Disclaimer: Star Trek and its characters are the property of Viacom/Paramount, and I am just borrowing them for fun, not profit.

Synopsis: A coda to the episode "Thirty Days". Tom meets B‘Elanna for dinner, as "ordered". Reflections on the events of the previous thirty days follow, for Tom and B‘Elanna, and separately, for Janeway. P/T, J. Rated NC17 for sexual situations (not graphic however).

Notes: In "Thirty Days" B‘Elanna ordered Tom to meet her for dinner at 0700 hours. My impression from "Infinite Regress" (filmed after "Thirty Days") and from "Counterpoint" is that Tom was not consigned to the graveyard shift so to speak. He is still on the bridge in the thick of things at critical moments. And unless Tom and B‘Elanna are both on the third shift, I think if B‘Elanna wanted Tom to meet her for a meal at 7 in the morning she would refer to it as breakfast (it would still be her "breakfast"). And, finally, for my story, I prefer that they meet in the evening. So I‘ll just consider the reference to "0700" a mistake by the writers of the episode, or perhaps even some sort of code phrase meaningful only to Tom and B‘Elanna.

Although I‘ve kept within canon, the status of the P/T relationship, and the thoughts, motivations and actions (and meaning ascribed to those actions) of Tom and B‘Elanna, and of Janeway, are simply my interpretations. Others may have totally different, and equally valid interpretations.

This story may be archived to the ASC, BLTS, and PTF.



by Julie Evans (Juli17@aol.com)



Tom stared at the small table in B‘Elanna‘s quarters, covered with a white table cloth. On it sat a pizza, the steam still rising from it indicating that B‘Elanna had replicated it just before he‘d arrived. Topped with pepperoni—his favorite, and olives—hers. Next to the pizza was an uncorked bottle of red wine.

"A Sonoma Valley merlot," B‘Elanna said, following his gaze to the wine. "One of your favorites, I believe."

Tom nodded slowly. He finally moved from the spot where he‘d stopped in the middle of the doorway for several surprised seconds, stepping further into the room as the door slid closed behind him. He stopped next to B‘Elanna, and his mouth tightened for a moment, then he pulled his gaze away from the table and looked down at her. "Thanks, B‘Elanna."

B‘Elanna noted the husky catch in his voice, and the genuine gratitude in his eyes. She wanted to start erasing the memory of how Tom had spent the past thirty days, and she knew from Neelix that he had only been allowed food of "nutritional substance". Like leola root stew. "I figured you‘d welcome a menu change after Neelix‘s limited offerings lately."

Hell, yes, he would. His replicator ration account was empty right now, part of his punishment. Lunch in the Mess hall had been another Neelix leola creation today. Though Harry had offered to loan him some replicator rations, he‘d declined. He‘d prefer to earn back his replicator rations, rather than borrow from his friends. But this gift from B‘Elanna....

"It looks wonderful," Tom said softly, and it did, though as he finally really focused on B‘Elanna he found his thoughts of dinner fading into insignificance. She was wearing her short black sleeveless dress, the one that revealed the soft tanned slope of her shoulders, and hugged her slender curves, a dress he‘d always liked. Really, really liked. Her legs were bare, and she wasn‘t wearing shoes, as she often didn‘t when she was in her quarters. Just that little black dress, and whatever might be underneath. He swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. "You look...beautiful."

B‘Elanna smiled at the slight tremor in his voice, and her hand captured his. She rubbed her thumb over his warm skin. "So do you," she said softly. Actually he looked tired, as if he hadn‘t been sleeping, despite the fact that he‘d had little opportunity to do much else in the brig. But the soft shadows under his eyes, the slight loss of weight she could detect on his lean frame from the fact that he‘d been subsisting on Neelix‘s cooking, didn‘t detract anything at all. And though he looked a little subdued, as if the past thirty days had been difficult, he also looked composed, as if what he‘d endured had somehow given him some inner peace with himself, some new inner strength. Yes, he most definitely looked beautiful to her.

Tom‘s hand tightened over hers and his gaze on her practically seared her skin. And she knew that hers was no less smoldering. It was all she could do not to rip his shirt off right now, not to bury herself into him. It had been thirty days after all. And it had seemed much longer. So much longer.


B‘Elanna stepped back as Tom moved forward to embrace her, taking a deep breath to steady her own racing heart. "Tom...pizza first. We have plenty of time, and we‘ve waited this long."

Tom nodded slowly at her determined tone, though he didn‘t miss the hastily drawn breath, or the small quaver in her voice. Long and difficult as their separation had been—far more difficult than he‘d imagined—neither of them had tried to make immediate contact with the other when he‘d gotten out of the brig early this morning. She‘d already been on duty in Engineering, and he‘d reported to the Bridge, detouring only long enough to reacquaint himself with his quarters, and to shower and change. It was as if they‘d both wanted to wait until there could be no interruptions, until they could completely focus on each other—completely be with each other. Tom suppressed the need to completely be with her right here, and right now, and gave her a small cocky smile instead. "I exist to comply with your orders, maam."

B‘Elanna‘s mouth quirked in response. "That‘s good to hear, Tom, because I‘ll have quite a few of those...later on. And you are going to need your strength."

His eyes darkened at the teasing, suggestive tone of her voice. She turned before he could reply and tugged his hand lightly. He resolved to enjoy the pizza because it did look good, and she‘d gone to this trouble just for him. But he knew every little way he was going to pay her back, over and over, and he probably would need all the strength he could get. He just hoped he could stand the wait.

She led him to the table, determined to eat the pizza though her appetite—for food—was nonexistent. She wanted Tom to eat, she felt a strangely protective urge about that, and she wanted him to enjoy one of the things he‘d been denied for the past thirty days. More than one of the things. She also intended to enjoy what she‘d been denied during the past thirty days. She just hoped she could stand the wait.

The meal progressed quickly. They spoke little. Tom didn‘t mention his incarceration, instead he asked B‘Elanna a few inconsequential questions between sips of wine, about the ship‘s activities and the latest gossip he‘d missed. B‘Elanna answered his questions briefly, distractedly, while picking at her pizza. Mostly they stared at each other, perused each other up and down, their gazes when they met becoming more bold and more intense. Under those very stressful circumstances she managed to finish two pieces of pizza to his six, and she couldn‘t help a satisfied smile as he polished off that last piece.

"All done," Tom said softly as he swallowed the last bite. "I guess I really was hungry. Thanks, B‘Elanna." He pushed his plate aside, then smiled slowly at her, his eyes boring into hers, the message in those blue depths clear. Enough waiting.

B‘Elanna abandoned the last bit of her pizza, and pushed her own plate aside as Tom stood and walked around the table. He stopped right in front of her, and quirked an eyebrow. "Since you provided dinner, how about I provide the dessert?"

She pushed her chair back and stood slowly. He didn‘t move back despite the fact that he was definitely and purposely invading her space, and their bodies virtually slid along each other‘s as she rose. She could feel his body heat warming her through his clothing, through her clothing, across the mere millimeter or so of electrified space that separated them. "You may be a bit overdressed for dessert, Tom," she said, her voice husky.

Tom smiled wolfishly. "Would that be the lieutenant‘s way of ordering me to...strip?"

B‘Elanna looked at Tom for a long assessing moment, then smiled back slowly, with obvious anticipation. "No. The lieutenant would like to have that fun herself." She stood on tiptoe then and pressed her body against his, felt him shudder slightly, then looked at his mouth, his lips slightly parted and inviting her in. She‘d forgotten how enticing that mouth was, and she was barely able to resist plunging right into the warm responsive depths. Instead she pressed her face close to his, and spoke softly, her breath whispering across his cheek, teasing at his earlobe. "Do not move...ensign, whatever I do. Is that clear?"

Tom simply nodded. His breath was caught in his throat, and he didn‘t trust himself to speak. It was all he could do not to lock his mouth onto her beautiful full lips and kiss her until they both passed out. She moved back, just enough to allow him to regain his control. For the moment.

B‘Elanna put her hands on Tom‘s shoulders, and curled her fingers into the black material of the t-shirt he was wearing. Then she jerked her hands down in one swift motion and ripped the t-shirt from shoulders to waist. Tom‘s wrists were caught in the short sleeves of the shirt but he had no time to disentangle them before B‘Elanna pushed his arms back and pressed her mouth against his throat.

"Don‘t move," she repeated, as her tongue tasted the salty tang of his skin. He groaned as she slowly moved her mouth down his torso, her teeth nipping and her tongue leaving a wet trail through the soft tangle of chest hair, down to the spot where that hair narrowed into a V and disappeared into his pants. She quickly ripped the rest of the t-shirt away and grabbed the waistband of his pants, but her fingers fumbled on the finer act of unfastening the button. She realized that her hands were trembling. That she was trembling. And so was he.

She looked up at him then and the dark hungry look in his eyes was as undeniable as the ravenous need she felt coursing through her. She stood abruptly, unsteadily, abandoning her efforts to get her nerveless fingers to cooperate, forgetting all about the game she‘d planned. She couldn‘t wait any longer. "Get them off, Tom," she said, her voice urgent, trembling. "I need you now."

Tom‘s hands quickly pushed hers aside as he unzipped his pants. She slid her arms up and locked them around his neck, gripping the short silky hair at the nape of his neck. She gave him one burning look, then slammed her mouth into his with enough force that their teeth clattered as they voraciously began to savor and devour each other, releasing the need that had been pent-up for weeks. As he pushed his pants off his waist and down his hips, she literally crawled up him, wrapping one leg around his waist and using the other foot to help him push his pants down to his knees. Then she wrapped that leg around him too, and he grabbed the edge of the table with his free hand so he could balance himself and step out of his pants. His other hand was grasping her hair tightly, pressing her even closer as they explored and plundered, and refamiliarized themselves with the warm wet contours of each other‘s mouths with breathless abandon.

Tom stumbled toward the bed, supporting B‘Elanna‘s weight wrapped tightly around him, and with his free hand he pushed her dress up past her waist, then could go no further while their bodies were virtually glued together. His hand slid down her lower spine and came into contact with edge of her panties. He slipped his hand in and cupped her derriere and drew her hard against him. She frantically began pushing his boxers off his hips with one hand, while her other hand was still clasped tightly in his hair, keeping his mouth to hers, except for brief moments when they took harsh quick breaths and murmured inarticulate words before their mouths locked together again.

Tom literally walked into the edge of the bed, and his quick sharp yelp of pain was swallowed by the searching warmth of B‘Elanna‘s mouth as he dropped onto the bed, easing her down onto her back and leaning over her. He moved her hand out of the way and raised up to pull his boxers off, and she used the same moment to pull her dress over her head and toss it off the bed. She wasn‘t wearing a bra which he‘d already happily observed, and he took advantage of the opportunity, leaning down to suckle one breast as he helped her tear her panties off. She quickly pulled his mouth up to hers again, and her other hand tangled with his as she reached down, closing her hand around him and stroking him once roughly, while his fingers delved into her slick wetness and stroked her several times, nearly sending her bucking off the bed.

"Now, Tom. Now," She said desperately against his mouth. She wrapped her legs around him again, encouraging him, and he obliged, entering her in one swift, hard movement as her head fell back and she moaned raggedly. He answered with a deep satisfied groan.

For all their frenzy getting there, they both paused then for a moment, Tom holding himself perfectly motionless and B‘Elanna‘s strong thighs around him stilled, keeping him securely deep inside her. They looked at each other, after a month of not even a glimpse shared between them, both seeing reflected in the other‘s gaze how agonizingly long the waiting had been, and how much they‘d missed this, their bodies joined for a few brief exulting moments as one. How much they‘d missed each other. And the shared understanding that the past thirty days had made them both realize all over again how much they needed each other.

"B‘Elanna..." Tom said her name slowly, reverently.

"Tom..." Her voice was a mere answering whisper.

Their mouths met again and they moved together, thrusting against each other in strong hard movements, no longer frenzied but deep and full, tinged with a timeless awareness of the moment they were sharing. As they approached the peak, that explosive moment when their souls seemed to touch the sky and the stars, and to fuse together so closely it was as if they were one, B‘Elanna pulled her mouth away from Tom‘s and her teeth sank deeply into his cheek. Tom‘s cry was triumphant, B‘Elanna‘s no less so, and they clung together as wave after wave of sensation washed over them.

As the waves gentled and faded into a soothing afterglow, they lay together for several moments, spent but sated, completely fulfilled. Tom‘s weight was sprawled heavily, bonelessly, on top of B‘Elanna, and he could feel the pulse of her breath still harsh and fast against his shoulder, and their hearts were beating together in almost perfect pounding sync. He breathed in the scent of her hair, and buried his face in the soft tangled tendrils. Finally he raised his head and looked into her eyes, still smoky with passion. "God, I missed you, B‘Elanna."

B‘Elanna pulled him down again and pressed her face against his shoulder, taking in his scent, the clean musky smell of sweat, evidence of their exertions. She pressed her lips to his throat, her tongue tasting the salty damp sheen that slicked his skin. She felt him still trembling slightly. "Not as much as I missed you, Tom," she whispered against his throat.

He rolled to the side, pulling out of her, but his arm stayed nestled beneath her head. B‘Elanna shifted slightly so that her head was cradled in the crook of his arm, and she threw one leg over him. They lay side by side, still breathing hard, but content to simply feast their eyes for a moment and revel in their ability after so long to simply hold each other, to have their fill of looking at each other. Tom thought he could stay this way forever...he could live the rest of his life doing nothing but looking at her. And making wild satisfying love to her....

Tom‘s thoughts stilled and his eyes widened, as he registered the stinging sensation of broken skin touched by salty perspiration. Not an unusual sensation after he and B‘Elanna had made love. After all, over the past year he‘d endured quite a few love bites from B‘Elanna, and delivered not a few of his own. It was simply an indication of their enthusiasm and passion, a part of Klingon, and sometimes human, lovemaking that he found completely stimulating. Some nights he‘d been marked on half a dozen spots on his body. But tonight, this spot... He touched his cheek, then brought his hand slowly away and stared at the blood on his fingers. And it finally, belatedly, occurred to him what B‘Elanna had just done. He looked at her, his expression stunned., and questioning. "B‘Elanna..."

B‘Elanna was staring at his cheek, and her own fingers trailed lightly along the small even indentations, the outline of the mark her teeth had left on his skin. She looked at the trace of blood on her own fingers, then at him. "You don‘t mind, do you, Tom?" she asked softly.

Tom heard no hesitation, no indication of uncertainty or regret in her voice. Only a simple straightforward question, to which he hoped she already knew the answer. He shook his head. "No..." he said slowly. Not so long ago he might have minded. For fear that he didn‘t deserve it, and couldn‘t live up to what it meant. The last time—the only time B‘Elanna had marked him this way—on the Sakari planet—she‘d been under the influence of the pon farr. He‘d joked it off then, knowing that she didn‘t have any real idea what she was doing. That she didn‘t mean what she was implying, what she was promising, by biting him on the cheek. But now... "B‘Elanna, do you..."

"Know what this means?" B‘Elanna asked quietly. "Of course. I am the half Klingon here."

Tom touched his cheek again. He felt some ridiculous need to give her a way out, not unlike she‘d offered him a way out after she‘d first told him she‘d loved him. "Are you sure? After everything that‘s happened..." he paused, and gave her a wry smile. "And now that I‘ve just served my second prison sentence, I might be a bad risk."

There was a small pause before B‘Elanna spoke. "Do you know why I didn‘t visit you while you were in the brig, Tom?"

Tom shook his head, not so much at B‘Elanna‘s quiet, unexpected question, but at his own confusion, his efforts to clear his mind, and to believe.... "Why?" he finally asked softly.

"It wasn‘t because of the captain‘s orders...I could have ignored them, or I could have asked her to reconsider like she did for Harry, though at this point I still can‘t quite bring myself to ask her for any favors..."

Tom nodded. He knew that B‘Elanna still harbored some bitterness toward Janeway after the incident with the alien parasite when the captain had ordered the doctor to treat B‘Elanna against her wishes. And he suspected that his thirty days in the brig hadn‘t done anything to alleviate that sense of bitterness. He certainly couldn‘t regret B‘Elanna‘s loyalty to him on that score, nor would he deny her the time and distance she needed to come to terms with the captain again. "I know. And I wouldn‘t have wanted you to disobey her just to see me. I think one of us disobeying orders at a time is more than enough."

B‘Elanna heard the rueful tone in Tom‘s voice and shook

her head. "Tom-"

"B‘Elanna, honestly, I didn‘t want you to visit me," Tom said quietly. Then he flashed a brief, barely perceptible smile and added, "I might have begged you to break me out, and what would that have done to my image?"

He was teasing, she knew, but she could tell the humor was forced, and she felt him shudder slightly under her hand. "That bad, huh?" she asked, her voice deliberately light. She stroked him, her fingers brushing through the soft hairs on his chest, caressing his warm skin. She had her own memories now of laying awake nights thinking about him, missing him, wondering if those thirty days would ever end. But at least in-between the bouts of sleeplessness she‘d had the run of the ship, and her duties in Engineering to occupy her thoughts. Tom hadn‘t had any such respite.

Tom closed his hand over hers. "Would you want to be surrounded by four walls for thirty days with only my thoughts for company?" he asked dryly.

B‘Elanna couldn‘t help the small smile that lifted the corners of her lips. She shook her head. "That is a scary thought."

He smiled at her attempt to humor him, then sobered. "Truthfully, B‘Elanna, I was glad you didn‘t try and find a way to visit me. To have shared only a couple of minutes, a few brief words, while Security was standing there monitoring our every movement, and then have had to watch you walk away again..." Tom shuddered again, then squeezed her hand tightly. "That would have been more unbearable than not seeing you at all. For both of us I think."

B‘Elanna nodded at Tom‘s words. To see him locked up, alone, suffering under the weight of the complete isolation Janeway had forced on him... She wasn‘t sure she could have stood that, and she hadn‘t wanted to inflame her anger, tempt herself to do something rash, something that would have impugned his own honor and hers. "I was afraid if I saw you, even for a minute or two, it would just make what you were enduring—what we both were enduring—even more difficult." She paused, and frowned. "But also...Tom, I don‘t know if I can explain this, but I didn‘t want to diminish the sacrifice you made for your principles, or undermine your dignity, by interfering. That‘s why I didn‘t make an effort to see you, though I wanted to so badly. I didn‘t want to...dishonor you."

"B‘Elanna, I do understand," Tom said quietly, smiling gently at her earnest, troubled expression. She‘d respected and supported his decision to take a stand on what he believed was right, and equally respected and believed in his ability to accept and shoulder the consequences, even if he was sure she hadn‘t realized at the time how extreme his action might be, or how severe the consequences. "I knew the price I‘d likely have to pay. And it was my decision alone."

They both knew he was talking about what she‘d said in the Captain Proton program. He knew that her comments, and the question she‘d posed to him, had never been more than an encouragement to him find his own way, his own answer. She had never tried to tell him what he should do, she‘d simply let him know that she trusted him, and that whatever his decision might be she would stand by him. How rarely in his life had anyone trusted him to do the right thing, believed that he could or would do the right thing, then supported that belief without doubt...

He brushed a hand over B‘Elanna‘s cheek, and cupped her jaw lightly. "You encouraged me to make the decision for myself, B‘Elanna, to follow my own conscience." He gave her a genuinely grateful look. "The simple fact that you supported me, unconditionally—and that I knew you were here waiting for me—that alone has made the past thirty days bearable."

"I knew you would do what was right, Tom," B‘Elanna said quietly, with complete conviction. "For you. Not for me, or Janeway, or Starfleet. You followed your own heart, despite the possible consequences. You made your own honor." She turned her face enough to press a quick kiss into his warm palm, then looked at him again. "I am proud of you, Tom. And sometimes I think your heart is more Klingon than mine."

Tom wasn‘t sure that B‘Elanna, who‘d come so far herself to accept and value her Klingon heritage, could pay him any greater compliment, and he couldn‘t speak for a moment. He traced her lower lip with his thumb, then finally managed a small smile and shook his head. "I don‘t know about that. But I do know that being around you—being with you—has changed me, B‘Elanna. You‘ve changed me." He brushed a soft strand of hair off her cheek. "Thank you for that."

B‘Elanna shook her head. "Don‘t give me so much credit, Tom. You‘ve done most of it yourself."

"I‘ve had support. Especially from you, but also from Harry, from being accepted on Voyager as part of this crew, and ironically enough, from Captain Janeway, even if she‘s still spitting angry with me right now."

B‘Elanna heard the regretful tone in Tom‘s voice. She knew how hard it had been for him to disappoint the captain, to go against her orders, and how much strength it had taken for him to stand by his principles in the face of her condemnation. She didn‘t know exactly what the captain had said to Tom, but she was willing to bet it hurt as much or more as thirty days isolation in the brig. "She won‘t be angry forever, Tom."

Tom shrugged, looking unconvinced. "I know she took it personally, though I never meant it that way."

"Maybe she did," B‘Elanna agreed. She didn‘t add that she‘d taken Janeway‘s own actions personally too, especially when she‘d found out after the fact that Janeway had fired at the Delta Flyer, had been fully willing to sacrifice Tom‘s life to stop him. But she‘d resolve her own anger at Janeway in her own way and time. As for the captain‘s anger at Tom... "The fact that you acted on your principles, she must realize that means something. That it says something about you. Everyone else on the ship does."

Tom quirked an eyebrow. "Really? It doesn‘t say something that I‘ve served my second prison sentence?"

B‘Elanna frowned at his sarcasm. "I don‘t think there‘s anyone who doesn‘t understand that you breached protocol and disobeyed the captain‘s orders because you were doing what you believed was right. That is very admirable in some circles, especially among the former Maquis. They won‘t condemn you for it."

Tom had in fact noticed that he‘d barely been treated any differently on his first day back on duty. A few crew members had kept some distance, and now that he thought about it, those few had ironically been dyed in the wool Starfleeters. But most, including the former Maquis, had greeted him as if nothing had happened. And now that he thought about it he wasn‘t sure that anyone, other than Tuvok in a surprisingly mild tone, had referred to him as "ensign". Even Chakotay had addressed him as "Mr. Paris" when relaying orders. Of course, the captain had been absent from the bridge all day...

"What you did doesn‘t diminish the respect you‘ve earned from everyone on this ship, Tom," B‘Elanna added. "And the captain will eventually come around, too."

Tom nodded, wanting to believe that. "Maybe you‘re right." And he was still working on one incongruity that had occurred to him while he was in the brig. He‘d initially been shocked at the sentence of 30 days in the brig—in isolation no less—rather than a simple confinement to quarters. It was a rather harsh but also unconventional punishment, outside the Starfleet suggested guidelines for an offense such as his. And Tom had grown up a Starfleet brat, he was well aware of those guidelines. Janeway would have been well within her rights to have stripped him of not only his rank, but of his position, and even his commission. Certainly his father would not have hesitated to do just that to someone who repeatedly defied his orders. She could have removed him from the crew altogether and confined him to quarters as an unwelcome civilian for the duration of Voyager‘s journey back to the Alpha quadrant. Instead she‘d only busted him in rank. And he still wasn‘t sure if the fact that she‘d delivered a harsh but short term punishment, but conversely had punished him very lightly in the long term, had simply been a matter of expedience, or if it had other significance. Perhaps she hadn‘t completely lost faith in him because of one action he‘d felt conscience bound to take. Unlike others before her...


Tom refocused on B‘Elanna, who was looking at him worriedly. "Well, at least my reputation is only mildly sullied. Again." He gave her a wry smile, and added, "On Voyager, anyway."

"What does that mean?" B‘Elanna prodded softly.

Tom gave her a long pensive look before he finally spoke. "I dictated a letter to my father while I was in the brig." He paused, then shrugged. "Not that I know if he‘ll ever read it."

B‘Elanna heard the hesitation and the dismissiveness in Tom‘s tone. "Good for you, Tom."

"He may never read it, and if he does, it probably won‘t change anything. But I had to tell who I am now, who I‘ve become. Even if I still make mistakes, even if I can never be exactly the person he wanted me to be, I‘m also not the person he despised any more."

B‘Elanna brushed her hand over Tom‘s chest again, letting it rest over the spot where his heart beat solidly against her palm. "If he does read it some day, I think you might be surprised. Maybe your father will understand, and will respect the fact that you acted for a good reason and then stood by your actions. And I think he might even respect you for the man you‘ve become. Even if you‘re not a carbon copy of him."

Tom smiled a little at the disdain in her tone when she said dismissed the idea of him being like his father. "Maybe you‘re right. He never really believed much in me, though I can‘t say I gave him, or anyone else, much reason to, in the past."

"Or maybe you just never believed enough in yourself, in who you really are, not the person you let other people think you are, or the person you pretend to be to protect yourself," B‘Elanna said softly. Then she paused and stared at Tom, suddenly aware of the irony of her words. How long had she not believed in herself, denied half of her heritage, used anger and hostility to protect her real feelings, been afraid that who she was wasn‘t good enough? It was Tom who had seen through her cover, had seen the real her underneath, then had determinedly pushed and cajoled his way in. He‘d encouraged her to accept herself, to believe in herself.

Tom had read every thought, every expression that crossed her face. He smiled slowly. "I guess we‘re a pair, aren‘t we?"

B‘Elanna nodded. She lowered her head and pressed her cheek against his shoulder and her hand stroked his chest lightly. "Maybe that‘s why we keep gravitating back to each other, even when things between us get...difficult. Because we can see each other for who we really are, no matter how much we try to hide."

Tom looked down at her face buried against him and smiled. He knew how she embarrassed she got when she started feeling sentimental. His fingers combed through her hair. "So you do know who I really am, B‘Elanna?"

"I‘ve known for a long time, Tom," she answered softly, raising her head to look at him. "I wouldn‘t be here otherwise."

Tom pulled B‘Elanna‘s hand to his lips and kissed her palm lightly, his lips brushing against her warm smooth skin. "If I haven‘t said it before, thank you, B‘Elanna, for believing in me."

B‘Elanna shifted and rolled on top of Tom, her face close to his. She pressed her hand against his mouth, brushed the tips of her fingers across his lips. "You said that I‘ve changed you, Tom. Well, you‘ve changed me too, you know. You‘ve also believed in me, even when I didn‘t believe in myself."

She kissed his mouth then, in a quick gentle caress, then she trailed her lips lightly across his cheek, coming to a stop at the bite she‘d given him. She kissed the injury gently, then looked at him, catching the startled but warm look in his eyes. "Tom, you asked if I was sure about this, after everything that‘s happened. Maybe it‘s because of everything that‘s happened." She looked away, her gaze returning to the mark she‘d made, and she stared at it, her gaze unfocused. She brushed her fingers across the spot she‘d just kissed. "Even when I pushed you away repeatedly, when I was angry, and sad—about a lot of things—you didn‘t give up on me. You gave me time, you waited me out. You gave me space, but you never walked away. You never left."

Tom tweaked her hair, just enough to get her attention, to bring her gaze back to him. "And I never will, B‘Elanna." Their eyes held for a long moment, then she smiled tremulously. "Besides, I might say the same about you. More than once I‘ve given you plenty of reason to wash your hands of me, but you haven‘t. You waited for me to figure out who I am, how I feel. About myself...and about you..." Tom reached up and pressed her hand fully against his cheek. "About us..."

B‘Elanna looked at his larger hand covering hers, and

felt the rough edge of the wound she‘d given him under

her palm. The claim she‘d made, on the spur of the

moment. The action had been long coming, but her heart

had already been there for a long time. "Tom, you

don‘t have to reciprocate. This is my choice. Your

heart isn‘t my heart-"

"Yes, it is, B‘Elanna," Tom interrupted her, looking a little perturbed. His fingers tightened over hers. "Your heart is very much my heart. I hope you know that by now."

"I do know that, Tom," B‘Elanna assured him. "I just mean...we‘ve never talked about anything...permanent."

Tom nodded slowly. That was an understatement. Since their relationship had begun, they‘d by a silent sort of mutual agreement taken it day by day, resisted trying to define what was between them, keeping any hopes they had about whether it would last closely guarded within their own hearts. It had seemed the smartest, and safest, thing to do. After all, rational souls denied the concept of fairy tale endings, especially souls whose lives up until now had been far from fairy tale material. And in the past few months, as their relationship had been shaken repeatedly by not only unexpected events, but by their own individual emotional struggles, the subject of permanence had seemed best left unaddressed. It had seemed an achievement at times that they had managed to salvage their relationship at all. But now he realized that they‘d done far more than that. After everything they‘d gone through, the fact that they were here right now, wrapped in each other‘s arms, flushed and content from making love, and for maybe the first time believing, truly believing—not just in each other—but in them, in what they had together... They‘d done far more than just hold on.

"And this..." B‘Elanna was saying as she brushed her

fingers across the mark on his cheek again. "I meant

it, Tom, but if you‘re not ready-"

"You‘ve laid your claim on me, B‘Elanna," he said softly. "And don‘t think for one second that I‘m going to let you take it back this time."

She shook her head. "I‘m not going to take it back, Tom."

He knew that. When B‘Elanna made a commitment she kept it. There might still be no guarantees, especially on Voyager, as they‘d all learned painfully over and over again. But he knew this was nothing less than a sacred promise to B‘Elanna, one she would not break willingly. A mating bite on the cheek might not be as binding by Federation law as marriage, but it was every bit as binding by Klingon tradition to the heart. To B‘Elanna‘s heart. And to his. "Even a couple of months ago, B‘Elanna, this would have scared the crap out of me." He pressed her hand against his cheek again and held it there. "I would have doubted whether I was ready—and maybe whether you were ready. But I am ready now. In every way." And he had every intention of laying his own claim before the night was over.

B‘Elanna didn‘t speak, she simply pulled his hand away, and pressed her lips against the bite on his cheek again. Her claim. A claim she never planned to relinquish. Then she raised up slightly and looked at the clearly visible outline of her teeth. "You might want to use the dermal regenerator before tomorrow, Tom, or you‘ll get some strange looks. And the rumor mill will go into full force."

Tom shook his head. "Forget it. Let everyone look, and think what they want. If they know what it means, that‘s fine. If they don‘t, well, that‘s fine too. I‘ve never cared what others think about us, B‘Elanna, or if they get us at all. All that matters is that we know what this means."

B‘Elanna nodded, and smiled down at him. He looked up at her for a long moment, and returned her smile with a slow one of his own, then he deliberately shifted a little against her, so she could feel his arousal. And he could definitely see hers. He watched her eyes darken and smolder, the sure sign that she wanted him to make love to her. To love her. "Is it about time for the lieutenant‘s follow up orders?" he asked meaningfully.

B‘Elanna smiled provocatively and rubbed her body against his. "I believe I do have one or two for you...ensign," she drawled. Then she paused, as if she‘d realized something, and her expression sobered. "Tom..."

"It doesn‘t bother me," he said, reading the change in her expression. "I honestly don‘t care that much about the reduction in rank." He smiled. "And after I‘ve unmercifully teased you about my previously marginally higher rank, I guess it time I got my comeuppance. But don‘t worry, I‘ll take it like a man."

B‘Elanna raised an eyebrow. "You will?"

"Oh, yeah." He shifted again and she felt some definite comeuppance-- the sure sign that he was ready to take it like a man—pressing enticingly against her belly. She grinned and lunged to kiss him, teeth bared, when he cupped her face with both hands, stopping her. "B‘Elanna..."

B‘Elanna looked at him impatiently, and started to push his hands away. His intent gaze stopped her.

"Just in case you have any further doubts," he said softly, "I want to make sure you understand. I can lose my rank, even my position, I can live without Starfleet, without creating 20th century holoprograms, without pizza, even without flying, without just about anything. Except you. You are all that really matters to me, B‘Elanna."

B‘Elanna stared down at him, feeling his hands gently cupping her face, his body warm and aroused beneath hers, seeing the love for her shining naked in his eyes. She didn‘t say anything, and he brushed his thumbs high on her cheekbones, across the slight moistness at the corners of her eyes.

"Aren‘t you going to order me to kiss you now?" he finally asked softly.

"Kiss me, Tom," she whispered, as he laced his fingers into her hair and pulled her mouth down to his. Her hair fell over his face like a silken veil as they kissed, and they began again to do the dance they‘d mastered but never tired of, despite its familiarity, that each time felt like the first time, like another beginning.


Another beginning. That‘s essentially what it would be, she realized. For her, and certainly for Tom. How many times had Tom started over in his life? Too many, she knew. She‘d rarely started anything over, rarely misstepped or diverted from the expected, condoned course of action. Until she‘d found herself in the Delta quadrant. Until she‘d found herself a captain separated from the influence and assistance of Starfleet, as the one who could change the rules on a whim. The knowledge of that dichotomy had crossed her mind more than once during the past several weeks, and again today.

Janeway curled herself into the corner of her couch and raised the cup cradled in her hands to her lips. She was a coffee person, to a stereotypical degree, and without her morning coffee she imagined that she couldn‘t function properly. But in the evening, before bed, she usually chose herbal tea instead. She took a sip of the tangerine blossom tea, her grandmother‘s favorite, that she found soothing both by taste and association. And lately she had felt in need of a great deal of soothing. Of comfort. But comfort for her came only from inanimate things like tea, and from what solace she could manage to conjure up within her own mind. When she could manage it.

She could have talked to Chakotay, or Tuvok. They would have listened. She had talked to them in fact, about the practical aspects of what had happened, how it affected the ship, about what it would change, or not change. But about the deeper significance, the wound to her pride and soul, the after the fact agonizing over her decisions, both on the bridge and later in her ready room, those feelings she did not share. Instead she counseled herself, as she always did during times of deepest personal turmoil. And sometimes, as she had since the beginning of this journey, she talked to those whom she didn‘t have to face, who didn‘t depend on her for answers and for their survival, who wouldn‘t tempt her to strain the boundaries that were necessary in her position or want more from her than she could give, who in fact could take or give nothing but silent support, since they were not even here.

Janeway leaned forward and set her cup of tea on the low table, then picked up the datapadd lying next to it. She‘d filled a good portion of the memory space of the padd now with dozens of letters. Some were short, like letters of condolence to the families of lost crew members or brief accolades about the exploits of certain crew members that she‘d wanted to personally relate. Some were longer and chatty like the ongoing letters to her sister and mother that recounted the more amusing or touching events that had taken place on this journey. And in a couple of continuing letters in particular she had spoken of more introspective matters, of her exhilaration and her insecurities about her command, about the difficult decisions she‘d struggled with along the way, about both the losses and the successes of the journey, all the joys and heartaches of her position, and of the life she‘d been both forced into, and had with resolve forged as fully as was possible, on Voyager.

Janeway slipped back against the cushions again and curled her legs underneath her, then activated the screen of the padd. One of those two letters she had abandoned almost a year ago now. The other appeared on the screen, the flashing cursor prompting her to continue, as it had several times over the past few weeks when she‘d stared at it for long minutes before deactivating the padd again. This letter had been ongoing for over four years now, since the day after she‘d blown up the Caretaker array and by her action had stranded Voyager in the Delta quadrant. It had been a repository, a sounding board, for professional more than personal reflections, though the latter had crept in also. After all he‘d been a mentor and a friend, if perhaps more a flawed one than she‘d like to admit. But she still trusted and valued his counsel, imaginary as it was, and over the years she‘d shared with him with both her decisions, and her feelings about being responsible in so many ways as a captain to a stranded crew, a crew that had become in essence a family.

And from the beginning it had been impossible to talk to him without mentioning his son. First she had simply relayed day to day activities and observations, as a way to keep him involved in a life she hoped he missed and wanted to know about. As time had passed she‘d also begun to put her own interpretation on her observations, tried to openly influence his feelings, to impress on him the pride and trust she felt in his son for the way he‘d turned his life around, and the hope that he would feel the same when he read this letter, or better yet when he and his son were one day reunited.

Thirty one days ago everything had changed. And she‘d stared at the datapadd, as she was now, perhaps a dozen times over the past thirty days, wondering what to say. Trying to decide exactly what she felt, what she wanted tell him.

Janeway activated the padd‘s voice recorder.

"Hello, Admiral. It‘s stardate 52209.9. I know it‘s been several weeks since I‘ve spoken. Not since I rambled on so long about B‘Elanna and the decision I made to save her life against her wishes. I hope I didn‘t bore you too much with the moral arguments, ambiguous as they were. That aside, my chief engineer is doing well, perhaps she‘s even forgiven me. For that anyway. That‘s one decision I definitely don‘t regret. And Tom, well, I‘m sure you can guess that he doesn‘t regret it either. The two of them are doing fine, by the way. From what I can tell, more than fine. Whatever difficulties they‘ve gone through lately, it appears that their relationship has weathered them all, and then some. I‘d say Tom‘s personal life is very satisfactory right now, for which I‘m sure he‘s grateful. And deserving. As for his professional life....

Well, I‘ll simply say it. I released Tom from the brig this morning, where he has spent the last thirty days in isolation, on my orders. I can imagine the disappointment on your face as you read these words. It‘s no greater than the disappointment I felt when I handed down the sentence. After all I‘ve told you about Tom‘s accomplishments, about the way he‘s changed his life and made himself into a valued crew member and a trusted officer....

The truth is, he deserved everything I did to him, and maybe more. He commandeered Starfleet property without permission, he was insubordinate, and he disobeyed my orders...several times. He did have a reason for doing something so...extreme. He wanted to help a civilization whose planet is dying, and whose population is involved in a internal conflict about how to deal with it, an internal conflict that will probably continue until their home dies around them, and perhaps they die with it. In his opinion that was a good enough reason to take matters into his own hands. He acted on principle, trying to force the path that in fact probably would have saved that civilization. And he was completely wrong in doing so.

His efforts failed because I stopped him forcibly. And in doing so I put his life in jeopardy. He took that chance with his life, knowing that I would be forced to take that chance too. I think that‘s what made me the angriest, what hurt the most. After all we‘ve been through, after I‘ve come to consider him far more than just a member of my crew, it felt like nothing less than a personal betrayal, and I told him so. The fact that I might have killed him, that I might have had to live with...that...

I‘m sorry, Admiral, I know I‘m drifting a little here.

And what might have been doesn‘t really matter anyway. The fact is, he was wrong and I punished him. I‘d like that to be the end of it, but of course it‘s not. Not in my mind, nor in his I suspect. He accepted my condemnation and my judgment without flinching, and he still stood by his actions. He didn‘t try to deny anything. He also accepted his punishment, and he didn‘t ask for any special consideration or try to play on my sympathy, of which I certainly had none at the time.

I said I was angry with Tom. I was in fact furious. In some ways I still am. But I‘ve spent the last thirty days thinking about this, while he‘s been in the brig. Honestly feeling sometimes as if I was being punished as much as he. I left Tom with nothing but those four walls, and his own thoughts. What those thoughts were, I don‘t know. I don‘t know if we‘ll ever speak of it. But I do know what my thoughts were, thoughts that came to me mostly at night when I found it hard to sleep. And after all that thinking I‘ve come to several conclusions.

I stripped Tom of his rank when I delivered his sentence, and busted him down to ensign, but I left the option of further punishment open. I finally decided not take away his position or his commission, though I‘m well aware that by Starfleet‘s guidelines it would have been the standard acceptable punishment. I could hardly throw Tom off Voyager in the middle of the Delta quadrant, though had we been in the Alpha quadrant I might have done just that, as angry as I was when I first confronted him. I‘m glad now that I didn‘t have that option. As for demoting him and replacing him as Chief Helmsman and Conn officer, I did seriously consider that. But Tom is far and away the best pilot on this ship, and we need everyone‘s skills put to their best use if we‘re going to get home soon and safely. I simply couldn‘t waste Tom‘s abilities.

I know what you‘re thinking. Of course Tom piloting skills and contribution to Voyager would remain the same whether he was head of the Helm department or not. And whatever Tom‘s faults, I know he would never deny me or this ship his knowledge and abilities, no matter what his position. And as valuable as Tom‘s skills are, nobody is completely indispensable on a starship. Not him, not even me. So you‘re right, my decision isn‘t only based on a desire not to undermine the efficiency of my crew.

Those conclusions I said I‘ve come to aren‘t all based on my position as captain. Some are conclusions based on my personal feelings, about what Tom did and why. About what it says about him, and about where it leaves us—Tom and I. Not only as captain and crew member, as mentor and protégé, but also as...friends.

Tom was wrong, Admiral, no doubt about that. But there‘s no one on this ship who really condemns him for his actions. I speak of my crew, from first officer on down, leaving myself out of the equation for the moment. Most of them have a sneaking admiration for Tom‘s adherence to his own principles. As good an officer as he‘s proven to be—up until now—I‘m not sure that most who know about his past, which is essentially the entire crew, truly believed he would stand so steadfastly on principle. They trusted that he would be willing to make a sacrifice if it ultimately benefited him, or even to help others of the crew, but simply for principle...no, I don‘t think anyone believed that of him. I‘ll amend that to say that B‘Elanna was probably the exception, and perhaps Harry Kim. I admit I might have even had a doubt or two. How ironic that is, I trusted Tom as an officer who would do exactly as I told him but perhaps somewhere deep down, I still doubted his true strength of character. I not only couldn‘t imagine him defying me, but I couldn‘t imagine him standing firm in the face of the consequences either. It almost shames me to say that.

As you can probably ascertain from what I just said, your son has not destroyed the respect that he‘s worked long and hard to gain on Voyager. In fact, he‘s probably solidified it, especially among the former Maquis. And, I can now admit, a small part of me feels that way too. It‘s a very small part right now. I don‘t exonerate him for what he did. To his credit, he doesn‘t exonerate himself either. And I‘m still given to nearly shaking with fury when I think about what he put me through. But as disappointed as I am in him as a Starfleet officer, I find that disappointment tempered by the respect I can‘t help feeling for his integrity in standing by his principles, misguided as they were, and accepting the consequences of his actions with what I suppose my chief engineer would simply call "honor".

Over the years all I‘ve told you about Tom‘s accomplishments, about how much he‘s become a changed man, and an exemplary Starfleet officer...well, the last part is unfortunately not the case right now. But that doesn‘t negate his accomplishments. Or the fact that he has truly changed. Tom told me himself, as I was giving him his punishment, that he‘s changed, partly because of me. I took that as an effort on his part to make me feel better at the time, perhaps to exonerate me from my sense of failure with him. And maybe I have influenced him. Just not in the manner I expected. I don‘t know if Tom will ever be that exemplary Starfleet officer in the sense that you or I would like, though I haven‘t given up hope yet. It‘s difficult for some to accept Starfleet‘s rigid doctrine over personal tenets, even though it‘s there for a reason. God knows I‘ve wrestled with Starfleet‘s doctrines myself out here, and occasionally bent them and then told myself that I had good reason to do so. I don‘t know if a Starfleet board of review would agree that my reasons were any better justification for my actions than Tom‘s reasons were for his. The only difference may be that I am the captain of this ship, and in the Delta quadrant I am not under anyone‘s direct authority. That is a discomforting thought, to say the least.

What I‘m trying to say, Admiral, in my rambling way, is that whether your son ever becomes the Starfleet officer you‘d wish, he is still a fine man. A flawed man, yes. A human man, with human faults, but also with human strengths, perhaps more of those strengths than I‘d given him credit for. Right now I‘m not of a mind, or in a position, to tell him so. Maybe I‘ll get to it eventually, once I can get over my own personal grievance with him, and past my responsibility as his captain to mold his behavior. When I feel I can talk to Tom about this freely again as...friends, rather than as a disappointed captain to an errant protégé, then perhaps I will tell him. But right now I‘ll just tell you.

I know you‘ll have to make your own judgment, of course, as I did both personally and professionally. My judgment was not without some internal conflict. I‘ve punished Tom, perhaps lightly in the end, but I did what I believe was best, for him, for this ship, and for me. And now I suppose we‘ll simply go on from here.

Tom resumed all his duties today, and by my first officer‘s account, acquitted himself both somberly and efficiently. That‘s no surprise. I wasn‘t there to observe, since I had a day‘s worth of inspections to catch up on. A clearly transparent excuse I know, but I wanted to give myself, and yes, Tom, time to ease back into things. Tomorrow I‘ll be on the bridge. I don‘t plan to let Tom off easy, but I don‘t plan to make it difficult on him either. It may be some time until Tom and I reach the true comfort level we had before, until I hear Tom joking around on the bridge again. Until I want to hear it. And I suppose our relationship may not ever be exactly the same again, though I‘ve come to the conclusion that even if it is irrevocably changed by this, in some ways I suppose that‘s growth. And growth is usually painful.

Well, Admiral, I can‘t think of much else to say. I hope I‘ve not only caught you up on recent events, but that I‘ve conveyed something about your son. I still have faith in Tom, in his potential, even if that faith has been sorely tested lately. And I think you can still be very proud of him. He‘s still in the process of defining himself, and while there are some rough edges, ironically, I think he‘s gained something valuable from this experience. A stronger sense of self, a confidence in his own inner strength, a belief in his own integrity. Maybe the price, for him, and for me, was worth it in the end. He believes in himself in a way I don‘t think he did before, and despite everything I still believe in him. I can only hope you‘ll find it in your heart to keep believing in him also, should you read this one day, or when you and he are reunited.

Thanks for listening, Admiral. We are as always headed your way. Until next time, Kathryn."

Janeway stared at the final words on the datapadd for several moments before she closed the file and deactivated the screen. She sighed, feeling both relieved and satisfied. It was a task she‘d been almost dreading, yet now that it was done she felt strangely cheerful about it. She didn‘t know for sure how Admiral Paris would react to what she‘d told him, and perhaps events still to come in the time it would take them to get home would also influence his reaction, color his perceptions of his son. But just the process of telling him had helped resolve her own thoughts and feelings.

She pushed her cold tea aside, and rose from the couch. It was after 2300 and she was tired, both physically and mentally. And for a change sleep sounded good. And perhaps attainable. She walked to her desk and opened the top drawer. She started to drop the datapadd inside, when she hesitated for seemingly no reason.

There was a reason, of course, a thought that crept unbidden into her mind. She frowned at the padd, the repository of all the personal letters she‘d written and dictated over the past four plus years. The padd was still nowhere near running out of memory space, so why was the thought that she should create more space again occurring to her?

It was that letter again. It contained over three years worth of her thoughts, her feelings, her hopes and fears. Unlike the one to Admiral Paris, it focused little on her job, on her position, though occasionally on the effects of that position. The loneliness it sometimes brought, the longing, the need for someone with whom to share her pride in her achievements, her turmoil over some of her more difficult decisions, her sadness at the losses she‘d endured, the doubts she sometimes felt about herself. A shoulder to cry on, someone with whom she could completely let her hair down, someone with whom she could be, simply, Kathryn. On Voyager her position forced upon her the knowledge always lurking beneath the surface of any interaction that she was the captain, set apart, and essentially in the deepest personal sense, alone.

She‘d had someone to share all that with, all those joys and tears. Even if he couldn‘t answer her, she knew him so well, she always knew what he would think and say. And she‘d had the knowledge that he was waiting for her, eager to hear everything. Even when she‘d begun to have small doubts that he might have given up and accepted her loss and moved on, not knowing for sure had left smallest bit of hope. Had allowed her tell him the things she could tell no one else, knowing he was willing to share the burden with her. Even though he was so far away, even as she‘d slowly come to realize that their love, though based on genuine affection and shared interests, had been more a love of convenience than a love of passion.

And she had loved him. Maybe not in an overly romantic way, but her feelings had been solid and real. And so had his, at the time. And their relationship had been perfectly suited to two people climbing their separate career ladders. They could pursue those careers separately, always coming back periodically, to each other. The duration of the time they‘d spent together, in-between her starship missions and his business ventures, had never seemed particularly important. What time they could manage had been enough, those periods of respite from duty, from responsibility. Those moments when they could indulge in shared companionship, trade stories and experiences, derive comfort and warmth from each other‘s presence, not to mention very satisfying sex. And even if the time was short, they always separated again feeling rested and restored, ready to face the rigors of their demanding professional lives.

And once she‘d been given Voyager, little was supposed to change. She might be gone for weeks at a time, but always with the knowledge that between the long weeks or even months of her missions, her home would be waiting for her return. He would be waiting.

She knew that it was the familiarity, the ease and comfort they felt with each other, that had probably kept them together, rather than any great overpowering passion. But maybe comfort was underrated. Still, she‘d come to realize, after she‘d received his letter from the Alpha quadrant last year, that although she missed Mark, missed his easy going companionship, it wasn‘t in a deeply broken hearted way. She missed far more what their relationship had represented, and the balance it had given her life. Sometimes she missed it very badly.

Janeway dropped the padd into the drawer and pushed it shut. She should delete the letter, since she knew he‘d never read it, she‘d never place that kind of burden on him. She would delete it soon. He‘d found a new life, and she really was happy for him. If she was occasionally haunted in her dreams by the images of someone else curled up on the couch with him in front of the fireplace sipping coffee, sharing the printouts of the latest newsvids, smiling and commenting on what they were reading, occasionally reaching down to run an affectionate hand over Bear‘s silky head, she recognized them not as a sign of jealousy but as residual regret, the unconscious longing for something she‘d lost.

She didn‘t begrudge Mark, especially since he‘d adopted Bear, whom she truly did miss. And Mark deserved to have someone, to have that kind of happiness. Maybe she did too. But right now she knew it wasn‘t possible, no matter whether there was someone with whom she could easily take that step, let herself experience perhaps not just comfort and companionship, but passion. But she would keep stopping herself before those feelings could take hold, before they could take her over that threshold of no return. She owed her allegiance to this ship and her crew first, and she wouldn‘t—she couldn‘t—allow anything to compromise that.

"Computer, lights 1% illumination."

The computer complied and the room darkened to bare visibility as Janeway slipped into her bed and pulled the blankets up around her, nesting within their warmth. She dismissed the thoughts that had inadvertently invaded her mind again, banished that old haunting need that gnawed at her gut with the quick ease of much practice, and focused her thoughts instead on tomorrow. She had a crew member to start dealing with again, one very valuable to this ship and to her, one she still had every intention of helping recover his potential. And even if she‘d found her trust violated by his actions, even if that knowledge still hurt, she was still convinced he was worth her effort.

She‘d left one thing out of her conversation with Admiral Paris. One thing she hadn‘t told him, or anyone, and probably never would. She‘d gone to the brig one night, about a week into Tom‘s sentence. He‘d been asleep, in the small bare room, on the narrow bunk. She‘d seen Tom asleep once or twice, on away missions, and had marveled at how young and untouched he looked when he was sleeping, how peaceful and innocent of cares. He hadn‘t looked that way in the brig. His face had been tense and strangely tired looking, as if even though he was sleeping it wasn‘t restful. As she‘d watched he‘d shifted restlessly, and moaned an unintelligible protest, as if his dreams were unpleasant. She‘d stared at him for several long minutes, seeing the clear evidence that her punishment was taking its toll on him. Then he‘d uttered another protest, almost a cry, and had awakened, obviously disturbed, pulling himself to a sitting position abruptly. By then she‘d been slipping beyond the view of the doorway, but she‘d caught a glimpse of the haunted vulnerable look in his unfocused gaze, and his quick movement as he‘d run a shaky hand through his hair.

She left then, quickly, passing Ayala, who‘d remained at attention in the outside corridor. He‘d studiously avoided her gaze, and she walked by without comment. And had spent the following three weeks still trying to convince herself that she‘d done the right thing, that Tom had more than deserved his punishment. The security reports she‘d received by the last week had indicated that Tom seemed to have adjusted to his situation, to have accepted it, and that his sleep was no longer so disturbed. She‘d been sure he was resilient enough to adjust, but she was still relieved by those reports.

Kathryn pulled her blankets tighter around her, glad that tonight she didn‘t have to try and sleep any longer with the knowledge that Tom was alone in the stark confines of the brig. A small smile crossed her lips as the thought occurred to her that tonight he was surely not alone at all, and was probably right now sleeping peacefully in B‘Elanna‘s arms. She‘d never told them so, since as captain it really wasn‘t her place to comment on personal relationships unless they affected work habits, but she was genuinely happy that they had found each other.

And she was also genuinely glad that the past few weeks were over. And that Tom was once again a functioning member of her crew. She entwined her arms around her blankets, and held them close to her, then dozed off, comforted by that surprisingly gratifying thought.


Tom was in fact in B‘Elanna‘s arms, and his arms were entwined around her, holding her close to him as they moved together in a fluid rhythm. It was the third time they‘d made love in as many hours, between quiet companionable periods of talking and cuddling. And this time it was slow and easy between them, a softly exquisite coming together, a gentle rapturous ascent, toward a sweetly blissful tumble over the crest. And at that transcendent moment, as they soared together at the peak, Tom‘s teeth sank into the soft tender skin of B‘Elanna‘s cheek, he tasted her blood, and he gave her his unspoken promise. As she had done a short time before, he laid his permanent claim on her, heart and soul.


The next day, when B‘Elanna reported for duty in Engineering, several curious glances were thrown her way. She sensed those glances on her periodically throughout the day, but she didn‘t acknowledge them. She rather enjoyed the knowing half smiles, aware that her staff surmised that she and Tom had been perhaps overly enthusiastic last night after not being together for thirty days, but that few of them really understood the true import of the mark on her cheek. Only Seven, who dropped by Engineering late in the morning with a handful of Astrometric data reports, actually made a comment. She raised a Vulcan-like eyebrow, and asked B‘Elanna somberly if she was aware that she had sustained an injury to her face. B‘Elanna gave her a curtly affirmative answer and no more, and Seven being Seven did not display any further curiosity. Chakotay also stopped by shortly after B‘Elanna had eaten a quick lunch in her office in preparation for a long afternoon of conducting the monthly warp core diagnostic. He‘d flicked the barest glance at her cheek as he‘d asked for the preliminary diagnostic reports, and their eyes had met for a brief moment as she‘d handed them over. B‘Elanna knew Chakotay had certainly seen the similar mark on Tom‘s cheek, and she knew that he was aware of the meaning behind them. He said nothing, but just before he turned and left his mouth quirked in a small, satisfied smile, and she knew that he was pleased for her.

Tom returned to the Bridge for his second day on duty after his time in the brig, his second day as an ensign. He too encountered several curious, even amused, glances, but no comments. He suspected that most of the crew simply figured B‘Elanna‘s enthusiasm after the two of them had been separated for so long had gotten the better of her. From Tuvok and Chakotay he received only the briefest of pauses when they first saw him, an acknowledgment but no particular show of surprise. Though he thought he detected a ghost of a smile from Chakotay before the commander turned toward the Science station to check on some readings. Harry stepped onto the Bridge shortly after Tom had taken his place at the helm, and he paused in midstride as Tom turned to greet him and his gaze fell on Tom‘s cheek. He stared for a long moment, then he flashed Tom a quick wide smile, a silent message of congratulations. And right before he turned to go to the Ops station, Harry mouthed silently, "It‘s about time."

Janeway came to the Bridge an hour after Tom had begun his shift. She greeted the entire bridge crew with her usual inclusive "good morning" and took her position. Tom gave her a quick nod of acknowledgment, not noticed in the general level of activity, and immersed himself in his duties. Several minutes passed before he felt a presence behind him, and knew it was the captain. It was not unusual since she tended to roam the bridge periodically, more out of a natural restlessness than out of any need to monitor her crew‘s activities. Generally. Tom turned and looked up at her expectantly, whatever trepidation he was feeling at this first interaction between them in thirty one days masked by his composed expression. She opened her mouth to speak, then slowly closed it, as her gaze locked on his cheek. She looked the bite mark for several moments, then her gaze met his, and he thought he saw a brief flash of approval, even gladness, in her eyes, before she turned and glanced out the front viewscreen. When her gaze fell on him a moment later it was businesslike again, fully the look of a captain to her helmsman, neither affectionate or censorious. Then, finally, she spoke.

He wouldn‘t remember later exactly which order she gave him then, whether it was for a minor course change, a small speed adjustment, or a recalibration of the helm controls. He knew she wasn‘t going to forget what he‘d done, that she wouldn‘t hesitate to address him formally, and that she would now expect him to prove his worth as an officer to her all over again. But when she spoke to him for that first time since she‘d delivered his punishment, when she gave him his first order again on the Bridge, she addressed him simply as "Tom."


The end.