Chakotay, Tuvok, and the rest of the rescue team approached the crashed shuttle. Its wreckage was smoldering, the hull blackened from entering the planet's atmosphere at too steep a descent. The cargo door at the back of the shuttle was slightly ajar, apparently having jammed in that position and refusing to open any further. Thick black smoke billowed out from the shuttle's interior. Together, Chakotay and Tuvok managed to pry the door fully open. Instructing the others to wait outside, both men stepped into the shuttle's smoky interior.
They found Ensigns Lamont and Simms first. Both were lying unconscious on the deck in the cargo section of the shuttle. Simms had a nasty-looking gash on his forehead and Lamont's left leg was twisted in such a way as to leave little doubt that it was broken. Chakotay hefted Simms up and headed back for the shuttle exit with Tuvok, Ensign Lamont in his arms, close behind.
They handed the injured crew out to the remaining rescue party, took deep draughts of fresh air and headed back inside. Three crew members were still missing.
Hearing a moan followed by coughing as they headed forward from the shuttle's cargo bay into the main body of the shuttle, Chakotay and Tuvok came across Ensign Hudson in the main cabin of the shuttle. He was on his hands and knees, shaking his head in an effort to clear it. Chakotay, the smoke causing his voice to become raspy, instructed Tuvok, "Get him out of here. I'll see if I can find Paris and Garvic. They should both be up front."
Chakotay looked forward, but was unable to see the cockpit section of the shuttle due to the heavy smoke. Continuing forward, he reached the front of the shuttle and found Jack Garvic in the co-pilot's seat, the seat restraints holding him in place. His head lolled raggedly against the back of the seat. The console in front of him had exploded, apparently pushing him back into the seat. He had serious burns covering his face and hands, and it was with a great deal of relief that Chakotay found a pulse. It was weak, but it was there. He turned his attention to Paris, who was half draped over the forward console. His seat restraints weren't in place and Chakotay wondered how he had managed to stay in his seat. Gently pulling Paris back against the seat, Chakotay winced at the massive bruise covering the left side of the other man's face. Paris had evidently hit something hard; however, his pulse was strong and steady, so Chakotay made the decision to get Garvic out first.
Nearing the shuttle exit, Chakotay, with Lieutenant Garvic draped over one shoulder, encountered Tuvok re-entering the shuttle.
"Paris is up front," Chakotay told him.
Nodding, Tuvok passed him.
Chakotay thankfully stepped out into the fresh air and gently lowered Jack Garvic to the ground.
Simms had regained consciousness and sat on the ground next to a now more alert Hudson. Lamont was still unconscious, which was just as well from the looks of her leg. It was a bad break. After encasing her leg in a temporary splint, Kes moved forward to examine Garvic.
Watching her frown, Chakotay asked, "How bad is it?"
"He has serious burns on his face, arms and chest, and a fractured skull. We need to get him back aboard Voyager."
Chakotay looked up as Tuvok stepped out of the shuttle with an unconscious Paris.
Kes quickly ran a scanner over Tom. "He has a serious head injury and some minor burns. I think he'll be okay, but they all need to be back aboard the ship for medical attention."
Chakotay tapped his combadge. "Chakotay to Voyager."
"Janeway here, Commander."
"Captain, we've located the shuttle wreckage, along with our missing crew."
"No deaths, but they've all sustained injuries. I don't suppose B'Elanna has the transporter up and working yet?"
"I'm afraid not. You'll have to shuttle them up."
"Understood. We should be back aboard shortly."
"I'll alert the doctor of incoming casualties. Janeway out."
Janeway entered sickbay. Chakotay, his face and uniform blackened from the smoke, stood off to one side as the doctor and Kes treated their patients. Joining him, she asked, "What did you find?"
"We didn't have much time to examine the site, Captain," replied Chakotay. "The shuttle's a loss. From the looks of it, I'm amazed they're all still alive. You'll want to get B'Elanna down there to examine the shuttle and have them retrieve the shuttle logs."
"Already done," she said with a slight smile. "I wish our timing could have been a bit better. B'Elanna got the transporter back on line about the same time as your shuttle docked. She and her Engineering team are on their way to the crash site as we speak."
Janeway and Chakotay both turned their attention to the doctor as he approached them.
"You'll be relieved to know, Captain, Commander," stated the doctor, "that they will all recover. Lieutenant Garvic sustained the most critical injuries. While his burns are serious, they can be treated; however, his fractured skull is creating some cranial pressure. I may have to operate to relieve it."
"And the others?" Janeway asked.
"Ensigns Hudson and Simms are suffering from assorted bruises and minor head wounds and, of course, smoke inhalation, which they all seem to be suffering from. As soon as Kes completes their treatment, they'll be released from sickbay. Ensign Lamont has several cracked ribs and a badly broken left leg. Those injuries have been healed and, barring complications, I will release her tomorrow. Lieutenant Paris, amid numerous abrasions, bruises and some minor burns, is suffering from a serious head wound. That he has not yet regained consciousness is cause for some concern."
"Doctor!" called Kes. "Tom is waking up."
Chakotay and Janeway followed the doctor to Tom Paris' bedside. The pilot moaned as his eyes fluttered open to gaze blearily around.
Tom, becoming immediately aware of a splitting headache, frowned. If this were a hangover, why didn't he remember having any fun getting to this point? Groaning, he opened his eyes and as the room steadied around him, he realized he was in Voyager's sickbay. The doctor, Kes, Captain Janeway, and Chakotay were all gathered around his bed.
"What--" he croaked, coughing as his raw throat refused to let the words out. Kes gave him a sip of water and clearing his throat, he tried again. "What happened?"
"We were hoping you could tell us," Chakotay said.
At his look of confusion, Captain Janeway elaborated, "You apparently experienced some difficulties and your shuttle crashed. Can you tell us what happened, Tom?"
"Shuttle crash?" repeated Paris. "I don't remember a shuttle crash."
Frowning, the doctor asked, "What is the last thing you remember, Mr. Paris?"
Thinking hard made his head throb worse. Wincing slightly at the tiny hammers and picks pounding away inside his head, Tom said, "We were in the shuttle in the shuttle bay and had just been given clearance to launch." He looked helplessly at those gathered around his bed. "That's the last thing I remember until waking up here. How bad was the crash?"
"I haven't been to the crash site," Janeway told him, "but Chakotay tells me the shuttle is totaled."
Flashes of Caldik Prime suddenly shot through Tom's mind. His voice very quiet, he asked, "Did anybody die?" He watched their faces, fearful of the answer, but needing to know.
"Nobody died, Lieutenant Paris," said the doctor brusquely. "As I just finished telling the captain and commander, Ensigns Hudson and Simms will recover, as will Ensign Lamont."
"What about Garvic?" asked Tom.
"His injury was more serious and may require surgery, but I do not anticipate any difficulties with his recovery."
Tom tried to remember what had happened. Why couldn't he remember? A sudden sharp pain behind his eyes made him wince. The doctor, frowning over his scanner, said, "The blow to your head may be impairing your memory, Mr. Paris. If you persist in trying to force it, you will most likely continue to suffer head pains such as the one you just experienced."
Staring at her pilot's strained, white face, Janeway asked, "Will he regain his memory, Doctor?"
"I can't say for sure, Captain. I'll need to run further tests."
"Very well," replied Janeway. "Let me know what you come up with." Smiling down at Paris, she said, "Get some rest. If the doctor permits it, we'll hold a debriefing tomorrow. That should give B'Elanna time to complete a preliminary analysis."
After Janeway and Chakotay left, Kes administered a sedative to Tom, making him groggy. As he drifted off to sleep, the captain's words echoed in Tom's thoughts: 'That should give B'Elanna time to complete a preliminary analysis.' Was that why B'Elanna wasn't here in sickbay? He wished she were here. He could use her presence here now, even if she were to do nothing more than yell at him for wrecking another shuttle. Imagining that scene brought a smile to his lips as he drifted off to sleep.
B'Elanna sat in the pilot's chair in the wreckage of what had once been a shuttle examining the console before her. It seemed relatively intact. She winced as she glanced over at the console Jack Garvic would have been sitting behind, seeing the evidence of an explosion there. Unless he was extremely lucky, Garvic would probably have some nasty injuries. At least it might shut him up for a bit, she thought. The man had a worse mouth on him than Tom Paris. Shaking her head at her unkind thoughts toward a possibly seriously injured crewmate, B'Elanna redirected her attention to the console before her. For a moment, she could envision a particular pair of hands playing over the console's controls. They stroked the controls much as a pianist strokes the keys of a piano, the movements smooth and sure. Shaking her head, and irritated with herself for having such fantasies, B'Elanna jabbed at the controls on her tricorder before hooking it up to the pilot's console. Who was she kidding? she thought. Where she really wanted to be at this moment was in Voyager's sickbay checking to see that a certain fair-haired blue-eyed pilot, who seemed to have a knack for getting under her skin, was all right.
She frowned as the tricorder beeped at her, indicating it was finished downloading the shuttle logs. How could it be finished already? Scanning its contents, her eyes widened in dismay. "What do you mean there are no shuttle logs?" she snarled at the offending tricorder.
She ran a quick diagnostic on the log systems and found that a short of an as yet undetermined cause in the shuttle controls, most likely caused by the crash, had completely wiped the shuttle's log memories. Strange, she thought. Although not impossible that this could have happened, it was highly unlikely, and it also made her job to determine the cause of the crash that much more difficult. Well, Paris and the others could certainly help out there. After all, they were present and could tell them what had taken place.
Standing, she made her way outside, where Browning and Bristow were scanning the crash site, making an official record of it. "I'm beaming back up to the ship to make a preliminary report to the captain," B'Elanna informed them. "When you're done here, call it a day. We'll finish up with the rest of it tomorrow."
Nodding, the men went back to what they were doing as B'Elanna beamed aboard Voyager.
In the captain's ready room, Janeway shared a concerned look with Chakotay as B'Elanna finished her report.
"Hopefully, Paris can shed some light on what took place, because it doesn't look like the shuttle logs are retrievable."
"I'm afraid that may not be possible, Lieutenant," replied Janeway. "Not at the moment anyway."
Sudden fear stabbed through B'Elanna at the captain's tone. Had something happened to Tom? He wasn't--
At her stricken expression, Janeway leaned forward, "I'm sorry, B'Elanna," she said quickly. "I didn't mean to give you that impression. Tom will be all right. As will the others. Garvic's case is a little more serious, but I have every confidence in the doctor."
Relieved, Torres quickly covered her initial reaction. "Then what's the problem?"
"Paris suffered a head injury in the crash," said Chakotay. "At this time, he's unable to recall the crash at all. The last thing he remembers is getting clearance to launch."
"What about the others?" questioned B'Elanna.
"I'm afraid Lieutenant Garvic is in no condition to answer questions yet," supplied Janeway. "He hasn't even regained consciousness. We're planning to question the others at the debriefing tomorrow." Janeway sighed. "It would be much simpler if we had those shuttle logs. Are you sure they're irretrievable?"
Frowning, B'Elanna said, "Fairly positive, Captain. But I still have a trick or two up my sleeve. I'll see if I can come up with something before the debriefing tomorrow."
Nodding, Janeway dismissed both B'Elanna and Chakotay.
Unable to hold back her concern any longer, B'Elanna headed directly for sickbay. Upon entering, she didn't see the doctor or Kes anywhere, but Tom Paris lay sleeping on a biobed. Janine Lamont was awake a couple of beds away, Ethan at her side. Acknowledging them, B'Elanna approached Paris' bed. Her back to the other occupants of the room, she stared down at the sleeping man for a long moment. He looks so peaceful, she thought, reaching out a hand toward his brow to brush back his hair.
Ethan, grateful Janine was going to be all right, had been pleasantly surprised when she had regained consciousness and her first question had been, "Is Ensign Simms all right?" Maybe she has noticed him after all, he thought joyfully. Mikel had been trying to tell him all along she wasn't impervious to his charms, but Ethan, being rather shy, had found that hard to believe. Janine was popular with everybody. Why in the world would she be attracted to someone like him? Especially someone with bright red hair that made him look like a clown. He'd always hated his hair. While it had looked good on his mother, it just didn't do a thing for him, thought Ethan mournfully.
After Ethan had made his presence at her bedside known to reassure Janine he was fine and in one piece, he had proceeded to excuse himself. Janine, however, had grabbed his hand in her own soft one and asked him to stay. Looking in those gorgeous blue eyes of hers he, of course, had been lost.
When B'Elanna Torres entered sickbay he and Janine were still talking quietly, just getting to know each other. Janine had made it clear that she remembered Ethan struggling to dig her out from the shuttle debris before the smoke had gotten the better of both of them.
Watching as she approached Paris' bed, Ethan and Janine shared a knowing look. Janine put a finger to her lips and they both turned to watch Voyager's chief engineer.
B'Elanna, having forgotten the other occupants of the room, brushed Tom's hair back from his forehead. As she watched him sleep, she thought back to a week ago, when he had lain in sickbay near death. The Kyrrosian myth of the sun god Palis having sacrificed himself for his people very nearly had come true. She remembered her anger at him for putting her through that, as if it had been something he could control. She remembered other feelings too. Feelings she hadn't wanted to acknowledge. Was she in love with him, as Harry suggested? A part of her wanted to open herself to those feelings, but a larger part, a part that couldn't forget past hurts, refused to acknowledge that her feelings for Tom Paris were anything other than a deep friendship.
Is that why you dream of him? she argued with herself. Dream of him kissing you, of him touching you the way one lover touches another?
Angry at her thoughts, she murmured softly, "Why won't you leave me alone, Tom Paris? I don't care what you do! I don't care if you kill yourself! And stay out of my dreams!"
He murmured softly in his sleep, interrupting B'Elanna's diatribe. B'Elanna leaned in closer, listening intently.
"B'Elanna . . . " Her name fell from his lips in a feathery whisper that caused a shudder to run through her body as if he had physically caressed her.
Shocked at her reaction, B'Elanna immediately straightened and was about to exit sickbay, when the doctor and Kes entered from the doctor's private office. Both were in surgical garb.
B'Elanna glanced around and her face flushed as she realized Ensigns Lamont and Simms had been watching her the whole time. Their faces were both neutral, revealing nothing. Hah! she thought irritably, they've been taking lessons from Tuvok.
Turning her attention to the doctor and Kes, B'Elanna suddenly became aware that she hadn't seen Jack Garvic in sickbay. Eyeing their surgical garb, she now knew why. "How's Lieutenant Garvic?" she asked, not sure she really cared given the man's obvious animosity toward Paris, but at this point she was grasping at straws for anything to distract those present from seeing that her true concern was for Tom Paris.
"We've relieved the cranial pressure," replied the doctor. "Mr. Garvic should be awake by morning with nothing more than a slight headache."
Intensely aware of Lamont's and Simms' eyes on her, B'Elanna asked, "What about Paris? Is he going to be all right?"
"Other than the short-term memory problems, he will recover. I'll be releasing him tomorrow morning, along with Ensign Lamont."
"Thank you, Doctor," replied B'Elanna briskly. "I'd better get back to work if I'm going to have anything to report to the captain tomorrow." After one final look in Paris' direction, B'Elanna quickly left sickbay.
Noting the smiles on the faces of Kes, Janine Lamont, and Ethan Simms, the doctor asked, "Did I miss something?"
Tom, emerging from his shower, felt much better and was thankful the doctor had released him earlier than planned so he had time for himself before the debriefing. Smiling, he remembered how he had kept at the doctor until the EMH could no longer stand it and had told Paris to get out of his sickbay. Worked like a charm, thought Paris with satisfaction. His smile quickly turned to a frown, however, as he remembered Harry stopping by before breakfast that morning to see how Paris was doing. When Tom's eyes had kept straying to the door, Harry had waved a hand in his face and said, "If you're looking for B'Elanna, don't. She's already back down at the crash site trying to pull things together for the briefing."
Still frowning, Tom flung the wet towel back into the bathroom and proceeded to pull on fresh underwear and uniform. He was disappointed B'Elanna hadn't shown up in sickbay to see him, especially after the dream he'd had last night.
Seemed like the two of them hadn't had a moment alone since the whole Palis incident. Tom was fairly certain she had spent the night in his quarters when he, still suffering from the sunburn received on Kyrros, had been released from sickbay. He remembered falling asleep with her at his side, but when he had awakened the next morning, she had been gone. He'd attempted to quiz her on it later, but she had brushed him off, and in the intervening week, both had been busy. B'Elanna with Engineering problems and Tom with, well, he really hadn't been all that busy, but he had sensed that B'Elanna needed some space and having a healthy respect for her temper, he wasn't about to push her. One would think that she would have at least come to sickbay yesterday and checked up on him though. He just didn't understand her sometimes.
Checking the chronometer, he saw that it was nearly time for the debriefing. He quickly pulled on his boots, ran a comb through his hair, and headed for the conference room.
B'Elanna was the last to arrive at the debriefing. As she seated herself in the only available seat, which just happened to be next to Paris, Janeway spoke.
"Let's get started. Let me give you an overview of what we know so far to bring all of you up to date. B'Elanna examined the shuttle yesterday. Unfortunately, the shuttle's logs seem to have disappeared. As Lieutenant Paris is suffering from a short-term memory loss and has no memory of the crash, he is unable at this time to provide us with any answers. Lieutenant Garvic is unable to answer any questions at the moment but will hopefully be able to enlighten us later today. You'll all be happy to hear that the doctor advised me just prior to this briefing that Mr. Garvic has regained consciousness; however, he's still understandably a bit groggy. What I need to know is if any of you," she looked at Hudson, Simms, and Lamont, "remember anything that may be of assistance to us."
Lamont was the first to speak. "Captain, Ethan-- Ensign Simms, Ensign Hudson and I were in the back of the shuttle, in the cargo hold. Simms and Hudson were assisting me in setting up the equipment, so we'd be ready to begin mining for the minerals when we set down. One minute we were peacefully flying along, the next . . . well, I'm not sure what happened. We may have been hit by something or encountered something. I just don't know. All I know is one minute I was working on the equipment and the next I was thrown across the cargo hold with most of the mining equipment ending up on top of me."
Simms nodded in agreement. "I was bashed in the head by the equipment and lost my bearings for a moment. When I came to my senses, I could hear Lieutenants Paris and Garvic up front but couldn't make out what they were saying. While I was busy trying to untangle Ensign Lamont from the mining equipment, Hudson went forward to see if he could help. The entire time the shuttle was really being buffeted around. It was difficult for me to stay on my feet."
Hudson picked up the tale from there. "I never made it all the way forward," he said. "The shuttle went into a sudden steep descent, and I lost my balance. I think I must have hit my head. I didn't come to 'til after we had crashed. There was smoke everywhere, and I couldn't see much. Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Tuvok found me shortly after that."
Janeway looked at Paris, who was shaking his head. "I'm sorry, Captain. I just can't remember anything past launching from Voyager." He rubbed at his temples, his head once again throbbing.
"B'Elanna?" quizzed Janeway. "Anything new?"
B'Elanna pulled her gaze away from Tom's troubled face, having to resist a strong urge to reach out a comforting hand toward him. Looking unhappy, she said, "I was able to retrieve a partial log from the shuttle, but it doesn't provide us with much more information."
Janeway had the definite impression that B'Elanna was trying her best not to say something. "You have it there?" she asked, nodding toward the tricorder in B'Elanna's hands.
B'Elanna nodded. "Yes." Then, as if making up her mind, she slid the tricorder up the table to Janeway. All watched as the captain reviewed its contents. After a moment Janeway looked up, her eyes meeting B'Elanna's before moving on to Tom Paris'.
"Mr. Paris, this indicates that you failed to activate the impulse buffer relays at a crucial moment."
Faces around the table registered surprise. This was the kind of mistake a novice pilot might make, but not an experienced pilot of Tom Paris' caliber.
Tom felt all the attention shift from Captain Janeway to himself, but his shocked gaze remained locked on the captain. You screwed up again, Paris, taunted a little voice inside him that had been silent for so long he had hoped it was finally gone for good. You can't do anything right. When will you learn?
Janeway watched the stricken expression take over Tom's face. His blue eyes stood out vividly in a suddenly pale face.
Chakotay could almost feel sorry for the other man. Almost. Paris had obviously been putting some effort forth these past several months to improve himself and his status on Voyager. Doubting the other man had purposefully made such a grievous piloting error, Chakotay still could not help but place blame on him. Failing to activate impulse buffer relays was a hot-dogging stunt Chakotay had seen other pilots pull. It was an inexcusable error for someone of Paris' abilities and experience. The commander spoke up, being careful to keep his voice neutral as he addressed the captain. "Captain, I suggest, since Paris is experiencing difficulty recalling the incident, that we adjourn this discussion until we have a chance to hear Lieutenant Garvic's view of what took place. He may be able to shed some light on what happened."
B'Elanna, taking offense at what she perceived to be an intended slur directed at Paris and his memory loss, leaned forward as if to speak.
Janeway, sensing B'Elanna was about to cut loose at the commander, quickly spoke, effectively cutting her off. That Paris had showed no reaction at all to the commander's words disturbed her. He sat stone-faced, watching her. "The commander is right. Let's table this discussion until we've heard Lieutenant Garvic's story. Dismissed."
Janeway watched as Tom strode by Harry and B'Elanna, ignoring their attempts to talk to him. Heaving a heavy mental sigh, Kathryn Janeway wondered if anything on this ship would ever run smoothly. She shook her head at Chakotay's inquiring look. "Gentlemen," she addressed Chakotay and Tuvok, "let's adjourn to sickbay and see if Lieutenant Garvic can tell us anything more."
Tom sat alone in the mess hall, lost in thought as he listlessly picked at his lunch -- a grayish-green stew with bright yellow somethings floating in it. The pungent odor eventually registered in his brain and he disgustedly pushed it aside with a sigh. He wasn't really hungry, anyway. He had spent his morning shift sitting at conn, trying to remember what had happened after the shuttle had launched from Voyager. And all he had to show for his efforts was another pounding headache.
Janeway, Chakotay and Tuvok had returned to the bridge after an unsuccessful trip to sickbay. Garvic was asleep and the doctor refused to wake him. Any answers Garvic might provide would have to wait until that afternoon. Once Janeway had made this announcement to the bridge crew nothing further had been said about the accident, but Tom had felt the eyes on his back all morning. For the first time, he wished his station wasn't at the front of the bridge. It
had been a very long morning.
As Tom made his way towards the mess hall door he noticed the not-so-discreet glances and the sudden silence as he walked past. Here we go again, he thought tiredly.
He still had a half hour before he had to return to his post and he planned to spend it in his quarters. It was quiet there so maybe, just maybe, he would be able to concentrate and remember something. He briefly considered stopping by sickbay first to get something for his headache, but decided he wasn't up to another lecture from the holodoc. Just as Tom reached his quarters his combadge chirped.
"Kim to Paris."
"Go ahead, Harry," Tom replied. "I hope you have some good news." Harry had spent most of the morning helping B'Elanna try to recover the shuttle's logs.
"Sorry. Nothing yet. But we're still working on it. How about you? Have you remembered anything?" Harry asked hopefully.
"Nada. Just a big, black, empty hole."
"Hm. Well, don't give up yet. B'Elanna still has a couple of ideas to try out after lunch." As he finished speaking, Tom's door chimed.
"Anybody home?" Harry asked through his combadge.
Tom let him in, shaking his head in exasperation. "Shouldn't you be at lunch?"
"Are you kidding? Did you see what Neelix has concocted this time? I took one whiff and high-tailed it out of there." He sat down on Tom's couch and looked up at his friend, concern etched across his features. "So, how are you doing? Really?"
"How am I doing?" Tom repeated sarcastically. "Well, let's see. I have somehow managed to," he began to pace as he ticked off on his fingers, "nearly kill four people, completely destroy a shuttle, and pretty much annihilate any progress I might have made in repairing my sterling image." He turned to face Harry. "And all this without remembering how I did it! So I guess I'd have to say I'm doing just swell, thank you very much," he finished caustically, frustrated at himself for not being able to remember. He looked at his friend and felt a stab of guilt.
"Sorry," he apologized, and sat down, rubbing his temples. The headache wasn't getting any better. "I'm just venting. It's so damn frustrating, Harry! I can't believe that I wouldn't have activated the impulse buffers. It's so automatic, I could do it in my sleep. And, contrary to popular opinion, I don't take stupid chances like that anymore."
Harry looked at him in surprise. "I know that. So does B'Elanna and, I'd bet, most of the crew. Don't go blaming yourself. Something may have happened that prevented you from activating the impulse buffers or maybe the log is wrong. With so much missing, we can't be sure of the integrity of what we DO have. We still have to find out what Garvic knows and you could still get your memory back. Meanwhile, we'll continue to examine the shuttle and the logs." He stood up and squeezed Tom's shoulder. "Tom, just remember, this isn't Caldik Prime. We'll get to the bottom of this." Grinning, he continued, "You know B'Elanna won't give up until she finds the answer." He paused and his smile disappeared. "She probably won't say anything, but she's worried about you. I ran into her last night after she left sickbay and she looked pretty upset."
Tom stared at his friend. "She was in sickbay? I don't remember her being there. But, then, what else is new?" he finished dryly.
Harry began to say something but Tom cut him off, somehow knowing that it would be a question about his relationship with B'Elanna. And that was something he did not want to get into at the moment. "Are you heading back to the bridge now?"
Disappointed, Harry simply nodded and Tom stood up to go with him. But when he stood up he suddenly felt like a dozen sledgehammers were laying siege to his head. He groaned as he swayed dizzily. Harry grabbed his arm and gingerly sat the semi-conscious man back down on the couch. He slapped his combadge, "Kim to sickbay. Medical emergency. Beam Lieutenant Paris directly to sickbay." Once he saw Tom shimmer away he ran out the door, notifying the bridge while he headed towards sickbay.
The first face Jack Garvic saw when he regained his senses was the holodoc's. Passive and unreadable, it told him nothing. Jack shifted his gaze to the figure beside the doctor -- Kes. She stood watching him with her huge expressive eyes, and he became aware she was holding his hand. But Kes was just the same with everybody. Even if she knew everything, her concern would still be the same. Gently she laid his hand back down on the biobed and picked up her tricorder. Garvic tried to speak, but Kes interrupted.
"You've just come through surgery. You need to rest now. No talking," she chided. "Time for questions later."
"Later. Rest now. The captain will be in to see you in a few minutes," she insisted.
"No, you don't understand, was anyone--?" The hiss of a hypospray cut him off and he immediately closed his eyes again and relaxed into near unconsciousness.
"There, that should do it," said the doctor. "In cases like these, Kes, you must not allow the patient to become agitated. It could lead to complications. Because of my -- our -- excellent care we did not lose any crewmembers. I don't want Mr. Garvic here to alter my average."
Not lose any . . .? Oh, thank you God, prayed Garvic, then he let the sedative take him.
"Kim to sickbay. Medical emergency. Beam Lieutenant Paris directly to sickbay."
Tom materialized in sickbay in a more or less sitting position. As the last tone of the transporter chime faded his eyes rolled up and he slowly, and for a tall man rather gracefully, collapsed the remainder of the way onto the floor. The med team was by his side in an instant. Kes, tricorder still in hand, ran the device over Tom's head.
"There is a recurrence of the cranial pressure, Doctor," she said.
"Of course there is," snapped the doctor. "I knew Mr. Paris would regret it if he failed to listen to me. He never listens. No one does."
"Janeway to the doctor. I heard the emergency request for medical beam-out. Doctor, report."
"Mr. Paris has suffered a relapse, Captain. It's not critical. I'll give you a full report in a few moments. Doctor out."
He grabbed Tom under his arms. "Help me get him up on this biobed, Kes." With that the doctor hoisted Tom's top half into the air. Kes grabbed Tom's feet and attempted to do the same, but he bent in the middle like a broken straw.
"Here, let me do it," came an unexpected voice.
Kes jerked a quick look over her shoulder. Lieutenant Torres stood there, looking ready for anything. "I'll grab his middle. Ready? Now!"
Together the three hauled him up and lowered him down. Both Kes and the doctor returned immediately to their instruments. B'Elanna tried to wiggle her pinned arm from under his back.
Tom's eyes fluttered open. "Hi there, darlin'," he said groggily. "I knew you . . . could . . . n't stay away from . . . me."
"Doctor, he's delirious," said B'Elanna, but she was gentle as she rolled him off her arm, and stepped back out of their way.
"Here. This will help," replied the doctor, closing the bioscanner over Tom's body and attaching a small device to his forehead. "With the pressure, that is, not the delirium. Mr. Paris, be absolutely still."
Tom closed his eyes and held his breath as the pain slowly edged away. He caught a flash of memory -- angry words . . . Garvic? . . . shouting . . . control indicators? No! -- Then it was gone. He sighed and opened his eyes again.
"Lieutenant, I know better than to try to keep you here," stated the doctor. "Your allergy to sickbay is well documented in the crew manifest. But this could well happen again. So I am removing you from duty for 24 hours. Return to your quarters and REST."
The doors slid open and Harry Kim shot through them and slid to a stop. The doctor was on him in a second.
"What has this man been doing? Aerobics? Get him in bed and keep him there, Ensign!"
"Yes, sir, Doc. I'll see he gets in, but then I have to report to the bridge," said Harry apologetically. "But I'll--"
"I'll do it," said B'Elanna simply. "I can attach my tricorder and access the computer from the terminal in his quarters, and run the programs I'm investigating from there."
"Good, Lieutenant," said the doctor, satisfied. "Sit on him if necessary."
Kes smiled and turned to Lieutenant Paris who had slid off the bed and was standing rubbing his temples. She pulled off the doctor's device. "Tom, what is it?"
"It's nothing. I thought . . . for a minute, I had a picture in my head of . . ." His blue eyes came to rest on Garvic's inert form. "It's nothing," he repeated. "I still don't remember anything about the crash."
"It is a distinct possibility that you may never remember, Lieutenant Paris. A probability, actually. If your memory were going to return it most likely would have by now. Memories are chemical and your chemistry is certainly quite scrambled at the moment." The doctor caught the slightest noise from Garvic's direction. "Now, if you will excuse me, I believe my other patient is coming around again. Report back here in 12 hours. Dismissed."
Jack Garvic was indeed waking up again, and he had heard this last exchange between the doctor, Kes, and Lieutenant Tom Paris.
Kathryn Janeway was relieved to see a much more alert looking Lieutenant Garvic this time when she entered sickbay. He was sitting up in bed, looking much healthier than the last time she had seen him. Chakotay and Tuvok followed her to his bedside.
Jack's heart started racing when he caught sight of the three senior officers headed his way. They know! They know what I did!
Smiling, Janeway said, "It's good to see you looking better, Mr. Garvic. We'd like to ask you a few questions about the shuttle accident."
Jack stared inquisitively at the three of them. As usual, he could tell nothing from Tuvok's gaze, but Chakotay's and Janeway's held no condemnation and his heart stopped its mad pounding as the fear receded. They don't know, thought Garvic with relief. Maybe I can salvage this yet. "Of course, Captain. What would you like to know?"
"We'd like to hear your version of what took place on the shuttle prior to the crash, Lieutenant," the captain informed him. "And if you know, or have any ideas, as to what caused the crash."
Luck was with Garvic. Through some careful questioning of Kes, Jack had determined that Tom Paris could remember nothing of the flight or crash and that Ensigns Lamont, Simms and Hudson knew nothing of any import. He'd even gotten Kes to tell him about the moment when it had been revealed at the briefing that the partial shuttle log Torres had recovered showed Paris had failed to activate the impulse buffer relays. An unnatural calm settled over him as he prepared to answer the captain's questions. Putting a surprised look on his face, Garvic said, "But don't you already know? The shuttle logs--"
"The shuttle logs were damaged in the crash and Lieutenant Paris is experiencing memory problems," explained Chakotay. "We need for you to be very specific, Lieutenant. Did Lieutenant Paris do anything to directly endanger the shuttle and its occupants?"
Garvic hesitated, looking down at his hands, before looking back up at them. "Paris decided to put the shuttle through some maneuvers on the way down. He said a flight straight down was too boring. I cautioned him that we were approaching the planet's atmosphere and that the impulse buffer relays should be engaged."
"And what was Lieutenant Paris' response?" asked Tuvok.
"Paris said we had plenty of time for that. I disagreed. I tried to engage the relays; in fact, they were on for a split second before Paris disengaged them. Shortly after that we hit some turbulence and things really got out of control. The engines went off line and we couldn't get them back up again. We didn't have much time for anything else before we hit. I don't remember much after that."
To Janeway, Chakotay and Tuvok it appeared that the lieutenant was agitated over the shuttle accident; however, the thoughts running through Jack Garvic's mind at that moment were much darker as he recalled what had actually happened.
The time he had recently spent in the company of Tom Paris while on the away team on Kyrros had resurrected memories Jack thought he had put behind him. Memories of someone special, now dead because of Tom Paris. His childhood friend, Ramos Benton, closer than a brother to him, dead because of Paris' carelessness at Caldik Prime.
After the Kyrros mission, Garvic's anger had grown daily, and thoughts of Paris and Caldik Prime monopolized his thoughts. Then the captain had placed them on another mission together, and Jack found that the hatred, so long buried, was no longer so easy to control.
He had begun badgering Paris almost from the moment the shuttle had left Voyager. Once they had been alone in the front of the shuttle, Garvic had started in on Paris, making several snide comments. Paris had, for the most part, refused to rise to the bait, and that demeanor had infuriated Garvic even further.
Angered beyond reason, especially when Paris had turned his attention back to the shuttle's controls and proceeded to ignore him, Jack had reached out to the co-pilot's controls in front of him and taken the impulse buffer relays off line. Paris thinks he's such a hotshot pilot, thought Garvic savagely. Let's see how he handles that.
The shuttle had gone into a sudden tailspin. Paris had managed to straighten its flight for a brief moment, but just as he had reached out to re-engage the relays, they had hit the edge of the planet's atmosphere and the engines had gone off line.
It was at that moment that Jack had become aware of what he had done. How he had endangered all their lives. The shuttle had leveled out and for a brief moment Garvic thought perhaps he had misjudged Paris' flying abilities, but no. The shuttle had dipped again, buffeted by the turbulence, and they had begun a long tumble toward the planet below. Picking up speed, they had rushed toward the planet's surface in an uncontrolled descent.
Jack was brought back to the present by a hand on his shoulder. He looked up into the captain's concerned eyes. "I'm sorry, Captain," he said. "I know that probably isn't what you wanted to hear, but if Paris had followed procedure, I honestly don't think this accident would have ever happened."
"Come," called Paris distractedly.
The door to his quarters slid open and B'Elanna strode in, tricorder in hand. She had dropped him off at his quarters after the doctor had released him from sickbay with strict instructions that he was to rest before she proceeded on to Engineering to retrieve her tricorder. Now back at his quarters she noted with exasperation that he was still pacing the floor and was not in bed, where she had ordered him.
"I know, I know," he waved a hand in dismissal. "I'm supposed to be resting."
"Then why aren't you?"
Still pacing, Tom complained, "Do you have any idea how frustrating this is? Not being able to remember anything? At least last time I knew--" He stopped speaking abruptly as he realized what he had been about to say.
B'Elanna set her tricorder on his desk and caught up to him as he paced the floor. Stepping into his path, she forced him to stop and look at her. "Go to bed," she firmly ordered.
He sighed. Even though he refused to admit it, he was tired. More than tired. He was exhausted, not only physically but mentally as well.
B'Elanna watched as he rubbed a hand across the back of his neck in an attempt to ease the tension there. That he didn't offer one of his usual quick-witted quips in regards to her sending him to bed was cause for concern in itself. Taking him by the arm, she led him to the bed and pushed him down upon it. Without protest, he sat but didn't lie down.
B'Elanna knelt in front of him and slipped his boots off. "Lie down," she commanded. When he looked ready to protest, she snapped out in her best Chief Engineer's voice: "Now, Lieutenant." Grumbling, he lay down.
"Roll over," she encouraged.
Tom glared at her. "I'm not a dog, you know," he snapped.
"That's not what some of the females on this ship say," she shot back.
Tom rolled over on his stomach, pillowing his head in his arms. "You'll be wanting me to fetch next," he claimed, his voice muffled. "So what's the purpose in having me on my stomach -- ouch!"
"Relax," B'Elanna commanded as she sat on the bed next to him and began kneading at the tense muscles in his neck and shoulders, slowly working her way down his back.
Tom lay with his face turned away from B'Elanna, wishing he could get lost in the feel of her touch, but other thoughts kept intruding. Another shuttle crash. He had thought Caldik Prime had been bad, but this one was worse. This time he couldn't even remember what he had done to cause the accident. Thank the Gods nobody had died. Still, he couldn't fathom why he wouldn't have engaged the impulse buffer relays. What could he have been thinking? B'Elanna hit an especially sensitive spot, bringing his thoughts back to the here and now.
"Go back to work, Torres. You don't have to stay here."
"Tom Paris, here you've got me in your quarters," she said lightly, "in your bed, and you're sending me away?"
His voice gruff, he said, "Go away, B'Elanna. I don't want company, and I definitely don't want to talk about it."
"Did I ask you to talk? Try to get some sleep. I'll be over at your computer terminal if you need anything."
"I won't." Tom was startled when she slapped him on the rump before she left his side and went to sit at his desk.
Turning over and sitting up, he looked over to where she sat at his terminal apparently already deeply engrossed in examining her files. She obviously wasn't going to leave. Frowning, he laid back down. His head was starting to pound again and against his will, he felt his eyes close and he soon drifted off into a troubled sleep.
B'Elanna's gaze strayed to the inert form on the bed. He was laying on his back, face turned away from her, but he was asleep at last. Her worried eyes returned to her tricorder, wishing something would magically appear to show he wasn't at fault for the accident.
Hudson strolled into the mess hall, wondering what gourmet dish Neelix had conjured up for dinner tonight. Trying not to look at it too closely, he dished up a dinner tray. Turning, he searched the room and found Ethan. Mikel grinned. Janine Lamont was having dinner with him. About time, Hudson thought. He hesitated to join them, but Simms, spotting him, waved him over.
"We were just talking about you," said Simms by way of greeting.
Mikel gave Ethan an exasperated look. He finally gets the girl of his dreams to himself and what does the man do? Talks about his best friend.
"I was just telling Ethan we should try a double date sometime," added Janine.
"She was quizzing me on your romantic conquests," said Ethan, winking.
"I was not!" protested a laughing Janine.
Ethan grinned at her before turning back to Hudson. "Speaking of which," he said, "you never did get around to telling me how things are proceeding with Ensign Cavelle."
Mikel shrugged. "Not bad. We have a date tonight. Drinks at Sandrine's then I've got Holodeck 2 reserved for a moonlit walk on Calemos II."
"Mm. Sounds nice," commented Janine.
"I take it you and the ensign are hitting it off then?" quizzed Simms.
"You could say that," replied Hudson, a twinkle in his eye.
Harry Kim's arrival in the mess hall reminded Hudson of Lieutenant Paris and his current troubles. "Either of you heard any more about the shuttle accident?"
Janine shook her head, but Ethan said, "The captain, the commander and Lieutenant Tuvok talked to Lieutenant Garvic earlier today. I hear he verified that Paris didn't engage the relays."
"I heard a rumor that the captain relieved Lieutenant Paris of duty," offered Janine.
"It's just a rumor," refuted Hudson. "Guess he had a relapse of some sort today and ended up back in sickbay for a while. As far as I know, he's expected back on duty tomorrow morning."
"I feel sorry for him," said Janine softly.
Ethan reached out and placed his hand over hers, squeezing it slightly. "I know what you mean. I just can't see him being that careless. I keep hoping Lieutenant Torres or someone will find something that will explain the accident."
"Let's hope so," agreed Hudson, sounding distracted.
Looking to where his gaze had wandered, Ethan had to grin. Ensign Cavelle had just entered the mess hall. Simms didn't know much about Cavelle other than the fact that he was one of the Maquis crewmembers and was known to have quite a temper on occasion. He looked forward to seeing how this one played out for Mikel. Ethan was hard put to keep up with Mikel's social life. The guy seemed to flit from one romance to another.
Alarms blared at him. Lights flashed. People yelled. There were screams of pain and fright. Paris tried to ignore them all as he struggled with the shuttle's controls, trying to regain some altitude to give him more maneuvering room, but it was too late. They were going to crash. He had messed up and they were all going to die because of him. Caldik Prime hurled toward them at incredible speed, then . . .
Tom sat up with a strangled gasp, tears in his eyes. Breathing heavily, he was startled to feel a pair of warm arms come around him and pull him tightly against another body. He bit back a strangled sob.
"Shhh," soothed B'Elanna as she cradled him in her arms.
Tom sank down into her warm embrace, fighting the tears, as he remembered the dream. Caldik Prime again. Would it haunt him for the rest of his life? Only this time it was different. There had never been anyone there to catch him when he woke from the nightmare before. No one who cared. Not so this time. B'Elanna was here. She seemed to do that a lot -- catch him when he was falling. He had vague memories of her arms around him after the Sun God incident.
Tom turned his head to look at her, but misjudged the distance and their lips lightly brushed together. He started to pull back, but B'Elanna's lips moved softly against his and before either of them knew what was happening, it had turned into a full-fledged kiss.
Tom's arms went around B'Elanna and he pulled her down on top of him as he laid back on the bed.
B'Elanna knew she should stop this. Tom was upset and it was his need for comfort more than anything else that had started this, but he felt so good. She didn't protest when she felt him unfasten the front of her uniform and reach a hand underneath against the thin fabric of her turtleneck. She reached up, running her hands through his hair. Without conscious thought, her hand moved to unfasten the front of his uniform--
Both Tom and B'Elanna shot apart at the sound of the door chime. Eyes wide, breathing hard, they stared at each other.
"Tom?" Harry Kim's concerned voice came over the comm link.
B'Elanna jumped off the bed, straightening her uniform as Tom called, "Come in."
Harry entered Tom's quarters, balancing an overloaded dinner tray. He stopped in his tracks and stared when he caught sight of them, both out of breath, Tom still on the bed, both flushed and looking rumpled.
It looked like he had interrupted -- but no, that couldn't be, could it? Harry didn't think their relationship had progressed that far yet. Or had it? "Uh," he began awkwardly, "I, uh, got Neelix to fix us a dinner tray so we could eat in your quarters. There should be enough for the three of us."
B'Elanna picked her tricorder up from Tom's desk. "Thanks, Harry, but I really should check in on Engineering. You both go ahead with dinner. I'll get something later."
She was out the door and gone before either man could utter a word.
Tom wasn't quite sure what had just transpired or what had almost happened. He had awakened from the nightmare, in need of solace. B'Elanna had been there. Things had just gotten a little out of hand. Tom took a deep steadying breath, grateful that Harry had interrupted them. He wanted to be with B'Elanna, had even dreamed of it, but not in that way. Not because she pitied him.
Harry stood just in front of the door, tray in hand. He still wasn't sure what he had just walked into. For some reason, the thought of his two best friends indulging themselves at a time like this was slightly irritating. Some other time, maybe, but not when there had just been a serious accident and it looked like Tom was at fault. They should be trying to figure out what had happened. And besides, Tom was supposed to be resting.
Okay, Harry. That's enough. You don't know what transpired just now. Nor should you care, he thought to himself as he set the tray down on the table. He turned around and looked at Tom who had reached a sitting position on the side of the bed.
A small smile crept over Tom's face. Harry looks like he's waiting for a tip. Standing up, he walked over to the tray and lifted one of the covers. He sniffed and made a face.
"What is it exactly?" he asked, plopping into the chair.
Harry sighed and sat down across from him. "Well, I think this is seffata, this is resgg, and this is wequ. Now what all that is, I couldn't say. Just that it's dinner."
"Edible?" Tom began dishing some of the resgg on to a plate.
"Somewhat. Tasted worse, tasted better," he said, following suit. Stopping, he looked up at Tom, who seemed preoccupied with rolling a dark blue-colored vegetable around his plate. I think I've made a nuisance of myself, he thought with wry humor. Harry began to search his mind for the best way to find out. "Did B'Elanna have any luck while she was here?"
"It didn't look like it," he answered, shaking his head. "I doubt she will."
We'll talk about something else then, he thought when Tom took his inquiry at face value. "Why? There has to be something in those logs that will show you're not responsible." The two sat quietly for a few minutes.
"Look, I spoke to Kes. She said that Garvic had regained full consciousness and the captain had questioned him. Maybe this will be over soon."
"Don't count on it. Knowing my luck lately, he's probably suffering from amnesia, too." Tom set his fork down hard. "It's just so damned irritating not remembering if I did or didn't do it. Why wouldn't I? I'm not daring or stupid enough to try and pull something like that. Not any more, at least. I don't take chances in a shuttle when there are others at stake."
"Then you didn't."
"But what about the logs? According to them I didn't activate the relays."
"Maybe something happened and you couldn't activate them. Or maybe the logs got screwed up in the crash."
"Those are all perfectly good maybes. But they're just that, maybes," Tom said, helping himself to more seffata. He stopped and looked up. "If the captain has talked to Garvic and he's cleared me, why hasn't she said anything about it yet?"
"Well, maybe she figured you'd be asleep and she didn't want to disturb you."
Tom laughed. "I'm sure she knows I wouldn't be too unhappy if she were coming to tell me I could stop worrying about it."
"I'm sure well find out soon enough."
"Yeah. But I'm not so sure I want to."
They ate the rest of their meal in silence, Tom's choice. Harry wished to continue, hoping that talking about it would somehow jog his memory, but it was obvious Tom wanted the subject dropped. After about five minutes, the lack of communication began to bother Harry. He wanted to try a second attempt at finding out how far Tom and B'Elanna had come, but the opportunity refused to present itself. Well, there's the direct approach, he thought. "Did I interrupt
something when I came in?" he asked matter-of-factly.
Tom wasn't taken by his tone which hinted at the simplicity of the question. He really didn't feel like getting into a conversation about his love life. "No damage done."
Not the answer Harry was looking for. He tried again, "B'Elanna seemed annoyed."
"Probably not. Probably grateful."
"Grateful?" Harry was confused. "I don't understand."
"Don't try to, Harry, I'm not," he answered cryptically. He stood up and placed his plate on the tray. Dinner was over. "Tell Neelix the seffata or whatever you said it was, was very good, will you? I'm going to try to get some sleep now."
"Sure," Harry said as he picked up the tray. "I'll see you in the morning."
Tom was more than a little thankful when Harry walked out the door. He was tired, tired of everything. He knew that it was bugging the hell out Harry that he wouldn't say anything about himself and B'Elanna, but Harry always picked the wrong time to ask. Better luck with B'Elanna . . . doubtful, he thought.
Tom lay in bed, very tired but unwilling to sleep. He remembered the dream when B'Elanna had been in his quarters. That alone was reason enough not to sleep. He didn't want to see replays of Caldik Prime; he wanted it to go away. He had hated the panicky feeling he would get when he woke up; it would follow him around for hours and now it was back. This time, though, it had died quickly. He'd woken up and hadn't been alone; she had been there. His thoughts drifted away from Caldik Prime to B'Elanna. What would have happened had Harry not come? It was obvious what would have happened. But did he want that to happen? Yes, he decided, but not under these circumstances.
He rolled over and glanced at the chronometer. 0131. Have to sleep. Have to get up in the morning. Have to be back on duty. He relented without further fight and fell asleep.
Ethan looked up in surprise as a breakfast tray slammed down on the table across from him. He watched as an obviously angry Mikel sat down. "Problem?" inquired Ethan. "I thought you'd be on cloud nine after your hot date last night."
"What hot date?" snapped Hudson. "Do you know what Marcos had the audacity to say to me?"
"No. But I suspect you're going to tell me."
"We got into a discussion about the shuttle crash which invariably led to the subject of Lieutenant Paris. Marcos said it was about time Paris got what was coming to him."
"And that surprises you?" asked Simms. "Come on, Mik, we both know there are still people on this ship who have it in for Paris and would just as soon see him spaced as anything else."
Mikel sighed. "I know. I guess I'm just disappointed. I didn't know Marcos felt that way."
"Is it going to cause problems between the two of you?"
"It already has. We nearly came to blows last night."
"Then let it go, Mikel," advised Ethan. "Maybe he's not worth it. Or is that the problem? You think he is?"
Mikel's eyes acknowledged that but he didn't say a word, and Ethan began to wonder just how involved Mikel had become with Marcos Cavelle. He had thought it was just another of Mikel's quick flings, but from the way Mikel was reacting, it would seem not. "Mikel?"
Hudson shook his head. "Let's just drop it for now, Ethe. So," he grinned, "how are things between you and Janine?" As he expected, Ethan's face turned a bright red to match his hair, but his eyes lit up at the mention of Janine Lamont and Mikel was delighted to see his friend so happy.
Tom, unsure what to expect, showed up on time to assume his bridge station the next morning. Janeway wasn't on the bridge yet, but everyone else acted as if it were just another routine day on duty.
Assuming his station, Tom sat there for a moment, staring at the helm controls as if they were of some alien design he didn't comprehend. Reaching out to double-check readings and familiarize himself with the ship's current status, he was alarmed to find his hands shaking. Oh God, oh God, oh God, I can't do this, he inwardly groaned. He closed his eyes briefly as he tried to regain some control. Never in his life, not even after Caldik Prime, had he lost faith in his abilities as a pilot, but right now he was experiencing a mild panic attack at the thought of Voyager being under his control. What if he messed up yet again?
"Is there a problem, Lieutenant?"
Chakotay's voice stirred him out of his dark thoughts. Taking a deep breath, he reached out resolutely and began checking the helm controls. "No, sir," replied Lieutenant Paris, completely in Starfleet mode now, no sign of Tom Paris and the light-hearted mood he often brought to the bridge in evidence.
Chakotay stared at the back of Paris' head. He hadn't missed the lieutenant's slight hesitation in assuming the helm. He would have to keep an eye on him.
Paris' combadge chirped. "Janeway to Lieutenant Paris."
"Lieutenant, I'd like to see you in my ready room."
With a sinking feeling of dread, Paris responded, "Yes, ma'am." As he stood, Chakotay indicated for an ensign who was assisting Ensign Kim at Operations to assume Paris' station.
Janeway looked up from her desk as Paris entered. "Sit down, Mr. Paris." As Tom sat, she continued. "Tom, I thought it only fair that you be apprised of what Lieutenant Garvic told us yesterday. Mr. Garvic indicated you did indeed fail to activate the impulse buffer relays at a crucial point. In fact, Mr. Garvic said he attempted to activate the buffer relays himself but you deactivated them. Lieutenant Garvic also said the shuttle was nearing the planet's atmosphere at the time. Why would you deactivate the relays at that point?"
Tom only shook his head, his confusion plainly evident.
"I am aware there have been some personality conflicts between yourself and Lieutenant Garvic," said the captain. "Is it possible you let that influence your decision?"
Tom jumped up from his seat to pace agitatedly back and forth. "I don't know! I can't remember! What Garvic says makes absolutely no sense, but if he says that's what happened and the shuttle log supports it, then . . ."
He stopped his frenetic pacing and took a deep calming breath. When he turned back to face the captain, all signs of emotional turmoil had been wiped away, but Janeway could see a fear lurking deep in his eyes that he was unable to hide. "Captain, will you be removing me from my post?"
"Maybe you should."
"Why would you say that, Lieutenant?" asked Janeway curiously. He seemed to be encouraging her to remove him, yet if she were reading him correctly, it was the last thing he wanted.
"I-I froze at my post this morning, Captain. Just for a brief moment, I couldn't touch the controls. If I do that during a crucial moment--"
"Lieutenant," Janeway unintentionally spoke sharply. Softening her tone, she said, "Lieutenant, I'll not be removing you from your post at this time. I'm hopeful you may yet regain your memory or perhaps B'Elanna will be able to turn over more information to explain your actions aboard the shuttle. Until that time, however, you should consider yourself on probation."
Janeway winced. She had grown rather fond of hearing Tom Paris mouth the particular brand of "Yes, ma'am" only he could utter, but this one jabbed through her painfully. He had gone rigid and unyielding, no glint of the Tom Paris she had come to know sparking through. "You're dismissed, Lieutenant."
Paris turned and headed for the door.
Damn, she's speaking in that soft 'let me help you' voice of hers again, he thought. He stopped but didn't turn.
"Tom, have you talked to anyone about this? Harry, perhaps? Or B'Elanna? Don't keep it to yourself. You've got friends. Let them help you."
"Is that all, Captain?"
Barely repressing a frustrated sigh, Janeway responded, "Yes," and watched as he slipped out the door.
Harry had been dispatched to Engineering to consult with B'Elanna on an Engineering/Operations glitch which had been popping up lately. As they examined the readouts, Harry broached the subject of Tom Paris.
"How do you think he's doing?"
"I'm worried about him," B'Elanna admitted. "Has he talked to you about it at all?"
Harry shook his head. "Nothing, except to vent some frustration over not being able to remember anything."
"Same here. He's having nightmares about Caldik Prime."
"I guess that's to be expected. This has to be like reliving that again."
"Harry, I need to ask you something, but you have to promise to keep it between the two of us."
"Sure," agreed Harry.
"Do you know much about Jack Garvic?"
"Hardly anything," admitted Kim. "He graduated from Starfleet Academy. I don't think Voyager's his first starship posting, but I'm not sure about that. He was a great deal of help when we were trying to get the transporter back up to get you and Tom back from Kyrros' past. Without his help, we might not have gotten Tom back in time."
"Really? So he was instrumental in saving Tom?"
"I guess you could say that," replied Harry. Looking at her curiously, he asked, "Why all the questions about Garvic?"
"I don't know," shrugged B'Elanna evasively.
"Come on, B'Elanna. Something's up. What do you know about Garvic that you're not saying?"
"There's just something about the guy that strikes me wrong, Harry. He has a deep-seated hatred for Paris. I have no idea where it stems from, but it worries me. I can't help but think it's convenient Garvic is the only one who can tell us what actually happened on the shuttle and that the story he's telling implicates Tom in some wrongdoing."
Harry frowned. "You think he'd lie to the captain?"
"I don't know. Let's just say I'm highly suspicious of him, but right now it's nothing more than instinct. It would certainly help matters if Tom could remember what happened."
"He can't force it, B'Elanna. Look what happened yesterday."
"I know. There must be something we can do to get him to relax a little. If we could get his mind off things, maybe he'll start remembering."
Harry grinned. "I've got just the thing. Let's drag him to Sandrine's tonight. We'll play some pool, get a couple of drinks in him, the real stuff, not the synthehol, and loosen him up a bit. He needs to put this behind him, at least for an hour or two."
Grinning back at Kim, B'Elanna said, "Why, Harry, I didn't know you could be so devious."
"I learned from an expert."
They both laughed as they remembered some of Tom's devious efforts in the past as he attempted to get both of them to lighten up.
The doctor had released Jack Garvic from sickbay with strict instructions for him to go to his quarters and rest. Now, alone in his quarters, Garvic began worrying. What if Paris began remembering what had actually happened? What if Torres managed to come up with something which would clear Paris? He had to make sure these charges would stick in such a way that even if Paris remembered, the records would refute what he was saying. Paris had lied before. He had lied at Caldik Prime. It shouldn't be difficult to make others believe he would lie about this incident either. He called up the crashed shuttle's records and the files B'Elanna had been working on, hoping he could set things up without anybody being the wiser and without leaving a trace he had ever been in the files. He experienced a brief pang of guilt as he wondered if he were doing the right thing, but then he remembered Ramey. Ramey was dead because of Tom Paris.
Paris deserved payback. Jack only hoped the other man still had enough conscience to experience guilt over this or it would all be for naught.
"So you're going to stay in your quarters all night and mope," concluded Harry, after trying unsuccessfully to convince Tom to come with him to Sandrine's.
Tom looked at him and with a touch of exasperation in his voice retorted, "I am not moping, Harry. I just want to spend some quiet time alone, all right?"
"Sure, Paris." Harry stood as if to leave, although he had no intention of leaving without his friend. He didn't care what it took at this point -- he was getting Paris to Sandrine's. "I can see all the quiet time you spent in here alone yesterday really did you a lot of good." He shook his head sadly. "You know, I never thought I'd see the day when Tom Paris would take to hiding away in his quarters."
"Come on, Tom. Who do you think you're fooling? What are you going to do in here all night? And don't tell me you're going to try to remember what happened, because the harder you try, the less likely it will happen. You'll just end up with another headache. But you know that already, don't you?" Harry confronted his friend and was startled to see the tortured look that suddenly appeared in his blue eyes.
Tom didn't say anything. Instead, he went into the bathroom and began splashing his face with water. Disconcerted, Harry stood outside the bathroom door and waited. Following Tom back into the living room, a very concerned Harry demanded, "What's going on, Tom? Did someone say something to you? Did you remember something? What?"
Tom turned to face the window. Concentrating on the starry view he softly, slowly announced, "Harry, for the first time in my life I'm not sure I can be a pilot. And if I can't be a pilot, what the hell am I going to do?"
Stunned, Harry exclaimed, "What are you talking about?!"
Tom couldn't look at Harry. Still staring out the window, he took a deep breath and told him about the panic attack that had seized him that morning. When he had finished, he remained at the window, watching his friend's reflection in the glass. Harry shook his head, puzzled.
"So you froze for a second. That's not so surprising. Besides, you were fine the rest of the shift, right?"
Angrily, Tom spun around. "Don't you get it, Harry? That's never happened to me before. NEVER. Not even after Caldik Prime." Agitated, he began pacing. "How do I know it won't happen again? I can't remember what caused the shuttle to crash and now I'm freezing at the controls. Do you really want someone like that piloting this ship?" he demanded.
"Tom, I would pick you over any pilot, any day of the week. Why are you so quick to condemn yourself? We've been through this already, remember? We don't know for sure yet what caused the crash."
With a disparaging look Tom countered, "Don't we? The shuttle log says I didn't activate the impulse buffer relays and Garvic has already confirmed it. What else do you need?"
"B'Elanna isn't so sure Garvic is telling the truth."
Tom shook his head and scoffed, "She's grasping at straws."
"I wouldn't be so sure of that. You said yourself you would never have taken the relays off line." He paused. Tom's silence spurred him to continue, "You really need to forget about all this for a while." Before Tom could protest, he added, "Paris, it's only for a couple of hours. Give yourself a break. Who knows? You might even remember something. Do I need to get the doctor to order you to the holodeck?" he asked, half-joking, half-serious, arms crossed over his chest.
Tom sighed. "You're not going to drop this, are you?" he asked, resigned. He knew a lost battle when he saw one.
Harry smiled triumphantly. "Nope. So come on. B'Elanna's waiting for us."
Upon entering Sandrine's, Tom was relieved to see the bar was nearly empty. It was dinner time and most of the crew were still in the mess hall. He relaxed slightly and then realized just how tense he had been. He mentally shook himself. Get a grip, Paris, he ordered. Harry had been right. He HAD been hiding out in his quarters. What exactly was he afraid of? What others might say? Hell, he'd been there before. Don't think about it. You're supposed to be having fun, remember? he chided himself as he walked over to the bar. Sandrine, attentive as always, cornered him immediately.
While Tom was occupied with Sandrine, Harry joined B'Elanna at the pool table and quickly described what had taken place in Tom's quarters. Frowning, she glanced furtively over at the pilot and then said quietly to Harry, "Sounds like we have our job cut out for us, then. I gave Sandrine some real beer to give to Tom. There's only enough for a couple of drinks, though. I didn't want to make a bad situation worse -- after what you told me about the other Tom in the alternative timeline you got stuck in, I didn't want to take any chances. But it should be enough to help him relax."
Harry flashed her a brief smile of approval as Tom joined them with his beer. "So, Paris, ready to lose some replicator rations?" challenged B'Elanna with a gleam in her eye.
Picking up his pool cue he snorted, "In your dreams, Torres!"
It was the wrong thing to say -- it reminded him of what had taken place in his quarters the day before. He stole a glance at her and knew she was thinking the same thing. Fortunately, Harry was concentrating on his shot and didn't notice the look the two exchanged. B'Elanna looked away and pretended to focus on Harry's shot. Tom closed his eyes briefly, berating himself for the Freudian slip.
It wasn't long before Tom got caught up in the friendly competition and banter. As he began to relax and enjoy himself, the shuttle crash seemed like a distant memory. He was so caught up in their game he didn't even notice as Sandrine's filled with people.
Ethan and Janine watched the trio from their table. "It's good to see Lieutenant Paris smiling again," commented Janine. "I don't think he even said a word on the bridge today. And you know how unusual THAT is," she laughed.
Ethan chuckled. "He does come up with some interesting, umm, observations, doesn't he?"
She nodded. "Sometimes those observations are the only bright spots during a slow shift. The bridge wouldn't be the same without him. Isn't it amazing how one person can make such a difference?" she remarked, glancing over at the lieutenant.
Gazing at her in adoration, Ethan sighed expressively, "It certainly is." A slow blush effused Janine's face as she turned back to meet his gaze. With a shy smile she reached out and took his hand in hers.
A short time later Ethan found his attention drawn to the bar's entrance. He frowned as he watched Marcos Cavelle walk in with Ensigns Terren Crenshaw and Charlie Wallace. The former Maquis were both good friends with Garvic.
Noting Ethan's sudden change in expression, Janine glanced over her shoulder to see what had distracted him. "What is it, Ethan?" she asked.
He tipped his head in the direction of the new arrivals and answered, "Nothing, I hope." Keeping in mind what Mikel had told him earlier, he continued to surreptitiously watch Marcos and the others. He was in security mode now.
Janine glanced back again and watched as they seated themselves not far from the pool table -- and Tom, B'Elanna, and Harry. Tom's back was to them as he played his shot, but B'Elanna noticed them and watched them warily. She knew they were friends of Garvic's and her suspicions about him spilled over to his friends. Maybe it was a Klingon thing. Maybe not. Harry noticed them, too, and recalled what B'Elanna had told him earlier. He hoped she wasn't going to do anything rash.
"You don't really think they'd start anything, do you? Janine questioned Ethan.
He shrugged and said lightly, "Probably not. But I'd feel better if Mikel were here, just in case."
While Tom waited for Harry to rack the balls for the next game, his eyes swept the room. He felt the tension return as he noticed the number of people in the bar. Drinking his beer -- his third -- he saw a few look at him and then quickly look away. B'Elanna also noticed the looks and cast a worried glance at Tom, but he had already turned back to the pool table, his face a mask of unconcern.
Harry looked up from the table and caught B'Elanna's eye as she subtly indicated Tom had noticed the reactions of some of the crew. He nodded imperceptibly and stole a glance at his friend who, as usual, was giving nothing away. Usually Harry admired the cool, controlled exterior the older man presented under stressful situations, but lately he was finding it more and more frustrating that Tom kept so much inside. Sometimes it took incessant badgering to get him to open up and Harry wondered what demons made it so difficult for the man to confide in his closest friends.
As the evening wore on, the decibel level in the bar rose. A steady din permeated the room, with bursts of laughter and the crack of pool balls intermittently drowning out the numerous conversations, but it wasn't long before one conversation could be heard above the rest.
"Of course, if you're the teacher's pet you can usually get away with anything. Or should I say CAPTAIN'S pet?" snickered Marcos, loud enough to be heard by those sitting nearby, including the senior officers.
Crenshaw nodded and added, "Who would have thought the captain could be fooled so easily?"
Tom, his back to their table, stiffened but said nothing as he played his shot, sinking three balls in the process. Harry looked at him in amazement. Doesn't anything faze him? he wondered.
Meanwhile, B'Elanna was reacting enough for the both of them. She glared at Marcos and, with clenched jaw and fists, reminded herself she was a senior officer on this ship. She slowly counted to ten and forced herself to relax. She caught the warning look Harry gave her and acknowledged it with a grim smile.
"Some people were just born to live a charmed life. Everything handed to them on a silver platter, no repercussions if they screw up. SOME can even get away with murder!" Cavelle continued caustically, knowing full well he now had the undivided attention of most of Sandrine's occupants.
He most certainly had the attention of Tom Paris. With a loud clatter, Tom tossed his cue onto the pool table and turned to face his antagonists.
His blue eyes darkened, reflecting his emotions, but his voice remained controlled as he said dryly with a tight smile, "Is there something you fellas would like to say to me? Or are you just going to run off at the mouth all night?"
Marcos and his friends slowly stood and faced Tom. Harry and B'Elanna instinctively moved forward to stand next to Tom, although he didn't even notice they were there.
Ethan decided this would be a good time to intervene, before things got out of hand. With an apologetic look to Janine, he got up and made his way over to the group, but before he could get there, Sandrine suddenly pushed herself between Marcos and Tom.
"You are a troublemaker!" she glared at Marcos. "You are not welcome here, monsieur. You must leave now," she demanded.
Marcos hooted and, pushing Sandrine away, taunted, "Jeez, Paris, how many other friends have you had to program?"
Before Tom could say anything, Harry stepped forward and said firmly, "You're way out of line, Cavelle. I suggest you do as the lady says and leave now, before you regret it."
"Or what?" Marcos threatened. He looked at Tom. "Maybe we should take this outside, flyboy," he taunted.
"In case you've forgotten, Cavelle, this isn't a Maquis ship," B'Elanna reminded him coldly. "You're wearing a Starfleet uniform now and you are speaking to a senior officer."
Marcos snorted. "Yeah, an officer, and a SENIOR officer at that -- now that's a joke if I ever heard one." He turned to face the others in the bar and stated, "You realize, of course, every day our lives are in his hands. His hot-dogging stunts have already killed three people and he nearly killed everyone on board that shuttle the other day." He turned back to B'Elanna and spat, "He shouldn't be let anywhere near the helm, as far as I'm concerned."
Ethan had heard enough. He confronted Cavelle. "You conveniently seem to have forgotten all of the times Paris has saved this ship and our lives, yours included." Ethan looked around the room. "He's a damn good pilot and I think everyone here knows it." Most nodded in agreement but there were still quite a few who looked dubious.
"Not according to Jack Garvic. He was THERE and he told the captain what happened. But," Marcos pointed accusingly at Tom, "has he been relieved of duty? Hell, no! So what's it going to take? Does he have to kill all of us before she sees the light?"
Harry angrily interjected, "The shuttle crash is still under investigation. Until we have all the facts we won't know for certain what caused it."
"Garvic TOLD them what happened," Marcos practically shouted. "Paris screwed up!"
Her Klingon temper getting the better of her, B'Elanna blurted, "Assuming Garvic is telling the truth!"
Harry winced. Marcos turned on her.
"You're calling him a liar?!" he cried incredulously.
B'Elanna had realized her mistake as the words tumbled out of her mouth. Well, it's too late to go back now, she thought. "I'm not saying he is and I'm not saying he isn't," she answered hotly. "But Harry's right, we're still investigating and so far the only evidence we have is a partial shuttle log and the word of someone who makes no secret of his dislike for Paris. The captain will need more than that before she makes a decision."
Just as Marcos was about to respond, a familiar voice behind him quietly warned, "I think this would be a good time to call it a night, Marcos."
Marcos swung around to face Mikel. Everyone had been so engrossed in the scene playing out before them they hadn't seen Hudson enter. Ethan, for one, was very relieved to see him. Maybe Mikel would be able to talk some sense into Marcos.
"This has nothing to do with you, Mik," Marcos said crossly.
"Actually, as security, it does. Even if I weren't on duty, I would still make it my business. You're not accomplishing anything here, Marcos, so let's call it a night, all right?" Mikel reached for his arm, but Marcos roughly pushed him away.
"I'll leave when I'm good and ready!" he snapped.
Mikel shook his head sadly. "You're leaving now, Marcos. The only question is whether you spend the night in your quarters or in the brig. What's it going to be?"
"You wouldn't dare!"
Mikel stared at him silently. Ethan had moved to stand beside him. If they had to, they would remove him by force. Marcos glared at Mikel for a few long seconds before he turned on his heels and stormed out the door, followed closely by Crenshaw and Wallace. The tension level in the bar dropped considerably after they left.
Ethan turned to Mikel. "That was pretty ugly. Are you OK?" he asked worriedly.
Mikel shrugged his shoulders resignedly and turned to Tom. "Lieutenant, will you be pressing charges for insubordination?" he inquired formally.
Tom shook his head mutely and Mikel nodded his acknowledgment before he and Ethan walked away. Tom seemed to be stunned by what had just occurred. B'Elanna and Harry realized he hadn't said anything during the entire exchange. Troubled, B'Elanna touched his arm and he looked down at her, startled by the contact.
"Tom, don't let him get to you. He doesn't know what he's talking about."
Tom looked at her, grateful for her concern and unwavering support. "It's not that, B'Elanna. Well, not just that," he amended wryly. "When Marcos was saying all those things I got flashes of . . . something. I don't know what. But it almost felt like deja vu."
"From Caldik Prime?" asked Harry.
"No. I mean, you would think it was, but this felt different. I remember what happened at Caldik Prime. This wasn't the same. I don't know. It's gone now," he rubbed his eyes tiredly. He shook his head and repeated softly, "I don't know."
"Then maybe you were remembering something from the shuttle crash," B'Elanna offered.
He shrugged silently and looked around the bar. It was empty now except for the three of them and Sandrine. "I think I'm going to call it a night," he told them. He smiled wanly. "Thanks for sticking up for me. And thanks for getting me out of my quarters."
Harry snorted and B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "Yeah, THAT was a great idea!" Harry grinned broadly.
Tom laughed. "No, really, I WAS having fun until this fiasco started. I even forgot about the accident for awhile. So, you see, you accomplished your mission." He looked into the air and called out, "Computer, end program."
Sandrine's disappeared and the trio walked out of the holodeck. Tom paused outside the door. "By the way, just what exactly was in those drinks Sandrine gave me?" he inquired innocently.
Harry and B'Elanna laughed. "We'll never tell!" Harry exclaimed.
Tom chuckled as they entered the turbolift. He announced his deck number and looked at the others expectantly when they didn't tell the computer which decks to deliver them to. "What? You're my bodyguards now, too?" he asked them.
Harry and B'Elanna looked at each other and smiled.
"I appreciate the effort," he said with a tight smile, "but I can take care of myself."
"No one's saying you can't," Harry replied. "But there is safety in numbers."
"What?" Tom asked. "You think Marcos and his friends are going to try something?"
"They might," B'Elanna said as the lift stopped and the three friends exited. "It seemed to me Marcos was almost spoiling for a fight earlier." And B'Elanna knew Marcos wasn't the kind to back down easily.
"Look," Tom said as they stopped in front his quarters, "all I'm going to do is take a hot shower, read for a while, and go to bed." He smiled. "How much trouble can I get into?"
"Talk about a loaded question," B'Elanna muttered under her breath.
Tom smiled. "I'll ignore that," he said as he stepped into his quarters. "Oh, and thanks again. It was fun until Marcos and his friends came." With that the door closed.
Harry glanced over to B'Elanna as they walked down the corridor and said, "Well, that went well." He still couldn't believe what had happened on the holodeck. How had Tom been able to keep it together so easily? And what was it he remembered during Marcos Cavelle's tirade?
"Well, except for the end it did go well," B'Elanna said. "I just wish I hadn't publicly stated I don't trust Garvic." She shook her head. "I can't believe I let that . . . that . . ." but she couldn't find a word to properly describe her feeling for the man.
"So what's next?" Harry asked as the pair arrived at his door.
"I don't know about you," B'Elanna replied, "but tomorrow morning, I'm going to go over those log fragments a few more times." She sighed. "You might try talking to him again." She shrugged. "After tonight he might be more willing to talk."
"I hope so," Harry said. "Good night."
Tom stepped into the shower letting the hot water and the steam envelope him. He felt better then he had in a long time. Harry and B'Elanna had been right; an evening out had done wonders for him. Marcos Cavelle and his friends aside, Tom had had fun tonight. For a few hours he'd forgotten about the crash, his fears and worries, and the panic attack, simply enjoying a few hours of fun with his friends. Even the scene with Cavelle and the others had not been as bad as he feared it would be. It seemed that most of the crew were on his side. He didn't know if they thought he was to blame for the accident, but they were willing to look at everything he had done for the ship and take that into account. Cavelle, Wallace, Crenshaw and the others saying he should be removed from the helm were in the minority. There were far more here willing to support him.
Strange. The last time most of his friends had disappeared as soon as they knew the truth. That he could deal with, sort of, but support from his shipmates and friends . . . he had no idea how to handle that. It was nice to know there were those who cared for him.
He let his thoughts wander to the weird sudden sensation he'd had during Cavelle's tirade. Angry shouts echoing in his head . . . what was that all about? Tom stood perfectly still, letting the hot water pour over his head. Something had been close, pushing on his mind from the inside, but now it was gone again. This is so damn frustrating! Better not to force it, though, he thought. Just relax and let it come to you when it will.
He stepped from the shower, began drying himself, and slipped on a pair of shorts. He crossed to the sitting area and picked up a padd from the desk; he wanted to review the flight path for the next few days. He closed his eyes as he remembered the panic attack. Stop it! he told himself sternly. That's not going to happen again. However, until he knew why he had taken the buffers off line, he knew it very well could. God, this is worse then Caldik Prime. I knew what I did wrong, and I knew why. But now?
"Come," he said. Who is it this time? he wondered. Harry? B'Elanna maybe? The door didn't open.
"Enter!" he said, trying a different tack, but the door remained closed. "What in the name of God?" he said as he crossed to it. As he neared it, it opened, so mechanical failure wasn't the problem. Maybe whoever was there hadn't heard him. He stepped into the hall to see if he could catch whoever it was. He had taken only two steps into the hallway when his head exploded in pain and he felt himself falling. He never remembered hitting the floor.
"Where did I put that damn padd?" B'Elanna muttered as she searched her quarters for the fifth time. "I know I had it when I came in here, so where did I put it?" She stopped, trying to remember what she had done after she had come into the room. Nothing very exciting. A shower, then she had gotten a cup of coffee, and then she had begun looking for the padd. She closed her eyes, trying to think in more detail. What had she done when she had first come in?
She walked over to the door and retraced her steps. She had come in, padd in hand, and walked over to the couch. She had sat for a few minutes and realized she could very well be up all night because once she got started, she might not want to stop. So she had decided to take her shower and change before starting to work.
I walked over to the closest, took off my uniform, grabbed a towel and my sleeping outfit, and headed to the bathroom. . . .
The closet. That was it. She walked over to her closet and opened it. There on the little ledge, almost mocking her, was the padd. Shaking her head, she grabbed it and walked back to the couch. Oldest trick in the book, but it works every time, she mused as she dropped to the couch.
She began reading, then it hit her. That's it! she said to herself. That's how we get Tom to remember what happened. It was so simple she was surprised no one had thought of it already. They could re-create the accident on the holodeck. She felt fairly sure that Ethan Simms, Mikel Hudson, and Janine Lamont would be willing to help. The question was, would Garvic? If Garvic were lying would he want to re-create the crash? For that matter, would Tom? She knew he wanted to learn the truth about what had happened, but would Tom be willing to relive what had to be his worst nightmare? Especially if they had to re-create it more than once? She thought about the nightmare she had witnessed only the night before and shivered. He was still living with the horror of that day even now. Maybe his memory block was the best thing that could have happened. At least he wouldn't be haunted by this crash for years to come.
Or would he? From what Harry had told her about his talk with Tom, he was questioning his skill and his ability as a pilot, something he had never done before. If Tom didn't know what he had done wrong, he would always wonder. Not knowing what had happened might destroy him.
B'Elanna decided she needed to talk this over with someone else. Someone who knew Tom even better then she did. She tapped her combadge. "Torres to Kim."
"Kim here," came Harry's sleepy voice a few seconds later. "Did you find anything?"
B'Elanna smiled at the matter-of-fact reply. "Not really. I have an idea as to how we might help Tom's memory, but I'm not sure he'll go for it." She explained her re-creation idea and voiced her concerns.
"I'm not sure either," Harry said, "but I think we should ask him. The worst he could say is no."
"All right," she said. "Do you want to ask him? Or should I?"
"What? Right now?" Harry asked.
Of course right now, she was on the verge of saying. Then she remembered the time. "Well," she said, "WE could ask him, then set it up in the morning." For some reason she doubted Tom was sleeping.
"Okay," Harry said. "I'll be there in a few minutes."
Once she was sure the channel was closed she tapped the badge again. "Torres to Paris."
She tried again. "Torres to Paris."
Again no response.
"Computer," she said, "location of Lieutenant Paris?"
"Lieutenant Paris is in his quarters," the computer replied.
"Then why isn't he answering the hail?" she asked.
"Insufficient data to reply," the computer said. "Please restate the question."
"Never mind," she said. She'd go to his quarters, then.
B'Elanna found Harry coming down the corridor toward her quarters. "Come on, I can't reach Tom. The computer says he's in his quarters, but he's not responding."
"Maybe he's asleep," Harry said as he hurried to catch up. "Or he could be in the bathroom or something--"
"Or maybe something happened to him," she said. Harry didn't reply.
They reached Tom's quarters and rang the bell. B'Elanna wasn't too surprised when there was no response. Harry tried again then looked at her.
"Computer," he said, "confirm Lieutenant Paris' location by scanning his quarters. List all humanoid life forms there."
"There are no life forms that fit the specified parameters," the computer replied.
"But you said Lieutenant Paris was in his quarters," B'Elanna said. "When did he leave?"
"Lieutenant Paris' location has not changed," the computer replied.
"How is that possible?" B'Elanna asked. "There are no--"
"Wait a second," Harry said. "Computer, are you saying that Lieutenant Paris hasn't moved at all?"
"Affirmative," the computer replied.
"For how long?"
"One point eight hours," the computer replied.
"He's not in there," Harry said. "Tom's not the type to sit still for any length of time. I bet he's taken off his combadge."
"So how do we find him?" she asked.
Harry paused, then a slow smile came over his face. "Computer," he said, "list all places where the number of life forms is different from the number of combadges." He paused then added, "Exclude crew quarters."
"Clever," B'Elanna said, "and discreet. So you don't think he went alone," either, but she didn't voice that part.
Harry shook his head. "Tom wouldn't go without his communicator," he said.
B'Elanna knew he was right. She was about to tell him that when the computer announced the single location where the number of people did not match the number of combadge signals.
"What are they doing there?" asked Harry, confusion clearly showing through in his voice.
B'Elanna held up a hand to silence him. "Computer, who is present at this location?"
"Ensign Marcos Cavelle and one unidentified human male."
"Cavelle," B'Elanna muttered. "I should have known. Come on, Harry."
Marcos Cavelle looked at the unconscious form at his feet. What had he just done? Even on Chakotay's Maquis ship he wouldn't have dared pull the stunt he had just pulled aboard Voyager. He hadn't meant to hit Paris, especially so hard. Still angry over the incident in Sandrine's, he had signaled his presence at the door to Paris' quarters with the intent of having his say, something Mikel had denied him in Sandrine's.
Mikel . . . oh Gods, what would he think of this? Marcos knew what he would think; he would be disappointed. Marcos didn't even understand what he and Mikel were doing together. One Maquis. One Starfleet Security. An odd combination. Yet, he sensed despite all that, even despite this latest stunt, Mikel would be there for him if only Marcos would give him a chance. Marcos knew he had a chip on his shoulder that made it somewhat difficult for others to get close to him.
The figure at his feet stirred slightly, moaned, then fell still again. Marcos' thoughts turned back to Paris. He'd had second thoughts about confronting Paris and had already turned to go when the door had slid open and Paris had come out. Just the sight of him had angered Marcos, who was always quick to fly off the handle anyway. Without giving it much thought, he had slammed a fist into the side of Paris' head and watched as the pilot fell to the deck unconscious.
Now Marcos was alone with Paris, only he wasn't the one who really should be setting him straight. That honor belonged to Jack. Jack had lost a lot because of Tom Paris. He tapped his combadge. "Cavelle to Garvic."
Garvic's tired voice came over the comlink and it occurred to Marcos that it was rather late. "Marcos? What's up?"
"Jack, I'm in the hydroponics bay. If you want to have it out with Paris, now's your chance."
Cavelle's statement brought Jack Garvic to full wakefulness. Pulling on his uniform, he asked, "What are you talking about?"
"I'm in hydroponics with Paris," Cavelle repeated. "He should be coming around soon. Now's your chance to tell him what you've been telling me. If the man's got a conscience at all, maybe you can convince him that Voyager is not the place for the likes of him."
"When he comes around?" said Jack slowly. What had Cavelle done? This was HIS fight. He had no wish to drag his friends into it, nor did he wish to see any of them receive any black marks on their records because of him. "Marcos, what have you done?"
In hydroponics, Cavelle shrugged. "Nothing he didn't deserve. You'd better hurry. He's starting to come around."
"I'll be right there," Garvic assured him.
Paris regained consciousness in stages. First he became aware of a voice, but he couldn't quite make out what it was saying. Then the pain hit -- his head throbbed. Smell came to him next. Flowers? He smelled flowers? Despite an overwhelming urge to keep his eyes shut, the scent piqued his curiosity and he opened them. What was that? Gray, rather drab looking. He realized he seemed to be lying on the deck. He shifted slightly, rolled over onto his back, and winced slightly as the room spun around him. He found the spinning came to a stop as long as he didn't try to move too quickly.
Carefully sitting up, he realized he was in the hydroponics bay. As a shiver ran through him, he also realized he was rather underdressed to be traipsing around the ship. How had he ended up here anyway? He rubbed at a tender spot on the side of his head. The last thing he remembered was stepping out of his quarters.
"'Bout time you woke up."
It wasn't until that moment Paris realized he wasn't alone. Looking up, he saw the owner of the voice was Marcos Cavelle. Keeping an eye on him, Tom slowly got to his feet. His stance was a bit wobbly, but his voice was firm when he spoke. "You hit me."
"Seemed like a good idea at the time," was Cavelle's only comment, but Tom detected a small amount of fear lurking in his eyes behind the bravado. Just possibly, Cavelle realized he had gone too far.
His voice showing his tiredness of dealing with this, Paris asked, "What do you want, Cavelle?"
"Me? Nothing. Garvic is the one you should be talking to. He should be here shortly."
"Garvic? Is that what this is all about? The shuttle crash?"
"Shuttle crashes," corrected Cavelle. "You seem to have a tendency to crash them and then avoid taking responsibility. You owe Garvic."
"I OWE Garvic? I don't even know him."
"Oh, you know him all right. All the way back to Caldik Prime. You--"
"Marcos, that's enough," said a voice from the doorway. Both men looked to see Lieutenant Garvic standing there. Tom was startled by the pure hatred he saw in Garvic's eyes for a moment. Hatred directed at him, but then Garvic covered it.
Marcos spun around to look at his friend, his back to Paris. "Jack, tell him! It's time he knew the whole truth. Time he knows how he destroyed your life--"
"Stop it, Marcos." Jack's tone was firm. His gaze traveled past Cavelle to Tom, who had been slowly moving toward a nearby wall comlink. Paris stopped when Garvic's gaze pinned him. Garvic appeared about to address him directly when a new voice spoke from behind him.
"Gee, Paris, I had no idea you were throwing a party in hydroponics tonight," said the voice dryly. "I'm hurt you didn't invite me."
B'Elanna Torres stepped around Garvic to enter the room. Her eyes widened slightly at Paris' state of near undress, but she had other more pressing concerns to address at the moment. Turning to face Garvic, she said, "I was expecting Cavelle. What are you doing here, Garvic?"
"I was about to try to convince Marcos that this is not the best way to handle the situation," he said smoothly.
B'Elanna quirked an eyebrow in disbelief. "Really?" Turning back to Cavelle, she said, "What do you think about that, Ensign?" But Cavelle's face had gone blank with surprise, his gaze focused past her shoulder. B'Elanna thought he was looking at Garvic but when she turned toward the door once again, she saw Mikel Hudson standing next to Harry. It was he at whom Cavelle had been staring.
Mikel entered the room and approached Cavelle until they were face to face, their bodies mere inches apart. Disappointment shone clearly in Mikel's face. "I'm afraid you're going to the brig this time, Marco," he said softly, using the name that only he addressed Cavelle by.
"Hold on a minute, Hudson," said Paris. All eyes turned to Paris. "I'd like to keep this quiet if we can. Take Cavelle somewhere and talk to him. If you're not satisfied after your talk, then you can haul him off to the brig."
Mikel and Tom shared a long look. "This should be reported, sir," Hudson finally said.
"I know that," replied Tom softly. "Talk to him, Hudson. If you're not happy with what you hear, I'll press charges. Otherwise, what happened here tonight will stay here."
Hudson looked at the other occupants of the room, all of whom seemed to be in agreement to go along with what Paris was suggesting. Finally, he looked back at Lieutenant Paris. "Thank you, sir." Paris nodded and watched as the two men exited the room.
"What are you still doing here?"
B'Elanna's irritated tone drew his attention. She was glaring at Garvic.
"I was just leaving." Jack Garvic turned and pushed past Harry.
Both Harry's and B'Elanna's gazes were locked on Garvic's receding back and they nearly missed catching Tom as he wavered on his feet. B'Elanna was there in an instant, offering a shoulder to lean on. Her hand came in contact with his bare torso, and Harry was quick to note that she didn't snatch her hand away, but let it remain where it was.
"New uniform, Tom?" Harry couldn't resist asking.
"You can beam me to me quarters, can't you?" Paris asked hopefully.
B'Elanna shook her head. "That would have to go in a report." Turning serious, she asked, "Are you sure this is the way you want to handle this? Cavelle may try something again."
"I trust Hudson to handle things, besides . . ." He shrugged.
"You're just a big soft-hearted romantic and don't want to see Mikel moping around with a broken heart," accused Harry, but he was smiling.
"Are you sure you're okay?" asked B'Elanna. "How did Cavelle get you here?"
"Hit me over the head," Paris admitted. At their alarmed looks, he added, "Don't worry. I've got a hard head. Nothing a night's sleep won't cure."
"Stubborn, too," commented B'Elanna. "I can't believe you let Cavelle off so easily."
"I doubt Hudson will let him off easily." Tom sighed. "I'm more concerned with getting back to my quarters without being seen."
"We'll give you an escort back," grinned Harry. "Besides, we have an idea we want to pass by you. Something that may help you regain your memory."
No! Don't touch that!
His own voice, sounding frazzled, shouted inside his head. Where had that come from? And at whom was he yelling? Was it a memory surfacing? It left him with his heart leaping into his throat.
He looked down into B'Elanna Torres' concerned eyes. Shrugging the memory or whatever it was aside, he said, "Did I mention how glad I was to see you a few minutes ago?" They held each other's gazes for a long moment.
"Hey, weren't you glad to see me too?"
Both Tom and B'Elanna turned to look at Harry. "Yeah, you too, Harry," said a grinning Paris, but the grin faded when he moved his head too quickly. He didn't cover the involuntary wince quickly enough to go unnoticed. B'Elanna led him to a nearby bench and pushed him down to a sitting position. Tom started to protest when he felt her fingers sifting through his hair, checking for injury, but B'Elanna spoke before he had a chance to utter his protest.
"Tom, are you sure you don't want to go to sickbay? It looks like you're developing a nasty bump where Cavelle hit you."
"No!" Tom shook his head emphatically, which made his ears ring. "Like I said, it's nothing that a good night's sleep won't cure. Besides, I have absolutely no desire to see the inside of sickbay any time soon! Let's just get out of here."
Harry led the way to the door, "Okay. On the way, B'Elanna and I can fill you in on our idea." Harry took two steps out the door. Then, he promptly did an about-face, blocking Tom and B'Elanna's exit. "Tom, you'd attract a lot less attention if you were wearing some clothes."
"No kidding, Sherlock!" retorted Tom. "Let me guess, the corridor is filled with hundreds of screaming women demanding to see me in all my glory."
B'Elanna snorted. "Glory? Likely."
"Something like that," Harry replied. "Why don't I run to your quarters and get you some clothes?" Before Tom or B'Elanna could say anything, Harry exited hydroponics.
Tom began to pace the length of the bay, trying to recall the memory that had bubbled to the surface of his consciousness. And then there's Cavelle's cryptic remark. "You know Cavelle mentioned something about Garvic and Caldik Prime."
"Was he there?"
"I don't think so."
"If Garvic weren't physically at Caldik Prime, I wonder what the connection is?" This only served to make B'Elanna more suspicious of Garvic. She wanted to question Tom some more, but she noticed him wincing and rubbing his temples.
"That's it! I'm going to scan you," B'Elanna said as she walked purposefully towards a panel marked with a red cross. "Sit!"
"I told you I'm okay! Hard head, remember?"
"I know you have a hard head, but Cavelle knocked you out cold. I think that warrants at least a medical scan!" she tossed over her shoulder as she rummaged through the panel.
Tom shrugged, but sat down. She returned and positioned herself behind him. As she began scanning with the medical tricorder, B'Elanna was acutely aware of Tom. Of his body. Of him. Her heart pounded. Concentrate Torres! she admonished herself. Time enough for that later! She stopped. Later? What am I thinking?
She replaced the tiny scanner so the tricorder could process the data. Looking down at his profile, she was overcome with a desperate desire to take away his pain.
Tom closed his eyes. B'Elanna stood close enough that he could feel her body heat and smell her perfume. He inhaled deeply, savoring her closeness. Her scent, mixing with the flowers growing in the hydroponics bay, intoxicated him. He swiveled his body about and wrapped his arms around her waist. Slowly opening his eyes, he looked up at her.
She did not say anything. She laid the hand holding the tricorder on his shoulder and gazed into his eyes. Her free hand went to Tom's face, her thumb tracing the line of his brow while her fingers tangled gently in his hair. Tom leaned his head into the palm of her hand. His hands rubbed the small of her back in soft circles. Azure eyes and chocolate eyes held each other.
At that moment Harry returned, making a commotion. On the way back Harry had debated whether or not to return to the hydroponics bay at all; he had no desire to interrupt again. He then looked down at the clothes he carried. If he didn't go back and someone saw Tom's undressed state, rumors would fly more than they already were. I'll just give them a little warning that I'm coming, he thought to himself. When he stood in front of the door to hydroponics, Harry punched a random assortment of commands on the control panel.
The computer beeped in protest, "Unknown command. Please restate the command."
"Ah. Advance warning of Mr. Kim's arrival," Tom drawled dryly. "Come in, Harry! It's not locked!" B'Elanna had already moved a safe distance away from Tom. The spell was broken.
"Well, it's official. You have the hardest head in the Delta Quadrant," B'Elanna said, as Harry entered the hydroponics bay.
"I hope these meet with your approval, Mr. Paris." Harry handed Tom the bundle. Tom went behind a stand teeming with flowering plants and quickly pulled on the clothes.
"B'Elanna, have you told Tom about our idea?"
"No, Harry, I wanted to wait for you."
"Well, what is this brilliant idea?" Tom asked as he returned to the bench and sat down facing Harry and B'Elanna.
They quickly explained the idea of recreating the accident on the holodeck. Tom, while looking a bit apprehensive, nodded his assent to the experiment to jog his memory.
"One thing," B'Elanna said, "I'd like to put off telling Garvic until right before the simulation."
"You still don't trust him?" Harry quizzed her. "Are you trying trap him?"
"Not exactly 'trap,'" she responded slowly, "I just don't want him to have too much time to prepare."
Tom watched silently as Harry and B'Elanna worked out some more details of the simulation. He thought of the pair's continuous efforts to help him. First the excursion to Sandrine's to help him relax a little, then their appearance in hydroponics, now the holodeck simulation to attempt to prove his innocence in the accident. Tom felt tears sting his eyes so he turned his face away. So different from Caldik Prime. At that moment, Thomas Eugene Paris felt very fortunate indeed.
Tom turned to face his friends and stood up. He placed a hand on Harry's shoulder and took B'Elanna's hand. He gave each a squeeze.
"Thanks for believing in me."
Hudson pushed Cavelle into his quarters, glad that Cavelle's roommate had the night shift and wasn't about. Mikel was usually pretty easy-going, but he couldn't believe what Marcos had done.
"What the hell were you thinking?" Mikel paced the quarters, letting his anger overflow. "You've gone too far, Marco. You can't go around taking matters into your own hands. You know that. Why didn't you come talk to me first?" He stopped pacing long enough to stand still and glare at Cavelle.
"Talk to you?" repeated Cavelle in disbelief. "About Paris? You know you and I don't see eye to eye about him. The man should still be in prison, not serving as a lieutenant aboard a starship."
"That's not your decision to make, Marco," Mikel replied a little more calmly. "That's Captain Janeway's call. She's your captain. You, like the rest of us, follow her orders. Come on, Marco, there's more to this than your dislike for Paris. That I could probably put up with, but something's got you riled enough to pull this stunt tonight. What is it?"
Now it was Marcos who paced the room. "I can't talk about it. Something Jack Garvic told me in confidence."
Mikel approached Marcos, stopping close to him. The two men stared at each other, Marcos' eyes apologetic and Mikel's confused. "Let it drop, Marco. It's not your fight. If Garvic has an argument with Lieutenant Paris, let him fight his own battles. Can you give me your word that you'll stay out of it?"
Marcos stepped back. "Or else you'll throw me in the brig?" he asked sarcastically.
Hudson nodded solemnly. "You got it, Marco. You'd be in the brig right now if it weren't for Lieutenant Paris' intervention. Don't forget that."
Cavelle turned away, his shoulders tight with tension. "Why'd he do that? So he could blackmail me later?"
"Stop thinking like a Maquis, Marco." Mikel's voice was soft. "Despite what you think of Paris, from everything I've seen he's a good man. I'd easily trust him with my life. Right now, I'm not sure I could say the same of you."
That stung. Marcos bowed his head. "I'm sorry," he mumbled.
"Sorry that what you did hurt me? Hurt us?" said Hudson softly. "Or sorry that you decided to take matters into your own hands?"
These self-revealing conversations didn't come easily to Cavelle, but Mikel was important to him. He saw a lot of things in Marcos that others didn't see or weren't willing to put forth the effort to find. "I won't go near Paris again," he promised. He started when he felt a pair of arms slide around him from behind.
"That's all I wanted to hear," Mikel whispered. "The rest can come later."
After Torres had kicked him out of the hydroponics bay, Jack Garvic had calmly walked back to his cabin, pausing briefly in front of Cavelle's quarters. This is getting out of hand, he thought to himself. I just want Paris to pay! His pace quickened with every step. Once inside his quarters, Jack had looked down at his hands and saw them shaking. Soon the tremors spread to the rest of his body. He slid to the floor, feeling the blood drain from his face and sweat drip down his back. Jack Garvic realized that he was trapped.
"Gods, what have I created?"
His gaze fell on a photograph on his desk. Ramey, his best friend. The young men were in full dress uniform, proudly displaying their diplomas. They had met when they were twelve and had been inseparable until graduation from Starfleet Academy. Friends until Caldik Prime and Tom Paris. Jack felt the familiar anger wash over him. What about Marcos Cavelle? Jack only wanted Tom Paris to pay, but now the web grew more tangled. Cavelle. Hudson. Torres. Kim. All snarled by his desire for revenge.
This has got to end! Jack exclaimed to himself. He began to pace. Get a hold of yourself, Garvic! If you confess, you'll end up like Suder! And Paris will get off AGAIN! Can I live with the lie? Remember Ramey. Paris' life for Ramey's.
"Remember, Ramey," he chanted his mantra, "Paris' life for Ramey's."
Jack paced until he was exhausted then stripped off his damp clothes and sprawled diagonally on his bed. I have to rest. I'll be able to think more clearly then. He administered the hypospray the doctor had given him to help him sleep. Quickly he succumbed to its effects, but it was not a peaceful slumber.
Jack Garvic was in a shuttle. Klaxons rang. Smoke billowed from the panel in front of him, making it difficult to see the controls. The shuttle shook violently.
"ACTIVATE THE IMPULSE BUFFER RELAYS!" a familiar voice screamed.
"Ramey?" The smoke stung Jack's eyes.
"DO IT NOW!"
"Ramey, where are you?" Jack called out. He stood and placed a hand on the pilot's shoulder.
"Jack, what have you done to me?" asked Ramey. The accusation in Ramey's eyes shocked Jack. He felt the shuttle slam--
Jack shot up in his bed. He inhaled a wheezing breath. Realization slammed into him -- "Gods, I'm just like Paris!"
Garvic got up and put on his uniform, but felt none of his usual pride in wearing it. He did not deserve to wear it. He left his cabin and walked aimlessly through the deserted corridors. His wanderings led him to the hydroponics bay. You're a real glutton for punishment, he thought as he entered. "What am I going to do?" he muttered under his breath.
"Is there anything I can help you with, Lieutenant?" Kes' voice came out from behind a rack of potted plants.
"Kes!" Jack jumped. "What are you doing here so early? It can't be 0500 yet."
"My shift in sickbay begins at 0600, so I thought I'd check on some of the plants before reporting for duty," she replied softly. She sensed Garvic struggling with something.
"Oh. I just have a lot on my mind. I couldn't sleep."
"I understand, Lieutenant. I come here too when something is troubling me. Often the answer is right in front of me."
Garvic nodded. He knew what he had to do. He walked towards the door.
"If you ever want to talk, you know where to find me."
Jack left hydroponics and went directly to Tuvok's quarters. He did not hesitate before he rang the chime. Tuvok responded promptly.
"Lieutenant Garvic, it is 0500 hours. Is there something I may assist you with?"
"I apologize for waking you so early, but I want to revise my statement regarding the shuttle accident."
"You did not wake me, Lieutenant," said Tuvok to Garvic. "I have just been accepting the reports of Ensign Hudson and Ensign Cavelle. In another moment, I would have summoned you here as well. Ensign Cavelle has confessed to assault upon Lieutenant Paris. I understand you are also involved." Tuvok stood aside and indicated a chair. "Please be seated."
Garvic glanced around shakily, his resolve ebbing away. "Am I under arrest?"
"For the moment, no. But you can be sure I will be investigating this matter fully. Such behavior will not be tolerated on this ship. Ensign Hudson, escort Ensign Cavelle to the brig, then return to your quarters, where you will remain restricted until further notice. Do you understand?"
Garvic exchanged glances with Cavelle as he passed, but couldn't read anything in his eyes. What had Cavelle said? How much did Tuvok know or guess? The doors hissed shut behind them.
"And now, Lieutenant," continued Tuvok, "I should like to know why you downloaded the critical files concerning the shuttlecraft accident into your personal database yesterday."
Tuvok saw a flash of panic flare in Garvic's eyes. So my suspicions are correct, he thought. Lieutenant Garvic is hiding something.
Oh Gods, thought Garvic, his brain moving ahead at warp speed. What do I tell him? Should I confess it all now and get it over with? Ramey's laughing face came to mind but it was quickly superimposed with Paris' face, who seemed to be laughing at Garvic and saying, You'll never win, Garvic. I'll always be one step ahead of you.
Jack took a deep breath, pushing the angry thoughts aside and striving for a cool head. Looking steadily at the Vulcan security officer, he said, "Sir, I downloaded those files because I was afraid I might have missed something in my report to the captain. I was still a little wobbly from the surgery when she questioned me and I wanted to make sure I had gotten my facts straight."
"And did you get your facts straight, Lieutenant?"
Garvic felt the panic rising again. What to say? What to say? "I, uh, sir, that's what I came to talk to you about. I had something further to add to my report." Jack thought furiously. What? What could he say to make this believable?
"I would be most interested to hear what you have to say, Lieutenant."
Tuvok was looking at him with those unreadable eyes. What's he thinking? wondered Garvic. Does he believe me? "Sir, it's -- it's more of a personal observation than anything that would be of help to the investigation," said Garvic nervously, as he tried to cover all bases while wondering what Marcos Cavelle had told Tuvok.
"Does this perhaps concern the animosity you have shown toward Lieutenant Paris?" asked Tuvok with his usual Vulcan straightforwardness.
Garvic grasped onto that like a lifeline. "Yes, sir. "I'm afraid Paris and I exchanged words during the flight."
"Do you believe that this distracted Mr. Paris enough to cause the grave error in his piloting?"
"I-I'm not sure, sir. I think his taking the buffer relays off line may have been a direct result of his anger due to our conversation."
"I shall note your remarks in my updated report to the captain this morning," Tuvok advised. "With regards to the incident in hydroponics last night, I must ask, Lieutenant, if you had any prior knowledge of the actions that Ensign Cavelle took against Lieutenant Paris?"
Garvic didn't even have to act this time. He let his appalled reaction shine through. "No, sir, I didn't. I appreciate that he's been a good friend to me but when he contacted me, I went to hydroponics with the express purpose of putting a stop to it."
"Why did you not report the incident, Lieutenant?"
Garvic shrugged. "Lieutenant Paris seemed to have it under control. I felt it was his prerogative on what action he wished to take."
"As I stated before, Lieutenant, such actions will not be tolerated on this ship. This incident will go on your record. Please report to duty as usual today. The captain or commander may wish to speak to you later after I have made my report to them."
Tuvok watched as the lieutenant exited his quarters. Turning toward his desk, he said, "Computer, track Lieutenant Jack Garvic's motions on this ship from this time forward. Keep me apprised of his activities at all times."
Tuvok sat at his desk and pulled up a personnel file. Jack Garvic's personnel file. It wasn't long before he found a past connection between Tom Paris and Jack Garvic, one that Tuvok was fairly certain Tom Paris was unaware of. Perhaps Lieutenant Torres had been correct in her belief that Lieutenant Paris was not responsible for the accident. Tuvok would continue to compile the evidence; however, at the moment, the other parties involved in the previous evening's incident in hydroponics needed to be questioned before he met with the captain.
I finally don't have any nightmares and I wake up at 0530! Tom thought as he walked into the mess hall. Despite the late night and early hour, Tom felt rested. He entered into Neelix's domain and saw that Neelix was the only other occupant.
"Tom! My first customer of the day!" Neelix called from the galley.
More like first victim! Tom smiled, until he smelled leola root burning. His eyes opened wide in surprise. He pivoted on his heel and ran straight into B'Elanna.
"Tom," she asked, "what are you doing here so early? It's only 0530."
He grinned at her, "I could almost kiss Neelix!"
"It must have been the burning leola root," Tom's smile grew wider, making his eyes twinkle. "B'Elanna, I REMEMBER something!"
Tom grabbed B'Elanna's arm and was about to pull her over to a nearby table when he noticed Harry entering the mess hall right behind her.
"Did you just say you remembered something?" Harry asked excitedly. Tom nodded and headed over to the table, B'Elanna in tow and Harry right behind them. B'Elanna, momentarily distracted by the impact Tom's expressive blue eyes had on her, didn't even realize he had her arm and was pulling her with him.
"So what have you remembered?" she asked impatiently after they sat down. She absently pushed a few stray hairs away from her face. The gesture caused Tom to look at her more closely and he noticed with dismay that there were dark circles under her eyes. He looked at Harry and saw that he, too, was looking like he hadn't gotten any sleep. He eyed them both suspiciously.
"PLEASE tell me you two weren't up all night working on that holodeck program for the re-enactment?" he asked. He was appalled at the thought of his two friends spending a sleepless night on his behalf when he had actually been able to get some sleep. But one look at them and he knew that was exactly how they had spent the night.
Harry, a slightly sheepish look on his face, merely shrugged, but B'Elanna defiantly answered, "Don't worry about us, Paris. We've all gone without sleep before. I, for one, just want to get to the bottom of this. So TELL US what you remembered!" she practically growled her demand.
Tom bit back the reply he wanted to make. He knew it wasn't wise to provoke a tired, grumpy Klingon -- well, it really wasn't wise to provoke a Klingon under any circumstances -- although that knowledge usually hadn't stopped him before. This time he was too excited about the prospect of his memory returning to sidetrack any longer. Before he could begin, however, they were distracted by the swoosh of the mess hall doors. Looking up they saw Tuvok enter.
"We should probably invite Tuvok over to hear this," suggested Harry.
"Actually, there's quite a bit we should probably tell Tuvok about," B'Elanna commented dryly.
"Looks like we don't need to extend an invitation," Tom noted as they watched Tuvok approach them. "I really don't want to get into what happened last night in hydroponics, okay?" he whispered. His friends nodded silently, although Harry didn't look too happy about it.
"Morning, Tuvok!" Tom greeted the security officer brightly.
The lieutenant solemnly greeted the young officers. "Good morning, Lieutenants, Ensign. It is fortuitous that I ran into the three of you. It has been brought to my attention that some unsettling events have occurred recently, which I believe you are already aware of." His eyes slowly swept over the group.
Harry fidgeted nervously. B'Elanna met Tuvok's gaze for a moment before looking away. Tom shook his head and snorted, "If you're talking about Sandrine's, Tuvok, nothing happened. It was just a little . . . disagreement. People were blowing off steam, that's all. I told Hudson I wasn't going to press charges and I haven't changed my mind, if that's why you're here."
The security officer looked steadily at Tom. "According to Ensign Simms' report, Lieutenant, Ensign Cavelle was clearly attempting to provoke you and possibly incite a riot in Sandrine's. This is unacceptable behavior for a Starfleet officer and should not be tolerated. May I ask, Mr. Paris, why you chose not to press charges?"
Tom sighed and answered indifferently, "Look, Tuvok, I didn't think it was that big of a deal. People are always making their opinion of me very clear. Cavelle is just one in a long line."
"Perhaps if Ensign Cavelle had spent the night in the brig or confined to quarters as he should have, you would not have been attacked and rendered unconscious later that evening."
Someone gasped; Tom didn't know who. For once, Tom Paris did not have a quick retort. He hadn't considered that Tuvok would know about the hydroponics fiasco, at least not yet. He closed his eyes briefly and with a mental sigh thought, Why do I even bother? When he opened them again he looked directly at Tuvok. "How did you find out about that?"
"Ensigns Hudson and Cavelle paid me a visit earlier this morning. They were quite anxious to report the incident. I cannot help wondering why none of you felt the same need." The Vulcan made this statement calmly, but they could hear the censure in his voice.
Harry swallowed nervously. He KNEW they should have reported it right away. At the time it seemed perfectly acceptable to let Tom handle it, but how could he explain THAT to the security officer?
B'Elanna, on the other hand, was finding it hard to keep her patience in check. Starfleet protocol had its place, she knew, but sometimes following the strict guidelines only seemed to complicate a situation that could be handled much more efficiently and effectively OUTSIDE the realm of regulations. Fortunately, before she had the opportunity to vent her opinions on the matter, the mess hall doors opened again and Captain Janeway entered. She nodded to them before heading towards Neelix. The captain's appearance had a sobering effect on the group.
Harry hesitantly asked Tuvok, "Does the captain know about all this?"
"I sent her my report before I came here. I do not know if she has read it yet."
"I don't think she has. I'm sure she wouldn't be in such a good mood if she had," B'Elanna observed.
Tuvok excused himself to go greet the captain and Tom heaved a sigh of relief at the temporary reprieve. He looked at the others and said with a grim smile, "I think this is where the ride starts to get a little bumpy."
"WE haven't done anything wrong," B'Elanna stated indignantly.
"Other than not reporting the attack on Tom," Harry muttered. He looked at Tom. "On a brighter note, will you please tell us what it was you remembered? I'd like to think that SOMETHING good is going to come out of all this!"
Kathryn was talking with Neelix while waiting for his better-than-coffee substitute to finish brewing when Tuvok approached them. She had just stepped out of the shower when she had received the call from Tuvok requesting a meeting. He hadn't gone into any detail. His report had arrived just as she was leaving her quarters and she had decided to review it while she ate breakfast in her ready room.
"Mr. Tuvok! And how are you this fine morning?" Neelix greeted him exuberantly. Kathryn wondered how anyone could possibly be so cheerful so early in the morning.
"I am quite well, Mr. Neelix. Thank you for inquiring." He turned to Kathryn. "Good morning, Captain," he said respectfully.
"Good morning, Tuvok. I didn't expect to see you before our meeting."
"Have you had an opportunity to read my report?" he inquired.
She shook her head and confided wryly, "Would you believe the doctor has ORDERED me to eat breakfast before I officially start my day?"
"That's right, Captain," Neelix interjected. "The doctor and I researched the number of days you've gone without breakfast and sometimes even lunch or dinner. Did you know that sometimes you go two days without eating anything? That is a very unhealthy habit, especially for someone with your responsibilities," he chided. "And, remember, you have to set a good example for the rest of the crew. If you're not going to look after yourself then we'll just have to do it for you. Breakfast will be right up!"
Kathryn stared after the Talaxian in stunned silence as he bustled around the kitchen preparing breakfast plates for the officers. Only Neelix would speak to her like that and not think anything of it. In a way, it was rather refreshing. She shook her head and chuckled.
Tuvok waited until Neelix had given them their breakfasts and had moved on to the younger officers before summarizing the events of the previous night. Kathryn felt her hunger disappear and her anger grow as she listened in disbelief to the activities that had taken place. On her ship. With her crew. She glanced at the table of younger officers. They were watching her but quickly looked away. Kathryn took a slow deep breath before indicating to Tuvok that he should follow her. She walked over to the trio's table, arms crossed over her chest, disappointment, anger, and concern all reflected on her features. She knew they were waiting for her to speak. She just wasn't sure where to start. She looked at Tom. He stood up.
She held up her hand to stop him. "How is your head, Lieutenant?" she asked dryly.
"Hard as ever, Captain," he quipped with a slight smile. "I'm fine," he added when he saw her expression. She was so hard to read sometimes. "B'Elanna checked me over with a medical tricorder last night."
Kathryn rewarded B'Elanna with a sour look. "Really? I wouldn't be so sure. I think that all this recent trauma to your head has severely affected your judgment." She looked at Harry and B'Elanna. "But I cannot for the life of me figure out what YOUR excuse could be!" Kathryn was pleased to see that Harry was looking rather mortified. It's so much easier when they're young, she thought.
Neelix chose that moment to reappear. He handed the captain the coffee cup she had left in the kitchen and then slowly walked around the table refilling everyone's coffee. Kathryn realized he was hovering. She also realized that the mess hall was not the place to conduct this meeting. Glancing at Neelix, she nodded her thanks and then turned back to the table.
"Captain, Tom has regained part of his memory," B'Elanna offered quickly, before the captain could say anything. "We were just going to fill Tuvok in when you arrived."
Harry added enthusiastically, "And we've come up with a plan to help him remember the rest of it."
Kathryn tried to maintain her stern expression as she looked at her young officers. She was angry about what had taken place and yet she could almost understand why they hadn't wanted to report it. She needed to hear the whole story. The question was -- would they ever really KNOW the whole story? How had so many people become involved in this?
"All right. We will reconvene in the conference room in one half hour. Mr. Paris, you are to report to sickbay right after you finish your breakfast. I want the doctor to tell me that your head is really as hard as you seem to think it is." Tom nodded unhappily. She turned to Tuvok. "I believe it's time for our meeting. I want Chakotay there as well." Tuvok nodded his acknowledgment. Without another word the captain turned on her heel and headed towards the door.
She stopped in barely contained frustration when Neelix hailed her. He scurried over to her with her breakfast in hand. "Captain, don't forget your breakfast. I wouldn't want to have to report you to the doctor."
Kathryn glared at him, but he had already turned back towards the kitchen.
"He actually knocked Tom out and dragged him to the hydroponics bay?!" Chakotay exclaimed incredulously. "And just what did he intend to do to Tom once he got him there?" he questioned Tuvok. "And why?"
"I am not entirely clear on the ensign's motivation. He is a friend of Mr. Garvic's and seemed to believe that the Lieutenant had some unfinished business with Mr. Paris. Ensign Cavelle has claimed full responsibility for the incident and has stated that Mr. Garvic was not aware of his intentions until he joined them in the hydroponics bay." Tuvok filled the commander in on the rest of the
Chakotay was shaking his head in disbelief as the security chief finished. "And none of them was even going to report this?" he asked. He looked questioningly first at Tuvok and then the captain.
The captain rose from her chair and walked around to sit on the edge of her desk. "I'd like to believe that they would have come forward eventually." Tuvok raised an eyebrow and Kathryn smiled at the doubting Vulcan. "We're still missing some important details. I'd like to at least give them the benefit of the doubt."
At that moment the captain's communicator chirped and the doctor's voice announced, "Sickbay to Captain Janeway. Please turn to the emergency medical channel." Janeway complied and the image of the holographic doctor appeared on the monitor.
"Captain, I have just completed examining Lieutenant Paris and have given him a clean bill of health. Other than a slight contusion on his head he has suffered no serious injury. The headache and dizziness he experienced for a short time after the accident have dissipated." He paused and then continued dryly, "Perhaps, Captain, Mr. Paris should be ordered to wear a helmet if he continues to encounter situations which cause his head to be traumatized."
"Thank you, Doctor. But I don't think we have a material that's stronger than Mr. Paris' head seems to be," the captain replied wryly before deactivating the monitor. She turned back to Chakotay. "Tom, B'Elanna, and Harry will be joining us in the conference room in a few minutes. I want to hear their side of all this. Apparently Tom has remembered something from the accident and they've come up with a plan that could help him remember even more."
"Perhaps the trauma to Mr. Paris' head has stimulated the memories," commented Tuvok.
Chakotay replied, "Well, I certainly hope this plan to help Tom remember doesn't involve more blows to his head."
"That would not be a wise course of action, Commander," Tuvok gravely replied.
Kathryn and Chakotay exchanged a look and with a barely contained smile the captain nodded and said evenly, "You're absolutely right, Tuvok."
Chakotay picked up the padd containing Tuvok's report and skimmed over it. "Why are Cavelle and Garvic so upset about this shuttle accident? I know Tom and Jack have had problems before but this just doesn't make sense."
"I believe I have information that may help explain the animosity Mr. Garvic has towards Mr. Paris," Tuvok offered, "and the subsequent behavior that has taken place." Kathryn and Chakotay looked at him questioningly and he proceeded to fill them in on the discovery found in Lieutenant Garvic's personnel file. He concluded with his conversation that morning with Garvic regarding the shuttle accident. Silence filled the ready room after Tuvok completed his report. Kathryn walked over to the replicator and ordered a cup of real coffee. She needed it. Neelix's better-than-coffee substitute would just not suffice.
Chakotay said slowly, "I'm surprised it's taken two years for this to surface. That's a long time to be carrying this around." He looked at Kathryn. Her eyes were troubled and he knew she was wishing once again that they had a certified counselor on board.
But all she said was, "It's time for our meeting," and after one last drink of coffee she set the cup down and strode out the ready room doors. The men shared a brief look before following her.
While Tom was enduring yet another exam in sickbay, Harry and B'Elanna returned to their respective quarters to shower and change uniforms. The three met up again in the turbolift on the way to the bridge. Although filled with trepidation, Tom tried to maintain a calm, nonchalant demeanor, if only for Harry's sake. He already felt guilty enough as it was, getting his friends involved in this mess he called his life. They had nothing to do with the shuttle crash or Caldik Prime, and yet they were being affected by those events almost as much as he was. It wasn't fair and he hoped that this re-enactment plan worked so he would know once and for all what had really happened. Dealing with it afterwards was another matter, but at least he would know the truth. Then there was the situation with Garvic and the references to Caldik Prime. That was something else he had to get to the bottom of.
They arrived at the conference room right on time and the captain began immediately by reading Tuvok's report covering the events in Sandrine's and the hydroponics bay.
"Do any of you have anything to add to this report?" she asked, her gaze sweeping across the three of them and finally settling on Tom.
"Captain," Tom started, "I know that technically we should have reported what happened. But to be honest, I really didn't think that what happened at Sandrine's was that big of a deal. It's no secret that there are people on board who don't like me or trust me and who don't think I should be wearing this uniform. They have a right to their opinion. I'm just glad not everyone agrees with them." He looked appreciatively at Harry and B'Elanna. "All it was, really, was an angry exchange of words. Ensigns Simms and Hudson put a stop to it before anything got out of hand and I thought that was the end of it for the night." He paused and looked down at the table so he didn't see Harry and B'Elanna share a knowing look. "I went back to my quarters and was ready to go to bed when my door chimed. When no one answered I stepped out the door and the next thing I knew I was waking up in the hydroponics bay." Tom shook his head at the memory and looked up again at the captain. She had noticed Harry and B'Elanna's look and turned her attention to them.
"Do you agree with Mr. Paris' description of the events in Sandrine's?"
B'Elanna glanced quickly at Tom before answering the captain. "Actually, Captain, Harry and I were a little concerned that Cavelle would try something later. I've known Marcos for a long time and he has always been . . . hot-tempered. But I never really thought he'd pull a stunt like this."
"It was very fortunate that the two of you arrived when you did. Especially considering the lateness of the hour," observed the security officer.
Harry nodded, "It WAS lucky. B'Elanna had just woken me up with her idea for helping Tom remember and we wanted to ask him about it." He told them how they had determined Tom's location and what they had surmised. "So I called Ensign Hudson and, well, you know the rest."
Tuvok turned his attention back to Tom. "Was Lieutenant Garvic present when you awoke?" he queried.
Tom shifted his gaze to meet Tuvok's. "No. It was just Cavelle and me at first. He said . . ." Tom stopped suddenly, remembering the odd conversation they had had before the others had arrived.
"Go on, Tom," the captain encouraged softly.
His brow furrowed in confusion, he repeated Cavelle's references to Caldik Prime and Tom owing Garvic. "But I didn't even know Garvic before Voyager." He sighed. "The only thing I can figure is that Garvic was connected somehow to one of the people I ki-- one of the victims at Caldik Prime."
Everyone in the room knew he had nearly said "the people I killed" and it made Kathryn even more resolved to get to the bottom of the shuttle accident. Knowing what she knew now, she was fairly certain that Tom was not to blame, at least not directly, and she didn't want him carrying around any more guilt than he already did.
Clearly puzzled, Chakotay asked him, "So why didn't you report the attack? Putting aside Starfleet regulations, what if he had come after you again? It sounds like he's a loose cannon."
Tom looked around the table. "I thought--" he started and then stopped, realizing he couldn't expect the others to understand, but he had to at least try. With a sigh he began again, "I know this probably won't make much sense to any of you. And you should know that B'Elanna, Harry, and Mikel all wanted to report it. It was my decision and they respected it. It's just that after what Marcos said and I saw the look in Garvic's eyes, I felt it was a personal issue. If all of this is because of what happened at Caldik Prime then I'm responsible. So many people have already been hurt because of it. I didn't want someone else's career or life messed up because of what I had done. Mikel showed up and I felt he would know how to handle Marcos. Obviously he's been a good influence or else Marcos probably wouldn't have turned himself in." He looked at Janeway beseechingly. "Captain, I was hoping I could talk to Garvic and resolve this without it affecting anyone's record."
Kathryn was quiet for a moment. She stood up and began pacing behind her chair. "Tom, I understand the personal nature of this situation. But you have to understand that, now more than ever, we need to adhere to Starfleet regulations and protocols. I am not about to allow vigilante justice to rule this ship. I don't care if it's a personal or professional dispute, crewmembers don't decide how to punish one another." She placed her hands on the table and leaned in. "Next time," she began, but paused a moment before she said softly, "and I sincerely hope there is no next time," her voice gained strength as she finished the order, "next time, you report the incident. Is that clear?"
They nodded silently in acknowledgment. The captain held their gaze an extra heartbeat before sitting down and relaxing slightly. She stole a quick look at Tuvok who imperceptibly nodded his approval.
"Let's move on to the shuttle crash, then. Tom, tell us what you've remembered."
Tom unconsciously sat up straighter as he leaned forward. "I don't know if what I remembered this morning is going to help solve the mystery, but I'm hoping it's a positive sign that I'll get my memory back." He took a deep breath and started slowly. "I've been getting flashes of things the past couple of days, but this morning I remembered what happened a few minutes before we went down. I knew we were going to crash and I remember telling Garvic to send out the distress call. He tried, but his console was dead. I could smell something burning and the next thing I knew, Garvic's console exploded. I was burned too, but my console was still partially operational. The last thing I remember is trying to maintain some sort of control before we hit the surface." He leaned back, shaking his head in frustration. "Now if I could only remember what happened just a few minutes BEFORE that, we'd probably know whether or not I
really didn't activate the impulse buffer relays."
Kathryn smiled at her pilot. "Well, I agree. This is a good sign that you'll eventually regain all of your memory." She looked at B'Elanna and Harry. "Now what is this plan you have to help Tom remember the rest?" She stole a quick glance at Chakotay as she remembered his earlier suggestion.
B'Elanna noticed the captain's look and Chakotay's returned smile and noted to herself that she would have to ask him later what THAT was all about. She put that little puzzle aside for the moment as she began explaining their re-enactment plan, with Harry filling in some of the details during her report. "We've already programmed the holodeck so we can run it anytime," she concluded and looked expectantly at the captain.
Kathryn was nodding her approval before B'Elanna had even finished. She looked at Tom. "Do you feel you're up to this, Mr. Paris?" she inquired, concerned that the re-enactment could prove to be too overwhelming for the young man after everything he'd been through recently. He was nodding earnestly.
"Absolutely, Captain. This not knowing what happened is even worse than knowing that I made a horrible mistake. I just want to find out the truth."
Janeway looked at Tuvok and Chakotay. "So what are we waiting for?" asked the commander.
Janeway gave a small smile. They were all anxious for this to be over. If Tuvok's theory were correct, this re-enactment could prove to be more enlightening than the younger officers had even imagined. But it was the aftermath that Kathryn was most concerned about.
"Tuvok, please notify Lieutenant Garvic and Ensigns Simms, Hudson, and Lamont that they are to report to Holodeck One in 20 minutes."
Tom, B'Elanna and Harry quickly exited the conference room while Tuvok followed at a more sedate pace. Chakotay remained behind. Kathryn looked at him expectantly.
"Captain, I'd like to speak to Ensign Cavelle. I know it's been harder for him than for some of the other Maquis to adapt. I'm not trying to excuse his behavior. I just want to find out why he did it and maybe find a way to help him." He looked at the captain and saw the understanding in her eyes.
She nodded slowly. "I'll still need to determine a suitable punishment. I can't let something like this go by without taking action." She paused. "And if we're right about Garvic . . ." She let the sentence hang in the air. Kathryn sighed and looked grimly at her first officer. "Who would have thought a shuttle accident could have so many repercussions?"
It was meant to be a rhetorical question but it suddenly occurred to Chakotay that he didn't know which shuttle accident she was referring to. He looked at Kathryn and suddenly the irony hit her.
"Tom Paris might," the captain answered her own question softly as Chakotay nodded.
Marcos sat on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands. He had spent the past couple of hours in the brig re-living the previous night. What had he been thinking? Even on the Maquis ship, Chakotay would never have tolerated what he had done. And Mikel, what must HE be thinking? They hadn't been together for very long and yet Mikel had stood by him. Even after Marcos had done just about everything Mikel not only detested but was charged with safeguarding against.
What an odd couple they made.
Marcos looked up as the softly spoken command pulled him out of his reverie. He hadn't even heard Chakotay walk in. With a resigned sigh Marcos stood up and approached the forcefield that separated them. He cringed inwardly at the look of disappointment he saw in the commander's eyes. It was the same look that had been in Mikel's. He had been prepared for anger and hostility but not this abject disappointment. Knowing he had let down two of the people he respected most only served to make him feel worse than he already did.
They stared at each other silently. Finally, Chakotay spoke.
"What's going on here, Marcos? Just what the hell were you thinking when you decided to attack Paris and drag him off to hydroponics? Were you going to kill him and leave him for Kes to find in the morning?" The terseness in his voice was the only indication of the anger he was trying to contain.
"No! I wasn't going to kill him, Chakotay, I wasn't. I didn't even plan on knocking him out." Agitated, he started pacing around his cell. "I went to his quarters to talk to him and . . . and I saw him . . . and suddenly I had hit him and he was on the floor!" Marcos looked at Chakotay helplessly. "The next thing I knew we were in hydroponics. I don't even remember exactly how I got him there."
"Why did you go to his quarters to begin with?"
"Because I wanted him to know what he'd done to Jack!" he exclaimed.
"And what exactly DID Paris do to Lieutenant Garvic?" Chakotay asked, already knowing the answer. "I'd really like to know what it was that made you decide to be judge, jury and executioner."
Marcos winced at his tone and choice of words. Hesitantly he answered, "It's something he told me in confidence, Commander. I don't know if it's my place to--"
"I think this has gone beyond keeping confidences, Ensign. You verbally and physically assaulted a senior officer -- for no apparent reason as far as I can see. So unless you have a damn good reason you'd better plan on spending the next 70 years in this cell!" Chakotay snapped.
Marcos knew this had gone too far to stay a secret anymore. He had never understood why Jack hadn't made this public knowledge to begin with. Nodding to himself he looked at Chakotay. "This has to do with Caldik Prime," he began. Chakotay kept his expression neutral. "All I know is Jack's best friend, Ramey, was on the shuttle Paris crashed. Ramey died and Paris lived. Maybe if Ramey had been piloting that shuttle he'd still be here and Paris would be dead. Who knows? The point is, Paris got away with murder while Jack's life was nearly ruined." Marcos snorted. "So Paris got kicked out of Starfleet. Big deal. Now he's a senior officer and piloting Voyager. But he's still the same, Chakotay. He nearly killed everyone on board that shuttle the other day because of his stupid hot-dogging stunts and yet he's STILL being allowed to pilot this ship!"
Marcos could hear his voice rising and felt the anger and hatred resurfacing. He took a deep breath to calm himself. Meanwhile, Chakotay watched him silently. In a quieter voice Marcos continued, "Look, you don't have to remind me he's gotten us out of some tight spots before. I know that. It's been pointed out to me often enough the last 24 hours. I just don't think it justifies having someone so careless at the helm. I don't trust him and I don't know how you can either."
Chakotay stared at him with narrowed eyes. "And if it turns out Paris wasn't responsible for the crash? Then what? Then would it be acceptable for him to be at the helm?"
"But he WAS responsible! Jack told you that! Why do you believe Paris and not Garvic?" Marcos cried in frustration.
"Because we have new evidence that indicates Lieutenant Paris may not have been responsible for the accident," Chakotay stated matter-of-factly and watched Marcos closely for his reaction.
Slowly the import of what Chakotay had said hit Marcos. His bewilderment turned to horror. "Jack's been lying? All along?" he asked in disbelief.
Chakotay shook his head. "What he told you about his friend at Caldik Prime was true. But as for the accident the other day, well, we should know more in a little while." He pinned Marcos with an implacable stare. "Regardless of what Garvic may or may not have done, YOUR actions have been completely reprehensible." Marcos looked away guiltily. "This isn't the first time your temper has gotten you into trouble, Marcos. It may have served you well in the Maquis but it has no place here."
"I know, I know," Marcos interrupted. "Mikel and Tuvok have already made that perfectly clear." Frustrated, he continued, "I realize I have to work on controlling my temper. Most of the time I'm fine, but once in a while something will set me off and I don't even realize what I've said or done until it's too late."
"Then maybe Tuvok could work with you to help you learn how to control your anger. His sessions with Suder proved very positive. That is assuming you want to stay on board Voyager?"
Marcos looked at him. He had considered the possibility he might be put off the ship, and that thought had made him realize how much he wanted to be a part of this ship and crew. Of course he wanted to get home, but it was more than that. He answered the commander with the utmost sincerity, "Yes, sir, I would like to stay on Voyager if I have that choice. If Tuvok thinks he can help me then I guess I'm willing to try."
With a small smile Chakotay nodded his approval. "I'm glad to hear you say that. We'll continue this later after I've spoken with the captain and Tuvok." He exited the brig and headed towards the holodeck.
Janeway, Tuvok, and Paris examined the monitor as B'Elanna and Harry quickly ran them through the holoprogram they had created for the simulation. When they had finished, Janeway nodded her approval and was about to speak when the sound of the opening holodeck door drew their attention. Lieutenant Garvic and Ensigns Simms, Lamont, and Hudson entered the holodeck, all looking rather puzzled as to why they had been summoned there.
Addressing the new arrivals, Kathryn Janeway said, "Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Torres have created a simulation of the shuttle crash with the information they have available to them. We'd like to try a re-enactment in the hopes that it will jog Mr. Paris' memory. We'll be relying heavily on you, Mr. Garvic, to keep the simulation as close to actual events as possible."
Jack stared at the captain, barely managing to keep the dismayed look off his face. It was one thing to keep up with the lies as he had been doing, but to have to go through a simulation of the accident -- could he do it without slipping up? He took a deep breath as he realized he didn't have a choice. "Of course, Captain," he agreed. "I'll do my best."
"Shall we begin then?" said Janeway.
"Commander Chakotay has not yet arrived," pointed out Tuvok.
"He should be here shortly," replied Janeway. "I think we can go ahead and get started without him. Lieutenant? Ensign?" Janeway turned to Torres and Kim, indicating they should proceed.
"Computer," instructed B'Elanna, "activate Program Torres Shuttle 1A." The shuttle bay and the shuttle they had used the day of the crash appeared.
As Tom passed by Harry and B'Elanna on his way to enter the shuttle, Harry reached out and gave Tom's shoulder a reassuring squeeze along with an encouraging smile. Tom's return smile was weak, apprehension clearly visible in his eyes for a brief moment before he hid it away. B'Elanna, however, caught a glimpse of that apprehension before he concealed it and wished there was something she could say or do, but Tom was past them and entering the shuttle before she had a chance to act.
Inside the shuttle, Tom and Jack Garvic assumed their positions as pilot and co-pilot. Simms, Lamont, and Hudson took their seats in preparation for the takeoff.
"We've programmed the simulation to be interactive," explained Harry as the rest of the party crowded into the back of the shuttle to observe. "Since we're not fully aware of what happened," Garvic looked up sharply at this and was relieved to see nobody was watching him, "we'll let the simulation react to your actions. If anything should occur incorrectly, we can halt the simulation and insert the correct information before proceeding." Harry looked at Jack Garvic as he said this last part, but strangely enough, Garvic, an intent unreadable expression on his face, was focused on Paris. Harry and B'Elanna shared a knowing look. Something was up with Garvic. But what?
"Very good, Ensign," approved Janeway. Turning to Paris and Garvic, she said, "Anytime you gentlemen are ready."
Nodding, Tom turned to the controls, running through the preflight checklist just as he had the day of the crash. Outwardly, he appeared calm, but inside he was a bundle of nerves.
Tom spared a brief glance in Garvic's direction. He recalled thinking at the time of the original launch that given Garvic's recent resentful attitude toward him, he would have been happier if Garvic had been one of the passengers rather than co-pilot. Regulations, however, required that under normal conditions there be a pilot and co-pilot present and since Garvic had been the only other ranking officer aboard the shuttle who had some previous flight experience, he was automatically in as co-pilot. Tom mentally shrugged, turning his attention back to the helm and the simulation. He signaled the bridge his readiness for launch. The simulation inserted Commander Chakotay's voice giving the clearance for launch. In moments, the occupants of the shuttle found themselves flying through space, moving away from Voyager and toward the distant planet.
Hudson looked at Simms and Lamont. All three of them were tense, wondering what the outcome would be of this re-enactment. They rose from their seats and headed for the cargo hold, just as they had on the day of the crash.
Jack Garvic nearly panicked at that moment. This was where he had begun his conversation with Paris, trying to goad him into a reaction. He certainly couldn't say what he had said that day, but he also knew if Paris were indeed starting to remember things, it might be best to keep it as close to what had actually happened as possible. But then again, that could jar Paris' memory. Jack could feel the sweat breaking out on his forehead and had to resist the urge to wipe it away.
Tom stole a look at Garvic out of the corner of his eye. Something was wrong here. He could feel it. But what? Garvic looked nervous and he wasn't saying anything. Tom sent a puzzled look back in B'Elanna's and Harry's direction, his eyes clearly conveying his confusion as to how to proceed. Harry shrugged slightly and B'Elanna was so intent on scowling in Garvic's direction she completely missed Tom's glance in their direction. Tom, a slight smile playing about his mouth at B'Elanna's expression, turned back to the helm controls. It felt good knowing he had friends in his corner, regardless of the outcome.
Chakotay entered at that moment, saying nothing but sending a nod in Janeway's direction as he came to a standstill next to B'Elanna.
"Lieutenant Garvic," said Janeway, "perhaps if you tell us what happened next? Lieutenant Paris clearly does not remember."
His mind in a turmoil, Jack tried his best to keep up with the simulation. He hadn't missed the smile on Paris' face. Damn the man! Even after all that had occurred, he still obviously felt no remorse. His voice flat with suppressed anger, Garvic said, "Lieutenant Paris and I didn't speak much at first. The lieutenant just flew the shuttle. It was only when he made a course change that I spoke up."
"Course change?" quizzed Janeway.
"Yes, he deviated from the scheduled flight plan. I didn't see anything in our path that needed to be detoured around and when I questioned Paris on it, he said a flight straight down to the planet was too boring and that this would be a good chance to practice some flight maneuvers he had been working on."
It sounded plausible to Tom. Problem was, he didn't remember any of that and it didn't feel right. Something was missing. He didn't know how he knew but he had a very strong feeling Garvic had left something out. However, in the interests of keeping the simulation as on track as possible he changed the shuttle's course to the one Garvic indicated. Tom then threw another helpless glance toward the back of the shuttle. "I'm sorry, Captain. I'm still drawing a complete blank."
Janeway frowned, her concern evident. So far this didn't seem to be prompting the return of any memories for Tom Paris. "Mr. Garvic?" prodded Janeway.
Jack swallowed nervously as he continued with his narration. "Everything was fine," he said, "until we started the flight down toward the planet. When we were nearing the planet's atmosphere and Lieutenant Paris didn't engage the impulse buffer relays, I asked him if he wanted me to activate them. He said we didn't need them, that it would make the flight down more interesting this way. I disagreed and engaged the relays." With that said, Garvic reached forward and activated the impulse buffer relays before continuing. "Lieutenant Paris then proceeded to de-activate the relays."
Tom reached out to perform this task. He de-activated the relays but his hand remained hovering over the controls. This didn't feel right. He looked up to meet Garvic's gaze.
Jack was caught off guard when Paris' confused eyes rose to meet his. He felt like a trapped animal and couldn't drag his eyes from Paris'. Jack watched as the other man's gaze seemed to turn inward. Although Paris was still staring at him, Garvic could see the other man wasn't really seeing him. A stab of fear shot through Garvic as he realized Paris was very likely remembering something about the crash.
Tom was getting disjointed parts of conversations running through his head, and for the most part, it seemed to be Garvic's voice he kept hearing, replaying like a communication stuck in a recurring loop. ". . . had any good Klingons lately? . . . maybe I'll give Torres another try . . . who knows when you'll screw up again? . . . I could end up like Ramos Benton, Noel Howerton, and Claudia Laskow . . . you think you're such a hotshot pilot . . . what happened at Caldik Prime ?"
"NO! DON'T TOUCH THAT!" Tom suddenly blurted out, startling everyone. The simulated shuttle was proceeding down into the planet's atmosphere, shaking its occupants around, but all eyes were trained on Tom Paris as he proceeded to ignore the shuttle's flight and instead turned to face Jack Garvic. Both men's eyes were wide and wary.
"You--" Tom started. He shook his head as images crashed over him. Softly, he said, "I wasn't the one who disengaged the impulse buffer relays. You did. I tried to re-engage them but it was too late."
B'Elanna watched as Tom's face changed from confusion to revelation to anger. Extreme anger. She had never seen that particular expression on his face. As the shuttle continued to be buffeted about, Tom surged up from his seat and grabbed Jack Garvic by his uniform front, hauling him up out of his seat and slamming him against the shuttle wall. "You! You did all this just to get back at me?!" Tom slammed Garvic against the wall again as if to punctuate his outburst. "You could have killed all of us! All because you had a grudge against me!" Tom pulled Jack Garvic close until their faces were mere inches apart and practically snarled in his face. "You let me believe it was my fault!" His voice softened, turning deceptively calm, and it appeared to those present the worst of Tom's temper had passed. "Don't ever imply Caldik Prime was nothing to me. That I didn't care. You're not the only one who lost friends there."
"You started this, Paris," hissed Garvic, hatred shining from his eyes. "You killed my closest friend at Caldik Prime. Ramey was one of the best. Do you have any idea how many lives you ruined besides the three who you killed?"
Tom's face blanched at the mention of Ramos Benton. "If you had cared to ask, Garvic," Tom's voice cracked. "Ramey was a friend. And yeah, my actions killed him. I live with that knowledge every day of my life." Tom pushed Garvic away, disgusted with himself, with Garvic, with the whole thing.
But Jack Garvic, having already proved his judgment was not the best in this area, once more made the wrong move. "Somehow I think Benton, Laskow and Howerton would find that difficult to believe, Paris. You're a spoiled Fleet brat who always got his way and now you've found a new benefactor in Janeway to keep you in the pilot's seat despite your inadequacies. How soon before another of your 'mistakes' kills all of us, huh?"
The shuttle's occupants, including Garvic, were caught off guard when Tom abruptly swung around, slamming Garvic back into the shuttle wall.
Tom's vision turned red. All the frustration of the past few days boiled to the surface. As he pulled his fist back, prepared to strike out at the object of his anger, another strong grip caught hold of his arm. "Don't do this, Lieutenant."
"Let go of me, Chakotay," Tom gritted out, his voice low and tense.
"I know you're angry. You have every right to be, but let the captain handle this."
Tom's vision cleared slowly cleared. He found he still had one hand gripped firmly onto the front of Garvic's uniform as he held him against the shuttle wall. Chakotay stood close to him, restraining his cocked fist. Trembling with long held pent up emotions, Tom slowly uncoiled his fist and released Garvic.
Chakotay felt more than saw Paris back off, but the tension remained in his body and the commander knew that given the slightest excuse, Paris would be back in Jack Garvic's face.
Captain Janeway's voice filled the strained silence. "Computer, pause holoprogram."
The holoprogram came to a standstill, its occupants warily watching the two men face off. Hudson, Simms and Lamont stood in the cargo hold entrance witnessing the scene with an odd mixture of disbelief and relief. Everyone hardly dared breath as Garvic opened his mouth to speak once again.
Captain Janeway, however, beat him to it. Her stern voice cut through the taut atmosphere. "That will be enough, Mr. Garvic! Lieutenant Tuvok, please escort the lieutenant to the brig."
All watched as Tuvok led Garvic from the holodeck. Once Garvic was out of sight, all the fight seem to leave Tom in one breath. The recent shuttle crash blended with the crash at Caldik Prime until the images in his mind were almost more than he could cope with.
Only then did Chakotay feel it was safe to release Paris, who stood there, seemingly dazed. Chakotay backed off as B'Elanna Torres approached Paris. Tentatively, she touched Tom's shoulder.
His eyes, when they lifted to meet hers, were naked with grief, none of the usual shutters in place. Tom sank limply into the shuttle seat. B'Elanna knelt next to him as he stared unseeing out at the holoprojected blackness of space.
Nothing. It was as if he didn't even hear her.
"Tom?" she tried again.
She watched as Tom's eyes briefly closed. He took a deep shuddering breath. Barely audible, he said, "I didn't mean -- I didn't know . . ."
Moving purely on instinct and for once not letting past worries distract her, B'Elanna reached out to Tom, wanting only to comfort him, to let him know she was there for him.
Kathryn Janeway watched her two junior officers in what was obviously a very private moment. Turning to the others, she said, "I think now would be a good time to retreat. We'll talk to Mr. Paris later."
Chakotay, Harry, Hudson, Lamont, and Simms all followed her out of the holodeck. Harry paused in the shuttle's doorway to look back upon his two friends. He wanted to help Tom but had the feeling this was definitely one of those times when too many friends hovering about would overwhelm him. Besides, Harry smiled slightly, this moment really does belong to Tom and B'Elanna. He turned and exited the holodeck, leaving Tom and B'Elanna alone.
Marcos Cavelle watched from his holding cell as Lieutenant Tuvok entered and escorted Garvic to the adjacent cell. Unfortunately, the cells were side by side and Cavelle could no longer see Garvic, but he knew the other man could hear him. He waited until Tuvok had left the area before speaking.
There was no response.
"Jack? What happened? Commander Chakotay said you may have not told the truth about the shuttle crash." Cavelle frowned. Come on, Marcos, think about it, he berated himself. Obviously there was some truth to that; otherwise, why would Jack be in the brig now? When no reply was forthcoming from Jack Garvic, Marcos retreated to the bench in his little corner of the brig, alone with his thoughts.
"Shhh. It's all right," soothed B'Elanna, only controlling her own anger with a great deal of restraint. "You have every right to be upset." She felt another shudder run through Tom's body as he tried to regain control.
"I can't do this anymore." Tom's voice was hushed.
"Can't do what?" asked B'Elanna.
Staring downward at the shuttle's helm controls, he said, "Pretend it doesn't matter. Pretend Caldik Prime isn't always in the back of my mind. Being fearful I'll lose what I've gained here on Voyager. People talking behind my back." He fell silent once more, unwilling or unable to go on.
B'Elanna was shocked to hear him admit to his fears and doubts. It didn't surprise her to hear that these things bothered him more than he let on outwardly; she had been slowly coming to the realization there was a lot more to Thomas Eugene Paris than he let most people see. It stunned her he was admitting to these fears and doubts, and even more, it astonished her he was confiding those fears in her.
"Come on," she said as she pulled him to his feet, not liking the rather shell-shocked look on his face. "Let's go to your quarters."
As they exited the holodeck, it vaguely occurred to B'Elanna to wonder what had become of the others involved in the simulation. She hadn't even heard them leave. That thought didn't linger on her mind for long, though. At that moment, her attention was solely focused on Tom, who walked down the corridor at her side, a wounded expression settling over his face. B'Elanna stayed at his side, determined to see him through this. It didn't even occur to her to question her motives, nor did it occur to her that they were both still on duty. At this moment, Tom came first and foremost. Maybe that was the problem, she mused thoughtfully. Tom had never come first with anyone. Well, that was about to change.
Neither of them said a word until they reached Tom's quarters.
B'Elanna still hadn't figured out what to say, other than platitudes she didn't think Tom would want to hear. As they entered, Tom walked to the couch and sat, still wearing the shell-shocked expression. He glanced out the window, but she didn't think he was really watching the stars of the Delta Quadrant.
"Do you want something to eat?" she asked, not sure what to say or how to help. All she knew was she didn't want to leave him alone, not when he was in this kind of pain. She had the feeling that had happened too many times in his past.
"What?" he asked, turning from the window. It was just as she suspected. His body might be on Voyager, but the rest of him was back in the Alpha Quadrant . . . at Caldik Prime.
"Would you like something to eat?" she asked again. "Tomato soup?" Tom's fondness for the Earth soup was well known. It had something to do with an argument he had with the replicators shortly after he had boarded, before Voyager had come to the Delta Quadrant.
"Uh," Tom said, "no. Thank you, but I'm not really that hungry right now." He turned and stared out the window again.
B'Elanna decided not to press the issue. It wouldn't help either of them.
"It's never going to go away, is it?" he asked suddenly, not turning around. "It's always going to be with me, isn't it?"
B'Elanna didn't need to asked what "it" referred to. "No," she said softly. "I don't think it will." Even if Garvic forgives you, you never will forgive yourself.
"Tom?" she began as she moved toward him, taking the seat next to him on the couch. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but--" she broke off, not sure how to ask the question.
"But what?" he asked.
There was no easy way to say this, so she decided just to ask. "What really happened at Caldik Prime?"
There was no reply for several seconds.
"Tom?" she asked again. "If you don't want to talk about it--"
"No," he said. "That's not it. It's just that--" he paused and started again. There was a small break in his voice. "It's just I haven't really talked about what happened at Caldik Prime." He laughed -- a slight and very bitter chuckle. "Most people seemed to care more about the lies I told after the crash." There was no mistaking the bitterness in his tone.
"There was a huge astro-physics conference at Caldik Prime that Claudia, Noel and seven others were going to. Ramey's sister and her family were living on Caldik Prime at the time, so he was going there to spend some time with them. And I was going there to . . ." he stopped, and stiffened.
"To what?" she asked.
Again came the bitter chuckle. "Plan my wedding," he said in a soft voice.
"Your what?" she asked, unable to stop herself.
He nodded. "Of course that never happened. Ricki dumped me right after the hearing board announced its decision."
"Oh," she said in a soft voice. She half-hoped he would tease her, commenting on her jealous reaction, but he didn't even seem to have noticed it.
"The Exeter had to be at Starbase 15 for the semi-annual inspection," he continued. "I was to take the others to Caldik Prime and then I would have five days of shore leave. I hadn't had any leave longer than forty eight hours in two years and it seemed like a good time to go over all those stupid things that couldn't be decided over subspace."
"You don't sound like you were looking forward to it," B'Elanna commented.
"I was looking forward to seeing Ricki again," he said. "But I could not have cared less about the wedding. Ricki, her family, and my folks were the ones who wanted 'the perfect wedding.'" He snorted slightly. "'The event of year.' That's what it was supposed to be." He broke off again and inhaled deeply. "Anyway, most of the trip from Starbase 15 was uneventful. But when we got there the spaceport authorities said there were a number of storms in the ionosphere and it might be too much for a shuttle of our size to handle. They didn't refuse our request for clearance, it was my choice to go in or to dock at the space station nearby and try again in a few hours." He sighed. "It was clear that's what they thought I should do."
"But you wanted to attempt to land," B'Elanna said.
He nodded. "I wasn't going to let a bunch of ground jockeys tell me what to do," he said. "Besides, I hadn't seen Ricki in four months." He broke off again, then resumed. "The others thought I was crazy," he began. "Noel said I was risking all their lives, but I didn't listen." He snorted. "I thought I could handle anything. I figured I'd just avoid the storms."
"The first storm overtook us less than a minute later. All the controls went dead. The shuttle began falling like a rock; there was no way I could control it. I kept trying to re-activate the engines, but there was too much interference. I finally got them re-activated at about 5000 meters, but there wasn't enough time to do anything, other than try to control the crash. Most of the passengers were on the right side of the shuttle, so that was the side I tried to keep intact. Only Claudia, Noel, and Ramey were on the left side." For a second he seemed surprised, then he relaxed. "I thought I could handle it," he said in a soft voice, almost on the verge of losing his control. "I was supposed to be able to handle anything that happened." He took several deep breaths, but they didn't seemed to help. By looking over his shoulder she could see the tears streaming down his cheeks.
"It's okay," she said softly. Without breaking contact she moved so she was sitting in from of him. "Let it out," she said. Once again he looked into her eyes and chewed on his lower lip for a second. Then he fell against her shoulder and started gently sobbing.
She held him, rocking him back and forth as he continued crying. "It will be all right," she said over and over. "I'll be here. I'll be here." It was a promise she intended to keep.
When Tom awoke it was early evening. Taking a moment to orient himself, he realized he had fallen asleep on the couch in his quarters. As he sat up, running a hand through his already tousled hair, a quiet voice startled him.
He looked toward his desk where Harry sat working at the terminal. Tom tried to collect his thoughts. The shuttle simulation . . . then he and B'Elanna had come back to his quarters. Tom winced as he recalled how he had virtually fallen apart in her arms.
"B'Elanna wanted to be here when you woke up," Harry told him, "but she got called to Engineering." He smiled at some memory.
"What?" asked Tom.
"Hmm? Oh, it's just that when they first called, B'Elanna told them to handle it. She must like you, Paris. There's not many people she turns her back on Engineering for. In the end, she had to go anyway, but she didn't want to leave you alone, so here I am."
Paris frowned. Had he been in that bad of shape? He recalled with embarrassment how he had wept in B'Elanna's arms, but another little voice shoved that embarrassment aside and pointed out how good her arms had felt and what a difference it had made. For once in his life someone had been there for him when he needed them. He recalled the words B'Elanna had continuously murmured in his ear: "I'm here, Tom. I'm not leaving. I'm here if you need me."
Although their shifts were over, Chakotay joined Janeway in her ready room for a meeting to discuss the day's happenings. Janeway shook her head as she sat in a chair and Chakotay seated himself on the couch. "Chakotay, we obviously can't ignore this problem any longer."
"Which problem would that be, Captain?"
Janeway frowned. "We're in this voyage for the long haul. All this crew has is each other. I realize that certain cliques are going to develop, but I had really thought we'd gotten past the Maquis versus Starfleet issue."
Chakotay's brows raised. "I doubt that will ever disappear completely. Some just can't let go that easily."
"Garvic and Cavelle?"
Chakotay shrugged. "I wouldn't lose hope where Cavelle is concerned. He was led into this situation by Garvic's lies." At Janeway's look of protest, Chakotay quickly said, "I'm not condoning Cavelle's actions, Captain, but he has expressed a wish to receive counseling for his anger and I think Tuvok could help him out there. Although, to be honest with you, I doubt he will ever be overly fond of Paris. There's still a lot of people aboard who are resentful you've put Paris in the position you have. I doubt that will change anytime soon."
"What about you, Chakotay?" quizzed Kathryn Janeway softly. "Have your feelings in regards to Tom Paris changed at all?"
Chakotay was silent for a long moment. "He still irritates the hell out of me sometimes, but . . ."
"Yes?" she prompted.
"Tom Paris and I will never be close friends, but I have to admit I'm developing a grudging respect for him. That he's one of the best pilots I've seen in some time I've never disputed; I've seen him take great strides to fit in here and he's risked himself more than once for this ship and her crew. That has to count for something."
"Why do I still sense a 'but' here?"
Chakotay grinned, but his expression quickly sobered. "I'm still not sure how I feel about he and B'Elanna becoming a twosome, but it's rather difficult to deny, given how she's stood by him through this. I have to wonder if either of them are really ready for both the type of relationship they seem to be moving toward and the repercussions it could have on the ship should that relationship
"Ah. So it's not just Tom's actions you're worried about." Kathryn smiled slightly. "Well, Commander, I suggest we leave that to Tom and B'Elanna. Have you any suggestions for punishments to be handed out to those involved in this incident?"
Looking rueful, Chakotay began counting off the offenders. "Let's see. We've got Ensign Hudson, who as a security officer failed to immediately report an incident in which an ensign physically assaulted a lieutenant, but the lieutenant in question didn't wish to press charges."
"Since Paris is the one who talked him out of reporting it, I recommend you take no formal action against Hudson. I think a restriction on his rations for a specified period of time would suffice."
"I can live with that," agreed Janeway. "What about Harry's and B'Elanna's parts in this?"
"I recommend the same for them. Restrict rations."
"Agreed. What about Lieutenant Paris?"
Chakotay surprised her with his response. "Personally, I think he's been through enough already, but it would hardly appear fair not to punish him in some way for failure to report the assault."
"Restrict his rations?"
Chakotay grinned. "I can live with that."
They shared one of those long looks that reminded Kathryn of their time spent on New Earth. She quickly moved on. "Ensign Cavelle?"
"That one is more difficult. He needs help controlling his anger. It's always been a problem, even back in his Maquis days. If Tuvok's agreeable, he could counsel Cavelle on managing his anger. I wouldn't suggest this, but seeing as how we're stuck on Voyager and can't transfer crew off, well, Cavelle and Garvic and Paris are going to have to work together from time to time; we need to find a way to resolve their conflict to manageable levels. I don't see an easy solution here. A mediator of sorts may help."
"Sounds like a good job for my first officer," commented Janeway with a slight smile.
"I was afraid you'd say that," Chakotay admitted, but his expression indicated that he would take on the task.
"Don't worry, Chakotay. Maybe they'll surprise you and work it out themselves. Now, what are we going to do about Garvic?"
Marcos looked up when he sensed a presence at the opening of his cell. He found Lieutenant Tuvok observing him. He was surprised to see Tuvok de-activate the forcefield. "I am releasing you from the brig, Ensign. You will remain restricted to quarters until further notice."
"Ensign, Commander Chakotay has advised me that you wish to seek counseling for your anger. I would be willing to assist you with this."
"Thank you, sir. I-I told Chakotay and Mikel that I would try."
"Ensign, it is very important that you wish to do this for yourself. We will speak more on this later. The captain will wish to speak with you also to discuss further punishment for your actions. For now, please restrict yourself to quarters."
"Yes, sir." Marcos paused as he passed Tuvok. "Lieutenant, may I have permission to make a brief detour first?" When Tuvok gave him an inquiring look, Marcos said, "It's important. I owe Lieutenant Paris an apology."
"Yes, Ensign. I believe you do." Tuvok tapped his combadge. "Tuvok to Paris."
"Lieutenant, Ensign Cavelle wishes to speak with you. Would that be acceptable?"
There was a long pause before Paris replied. "You want me to come to the brig?"
"That will not be necessary. Ensign Cavelle has been restricted to quarters, but I will escort him to your quarters if that is convenient."
"I'll be here."
As they exited the detention center, Marcos paused in front of Jack Garvic's cell and looked in at the other man. Their eyes met briefly before Garvic's turned away. "Jack," Marcos stopped. He didn't know what to say. Shaking his head, he proceeded out of the detention area.
Tom looked at Harry. "You want to stick around and protect me, just in case?" he joked.
"That's not funny, Tom. Cavelle could have caused you serious injury."
Paris was surprised at Harry's display of anger. "Harry."
"Don't tell me not to be angry about this, Tom. I can't believe you're so calm about it."
"I'm saving up for Garvic," Tom responded wryly. Privately, he wasn't sure how he felt about Jack Garvic. He knew he still harbored some anger and was fearful it would still vent itself as it had on the holodeck.
"Well, I'm glad to hear you're not going to let him off the hook," retorted Kim.
"Harry, have I mentioned lately how good it is to have a friend like you?"
That stopped Harry for a moment. It wasn't often Tom made statements such as that. Standing, he approached the couch. Crossing his arms, he said, "Does this mean you'll tell me what's going on between you and B'Elanna?"
"Harry, nothing's . . ." The automatic protest died on his lips.
Harry nodded. "That's what I thought."
The door to Tom's quarters chimed, interrupting their conversation, much to Paris' relief.
The door slid open to reveal Ensign Cavelle and Lieutenant Tuvok. Cavelle stepped just inside the doorway, standing there hesitantly.
Tuvok, seeing that Kim was present, decided his presence would not be required. "You will go directly to your quarters when finished here, Ensign," he instructed.
Marcos heard the door slide shut behind him. He focused on Paris, who was rising from where he had been sitting on the couch. Standing very erect, Marcos said, "I wish to apologize for my earlier actions, and to assure you it won't happen again."
Marcos Cavelle's startled eyes met Paris' intent ones. His gaze moved momentarily to Ensign Kim, who wasn't looking all that happy, before moving back to Paris.
"You don't like me much do you, Cavelle?" asked Paris.
"Look, Cavelle, if you'd truly like to apologize, I would appreciate a little honesty here. Don't worry about what you say getting back to the captain or the commander. It won't."
Swallowing, Cavelle said, "No. I don't like you."
"Why?" This time it was Harry Kim who spoke up, but it was Paris to whom Cavelle directed his reply.
"I was wrong about this recent shuttle crash. For that I'm sorry. But I don't think I'm wrong about what happened at Caldik Prime. You were responsible for the deaths of those three people and you lied to avoid that responsibility. And you didn't treat the Maquis any better. You weren't there because you believed in the cause; it was just a convenient spot for you to be at that time. No. I don't like you. I doubt I ever will, but Mikel holds a great deal of respect for you, and I respect him and his judgment. Obviously, his judgment is better than mine," Marcos muttered bitterly as he thought about how Garvic had lied to him.
As if reading his thoughts, Tom said, "Garvic pulled a fast one on all of us. Let's just put it behind us."
"Tom!" protested Harry, but the look Tom gave him quelled any further protests.
Marcos gritted his teeth. Paris was being condescending toward him. Marcos took a deep breath. He couldn't stand that 'holier than thou' attitude, and now that he had made his apology, he wanted nothing more than to make a quick exit. "I appreciate your accepting my apology."
"I appreciate your offering it," replied Paris evenly.
Without another word, Marcos turned and exited Paris' quarters.
After the door had slid shut, Harry said indignantly, "He wasn't terribly sincere, was he? He didn't even address you by your rank once."
Tom shrugged. "Let's not rehash it, Harry."
"Let it drop, Harry. Please. It seems like I've been rehashing Caldik Prime half my life. Just let it drop, okay? I appreciate your being outraged on my behalf, but . . . I really don't deserve it." As Tom moved past him, Harry grabbed his shoulder, stopping him.
"Don't ever say that," he admonished. "You're my friend. You're worth a lot to me."
Tom had to fight to keep his eyes from misting over. What was wrong with him? He seemed to be wearing all his emotions on his sleeve these days. He gave Harry a smile. "Thanks, Harry."
Tom Paris said a silent prayer of thanks when his combadge chirped. This conversation with Harry had been starting to become a bit too intense and Tom wasn't sure he could handle another of these emotional scenes at the moment. Crying on one friend's shoulder a day was his quota.
"Mr. Paris," came Chakotay's voice, "Captain Janeway and I would like to see you in the captain's ready room immediately if possible."
Tom and Harry traded significant looks. "I'll be right there, Commander."
"What do you suppose that's about?" asked Harry.
Shrugging, Tom said, "Your guess is as good as mine." Tom went into the bathroom, splashed some cold water on his face and ran a comb quickly through his hair before he and Harry exited his quarters.
"I'll catch up with you later," said Harry as they parted company.
His thoughts distracted by what Janeway and Chakotay might want of him, Tom nodded and stepped into the turbolift.
Paris stepped into the captain's ready room and joined the captain and commander at the captain's desk. He took the indicated seat next to Chakotay in front of Janeway's desk.
"Tom," began Janeway, "we've been discussing the best course of action to take with Mr. Garvic. Seeing as how you were the direct recipient of his actions and may have to work with him in the future, we wanted your input on this."
Tom's gaze traveled from Janeway to Chakotay, then back to Janeway again. He was startled that they were asking his opinion. Usually the higher ups, at least in his experience, just went ahead and made their decisions with little regard as to how it might affect him personally.
Janeway continued. "We have a difficult decision here. If we were back in the Alpha Quadrant, there's no question that Garvic would be severely reprimanded, possibly even cashiered out of Starfleet, but we're a long way from home and we really aren't prepared to house someone in the brig for a lengthy period of time." She looked at Chakotay, indicating that he should fill Paris in on their proposed plans for Garvic.
Leaning forward in his chair, Chakotay said, "We intend to reduce Garvic in rank from lieutenant to ensign and he'll be on a lengthy probationary period while undergoing several Starfleet refresher courses, something Tuvok and I will be overseeing. We'll also be restricting him to quarters during off duty hours for the foreseeable future. Short of putting him off the ship, we see this as our best chance to rehabilitate him."
"What we need from you, Tom," said Kathryn Janeway, "is to know if you anticipate any difficulties working with Mr. Garvic in the future."
Paris was silent for a long moment as he contemplated their plan of action. He couldn't fault them for hoping to rehabilitate Garvic back into the ship's populace, especially given their situation of being so far from home. He thought back to that moment in the shuttle simulation when his anger had overwhelmed him and he had wanted nothing more than to strike out at Garvic.
Since then, he really hadn't given much thought to having to work with Garvic, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. Tom figured if he had put up with others in the crew treating him like the "observer" for the past two years that he could probably put up with Garvic. Despite his overwhelming anger at Jack Garvic, there was a part of Tom that could identify with the man's situation. Oh, not what he had done insofar as causing the shuttle accident, but more the aftermath of those events which Garvic would have to deal with. Being broke to ensign, being treated like a pariah by others aboard Voyager, being the outsider, the one nobody could trust. Yeah, thought Paris, that alone would be punishment enough. Still . . .
The captain's voice brought him back to the present. "Sorry, Captain." He tried to smile apologetically and found his usual snappy grin failing him. Looking first at Chakotay, then Janeway, he said, "I don't foresee any problems on my end should the need arise to work with Garvic. I can't speak for others."
"Of course. I just wanted to ensure that you would be comfortable with the situation." She stood and Tom took that as a sign that he was dismissed. Just as he reached the door, her voice stopped him.
He turned to look at Kathryn Janeway.
"I'm glad things turned out well for you this time. In case you're not aware of it, we value you here on this ship, not just as pilot, but for who you are." Then she gave him one of those brilliant smiles that told him she was extremely pleased.
"That goes for me too, Paris. You handled yourself extremely well during this little crisis."
Paris' startled eyes flew to Chakotay's face at these words of praise from the commander. The commander met his gaze head on, no give or take in those eyes, but a small smile played around his mouth. It wasn't often he managed to catch Tom Paris off guard.
Tom swallowed. "Uh, thank you, Captain, Commander." He beat a hasty retreat before his fair coloring betrayed his embarrassment at the unexpected praise.
As Tom stepped into the turbolift trying to decide if his quarters or the mess hall were preferable at the moment, an idea jumped into his head that he couldn't shake. Garvic was still in the brig. That seemed to be the only loose thread still dangling from this whole fiasco. Maybe it was time he and Jack Garvic had a talk. Some things needed to be aired; there would never be a good time for that. Dreading it, but knowing it was something he needed to do, Paris headed for the detention area.
"Come," called Marcos, wondering who would be coming to see him. Nobody had been by his quarters since he had been officially released from the brig, and being restricted to quarters not only meant he couldn't leave them in his off duty hours, it also meant he wasn't allowed to call anyone.
He looked up from the datapadd he had been examining to see Mikel enter. An uneasy silence hung in the air between them. Finally, Mikel moved further into the room.
"Are we nuts for trying to make this happen?" Mikel Hudson asked.
Marcos let out the breath he'd unconsciously been holding. So, this was to be it then. He couldn't say he was surprised. Mikel was finally ready to call it quits and they'd hardly even gotten started. They'd only been out on a few dates, but something had clicked between the two men. A familiarity neither had ever felt with another person. Marcos remembered his surprise when the Starfleet security ensign had asked him out. He couldn't imagine what a Starfleet security ensign and Maquis rebel might have in common, but something had told him to accept the invitation. Marcos was glad he had listened to that voice. And now it was over. "It was fun while it lasted," he finally said to Mikel.
Mikel's brows shot up in surprise. "While it lasted? Are you telling me you want to call it quits? Especially after everything we've been through lately?"
Marcos stood up, peering closely at Mikel. "I thought YOU wanted to call it quits."
"No! I--" Mikel fumbled with words. Even at the best of times he had never been what one would call a smooth talker. Finally, he sighed and simply said, "I've been a lot happier since we've been together."
Marcos smiled the first heartfelt smile that had graced his face in days. "I'd invite you to dinner, but--"
"But your rations have been restricted," Mikel finished for him. "Mine too. How 'bout if I go to the mess hall and bring something back for both of us? We can have a private dinner here in your quarters."
Marcos nodded his agreement and as Mikel turned to go, he said, "Mikel?"
Mikel stopped and turned back.
"You're sure about this -- about us?" asked Marcos Cavelle.
Mikel thought he had never heard the brash ex-Maquis sound so unsure. Smiling brightly, he said, "Yeah, I'm sure." He left Marcos' quarters, smile still firmly in place. Darned if Ethe weren't right, he thought. Things will work out.
B'Elanna fumed over the unexpected delay in Engineering. She had snapped at several of her crew in the past few minutes, undeservedly so, but she couldn't seem to help herself. Her thoughts kept going back to Tom. After he had fallen asleep, she had watched him, astonished at the trust he had placed in her by revealing some of his innermost thoughts. Now all she wanted was to get back to him. He needed her. Nobody had ever needed B'Elanna Torres, not until she had come to Voyager and Kathryn Janeway had given her a chance. Certainly no man had ever needed her. But Tom did. She was certain of that now. Her thoughts marveled at this new revelation, it didn't even occur to her to think that perhaps she needed him too.
Tom stood just outside the brig. He had made it as far as the door -- and then found that he couldn't make himself enter. He had been standing there, unable to move, for nearly five minutes already. Fortunately, the corridor was empty so there was no one to witness the battle he was waging with himself.
It had seemed like such a good idea at the time, but now that he was there he wasn't sure he could go through with it. Could he face Garvic so soon without losing his temper? At least the forcefield will be between us. I couldn't hurt him even if I wanted to, he thought dryly to himself, remembering how he had lost control on the holodeck. He shook his head in an effort to clear his muddled thoughts. He could leave right now and no one would ever know that he had . . . what? Chickened out? he accused himself. Disgusted, he began pacing outside the door.
"This is ridiculous!" he cried out loud, the sound of his own voice making him jump. A low, frustrated growl emanated from deep in his throat. "Damn!" he muttered. Why put off the inevitable? This isn't just going to go away. You're going to have to talk to him. No matter what, you know it's not going to be pretty. With a resigned sigh he straightened his shoulders and, steeling himself for the worst, entered the brig.
Tom nodded to Ensign Flannery, the guard on duty, and smiled wryly at his surprised expression. Not number one on the expected visitors list, huh? he thought cynically. Recalling his own history, he wondered briefly how many of Garvic's friends would stand by him now.
He looked around the room uneasily. He hated the brig, even though this time he was on the other side of the forcefield. The short time he had spent locked up after assaulting Chakotay had been enough of a reminder of where he had come from and all the mistakes he had made. Now, because of him, albeit indirectly, another man was locked up facing an uncertain future. It was all too familiar. But you didn't make him do the things he did, he had to remind himself. Bolstered by that thought, he turned towards the only occupied cell.
Garvic was lying on his back, staring at the ceiling. Deep in thought, he hadn't noticed Paris' arrival. He was reliving the dream he'd had the other night. He could still hear Ramey's voice, see his accusing eyes. Jack felt the dull ache in the pit of his stomach grow sharper. Thank God nobody died, he prayed silently, not for the first time. He wasn't sure he could have lived with himself if any of them had died. Even Paris.
Jack, startled out of his reverie, sat up abruptly. He flinched when he saw Tom Paris. Slowly standing, he warily eyed the lieutenant. The remorse he had just been feeling had already been replaced by the now all-to-familiar hatred and anger at the sight of the other man.
"Did you come down here to gloat, LIEUTENANT?" Jack asked coldly.
Tom frowned. Nervously he ran his fingers through his hair and with a small sigh answered, "No, Garvic, I didn't. I wouldn't. I. . . I just wanted to . . . apologize."
He looked Jack straight in the eye and, had the situation not been so intense, would have laughed at the incredulous expression on Garvic's face. Obviously an apology was the last thing Garvic had expected from him. Hearing the words come out of his mouth had surprised Tom, as well. He hadn't intended on apologizing, but now that he'd said it, the words started tumbling out.
"What happened at Caldik Prime was an accident." Looking away, he spoke more to himself than to Garvic as he continued. "A stupid accident that I could have prevented. But I was so damn sure of myself." Shaking his head he looked back at Garvic. "Ramey was my friend, too, you know. Maybe he wasn't my best friend, but he was a friend and a good man. Do you think a day doesn't go by when I don't think of him and the others?" Tom's blue eyes reflected his own pain as he said sincerely, "I am sorry, Garvic. Sorry for your loss and your pain."
He had never apologized to the families or friends of the victims. He was surprised at the relief he felt having finally spoken the words. He knew now that he should have spoken to them long ago, instead of running off like he had to find the first piloting job that would take him out of the sector, away from everyone he had disappointed. Away from his father. He could see now, first hand, how his actions had affected others. But now, 70,000 light years from home, except for Garvic, he might never have the opportunity to apologize and ask their forgiveness.
For a moment Jack considered Tom's words. They sounded heartfelt, but as Jack looked at Tom all he could see was the lieutenant's Starfleet uniform and everything it represented. He stepped forward, until only mere inches and the invisible forcefield separated them.
With a derisive snort Jack responded, "Excuse me, LIEUTENANT, but coming from you, an apology doesn't really carry much weight. You've spent your whole life talking your way out of one mess or another. Look at you now, after everything you've done, here you are -- wearing a Starfleet uniform AND a senior officer, no less. How'd you talk your way into that, I wonder? You don't deserve to be wearing that uniform!" he finished hotly and turned his back on Tom, walking to the other side of his small cell as if he couldn't put enough distance between them.
"Really?" Tom addressed him disdainfully, his anger overriding his reason. "That's rich coming from you, Garvic. Considering YOU'RE still wearing that uniform after what YOU pulled. At least I didn't set out to intentionally hurt anyone!" Jack froze. He slowly turned back towards Paris. Tom saw the stricken expression cross Garvic's face but he didn't care. Infuriated at the hypocrisy, Tom began pacing. All the pent-up anger he'd been feeling resurfaced. His voice rising, he continued to lambaste Garvic.
"You could have killed all of us! Simms, Hudson and Lamont -- they could have died. All because you hate me. And you think you're better than me?! I made a mistake. Caldik Prime is going to haunt me for the rest of my life. You're proof of that. As if I needed reminding. But you took an unfortunate situation and made it even worse. Why? It's not going to bring Ramey back. What did you think you were going to accomplish? Or did you plan on dying, too, so you wouldn't have to face the consequences? But you lived and I conveniently lost my memory, so you just kept up the charade. Man, aren't you just a paragon of virtue! Maybe it took me awhile, but at least I came forward and told the truth. Because I couldn't live with myself if I didn't. But you, you never had any intention of coming forward at all, did you? All you cared about was ruining my life!"
Trembling with rage, Tom took a deep breath to steady himself. This wasn't how he had wanted to handle it. A slight movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention and reminded him that they weren't alone. He could just imagine what Flannery was thinking. Probably checking and rechecking that the forcefield was still operational. But he was staying out of it, for the time being, anyway.
The crash of a shattering mirror drew Tom's eyes back to Garvic's cell. Tom watched in shock as Jack threw whatever he could get his hands on at the mirror before suddenly collapsing in a heap on the floor. Flannery rushed forward and looked at Tom inquiringly. Tom stepped forward hesitantly.
Jack, holding himself tightly, was trembling and shaking his head. Tom called his name again, but either Jack didn't hear him or chose not to answer. More than a little concerned, Tom reached for his combadge to call for medical assistance when Jack began to speak. So softly at first that Tom couldn't make out what he was saying.
"It wasn't supposed to turn out this way. I'm so sorry, Ramey. I'm so sorry. Please forgive me." Jack, sobbing and rocking back and forth, repeated the plea over and over again.
Disconcerted, Tom turned to Flannery. "Disengage the forcefield," he ordered. Flannery looked at him, stunned by the turn of events.
"You heard me, Ensign. Now."
Flannery swallowed hard and looked back and forth between Tom and Jack, still muttering and rocking, before moving towards his console. Seconds later the forcefield was off and Tom slowly stepped into the cell.
"Jack?" Tom approached him tentatively, unsure of how Garvic might react. He stopped next to Garvic and knelt down. "Jack?"
Garvic's numbed senses slowly registered Tom's presence. Taking a deep, shuddering breath he dragged himself over to the bed and leaned back against it, his eyes tightly closed. He felt so empty.
When he spoke his voice was flat and quiet, the anger and hostility now tempered by sorrow. "I wanted to tell them what really happened. I tried. But I couldn't." He emitted a hollow laugh that made Tom wince. "I guess this makes you a better person than me, doesn't it?" Garvic said ironically. "It doesn't matter anyway. It's all over now. And, you're right, Ramey's never coming back." He rubbed his eyes wearily.
"Why did you do it?" Tom had to ask.
Jack was silent and Tom thought he wasn't going to answer, but Jack, looking down at the floor, began to speak.
"It all happened so fast. I never intended for us to crash. I wasn't thinking -- I was just reacting. Because every time I see you . . ." he paused and looked up at Tom. "Every time I see you I see Ramey, bleeding . . . broken . . . dead," he said jaggedly. Tom felt his stomach churn as Garvic described the scene he had witnessed first hand. "I know what I did was wrong. But no matter what happens, Paris, I don't think I can ever forgive you for what you did."
Tom nodded and said softly, "How can I expect you to forgive me when I can't even forgive myself?" Garvic looked at him in surprise. Tom held his gaze for a moment before he stood and silently walked out of Garvic's cell. Flannery immediately reactivated the forcefield but Tom didn't even notice as he walked out of the brig, lost in his own thoughts.
A lot had happened in just a few days -- a few hours, really. He hadn't screwed up again. He hadn't been to blame. However, the relief that he hadn't caused this crash, at least not directly, was tempered by the reason it had happened.
No, he hadn't screwed up again. This was an old mistake coming back to haunt him. So were some of Garvic's comments in the holodeck shuttle, when he realized Tom knew what really happened.
Do you have any idea how many lives you ruined besides the three who you killed? Do you even care? Garvic had asked. The question wasn't an easy one to answer. He knew that Ramos Benton, Noel Howerton, and Claudia Laskow all had families and friends who were effected by the crash, but he had never had to face them. He had run as far and fast as he could and had never looked back. Yes, he cared more then anyone would ever know. The guilt, remorse, shame, and grief were his private hell, to be dealt with in the dead of night in the privacy of his quarters, not in public for all to see. After all, he was a Paris, and a Paris never cries, never shows his emotions in public. His family may have disowned him, but that didn't matter. The lessons of his childhood and early life were too deeply ingrained, too much a part of who he was to be changed. He just wished more people understood that.
There weren't many who did. Most saw the public persona, and assumed that was all there was. Back in the Alpha Quadrant the only ones who saw past the facade were the ones who grew up in similar circumstances. They didn't have to come from the military -- Starfleet and diplomatic brats had very similar backgrounds.
Until Voyager, that is. For the first time there were people who realized there was more. Harry had been the first, but there were others. Kes, the captain, the doctor, even Tuvok and Chakotay. And last, but not least, B'Elanna Torres. B'Elanna and Harry. They were two of the best friends a guy could have. He didn't know what he had done to deserve them, but he was glad they were there. He didn't know how he would have survived the past few days without them, B'Elanna in particular.
Pushing aside the morbid thoughts, Tom decided he wanted to spend some time with his friends. Even if it were over a bowl of Neelix's leola root stew.
Tom was a little hesitant about going into the mess hall; he wasn't sure what kind of reception he would get. By now everyone knew what had really happened on the shuttle. That it had been Garvic's fault, not his. They also knew the reason the crash had happened. That was another reason he had asked B'Elanna and Harry to join him, he wanted to know there were a few people who would be there for him.
Dinner didn't exactly go the way he thought it would. Instead of the hostile silence or cool indifference he had been expecting, most of the crew seemed embarrassed they had been fooled by Garvic. B'Elanna and Harry were already sitting at one of the tables when he got there. Even before he had a chance to sit down, three people had come to him to apologize for their recent behavior. Even more surprising, they expressed anger not only at what Garvic had done,
but the reason why.
"Are you all right, Tom?" Kes had asked him after the three had left.
"I guess," he replied. "It's just I wasn't . . ." he blushed.
Kes smiled. "You have more friends then you realize, Tom," she said.
"I guess so," he said. The conversation was becoming far too personal for him. "So," he said brightly, as he changed the subject. "What does Neelix have on tap for today?"
If she knew what he was doing, why he had changed the subject, she didn't call him on it. Instead, she looked at the blue goo with purple lumps and shrugged. Tom sighed. Well, it was nice to know that not everything had changed. He took some of the food and crossed to his friends' table.
"How was your meeting with the captain?" Harry asked before Tom even had a chance to sit down.
"Fine," he replied. "She wanted to know what I thought about how they decided to punish Garvic." He looked at his dinner. "She also wanted to know if I thought I could work with Garvic, if the need arose."
"What did you tell her?" Harry asked.
Tom tried for a casual smile, but failed. "That I didn't think I would have a problem with it," he said. "But I didn't know about him."
"You really think you can work with him?" B'Elanna asked. Harry looked equally skeptical.
He didn't blame either of them for doubting him. After all, the last time they had seen him and Garvic together Tom had tried to push Garvic through a wall. He nodded. "I think I'll be able to," he said. "I hope it never happens, but if it does, I think I can handle it."
"I don't think I could work with him," Harry replied. "You're a better man than I am."
Not really, Tom thought, I've just been on the other side. I've been the one no one wants to come near.
Harry shook his head. "Garvic's just lucky he only got demoted," he continued, his voice full of venom. "He should have been--" he broke off as he realized whom he was talking to.
"Don't you think that would have been a bit harsh?" Tom asked not bothering to look either Harry or B'Elanna in the eye. Instead he stared intently at his dinner. "What this crew is going to do to him is--" he broke off, and tried again. "What this crew is going to do is bad enough."
"Don't tell me you feel sorry for him?" B'Elanna asked.
How could he explain it? How could he explain to them what it was like to be shunned? It was an old word, but Tom thought it described what happened perfectly.
"Or is it you can identify with him?" B'Elanna continued.
"B'Elanna," Harry said angrily. "How can you even--"
"I can," Tom said, surprised by the intensity of Harry's anger. He hadn't thought the kid had it in him to hate anyone that much.
"Tom!" Harry said. "How can you forgive--"
"I . . . I don't know if I can FORGIVE him," Tom replied, "for causing the accident, or for letting me think I was to blame. But I can understand it." He turned his attention to his food. "I know what it's like to want something not to be true." He looked up, meeting Harry's eyes. "And I know what's like to have everyone give you the cold shoulder," he added. "It's not something I would wish on anyone."
Harry shook his head. "I just don't get it," he said again.
No, you don't, Tom thought as he realized the problem. Harry had never been on the receiving end of that kind of treatment, so he had no idea what it felt like. And I hope you never do. Part of him was touched by his friend's steadfast loyalty, part of him was disturbed by it. Did Harry even realize who he sounded like?
"I think I do," B'Elanna said.
When he glanced in her eyes he realized she did understand. He remembered what she had said about growing up as a Klingon on a human colony. That had to be even worse than what he had gone through. At least he had done something to earn the scorn of his fellow officers. He couldn't imagine what it must have been like to earn that scorn just for being born.
"But I still think you're handling this better then I would."
"Maybe," Tom replied. After all, what choice do I have? "But enough of this morbid talk."
He glanced around the crowded room. There had to be something they could talk about. In one corner he spotted one of Voyager's latest couples. He twitched his head in their direction. "What's this I hear about Simms and Lamont? When did they get together?"
From the looks that Harry and B'Elanna exchanged, it was clear they wanted to continue the former conversation, but neither did.
"Well," Harry said, "I think they've been interested in each other for some time, but it wasn't until, well, you know."
"The crash?" Tom asked.
"Right," Harry said. "It wasn't until then they admitted it to each other."
"Well, it's nice something good came out of that crash," Tom said.
"But it's a shame they waited so long," Harry continued. "I mean, it was so obvious they were perfect for each other. It's just too bad it took something like that to make them admit their attraction."
It was all Tom could do not to laugh, but he didn't quite succeed. He glanced at B'Elanna, who wasn't having any more luck than he was. "Uhh, thanks for the advice, Harry," Tom began, "but--"
"But let us take this at our own speed," B'Elanna said, meeting his eyes.
Tom swallowed. Was she saying what he thought, what he hoped she was saying?
Harry smiled. "All right," he said. "At least I got the two of you to admit there is something there." He glanced at one of the tables. "I'll see you two later. I want to talk to Sue about our next performance." He grabbed his tray and crossed the room, sitting down at a table with Susan Nicolette, one of his fellow musicians on Voyager.
"I think," Tom said, "that one of us needs to explain the concept of subtlety to Harry." He tried to keep his tone light. He didn't want to get into a serious talk. Not here, not now. He needed some time to regroup, to repair the cracks in his defenses.
B'Elanna smiled. "Well, in a way he's right. We do need to talk."
"I guess," Tom replied. He could never understand why anyone would want to talk about relationships. In the past, every time he examined a relationship he regretted it. Nothing like learning someone only liked you because they thought it was an easy way into the Starfleet elite. He knew B'Elanna could not care less about Starfleet politics, that she didn't use people like that, but it didn't matter. Some fears were hard to get rid of.
"I have a few things I need to do," she said. "Can you meet me at 2300? Holodeck Two? We can continue this conversation there. Might be more private."
"Holodeck Two?" he asked. "What have you got planned?"
"You'll find out when you get there," B'Elanna replied with a mysterious smile.
"What should I wear?" he asked. Maybe he could get a hint that way.
"You can change when you get there," B'Elanna replied with a smirk.
"I'll be there," he said.
"Good," she said standing. "Then I guess it's a date."
"I guess it is," he replied.
Chakotay could hear muffled cursing coming from up ahead. He thought he recognized the voice and his suspicions were confirmed when he rounded the corner and spotted B'Elanna, her arms filled with a large white box and other assorted items, trying to key open the holodeck door. Everything in her arms gave one last shift before spilling over onto the floor. The box, decorated with a large red bow, fell open as it hit the floor. Kneeling down to help her, Chakotay couldn't help but notice what had spilled out of the box. It was a piece of clothing, deep ruby red in color. Fingering it, Chakotay discovered it was a lightweight velvety material interlaced with dark red strands of satin that were so thin as to be nearly transparent. He started to hold it up, surprised to see that it was a dress and not just any dress--
B'Elanna snatched the dress from his hands and stuffed it back in the box, slamming the lid on it. Chakotay looked at her in amusement. He seemed to remember a red dress being mentioned before. Hadn't Paris mentioned one when he had lain seriously injured in sickbay? From the looks of the box it was in, the dress had been a gift. He looked inquiringly at B'Elanna, but she chose to ignore his look.
As they both stood, Chakotay carefully heaped the rest of the items in her arms. He reached past her and keyed open the door. "Special plans for tonight?"
Almost defiantly, she turned to him and said, "I've invited Paris to join me."
Chakotay surprised her by saying, "Have a good time on your date. It IS a date, isn't it?"
She studied him for a long moment, looking for hints of disapproval. Finding none, she said, "Yes, it's a date. Paris doesn't know that yet, but he will."
"Then he's in for a pleasant surprise. I'm sure you'll look lovely in the dress. Enjoy your evening." He strode down the hall, trying his best not to let his curiosity show. Chakotay still worried that B'Elanna would come out of this being hurt, but Kathryn was right. Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres could take care of their own private lives. Besides, Chakotay shook his head, Paris may have bitten off more than he can chew with B'Elanna. In any event, it should certainly liven up the gossip mill aboard Voyager.
Shaking her head at Chakotay's unexpected reaction, B'Elanna entered the holodeck. She didn't have much time to get things set up before Tom was due to arrive.
Exiting his quarters, Tom nearly ran Harry down in his haste to get to the holodeck. He didn't want to be late. "Harry. Hi."
"I was just coming to see if you wanted to play some pool in Sandrine's tonight."
"Uh, I've got some other plans. Maybe tomorrow?"
"Sure, no problem. Maybe I can convince B'Elanna to join me in Sandrine's."
"Uh, Harry, B'Elanna's busy tonight too."
Harry stopped and looked at his friend. "What's going on, Tom?"
Tom shrugged. "Nothing. B'Elanna invited me to the holodeck tonight. That's all."
Harry, his eyes twinkling, smiled. "That's all? You're having a private party on the holodeck with B'Elanna? Come on, Tom."
Tom frowned. "I've got to go, Harry. I'm running late."
"Sure, Tom. I'll catch up with you tomorrow."
Tom paused outside the door to the holodeck. Could Harry be right? Was B'Elanna ready to move forward? She'd been very understanding through this latest ordeal, never faltering in her belief in him. Tom wasn't sure he could find the words to express how much that meant to him -- how much she was coming to mean to him. Shaking his head at the direction his thoughts were taking him, Tom took a deep steadying breath. If the truth were known, B'Elanna had probably called him here to tell him she just wanted to be friends, nothing more. He moved forward, entering the holodeck.
Inside, B'Elanna's program was already up and running. Dusk was just falling as the sun settled on a distant mountain peak. Looking around, Tom realized he seemed to be on a deserted roadway that wound its way up a mountainside. There was a huge log lodge nearby, but at the edge of the road stood a small one-room cabin. The lavender orchid attached to its doorway caught his attention and Paris walked over. As he neared it, he realized there was a note attached to the flower. Removing them, he idly smelled the orchid as he read the handwritten note:
Inside you'll find a change of clothes
more appropriate to the setting.
Please join me in the lodge
once you've changed.
The note itself implied nothing, but Tom stared at the orchid thoughtfully. Had she obtained it from Tuvok? His eyes glittered gleefully as he tried to imagine the Vulcan's reaction as she attempted to explain what she needed it for. Stepping inside he found the change of clothes she had laid out for him. Tom's mouth curved upward as he took in what she had replicated for him. Setting the orchid carefully aside, he quickly changed and then headed for the lodge.
B'Elanna paced nervously. Her hands went to the dress she wore, continuously smoothing imagined wrinkles away. Despite his carefree attitude, Paris was usually on time. He should be arriving any moment. As if on cue, she heard the door open and turned to watch as he entered. He stopped just inside the door, taking everything in.
B'Elanna drank him in. Gods, he's gorgeous, was the first thought that popped into her mind. He had on the outfit she had left for him. Formal jacket and trousers done in soft black leather that accentuated his lean body lines. They fit him like a second skin. The black emphasized his fairness, but it was the lightning blue silk shirt that made the outfit. As he raised his eyes to meet hers, she realized she had gotten the color of the shirt right. It matched his eyes perfectly.
Tom felt his mouth start to drop open and quickly snapped it shut. His mind momentarily froze. She's wearing the dress! it screamed at him. YOUR dress! She looked . . . he swallowed . . . she looked magnificent.
She knew she looked good. It showed in the way she held herself; it was reflected in the glow in her eyes. Eyes that were watching him, gauging his reaction. With a start, Tom realized he'd been staring at her for a long drawn out moment without uttering a sound. With difficulty, he tore his gaze from hers and looked around the room. It was softly lit by candlelight. A fire blazed in the huge fireplace. Off to one side from the fireplace sat a table for two, elegantly set for dinner. His eyes were drawn irresistibly back to B'Elanna.
Tom watched as her gaze roved over him appreciatively. Grinning, he said, "I'd say we both have pretty good taste." The sound of his voice in the silence jarred them both and the husky tone in Tom's voice startled even him.
B'Elanna looked uncertainly down at herself, as if doubting anything could make her look beautiful.
While her gaze was turned downward, Tom moved nearer. "The dress looks lovely on you, B'Elanna, but you were beautiful before you put it on, you know. You don't need fancy clothes to be beautiful to me." He came to a standstill a couple of feet from her. The bodice of the dress dipped just low enough to reveal a hint of cleavage and molded around her curves in all the right spots. The hem of the dress swirled around the red heels on her feet. Feet that were moving. He raised his eyes to watch as she turned and headed for the elegantly set table. Tom swallowed. He had forgotten about the back of the dress. More like lack of one, he amended silently. The wide straps framed her shoulders and as she turned, he saw her bare back. The dress was open to her waist, ending in a point just above her rounded derriere. Mouth suddenly dry, Tom followed her to the table, where she was pouring them both a glass of champagne.
B'Elanna smiled slightly at the dazed expression on Paris' face as she handed him his champagne. Apparently she had timed the turn just right to allow him a glimpse of the rest of the dress. She knew she looked good in it. She had been shocked when she had first seen her reflection, hardly recognizing herself. She wondered if Tom had any idea when he gave her the dress that it would have this sort of impact on her. Regardless, it seemed to be having quite an impact on him, and B'Elanna was hit with a big boost to her ego when she realized it wasn't just the dress but herself that was causing this reaction in him.
Tom cleared his throat. "What shall we drink to?"
It was now or never, thought B'Elanna. She might not have a better opening the rest of the night. Raising her glass to clink it against his, she said, "To us."
Tom didn't miss her emphasis on "us". Watching her as he sipped his champagne, he saw a slight flush grace her cheeks. Lowering his glass, he asked, "Us?"
She raised her eyes to meet his, open and unshielded, letting him in. "Us, Tom. You. Me. Together." She reached out a hand and gently ran it down the side of his face. Tom nearly dropped his glass, he was so surprised by her boldness. He turned his head slightly and caressed her palm with his lips. She stilled but didn't pull away. Tom's heartbeat sped up. Could she? Was she? He let his eyes close, reveling in her touch.
B'Elanna was deeply touched by the open expression of joy on Tom's face. She knew then she had made the right decision. Whatever time they might have together, however long or short that time might be, she was ready to move forward. Ready to explore the possibilities of a relationship that might possibly lead to them to becoming lovers.
She spoke softly. "Computer? Play Paris Serenade."
Tom's eyes opened at the name of the program she had just requested. His desire-filled eyes captured hers questioningly as a sweet strain of music wafted through the room and seemed to flow around them. B'Elanna took his hand.
"Dance with me?"
Tom pulled her in close to him, placing a hand about her waist. They moved gracefully together, swaying to the music.
B'Elanna was caught off guard by how graceful a dancer Tom was, but given how he flew the ship, she knew she should have guessed that gracefulness would translate well into dancing also. She followed his lead easily as they moved across the floor, melding together into one shadow as they gracefully moved across the floor. Feeling Tom's hand resting lightly on her bare back, B'Elanna swayed in closer to him as they moved in time to the music.
Tom felt as if he were flying. Never in his wildest dreams had he dared hope this night would turn into something so special. He listened to the lyrical singer's voice that blended with the music B'Elanna had called up. As the words registered, he had to wonder if she were trying to send him a message, or if he were reading too much into this, but she had called up this song specifically. He listened intently to the words:
Everybody's heart aches
Every time it opens
You don't know if you'll win or lose
You have to just let go
No I wasn't looking
It's funny how I found you
Just when I thought I'd live my life alone
Maybe it's love that I have longed for
Maybe it's love I should be strong for
I'm tearing down the walls inside
I want to laugh, and cry and kiss
Maybe it's love I miss*
Tom tightened his hold on her. Whispering into her hair, he murmured, "B'Elanna. My beautiful Bella." His hand moved across her back, lightly caressing her. B'Elanna tilted her head back, on the verge of speaking, but Tom bent his head down, his lips lightly brushing over hers before he pulled away to look in her eyes.
I've closed my heart down
So many seasons
I didn't want to hurt again
I didn't want to try
So I turned myself to ice and stone
Said I don't need anyone
And nobody else
Would ever make me cry
Maybe it's love I've run away from
Maybe it's love bringing me back home
I'm tearing down the walls inside
I want to laugh, and cry and kiss
Maybe it's love I miss
So put your arms around me now
Hold me tight
Show me how
No one has ever loved me more
I've waited for so long*
B'Elanna ran a hand over his nape, letting her fingers ruffle through the hair there. She pulled his head back down to reclaim his lips.
They finally came up for air, both breathless and flushed.
"B'Elanna?" asked Tom uncertainly.
She put a finger to his lips and waited for the song to finish before she spoke.
Maybe it's love maybe I'm dreaming
Maybe it's love I can believe in
I'm tearing down the walls inside
I want to laugh, and cry and kiss
Maybe it's love like this*
She began speaking softly but with a sureness that contrasted with the apprehensive beating of her heart. "We've been through a lot lately, Tom. What with Kynn and his Borg, all that mud on the holodeck, your newly found status as 'Palis the Sun God'. Then this past week you were forced to revisit a painful part of your past. I'm sorry that had to happen, Tom. I know how painful that can be." Her eyes clouded over momentarily and Tom wished she would share her painful past with him. Maybe someday soon, he thought.
"Despite having to go through what you did this past week, this whole incident with Jack Garvic brought out a whole new side of you. One I hadn't seen before. One that you hadn't let me see 'til now. You trusted me enough to share some of that with me and that meant a lot. Now I want to share more with you. I once told you that I would trust you with the ship and to do the right thing, and that I would even trust you with my life, but I wouldn't trust you in a relationship that involved anything more than simple friendship." She pulled away from him, maintaining her hold on his hands as she looked him in the eye and said, "I trust you, Tom. I want to -- I want to give US a try." Her gaze flitted away, embarrassed at revealing such open emotions to him. She felt Tom's hands tighten on hers in sympathy.
"B'Elanna," he spoke softly, hesitantly, "I care for you. A great deal. I'd go through the whole last week all over again just to reach this moment. I think 'us' has a nice ring to it."
He pulled her to him, cradling her against his chest. His steady heartbeat soothed her shaky nerves. "We have to take it slow," she warned him. "I'm not ready to jump into this with both feet."
"Ahhhh. You want to be courted."
"Courted?" She was unfamiliar with the term.
"Wooed. Spooned. Sparked. Cherished. Adored. Idolized. Doted on." He took a breath before further expanding on his explanation.
B'Elanna pulled him to her and claimed his lips. After a moment, she murmured, "Mmm. I've finally discovered how to shut you up."
"I knew you'd catch on eventually," he teased.
Smiling, she pulled him toward the table, unwilling to let things proceed any further just yet. As they sat down to dinner, the next song in her Paris Serenade program began.
Well, the world just lost two lonely people
The world just lost two broken hearts
The odds were against it but, baby, here we are . . .
. . . Tell me something
Who could ask for more
Than to be living in a moment you would die for**
Hands met in the middle of the table. Fingers intertwined, their eyes held the promise of things to come. And for now, that was enough.
Email Sapphire (Fever) Home
* Maybe It's Love written by Annie Roboff and Beth Nielsen Chapman and performed by Trisha Yearwood.
** Living In A Moment written by Pat Bunch and Doug Johnson and performed by Ty Herndon.