Love is Blind: Visions of Understanding (VOY, P/T, PG)
by JoAnna Walsvik
part 3/?

"Tom, what are you doing?"

"Looking for my other boot."
B‘Elanna perched herself on the edge of a nearby chair, laughing down at him. "You look ridiculous."

Tom remained on the floor, flat on his stomach, half his body beneath his bed. His voice was slightly muffled as he searched for his elusive shoe. "Lovely to see you too, Torres. Ah—there it is!" He emerged triumphant, the misplaced boot held firmly in his hand. "Damned if I know how it got under there."

"You really should learn to take better care of your things, Tom Paris. You just throw them all over the place instead of putting them away," B‘Elanna lectured.
"Yes, mother." Tom shoved his foot into the boot and stood up.
"So, how do I look?" he asked, proudly displaying himself to her.

B‘Elanna cocked her head, studying him critically. "Pretty good for a guy who can‘t see if his clothes match or not."
"Thank you. So, where are we going today?"

"Um...the Mess Hall, I think. Then, if you‘re up to it, the bridge."
Tom froze. "The bridge? Why?"

B‘Elanna shrugged. "I don‘t know. I thought you might like to visit."
"I would, but..."

"But what?"

"I don‘t know...I just don‘t like feeling useless. There‘s nothing for me to do there."

"Tom Paris, we‘ve had this discussion before—" "Don‘t remind me. My ears are still ringing."
"Ha, ha. Do you want to go or not?"

He paused, weighing the choices in his mind. "I don‘t think so. Not today," he said finally. "I don‘t think I‘m ready."
"Oh. Okay." B‘Elanna‘s voice reflected her disappointment.

Tom groped for her hand, squeezing it in his when he found it.
"I‘m sorry, B‘Elanna, but I don‘t see the point. Everyone will just be staring at me, pitying me...I hate that. And what will I do there? Sit and watch? Be the ‚observer‘ I was meant to be when this mission started?" His words held a bitter tone. "I can‘t. Not today."

"That‘s okay, Tom. Really. I understand," B‘Elanna assured him. "How about going down to the holodeck instead? Harry has a new program I think you‘d like. It‘s a place called the Badlands, on Earth, in North Dakota. I think you‘d like it. The scenery is beauti...I—I mean, you‘d like it," she finished lamely. <Idiot! she mentally berated herself.

<Talking about beautiful scenery to a blind man!

Tom didn‘t seem fazed. "Sure. Sounds great. What do you say we skip the Mess Hall and have a picnic? I have a couple rations left."

"Hey, sounds good to me. You get the food, and I‘ll see if the holodeck is free. Pick you up in about fifteen minutes?"

"See you then." B‘Elanna disappeared out the door.

Tom shook his head and smiled. "Mother hen," he murmured under his breath, feeling his way towards the replicator.

B‘Elanna had become his self-proclaimed caretaker ever since he had decided—well, with the help of a very thorough lecture from her—to get up and about. He didn‘t stir from his quarters without B‘Elanna by his side. She guided him through the corridors, bullied him into ‚excursions‘, as she called them, to the Mess Hall, the hydroponics bay, or the holodeck, and basically did everything she could to help him. And she was graceful about it, something Tom appreciated very much. She let him do what he could do himself, without rushing to help him with every single task or being overbearing. She knew his limitations and assisted him without comment when he came upon something he needed eyes for.

And most importantly, she was just there. When he needed to vent some frustration, she sat and silently listened to him rage. When a bout of depression overcame him, she was there to cheer him up; or rather, threaten to yell at him again. And sometimes, when he didn‘t feel like facing the world, it was just nice to sit quietly and know that she was near him.

He‘d never had someone quite like her. At the Academy and during his years of serving on starships, he had been too concerned with living up to his image as "the admiral‘s son" to make any close friends. And at the Penal one had friends. The only way to survive was to be a loner.

And then came Voyager, Harry, and B‘Elanna. Harry was a great friend, of course, but B‘Elanna was...different. While Harry‘s naivet and cheerfulness was something Tom valued in his friend, sometimes he needed someone who had seen the down side, who hadn‘t breezed through life without a care. B‘Elanna could understand him, sometimes even better then Harry or even the captain could.

It was slightly ironic that the one person whom he had never thought would become a close friend had become just that. His first impression of B‘Elanna had been one of wariness, mainly because of her all too noticeable Klingon features. But, slowly, as time passed, he had begun to see past the ridges and had gotten to know the person behind them. And the person he found was a wonderful person indeed.

"Hey, Paris, you ready?" The object of his musings poked her head through the doorway impatiently.

The End
Go to Part Four: Love Is Blind: Love At First Sight