Summary: Alternate Universe fluff story -- after breaking
Carey's nose, B'Elanna didn't achieve the rank of Chief Engineer.
Tom and B'Elanna's romance blossoms thanks to a little hike on
the holodeck and a little intervention from Joe Carey.

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.

Special thanks to my beta readers: Jan M. Isabelle S., Amanda B.,
Lesa, and Chris R.


BREACHING THE WALLS
PG-13 6/98
by PJ in NH (kelhapam@lr.net)


Prologue - A few days after entering the Delta Quadrant

"You're sure you're alright with this Joe?" the Captain asked him
as he
sat across the table from her in the ready room.

"I guess I'll have to be won't I?" he responded obviously not at
all alright with the situation.

Chakotay spoke up trying to smooth several ruffled feathers.
"I'm sure once you see what a good engineer she is, you too will
agree that she will be the best one for the job."

"But, you will consult with me before this happens," Carey
confirmed looking at the Captain, purposefully ignoring the
tattooed man that sat next to her.

"You can be sure of it. I'll talk to you first, but remember I'm
Captain and I make the final decision. Dismissed." she said
firmly to which Carey nodded in agreement as he got up to leave.

After he had exited the door, the First Officer turned to
Janeway. "He'll come around, you'll see. B'Elanna may have a
few rough edges that's an understatement, but she is one hell
of an engineer -- she gets things done."

"I don't question that she can get things done, Chakotay. I have
to question if she can get things done without the rest of the
engineering crew jumping ship."


Chapter 1- The Repast

One year later.

It was happening again and she hated it every time. All it took
was one look and she could feel her skin start to flush and heat
up and before long she was blushing from her collar line to her
hairline. Her mother had always told her it was a weak human
trait inherited from her father's side of the family. She
thought about the disgust expressed on her mother's face every
time her emotions betrayed her as she crawled under the console
near the communications station on the bridge to perform a needed
repair. Maybe under here he wouldn't see her and he would forget
that she had come to the bridge today, she reasoned. But an hour
and a half later after the repair had been made and she crawled
out from beneath the console those same penetrating blue eyes
locked onto her and she could feel the heat rise across her face
again.

"Damn, him," she muttered in Klingon to herself as she stormed
into the turbolift and the doors slid shut. With relief, she
leaned against the far wall as it descended toward Engineering.
Why him? She couldn't figure it out. She had never been
attracted to his kind before. She had always preferred dark-
haired men with dark eyes, so she couldn't understand why her
heart tap danced whenever she was around him. Stop it, B'Elanna,
she reminded herself. The last time you were interested in
someone, make that *every time* you were interested in someone,
it always turned out that all they wanted was one thing, to use
you, discard you, and brag. They were all a bunch of petaQs, so
why would Tom Paris be any different. After all hadn't Chakotay
and others warned her against him and told her he was a spoiled
rich boy, murderer, traitor . . . the list just went on and on
and none of it was any good. So why was she interested? She
didn't have an answer for that. Considering everything, weighing
everything in balance, she should hate the man, a man apparently
without honor. But one item weighed more than all the others
combined, it was the way he had talked to her in that Vidiian
prison and since then when they had occasionally met, he was so
sweet, seemed so sincere, that maybe, maybe she thought -- maybe
she hoped, things could be different.


"What was that all about?" Harry asked his friend with the blue
eyes as the turbolift doors closed taking its precious passenger
with it.

Casting a well-practiced innocent expression his way, Tom
replied, "who knows, Harry, women they're all the same."

They may be all the same, Harry thought, but ever since that away
mission when B'Elanna Torres had been split into two -- one
human and one Klingon, Tom couldn't keep his eyes off the young
engineer.


*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***


B'Elanna finally reached Engineering and reported back in with
Lieutenant Carey, that was one thing she had to credit to her
Klingon heritage. She was doing well after they came on board
Voyager -- well at least for a little while -- but then in one
split second and one broken nose later she had thrown all hopes
of becoming Chief Engineer out the porthole and had been lucky to
be granted the rank of Lieutenant J.G. Not only did she
disappoint herself but she had disappointed the First Officer,
her former Maquis captain, who had spoke on her behalf to the
Captain, and that hurt her worse of all.

"All done, Lt. Torres?" Lt. Carey, Chief Engineer, asked as she
entered his office.

"Yes, sir. All set."

"Great, I'm sure you did a good job. That's all for today.
You're dismissed. I'll see you tomorrow morning."

"Are you sure? Don't we have power couplings that need to be
realigned?" she asked.

"Yes, but they can wait . . ."

"I'll do it," she said quickly as she grabbed her tool kit and
exited the office.

Carey just sat back in his chair and shook his head like a parent
would do when confronted with a child that tried too hard to
please. "Poor B'Elanna, she's got more energy and talent than
she knows what to do with, I wonder if she could lend me some,"
he said out loud running this fingers over the bridge of his
nose. The same nose that she had broken months ago -- the same
nose that Samantha Wildman swore now possessed a roughish charm
that she couldn't resist, break and all. Women, go figure! And
B'Elanna Torres, who would have thought that his feelings toward
her would have changed so much over the last year. Sure she had
saved the ship countless times with her skill and ingenuity in
engineering, but it was more than that he now generally liked the
half-Klingon.

B'Elanna though wasn't thinking that she needed something to do
just to expel excess energy, she was thinking that if she was
busy she would avoid the rush hour at the mess hall and thus
avoid those beautiful blue eyes again. One episode, no make that
two episodes of blushing were two too many for one day and one
half-Klingon.

So Lt. Torres took her time and realigned the power couplings and
double and triple checked them to make sure they were working
properly before she called it a day. She then headed to the mess
hall two hours past the normal dinner rush hour just as she had
planned. When she arrived, the dining area was empty, even
Neelix had left for the evening leaving a couple of items warming
on the side table for late arrivers. So B'Elanna picked up her
tray and walked over to select from what remained from the
evening meal.

"If I were you, I'd avoid the Talaxian Casserole today," a voice
piped up behind her and she could feel those same penetrating
blue eyes looking at her as they had on the bridge and she could
feel herself blushing all over again. Betrayed again my some
stupid human gene. Some plan, she thought and now I don't even
have a crowded mess hall to hide in.

"Ah . . . ah th--thanks," she stammered as she opted for the
other choice the standby leola root stew.

"That's not much better, in fact it's worse, how about letting me
treat you to a replicated meal, Lieutenant?" Tom Paris offered.

"No that's okay, I'll just . . ." she started to say as she once
again reached for the ladle that was in the pot of stew but was
prevented from raising it when Paris' hand came down on top of
hers to stop her.

"Really I insist, I could use some company and I don't think I
could bear seeing you eat those ah-hem culinary creations," he
said as he graciously took her by the arm and steered her toward
the replicators. "So what will it be, lasagne or some Klingon
speciality?"

"La . . . lasagne will be fine, actually I never developed a
taste for food that moved," she reluctantly admitted. "Thanks."

"My pleasure. Why don't you get us something to drink and find
us a seat and I'll collect our meal. Okay?"

How had this happened, she wondered as she filled two glasses
with fruit juice and chose a table in the corner of the room for
their meal. Despite her plans, she was alone in the mess hall
with the man of her dreams. Just take it easy B'Elanna, she
cautioned herself,you can get through this.

Tom joined her shortly. "For you mi'lady," he said and with a
flourish deposited her meal, complete with a green salad and a
slice of garlic bread, in front of her with the aplomb of an
experienced waiter and placed his own plate down on the table
across from her. Then, just when she thought that he would sit
down and join her, he plunked a vase containing a single apricot
rose in the middle of the table.

This was too much B'Elanna thought. Even though she hadn't been
prepared to share a meal with the handsome lieutenant, she knew
if she tried hard she could get through it, but the flowers on
the table was a little too much, a little too much like a date.

"Flowers?" she questioned.

"Actually flower, my replicator credit balance didn't stretch to
flower-s," he explained stressing the 's' in the word.

"But, Paris, this is the mess hall. What if someone were to come
in, what would they think?"

"I imagine they would think what a lucky man I am to be dining
with such a lovely lady," he replied smoothly. Her only response
to that statement was to roll her eyes up toward the ceiling
which was accompanied by a slight growl of disgust. "What? You
don't think so?" he asked but got no response. "So you tell me
if someone were to come in here and see us, what would they
think?"

"They'd think . . . think that . . ."

"They'd think what B'Elanna?" he prompted.

"They'd think that Paris must be hard up eating with someone as
ug . . ." she started to say but was stopped when he placed two
fingers over her luscious lips.

"Don't say that B'Elanna, it's not true, you're not ugly. In
fact, I'd say you're the most stunning, exotic, beautiful woman
on the ship, and I'm very grateful that you're willing to share
a table with little ol' me," he said before he removed his
fingers.

"You're doing it again," she snarled as she started again to
blush, the touch of those long fingers of his to her lips had
been incredible. It took all her control not to kiss them, to
nibble them.

"Doing what?" he said with complete innocence.

"Making me blush," the young engineer blurted out.

"So?"

"Klingons, even half-Klingons, don't blush!" she told him and
grabbed her fork as if she were planning to use it as a weapon
and dropped her head down so he couldn't see her reddening face.

"Says who?" he asked and when she didn't answer he reached across
the table and removed the fork from her clenched fist and placed
it on the table. He then cupped her chin in the palm of his hand
in an effort to tilt her head up so he could look into her eyes,
but she shook her head out of his hand and dropped her gaze down
even further to the floor.

Looking around to make sure they were still alone so he wouldn't
embarrass her even more, he rose from his chair and walked around
to the other side of the table and knelt in front of her so he
could look up into her face. What he saw surprised him, as two
tears spilled out of her lovely brown eyes and coursed their way
down her cheeks. "B'Elanna, says who?" he asked ever so softly,
ever so tenderly.

"My mother," she replied simply as she brushed away the wetness
roughly with the back of her hand.

Damn her mother. "B'Elanna there is nothing wrong with
blushing, it's something you can't control. In fact, I think it
is quite endearing -- particularly on you. Now me, that's
another story."

"You?" she asked in disbelief.

"Yeah, me. Can't help it. The same complexion that won't allow
me to get a sun tan is the same one that makes me blush so well.
And, I bet I can blush better than you can, I've been known to
work my way right up to a true scarlet red in a matter of mere
seconds on occasion," he challenged puffing out his chest in mock
pride. To which B'Elanna responded with a half-smile.

"My cousin Beatrice . . ."

"Beatrice?"

"That's another story. Anyway, Beatrice was about five years
older than me. When I was young she and her parents visited out
house quite a bit. All she had to do was talk to me about my
blushing and that would be enough to get me red from head to toe.
She always knew what buttons to push."

"You're kidding?"

"Nope," he replied, "I swear it's true."

"That's something I'd like to see."

"Not if I can help it. So do you feel better?" She nodded.
"Good, now let's eat before it gets cold. Okay?"


After the meal, which was eaten with a liberal dose of humorous
jokes and stories by the pilot, the two finally left the mess
hall.

"Would you mind if I walked you back to your cabin, B'Elanna?"

"That's probably not a good idea. What if Megan saw us?"

"So, what if she did see us?"

"Well she might think something was going on, and you wouldn't
want that."

"I wouldn't?"

"No. She'd probably get mad. After all, aren't you two still
seeing each other."

"Actually no, she's seeing Ted Winouski."

"Since when?"

"Since I fixed her up with him about three months ago."

Three months ago, she thought, that was about the time they
returned from . . . Stop it B'Elanna, he couldn't possibly care
for you. It's just a coincidence. He's just feeling sorry for
you. Either that or maybe he thinks if he's smooth enough that
you'll let him . . .

"I forgot, ah . . . I left something unfinished back in
engineering," she lied.

"I'll go with you then."

"It will probably take a while. Thanks anyway and thanks for
dinner," she said as she turned and sprinted down the corridor
toward the nearest turbolift.

"Ah, B'Elanna, Engineering is down that corridor," Tom called
after her indicating the left corridor with a nod of his head.

B'Elanna relented and with a grumble on her lips, turned to
retrace her steps. As she walked past Tom, an old habit reared
its ugly head, and he quickly reached his arm out and drew her
toward him and into a quick kiss. And just as quickly,
B'Elanna's fist connected with an upper cut to his jaw and Mr.
Paris was lying flat on his back staring up at the ceiling. He
could hear her stomping away mumbling something about 'all men
being the same' and a few choice words and phrases he didn't
understanding, obviously Klingon. She was definitely a
challenge, but worth it, he mused lying there. He wasn't sure
what it was about B'Elanna Torres that intrigued him so, but he
was determined to find out. He was going to find out what she
was really like beyond the walls that she erected around herself.
Of course, Tom forgot that for him to breach her walls that he
might have to knock down a few of his own.

Chapter 2 - The Matchmaker

A long two weeks had passed, and the jaw had long since healed.
It was amazing how a pilot could injure himself exiting a
shuttlecraft, which was the excuse he provided the Holodoc when
he had inquired about the injury. He had only seen B'Elanna
briefly, at least during the day, a glimpse or two in the mess
hall, occasionally he would pass her in the hallway, once they
even shared a silent two-minute ride in the turbolift, but at
night in his dreams he saw her every night. In those dreams, she
was confident, sure of herself and her combined heritage -- a
warrior woman and a sensitive soul combined in one which equaled
one powerful, irresistible combination to one pilot.

*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

"Tom? Tom! HEY, TOM! It's your turn."

"Ah sorry, Harry," the pilot replied as he grabbed the pool stick
and approached the table. With a sure and accurate shot, Paris
sank the remaining three balls that were left. "Another game?"
he asked as he pocketed a couple of replicator rations he had
just won.

Damn even when his friend wasn't paying attention he could still
beat him, Kim thought shaking his head in dismay. "Nope, sorry
you wiped me out. How about we just have a couple of cold ones
and some talk?"

"Sounds good, my treat."

The two friends ordered their drinks and found a table along the
back wall.

"So who is she?" Harry asked knowing full well that since their
return from the Vidiian prison Tom couldn't keep his eyes off Lt.
Torres but Harry opted to play ignorant.

"Who's who?"

"Who are you seeing?" he asked his friend knowing that it had
been a few months since he had broken off with Megan and also
knowing that the pilot never remained unattached for very long.

"No one," he replied, which was the truth even though if the
pilot had his way it would be different.


*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***


Something needs to be done, Joe Carey thought as he reviewed
all he had witnessed over the last couple of weeks, he had been
patient long enough. Unbeknownst to a certain pilot and
engineer, he had been watching and noticing the looks that both
of them gave the other. While the pilot expressed his interest
more blatantly, B'Elanna opted for the subtle approach steeling
glances at him from under her thick, dark eyelashes. But, the
familiar romantic tension was there and Carey could see it, and
being a matchmaker by heart felt that the two needed a little
nudge to get things going.

B'Elanna was just finishing up in Engineering when Joe Carey
approached her.

"Lt. Torres, I have a couple of things to do, will you please see
that Lt. Paris gets this padd this evening?"

B'Elanna looked around hoping that someone else would volunteer
for the assignment. "Ah . . . sure," she said, noticing that it
was apparently her or no one, as she hesitantly took the padd.

"It's information on the repairs to the helm control we made late
this afternoon, he should review the material before his shift
starts tomorrow morning," he explained. "I believe you'll find
Lt. Paris in Holodeck Two. Thanks, I appreciate it."

Great, she thought, Holodeck Two, that pool/bar program of
Paris'. I'll just pop in and give him the padd and leave. I can
do that, after all it's just business.


They continued to sip their drinks and talk drifted into other
areas, when the door to Sandrine's slid open and shut again.

B'Elanna looked around the room and finally located Tom at a back
table he was sharing with Harry Kim. She was about to start to
walk to the table when Jenny Delaney, Megan's sister, beat her to
it.

"Tommy, there you are," Jenny gushed as she ran her fingers
though his hair. "Come teach me to play pool, pleeeasse."

Tom turned his head to address her when he noticed that B'Elanna
was in the room and looking at them. "Ah, not now Jenny, maybe
later."

"How much later?" Jenny whined with a well-practiced pout.

"How about . . . hey, look isn't that Max Johnson over there, I
think he's looking for you," Tom fibbed.

"Oh not, not him. You didn't see me, I'm invisible and I'm out
of here," she sputtered and quickly left trying not to be noticed
though she almost knocked B'Elanna down in the process.

B'Elanna, padd in hand, hesitantly approached Tom and Harry's
table not noticing the lecherous looks she was receiving by a
couple of men at the bar.

"Lt. Paris, Lt. Carey asked me to give you this padd so you can
review it before your shift tomorrow morning," she explained.

"Thanks. B'Elanna why don't you join us?" Tom offered as he took
the padd with one hand and patted the seat next to him with his
other.

"Ah, no, that's alright."

"Come on," Harry said. "Sit down, Maquis."

"Well maybe, but just for a minute," she said resigned to having
to spend at least a little time with the pair so she wouldn't
create a scene and have any unnecessary attention called to her
presence.

"Watch it Paris, you'll get frostbite!" warned one of the men at
the bar.

Upon hearing them B'Elanna face took on a wooden appearance, but
she was determined that she wouldn't say anything, she would
control the Klingon side of her emotions. She'd just pretend not
to hear them. The last time her emotions got the better of her
she broke Joe's nose.

But Paris heard and didn't like what was said. "Wilkins who let
you out of your cage tonight?" the pilot asked as he rose from
his seat and approached the bar. "Didn't anyone ever tell you
it's not nice to speak to a lady that way, let alone one who
could rip off both of your arms?"

"Get out of my face Paris, just who do you think you are to order
me around, you're nothing but the Captain's pet."

That was all it took. Paris grabbed the taller, bigger man by
the front of his uniform with one hand and landed an upper cut to
the side of his face. But Wilkins had the advantage being three
inches taller and forty pounds heavier all of which was muscle.
With three well-placed punches to Tom's jaw, chest, and abdomen
Tom ended up on the floor. He was trying to shake off the
ringing in his head when he heard a few Klingon curses, a couple
of thumps, and the rest of the crowd in the bar cheer. B'Elanna
and her Klingon heritage made quick work of the jerk, he was
proud of her. Wilkins would probably think twice before he
insulted her again.

The next thing Tom knew Harry was behind him pulling him to his
feet and muttering something about Sickbay and that Wilkins got
what was coming to him. Then he noticed B'Elanna looking down at
Wilkins and then turning her head to look at him and when she
noticed the attention she was receiving from the bar patrons and
she turned and fled Sandrine's.

"I've got to go Harry, I've got to talk to her," Tom said as he
tried to pull away from Harry's hold on him.

"Yeah, you've got to go to Sickbay and let the Doc look at those
ribs . . ."

"No, I've got to . . ."

"Ensign Kim to Sickbay, three to beam in."


A half-an-hour later, Tom had convinced the EMH that he would
take it easy and gratefully left Sickbay to find B'Elanna.

"Computer, location of Lt. Torres."

"Lt. Torres is in Jeffries Tube No. 93," came the response.

"Computer state exact location of Jeffries Tube No. 93," he asked
in exasperation, to which the computer supplied him with the
correct level and deck location.



"Here it is," he murmured to himself and he turned the handle to
open the door to JT93. After crawling in a ways and grumbling to
himself that the tubes had to be designed by a masochist, he
could hear the sounds of metal on metal up ahead. As he got
closer, he could tell that it wasn't the sounds of someone
working as much was the sound of someone working who was upset.
When he finally found B'Elanna, she was sitting with her back
facing him hitting a metal object into submission with an
electronic spanner and he could hear certain Klingon words
amongst the clamor.

"B'Elanna? . . . .B'Elanna!?" he said announcing his presence but
with the noise of her hammering he couldn't be heard. Finally,
he was right behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders.
It was a good thing his reflexes were quick because upon feeling
his touch she spun around spanner in hand and if he hadn't ducked
he would have been back paying the Doctor another visit.

"How DARE you sneak up on me!" she roared and dropped her raised
hand holding spanner to her side.

"I didn't mean to sneak up on you, B'Elanna, you just couldn't
hear me with all this racket. What the hell did that . . . ah .
. . what-ever-it-is ever do to you anyway?"

"It's a manifold coupling that won't loosen, if you must know!"
Her Klingon half at that moment was overwhelming the human half
which at that moment would have opted to dissolve in tears of
frustration.

"Come on, I know it wasn't much of a joke, but I'm under
pressure."

"Pressure?"

"Yeah, I desperately trying to think of anything to say to get
you to calm down and maybe get you to smile."

"Well, that's going to take a lot of effort," she replied through
clenched teeth.

"B'Elanna I came down here to say 'thank you' for taking care of
Wilkins."

"You're not upset?" she asked in amazement.

"Upset about what, that he didn't have a chance to punch me a few
more times or that I was stupid enough to punch him first?"

"No, upset that I . . ."

"That you thought enough of me to protect me? How could I ever
be upset about that?"

B'Elanna didn't know what to say. The men she had known in the
past would have been ashamed if a woman, even a half-Klingon
woman, had fought their battles. This Tom Paris was certainly an
enigma she mused, as she turned to her task once more raising the
in the air for another volley.

"Ah, B'Elanna, I just had an idea." The spanner stopped at the
top of the arc. "I've been working on a holodeck program and I
thought maybe you'd like to see it. It's not done yet, but it's
not bad. In fact maybe you could help me finish it."

"Holodeck program? Isn't that something like asking a girl to
your cabin to show her your etchings?"

"Ouch, that hurt, you wound me," he said as he brought his hand
up to his chest in a mock expression of pain, "and besides I'd
never show anyone my etchings, my flight maneuvers maybe, but not
etchings," he concluded with a guilty grin which caused the
corners of her mouth to involuntarily rise. "Trust me, B'Elanna,
you'll like it and I promise to be a perfect gentleman. Here,"
he said as he offered her his hand, "come with me and see for
yourself."

She wanted to touch his hand so much and to go with him. But
should she? Hadn't Chakotay and the rest of the Maquis and even
some Starfleeters warned her about him and told her to stay away?

"Come on B'Elanna, did I let you down with the Vidiians? Trust
me," he pleaded as he extended his hand to hers. "What's the
matter, is your Klingon half afraid?"

"Hardly," she responded and seized his hand her hers and followed
him out of the Jeffries tube.


Chapter 3 - The Hike


Now remember, I'm still working on this one. It still needs a
little tweak here than there. Computer activate program Paris
Outdoors Beta Three."

The door of the holodeck slid opened to reveal a lovely grassy
green hillside edged with tall conifer trees and punctuated with
wild flowers under a brilliant blue sky.

"It's this way," he explained as he took her by her hand and led
her up the hillside and headed for an opening among the trees.

She followed him through the path in the woods walking on a well-
trod path. Gradually the terrain changed becoming more steep and
rocky. When they finally reached the first rest stop in their
hike he noticed that B'Elanna Torres was actually smiling, which
made him return the smile as this was exactly what he had hoped
to accomplish.

"I take it you like it, you approve?" he asked.

She nodded her head. "How did you know? I don't think I ever
told anyone."

"How did I know what?" he asked confused by her response.

"Who told you that I used to go here on weekends when I was at
the Academy to get away. I can't tell you how many times I've
hiked this trail. It is the Crestwood Trail isn't it?"

"Well yes it is. But no one ever told me you knew this place. I
thought it was only something I knew about. You see I spent a
lot of time here as well."

"It must have been before I entered the Academy," she surmised.

"Probably, about the time you started I had graduated."

"Let's go I've got to see if you included my favorite view," she
said excitedly as she made the effort for the first time to grab
him by the hand which he took willingly and followed her further
up the trail.

They walked a little ways when B'Elanna came to a sudden stop.
"Tom, you didn't include the patch of wild flowers. Don't you
remember they were right here," she said pulling him along so he
could see. "They were right here next to his rock."

'Tom,' she had called him 'Tom' not 'Paris' though she probably
hadn't even realized it, he thought. "Well tell the computer to
fix it, B'Elanna."

She looked up at him for confirmation of his request.

"Go ahead, I've programmed the computer to accept your
alterations," he reassured her.

She grinned with glee, like a child who had been given just what
she wanted for Christmas, and nodded. "Computer, create a patch
of alpine wild flowers approximately three meters wide by two
meters long in an irregular shape," she ordered and in a flash a
patch of multicolored wild flowers were created next to the rock
which she looked upon with satisfaction. She looked up into
Paris' bright blue eyes. "Thanks."

"Anytime, B'Elanna. Anything for you," he replied with complete
sincerity noting the confused but happy look on her bronze face.


Their hike continued, he reminded her of certain rocks and trees
and she complimented him on the program noting occasional
inconsistencies and remarking on items that he had included that
she hadn't remembered.

After about another hour of walking they walked around a boulder
and B'Elanna squealed with delight sounding more like a ten-year-
old than a Lieutenant. "Oh, you didn't forget!" she said
excitedly as she let go of his hand and crawled up on top of the
boulder and from there pulled herself up upon a nearby ledge. He
followed her glowing on the inside by the change in her since
they entered the holodeck. "Oh, Tom, this is probably my most
favorite place of all," she said as she reached a point on the
ledge on the other side of the boulder and sat down with a sigh.

"I'm glad I remembered it," he said, but how could he have
forgotten it, he had spent countless hours on the very same ledge
reading, sleeping, thinking of his future, thinking of ways to
avoid having to go home.

"Oh, but you forgot something," she said with a twinge of
disappointment in her voice.

"What?" he asked he was sure that he had included every little
detail in this part of the hike.

"The view. The view isn't the same. See you remembered that far
away mountain range." she said pointing over to her right. "And
you included the view of the ocean," she added pointing to her
left. "And you even remembered the orchards and the view of the
horse ranch. But you didn't include that white building with the
red roof over on that far hillside," she concluded pointing that
direction.

"What's one building?" he asked.

Should she tell him, would it be revealing too much? Be brave
B'Elanna, she admonished herself. "It's silly, really. It is
beautiful even without the building, but . . . "

"But what B'Elanna?"

"Well you see I used to bring my homework from the Academy up
here with me and study on the weekends. And when I needed to
take a break, I used to look out at the view and daydream. I
used to imagine climbing those mountains -- how it would be to
sail on the ocean. I used to wonder how the people lived that
had horses and how they took care of them. And then I used to .
. . oh, I'm sorry it's really stupid, You don't want to . . ."

"I do want to know B'Elanna, tell me. I promise, I won't tell
anyone, promise."

"Alright, but I warned you, and if you laugh I could forget what
a good mood I'm in." She was in a good mood she realized, maybe
the best mood she had been in for a long time all courtesy of one
Tom Paris, God's Gift to Women and Best Pilot in the Delta
Quadrant. She grinned a little at that thought and continued.
"I used to look out at that large white house with the red roof,
and four outbuildings . . ." He raised his eye brows at that
comment. "Four outbuildings, I know I counted them more than
once," she replied firmly defending her statement before
continuing. "Oh, this really is silly, but remember you've been
warned, I used to imagine what it was like living in such a
lovely house. I thought that any family that lived in such a
place had to be ideal, they had to be happy. I imagined that the
mother was a teacher, the father was a doctor, and their children
liked to play outside and climb trees and go exploring in the
fields." She paused to see if he would respond, but as she
looked into his face she was surprised by his reaction. His eyes
appeared to have clouded over and it looked like he was a
thousand lightyears away. "Tom? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." he finally replied.

"I'm sorry, did I say something?" she asked concerned that she
had ruined something special.

"No, B'Elanna, it's not you, it's me. I'm just remembering
things."

"You were fine until I brought up that white house. Is it
something to do with that? Did you know who lived there."

He turned his back to her. This excursion had started out
wonderful, but it had all of a sudden come to a crashing halt.
"Let's go," he suggested and started to push away from her
towards the boulder, but was prevented when she leaned forward
and her hand clasped down upon his shoulder.

"Tell me, Tom," she said simply as she crawled around and placed
herself in front of him. His eyes met hers, their faces mere
centimeters apart, and he knew in an instant that she would not
take 'no' for an answer.

"Yes, I knew who lived there. The mother wasn't a teacher,
before she died was an historian specializing in the early 20th
Century, the father wasn't a doctor he was an admiral in
Starfleet, and . . ."

"And what?"

"And they had a son, a son who liked to go exploring, hiking, and
wanted to fly to fly away, but could never live up to his
father's expectations."

"It sounds like you knew them very well," she said instinctively
knowing what he would tell her next.

"You could say that, I was that son, B'Elanna. That's why I spent
so much time up here and why I excluded the house from the
program," he explained softly, his voice almost a whisper. A
large chunk of his wall fell down.

"I had no idea," she offered her eyes focused on the crystal blue
eyes opposite her as she moved a little closer to him. Please
kiss me she thought. Please let me be brave enough to kiss him,
to comfort him.

"I know . . . " he started to say when he was gently kissed on
his mouth by the full sensual lips of the half-Klingon engineer.

"Oh, B'Elanna," he breathed and pulled her toward him. I should
stop he thought. If this goes too far . . . but I want it so
much, it's all I've dreamed about since the Vidiian mines. For
a change though the head ruled the heart and he pulled away from
her. "B'Elanna, you have no idea how much I want this to
continue, but we shouldn't."

"It's okay, Paris, I understand, I should have known better," she
said brusquely as she snapped her head around. She should have
known better she thought, why would someone as handsome as him
want to kiss her.

"B'Elanna, please don't turn away from me," he said as he pulled
her around to face him once again and he could see the
disappointment and humiliation in her chocolate brown eyes. "I
want to kiss you. Hell, I want to do more than kiss you, but I
don't want to rush into it. I care about you too much to not
consider your feelings. I've done this before, acted on impulse
and went too far, too fast, and it never worked out. I think we
could have something special and I don't want to spoil it. Can
you understand?"

B'Elanna nodded her head. "Oh, I understand perfectly." She
understood, he didn't want her, he regretted kissing her.

Noticing the solemn look on her face. He tried to explain once
again. "What I'd like to do, if you'd let me, is to properly
court you and date you. Would you let me?"

The half-Klingon looked into his face trying to see if she could
tell if he was lying to her like Chakotay had always warned her
about, but all she saw was an honest man.

"Will you B'Elanna Torres, will you let me date you?"

"If you're sure you really want to."

"I've never been so sure about anything else in my whole life."

"Then okay, I suppose . . ."

"Okay? You mean it I can see you?!" he shouted.

"I mean okay, we'll give it a try, but no one is to know. The
last thing I need is for my friends to tell me they told me so.
Can you understand?"

"I understand perfectly. We'll keep it quiet. I promise. And
B'Elanna I do really want to be with you."


Chapter 4 - The Witnesses

Three weeks later things were going well very well. While they
hadn't progressed past the kissing and hugging stage they were
very happy and their walls were becoming lower all the time.
They'd meet 'by chance' in the mess hall or on the holodeck and
no one seemed the wiser, or so they thought.

Harry Kim though was very observant, particularly when it came to
his two friends. He had noticed that the two just happened to be
in each other's company a lot more than usual. He had also
noticed the way the two of them glowed whenever in the other's
company. Harry couldn't have been happier for the pair.

It was too bad that the same couldn't be said for the First
Officer. From the first day B'Elanna Torres had joined his
Maquis cell, Chakotay had always kept an eye on her, he
considered her his little sister. Just the week before, as the
pair had exited the holodeck, he had noticed them kiss one
another when they thought no one was looking, which did not make
him happy at all. It was time he spoke with B'Elanna before this
got totally out of control and she regretted it. What was it she
could possibly see in Paris? he wondered. Could I be jealous of
Tom Paris? No, not jealous -- just protective of my little
sister.


Breep

"Come in," she responded to the door alarm.

"Good evening B'Elanna, do you have time to talk?" he asked as he
entered her quarters.

"Of course, have a seat" she replied half-heartedly as in fifteen
minutes she was due to meet Tom on the holodeck and go hiking up
the Crestwood Trail, their favorite program.

Chakotay took the offered seat on the sofa and patted a place
next to him inviting her to join him. "Sit down B'Elanna."

She said down with trepidation, she had a feeling that she was
not going to like what he had to say.

"B'Elanna, I am aware that you and Paris have been seeing each
other. Don't deny it, I saw it myself."

The half-Klingon didn't know what to say. They had been so
careful, how had this happened?

"I thought I told you all about Paris, I warned you to stay away
from him. Didn't I?"

"Yes, but . . ."

"But you didn't listen to me. Didn't I tell you he was a drunk,
a womanizer, a murderer, a traitor? Doesn't any of that matter?"

"But, he's not like that, he's been good to me," she said
defending Tom.

Chakotay rose from the sofa and paced in frustration running her
hands through his short black hair. "B'Elanna, can't you see a
come-on. I'm telling you his kind only wants one thing. The
only reason he's been good to you is that he sees you as a
challenge. Damn it, didn't you learn anything from Carlos or
Tanado?" he asked, his voice rising with anger. "I thought you
trusted me, B'Elanna. Have I ever lied to you?"

"No, you haven't," she answered sadly.

"Then please stop this before it gets out of control. I'm
telling you, he'll just use you and when he gets what he wants,
he'll dump you, and you'll come crying to me just like before."

Was he telling her the truth? Was Tom just playing her for a
fool? Then she remembered Carlos and Tanado, both had courted
her and pretended to be interested only to drop her after they
achieved their desired goal. Klingon sex. Which both had said
was sadly lacking. But then she thought of Tom, his blue eyes
that could just as effectively express happiness or sadness,
thought of all the hours that they had spent together, all the
things they had talked about, and through it all he had been the
perfect gentleman.

"I'm sorry Chakotay. You know I respect you, but this time I
know you're wrong," she said firmly.

"I'm not wrong B'Elanna. You'll see. I've seen his kind before,
they're nothing but trouble, they could never love anyone but
themselves. They are raised with money and position and they
think they can have it all, all the time and it doesn't matter
who they hurt as long as they get what they want. You deserve
someone better than Tom Paris."

"You wrong this time and, Chakotay, I think it is time for you to
go."

"Okay, I'll leave, but you'll see I'm right."


*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

Another day and another date with Tom. She was bound and
determined not to let her conversation with Chakotay dampen her
spirits today. Today, she and Tom had planned on exercising
together in the gym -- very nonchalantly. It wasn't much of a
date, but as long as Tom was there she didn't care what they did.

B'Elanna was almost singing to herself as she stepped into the
ship's gym clad in a two-piece red workout outfit and she had
replicated for just the occasion. She greeted one of the ensigns
from engineering who was just leaving and stowed her gym bag on
the shelves near the entry door. She then walked around the
corner where the treadmills were located. There before her she
could see the blue-eyed pilot and God's Gift to Women half bent
over with a pair of feminine arms entwined around his neck and
his right arm encircled around her back. As the woman turned her
head she could see that it was one of the Delaney sisters -- the
sexy blonde one who had been in the bar -- Jenny wasn't it? Oh
Kahless, Chakotay was right and there was the evidence right
there in front of her eyes. Tom and Jenny, it certainly hadn't
taken him long, not that she blamed him really when you could
have Jenny Delaney why would he want her? Before they could see
her and cause her further embarrassment, she retreated, grabbed
her bag, and left the gym, headed for the sanctuary of her
cabin.


"Jenny, come on let me . . . breathe," he choked trying to
release the blonde's death grip around his neck. "I'm sure it
isn't broken."

"But it hurts so much Tommy!" she wailed.

"Let me call the Doc and he'll beam you down to Sickbay and check
your ankle out?"

"Will you come with me? Please?"

"But Jenny . . ." Tom started to say . . . but what was he going
to tell her 'Sorry Jenny but I've got a date with B'Elanna?' If
B'Elanna ever found out he told anyone about their 'dates' he'd
lose her for sure.'

"Okay Jenny just until you get to Sickbay and then I'm coming
right back.


"Take good care of her Doc." Tom instructed the EMH.

"Don't I always?"

"Tommy, please stay . . ." Jenny begged as she sat on the biobed.

"I'm sure the Doctor will fix you up as good as new, won't you
Doc?" Tom said as he distanced himself from her until he reached
the door to the Sickbay and stepped through it.

Woosh -- the Sickbay door slid shut with a relieved Tom Paris on
the other side who finally got rid of the clinging vine.

Jogging through the corridor toward the gym, he tapped his
commbadge. "Computer, location of Lt. Torres."

"Lt. Torres is in her cabin," came the reply.

Her cabin? Why wasn't she in the gym? Tom mused as he took a
turn which led him to the nearest turbolift.

"Deck Four," she ordered.

Tom reached Lt. Torres' quarters and looking around to make sure
he was alone, requested admission.

"B'Elanna let me in."

"Go away!"

"B'Elanna let me in or I'll make sure everyone on Voyager hears
me!"

That's all it took. The door slid open and he stepped in just
before it slid shut behind him.

He knew she was in her cabin, but couldn't see her as the cabin
was dark.

"B'Elanna why didn't you show up at the gym like we planned?"

"Tom, I made a mistake. I never should have agreed to see you --
to date you," she said in a small voice so unlike the half-
Klingon but the voice indicated that she was over by the
viewport.

"What are you talking about?" he asked incredulously.

"They were right Tom, that's what I'm talking about. I just had
to see it for myself. How do you think I feel being played for a
fool? Now get out of here before I really get mad.

"But B'Elanna tell me . . ."

"OUT -- NOW!!!!" she roared throwing some heavy figurine toward
the sound of his voice barely missing his head.

"IF THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT FINE! I'M OUT OF HERE!" he yelled in
retaliation and left her cabin, just before B'Elanna sank to the
floor in tears.


Chapter 5 - The Admission

A despondent Tom sat at the conn piloting Voyager through a mass
of asteroids of all shapes and sizes. Normally, he loved this
type of challenge, it always put him in a good mood, but not
today. In fact, ever since B'Elanna told him they were through
two weeks ago he had been totally miserable. At first, he tried
to figure out what he had done. Had he said something or done
something to her? For the life of him, he couldn't figure it
out. That is until he caught the first officer's eye about three
days after the breakup. The look seemed to say 'you wanted her
Paris, but you can't have her.' It was all he could do not to
plant his fist up along side that blasted tattooed forehead for
he assumed that the former Maquis captain had something to do
with it.

Harry looked on with concern as he had ever since that fateful
day a couple of weeks ago. Something had happened, that was
certain. He was sure they weren't seeing each other anymore.
But why and who had broken it off?


*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

Engineering was fairing quite when Joe Carey entered his domain
about 0130 early the next morning. Gamma shift had begun about
an hour and a half ago, which consisted of only a few engineers
who all were scheduled to work on the upper level. Seeing that
everything was going along smoothly, Joe decided to review some
reports on a certain lieutenant in the quiet of his office when
he noticed that same lieutenant's legs sticking out from under
the warp core command console.

Kneeling down beside her Joe asked, "B'Elanna, are you working
double shifts again? I know you're in charge of the delta shift
and you feel responsible, but you need your rest. Even miracle
workers need to sleep," he told her thinking back to the week
before when they had been attacked by an unnamed alien starship.
If it hadn't been for B'Elanna's ingenuity and resourcefulness,
they might all have been killed. He was Chief Engineer, her
superior officer, but it wouldn't be long before she would
deserve that title more than him. While Carey was a matchmaker,
he was also a realist, he knew it was only a matter of time. In
the past, it would have bothered him, but no longer -- now he
just considered it inevitable. He was just considering this time
she spent under his command as training until the time came when
he would be proud to address her as 'Chief.'

"I'm okay," she responded shortly and proceeded to crawl under
another of the consoles to make another unnecessary repair.

"B'Elanna come to my office, we need to talk," he requested.
B'Elanna slowly pulled her body out from under the console and
reluctantly joined him.


"Coffee?" he asked as he motioned for her to take a seat.

"No, thank you. What do you want?"

"What do I want? There are a lot of things I want and some
things I can't have Samantha Wildman for one, God he wanted her
but he was still married, but so lonely," he responded
cryptically. "B'Elanna, I have a feeling I know why you have been
avoiding everyone and working all sorts of hours lately. But I
want you to tell me."

B'Elanna looked at him as if he had three heads. The Chief
Engineer was asking her about her personal life? He had never
done that before. "I'm sorry Chief, I just can't . . ."

"This is off the record B'Elanna. I would like to consider us
more than officers on Voyager but friends as well. Now I'm
going to be blunt, but remember I don't want to hurt you, I want
to help you." She nodded her head signifying it was okay for him
to proceed. "You and Tom broke up didn't you?"

"How did you know?" she asked. "No one knew we were together,
except . . ."

"Except who? Should I guess? Would he happen to be a Maquis
officer with a certain facial decoration on his forehead?"

She gazed at him with her mouth agape. Was this man psychic?

"So you thought no one knew? Well, let me tell you something Lt.
Torres, not much escapes my attention. I pride myself with being
a people watcher, and I happen to be pretty good at it. If I had
to take a guess I'd say that this Maquis officer didn't think too
much of you and Tom being together and suggested that you break
it off with him? Am I right?"

He received no response, but the silence alone confirmed that he
had been correct.

"That Maquis officer is an idiot!"

At that remark, B'Elanna's head snapped up. "He's not an idiot,
he's just making sure I don't make a mistake," she said defending
Chakotay. "And besides he was right."

"He was right? Do you mean to tell me that you no longer have
feelings for our blue-eyed pilot?"

B'Elanna couldn't meet his eyes but instead looked at the sonic
wrench she still held.

"No? I thought not. And do you mean to tell me that from the
way he's been moping around Voyager for the last two weeks that
he doesn't care about you."

B'Elanna snapped her head up. "Care about me? If he cared about
me he wouldn't have . . ."

"Wouldn't have what Lieutenant?"

"He wouldn't have been hugging Jenny Delaney, that's what!"

"And what does Tom have to say about this so-called embrace?"

"Ummm . . . ah . . . he . . ." she stammered and once again
focused on the tool she clutched tightly in her hands.

"You didn't ask him did you?"

"But . . . but Chakotay told me that this would happen," she said
trying desperately to defend her actions and Chakotay's
involvement.

"Oh the Commander may mean well B'Elanna, but he wouldn't know if
something was predestined if he hit him in the face for instance
look at Chakotay and the Captain. Look you need to go and talk
to Tom and get this out in the open. Things sometimes look
different than they actually are. And if you need anyone to talk
to and not pass judgement, then please come and see me. I'll do
my best to not be biased and give you my honest opinion -- and if
all else fails I may even let you slug me again," he finished
with a grin on his face.

B'Elanna couldn't help but mirror that grin on her own face.
"Thanks Chief, I appreciate that."

"It's Joe, B'Elanna, at least while we're off duty. Now, please
get out of here and go get some sleep!"

Lt. Torres left the Chief's office, and returned to her cabin,
she had a lot of thinking to do.

B'Elanna had no sooner left Engineering when Joe Carey was
instructed to send someone from Engineering to accompany Tom
Paris on an away mission the next day to a nearby planet in hopes
of collecting some much needed aurithium. Joe knew just who he
would send.


*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***


If anyone were to have witnessed the two officers prepare and
load the shuttle for the away mission the following morning they
would have been impressed by the intricate choreography entailed
in their dance of avoidance. If one was inside stowing away gear
or assembling the decontamination arch just inside the exit
hatch, the other was sure to be outside checking on the condition
of the craft making sure that it could withstand the conditions
on the planet. Eventually though both knew they had to both be
in the shuttle when it took off.


"All strapped in Lieutenant?" Paris asked her just before launch.

"Yes," was her sole clipped response.

Eight hours later with hardly a handful of words exchanged
between the pair, Paris made preparations to land on the barren
planet.

"Well, B'Elanna this looks like the garden planet of the Delta
Quadrant," he stated as the shuttle touched down in a cloud of
the red acidic dust.

"Hummph!"

"Look, B'Elanna, we could at least be civil to one another, we
are going to be together for several more hours until Voyager
rendezvous with us and I'm getting pretty tired of holding a one-
way conversation. So let's clear the air."

She raised guarded eyes toward him, remembering all the things
that Chakotay and Carey had said and what she had seen in the
gym.

"I know you told me you didn't want to see me any more but could
you at least take the time to tell me why? I really want to
know," he asked casting beautiful blue puppy-dog eyes in her
direction.

She hesitated for a long while trying several times to voice her
feelings until in exasperation she blurted out her thoughts.
"Okay, I'll try to explain. You see Chakotay talked with me
and . . ."

"I should have known it!" he yelled interrupting her and launched
himself out of his seat to pace the shuttlecraft in frustration
with his hands on his hips.

"Are you going to let me finish?" she asked.

He replied with a nod.

"He said that you . . . oh Kahless this is hard."

"Let me guess," he said as he spun around to face her. "He told
you I was the just about as low a man as they come, told you that
I would use you and discard you without a second thought, that
I'd never be able to love you like you deserve. Is that about
right?"

She just starred at him with her mouth agape for a moment before
she found her voice. "Yes, that is just about what he said. But
I defended you. I told him that he was wrong. But the next day
I went to the gym and saw you and Jenny together. And don't tell
me you weren't with her I saw it. You two were hugging each
other."

"Well let me tell you something Torres, I may have done some
things in the past that I'm not proud of, I'll admit that, but
I've paid my dues. I won't lie to you, B'Elanna, I was with
Jenny. But if you had bothered to investigate a little further,
you would have found out that Jenny twisted her ankle in the gym
and she was hanging all over me while I was trying to get her to
go to Sickbay. That woman is a leech at times."

B'Elanna's only response was a low growl that seemed to say 'tell
me another one helmboy.'

Anyway, how can you possibly think I'd even look at another woman
after I've been with you? Hell, B'Elanna don't you know that I'm
head over heals in love with you? When you told me you didn't
want to see me anymore, I damn near went insane! . . . But
Chakotay was right about one thing, you do deserve someone better
than me!" He paused and looked at her to see if she had
understood what he had just said . . . did *he* even understand
what he said -- he said he loved her. Where the hell had that
come from? From his heart, that's where -- from his heart that
had finally found another one that beat in time with his.

He waited a short while but when she didn't respond, he tried to
bury those feeling deep inside and concentrated on their mission.
"Damn it, let's get this show on the road!" Paris finally
exclaimed in frustration as he grabbed for their environmental
suits, tossed one to her, and began to pull his on.

B'Elanna silently pulled on her own. She wasn't prepared for his
outburst and his declaration of love. Even if it were true, she
reasoned, had they been together long enough or knew each other
well enough for him to know?

"Remember Torres, to allow yourself sufficient time upon entering
the craft to decontaminate, the last thing we need is acidic dust
in the shuttle. And be careful handling those rocks, those
crystals embedded into the rocks are very sharp."

She nodded her understanding. So that was it, one minute he was
passionately defending his feelings and the next cold-hearted
detachment. Just as well, she thought, before she could reply to
what he had revealed, she had a lot of thinking to do.


*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***


"You sent Paris and Torres out on a mission together?" he asked
incredulously raising his voice as he sat down at the table
across from the Captain in her office holding the duty roster in
his hand.

"I selected Paris and Carey assigned B'Elanna to the away
mission. Why? Do you have a problem with that?" Janeway asked
confused by the reaction on her First Officer's face.

"It's just that, well you know," he said realizing that he had
already said more than he had intended.

Janeway poured herself her second cup of coffee of the morning
and sat down next to her First Officer at the ready room table.
"No, I don't know. Spill it Chakotay. What's going on that you
don't want those two together on an away mission."

"I've really said more than I should have," he remarked making a
futile attempt at backpedaling.

Janeway carefully sipped her still too hot coffee and returned
the cup to the saucer. "Too late, you slipped up. Now tell me
what is going on, or do I have to make it an order."

"It's just that well Paris and B'Elanna have been seeing each
other . . . "

"That's great!" she said enthusiastically but noticed that the
handsome man across from her didn't appear to share her
sentiments, "Isn't it?"

"They broke up two weeks ago."

"So how come I hadn't heard about this before?"

He hemmed and hawed a bit. "They were trying to keep it a
secret."

"How did you find out?"

She had him cornered, "I've been noticing . . . I happened . .
."

"Have you been spying?" she asked point blank.

"Ah . . . ah . . . that's not the point . . ."

"You were." she accused as her eyes narrowed. She respected this
man, but also knew that he still hadn't forgotten the animosity
that he shared with the pilot and had yet to get over the habit
of protecting the former Maquis engineer. "So do you want to
tell me why they broke up, or would you like me to take a wild
guess?"


Chapter 6 - The Red Dust

Decontamination procedure is complete. The computer announced
just before B'Elanna stepped through the arch to join Paris in
stowing the mineral-rich rocks in the cargo hold of the
shuttlecraft.

"Why don't you finish stowing these rocks away, and I'll go
outside and make one more trip. I won't be long," he proposed.

"Fine." She was going to do it, she decided, as soon as he came
back she'd tell him that she had been wrong. If she was lucky,
maybe he'd forgive her. Maybe he'd take her back. He was the
best thing that ever happened to her, she didn't want to lose
him.



He reached down to pick up a couple more rocks in the midst of
the swirling, mesmerizing red dust, it had gotten so thick during
the last few minutes he could hardly see his hands in front of
his face. Just one more rock and . . . "Damn!" The crystal
protruding from the rock sliced a neat three-inch long gash in
the palm of his hand. Immediately, he could feel the burning of
the dust as it made contact with his skin. He could feel the
searing pain as he inadvertently inhaled the dust into his lungs.
As he collapsed to the ground, he could feel the minerals that
were strewn on the ground puncture and cut his suit and uniform
allowing more of the deadly dust inside. Tom desperately tapped
his commbadge underneath his protective suit. "B'Elanna, I need
hel . . ." were the last words uttered as darkness overtook him.

"Tom, what's wrong!" she yelled into her own commbadge. She
received no answer. "Computer transport Lt. Paris back to the
shuttle."

"Unable to comply with that request."

"Why!"

"The integrity of the transporter energy system has been affected
due to . . ."

"End transmission. Due to the acidic dust," B'Elanna finished
the computer's reply as she hurriedly stepped back into her suit
and pulled it up over her head. Apparently the dust was a lot
more caustic than Voyager's initial scans had indicated.

It's up to you, B'Elanna, you have to go get him. Damn! where
were those rocks that he went back for? Where is he? Those
thoughts, among others, screamed in her mind as she exited the
craft. Over to the left? Yes that's where he was last, she
determined as she switched on her wrist light which barely made a
dent in the thick cloud of dust. After several agonizing
minutes, she finally came upon his still form lying on the
ground.

"Tom!" she yelled as she turned him over and was mortified by the
red blistering lesions that were already developing on his face,
but she could also see the condensation that was developing on
the inside of the face shield which indicated that he was still
breathing. He was still alive and where there was life there was
hope. Blessing the strength her Klingon half possessed, she
grabbed the pilot under the arms and pulled him back toward the
shuttle as quickly as she could.



"Why does this have to take so long!" she yelled as she held him
in front of her under the decontamination arch waiting for the
'all-clear' signal from the computer.

Decontamination procedure is complete.

"It's about time," she muttered as she pulled him out of the arch
and placed him on the cot and pulled off his face mask.

"Computer, prepare Voyager for launch."

"Unable to comply with that request."

"Let me guess, the red dust," she spat at the computer.

"Unable . . . "

"Never mind!"

"Computer, notify me when Voyager is within communication
range."

"Affirmative," came the reply.

Thank Kahless, communications were still operational, she
thought. B'Elanna briefly looked at Tom and was worried at how
difficult it seemed to be for him to breathe, she then turned to
find the medkit. She opened the box and grabbed the tri-ox
compound hypospray and delivered a full dose into his neck and
followed that with a dose of a pain reliever. B'Elanna then
located a pair of scissors in the kit and gently began cutting
and peeling away the environmental suit and his uniform from his
body. She discovered much to her regret that there was hardly an
area on his body that hadn't been affected by that damn red dust,
with the areas of his body where the clothing had been cut and
punctured being the worst. The dust seemed to have found its way
into every little crevice which resulted in blisters and oozing
painful sores all over his body. All she could think of as she
covered him with a clean blanket was if his skin looked like this
what did his lungs look like and how long could he keep on
breathing?

"Voyager is now within communications range," the computer
announced.

"Computer contact Voyager," B'Elanna ordered as she rummaged
through the medkit looking for the dermal regenerator.
Unfortunately there was only one, so she concentrated on the
areas that were more severely affected.

Acknowledged. Shuttlecraft Portsmouth contacting Voyager.
Shuttlecraft Portsmouth contacting Voyager. Come in Voyager.

"Voyager here," Harry Kim's voice chirped over the link.

"Harry, it's B'Elanna, Tom's been exposed to the dust and needs
immediate medical attention, what's your ETA?"

"It's . . . ah . . . thirty-two minutes," he responded as
Janeway, seated in the Captain's chair with Chakotay beside her,
looked up with concern etched on her face.

"B'Elanna, we're going to patch in a link with the Doctor, please
tell us what Tom's injuries are," the Captain said. Harry nodded
to her a few seconds later indicating that the EMH was listening.

B'Elanna relayed the information about Tom's injuries. "I've
administered a tri-ox compound, a pain reliever, and have begun
using the dermal regenerator on him, but already the regenerator
is losing power."

"What are his symptoms?" the Doctor asked from Sickbay obviously
concerned by what Torres had told him.

"Well he feels cold and clammy and his heart is beating rapidly."

"Lt. Torres, it is very likely from what you told me that he is
in shock. It is essential that you keep him warm and as
comfortable as possible until we can beam you on board."

"I understand Doctor."

"We'll be there as soon as possible B'Elanna," the Captain
informed her.

"Please hurry, Captain, I can't lose him -- not now!" she pleaded
not caring who was listening on Voyager.

"Take care of him and we'll be there as soon as we can. Captain
out."


*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***


The minutes of waiting for Voyager crawled by. B'Elanna had long
since discarded the powerless regenerator and had crawled in next
to the pilot on the narrow cot to try to keep him warm while at
the same time trying not to hurt him. "Just a few more minutes
Tom, and they'll be here," she said as she tenderly placed her
hand over his chest to feel that he was still breathing. She
knew that he couldn't hear her or feel her but she felt better
trying to offer some degree of comfort. Oh, why couldn't she
have swallowed her pride and told him how she felt right away?
Why did she have to listen to Chakotay, when she should have
listened to her heart?

"Voyager to Lieutenant Torres, prepare for beam out," the
transporter officer announced.

"We're ready."

The shimmering, tingling, blue light deposited B'Elanna and Tom
in Sickbay. The Captain and Chakotay were already there waiting
for the pair's arrival.

"Let me help you get him on one of the biobeds" the First Officer
offered as he walked over to the pilot not bothering to hide the
concern he felt for the man he had distrusted as both a Maquis
and a Starfleet officer.

"Be careful, don't hurt him," B'Elanna warned, "he has those
lesions over his entire body."

"I'm sure they will be gentle with him Lieutenant. Why don't you
join me in the hall while the Doctor examines him?" the Captain
suggested.


Chapter 7 - The Battle

The two women had barely entered the hall when all hell broke
loose. Explosions could be heard and felt and the ship tilted
severely beneath their feet sending them sprawling to the deck.

"Bridge to the Captain!" Harry Kim's voice desperately rang out
from Janeway's commbadge.

"I'm on my way, Harry. What the hell is going on?" Janeway asked
as she pulled herself off the floor and she ran to the nearest
turbolift with B'Elanna in close pursuit.

"That ship that attacked us two weeks ago is back and this time
with reinforcements -- two smaller but faster ships."

"It is too bad that Tom is injured," she said to B'Elanna, who
nodded in agreement. "We could really use him right now."


"Carey to Lieutenant Torres, come in."

"This is Torres," B'Elanna replied.

"B'Elanna, I need you down in Engineering as soon as possible.
The warp core appears to be destabilizing and you're the only one
who can fix it. Hurry!" Carey yelled above the sound of the
engines.

B'Elanna fled down the corridor and into the nearest turbolift.
Then after it reached the Engineering level she dashed out and
ran down that corridor until she burst through the doors to
Engineering. Seeing the commotion all around her, she
instinctively took charge.

"Chief, lock down the turbo thrusters and have Nicoletti route
all auxiliary power to the starboard generators!" B'Elanna
shouted as she headed to the warp core controls pushing a young
Bajoran ensign out of the way. Her fingers flew over the
controls and she took note at the progress which was minimal.

Carey was impressed by her efficiency and motivation, he knew
that even though she wasn't Chief yet, she considered Voyager's
engines hers.

"Vorik, go up to the second level and recalibrate the warp
regulators and prepare to dump the excess energy out of the aft
exhaust manifold! NOW!" she yelled exerting the authority that
was technically Carey's.

"Aye, aye!"

"On my mark, Vorik. Five, four, three, two, one, NOW!" she yelled
above the roar of the engines.

"Excess energy dumped Lieutenant."

"Lt. Torres," Carey yelled from across the room five minutes
later. "The core appears to be stabilizing! B'Elanna, we
couldn't have done it without you!"

"The aliens have retreated," Janeway's voice announced over the
intercom. "Congratulations everyone. Fine job."

The rest of the engineering crew cheered for Voyager, its crew,
but mostly for B'Elanna Torres. The half-Klingon actually beamed
with pride, but then her thoughts flew to the man she had left in
Sickbay.

Joe approached B'Elanna and noticed her abrupt change in
attitude. "Nicoletti, you and Vorik continue to stabilize the
warp core. B'Elanna, my office please."

B'Elanna followed Chief Carey into his office and sat in the
guest chair as he leaned up against the edge of his cluttered
desk. "Lieutenant I just wanted to let you know that you really
demonstrated leadership out there. I'm very impressed and the
Captain will be too!"

"Thanks."

"What's wrong B'Elanna? You should be happy."

"I am at least about what you said, but Tom was injured on the
away mission. He's in Sickbay right now and the Doctor is
working on him," she replied tears starting to well up in her
beautiful, soulful, brown eyes.

"B'Elanna," Joe said as he held out his arms to her and she
didn't even hesitate at the offer of comfort and went to him and
he folded his arms around her to comfort her.

"Oh, Joe, he's hurt. You should see him, his body is covered
with blisters and lesions from that acidic dust, he can barely
breathe," she cried her heart breaking, "and he . . . he . .
told me, told me. . ."

"Take a deep breath. What did he tell you?"

"He . . . he . . . said he loves me. But I couldn't . . .
couldn't . . ."

"But you couldn't say the words back to him?" he concluded.

B'Elanna nodded her head as heavy sobs wreaked her body causing
her shoulders to heave as she tried to catch her breath. "And
now he may die and never know . . ."

"You'll tell him B'Elanna. You will." he said soothingly,
comforting her as he would have one of his younger sisters.
Several minutes passed before B'Elanna regained her composure and
embarrassingly pulled herself away from Carey arms.

"I'm sorry, Joe. Klingons aren't supposed to cry."

"There is nothing to be sorry about. You go get yourself cleaned
up and then report to Sickbay. Unless an emergency occurs, I
don't want you to step a foot back in Engineering until Tom's
better. Do you hear me?"

"I hear you."

"Just because you're half-Klingon doesn't mean you can't cry
every once in a while after all you're half-human as well and
there is nothing wrong with that. It is part of you. Now
B'Elanna get out of here and report to Sickbay until you receive
further orders before I start crying too."

"Yes, Chief. Right away."


*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***


B'Elanna cautiously entered Sickbay not wanting to disturb the
Doctor if he was busy treating Tom. Seeing that the Doctor was
stripping off his operating coverall, she approached him.

"You had to operate?" she asked speaking to the EMH, but looking
at the still figure on the biobed.

"Yes, Lieutenant. He wasn't responding to the typical procedures
so I had to operate to clear the acid out of his respiratory
tract and to repair the damage it caused. It was a delicate
procedure, and if I do say so myself, I did a stupendous job!"

"Ah, I'm sure you did, Doctor. So is he going to be okay?"

"He should be. All that I'm waiting for now is for him to wake
up."

"Do you mind if I sit with him?"

"Not at all," he replied as he pulled a chair over beside the
pilot's bed. "Here have a seat, but it could be a while."

"I've got time. Thanks."


Four and a half hours later she was still sitting in that chair
holding the pilot's hand between her own, waiting for Tom to
awaken, thinking of all the things she wanted to say to him.
Finally, he tentatively opened his eyes and was somewhat
surprised but nonetheless thrilled to see two beautiful chocolate
brown eyes looking down at him.

"B'Elanna," he breathed, his voice not even a whisper.

"Ssssh, don't talk too much the Doctor operated on you and one of
the things he worked on your throat," she explained. "Do you
understand?"

The patient nodded his blond head and swallowed painfully.

"You have to be quiet, I know that will be hard for you, but
you'll heal faster if you don't speak. Plus it will give me a
chance to talk for a change. Okay?" she explained as she reached
for the glass of water beside his bed and helped him take a sip.

Tom nodded his head again after he drank a little and gave her a
tired little smile.

"Tom, you know, I thought that this was going to be easy. All
the while you've been lying there I've been rehearsing what I was
going to say over and over again in my mind. I guess the only
way to get it out of my mind is to share it with you. So here it
goes." she drew a deep breath and clutched his hand tightly in
both of her's almost afraid that he would leave before she could
tell him everything. "I've thought what Chakotay said to me
about staying away from you -- about what I thought I saw in the
gym. And I've thought about what Carey said that I should trust
my heart and that we are destined to be together."

Tom mouthed the words "Carey?"

"Yes, Carey. He really is a sweet man, I don't know why I ever
punched him in the nose. Tom, what I'm trying to say is this.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry I ever listened and took Chakotay's advice.
If I hadn't listened to him I don't think I would have been so
quick to judge. I know he thinks he means well, but sometimes he
still thinks I'm still twenty years old and wet behind the ears.
Tom, I would like us to start over again if you'll have me. Do
you think we can do that?" she asked as she raised his hand to
her mouth and turned it over and placed a kiss on his palm.

He looked at the half-Klingon still beside him in amazement. He
was getting his wish, she was willing to let him in again, so he
nodded his head, pulled his hand away from her grip and ran his
fingers lovingly down her forehead ridges and down the side of
her soft cheek. "Yes, B'Elanna," he whispered. "Oh, yes."

She rested her cheek against his chest relieved that they could
be together again, she had missed him so much. "Thank Kahless,
Tom. I thought you'd say no."

Tom kept on stroking her face and her silken hair as silent tears
of relief coursed their way down his pale cheeks. He wouldn't
rush her he vowed. While he had admitted his love to her, he
knew that she wasn't ready to make that much of an admission yet.
But in time, if he was lucky for a change, maybe she would.


They stayed in that position for quite a while until B'Elanna
noticed that his hand had stilled and he was just about asleep
again -- but this time with a slight smile to his lips.

"I'm going to let you rest now. I have to get some sleep myself
before my shift tomorrow," she explained as she rose from her
chair. "When you're better how about we try that Crestwood Trail
holoprogram again? Okay?"

"Okay," he whispered his voice raspy and sore.

"Now sssh, and I'll see you tomorrow," she admonished and bent
down and blessed him with a tender, promising kiss on his lips.

Tom Paris drifted off to sleep again and dreamed sweet dreams of
one half-Klingon engineer.


Chapter 8 - The Chief

"Lt. Carey, please come in," the Captain said as she heard the
familiar 'breep' of her Ready Room announcer.

"Thank you, Captain."

"Please sit down," she offered. "What's the matter Joe?
Something wrong down in Engineering?" she asked noticing the
looked of trepidation on his face.

"Well no, nothing is wrong per se Captain. It's just that it's
time."

"Time?" she asked not immediately catching on.

"Yes, I believe you remember the discussion we had when I was
named Chief Engineer of the two crews back at the beginning of
our voyage?"

"I do. So you're telling me it is time for B'Elanna to assume
the duties you have been fulfilling?"

Carey nodded.

"But Joe you're doing so well, are you sure you want to
relinquish the title so quickly?"

"If it were just me Captain, I'd probably tell you 'no,' but I
have the ship to think about. I have to think what is best for
everyone on this ship if we are ever going to get back home."

"And what is best for Voyager is B'Elanna Torres to become Chief
Engineer?" she asked wanting him to be sure that he was ready to
step down.

"It is Captain," he replied firmly with not a hint of doubt in
his voice. "She is not only a better engineer than I am, but she
is also very resourceful and motivated. Voyager's engines have
long since stopped being my engines, they have been adopted by
Lt. Torres. She makes them sing."

"You're sure? What about her temper?"

"I believe you'll find that she's changed, especially lately.
Oh, she'll still have her temper, but I believe she has learned
to channel that anger to work for her to drive her and the
motivate the engineering crew. You should see her
Captain, she doesn't know it, not yet, but she already is in
command down there. During the battle yesterday, she even
ordered me around," he laughed and willingly explained to his
Captain all that had transpired the other day.

"You seem proud of her?"

"I believe I am. In the beginning," he said rubbing his nose for
effect, "I never would have thought that I'd be singing her
praises, but here I am. I not only respect her Captain, but I've
come to think of her as my Delta Quadrant sister. I consider
her part of my family."

"And the rest of the crew? How do you think they'll take it?"

"I'll speak with them, but I don't think that they will have any
problems calling her 'Chief.' They all respect her."

"I'm glad to see that, Joe. How about we schedule a meeting
with the senior staff and B'Elanna for 0700 in two days -- that
should allow ample time for Tom to be released from Sickbay. We
wouldn't want him to miss it."

"No, we wouldn't," Carey agreed with a smile on his face.

"Good. Then I'll see you there, you can invite B'Elanna but don't
tell her why, I'd like to surprise her."

"Aye, aye, Captain."


*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

What did I do now? B'Elanna wondered as she rode the turbolift
up the bridge level. Maybe they were finally getting around to
demote her for punching Wilkins in the bar a few weeks ago? No
that didn't seem right, they wouldn't have waited so long. So
what could it be?

The turbolift finally stopped at the bridge and the doors slid
opened. B'Elanna stepped out and noticed from the personnel on
the bridge that the senior staff were apparently already in the
Ready Room waiting for her. Great, I'm probably already in hot
water and now I'm running late she mused as the entered the room
and found a seat conveniently located next to Tom and Harry on
the far side of the table.

Noticing the look of anxiety on her face, Tom reached under the
table and grabbed her hand and gave it a comforting squeeze that
said 'it's alright, I'm here for you.' B'Elanna smiled at him
grateful for his presence just as Janeway started to speak.

"Good morning everyone. B'Elanna, I'm glad you could make it. I
wanted everyone present this morning. First of all I wanted to
congratulate everyone again for their efforts during the battle a
couple of days ago. It was touch and go for a while, but through
inspired leadership," she explained looking at B'Elanna, "Voyager
triumphed again."

So that is it, she's mad at me for usurping Carey's command in
Engineering during the battle. But then why is the entire senior
staff here, Janeway wouldn't yell at me or demote me in front of
everyone. Would she? B'Elanna thought, now thoroughly confused.

"I had a meeting with Chief Carey yesterday," Janeway related,
"regarding a meeting we had along with the Commander at the
beginning of our voyage. If you recall when the two crews,
Maquis and Starfleet, were joined I decided against certain
recommendations," she said glancing at her First Officer, "and I
decided that Lt. Carey should retain his position of Chief
Engineer. What you do not know is that after that meeting when
the decision was made, the three of us had a follow-up meeting
which we determined that if, and when, Lt. Torres was ready that
she would be considered for the Chief Engineer's position. Chief
Carey informed me as of yesterday that she is more than qualified
and ready and he is more than willing to relinquish his position
to Lt. Torres. In fact he told me that Voyager's engine's are no
longer his they are her's. Congratulations Lieutenant Torres."

"Chief? You want me to be chief?" she asked still not sure she
had heard the Captain correctly.

"Yes, B'Elanna. Do you think you can do the job?" the Captain
asked.

"Yes, Captain. I can do the job," she replied and thinking of
Carey turned to face him. "Of course, I may need a little
guidance from my big brother Joe occasionally."


*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***


"You're one cruel woman, you know that B'Elanna," Tom grumbled as
he followed her brisk pace up the trail. It had been a little
over two weeks since he had been operated on and he was finally
feeling more like himself, but he still wasn't ready for an
almost-jog up the trail. "Come on, Bea, slow down just a little
so I can catch up!"

"What can't keep up with me Helmboy?" B'Elanna asked as she
turned around on the trail and paused to wait for him and was
rewarded with a passionate kiss for her troubles.

"Why are you so much in a hurry today, B'Elanna?"

"Oh, no particular reason," she replied coyly.

"Re--al--ly?" he questioned with a look that said 'you're hiding
something from me aren't you?' but she only responded with
delightful laughter which intrigued him even more.


*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***


The last couple of weeks had been divine. B'Elanna and he had
gotten much closer. They had spent hours hiking the Crestwood
Trail adding more trails and more detail while at the same time
getting to know each other better -- talking and touching --
taking it slow and savoring every precious moment they were
together. Every day the protective walls that they had built
around them over the years became lower and lower, at least when
they were together. B'Elanna not only related stories to Tom
about her childhood, her father's abandonment, her mother's
disgust at her human side, but also of how men had treated her
in the past. Likewise Tom did the same, sharing difficult
memories of his domineering father, his mother's death, Caldik
Prime, and prison. Each found it easier than they could have
imagined to share their past and pain with the other. But still
B'Elanna hadn't told Tom the three little words he was longing to
hear.


*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***


He was even more sure that something was up when they passed her
'favorite spot' and continued to climb and when they finally
reached the top and started to descend down the other side,
B'Elanna led him down a new path, and he was sure that she had
something special planned.

"Where are you taking me, Bea?" he asked as they entered into a
wooded area where the trail snaked in and out of the trees.

"You'll find out. You wouldn't want me to spoil the surprise
would you?"

"I wouldn't?"

"No trust me, you wouldn't. Come on, it's not much further."

They walked another ten minutes or so when in a distance Tom
could make out the sound of running water, as they got closer the
sounds became louder until B'Elanna and he walked around a
boulder in the path and stepped into an opening. There before
them was a lovely waterfall which spilled into a sparkling blue
pool of water which was trimmed with B'Elanna's favorite wild
flowers. On the ground beside the pool, a tablecloth was spread
out with a picnic basket resting on top of it.

"Wow! You've got to holo-program more often, Bea. You did a
fantastic job!" Tom said as the swung her around in his arms and
embraced her.

"Thanks, I'm glad you like it. So do you want to eat first,
there is bread, fruit, cheese, and a Merlot that Carey
recommended, or would you like to go for a swim?"

"A swim? I didn't even bring my swim trunks?"

"Who says that that has got to stop us?" she purred and began
unbuttoning his shirt.

"B'Elanna, I'm shocked what kind of guy do you think I am?" he
replied with mock disgust.

"Oh, I don't know," she said as she slowly unbuttoned the rest of
the shirt, slipped the shirt off his shoulders and brought her
hands up to cup both sides of his face as she gazed into his blue
eyes. "I think you're the man I love."

Tom did a double take, if this had been a holo-vid he would have
requested a re-cue just to make sure he had heard her
correctly.

Noticing his questioning look, B'Elanna pulled his head down to
hers to give him a long wet kiss before she pulled away from his
lips and nibbled his ear lobe. "I said, Tom Paris, that I love
you. Now what are you going to do about it?" she whispered with
a slight purr in her throat.

"Well let's see, I could stop the program and broadcast that
statement over the ship's intercom?"

B'Elanna pinched him on the arm.

"Owww! No? Okay, I could go see Joe Carey and thank him for
playing matchmaker?"

She pulled his exposed chest hair.

"Ouchh! No? Not that then. Well, how about I strip you naked
and we both go swimming and check out what might be behind that
waterfall?

"That's what I was hoping for," she replied crinkling her nose at
him and slightly baring her teeth.

"I love you, B'Elanna. I love you."

"I love you too, Tom."



Epilogue - Four years later.

"Do it again, do it again, Daddy!!" little K'Elli Paris squealed
as Tom threw her up in the air and caught her again around the
waist just before her petite toes touched the cool sparkling
water.

"Alright but just one more time."

"Higher, higher!" the little girl pleaded has her proud father
tossed her up in the air one last time.

"Come on pun-kin let's go join Mommy on the beach." he suggested
as he caught his bundle of joy again and kissed her little pert
nose. Little K'Elli at three years old was the spitting image of
her mother, except that her forehead ridges were less pronounced
and she had her father's bright blue eyes.

"Do we have to?" she playfully pouted, a facial expression
inherited from her Dad.

"Yep short-stuff, I understand Mommy's got your favorite lunch
waiting for you."

"Peanee butter and fuff?"

"Yep.

"Oh, boy, let's go! I'm hungry!"

Do you want to try and swim back?"

"Uh, huh. You hold me Daddy and I'll kick real hard."

Tom placed his hands around her little waist while K'Elli kicked
and wailed her arms in the water as he waded to shore supporting
his precious little girl between his hands.


"Just look at them Kathryn," Chakotay said pointing Tom and
K'Elli out to his new bride.

"Hard to believe that is the same Tom Paris that first came
aboard Voyager five years ago isn't it?" she remarked.

"I could say the same for B'Elanna. She's a wife and proud
mother of one energetic three-year-old and another one on the
way."

"Sssh," his new wife said as she tilted her head closer to him.
"Did you know that there are rumors that she is carrying twins?"

"Twins?" Chakotay's eyes opened wide in amazement. "That'll keep
them hopping!"

"Hopping and happy."

"That's just fine with me. I can't believe I ever thought that
he wasn't worthy of B'Elanna. I must have been . . ."

"Jealous?" she finished.

"Jealous? . . . No. Not jealous, maybe envious though. Four
years ago they were just finding and expressing their happiness,
and while I knew you were the one for me, I didn't know what to
say or what to do.

"But you do now?"

"I've had some good teachers." he explained looking at Tom and
B'Elanna.


The End of Story (not end of text)


Don't you love fluff? Particularly with a little peanut butter
on top!

Sub-story:

"Captain, there's a message coming through from the Alpha
Quadrant!" Kim shouted anxiously from his comm station.
"Well, put it through Mr. Kim, before you have a heart
attack!" Janeway ordered.
"Yes, ma'am (wasn't it crunch time?). It's a message from
the year 1998 with attached text. The text is too long to read
out loud so I'll download it. Here is the message though," Harry
replied as his fingers flew over the controls.

To anyone who reads this text. Hope you liked my story.
Please send e-mail to kelhapam@lr.net and let the author
know if you liked it -- she loves e-mail!! Also, please let
me know where you are writing from as I'm keeping a log.

"Apparently this message is from a person who is suffering
from an inferiority complex, with a desperate desire to travel
and learn more about the universe," Tuvok determined.
Paris turned around to address the Vulcan. "You make the
author sound like a nut case," he concluded with an expression of
disgust on his face. "All she is asking for is that someone take
the time to send her a little note, not a Pulitzer Prize."
"I agree with my Tommy boy," B'Elanna piped up from the
engineering station fluttering her long dark eyelashes at the
pilot, to which he responded to by blowing her a kiss.
Janeway and Chakotay looked at each other laughed and nodded
their concurrence to Paris' statement.
"Ensign Kim. Please distribute the downloaded text to all
crewmembers and request that they all respond at their earliest
opportunity," the Captain ordered
"Aye, aye, Captain."

Really the End -- Really.

Please email the author at kelhapam@lr.net.