Disclaimer: Paramount owns all things Star Trek, I'm only borrowing Tom and B'Elanna for
awhile for fun, not profit.
Something was wrong, terribly wrong. Tom Paris could feel trouble coming, but then again trouble seemed to follow him around like some ugly black cloud. Everyone always expected such wonderful things from him, the son of a Starfleet Admiral, but nothing ever quite turned out as he hoped. When he had found B'Elanna, he thought his luck was finally changing, but, as usual, he ruined everything again. The worst part of it, though, was that he had no idea what he had done to hurt her.
Looking down at his helm controls, Paris said, "Morven, we are about to drop out of Warp, and make our attack run on the armory hidden on the third moon of Ziv III. What do long range sensors show?"
The dark-haired Bajoran national studied his console for a moment. "Tom, there is an anomalous reading bearing 255 mark 0."
Paris studied his screen. "Damn, Morven," he stated. "That is a Nebula class starship. We are in deep trouble here."
"Can we outrun them?"
Shaking his head, Tom said, "I don't think so. I'm sure they've seen us, and will no doubt begin pursuit any time now."
As if in answer to Morven's question, the Federation starship hailed them. "Maquis vessel," a deep male voice stated. "This is Captain Angus McNeill of the Merrimac. Reduce speed and prepare to be boarded."
When Tom heard the name of the captain, he muttered, "Damn!" under his breath.
Morven looked at the pilot worriedly, With a hesitant grin, he said, "You are a silver-tongued devil, Paris. I know you can talk us out of this."
"Not this time, Morven," he answered. "Angus McNeill served under my father. He knows me."
Tom found it exceedingly strange that a Federation starship seemed to be waiting for them when he and Morven had reached their destination. As Tom's fingers began to dance over the helm controls, preparing to lay in some very elaborate defensive maneuvers, he said, "Captain McNeill. I am Timon Pumba of the cargo vessel Mustafa, and am a simple trader from the Kirik system."
McNeill could be heard snorting over the commlink. "You are Thomas Eugene Paris, late of Starfleet, and now a member of the Maquis with orders to attack a supposed hidden armory on the third moon of Ziv III. But, of course, we know there is no armory on said moon as it would be a violation of the Federation treaty with Cardassia. Stand down, Paris," he ordered. "Or prepare to be fired on."
Exchanging a look with Morven, Tom said, "This is definitely not good, friend. They seem to know everything."
"What do we do?"
Grinning in exhilaration, and blue eyes sparkling, Tom answered, "We run. Hang on, Morven. Things could get very rough here shortly."
Paris didn't bother to respond to the repeated hails from the Merrimac, but instead made several course adjustments. For a few seconds, Tom slowed the ship as if he were complying with Captain McNeill's orders, and then he punched several controls in rapid sequence, fingers dancing over the panel. When the little Maquis vessel shot off at an odd trajectory, the Merrimac was taken completely by surprise, giving Tom a few precious seconds lead time.
The little Maquis vessel might have been outclassed by the Merrimac in terms of speed and weaponry, but she was much more maneuverable than the larger ship. Had Paris had a few more seconds, he might actually have escaped, but a random shot from the Merrimac penetrated the one weakness in his ship's shields, destroying the sensor array and guidance system.
Paris turned to his companion and said with a wry grin, "Sorry, Morven, but we are dead in space."
"What happens now?"
"Maquis vessel," a stern voice came over the commlink. "Prepare to be boarded."
"There's your answer, Morven," Tom said sadly. After a few seconds of contemplation, he continued in a voice filled with guilt, "I'm sorry, friend, that you were caught up in my trouble-ridden destiny."
Scared brown eyes stared into Tom's, reaching down into his soul. "It's not your fault, Tom," Morven stated bravely. "The guilt lies with our betrayer."
Paris had kept those feelings of guilt and anger under tight control during the escape attempt. But now the anger threatened to overwhelm him and Tom wanted more than anything to meet his--their--betrayer face to face, and perhaps break a few nonessential bones. In his heart, he knew there was only one person who hated him enough to do this act.
A plan rapidly flitted through Paris' mind, as the Merrimac tractored the Maquis vessel aboard. Morven watched anxiously as a myriad of emotions crossed the pilot's face. Coming to a decision, Tom said, "Sorry, Morven, but this is the only thing I can do."
The Bajoran slid to the deck of the cockpit, unconscious from the blow to his jaw. Jumping to his feet, Tom ran toward the hold of the ship, racing past the anti-grav mines, which would certainly prove them to be Maquis. Finding a length of rope, he rushed back to the cockpit and swiftly bound Morven's hands and feet. When the Bajoran began to regain his senses, Tom said, "Trust me, Morven," before punching him again.
When the Merrimac security team beamed into the Maquis vessel, they found Tom Paris seated nonchalantly at the helm, arms folded and legs crossed.
"Don't move!" one, obviously green, security guard barked, training his phaser on the pilot.
Raising his eyebrows contemptuously, Paris remarked sardonically, "And just where do you expect me to go?"
The guard blushed sheepishly as his commanding officer ordered, "Come with us, Paris."
Tom let a trace of arrogance enter his voice. "I don't think so." He paused for a heartbeat. "Do you know who my father is, Lieutenant?" he asked haughtily.
The older man clenched his teeth tightly as he attempted to control his anger. Although he very much wanted to jerk Paris up out of his seat and frog-march him to the brig, Lt. Germaine knew Admiral Paris' reputation well enough not to cross him. Playing it safe, he tapped his commbadge and said, "Germaine to Captain McNeill."
"Go ahead, Lieutenant."
"You might want to come down here, sir."
"On my way."
As they waited for the captain, one guard searched the ship. "Lt. Germaine," he said excitedly. "There are anti-grav mines in the hold."
"There are?" Paris asked in a pseudo-amazed voice. "Imagine that."
When Captain Angus McNeill entered the cockpit, all of his crew stiffened to attention. Paris remained seated, recognizing and hating his father's style of command.
"Angus," he said insolently. "How nice to see you again."
Striding across the floor, McNeill grabbed Tom's shirtfront and jerked him to his feet. Tom Paris had always had this effect on him, and he despised the younger man for it.
Tom continued to press the captain's buttons. Looking down at the fist holding his shirt, he said, "My, my, Angus. What would Starfleet say, manhandling an innocent man like this?"
McNeill's fair skin reddened until it almost matched his hair. Germaine, noticing his captain's growing ire, interjected, "This vessel is loaded with anti-grav mines."
A smile slowly spread over the captain's lips and his blue eyes sparkled with delight. "Innocent man?" he asked. "With anti-grav mines? I think not."
Spreading his hands helplessly, Paris replied, "How was I supposed to know what I'm carrying? I was approached and asked to pilot this cargo vessel to Tanori III."
"And you didn't think to ask, I suppose?" McNeill sneered.
Tom looked at the captain guilelessly. "After Caldik Prime, not many people trust me with their ships, Angus. So, no, I didn't ask."
McNeill was taken aback at the bitterness in the younger man's voice. He hesitated for a moment, thinking that maybe Paris was telling the truth. "Then why use an alias?"
"Tom Paris reduced to flying this?" Tom asked incredulously. "And you think I would admit it on an open frequency?"
The captain knew the story was plausible, but his gut told him not to believe Tom Paris. There was just something about Tom's demeanor that almost shouted, *I'm lying. Catch me if you can.*
Without taking his eyes from Paris, the captain ordered, "Search the entire ship."
When one of the security officers opened the storage locker behind the helm, a bound and gagged body fell to the deck with a thud. Scared brown eyes searched frantically for a familiar face. *Trust him?* Morven thought. *How can I? This feels like I'm about to become the scapegoat here.*
Paris' words seemed to bear this out. "If anyone is Maquis, Angus, it's this guy. He's the one who approached me at Sandrine's."
Morven felt as if someone punched him in the gut. *Betrayed! Not once, but twice on the same mission.* The Bajoran tried to protest, but the gag kept him silent.
At a nod from the captain, Germaine loosened Morven's bonds and the gag. After being helped to his feet, Morven shouted indignantly, "Liar!"
While the captain and security officers stared at him, Paris looked at them guilelessly. But once they turned their attention to the Bajoran and he was certain they were not watching him, he looked at Morven, grinned encouragingly, and winked.
"What is your story?" McNeill asked.
"I was approached by this man here, who called himself Timon Pumba, and asked to co-pilot his cargo vessel," Morven stuttered, trying desperately to figure out what crazy plan Paris was attempting to carry out.
"So you knew nothing about the cargo?" the captain asked gently, almost leading Morven's testimony.
Shaking his head, the Bajoran answered, "No. And when I realized what was happening, he hit me, tied me up, and stuffed me in the storage locker."
"Oh, come on!" Paris exclaimed indignantly. "You can't possibly believe that story?"
Morven suddenly realized what Tom was trying to do. When he opened his mouth to confess his guilt, Paris leaped across the intervening space, and before anyone could stop him, punched the Bajoran in the jaw yet again.
"Grab him!" McNeill ordered.
As two security guards pulled Paris off the injured Bajoran and dragged him away, McNeill dropped to his knees beside Morven. "Don't worry," he said. "I believe you and I will see that you get back to Bajor as soon as possible."
This time Paris had actually fractured Morven's jaw, for which the Bajoran thanked the prophets. Now he couldn't talk; couldn't confess. Since it seemed that Tom wanted to take the entire blame, Morven decided to acquiesce, believing his friend wished to be avenged.
As the guards prepared to take Tom to the brig, McNeill stopped them. Looking directly into Paris' eyes, he asked with true bewilderment, "How can you do this to your father, Tom?"
A coldness entered Tom's eyes at the mention of his father. "Ask your son, McNeill," he said
coldly. "And listen. Really listen to what he has to say."
B'Elanna Torres paced back and forth in front of the entrance to the hangar cavern. No one in the Maquis dared approach the half-Klingon engineer when she was this angry and upset. Tom and Morven were long overdue. "If that human petaQ has done anything to my engines," she muttered under her breath, "I'll . . ."
"You'll what?" Chakotay asked. "Bite his face? Kiss him into submission? Rip his heart out and feed it to him?"
Whipping around to face her commanding officer, B'Elanna exclaimed, "Chakotay! Don't do that! I could have killed you!"
Chakotay, who had not been overtly quiet in his approach, simply stared at her with his soulful brown eyes. There were times when B'Elanna thought she had deeper feelings for Chakotay than friendship. And times when she desperately wanted to be in love with him. But this was not one of those times.
"Very funny, Chakotay," she almost snarled. "I really do not want to deal with your twisted sense of humor right now."
"Pacing will not bring them back any faster," Chakotay said calmly. "One might think you wanted Tom back."
B'Elanna snorted, "One might be wrong. I'm just worried about my engines."
The older man made no reply, but simply waited stoically. "And Morven," she added, and still Chakotay waited.
Finally, B'Elanna tore her eyes away from his and stared out into the night sky where stars twinkled and sparkled like diamonds on a black velvet background. He was out there somewhere, B'Elanna knew, but she felt in her heart that something had gone wrong. "What do you want me to say, Chakotay?" she asked quietly. "That I miss him already and whenever I do see him, I don't know whether to bite him or hit him?"
Chakotay was saddened by this admission. Not many humans knew or even cared, but when a Klingon loved, he or she loved forever. Not even death could truly erase that bond. And B'Elanna, try as she might to disavow her heritage, was Klingon in her soul.
As she turned to face him again, he saw a sparkle of tears in her eyes. "What can I do,
Chakotay?" she cried softly. "I don't feel complete without him."
Tom Paris stood alone, shoulders back, chin raised, facing the Starfleet tribunal. He had been here before, a scant two years ago, and again he faced his accusers with a facade of calm acceptance. Even though he quaked inside at the thought of prison, Tom was damned if he was going to let anyone else see that fear. A myriad of emotions raged inside his soul--fear, anger, outrage. The single glint of silver in the black cloud that was his life was Morven's escape from this fate and the Paris Jinx. Tom had managed to convince Starfleet Security and the tribunal of the Bajoran's innocence. Even now, Morven was on his way home to Bajor. Paris hoped that the younger man would take his advice and leave the Maquis or at the very least change his identity. Starfleet would be watching him now.
"Thomas Eugene Paris," Admiral Harriman intoned. "Have you anything further to say in your defense?"
"No," Tom replied shortly. *What would be the point. My life is over and has been since K'roq fractured my jaw.*
Admiral Harriman rapped his gavel on the desk in front of him. "Thomas Eugene Paris," he said sternly. "This tribunal sentences you to 25 years to life in the New Zealand Penal Settlement."
Tom's expression never changed, but something inside his very soul shattered into a thousand
pieces, as he recognized his father's hand in his punishment. From this moment on, the Tom
Paris everyone knew disappeared, perhaps forever, and in his place was a colder, harder Tom
Paris who vowed to never let anyone close to him again. By projecting the image of a
self-centered, easy-going, ladies' man, Paris kept everyone at a distance, and no one thought to
look deeper to find the vulnerable soul residing behind the facade of cloying charm and
charisma. When the gavel fell one last time, Tom's heart screamed, "B'Elanna!" before shutting
Two months had passed since Tom Paris and Morven Kator disappeared and were presumed lost or captured. Chakotay's base was deep within the Demilitarized Zone between Federation space and that of the Cardassians. Sometimes months would pass before learning news from the outside world. And sometimes they never learned the fate of lost comrades.
B'Elanna worked from dawn till dusk or even later, trying to keep from thinking about Tom. Now that he was missing, presumed captured or dead, B'Elanna knew just how important he was to her. Work helped. When she could keep her mind occupied with engineering problems, her heart didn't beat quite so painfully as it did at night in her lonely bed with only her memories to keep her warm.
One morning as she worked on the 39 years old engines of Chakotay's vessel, she heard footsteps approach her from behind, and a quiet voice say, "B'Elanna."
Spinning around rapidly, heart throbbing wildly in her chest, she faced the speaker with hope and elation, which quickly faded when she realized it wasn't Tom. "Morven?" she queried uncertainly.
The Bajoran looked very different. "Yes, B'Elanna," he said. "It's me."
Frowning intently, she asked, "What happened to you? Where's Tom?"
"Prison, I presume," Morven replied. "We were captured before we could carry out our mission."
Chakotay, who had been informed of Morven's reappearance and come in search of the Bajoran, placed a comforting hand on the younger man's shoulder. "So the hotshot pilot wasn't quite as good as his reputation, was he?"
Shrugging off Chakotay's hand, Morven replied heatedly, "When a Nebula class starship is waiting for you at your target coordinates, it's a little hard to outrun them."
"Waiting for you?" Chakotay and B'Elanna asked in unison. "But that would mean . . ." she began.
Morven nodded. "We were betrayed to the Federation. The Merrimac knew our vessel, our target, and most importantly our pilot."
"How is it you are here while Tom is in prison?" B'Elanna asked, anger tinging her voice.
"Because Tom managed to convince Starfleet that I was an innocent bystander," the Bajoran stated. "Captain McNeill was so certain of Tom's sole guilt that he even helped me return to Bajor."
"How did you get here?" Chakotay asked worriedly. He knew Starfleet would be watching Morven now, even if they had chosen to release him, perhaps for that very purpose--to lead Starfleet to this resistance cell.
Morven smiled a little sadly. "Don't worry, Chakotay. I didn't lead Starfleet to your doorstep. I'm keeping a promise."
When Chakotay looked at him inquisitively, Morven continued, "Tom put a subdermal receiver/recorder behind my ear with instructions to go to Sandrine's in Marseilles, Earth. A man there would help me get a new identity, free of charge, because he owed Tom his life. As far as Starfleet is concerned, Morven Kator is dead, literally. I am now known as Selig Ronan."
Chakotay slapped him on the shoulder, saying, "Well, Selig Ronan, we are glad to have you back."
Morven shook his head vigorously. "I won't be staying. I have another promise to keep."
"Oh?" Chakotay asked.
"Tom wanted you to be warned that there was a traitor here among the Maquis," Morven stated. "And while he is certain that he was the sole target, this traitor could turn again."
B'Elanna had been silent for some time. "What happened to Tom? Where exactly is he now?"
Looking at her with cold eyes, which sent a chill down her spine, Morven answered, "Auckland. He received the maximum sentence--25 years to life. I am going there to break him out of prison."
"Are you crazy?" Chakotay exclaimed.
"I owe him my life and my freedom," Morven replied. "If he had not deliberately provoked Captain McNeill, I would be in Auckland now, sharing the same sentence."
Chakotay found it hard to argue with the Bajoran. After several seconds of contemplation, he asked, "So who is the traitor, Morven? Who betrayed you and Tom?"
During his long journey back to the Maquis base, Morven had considered this question again and again. The Bajoran believed that only one person hated Paris enough to destroy both men, even though it did seem completely out of character. Gazing at B'Elanna with sad eyes, he asked, "Why did you do it, B'Elanna? Do you really hate him enough to drag me down, too?"
"What?" B'Elanna exclaimed in disbelief. "You think I betrayed you?"
"Tom hadn't been here long enough to instill this much anger and hatred for him," Morven retorted.
Tears filled B'Elanna's eyes and threatened to spill down her cheeks. "Does Tom believe this
lie?" she cried in a voice filled with despair and heartbreak. But the frigid expression in
Morven's eyes spoke louder and more painfully than mere words could ever have said. Tom did
think she had betrayed him to the Federation. Her heart screamed her denial, *Tom! I didn't do
Paris stood stiffly at attention, facing the warden of the New Zealand Penal Settlement. Bruised, battered, and bloody, he never-the-less projected an aura of arrogant indifference to the warden, the penal system, and Starfleet in general.
Commander Stilton, warden of the settlement, examined Tom Paris carefully, taking in the rapidly purpling eye, bloody nose, and split lip. Sighing internally, he let none of his inner sympathy show to the injured man. "Mr. Paris," he said, "this is the 17th little 'talk' we have had in the two months you have been incarcerated here. That is roughly two altercations per week."
"Your point being?" Tom asked sardonically.
The commander could easily understand why Tom Paris found himself in so many fights, his attitude said either fight me or leave me the hell alone. Right now Stilton would have liked to go a couple rounds with Paris himself. "This disruptive behavior cannot continue, Mr. Paris," he said sternly.
Paris snorted, "Or what? You'll be forced to add time to the length of my sentence? It's a little hard to extend a life sentence, isn't it?"
Stilton was well aware of the unfairness and absurdity of Tom's sentence. Twenty-five years to life, when the average sentence for the Maquis unfortunate enough to be captured was 12-18 months, was ludicrous to say the least. But he said nothing of these sentiments to the prisoner. Instead, he stated calmly, "Twenty-five years is not a life sentence, Mr. Paris."
Hands clenched into tight fists and his jaw tightened, as the color rose in Tom's face. "My father will see to it that I spend the rest of my life here, Commander," he said angrily. "Just as he made sure I received the maximum sentence possible. You know that as well as I."
This time Stilton allowed Paris to see the sympathy he felt for the younger man. "I do recognize the blatant unfairness or your sentence, Mr. Paris, but continuing to rebel against the system in this manner can only harm you when your outmate review comes around."
"Commander, don't waste your pity on me," Tom ordered. "I don't need it or want it. Go try to redeem some other poor slob."
Although the commander wanted to help, he could think of nothing which would help Tom Paris' wounded and tormented soul. If only Stilton could find some other outlet for Paris' aggressions, then perhaps Tom could begin the healing process, although how a man could heal from the many wounds inflicted by Admiral Paris, the commander could not imagine. Stilton came to a decision. "Mr. Paris," he commanded, "you will meet me at 0400 tomorrow at the holosuite, where you will receive further orders."
"0400 hours?" Tom asked. "Isn't that a little early?"
Stilton smiled briefly, before replying, "Get used to it, Mr. Paris. You will be spending a great deal of your early morning hours in the holosuite."
"Wonderful," Tom said sarcastically, although he didn't really mind as he was usually awake at that hour anyway, and would be glad of the distraction from his thoughts.
"You will return to your cell, Mr. Paris," the commander ordered, "immediately after a trip to the infirmary." Stilton paused before adding, "The doctor shall clean your wounds, but nothing else. From now on, you heal the old-fashioned way. No more regenerators, bone knitters, or meds. You are on your own."
When Tom left the infirmary an hour later, he was no longer bloody, but his bruised and battered body screamed for relief from the pain. Paris would have sworn every square centimeter of his body ached and throbbed. He had to admit that Stilton had finally found the perfect punishment and Tom was thankful that he had no broken bones this time.
The news of Tom's punishment spread through the settlement like wildfire on a prairie grassland, following Stilton's announcement that anyone caught fighting with Tom Paris would receive a like punishment. Many of his former combatants lined the path to his cell, hoping to catch a glimpse of a broken man. But they were disappointed to see Tom still projecting his aura of arrogant indifference as he slowly limped to his cell. His enemies simply melted away, no longer interested in testing the strength and stamina of a former Starfleet officer if it meant living with pain for several weeks, because Tom always managed to break bones. Paris knew how to fight dirty and he wasn't afraid to use those moves learned on the back alleys of Marseilles.
Gingerly laying down on the cot in his cell, Tom stared at the ceiling with unseeing eyes, as he
did most every night. As he focused on a memory of a happier time, a smile of blissful longing
crossed his face.
Newly promoted after the Exeter's battle with the Romulan warbirds, Lt. Thomas Eugene Paris was spending his furlough at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco while his ship was being repaired and overhauled. He and several of his friends were crossing one of the gardens, talking about his adventures on the Exeter.
"A field promotion to full lieutenant?" Susie Crabtree said, teasing her former lover. "I don't believe it."
Striking a dramatic pose, hands on his heart and eyes raised to the sky, Tom replied, "I'm crushed, Susie. Absolutely crushed. First you break my heart during my last semester at the Academy, and now this. You don't believe me. Not even with the evidence staring you straight in the face." Tom pointed to his two, shiny pips.
Susie joined in the laughter. Tom was incorrigible and she still loved him, having only broken up with him when she began to sense him starting to withdraw from her. "Oh, I can see you are a full lieutenant," she laughed. "Not even you would dare wear pips you didn't deserve. I just don't believe how these things happen to you, Tom. You must lead a charmed life."
Joining in the laughter with his friends, Tom found himself basking in the warmth of their camaraderie. After a while, he felt as if someone were boring holes in his back with their eyes. Turning his head slowly, Tom searched for the source of the stare. When their eyes met, the world around him ceased to exist.
Tom found himself staring at the most exotic, exquisitely beautiful creature he had ever seen. Her hair, the color of melted brown sugar, brushed her shoulders; her eyes, a deep, dark brown, drew his soul to hers; and her face, her luminous face, whose brow ridges spoke of her Klingon heritage, simply took his breath away. His fingers longed to entangle themselves in her hair, and trace the soft skin of her face along the jawline. Tom wondered if she could possibly feel the same about him.
The moment was broken when Paris heard Susie say, "Earth to Tom."
"What?" he asked bemusedly, never taking his eyes from the vision before him.
At the tone of his voice, Susie looked askance at him and then followed his stare with her own eyes. "Oh, yes," she said with a smile. "Ambassador K'Ehleyr was on the Klingon vessel which aided the Exeter."
A broad grin spread over Tom's face, as he said, "She certainly was. Excuse me for a minute, Susie, I really should go speak with her."
Susie watched a little sadly as his tall, lean figure strode away from her and on to his next new experience. Although Tom often teased her about breaking his heart, Susie knew he had only suffered for about a week. And although he certainly gave every appearance of being a classic womanizer, Susie felt in her heart that Tom Paris was searching for his soulmate, who would love him unreservedly and without questioning his worthiness. The kind of love he had never gotten from his father. She only hoped the woman he fell in love with would be worthy of him.
Toning down his normal flirtatious approach, Tom neared the two women with a pleasant, unpretentious smile. "Ambassador K'Ehleyr," he said, with a slight inclination of his head. "It is good to see you under such pleasant circumstances. Much better than the heat of battle."
"Lt. Paris," she replied, stressing his new title a bit to let him know she felt he deserved his promotion. "Captain K'nar can speak of little else but the battle with the Romulans. He was very impressed with your piloting skills."
Tom actually found himself blushing. "Thank you, Ambassador."
"In fact," she continued, "K'nar keeps insisting that you join the Klingon/Federation officer exchange program. He claims that Federation starships are clumsy and unmaneuverable compared to a Klingon bird-of-prey."
Tom's eyes lit up just thinking about flying a Klingon vessel. Given the opportunity, he would pilot any Klingon ship for he agreed with K'nar's assessment.
"Fortunately, Captain Ortega will not allow the exchange at this time," K'Ehleyr stated. "He feels you need more time at the conn of the Exeter."
Both women laughed at the crestfallen expression on Tom's face. "Maybe someday you will fly a bird-of-prey, Lt. Paris," his dream woman said.
Smiling again, using the full force of his devastating charm, Tom replied, "I certainly hope so, Cadet . . ."
"B'Elanna. B'Elanna Torres."
Their eyes met, locked together in a ritual as old as time. The world once again ceased to exist around them. Although his next move was practiced and smooth, for the first time in his life, Tom Paris was utterly sincere. Taking her rather small hand in his, he raised her hand to his lips, gently caressing her fingertips with a kiss, before turning her hand and touching the inside of her wrist in another kiss. Lingering for a moment longer than usual, his lips felt her pounding pulse. "B'Elanna," he whispered softly, liking the feel of her name on his tongue. "That is a beautiful name, befitting a beautiful woman."
Watching as a becoming blush rose in her cheeks, Tom wanted desperately to pull her into his arms, kiss every inch of her face, nibble on her earlobe, and nuzzle the pulse throbbing in her neck. For the moment, he simply kissed her wrist again.
Ambassador K'Ehleyr had watched this exchange worriedly. Tom Paris had a certain reputation with the ladies, and B'Elanna was singularly unprepared for dealing with a man like him. As a Klingon--albeit only half--B'Elanna was honest and direct, but also expected others to be just as honest. A man as smooth as Tom Paris could not be trusted with B'Elanna's heart, and K'Ehleyr feared she would have to take steps to protect her young friend.
"Congratulations on your promotion, Lt. Paris," K'Ehleyr said. "But B'Elanna and I must be going now."
A look of consternation crossed Tom's face. "So soon?" he asked. "I was just about to ask you both to join my friends and me at Sandrine's in Marseilles."
"Sandrine's?" B'Elanna asked.
"A little bistro where you can shoot pool, relax, dance, or whatever else strikes your fancy," he answered.
Before K'Ehleyr could respond, B'Elanna said, "I'd love to, Tom. At least for a while. But I do have Commander Zakarian's survival class to prepare for."
Tom grinned. "I'll see you home safely and early, B'Elanna."
Turning toward the ambassador, Tom said politely, if insincerely, "I hope you can join us as well, Ambassador."
K'Ehleyr sighed as she watched B'Elanna stare at Tom's handsome face, recognizing that she might already be too late to save her young friend from heartbreak. Having experienced the symptoms herself some time ago, K'Ehleyr recognized B'Elanna's vulnerability and wished to protect the younger woman from pain. Funny as it seemed to the worlds outside the Klingon Empire, especially Terrans, who were in many ways the antithesis to her culture, Klingons tended to mate for life, and once given, the Klingon heart remained true and steadfast for all time. K'Ehleyr had felt herself drawn time and again to the man to whom she had given her heart, and whom she had pushed away through fear of commitment. But Tom Paris was no Worf, and he would only hurt B'Elanna.
Aloud she replied, "I am afraid I cannot join you, Lt. Paris. Duty calls, and I must meet with Admiral Harriman."
Smiling charmingly, Tom said, "Maybe next time, Ambassador." Extending his arm to B'Elanna, he continued, "I promise to take good care of your protégée, Ambassador."
B'Elanna placed her hand on his arm, and the smile on her face and in her eyes was so bright it
almost blinded Tom with its intensity. Returning her smile with one of his own, Tom's eyes
displayed a depth of emotion she had only dreamed about someone feeling for her one day.
Although neither of them felt it yet, destiny laughed and set in motion events that would tear
Laying in her cot, sleepless and restless, B'Elanna remembered happier times with Tom Paris, and wondered if he ever thought of that fateful afternoon--the day they met. Sighing deeply, she imagined that if he ever did think of her it was probably with loathing as he believed she had betrayed him to the Federation, landing him with an unjust prison term.
Nights were the worst. During the day, she worked from dawn until Chakotay removed whatever tool she was using from her hands, and ordered her to bed. When B'Elanna could concentrate on inanimate objects, thoughts and memories of Tom could be forced into the back of her mind, always present, but much less of a problem. At night, however, she relived every conversation, every touch, every kiss.
Thumping angrily on her pillow, B'Elanna turned over and tried to sleep again, forcing herself to try to forget about Tom. Her mind moved on to her other problem--everyone here also believed she had betrayed Tom and Morven, even Chakotay. The trust and comraderie she once felt with the other Maquis members was gone or at least seriously compromised. Some believed she should be forced from the Maquis or forced to endure the same fate as Tom Paris, while others felt she was justified in betraying him for the way he had treated her in the past. But all of them walked on eggshells around her now, not wanting to bring her vengeful wrath down on them.
Although their withdrawal of friendship hurt, B'Elanna found herself almost indifferent to them. She only cared about one man's trust in her, but she could do nothing to regain that broken trust. He was far away and completely inaccessible to her.
Finally giving up on sleep, B'Elanna rose, quietly donned her working clothes, and cautiously stuck her head outside. Chakotay was waiting for her.
"What took you so long?" he asked.
Scowling fiercely, she retorted, "What are you doing here, Chakotay?"
"Walk with me," he said. "We need to talk."
B'Elanna grudgingly fell in step beside her commanding officer. Feeling defensive over something she had not even done made her angry, even at Chakotay, her mentor. "Well?" she asked gruffly.
"I am sorry, B'Elanna," he apologized. "I should have known you were not the Judas. But I doubted you."
Staring at him with narrowed suspicious eyes, she asked, "What made you change your mind?"
"The true culprit confessed to me, and I forced him to tell Morven."
"Who?" B'Elanna asked harshly, hands clenched into tight fists, fingernails drawing blood from the palms.
Chakotay shook his head. "I'm not telling you, B'Elanna. You are angry enough to rip his heart out and feed it to him. Or her."
"The petaQ deserves no less!" she hissed. "Tom believes I am the Judas, that I betrayed him."
"I will announce to the others that the traitor has confessed," Chakotay said. "Things should return to normal then."
B'Elanna stared at Chakotay, her fierce eyes burned into his soul, making him realize yet again the depth of her feelings for Tom Paris. Her anger was not so much on her own account, but on his, and the hurt he had certainly felt upon being betrayed. "I do not care about the others or their opinions of me, Chakotay," she said in a low, angry voice. "I only care about Tom and his trust in me. How does the traitor intend to fix that?"
But Chakotay had no answer for her. "You cannot dwell on that, B'Elanna," he said. "Perhaps this is his karma, retribution for his betrayal of you."
Staring into the night sky above them, where stars twinkled, reminding her of the sparkle in Tom's eyes when amused, she asked, "Did he, Chakotay? He seemed so angry with me while he was here. Did I misunderstand?"
"Only Tom can answer that, B'Elanna."
Stilton stared at the younger man standing stiffly at attention. "Mr. Paris," he said to the bruised, battered, and bloody man. "Do you have a death wish?"
Tom could not keep the sardonic smile he habitually wore from his face. "Why ever would you think that, Stilton?"
"Removing the safeties from the holosuite while running the Klingon martial arts program at level 3 makes me wonder about your sanity, Mr. Paris," the commander stated with exasperation.
With an annoying smirk, Tom asked, "Are you familiar with the phrase--'oy'be'lu'chugh Qapbe'lu'--Commander?"
Staring at the younger man brought the expected response, "No pain, no gain."
The commander recognized Tom's more annoying behavior, such as Klingon phrases, stemmed from a desire to distance himself from others. By building a wall of irritating personality quirks, Tom could keep from being hurt. Stilton wished he had known Tom Paris before Caldik Prime, back when the easy-going good natured persona was more than a facade used to protect himself from others.
"Must you continually try to hurt yourself?" the commander asked with great agitation. "Fighting holographic Klingons without the safeties engaged is the ultimate in stupidity. You could have been killed."
Tom laughed without humor. "And that would make life much simpler for everyone."
"Not for me," Stilton said. "You cannot imagine how many forms I would have to fill out."
This time Tom had to laugh with humor. "Aside from you, Stilton, who would miss me? My family? My friends? How many have come to visit me while I've been here?"
The bitterness in the younger man's voice saddened the commander, who quite honestly found Paris remarkably likable, even though he could be extremely annoying at times. Looking back over the six months of Tom's incarceration, Stilton discovered that the prisoner had received no visitors. The commander had never known anyone quite as alone as Paris. By introducing Tom to a variety of martial arts programs and channeling his aggressions onto holographic projections, Stilton had kept the young man from fighting with other inmates. Now he had to find a reason for Paris to fight his inner demons or he feared Tom would be lost forever.
"Why give them the satisfaction?" Stilton asked. "Why not show them the stubborn streak you always show me?"
"You know it's funny, Commander, but I used to care about what people thought of me," Tom replied. "But I just couldn't be the perfect Starfleet officer. And you know what? I'm tired of trying."
"What do you care about, Mr. Paris?"
Tom's eyes took on a faraway look as he answered quietly, "Two things. Both unattainable."
"What are they?"
"Flying," Tom said simply. "It's one of the only times I feel alive." He focused his eyes on the commander. "Simulators are not the same, Stilton. The holosuite simulations are fine for working out, but not for flying."
The commander could not argue the point, feeling the same about simulations himself. "And the second thing?"
Paris stared him straight in the eye and answered, "None of your damned business."
Realizing he was getting nowhere with this line of questioning, Stilton tried another tack, hoping to spark even a bit of anger, which would be better than the non-caring attitude of present. "What about the person who turned you in to the Federation? Don't you want revenge?"
Tom's shoulders slumped and his eyes became cold and lifeless, haunted by memories of B'Elanna. "Against her?" Paris asked sadly. "Not today. Maybe tomorrow. It depends on the day, Stilton. Today I want to hold her; tomorrow I may want to throttle her."
Stilton was confused. "Her?" he asked in bewilderment. "I thought . . ." his voice trailed off, unwilling to raise false hopes in an already tortured soul.
"You thought what?" Tom asked.
Changing the subject, Stilton ordered, "Tell me about the woman you believe betrayed you."
Paris shook his head vigorously. "Not likely, Stilton. I do not want her in a place like this. No matter what she did to me."
Stilton eyed the younger man carefully, trying to decide his best course of action. "Hypothetically speaking," he asked, "would it make any difference to you if this woman was not the Judas who betrayed you?"
"No one else hated me enough," Tom stated. "It had to be her."
"I said hypothetically," the commander reminded the prisoner. "Would you still keep trying to get yourself killed?"
Tom snorted, "I do not have a death wish, Stilton."
"Just answer the question, Mr. Paris."
Considering the hypothetical question raised by the commander very carefully, Paris answered, "I'm afraid I would have to escape from here, Stilton. Being separated from her would drive me insane."
Stilton knew he could never tell Tom Paris the truth--that a male Maquis member had been the culprit. He did not want Tom's death on his conscience, which would probably happen should he try to escape. "Instead of either fighting the system and every other inmate, or giving up entirely and trying to get killed, why not find the middle ground?" Stilton asked. "Live day by day; survive hour by hour. Tomorrow or the next day after may bring release."
Paris made no response, staring stonily at the wall just beyond Stilton's shoulders. Sighing, the commander said, "You may access the Klingon martial arts program--all martial arts programs-- at level 1 only. You cannot modify any settings on the holosuites until further notice. Your prohibition against fighting is still in effect. And your holosuite injuries will be treated just as your fighting injures--the old fashioned way. Dismissed."
As Tom Paris strode from Stilton's office, the commander reflected that he had never before
encountered such a tortured soul with so much lost potential. *What is going to happen to you,
Tom Paris?* he asked himself.
B'Elanna had tried unsuccessfully to learn the identity of Tom's betrayer, but Chakotay continued to refuse to enlighten her. And if she were honest with herself, she had to admit that her mentor was probably right. If she knew who the Judas was, she would probably act on her anger, only to regret it afterward. Sighing deeply, B'Elanna bent her head toward the engine casing.
"B'Elanna?" said a quiet voice.
Looking up, she saw Morven standing on the other side of the casing. With a sad smile, she promised, "I won't hurt you, Morven. I gave my oath to Chakotay, when you agreed to stay here with them Maquis rather than try to save Tom. Remember?"
"I'm so sorry I doubted you, B'Elanna," Morven told her for the thousandth time. "I guess I should have known you wouldn't do it. You would be much more likely to rip his head off if you were angry with him."
B'Elanna smiled ruefully. Everyone here in this particular group knew her much too well. "It wasn't your fault, Morven," she said. "But when I find the petaQ who hurt Tom, I will rip his arm off and beat him senseless with the stump." A feral gleam entered her eyes, as she realized that Morven knew the identity of the cowardly maghwI'.
But the Bajoran recognized the gleam, and shook his head. "No way, B'Elanna," he said. "Chakotay would kill me for certain. Besides, killing the traitor won't free Tom from prison."
Growling at the thought of Tom, she said, "But it would make me feel a lot better."
"Only for a little while," Morven stated. "Believe me, revenge does not help in the long run."
"He should be punished," she said angrily.
With that, Morven had to smile. "But he is being punished, B'Elanna," the Bajoran said. "He lives in daily fear that you will learn his identity, and act accordingly. Nothing strikes a chord of fear faster or harder than the idea of an angry Klingon seeking vengeance."
Eyes still gleaming with a feral intensity, B'Elanna vowed, "When I learn his identity, I will rip his beating heart from his chest and feed it to him raw."
"I would say that he lives in daily terror of that happening, B'Elanna," Morven stated. "Now isn't that the best revenge of all?"
It was B'Elanna's turn to smile. "Maybe it is at that, Morven."
A faraway look entered her eyes, and the Bajoran knew she was thinking about Tom, locked
away in a prison light years from her. But even the miles could never truly separate these
conjoined souls who might be traveling on different paths at the present but would one day meet
again. He left her then, knowing by the wistful half-smile she wore that she was remembering a
better time. *What happened to us, Tom?* her heart cried out to his.
Tom raised his head and B'Elanna slowly opened her eyes, savoring the feel of his kiss. "I should go," he whispered huskily.
"So soon?" she asked, wanting the moment to last.
Drawing his fingers down her jawline in a gentle caress, Tom felt a flame of desire spread throughout his body, a desire he somehow knew was answered by B'Elanna as well. Although he wanted to kiss her again, Paris knew that he was dangerously near the point of losing control. "I must go, B'Elanna."
She pulled his head towards her and gently nipped his face, sending a message that only an untutored fool could misunderstand. Involuntarily, Tom's hands tightened on her shoulders and his lips once more found hers in a passionate kiss. Tearing his mouth from hers, he gently pushed her away, saying urgently, "B'Elanna, I must go now."
Except in matters concerning science and engineering, B'Elanna had a very low self-esteem. When Tom seemed to reject her advances, she assumed he did not want her. Her luminous brown eyes dimmed with hurt, threatening to fill with tears. "Go then," she said, turning away.
Tom saw the look in her eyes and hated himself for putting it there, even inadvertently. "B'Elanna, look at me," he ordered softly, placing his hand beside her face, and turning her face towards him. "My beautiful, innocent B'Elanna. I am trying to protect you."
"Protect me? From what?" B'Elanna asked, puzzled by his words.
"Me," Tom answered simply, sincerity shining in his eyes.
B'Elanna stared steadily into those blue eyes, the windows to his soul. "I don't need protection from you, Tom."
The implication of her words was clear, but Paris hesitated to accept her offer. B'Elanna was special to him and he wanted to be sure she was truly ready for an intimate relationship with him. "Let's go inside," he said finally. "I don't want to discuss this in the corridor."
After entering her quarters, Tom looked around with interest. Only the rather Spartan appearance of her rooms gave any indication of her Klingon heritage. But something in B'Elanna's demeanor told him that where a physical relationship was concerned, she was Klingon in her soul.
B'Elanna moved toward him with the graceful, predatory step of a big cat. Tom met her halfway and when their lips met this time, there was a demanding urgency in his passion, which frightened her a bit. When he felt her begin to tremble, Tom pressed his advantage, trying to frighten her more. He pushed her back firmly against the wall with the full length of his body against hers, and there was no mistaking his desire for her. After a few more seconds of unrestrained passion, he pulled his lips from hers, whispering, "Now do you understand, B'Elanna? Are you truly ready for this?"
"Thomas Eugene Paris," she growled deep in her throat, "don't you dare stop now."
Stepping back, he answered, "I have to, B'Elanna. I want our first time to be special for both of us--not just me. And right now, my need is a little to urgent."
B'Elanna reached for him again. "So is mine," she whispered.
Tom took her hands in his and placed them flat against his chest so she could feel the pounding of his heart. "I want you to be certain of this step, B'Elanna. If we move forward in this relationship, there is no going back. I want you to consider all of the ramifications as well."
"I don't need to think!" she retorted. "I know what I want."
Tempting as the offer was to a man who had never before been willing to wait, Paris said huskily, "Believe me, I'd like to, but I want you to think rather than feel right now. How will you feel when you wake up to find me in your bed after a night of passion? Will you hate yourself for taking a step you weren't ready to take and me for taking advantage of your innocence?"
B'Elanna shook her head, denying his words of honest inner reflection, but Tom was relentless. At this moment, he wanted this woman more than life, but he also wanted her in his life forever. "The repairs on the Exeter are almost complete," he told her. "I will have to leave when my furlough is over. If we make love, how will you feel when I go? Will you hate me? Will you feel abandoned and alone? What if I'm killed in the line of duty? Will it hurt more if we are mates?"
"Mates?" B'Elanna asked hesitantly.
Tom smiled gently and supportively. "I know enough about Klingon traditions to understand that making love requires more commitment than between humans. I am willing to make that commitment. Are you?"
Although B'Elanna still had a strong, almost overwhelming urge to bite Tom's face and taste his blood, she began to understand his hesitation, which was on her behalf not his. "I am half-human," she reminded him.
"But if you are honest with yourself, B'Elanna, you know that in this instance your Klingon heritage is dominant." Tom smiled a little ruefully. "For such an aggressive race, Klingons are amazingly monogamous. One would expect the reverse."
"Not really," B'Elanna shrugged. "Klingons are extremely single-minded. Qo'noS is very inhospitable and my ancestors needed to be focused to survive. So Klingons tend to be single-minded in spousal choices as well. Although some experimentation does occur, it is very rare and usually involves non-Klingon partners."
"Meaning you can 'experiment' with me?" When B'Elanna nodded, Tom said, "I cannot let you do this. I know you well enough to understand that you are incapable of 'experimentation' and will regret this in the morning."
B'Elanna was deeply touched by Tom's protectiveness of her well-being, but she did not want to be protected. She wanted him. A part of her was afraid as she had never actually taken this step before, but she had never felt this way about a man until she met Tom Paris. And her instinctual urge to mate with him far surpassed her fear.
For a man as worldly as he, with an almost instinctive smoothness with women, Tom found himself feeling both excited and scared witless. Never before had he felt so strongly about a woman; never before had he put a woman's needs before his own. He felt seventeen again, and completely gauche. None of his normal seductive patter would work with B'Elanna. And he didn't want it to work. Not with the woman he loved. A shudder of shocked realization surged through his body as Tom finally acknowledged that he was deeply, passionately, and completely in love for the first time in his life. All the Susie Crabtrees were just in preparation for this woman who had rocked his universe from the moment he had first seen her.
B'Elanna felt him shake beneath her hands, still pressed tightly against his heart. "Tom?" she questioned.
Desperately afraid now that he would say or do the wrong thing and drive B'Elanna away, Tom released her hands and gently traced her jawline once again with one finger, while his other hand pulled her towards him. Lowering his head, he kissed the place where his finger had just touched, then moving closer to her waiting lips, he pressed a gentle kiss at the very corner of her mouth. As he kissed her throat and neck, Tom felt B'Elanna growl deep in her throat. Raising his head so he could lose himself in her eyes, Tom whispered, "I love you, B'Elanna Torres."
He felt her stiffen beneath his hands and saw the startled, terror-stricken expression in her eyes. Tom was afraid that somehow he had said the wrong thing.
"Don't say things you don't mean," B'Elanna said, hurt clear in her voice. "I have already made it clear to you that I am willing to sleep with you without commitment on your part."
Tom had to smile at her innocence. "My love for you is why I won't make love to you tonight, B'Elanna," he said. "I want you to feel the same about me before we become intimate."
"What makes you so sure I don't feel the same already?" she asked.
"You have never given me any indication of it."
B'Elanna looked at him with greater wisdom than he deemed possible. "I may be a little naive, Tom, but I'm not stupid. I know that nothing will send a human male running for cover faster than telling him you love him."
When he made no reply, she continued, "I have wanted to taste your blood and fling heavy objects at you since the moment we met."
"Taste my blood? Fling heavy objects at me?"
Smiling ferally, B'Elanna said, "Klingon foreplay, Tom."
Tom's eyes took on a glint of anticipation. "Soon, B'Elanna," he promised. "But I want you to
think about the commitment involved here. Once we make love, I will never let you go."
Slamming a fist into the side of the field inducer on which he was working, Tom reflected, *Hell, we never even made love and I still can't let her go.* He stared down at the laser tool he held in his hands wishing this feeling, this love would simply go away and leave him in peace. Ever since he had told B'Elanna he loved her, his life had become a living hell. K'roq, who fractured his jaw delivering the simple message to leave B'Elanna alone, Caldik Prime, where three people had died because of him, and now prison, betrayed by his one true love.
*What happened to us, B'Elanna?* his heart cried out to hers.
An authoritative female voice said, "Tom Paris?"
Looking up, Tom saw an attractive woman dressed in a Starfleet uniform. "Captain Kathryn Janeway. I served with your father on the Al-Batani."
Tom eyed her appreciatively. Turning on his cloying charm, he asked, "And what can I do for you, Captain?"
"I have a little job for you to do."
Raising his eyebrows slightly, he answered, "I'm already doing a job . . . for the Federation."
"Your reviewers are very pleased with your progress. That's why they have given me permission to speak with you concerning this."
Rising to his feet, Tom said even more cloyingly, "Then I guess I'm all yours, Captain."
As they strolled along exchanging words, Tom's mind raced, thinking about B'Elanna and her betrayal of him. Paris had quickly ascertained just what the 'little job' was that the Federation wanted him to do for them. When Janeway finally uttered Chakotay's name, Tom's heart fairly sang. Finally, he would have his chance for retribution, and B'Elanna would know exactly how it felt to be betrayed by someone to whom you had once entrusted your heart.
"I have no problem leading you to my former 'colleagues', Captain," he smirked. "I just have one question. What's in it for me?"
Weeks later, Paris stood on the bridge of Voyager, 70 light years from Federation space, watching Chakotay with narrowed eyes, just out of range of the viewscreen. Tom's heart stopped, and began pounding wildly and erratically, when he heard B'Elanna Torres was missing. All thoughts of revenge and betrayal seemed inconsequential now that she was missing, and might even be dead. *B'Elanna!* his heart screamed to hers, pain and fear adding unknown depths to the power of his love. Faintly, almost unbelievably, he felt her heart call to his, and he knew she was alive. "B'Elanna," he whispered. This time her name acted almost as a
talisman. Paris knew that he would find her, and they would begin again as if they were strangers with no past mistakes to get in the way of their future. Tom Paris knew in the very depths of his soul that one day, no matter how long it took, B'Elanna Torres would love him again.