Disclaimer: Voyager and its crew belong to Paramount. Iím only borrowing them for a while and will return them to their regularly scheduled program later. No profit will be made, as this is just for fun.
Captain Katherine Janeway strode down the corridor towards sickbay. She hummed as she marched, slightly off-key to be sure, but it was such a good day today, she couldnít help herself. Not only had they found an M-class planet rich in all the requirements they needed, they had made contact with the local inhabitants who were even more technically advanced than they were. The people seemed warm and friendly and were more than willing to trade.
Captain Janeway couldnít keep the smile off of her face as she thought of the planet they would soon be on. Chakotay had given her the shore leave rosters first thing this morning and she was looking forward to seeing the crew enjoy themselves. It had been less than two weeks since their last shore leave, but that day had turned into a disaster and the days following had been harrowing and sleepless for most of the crew.
The smile slipped from her face as she thought about the last two weeks. Theyíd almost lost Tom and his recovery was slow and painful. According to the Doctor he was a Ďdifficultí patient and had been particularly trying the last couple of days. Janeway smiled to herself. When wasnít Tom difficult? Heíd always been a moody, impatient invalid; she could remember that from the numerous other occasions heíd had to be in sickbay.
Sheíd visited him each morning and heíd seemed fine to her. Obviously he was on his best behavior around her though. Her smile widened. She didnít know who she felt the most sorry for, Tom or the Doctor. The Doctor - definitely the Doctor she decided, shaking her head.
Janeway hurried her pace a little. She was running late in her visit this morning, having been held up with the shore leave rosters. That reminded her of the planet again and her smile widened even more. A passing crewman was quite dazzled as he mumbled a ĎGood Morningí to her. She thought sheíd make this a short visit with Tom before hurrying to the mess hall for a quick breakfast. She was absolutely starving for some reason. Her stomach was even grumbling. The fact that she hadnít eaten anything the night before, due to how busy sheíd been, completely escaped her.
Just as she reached the sickbay doors, they opened and Neelix came stumbling out. He was a comical sight in his colorful clothing and big chefs apron at the best of times but today he looked absolutely startling. He was wearing a bowl on the top of his head, which was oozing some sort of sticky mess resembling porridge - only green in color, and it was dripping all over his face. His apron was covered in a pink, slimy substance, that Janeway knew from past experience was Pandolvian scrambled eggs.
"Neelix! What on----"
"Captain! Oh! Oh! Good morning."
Janeway looked at her Chef/Morale Officer in horror. "What happened?"
"Oh this?" Neelix asked, rather stupidly pointing to his head. "It was nothing Captain. Just a slight misunderstanding." He wiped his face with a corner of his apron.
"A slight misunderstanding?" The Captain repeated incredulously, crossing her arms over her chest and staring Neelix in the eye dangerously. "I know the Doctor can be a little testy at times. Especially with you taking food into sickbay, but I will not allow this. Heís gone too far this time, no matter what the provocation."
She had started to march purposefully into the sickbay when Neelix grabbed her arm. "Iím sorry Captain," he blustered in embarrassment. "The Doctor didnít do this to me. At least, he did kick me out of sickbay and told me never to come back unless I was dying, and even then heíd have to think about treating me. Which, when you think about it Captain isnít very---"
Janeway interrupted. "Well, who did then?"
Neelix blushed. "Iím afraid I upset Tom. I certainly didnít mean to. If Iíd only known, I wouldnít have said anything. Thatís why it is so important that I, as the ships morale officer, be kept fully informed."
"Do you mean to tell me that Tom threw his breakfast all over you?"
Neelix nodded and looked down at the floor. Janeway followed his eyes down, noting his pants legs were wet - some sort of juice - until they reached the floor, where a rather messy puddle was forming. "Why?" she asked, looking back up at him.
"Well, apparently Tom has been rather temperamental lately and is throwing a lot of---"
"No. I meant why did you upset him? What did you do?"
"Oh! Well I brought him this special breakfast to cheer him up, as Iíd heard he was in need of my services. His morale is very low, I understand."
"Why wasnít I told this? I see him every day, and other than being impatient to be well again and giving the Doctor a hard time, he seemed fine. I should have been informed if his emotional well being was in danger."
"Oh, well Iím sure I donít know why the Doctor didnít tell you. I wasnít told either though Captain, it was lucky I heard about it in the mess hall last night."
The Captains eyes narrowed. "You were listening to gossip? You know what this ship is like Neelix, never believe anything unless you see or hear it yourself."
"Oh no, Captain. It wasnít gossip." The little Talaxian was highly offended. "I donít have anything to do with gossip. I happened to be in the mess hall with Commander Chakotay when BíElanna came in."
"And they were discussing Tomís emotional state?"
"Yes," Neelix agreed, but then hesitated. "Well, I wouldnít really have called it discussing. BíElanna was mainly yelling and the Commander was trying to calm her down. From what I could gather, the Commander was supposed to give Tom a little pep talk to try and cheer him up and get him to behave himself a little better, but instead the Commander made things worse and Tom was terribly upset."
"I see. I canít believe the Doctor didnít tell me about this."
"Perhaps he was going to when you were here this morning. Iím not sure how bad Tom was yesterday, but heís certainly not good this morning." Neelixís face was creased with worry. "All I did was mention that I thought he might like something to cheer him up after hearing the Commander and BíElanna talking about him, and he became enraged and flipped the tray up. Thatís not like him at all."
Janeway patted his arm soothingly. "I know you were only trying to help. Leave it with me Neelix; I need to find out exactly whatís going on here. Youíd better go and clean yourself up and get someone from maintenance to clean up the corridor. We donít want anyone to step in this mess."
"Of course Captain," Neelix told her as she stepped gingerly into the sickbay.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
The Doctor looked over as he heard the doors open. If that fool, Neelix, thinks he can come back in here and probably cause even more trouble, heís sadly mistaken, he thought fiercely. However, it was the Captain who entered the room. Heíd been expecting her earlier. She usually visited first thing in the morning, and - for her - this was late.
"Captain," he said. "I thought you might not be coming this morning." He turned his attention back to the bathroom door. "Mr. Paris, please come out. You have a visitor."
"I was held up. Commander Chakotay and I were going over some rosters," the Captain said from behind him. "I take it Tomís in the bathroom?"
The Doctor nodded and knocked lightly on the door. "Mr. Paris, can you hear me?"
"Can you tell me whatís going on here? I just ran into Neelix, and quite frankly Doctor----"
"Mr. Neelix is an imbecile." The Doctor stated flatly. He knocked on the bathroom door again. "MR. PARIS. OPEN THIS DOOR."
"DOCTOR! I want you to explain to me, just why you deemed it unnecessary to inform me---"
"Not now Captain. MR. PARIS! YOU WILL COME OUT ON THE COUNT OF THREE."
"DOCTOR!" Janewayís voice was sharper than the deadliest Batíleth.
The Doctor ignored her. "ONE - TWO - "
"Go away." A muffled voice came from the bathroom.
"COME OUT - NOW!" the Doctor shouted.
"No," the muffled voice answered.
Janeway looked at the bathroom door and then back at the EMH. "Doctor," she asked quietly. "Whatís going on here?"
The EMH glanced at her in exasperation. "Isnít it obvious Captain? We have a - situation. Mr. Paris has locked himself in the bathroom."
"I see. Well canít you override the lock?"
"Oh my! Now why didnít I think of that?" the Doctor asked sarcastically.
The Captain gave him The Look. "Let me try. Computer, open these doors. Authorization - Janeway, Omega, Zero, Three, Two, Five."
ĎAuthorization invalid. Access denied,í the computer chirped.
ĎA security override is in place.í
"See?" the Doctor said smugly. "I tried all that, before you came in."
"Tom?" Janeway called through the door. "Itís me. Whatís going on here? Come out, so that we can talk."
"I just want some privacy, Captain." Tomís muffled voice came through the door.
"Privacy and Sickbay do not go together Mr. Paris," the EMH called out.
The Captain repeated The Look. "Doctor - Please!" She turned back to the door. "Tom, I want you to come out of there right now, do you hear me?"
"Captain," Tomís voice whined.
"Right now! Thatís an order Mister!"
A small thump from behind the door was her only answer. The Doctor became anxious. "I donít like the sound of that. We have to get him out of there. Should I call security?"
The Captain nodded. "Get Tuvok down here, while I try and talk him out. Tom?" she said softly through the door. "Tom, please open the door." There was no answer. No movement could be heard at all.
"Tom, answer me. The Doctor and I are very worried." There was nothing but silence.
The Captain turned back to the EMH. "How did he get in there? I didnít think he could walk that far, yet."
The Doctor sighed. "I left the crutch next to his bed, and he managed to hobble in there while I was still in the process of throwing Mr. Neelix out."
The Captain ran her hands through her hair in agitation. "Why has he locked himself in there? I donít understand."
"Mr. Neelix," the Doctor pronounced the little Talaxianís name as if was some sort of fungi infection, "should be locked up where he can do no more harm."
"Neelix told me that all he said was something about Chakotay and BíElanna discussing Tom, when he----"
"Humph! That might have been what he was saying at the time that Mr. Paris decided to use him as a mixing bowl, but I believe that Mr. Paris was reacting to what Mr. Neelix told him before that."
"Oh? Neelix didnít tell me that."
The Doctor sniffed. "Of course not. Apparently, there is a rumor going around the ship that Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Kim are having a wild passionate Ďflingí behind Mr. Parisís back. And have been for some weeks."
"What a load of rubbish! Surely Neelix didnít believe that?"
"No, he said he knew it wasnít true but felt that Mr. Paris should be forewarned. He also said he was concerned how quickly the rumor had spread and didnít want Mr. Paris to hear it from somebody else."
"I donít believe this. Who starts these rumors anyway? Obviously people with too much time on their hands. How could Tom believe that?"
"Oh no, Captain. Iím quite sure that Mr. Paris didnít believe it, but he did become extremely upset that people were talking about them like that. Mr. Neelix received the brunt of his anger and quite frankly, Iím not surprised. I just wish he would come out of the bathroom now though."
Janeway agreed and banged on the door harder. "Tom! I mean it. Come out now." She turned back towards the Doctor. "You donít think heíd do something silly, do you?"
"Quite frankly, I donít know Captain. He has been behaving irrationally. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, I believe. I should have diagnosed it earlier, but I dismissed his behavior because of how annoying he usually is in here."
"Thatís perfectly understandable Doctor, but when you became concerned about the way he was acting, you should have told me."
"Youíre right Captain. But Mr. Paris values your opinion of him very highly, you know. Itís very important to him. He became very agitated when I threatened to tell you about his behavior, and since personnel problems are normally handled by Commander Chakotay, I thought it would be easier to try and handle the situation without you."
"I see. That normally is what would happen. Chakotay would handle it and then tell me."
"In this particular case that didnít work. I should have contacted you. Perhaps this situation could have been averted."
Janeway nodded and turned back towards the bathroom door. "Tom, I order you to come out right now." Silence. "Youíre disobeying a direct order Mister. Iím sure youíre aware of the penalties. The Doctor has called security."
The EMH rolled his eyes. "If he was going to obey orders heíd be out by now."
Tuvok arrived just then. "Captain, there appears to be a force field in place around the bathroom, as I am unable to transport inside."
"I think somethingís wrong," Janeway said worriedly. "Iím sure he would have come out by now if he could. Tuvok, I need you to override the lockout mechanism."
Tuvok nodded. "If youíll allow me?" He gently nudged Janeway out of the way. Studying the doorís control panel, he said. "Hmmn! It would seem that Mr. Paris has had some experience with locking mechanisms. It will take me a few minutes to open the door."
"Hurry," the Captain urged him impatiently. "Meanwhile Doctor, I think you had better bring me up to speed on everything Tomís been doing."
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Tuvok was the first to react when the door finally slid open to reveal Tom, lying face first on the bathroom floor, surrounded by a pool of blood. "Mr. Paris!" He rushed over and knelt down beside him. The Doctor, quickly grabbing a tricorder, joined him.
"What happened? Is he all right?" Janeway asked coming up behind them.
The Doctor ran the tricorder over Tom. "It appears to be just a concussion. Commander Tuvok help me get him back to bed so that I can do a more thorough examination."
They gently placed him back on the bed, and the Doctor continued his examination. "Hmmn! Itís just as I suspected," he diagnosed. "Luckily, Mr. Paris only has another head injury. Theyíre really rather commonplace with him."
"He will be all right wonít he?"
"Yes, Captain. Iím quite sure his head is made of wood, the abuse that he subjects it to. He should awaken shortly."
Tuvok strode swiftly back into the bathroom and looked around. He emerged shortly afterwards. "I would surmise that Mr. Paris slipped as he was standing up and hit his head on the side of the bathtub. I believe he otherwise would have obeyed your orders, Captain."
"Well, thatís good to know," Janeway said, a slight smile on her face. "You can go now Tuvok. Iíll wait for Tom to wake up. Itís time for he and I to have a little talk."
"Of course Captain," Tuvok acknowledged. He quietly left the room as Tom began to groan softly, regaining consciousness.
"Mr. Paris, lay still for a moment." The Doctor injected a hypo spray into Tomís neck and then began to run a dermal regenerator over the cut on his forehead. "Whatís the last thing you remember?"
Tom grimaced and attempted to sit up. "I was trying to stand up, to unlock the door, and - and - the crutch slipped. Thatís right. I remember trying to grab something, but---- " his voice trailed off.
"Well, luckily for you, you landed on your head. Any other part of your anatomy and I might have been worried."
"Thanks Doc, youíre all heart."
"Tom," Janeway leaned towards him. "Do you want to tell me what was going on in the bathroom in the first place? Why you had a security override on the door and set up some sort of force field?"
Tom flushed with embarrassment. "I just needed to be by myself for awhile," he mumbled.
"The Doctorís told me whatís been happening in here, the way youíve been acting. I think we need to talk about it."
Tom turned crimson and put his head down. "Iím sorry," he said miserably.
"I know the Doctor can be a little irritating at times and downright annoying at others, but---"
"Excuse me Captain, but I am standing right here you know."
"Please donít interrupt me Doctor."
"Well, pardon me, Iím sure." The Doctor was at his most sarcastic. Tom shot him a rather startled look, amusement in the corners of his eyes, before bending his head down once more.
"As I was saying, although you may feel justified in your accusations against the Doctor, your behavior has been unacceptable. You canít throw a temper tantrum every time things donít go your way."
"I havenít," Tom sulked.
"Thatís not what the Doctor tells me."
Tom glanced up at that. "Did the Doctor tell you what heís been doing to me?"
"Mr. Paris, if you feel you have been unfairly treated, I can assure you----"
"Doctor, I asked you not to interrupt. If youíre finding that too difficult, perhaps you should leave us alone for a minute," the Captain scolded briskly.
"My apologies," the EMH said, stiffly.
Janeway turned back to Tom. "Now apart from the Doctor, you have had arguments with BíElanna, Harry, Tuvok, Chakotay and now poor Neelix. This really has to stop."
"Iím sorry Captain. I really didnít mean to do that. I donít mean to argue with anyone - it just happens."
"I know how difficult this is for you, Tom. I can only imagine what youíre going through, but you have to let us try and help you. Keep calm and follow the Doctorís orders, you never know, it may even help speed up your rehabilitation." Janeway smiled down at him and patted his arm.
"Iíll try Captain. I donít know why Iím acting this way," Tom said in a choked voice. Blinking back tears, he lowered his head once again.
"Tom, the Doctor may have the answer to that. Doctor, would you care to explain?"
"Me? Oh, you mean I can speak now?"
"DOCTOR!" Janeway warned.
The Doctor turned his attention to Tom. "Mr. Paris," the EMH told him gently. "I think you should know, that I suspect you have a condition that is causing your behavior to be so out of control. I need to run a few more tests to be sure of course, but I suspect that you have been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome."
Tom looked up in surprise. "I havenít suffered any trauma Doc. Other than falling off a cliff of course. But I wasnít tortured or anything."
"Your body has suffered a great deal of trauma and sometimes this can be the trigger. People can suffer from depression after a serious injury, especially if they have a slow and painful recovery in front of them."
"Iím not depressed," Tom quickly argued. "And I do know about this condition, but it used to happen centuries ago, before all the advancements in medicine. It only happened to a very small percentage of people even then."
"That doesnít mean it canít happen now. It does still occur. The treatment is relatively simple these days."
"Well - maybe. But I wouldnít have it. I know Iím only going to be like this for a few weeks. Itís not permanent or anything. Iím not looking at months of rehabilitation. Besides Iím improving every day. Iím sorry Doc, but youíre wrong."
"A great deal happened to you, down on that planet. You had no control over these things and that has left you feeling frustrated and helpless. These feelings are manifesting themselves as-----"
"DOC! Donít analyze me, okay? Iím fine."
"You are not fine Mr. Paris. You are not sleeping, you are argumentative - to the point of obstructing your own recovery - and you are not eating."
"I ate breakfast yesterday," Tom interrupted indignantly.
"That was over twenty four hours ago." The Doctor gave a long-suffering sigh. "Will you please stop arguing with me."
"Iím not arguing. Iím simply pointing out that youíre wrong. You can be wrong you know."
"Perhaps, but Iím not this time."
"Doc, Iíve been in worse situations than I was down on that planet and havenít freaked out afterwards, now have I?"
"Mr. Paris, you have a tendency to bottle things up."
"I do not!"
"Sooner or later that bottle will become full and start to overflow."
Tom snorted. "Iím used to handling whatever life throws at me."
"And most of the time you donít handle it very well. Need I remind you?"
"Losing your temper with me, just reinforces what I have been trying to tell you."
"Tom, please. Listen to the Doctor. I think heís right." Janeway told him.
"Yeah, and your medical degree is----" he broke off as he realized who he was speaking to. "Sorry Captain."
"I think that proves my point, Tom. Now I know you hate being in sickbay - most of the crew does, but I expect you to listen to the Doctor and do as youíre told. Thatís an order. No more of this nonsense, is that understood?"
"Yes Captain," Tom managed to choke out.
"We all care a great deal about you, you know. Iíll be back to check on you later in the day. Okay?" The Captain watched Tom as he nodded, not trusting himself to speak. "All right Doctor, Iíll leave him in your capable hands."
"Thank you Captain," the Doctor said gravely, looking at Tom closely. "Mr. Paris should be feeling a lot better within twenty four hours."
Janeway hesitated as she reached the sickbay doors. Turning around, she was slightly surprised and more than a little touched to see the Doctor holding Tom and patting his back soothingly, as the pilot sobbed quietly into the shoulder offered.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
"You should have seen Annabelle, Tom, she was as white as a sheet. She really thought that BíElanna was going to throw her out the airlock."
"Well, I wouldnít have blamed either of you if you had," Tom replied with a smile.
"Are you all right about it now Tom?" Harry asked, suddenly anxious. "I mean you know it wasnít true, it was just a misunderstanding."
"Of course," Tom answered quickly. "I know the two of you would never do that to me. I was just upset that people could think that you would."
"Well thatís how I felt too. BíElanna here though, thought the whole thing was hilarious. She couldnít stop laughing when she heard."
"Well the whole thing was too ridiculous for words. I still canít believe that anyone took it seriously," BíElanna defended herself. She started to chuckle again and Harry joined in, only to stop suddenly and begin to frown instead.
"Hey, I just realized. I think Iíve been insulted. Whatís so ridiculous about you and me being together anyway?"
BíElanna continued to chuckle. "It just is Harry."
Harryís frown deepened. "Why?"
BíElanna stopped chuckling. "Are you serious?"
"Very. There are plenty of girls on this ship that think Iím cute."
"Iím sure there are."
"But, youíre not one of them. Right?"
"I hadnít really thought about it."
"I donít know. I just havenít."
"And thatís my point. Lotís of girls would go out with me, if I asked them to, and be glad to, too."
"Of course they would."
"But, not you."
"Harry, exactly what are you trying to say here? You want us to go out? On a date?" BíElannaís voice rose incredulously. "Have you forgotten? Iím already seeing someone. Tom - your best friend. The one whoís sitting right here between us."
"I know that." Harry dismissed Tom with a wave of his hand. "Who said I wanted to go out on a date with you anyway? Thanks, but no thanks." BíElanna growled dangerously, but Harry continued. "Youíre not my type. All Iím trying to say is--"
"No Harry," BíElanna interrupted. "I donít think you know what youíre trying to say. But if you donít stop trying to say it Iím going to have to rearrange your mouth, so that it will fit into your ear. Got it?"
Strange gurgling noises coming from the bed, made them turn around quickly to look at Tom, who could control himself no longer. He burst into loud peals of laughter. "What?" they both asked.
"Gods! You two are better than watching a holovid," Tom finally managed to gasp out.
"You found that funny?" BíElanna was amazed. "Your best friend just hit on me. Right in front of you too."
"Hit on you? Are you crazy?" Harryís voice was full of horror.
"Not as crazy as you, it would seem."
"BíElanna! I did not hit on you."
"You said you wanted to go out - on a date - with me."
"I did not say that! I only said - well actually I canít remember what I said now - but I did not ask you out on a date."
Tom had to hold onto his sides. "Stop it," he gasped.
The Doctor came hurrying over. "Mr. Paris, are you all right?"
Tom nodded. "Iím fine thanks Doc. These two are helping to cheer me up."
"Well, donít overdo it. Youíve made remarkable progress the last twenty four hours."
Tom sobered. "All Iíve done is bawl my eyes out most of the time."
"You needed to. Thereís no need to feel embarrassed about it. You had to let out some of these feelings you keep on repressing. Donít you feel better today?"
Tom smiled. "I do actually. Itís a wonder though that I didnít short out some of your circuits - all that water you know."
"Oh very funny Mr. Paris. I see your rather dubious sense of humor is returning." The EMH turned his attention to BíElanna and Harry. "Letís not undo all the good work Iíve managed to achieve, shall we? Perhaps the two of you could keep the more hilarious jokes for another day or two?" he suggested.
Harry nodded, dumbly. "Iíll be in my office if you need me," the Doctor told them before hurrying off.
"You are better arenít you?" BíElanna asked Tom with concern. "You seem a lot brighter today."
"Yeah, the Doc thinks I should be fine in another day or so, and walking around normally in another week."
"Well thatís great," Harry told him, while BíElanna smiled in delight.
She picked up his hand and squeezed it lightly. "Are you up for more visitors? I think Chakotayís going to come and see you a bit later today."
"Gods! I hope not. I donít think Iím quite ready for him yet. Whatís he want to do? Shove the other boot in?"
"No, as a matter of fact he wants to apologize."
"Apologize? I donít believe it. Is the Captain making him?"
"Not that I know of. He just feels really bad about what happened the other night. He was trying reverse psychology on you apparently."
Tom snorted. "That wasnít reverse psychology. He was telling me what he really thinks of me. Hell, there were no surprises there."
"BíElannaís right," Harry assured him. "The Commander had some strange idea that if he made you really mad at him, youíd go out of your way to prove him wrong. Now, I donít know where he got that idea from."
Tom laughed. "Itís not like I havenít done it before."
"He wasnít to know that you were suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome," Harry continued. "He honestly did feel bad when he found out. Heís not such a bad guy, really. And you do know how to push his buttons."
"Yeah, well he does a bit of pushing himself."
"Weíre telling you this, so that when he does turn up you donít give him a hard time, okay?" BíElanna told him.
"Tom! Iím serious," BíElanna growled. "Itís hard for him to admit when heís wrong about something or somebody. He doesnít find it easy to apologize. So donít make the situation worse."
"So," Tom said, deciding to change the subject. "Tell me about the planet weíve been orbiting for the past few days. Regallia, I think the Captain called it. She seems to think fairly highly of it. Did either of you get to go down there yesterday?"
Harry nodded enthusiastically. "Itís really something else. The Regallians have got everything you could possibly want down there. The crew are having a great time. They love every minute of it. The people are just so friendly and go out of their way to help you."
BíElanna snorted at this. "I take it you donít agree?" Tom asked.
"Oh no. Harryís right. The planet is great and the people are extra friendly, but I donít like them. Thereís just something not quite right."
Harry sighed. "Youíre still upset over the first contact meeting. Theyíve apologized over and over again about that."
"What happened?" Tom asked in confusion.
"When the Regallian First Minister and their Ambassador Persher were introduced to BíElanna, there was a slight misunderstanding."
"Misunderstanding, my foot, Harry. The Ambassador took one look at me and asked me if I was defective."
"Defective?" Tom queried.
BíElanna nodded. "When the Captain asked him what he meant he asked what was wrong with my forehead."
"To which, Ms. Protocol here answered - ĎNothing, itís supposed to be like that. Whatís wrong with yours?í The poor minister couldnít stop apologizing."
Tom laughed. "Thatís my girl."
"Well, he was unbelievably rude. It doesnít matter how much he apologized afterwards, it doesnít change the fact."
"I donít suppose youíll be wanting to go down for some shore leave then?" Tom asked a slight smile on his face.
"No, I donít think Iíll bother. Iíd rather wait for you anyway. If I go down with Harry it might start the gossips again, and we canít have that."
Harry blushed. "I donít know how you can joke about it."
"Itís a shame you wonít be coming down there though," Tom said a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "The Captainís arranged for me to go down there the day after tomorrow, but the Doc wonít let me go without a companion." He sighed dramatically. "It looks like Iíll miss out, since I canít imagine going anywhere so beautiful without you BíElanna. Of course, I could always ask Seven."
BíElanna hit him on the arm. "Very funny. Iím over all that now. You canít make me jealous by using Seven anymore. But I think I should go down there with you anyway, just to stop you from getting into any more trouble."
"Oh, I donít want to put you out," Tom teased.
"No, Iím sure I can spare a few hours out of my busy schedule," BíElanna said airily.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Tom sat down with a sigh of relief. As impatient as he was to get out of sickbay, and down to this wonderful planet everyone kept talking about, he wanted to be careful not to overdo it. BíElanna and he had beamed down to a secluded area in a breath-taking garden, on the outskirts of Regalliaís main city, nearly three hours ago. They had been walking around; amazed at all they saw, ever since.
It seemed a little strange to him that none of the local inhabitants seemed to take advantage of these beautiful surroundings. The gardens were obviously well looked after, but other than meeting a few of their fellow crewmembers, they had been on their own.
Tom had felt a little disappointed, as he had been eager to meet the local people. Harry had told him that they were humanoid - breathtakingly beautiful - of all different skin colors and tones, and had slightly ridged foreheads - their ridges about half the size of BíElannaís. Harryís enthusiastic account of their friendly, welcoming natures had had him intrigued.
Tom leaned back on the bench and closed his eyes, while he waited for BíElanna to return. The sun was warm on his face, and he soon found he was getting drowsy.
"Mind if I join you?" a voice asked softly.
Tom sighed silently. "Chakotay, long time - no see. What are you doing here?"
"Same as you, I expect. These gardens are beautiful, arenít they?"
Tom nodded. "They sure are. Iím glad the Doc let me out to see them." Silence followed.
"She went to get us a drink. She should be back soon."
"Oh, right. Well - - Howís the leg holding up?"
"Fine. Weíve been taking it fairly slow."
"Thatís good." Silence again.
Tom shifted uncomfortably. "So - - Are you down here by yourself?"
"No. I came down with Ayalla, Saunders and Chell. Theyíre just over there."
Tom squinted in the distance. "Oh, right." The silence stretched. Tom cringed inwardly. Gods this was awful. "That sunís nice isnít it?" he finally said.
"Yes it is," Chakotay answered eagerly. "Feels wonderful on these old bones of mine," he chuckled.
Tom laughed - a little too long and a little too loudly. After all, the Commander hadnít said anything that funny. He felt himself flush with embarrassment. Is this what itís going to be like from now on? Chakotay going out of his way to talk to me? Stilted, uncomfortable conversations? If so, I donít think I can bear it.
The Commander had come and spoken to him at length, the morning before. Heíd apologized sincerely in his softly spoken way and explained what he had been trying to accomplish - that he hadnít meant any of the cruel things heíd said.
He had even offered his services as a counselor and told Tom he could talk to him anytime he wanted, not just about what had happened on the planet, but about anything he felt like - even his childhood. Now, why had he said that? What did he think he knew anyway? Tom had thanked him politely - knowing he would never take him up on the offer, and then to his everlasting shame, had promptly burst into tears.
Chakotay had looked alarmed - no more than he was, he was sure - and then had tried to comfort him until the Doctor hurried over. Tom had felt completely humiliated; he hadnít known he was going to do that - heíd been feeling so much happier the day before - and in front of Chakotay of all people.
The Doctor had simply held him until his sobs had abated and then explained that these sudden mood swings were quite normal and nothing to be concerned about. Tom had kept his head down and eyes fixed firmly on his blanket as the EMH and Chakotay talked, the Commander saying how relieved he was that he hadnít done anything to cause it.
Chakotay had then squeezed his shoulder, exactly the same as the Captain would have done, and asked him if he was all right now. Tom had nodded; too embarrassed to say anything, and the Commander, with one final pat on his arm, had left.
"So, I guess youíre looking forward to going back to your quarters when you get back on board," Chakotay was saying.
"Um, yeah. I sure am."
"The Doctor says it wonít be long till youíre back on duty."
"I hope so." Tom, never at a loss for words, couldnít think of anything to add to that.
Chakotay suddenly jumped up. "Ah, BíElanna." The relief was evident in his voice. "I was just keeping Tom company until you got back. Iíll leave you two alone now."
"Okay," BíElanna answered, clearly confused. She handed Tom a cup as the Commander hurried away. "What was that all about?"
Tom sighed heavily. "I think I preferred it when we argued."
"What do you mean?"
"Heís trying to be nice."
"Chakotay is nice - most of the time. Whatís wrong with that?"
"Nothing. Itís just - awkward and uncomfortable. Gods, you should have heard the conversation we just had. It was mainly one big silence while we each tried to think of something to say."
"That will pass. Give it time."
"I hope so. Every time I look at him, Iím so embarrassed."
"Why? He did come and apologize, didnít he? He told me everything was fine between you."
"Well then, whatís the problem? You didnít give him a hard time, when he came to see you, did you?"
"No, of course not." Tom felt himself flushing with shame. "It was nothing like that."
"Well thatís good."
Tom decided to change the subject. "Hey, have I told you how nice you look in that outfit?"
BíElanna was wearing a tight, wine colored jumpsuit that showed her every curve. She knew she looked good. Nodding she answered, "several times in fact."
"Well you do. Youíre lucky I didnít have a relapse or something. Iím sure my blood pressure went through the roof when I first saw you in the transporter room."
BíElanna laughed. "Flatterer. You donít look too bad yourself."
Tom was wearing navy, baggy pants and a light blue silk shirt. "I aim to please. Iím just glad to be out of those sickbay pajamas." He patted his stomach. "Are you hungry?"
"A little bit. Why? Are you ready for lunch?"
"Iím starving. Did they have anything to eat at the place you got this drink?"
"No, weíll have to leave the gardens for that. There are all sorts of caféís and things in the city. All we have to do is ask and someone will take us there."
"Okay, we will in a minute. Right now I feel too lazy to get up."
"Hmmn! Me too." BíElanna snuggled down into his arms.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Tom noticed two small boys coming towards them. They were both silver in color; with the most beautiful angelic faces he had ever seen. "Hey! I was starting to think the locals didnít use these gardens."
"They mainly donít," BíElanna told him. "They donít want to spoil the perfection of them, by coming inside. At least thatís what they said. Mostly visitors and the school children for their botany classes use them. Thatís why I said these people were a little weird."
Tom smiled. "Hello!" he called out to the two boys as they came nearer.
"Hello," they replied stopping in front of them. "Youíre more of the Voyagers arenít you?" one of them asked.
Tom nodded. "Thatís right. I take it youíve met some of us others?"
The small boy smiled. "Thereís four of you over there. We really liked the blue man. He was funny."
"Oh, you mean Chell. He is a funny man. Iím Tom and this is BíElanna."
"How do you do," the boy said formally. "My name is Nadim and this is my friend Atsim." He nudged his friend, who was staring open mouthed at BíElanna. "Donít be rude," he whispered loudly.
Atsim blushed. "Iím sorry. Itís just - youíre the lady we were told about arenít you?"
BíElanna flushed. "Depends on what you were told," she growled.
"That we werenít supposed to stare and be rude," Nadim said nudging his friend once again.
"They told us that those ridges on your forehead were normal for you. Is that true?" Atsim asked tentatively.
BíElanna nodded, obviously embarrassed. She hadnít had this much attention focused on her forehead since she was a child.
Nadim hit the other boy on the arm. "Youíre going to get into big trouble now. Youíve embarrassed her. Hasnít he?" he asked, studying BíElannaís face. "Youíve gone all red."
Atsim looked alarmed at this. "Please, Iím sorry. I didnít mean to."
BíElanna smiled at the small boy. "Itís all right. I wonít tell anybody, if you donít. That way you canít get into trouble."
"Thanks," Atsim gushed.
"I take it you havenít met many people from other worlds," Tom guessed.
The boys shook their heads. "People come here all the time, but they donít stay very long," Nadim told them. "Mostly they just trade and then leave."
"Thatís a shame. Theyíre really missing a lot," Tom said.
Nadim shrugged. "We mainly go to other planets instead. Thatís what Iím going to do when I grow up. Pilot a trading freighter."
"Really, you want to be a pilot?" Tom asked.
"Yes," Nadim nodded eagerly.
"Well it just so happens that Iím the main pilot on Voyager," Tom boasted, while BíElanna rolled her eyes.
"You are? Wow! Whatís it like?"
"Itís great actually. All that power under your fingertips. Itís even better when you fly the smaller craft. You feel like your one with it, and that youíre actually flying, yourself. Well, at least I do."
"I wish I could fly now," Nadim said wistfully.
"Is there anything we can do for you?" Atsim suddenly asked BíElanna. "To make up for embarrassing you before?"
"We were just going to go and get something to eat. How about if you tell us somewhere nice to go."
"Thereís lots of places in the city, but hey - Iíve got a great idea. Why donít you come back to my house? My mother is the best cook in the whole city."
"Oh no, we couldnít do that," BíElanna said quickly. "She wouldnít be expecting us."
"That doesnít matter. Sheís always cooking and people come in all the time."
"Atsim is right. His mother cooks the most delicious stuff, and thereís always a lot. Please say you will?"
"It doesnít feel right," BíElanna murmured. "Thank you for the offer, but----"
"Please," Atsim begged. "That way I wonít get into trouble for staring at you."
"Shouldnít you be in school or something?"
"That all right. The teachersí will understand. Theyíll say that this was more important."
"I donít know."
"Please. Weíll probably get extra credits for this. Atsim is failing in diplomatic sciences, and this will be a great help. His mother wonít mind, honest. She loves having people over, and for it to be two of the Voyagers, - well sheíll be thrilled."
Atsim nodded his head up and down. "Thatís right. Iím going to get into trouble if you donít come back with us, I just know I am."
"How far is it to your house?" BíElanna could feel herself relenting. She really didnít want the boy to get into trouble.
"Itís not too far in a transport vehicle. We can catch one at the gardens gates."
BíElanna looked to Tom for guidance. "Well, what do you think?"
Tom shrugged. "We can always go there and if the mother seems even in the slightest put out, weíll make some excuse and leave."
"Are you up to it? It could be kind of exhausting."
"Sure. If it gets too much, weíll explain and then go." He turned back to the boys. "Okay, lead the way." He stood up carefully, while BíElanna picked his walking stick up from under the bench and handed it to him.
Both boys stood there, transfixed to the spot. "Whatís wrong?" BíElanna asked, noticing the strange expression on their faces.
"Whatís that?" Nadim finally asked, pointing to Tomís walking stick.
"This?" he asked puzzled. "Itís a stick to help me walk better. Havenít you seen one before?"
The boys shook their heads. "Why do you need to walk better? Are you defective?"
BíElanna frowned. There was that word again. "No, heís not defective," she said quickly. "He had an accident, and while his leg is healing he needs to use the stick to walk easier."
"You injured your leg?" Nadim asked.
Tom nodded. "Thatís right. My leg should be better shortly and I wonít need the stick."
"When we get to my house, my mother will call a doctor for you. Heíll fix your leg up."
"Oh no, thatís all right. Iíve already seen our own doctor. Iíll be better in no time."
The boys looked relieved, but still watched Tom closely as he hobbled along beside them. "How did you hurt your leg? Did you fall down?" Atsim asked.
"Yeah, did I ever," Tom laughed. "It was a real adventure."
"An adventure!" Both boysí eyes lit up. "We love adventures," Nadim added. "Tell us about it - please."
"Okay, when we get in the transport vehicle Iíll tell you all about it. At the moment itís taking me all my time to concentrate on walking."
Nadim frowned. "If your leg is that bad, we should get a doctor."
"No, Itís all right. Our own doctor on the ship has fixed me up as good as new. I donít need to see any more doctors."
"But youíre still limping. You shouldnít be limping if youíve been fixed properly." Atsim sounded distressed.
"Tom was hurt very badly in his fall. It will just take a little while till heís fully recovered," BíElanna soothed. "Heís fine. Please donít worry."
"How long will it take until you can walk properly?" Nadim asked.
"Weíre not sure. Each day it just gets a little better."
"Each day?" Nadim sounded shocked. "How long have you been like this?"
"The accident happened thirteen days ago. I fell off a cliff. You should have seen me at first. I couldnít even sit up by myself, so you see I really am getting better."
Instead of reassuring the boys, this seemed to upset them further. "We need to contact someone," Nadim turned to Atsim. "You stay here. Iíll do it."
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
"Thereís no need to do that," BíElanna called out to him as he hurried over to a console concealed in a flowerbed. She turned back to Tom, who was frowning. "Maybe their doctors are more advanced. Who knows? They may have you fixed up in no time."
"Maybe, but Iím really sick of all the fuss. I donít want to spend the rest of the day cooped up in some doctorís office."
BíElanna smiled. "Well they canít treat you against your will. So if it becomes too involved weíll leave." She turned back to Atsim, who was staring at them as if theyíd suddenly grown two heads. "Whatís the matter?" Atsim simply continued to stare.
Nadim walked back over to them. "Theyíll be here soon."
"They? How many doctorís did you call?" BíElanna laughed.
"Too many, by the sounds of it," Tom grumbled. "You shouldnít have bothered. Iíll be fine soon enough."
"I didnít call any doctors. Itís too late for them now," Nadim told them. "I really liked you too, Tom."
Atsim nodded his head sadly. "Me too."
Tom looked over to see three Regallians hurrying towards them. "Looks like weíve got company."
One of the men stepped forward. "Lieutenant Torres, I hope you remember me."
"Ambassador Persher. How could I forget? You believed I was Ďdefectiveí at our last meeting."
"To which I most humbly apologized. What more can I say?"
BíElanna sighed. "Nothing I suppose. You shouldnít have been called down here though. Iím sure you must be terribly busy."
"They thought it would be easier if I came along."
"Oh, well it really wasnít necessary. As we tried to explain to the boys, Tom is a lot better now and he doesnít need to see any of your doctors. Our own doctor has him well on the road to recovery."
"Thatís right," Tom added. "But I do thank you for your concern. Itís really quite touching," he smiled brightly. He was more than a little worried about the two men standing behind the Ambassador. They had the definite air of Ďsecurityí about them. Would they force him to see a doctor? The men certainly didnít look very friendly.
"I do not understand," Ambassador Persher said in confusion. "Is it not true that you can not walk properly? That you have some sort of stick device to help you?"
"Yes thatís true; but, unless youíre a lot more medically advanced than we realized, there isnít a lot your doctors can do to help me anyway."
"Help you? You are beyond help from our doctors."
"Thatís right. Iím glad we got that sorted out." Tom let out a sigh of relief.
One of the other men took out a DATTA padd. "May I have your full name please sir?"
"Is this really necessary?" BíElanna asked, beginning to get annoyed.
"Iím sorry, Lieutenant, but a full incident report must be filed."
Tom groaned silently. He had been right. The other two men were security. He didnít understand why they had been called down here though. He was starting to get a bad feeling about all of this. "How long will this take?" he asked.
"Not long at all," the security man answered. "I have only a few questions."
"Well I have a few as well. Why was security called?"
"Itís normal procedure. Weíll be as quick as we can."
"This is ridiculous," BíElanna sputtered.
"Iím sorry Lieutenant. Iím just doing my job."
Tom sighed in resignation. "All right letís get it over with. My name is Ensign Thomas Eugene Paris. I am the head conn officer on board Voyager."
"Thank you Ensign. Now the boy reported you were injured thirteen days ago. Is this correct?"
"Y-e-s," Tom answered slowly. What has that to do with anything?
"The boy also reported that you fell off a cliff. Is this also true?"
"Yes, but I donít see why Iím----"
"Please, just answer the questions Ensign. Did you receive extensive, life threatening injuries from this fall?"
"Of course. Listen Iím not sure why you need to know all this?"
"Can you please explain why you did not die?"
"What the hell kind of question is that?" BíElanna snapped angrily. "This has gone far enough."
"Lieutenant Torres - please!" Ambassador Persher pleaded. "It will all be over a lot quicker if you donít interfere."
BíElanna looked at him angrily. "I donít like the way heís asking these questions. Itís almost as if Tom has done something wrong."
"I have to get all the facts, Lieutenant."
"Why? This isnít really any of your business."
"The report is very specific."
"Itís all right BíElanna," Tom said tiredly. He turned towards the security man. "Sheís right though, you know. You sound as if you disapprove of my still being alive." He sighed heavily. "The people on the planet I was on at the time of my fall had some very advanced medicines and they stabilized me until I could be taken back to Voyager."
"Stabilized, but did not heal?"
"No, I was too badly injured. As soon as I was brought back to Voyager I was put in stasis, so that I could stay alive long enough for the Doctor to work on me."
"I see. I need to know the exact injuries you sustained."
"What? Why?" Tom held up his hand. "Wait, I know. The report is very specific."
The security man nodded. "Can you furnish me with these details?"
"I suppose so, but this really is taking things too far. BíElannaís right. This really isnít any of your business."
The Ambassador stepped up to him. "Unfortunately it is, Ensign. When your Captain agreed to trade with us and send crewmembers down for shore leave, we made it quite clear that you would all have to abide by our rules. Part of our rules are to answer all questions asked of you in a pleasant, precise manner. Our reports may seem silly and offensive to you, but it is the way we have always done things."
"Very well," Tom conceded. After all, he didnít want to cause any problems for the rest of the crew. He wasnít going to be the one to start a diplomatic conflict.
"Good," the Ambassador approved. "Now, can you answer a few technical questions concerning your injuries or should we contact your doctor?"
"I should be able to answer them. When Iím not piloting the ship, Iím the Doctorís chief medical assistant."
"A man of many talents," the Ambassador stated sadly. "Such a waste."
"Whatís that supposed to mean?" BíElanna snarled. However, the Ambassador ignored her, indicating instead to the security officer to continue his questions.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
While Tom provided the Regallians with all the information regarding his injuries and subsequent recovery, BíElanna looked around the gardens for any sign of their crewmates. She knew something wasnít right here. She had the feeling that Tom was in the process of being arrested, as ridiculous as that might seem.
The Regallians were definitely acting as if Tom had done something wrong by being so severely injured. Since it hadnít even happened on their planet she couldnít understand why they were asking all these questions. And then there had been that strange remark of the Ambassadors, and the boys earlier had spoken strangely as well.
She couldnít shake the feeling that Tom was in trouble again. Although how or why, completely baffled her. She wondered whether she should contact the ship. She didnít want to cause a diplomatic incident. but Tom was looking a little pale and tired and she could probably use it as an excuse. At least then she could tell some one else what was happening and then the Captain could decide if she was right in worrying.
BíElanna pulled the Ambassador to one side. "If youíll excuse me for one minute, I think I should contact the ship. Tomís looking a little ill and Iíd like to notify the doctor."
The Ambassador gave her an impatient look. "Naturally heís looking ill. Heís defective."
"I beg your pardon?" BíElannaís voice was icily polite. "I hope you donít mean that the way it sounds."
"What other way could I mean it? His leg is faulty - flawed - imperfect. How many more ways are there to describe it? Heís defective."
BíElanna went cold all over. "If thatís the way you feel, it might be better that we go back to the ship." She went over to Tom and grabbed his arm. "Come on Tom, weíre leaving. Our doctor can answer any more information you need for your Ďreportsí," she told the security officer. "Please feel free to contact him; heíll be only too pleased to help."
"Thatís all right Lieutenant," the man answered. "Iíve finished with my report now."
"Good," Tom said with a tired smile. He obviously hadnít heard the ambassador. "That took more out of me than I realized." He turned to BíElanna. "I think I might have to rest for a little while, before we go to get something to eat."
"Thatís all right Tom. Weíre going back to the ship."
"Hey, thatís not necessary. Iíll be fine after a little rest. Weíve still got hours before we have to be back."
"No, we have to go back now."
Tom looked at her grim, set face. "Okay," he said softly. His eyes locked onto hers inquiringly, but she merely took his hand and squeezed it tightly.
BíElanna slapped her commbadge. "Torres to Voyager. Two to beam up."
As soon as she rematerialized on the transporter pad, BíElanna realized that she was no longer holding Tomís hand. Looking over to where he should have been standing, she swore loudly.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Lieutenant Melanie Saunders and Commander Chakotay wandered aimlessly along the garden pathways. Chell and Ayalla were walking some way ahead of them. Melanie sighed blissfully. This was heaven. She felt like pinching herself, only was quite sure that if she did the Commander would notice. Nothing escaped him.
"I know how you feel," the Commander said, smiling down at her.
She jolted back to awareness. "What?" she managed to squeak out. She felt herself turning a fiery red.
"All this," Chakotay answered, indicating the surrounding gardens. "Itís awe-inspiring."
"Oh, yes it is. Sorry about that. I guess my mind wandered."
Chakotay laughed. "Thatís easy to do in here, thatís for sure."
Melanie found it hard to breath. Those dimples!!!! And the way his eyes crinkle at the corners. What a hunk! Sheíd picked that saying up from the Delaney sisters. They knew a lot of twentieth century sayings - thanks to Tom Paris. Does he realize how gorgeous he is? Probably not, or he wouldnít go around smiling at people like that. It is positively lethal.
"Iím quite looking forward to seeing the city this afternoon," Chakotay continued. "Harry tells me that itís beautiful. Everything is perfect."
"Just like everything else here. The people seem to go to a lot of trouble to make everything perfect." Okay Melanie - think of something smart to say. Something witty. Something to make him look at you and think ĎOh my god, this is the woman of my dreamsí.
"Youíre right. They seem to have achieved it though."
Melanie nodded. Okay it doesnít have to be smart. Or witty. But it has to be something!!!
Chell called out to them from further along. "Commander, Ayalla and I are hungry. Do you want to go and get something to eat?"
"Sure," Chakotay called back. "Is that all right with you, Melanie?"
I wonder if boiled Bolian is on the menu, Melanie thought viciously, before giving in. "Thatís a good idea. Iím hungry too."
"Must be all this walking around," Chakotay laughed.
They headed towards the exit, but as they got closer the sound of arguing could be heard. Chakotay groaned. "I donít know who the other voices belong to, but that one swearing and shouting is definitely Tom. Come on, letís go. Weíd better see what trouble heís managed to get into this time."
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
As Chakotay raced around the corner, he could see two Regallians holding onto the pilot as he struggled to be set free. The Ambassador was standing across from them and seemed to be reading a DATTA padd. The Commander hurried over to him. "Ambassador Persher."
"Why Commander Chakotay, how nice to see you again," the Ambassador smiled at him. "I hope you are having a pleasant day? Itís perfect weather to enjoy the gardens in, donít you think?"
Chakotay was rather taken aback. "Yes. Yes it is. Um Ambassador? May I ask whatís going on here?"
"This? Oh itís nothing. Merely routine."
"Chakotay, these people are crazy." Tom struggled harder to get away. "Let me go, you pair of-----"
"Tom," Chakotay cut him off before the insult could be voiced. "Calm down and let me handle this." He turned back to the Ambassador. "What did he do?"
"Do? Why nothing. He is completely blameless. Ensign Paris is the victim here Commander, I can assure you."
"Then heís not under arrest?"
"Why no, of course not."
"Thatís a lie," Tom shouted hotly. "They wonít let me leave the planet. When BíElanna and I tried to transport back to Voyager a few minutes ago, only she beamed back. They stopped my transport somehow."
"I explained that to you Ensign," the Ambassador said patiently. "We have a transporter lockout fixed on you."
"You said he wasnít under arrest."
"Commander he isnít. Heís in our protective custody."
"Protective custody? Who are you protecting him from?"
"Why, your doctor and your captain and his closest friends, naturally."
Chakotay shook his head in bewilderment. "Why?"
The Ambassador looked shocked at the question. "Your doctor has performed some very cruel procedures on the poor young man, and your captain gave him permission and his so called friends didnít seem to think there was anything wrong with this. They are all equally guilty."
"Didnít I tell you they were crazy?" Tom snorted, managing to free himself with one final shove. Ayalla grabbed hold of him before he could fall and handed him the walking stick, heíd picked up off the ground. "Thanks," Tom panted.
"This sounds to me like a simple misunderstanding. Ambassador, although your technology is more advanced than ours, one area that it is behind in, is medicine. We couldnít help noticing this when we exchanged information. There was nothing cruel done to save Tom, I can assure you."
The Ambassador shook his head. "Our reports are complete. I am a little surprised at you Commander. I thought you were a kind and gentle man. Out of all the Voyagers I have met, you seemed the most sincere."
Chakotay frowned. "Iím not sure I understand."
"Donít I get any say in this?" Tom glared angrily around him. "I donít need to go into protective custody. Thatís what Iíve been trying to tell you all along."
"You are in no position to judge this."
"But I am," Chakotay felt his temper beginning to rise. "I am his commanding officer and I am ultimately responsible for his welfare."
The Ambassador ignored him, turning to Tom instead. "Ensign Paris, I really must insist that you come with us."
The two security officers stepped up once again, one on each side, ready to grab him. Ayalla stepped in front of Tom and glared warningly at them.
"Ambassador, exactly what are you doing? Where are you trying to take him?" Chakotay tried to rein in his temper.
"For treatment," the Ambassador sounded irritated. As if he really couldnít be bothered answering all these questions. Well that was too bad!
"Treatment? What sort of treatment? I donít mean to insult you Ambassador, but there is nothing you can do for him that hasnít already been done by us. Anyway, he doesnít want to go, as you can see. You donít treat people against their will. At least, not where we come from."
"Enough of this," the Ambassador snapped. "Commander please donít interfere. You agreed to our rules when you first came down here, so donít argue about them now."
"What if your Ďtreatmentí hurts him worse?"
"That is not possible. Compared to what he must have gone through over the last thirteen days, this is nothing. I find it rather hypocritical for you to be so concerned now anyway."
Chakotay flushed angrily. "Listen, I know youíre trying to help him but this has gone far enough."
"We are not trying to help him Commander. You obviously still do not understand."
"Youíre right, I donít. Thereís some sort of mistake going on here."
"Your people made the mistake. We are merely trying to correct it."
"Whatís that supposed to mean?"
Ambassador Persher sighed dramatically. "Ensign Paris should have died in that fall. You people went to extraordinary measures to keep him alive. You put him through unbelievable pain and suffering. It is time to put him out of his misery."
Tom gasped loudly at this. "Donít worry," the Ambassador told him kindly. "You wonít feel anything. At the Treatment Center you will be put to sleep." He looked around at the sudden realization dawning on the five Voyager crewís faces and smiled in relief. "Finally, you understand."
"Youíre going to kill me?" Tom asked incredulously.
The Ambassador frowned. "We prefer to use the term Ďtreatí. Killing is for animals."
"Thatís not Ďtreatingí," Chakotay growled. "Thatís Ďterminatingí. Treating is fixing, helping, making you better."
"No, that is healing," the Ambassador argued.
"It doesnít matter what you call it," Tom said flatly. "Iíll still be dead, wonít I?"
End Part Two