AUTHOR‘S NOTE: A few months ago, I met a great woman, Kathy. We were at the university together. As time passed, our friendship grew, and I learned that she had been battling breast cancer for the last 7 years. So, I started to write this story in order to express what I was feeling: the sadness, but also the courage she was inspiring me. That was last fall. As I write this, we are in march. I just learned that Kathy died a few days ago. It‘s hard to tell you how sad I am. But, I can tell you that I‘ll remember her determination, her will, and her strength. And the HOPE.
This story is my way to face this decease that took away two members of my family, and now a friend, and to deal with the pain it can cause to someone, their love ones, and friends. I will Remember you, Kathy. And, I will miss you.
STANDARD DISCLAIMER. Paramount owns them, but the story mine. It would not have been possible without my friend Louise B, who co-wrote a few scenes.
RATING: This story is rated PG-13 for some allusions to adult content. But, don’t worry, there is noting graphic.
SYNOPSIS: Following the events of Vis-a-vis, Tom and his friends deal with the ups and downs of his battle with an enemy without honour.
By Synbou- firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Paris walked into sickbay. It was just pass 0500 hours and The Doctor was already busy with Joe Carey. Paris nodded to The Doctor, picked up a medical tricorder and went to the physician‘s office. He took a deep breath before passing the scanner over himself and then crashed in the chair in front of desk.
He had been tiered the last few days, putting up with his shifts on the bridge and the ones in sickbay, being Kes‘s replacement. The last few weeks had just been hazardous on everyone. The ship was in Aklioni space: a new enemy for Voyager and her crew. They had been attacked a number of times. Tom had stopped counting them and the names of the injured people he and The Doctor had treated because of them.
But that day, pain all over the Lieutenant‘s body had woke him up and a simple look at some nasty bruises had brought him to sickbay. Tom‘s fear had went to through the roof as he had read the data and discovered that he would have to face another enemy. An old one, who had left him alone for a while.
"Mr. Paris, is there something wrong?" The Doctor asked bringing the Lieutenant out of his thoughts. Paris looked at him. The Doctor saw that his skin was pale and his blue eyes were slightly unfocused due to fatigue and shock.
"Doc, would you take a look at this?" he asked , his voice calm and soft.
"Certainly Lieutenant," the EMH answered, taking the tricorder. He looked at the data and finally said: "you are developing a leukaemia. There is nothing to worry about, Mr. Paris. We can start bentazine therapy right away and it will only be a matter of days before the cancerous cells are completely destroyed and you‘ll be back to you old self, again."
"I don‘t know, Doc. It‘s the second relapse. I guess Sandrine would say ‚Jamais deux sans trois‘... Bentazine doesn‘t work on me any more. The last time, I went through with a full decytologenesis treatment." The Doctor‘s mouth just dropped at the name of the treatment, but did not interrupt. "Still, I don‘t understand. I should be fine. The decytologenesis worked even if we never found the cancerous gene. God, I don‘t wanna go through that again."
"Lieutenant, why isn‘t there nothing of this mentioned in your medical file?"
"I wasn‘t in Starfleet at the time."
"But, even so..." The Doctor stopped at gesture from Paris.
"There is some explaining to do, I know. I can only imagine what the Captain is going to ask. So, I‘ll wait for her, if you don‘t mind. You think that you can give me something for the pain?"
"I will, but before I want to run a level 3 cellular scan in order to confirm this diagnosis."
At O800 hours sharp, Captain Kathryn Janeway entered in The Doctor‘s office. He was sitting behind his desk and Tom Paris was facing him. Paris got to his feet and invited the Captain to sit down.
"Gentlemen, is there something wrong?" she asked not trying to anticipate the worst from her two medical officers. She saw Tom leaning against the window. She could see his fatigue despite his professional mask well in place. She knew they had asked a lot out of him the last few weeks. He was Voyager best pilot, and they also needed his medical knowledge to help in sickbay. She gave the Lieutenant a quick smile before turning her attention to The Doctor.
"Well, Captain, Mr. Paris is seriously ill," The Doctor informed her.
"Ill, Doctor?" she asked looking back at Tom, worried now.
"Yes, Captain, a leukaemia."
"A leukaemia?" Captain Janeway echoed puzzled. "I thought cancer was no longer a problem. Why is it in Tom‘s case?" Her gaze shifted from Paris to The Doctor.
"The scans we performed show that the cancerous cells are multiplying rapidity. Furthermore, I‘ve already tried bentazine which act like a vaccine, treating the cancer like a virus. There has been no conclusive response."
"Do you have any idea what might have triggered it?"
"It‘s my belief that Mr. Paris close encounter with Steff might have reactivated the dormant cancerous gene in his system."
"Captain." Tom took a quick breath before continuing. "Part of the problem is that we can‘t identify the cancerous gene. To that extent, it could be multigenic. This is a relapse. It‘s the third time I‘m facing leukaemia. The first time, I had it at the end of my second year at the academy and the second time was a little over six years ago."
"Lieutenant, you told me that there were no record of this because you were not in Starfleet at the time," The Doctor pointed out, visually annoyed.
"True for the decytologenesis treatment."
"Decytologenesis?" the Captain repeated surprised. "Decytologenesis; a reconstruction of the cellular DNA? How did they keep it from attacking not target cells?"
"Well, that‘s the major problem with that treatment. It can get pretty nasty" Tom said not looking directly at her. "Frankly, I don‘t remember much about all those procedures, but just enough to be freaking just to think about them. It was a do or die situation although it felt more like a die doing it one."
She was intensely looking at him while he was speaking. She did not really know what to think. She felt like she needed to size him up once again. She tried to picture him so sick at one time. The cure most have been worst then the disease itself. Then she remembered the defiant, arrogant young man she had met in prison, back in New Zealand. And now, she was facing an officer with whom she was working with everyday since their arrival in the Delta Quadrant. Someone who kept giving his best with so much professionalism and a little sparkle no one else had. Until now, she never had understood his need to rush through every situations, to rush through life like if... like there would be no tomorrow...
"If you were at the Academy when you had your first leukaemia, why isn‘t any record." She asked coming back to the problem at hand.
Tom looked at her embarrassed. He blushed. His skin was so pale, she almost missed it.
"I didn‘t want my father to know," he replied.
Janeway‘s heart sank.
"I mean... Dad was still coping with having been captured and tortured by the Cardassians. If he could pulled through that, so could I. I was going to be fine, there was no reason for him to know. It would just had hurt him more." Tom let out a deep breath. "At least that was the way I figured things at the time. I talked this through with the family and a few friends, and it became one of Starfleet best kept secrets." He finally said shrugging probably at the irony.
"You never told him?" Janeway asked in a soft voice.
She passed in review what she knew about Tom Paris‘s life once again. She suddenly got up to her feet and came closer to him. She put her hands on his shoulders and held up his gaze.
"Tom, I know you and your father didn‘t get along too well. But, tell me that you weren‘t alone when you underwent this decytologenesis."
He gave her a warm, sad smile that virtually brought his face back to life.
"No Captain, I wasn‘t," he whispered. "I would never have had the courage or the strength to go through that if I would have been alone. There would have been no point in fighting in the first place. I missed those people so much right now."
She looked more deeply into those clear blue eyes of his.
"Well, you are not alone here either."
"I know." He put an hand on her shoulder to return the comforting gesture. "Thank you".
Janeway turned to The Doctor. "What‘s ahead? If bentazine treatment doesn‘t work, what else can be done?"
"Just to make something clear here," Tom said before the EMH could respond. "I don‘t want to go through any kind of treatment as excessive as decytologenesis again, even if it‘s the only chance I have. I want to bring the damn thing back in remission, but no more... "cell searching" experiments to identify the cancerous gene. It‘s been too painful and pointless in the long run. Okay?"
"Okay," the Captain whispered back.
"Still, by doing some blood work I can do some "cell searching" like you say without being painful. For possible treatments, at this point I‘m considering using the nanoprobes and/or the good old method; chemio therapy and a bone marrow transplant. The fact that the diagnosis has been made early give us a considerable advantage. In order for the transplant to be successful, we‘ll have to eradicate the present cancerous cells first. Mr. Paris‘s immune system will be highly affected and prone to infections. So, during the therapy we should limit his movements through the ship."
"You‘re not confining me to quarters, are you Doc?"
"It is in your best interest, Mr. Paris. I shutter at the thought of the microbes you could be affected by, especially in Mr. Neelix‘s kitchen."
Tom shrugged and said: "That‘s a cheep shot. Not that I can‘t do without Nelix‘s cooking. Seems Captain that you‘ll be short of a pilot for a while."
"And me of a medical assistant" The Doctor pointed out.
"Just for a while, Tom." Janeway told him. "You see, we can‘t afford not having you around for too long. So, you put all your energy at getting your health back."
"Captain, I don‘t intend to let it win. I can fight as dirty as it can, I assure you. Could I speak to B‘Elanna and Harry before any of this gets out? I don‘t want them to hear it from somebody else than me."
"You weren‘t beside me when I woke up this morning," B‘Elanna Torres told Tom as she let herself be pulled into his embrace the moment she entered his quarters. "Is something wrong?"
He gave her a quick smile but his solemn expression confused her. She had rarely seen that side of him. Without saying anything, she followed Tom to the coach and sat beside him.
"Remember yesterday, I told you that I wasn‘t feeling too well?" He waited for her to nod. "I went to see The Doctor about it this Morning," he inhaled and licked his dry lips. "We discovered that I have a leukaemia."
As Tom went through his explanation, B‘Elanna got closer to him and hold him against her. She never wanted to let him go. Tom was scared. He told her so. She was also scared for him and of loosing him. B‘Elanna remembered her disappointment at waking up alone this morning. The thought of no longer having him beside her every morning was just unbearable. She could not loose the man she love. The half-Human/ half-Klingon woman was sad, scared and angry. She wanted to rage and fight this monster. But, she could not do so. What kind of battle could she put on?
"You have to fight this, you hear me? she told him forcefully.
"I‘ll try as long as the Klingon in you stands beside me?" He smiled and kissed her tenderly.
They fell silent for a moment, content to hold on to each other.
"What was I thinking? Passing all that time in the holodeck, working on that car, instead of being with you..."
"You know Tom, it still wouldn‘t be presumptuous of you to think that there‘s a future in our relationship, because I do."
"Could this be an incentive?" he asked, humour in his voice.
"It something I‘m looking forward to."
"I know. I do."
"So, what does this mean? What will happened?" Harry Kim asked after Tom dropped his bomb on is best friend.
"The Doctor and I both agreed on a bone marrow transplant. We thought of using the nanoprobes but they don‘t recognise all of the cancerous cells. So, first I‘ll have to go through some chemotherapy to destroye the cancerous cells. If everything goes well, I should be able to undergo the transplant in six or seven days. The worst part his going to be the chemo. It makes you sick like hell. It burns under your skin and it turn you upside-down, and..." Tom let the sentence dropped with a sigh and look away.
Harry just couldn‘t believe everything his friend had told him. Tom had walked on to bridge about a half-hour earlier and asked Harry to follow him in the conference lounge. Harry puzzled gaze had met Tuvok‘s suspicious one which had drawn a smile from the Ensign. Well, Harry was not smiling now. He was struggling very hard to keep his composure.
"Harry, for crying out loud don‘t make this face," Tom said on a light tone. "I didn‘t pronounce a death sentence, here."
That was just like Tom trying to be supportive in his own strange way when Harry felt he was the one who should be. "After the transplant, you‘ll be Okay, right?"
"Well... If it goes back in remission, yeah"
"What about the gene? Do you think The Doctor can find it?" Harry asked hopefully.
"I don‘t know. I don‘t have much expectations about that anymore. Right now, I would settle for a remission."
The two men stayed silent for a while before Harry could look up to Tom.
"You are my best friend. You can ask anything. I‘ll be here," he said.
"I didn‘t even had to ask. Thanks Harry."
"Harry, how is he?" B‘Elanna asked, as she entered in Tom‘s quarters a few days later.
"Finally sleeping. Oh B‘Elanna, Tom tried to prepared me to the effects the chemotherapy would have on him. Even after the first two treatments I couldn‘t imagine it would make him so sick. He‘s been throwing up all morning."
"I know Harry, he tried to prepare me too. The Doctor says that the treatment is working, at least. The cancerous cells are being destroyed. It‘s a matter of time now before he can perform the transplant. There is a good chance for it to be successful. So, until then, Tom needs us to be strong."
"I know. Did The Doctor find a suitable donor for the bone marrow?"
"Suitable yes, in fact more than one, but there is no one on board with a ‚perfect‘ match. His chances are good, but not excellent."
"We already knew that, didn‘t we?" Harry replied not willing to look to B‘Elanna.
"I‘m hoping for more, Harry."
Tom woke up with a headache. What else was new? He could still feel the burning sensation of all those chemicals under his skin, and his chest was just so heavy. It was getting harder to breath everyday. He thought of just lying there, then again maybe not. He would just get even more uncomfortable as the time past. He might as well try to salvage the remainder of the day.
He came out of his bedroom expecting to find B‘Elanna or Harry. He was surprised to find Captain Janeway instead, working at his desk terminal.
"Captain?" His voice was harsh and weak. Tom bite his lower lip, reprimanding himself. God, he didn‘t want her to see him like this. Then again, what was the point of trying to pretend that everything was normal. It had not been in the last couple of days, and it definitely would not get better overnight.
Janeway turned smiling when she heard Tom‘s voice. He was standing there in the entrance of his bedroom looking at her, surprised to see her there.
"I ordered Harry and B‘Elanna to rest," she told him on a light friendly tone as she was getting to her feet. "Come and sit down. Can I get you anything? You do need to eat something."
"Some water would be good, for now."
She came back from the replicator with two glasses of water and sat beside him on the sofa. Tom was wearing a large dark green sweater with long sleeves that would normally make him look bigger, but she could tell that he was already starting to loose weight. She also knew that those long sleeves were hiding all the bruises that were the result of the fight that was going on inside his body. His visible fatigue, pale skin, red eyes, and respiratory difficulties were also the effects of all the poison they kept feeding him in order to kill the cancerous cells. Why couldn‘t there be an easier way?
"I have been asking a lot from B‘Elanna and Harry lately, haven‘t I?" he told her slightly embarrassed on the effect he was having on her senior staff.
"We are your friends, Tom. More than that we‘re a family. That‘s what a family does, it stick together in sickness and in health."
"Does it really?" he asked unwilling to look at her.
"Well this one does," she assure him. If she only knew what he really had gone through, it would be so much easier. Finally, after some careful thinking, she decided to ask him about it. What would be the worst thing that could happened? That he refuses to answer her questions? Or, that he does by some cocky comment or a bad joke like he was doing with Harry all the time? That he get angry with her? Either way, she wanted a reaction. She wanted to know in order to understand him. "How did you manage to keep this a secret from you parents?"
"I look that bad?" he asked with a smile. He held her gaze for a few seconds and his smile faded away as he look to the floor. "For them to notice, they would have had to be there. Dad, he hardly was there before he was tortured by the cardassians. He was always at Starfleet Command, the Academy, or on one mission or another. And when he came back...." his voice dropped to a whisper. "He came back... haunted."
"I know," Janeway said in a soft voice as she allowed the memories to surface. "He kept his demeanour, but his eyes betrayed him."
For the first time, Tom really looked at her and gave her a warm smile. Was he comforting her? That was not the reaction she intended to receive.
"He couldn‘t help me, he could barely help himself. And mother, she is also someone who is very dedicated to her work and I, I had my courses at the Academy and plenty of social activities. So, we were living in the same house, but we were not seeing each other that much. When things got rough, when I couldn‘t hide my illness any longer, I went to live with my older sister in Marseilles. See, I was not alone," he said with a smile, trying to reassure her again. Then he laughed before saying. "And, I had found Sandrine a few months earlier. She gave me a lot of support."
"I heard you found her bar after you got rob..."
He smiled at the memory. Before giving more explanation on that tale, he extended his arm to pick his glass of water on the table in front of them. A wave of pain suddenly washed through him and Tom‘s expression changed to total shock as he saw the glass drop from his cramped fingers and crashed on the floor. He bent forward, his chest on his lap, gasping for air, and shaking vigorously.
Janeway quickly put her arms around his shoulders to give him support before getting to her feet and coming back with the hypospray of painkillers that B‘Elanna had left on his bedside table.
"Hang in there, Tom, This will take a few seconds," she told him. Janeway pressed the medical instrument against his neck. She held his shoulders once again, waiting for the medicine to take its effect, which was not coming soon enough.
"It‘s... It‘s not working..." he hissed between two breaths.
"I’ll asked The Doctor to give you something stronger."
"No... no." He took another quick painful breath. "It has to do."
"Why?" In her right mine, she could not understand why he had to go through so much pain in the first place.
"My body... It‘s getting use to the painkillers. W.. when... When the pain gets worst..." He sucked in another breath before going on, but Janeway already knew what he was about to say. "I‘ll need something stronger."
When the pain gets worst, echoed in Janeway‘s mind. She held Tom‘s body tighter and encouraged him to keep taking deep breaths. There were noting else she could. She was feeling so damn helpless. She bite her lower lip as she thought of the next few days. One or two other chemio treatments and Tom should be able to have his bone marrow transplant. It had to work. As his pain finally lessened, Janeway pulled up the young man beside her, allowing him to lean against her shoulder. He was so exhausted, he gave her no resistance. For the first time, she noticed how thin his hair was getting. An other side effect, she thought.
Gently, she wiped away the tears from his pale face. *Just keep going, Tom. We‘re with you.*
The following four days just when from bad to worst. Tom‘s cancer was fighting back, forcing The Doctor to be more aggressive in his chemio therapy and bringing Tom closer to death a little more everyday. The constant problem was the cancerous gene, still undiscovered, that kept being stimulated. The Doctor could understand what his colleagues had tried decytologenesis in the past. But, it was out the question, now. After a profound analysis, if they would have had the proper technology on board, which was not the case, he would not had considered performing such a treatment on someone who already had one previously. Furthermore, the patient himself was against it. Who could blame him?
The Doctor found himself at loss. It was difficult for him to put a patient through so much pain even if it was the only thing to do. Still, he had vowed that he would do no harm... Tom Paris was not any other patient, either. He probably had been is most frequent patient over the last four years. Trouble always seemed to find him on top of which he was a risk taker. It usually Tom brought back to sickbay at one point or an other. His hazardous relationship with Lieutenant Torres was also worth mentioning. Now that Paris was his assistant, The Doctor had learned to work with him and to appreciate him as a friend. Tom had been considering him as a friend for longer than he had. The both of them were developing an odd friendship, but still. And The Doctor had already lost an important friend when Kes had left. He could not afford to loose this one, could he? So, he vowed once again that he would do everything in his power to bring his friend back to health.
The door of Captain Janeway‘s ready room open revealing her First Officer. She was sitting on her sofa at the far end of the room. She was wearing a thoughtful expression on her face, and the PADD she was holding was barely hanging through her fingers.
"Something wrong, Chakotay?" she asked.
"I was about to ask you the something. Are you all right? You have been distant and distracted all day." He sat down next her at her invitation.
"I exchanged a few word with B‘Elanna before the morning briefing about Tom. He‘s going through so much pain. We are afraid of loosing him..." She sighed and brought her gaze to the field of stars on the other side of the window. "I just ended up missing him so badly today. I would give anything to hear him crack a joke even on the bridge. Especially on the bridge."
"The bridge can get awfully quiet when he‘s not around. I have to admit that I miss him too. Strange how you realise you took something or someone for granted when they are no longer there." "I know what you mean, Chakotay, but he is not gone yet. I intend to give him as much support as I can, even if I‘m the Captain. I‘ll prove him wrong."
"Prove him wrong?" echoed Chakotay puzzled.
She sighed again. She had done that often today. "The other day, he told me it was strange to have his Captain around like this. That was just not the way he had been raised. For that matter, both of us. We are both children of Admirals. We have to follow the hierarchy, honour the chain of command, and not derogate from protocol. Never get close or emotional, we are after all *Sarfleet officers*." She gave a strange emphasis on the her last sentence.
Chakotay felt that something, in the conversation she had had with Tom, had hurt her. The truth. He just waited for her to break the silence again.
"But, this crew is not functioning under normal circumstances, and we can only count on each other. Tom is not only my junior officer, he‘s my friend, and is part of this family. How did you refer to him once... as my personal reclamation project. You are right, I have a soft spot for him. He came such long way since he first walked on this ship. I‘m going to prove him that a family can stick together in sickness and in health."
"That shouldn‘t be too hard to prove. Because this family does stick together. We proved that to ourselves a long time ago."
Janeway look at him visually glad.
"We know that, Chakotay. But, I can‘t blame him for having doubts. I only wish I knew more about him. He‘s been through so much and I have the feeling that we don‘t know half of it. I read the report The Doctor gave me concerning decytologenesis. It‘s hard to believe that doctors would actually perform such treatments... Surely it most have taken a long time for his body to recover. You never notice anything when he joined the Maquis?"
"No. He was hanging out in bars, getting drunk, and into trouble. Now, I don‘t know what to think. He is no longer who I thought he was. He‘ll get through this, Kathryn. We‘ll help him get through this, as a family." he gave her a gentle squeeze on her forearm. Then, he got to his feet and left her alone again.
Tom was glad it was the night shift so that he‘s little stroll around the ship hadn‘t been noticed. He felt like a kid who had skip out of the house, while his parents were asleep, to go partying. If he had been in a better shape, he might had enjoyed this. Then again, he would not be doing this. At least, he wouldn‘t go to the same place. He arrived at his destination and ran the chime of the door which opened revealing Lt-Commander Tuvok. Yeah, B‘Elanna would have been of better company. But tonight, Tom needed a kind of help the woman he loved couldn‘t provide.
"Mr. Paris. It is late. What are you doing here?"
"It‘s nice to see you too, Tuvok. I know it‘s the end of your shift and that your probably tired, but may I come in?" Paris asked.
"Yes. May I remind you, Mr. Paris, that you should not leave your quarters in your present physical condition," Tuvok said, guiding him to the sofa.
"I won‘t tell, if you don‘t." Tom sat there silent for a few minutes, allowing his strengths to built themselves back. "Tuvok, I need your help."
"Why not ask me to your quarters?"
"My place is too crowded now that Harry has claim my coach and B‘Elanna the other side of my bed, not that I‘m complaining too much about that. Although tonight..." He took a deep breath before going on. "When I was on Vulcan, my friend Semak used to help me to find the centre of my pain, isolate it and make it go away for a while. I can‘t do it alone anymore. The pain is too bad, it distracts me. Can you help me isolate it"
"Yes, that is something I can do to help you. I am honoured that you are asking my help."
"I trust you, Tuvok. You‘re my friend. I‘m just sorry that I have to put this strain on you too."
"There is no need to be sorry, Mr. Paris," the Vulcan assured him.
"Now, sit comfortably. Close your eyes and take deep breaths. Relax your body as much as you can."
Tuvok sat down in front of Tom and placed his hand around his face in a mind-meld fashion. Tom felt the link that Tuvok established with his thoughts. It was just strong enough to guide him toward all the sources of his pain and help him to gather it all together in a simple source.
Tuvok fought his discomfort. Not allowing Tom‘s pain to overwhelm him. He could also distinguish Tom‘s fatigue, his fear and his strength. It was like meeting an old friend and a new one at the same time. Then, he experienced briefly one of Tom‘s memory of him being guided by another Vulcan. Semak. And Tuvok followed the path Semak had led ahead. He drew in all the negative energy into a bubble that levitate higher and higher until it completely disappeared. Tuvok gather his own energy and transferred some of it to Tom, giving him a little more strength to rely on. Then, he gently severed the link between them.
Tom just stayed there without moving, savouring the peace of mind he had been seeking. He hadn‘t felt so calm and rested in a long time. Better enjoy it while it lasted, he told himself.
"Thank you Tuvok," Tom said sincerely.
"The honour was mine. I must tell you that I never seen a human achieve such a level of control over pain before."
"Well," Tom began. He was about to let out a crack at the Vulcan‘s expense, sometimes it was just too irresistible, but not tonight. That wouldn‘t have been a good way to honour the gift Tuvok had just gave him. He finally said: "I had a good teacher."
"I had the impression that he also was a good friend to you."
"He was. I hope he still is." Tom smiled. "I really should get going before B‘Elanna notices that I‘m gone and wakes up the entire ship."
"That would be wise. Do you need any assistance going back to your quarters?"
"No thanks, Tuvok. I‘ll be fine now."
"As you wish."
Tom returned to his quarters leaving a perplex Vulcan behind. Tuvok was not considering himself troubled, but he had to admit that Tom Paris‘s pain had not let him indifferent.
Tom was feeling well the next day. His little seance with Tuvok, the previous night had energised him. He had gave a hand to The Doctor in sickbay. He had also talked the Captain in letting him take the helm for two hours. At least, he felt like he had accomplish something.
At the end of their shift, B‘Elanna, Harry and Captain Janeway had supper with him. Later on, Chakotay and Neelix had joined them in his quarters. Together, they all had a great evening, sharing old stories and memories, and talking about the latest gossips around the ship. Finally, Tom and B‘Elanna were left alone.
She joined him in bed and laid at his side resting her head on his shoulder. She felt his hand move along her back in a loving manner, but not passionate. His touch was as gentle and strong as always, but not as assured or inviting. She raised her head to face his loving blue eyes.
"You still have some of that new found energy for me?" she asked.
"I might. Just for you."
B‘Elanna moved even closer to his slim body. Her hand found it‘s way under his T-shirt and moved along his waist up to his chest. She could feel each one of his ribs. God, he was thin.
"What‘s wrong," he asked, realising that the look in her eyes had changed.
"I‘m... I‘m afraid to hurt you," she admitted shyly.
"Don‘t be, you can‘t do anything worse that what The Doctor has already done. And he doesn‘t look half as good as you do." Tom said with a smirk. B‘Elanna didn‘t seem very convinced, so Tom added: "If you do hurt me, I‘ll tell you, Okay?"
"Okay," she answered a little more reassured, but not much.
"Good, now where were we?"
They started to kiss. In the process their night wear came off. B‘Elanna paused for a second when she saw all the bruises on Tom‘s body.
"Don‘t mind them," he told her. "I bruise in my sleep. The Doc gave me a small regenerator to heal them." Then a mischievous smile ran over his lips. "How about you help me make them go away?"
He pulled out the small instrument from his night stand drawer. B‘Elanna took it and started to run it over the bruises while Tom was kissing her. After a while, the regenerator was forgotten and they just laid there, caressing and touching each other. B‘Elanna could tell that her lover was getting tiered.
"You should sleep, now," she told him.
"Hold me closer," Tom said.
B‘Elanna took him in her arms and cradled him like a little child. In seconds, she heard the soft snoring that was synonymous with his sleep. The sound rapidly lulled her off, too.
B‘Elanna woke up with a hint of fear. She had fallen asleep, her body wrap around Tom‘s, and the sudden stiffness in her mate‘s body had brought her back to consciousness. He was trembling and his breaths were harsh and painful. Quickly, but with extreme gentleness, she loosened herself from him.
"Tom?" she whispered. "You should have woke me. Computer, lights 25%"
His eyes flew open but remained unfocused. B‘Elanna rolled away and grabbed the hypospray and a wet tissue from the bedside table. She pressed the hypo on the side of his neck then put it aside. She shifted position. Sitting on her knees, she bent toward Tom and pulled him upright, putting his head on her shoulder. She held him thigh against her and rubbed his back vigorously.
"Keep taking deep breaths. It‘s going to be all right, Tom. Hold on."
Slowly his trembling faded into a shiver. B‘Elanna placed his pillows in a more comfortable position and guided him back to a laying position. With the tissue, she wiped his face from the tears and sweet that were still running down his tired features. Tom gaze finally focused on her, but before he could speak, she put a finger on his lips.
"Sshh," she murmured. "Don‘t say anything. Close your eyes. Go back to sleep."
Tom closed his eyes as she said. In a matter of minutes, sleep claimed him once again, to B‘Elanna‘s relief. She laid back beside him, with some distance this time, but allowing one hand to rest on his chest, as a reassurance of some sort.
"Stay with me, my love."
"Harry, will you stop that!" Tom yelled at his best friend, who stopped in his tracks, taken aback by his friend sudden change of mood. "If I need something, I‘ll tell you, Okay? Why don‘t you go do something with yourself, and leave me alone for a while?"
"I promised B‘Elanna I‘d stay with you. And, I don‘t want to leave you."
"Harry, I‘m a big boy. I can take care of myself, " Tom argued still angry. "Why can‘t you people understand that?"
"We just want to take care of you for once. Why can‘t you let us help; you‘re sick. It‘s so hard for us to see you like this, it... it hurts. And, and I hate it when you joke about this. Your condition is not a joke."
"Well, it sure feels like one to me," Tom spat back. At Harry‘s wounded expression, he lashed out: "Harry, what the hell do you want me to tell you?! That I feel that this thing does it on purpose. That I think it‘s unfair that each time things start to go well for me, it comes back. After everything I did to turn my life around, I don‘t want to die, Harry. I don‘t want to die of cancer. This is one lousy way to die."
"Last time I checked, there was no good way to die," Harry said dead serious.
"I can think of a few. At least I have my preferences. A quick death, in battle, or flying, would be a lot better. And more honourable."
Harry chuckled. "Sounds like I‘m hearing B‘Elanna talking."
"So, I got something from the Klingons." Tom told him cracking a smile of his own. "You got to admit that a little honour doesn‘t hurt anyone."
"I‘m your friend, Tom. Talk to me," Harry said coming to sit beside him on the sofa.
"Harry," Tom sighed. "Been there, done that."
"Not me, not B‘Elanna. It‘s a first for us. We need to know how you feel, to... to validate our own feelings, I guest."
Tom passed his hand through his short blond hair. He sighed heavily at the sight of the hair that remained in his hand.
"I still hate this... loosing my hair, the bruising, my fingers nails flecking off, throwing up all the time. My chest is so heavy, and I‘m tired all the time, even when I sleep all day. I hate it that you guys see me like this. B‘Elanna is so afraid to hurt me, she barely touches me anymore. Okay, I might not be up to Klingon love making, but I‘m not made of glass, Harry. I won‘t break." He looked at his best friend straight in the eye. "It‘s good to have you here, all of you. I feel really lucky about that, but I don‘t need to be overprotected. I need to be myself. To feel a little bit normal, and joking helps me deal with tough situations. You know that."
"I do. I‘m sorry. But, what can I do? Because, I‘m not leaving, otherwise I will have to answer to an angry half-Klingon who also tends to be a little overprotective..."
"*A little*, he says," Tom replied in mock disbelief. "Harry, why don‘t you go get your clarinet? Hearing you play, always make us feel better."
"That sounds good to me," the younger man said smiling.
Commander Chakotay walked into Engineering. Except for the hum of the warpcore, it was dead silence. There wasn‘t a crew member to be seen. Then he heard something that sounded like someone was tearing the ship apart. Around the corner, he found B‘Elanna kicking the life out of a console.
"You know, if you hit it long enough like that, you‘ll have to fix it," he pointed out.
B‘Elanna almost jumped out of her skin. She turned toward the First officer like a viper ready to strike. Chakotay stepped back a little.
"What are you doing here?" she yelled at him.
Reports had been right. When the chief engineer was in a bad mood, she wasn‘t half way.
"I came to see you," he started cautiously. "I‘ve got seventeen demands for transfer this morning, and they all came from engineering. Seven even refuses to come down here. Mind to tell me what’s going on?"
"Going on?! Their all incompetents. They couldn‘t tell the difference between a plasma conduit and a tricorder even if they had a technical manual in their hands," B‘Elanna spat.
"They weren‘t that incompetent on the last crew evaluation. I have reason to believe that the problem is with the chief engineer." said Chakotay gently.
B‘Elanna went to say something to that, but stopped short when Chakotay put up his hand.
"I know that you‘re worried about Tom. We all are. But taking it out on the crew won‘t do anyone any good. Come on, you are relieved from duty for the time being."
"But... but I..."
"No buts about it. Your coming with me. We‘ll get something to eat and talk this over," said Chakotay.
As they left Engineering, the Commander could have sworn that the crew had came back to man the stations.
"Don‘t anyone touch that one," B‘Elanna yelled at them pointing at the console. "I broke it, I‘ll fix it".
They left engineering for her quarters where they replicated themselves something to eat. B‘Elanna sat on the couch, while Chakotay pulled a chair and sat in front of her. He waited until she calmed down and was ready to talk to him.
"I‘m so angry," she simply said after a while.
"I gathered as much," he replied teasingly.
"The Doctor confined him to sickbay this morning," she went on.
Chakotay, didn‘t say anything, he just waited for her to go on.
"He was doing fine two days ago. It was almost as if he was healthy again. We talked about so much that evening. He told me stuff."
"Things about him nobody knows, well almost. And now..."
"And now what?" Chakotay pressed on.
"And now The Doctor won‘t even let me see him! He kicked me out this morning, and told me not to come back. He said that I was bad for Tom! How can I be bad for Tom? I love him!" B‘Elanna was near tears. "Being so far from him, it’s like I‘m losing him."
Chakotay got up and walked over to her. He took her in his arms, like a father would with a frightened child. He held her for as long as she cried. When the sobbing changed to an occasional sniffled he pulled back.
"I‘ll have a word with The Doctor and see what I can do, Okay? If he let me, I’ll go see Tom and tell him that you miss him," he suggested.
B‘Elanna smiled at him. It was a small one hiding a lot of pain, but it was a smile.
"Now," Chakotay added a little more sternly, "if you promise not break anything else and treat your crew in a more Starfleet manner, you can return to duty."
"Tanks, Chakotay. I needed that," she said in her most civil tone all day.
He gave her a last hug and left.
Chakotay entered in sickbay. Tom was laying still on one of the Biobed, still coping with the effects of the chemio treatment he had received that morning. Chakotay met The Doctor in the physician‘s office.
"Doctor, how‘s Tom?"
"I‘m glad to reported that the last treatment have been very successful and that most of the remaining cancerous cells have been irradiated. Unfortunately, it has left Mr. Paris exhausted and extremely vulnerable to infections."
"I was with B‘Elanna a few minutes ago, and she is quite distraught over not being able to see Tom."
"As I just said Commander, Tom is very susceptible to infections at this moment. We can‘t risk his health."
"Do you think we could see him the same? Just for a minute. I told B‘Elanna I would check on him. And I brought him a little something."
"I can see that," The Doctor said. "Normally, I would say no, but he needs all the quiet support he can get, right now. You‘ll have to go through a disinfecting field first and wear a mask."
"That‘s okay," said Chakotay. "When will you perform the transplant?" he asked.
"Tomorrow morning, if there are no complication. I want to built back his stamina first. Now, come over here please for the decontamination."
Chakotay followed the instructions of The Doctor and crossed the field that was separating the surgical bay from the rest on sickbay, protecting Paris from the rest of the world. The Commander approached Tom‘s bed. Good thing that the young man had his eyes closed, because Chakotay could not hide his sadden expression. He was not as prepared as he thought himself to be. B‘Elanna, Harry and Kathryn had told him the effects the chemio had on Tom‘s body. He had saw the young man‘s condition deteriorate over the last week. But, Chakotay hadn‘t seen Tom himself so soon after a treatment. He never thought someone so pale could passably be still alive.
He came to sit on a seat next to the bed. Tom was shivering. They had called it the Cosmic Breath. Chakotay almost found himself shivering, too. He waited in silence, not wanting to disturb. He was about to go and leave his present behind, promising to come back later to explain, when Tom‘s gaze had flew over him.
"Hi there," the Commander greated.
"Chakotay," Tom voice was weak, raw, barely audible. "Nice of you to dropped by. You‘re all right?"
"Yes, I‘m all right," he whispered. Somehow Chakotay felt more at ease. Welcome. With Tom, he never knew how to react. "I told B‘Elanna that I would check on you. And I brought you something."
Tom looked at him take something from a piece of cloth. His attention was shifting in and out of focus, but he was hanging in. Chakotay made a mental note to hurry up.
"What is it?" he asked.
"It‘s something from my tribe: a river stone. It‘s a little something to hold on to," Chakotay explained. He gently placed the stone in Tom cold hand.
"Like what? An anchor?..." Tom voice trailed off at his idea.
"It‘s whatever you need it to be. An anchor seem good to me," Chakotay said. He was reassured and happy that Tom was taking his gift that way.
"Thanks. That‘s very thoughtful," said Tom sincerely.
"I didn‘t know if you would like it," Chakotay admitted.
"Oh... Why? It‘s part of who you are, your people. It‘s nice."
"Thanks." Chakotay smiled at the compliment. "You know, sometimes I just can‘t figure you out. I bet you love that. I promised The Doctor I wouldn‘t stay too long." He lower his voice and finished. "Now, rest. I got to go and report to a certain chief engineer before she kills anybody."
"Okay," Tom whispered with a faint smile on his lips.
Chakotay got to his feet, but stayed near until Tom closed his eyes and fell asleep once again.
The next morning, The Doctor finally made the preparations for the bone marrow. He removed some from the donor, Ensign Dreck. The next step was to implement it into Lieutenant Paris‘s system. He had decided to sedate his patient for this procedure. There was no reason to put him into more painful discomfort. But first, he had to clear his sickbay of the crowd that had gather around Tom. He was in a sitting position supported by B‘Elanna. On the other side of the force field, Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay, Ensigns Kim and Wildman were softly chatting with him.
"I‘m ready to proceed. So, it‘s time for all of you to leave, except for Ensign Wildman, of course," he informed.
"Of course Doctor" the Captain said. "Tom, we will see you when you wake up."
"I‘ll be fine. Got my anchor with me," Tom said, showing the stone he kept holding and exchanging a smile with Chakotay.
"Keep holding to that," Harry tokd him. "We will see you later."
They walked away, leaving Tom and B‘Elanna alone for a few minutes. She got off the bed and faced him.
"Don‘t worry," Tom said. "This is quite an easy procedure and I won‘t feel a thing."
"I know, Tom. The Doctor already explained everything to me. This is going to work. I‘m sure of it. So, you show that thing how strong you are. Okay?"
He laughed quietly. "I will. Like a good Klingon."
"Yeah, just like that," she whispered. "I love you, Tom."
"I love you too, B‘Elanna. I‘m so lucky to have you."
Despite her surgical mask, Tom could make out her smile. They Both fought the urge to hug and kiss each other. So, B‘Elanna took his hands and gave them a soft squeeze. She let go of him as Samantha Wildman joined them.
"You‘re ready, Tom?"
"Sure, Sam. It‘s now or never."
B‘Elanna help him to lay down on the biobed and Samantha pressed an hypospray to his neck. In a matter of seconds, Tom was sound asleep. The Doctor could finally go on with the transplant.
Tom had caught himself staring at his food again. It just wasn‘t appealing. Then again, even if it would have been, Tom doubted that he would have been interested. Food always was an issue for him. Oh, he loved eating as long as it was kept simple and that he knew what it was. Two criteria Neelix‘s cooking didn‘t meet most of the times. But, this wasn‘t coming out of the Talaxian‘s kitchen, so why did it bothered him so much? Then again, the replicator had never made a plain tomato soup right.
"What‘s wrong, Tom?" asked B‘Elanna sitting beside him on his sofa.
"Nothing really. I‘m not hungry."
"I know you‘re not, but you need to eat."
"It‘s been more than a week. I‘m still not hungry and I want to sleep all the time."
She gently put her harm around his shoulders.
"Give yourself sometime, Tom. You told me yourself that it would take a few weeks to recover from both the chemio and the transplant. The Doctor told me as much."
"I‘m just so tired of being sick. It‘s such a waist of time."
"You know what I think?" B‘Elanna began. "I think you just don‘t like me playing doctor with you."
"Oh? I certainly didn‘t complained about that," he replied with a smile. "Where did you got that idea?"
"You don‘t let me take care of you! If you would let me play doctor, you would eat when I say so."
"Why don‘t we go play in bed, instead?"
"For you to fall asleep on me again? No way Paris."
"Well you could fall asleep on me, that would be a change," he suggested. "You know, Torres, coming to think of it, I never had that excuse before. I‘m that bad in bed?"
"Tom eat your soup."
"Will I receive a reward if I do?" he asked looking at her from the corner of his eyes.
"Would it make it more interesting?"
"Well then, there could be a reward..." she came closer to him and kissed him on the lips. "First, you have to eat your soup."
It took a big fifteen minutes to get the soup down and a lot of patience on B‘Elanna‘s behalf. For once, she thought that for the first time in weeks, they would go farther that a kiss. She knew that Tom wasn‘t up to the Klingon lovemaking yet, but she could take it slow and gently. She was half human after all!
Tom looked up at his mate. He smiled at her and said: "Can I have my reward, now?"
"Well, I guess you can."
She took his hand and they walked into his bedroom, that somehow had kind of become hers too. Once in the room B‘Elanna gently pulled her hand out of Tom‘s. "I need to use the head" she explained.
"I‘ll be here when you get back, I‘ll straighten the bed a little."
"Do that. And I warn you; don‘t fall asleep."
When B‘Elanna returned, less that five minutes later, dressed in a sexy night-dress, Tom‘s clothes were spread on the floor and he was under the covers, sound asleep.
"I knew it!" B‘Elanna growled under her breath.
It was getting a little late anyway, so she decided to go to bed too. Maybe her night-gown would get Tom‘s attention when he woke up.
"Are you actually eating?" B‘Elanna asked with disbelief as she came out of the bathroom. "I certainly cough your attention this morning, didn‘t I?..."
"You certainly did," he replied mischievously.
She came to him and gave him a loving kiss on his smiling lips. She sat on sofa beside him. A croissant and a steamy cup of coffee were waiting for her on the table.
"Do you really feel like you‘re ready to go back to duty. Yesterday, you were still tired."
"I feel fine. I‘m still tired sometimes, but definitely fine. Going back to duty is just going to do me some good. If Doc Declares me fit, it‘s still going to be restrictive duties for a while, anyway. Frankly, I can‘t wait."
"I can see that. Just the idea of putting your fingers back on the helm makes you smile."
Yep! the idea of flying Voyager again made Tom Paris smiled. It made him feel alive all the time. And these days, he had a lot of things worth living for. One of those was B‘Elanna.
Tom Paris left sickbay. He smiled at the few crew members that crossed him in the corridor as he made his way to the turbolift. Once inside, he look down at the floor, took a deep breath in order to keep his overwhelming emotions in check, and when his head came up again, his face was the perfect mask of composure. The doors of the lift opened again and Lieutenant Tom Paris walked into the bridge. Everyone started applauded and cheers the moment his presence got notice. Tom smiled wildly, happily surprised. His eyes flew over the room and met Captain Kathryn Janeway‘s.
"Tom Paris reporting to duty, Captain."
"Welcome back, Tom," Janeway said warmly.
"She‘s all yours, sir," Ensign Hamilton told him as she stepped aside and let him slide in her place. Tom sat down. His hands flew over the controls, making the connection once again. He quickly turned around and saw Janeway sit in her command chair.
"Mr. Paris," she called. "resume our course for home, warp 6.
"Aye, aye Captain. Course laid in."
Tom pushed the engage button and felt the ship go forward. It felt good. In control. Free. Yeah, things were getting back to normal. As normal as it could be on Voyager, anyway. For now.
Chief Medical Officer‘s log stardate 50784.7
I am glad to report that Mr. Paris‘s leukaemia is once again in remission. The fact that the Lieutenant recognised the symptoms of the illness early on had tremendous impact on the success of the treatment. However, I‘ve been unsuccessful at identifying the defective genes. Therefore, I expect the cancer to reoccur. I just hope than when it happens that we are back in the Alpha Quadrant. Here on Voyager, my resources are somewhat limited and the next time will most likely require more than a bone marrow transplant. I certified the Lieutenant fit for duty, this morning. And I hope that it is decades before he has to face this illness again, if any.
This is it. We‘ve been hearing a lot lately about possible treatments for the #1 illness of the 90s, (from herbal medicine like Taxol, gene re-sequencing, to treating cancer with a vaccine,...), and there goes my hopes.
If you have not read the Author‘s note, please go back and do so. If you want to share your thoughts about this story, about how it made you feel, we are interested in feedback.
Isabelle S. and Louise B. (a.k.a. Synbou) email@example.com
Copyright April 1998.