By TíPam

Disclaimer:Voyager and all her crew belong to Paramount/Viacom. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit will be made, as this story is just for fun.

Part Five

"How is he?" Janeway asked as the EMH program hovered around Tomís bed. Tom was still unconscious.

"There is severe muscle and nerve damage," he answered sternly. "May I ask just what he thought he was doing? He should not have been crawling around anywhere in the condition he was in, not to mention whatever else he was doing. There are extensive injuries."

"He didnít have much choice at the time," BíElanna said fiercely.

"Well be that as it may. There may be permanent damage to his hands. The scars on his face will be easily taken care of with some deep tissue regeneration, but his hands are another matter."

Tuvok commed the Captain. He was back on the bridge as he had only had a slight concussion. "Captain, the Kazon are insisting that we leave this area of space. They say they do not want us near the Array. They have threatened to use force if necessary."

"Understood. Iím on my way."

"Captain," the EMH interrupted her. "You shouldnít be walking on that leg yet."

"Thank you for the advice," she answered, heading for the door.

A sudden blast rocked the ship and Chakotay beckoned to BíElanna. "Come on. Weíd better get back to our ship. They may need some help."

"I wouldnít advise that you leave yet," the EMH told BíElanna.

She nodded to Harry. "See you later Starfleet," she said.

Harry also got off of his biobed and headed for the door. "That goes for you too, Ensign." The EMH stood in front of Harry blocking his way.

Harry neatly sidestepped. "Take care of Tom," he said.

"Well naturally. That is what Iím programmed to do," the EMH replied a little huffily.

Neelix and Kes looked at each other and then promptly left the sickbay as well.

"Well really!"

When Tom woke up, he could see the Captain sitting on the chair next to his bed, dozing. He watched her for a few moments, feeling a little surprised to see her there. He lifted his hands up into his line of vision and saw that they were heavily bandaged once again. The movement caught the eye of the EMH, who hurried over.

"Good morning Lieutenant."

"Hi! Doctor - um. I donít think weíve met."

"I am the emergency medical holographic program."

"Oh! Where are the proper doctor and nurse?"

"They are both dead."

"You mean youíre the only medical staff we have?"

"That is correct. Do not concern yourself. I am programmed to treat any injury or disease. My program is a technological achievement of vast proportions--"

"Iím sure it is," Tom interrupted. "But what about my hands and face?"

"Of course. The scars on your face have been completely healed. The skin is still a little red, but that will fade in a day or two."

Tom heaved a sigh of relief. "And what about my hands?"

"Your hands will require further treatment. There has been extensive damage to the muscles and tendons."

"How extensive?"

"There has been severe nerve degradation."

"I see. Well as soon as we get home theyíll send me to the best medical facilities to deal with these types of injuries."

"Iím afraid that wonít be possible Lieutenant."

"Why?" Tomís voice rose a little and the Captain awoke with a start.

"We are stuck in the Delta Quadrant. So unless you prefer to wait for seventy five years for treatment, we are going to have to discuss other options."

"Doctor," Janeway said sternly. "I wanted to break the news to him myself."

Tom turned to her in confusion. "Whatís he talking about Captain? Wonít the caretaker send us home? Surely you havenít given up?"

Janeway explained to him all that had happened on the Array and her heartbreaking decision to destroy it to save the Ocampa people from the Kazon.

"So now weíre stranded," Tom said flatly.

"Iím afraid so," Janeway answered. "But Iím not giving up. Weíre looking for wormholes, spatial rifts, and new technologies. Anything to get us home faster. And donít forget - thereís another caretaker out there. Maybe weíll get lucky and find her."

"Not in the next few days or even weeks though, right?"

"No, I wouldnít think so," she said sadly.

"So where does that leave me? What about my hands?"

"I can assure you Lieutenant," the EMH quickly intervened, "I am more than capable of dealing with your injuries. I may have been meant for only short-term use, but I have been programmed with all the latest skills and techniques. Your treatment will be no different than what you would receive back on Earth. In fact, if I do say so myself, it may even be a little better."

"Well thatís a relief." Tom looked up at Janeway and smiled, but the look on her face sobered him immediately. "Whatís wrong?"

"The nerves in your hands have been severely damaged---"

"The Doctor explained all that," Tom interrupted. "But he can fix it. Canít you?" he asked, turning back to the EMH.

The Doctor shook his head. "I can certainly give you back some movement and grip, but even our modern medical knowledge can not heal the type of extensive nerve damage that you have suffered. It will be impossible to restore your hands to their original state. I cannot say for certain how badly damaged they will remain, but you must prepare yourself. Your fingers will never have the dexterity that they had before."

"Iím sorry Tom," Kathryn said softly, placing her hand on his arm in a comforting gesture.

"Are you saying I wonít be able to fly again?" Tom choked out.

"I do not believe so - no," the Doctor answered.

Tom stared down at his bandaged hands as if heíd never seen them before. "Youíre wrong," he said quietly. "I will fly again. Iíll get back full use of my hands and I will fly again."

"That is not possible Lieutenant."

"Yes, Yes it is."

"Lieutenant, as I have just explained---"

"Doctor, please. Leave him alone for now. He needs to digest what youíve told him."

"Very well," the EMH said huffily, walking away.

Tom looked up at her. "Heís wrong Captain. I know he is."

Kathryn shook her head sadly. "I pray that he is Tom. I pray that he is."

BíElanna hurried along the corridor towards sickbay. Two weeks had gone by since she and the rest of the Maquis had been forced to join Voyager. After a rocky start, she was now Chief Engineer and loving every minute of it. The Starfleet crew seemed to have accepted her without too many problems - perhaps her friendship with Harry and Tom had had something to do with it, she mused.

She was worried about Tom but couldnít exactly say why. He had been working hard at his physical therapy sessions, determined to prove the Doctor wrong. So far he had been doing extremely well, better than the Doctor expected, and he could already use his hands to hold things and do easy tasks.

He was bright and cheerful and full of good humor, which she knew she wouldnít be if she had been in his situation. She winced as she thought about how she would probably react if her hands had been injured the way Tomís had been. No - it wouldnít have been pleasant.

She heard laughter as she entered the room and saw Harry sitting on Tomís bed with him. "Hey Torres," Tom called out. "Look at this." He held up his hand and with a frown of concentration, wiggled his fingers. He then did the same with the other hand. He looked over at her and smiled, his eyes shining brightly.

She smiled back and hurried over to give him a quick hug. "Thatís wonderful Tom," she said as she perched up on the other side of the bed.

"I think this calls for a celebration," Tom said with a laugh.

"Well, I hope this celebration doesnít get as noisy as the last one," the EMH said, coming over to them.

Tom sighed. "Donít worry Doc. Weíll keep it down."

"Now let me see," the EMH continued. "This celebration is for wiggling your fingers. The last one was for being able to go to the bathroom by yourself, if I recall."

"Yeah, well, that was pretty important to me too."

"Yes, I must say I felt like celebrating as well. I no longer had to tag along behind you to, lend a hand - so to speak."

Harry and BíElanna burst out laughing, as Tom shot the EMH a dirty look. "Computer, deactivate the EMH."

"Hey Tom. That wasnít very nice," Harry scolded.

"Heís not very nice," Tom scowled. "I donít know who programmed him, but he could use a little work on his personality."

"He can be a little rude at times," Harry admitted.

"A little? You have no idea how bad he can get. And thatís another thing. I donít think the Captainís going to get any one to be able to train with him. Heís that impatient with every one. Thereís been four different trainees in here this past week and Jenkins, the last one, told me that heíd rather be thrown in the brig than work in here, so I doubt if heíll be back."

"Well, I know I wouldnít like to work with him," BíElanna said shortly.

"Yeah, and I canít wait to get out of here. A few more days and I should be able to go back to my quarters."

"Hey, thatís great," Harry said. "We really should celebrate."

"We are," Tom answered, getting out of bed and going over to the replicator. He came back cradling a bottle of something in his arms. "BíElanna could you please get some glasses. I donít trust myself to carry them yet."

"Sure," she said jumping off the bed and coming back with three.

"Tom," Harry said in a shocked voice. "Thatís a real bottle of champagne. We canít drink that in here."

"Why not? Weíre celebrating."

"Well yes, but I thought we were going to have lemonade or root beer or something. I shouldnít drink alcohol. I have this acid stomach."

"Oh for Peteís sake Harry. Lighten up. Weíre in sickbay. Iím sure I can find something in here for your stomach. And anyway, weíre talking about one glass. That wonít hurt you. Your not on duty."

"Tomís right Harry. One glass wonít kill you." BíElanna popped the cork.

"Weíre senior officers BíElanna. We could get called to the bridge at any moment, or to the briefing room or something."

"Fine. Donít drink it then. But Iím going to," BíElanna said with a toss of her head.

Harry sighed and held out his glass. "Donít blame me if we get caught."

"Iíll take full responsibility," Tom said solemnly as BíElanna poured the champagne.

They all perched back up on the bed and clinked their glasses. "To wiggly fingers," Tom said.

"To wiggly fingers," BíElanna and Harry echoed.

They sipped their champagne and Tom started to laugh. BíElanna soon joined him and then Harry did also.

"Well, this looks cozy."

Harry almost choked as Chakotay walked up to them. "C-Commander," he stuttered, jumping off the bed and trying to stand at attention.

"At ease Mr. Kim. May I ask whatís going on here?"

"Weíre celebrating," Tom answered. He didnít seem too perturbed that the First Officer had just caught them all drinking alcohol in the sickbay.

"I see." Chakotay picked up the bottle of champagne and studied the label. "With only the best too."

Tom nodded. "It was my idea. Donít blame them."

"I see," Chakotay repeated. He looked at them all in silence. "Somehow you forced them both to drink this," he finally said.

BíElanna snorted. "Donít report Harry, Chakotay. We did kind of talk him into it."

"I take full responsibility for my own actions Sir," Harry said, standing stiffly at attention.

"Naturally," Chakotay answered. "May I ask just what it is youíre celebrating?"

"I can wiggle my fingers, Sir." Tom sounded a little worried himself now. He wiggled them to demonstrate.

Chakotay broke into a wide smile. "Thatís great Tom." He looked over at Harry. "For the sake of the spirits Ensign - relax. Iím not going to report any one. Although I will ask you not to make a habit of this."

"Yes Sir. Thank you Sir," Harry gulped gratefully.

"Why donít you join us?" Tom said, indicating the bottle.

Chakotay shook his head with a smile. "Iím willing to turn a blind eye, but Iíd better not implicate myself."

"Good judgment call Commander." They all started in surprise.

This time Harry did choke, as the Captain came up to them. BíElanna pounded him on the back.

"Captain! Maybe youíd care to join us instead?" Tom recovered quickly.

"I donít think so Lieutenant. I think the Commander has the right idea. Iím going to pretend I didnít see this. Just this once. Is that understood?"

"Yes Maíam."

Janeway smiled and squeezed Tomís shoulder. "Iím pleased to hear your good news. Your hands seem to be improving every day."

Tom nodded. "They are. Iíll be back at the helm in no time."

"You will?" The Captain sounded surprised. "Did the Doctor tell you that?"

Tom snorted. "Him? Heís the voice of doom. Iíve decided to ignore him."

BíElanna noticed that the Captain looked a little worried, just as she had felt all along.

"I donít think thatís a very good idea, Tom. Itís important that you keep a positive attitude, but you should still heed his advice."

"If you say so, but he says I wonít be able to fly again, and Iím not listening to that."

"I see. Well itís probably a little too soon to say anything for certainty."

"Well, I can. Iíd rather be dead than not be able to fly again." Tomís voice was intense. The light cheery atmosphere seemed to have darkened and BíElanna saw the Captain and Chakotay exchange glances.

"Tom, donít say things like that," Harry urged, his discomfort in front of the Captain and Commander forgotten in his anxiety. "You donít mean it."

"Yes I do. Flying is everything to me," Tom insisted. "Itís all Iíve ever done. All Iíve ever wanted to do. Itís all I can do."

"Thatís not true," Janeway said crisply. "There are plenty of things you can do."

"No, there isnít Captain. Itís the only thing I was ever any good at." He looked down at his hands and then back up at the group of them, forcing a smile. "Hey, Iím sorry. I didnít mean to get all maudlin on you. I donít know what started all the gloomy talk. I will fly again and thatís all there is to it."

There was an uneasy silence. "Iím sorry," Tom apologized again. "Iíve really spoilt the mood, havenít I?"

"No, of course not," BíElanna said brightly. "Come on Harry, drink up."

"Weíll leave you to it," Janeway said with a smile, squeezing Tomís shoulder lightly again. She motioned for Chakotay to join her and they left the sickbay together.

As soon as they left, Harry turned worriedly to Tom. "You didnít really mean what you said, did you Tom? That youíd rather be dead?" He was deeply upset. BíElanna felt sorry for him. The three of them had formed a very close-knit bond.

"Of course he didnít," she glared at Tom. "He was just being melodramatic."

Tom hesitated a little, so she frowned at him fiercely. "I didnít mean the bit about Iíd rather be dead," he reassured them, "but I did mean the rest of it. I really canít do anything else but fly."

"Thatís because itís the only thing youíve ever done," Harry said quickly.

Tom started to say something but then stopped. "What are we talking about this for?" He smiled suddenly. "Weíve got a bottle of champagne here to finish. If I can wriggle my fingers today, imagine what I might be able to do with them tomorrow."

BíElanna shook her head. "I can. And I really rather wish I hadnít," she said dryly.

Tom burst out laughing and BíElanna and Harry soon joined in.

"I think we could have a problem with him," Kathryn said as they made their way to the turbolift.

Chakotay nodded in agreement. "There really is no way heíll be able to fly again, is there?"

"Not according to the Doctor. He has tried to explain that to Tom many times, but Tom refuses to accept it."

"I suppose it would be a little hard. He sees himself improving every day. In his mind, why wouldnít he keep on improving?"

Kathryn nodded. "I know. But soon heís going to reach the point that there can be no more improvement. Iím not sure how heís going to handle it."

"Do you think he meant it, when he said that he would rather be dead?"

Kathryn sighed. "Iím not sure. But I have a horrible feeling that he did. Flying really is everything to him. It really is all heís ever done. All heís ever prepared for." She shook her head sadly. "Some of the stories Iíve heard about his flying skills are unbelievable. I never got a chance to see any of them of course, but he is acknowledged as the best pilot in the fleet."

Chakotay followed her into her ready room. "Itís going to be very hard for him."

Janeway sat down heavily in her chair and Chakotay pulled up a chair across from her. She nodded thoughtfully. "Did you know that he could pilot a shuttle all by himself, and better than most of the cadets at the academy, by the time he was five?"

Chakotay whistled. "A child prodigy."

"I would say so yes. Although he has only ever bothered about flying, I suspect he is highly intelligent. We need to find something else for him to do. Something that doesnít involve his hands so much, well at least, not to the same degree as flying does."

"Iíll see what I can come up with. If we can help him to feel useful, it may help his spirits."

Tom watched in concern as Neelix gasped and struggled for breath as the Doctor battled to stabilize him. Only the night before the Talaxian had visited him full of his plans to make a galley in the mess hall. The ration packs were not too popular with the crew and the replicator had to be used sparingly. Neelix, who said he loved to cook, wanted to help out. He wanted to give something back to the people that had given him so much, he said.

Tom had thought it was a thoughtful gesture, but had warned that he should get permission from the Captain before making any drastic changes. Neelix had wanted to surprise her however, and Tom had joked that she would certainly be surprised.

Now Neelix was fighting for his life. The away mission, that the Talaxian had been so excited about, had gone horribly wrong. Tom listened in horror as the Doctor explained to the Captain that Neelixís lungs had been removed and he would die if they could not be retrieved.

Chakotay raced around trying to help the EMH as best he could, but it was obvious he was out of his depth. Tom, who had thought it was best to keep out of the way, hurried over to him. He pointed to a strange oblong instrument in the drawer that Chakotay was sorting through. "There Commander. Thatís what the Doctorís talking about."

Chakotay looked up at him in surprise. "Are you sure?"

Tom nodded. "Positive."

"Thanks." Chakotay grabbed the instrument and raced back to the biobed. Tom went back over to his own bed and sat down again, wishing he could do more. He waited until the Captain had left to take a team back down to the surface and Neelix was stabilized for the moment, and then asked if he could do anything to help.

The Doctor looked him up and down for a moment before replying. "Actually Lieutenant, there is. You can monitor Mr. Neelixís life signs for me. You seem to know a little more than the Commander here and Iím sure your hands are up to pushing a few buttons here and there."

Tom nodded eagerly and jumped down from his bed.

"Well, I donít think thereís anything I can do here so Iíll get back to the bridge," Chakotay told them. He gave Kesís arm a comforting squeeze before hurrying from the room.

"Really, what it is to get good help around here," the EMH remarked with a sniff.

"Well, you donít make it too easy you know Doc. You just expect everyone to know everything and thatís not how we poor non-computer programs work," Tom commented. "We have to be taught - shown things."

"Of course," the Doctor sniffed. "I realize that. The Captain has already explained to me that I must train replacement medical staff."

"Yeah, train them - not terrorize them. Youíre not a very patient person."

The Doctor looked a little surprised. Whether it was because Tom had called him a person or he was trying out the concept of patience, Tom wasnít sure. He turned back to watch the monitor in front of him.

"If I was sent some one that was trainable, Iím sure I would be patient." The EMH had to have the last word. Tom decided to ignore him.

Over the next few days Tom helped nurse Neelix and then Kes, much to their relief, as they recuperated from their lung transplant. The EMHís bedside manner was terrible. Tom had been discharged from sickbay, but spent most of the time there anyway while the Doctor grumbled and complained about his inexperience. Nevertheless, he continued to find things for Tom to do that he could handle.

Kes was released after a couple of days and Neelix the following week, but still Tom gravitated towards sickbay. He had to go there for his physical therapy and tended to stay there once he was finished. It was boring hanging around in his quarters when all his friends were working. He couldnít wait to get back to the helm.

And then came the day that Chakotay came to see him about becoming a field medic. Tom had been surprised at the time. "Isnít Kes training to help the Doc? Iíve just been filling in time down there."

"Kes is training to become his assistant but the Captainís not keen to send her on away missions. Youíd be perfect for the role. Even the Doctor thinks so. He suggested it actually. He says youíre spending a lot of time down there anyway and have already learnt quite a bit. The Doctor needs more help than Kes is able to give him. Kes has to divide her time between sickbay and airponics as it is. Thatís not to mention when sheís not helping Neelix in the kitchen."

"I know that Kes is always on the go, but I donít know whether Iíd be much good. Thereís a lot of things I canít do at the moment because of my hands."

"Heís not expecting you to do microsurgery or anything. Just basic first aid, and your hands can cope with that now. Once your hands have improved, your training will extend as well."

Tom shook his head. "I donít know Chakotay. I want to help out where I can, but once my hands are healed Iíll be back at the helm, full time. It would be wasting the Docís time. He would have to get some one to replace me, anyway."

"Maybe you could do both, part-time. It will give you something to do for now and the medic training will certainly come in handy. Who knows, you might even like it better than flying?"

Tom laughed. "No way Commander. I will admit I like helping in sickbay - helping people - but flying is a part of me. Thereís nothing better to me and never will be."

"Iím a pilot too, you know Tom, and Iíve found thereís more to life than flying."

Tom frowned, wondering why Chakotay was telling him this. "Maybe for you Commander, but not for me."

Chakotay sighed. "Well, are you willing to give this medic thing your best shot? We really need you."

Tom nodded. "Sure. Thereís one thing though. Harryís pretty good with computers. Do you think he could reprogram a bit nicer personality into the Doc? Heís a bit hard to take sometimes."

Chakotay smiled. "Kes is already working on that. She thinks the Doctor can learn to become a nicer person. She believes that between the two of you, you can teach him."

Tom laughed. "Itíll certainly be interesting. I still think it would be easier just to reprogram him though."

"His program is very complicated. Itís not a good idea to start messing around in it."

Tom sighed. "Well it was worth a try. When do you want me to start in there?"

"How about, right now?"

End Part Five