Okay, I‘m going to explain a few things I probably should have explained earlier in the series.
(1) The reason that Tom and B‘Elanna frequent a holodeck program of the Badlands in North Dakota is because...I‘m from North Dakota!. Anyway, I live in the eastern part of the state, almost on the North Dakota-Minnesota border, so I rarely have a chance to get to the actual Badlands. However, I have been there many, many times, and it is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places on Earth. (This is coming from a person who has never been to any state south of Wyoming.) My point is, (and yes, I do have one) is that I thought it was about time someone incorporated North Dakota into a story, since we get so little recognition. :)
(2) Tom has been blind for about nine months, but he and B‘Elanna have only been dating for about three weeks. (Jeez, took them long enough...:) But, considering that the <insert word of your choice writers are not developing the P/T relationship until next season, (and that‘s according to an excellent source—hi, Claire! :) ) this is actually pretty fast. :)
(3) I think the series will have a total of eight parts, this being number six. Yes, I know I already said that at the beginning of part 5, but now I‘m 95% certain that there will only be eight parts. Again, this could change, so I‘ll keep y‘all posted! (Again, ASCers, no pun intended.) :)

I‘m sure you‘re all sick and tired of reading my babbling, so, I‘ll let you go.
Enjoy part six!

Love Is Blind: Eye Of The Storm
by JoAnna Walsvik
part 6/8?

"B‘Elanna, I‘ll be fine," Tom insisted. "Quit worrying."

"I‘m not worrying."

"Your hands are trembling."

"They are not."

"Are too."

"Okay, maybe I am a little nervous," B‘Elanna admitted. "Can you blame me?"

"No, not really." He smiled reassuringly. "This operation is not at all life-threatening, B‘Elanna. You know that."

"I can‘t help it." She bit her lip and gazed down at him, anxiety written all over her face. "I just—don‘t want anything to happen to you."

"Nothing will happen. I‘m in very capable hands. Right, Kes?" Tom said cheerfully.

"That‘s right," Kes smiled. "I‘m sorry, B‘Elanna, but you‘re going to have to leave. We need to begin the operation now."

Trepidation filled the half-Klingon‘s eyes, but she smiled bravely.

"All right. I‘ll be right here when you wake up, Tom."

"I‘ll see you later, okay?" The excitement in his voice was impossible to miss, and B‘Elanna had to chuckle slightly in spite of herself.

"Okay, Paris. I—" A lump suddenly appeared in her throat, and she had to swallow before she could go on. "I‘m sure everything will go just fine."

"Thanks." He squeezed her hand encouragingly, and she reluctantly backed away, her eyes not leaving him until she was completely out of the room.

"She really cares about you," Kes softly commented.

"I assure you, Kes, the feeling is mutual," Tom said lightly.

"Are we ready?"
"We are indeed," the doctor said, coming out of his office.
"Now,  Mr. Paris, the operation will only be about six hours long, but I‘ll keep you under anesthesia for a bit longer then that."
"And then I‘ll be able to see, right?"

"That‘s correct. Let‘s get started, shall we? Kes, administer the anesthesia."
"You know, some doctors say that if you think of something you love, that‘s what you‘ll dream about while you‘re unconscious," Kes remarked, pressing the hypospray to Tom‘s neck.

A few seconds later, a drowsy haze enveloped him, drawing him in to a world of nothingness. As he drifted off into oblivion, the last thought on his mind was of B‘Elanna. And the world was, once again, blackness.

What seemed like only seconds later, the fogginess began to lift. Tom stirred slightly, blinking his eyes open. They were covered with some kind of gauzy cloth, and he could still see nothing but darkness.

"Tom?" B‘Elanna‘s voice. She was there, just as she had promised she would be. Her hand, that had been wrapped around his, gave him a reassuring squeeze. "Doctor, he‘s awake."
"Good evening, Mr. Paris. How do you feel?"

"A bit woozy, actually."

"That will pass as the anesthesia wears off. Well, let‘s uncover your eyes, shall we?" The doctor, for once, actually sounded cheerful.

Tom could barely contain his excitement as the doctor cut away the wrappings around his face. Finally, after so long!

The cloth fell away, and Tom opened his eyes wide. He blinked a few times, then, frowning, blinked them again. Still, the blackness didn‘t lift.
"Is something wrong, Mr. Paris?" The doctor asked in concern.

"I can‘t see," Tom said, panic clouding his throat. "I—there‘s nothing but darkness."

"What do you mean, you can‘t see?" B‘Elanna whispered fearfully as the doctor brought out his tricorder and began to scan the pilot.
"I mean, I can‘t see. Everything‘s just the same as before. Black," Tom repeated, obviously upset. <It‘s going to be okay, Paris, he said to himself. <It‘s going to be okay.
Slowly, the doctor put down his tricorder, glancing at B‘Elanna somberly. "I‘m sorry, Mr. Paris," he said gravely. "It appears that the operation...was not a success."

"What?!" Tom said hysterically. "What do you MEAN it wasn‘t a success?! It has to be! You said I‘d be able to see! You said this operation would fix things!"

"I said there was a very small chance that the operation would not work," the doctor reminded him unhappily. "Apparently, you are that chance."
"But—but—NO!" Tom shouted. "I can‘t be this way forever! I can‘t be blind! I‘m a pilot—I can‘t—"
"Please, calm down," the doctor said placidly. "You—"

"Calm down?! Calm down?! You just told me I‘m going to be blind for the rest of my life, and you want me to CALM DOWN?!"
"Please, Mr. Paris, I know you‘re upset, but—" "Damn right I‘m upset!"

"Tom—" B‘Elanna tried.

"Stay out of this, Torres! I don‘t need your help."

B‘Elanna took a step back, stung. "Tom, please—"

"No, goddamnit! Nothing you can say or do will make this any better. Nothing!"
"It could be worse," B‘Elanna said quietly.

"Oh, yeah? How so?" Tom challenged her.

She paused slightly, thinking of her lost baby brother. "You could be dead."

"I wish I was," he said bitterly.

B‘Elanna paled, her skin turning ashen. "Don‘t say that," she whispered, swaying slightly. The doctor grabbed to support her in alarm, thinking she was going to faint. "Don‘t you dare say anything like that again, Tom Paris," she said, ignoring the doctor completely.

"Why not? It‘s true," he said sullenly.

"Doctor, please leave." B‘Elanna‘s voice was deadly calm.

"I don‘t think I—" the hologram began.

"Leave. Now." Her tone left no room for argument.

The doctor chose not to debate the issue. "Reactivate me when—before you leave. Computer, end EMH program." The doctor shimmered into nothingness, leaving Tom and B‘Elanna behind.

For a long minute, neither of them spoke. "Well?" Tom finally said, his voice laced with hostility. "Aren‘t you going to say something? Or are you just going to yell at me again? I‘ll tell you this, Torres, this time your little reverse-psychology mind games won‘t work with me."

"I‘m not going to yell at you, Tom." Her voice was still that deadly calm.
"Then what are you going to do?"

"This." And she slapped him, hard, across his face.

Tom reached up and felt the quickly forming bruise on his cheek in frank disbelief. "You slapped me."
"Damn right I slapped you."

"If I ever, EVER hear you say anything like that again, you‘re going to get a lot worse then a little slap on the cheek," she said through clenched teeth. "I never want to hear you say anything about your life not being worth living. Do you have any idea of how many loved ones I have lost? First my brother, then my father, and then my mother. And I will NOT lose you too, do you hear me? I couldn‘t bear it if someone else that I loved went away from me again, and that‘s exactly what you‘re doing. I don‘t care if you can‘t see. Hell, I wouldn‘t care if you were deaf and dumb as well as blind. I‘d still love you just the same. But I can not, and I will not, stand here and listen to you say that your life isn‘t worth living because you can‘t see! I‘d willingly sell my soul to the devil if Benjamin could be here, blind or otherwise. So I don‘t ever want to hear you say anything like that again. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

"Crystal clear." Tom‘s voice was subdued. He could hear the tremor in her voice, and was willing to bet she was trembling on the outside, too.

"Good. Computer, activate EMH program." She stalked out of sickbay just as the doctor appeared.

The hologram looked from the doors to Tom, then back to the doors. "What was that all about? And what is that bruise on your face?"
"It‘s nothing," Tom said oddly, a peculiar catch in his voice.

"I‘m sorry I yelled at you."
"That‘s quite all right. Your reaction was perfectly understandable."

The doctor eyed the bruise suspiciously. "Are you sure you don‘t want me to heal that?"

"Yes, I‘m sure. If you don‘t mind, doctor, I‘d like to be by myself for a while."

The EMH regarded him thoughtfully. "All right, Mr. Paris." He disappeared into his office, leaving the pilot alone in sickbay.

B‘Elanna strode blindly down the corridor, tears clouding her eyes and threatening to spill over. She was angry, yes, but she was also terrified. What Tom had said had frightened her. When she had told him that she couldn‘t bear to lose another loved one, she had been telling the truth. So many people had been lost to her over the years, and if she ever lost Tom...she didn‘t like to think about it.

And she didn‘t regret for an instant what she had done. Tom had deserved a bruise after scaring her so badly. The doctor could have her thrown in the brig for all she cared, but she would never show any remorse.

Everything she had said was the truth, and Tom Paris knew it. If he chose to waste his life away now, then he could do just that. She didn‘t care a bit.

She didn‘t...

Yes, she did care. She cared a lot. She cared too much to let him even have thoughts that were even slightly suicidal. B‘Elanna knew, deep down, that Tom would never take his own life, but the possibility was there, and it terrified her beyond anything ever had before.

"Oh, gods. The captain," B‘Elanna suddenly remembered, stopping dead in her tracks. She had promised to send the bridge crew news the moment she had some. And as much as she hated to be the bearer of bad news, she had made a promise—and B‘Elanna Torres did not go back on her promises.

"B‘Elanna!" Janeway exclaimed the moment the half-Klingon stepped onto the bridge. "How—" the captain‘s smile faded when she took note of her engineer‘s solemn expression. "What‘s wrong?"

B‘Elanna bit her lip, turning to glance at Harry Kim before answering the captain. "I‘m afraid that the operation didn‘t work," she said quietly. "He‘s—he‘s still blind."

Shocked murmurs from the rest of the bridge crew met her statement. "Still blind?" Janeway repeated in shock, her eyes wide.
"Oh, no. How‘s Tom holding up?"
<I will not burst into tears in front of the bridge crew, B‘Elanna told herself, swallowing the lump that had appeared in her throat. <I will not. "As well as can be expected. He‘s upset." She didn‘t dare say anything more for fear the tears would start falling.
Janeway nodded sympathetically. "Who wouldn‘t be?"

B‘Elanna fought valiantly to keep from crying. Gods, she was a wreck. The emotional rollercoaster she had been on the last few days, not to mention the last few hours, was finally taking it‘s toll on her. Right now all she wanted to do was find a dark corner somewhere and cry her eyes out.

Thankfully, Janeway seemed to sense this. "Thank you for telling us, B‘Elanna," she said kindly, but solemnly. "I‘m—tell Tom I‘ll stop by and visit him later."

B‘Elanna nodded, grateful for the excuse to leave before she further embarrassed herself by beginning to sob. As fast as she could without being obvious, she left the bridge.

"Tom must be devastated." Harry Kim voiced the thought they all had in their minds.

"Sickbay to Janeway." The doctor‘s voice startled her for an instant, but the captain immediately replied.
"Janeway here. B‘Elanna just left the bridge, Doctor."

"Then...you know."

"Yes. He‘s still blind?"

There was a short pause. Finally, hesitantly, the doctor spoke.
"Yes, Captain. I‘m sorry to report that Mr. Paris will never be able to see again."

Go to Part Seven: Love Is Blind: Perception

Legal crapola: Paramount ------ god. Star Trek: Voyager ------ owned by Paramount.

Copyright 1997 by JoAnna Walsvik; all rights reserved and most of the lefts, too. Archive, distribute, etc.; but keep my name and the disclaimer attached.Official Paris-ite * Star Trek: Voyager
"If you were eating corn on the cob in a time machine traveling forward in time, and someone else was eating corn on the cob in a time machine traveling backwards in time....well, my point is, corn on the cob is good, isn‘t it?"
"Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handey