UNEXPECTED PATHWAYS
By TíPam

Disclaimer: Voyager and all her crew belong to Paramount/Viacom. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit will be made, as this story is just for fun.

Rated PG-15
 

Part Four

Tom stepped out into the corridor from sickbay, despair engulfing him. ĎOh Harry! Harry! What am I going to do, without you?í

"Tom," a voice called out urgently. "Help me."

Tom turned around to see Chakotay hurrying down the corridor, an unconscious BíElanna in his arms.

"Oh God! What happened?" Tom helped them into sickbay.

The Doctor came hurrying over.

"She was pretty upset. I couldnít get her to calm down," Chakotay told them as he settled BíElanna on the only available biobed. "She just suddenly screamed and clutched her stomach. Her waters have broken."

The Doctor ran a tricorder over her. "There are signs of fetal distress. I donít like the look of this. I can only detect one heartbeat. We are going to have to deliver them now."

BíElanna stirred and tried to sit up. "The babies. Whatís happening?"

"The Doctorís going to have to deliver them now," Chakotay told her.

"But itís too soon. Iím not even eight months."

"Itíll be all right," Chakotay soothed her.

"I didnít expect you to go full term anyway, Lieutenant," the Doctor said crisply. "Now relax. You need to stay calm." The EMH turned to Tom. "I hope you have been studying birthing techniques, Mr. Paris."

Tom had been standing off to the side, wondering whether he should comm Sam. He couldnít bear to be here for this. It was too much. He could hardly cope with Harryís death; he knew he wouldnít be able to do this.

"Iíll contact Sam. She was going to help with the delivery."

"There is no time," the Doctor said urgently. "This has to be done now. We canít wait any longer."

Tom nodded, knowing it was true.

The Doctor came over to him, as Chakotay tried to calm BíElanna down. "I know this will be difficult," the EMH said softly. "Believe me, I would not put you through this if I had a choice. But I need your help. The babies need your help."

Tom took a deep breath. "You can count on me Doc. What do you want me to do?"


Tom stood back and watched BíElanna and Chakotay delight over their twin boys. It had been touch and go with the first one, but now they were both doing fine.

"They will have to stay in sickbay for the next week, just to be safe," the Doctor cautioned.

"But theyíre all right, arenít they?" BíElanna asked anxiously.

"Oh yes. They are perfectly healthy. I wonít let anything happen to them. I promise you."

"Theyíre beautiful," Chakotay said proudly.

Tom felt sick. He knew he should go now. It was late. It was after midnight and he was exhausted. Heíd done what had to be done. The Doctor could cope now. He wanted to leave. He wanted desperately to get away, but his feet remained fixed to the floor. He was fated to stay there and watch the two of them, as they smiled adoringly at each other and their children.

He tried to tear himself away, to glance away even, but he remained there, stuck firmly in place, the outsider looking in, knowing now that he would never have this. BíElanna was lost to him forever.

"So, which oneís which?" Chakotay was saying, a teasing smile on his face. "Iíll let you decide."

BíElanna shook her head, the smile on her face fading. "I know we decided to name the boys after our fatherís, but Iíd like to call one of them Harry instead. I hardly remember my father and well, Harry means - meant," her voice broke a little, "a lot more to me."

Chakotay nodded. "Thatís a wonderful idea. Iím sure Harry would be pleased." He picked up the first born of the twins. "I name you, Harry. Youíre a real little fighter."

BíElanna picked up the second. "And you are Kolopak." Her eyes shone brightly with unshed tears. "Youíre right. Harry would be pleased."

Tom could feel the bile rising in his throat. His stomach churned. He could feel anger rising within him. Anger so powerful that he felt consumed by it. He wanted to scream at them. ĎHarryís dead. He wonít be feeling pleased about anything. Not ever again. Bring him back and you can call the baby after your no-good father. Thatís the way it was supposed to be.í

He took a few deep breaths to try and gain some sort of control. He had to get out of here.

The doors opened and the Captain came in.

She came straight to him and held his arm. "Are you all right?" she asked, looking up at him in concern.

He managed to nod. He could taste the vomit now.

"Captain, Iíd like to introduce you to the two newest members of the crew. Harry and Kolopak," Chakotay announced proudly.

The Captain went over and studied them carefully. "Theyíre adorable."

Tomís stomach churned once more and he was gratified to discover that he could now move. He dashed for the bathroom, just making it in time. He continued to retch long after there was nothing left to vomit.

Shaking, he fell on his knees to the floor. A hand came out, offering him a washcloth and he took it gratefully.

"Thanks," he mumbled as he washed his face. He looked up, expecting to see the Doctor, and scrambled back madly when he saw Chakotay kneeling down in front of him, watching him with concern. "Go away."

"I just wanted to say how sorry I am Tom. We both are. We know how close you and Harry were. Itís been a difficult day. The twins must have been the final straw."

Tom put his head in his hands. "Just leave me alone. Leave me alone. Leave me alone." He kept repeating it until he was sure Chakotay was gone, and then climbed slowly to his feet. The tears burned his eyes as he made his way painfully through sickbay, looking straight ahead. He had to get to his quarters; thatís all he could think of.

No one tried to stop him as he made his way through the ship, and for that he was grateful.

The tears were streaming down his face now, but he made no effort to wipe them away. He could no longer see properly, so he groped his way towards his quarters. There was a figure standing in front of him and he let out a sob as he realized it was Seven.

"You are my friend. I am here for you," she said simply.


Tom awoke, feeling groggy and confused. He slowly rolled over and sat up.

What the hell had he been drinking? He hadnít drunk for years. What had happened? And then it hit him. He hadnít been drinking at all. Harry was dead and BíElanna had had the babies and life was unbearable. A small moan escaped him as he sat with his head in his hands, trying to make sense of it all.

There was a shuffling noise and he looked up to see Seven standing in the doorway.

"You are awake. I have brought you a glass of water."

He attempted to ask what she was doing here, but all that came out was a croak. His throat was raw. He had vague recollections of his ragged sobbing and the feeling of being engulfed in warmth and comfort. Seven handed him the water and he sipped it gratefully.

"Thanks," he rasped out. "Whatís the time?"

"It has just gone 0500 hours."

Tom looked down at himself. All he had on was his shorts. "I donít remember undressing or going to bed."

"I helped you. You were unable to do it yourself."

"I donít know what to say. You didnít have to stay."

"You needed me."

"I donít remember much about last night, but thanks. I remember you holding me and feeling comforted."

"You are my friend. It is what friends do. You would do the same for me."

Tom looked at her in surprise. She was right. He would.

"I believe I also needed comfort," Seven continued. "I will miss Harry."

Tom nodded, his throat closing up again and his eyes blurring with tears. "Nothing will ever be the same again," he choked out.

"The Captain came here not long ago," Seven told him. "She was worried about you."

"She did?"

"She is unable to sleep. She said she was pleased that you were not alone. There will be a memorial service later today. She wondered if you would like to speak on behalf of Harry."

Tom shook his head vigorously. "I couldnít. I just - well - I just canít."

"You do not have to explain. Perhaps you will change your mind later?"

"I donít know. I donít even know how Iím going to get through the service."

"I will help you."

Tom felt the tears streaming down his face once more. After last night he didnít think there could be any left. Seven sat down on the bed next to him and put her arms around him. "I am here for you Tom," she whispered softly.


Three Weeks Later:
 

"You need counseling Mr. Paris. You are not coping. You are, in fact, on the point of an emotional collapse. If you do not wish to speak to me, the Doctor has also offered his services."

"I canít talk to the Doc. I have to work with him."

"You also have to work with me, Mr. Paris. Granted, perhaps not on the same one to one basis as you do with the Doctor."

Tom sighed heavily. "Tuvok, Iím here because the Captain said I have to. If I have to have counseling, then I pick you."

"Very well, but you need to trust me. Talk to me. What is said is strictly between the two of us."

Tom nodded, but still remained silent. Tuvok sat back in his chair and waited patiently. Finally, he sighed. "Mr. Paris, we are wasting each otherís time."

"Well, what do you want me to say? This is the Captainís idea, not mine."

"It has become necessary. You are unable to perform your duties, satisfactorily."

"Who cares? There are other pilots, just as good as me, and sickbay would be better off without me, anyway."

"I see. This is what you truly believe?"

"Itís obvious, isnít it?"

"No, I do not believe so. Please explain to me your reasoning."

"Tuvok, two people are dead because of me. Both Harry and Matthews could still be alive if someone who knew what they were doing had treated them."

"That is not true. They both died before you came in contact with them. The Doctor has confirmed that there was nothing to be done in either case. If the Doctor, with all of his medical knowledge, would not have been able to save them, why do you believe that you should have?"

"I - I donít know."

"You are determined to blame yourself for circumstances that you had no control over, Mr. Paris. I believe it is a manifestation of your grief over Mr. Kimís death."

"I should have protected him."

"There was nothing you could have done. You were not Ensign Kimís protector. You were his friend."

Tom sniffed and wiped his suddenly blurred eyes. "I think Harry was more my protector actually. He was a wonderful friend."

"I believe it is no exaggeration to state that he is missed by everyone on this ship."

Tom nodded. "Sometimes I donít think I can go on without him, Tuvok. I needed him. I needed his friendship."

"There are other people on this ship that care about you, Ensign."

"I suppose so."

"The Captain is very concerned about you. And then there is Neelix, Chakotay and BíElanna---." Tom stiffened and Tuvok broke off. "Seven has voiced her concerns for you also. "

Tom smiled a little. "Sevenís been a good friend. Underneath that tough exterior lies a good heart."

"So it would seem."

They finished their session for that day and as soon as Tom had left, Tuvok turned to his console and commed the Captain. "I believe that I can help Mr. Paris to cope with his grief," he reported. "It will take time however. I do not believe that he is open to in-depth counseling. He was willing to talk to me however, and that is the first step."

"Thank you Tuvok. I appreciate this. Janeway out"

Tuvok acknowledged her gratitude and turned back to his desk. He had security reports to write.


"Doctor, I need your advice."

"Why certainly Seven," the EMH beamed.

"I am finding these outfits too constrictive. They are no longer functional. I am no longer comfortable."

"Really?" The Doctor sounded highly surprised.

"Yes, really. I need something that allows me a little more freedom of movement."

The Doctor studied her closely. "Now that you mention it, it seems that youíve put on a little weight."

"That is hardly surprising, considering that I am ingesting nutritional supplements three times a day now."

"Thatís normal for a human. Youíre supposed to eat three times a day."

"I would prefer to follow the Captainís example and - eat - less often. She often forgoes her meals."

"The Captain is hardly a shining light to be following in regard to eating habits. No, youíll have to take my word for this, Seven. You need to eat regularly."

"Very well."

"Actually, since youíre here Seven, Iíll give you a quick check up. You missed your last one."

"I have been busy with repairs to the ship. The explosion caused much damage."

The Doctor nodded. "You should still take time to have a monthly physical. Just to be safe."

"I will endeavor to do so in the future." Seven climbed up onto a biobed.

"How have you been feeling?"

"I have been a little nauseous."

"Why didnít you tell me? You should have come to me."

"I was not concerned. You explained to me that it might happen, due to my increase in nutritional supplements."

"I also told you to tell me if it was a problem."

"It is not a problem. It is very slight and occasional."

"Still, itís a good thing I can check you over now. When weíve finished, Iíll help you design some new outfits. Something versatile, yet still flattering." The Doctor picked up his tricorder and started scanning Seven.

"The looks are irrelevant," Seven said dryly. "I merely wish them to be comfortable."

The Doctor gave a gasp and looked at Seven in shock. "How can this be?" he whispered.

"Doctor?" Seven raised her eyebrow slightly.

"This canít be right. The readings are wrong." The Doctor scanned her once more. His frown deepened.

"What is it Doctor?"

"Youíre pregnant."

Seven found she was mirroring the Doctorís frown. "Pregnant?"

"Three weeks to be exact. But itís just not possible."

"Doctor, it must be possible, since I am."

"Yes, of course. But how? Who?"

"It is not necessary for you to know the details, Doctor."

"As your Doctor - and friend - I think it is. Have you been having an affair with one of the crew? You should have come and spoken to me before it went this far. We needed to discuss contraceptives. Now itís too late."

"I have not been having an affair Doctor."

"You were assaulted?" His voice rose incredulously. "This will have to be reported. You donít have to tell me who it was. I can easily find the culprit with a DNA sample."

"I was not assaulted. And I do not give you permission to take a DNA sample."

"Seven, someone has taken advantage of you. This has to be reported."

"No! I was not taken advantage of. I made a conscious decision. I did not however, realize that the consequences of my actions would have this result. I believed my," she hesitated, "partner, would have had his contraceptive booster."

"Seven, you must always be responsible for your own contraception. If you had only come to me before leaping into this sexual liason, I would have warned you. There were many things that you needed to know."

"I could not come to you beforehand, Doctor. I did not know that it was going to happen."

"I see. So it was just a spur of the moment thing. You had a date and he sweet-talked you into believing that dates ended with sex. Seven, whether you want to believe it or not, you were taken advantage of."

"I did not go on a date Doctor. It was nothing like that. Please refrain from this ineffectual conjecture. I will not tell you."

The Doctor sniffed. "Very well, if thatís the way you feel. You have some decisions to make. You need to inform your - partner."

"No!"

"Seven," the Doctor spoke softly now - gently. "You need to talk to somebody about this. If not me, then the Captain. Iíll call her down here."

"No! I need some time to myself. You must not discuss this with anyone."

"It is my duty to report this to the Captain."

"Only if my condition is a threat to the ship - which it is not, or I am unfit to make a decision for myself. This is not the case either."

The EMHís ethical subroutines kicked in. He sighed. "If you wish this to remain confidential, I am bound to honor your request. However, Iíd just like to point out, that this wonít be able to be kept quiet for long."

"I realize this. I have a few weeks however. That should be sufficient time to contemplate my future."


One week later:
 

Tom walked into the mess hall and glanced around. He saw Seven sitting at a table and picking up a tray went to join her.

"Hi," he said with a smile. "Is it that bad?"

Seven had a strange look on her face and seemed to be having trouble swallowing.

"I am not - sure." She pushed the tray away from her. "I do not believe that I am hungry after all."

Tom picked up a forkful of food and sniffed it suspiciously. "It smells all right."

"The aroma is very - strong," Seven said faintly.

Tom looked at her curiously. "Are you all right? You look a little green around the gills."

"I am - fine. How are you?"

Tom sighed. "All right, I suppose."

"Your sessions with Tuvok, they are helping?"

"Yeah, I guess. But he wants me to talk about my childhood and stuff, and Iíd rather not. Thereís an old saying, Ďlet sleeping dogs lieí, I think is rather appropriate."

Seven frowned at him. "I know the saying, but I am not sure it is appropriate under the circumstances. Your Ďdogsí, are not sleeping. Your past is affecting you."

Tom looked at her in surprise. "I hadnít really thought about it like that." He looked at her closely. "Are you sure youíre all right? You look a little pale."

"I am feeling slightly nauseous. The Doctor told me to expect it."

Tom nodded. "Yeah right. A side effect from eating as often as the rest of us. Still, you should go back and see him. He can give you something to alleviate the symptoms."

"It is not that bad."

"Well, itís up to you." He took a small bite from his tray and chewed it carefully. "Hey! This is pretty good." He took a larger mouthful.

Seven quickly stood up. "I must get back to astrometrics," and without waiting for a reply, hurried from the room.

Tom turned around to watch her leave and shook his head. If he didnít know any better, heíd swear she had raced off to be sick. Surely not! Although, she really hadnít looked too good.

He turned around and began to eat his lunch thoughtfully. If Seven was feeling that bad, she really should see the Doc. She could be so stubborn. He decided to speak to the Doc about her himself.


"So anyway, I thought you should check her over, just to be safe," Tom concluded.

"Thank you Mr. Paris," the Doctor said thoughtfully. "I will speak to her."

Tom watched the Doctor, as he stood lost in thought. "Doc?"

The EMH jumped a little and turned towards Tom.

"What do you want me to do this afternoon?" he asked.

"There is a list over there," the Doctor answered, rather distractedly.

Tom set to work. The Doctor was distracted all afternoon. Tom had to repeat himself more and more. As Tom thought about it, he realized that the Doctor had seemed distant and distracted all week.

"Do you want to tell me whatís wrong?" he asked him finally.

He sat down across from the Doctor, who had been sitting down at his desk, staring at nothing for several minutes.

The Doctor looked over at him, startled. "Wrong?"

"Yeah. Itís obvious that something is. Youíve been out of it all afternoon and when I thought about it just then, youíve been kind of strange all week. Somethingís obviously worrying you. Maybe, I should get Harry---," he stopped and swallowed at his slip. "I mean Anderson or someone, down here to look at your program."

The Doctor sighed. "There is nothing wrong with my program. However, there is something wrong. Unfortunately, I canít tell you. As my medical assistant you really should be informed, in case something does happen to my program."

"So, itís a medical problem concerning one of the crew?"

The Doctor nodded. "I canít tell you anymore. The patient has demanded complete privacy, for the time being."

"I understand Doc."

ĎWhatever the problem is, itís obviously seriousí, Tom thought to himself, as he went back out into the other room. The Doctor seemed really worried. No wonder he hadnít taken much notice when heíd told him about Seven. Heíd had other things on his mind. He felt a little worried himself.

Something stirred in the back of his mind as he thought about Seven.

He suddenly realized what was wrong. Seven had started eating three meals a day weeks ago. In fact, it had been before the explosion in the cargo hold. Any nauseousness should have abated by now. He wondered when sheíd had her last check up. She was supposed to have one every month, but with the chaos the ship had been in and everybody working so much, he doubted that she had.

He went over to the medical files and brought up Sevenís record. Before he could do no more than glance at it however, the Doctor was by his side. He switched off the terminal and glared at Tom. "May I ask what you are doing?"

Tom looked at him in surprise. "I was just going to check the last time Seven came in for a check up. I think she might have missed one."

"I checked her last week, actually."

"Oh? How was she?"

"In perfect health. Why do you ask?"

"Doc, I told you. Remember? Sheís still feeling sick from eating three times a day. That shouldnít be happening. I just realized that you put her on three meals a day, at least five weeks ago. There should only have been problems the first two weeks and nothing as severe as I suspect she was suffering today."

"Of course. You are right."

"Weíd better get her down here."

"That is not necessary. I will speak to her later."

"When?" Tom couldnít believe how blasé the Doctor was being. Heíd thought the EMH was secretly in love with the ex-Borg, so this attitude was unusual.

The Doctor rolled his eyes, a habit heíd probably picked up from him, and tapped his commbadge. "Sickbay to Seven."


"I have sent Mr. Paris away on an errand, but unless you want him to know of your secret, we will have to be quick. He really should be told, you know, in case there is a problem with my program. He is my medical assistant and is bound by the same protocols as I am. He will be discrete and keep the knowledge to himself."

"No!" Seven rasped. "Not yet. Why did you call me down here while he was on duty?"

"Because he insisted. Heís quite worried. He saw how ill you seemed at lunchtime and realized it should not be from your new eating habits." He handed her a data padd. "I have listed some excellent aids for morning sickness. They are completely natural and will not harm the baby in any way. You will just have to find which one works the best for you."

"Thank you. Is the baby all right?"

The Doctor finished his scan. "Yes. Perfectly healthy. The fetus is exactly four weeks old. Have you made any decisions yet, on what you are going to do? Do you intend to tell the father soon?"

"No!"

The doctor sighed. "You should talk to somebody, Seven. The Captainís the obvious choice. In the meantime I have taken the liberty to design a new outfit for you. Would you like to see it?"

Seven nodded and followed him to a terminal. The Doctor proudly showed her his new design. The pants were dark blue and of a similar design to the regulation Starfleet uniform pants, although rather more form fitting around the legs. The top was a long sleeve tunic with a square neckline in a soft powder blue. "Of course, you can pick whatever color you would like. I have designed them so that they will expand in the months ahead."

Seven studied the display closely. "They will suffice. Thank you Doctor."

"My pleasure," the Doctor beamed. "I have transferred the schematics to the replicator in your cargo bay. You can access it whenever you like."

Seven nodded.

"Is there anything else you need to know? The data padd I gave you has a lot of information on it concerning pregnancy and what you can expect in the coming months. If you need anything else just tell me."

"You are very - kind, Doctor. I appreciate all the trouble you have gone to."

"Oh, itís no trouble. I just wish I could do more."

The doors swished open and Tom came hurrying through them again. "Hi Seven. How are you feeling now? Did the Doc check you over?"

"Yes thank you. I am - fine."

"You sure? You still look a little pale."

"Mr. Paris, do not harass our patients. Seven is completely healthy."

"Oh! Okay! If you say so." Tom walked over to the terminal they were still standing at and looked at the monitor. "Whatís this?"

"My new outfit," Seven answered, a little hesitantly. "The Doctor designed it for me."

Tom frowned at the screen. "Why are you changing your outfit?"

"It is time for a change. I am no longer comfortable dressed like this."

"Oh?"

"You do not like it?"

"No, itís nice. The Docís done a great job. Itís just a little more feminine than I expected."

"Then you do not like it."

"Yeah, I do. Itís just that if youíre going to dress like that, youíll have to do something about your hair."

"My hair?"

"You need to have it loose or something. Maybe pull the front back with a clip."

"Mr. Paris! Really! How Seven chooses to wear her hair is of no concern of yours."

"I know that, Doc. Seven will do whatever she wants. I was merely making a suggestion."

"I will take your suggestion under advisement," Seven said seriously.

The Doctor looked at her in surprise. She avoided his stare. "I must get back to astrometrics."

With a nod she left quickly.

The Doctor turned to Tom and said with a sniff. "You two seem to be getting along quite well."

"Yeah. Sheís been a good friend to me."

The Doctor sniffed once more. He wasnít sure why he was bothered by what had just happened. Both Tom and Seven needed a friend. If they could be there for each other, that was all the better. So why was he uneasy?


Two Weeks Later:
 

Tuvok watched Tom as he wandered aimlessly around his quarters. Tom often did this and Tuvok had grown accustomed to it.

"You wish to cease our sessions?"

Tom stopped his wandering and turned around to look at him. "Yeah. Thereís no point anymore. Iím fine. Youíve helped me a lot and Iím very grateful, but I donít need counseling anymore. You said yourself that my efficiency rating at the conn is almost back to what it was before and I can actually say Harryís name now without wanting to burst into tears."

"I am pleased that I have been able to help you come to terms with your grief, but there are other issues that we have barely covered."

"Itís not necessary."

"On the contrary, I believe it to be very necessary. You are now able to function normally, but unless these other issues are addressed, this may not last."

"If, by other issues youíre referring to BíElanna, then donít worry about it. Iíve finally accepted what Harry was trying to tell me for almost a year. Itís over. Sheís happy with Chakotay and will never come back to me. Iíve lost her forever."

"You blame yourself for the failure in your relationship."

"Of course. It was my fault. You know what happened. BíElanna would have told you surely."

"Yes, Ms. Torres told me everything. That is why I do not understand why you blame yourself. You both had issues to deal with."

"So, you think we were both to blame." Tom sank down into the couch across from him.

Tuvok shook his head. "I would not use the word Ďblameí".

Tom sighed. "Well, whatever you want to call it. I made a mistake. What else is new? I should have told her the truth right from the start. I didnít want to make things worse for her. In the end they were worse than ever."

"You blamed yourself for Mr. Kimís death and you blame yourself for the failure between yourself and Lieutenant Torres. I am also under the impression that you blame yourself for whatever went wrong in the relationship you had with your father."

"What can I say? I make a lot of mistakes."

"You appear to have unrealistic expectations for yourself."

Tom gave a small self-depreciating laugh. "One of my many faults, Tuvok."

Tuvok studied him thoughtfully. "Mr. Paris, if I may make an observation? Although you appear confident on the outside, I believe you have a low self-esteem. You yearn for acceptance and love."

"I - maybe."

"I would like you to answer one question for me. I do not want you to think about the answer. I want you to tell me the first thing that comes into your mind."

Tom looked at him a little warily. "Okay," he said slowly.

"How would you describe yourself?"

"A failure," Tom said without hesitation.

"Why?"

Tom snorted at the question. "Do I have to spell it out?"

"I believe so. I do not see you as a failure and am curious as to why you see yourself as one."

"God! Where do I start? Shall I begin with the most recent and then work my way back till I was six, and failed to win a math's competition? Actually, there were probably more failures before that, but I can't remember."

"Why was it necessary to win a mathematics contest when you were just six years of age?"

"Tuvok, I wanted to go to the academy. I wanted to be an admiral, just like my Dad. To do that, I had to get top marks. Start as you mean to go on. He was always telling me that."

"Top marks in each field of study, is not a requirement for entrance to Starfleet Academy."

Tom sighed in exasperation. "I know that. But there has always been a Paris in Starfleet, and they always excelled."

"I see. So this was your dream?"

There was silence for a few moments as Tom thought about the question. He finally shook his head. "No, it was my father's. My sisters refused outright to have anything to do with Starfleet, so it was sort of left up to me to follow in the family tradition. I never really questioned it when I was little. Dad used to let me fly the simulators for as long as I wanted to and tell me all about his adventures in Starfleet. It sounded so exciting, I couldn't wait to join."

"But then, as you grew older, you changed your mind?"

"No, not really. It was just that everything I studied, read, played or did had to be a stepping stone for my future Starfleet career. I used to have to sneak away to my room, just so that I could play a game. I began to resent it. I had other interests, but Dad didn't want to know about them."

"Like the sea?"

"Yeah. I'll never forget the day I mentioned to Dad that I'd like to be a merchant marine. I was nine or ten at the time. I thought he was going to have a heart attack. He turned as pale as a ghost. When he got back a little color, he told me that it was all right to have other interests, just so long as they didn't distract me from my real goal in life. He blamed himself. Said it was his own fault for reading Jules Verne to me when I was small. He looked so sad and disappointed. I felt so guilty I immediately apologized and promised I'd definitely go to Starfleet.'

Tom sighed a little and moved restlessly.

"You wanted to make your father happy?"

"He was always disappointed in me. I could never live up to his expectations. He expected me to come top of the class all the time, and I just couldn't do it. I used to try so hard. I was always in the top five percent but Dad would shake his head at me and tell me that I could have done better, if I'd only tried harder."

"Your father had unrealistic expectations and has passed them on to you."

"Probably. I started to resent him as well as the lifestyle he practically forced me to live and I started to rebel. I studied less and started taking risks. I got hurt quite a bit, but never seriously. They started calling me a daredevil. Dad didn't seem too worried though. He thought it was just a phase I was going through."

"You were still accepted into the academy."

"Yeah, my flying got me in. Early too - just like Dad wanted. I was only fifteen when they accepted me. But then the Cardassians captured Dad, and when he returned he hardly spoke. I got the impression that everything I did was wrong. Then to make matters worse I was put in some of his classes at the academy. He refused to give me anything higher than a B average, no matter how hard I tried. Didnít want to show any favoritism. He wouldnít leave me alone for a second. Every time I turned around, he was there. I applied for my first posting to be on the Enterprise, under Captain Picard and I was pretty confident. My best friend, Charlie, applied for the position too. He was a great pilot, but I was even better. Do you know what Dad did? He destroyed my application."

"Do you know why he did that?"

"He said all sorts of crap at the time, but I think it was because Captain Picard wouldnít have let him interfere. Things kinda went downhill pretty quick after that. You know the rest of the story."

"You redeemed yourself here on Voyager."

"I suppose so. The first year was pretty rough. If it hadnít have been for Harry and the Captainís faith in me, I donít know if I would have done so well. Harry needed me. The poor kid was a mess. He was that homesick. It felt good to be needed, but somewhere along the line I started needing him more than he needed me. The crew finally seemed to be accepting me and then came BíElanna. Things were good. Great even. Better than I could ever remember, and then they started to fall apart again." Tom seemed to be having trouble continuing.

"So, to keep the relationship together, you allowed her to abuse you."

"I donít know," Tom said in a small voice. "I just didnít want to lose her. I wanted everything to stay the same. I didnít think of it as abuse. I just pretended it wasnít happening, even to myself."

Tuvok sighed and sat back. "Do you understand now, why I believe there are many issues still to be dealt with?"

Tom wiped his eyes. "I guess so."
 

End Part Four