Standard disclaimer: All of Voyager and its crew, Star Trek and all itís incarnations - probably space itself - belongs to Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended. No money will be made from this story. It is just for fun.
I donít understand the ratings systems, but here in Australia, this would be a simple PG. Nothing any worse than you see on the actual show happens here, including the language. This was written with my thirteen-year-old daughter hanging over my shoulder, so there is no sex whatsoever. Shucks!
Tommy also, is being a good boy and swearing within the shows boundaries. See, he can behave himself when he wants to. Although I have to tell you, if I had been put in some of the situations my sick, twisted mind put poor Tom in, Iíd probably have said a lot more than a few simple damns etc.
Iíve tried to stick as close to cannon as I can and include everyone from the show, but itís a Tom story - pure and simple - because I love Tom Paris. My husband will probably ask for a divorce now, but it had to be said.
Please excuse the scientific explanations. I know theyíre lame, but I didnít know how else to explain it. Science is definitely not my strong point.
The walls of the corridor were a blur, as Tom Paris ran at full speed to Transporter Room Two. BíElanna was going to chew him into little pieces and spit him out. Huh! That was if he was lucky!
He was twenty minutes late and the clock was ticking. That was a strange saying, Tom mused, as he slowed down slightly. A stitch was developing in his side and that was not good. Of course, he knew what a clock was - an old-fashioned timepiece that heíd seen in museums as a child. It was the concept of the actual noise of it ticking, which bewildered him.
Ow!! The stitch was getting worse. This did not bode well. Heíd be arriving in the Transporter Room, breathless and in pain, to face The wrath of BíElanna.
Damn the Doc, anyway. This was all his fault. Theyíd been analyzing Ensign Kreggís latest test results and heíd lost complete track of the time. Doc seemed to be finding more and more interesting work for him to do lately and Kreggís illness was fascinating. Poor Eddie probably didnít think so, Tom grimaced to himself.
ĎAltorian Encephalitis.í Who would have thought it? Out here in the Delta Quadrant too.
The virus had attacked Eddie over seven years ago, but it had the uncanny ability to merge its DNA with its victimís. It had stayed in Eddieís system all these years, undetected until now.
The whole thing was pretty amazing, Tom thought to himself, picking up his pace again. The Doc had started treatment as soon as a diagnosis had been made and Eddie would be just fine. Trouble was, heíd become engrossed in the history of the virus and forgotten all about BíElanna.
And, it was all Docís fault, for making him his assistant in the first place, and then getting him interested in the whole medical thing. Not that he would admit that to anyone. No Way! He had his image to maintain.
Hotshot pilot - not - dedicated nurse.
When heíd first been Ďvolunteeredí for sickbay duties, heíd been terrified, although he felt heíd hidden it pretty well. Harry had guessed though. He frowned at that. Harry could see straight through him these days, just like BíElanna. He smiled. The thought didnít really bother him as much as it would have a few years back. It felt good to have friends that he could just be himself with. Of course, BíElanna was more than just a friend. She was his mate - his other half. And Harry was more than just a friend too. He was the brother heíd never had and always wanted.
He was quite enjoying helping the Doc these days, although he still panicked sometimes. There was still so much he didnít know. Probably would never know. His biggest nightmare was that something would happen to the Docís program and it couldnít be fixed. He was confident assisting Doc, but taking over? He still had cold sweats thinking about it.
Finally reaching Transporter Room two, Tom braced himself as he rushed in.
"BíElanna, Iím so sorry. I -------." His voice slowly faded out as he realized that Vorik was the only other person in the room.
"Ensign Paris, I have a message for you from Lieutenant Torres" Vorik stated formally.
Tom sighed and shut his eyes. "Okay, get it over with."
Vorik was used to Tomís rather excessive way of speaking- as he privately thought of it.
"Lieutenant Torres said and I quote, Ď Vorik, tell that Pítahk Paris that Iím not waiting any longer. I told him last time he was late, that Iíd only wait ten minutes, and itís been fifteen. Oh, and, Iím starting without him - with Harry.í She then proceeded to growl several times and I must apologize as I am unable to translate the rest as I do not understand Klingonese. Although, I must state, that a lot of what Lieutenant Torres said, she has also said in Engineering on particularly trying days. Suffice to say, you are in it over the neck. Is that the appropriate saying?"
"Close enough. Damn! Youíd better get me down there Ďfastí."
"I am unable to transport you at any greater speed than is the usual."
Tom chuckled quietly. " Youíre a real clown sometimes Vorik."
The Ensign looked slightly alarmed at this description. "It is my understanding that a clown tries very hard to make humans laugh at him, and I can assure you that I---."
Tom broke in quickly. "Oh no Vorik. Iím sorry. I didnít mean to insult you or anything."
"That is quite all right, Ensign Paris. I believe I have become familiar enough with your personality to know that you would not deliberately do that to me. I did not come out in the last rain."
Tom laughed outrightly. "Donít ever change. Okay?"
"I am also unable to do that. Oh - I comprehend now. You have been speaking metaphorically."
"Um, yeah. But Iíd really better be getting down to the planet now or BíElanna and Harry will be the new beach-ball champions and I want a piece of that action." He smiled at Vorik as he stepped up onto the transporter padd. "Energize."
****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******
Loud laughter greeted Tom as he rematerialized a few seconds later. Wow, he thought looking around.
Half the crew must be here. He couldnít see BíElanna or Harry anywhere close by, but the Captain and Neelix were standing at the waterís edge talking animatedly.
Tom strolled over to them and Neelix caught the movement out of the corner of his eye.
"Tom" he greeted enthusiastically. "Isnít this wonderful? Itís just what the crew needed. Everythingís been so tense lately and itís wonderful to see everyone so relaxed and happy."
Tom agreed. He admired their surroundings. It really was a perfect beach scene. Although the water was bright green, it was warm and inviting, and there were quite a few crewmembers swimming and splashing in the waves. A game of beach volleyball had been set up behind them and various crewmembers were picnicking in little groups spread out along the beach. Beach umbrellas of all sizes and colours were everywhere. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.
The Captain even looked relaxed and happy. It had been a long time since Tom had seen her so carefree. The last eight months, since the void, had been fairly arduous and when this planet had shown so promising on their scanners, Chakotay had insisted on shore leave for everyone, including - perhaps especially - Captain Janeway.
A small smile played around the corners of her mouth as she mischievously said, "Iíve been trying to coax Neelix into coming in for a swim Tom. Perhaps you can persuade him?"
Neelix looked a little flustered. " Iím sorry Captain, but I donít know how to swim. Oh, Iím sure if I had to, I could. At least, I think I could. Um. Well Iím sure I could learn anyway. That is, of course, if somebody would be willing to teach me."
Before Janeway could offer to do this, he quickly added. "Not today though. I really donít feel like getting wet right up to my neck today. Itís such a lovely day, why spoil it, I say." He laughed nervously.
"Donít let me stop you from going in Captain. Maybe Tom could join you? Iíll be quite content to splash around here at the waters edge and watch you both enjoy yourselves."
Tom felt himself flush. Things were still not quite right between the Captain and him, although he tried to treat her the same as he always had. For her part, so did she. To an outsider they might still seem to be mentor and favoured pupil, but to those close to them there was an uncomfortableness that had never been there before.
Janeway still felt bad about having to come down on Tom so hard, and perhaps a little guilty too. In reality, sheíd punished him twice for disobeying her regarding the Moneans. Reducing his rank had been punishment enough, but sheíd been so damn mad at him for putting her in the position of having to fire at him, that sheíd thrown him in the brig for thirty days as well.
It was too late to admit that now though, and it wouldnít really change anything if she did. Tom, for his part, still felt guilty for disappointing her. Sheíd put so much faith in him and heíd let her down. He just couldnít forgive himself for that.
Heíd been pretty mad at her at the time though. He felt that she should have helped protect the sea from the Moneans. Prime Directive be damned. Hell! She broke it whenever she felt justified. However, he didnít feel unjustly treated, he could guess at what heíd put her through. That was why he couldnít even stay mad at her for very long.
BíElanna still felt rather disgruntled with the Captain, but it didnít seem to bother her. Then again, she had her own reasons as well as what happened with him. Tom did feel bothered about it all though. He wanted to restore the comfortable rapport that the Captain and he had shared before. He still thought privately of her as his mentor and both respected and admired her greatly.
But to go happily splashing about in the water with her, - well, he didnít feel quite ready for that yet.
He could feel himself blushing. "Um. Iíd really like to Captain, but Iím supposed to be with BíElanna actually and um, you havenít seen her anywhere have you?"
Janewayís smile widened. " She was rather testy when she beamed down. Harry has taken her for a walk into the forest. They promised they wouldnít go far, as the possibility of getting lost, is quite high."
Neelix chuckled. "Harry called it a cooling off expedition. Said he wouldnít bring her back until all the steam had finished coming out of her ears. She chased him into the forest after that, but donít worry they wonít get lost. Harry definitely had a tricorder in his hand."
"Besides," Janeway added. "Thereís nothing in there that can harm them. In fact, I canít believe that there is no life on this planet except the plants. Itís a virtual paradise. Itís a wonder someone hasnít discovered it long before us."
"Thatís true Captain. But donít forget that there are no food supplies here." Neelix pointed out. "Although the plants and vegetation in the forest area are beautiful, they are not edible. Perhaps someone has discovered the planet and they are using it just as we are. Somewhere for a bit of rest and relaxation now and then."
Janeway pursed her lips. "Maybe so. I suppose we should think ourselves lucky that weíve got the place to ourselves today then."
Neelix nodded his head up and down. "Thatís right Captain. Why, I was just saying to the Delaney twins, a while ago, what a ------".
Tomís mind drifted away from the conversation. He hoped Harry was able to calm BíElanna down successfully, as he didnít want to spend the day with her in one of her moods. He sighed deeply. He had a horrible feeling that heíd forgotten something important too.
"Paris, where the hell have you been? And why are you still in your uniform?" Tom jumped and quickly turned around. BíElanna was striding purposefully toward him, with Harry trailing behind her, making little bleating noises. Tom swallowed nervously and licked his lips.
"What do you mean? Iíve been looking for you, actually." His father has always told him that the best form of defense was attack. "Why didnít you wait for me? I wasnít that late. How many times have you got caught up in Engineering and Iíve been left waiting around for you?"
BíElanna growled menacingly at him. "Donít play games with me Paris. I, at least, comm you, to let you know whatís happening. Why didnít you?" She stepped right up to him, glaring up into his face.
Tom fought the urge to step back. Okay- attack wasnít working. Time for the puppy dog look.
"Youíre right. Iím sorry BíElanna. Itís just that there was an emergency in Sickbay. Poor Eddie took a turn for the worst, and all I could think of, was saving him. You know how seriously I take my medical duties these days. Iím so, so sorry, but what could I do? I rushed to the Transporter Room as soon as I could. Didnít even stop to change as I didnít want to keep you waiting any longer." He tried out a small, pathetic smile.
BíElannaís face softened, but before she could say anything, Neelix rushed in. "Eddie? Ensign Kregg? Heís worse? The doctor told me he was going to be fine. Oh dear! What happened?"
"Yes Tom," the Captain added sounding concerned. "The doctor informed me only a few hours ago that he would be fine after a good nights sleep. I thought everything was under control. I should have been informed of this."
Damn! Heíd forgotten the Captain and Neelix were still standing there. "Oh, heís fine now Captain," Tom quickly explained. "Itís just that there was a lot of research and tidying up to be done after the crisis was over. You understand." The twinkle in his Captainís eyes showed that she probably understood only too well. Unfortunately, so did BíElanna.
"P'tahk!" she practically spat at him. Neelix wrung his hands in dismay. He hated people arguing.
"Come. Come. Letís not spoil a wonderful day. Iím sure Tom didnít mean to be late. He really is becoming quite dedicated with his medical studies BíElanna. He is a very good assistant to the Doctor you know. Why, I can attest to that. Only last week I burned my hand, quite severely I might add, and Tom fixed it up in no time. He was very gentle and caring. Really quite wonderful actually. You should be very proud of him BíElanna, because the Doctor told me that Tom was becoming a very able assistant and he was very pleased with him. Although, he did tell me not to tell you that Tom, as he said your head was already swelled enough. Oh dear! Youíd better not let the Doctor know I told you. You know what he can be like. Oh dear."
Tom, who was smiling delightedly at this warm outpouring, chanced a look at B"Elanna. She caught his eye and burst into laughter. "Oh Neelix. Weíll never get Tomís head to fit back in Voyager now. Tom, did you bring some clothes with you? You donít want to spend the rest of our shore leave in your uniform do you? I was hoping we could go swimming."
Pleased that BíElannaís mood had lightened, Tom shook his head. "I was in too much of a hurry. Iíll beam back up and be as quick as I can." Neelix grabbed him by the arm. "Thereís no need to do that Tom. I bought a spare shirt and shorts with me, in case I got wet. You can borrow them if you like, as the sun is so warm here that we will dry very quickly."
"Neelix, thatís very kind of you, but I donít want to put you to any trouble." Tom tried to keep the horror out of his voice. The Talaxian was wearing a pair of bright pink shorts with an equally bright orange tank top. Tom was quite sure that Neelixís spare clothes would be just as colorful. How was he going to get out of this one?
He looked over at Harry, who had been chuckling quietly to himself. Help me! Please! He implored. Harry couldnít quite get the picture of Tom, done up in one of Neelixís outfits, out of his head. And he owed him one! In fact, he owed him plenty. Payback time! It would be worth risking whatever Tom did to him in return.
"Hey Tom! Neelix is right. It would certainly save you a lot of time. BíElannaís been kept waiting long enough donít you think? Neelix wouldnít have offered if it was any trouble, would you have Neelix?"
Neelix nodded enthusiastically and ran back to his bag. "Here you go Tom." He handed a pair of bright yellow shorts to Tom. A red shirt, with large green and purple polka dots soon followed. The colors were all so dazzling, that to stare at them too long hurt the eyes.
Harry put his arm around his friendís shoulders. "Hurry up! You can get changed over there behind those trees. No one will see. Hey, I just thought of something! You need a hat. You know how easily you burn and Iíll bet you forgot sunscreen as well." Harry was thoroughly enjoying himself now. "Neelix, do you think that Tom could borrow that large straw hat with the big pink and blue flowers all over it?"
"Of course!" Neelix was eager to please.
"Um, please donít bother. I think the sun has already got to me. Iíd better return to the ship." Tom was indeed looking pale and shaky.
BíElanna growled at this. "Harry, you Alverian dung beetle. Stop teasing him. Iíve been looking forward to this all week and Iím not letting you ruin it. Understand?"
"Yes maíam," Harry said, before he could stop himself.
"Ve Qduj!" BíElanna swore at him again. "Denebian Slime Devil."
The Captain thought that sheíd better step in before things got out of hand.
"Neelix, youíre very thoughtful, and please donít take this the wrong way, but I donít think that Tom will be able to wear your clothes. I think they may be just a tad too big."
"Oh! Yes, of course, youíre right Captain. You know, you really should eat more Tom. Iím going to make you my next project. Iíll have you fattened up in no time."
Tom felt his face flaming. "Thatís not necessary Neelix. Really. Iím just the right weight for my height and build." Neelix sniffed unbelievingly.
Harry couldnít help himself. "You are a little thin you know Tom." There was just the right note of concern in his voice.
Neelix pounced. "Ah, there you see? Now, I wonít take no for an answer. You will be fattened up, whether you like it or not."
"Harry." BíElanna glared angrily at him. "You brought down extra clothes too. Give them to Tom. Now!!" She practically barked the last bit at him.
"You can borrow some of my sunscreen, Tom." Janeway offered. "Now come on Neelix, I really feel that itís time a man of so many talents learned how to swim." She dragged the protesting Talaxian down to the water.
Tom grinned at BíElanna. "Thanks! My hero!" he gushed. "You rescued me, so now I have to repay you with a kiss." He proceeded to demonstrate.
A small cough from Harry broke them apart. "Lucky I havenít eaten yet you two."
"Watch it, Ensign. Youíre still treading on very thin ice with me at the moment."
"Yeah Harry" Tom said, out of the corner of his mouth. He then stuck his tongue out and crossed his eyes at Harry. "Thatíll learn ya, ta pick on me. Iíll tell BíElanna on ya," he said in a childlike voice.
A few seconds later, Tom was racing across the beach laughing at the top of his lungs, with Harry hot on his heels, yelling like a banshee.
BíElanna sighed heavily. "Boys." She muttered darkly, looking across to Janeway, who was laughing loudly. "Do they ever grow up?"
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Okay, BíElanna was right. I shouldnít have eaten the pink finger slices, and I very definitely should not have had two helpings of that purple wobbly stuff. But whatís a guy to do? I was starving and it had all tasted so good at the time. After all, I hadnít eaten for over twenty -four hours, there was always something else to do and I kept forgetting. Tom was lying under the shade of an umbrella, suffering silently. At least, he hoped he was silent. Every now and then a moan would try to escape and he had to fight it down. Along with most of his lunch.
He sighed. Neelix had pushed one food after another onto him; in an effort to show him how seriously he took his new project. Tom had stuffed himself to bursting point. Now he was regretting it. Big Time. He was hoping that if he lay quietly, his stomach would settle down, before BíElanna or Harry realized what was wrong. They wouldnít let him live it down.
They were over playing volleyball and he was supposed to be coaching them from the sidelines. Heíd begged off, saying that he was tired - heíd had hardly any sleep the night before - and just wanted a nice afternoon nap. Which was true actually. Since he had lay down, his lack of sleep was catching up on him.
A huge yawn practically cracked his jaw. He felt like he could sleep for a week, if only his stomach would stop rolling. He groaned quietly hoping no one could hear. It looked like he would have to call the Doc, and get him to beam something down. His abdomen felt like it was on fire.
"Tom, are you all right?" Janeway hovered over him. "Youíre as pale as a ghost and seem to be in pain."
Great! "Um, no, Iím not, actually." He struggled to sit up. "I think I ate too much."
"Iím not surprised. Do you want me to get you anything? I have to get back to the ship now, so that I can relieve Chakotay. Do you want to beam back with me or would you prefer something sent down for you?"
"If you wouldnít mind Captain. I donít want anyone to know if I can help it."
Janeway smiled and patted his arm. "Iíll ask the Doctor to monitor you from the ship and then discreetly beam down some medication."
Tom snorted. The Doctor would be even worse than Harry or BíElanna could ever be. Things were becoming desperate though. It was either that or beam back up to the ship, and then heíd never get back down here.
"It shouldnít be too long," Janeway said as she left. Really, Iíll have to have a long talk to Neelix about his well -intentioned Ďprojectsí. And Iíll also better have a word with Tom about eating sensibly and regularly. I had to learn the hard way and it looks like Tom still has that lesson to learn.
Tom lay back down again. The pain in his stomach was getting worse. Much worse! It seemed to start in his side and then radiate around to the front. And to top it off, the stitch heíd had this morning was back again. Heíd had that stitch, on and off, for about a week now and knew he should have done something about it.
He shut his eyes and tried to concentrate on something else. However, the pain was becoming unbearable. I should have beamed up to the ship with the Captain. This is more than just an upset stomach. His hand went automatically to his chest, searching for his commbadge. He needed help - now!
His hand patted his tee shirt but there was nothing there. He had left his commbadge on his uniform jacket when he changed, and that was out of his reach. He really didnít feel that he would be able to move to get it. What was he going to do?
He looked around wildly to see if anyone was close enough to hear him call out. Every-one was down at the game and they were all making so much noise, he doubted that they would hear him. He had to try though. Just as he was about to yell, he caught movement behind him.
A worried face peered down at him. The face was that of a young child, but the child seemed to be as big as an adult, wearing primitive clothing similar to pictures heíd seen of early Egyptians on Earth. "Mallee, Mallee. Come quickly," the child cried. "Look what Iíve found."
Tom looked around confused. Where had this kid come from? He could see BíElanna looking towards him now. She waved at him and then turned away. That was strange. Wasnít she curious about the giant, little girl? After all, she certainly didnít come from Voyager, and there were no lifesigns on this planet. The pain in his side sharpened and it was all he could do, not to cry out.
His vision was becoming blurry and there was blackness around the edges of it. Just then another face peered down at him. This girl was older than the first and she was huge. A good four to five feet taller than he was. Which would make her over ten feet tall! She looked to be in her late teens. "Quilla, what have you found? Where did it come from?"
"It was just here. Can I keep it? Please Mallee, I found it, so itís mine. Please Mallee say yes. Please. Please. Please.!!!!"
"Quiet Quilla! You will have to see what Father says. You know that. Youíre always bringing home strays and heís getting tired of it. Anyway," the girl examined him closer. "This one looks sick."
Tom managed to croak out, "Get help" before the pain overcame him and he lapsed into unconsciousness.
"Go and get father, Quilla. Iíll stay here with it. Be quick now."
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
BíElanna swatted an annoying piece of hair out of her eyes, as she got ready to serve for match point. She could hear Harry muttering to her, "gently, gently does it. Not too hard now. "
"Shut up Harry! I know what Iím doing."
"Yeah, right. Thatís why every one of your serves has landed way over the other side of the beach. This is for the game, donít forget." Harry stood with his hands on his hips.
"Donít exaggerate. Anyway, weíre not exactly playing for gold-pressed latinum here you know."
Jeez, when did Harry get so competitive? Heíd done nothing but criticize her all game. And she was sick of it. It would have been so much more fun to have partnered Tom.
At this thought she looked over towards her mate, hoping he was still watching, but he seemed to be fast asleep. She growled softly.
"Youíve definitely been hanging around with Paris too long," Harry said grumpily.
"Come-on you two," Sue Nicoletti called. She was umpiring and tired of all the arguing. "Whatís going on? Did you two have personality transplants or something?"
"Oh, very funny Sue. Ha! Ha! Ha!" Harry frowned over at her. "Iíd just like to see all my efforts actually be rewarded, for once."
"Oh, for Kahlessís sake Harry. Remind me never to partner you in beach volleyball again. Youíre going to make me do something that youíre going to regret."
"Serve the ball!!!" called out a chorus of voices.
BíElanna proceeded to do just that, only with a lot more energy than was really required. To her dismay the ball landed quite a few meters away.
"You did that on purpose!!!" Harry looked like he was about to cry. "Remind me never to partner you again."
BíElanna glared at him angrily. "Donít push me Harry! I just might have to break your arm."
"Go ahead. Even with one arm Iíd be playing better than you." Harry was so upset he wasnít thinking straight. Baiting the half-klingon engineer was never a smart move, but especially not when she was already in klingon mode.
With a full-blooded klingon war cry, she launched herself at him, knocking him to the ground. It took four security officers to pull her off of him.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Tuvok sighed wearily. He had been sitting quietly reading, further along the beach. Logically, it was time for him to remind two of the senior staff of their positions. This childish behavior could not be tolerated.
He was gratified that the Captain had returned to the ship, therefore missing the entire embarrassing incident.
That is strange, Tuvok thought, as he hurried towards the scene. It is curious that Ensign Paris is not in the middle of this. Usually, he would be the one who instigated it. He looked over at Tom and was surprised to see that he was still sleeping. The crew were making so much noise by this time that this was highly suspicious.
"Lieutenant, Ensign," he said sternly, as he approached them. The crew parted to make way for him. A sudden silence filled the air, except for the harsh breaths still coming from BíElanna. "What is the meaning of this?"
"Iím sorry Commander. I guess we got carried away." Harry looked mortified.
Tuvok wasnít really listening. He was preoccupied with the mysterious behavior of Paris. He looked over at him again. BíElanna and Harry followed his gaze.
"Tom?" Harry asked uncertainly. There was something wrong. BíElanna had already started running.
Before she could reach him however, the Doctor and Chakotay shimmered into existence next to the pilot.
"Whatís wrong?" BíElanna called out apprehensively.
"Nothing to concern yourself about Lieutenant," the Doctor said, rather smugly. "Apparently, Mr. Paris consumed a little too much of Mr. Neelixís questionable cuisine. The Captain asked me to send some antacid down to him, but as he is not wearing his commbadge, I was unable to monitor his condition appropriately."
Chakotay was smiling. "The Captain also asked you to be discreet. I donít think telling most of the crew, is what she had in mind."
"Well, that is hardly my fault. What are all the crew doing watching him sleep anyway?" the Doctor sniffed, offended.
"I was a little curious, as to how Mr. Paris was able to remain asleep with all the noise that was happening here a few moments ago," Tuvok explained to the Doctor. "Unfortunately, my concern must have transmitted itself to others around me."
"Mr. Paris has the uncanny ability to sleep through an earthquake, if he so desires." The Doctor was kneeling down running a tricorder over Tom, by this time. He was a little concerned himself by now.
"Hmm! Thatís strange." He banged the tricorder with the palm of his hand and then ran it up and down the Commander. "No, it seems to be working perfectly."
"What is it?" Chakotay asked with concern.
"Mr. Parisís readings donít make any sense."
"What do you mean?" Harry stepped forward.
"His vital signs keep fluctuating, as if the medical tricorder is flickering on and off."
"Give me that!" BíElanna snatched the offending instrument from the Doctor and did a little banging herself. "Thereís nothing wrong with it," she told him flatly.
"Really, Lieutenant! Thank you for your diagnosis, but I had already ascertained that. Would you kindly give that back to me, unless youíre going to use it, of course." The Doctor huffed at her, annoyed.
"Sorry," BíElanna said sheepishly, handing him the tricorder. "Iím just worried about Tom. Why is he still asleep? Whatís wrong with him?"
The Doctor paused. "As I told you, I canít get an accurate reading. Itís as if he is winking in and out of existence."
"What are you talking about?" BíElanna growled. "Heís right there, and he hasnít so much as twitched."
"Thatís why I said it didnít make sense," the Doctor said in his I-Told-You-So tone of voice.
"Letís beam him back to the ship," Chakotay suggested. "I donít know whatís happening here, but whatever it is we can investigate it later. Tom is our first priority."
"Well, of course," the Doctor said, scandalized to think that any one would think otherwise.
Chakotay hit his commbadge. "Chakotay to Voyager. Medical emergency------"
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Tom couldnít understand what was happening around him. There were voices and noise, but it was so confusing that he couldnít make sense of it. The girl - Mallee - was still there. She was kneeling down beside him, softly stroking his face, saying something about her father. But there were others as well, arguing about something. Their voices were muffled, as if they were a long way away.
He struggled to open his eyes. Everything was blurred and unfocused. He tried to sit up, but Mallee held him down. "Lay still!" she said softly. "Help is coming. Youíll be fine. Donít worry!" She started making shushing sounds and patting his head. Tom closed his eyes again.
The other voices were growing louder. BíElanna!! Tom could hear her voice, as if from a great distance.
She was getting closer. The Doc!! He could hear him now too. Thank the gods!! He had never been so glad to hear any one before. The pain would be gone soon. He felt relief flood through him. He was pretty sure, that after this was over, heíd have to give the holographic Doctor a great big bone-crushing hug. Consequences, be damned!
"Doc." His voice was a mere croak. "Doc," he managed to say a little louder. When he opened his eyes this time, things were clearer.
BíElanna was leaning over him, gently wiping his forehead. Mallee was still on the other side of him patting his head and making soft shushing noises.
That was surprising! He must be really sick, if BíElanna was letting a complete stranger comfort him. Of course, Mallee was so big; BíElanna might not have liked to say anything. Perhaps they had already made friends. Anything could have happened while he was out to it.
The Doctor peered down at him. "Ah, Mr. Paris, youíre awake at last. There is no need to worry. Weíll have you fixed up in no time. How bad is the pain?"
"Bad," Tom managed to get out. "Real bad."
The Doctor placed a hypospray on Tomís neck. "There you go. I have given you twenty c.c.s of hydrazine. That should help with the pain."
"I donít understand," Tom said dazedly. "Why havenít you fixed me up? Whatís wrong with me anyway?"
"Itís your appendix, Tom. Itís burst," BíElanna explained.
"Youíre starting to develop Peritonitis, Mr. Paris. You must lie still," the Doctor cautioned.
"Well, beam me back up to the ship and take my appendix out, Doc. What are we still doing down here, anyway?"
"Calm down Tom, itís not as easy as that." BíElanna tried to soothe him. "For some reason, we canít get a lock on you. We canít beam you up; so Chakotay is bringing a shuttle down to get you. He should be here any minute."
"It has been extremely difficult to even get an accurate diagnosis," the Doctor added. "Your lifesigns keep fading in and out. Of course, if you had told me about the pains you must have been having, this whole situation could have been avoided."
BíElanna growled angrily at the hologram. "Now is not the time to lecture Tom about his recklessness."
"I would call it irresponsible, neglectful and careless," the Doctor sniffed. "After all, Mr. Paris is supposed to be my assistant. What hope is there for the rest of the crew to look after themselves, if some one, who should know better, is so remiss with his own health."
"Hey!" Tom bristled. "It was a small twinge. Thatís all. I thought it was a stitch." He groaned as the pain started up again. "Youíd better do something, quick," he gasped. Mallee was trying to tell him something, but he couldnít hear her.
"Hold on, Tom. It wonít be much longer." BíElanna was starting to panic. Where was Chakotay? Tom could die! "Maybe you should just go ahead and do the surgery here."
The Doctor shook his head. "Iíve already explained why thatís not a good idea. With the strange fluctuations, it would be impossible to monitor him. Anything could happen. I will only consider that option if the situation becomes dire."
"How more dire does it need to be?" BíElanna snapped.
Harry, who had been standing behind them, knelt down and touched her shoulder gently. "BíElanna, I know youíre worried. So am I. But I trust the Doc to look after him. He really cares about Tom. Oh, he tries to hide it, but I can tell. Thatís why I know he wonít let anything happen to him."
The Doctor sniffed again. "I care about all my patients. Besides, I have spent a lot of time training Mr. Paris. I do not relish the idea of starting all over again with somebody else. After all the many and varied things that have happened to him, you donít think a little thing like a gangrenous appendix will stop him, surely."
BíElanna smiled. "Harryís right. You do care about him. I know Iím being hard to get along with. Itís just that -," she broke off.
Tom laughed softly. "Itís alright sweetheart. Iíll be fine. Anyway, itís not every day that a man gets two beautiful angels to comfort him. Even if one of them is larger than life."
Harry laughed out loud. "Now Tom, the Docís many things, but an angel isnít one of them."
Tom frowned up at him. "Thatís not very nice Harry," he scolded. "Youíll hurt her feelings."
Harry looked confused. "Who? BíElanna?"
"No, Mallee." Tom said drowsily. "You really shouldnít ignore her like that. Itís bad manners, and besides, sheís a lot bigger than you." The medication was making him sleepy. "You know, sheís really very sweet. Even BíElanna likes her. Donít you sweetheart?"
BíElanna looked around. "How much medication did you give him Doc?"
"You do like her, donít you?" Tom asked her again. "I know you do, ícause you never would have let her touch me like that if you didnít."
"Um, okay Tom," Harry quickly said turning red. "Nowís not the time to be talking about your um, well you know."
Tom looked at him confused. "What?"
"You know," Harry said again, his face even redder. "The medicationís obviously making him a little indiscreet," he said looking at BíElanna.
"Indiscreet?" BíElanna echoed. "What are you talking about Harry?"
Poor Harry didnít know where to look, or what to say either. "Nothing"
"Nothing," BíElanna repeated frostily. "I donít believe this. Are you trying to say that Tom has fantasies about some sort of harem girl called Mallee? And, he told you about them?" Her voice rose incredulously.
"Um, no, itís not like that. We donít talk about that - well, you know." Harry was wishing fervently that heíd just shut up and let Tom incriminate himself.
"No, I donít know." BíElannaís voice was like ice. "Maybe you have some sort of adolescent fantasies, but Tom doesnít need to. After all, he has me."
Harry gulped. "Of course, Iím sorry. Youíre right. Heís delusional or something."
Tom felt his head spinning. What was the matter with them? He looked over at Mallee. She was a little hard to miss. She smiled shyly at him, and patted his hand. "Harry, Iím not delusional. And stop talking about me as if Iím not here."
"You are upsetting my patient," the Doctor warned. "You are supposed to be helping to keep him calm. If the two of you are finding that task too difficult I suggest you go over and help Commander Tuvok keep the rest of the crew busy."
"Iím not going anywhere," BíElanna scowled fiercely at the holodoctor.
"Iím sorry Doc," Harry said contritely. "Youíre right. Weíre not helping." He leaned over Tom who had started moaning again. "Hang in there buddy. Try and get some sleep. Maybe you could dream up a beautiful girl for me while youíre there."
Tom shook his head. "You donít understand Har. Malleeís not a figment of my imagination. Sheís real. Sheís right there." He pointed to his side. "Canít you see her? Sheís huge! You canít possibly miss her. Canít any of you see her?"
"Shh Tom," BíElanna crooned softly. "Donít upset yourself. Save your strength."
Mallee shushed him also. "Father will be here soon. Heíll know what to do. Donít worry. Weíll look after you," she told him.
Tom grabbed BíElannaís hand and thrust it towards Mallee. Sheíd have to believe him now. But as her hand came into contact with Malleeís arm, BíElanna Ďs hand seemed to dissolve. Mallee then held his hand as well. One moment it was BíElannaís strong, blunt fingers holding his and then they seemed to meld into Malleeís huge long fingers. Tom gasped. Something really weird was going on here.
Harry must be right. He was delusional. That was the only explanation. The scans had shown that the planet was uninhabited. Even if they were wrong, it certainly wasnít inhabited by a bunch of giant girls. He laughed, rather hysterically, causing the Doctor and BíElanna to exchange worried looks.
Tom looked up into Malleeís worried eyes. She seemed so real. He could feel her fingers within his and her other hand gently stroking his hair. Her voice, softly crooning, was just as real to him as BíElannaís.
"Canít you do something? Heís hallucinating." BíElannaís voice shook as she spoke.
"It must be the high temperature he is still registering." The Doctor was baffled. "Iíve already given him something for it. It really should have worked. I donít understand it. Quite frankly, none of this makes any sense."
The noise of the shuttle landing was soon heard. "Chakotay, finally," BíElanna called out in relief, as the Commander ran over to them carrying a stretcher. "What took you so long?"
At the exact same time, Tom heard Mallee call out, "Father, finally youíre here."
"What have we here?" a deep male voice rumbled. Tom turned his attention to the sound and could no longer hear what BíElanna and the others were saying.
"Iím not sure Father. The poor thing is very sick though." Mallee hesitated. "I think it might be sentient."
"What do you mean?" her father asked incredulously. "Just because it is of a similar appearance to us, although a lot paler and smaller, doesnít mean itís one of us."
"Itís wearing clothes of some sort. They are rather strange garments, I know, but an animal wouldnít be dressed Father, would it?"
Tom tried to speak, but couldnít. Everything was blurry and out of focus. One thing was for sure though; this man was almost three times his size. And Iím the only one who can see and hear these people. Have I gone crazy? He tried to speak again, but could only get out a few incoherent mumbles.
"I think it must come from the mountains," the giant was saying. "The mountain peoples do all sorts of strange experiments. This is probably the result of some sort of genetic mixing. That is one of the many reasons we forest people have nothing to do with them. For it to be dressed, must mean that it is domesticated and perhaps a pet of some sort. It has obviously been abandoned."
"It can speak Father. I heard it and understood. It has been mumbling softly and I have been unable to hear most of it, but every now and then a word comes out quite clearly."
"Maybe it can mimic."
"Perhaps," but Mallee did not sound convinced.
"Whatís wrong with it? Father can you fix it?" The little girl, Quilla, was becoming impatient.
"Iím not sure," her father answered. "Quilla, be still for a moment and let me see." He bent down to examine Tom closer.
Tom could see the giant man squatting next to him; but he could also see Harry kneeling next to him, in the exact same position. They seemed to be super imposed over one another.
Harry moved to help lift him onto the stretcher and at the same time the giant started to lift him up as well. The pain was unbearable. "Giants," he managed to gasp out before the blackness overtook him again.
"What did it say? It did say something that time, didnít it Father?" Mallee asked.
"Iím not sure," her father answered. "It was too soft to hear." He picked Tom up effortlessly, and shifted him into a more comfortable position in his arms. "Come on girls. Weíll take it home and Iíll see what I can do. Donít get your hopes up though. The poor creatureís very ill."
Meanwhile, Harry, who had been in the process of lifting Tomís head and shoulders, while Chakotay took his legs, screamed. Tom had disappeared, right from his arms. He was white with shock. No transporter beam had done this.
Chakotay opened his mouth and then closed it again. "What the hell ----?" he demanded angrily.
End Part One