"BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO" by RFK


PART THREE


Harry watched with dismay, as his two best friends drift apart right before his eyes. He tried to stop them. Tried to convince both Tom and B'Elanna that this break-up was a big mistake. And that they could not do without the other. Being stubborn creatures, both disregarded his advice. B'Elanna had nearly tossed him out of her quarters. And Tom responded with the legendary Paris mask.

Matters grew worse as each discovered friendship with other crewmen. Four days after Voyager left Norcardia, Harry spotted B'Elanna eating breakfast with Ensign Sean Murphy from Xenobiology. Harry recognized the officer as the same one whom B'Elanna used to oogle over, during Voyager's early months in the Delta Quadrant. She had invited Harry to join them for breakfast. Unable to shun his best friend, Harry did as B'Elanna asked.

And then there was the Chief Helmsman. It seemed that B'Elanna was not the only one who found someone else. Harry nearly encountered Tom in the Fair Haven simulation with the green-eyed and very beautiful Ensign Frederique Aubrey. Everyone knew about Aubrey. Not only was she beautiful, but extremely conservative. Very big on Starfleet protocols. There were times Harry believed that she should carry the nickname of 'Starfleet'. Nor did she seem like the personality who could maintain Tom's interest very long. Any more than Murphy seem like the type who would make an interesting mate for B'Elanna.

No amount of rationalization would probably convince either Tom or B'Elanna that they were making a mistake. To be frank, neither were known for being rational. Harry came to the unhappy conclusion that both would make more mistakes before they came to their sense. That is, if they ever will.

"Your call, Harry," Commander Chakotay's voice cut into the younger man's thoughts. "Harry?"

The ensign snapped out of his reverie. His mind returned to the poker game in progress, inside the Delta Flyer. Captain Janeway had assigned him, Commander Chakotay, Tom and Neelix on a mission to ?. It seemed ironic that the same four who had first encountered the Nakin war memorial, would find themselves together on another mission, less than two months, later.

The four men continued their poker game. Just as Tom was about to reveal his hand, his eyes riveted upon something behind Harry's shoulders. Namely, the shuttle's viewscreen. The latter glanced over his shoulders and the sight that greeted his eyes, made his blood run cold. Just several meters away from the Flyer hovered a Borg cube.

* * * *


Dalby gave her "the Look". Not an imitation of the famous Janeway Death Glare that everyone dreaded. Nor the Stone Glare that Chakotay had perfected while showing his displeasure. Instead, B'Elanna found herself on the receiving end of a look filled with pity and self-assurance. The kind she usually received whenever someone close to her was in danger or dead. She hated it.

"Don't you worry, Lieutenant," Dalby said in a voice, oozing with pity. "I'm sure the Captain will find a way to rescue them."

B'Elanna found the urge to break his jaw. She knew that Ken meant well. As so did the other five crewmen who had given her that same Look. Yet, she hated it. She hated the reminder that someone she cared about might be lost to her, for good. And right now, there were several she might seriously grieve over - Chakotay, Harry, Neelix . . . B'Elanna deliberately closed her mind to the fourth member of the Away team. Tom Paris. She hesitated. Then again, Tom was a member of the crew and entitled to be included in her worries. She unknowingly let out a sigh. Who was she kidding? More than anyone, she feared Tom's death. It would be bad enough dealing with the loss of the other three men. But Tom . . .

Aware of Dalby's stare, B'Elanna gave him an uneasy smile. "Thanks, Ken. I, uh . . ." She took a deep breath. Kahless! She had to get out of here! "I'll be on the Bridge, if anyone needs me." Before she found herself on the receiving end of more pity, B'Elanna turned on her heels and made her escape out of Engineering.

B'Elanna reached the nearest turbolift and heaved a sigh of relief. Sanctuary, at last! Seconds later, the door opened and she entered. Inside, she found another crewman, leaning against the opposite wall. "Oh! Sean!" she exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"

"Hi B'Elanna!" Sean Murphy smiled at her. "On your way to the Mess Hall?"

She shook her head. "No, the Bridge. We're still in the middle of a crisis. Remember?"

"Oh yeah," Sean replied. "The Borg cube. How are you holding up?"

Oh Kahless! More pity. "I'm fine!" B'Elanna responded more heatedly than she had intended. Suddenly contrite, she apologized. "Sorry. I just . . . I'm just getting tired of all the pity, I've been getting all day. It's really irritating. And it's doing nothing for my morale."

"Well, how about a dinner date, when your shift ends?"

B'Elanna almost accepted, until she remembered the men trapped on the Borg cube. "Maybe we should postpone this, until the whole matter is resolved," she said. "With Harry, Chakotay and the others on that cube . . ."

Sean nodded. "I understand. Okay, until all of this is over." The turbolift stopped at Deck Two. He smiled. "I'll see you later?"

"Later." B'Elanna returned his smile. Sean stepped out of the turbolift. The doors slid shut and her smile disappeared.

* * * *

An emotionally exhausted Tom punched the entry codes to his quarters. The doors slid open and he stepped inside. "Lights," he ordered. The room's lights brightened the room to an extent, blinding Tom. "Lower lights by 20%." The lights dimmed making it possible to finally see.

After stripping off his uniform, Tom made his way to the sonic shower, beyond. He stepped inside, activated the shower, leaned against the wall and sighed. Unwelcoming images filled his mind. Images of the first sight of that Borg cube, the five Borg children, the mangled body of that drone from a botched assimilation, the welcoming appearance of Seven and being shocked by that Borg child.

Following their rescue from the cube, the hostages, the Borg children had been sent to Sick Bay. A few minutes later, the Captain, Seven and B'Elanna arrived to check on the four men and the children. Tom tried not to pay attention, while the Chief Engineer hovered over Harry and Chakotay. He tried and failed. Not even attention from the Captain could ease the terror of his ordeal. Or the loneliness he felt, while B'Elanna ignored him.

Tom ended his shower. The door chime rang. He snatched his favorite blue robe from the bed, and donned it. Striding into the living area, he cried out, "Enter!" The door slid open, revealing none other than Frederique Aubrey. Tom's day had suddenly brightened. "Hi!" he greeted, flashing a quick smile. "What brings you here?"

"I thought you might need a friend, after spending several hours as a hostage on a Borg cube," Freddy replied. She gave Tom a hug. "How are you feeling?"

Tom sighed. "Better. Now that you're here. The only thing I have left to look forward to are a few weeks of nightmares."

"What you really need is a ship's counselor. It's a shame Starfleet never bothered to assign one, before we left Deep Space Nine." Freddy began picking up Tom's clothes from the floor.

"Hey, Freddy! There's no need for you to do that. I'll clean up, later."

The biologist continued her cleaning. "I don't mind. Besides, I'm something of a neat freak. Can't stand to see a messy room." She chuckled. "Starfleet upbringing, I guess."

"Starfleet upbringing?" Tom frowned. "Don't you mean, training?"

"Upbringing," Freddy continued. "My dad is Starfleet. So are my older brother and sister." And so were three of my grandparents."

Aubrey. The name finally struck a familiar chord. Michel Aubrey. Tom recalled meeting the French-born Starfleet officer, who had served under his father, on the El Batani. And Aubrey's son, Jean-Pierre, had graduated from the Academy, two years before Tom's own graduation.

The helmsman exclaimed out loud, "Aubrey! Of course! I wondered why that name seemed so familiar. You're a Starfleet brat!"

"That's right!" A bright smile lit up Freddy's face.

Tom continued, "And to think, I thought the Captain and I were the only 'Fleet brats on this ship. Captain Janeway must be familiar with your family, as well. Is that why you joined Starfleet? Because of your family?"

"Basically." Freddy dumped Tom's dirty laundry into the refresher. "Starfleet is in my blood. Like you." Tom did not know how to respond to that. "However, I'm here to invite you to dinner. I've reserved Holodeck Two. And my reservation," she glanced at the chronometer, "starts in less than twenty minutes. I suggest you get dressed."

Tom smiled and headed for his closet. "Yes ma'am." Finally, his day seemed to be looking up.

* * * *

B'Elanna Torres never thought she would find stability in her life. When Captain Janeway had promoted her to Chief Engineer, she thought she had found it. After all, being chief engineer of a Federation starship had been her ultimate dream, when she entered the Academy. Only once she had achieved her ambition, she discovered it was not enough.

Not that she did not enjoy her position on Voyager. She did. However, being Chief Engineer failed to fill an emptiness she has felt since her father's desertion. In the end, she realized that she had used her ambition, the Maquis and her work as a substitute for the loneliness she had not fully escaped. That loneliness became quite apparent when Tom Paris began to pursue her.

Tom Paris. What could B'Elanna say about the gregarious pilot? Exciting, sensual, funny, passionate and exasperating. Being with Tom made her realize how empty her previous life had been. Yet, not even Tom could chase away her demons and insecurities. Tom could not even help her fight off that bone-crushing depression that nearly overwhelmed her, last year. And judging from his reaction to the Nakin memorial, B'Elanna realized that her presence could never help Tom deal with own demons. They were simply too alike.

Now, B'Elanna found herself at a plateau in her life. Thanks to her friendship with Sean Murphy. Good 'ole Sean. Granted, he was no Tom Paris. But the xenobiologist never gave her a feeling of living on the edge. And quite frankly, B'Elanna had all the precarious living she could stand, being stranded in the Delta Quadrant. What she also liked about Sean, was the feeling of security he gave. Safe. Just like Harry. Only, she would have never considered anything more than friendship with the Operations Chief. And with Sean, B'Elanna would not have to deal with a volatile and immature personality - traits possessed by a certain pilot she knew.

"Murphy to Torres." Sean's deep voice resonated from B'Elanna's combadge.

The Chief Engineer smiled. "Yes, Ensign?"

"I noticed that it is now 18:00 hours and you are still in Engineering. We're due in Holodeck One for dinner in an hour. Or have you forgotten?"

Kahless! She had forgotten. Sean had planned a quiet dinner in a holographic simulation of an Italian restaurant on the Riviera. The restaurant featured one of her favorite dishes - ______________. "If you must know, I was about to head to my quarters," B'Elanna lied.

A deep chuckle followed. "Sure you were," Sean warmly replied. "I'll pick you up in an hour. Murphy out."

The combadge went dead. B'Elanna turned to Sue Nicoletti. "You're in charge, until Carey reports for Beta shift." And immediately left Engineering. She ignored the stares from other crewmen, as she raced toward the turbolift. After it delivered her to Deck Nine, she continued on to her quarters. There, it took her at least ten minutes for a quick shower - water, not sonic. However, it seemed to take her forever to select an outfit for the evening. She immediately rejected the small, black dress that happened to be Tom's favorite. The maroon velvet dress was another favorite of Tom's that B'Elanna decided she could do without. Eventually, she selected a cream-colored, knee-length dress with flowing long sleeves that she had replicated two weeks ago.

Minutes after she donned her dress, the door chime rang. B'Elanna barked, "Enter!" The door slid open and Sean Murphy strode inside. He looked very handsome in his deep blue suit and white shirt. His right hand held a wrapped box "Hi Sean," B'Elanna greeted brightly. "What's in the box?"

"For you." Sean thrust the box into her hands.

B'Elanna removed the wrapping from the box. Inside laid a corsage of flowers. Violets. She smiled. "Oh. How nice. I . . . uh . . ." A frown replaced her smile. "I know that we had agreed to have dinner tonight, Sean. Only, I didn't realize this was a date."

"Well, I . . ." Sean's face turned red. "I thought you would like them."

And she did. Granted, she usually preferred red roses . . . 'Stop it B'Elanna! Just stop it! So what if he didn't give you roses? The man is not Tom Paris. Nor do you want him to be Just accept the violets and be grateful!'

B'Elanna suppressed a sigh and smiled. "They're lovely, Sean. Thank you." She indicated the door. "Ready?" Sean grabbed hold of her free arm and draped it over his. Then the pair strolled out of the cabin and into the corridor.

* * * *



"How do I look?" Freddy asked. Inside her quarters, she spun around, causing her lime green skirt to billow gracefully. Frederique wore a lime green, late 19th century dress with short, puffy sleeves and a scooped neckline. And she looked absolutely breathtaking.

At least Tom thought so. Dressed in an old-fashioned black suit with a white tie and shirt, he sat on her couch and scrutinized the beautiful Freddy with an appreciative eye. "Very beautiful," he replied softly. "You'll be the belle of the ball."

Freddy inhaled deeply, causing her bosom to rise. "You mean a dance, right?"

"Yeah. There's going to be a dance at Castle O'Dell in the program. A formal ball. All the locals will be there."

Freddy flashed Tom a winning smile. "Ah! So that's why you selected this program for tonight. You want to show me off to all your friends at Fair Haven. It's not like I've never met them before, Tom."

"But they've never seen you like this. Ready?" Tom stood up and offered his arm to Freddy. Who took it. The pair strolled into the corridor. Because her quarters were located on Deck Ten, they had to ride the turbolift to Deck Six. Much to Tom's amusement, he and Freddy drew stares from other crewmen. Even better, Freddy did not seem to mind. Such a refreshing change from B'Elanna.

Tom could not recall when he had ever felt so relaxed in a relationship. Okay, he and Freddy didn't really have "a relationship". More like a close friendship. But for the first time in years, Tom felt completely relaxed with a woman. Nor did he have to be careful about what he said. And Freddy, unlike B'Elanna, not only enjoyed his favorite holographic pastimes, she was not a die-hard workaholic.

The couple approached Holodeck Two. "Well, here we are," Tom announced. "I was lucky to schedule for two hours, tonight."

"Were there any problems?" Freddy asked.

"Well, the crew has been using them a lot, lately. Personally, I think most of them are heading for a nervous breakdown."

Freddy added with a shrug, "Can you blame them? I still have memories of that war memorial." She shuddered. Tom gave her arm a quick squeeze. He understood.

The Holodeck door slid open. Tom started to lead Freddy inside, when a disturbing sight stopped him in his tracks. A couple emerged from the interior. Sean Murphy linked with none other than a smiling B'Elanna.

* * * *

It had been a shock, B'Elanna realized, seeing Tom with Ensign Aubrey. She had heard a lot about the woman. A bright and intelligent officer who served aboard Voyager as a molecular biologist in the Science Division. And who came from a prominent Starfleet family. Like Tom.

In other words, Ensign Frederique Aubrey had more in common with Tom, than herself. B'Elanna felt a jolt of insecurity on a scale she had not experienced in quite a while. Strange that Tom had never pursued the beautiful ensign before. Granted, Aubrey never struck B'Elanna as the type willing to become another notch on Tom's belt during his first two years in the Delta Quadrant. But that did not explain why he never pursued the biologist. Until now.

B'Elanna drew her blanket up to her chin. She sighed. For weeks, she tried to ignore the talk about Tom and Aubrey. Dismiss their relationship as another one of the pilot's dalliances. Or maybe even a friendship. Yet, when she finally laid eyes upon the pair outside Holodeck Two . . . Reality finally sank in. Tom had moved beyond her and found someone else.

Well, she has also found someone new. Images of Sean Murphy rose in B'Elanna's mind. Granted, what she had with the Science officer was nothing more than a budding friendship. But it could be more. All B'Elanna had to do was give Sean a hint. If he took it, fine. If not, B'Elanna realized that her life would return to those days before Tom. When she was a lonely half-Klingon, convinced that no one wanted her. B'Elanna did not look forward to such a life. But if she was able to survive it for nearly twenty years, she could do it again.

* * * *

The image replayed in Tom's mind over and over again. B'Elanna and Sean Murphy, arm-in-arm and strolling out of the Holodeck with smiles on their lips. They looked so disgustingly happy. So perfect together. The memory of that image sent Tom's stomach churning in turmoil.

Sean Murphy must have seemed like a godsend to B'Elanna. Handsome, intelligent and steady. Most importantly, Ensign Murphy did not seem to possess any demons tht dogged his heels every moment of his life. Perfection in every way. Mr. Starfleet. Christ! It's a wonder that Seven-of-Nine had not tried her luck with him, last year.

Tom wondered if B'Elanna and Murphy had ever consu. . . He shook his head and realized that he did not want to know. All he knew is that they have spent a lot of time together. Just like him and Freddy. Tom tried to bring up an image of the beautiful ensign into his mind. Instead, he saw B'Elanna and Murphy leaving Holodeck Two, again. Smiling.

Dammit! They had to be more than just friends. How else could one explain the smiles on their faces? Or the way their eyes sparkled? Tom realized that he had not seen B'Elanna look so relaxed and happy in ages. Apparently, the exobiologist seemed to have that affect on her. Huh! Miss Perfection and the Marble Model.

At that moment, Tom decided that if B'Elanna could move on, so could he. No way in hell would he allow himself to wallow in misery over a failed romance. As the old saying went - "there are other fishes in the sea". Just before he settled into a deep sleep, Tom wondered if Freddy Aubrey would be available for an evening in one of the holodecks, tomorrow.


END OF PART III