Standard Disclaimer: Tom, Katherine and the rest of the crew, belong to Paramount. (Except of course for the ones I made up myself.) No copyright infringement is intentional. This story is for fun only - no profit will be made.

Part Two

Tom slipped quietly into his seat behind the helm. He tried to concentrate on his readouts but he couldnít help mulling over what Harry had said. Harry was wrong. He just didnít understand. Hopefully, over time he would.

He sighed as he remembered the Commanderís greeting to him that morning. It had been less than friendly. Frosty was more like it. He made a few slight course adjustments and settled back into his seat.

He looked up when a hand came down on his shoulder. "May I ask why youíve decided to change course? Without any consultation I might add." Chakotay glared down at him.

"Thereís some space debris ahead. Nothing too much, but I thought it would make a smoother ride if we avoided it." Tom was surprised. Heíd been left pretty much on his own to fly the ship over the last few years. Only in the first year had he had to report every little course deviation. "Why? Is something wrong?"

"I see. And you just decided this, did you? You didnít think that we might like to be informed?"

Tomís eyed narrowed slightly. "As a matter of fact, no I didnít. They were very small course adjustments."

"Yes, but you made three of them. Put together theyíre a little more significant."

"Commander, I do this all the time." Tom wasnít quite sure what he had done wrong.

Chakotay continued to glare at him. "Next time, let us know." He lowered his voice. "Donít get above your station Ensign," he said softly. So softly that no one else on the bridge could hear.

Tom flushed angrily. "I wasnít aware I was - Sir," he said just as softly. "Youíve trusted me to do this for the past four years. Whatís changed?"

"I donít think I like your attitude, Ensign."

Tomís flush, crept around to the back of his neck. "Iím sorry Sir, but itís the only one Iíve got."

"Donít get smart, Paris."

"Is everything all right?" Janeway asked stepping down beside them.

"Yes Captain," Tom said quickly. "The Commander and I are just discussing some minor course adjustments."

The Captain looked at him for a moment, before nodding. "Commander, Iíll be in my ready room catching up on some paperwork. You have the bridge."

Tom sighed as he heard Chakotay go and sit back down. It had taken many years for him to gain the admiration and trust of the Commander and now it seemed as if he was right back at the beginning again.

Chakotay picked him up on a number of things not done quite right as the morning progressed. By lunchtime, Tom was feeling worn out. Heíd managed to keep his temper - just, and answer the Commander quietly and respectfully at all times.

As he headed for the turbolift, to get a quick bite to eat, the Captain came out of her ready room. "Is it lunchtime already? I think Iíll join you Tom," she said casually and stepped into the lift beside him. Chakotay threw them a mocking look.

As soon as the doors closed Tom sank back against the far wall.

Janeway turned to him sympathetically. "He was giving you a hard time, wasnít he?"

Tom shrugged. "It wasnít that bad. Iíll live."

She frowned at him. "He promised me at breakfast that heíd leave us alone. He apologized for last night and seemed sincere."

Tom ran his hand tiredly through his hair. "He probably was. I just bring out the worst in him."

"But everythingís been so good between you the last couple of years. I think Iíd better have another little talk with him. I donít want him picking on you."

Tom frowned at her. "Donít do that. Itíll just make matters worse. What did you tell Chakotay last night? Youíre a big girl now and donít need a protector? Well that goes for me too." He looked down at himself. "Well at least about the protector bit."

Janeway smiled at him, but then sobered. "Iíd speak to him if I thought he was treating any of the crew unfairly. Not just you."

Tom nodded as they headed for the mess hall. "I know you would. But give it time. Heíll come round. Iíve handled a lot worse than him, let me tell you. I can understand why he thinks Iím taking advantage of you. Hell, even Harry does."

"Harry?" She stopped mid-stride and Tom came to a halt next to her. "I could see you were having a fairly intense conversation this morning at breakfast, but youíre his best friend. Surely he knows you better than that?"

"He says Iíve confused my feelings for you. That Iíve mistaken the respect and admiration I have for you with love, because of all Iíve been through the last few weeks. He thinks Iíve talked myself into it and youíre still mixed up with the implanted memories. I tried to tell him he was wrong, but he wouldnít listen."

"We expected some opposition. Do you think you can handle it? I think this is only the beginning."

Tom nodded. "I told you before Kath, as long as Iíve got you, nothing else matters."

"Well, youíve certainly got me Ensign," she said smiling up at him.

He smiled back down at her, just as Ensigns Potts and Turner came around the corner. "Captain. Tom," they greeted, giving them a curious glance before heading into the mess hall. Tom gave a small laugh. "I can already see the wheels turning there. Youíd better prepare yourself. Weíre about to be gossiped about."

"Well letís get in there and see if we can hear any of it," Janeway laughed. "I havenít heard any good gossip for weeks." Tom laughed as well. Kath had the right idea. Make light of the whole thing, that way it wouldnít get either of them down.

And sure enough, as they ate their lunch, they could feel more and more eyes on them. There was quite a bit of whispering going on too. By dinnertime that night, there was speculation all around the ship.

Neelix made his way over to the table where most of the late lunch crew had gravitated. As Morale Officer, he told himself, it was his duty to keep abreast of the latest gossip. And he was quite sure that that was what was happening at the far table. There had been quiet whisperings going on for quite a while and as soon as the Captain had left the room the voices had grown louder and more and more people had become involved.

"Youíre crazy," he heard Ensign Hamilton say as he approached. "The Captain and Tom have always been close. Thereís nothing romantic about it though. All that talk a few weeks ago about them wasnít true."

"I know what I saw," Ensign Potts said with a toss of her hair. "I am absolutely positive there is something going on between them."

Neelix felt a little surprised. Hadnít all that ridiculous talk been cleared up weeks ago? What had started this latest round?

"But the Captain doesnít get involved with anyone. Itís against Starfleet protocols or something," someone objected.

"Weíre stuck in the Delta Quadrant. Things are different out here," Turner argued. "We both saw them. Theyíve been together a lot lately too."

Neelix gave a little start. Saw them? Tom and the Captain? He stood and stared at the group of crewmen, not even pretending to wipe down the table behind them.

"Do you think thatís why BíElanna broke up with him? Something did happen when the Captain and he were prisoners of the Mostreterians? A lot of people thought so a few weeks ago," Crewman Hicks asked.

"I donít know. Tom and BíElanna are awfully friendly. She would have killed him if heíd cheated on her," Hamilton said. "Anyway, they tortured Tom - remember. The Captain was worried about him. He didnít look too good there for a few weeks. We all were worried."

Neelix listened as the crew speculated about what was going on - if anything - between two of his favorite people. He felt a little upset. The crew was jumping to conclusions. Heíd noticed himself that the Captain and Tom were eating a lot of their meals together, which was a little unusual, and there was a lot of laughter at their table. That didnít mean anything.

Tom had always gotten on very well with the Captain. He got along well with most people, once they got to know him. He had always been able to make her laugh. The Captain often sat with the senior officers in the mess hall these days. All right, usually there was a group of them or otherwise it was Tuvok or Chakotay she sat with alone, but she did sit with the others sometimes too.

He was sure that there was nothing going on here. The crew was just running out of things to gossip about. BíElanna wouldnít appreciate hearing this though. He decided heíd better stop this. "Excuse me everyone, I couldnít help overhearing what you were discussing and I have to tell you that you are all very much mistaken." As all eyes turned to him, he launched into all the reasons why none of what they were thinking could possibly be true.

By the time everyone had left the mess hall to go back on duty, Neelix was reasonably sure that heíd been able to nip this latest gossip in the bud. All afternoon he thought about it though.

He had secretly thought for a number of years that Tom had a crush on the Captain. That wasnít surprising. She was a beautiful, intelligent, compassionate woman. He was sure a lot of the crew did. He even had a slight crush on her himself. But that was all it was.

The Captain would never get involved with one of her crew. Not that she didnít deserve some happiness. He had just always assumed that eventually she and Commander Chakotay would end up together. It was the only solution.

Of course, she cared about Tom. She cared about all of them. If it seemed that she cared about Tom a little more, Neelix was sure that that had something to do with his father. Plus there was something about Tom. Heíd hated him when heíd first met him. That was until heíd got to know him. He was a rather special person.

By the time the dinner rush had started, Neelix had even convinced himself. The Captain and Tom were friends; that was all. And the Captain was allowed to have friends, for Peteís sake. That was a saying heíd picked up from Tom. Neelix was still a little unsure as to who this Pete was, but the saying was appropriate.

BíElanna sniffed the strange concoction on her plate and looked back at Neelix. "It smells all right, itís just the color Neelix. Youíve got to stop using the food dye."

"But itís a wonderful invention. It brightens up everything. That casserole looked so boring until I added just a touch of orange to it."

"Are you sure it was just a touch? It looks like you poured the whole bottle in." She sighed as she patted his shoulder. "Brightly colored food is a little off putting Neelix. Iím sure Iím not the only one who feels likes this."

"Perhaps I did use a little too much dye. I wasnít concentrating properly at the time."

"Is everything all right?"

"Oh, why yes thank you." Her gave her a bright smile before turning to the next person in the line.

BíElanna looked around for a place to sit. As soon as she spotted Tom and Harry sitting at a table over by the window, she hurried over to join them. As she got closer her eyes narrowed. Tom looked upset and Harry looked angry.

"Hi!" she said plunking herself down next to Tom. "Whatís up?" They both looked a little startled at her abrupt appearance.

"Hi yourself," Tom answered with a smile. It didnít quite reach his eyes, however.

BíElanna looked across at Harry. Yep, he was definitely mad about something. "Whatís wrong?"

"Nothing," Tom answered. He gave Harry a look.

"Yeah - nothing," Harry repeated dully.

"Yeah - right," BíElanna said with a snort. "Are you two having a fight?"

"Of course not," they both said at once.

BíElanna turned around suddenly. She had the distinct impression that some one was watching her. Quite a few faces quickly turned away as she scanned the room. She turned back to her two silent companions. "Is it just my imagination, or are we being stared at?"

"No, weíre being stared at." Harry winced as Tom kicked him under the table. "Ow! Cut it out."

BíElanna turned to Tom. "Whatís going on? Is there something I should know about?"

"Tell her," Harry said through gritted teeth, as he leaned down and rubbed his throbbing shin. "Sheís going to find out anyway."

"Tell me what?" There was a definite edge to her voice now. The only reason she was able to remain calm at all was because of the miserable look on Tomís face.

"I was hoping that maybe we could go somewhere quiet after dinner and have a little talk. I need to tell you something. I wanted you to be one of the first to know, but everythingís really blown up in the last few hours. It seems to be all over the ship."

"What?" BíElanna looked at him in confusion. "What are you talking about? I donít think I can wait until after dinner. Youíd better tell me now."

Tom swallowed. "Iím seeing some one."

BíElanna stared at him. "I see. Is that why the crew is watching us? Theyíre waiting for me to explode in some sort of jealous rage? Well, theyíre in for a disappointment. Our break up was mutual Tom. I thought everyone understood that. I just want to see you happy. Is it serious?"

"Yes," Tom nodded. "I think so. Weíve been together for just over a week."

BíElanna took his hand in hers. "Iím glad. I mean it. Donít rush into anything though, okay?"

"Weíre taking things slow at the moment."

"Thatís good." She shook her head in disbelief. "I donít believe this crew. It will all blow over by tomorrow."

"I donít think so," Harry decided to butt in. "Tom hasnít told you everything."

Tom sighed. "Harryís right. You havenít asked whom Iím seeing. Itís the Captain."

"Oh? The Captain? I see," BíElanna said slowly. She turned to Harry. "I take it that all those stories from a few weeks ago have started again? About how something happened between them when they were captured and that they were carrying on behind my back?"

Harry nodded, his eyes glittering angrily. "There are some rather mean stories going around about the Captain too. That she took Tom away from you."

BíElanna sniffed angrily. "I donít like people gossiping about me. Especially if it makes me look like some sort of fool."

"Iím sorry BíElanna," Tom said miserably. "I never wanted you to be hurt by this. I wish I knew how to fix it all."

"Stop seeing her Tom," Harry said fiercely. "Thatís all it will take. People will think they were wrong about the two of you and that will be that."

"How can you ask me to do that Harry? Did you stop seeing Tahl when you were told to? My feelings for Kath are no different than yours were for Tahl."

Harry ran his hands through his hair in agitation. "Donít call her that! And my feelings for Tahl were entirely different. They were real. Yours are a fantasy. Make-believe."

"Harry!" BíElanna exclaimed, a little surprised at Harryís vehemence. "I donít why youíre so upset. If anyone should be upset around here - itís me."

"I just donít like some of the stuff being said about the Captain."

"Oh, but they can say whatever they like about me, I suppose?" Tom choked out.

"Thatís not what I meant. The Captain canít help what the Mostreterians did to her or how she feels now because of it. You just have to wake up to the fact that itís not real."

"But it is real Harry," Tomís voice was low and insistent. "Now back off Harry. I mean it."

"No. If your best friend canít tell you, who can?" Harry leaned forward and whispered fiercely. "I hate to think what Chakotay and the Doc will say when they find out. This is putting the Captainís recovery back."

"The Captain is fine. Sheís fully recovered. Jeez Harry, why wonít you listen to me?"

"Why wonít you listen to me? This is sick."

Tom flinched visibly and leaned forward also. "Harry, youíre my friend - but Iím warning you. Shut up - NOW!"

BíElanna grabbed hold of his arm. "Come on. Letís get out of here. Weíll go back to my quarters and talk about this properly. We donít want to add any more fuel to the fire do we?"

The three of them stood up and marched out of the room as quickly as they could.

As Harry walked along beside Tom, he wondered if heíd pushed him a little too far. The pilot was deathly pale and shaky. BíElanna held onto his arm and guided him along the corridor. Harry felt worried. He knew that Tom had had a hard day at the helm. Chakotay had picked on him non-stop and now all this on top of it.

Harry decided to back off. He just wished that Tom could see things in their proper perspective. As they entered BíElannaís quarters she turned around to him frowning. "Harry, I donít know what the matter is with you, but Iím warning you - thatís enough."

He held up his hands. "Donít worry, Iíve said all I have to say. Iím sorry if Iíve upset you Tom, but---"

Tom turned on him angrily. "But nothing. This is none of your business Harry. I owe BíElanna an explanation, but I owe you nothing. I told you because I was hoping that you would be happy for me. Obviously, youíre not."

Harryís heart sank. He had been right to worry if heíd pushed Tom too far. Tom never lost his temper with him, but he certainly had now. And BíElanna was frowning at him as well. She was still very protective of Tom, even though they were no longer together. That was rather funny really, considering the circumstances. He didnít feel like laughing though.

"Of course I want you to be happy, Tom. Iím just so worried that youíre going to be hurt. The Captain too."

"Hopefully thatís not going to happen. Weíre willing to take the chance though." Tom sank down on the sofa and BíElanna sat next to him. "Are you mad at me too? You have every right to be. Iíve jumped into a relationship with the Captain only weeks after breaking up with you and assuring you that there was nothing between us. At the time there wasnít. I hope you believe me."

BíElanna nodded and patted his arm. "I do. Iím not mad either. Not even surprised really. Iíve always known that there was something special between you. I just didnít want to acknowledge what it was though. You never even realized it yourself."

Harry looked at her in surprise. "Youíre not angry?"

She smiled up at him. "I guess I got over my anger weeks ago. Plus, um, I think I should tell you. Iím seeing some one else too."

"You are?" Harry was amazed. No wonder BíElanna was so understanding. "Are you serious? Who is it?"

BíElanna flushed a little. "Itís Chan Mangrove from Security. Itís not serious or anything yet, thatís why I havenít said anything, but it could be."

Tom smiled. "Mangrove is a nice guy." He gave her a hug. "I hope things work out."

"Thanks Tom. I hope they do for you too. Only, you promised me you wouldnít rush into anything - remember? I know you said that you were taking things slowly, promise me you will continue to do so. I canít help feeling a little concerned about it all, the same as Harry. I truly hope that the Captainís feelings are genuine and not still from the implant."

"They are BíElanna. They are. But I promise anyway."

"Then I wish you both happiness. Iíll tell the Captain so too."

Harry frowned darkly as Tom thanked her. This wasnít the way it was supposed to go. BíElanna was supposed to help him make Tom see how wrong a relationship with the Captain was. Tom stood up again and came over to him, a serious expression in his eyes.

"Har? It means a lot to me that you care so much. Youíre a good friend."

Harry shook his head. "Then listen to me."

BíElanna stood up in exasperation. "Harry, what is your problem? If I can wish Tom all the best, why the hell canít you?"

"Because itís wrong. The Captain shouldnít be going out with Tom. Sheís special."

"I know sheís special Harry, thatís why I love her so much."

"Enough!" Harry yelled. "How would you like it if I suddenly started going out with your mother? How would that make you feel?"

Tomís mouth opened wide but no sound came out. He was left completely speechless. BíElanna grabbed hold of Harry, and swinging him around to look at her, yelled. "What are you talking about Starfleet? Are you crazy?"

Harry pushed himself away from her. "Thatís the way I feel about her," he said quietly.

"You look upon the Captain as a mother figure?" BíElanna asked.

Harry nodded. "I thought you felt about her the same way that I did, Tom."

"Harry," Tom said quietly. "Katherine is not old enough to be my mother. Hell, unless she had you when she was very, very young; sheís not even old enough to be yours. Besides the fact that sheís not your mother."

"Oh Harry!" BíElanna added. "Youíre a grown man. Surely you realize that the Captain deserves a life and some happiness."

"Of course I do," Harry agreed vigorously. "Itís not the age thing. Itís just that itís you, Tom. It feels weird that she would be going out with my best friend."

"You are crazy," BíElanna said dryly. "What are you saying? That youíd be happy for her if she was going out with anybody but Tom?"

"I donít know. Maybe." Harry flinched as Tom stepped towards him, his eyes blazing.

"You think that Iím using her. Taking advantage of the situation to feather my own nest."

"No Tom. I didnít say that."

"Thatís what you meant this morning when you said, ĎTom; how could you? Sheís still getting over those implanted memoriesí. Do you really believe that I would do something like that? Or is it just that you donít want your darling mother figure to be with some one as immoral and unscrupulous as me. After all, I am an ex-con. Prison scum. Go ahead and tell me what you really think of me after all these years."

"Tom, youíre my best friend," Harry protested.

"Yeah, just so long as I donít try to get above my station."


But Tom was heading towards the door. He turned back to look at BíElanna. "Iím sorry, but Iíve got to go." The doors slid shut behind him.

Harry turned to look at BíElanna, with a stupefied look on his face. "I donít think any of that. Where did all that come from anyway?"

BíElanna ran her hands through her hair. "I donít know. But I intend to find out."

End Part Two