Disclaimer: see Chapter 1

Living in Sin
By Claudia

Chapter 2

 Tuvok entered the Ready Room with his usual air of calm,
his stride and intention, though, were as purposeful as ever. And
his thoughts were racing. A vein in his temple was pulsing
furiously, and his jaw muscles were clenched so tightly that even
his pointed eyes seemed tense. On the one hand, the Vulcan was
anxious to share his findings with his best friend, on the other hand
there was a little voice nagging in the back of his head that wanted
him to turn in immediately, think things over and come back for
the next shift.
 Which of course he couldn't do, for the matters at hand
were too important. The sooner the captain learned about this the
better. So he willed himself not to listen to this nagging voice.
 It wasn't easy. Tuvok recognized the voice at once. It was
so much alike the one that had drawn him to Nas. Back then, it had
cost him a great deal of his will power not to listen to it. More than
ever he wished he could withdraw to a monastery for a couple of
weeks to meditate and to find his inner equilibrium. But a simple
meditation had to do.
 Tuvok found the Ready Room empty. Of course, how
could he forget? The end of the captain's shift had been 73 minutes
ago. With Mr. Paris in Sickbay, there was no doubting the
whereabouts of Miss Janeway.
 "How is he?" He stepped up from her behind, and only
when he was inches from her did he notice the way she was
supporting herself on the edge of the biobed. Every fiber in her
shoulders was tense. Tuvok knew her well enough to realize
instantaneously that this was all she could do not to give in to a
display of emotions.
 She turned around slowly. What with all the tension in her
shoulders, and in her hands that were curled into the mattress and
around Tom's left hand her eyes were suspiciously clear, clearer in
a way than somebody's who was on the verge of tears. The Vulcan
was almost shocked about the ashen color in her cheeks, and
resisted the impulse to touch her shoulder. When she spoke, her
words were carefully chosen and pronounced, but nevertheless
very subdued. "He has withdrawn completely." Kathryn raised her
eyes to meet her friend's. "He's dying, Tuvok. He's not fighting any
 It was then that Tuvok finally forgot about the Vulcan
ways for a moment, and he supported Janeway as her legs finally
gave under the weight of her words. He lead her to the nearest
chair and carefully sat her down in it. Riley, who had caught the
goings-on in the corner of her eye as she worked in the Doctor's
office, joined them with a glass of water and a hypospray at the
 "She just found out after the last link," Riley explained.
Tuvok knew, after the strange movements on the medicine wheel,
that Janeway was using a neural transponder to keep in touch with
Paris—in both a metaphoric and literal sense; even with the
artificial paralysis, however, having worn off by now.
 Tuvok took a deep breath. Janeway was his friend, and he
disliked doing this to her, but if there was a way to help the ensign,
he had to know. "Has he withdrawn completely indeed, or is there
something that—"
 "A tiny bit, but he won't let me reach out for it," Kathryn
said quickly, now shivering all over her body. There were still no
tears. She was a scientist, one wearing four pips on top of that.
People like her didn't fall apart at the tiniest inkling of difficulties.
At least not when they were wearing their pips.
 "You must keep trying, Captain," Tuvok urged her. "The
Commander and I have come up with a theory that might explain
one or the other thing about the ensign's accident."

 The Mess Hall was filled with the cheerful babble of its
visitors, the clinking of dishes and glasses, the occasional laughter
and the comforting sound of food sizzling and bubbling away in
pans and pots. The resident chef's mottled, whiskered face lit up
even more when he saw his favorite goddaughter enter his realm.
She looked around briefly, then came straight towards the counter.
 "Hi Neelix," she said, her usually cheerful voice sounding
somewhat somber.
 He attempted to lure a smile out of her, but failed
miserably. The Talaxian decided that it was no good trying to
protect the girl. She was not stupid, she knew what was going on; it
came with the profession, she wanted to be Captain's Assistant,
after all. "I haven't heard anything from Tom, yet," he said, patting
his stomach.
 Naomi sighed. "I wish I could do something."
 "You've made a very nice get-well card for him," Neelix
reminded her. He was rewarded with a stern look on her face. It
soon changed into something sadder, though. "I mean I'd like to
really do something."
 Neelix sighed again. He wouldn't be a good godfather if he
didn't know just how much Voyager's youngest resident adored
Tom Paris. "Well, as much do I but we have to be patient." Naomi
nodded, seeing his point, but didn't seem to be utterly convinced.
"Now, I don't think Tom would want you all gloomy. And I'm sure
he would want you to eat."
 "Okay," she nodded.
 Neelix sighed again.
 A few tables from the galley Wilkara, Voyager's ex-Borg
guest, was joined at her table by one of the Equinox crew. Marla
Gilmore sat her tray gingerly down on the empty space facing the
Bajoran woman and slid into the seat. The two women had become
friends, their feeling of being some kind of an outcast on this ship
joining them in a way. At first Wilkara hadn't wanted to become
friends with Marla. It wasn't because of what the Equinox crew had
done. Who was a former Borg to judge them, considering what she
had done? Still, she felt it had been wrong to kill to get home,
particularly since Marla had done it out of her own free will. Borg
had none such luxury. Perhaps it was a blessing.
 No, it was because Wilkara didn't want to get too close to
others, knowing that she was dying. She had caused great grief
once before, when the Borg had taken her. They had taken her
from a small family and a fine crew. The thought of causing others,
particularly people she was very close to, pain. Therefore, she had
kept to herself. Only when she realized that her grumpy mood
couldn't keep Marla away had she given in. Now, she was glad.
 "Hiya," Marla greeted her, and smiled back when she saw
Wilkara's face brighten.
 "Any news about Paris?" the Bajoran wanted to know.
 Marla shook her blonde head. "Not really. But I've
overheard a conversation between the commanders, and it seems as
though they're getting somewhere with their inquiry." She scooped
up some of the vegetables with her fork, raised the fork and ate the
vegetables with gusto. For both Marla and Wilkara the idea of food
with color and texture and taste was something new, and very
welcome. It was also something that set them apart from the rest of
Voyager's crew.
 "Any idea how he's faring with that neural transponder
Seven and I gave him?" Wilkara wanted to know. She hadn't yet
worked up the nerve to go and ask by herself.
 Marla grinned. "No, but honestly, what would you do if
you were in their place?"
 A very rarely seen smile spread on the Bajoran's face. She
was about to reply something, when her communicator chirped.
Although Janeway had her given one the minute she'd told her that
she wanted to spend the rest of her life on Voyager, Wilkara had
hardly ever received a call by now. So she cast her friend an
astonished look, tapped the badge and said: "Marika here."
 They were quite surprised when Tuvok's voice summoned
her to Sickbay. "Have you done anything wrong?" Marla asked,
grinning. Wilkara only shrugged.
 "And please bring Crewman Gilmore," Tuvok added.
 "Might as well ask you," Wilkara quipped after she had
closed the comline.

 The two women went straight into the doctors' office,
where they were already being eagerly awaited by Doc, Doc
Frazier, Captain Janeway and Tuvok. The neural transponder was
sitting on a small tray that looked like a padded Petri dish. Wilkara
cast a brief glance over her shoulder to the main surgery area
where Tom Paris was still lying motionless.
 She looked at Janeway, and wished she could do more for
her and Paris, but she also asked her whether she, Riley and Seven
had done anything wrong by giving her the neural transponder. She
dismissed the thought as quickly as it had come to mind, for it was
Riley who had authorized this procedure in the first place.
 "How is Ensign Paris?" Marla wanted to know.
 Janeway averted her eyes for a second. It seemed as though
she had to collect herself. When she looked back again, Wilkara
found the reason why she didn't want to grow too close to any of
the Voyagers in Janeway's face. "He's dying."
 Before either of the two women could say something,
Tuvok cut in to explain. "We believe that we have found a possible
explanation as to what has happened to Mr. Paris. He has not just
had an accident that we cannot explain. There was a third party
involved that manipulated the Delta Flyer. Maybe you, Miss
Marika, could explain to us why you weren't affected at all."
 Marla's word rang in the Bajoran's ears. "Have you done
anything wrong?" No. She hadn't, unless surviving this was wrong.
What had she survived this for, anyway? She was dead already.
Maybe that was why.
 "I cannot, I'm afraid," Wilkara said. "I was asleep almost
all the way back, and Tom seemed fine when we started heading
home." She cast an apologizing glance at Janeway. She wished she
could be of more help to her.
 "There weren't any incidents at all," Tuvok said.
 "None that woke me, that is. I'm not a very deep sleeper,"
Wilkara explained. "Listen, we could go check in Astrometrics.
Maybe we'll find something there."
 "A second opinion would be useful," Tuvok agreed. "Are
the Borg familiar with this sector?"