Title: Back into the Swing of Things  (No Comfort Series)
Part: 11/?
Author: CatHeights
Pairing: C/P
Rating: R
Summary: Finding his life crashing down around him, Tom tries to
figure out why this is happening and how he can regain control.
In this story, Thirty Days never happened.  Also several events
in previous seasons are assumed not to have occurred, including
the events in Blood Fever and Tom receiving any contact from his
Story Sequence:  No Comfort To Be Found; Time Slipping Slowly; A
Greater Pain; What Had He Missed; Spiraling Out of Control; Not
this Time; Listen to Himself; Be Patient; Nightmares for Dreams;
Filled with Confusion
Feedback: CatHeights@yahoo.com
Archive:  BLTS, Cha_Club, CPSG, ATPS, Paris Nights, TPD, anyone
else please ask first.
Warning: This story's subject matter is at times disturbing.
Severe angst and self-injury.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns all rights to Star Trek Voyager, its
characters, and the Voyager episodes referred to in this story.
The story idea however is mine, but I am doing this just for fun,
no money to be made.
If you're missing a part, you can find it on my website,

Back into the Swing of Things (Story 11 - No Comfort Series)

Lying in bed, curled up against Chakotay's warm back, Tom
relished the contrast of the delightfully cool sheet against that
warmth. He had been awake for half an hour, but had been
reluctant to get out of bed. It was too comfortable here.
Besides, he liked being the first to wake. It meant he had time
to watch Chakotay as he slept.

Relief and satisfaction flooded through Tom. He had done it. He
had beaten back the voice and managed to talk to
Chakotay--without starting a fight or saying something he'd
regret.  He had won. His mind was his own again, and he had
Chakotay back. All he had to do now was figure out how this whole
train of events had started. What or who had caused it? Tom swore
that he would find out what had happened.

He had spent the last few days thinking about the voice that kept
popping up in his head, trying to pinpoint when it had first
started. So far, his attempts to figure it out had proven
unsuccessful. He had, however, been able to analyze the nightmare
that had tormented him that first night in Chakotay's quarters.
He had had plenty of nightmares throughout his life. Who hadn't?
Never though had he had a dream that seemed to pull together
every bad experience in his life. Yet the one he had that night
seemed to have done just that. Normally something triggered a
memory of one event, and he had a bad dream about it. Tom didn't
think even his subconscious would be so cruel as to delve up
every bad memory and mix it into one mega-nightmare. Something
had triggered a dream with all those events, and he bet it had
something to do with his being restrained in a chair.

Over the past few days, he had managed to isolate in his mind
just those bits of the dream where he saw himself restrained in
that chair. He could feel the cold metal of restraints biting
into his wrists and hear that voice telling him to stop fighting,
that it was useless. He had been able to run through it mentally
again and again without reacting to the voice. He was pleased at
the detachment he had managed to attain. Still even with that
detachment, he hadn't been able to figure out any more details.
He couldn't put a face to that voice, nor could he figure out
when it had occurred. He was positive though that it had
happened, and not too long ago.

Tom had also starting thinking about the other nightmares he had
over the last few months. Those had also contained horrors from
his past, just not as many. The dreams had set him on edge,
keeping him from sleeping, until eventually his life seemed to
have become one perpetual nightmare. As he thought back,
particularly on the last few weeks, it all was a bit blurry, just
as if it all had been a dream. Even the memory he had of cutting
his own wrist had a surreal quality to it. Yet while the images
in his past dreams seemed as disjointed as his current impression
of his recent actions, the nightmare that he had at Chakotay's
was crystal clear. It was almost as if it wasn't a dream, but a
memory instead. A memory of someone tampering with his mind.

He wasn't ready to start telling people, though, that he believed
at some point in the last few months he had been restrained while
someone had messed with his mind. He could just imagine the look
on the Captain's face. She would have that "don't worry we'll
work everything out look," and then she would confine him to
sickbay. There, Doc would run zillions of tests to try to locate
the cause of his supposed insanity. No, he needed more proof
before he spoke to Harry or Chakotay about that voice. He had
finally just started to patch things up with Chakotay, the last
thing he was going to do was ruin it by telling the man that he
was hearing voices.

Tom smiled as he listened to the sound of Chakotay's breathing.
Yesterday, as he had waited for Chakotay to come home, he had
heard that voice in his mind, and it had been much stronger than
it had been in days. By the time Chakotay walked in the door,
part of Tom had been sure that he was setting himself up for
rejection. However, the part determined to keep Chakotay in his
life told him he was being ridiculous, and Chakotay had helped
him prove that part right.

It had been such a relief to be able to hold a conversation with
Chakotay. He had expected things to be extremely awkward, with
Chakotay asking pointed questions, but that hadn't happened.
Instead, it had all seemed so natural. Chakotay seemed to have
been as relieved as he was to be able to just behave normally. He
waited for Chakotay to grow serious and ask him to "talk" and was
relieved when he didn't. He appreciated not being pressured.
Despite how well things had gone, he was surprised and delighted
when Chakotay had kissed him. Any remaining anxiety he had about
their relationship fled with that kiss. With a little time,
everything would be fine, Tom was sure of it.

He knew that he had Chakotay to thank for that sense of
certainty. The older man's actions since Tom had been released
from sickbay had left no doubts that he still cared.  As he
thought back over his recent behavior toward the man he loved,
Tom counted himself very lucky that he hadn't lost Chakotay. He
was amazed and grateful that Chakotay was willing to give him a
second chance. It was more than he deserved.

His years so far on Voyager had given and taught him so much.  He
flew a ship he loved, had the respect of the crew, a direction to
his life, and had finally found people on whom he could depend.
It was Harry who had taught him that there were people you could
count on and that it was worth the risk to offer those people
your trust. Tom had been wary at first, waiting for Harry to turn
his back on him, but his friend never had. As the years passed,
he found himself needing his defensive barriers less and less
until finally they were firmly shoved aside.  He didn't miss

So why were they back again? Why had he allowed himself to become
totally isolated? When things started to go wrong with Chakotay,
Harry had constantly been trying to get him to talk. Yet he had
found himself unable to confide in his best friend. He remembered
thinking that no one would understand, and that he couldn't
explain things to Harry because then his friend would finally
realize that he wasn't worthy of friendship.

Tom frowned as he slowly sat up, being careful not to wake
Chakotay. How could he have thought that telling Harry about his
fear of losing Chakotay would change Harry's opinion of him?  It
was ridiculous. Harry and he had been through so much together in
the Delta Quadrant. They'd seen each other's best and worst
sides, and nothing had even come close to damaging that bond of
friendship. If anything their friendship had grown stronger over
the years. He could always talk to Harry, so why hadn't he?

For that matter, why hadn't he just told Chakotay that his
insistence on learning everything about him, good or bad, was
driving him over the edge?  It wasn't as if he was uncomfortable
talking to Chakotay. They had been friends for a long time before
they got involved. He knew Chakotay liked to face matters
squarely, and so wouldn't be offended by someone taking that
approach with him. He could have just told his lover that there
were things he didn't like to talk about. Wallowing in the past
had never done him any good. As long as he had made it clear that
he wasn't unwilling to discuss parts of his past, but rather that
he was uncomfortable with discussing his entire life in one long
"get to know you" session, Chakotay would have been fine.  He was
sure he could have made Chakotay understand that it was better to
discuss some things as they came up. So why hadn't he just told
the older man what the problem was?  Instead he had panicked and
pushed his lover away, acting like he didn't care because he
cared too much.

It all made no sense. He didn't behave like that. Correction, I
don't behave like that now, he thought, as his brain started to
fathom the reason for the resurfacing of his defensive actions.
No, he didn't behave that way now, but he used to when he first
stepped on Voyager. Things were starting to get a little clearer.
That voice triggered feelings of worthlessness that he had felt
at points in his life, and the dreams backed up those feelings by
presenting him with images he associated with fear and weakness.
Bad dreams and a persistent fear that he would let the Captain
down, just as he had his father, had filled his early days on
Voyager, and in response he had often been sarcastic, keeping
people at a distance. So it made sense that nightmares combined
with a fear of losing Chakotay would cause him to react the same
way. Just as that voice had triggered the dreams, it had also
triggered his past defense mechanisms. Well no more. He knew that
no matter what Harry would be there for him, and for that matter
so would Chakotay.

Tom glanced sadly at the man sleeping by his side. Chakotay
hadn't let him down, but he had let Chakotay down. He remembered
the anguish he had seen on Chakotay's face two evenings ago and
felt his chest ache with guilt. That night the older man had
again tried to engage him in conversation, and Tom had responded
with his normal monosyllable answer.  Afterwards though, he had
glanced up, and he had been shocked by the look of pain that
showed on Chakotay's face.  The long overdue realization came to
him that his silence was hurting someone he cared for very much.

He had never meant for his silence to continue for so long; it
had just turned into an easy escape. At first it had been
difficult not to speak to Chakotay, but after awhile he became
comfortable with the silence. As long as he kept it going, he
felt he was safe from the danger of losing Chakotay. He couldn't
say anything wrong if he didn't open his mouth.  That pained
looked on Chakotay's face made him realize that his silence was
just as damaging. Yesterday morning when Chakotay had left for
his shift, Tom had noticed the fatigue on the man's face;
something of which he was sure he was the cause.  He cursed
himself for being so insensitive to someone who had helped him
through so much lately. Tom had realized then that he had to take
that next step and start letting the man back into his life.

So he had done it and was glad, but dear god it hurt to think
that he had caused Chakotay pain. Seeing how soundly Chakotay
still slept, Tom wondered how much sleep he had gotten recently.
The exhaustion Tom had seen on the older man's face was more than
just one night's missed sleep. How could he have done another
thing to hurt this man?  Weren't the awful things he had said
enough to last a lifetime?  He was so stupid sometimes, thinking
he had things under control when all the while he was screwing
things up again. He should have talked to Chakotay sooner. He had
no excuse but that he was a worthless coward.

Stop, Tom thought as he took a deep breath.  He looked down to
see that his hands were clenched at his sides. Slowly he opened
one fist and then the other, forcing his hands into a more
relaxed position. This line of thinking was a waste of time and
dangerous. What's done is done and there was no sense dragging
himself down for something that could not be changed.  He had
moved forward and that was what was important. He wouldn't hurt
Chakotay again, and he'd make up for all this mess.  Everything
would be fine, as long as he stayed calm and rational--and got
back to work on finding out what had happened to him.

He slipped quietly out of bed. After taking a sonic shower, Tom
put on a pair of tan khaki pants and a long-sleeve black cotton
top to which he attached his combadge.  Chakotay was still
sleeping soundly, and Tom decided that today he should get to
sleep for as long as he needed.  He stepped out of the bedroom
and pressed the button for the doors to close.

Once inside the living area, he quietly asked the computer for
the location of Captain Janeway.  On being informed that she was
in her ready room, he touched his combadge and just as quietly
said, "Paris to the Captain."

"This is the Captain.  Is everything okay, Tom?"

"Everything's fine, Captain. I was just hoping I could ask you a

"Go ahead."

"I was wondering if you could give Chakotay today off.  I think
he could really use the rest."

The Captain laughed. "That's an easy request to grant.  I agree
with you. Did he tell you about yesterday's negotiations?"

Chuckling softly, Tom said, "Yeah he did. Heard they were the
number one debate team in the Delta Quadrant."

"Yes, for senseless debate. Chakotay deserves a break after
handling them. I take it this is your idea not his."

"Of course.  He's still sleeping.  If he doesn't know he's
missing duty, he can't insist on going in," Tom said smiling.

"Very true.  I agree.  I'm glad you're getting him to get some
rest.  Was there anything else that you needed Tom?"

"No, that's it. Thank you Captain, I appreciate it."

"Like I said an easy request to grant. You're sure everything
else is fine?"

"Perfectly," Tom said.

"Good.  Then tell Chakotay when he wakes that I said there's
nothing that can't wait until tomorrow.  Janeway out."

Pleased that the Captain had granted his request, Tom told the
computer to turn off Chakotay's alarm.  Then he sat down at the
computer terminal and sent a message to Harry telling him that he
didn't need to stop by today, as Chakotay had the day off.
Almost instantly, a message from Harry came back asking if he and
Chakotay had talked things over.  Tom wondered how Harry knew he
hadn't been talking to Chakotay. He hadn't mentioned it to him.
He sighed; he guessed Chakotay had. He sent back a reply that
said not to worry; they had talked.

He had to wonder how many people had noticed Chakotay's
exhaustion. Harry he would bet, and definitely the Captain.  She
had seemed relieved that Chakotay was getting some sleep. He
doubted it was just because her first officer had put in a long
day of negotiations. Well he couldn't blame everyone else for
discerning first what he should of noticed. He shook his head.
Dwelling on this wasn't going to help; he should get to work
searching for things that could possibly jog his memory.

Tom opened up his personal logs to the spot where he had left off
last and began to read. When he had gotten the idea to read
through his logs to see if he could find any clues, Tom had tried
to figure out when he had started to behave oddly. Going through
what he could remember clearly, he had decided that he had been
edgy long before he and Chakotay had gotten involved. Therefore,
he had decided to read through his entries for the last six
months. He was currently well into the fourth month of logs.

After a few minutes of reading, he realized he was hungry and
headed over to the replicator to get a glass of orange juice and
a blueberry muffin. With the muffin and juice in hand he headed
back to his seat. He sat down and took a bite while frowning at
the terminal screen.

He was almost done going through his logs, and so far not a
single one had triggered any memories. What disturbed him even
more than that though was that the last month worth of logs were
basically not existent. He had made virtually no log entries.
That was very unlike him. His father had impressed on him at an
early age the importance of keeping up to date logs, so that one
would have a record to refer back on. He had gotten into the
habit long ago of always recording the day's events.  Of course,
there had been times when he had slipped out of the habit, like
right after the accident at Caldik Prime and in prison.  Times
when he couldn't even bear to think about his life, let alone
make a record of it for future study.  It seemed he had just gone
through another such period in his life.

"Damn it," he muttered softly. He had hoped that this time
something his father had taught him would prove useful.  He
should have known better. His lips twisted ruefully. Of course
his old man would probably tell him that it would have been
useful if he had actually bothered to record things properly.  He
could just hear him saying something like, "Thomas why do you
always insist on learning lessons the hard way. If you had
followed my direction you would have a complete set of logs on
which to rely.  Now you'll have to figure it out on your own, a
task at which I'm sure you will fail."  Go to hell, Dad, he
thought bitterly.

Tom rolled his eyes. Great, now he was creating imaginary
conversations with his father. Hadn't he done that enough in his
life?  He had never won an argument with his father, not even in
his own mind. Tom had long ago come to the conclusion that the
less time he spent thinking about his father, the better his life

He supposed he should be glad that at least he wasn't hearing his
father's voice in his mind. He had managed to put all the other
voices from the past back in the past, and he planned for them to
stay there.  No way in hell was that voice dragging them back out
again. He could criticize himself just fine; he didn't need help
from a parade of bad memories.

A low growl formed in Tom's throat as he realized that he was
once again berating himself. This was ridiculous. He briefly
wondered how he had managed to survive the years between the
crash and Voyager-- when he had spent those days criticizing his
every action, thought, and breath.  By becoming a complete
asshole, he thought frustrated.  Well that was then, he had no
time now for such futile thinking.  He had work to do.

He'd finish his logs and if they gave him no insight, he'd start
going through the ship's mission logs. Maybe something there
would be able to give him some answers, and if that didn't work
he'd go back to his logs again. He could try listening to them
rather then reading through them the next time around,
particularly now that he had some time each day alone. It was
possible hearing them would spark something that reading didn't.

Taking a sip of juice and another bite of muffin, Tom started
reading again. Time slipped by quickly as he finished off the
muffin, the juice, and his logs. He started in on the mission
logs, and quickly became immersed. Not having noticed just how
many hours had passed, Tom was startled when he heard the door to
the bedroom slide open. He recovered quickly, his hand moving
smoothly to close the file he had been reading.

"Tom, are you all right?" Chakotay said as the doors slid close.

Tom smiled at him, puzzled. "I'm fine.  Did you sleep well?"

Looking as if he were still partially asleep, Chakotay mumbled,
"I must have as I slept through my alarm. I got up and you
weren't there." He swallowed and then continued, "Somehow I over
slept." Chakotay's eyes widened.  "Shit, I better contact the
Captain. She's got to be wondering where the hell I am."

"Chakotay.  Relax.  The Captain gave you the day off.  She told
me to tell you that there was nothing you needed to do that
couldn't wait until tomorrow. I turned off your alarm after I
talked to her," Tom said looking slightly sheepish.  "Maybe I
should have left a padd by you telling you that."

"The Captain, huh," Chakotay said looking mildly exasperated.
"So she decided I was to have the day off and enlisted your

"Not exactly," Tom said as he began to wonder if Chakotay might
get upset with him.  He pushed aside the nervous flutter in his
stomach. "I actually asked her if you could have the day off."

"You did," Chakotay said surprised.  "Why?"

Tom stood up, coming out from behind the desk. He leaned up
against it, facing Chakotay,  "Because you were exhausted."  Tom
took a deep breath, telling himself that as long as he was honest
everything would be fine.  "I know things have been tense and
awkward lately. You deserved a break."

He watched, seeing so many emotions flicker across Chakotay's
face--hope, relief, and maybe even doubt. "So you decided to give
me one," Chakotay said softly, and Tom nodded, holding his

Chakotay smiled, and Tom felt the pressure in his lungs release.
The older man stepped closer to Tom, his hand held out. "Thank
you," he said.

Tom took the offered hand, clasping it as he stood up straight
and looked into Chakotay's eyes. His lips curved into a wide
smile, and he said, "You're welcome." All the while thinking that
he was the one who should be saying thanks.

Chakotay squeezed Tom's hand, and both men were silent for a
moment. Then, Tom chuckled.  "Well since you slept half the day
away and missed breakfast again, how about lunch?"

Shaking his head, Chakotay said, "You turn off my alarm, and then
have the nerve to tease me for oversleeping."

"Someone has to keep you on your toes," Tom said with a grin.  He
traced his fingers along Chakotay's palm.  "You never know when
you'll have to negotiate with a race who considers any excess an
unpardonable sin. You've got to be ready with a quick defense."

"If we come upon that race, I'll recommend that Seven handle
those negotiations," Chakotay said wryly.  He wrapped his hand
around Tom's fingers, squeezed gently, and then pulled his hand

Tom laughed, crossed his arms over his chest and said, "Do you
really think I'd ever believe that you'd let Seven handle any

"Anything's possible. All right I give up. Not a chance. "
Chakotay shook his head ruefully.  "And of course I am hungry."
Tom nodded superiorly, causing Chakotay to laugh again.  "You are
such a pain.  Let me get cleaned up, and then we'll have lunch.
How does that sound?"

"Hey I'm ready to eat whenever you are.  After all, I've been
dressed for hours," Tom said, looking at Chakotay who was wearing
only his boxers.  As Chakotay started to retort, Tom piped back
in with, "Not that I'm complaining about that, not in the least."

For a second Chakotay looked stunned, but then he chuckled, threw
Tom a mock glare, and headed back into the bedroom.

Smiling, Tom sat back down at the terminal again. He made a note
in his personal logs of the stardate where he should resume his
reading. He didn't want to get any questions from Chakotay as to
why he was reading the ship's mission logs, so instead of
continuing his reading, he did some research for the new
holoprogram he was designing with Harry.

Twenty minutes later, Chakotay returned showered and dressed. Tom
frowned when he looked up and saw that Chakotay was wearing his
uniform.  "What's with the regulation clothes on your day off?"

Chakotay shrugged, giving Tom a look that pleaded for
understanding.  "I didn't get to half of the things I needed to
yesterday. It'll just keep piling up if I don't take care of some
of it. So I thought I'd go to my office after we had lunch.  Just
for a few hours."

He doesn't want to be around me, Tom thought. Worthless, the
voice whispered. Of course, how could I be so stupid?  How could
he want to be around me after everything?  He could feel his
heart begin to pound, and swore the sound was so loud it almost
drowned out the voice.  That voice.  Go Away.  That is not what
is going on.

"Tom?"  Chakotay said in a worried tone.

Willing the thumping in his chest to go away, Tom forced out a
smile.  "You're almost as bad a workaholic as Harry.  Even the
Captain telling you it can wait doesn't work.  At some point, I'm
going to have to teach how to spend a day off, and believe me it
doesn't include a single thought about work."  He shut off the
terminal and stood up.

C'mon, you know Chakotay, Tom thought.  He just needs time to
think.  Can you blame him?  One day you're not saying a word, and
the next you're joking and laughing.  He's got to be confused,
and knowing him he wants some quiet time to try to figure things
out. He can't do that with you around. Tom wondered though why
Chakotay didn't simply ask him about his change in behavior. He
could bring up the topic himself, but he was reluctant.  He was
unsure as to whether he could explain things to Chakotay without
mentioning the voice.  Not to mention that he was never fond of
serious conversations.  Well, maybe Chakotay wasn't looking
forward to it either or more likely he wanted to think things
through before broaching the subject. Well that was fine with
Tom.  He'd wait until Chakotay was ready.

Smiling slightly, but still looking concerned, Chakotay said,
"I'm not that bad, but if you want to show me sometime the proper
way to spend a day off, believe me I'm up for it. Like I said, I
only plan on being there a few hours. Just enough time to get
hungry again, so how about we plan on having dinner together."

Much calmer now, Tom chuckled.  "You want to have lunch first
before we start anticipating the next meal. I'm holding you to
dinner though. If I don't hear from you, I'll be sure to pester

Chakotay laughed, looking relieved.  "I believe it, but it won't
be necessary.  Shall we get something to eat?  I'm starving."

"That's what happens when you don't eat breakfast," Tom said in a
haughty tone.

Chakotay sighed theatrically, "Pest."


They walked over to the replicator where Tom ordered some bread
and a bowl of tomato soup, and Chakotay some angel hair pasta
with vegetables. Once the food and two glasses of water
materialized, they headed over to the table, sat down, and began
to eat.

"What were you reading so intently earlier," Chakotay asked.

"Just research for that Fair Haven program I told you about," Tom
said, the lie coming out easily. He told himself it wasn't quite
a lie; after all he had done some research for the program.
Besides, it would only be a short while before he figured things
out, and then he could tell Chakotay everything.

"So you've decided to definitely name the village Fair Haven.
Come across anything else interesting?"

"Yes to both," Tom said with a grin.  "I'm not telling you what
those interesting things are though. You'll see when the program
is done."

Chakotay laughed.  "Sorry I forgot that I wasn't privy to
details.  I have to wait with the rest of the commoners so that
you can get my first impression."

"Yep," Tom replied smugly.

They continued to eat, chatting amiably.  Lunch was over far too
quickly for Tom's taste. Before he knew it, Chakotay was getting
ready to leave.  He stood awkwardly before the door, looking at
Tom as worry again crossed his face.  "Listen did you want Harry
to stop by or something."

"If I want him to come by, I'll give him a call. I'm fine. I'd
say go have fun, but I can't imagine it will be any fun."

Shaking his head in exasperation, Chakotay said, "I'll see you in
a few hours."

"See ya later," Tom said as Chakotay left.

Tom stared at the door, feeling disappointed and frustrated. He
knew Chakotay deserved a few hours alone to think, but he
couldn't help wishing that the older man would have preferred to
spend the time with him. He looked around the room, feeling
incredibly bored. He wanted to go somewhere, do something--with
Chakotay.  Well, he thought, if that's what you wanted, why
didn't you just ask him to do something with you? He sighed. He
could have asked, but he hadn't, so there was nothing to do about
it now.

He headed back over to the terminal, sat down and pulled up the
mission logs.  He might as well do something useful to pass the
time. With any luck maybe he would find something that would help
him put this whole mess behind him.

As far as finding answers in logs, luck wasn't on his side this
day. After more than three hours, he closed out the logs in
disgust. What a waste of time, he thought as he stretched, trying
to work out the kinks that had developed in his neck and back. He
headed to the bedroom where he washed his face, letting the water
rejuvenate eyes that had been reading for far too long. After he
was finished, he returned to the living area and began to pace.

He was so antsy. He needed to get out of these quarters. For the
first time in weeks, he felt somewhat normal, and what he wanted
to do more than anything was to walk out those doors and resume
his life. So what was stopping him?  No one had said he was
confined to Chakotay's quarters. Why couldn't he swing by
Chakotay's office and convince him that work was over for the
day? They could have dinner in the mess hall and go to the
holodeck afterwards.  Why the hell not?

Tom checked to see if any of the holodecks were available, and
finding that holodeck two was free, he booked some time. Now, it
was time to go pull Chakotay away from those boring reports. With
a grin, he walked out into the hallway. He paused outside the
door, staring at the corridor, which looked so familiar and yet
so different. He had walked Voyager's corridors numerous times,
but today they looked wider, brighter. Tom was amazed to realize
that he himself felt different-- lighter, freer. He laughed and
started walking down that bright hall.

As he turned the corner, he ran into Sue Nicoletti.  "Tom," she
said.  "It's so good to see you.  How are you feeling?"

For a second, Tom panicked wondering how he could explain to her
that he hadn't really intended to hurt himself. Didn't really
remember it. Boy if he said that, she would probably look at him
sadly and word would quickly get around the ship about poor Tom
who still can't face up to things. The moment passed swiftly, as
he remembered that Sue didn't know what had happened. Chakotay
had told him only the senior staff knew. As far as Sue was
concerned he had been sick with some virus. No explanation was

He found his grin again and said, "Much better thanks, and tired
of resting."

Sue laughed. "Well it's been dull around here without you.
You're missed at Sandrine's. Are they going to let you back on
duty soon?"

Tom made an exaggerated grimace. "If I had my way, I'd be back on
duty today, but you know how the Doc is."

"Well you look fine to me, and if you're already whining about
being back on duty, I'm sure it's only a matter of days before
the Doctor clears you for duty. Surely Tom Paris can find
something to do with a few extra days off," Sue said.

"That is very true. Listen, Sue, I've got to get going, I'm
meeting Chakotay. I'm glad I ran into you though. It's good to
see you, and I bet you'll be seeing me real soon at Sandrine's"

"I'm glad you're feeling better. Take care, Tom. I'll see you
later."  With a small wave, she turned and walked away.

Tom resumed walking, smiling once again. It was good to know that
his presence had been missed. He'd have to stop by Sandrine's
soon and play a little pool. He started to whistle as he
continued his walk to Chakotay's office. He was definitely more
than ready to get back into the swing of things.

To Be Continued...