By Katherina Rosellini
This story takes place immediately after Chakotay leaves the Captain with the information that an alien race came about B'Elanna's distress call...10 days ago, in the episode "The Muse". This is a conversation that occurs between Tom and the Captain a few minutes later. Tom is feeling lonely, and guilty, and the Captain tries to help him through it.
She needed to take a walk, clear her head, she just didn't know where she was going, and decided the mess hall was as good a place as any. "Perhaps different scenery will do you some good, Kathryn." she said to herself.
Walking into the mess hall, with her cup of coffee in one hand, and the other rubbing at her temple, she saw him sitting there alone in the corner. Unsure of whether to turn, and leave, or to go up to him, the decision was made for her.
"Captain?" he said as he turned in his seat to face her and wiped a few stray tears from his eyes, "What're you doing here so late? Or should I say early?"
"I could ask the same of you." she said in that motherly tone she had perfected over the last six years, "Truthfully, I needed a change of scenery. My ready room, and my quarters were getting a little...claustrophobic."
Reaching out to touch his arm, sitting in the spot that B'Elanna normally occupied, she said "Tom, you look exhausted. Why don't you go back to your quarters and try to get some sleep?"
"I could ask the same of you. Truthfully, I guess I needed a change of scenery too." After sitting silently for a minute or two he looked up at her with tearful eyes, and said "I've been pacing around her quarters for days, and when that got to be too much, I started pacing around my own. Unfortunately, my quarters hold just as many memories as hers does, so I guess I just needed to escape for a while. Funny thing is, is that no matter where I go on this ship, she's there. I actually found myself walking towards Harry's quarters to wake him up, and tell him about the past few weeks, but...." with a deep sigh, and his face to the ceiling he said through his tears, "I really needed to talk to my best friend tonight, but they're both missing in action."
Her heart breaking, she reached out once again in a motherly gesture, and said, "I know I'm not Harry or B'Elanna, but I would like to consider myself your friend, Tom."
"Thanks, Captain. I could use one right about now."
"Tell me what's on your mind."
"Trust me. You don't want to know."
"Alright. I've been sitting here thinking about them...mostly her." under his breathe, "Sorry, Har."
After wrestling with several emotions, he finally opened up, "Do you know why I had to leave my quarters tonight? I could smell her. Everywhere. I lied down in our bed, and I could smell her on our sheets. I went into the bathroom to throw some cold water on my face, and I could smell her on our towels. I threw myself down onto the sofa, and I could smell her on the pillows. I had to leave. I had to get out of there."
Touched at how he referred to everything as "ours", she looked down into her lap, and told him of the latest news. She wasn't sure if he could take it, but in true Tom Paris fashion, he seemed to brighten up a bit at the fact that someone had picked up their distress call.
"So there's a chance that they're still out there somewhere? Right? Captain, you've got to let me take a shuttle out now. You have to!"
"I'm sorry, Tom. I can't do that."
Throwing his head back in disgust he grunted and screamed "WHY?!"
Her voice softening to counteract his scream, "Tom? Do you think I don't want to find them? I do, but I'm also responsible for the rest of this crew, including you. I can't let you take a shuttle out, it just wouldn't be the smartest use of our resources. If we're going to find them, I need you here."
Knowing she was right, but fighting just a little bit more, he said "I have to do something. This sitting here is driving me crazy!" he punctuated by slamming his fist down on the table.
"Why don't we do what we both came here to do, Tom? Why don't we forget about it for a minute, and try to clear our minds. We may have a better perspective of things if we get our minds off of it for a while."
"Yeah" he resigned, "Sure. I guess."
After a few minutes of silence, Tom spoke up and said what was really bothering him ever since B'Elanna and Harry had gone missing. "I never told her."
"Told her what?"
Lost in his own thoughts, he continued, "I mean I've said 'me too' or 'you know I do, right?', but I've never actually said it."
Finally catching up, she said, "She knew, Tom."
"Yeah, but why couldn't I say it? Even this last time, she was getting ready to leave with Harry, and I was trying to convince her that she should take me instead." looking up from his hands, he had a slight grin on his face, and said, "You know...just the two of us. I thought it would be romantic, but B'Elanna, didn't want to mix business with pleasure, and told me to 'Calm down, Flyboy. I'll be back in no time.'. "Hmmmph. Yeah. Right. No time. Then she told me." After the first time she said it on the Day of Honor a few years ago, it always seemed to come so easy for her. "'I love you, Tom.', and you know what I said? Do you?! I said..." shaking his head in disgust, "...'Of course you do. How could you not?'. Not even a 'me too'. I could kill myself for never telling her." With that his tears started, and he asked "Captain. Would you mind leaving me alone for a while?"
After careful consideration she said, "Sure, Tom." On her way out she could hear his gut wrenching sobs, and turned to him from the doorway. "Tom?" He lifted his tear streaked face in answer. "Ever since we got pulled into the Caretaker's array, I've been asking myself the same question...Why?...Why the Delta Quadrant?...Why me?...Why all of us? Oh, sure I came up with several different answers - To save the Ocampans - To bring Starfleet technology to the Delta Quadrant - To explore what no man has done before, but none of them were plausible answers for me, until.... Neelix was having one of his infamous parties." Thinking out loud, "I think it was the last one we had at his resort program."
Tom had remembered that last party. He and B'Elanna took a walk along the beach and made love on the sand with the water crashing around them. Closing his eyes, he wished he could go back to that moment and tell her how much he loved her, but the Captain's talking pulled him out of his spell.
"I was sitting at a table at the edge of the room rehashing the last few days occurrence, I believe aliens were invading our dreams, and once again I asked myself the question. Why? Why did we get sent here? So many times our lives were put to the test, and so many times we've just barely passed that test. As I was asking myself 'why?' I looked around the room, and my eyes landed on you and B'Elanna. You were dancing, but not for long, maybe a second or two, then you held hands, and started to leave the room, but you weren't leaving the resort, you were going towards the beach. Now normally I wouldn't admit this, but I was...curious, so I found an excuse, and got up to refill my drink, and took a stroll on the beach."
"Captain, I can explai...."
Holding up her hand as if to ward him off she continued, "You were standing in the sand, and the water was simply flowing at your feet, but you were both oblivious to it. You said something to B'Elanna, I couldn't make it out, you were out of hearing range, but I do remember her blushing."
Tom remembered too. He had told her that she was beautiful, and that he missed her during his 'nap'.
"I want to make love to you, B'Elanna."
"What? Here? Now?"
"Yes. Here, and now."
"But, Tom someone could see."
"I don't care." placing his hands on either side of her face he whispered, "I just want to be inside of you." That did it. She was lost.
Pulling him back to the present once again, the Captain continued, "You looked at her with such passion, such....love. I was overcome. When you touched her face, you whispered something to her. I always assumed you were telling her that you loved her, and that's when you kissed her, and...when I got my answer."
Somewhat lost, he said, "Your answer, Captain?"
"Yes. My answer Mr. Paris. Till this day, it's the only answer I can accept without hesitation."
Still looking at the Captain with a confused look, he said, "I'm sorry, Captain. Are you saying that you think B'Elanna and I are the reason we got pulled into the Caretaker's array." Shaking his head, he said "I don't buy it."
"Well, I do. When I looked at the two of you that night, I saw two different people then the rebellious Admiral's son and the angry Maquis officer that came aboard this ship years ago. I saw a man and a woman put in the most difficult of situations, and yet...you found love. I truly believe that the two of you were meant for each other, and yes, maybe you would have found your way to each other in the Alpha Quadrant."
"Yeah. We probably would've hooked up in prison." his light attempt at humor a sure sign of his feeling better.
"Nevertheless, Mr. Paris, you would have met, but I believe that there is a reason for everything, and believing that you and B'Elanna are the reason for us being stranded in the Delta Quadrant makes our situation a little easier to accept. Well...I just thought you should know that. Tom, maybe you didn't actually say the words, I love you, but I know from firsthand experience...you showed her. In a simple touch, a look, a kiss, you showed her, and she knew. Well...good night, Mr. Paris. Get some sleep. That's an order."
Unsure whether or not he should ask this next question, he took a deep breathe and... "Exactly how much love did you experience firsthand?"
With a knowing grin she turned and walked out the door, calling behind her, "Trust me Mr. Paris, you don't want to know, but after that night, I for one have never doubted your love for her."
A few days later.
"Stop pacing, Tom. You're driving me crazy."
"Well get over it Harry. Your disappearance has been driving me crazy for two weeks now so a few minutes of you being driven crazy is a small price to pay. What the hell is taking her so long?!"
"I'd like to know the answer to that myself, Mr. Paris."
"Captain, I told you. She's trying to prevent a war."
"Yes Mr. Kim, you told me that, but I'm still having a hard time figuring out how a play, of all things, could prevent a war."
"I had a hard time with that one too." Harry said under his breathe.
As the familiar bleep sounded, Tom forgot about everything, but the woman that was about to reappear in front of his eyes.
"One to beam....to descend to the Heavens."
In unison they all questioned, "Descend to the Heavens?", and then she appeared. Arms held up, hands splayed open to the...Heavens, looking absolutely gorgeous.
"Hey. I thought you weren't coming back for a minute there." he said as he slowly moved towards her.
"Where else would I go?" she said as they lunged into each others arms.
Talking over each other, and kissing every spot possible they said,
"God, B'Elanna. I was so scared. I thought I would never see you again."
"Oh, Tom. I wasn't sure if I would ever see you again. God, how I missed you. I was so afraid...so scared."
"Come on Ensign, lets get you to sick bay."
"Yes, Captain, but are you sure we should leave them alone in here?"
"I'm sure they'll be fine, Harry.", and as they left, the Captain turned around to see him taking her face in his hands, and whispering something to her, once again confirming her reason for being stranded so far from home.
Lightly placing his hands on her cheeks, Tom looked into B'Elanna's eyes, and whispered something he should have said so long ago,
"I love you, B'Elanna. I love you."
"I know. I love you too, Tom."