standard disclaimer.....
I know Viacom/Paramount owns Star Trek, I‘m just borrowing the characters for a short while, I won‘t abuse them (too much), and I‘ll give them back when I‘m done, ok?

"Last Evening on Voyager"
by Julie Evans (comments to

Captain‘s log, SD 56764.3, Kathyrn Janeway reporting....

"I am signing off to the second watch for the last time for what may be quite awhile. The first watch has been uneventful, neither we nor our two escorts have encountered any hostile ships or other problems on this final leg of our journey. Both Commander Chakotay and myself will be attending the parties being set up on the holodeck this evening so that we can touch base with some of the crew before tomorrow, when we may not have the chance to do so. I suspect that like myself, the crew will be spending their last evening on Voyager attending the parties or pursuing their own celebrations in more intimate surroundings. And facing the ambivalence we all feel right now about so abruptly finding our way home, feeling both happy and sad that our unexpected journey is at an end. Or perhaps that ambivalence is something only I feel. In any case, however my crew spend their last night I know I will be spending mine not only wishing them all a happy reunion with their loved ones, but also preparing to make sure that, whether we rejoin on Voyager again or not, they are each exactly where they want to be when their lives resume in the Federation. They all deserve nothing less. Janeway out."

Lt. Tom Paris arranged the candles on the small table in the alcove of his quarters. He looked at the table setting he had replicated- lace tablecloth, bone china, silverware, and the tall candles in their spun glass holders- and decided that it would do. He knew he should be packing, as most of the crew were eagerly doing right now. But in reality Tom had little more to take with him from Voyager than would fit in the duffle he had arrived with five years ago. There was plenty of time to pack. He still hadn‘t fully accepted in his own mind that they were actually home, if he even thought of th Alpha quadrant in those terms any longer.

"One bottle 2314 Sonoma Valley Merlot," Tom addressed the wall replicator. There was at least one completely positive aspect in the events of the past two days. The captain had removed all restrictions on replicator use. Wherever the crew were spending their last evening on Voyager, they were all no doubt indulging in their own versions of replicator insanity. And chef Neelix was out of work.


Paris smiled at that last thought as he retrieved the bottle of wine and placed it on the table next to the basket of french baquettes and cheeses he had already replicated. He still could hardly believe that two days ago Voyager had been in the Delta quadrant on a slow but steady course home- a 65 year course. And now they were less than a day away from the Federation, being escorted home by a Starfleet stealthship and a Klingon cruiser. After five years of no success in finding a quicker route home, Voyager had simply, incredibly, stumbled upon a stable wormhole. A wormhole that had deposited them on the near side of the Gamma quadrant. They had met up with the Klingon cruiser shortly thereafter, and after a brief exchange of information, the stealthship had appeared to help escort Voyager back to Federation space. It would no doubt take a few days for the crew to absorb all the changes that had occured in the Alpha quadrant while Voyager had been lost. But by this time tomorrow they would be docked at Deep Space Nine, back where they had started five years ago.

Tom realized he didn‘t really want to think about that right now. Or about what would become of the crew, the ship, and of himself once they returned. Tomorrow his life was about to undergo a radical change in direction. Again. He should be used to this by now. And in fact he was ready to face...whatever. He was only concerned about one thing. Or more accurately, one person. If she was willing to still be there with him after tomorrow, then he was ready for whereever his life might lead. All he had to do was convince her.

The announcer to Tom‘s quarters chimed and Tom jumped, almost knocking over the bottle of wine he was still absently touching. He righted it quickly. Please let this work he pleaded silently. "Come in."

Harry Kim walked through the door. He looked at the low lighting and intimate table setting and knew he had interrupted something. The brief look of disappointment on Tom‘s face confirmed it. Tom recovered almost immediately and flashed Harry a smile.

"Harry, why aren‘t you partying on the holodeck?"

"I was on my way there, but I thought I‘d stop by and see if you were coming." Harry glanced at the table again. "But I see you have other plans. B‘Elanna?"

Tom didn‘t bother to answer that question. There was no one on Voyager who didn‘t know that Tom Paris and B‘Elanna Torres had been an ‚item‘ for well over a year now.

"You know I‘m just not the partying type, Harry," Tom replied instead. When Harry simply gave him an unamused look, Tom sighed and said, "Sit down, Harry."

Tom waited while Harry made up his mind to stay and finally took a chair at the table. The kid was probably packed and ready to go tomorrow. Tom knew Harry was returning to the world he wanted to be in, that he‘d desperately missed for so long, despite the friends he‘d made on Voyager. Harry would no doubt take up his life right where he‘d left off- his family, friends and Starfleet were all waiting for him with open arms. There was the question of his fiance, but however that worked or didn‘t work, Harry‘s time on Voyager would be just one unexpected adventure that would slide seamlessly into the set course of his life. And Tom was genuinely happy for him. But as for Harry‘s mothering tendencies....

"Harry, stop!"

"Stop what?" Harry asked.


"Stop looking at me like that, and stop worrying about me!" Tom sat down in the other chair and looked at his friend from across the table. Harry had been flashing Tom concerned glances on and off the bridge for two days now.

"I‘m fine with this Harry, really. It‘s still something of a shock of course. I don‘t think any of us have really absorbed it all yet. But everything will work out."

Tom seemed to sincerely mean that but Harry still couldn‘t help worrying about his friend. For Tom, returning to the Federation meant returning to a life he‘d left pretty much in pieces. And dealing with the unpleasant and unfinished business of his past. No matter how exemplary Tom‘s conduct had been on Voyager, it might not be enough for some in Starfleet and elsewhere to forgive and forget what had gone before. And Harry hated to think of Tom going through any of that.

"Do you think the captain will try and keep the crew together?" Harry asked, using the most roundabout way he could think of to get some inkling of Tom‘s intentions.

Tom shrugged. "I don‘t know, Harry. Voyager is certainly in for a long refit. She‘s been pretty banged up and patched together while we‘ve been in the Delta quadrant. Not to mention the shape of her shuttle complement. I doubt Starfleet will want to keep even the few we‘ve managed to paste and hot wire back together. Even if Voyager does remain Captain Janeway‘s ship, it could be a year or more before she‘s recommissioned. By that time I would imagine most of the crew will have moved on to other assignments. Those who remain in Starfleet anyway."

"I don‘t think Captain Janeway will just give up on her crew," Harry protested.

"Harry, I think- no, I know the first thing the captain will do is throw herself in front of Starfleet brass and demand that her crew be treated like the returning heroes she thinks we are. She figures everything we‘ve gone through together in the Delta quadrant more than compensates for any past transgressions, Maquis or otherwise. I‘m sure she won‘t want to rest until there‘s not a person from Voyager who doesn‘t have a clear record, myself included. But that doesn‘t mean Starfleet will feel the same way about it."

Harry was bothered by Tom‘s seeming unconcern for his future. "If you don‘t get back into Starfleet what will you do?"

"Here‘s the thing, Harry. I don‘t know and I don‘t care." Tom smiled at Harry‘s unbelieving expression. The kid really couldn‘t imagine any life beyond Starfleet. But then Tom had felt that way once, too. "There are a hundred things I could do, places I could go. Starfleet is not the be-all and end-all of life in the Federation." Tom threw in the last as a reality check for Harry, but it didn‘t look like the kid was biting. Oh well, to each his own.

"My point is, Harry, that I‘m not the same person who boarded Voyager five years ago. Whatever I decide to do with my life when we get back home, I won‘t turn back into that irresponsible, self-destructive person you first met." Tom held up a hand before Harry could protest. "I‘ve finally realized that I don‘t need anyone else‘s approval for my actions or for the way I choose to live my life. Not Starfleet‘s, not my father‘s, not anyone‘s. Except my own. That wouldn‘t have been much reassurance a few years ago, but I promise you, Harry, I‘ve raised my standards considerably since then."


Harry ran a finger over the candle holder in front of him. "You must want at least one other person‘s approval," Harry said pointedly.

Tom sighed. "That‘s different, Harry. And you‘re changing the subject." Tom reached over and squeezed Harry‘s forearm. "No matter what I end up doing with my life- and I certainly haven‘t made any rash decisions yet- one thing will never change. You are my best friend, Harry, and you always will be." *Which doesn‘t say much for my life so far* Tom thought, *but it says a lot about Harry Kim*.

Harry knew when he was making no headway with Tom, which was often the case. He also knew he should just be happy that Tom could face the uncertain future so comfortably. The years on Voyager had certainly changed the pilot‘s attitude. And Harry was glad about that. He just wished he could accept what was happening with as much ease as Tom. "Can you believe I‘ve been dreaming of this moment for five years, and now that it‘s here all I feel is sad, like I‘m about to lose everything?"

A ghost of a smile played across Tom‘s face. He knew the feeling. "Harry, everyone on this ship feels the same way. We‘ve all been together for five years, for better or worse, and there‘s been some of both. That‘s a long time to basically live in each other‘s laps. There‘s bound to be a sense of loss. But I think when you get home and see your family and friends again and realize what you‘ve regained, you‘ll be able to put it into perspective."

"I guess you‘re right. Even if we don‘t all end up back on Voyager, it‘s not like we won‘t still keep in touch."

"A lot of people on this ship will do more than just ‚keep in touch‘, Harry. A lot of relationships have been built, friendships and otherwise, and they won‘t go away just because we‘re back in the Alpha quadrant." Tom‘s face took on a pensive look.

Harry suddenly questioned why he was in Tom‘s quarters when his friend‘s thoughts were obviously focused on someone else. Harry knew too well how many relationships had naturally resulted from the crew‘s five year confine- ment together on Voyager. Some had been mutually agreed upon brief liasons, some just the result of two people enjoying each other‘s company for a time in the absence of other prospects, and a few had developed into permanency. And the resolution of some were still in question. He looked closely at his friend. "I think you‘re right, Tom. Certain relationships aren‘t going to just fade away. Yours and B‘Elanna‘s, for instance."

Tom looked as unsure as Harry had ever seen him. "I hope you‘re right, Harry. B‘Elanna‘s refused to say more than five words to me for the past two days. I have a bad feeling she‘s trying to tell me something."

"She‘s just scared, Tom. Like you said, we‘ve all been kind of thrown by this. But I know she feels the same way you do, no matter how much both of you have been loath to face the dreaded ‚C‘ word. Now she‘s just being forced to confront it sooner than expected.

And so are you."

"Well, I‘m ready to face it. Believe me I am. I don‘t want to lose her, Harry."

It wasn‘t often Tom Paris bared his soul, even to his best friend.

That simple, heartfelt statement went straight to Harry‘s heart. "If you really mean that, Tom, and I know you do, then you won‘t lose her."

Tom took some comfort from Harry‘s confident tone.


"Now walk me to the door and I‘ll get out of here so you can get on with more important business." Harry stood up, and the two friends walked to the door of Tom‘s quarters.

"I‘ll give your regards to everyone at Sandrine‘s," Harry said, as the door slid open. "And B‘Elannas. Not that anyone ever notices when the two of you are not present at the same time."

Tom snorted. "Of course they don‘t." It still amazed him how often he and B‘Elanna were the favorite topic of the rumor mill on the ship. It had started after the pon farr incident over two years ago, even though nothing serious had happened between them for a year after that, and it had never let up. "Harry...."

Harry turned and met Tom‘s intense blue gaze.

"Thanks for stopping by. And we‘ll talk tomorrow before the ship docks. I promise."

Harry nodded and the door closed between him and Tom. He stared thoughtfully at the door for a few moments, thinking about tomorrow. Then he turned to leave and almost collided with B‘Elanna Torres in the process.

B‘Elanna backed up a step. "Sorry, Harry." She glanced furtively at the door. "Isn‘t Tom in? He wanted me to meet him here. But if he‘s not here... well, that‘s probably better anyway. He should be at the closing party at Sandrine‘s saying goodbye to everyone. It was his program after all. I suppose-"

"Tom‘s in his quarters, B‘Elanna," Harry interrupted her monologue that sounded suspiciously like babbling to him, not what he‘d come to expect from B‘Elanna Torres.

"Oh." B‘Elanna glanced at the door again, looking very apprehensive to Harry‘s mind. She sighed suddenly and looked back at Harry. "I don‘t think this is such a good idea. It‘s our last night on Voyager. We should all be celebrating arriving home together. Why don‘t we go to Sandrine‘s party and join everyone else. Tom will show up later if he wants to."

Harry almost laughed but he stopped himself in time. He didn‘t want to make fun of B‘Elanna‘s near panic at the thought of facing Tom‘s all out assault on her feelings tonight, and she obviously suspected what he was up to. But Harry wasn‘t about to help her out either. He reached past her and activated the wall control and Tom‘s unlocked door slid open.

"It will be ok, B‘Elanna," Harry said, half-seriously, half-placatingly. He ignored the lacerating look she sent him and just smiled back innocently. "Have a nice evening."

B‘Elanna watched Harry walk away, thinking of the ways she‘d like to get back at him, if she ever saw him after tomorrow. When she turned back to the door, she stood face to face with Tom Paris. She barely glanced at him, just slid past him into his quarters and muttered, "Paris".

"Torres," Tom echoed mockingly as she walked by. He could see this was not going to go as he‘d hoped. But pretty close to what he‘d expected. "I was beginning to think you weren‘t going to show up."

B‘Elanna had stopped in the middle of the room, her gaze fixed on the intimate candlelit table setting. It wasn‘t really anything new from Tom. He had a weakness for romantic gestures. She was sometimes touched by Tom‘s sentimental streak, but it wasn‘t in her nature to show it very often. Tonight it just made her uncomfortable.


"Hello. Paris to Torres."

B‘Elanna turned and looked at Tom, closely for the first time, and noticed that he was dressed for the occasion in a white dress shirt, open at the throat, and black pants. Very snug black pants. Tom had already noticed that B‘Elanna was not dressed for the occasion unless he were turned on by a uniform, and one that he‘d seen on 130 people every day for the past five years.

"Sorry," B‘Elanna muttered for the second time in about three minutes. "And I did think about not coming. It‘s been kind of hectic today in Engineering what with...everything." She paused and glanced around his quarters. "You haven‘t packed anything yet. Maybe you should start."

"Gee, B‘Elanna, it‘s not like I have all that much to pack. I‘m sure I can squeeze it in sometime tomorrow."

"Well, then, maybe we should go to Sandrine‘s. That‘s where just about everyone will be tonight. They‘ll be wondering where we are."

"Somehow I doubt that," Tom said dryly. "And I wouldn‘t have invited you here tonight and gone to all this trouble," he gestured toward the table, "if I wanted to spend my last evening on Voyager at Sandrine‘s."

Tom was beginning to sound a little irritated, but B‘Elanna couldn‘t stop herself. "I think this probably isn‘t the right time, Tom.

With everything that‘s happened the last couple of days, we need a chance to adjust, to think things out. We don‘t know where we‘ll be after tomorrow-"

"What we need, B‘Elanna, is to talk," Tom interrupted her. "Really talk."

B‘Elanna shrugged. "What‘s there to talk about?"

Tom started to really snap back at B‘Elanna, then stopped himself. Getting mad wouldn‘t help the situation. If B‘Elanna wanted to back out, if she thought he was going to dump her the first moment they got back to the Alpha quadrant and wanted to beat him to the punch...well, he would just have to convince her otherwise. He forced himself to relax and a slow smile crept across his face as he reached out and rested a hand lightly on her shoulder. "B‘Elanna. Sit down."

B‘Elanna heard warning bells going off in her head. Tom had been about to start yelling at her, and a shouting match is what she would have prefered while she said what she‘d come to say, what she felt she had to say to allow them both to maintain some dignity in this situation. Instead he was turning the tables on her. He was going to try and charm her. And she hated that, mostly because he was so good at it.

"B‘Elanna. Please, sit down." Tom increased the pressure of his hand slightly when she didn‘t immediately pull away. He turned her gently and steered her toward the table.

B‘Elanna shook his hand away and turned to face him. "Fine, Tom. I‘ll sit down and we‘ll talk. But I have something to say and I want you to hear it first. And you can‘t interrupt me until I‘m done."

"Agreed." He gestured to the table again and B‘Elanna sat down. Tom pulled the other chair in front of B‘Elanna‘s so they could talk without the table between them, and within touching distance. Tom knew what he was doing, and from the look on her face he knew B‘Elanna did, too. She purposely backed her chair up slightly.

B‘Elanna took a deep breath to steel herself to get through this and started speaking. "Tom, I hope you know how much your friendship means to me."


Tom almost laughed at that line, but managed to stop himself. He didn‘t think B‘Elanna even noticed, she seemed so inwardly focused on what she was saying. As if she was trying to remember rehearsed lines. That gave him hope.

"And I know that whatever happens when we get...home, whereever each of us ends up, we‘ll always be friends."

Tom snorted that time, he couldn‘t help himself. "Friends, B‘Elanna?"

"You‘re supposed to hear me out without interrupting!"

"Sorry," Tom said, although he didn‘t sound very sincere.

B‘Elanna gave him an annoyed look and started again. "I know we‘ve been more than just friends, Tom. And that‘s meant a lot to me. I don‘t want you to think...I mean, it‘s not that I-" B‘Elanna suddenly slammed her chair back and stood up. "This is ridiculous!"

Tom thought so too, though probably for different reasons. He stood up, thinking B‘Elanna might be heading for the door. Instead she put a hand on Tom‘s arm and looked up at him earnestly. "Tom, the truth is what‘s been happening between us for the past few months is really something of a fluke, basically the result of our being marooned on this ship together. Can you imagine you and I having gotten together if we had remained in the Alpha quadrant? Not in a million years. Our lives back there had nothing in common, and when we return they still won‘t. I mean how unlikely has our relationship been from the beginning? It‘s no wonder we‘re the most popular topic on this ship!"

B‘Elanna paused for a breath, then shook her head when Tom started to speak. "Tom, it‘s going to be hard enough to adjust to being back home, for both of us. Who knows what Starfleet‘s position will be on the Maquis crew- members, or where either of us will end up. Why add the extra complication of trying to make a relationship work under those circumstances. Now is not the time. Maybe later, after we‘ve both adjusted to our new lives..." B‘Elanna‘s words trailed off as she noticed Tom‘s dumbfounded expression.

"What are you saying, B‘Elanna? That we should cut our losses before we get in any deeper? That method works just fine in certain cases, quite honestly I‘ve used it in the past. But it doesn‘t apply for us, or perhaps I should just say it doesn‘t apply for me. I‘m already in this way over my head and I thought you were, too."

I don‘t want to be in over my head, Tom," B‘Elanna protested.

"That‘s the point."

"Why, B‘Elanna, I thought you were up to any challenge," Tom mocked.

"but now I think you‘re just...afraid."

"I am not afraid! I just think that with our lives about to get extremely complicated, why take a chance on messing them up even more."

"You‘re right about one thing, B‘Elanna," Tom agreed. "Returning to the Alpha quadrant is going to complicate our lives. It‘s not going to be so simple anymore. We‘ve been insulated by our isolation on this ship. It‘s certainly made it possible not to examine our feelings to deeply, or feel pressured to make any momentous decisions. After all, it‘s not like we were going anywhere. Or so we thought. Now that we‘re about to rejoin a few hundred billion others in the Alpha quadrant, a relationship would involve a little more risk than you‘re willing to take. Like trusting me all over again."


B‘Elanna had the grace to wince at that. God knows despite his reputation Tom had never once taken advantage of her, or given her any reason not to trust him or his loyalty to her once they‘d become more...involved. But that was on Voyager. And now everything had changed. A small, self-protective part of her suddenly balked at taking that last step, of completely and irrevocably putting all her faith in one person, even Tom. The wounds that kind of faith had inflicted on her in the past had come back to haunt her in the last couple of days.

"I guess that‘s an answer," Tom said when B‘Elanna remained silent.

"I know I have a reputation, and I‘ve admitted before that it‘s pretty well earned. Some of the relationships I‘ve been in, if you could call them that, have been pretty shallow. But that was always by mutual agreement. I‘ve never led any woman to believe I‘d give more than I could offer, since I didn‘t want that kind of complication in my life. But things change, people change. I wouldn‘t have gotten involved with someone like you, B‘Elanna, if I wasn‘t prepared to see it through. I‘ve tried to tell you that-"

B‘Elanna pressed a hand against Tom‘s chest to stop him. "Tom, that‘s not what I meant. I do trust you. Maybe I just don‘t trust myself and my own feelings. It‘s not you, it‘s me."

"That‘s a pretty overused line, too, B‘Elanna. But ok, I‘ll go with it." Tom‘s hand snaked up and caught B‘Elanna‘s, pressing it tighter against him. "If it‘s you, then why don‘t you just cut to the chase and tell me you‘re doing this because you really don‘t care that much about me, that you think we can go back to being ‚just friends‘, and that if you never saw me again after tonight it wouldn‘t tear you up inside. Maybe it is just me. Maybe you can walk away right now and just affectionately think of me on occasion as that guy who once showed you a pretty good time in the Delta quadrant. So tell me, B‘Elanna, is that how you feel?"


What B‘Elanna could feel was the heat from Tom‘s skin radiating through the thin cotton of his shirt where her hand was pressed tightly against him. She could smell the clean, musky scent of him. And she could see the challenge in his clear blue eyes as he looked down at her. And perhaps just the smallest hint of uncertainty in those azure depths. How could she lie to him? And how could she fight the truth of her heart? If she were thinking more clearly she might be wondering why she was even trying to protect something that she had already lost. "You‘re not an easy man to walk away from, Tom.

Or to forget-"

"Good," Tom murmured, as he leaned over and kissed B‘Elanna lightly on the lips. Then he moved his lips along her jawline in a trail of feathery kisses.

He smiled inwardly when he felt B‘Elanna‘s hand tighten and grasp his shirt.

"Tom, I just don‘t want to regret...I don‘t want you to regret...Tom, stop! I can‘t think when you do that!" B‘Elanna jerked her hand away and backed up a couple of steps. She tried to ignore the languid feeling that had washed over her body at Tom‘s caress. It was always that way. She had quit trying to figure out how Tom managed to do that to her so easily.

"Don‘t you think it‘s a little late for regrets, B‘Elanna?" Tom asked lightly. He‘d actually been worried for a moment that he‘d somehow been drastically misreading B‘Elanna all this time, that it wasn‘t fear of making a complete commitment to him but an actual lack of deeper feelings for him that had prompted this scene. But he‘d watched the emotions play over B‘Elanna‘s face when he‘d pressed her point blank to state her feelings or lack thereof. She couldn‘t- or wouldn‘t- lie, especially to him.

Tom suddenly turned away and walked over to the table. He could feel B‘Elanna‘s eyes following him. He picked up the bottle of wine and poured some into the two glasses. Then he turned back to B‘Elanna and handed her one. "Stay with me, tonight, B‘Elanna, and believe me I‘ll convince you that we belong together. And that you can trust me. Always."

Tom said the words almost casually, but B‘Elanna could see the

determination in his blue gaze. "Tom-"

"Stay, B‘Elanna," Tom repeated, not giving her a chance to speak. "You owe me this one." He took a quick sip of his wine and smiled meaningfully at her. "And tonight we do it my way."

That got the desired rise out of her. "What? I do not owe you, Tom! As for ‚your way‘," B‘Elanna waved at the table, "what about this romantic scenery you‘re so fond of? And all those love songs you like to play? Isn‘t that your way?"

"Well, it never ends my way," Tom amended. "You have to admit that. So it is my turn."

B‘Elanna knew Tom was refering to the fact that they never spent the entire night together. The close quarters on Voyager meant that everyone knew everything seconds after it happened. B‘Elanna had never felt particularly comfortable with that fact. Or at least that was the reason she gave herself. She looked into Tom‘s steady gaze and she couldn‘t refuse him. And she really wanted to be with him tonight. She would just think about all the rest of it later. "Alright, I‘ll stay. No promises about anything else."

Tom nodded as if anything else beyond the past few hours was completely unimportant to him. He picked up the wine bottle from the table and walked over to his bed and sat it on his bedside table. Then he plopped down on the bed with his glass in hand and crossed his legs in front of him. He thoroughly enjoyed the lovely, confused look on B‘Elanna‘s face.

"Tom, what are you doing?"

"Getting more comfortable," Tom said, throwing one hand behind his head to support it against the wall and stretching out. He grinned at her.

"What about dinner?" B‘Elanna asked pointedly. "Especially after you went to all that trouble with the table."

"Are you hungry?"

"Not really. But-"

"Then just bring the basket of bread and cheese over with you." Tom patted the bed next to him and winked at B‘Elanna. When she just looked at him narrowly, he took a sip of wine and added, "My way."

"Don‘t keep repeating that tonight, Tom, or I may hurt you," B‘Elanna warned him. But she picked up the basket and walked to the bed.

"No, MY way, B‘Elanna. Not that I don‘t enjoy our little wrestling matches..."

B‘Elanna tossed the basket on the bed, where it barely missed Tom and upended most of its contents. "Don‘t push it, Tom." Tom just busied himself righting the bread basket while B‘Elanna came around and dropped down on the bed next to him. He couldn‘t keep the mischievous grin off his face when he looked at her though. She glared back.

"Alright, alright," Tom said in mock surrender. "I won‘t say it again." He briefly thought about playing a song from his 20th century collection called My Way by Frank somebody or other, because Tom Paris difficulty stopping himself from going to far sometimes, but he thought better of it and decided stick with his original plan. "But since you mentioned my song collection earlier, I do have one picked out to play for you."

B‘Elanna groaned. "Tom, how can there be any songs left from the 20th and 21st century that you haven‘t played?"

"I admit I‘ve ferreted out quite a few of them," Tom grinned at her unrepentantly, "but definitely not all. Computer, music, 20th century, title- Someone To Watch Over Me."

B‘Elanna stared at Tom. "What? This is going to be incredibly sappy, isn‘t it?" She slapped Tom‘s hand away when he would have put it around her shoulders. "And I don‘t need anyone to ‚watch over me‘, if that‘s what you‘re implying."

"Admit it, B‘Elanna, you love this sappy stuff. And in this version it is a man singing to a woman." Tom broke off a piece of the french loaf and handed it to B‘Elanna.

"I do not love it," B‘Elanna muttered, taking the bread from Tom grudgingly. She wouldn‘t admit that she was secretly touched by some of the songs Tom had chosen for her. She wanted to believe he chose them because he truly meant the words. Sometimes she did. The words of the song drifted into her consciousness.

"There‘s somebody out there I‘m longing to see
I hope that she turns out to be
Someone to watch over me.
I‘m a little lamb lost in the wood
I know that I could always be good
To someone who‘ll watch over me."

B‘Elanna almost choked on her bread. "You are no lamb, Tom. But maybe you‘re right, you might need a keeper to keep you out of trouble."

"I only need you, B‘Elanna."

B‘Elanna rolled her eyes.

"Although I may not be the man some girls think of as handsome
To her heart I‘ll carry the key
Won‘t you tell her to put on some speed
Follow my lead, oh how I need
Someone to watch over me."

"And who was the last girl who didn‘t think you were handsome, Tom Paris?"

"B‘Elanna, you‘re missing the point of the song," Tom said as the last strains played.

"I‘m promising hereby to my heart she‘ll carry the key
And this world would be like heaven
If she‘d follow my lead, oh how I need
Someone to watch over me."

"Are you telling me you want me to be your babysitter, Tom?"

"No, B‘Elanna," Tom said patiently. "It doesn‘t matter who that song is directed to, the point is we all need someone to watch over us. Maybe not physically, but someone who will watch over our heart, and protect us from our own lonliness. One person you know will be there no matter what happens, who will never leave no matter how rough the going gets. Never. That‘s what I want from you, B‘Elanna. That‘s what I want to be to you."

B‘Elanna lost interest in the bread she was eating, but she did take a long drink of the wine because her mouth suddenly felt very dry. She alternately wanted to throttle Tom for making her feel like this, and throw him down on the bed and never let him go. Damn him, how could he make her feel so good and so confused at the same time. Out of control.

Tom reached over and brushed a strand of hair off B‘Elanna‘s face, letting his fingers along her cheek in the process. "What do you want, B‘Elanna?"

She knew exactly what she wanted, but she was afraid to accept it would be an invitation for it to be pulled right out from under her. It had happened before. "What we want isn‘t always what we get, Tom."

Tom shook his head. "It depends on how much you really want it.

And what you‘re willing to do to get it. And keep it."

B‘Elanna sighed. "Be realistic, Tom. Do you really think I would fit into your life in the Federation?"


B‘Elanna tried to ignore Tom‘s soft breath at the base of her ear, and his hand that had dropped down to rest lightly at the base of her throat. "Then you‘re not thinking clearly. You belong somewhere, Tom. You have a family, a prominent family, in Starfleet. Can you just imagine what your father would think of me?"

"Less than he thinks of me?" Tom quipped. Then he realized B‘Elanna was completely serious, and he pulled back from her. "I don‘t really care what he thinks, assuming he even speaks to me when I get back and that‘s no given. And if I have to say something nice about my father, he wouldn‘t care about your origins at all, B‘Elanna. Your Maquis connections might be another matter, but then the Maquis apparently aren‘t much of an issue anymore in the Federation."

"That‘s just it, Tom. You belong somewhere. I don‘t even belong with the Maquis anymore. Your family is in Starfleet, they practically are Starfleet, and I‘m not sure I could ever fit in there."

"Like I fit in so well, B‘Elanna? Like I told Harry, my identity isn‘t defined by Starfleet, not anymore. I‘m a pilot, and a damned good one, in or out of Starfleet. And you are a top-notch engineer. There are plenty of places where your skills would be welcomed other than Starfleet, if that‘s what you want."

"Are you telling me you don‘t want to stay in Starfleet?" B‘Elanna asked in disbelief.

Tom shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. It‘s not that important to me, certainly not as important as you are, B‘Elanna."

"Tom, you have a life to go back to if you want it. You shouldn‘t just dismiss that possibility-"

"B‘Elanna, you are driving me crazy!" Tom put his hands on her shoulders and locked gazes with her. "Not that I don‘t love your incredible stubborness, but you‘re wrong. If you remember, right before I boarded Voyager I was in prison after being booted out of Starfleet and pretty much ostracized by polite society. I hardly left on the best terms with anyone in the entire Alpha quadrant."

B‘Elanna started to speak, but Tom brushed his fingers across her lips, stopping her. "Let me finish. Maybe you think that once we‘re back in the Federation all will be forgiven because of my family connections and I can take back my rightful place as the Admiral‘s favored son, in which case I‘ll...what, start hobnobing with the Starfleet elite and find someone more suitable to my illustrious family background than you? None of that‘s going to happen. Even if it was possible that everyone involved could just suddenly forget how deeply I screwed up my life, I‘m not going to forget. I‘m not the same person anymore. Maybe I can‘t undo the past, but thanks to Voyager I‘ve been able to make some few amends, and maybe now I can at least live with the past, and with myself. There‘s no way I‘m going back to my life before Voyager in any shape or form. But I do think I‘ve earned a fresh start. Whether it‘s in Starfleet or not doesn‘t matter, as long as you‘re there, B‘Elanna."

Tom kissed B‘Elanna lightly on the lips, taking advantage of her speechlessness to finish what he wanted to say. "I haven‘t made many promises in my life, B‘Elanna. Believe it or not, I like to keep them, and I haven‘t often been in a position or of a mind to do so. It just seemed better not to even offer them. But I will make a promise to you, B‘Elanna. I won‘t ever leave you. No matter where you go or what you do, I will be there. If I have to follow you to the Klingon homeword to keep us to-"

Tom was cut off in midsentence when B‘Elanna kissed him with enough force to push him back onto the bed. He looked up at her a few moments later, seeing the slightly bemused smile on her face and the tenderness in her deep brown eyes, and he felt absurdly relieved. And it wasn‘t an unpleasant sensation to have the chief engineer sprawled halfway across his body, looking down at him with an expression of affectionate amusement.

"I‘m not going to the Klingon homeword, Tom."

"Then whereever you go. Or if you decide to go to Earth, to look up your father, for instance..." A slight frown creased B‘Elanna‘s brow and Tom brushed a hand across it and wound his fingers into her hair, slowly lowering her face to his. He kissed her brow lightly, and his other hand brushed across her lips. He knew how she felt about her father, but he wanted her to realize that he meant it what he said. "B‘Elanna, whereever you decide to go, for whatever reason, I‘ll be there if you‘ll let me."

B‘Elanna sighed. "As I said, Tom Paris, you are a hard man to resist."

"Don‘t I know it."

"Oh, Tom," B‘Elanna teased, "how can I ever love you as much as you love yourself?"

Tom grinned. "But you‘re willing to try."

B‘Elanna hesitated a moment, and the smile playing about her lips vanished. Tom was transfixed by the simple, open offering of love in her eyes. "I suppose I am, Tom." She lowered her head and their lips met in a slow, sweet kiss. "But if you mess with my trust, I‘ll have to hurt you."

Tom heard in those words the still lingering vulnerability she felt in commiting herself so fully to him. He knew she‘d never have cause to regret it, but she would learn that for herself. "Will you hurt me, anyway?"

"I think you‘re a masochist, Tom Paris," B‘Elanna admonished at Tom‘s suggestive tone. She slid her hand into the open collar of his shirt and lightly ran her fingers along the taut warm skin over his collarbone. "Besides, I thought we were doing this your way."

"I did say that didn‘t I," Tom murmured. "Slow and easy..." He unzipped B‘Elanna‘s uniform jacket and moved his hands along her shoulders, lifting the edges of the jacket and sliding it back off her shoulders to reveal the regulation tank top underneath. He lightly kissed one of her shoulders while he pushed the jacket the rest of the way off and tossed it to the floor.

B‘Elanna tugged at Tom‘s shirt, undoing several of the buttons in the process, and ran her hand lightly along his ribcage.

Tom countered by pulling B‘Elanna closer to him and lightly caressing the pulseline along her throat with his lips, ending at a spot just below her ear.

"Tom, your way is torture," B‘Elanna whispered hoarsely.

"But nice torture." Tom pulled back just slightly and looked into B‘Elanna‘s smoldering brown eyes. "Your way, my way, whatever. I just want you, B‘Elanna, exactly the way you are."

B‘Elanna realized that of all the gifts Tom had given her in his pursuit to win her, that was the greatest. Other men had been attracted to her, had seen her Klingon ancestry as some sort of challenge, a reason to try and sleep with her and the same reason why they couldn‘t- or wouldn‘t- love her. Until Tom. To him, her Klingon ancestry was more than just a part of her to put up with, or to control, it was simply one facet of the her that he loved as much as any other. No one else in her life had ever felt that way.

Tom looked at B‘Elanna with concern when she suddenly sat up and looked down at him questioningly. "What‘s wrong?"

"Haven‘t you forgotten the mood music, Tom?"

"I must be slipping," Tom said after a moment, amused. How many times had B‘Elanna said she wasn‘t moved by his romantic gestures? Not that he had believed her, but he was still surprised at her comment. "Let me see, what song can I play to melt your heart..."

"I think I know one."

Tom looked at B‘Elanna, nonplussed. "One of mine?"

"Yes, Tom, I was getting a little bored by about the fifth time you were fine tuning your Himalayan mountain retreat program to keep the lodge from being flattened by the avalanche."

Tom flinched a little, remembering that programming disaster. Not that it hadn‘t turned out to be...enjoyable in the end.

"I looked through your music collection while I was waiting for you to work your, uhm, wizardry, and I came across this song and I, well, I..."

"Liked it," Tom suggested.

"It‘s not bad."

Tom was suddenly very intrigued to hear just what had moved B‘Elanna to utter such high praise.

"Computer, music, 20th century, title, I Want To Know What Love Is."

Tom was careful not to look too pleased since B‘Elanna still looked a little uncomfortable with her sudden foray into open sentiment. But the title was promising. Somehow he‘d missed that one.

"Gotta take a little time
A little time to think things over
Gotta read between the lines
In case I need it when I‘m older
This mountain I must climb
It feels like the world upon my shoulders
Through the clouds I see love shine
It keeps me warm as life grows colder."

B‘Elanna tried not to notice Tom‘s intense blue gaze boring deeply into hers.

"In my life
I‘ve known sorrow and pain
I don‘t know
If I can face it again
Can‘t stop now
I‘ve traveled too far
To change this lonely life."

Tom pulled B‘Elanna back down into his arms.

"I want to know what love is
I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is
I know you can show me."

"Is that what you want, B‘Elanna?" Tom asked softly. He kissed her lips gently.

"Gotta take a little time
A little time to look around me
I‘ve got nowhere left to hide
Looks like love has finally found me."

The tender, passionate look in Tom‘s eyes as he pulled her closer into a deeper kiss made B‘Elanna feel as if she was slowly drowning in him.

"In my life
I‘ve known heartache and pain
I don‘t know
If I can face it again
Can‘t stop now
I‘ve traveled so far
To change this lonely life."

"I love you, B‘Elanna," Tom whispered against her lips.

"I want to know what love is
I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is
I know you can show me."

"I want you to show me, Tom," B‘Elanna said softly, running her hands through his hair and lowering her head to press her lips against his throat. "Tonight. All night." Tom‘s arms pulled her tighter up against him and she raised her lips back up to his. "Forever."

The final strains of the song faded slowly, unnoticed.

The End.

song credits....
"Someone to Watch Over Me" by George and Ira Gershwin, copyright WB Music Corporation.
"I Want To Know What Love Is" by M. Jones/Foreigner, copyright 1984 Somerset Songs Publishing.