A while back a story series titled "The Judgment of Paris" by Raku was posted on the alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated newsgroup. It was the first story I had read that treated a Tuvok/Paris pairing seriously. Suddenly I couldn‘t shake the concept and a story popped up demanding to be written. Response to Red Sands, Blue Skies was wonderful and a sequel was loudly demanded, so here we are again. Sorry it took me so long, but I blocked for a long time after starting. I didn‘t figure out what was wrong until just before Christmas.
Happily Ever After
by Lianne Burwell
When the time of my Pon Farr came, four years after the entity known as the Caretaker transported us to the Delta Quadrant, I knew that I would die. It would not be logical to think otherwise. My only regret was that my katra would be lost to my family and clan. Instead I survived, by the actions of Lieutenant Paris. Instead of the painful death that Pon Farr could cause, I found myself bonded to a new mate.
Upon our return to Voyager, I retired to my quarters to meditate on what had happened. Searching, I found no trace of my bond to T‘Pel. Weakened by our long seperation, it had been severed by my Pon Farr. In its place, I found the start of a bond, faint yet surprisingly solid, to Tom Paris.
Examining it, I realized that it was not as recent as I had expected. In actuality, it had begun several years earlier, when I had melded with Mr. Paris to prove him innocent of murder. A connection had remained, too faint to attract my attention. While I had experienced similar after-effects from a mind-meld before, I do not recall a similar sort of link remaining for more than a short time, such as with Mr. Suder. Searching my memories, I found events that had maintained that link and even strengthened it where it might otherwise have disappeared. Our fight for survival on the holodeck in the mutiny scenario was only the most obvious.
Despite this, it would have been simple to break that link, as it was not yet fully formed, but I found myself reluctant to do so. Despite the appearance that I showed the crew, I was... lonely, and very few of the crew showed any interest in pursuing an association with myself. And while Tom Paris was not one I might have considered for a bond mate previously, it was undeniable that we fit well together.
Afterwards, I found myself uncertain of how to proceed. Mr. Paris had a reputation for being free with his affections, although I knew that to be untrue, at least in the way that the rest of the crew meant. Also, being mated with a superior officer, though not a direct superior, would affect the way that his fellow crewmembers would relate to him. As well, it was clear that Mr. Paris was, as yet, unsure about how he felt about what had happened, or how he wished to proceed from that point.
Under the circumstances, the proper thing to do was to allow him the time and the distance he required to make his own choices. Then to abide by those choices.
The first time I found myself in his dreams, it was a... surprise. Vulcans do not dream in the way that humans do. In particular, we do not experience what humans call "wet dreams". When I woke, covered in my own semen, I realized that the dream must have come from Tom. I considered blocking our link to the degree that I not be affected again, but I choose not to. If the dreams were part of his way of examining what had happened, I would not deny him.
And, I must confess, I took... comfort from being able to touch him in this way.
Nearly a week after we returned from the mining mission, the Captain asked me to join her in her quarters for dinner after alpha shift had ended. While this was not an unusual occurrence between us, I understood the true reason for the suggestion. We ate a traditional Vulcan meal, as we have done many times over the years, and indulged in what humans call ‚small talk‘. Finally, she turned the conversation to the subject in which she was truly interested.
"Tuvok. I‘ve noticed the last few weeks that you were looking... unwell. I was worried. You have looked much better since you returned to Voyager, and while it‘s not really my business..."
She looked so uncomfortable with the line of questioning that I decided to spare her further embarrassment as she attempted to ask that which was not the subject of polite conversation.
"Your surmise is correct, Captain. It was indeed my Pon Farr. I expected that it would result in my death, but Lieutenant Paris chose to ignore that option."
She opened her mouth to speak, but remained silent for a moment. "What about T‘Pel?" she finally asked.
"Our bond had already been weakened by our long separation. It dissolved under the pressure of the Pon Farr, and she will have felt this. It will be her choice whether or not she seeks a new mate."
"We have formed a bond, but he does not yet fully understand it. It will be his choice on how to continue."
She frowned. "Will this affect your work performance? Either of you?"
"I do not foresee a problem."
"And what about you, personally?" She looked concerned now, but I could see that she was concerned about me on a personal level. Like a family member.
"While this is not the outcome I would have foreseen, I am not... opposed to it. I will wait until Mr. Paris makes his decision."
While she did not look happy, she was supportive.
* * * * *
"Why wasn‘t she happy?"
"She felt that if I did not wish to break our bond, I should... pursue you. Being very fond of the gothic novels of Earth, she tends to be a romantic."
"So she wanted the dark, brooding security office and the happy-go-lucky pilot to find true love and live happily ever after?"
"That is essentially correct."
"Good thing we didn‘t disappoint her."
* * * * *
Over the following weeks I gradually re-established my original relationship with Mr. Paris. We spent meal breaks together again. We started working on our personal projects together, as well. He began to be more comfortable in my presence again.
Our holonovel projects were of great interest to the rest of the crew. When it was originally suggested that we finish the mutiny simulation together, I did not expect the project to continue for long. Mr. Paris‘s interests seemed to tend more to using the end product. The simulation of the bar, Sandrine‘s, was impressive, but one he had brought with him.
I was pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm that he put into our work together. He turned out to be an excellent holo-programmer, with a fine eye for detail. Most humans would only have paid attention to the ‚large picture‘, ignoring the critical, but less obvious, smaller details. The scent of a plant sitting in the corner of the room. The texture of a carving on a shelf. Mr. Paris‘s drive for perfection would satisfy the most demanding of professional programmers.
As a result, when Mr. Neelix jokingly suggested that we work on more projects together, I found myself anticipating the experience, and was pleased at Mr. Paris‘s immediate agreement.
I now realized that our harmonious working arrangement was yet another example of the bond of which we were both unaware.
I was also pulled into his dreams most nights. At first the dreams were only sexual. I did not object to this, and cooperated willingly. As time went by, though, I exerted my influences as subtly as I could towards directing some of his dreams, encouraging him to question me about subjects that he might not have otherwise been willing to discuss.
During the day, I could see his attitude towards me gradually changing, and I was... pleased. Tom began to seek me out at meals more often. I noticed him watching me on many occasions when there was not an appropriate reason to do so. In enclosed spaces, such as turbolifts, I could feel his attraction through our fledgling link.
However, if pressed, I would have to confess to an equal attraction to him. There were days when I had to restrain myself, feeling a degree of impatience that was innapropriate for a Vulcan.
Despite that, events were proceeding in a most satisfactory manner.
* * * * *
"You were pursuing me."
"On the contrary. I merely waited for you to decide what you wanted."
"Right! That‘s bullshit, love. Not avoiding my dreams. Directing them. Making me more aware of you. You were working to seduce me!"
"Vulcans do not seduce."
* * * * *
I believe that the turning point in Tom‘s examination of our relationship came when I was injured during an away mission. While my memories between the injury and waking in sickbay are unclear, the Captain informed me that Mr. Paris had spent most of that time at my bedside. I had vague memories of assuring him that I would not die, and that if I did he would be all right. I was not sure whether the conversation had occurred inside or outside of our shared dreams.
The Captain expressed concern that I was allowing matters to continue too long without resolving them. I assured her that I believed that everything would be dealt with in the near future. She explained that she was worried about Mr. Paris‘s work performance, at least when I was present. She also informed me that the ship‘s "rumor-mill" was also highly focused on Mr. Paris and his romantic - or more to the point, his lack of romantic - involvements.
As well, Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Torres had both expressed concerns about their friend‘s state of mind to Commander Chakotay, and he had passed those concerns - as well as his own - on to the Captain.
I found myself displeased that the Commander would concern himself with my business or Mr. Paris‘s. I was about to inform the Captain of this when I realized that my reaction could be taken for human jealousy. I was taken aback by this. While I had observed the changes caused by our link in Tom himself, I had not examined myself for similar changes. That I could feel jealousy dismayed me. Then I realized that dismay would also be considered an emotional state.
I resolved to meditate on this.
My dealings with the Commander had never been easy. I had no wish to be first officer, but he considered me a threat to his position. This had not been helped when he learned that I had recommended that he not be included in the ruse to uncover Seska‘s spy. While we worked well together now, we would never be completely free of that mistrust.
However, as first officer, the Commander was responsible for crew performance. As such, it was his duty to become involved if a crew member‘s performance was being affected by outside concerns.
I asked the Captain to prevent the Commander from becoming involved in matters, for the time being. The matter was close to resolution, I assured her once more.
* * * * *
"I wondered about that."
"Chakotay. It seemed like half the crew came by at one point or another. Harry, B‘Elanna, the Captain, the Delaneys, Samantha Wildman, Neelix. Even Vorik! They all came by to find out what my problem was. Offering to be a sympathetic ear. But Chakotay only tried to talk to me once, and he backed away immediately when I told him to butt out. Considering he was essentially the ship‘s counselor by that point, it seemed strange to me."
"Indeed? I noticed that he was watching you very carefully during that last week. The Captain must have been very convincing to ensure that he kept a distance."
"Oh well. Even if he had pressed harder, it wouldn‘t have changed anything. I wasn‘t willing to talk to anyone about it, and I still would have made the same choice."
"I am pleased."
* * * * *
About a week after my conversation with the Captain in sickbay, I felt a wave of fear/hope/resolve coming through my link to Tom. I quickly realized that he was finally coming to speak to me. Deciding that he would feel more at ease if I were not wearing my uniform, I quickly removed it and put on a robe that Kes had purchased as a gift for me, not long before she left the ship. There was not enough time to find something else more appropriate.
When Tom buzzed the door, I was outwardly calm, while inside I was filled with anticipation. I called for him to enter. He stopped just inside the doorway and spoke my name. I could feel his eyes moving across me, almost like a touch. I could feel his desire and need through our link, and my own flared in response.
"T‘hy‘la," I said, projecting reassurance. Relief and... love came back to me. He gave a small cry, then threw himself into my arms. I held him tightly, soothing him, kissing him, until the need was too great for either of us to resist. Before his awareness of his surroundings had returned, I pulled him to my bed, stripping his clothes off. Skin to skin contact was needed for what would follow.
Once on the bed, I moved to blanket him. The glide of skin against cool, damp skin was almost more than I could resist. I held back, though, until he was fully participating. The fires that had been banked since the Pon Farr were fanned back to life. Finally, when neither of us could resist the need any longer, we reached for each other and our minds melded.
The link blazed fully to life, far more encompassing than before since Tom was fully involved this time. Through the link we were able to consciously control the muscles of both our bodies, so when I slipped inside him, unlubricated by anything more than my own fluids, the pain was minimal and soon gone.
As we moved together, each felt what the other did. It was as though we were both receiving and giving the gift of our bodies.
And when climax came, the final seal was put on our bonding.
* * * * *
"And they lived happily ever after."
"You know that is not true, T‘hy‘la."
"Well, if it were one of Kathryn‘s romantic novels, it would be."
"But it was not."
"However, in a hundred years or so that is what will be remembered. Not the rest of it."
"That is probably true."
* * * * *
That night, we slept together for the first time, sharing dreams as we had done many times before. When we woke entwined around each other, we were both content with our decisions.
We arrived on the bridge for our duty shift together. Tom was whistling cheerfully as he headed for the helm. I saw Ensign Kim give him a sharp look as he went past.
The shift passed quietly that day. The area of space we were passing through had many planets, but few space-faring species. When the meal break came, Tom contacted me through our link. He had quickly adapted to mental forms of communication. I should not have been surprised. Tom was a very flexible person. A burst of heat, quickly controlled, reminded me of several of the ways in which he was flexible.
//I better have lunch with Harry, today. I think he‘s going to burst if he doesn‘t get the chance to question me soon.//
//Indeed. I have noticed. You will eat the evening meal with me?//
When he and Ensign Kim left for their meal, I decided to wait until they returned before going for mine. I knew that Ensign Kim would feel more at ease discussing matters with Tom if I were not in the same room. I also chose not to eavesdrop through our link. One of the first things that a newly bonded pair learns on Vulcan is when it is not appropriate to use the link. Even when bonded, privacy must be observed. I knew that Tom would tell Mr. Kim. The Ensign‘s friendship was what helped Tom deal with hostility he faced from both the Federation and Maquis crew members when we first arrived in the Delta Quadrant. I would never have considered interfering in their relationship by asking Tom to keep secrets.
Nor did I want to have our bonding remain a secret.
When they returned, Tom smiled at me in passing.
//Harry says he‘s surprised it took me this long to make up my mind. He says he wishes us well, and that he will come after you if you make me unhappy.//
//I have no intention of allowing you to be unhappy.//
"Mr. Tuvok, could I see you in my ready room?"
//Ooops. Looks like it‘s your turn to be grilled.//
//This is not one of Neelix‘s barbecues, T‘hy‘la.//
//You know exactly what I mean.//
"Of course, Captain."
Once in her ready room, the Captain did not move to sit at her desk.
Instead, she sat on the couch and indicated for me to do the same.
"I take it that, as you promised, matters have been resolved?"
"Yes, Captain. Mr. Paris‘s records, as well as my own, should be updated to reflect our bonding."
"And are you both happy with the way things are?"
"Yes, Captain. Kathryn... we fit together better that I had thought possible. T‘Pel and I were friends, and I expect that we will remain so once Voyager returns to the Alpha Quadrant. But Tom completes me in ways that I did not realize that I needed."
She relaxed, and looked satisfied. "Well, then. Should I reassign Tom to share quarters with you?"
//T‘hy‘la, Kathryn would like to know if we will be sharing quarters.//
//Do you mind?//
//No. It would be appropriate under the circumstances.//
//Sure, then. It will certainly make fooling around easier. But... mind if we turn the temperature down a little? To somewhere between human and Vulcan temperatures?//
"Yes, Kathryn, that would be appropriate."
She smiled and made the appropriate notations in the ship‘s records. At the end of the shift, Tom and I would move his possessions to my quarters. Considering the ship‘s ‚grape-vine,‘ it would probably be known by everyone on board before we went for dinner. It would be... interesting.
* * * * *
"Interesting doesn‘t even begin to describe it."
"All they did was look and whisper the first night."
"Well, it did take a while for it to sink in that the rumors were true. Then the shit really hit the fan."
"Humans have such... interesting expressions."
"We aim to please."
"Oh, you do."
* * * * *
Having traveled directly from the Auckland penal facility to Voyager, Tom had not brought many possessions with him. Most of what he had was purchased in the Delta Quadrant or replicated. As a result it only took two trips for us to move his belongings to my quarters and very little time to place them to Tom‘s satisfaction. The temperature controls were lowered to a level equivalent to that of the Arizona desert on Earth - a temperature similar to that of Vulcan at winter in the northern climates. It was an acceptable compromise to both of us. Then we went to the evening meal.
Several people had observed us during the moving process and as a result most of the off-duty personnel were in the messhall, including those who would normally be asleep. The Captain and the Commander were in one corner, observing, and Kathryn appeared worried. The Commander showed an almost Vulcan impassivity. Conversation dimmed briefly as we entered the room.
No one spoke to us as we waited in line for our meal. I noticed that Tom reached for the vegetarian options without appearing to consider the other dishes. At that point, Neelix was the first to approach us.
"So! I understand congratulations are in order!"
Tom smiled. "You could say that."
"Well, I never would have expected the two of you... But I think that it is terribly romantic."
//Him and the Captain, both.//
"And you too, Mister Vulcan."
I nodded, then we moved to the only empty table. Eyes followed us every step of the way. Shortly after we sat down, Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Torres came to join us. No comment was made about our joining. Instead they discussed normal ship‘s business and details of the day with Tom, deliberately including me in the conversation as well. Obviously, their intention was to indicate to the rest of the crew that they accepted our changed relationship and were supporting us. Similarly, the Captain paused as she left to congratulate us publicly. The Commander did not comment.
* * * * *
"I was a little worried about what B‘Elanna‘s reaction would be."
"I was concerned as well. After Vorik, she did not react well to mention of Pon Farr."
"You know, for a while, I though she and Harry might get together. Even before we were involved, she seemed to like him a lot. Probably from the time they spent together on the Ocampan homeworld."
"Perhaps, but I do not think that their personalities would have allowed a long-term relationship."
"Maybe. I guess I‘m just as much of a romantic as Kathryn. I liked the idea of my two best friends finding true love with each other."
* * * * *
After our meal, Tom went to the holodeck to play pool with Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Torres, as was his usual practice. I returned to my... our quarters to meditate, as was my usual routine. Discussion of plans were unnecessary, as we were aware of each other‘s thoughts and preferences. Being separated physically would not separate us mentally, now.
In time, we would become less aware of our link and the knowledge would become subconscious, but at the "new" stage of a bonding this heightened sensitivity was common.
I felt Tom‘s satisfaction when he defeated Lieutenant Torres. I also felt his pleasure when Ensign Kim defeated him - an unusual occurrence despite Tom‘s continued tutelage.
When he returned to our quarters, I had already retired for the night, but had remained awake. When he arrived, he ordered the computer to bring up the lights to a level sufficient for him to see. He undressed, quietly, and slipped into the bed with me. I turned to pull him into my arms.
"There were no problems?"
"Nope. A few whispers, a few stares, but there were no negative comments."
"Good. Are you... sleepy?"
"Not that sleepy."
With that comment, he rolled over on top of me and proceeded to demonstrate his skills in kissing. This time, he did not allow himself to be carried away by the flood of sensations through our bond. Instead, he concentrated in providing as much pleasure to me as he could.
The sensation of him sliding into me made me moan. Having been bonded to a female Vulcan since a very young age, I had no experience with this form of sexual expression other than in our shared dreams. The feelings were similar, but more intense. It was a sensation that I looked forward to experiencing many times in the future.
Since the experiences of Ambassador Spock during his time in Starfleet, the concept of Pon Farr had become better known among non-Vulcans. However this had also led to the development of a myth that it was the only time that Vulcans indulge in physical expression. This is not true, a fact for which Tom was surely grateful since it was not in his nature to remain celibate for such long lengths of time.
* * * * *
"You better believe it! I would have gone nuts."
"You have discovered a large number of fallacies in human perceptions of Vulcans, T‘hy‘la."
"But there are still a lot of differences between our cultures, our mindsets."
"Vive la difference."
* * * * *
Over the next few days, Tom and I observed a full range of reactions to our bonding. Some, like Neelix, the Captain and Ensign Kim, were very much in favor of our union. Others, such as Lieutenant Torres and Seven of Nine, expressed surprise at the joining, explaining that our differences made us an unlikely combination. Most were neutral, such as Commander Chakotay.
Unfortunately—but not unexpectedly—there were those who were openly hostile, for a variety of reasons. For some it was jealousy. There were many on board who had expressed an interest in either myself or Tom. Vulcans are often the target of such attentions in Starfleet. The calm Vulcan demeanor is unintentionally viewed as being both alluring and a challenge by many humans. Also, Tom was considered very attractive by a variety of crew members of both genders.
Then there were those who felt that I should not bind myself to someone who was still considered a traitor by a minority of the crew. Still others felt that Tom had pursued me in an attempt to curry favor with a higher ranking officer. While those crew were a very small minority, they were unfortunately rather vocal.
However, not much could be done about the reactions of others. We continued to do our jobs to the best of our abilities, while growing accustomed to the bonding. The crew would grow to accept our changed relationship in time, we reasoned.
* * * * *
"Sometimes I wonder what might have been the result if we had been a little more active in confronting the nay-sayers."
"There is no way of knowing, T‘hy‘la. Humans have an expression, ‚hindsight is 20/20‘."
"True. But things might have been resolved sooner."
* * * * *
The first incident was only recognized at a later date. At the daily briefing, Commander Chakotay had asked why Tom had not filed his report on a recent away mission. Puzzled, Tom had responded that he had indeed filed his report. The commander frowned.
"I never received it."
The solution was simple. Tom still had a copy of his report on a padd in our quarters. He simply retrieved the padd and uploaded the report to the commander‘s queue again. A check of the padd‘s memory had shown that the report had been previously transmitted, but the computer system showed no record of it.
A check of the computer system to determine why the report had disappeared found a power surge that had erased the file and two others while in transit. The incident was quickly forgotten.
A few weeks later, though, a similar power surge somehow transferred one of Tom‘s personal logs to the ship‘s computer‘s public area, leading to general amusement and some teasing, but nothing more. Tom laughed it off as ‚just one of those things‘.
* * * * *
"It should have been checked in greater depth."
"C‘mon, love. How could we have known that someone was deliberately trying to make me look bad?"
"Perhaps, but even if it were not deliberate it might have indicated a fault in the computer system which could have been important. And if we had investigated the early incidents more closely the culprit might have been discovered before greater damage was done."
"Like you said, love. Hindsight."
* * * * *
It was nearly a month after the incident with the logs when the messages started.
The first one arrived while we were on duty. At the end of the shift, we returned to our quarters to change from our uniforms. While I would have been quite comfortable to remain in uniform, Tom considered it unacceptable. To humor him, I had begun to build a wardrobe of casual clothing, most of them chosen by Tom. While I changed into the garments that he had selected as appropriate for a night at Sandrine‘s, he checked for personal messages.
A wave of anger/disgust/fear/dread flooded through our link, bringing me to his side in an instant. As I reached him, his expression darkened.
"What is it?" I demanded, all instincts on alert.
"Nothing important," was the tense response. He reached out to delete the message, but I stopped him before he could complete the motion.
The message contained descriptive terms that were obviously intended to be insulting; terms like ‚cocksucker‘. Others were more puzzling.
"What does it mean about ‚repeating the prison bend-over maneuver‘?" I asked, and the anger flared again.
"It means that the sender thinks I traded sexual favors for better position while in prison and that they think I‘m with you to get a better standing in the crew."
I frowned. "If that were your intention, I would know. Since the relation-ship has continued, it cannot be true."
Tom sighed. "I know that and you know that and anyone who knows Vulcans knows that. However, there are still going to be people that think I‘m trying to ‚sleep my way to the top‘. That‘s what it means by ‚who‘s next?‘."
I leaned over his shoulder and tapped several security commands into the terminal. I frowned at the results. "The message has been re-routed through at least half of the ship‘s computer system. It cannot be easily traced."
"Ignore it," Tom said.
"Ignore deliberate libel from a source that goes to great measures to be anonymous? That is not sensible."
"Yes it is. By paying attention, you give credence to the accusation. Trust me, I‘ve been through this before. Besides, I kind of expected it. I‘m going to get dressed. Back in a sec."
Tom headed for the bedroom, leaving me frowning at the terminal thoughtfully. After due consideration, I saved the message to my work-queue. While he might consider it not worth worrying about, I was not as certain.
While Vulcans had turned to logic centuries ago, the instincts of our more violent ancestors were still intact, and my instincts called for me to protect my mate.
* * * * *
"Don‘t give me that look. How was I to know that it wasn‘t more than just petty harassment?"
"You might have considered it."
"Like I said, it was nothing different from the ones that I got during the first few months after we ended up in the Delta Quadrant. They dried up quickly, so I figured the new one would too. And they did."
"Yes, but not because the sender got tired of it."
* * * * *
For the next week the messages arrived on a regular basis, each one more inflammatory than the last. They always arrived during our work shift, never when one of us was in our quarters. I constructed a watch-dog program to trace the messages as they arrived, but the person sending them was a highly skilled programmer, defeating the countermeasures easily. I also took to scanning the message queue first to spare Tom, since reading the messages upset him, no matter what he said.
Then, without warning, they stopped. Tom was smug, confident that he was right; that the sender had gotten tired of the lack of public response. I continued to investigate on my own time. I did not like the fact that someone was modifying the computer records to cover up their activities.
However, we had entered a particularly active area of space and frequent red-alerts and necessary repairs ensured that there was little time to pursue personal matters, and as time passed the incident seemed less urgent. While I did not forget, it occupied less of my attention.
Despite the conflicts with other ships and races, life was pleasant during this period. Tom was determined to teach me the benefits of ‚having fun‘. Free time was spent learning a variety of sports and games that I was pleasantly surprised to find both challenging and enjoyable. It was not completely one-sided. Tom also learned a variety of logic games, such as kalto, that I already knew.
Vulcans have sharper hearing than humans, and I often heard members of the crew commenting on how much more likeable I was. While I did not perceive a substantive difference in my interactions with others, they obviously did.
* * * * *
"Tuvok, party animal!"
"Not quite. However, I am told that my ‚people skills‘ improved during that time."
* * * * *
By this time, several months had passed and the crew had grown accustomed to the bonding between myself and Tom. The early grumbles had disappeared, and invitations to various events now came addressed to the both of us.
As well, we became more comfortable with the mental bond between us. Or it might be more exact to say that Tom grew more comfortable, as I had already been bonded for most of my life. He learned how to shield portions of his mind from me as well as how not to intrude on my thoughts inadvertently.
I had also adjusted. While I was truthful in saying that I was content with our bonding, there were aspects of being mentally linked to a human that I had not expected. Even with my influence, Tom‘s moods would sometimes change unexpectedly, and my behavior would change with them. One of my subordinates said that he could always tell when Tom was frustrated simply by observing my own reactions, even if we were at opposite ends of the ship.
I also found myself reacting in different ways than I would have before our bonding. While Vulcans are alway polite, I found my diplomatic skills improving. I also developed more patience when dealing with minor rule infractions. Due to Tom‘s intervention, my working relationship with Commander Chakotay even improved.
And despite the necessary changes to routine and environment, my relation-ship with Tom was worth any small inconveniences.
* * * * *
"You are such a romantic."
* * * * *
Nearly four months after our bonding, I was working late one evening. I had already notified Tom that I would not be home for the evening meal, and he had said that he would replicate a meal for himself.
Two hours after my duty shift, the security team‘s evaluations for the quarter completed, I made may way to our quarters.
As I walked down the corridor towards our quarters, I was hit by a wave of nausea so severe that for a moment I did not think that I would be able to keep to my feet. I leaned against the corridor wall, and a passing crewmember stopped in concern.
Then I realized that I was fine. The growing nausea and stomach pains were coming from outside of myself.
They were coming from Tom.
Brushing away the concerned crewman, I ran to our quarters. Calling for the door to open, I stumbled through the doorway, trying to control the waves of pain coming through our bond. I raised hastily erected mental shields to allow me to function.
Tom was lying on the floor, curled into a small ball, whimpering with pain. On the table was a meal, one of the plates knocked askew, the food knocked onto the table.
Grabbing Tom, I called out, "Medical emergency. Two to beam to sickbay."
The clean lines of sickbay came into shape around us. I placed Tom onto the nearest biobed, and stepped back to allow the Doctor room to work. He scanned Tom with a tricorder, then pressed a hypospray to his neck. Immediately, the pain that had been battering at hastily erected mental shields began to ease.
While the Doctor dealt with medical matters, it was up to me to deal with the other elements of the incident. I commed the Captain to inform her of what had happened. Then I headed back to our quarters.
Inside, I started to scan with a tricorder, starting with the obvious; the food on the table. What I found would have infuriated me if I were not Vulcan, but still aroused my protective instincts. The replicated meal was laced with a poison that would be non-fatal to a Vulcan, but deadly to a human. Considering the effects, Tom must only have taken a few bites. Any more and he would have been dead before I reached him.
Accessing the computer, I immediately put a tracer program to work on the replicator, searching for any modifications to explain what had happened and who was behind it.
Then I headed back to Sickbay.
When I got there, the Captain and Commander Chakotay were waiting. Almost immediately, the Doctor came over.
"I‘ve neutralized the poison. I want to keep him overnight for observation, but he will be all right. There are no signs of lasting damage."
Although I did not allow my expression to change, I felt relief run through me. I lowered my shields and felt only the normal workings of Tom‘s sleeping mind. The nausea and pain were gone.
The Captain looked furious, and the Commander was not much better. Checking the initial results of my program, I was able to give a partial answer.
"Someone added a subroutine to the replicator programs. When Tom requested any nutritive item, it was provided laced with a poison that would kill a human, but only make a Vulcan ill. I‘m still tracing the origin of the modification. If I were to... guess, I would say that this is the work of the same person who was sending Tom harassing messages through the computer."
"What?" The Captain glared at me, the Commander echoing the expression.
"Why was I not informed that there was harrassment going on?"
"Tom felt that acknowledging them would just encourage the sender. When they stopped, he felt that it proved that lack of response had frustrated the sender into giving up. Unfortunately, they seem to have escalated to physical attacks."
The Captain‘s face froze. "I want to know the moment you learn anything," she said in an icy tone. "I don‘t like it when someone tries to murder one of my crew. And Tuvok," she said turning to me. "I would appreciate hearing about these sorts of incidents in the future."
I nodded, then settled down next to Tom‘s biobed to wait. The program required no supervision, and there was little that could be done until it was finished. Since it would be a waste of time to monitor the program, waiting for it to finish, I chose to waste my time by watching my bondmate sleep.
There were still lines of pain on his face, but they gradually eased as time passed. I set my fingers against the cool skin of his forehead and opened myself up to our link.
Words were not possible considering the sedatives that affected his mind, but reassurance was sought and provided. Comfort was offered and accepted. Gradually, my tension dissipated and I slipped into a light slumber, drawing Tom into my own dreams.
* * * * *
It was nearly ship‘s morning when the computer beeped that it had finished running my program. Instantly awake, I brushed the back of my hand against Tom‘s cheek, then headed for my office. Sickbay was being guarded, and Ensign Kim had arrived to sit with Tom. He would be protected.
The program had followed the traces of the program through seventy-nine percent of the ship‘s computer system. This should have been done to find the source of the harassing e-mails that Tom had been receiving, but he had convinced me that it wasn‘t necessary. If I had done it anyway, Tom might not have been the target of an assassination attempt.
I would not make the same mistake again.
The program had been entered from a terminal in one of the observation lounges. A check of the terminal showed that the terminal had only been accessed once in the last forty-eight hours, by Ensign Jonathan Patterson.
The only problem was that while Ensign Patterson was competent with a computer, he did not have the necessary programming skills to create the program that had succeeded in overriding the replicator safeties. His field was exo-biology, and there were no reprimands on record from the head of the Life Sciences department.
So either someone had acquired his computer login or he had uploaded the program for someone else. In either case, I sent two security officers to bring Ensign Patterson to my office.
This would be resolved before Tom left Sickbay.
* * * * *
Ensign McKenzie had informed me that they were on their way to my office with Patterson, when security alarms started to sound.
Checking the computer revealed a malfunction that had caused turbolift three to drop to the bottom of its shaft.
"Computer, are there any crewmembers in turbolift three?"
"Lieutenant Ayala, Ensign McKenzie and Ensign Patterson are in turbolift three."
Hearing the words solidified my suspicions that the malfunction was not an accident. By this point the three had been transported to Sickbay, so I commed the Captain and Commander to meet me there.
* * * * *
"Confused the heck out of me, you know. There I am, talking with Harry while waiting for the Doc to decide that I could go back to our quarters when suddenly Ayala and the others appear, followed by you and the Captain looking grim. It took me a few minutes to put two and two together."
"Then I was confused as hell. Why would Patterson want to kill me? Or even hurt me? He‘d barely spoken two words to me during the entire time we were on the same ship, but he‘d never seemed actively hostile towards me."
"Indeed. That was why I wanted to speak to him. To find out why."
* * * * *
We all turned as the Doctor came towards us.
"Well?" the Captain snapped at him, not bothering with courtesy. The Doctor did not seem disturbed.
"All three were tossed around as the turbolift fell. Ensign McKenzie is dead. He landed at an angle that broke his neck. There was nothing I could do, I‘m afraid. Lieutenant Ayala has a broken arm, but otherwise is just bruised. Ensign Patterson has two broken legs and a broken collarbone"
My jaw tightened. "Is Ensign Patterson able to answer questions?"
The Doctor frowned. "I would prefer not to..."
"Doctor, the modifications to the replicator system that almost killed Tom have been traced to him, but I do not believe that he was working alone. I suspect that his cohort was the one who sabotaged the turbolift, probably to kill him before he could be questioned."
"Well, in that case."
I followed the Doctor to the biobed where Ensign Patterson lay. I was still puzzled by why he would involve himself in this. His record at the Academy and since was exemplary. He‘d been in no trouble on board Voyager. And yet he had helped in a murder attempt.
The Doctor pressed a hypospray to the young man‘s neck, and he groaned. He started to move, then winced as his barely knitted collarbone gave him pain. He opened his eyes and looked up.
"Sir?" he asked, confusion in his voice.
"Ensign. Your computer code was used to load a program that was intended to kill Lieutenant Paris. Do you have an explanation?"
His eyes widened in confusion. "Kill? But she said..." He stopped, obviously realizing what he had said.
"What did she say?" The Ensign closed up. "Ensign, you are currently an accessory to murder and attempted murder. Ensign McKenzie is dead. What happened in the turbolift was not an accident. The person you do not want to name obviously is willing to kill you to protect herself."
His eyes shut, pain of a more emotional type crossing his face. "Lieutenant Saunders," he finally said, barely above a whisper. "She said she wanted to scare him. That he was a danger to the ship. She said that the replicator program would just put something in his food to make him a little sick. She didn‘t say anything about killing..."
I turned on a tricorder to record the rest of the conversation. "Ensign Patterson. You will tell me exactly what you did, and why, and who was involved."
A slow tear ran down the young man‘s face, and he began to speak.
* * * * *
"The oldest story in the books. Love."
"Maybe. He did think he was in love with Saunders, and she used that to convince him to help her."
"Indeed. That, combined with the fact that he had been assured that none of the incidents would be fatal, was why his punishment was light."
"I still feel sorry for him. He was a lonely man for the rest of the trip home. I still don‘t have a clue about her, though. She seemed perfectly sane, but what she did seemed a little... well, excessive is the best word I can think of. I just wish I knew why she hated me enough to kill."
* * * * *
Lieutenant Kristin Saunders was a member of the Stellar Cartography team and an expert with computers. There were only two reprimands on her record, once prior to being assigned to Voyager, and once after we were transported to the Delta Quadrant. That was for verbally assaulting one of the Maquis crewmembers. Since Tom had not been the target, I had not paid attention to her file during the period of harrassing messages.
Preferring not to risk more crewmembers, Commander Chakotay and I went personally to arrest her. She was on duty, and her arrest for murder and attempted murder had no doubt been reported across the ship before we reached the brig.
When the forcefield was activated, she spoke for the first time.
"He can‘t be trusted."
I didn‘t respond. Instead, Commander Chakotay did. "What do you mean?"
"Paris. Just look at his record. He killed his shipmates, then lied about it. Then he joined the Maquis and betrayed you. After all, you don‘t think it was an accident that he was caught?"
"No," the Commander said. "We already knew that. Seska was the one who betrayed him. Tom was transporting arms for an attack that would have damaged the Cardassians too much, so she made sure he didn‘t get to his destination."
Saunders flinched at that, then her face hardened. "So what. He‘s still a liar, and a traitor. Sooner or later, he‘ll betray you too," she said directly to me. "How many beds has he been through on this ship? You‘re just another notch on his bedpost. The ship would be better off without him, and so would you."
With those words, the rage flared to life within me. My vision went green, and I stepped forward to snap her neck, only to be brought up short by the forcefield. Before I could shut it down to reach her, Commander Chakotay stepped in front of me, talking low and fast. The tone reached me, even when I could not understand the words. After a moment, I turned and left the room. If I had not, I would have been the one sentenced for murder.
* * * * *
"You really would have killed her?"
"Because she tried to kill me?"
* * * * *
Lieutenant Kristin Saunders was sentenced to the brig for the rest of the voyage home, and was to be turned over to Starfleet security once we reached the Alpha Quadrant.
However, two years later an attack on the ship pierced the hull near the brig. She died, along with four others, before forcefields could seal the breach. In a way, it was a relief to know that she was no longer aboard, although I should not feel that way about another sentient‘s death.
After Saunders‘ sentencing, the last remaining objections to our bonding disappeared. Even those who had spoken loudest against us ceased, horrified by what had happened and what had almost happened. We all settled back into our lives and the search for a faster way home.
* * * * *
"And they lived happily ever after."
"Tom. Would you please explain to me again why we are doing this?"
"Because, if we don‘t, the tabloids will invent something. Strangely enough, I don‘t think they could invent something better. Anyway, you don‘t fight the press. If they want a story, give it to them. Just do it on your terms, not theirs."
"If you say so. I do not have the same amount of experience with the news media. For example, why do they call it ‚tabloid‘?"
"Has to do with the type or size of paper that they were printed on in the twentieth century. Even though the news is no longer printed on paper, the name stuck."
"Indeed. So, we are done with this exercise?"
"Not quite. Just remember, we aren‘t the only ones doing this. Everyone else is in the same boat. Anyway, we need to provide a wrap-up."
"And edit out some of the more... private details?"
"Of course. Of course, details of our sex-life would probably triple the readership. ...That was a joke, Tuvok."
"With you, I‘m rarely certain."
"Part of my charm. Anyway, we need to explain how Voyager finally got home. What out future plans are. Ummm. We haven‘t decided yet, have we?"
"We still have three weeks to give our answer to Starfleet Command."
"I know, but we do need to make a decision. They‘ve offered us the Glenn. A chance to test new engine designs. I mean, leaving Voyager makes me nervous, but this is a great opportunity for both of us."
"True. Strangely, I find myself reluctant to leave Voyager as well. It is... home."
* * * * *
Tom and I stepped off the turbolift onto the bridge. Every station was manned and all eyes were turned towards us.
"Captain on the bridge!" A voice called from Ops. I nodded to the young woman there before moving towards the center chair. Tom brushed past me with a smile on his way to the conn. An Ensign stood and moved out of the way as he took his seat.
The John Glenn was a science vessel incorporating the latest technologies in scanning and warp engines. It could reach warp 10.2 without causing the damage to sub-space that had been a worry for decades. The Glenn‘s shields were twice as strong as Voyager‘s, allowing it to pass deeper into a star‘s outer layers than any other ship had before. Our first mission was to travel through the Kristophe Cluster, an area thick with stars that emitted radiation levels too strong for most ships to even approach. The science contingent on board were... salivating, according to Tom. A rather unappealing, if descriptive, image.
The decision to accept the offer of the Glenn had come about after long discussions between Tom and myself, but the end decision had been almost inevitable. While we were reluctant to leave Voyager and the crew that had been our family for fourteen years, the opportunity was too intriguing to turn down.
"Set course for the Kristophe Cluster, warp nine, Mr. Paris."
"Yes sir." //Captain, honey.//
//Behave, Tom.// "Engage."