AUTHORS NOTE: My personal experiences with coma always led me to wonder: where does the soul go when the brain can't function anymore? Well, I was too young to remember anything, so Im left sole with my imagination
Isabelle S.

DISCLAIMER: Tom Paris and Voyager's crew belongs to Paramount. However, all unrelated character and places, meaning the residents of Port-Ayalexis, belongs to US. So here's a another take at what could be Tom Paris secret life. This a P/T in essence, but mostly a P/L.
We've got you interested? You'll have to read to know. He Found His Way Home is 3/5 part of In The Dark and its rated PG.

SYNOPSIS: Chakotay finds Tom in an other reality. But, is it based on Tom's past or a fantasy.

In The Dark part 3: He Found His Way Home
by Synbou-

Commander Chakotay ran down Voyager's hallways. He felt like something was going to explode inside him. This had to be a bad dream. Seeing Tom Paris disappear through that hole in the ice didn't really mean that the young man was dead. Chakotay just couldn't accept it. But, the ice breaking, Tom being swallowed by the water, the darkness, it was all coming to such an abrupt finality.

The Commander reached sickbay, where he joined his Captain. She stood in front of the close doors, obviously dreading to enter.

"Kathryn," he said harshly.

She turned to face him. Spirits, he couldn't ever remember seeing her like that. She looked so vulnerable and in pain. She knew what she would find on the other side of those doors and didn't wanted to face it any more than he. They both held each other's gaze for a second. He put his hand on her shoulder and together they walked in sickbay.

The first thing he saw was B'Elanna Torres standing a few meters away from the main biobed where the Doctor was working with the help of Samantha Wildman. B'Elanna turned toward him and Janeway, tears were running down her face. He felt Kathryn stiffen under his touch, she had an expression of dismay on her face. He looked more closely toward the doctor and finally saw Tom. His inside turmoil turned into unbelievable relief, it felt almost like ecstasy. He sighed. Tom was a survivor. He mentally kicked himself for forgetting that, for even for a moment.

"Thank the Spirits," he breathed. "He still alive."

"Commander! You're here," said the EMH turning to face Chakotay.

"What happened?"

"We were in engineering. Nobody could see me except Tom. He could see all of us. And then... Did he tell you about Garden?" At The Doctor's puzzled expression, he continued: "I guest not."

"Commander?" Janeway asked confused, her eyes were going from him to The Doctor.

"It's sort of complicated, Captain," Chakotay answered. "Doctor, how he is?"

"Not good. There is some brain activity, but he is in a very deep coma again," The Doctor explained. "All this running around the ship has exhausted his system. We stabilized his vitals, however his pulse and blood pressure are still low."

"Gentlemen," began Janeway, fed up of being in the dark. "What is going on here? Why is Tom in uniform?"

"I'm sorry, Captain, its just that I had to see if Tom was still with us. Why don't we go to The Doctor's office. I'll explain

Once there, they sat down: The Doctor behind his desk, Chakotay and Torres sat in front of it, and Janeway leaned on its corner.

Chakotay took a deep breath and, with the help of The Doctor, started to explain the events of the last three hours. He told them about the aliens living in the spatial anomaly and how they had taken over the ship. How the interference of the alien minds had put everyone to sleep, and somehow woke up Tom. He talked about how he had met Tom on the Spirit Plain, in The Winter Garden. How Tom had woke up and got the ship away from the anomaly, thus out of the reach of the intruders.

Then he paused for a few long seconds.

"There is more," said Janeway, sensing Chakotay's hesitation.

Chakotay sighed heavily and pressed on: "Once the aliens were gone, Tom started to loose consciousness, and we were back in the Garden. It was stormy. The wind was so strong and I could hardly move. Tom was on a frozen pond. Before I could get to him, he fell trough the ice. It was as if the water had swallowed him whole."
Chakotay stopped to take a few deep breaths. He continued more quietly. "I thought we had lost him. Then, I was back in my quarters in the same position than before. After that, I came here and you know the rest."

There was silence again, as each one of them absorbed what Chakotay had just said.

"He saved the ship once again," B'Elanna whispered in mix of sadness and pride.

Janeway, agreed with a sad smile.

"How can we help him," she asked. "Doctor do you have any suggestion on how to proceed, now?"

"I would like to try to contact him again on the Spirit Plain, Captain," Chakotay said. "I've been able to do it once. I might be able to do it again."

"This has been a difficult day for all of us,," began The Doctor, "especially for Mr. Paris. So, I suggest that you all go get some sleep. Meanwhile, I will take care of my patient; try to build back his stamina." He exchanged a look with Chakotay. "Commander, I understand that you want to try something right now, but this is not good either for you or the Lieutenant. So, go get some rest. All of you. I assure you that if there is any changes in Mr. Paris' condition, I will call you."

Reluctantly, they all agreed on getting some well deserved rest. Chakotay accompanied Kathryn and B'Elanna once again to each of their quarters before turning in, himself. His mind was set on getting a good night of sleep; only well rested would he be able to help Tom. And, deep down inside, despite an itching doubt, he believed he could help. Tom had survive The Day, at least physically. There was hope. Tom would eventually find his way home to Voyager.


The following morning, Janeway, Chakotay, Harry and B'Elanna were sharing coffee in the conference room. It had been a long night for all of them, and they were bracing themselves for an other difficult day. An other day without Tom Paris usual 'joie de vivre'.

For Chakotay, the wait had taken an all new meaning. Tom had haunted his dream in the early morning, or was it Chakotay who had visited the Winter Garden again. This time however, the Garden was full of light shining on the pond, playing through the trees. It had been quite beautiful and relaxing. Tom had been sitting on the bench, the Himalayan laying beside him.

"You're taking this really at heart, Chakotay," Kathryn Janeway told him sympathetically.

"I do. I don't know how to explain it," Chakotay sighed. "I never had someone trust me so implicitly before. I wouldn't never had thought that Tom ever would."

"That how it is with Tom. It's all or nothing," Harry said.

"The Doctor said that Tom was doing better. His condition is no longer critical, but it's unstable. He can't stay like that for too long," said B'Elanna. "Chakotay, do you really think you can get through to him?"

"I'll try, B'Elanna. We all want him to come home."

"Well, before you do anything," Janeway told him. "You should consult with the Doctor."

"Of course."


Janeway and Chakotay met with the physician in his office. They agreed that the Commander would remain in sickbay while he tried to contact Tom on the Spirits Plain. This way, The Doctor could keep an eye on both of them.

So, Chakotay settled on a biobed. His medicine bundle and his 'Akoona' with him. He started by slowing his breathing.

"Akouchimoya, we are far from the land of our people..." he began to recite. Gradually he entered a meditative state.


The first thing that Chakotay realized was the noise. People talking loudly, footsteps, things being moved around... He was definitely not in the Winter Garden. As his vision cleared, he found himself amazed by his surrounding. He was in a interior market, beside a fruit stand. People were carefully choosing different fruits and vegetables. Judging by all the different colors and warm clothes that the citizen were wearing, it had to be autumn. He scrutinized his environment in order to assess where he was. By the mix of cultures and the labels used to mark the prices, the Commander  ecognized the place to be Kimira, a Federation colony in the Kara Prime system, back in the Alpha Quadrant. He had visited the planet a long time go as a Starfleet officer, at a time when the population had been recovering from a
war with the Irsians, a neighboring race.

"Chakotay?!" he heard Tom Paris called from somewhere. There he was, making his way toward him through the crowd. He was dressed in civilian, black pants and a wine wool turtleneck. He had a packsack on his back and he was carrying a few bags filled with fruits and vegetables. "Chakotay!" he said again visibly happy to see him. "I didn't know you were in Port-Ayalexis. What are you doing here?"

"I just got here," the Commander answered. That was true enough.
*Think fast!* he told himself. "I just been reassigned to Kimira."

"Really? I don't remember Audrey mentioning that... I mean, Admiral Larsen. Then again, I'm so busy these days, I hardly keep in touch with the Department."

"You know the Admiral well?" Chakotay asked. *Keep him going and keep it friendly until you know what's going on, he thought.

"Oh, Yeah. I've been working with her for the Missing Person Department for years, now. She is a very ongoing person, very dynamic and open, an excellent commanding officer. I'm sure you're going to enjoy working with her as much as I do."

"Well, it's god to know," Chakotay said more impress by Tom enthusiasm, than his praises concerning the Admiral. "So you're still in Starfleet...?

"Sort of," Tom answered. "I'm more of an outside consultant."

*Easy, Chakotay. Don't hit a nerve,* he warned himself.

"How long have you been on Kimira?"

"On a permanent basis, I'd say four or five years," Tom answered while starting to walk again, obviously disturbed by the fact that they were standing in the middle of the alley, blocking the traffic. "You don't mind if we keep up this conversation while I do my groceries, do you? I'm kind of in a hurry."

"Of course not. The Missing Person Department? I taught you were a pilot."

"I am, among other things," he said with grinning.

"How long as it been since we last seen each other? I can't remember when was the last time."

Tom looked at him thoughtfully.

"Gee, Chakotay, I can't remember either. Are we getting that old?!" he exclaimed with mock disbelief.

So, it seemed that Tom was taking things for granted. *Maybe some  kind of defense mechanism. Tom has a lot of them.* Chakotay told himself. *But, don't go over analyzing, here.*

They stopped by a meat stand where three butchers were busy serving consumers and rapping different pieces of meat on a counter.

"Hi, Tom!", one of them said. The others briefly look up from their tasks to nod and smile at him. "What can I do for you, today?"
"Tad, I need a quick fix for tonight," Tom told the older man. "I had my mind set on those brochettes of yours."

"Beef? I thought it was Solenn's night? Or did you managed to convince her to eat red meat."

"No such luck, my friend. I ran out of supplies and made a trategic exchange with Solenn, so I made chicken rice yesterday."

The butcher chuckled. "How many brochettes do you want?" he asked.

"Ah.. four, no six!" He turned to Commander. "You have to come and have supper with us tonight, Chakotay," he said. "Oh! but that's right you don't eat meat. I'll find something else for tonight and I'll serve the brochettes tomorrow. Tad, give me only four please. By the way, this my friend Chakotay, he's new around here."

"Nice, meeting Chakotay," the butcher said smiling. "Tom, I don't have any chicken brochettes left, but I have some of pork. Would Solenn prefer that?"

"Four brochettes of pork would be great."

"Coming right up. You know, I can put this in an air tight rap for you so you could keep it longer and fresher."

"Thanks, that would be much appreciated," Tom answered.

A few minutes later, Tad handed over a bag.

"I put a bone for Mocha in the bag," the butcher said grinning.

"Tad, you're spoiling that dog too much. She's gonna love it." Tom exclaimed himself while he paid for the goods with a credit card.

"Say hello to Loreena and the kids, for me," Tad said.

"The same to your family."

They walked away from the butcher's shop, back in the crowded alley. Chakotay had to walk rather fast to keep pace with the younger man.

"Loreena and the kids?" he echoed unable to masked his surprised expression.

"That's why you have to come to the house tonight. You have to meet my lovely wife and our two daughters, Sayana and Solenn."

*His wife and daughters! "Since when are you married?"

"Six years. I met Loreena at the university. I was studying with her sister, Gwanna. Loreena was doing her business master. One semester, we took acting classes together and fell in love," Tom related. His blue eyes were sparkling and he was smiling.

"Does Starfleet Academy have a campus on Kimira?"

"No. But Yanka University has one in the city. I did my Doctorate in Astrophysics here."

"Doctorate!?" Chakotay repeated. "I knew had advanced courses in Astrophysics, but I never thought you had a doctorate."

"The things that you learn about people, eh?", he teased.

"You can say that again," agreed the Commander.

Tom's smiled widen.

Chakotay realized that his companion had never stop smiling since their encounter. He seemed very happy, sure of himself, and enjoying his surroundings. He was very at ease in this crowded market, exchanging salutations with a lot of people. Obviously, he was well known and appreciated here. The Commander could recognize the side of Tom's friendly personality that was showing more and more on Voyager. It was so different from his cocky and bitter
look on life that Chakotay had despised so much when he had first met the man. He reminded himself, that this was Tom's dream becoming some sort of reality. A reality where Tom was happy. Chakotay felt some relief, he knew that Tom had many nightmares, he had feared that he would have walked right into one them.

"What kind of sauce do you like?"

"What?" Chakotay asked confused.

Tom laughed at his companion. "Pasta for supper sound great to me, and easy to sell to the three women of my life. I asked you: what kind of sauce do you like? You're my guest. You can choose anything you want except something that has seafood in it. Neither girls like that."

Chakotay looked at Tom with a grin before choosing on a "Sauce rosee", enthusiastically approved by Tom, who started considering his options in wine.

There again, Tom was really friendly with the owner of the small Italian gourmet shop. He introduced them. Together, they chose some broconchini and Parmesan, fresh basil, pesto and an Italian bread. This was going to be good. Chakotay really hoped that he could stay for supper, it would change from Neelix *exotic* and a little too alien cooking. "Kimirian cuisine is very good, but I prefer Italian. A little taste of home," Tom said once they were back in the alley.

"Earlier, Tad said that it was Solenn's night..."

Tom laughed at the memory. "We all like different things, and the things we like kinda repeat themselves. We came to this agreement, since there is no way, I'm cooking two or three different meals in order to please everyone. So, one night a week Solenn get to pick what we're gonna have for supper, an other it's Sayana's, an other it's Loreena's. The others are mine, cook's prerogative. Got to admit that it's often negotiable. You have kids, Chakotay?"

"No, I'm not that lucky."

"Depends on which days," Tom argued. He laughed again. "That's not fair, but it's true. I am very lucky."

"Well, you look happy," observe Chakotay. "And, I'm happy for you. Although, doesn't make my assignment easy."

"What do you mean?"

"Tom." Chakotay took a deep breath. "Running into you was not an accident. Well, yes. I didn't expect to see you at the market. I mean, not in Port-Ayalexis. You're my assignment. Starfleet has a proposition for you," he explained. "But here isn't the best place to talk about it."

People were passing by them going from one shop to another. Children were running around. It was noisy and it was distracting both of them. Chakotay saw Tom's cheerful expression changed into a more blank one. Like a mask had just been put on his face. A mask Chakotay knew too well.

"Frankly," Tom said. "I don't know what Starfleet have in mind, especially since Admiral Larsen didn't mentioned you were coming. Still, you're my friend, and you deserve that I listen to you. Doesn't mean I have to agree with Starfleet's proposal."

Chakotay smiled at Tom's honesty and mostly at being called a friend.

"I can live with that," he granted. "Thank you. So, where are we going next?"

Tom's smile came back.

"By some more fruits. Like I was saying I like a little taste of home. There's this shop where you can find things from all over the galaxy. That's about the only place you can find apples and oranges around here, we have a replicator at home, but just isn't the same."

So, Chakotay was back next to a fruit stand. It was quite impressive. There were all kind of fruits and vegetables from at least twenty different worlds. Chakotay couldn't help noticing all the ones originating from Earth. Oh Spirits, how could they have ended up so far away from their home. He wished he could stay here, too.

"Hi Martine! How are you?" Tom said giving a warm hug to the forty something woman.

"The little one is not with you, today?"

"No, but I have my friend Chakotay with me."

"I see that he is the one who's carrying the bags," Martine said teasingly.

"He's just earning his meal," Tom said casting an other of his mischievous smiles. "Looks like your receiving new stuff every week?" he observed. His gaze was flying over the huge display.

"Yes. It's a good season right now. I just received something you've got the see. I think it's a vegetable. I just don't know yet what I could do with it."

She left them for a few minutes and came back holding something. Chakotay's eyes grew wide in recognition. He could barely hide his disgust.

"It's some kind of root," Martine said.

"Leola root, to be more exact," Chakotay confirmed.

"Is it any good?" Tom asked.

"Well, it's really... versatile. But trust me, you won't like it," Chakotay told him, knowing how much Tom hated the thing.

"You know Martine, I'll go with the usual."

"Oh Tomas, You never try new things!" she said with mock disappointment.

"Sure I do, but when it comes to food I prefer sticking to what I know."

They left Martine fruit stand for what Tom called his all time favorite place, the coffee shop. For someone who was not a coffee lover as much as Kathryn and Tom were, Chakotay still found himself quite excited over all the different jars containing over sixty different kinds of this precious delicacy. Chakotay started wishing he could bring Kathryn here. He knew she would be ecstatic.

"You like coffee, Chakotay?"

"Not as much as you do, that's for sure. I just was thinking of a friend who would be delighted to be here. Remember Kathryn Janeway, Captain Kathryn Janeway?"

"Kathryn Janeway? You know her?" Tom asked very surprised.


Tom eyed him oddly like if he was hesitant of sharing his thoughts. Somehow his features had changed, just like when the Commander had mentioned the new assignment from Starfleet earlier.
"I'm afraid I don't know her personally. But, she served under *Dear Old Dad* for a couple of years," he sighed in order to wash the bitterness that had tinted his tone at the reference of his father. "Chakotay, Kathryn Janeway disappeared a few months ago, God knows where. The department have been looking for her, but no success so far. I'm sorry."

"I didn't know that. I'm sorry, too," Chakotay replied quietly.

*You just don't know how sorry, I'm. At least, you haven't forgot all about her.*

"So, you have a preference for coffee?" his companion asked more lightly.

"About a taste from home? Colombian is good."

"Sold!" Tom made his way to the jar and took a spoonful of the dark brown beans and put them in a bag.


The Paris home was about fifteen minutes outside Port-Ayalexis, in a small residential area call Seal-Cove. It was an old house, that Tom and Loreena had renovated with a lot of taste. The front door swung open as Sayana ran into the house. She was followed closely by the blond Labrador, Mocha, that greeted them on the porch.

Chakotay exchanged a smile with Tom who was rolling his eyes in mock disagreement. They had left the market in hover car and had stop by Sayana's school to pick her up at the end of her classes.

"Daddy!" called a high pitch voice as three years old Solenn ran into her father's arms. Tom had barely enough time to put the grocery bags on the floor, before he easily lifted up his daughter. He placed a kiss on her forehead and gave her a bear hug. An affectionate gesture that Chakotay had seen him do with his seven years old, earlier. He could see the obvious resemblance between the two. Solenn had her father's fair complexion and his blue eyes. Sayana however, bared absolutely no resemblance to him with her auburn hair and brown eyes, but somehow she seemed familiar.

"Hi there! How's my Soleil?" Tom asked happily.
"Shining," she answered making Tom softly chuckle.

"Oh?... Hello," Solenn told Chakotay as she realized his presence behind her father.

"Solenn, this is my friend Chakotay. Chakotay this Solenn, my little Sunshine."

"Nice meeting you, Solenn."

The little girl kept staring at him for a minute with sparkling blue eyes that would remind B'Elanna of her dear warpcore.
Chakotay smiled to himself. What would B'Elanna think of this? Did she know? Assuming this was, had been, real.

"You have a drawing on your head like Mr. Blank," Solenn finally told him.

Tom looked back at him with a smile that was holding back his laughter. "Mr. Black is one of the gold fish," he whispered to him. "Solenn, why don't you show your fish tank to Chakotay while I get rid of all the bags?"

"You wanna see MY fishes?" she asked.

"Yes, I would like that very much."

"Daddy! I'm going play with Thalia!" Sayana called, passing by them, the dog still on her heels.

"Don't forget to be back in time for supper," Tom simply reminded her.

Chakotay followed Solenn to a corner of the living room where the fish tank was displayed on a shelf above a small play table.

The child took great delight at pointing all fishes by their names. There were Mr. Black, the gold fish with a black mark on his head, Mr. Red and Mr. White. She turned of her heels:

"The cat is Mr. Blue!" she said laughing.

"As you can see, we are very original when it comes to pet names," he heard Tom say from the Kitchen.

Chakotay turned to look at the cat. On the chair near the fireplace there was the blue-grey Himalayan, he had seen before. The cat that had been sitting on Tom's laps in the Winter Garden. *It could definitely be Tom's animal guide,* Chakotay told himself.

He rapidly surveyed the living room. It was a warm room with a lot of windows through which you could see the sea at the far end of the backyard. On one side, there was the fireplace surrounded by sofas. At the other end, there was a baby grand piano standing proudly on an oriental rug covering the hard wood floor. There were a few coffee tables here and there covered with pictures and books. Paintings were decorating the walls on which the light of the afternoon sun was shining on.

Chakotay approached the fireplace, where he found a family picture. He looked closely at the women. *Ricky!* Tom's favorite holo-character was his wife, Loreena?! Quite frankly, he didn't really know what to think of this. He still wasn't sure if this whole thing was part of Tom's memories or one very elaborate fantasy.

He came back to the picture, it had been taken in a park, that could have been the Winter Garden, on a bright summer day. The children were sitting on there parents laps. They were smiling and holding each other. Chakotay could swear he felt the love that emanated from the picture.

He was about to put it back to its place when he saw the silver necklace that both Tom and Loreena were wearing. It was an Decca- star in a thin circle. Chakotay knew the symbol and the implications that it meant. It was the logo of The Silver-Seas Foundation: an non-profit and non-political organization that was an ally of Amnesty International, promoting and protecting ethical rights. The Foundation had put itself on the line while providing aid to the people of the DMZ, on both sides of the line.

He remembered that Starfleet was not to please with that fact, and that they were keeping an close tap on the Foundation's activities. Did this mean Tom was a member of the Foundation? It surely explained his presence on Kimira, since the Foundation headquarters were in Port-Ayalexis. However, he didn't recall ever seeing Tom wearing the necklace before, neither on Voyager or while working with the Maquis. *Who really are you, Tom Paris?* he
asked himself.
He exchanged a few words with Solenn, then found his way to the kitchen, where Tom was chatting with a woman that was in her mid sixties.

"Chakotay, meet my mother-in-law, Hester," Tom said. "Chakotay is going to stay with us for a few days, while he conducts some business in Port-Ayalexis."

"It's a pleasure to meet you. Mr. Chakotay," Hester told him, bending her head a little and smiling. He could see a faint
resemblance with Sayana.

"The pleasure is all mine," he said, repeating the greeting gesture.

"Tom, I'll see you tomorrow. I have to run, otherwise I'll be late for my dance class. Don't forget to take your medication and to get some rest."

"Yes, ma'am." Tom's words rolled off of his tongue in a practice manner.

With one last kiss to Solenn, Hester left rushing out the door, leaving Tom with his task of putting the groceries away.

"Medication?" Chakotay echoed, being careful of the tone of voice he used.

"It's nothing really. I was sick a while back. I'm better now. The medication is just to prevent a relapse," Tom answered as he was putting the fruits and the vegetables in the refrigerator. "Pull up a chair, my friend. Would you like something to drink? We've got about anything you can think of: apero, wine, juice... If we don't there is the replicator."

"A glass of fruit juice would be nice," said Chakotay as he sat down at the table.

Tom gave him a glass of cranberry juice, pored himself a glass of wine, then went on putting the food away. They kept the discussion light, talking mostly about how well the Kimirian society was recovering from the war with the Irsians. Chakotay couldn't help but notice how everything had its place in the cupboard. The kitchen was very well designed.

Once the groceries had been properly stored, Tom started to make a salad to accompany the pasta. While he was doing so, he talked with Chakotay and kept an eye on Solenn. The little girl was in the living room putting a puzzle together.

At about that time, Sayana came in drenched from head to toe. "What happened?" asked Tom concerned, as he helped her out the wet clothing.

"It just started to rain really hard," said the child through chattering teeth.

One glance out the window, provided the evidence to collaborate her story. It was only then that Chakotay became aware of the sound of the beating rain on the glass panes. *Why didn't I noticed that before?* he wondered.

"That's weird," Tom observed. "The sun was shining just minutes," Then turned his attention back to his oldest daughter. "Go put on some dry clothes before you get sick, Whirlwind."

From his seat at the table, Chakotay had not missed one detail of
the scene that had just occurred. He hadn't missed Tom concerned
look. The older man had noticed that some very small details were
sometimes amiss. Chakotay filled that piece of information to the
back of his mind and came back to the here and now, so to say, as
Tom came back to the kitchen.

"The weather is always unpredictable in the Fall. I could swear that it's becoming darker faster, too. That's unusual. I hope Loreena took her umbrella this morning," Tom said as a matter of fact.

"I think that it's the same on every planet that experience seasonality," said Chakotay. *God, I'm starting to sound like

A few minutes later, Sayana came back dressed in a sweat shirt and pants that obviously came from two different outfits. The clashing colors rivaled even Nelix's wardrobe.

"Is this okay?" she asked he father.

"Well, Whirlwind, it's quite colorful," said Tom, cracking a smile. "As long as your aunt Victoria doesn't see you, your fine. My older sister is a fashion designer. The other, Christine, is a marine Biologist," he informed Chakotay.

"What do I do, now?" asked the child already bored.

"What kind of homework do you have tonight?"

"Just some spelling, and I know those words," said Sayana confidently.

"Really?" replied Tom. "Why don't you go and get me your notebook and we go over them together?"

Reluctantly, she went upstairs and came back with her vocabulary note PADD. She handed it to her father He put it on the counter, next to the salad bowl. It was only then that Chakotay realized, that she had never stepped into the kitchen itself. Even at that moment, she stood just outside of the room.

Tom started to ask the simple words while making supper. Chakotay had tuned his chair in order to see both Tom and Sayana. She did know most of the words. He smiled at the fact that Mocha was on one her side and Mr. Blue on the other.

Tom noticed Chakotay's questioned look.

"Nobody under five feet is allowed in my kitchen when I'm cooking," he answered. "And that includes the four footed
ones too, I see," said Chakotay grinning.

"Especially them. They know where the line is. Don't you Blue?"
The big cat looked at Tom and gave a mumbled "Meow" that almost sounded like 'yes'. Chakotay had to laugh. He couldn't wait to tell all of this to Kathryn.

Sayana's spelling bee was over and she was allowed to go play with her sister in the living room. The salad was done, and the pasta was cooking, when Loreena arrived. She found Tom and Chakotay in the kitchen.

The brown harried woman was wearing a green skirt and jacket. Her blouse was few shades lighter. She was holding a briefcase with the logo of the Foundation on it. She nodded to Chakotay before planting a kiss on her husband's lips. The gesture was so familiar to Chakotay that it felt like he had just walked in Tom's holodeck program of Sandrine's bar.

"I see we have company for supper," she observed on a friendly tone.

"Loreena, this is an old friend, Commander Chakotay. I met him in the market this afternoon. He's going to be in Port-Ayalexis for a few days, so I invited him to stay here."

"Welcome to our home Commander. It's a pleasure to meet you," she said smiling, presenting her hand.

"Thank you. It a pleasure to meet you as well."

"So what's for supper, M'Love?" she asked Tom poking around the pots.

"Why, Pasta," Tom answered playfully. Chakotay recognized that tone. He had heard Tom use it with Ricky. But now, he was hearing it more and more around B'Elanna this days. Ricky's program having disappear a while back.

Rushed footsteps came in toward them, and the two girls appeared calling:

"Mommy, Mommy, you're home!"

Loreena stepped out of the kitchen and scooped both of them up into a bear hug.

"How are my girls?"

"Great!" answered Sayana. "I knew all of my words this morning."

"That's wonderful. And you Solenn?"

"Me and Granny went to the park, and I swing high, high, high. I almost touch the sky!" the youngest said with enthusiasm and the conviction of a three years old.

"You can't touch the sky, Solenn," rebuked Sayana.

"Daddy can."

"Girls," said Loreena before it turned into a fight. "Now, go and play and don't fight. Us grownups want to talk a little before supper. Okay?"

"Okay," they answered as one, and went back to play.

Loreena turned toward the kitchen, but was intercepted by the dog who wanted a pet, too.

"Your worst than the children, Mocha," she told her, petting her head. "And how was your day?" The dog just wagged her tail happily.

When she finally made it back to the kitchen, Tom was waiting for her with a puppy face.

"You didn't ask how my day was?" he said in mock hurt.

Loreena took on that puppy look, too. Obviously a private game between the two. Chakotay just sat back and watched as she came up to Tom and kissed him a second time.

"And how was your day, M'Love?"

"It was good. We found the Richards. Alive, all of four of them."

"Now, that's good news!" she exclaimed herself. "What had happened to them?"

"Their transport hit spatial rift and they ended-up, dead in space, 42 light years off their original course. Once we found the rift, I didn't have too much difficult to track them there."

"You actually entered the rift?" asked Chakotay aware of the level of risk involved with this kind of procedure.

"Well, we did a few scans before. The rift was small, but stable. I didn't have any trouble going through. Piece a cake."

Chakotay and Loreena shared a smile and shrugged. They both knew that for Tom, piloting was like breathing.

"Well, I have to admit that I saw you pilot through amazing things," the Commander told him.

"Oh, he is a man of many talents, isn't he?" Loreena teased.
"You think so, M'Love?"

"I do. On the other hand, if you don't want to loose your culinary one, you're better to take your sauce of the heater before it burns."

"You are always right, are you M'Love?" Tom said cracking a smile. He gave her quick kiss on the lips before putting the sauce away.

*Those two are too funny together,* Chakotay thought. They were making a great pair. A few minutes later, they called the kids and settled down at the dinner table. Tom opened a good bottle of wine, a luxury he appreciated more than most. He was quite a connaisseur. Good vintage was something he had learned growing up in the *Admiral's house*, and at Sandrine's. In fact, most of the items of his collection were gifts from the French woman. During the course of the meal, Chakotay had it confirmed that both of Them were working for the Foundation. In fact, Loreena was one on
of the CEO.

"Solenn, stop playing with your food and eat," said her mother.

"Why? Daddy does it all the time," she argued.

"See, Daddy is a grownup," Tom replied.

"Daddy doesn't always give the best example," Loreena teased her husband cast her a wounded look.

"I don't know what this is..." Solenn said sheepishly.

"You know what this is Soleil, it's a sauce rose. We had that before," her father told her.

"Sauce rose?"

"Soleil, it tomato soup with cream. It's very good," Tom said.

"Tomato soup? Okay."

Chakotay tried to muffle a chuckle. *The apple never falls far from the tree,* he thought. And this one was closer than most.

After desert, Tom light up the fireplace, the adults passed to the living room for a cup of tea. The children were sent of to play, to spend their last energy before bedtime. The cat sat on his usual chair near the fireplace, and the dog laid in front of it, enjoying the warmth of the fire.

Loreena came in with a three cups on a tray and a teapot. She set it down and pored Chakotay a cup of lemon tea.

"For you, Sir. It has a good flavored body, not too sweet or tart," she said presenting him the cup, the way Tom had presented his wine.

"Thank you," he replied grinning while taking it carefully.

Then she took an cup that had already been filed and handed it to her husband.

"Straight from your sister's personal collection: your tea, M'Love," Loreena told him apologetically.

Tom, looked into the cup a little disgusted. He hated the stuff, and it showed.

"You see, Chakotay, we have a dozen different flavors in this house, and she gives me the stinky stuff," he complained. "For once, could I get the good vintage?" he pleaded to Loreena.

"Hush, M'Love. Take your medicine," she ordered. "You shouldn't complain, you don't have to drink that stuff ten times a day anymore."

"Yeah, lucky me," he said somewhere between humor and sarcasm in a way only Tom Paris could master. Then he emptied the cup in three gulps, while holding his breath. *May as well get it over
quickly.* He always told himself.

"What exactly is it?" Chakotay asked.

"It an algae infusion," Tom answered. "It helps to prevent the division of cancerous cells. It's a long story. Now, what was it you wanted to talk to me about, earlier?"

Chakotay stiffen in his seat. He knew the subject would have to come up sooner or later. He was relieved that Tom was the one who was bringing it up. Every passing moment were making this hard on Chakotay. How was he going to tell him that this was not true. 0That his life here was an illusion. That his real life was on Voyager. That Loreena was in fact Ricky, and that this reality was based on Tom's memories or a fantasy. Unfortunately, he didn't know Tom well enough to know where the line was drown.

"Tom, can you remember when we last saw each other?" he asked.

The young man eyed him oddly. He was about to say something, but Chakotay serious expression kept him silent. He seem very confused for a moment. He gazed at his wife, who gave him an encouraging look.

"We were on a Federation starship together. I was there as an observer. A short mission," he finally answered mostly to himself.

"That's true. You were on that ship to find me. My ship was lost in the Badlands. Can you be more specific? It's important, Tom." Tom sighed in frustration. Loreena put her hand on his forearm.

"The Badlands? I was sure I had work together afterward."

As Tom was about to continue, the cries of the children broke suddenly through the thickness of the moment. Soon Sayana ran into the room with a doll. She had the body in one hand and the head in the other.

"Mommy! Mommy! Solenn broke my doll," she whined.

"I wanted to dress Dolly," the youngest cried.

"You took her head off!" Sayana turned to her father. "Can you fix it, daddy?"

"Let me see what I can do, Whirlwind," he told her, taking the offended toy and its head. Like he had done a hundred times before, he put it back together again. "Thadammmm!" he said handing it back to Sayana.

"You fixed it!" she exclaimed herself taking her doll back.

"What do we say?" asked Loreena.

"Thank you," answered Sayana automatically.

"Your welcome," said Tom kissing Sayana's forehead.

"Now, girls if you can't behave, both of you will go to bed right now," Loreena warned them in a stern voice.

"But, bath comes first," Solenn informed her mother as sternly.

Which made the adults smiled.

"Yes it does and that's what it's time for, so both of you upstairs," their mother said getting up.

"No," Solenn said not moving an inch.

"What do you mean: no?"

"I want Daddy."

"Fine you can have Daddy. Now go!"

Tom was trying hard not to laugh, Chakotay even harder.

"You heard her Tom," Loreena commanded him. "Off to the tub."

"Yes, ma'am." He apologized to Chakotay saying that the children were running this part of the show, then he added as he was getting up and heading upstairs after the children; "oh, powerful Daddy fixer of all things."

"Oh, all mighty Mommy; finder of all lost things," Loreena answered.

It was clear to Chakotay that those lines had been well rehearsed before. He also noticed that one parent never overdid the other.


Less than fifteen minutes later, it was bath time for the Paris girls. From the kitchen downstairs, Chakotay could hear the children and Tom laughing, while he was helping Loreena to put the dishes away.

"They are certainly enjoying themselves," he remarked.

"The girls love their father. He tries to make every moment he spends with them special. Bath time is no exception." She laughed.
"There is usually a lot water on the floor when he is done. He gets as wet as they do and he is not even in the tub. Sometimes I wonder how he does it."

They heard the kids squealed and laughed even harder. Tom even joined the chorus. Loreena and Chakotay had to laughed too, when a disgusted wet Mr. Blue flew down the stairs. The only thing still dry was the tip of his tail. He was shaking every paw, literately, in his marathon for the first floor, to shake off all of the water. He stopped for a split second at the foot of the staircase to stare at the dog, that was laying there. They exchanged a glare, each wishing they were the other. The poor cat gave one last disgusted look at the dog and the two adults before fleeing to his basket.

"He'll never learn to stay away," said Loreena getting her breath back.

"I take it, it has happened before," Chakotay stated.

"Only about once a month. He finds the kids bath toys fascinating. When he gets too close, the kids either use him as target practice, with their water pistols or they take him for a swim."

Chakotay sat back at the table, musing once again about Tom's family. These people were so busy, but yet they had time to enjoy the small things. They were good parents, loving and caring. Tom always made sure every question the girls had got a reasonable answer, admitting that he didn't know, if it was the case, but promising to try to find the answer soon. Tom and Loreena had the principle that if a child was old enough to ask a question, he or she deserved an answer. Chakotay could agree to that. A little part of him hoped that Tom would forget all this. The Delta Quadrant was so far from home, and they would never have a life like that there. However, that this was real or not, he promised
himself never to forget his stay with these people.

There was a commotion upstairs, and Chakotay's reflections were shattered by Solenn's screams. Loreena an the dog were on their feet and on their way to the upper level before he realized something was happening. Quickly, he followed her.

"Stay," Loreena commanded to the dog who stopped dead in her tracks.

They entered the bathroom and was welcomed by a grizzly sight. There was glass over most of the floor. Tom was on his knees holding the youngest by the shoulder trying to comfort her. Blood coming from an open wound on his arm, was spreading over the tiles. Solenn was crying and mumbling incoherent words.

"Mommy, Daddy's bleeding! Daddy's bleeding!" Sayana was screeching.

"Solenn. It's Okay. Daddy will be fine. Don't cry, Soleil," Tom was saying gently. His blue eyes met his wife's. "Loreena, take care of Solenn and Sayana."

"I'll see to Tom." Chakotay told her, trying to be as reassuring as possible.

Loreena picked up Solenn, put her daughter in the hallway, and did the same with the other one.

"Come, I'll tuck you into bed," she said to her children lovingly,
but firmly.

Tom opened the cupboard under the sink, and pulled out a medkit. Chakotay helped Tom pick himself off of the floor. As soon as he stood straight, Chakotay felt him go limp in his arms.


The alarm went off, and B'Elanna woke up. She got up from the biobed where she had dozed off earlier and saw The Doctor come to Tom's bedside. She bit her lip to prevent herself from asking what was wrong. She wasn't sure if she could find her voice anyway. The Doctor had let her sleep in sickbay as long as she stayed out of his way. It had been five hours since Chakotay had initiated his lucid dream. She could only hoped that he had made contact with Tom during all that time.

"His blood pressure is drooping," The EMH was kind enough to inform her. He pressed a few hyposprays against his patient's neck. His concern lessened by the desired effects of the medicine, but they did not fix everything. "He is starting to experience respiratory difficulties. I'm putting him on respiratory support."

"Doctor, time is running out, isn't it?" B'Elanna voiced her fear. The Doctor looked at her in dismay for a few seconds. "I'm afraid so. Whatever the Commander is doing, he better do it fast."


They went to Tom's bedroom, where he sat on the bed.

"What happened?" Chakotay asked as he helped Tom take off his sweater in order to see where all the blood was coming from. For the first time, he had a close look at Tom's necklace.

"Sayana brought up a glass earlier to get a drink of water. In was dressing Solenn. Somehow I hit it and it fell on the toilet, then shattered. Shards flew every where and one cut me. It's a miracle that none of the girls were hurt. How does it look?" he asked as an after thought. The long gash on his left arm was bleeding profusely.

"In can't tell, it's bleeding too much," the Commander admitted.
"How can you bleed so much?"

"My blood doesn't clot well. It's a side effect of the tea."

"The tea?"

"I had cancer a while back. The stinky stuff prevents it's reoccurrence by preventing rapid cell division. It interferes with
wound healing and blood clothing."

Chakotay nodded as he opened the medkit, and pulled out a tricorder, a hypospray containing a coagulant, and a dermal regeneration patch. Following Tom's instructions, he gave him a dose of the coagulant, then scanned the wound that was still bleeding even with the pressure that was applied to it.

"There is no glass in it," he informed Tom. Then, he wiped as much of the blood away, and rapidly place the dermal patch. It sealed itself to the skin and prevented further blood loss.

"How are the girls?" Tom asked his wife the minute she stepped into the room.

"They're fine. Solenn is under her magic blanket. Don't worry. How are you?" she asked coming to kneel beside Chakotay.

"Fine. Chakotay missed his vocation. He would make a good nurse."
The Commander chuckled. "No, not me. You would have more the nerves to do that than I would." *After all, you're the one The Doctor chose to be his medical assistant.*

"Pretty hard to do that, when your the patient," Tom commented with a hint of humor.

Loreena gave a good look over Tom to see if there was no other cuts. There wasn't any, but a nasty bruise was forming where he had hit the floor. There was an other one on the other side, that seem to be a few days old.

"How did you get that?" she asked her husband.

"In don't know," answered Tom looking at the brownish spot.

"How have you been feeling lately?" Loreena asked him. She hated to see bruises on Tom, especially when he didn't remember getting them.

"Good, maybe a little tired, but its midterm season."

Tom and Chakotay could see how worried she was getting.

"In got the afternoon off, tomorrow. I'm going to call Dr. Burges and make an appointment for you. We can meet for lunch, and then go together."

Tom started to argue that it wasn't necessary. That he was fine. But, Loreena didn't buy it. She reminded him how Dr. Burgers had impressed on them the importance of early detection during his last bought with cancer. He looked down at his arm that was covered with drying blood, and had to concede with her.

"Okay, but don't tell the girls. They don't need to be more frightened than they already are."

"In won't. Now you stay still and rest for a bit. You got to let that heal before you get up and around. I'll bring you something sweet to raise your glucose level."

"But what about the story?"

"The children will make do without their daily addition to the trip of the intrepid starship Voyager. I'll do it the old fashion
way. I'll read them a book. I don't want to see you out of that bed until I come back."

"Yes, ma'am," said Tom laying back and watching her go. "Loreena?"

"Yes?" she asked turning back.

"Can I have a kiss?" She bent forward and put a tender kiss on her husband's lips. Before leaving, she asked Chakotay to make sure that Tom wouldn't move off that bed before she returns. He smiled at her in agreement.

"What's the story about the intrepid starship Voyager?" he asked intrigued at how Tom's mind was processing that part of his life.

He was first answered by a chuckle.

"The girls were saying that they were too old for fairy tales, that there wasn't enough action. So, I started a story of my own. It's about a starship lost in space. Their mommy is the Captain. Sayana's father is the first officer. Of course, I'm the pilot. Sayana is the chief engineer, and Solenn is the nurse. Dr. Burgers is the doctor and Tad, the butcher you met at the market, is the cook. Each evening, we add an other adventure to Voyager crew. It's actually a lot of fun."

"Sayana's father," Chakotay echoed.

"In didn't tell you this, did I? Loreena was involved with Adrian before we met. Together they had Sayana, but it didn't work out. When I met Loreena, Sayana was already 14 months old. Now, I'm the lucky one to be married with Loreena, and Adrian married a charming woman, Claire, three years ago. We're all good friends."

"Don't tell me, in your story, the Captain and the pilot are having a heated lover affair," Chakotay said teasingly.

"Actually, it didn't turn out that way. See, the pilot fell madly in love with the dishing, but opinionated, chief engineer. When it comes to the Captain, she is having a secret, but not so secret passionate love affair with her First Officer."

It took every bit of control he could master, so that Chakotay would not blush. *How much does Tom know about me and Kathryn?* he wondered worried.


"Are you coming to bed?" Loreena asked hopeful.

"Not yet. In got some more work to do," Tom answered.

"You know, you're working too hard and you need some real sleep," she said. "If you're not sleepy, I'm sure I could fine a way to tire you. We could practice making that other baby..." Loreena proposed with the saddest puppy face Chakotay had ever seen.

"I knew you had an ulterior motive to get me into bed," he teased her. "This is really becoming an obsession."

"Like you're not obsess with sex..." she said.

"Tell me Dear, am I leaving you unsatisfied?"

"Of course not M'Love."

"Good. But, I was not talking about sex, I was referring to that baby idea of yours. I thought we had settle this? You see, Chakotay, we've been at this for the last year."

"Well, I want an other one. A little boy with you curly blond hair and you're sky blue eyes. Doctor Burges says that there is no more risk due to your illness. That with some help from science we would have an healthy baby."

"It's not a kid she wants," he told Chakotay. "It's a clone of me!"

"Apparently, she doesn't have enough of one of you," Chakotay said grinning.

"He's right M'Love," Loreena told Tom and kissed him.

"Me, who thought we had just settle that one, too," he said teasingly.

It was very quiet in the Paris household. Everyone had gone to bed. Chakotay had not been tiered, but had decided to play along. He was laying in the guest bedroom, staring at the ceiling. He was going over the events on the day, making a metal report for the Captain. He was still trying to figure out how he was going to tell Tom that this was not real. Each time, he had tried to bring the subject up, something had happened: the kids needed something, the dog wanted to go outside, a call from a co-worker. Obviously, Tom defense mechanisms were running interference in order to protect him.

The screeching cries of a child made him jumped. One of the girls was crying. A few seconds later, Chakotay heard Tom come up the stairs and enter Solenn's room, which was just across from his bedroom.

"It's okay, Sunshine. Daddy's here. Was it an other bad dream?"

Tom's voice was calm and soothing. The child's crying subsided a little.

Chakotay heard Solenn mumble a response.

"Tell Daddy, all about it," said Tom in that same gentle voice.

Solenn had calmed down significantly, since her father's arrival.

Chakotay heard the bed covers rustle.

"You got your magic blanket?" asked Tom.

Chakotay heard a mumbled 'yes', then the squeak of the old wooden rocking chair.

The child started to tell her dream to her father. It was not a trivial tale of monsters in the closet. What she spoke of revealed horrors that he had heard about the Irsian/Kimiran War. Chakotay wondered at how such a young child raised in a loving family could have such dark dreams. Then again, he reminded himself that this was Tom's reality. A reality in which Tom's was probably reliving a part of his life, reacting to elements thrown at him from the outside, and dealing with his own defense mechanisms. Solenn's dreams could just be an other way for Tom's mind to express itself. Chakotay wasn't a counselor and felt frustrated at the uncertainty he felt toward all his assumptions.

Tom had listened, never saying anything that could have minimized what the child was saying. It was clear that it wasn't his first time dealing with the nightmares.

"You're safe," he told his daughter. "The war is long gone. It will never happen again. Sayana, mommy and I will take good care of you, My little Soleil."

Chakotay heard the sound of a ruffling blanket, then the chair began to rock. Then Tom began to sing, on a soft sweet voice:

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You'll never know dear how much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away."

The melody almost put Chakotay to sleep, but he came to when he heard Tom leave the room. He went down stairs. Chakotay got up, and after putting a robe on, he followed him.

Tom was in the kitchen getting something to drink. The first thing that the older man noticed was that Tom was still dressed. Obviously, he had not been asleep, like Chakotay had assumed.

"Did Solenn wake you?" asked Tom concerned, when he saw Chakotay.

"No, I was awake before that."

"Good. The other women of the house sleep so soundly, that they rarely wake up when Solenn cries. Do you want something to drink? I was going to get my self a boll of hot milk."

"Some tea, thank you. Does Solenn often have such bad nightmares?" Chakotay asked.

"She's been having bad dreams since she was small baby. But, they have been getting more regular lately."

"Where does she get the images to fuel such dreams?" wondered Chakotay concerned.

"I wish I knew," Tom answered with a sigh reflecting his own worries. "We have been keeping her quite sheltered when it comes to those things. We never talk about the war when she is around. Sometimes, it's as if she had been there, with us." Tom stopped and smiled to himself a bit, a sad smile. And then, a tear rolled onto his cheek. He looked away and busied himself stirring the milk.

Chakotay did not say anything. What could he say? After a few minutes of a awkward silence, he decided to change the subject.

"What time is it?"

"Twenty past two."

"Where you still up because you expected Solenn to wake up?" he asked.

"Not particularly." He answered, giving a cup of hot tea to his guest. As he poured the hot milk into a boll, he went on: "I'm one of those night persons who do there best work when everybody else have gone to bed. I was putting the finishing touches to my lecture for tomorrow."


"Yeah, I'm teaching Emergency Flight Procedures 401 at the university. The class is in the morning."

"Could I come?"

"Sure, I'd like that."

"Since when do you teach?"

"Four years, now. I started as Professor Semak assistant instructor while I was doing my master in criminology. I'm up for tenure next year."

"Criminology? What's the link with piloting?" *Criminology? Now, where does that come from? Is it a way to explain his criminal record?*

"None. I just have many different interests. As long as I'm qualified, they pretty much let me teach anything," Tom shrugged.

The atmosphere was calm, friendly and relax. Chakotay considered the timing perfect to tell Tom why he was there. So, he did until, he heard the front door open. *What now?*

"Is that you Gael?" Tom asked like a parent who had been expecting a teenager that had had a special permission to break curfew.

"Yeah, Tom. I'm going to bed. See you tomorrow," a young man said from somewhere in the hallway.

"Come here a minute. Why are such in a hurry, tonight?" Tom asked as he got to his feet and met Gael in the hall. Chakotay heard him start laughing and went to joined them. What he saw shocked him. Gael was standing in front of them sheepishly. He was covered in mud from head to toe.

"What happened *this* time?" Tom managed to asked between two chuckles.

"Oh, not much. Just hanging with the gang."

"The usual, I see. Gael go take a shower. I can smell you from here. I see we need to have that discussion about the Catacombs again."

Before leaving, Gael shyly handed a PADD to Tom.

"And you got arrested, too," Tom observed lightly without even reading the content. "What did Chief Rayan have to say?"

"That even if he knew that you probably weren't sleeping yet, that this wasn't worth disturbing you. I think he knew you'd never let me into your car."

"Wonder why," Tom started shaking his head from side to side, a smile still on his face. This was not worrying him too much.

"Could you sign it and give it back to the Constable?" Gael asked pointing to the PADD.

"I'll sign it, but you are going to take it back. That's your responsibility."

"I suppose so. Who's your friend?" Gael asked changing the subject.

"This is Chakotay. Gael," Tom introduced. "Go to bed. I'll see you tomorrow."

"You too. Don't stay up all night you need your beauty sleep," the young man told him.

Chakotay watched Gael go as he mused about the fact that everyone knew Tom wasn't sleeping. *Wonder if just here, or if he also doesn't sleep much on Voyager, too?*

"Now, that was Gael. He's a kids I'm helping to stay on the right track. I found him a few years back. He had joined one of the street gangs of Port-Ayalexis after the death of his parents. Loreena and I offered him a place to stay. He can come and go as he pleases. Although, we see him more often now that he decided to go back to school. His doing great. His good kid and we all love him a lot. His like a little brother to me."

*A little brother, just like Harry.*

They didn't have the time to sit back in the kitchen, when a computerized voice informed them of an incoming message from Admiral Larsen.

"Sorry about that," Tom sighted. "Chakotay, why don't you go back to bed, and I'll see what my boss wants?"

"Sure, see you tomorrow."


Chakotay entered the kitchen the next morning. It was smelling of fresh made coffee. The kitchen table had been set for the morning meal. It took an few seconds for him to recognize Gael, sitting at one side. *Wow, can just a shower change a person this much?* He had thought that the young man had brown hair, but they were actually paler than Tom's. The girls were finishing their bolls of cereal. Loreena was also there, dressed in a blue tailor, ready to go to work.

"Good morning, Chakotay," Loreena greeted. "Did you slept well?"

"Good morning, and yes I did. Where's Tom?"

"In his office. Why don't you go get him. His breakfast is getting cold," she suggested. "It's the room at the end of the

Chakotay wasn't in Tom's office yet, that he could heard him laugh. The first thing that the Commander noticed when he entered the room, that is after the pictures papering one wall, and the book shelf's, was the blue fish. He had never seen such a pretty creature before.

"What is that?" he asked his host.

"Oh, that's Indigo, he's a Siamese fighter fish. My sister, Christine, the one who is the marine biologist, gave him to
me. She has a whole collection and said that he reminded her of me. Go figure."

"Already back to work," he pointed out, while looking closely at the fish. It was moving around showing off long flowing fins.

"Correcting a few assignments. Steph, one of my students, writes very interesting papers. To bad he can't spell. Still, that kid is a smart-ass."

"I know somebody like that," Chakotay mumble trying to make out the face on the picture behind the fish boll. He knew it. Delicately, he pushed the boll aside, then got a good look at Harry Kim's face. He lifted up his head and gazed at all the pictures on the wall. There were people from Voyager's crew, mixed with other people he didn't know. His eyes rested on Kathryn's face. Her hair was cut short. The Commander assumed that Tom's memories of her were recent.

"Are they all missing people?" he asked.

"Yeah, an awful lot, eh?" he looked at the picture Chakotay was staring at. "I'm sorry about her. The only thing I can tell you is that were doing the best we can to find her. To find them."

"I'm sure you do," Chakotay replied with convictions. "Well, I've been sent by your wife to find you, and tell you that breakfast is getting cold."

"Let's go then."


"People," Tom addressed his students. "I know that spelling is hard, but you could at least spell the technical terms right. You know, there such a thing as a glossary at the end of your textbook. Tell you what: if this doesn't improve by the end of the semester, the final 15% of your mark won't be on participation, it'll on a spelling bee."

The whole class shooed and booed at him.

"Come on my seven years old could do better!" Tom said, as he held up his hand to put an end to the protestations. "Well, well," he added with a mischievous smile. "In suppose you're going to have to work on this, won't you?" He shrugged. "Now that this has been taken care of, why don't we pass at the fun part? If I remember correctly, last class we were orbiting Planet Hell, weren't we?"

The students agreed. From his seat in the corner, Chakotay could hear some mumbled laughter. These students were not Starfleet  adets, that was obvious. But, as much as Tom was running his classroom like the one of a public university, one could tell however that he was an Academy graduate. Chakotay had to admit to himself that Tom was quite a good teacher. A very entertaining one, too. After everything he had seen so far, why was he surprised?

They were discussing methods to achieve orbit around a planet with strong magnetic poles, known to all as planet Hell, which was represent by a small beach ball, that Tom was tossing to anyone who had a comment. They were betting replicator rations on the validity of the various hypotheses.

"Replicator rations?" Chakotay asked puzzled and quite amused.

"We needed something to bet with. Since we can't wager anything real, I came up with the replicator rations from the bedtime story I tell the children."

So, like all the other students Chakotay started to bet rations too. They had included him as a full member of the group, and the Commander was having a great time. As a Starfleet officer, and a pilot, he thought of many situations applicable to the subject at hand. The two and a half hour class passed too quickly.

"Tom," Steph whined, after Tom had explained the Zerok manoeuver.

"Tell me this is something Semak and you don't agree on. There's got to be an easier way to do that!"

"Steph, there always something easier than a Vulcan technique. But, the Zerok Manoeuver is very effective. Trust me, it looks worst than it is. Go try it in the simulator, all of you. If you have any questions, you know I'm always available. Gee, if you guys can't contact me, get worried! This was a lot of fun. I look forward to next week"


Tom and Chakotay were walking down a the busy hallway of Yanka University, in downtown Port-Ayalexis, when a young Vulcan student came up to them.

"Mr. Paris, can I have a word with you."

Tom stopped dead in his tracks, looking around like he was searching for someone, then he look back at the student.

"Are you talking to me?"

The student nodded puzzled. Chakotay had to bite his lower lip to prevent himself from laughing.

"I'm sorry," Tom continued. "I was afraid you were talking to my dad. You see, he is Mr. Paris, I'm Tom. And yes, you can I have a word with me as long as I get it back. I might want to use it again, later."

The student eyed him oddly trying to process the logic of Tom's sense of humor. It was just the thing to do to a Vulcan.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Lirok?"

"I was wondering if I could attend your Fl-447 class, while I'm doing the pre-requisite course?"

"If you can survive my sense of humor, I don't see any problems."

"Thank you, sir."

"And don't sir me! Were not in the military."

"Sorry... Tom."

"You'll do just fine in my class, Mr. Lirok."

Once the Vulcan departed, Chakotay turned to him.

"You never seemed offended at me calling you, Mr. Paris."

"You have?" Tom asked.

"Sure, you probably didn't say anything because I outrank you," the Commander stated.

"Well, you don't any more, so don't do it again. It's really insulting, you know. Especially since you're my friend."

"I'll keep that in mind," Chakotay said smiling.

Once outside they started to make their way toward a small French bistro called: Les Copins D'Abord, where the two men were supposed to have lunch with Loreena. The restaurant was located on the pier following the bay, which had given the nickname of Blue Heart City to Port-Ayalexis.

It was quite a beautiful day. The sun was shining making the water sparkle, and the yellows, reds and oranges of the leaves even brighter. Chakotay was enjoying every minutes of it. It felt so real to his senses, so good for his aching spirit.

A hand suddenly grasped his arm and Chakotay turned just in time to take a hold of Tom before the young man's legs gave away.

"Tom! What's wrong?"

His companion was bent in half, visibly in a lot of pain. His respiration was quick and shallow. Chakotay could see the colour fading away from Toms face by the second.

*You have waited to long!* he accused himself. *You have to tell him now! He's dying!*

"Tom, you have to listening to me," he ordered. "I'm here to bring you back to Voyager. It's time to go back. This isn't real. Remember, when we met in the Winter Garden, I told you I would help you come back home. Home is Voyager, now. "
Chakotay could tell that, even if Tom was barely listening, some of his words had meaning to him.

"Please Chakotay, go get Loreena," he pleaded, between two painful breaths. The bistro It's just by the corner. Chakotay, I can't leave without her.

Tom's anguish and pain cut right through Chakotay's heart. Deep inside, he knew that Tom would never follow him, whatever he said. He wasn't ready to leave without Loreena. He wasn't ready to live without her, either. So, against his better judgement, Chakotay dragged Tom to a bench and helped him sit down.

"Hold on. I'm coming right back with Loreena," he promised.

The Commander started running as fast as he could toward the restaurant. The thought of leaving Tom behind, in pain, was tiring him apart. He was almost at the corner of the street. He could see the French bistro.

But, he never made it there.

End of Part 3.

We know, we might have pushed the limits a little That's the effects Secrets have on us. Still interested?

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Synbou (a.k.a Isabelle S and Louise B)
copyright @ May 1998