The Morning After

by Vicki Reid

The usual disclaimers apply, i.e. Paramount owns all thing Star Trek, and I am only borrowing Tom, B'Elanna, and the others for awhile.

Following B'Elanna down the dark corridor, Tom swung the alien weapon to his shoulder. Strong emotions fought with each other in his mind and Paris hoped they would find their way out of this cave system soon. If they were trapped or even stopped moving, he didn't know if he could find the strength again to refuse to *help* B'Elanna.

When the rumbling ceased, and he picked himself up off the floor, Paris felt a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. They were trapped. With more hope than he truly felt, Tom said, "It's okay. We'll find a way out."

"Maybe we should use that weapon now," B'Elanna said. "It's worth the risk."

"I might agree with you if I still had it. It's buried somewhere under all that."

"What!" B'Elanna exclaimed.

"Sorry," Tom apologized, watching her lean against the cave wall. Although trapped in a cave with a Klingon in the midst of pon farr, Paris was more worried about B'Elanna than his own safety. He was completely unprepared when she suddenly said, "I can't take this. I must do something."

B'Elanna launched herself at Tom, and he found himself in a position he had long dreamed about--lying under an amorous B'Elanna Torres. *You cannot do this,* he told himself. *You cannot take advantage of her.* He couldn't find the words to say to her, so he simply shook his head and rolled over.

Trying desperately to think of some way out of this situation that would not involve losing some important body part, Tom knew he had to get as far away from B'Elanna as possible. Given his current status, however, that was not very far. Feeling a curious sense of deja vu, Tom watched as B'Elanna stalked him with the grace and wildness of a big cat. He heard her say something, and knew he answered, but the words did not seem to register. At least not until he heard her say, "No. No, it's not. I was just too afraid to admit it. You see I've wanted this for so long."

Tom knew he should not believe her, because it was still the pon farr making her say these things. *You cannot do this, Tom,* he kept repeating to himself, almost like a mantra. But when her lips touched his, Paris' resolve began to crumble, and he returned her kisses. Pushing her back across the narrow corridor of the cave, Tom continued to kiss B'Elanna with growing desire. After sharing a few more passionate kisses, he pulled back, fully intending to say, "I hope someday you'll say that to me and mean it." But when he looked into those dark eyes, Paris saw a vulnerability that he had never noticed before, and the words never left his lips. Instead, he kissed her again until he heard a low growl deep in her throat. He wasn't completely surprised when she threw him to the ground again. *I knew reading about Klingon mating practices would be a good idea* was his last thought before giving in to the feelings B'Elanna aroused in his heart.

Tom Paris groaned as he awoke from a sound sleep. He hurt in thousands of places all over his body, and it wasn't just the rocky floor he was laying on either. Glancing down, he saw B'Elanna's head resting on his chest, fingers entwined in the red-gold hairs. When he moved his arm, an excruciating pain ran through his body, and he groaned again. Gingerly moving his free arm until his fingers could touch the most tender area, Tom feared the worst. *Yup,* he thought to himself. *It's the clavicle all right.*

B'Elanna had been awake for some time, but was too embarrassed to raise her head, and face her lover. *Lover,* she thought. *Kahless, what have I done?*

When she heard him groan a second time, she had to look at him. With no little surprise, she found him grinning through the pain.

"Good morning, B'Elanna," he said. Tom wanted to say more, but had no idea what to say to this woman. With any other woman, he had a pat 'morning after' line that took both parties off the hook, so to speak, but B'Elanna was not just any woman. Say the wrong thing, and he might have his lungs ripped out. But he also found he did not want to hurt her. She was special to him in so many ways, and he had loved her for so long.

B'Elanna gazed into those blue eyes that had long caused her some time in a cold shower. Swallowing hard, she tore her eyes away from his, and stared down at his body. Jerking upright, she said, "I am so sorry, Tom."

"About what?"

Lips trembling, she said, "I hurt you, didn't I?"

Grinning again, Paris replied, "Nothing a little time in sickbay won't fix. Although I really hate giving the Doctor a first hand look at Klingon mating rituals."

"Don't joke about this, Tom," B'Elanna warned.

"I'm sorry," he said, struggling to sit up and face her. Touching her face with a gentle finger, he continued, "I am probably going to say the wrong thing here, B'Elanna, but I wouldn't change anything about last night. It was everything I ever dreamed it could be."

"But I hurt you, Tom," she said tearfully. "I never meant . . ."

"It's okay, B'Elanna," her reassured her. "I am fine, or at least I will be once we get back to Voyager." His eyes wandered for a moment, before saying huskily, "If you don't want a repeat of last night, B'Elanna, you had better get dressed. Now."

Temptation to take Tom up on his offer flooded her being, but she was afraid that Paris might not survive their next encounter given his present medical condition. Sighing with regret, B'Elanna began searching for her clothes. Halfway through zipping up her uniform, she stopped and thought, *However am I going to tell Tom about this?*

Paris watched with wistful eyes as B'Elanna dressed. If possible, he wanted her more now than ever before. And not just as a lover, although that had been an incredible experience, but also as a life partner. More than anything, he wanted those beautiful brown eyes to look at him again with vulnerability and trust, knowing he would never betray her.

He was having a little difficulty donning his uniform with his fractured clavicle, when a gentle hand brushed his aside to render aid and assistance. Paris clamped down on his desire with an iron will, and would not let his hand stray to her hair as it wanted.

Once both were dressed, B'Elanna said hesitantly, "Tom, we have to talk."

Fear and more than a little sadness swept through his mind and body. *This cannot be good,* he thought. "Okay," he replied slowly.

B'Elanna found it more difficult than she had imagined to say the words that needed to be spoken. Finally, she tried an indirect approach. "Do you remember that time on the shuttlecraft, when you were inquiring about my love life or lack thereof?"

"Yes," Tom answered slowly, wondering where this conversation was headed.

"You made some comment about my hot Klingon blood, if I remember correctly," she said, trying very hard not to sound accusative.

Paris shrugged his shoulders, and immediately regretted that action as pain coursed through his body again. "Sorry, B'Elanna," he apologized. "That was an uncalled for remark. I was really curious about why a beautiful woman like yourself did not have many relationships."

Biting her lip, she said, "There is a reason for that, Tom. Klingons do not engage in meaningless physical relationships. At least, most Klingons do not. It is not honorable to engage in meaningless . . ." her voice trailed off.

"I get the picture," Tom said helpfully. Taking a deep breath, he asked, "So where does that leave us? B'Elanna?"

She could not meet his eyes, but instead stared unhappily at the ground. "We are . . . mates," she said at last.

"Okay," he said slowly, still trying to understand what she was not saying. "Which means what, B'Elanna?"

"To a Klingon a physical relationship such as we have embarked upon is permanent and lasts an entire lifetime."

Paris' eyes widened as the words slowly sank in, "You mean . . ."

"We are, at the very least, betrothed," B'Elanna stated. "Now do you understand my reluctance to become involved with you or any other man?"

"You mean . . ." Tom repeated himself.

"According to Klingon Law and Tradition, once a couple becomes 'intimate' they must take the Oath, solemnizing their union, which can then only be severed by the wife. A physical betrayal by the husband is punishable by slow dismemberment."

"You mean . . ." Tom said again, beginning to sound like a stuck senor readout.

"If you cheat on me," B'Elanna growled, "you will die. Still want to be involved with a Klingon, Tom?"

A myriad of emotions raced through his mind, but surprising even himself a little, the one thought that never entered his mind was to cut and run. After learning about her abandonment by her father during their confinement by the Vidiians, Tom had promised himself that should he ever be fortunate enough to win B'Elanna's heart again, he would never hurt her by leaving. And that was one promise he intended to keep.

Forcing her to meet his eyes, Tom said with regret, "I'm sorry. I forgot about the Oath, B'Elanna. I should have remembered. When do you want to exchange the Oath? Now or when we return to Voyager?"

B'Elanna could not believe that Tom Paris, renowned womanizer, was actually contemplating taking the Oath with her. And she had done her best to discourage him; she did not want to hurt him again. Since the first time their eyes had met in the garden at Starfleet Academy several years before, B'Elanna had loved Tom with a passion that frightened her. Once meeting again on Voyager, they had formed an unspoken agreement to forget their past, filled with the painful mistakes of youth, and begin their relationship again. When they were in the Vidiian prison barracks, Tom had unwittingly cemented her belief in his essential goodness. The bad boy image he so often projected to others was just a facade--an act which he used to protect himself from being hurt.

When B'Elanna remained silent for too long, Paris laughed a little worriedly, "I knew I should have read that book on Klingon mating rituals again."

"You read a book?" B'Elanna exclaimed angrily. "A little too sure of yourself, aren't you, Helmboy?"

Her use of the derogatory name given him by the female Q told Tom a lot more about B'Elanna's uncertainty and fear than she had intended. "Actually, I had wanted to learn the truth about these practices before becoming too emotionally attached to you, B'Elanna," he said calmly. "There are so many rumors and myths about the more aggressive aspects of the physical bonding with Klingons that I needed to know if I were strong enough to share the experience with you."

B'Elanna looked away. "And you weren't," she said finally, fighting desperately to keep her tears from spilling from her eyes.

Reaching out with his good arm, Paris gently turned her face until she was looking into his eyes. "It was the pon farr, B'Elanna," he told her. "You weren't yourself." A broad grin crossed his face and his blue eyes sparkled with mischievous devilment as he added, "Besides, I've read that a broken clavicle on the wedding night is considered to be a blessing on the marriage."

*Why can't I make him understand?* B'Elanna thought to herself. *Just being near him, just 'thinking' about him makes me feel out-of-control. And I cannot continue to fight with him every time I feel this urge. Voyager would never survive.*

Tom could see that she was struggling with the idea of being his mate, and he sadly realized that B'Elanna apparently did not want this relationship. Feeling a mixture of guilt, responsibility, and sadness, Paris regretted his lack of self-control. *As usual,* he thought, *I messed up everything again.*

An idea suddenly occurred to him which could free B'Elanna from the predicament of a permanent bonding with him. "B'Elanna," he began, a hint of sadness in his voice which was reflected in his eyes. "You were under the influence of a chemical imbalance. I doubt Klingon Law and Tradition would hold you to our bonding under these circumstances. And I certainly won't."

B'Elanna's head shot up and she stared at him with devastation clearly expressed in her eyes.

*Wrong choice again,* Tom thought, irritated at himself. Because of the numerous mistaken assumptions he had made in the last few minutes, Paris decided to try a novel approach. Taking her hand in his, Tom asked, "What do you want, B'Elanna? If you want your freedom, you have it. If you want to take the Oath, you have it. If you want a long betrothal, you have it. Whatever you want, I will abide by your decision." He smiled a little ruefully, "I would have liked to court you properly anyway, tIqwIj."

Against her will, a smile crept across her face, "Have you been reading Klingon poetry, Tom?"

Before he could answer, the rocks which had trapped them began to move. Soon Chakotay's face could be seen. "Is everyone all right in there?"

"Tom's hurt," B'Elanna answered. "We've got to get him out of here."

Some time later the away team exited the caves, blinking in the bright sunlight. Chakotay tapped his commbadge, but nothing happened. Voyager was still out of contact.

The commander walked over to where Tom was resting. Even a cursory glance told him that the younger man was in considerable pain. "What happened, Tom?" Chakotay asked. "Did you get caught in the rock slide?"

Paris exchanged a knowing look with B'Elanna. "Not exactly, Commander."

Looking at B'Elanna, Chakotay realized she seemed much less aggressive than before and very proprietary of Tom Paris--her hand seldom left his shoulder. "Are you all right, B'Elanna?" he asked at last.

Tuvok had been carefully watching B'Elanna since exiting the cave. Before she could answer, he said, "I believe her pon farr has been resolved, Commander."

Chakotay, usually an insightful man, was extraordinarily obtuse, and simply stared at them for several seconds. When he finally realized what the Vulcan had been implying, a wave of astonishment swept through him, followed by a spasm of jealousy, which surprised Chakotay as his heart's desire lay elsewhere. "I see," he managed to say. Studying Paris' pain etched face, he added, "We need to get you back to Voyager, Tom."

"You won't get any argument from me, Chakotay," Tom answered with a tight grin.

"Can't we do something now to help him?" B'Elanna asked worriedly. "I am fairly certain he has a fractured clavicle."

This time the full impact of her words were not lost on the commander. Chakotay's eyes widened, filled with undeniable amusement and a tad of irony. He struggled unsuccessfully to keep a serious look on his face.

"What is so amusing, Chakotay?" B'Elanna asked belligerently.

The commander was unable to answer her, knowing if he tried all that would emerge from his mouth was a huge guffaw. Turning to Tuvok, he asked in an amusement choked voice, "Do you have a bone knitter in your first aid kit, Tuvok?"

Removing his backback, the Vulcan replied, "I believe so, Commander."

Seconds passed as Tuvok searched for his first aid kit, during which time Chakotay studied the pair before him. Tom Paris, having hurt her profoundly in the past, was certainly not the man Chakotay would have chosen for B'Elanna, although the commander did believe that Tom's current reputation with the ladies far outstripped the actual deed. Chakotay feared the everpresent restlessness of Tom's spirit more than his womanizing. Suddenly, the commander realized that for the first time since he had met Paris during their time with the Maquis, Tom's spirit was no longer restless.

"Here it is, Commander," Tuvok announced, interrupting Chakotay's reverie. "Lt. Paris, please lower the upper part of your uniform."

A blush slowly spread up Tom's face as he asked, "Is that really necessary, Tuvok?"

"I am afraid so, Lieutenant," the Vulcan answered serenely. "This emergency bone knitter is an extremely low powered unit, and must be placed directly on your skin in order to function adequately."

Tom realized that the embarrassment he felt was not his, but for B'Elanna, who would hate to have the results of their encounter shown to the world. "I'll just wait until we get back to Voyager. Thanks anyway, Tuvok."

"Just do it," Chakotay ordered. When the younger man made no move to comply, he asked, "Do I have to make that an order, Mr. Paris?"

Blue eyes pleaded with brown, seeming to say, *Please don't do this to her, Chakotay.*

The commander wavered for a moment, but B'Elanna, hanging her head in embarrassed shame, said, "It's okay, Tom. Go ahead."

Blue eyes held brown for a moment more. *See what you have done?* they accused.

"B'Elanna?" Tom said gently. "It's all right. I can wait until we get back. It's really not that painful."

"Liar," she whispered for his ears alone.

A sudden crashing and thrashing in the underbrush brought everyone to attention. Chakotay and Tuvok drew their weapons in readiness. When the origin of the sounds emerged, both men relaxed marginally. "Commander," Tuvok said. "I believe we now know the source of our loss of communication with Voyager."

"That is correct, Lt. Tuvok," Ensign Vorik almost hissed. "Nothing shall keep me from my mate!"

Rising to his feet, Tom declared passionately, "She is not your mate, Vorik. She is mine!"

Everyone, including Tom, was astounded at the intensity of his declaration. Vorik hesitated for a moment, but his pon farr drove him to say, "Then I declare koon-ut-kal-if-fee."

"The ritual challenge," Tuvok explained. "He intends to fight to win his mate."

"Then I will accept his challenge," B'Elanna stated.

Feeling as though he were quickly losing control of the situation, Chakotay said, "There is not going to be any challenge."

"I am afraid that is no longer an option, Commander," Tuvok said. "Without fighting Lt. Paris, Ensign Vorik will die."

"I accepted the challenge," B'Elanna reminded him. "Tom does not need to fight Vorik."

"I am afraid that is no longer an option either, Lt. Torres," Tuvok stated. "When you and Lt. Paris 'resolved' your pon farr, the responsibility to defend your person became his."

"But he's hurt!" B'Elanna exclaimed hotly. "If he tries to fight Vorik now, he'll be killed."

Paris laughed sarcastically. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, B'Elanna." When he saw the scared look on her face, he said gently, "It will be okay. I have a few moves I can use."

"Can we at least heal his clavicle first?" Chakotay asked.

"Of course," Tuvok replied, helping Tom slide the uniform down to his waist. Chakotay's eyes widened yet again at the sight of the marks on Tom's body. Blue eyes met brown, ordering, *Don't say a word.*

B'Elanna had been uncharacteristically silent, looking everywhere but at Tom. Coming to a decision, she asked hesitantly, "What if I agree to become Vorik's mate? Would Tom still have to fight him?"

Leaping to his feet, Tom proclaimed angrily, "Over my dead body!"

"Don't be melodramatic, Tom," B'Elanna said, hardening her heart against the strange sensation she felt permeating her body with his declaration. "It's no big deal," she lied.

Paris wanted to shake her. "Liar," he whispered to her alone. In a louder voice, he said, "It's a very big deal to me, B'Elanna. Something happened last night and I don't intend to let a two bit warp monkey ruin it for us. Understand?"

"But . . ." she began.

In a gentle, yet firm voice, Tom said, "I won't give you up without a fight, B'Elanna. I did that once. But not again."

Chakotay realized that Tom was talking about more than Vorik. The thought of these two volatile personalities entering into any sort of relationship sent a shiver down the commander's spine. Tom Paris might present an aura of easy going, good naturedness, but Chakotay had seen him explode into a cold rage on more than one occasion. For the first time, Chakotay began to fear for Vorik.

"The question is moot," Tuvok announced. "Vorik has issued the challenge and it must be met by your mate or the Ensign will die."

A part of B'Elanna screamed, *Then let him die! This is all his fault anyway.* But her Klingon heritage recognized Tom's courage and strength, forcing her to remain silent. She watched as he sat down again so Tuvok could heal his fractured clavicle. Funny how she had never seen the strength in his lean body before.

Once Tuvok was finished, Tom rotated his shoulder a few times to check on the feeling. As he pulled his uniform back in place, Paris knew that the bone was still weakened and would probably break again during the fight. But he didn't let that thought shake his confidence.

Paris looked at B'Elanna, concern for her clearly showing on his face. He exchanged a glance with Chakotay. Nodding slightly, Chakotay gave the younger man a promise to his unspoken question, and thought *Now this is scary--I actually understood him!"

Chakotay was impressed by Tom's demeanor--straight, tall, and confident--as he faced his physically stronger opponent. Paris didn't display his usual cocky attitude, and the commander began to understand Tom a little better. The cockiness only appeared when the stakes weren't very high, but when something was important to him, Paris revealed his true inner strength. Chakotay didn't think he could face a pon farr maddened Vulcan with the equanimity Tom Paris was showing.

"Begin," Tuvok commanded.

Vorik and Paris circled each other warily, each seeking the other's weaknesses. Tom knew that Vorik would attack his weakened shoulder, but the human had a surprise in store for the Vulcan. He had studied a variety of martial arts from many other worlds, and had learned to supress his pain during the heat of battle. A flurry of flying fists, arms, and legs signaled the battle had begun. After the first pass, Paris knew he could take the Vulcan, it was only a matter of timing.

When Tom's clavicle snapped with an audible and ominous crack, Chakotay had to physically restrain B'Elanna from entering the fray. "I am going to kill that Vulcan petaQ," she growled.

"Not yet, B'Elanna," Chakotay replied sternly, knowing that if she became seriously enraged, he would never be able to restrain her. And maybe, just maybe, he might even help.

B'Elanna had never seen a more graceful warrior than Tom. "I would love to see him with a batlh'etlh in his hands," she whispered.

"I thought you hated Klingon martial arts," Chakotay murmured, never taking his hands from her arms.

"I do. I always feel like a slow, clumsy targh with a batlh'etlh," she told him. "But Tom's heart is Klingon. Look how well he wields that broken limb. A well-honed sword of honor in his hands would be magic." Eyes glowing, she added, "Who would have thought it?"

Several more minutes passed with both men becoming worn and battered, but an unexpected series of kicks and blows sent Vorik reeling to the ground in an unconscious heap.

Rushing to his side, B'Elanna put Tom's good arm over her shoulder to provide support. "So, Tuvok," Tom said in his most annoying voice, "have I protected the honor of my lady, fair and beautiful, from Vorik's evil clutches, saving his sorry life in the process?"

"You have, Mr. Paris," Tuvok replied, allowing a slight frown to mar his otherwise serene composure.

"I am not your lady!" B'Elanna hissed.

"Wrong, tIqwIj, I won you on the field on honor just as Yoraq won S'nara."

B'Elanna was speechless wondering where Tom had heard the legend of Yoraq and S'nara.

Paris could feel the adrenalin rush fading from his body, and the pain became more and more intense. Before it became too unbearable, Tom was determined to ask Tuvok one last question. "Tuvok, if Vulcans mate for life does this mean I have to endure this every seven years?"

Awakening in sickbay, Tom opened his eyes and found himself nose to nose with the Doctor, who was trying to examine several of his facial contusions. "Ah, Mr. Paris," the Doctor said. "You are awake. Good. I will have you patched up in no time, and then you can engage in some other reckless activity guaranteed to land you here in sickbay once again."

"Hey, Doc," Paris said. "Give me a break. It wasn't my idea to fight a crazed Vulcan. How is Vorik, by the way? Pon farr free I hope?"

"According to Tuvok, Ensign Vorik has been purged of the Blood Fever," the Doctor said. "And nothing on his cortical scans would seem to indicate anything different."

"Good," Tom replied. His eyes were drawn to the entrance to sickbay, where B'Elanna stood silently waiting.

Following his eyes, the Doctor said testily, "She has not moved from that spot since you were beamed to sickbay."

The Doctor continued to ramble on and on, but Tom tuned him out, preferring to stare instead at B'Elanna. "Are you listening to me, Mr. Paris?" he asked plaintively.

"What is it, Doc?"

"Several of your injuries seem to contain traces of Klingon DNA," the Doctor replied. "According to my programing, a bite on the face means . . ."

"I wouldn't go there if I were you, Doc," Paris warned with a grin. When he saw B'Elanna stiffen, Tom added, "That is unless you want to be three feet tall for the rest of the trip."

The holographic doctor stole a look at the Chief of Engineering, and said, "I wouldn't dream of asking." More briskly he continued, "Let's get started then. Where do you want me to begin, Lieutenant? Face or body?"

"Start with the face, Doc," Paris grinned. "Got to look my best for my lady."

Several minutes later, the Doctor prepared to begin regenerating Tom's dermal layer. Paris grabbed the Doctor's hand. "Just mend the bones, Doc," he said seriously.

"The epidermal regeneration won't take long," the Doctor said with a frown.

Looking at B'Elanna, Tom said, "Some scars a man earns through perseverance and those he keeps to remind himself of those victories, both large and small."

Before the Doctor could respond, Captain Janeway entered sickbay and approached Tom's biobed. "How are you feeling, Tom?"

"I'll be back on duty in no time, Captain," Tom answered with a grin.

"There is no hurry, Tom," Janeway said. "We will be here for awhile as we follow through on Chakotay's promises to the Sakari."

"I would like to return to duty," Tom said.

Janeway smiled, "We'll see. Chakotay was impressed with your fighting abilities, Tom. He said that had he known you were that good when you were with the Maquis, he would never have challenged you."

Tom looked embarrassed. "He remembered that, did he?"

The captain nodded. "He said he thought you were a coward when you refused to fight him. Now he knows better."

"Don't give me so much credit, Captain," Tom said disparagingly. "There was someone close to Chakotay I wanted to impress, and I didn't think she would take to kindly to me if I rearranged her mentor's face." With a wry grin, he added, "When you've lived with the seamier side of Marseilles society for as long as I did, you learn to pick the battles you can win."

"Sounds like Vorik is lucky to have survived," Janeway laughed.

"I've fought tougher opponents, Captain," Tom admitted. "But if the fight had gone on much longer, I might have been forced to resort to some of the more colorful moves I learned on the back alleys of Marseilles."

Janeway smiled, knowing that Tom Paris might indeed know those moves, but would not use them unnecessarily. "So tell me, Tom, was Chakotay's protegee impressed?"

"Not a bit," Tom answered. "I believe she called me a sniveling, cringing, cowardly excuse for a human petaQ."

Swiveling to stare at B'Elanna, the captain said, "I had no idea you knew each other back then."

Moving toward the biobed, B'Elanna replied, "We did. It seems like a lifetime ago."

Suddenly Janeway felt as if she were intruding in something very intense and deeply personal. With some embarrassment, she said, "Well, it sounds as if you had quite an adventure down there."

Paris' eyes never left B'Elanna's. "The adventure is just beginning, Captain."

"Be careful what you wish for, Lieutenant," B'Elanna whispered, and Tom's eyes took on a devilish glint of humor in response.