By TíPam

Standard Disclaimer: Tom Paris, Voyager and all its crew belong to Paramount/Viacom.
No profit will be made from this story.

Warning: Please take note of the rating. Disturbing in parts. Severe angst.

Codes: P, All, P/T
Rating: R (Just to be safe. Rather dark in places.)

Part Two


My door chime sounds and I look up expectantly. "Enter," I say.

Harry looks a little hesitant before he steps inside. "Tom?"

"Come in. Sit down," I tell him, waving to a chair.

He looks around the room and his eyes widen at the mess all over the floor. He swallows hard before turning to me. "Are you okay?"

"Sure. Why wouldn't I be?" I take the sweater from my lap and hurl it at him. "Here's that sweater I borrowed last week."

He looks down at it vaguely for a few seconds before it's condition penetrates through his confusion. He holds it out in front of him to get a better look.

The bloodstains stand out vividly. Considering it was only a small cut on my finger, there does seem to be a lot of blood. The rips form a nice pattern, I think.

Harry looks at me, horrified. "Did you do this?"

"I pretended it was you," I say softly.

He jumps up nervously. "That's not funny." He sounds a little angry. That gets to me. How dare he feel angry? I'm the one who's angry. I jump up too.

"Why'd you do it, Harry? Why? I trusted you. I trusted you both. How many other people are you going to tell?"

"No one Tom. I swear."

"Oh! Well your word is your bond, so I have to believe you," I hiss bitterly.

"Tom, I'm sorry. So sorry. The Captain was going to bust you though."

"So what? Now she knows all my shit. Do you think I prefer that?"

"We were worried. The way she was talking, it sounded like she was going to throw you in the brig again. You barely got through the last time."

"You had no right to tell her, Harry. No right. I can't face her knowing that she knows."

"It'll be all right. She was very worried about you. She cares."

"That's just it. Now she knows everything, she's going to keep at me about it. She won't leave it alone. She's going to want to fix it. You know what she's like."

"Is that such a bad thing? Maybe if you had some counseling..."

"Shut up," I yell. "Who the hell's going to counsel me out here? The Doc? Look how he messed up Seven. This isn't something that can be fixed."

"Chakotay really helped Neelix."

"Chakotay? Never. If he ever found out about any of this I'd kill myself, Harry."

"Don't say stuff like that, Tom."

"Why not? It's true. I'd rather be dead than let Chakotay know how weak I am."

"You're not weak, Tom. None of it was your fault."

I'm sick of the whole conversation now. "Just go away," I tell him angrily. "Everything's my fault. If I had kept my mouth shut instead of trusting the two of you, I wouldn't be in this situation now."

"Tom, we never meant to betray you. But you needed help. You were in a real mess when we came back from the Yarans. If the Captain had spoken to you, not understanding your reaction, who knows what would have happened?"

"You can justify your betrayal to yourself all you like, but don't try it with me. Get out, Harry. I mean it."

"Damn it, Tom..."

"GET OUT," I scream and mercifully he does.

Sitting back down on the couch and curling up into as small a ball as possible, I close my eyes as my memory takes me back to the Yarans.


The Yarans were a friendly race, their planet rich with supplies that we needed. It was important that we reach some sort of trade agreement.

I'd beamed down with the Captain, Harry and B'Elanna. We were all in high spirits, looking forward to a couple of days on the planet. It wasn't often that I got to go on an away mission with both Harry and B'Elanna, and I was more than a little pleased that the Captain was in charge.

She liked to handle negotiations of these sorts herself and I always found her to be a good companion. She also seemed to appreciate my sense of humor a lot more than Chakotay ever did.

The Yarans greeted us warmly and it wasn't long before we were led into a large banquet hall. There was food everywhere and I found my mouth watering in anticipation.

We were seated at the head of the largest table in the room and trade negotiations were started as we ate. The food was as delicious as it looked and I soon found myself full.

Harry was still digging in happily and B'Elanna was so busy talking that she hadn't even finished what was on her plate. The Captain was no better, waving the drumstick of some type of wild bird around in the air as she spoke.

We were all getting along great with our hosts, although Harry and I had let the Captain and B'Elanna do most of the talking. They seemed to have the trade agreement all sewn up. I was relieved. That meant we could relax a little.

A Yaran male was sitting on the other side of me and when he noticed that I had finished eating, he engaged me in light conversation. We talked about all sorts of things and I found him to be a pleasant companion. He reminded me of Harry, actually. All bright eyed and eager to please.

We spoke for some time and he told me his name was Rendall. We were soon laughing and joking together.

Poor old Harry hadn't been so lucky. The man sitting next to him was rather dour, and he kept darting little furtive looks at me. He was sitting directly opposite me at the table and for some reason, he was making me feel uncomfortable.

Finally Harry stopped eating and made a concerted effort to speak with the man. It seemed to be hard work, but at least he wasn't focused on me anymore.

I turned to Rendall and whispered, "What's with the guy across from me anyway? He doesn't seem too happy."

Rendall shrugged his shoulders. "That's Britax. Don't pay him any attention. He's sulking. He wanted to sit next to you, but I got in first."

"What?" I felt my stomach begin to clench.

Rendall smiled and leaned in closer to me. "You're very attractive, you know." I jerked violently and jumped up abruptly. He looked up at me in surprise. "Is something wrong?"

I glanced around to see that everyone was looking at me. "I need some air," I gasped out.

The Captain was looking at me with a small frown between her eyes. "Is anything wrong, Tom?"

"Perhaps the young man needs to rest after his midday meal," the Yaran Ambassador, sitting at the head of the table, suggested. "We always rest after the midday meal. It's one of our customs. I'll have you shown to our guest quarters. We will meet later to formalize our negotiations."

"Thank you, Ambassador," the Captain answered, still frowning at me.

As soon as we were left alone in our room, Harry turned to me. The Captain and B'Elanna were in the room across the hall. "So, do you want to tell me what happened?"

I could feel myself flushing. "That guy I was talking to... Rendall...he...came on to me."

Harry opened his mouth and then shut it again. "Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure. He told me I was very attractive."

"Tom, he might not have meant that the way you took it. These people are very friendly. He might have just meant it as a compliment. You know, like when I told you that I loved the shirt you were wearing the other night. That could have been taken the wrong way."

"This isn't the same thing at all. It was the way he said it, too."

"Tom, you're kind of touchy about stuff like that. Maybe..."

"Harry," I interrupted him, hissing angrily. "The guy was coming on to me. I should know."

There was a sudden knock on the door and Harry went over to let the Captain and B'Elanna in. They took in my flushed face and B'Elanna sent me a worried look, while the Captain sat down on the end of the bed.

"Would you care to tell us what's going on?" The Captain's voice was deceptively mild, but her eyes stared hard at me.

"Nothing, Captain. I just felt a little weird before. Must have been all the food."

"Really." She continued to stare at me and I found myself shifting uncomfortably.

"Captain, the man that Tom was sitting with..." Harry began. I shot him a murderous look. His voice trailed off and the Captain frowned.

"What about him?" she asked. "Tom, I want you to tell me what"

Her tone had that steely quality that made us all cringe. "He made a pass at me," I answered quietly.

The look of surprise on her face was quite comical, but I didn't feel like laughing.

"I've tried to tell him that it might have been innocent..." Harry began again, but I rounded on him furiously.

"I'm not that naive, Harry. I told you, I know when someone's coming on to me and Rendall was."

"He probably was," the Captain said mildly. "In fact I would be highly surprised if he hadn't." I looked at her in astonishment. "Tom, these people are very open with their sexuality. The Yaran ambassador asked me if I would like to spend the rest period with him in his bedchamber." She gave a small chuckle. "I politely refused."

I didn't know what to say to that. She frowned at me. "I must say, I'm more than a little surprised by your reaction to this. I'm sure people have made passes at you before, without you reacting the way you did."

"He caught me by surprise," I said defensively.

"I probably would have reacted the same way," Harry said quickly...too quickly.

The Captain studied him for a few seconds. "Well, see that you don't. A simple refusal is all that's needed."

"Yes, Ma'am."

She turned back to me again. "We'll be here for the rest of today and most of tomorrow. Diplomacy is the key word."

"Yes, Ma'am," I echoed Harry.

And for the rest of that day I was Mr. Diplomacy himself. I was polite and congenial and you couldn't fault my manners. The Captain was even smiling at me again.

I was very careful to avoid any man that was looking at me a little too closely and flirted with all the women outrageously. I was pretty sure that would give everyone the hint that I wasn't interested in men.

The trade negotiations were coming along without a hitch and I'd already been able to secure most of the medicines the Doc wanted. Things were going along very smoothly.

That night the Yaran held a huge party in our honor and I even relaxed enough to enjoy it. My good feelings didn't last, however. Rendall, after obviously getting the hint that I wasn't interested, turned his attention to Harry and I found myself watching them tensely.

Harry was just so naive and innocent, he needed me to look after him. B'Elanna nudged me in the ribs. "The Captain said to tell you to smile. You look like a thundercloud."

I tried to, I really did, but I was too concerned with Harry. Rendall had asked him to dance and I was watching them closely to ensure that nothing happened.

B'Elanna sighed heavily. "Tom, Harry can take care of himself. He's just being polite. I'm sure he can handle Rendall, if he tries anything."

"I'm not so sure about that. He should never have danced with him. He's given Rendall the wrong idea."

B'Elanna turned my face so that I was looking at her instead of Harry. "If you're going to be concerned about anyone, I think it should be me. You've been so busy watching Harry, that you haven't taken any notice of what's going on right here. The ambassador's wife asked me if I wanted to spend the night with the two of them. She told me that we would have a wonderful time as he's able to sustain an erection for hours."

"You're kidding."

"No. She really did."

"What'd you say?"

"I told her that although the offer was tempting, I was in a one-on-one relationship with you."

"What'd she say to that?"

"She said that you could join us too." At the look on my face, she gave a small laugh. "Don't worry, I told her that you didn't like things like that. She said it was a pity, as you looked to be most delectable."

I didn't laugh, and she frowned at me. "Tom, they don't force themselves on you. The Captain's right. A simple no is all that's needed."

"I don't like this, B'Elanna. I really don't."

She sighed. "I know, but we'll be out of here tomorrow afternoon. Just bear with it till then. Relax, the Captain's looking at you and she's beginning to worry."

Easier said than done.


I spent the rest of the party on tenterhooks, alternating between watching Harry and then B'Elanna. They both could take care of themselves, but I watched them anyway.

I was relieved when Harry managed to let Rendall down gently, without causing a diplomatic incident, and then went off to dance with someone else.

B'Elanna was in a large group of people, talking and laughing, so I could relax a little about her, too. I looked around for the Captain; she was dancing in a type of circle with four Yaran females and seemed to be having a great time.

I sighed with relief and made my way over to the refreshments table. The Yaran ambassador was there and he gave me a small smile.

"How are you, Ensign Paris?"

"Good thanks. Um...nice party."

"You do not seem to be enjoying yourself. Is there something I can do to improve it for you?"

"Oh no, Ambassador. It's a wonderful party. I'm just not a real party person."

"You surprise me."

I gulped down my drink. I didn't like the way the ambassador was looking at me. I told myself to stop being so paranoid, but shifted away from him a little, anyway.

"Perhaps I can find something a little more to your enjoyment." The ambassador stepped closer to me. "Do you like games, Ensign Paris?"

I stepped back and shook my head. "I feel like dancing," I said hurriedly. "If you'll excuse me, Ambassador, I'll just go and ask one of those lovely ladies over there to dance."

"Oh, there's no need for that, Ensign Paris. I would be delighted to dance with you."

I swallowed. "No, thanks."

"Is something wrong?"

"No, it's just that, I've never danced with another man before."

"You surprise me again. It is really no different. I'll let you lead, if you like."

"No, that's all right." I looked around the room for B'Elanna. "I really should find Lieutenant Torres. She probably wants me to dance with her."

"The Lieutenant is already dancing. Now come along, Ensign, don't be shy. I won't take no for an answer." He grabbed my arm and pulled me out onto the dance floor.

I stiffened as he placed his hand on my waist and pulled me towards him. "Perhaps I should lead after all," he murmured.

I pushed myself away from the ambassador and shook my head. "I don't feel like dancing after all."

He looked at me in astonishment as I turned away and hurried back to my chair. I wanted to get out of there, and go back to my room.

The others seemed to be having a ball, and I wondered if anyone would notice if I took off. The Captain would say that I was being ungracious, I was sure, but she didn't understand how hard this was for me.

I was busy thinking dark thoughts and didn't realize that someone had sat down beside me until he put his hand on my knee.

I turned sideways abruptly, to look into the smiling face of Britax. "Ensign Paris, I am so glad to finally get a chance to speak with you."

"Move it or lose it," I growled.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Your hand. Remove it now or I will remove it for you." I remembered to smile as I spoke. "Where I put it after that remains to be seen." My smile was so forced that it was beginning to hurt.

Britax slowly took his hand away. His eyes were wide. "I am sorry if I offended you in some way," he said nervously.

I sighed. Where the hell had Mr. Diplomacy gone? "It's all right. I just don't like to be touched like that."

"I see. Please accept my apologies."

I nodded and turned back to look out at the dancing groups. Hopefully Britax would get the hint and take off.

Instead he leaned over towards me. "You are a very interesting man." I gritted my teeth and didn't answer. It smelt like he was a little drunk.

Britax cleared his throat. "I am sure you have had many offers tonight, but I was wondering if you would like to ..."

I turned to glare at him angrily and his voice trailed off.

"Look, I'm not interested...okay? Now go away and leave me alone."

He sat there, with a stunned look on his face. He obviously wasn't used to refusals.

"There's no reason to be rude," he annoyed me by stating. I turned away once more, determined to ignore him this time.

That soon became impossible, as he leaned in to me once more, his breath hot on my neck. "I really like you, you know."

"Well, I really don't like you," I returned, pushing him away. He got up abruptly and made his way to the refreshments table and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Harry joined me not long after that and I told him I wanted to leave.

"It's still early, Tom," he protested. "I don't think the Captain would like it if you left now."

"I doubt very much if the Captain would even notice," I answered.

"Tom, I know this is hard for you, but I wish you'd relax. Nobody's going to make you do what you don't want to."

I stood up. "I'm going back to the room. Tell the Captain, if she asks, that I was tired."

Harry sighed. "Okay. I'll see you there a bit later."

I walked out swiftly, not noticing Britax following me.


I made my way out of the banquet hall and down the pathway that led to the building we were staying in. As I walked along I could hear footsteps behind me.

I stopped and swung around, only to see Britax hurrying towards me. I cursed. What did it take to get rid of this guy?

As he approached me he swayed a little and I realized that he was definitely drunk. "What do you want?" I asked angrily. "I told you I wasn't interested."

He hiccoughed slightly and lurched towards me. "I thought you might change your mind. You're leaving the party very early."

"I'm tired. I'm going to bed." I pushed him away from me.

"That's great. I'll come with you. We can have a wonderful time."

"Go away," I growled.

"You don't know what you're missing," he leered at me. "I'm known for my agility in bed. I'm very flexible."

"Listen, how many times do I have to tell you to leave me alone? I don't do it with guys and even if I did, I sure as hell wouldn't with you." I pushed him once more and he staggered backwards. "Now, shove off."

"That's not very nice," a voice said from behind me. I turned around to see three Yaran males standing there. "All you have to do is say no, there's no need to be offensive."

The men seemed to be circling me and I began to feel threatened. Very, very threatened. I hadn't felt this threatened since waking up at the bottom of the chute in the Akritirian prison three years ago.

I watched the men warily as one of them took hold of Britax's arm and led him away. "Come on, friend. Let's get back to the party."

The other two pushed passed me roughly, giving me dirty looks as they did so, and I turned around and hurried inside the building, practically running to my room.

I sank down gratefully on the bed, my thoughts in turmoil. These people had awakened in me something I had tried very, very hard to forget.

It hadn't been easy and even now I still had nightmares sometimes. After Harry and I had been captured and thrown in that Akritirian prison for a crime we didn't commit, I had had a very hard time coping.

Harry had found out more than I wanted him to know, more than I wanted anyone to know, and I had been forced to tell him even more. It was the only way he would leave me alone.

I somehow managed to put all the horror that had happened on that prison barge with the rest of my shit and gotten on with my life. No one had been any the wiser...except Harry.

I began pursuing B'Elanna, even though I got the distinct impression she wasn't interested. I guess I was trying to prove something to myself.

Finally, after almost a full year of some rather blatant flirting on both our parts, B'Elanna told me that she loved me. My life was perfect.

And then we were forced to endure those damn stasis chambers while we navigated through a particular nasty area of space and more of my shitty memories came back to haunt me. B'Elanna then found out a little and then even more when I came out of Voyager's brig after my punishment for the Monean incident.

I lay back on the bed and sighed heavily. The past was the past. I shouldn't let it affect my present. I shouldn't let these people get to me like this.

How I wished it was that easy.

Looking around the room, I snorted. What was wrong with these people anyway? There was only one bed in this room. Sure, it was huge, but they seemed to just assume that Harry and I would have no problem sleeping together. The same with the Captain and B'Elanna, for that matter.

I smiled a little as I remembered the look of absolute horror on Harry's face when I had suggested that he and B'Elanna swap rooms.

I wasn't worried about sharing the bed with Harry. I trusted him completely. I was entirely comfortable around him and had even let him hold me a couple of times while I bawled my eyes out.

I'd done the same for him...several times. We were as close as two guys could get, without crossing THAT line.

Closing my eyes, I wished fervently that I could beam back up to Voyager. Get away from this place and these people.

There was a knock at the door and I got up off the bed and went over to it cautiously. If this was Britax again, then I would be telling him 'no' with my fist this time. Enough was enough.

The Captain was standing there and she looked grim. "You left the party, " she said, stepping inside and making her way over to sit once more on the bed. "The Ambassador is concerned that they have done something to offend you."

"I was tired," I told her.

She frowned at me. "You're behaving very rudely, Tom. I'm sure that everyone at the party realized just what a terrible time you were having. To say that I'm surprised by this little display of yours, is putting it mildly. Need I remind you how important this trade agreement is to us?"

I flushed guiltily. "I'm sorry, Captain. It's just that..." My voice trailed off. How could I explain it to her?

"It's just that, what Tom? You're homophobic? Bigoted? I'm more than disappointed in you, Tom. I've always thought of you as very open-minded."

"No," I said hastily. "I mean...I am. Open-minded that is. I'm not homophobic."

"That's what I thought. I happen to know that you're very good friends with both Johnson and Roberts on the ship, not to mention the others. I've never seen you behave any differently to any of them. So what is it about these people that has unsettled you so much?"

"I guess I just don't like the way they come up and proposition you all the time."

"You didn't seem to mind this afternoon when all those women came on to you. It's just the men that you react strangely to."

"I don't like men coming on to me." I wished she would leave it alone.

"Why can't you react to them the same way you did to the women?"

"Because it's different," I answered stiffly.

She regarded me steadily for a few moments before saying, "I can't believe you've never been propositioned by a man before. You're far too good looking."

Oh, I'd been propositioned by men before Captain, but not in the way you meant. "Everyone on Voyager knows I'm interested in women," I told her.

"So, these people make you feel uncomfortable and instead of reacting in a mature, diplomatic manner, you chose to risk our trade agreement by offending them."

I cringed a little. "I'm sorry, Captain."

"As well you should be. I'd send you back up to the ship, if I wasn't worried how that would look to the Yarans." She stood up from the bed and paced for a moment.

"In the morning you will apologize to the ambassador for behaving so rudely tonight and then you will spend the rest of the time we are here on this planet being polite and diplomatic. You will keep your personal prejudices to yourself. Is that understood?"

"Captain, I..."

"Is that understood, Ensign?"

"Yes, Ma'am."


That night, I had one of the worst nightmares I'd had in a long time. Breathing heavily, I sat up quickly and turned towards Harry, to see if I'd woken him up. He was still sleeping peacefully and I sighed with relief.

My stomach began churning and I raced for the bathroom. After I'd finished bringing up everything I'd eaten that day, I splashed cold water on my face and tried to control my breathing. I needed to calm down.

I was in the bathroom a long time and when I finally came out, Harry was sitting up in bed. "Are you all right, Tom?"

"Yeah, fine, Harry. Go back to sleep."

I crawled back between the sheets and then stiffened as Harry leaned over me. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"No," I whispered, praying that Harry would move away from me. He didn't. Instead he touched my shoulder and I jerked violently, practically falling out of the bed in my haste to get away from him.

My nightmare was still too real to me as I stood panting a few feet from the bed.

"Tom, what is it?" Harry put the light on and then dimmed it as we both blinked at the sudden brightness.

"It's all right. I'm all right now," I tried to reassure him. I couldn't believe I'd reacted like that to Harry. I needed to get a grip.

I slowly climbed back into the bed once more and was more than grateful that Harry didn't say anything. We both laid there awake for the rest of the night.


There was a decided chill in the air as I sat down for breakfast the following morning. I could feel eyes on me, but as soon as I would look up, they would turn away.

The Captain glared at me a few times too and the ambassador ignored me pointedly. He didn't seem to have a problem with the rest of the away team, as he treated the rest of them no differently than he had the day before. It was just me.

I could feel eyes on me, once more, and looked around quickly to see the three men from the previous night sitting down at the far end of the table, watching me. Britax was with them, but he was looking down at his plate of food.

I sent them one of my best Paris grins and turned away. To hell with the lot of them. I didn't need this shit. If the little creep had taken no for an answer back at the party, I wouldn't have had to be so rude.

I wondered if the guys with him realized just how insistent Britax had been. I had been assured that a simple no was all that was needed, and in every one else's case that seemed to be true. So why had Britax kept on at me?

I seethed at the unfairness of it all. Why was this all my fault?

After we'd finished breakfast, we adjourned to the conference room with the ambassador and the trade negotiators. The Captain grabbed my arm and pulled me to one side, before we entered the room.

"It seems a lot more happened last night than I was aware of."

"The guy wouldn't take no for an answer."

"I don't want to hear it at the moment, Tom. The ambassador is not happy. You'll apologize as soon as we're seated."

Well, my apology went over like a lead balloon. The ambassador merely looked at me coldly for a few seconds before saying, "I think you owe Britax an apology too, Ensign Paris. I will have him summoned here."

I had to bite my lip not to say what I was thinking, but I'm pretty sure my face did it anyway. The Captain gave me one of her deadliest looks and both B'Elanna and Harry shook their heads at me.

We then got down to the negotiations, but they didn't seem to be going so well today. Everything that was on my list was denied - the Doc would not be happy - and even the others seemed to have to battle for every little item.

That was all my fault, of course, but I wasn't sure what I could do to fix it. And then Britax was ushered into the room. He looked embarrassed and wouldn't look at me. The perfect picture of abject misery and my blood boiled.

However, I somehow managed to smile nicely as I made my way over to him. All eyes were on us. I made my voice sound as sincere as I could, and considering I wanted to punch the guy in the nose, I thought I did a pretty good job.

"Britax, I'm so sorry for the way I acted last night. There's no excuse for such abysmal behavior. I'm afraid I was feeling a little ill and took it out on you. I can't apologize enough for any embarrassment or pain I may have caused you."

Britax looked up at me then, his eyes shining. "Thank you, Ensign Paris. I'm sorry to hear that you were not feeling well. You should have said something at the time."

I gritted my teeth. "You're right, I should have. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?"

Britax grabbed my hand and squeezed it tightly. It took me all my self control not to pull it away.

"Of course, Ensign Paris. How can I not? I believe I may owe you an apology too. I had had a little too much to drink and became rather annoying in my pursuit of you, I believe. I hope you will accept my most humble apologies, also?"

I managed to take my hand away. "Let's forget the whole thing ever happened, shall we?"

He nodded happily. "That is my greatest wish."

Everyone in the room clapped happily and I was relieved to see the ambassador was smiling at me. The temperature in the room seemed to have gone up by ten degrees, also.

The Captain was smiling in approval at me also, although her eyes told me I wasn't off the hook. Britax left the room, after squeezing my arm, and I returned to my seat.

The negotiations seemed to go a lot smoother after that and I was immensely grateful, although I ensured I kept my mouth shut.

Everything was almost wrapped up when we broke for lunch and I was looking forward to getting back to Voyager. I was pretty sure that the others were too.

Lunch was another big banquet like the day before, immediately followed by their rest period. I didn't feel like resting, even though I was bone tired. I didn't want to be alone with Harry, either. The way he was looking at me, I was sure he was going to try and have a meaningful discussion and I didn't think I could handle that at the moment.

Instead, I wandered around the gardens with B'Elanna and it was really very nice and even a little romantic, although she did try talk to me about what had happened.

I told her I didn't want to discuss it and she accepted that, although I could tell she would insist when we got back to the ship.

We were about halfway through our walk, when we met Britax and another man heading towards us. I groaned, and it must have been aloud, because B'Elanna hit my arm. "Be nice," she hissed.

Britax smiled at us. "How lovely to see you both again. You did not wish to rest?"

"No," B'Elanna answered. "We wanted to take advantage of the free time, so that we could appreciate this beautiful garden."

Britax nodded. "It is lovely, but I know of a garden even lovelier. Would you like me to show you?"

"Thanks, but we don't have a lot of time before we're due back in to finalize the negotiations," I said hurriedly.

"The garden is only five minutes away. You have plenty of time," Britax insisted. Unfortunately, this was true. We had an hour and a half before the meeting was due to start. I wondered how to get out of this without causing another diplomatic incident. I really didn't want to go anywhere with him.

"That's very kind of you to offer," B'Elanna said. "But we can't go anywhere without letting the Captain know. Besides, we were just discussing going back to our rooms. We were getting a little tired."

"I see." Britax looked crestfallen. "I will let you go then."

B'Elanna and I hurried off and I squeezed her hand. "Thanks. That was very...diplomatic."

She gave a small laugh. "Chakotay must be rubbing off on me."

We headed back towards our building, as we could still hear Britax and his companion behind us. It would look a little strange if we didn't, since that's what we'd told them. It was a pity to cut our stroll short, but I felt it was worth it.

Just as we reached the doorway to our building, Britax called out to me, "Ensign Paris, please wait."

Damn it! My smile was very, very forced when I turned around. Britax blushed a little. "May I speak to you for a moment, in private?"

"I'm really very tired."

"This will only take a minute."

Gods!!!!! B'Elanna took my arm. "Whatever you have to say, you can say in front of me. Tom and I have no secrets."

He blushed even more. "This is very personal, Lieutenant." I would have felt sorry for him - he looked pretty pathetic - if I hadn't been so annoyed.

"I'm sure it is," B'Elanna answered. "Go ahead."

Britax seemed to think about it for a few moments. "Very well."

I sighed. If B'Elanna's presence wasn't going to put him off, then there was no hope for it.

"Ensign Paris...Tom. I find I cannot stop thinking about you." What the hell did it take for this guy to get the message, anyway? "You are my every dream come true."

B'Elanna gave a small snicker. The guy was pretty corny, but I couldn't laugh. He just wouldn't leave me alone. It wasn't funny. "I'm not interested in you," I said fiercely.

Britax's head bobbed up and down. "I know that. But I was hoping that you would help me to get over you."

"To get over me?" I just couldn't believe this guy.

B'Elanna gave another snicker, which she hastily tried to turn into a cough. I was fuming. This wasn't funny. This wasn't funny at all!

Britax was standing far too close to me now and although he was shorter than me, he was sturdier and I began to feel panicked. It was stupid, I know. I knew I could take this guy if I had to, and besides B'Elanna was standing right there; nothing was going to happen. I felt threatened, anyway.

"Just one kiss," Britax said softly. "That's all I ask. Let me kiss you before you go."

He leaned in even closer and my heart stopped. His face changed slowly into someone else. I was terrified all of a sudden.

B'Elanna started to say something, but it was too late. My fist hit his stomach with a sickening thump and before he could even groan, I connected with his jaw.

I was shouting then, I can't remember what exactly now, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't complimentary.

The man with Britax started shouting as well, and B'Elanna soon joined in, too. A crowd was around us in no time. I wish I could describe to you the look on the Captain's face when she pushed through the crowd to see what all the noise was about.

Let's just say, she wasn't pleased.

How she managed to smooth things over, I don't know. I was sent back to the ship so quick, my head was spinning. Tuvok was there to greet me in the transporter room and he escorted me to my quarters and told me to stay there.

Chakotay came to see me a little later - thank god it was after I'd cleaned myself up a little - and shook his head at me sadly.

"I'm not exactly sure what you've done this time, Tom, but I've never seen the Captain so angry. She's trying to smooth things over, but I don't know how successful she's going to be."

I stood there at attention in front of him, looking at a point just past his right ear. He sighed. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"

I continued to look at the wall. The Captain would tell him soon enough, I was sure. Besides, I didn't trust myself to speak.

Chakoatay just sighed again. "If you'll tell me your side of things, I might be able to put a good word in for you with the Captain."

I swallowed and shook my head. "I attacked one of the Yarans," I said quietly.

Chakotay nodded. "I'd gathered that. Why?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Of course it matters. Tom, the Captain's going to throw you in the brig again. I'm worried about you."

I looked at him quickly when he said that. Why would he be worried about me?

I didn't ask though, but he answered my unspoken question, anyway. "I saw the reports from last time. I know how difficult you found it in the brig."

"I coped," I said defiantly.

"Just. If you'd only tell me what happened down there."

"There's nothing to tell. I handled a delicate situation very badly and deserve whatever the Captain does to me."

I refused to tell him anymore and he soon left. I was surprised that B'Elanna and Harry were allowed to visit me and secretly relieved. I needed them. I was in a bit of a mess by the time they arrived.

In the end the Captain had only confined me to my quarters for a week, although I had no replicator privileges for a month.

I should have guessed, of course. I should have known she knew. The way she looked at me when she asked me if I wanted to talk to her about anything. I thought she was just whistling in the wind. Suspecting some of the truth. But I could handle that. As long as she never really knew.

Stupid, stupid me.