Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek: Voyager, and all her crew, I'm just taking them for a spin
for fun, not profit.
A special thanks to Celeste who has helped me enormously in writing this story, both as a
sounding board and proofreader. Any mistakes you find, however, are mine and mine alone.
Unseeing eyes stared out into the black endless night of space, as Tom Paris grieved for his mate and best friend. Losing B'Elanna was horrible, the worst thing that had ever happened to him, but had Harry been there to support him, help him through the overwhelming blackness which now engulfed his soul, Tom knew he might eventually have come to accept her loss. But losing Harry as well made an intolerable situation even worse. He was a liability to Voyager now, all alone with his pain and the black emptiness in his soul, with no hope of surcease from his suffering. Tom sat alone in the mess hall, his blue eyes staring blankly through the windows as the stars sped by--a living, breathing dead man.
Wearing his uniform which looked as if he had slept in it, with his hair tousled, and with reddened eyes with huge dark rings under them, Paris reminded the rest of the crew of the time when he was pretending dissatisfaction with Voyager in order to catch Seska's spy. But this time, the crew was much more sympathetic, knowing Tom had lost both his mate and best friend. All of them knew that it could just as easily have happened to them. For Tom, the most horrific aspect of the ordeal was his inability to believe that they were dead. His head told him that they were gone, and Janeway, Chakotay, and the others had him almost convinced that B'Elanna was dead, but in his heart, he knew B'Elanna lived, and he had tried without success to get Captain Janeway to go back for her. And now, with each beat of his heart, Tom moved further away from his B'Elanna.
Regrets? He had plenty, but loving B'Elanna Torres was not one of them. From the moment he had seen her in one of the gardens at Starfleet Academy, his heart had been hers, their souls linked for eternity. Terrible things had happened between them, but neither Tom nor B'Elanna spoke of past betrayals, focusing instead on the present. What Tom regretted most was the wasted time they spent apart on Voyager. When he had pulled her from the caves on the Ocampan homeworld, Tom had felt a jolt of intense, passionate longing, and he had thought--hoped--she felt the same. But those first few hectic weeks on Voyager had not been very conducive for romance, and by the time he had been able to pursue B'Elanna, Tom realized she was in love with Chakotay not him. Refusing to let her see his pain, Paris had instead entered into a flirtation with Meagan Delaney, hoping to make B'Elanna jealous. When that didn't work, he tried forgetting B'Elanna, falling in love almost every other week. But after becoming infatuated with Kes, and hurting Neelix in the process, Tom knew he could never forget B'Elanna and the love they had once shared, and he didn't want to hurt anyone else as he had Neelix. He had begun a subtle campaign designed to win her back, and then, thanks to Vorik, B'Elanna had gone through pon farr, and he had tried to resist her advances, but found he couldn't, he loved her too much.
"B'Elanna," he whispered, while his soul screamed to hers.
A gentle hand rested on his shoulder, and the owner said, "Tom."
"Go away, Chakotay," Paris ordered.
Ignoring the younger man, Chakotay seated himself opposite Paris, and stared at him with sad eyes, taking in Tom's appearance with regret. Someone needed to help Tom Paris, but Chakotay wasn't sure he was the one to reach the grief stricken conn officer. "Tom," he said at last. "You need to get back to work. It will help you, I promise."
"No," Tom stated firmly and unequivocally.
"Voyager needs you at the conn," Chakotay urged.
Sighing deeply, the first officer said, "I could make that an order, Tom."
Tom looked at him with a glimmer of his old sardonic attitude. "Did you forget, Chakotay? I already know how to get myself relieved of duty. Would you like me to take care of it here and now?"
Chakotay sighed once again. "We are worried about you, Tom. You need to let go of B'Elanna and Harry. I know you are grieving still, but you need to begin to get on with your life."
"You don't know anything, Chakotay," Tom said harshly. "I will not put Voyager at risk."
Looking at the conn officer in bewilderment, Chakotay asked, "Put Voyager at risk? What are you talking about, Tom?"
Tom stared past Chakotay into the endless night of space, and said, "I have only felt this badly once before in my life, Chakotay, and three people died. I will not put Voyager at risk."
The first officer knew Tom was referring to Caldik Prime, something he knew the younger man seldom mentioned. "Tom, . . ." he began.
Holding up his hand to stop Chakotay from speaking, Paris said, "Don't say it, Chakotay. I have to live with the results every day of my life, and I don't need you trying to help."
Chakotay stared sadly at the younger man. "You must do something, Tom. B'Elanna would not want you wallowing in grief as you have been. You know that."
Paris snorted. "Maybe she wouldn't if she were dead."
"Tom," Chakotay said, "we all miss B'Elanna and Harry. But the fact remains that they are gone, and we must all move on."
"Tell that to my heart," Tom replied. "My tIqqoch is back on that planet, waiting for us . . .me to rescue her."
Becoming seriously perturbed with Tom's mental state, Chakotay said rather harshly, "B'Elanna is dead, Tom. She is not waiting for you to rescue her."
"You are wrong, Chakotay," Tom replied. "She is my tIqqoch, my soulmate. Our hearts beat as one. If she were dead, I would know it."
Chakotay frowned, concerned with Tom's well-being. "There were no lifesigns at the crash site. You know that, Tom."
"We never went down to check," Tom answered. "Or bring their bodies home to Voyager."
"There was nothing left to bring home, Tom. The Cochrane exploded when it hit the ground and the storms were too intense to risk another shuttlecraft when there was nothing left to recover," Chakotay stated.
Vivid blue eyes filled with grief stared intently into soulful brown eyes filled with concern. "It should have been me."
Chakotay had known that Paris' guilt contributed a great deal to his inability to move on with his grief. "It wasn't your fault, Tom," the first officer said. "You were in sickbay."
Paris looked at the first officer with dead eyes. "Do you know the last thing she said to me, Chakotay?"
The older man shook his head.
"I was in engineering talking with B'Elanna as we prepared for our flight, when we heard someone slip, and begin to fall from the second tier. I never gave it a thought; I tried to break his fall. How was I supposed to know it was Chell?"
The commander was forced to choke back his amusement, because Tom was in no shape to share laughter at this point. Tom had broken Chell's fall and probably saved the Bolian's life, but the rotund Bolian had inflicted severe damage to the pilot's much leaner frame, breaking several ribs, and one of his arms.
"She followed me to sickbay. Once the Doctor had fixed me up, she took me by the shoulders, and kissed me. Then she proceeded to ream me out. She is very good with Klingon curses," Tom said rather proudly. "Then she said, *Don't you ever do that to me again, Tom. I really mean it this time. I am tired of spending hours in sickbay worrying about you. We will discuss this further when I get back, Paris.* And then she walked away."
Sad, dead eyes stared into the first officer's. "But she never came back, Chakotay. She never came back."
"I know, Tom," Chakotay commiserated. "But it's not your fault. You could not pilot the shuttle in that condition."
"But if I hadn't been so damned stupid, I would have been able to pilot that mission," Tom retorted. "I could have made it safely; I'm a much better pilot than Harry." He paused. "Or at least I would have been lost with B'Elanna. We would be together now instead of light years apart."
Rising to his feet, and shaking his head slightly, Paris said in voice devoid of emotion. "You just don't get it, Chakotay. Without B'Elanna, I'm dead already. My body just hasn't caught up with my soul."
Hours later, Tom lay tossing and turning in his bed. With every beat of his heart, he heard B'Elanna call his name. *Tom,* she cried. *Tom. Tom.* This happened every night, when he tried to sleep. Even during the day, he sometimes heard B'Elanna calling for him. But try as he might, Tom could not convince Captain Janeway that B'Elanna still lived. Everyone else on the ship simply believed that in his overpowering grief, Tom could not, would not accept her death. Perhaps they were right, but here in his quarters where they had spent many passionate nights, he believed with all his heart that B'Elanna lived. "I'm sorry, B'Elanna," he whispered. "I'm so sorry. I've tried everything I can think of to make Voyager turn back."
Finally falling into a deep, yet restless sleep, Tom Paris dreamed the same nightmare he had every night since B'Elanna had disappeared. But this time it was different. Always before, there had been a dreamlike quality to his vision, like looking through a fog, but tonight the dream seemed so real, almost as if he were there watching. Tom could almost smell the stench of burned out computer chips and relays. B'Elanna, a rivulet of blood running from a wound in her forehead, and uniform torn, scorched, and bloody, bent over a comatose Harry Kim, who lay on the deck of the shuttlecraft. "Harry," Tom heard her demand. "Wake up."
Groaning with pain, Harry asked, "B'Elanna? What happened?"
"The shuttlecraft crashed, Harry," she replied, helping the ensign sit up. "How are you feeling?"
Harry winced. "Great. Tom is never going to let me forget I crashed the Cochrane. Especially not with you aboard. He's going to kill me for endangering you."
B'Elanna forced a smile onto her face. "Don't worry, Harry," she joked. "I'll protect you from Helmboy."
Laughing at B'Elanna's pet name for her mate, Harry groaned again, clutching his head in pain.
"Harry?" she asked again. "Are you all right?"
"Not really," he answered. "My head feels like the time I let Tom talk me into drinking the local brew while we were on shore leave on Kataril III."
Remembering the way Harry had suffered for days from that hangover, B'Elanna had to laugh. While Harry had suffered, Tom Paris had been insufferable, not having the least hint of a hangover, and giving the young ensign all sorts of less than helpful advice. At the time, B'Elanna had wondered why Harry remained friends with Tom, who seemed to drag him into dangerous scrapes at every turn. In fact, she knew that more than once Harry had made Tom promise not to take him on any more shore leaves, but when the next one came around, Harry was always Tom's companion. After Sakari IV, B'Elanna knew why Harry always forgave Tom Paris. Once given, Tom's love was a gift without measure for he would never allow harm to those he cared about even if it meant sacrificing himself.
"We need to contact Voyager," B'Elanna stated, rising to her feet. Moving toward the helm control console, she said, "I'll let them know we're all right, and that they need to send someone down to retrieve us."
Harry didn't answer. With a frown, B'Elanna turned around to see if Harry had lapsed into unconsciousness again. What she saw made her scream in terror, calling out with all her soul to her tIqqoch, "Tom! Don't leave me!"
Tom jerked up straight in bed, sweat running in rivulets down his face. The dream always ended there, and he had no idea what B'Elanna saw that terrified her so much. It took a lot to scare a Klingon. "B'Elanna!" he whispered.
Something was different this time. The events seemed much more real than usual. He
could still smell the acrid stench of burned circuitry, and feel B'Elanna's terror, and Tom became
convinced that this dream was, in truth, what really happened to B'Elanna and Harry. A change
came over Tom Paris, who threw off his lethargy of the past month and became the Tom Paris of
old, bold and a little reckless. The grief stricken eyes of the past were now filled with
determination. "I'm coming, B'Elanna," he vowed. "Even if I have to steal a shuttlecraft and
B'Elanna Torres paced back and forth in the small, but comfortable, room which was her prison. With each step, she heard Tom's heart speak to hers. *B'Elanna,* his soul cried. *B'Elanna. B'Elanna.* For the past month, she and Harry had been prisoners of some strange being who spoke in riddles. Or at least so obscurely that B'Elanna had no idea what this being wanted of her. Other than Tom. The being kept asking B'Elanna to call for Tom, but wouldn't tell her why. And so she refused to help this alien draw Tom into danger.
"B'Elanna," Harry said from the other side of the room. "Would you please quit pacing? You are making me tired just watching you."
Grimacing slightly, B'Elanna stopped still in the middle of the room. "Have you figured out why Voyager left us behind, Harry? It just doesn't make sense. I know Captain Janeway would send search parties for us, and Tom would never leave us behind."
Harry had been trying to access the computer terminal for almost the entire month of their imprisonment without success. "You saw the image the alien projected for Voyager. Janeway isn't coming; no one is coming. They think we are dead."
B'Elanna shook her head, and grunted with frustration. "How can they believe that image? Wouldn't they use sensors?"
The ensign had to stifle the smile he felt coming on. Harry and B'Elanna had had this conversation on a daily basis for nearly a month. And it always came out the same. Voyager was not coming. Everyone thought they were dead.
Recognizing Harry's restrained mirth, B'Elanna felt a tinge of irritation which was quickly followed by an ironic humor. "All right, Harry," she said. "I'll let you off the hook. I know the reality of the situation. But that doesn't mean I accept it. I want to know why the alien projected that image."
Harry hesitated for a moment, before saying, "B'Elanna, I don't think we were the one he was after. I think he wants Tom."
"I know that!" B'Elanna exclaimed. "He keeps asking me to bring Tom here. But why? And how would I do it? It's not like he's going to let us call Voyager."
Again Harry hesitated. "B'Elanna," he said. "Didn't you think the alien was surprised not to find Tom on the shuttlecraft?"
B'Elanna stared at the young ensign, and held back the quick retort she wanted to make. Thinking back to that time, the engineer had to agree. "I believe you are right, Harry. But why would he think Tom was there? And more importantly, why does he want Tom so badly?"
Harry smiled a little warily, unsure how B'Elanna would react to his next hypothesis. "I think he feels Tom through you, B'Elanna."
"Think about it, B'Elanna," Harry cajoled. "He thought Tom was on the shuttlecraft and sent Voyager away before he realized his mistake. Now he continually asks you to bring Tom here, but refuses to allow us access to a communication terminal. How does he expect you to bring Tom here, other than through a telepathic link."
B'Elanna snorted. "I am not a telepath, Harry. And neither is Tom."
"But Tom is your tIqqoch, isn't he, B'Elanna?" Harry mused. "You told me once that your hearts beat as one. Maybe that's how the alien was confused in the first place, and that's how he expects you to reach Tom now."
An expression of terrified horror crossed B'Elanna's face. "If you're right about this, Harry," she said. "Then Tom is in great danger. He may be on his way even now, because my heart has called out to his since our incarceration. What are we going to do?"
Seated in her chair at the center of the bridge, Captain Kathryn Janeway watched the officer at conn as he went about his duties. It should have been a tall, blond officer, with a sardonic attitude and rakish grin, seated at the conn, rather than the short, dark haired ensign helming the ship at present. Sighing internally, Janeway worried about Tom Paris. Chakotay had once called the lieutenant her personal reclamation project, and the captain knew her first officer was correct in his assessment. She had worked hard at giving Tom a second chance, making him believe in himself again in other areas outside of piloting. When Tom had learned of the fiery crash which claimed the lives of B'Elanna and Harry, he had relieved himself of duty. Janeway had not argued the point, believing that Tom would soon want to return to the thing he loved and was best at, piloting Voyager. But Paris had surprised her completely, by refusing to return to the conn. Something in his eyes, dead and listless now, made her comply with Tom's wishes at this point. The only time Tom came alive anymore was when he was trying to convince her to return to the planet for B'Elanna and Harry. Then he was passionate in his belief that his mate still lived. Every time Janeway refused, Tom became a little more lethargic. She only hoped that Chakotay could reach him; Janeway knew she couldn't as she had tried already without success.
Looking up as she felt Chakotay's presence beside her, Janeway questioned her first officer with her eyes. Shaking his head slightly, he replied, "I'm sorry, Captain. He won't listen to me either. I told you he wouldn't."
"We've got to do something, Chakotay."
The first officer was silent for a time. "Let's do as he asks, then. Let's go back."
Janeway's eyes widened in disbelief. She prepared to answer, but realizing they were still on the bridge, said instead, "Commander, my ready room. Now."
"Aye, Captain," he answered, rising to his feet.
"Tuvok," she said. "You have the bridge."
As soon as the door whooshed closed behind them, Janeway turned to her first officer, and said, "Why, Chakotay?"
"Why go back, do you mean?" he asked. When she nodded, he continued, "Tom needs closure, Captain. He needs to see the wreckage before he can accept the loss of his mate and best friend."
"There is nothing to see, Chakotay."
Shrugging, he answered, "I know that. You know that. Tom's head knows that. But his heart will not believe what his head has told him. His heart needs proof. And until he gets that proof, Captain, Tom will not return to duty. He told me as much."
"He would refuse a direct order?" Janeway asked in disbelief.
Chakotay nodded. "He reminded me that he knew how to be relieved of duty. In his defense, Captain, Tom doesn't want to put Voyager in danger. He's remembering Caldik Prime."
Janeway's shoulders slumped. "But we can't go back, Commander. For one thing, it would set a bad precedent."
"But if we don't, Captain, we will lose three senior officers."
"Tom's that bad?"
Chakotay nodded. "I believe so." He paused for a moment, before adding, "Maybe we should go back, Captain. We all need closure. I know I do."
After looking at her first officer, trying to determine his underlying message, Janeway remained silent for a moment, reflecting on her choices. "I will consider everything you have told me, Commander, and let you know my decision."
Sighing deeply as she watched her first officer leave her ready room, Janeway mused to
herself, "Sometimes being Captain is not all it's cracked up to be."
Back to pacing again, now that Harry had left the sitting room they shared, B'Elanna worried about her mate. She had tried to keep from thinking about Tom, since Harry had told her that was what the alien wanted. But she couldn't help it. She had been thinking, make that dreaming, about Tom Paris for almost six years now, and B'Elanna knew she was never going to stop. If she had been honest with herself, she would have known from the moment their eyes met in the garden at Starfleet Academy that Tom Paris was her tIqqoch. Nothing, not even death, could change that.
"B'Elanna Torres," the alien said, "you will bring the one known as Tom Paris to me now."
Crossing her arms, she replied, "No, I won't."
"It is imperative that the one known as Tom Paris comes to me."
Eyeing the alien, who looked like a typical human male in his late seventies, B'Elanna asked for the hundredth time, "What do you want from Tom?"
"Only to him can I speak."
Drawing close to the alien, and letting her anger appear on her face, she replied, "You speak to me. Now. Or I will never bring Tom here. Do you understand?"
"Sorry am I, impossible that is."
B'Elanna took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "I will not let you hurt him," she warned. "He is my mate, and I value him more than my life."
"Then bring him!" the being exclaimed.
Shaking her head slowly, she answered, "Not until I know why you want him."
The alien began losing patience. "Cannot tell you, only to him can I speak."
B'Elanna made no answer, simply crossing her arms again, and staring with fierce eyes at the alien. He sighed. "Reparations must be made. Understand now?"
Before she could answer, Harry entered the room. The alien looked swiftly from one to the other, and began to retreat from the room. Hesitating at the door, he looked to B'Elanna again and said, "My time is short. Soon he must come. Too late. Too late."
After the being left the room, Harry looked at B'Elanna quizzically. "Same as always, Harry. He wants Tom here. But this time he dropped a hint. 'Reparations must be made.' What do you think he meant by that?"
Harry and B'Elanna stared worriedly at each other. "It could mean that he wants to make something up to Tom," Harry said slowly.
Eyes fearful, B'Elanna added, "Or he wants vengeance on Tom." She paused. "I can't take the risk, Starfleet. How can we keep Tom away from here?"
The ensign was just as worried as his friend. "I have no idea, Maquis. But knowing Tom,
it's too late to stop him. He'd walk through fire to reach you, B'Elanna."
As he rode to the bridge on the turbolift, Tom hoped that the summons from Captain Janeway was good news for once, and that she had decided to go back for B'Elanna and Harry. Trying to straighten his uniform, Paris realized that the creases were probably permanently set by now. He promised himself that should Janeway help him retrieve the two most important people in his life he would be an exemplary Starfleet officer from this point forward. Before he had time for further reflections, the ship was rocked by a phaser blast, just as the turbolift opened onto the bridge. Voyager was under attack, and Tom did what was necessary.
Nodding to the captain with a question in his eyes, he asked, "Captain?"
Janeway smiled. "Mr. Paris, take the conn."
Tom crossed the bridge rapidly, and slid into his normal seat, quickly assessing the situation. Fingers dancing over the panels before him, Paris kept Voyager out of harm's way.
"Evasive maneuver Omega Delta One, Mr. Paris."
Rapidly complying with her orders, Tom answered, "Aye, Captain."
The captain and first officer exchanged looks of relief. Tom Paris was back. At least for the moment. As Tom kept Voyager safe, with some rather surprising evasive maneuvers of his own, Janeway ordered, "Return phaser fire at will, Tuvok."
"Aye, Captain," the Vulcan replied.
Within minutes, the battle was over. The two badly outclassed vessels were dispatched with little damage to Voyager. After standing down from red alert, Janeway watched with dismay as Tom's shoulders visibly slumped. Rising to his feet, he nodded to the ensign he had relieved, who now resumed his duty station. The blue eyes which normally held glints of mischievous glee, now held nothing but despair and loneliness. Always before, Janeway had discovered, Tom hid his inner feelings behind a facade of easy going, good-naturedness.
"Mr. Paris," she said. "My ready room, please."
"Aye, Captain," he said in a dead voice, nothing like the one she had heard earlier, during the battle.
Although she normally preferred to have discussions in a more formal atmosphere, this time she urged Tom to sit on the couch. "What happened on the bridge, Tom? You seemed almost back to normal."
"And now I'm not?" he replied with a hint of his rakish charm. "I'm all right, during stressful situations, Captain," he told her. "Then the adrenalin keeps my mind focused and sharp, but during less stressful times, my mind wanders, and I become distracted. That's when I might make a mistake like Caldik Prime."
Janeway was surprised that Tom would mention that particular time in his life. She knew he seldom, if ever, spoke of that incident. Although she hated to invade his privacy, the captain felt she needed to know exactly what had happened on Caldik Prime.
"What happened, Tom?"
Tom hesitated for a moment, because the incident was still very painful, even after all this time. "Would you believe I'm not sure?" he asked at last. "I know what the sensors said I did, and what the ship's logs said I did, but even now I have a hard time believing I made such a stupid, fundamental mistake."
"Tell me," she ordered.
A sad smile crossed his face at the tone in her voice. *Maybe I should tell someone,* he thought to himself. "I was distracted by . . .personal problems," he said slowly, choosing his words with care. "I was piloting a shuttle from the Exeter down to Caldik Prime, a planet in the Riassa system. The shuttlecraft was performing perfectly, and I was taking no chances." He grinned the old Paris grin. "I'm the first to admit, Captain, that I'm a bit of a risk taker, and a hotshot pilot, but only with myself. If anyone else is with me, I am the model helmsman. Even then."
When Tom hesitated, she said, "Go on, Tom. Tell me everything."
Taking a deep breath, and releasing it slowly, Tom continued, "I knew I was . . . distracted, and I had considered asking to be relieved of duty, but knew I would be refused. And rightly so, a Starfleet officer cannot let personal problems stand in the way of duty. I do believe that, Captain." He smiled a little then. "The flight was uneventful, boring even, and so my mind wandered, and I began thinking about . . ."
"About what, Tom?"
Tom shook his head. "That doesn't matter, Captain. The fact is that while my mind was distracted, I pressed the control that ejects the warp core."
"But you were inside the atmosphere of the planet," Janeway stated.
Nodding his head, Tom said, "That's right. The shuttlecraft is designed in such a manner that the warp core cannot be ejected if within a planetary atmosphere. If it is attempted, all power to all systems is immediately taken offline to prevent atmospheric contamination. We crashed. And there was nothing I could do about it."
"And the records?" she asked. "Why did you falsify them?"
"Pride," he said shortly, banging clenched fists against his thighs. "Stupid, arrogant pride. I couldn't stand anyone knowing that the hotshot pilot, Thomas Eugene Paris, made a stupid mistake a first year cadet wouldn't make."
Reaching out a comforting hand, Janeway said softly, "Anyone can make a mistake, Tom."
"Pride," he said again. "That's always been my hubris, Captain. But after Caldik Prime, I vowed to myself that I would never risk another ship, when my mind was distracted as it was then." He turned slightly so he could look directly into her eyes. "I will not pilot Voyager, Captain. I will not take the risk."
Janeway hesitated for a moment before asking, "I'm sorry, Tom. But, as your captain, I feel I have a right to know. What were you distracted by?"
Dropping his eyes and staring at his hands still tightly clenched, Tom breathed deeply for several seconds, until Janeway was certain he was going to refuse to answer her question. Tom finally raised his head, and straightened his shoulders. "B'Elanna," he said shortly. "I was thinking about B'Elanna."
"B'Elanna?" Janeway said in great surprise. "I didn't realize you knew her then."
"This is not her fault, Captain," Tom said urgently. "I have never blamed her for Caldik Prime. I made the mistake; I suffered the consequences."
"I wasn't trying to imply that B'Elanna was responsible, Tom," she said gently. "Why were you thinking about her?"
Tom's eyes cleared as he remembered the moment he found his tIqqoch. "We met at the Academy, Captain, when B'Elanna was a cadet. The Exeter was in for repairs, and I felt I needed more simtime on starship evasive maneuvers, so I was there also, visiting friends. The very first time I saw her, I knew I wanted her more than life, more than piloting a starship. Amazingly enough she felt the same about me. But on the very night we were going to . . ." his voice trailed off, and a blush slowly rose from his collar to his ears.
Janeway smiled. "I get the picture, Tom."
Once again the rakish grin she had missed so much was back. "I was recalled to the Exeter on a secret mission. I couldn't tell anyone where I was going, or contact them once we had left Earth's orbit. Six months later, I came back and tried to talk to her, but her roommate's Klingon boyfriend, K'roq, met me at the door, with a fist, and ordered me to stay away from B'Elanna. I didn't even have a chance to explain why I was gone. I was shattered." His voice became dead again. "The one good thing in my life, and I blew it. I didn't even know how."
Tom shook his head as if to rid his mind of the memories. "The sad, pathetic story of my life, Captain. Now do you understand why I won't pilot Voyager until I get B'Elanna back?"
Janeway looked extremely uncomfortable. "Tom, . . ." she began.
Devastated blue eyes stared at her uncompromisingly. "You're not going back for her, are you, Captain?"
"I'm sorry, Tom," she answered sadly. "But Harry and B'Elanna are gone. I cannot waste precious resources on a lost cause."
Rising to his feet, Tom said, "I'm sorry, too, Captain. I hope you'll forgive me someday."
With a shake of his head, Paris said, "Never mind, Captain. I'm rambling again."
Sadly, Janeway watched her conn officer stride across the room, and out of the ready
room. As the door whooshed closed behind him, the captain muttered to herself, "Now that was
strange. I wonder what he meant?"
Tom Paris strode down the corridors of the ship. If anyone had seen him, they would have recognized the step. It was the one they always saw when Tom was planning on meeting his mate. For Tom had a plan. Realizing that Janeway was not likely to change her mind, Tom had laid out a scheme which would enable him to steal a shuttlecraft in order to return to the planet and rescue B'Elanna and Harry himself. Since Voyager had made several short stops, and one longer layover, Tom knew it would only take him the better part of a week to reach the planet. After that, he'd play it by ear.
So intent on his plans that he didn't hear anyone approaching from behind, Tom didn't stop until Chakotay grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop. Looking at the younger man with narrowed eyes, the first officer said, "Okay, Paris, what the hell are you up to?"
Using his patented 'who me' look of pure innocence, Tom answered, "What are you talking about, Chakotay?"
"You are up to something, Paris," Chakotay said. "I know that look."
Tom refused to answer.
Suddenly Chakotay's eyes widened. "You're going after her yourself, aren't you?"
The first officer realized he was right, when he saw Tom's jaw tighten almost imperceptibly. "Have you lost your mind, Tom? You've come so far. Don't throw it all away."
Tom stared steadily at the older man. "If I don't go back for B'Elanna, you might as well use a qutluch on me right now, Chakotay, because I will be dead inside for the rest of my life. Without my tIqqoch nothing in this life matters. Nothing."
If Chakotay had ever doubted the depth of Tom's devotion to B'Elanna, now he knew that no power in the universe could keep them apart. Least of all a commanding officer who was inclined to want to help in the first place. "Are you going alone?"
Looking at him sharply, Paris answered, "Yes. I am not going to bring anyone down with me, Chakotay."
"Don't you need a co-pilot?" Chakotay asked. "I know a former Maquis captain who might be willing."
Tom gazed at the older man in disbelief. "I appreciate the offer, Commander. But I rather think you would be missed. Almost immediately. I need a head start."
"How about one of the other former Maquis? I know many who would want to help."
Shaking his head, Tom answered, "I don't want anyone else hurt by this, Chakotay. So no. I'll go alone."
Chakotay had to respect Tom's wishes, and even felt a grudging admiration for the younger man who chose to risk his life alone rather than harm anyone else with his actions. Gripping Tom's arm firmly, the commander said, "May the spirits guide you, Tom. Bring her back safely. Bring them both back."
The Paris grin was back in full force as Tom said, "Aye, Commander."
Watching as the ensign worked on the computer terminal yet again, B'Elanna mused, "Harry, have you ever noticed that the alien leaves the room almost as soon as you appear? Why is that do you think?"
"Hum?" he replied, intent on his work.
B'Elanna slammed her fist down on his table. Hard. "Starfleet," she ordered. "Listen to me!"
Eyes widened to their fullest extent, he answered, "I'm listening, Maquis. I'm listening."
"Why does the entity leave the room whenever you appear?"
Nodding her head vigorously, she said, "Yes, he does. It makes no sense, Starfleet."
Harry snorted. "Nothing here makes sense, Maquis."
"Do you suppose he finds you a physical threat?" she asked.
This time Harry laughed outright. "Come on, B'Elanna. He's studied us for almost a month, and he surely knows you are a bigger threat than I am."
Shrugging his shoulders, the ensign replied, "I have no idea, B'Elanna. I wish I did."
B'Elanna gasped suddenly, and her eyes became frightened. Harry recognized the look, having seen it numerous times before. "Tom?"
Swallowing hard, trying to fight back her fear for her mate, B'Elanna said softly, "He's coming, Harry. I can feel it."
"Are you sure?"
B'Elanna nodded. "I've always felt his presence, since the moment we met. I didn't understand it at first. Didn't realize he was my tIqqoch for a very long time. But he's coming, Harry. What are we going to do?"
Taking her hand, Harry pulled her to a couch in the center of the room. Gently forcing her to sit, he said, "Don't panic, B'Elanna. We'll think of something. Do you know how long it will take him to get here?"
Shaking her head, she whispered, "No, but he's coming closer all the time. It won't take a month, Starfleet."
"Okay then, Maquis," he said gently, "let's think pleasant thoughts. Tell me when you realized that Tom was your tIqqoch?"
Looking down at her clenched fists, she whispered, "When he betrayed me."
Harry's eyes widened, and then his brow creased into a frown. "Tom Paris betrayed you? And still lives?"
B'Elanna smiled a little sadly at the memory. "I loved him, Harry. I couldn't hurt him."
Trying to ease the pain he could see in her eyes, and make her laugh a little, the ensign grinned broadly, and said, "Don't tell him that, B'Elanna. Or Tom will become insufferable."
As she smiled a little more genuinely, Harry became serious. "B'Elanna," he said, "I really can't see Tom hurting you like that? What happened?"
"He was a lot younger then, Maquis," she said sadly. "He told me he loved me, and then he left without a word of warning."
A slight frown marred his usually open face. "That would have been when he was recalled to the Exeter on a secret mission," he mused.
Frowning in her turn, B'Elanna quizzed, "Secret mission?"
Harry stared at his friend in disbelief. "Don't you two ever talk to each other?"
With a becoming blush rising in her cheeks, she said, "Define talk, Harry."
Raising his eyebrows, Harry retorted with a laugh, "Not that, Maquis. Talk. You know, the verbal exchange of words."
"Of course we talk, Starfleet," she answered. "Not about the past, though. It still hurts too much."
"So you still blame Tom for something beyond his control?" Harry asked. "He said he tried to explain when the Exeter returned, but you had a friend give him a message to leave you alone. I understand the Klingon broke his jaw in three places."
"I did not!" B'Elanna said hotly. "Tom made the same accusation to me, when we met again when he joined the Maquis. I did not send K'roq to do my dirty work! Besides . . ." her voice trailed off.
"Besides?" Harry urged.
B'Elanna looked at her young friend. Harry was so nice, much too nice to be drawn into the middle of the mess she and Tom had made of their lives when they were young. But he was her friend, and she had often wished she had someone to tell this story to. Had she told K'roq the entire truth, Tom would have been injured much worse. "He cheated on me, Harry," she told him sadly. "He betrayed my trust in his love."
Harry stared at her in disbelief. "No way, B'Elanna. Tom would not do that to you."
"I saw it with my own eyes, Starfleet," she retorted.
Now he was really confused. "You actually caught him in bed with someone else?"
"No," she replied. "But I saw her leaving his quarters, and they seemed quite intimate. It broke my heart, Harry. I wanted to die. It was supposed to be our night, but he spent it with Her."
Shaking his head, Harry said, "Tom wouldn't do that, B'Elanna."
"Not the Tom you know, Harry," she said with a smile. "But he was younger then."
"So who was this other woman?"
B'Elanna looked down at her tightly clenched fists, resting on her lap. Making a conscious effort to relax, she stated, "Ambassador K'Ehleyr. He didn't want me; he wanted a half-Klingon female. It didn't matter which one."
"This just doesn't jibe, Maquis," Harry said. "If Tom had had an affair with the Ambassador, he would know why you broke up with him back then. But he has no idea, and it still tears him up inside sometimes, because he's afraid he'll do something to make you leave him again."
"I know what I saw," B'Elanna retorted. "As she was leaving, she stroked his face, Harry. Right where a Klingon would . . ."
"Bite?" When she nodded, he continued, "Or maybe you saw what the Ambassador wanted you to see."
Jerking her head up to stare into Harry's comforting eyes, she said, "You mean she set us up? Why?"
"I have no idea, B'Elanna," Harry replied. "But I do know for certain that Tom never made love to the Ambassador. You are the only Klingon he has ever loved."
A feral gleam entered her eyes, as she said, "If this is true, Harry, I will hunt her down when we return to the Alpha Quadrant, and she will die."
"Too late, Maquis," Harry said. "A Klingon named Duras beat you to it."
Tom felt his heart begin to pound, and it seemed B'Elanna's called to his, *Hurry, Tom, hurry. Hurry, Tom, hurry.* "I'm coming, B'Elanna," he promised. "Soon, tIqqoch. Soon."
Getting away from Voyager had been even easier than he had thought it would be. All
that time spent in the Marseilles underworld had taught him many things, including overriding
command codes. Tuvok was in for a bad time with the captain. Tom remembered vividly her
irritation that Chakotay had managed to make off with a shuttlecraft in order to confront Seska.
Although he would never tell the commander, Tom had admired Chakotay's courage in facing the
Kazon alone as he had with no hope of rescue. Paris had faced the same situation, but had known
Janeway would move heaven and earth to retrieve him. "Guess she'll give up on me, after this,"
Tom sighed regretfully. "But I can't go on without B'Elanna." With any luck, it would be
several hours before Janeway knew he was missing. Better yet would be days, although Tom
knew minutes was probably a more accurate assessment.
When Chakotay entered the bridge, Janeway watched as he smiled a greeting to her, and then went to Ops to speak with the young officer now assigned to Harry Kim's post. Her first officer was good with the crew, giving them encouragement and understanding when they needed it, and an iron fist when that was necessary. Janeway recognized that the new officer at Ops was Maquis, although she seldom thought of them that way anymore. But she did know they were taking B'Elanna's loss very hard, almost as hard as the crew assigned to engineering.
Chakotay seated himself beside the captain. "Did you catch him?" she asked quietly.
"Yes," he replied. "He did not accept it very well, Captain. I don't think we'll see him on the bridge any time soon."
Greatly concerned with Paris' well-being, she asked, "Where is he?"
"I sent him to his quarters, and told him I didn't want to hear a peep out of him for the next eight hours."
The captain nodded. "He needs his rest. Maybe I should check on him after this duty shift."
"No," Chakotay said, just a tad too quickly. "Tom is still very angry with you, Captain. I'll make sure he's all right."
Janeway looked at her first officer with slightly narrowed eyes. Chakotay was acting out of character. Rubbing her temples, she mused that they were all acting strangely these days.
"Headache?" Chakotay asked sympathetically.
Smiling a little ruefully, she said, "Yes."
"Go rest in your ready room," he urged gently. "I can take care of things out here."
"I think I'll take you up on your offer, Chakotay. You have the bridge."
As he watched her walk toward the ready room, Chakotay expelled his breath slowly and evenly, as his body slowly, and almost imperceptibly relaxed. *One hurdle crossed,* he thought to himself. *Show us what you got, hotshot. It's all up to you now.*
After she entered her ready room, Janeway used her last replicator ration and ordered a cup of hot, steaming coffee. She seated herself behind her desk, and pulled out a picture no one knew she had hidden there. She had pictures of them all--her senior staff, who in many ways were her children. This one she held especially dear. Taken at one of Neelix's numerous luaus, Tom had one arm around B'Elanna, pulling her close, while the other threatened to pour a Hawaiian Sunset over her head, little umbrella and all. "Bring her home, Tom," she whispered, uncannily echoing her first officer's words. "Bring them both home."
Two hours later, Janeway emerged from her ready room, took her seat in the captain's
chair, and said, "Lay in a course to follow Lt. Paris' shuttlecraft." Turning to look at her first
officer, she said with a perfectly deadpan expression, "You did get his flight plan, didn't you,
B'Elanna Torres paced back and forth across the small room which was their prison, and had been since their incarceration almost a month before. But now her step had a little bounce and verve. Tom was almost here. She could feel him so clearly now. Harry sat at the computer terminal still fiddling with the controls, but trying to figure it out, not to be rescued, but rather for something to pass the time.
The alien entered the room with great excitement. "He comes," he said. "Almost here. Almost here. Thank you, one known as B'Elanna Torres. Thank you for bringing him to me."
Stopping in front of the alien, she said sternly, "Just don't forget our deal. You talk to Tom. You don't hurt him or you die. Understood?"
"Yes, yes," the being almost danced. "Understood then. Understand now. Reparations to be made. Reparations."
B'Elanna was still very uneasy about the alien's 'reparations', but she knew she could
protect Tom if necessary. Or at worst, join him in Stovoqor. *Hurry, Tom, hurry,* her heart cried
Every beat of his heart brought him closer to B'Elanna. Fingers danced joyfully over the helm control panel as Tom laid in a course which would bring him to the crash site. A broad grin spread over his face, and his eyes lit up with hope, happiness, and desire. "I'm coming, B'Elanna," he shouted, as he saw the sensors locate the Cochrane--intact.
Just as he prepared to enter the planet's atmosphere, he was hailed. "Voyager to Paris."
"Paris here, Captain," he said hesitantly, thinking surely they must see the shuttlecraft on their sensors.
Janeway's smiling image appeared on the viewscreen. "It appears you were correct, Mr. Paris," the captain conceded. A broad grin crossed her face. "Well done, Tom. Bring her home. Bring them both home."
Tears threatened to well up in Tom's eyes at the praise. "Thank you, Captain. I will."
"We will keep a transporter lock on you, Tom," she told him. "And at the first sign of trouble, I'll send in the cavalry. But for right now, Lieutenant, this is your mission."
The old Paris grin was back in full force, never to leave his face for long again. "Aye, Captain."
After landing his shuttlecraft beside the Cochrane, Tom stepped from the rear hatchway, phaser drawn, peering about him warily. "Tom!" a heartbreakingly familiar voice called. "Tom!" she said again, throwing herself in his open, waiting arms.
His heart was whole again. Bending his head, his lips captured hers, and for several long, passionate seconds, they were alone in the universe--heart to heart, soul to soul. Tom raised his head, and gazed into her beautiful face, and deep brown eyes, which he had feared he might never see again. Shaking her slightly, he said, "Don't you ever do that to me again, Torres. Do you hear me?"
B'Elanna had to laugh. Usually those were her words, her threats. But of course he never heeded them, and neither would she. Drawing her fingers slowly down the side of his jaw over the spot where she had once claimed him as hers, she whispered huskily, "I've missed you, Helmboy."
Drawing his breath in with a slight hiss, and closing his eyes to savor the moment, Tom said, "I've missed you, too, tIqqoch."
"And what about me?" Harry asked with a grin. As Tom enfolded him in a brotherly hug, Harry added, "Took you long enough."
Stepping back from his friend with a smile, Tom replied, "What? You think I'd go off and leave my only friend?"
"Who says I'm your friend?"
B'Elanna watched fondly as the two friends exchanged a time honored tradition. She didn't know how often she had heard this exchange since being rescued from the Ocampan tunnels, but B'Elanna was overjoyed to hear it again.
The alien erupted from his habitat, and began jumping with glee. "Here you are. Here at last. Hurry. Hurry you must."
"What?" Tom asked in bewilderment, as the being began tugging at his sleeve. "I'm not going anywhere without B'Elanna and Harry."
"Come. Come," the alien said. "They come, too. Time is short. Must hurry. Come."
Spreading his hands helplessly, Tom followed the being into the room once shared by Harry and B'Elanna. As she watched the alien who had held them prisoner for so long, push her lover onto the couch, she knew that the creature meant no harm. He needed to make reparations to Tom. Not exact vengeance from Tom.
"Sit with him you must," the being said to B'Elanna and Harry. "Need you he will."
Shaking his head, as he jumped from foot to foot, the being muttered, "How to explain? How to explain? Time is short."
"Why don't you try using the form you had on Earth," Harry said with a grin. "Cosimo was easy to understand."
The being shifted into the man Harry had encountered on the alternate timeline, the one in which another Tom Paris had given his life to save Harry's. "How long have you known?" he asked.
"I have known for awhile that you felt strangely familiar, but when we were outside, Tom and I together, I knew why."
Looking from his friend to the shapeshifter, Tom said, "Will someone please explain what is going on here?"
The being from the timestream said, "I needed to bring you here to make reparations for a wrong I did you long ago. I have been searching for you for a long time, Thomas Eugene Paris."
Puzzled by Cosimo's words, Tom frowned slightly, "A wrong you did to me? Sure it wasn't the other way around? I'm usually the one doing the harm."
Before the man could answer, Tom's commbadge chirped, and a voice said, "Janeway to Paris. Is everything all right down there, Tom?"
A huge smile crossed his face as he tapped his commbadge, and replied, "Aye, Captain. I have B'Elanna and Harry safe with me." A rather loud, strange sound emitted from the commlink. "Captain?" Paris asked. "Is everything all right?"
The listeners could hear the laughter in Janeway's voice. "That is your standing ovation, Tom. The crew wishes to extend their gratitude for your perseverance and tenacity. Well done, Lieutenant."
A blush rose in his face at her words and the sounds of the crews' cheers, still emitting from the commlink. When Tom could not speak, B'Elanna said, "The Lieutenant thanks you, Captain."
"B'Elanna," Janeway said thankfully. "It's good to hear your voice again. And Harry?"
Grinning broadly, he answered, "I'm here, too, Captain."
"When will you be returning to Voyager?" she asked.
Tom looked at Cosimo for several seconds before replying, "It may be a while, Captain. There is a being here who went to great lengths to extend an apology to me. I think I'd like to hear it, if you don't mind."
"I'll explain when I return, Captain. We are all safe, and will not be harmed. I'm sure of that."
"Very well, Tom," Janeway said. "We will await your return. Janeway out."
Staring at the being from the timestream, Tom said with a smile, "I'm all ears, Cosimo."
"I had been searching for you for some time, when I was assigned to Earth to help Harry Kim adjust to his new situation," Cosimo said. "While I was there, I kept catching hints of your presence, but could do nothing until Harry's predicament was resolved. Little did I know that when Harry left, so would you. And so I began the search again."
Tom looked at Harry. "Was I there with you, Harry? You never told me."
"Remember I told you I owed you one?" Harry asked. When Tom nodded, Harry said, "The Tom in that reality gave his life to return me to mine."
While Tom looked stunned, B'Elanna glowed at the heroics of her mate, even one as far removed as the alternate Tom Paris. "Just don't try that in this reality, Paris," she growled softly.
Cosimo said, "It's a little more complicated than that, actually, but you have the basics correct."
"So where does the apology come in?" Tom asked.
The alien gazed at Tom with sad eyes which seemed to hold the knowledge, caring, and suffering of centuries. "Caldik Prime."
Stiffening his entire body, and tightening his hands into fists, Tom said, "I do not want to discuss Caldik Prime again. Ever."
As B'Elanna moved closer to her mate, trying to comfort him with her love and support, she glared a warning at Cosimo. "Caldik Prime was not your fault, Tom Paris," he said sadly. "It was mine."
"What?" all three humans exclaimed. "You were not there," Tom said.
"I am afraid I was," Cosimo confessed. "My species has the ability to travel interdimentionally, and occasionally as we move through space and time, we can inadvertently touch the mind of another being. When I touched your mind, Tom, I caused you to activate the control which would eject the warp core. You did not make the mistake, I did."
Hope began to fill his eyes, but Tom was afraid to completely accept this being's word. "Are you certain of this?" he asked.
Cosimo nodded. "Yes, I am certain. And now I must make reparations. You have a choice to make Tom Paris. I can return you to that time, and you can live your life from that point forward, never knowing that Caldik Prime happened. Or you can remain here. The choice is yours."
Tom did not want to leave this timestream if it meant losing B'Elanna. "What about the three officers who were killed? If I go back, will they live again?"
"Yes," Cosimo said. "Caldik Prime would never have happened."
Looking at his tIqqoch with a deep regretful sadness in his eyes, Tom asked, "Will I find B'Elanna in that timestream? Will I still be on Voyager?"
"I'm afraid not," Cosimo said. "In that timestream, you will have an exemplary Starfleet career, but B'Elanna will not be part of your life."
Tom felt as if his heart were breaking all over again. He looked into B'Elanna's eyes, losing himself one last time in those windows to her soul. Gently tracing her jawline as he loved to do, he said, "I'm so sorry, tIqwIj. I do not want to leave you, but I can't put my happiness--our happiness--before the lives of those three officers. It just wouldn't be right. I'll do my best to find you there, B'Elanna."
"No, Tom," she begged, with her eyes and her body. "Please don't leave me."
"What else can I do, B'Elanna?" he asked with tears slowly trailing down his cheeks as pain slashed through his body. "I love you more than life itself, tIqqoch. And I know I promised to never leave you, but if I don't do this, don't go back so that the others might live, the love we share would be tarnished somehow."
Tears flowed freely down B'Elanna's face as she contemplated her life without Tom. She knew he was right, but her soul felt bereft already. "How can I live without you?" she asked simply.
Tom took her in his arms, and kissed the tears from her eyes, before moving down to her mouth, and capturing her lips with his. Somehow tearing his lips from hers, he vowed, "I will always love you, B'Elanna. And only you." He reached down and touched her chest with his hand, and placed her hand over his heart. "Hold me in your heart, B'Elanna, as I shall hold you."
Turning to face Harry, he said, "Can you explain to the others what happened, Harry? And take care of B'Elanna for me?"
Harry nodded. "Are you sure about this, Tom?"
"I have to, Harry," Tom answered sadly. "It's the right thing to do."
"You know, Tom," Harry said, "sometimes I wish you weren't so damned noble."
Tom laughed. "Noble? Me? Have you been drinking that Kataril swill again, Harry?"
"You are, you know," Harry stated. "The most noble man I have ever known. It's been a privilege to serve with you."
Rising to his feet, and pulling Harry and B'Elanna up to stand by his side. Tom hugged his young friend fiercely. "Good-bye, Harry." Turning to B'Elanna, he pulled her into his arms, and held her tightly. Bending his head to stare into her face one last time, trying to engrave her image in his mind for all time, he said, "Good-bye, tIqwIj. Our hearts beat as one, tIqqoch, now and forever." He kissed her then, almost chastely.
He turned to face Cosimo, straightened his shoulders, and said, "I'm ready, Cosimo. Send me back."
"Tom wait," B'Elanna begged.
Tom looked at her sadly as tears spilled down his face. "Please, B'Elanna, I have to do this, but I don't have the courage or strength to do it alone. You have to help me. Don't ask me to stay. Please."
Taking one last look at his beloved B'Elanna, who was holding on tightly to Harry Kim, Tom said again, "I'm ready, Cosimo. Send me back."
The universe shifted and spun around Tom Paris, his footing became unsteady and he felt as if he were going to fall while the rapidly spinning lights made him dizzy and slightly nauseous. When the world stopped spinning, he found himself, not on the shuttlecraft as he had expected, but back where he had started.
Looking at Cosimo with bewilderment, he said, "I don't understand."
The alien said, "Reparations should never involve more pain. The officers live now, but you have been returned to this timestream, where your heart truly lies."
B'Elanna ran to her mate, threw her arms around him, and hugged him tightly, as if she never wanted to let him go. Stepping back slightly, she pulled his head down to hers, and bit him just as she had in the caves of Sakari IV. "B'Elanna!" he exclaimed in disbelief.
She gazed fiercely into his eyes, and echoed words she said to him quite frequently, "Don't you ever do that to me again, Thomas Eugene Paris!"