Disclaimer: Tom Paris, Captain Janeway and all the Voyager crew belong to Paramount. No profit will be made from this story as itís just for fun.
Tom entered the sickbay rather hesitantly the next morning. He was dreading facing the Captain, and was only there now because the Doctor had insisted. Heíd contacted him three times that morning and the last time had threatened to have a security detail come and collect him.
He looked cautiously around the room, and seeing no sign of her, breathed a sigh of relief. The Doctor had ordered the Captain to stay in sickbay overnight, as - under the circumstances - he had some more tests to run. He however, had been allowed to go back to his quarters, under the strict proviso that he returned to sickbay first thing in the morning. Heíd managed to put off doing that until now.
"Ah. Mr. Paris. How nice of you to drop in." The Doctor came out from his office and proceeded to run a medical tricorder over him. "Hmmn! These readings indicate you did not sleep well."
"I had a lot on my mind."
"I can imagine," the Doctor commented dryly. "However, I happen to know - from a very reliable source, I might add - that Lieutenant Torres was seen leaving your quarters at o two fifteen hours this morning. I seem to recall stressing the fact that you needed to rest."
"We were talking - thatís all. She stayed with me till I fell asleep." At the Doctorís unbelieving sniff, he continued hotly. "And you can tell your Ďvery reliable sourceí, that for a Vulcan - heís very nosy."
"Iíll be sure to pass that along. Now, have you had any after-effects that you are aware of?"
Tom shook his head. "No headaches or blackouts. No sudden lapses of memory. Nothing."
"Very good." The Doctor snapped the tricorder shut. "What about emotionally? You did undergo a rather traumatic experience. Perhaps you would benefit from some counseling?"
"Thanks, but no thanks Doc. If you want to upgrade your counseling program, you can find another guinea pig."
The Doctor frowned at him. "You do not have to speak to me. If you wish, Commander Chakotay has offered his services. Or if you prefer, Commander Tuvok?"
Tom snorted. "Iím fine. I donít need to discuss my harrowing experiences."
"Very well. You should be able to resume normal duties tomorrow." The Doctorís face showed his displeasure.
"Great." Tom hesitated. "Howís the Captain?"
"Her true memories have not returned, if thatís what you mean."
"Yeah, I guess so. Damn!" Tom ran his hand through his hair in consternation.
"The Mostreterians have added three years of memories to her that are impossible to delete. In her mind, Voyager has been stranded out here in the Delta Quadrant for eight years, not five. She will need time to adjust."
Tom whistled. "Is she all right?"
"She also, has refused counseling. In her case I believe it to be essential."
"Sheís not handling it too well?" Tom felt his concern mounting.
"Imagine for a moment, if I told you that everything since that macro virus attempted to take over the ship, hadnít really happened. That that was just a week ago. We never entered the Necrid Expanse, or encountered the Borg. Seven of Nine does not exist and you are not my medical assistant - Kes still is. Species 8472 and the Hirogen are all figments of your imagination, not to mention the Moneans."
"That wouldnít have been such a bad thing. Iíd still be a Lieutenant."
"Be that as it may- you would never have built the Delta Flyer or created your Captain Proton program. That probably wouldnít have been such a bad thing either. The point is - that you and Lieutenant Torres would not have started a relationship. It would have been all in your mind."
"But, those things really did happen," Tom protested.
"The Captainís implanted memories are just as real to her as the past three years are to you. The Mostreterians were very clever. They planted a complex story in her mind, which is very believable."
"How could they do that? I mean, they would have had to have known an awful lot about Voyager and everyone on it, for it to have seemed real," Tom asked puzzled.
"They must have accessed your minds to find out whatever they needed to know."
"If they could do that, why didnít they just get the access codes that way?"
"Iím afraid you both were an experiment. Test subjects, I suppose."
"I see. I can understand why they made her think we were married. It made me more vulnerable. But how could she believe that?" Tom tried hard to visualize the Captain and he going out on a date, let alone married, but he couldnít. "I can just imagine what sheíd say if I asked her out."
"Youíre forgetting. She was led to believe that it was over a long period of time. Slowly a relationship formed between you. It wasnít a matter of you sweeping her off her feet - yelling Ďkiss me Kateí - and riding off into the sunset."
Tom chuckled, despite the seriousness of the situation. "Now that, I can picture. Or better yet, did BíElanna and the Captain battle for my hand in marriage?"
"Nothing so melodramatic, I can assure you. This is no laughing matter, Mr. Paris."
"I know. Iím sorry. Itís just - well - itís weird."
"Things often are out here. From what I could gather, Ms. Torres and yourself broke up."
The Doctor nodded. "It was quite messy, I understand. You were heartbroken - desolate."
"Naturally." The Doctor sniffed knowingly. "Women like that sort of thing, you know."
"Of course. It brings out the mothering instinct."
"The Captain was worried about you, and decided to try to cheer you up."
"One thing led to another, as they say, and a relationship formed."
"Yes. Finally after everybody got over the shock, you married. Apparently, it was all very romantic."
"Mr. Paris, you are answering everything I say, with two word sentences."
"It is extremely annoying."
"Iím sorry. I wasnít thinking." Tom swallowed - hard.
"Humph! A normal occurrence, Iím sure," the Doctor glared at him.
Tom smiled, embarrassed. "Itís just that Iím a little overwhelmed by what youíve told me."
"I only told you this, so that you would not make matters worse, by saying something stupid the next time you see her," the Doctor continued. "Perhaps I should rephrase that - more stupid than usual."
Tom ignored the barb. "I donít think you have to worry about that. I can never face her again."
"Imagine how she must feel then. She understands that none of the past three years in her memory are real, and she even accepts it now, but it will require a huge adjustment for her to be able to get back to normal again."
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
The Doctor shook his head. "It might be better if she doesnít see you for a while."
"I understand. Thanks Doc." Tom left the sickbay, wishing he could do something to help the Captain.
Chakotay placed the warm bowl of soup on the desk in front of her. "You need to eat something."
"Iím not hungry, Chakotay."
"I didnít say you were. I said you needed to eat something." He pushed the bowl further towards her.
"Will you leave me alone if I do?"
"Probably not. You also need to talk."
Janeway sighed heavily and started to stir the soup around and around in the bowl. She watched as she swirled little patterns through it, and then slopped it over the sides. "Thereís nothing to talk about," she finally said, looking up at him. "It never happened, so Iíve got to try and forget it, and get on with things."
"Thatís easier said than done though, isnít it?" When she didnít answer, he continued. "Youíve holed yourself up in here for the past couple of days, but sooner or later, youíre going to have to come out and face him. The sooner you do it the better."
"You donít know how hard itís going to be."
"I can guess. You need to see him. Not just for your sake, but for his as well."
"What do you mean? How is he anyway?"
"Suffering. Heís quiet. Too quiet. The bridge isnít the same without his usual banter. I think he feels guilty."
"Thereís nothing for him to feel guilty about. He didnít do anything. Itís not his fault."
"I know. But your absence is affecting him. I think he believes that itís because of his presence on the bridge that youíre not there."
"Damn! Heís right of course. Itís just that, I donít know how Iím going to react when I see him. I know none of it was real, but that doesnít make the memories go away. Theyíre still as fresh as before. I still remember what it was like to be with him. How much I loved him. How much fun we had together." She rubbed her temples with her fingers and looked up at Chakotay, her eyes bright with unshed tears. "Iíve never loved anyone like that before. How do I forget all that? How?"
Chakotay put his hand on her shoulder, and kneaded it lightly. "I donít know Katherine. Itíll take time. Perhaps you shouldnít be looking at this whole experience as something to forget. Maybe those memories are something to cherish, instead. It seems like they were good ones."
"But, they werenít real," she protested.
"They are to you. Always will be. Itís like theyíre a part of your past now Katherine."
Janeway stared at him thoughtfully. "If I do that, then Iím afraid Iíll start treating Tom differently. What if I start behaving towards him as if he still is my husband?"
"Is that likely? The Mostreterians planted memories in you, of a perfect relationship with Tom. The Tom in your memories is more than likely nothing like the real Tom. They just look the same, thatís all."
"Iím so confused at the moment," Janeway mused, more to herself than to him. "Youíre probably right."
"Of course I am," Chakotay smiled.
Janeway smiled back. "Iíve been reading my logs to try to work out where my false memories start. I think I have it all straight now. Youíd better stick close by my side over the next few days, in case I slip up."
"Always. Thatís what a good first officer is for, isnít it?"
Janewayís smile broadened. "Thanks Chakotay. Iím going to spend the rest of this evening bolstering up my courage, but expect me on the bridge bright and early tomorrow."
"Are you going to eat something, between then and now?"
Janeway sighed in exasperation. "All right. Iíll start with this soup. Does that make you happy?"
"Good. Now get out and leave me in peace."
"Aye Captain." Chakotay left the ready room, grinning in relief. He realized that the Captain still had a lot of issues to deal with, but she had made a start and that was something at least.
The next morning, Janeway used all of her considerable willpower to keep facing forward as she heard the turbolift doors woosh open behind her. As whoever it was hesitated, before stepping out, she felt her heart begin to pound loudly against her chest. It was Tom. She could feel it. She took a quick deep breath, to control her emotions and then pretended that the display in front of her was the most fascinating thing that sheíd ever seen.
"Captain. Commander." His voice was soft and cordial. She looked up into his intense gaze.
"Tom," Chakotay greeted. "I trust you slept well?"
"Yes thank you." His eyes never left her face. "Itís good to have you back on the bridge, Captain."
"Thank you Tom." She felt awkward. She knew that only the senior staff knew of her predicament, but felt that every eye on the bridge was watching her. Tom gave her a small smile and then stepped down to the conn.
Sighing, she relaxed back into her chair, realizing with dismay that her hands were trembling. She fought the urge to jump up and make some excuse to hide away again in her ready room. Chakotay was watching her, concern written all over his features, so she managed a small smile. He then proceeded to distract her, by going over the details of the area of space they were in at the moment, and she leaned forward gratefully.
As the morning wore on, she found herself looking more and more often at the fair head in front of her. If he was aware of her eyes drilling holes into the back of his head, he made no sign of it. But he was unusually quiet, she noticed. Her mind slowly drifted away, as she remembered all the jokes and teasing that usually accompanied one of his shifts, when they were traveling through a dull area of space.
She froze as she realized; she didnít know if that was Ďrealí or a planted memory. Of course, Chakotay had mentioned something about Tomís banter on the bridge, so she thought some of it must be Ďrealí at least. She tried to remember what he had acted like before her make-believe three years and vaguely recalled the quips and jesting.
Heaving a sigh of relief that it wasnít a planted memory, she felt herself jump when Chakotay lightly brushed her arm. "Are you all right?" he queried quietly.
Nodding, she returned her attentions back to Tomís head. I think Iíll ask him to grow his hair a little longer, she thought. I like it sitting on his collar, at the back. And when itís damp - those cute little curls. She sighed dreamily, completely forgetting where she was.
"Captain?" Harryís voice brought her back to reality. "Iím picking up some subspace communications directly ahead."
"Who are they?"
Harry fiddled around with his sensors before replying. "The Mostreterians Captain. Theyíre on a direct intercept course."
"Mr. Kim is correct Captain," Tuvok announced. "My sensors are showing four Mostreterian battle ships and three armored star cruisers. If we continue at our present heading and speed we will converge in exactly three minutes and twenty-two point five three seconds."
Chakotay hissed between his teeth. "Seven against one. Those odds arenít very promising."
Janeway nodded, jumping to her feet. "Tom," she called out. "Come about. Set a new course. One Five Three - Mark Three Zero."
"Yes Maíam." Tomís fingers flew over the controls.
"The Mostreterians have changed course to match," Tuvok announced calmly, a few tense moments later.
"Red Alert!" the Captain called. "Tuvok, what can you tell me about them?"
"Their shielding is inferior to ours, by at least fifty percent. The armored star cruisers weapons are also inferior. However, the battle ships weapons are of a superior design. A direct hit is capable of disabling our shields completely."
"Weíll just have to make sure they donít get the chance then, wonít we?"
She turned back to the viewscreen. "Harry, can you get a visual?"
"Working on it." The screen came to life as he spoke. Janeway stared at the alien vessels that were trying to ambush them. They were big, bulky and ugly. The battle ships were at least three times as big as them, while the star cruisers made Voyager look like a shuttle in comparison. They looked heavy and hard to maneuver. That could work to their advantage.
"Intercept in one minute," Tuvok intoned.
"Okay Harry. Hail them."
"No response, Captain."
"Still no response Captain. Theyíre receiving us. Just not answering."
"Battle stations," she ordered.
"The first Mostreterian battle ship is within weapons range," Tuvok announced.
"Theyíre firing, Captain," Tuvok warned. As a volley of small explosions erupted around Voyager, he calmly pronounced. "No damage to the shields. They are charging weapons again."
"All right, this has gone far enough. Return fire. Target their shields."
"Firing. Direct hit on their starboard generator. Their shields are weakening."
"Keep firing. Disable their weapons systems as soon as you can."
Another shot rocked the ship. Janeway thought it might be prudent to sit back down in her chair. "No damage to shields," Harry reported.
"Tom, evasive maneuvers. Donít let them hit us."
"Iím trying," Tom ground out, never taking his eyes off his controls.
"The battle ship has been disabled," Tuvok informed them in a flat monotone.
"About time," Tom called back cheerfully.
Tuvok ignored him. "Two star cruisers and another battle ship are within firing range," he said instead.
"Disable the star cruisers," Janeway ordered. "Tom, evade the battle ships weapons at all costs." Tom grunted in reply, as he set the ship in a vertical spiral, which placed Voyager between the two star cruisers.
"There Tuvok, donít say I never do anything for you."
"Indeed," the Vulcan answered as he proceeded to disable both vessels.
"The odds are coming down in our favor," Chakotay said grimly. "Only three battle ships and a cruiser to go."
A large explosion vibrated through the ship. "It was not a direct hit, but shields are down to ninety percent," Tuvok explained.
"You know what to do," the Captain told him.
"Every-one hold on," Tom suddenly yelled. He pulled Voyager away to the right quickly and the ship bucked as they were hit. "Damn it! Another one of the battle ships is on our tail."
"Tuvok?" Janeway questioned.
"Shields down to seventy-five percent."
"Photon torpedoes," Janeway said. "Target their engines. Keep firing phasers at their shields." She turned to Chakotay. "Modulate our shields to a rotating frequency. It will be harder for them to lock on."
A few moments later they were blinded by a brilliant flash, as one of the battle ships erupted before them. Before Janeway could rap out another command, she felt the ship hit from an enormous force and they all went flying backwards. The ship spun crazily out of control, until Tom managed to crawl back into his seat.
"Report," she barked, as Chakotay helped her to her feet.
"Weíve lost our aft shields," Harry shouted over the noise of the warning klaxons. "Damage to decks seven and eight. Reports of casualties coming in." Another explosion shuddered through the ship.
"Both battle ships and the cruiser are firing on us," Chakotay yelled above the din. "Shields down to forty percent."
"Tuvok, fire at will," the Captain yelled as the ship shuddered again.
"We have a hull breach on deck four," Harry cried out. "Repair crews are on it."
"Tom, do what ever you have to, but donít let them hit us again," Janeway shouted. "Itís time for some fancy flying. Iím hoping theyíre too big and bulky to keep up. Give it everything youíve got."
"Yes Maíam," Tom answered eagerly. "Youíd all better hang on to something."
Janeway sat back down and gripped the arms of her chair. Tom then proceeded to demonstrate his piloting skills. Voyager twisted and turned this way and that and just as Janeway predicted, the star cruiser soon fell away. The battle ships still managed to stay within range, but with all the dodging and weaving their weapons were unable to connect with Voyager.
"Torres to the bridge." BíElannaís voice suddenly came over the comm system. "Captain, weíve got a problem."
"The engines canít take much more of this. Weíre having huge problems down here, keeping them running. Weíre about to lose warp power and I donít know how much longer I can keep impulse going."
"All right. Do your best." She looked thoughtfully at the viewscreen. "It looks like weíre about to run out of time." She looked around the bridge. "Any suggestions?"
"I believe the best course of action would be to release a spray of torpedoes on a delay detonation setting," Tuvok answered. "As the two battle ships come within range I will detonate them."
Janeway frowned as Tom cursed and reported that warp drive was gone. "I was hoping to disable them, not destroy them."
"Theyíre not really giving us any choice here Captain," Chakotay pointed out.
She frowned, knowing he was right. "I just didnít want to hurt any more of them, than we have already."
Tom snorted while he still struggled to evade the battle ships weapons. "Pity they didnít feel the same way."
Voyager rocked as the Mostreterian battle ships weapons connected. "Shields collapsing," Harry cried.
"Captain," Tom turned around to look at her. "Iíve just lost impulse."
Janeway gritted her teeth. "Do it," she ordered Tuvok.
A few moments later she couldnít help feeling relieved as both of the battle ships entered their makeshift mine field and were soon engulfed by the torpedoes exploding around them. When the explosions were over all that could be seen were bits of debris floating around.
"Tom, I know weíve only got thrusters, but get us out of here," she told him grimly.
He turned around to acknowledge her order and their gazes met. His eyes seemed to be saying - he knew how she felt, but she hadnít had any choice. The Mostreterians had hurt them both badly, but slaughtering them by the hundreds didnít bring relief. Turning quickly back to Chakotay she murmured that he had the bridge and sheíd be waiting for the damage reports.
She hurried into her ready room and sank down into the chair at her desk. As she rested her head in her hands, she realized her knees felt weak and wobbly. Shame flooded through her as she recognized that it wasnít her actions on the bridge that caused this but rather her reaction to the look that Tom had just given her.
Moaning softly she let the tears fall unchecked as she admitted to herself that she still loved him. Totally and completely. More than anything else or anyone else in her entire life. He was the man of her dreams and a tiny voice in the corner of her mind acknowledged that he always had been. Long before the Mostreterians had planted her false memories.
She also acknowledged how hopeless the situation was. He was an Ensign, while she was a Captain - his Captain to be exact. He was ten years younger than her, and although no one thought much about things like that these days, it still made her feel a little uneasy. And most importantly of all, he was involved with some one else.
What the hell was she going to do?
End Part Two