Disclaimer: Voyager and its characters are the property of Viacom/Paramount. I am just borrowing them for fun, not profit.
Synopsis: This is a short coda story to the Killing Game. P/T, rated PG.
"The Killing Game: Aftermath"
by Julie Evans (Juli17@aol.com)
Tom Paris dropped into a chair in the nearly deserted Mess Hall with a soft groan. He was exhausted, like everyone else on Voyager. He hadn‘t done anything but work, eat and sleep for the past week. And the sleep part was minimal. It would be at least another week before that would change at all. The damage the Hirogen had done to Voyager was extensive, but the Captain was determined to work herself and her crew nonstop until Voyager was back in perfect shape, or as close as she could get.
Tom hadn‘t heard one person complain about the grueling schedule they were on. Everyone was eager to erase all trace of the Hirogen occupation. The primary systems were already back on line, and the replicator system was repaired, though rations hadn‘t been restored yet. The holodeck system was still in need of extensive work, and the repairs to the structural damage done by the Hirogen‘s holodeck expansions and the later extreme actions the Captain had used to take back the ship were barely halfway to completion. But in another week to ten days, there would be little evidence the Hirogen had ever been on Voyager.
And that was definitely a good thing, Tom thought, as he yawned widely. The crew had actually welcomed the chance to work so hard that they had no time to dwell on the three weeks after the attack by the Hirogen. Three weeks that most, including himself, had no memory of.
Oh, he remembered the fight for the ship, when the Hirogen, by sheer strength of numbers, had been able to penetrate Voyager‘s shields and had begun to overrun the ship. The bridge had been taken first and the fighting had degenerated into a hand to hand free for all. Tom, like most of the crew, had been trying to get to the lower decks in hopes of controlling the ship from Engineering. And in his case, he‘d been equally driven by the need to make sure B‘Elanna was okay. He‘d gotten no further than Deck 7, where a Hirogen had blocked his way. Tom had landed a couple of good punches, but the Hirogen had countered and landed a blow to Tom‘s chest that had knocked the breath right out of him. After that he only remembered a hazy slide into unconsciousness. And then "waking up" in the World War II simulation, confused but immensely relieved to see that B‘Elanna was alive, along with Tuvok, Chakotay, and Seven, and most the rest of the crew. But especially B‘Elanna. Alive, and looking very pregnant...
"Here you go, Tom."
Tom looked up from his reverie to find Neelix standing over him with a smile on his face. The Talaxian sat a bowl of steaming soup in front of Tom. Tomato soup.
"I‘m afraid my culinary efforts were limited to several pots of soup today," Neelix said, sounding apologetic as he handed Tom a spoon. "I‘m still low on supplies, but soup is nutritionally sound, and I think it hits the spot after such a long day."
"You don‘t have to explain, Neelix," Tom said. "You‘re right. Soup does hit the spot. I think everyone is a little too tired to deal with much else, even if you had the supplies."
Neelix nodded glumly. "The captain said there is an uninhabited planet two days away that appears to have a supply of digestible foodstuffs. I should be able to restock most of what was indiscriminately consumed by those...Hirogen."
Tom smiled at Neelix‘s obvious disdain for the intruders who had depleted his food stock. He spooned some of the soup and tasted it. "This is really good, Neelix. Thanks."
Neelix beamed. "At least the hydroponics bay wasn‘t completely decimated. The Hirogen aren‘t exactly vegetarians, I guess. I managed to salvage enough to get us through. And I figured tomato soup would be your choice, Tom." Neelix looked at Tom speculatively. "It‘s actually become popular with many of the crew."
Tom grinned. "I must have more influence around here than I thought."
Neelix turned at the sound of the Mess Hall door swishing open. "Ah, here comes someone who has shown a definite affinity for tomato soup in recent months." He bounced on his toes and gave Tom a quick, conspiratorial wink. "Excuse me, Tom."
Tom watched Neelix scurry across the Mess Hall to where B‘Elanna had just entered. Neelix reached her before she had taken a half dozen steps into the room and spoke a few words. She nodded, then looked toward Tom and gave him a small smile.
"Hey," Tom said, as she pulled out the chair across from him and sat down. To him she was always a sight for sore eyes, and it still amazed him that he couldn‘t quite control the jump in his pulse every time he saw her, no matter the circumstances. Even now, when her uniform was rumpled, probably from crawling through Jeffries tubes all day, and her face was smudged and drawn with exhaustion. He frowned at the faint circles under her eyes, even though he knew that he and the rest of the crew didn‘t look any better.
In fact, B‘Elanna was staring at the circles under Tom‘s eyes, which were far more pronounced than hers, given his fair coloring. She hadn‘t even seen him in nearly two days. Not since the last time they happened to cross paths here, when she had been just arriving to grab a quick meal as he was leaving. Chance encounters like that, and a quick word during the couple of hastily scheduled Senior staff meetings had been all there‘d been time for since the damned Hirogen had left the ship. And had left the ship in sorry shape... "You look tired."
Tom shrugged. "Don‘t we all. How‘s it going in Engineering?"
B‘Elanna shrugged back. "The primary systems are all on line. It‘s mostly a clean up process now. Except for the Holodeck systems." She nodded tiredly at Neelix as he sat a steaming bowl of soup in front of her. "Thanks, Neelix."
Tom smiled as he watched B‘Elanna dig in and raise the spoon to her lips. She caught his gaze and her mouth quirked slightly.
"You already know you‘re a bad influence on me, Tom Paris," she said with a trace of humor in her voice. She swallowed the soup and dipped her spoon back into the orange broth. "Even I can‘t believe I‘ve actually developed a taste for this stuff. I haven‘t been very hungry anyway, even if Neelix had the supplies to fix a full course steak dinner."
"Or if he knew how," Tom whispered conspiratorially. That coaxed a smile out of B‘Elanna, even though they both knew he was kidding. Neelix had actually become a reasonably good cook as time had passed. Reasonably. He was still color blind on occasion. Tom sipped his soup as he watched B‘Elanna do the same. And he tried not to think about how much he missed her. He was beginning to think there would never come a time when they wouldn‘t be dealing with the aftermath of some crisis or other. Every time their relationship began to head toward a comfortable, stable level, they were once again reduced by circumstances to hastily scheduled rendezvouses and stolen moments together. Not that there wasn‘t something to be said for some of those stolen moments- but he hated the constant feeling that they were engaged in some hasty affair. It would be nice to have the time and get used to simply being in each other‘s company, to actually feel a sense that they were moving forward...
"How‘s everything on the Bridge?" B‘Elanna finally asked, laying her spoon down.
"Honestly, I haven‘t been there much," Tom said. "Luckily we haven‘t seen any Hirogen since they left the ship, and I‘ve been assigned to Sickbay most of the time. But the place is pretty much back in order, and there haven‘t been any injuries more serious than cuts and bruises since those first couple of days..."
B‘Elanna frowned fiercely as Tom‘s voice trailed off. Though she‘d been holed up in Engineering she knew about some of the injuries the Hirogen and their simulations had inflicted on the crew. She met Tom‘s sober gaze. They had been lucky to lose only two crewmembers, but even that was far too many. Because after four years they weren‘t all just colleagues anymore. Everyone on Voyager was now a friend who would be sorely missed.
Tom sighed. Grieving for lost friends was something else they‘d had little time for. He decided a change the subject of in order. "Actually, now that Sickbay‘s back in order, I‘ve been working on the Holodeck programming subroutines in the computer the last couple of days."
"I thought the holoprogramming routines were pretty much undamaged, since the Hirogen just used our own database to devise their torture scenarios," B‘Elanna said, her voice ending on a growl.
"They rewrote a few subroutines here and there to adapt the programs to their specifications. But they didn‘t mess with the saved files. Most of the crew‘s personal programs and the Starfleet training simulations are still intact."
"Well, I guess that‘s not so bad, considering what they did to the Holodeck itself and the decks surrounding it." B‘Elanna‘s look was grim. "I still can‘t believe the Captain let them off so easily after...everything."
Tom dropped a hand lightly over B‘Elanna‘s clenched fist where it rested on the table. She didn‘t pull away. "She didn‘t have much choice, B‘Elanna," he pointed out. "Unfortunately being one ship alone out here in the Delta quadrant makes us vulnerable. Even our superior technology can be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. I think we actually got damned lucky this time."
"Maybe." B‘Elanna‘s acknowledgment was grudging. She hated remembering how vulnerable they‘d been to prevent the takeover by the Hirogen. Vulnerable and helpless. Voyager had been put in that position far too often in the Delta quadrant. And when Voyager was in that position, so was she. She hated it. And she hated the few memories she did have, of fighting desperately with one of the Hirogen in a Jeffries tube outside Main Engineering. She‘d been getting the better of that fight, until the second Hirogen showed up. Her memories disappeared into darkness pretty shortly after the two of them had come at her. It made her furious. "At least we can erase the evidence that they were ever here. If I never hear their name again it will be too soon."
"Yeah," Tom replied quietly. His absently stroked her hand with his thumb while he spooned the remainder of his soup with his other hand. At the captain‘s request he hadn‘t mentioned to anyone that all the programs the Hirogen had run on the Holodeck were still saved in files in the computer. Files that could be replayed again on the Holodeck if anyone had the urge to do so. He wasn‘t sure how most of the crew would feel about that, including B‘Elanna. He didn‘t know if it would be worse to watch the hoops the Hirogen had forced them to jump through against their will and the constant violence and pain they‘d been subjected to, or to keep living with the loss of three weeks of their lives not knowing what they hell they‘d been doing beyond the tidbits the doctor would- or even could- tell them...
"It is strange to think of those three weeks that we lived, yet can‘t remember."
Tom met B‘Elanna‘s pensive gaze, not surprised that she‘d read his thoughts, or at least part of them. He knew everyone had thought about it periodically. The blank period in their memories was a haunting reminder that for a time their lives hadn‘t been their own. Except for the crew who had been kept in the brig, and Harry and his team who had been forced to help the Hirogen power their Holodeck simulations. They had plenty of memories of those three weeks, memories that they wished they could forget. "Would you really want to remember everything you were forced to do during those weeks?"
A shadow crossed B‘Elanna‘s features and Tom frowned. He‘d asked the question rhetorically but obviously his words bothered B‘Elanna. She pulled her hand from his and stood suddenly, picking up her bowl and spoon. "I need to get back to Engineering. I‘ve still got several hours of work to finish tonight."
Tom stood up and followed her as she carried her dishes to Neelix. "I‘ve got some work to finish, too. I think I can get another couple of hours in with the Holodeck subroutines before I collapse."
B‘Elanna didn‘t respond to Tom‘s wry comment as Neelix took their dishes and wished them both a cheery if distracted goodnight. B‘Elanna muttered a quick goodnight in reply and strode purposefully out of the Mess Hall. Tom followed and waited for the door behind him to slide closed. Then he quickly caught up with B‘Elanna before she could get to the turbolift and grabbed her arm. "B‘Elanna, wait."
She turned and looked at him impatiently, then slid her arm out of his loose grip. "Tom, I really have to go-"
"B‘Elanna, have you been having dreams?"
B‘Elanna stared at Tom, nonplused. "What?"
"Some of the crew have come into Sickbay complaining of bad dreams. Nightmares. Vague, unfocused, unpleasant. They remember the feelings, but not the details. The Doc said that might be because the neural implants...leaked, for want of a better word. Not enough for anyone to remember actual details, but enough apparently to trigger the unconscious to some sort of incoherent recall."
B‘Elanna was silent for a moment. "Have you had dreams, Tom?"
Tom shrugged. "I haven‘t slept too well lately. When I wake up I feel disturbed, like I‘ve been doing something unpleasant, something I didn‘t want to do but couldn‘t stop. But I can‘t remember anything specific, just the feeling of...helplessness."
B‘Elanna nodded and hugged herself, rubbing her arms. "Maybe that‘s it. Why I feel so unsettled. I just feel so relieved when I wake up..."
"We all need some good uninterrupted sleep," Tom agreed. "And it‘s probably not helping that we‘re all exhausted. But the doctor says the effect should wear off soon, that the vague impressions that leaked through won‘t last. The neural implants kept any real memories from forming...well, except in the World War Two simulation after the implants were turned off."
"Yeah." B‘Elanna snorted derisively. "Nice life I was living, pregnant with the child of a man I despised. At least, I hope I despised him..."
"B‘Elanna, that wasn‘t you. That was a character you were forced to play. And you weren‘t really pregnant."
"It felt real, Tom. For that first second after the implants deactivated and I didn‘t know that it wasn‘t real, I was...terrified. Then I realized it was a simulation and I was incredibly relieved."
Tom watched B‘Elanna‘s face go through an array of emotions. "Well, it was certainly a surprise, but it wasn‘t that bad being pregnant, was it?" he asked lightly. He didn‘t add that he‘d felt a moment‘s discomfort himself in that first moment, when he‘d thought she was really pregnant, that somehow they were having a baby and he couldn‘t remember... He‘d clued in quickly also, and tried to lighten the moment in typical Paris fashion, with the "boy or girl" quip.
B‘Elanna was frowning, her gaze focused somewhere in the distance. "Can you imagine me as a mother? I wouldn‘t have a clue. Not that I had much to go by. And I‘m hardly the gentle, caregiving type, am I?"
"Who says?" Tom asked softly, the low timbre of his voice causing B‘Elanna to look up at him. His blue eyes held her startled gaze. "Who held me all night after the letter from my father didn‘t come through, still trying to convince me it would have said something nice? Who helped Neelix needlessly recalibrate every circuit in his appliance laden kitchen in her spare time just to help him get his mind off the girl who died on the Mari planet? And I could give you plenty more examples."
B‘Elanna shook her head. "Tom, that isn‘t-"
"Like you said to me recently, you can‘t fool me, B‘Elanna. You don‘t have to deny your softer human half any more than you have to deny your fiercer Klingon side. Forget everything anyone ever said you are or should be. One doesn‘t exclude the other. And gestures of affection can be fierce or gentle." Tom‘s lips curved into a smile. "Or in your case, both at once." He thought of how many times he‘d used the dermal regenerator and from her look he knew she was thinking the same thing. "And I‘m extremely fond of that combination myself."
"Are you?" B‘Elanna asked, her voice husky.
"Uh huh." He grinned. "And for the record," he added, "you‘re not your mother, any more than I‘m my father. Who‘s to say you can‘t learn something from your own experience and be the better parent for it?"
"Maybe," B‘Elanna conceded, looking a little uncertain. Then she shrugged. "But it‘s a moot point anyway, since my pregnancy was just part of a simulation."
He said the words lightly, and she saw the teasing in his eyes, but she also saw the hint of seriousness beneath, and she wasn‘t sure how she felt about it. Not as harshly dismissive of the idea as she would have expected to be, as she would have been at any other point of her life. But she wasn‘t really ready to deal with the concept yet either. "This time," she echoed softly, uncomfortable but unable to pull herself away from his intent gaze.
Tom broke the tense spell between them. "I guess that‘s a subject for the future." And he was almost as surprised as B‘Elanna that it was something he wanted to consider someday. With her. But he just gave her a wry grin. "Right now it would just be nice if we could manage more than a few stolen minutes together."
B‘Elanna smiled at Tom‘s wistful tone, feeling both relieved at the change of subject and a little wistful herself. "I know." She really had missed him the past few days. She raised a hand and brushed her fingertips across his cheek. "But I really do have to go."
Tom nodded. He wanted to suggest that she come to his quarters tonight no matter how late it was, but he didn‘t. The temptation would be too much, and what she really needed was some undisturbed sleep, as much as he did. Instead he glanced furtively down the corridor, then gave her his most charming look of entreaty. "I know public displays of affection aren‘t condoned in the corridors-"
B‘Elanna‘s arms slid around Tom‘s neck and she pulled him close, pressing her face against his throat. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged back, burying his face in her hair. They stood that way for several moments, enfolded in each other‘s arms, enjoying the comfort of simply being held close by someone. Someone beloved. The sound of the turbolift door swishing open behind them drew them reluctantly apart, though their hands stayed loosely interlocked.
Tom met the brief, curious glances of the three ensigns from Security as the exited the turbolift. He nodded in greeting as they passed and entered the Mess Hall. Their curiosity these days was cursory he knew. The betting pools that existed on Voyager, and in which his and B‘Elanna‘s relationship had played several pivotal roles in the transfer of rations between various hands, had been inactive for weeks. He looked back at B‘Elanna and he could tell she was thinking the same thing he was. He grinned. "I‘d give it another week or two and all bets will be back on. Once life returns to normal, or as normal as it gets on this ship anyway." He squeezed her hands and added softly, "And the second it does, I‘ll be looking for you."
B‘Elanna smiled slowly at the suggestiveness in Tom‘s voice, then slipped her hands from his and moved toward the turbolift. "That had better be a promise, Lieutenant."
"Oh, yeah," Tom drawled as she stepped all the way into the turbolift. "That is most definitely a promise, Lieutenant." He watched her eyes darken and she gave him a look of frank anticipation as the door closed. He barely resisted the urge to jump into the lift after her and jam the controls between decks. Instead he sighed and started down the corridor.
He really did have a lot of work to do to help get the Holodeck operations back on line. And he had a feeling that the Captain would leave the Hirogen files intact. She trusted her crew to make their own decisions. If some wanted to activate those programs out of curiosity‘s sake- or as a way to come to terms with their missing memories- while others chose to simply forget they‘d ever existed, well, to each his- or her- own. He didn‘t even know yet which he would eventually chose to do. Oh, he was curious- but he wasn‘t sure he wanted to see himself being skewered over and over again, or worse, watch his friends being hurt for sport. Or worst of all, watch B‘Elanna being hurt. He wasn‘t sure at all.
Tom turned the corner, deciding he‘d rather think about the future instead, the one they‘d wrestled back from the Hirogen. His future with B‘Elanna. Their relationship was still in a new and fragile state in many ways. Thus far they hadn‘t planned any further beyond simply taking things day to day, and thinking ahead to the long term was something he‘d generally avoided like the plague much of his life. But he couldn‘t deny that B‘Elanna‘s...condition in the WWII scenario had triggered a reaction in him, feelings he hadn‘t allowed to completely surface yet, but that lurked tantalizingly in his mind anyway. Deep down was he actually considering, perhaps truly for the first time in his life, the real possibility of family, of permanence...of forever? His mind skittered away at that realization, because the concept and all it entailed of him still scared him a little. And though he pushed the thought aside, the sense of possibility lingered in the back of his mind, and just that fact that it was there, perhaps was even inevitable, somehow soothed him.
Tom entered Auxiliary Computer Systems and dropped into the nearest chair, in front of the terminal that had become his domain over the last couple of days, and forced himself to focus on the task at hand. With his input, and that of many of the crew, the Holodeck would be at normal operational levels again within the next week or two. And when it was he had a program or two he was itching to get at. Not only the program he‘d promised B‘Elanna during their blue jean escapades- he smiled at that thought with fond remembrance- but also the latest one he‘d designed toward the goal of rest and relaxation. Nothing was more relaxing, and satisfying, to him than restoring a vintage ancient automobile, and his latest was the ‚69 Camaro program...
Tom again forced his thoughts to the task at hand, and punched in his duty codes. The sooner he got to work, the sooner he could pursue those goals. With any luck they‘d finally put the Hirogen mess behind them, and Voyager would hit some smooth sailing, at least for the immediate future. They certainly deserved it. And hopefully he and B‘Elanna would have some time to really focus on each other for a change, without any ship wide disasters interrupting them, or any malicious Delta quadrant aliens causing them grief. Hopefully....