Part 1 of 2
LIBERTY TO LOVE -- P/T
Synopsis: AU story where both the Maquis ship, the Liberty, and Voyager survive the Caretaker's array explosion, but neither ship knows the other has survived. Tom ends up on the Liberty and finds love with B'Elanna.
Assumption: That Stadi, Cavit, the human doctor, Dr. Fitzgerald, weren't killed during the journey to the Delta Quadrant. That during the last visit to the array, Paris accompanied the away team.
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.
RECOGNITION OF APPRECIATION: A very special thanks goes out to my beta readers: Phyllis J. Sutherland, Marleena Mooneyham, and J.A. Toner.
LIBERTY TO LOVE
by PJ in NH
Three months after the Caretaker's array had exploded, the Maquis ship, the Liberty, and Voyager were both en route on a long journey back to the Alpha Quadrant. Voyager was in the lead, weeks ahead of the smaller ship. They were also unaware, due to unusual spacial disturbances caused by the explosion, that the Liberty and most of its crew had survived. Voyager was also unaware that due to a mix up with the beam up to the two ships just before the Caretaker's array exploded, Tom Paris had been transported to the Maquis ship, the Liberty, and not back to Voyager.
"What are you looking at?!" spat the Liberty's engineer at the tall, blond man who sat huddled in a corner in the small Maquis brig.
A sly grin spread over his tired, handsome face. "Just the most beautiful woman in the Delta Quadrant," he drawled. He drew the blanket that was draped over his shoulders tighter around him. For over three months he had been dreaming about her and now was the first time he had seen her since he arrived by mistake on board the Liberty.
B'Elanna Torres grumbled at his response and turned her back to the prisoner while she continued to pull apart the maintenance panel.
"Come on, B'Elanna, you used to be able to talk to me. Don't you remember the time on the planet in the 'Terikoff Belt' when we went swimming?"
B'Elanna's hands stilled. How could she forget, he had saved her life. When she dove and the rocks under the water had fallen and pinned her beneath them, he had been the one to pull her to safety. "I haven't forgotten, Paris," she said softly. "I also haven't forgotten that you left the Maquis when we were in trouble and never returned." When he had left to go get help and hadn't come back, her heart had broken. The sadness she felt surprised her at the time, she hadn't realized that she had come to care for Tom Paris so much. Today was the first time since he had pulled her from the tunnel on Ocampa, that she had spoken or even seen the pilot. She had relegated any engineering to be performed in the brig area to a subordinate, but today with the virus that had been coursing its way through the ship, she had been the only one available to make the repair.
Minutes passed in silence but the tension was taut between the pair with myriad of unspoken feelings.
"Well, if you're not going to talk to me, could you at least fix the environmental controls?" Paris asked. "One moment it's sweltering in here and the next it's freezing."
"There's nothing wrong with the enviro. . ." she started to say and whipped her head around to look at the man in the cell. Hadn't his eyes been a brighter blue the last time they met, now they seemed to be almost gray, and his face hadn't been quite as pale. "You said, one moment it's hot and then cold?"
Paris nodded, closed his eyes, and rested his weary head against the wall.
She rose to her feet and put down her tools. "Computer, disengage security force field authorization Torres Theta Four." The engineer entered the cell, knelt down beside the pilot, and placed her hand on his forehead. Tom's eyes opened slightly upon feeling her tender touch. "You're burning up," she pronounced. "I think you may have the virus that's going around the ship. When was the last time the guard has been in to check on you?"
"I don't remember...um...yesterday morning, I guess," he murmured.
"Well, I'm going to go get the ship's medic, but let's get you back to bed before then. Come on, I'll help you." B'Elanna put her arm around the pilot's waist and helped to lift him onto the bunk. She settled him down and pulled his blanket up over him and started to tuck him in.
"B'Elanna!! B'Elanna Torres!! Where are you?" the Captain roared walking into the brig area. Before she could reply, Chakotay saw that she was bending over Tom Paris as he lay on his bunk. "What are you doing to her, Paris?" he spat and as B'Elanna stepped back to speak to him, the Captain grabbed a hold of the front of the sick man's shirt with one hand and slugged him in the face with the other.
"Stop it, Chakotay!! Stop it!!!" she pleaded. She grabbed the strong arm holding the pilot and tried to pull the older man away from the younger, but the Native American was almost as strong as the half-Klingon. Finally, after several more blows were delivered and the pilot was bloodied and unconscious, the Captain stopped his assault and faced his engineer.
"Are you all right, B'Elanna? Did he try to hurt you?"
"Damn it, Chakotay!," she growled. "He's sick with that accursed virus. I was just trying to get him back into bed before I went to look for the medic. And what do you think you're doing beating him up like that?"
"I thought that he . . ."
"Face it, Chakotay, you didn't think. You should know by now that I can take care of myself. You were just using it as an excuse to hit him. You've been wanting to do it for weeks." B'Elanna turned away from the Captain to look at the injured man. "Do you know that no one has checked on him since yesterday morning? By the looks of it," she said, motioning to the plate of cold crusted-over, half-eaten food, "it is probably the last time he ate. Look, I know you don't like him, I don't even know if I do, but that's no excuse for him not getting better treatment."
Chakotay's rage diminished as he looked down at the defiant half- Klingon who stood beside him. "You're right B'Elanna," he admitted reluctantly and looked back at the prisoner. He winched internally at the damage he had inflicted. "Will you stay with him while I look for Thompson? I believe he is in the infirmary. I'll tell him to get down here as soon as possible. After I speak with him, I'll talk to Kinens about whose responsibility it is to keep an eye on our prisoner."
"Thank you. I'll wait right here for Thompson to show up."
The Captain nodded and left the two of them alone.
"Report!" Janeway bellowed. The bridge was darkened except for occasionally sparks of light that originated from damaged consoles.
Cavit hurried back to his seat and Tuvok punched at the controls at his station. "There are breaches on decks 4, 5, and 8," Tuvok reported.
"The navigation controls are unresponsive, Captain," Stadi informed her from the helm.
"Casualties?" Janeway asked.
"Nineteen injured and two critically," Harry replied grimly.
"Please see that Dr. Fitzgerald is provided with extra help. I'll be in my ready room if I'm needed. Mr. Cavit I'll leave the bridge in your capable hands." The Captain got up and walked to her ready room leaving behind a flurry of activity.
As she had been accustomed to ever since they had entered the Delta Quadrant, the Captain replicated a cup of real coffee and sat in her chair at the head of the conference room table. It was the one little luxury she afforded herself. The coffee grew cold though as she pondered the situation that faced Voyager and her crew. They were still 70,000 light years away from home and if things progressed as they had so far, she seriously doubted if they would ever return to the Alpha Quadrant. The Kazon were confronting them at every opportunity and inflicting serious damage to Voyager.
The reason for Voyager's current condition could be accredited to two factors: Joe Carey and Stadi.
She didn't blame either though. Joe Carey was doing his best in Engineering having been left with the responsibility after the Chief of Engineering had been killed during the trip to the Delta Quadrant. Without a starbase where Voyager could dock for repairs he was somewhat at a loss. And though Stadi was a lovely pilot, she tended to fly by the book. The Betazoid surprisingly wasn't very creative and unfortunately the ship had suffered by her lack of ingenuity. How she missed Tom Paris, he probably could have taught her quite a bit about flying by the seat of your pants. It was a shame, she mused, that he died before he could be returned to Voyager. It was a shame that all the Maquis died regardless of what she thought of their motives.
B'Elanna went back to Paris using the towel that lay beside the sink to mop up his bloodied face as best as she could. She covered the shivering man with his threadbare blanket again and waited for the medic to show up.
"Co-cold," Tom muttered, his teeth chattering from the chill he felt. He drew his legs up to his chest and wrapped his arms around his knees.
B'Elanna removed her outer tunic and placed it over his body. "I know you're cold, Tom, help will be here soon."
Hearing her voice, he broke through the barrier between unconsciousness and wakefulness. "B'Elanna?"
"I'm here, Paris. Help's coming," she repeated.
"I didn't...a-abandon...the M-Maquis," he stammered though his chattering teeth.
"What do you mean, Paris? You never came back."
Paris clutched her sleeve in a desperate desire for her to believe him and not abandon him before he had a chance to talk to her. "I...I couldn't, I..."
The ship's medic chose that moment to arrive interrupting the pilot. "Well looks like another case of the virus. You ought to be thankful that you're immune, B'Elanna," Thompson stated as he strode into the cell. He loaded a hypospray and injected it into the prisoner's neck which caused Paris to immediately fall to sleep and loosen his grasp on the engineer's sleeve. "He should be better in a couple of days. Say, how'd he get all beaten up?" The medic's eyes opened wide and then narrowed. "Did he try something with you?"
"No, it was nothing like that, just a misunderstanding," she said. Despite what Chakotay had done, she still felt obligated to him and didn't want to let the crew know that he had hit the prisoner. Thompson, taking in the tone of her voice, knew better than to ask anything more. "Look while you fix him up, I'm going back to my cabin and if anyone's looking for me, tell them that I'll be right back to fix those relays," she said pointing to the open maintenance cabinet.
B'Elanna returned about fifteen minutes later and found that the medic had done his job and left and that someone else had left behind a meal that would be stone cold before the Paris would have a chance to eat it. The engineer called for the force field to disengage and placed her spare blanket over the sick man. She recalled his last words. 'I couldn't' and wondered what he meant.
"What do you mean 'you couldn't'?" she murmured and she brushed his hair away from his sweat slick forehead. B'Elanna tucked her blanket securely around Paris, left the cell, reactivated the force field, and resumed her work on the relays, but not at her usual break-neck pace. This time, she performed her work with a surefooted thoroughness, double checking every connection while triple checking on the prisoner in the cell.
The next morning, B'Elanna returned to complete her repair to the relays. When she arrived, she could hear the sounds of several crewmembers urging each other to 'give him another' and 'do it again' from within Paris' cell.
What she found were four crewmen savagely beating up on the still sick pilot who was making a half-hearted attempt to repel the blows and vicious kicks with his right arm, the other arm lay useless beside him, obviously broken.
"What are you doing?!" B'Elanna roared which caused the four to stop and turn to look at her.
"We're getting him back for what he did to you yesterday, Torres," Borten admitted rather proudly.
Torres roughly pulled the four away from the pilot, two landed in the corridor and the other two landed one on top of the other next to the sink in the cell. "What do you mean, 'what he did to me yesterday'?" she growled.
Finally, looking at the injured man, she could tell that Tom was in even worse shape than he was the day before.
"Well Thompson said. . ."
"Thompson doesn't know shit!" B'Elanna spat interrupting Liberty's junior helmsman. "Tom Paris never laid a finger on me yesterday, he was a complete gentlemen, something you four apparently don't know anything about. Now V'Dren," she said to the smallest man there, "you go get Thompson and tell him to come back with a stretcher for Paris, immediately."
V'Dren looked at the irate half-Klingon and then to his friends.
"Didn't you hear me, V'Dren?! Or do you want to be scrubbing plasma manifolds for me until we get back home?!"
V'Dren needed no further prompting and sprinted out of the cell and down the corridor.
B'Elanna finished the repair and hurried down to the Infirmary. She didn't know exactly why she needed to be there but she knew that she must. She had to see that Paris was okay. When B'Elanna arrived, the Captain was talking with Thompson, who was apparently being severely reprimanded for the gossip that he had spread yesterday. Hearing the engineer approach, Chakotay dismissed the medic and turned to her.
"Is he okay, Chakotay?" she asked as she looked past him at the man who lay on the medical bed.
"Thompson says that he will be, but that it will take time. We don't have the best medical equipment and supplies on this ship, not like Voyager or another Starfleet vessel would have. He's done his best to repair the cuts and bruises, but the break will take a while to heal. Paris will no doubt be sore for quite a while." Chakotay looked at his engineer with curiosity. Her features were etched with concern. "You're not feeling something for this prisoner are you, B'Elanna?" he asked.
"Of...of course not, but he did save my life not once but twice. Once when I was swimming on that unnamed planet and the other time on the Ocampan homeworld, and if I remember correctly, he also saved your life."
"And I don't think that I have to remind you that he's a murderer, a traitor, a mercenary, a womanizer, and a liar. He'll say anything just to get what he wants. Stay away from him, B'Elanna. He'll only bring you grief."
"And do I have to remind you, again, that I can take care of myself?"
"No, you don't, but don't say that I didn't warn you," Chakotay said. He left B'Elanna alone in the Infirmary with Paris and headed for the bridge.
B'Elanna walked over to Tom and sat down on the chair that had been pulled up beside the bed. It was too bad that the medical supplies that the Maquis had weren't better. The dermal regenerators took care of sealing most of the wounds, but his handsome face was still swollen and black and blue. The broken arm had been regenerated to some degree and had been placed in a primitive looking cast. Looking down towards the end of the bed, she could see another cast had been placed on Paris' right ankle and foot. Providing the regeneration worked, it would apparently be a few days before he was back to normal.
As she was looking at his foot, she hadn't noticed that she in turn was being scrutinized by the patient. "Sorry, B'Elanna, don't think I'm going to be up for a hoverball game any time soon," Paris said softly, still groggy from the drugs that Thompson had administered.
The sound of his voice startled her and she refocused her gaze on the patient's pale face and his blue eyes. "No, I don't suppose you will. I'm sorry that this had to happen, Paris."
"Don't be it's not . . ." his sentence was interrupted by a deep cough. He clutched his chest with his right arm until he stopped coughing, obviously he was in great pain. "Owww, gawd!!!" he cried when he was at last able to catch his breath.
"Broken ribs?" B'Elanna asked concerned written all over her face.
Tom nodded. "The last time I was this sore I was . . ." He stopped himself, she didn't need to know about that time.
"When was the last time?" she asked.
Tom shook his head sadly. "It's nothing, B'Elanna."
The engineer wasn't convinced but she hadn't come down to the Infirmary to start an argument with an injured man. "Tom, I was wondering about what you said yesterday."
Tom looked at her in confusion, not remembering what he had said that day.
"You said that when you left the Maquis to go get help that you couldn't come back," she reminded him. What did you mean?"
Tom explained how he had been nearly to Selka when he had been intercepted by the U.S.S. Bradbury, a Starfleet vessel. He had surreptitiously sent a distress call for the Maquis ship to Selka just before he was boarded and taken prisoner.
"I didn't know, Paris, but didn't your father help you out after you were captured?"
Tom shook his head. "No, he didn't and I wasn't about to ask him. That's where Janeway found me when she asked me to help her."
"And you sold us out?" B'Elanna accused.
"B'Elanna, I didn't want to but I had to get out of there. I had to. You have no idea . . ."
"It was a Federation prison, Paris, almost a hotel," she said indignantly. "Just how difficult could it be to keep you mouth shut for a few months."
"B'Elanna, just because it was a Federation prison doesn't mean that it was paradise. There are things that happen in there that you don't want to know about, and my sentence was not just a few months in was for ten years."
"But early release . . ."
Paris shook his head. "No early release, B'Elanna. If I hadn't got out of there then, I don't think I could have made it much longer. I had to take the opportunity presented. I tried not to lead them to any Maquis camps, but as usual I was unlucky and stumbled upon your ship. I never wanted the Federation to imprison the Maquis, and certainly not you."
Later that day, Tom Paris was transferred back to his cell. Chakotay accompanied him back there to make sure that no one confronted the former pilot. While a number of Maquis sneered and glared at the man, none dared act with the Captain by his side.
"Okay, Chakotay, I'm back safe, if not sound," Paris said. He sat heavily down on his bunk and propped his crutch against the wall. Resting his head against the back wall, he closed his eyes. A while later, Paris opened them to see that his guest had not left.
"Sorry, Captain, I'd offer you a cup of coffee but I'm afraid the cupboard is bare."
"Paris, you're not going to make this easy are you?"
Tom laughed humorlessly. "Whatever you want to say just say it and get out of here so I can get to sleep. I have a big party planned for tomorrow. Everyone's invited. There's even a door prize. The lucky person will be given an opportunity of a lifetime--they can space me permanently. Hell, Chakotay, if you play your cards right, maybe I could fix it so you'd win."
"Just be quiet for a moment so I can apologize."
"The big man wants to apologize? Maybe Thompson should check out my hearing?"
"Damn it, Paris, I'm sorry that I hit you and you got beaten up. I'm also sorry that you haven't been taken care of better, it won't happen again!"
Tom looked at him silently for a while. "It's not your fault, Captain, you have enough to worry about. If it wasn't for B'Elanna, this bucket of bolts would have fallen apart years ago and..." He paused and tilted his head to one side before he continued. "If I were you, I'd head back to the bridge, your ship has just dropped out of warp and...I would say it is moving along at...impulse speed.
"How can you..."
"Captain!" a young member of the Maquis yelled from down the hall, "the Liberty has dropped to impulse speed."
Chakotay's head snapped back to look at the I-told-you-so smirk on Paris' face before he left the cell to head to the bridge.
Later that evening after tirelessly working to bring the warp engines back on line, Torres took the time to swing by the brig to check on Tom Paris, though she told V'Dren that she was only there to recalibrate the relays.
B'Elanna passed by Paris' cell and could see him resting uncomfortably on the narrow bed. Obviously, with his left arm and right ankle in casts, he was finding it very difficult to settle down for the night.
The engineer opened up the maintenance hatch as quietly as she could but the old rusted cover squeaked as it opened.
Hearing the noise, Tom's eyes focused on the beautiful woman in the corridor.
"Yes, Paris, it's me, I'm sorry I woke you."
"You didn't--I'm glad you came."
"I wanted to thank you for what you did for me today."
B'Elanna sputtered, she didn't take compliments easily. "You...you don't have to thank me, Paris. You needed help. I was...was just glad I came along when I did."
"I'm glad you did too. Do you think that you could come by tomorrow? I'd like to talk with you about something I've been thinking about."
"Maybe," she said hesitantly, "but I'm very busy. I may not be able to make it until the day after tomorrow. Sure you don't want to talk now?"
"No...not now," he replied drowsily with a yawn. "Thompson gave me something to help me sleep...and I'm...and...I'm..." Those were his last words he spoke before he finally drifted off to sleep.
B'Elanna sat by the maintenance cabinet quietly contemplating the former Maquis/former 'Fleeter wondering what he wanted to speak to her about, wondering how she really felt about this man. At one time when he flew for the Maquis, she had been infatuated with him...but now? Now, maybe the best words to describe how she felt were intrigued and confused. She vowed that she would find that time to come by tomorrow, if nothing more than to quench her curiosity.
Tomorrow came, but due to emergencies in Engineering, she couldn't get away until the evening. A very tired half-Klingon entered Paris' cell at 2100 hours.
Paris was asleep when she arrived. He lay flat on his back with his blanket and hers covering only his waist and below. She ached to touch his chest hair, to run her fingers through the golden-red curls. *Stop it, B'Elanna, remember what Chakotay said murderer, traitor, womanizer obviously a man without honor.*
/Lovely warm water cascaded over his nude body. It cleansed not only his skin but his soul. He shut his eyes as the water rinsed the shampoo from his head. Then suddenly, his eyes still shut, he could feel a pair of arms encircle his chest./
"Paris." she whispered loudly not wanting to shock him awake. "Paris." Tom sighed, his lips pulled up on the ends into a half- smile. *He's dreaming,* B'Elanna thought.
/Feeling a woman's body pressed up against his own, he turned around so he could feel her breasts press up against his chest. He sighed, it felt so erotic, he almost hated to open his eyes to find out who this mystery woman was. Finally, curiosity overcame him. He wiped the water from his eyes, and opened them./
Reaching across his chest she grabbed him by his shoulders to gently shake him awake. "Tom Paris, wake up. Didn't you want to talk to me?"
/She was just gorgeous, just like he imagined, B'Elanna Torres was a vision of exotic loveliness./ And he breathed her name.
He groaned at being jostled. He wanted to sleep, to find out what would happen after the shower. It was one of the best dreams he had in a long time. He groaned and opened his eyes and then shut them again. B'Elanna? What was B'Elanna Torres doing in his room...wait I still must be... He tried to drift back to sleep again, to return to the shower.
Did he just say what I think he did? Was...is...he dreaming of me? B'Elanna shook the thought out of her head and resumed to her task and shook the pilot again. "Tom Paris! Wake up!"
Nope, I'm not dreaming, generally dreams don't yell at you. he concluded before he finally opened his vivid blue eyes. "I'm up...I'm up, just stop shaking me," Tom grumbled.
"Good. Now what was it you wanted to speak to me about?"
"Speak to you about?" he asked, his mind was still befuddled by the vision of his dream being with him in his cell.
"You *were* the one who asked that I come down here. That you wanted to speak to me about something. Weren't you?"
Tom focused his mind on their conversation of a few days ago. "Ah, yes. Yes, I did."
"Well?" she challenged.
Tom pulled himself up to a sitting position, favoring is left arm that was still healing from being broken. B'Elanna almost gasped looking at his naked torso but controlled herself.
"I was wondering if there was anything I could do for you?" he asked.
"Ah, do for...um...me?" Her mind flew to a myriad of chores most of which had erotic connotations, such as letting her rake her fingers through his chest hair or letting him massage her body.
"Yeah, you know, maybe some engineering task that you or the other engineers don't have time to do. When I was...ah...in New Zealand...I did some work with electronics, besides other things."
B'Elanna gazed at him for a long time not saying anything still imagining him with his hands upon her body.
"Look Torres, I can understand if you don't want me to touch your precious engineering baubles but there must be something I can do? If I have to sit in here until we get home I'm going to be climbing the walls. Isn't there something you can think of?
B'Elanna tore her eyes away from the handsome face, but was magnetically drawn back to him. "Let me think about it, Tom."
"Fine," he snapped assuming that her comment was condescending.
"I mean it, Paris. I *will* think about it."
Tom nodded and B'Elanna left the cell and the pilot behind.
The next afternoon, B'Elanna returned to the cell. In her arms she carried a crate that was overflowing with various electronic gizmos and gadgets.
B'Elanna called for the forcefield to lower and she stepped into the cell. Tom watched her from his bunk as she lowered the crate to the floor.
"Think these will keep you busy for while?" B'Elanna asked and placed a small tool kit on his lap.
"I guess so," he replied. "What do you want me to do with them?"
"Well, I'd like you to disassemble each device, scan each piece with this," she explained, passing him a tricorder, "and determine which items are salvageable, which can be repaired, and which are scrap. Do you think you can do that?"
"Sure. Anything is better than sitting in here and counting rivet holes."
B'Elanna smiled slightly. "Good. Now I don't know how much you'll get done with one arm in a cast but when you are done with this box, I have more I can bring down. And Paris, don't even think about using any of these parts to bust out of this cell."
"Even if I did, Torres, where would I go?" he replied sadly. "I know that this cell is the safest place for me. The forcefield not only prevents me from leaving, it also prevents others from coming in."
What little smile that remained on B'Elanna's face faded. It was only then that she realized how really alone Tom was on this ship. He had no one that he could call a friend. She then remembered that it was not that long ago, before she had joined the Maquis, that she too felt isolated from everyone around her.
"I'm sorry, Tom," she softly said and placed her hand on the pilot's upper arm.
"Don't be, Torres. I've brought it all on myself. If I wasn't here in the Delta Quadrant, I'd still be in prison."
"But if you had been able to transport back to Voyager..."
"If I had been able to transport back to Voyager, do you really think things would be much different?" he finished.
"I don't know, Paris. But I would hope it would."
"Listen, you had better get going, or the Captain will come looking for you," Tom replied with a smile of thanks.
"You're right, but I'll be back in a couple of days to see how you're doing."
"I'll look forward to it."
"Who knows, by then if the regeneration treatments work, you might be rid of both casts."
True to her word, she returned to the cell in two days. When she arrived, Paris was sitting cross-legged with his back to the forcefield, and she noticed that both casts had been removed. He was singing a song softly to himself. B'Elanna paused to listen, it was a love song he was singing, she concluded. Something about him 'hungering for her touch'? It sounded old, but beautiful, she hated to interrupt him. When he stopped singing and started to hum, she spoke up.
"That was lovely, Tom. I didn't know you could sing." She ordered the forcefield to lower and walked in.
Tom blushed. "Ah...thanks."
She joined him on the floor sitting cross-legged beside him. "You should do it more often, I like your voice." B'Elanna paused, she was surprised that she had said as much as she had to the pilot and opted to change the subject. "So how are you coming along?"
Tom understood the reason behind the change of topic. "Pretty good, I'm almost done with this box of stuff. I've made three piles," he pointed each one out to her. "'Good', 'so-so,' and this one I lovingly entitle 'no way in hell'."
B'Elanna laughed at his descriptions, it made Tom's heart quicken to hear that lovely sound coming from the half-Klingon. "And you should do that more often. You have a beautiful laugh," he said.
"I'm sorry if I embarrassed you. Forgive me." The last thing he wanted was for her to get upset.
"There's nothing to forgive, Tom. I'm just not used to hearing... um..."
"Compliments about you yourself and not about your engineering ability?" he correctly assumed.
Her face reddened and she turned her head away from the man and started to get up from the floor, but he reached out and pulled her back down. "B'Elanna, please don't leave just yet. If you stay a little bit longer, I promise not to embarrass you." His blue eyes looked beseechingly at her.
"All right, but I don't have long or they'll be expecting me back in Engineering."
B'Elanna looked around the cell trying to think of something to talk to him about. "So it looks like you are all healed up?"
Tom flexed his arm and his ankle. "They're a little stiff, but I'm on the road to recovery according to Thompson."
"And have they been doing better feeding you?" she asked when she spotted the empty tray beside his bed.
"Yeah, much. I won't lie to you it could be better, but it could be a whole lot worse. Do you remember the time we were trapped behind Cardassian lines?" Tom grinned recalling the memory, though at the time there was nothing funny about their situation, "It was the week before we found that little planet in the Terikoff belt."
She smiled and nodded. "It was awful," she agreed, but also remembered how he had tried to keep her spirits up by telling her jokes. She remembered that even back then he had been able to get her to laugh.
"And I used to think that Starfleet rations were bad, but they were haute cuisine compared to Cardie rations."
She laughed again and he did too. They talked for over a half an hour before one of the young Maquis engineers came and asked her to report back to Engineering.
B'Elanna reluctantly left. It had been a long time since she had enjoyed herself so much. Chakotay would have a fit, if he knew, she mused.
Paris had now progressed to not only disassembling the units, but was now working with the 'so-so' pile and making repairs. It helped to make the days pass and keep his mind occupied. But best of all, it also afforded him an opportunity to speak with B'Elanna Torres. He found that he could talk to her for hours. He told her of his life before he had joined the Maquis, even about the accident at Caldik Prime and how his friends, Odile, Bruno, and Charlie had lost their lives. B'Elanna listened to all this, offering words of comfort and understanding. It wasn't long before she too, opened up to him and told him the story of her first trip to the Klingon homeworld as a child, of how her grandmother tried to fatten her up and how she had gotten sick afterwards.
As she was leaving one day, Tom tenderly touched her cheek with the palm of his hand. "B'Elanna, I told you I wouldn't embarrass you again, but..." She just stared at the pilot... "But I've come to care about you, B'Elanna Torres." He bent his head down and brushed his lips to her mouth. To his surprise she didn't rebuff him, but he still felt guilty for taking advantage of her. "I'm sorry..."
B'Elanna placed her fingers over his lips and shook her head. "If you're going to tell me you're sorry, it had better be because you took so long to work up the courage to kiss me," she smiled encouragingly, removed her fingers, kissed him on his lips and turned on her heel, leaving the bewildered pilot behind.
Many days passed like this, B'Elanna looking for any excuse she could think of to go to the brig and Tom looking forward to her visits. They talked about everything, each laying their soul bare for the others perusal. In particular, they both looked forward to evening visits when the ship's interior lights had been dimmed. Then they would murmur words of love and hold each other until it was time for her to leave. Always, she brought items that needed to be repaired and left with items that had been fixed. They thought that they were covering their tracks until...
Chakotay slowly walked around the chair in which his engineer sat, carefully observing her for signs of nervousness. Finally, he sat on the desk which was in front of her.
"B'Elanna, it has come to my attention that you have been spending a lot of time with our prisoner lately." Chakotay waited for a response.
Do you hate him so much you can't even say his name? she thought but said: "He's been helping me with an engineering chore. He sorts through electronic parts, decides which ones are salvageable and which ones aren't, and repairs the rest," she replied casually. Have we been so careless? How did we slip up?
"And that necessitates you bringing him the parts after hours and helping him with them too? I've been told that you spend hours at a time with Paris," the Captain fired back.
"And so what if I do? When did *you* become my guardian?" B'Elanna snapped.
Chakotay got down from his perch on the desk and paced back and forth with his arms folded in front of him. He had never known B'Elanna to take such a tone of voice with him before. "B'Elanna, I just want you to be careful. Did you forget that he left us injured and floating in space, when he was suppose to bring back help?"
"But that's not what happened," B'Elanna said trying to defend the pilot.
"That's what *he* told you, B'Elanna. He'd lie to you just as easy as breathing."
"Like I said Chakotay, I can take care of myself," B'Elanna said and rose from her chair.
"See that you do," the Captain warned.
That night after hours, B'Elanna slipped into Tom's cell. He had retired for the night and was blissfully sleeping on his bunk. She approached him, knelt down beside him and placed her hand over his mouth. His eyes flew open wide.
"Sssh, Tom," she warned. "It's only me. Move over."
Tom scooted over on the bed to the far side, but instead of sitting on the edge of the bed like he had anticipated, B'Elanna lifted up the blanket and crawled in beside him. She was thrilled to find out that he slept in the nude.
"B'Elanna? What are you doing?" Tom asked, seeing his dream come true made him question the reality of it all.
"I'm keeping you warm?" she ventured.
"I was getting a little cold," the pilot admitted and he pulled her close to him and kissed her on her mouth. Parting her full lips with his tongue he tasted her sweetness. She moaned and none too softly.
"B'Elanna," Tom whispered. "We have to be quiet or the guard will hear us."
"I've fixed that, by now he should be sound asleep. I brought him a--let's say--a special cup of coffee."
"Looks like you thought of everything."
"I try too." B'Elanna reached for the edge of her tunic and started to pull it over her head.
Tom's hands stopped her from removing her top. "B'Elanna, are you sure you want to do this?"
"I don't think I've ever been more sure about anything in my life, Tom."
"That's wonderful, but why now?"
"Chakotay knows that we've been seeing each other and he's not happy about it. Actually he was furious," B'Elanna admitted. "It was then I realized that it didn't matter what he told me about you or what he felt. All that mattered to me was you. I love you, Tom Paris. I came tonight to claim you as my mate...if you'll let me."
Tom didn't hesitate for a second before replying. "Of course..."
"Wait, maybe you don't understand. When Klingons mate..."
"They mate for life. I know, B'Elanna. I understand," he said softly and sincerely. And he pulled her into a passionate embrace. "I can't think of anyone I'd rather have as my life mate. My, tIqwIj, but you. You have filled a place in my heart that has been empty for as long as I can remember."
B'Elanna kissed him on the mouth and resumed pulling off her tunic. This time Tom helped her. After they had thrown the tunic on the floor, her slacks and undergarments soon followed. Tom kissed her lips, her forehead, and her neck and she did the same. Each reveling in the closeness, the feeling of flesh on flesh, that had been denied to them over the past weeks.
Tom was nuzzling her throat with B'Elanna laying on top of his body, his swollen manhood pressing against her belly, when B'Elanna whispered in his ear. "Are you ready, Tom? Are you ready to take the oath?"
"Yes, I'm ready. I've been ready for a long time."
As was customary, B'Elanna made the first move and sunk her teeth into his cheek, tasted his blood, and spoke the ritualistic words. He followed her and to her surprise spoke his reply in near flawless Klingon.
"You're mine, Tom Paris, for this life and beyond."
"And you, B'Elanna Torres, are *my* mate for this life and beyond."
He then rolled her over and accentuated his claim by gently but firmly thrusting up into her, he knew that she was more than prepared to receive his gift. They rode each other for what seemed like hours with only tender caressing and loving words separating each passionate union until finally, early in the morning, B'Elanna pulled away from her husband.
"I've got to go, Tom. We can't risk being found out...not yet."
"I know, my love. For now, it is our secret."
She bent down and kissed him for one last time before she left. "I've left you a dermal regenerator to heal the bite, I've already used it on me. We can't risk anyone asking about them."
"I'll tell Chakotay when the time is right, but not before. Until then, only we will know that we are committed to each other, mates for life."
"For this life and beyond," he confirmed. "I love you 'Lanna."
"And I you, my husband."
And she left.
"Captain." Tuvok exclaimed from the security station. "I'm picking up a distinctive Alpha Quadrant signature."
Janeway pivoted around her in seat to face the stoic Vulcan. "Explain."
"I'm picking up a signature of a ship that had to have been created in the Alpha Quadrant. There is no mistake with its signature."
Cavit left the Captain's side and joined Tuvok. "Is it possible that it is a spacial anomaly?" he asked.
"Highly unlikely," the Security Chief replied.
Before they could speculate further about the strange occurrence, Harry Kim piped up from the ops station. "Captain, I'm picking up a group of Kazon warships heading in our direction," he warned. "By my estimates, there are seven ships."
"Battle stations! Red alert!" Janeway roared. The lights on the ship dimmed, a klaxon sounded, and red lights flashed. Cavit returned to his post and joined the Captain. Lt. Stadi strode onto the bridge from the turbolift and quickly relieved the junior pilot that had been at the conn. Janeway prayed that they would survive another battle with these alien warriors.
"Captain," Liberty's science officer piped up. "If I'm not mistaken, Voyager is just ahead of us and several Kazon vessels are headed in their direction."
"Voyager? Show me," Chakotay ordered. The view screen flickered and at maximum magnification the bridge crew could make out seven Kazon warships heading towards Voyager. Apparently, the smaller Maquis vessel had been unnoticed. "So they did survive the array's explosion." The Captain turned to one of the younger members of the Maquis. "Get Torres up here on the double," he ordered.
"Aye, aye, sir!"
Then he turned to the helmsman. "Sanchez, take us in nice and easy--shields up. I don't want the Kazon to see us until the last possible moment."
"We're going to help them?" Sanchez asked, questioning Chakotay's order. "But they're Starfleet?"
"And they are our only link to the Alpha Quadrant. I'm sure that if the roles were reversed, Captain Janeway would assist us. Now follow your orders!"
In the distance, the Maquis could see the seven Kazon ships take attack positions around the Starfleet vessel. While, for the time being, Voyager's forcefields were holding, Chakotay didn't expect it would be long before they were totally incapacitated, leaving the big ship defenseless.
So intent were the Kazon on their attack, it wasn't until the Liberty was upon their ships and firing that they noticed the Maquis vessel.
Captain Janeway was thrown from her seat by the last volley of fire. "Report!" she roared as she pulled herself back into her seat.
"Shields are at 21% and weakening," Tuvok informed her. "Decks 5 through 7 have received serious damage. The Kazon appear to be assembling for another attack."
"There are thirty-three people injured and eight of those critically," Harry announced grimly. Harry looked down at his console again.
"Mr. Carey, status!"
"We are running on impulse, Captain. It'll be some time before I can get the warp core up and working again. We have suffered serious damage," Joe Carey grimly reported.
Janeway shook her head. Wasn't there any good news?
"Captain, that ship with the Alpha Quadrant signature is getting closer," said Ensign Kim. He looked up at Janeway and Cavit, "Captain, it's the Liberty."
"The Liberty?" she questioned. "I thought the ship was destroyed?" Cavit nodded.
"All of us did, Captain," Tuvok reported. "Apparently, we were mistaken."
"Can we hail them, Ensign?"
"Not yet, there has been too much damage to the communications systems."
Then, one of the Kazon ships finally did notice the Liberty and took off in pursuit. The Maquis ship zigged and zagged trying desperately to avoid being hit. Finally though, another Kazon ship joined the chase and the Liberty ended up being hit soundly near the bridge causing the pilot and weapons officer to sustain serious injury. Chakotay quickly took over at the weapons station and fired a couple of shots, warding off the Kazon ships and sending them back to the main fight.
"Javis, report to the bridge," the Maquis Captain bellowed.
"Javis has been injured," Crimmins, a young Maquis, reported to him from over his left shoulder.
"Damn, where am I going to find another pilot."
B'Elanna seized the moment. "Chakotay, we have an excellent pilot sitting in our brig."
The Native American nodded. His hands were tied, he had no choice. "Crimmins, escort Paris to the bridge."
A bewildered Crimmins left the bridge to retrieve the prisoner.
Paris was quickly brought to the bridge. He couldn't imagine why his presence had been requested. Upon entering the bridge his eyes sought out B'Elanna, but neither betrayed the feelings that they felt for each other.
"Paris, how do you feel about flying the ship?" Chakotay barked.
"Both of my pilots and my weapons officer are too injured to perform their duties. If you want to survive. If you want *everyone* to survive, we need you to pilot the Liberty."
Paris didn't miss the underlying meaning of Chakotay's words and quickly slid into the seat. There before him on the viewscreen was Voyager, a sight that he thought he would never see again.
"Lay in a course towards Voyager. We are going to see that the Kazon regret messing with anyone from the Alpha Quadrant," the Maquis Captain ordered.
"Aye, sir," Paris responded automatically. Punching several buttons and grabbing the controls he steered them towards the Starfleet ship.
With Paris' expert piloting skills, the Liberty dipped and tumbled around the Kazon ships while Chakotay deftly fired the Liberty's phasers. Before long, the Kazon were in retreat, and Voyager was saved.
"Captain Janeway to Liberty."
"Liberty here," Chakotay responded promptly.
The bridge of the Maquis ship appeared on Voyager's main view screen. From Voyager's bridge, not only was Chakotay visible but B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris, as well.
"I didn't expect to see you again, Captain," Janeway said. "Our instruments showed that the Liberty and all aboard were destroyed when the Caretaker's array exploded."
"There was a lot of radiation expended during that incident," Chakotay offered as a way of an explanation.
"It must have interfered with the readings. But it is good to see you again, and you too Mr. Paris."
She could hear mumbling throughout the bridge and even heard Cavit say just under his breath: "once a traitor always a traitor."
"Chakotay, I'd like to beam you, Ms. Torres, and Mr. Paris over to the Voyager to discuss our present situation."
Clearly Chakotay did not like the idea, but he knew that it was the only logical choice, he nodded, and before he could talk to either Paris or Torres all three were whisked away to the bridge of Voyager.
Janeway escorted the three guests to her ready room and Cavit and Tuvok joined them as well.
"Captain," Janeway said addressing the Indian. "We are in your debt. I can't thank you enough for coming to our aid."
Chakotay cleared his throat before responding. "I would like to think that you would have done the same if the roles had been reversed."
"Of course. It seems, as Tuvok would say, logical for the two ships to form an alliance."
"I would suggest that we travel together and look out for each other on the trip home. Does that sound reasonable?"
Chakotay nodded his head.
"Mr. Paris, it is good to have you back." B'Elanna's dark eyes flew to the blue eyes of her husband's. "So can I assume that you are now a member of the Maquis?"
Chakotay was the one to speak up. "No, Captain. He was just helping us out in a pinch, both of my pilots were injured in the battle."
"I see. So what has Mr. Paris been doing on the Liberty since we last saw him?"
Paris jumped in this time. "Actually, they have treated me very well, Captain. A room of my own and three meals a day," he replied with a straight face. He figured that it would do no one any good for Janeway to find out that he had been confined to a cell during his most recent time on the Liberty. Chakotay and B'Elanna schooled their features and didn't let on that it had been any different on the Maquis ship.
"Well, I'm glad you're back with us. After witnessing your flying. I think I have the perfect job for you--training our pilots. From the looks of things, they could learn a lot."
Janeway rose from her seat, indicating that the meeting was over.
"But..." Tom started to say, throwing a desperate glance in B'Elanna's direction, which did not go unnoticed by Chakotay. He for one would be glad to see Tom leave his ship and get as far away from B'Elanna as possible.
"It's all been taken care of, Tom," she nodded to Tuvok. "Mr. Tuvok will show you to your new quarters. We can beam over anything you need from the Liberty later." Janeway pushed him in the direction of the Vulcan. "We'll talk later, Captain, and iron out anything else."
"Very good, Captain Janeway."
"Transporter Room, beam Captain Chakotay and Ms. Torres back to the Liberty," Janeway commanded and in an instant the two Maquis were sent back to their ship.
Tom followed Tuvok to his assigned quarters. Tom's facial expression mirrored the expressionless Vulcan's. Reaching the door to his cabin. Tuvok keyed it open, gave Tom the security clearance necessary for him to activate it himself, and left him behind in the empty cabin telling him that as soon as his belongings were beamed on board Voyager, he would send them down.
Tom mused that it shouldn't take long to throw his extra set of clothes and the few toiletries he possessed into a bag. So not having anything else to do, he sat down on his bed and waited.
As soon as B'Elanna and Chakotay beamed back to the Liberty. Chakotay ordered one of his crew to retrieve Paris' things from the brig. B'Elanna interrupted him though and said that she would take care of it. By her tone of voice, Chakotay knew better than to argue with the half-Klingon.
B'Elanna stormed into the brig and into the cell that Tom had occupied. She was tempted to dissolve into human tears but the Klingon side stopped her and reminded her that there where things to be done before she could do that. Later, that evening, when she was alone she'd cry--but not now. She folded up her husband's spare set of clothes and lay beside his shaving kit and hair comb. There wasn't much to account for Tom's presence on the ship for the past few months. She placed the things in a bag that the guard provided and headed back to her cabin so she could add a few things before it was beamed over.
Tom was still sitting on the bed when the annunicator bell chimed.
"I'm Ensign Charez, I've come with your things. They were just beamed over," the young red-headed man explained on the other side of the door.
"Come in," Tom said and the ensign came in and placed the bag on the dining table and left. It took him awhile before he got up to take care of his things. He took out his clothes and placed them in a dresser drawer and then reached in the bag to bring out his shaving kit. Instead of a shaving kit, he found a holo- picture. Activating it, he saw to his delight an image of B'Elanna--his B'Elanna. She was dressed in her typical Maquis clothes, but she had taken the picture while she lay reclined on her bed in her cabin. To others, the pose may have seemed unremarkable, but to her husband it was erotic. The picture had captured the dark beauty of her eyes, the crinkle of her nose, and the shine of her hair. Bless her, he thought, to have taken the time to do this for me. He only wished that he had the opportunity to have left one for her.
He placed the picture on the table beside his bed so it would be the first thing he saw in the morning and the last thing he'd look at before he fell to sleep at night. Returning to his bag, he reached back in and withdrew his hair comb. That was it, he thought. It didn't take too long to take care of and he picked up the bag. He folded up the bag when he heard crinkling of paper inside. Opening the bag again, he peered inside and withdrew a single sheet of white paper, it was a letter from B'Elanna. It read:
"Tom, fate is cruel mistress. It plays with us like puppets on a string--pulling us in directions that we don't want to take. Making us dance apart when all we want to do is to cling to each other and not let go. Know this my husband, I love you. I always will. At night, I will dream of you and during the day you will always be in my thoughts. I said that fate is cruel, and that is true, but I also believe that some things are fated to be, and sometimes, ultimately, things work out for the best.
Look for me, husband, before you go to bed each night, at 2300 hours. I'll be the shadow you see in my cabin window. I'll be the Maquis woman whose heart you possess. And you, my love, will be the object of my desire and my love. Think of me, until we meet again.
"I love you too, my wife," Tom whispered reverently. He read the letter again and for a third time before he carefully folded it and placed it under her picture. Then noticing the time, he walked over to his window and pressed his face against the transparent aluminum. It was cold to the touch. There to his left and below flew the Liberty in Voyager's shadow. He strained his eyes trying to make out the windows along the ship's starboard side, and he counted them. Tom knew that B'Elanna was assigned to Cabin 312--third level, twelfth room. There, if he was not mistaken, was her cabin and it seemed that there was a shape in the window. Maybe it was B'Elanna. No, there was no maybe, it was B'Elanna. And even if it wasn't, he was going to convince himself that it was her, wishing him goodnight, telling him that she loved him. His fingers splayed across the window wishing that they were touching her instead and he whispered, "Goodnight my love. We'll be together soon. I promise."