MISSION GONE WRONG
BY TíPAM
 

Standard Disclaimer: Tom, Kathryn and the rest of the crew, belong to Paramount/Viacom. No copyright infringement is intended. This story is just for fun - no profit will be made.

Codes: J/P, D, P/T

Rating: PG

Summary: Kathryn - Tom - Shuttle - Crash - Hostile Planet - Nasty Aliens - Need I say more? Set mid fifth season. Just after ĎThe Diseaseí. Slight spoiler.
 

Mission Gone Wrong
Part Three

Screams echoed through Tomís semi-consciousness as he struggled to open his eyes. What was happening? Where was he? Who was screaming?

"I donít understand what you want," the voice screamed.

Tom sat up abruptly, ignoring the wave of nausea that engulfed him. It was the Captain who was screaming. He looked around the room, frantically. Where was she? What were they doing to her?

He was sitting on a bunk in a tiny cell. Another bunk was on the other side of the room and against the wall, in the small space between the bunks, was a stand holding a pitcher of water and two glasses.

The screams were coming from somewhere else in the building and Tom jumped from the bunk to stand at the bars of his cell. "Leave her alone," he yelled, grabbing the bars and trying to shake them loose.

A small electric current ran through him and he yelped and let go. Inspecting his hands, he saw that there were burns on his palms and fingers.

Another scream made his blood run cold. Desperate, he tried to find a way out of there. He had to get to her, stop them from hurting her.

"Iíll kill you," he shouted in frustration. "Iíll kill you all."

He waited for more screams, but none came. Had she passed out? Had they killed her? Sinking down on the bunk once more, he ran his hands through his hair.

A slight scuffling noise in the hallway alerted him that someone was coming. Jumping up, he once more went to stand at the bars, just stopping himself from touching them.

Two guards came into view, dragging the Captain between them. His worry for her stopped him from charging them, as they opened the cell and placed Janeway on a bunk.

Tom hovered behind them as they settled her down and checked her over. "What did you do to her?" He knew he wouldnít get an answer, but had to ask anyway.

The guards regarded him steadily for a few moments before one of them handed him a wad of bandages. As soon as they had stepped from the cell, Tom knelt down next to the Captainís bunk.

She was deathly pale, and small beads of perspiration shone on her forehead. Taking one of the bandages, he gently wiped them away.

He next felt for her pulse and was concerned to find it rapid. Far, far too rapid.

Hesitating a little, he lifted her blood soaked skivvy and singlet top - the aliens must have taken her jacket - and carefully inspected her wound.

It wasnít as bad as he had feared. Their captors must have cleaned and dressed it, but it still didnít look good. And she had lost a lot of blood.

She moaned a little as she began to come around, so he hastily poured her a glass of water.

"Tom?" she groaned weakly.

"Itís all right. Iím here," he said softly.

"They did something to me," she croaked.

"Donít try to talk," he hushed her.

"They injected something into my vein. The pain. It was so bad. I was on fire."

"Shh," he said, gently lifting her head, so that she could sip the water. "Itís over now. You just have to rest, get your strength back."

She nodded a little and lay back down, closing her eyes. He stroked her forehead softly, never taking his eyes from her face as she slowly drifted off to sleep.

Opening her eyes suddenly, she looked at him curiously. "Do you really think Iím beautiful?" he whispered.

He swallowed. "Yes. Yes, I do. Sleep now."

She closed her eyes again and sighed a little. "I think youíre beautiful too." Her voice was soft and drowsy and he found it almost impossible to swallow the lump in his throat. "I think about you all the time. I canít stop thinking about you."

He leaned forward and gently kissed her cheek. "Me too," he told her huskily. "Me too."

A small smile of pure happiness played around her lips. "Iím glad," she said simply.

***

Tom jerked awake, several hours later, as the Captain moaned in her sleep. He was still crouched in the narrow space between the bunks, his hand clasped in hers. His legs were stiff and cramped and it took a while before he was able to stand.

Checking her over, he gave a sigh of relief as he found that her temperature had come down and her pulse was strong and steady.

He poured himself a glass of water and paced around the tiny cell, trying to get the blood circulating in his legs once more.

Going over to the small window, he looked out into the now deserted compound. It was the middle of the night.

He sighed wearily. Where the hell was Voyager, anyway?

"Tom?" He swung around to see the Captain awake and attempting to sit up. Hurrying over to her, he gently pushed her back down again.

"Itís all right. Iím here. Lay back and get some rest."

"You should rest too."

"I have been."

"Liar." She gave a small laugh. "Rest Mr. Paris. Thatís an order."

He smiled. "Yes Maíam."

Laying back on his own bunk, he closed his eyes and tried to sleep. Rolling over, he cupped his head in the crook of his arm, his other hand dangling over the side of the bed.

He could hear Janeway rolling over, as well. Opening his eyes once more he discovered that she was staring at him. He smiled and she smiled in return. She then reached out her hand and took hold of his. Sighing, she closed her eyes again. He watched her for a few moments, tightening his grip on her hand, before slowly drifting off to sleep.

***

The jangling of the cell door opening, woke him up next time. He looked over to see two guards stepping inside. Glancing over at the Captain, he saw that she was awake and watching them also.

The guards motioned for him to get up and come with them. He stood up reluctantly.

"Where are you taking him?" Janeway asked hoarsely. She tried to stand up too.

"Itís all right Captain, Iíll be fine," he tried to reassure her. "You just take it easy. Iíll be back soon."

"Oh Tom. I dread what theyíre going to do to you."

"Donít worry. Theyíll probably just throw me in one of those coffins again. Just - um - ignore any screams you might hear. Okay?" he tried to joke.

She shook her head at him, as the guards, becoming impatient, pushed him from the cell.

He was led down a long, narrow corridor. His heart was thudding painfully. Whatever theyíd injected into the Captain must be pretty bad. She was one tough lady. He swallowed nervously as the guards pushed him through a door near the end of the passageway.

The only thing in the room was a chair. It looked like a dentistís chair from the late twentieth century. Standing next to the chair was another alien, wearing a long white coat and a grim smile. This did not bode well.

***

Kathryn winced as she slowly climbed up off of the bunk. She was worried sick. Tom had been gone all morning. His screams had stopped hours ago, but the aliens still had not returned him.

The alien doctor had come to see her a few hours previously, to redress her wound. It was the same doctor who had injected that horrific substance into her bloodstream the evening before. Sheíd tried to ask where Tom was, but heíd ignored her completely.

A guard had brought her in a bowl of stew for her midday meal, and despite her worry over Tom and her fear that the food was drugged, sheíd been so hungry that she ate it all.

She stood back as the same guard came back into the cell and picked up the empty bowl. "Whereís Tom?" she asked him, pointing to the empty bunk. "Where is he?"

The guard stood there silently for a few moments, before pointing behind her to the window. She glanced around. "Heís in the compound?" She went over to the window then and peered out. The compound was bustling with prisoners, but she couldnít see Tom anywhere.

She jumped a little as the guard came up to stand behind her. He said something and pointed once more. She sucked in her breath. The guard was pointing to the corner where the caskets were kept.

"Oh no," she whispered in horror. "Theyíve put him back in one of those coffins. Wasnít injecting him enough?"

The click of the cell door told her that the guard had left and she paced around in agitation.

She spent the rest of that day pacing around and repeatedly going over to the window to stare out at the deserted little corner of the compound.

As the sun was beginning to set, the alien Doctor came to her once more to see to her wound. She slapped his hands away as he attempted to take off the bandage.

She pointed furiously out of the window and then back to Tomís bunk. "Bring me back my crewman," she said over and over again.

The doctor gave up eventually, as she continued to slap at his hands, and shaking his head left the cell.

The sound of voices in the now empty compound could be heard and she hurried over to the window. The Doctor and two guards were making their way over to where Tom was being held.

She could barely see in the growing darkness, as they hauled Tom out and onto the ground. The doctor knelt down beside him and then the guards knelt down also and picked Tom up, between them.

She watched, as they made their way back towards her. They soon disappeared from her view. She then sat down to wait, hoping and praying that Tom was all right.

***

It was some time later before the guards brought Tom back to her and threw him unceremoniously onto his bunk. Another guard followed them, carrying two more bowls of stew. He placed them on the small table and then all three guards left, without so much as looking at her.

She knelt down painfully next to Tom and smoothed back the hair from his brow. He didnít stir.

"Tom?" she whispered. "Tom, please wake up."

She crouched there in the semi-darkness, the pain from her wound forgotten in her anxiety over him. She continued to stroke his forehead as she waited for him to regain consciousness.

***

Tom opened his eyes slowly, afraid that all he would see was the terrible blackness once more. The terrible sensation of his blood being on fire and the burning all though his body was gone, and he gave a small whimper of gratitude.

He realized that he was also no longer in the coffin. He could see the Captain, smiling down at him. She smoothed his brow. "Itís over now Tom. Itís over."

"Voyager?" he croaked out. Had they finally been rescued?

She frowned down at him. "Not yet, but soon. They have to find us soon."

He nodded, not believing it for a second, but not wanting her to know that heíd given up on rescue.

His head swam as he forced himself to sit up. "Are you all right?" he asked her.

She smiled ruefully at the question. "Iím better than you at the moment, I think. Their Doctor has been treating my wound. Although he never says anything, I get the impression that itís coming along quite nicely."

"Thatís good, because I donít think Iím up to treating you at the moment." He tried to smile, but didnít think heíd quite pulled it off.

She touched his face gently. "We both need to get some sleep. In the morning, well - anything could happen."

Tom shuddered. He was quite sure that in the morning the aliens would find some other way to torture one, if not both of them. He was sure he wouldnít be able to handle being thrown in that coffin again. In fact, if his memory served him correct, he hadnít exactly handled it this time. He shuddered again.

She pulled him into a tight hug. "Voyager will find us tomorrow, I just know it."

"I hope so Captain," he mumbled, hugging her back. Somehow, it felt right.

She pulled back from the embrace to study his face. "Tom, I think you should call me Kathryn. No, I NEED for you to call me Kathryn. Weíve long gone past the Captain, Ensign stage."

"I - all right- Kathryn." The name sounded strange to him. He stumbled over it. "Iíd prefer to call you Kat, though."

She smiled in delight. "I would like that very much."

He pulled her back into his arms once again, and they sat there like that for some time, drawing comfort from one another.

Some time later, Tom lay back down again, scrunching up against the wall, Kathryn, fast asleep, curled up against him. Tom held her tightly and it wasnít long before he was asleep as well.

***

Kathryn woke up feeling a little cramped and wondered for a moment where she was. She felt warm and safe and looked up into the sleeping face of Tom Paris. He was holding her firmly against him and she spent a few moments reveling in the wonderful feelings that were consuming her.

A frown flitted across Tomís features and she put up her hand to caress his brow. Unable to tear her gaze from his face, she leaned forward and gently kissed his cheek. His eyes opened immediately.

"Hello there," she said softly.

"Hi," he answered.

She suddenly felt shy and sat up carefully.

He sat up behind her. "Kat," he almost whispered.

She swung around to look at him.

"Iím not sure whatís happening between us, but I want you to know that I donít usually do things like this. I mean, Iím not - well - I take my relationship with BíElanna seriously."

"Itís all right Tom, I understand. I apologize. I should never have started this."

"You didnít start anything. I did. At least, I think I did. I just donít want you to think that Iím some sort of - well, you know. I stopped all that kind of stuff when I started dating BíElanna. And even before that, most of it was just talk."

She looked at him in confusion. "Tom, I know that youíre committed to BíElanna, thatís why Iíve never let my feelings for you develop into anything. Iím not exactly sure whatís happening here now either, but Iíd never try to come between the two of you. Youíre obviously very happy together and Iím sorry if Iíve made you uncomfortable."

"No, thatís not it. Itís just that I know what you think of me - Harry told me what you said - and Iím not like that anymore. At least, I hope Iím not."

She shook her head trying to understand what he meant. "What did I say to Harry?"

He flushed a little and brought his knees up to his chest, resting his arms on them. "After all that business with Harry and Tal, you told him in sickbay that you wouldnít have been surprised if it had been me that broke all the rules to chase after her."

"I did? Oh, of course." A stab of guilt went through her. She should never have said that to Harry. She had always been a little hard on Tom, the Monean incident a prime example.

Perhaps that had something to do with the feelings he managed to invoke within her. Still, it had been a bitchy thing to say and she regretted it immensely. She should have guessed that Harry would repeat it to Tom.

She rested her hand on his. "Iím sorry I said that. I didnít mean it. I was just trying to make Harry smile a little. I didnít realize how it must have sounded."

"You view me as a rebel though, donít you?"

She thought for a few moments before speaking. "I see you as a man with very strong convictions, who will fight for what he believes in, regardless of the consequences."

"Reckless?"

"Definitely. But also someone who I trust with my life. I always feel safe when Iím with you."

Tom smiled and then gave a small snort. "Even now?"

"Yes, even now."

He smiled once more. "I think you should know that BíElanna and I, are not all that happy. Our relationship is troubled. Always has been."

"Surely you can work it out?"

"Iím not so sure. I donít think I even want to anymore."

"If thatís because of me---"

"No. The truth is that if I was truly in love with BíElanna it wouldnít have made any difference how beautiful, or wonderful I think you are."

"Oh Tom. When we get back to Voyager---"

He cut her off. "IF we get back to Voyager, Kat. In case we donít, I want you to know how I feel."

Before he could continue however, there was a clanging at the door and Kathryn turned back to watch the two guards enter the cell once more.

They came straight over to them and pulled Tom from the bunk. She tried to protest, but they simply pushed her out of the way. Dragging Tom out of the cell, they slammed the door behind them.

Tom twisted around to look at her. "Be back soon." His voice quavered a little.

"No," she cried out, standing as close to the cell bars as she dared. "Tom!"

***

Kathryn lay in an agony of misery on her bunk. Tom had not returned. He had been gone the full day and now it was well into the night.

This time there had been no painful screams to torture her soul, just an empty silence. She had watched from the window to see if they would put Tom in the box once more, but she had seen nothing.

Where was he, and what were they doing to him?

Her wound throbbed painfully. Sheíd lied to Tom the day before. Her wound wasnít coming along nicely at all. She just hoped it wasnít getting any worse.

She felt hot and feverish and suspected it had become infected. She didnít care about that though, all she cared about was Tom.

Every now and then, she would climb painfully from the bunk to pace around the cell and look out of the window.

The night slowly gave way to a new dawn and the doctor came to her once more. She asked him where Tom was, but he ignored her question.

She could no longer get up from the bunk. Everything seemed distant and a little surreal. She wondered idly, if she were dying. Perhaps Tom was already dead, so now she could join him.

There was a faint scuffling in the cell and suddenly Tomís face was hovering over her. "Kat?"

"Tom? Whatís happening? Where were you?" The doctor seemed to have disappeared.

"The warden tried questioning me again. When I still couldnít understand, I thought he was going to have me executed. Instead they locked me in another cell. Theyíve only just bought me back here."

"I thought you were dead," she said softly.

"I think theyíve finally given up on us. But whatís happening with you? The doctor isnít much help. He just shook his head at me."

"I think my woundís infected. I feel - funny."

Tom lifted up her singlet to take a look. His face was grim when he looked back up at her. "Youíre right, it is. Maybe you should have been the doctorís assistant."

"No. I wanted you to be. You have such gentle hands." There was a buzzing in her ears and she felt almost as if she were floating.

"Kat?" Tomís worried face swam before her. She tried to tell him that she was fine, but no words would come out. The buzzing grew louder.

When she next opened her eyes, Tom was crouched on the floor next to her. She remembered when she had sat like that. "Youíll be stiff," she croaked out.

He smiled at her. "Doesnít matter. How do you feel?"

"Good. Very, very good." The buzzing started again.

Tom was standing by the window, the next time she opened her eyes. "Tom?" she called. He hurried over to her.

"The doctorís given you some medicine for the fever. Youíre going to be fine."

"Thatís nice. Tom? I love you."

"Oh Kat." Tomís face swam before her once more. She could see his mouth moving but she couldnít hear what he was saying.

"I love you," she repeated. Her eyes were too heavy to remain open any longer, so she closed them tightly.

***

Tom ran his hands wearily over his face. Kathryn was dying and there wasn't a hell of a lot he could do about it.

The guards brought them food twice that day and fresh bandages, but she needed medication to bring down the fever and heal the wound.

The doctor also visited, although Tom wondered why, as the medicine he gave her wasn't helping at all. He'd shouted at him during the last visit, but the doctor had merely shaken his head and left.

He wondered what the aliens were going to do with them. When he had been dragged away the morning before, he'd expected some sort of terrible torture, although he hadn't been able to imagine anything that could be worse than the feeling of his blood being on fire. He could still feel the drug coursing through his veins, slightly.

Instead, the warden had tried to question him again, quickly losing patience. He'd been carted away to another cell and left there for the rest of the day and night.

The following morning the warden had came into his cell and tried once more to speak to him. This time he'd given up much quicker and simply shrugging, signaled for the guards to take him back to Kathryn.

Tom just couldn't understand it. Hadn't these people any concept of different languages? There were other types of aliens in the compound. Surely they didn't all speak the same language? Had they been put through the same torture? More than likely.

Kathryn began murmuring again and he held her hand to try to soothe her. "It's all right, Kat. I'm here."

"Don't leave me Tom," she whispered.

"Never," he told her softly. He squeezed her hand tightly and caressed her cheek. "And you have to promise me the same thing. You're not allowed to leave me, you hear?"

She gave a small smile and lapsed into unconsciousness.

Some time later her breathing became slow and shallow, and Tom gathered her into his arms. "Please don't do this, Kat. Fight. For me. You're not allowed to die."

He held her tightly against him, determined not to let her give up. She was barely breathing now.

"Kat, please stay with me. Please," he begged her. And then he sobbed in relief as he felt the familiar tingle of the transporter beam around them.

***

Kathryn could hear voices, but found it too difficult to open her eyes.

"Mr. Paris, please try to remain still. I havenít finished my examination."

"Iím fine Doc. Howís the Captain?"

"Due to my excellent surgical skills, she will be fine. She just needs to rest."

"Youíre sure?"

"Of course Iím sure. If youíre doubting my medical expertise, I can only suggest that you get the medical tricorder and check for yourself. After all, you are my medical assistant. Note, I stress the word assistant. Assistant - meaning one whom assists a trained professional. The trained professional would be me. Professional - meaning one whom knows what he is doing."

"Okay, okay Doc. I get the picture. If you say sheís going to be all right, then I guess Iíd better believe you."

The Doctor sniffed loudly. "Well thank you very much for that resounding vote of confidence."

"My pleasure Doc. Can I go now?"

"No, you can not go now. And for the last time - hold still. You have a fever. Although it is not as high as the Captainís was, it needs to be treated. I need to find the cause. Ah ha! I have just discovered a wound on your posterior, which needs attention."

"Aw Doc! Itís fine. It doesnít even hurt anymore."

"Be that as it may, I need to treat it."

"Thatís not necessary."

"You will be left with a scar. Now we donít want that, do we?"

"Who says?"

"Mr. Paris! You will hold still and let me treat your buttocks or I will call security."

Kathryn couldnít hold back her chuckle any longer. She opened her eyes to see both Tom and the Doctor looking at her. The Doctor hurried over with his medical tricorder.

"Iíd call Tuvok now, if I were you, Doctor," she said dryly.

"Thank you for the advice. How do you feel?"

"Tired, but much better."

"Naturally. My medical expertise has saved the day once again."

She sat up slowly. "Thank you Doctor. Your skill is---" She searched for the right words.

"Only outweighed by his ego," Tom called out. "And his head."

The Doctor turned around to glare at him. "Mr. Paris, are you forgetting that thereís still the small matter of a rather delicate area of your anatomy that still has to be treated? Iíd be very careful what you said to me, if I were you."

Kathryn laughed loudly. "Itís so good to be back. And Doctor, I know youíre much too professional not to treat Tom to the very best of your considerable ability."

The Doctor straightened his shoulders. "Well, of course, thatís true. Now Captain, I suggest you lay down and get some sleep. Iím going to keep both of you here overnight for observation. There were traces of a strange substance in your systems that I need to examine."

"They injected it into our bloodstreams. I believe it was some sort of truth serum. It felt like fire. It was very, very painful."

"I can imagine. Now please try to rest."

***

Kathryn pushed the jealousy aside as B'Elanna hurried into sickbay and kissed Tom quickly on the cheek.

"I canít stay Tom. I just called in to see how youíre doing." She looked over at the Captain. "Good to see you back in one piece, Captain. I'll bet next time you have a diplomatic mission you won't ask Tom to take you."

Before Kathryn could answer, B'Elanna turned back to Tom. "The Flyer's in a real mess. I'll be working on it all night and probably most of tomorrow. As if I haven't got enough problems at the moment."

"It wasnít exactly my fault, you know."

"Well, maybe. But trust you to go on a simple away mission and turn it into a major catastrophe."

Kathryn turned away. She wished she could give them a little privacy, but the Doctor wouldn't let her out of bed yet. The last thing she wanted to do was listen to them have a fight.

"Thanks a lot."

"Actually, I should leave it and make you fix her as a lesson not to crash her so much."

"Oh real hilarious Torres. The Captain and I are lucky we werenít killed and all you can do is bitch about the Flyer."

"Hey, donít be so touchy. I was only kidding."

"Well, it didnít sound like it."

Kathryn thought it hadn't sounded like it either, and bit her lip to stop herself from saying anything. She tried to concentrate on the book she had been reading and block out their argument. It was impossible, however.

"Well, I was," B'Elanna continued. "Anyway, I'd better get back there. Who knows what sort of mess my crew will make if I'm not there to keep an eye on them."

"I'm sure they'll manage just fine. Did you even miss me while I was gone?"

"Whatís that supposed to mean? I was pretty busy, as a matter of fact. I didnít have time to think about it and then I was busy trying to find you. You're pretty testy aren't you?"

"I don't know, am I? It's just that, you don't seem all that thrilled to have me back."

B'Elanna sighed impatiently. "If you want me to fall into your arms, crying hysterically, then youíve got the wrong woman."

"Thatís for sure. I didn't expect that - no. I wouldn't even have wanted it. But I wouldnít have minded a Ďglad to see youíre all rightí, actually. I've been gone for almost two full weeks and well, I thought you might have been worried about me."

"Of course I was worried about you. I came in here to see you, didn't I? Are you upset with me for not coming in sooner? I was busy retrieving the Flyer."

"I know that. Harry and Tuvok were too, but they still managed to get away. Not to mention Chakotay and Joe."

"Well, it's lucky I waited then. If I'd come any sooner, I'd have been crushed in the stampede."

Kathryn gave up any pretense of reading her book and watched the two of them instead.

Tom gave a sigh. "Don't worry about it B'Elanna. I'm not upset about it, okay?"

"Well, you could have fooled me. What IS wrong then?"

"I guess - I don't know - I just expected a warmer welcome."

"Fine then; glad to see youíre all right. Even if you are as grumpy as hell. Iíve gotta go. Comm me when youíre in a better mood, and Iíll see if I can get away."

"Forget it, I wouldnít want to put you out."

BíElanna flushed angrily and looked over at Kathryn, who quickly averted her eyes.

"I donít know what your problem is Tom, but youíre making the Captain very uncomfortable and ME very mad."

Kathryn cleared her throat. "Thatís all right BíElanna. Iím sorry for not giving you two a little more privacy, but itís a little difficult not to overhear when youíre sitting in the very next bed."

"Itís not your fault Captain. I didnít think weíd need privacy anyway. Tomís being a pig."

Kathryn felt her blood boil and controlled herself with difficulty.

B'Elanna turned around to glare at Tom. "I think he's feeling guilty about the crash."

Before Tom could counter BíElannaís remark, she found herself saying coldly, "the last twelve days have been rather harrowing, for both of us. I thought you would be a little more understanding."

"Well of course Captain. I do understand."

"Do you? You have no idea what Tom and I went through down there. And I'd like to get something straight. The crash was MY fault, if you feel you have to blame anybody."

"Captain, I wasnít blaming anybody."

Kathryn ignored her. "We would never have been in that region of space when the ion storm hit, if I had been a little more diplomatic with the Veerun. I messed up and we were forced to leave immediately. I take full responsibility. Although, why I am explaining myself to you, is beyond me. Besides, I have always believed that blame is counter-productive."

BíElanna had the grace to blush. "Captain, Iím sorry. I didnít mean to give you the impression---"

But by now, Kathryn was feeling decidedly guilty. Tom didnít need her to fight his battles for him. "No, Iím the one who should apologize. I butted into what was obviously a private conversation between the two of you. Please accept my apologies."

BíElanna nodded and looked at Tom. "I really should go. We'll talk later. Okay?"

Tom nodded. "I'll comm you."

With another nod, she quickly left sickbay.

Kathryn sighed. "Iím sorry Tom. I know I shouldnít have been listening."

Tom shrugged. "Thatís all right. I rather enjoyed it, actually. It felt nice to have you stick up for me."

She smiled a little. "Well, donít get used to it. Youíre big enough to fight your own battles."

"Yes Maíam," he grinned at her but his smile faded immediately.

"Tom? Are you all right?"

He sighed heavily before swinging his legs over the side of his biobed, so that he was facing her. "Not really. I canít continue my relationship with B'Elanna anymore. Once the Doc lets me out of here, I'm going to have to break it off with her once and for all."

"Tom, if youíre doing this because of me - because of what happened between us down on the planet - then donít."

He shook his head vigorously. "It has nothing to do with you, Kat. This has been coming on for a long time. Our relationship has always had problems. Besides, nothing happened between us."

"Perhaps not physically, but I told you how I felt. The feelings that I believe weíve always had for each other surfaced."

Tom nodded, his face serious. "Youíre right. They did. But I can't think about that right now. I have to sort things out with B'Elanna first. I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to be sorry about. I understand perfectly. Will she be terribly upset?"

"With BíElanna itís hard to tell. I donít honestly believe she loves me half as much as she says she does. Iím more a convenience to her than anything, but she still probably wonít like the idea of breaking up."

"Are you really sure that's what you want to do?"

"I don't want to hurt her, but we can't go on the way we have been. It's time to move on."

"Are you going to tell her about us?"

"There isn't really anything to tell. But I think I owe it to her to be honest. I have feelings for you and she deserves to know that."

"Of course; youíre right. Iím just hoping that she doesnít challenge me to a duel."

Tom gave a small chuckle. "Two beautiful women fighting over me. Now thereís an image."

Kathryn laughed throatily. "Thatís all it will remain too. An image. Itís not going to happen."

Tom nodded seriously. "I know. I wouldnít want that, Kat. I only want you. I know I shouldn't be saying that to you yet, when I still have to settle everything with B'Elanna, but I want you to know."

Kathryn swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat. "I don't know if there can ever be anything between us Tom. I want to be with you, but there are so many problems." Tears filled her eyes. "Iím the Captain; I canít afford to get involved with one of my crew. It will make me look weak."

"It will make you look human," Tom corrected. "But Iím not going to push you into anything. I think we need to sit back and wait until things have settled a little. Take things slowly."

She nodded. She could wait. She knew her feelings for Tom would not change, but did she dare do anything about them? She wanted to. She wanted to, very much.

She smiled over at him. "It will be easier on BíElanna this way, too."

"Not to mention the rest of the crew. Theyíll probably think that youíve lost your mind."

"Only my heart, Tom."

She climbed carefully down from her biobed and went to stand in front of him. "One day weíll be together. I just don't know if it can be right now. I know it's not fair to ask, but will you wait for me?"

Tom's eyes shone brightly, and picking her hand up, brought it up to his lips. "Yes Maíam, I'll wait. Some things are worth waiting for."

They smiled warmly into one another's eyes, the promise of a not too distant future a bright and shining light.

The End.
 

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