Disclaimer: Voyager, Tommy, Kath and the rest of the crew belong to Paramount. Iím just having fun, - honest. No profit will be made from this story.

Part Four

ĎKathryn was back!!!! She was safe and alive!!!!í The refrain kept going over and over in Tomís head. He didnít have time to rejoice however, as the Tamans were everywhere. Heíd managed to outrun the first four ships that had arrived on the scene, but more and more kept coming at them.

It was a race to the border and the Tamans were out to stop them, no matter what. His flying was inspired as he dodged this way and that, just managing to keep Voyager from being blown into tiny pieces. Heíd always been a skilled pilot, but now his flying was almost magical and a tiny part of his brain wondered if Kes were still here giving him a hand.

It would take at least five more hours to reach the safety of the Taman border and Tom wondered if he could keep up this pace. Theyíd been at it for four hours already. BíElanna was working miracles with the engines and so far theyíd managed to stay at a constant warp eight, despite the pounding they were receiving. No matter how inspired his flying there were still some shots that hit their target and Voyager was badly damaged.

All he wanted to do was to go running down to sickbay to see Kathryn, but he couldnít leave his post. He shuddered as he remembered what had happened when heíd let Jones take over while heíd raced to the bathroom. Theyíd almost been destroyed. It had been a close call. He wouldnít leave his post again until they were clear from Taman space.

Both Chakotay and Tuvok and been down to see Kathryn, for a brief visit. They told him she was fine, but the Doctor wanted to run some tests to make sure. Tom wanted to see for himself. He was impatient to talk to her - hold her - assure himself that she was all right. That would have to wait though. There was no sense in rescuing Kath and being ten years closer to home if they were all dead. And the Tamans seemed hell bent on killing them all. He cursed as he swung the ship quickly to port, barely avoiding an oncoming missile.

"Four more Taman battle ships approaching," Harry yelled out. Damn it!! Theyíd only just managed to get away from the last ones.

"Torres to bridge. Iíve rerouted some power from nonessential areas. I can give you warp nine point five for at least five minutes."

"Good work, BíElanna," Chakotay answered. "Well Tom, you heard her."

"Yeah thanks, BíElanna. Youíre a miracle worker."

BíElanna snorted. "Iíll remind you that you said that, the next time your complaining that thereís something wrong with the helm."

Tom smiled as the ship forged away from the Tamans behind them. Five more hours to go.

Kathryn sat up and swung her legs over the biobed. By all the lurching and weaving the ship seemed to be doing, she guessed that they were still under attack. She still couldnít believe that she was back on Voyager. The Doctor had told her that it was all thanks to Kes, but couldnít tell her much more. He told her that only Tom knew the full story. Tom!!! She couldnít wait to see him. "Youíve finished all your tests now Doctor, I really think I should go to the bridge. As you can see, Iím fine. They probably need me."

"Iím sure that Commander Chakotay can handle it," the Doctor reassured her. "Heís gotten us out of some very difficult situations while youíve been away."

"Iím sure he has," Kathryn answered softly. "I just donít like feeling useless." All she wanted to do was see Tom, but knew she had to stay away until they were out of danger. Tom certainly didnít need the distraction. It would take all his skill to fly them out of this. In fact, she wondered if it was even possible.

"Captain, youíve been gone for over five months. Itís going to take you some time to readjust. I donít think itís a good idea to go racing off to the bridge straight away."

"Youíre probably right," she agreed with a sigh. "Iím just so worried. The Tamans arenít going to give up. I hate not knowing whatís going on." Chakotay had had no time to tell her anything when heíd visited her briefly when she was first beamed aboard. Tuvokís visit had been no more enlightening. He merely said that they were being chased to the border.

"I know how you feel," the Doctor said dryly, and Kathryn looked at him in surprise. "Iím always the last one told anything around here," he added with a sniff.

Kathryn couldnít help smiling. "You wouldnít believe how much Iíve missed you Doctor."

The Doctor seemed to stand taller. "Well naturally," he said. "I am one of the most essential members of the crew, after all."

Her smile grew wider. "You certainly are." Two more crewmembers staggered through the doorway and she hurried over to help the Doctor assist them to the biobeds. They had been lucky so far. Only minor injuries that the Doctor could treat quickly had been sustained. Each crewmember had greeted her effusively before hurrying back to their post. "What happened?" she asked.

"Captain, itís so good to see you," Ensign Potts said warmly. "A conduit fell on us. Poor old Eddie got the worst of it."

The Doctor ran a tricorder over Ensign Kreggís neck. "Third degree burns. Iíll have him fixed up in no time. What about you Ms. Potts?"

"Itís just my elbow. When everything started falling, I put my arm up to protect myself. Itís probably just bruised."

"Iíll be the judge of that," the Doctor said crisply. "Really; the amount of people on this ship that think that they have medical degrees is amazing. Self-diagnosis seems to be a major past time around here. Only two hours ago, Lieutenant Powell told me she had a sprained ankle, when the bone was actually chipped in two places. And yesterday Ensign Kim decided that he was suffering from a heart attack when it was a simple case of indigestion." The Doctor continued on with his tale as he finished Ensigns Kreggís treatment.

Kathryn looked over at Ensign Potts and winked. "He certainly hasnít changed," she said softly.

Potts smiled in delight, and then sobered. "Are you all right, Captain? Everyone was so worried."

Kathryn nodded as the Doctor turned to them and started running a regenerator over the Ensignís elbow. "It wasnít exactly a picnic, but it could have been worse - a lot worse. Iím just glad to be back."

"Everyone will be so glad to see you. Especially Tom. Poor Tom. Heís been so upset. Weíve all been really worried about him too."

Kathryn turned an icy stare on the Doctor. The first thing sheíd asked when she came to sickbay was if Tom was all right. The Doctor had assured her that he was fine. "I was under the impression that Tom was all right."

"And so he is," the Doctor frowned. "I didnít deceive you Captain. Mr. Paris had a little trouble -emotionally - after your capture; perfectly understandable under the circumstances, but he is fine now."

Ensign Potts bobbed her head up and down enthusiastically. "Heís even back at the helm now."

"He was taken off the helm?"

"Chakotay had no choice. Tom looked like he was going to collapse at any moment."

"Ensign Potts! The Captain doesnít need to hear all this right now."

"Yes, I believe I do."

"Tom was a mess," Potts put in before the Doctor could cut her off. "He had to have counseling with Chakotay."

"I see." Guilt washed over her. She grabbed the biobed tightly, for support.

"Now look what youíve done Ensign," the Doctor said huffily. "Youíve upset her."

"Iím sorry Captain," Potts said hurriedly. "I didnít mean to. Itís just that Iíve never seen anybody love somebody the way that Tom loves you. We all thought he was going to waste away and die without you. It was so romantic."

"Thatís enough," the Doctor declared. Eddie Kreggs moaned from the other biobed. "I see Ensign Kreggs is awake. Thereís no permanent damage and your arm is fine, so I suggest that you both go back to Engineering. Youíre probably needed." The ship rocked under another volley of fire, seeming to underline the Doctorís statement.

"Of course," Ensign Potts acknowledged. "I really am sorry for upsetting you, Captain."

"Itís all right," Kathryn said. "Iíd rather know." She smiled at Ensign Kreggs as he jumped off the other biobed and grinned shyly at her.

"Itís great to have you back Captain."

"Thank you Ensign," she answered.

As the two Ensigns headed out of sickbay she could hear Eddie whispering fiercely. "Whatíd you say to upset her Pottsy?"

Kathryn looked back at the Doctor. "Please tell me everything," she said quietly.

"Iím afraid I donít know everything Captain."

"Well, you know a lot more than me at the moment. Tell me everything you do know."

"Weíre approaching the border," Tom announced. "In five - four - three - two - " Woosh!!!

A torpedo hit their aft shields and seemed to slice right through. The ship bucked wildly as Tom fought for control.

"Aft shields are down." Tuvokís voice was calm and controlled.

"We did it!" Harry cried out in delight. "Weíre over the border."

"Three of the Taman cruisers are continuing their pursuit."

"What?" Chakotay turned to Tuvok in astonishment. "They never leave their sector."

"This would seem to be the exception then Commander."

"Damn it!!" The ship shook as more shots were fired and hit their target.

"Damage to decks seven and eight. Casualties reported," Harry called out.

"Iíve just lost warp drive," Tom reported through gritted teeth.

Chakotay raced down to the helm. Not that standing there looking over Tomís shoulder was going to help. Tomís fingers flew over the controls.

"Itís going to take at least ten minutes to get warp drive back on line," BíElanna announced over the comm channel.

Chakotay sighed. "I donít think weíve got ten minutes. Do your best." He put his hand on Tomís shoulder. As Tom looked up at him he said. "Just try to stay out of the way of their torpedoes if you can."

Tom nodded. "Weíve come this far Chakotay. I canít believe that---"

"Weíll get out of this somehow, Tom."

"Commander, thereís five more ships approaching," Harry warned. Chakotay swore softly. "Theyíre hailing us," Harry continued in surprise. "Sir, theyíre not Taman."

"On screen."

"This is Commandeer Rineheart of the Peopleís Republic of United Planets. Do you require assistance?"

Chakotay sighed in relief. Thank the spirits!

Sickbay was filled to capacity as Kathryn hurried from patient to patient, helping wherever she could. The battle was over. The Tamans had finally retreated, but not before quite a few of the crew had been injured. She was relieved to discover that none of the injuries seemed too severe. The doors wooshed open behind her and she turned quickly around to see if she could lend a hand.

He stood just inside the doorway, as still as a statue. Kathryn stood looking back at him, finding it difficult to breathe. The room seemed to hush as all eyes turned to watch the two of them.

She took a deep breath. "Tom," she croaked.

"I came to see if I could help," he said slowly.

All of a sudden they were in each others arms, neither of them remembering moving.

"Oh Tom! Oh Tom!" Kathryn cried, burying her face in his neck. He held her tightly, not making a sound. He felt so good - so warm - so soft - so everything she remembered. She frowned in concern. He also felt so thin - so very, very thin. She pulled back and looked up at him worriedly. He looked awful. Pale and gaunt, with dark circles under his eyes. "Oh Tom," she said again.

He smiled. It was a beautiful smile that lit up his whole face. She smiled back and his smile increased, if that were possible. Her own smile increased also.

"A-Hem!" the Doctor finally interrupted - rather reluctantly it seemed. "Ensign Wildman and I can manage here now thank you. It might be a good idea to try and get some rest in your quarters."

Tomís eyes never wavered, but she managed to tear her gaze away to look at the Doctor. "Are you sure?"

The Doctor nodded. "Quite. Now Mr. Paris, as ships Doctor I hereby restrict you from duty for the next three days. You need to recuperate. That goes for you to Captain."

Tom managed to tear his eyes away from Kathryn and gazed around the room. "Iím supposed to help down here Doc. You seem to have a lot of patients."

"Weíre fine," everyone in the room seemed to call out at the same time.

Sam Wildman stepped up to them smiling. "As you can see, the Doctor and I can handle this. Off you go."

Kathryn beamed around the room. "Itís so good to be back. Thank you all." She grabbed Tom by the arm and quickly left sickbay, pulling him behind her. "I assume that Chakotay has taken over my quarters, so I guess weíd better go to yours."

Tom nodded, but then he looked alarmed. "My quarters are in a bit of a mess."

Kathryn laughed. "I can cope with that. I just canít wait to be alone with you."

Tom stopped in the middle of the corridor and pulled her to him once again. "I thought Iíd never see you again," he said in a choked voice. "I canít believe we got you back."

"Iím finding it hard to believe too." They stood there, holding each other tightly, for quite a few minutes until someone cleared their throat behind them. "I donít know if the corridor is the right place for this type of reunion." Chakotay was standing behind them grinning from ear to ear.

They reluctantly pulled apart. "Youíre right," Kathryn said with a smile. "We were on our way to Tomís quarters actually."

"Iíll be out of your quarters as soon as I can," Chakotay said. "Just give me a couple of hours. Weíll have you moved back in in no time."

"Thanks, but Iíll be all right at Tomís."

"Iím sure you will," Chakotay said with a grin. He turned to Tom. "I know the Doctorís restricted you from duty for a few days and I really hate to cut into your time with Kathryn, but we need to talk at some stage. I still donít understand what happened. How we got here."

Tom nodded. "Will tomorrow do? Iím so tired I canít think straight at the moment."

"Of course. I never meant for you to come with me now. Get some rest. You and Kathryn need some time to yourselves. Iíll see you in the morning."

"Thanks Chakotay."

They hurried along the corridors, passing crewmembers on the way. Everyone smiled but didnít try to stop them to talk. Soon they were in Tomís quarters buried in each otherís arms. Kathryn was full of questions; the Doctorís information had been sketchy at best, but she could wait. Right now, this was all she wanted.

Kathryn looked around at all the people surrounding her, cheering and clapping loudly. She felt tears welling in her eyes as they all toasted her return. Neelix had organized a welcome home party for her and she was feeling completely overwhelmed. Tom stood behind her, his hands on her shoulders, offering support. His presence was reassuring.

One minute she couldnít wait to get back on the bridge - back to where she belonged - and the next minute she felt unsure of herself. As if it was all just too much. Sheíd been back for three days now and had hardly ventured outside of her quarters. Both Chakotay and the Doctor had told her to take her time, settle back in gradually, but she was both impatient and apprehensive at the same time.

Tom had been wonderful. Heíd only left her once the past few days and that was to report to Chakotay - to explain about Kesís role in all of this. Kathryn sent up a silent thank you, every time she thought of their friend. She only hoped Kes knew how grateful she was.

She hadnít realized how difficult it would be to adjust, but Tom seemed to understand how she felt. Heíd been in prison himself after all. She wondered how he had coped when heíd first been released. There had been no one there for him. No one to help him readjust. Everything felt so strange. She was used to doing as she was told - letting someone else do the thinking for her. She was also accustomed to following a strict regimen and although Starfleet was regimented it was nothing like prison.

She reached up and squeezed one of Tomís hands before clearing her throat. "Iíd just like to say thank you to all of you. I canít say how wonderful it is to be back here with you all. Youíve all made me feel so cared for and I truly appreciate your concern. Itís just so great to be home again. And this is home to me. Just one big happy family - well most of the time," she qualified as everyone laughed. "We are now only twenty-nine years from Earth and I feel sure that we will get there even sooner than that."

Everyone cheered again. All of a sudden the crowd parted making way for Chakotay and Tuvok. They were resplendent in their dress uniforms and Kathryn felt a little surprised. This was supposed to be an informal occasion. Besides, Tom had told her that they would not be here this evening, choosing instead to man the bridge, so that as many crewmembers as possible could share in the festivities.

She gazed up at Tom, who was looking as surprised as she felt and then turned quickly again as Tom gave a small start. Harry, BíElanna and Seven had pushed their way forward also and Kathryn wondered what was going on, as they had said they wouldnít be here either.

"Tom." Chakotay stood formally in front of them, his expression serious. She felt Tomís hands slip from her shoulders as he stepped out from behind her.

"Chakotay?" Tomís face showed his puzzlement.

"Attention." Tom quickly stood at attention, confusion written all over his face.

"Ensign Thomas Eugene Paris," Chakotay said formally. "As acting Captain of this vessel, I hereby declare that for services above and beyond the call of duty, it is my pleasure to grant you the rank of Lieutenant - again. You literally did not take a break until we were out of Taman territory - Iím quite sure we would all be dead now if it wasnít for you."

Tom opened and shut his mouth as Chakotay pinned the pip onto his collar once again. Everyone started clapping and cheering. Kathryn put her hand over her mouth and then started clapping as well. Tom had his rank back. She was so happy.

Tom was shaking his head, however. "Thanks, but I canít accept this. I didnít really earn it." He spoke quietly but the whole room seemed to hear. There was a hushed silence.

BíElanna stepped forward. "What are you talking about? Of course you did. Your flying was inspired. We would never have got out of there with someone else at the helm."

"I think that was Kes. She was still helping us," Tom argued.

"That is an illogical conclusion," Tuvok stated. "Kes was a very talented person, but as a pilot, she had only the basic skills. I do not see that it is possible that she would be able to help you fly the ship in the skilled manner in which you did. It was your talent Mr. Paris. Of that I am quite sure."

Tomís face showed his disagreement. "Even if that were true, itís a natural talent, not something I earned. Besides, you all know what a mess Iíve been. I donít deserve this."

Kathryn felt her throat close up painfully. Tom hadnít told her much about what heíd gone through while sheíd been gone, but obviously, since he spoke so freely about it, it was known throughout the ship. She knew that heíd had a hard time going on without her; sheíd gathered that much in sickbay from Ensign Potts and the Doctor. Sheíd wanted to talk at length to Tom about it, but he had pushed aside her concerns, more worried about her.

Tom had slept a lot - he was totally exhausted- and when they were awake, sheíd done most of the talking, she now realized. Sheíd found it helpful to talk about what had happened, and Tom had listened in sympathy and then anger when heíd heard about Ďthe boxesí and her punishments. About what her life was like on the prison farm.

Sheíd regretted telling him so much, however, as heíd become increasingly upset and acted as if she were merely verifying what he had known all along. Heíd had terrible nightmares the night before, but wouldnít talk to her about them. Kathryn was upset to see just how awful Tom looked. Anyone would think he had been the one in prison, not her.

She determined that she would talk to him about what he had gone through, tonight - no matter what. She wouldnít let him distract her as he had before. It was time they got it all out in the open.

She noticed that Chakotay was talking quietly to Tom now, but she couldnít hear what he was saying. Everyone in the room was watching them. She leaned in closer. "Tom?" she said softly.

Tom smiled at her and turned to the room at large. "Even though I still donít think that I deserve this, the acting Captain here has assured me that he wonít change his mind. And we all know how stubborn he can be. So, I accept this honor with my solemn promise that Iíll try not to let any of you down. Iíll try to live up to the faith youíve all shown in me."

The cheering started again, but Kathryn noticed that Chakotay frowned at Tom. He realized she was watching him and smiled at her instead. Everyone came over and crowded around Tom to offer their congratulations and to slap him on the back. She took the opportunity to pull Chakotay away.

"Whatís wrong?" she asked immediately.

"Nothing," he said quickly. "Why would anything be wrong?"

"I donít know Chakotay, thatís why Iím asking you. You were frowning just then as if you were worried about something."

"I wasnít aware of it. How are you anyway? Howís the adjustment coming along?"


"Well, Iím available to talk to whenever you need me."

"Thanks, Iíll probably take you up on that. Talking seems to help. Hopefully, Iíll be ready to resume command soon."

"Well thereís no hurry there. Now that weíre in the United Planets sector weíre safe. Take your time. Thereís no rush."

She nodded. "I know, and I will. Tomís been marvelous. He really seems to understand. Just telling him everything has made me feel better." She noticed Chakotay look across at Tom worriedly. "What is it? Youíre frowning again."

"Am I? Sorry."

"Chakotay? Is Tom all right? I know he had some problems while I was gone, but Iím back now. Heíll be fine now, wonít he?"

Chakotay looked at her solemnly. "In time - yes. But he still needs to come and see me. He has a lot of issues to deal with and most of them donít really have anything to do with you being captured."

"What do you mean?"

"Without giving away any confidences, I can only say that Tom should have been counseled years ago. He has a real self-image problem and no confidence in anything except his flying ability. Iím sure you probably already know a lot of this."

Kathryn nodded. "I donít think I realized how bad it is though. Do you think you can help?"

Chakotay nodded. "Weíve already made a lot of progress."

"How bad was he while I was gone? The Doctor tried to whitewash it."

Chakotay sighed. "Pretty bad; but that had a lot to do with other issues. Guilt being the main one."

"I suppose you know what I said to him, before I left?"

"Yes. That didnít help, of course."

"I feel so bad about that. Wretched even."

"Donít you start with the guilt thing. Iíve just talked Tom out of it," Chakotay said with a smile.

Kathryn sighed as she watched Tom, surrounded by his friends. He was laughing at something someone said and his eyes twinkled brightly. "He looks better than he did three days ago, thatís for sure."

"He needed a good nights sleep, among other things. You and he need to talk. But donít push him," Chakotay warned. "Let him tell you what heís able to."

"I wonít. Thanks Chakotay. Youíre a good friend. If one good thingís come out of this, itís your relationship with Tom."

"I understand him a lot better now. Heís a good man Kathryn."

"I know," she smiled. Kathryn patted his arm and then walked over to join Tom once again, who immediately pulled her against him.

"I know we agreed that thereíd be no public displays of affection," he said huskily. "But Iím just so happy, I canít help myself."

"Thatís all right Lieutenant. Under the circumstances, itís perfectly acceptable. Besides - at the moment -Iím not the Captain."

"No!!!" Tom sat bolt upright, panting harshly.

Kathryn reached out to him in concern. "Tom. What is it?"

"Nothing. Iím sorry. Go back to sleep."

"I donít think thatís very likely at the moment. Did you have another bad dream?" She sat up and rubbed his shoulders. "After such a wonderful night, I really hoped youíd sleep soundly. Can you remember what it was about?"

Tom leaned back against her. "Not really," he answered. "You were trapped somewhere and I couldnít get you out. I was digging frantically but just as I reached you, someone pulled you away."

Kathryn kissed his cheek. "Iím fine Tom. Iím safe now."

"I know. I just wish my subconscious did." He ran his hands through his hair. "Gods! Youíre the one who should be having nightmares. Not me. You were the one in that hellhole. Iím sorry."

"Itís all right. Maybe I shouldnít have told you so much about the prison. I wish I could make you believe that it wasnít that bad."

Tom pulled away from her so that he could stare at her in disbelief. "They locked you in a little box, Kath. They treated you no better than an animal. If I could get my hands on them."

"Tom - please. Most of the time it really wasnít that bad. I enjoyed working out in the fields and I made quite a few good friends."

Tom shook his head stubbornly. "Donít try to gloss over it Kath. It wonít work with me."

Kathryn sighed heavily. "We both went through a bad time, but itís over now. Iím not trying to gloss over it. Iíve told you all of it, havenít I? What about you? You havenít told me much about what happened here. Only the bit concerning Kes."

"Thereís not much to tell. You know how well I handled everything," he added bitterly. "Just ask anybody on the ship."

"I want you to tell me."

Tom took a deep breath. "I was crazy with grief. What more can I say? I didnít eat and I couldnít sleep. I didnít look too good apparently. Then after I got your letter, I gave up. I said goodbye and accepted that I wouldnít see you again. I still couldnít eat, but all I did was sleep." He swallowed painfully. "Listen Kath, I really donít want to talk about this now."

"Chakotay told me that you were racked with guilt. That was my fault."

Tom shook his head. "Iíve always been pretty good at doing the whole guilt thing. Chakotay helped me to come to terms with that. He also helped me realize that that was why you did it. Why you risked yourself like that. Your guilt. Itís even stronger than mine, at times."

Kathryn smiled slightly. "We make a good pair. Tom, I want to make something perfectly clear to you. I do want you and your father to patch things up, but that isnít what drives me to get us home. I would have gone to the Taman conference anyway. My guilt makes me push too hard. Take some stupid risks."

Tom nodded. "I know that - now. I guess I always knew it. I was just so busy doing the whole guilt trip thing. Why should I let common sense, stop me?"

Kathryn took his hand in hers. "I am so sorry for what I said. I was mad at you and wanted to hurt you too, I suppose. It was a despicable thing to do."

"You had every right to be mad at me. I broke my promise to you, and let my feelings get in the way of our duty. I can understand why youíd think about breaking up our relationship."

"Tom, I would never have done that. I couldnít. I love you far too much. Besides, I was acting irresponsibly. I wasnít really thinking very clearly."

Tom smiled. "How about, if I promise to keep personal and professional separate, and you promise to not take so many risks and think things through a little more."

Kathryn laughed outright. "Thatís good coming from you."

Tom laughed also. "Maybe we should both promise that." He pulled her to him and kissed her soundly. "I love you very much, Kathryn Janeway. Have I told you that lately?"

Kathryn laughed once more. "Once or twice," she answered. Pulling away, she searched his face. "Chakotay told me that you will still need to be counseled."

Tom looked down. "Yeah. I have a lot of unresolved things to sort out. He helps me put things in perspective. Does it bother you?"

"Only in the sense that I hate to think of you in such turmoil. Iím just glad that youíre finally getting some help. I want you to be well, and that means emotionally too."

Tom looked up at her and smiled. "I know Iíve still got a lot of work to do and some of itís going to be pretty hard, but Iím willing to do it."

"Iím glad." She smiled as he yawned widely. "You need some sleep. Lay back down and try to relax. You have to be on duty in a few hours. Lay on your stomach and Iíll give you one of my famous back massages."

Tom did as she said and groaned as her hands kneaded and pushed at his shoulders and then followed down his spine. "That feels so good," he moaned. "Donít stop."

"Your wish is my command."

Tom groaned again and quickly rolled over, pulling her on top of him. Kathryn chuckled. "Youíre supposed to be going back to sleep."

"I know what will really help me sleep," he said softly, nipping her neck.

Kathrynís chuckles increased. "You are incorrigible."

"How about insatiable?"


"What about irresistible?"

"Definitely irresistible."

Tom licked his lips in anticipation. Kathryn would be here any minute. He gazed around the holodeck one last time to make certain that everything was perfect. He smiled in satisfaction as he looked at the candle lit table in the middle of the room and patted his pocket to ensure that the small box was there. He was wearing a formal tuxedo and fingered his collar nervously.

It was exactly one year since they had gone on their first date. Kathryn had been back on the bridge for two weeks now. She had settled back into the Captainís role as if sheíd never been gone. Life had never been so good. He patted his pocket again as Kathryn entered the holodeck.

"Tom this looks lovely," she greeted him.

He took in her long, close fitting, black sequined gown. "So do you," he said.

"Thank you. You donít look too bad yourself. This is just so romantic."

Tom smiled and pulled out her chair for her. "This is a special occasion."

Kathryn nodded. "One year. Itís hard to believe, that a whole year has gone by." She frowned slightly. "I hate to think that we werenít together for five whole months of that time."

Tom nodded. "Me too."

A waiter appeared out of nowhere and poured champagne into their glasses.

"A toast. To us," Tom said lifting up his glass.

Kathryn lifted up hers also. "To us," she repeated.

Tomís heart was beating furiously in his chest. He didnít think he could wait till after theyíd eaten. "Kath, I know youíve only been back for a month, but if thereís one thing that these past months have shown me, itís that lifeís too short out here. Anything could happen, and I donít want to wait any longer. We belong together and I want that more than anything."

"I want that too Tom."

Tom smiled and stood up from the table. Going around to her side of the table, he knelt on one knee in front of her. Swallowing nervously he took out the box from his pocket. "Kath, please donít say that this is too soon. I know youíre the one for me. Iíll never feel about anyone the way I feel about you. I love you so much." He took a deep breath. "Kathryn, will you do me the great honor of being my wife?" he asked softly.

She gasped as he opened the box to reveal an exquisite diamond ring. "Oh Tom," she breathed. "I - I - Yes. Oh yes." She threw herself into his arms.

Tom was knocked off balance and went flying backwards, taking Kathryn with him. She lay on top of him laughing helplessly into his chest. "Sorry about that," she managed to gasp out.

Tom moaned. "I think I did my back in."

Kathryn snorted with laughter as she rolled off of him and attempted to stand up. Her heel caught on the hem of her dress and there was the unmistakable sound of fabric ripping as she went sprawling down to the floor again - to land on Tom once again.

"Hummpph!" Tom grunted as the breath was knocked out of him.

"Oh Tom. Iím so sorry," Kathryn said between snorts of laughter. "Are you all right?"

"No," he finally managed to say.



"Maybe I should call the Doctor?"

"Maybe you should."



"Oh God!" She sobered immediately. "Where does it hurt?"

"Everywhere," Tom groaned. "But especially, um, yes definitely - here." He pointed to the pulse point on his neck.


Tom nodded.



"How can I help?"

"It needs a lip massage."



"Well, of course, you are the medical assistant around here. If you insist."

"I do."

"Mmmn! Say that again."

"I do?"

"Practice, Thomas Eugene - practice."

"I do."

"Hmmn! That sounded much better."



The End.

This ends my 'memories' series. Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think.