"Who is it?" Tom asked. He had just gotten up after spending a sleepless night in bed and had been looking at the holopicture again. Putting B'Elanna's picture back down on the nightstand, he waited for his guest to come in.
"Tom!" Harry Kim said as he came into the cell. "How are you doing? Boy, I missed you!"
Tom walked over to the amiable, younger man and slapped him on the shoulder. "I missed you too. So what happened while I've been gone?"
"This and that, I'll fill you in later. Actually, the Captain asked me to come by this morning and accompany you to her ready room."
"I'm not even here a full day and I'm in trouble already?" Tom grinned.
"No, I think she wants to talk to you about the assignment she has in mind for you," Harry admitted.
Tom and Harry left the cabin en route to the Captain's ready room. All along the way, Tom noticed that crewmembers were pointing at him and some even looked at him with disgust. Harry noticed it too and was uncomfortable for his friend.
"They don't believe that you didn't go back to being a Maquis," Harry explained.
"I could tell. But I didn't, Harry, all I did was fly that last mission. I didn't do anything else. Hell, I couldn't even..." And he stopped talking when he realized what he almost revealed to his friend.
"You couldn't even what?" Harry asked.
"Just let's say that even if I had wanted to, they wouldn't have let me."
Soon the pair were standing before Captain Janeway.
"Welcome, gentlemen, sit down."
Tom and Harry each took a seat and Janeway sat at the head of the table.
"Mr. Paris, I've given your situation on Voyager a great deal of thought. I was impressed by your piloting skills the other day."
"Thank you, Captain."
"And I was wondering if you would be interested in training my pilots."
Tom's heart sunk for a moment, he was hoping that she was going to let him actually pilot Voyager, but beggars couldn't be choosers. "I'm listening."
"Mr. Kim is willing to help you augment and adapt the current holodeck pilot training program to your specifications."
"Sounds interesting and I'm willing, Captain, but are the pilots?"
"They have no choice, they will be ordered to take the classes. It's either that or Voyager will never make it home in one piece. Any questions?" She received no response from the other two. "Dismissed."
Harry and Tom worked for almost a week on the program--testing it, tweaking it, and retesting it--before it was ready to be used. Every night, Tom stood by his window in his quarters searching for his B'Elanna. Some nights, the Liberty flew close enough to Voyager for him to see the shadow in the window, but more often than not he had to pretend that he saw her.
The first two pilots assigned for their lessons waited outside of holodeck one, both reluctant to enter.
"What does *he* think he can show *us*," Ensign Baythart grumbled to Lt. Stadi.
"He's suppose to be very good," Stadi reminded him. "You should have seen the way he flew the Liberty last week."
"But that's not Voyager, he's never even sat at the real controls, just the holographic simulation," Baythart said defending himself.
"Well, that's beside the point. The Captain has ordered us to report for these flight lessons, and it's time, let's go in."
Stadi and Baythart passed through the holodeck arch and found themselves on the holographic bridge of Voyager with Paris waiting for them in what would normally be Cavit's seat.
"Welcome, Lieutenant, Ensign, I'm glad you could..."
"Stuff it, Paris," Baythart spat. "What do you think you can possibly show us?"
Paris knew that this wasn't going to be easy but he had hoped that the pilots would act like professionals and keep their feelings about him to themselves.
"Well then Baythart, why don't you take a seat at the conn and give the first test a go. Maybe you can show me a few things? Computer activate program Paris Omega Epsilon random pattern."
Baythart smugly took the seat at the helm and called for the program to begin. It started out smoothly and he was able to avoid the asteroid field that was part of the simulation. He was confident that he would make it through the test with flying colors, but then the asteroids multiplied and were starting to come at him at an alarming rate. Finally, he wasn't able to avoid a large asteroid and 'Voyager' crashed into the surface.
"You just destroyed Voyager," Tom stated simply.
"Let me try," Stadi suggested. Tom nodded and Stadi took Baythart's place at the helm. Before long though, she had crashed into a similar asteroid and 'Voyager' had suffered the same fate.
"This is impossible," the Lieutenant complained.
Tom's only response was to raise his eyebrows at the pair.
"You think you could do better?" Stadi asked.
"That, I'd have to see," challenged Baythart.
Tom rose calmly from his seat and exchanged places with the Betazoid. He called for the computer to reactivate the program. Stadi and Baythart confidently took their places behind him and waited for him to meet the same fate. He started out just like Baythart and Stadi had, easily flying around the few asteroids that were part of the beginning of the program. By the time the number of asteroids increased, Tom was taking 'Voyager' on a wild ride, somersaulting and spiraling around the rocks, finally avoiding all the asteroids until he reached empty space again.
Tom's pupils released their death grip on the hand railing with a sigh. "How did you do that?" Baythart and Stadi asked simultaneously.
"What? *You* can't do that?" Tom asked innocently.
"Well, um...no." Baythart swallowed his pride. "Do you think you could...um...teach me?"
Tom smiled an easy smile. "I'd be happy to. And you Stadi?"
The Betazoid nodded in concurrence.
It wasn't long before Baythart, Stadi, Hamilton, Stewart, and a couple of others, who could sit at the helm in case of an emergency, were all having regularly scheduled flight lessons with Tom Paris. Tom enjoyed the lessons, it helped keep his mind busy when all he wanted to do was to think about his wife on the Liberty.
His pupils had all improved a great deal, but all were willing to admit that no matter how many lessons Tom taught and no matter how patient he was, none could be a good as he. Best of all, they found that Tom Paris was not the man that they had been told he was. He was kind, quick with a joke, and was generous to a fault, nothing like the traitorous murderer they had anticipated. They found that Tom Paris was not just their instructor, he was also their friend.
"It can't be right," B'Elanna said as she ran the test again and yet again.
But the answer was always the same. B'Elanna Torres, engineer extraordinaire, was pregnant. She knew she hadn't been feeling well for the last week or two but had written it off to stress. Finally, though, she went to the infirmary and finding Thompson not there, scanned herself with the medical tricorder. She couldn't believe that her only night with Tom would have led to her getting pregnant. She had always heard that due to her combined Klingon and Human body chemistry that it would be very difficult, if not tantamount to impossible. But here she was pregnant.
She went back to her cabin. It was almost time for her to make her appearance in her window, in hopes that Tom would see her. She picked up the sheets that she had taken from the brig the day that she had packed his belongings. She could still smell his scent on them, it comforted her. Then her hand strayed to her abdomen. A baby. I'm going to have a baby. A child Tom and I created out of love. Our baby, she thought and a warm smile washed over her face. If only Tom could know. If only I could tell someone. But, B'Elanna knew that if Chakotay or any of the other Maquis crew found out about the baby that it might only make things worse for her and Tom. It might negate any chance for the two of them to be together. So she vowed to keep her silence for as long as she could.
The appointed time came, 2300 hours, and she stood at the window to her cabin. Over the weeks, she had correctly assumed that the ninth cabin from the stern of the ship on deck 13 was Tom's cabin. For there, if they were flying close enough to Voyager, she generally could see what she assumed was him at that window. "Tom, my love, I'm carrying your child--our child," she said aloud to the shadow on Voyager. "And I...I love you."
Chakotay looked worriedly at his engineer as he prepared to contact Kathryn Janeway. B'Elanna was sitting at her bridge station and she appeared rather pale. Had her separation from Paris affected her so greatly? Was her love for the mercenary so strong that it caused her to miss him to such an extent that she was becoming ill? He would have to ask her later if she had taken the time to go to the infirmary. But now he had Maquis business to take care of.
"Chakotay to Captain Janeway."
Janeway, seated in the command chair on the bridge, replied. "Janeway here, Captain."
"Captain Janeway, we are experiencing problems..."
And the conversation went on, but Tom Paris, who was on the bridge observing Baythart in action, had the first sight of his wife in weeks. He was totally focused on the half-Klingon and she on him. He could see the yearning in her eyes and her wan complexion. Tom's heart reached out to her and it ached.
From B'Elanna's viewpoint she could see Tom's blue eyes looking at her. She missed him so much. She wanted to tell her husband that she was carrying their child, to share with him her happiness and pride at the expression of their love.
Too soon the conversation was concluded and the viewscreen again displayed the numerous stars against the black vacuum of the Delta Quadrant. At that time, Tom didn't feel that even space could be as empty as his heart. How he longed to hold B'Elanna in his arms again, to talk to her and tell her that he loved her.
He finally awakened to the fact that he was on Voyager's bridge, and the Captain was talking to her First Officer.
"...I just don't feel that I can trust them, Commander," Janeway was saying.
"Why not?" Paris interrupted.
"Excuse me?" The Captain was not happy that her conversation with Cavit had been interrupted.
"Sorry, Captain. But why don't you think you can trust them? They are our only contact to the Alpha Quadrant here. If we can't trust them, who can we trust?"
The Captain was boiling mad at having her conversation on the bridge interrupted by the former convict. "Mr. Paris, my ready room! Now!"
Tom followed the Captain into the ready room. He took the seat she indicated him to use. "Mr. Paris, I would appreciate if you have a comment to make that you talk to me personally and not broadcast it on the bridge, or keep it to yourself. Now, if you have something to say. Say it."
Tom looked into her steely gaze and he knew that he had to seize the opportunity for seldom was it offered a second time around. "It's just that, I think the Maquis and the Starfleet crews should be able to get along. After all, if we are going to fly along side each other for seventy years, we should also be able to work together as well. For instance, B'Elanna Torres on the Liberty is the best engineer I have ever seen. She is very resourceful. Nothing is wasted on the Liberty. If it can be salvaged and reused then that is what is done. Now, Joe Carey is a good engineer too, but he doesn't know seat-of-your pants engineering--making do with the material you have-- this is a talent that Torres has mastered. The Liberty's engineer could really teach him a lot." Tom took a deep breath before he continued. "Captain, what I'm trying to say is that someone has to make the first move. Why not you?"
Captain Janeway silently sat at the head of the table and looked at Voyager's flight instructor. "What do you suggest?"
Well, it was now or never. "How about an exchange of crewmembers. Some Maquis could come over to work with the people on Voyager and vice-a-versa?"
"Hmmmmm." The Captain steepled her fingers in front of her face resting her chin on her thumbs.
"If each side can see that the other can contribute and benefit the other ship, then I think it would help with relations."
"Sounds like a plan, but do you think Chakotay would go for it?"
"Maybe, just don't tell him that it was my idea. We still don't get along very well."
"I'll consider your advice, and thank you. You certainly call a spade a spade, Mr. Paris."
Paris exited the ready room and again assumed his position behind Baythart, but he didn't miss the smirks that some of the bridge crew gave him, in particular Cavit. Reaching over to help Baythart perform a maneuver, Baythart whispered to him. "Don't worry about them, Tom. If they took the time to get to know you, their opinions would change."
Some of the people on the ship, other than the pilots, were starting to tolerate him--in particular the ladies.
Tom had tried to get along with everyone and had even received permission from the Captain to install a holoprogram based on a bar in Marseilles, France, that he used to frequent called Sandrines. It possessed an old world charm that few could resist. The bar had quickly become a favorite of the crew, they would congregate there in the evenings to talk over a synthenol or to play a game of pool. Even some of the ones that still didn't like him had become regular visitors.
That evening after his talk with the Captain, Tom walked into Sandrines and, noticing Harry sitting by himself, went over to join him. They talked about the incident on the bridge that day, and Tom told his friend about his suggestion to the Captain. Harry, eager to get along with everyone, was quick to jump on Tom's bandwagon.
"That's a wonderful idea," Harry said with a grin. "It would be nice if we all could get along."
"I agree, but let's keep this between ourselves for now. If the crew found out that the idea came from me, then they might not be that receptive."
Harry could see the wisdom behind that statement. "Agreed."
"Hey, Tommy," Megan Delaney called in a sing-song fashion from the bar. "Why don't you come over and join us." Megan, her sister Jenny and a couple other of Voyager's most famous flirts all had their eyes focused on the tall, blond flight instructor.
Normally Tom was able to ward off the women with a joke, but he wasn't in the mood after seeing B'Elanna on the viewscreen that afternoon.
Tom raised his hands. "Just leave me alone, Megan," he said.
Megan wasn't about to take 'no' for an answer and approached the pair. "Gee, don't tell me you'd prefer the company of men to the ladies," she teased.
"I mean it, Megan, I'm not in the mood, just leave me alone."
But Megan flung her hair with one sweep of her head over her shoulder and ran her fingers though Tom's hair. "Come on, Tommy. Join us."
Tom pulled her hands away from him and pushed her gently away. "I told you to please leave me alone."
The redhead finally took the hint, her ego momentarily deflated, and headed back to the bar and her friends mumbling to herself.
Harry turned a worried eye to his friend. "Tom, what's wrong? You usually don't speak to them like that. Generally, you are a lot more patient."
Downing the last of the synthenol, Tom slammed the glass down on the table. "You wouldn't understand, Harry." With that, Paris left the bar leaving behind four frustrated females and one bewildered Harry Kim. Harry thought about that statement for a moment before he too drained his glass and followed Tom Paris out of the bar.
Tom's long legs quickly left Kim behind in their wake. Harry walked faster, almost at a trot, trying to catch up to the tall man. He finally achieved his goal just as Paris reached the door to his cabin.
"Tom...wait up. What's...wrong?" Harry managed to say in between trying to catch his breath.
"I want to help if I can, Tom. And if I can't help, at least talk to me."
Tom knew that he had to talk to someone or go insane and nodded. Trying to keep everything inside and bottled up was driving him nearly crazy. "All right. Come in."
Harry followed his friend through the door and inside the cabin. Tom suggested that he sit down at the dining room table and replicated them both a cup of coffee before he joined his friend.
The ensign could see the disturbed look on his friend's face. "What is it, Tom?"
Paris took a sip of his coffee and placed the cup back down on the table. He stared into the cup watching the liquid become still. "I fell in love, Harry, when I was on the Liberty."
"You? You fell in love?"
Tom's head snapped up and looked at his friend with absolute seriousness. "What's the matter, don't you think I'm capable of loving someone?"
"It's not like that, it's just that...I don't know...I guess I never thought of you as being in love. Who is she?"
"She's Liberty's Chief Engineer, B'Elanna Torres." Tom's attention returned to his coffee and he ran his fingertips around the edge of the cup.
"B'Elanna Torres, the half-Klingon?" Harry recalled his time in the Ocampan hospital with her. "So that's why you looked like you did when you were on the bridge today, when the communique came through from the Maquis."
"I miss her Harry. She's my other half." Tom got up from the table and retrieved the holopicture of B'Elanna by his bed and passed it to him.
Harry activated it and was impressed, as he had been on the Ocampan homeworld, with B'Elanna's exotic beauty. "Your other half?"
Tom looked at Kim again and then down at the holopicture. "She's my wife. We took the Klingon blood oath."
Harry was shocked by his friend's confession. "Married? Then why aren't you together. Why don't you go see the Captain and tell..."
"I can't!" Tom said loudly interrupting his friend. "We can't tell anyone. No one on the Liberty knows, if they did then they could make it very difficult for her, and I won't have that. If Chakotay finds out that B'Elanna married me while I was in the Liberty's brig then..."
"Why were you in the brig?" Harry asked in amazement.
Tom sat back down at the table. "It's a long story..."
And it was a long night. Tom related to Harry his experience with being back on the Liberty of how he was placed in the brig when he had been accidently beamed aboard. He told his friend how he had fallen in love with B'Elanna, only stopping his conversation to take his place by the window as he had every night.
After Kim left, Tom returned the holopicture to its place, undressed, and crawled into bed. Thinking of his wife and her face on the viewscreen that day, he finally fell to sleep.
Janeway acted on Tom's suggestion and met with Chakotay. It was a long afternoon, but eventually they worked out an arrangement where an exchange of personnel and knowledge would take place between the two vessels. Janeway found that Chakotay was much easier to talk to than she had originally thought and felt that in time they might count themselves as friends.
One of the first groups to come over included B'Elanna to lend her expertise with problems that Carey was experiencing in Engineering. Voyager sent over Doctor Fitzgerald and representatives from Communications, including Harry Kim.
As soon as B'Elanna materialized in the Transporter Room she kept her eyes peeled for her husband. Though she ran into a number of Voyager's crew, Tom was not among them. Finally she reached Engineering and prepared to assist Voyager's Chief of Engineering with a problem he was having rectifying a misalignment of the magnetic constrictors.
Tom sat in the flight simulation holoprogram running through the day's assignment when Baythart and Hamilton stormed through the holodeck arch.
"...did you see her? She's hot," Hamilton informed Baythart.
"No, I can't say I've had the opportunity. Did you, Paris?" the younger of the two, Hamilton, asked their instructor and friend.
Tom looked up from the controls. "See who?"
"Liberty's engineer. I didn't know that Klingon women could be so beautiful."
"You saw B'Elanna Torres?" Tom asked, suddenly interested in what they had to say.
"B'Elanna Torres? That's her name?"
Tom got up from the holo-helm and stood in front of the two pilots. "Where is she?"
"She's in Engineering helping Carey. Why?"
"No reason, it's just that I need to see her. Listen you two review the simulation program I've cued up and I'll be back before the end of the lesson."
"Sure, Paris," Baythart replied. "Hey, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Tom said and quickly left the holodeck in search of his wife.
"What's the matter with him?" Hamilton asked turning to the other pilot.
"Beats me, but let's see what Tom left us to work on today?"
"Okay, but he looked pretty anxious when we told him that she was on board."
"Maybe he's got a thing for Klingons?"
Hamilton shrugged and took his place at the helm.
Paris sprinted into Engineering just as B'Elanna was about to leave.
"Thanks, Ms. Torres, I think I can take it from here," Joe Carey said. "I'll just see if I can get someone to escort you back to the Transporter Room.
"Don't bother, I'm already here. Janeway sent me down to bring Ms. Torres back," Tom lied. B'Elanna turned around and tried hard not to smile upon seeing her husband.
"Well, I would think that Janeway would want someone from Security to show her back, but..."
"Call her if you want to, but she was going to use the holodeck," Tom looked suitably embarrassed and dropped his voice so only Joe could hear, "I think she's using that governess program again, and you know how she hates to be disturbed."
Joe looked dubiously at the tall man. "Well, okay, but make sure that you take her directly to the transporter room and no side trips," Carey warned.
"Of course," Tom turned to his wife and swung his arm out in a wide arc. "Right this way, ma'am."
B'Elanna swept past him and he followed, joining her in the corridor.
"Ssssh," he warned as they turned into the main corridor and encountered several other crewmembers. Finally, they reached the turbolift, Tom called for Deck Four and once it started moving signaled for the lift to pause. Without any preamble, he swept B'Elanna into his arms and kissed her passionately.
"I've missed you so much," Tom said in between kisses.
"And I've missed you."
Tom backed her into the wall of the lift and began a new assault on her now swollen lips, parting them with his tongue in a desperate attempt to taste every bit of her sweetness before she had to leave.
"I watch for you every night, tIqwIj."
"And I watch for you as well. I love you."
"Forever," Tom replied.
So intent were they with their expression of love having so long been denied the opportunity, they didn't notice that the turbolift had starting moving again, having been reactivated by Security.
"Tom, there is something that I need to tell you."
Tom kissed her along her jawline and was reminded of the mating bites that had blessed their union. "I'm listening."
"It's just that I'm..."
"So, Tom Paris, you can kiss a Klingon," Megan Delaney spat, standing next to the security guard, "but you can't give me the time of day?"
Paris tore his lips away from B'Elanna's throat and stared at the growing audience. *Damn, why now?*
"Ms. Torres, if you'll follow me?" the guard requested and grabbed her by her upper arm leading her away from the group.
B'Elanna reluctantly accompanied the guard, leaving behind her husband still ignorant of her condition.
Tom watched her leave until she was out of sight.
"Well, Tom, you didn't answer me?" Megan taunted.
Tom turned his anger on the redhead. "Just leave me alone, I'll kiss whom I feel like and I don't need your permission to do so!"
"Hey, don't you go yelling at Meg," Chorwal, a large man who worked in maintenance, threatened.
"And you're going to stop me?"
Those words were the last ones Paris remembered until he woke in Sickbay with Dr. Fitzgerald's friendless eyes gazing down at him.
"You should learn to keep your mouth shut," the Doctor advised. Fitzgerald had despised Paris after he had been on Caldik Prime during the unfortunately accident there where three of Paris' classmates had died. "I've healed the bruises and the broken ribs, but you'll probably be sore for a few days."
"Thanks," Tom eyed the Doctor warily. "Can I leave now?"
"Please do, the Captain wants you to report to her ready room immediately."
Limping down the hall, Paris made his way the turbolift and rode it to Deck 1. Stepping out of the lift, the Captain looked at him, rose from her seat and headed toward her ready room. Cavit sneered at the blond man as Tom walked past him. Stadi threw her instructor a look of support from her position at the helm. Tom half-smiled back at the Chief Pilot.
"Mr. Paris," Janeway said as soon as the door to the ready room slid shut, "it has come to my attention that you were caught kissing B'Elanna Torres in the turbolift this afternoon."
And if we hadn't been caught, we probably would have done more than kiss, Tom thought.
Janeway was clearly upset and hadn't even offered Tom a seat, nor did she take one herself.
"Mr. Paris, I am very disappointed in you. Even though I have taken your advice about trying to develop better relationships between our crew and theirs, it does not mean that I will tolerate any fraternizing with the Maquis crew. If Ms. Torres, or any other of the Maquis come aboard Voyager again, I will expect you to have no contact with them unless it is absolutely necessary. Do I make myself clear?!"
"Yes, ma'am, but I can't guarantee that I will not attempt to kiss B'Elanna Torres again if she and I were to cross paths."
Janeway gave Tom the most severe 'command' stare she could muster, but Paris returned it with one of his own that he had learned from his father. "Mr. Paris, perhaps you don't understand. Our two crews are not ready for that type of... involvement yet. If anything like this happens again, you will find yourself in the brig."
Paris continued to stare at the woman in front of him. There was no way that he was going to agree not to see B'Elanna again if she happened to come on board Voyager or if he were fortunate enough to visit the Liberty.
"Captain Janeway," Kim's voice rang out through the ready room, "we have five Kazon ships under full attack speed approaching Voyager and Liberty." Janeway and Paris glared at each other one last time and quickly returned to the brig. Janeway took her position at command central and Paris shadowed Stadi at the helm.
"Red alert! Battlestations!" Janeway bellowed. "Mr. Kim open a communications line with the Liberty."
Lights dimmed and the bridge became a whirlwind of concentrated activity. Tuvok manned the weapons station, Kim frantically scanned the enemy, and Stadi deftly manned her station.
"Captain Chakotay, I would suggest that we keep an open comm channel during this battle to facilitate response efficiency," Janeway said to the Maquis Captain.
"Acknowledged, we'll do the same, Chakotay out."
Not seeing his wife on the bridge of the Liberty, Tom assumed that she must be in Engineering.
"Kazon within 5,500 kilometers and closing," Kim informed the bridge crew. "Captain, we have visual."
"Chakotay, I would suggest that we tackle the mother ship and you handle the small ones."
"Very good," Chakotay replied.
The viewscreen displayed an image of one very large Kazon ship flanked by four much smaller ships almost the size of one of the Voyager's shuttles.
The Kazon vessels approached and without wasting time to speak to either captain, the Kazon starting firing at the ships.
"Stadi, bring us around under the main ship's belly. Mr. Tuvok, prepare phasers and fire at will," Janeway ordered.
Voyager dipped and dove under the Kazon mother ship, just as Paris had taught Stadi on the holodeck, while Tuvok tried to inflict damage to the alien ship. The Liberty flew into and around the four smaller ship taking shots at the enemy. Two of the smaller ships exploded almost right away, but the other two regrouped and came back at them to try again.
Paris leaned toward the Chief Pilot. "Stadi, remember the holo- simulation I called 'the somersault'?" the Betazoid nodded and smiled when she understood. Taking the Voyager on another pass under the belly of the large ship, Stadi pitched Voyager in a way that allowed Tuvok to use the phasers to seriously weaken the other ship's shields.
"Excellent work, Stadi, Tuvok," the Captain complimented. Tom smiled realizing that in a way it was a testimonial to his training abilities as well.
The Liberty continued to fire upon the remaining two small ships but was starting to receive heavy damage. "Captain," Kim reported. "The Liberty has just been hit in the starboard nacelle and in the aft section near engineering."
Tom thought his heart had stopped and he felt his stomach twist when Kim mentioned Engineering.
"Captain, the main ship is powering up a new weapon, it's massive!" Kim warned.
"Stadi, get us out of here now!!" Janeway roared.
The Betazoid began to pull the ship around, but before Voyager could retreat to a safe distance, a huge energy wave struck the ship. Fires ignited on the bridge and heavy beams were dislodged from the ceiling.
Paris pulled himself out from underneath a beam, thankful that he hadn't been pinned under it. He first turned his attention to the helm and found to his horror that Stadi had sustained a fatal injury when a metal strut had penetrated her rib cage. He swallowed and gently moved the pilot and took her position, steering Voyager out of harms way.
"Status report!" Janeway yelled, struggling back to her seat. Looking down to her left she could see that her First Officer stared at her with unseeing eyes, he had taken a deadly blow to his head.
"Heavy damage on decks 1, 5, and 6 with hull breaches in cargo bay 3. Environmental systems are still functioning, as are transporters. Weapons are at 52 percent and the shields are at 34 percent and falling," Harry reported grimly from his station.
Chakotay hailed Voyager through a heavy layer of static. "Captain Janeway, we have suffered severe damage to our life support system, and our guidance system is disabled. Request emergency evacuation of the Liberty crew to the Voyager."
"Granted. Mr. Kim, see that the entire crew is beamed aboard the ship immediately."
"Everyone but me, Captain," Chakotay added.
"The Liberty is about to explode anyway, so I'm going to make good use of that. I'm going to ram this ship right down the Kazon's throat. All I ask is that you keep firing at their forward shields and keep a transporter lock on me. I'll tell you when to beam me out."
"Very good, but don't cut it too fine." Janeway warned. "I'll put my best men on it. Harry keep a transporter lock on Chakotay and Tom show me what you can do."
"Yes, ma'am," they chorused.
As the Liberty's crew was being quickly whisked away to Voyager and Voyager kept pounding away at the crumbling Kazon ship's shields, Chakotay maneuvered the crippled Liberty towards the large ship. The Kazon did as Chakotay had anticipated and concentrated their fire power on Voyager, ignoring the smaller ship, thanks to Paris' piloting expertise.
Chakotay was getting closer and closer until, immediately prior to ship impacting with the Kazon ship, Chakotay called for transport. Just as he dematerialized on the Liberty, the ship crashed into the Kazon vessel and both exploded. The two small surviving Kazon ships left the area with their tails between their legs.
Tom flew Voyager to a safe distance away from the debris before he was relieved by Baythart.
"Stadi's dead," Tom sadly told the Irishman. "I'll bring her to Sickbay.
No, you stay Tom, I'll do it, She'd want you to be at the helm."
Tom nodded not being able to trust his own voice.
Baythart picked up the lifeless body and left the bridge just as Chakotay had walked off the turbolift accompanied by a security guard.
Tom turned back to the viewscreen and the anxious, sick feeling in his stomach returned. He knew then why he felt that way. His wife was hurt. B'Elanna, he thought. I've got to get to B'Elanna.
"Captain, permission to go to Sickbay," Tom spouted.
"But, Mr. Paris, you're not injured."
Tom looked unwaveringly at Janeway. "No, Captain, but I've got to go. Someone I know needs my help." Without waiting for permission, Tom bolted for the turbolift.
Janeway turned to Ensign Kim. "Harry, go find out what is going on and report back to me."
"Yes, ma'am." Without hesitation, Harry took the next turbolift in search of his friend.
Harry followed Tom to Sickbay and saw that the place was pandemonium. Injured people were streaming into the room, both Maquis and Starfleeters alike.
Kim grimly noticed that Dr. Fitzgerald and his nurse were lying on the floor dead. "Computer, activate emergency medical hologram!" Harry yelled above the din.
In an instant the EMH materialized in the middle of Sickbay.
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency," the holodoctor requested.
"Multiple injuries, some severe. We were just in a battle," Harry informed the Doctor.
The Doctor grabbed a medical tricorder and enlisting the aid of Harry and a couple of ensigns who had stopped by Sickbay to see if they could help, proceeded to treat the wounded.
Harry spotted Tom kneeling beside an obviously injured B'Elanna Torres. "Captain, Kim."
"Go ahead, Harry."
"Captain, we need help in Sickbay. Dr. Fitzgerald and his nurse are dead, I've activated the Emergency Medical Hologram, but it's bedlam down here."
"I'll be right down. Tuvok, you've got the bridge. Get repair details up here immediately!"
"Yes, Captain." the Vulcan replied.
Janeway headed for the turbolift only to find that Chakotay was at her shoulder.
"You don't mind if I come along do you? Some of those injured are Maquis, and I might be able to help."
Janeway clasped him on the shoulder. "We can use all the help we can get."
Tom applied pressure to a severe laceration B'Elanna received on her upper arm during the attack. Having lost so much blood, B'Elanna kept on drifting in and out of consciousness.
"Take it easy, B'Elanna, help is on the way."
B'Elanna slightly nodded her head. It hardly seemed real that she was with Tom again. Perhaps, she thought, I'm imagining it all.
"How is she doing, Tom?" Harry asked approaching the pair.
Tom shook his head indicating that he didn't think that she was doing very well.
"I'll get the EMH."
Harry went in search of the Doctor just as the two captains entered Sickbay. Issuing orders and helping with the injured Janeway and Chakotay finally made their way over to where B'Elanna lay.
Tom looked up to see the two captains and ignored them. "Harry, we need the Doctor!" Tom yelled to his friend. In an instant, the EMH materialized at the side of B'Elanna's bed waving the medical tricorder scanner.
Making his diagnosis, he took out the dermal regenerator and stepped over to the side of the bed that Paris had been on so he could repair B'Elanna's arm. Tom moved aside to stand at the foot of the bed near Janeway and Chakotay. The EMH healed the wound with the regenerator and administered a hypospray to stimulate the body into creating replacement blood. Feeling better, B'Elanna opened her eyes and saw the Doctor standing over her.
"Other that this severe laceration and a broken rib along with some bumps and bruises, this woman seems fine. Even her baby appears to have suffered no ill effects," the EMH replied matter- of-factly.
"Baby?" Paris, Chakotay, and Janeway chorused. The captains' faces contained looks of puzzlement while Tom's broke into a joyous smile.
"Yes, baby. Actually a baby girl about eight weeks along and doing marvelously.
"Who's the father?" Chakotay asked.
Still grinning, Tom ignored the Maquis captain and went over to kneel beside his wife again.
The EMH punched a few buttons. "According to the ships' manifests, a Thomas Paris is the father."
Tom was exchanging loving words with his wife when Chakotay grabbed him by the shoulder. The older man pulled him around and sucker punched him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of the man and causing him to crash into a couple of hapless ensigns, sending all three tumbling to the deck.
Chakotay turned to his engineer. "B'Elanna are you all right. What did Paris do to you, did he rape you? You know you don't have to carry this baby if you don't want to."
B'Elanna looked at her Captain and motioned with her finger that he come down to her level so she could speak with him. Chakotay bent down and when he got close enough, B'Elanna's hand shot out, grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him down so they were nose to nose.
"Chakotay, *listen* to me. I am *pregnant* and proud to be carrying my *husband's* child, I would *never* abort it. If you have a *problem* with that, petaQ, then that is just too bad." She then pushed him away from her releasing the hold on the startled man's shirt.
"How long have you two been married?" Chakotay asked, adjusting his clothing.
"Since just before I was sent back to Voyager," Tom explained, getting to his feet and rejoining his wife. He tenderly smiled at B'Elanna and brushed her hair away from her face. B'Elanna seized his hand in her own and kissed first his fingers and then turning his hand over she kissed his palm.
Bringing Tom's hand away from her mouth she again looked up at her captain. "We look the Klingon mating oath late at night in the brig, in fact, Chakotay," she said looking the Native American in the eye, "I was the one who initiated it."
Chakotay had the decency to look chastened and returned to stand by Janeway's side. "I guess you're going to have to find Mr. Paris larger quarters," he suggested.
Kathryn Janeway nodded her head in agreement. "And I think you have some explaining to do as to why they both happened to be in the brig?" Chakotay nodded
Tom knelt down beside B'Elanna and placed his hand against her abdomen. "How have you been, have you been feeling all right?"
"A little queasy occasionally and I've been very tired, but the worst thing was not being able to tell you about the baby. I tried when we were in the turbolift but, well you know, we were interrupted."
Tom rose up from his kneeling position beside her bed and bent down toward her. "They can't keep us apart now, tIqwIj. We're together--now and forever." Then he lowered his mouth to meet hers and kissed her fully and passionately on the lips.
Several things changed after that day.
With Cavit and Stadi having died in the battle, Janeway was faced with having to replace two very important members of her Senior Staff. And she and Chakotay spent hours in her ready room discussing the best way to integrate the two crews.
From the start, Janeway insisted that the Maquis captain be part of the command structure. Thus, it was decided that he take over the position of First Officer that Cavit had held. When they finally came to that agreement, Janeway made an announcement to the crew. It surprised some, but most everyone agreed it would benefit the crew and facilitate relations between the Maquis and Starfleet.
The next choice of who should replace Stadi, was a little more difficult. She had a several pilots with similar experience that had served with Stadi and were accustomed to flying Voyager. It was a difficult choice to make, but ultimately she decided that Baythart should be offered the position.
Wanting to make the announcement with all the pilots present, Janeway requested the presence of Baythart, Hamilton, Stewart, and the junior pilots in her ready room. Chakotay took the helm during the meeting and watched as all the pilots strode through the bridge and entered the ready room. Janeway was already seated at the table and welcomed each pilot as they entered.
"I'm glad you see you all together," Janeway said as she arose from her chair and smiled. "As you all know, Stadi was killed during that last attack with the Kazon. We will all miss her. But this also means that the position of Chief Pilot needs to be filled. I've thought about this for a long time, and have come to the conclusion that Ensign Baythart is the best suited for the job. Mr. Baythart please stand." Baythart looked nervously around the room and stood as ordered. "Ensign, it is my privilege to award you..."
"I don't want it, Captain," he replied and shook his head. "It is not that I don't appreciate being chosen, but I am not the best pilot you have on this ship."
Janeway looked confused. "But Ensign surely if you think this over you'd see that this is what is best for Voyager, for you to be named Chief Pilot."
"But I have thought it over, Captain," Baythart looked around the room at all of the other pilots. "We all talked this over shortly after Stadi was killed," his voice choked when it spoke his friend's name. "Speaking for all of Voyager's pilots, we would like you to listen to what we have to say."
Janeway nodded and sat back down at the head of the table.
"All of the pilots are very proud to be in Starfleet, and in particular to be on Voyager and to serve under you. But over the past several weeks we have not only come to think of Tom Paris as a friend, but we've learned more about flying this ship from him than we ever did at the Academy. None of us are ashamed to say that we can never hope to be as good as he is, he is exceptional. Voyager's new Chief Pilot should be Tom Paris."
Kathryn Janeway took a deep breath and slowly exhaled, then she looked at each of her pilots. Every face met her gaze unwaveringly. "You all feel the same way?" she asked.
A chorus of 'yes, ma'ams' and 'yes, Captain,' arose from around the table.
"I see. I have to give you all credit. That option hadn't occurred to me. But what if he won't take it?"
Baythart looked at her stoically. "He'll take it. If he doesn't he'll have to contend with us." The pilots laughed and nodded their heads.
The meeting broke up, Baythart relieved Chakotay at the helm, and the Captain and her new First Officer adjourned to talk about what had transpired in the meeting. By the time the Captain had explained what had been said, even Chakotay had to agree with the decision.
B'Elanna and Tom had moved into a larger cabin after she came on board so that there'd be room for the baby when it arrived. They were assigned a cabin down the hall from Harry's quarters. It was a family cabin. equipped with two small bedrooms and a large bathroom. The pair were ecstatic with the extra room. Though they still received some sly looks from both the Maquis and Starfleet members of the crew, each day they seemed to find more friends on board. It seemed that being the only married couple on board plus the only woman expecting a child helped to mellow out old predjucides and hatreds.
Harry had come by that afternoon and was sitting with the married couple talking about the latest Voyager gossip over cups of tea and coffee when the outer door's annunciator rang.
"It's open!" Tom called out from across the room. The door slid open and Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay walked in surprising everyone.
"Um...Captain, Commander," Tom said as he got up from his seat and walked around the table to greet their new guests. "It's good to see you. Can I get you something to drink? To eat?"
"I didn't come here for pleasure, Mr. Paris, the Commander and I have come here on business," she explained.
"Business? Something going wrong with the pilot training?" he asked.
"No. Not really, it's just that the pilots and us," she indicated herself and Chakotay, "don't think that you have enough to do with just training my pilots. What do you think?"
B'Elanna and Kim exchanged questioning looks before they looked back at the trio.
"Well, I suppose I could help out somewhere else on the ship. You just tell me where and I'd be happy to try and lend a hand," Tom suggested.
Janeway brought her finger up to her chin and turned away from Paris, walked a few steps and turned back to face him again, appearing to be in deep thought. Chakotay was impressed with her acting ability and tried hard not to show it. "I do have a position that I seem to be having problems with finding the right person to fill it. Chakotay, I, and a few others have discussed it and we feel that you might be the right man for the job. Though I will warn you it does require a lot of work and dedication."
Tom was now curious about his new position, it sounded challenging whatever it was. He looked from Janeway to the Commander and back to the Captain, but their faces revealed nothing. If only Janeway would just spit it out and tell him, he thought.
"Well I told you I'd be glad to help, just tell me what it is." Feeling a warm pair of arms encircle his waist he looked down to see that B'Elanna had come to stand beside him and offer her support if it was needed.
"How would you feel about assuming the position of Chief Pilot on Voyager?" she asked with pride.
Tom stared at her and B'Elanna hugged him tighter. "Ch--chief Pilot?" he queried. Had he heard her right?
"I've been told that you are the best qualified man for the job-- *Lieutenant*." Paris did a double take. He just had to get his hearing checked.
"*Lieutenant* Tom Paris," B'Elanna said, "I kind of like the sound of that?"
Tom had to agree with her, it had been a long time since he had a rank in front of his name, a long time since he had had the rank 'lieutenant' stripped from him.
"Then you'll accept?" Janeway asked. "You do know, I'll still expect you to conduct training classes."
Tom stepped forward and shook her offered hand with both of his. "I'm speechless, Captain. I hardly know what so say but thank you."
"Thanks is all I needed to hear, Lieutenant. Commander? Think you can keep an eye on him on the bridge?"
Chakotay laughed. "I would be either an honor or a curse," he replied. "I'll let you know later."
"And B'Elanna," the Captain said addressing the pregnant woman. "It is my hope that you'll be able to offer your expertise to Carey now that you are on board. According to Joe, you are an engineering marvel, and," she said for B'Elanna's ears alone "he doesn't give out compliments easily. In fact, he had better watch himself of he may have to relinquish his "chief" title to you." B'Elanna laughed.
"I'd be happy to Captain."
Months passed and B'Elanna got larger as the baby grew inside of her. Tom loved his life now. He flew the best ship in the Delta Quadrant during the day and came home to the most beautiful, exciting wife he could possibly imagine at night.
Finally in the middle of one night, B'Elanna poked him in the ribs. "It's time, Tom. My water broke."
"yeah...ump...water..." mumbled Tom and he rolled back over went back to sleep until B'Elanna gave him a mighty push and he plummeted onto the floor. "What..what was that for? I wasn't hogging the sheets."
"It's time, Tom. The baby is coming."
The pair stumbled into Sickbay, called for the EMH to activate, and several hours later a ear-splitting cry from their little baby girl resounded throughout the room and down the hall.
"She's beautiful, B'Elanna. Just like you." Tom bent down and gave his tired wife a kiss on her forehead and on her lips.
They spent some time with her by themselves before they allowed visitors to come in. B'Elanna was holding their baby, who was wrapped in a white blanket to her chest and Tom stood behind her running his fingers gently through the baby's wisps of platinum hair.
Harry, Janeway, and Chakotay walked in all grinning with pride at the newest addition to the Voyager family.
"She's gorgeous, B'Elanna, Tom," the Captain pronounced.
"She's got your hair, Tom?" Chakotay observed. Tom nodded and blushed with pride.
Harry moved to get a better look at the new family. "So what's her name?"
"T'Leni Janelle Paris," B'Elanna told them proudly.
Soon the visitors left. B'Elanna breast fed T'Leni and then she put her down in the bassinet for a nap.
Tom stared at the little infant in awe. This was his baby. His little girl. He silently vowed that no matter what it took that he'd be the best father he could possibly be to this little miracle.
B'Elanna could almost hear her husband's thoughts, and contentedly smiled at her family.
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