into her quartersÖ

Luckily, Tom and B'Elanna were too far away to hear Chakotay yell, "What? How in the hell did that happen?"

***

Harry had been waiting in the messhall 15 minutes when Tom finally showed up for breakfast the next morning. Crossing quickly to Harry, his first question was "Whereís B'Elanna?"

"Sheís in engineering. She called me this morning and said sheíd see us tonight." The call had surprised Harry. B'Elanna hadnít been speaking to Tom at all the last week and had joined him for meals rarely, and then only when she was sure Tom was elsewhere. This morning she had seemed almost like her old self as she assured Harry that she would see him and Tom later in the day.

Tom nodded and said, "I think Iíll go check on her. Iíll see you on the bridge." Tom started to move off but turned back to a baffled Harry and added, "Iíll fix dinner in my quarters. 1900 hours, okay?" Harry nodded and stared at his friend as he left the messhall without a backward glance.

Things were fairly calm when Tom reached engineering and he found B'Elanna in her office. She looked as tired as he felt but she managed a smile for him. "Hi."

"Hi, yourself," Tom smiled back. "You doing okay?"

"Yeah, Iím okay."

"I told Harry weíd get together for supper, 1900 hours. Okay?"

B'Elanna nodded. "Weíre going to get through this, right?"

"Right." Tom assured her. "Iíll see you tonight." He left her with a smile.

***

Harry was anxious to get off the bridge for lunch on this particular day. The tension had been unbearable. Commander Chakotay was upset about something, and the apparent object of his ire was Tom Paris. It only added to the tension when Tom didnít have a word to say, he hadnít even cracked a joke this morning. The silence was deafening. The captain had only been able to take it for an hour or so before she escaped to her ready room. She had called Tuvok in for his usual security briefing but Harry had noticed that even Tuvok looked at Tom a little differently when he came out of the meeting. For Tomís part he just wordlessly stared ahead and kept the ship on course.

Harry had expected to see Tom here in the messhall since his replacement had come a little earlier than Harryís, but Tom was nowhere to be seen. Joe Carey, however, was sitting alone at one of the tables so Harry chose to join him.

"How are things going in engineering?" Harry began.

Joe shook his head. "The tension is so thick you could slice it with a knife. I liked it better when the chief was yelling at everyone. She hasnít said a word today and thatís a whole lot worse. When something goes wrong she just fixes it, without a word, just fixes it. It is by far the worst day Iíve ever spent in engineering."

Harry nodded in agreement and told Joe about the morning on the bridge. "What do you suppose theyíve done?" he asked.

"I have no idea but it must be pretty bad. The worst is, the chief invited me to have dinner with her tonight, in her quarters," Joe groaned.

"Tom invited me to have dinner with him tonight. I guess weíll know more by the time weíre done. Want to compare notes after dinner?"

"Sounds like a good idea. Sandrineís at 2100?"

"Okay."

The two men finished their lunches lost in thought.

***

At 1900 hours Harry and Joe both found themselves outside holodeck 1. They looked at each other in surprise as they realized that plans had changed and they obviously were all going to have dinner together. Steeling themselves, they pressed the holodeck controls and asked for admittance.

The scene that greeted them was small restaurant in Marseilles. It was one frequented by many of the Starfleet cadets as they completed their training at the French site. Harry had to smile, it was close to Sandrineís but a much quieter, more intimate setting. He and Tom had talked often about how great the food was and how much they had enjoyed the ambiance. Tom and B'Elanna were sitting at one of the tables, apparently deep in a conversation that was cut short by the entrance of Harry and Joe.

"Welcome to Dominiqueís, may I show you to your table?" Tom was playing the part of the perfect host as he brought the pair to the table which he and B'Elanna had already prepared for their dinner. "Tonight we are serving a superb chicken cordon bleu with a zesty Caesar salad. And for dessert, the piece de resistance, apple pie a la mode."

Harry grinned from ear to ear, whatever Tom and B'Elanna had gotten themselves into, if it meant eating this good, he could handle it! Harry and Joe took their seats. B'Elanna hadnít said a word yet but Harry thought she looked a little better than she had the last week. She still looked tired but she didnít look, wellÖ desperate might be the word he was looking for. As if in answer, B'Elanna smiled at Harry in reassurance.

Dinner went well with Tom enjoying his role as garrulous host but the tension returned after it was over. It was obvious that Tom and B'Elanna had something to say and were trying to figure out how to say it. Finally Tom began, "We wanted you to know that we, B'Elanna and I, are going to have a baby. It came as kind of a surprise to us and weíre not ready for the rest of the ship to know but we wanted you guys to hear it from us."

Harryís face was a study in incredulity. His eyes were wide and his mouth was agape. If he hadnít been sitting already he would have fallen down. Joe Carey wasnít in much better condition but he was beginning to stammer something that started as "Congratulations" but kept coming out "oh, my God."

Tom and B'Elanna looked back and forth between the two men, waiting until they calmed to continue the conversation. Harry recovered first and asked "How in the hell did this happen?"

Tom was grinning as he answered, "The usual way, Harry. Havenít I ever explained that to you?"

"No, I mean, when, where, you twoÖ?" Harry was now stammering also.

"Without going into detail, let me just say that it happened and now we need to move forward with it." Tomís reply was smooth and B'Elanna had to admire his gall. "The senior officers know, Harry, but we wanted to tell you ourselves, and Joe, as B'Elannaís second in command, you needed to know."

B'Elanna took over the conversation now, "Nothing will change, Iíll still be able to fulfill all of my duties, regs just state that in circumstances like these the department head has to be informed, and if itís the department head that uhÖ finds herself in theseÖ uh.. circumstances, then the second in command has to be informed."

"Weíre counting on your discretion for the time being." Tom added.

"Well, I certainly can be discreet," Harry stated firmly.

Tom had to laugh at the solemn look on his face. That face would give away the bank, he thought to himself. Joeís face, now that was a puzzler. He looked pleased and sad, all at the same time.

"Congratulations, Lieutenant," Joe managed to get it out this time without stuttering. "Is it a boy or a girl?"

B'Elanna blushed as she answered, "Itís a girl."

"Iíve got boys," Joe continued, "two of them. How are you feeling?"

"Pretty much okay, now. Thanks," she smiled at Joe. Tom noticed the smile and breathed a little easier.

"Whenís she due?" Joe was obviously getting excited now.

"Itís hard to say, mixing a half-Klingon and a human makes time tables a little difficult. The doctor thinks it will be another 5 or maybe 6 months. Donít start setting your sights on my office just yet." B'Elanna teased.

Joe grinned at the remark. "No, Chief, I donít want your job. But it will be wonderful having another baby on the ship. Sam Wildman lets me watch Naomi every once in a while just to keep my hand in."

The four visited for a little while longer, talking about babies and Voyager and their lives before Voyager, or at least Joe and Harryís lives before Voyager. Tom and B'Elanna werenít sharing much of their previous lives.

As B'Elanna walked Joe to the holodeck exit. Harry turned to Tom, his voice low, "What the hell were you thinking, Tom? There are ways of preventing these things, remember. Donít you think you should have taken a few precautions?"

"Iím sorry, Harry, sometimes things just happen. You donít plan it, they just happen." Tom answered him quietly.

Harry was baffled by what he considered Tomís care-free attitude. "Are you two planning on getting married?" he asked sharply.

"No, we havenít made any plans yet. Weíre just taking it day by day, Har." Tom kept his voice low also. He didnít want B'Elanna to overhear Harryís accusations.

Harry was upset by what he saw as Tomís irresponsible attitude and was ready to tell Tom so when B'Elanna returned to stand with them. She had heard part of the conversation and wasnít planning on letting Tom take the blame for this mess, but as she opened her mouth to tell Harry that Tom was blameless, Tom took her hand and squeezed it to silence her.

"We share a child, Harry, and we will make sure that that child is happy and healthy and loved. We may need your help with that; our childhoods were less that idyllic, so you may have to fill us in on some of the details." Tom had successfully stated their positions and appealed to Harryís better nature to help them accomplish their goal. As he suspected, it worked. Harry looked suitably chastised and ready to offer any help they might need. B'Elanna was grateful to Tom for handling the situation and, again, amazed at how he continued to protect her.

After Harry left, Tom called for the computer to end the holodeck program and offered to walk B'Elanna back to her quarters. He knew they were both emotionally drained right now and they walked in silence. At her door B'Elanna turned to look at Tom not sure where this evening was going to end but Tom surprised her again. He leaned over to kiss her on the forehead and said, "Get some rest, today is over now. Weíll start on tomorrow when it gets here. Iíll see you at breakfast."

B'Elanna smiled and bid him "Good night." He waited until her door closed safely behind her before heading back down the corridor to catch the lift to his quarters. ĎAt least they had made it through today.í And they both slept better that night than they had in a week.

***

The next few days went well, the three friends seemed to be back into their old routine, Chakotay seemed to have gotten over his anger, and engineering had the usual number of problems which were solved in the usual manner. B'Elanna had found a new holodeck program, an old Maquis rebellion scenario. The whole crew was talking about it. Tom had been the one running the program when it suddenly quit without an ending. Even his programming skills were not up to the task of finishing this particular scenario. At the senior officersí meeting Tuvok had finally confessed that he was the author and had agreed to work with Tom on an ending. The program had turned on them however, and Tom and Tuvok had been in great danger as Captain Janeway and B'Elanna frantically worked to free them from the sabotage that Seska had perpetrated.

Finally it was over and B'Elanna began to breathe a little easier. Tuvok arrived on the bridge first, grateful for the captainís help. B'Elanna kept an eye out for Tom, assuming he wasnít far behind. But after a few minutes she finally had to ask where Tom was. Her heart stopped when Tuvok said he had been injured and taken to sickbay. She left her station and entered the lift before the captain could stop her. Her thoughts on the way to sickbay had more to do with the various ways she was going to kill Tom Paris for scaring her like this than with the amount of injury he might have suffered.

Tom was laying on the biobed with his eyes closed when B'Elanna arrived. The doctor was intently working on Tomís arm where B'Elanna could see a nasty burn, it almost looked as if someone had poured acid on it. She crossed the room to stand next to him and reached out to touch his face, pushing his matted hair aside. He opened his eyes and smiled at her, then winced a little as the doctor continued his regeneration treatments.

"Hey," Tom began, "we won."

"Yeah, you won because Captain Janeway is the fastest holoprogrammer that I have ever seen!"

"Iím sure she had some help. Thanks."

"Youíre welcome. What happened to your arm?" B'Elanna asked.

"The safeties were off and Seska had programmed some interesting twists to the story. Doc says itíll be okay, right, Doc?"

"Mr. Paris, your injuries are always some of the most unique among the crew. This one, however, looks as if it were inflicted deliberately. Are you planning on telling me why someone would pour acid on an open wound?" the doctorís voice held a note of irritation and some concern as he administered a painkiller to ease the regeneration process.

"It just happened, Doc." Tomís reply was very quiet and seemed to startle even the doctor. He stopped his ministrations and momentarily looked curiously at his patient. Tomís eyes were shut now, lines of pain evident around them. Whatever had happened he had no intention of sharing it with the doctor or anyone else. The doctor had no way of knowing that Tom was really trying to protect him from the knowledge that it was his holographic counterpart who had poured the acid on the wound. The doctor went back to his healing while B'Elanna held Tomís good hand and watched. She hadnít even realized that she was holding his hand until the Doctorís work was finished and Tom began to sit up. And when she did realize it, she released his hand in embarrassment.

"Mr. Paris, may I suggest that you take the next few hours and rest? You have suffered enough trauma for one day, even one of your days."

Tom nodded at the doctorís dismissal. "Thanks, Doc."

"Anytime, Mr. Paris. My life would certainly be dull if you ever decided to give up your holodeck time. Lt. Torres, may I assume that you have no injury, you are just here to keep Mr. Paris company?" The doctor raised an eyebrow in question.

At B'Elannaís nod he shook his head and disappeared into his office.

"Are you going to tell me what happened in there?" B'Elanna asked.

"No, probably not." Tom answered, looking decidedly uncomfortable.

B'Elanna nodded in acceptance. "Come on, Iíll walk you to your quarters."

"No, Iíll go to the bridge, they probably need some help cleaning up the mess." Tom started.

The doctor had started out of his office to protest when he heard B'Elanna say, "No, youíre going to your quarters. Weíll get your precious holodeck back in shape but right now you look like hell and you need to sleep. Come on."

Tom thought about protesting but B'Elannaís face left no room for argument. So he followed her out the door of sickbay and down the corridor to the lift. B'Elanna called out the deck number as he leaned against the wall. In spite of his bravado, he felt like hell and his arm still hurt. The picture of the doctor pouring acid on his arm was still running through his mind. He closed his eyes to wish it away.

"Hey," B'Elanna spoke gently, "are you okay?"

"Yeah, I guess. I just feel a little tired."

B'Elanna could see the painkiller was having an effect and she moved closer to Tom to offer support as they left the lift on his deck. Not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, Tom put his arm around B'Elannaís shoulders as they walked towards his quarters. If it didnít bother her to have the other crew members see them like this, he sure wasnít going to complain. They stopped outside his quarters. Tom was pondering if asking her in was pushing his luck when the captainís voice came over B'Elannaís communicator requesting that she return to the bridge to help with the repairs.

"On my way, Captain," she replied. Eyeing Tom closely, she admonished, "Get some rest, Paris. Harry and I will come get you for dinner."

Tom nodded, and had turned to move through the open door when B'Elanna caught his arm and turned him back to face her. She stood a little closer, actually violating his personal space, and raised herself up to kiss him on the cheek. "Iíll see you later," she whispered softly, touching his face once more before leaving in the direction of the lift. Tom watched her go with a look of pure astonishment on his face. Maybe there was hope.

***

Life on voyager began to smooth out again. The crew was always glad to have a small break between crises. Never long enough to get too comfortable but enough to catch your breath. Tom was musing on this as he finished dressing one morning. It had been three weeks since he had learned of B'ElannaísÖ their impending parenthood. B'Elanna had been speaking to him most of that time. He had really come to cherish their time together and grateful for the fact that they had been able to keep this to themselves for the time being. He was headed out the door to meet Harry and B'Elanna for breakfast when his communicator chirped and he heard "Torres to Paris."

"Go ahead," he answered.

"Tom, could you meet me in my quarters instead of the messhall?" Her voice sounded strained.

"B'Elanna, are you okay?" Tom quickly asked.

"Yes, just meet me hereÖ please."

"Iím on my way," Tom replied as he hurriedly left his quarters and made his way to Deck 9.

Once he arrived he touched the pad to ask for admittance and B'Elanna gave him access immediately. She wasnít in the living area and he was headed for the bedroom area when she slowly came out to meet him. Tomís eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw her and realized that she wasnít wearing the standard uniform, but the two piece maternity uniform that was in the Starfleet database.

"I guess your engineering smock isnít doing the trick anymore." Tom began.

"No, it isnít." she looked very close to tears. "I hate this, Tom. Everyone on the ship is going to know. Theyíre going to be talking about us and counting on their fingers to see when."

"Hey, itís okay. We knew this had to happen sometime. Weíre lucky we got to keep it to ourselves this long." Tom assured her. "Weíll go into the messhall together. At least no one will say a word until we leave. It will be the quietest breakfast on record." He was grinning at her, trying to give her some confidence.

B'Elanna looked up at him, her eyes bright with unshed tears. "Iím glad youíre here with me. It will at least keep me from breaking any noses when I think someone is looking at me funny."

"Itís my lot in life to be of service to my fellow shipmates," he joked.

"I guess weíd better get going." B'Elanna purposefully led the way out of her cabin into the corridor where they immediately ran into Susan Nicoletti and Megan Delaney. The shocked look on their faces gave Tom and B'Elanna a pretty good idea of what the rest of the day was going to be like.

Their arrival in the messhall seemed to have been anticipated, every head turned their way when they entered except for Harry, who was making a great effort to appear nonchalant. Tom and B'Elanna grabbed their trays and were treated to one of Neelixís tamer concoctions and widest smiles. He asked how B'Elanna was feeling and was there anything special she would like for breakfast, anything at allÖ Tomís hand on her shoulder was the only thing that kept her from shoving the food back in Neelixís face. Tom smiled at the little Talaxian and thanked him, grabbing his tray and steering B'Elanna towards the table where Harry awaited them.

"How the hell did they find out so fast," Tom asked as they sat at the table, next to each other and across from Harry.

"Megan sent a message to Jenny who was already here. The news went from table to table at warp speed," Harry answered.

It was obvious that everyone in the room was still staring at them, and Tom could feel B'Elanna getting angrier by the minute. How do you defuse an angry Klingon? Tom was desperately looking for ideas when Kes came in. Walking straight to B'Elanna she embraced her "B'Elanna, you look lovely today. Pregnancy certainly agrees with you! Iíve never seen you so radiant."

ĎNice work, Kes,í Tom thought. He could see B'Elanna was feeling a little more comfortable in spite of the fact that she was blushing. The noise level in the messhall was slowly returning to normal. Now, they were probably all still talking about him and B'Elanna, but at least they werenít being subjected to the silent stares. Kes sat down next to Harry and acted like this was the most natural thing in the world, visiting with friends, one of whom just happened to show up very obviously pregnant this morning.

They finished breakfast and Harry started for the bridge, looking for Tom to follow him. Tom shook his head and said, "You go on without me, Har. Iíll be there in a few minutes."

Kes nodded and left with a smile. B'Elanna looked nervous at being left alone with Tom, but realized that she would be a lot more nervous without him right now. Giving him a sideways glance, she said, "I guess Iíd better head for engineering."

Tom nodded and stood up with her, "Iíll walk you down there."

"You donít need to do that. I think I can find my way to engineering," B'Elanna replied sarcastically.

"Okay, you can show me the way then," Tom answered with a grin.

B'Elanna gave him a long look before she nodded and started for the door, Tom following right behind. They made their way to engineering in silence. B'Elanna stopped outside the door and steeled herself. With a last look at Tom she went through the now opened door with a look that dared anyone to say a word. The engineering crew glanced up, greeted their chief, and went back to their work. Joe Carey walked over to give B'Elanna the status report from the shift he had just completed. "Love the new look, Chief," he said as he nonchalantly began his report.

ĎThanks, Joe.í Tomís appreciation was unspoken but heartfelt. And when Joe said there were a few things he needed an hour or two to finish up, Tom knew B'Elanna would be in good hands. He gave her a wide smile and began his trek to the bridge.

Tom was late, only by seven minutes but it was enough to set off Chakotay. He still had doubts about Tomís sincerity in his relationship with B'Elanna. Chakotay had witnessed Tomís flirtation with every woman on the ship and he wasnít about to credit him with turning over a new leaf just yet. The pilot still had a long way to go to prove himself worthy to the commander and arriving late on the bridge wasnít going to help.

"Youíre late, Mr. Paris."

"Yes, sir. Iím sorry. It wonít happen again."

"Oversleep?" Chakotay asked sarcastically.

"No, sir. I walked B'Elanna to engineering before coming up here." Tom answered evenly.

At that Captain Janeway looked up from the view screen next to her chair and studied the young pilotís face. She had expected this day to come long before now. As Chakotay started to reprimand Tom, the captain put her hand on his arm to silence him.

"Howís she doing?" She asked.

"Okay. Joe was going to extend his shift a couple of hours." Tom replied.

"Good. Take your post, Mr. Paris. Letís try to keep the rest of this day on as even a keel as possible." Janewayís look allowed no disagreement from her first officer. Chakotay knew he had just missed whatever had passed between the two and it irritated him.

***

Running into the Borg had been inevitable. Voyager was lucky that it hadnít happened before this. What Tom couldnít believe was that the captain wanted to form an alliance with the Borg to fight what seemed to be a common enemy, Species 8472. They were the ones who had attacked Harry. Harry, who lay in sickbay behind a force field fighting an alien virus that was eating him alive. The doctor said he was conscious and aware so Tom hoped Harry knew that he was here.

Chakotay had sent him to get some rest but something compelled Tom to go to sickbay instead. He sat in a chair and just watched. The doctor and Kes were off replicating the nanoprobes that were necessary to cure Harry and, after a friendly discussion, had agreed to let Tom stay for a while. Watching Harry, Tomís thoughts were on B'Elanna. What would he do if this had been her? What if they didnít win this battle? What if the Borg didnít live up to their end of the bargain and assimilated the whole crew? What would the Borg do to their unborn child?

That was where Chakotay found him. "I thought I told you to get some rest, Lieutenant."

"Yes, Sir, you did. I can rest here as well as anywhere else." Tom replied.

"I need you fresh at the conn in the morning." Chakotay reminded him.

"And Harry needs to know that Iím here for him, no matter what." Tomís answer was soft but firm.

Chakotay realized how he felt. If Kathryn had been in sickbay nothing would have kept him from her side. Thatís what you did for your closest friend, and what they did for you. Chakotay had no doubt that if B'Elanna had been the one in the bed Tom and Harry would have spent every moment possible with her. He nodded his understanding and turned to go. He reached the door as it opened to admit B'Elanna. A long look was exchanged and Chakotay left without a word. He knew it would only start an argument that he wasnít going to win.

B'Elanna stood next to Tom touching his shoulder. Tom reached up and took her hand in his. Together they watched as their closest friend fought for his life. After a minute or so Tom pulled up a chair for B'Elanna and she sat next to him. They supported each other in their vigil and when the doctor returned he found B'Elanna asleep with her head in Tomís lap and Tom resting with his head on her shoulder. He thought of waking the pair but somehow he didnít feel it would do any good. Tomorrow he had reason to hope that he could cure Ensign Kim and finally have his sickbay back to himself. Until then, well, Mr. Kim could use the company.

In the end they had defeated species 8472 and the Borg had broken their word and began the assimilation process on Voyager. Captain Janeway had outsmarted them once again though and they had left Borg space with a drone on board, but everyone else intact.

***

The months were going by and some dramatic changes were taking place on Voyager. Kes had left. It had been a shock to all of them. She held a special place in the heart of every person on the ship. Kes hadnít shared the secrets of the future that she had experienced, but she had told B'Elanna to cherish her friendship with Tom. He was a very special person. Kes hadnít told Tom what she had seen either, but she had given Tom hope that this relationship with B'Elanna might have a future. Tom was buoyed by that hope.

Today had been one of those buoyant days. The path through the Delta quadrant had been smooth, and B'Elanna had agreed to go on a date with him tonight. They had an hour of holodeck time and afterwards, well maybe they could just sit and talk, without a referee. It was worth a try. Harry had beta shift, so it would be just the two of them. They were gaining back that level of comfort that he had worked so carefully to build before and after Sakari.

Tom and B'Elanna were just getting ready to leave the messhall when a small tornado launched herself at Tom, screaming "Uncle Tommy, itís time for our date!" Tom scooped Naomi Wildman up into his arms and looked around for her mother as she wriggled and giggled delightfully.

"Our date isnít for two more days, Naomi. But thatís not long. You can wait a little longer canít you?" he asked agreeably.

Sam Wildman, Naomiís mother, walked over quickly. "Iím sorry, Tom. Her whole schedule is off this week, I had to trade with Nicoletti and work gamma shift for a couple of nights." Sam looked frazzled as she apologized.

Tom noticed how worn out Sam was and he knew how active Naomi was. He and Naomi had been Ďdatingí regularly for year or so. During the time when engineering had been putting the ship back together after the Kazon takeover, babysitters had been a little tough to find. Tom had been helping out Sam with a repair in a jeffries tube when Tal Celes had called her to say she had to get to her post and Naomi would have to be picked up immediately. Sam was far more important to the repair than Tom, so he offered to go pick up the infant. It was the start of a beautiful friendship. Tom had discovered how much he enjoyed his role as babysitter. Only Harry and Sam knew that he had a regular weekly date with Naomi. He hadnít even told B'Elanna. But it was obvious his secret was out now.

With a quick look at B'Elanna he turned to Sam, "You look a little worse for the wear, Sam. Tough day?"

"Yes," was Samís heartfelt reply. She reached to take the toddler who was now nestling herself into Tomís shoulder.

"No, I want to go with Uncle Tommy." Naomi squealed.

Sam shook her head wearily and said, "Come on, Naomi. Letís go back to our quarters so Mommy can put her feet up, okay."

Before Naomi could launch her own protest Tom intervened, "Let us take her for an hour, Sam. You go put your feet up in peace and quiet."

B'Elanna gave Tom a strange look. It wasnít disappointment so much as amazement. But she looked back to Sam and added her own reassurance. "We would be happy to take her for a little while, Ensign."

Sam didnít take long to make up her mind. "Tom, youíre an angel. An hour would mean I could take a long, hot bath, alone. You have no idea how good that sounds right now. Lieutenant, Tom, are you sure you wouldnít mind?"

Tom laughed and replied, "I live to serve, Madame, and I am always ready to help a lady with her bath."

The exhausted young mother just shook her head at his teasing. She knew she could trust Tom and would spend her hour worry free. What she wasnít sure of was how Lt. Torres was going to cope with having Naomi for an hour. B'Elanna had never shown much interest in the child until now. Even with her own pregnancy becoming more evident every day, B'Elanna was a very private person and hadnít shared her thoughts with Sam, the only other mother with a child on the ship.

Sam thanked Tom again as she eagerly left the messhall for her quarters. Tom looked ruefully at B'Elanna and said, "I guess our plans need to include Naomi tonight. I hope you donít mind."

"Not at all. In fact I would love to see how you handle an hour with an active child. This should be very enlightening." B'Elanna was really very curious to see what Tom would do now.

Tom smiled and put Naomi down so that he and B'Elanna could each take a hand. Naomi, of course, proceeded to jump up and swing at the end of their arms, shouting "whee." Every crewman in the messhall was grinning as the trio walked out.

At the holodeck Tom asked Naomi how she felt about going to the beach today. "Itís one of Aunt B'Elannaís favorite places," he assured the impatiently waiting child. Naomi giggled in delight and danced into the holodeck ahead of Tom and Aunt B'Elanna. B'Elanna wasnít sure how she liked the sound of that. But she did like the sound of the beach program, a warm, sunny beach was truly one of B'Elannaís favorite places.

They played for an hour, building sand castles, only to tear them down and build them again. Naomi was having a marvelous time and B'Elanna realized that she was too. After a while Tom and B'Elanna found themselves just walking on the beach, following Naomi closely but letting her run off some of her energy. B'Elanna finally let her curiosity get the better of her. "Tom, how long have you and Naomi been seeing each other?" Her voice held a teasing note that warmed Tom.

"It started about a year agoÖ" He related the story of the jeffries tube and how he and Naomi had been a regular item since then. "As soon as sheís old enough, Iím going to teach her to fly." He finished with a grin.

B'Elanna was quiet as he finished his story. She remembered the day in the jeffries tube. She had come looking for Tom, using the pretext of checking on the repair. When she found Sam alone, she had been angry and quick to assume that he had simply been bored and left without finishing the job. She was always willing to think the worst of Tom. ĎWhy is that?í she thought to herself as she watched Naomi run in the sand.

Suddenly Naomi cried out and sat down holding her foot. She had stepped on a starfish and its spines had poked her. Tears were beginning to flow by the time Tom reached Naomi and squatted down in front of her. "Bad starfish," Naomi said. "Bad, bad."

Tom smiled at her as he examined her foot to make sure no damage had been done. "Itís not the fault of the starfish, sweetie. They live here. Maybe you need to watch where youíre going a little better," he said as he rubbed the hurt away.

Naomi looked unconvinced and a tear or two began to trickle down her face as she looked up at Tom.

"Come on, Iíll carry you the rest of the way, okay?" Tom offered. He also called out, "computer, move program forward to dusk."

As he settled Naomi in his arms, he began to point out the stars which were rapidly making an appearance. Tom began softly reciting an old earth rhyme "Star light, star bright, first star Iíve seen tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonightÖ Now, make a wish, Naomi."

Naomi closed her eyes and made a wish and then yawned widely. She settled her head on Tomís shoulder and within seconds was sound asleep.

B'Elanna stared at the child asleep in Tomís arms and wondered about the man who held her. This was a side of Tom that she had never seen and certainly never expected. It amazed her that he was able to handle Naomi with such ease and confidence. They walked back to the Wildmansí quarters in silence. Sam opened the door eagerly, already looking better after her long, hot bath. She reached for her sleeping angel but Tom said, "Let me put her in her bed for you."

Sam nodded and let Tom take Naomi into the bedroom as she followed. She helped Tom take off Naomiís shoes and socks and pulled the covers over her. B'Elanna must have looked a little askance because Sam volunteered the information that "Sometimes I just let her sleep in her clothes, itís easier that way. Weíll get up bright and early tomorrow for a bath."

Tom and B'Elanna both laughed softly as they turned to go. Sam stopped them with her words, "Thank you again, Tom, Lt. Torres. I hope I didnít ruin your evening."

B'Elanna answered much to Tomís amazement, "We had a great time, Sam. Sheís a lot of fun." Sam nodded her appreciation as they left.

The walk back to B'Elannaís quarters was silent. B'Elanna was having to rearrange a few more of her long held impressions of Tom Paris and Tom was just musing over how much he had enjoyed the evening. They hadnít argued once, it must be some kind of record. At B'Elannaís door they stopped and looked at each other. The evening hadnít gone as planned but it had gone very well indeed. Tom leaned over to kiss B'Elanna on her forehead, "Iíll see you in the morning."

She smiled back, "Okay, see you then." She had a lot to think about before morning.

***

Tom and Harry were laughing so hard it was making it difficult to manipulate their load. Getting on the turbolift had been interesting and getting off had been well, more interesting. Carrying their gift down the corridor towards B'Elannaís quarters they drew a lot of stares from their shipmates. Chakotay had been the one to finally stop them and ask just what they were doing. "Well, Commander, itís a gift for B'Elanna and weíre trying to sneak it into her quarters." Harry replied, a little breathlessly.

"Why didnít you just replicate it in her quarters?" Chakotay asked with a smile.

"Itís too large for those replicators. We were going to use the one in engineering but getting B'Elanna out of engineering was too tough so we decided to use the one on the holodeck." Harry put down his end of the baby crib they had been carrying.

Chakotay surveyed both men, Harry looked embarrassed and Tom looked a little apprehensive. He shook his head and asked. "Need any help?"

"Itís okay, Commander, I think we can get it." Tom grinned at last.

At that moment Captain Janeway stuck her head out the door of B'Elannaís quarters and asked, "What is taking you two so long?" She gave Chakotay a look that warned him that any more delay would be inadvisable. Chakotay smiled back and stepped aside while the two younger men wrestled their gift through the narrow door.

Chakotay didnít have to ask any more questions, he knew where the gift had come from. He made it a policy to keep an eye on everyoneís replicator ration accounts as a precaution against some of the younger crew members being fleeced by those more experienced in con games. At first he had watched Tom Parisí account very closely but, to his surprise, Tomís account had shown the same fluctuations as most of the others. If he was as good at running a con or playing pool as he claimed his account should have been a little fatter.

Lately though Tomís account had been building up, consistently. Chakotayís investigation found Tom actually saving his rations, not earning them clandestinely. In fact the clandestine activity in Tomís account had been the captain, slipping small amounts in occasionally and very secretively. And this was where the replicator rations had gone. He smiled and shook his head as he moved on down the hall.

***

Her shift over, B'Elanna left engineering to go back to her quarters for a few minutes before meeting Harry and Tom for dinner. She wanted to put her feet up just a little while and see if it would take the dull ache in her back away. She was surprised to see Tom leaning against the wall outside engineering as she came through the door. "Whatís up?" she asked as he straightened and grinned at her.

"I just thought Iíd walk you to your quarters, see what kind of a day you had, that sort of thing." Tom answered.

Immediately suspicious, B'Elanna stopped and looked at him, "What are you hiding behind that innocent grin?"

Tom tried to look hurt at her lack of trust, "Iím crushed. A friendly gesture of walking a beautiful woman to her quarters and you suspect ulterior motives."

B'Elanna smiled back at him, "Come on, Flyboy. Iím too tired to argue with you. Letís just go somewhere where I can put my feet up before we meet Harry." Tom happily accompanied her down the corridor.

When they reached B'Elannaís quarters Tom stepped back to allow her to enter first and was rewarded with her gasp of delight. "Tom, itís beautiful. Where did you get it?" she cried as she saw the waiting crib. And it was beautiful, Tom had chosen carefully. The crib was white with the sleek, clean lines that he knew B'Elanna would prefer. The sheet and bumper pads were the shade of butter. The pastel quilt that lay on top was a gift from Captain Janeway and Harry had fashioned a mobile of various designs of star ships to twirl about her daughterís head.

B'Elanna looked at Tom and he saw the tears that were starting to form in her eyes. "Hey, whatís wrong?" he asked as he put his arms around her.

"Nothingís wrong, itís just so beautiful and so sweet. Thank you." Her words were muffled against his chest and Tom realized as he held her that he never wanted to let go.

But standing here all night was impractical so he released B'Elanna and walked her over to the couch where he could lift her feet up into his lap as he sat on the chair opposite. He pulled off her boots and massaged her feet but she didnít seem to notice, gazing instead on the tiny bed that would soon hold her daughter, their daughter. When she looked back at Tom and realized what he was doing she blushed in embarrassment and returned his grin while attempting to remove her feet from his ministrations.

"Hey, just lie back and let yourself be pampered for a few minutes. Harry is going to meet us here in a little while."

Reluctantly B'Elanna did lean back and reveled in the feel of his hands on her feet. While he massaged, Tom told her of the events that led up to her surprise. "The captain made the blanket for you. Harry wanted to get a mobile that had little animals floating there in space but I explained to him that our daughter was going to be a pilot not a farmer so he created one more appropriate." Tom finished smugly.

"Tom, our daughter can be anything she wants to be. Maybe when we get back to the alpha quadrant she will want to be a farmer. She may be sick of starships by then!" B'Elanna laughed as she finally pulled her feet away. They already felt 100% better and any more massaging was going to turn into something erotic.

Embarrassed by what she was feeling B'Elanna made an excuse to get up from her comfortable position. "Iíll go change clothes so we can go eat when Harry gets here." As she moved into the bedroom area she missed the downcast look on Tomís face.

B'Elannaís thoughts were a jumble. She liked being with Tom, his hands felt wonderful on her feet and she was starting to have thoughts of where else she might like to feel his hands. Biting her lip she pushed those thoughts away. Tom had said he was her friend and he would never ask her for more. He was there for the baby. Some days it was easier to remind herself of that than others. This wasnít one of those days. She forced her thoughts to go back to his beautiful gift, a gift for their child. He must have just met her in engineering because he wanted to see her face when she saw the crib. He was massaging her feet becauseÖ she shook the thoughts out of her head. This relationship was complicated enough she didnít need to keep thinking about it. Changing clothes was better, just concentrate on finding some comfortable shoes and forget about everything else.

Tom slumped back in the chair while he waited for B'Elanna to change. Her pleasure at the gift was obvious. She even seemed to be enjoying the foot massage. The foot massage may have been where he pushed too far. It went beyond the boundaries of "friendship" that she had set up. B'Elanna had made it clear that all she wanted from him was a father for their baby and maybe an occasional partner for pool. They were friends, nothing more. No matter how much more he wanted. Better avoid foot massages. ĎI wonder if massaging her back would help? Probably not.í

***

It was another one of those nights when Tom couldnít sleep. He was glad she liked the crib and theyíd had a wonderful evening afterwards, working together on a holodeck program he had persuaded B'Elanna to try, the Klingon Day of Honor ritual. He hoped B'Elanna had enjoyed it as much as he had. ĎB'Elanna,í she filled his thoughts more and more each day. ĎAnd each night.í As he wandered the corridors of Voyager, feeling the gentle hum of her engines, he was unable to find much peace.

Tom found he had wandered into the messhall, his favorite spot for midnight meditations. He sat at one of the tables and just stared at the stars thinking about life on Voyager and the strange twist it had taken. He thought about his daughter and imagined raising her on this ship as he remembered an old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." Voyager would be that village. They had come together, Maquis and Starfleet, to form a cohesive unit. There was little residual animosity, much to a lot of peopleís surprise. The crewís respect for the captain and Chakotay, who obviously held each other in great esteem, seemed to be glue that held this puzzle together. Even the outcasts, himself, Neelix, Kes and now Seven had been accepted as fellow travelers. This was his home and he was happy to share it with his child.

Chakotay was wandering the ship also. His spirit guide hadnít been home to him tonight and he was restless. His route took him to the messhall where he watched Tom Paris for a long moment wondering what was going through the younger manís mind. Chakotay had watched Tom mature in the last three years; from a hot-shot pilot who took risks just to show off to a man who would someday make a fine officer. He had helped to pull this crew out of more than one scrape and he was earning the respect of most of them. Being an honest man who was trained for Starfleet command, Chakotay had to admit that Tom was starting to deserve that respect. He had suspected it before but his support of B'Elanna throughout this pregnancy had convinced Chakotay that the captain was right. What Paris had needed was a fresh start and a clean slate where he could write his own life story, his own dreams and ambitions.

"Having trouble sleeping, Tom?"

Startled from his reverie, Tom looked up. "Yeah, I guess I was. I like to come here to watch the stars."

Chakotay nodded and sat down across from him, careful not to block his view. They sat in silence for several minutes until Tom softly asked a question. "Commander, do you think Iíve changed?"

Pondering his answer the older man looked at Tom who was still staring out the viewport. ĎWhere did that come from?í Chakotay considered his reply. "Yes, Tom, youíve grown up a lot; taken charge of your life and forged a place for yourself on this ship."
 

Tom looked at Chakotay in surprise. That wasnít really the answer he expected.

Chakotay had to laugh at the expression on his face. "Do you think youíve changed?" he asked.

"I feel like Iíve been given another chance to make something of myself, and that Captain Janeway has some pretty high expectations. But I think that I can meet those expectations, most days, or at least give it a good try. As to a place on this ship, Commander, I have to give Harry and B'Elanna credit for that. Harry stood up to the Starfleet crew and said he was my friend no matter what. He didnít have to do that but it sure felt good. B'Elanna tolerates me because Harry does, I think. Or at least thatís the way it startedÖ" Tomís voice trailed off. He certainly hoped that there was more to it than that but he was never sure.

Chakotay still marveled at Tomís insecurities. He wasnít willing to admit it to him but Tom was the best pilot that Chakotay had ever run across. Tom had also earned the respect of the crew. It hadnít been easy. Tom was neither Starfleet nor Marquis and both groups felt they had reason to hate him. But Tom had made a place for himself among the crew and his skill at the helm had saved all of their lives more than once.

His relationship with B'Elanna, now that was a little less straightforward. The sparks flew whenever the two were in a room together or at least they used to. Chakotay had noticed a certain tolerance on the part of the chief Engineer lately. "She doesnít use the term "Pig" quite as often as she used to," he pointed out to Tom.

Tom looked up at Chakotay with a look of chagrin but a hint of a smile, "She really did like to throw that at me a lot, didnít she?"

"She had her reasons, we all did. But you proved many of us wrong, Tom. I never would have believed we could have been left in a room alone together without coming to blows and here we sit." Chakotay was smiling as he teased the young pilot.

"I gave you plenty of reasons to hit me, Commander. Some of them I really am sorry for. Some of them you had coming."

Chakotay had to laugh at Tomís brashness. "I was hard on you, I know. And I hated seeing B'Elanna get mixed up with you." His tone was serious now. "Iíd have to kill you if you ever hurt her, but somehow I donít see that happening any more."

As his face reddened Tom struggled for something to say. Should he tell Chakotay how much he loved B'Elanna? He had confessed it to the captain so chances were the big guy already knew. Was Chakotay trying to tell him he had his blessing? Probably not. Maybe it was just a warning to take it slow. Oh, hell. Maybe it was 0200 and he was just too tired for this conversation.

Instead of a smart retort Tom looked up and said, "Thanks, commander, Iíll do whatever it takes not to let her get hurt."

***

His talk with Chakotay fortified Tom. Maybe what he needed was some serious courting activity. He started with flowers, plundering the hydroponics bay so that she had fresh flowers every day. His dinner invitations were turned down, ignored and ridiculed but Tom didnít get discouraged. Harry thought he had a chance, the captain thought he had a chance and Chakotay was willing to tolerate the idea. All good signs. Now if only B'Elanna would warm up to the idea.

The object of his affection was not, however, warming up to the idea. She loved flowers but not every day. Dinner alone with Tom was fine, but not every day. B'Elanna was starting to feel smothered. It seemed her life was being dictated by others. She was used to being independent and now she was too large to comfortably pilot a shuttle. Her metabolism had always thrived on less sleep and food than any average human and now she was tired after an eight hour shift. Neelix fussed over her whenever she walked into the messhall and she could swear that her crew was saving all the interesting repairs for themselves. They seemed to report them to her only when they were done. She was losing control of her life. Today was not the day to mess with her. She pulled on her boots and stood with a groan. Her toe still hurt from stubbing it on the crib this morning. The crib, it was beautiful but taking up a large portion of the free space in her quarters. It also was a constant reminder of the fact that her life was out of control.

Her mood was black at breakfast and Harry was wise enough to respect that. Tom, however, still thought every situation could be handled with humor. He started in with his inane jokes and B'Elanna struck back with biting sarcasm. She was in no mood for his wit or his solicitous questions about how she was feeling. They ended the meal standing across the table from each other and glaring while Harry buried his head and tried to pretend he didnít know either one of them. It wasnít a pretty scene and Harry was starting to get tired of his role as referee. Tom stormed off to the bridge while B'Elanna moved in the opposite direction to engineering. Neelix offered his condolences to Harry as he took all of their trays and dumped them into the recylcler.

***

Joe Carey could sense trouble long before he reached engineering. The emergency call form the chief engineer had been the first clue; the smell of leaking warp plasma, the second. As the doors slip open to admit him his first sight was B'Elanna laying on the floor under a work station. "B'Elanna," he yelled in alarm, running to her.

B'Elanna looked up at his panicked call, "Weíve got a leak in the plasma conduit and the damn work station froze up, Iím trying to get it back on line. Check the other stations and then start sealing down all the lines." Her voice held irritation and left no room for argument but it took Joe a few seconds to get his heart beating regularly again after having it frightened to a stop. An angry "Move it, Lieutenant," brought him back to reality and propelled him to another work station to begin assessing the damage.

Ensign Vorik was the next person to get in her way. Hoping to be helpful he came and knelt on the floor next to B'Elanna to assist her in the repair. That was when Tom hurried into engineering. The captain had sent him down to do what he could to help also. The sight of B'Elanna laying on the floor with Vorik kneeling next to her had the same effect on Tomís heart as it had on Joeís, it stopped in mid beat. "B'Elanna," he yelled as he ran across the room to kneel at her side.

The look that Vorik and Tom were both rewarded with could only be considered a death glare. She obviously wished them both spaced at this time. Vorik felt her wrath first, "Get to the upper level and check that workstation, get everything possible shut down and stay the hell out of my way."

Next she turned her wrath on Tom, "What are you doing here?"

Tom was breathing a little easier now, "The captain sent me. She didnít need a pilot right now."

His remark irritated B'Elanna even more than the fact that he was kneeling on the floor next to her pale as a ghost and obviously shaken. She didnít have time right now to deal with his over-protectiveness. "Fine, go help Nicoletti, she could use an extra pair of hands." She gestured towards the rear of engineering where Sue was programming and replicating repair parts with a recalcitrant replicator. Tom nodded, unable to say anything right now, and began to move away as B'Elanna returned to her repair.

"Sheís fine, Tom," Sue whispered to him as he joined her. "She was nowhere near the line that burst." Tom nodded and glanced across the room again. B'Elanna was struggling to stand up now and he wanted to run back to her but he knew it would only infuriate her more. Instead he looked back at the workstation and began to program in the parameters as Sue gave them to him.

The situation in engineering had been stabilized in a couple of hours. Tom was called back to the bridge and left without a word. B'Elanna noticed him leave but her mood had not improved enough to allow her to acknowledge him. She worked for several more hours until she was assured that the warp engines were back on line. Exhausted, she was heading for her quarters when it occurred to her that she should check on Tom. She probably owed him an apology for her behavior earlier. She felt justified to a degree because he was hovering, but she knew it really wasnít fair. "Computer, where is Lt. Paris?"

"Lt. Paris is in the messhall."

ĎOkay, Iíll make an effort.í B'Elanna changed her direction and began to move towards the messhall, all the while questioning her sanity. She wouldnít really have to apologize, just sit with him and carry on a conversation, just enough to let him know he was forgiven for hovering. She knew she was kidding herself, she really wanted to just see Tom, be with him. He had the strangest effect on her. She wanted to ring his neck just as often as she wanted to hug it. Thinking about him massaging her feet still brought goose bumps to her flesh. B'Elanna shook the thought away as she entered the messhall.

Tom was deep in a conversation with Sue Nicoletti. Their heads were together studying the pad Tom was holding. B'Elanna was surprised at the surge of jealousy that went through her. She didnít want to make a scene but it hurt like hell to see them sitting together like that. She realized she was staring when Sue lifted her head and caught her eye. Sue nudged Tom who also looked up and smiled a welcoming smile. B'Elanna was no longer in the mood to apologize and make up. She was in the mood to break someoneís face and that face belonged to Sue Nicoletti.

B'Elanna already knew the ramifications of breaking the nose of another crewmember and was pretty sure they were more serious if that crewmember was one of your subordinates. Tuvok had impressed that on her more than once in their meditation sessions. He was trying to help her rein in her Klingon temper and today he would have been proud to see B'Elanna close her eyes and focus on regaining her composure. Then she turned on her heel and left the messhall without a backward glance.

Sue saw Tomís face fall, the smile no longer reaching his eyes. She wished just once someone would look at her like Tom looked at B'Elanna. "Hey," she said softly as she touched Tomís arm, "Iím sorry. Do you want me to go talk to her?"

Tom continued to watch the door as it slid shut behind B'Elanna. Shaking his head he answered Sue, "No, sheís just tired. Sheíll be in a more receptive mood tomorrow."

"Do you still want the gift?" Sue asked.

"Yeah, I do. Thanks, Sue." Tom absentmindedly replied as he too moved toward the door.

ĎHeís got it bad,í Sue thought to herself as she watched Tom slowly leave the messhall.

B'Elanna was determined to reach her quarters before the threatening fall of tears could embarrass her in front of other crew members. She kept her face in a scowl all the way and knew no one would dare stop her. At least no one but Tom or Harry and she knew Tom wasnít between her and her quarters. He was behind her, flirting for all he was worth with Nicoletti. She was planning Engineer Nicolettiís assignments for the next month when she finally reached her quarters. Those assignments all involved cleaning plasma conduits with small items, like a toothbrush or maybe scraping the hull in an EVA suit with just the tiniest of holes in itÖDamn, she was tired of being pregnant and fat.

Tom had almost convinced her she was pretty before this happened, almost convinced her he was interested in her, just her. Not the Klingon half or the human half, but the whole package. And now, she was just a pregnant blob that he felt obliged to be nice to since the baby, through no fault of his own, was his. Well, you couldnít fault him for his loyalty. The tears which had been threatening began to fall. B'Elanna curled up in a ball on her bed and for the first time in a long time cried herself to sleep.

***

Tom had been boning up on Klingon customs and this one had sounded like a good one: The Day of Honor. A day to remember all of the honorable things you had accomplished in the last year. They had had to tone the program down a little. Some parts of the ceremony were a little too rough for a warrior who happened to be 8 months pregnant. After yesterday he wasnít at all sure B'Elanna would go through with it.

He found B'Elanna in engineering with the day already continuing on the downward spiral begun yesterday. She seemed to have forgiven him for whatever her had done in the messhall yesterday but she looked tired. When Tom asked about the Day of Honor program she immediately began listing the obstacles to running it on this particular day. Tom left engineering unsure of what their plans were for the program.

Things hadnít improved when Chakotay had ordered her to let Seven of Nine, their resident Borg, work in engineering, modifying the engines to accept transwarp technology. B'Elanna didnít want Seven in engineering and she didnít want someone she didnít trust working on her engines. But in the end she had no choice. Seven may be working in engineering but B'Elanna didnít have to like it.

After the installation Seven had gone to wait in her alcove while B'Elanna made her way to the mess hall. She had reached the lumbering stage in her pregnancy so her progress was slower than usual. It wasnít lunch time yet so the messhall was nearly deserted. Her hunger had been coming at odd times lately. Often it surprised her, she was used to going days without feeling real hunger, just eating because it was the time to eat; but the baby seemed to demand food on a more regular basis than B'Elanna was used to.

She was met in the messhall by a smiling Neelix. He was all ready to help her celebrate her Day of Honor with a special treat, just for her, Blood Pie. At first B'Elanna refused to have anything to do with it but Neelixís enthusiasm was hard to ignore, and Tom had really made an effort to help her get in touch with her Klingon half. Maybe she owed it to him to at least try. Neelixís next offer touched her even deeper. The little Talaxian had seen Tom after his visit to engineering this morning and offered now to be a pressure valve for B'Elanna. Tom was a little too close to the situation to be an effective valve and Neelix knew he wouldnít take her anger and frustration nearly as personally as Tom did. Smiling she acknowledged his offer of friendship and thrilled him by saying "bring on the blood pie." It was awful but she managed to get a few bites down.

Her visit to the holodeck only served to anger her even further, and the Klingon in the program had felt the pain of her frustration. When Tom came to check on her later her mood had not improved one bit. She was tired of being pregnant, tired of having Tom hovering over her, and tired of trying to live up to stupid Klingon ideals just because Tom thought she needed to explore her Klingon half. Her words to Tom had been sharp and he had left nursing his own anger and frustration.

They met up again in Engineering to test the transwarp technology. The test had been a disaster resulting in the evacuation of the engineering section and the ejection of the warp core. B'Elanna had been the last one out of engineering before the ejection, and only then had left because Tom forced her to. As she leaned against the wall outside of engineering her words were terse, "Welcome to the worst day of my life." Tom looked at her ruefully, she certainly was feeling sorry for herself today.

***

Captain Janeway came down to investigate the damage. Her instructions were brisk, "Tom, take a shuttle and retrieve the warp core."

"The core will need to be stabilized before he can tractor it." B'Elanna reminded her.

"All right, take an engineer with you." Janeway nodded to Tom.

"Iíll go," B'Elanna stated.

Tom and Janeway exchanged a look over B'Elannaís head. Tom shook his head slightly and Janeway took it as an indication that he would handle the situation. The captain nodded and left engineering hoping that Tom wasnít overestimating his powers of persuasion.

***

Tom allowed B'Elanna to walk with him to the shuttle bay before beginning what he knew would be a battle. Once they were alone Tom turned to B'Elanna and began to try to reason with her. "B'Elanna, you canít go on this mission, send someone else."

"I am the chief engineer and I am going on this mission, live with it."

"No, listen to me, this has nothing to do with your abilityÖ" Tom began but B'Elanna cut him off.

"Iím the one that made the decision to dump the core. Itís my responsibility to get it back. Nothing else has gone right today, at least I can do this."

"I donít give a damn about your honor or the fact that you are having a lousy day. I just care about your safety and the safety of our baby." Tom raised his voice, something he rarely did. His method of diffusing an argument was humor. B'Elanna recognized that she had pushed him too far but she didnít care.

"What difference should that make?" B'Elanna asked angrily.

"Whoever fixes that warp core is going to have to go out in an EVA suit to make the repairs. EVA suits are not made for women who are eight months pregnant." Tomís logic was flawless and even through her ire B'Elanna had to see that he was right. This time she bit back the angry words that were on the tip of her tongue.

B'Elanna stared him down for several seconds before angrily slapping her communicator, "Lt. Carey, report to the shuttle bay immediately."

"On my way, chief." Joe Carey answered.

"Satisfied?" B'Elanna almost spit the word at Tom.

"Yes," he answered much more gently.

"Just remember this, Paris. I want my warp core and my engineer back in one piece. None of your hot shot tricks, understood?"

Tomís face was a mask of indifference that hid the hurt he felt as he replied, "Understood, Lieutenant." Then he turned and entered the shuttle without a backward glance.

B'Elanna passed Joe Carey on his way into the shuttle bay. "Stabilize the core and tractor it back. Iím depending on you." Her words came out harsher than she had planned.

"Understood, Lieutenant," Joe replied as he too entered the shuttle.

B'Elanna left the shuttle bay without another word and without looking back. Outside the shuttle bay she stopped and leaned against the wall. Angry tears tried to fight their way past her Klingon pride, but she held them in check. She had hurt Tom and she knew it. She had let her pride get in the way of saying what she really felt. "Be careful, Tom," she whispered. "I want you back too." She thought of going back in to say the words aloud but she heard the shuttle bay doors open and the shuttle lift off. She couldnít explain why her heart felt so heavy as she made her way back to engineering to repair the damage that had been done and make it ready to slip the warp core back in place.

***

The shuttle ride was fairly quiet, Tom lost in thought and Joe unwilling to disturb him. After a while though, Tom shook off his somber musings and looked at Joe with a half grin. "Lousy day for the engineering team, huh?"

Joe shook his head as he answered, "It certainly wasnít one of our better days. But donít blame B'Elanna, Tom. None of this was her fault. Sheís feeling a lot of pressure right now with the baby and the borg. Sheís afraid sheís losing control of her life."

Tom looked at Joe with curiosity. "Where did all this come from, Joe?"

"I donít know, I guess I just remember how Nancy felt when she was pregnant with Joey. She tried to work up until the end but she felt miserable and people kept trying to help her. She felt like she had lost her identity. She wasnít Nancy Carey, teacher extraordinaire, any more she was just a pregnant woman. I have to admit I had fun proving to her she was still a desirable womanÖ" Joe blinked back his memories and looked at Tom a little shamefaced. "Sorry, Tom, I just get kind of carried away when I think of my family."

Tom smiled at the engineer. He admired Joe for his loyalty to his family and for his loyalty to B'Elanna. After their first fight when B'Elanna had broken his nose, Joe seemed to be able to handle the Chief Engineer with the care and concern she demanded. And all without her knowing just how much care and concern she really demanded.

Joe Carey had a lot of admiration for his boss. Her intelligence and her ability to jerry-rig anything, anything at all, kept him in awe. He knew that her exotic beauty attracted attention from a lot of the men on the ship, and many of them had come to him for advice on how to appeal to her. But he had also known for quite some time that the chief only had eyes for one man. She was aware of Tom Paris the second he walked through the door of engineering. It was an uncanny instinct, but not as uncanny as the fact that she also knew the instant he took the helm. She could feel his hands on her ship. There were days she threatened to kill him for mishandling Voyager and days when she would have trusted no one else with her. Joe and Harry even had a betting pool going on just how long it was going to take Tom and B'Elanna to admit they loved each other. And if they didnít do it pretty quick here, Joe and Harry stood to lose a few rations.

Tomís reply to Joe was cut short by the sensorís location of the missing warp core. However, the sight that greeted them was not what they expected. The Caatati were engaged in a salvage operation and the object of their operation was voyagerís warp core. Tom tried diplomacy but that didnít work, so he tried a small show of force. That tactic backfired on them, and soon the two officers found themselves adrift in space, their shuttle destroyed. Tethered together they analyzed their situation.

At Tomís suggestion Joe linked the communication devices on their EVA suits to send a stronger distress signal and then they waited. A surge of turbulence hit them and Tomís suit started sending out a warning signal. His oxygen supply had been depleted as they bounced around in space. Joe immediately hooked his oxygen supply to Tomís and they shared what little oxygen they had left, at Joeís estimate approximately ½ hour.

At Tomís heartfelt "Thanks, Joe," Joe just grinned.

"Itís for my own self-preservation, Tom. The Chief would kill me if I came back without you."

Tom must have looked surprised because Joe laughed again as Tom shook his head. "I think she might just thank you today, my friend. Sheís about had it with me." Tom stated slowly as the oxygen got thinner.

"I donít think so, Tom. She may not be ready to admit it yet but sheís crazy about you."

"Joe, are we talking about the same Chief Engineer? The one on Voyager?"

"Yeah, Tom, thatís the one."

"Do you think she has any idea how much I love her?" Tom asked softly.

"Yes and no. She knows thereís something there, but sheís afraid itís not enough. She always has to prove herself, havenít you noticed? As an engineer, as an officer and Iím sure as a woman. Iíve never known someone so strong and yet so insecure." Joe had had several years to try to figure out his boss but she was still a mystery in many ways.

"I just wish I would have told her before I left. I would like her to have known that I loved her if we donít get back." The air was getting thinner and Tomís breath was getting shorter. Joe just nodded, he didnít feel like he had enough energy to really answer right now.
 
 

***

The Caatati were holding Voyager hostage and demanding supplies and all of the shipís thorium as ransom. They also wanted Seven of Nine, but Janeway was not about to give in to any of their demands and was certainly not going to give them one of her crew! Surprisingly it was Seven who offered the solution; a matrix to produce all the thorium that the Caatati needed. Surprised but pleased with her suggestion the captain sent Seven to Engineering to construct this device with Lt. Torres.

Seven really did have the heart of an engineer and the thorium matrix was constructed in record time. Chakotay came to engineering to escort the device back to the briefing room where the exchange would take place, and with Chakotay came the news that contact had been lost with the away team. This was one piece of information that Janeway had chosen not to share with B'Elanna.

B'Elanna felt her world crumbling around her as she stared at the door of engineering closing behind Chakotay and Seven. In a daze she moved away from the engineering panels and looked around her, trying to center herself. But it was no use, instead of disgracing herself in front of her crew, she left engineering and made her way to the deserted messhall. As she stared out the view port at the stars she made her own wish, ĎStar light, star bright, first star Iíve seen tonightÖ Please come back, Tom. Please come back.í

Neelix sensed her mood and came to stand next to her. "Lieutenant, is there a need for a morale officer here?" he began.

B'Elanna didnít look at the little Talaxian as she spoke, he eyes still on the stars, "I thought that ejecting the warp core made this the worse day of my life. But I may have lost a lot more than that, Neelix. Iíve realized just how much Tom means to me, and I may never get the chance to tell him. I have no honor, Neelix, or I would have told him long ago that I love him." B'Elannaís voice was laced with sorrow.

A gentle sniff was all the answer that she got as Neelix stood vigil with her.
 
 

***

The lost had been found, with barely a breath left between them, but they had been found. Captain Janeway had them beamed directly to sickbay sending Chakotay and Harry to help the doctor. Word had also reached the messhall, and when Chakotay arrived he found B'Elanna and Neelix frantically trying to help the doctor with Tom and Joe. Chakotay and Harry managed to take over and get the helmet off Joe while the doctor was shouting orders at them and indicating the hypospray with tri-ox that they were to administer. Neelix and B'Elanna removed Tomís helmet while the doctor injected Tom. Both men were lifted to biobeds as the rest of their environmental suits were removed.

Tom was barely aware of the activity around him, he only knew how much it hurt to breathe as he tried to fill his lungs. "Take it easy, Lieutenant," he heard the doctor say but the voice seemed very far away.

"JoeÖ okay?Ö B'Elanna Ökill me ifÖwithout himÖ" These were all the words that Tom could manage as he fought through the haze and the pain.

B'Elanna answered through her tears, "Joeís fine Tom and so are you, just lie still." She was still struggling with the legs of the environmental suit when Harry came over to help her.

"Heís going to be fine, Maquis," Harry said gently as he pulled the last piece of the suit away.

B'Elanna looked at him and shook her head but whispered, "I know, I knowÖ"

Joe had been relieved of his equipment also and Chakotay was trying to calm him. Joe seemed just as concerned about Tomís safety as Tom was about his and Joeís mumbling also had something to with B'Elanna killing him if he came without Tom. B'Elanna was too distraught to notice but Chakotay was having to fight back a grin. His officers were out of immediate danger, but he was pretty sure one of them was about to climb back into the fire.

The doctor administered another dose of tri-ox to each man and hyronoline to counteract the radiation. When his world stopped spinning around Tom tried to open his eyes. The glare of sickbay brought immediate pain to his oxygen starved system but he tried again a minute or so later and realized the pain wasnít so bad this time. Then he noticed B'Elanna standing next to his biobed looking like she had been crying. Tom closed his eyes, assuming it was an hallucination. But when he tested them again she was still there and she still lookedÖ ĎWell, it must just be the light in sickbay.í

"Hey," he smiled at her.

"Hey," she smiled back.

"Is Joe okay?" Tom asked.

"Yes," B'Elanna answered and moved aside so Tom could see the other biobed. Joe still had his eyes shut but the color was starting to come back to his face.

Chakotay stood just beyond Joe and gave Tom a hint of a smile, "Welcome back."

"Thanks, Commander. What about the warp core? Is it safe?" Tom asked, trying to sit up. He quickly realized this was a mistake but it was worth the dizzy, spinning out of control feeling, to have B'Elannaís hand on his chest as she pushed him back down.

"The warp core is fine, engineering is making the preparations to reinstall it right now." B'Elanna answered him.

Tom wondered why B'Elanna was in sickbay if engineering was working on the warp core but he was really too tired to wonder about it very long. He did need to say one more thing though. "Sorry about the shuttle, Commander." His eyes drifted shut again.

"Itís okay, Tom. Iíll take it out of your pay." Chakotayís answer brought a smile to Tomís face but his eyes remained shut, his hand on B'Elannaís as it rested on his chest.

Harry looked from one of his friends to the other and couldnít help but grin. He looked at Joe then and the two men exchanged a thumbs up sign. Things were looking up. Joe and Harry were the only two people on the ship who were willing to bet that Tom and B'Elanna would actually get together and admit how they felt before their daughter was born. The rest of the crew really felt they had a long road ahead of them, up to another three years.

The doctor was comfortable with the condition of his patients now and ready to clear his sickbay of excess personnel. "These men need to rest, undisturbed, for a couple of hours before I release them to their quarters." His meaning was obvious to Harry, Neelix and Chakotay. B'Elanna took a little convincing but Harry managed to sway her by pointing out that if she didnít get down to engineering the Borg would begin the reinstallation without her. Reluctantly she slipped her hand out from under Tomís. He opened his eyes for a last look as she moved away, and B'Elanna stopped long enough to smile back at him. It wasnít much but it was enough for Tom to hope that Joe was right, she really did care for him.

Captain Janeway passed B'Elanna on her way out the door of sickbay. She noticed the look of uncertainty mixed with relief on the engineerís face. A quick look at the biobeds assured her that the two men were going to recover, just as the doctor had reported. Janeway could only guess where the uncertainty was coming from but hoped that B'Elanna would be able to resolve it soon for her sake and for Tomís.

Tom opened his eyes again to see his captain standing at his side. "Captain, I guess our mission was less than successful. Sorry."

"Youíre both back safe, Tom. Thatís all that matters," the captain assured him.

"Captain," the doctor began as he approached the biobed area, "these men need to rest in sickbay until their systems have stabilized. At that time I will release them to their quarters but I donít want them returning to their duty stations for 24 hours."

"Understood, Doctor," the captain readily agreed. She stayed a few minutes more, assuring herself of her officersí recovery. Leaving behind some words of encouragement she headed now for engineering to assess how the warp core reinstallation was coming along and ponder the state of mind of her chief engineer.

It was only an hour or so later when Tom and Joe both began to stir. The doctor examined them one more time and released them to their quarters as he had promised. He did have one condition though, "Please stop by engineering on your way to your quarters."

Tom and Joe looked at him curiously as Tom pointed out, "Doc, engineering isnít on the way to either of our quarters."

"Trust me, it will be easier for all of us if you just make one pass through that area." The doctorís look convinced them that no more information would be forthcoming so they headed for their quarters with one little detour.

***

Tom and Joe walked into Engineering not sure what they would find. The doctorís orders had been a little cryptic. What they found was a beehive of activity with the queen bee the busiest of all. Harry and Chakotay each had a console while B'Elanna moved back and forth between them and the other dozen engineering stations. Harry looked up and grinned at the two men when they came through the door. "I thought you guys were on medical restrictions for the next 24 hours."

"We are," Tom answered, "but the doctor said we had to go through engineering on our way to our quarters. We tried to explain that engineering wasnít on the way but he insisted." Tom had shrugged it off as one of the doctorís quirks but he was aware of B'Elannaís eyes on him. He turned to face her as Joe went over to inspect what Chakotay was doing. They stared at each other for a long moment. Tom saw a lot of fear and relief in her face. He had reason to hope that some of it was for him. He smiled, just a little, enough to let her know he was okay and she smiled back.

Chakotay came over then and interrupted their silent exchange. "Well, youíve seen engineering, everything is almost back in place and you two need to be in your quarters resting." He slapped Tom on the back in a rare gesture of friendship but his tone left no room for argument. Tom and Joe retreated to their quarters for a well deserved rest.

***

It was late and the warp core "resettlement" project was finally finished. People were bone tired but still sufficiently energized to want to meet in the messhall to celebrate. Neelix had already started on the food and planning the festivities. B'Elanna and Harry left engineering together and were walking towards the lift. Harry spoke first, "I guess we should see if Tom and Joe want to come to the party. They tried to be the heroes of the day!" B'Elanna had been strangely silent during the eveningís repairs and Harry was fishing for an explanation.

"I guess we should," was all she answered.

"Okay, Iíll go check on Joe. Why donít you check on Tom?"

B'Elanna looked at him and wondered if she was really that transparent. Harry thought she was going to refuse his offer but she nodded and replied, "Okay."

Harry left the lift on Joeís deck while B'Elanna continued on to Tomís. She hesitated outside the door of his quarters, steeling herself for what she had to say. Finally she rang for admittance and heard Tomís voice say "Come in."

Tom had obviously been lying on his couch but he hadnít been asleep. He stood as she entered and B'Elanna noticed that he had a little more color in his face than earlier.

At a loss for words, B'Elanna started by asking, "How are you feeling?"

"Okay, I guess. Still a little woozy if I stand up suddenly. I donít think the captain would want me in the pilotís seat right now," he joked. It was the only defense he knew and right now he felt a little defensive.

"Well, I wouldnít worry about that just yet. We just got the warp core back on line and weíre not going to test it until tomorrow. Tonight Neelix is throwing an impromptu party in the messhall just to celebrate that we survived the day, all of us. I came to see if you were interested." B'Elannaís words were stiff and formal and Tom couldnít read any message behind them.

"I guess so," he replied unenthusiastically and reached to get his uniform jacket which he had discarded over the back of a nearby chair.

"Wait," B'Elanna said urgently. "I have something else I need to say."

Tom tensed, he was sure that he had pushed her too far today and this was it, the end of any hope he had. Well, the least he could do was take it like a man and he pulled his mask firmly in place. "Go ahead." He said evenly.

"Today was the Klingon Day of Honor and I finally realized that I have no honor." B'Elanna cut Tom off with and angry wave of her hand as he began to protest. "Hear me out." She demanded.

Tom nodded and continued to stand facing her. She looked up at him and he was surprised to see tears in her eyes. "I realized that what I have been putting you through for the last few months was about as dishonorable as any action of any warrior. Iíve been lying to you and letting you suffer with that lie. I havenít had the courage to tell you how I feel and if Iím to finish this day with any honor I have to tell you this."

"B'ElannaÖ" Tom began but she cut him off again.

"No! Just let me finish. I let you go out in that shuttle craft without even saying good-bye or take care of yourself. I let you leave with angry words between us. Friends donít do that. Iím sorry." She pulled away as Tom reached out to comfort her. "Iím not finished!" Tom dropped his arms and continued to give her his undivided attention while his heart was sinking into despair.

"Tom." She began again, her voice now strangled with tears, "I love you. I have loved you for so long I canít even remember when it happened. I just have never had the courage to tell you. I almost let you die today without telling you that and I couldnít let that mistake go on any longer." B'Elanna was looking at his chest, carefully keeping her eyes away from his face, and because of that she missed the look of joy and hope that swept him. He hesitated to touch her because he wasnít sure if she was finished.

"You donít have toÖ I donít expect you toÖ it doesnít matter if you donít feel the sameÖ" her words were starting to falter as she realized what she had done and that Tom hadnít said a word. She finally stole a glance at his face and found him staring intently at her, his expression unreadable.

"Are you finished?" he asked gently. B'Elanna nodded miserably looking down at the floor. Tom took her face in his hands and brought it up so he could see her eyes and she could see his. "I have loved you since the day I met you. No woman has ever fascinated me like you have. In spite of the rumors, there has never been another woman since the day I met you. You have invaded my heart and my dreams." He bent down and took her lips with his. It was their first real kiss and B'Elanna felt all the longing that it held. As she returned that kiss she also felt the gripping pain that had held her heart for so long was suddenly released. He loved her. It wasnít just the baby, he loved her! Her arms were around his waist holding him closer as he pulled her into the circle of his arms. When they finally broke the kiss they stood looking at each other and laughed out loud. It felt so good to be loved! Tom picked her up and swung her till she was dizzy.

When he finally put her down he kissed her again, never letting her out of his embrace. He looked at her solemnly again and asked, "Will you marry me? I donít have much honor to offer your Klingon house but I promise you that I will love and cherish you always."

B'Elanna put her hand over his mouth, "Tom, you are the bravest, kindest, most honorable man I know. You would bring great honor to my house. I would be proud to marry you." She took her hand away as he started to swing her again, his excitement too great to restrain!

They didnít hear the chime of the door or realize that it had been opened to admit Harry until he spoke. "Whatís going on here? Tom youíre supposed to be taking it easy." Harry admonished.

"She loves me, Harry. She said sheíd marry me! She loves me!" Tom shouted as he gave B'Elanna another whirl that left her laughing breathlessly against him.

"I could have told you that a year ago," Harry answered. It was enough to stop the jubilant dance in mid spin.

"What?" Tom and B'Elanna chorused.

Harry was grinning now, "The whole ship has known, and weíve been taking bets on how long it would take you two to figure it out. Joe Carey and I stand to make a tidy sum on this deal. We gave you more credit than most."

"You have been betting on our relationship?" B'Elanna was livid. Tom noticed how quickly her mood could change from joy to fury. Her mercurial nature was one of the many things that fascinated him.

Harry had the sense to back off as he saw the anger building in B'Elanna. She looked like she was going to explode and he couldnít believe how calmly Tom was taking this. "Now, B'Elanna, it was just a friendly bet, among friendsÖ" he stammered.

B'Elanna looked menacingly at Tom. "Did you know about this?"

"No, maíam. This was Harryís pool. I had nothing to do with it" he stated adamantly holding his hands in the air, palms forward, to testify to his innocence.

B'Elanna closed her eyes and balled her fists.

"Whatís she doing?" Harry asked.

"Counting to 10," Tom answered.

"What happens when she reaches 10?"

"Depends on whether she has to go over 10 or not," was Tomís almost nonchalant answer.

Harry was still backing towards the door when B'Elanna opened her eyes. The look she gave him was dangerous until she smiled, "I donít care. I love Tom and he loves me. And I donít care what the rest of the ship has to say about it!" B'Elanna turned and put her arms around Tom again, resting her head on his chest as he pulled her close with a warm embrace.

***

Neelix had prepared a feast for the weary crew. They sat around eating, drinking and relaxing, grateful to have survived another day in the Delta Quadrant. Tom and B'Elanna were not sharing their momentous news just yet but it was obvious to everyone in the messhall that something was different. Harry was bursting to tell his secret but he was willing to put up with the pain tonight as long as he didnít have to keep the news to himself much longer.

Tom was still not up to a long party and he and B'Elanna stood to leave earlier than most. It wasnít lost upon the remaining revelers that they were holding hands. They found themselves in the corridor at the same time as Captain Janeway and Chakotay. With a quick look at B'Elanna, who was blushing profusely, Tom stopped the pair, "Captain, weíd like to ask a favor."

"Of course, Tom, what can I do for you?" she replied.

"Would you marry us?" Tom asked, his face a mask of innocence.

Kathryn Janeway stopped dead in her tracks causing a collision with her first officer who was also amazed by the request. "Youíre kidding," she was smiling brightly now, "when did this happen?"

Tom and B'Elanna looked at each other and it was B'Elanna who answered, "Weíre trying to figure that one out ourselves, Captain." She was smiling as she said it.

Chakotay, to Tomís surprise, smiled at both of them. "Thatís great, Tom, B'Elanna. Who won the pool?"

Kathryn wanted to kick him for his indiscretion in bringing up the pool but it looked like B'Elanna was going to take care of that herself.

"You knew?!" B'Elannaís voice held anger and astonishment. Tom and B'Elanna were still holding hands and Tom was quite aware of her anger. To his credit, he only winced once as B'Elannaís grip tightened. He was sure the pain was only going to get worse but B'Elanna surprised him. She relaxed and looked up at Tom before she said, "I donít care who won the pool, Iím going to take home the prize." Tomís smile could easily be described as going from ear to ear!

"All right, you two. Come see me tomorrow and congratulations!"

"Thank you, Captain," they answered together adding, "Good night," as they moved off towards the turbolift.

***

At the door of her quarters B'Elanna looked shyly up at Tom, "Do you want to come in?"

Tom smiled back, "Not tonight. Tomorrow is our wedding day. I can wait." He did however, capture her lips in a long, slow kiss that promised a lot for tomorrow. His final gesture was to caress their daughter as he looked at her mother with eyes warmed by love. Looking into those cerulean pools B'Elanna could not imagine how she had missed the love in that look before now.

***

B'Elanna woke up the next morning, her wedding day, with a low backache. She was used to her back aching at the end of the workday and she wasnít looking forward to dealing with the pain all day. But there was no alternative. They had to test the warp engines and Joe was still on medical leave. For that matter, so was Tom and B'Elanna was startled when her door chime rang and Tom appeared dressed for work and ready to escort her to breakfast. "What are you doing here?" B'Elanna asked, "youíre on 24 hour medical leave."

Tom answered her with a kiss that explained just what he was doing in her quarters first thing in the morning. Then he grinned at her and asked, "Do you really want Culhane at the helm when we test the warp drive?"

"Not really," B'Elanna smiled. She far preferred to feel Tomís hands on her ship.

"Come on, letís test that warp core and then go have a wedding." Tomís mood was infectious and B'Elanna forgot about her aching back and her recently abused warp core. All she could think about was Tomís eyes, eyes so blue you could swim in them, and all she wanted to do was swim.

Tom must have seen the look because he bent to take her lips again and she readily gave them to him. It felt wonderful to have his arms around her. Reluctantly Tom broke the kiss and said, "Weíll finish this later. Harryís waiting for us in the messhall."
 

Suddenly shy, B'Elanna nodded and they walked together, hand in hand, to the messhall. For some reason B'Elanna had no appetite this morning and her backache, which seemed to come and go, was beginning to annoy her. She sampled what Neelix was offering for coffee and pushed the rest of the food around on her tray.

"Hey," Tom asked, "worried about the warp core?" He really hoped that was the problem and that she wasnít having second thoughts about this whirlwind engagement.

Putting on her brightest smile B'Elanna answered, "Itís the warp core that should be worried. It better not mess with me today, I have plans."

Tomís answering grin made her almost giddy. "Are you finished?" he asked as he grabbed her tray.

"Yeah," she answered. "Weíll make this test and then Iíll meet you on the bridge, okay?"

"Iíll be the one wearing the silly grin." Tom answered.

They were outside the messhall in the deserted corridor so B'Elanna answered him first with a kiss. "I think Iíll recognize you," she added with a smile.

They both looked a little red when Harry joined them a moment later. If he suspected anything he certainly kept it to himself. Tom and Harry went together to the bridge while B'Elanna headed for engineering, still wearing the smile that Tom had left her with.

The warp core test went by without a hitch. ĎA first for Voyager,í B'Elanna mused. Now that it was done, she knew that Tom would be waiting for her on the bridge. She was marrying Tom today. Ruefully she looked down at the stretched out maternity uniform and wondered what Tom could possibly see in this ungainly body. She was embarrassed by her size but he didnít seem to care. Would he still feel the same once their daughter was born? Were they making a huge mistake? Being held in Tomís arms had felt so right.

B'Elanna shook her head and attributed her doubts to pre-nuptial jitters and her continuing discomfort to vanity. She was still wearing her regulation uniform boots and the doctor had warned her that as she got closer to the time of delivery she needed to find something with a lower heel.

Leaving Lt. Nicoletti in charge in engineering, B'Elanna headed for Voyagerís bridge. Tom stood at Ensign Culhaneís elbow watching the readings but he turned and smiled as soon as he heard the turbolift doors. B'Elanna returned his smile.

Captain Janeway glanced back also and shared her pleasure with B'Elanna. "Nice work, Lieutenant. It looks like we are back in business."

"Thank you, Captain."

Turning her eyes back to Tom, B'Elanna gave him all the encouragement he needed to ask, "Captain Janeway, could B'Elanna and I see you now?"

"Of course, Tom. In my ready room."

***

"Well," the captain began, "you two have finally decided to get married?" She was smiling broadly at the obviously embarrassed pair. "Come on, sit down and tell me your plans."

As they sat on the ready room couch Tom answered, "We plan to get married."

"Yes, but we need a date, a place, witnesses. Neelix will have a wonderful time planning the reception."

Tomís answer surprised Janeway, "Captain, weíd like to get married now, here. Harryís on the bridge. He can be our witness. Weíll tell Neelix later, much later." Tom looked at B'Elanna for affirmation. She nodded her agreement. She wanted to be married here and now. And she wanted an excuse to stand up, sitting on a soft couch had been a big mistake. She could feel the ache in her back starting again and she was positive that she had sunk so far into the cushions that it would take Tom and Harry both to pull her out.

The captain, however, was not be put off, "Donít you want a wedding, maybe not a dress but at least a ceremony, B'Elanna?"

"No, captain, I want to be married to Tom, here and now." B'Elanna tone left no room for doubt.

As she stood and began to pace, Captain Janeway tried to think of some persuasive words to postpone this wedding, at least give them time to prepare. Another look at their faces as they sat holding each otherís hand forced her think again. Maybe they were right. The crew had known how they felt about each other for a year. Why should she try to second guess everyone on the ship? "All right." She smiled at the young couple and touched her com badge, "Commander Chakotay, Ensign Kim, would you please join us in my ready room?"

Tom had already offered a solicitous hand to B'Elanna and she was standing next to him as Harry and Chakotay entered came through the door. "It seems we are going to have a wedding this morning," the captain began.

Harry was obviously surprised. "Hey, guys, I havenít even planned the bachelor party yet."

"Sorry, Har. Weíll have to plan it for later," Tom laughed.

"Not likely, Flyboy." B'Elanna smiled at Harryís disappointment and Tomís obvious pleasure at her jealousy.

"It looks like weíll have to plan it together with a baby shower in a couple of weeks." Chakotayís pleasure with the wedding plans was evident. Seeing this made Tom smile even more. He hadnít really realized how much the first officerís approval meant to him.

Captain Janeway moved the group to stand next to the viewport, a slightly more romantic setting than the middle of the room. As she said the traditional words she mused on the path that had brought these two together. The disgraced son of Starfleet brass and the Maquis rebel had found love and acceptance on this ship. They were among family and had made a place for themselves. They were officers who had the respect of the crew and they were probably the two most insecure people she had ever had the pleasure of knowing. And knowing them was a pleasure. If any good had come from stranding this ship in the Delta quadrant this was it. These two had found each other. As they said their "I doís" Janeway smiled broadly. It was a good day to be a Starfleet Captain in the Delta quadrant.

"Shall we replicate some champagne?" Chakotay asked as soon as the ceremony was over. Harry was busy hugging B'Elanna while Janeway embraced Tom. Switching partners, Janeway circled B'Elanna with her arms while Harry swept Tom into a bear hug.

As the captain moved away to help Chakotay with the wine and glasses B'Elanna felt the first pain grip her. It almost took her breath away as she grasped the back of the couch to hold herself up. As it passed she looked around for Tom. Harry was still complaining about the lack of a bachelor party but her voice caught their attention immediately. "Tom," it was almost a whisper but he was at her side instantly.

"B'Elanna, whatís wrong?" he asked, his voice heavy with concern.

"I think weíre having a baby," she replied.

Harry panicked at her words, "Here? Now?" He almost tripped as he backed towards the door.

The captain was calmer. "You two better head for sick-bay. Iíll tell the doctor youíre on your way."

Tomís arm was around B'Elanna now and she tried to smile at him in encouragement but the smile was stifled by another pain. She leaned against him as it too passed. His eyes held worry as she met them and she raised her hand to touch his face. "Come on, letís go have a baby."

***

B'Elanna lay on the biobed now, a hospital gown replacing the hated uniform. Tom had not left her side, carefully helping her change while the doctor prepared the sickbay for delivery. The pain was increasing with each contraction but the doctor casually assured them that they were hours away from delivery. B'Elanna debated whether or not to scatter his matrix among the stars but decided that she had other ways of torturing him when this was over. He kept telling her to breathe and she calmed herself with thoughts of ripping his head off. That was going to be her focal point.

Tomís method of coping was to hold her hand and hover. She had to smile at his concern. This had turned out to be quite a wedding day! "We didnít even have a honeymoon." She said regretfully.

"Weíll have one later. Maybe weíll even take the kids," he grinned.

The pain of a contraction was gripping her again as she grasped the front of his uniform and pulled him toward her, "Kid, Tom, one kid. This is it."

"Okay, whatever you say." Tom hastily agreed as he straightened back up and adjusted his tunic, catching his breath.

As the hours passed Tom remained at her side. The captain, Chakotay and even Harry offered to take a turn but Tom wouldnít leave her. The labor was long and through it all the doctor remained irritatingly cheerful. The idea of dismantling his program was even beginning to sound good to Tom. Finally, the doctor pronounced B'Elanna ready to push and the hard work began. Tom held her and encouraged her as she struggled to expel their daughter. It felt like her body was being torn in half when finally the dark matted head appeared. The doctor was smug as he told B'Elanna she couldnít rest yet, another push would finish propelling her daughter in to the world. B'Elanna pushed again and this time the push came with a scream, a final need to express her pain.

Tom was speechless with awe as he saw his daughter emerge. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, but then so was her mother.

"Is she all right?" B'Elanna whispered.

"Sheís perfect." Tom answered.

"I would have to agree with Mr. Parisí less than unbiased opinion. She does appear to be perfect. Here, Tom." The doctor handed Tom his now swaddled daughter to be carefully carried over so B'Elanna could see and touch her.

As soon she was able to sit up Tom placed their daughter in her arms. He circled them both with his arms as he sat next to B'Elanna on the biobed. "Welcome to Voyager, Miral?"

Tom looked at B'Elanna to see how she felt about the name, her motherís. They hadnít really talked about names much, but when she had told him her motherís name, Tom knew that it was right for their daughter. He was surprised to see a tear rolling down her face. "Hey, are you okay?" he asked gently.

"Iím fine. I just wish Ö I just wish my mother could see her and you and know how happy I am." B'Elanna whispered through her tears. She looked up at Tom and saw the devotion in his face as he leaned in to kiss her.

"I love you," he said softly.

"I know."

The young family was soon interrupted by their commanding officers who had been notified of the newest member of the crewís arrival. They were, however, forced to worship from afar as B'Elanna was not about to let anyone else hold her child just yet.

When Harry also appeared a few minutes later Tom was forced to ask "Whoís got the bridge?"

"Tuvok," they chorused as they continued to admire Miral.

It was only later as both of her parents slept on separate biobeds, that Miral was formally introduced to the captain. Janeway had snuck back into sickbay hoping to catch them asleep so she could have some time alone with the baby. The plot worked. She and the doctor had several minutes of just admiring and holding and cooing ridiculously before tiny Miral decided she had had enough and drifted off to sleep. As the captain slipped the baby back into the incubator she looked at her sleeping officers, her lost sheep who had found a home on Voyager.

***

The cries of her newborn daughter awoke B'Elanna. Miral was definitely part Klingon, and B'Elanna was sure that the whole ship could hear her now. Tom was laughing as he carried her over. "She has her motherís temper, thatís for sure."

B'Elanna pretended to scowl at him as she took her daughter and tried to sooth her. Miral had something else entirely on her mind and began rooting immediately. Blushing profusely, B'Elanna opened her gown so the infant could nuzzle and finally begin to suck. B'Elanna was startled by the strength of her grip and the sensations it sent throughout her body. She could feel the mild discomfort of contractions in her womb but there was a sensual feeling also, an arousal that caused her to look up at Tom. Tom was looking at her too, a look that was full of desire. He bent to kiss her, a warm, deep kiss that caused her head to spin. "Tom," she breathed, her voice laced with desire.

Tom pulled his lips away regretfully but filed his licentious thoughts for later. "She also has her fatherís appetite." He grinned causing B'Elanna to blush even more.

The doctor recognized foreplay when he saw it and decided it was time for his post-natal care for the mother lecture. "AhemÖ" he began, "I didnít feel it was necessary before but circumstances have changed somewhat. I must point out that Lt. Torres has just been through a very traumatic experience. Your body is not ready for sexual activity at this time and will not be for several weeks."

Tom and B'Elanna stared open-mouthed at the doctor and then turned to stare at each other. Embarrassment spread across their features as they quickly looked away, Tom choosing to look at their nursing daughter while B'Elanna fixed the doctor with a death glare.

The doctor was oblivious to the discomfort he was causing and continued his lecture. "It should take about four weeks for your body to heal, Lieutenant. You will of course be on medical leave for the next six weeks. Caring for a newborn, as we have discussed, is a full time job. Nursing a child is a lot of work in itself and you will need to get extra rest and nourishment. Mr. Paris should be able to handle most of the household chores, I would think. He certainly seems to know his way around the replicator. I would also like to recommend that you begin your regular contraceptive boosters again, Mr. Paris. I think you will have need of them now."

B'Elanna gave Tom an incredulous look as his face reddened even more while he struggled to explain, "Well, I didnít figure I would need them so I just forgot about them the last couple of months. There didnít seem much point." Awareness of what he was saying dawned on B'Elanna and he affirmed her suspicions when he admitted, "The only woman I was interested in was already pregnant." Their gazes were again locked on each other.

Miral decided that her hunger was sated and she wanted to get a good look at these two people whose voices were so familiar. She stared in wonder and smiled when her fatherís eyes finally drug themselves away from the chocolate pools of her mother and graced her with a look almost as adoring as the one he had been giving her mother. Tomís finger grazed her cheek and moved down for her to grasp. His eyes moved again to B'Elannaís face.

The doctor realized that he was no longer a part of this conversation and removed himself from the area with a petulant sigh.

***

Doc had insisted on another 12 hours in sickbay but tonight Tom was able to take his family home. B'Elanna walked slowly next to him, holding on to his arm as Tom carried his precious bundle. She was surprised at Tomís command for the lift to take them to Deck 3. Neither Tomís quarters nor hers were on that deck. From his face it was obvious that he held a secret which he wasnít about to divulge. At the door of one of the larger quarters designated for visiting VIPs Tom paused and touched the keypad. The door opened to reveal their new home. Harry was already there, waiting for them and wearing a silly grin.

"Surprise!"

"Surprise, yourself. When did all this happen?" B'Elanna looked around at almost familiar surroundings. Miralís crib was there and she recognized personal belongings from her own quarters and Tomís. But there was so much room. A bedroom separate from the living quarters, an alcove for the baby, a real dining area. Her quarters and Tomís had both been spartan, but their styles mixed well in these luxurious surroundings.

Harry answered her as she settled herself on the couch. "The captain suggested it right after the wedding. You didnít stay for much of the reception but we had a good time making plans."

B'Elanna scowled at him, sheíd been a little busy at the time of the reception. Tom placed Miral in her arms and stood next to them looking around in ill-concealed delight.

Harry continued his story, "Your engineering crew provided all the manpower. I cleaned out Tomís quarters and Chakotay did yours, B'Elanna." She blushed as she thought of Chakotay looking at all her personal items, but she had to admit it was better than Harry.

Tom had wandered into the bedroom and came back out holding a stuffed targ, a look of puzzlement on his face. B'Elanna blushed profusely and took the toy away from him. It was obviously not intended for the baby. This toy was old and ragged and seemed to mean a lot to B'Elanna. Tom smiled as he reclaimed the animal and gave him a place of honor on the bookcase next to B'Elannaís batleth. He wasnít going to make a comment if she wasnít.

Oblivious to the silent exchange, Harry went on, "We wanted it to be a surprise, kind of a combination baby and wedding present. I hope you like it."

"Harry, itís the nicest thing anyone could do for us. It will feel strange living in such luxury but I think we will manage." Tom assured him.

B'Elanna smiled too, "Itís beautiful, Harry. Thank you and thanks to all your helpers. It must have been a lot of work."

"Well, everyone wanted to help. Neelix already has your dinner here, in the warmer. And he made me promise not to overstay my welcome. Iíd aÖ Iíd better go before he comes looking for me." Harry was beginning to feel really awkward. These were his closest friends but they shared something now that he would never be a part of. He was fairly confident that they would always be friends but it would be different. A fleeting sadness overtook Harry but it was replaced by happiness that Tom and B'Elanna had found each other.

Tom knew Harry very well and recognized the sequence of emotions that crossed his face. He reached out his hand to the younger man, "Thanks, Har, for everything." As Harry took the proffered hand Tom drew him into an embrace.

Harry grinned at both of them and sidled toward the door. "Iíll see you tomorrow. And Tom, thereís a message from the captain, sheís given you another 72 hours leave. Enjoy your family."

As the door shut behind Harry, Tom looked again at B'Elanna. Miral was sleeping and B'Elanna looked like she could use some sleep also. He picked up the baby and laid her in her carefully prepared crib. B'Elanna slowly followed him over to make sure he was doing it right. She fussed a little over carefully placing the sleeping infant on her side and covered her gently with Captain Janeway's gift, stroking the soft skin of her cheek before straightening up to look at Tom.

As she looked around the room again she noticed a gift in a brightly colored bag on the dresser. B'Elanna gave Tom a questioning glance and he answered her with a sheepish grin. He picked up the bag and carried it to where B'Elanna had perched on the edge of the closest chair. "It was supposed to be a baby gift but I kind of wound up without a wedding gift so I guess it will have to be both."

B'Elanna reached into the bag and brought out a shimmering ball of blown glass. Encased in the glass was the Mandorian rose, one of the hybrids that Kes had cultivated in the hydroponics bay. Kes had left it as a gift for them. It was actually two roses, one scarlet and one a deeper red, whose stems had been grafted together to make one. She loved the unusual colors and was amazed to see it encased in the glass. "Where did you get it?" she asked.

"Sue blows glass for a hobby and I saw some of her pieces when she was showing them in the messhall a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to make our special rose last forever so I asked her if she could blow a glass ball around it and preserve it. It took some experimenting but she did it." Tomís voice held uncertainty as he tried to determine whether or not B'Elanna liked the gift.

"B'Elanna, I wanted you to know that I would love you forever, my love wouldnít die and neither would our flower." He was still trying to gage her reaction and his words were starting to tumble over each other.

"Itís beautiful," she whispered as she cradled the colorful glass in her hands. ĎThatís what they were talking about in the messhallí her mind whispered.

Tom was watching B'Elanna in fascination. The reality of the last 48 hours was still sinking in. She loved him, she had married him and she had given him a daughter. He was the happiest guy in the world. Placing his hands on her arms he gently pulled her to him and held her close, his chin resting on her head. B'Elanna reveled in the warmth of his embrace and sighed when he broke the contact.

Looking down at her he asked, "Are you hungry? Do you want me to put dinner on the table?"

B'Elanna shook her head, "No, Iím not really hungry, could we take a nap first? I think it might be a good idea to sleep while she sleeps and eat when she eats. I have a feeling Miral will be very opinionated about our schedules for a while." She was surprised at how easily her motherís name slipped off her tongue. The first couple of times had been awkward but now it felt right.

Tom smiled his agreement and led B'Elanna to the bedroom where she stared in awe at the double bed. They were both used to the single beds standard in junior officersí quarters. This one seemed huge in comparison. B'Elanna also blushed as she thought of lying there with Tom. Tom was thinking some of the same thoughts and tried to fill the silence with humor but he was actually speechless. The thought of lying there with B'Elanna had invaded his mind from the minute Harry had told him of the surprise they had been cooking up.

Tom was the first to shake off his embarrassment though. "Can I get you a nightgown to sleep in so you donít have to use the one from sickbay?" he asked.

"That would be very nice but I have no idea where to tell you to find one." B'Elanna giggled. Together they searched the drawers until they found B'Elannaís lingerie. Tom again helped her change and turned down the covers so she could slip into the bed.

"Uh, weíve never discussed which side you prefer to sleep on." Tom stuttered.

"The left side, it you donít mind." B'Elanna answered in a donít mess with me tone of voice.

"Good, cause I prefer the right." Tom retorted lightly. He had helped B'Elanna change twice now with no embarrassment but when it came to undressing in front of her, Tom suddenly felt awkward. He thought about using the bathroom to change but that might be a little obvious. ĎThis is ridiculous. I am standing here embarrassed to change clothes in front of my wife.í He looked over at B'Elanna who lay on the bed with her eyes shut, seemingly unaware of the conflict he was feeling. Shaking his head at the absurdity of his feelings, he finished undressing quickly and slipped on a pair of flannel sleep pants before crawling into the right side of the bed.

They laid there awkwardly on their backs for a minute before Tom called out "Computer, dim the lights to 10%." He could still see the outline of her face even in the dim light and he raised up on his elbow to lean over and kiss her. B'Elanna responded warmly to the kiss then turned over onto her side facing away from him. Tom grinned as he spooned his body around hers and gently held her to him. The physical contact brought him a state of awareness of B'Elannaís body that was not quite arousal, but it wouldnít take much more. As he pulled her close he whispered in a seductive tone, "Four weeks, huh?"

B'Elannaís sleepy response was "Pig!"

Tom grinned as he too began to drift off. He barely heard the soft words, "I love you."

"I know."

The End

****

If anyone has actually made it to the end of this saga please let me know. You deserve a medal. brigidandmike@juno.com