By: R. Mackenzie

Date: December 29, 1998

Setting: Takes place between the fourth and fifth seasons.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns them, I‘m just borrowing them.

Tom Paris stood in the middle of his quarters taking one last look around. This place had been his home for nearly five years. He had made it his own, changing things, item by item over the years, to reflect his own personality. Now the shelves stood bare. All the things that he had collected on their trek through the Delta Quadrant fitting into a few boxes that had already been moved to the transporter room. All that was left was the duffel bag that sat by the door. It wasn‘t easy to leave, Voyager had become his home, he had finally found himself there among the walls, had found love, respect and friendship, or so he thought.

Shaking himself, he broke out of his pensive, reflective mood, picked up his duffel bag and headed out the door to his new life, a life that did not include Voyager or Starfleet.

Captain Kathryn Janeway waited impatiently for the members of her senior staff to assemble. She scanned the room, her first officer, Commander Chakotay was in a conversation with her head of security, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok. Her chief engineer, Lieutenant B‘Elana Torres and Chief of Operations, Ensign Harry Kim were seated to her right, heads bent together softly talking. The only people missing were her chief medical officer and chief conn officer. She glanced at the chronometer, they were late.

Clearing her throat to get everyone‘s attention, she took her seat at the head of the table and waited for Chakotay and Tuvok to find their places. If the others wanted to be late, so be it. Tom was already on her black list with that accident he had caused last week, he was just making it worse for himself.

The doors opened to reveal a very annoyed and obviously angry Doctor. He stood at the opposite end of the table from Janeway choosing not to take a seat. If looks could have killed, the entire senior staff would have dissolved into nothing.

"Captain," he began without apology for his tardiness or asking permission to address them, "since you have seen fit to relieve me of yet another assistant, I have compiled a list of possible candidates to fill the position. If it‘s not too much to ask, could you decide quickly, I need to begin their training as soon as possible."

Janeway looked at the Doctor as though he had grown a second head. "Doctor, what are you talking about? Mr. Paris was temporarily relieved of duty. He was due to report back today."

The Doctor snorted and continued to glare at his superior officer. "Captain, I realize Mr. Paris could be a bit of a pain, but I didn‘t think he was quite that forgettable. Nor was his request and your acceptance of it."

"Doctor," she was becoming annoyed with him. She had no idea what he was talking about. After causing the accident that nearly cost three people their lives, not to mention nearly his own, Tom had been put on report and confined to his quarters, temporarily relieved of duty. He had been unable to explain his actions which just led to memories of his lie at Caldik Prime. With all that had been going on in the past week between repairs and diplomatic niceties, she hadn‘t had the time to check up on him. Plus she had needed time to calm down, he had seriously disappointed her. "What are you talking about? I haven‘t spoke to Mr. Paris since shortly after he was released from sickbay."

"It‘s a little hard to speak to someone who is no longer on the ship, Captain." For a hologram he had no problem reflecting the icy tone in his voice.

"I didn‘t give permission for Mr. Paris to leave the ship. His shore leave was revoked. He was to be confined to his quarters until returning to active duty."

The Doctor looked at her incredulously. "Mr. Paris is not on shore leave, Captain," his tone was border line insubordinate, "Mr. Paris resigned his commission and accepted a posting on Captain Sayet‘s ship, the Kellen. You had no problem assuring him that would suit you just fine when he contacted you regarding the offer."

Janeway sat in her chair speechless. She couldn‘t figure out what the Doctor was talking about. The last conversation she had with Tom was his verifying that he had her permission to work on some reports and schedules while confined to his quarters. That had been about a week ago, the day after he had been deemed fit and was released from sickbay. She was still very upset with him, but had no problem with him working while thinking about what he had done.

"Doctor," intervened Tuvok, "Perhaps you could explain to us what has happened as you know it." The conversation as is was getting them no where.

"As I was releasing Mr. Paris from sickbay, Captain Sayet and his people stopped in. The Captain spoke at great length with Mr. Paris and by the time his entourage had completed their tour of our medical facilities, he had offered him a position on his ship. With all the events and assumptions of the previous days, Tom had tentatively accepted. I was in his quarters the next day trying to convince him to stay when Captain Sayet contacted Tom to say that they were disembarking early and asked if he still wanted to join them. Tom then contacted you and asked if you had reviewed his request. Probably in hope that you would tell him not to go. Instead, you told him you saw no problem with his request, he could do what he wanted." The Doctor‘s tone had become accusatory. Paris annoyed him, but he considered him a good friend and valuable member of Voyager‘s crew, he couldn‘t believe that Janeway would let him leave so easily. He recalled the look on Tom‘s face as he ended the transmission, so lost, so empty, so alone. "Mr. Paris gathered his things and was gone a couple of hours later. I continued to try and dissuade him for medical reasons, his injuries were still not entirely healed, but after what you said and everything else that had happened, I had no argument to stop him."

There was a stunned silence around the room. No one could believe that Tom had left the ship. That he hadn‘t said a word to anyone. Harder still, that he could have been gone an entire week and no one was aware of it.

"Doctor, there must be some mistake," Janeway managed to say, "Computer, what is the location of Lieutenant Tom Paris?"

"Lieutenant Tom Paris in not on Voyager."

"As I said, Captain, he accepted the position Captain Sayet offered him. He left a week ago."

A week. Surely someone would have noticed Tom‘s absence. "Believe me when I say, I knew nothing of Tom‘s request to resign when I spoke with him. I thought he was talking about his request to work in his quarters while confined there."

The Doctor cast her a total look of disbelief.

"Doc, Tom wouldn‘t just leave without telling someone. Without talking to B‘Elana or me at least," Harry exclaimed. His friend couldn‘t be gone.

"Why not? You and Ms. Torres certainly haven‘t been all that friendly of late," stated the hologram. He ignored the hurt expressions on their faces. When Tom accepted the posting and Janeway did not argue it, the Doctor had tried everything to get him to decline, to stay on Voyager. He figured his ace in the hole was his friendship with those two. He quickly realized that Tom didn‘t think he had any friends anymore and he didn‘t even know what he had done to lose them.

"Doctor, why didn‘t you say anything sooner?" questioned Chakotay. The Doctor was obviously angry at what had happened with the pilot, why hadn‘t he mentioned something before now? Chakotay, himself was as stunned as the others. He couldn‘t believe that Tom would willing agree to leaving the ship. He loved Voyager, loved to fly her and he had gained so much over the last few years. None of this was making any sense.

The Doctor‘s eyes and voice were overshadowed by sadness as he spoke. "Tom wanted to leave. He said he was tired. Tired of trying to change what everyone thought of him. It obviously wasn‘t working, no matter what he did."

Janeway shook her head. "This is wrong. Tom is a valuable and important member of this crew. There is no way I would intentionally ever let him leave," she stood as she continued to speak, "Commander, contact the Emtarian Ambassador, find out when the Ketten left and where they were heading. Lieutenant, what is the ship‘s status?" she noticed the distraught look on B‘Elana‘s face, but she would have to deal with that later. If they were going to find Tom they needed to get underway as quickly as possible.

It took B‘Elana a moment to return her thoughts to the conversation at hand. "The warp core is still off line. It‘ll take at least two more days to complete all the adjustments and repairs. All other ship repairs have been completed," she answered in monotone and then returned to her turbulent thoughts.

How could Tom leave? Without talking to her? She realized that she hadn‘t exactly been nice to him the last couple of weeks, she had all but shut him out of her life, but after seeing him with Sayet‘s daughter, she had become incessantly jealous. Without finding out what had happened, she assumed that he had returned to his old flirtatious ways. Angry and hurt she wouldn‘t even talk to him, tell him what she had seen, give him the chance to explain. One minute they were laughing and enjoying their relationship, the next she wasn‘t even speaking to him, not even where work was concerned.

Harry‘s thoughts were in just as much disarray. When B‘Elana had told him what she had seen, he had readily agreed with her. It did look like Tom had returned to his old ways. Not wanting to get caught in the middle of a messy break up or having to lie for his best friend, he put a lot of distance between himself and them both. He avoided them at all opportunities outside of and during work. Now he could recall the hurt look on Tom‘s face every time he‘d excused himself or left a room before Tom could say more then hi. What had he done?

Trying to come to terms with her own part in Tom‘s leaving, Janeway didn‘t notice the distress her two junior officers were in. "Then let‘s get to it. I want Mr. Paris back here where he belongs. Dismissed."

"There you are," stated Myssa, as she walked toward the tall, blond haired man standing at the greeting room window. "Father has been looking for you. He says he needs your help. Something about Klen not knowing the difference between....Are you all right?" she asked softly as she came to stand by his side.

"I‘m fine, Myssa. Just thinking." His blue eyes sought hers to offer credibility to his words while his mouth tried to curl into a smile.

"So you say, but your eyes, no matter how you try and hide it, tell me differently," she spoke softly, as she placed a hand on his arm. She loved him dearly and didn‘t like to see him hurting, there had been enough of that already.

He smiled at her. Ever since he left Voyager he had felt like his heart had been ripped in two and Myssa was trying her best to help him heal it. No easy task. "Really, I‘m fine." He allowed her to slip her arms around him and pull him into a hug.

He remembered from their first encounter that the Dimians were a people that did a lot of touching, especially hugging. He had found it amusing in the beginning but it had still taken a little getting use to. As her arms encircled him, he wound his arms around her to return the sentiment. He couldn‘t hide the gasp of pain as she inadvertently tightened her hold on him.

"What is it?" she asked with concern as she quickly released her hold and stepped back.

"Nothing. My back‘s just acting up a little," he replied while trying to suppress the pain that had flared up at her innocent touch.

"You went ahead and did what you were told not to, didn‘t you," she scolded while pulling him over to the couch and forcing him to lay down on his stomach. "What were you thinking," she chastised while gently pulling his shirt up to check his back. Their physicians had been able to heal most of his injuries after the cave in, but some were taking a little longer, his back being one of them. If he hadn‘t been in such obvious pain she would have slapped him.

"Myssa, it‘s nothing. I‘m fine," he tried to protest as she manhandled him, but her grip on him was too strong and he realized that he was too tired to put up much of a fight. Her strong grip also reminded him of another woman that was very special to him. He fought down the tears that sprung to his eyes.

He had gone against the Dimian physician‘s orders when he accepted to help Mort and Sleb with repairs to one of their shuttle‘s navigational consoles. Having just been cleared after the shuttle accident on Voyager, he had re-injured himself while helping Sayet‘s crew effect a rescue operation at one of the planetary mining sites. Their medical facilities were not as advanced as Voyager‘s and he was doing a lot of old fashion healing. He knew that he was suppose be to taking it easy, but it felt so good to be immersed in work again and not have to think about things of the past for a few hours.

"Nothing, huh, that‘s why your back looks like a you‘ve gone rounds with a sketter cat. Don‘t move," she ordered as she released her hold and quickly left the room.

When she returned Tom was all but asleep. He really was exhausted, guessing that he had pushed himself more than he had originally thought. She smiled down at his still form. He had come to mean so much to her, she couldn‘t see how his own people could have let him go so easily. Kneeling down on the floor, she gently began to rub the healing salve all over his back. The bones had been knitted back together, but the bruising was still pretty severe and the muscles were very tender.

Stirring as the cool ointment touched his back he opened his eyes and turned his head to look at her. "Thanks, Myssa. I didn‘t mean to cause any trouble."

"You‘re plenty of trouble, Tomkii," she stated lovingly, "You are my brother and I don‘t want to see anything happen to you. You must be more careful."

"I‘ll try," he replied sleepily.

"I‘ll have to see that you do." She finished with the application and pulled his shirt down. "Do you think you can walk to your room? I‘m sure father would not appreciate you sleeping on one of the greeting couches when we have guests arriving shortly."

"What guests?" he asked while carefully pushing himself up off the couch, noting that his muscles had stiffened up again. He tried not to yawn in her face as she helped him stand.

"Father didn‘t say exactly." She didn‘t want to lie to him but she had no intention of telling him that Voyager was arriving. After everything that he had been through, everything that they had done to him, she was not going to let them take him away just to hurt him again. "Come on, I‘ll help you to your room. You need to give the ointment time to work." She ushered him out of the room, walking closely by his side. "Besides, Mort‘s wedding is the day after tomorrow and you promised you‘d stand with me."

He smiled at her. Tom had no idea that when he had accepted Sayet‘s offer, he wasn‘t only joining his crew but became an instant member of the family. And what a family it was. He instantly had another father and mother, seven brothers and five sisters with any number of cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. What amazed him more was that they had welcomed him with open arms offering him love and acceptance without ever having met him before. Their welcome home had been quite the experience, the partying had gone on for days, only coming to a halt when the call for help came.

"I promise, I‘ll go right to bed and get some rest," he stated, feeling very tired and guilty for making her worry. He really hadn‘t intended to push himself so hard.

"You‘re right, you will," she affirmed. He smiled at her ferocity.

Myssa guided him to his room fielding the concerned looks and questions that they met on the way. Everyone showed great concern for their new family member, something that still made Tom uncomfortable. He was amazed at how Sayet‘s family interacted with one another, how open they were with their feelings for each other. He wished that his family had been that way.

Making sure he was well situated and had taken a mild pain reliever and sedative, Myssa closed the curtains, dimmed the lights and shut the door, leaving instructions with those standing in the hall that Tom was not to be disturbed. She knew that word would spread rapidly among the family members. She then left to prepare herself for the meeting that was to occur with the crew of Voyager, but first she had two brothers that she needed to speak with.

Janeway sat on the bridge impatiently drumming her fingers against her leg. They had been in orbit over two hours and had been left to sit and wait. The Dimian ambassador explained that he had contacted Captain Sayet‘s house but had not yet heard if they would be received. He begged forgiveness and said he would contact them as soon as word had been sent to him.

Chakotay watched as her agitation grew. Had Tom told Sayet that he didn‘t want to see them? He wondered what Sayet would do if Janeway pushed the point. The two weeks it took to complete repairs and track Tom down had been very stressful for everyone.

Word had gotten out very quickly that Tom had not only resigned, but that he had left Voyager. The rumor mill had gone crazy with all the possibilities and innuendos. Chakotay felt especially sorry for B‘Elana and Harry. They were taking Tom‘s leaving very hard. Both had unwilling talked to him about what had happened between them and both felt responsible for his sudden and silent departure. The commander hoped that once they saw Tom that everything could be worked out.

Nothing was more surprising then when after hearing the news, Crewman Matthew Casper burst onto the bridge, hysterically claiming responsibility for Tom‘s resignation. Once calmed down and seated in the Captain‘s ready room, Casper confessed to being the cause of the shuttle accident. He sobbed that being his first time out he had been very nervous and had unwittingly hit the wrong buttons. When the flight recorder turned up useless and there were no other witnesses to what he had done, he let everyone assume Paris was at fault. It had amazed him that not only did everyone accept that Paris could have done something so inane but that Paris didn‘t even try and clear his name, he just took the blame and punishment.

The commanding officers felt sorry for the young man, he had obviously been punishing himself more then they ever could. After confining him to his quarters, Janeway and Chakotay began to reevaluate the circumstances that led Tom to leave Voyager.

After the accident and the subsequent finger pointing, the crew had been pretty brutal to the pilot. Even though Tom was confined to sickbay and then his quarters after the accident, the crew had found ways to let him know what they thought of him, most of their opinions digressing to ones from Tom‘s early days on Voyager. Yet Tom never said anything. He took it all in, building his walls higher around himself with each comment. The entire crew was now feeling especially guilty at what they said and done to the young man. Many questioned why Tom never said anything and then wondering if they would have believed him if he had. Chakotay‘s work as unofficial ship‘s counselor had gone into overtime.

The next revelation happen a few days later. Ensigns Megan and Jenny Delaney were sitting in the mess hall talking about Tom and how his supposed closest friends had mistreated and forced him to leave Voyager. Unfortunately, they hadn‘t seen B‘Elana or Harry enter the mess hall. The ensuing fight led to a trip to sickbay for all parties, with escorts from security. There, in an attempt to ascertain what had happen, Tuvok began the questioning with the Delaney sisters. Jenny, the only twin who could speak at the moment, explained that they knew B‘Elana thought Tom had cheated on her with the Dimian woman, Myssa. Jenny knew for a fact that Tom had asked for her help in choosing a gift for B‘Elana for her birthday and that nothing sleazy had happened between them. She then added a few other choice comments for the lieutenant and ensign who were sitting on the other side of sickbay.

This news sent an emotional distraught B‘Elana over the edge. It took Chakotay the better part of the afternoon to talk her out of her bathroom. Once out, she spent hours bouncing between crying uncontrollably on his shoulder and destroying her furniture. Chakotay was relieved when she finally fell into an exhausted sleep. After a couple hours sleep himself, he stumbled onto the bridge the next morning and relayed what had happened to the Captain. He spent the rest of that morning trying to console her. All in all it was an experience he didn‘t want to repeat ever again.

The first officer also spent sometime himself reevaluating his own thoughts about the young man. He knew his past, had worked with him before Voyager and had always held him with such disdain, a spoiled brat and traitor. His feelings toward the pilot had soften over the years after working so closely with him, seeing his performance in any number of strange circumstances. He respected him even though they rarely saw eye to eye. Now this. How was he suppose to think of him now?

After another hour of waiting, the Dimian Ambassador finally contacted them. Sayet would welcome them into his home. But they were to remember, they were invited guests, it was his home and they were to show him respect as such.

Janeway beamed down to the large room, flanked by Chakotay and Tuvok, anxious to see her missing lieutenant and get the whole depressing situation resolved. As they materialized Janeway hoped that they would see Tom right away. Instead they were greeted by Captain Sayet and several members of his family. Janeway recognized a couple of his sons and his wife from their previous meetings, but the others were unfamiliar to her.

"Captain Janeway. We are honored by your visit." Sayet stepped to the front of the group and bowed to her in greeting.

"Thank you for receiving us, Captain Sayet," responded Janeway, returning the customary welcome. Instead of shaking hands, they bowed to one another. Saved from having to make physical contact with people you didn‘t know or care to have touch you. "I hope we have not inconvenienced you."

"Of course not." He gestured to the couches surrounding the room.

"Please, sit. I understand that you wish to talk to me."

Janeway and her group sat on the couches to their left, she and Chakotay sitting in front of the other members of their group. Sayet and his wife and family sat the same way on the couches opposite them.

"Yes, sir, hopefully to clear up a misunderstanding." Since Tom wasn‘t present, Janeway had to assume that he had requested not to be there and if that were the case, she needed to try and convince Sayet to let them see him.

As Janeway spoke, the door opened and Myssa entered. She quietly took her place with her family and looked over the Voyager crew members. She noted with interest that not only were the commanding officers of Voyager present, but B‘Elana and Harry had beamed down as well as the Doctor. This was going to be quite interesting.

"What misunderstanding is that, Captain?" Sayet asked cordially. He was a powerful man both in stature and mannerisms and he was not the kind of man that let anyone try and intimidate him. He wanted Janeway and her people to know that if they thought he and his people were pushovers, they were sadly mistaken. He had a pretty good idea as to why they were there and he had no intention of making it easy on them.

"Lieutenant Paris."

"I do not understand. I was told that he had requested and had been granted permission to leave your ship and join mine. Is there something that we have done wrong?"

Janeway wasn‘t sure if Sayet was truly confused or if he was playing a good bluff. "The problem is that the granting of permission was not intended. Mr. Paris is a member of my crew and we would like him returned to us."

Before anyone else in the family could express themselves, Myssa spoke up. "Are we to understand that because of a mistake, you allowed Tom to leave his home and friends?" She didn‘t give Janeway a chance to reply. "How convenient for you."

"I‘m sorry..." began Janeway only to be cut off by the obviously annoyed Dimian woman.

"As well you should be," she glared at the group sitting across from her family. "You mistreat a member of your crew, sanction his request to leave and then, what, find out that his skills are much too valuable, so now you want him back."

"Myssa," warned her father. Their society was based on mutual respect for all people and the way his daughter was acting was reflecting on him in a poor way. These people were his guests, he had invited them into his home and he would not be embarrassed by one of his own family members.

"I am sorry, Father, I do not mean to show disrespect to this house, but I find these people to be shallow and without honor." Janeway didn‘t have to see the expressions on the faces of the other family members to know that not only had she and her away team just been harshly insulted, but their entire crew. "They inflict harm on one of their own without thought or care. I would not let them take Tomkii back only to have him suffer more at their hands. He is valued here, loved by all. He deserves happiness and he would not obtain that with them. They have already shown that the most he means to them is to clear up a mistake, a misunderstanding."

B‘Elana jumped to her feet and glared at the young woman. "We would never intentionally hurt Tom. He is loved and we want him back." She stopped as Janeway shot her a disapproving look. Getting into an argument was not going to help anything.

Myssa gave the half-klingon a disapproving glance and turned back to address her father. "Please, Tomkii has been through enough. Father, he belongs with us, with those that cherish and love him. Not where he is treated with contempt and disrespect. He deserves more than they have given."

"Tom is a valued member of my crew," exclaimed Janeway, trying to keep her voice from rising in anger. She couldn‘t believe the things being said about them. What exactly had Tom said to her?

"Of your crew," Myssa addressed the woman before her, "Here, he is a member of our family."

"Captain Sayet," Chakotay addressed her father while responding to the daughter‘s accusations, "Voyager‘s crew is a family. We have come to mean quite a lot to each other over the years. We depend on each other with our lives. Tom is a friend and esteemed member of our crew and that family. The misunderstandings that have caused him to think that was not true are entirely our fault. We simply want the chance to talk to him, let him know that we are sorry for what has happened. Let him know that we would very much like him to return to our family."

"You speak well, but do you really mean what you say or are you simply trying to relieve your conscious?" Myssa threw back. She did not intend for them to get Tom without a fight, he meant too much to them all.

"Enough," Sayet commanded, "Myssa, I will speak with you." He stood, bowed slightly to his guests and then motioned his daughter to follow him out the door. While they were gone the remaining members of the family talked softly among themselves while eyeing the crew of Voyager dubiously.

Janeway and her officers were trying very hard to stay calm. They hadn‘t expected to encounter such hostility in getting Tom back. They figured it would be a simple matter of explaining what had happened, offering an apology and Tom would be back among them. But Myssa was proving that she was not willing to simply let Tom leave. They found themselves thinking about the things they were being accused of. Janeway shot a glance toward her first officer to find him in deep contemplation. They needed to talk, sort out what they were going to do. Losing Tom permanently was not an option, not like this.

The door opened and Sayet returned to his place on the couch, everyone noticed that Myssa did not return with him. "I am not sure what to say at this time. It is true that Tom has been a member of your crew and family for many years and only a few weeks with us. However, I spoke with him at great length when I asked him to join my crew and I feel that he was sincere in his decision to leave Voyager. I will speak with him again before making any decision." Sayet stood to signal an end to the conversation.

"Sir," Harry quickly spoke up, hoping that his impulse wouldn‘t be taken as being disrespectful, "Could we see him, could we see Tom? Please."

Harry was surprised at the smile Sayet gave him. "I am sorry, young man, Tom is sleeping. He was injured a short time ago and he is still recovering." He noticed the anxious looks on their faces at this bit of news. "I will not awaken him. However, as our medical facilities are not as advanced as yours, I think it will benefit all if your Doctor were to be allowed to examine him." Sayet waited for Janeway‘s nod of acceptance and motioned one of his sons to escort the Doctor out.

As the door closed, Janeway stood and motioned her remaining officers to the far corner of the room. They needed to talk.

"Captain Janeway," Sayet called as he approached their group, "I would ask that you please not be angry at my daughter. Tom has come to mean a great deal to her, to us all. She greatly values his friendship. I was honored, as was my family, when he joined us. He has been a great help and joy to us already."

Janeway tried to smile at the man, but her thoughts were focused on how to get him to let Tom go or at least let them see him. "Captain, you mentioned that Tom had been injured. May I ask how?"

Sayet noticed everyone‘s attention focused on his answer. "Shortly after we arrived home, there was a mining accident on the lower continent. My family offered to help with the rescue, Tom jumped right in also. While we worked, one of the tunnels collapsed. It took a great amount of time to dig everyone out. Tom was one of the more seriously injured, he suffered many broken bones and blood loss." He than quickly tried to reassure them that his new son was recovering nicely. "He has healed quickly. However, he chose to disobey our physicians‘s orders in that he allowed two of my sons to talk him into helping them with their work. Physically he was not ready to resume such tasks as of yet." Janeway noted the look he shot at one of his sons who immediately looked like he wanted to crawl under the carpet. She then noted the smile that crept onto their host‘s face. "Myssa is still quite furious with them. Luckily, she was able to get Tom to rest and offer treatment before his injuries became any more severe."

"I‘m grateful to you that he is okay," was Janeway‘s reply.

"Captain," Chakotay called his host‘s attention to give his commanding officer a few moments to pull her thoughts together. It hadn‘t even occurred to them that Tom could be injured or even killed when they set out to find him. More emotional bag to work through. "Earlier, Myssa called Tom by another name, Tomkii I believe it was, I was curious as to why?"

"It is a term of endearment and great respect. When kii is added to a name it means honored and cherished one. Myssa began it when we first came into contact with your ship." Sayet looked the first officer in the eye, he had a point to make to them all and he stressed his next words. "It is well deserved."

"You may check on him, but you will not wake him," Myssa stated firmly as the Doctor entered the dimly lit room.

Scanning the room, the Doctor‘s eyes came to rest on the prone figure, lying on his stomach on the bed. He pulled his tricorder out and walked quietly over to the bed. As he ran the scan he noticed Myssa move to the other side of the single bed and watch him wearily.

"Your father said that he suffered some broken bones in an accident," he began the conversation softly. It appeared to him that the person most likely to hinder Tom‘s return to Voyager was the woman standing across from him. He needed to find out what she was thinking before he could formulate a way around her.

"Not some, nearly every one."

He looked at her incredulously, not believing that with their limited medical knowledge they could have helped him if that were the case. When the tricorder affirmed what she had said he looked up at her in amazement. "How were you able to heal his injuries?"

"Our physicians used a process called bone knitting. I don‘t know all the specifics on how it works, but essentially, once his bones were set, they were then helped to mend back together. The process took several days. His back was the most difficult and that is what has laid him up today." Tom spoke highly of the man before her and she found herself warming to him as well. She wondered if he was a true friend to the unconscious man. "When he decided to disregard our physician‘s orders and help out our brothers, he irritated his injuries further, thus the bruising and muscle strain on his back."

"If there was anything that you could rely on with Mr. Paris, it is his ability to disregard all instructions from medical personnel," the Doctor responded in a huff.

Myssa tried not to smile, she didn‘t want to like this man. He was one of them, one of the enemy as far as she was concerned. But there was just something about him that she instantly liked, maybe it was the things Tom had said about him. She shook her head. Whatever it was, she was glad that he was there to make sure her adopted brother was all right. "So, what do your scans tell you?"

"That your physicians have done an excellent job healing his injuries," he stated as he closed the tricorder and looked to the woman staring at him expectantly. He noted the relief that crossed her face.

"I had hoped that he would truly be okay. The accident was horrible." She focused her eyes on Tom‘s face as she spoke. "Father was surprised when he offered to help, but I wasn‘t. He joined in without thought or care for his own safety. That‘s how he was injured." Her eyes rose to met his. "When he noticed the cave was going to collapse, he pushed the others out of harms way and took the brunt of the falling roof. It took us hours to get him out. We thought him dead, but his will would not give up." Her gaze returned to Tom‘s face. "We were very lucky that day."

The Doctor was silent as she finished her discourse. He now understood how ferociously this young woman and her family would fight for Tom.

"Myssa, if I may, I could heal his back and...."

"You will not take him back to your ship," she stated vehemently.

He looked at her as she spoke, her deep blue eyes set with determination. "No, not until he is ready and willing," he responded. "If I may be permitted, I can have the necessary equipment beamed down."

Myssa had not expected this response. She thought that the Doctor had found the perfect opportunity to return Tom to Voyager, without waiting to even talk to him, and was going to take it. She granted permission apologetically.

He quietly contacted Voyager and asked for the necessary items to be beamed down. Within a few minutes, Tom‘s injuries were healed and the Doctor was being escorted back to the main reception room mulling over in his head what he had learned from his conversation with Myssa. They were in for a fight and he wasn‘t sure that they were going to be able to win.

Tom awoke feeling better then he had in a long while. He rolled over and stretched before remembering his injuries and was surprised that he felt no pain. Laying quietly, he wondered how long he‘d been asleep. His room was dark but he quickly noticed that someone had closed all the curtains. Probably Myssa, he thought, she had been hovering quite a bit since the accident, acting as his undeclared protectorate.

Life had certainly been different the last few weeks, nothing like his life up to this point. He loved to sit and watch the families interaction with one another, so much caring, so much love. Nothing like his family. Before he could get too reflective, there was a knock at his door.

"Yes," he called while moving to sit on the edge of the bed, thankful that Myssa hadn‘t tried to undress him this time. He was a little stiff but that was nothing compared to the pain he‘d been in.

Myssa walked into the room followed closely by her younger sister, Chalta, who had a tray of food in her hands. As her older sister lit the lamps and opened the curtains, twelve year old Chalta walked over to the bed and set the tray of food by Tom.

"Why thank you Miss Chalta."

She returned his smile, planted a shy kiss on his cheek, bowed and left the room. Tom shook his head as she giggled while shutting the door.

"She wanted to see for herself that you were really okay," Myssa explained as she walked over to the bed and stood in front of the sleepy man. She noted that his hair was mused up and he looked like he hadn‘t woken up all the way yet, but he looked better, much better. "How are you feeling?"

He rubbed his hands over his face and tried not to yawn. "Fine, thank you." He looked up at her suspiciously, "So, what did you do to me? I feel like I‘ve been a sleep for a week."

"Only twenty hours or so," she replied easily. "You needed the rest. Father, wants to see you after you‘ve eaten and showered."

"Something wrong?"

Myssa hesitated. She wanted to talk to him, ask him how he felt about Voyager‘s sudden appearance. But her father had been very firm with her in telling her he would be the one to talk to him, she was not to say anything. "No."

Tom looked at her skeptically but made no comment about it. Sayet‘s family had been nothing but open and honest with him. If something was wrong, they would tell him. "Half an hour okay?"

"He‘ll meet you in his office." She planted a kiss on his cheek and left.

Captain Janeway stood at the front of the balcony overlooking the giant ballroom. She knew that they had been invited to attend the ceremony as a courtesy, but she hoped to use the opportunity to find Tom and talk to him. So far Sayet had not allowed them to see their wayward crew member other than the Doctor to treat his injuries. As they were leaving, he offered to deliver messages to Tom in what appeared to be an attempt to pacify the landing party. Janeway hoped that the messages would be enough to get Tom to at least meet with them. They needed to let the self-doubting man know that letting him go was something they never would have done, he was too important to them.

She scanned the ballroom wishing that they would be allowed down to the main floor. The Dimian ambassador had explained to them when they had accepted the invitation that the nights festivities were a prelude to the wedding ceremony that was to take place the next day. As such, only family were allowed to mingle with the wedding party, but all other guests could watch from the upper balconies in the room. Apparently to be included as observers was in itself quite an honor.

"Anything?" questioned Chakotay as he moved through the crowd to stand at her side.

"No. You?"

Chakotay shook his head. They had been there an hour already and had been unable to locate their wayward crew member. He also noted that the dress uniforms they were forced to wear were starting to itch, not helping their dreary moods by any means. "I‘m not sure bringing B‘Elana and Harry was such a good idea." He looked to the two crew members as they practically hung over the balcony trying to find Tom.

"I‘m inclined to agree with you at this point," she followed his gaze and shook her head. "Maybe you could try distracting them. I would prefer not to have a scene when and if Tom makes an appearance."

Her first officer snorted and shook his head. "Any ideas?"

"I leave that in your capable hands, Commander."

He gave her a Why me? look and turned to complete his assignment. As he made his way over to the grim-faced pair, he thought about what to say to them. Once their messages had been sent, they had expected Tom to immediately contact the ship, letting them know that all was forgiven and he was on his way home. When no contact was made, their anticipatory mood plunged to one of despair. Chakotay wished the whole incident was already behind them, whichever way it played out.

"B‘Elana, Harry," getting their attention wasn‘t the hard part, keeping it would be. "Have you had any luck?"

"No. Do you think he doesn‘t want to see us?"

Chakotay tried not to react to the pathetic tone in B‘Elana‘s voice or the crushed look on Harry‘s face. "I‘m sure that he‘s just busy with the ceremony. Sayet mentioned that Tom had a part to play as a member of the family."

"But he‘s not a member of their family," B‘Elana stated between clenched teeth, "He‘s a member of ours."

This was already an old argument. He couldn‘t think of anything to say other than what had already been repeated over and over again the last two days. The sound of beating drums stopped him from commenting and drew his attention to the ballroom floor. The doors on the opposite side of the room swung open and the people milling around the floor parted to create a pathway to the platform located to the right of the balcony.

Janeway made her way over to her people, followed closely by Tuvok, as Sayet and his family began to enter the room. Not knowing what to expect, they watched intently for Tom.

Sayet, with his wife at his side, arms locked together led their family into the room. Behind him were the bride and groom, followed by the bride‘s parents and then all couples siblings.

Not knowing the order the family would enter, the away team watched each couple enter with anticipation. Finally, after a dozen or so ornately dressed couples had made their way through the doorway, Tom entered with Myssa on his arm. Chakotay took a step toward B‘Elana as she sucked in her breath and clenched the railing. If need be, he would order an immediate beam out to avoid any confrontations.

Tom walked carefully and cautiously through the parted crowd. He hadn‘t wanted to participate, not after Sayet had dropped the bombshell, but Myssa had asked him to stand with her and he didn‘t want to let her down. He kept his eyes focused carefully ahead of him, not wanting to accidently see his old shipmates, not yet.

Myssa gave his arm a squeeze and returned his tentative smile with a reassuring one. She had tried to be nothing but supportive since his return from their father‘s office that morning, helping him center his thoughts and focus on what he should do. The final decision was his to make, and no matter how much she wanted him to stay, she couldn‘t force him to do what wasn‘t right for him. They had spent several hours talking and watching the messages. He had tried to act as though the things said didn‘t matter, but when B‘Elana‘s message was played, his false bravado faltered and she held him as he silently cried.

The family gathered on the platform and Sayet began his speech and the introduction of the couple to be. After, they began their circulation through the room. Tom dutifully greeted family members and answered questions as he was asked. Myssa stayed by his side as the hours rolled by, offering silent support and at the first opportunity, helped him to escape the throngs of people. She was also very aware of the group watching them intently.

Watching him carefully throughout the evening, the away team noticed every move Tom made. Then finally with regret, they watched him leave the room without even a glance up at them. Feeling totally depressed, B‘Elana excused herself and left to get some fresh air. Nothing was working in their favor.

Myssa silently watched her leave and then proceeded to put her plan into motion, figuring it was now or never.

"Excuse me, Ms. Torres?"

"Yes?" she addressed the young woman standing in front of her.

While bowing, Chalta looked the woman over. Myssa had asked her to do this, she just wasn‘t sure if she really wanted to. Her sister had assured her that it was for Tom, so she continued with her part of the plan. "I have been asked to escort you. Your party is waiting for you."

"My party?" B‘Elana asked in confusion, she had just left the other members of the away team inside. She wondered where could they have gotten off to in such a short time.

"This way please," she motioned for B‘Elana to follow her into the house. They walked down a couple of halls, making right and left turns as Chalta directed until they were standing in front of a door guarded by none other then Myssa, the woman B‘Elana considered to be her enemy. If it hadn‘t been for her, none of this would have happened. She stopped that thought. She had always been uncertain about her relationship with Tom, never believing that he could really settle down with one person, not given his reputation. She loved him and had heard him say the same numerous times to her, yet she found that little piece of doubt always in the back of her mind. Could she really trust him not to hurt her, not to break her heart? In the end it wasn‘t him that had driven the other away, caused the pain and hurt, it had been her, her and her own fears and jealousy.

"Thank you, Chalta," Myssa confidently dismissed her sister. With a curious glance between the two women, she quickly ran back down the hall. They stared at each other, neither one willing to break eye contact. Finally, after several silent moments, Myssa seemed satisfied with what she saw and broke the silence. "I would only ask that you never doubt him again. He is a special person, one that deserves your trust and faith in him as much as your love." She took note of the stunned look on B‘Elana‘s face and smiled at her. "He hasn‘t told himself yet, but I know he‘s made his decision. Please remember he is not all sarcasm and brashness, he has a heart and soul that are fragile and easily damaged. I would hope that you would remember in the future what assumptions and non-communication almost cost you." She them opened the door and guided B‘Elana inside.

Pulling it closed behind her, Myssa placed her hand on the wood and said her silent goodbyes. Wiping away her tears, she silently walked back to the ballroom.


As the door slid shut behind her, B‘Elana moved further into his quarters. Not seeing him right away, she called his name again.

"Yeah, I‘m here." Walking out of the bathroom he presented himself to his newly reaffirmed lover. "How do I look?"

With a critical eye, she walked around the man standing before her. His uniform was neatly pressed, hair combed, face washed and for all his effort he still looked extremely nervous. "You look fantastic," she stated while throwing her arms around his neck and capturing his lips in a kiss.

"Glad to know I can still pass an inspection," he commented while catching his breath. They had spent every possible moment together since that night at Sayet‘s house. He couldn‘t believe when he‘d turned around to see her walking through the door. After several awkward moments and false starts, they finally sat down and talked. As the sunrise crept through his bedroom windows, they were still talking. He had made his decision, the only thing left was to tell the others.

The days following were hectic and emotionally draining for all. His announcement and subsequent goodbyes to Sayet and his family, although met with acceptance were filled with tears and sadness. At one point during his farewell party he almost told them to stop he would stay, he couldn‘t stand to see them crying, especially over him. Myssa and B‘Elana both had helped him through those difficult hours.

Then when he returned to Voyager the next day, he wasn‘t even given time to unpack before he was dragged to the holodeck for a welcome home party. During the festivities, the crew apologized for their doubting him and let him know that he had been missed. Tom spent most of the day sitting in a chair with a stunned look and a smile plastered to his face. It was all getting to be too much for him.

When Neelix began what he referred to as ‚Appropriate Welcome Home Games‘ Tom made a hasty retreat to the solitude and silence of his quarters. As he began to unpack, he kept telling himself that he had made the right decision, he was home.

As he came across the things given to him by his new family, it hit him just how much they had come to mean to him and how much he was going to miss them. Sitting on his couch, he recalled Sayet telling him that he would always be his son, no matter where he was. Tom cried again at the memory. Here was a man who he hadn‘t even known that long who was offering him the unconditional, no strings attached love and comfort that his own father couldn‘t give him. And he was leaving them. Did he make the right choice?

He didn‘t hear his door open or notice the person entering his sterile quarters until he felt arms sliding around his waist, pulling him into a comforting embrace.

Then he awoke the next morning to someone rubbing their hand softly and soothingly up and down his back. Turning he was greeted by a kiss from the woman he loved. They spent the day talking, him trying to convince himself that he had done the right thing, her telling him how much she loved him.

Harry stopped by later in the day to help unpack and continued to apologize for the part he played in Tom‘s leaving. Tom waved him off as no big deal, but Harry couldn‘t accept that, he had almost lost his best friend. While talking things over, Tom was finally able to see that he had made the right decision. Harry laughed and threw his arms around Tom in a hug as he saw the old Tom coming back to them.

Now as he was getting ready to return to duty for the first time in nearly a month and he was unsure of himself.

"It‘s going to be all right, Tom," B‘Elana whispered in his ear as she wrapped her arms tighter around him.

With one final kiss, he detached himself from her embrace. Taking her hand in his, they made their way out his door.

An hour later, after surviving the breakfast feast Neelix prepared, Tom took his seat at the helm of Voyager and ran his hands over the console.

"Mr. Paris, welcome back," Janeway called from her chair.

Tom turned and gave her a half smile. "Good to be back, Captain."

Janeway returned the smile. "Steady on course, warp 4."

"Aye Captain."

He caught Harry and B‘Elana smiling at him as he turned back to his console and entered the Captain‘s orders.

Tom smiled as his fingers worked the various buttons. For once he felt like he really was right where he belonged, that maybe there was hope for him yet.

The End