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

Synopsis: This is a "missing scenes" story for the episode "Vis a Vis". Mostly this is my interpretation of exactly where B‘Elanna Torres was and what she was doing and thinking during the period between her scenes in her quarters and in the transporter room with the impostor "Tom Paris", and the final scene between her and the real Tom in the 1969 Camaro- with a few other bits added also. Rated PG-13.

Note: Many thanks to the P/T Collective on AOL, and to the members of the PTF mail list, whose debate over Vis a Vis helped me focus on the possible motivations for both Tom and B‘Elanna‘s behavior in this episode I did find it a bit of a struggle to come up with what I think is a reasonable interpretation of the "missing scenes", given the time frame of the episode. And while I admit that the most probable interpretation of the time passage from the scene between B‘Elanna and the impostor Tom in her quarters and the transporter room scene is that the better part of a day and night had passed, it is not the only possible interpretation. I used a different interpretation, for the express purpose of avoiding the possibility that B‘Elanna and the impostor Tom slept together, because the idea makes me gag, and it leaves too many issues to be dealt with for B‘Elanna, and Tom, that I didn‘t want to get into (though other writers may, this was just my personal preference). Feedback appreciated as always.

Vis A Vis: Interludes
by Julie Evans (Juli17@aol.com)

Personal Log, Stardate 51761.8, Tom Paris reporting.

Ah, personal log, what the hell is wrong with me lately? Why do I feel so dissatisfied, so restless, so... trapped? It‘s become noticeable apparently, since Chakotay called me to his office yesterday and wanted to know if something was wrong. Chakotay and I are hardly enemies any more, but we‘re not exactly bosom buddies either He‘s not really the first person I‘d chose to confide in. If I had something to confide. When Steth asked today, I told him that I‘m a happy man, that I pilot one of the most advanced starships ever built, I have friends, I have the respect of those I work with, I have a beautiful girlfriend... That was a trite phrase because B‘Elanna‘s far more than a girlfriend to me, though I‘m sure she wouldn‘t know it by the way I‘ve been acting lately. In short, I told Steth I had everything I could possibly want. Everything that just a few years ago I would have died for, and thought completely unattainable. Why does it suddenly not seem like enough?

No answer, huh? Me either. But then I‘ve been feeling this way for weeks and haven‘t figured it out. Ever since we cleaned up the mess the Hirogen left behind and things got back to normal- heck, even better than normal for Voyager. For four weeks we‘ve hardly had a system malfunction, or an unexpected space anomaly, the double shifts have slacked off, and just about the only alien we‘ve run across is Steth, and he‘s hardly hostile. It‘s been incredibly quiet. Peaceful. Routine.

Routine. Same old, same old. I always did seem to chafe at that. Steth told me today that I was lucky. My needs are fulfilled, I don‘t have to make choices, my life is settled. He gave lip service to wanting that too, but the way he spoke of his adventures, going wherever the mood took him, with no rules, not knowing what the next day will bring...I could tell where his heart really is. Then he asked me to go with him again. I said no, but I part of me wanted desperately to say yes. To live on that edge, with no one to be responsible for, no one to hold me responsible. I know Voyager‘s a great ship, and I‘ve achieved a lot here. People depend on me, they trust me. But sometimes that feels like a burden. And endless test that I have to keep passing over and over. Like with the Doc.

Why he seems to think I‘d make such a great medical assistant I have no idea. I don‘t even like being in Sickbay. Well, I don‘t mind it sometimes, and I get to schmooze with some of the crew I rarely see otherwise. And my bedside manner‘s a vast improvement over the Doc‘s, but then whose wouldn‘t be? But I don‘t want the Doc‘s job, even if he really believes I can learn it. I hate to admit it but it scared the crap out of me when the Doc went over to the Prometheus to contact Starfleet, and it looked like he might not make it back. I don‘t want everyone‘s lives depending on my skills, not that way. As a pilot, yeah, that I know I can do, but in Sickbay...hell, no. I was so relieved when B‘Elanna got the Doctor back....

B‘Elanna. Gods, I know she‘s furious with me. I haven‘t seen her since our little scene yesterday in the Mess Hall. She managed to reign in her temper there, far better than I did. Maybe after she stalked out she threw a few vases across her quarters and pretended she was aiming them at me. I wouldn‘t blame her. I was unfair to her. I‘m being unfair to her. I keep canceling our dates. I haven‘t been in her quarters in nearly three weeks, since the last time we made love...

Geez, maybe I am going insane. Why else have I avoided her, and why do I feel suffocated every time I think about holding her. I love holding B‘Elanna. I love her, I do, and I know she‘s the best thing that‘s ever happened to me. I know that. I‘d do anything not to hurt her. But I am hurting her, and the more I realize it, the more I resent her, and the more I feel the need to disentangle myself. And I know that‘s ridiculous because B‘Elanna‘s not trying to hold me down. Lately she‘s left me alone for days at a time, and the couple of times she has confronted me about my behavior, she‘s given up quickly and walked away. Or in the case of yesterday, stalked away. I haven‘t heard from her since. If that‘s my goal, I‘m doing a great job of driving B‘Elanna away. One or two more scenes like yesterday, and she‘ll never come back. Which is probably what I deserve.

Maybe tomorrow, after Steth leaves, I‘ll find B‘Elanna and apologize. Yeah, yeah, I‘m not sure even I believe that. I‘m starting to disgust even myself. I‘ll probably end up under the hood of the Camaro again, tinkering with the engine. When I should be with B‘Elanna, trying to make up for my recent behavior. I‘m starting to get the uncomfortable feeling that she‘s right about me hiding out in the holodeck.

Lord, 0110. I need some sleep, another thing I haven‘t been too successful at lately. I should be tired enough, with the long hours Steth and I put into repairing his ship today. I promised to help him with the final check through first thing tomorrow morning and then Steth will be off on his next adventure. And I‘ll still be here. Trying to figure out why I suddenly can‘t appreciate how good I have it on Voyager.

End personal log.

The following day:

1616 hours

"Lieutenant, I asked you a moment ago for the 12 centimeter spanner. Did you hear me?"

B‘Elanna tossed Vorik the spanner distractedly. Vorik caught it easily and wisely didn‘t question his Chief‘s inattention further. He just noted that the simmering anger he‘d sensed in her lately seemed to have dissipated. If he‘d asked her for the spanner this morning she might have thrown it at him. He was certain that there had been some tension in her relationship with Lieutenant Paris lately, of a more serious nature than the other varieties of tension he‘d previously noted between them. He could only surmise that when she‘d taken a break earlier she and Lieutenant Paris had addressed and resolved their differences. Or some of them anyway. Which was certainly none of his business, but his acute Vulcan sense of observation meant that very little escaped his notice. He had learned that it was most productive, thus logical, to stay aware of his Chief‘s changeable moods, and adapt to them. And though he had no difficulty or objection to doing so, since he understood it was simply her nature and never seemed to affect her innate abilities in Engineering, it was a relief to see that her dark mood of late had improved. Though perhaps not entirely disappeared.

B‘Elanna frowned as she adjusted one of the EPS conduits. She wasn‘t sure why she wasn‘t feeling more relieved, more happy about now. When she‘d gone to her quarters to retrieve some dataPADDs a couple of hours ago she‘d been thoroughly surprised to find Tom there. Hitting golf balls no less. After she‘d tossed and turned last night, and finally decided that she‘d had enough. He‘d been acting dissatisfied for weeks now. Just when life on Voyager had gotten back to a pleasant routine and free time had finally become a reality again, Tom had started backing away, breaking dates, disappearing into the Holodeck. Instead of spending more time together, they were spending almost no time together. They hadn‘t even made love in almost three weeks. When she‘d tried to get him to talk to her, to tell her what was going on with him, he‘d rebuffed her every time. But she‘d let it slide, and had tried as graciously as was possible for her to give Tom the space he seemed to need. He‘d always been willing to give her space, and to accommodate her moods. She couldn‘t fault him for that. But after the Mess Hall scene two nights ago she‘d begun to believe that Tom wasn‘t just going through some phase. She hadn‘t seen him at all yesterday, though she‘d been easy enough to find if he‘d wanted to. Finally last night she‘d lain in bed deciding that she wasn‘t going to keep torturing herself trying to reach out to Tom, trying to hold on to something that was getting more tenuous by the moment. If Tom had decided he wanted out, then she wouldn‘t try and stop him. She wasn‘t going to cling, or beg. God forbid, the thought made her shudder. And if Tom‘s recent distancing himself from her was tearing her up deep inside, no one else was going to know it.

Oh, she knew the rest of the crew saw the tension between them lately. Saw that Tom was spending all his time on the Holodeck, without her. And that she was irritated about it. But that was it. She hadn‘t lost her temper and screamed at him, or hit him where it would hurt, even though he completely deserved it. No one watching them had reason to think that his attitude was more than a minor annoyance to her, and they certainly couldn‘t think that his growing rejection of her was of any real importance to her, that it was slowly devastating her inside. If she and Tom broke up, well, it was no big deal. They‘d given it a shot. No hard feelings, no lasting effects. Life goes on as before. It didn‘t really matter that much. That‘s what she would make them think. That‘s what she would make Tom think. And she‘d finally been able to drift off to sleep last night forcing that thought to play over and over in her mind. It didn‘t matter. It didn‘t matter.

And now it really didn‘t matter. B‘Elanna dropped the spanner on the pile of tools at her side and pulled a small laser file out of the vest pocket of her Engineering smock. In her quarters a while ago, Tom had been completely apologetic about his recent behavior. He‘d been glib when she‘d first walked in, bringing up the whole golf thing, rambling on as if nothing different had been going on between them during the past few weeks. As if he hadn‘t done some strange about face on her. And she‘d responded skeptically, openly questioning his abrupt change of attitude, while suppressing the small flame of hope inside. But he‘d admitted his mistake, and he‘d apologized to her, ingratiatingly. At first she‘d had this strange inkling that he didn‘t mean it, that he was hiding something. But she knew that was ridiculous. Tom had never lied to her. Avoided her, joked his way around subjects he didn‘t want to talk about, but never lied. And the welcome sense of relief, that Tom hadn‘t been trying to find a way to end their relationship, that he didn‘t want to shut her out anymore, had washed over her. He wanted to be with her.

So why did she still feel uneasy about it? B‘Elanna replaced the laser file in her pocket and picked up the scanner. She checked the setting while deciding that she must be an idiot. Tom had admitted his mistake, and he‘d told her he wanted to spend more time with her. What else did she want? He‘d kissed her, thoroughly, and for a moment he‘d pressed for more. Then her commbadge had beeped, and she‘d felt almost...relieved. Vorik had called to tell her he was ready to start the EPS recalibration when she returned. Tom had looked annoyed at the interruption, and she‘d reminded him she hadn‘t gotten the rest of her shift off from Engineering as he had from Sickbay. After quickly grabbing her dataPADDs, she‘d told Tom she‘d call him about dinner. Then she‘d half tripped over the golf club, and had smiled in memory and chided him about the last time she‘d suggested he teach her golf, how he‘d blanched and said he‘d never put a golf club in her hands. Instead of an answering grin or amused retort, Tom had simply looked at her uncomprehendingly. Then he‘d shrugged and followed her out of her quarters, suddenly in as big a hurry as she was, murmuring a quick "see you later" as he sprinted off in the opposite direction.

"Lieutenant Torres, the outer EPS relays are recalibrated."

B‘Elanna nodded, Vorik‘s voice bringing her back to the present. "Fine, Ensign." She looked at the scanner in her hand. The measurements were correct. "Let‘s start on the inner relays then."

As she began the first scans her mind drifted back to Tom again. It had been quite a few months ago when Tom had feigned fear over playing golf with her. He‘d just forgotten about it. It was hardly unusual to forget a detail or two as time passed. And they‘d been through a lot since then. And even more lately, what with contacting Starfleet again, and the Hirogen messing with their minds. Tom still hadn‘t talked much about not getting the letter from his father, but she was sure it still bothered him. Tonight, she decided, they would talk. She was definitely going to insist on it.

After that, well, she‘d missed him. Really missed him. And she should be relieved that he seemed to have dealt with whatever was bothering him, that his restless mood had disappeared as if it had never existed, and that wanted to spend more time with her. She was relieved. Of course she was-

B‘Elanna‘s commbadge beeped and she almost dropped the scanner. "Lieutenant Torres here."

"Lieutenant Torres, this is Lieutenant Paris. I need to see you immediately."

B‘Elanna‘s brow furrowed. "Tom, what is it?"

"Meet me in Transporter Room Two. It‘s important.

I have a big surprise for you."

"Tom-" B‘Elanna heard the soft click and knew Tom had disconnected. What was that all about? He sounded like he was in a hurry, or couldn‘t talk-

"Go ahead, B‘Elanna. I‘ll take over for you."

B‘Elanna looked up at Joe Carey.

"I was just coming over to see if you needed any help anyway," Joe said. "Tom sounded like it might be urgent."

Tom had said it was important... "Thanks, Joe."

She stood up. "I won‘t be very long."

Joe shrugged. "You don‘t have to rush," he said, kneeling as she handed him the scanner. "Take however long you need. We can survive a little while without you."

B‘Elanna met Joe‘s gaze, and he smiled at her. Her Engineering crew had most certainly gauged her tense mood lately, and she knew that Joe more than anyone had learned to read her moods. She also had a feeling he saw more than she wanted him to see, but he hadn‘t pressed her about it. For the longest time she hadn‘t appreciated just how good a man he was, let alone how good a friend. She knew he not only did everything she asked- quickly and competently- but as her second he also worked hard trying to find ways to keep some of the pressure off her. And she appreciated that, too. "Thanks, Joe."

"You‘re welcome. And, B‘Elanna, I‘m glad things are working out."

She nodded, then walked toward the Main Engineering doors. Joe was right. Things were working out- they would work out for her and Tom. They‘d just hit a small hurdle in their relationship. In fact she was glad he‘d called. She felt kind of bad that she‘d been in a hurry to get out of her quarters earlier, that she‘d given into some ridiculous unfounded sense of unease. It was just the stress of the past few weeks getting to her. Whatever Tom wanted, she‘d also let him know that she was eager to accept his olive branch, to spend time with him tonight, and to put the past few weeks behind them.

Joe watched as the Main Engineering doors swished open and B‘Elanna strode out. He‘d meant it when he‘d told her he was glad things were working out. Not just because a tense B‘Elanna Torres made Engineering an uncomfortable place to be, truthfully he knew her so well now that it didn‘t faze him anymore. But he‘d also gotten pretty fond of his Chief Engineer, and as her friend he wanted to see her happy. And she definitely hadn‘t been the past few weeks, though he‘d watched her make monumental efforts to hide just how much she was hurting. He‘d been tempted to offer himself as a sounding board a couple of times, but he‘d sensed she wasn‘t receptive to that. She wanted to handle her problems with Tom Paris- and he had no doubt that Tom was at the bottom of it- by herself. He‘d also considered offering himself as a sounding board to Tom if that would help, or if not, maybe using Tom as a punching bag. But it seemed they‘d come to some understanding earlier this afternoon, as the more relaxed set of B‘Elanna‘s features had told him when she‘d returned from her break. She‘d still looked preoccupied, but then relationships were never completely smooth. There were always a few bumps, a few scares to deal with. He been through it himself.

Joe pulled his gaze from the now closed Main Engineering doors and focused on the complicated web of relays in front of him. He and Sarah had always worked it out. No matter how bad the fight had been, or what obstacles came up, they always managed to pull through it. Love was like that. And Sarah and the boys were even now waiting for him, knowing that some day Voyager would make it home. Their letters, and his to them, would get them through until they could be together again. He read them every single day. As for B‘Elanna and Tom, well, he‘d seen the looks they‘d bestowed on each other. The looks that the other didn‘t see- the kind that jumped out in that unprotected moment when someone assumed they were being unobserved, the look that if only for a second lay open the soul and unmasked what was really in the heart. He‘d seen what was in B‘Elanna‘s- and Tom‘s- heart, even if they still fought it, and feared it a little. But it was there, and come hell or high water, he was sure they‘d eventually work it out. And he hoped that B‘Elanna didn‘t come back any time soon.

1812 hours

B‘Elanna had been back for 89 minutes. Joe was practically counting each one. He‘d found he couldn‘t stop. And he wished he knew what to do. She‘d been gone a total of perhaps fifteen minutes. Then she‘d strode back into Engineering, and before he could even look up told him quietly that she would take over the again. Actually he almost wished he hadn‘t looked up at all. The look on B‘Elanna‘s face was, well, nothing he‘d ever seen before. She‘d looked stunned. Almost lifeless. And he‘d never known anyone who had as expressive a face as B‘Elanna. Her face was almost literally frozen. He‘d started to say something, to ask what the hell had happened, but she‘d just knelt down and pulled the scanner out of his hand and refused to even look at him. Instead she‘d immediately started to work with furious concentration, applying herself to her task like some sort of automation. After she‘d told Vorik to find something else to do. Vorik hadn‘t wasted any time vacating the EPS system to his Chief.

Joe punched several pads on the Warp Diagnostics master panel, updating the data he was working on. He should have finished the update by now- he had finished- but he didn‘t want to leave the vicinity. Not until he saw some reaction in B‘Elanna, until she said or did something. Hurled tools across Engineering, shouted obscenities- something to deal with whatever Tom Paris had said or done to her. And obviously it had been pretty extreme. Had the pilot dumped B‘Elanna, told her it was over? That‘s all Joe could think would put B‘Elanna in this state, and he couldn‘t believe it. Had he totally misjudged Tom? Was the man a complete fool, so self destructive and deluded that he could do this to B‘Elanna, and to himself? Joe didn‘t want to believe it. If it was true then maybe his earlier half joking thoughts about using Tom as a punching bag weren‘t so funny after all. In fact as he continued to surreptitiously watch B‘Elanna hand‘s moving along the EPS relays, her gaze fixed and focused unseeingly in front of her, he had the very real urge to really hurt Tom Paris.

Two interminable hours later, he approached B‘Elanna at the IPS console, where she‘d decided it was time to run a Level 2 diagnostic of the entire system. Any one of her crew could have reminded her that they‘d done a Level 2 just three weeks ago, but no one did.

"Lieutenant, your shift was over two and a half hours ago," Joe said quietly from over her shoulder. "You can have Nicoletti or Larson finish the diagnostic."

She didn‘t turn around. "I‘ll finish it."

Joe sighed. "B‘Elanna, why don‘t you go get some dinner. If it‘s anyone‘s turn to pull a double, it‘s mine. If you want me to finish the diagnostic-"

"No!" B‘Elanna turned around and he saw the quick flash of pain in her eyes before she pulled herself together, and lowered her voice. "Joe, please..."

And that was that. He simply nodded, understanding her message. She wanted to be left alone, to derive whatever comfort she could from her engines. So he left her there, knowing there was nothing else he could do, but trust that she could handle whatever had so rattled her. Whatever Tom Paris had said or done to her. Damn that son of a bitch. What the hell was wrong with him?

0012 hours

B‘Elanna Torres lay in her bed unmoving, staring at the ceiling that she couldn‘t see in the complete and utter darkness she had requested. She‘d held out in Engineering until after 2300 hours. Finally she could feel her ability to focus waning, and the headache she had been developing had become a full blown pounding in her skull. She‘d left under the cautious yet solicitous stares of her crew changing shifts and returned to her quarters, tearing off her clothes and hopping in the shower, wishing the scalding water could wash away what was in her mind. Then she‘d crawled under the covers and ordered the computer to turn the lights out.

In Engineering she‘d focused intently on the tasks at hand, the EPS relays, the IPS Level 2 diagnostic, and finally, efficiency rating tests of the impulse drive. And she‘d refused to let up that focus, keeping her mind blessedly blank, and the fury and hurt contained in some back compartment where she didn‘t have to think about it or deal with it. Until it began to wear her down.

Now the thoughts and feelings she had kept deliberately at bay wouldn‘t be held back any more. Truly they had seeped in while she‘d worked furiously in Engineering, stilling her hands for a moment, and causing her stomachs to lurch, but she‘d been able to force them back one at a time. Now they descended on her in full force, flooding her mind. And she could only observe as a mute and horror-struck witness as her mind insisted on replaying the scene.

She‘d initially thought he was kidding about taking off for a day on the beach of the Kendran planet. She been happy to see Tom so much more lighthearted though, and she‘d joked back that they‘d need at least a week, she‘d even leered suggestively at him while she‘d said it. Then she‘d realized he wasn‘t kidding. She‘d been stunned, and angry that Tom would even consider such a dereliction of duty, or expect her to go along with him. It had seemed senseless, and his complete dismissal of responsibility had scared her. But not as much as him twisting her arm, and practically spitting in her face. She hadn‘t even had time to react before he‘d grabbed her chin and told her that she was a disappointment to him.

And that he didn‘t know what he‘d ever seen in her. And the look of disgust, of icy contempt in his blue eyes, that had never before looked cold to her-

She squeezed her eyes shut, but it didn‘t shut out the voices. The ones that still survived in a place deep inside her, that she‘d never been quite able to bury, that derided her ever having thought someone could really love her. *You fool, how could you have believed in it, even for a minute?

Set yourself up for this? Why would he hang around any longer than anyone else did? Why would he mean all the things he said to you- that you were beautiful, that you were special to him- when no one else ever did? Deep down you always knew he would dump you sooner or later. That you weren‘t good enough for him-*

*SHUT UP! He was vicious, cruel. He‘s the one who isn‘t good enough. But why didn‘t he just tell me he wanted out? I wouldn‘t have tried to stop him. Why would he treat me like this?*

*This isn‘t right. Why? Why would Tom do this?

Maybe because he‘s been dissatisfied for weeks. With me. But he told me today he was sorry. That he wanted to be with me. Why would he turn around and say...what he said? Why would he be so cruel?

When he apologized, I thought he meant it. Tom was always good at finding the right words. But he‘s never lied to me before. Or maybe he‘s been lying to me all along, and it‘s just been some game to him-*

*No, I know Tom. I know he has faults but he‘s never ever been deliberately cruel. This is just doesn‘t make sense. He‘s not like that. Not Tom.

This is wrong. This is so wrong. It can‘t be Tom. Something is just not right.*

B‘Elanna sprang to a sitting position, pushing the bedcovers down. *Something is wrong. That was not Tom.* Variations of that thought had shot through her mind ever since she‘d returned to Engineering in a shocked daze. But she‘d pushed them away as quickly as she had the endless self-recriminations, and the anger and the hurt. Now- finally- she actually considered it, and her rioting emotions calmed long enough for rational deliberation.

She did know Tom. Very well. And she knew his faults. He could be glib, evasive, petulant, even irresponsible. But she‘d never seen him treat anyone with deliberate cruelness. She‘d envisioned in her worst nightmares that Tom might change his mind, back away from her- that he would leave her- but she‘d never once envisioned that he could treat her the way he did today. Because he couldn‘t. He wouldn‘t. He might break her heart one day, but he would never try and crush her with such ruthlessness, and look at her with such cold dismissal while he did it.

"Computer, lights, half illumination."

B‘Elanna glanced at the chronometer on her bedside table as the room brightened. 0025 hours. She jumped from the bed and crossed her bedroom, pulling open the wardrobe. She had her nightshift off and her gym sweats on in a matter of seconds. Then she paused briefly as she tightened the cord of the pants.

She‘d thought of going immediately to the Captain, but now she balked for a moment. Would the Captain think her concern for Tom was unfounded, that it was something that B‘Elanna had exaggerated in her own mind because of the problems she and Tom had been having in their personal relationship lately, a relationship she knew the Captain expected to be conducted separate from their professional lives and in line with a Starfleet ship‘s protocol standards? Captain Janeway had never indicated that she disapproved of the relationship, but neither she, nor B‘Elanna, had yet to initiate any kind of personal discussion about it.

But if Tom needed help, if he wasn‘t himself because of some illness or mental dissociation, or if something else was affecting him, that was far more important than worrying about being embarrassed if she was wrong. And she wasn‘t wrong.

"Computer, what is the location of Captain Janeway?"

"Captain Janeway is in her quarters."

"Computer, is she awake?"

"Breathing patterns indicate that Captain Janeway is asleep."

Great. B‘Elanna really didn‘t want to wake her up this late. But she didn‘t want to wait until tomorrow. She had to talk to someone now. Maybe there was another option...

0034 hours

Commander Chakotay had been reading- actually he had been just about to put down the PADD and go to sleep- when B‘Elanna had called. She‘d only said a few words- that she needed to talk to him and that it was important- but he had heard the urgency in her voice. She‘d barely heard his acknowledgment before she‘d signed off. He didn‘t know what the problem was, but he felt pretty sure it wasn‘t some serious problem in Engineering, or she would have called the Captain, no matter the hour. He had a feeling that it might be a personal matter, and that made him immediately wonder if it had something to do with Tom. He knew Tom‘s dissatisfied attitude of late was frustrating B‘Elanna, though it hadn‘t seemed to affect her work or her interactions with the rest of the crew. She‘d grown a lot since becoming Chief Engineer on Voyager. She might never conquer her temper completely, but she‘d learned to control it, most of the time.

When his door announcer rang, he barely had a chance to call out "come in" before B‘Elanna was through the door like the proverbial whirlwind. As was B‘Elanna‘s nature when she‘d made a decision, she didn‘t waste any time.

"Chakotay, I need to talk to you about Tom."

Chakotay patted the couch. He didn‘t want to carry on a conversation with B‘Elanna pacing his quarters the whole time, and he could see the nervous energy in her. "Sit down."

B‘Elanna hesitated only a moment then sat down, perching on the very edge of the couch as if she might spring back up any second.

"B‘Elanna, are you here to see me as your friend, as the ship‘s unofficial counselor, or is this an official visit?"

B‘Elanna frowned. "I‘m not sure. Maybe all three. Can we figure that out later?"

"Okay." Chakotay leaned back and draped his arm along the back of the couch, subliminally inviting B‘Elanna to relax also. She didn‘t. "What‘s on your mind?"

B‘Elanna‘s frown deepened. "Chakotay, I‘ve done my best to keep my personal life as separate as I can from my duties-"

"Not an easy thing in a confined space like Voyager," Chakotay pointed out.

"No," B‘Elanna sighed. "I suppose everyone‘s noticed that my relationship with Tom has been a little... strained lately."

"I don‘t know about everyone," Chakotay amended. "It‘s not like the whole ship‘s gossiping. But, yes, I‘ve certainly noticed the change in Tom‘s attitude. And I know you pretty well. I know that it‘s affecting you, even though you have been incredibly even tempered about it."

"Thanks, I guess."

"That was a compliment," Chakotay said, smiling. "If you‘ve wanted to kill him, it hasn‘t been apparent. You know, when I talked with Tom this morning, his mood seemed very improved. He didn‘t even seem particularly upset when I told him he was expected in Sickbay."

"Yeah." The sudden flat tone in B‘Elanna‘s voice alerted Chakotay. "When I went to my quarters earlier today to retrieve some PADDs, he was there hitting golf balls."

"Golf balls?"

"Yeah. He was positively cheerful. He apologized for his attitude lately, and said he was sorry for shutting me out. He said he wanted to spend more time with me."

Chakotay was a little confused. "Isn‘t that good?"

B‘Elanna swallowed and continued. "A couple hours later he called me and wanted me to meet him in Transporter Room Two. When I got there he‘d packed a picnic basket and wanted me to go down to the Kendran planet with him for a whole day."

Chakotay looked even more confused. "No shore leave has been assigned on the Kendran planet." Then he raised an eyebrow. "Are you telling me that Tom wanted you both to leave the ship without permission?"

"Yes. And it gets worse, Chakotay." B‘Elanna then quickly and tonelessly repeated the entire incident in the Transporter Room, word for word, and action for action. When she finished, Chakotay simply stared at her for a long moment.

"And this happened late this afternoon." Chakotay‘s words were a statement rather than a question.

B‘Elanna nodded. "Yes. I realize now that I should have said something sooner. I thought that it would be inappropriate to take mine and Tom‘s...personal problems to the Captain."

"This is a little more than a personal problem between you and Tom," Chakotay said quietly. He looked at the half Klingon engineer, whom he‘d known longer than anyone else on this ship, who‘d been perpetually angry, defensive, and self-protective when he‘d first brought her into the Maquis. He‘d watched her mature on Voyager, learn to reign in her temper, leave her unsettled past behind her, and begin to accept and even appreciate the strengths her dual heritage gave her. But he also knew that old wounds never healed completely. And he supposed something like this might be enough to bring those old insecurities to the surface. "B‘Elanna, you know I certainly had a low opinion of Tom when we first came to Voyager. I thought he was cocky, spoiled, selfish, irresponsible...and I could go on. And while my assessment was probably colored by our past association, a lot of it was accurate. Tom has changed a lot since then, because he really wanted to. But that doesn‘t mean he won‘t slide from time to time. We all do."

Chakotay leaned forward and rested his arms across his knees, his eyes holding her gaze intently. "However, in all the time I‘ve known Tom, one thing I‘ve never seen him capable of, then or now, is deliberate outright cruelty. Especially not to a woman, sexist as that might sound. And especially not to a woman I know he cares about. He‘s got plenty of faults, but meanness is not one of them. It‘s not in his nature."

B‘Elanna nodded, and rubbed her temples. "I know. I should have realized it right away." She looked at Chakotay. "It was just...the things he said, the way he looked at me so coldly. It triggered something." She gave him a small, painful smile. "My past, I guess. I wanted to alternately kill him, and to find some place to hide and pretend it never happened..."

"So you chose the more circumspect course and hid out in Engineering," Chakotay guessed, and he knew he was right before she even confirmed it. B‘Elanna had always found solace in the reliable, undemanding mechanics of engines and drives when her emotions threatened to overwhelm her.

"Yes, until I was pretty sure my crew was going to call you or the Captain to pull rank on me if I didn‘t leave. Then in my quarters I finally let myself really think about what Tom had said, consider the likelihood that he would act...that way-"

"And reason reasserted itself," Chakotay finished for her. He reached over and pressed his hands over her tightly clenched ones. "Right now, I think we should consider what to do about Tom. He is obviously not himself." He glanced up unconsciously in the way that Starfleet personnel did when they prepared to address the computer. "Computer, what is the location of Lieutenant Paris?"

"Lieutenant Paris is in his quarters."

"Is he awake?"

"Breathing patterns indicate that he is asleep."

"Asleep or unconscious?"

"Lieutenant Paris is in a natural state of deep Delta wave sleep."

"Computer, please monitor Lieutenant Paris‘ sleep patterns and inform me the moment he wakes up. Command authorization, Chakotay Beta 5463 C."


Chakotay looked at B‘Elanna. "I haven‘t heard any other reports, so apparently Tom has not caused any more trouble, and he‘s unlikely to while he‘s asleep. Given the late hour my inclination is to follow this up by having Tom report to Sickbay for a complete physical first thing in the morning. I‘ll inform the Captain of Tom‘s behavior first, since the order should come from her. Then we‘ll leave it to the Doctor to figure out what is causing this erratic behavior in Tom."

"Thank you, Chakotay." B‘Elanna stood. "I know Tom‘s been restless and irritable lately, but today...

I couldn‘t believe I‘d misjudged him so." She laughed derisively. "But I guess since I let myself believe it for a while, I did misjudge him." She rubbed her temples again.

"Let‘s deal with Tom‘s problems right now," Chakotay said, rising from the couch. "And one thing I can tell you, B‘Elanna, no relationship is a smooth course. It‘s not easy. Sometimes it‘s a matter of a couple of steps forward and a couple of steps backward. Continuing to make the effort is what matters." And that‘s if both parties are even willing to make the effort, he thought tiredly. And realized he didn‘t need to be thinking about his own life right now. He dropped a hand on B‘Elanna‘s shoulder. "Wait here a minute."

Chakotay walked to his bathroom and was back in a matter of seconds with two tablets and a glass of water. He held them out to B‘Elanna.

"What is this?" B‘Elanna asked, taking them reluctantly.

"Standard analgesic," Chakotay said. "Something that doesn‘t require the Doctor‘s solicitous presence to get rid of your headache. Take them."

B‘Elanna popped the two tablets into her mouth and took a long swallow of water. Then she handed the glass back to Chakotay. "Thanks."

"I‘ll talk to you in the morning. Once the Doctor has had a chance to examine Tom and get to the bottom of whatever is causing his aberrant behavior. In the meantime, try and get some sleep."

B‘Elanna nodded. "I‘ll try." She turned to leave and Chakotay‘s voice stopped her.

"B‘Elanna, I hope you know you can talk to me any time. Not just as your commanding officer, but as your friend. And we‘ve been friends for a long time. You can tell me anything, whether you want advice or you just need someone to listen." He smiled. "I‘m always here."

"I know." B‘Elanna reached up and gave him a quick hug.

Chakotay squeezed her shoulders as she pulled away. "Get some sleep," he admonished again.

He watched her leave and sat down at his desk, deep in thought. It was hard to countenance what B‘Elanna had said about Tom. But B‘Elanna, despite her emotional nature, was rarely given to exaggerating the facts. And though he had himself questioned whether the relationship between her and Tom might eventually end, with hurt feelings no doubt the result, this was not the way Tom would do it. He knew the man that well, at least.

Chakotay had heard no word of other complaints against Tom today. He knew the Doctor had released Tom from most of his afternoon duty in Sickbay for some reason, and Chakotay had sent him a last minute assignment this evening to assist Seven with the shuttle refit. He wondered briefly if anyone else had noticed any changes in Tom‘s behavior, beyond the sense of discontentment that had been noticeable for the past few weeks. Something as concrete as what B‘Elanna had witnessed, something that suggested Tom was not merely going through a periodic lifestyle adjustment that Chakotay assumed was temporary, but was perhaps suffering from some sort of personality disturbance.

There was one person on the ship who had spent time with Tom today who wouldn‘t be sleeping right now. And who was always more than willing to share his opinion of the crew‘s behavior, especially that of Tom Paris. Chakotay pressed his desk intercom and opened a channel to Sickbay.

0705 hours

B‘Elanna gathered the dataPADDs from her desk that she would need today in Engineering. She had plenty of time to go by the Mess Hall and eat breakfast before her duty shift began at 0800. But she had no appetite whatsoever. She decided she might as well get to Engineering, and wait there to hear from Chakotay or the Doctor. At least there she could lose herself in her work, and not dwell so closely on the slow passing of time.

She‘d tried to sleep last night, but had only been partially successful. She had been restless, unable to stop thinking about Tom. Her anger from yesterday had faded to a pressing concern for his health, and she wondered as she approached her door to leave if Chakotay had spoken to the Captain yet or if Tom was perhaps already in Sickbay. Her door swished open at the exact moment her commbadge beeped.

"Torres here."

"Lieutenant Torres."

The Doctor. B‘Elanna stopped in mid stride.

Maybe he already knew what was wrong with Tom.

"I have been informed that some of Lieutenant Paris‘ behavior yesterday was out of character, to say the least. The Captain has requested that I schedule a full physical and neurological work up immediately. Besides his apparent drinking binge and violation of the Captain‘s personal logs last night, Commander Chakotay told me you observed aberrant behavior in Lieutenant Paris also."

Drinking? Reading the Captain‘s personal logs?
Gods, it was worse than she had imagined.

"Lieutenant, I do not wish to pry into your personal affairs, however any facts you can give me regarding Mr. Paris‘ behavior may assist me in making a correct diagnosis."

B‘Elanna sighed, then outlined Tom‘s behavior yesterday, first his cheerful attitude in her quarters- completely different from his discontented demeanor of the past few weeks- then his outright hostility in the Transporter Room. She left out one or two of the specific details, but told the Doctor enough to illustrate the extreme changes in Tom‘s behavior. When she finished there was a momentary silence through the open channel.

"I see," the Doctor finally replied. "I have no immediate opinion on the reason for Mr. Paris‘ recent actions, however the Captain is at this moment ordering Mr. Paris to report here, whether he likes it or not, so that I can determine that reason."

B‘Elanna was pretty sure Tom wouldn‘t like it at all. "Doctor, I know it‘s not technically my business, but whatever you can tell me after you examine Tom- I mean, not anything that is privileged, but if you can just let me know if he will be all right-"

"Lieutenant," the Doctor‘s voice was surprisingly gentle. "B‘Elanna. I will tell you whatever I can as soon as I examine Mr. Paris, and there is no reason to believe his problem cannot be easily corrected." The Doctor‘s voice took on its usual arrogant edge again. "I am after all programmed with the knowledge to detect and cure virtually any malady that can befall the human mind or body. Mr. Paris could not be in better hands, if I do say so myself."

"I know," B‘Elanna replied. "And thank you, Doctor."

The Doctor did not answer her and B‘Elanna heard the sound of several voices in Sickbay suddenly mixing with his. Although the Doctor had apparently moved away from the intercom channel, she could hear him speaking and she clearly heard the words "put him on a biobed." She was pretty sure one of the other voices she heard was the Captain‘s. And perhaps Tuvok‘s also.


"Ah, Lieutenant, I have a patient to see. I will-"

"Doctor, priorities, please."

That was definitely the Captain‘s voice, and she sounded impatient.

"I will get back to you, Lieutenant."

The comm channel closed after the Doctor‘s hastily uttered words, and B‘Elanna stood unmoving in her doorway for a moment. If the Captain was in Sickbay, then she had a sinking feeling that she knew who the patient must be.

"Computer, what is the location of Lieutenant Paris?"

"Lieutenant Paris is in Sickbay."

B‘Elanna closed her eyes. "What is his status."

"Lieutenant Paris is unconscious. Not further information has been entered. To access Sickbay medical logs for further information when it becomes available will require an authorization code-"

B‘Elanna slapped her commbadge.

"Bridge, Commander Chakotay."

"Chakotay, what is going on?"

There was the slightest pause. "I don‘t know exactly, B‘Elanna. Tom apparently attacked the Captain in her ready room and Tuvok and his Security team had to heavily stun him to restrain him. He‘s been taken to Sickbay for treatment."

My god. B‘Elanna bit her lip hard. Oh, Tom...

"Seven had some serious complaints about Tom‘s behavior last night that she brought to the Captain‘s attention this morning, so the Captain had already called Tom to report to her ready room before I got here. There is no doubt that something is seriously wrong with Tom, but the Doctor will get to the bottom of it, B‘Elanna."

"I hope so."

"I‘ll call you in Engineering as soon as there are some actual facts I can give you."

"I know. And thank you again for...everything, Chakotay. Torres out."

B‘Elanna strode out of her quarters and headed for Engineering, where she hoped she could find an outlet for all the frustration, concern, and fear for Tom that were churning inside her.

1036 hours

The past three hours had been some of the longest in B‘Elanna‘s life. She‘d assigned Joe and Vorik to begin the scheduled warp field equation recalculations, and had taken on the task of replacing the circuits in Jeffries E4, right off Main Engineering, both for the release the physical activity afforded, and so she could be alone. She could barely order her own thoughts, let alone carry on a conversation with anyone else. She‘d monitored the open Bridge communications, and had barely started her work when she‘d heard the hail from the Benthan ship. Steth was back, and he claimed to be...Tom. That had stilled B‘Elanna‘s hands for a moment, and by the time she‘d started seriously considering whether that amazing claim might be true, the Security alert had been issued from the Bridge. The Captain had taken a shuttle and left Voyager, for no apparent reason. B‘Elanna had listened, astonished, as Steth had convinced Chakotay that he was indeed Tom. Then Chakotay had allowed Steth- who was really Tom- to go after the shuttle. After the Captain, whose body was now possessed by a body stealing alien...

By that time she‘d been back in Main Engineering, prepared at Battlestations as Chakotay issued a Red Alert until the Captain‘s shuttle was recaptured. The rest of her Engineering crew had been as astonished as B‘Elanna, feeling like they were all in the middle of some bizarre holonovel. B‘Elanna had barely noticed the concerned looks in her direction, she‘d still been trying to comprehend that it was Tom out there in Steth‘s ship. She‘d also realized, with incredible relief, that it had not been Tom in the Transporter Room yesterday. Not an ill Tom, or a disturbed Tom. Not Tom at all, but an alien in Tom‘s body. She‘d also realized that it hadn‘t been Tom in her quarters earlier either. She‘d felt flushed, and furious, remembering how she had kissed him so thoroughly. And relieved that there had been no opportunity for matters to proceed any further than that...

After the Red Alert ended, Chakotay had called her and spoken with her just long enough to inform her that Tom and the Captain were in Sickbay with Steth, and the Doctor was confident that he could return everyone to their original body with no adverse effects. It had crossed B‘Elanna‘s mind after Chakotay had signed off that if Tom was in Steth‘s body, and Steth was in the Captain‘s body, then that must mean that the Captain was in Tom‘s body. The concept was bizarre to say the least.

And B‘Elanna had been thinking about it enough during the last two hours, while waiting to hear word that the Doctor‘s procedure was completed, successfully. She hated not knowing what was going on, and it had gotten to the point where she couldn‘t wait any longer. She had to know if Tom, and the Captain, were all right. Once she made the decision, she called Joe over and left him in charge, and headed for Sickbay uninvited.

The Doctor was speaking as she entered.

"-and everyone is back in their original body, Commander. The transfer does have the effect of stunning the recipient‘s neural pathways for a short time, while the DNA reintegrates itself to the new body, but that is very temporary. I administered a mild sedative since the sense of feeling paralyzed in effect is disturbing to the humanoid psyche, but within the hour everyone should be awake and alert."

B‘Elanna glanced at the biobeds as she approached, where the Captain, Tom and Steth all lay unconscious, but apparently themselves again.


She turned back to Chakotay and the Doctor.

"Chakotay, I know I probably shouldn‘t be here, but I had to know if Tom was all right. And the Captain-"

"I know." Chakotay smiled. "It seems the Doctor has performed to his usual high standards-"

"Of course," the Doctor replied huffily. "As if there were some doubt." He looked at B‘Elanna. "Lieutenant Paris will be back to his handsome, sometimes less than charming self, in short order."

B‘Elanna glanced at Tom again. His eyes were closed and he looked entirely peaceful, in sharp contrast to the last time she‘d seen him. The memory still jarred her emotions a little, but she was used to dealing with the strange things that one encountered in the depths of space, especially in the Delta quadrant, and she could accept that no matter what her senses had told her, that had not been Tom. The last time she had really seen Tom had been in the Mess Hall three nights ago. The conversation then hadn‘t been entirely pleasant either, but it had been Tom.

The Doctor‘s voice drifted over her shoulder. "As I assured you a minute ago, Lieutenant, Mr. Paris will be fine."

B‘Elanna looked at him. "I know. Thank you."

"Doctor, I need to return to the Bridge," Chakotay said. "Do you need any additional security?"

B‘Elanna followed the Doctor‘s glance toward his office, where a sullen looking alien woman was seated, flanked by two Benthan guards and two Voyager security officers. She realized that must be the actual alien who had started all of this, taken Steth‘s body, and then moved on to Tom and the Captain.

"I believe the security measures are sufficient, Commander." The Doctor gave the alien woman a sour look. "The alien body snatcher does not suffer the same neural disruption while invading bodies that it leaves in those it displaces, so I unfortunately could not sedate it in good conscience. That‘s apparently not even its original body either. There‘s no telling where it first came from."

Chakotay nodded. He glanced at Janeway. "Let me know when everyone is conscious. I imagine that the Captain will want to waste little time escorting the Benthans and their prisoner back to their ship. I‘ll be on the Bridge."

Chakotay dropped a hand lightly on B‘Elanna‘s shoulder as he passed her on his way out of Sickbay. B‘Elanna glanced back at the Doctor, who was looking at Tom speculatively. "What?"

"It‘s regretful that I didn‘t have time to further study the neurological and physical effects of an segregate consciousness and body being forced to exist together," the Doctor mused. "It might have yielded important data for medical science."

Under the circumstances, B‘Elanna didn‘t regret it one little bit.

"Not to mention that it would have been somewhat entertaining to see the Captain trying to issue orders from the body of Tom Paris. I would have given up an essential subroutine to have seen the look on Commander Chakotay‘s face in that event."

B‘Elanna gave the doctor a freezing stare almost worthy of the Captain herself.

The doctor was unfazed. "The crisis is over, Lieutenant. It might help to have a sense of humor about it."

B‘Elanna‘s look didn‘t alter. She was obviously not about to be amused, which didn‘t particularly surprise the Doctor. In his estimation only Seven and Tuvok displayed less sense of humor than Lieutenant Torres. But then he remembered what she had told him about the actions of the alien while he had inhabited Mr. Paris‘ body, so perhaps she couldn‘t be expected to see the lighter side, whether it would do her good or not.

B‘Elanna turned back to Tom, determined to ignore the Doctor. She stared at Tom, thinking again how peaceful his face looked while he slept. There was no sign of the strain she‘d seen on his features in the past few weeks. If their relationship was what had been causing that stress, what had been making him unhappy, then maybe she should just back away completely, let him off the hook. If that was what would make him happy...

What was she thinking? She wasn‘t going to give up on Tom. She loved him. Even when it hurt that he‘d been shutting her out, she still loved him. And she wanted him back. The man who‘d had been her friend first; who had ignored his own fears to comfort her in the Vidiian prison; who hadn‘t taken advantage of her in the Sakari caves when she‘d given him ample opportunity because he‘d genuinely cared about her and didn‘t want to hurt her; who‘d encouraged her to embrace her Klingon heritage and to accept her own feelings; who‘d embraced her while their lives were slowly slipping away and had made her feel in those moments of imminent death surrounded by the vast comfortless darkness of space less alone than she‘d ever felt in her life. The man who‘d looked at her with amusement, exasperation, affection, anger, desire, and who in rare unguarded moments had let his soul shine through his clear blue eyes. And his unspoken love. She didn‘t want to let that slip away.

B‘Elanna brushed a hand lightly across his face, her fingers lingering against the warm smooth skin of his cheek. She wanted him back, but it was his choice. She could only wait, and hope, that he would come.

B‘Elanna turned and met the Doctor‘s knowing gaze.

She knew he‘d been watching her the entire time. "I‘ll get out of your way, Doctor," she said brusquely. "And thank you again."

She left Sickbay, sparing a glance at the alien as she passed. For a brief moment their gazes locked, and a surge of intense dislike passed between them. B‘Elanna got a quick sense that the alien wanted to jump out of that chair and do to her what it had done to Tom and the Captain. Or worse. B‘Elanna‘s gaze narrowed, practically inviting the alien to try. She‘d love to strangle the life out of it. The alien‘s mouth suddenly curved into a cold smile, and the lips pursed. The alien blew a kiss at B‘Elanna, its eyes glittering with malicious amusement. B‘Elanna turned and stalked out.

The Doctor watched B‘Elanna walk out, and reconsidered sedating the alien briefly simply for the personal satisfaction, but his professional ethics subroutines prevented such an action. Perhaps he would have to rewrite those. He turned his attention instead to one of his patients, the eternally recalcitrant Tom Paris. He frowned, wondering briefly if the pilot had any clue how deeply B‘Elanna Torres felt about him. Or if he would ever truly appreciate what he had- and what he had achieved- on Voyager.

The doctor shook his head. Perhaps one day it would sink into the Lieutenant‘s thick skull. And he had seemed unnaturally subdued and cooperative in Steth‘s body, and more than anxious to return to his own life again. Perhaps this bizarre experience had taught him something. One could only hope.

2112 hours

Tom Paris lay prone in the back seat of the 1969 black and white vintage Camaro, the car that had soothed his increasingly restless soul over the past few weeks. But the sense of contentment he‘d felt working on the car paled compared to what he felt right now, holding B‘Elanna in his arms. She lay across him, her arms resting on his chest, her legs tangled with his, her hair falling in disarray around her face. And she was smiling at him. He‘d always known it, but again he was struck anew by how beautiful she was, and it nearly took his breath away. How had he ever, for even one second, thought that this wasn‘t enough? That it wasn‘t everything?

"What are you thinking?" B‘Elanna asked, her fingers brushing lightly against his chest.

"I was thinking about the past few weeks," Tom said honestly.

B‘Elanna‘s smile faded, just a little. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Tom reached up and tugged a strand of her hair, then twisted it gently around his fingers. "Yeah, I think I do."

B‘Elanna rested her chin on her hands while Tom‘s fingers brushed back her hair, and made brief, electrical contact with the line of her jaw. He looked away from her briefly, at the simulated black ceiling of the Camaro.

"I‘m not sure I know exactly what‘s been bothering me. I just started feeling trapped, like my life was moving along on a set course, and I wasn‘t the one controlling the direction any more." He moved his eyes back to her face. "It wasn‘t you, you know. I just felt like I suddenly had no choices left, like they‘d all been made and there was no turning back."

"It‘s not that bad a life, is it, Tom?" B‘Elanna asked quietly.

Tom‘s fingers brushed her cheek. "There‘s nothing bad about it at all. Maybe that was part of the problem. Things have been going so smoothly lately. The Hirogen are behind us and for the first time in ages there‘ve been no new crises to deal with, the ship‘s been running like clockwork, and it‘s like I‘ve suddenly had too much time to think. Even though I knew I had everything could want- I do have everything I could want- somehow it‘s like I was trying to find some way to sabotage it. If that makes any sense at all."

Some, maybe. B‘Elanna‘s mouth curved slightly.

"Well, you haven‘t sabotaged anything...yet."

Tom smiled. "I‘m glad. You know when Steth talked about his adventures, about coming and going as he pleased, with no one to answer to, it was like a direct contrast to my life. When he- or whatever the alien was who had taken over his body- said that he woke up every day with no idea what might happen that day, or what adventure he might encounter, I actually felt like I missed that unpredictability, that sense of living on the edge, that feeling of total freedom."

B‘Elanna looked at Tom soberly. "I wish I could completely understand how you‘ve been feeling, Tom. After I got booted from Starfleet, and before Chakotay recruited me to join the Maquis, I lived like that. I woke up every day, not knowing where I would go, or what I would do. And it never felt like an exciting adventure to me. It just felt like I didn‘t belong anywhere. After I joined the Maquis, and especially since I‘ve been on Voyager, I‘ve never once wished I could go back to living like that. Not once. I want to know that I belong somewhere. That I matter."

Tom‘s hand slid down to cup B‘Elanna‘s chin, in a gesture almost reminiscent of the alien possessed Tom who had grabbed her roughly in the Transporter Room. But Tom‘s hand was gentle, and he stroked her jaw lightly with his thumb. "You matter, B‘Elanna. Believe me, you matter. And I realized when I woke up on Steth‘s ship- ironically exactly in the position I thought I‘d been yearning for, free to do whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted- that all I did want was to get back to Voyager, and to you. I didn‘t feel any particular sense of freedom. I just felt alone. All I wanted was to get home and get my life back."

"I‘m glad you felt that way," B‘Elanna said softly.

"B‘Elanna, believe me, this is where I want to be, and who I want to be." Tom winced a little. "Not that there was anything wrong with Steth‘s body, but I sure as hell would rather be in my own. It was just a little too strange. And even worse, I knew that he- or it- was back here in my body." And by the time Tom had returned to the Bridge this afternoon, with an infinite sense of relief and gratitude, he‘d already heard from several sources that the alien masquerading as himself had created quite a bit of havoc. A true day from hell courtesy of Tom Paris. Not that he hadn‘t managed that on occasion in the past, but this time he wasn‘t even present. "I guess the alien pretty much fooled everybody, for a while."

B‘Elanna had tensed slightly and Tom was very aware of it. "For a while," she agreed, her mouth set in a grim line. "Though he eventually started making mistakes. Losing control."

Tom saw something flash in B‘Elanna‘s eyes briefly; anger, or hurt, maybe even self recrimination. She shifted a little, as if she
might pull away. He tightened his arms around her. "B‘Elanna, I‘m sorry. Whatever he said, or did-

"It wasn‘t you, Tom. You don‘t have to apologize."

"B‘Elanna, if he hurt you-"

"He didn‘t." She sighed. She knew Tom wanted to know what had happened, but she didn‘t think repeating everything word for word serve any purpose. It was over. "He was..."

"A pig?"

B‘Elanna shook her head. "He was a jerk, a complete p‘taQ. That‘s far worse than a pig." B‘Elanna‘s mouth quirked a little, but Tom didn‘t smile in return. "He got a little...unpleasant, he said a few malicious things, but it doesn‘t matter. He wasn‘t you, Tom, and I know that."

Tom realized that she wasn‘t going to tell him the specifics. And after his attitude lately he had no right to push her. And maybe he really didn‘t want to know everything that had happened between them...

"Tom." B‘Elanna held his sober gaze. "That did not happen."

Tom understood B‘Elanna‘s meaning. He was glad, not because he‘d be hurt or angry at B‘Elanna for something the alien body snatcher had done, but because he really didn‘t want to think about her having to deal with that alien creep having tricked her into something she might not forgive herself for, even if there was nothing to forgive. "B‘Elanna, all I care about is that you are okay. That‘s all."

B‘Elanna pressed her lips softly to the warm skin over his collarbone, then looked at him. "I am. Not that I wouldn‘t still like to rip the p‘taQ‘s heart out, but I‘ll settle for the fact that the Benthans will keep him- her- whatever- locked up, hopefully forever. And for the fact that you are Tom Paris again."

"In more ways than one," Tom said quietly. His mouth quirked into a wry, teasing smile. "Though I‘m still not sure why you bother with me."

"Simple, Tom." B‘Elanna reached up and brushed her hands along his face, then slid her fingers into his hair. She inched up until her mouth poised over his. "Because you bothered with me." Her whispered words feathered across his mouth, and their lips met and had begun to move a deep mutual exploration, when a loud beep startled them.

"Warning: Your holodeck time ends in five minutes."

They pulled apart, and B‘Elanna dropped her head to his shoulder, then raised herself up. Tom sat up next to her, reaching into the front seat to retrieve their discarded uniform pieces. "I guess we‘ll have to postpone this."

B‘Elanna took her clothes from Tom and began to put them on, struggling a little in the cramped space. "Tell me again why you wanted to do this here."

"Because we couldn‘t wait," Tom said, pulling his t-shirt on. He looked at B‘Elanna and she silently acknowledged that it was true. It had been a while, and she had really missed him. He grinned at her. "Besides, this is sort of a long standing Earth tradition."

"Really," B‘Elanna said, pulling her tunic over her head.

"Yeah, it used to be called "parking", I think." Tom finally managed to pull his jumpsuit to his waist. "Of course, it was usually done by teenagers, in a public place, since part of the thrill was the chance of getting caught." He wriggled his arms into the jumpsuit sleeves, trying to keep his head from banging on the roof. "I don‘t think a locked holodeck qualifies, though."

"Good thing." B‘Elanna twisted a little to get her pants on. "I think we‘re a little overage for that."

"You‘re never too old to have fun, B‘Elanna, in the privacy of your own garage." Tom reached for his shoes. He eyed her slyly and grinned. "And you did have fun, didn‘t you?"

B‘Elanna straightened her uniform as much as she could in the confined space and reached for her shoes. "Yes," she admitted, stretching to retrieve one shoe that had slid under the seat. She bumped her head on the seatback as she pulled it out. "Ouch. Although at this moment a little more room for maneuverability would be nice."


"What?" She finally had both shoes in her hands.

"We could get OUT of the car, you know."

B‘Elanna stared at him, then pressed the door handle and pushed the door open.

Tom got out on the other side and grinned at her over the roof of the car. "I would have thought a genius engineer like yourself could have figured that out."

B‘Elanna glared at him, then dropped out of view to put her shoes on. She straightened up as he walked around the front of the car, fully dressed if a little rumpled. He stopped mere centimeters in front of her and his grin widened.

"Don‘t push your luck, Tom Paris," she warned.

He brushed a hand across her cheek, and rubbed his thumb gently along the contours of her full lower lip. "Never again," he said softly.

Their eyes held for a long moment. "Oh, you probably will," she returned, her voice husky.

"But you‘ll probably forgive me." His face moved toward hers.

"Probably." Her eyes fell to his mouth right before it descended on hers, and they kissed slowly, breaking apart when the computer‘s voice droned in again.

"Your holodeck time has ended."

"Computer, end program."

The computer did as Tom requested, and the garage faded to be replaced by the black and yellow grid of the holodeck structure. Tom and B‘Elanna barely noticed.

"Your place or mine?"


Tom dropped his arm around B‘Elanna‘s shoulders and her arm slid around his waist, her hand resting lightly around his hip. And, together, they walked out of the holodeck.

Personal log, Stardate 51777.14, B‘Elanna Torres reporting.

Tom left a while ago to go to his quarters and get into his uniform before we meet in the Mess Hall for breakfast. He has Sickbay duty this morning and he said he was actually "not completely dreading" it. I guess he told the Doctor yesterday that he would make more of an effort to learn the duties there, and the Doctor agreed that he might consider spreading his tutelage around to a few other members of the crew also. After all, Tom is the best pilot this ship has, and maybe even the Doctor realizes Tom should put most of his attention where his best talent lies. Well, his second best talent anyway, from my point of view.

Tom spent the night here last night, for the first time in a while. After we talked on the holodeck, in his 1969 Cuh mar oh- hope I pronounced it right this time- he came back here with me. Well, we did do a little more than just talk on the holodeck, but that part always comes easy for us. It‘s the talking that‘s been a little more difficult. But last night, we did talk. Tom opened up to me, and told me why he‘s been feeling restless and dissatisfied. He chafes sometimes at order and routine, as much as I crave it. Maybe that‘s not necessarily bad, that we‘re different in some ways. In other ways we‘re a lot alike. We‘re both too self-protective and we don‘t have much experience sharing our feelings, but maybe we are learning. Slowly. At least I think we‘re finally taking a step in the right direction. Or two or three.

It‘s funny, but now that the whole horrible incident is over, I can see that maybe we both learned something because of that body snatching p‘taQ. Tom seems to feel a genuine appreciation for his life on Voyager- for friends, and family- which is what we‘ve all become now. He said he wants to be here- nowhere else. Maybe he‘s just begun to believe it, but I think he means it. And I realized that I need to trust myself and my judgment, no matter how many times in the past I‘ve been afraid to. To trust my heart.

I know Tom‘s not perfect- far from it- but then neither am I. He is, however, a good man. A decent man. I don‘t know if what we have will last forever, or if some day we‘ll go our separate ways. He may hurt me in the end. But if he does, it won‘t be deliberately, and it won‘t be out of malice or cruelty. I wouldn‘t love him if he were capable of that. My heart knows that.

And I do know that Tom cares about me. A lot. Does he love me? Yes, I think so. He doesn‘t say the words, maybe he can‘t. Not yet anyway. But I‘ve seen it in his eyes, and he‘s shown me countless times. Does he love me enough to stay through the bad times, no matter how bad they might get? I don‘t know. How do I know if I love him enough. I think I do- we do- but maybe no one ever really knows for sure. We got through this crisis though.

I guess it‘s like Chakotay said. Relationships aren‘t easy, but hopefully we‘ll take more steps forward than backward. And if we keep working at it, maybe it will be enough. Maybe it will even be forever.

End personal log.

The end