Disclaimer - Paramount and Viacom own the characters from Voyager, although they didn't often treat them right. The story line belongs to me.
Chakotay and Tom rushed onto the bridge as the ship shuddered from another blast.
"Mr. Paris, take the conn. Evasive maneuvers." The Captain shouted as she clung to the armrests of her command chair.
Tom lurched across the bridge as the floor suddenly dropped out from under him. He replaced the pilot at his station and tilted Voyager down, intending to fly under the enemy ship.
"Captain, we've lost aft shields." Harry's voice, calm in the chaos.
Then, as abruptly as it had appeared, the other ship vanished
'Where the hell did they go?" Chakotay asked the question on everyone's mind.
"I don't understand their tactics." Tuvok stated quietly with a slightly raised eyebrow.
"It's like a cat and mouse game." Harry replied.
"More like bump and run." Tom turned towards the Captain.
"Explain please , Mr. Paris."
"In the twentieth century, the driver in a car would bump another car, usually on a deserted road, until the other car pulled off to the side of the road. Then the driver and any accomplices would rob the people in the first car."
"Well, they certainly have our attention but now what?" Chakotay asked. "What are they after?"
"Captain, we're being hailed." Harry gestured to the screen as the ship reappeared.
"And to what do we owe the pleasure of running into you again, Captain..?" Janeway assumed command mode with her hands on her hips and pulled herself up to her full height.
"Ah,... Maj Goral, Captain. I bring you greeting from Maj Jabin. He still has a great interest in your ship and crew."
Janeway signaled Harry to cut the sound.
"Mr. Tuvok, can we get a lock on their captain?"
"No, Captain. We can't penetrate their shields."
Janeway motioned for Harry to restore the sound.
"And what is the message from Jabin?"
"Captain, they're powering weapons." Tuvok noted from his console.
"Shields to maximum. Mr. Paris, get us out of here." Janeway returned to her seat.
Several blasts rocked the bridge and Harry's console exploded in a shower of sparks.
"Captain, our weapons are off-line." Tuvok's voice could be heard above the blaring alarms as smoke rose from the ops and engineering stations. "Their ship has gone to warp."
"They're gone, Captain." Chakotay scanned his console.
Tom glanced back at Harry who was slumped against the bulkhead, his face etched in pain. "Captain, permission to take Harry to sickbay?"
"Of course, Mr. Paris." Tom let his relief take the conn as he moved to Harry's side. Janeway turned to Chakotay. "Commander, damage reports."
"Weapons are off-line, aft shields are out, transporters are down, and it appears that we've lost several gel packs in the Shield Harmonics array." Chakotay recounted the reports coming in from all sectors.
"I want repair crews at each sector now, Commander. Get the Gamma shift on early, we're in for a long haul. I'll be in my ready room, you have the bridge." Janeway rose from her command seat, glanced at the bridge crew, and headed for her ready room.
Tom grabbed an emergency medkit from the under the tactical console and helped Harry into the turbolift. "Sickbay. You're going to be OK Har. It's just some first and second degree burns. A few passes with the dermal regenerator and you'll be as good as new." As he spoke, he set a hypospray for the correct dosage of painkiller and pressed it to his friend's neck. As the medicine took hold, Harry's face relaxed.
"Tom, what the hell happened down on the planet with Dalby? What was he talking about, calling you a traitor and murderer?" Harry looked at Tom who pulled away from him and looked off at the ceiling.
"Oh, you know how crazy Dalby can be. It's nothing, Har. Don't worry about it. Let's just get you to sickbay." Tom began speaking faster as he tried to pass off the fight as being insignificant. "You know Har, Dalby likes to run off at the mouth and usually what he says doesn't make any sense at all."
"But Tom, you guys were fighting. I saw Chakotay pull you apart. He was ready to throw you both in the brig." Harry was truly worried about his friend. "Was Dalby involved in trashing your quarters?"
"Look Harry, I told you to forget it. OK? I can handle this myself I don't need your help." Tom turned towards the doors as they slid open and walked off to sickbay, knowing Harry would be right behind him. They entered sickbay and Tom helped Harry onto a biobed.
"Mr. Paris, there are more injured arriving. When you finish with Ensign Kim, please start triage." The Doctor moved to a cabinet with hyposprays and dermal regenerators and began preparing for the injured crew members.
Sick bay slowly emptied out as injuries were healed. Harry had been released to his quarters to rest with the promise from Tom to meet him in the mess hall for dinner.
"Ensign Paris." The Captain's voice came over Tom's comm badge.
"Paris here, Captain." Tom responded wearily.
"You are needed in Jefferies Tube 63 to assist with repairs to the gel packs in the Shield Harmonics section."
"Yes, Captain, on my way. Paris out." Tom nodded to the Doctor who had overheard the orders from the Captain. "Got to go, Doc. See you in the morning for my shift." As he headed for the turbolift, he yawned slightly. 'As if this day wasn't already long enough. Now I'll be stuck in a damn Jefferies tube for several hours with some crewmember from engineering.
As Tom approached the Jeffries tube, he noticed B'Elanna waiting with a repair kit and two hyperspanners.
"Hey." Tom said as he gave her a small smile. "I get to work with the Chief Engineer herself? How did I rate this honor?"
B'Elanna returned his smile with one of her own. "I requested your assistance from the Captain." 'Someone's got to get to the bottom of what's troubling Tom. Harry said he refused to talk about it on the way to sick bay. I promised him I'd try to get through Paris's thick skull that we actually care about what happens to him.'
Tom gave her a quizzical look as he opened the hatch to the Jeffries tube and lifted the gear in. "After you, my dear." he flashed her one of his memorable grins as he gestured to the hatch.
They climbed into the tube and headed for the section of burned out gel packs. When they reached the site, they both sat down and unpacked the repair kit and replacement packs. The silence, while they worked together, was overpowering.
As they finished replacing the final gel pack, B'Elanna spoke up. "Tom, what's going on with you lately? I'm worried about you."
Tom looked away trying to hide the anger in his face. "Look, I'm fine. I really wish people would mind their own business and leave me alone." He attempted to sound upset at her intrusion but the exhaustion of the past few weeks betrayed him.
B'Elanna reached her hand out to Tom's chin and turned his face towards her. "Tom, I care about you and you're not fine. Anyone can see that. Harry and I have even thought of going to The Captain to ask if there was something going on that she knew about. You're not planning on leaving the ship again, are you?"
Tom leaned into her touch and closed his eyes. He didn't want to burden anyone with his problems, least of all B'Elanna. They were just getting close and he didn't want to lose that. He opened his eyes and looked into her concerned face. "Really, it was just a misunderstanding between Dalby and me. It's not worth worrying about. Let's get cleaned up and get some dinner."
B'Elanna realized that he was shutting her out again and hiding behind his mask of indifference. "Sure, Tom. I'll pack these kits up and we'll meet Harry in the mess hall. We have some more gel packs to check in the next section but they can wait until after dinner."
"Sounds great. I'm really getting hungry. I can get some dinner but then I have to go back to my quarters." Tom looked away, slightly embarrassed.
"I know about the fight, Tom. Harry told me that you're confined to your quarters except for work and meals. That's one of the reasons I asked the Captain to send you down here for repairs. I thought you'd appreciate some extra time outside your cabin." she gave him a grin as she moved towards the hatch. "See you in about 20 minutes, Ensign."
Tom smiled back at her. "OK, see you in 20."
B'Elanna entered the mess hall and spotted Harry at a corner table. He waved to her and she picked up a dinner tray, grabbed a cup of coffee and joined him.
"Hey, Starfleet. How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine now. Tom did a good job of healing my burns. I even got to rest for 3 hours off duty. Now, if only Neelix could come up with a meal without all of the Talaxian spices, I'd be able to enjoy a simple dinner. Where's Tom, I thought you two were working together?"
"We were. He said he needed to clean up and change and that he'd meet me here. That was over 30 minutes ago. You were right, Harry. He wouldn't talk about the fight or what's been troubling him for the past few weeks. He got angry when I questioned him about Dalby and said it was just a misunderstanding."
Harry looked up at the main entrance to the mess hall while B'Elanna was talking. Commander Chakotay had joined the food line and was now heading for their table.
"B'Elanna, Harry, mind if I join you?'
"Sure, Chakotay. We're waiting for Tom but there's plenty of room." B'Elanna smiled at her old friend.
"Speaking of Ensign Paris, I've been meaning to talk with both of you. Do either one of you know what's the problem with him lately? He's been late for duty shifts, the fight with Dalby, and I've seen him drinking more recently."
Harry looked relieved that Chakotay had brought up Tom's troubles. 'I wonder if I should tell them about Tom's quarters being trashed. Tom would probably kill me if I did. Maybe Chakotay can find out what's bothering him.' "Commander, we were thinking of asking you if you knew what might be bothering Tom. He certainly has been keeping to himself and won't discuss it with either of us."
"In fact, he's already over 45 minutes late for dinner and when we finished replacing the damaged gel packs he commented about how hungry he was." B'Elanna added.
"Any reason he might have changed his mind about coming down here?" Chakotay asked.
"I doubt it, Chakotay. We'd worked pretty steady for over two hours and he had come straight from sick bay. I'll comm him and see what excuse he has for being late." she tapped her comm badge. "Torres to Paris. Come in, Tom. You're missing a wonderful dinner." she grinned at Harry as he made a face while trying to swallow a forkful of the wonderful dinner.
There was no answer to her hail.
Chakotay gave B'Elanna an uneasy look. "Computer, location of Ensign Paris."
"Ensign Paris is in Jefferies Tube 63." the monotone voice of the computer replied.
"I told him there were some more gel packs that needed checking but that they could wait until after dinner." B'Elanna declared.
Harry looked at his companions apprehensively. "I know how Tom doesn't like spending time in his quarters. Maybe he figured that if he checked the other gel packs now, it would give him more time away from them."
"That's probably true but I want to speak with him tonight and see if I can get this resolved. If he doesn't show up by the time we've finished, I'll go to his quarters." Chakotay stated as he took a forkful of Neelix's newest concoction.
Chakotay left the mess hall and headed for the turbolift. Tom had not shown up and had not answered another hail. When Chakotay questioned the computer, it told him that Tom was in a turbolift heading for deck 6. 'He must be heading for his quarters now. Well, like it or not, Mr. Paris and I will have a talk tonight.' Chakotay thought as he entered the turbolift. "Deck 6, section 10."
As the doors opened, Chakotay could see Tom ahead of him in the corridor. He appeared to stagger down the hall. 'Drowning his problems in Scotch again.' he thought angrily as he sought to catch up to the taller man. "Paris! Wait up. We need to talk."
Tom stiffened slightly when he heard Chakotay's voice but continued in his faltering walk down the corridor bumping into the wall twice before he reached the door to his quarters. He keyed in his entrance code and the door slid open as Chakotay reached him.
"Listen, Paris. We are going to have a little talk, now."
"Just l....leave m..me alone." Tom's words were slurred as he passed through his doorway intent on getting away from the Commander.
Chakotay reached out his hand and grabbed Tom's right arm.