Disclaimer: Since I claim that Paramount owns Star Trek, Voyager and everything in and on it, I also disclaim any claims I might have on that ship which is way out of this world (and quadrant). But I do claim my right to claim all claims on this story, and I disclaim all claims Paramount might claim on it. By the way, this story is just for fun, not profit etcetera etcetera. I borrowed ensigns Simms and Hudson from the P/T Collective (thank you) and disclaim any rights there are to claim on them. The same disclaim goes for nitwit Natwick, who belongs to TerriTrek.
The Situation: Two crews, one ship, and 70,000 lightyears to get home.
Summary: Tom Paris is unpleasantly confronted with what happened at Caldik Prime when the truth is revealed. This is a story in an AU that splits of before Caretaker, and is starting to become P/T. Hope you have fun reading.
a Startrek: Voyager fanfic by Niels van Eekelen
May - August 1998
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Continued from ‘Grudges and Friendships‘
II FALL FROM THE STARS
He stepped into the captain‘s ready room on the starship to which he was assigned, and stopped in front of the desk. The captain, a plump man with greying hair, looked up at him.
In his Dreams, the captain‘s eyes knew what he would do and they stared endless accusations at him.
The captain smiled at him and handed him a datapadd with the details on his mission, while he told him that he was to bring the ambassadors to their destination in a shuttlecraft.
In his Dreams, it was an evil smile, one knowing that he would not escape what he already had coming this time. He saw the eyes and the smile, but he didn‘t understand. Why? he wanted to scream. What is it? -- and in spite of his ignorance in that matter, he understood that he was afraid. Afraid until he thought that his heart might freeze.
He stepped into the shuttlebay with his copilot and met the two ambassadors. He introduced his copilot. He was polite. And he was received with haughtiness. Ambassadors only coped with anyone beneath the rank of captain when and because they were necessary.
In his Dreams, the ambassadors knew all to well what he would do to them, and their looks were pure contempt, disappointment, accusations. Again he didn‘t understand any of it but his fear.
When the ambassadors entered the shuttle and they were alone, he and his copilot exchanged a look, silently discussing the ambassadors‘ behaviour.
In his Dreams his look begged for understanding, and his copilot‘s accused, and worse, condemned. Again, he wanted to scream, but the dreams would not be interrupted. Among his fear another, unidentifiable emotion swirled.
Dropping out of warp, he ignored incoming reports on the ‘cosmic weather,‘ just like his copilot‘s halfhearted urging for caution. He was better than competent: he was an extraordinary pilot, one of the best. He had flown through this kind of storm before, and he could do it again. He dodged ‘cosmic lightning‘ easily. Going around the storm would have been a waste of time.
In his Dreams, the voices delivering the reports called his name, pleaded with him, ordered him to change course. He ignored them. After all, what could be wrong? A twinge of doubt took shape among the other two emotions in his mind—was he what was wrong? -- but it vanished almost instantly.
When he checked his instruments, his mind wandered. There was reason not to waste any time. There was a girl on that planet and he had sent her a message telling her he was coming. She would be waiting for him.
In his Dreams, an image of her face formed. He smiled at her. Her smile was a sad one, and she turned away, unable to look at him any longer. She had seen him for what he was. Then things started happening oh so fast, but in his dreams, they lasted for hours...
A lighting bolt shot out from the storm and stabbed through the shuttle‘s impulse engines, throwing them into a flat spin. His copilot was thrown half out of his chair; his head collided with the shuttle and he did not move again. He tried frantically to regain some control over the shuttlecraft and did not see the moon coming until they were entering its atmosphere. The spin stopped when the shuttle hit the surface. When he regained consciousness, a mass of what had been a shuttle pinned him down. He couldn‘t even turn his head. He didn‘t have to. His copilot lay barely a meter from him, his eyes locked on his, staring the stare of death into his eyes for the long hours till rescue came.
In his Dreams, his copilot was not alone. The two ambassadors were there, staring at him, and so were his captain, and his father, and all the others who had had faith in him, who he had let down. The second emotion nearly drowned his fear, now. Finally, he recognized it: it was guilt. Guilt for three lives on his conscience. Guilt for screwing up again. The accusing stares of those he had killed seared his flesh.
Tom Paris sat up bolt upright in bed. His heart pounded wildly, his lungs laboured for breath as if he was in a vacume. He wrapped his arms around himself as he tried to stop shaking.
Next to him Seska stirred, but did not wake. She‘d had an arm around Tom when he started awake. Fortunately, she wasn‘t easy to wake once she was asleep. Fortunately, because Tom couldn‘t have told her, couldn‘t have explained.
Over the course of what seemed hours, Tom‘s breathing slowed and his heart returned to its normal rhythm. Still he couldn‘t move.
He struggled on to regain his control of his emotions, but the dead eyes that his mind projected over every accusing look anybody gave him shattered the little he could find.
The nightmares were back. It wasn‘t surprising, really, with the anniversary only three days off—two, if it was past midnight—but he hadn‘t had them for nearly nine months. Or at least not as more than vague bad dreams.
Finally, Tom put his face in his trembling hands and cried. "I‘m so sorry, Wariss," he whispered hoarsely. He wanted to apologize to the dead ambassadors as well, but he couldn‘t even remember their names, and hated himself for it. Perhaps it didn‘t really matter. What good could an apology possibly do? He had killed them. He had survived. And he hadn‘t even admitted what he had done, not at first.
After the lives he had saved at Xaris Minor, he had wanted to believe so hard that he had somehow redeemed himself. Tom had tried to forget Caldik Prime ever happened, he realized. He had tried to flee his responsibilities again. That night, there would be no more sleep for Tom Paris.
It was quiet in the Messhall. Gamma shift was at work, it was getting late for Beta shift and it was still early for Alpha shift to be up. Neelix, of course, didn‘t seem to be interested in what time or shift it was and was assiduously praising every single one of today‘s choices in meals. The so-called eggs certainly were interesting: they were a bright red. And that was after they were peeled.
Chakotay wondered when the Talaxian slept. He never seemed to leave his kitchen to anybody else unless he was needed in his role as a guide to the quadrant.
Unlike the cook, the commander wasn‘t in a very cheerful mood. He had been woken an hour earlier for what had turned out to be a false alarm. One Chakotay thought Tuvok could easily have handled without calling him.
Chakotay decided it would be wiser not to to eat his egg. The blue and orange... things... had been edible, if no more, so he had been able to satisfy his appetite. There was no reason to take any more chances with his health. The indian stood and he started walking toward the door.
His eyes fell on Tom Paris, who was sitting at another table. He‘d been sitting there since before Chakotay entered, but judging by his plate, he still hadn‘t eaten a bite. As Chakotay had noticed earlier, the pilot appeared to have had a rough night, probably partying on the Holodeck. He wondered if Paris had even bothered to go to bed at all this night.
Irritated by the man‘s behaviour, Chakotay turned to his table. Paris only seemed to notice him when he leaned on the table with both hands.
"Mr Paris," he started, "what you do during your off hours is your own
concern, of course, but I expect you to be properly rested and clear-headed
when you report to the bridge in seventy minutes. If you are not, I will put
"Don‘t start, Chakotay," Paris interrupted him, "just get lost." Chakotay blinked in surprise. Even for Paris, this was extreme. When he replied, his tone was ice.
"Paris, you seem to be forgetting that you are speaking to your senior officer."
"Not forgetting," the pilot said and turned his eyes back to his food, "just not in the mood. Goodbye, Chak."
"I think you‘d better take that back right now, lieutenant." Paris didn‘t
respond. Chakotay was really infuriated by now. He grabbed Paris‘
shoulder in one hand and continued: "I‘ve had about enough of your
Suddenly the younger man was on his feet, his right arm forcing Chakotay‘s hand off his shoulder and his left fist on the side of the commander‘s face. Chakotay answered the blow instinctively. He wasn‘t sure if he hit anything or if Paris managed to deflect his fist, but he didn‘t wait to find out. He swung back his arm for another blow—less instinctively, this time, and more in anger—only to collapse on the floor when he was punched in the stomach. Paris threw himself on top of him at once.
On the floor, they fought on. Chakotay was stronger than the Maquis pilot, but Paris had more experience in this sort of fight, and he knew some moves that weren‘t included in Starfleet Acadamy‘s hand-to-hand combat training.
Chakotay was just trying to get Paris, who was holding his head to the floor, off of him when the Maquis was suddenly pulled back and held by two pairs of strong arms. When the commander jumped to his feet, he too was grabbed by two security officers.
Tuvok looked calmly at each of the bruised officers in turn. "I believe a visit to Sickbay before we continue to the brig is in order," he said.
Captain Janeway was at a loss. After months in the Delta quadrant, her crew had finally started to meld together, to let old animosities be old animosities. Even the most arrogant one among the Maquis had earned at least some respect, in her eyes as well as in those of most of the Starfleet crew, with his actions in the mines three weeks ago.
And now, it could very well all be ruined. Mr Paris had started a brawl. With Chakotay. Chakotay, of all people! Anyone could see that there was no love lost between the two, but thus far, they had managed to keep it private.
The captain sighed deeply. She took a sip of coffee from the cup she was holding in her hands. It had gotten cold.
She was so sure that there had to be some reason for this to happen now, but she had no idea what it was. Paris had been a bit tense for the past several days, but as far as Janeway could remember, it hadn‘t seemed to be focused on her first officer. Of why Chakotay had fought, she knew even less.
As important as reasons might be, the captain decided, they would have to wait. Perhaps she should just have asked for the reasons when she‘d confronted her two officers in the brig half an hour earlier, but she‘d been too furious to do much more than yell at them.
For now, however, it was more important to decide the consequences than the reasons. Paris and Chakotay had always set an example for their respective parts of the crew. Captain Janeway knew that stories of the fight were already all over the ship. She should have to set an example with the punishments as well. If she only knew how.
Suddenly the captain‘s commbadge chirped and she was dragged out of her thoughts roughly. She almost spilled her coffee. "Torres to Janeway," a bodiless voice spoke. It sounded even more angry than the captain felt.
"Janeway here," she said when she‘d recovered her composure. "What can I do for you, lieutenant?" Why would she be angry at this time? Of course! She‘d probably been asleep during the brawl because she was working Beta shift and had only just now heard about it. And it involved two of her best friends.
"Do I have permission to pay Cmdr Chakotay and Lt Paris a visit?" It was a question. Barely.
Captain Janeway considered it for a moment. B‘Elanna Torres was a close friend to both of the brawlers, but she wasn‘t the kind of friend who would just let this pass. It wouldn‘t hurt if the lieutenant made clear to Paris and Chakotay exactly what they had done, and the captain didn‘t think she would choose sides either.
"All right, lieutenant," she replied finally. She wasn‘t finished talking yet, but Torres had lost what little patience she‘d had.
"Thank you, captain. Torres out—"
"Just a moment, lieutenant. I released them from the brig. They‘re both confined to their quarters, now."
"I know," was the curt reply, and the commlink was broken. Janeway sighed once more. She hoped she had made the right decision. Otherwise she would have another fight on her ship, this one involving her chief engineer.
"You heard her, Simms! Now get out of my way!" Lt Torres and ensign Simms were standing outside Cmdr Chakotay‘s quarters. Ethan had been told not to let anyone in, and usually he would never have hesitated to do his job properly. A minute earlier, however, it had been an effort not to run to get out of Lt Torres‘ way when she‘d come stalking down the corridor in his direction. The ensign was glad he had found the guts to object to her entering the commander‘s quarters. If he hadn‘t, Tuvok would not have been happy. Still, he was glad that he didn‘t have to prevent Torres from entering. He jumped aside.
Commander Chakotay looked up from the datapadd he had been reading from when the chime announcing someone wanting to come in sounded and, at the same time, someone did enter.
"Hello, B‘E—" he started to say, surprised that anyone but the captain would be allowed to visit him.
"Shut up!" B‘Elanna stopped him. She continued to rage at him for about fifteen minutes, calling Chakotay each and every kind of vermin, low-life and such to be found in the Alpha quadrant, and some that weren‘t, and explaining him exactly why he was one. Half of it was in Klingon, which the commander—fortunately—did not speak, but the rest sufficed. After fifteen minutes, B‘Elanna started to repeat herself, and Chakotay decided to speak.
"You, you... PetaQ! You—"
"You‘re right," Chakotay said. Partly out of self-preservation, because he knew this would slow the infuriated lieutenant down considerably, but mostly because he knew it was true. He should never have physically fought with any member of the crew, no matter the provocation. He‘d never have believed that he would.
B‘Elanna abruptly fell silent. In the following silence, Chakotay noticed that the computer was still playing music. He‘d completely forgotten. He hadn‘t heard any of it in the last fifteen minutes.
"It was possibly the worst mistake I made since arriving in the Delta quadrant. Paris started it, but I know that that‘s no excuse. I could have started a civil war on Voyager." B‘Elanna looked at him for a moment, then tiredly let herself fall on the couch, opposite to the commander. She sighed.
"You‘re as bad as Tom is," she complained—now speaking at a normal volume—"he always talks like that, too, when he wants me to calm down. I just can‘t stay angry when somebody does that!" Chakotay felt a bit uncomfortable being compared to Paris, especially now, but knew he‘d better not mention it.
After they sat in an uncomfortable silence for a while, the engineer spoke up again. "But why, Chakotay?" she almost pleaded, "why did you have to go and fight with Tom?" She was still angry, but now she‘d calmed down enough to listen to the whole story, not just the rumours she‘d heard earlier before she started yelling again.
"I don‘t really know. One minute I was just talking to him—I admit I wasn‘t being very friendly, but I‘ve been much worse, and Paris never even seemed to care. Then he... he just snapped and started to fight. And I snapped too," he added guiltily.
"Maybe it was just Tom," B‘Elanna muttered thoughtfully. "He‘s been edgy lately. He‘s never edgy. I wish I knew what‘s bothering him, but he‘s completely shut himself off to me. Maybe Seska could..." She continued in the privacy of her mind. She hated the idea of asking for Seska‘s help.
Chakotay gave a wry laugh and she looked up. "C‘mon, B‘Elanna, even I can guess what‘s bothering Paris." Up until now, he hadn‘t thought Paris was bothered by it at all, but if something was bothering the lieutenant now... It was to great a coincidence. "The accident," he clarified, "it‘s two years ago tomorrow—or maybe the day after tomorrow."
"What accident?" B‘Elanna replied absentmindedly. Chakotay frowned.
"Caldik Prime?" At first, no response. Then, as she made the connection,
B‘Elanna‘s head snapped up.
"Two years ago? When Starfleet threw him out? What accident?" she demanded. Chakotay was baffled.
"You mean you really don‘t know?" he asked unbelievingly.
"What accident!" B‘Elanna demanded again. Her voice was regaining
volume. Chakotay didn‘t have a clue as to what was going on anymore, but he realized that he‘d better hurry to explain.
"Paris crashed a shuttle on one of Caldik Prime‘s moons," he summarised, "three people were killed. Then he falsified his report." And all of a sudden, B‘Elanna was storming out of his quarters. Chakotay frowned. Did this mean Paris never told any of the Maquis about Caldik Prime? Something told Chakotay that he was a very lucky man that Torres had left when she had. He‘d almost pity Paris, but it was the man‘s own fault. Again.
When Lt Torres so suddenly came storming out into the corridor, ensign Simms started. He had been able to hear the yelling from his post outside Cmdr Chakotay‘s quarters quite clearly, but the last few minutes had been quiet, so he thought that Torres‘ infamous ire had subsided. Apparently, he was wrong. Ethan took a quick peek inside before the doors closed. Fortunately, the commander appeared physically unharmed, and so did his quarters.
After a moment, Simm‘s professional mind caught up with him, and he decided that he should warn his colleague, George Natwick, who was standing guard outside Lt Paris‘ quarters, of Lt Torres‘ impending arrival— and her permission to go in.
Tom Paris was sitting on the floor of his quarters, idly throwing playing cards in a hat he‘d placed near the door. All right, it wasn‘t really a hat, but it was a good enough substitute. He was in a dark mood. He was still feeling too irritated to think much about the things his fight with Chakotay might have set off, but he knew the only two ways he would not think about the nightmares, about Caldik Prime, were either flying, or being in the company of a lot of other people. And he had effectively cut off both possibilities himself. Story of his life. And he hadn‘t even really enjoyed hitting Chakotay.
When the door opened unannounced, Tom didn‘t look up immediately. He just watched the pair of boots walk through the doorway and stop— missing his hat-substitute by a few inches only.
Women‘s boots. That meant it wasn‘t Tuvok, so it must be Janeway. Tom had overheard Natwick‘s orders—he wasn‘t to let anybody except for those two walk through that door.
After having made this observation, the pilot was quite surprised when— after he finally looked up—he saw Lt B‘Elanna Torres standing in his quarters, trembling with barely contained rage. Tom felt slightly amused as he wondered if B‘Elanna had somehow bullied the muscular Natwick into letting her in.
B‘Elanna had been suppressing very strong urges to do something violent since she stepped through that doorway. She had hardly noticed George Natwick standing outside, or anything else since leaving Chakotay‘s quarters, for that matter.
Just when she had convinced herself not to kill Paris, the subject of her anger looked up at her, and after his surprise faded, B‘Elanna saw amusement in his eyes. It was the last straw.
"I‘m not even going to yell at you," she said. The icy calmness in B‘Elanna‘s voice alarmed Tom. Normally, she was never calm when she was angry, but he had seen her act like this once before; once, when B‘Elanna had been angrier than ever before in her life. He thought it ridiculous that she would be that angry about the fight. B‘Elanna continued.
"I trusted you—we all trusted you—you and your unsurpassed piloting skills that got three people killed. You lied to us! Did you think that since you screwed up in Starfleet you could come and screw up in the Maquis too?" B‘Elanna was too upset to think straight, and bit by bit she had forgotten about not yelling. She turned and stormed out back into the corridor. Outside, ensign Natwick was no less baffled than ensign Simms had been.
The cards slid out of Tom‘s trembling hands and fell to the floor. A drop of sweat slowly made its way down from his hairline across his ashen face. Aside from trembling, he didn‘t move.
Caldik Prime. She knew about Caldik Prime. She believed it. And she had reacted just like he‘d feared. Like she did in his nightmares. Tom had expected B‘Elanna to be angry at him for the fight, but this? It was so unexpected. He‘d known the Maquis would find out someday ever since he knew he would be living on a Starfleet ship, but when it hadn‘t happened for months on end... He had started to feel safe again. His father‘s voice sounded in the back of Tom‘s head.
*Forgive? No, Thomas, things like this are not forgiven. You have
screwed up again, worse than ever before, and this time, it will not be
forgiven. No one will forget Caldik Prime, and your mistakes will be with
you all your life.*
In B‘Elanna‘s eyes, Tom had seen the dead, accusing eyes of Wariss.
Though B‘Elanna returned to Engineering and during her entire shift spoke not a word that was not an order, rumours spread. Voyager was a small ship, after all, and on it, the Maquis were an even smaller community.
Shortly after the events that had led to them being stranded in the Delta quadrant, rumours had started to be told about Tom Paris. Bad rumours. Some even called him a murderer. But they had all originated with the ‚Fleeters, and every single Maquis knew how Chakotay hated Paris, so none of them had believed the rumours. Now, it appeared that they were true.
Before the end of the day, everybody on Voyager had heard at least some version of Caldik Prime.
Many were angry at the pilot. He should have told them. Or even: he should never have been allowed to join the Maquis.
Some didn‘t really care. They were hurt and angered that they hadn‘t known it sooner, of course, but they knew Tom wasn‘t the only one of the Maquis with a past. Some even had one of their own.
Seska was definitively angry. At Tom. At Torres. At Chakotay. But not for Caldik Prime. She had known it all along, though Tom had never told her about it either. No, she wasn‘t upset about the accident. She was upset about others finding out. She knew it would stretch the loyalty to her Helmboy to the limit, if it didn‘t destroy it completely. Not to mention what this would do to Tom himself. He cared not nearly as little as he wanted to, and Seska could see it straight through his shields.
B‘Elanna wasn‘t certain how she felt. Sure, she had been angry at first, and she still was, but after she had regained control of her temper, she could also understand. Tom had been afraid to tell anyone, and judging by her own reaction, it was a justified fear. There had been something in Tom‘s eyes when B‘Elanna yelled at him. A look she didn‘t quite recognize, but one that had shocked her very much.
After being confined to his quarters for four days, Tom had at last calmed down. He had spent those four days worrying that B‘Elanna might come back, and worrying that she might not. The condition of his nerves had only deteriorated. What would his people think of him now? They certainly wouldn‘t want to be his people anymore.
Still, when the security officer came to escort him to the captain‘s ready room, his public face had slid back into place with surprising ease. He had purposefully not looked at the officer‘s face. The same with the people walking through the corridors.
He couldn‘t help but catch a few glimpses, though. The Maquis tried not to look at him, but he could see their faces, and he could always read those. What he saw made a dead man‘s eyes shine through theirs. Maintaining his mask became an effort.
The captain of the U.S.S. Voyager took a slow sip of coffee. Cmdr Chakotay was standing on the other side of her desk, and as soon as Lt Paris arrived, Janeway would finally set their official penalties for the fight in the Messhall. Both had already spent four days confined to their quarters, but more would be added. Their replicator rations and Holodeck time for the near future would be severely reduced.
Idly, the captain wondered what Lt Torres had said to Chakotay and Paris four days ago. What ensigns Simms and Natwick had put in their reports didn‘t make any sense at all.
And she wished she knew why people all over the ship were suddenly talking about the accident at Caldik Prime, even the Maquis. It had always seemed to be a forbidden subject to them. Janeway sighed mentally. If Chakotay hadn‘t gotten himself into this mess, he would have been able to tell her.
The door hissed open and Lt Paris stepped into the ready room. Hudson, his escort, waited outside.
"Lieutenant," she greeted with a nod. Paris looked lousy. His clothes
looked slept in and he obviously hadn‘t shaved this morning. *Well,
Kathryn,* she reprimanded herself, *it‘s not like you gave him much
advance warning that he would be brought here.*
"Captain," Tom returned the greeting. So at least I‘m still a lieutenant, he thought.
While captain Janeway told her officers the repercussions of what they had done, she studied the two of them with her eyes. Chakotay looked like he felt guilty, like she had expected. Paris was a bigger problem. As always his face was unreadable, a trait he had inherited from his father and perfected for his own use. But by the way he was standing there, next to Chakotay, Janeway thought he looked... distracted, as if he had better things to do than listening to his captain. It annoyed her.
Meanwhile, Tom was lost in thought. He heard what Janeway was saying, but that was only of minor concern. From what he had seen on his way to the ready room, he judged that Caldik Prime was now common knowledge. Well, he‘d just have to live with that. He‘d still be piloting this ship. He could take whatever they threw at him. But what would Seska think of him? Or Ayala? Or his other friends?
Though Tom was no longer offically confined to his quarters, it made little difference. The first eleven hours, he spent gathering enough guts to go to the bridge and do his job, and it was only barely enough. Tom couldn‘t help but watch the face of every person he came across, this time. There was something in each of them that made him see the dead eyes. With some people, it was just his imagination. The pilot had always had a decidedly vivid imagination when it came to this sort of thing. Yet, a great many more people really had found new reasons to hate him. Even the ‚Fleeters despised Tom with new vigor, now that they knew he had kept his ‘murderous‘ past a secret.
Captain Janeway fidgeted in her chair. She had noticed that her chief pilot had not said one word that was not completely necessary since he had taken his position at the Conn. Usually, she would have appreciated it. Lt Paris always did his best—which was very good—to make a nuisance of himself with his flippant remarks, often going so far that Janeway was tempted to relieve him of duty, but never going quite so far that she actually did it. Though she wouldn‘t admit it even if it would get her ship back to the Alpha quadrant, the captain had started to enjoy Paris‘ sense of humour. But today, he didn‘t say a word, and Janeway‘s captain‘s instincts told her that something was terribly wrong. She had finally heard about the new developments around Caldik Prime from Chakotay. Perhaps that was it. It would take her a long time to find out.
B‘Elanna pressed the button to ask permission to come into Tom‘s quarters again. For the third time in as many minutes. She knew that Tom was there -- she‘d asked the computer—but he wasn‘t answering. The lieutenant wasn‘t sure if Paris had been evading her the past three days or if he had spent all of his free time here in his quarters, but she was sure that it had gone on long enough. She had done a lot of thinking in the past few days. B‘Elanna still agreed with the rest of the former Maquis that Tom had been wrong to keep silent about the accident, but she also knew that her friend was getting more than his due in punishment, and that he was not as invulnerable to it as most people believed. From what she‘d seen of Tom at the meetings of the senior staff, he was taking the situation much worse than even B‘Elanna had thought he would.
"Come in, Torres," a voice called, but it wasn‘t Paris‘ voice. It was Seska‘s. The Bajoran had probably asked the computer who was at the door. B‘Elanna was surprised that she told her to come in. The two women didn‘t exactly get along very well.
When B‘Elanna stepped into Tom‘s quarters, Seska looked up at her from the pilot. She was sitting next to him on the couch. In spite of all her efforts, Tom still refused to look at her. He simply sat there, staring at the floor. Seska didn‘t understand why he was taking the situation so badly. By now, Tom could have had most of the Maquis eating from his hand again, just by talking to them, but he just sat in his quarters letting it all slip through his fingers. And he wasn‘t taking care of himself properly: he ate much too little.
Seska really didn‘t want to involve Torres, but she was running out of options. Tom‘s and Seska‘s relationship had never been a particulary deep one on the emotional level, and sometimes he wouldn‘t talk to her, when he would talk to the Torres woman. He loved her, after all. Even if he didn‘t know it. And she didn‘t either. If Seska could help it, Tom would never find out. To accomplish this, an intimate conversation like the one they were going to have now was not an advantage, but her Helmboy needed the support right now. Seska got up and walked to a chair standing at a discrete distance.
"You try to talk some sense into his thick skull, Torres."
B‘Elanna didn‘t understand why Seska left Paris‘ side—usually she clung
to him like a F‘taBe- spider, especially when B‘Elanna was around—but she didn‘t complain. She took Seska‘s place at Tom‘s side and studied his profile. Tom was looking pale, almost sick, and he did nothing to acknowledge the engineer‘s presence.
"Tom, look at me," she ordered. When he didn‘t respond, B‘Elanna gently grabbed his chin in one hand and turned his head to face her. Sometimes the pilot needed a firm hand.
Simply because he had no other choice, Tom did as he was told. He blinked. Then he looked again. He read B‘Elanna‘s eyes and saw no blame in them. Somehow, he knew, this one person who didn‘t hate him could save him.
"Why don‘t you blame me anymore?" he whispered, surprised. It was B‘Elanna‘s turn to be startled. How did he know that? And with such certainty? She frowned at him.
"It was an accident, wasn‘t it?" she said simply. Paris‘ needed the reassurence. Besides, B‘Elanna hadn‘t given exactly what she was going to say much thought. She rarely did.
"But... The lies in my report? And never telling any of you?" Tom tried to return to watching the floor again, but B‘Elanna grabbed his face.
"I don‘t approve, of course, but I understand. It‘s probably what I would have done."
"Yeah? I don‘t think so." He shook his head. "You wouldn‘t have."
"We‘re not talking about me right now. We‘re talking about you. And you
have a lot of people worrying."
"About whether they‘ll survive the next time I‘m at the Conn?"
"No! Tom, they‘re worrying about you. I am. Seska is. You look like
shit, and you‘ve been acting like you feel you‘re worth less!" At the mention of Seska‘s name, Tom looked at where the Bajoran was sitting. He‘d almost forgotten that she was there, too. Seska smiled at him. The pilot could see that the smile wasn‘t sincere, but he realized, too, perhaps for the first time, that she didn‘t blame him either. When he turned back to B‘Elanna, she was staring at him intently.
"Now, are you going to tell me why you are taking this so badly? Some people don‘t like you, but a lot of people never liked you before, either."
"It‘s not just that they don‘t like me, it‘s... it‘s..." Silence. Ever since he and B‘Elanna had started to talk, Tom‘s mask had been slowly dissolving, and the half-Klingon could see more and more pain on his face. It hurt her to see Tom in such pain.
"Tom," she said gently, "you can tell me." The blue-eyed man didn‘t want to talk about it, but with the compassion he saw in her eyes, he just couldn‘t stop himself.
"It‘s the way people look at me." He looked in B‘Elanna‘s eyes and saw that she didn‘t understand. But then, how could she? Tom shuddered, and B‘Elanna put a comforting arm around his shoulder. "After the accident— on the moon, before the rescue party could get to me—I was stuck beneath the debris of the shuttle. I couldn‘t move. Wariss—he was my copilot, and my friend—he was lying a few feet in front of me. He was looking at me all that time—I mean... he was dead, but his eyes... They looked so much like they were accusing me, blaming me for the crash. And it was my fault. Every time someone looks at me with an accusing look in his eyes like that, I see those dead eyes again."
Seska had been on a short fuse for a while anyway—the woman had been talking to her Tom for less than twenty minutes, and already she had succeded in getting Tom to talk to her, while Seska had tried and failed for days! -- and when she saw Torres draw Tom into a tight hug, she nearly exploded. She fumed some more when the two Maquis kept talking. If she wasn‘t careful, she would kill the halfbreed. Why couldn‘t Tom simply talk to her?
Then B‘Elanna started to raise her voice, and Seska tried to follow the conversation.
"Paris, cut it out! Your friends are not going to abandon you. If they did after Caldik Prime, they weren‘t real friends. You have real friends here, and Ayala is one of them."
Tom sighed. "B‘Elanna, I‘ve seen how he looks at me."
"So you startled him. He wants to forgive you, Tom, you just have to give
him a chance. Wait. We‘ll go to him right now." She stood up and pulled the pilot up with her. He looked at her unhappily.
"B‘Elanna, are you sure?"
"Positively sure." The Torres woman half dragged Tom out of his
quarters. Seska got up, too, and followed them.
"Really, I understand all your reasons," Ayala said, "everything you‘ve just told me, but it takes some getting used to. Did you know that I actually used to think of you as an infallible pilot? Nobody is infallible, but that‘s how I thought of you." Tom‘s friend looked him in the eyes again, and Tom felt so relieved he saw only traces of the accusations, that he could almost cry. Thank god for the ‘almost‘.
Nearby sat B‘Elanna and Seska. B‘Elanna had been right, of course. Tom was being paranoid if he thought the revelation of his secrets would mean the end of his world. And Seska... She had been trying to help him for days. Seska didn‘t seem to care about Caldik Prime at all. She behaved as if nothing at all had changed since before she knew. It was almost scary, but at the same time, perfect.
Ayala, B‘Elanna, Seska. True friends. Tom had always thought he had had those on Earth and on the U.S.S. Exeter, too, but apparently, he was wrong, and true friendship was more than they had given him. He didn‘t mind one bit.
Then Ayala spoke again. "All right, let‘s make a deal. I‘ll forgive you, and you make sure something like this will never happen again." He held out his hand. Tom smiled back at him and clasped it. "It‘s a deal."
The next day certainly wasn‘t easy, but Tom had recovered enough of his confidence to pretend that he had recovered all of it. Sometimes he could believe his own pretences, too.
Tom started his campaign to win back his friends first thing in the morning. He went to the Messhall—on Voyager, some people considered that an act of bravery in itself—and, for the first time in days, sat down with a group of the other Maquis. Gerron, Hiller, Dalby and Chell were all a bit surprised, but they let him, and didn‘t go away. Chell would probably talk to anyone.
At first, Paris let the others do most of the talking—at least, for as much as he could keep his mouth shut. He didn‘t pretend nothing had happened: they wouldn‘t take that from him, and neither would he himself. Instead, they simply talked about other things. Tom would apologize later, when he really felt confident again.
On the bridge, the helmsman acted much the same. Not yet completely back to his usual annoying self, but enough to let everybody know that he was on his way. It all confused the heck out of the captain, who had thought her pilot was having some sort of depression. She spent most of her shift on the bridge trying to figure it out, until she finally gave up and fled to her ready room.
By the end of the day, Voyager‘s grapevine had two dozen new rumours to tell about Tom Paris. The Maquis in general were pleased. This Tom Paris, they knew. This Tom Paris, they could trust, no matter what had happened in the distant past. He‘d saved all their asses often enough.
Seska was pleased as well. Tom would feel much better, knowing that he was needed, that people depended on him. And more important, people did depend on him to lead them again. She would need to prod a little with the more distrustful, like Suder, and the Maquis would not follow Tom as blindly as they did before, but they would follow. It was enough for Seska‘s plans.
Tom certainly had a lot more work to do, but Seska had plenty of time, and Tom would be eager to do it.
"So we either take a really big risk, or we take a six month long detour," said Lt Torres days later. The entire senior staff had been called together for an extra meeting in the Conference room. Voyager was nearing a huge plasma storm, and would have trouble manouvering through it. The plasma charges in this particular storm simply came with too little warning for the starship to evade them, and a few direct hits could cause severe damage.
"Not necessarily," Chakotay said from his seat on the captain‘s right side, "if we go along with ensign Kim‘s plan, the risks shouldn‘t be to great." Harry Kim had suggested that a shuttle might be agile enough to evade any charges—which Lt Paris confirmed—and that a shuttle flying where Voyager would be a minute later could provide the starship with enough sensor data, so that it—if combined with Voyager‘s own sensor data— could reliably predict and evade the plasma charges that would be in it‘s way. The plan still wasn‘t without its dangers, but, according to most of the staff, those were small enough.
"I say we do it," captain Janeway spoke. "Lt Torres, I want you to choose two people for the processing of the sensor data. Mr Paris, I think it would be best if you fly the shuttlecraft."
"Yes, ma‘am." Janeway took a good look at her chief pilot. She had been worried about him for a while. There probably wasn‘t a single person on her ship about whom she cared less, but, still, she had worried. She was glad that the lieutenant‘s problems had been resolved. Well, actually, Janeway wasn‘t entirely certain what his problems were, except that they had had something to do with the accident at Caldik Prime, and Paris appeared to be recovering from his emotional crisis. In a way, it was fortunate that this crisis had occurred. Before, Janeway had always believed that Paris thought the deaths he had caused meant nothing, and this once, she didn‘t mind at all being proved wrong.
"We enter the plasma storm at 1500 hours. Everybody, be ready.
It was one of the Dreams again, but this time, something was different.
Tom couldn‘t quite catch it, but something was different. He was sitting behind the controls of a shuttle. Was it a different shuttle, perhaps? Nah, it couldn‘t be. There were plasma charges all around him. Waitaminute! He never flew into that storm at Caldik Prime! He wasn‘t that crazy. But Voyager needed to get through it... But... What was Voyager doing in the Dream? It didn‘t make any sense.
Perhaps it didn‘t matter. His piloting skills should be more than enough to get the shuttle through without a scratch. He had done this before. But hadn‘t something happened, before? He couldn‘t remember.
In the chair next to him, Sue Nicoletti was processing and relaying sensor data as fast as she could. Nicoletti? Wasn‘t she one of Voyager‘s crew? No, she must have been from the Exeter, and she was flying to Caldik Prime with him. Everything was just fine.
Then Ayala was there, standing behind Nicoletti, handing her a padd with more data. But Tom knew Ayala had never set foot on the Exeter.
The Dream didn‘t let Tom wonder about it for long. He was simply flying the shuttle, nothing more.
He was even getting a bit distracted, and watched for the visual signs of appearing plasma charges. The instruments showed where they were forming a fraction before they could be seen, but Tom had always worked better like this, using his own senses rather than instuments.
Better? Did he work better like this? Not this time.
A plasma charge hit them dead on. They were so near to the edge of the
storm. Consoles exploded. His didn‘t. Someone screamed. He knew he had to get the shuttle out, but he was bleeding, and it hurt badly. One last turn. He lost consciousness...
... And he woke up. He groaned and immediately held his head in his hands, before it had the chance to split in two. Tom always sat up straight when he woke up from the Dreams. This time, it had definitively been a bad move.
After a moment, he looked around, and saw where he was. Sickbay. Again? How did he get in here this time? Vaguely, he remembered something about a plasma storm, through which he had to guide Voyager. But how did that explain his obvious injuries?
"Well, you‘re awake," said the EMH, standing next to the lieutenant‘s biobed. "And just as well that you are, Mr Paris, because I was about to give you a sedative." The hologram held up a hypospray. "You appeared to be having a rather disturbing nightmare," he explained, "but now that you are awake, you won‘t need the sedative."
With another groan, Tom slowly lay back down again. "Doc, what happened?"
"Yes, your memories will be a bit scrambled until the sedative wears off
"That‘s not what I asked." The Doctor snorted at his patient‘s impatience.
But, he reminded himself, *with Mr Paris, that‘s not really unexpected, is
With the Doctor‘s words, Tom slowly started to recall things. First he remembered the Dream—the different one, the one he had just had—and then the actual occurrences.
"Your shuttle was hit by a plasma charge. Fortunately, Voyager had already made it far enough through the plasma field to continue without the sensor data you were sending us, and somehow your shuttle made it through as well, so you were transported to Sickbay so I could patch you up. I must say, Mr Paris, I can always count on you to come up with the most interesting injuries." The Doctor noted that Paris‘s heart rate increased and his respiration became irregular, but a quick scan did not detect any plausible reasons for these symptoms, or for Mr Paris‘ sudden excessive perspiration.
"Doc," Tom said, nearly out of breath, "the others?"
"Ms Nicoletti was not badly injured, and—thanks to me, I might add—is
already fit enough to be released from Sickbay, as she has been." He paused. "However, I regret to inform you that the transport came too late to save Mr Ayala. He died before he could be transported to my care."
The captain stepped out of the turbolift and walked to Sickbay. In the last two days, since the shuttle accident, she had already visited Sickbay to see Tom Paris several times, but coincidentally, the lieutenant had been asleep at each of those visits. It was one thing to hear the Doctor say that he was going to be fine, but Janeway needed to hear it from her pilot as well.
Besides, she just had to know how Mr Paris had gotten that shuttle to fly out of the dangerous area after it was hit. Technically, it was impossible.
Captain Janeway stepped into Sickbay and was surprised to find it completely empty. For a moment she just stood there, then she suddenly remembered. *Ah, yes, the Doctor said something about releasing Paris from Sickbay soon.* Well, then "soon" must have been this morning.
"Computer, activate the Emergency Medical Holographic Program." The EMH materialised in front of her.
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency—or lack of one," he added dryly, after finishing his preprogrammed first sentence. He smiled when he saw the captain. Smiled? Janeway thought. "Ah, captain, so good to see you."
"Likewise, Doctor. Would you share the reason for your good mood with me?"
"Certainly, captain. After two days, I finally have no more Tom Paris in my Sickbay." This caused a slight smile on the captain‘s face as well. The Holodoc dramatically pointed a finger at the ceiling. "And it gets even better. When I informed my patient that he is to remain off-duty for at least three more days, he didn‘t even complain! Not one word!" The Doctor suddenly frowned. "Captain, please make sure that Mr Paris does, in fact, stay off-duty for three more days. Perhaps I have underestimated him."
The captain frowned as well. Something told her that she should worry about this unusually meek Paris. "So he will completely recover?" she asked for the fifth time. The Doctor rolled his eyes.
"Yes, exactly like the last time you asked, captain. Mr Paris is still
experiencing a rather high degree of stress and some residual traces of his
injuries, but that should be of no worry. Captain, now that you‘re here, I‘d
like to report that several of the late arrivals of the crew"—he meant the
Maquis—"*still* have not showed up for their medical examination." He
began counting on his fingers. "There‘s ensign Seska, and crewman Gerron,
"Send the list to my ready room, and I‘ll send them all a note," Janeway said, "I‘m going to visit Mr Paris."
"Certainly, captain." The captain was already crossing the doorway
before the Doctor stopped speaking. Hmph, the EMH thought, *I wonder
when Lt Torres will finally find the time to install that program that will
allow me to deactivate myself.*
The captain entered the turbolift with a sense of relief. The various reasons why she hadn‘t been able to talk to her chief pilot since the accident—either he was asleep, she was asleep, or she had important ship business to attend to—were starting to irritate her. Of course, the Doctor was right, those crewmembers should have reported to Sickbay long ago, but at the moment, it was simply one more thing that would keep her away from Lt Paris. The Doctor would have loved to lecture Janeway for hours for not getting Gerron and the others to Sickbay sooner. The problem had existed for weeks: it could certainly wait a few more hours.
The ‚lift‘s doors hissed open and captain Janeway stepped out onto Paris‘ quarters‘ deck. She was just turning to walk down the corridor, when a voice called her.
"Captain!" B‘Elanna called. She didn‘t see the captain roll her eyes or hear her exasperated sigh. Lacking knowledge of these warnings, the lieutenant hurried to her captain. "I was just going to look for you, captain. I—We need to talk."
The captain started walking. "Unless you have a reactor leak down in Engineering, it will have to wait." Unfortunately, if not completely unexpectedly, Lt Torres wasn‘t about to be left behind like that, and followed.
"Where are you going—if I may ask, captain?" she inquired. She already thought she knew, and it was exactly what she wanted to talk about.
"I am on my way to visit Lt Paris." B‘Elanna‘d been right. She nodded, and wondered why captain Janeway sounded so determined.
"In that case, we might as well talk. He won‘t let you in."
"Excuse me?" Janeway replied, puzzled.
"He won‘t talk to anyone. When he was still in Sickbay, he kept telling
me he was tired and needed to rest, so the HoloDoc sent me away every time I came to visit. Now that he‘s back in his quarters, he doesn‘t even respond when I ask if I can come in. So unless you plan to give Paris a direct order to talk to you or override his lock, it‘s no use going to him."
The captain‘s nerves were now stretched almost beyond endurence. It seemed to her as if everybody was conspiring to keep her away from Lt Paris, but if he himself didn‘t want to see anyone, it was, as B‘Elanna had said, ‘no use‘.
"All right," she said, "what did you want to talk with me about?"
"Tom Paris," was the reply.
Later, in the captain‘s ready room, B‘Elanna explained everything. The situation disturbed Janeway. There was obviously a lot more to her chief pilot than she had even suspected and—once explained—the similarities between the Caldik Prime incident and the incident in the plasma storm were not lost on her. She could only imagine what hell Lt Paris must have been going through.
"Do you think there is anything we can do?" Janeway asked, in a voice that was almost pleading.
"There is," stated Torres. "But I need your help, captain. We have to convince him that everything is all right, that no one blames him for what happened."
"*He* certainly blames himself," the captain said. "He says in his report that he wasn‘t paying as much attention to the sensor reading as he should have."
"Do you blame him?" the lieutenant asked her bluntly.
"No," captain Janeway replied without a moment‘s hesitation. "I‘m sure
that it was just the slightest inattention, and up until that moment Mr Paris was performing splendidly."
B‘Elanna nodded her agreement. "But we have to convince him of that," she continued, "and that‘s why I need you, captain. Tom won‘t believe me if I tell it to him, because I‘m too close to him. Despite everything, he still feels that you are part of the opposition."
The captain thought for a moment, then she said: "All right, lieutenant, I‘ll help you." She glanced at her chronometer. "But when? It‘s starting to get late."
"Tomorrow," B‘Elanna said. "I still need to warn Harry as well—he could really help Tom. 0900 hours?" she asked. "We don‘t want to have to wake him."
"Agreed," the captain replied. "I will meet you at Lt Paris‘ door."
B‘Elanna smiled and left.
Harry Kim‘s feet shuffled on the deck uncomfortably. He was worried about his friend, even if the Maquis still wasn‘t completely ready to call him that. Next to him, B‘Elanna Torres wasn‘t much better off. She was continuously clenching and unclenching her fists. When captain Janeway arrived they both gave a sigh in relief, as if her presence was all that was needed to guarantee succes.
The captain pressed the chime, and when there was no response she immediately spoke. "Computer," she said, "override the lock on the door to Lt Paris‘s quarters. Authorisation Janeway Delta Seven." The door swished open and the trio rushed inside.
What they saw was much as B‘Elanna had expected, but she heard a startled gasp escape from Harry‘s lips. Tom was sitting on his couch, and took his face from his hands for only a moment to look at his friends coming into his quarters. He looked terrible. There was no other word that described it correctly. His hair was dirty and tangled. His uniform was just as dirty and crumpled all over. There were walls under Tom‘s eyes from lack of sleep, and the deep blue of his eyes was nearly drowned by redness from crying. "Go away," he muttered hoarsely. They all ignored that.
B‘Elanna sat down on one side of Tom, the captain on the other and Harry pulled up a chair to sit in front him. Tom didn‘t look at any of them, not even when Harry and B‘Elanna spoke to him, tried to comfort him.
Only when the captain joined in did Tom respond in any way. "Captain?" he said, his voice still hoarse. "You don‘t... You don‘t blame me?" He was obviously surprised.
"Tom, if not for your piloting skills, none of you who were in the shuttlecraft would have made it out alive."
"But... Ayala..," Paris muttered. "He..." B‘Elanna took both his hands in hers.
"He died in an accident, Tom. Let him go." Finally Tom met her eyes, and recognized the compassion in them. There was no forgiveness, because there was nothing to forgive.
"Do you remember what he said? Ayala?" he asked after a moment.
B‘Elanna didn‘t know what he was talking about. "No," she said, shaking
"He said... When we went to talk to him about Caldik Prime...He said that he‘d forgive me... If I never let it happen again." He choked. "It was only a joke, but..." His words stopped when he could no longer talk. Tears again filled his eyes and he looked at the people gathered around him. All he found was friendship and compassion. Then B‘Elanna put her arms around him and engulfed him in a hug, her eyes now, too, filled with tears. As he laid his head on B‘Elanna‘s shoulder, he felt the captain‘s hand comfortingly on his back.
"It‘ll be all right, Tom," B‘Elanna whispered to him softly. "You‘ll be all right." Strangely, considering how he was feeling, Tom believed her. He had lost Ayala, but with B‘Elanna, Harry, Seska and now captain Janeway, too, he knew that he would be all right.
Standing in the now open doorway, Seska silently exploded. One look at how Tom and the halfbreed were holding each other was enough to tell her exactly what was going on. And it had gone far enough, she decided. She would not wait around until Tom threw her aside like some old uniform. No, it was already painfully clear that that was what would happen.
Once she had turned away from the scene in Tom‘s quarters and walked a little distance into the corridor, Seska allowed herself a soft, evil laugh. She had already made arrangements. All she needed to do was make a single call. And then Tom Paris would pay. For disrupting her plans—for loving another woman. Seska laughed again, louder this time, and somewhat bitter, though she didn‘t notice that. Oh, yes, her Tom would pay.
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SCHISMS will be continued in ‘Separation Pains‘
coming as soon as possible
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Archiving is okay (but I‘d appreciate it if you let me know), but if, because of it, my ego grows out of my skull, I‘ll blame you.
I would like to thank my beta reader & internet-intermediary, my sister, Maaike van Eekelen.
Comments are more than welcome.
E-mail to: Nielsve@Hotmail.com