TITLE: BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
AUTHOR: RFK
SERIES: VOY
CODE: P/T, Paris/f, & Torres/m
RATING: [PG-13]
SUMMARY: Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres's two-year relationship end in a bitter quarrel and the pair attempt to move on with other mates. Set right after the events in Season 6's "Memorial", and up to early Season 7.
FEEDBACK: june_daley@rocketmail.com - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Tom, B'Elanna and all other characters related to Star Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom and the usual Trek Powers to Be.


"BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO" by RFK


PART ONE

Inside the quarters of Voyager's chief engineer, sable eyes met blue ones. The owner of the dark eyes heaved an impatient sigh. "I think we need to take a break from each other, Tom. It's not working out between us. After this latest . . . I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if we really know each other."

Tom Paris stared at Voyager's chief engineer. He struggled to keep the burgeoning darkness from engulfing him. Tried and failed. Had his ears heard right? That B'Elanna wanted to end their two-year relationship over a misunderstanding?

"I . . ." Tom struggled to breath regularly. "Look, B'Elanna, if this is about that little outburst in my quarters, you have to understand. I was on edge, thanks to that damn memorial on Nakin. Remembering that massacre and being forced to reveal everything to the Captain when I wasn't ready . . .I just . . . I mean . . ."

B'Elanna Torres sighed once more and lowered her head. "I understand what you went through, Tom. Chakotay explained it perfectly to me. But don't you see? I should have realized that you were trying to deal with a recent trauma. Instead, I pushed you. It's the same old song between us - over and over again. One of us endures some kind of trouble or trauma and push the other away. We always end up misunderstanding each other. I'm beginning to feel that us becoming a couple had been a mistake."

A mistake? Tom blinked. Was that how B'Elanna viewed him, as well? Old insecurities that had lain dormant for years, reared their ugly heads. Fearing a tidal wave of emotions within him, Tom assumed a mask of indifference. "Oh. I see," he finally said and turned away. "So what you're saying is that you want to correct that mistake by breaking up."

"I didn't say anything about a break-up!" Impatience inflected B'Elanna's voice. "I just want . . ." Again, she sighed. "I feel that we need to take a break from each other. Only for a while. Spend a little time apart and try to get a perspective on where this relationship is going."

A bitter laugh escaped Tom's mouth before he could stop himself. B'Elanna glared. "Sorry," he murmured. "For a moment, you sounded just like Tuvok or Chakotay."

"Tom . . ."

'Don't do it,' Tom told himself. 'If you give her what she wants, nothing will ever be the same again.' Then again, how could he stop B'Elanna from getting what she wanted? Tom took a deep breath and conceded to her wishes. "All right. If you want that break-up, you can have it."

"It will only be temporary," B'Elanna added. "We can still be friends."

Tom smiled bitterly. "If you say so." He turned on his heels and headed for the door.

B'Elanna called after him. "Tom!" He paused. "I'm sorry. I really am."

Once glance over his shoulder told Tom that B'Elanna was sincere. He gave her a nod and quickly left her quarters. Something inside Tom told him that it would be a long time before he set foot inside, again. If ever.

* * * *

Single life did not seem so bad. B'Elanna repeated this to herself, over and over again. This seemed to be her mantra, these days. Her way of convincing herself that she had not made a mistake in breaking up with Tom. No, correct that. She and Tom had not ended their relationship. They were merely spending a little time apart from each other. Taking a breather.

B'Elanna glanced at her image in the mirror above the bathroom sink. Took a deep breath, picked up her hairbrush and began to brush her hair. Everything was fine. Calm. She continued her brushing. Granted, she missed Tom. Who wouldn't? Yet, she no longer felt the usual frustrations and other emotional turmoils she had endured, while dating Tom.

After one last run through her hair, B'Elanna returned to the sleeping area and placed the hairbrush on a nearby table. She took another deep breath. B'Elanna realized that she had been doing that a lot in the past two days. Taking deep breaths. Reassuring herself. If Chakotay or the Doctor had noticed, either would have made some half-baked psychiatric comment about the connection between those deep breaths and reassurances and her breakup with Tom. Time away, she ruthlessly corrected herself.

B'Elanna allowed herself one last look in the mirror. She looked okay. Fine. There seemed to be no traces of exhaustion or tension that had plagued her earlier in the week. Now, she looked . . . relaxed.

One quick glance at the chronometer revealed the time at 0857. B'Elanna gasped. She was running late. In another three minutes, the senior staff meeting would begin. And she would have to face Tom for the first time in two days. B'Elanna took one last deep breath and flew out of her quarters.

* * * *

Minutes later, B'Elanna burst into the Conference Room. She discovered to her dismay that not only was she three minutes late, but also the last person to arrive.

B'Elanna nodded at the Captain and immediately headed toward her usual seat. Surprise awaited her in the form of Neelix, sitting in Tom's regular seat. Apparently, the chief helmsman had decided to occupy the chair usually occupied by the Talaxian during staff meetings. B'Elanna blinked momentarily and filled the empty chair between Neelix and Harry.

"Now that we're all here," Janeway dryly commented, "let's get this meeting underway." She gave B'Elanna a brief smile. Which meant that she did not view the younger woman's tardiness as a breach.

However, B'Elanna noticed something else. Shadows under the Captain's eyes. She saw those same shadows on the faces of Chakotay, Harry, Neelix and Tom. Apparently, the effects of the Nakin memorial continued to plague part of the crew, after the passage of five days. Strange, she had not noticed Tom's eyes when she broke off their relationship.

"Lieutenant?" The Captain's husky voice broke through B'Elanna's reverie. "About those warp coil refits?"

B'Elanna blinked. "Oh! Uh, yes. Well, now that we have the gallacite we needed . . ." She continued to describe in detail how Engineering planned to use the recently acquired gallacite to refit the eroding warp coils. Fifteen minutes had passed by the time she finished. Judging by the expressions around the table, only Seven-of-Nine and Tuvok seemed attentive. Typical.

The next item on the agenda focused on sensor readings. Harry reported that long-range sensors had detected a class-M planet some 20 light years away. Tom added that Voyager should arrive within a week. Harry continued, "Tom and I both checked those star charts we had received from that Arvanian trader. It's called Norcardia."

Janeway repeated the name under her breath. "Do we have any information on this Norcardia?" she asked. Like everyone else inside the Conference Room, she stared at the resident ex-Borg.

"Species 7435," Seven replied. "The Borg has assimilated a number of them over the years. However, like the Federation, the Norcardians have managed to elude complete assimilation."

B'Elanna muttered under her breath, "How unfortunate for the Borg." Two years ago, she would have been brimming with anger at Seven's cool response. Two years ago, she had been unaware of the former Borg's deep-seated fear and resentment toward the Collective. B'Elanna now knew better.

While Seven continued to dispense more information on Norcardia, B'Elanna's attention focused upon the pale and slightly exhausted countenance of Voyager's Chief Helmsman. Nearly a week had passed since the fight inside Tom's quarters. Two days since B'Elanna decided to "postpone" their relationship. Since then, Tom has remained cloistered inside his quarters during his off duty hours. It did not take a genius to guess the reason behind his seclusion. Only B'Elanna had no desire to force the issue.

Yet, looking at Tom now . . . Maybe it was time to face that issue. Put this breakup behind them. B'Elanna felt unsure on whether she wanted a permanent breakup with the pilot. If it came to that, she did not want to face their remaining years in the Delta Quadrant with tension between them.

The meeting soon turned to other topics - food supplies, repairs on Turbolift Three, the results of an investigation on a Class J nebula, and the ship's duty roster. Once Chakotay finished his report on the last item, the Captain brought up the next one. Morale.

"It has been pretty low since our encounter with the memorial on Nakin," Neelix declared. "Especially among those who had been affected." An uncomfortable silence filled the room. Eyes cast downward. "We need something to pick up everyone's spirits. A party, perhaps."

Another voice spoke up. Tom's. "I can think of something better." A smile creased his face. B'Elanna realized that she had not seen him smile since the day she presented him with that television set.

Janeway smiled fondly at her chief helmsman. "And exactly what do you have in mind, Tom?"

"Fair Haven. I just finished re-programming it and it's ready for the enjoyment of the crew." Tom's announcement brought smiles and murmurs of approval from around the table. And a look of astonishment from Harry. Only B'Elanna and Tuvok failed to respond.

Neelix fairly beamed. "That's wonderful news, Tom! I'm sure the entire crew will be pleased to hear."

"I'm certainly pleased," Janeway added. "Although, I do hope that you will have the horseshoe in Sullivan's Pub pointed in the right direction." Her eyes twinkled.

Tom's smile widened. B'Elanna almost felt a twinge of disappointment that it was not directed at her. He replied, "Don't worry Captain, it was the first thing I corrected."

A small laugh escaped Janeway's mouth. "Does anyone else, aside from Mister Paris, have some good news?" When no one answered, she dismissed the meeting and the staff began to file out of the room.

As she watched Tom head for the door, B'Elanna remembered her resolve. To deal with the issue of her relationship with Tom. And hopefully save their friendship. She quickly raced after the pilot. Unfortunately, Tom had strode toward the Conn station, before she could reach the Conference Room door. "Dammit!" she muttered to herself and headed for the turbolift.

A hand gently rested on her shoulder. It belonged to Harry. B'Elanna paused. "Did you want something, Maquis?"

B'Elanna shook her head. "No. Maybe later. I'll see you later, Harry." Before the Ops Chief could respond, B'Elanna continued toward the turbolift. Her little talk with Tom would have to wait.

* * * *

"Finally! Mohammed comes to the mountain." Harry's remark rang in Tom's ears, as the latter settled in an empty chair, opposite his best friend. After three days of eating his meals inside his quarters, Tom decided to return to the Mess Hall. He was running low on replicator credits. And if he could face B'Elanna in a staff meeting, he could do so, anywhere.

Tom heaved a sigh and gave his friend a dark look. "Do you have a point to make, Harry?"

"Yeah. Where in the hell have you been? Aside from the Bridge, I haven't seen hide or hair of you, these past few days."

Tom stabbed his spoon into a bowl of stew. Thankfully, it was not made from Leola root. "Busy. With the new Fair Haven program."

Harry's dark eyes penetrated Tom's. "Uh huh. Speaking of that, may I ask why you didn't bother to get me to help? I thought we were going to finish the program, together."

"You know something, Har?" Tom said with another sigh. "You're beginning to sound like a nagging wife. And it doesn't really suit you."

Tom ignored his friend's pointed stare and returned his attention to his meal. A long, dry sigh filled his ears. "I realize that these past few days have been difficult for you," he heard Harry say. "Hell, it's been difficult for a lot of us. But there's no need for you . . ."

"Hey Starfleet."

Tom's heart tightened at the sound of a familiar low voice. He paused, took a deep breath and continued eating. 'Keep calm, Paris,' he told himself. 'You can do it.'

Harry replied, "Hey, Maquis. I didn't think you would make it."

A familiar scent filled Tom's nostrils, as B'Elanna sat down in the seat next to Harry's. Warp core coolant. "For a minute, I wondered about the same thing. A little problem developed, while we were completing the warp coil refit." B'Elanna turned her attention to the pilot. "Hi Tom. Nice to see your face in the Mess Hall, again."

"B'Elanna." Tom broke off and resumed eating. That seemed easy.

A long pause followed. Then, "What little problem did you have with the refit?" Good old Harry. Always one to keep the conversation flowing. B'Elanna faced the other man and recounted the problem she and her staff had encountered in Engineering, this morning. Tom barely understood a word. After all, he was no engineer. If the topic had been about astrophysics or even aerodynamics, he would have easily followed the conversation.

After the two engineers finished discussing warp coils, B'Elanna surprised Tom by switching to a more personal topic. "By the way, Starfleet, I meant to ask how you - how are you holding up??

Harry's eyes widen questioningly. "What do you mean?"

"You know, after our encounter with the Nakin memorial. Are you having any problems or . . ." B'Elanna's voice drifted into silence.

Tom glanced at Harry. The latter's face immediately assumed a mask like expression. "I'm fine," the Ops officer coolly replied.

Dinner in the Mess Hall seemed destined to be filled with little moments of silence, today. After the latest one finally passed, B'Elanna continued, "You're fine? What about your anxiety attacks? Are you still . . .?"

"If you don't mind, B'Elanna, I'd rather not talk about it." Harry took a deep breath. "I'm not in the mood to discuss what happened. It's just too soon."

Tom's eyes briefly met B'Elanna's, before both glanced away. Memories of their quarrel flashed in the former's mind. B'Elanna gave Harry a brief, understanding smile. "Okay, Starfleet. I understand. You know, I'm available if you need someone to talk with."

Harry smiled back. "Thanks, Maquis." He dropped his spoon onto the tray. "I think I've had enough of this Rokaran beef stew. Or whatever it is. I'll see you two later." Harry stood up and grabbed both the tray and his PADD.

"Where are you going?" B'Elanna asked. Tom detected a hint of anxiety in her voice. What was she anxious about? Being alone with him?

Harry replied, "To my quarters. To finish this Operations report for the Commander. I'll see you two, later." He left, leaving behind the two former lovers.

After their friend disappeared from the Mess Hall, Tom and B'Elanna exchanged uneasy glances. The former found himself growing overwhelmed with embarrassment. And a little anger. Time to get out of here, Tom decided. Like Harry, he tossed his spoon on the tray and stood up.

"You're leaving, too?" B'Elanna asked. She seemed a bit distressed.

Tom nervously cleared his throat. "Yeah, I uh. . . I've got my own report to finish."

"Well, before you go . . ." B'Elanna inhaled a gust of breath. "I need to talk with you. About what happened three days ago."

"B'Elanna . . ."

This time, the Chief Engineer pleaded. "Please, Tom. One minute."

His escape firmly nipped in the bud, Tom suppressed a sigh and sat back in his seat. "What do you want?" he demanded, hoping that he did not sound too resentful.

"It's about our break." B'Elanna's cheeks turned pink. "Look, I just . . . well, I just wanted you to know that whatever happens between us, I hope that we'll still be friends." Her mouth clamped shut, as her eyes met Tom's.

A heavy silence fell between the pair. Pervesely, Tom did not feel comforted by B'Elanna's offer of friendship. Instead, it only angered him even further. He harbored a deep suspicion that B'Elanna wanted some guarantee of peace in the face of a possible breakup.

"Tom?" Hope crept into B'Elanna's voice. "Did you hear what . . .?"

In a disgruntled voice, Tom shot back, "I heard."

Dark brown eyes grew uneasy. "Is there . . . a problem?"

"No." Again, Tom rose from his chair.

"I realize that you're a little upset right now," B'Elanna continued. "But could you think about what I had suggested?"

Tom gave the engineer a long, hard look. "Why?" he demanded in a soft voice. "So you can make sure I'll forgive you if you decide to break up for good?"

Anger infused B'Elanna's eyes. "Forgive me?" she growled. "This has nothing to do with forgiveness! Why can't you understand what I want? And why do you have to be such a stubborn bastard?"

"Hey! I'm not the one who decided to 'go on a break' at the first sign of trouble!" Tom shouted back. He was barely aware of other pairs of eyes, staring at him and B'Elanna.

"And who was it that threw me out of your quarters, when I was only trying to help?"

B'Elanna's last remark infuriated Tom. "I needed some time alone! I tried to tell you, but you wouldn't listen! I see that you didn't have trouble understanding Harry, just a few minutes ago!"

"Harry didn't scream at me to leave him alone!"

Tom leaned forward. "Harry didn't have to."

B'Elanna took a deep breath. "Is that what you want, Tom? For me to leave you alone? If so, you can forget about us taking a break. As far as I'm concerned, . . . WE'RE THROUGH!"

"Glory hallelujah! You finally decided to be honest for a change!" Tom shot back. A growl left B'Elanna's throat, but he did not care. He was too angry. Instead, he seared the Chief Engineer with one last glare, slammed his tray on the galley's counter and stalked out of the Mess Hall.


END OF PART 1