CAVIT

CAVIT'S CONSPIRACY

Alternate universe story that takes place approximately one year after Voyager's entry into the Delta Quadrant.

Summary: Alternate universe story that assumes that Cavit survived the trip to the Delta Quadrant and how his ambition affected Tom, B'Elanna, and the Captain.

Disclaimer: Paramount owns Voyager and its characters. I've only borrowed the characters to satisfy my own creative urges. Archiving is okay, just e-mail me. Please keep disclaimer and my name attached

CAVIT'S CONSPIRACY (P/T, PG-13) by PJ in NH -- April 1998 kelhapam@lr.net

CHAPTER 1 - BAD TO WORSE

One little slice across the jugular vein and it would be all over, all the menial, demeaning tasks would be done, all the insults and abuse wouldn't be felt. It would be so easy he thought, as he fingered the sharp blade against his thumb, so easy to end his miserable existence.

"Hurry up or I'll never be able to get dinner done for the crew," chastised the Talaxian, shaking the human out of his depression, albeit only temporary.

"I'll get them done, don't worry I always do," the observer replied not bothering to stifle a yawn as he turned once again to his task. He hated to think over the past year how many leola roots he had peeled for this funny little toad of a man, how many hours he had sat in this very chair peeling root after root with nothing to occupy his mind but his own thoughts.

Neelix was nice enough though, when he had the time he would talk to him, that was more than most of the crew did. In fact, the only friend he had on board was the ensign that worked the communications station, Harry Kim. Harry had befriended him when he first came on board. A seeker of lost souls, the young ensign claimed, but whatever the original reason was, the two had developed a friendship, but it had been difficult for Harry to maintain the friendship when so many others on the ship tried to warn him away from the former convict.

He had first come on board as an observer to help the Captain locate the Maquis rebels and before anyone knew what had happened they had been ripped from the Alpha Quadrant into the Delta Quadrant by the 'Caretaker.' With the Maquis vessel in shambles, Captain Janeway had offered refuge and a job for all the Maquis survivors. Two of the Maquis now held prominent positions, the former captain of the Maquis ship, Chakotay, had assumed a position at the helm as Chief Pilot, while B'Elanna Torres was now Chief of Engineering. And he had gone from 'observer' to dogsbody, being assigned the most boring and demeaning of tasks, not much difference really, he mused, either way he wasn't piloting the ship.

Everyday was just about the same, up at 0500 and report to the mess hall and help Neelix prepare the food for the day. Then when breakfast was finished and he had had a chance to eat, he had to report to the first officer, Mr. Cavit, or another member of the crew. There he would be assigned a list of tasks or see if anyone needed him to perform any chore that was considered beneath a Starfleet or Maquis member to perform -- all for half- rations.

Yesterday, he spent a strenuous afternoon in the cargo bays relocating maintenance supplies from Cargo Bay 1 to Cargo Bay 3. By the time he was done at 1600, it was time to report back to the mess hall to help with the evening meal.

That in itself would have been a typical day, except for the fact that when he went back to his cabin that evening there was a note on his door informing him that his stuff had been moved down two levels to make room for an ensign. This had been the sixth time in the last year they had relocated him. When he reached his new quarters this time though he determined that it had to be the last move. As the door slid noisily open, he was besieged by a cloud of dust, apparently this room hadn't been used at all during the entire voyage. They had thrown his stuff, what little there was of it, on what was to serve as his bed, a castaway cot that looked like it was a remnant of the Romulan wars. All that was bad enough, with a little elbow grease he could clean up the windowless room, but the noise of the engines was deafening and sleeping with earplugs in all the time was not his idea of a good night's sleep. By the time he cleaned the room up enough to sleep in and went to Sickbay for the earplugs, it was 2300.

Morning came all too soon the next day as the earplugs failed to block out most of the noise. He got up, found out that the sonic shower didn't work -- no surprise. It was a wonder that they even heated his room he mused, though they did that very well -- make that too well. So he dressed in his usual nondescript uniform, and made his way up to the mess hall. That's where he sat right now peeling roots for the evening's meal and contemplating other uses for the paring knife.

After he had finished in the mess hall that morning and finally got to eat his breakfast, he paid a visit to the First Officer to receive his orders for the afternoon.

"So Paris, let's see what we have got for you today?" Mr. Cavit said as he scrolled his way down through the datapadd in his hand. He enjoyed giving Paris duty assignments, it would teach the Admiral's son a thing or two. He deserved it, Cavit reasoned after the way Admiral Paris had treated him years ago when he had passed him over for promotion more than once to make way for the son or daughter of a friend or another member of the Starfleet brass. He liked seeing Paris humbled, it wasn't the Admiral, but he would serve in his place.

"How about sending me someplace where I could take a nap?" suggested the younger man trying to stifle a yawn.

"What's the matter?" Cavit replied with a knowing grin on his face. "Didn't you get enough sleep last night?"

The grin did not go unnoticed by the younger man. "You know damn well where you moved me last night, no one could sleep in that room with the noise from the engines!" he countered as he quickly grabbed the other man by the collar and pulled him across the desk until they were nose to nose. "If you want to get rid of me, Cavit, just drop me off on the nearest planet, or if that is too much trouble just jettison me into space and be done with it!" he yelled at the man, his temper frayed with lack of sleep the night before, just as the Conn Officer entered Cavit's office.

Seeing the scene before him, Chakotay immediately assumed that Paris was seriously threatening his superior officer and grabbed Paris' arms from behind to restrain him.

Cavit taking the opportunity provided to him quickly came out from behind the desk. "Don't you dare threaten *me* Paris," he spat in his face and grabbed a hold of Paris' collar with one hand and hit him with the other getting in a couple of upper cuts to the jaw, "or next time I *will* space you," he said as he punctuated every word with a jab to the ribs heedless of the look of disdain that Chakotay flashed at him. "Now get out of here and report to engineering for the week, I understand the Chief has some cleaning she needs done." The younger man roughly pulled his arms away from the former Maquis, rubbed his jaw with one hand while the other clutched his ribs, and stormed out of the office.

"He'll never change, Chakotay, his kind are all alike. It's a continuous battle to keep him in his place," he said as he shook his head trying to justify his actions against the pilot.

"Yes, sir," the helmsman replied though inside he was sure that Paris wouldn't have acted the way he had without good reason. He also knew that from experience during the past year that it wasn't wise to cross the first officer, and in particular during the last six months. If only the Captain witnessed some of the shit that he pulls, he thought. He also knew that Cavit never showed Janeway the side of himself that the rest of the crew witnessed daily.

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Tom Paris got on the turbolift to ride to engineering. Damn, that Cavit could pack a wallop, he thought, but he was a coward, would only fight if he knew he couldn't get hurt. Walking into engineering, he approached Lt. Torres, her back to him, to tell her that he was available for the afternoon.

"Lt. Torres, it looks like I'm all yours this afternoon, what will it be today, bioneural gel cleanup or dusting out the cobwebs in the replicators?" he asked with grin on his bruised face. This woman was one of the members of the crew that intrigued him the most. Most of the time she was all business, but there had been a few times when she had let her guard down. Once or twice, he had actually seen her smile, it was like opening a window and letting fresh air and sunshine inside a cold dark room. She must be the most beautiful woman in the Delta Quadrant if not the Universe, he mused, and she doesn't even know it. Someone should tell her. Maybe me?

She turned around at the sound of his voice. "Paris . . . what happened to you, get into a fight again?" she said noting the bruise forming along his jaw.

"Why, darlin', I didn't know you cared, you want to kiss it and make it better?" he teased tilting his swollen jaw up in her direction.

"You obnoxious pig!"

"That may be, but I'm your obnoxious pig for the rest of the afternoon," he countered with a grin that was mirrored with a similar grin on her face. Seeing that unexpected smile nearly made his heart stop. "You're even more lovely when you smile Lieutenant, you should do it more often," he added his voice lowered to a whisper.

She snorted a incoherent reply trying to ignore the compliment. Yeah, right I'm lovely, since when! "Paris, actually I do have a project for you to do, in fact I think it will keep you busy the rest of the week, maybe two. Cleaning the jeffries tubes," she said with satisfaction. There, maybe that will teach you to keep your mouth shut. "But first I think you ought to report to Sickbay and get patched up."

"You don't know, do you?" he asked as he looked into her velvety brown eyes as she shook her head. "The Doc's not, and I'm quoting now: 'not allowed to heal any superficial injuries, only injuries that may hinder Paris' performance,' according to the first officer," he informed the half-Klingon in a voice that aped Cavit's.

"Barbaric," she mumbled and threw in a few Klingon epithets that he didn't understand shaking her head all the while. "So your saying your ready to work?"

"I'm at your service ma'am," he said with a mock salute, "point the way, I'm all yours."

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Chakotay joined the Chief Engineer in the Mess Hall that evening. Sitting over in a far corner by themselves the pilot told her what had transpired in Cavit's office that morning. He told her how he wanted to help Paris but knew that Cavit would make it worse for both of them if he had.

"Cavit's never going to win any popularity contests is he?" she asked.

"Not on this ship he isn't. The only ones who can seem to tolerate him are Tuvok and the Captain. But I think if they both knew him better they'd change their tune," he said in a low voice so they wouldn't be overheard.

"Are you still worried about Janeway?" B'Elanna asked.

"Yeah, I haven't seen her except briefly through the door of the ready room for several weeks, and from what I've seen she doesn't look well. The only one who has any contact with her is Cavit. All of us on the bridge are worried," he said sadly as he took a sip of coffee.

"This can't continue Chakotay, something has got to be done. Cavit has to be dealt with."

"Do you know what your saying?" he whispered, as he looked around the room to see if anyone else had overheard.

"I do, believe me, I do."

CHAPTER 2 - SWEET SLUMBER

Three days later.

Which tube was he in now? JT53? JT87? He had lost track. The fact was after a while they all looked alike. He was into his fourth hour in this one tube running the sonic broom all around the inside and into every corner and crevice. He knew that the Chief would check up on him and if the job wasn't done thoroughly, she'd make sure he'd do it right until it met her white-glove inspection. It was nice and quite in here though, he thought, and he was so tired, maybe if he just sat down for a little while he could catch a little shuteye. He certainly hadn't been successful sleeping at night since his move, the only thing that he had accomplished was time on the holodeck to practice on the flight simulator program during the only time he was allowed to use the holodecks, 2300 to 2400 every third day. Just a little cat nap, he thought, he would just shut his eyes for a short . . .

Torres had gone in search of the handsome blonde man with the blue eyes to relieve him of duty early that afternoon for she had noticed the dark circles under his eyes which indicated severe lack of sleep. When she found him though, he was already asleep, his tall frame propped up awkwardly against the inside wall of the tube. She couldn't resist watching him for a while, he looked so innocent while he dozed, like a little boy who had had a very busy day, like a little boy who needed a good night kiss? Her hand reached out to touch his cheek, but she stopped herself just before her finger tips touched his pale skin. What are you thinking of? she scolded herself. Of all the men on this ship that I should be interested in, why do I only dream of this man? Why is it his lips I want to feel against my own? Why is it his arms I want to hold me while I sleep?

She was walking confidently toward him, her dark hair hung loose down to her shoulders, her bronze colored skin glowed in the candlelight. A short gold metallic dress she wore reflected the glow of the candles and swirled around her shapely legs as she walked. When she got closer, she reached up and put her arms around his shoulders and swayed against him. He reached to tenderly caress her ridged forehead with his fingertips and then put his arms around her waist and they danced to the music. She smiled an exquisite smile and pulled his head down for a . . .

"Paris?"

"B'Elanna, just one more kiss . . ." he murmured.

What was that? Was he reading her mind? "Paris, ah, come on wake up."

"I'm coming, I'm coming." he said as he sat up and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hands. "Sorry Lieutenant, just caught up with me, haven't been sleeping too well lately."

"Just don't let it happen again," she warned. If it happens again, I might not be able to stop myself.

CHAPTER 3 - KLINGON KINDNESS

That morning after another eventful night, he headed to the mess hall to start the day. The night before, he figured that he would show Cavit that just because he was assigned to that little hole in the wall it didn't necessarily mean he had to sleep there.

His first idea was to see if Harry would put him up, but dropped the idea not wanting to get the young ensign in trouble with the first officer. So he opted for his second idea, holding up in the ship's gym. It was a fine idea until he was found out at 0230 by Security and was woken up with several swift kicks to his body and told to get back where he belonged.

He sat in the kitchen, in his chair, peeling those stupid roots again, thinking about going back to his cabin -- strike that hell hole, yeah that was more like it -- pop in those cursed ear plugs and try to catch a nap before reporting to engineering that afternoon. It was either that he determined or fall asleep on the job.

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Where was he? B'Elanna wondered as she paced back and forth in her office, he was scheduled to clean JT30 today and he was supposed to have reported to her for his assignment forty minutes ago. She slapped her commbadge "Torres to Paris." No answer. "Computer location of Mr. Paris." The computer notified her that he was in his cabin and provided her with the location which puzzled her as she didn't know that anyone occupied any cabins on that particular level.

She took the turbolift down to the lowest level, got out and set out for find his room. She had seldom been down on this level and could understand why. It was a dump. It was dingy, dusty, and gods was it noisy. It took a several minutes, but finally she found his cabin. "Paris, it's Lt. Torres open up," she yelled. No answer was received. "Computer override door lock authorization Torres Alpha Omega."

The door squealed open, and B'Elanna entered the darkened cabin and was almost knocked down by the heat and humidity that greeted her. She ordered the computer to provide eighty percent illumination, and to decrease the heat and humidity. The lights came on but only provided thirty percent at best and she was informed by the computer that the temperature and humidity of the room were at acceptable levels.

On an unorthodox style of bed, a type she had never seen before on the ship, lay a half-dressed Paris with what looked like earplugs inserted in his ears. He was laying on his back with his arm throw over the top of his head his body glistening with sweat. Even in the dim light, she could make out purple bruises along his ribs, which stood out against his pale skin, souvenirs of being awakened in the gym the night before.

"Paris," she said as she reached down and shook the man by his bare shoulder. "Paris, get up!" she shouted to be heard over the roar of the engines, but received no response. Oh to hell with it, she thought. "Torres to Cavit," she yelled into her commbadge.

"Cavit here, go ahead Lieutenant."

"Mr. Cavit there appears to be something amiss with the engines and I'm going to need to bring them down for an hour or two," she lied loudly.

"Very good Lieutenant, just try and get them up and running as soon as possible."

"Torres to Carey."

"Carey here, B'Elanna go ahead, but speak up I'm having trouble hearing you."

"Carey," she said louder, "I need you to bring the engines down, I'll explain later, if Cavit should try to contact you tell him it was my call."

"Affirmative," Carey replied, surprised by the Chief's request and proceeded to shut down the engines.

She sat down next to Paris and gently shook him by his shoulder again as the engine noise diminished. "Paris, it's time to wake up."

He slowly lowered his arm away and blinked his sleepy eyes in an attempt to focus. Surely he must be seeing things, yeah that's must be it, he thought, he was still dreaming why else would B'Elanna Torres be sitting on his bed. Good dream he decided, good one to go back to and he shut his eyes again in an attempt to recapture the moment.

"Paris, wake up," she said as she shook his shoulder again, this time harder.

He opened his eyes again and this time he realized that he was not dreaming, but the object of his dreams was sitting on his bed. "Lt. Torres? What are you doing down here?" he asked as he removed the ear plugs surprised by the lack of noise.

"Well, when you didn't show up for your duty assignment I came looking for you, seems like waking you up has become a habit." Not a bad habit, she mused, but she would rather wake up with him than just wake him up. "You never did tell me you had such a luxurious cabin," she said as she waved her arm around the room trying to steer the conversation in a different direction.

"Jealous, huh? Well if you like this you should try the sonic shower, it fits right in -- it doesn't work," he said gloomily.

"Why did you move down here?"

"I don't know, to get away from it all?" he flippantly replied but seeing the look on her face that said 'the truth if you want to live' quickly added: "Actually, you'll have to ask Cavit, Lieutenant, I was told that some ensign needed my cabin."

"That Cavit is a petaQ," she spat, her sharp response surprised the man sitting beside her. "Tom, there are plenty of empty cabins on this ship, what *is* that man's problem?"

"So you noticed it too, and I thought I was the only one," he agreed and he got up, stretched and put on his shirt. Wait a minute what had she called him, 'Tom' not 'Paris'?

"Oh yeah, I noticed it, that man is a dishonorable snake, if he were a Klingon and this was a Klingon Bird of Prey I'd have grounds to slice his throat open!"

He was surprised by her response and the harsh tone of her voice. "Lieutenant, are you okay?" he asked as he touched his hand to hers. The touch sent a sensation through her body as if she had been struck by lightning causing her to flinch. "What has he ever done to you?" he asked concerned for her safety.

B'Elanna couldn't speak for a moment having been temporarily incapacitated by the genuine look of concern in his blue eyes and his touch. She had wanted him to touch her for a long time. "What did you say?"

"I said has Cavit ever done anything to hurt you?"

She hesitated for a moment before she could reply. "Ah . . . not really, but . . ."

"But what? Tell me." he asked sincerely as he knelt down in front of her.

"It's just that every time he is in a room alone with me he tries . . .he tries to . . ." she responded trying to avoid the piercing blue eyes that bore into her soul.

"He tries to touch you?" Tom finished for her.

"Yes, and that petaQ just makes my skin crawl. I know he just wants to say he had a Klingon or a half-Klingon, they all do, men are all alike. Hell, I don't need to tell you that," she said as she got up abruptly from his bed knocking Tom down in the process.

He rose from the floor and stood behind her and tentatively put his hands on her shoulders unsure of her reaction. "Not all men are like that B'Elanna, not all men. I'm sure your right about Cavit though, the man is scum. But not all men would want you just because your half-Klingon, some like me would want you because of who you are. Your a beautiful woman, Lieutenant, both on the inside and the out, don't you know that? Hasn't anyone ever told you?"

B'Elanna turned to face him meeting the blue eyes with her brown ones. "So you think anyone would find these beautiful," she challenged him, motioning to her forehead ridges."

"I don't think, I know," he said as he bent down and placed a feather-light kiss on her forehead. "I know, Lieutenant, because *I* think your beautiful."

She stood there speechless, as she was unfamiliar with the emotions that his touch and kiss had triggered in her, but not for long and she pushed him away from her. "Par . . . Paris get dressed, it's time for you to go to work, I found the perfect jeffries tube for you today, it's nice and dusty. Not as dusty as your quarters, but it will do." she said as she stormed out of his room.

He stepped into his bathroom and combed his hair and washed his face before leaving his quarters to report to engineering. All the while he contemplated what had just happened in his room. She had opened up to him a little. And for her, that 'little' had been a lot, for he knew over the past year that she didn't show that side of herself often, if at all.

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He entered engineering a short while later and sought out the Chief Engineer. "I've come to clean a very dusty jeffries tube, Lieutenant" he said to B'Elanna with his customary smirk on his face.

"I'll be right with you, Paris, I have to get something out of my office first," she replied.

She came out of her office a moment later carrying a full satchel. "Follow me, I'll show you where your assigned today."

They exited engineering, took the turbo lift up three levels and walked down the corridor and entered JT30 without a word exchanged between the two of them until they reached their destination and she opened the hatch. "Now Paris I expect this tube to be clean, spic and span, it shouldn't take you more than an hour."

"An hour? Only an hour? Had he heard her right? So what's on the schedule after that?"

She handed him the satchel. "Here, take this, inside you will find a blanket and a pillow. Curl up in here and have your sleep, I'll come by later to make sure you don't miss your duty time with Neelix." He was his turn to be speechless. This was one of the nicest things anyone had done for him in a long time.

"I don't want you to get in trouble, not for me, not for anything," he said, when he found his voice, concerned that Cavit would find out and take it out on her.

"You let me worry about that, I'll make sure no one else uses this tube this afternoon. You have your beauty sleep, you need it, you're starting to get ugly around your earlobes." she teased. "I'll see you later."

CHAPTER 4 - HIDDEN TALENTS

She crawled in the now clean JT and rounding the first bend found Tom Paris asleep curled up in the blanket, his fair head resting on the pillow. She hated to wake him up, but needed to speak him before he had to report to the mess hall.

"Paris, wake up," she said as she reached over and shook his shoulder. "Tom, it's time to wake up."

"Uumph, what . . . I'm up, I'm up." he mumbled as he rolled over rubbed his sleep-blurred eyes and blinked them several times in an attempt to focus on the half-Klingon. "Thanks for letting me sleep Lieutenant," he said as he tried unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn.

"No problem, but Tom I wanted to talk to you a bit before you went to the mess hall."

"What about? Didn't I clean all the nooks and crannies today?"

"I don't know, and I don't really care. I just wanted to thank you for what you said today."

He looked at her with a confused look on her face.

"You know," she reminded him, "what you said about me, even though it's not true."

"You mean about you being beautiful?" he asked and she nodded her head and diverted her eyes not daring to look at him. "You don't need to thank me, Lieutenant, it's true. I still don't believe that no one ever told you, you were beautiful?" he said incredulously.

"Well, actually Chakotay told me once, but he has always been more like my big brother than anything else so I wrote it off as him being polite," she admitted as she tilted her head up to meet his blue eyes, her luscious inviting lips parted slightly. He reached over to caress her cheek with the palm of his hand and he leaned forward in anticipation of a kiss . . .

"Neelix to Paris," his commbadge blared interrupting the tender moment.

Damn! "I'm . . . I'm on my way Neelix," he responded reluctantly pulling his hand away from her face.

"I would hope so. I can't handle all this by myself," the Talaxian grumbled.

"I've got to go Lieutenant or he'll send someone to get me," he said sadly as he folded up his blanket and put it along with the pillow back in the bag and handed it to her. "Listen, if you want to talk any more, I'll be in Holodeck 1 at 2300." "And I did mean everything I said," he told her and brought his fingers over to tenderly touch her soft cheek again. "And I should be the one thanking you, what you did for me today was the kindest thing anyone has done for me in a long, long time," he said as tears welled up in his eyes, "I've got to go," he choked and turned around to exit the tube, "remember 2300 Holodeck 1."

She sat there speechless not knowing what to say. Why did this man touch her soul so, in a way no other man had? And why did it have to be this man, who she was always told to avoid at all cost? Holodeck 1 at 2300 -- that was something to think about.

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Paris had entered Holodeck 1 a couple of minutes before 2300 and waited to see if B'Elanna would show up. At 2315, he decided that she would not come, not that he blamed her, and proceeded to initiate Program Paris Alpha One. The bridge of Voyager coalesced around him and he assumed his rightful place at the helm. After about fifteen minutes, he was totally involved with the program trying to fly around a series of spacial anomalies and didn't even hear the Holodeck door slide open and shut behind him.

She had argued with herself for a long time that evening before she decided to take him up on his offer. She donned her civies, remnants of her time in the Maquis, a loose fitting pair of black pants and a forest green tunic top, and made her way to the holodecks. She hesitated only slightly as she keyed in her security override and entered Holodeck 1. What she saw surprised her, Paris was sitting at a recreated helm on Voyager flying a flight simulation program. She had heard that he was some sort of crackshot pilot before his run in with the law, but no one had told her just how good he was. He was successfully maneuvering the ship around obstacles that she knew Chakotay would never have attempted, and doing it effortlessly. She sat in the Captain's chair and watched him with great interest. Finally, at 0255 he terminated the program, which resulted in B'Elanna landing on her butt amid the yellow grid lines of the holodeck.

"Uumph!"

Paris spun around at the sound of the noise. "Lieutenant, I'm sorry, I didn't know you were there, are you okay."

"Just hurt my pride, I'm fine," she reassured him as he helped her up from the floor. "I'm sorry I was late."

"I'm glad you showed up."

"Why didn't you tell me you could fly so well, your talents are wasted cleaning my jeffries tubes."

"I wouldn't consider anything you asked me to do a waste," he drawled.

She blushed at his complement and decided to veer the subject away from that path. "So how come you're in the holodeck at this hour?" she asked.

"It's the only time Cavit will allot me," he explained.

Cavit again. "Why does he have it out for you so much?" she asked obviously concerned.

He shook his head, "I don't know, I used to wonder, but I really don't care anymore. It could be anything, my family, Caldik Prime, being in prison, or a number of other things. But that's not why I asked you to come down here Lieutenant. I enjoyed talking with you this afternoon, and wanted to know if we could continue our conversation."

"I'm sorry, Tom, I should have arrived sooner. Maybe tomorrow afternoon we could talk, I have several more jeffries tubes that need to be cleaned," she said with a grin.

"I'll look forward to it," he promised as they exited the holodeck.

CHAPTER 5 - JANEWAY IN JEOPARDY

After most of the crew had had their breakfast the next morning, Paris sat down at a table in the back of the mess hall to have his own. He was poking around the food on his plate trying to find the most edible pieces when he was joined by Harry.

"So, do I dare eat it?" Harry asked.

"What?" Tom replied not paying attention to the young ensign.

"I said . . .," he stopped in mid-sentence noting the other man's drained face. "Tom, are you alright?"

"Yeah, it's just that I've finally done it Harry, I swore I wouldn't do it, but I did it. You know sometimes it just comes crashing into you and there is nothing at all you can do about it, you can't avoid it. No matter how hard you try, you can't deny it."

"What the hell are you talking about?" demanded the exasperated younger man.

"I've fallen in love," he said simply still poking at the now cold food.

Harry not believing what he just heard thought that he would play along. "So what holo-babe is she?" he asked with a smirk on face.

Tom look up to meet the ensign's eyes solemnly. "It's no holo- babe, Harry. I wish it was, it would be a lot easier. If it was a holo-babe no one would get hurt."

"So who is it?"

"I'm not saying."

"Come on, even to me, you know I won't tell anyone," he pleaded.

"It's hopeless anyway, Harry, so let's drop the subject. I'm sorry I said anything." He would drop it now but it was, hell she was, the only thing he could think about, her face, her hair, the smell of her skin . . . "So how's everything on the bridge? Everyone must be picking up after themselves this week, I haven't been up there once."

"It's about the same, but . . ." Harry replied his demeanor having changed to one of anxiousness.

"But what?"

Harry dropped his voice so no one would overhear him. "I'm worried Tom, and so is the rest of the bridge crew, except for Tuvok, nobody can tell if he's worried or not."

"So what's up, what's got everyone so concerned?" Tom asked.

"It's just that no one has seen the Captain in the last few weeks."

"I thought I heard that she wasn't feeling well?"

"Yeah, that's what we all heard, but if she isn't feeling well, then why hasn't the Doctor been in to see her? According to Kes, the Doctor hasn't been anywhere near her. Not only that, but he can't even have her beamed into sickbay, the only person authorized to permit intership beaming is Cavit. He's also the only person who sees the Captain. I don't like it, something is not right."

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That afternoon Paris reported to engineering and was surprised to see that it was nearly empty, except for the chief's office, he noted as he entered. "Lieutenant Torres, I'm here to clean your jeffries tubes."

"Maybe later, but first I've been asked to send you to the bridge, they have a couple of consoles that need to be cleaned, apparently Cavit feels it is beneath the bridge crew to get down on their hands and knees and do it themselves."

"Thanks for the concern, Lieutenant, but it won't be the last time I'm called up there to clean up after them," he admitted recalling this conversation with Harry that morning. "By the way, where is everyone down here?"

"Cavit *requested* that engineering give the shuttlecraft engineers a hand this afternoon, but he's going to be short two engineers in the shuttlebay, I've sent them down to your quarters to fix the environmental controls and your sonic shower, I wish I could do something about the noise . . ."

"It's okay, I really appreciate you taking care of those things, you didn't have to. Maintenance should be the ones to take care of it. If Cavit finds out . . ."

"The two people I put on it are very trustworthy, Tom, they won't say a thing," she said to the worried looking man standing in front of her. "When your done on the bridge, come back to engineering and I'll find a nice quiet JT for you, okay?"

"That's an offer I can't refuse, hopefully I won't be long."

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The bridge, the one place where he hated to work but the only place where really he belonged, belonged that is if they would allow him to fly.

Over the past year he had seen everyone of Voyager's pilots at the helm, and it was not boastful for him to admit that he could fly circles around any of them, including the Chief Pilot. In fact, a few months ago Chakotay had walked in on his holodeck flight simulation program and had complimented him himself and admitted that Paris could teach him a few things about handling Voyager. After that, the other man was nowhere near as hostile as he had been at the beginning of their voyage, and had sought him out on occasion with questions about maneuvering the starship.

Tom exited the turbolift at the bridge level and immediately headed for the offending consoles and got out his cleaning tools. As was typical for the last several weeks, the Captain was not on the bridge. Today, as during the other times when he had been on the bridge, Cavit prepared a cup of coffee for his Captain in her favorite coffee cup and prepared to bring it to her in her ready room, but not before Tom witnessed him surreptitiously drop a couple of capsules in the warm beverage. An action that from his location was only noticeable to him. He decided to ask B'Elanna or Harry about it later.

The cleanup hadn't taken very long and without so much as a thank you, not that he expected any, he headed back to engineering. B'Elanna was the only one there when he returned.

"So are you ready to work?" she asked as he came through the door.

"Yeah, I guess so," he replied rather distractedly. "Lieutenant?"

"B'Elanna, please. Call me B'Elanna at least when we're alone."

Gladly, but what had prompted that? "Er, B'Elanna, when I was up at the bridge just now I saw Cavit put a couple of pills in the Captain's coffee."

"What?! Did he see you?"

"No, I was cleaning underneath one of the consoles, I think he forgot I was there."

"I'll speak to Harry about it, it might explain a few things. Thanks for letting me know," she said clearly worried.

"So where is the offending jeffries tube today, B'Elanna," he said with a grin trying to change the subject.

"Actually, it is right over here, to the right of my desk," she said as she handed him the sonic broom along with the usual satchel. "Now work hard and no sleeping on the job," she teased as she graced him with a brilliant smile.

Paris returned the grin. "I'll do my best. Thanks."

CHAPTER 6 - ASSAULT

He was having another of his dreams involving the half-Klingon when he was awakened by loud voices emanating from the chief's office.

"I've told you before to leave me alone, I am not interested!" he heard the familiar female voice roar.

"Come on now Torres, you know you want me and have for some time. From what I understand you Klingons can never get enough!"

"I'm warning you, Cavit, if you get any closer, I'll not be responsible for my own actions!"

"In a little while it won't matter, that coffee you just drank is full of a narcotic, in a little while you won't be able to stop me, and to top it all off you won't remember a thing, not even this conversation," Cavit told her. B'Elanna tried to get to the door but Cavit blocked her every move, which was easy as she was starting to feel the effects of the drug and was finding it hard to stay on her feet.

Tom crawled as quickly as he could to the entrance of the tube kicked open the hatch to the jeffries tube and landed in B'Elanna's office. "Keep you hands off her you bastard!" he screamed as he barreled into the other man. B'Elanna by this time had collapsed on the floor and was fighting to stay conscious.

The two men wrestled each other first one in control and then the other. Normally, Cavit would have been no match for the younger man but with the limited amount of sleep Tom had got over the past week, it helped to even the odds. Each got in his fair share of blows, but finally Paris made some headway and with a couple well-placed jabs to the older man's chest and jaw Cavit landed on his back and didn't move. Oh, gods, Tom thought, what had he done. He had attacked the First Officer, but Cavit deserved it, he had planned on attacking B'Elanna, the woman he loved.

Paris turned away from Cavit and sat down beside the engineer and pulled her head onto his lap. "B'Elanna, don't fall asleep. Come on, tell me your okay," he pleaded as he brushed her hair away from her face and looked into her glazed eyes. As he was attending to her, he failed to notice that Cavit had recovered from the blows and had approached Paris from behind, holding a laser wrench. With one swift move he brought it down on the young man's head, knocking him out.

"Cavit to security, I need assistance in Lt. Torres office immediately."

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Oh gods how his head hurt, it felt like it was being squeezed in a vise, he thought as he lay on the bed, his eyes still shut in an attempt to block out the light. Where was he? He could tell he was on a bed. Well he couldn't hear the noise of the engines, so he wasn't in his cabin he concluded. So where was he? He sniffed the air. Antiseptic. Sickbay. He groaned as he slowly opened his eyes.

"It appears that he has decided to wake up." remarked the Doctor. "Well I'm nearly done healing the concussion. Now I'll just give him something for the headache," he remarked as he grabbed the appropriate hypospray.

"He gets nothing for the headache, Doctor," ordered the first officer coldly.

"But, Commander, surely he must be in a lot of pain, I don't see what . . ."

"Nothing for the headache, consider it punishment for what he did to Lt. Torres, and don't let me find out you disobeyed my orders," Cavit warned as he looked down upon the young man who had been restrained to the bed. "Paris, you should consider yourself fortunate, Lt. Torres has decided not to press charges," Cavit snarled just as the Sickbay doors slid open and emitted Harry Kim, clutching a bloody hand.

"Charges for what," Tom croaked, every word causing his head to throb painfully.

"Attempted rape," Cavit replied venomously.

"What? I didn't do anything, you did!"

Cavit leaned over to whisper in the other man's ear. "Your word against mine Paris, do you think anyone would believe you."

The Doctor went over to investigate Harry's injured hand. "What did you do ensign?" the Doctor asked as he cocked one eyebrow in the direction of Cavit and Paris.

"Let's just say I was repairing my console when it bit back," Kim replied. Though he was speaking to the EMH his attention was on the other two men in the room before he turned his face back to the Doctor's and mouthed the words 'what happened' to which the Doctor mouthed back 'later.'

Cavit was relishing his discussion with the younger man. "For punishment, Paris, I believe your scheduled to work ten-hour days now, we'll increase it to twelve, and reduce your half-rations earned to quarter rations until further notice. I expect you back to work the day after tomorrow. For the immediate future, two security guards will be placed outside your quarters while your there and you will also be guarded anytime your in engineering." Paris laying on the bed just glared back at him.

"You bastard." Paris said quietly as the other man turned to leave the room.

"Doctor, I've sent for someone to come down from security to transfer Mr. Paris back to his quarters, they should be here shortly."

"Very good Mr. Cavit, I'll have him ready," the EMH responded to the back of the Commander as the doors of Sickbay slid open emitting two security guards as he exited the room.

"We have orders to escort Paris back to his quarters," one of the guards informed the doctor.

"Yes, well he is over there just be careful with him, I just healed his concussion." The two guards marched over to the bed and released the restraints and between the two of them dragged the injured man out of Sickbay.

"What happened Doctor?" asked Harry after the three had left.

"According to Mr. Cavit," the EMH fairly spat out his name. "Mr. Paris tried to rape Lt. Torres and the Commander rescued her by knocking Paris out with a laser wrench. Cavit let me treat Paris' concussion, but not his headache."

"I don't believe it, Tom may be capable of a lot of things, but I don't believe he would rape anyone."

"Me either," the Doctor responded with a sudden alert expression as if he had come up with a brilliant idea. "Say Mr. Kim didn't you say *you* had a headache?"

"No, I'm . . .," he started to reply as the Doctor raised his right eyebrow. "Well on second thought maybe I have one coming on," Kim replied finally catching on. "Yep, I definitely have one coming on. Do you have something I could take back to my cabin? I'd prefer to take it there."

"You've read my holographic engrams, ensign." said the Doctor as he headed back to the storage area to retrieve an analgesic hypospray. Then quickly returned and handed it to Harry.

"Speaking of not treating injuries Doctor, have you seen the Captain lately I understand she is not feeling well."

"I've asked Cavit a number of times if I could see her, but he says he's taking care of it. I don't like it," the Doctor said sadly.

"Neither does anyone else," replied Harry. "Something's got to be done."

CHAPTER 7 - PLOTS AND PLANS

Harry stood apprehensively outside of the Chief Engineer's quarters. What he was going to approach her about could be paramount to mutiny, but he didn't know what else to do.

BREEP "Come in," B'Elanna said from behind the door.

"B'Elanna do you have time to talk?" Harry asked with a look of concern on his face.

"Of course, Harry, what about?"

"I know your as concerned with the state of affairs on this ship as I am, in particularly with regards to Cavit." B'Elanna replied by nodding her head. "B'Elanna we have got to do something about it."

"I've been thinking the same thing, we have to do something and do something quickly. In fact, Chakotay is suppose to be here . . ."

BREEP "Come in," B'Elanna said again and the helmsman entered her quarters and looked surprised to see Harry there as well.

"Chakotay, it appears as if Harry's been reading our minds," explained B'Elanna.

"Good, we can use all the help we can, in fact Harry's expertise in communications could come in very handy," he said as he replicated himself a cup of coffee and the three of them sat at B'Elanna's table to discuss a plan of action.

"So you see, in order to get to the Captain we have to get past not only Cavit but Tuvok as well. We need to convince Tuvok that Cavit is involved in a plan to oust the Captain," explained Chakotay. "If we could record a conversion with Cavit where he admitted his actions, let's say in regards to what he tried to do to B'Elanna or to the Captain, and Tuvok heard it, then it should work."

"But whose going to approach Cavit?" asked Harry.

"Maybe Paris," concluded B'Elanna.

"Why Paris?" asked Chakotay.

"Because Cavit knows that Paris is aware that he was the one that tried to a rape me. Paris also saw him slip a couple of pills into the Captain's afternoon coffee," she explained.

"Cavit did what?" the other two said in unison.

B'Elanna explained what Tom had told her earlier that day and continued. "So if Paris were to confront him in private then Cavit might slip up and admit what he had done."

"That sounds like a feasible plan," admitted Chakotay. "But someone has to get to Paris and see if he'll go along with it."

"Leave that to me," said the half-Klingon. "One of the maintenance tubes exits directly in his room. In fact I'll go tonight."

"And I'll come up with a listening device," piped in Harry.

"And I'll get the two of them together tomorrow morning," said Chakotay. "Tell Paris that I'll manufacturer a complaint about him and arrange to have him called to Cavit's office."

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Just a couple more floors and B'Elanna would be in Paris' quarters. Thankfully, the sounds of the engines helped to muffle any noise she made and the closer she got to the room the louder the sound got. When she reached the end of the tube she attempted to open the door, only to find out that it was stuck. With a couple of well-placed kicks the door finally screeched open and she crawled out of the tube into Paris' darkened quarters.

"Lights, 20 percent," she ordered. In the dim light, she saw Tom laying on his bed with his arms drawn up over his ears as if trying to block out as much noise as possible. His furrowed brow indicated that the headache had not gone away and in fact was probably much worse than it had been, as she noticed streaks of tears down his cheeks.

She touched his shoulder and shook him as she leaned down close to his ear to be heard. "Tom, it's B'Elanna. I need to speak with you."

Tom gradually half opened his pain-filled eyes and looked into the chocolate eyes of the half-Klingon. "B'Elanna?" he whispered.

"I'm here Tom and I've brought you something for the headache," she said as she retrieved the hypospray Harry had given her from her pocket and administered it into his neck. "There, that should make you feel better," she said as she wiped away the wetness from his cheeks with her fingers.

"Thanks. Why are you here?"

"I've come to talk. Actually, I've come to ask you a favor."

"Anything, B'Elanna, anything," he said as the pain reliever started to take effect.

"You'd better hear me out before you agree so willingly, Tom. What I'm asking isn't easy or safe," she said. "Chakotay, Harry, and I have been talking about the situation with Cavit and how concerned we all are about the Captain and we have come up with a plan. I hate to ask you to do this, but we think you're the only one who can pull it off," she said not being able to meet his eyes.

Tom reached over and gently tilted her chin up to look into their dark depths. "B'Elanna I know by now that you wouldn't ask me to do anything that wasn't necessary. So tell me what you want me to do."

"We need you to confront Cavit, to get him to admit what he tried to do to me. He knows that you are aware that he tried . . . tried to . . .," she found that she couldn't say the words.

"That he tried to rape you?" he responded to which she nodded.

"I'd do it, Tom, but he doesn't know that I remember everything, he'd think I was bluffing -- he'd laugh it off."

"So if I do this, what will this accomplish?"

"You will be monitored the entire time," she explained as she handed him the tiny listening device that Harry gave her earlier. "We want Tuvok to hear Cavit confess to his actions. If we can get Tuvok to understand what Cavit has been doing, then we can get to the Captain. We are all worried about her, Tom."

"I'm worried too. If Cavit becomes Captain of the ship, we are all doomed. So just tell me the rest of the plan and I'll do my best."

CHAPTER 8 - IMPLEMENTATION

Chakotay entered the Commander's office the next morning to implement the plan as Harry and B'Elanna stood by in a nearby office with Tuvok who they had convinced to listen in on the conversation with the promise that if nothing was revealed that would never approach him about Cavit again. The fate of the ship would be decided in a short period of time.

"Commander, if I could have a moment of your time?"

"Of course, Chakotay, what's this about?"

"I wanted to report an altercation with Paris this morning in the Mess Hall, I've already spoken with Tuvok, but he told me that you would want to know."

"Oh really?" Cavit replied suddenly very interested in what the helmsman had to say. "So what happened?"

"Paris threatened me and told me to stay away from Lt. Torres. He said that she was his and that if I didn't heed his warning I'd regret it," he lied. "You were right, sir, his kind never learns, he thinks he can issue orders to the rest of us. I thought you should know." He waited for his Commander's response.

Cavit got up from behind his desk and turned his back to the helmsman. A feral smile lit his face as rubbed his hand together in anticipation. Another confrontation with Paris, he could hardly wait. He'd really regret it this time, he'd teach him his place on this ship -- that being under the Commander's, or soon to be Captain's, thumb.

"Commander?" Chakotay prompted when his superior officer didn't respond.

Hearing Chakotay's voice, Cavit quickly turned around, he had temporarily forgotten that the other man was still in the room. "Ah, I'll take care of it Chakotay. Have Paris report to my office immediately," he ordered.

"Yes sir."

Paris walked into Cavit's office a short time later escorted to the door by two security guards and the listening device firmly secured to the inside of his collar. As the guards attempted to enter the office Cavit told them to wait outside, not wanting anyone to hear what words might be spoken between him and Paris.

Cavit was pacing behind his desk when Paris entered his office. "So you couldn't wait," he started, "not even back to work one full day and your causing trouble. Like you have any chance at all with Lt. Torres."

"Go to hell!" Paris snapped, knowing that he would have to be even more bold than usual to get the older man to confess.

"Don't start with me Paris, we both know who will come out on top in the end."

"And don't *you* threaten me Cavit, I know what you almost got away with in engineering. You tried to rape Lt. Torres," Paris accused which caused the older man to stop pacing and lean across the desk to face him.

"And what if I did, what are *you* going to do about it. It's just your word against mine!"

"I'll get someone to listen, someone will believe what I say. Maybe Tuvok."

Cavit laughed sinisterly in the younger man's face. "Tuvok won't believe you, I've got him too well trained, he believes whatever I tell him. No one on this ship will believe you Paris, your nothing. Hell, you know I tried to do it, and I know I tried to do it. It's just too bad that I didn't succeed--but I'll get her eventually. Don't forget that I could walk into her office at any time and try it again and there is nothing you . . ."

Paris couldn't take it any more. He launched himself across the Cavit's desk and grabbed him by the shoulders and knocked him to the floor. "You bastard, I'll never let you touch her again. Never again!" he yelled as he proceeded to pummel the older man with his fists.

Chakotay had joined Harry, B'Elanna, and a reluctant Tuvok and they had been listening to the entire exchange. When they heard Cavit convict himself they quickly made their way to the First Officer's office to rescue Tom.

Cavit rolled out from under Paris and reached into his desk drawer for the phaser than he always kept there. Tom seeing what the other man was trying to do desperately tried to reach for the weapon as well. The two men grappled with the weapon in between them as they rolled on the floor just as Chakotay, B'Elanna, Harry, and Tuvok stormed through the door of the office.

"Stop it, stop it!" screamed B'Elanna, frantic that Tom would get hurt. But before she could reach the pair, the phaser discharged twice, once glancing off Tom's ribs and the second directly hitting Cavit in the chest. B'Elanna reached to activate her commbadge "Sickbay, we have two injured people in Mr. Cavit's office, please send medics and stretchers immediately."

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As soon as Paris and Cavit were brought to Sickbay and the Doctor examined the phaser burns and immediately assessed the injuries. The EMH determined that Paris suffered from a severe phaser burn to his left rib area and Cavit died as a result of a prolonged phaser blast. He was pulling the blanket up over the Commander's head as B'Elanna, Harry, Chakotay, and Tuvok watched.

"I'm sorry Lieutenant," the EMH said as he spoke to Tuvok, "but Cavit is dead, there was nothing that could be done."

"And Paris?" B'Elanna asked as she made her way over to Tom's side alarmed at his paler than normal complexion. Kes was at the other side of Tom's bed cutting away his clothing so she could clean the wound before the Doctor could treat it.

"Mr. Paris was fortunate to receive only a glancing blast off his rib cage. While he did sustain some severe injury, it is nothing that can't be repaired. In fact, I'm going to have to ask you all to vacate Sickbay while I operate to repair the damage," he said as he walked over the Paris' biobed and activated the medical arch. "I'll let you know when I'm done and then I'll need you to bring the Captain down, I need to examine her."

"Very good Doctor, inform me when your ready to examine the Captain and I'll bring her down myself," Tuvok replied.

CHAPTER 9 - REWARDS

Three days after the Cavit's death.

Paris paused conspicuously outside the Captain's ready room, all eyes on the bridge from the beta shift were on him. He hesitated briefly before activating the enunciation button, apprehensive about his scheduled meeting with Janeway. What was she going to tell him? What did she want to talk about? It was all he could think about when he hit the button and the Captain asked him to enter. He was surprised as he entered the room, for there at the ready room table were not only the Captain, but Chakotay, recently promoted to First Officer, Tuvok, B'Elanna, and Harry Kim.

"Please sit down Mr. Paris," the Captain bade taking her rightful place at the head of the table.

Mr. Paris, that was a change, usually it was just Paris, if they remembered or used his name at all.

Tom took the only seat available, next to B'Elanna, he prayed that he didn't appear as nervous as he felt as he fidgeted with the outer seams on his pant legs.

"I've called this meeting today to discuss the changes that have occurred on Voyager during the last few days. Everyone I'm sure is aware that as of this morning Chakotay has been promoted to a Full Lieutenant and is now my First Officer. I'm confident that he will do a fine job in this position, she said as she looked into the dark eyes of the newly promoted officer.

"There will be another change, you will see me on the bridge much more than you have in the past, I still can't believe that I was deceived for as long as I was. It is good to know that I have people on this ship who cared enough to look out for me," she said as her gaze traveled around the room focusing on the other crew members present, finally focusing Tom Paris.

"Mr. Paris, I suppose you're wondering why I requested your presence at this meeting?" she asked and noticing him nod his head in concurrence continued. "I would like to take this opportunity to express my regret over the way you have been treated during the past year. It was inexcusable."

Tom felt B'Elanna's hand close over his own under the table, and he shifted his gaze to the half-Klingon's warm dark eyes briefly before returning his attention to the Captain.

"Even though as much as I am saddened by the death of any member of our crew, I also understand that, along with the rest of my staff, I also have you to thank for resolving the Cavit situation as well as protecting our Chief Engineer from his . . . ah . . . advances."

"You don't need to thank me Captain, I was happy to do it."

She smiled at him, but continued her statement. "I'd like you to know Tom, that maintenance will relocate you into new quarters at their earliest opportunity. I take it that you won't mind?"

"Not at all, Captain, thank you."

"We do have one little problem though that has come up that needs to be resolved. Since Chakotay is now my First Officer, we appear to be without a Chief Pilot. Does anyone know of anyone who could fill the qualification requirements?" she asked as she looked over her audience again. "Mr. Paris, I understand from a few people on my senior staff that you are an exceptional pilot, and based on those recommendations, I'm assigning you to the conn to serve as Chief Pilot," she said as she rose from her seat and walked over to where the shocked pilot sat. "Will you please stand Mr. Paris," she asked.

A stunned Tom Paris stood up towering over the shorter woman. Janeway reached up and pinned two pips to his previously unadorned collar. "I understand that when you left Starfleet you had achieved the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. It is my privilege to restore you to this rank," she said as she shook Tom's hand. All he could do was stare at her in amazement, as he was temporarily at a loss for words.

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He was still trying to come to terms with what had happened in the Captain's ready room as B'Elanna steered him toward the turbo lift several minutes later.

"Level four," B'Elanna ordered and the lift started to descend.

"Do you know where they moved my gear, B'Elanna?" Tom asked.

"Yep, two doors down from me. We can check on it before dinner."

Ah two doors down from heaven. Today was a good day. "Ah, what *is* Neelix serving today? Boy, that sounds strange I usually know before anyone." he said shaking his head in amazement.

"I don't know, but I was hoping that you wouldn't mind joining me for dinner in my quarters," she purred. "I have yet to thank you for saving me from Cavit."

Was it his imagination or where her eyes even darker and sexier than usual, he could lose himself in their depths and never want to be found. "You don't need to thank me, B'Elanna and I'd love to have dinner with you," he said as the lift came to a halt.

They exited the lift and headed down the left corridor until they stopped in front of an open cabin doorway where a maintenance crew was working to prepare the quarters for the future resident.

"Well Tom, looks like they're still working on it. We can check on them later," she said as she led him two doors down the hall and entered her own cabin.

"Have a seat, while I go change," she bade as she motioned to the couch as she proceeded to the bedroom area. "How does chicken, rice, and stir-fried vegetables sound?" she asked as she started to change.

"Sounds wonderful, just as long as the vegetables don't contain any leola root."

"Don't worry, I have my replicator programmed to eliminate that awful vegetable permanently," she informed him as she emerged from the bedroom, clad in a soft maroon dress that fell in loose folds half way between her knees and hips.

"B'Elanna, your stunning, that dress looks wonderful on you."

This was going well, she thought, just the response she hoped to receive. "Thanks, Tom, I'm glad you like it," she said as she made her way to the replicator to order their dinner.

The two of them ate their meal by candlelight and toasted each other with a bottle of champagne that B'Elanna replicated as a surprise. During the whole meal, Tom's eyes rarely left B'Elanna's and hers did the same.

When the meal was finally finished, Tom stood up to help B'Elanna take care of the dishes and glasses. "B'Elanna this was simply wonderful."

"I'm glad you liked it, I hope the food was alright."

"B'Elanna the food was more than alright, but I'm talking about the company. I can't . . . I can't tell you how many times I've dreamt about you. In fact, with everything that has happened to me today, I think maybe I am dreaming now."

"Well, Tom, if your dreaming, then so am I," she said.

"What are you saying?" he asked as he held his breath in anticipation of her response.

She lifted her eyes up to look into the sapphire depths of his eyes. "I'm saying that I've been dreaming of you as well Tom. I couldn't help it. I tried to convince myself that I shouldn't be interested in you. That I should listen to people, about what they said about you, but I found I couldn't. I could only listen to my heart," she told him as she moved closer to him until their bodies were touching each other and their lips almost made contact.

"I think our hearts have been speaking to each other B'Elanna," he told her as he gathered her into his arms and passion borne of suppression was expressed in urgency of their first kiss. "Oh, B'Elanna, I've been waiting to kiss your lips for a long time," he admitted when they finally broke away.

"Me too Tom, but I don't think I'm going to have to wait so long for the second kiss," she said breathlessly as she pulled his head down to claim his lips again.

The End.

Please send e-mail--I live for e-mail--it makes my day! Send it to "PJ in NH" at kelhapam@lr.net.

Thanks again for my husband and daughter for letting me indulge in this creative endeavor, and since the dog hasn't destroyed anything this past week I'll thank him too.