Disclaimer: The usual legal stuff applies. Tom Paris and the rest of the Voyager‘s crew belong to Paramount. But, the people of Port-Ayalexis (all this little universe) is ours. This story is 4/5 of the In the Dark saga.

SYNOPSIS: Chakotay goes back into Tom‘s reality in order to convince him to come home. This time, with some additional help.

In The Dark, part 4: It Happened One Night
by Synbou- Synbou@hotmail.com

Captain Kathryn Janeway jumped, startled at the sound of another alarm. She instinctively looked at Tom Paris‘s readings before realizing that the sound hadn‘t come from beside her, but from behind her. Her gaze crossed B‘Elanna‘s own look of desperation before she turned to Commander Chakotay‘s bedside, ready to give The Doctor some assistance. With a quick nod, the EMH left Paris under Ensign Wildman‘s supervision, then joined the Captain.

The tension in Sickbay had risen in a matter of seconds. First, Tom‘s blood pressured had dropped for the umpteen time today. Now, Chakotay‘s vitals were getting life threatening as well. His pulse was awfully fast, his breathing quick and shallow, as thought he was running a marathon. She bit her lower lip as the fear of losing either man, or even worse both of them crossed her mind. The Doctor applied a hypospray on Chakotay‘s neck and the Commander literally bolted upright. Janeway stepped backward in surprise while B‘Elanna almost cried out-loud.

"Commander! Are you all right?" The Doctor asked concerned.

Chakotay blinked several times. His confusion was obvious on his tattooed face. Janeway could have sworn she saw a haunted look on in his dark eyes. Quickly regaining her control, she approached her First Officer.

"Chakotay." It took him a moment to register her voice and look at her. His eyes seemed clearer, but he was wearing the same expression. "You‘re back on Voyager."

"What... what happened?" he managed between two harsh breaths.

"Your vitals were erratic. They were starting to be life

threatening, so I revived you," explained The Doctor. "Thee is

enough of Lieutenant Paris‘s critical-"

"Tom!" he interrupted. "Is he...?" He didn‘t dare finish his sentence as his eyes searched for the pilot. He found him lying on the main biobed, unconscious, but still alive. *Thank you Spirits,* he sighed as he got to his feet. He looked at Janeway, grateful for the support she was giving him. He came closer to Tom and rested a hand on the young man‘s shoulder. Tom‘s condition hadn‘t changed. He tried to hide his disappointment at seeing him again, in his sleeping state.

"Chakotay," B‘Elanna began barely above a whisper. Her voice was a ghost of its usual strength and self-confidence. "Have you been able to make another connection with Tom?"

"I have. You shouldn‘t have-" He was about to continue, but changed his mind in resignation.

What was done, was done.

Chakotay‘s eyes dropped on his friend‘s silent features again. He allowed himself an other sigh, before turning back them.

"Tom isn‘t in the Winter Garden any more. It seems like he‘s reliving a part of his life, or a fantasy. I just don‘t know him well enough to know where the line is drawn. Except for what I saw back in the Maquis, what I know from his reputation and his record. Tom has kept his past mostly to himself. I learned things about him, I would never had imagine. The setting prevented me from confronting him and telling him that he is in coma before it was to late." The Commander paused and looked at all of them. "He‘s dying and if we ever want to convince him that he has to wake up and come back to us, I need to know more about him. I need to know who he really is."

Janeway kept staring at him while he was speaking. She heard every word, understood their importance, felt there urgency, but somehow she didn‘t grasp their whole meaning. She knew too well that there were more to Thomas Eugene Paris than met the eye. She also knew that there were some damn good reasons for him to keep not only his past, but also his true self hidden under a tainted career, and a strong, cocky, arrogant persona. However, Tom‘s past mistakes were now buried under dozens of commendations, and the persona had started to slip and vanish. Tom had found his place on Voyager. The need to constantly protect himself had lessened over the years. The crew was now relying on a dedicated officer and a caring friend. Someone who was slowly letting himself be unwrapped by the power of friendship and love. They had learned a lot about him recently, but still so little. Would it be enough to help Chakotay bring him back.

"Commander, we haven‘t discussed the possibility for you to go back, yet," the Doctor told him.

"I have to. He needs my help. Tom is not only sick, here, he‘s sick in his reality, too. What‘s happening to him here, seems to translate itself by a relapse of his cancer over there, in his mind."

"His cancer?..." echoed B‘Elanna, understanding the implications.

An uneasy silence felt between them.

"If you feel you can discuss what you learned about Tom with us, surely we can find something that can help you, help him," Janeway finally conceded.

"Like I said, I need to know more about him before I try to reach him once more."

"Why don‘t we go to my office?" suggested The Doctor.

Once in the privacy of the CMO‘s office, Chakotay started to relate his encounter with Tom in the market. He concentrated on every detail he could remember: the season; the way Tom greeted him, treating him like a friend he had not seen for a long time; his shopping, his interactions with the merchants, and how everyone knew him and were aware of his tastes.

"I asked him if he was still working for Starfleet. Tom answered that he did but more as a . . . consultant. He was working with Admiral Audrey Larsen, for the Missing Person Department. He actually refereed to her by her fist name."

"Admiral Audrey Larsen suggested Tom to me for the mission," Janeway said with some reserved. This conversation was taking a turn that was starting to worry her.

"That would make sense if he was working with her; even more if it was for the Missing Person Department. My ship was missing," the former Maquis Captain pointed out. "I learned later on that he was really working for the Silver-Seas Foundation whom was collaborating with Starfleet."

"The Silver-Seas Foundation?" asked The Doctor.

"It‘s a civilian, non-political organization that provides humanitarian aid to people in need."

"Didn‘t the Foundation make a name for itself when it brought aid to the people of the DMZ without Starfleet‘s consent?" B‘Elanna inquired.

"Yes, it did. Although, it‘s been around for more than 15 years, since the Irsian/Kimirian War," Chakotay responded. "Tom talked a lot about the War. I had the impression that he had been there."

"He has been there," B‘Elanna confirmed. "He has some family in Kimira. If he was working for the Foundation, could it explain why he was in the DMZ when you met him?" she asked.

"I don‘t know, B‘Elanna. Maybe, assuming all this is true," Chakotay consented. "But, he did end-up in prison. Then again, Starfleet wasn‘t pleased with the presence of the Foundation in the DMZ. Tom said that he‘s known Larsen for many years, maybe she‘s a friend of his father‘s. Maybe she jumped on the first occasion to sent him free."

"Don‘t mix Tom‘s father into this," Janeway warned. "Admiral Paris didn‘t do anything to help his son. That something I know for sure."

Janeway paused weighing the implications of her next words.

"Admiral Larsen is Tom‘s aunt: Audrey Breana Paris Larsen," she revealed. "Like I said, Larsen suggested Tom for the mission, but Admiral Netchev actually ordered me to talk to him. A fact that both Tom and I wasn‘t pleased with. Tom doesn‘t use a friendly tone when he speaks about the Admiral. He said that on the few occasions he met her, he never liked what she had to offer." She took a breath and changed the subject. "Still, I wouldn‘t be surprised if Tom was or is working for the Foundation considering that he studied in Port-Ayalexis."

Chakotay shrugged as everyone stayed silent, still recovering from what Janeway had just told them.

I‘m still wondering how he managed to do everything," he said after a while. "Tom said that he mastered in Astrophysics there. Not too much surprise there. But, when he said that he had done his doctorate in criminology: that really threw me."

"Doctorate?" voiced the EMH.

"Criminology?" asked B‘Elanna.

Janeway smiled sadly. "Tom handed in his dissertation in criminology before he joined Voyager," she said, taking everyone aback.

"So, what your telling us is that Mr. Paris is a doctor?" the EMH warranted.

"He might be," Janeway answered. "Voyager ended up in the Delta Quadrant before he received the results." She smiled sadly again, knowing the time and the effort Tom must have put into it, and remembering her own dedication back at the Academy. "I read his paper. It was quite impressive."

"What is it about?" asked The Doctor.

"Different profiles of kidnappers."

"Which must be rather useful for the Missing Person Department," Chakotay granted. "You didn‘t know that when he first came onboard, did you?"

"No, Tuvok brought it up to me when we considered sending Tom undercover. Tom and I had a few talks about his studies. He said that the work of his Aunt Audrey always fascinated him and that it motivated him to study in criminology. I know that he was on Kimira when he had the first relapse of his cancer. That‘s where he underwent the decytologenesis treatment."

She paused for a sigh. They had learned a few months ago, when Tom‘s cancer had relapsed, how devastating cancer could be and how difficult it was to treat.

"Tom is always careful of what he confesses about himself," she went on. "Tuvok, on his part, told me that he had found intriguing facts concerning Tom, but since it was not a matter of ship security that he didn‘t see the point of disclosing them at that time."

"Sounds like the Tuvok I know," grinned Chakotay. "One of those facts might just be coming and it‘s the most important thing of all. We were talking with the butcher, I don‘t remember his name. He mentioned Loreena and the children."

"Solenn and Sayana?" asked B‘Elanna.

"You know about them?" came Chakotay‘s replied unable to hide the surprise in his voice.

Janeway‘s caught herself with her mouth open. Tom definitely hadn‘t shared that part of his life with her. The Doctor remained uncharacteristically quiet while B‘Elanna explained:

"When Tom had his last brush with cancer, he told me. He had already turned to Samantha to talk about them. They‘ve been friends for a long time, and being the only one with a child on board, it was easier for him."

"Were Tom and Loreena really married?"

"Married?!" echoed the Captain.

"Yes, they were for 6 or 7 years. The only thing I know is that she died tragically. Tom never talks about how it happened. It is a very difficult subject for him. When it comes to the children, he says that he knows that people who love them are looking after them. From what I understood, Tom gave up Solenn‘s custody to Adrian, Sayana‘s father, after Loreena‘s death. He said that it was the best thing to do under the circumstances whatever they were, and that it would prevent the Paris family from separating the girls. But, it was hard on him. He says that Naomi helps him a lot." She said more softly, "He must I‘ve been a great father."

"He is a great father," Chakotay whispered. "If what I saw is anything like whatever actually happened, losing Loreena must have been devastating, and the children..."

"If it can comfort you," said The Doctor. "You‘ll be happy to know that I gave Tom a message from them when I came back from the Alpha-Quadrant, given to me by Admiral Larsen. Tom received an other message from them by the array. It had been sent directly to me, hidden through some medical files."

"Why, was it sent to you and not Tom?" asked Janeway.

"There are apparently security reasons to it," The Doctor replied. "From what I understood, Tom and his family were in some danger before he joined Voyager, and he had to constantly look over his shoulder."

"That would explain a lot about his behavior," voiced Chakotay wondering, like everyone else, what the danger might have been; what had happened to Loreena; and who was taking care of the children. "I feel like I‘m walking on eggshells here," he admitted. "Obviously, Tom being married, and having children weren‘t meant to be common knowledge, and people back home seem to be very careful. I would hate to put the safety of the girls in jeopardy. Who knows when we are going to get home."

"I agree with you, Chakotay," Janeway said. "We‘ll have to be careful. Who‘s Loreena?"

Chakotay allowed himself a small grin, that he shared with B‘Elanna.

"Ricky, Tom‘s favorite holo-character, that seemed to have disappeared since Tom and I are a couple. He still runs her program from time to time. She has been a very important part of his life, and he misses her."

"He made a holo-character of his late-wife," Janeway stated keeping her tone neutral, but still feeling surprised.

"Actually," replied B‘Elanna. "Ricky is the character of a play they did while they were taking acting classes together. Megan told me one evening that he was hanging with a holo-character and flirting with too many woman at the same time, in order to keep everyone away. She even agreed to pretend going out with him for the sake of rumors. Although, he never gave her the real reason why."

"I can hardly believe that," commented The Doctor. "He was quite attracted to Kes."

"Kes was an other matter. Tom is the first one to tell you that he didn‘t handle that situation very well, but he would had never stepped between her and Nelix. At the time, he needed a friend other than Harry. A woman. Kes was kind to him, he misread the
signals, and got himself in more trouble than intended. I don‘t think-"

An alarm went off, cutting the discussion short. The Doctor was out of his office in two steps, followed closely by the three other officers. The Captain explained to her First Officer that Tom‘s blood pressure kept dropping dramatically. A few minutes later, visibly satisfied, the physician walked to them.

"Whatever you do, Commander, I suggest you do it soon," The Doctor told him. "Tom‘s condition is deteriorating. He‘s extremely weak. I keep building back his stamina, but it‘s running thin. He can breath on his own, but I keep him on minimum respiratory support to lessen his effort. As you put it earlier B‘Elanna, time is running out."

"Well," began Chakotay. "I could go back right now. The problem is, I‘m not getting through to him. He sees me as a good friend, but nothing more. He made it clear that I don‘t outrank him anymore. Each time I tried to bring up the subject, something happened. It got very frustrating. He has all those defense mechanisms in place.

He sigh, the time to look at Janeway.

"I was hoping on you, Captain. Maybe... You should come with me. You entered the Spirit Plane many times before. Tom always looked up to you, much more than he did me. As far as he knows, you disappeared awhile back. Actually, your picture, along with the ones of the other members of the crew, serves as his office‘s wallpaper. For him, Voyager is only a bedtime story he tells his children at night."

Janeway eyes flew on Tom‘s still form again. His skin was an unhealthy shade of white. She missed him. He had become a good friend over the years. She had seen her prot‚g‚ blossom in such a dedicated officer. She hated the simple thought of doing the rest of the trip home without him. Tom had too much to live for. The Doctor had made it quite clear that they were losing him. The fears she had felt for him, as she had left him in her ready room a week ago, and when the anomaly had caused his condition to change yesterday, were tormenting her even more deeply. But this time, Chakotay was offering her a way to help Tom. To help her friend.

So, she contacted Tuvok, briefed him on the situation, and turned Voyager over to him during her absence.

"I still have so many questions, and things to tell you," Chakotay told them. "B‘Elanna, is Tom a light sleeper? Because, he doesn‘t seem to sleep. If he does, it‘s very little. Everyone keeps telling him to rest and get some sleep. I was wondering if it was normal for him or if it was due to his condition."

"Tom doesn‘t sleep much," B‘Elanna answered. "I remember Harry saying that since Tom and I are together he doesn‘t get awakened in the middle of the night anymore. Apparently, Tom used to wake him up on a regular basis because he was restless and wanted company. Tom says that he doesn‘t need more than four or five hours of sleep. That all he usually gets." She looked at her commanding officers sadly. "Please bring him back."

It was a clear winter day. The mid-afternoon sun was shining on the snowed covered ground. Kathryn Janeway was mesmerized by the beauty of house by the sea, surrounded by forest green pine trees. She was glad that Chakotay and herself had changed into warm civilian clothes. However, it wasn‘t warm enough. They had expected it to be autumn, not Winter. They walked on the front porch and rang the bell. A few minutes later, the door opened reveling Ricky. Janeway was stunned for a moment. *Not Ricky, Loreena,* she reminded herself.

A smile appeared on Loreena‘s face when she recognized the Commander.

"Chakotay! It‘s so good to see you," she greeted them. "Please come in. Don‘t stay in the cold."

The first thing Janeway noticed when she stepped into the house, before the sound of the piano or the children‘s laughter, was the scent of freshly brewed coffee. She would definitively like this place.

"Hello, Loreena. It‘s good to see you too. Let me introduce you Captain Kathryn Janeway," Chakotay replied happily.

"It‘s a pleasure to meet you, Captain," Loreena told her sincerely.

"Likewise. Please call me Kathryn."

"Kathryn it is. So, how long have you been on Kimira?"

"Oh, we just arrived. How is Tom? Last time I was here, you had concerns about his health."

Loreena sighed sadly.

"Is it the cancer?" Chakotay asked concerned.

"It‘s not official yet, but it is trying to make a comeback. He has good days, and he has bad days." She sighed again, then abruptly changed the subject, on a more joyous tone said: "Tom will be so happy to see you."

To the sound of the music, Kathryn followed Loreena and Chakotay through the hallway. The house was decorated with a lot of taste. The walls were painted a light green. A narrow band of wallpaper of small purple flowers and green leaves had been placed about five centimeters below the ceiling. A few steps later, they were in the living room.

Kathryn eyes grew wide in amazement. The warm scene in front of her stole her heart. She exchanged a smile with Chakotay and Loreena.

There, in the far end of the room, near a window, Tom was sitting at a baby-grant piano, a little girl on his laps.

She has to be Solenn, Kathryn thought.

The sunshine was flooding through the room by the huge windows. It was making Tom‘s and his child‘s blond hair shine and the grey fur of the Himalayan‘s, lying on the piano, sparkle. Tom and Solenn were playing a song, and the trio stayed in the entrance silent, enjoying the sight and the soft music. At the end of the piece, Tom mumbled a few words to his daughter, who chuckled, then gave her a light kiss on the forehead.

Loreena was the first one to break the spell by saying softly:

"That was beautiful."

And three pairs of blue eyes look up to the.

They caught Kathryn by surprise. She was mesmerized. It was as if you could drown in the azure colored eyes of her pilot, his little girl, and their cat.

"I hope were not intruding," said her male companion.

"Of course not, Chakotay. Welcome back," Tom replied joyfully.

His gaze focused on Kathryn and he smiled. He whispered something to Solenn, then helped her off the bench. Without wasting a second, the little girl rushed out the room. Tom rose and walked toward Kathryn. He took the hand that she was offering him. "Captain Janeway. I‘m so happy to see you. It‘s been such a long time."

"Tom," she said placing a hand on his upper arm. "I‘m so happy to see you too. You can‘t imagine."

She felt overwhelmed at his warm touch, at seeing him standing in front her. It was so real. She pulled away a little. It was then that she noticed his appearance. He was a bit pallid and fatigue was showing on his face. It reminded her of the grim reality of the outside world. One look at him and she could tell that he was not well. Both Chakotay and herself knew that the clock was ticking.

"Tom," she began squeezing both his hands. "This is not exactly a social visit. We need to talk to you." Her voice was soft, but it held the strength of command.

"Oh? Well why don‘t we sit down?" he proposed.

"I just made some fresh coffee," Loreena told them. "Care for any?

They all nodded. Kathryn, the first one.

"That would be great M‘Love," Tom agreed, as he moved away from Kathryn and kissed his wife.

Loreena left for the kitchen, on the other side of the living room, and the three officers sat by the fire place, under the watchful eye of the cat.

Chakotay expected Solenn to show up anytime with something for Tom to do, but it never happened.

Tom was sensing the uneasiness his friends was feeling and broke the silence.

"So Captain, what can I do for you?"

She met Chakotay‘s dark eyes and left him answered back.

"Tom, it has to do with what I told you when I left you on the pier the last time I was here."

The pilot was confused for a moment.

"What did you told me on the pier?" he asked obviously not remembering.

"Tom, this isn‘t real," Janeway answered. "Humor us, please. I know it sounds strange. You are the chief pilot of the U.S.S. Voyager. A week ago, Voyager was hit by an energy wave and the helm blew up in front of you. You have been in a coma for a week. Then, Voyager was affected by a special anomaly that affected the crew‘s brain waves. It rendered everyone unconscious and you woke up for a short while. But now, you‘re in a coma again."

As she was talking, they say Tom‘s defenses fall in place. His features harden and his eyes darken into a shade of grey.

"If I‘m in a coma, what about you?" he asked incredulously.

"It seems like the anomaly put you on another plane of existence," Chakotay answered. "I entered in a meditative state and met with you in the Winter Garden."

"Are you listening to yourself," he asked with a hint of his unique sense of humor that was not really there. "A spatial anomaly that interfere with people‘s brain waves? Other plane of existence? Voyager?... Voyager is of a bedtime story I tell the children. What‘s the game your playing?" he finished dangerously.

"It‘s not a game," Janeway defended dead serious. "Your life is at stake."

"Tom, I believe that the bedtime story is one way for your mind to make sense of things, just like all the pictures on the wall of your office," Chakotay explained cautiously. "Those people are mostly from Voyager‘s crew: Tuvok, Nelix, Seven, Samantha Wildman, Joe Carey, the Delaney Sisters, Harry, and B‘Elanna..."

There was suddenly a flash of recognition in Tom‘s blue eyes.

"B‘Elanna..." he trailed of.

"Yes, B‘Elanna," Chakotay replied. "She loves you and she‘s waiting for you."

Silence fielded the room. Clearly what they were telling Tom had some meaning for him. But, they could still read scepticism and confusion on the young man‘s face. Who could blame him.

"Tom, what‘s going on?" came Loreena‘s concerned voice.

The tall brunette was standing in the entrance of the room. God knew how long. She was holding a serving tray with the coffee pot, four cups, and some milk and sugar.

"Loreena, please come and sit down," Chakotay told her.

The Commander helped her with the tray. Everyone remained silent as she served the coffee.

Their hearts heavy, Kathryn and Chakotay had moved to the kitchen, leaving Tom and Loreena alone together by the fireplace. They could still hear the soft voices of the young couple, despite themselves. They had told them everything they knew about their lives, mostly what they knew about Tom‘s. Sadness, fear, worry, grief and hope had played on their faces as tears had been shed.

Kathryn and Chakotay had not learned much more about Tom‘s life before Voyager. His defense mechanisms, his confusion, and emotional blender were preventing him to answer even his own questions.

"I can‘t do it, Loreena," Tom said a knot in his throat. "I can‘t leave you and the children. I‘d rather die. I can‘t believe I left the girls behind. What kind of father am I?"

"You‘re the kind of father who does everything he can to keep his children safe," his wife assured him. "Tom, with everything that happened to us since Caldik Prime in order to find the truth I know you did the best you could do."

She had been Tom‘s voice of reason all along, just like she must have been when they had been married.

"Tom, you know that what Kathryn and Chakotay told us is true. It‘s the only thing that explains all those little things that just don‘t make sense."

"I know."

"You have to go back, M‘Love. Our children are waiting for you back in the Alpha Quadrant. There‘s a woman on that ship who loves you and who‘s waiting for you too. You have friends who put their lives at risk in order to get to you."

"Loreena," he croaked.

"Oh, Tom you can‘t give up," she cried. "Not now. You can‘t do this to me. I... I can‘t stand watching you die not knowing that you can survive this. Don‘t let this damn cancer take you away Don‘t let them win."

Kathryn looked up at Chakotay. His arms were resting on the Dinner table. Tears were running freely down his cheeks, such as hers.

"Let them win?" she asked just above a whisper. "In order to find the truth since Caldik Prime?"

Chakotay stared back her helplessly.

"After tonight, I‘ll go," they heard Tom promised.

"They said that time was running out for you, Tom," Loreena argued. "Forget the play and go back with them."

"Loreena, I want to say good bye to the children. I want to do the play. I remembered it to be special. I want us to have that moment. Then, I‘ll go."

"Tom... "

"Please, Sweetheart don‘t argue with me."

"Okay, after the play," Loreena agreed.

Kathryn sigh in dismay. She could only hope there would be enough time.

"Adrian is here," Loreena announced to Tom and the children as she walked in living room, a tall man with brown hair on her heels.

"Daddy!" called Sayana running into her father‘s embrace.

"What wrong, Sayana?" Adrian asked tossing away his daughter‘s tears.

His eyes met Loreena‘s sad ones and his expression grew sober. His gaze flew over Tom. His friend sat in a chair, Solenn in his arms. He then nodded to the two strangers standing in the entrance of the kitchen.

"It‘s time," Tom told his children softly.

"Noooo!" cried out Solenn. "I don‘t wanna go!"

"Soleil, we talked about this," Tom calmly remanded the three-year-old little girl.

"I don‘t wanna leave you," she sniffed. "I won‘t see you again."

"I know Sunshine. But, you‘ll never be alone. And..." he swallowed painfully. "And daddy and mommy will never stop loving you and Sayana. You know that."

The child nodded and burying herself in Tom‘s arm.

"Do you have your magic blanket?"

Solenn nodded again.

"You don‘t need to be scared with your magic blanket, Soleil," he waited a few seconds as the cries of the child subsided. "Mommy and Sayana will be with you. Adrian, Claire, your aunts Christine and Victoria, and your grand-ma Hester will be there too. Will you go like a big girl?"

"Okay Like a big girl," she agreed.

Tom gave her a bear hug for the last time before letting her go. Loreena picked up Solenn in her arms as Tom invited Sayana in his embrace, lovingly kissed away each of her tears.

The play had been one of the best Kathryn had ever seen. The classic tale of forbidden love had never been played with so much emotions. Kathryn knew that Tom was a good actor. She had seen him pulled the wool over the eyes of the entire crew when she had sent him undercover. But, this just wasn‘t the same. Was it because they knew it was the last time?

The audience had seen Tom become a totally different person. A young and passionate man displaying to all his unconditional love for a woman from a mystical world, bringing everyone to tears. All of them had been moved by the depth of the feeling between all the characters. And nobody had been immune to the love shared by Tom and Loreena. It had filled the theater to the rafters. Kathryn‘s heart swelled once more at the thought of having to take Tom away from this. He had created a perfect world, here. A wonderful and loving home. A home that once had truly been his own. What could have possible happen to her friend and his family?

Kathryn and Chakotay were walking a little ahead of the young couple, to give them a little privacy. She could hear them laugh and gently tease each other about mistakes in the play that only they had noticed. She could feel their love from where she was, ten paces ahead of them.

In that instant, she had another insight into Tom Paris. She suddenly understood with a vivid clarity the young cocky smart Alec she had met in the New Zealand penal colony. How he must have felt lost without this woman that he loved so much. How he must have jumped into the first opportunity to loose some of the pain, to forget some of the loneliness. Kathryn had known then, but was certain now, that the young man that had stepped on her ship as an observer was not cocky nor arrogant, just someone who had been in a lot of pain. Her heart went out to him.

If she had known, maybe she could have been there for him, helped him worked through some of that pain. She knew what it felt like to lose a lover, and understood why it had taken Tom so long to really fall in love all over again. Kathryn realized how much she was feeling alone at that moment, and how she needed to feel close to someone. She extended her hand and slipped it into Chakotay‘s. He took it without hesitation nor question.

They crossed the street and entered a park. Kathryn felt Chakotay‘s hand tighten over hers, as his whole body stiffened. He stopped dead in his tracks and look over his shoulder where he saw Tom and Loreena heading for the pond. His eyes fell back on her with a panicked look she never had seen in him before. His gaze shifted from the young couple to Kathryn as he told her that the park was the Winter Garden. Chakotay pointed the bench where he had met Tom earlier, and the icy pond where he had subsequently lost him.

They started walking quickly toward them, when they saw the two make their way on the ice. Tom and Loreena were laughing, holding to each other‘s hands in order to keep their balance. Kathryn‘s blood ran cold as she felt the cool midnight air turn frigid. Her captain‘s sixth sense kicked in. Her gaze flew around the park, but she never saw from where the first shot of light came from as it hit Loreena. A fraction of a second later, another one hit Tom. Like rag-dolls shaken by a dog, they both twisted in their tracks and started to fall into the icy water.

All hell broke loose.

She heard Chakotay yell that this couldn‘t be, not again, as they ran toward the fallen couple.

Men, clad in black came from every direction. Kathryn had never noticed them until that moment. For a second she thought that they were the assailants, but on their black jackets, she saw the Foundation‘s emblem, and she understood. They were bodyguards. The men had surrounded them, shielding them from further assault. They helped her and Chakotay to pull Tom and Loreena out of the pond.

Kathryn knelt next to them as they were placing blankets over Tom and Loreena‘s bloody and frozen bodies. Despite his massive injuries, Tom was rapidly regaining his bearings. He reached his wife and cradled her in his arms.

"Loreena, don‘t leave me again!" he cried.

Blood was soaking the front of Loreena‘s coat. Even though he refused to admit it, he knew that she had just a few minutes left.

"This is not what happened! This is not the night you died.

Please I‘m the one who‘s suppose to go, not you stay with me.

I love you..." he pleaded.

"I love you too." she whispered. Her gaze turned up toward Kathryn and Chakotay. "Tom, let go. Someone who loves you is waiting for you where Kathryn and Chakotay come from. Go with them, M‘Love," she painfully told him.

Her last breath left her and her eyes closed for the last time, to the sound of the emergency vehicle arriving on the scene. Kathryn took Tom by the shoulders and pulled him back gently to give some room to the paramedics. But everyone knew that it was too late.

She was gone.

The bodyguards melted back into the decor as the sun rose. Before they knew it, they were left alone in the bright shining Winter Garden. The big blue Himalayan approached them quietly, and sat beside Tom.

End of Part 4

It took us three versions to finally come up with what we wanted to say. Loved it, hated it, please let us know. Big thanks to Amanda B. and PJ in NH for giving their support and Beta/reading this text.

Isabelle S. and Louise B. synbou@hotmail.com
Copyrights June 1998