By Morticia

(Sequel to " Ripples ")
(R Series part 32)


Rating: R for language

Disclaimer: Tom, Chak et al belong to Paramount. I am only playing
with them and promise to put them back relatively unscathed

"So the new medicine is helping?"

Chakotay nodded gratefully at the Doctor as he gave a considered

"Yes, we seem to have achieved the right balance at last. Tom's more
able to cope with things, less likely to have the panic attacks and
at the same time, he's no longer too sleepy to function properly.
He's still getting below-average results on the flight Sims he's been
running but he is coping well in Astrometrics."

"I concur" Seven agreed firmly. "In the last week I have noticed a
considerable increase in his work efficiency. I am finding his
contributions to be surprisingly astute and most informative."

"Surprising because he's pulling himself together, or because
he's `Tom Paris'?" Chakotay snapped

Seven's impassive face crumbled a little at his accusation.

"Don't you think Tom has enough enemies without you looking for
more?" B'Elanna snarled, giving Seven's hand a comforting squeeze.

Chakotay sighed "I'm sorry, Seven. B'Elanna is right. I've become so
used to having to defend Tom that it is an automatic reaction now to
look for implied slurs."

Sam Wildman gave him an understanding smile. "I feel the same
defensive way about Naomi!" She confessed and then blushed
furiously. "Not that I'm suggesting that Tom is a child or anything -
I just meant - "

"I know what you meant," Chakotay cut in to reassure her "and in a
lot of ways Tom IS like a child at the moment. His defences are down
and he hasn't yet learnt a new way to handle tricky situations. He
needs time to adjust to facing reality instead of avoiding it."

The other four present members of the "Save Tom Paris Society" all
exchanged sad glances and sank into thoughtful silence. It was 2230
and they were all in the abandoned Mess Hall, sharing coffee and

"Here you are!" A cheerful voice interrupted them as Neelix waddled
out of the galley, the steam from a tray of fresh coffee and bubbling
hot pies almost totally obscuring his jovial face.

"Thanks, Neelix" Sam sighed gratefully, helping herself to a fresh
cup and a pie.  She juggled the hot pastry between her fingers,
blowing on it in an effort to cool it down. "These are wonderful!"
She enthused, smelling the tangy fruit filling.

"I made a few extra, for you to take back for Tom." Neelix whispered
nervously to Chakotay.  He was still unsure of his welcome into the
group of conspirators and was trying desperately to assure Chakotay
that he really DID have Tom's welfare at heart after all.

Since Kes had `left', the little Talaxian had found himself
unbearably lonely on Voyager. Although he loved travelling on the
ship and getting the opportunity to see all the wonderful new places
and people that they had discovered on the journey, he had found that
the further they travelled from his home, the less likely it was that
he would find someone who found him to be sexually desirable.

Tom's offer to sleep with him in exchange for preferential treatment
in the Mess Hall had been the answer to his prayers. The blond pilot
had been an enthusiastic lover, skilled and shameless in his response
to Neelix's passions.  It had never occurred to the Talaxian that Tom
was anything other than what he appeared to be. His discovery that
the confident brash exterior had just been a protective armour Tom
wore because of years of abuse had rocked Neelix to his soul.

It had been Sam who had taken him aside and explained the situation.
Her experiences of his kindness with Naomi convincing her that he
would not have knowingly used Tom.
Now Neelix was eager to make up for his mistake, providing the Mess
Hall as a meeting place and catering for everyone because he couldn't
think of anything more constructive to offer in his efforts for

"The problem is, we don't know who we can trust." Chakotay announced,
nodding at Neelix as an example. He had been amazed when Sam had
introduced the Talaxian into their group and it had proved to him
once again that appearances were not always what they seemed.

"The Maquis will stand by you, Chakotay." B'Elanna said
fiercely. "Your old crew still remember who is REALLY in charge."

Chakotay smiled ruefully. "It's been a long time, B'Elanna and people
have changed. To be honest, people are rarely what they seem to be,
perhaps no one has really changed at all, but the length of time we
have been out here has been sufficient to unmask their true
characters. Take Ayala, for example. I always thought that he was a
good man, yet he turned out to be a rapist. Seska turned out to be a
bloody Cardassian."

"The Captain has certainly turned out to be surprisingly unstable."
The Doctor agreed. "I have checked her confidential files and there
is no indication of her aberrant behaviour before this mission."

"Perhaps it is simply a case of absolute power corrupting absolutely?
With no one to answer to, she has begun to get a God complex and now
feels able to do things that she used to only fantasize about before.
I mean, she managed to get a Captaincy at a relatively young age, so
she must have had a ruthless streak all along. For all its
enlightened morality, Starfleet still favours the ambitious." Sam
said thoughtfully.

"Ambition is a favourable trait." Seven said in confusion

"Not if you are a mad bitch with a God complex!" B'Elanna
hissed, "How the hell did she get a Captaincy?"

"Actually, It makes an odd kind of sense, if you think about it. We
now know that Admiral Paris is a sick bastard, and Kathryn was his
protégée. It was Owen Paris who pushed her up the ladder of
promotion. Maybe because they shared more than a professional
relationship." Chakotay suggested

"Yuck. THAT'S an image I'd rather not picture." B'Elanna replied, her
face twisting with revulsion. Then her eyes widened as a more
unpleasant thought struck her.

"Janeway used to be a frequent visitor to the Paris residence when
Tom was growing up, didn't she?  You don't think - I mean - she DID
admit to getting Tom out of Auckland specially because of her
attraction to him - but she must have known that BEFORE she went to
get him - do you think - no, actually, I don't want to know the
answer to this." B'Elanna snarled, jumping to her feet and pacing
furiously up and down the room in an attempt to contain her rage.

Chakotay had paled at her words. Having seen the sick games Kathryn
played with Harry, he could imagine her capable of anything. It was
unfortunately too easy to imagine what might have happened to a young
Tom, alone in a house with his incestuous father and the dominatrix
from hell.

He clenched his fists until his blunt nails bit into his palms and
closed his eyes in pain.

"Whatever MAY have happened, Tom doesn't remember and probably never
will." The Doctor said comfortingly.

"He remembers in his dreams." Chakotay replied bluntly

"Yes, but the memories are buried in his subconscious and as much as
facing them might be cathartic, none of us have the skill to help
him. Unlocking his memories would be like Pandora's box. Once opened
Tom would never be able to close it again. Without skilled
counselling, he would never be able to come to terms with his
experiences. If they were something he could face alone, he wouldn't
have erected such a delusional world to handle them."

"So pushing him to remember would hurt him?" Chakotay asked

"One day, in the right environment, with the right support, Tom is
going to have to deal with his past. Here and now, on Voyager, I
think that the priority is to help him deal with the present and stop
the cycle of abuse." The Doctor advised.

"If anyone touches him again, I'll kill them." Chakotay promised

"Very constructive." B'Elanna drawled sarcastically. "How many bodies
do you think we can dispose of before someone gets suspicious?
Besides, what if something happens to you? How long do you think it
would be before Tom reverted to his old way of dealing with things?
Within 24 hours of your death, Janeway would have him back in her
bed. In fact, knowing that, I'm surprised you aren't walking around
with an X in the middle of your back."

"An X?" Seven asked in confusion.

"A target. A sign saying `shoot me here'." B'Elanna explained to her
with unusual patience.

Seven's brow cleared at the explanation

"It would be logical. Your death would be an efficient method by
which to return Tom to his former occupation." She stated

"The Captain has Harry. She would hardly murder me just to replace
him with Tom." Chakotay said dismissively

"But what if we come to another planet where all other negotiations
fail? Is she going to let a deal fall through? Tom has been too
successful in building his reputation. Everyone knows that he has
proven to be irresistible to the majority of officials we have
negotiated with. Janeway isn't going to let him say "No"." B'Elanna

"I know." Chakotay said angrily

"So we are back to the original plan. We take over the ship."

"Mutiny?" Neelix squeaked

"It is within Starfleet Regulations to relieve a Captain of duty if
he or she is mentally unbalanced." Chakotay told him firmly

"The problem is that I am a hologram and Chakotay is `officially' a
wanted terrorist. Our opinion on the Captain's ability to perform her
duties won't hold much weight back home." The Doctor said sadly

"But you aren't home, and to be honest you might never get there."
Neelix replied in confusion

"The immediate problem is that the original Starfleet crew might see
this as a `Maquis' action and even a number of my own crew might
support her. Even if we are successful and put her in the brig or
confine her to quarters, it is inevitable that some people will plot
to release her again. We have to establish who her supporters are."
Chakotay explained

"And then?" Neelix asked nervously

"Then we find a suitable planet and leave them behind." Chakotay said
firmly. "Anyone who refuses to join us can stay with her. We just
have to hope that not too many people stand against us. The ship is
undermanned as it is."

"So let's get back to the list." B'Elanna said and Chakotay nodded
tiredly. "Has anyone come up with names yet?"

"Definite to leave behind:  Janeway, Ayala, Dalby,   Possibles:
Harry, Megan Delaney,  Unknown : Everyone Else." Sam said, reading
from her Data Padd.

"Harry only a possible?" B'Elanna asked in surprise

"He hasn't got the balls to cause real trouble, I think he'll take
whichever side seems to have the most chance of winning. Megan is an
airhead and a selfish bitch but I think she will stick to the winning
team too, and Jenny is pretty okay so Megan will probably join us as
long as Jenny does." Sam explained

"Okay, lets deal with the unknowns." Chakotay said, "Let's leave
general crewmen out of this unless they are in positions where they
could affect our immediate plans. Once we are back on course for the
Alpha Quadrant, no one will want to turn around again."

B'Elanna started the discussion

"Ashmore, he's fleet but okay. Joe Carey is okay really, I've broken
his nose twice now so he's pretty sure who's boss. Vorik is a
complete p'tak but will see the logic of our argument I expect."

"Thanks, B'El. Anyone in your division, Sam?"

"Baxter is a bit of an asshole but not a threat, Fitzpatrick and
Foster are straight enough, Jarvis I'm not sure about, she thinks
Janeway IS god. McKenzie thought TUVOK was god, so I don't trust HIM

Chakotay mulled over her words.

"It's going to be a problem if armed Security Officers stick by the
Captain. You'll have to make sure that Jarvis and McKenzie are off
duty when it starts. I don't want them running around with phasers.
Personally, I believe Baytart is okay, Tom likes him, which says a
lot. Geron, Ryson and Tabor can be trusted 100%. Hamilton is enjoying
his temporary position as Head of the Conn Division too much. I think
he'll fight us just to keep Tom from getting back on the bridge.
Jackson was too close to Seska for me to feel comfortable with. What
about your people, Seven?"

"Dell is extremely pliable. Lt. Hargrove is so heterosexual he has
never been near Tom. Freddie Bristow has had a long term emotional
fixation on B'Elanna so has never touched Tom. Ensign Murphy is now
sleeping with B'Elanna so most probably will join us."

B'Elanna went scarlet "You promised not to tell anyone," she hissed

"This is not gossip, this is important information. It would be
illogical to fail to count personal loyalties into the equation."
Seven replied impassively

"Then perhaps I should tell everyone how you know for certain
that "Lieutenant" Hargrove is so heterosexual since Murph and I
introduced you to him!"

Seven blushed prettily. Chakotay smiled gently at the embarrassed

"John's a good man, Seven. I hope you find happiness with him." He
said softly and was gratified by a sparkle in her blue eyes. Which
reminded him of Tom so he returned to the business at hand:

"Chell will support us but can't be trusted with any details, he's a
good man but he talks too damn much. Golwat is the same. Bolians just
can't keep their lips sealed. Sue Nicolletti is okay; Ensign Nozawa
is a bit of a rebel anyway, loves a fight and always supports
the `right' side. Parsons thinks the sun shines out of Janeway's ass,
so does Culhane. Rogers always looks at Tom as though he is the
choice roast at a barbeque, so does Swinn, she practically drools
over him."

The Doctor coughed loudly for attention.

"Ahem! I am a little confused about the criteria. Are we deciding who
is loyal to the Captain or who is attracted to Tom?" he snapped

"I think that we have to consider both points. Some people will
support the Captain because she IS the Captain, but others will
support her just because they want Tom back in circulation." Sam
answered him sadly.

"Have we really all sunk this low?" Chakotay asked tiredly.

"Some people have, definitely." Sam replied quietly, "Several of the
disputes I have broken up recently in Sandrines have started because
of sexual tension. When Tom was still `available' the tension was
under control. It's been a long trip and there are a lot of
frustrated, lonely people on board. To be honest, though, very few
people are resenting Tom or even you, they are just griping about the
situation in general."

"Shame we can't all pop to Risa for the weekend then." B'Elanna
laughed sarcastically.

"Ummm - are you really planning on abandoning the Captain?" Neelix
asked worriedly.

"On the next suitable planet." Chakotay confirmed, narrowing his eyes
dangerously. "Do you have a problem with the idea?"

Neelix swallowed nervously "Oh no, if we're all agreed, then that's

"Well, we haven't agreed on the definition of a `suitable' planet
yet. Personally I think `Demon' class would fit the bill nicely but
Chakotay is being surprisingly squeamish about the idea." B'Elanna

Chakotay looked at B'Elanna and gave a wolfish grin:

"Don't imagine I've gone soft on the bitch, B'El. I just believe we
have more chance of keeping the majority of the crew together if they
see that we have dealt with Janeway in a humane manner. The fact that
I would personally prefer to throw her out of an airlock is
unfortunately a luxury I can't afford to indulge."

B'Elanna nodded reluctantly "Damned shame. Maybe we should just go
with MY original plan and poison her. The Doc can cover up the
evidence and there'd be no need for a mutiny at all."

"Unless we do it my way, we will never know who else can't be
trusted. This way we shake the tree and sort the good apples from the

"Apples?" Seven asked

"Ask `John'" B'Elanna sniped nastily, then relented and squeezed
Seven's arm gently. The last couple of weeks had not only found them
new partners but also more importantly had been the start of a
friendship that they both treasured, despite their constant spats.

"It's late," Chakotay said firmly, "let's all get some sleep. Spend
tomorrow gently checking people out, getting a feel of where their
loyalties lie. We'll meet up again tomorrow and start finalising
things. I need you to imagine every possible scenario, see what could
go wrong, work on finding flaws in our plan. That way we won't be
caught by surprise."

Solemnly they all began to leave until only Chakotay and Sam remained.

"Tom will be exhausted. I bet Naomi refused to go to bed and has been
playing him up all evening." Sam laughed as they walked to the door.

"Thank you for trusting him to baby-sit Naomi again, Sam. I know it
took courage on your part but it means the world to him." Chakotay
said sincerely.

"Like you said, Chakotay, the new medication has done wonders for
him. Besides, Tom is Naomi's best friend. He would never hurt her.  I
made the mistake of misjudging him at the beginning. I was bigoted
and ignorant.  My only concern about Tom is that he is no more likely
to stop playing on time than Naomi. They are probably both collapsed
in a heap on the sofa." She smiled.

They walked companionably to Sam's quarters. The door whispered open
to let them enter.

"See," Sam whispered gleefully "What did I tell you?"

Tom and Naomi were both curled up on the sofa, fast asleep. All
around the floor lay the scattered debris of drinks, snacks, toys and
an unfinished board game.

Chakotay winced at the mess. Sam just sniggered quietly.

"You seem remarkably good tempered about it." Chakotay whispered

"That's because I only have to carry Naomi to bed." Sam laughed
quietly "You, on the other hand, are going to get a hernia."

"Don't be ridiculous. I'll just wake him up and make him walk home."
Chakotay chuffed in embarrassment.

Sam gently picked up Naomi and carried her to the bedroom and tucked
her into bed then tiptoed back to the doorway and peeked out.

Chakotay was gently shaking Tom by the shoulder but the younger man
just sighed and curled up tighter, his breathing soft and steady as
he slept peacefully.

Sam watched the hard planes of Chakotay's face soften and a wry grin
crept over his usually stoic features before he bent down and picked
Tom up with a grunt of effort. He paused for a moment with his heavy
burden and then leant down and kissed Tom's forehead gently before
carrying him out of the door.

Like a knife, a stab of loneliness pierced Sam's chest as she
witnessed Chakotay's tenderness towards Tom. She was suddenly so
homesick that she wanted to cry and her pain solidified into a
feeling of determination. Perhaps she would never get home, perhaps
she would never see her husband again, but she was damned sure that
whatever happened she was never going to let anything happen to
separate Tom and Chakotay.

For Sam, love was a once in a lifetime thing. She could no more
imagine replacing her husband in her heart than growing wings and
flying. She understood that love like theirs was special. That few
people ever found it. But she was convinced that Tom and Chakotay had
found it and she was prepared to do whatever it took to help them
stay together.

Captain Kathryn Janeway was about to get one hell of a surprise.