A little diversion from my current more dramatic effort, that danced off my keyboard yesterday - just as (or maybe because?) spring is coming to the Great White North. In many ways quite the sappiest thing I've ever done (or am ever likely to do); in fact, I'm still a little surprised that I have the guts to confess right here, in this forum, that I too have the occasional Hallmark moment.

I own nothing but the words herein.

Eleven Moments Tom Paris Doesn't Regret Whatsoever

By Alpha Flyer

One - Caretaker I

He stands in the bar, his back against the wall, trying to remember exactly why he came in.

There was a time when places like this were a refuge, but during his time in Auckland he valued his solitude - the only time he was safe from the humiliating taunts, the physical attacks of his fellow prisoners.

So what brings him here now, to this very public place, wearing his insignia-free Starfleet uniform? Is he willfully courting the abuse he has come to expect, and believes he deserves?

The reedy voice of the Ferengi shakes him out of the darkness. The young man by the bar seems terrified, out of his depth, and about to accept being cheated.

It has been a long time since he has had the luxury of fighting back, if only on behalf of others. He steps forward with the tiniest of smiles and picks up the useless trinket like a precious gift.

"Dazzling, isn't it?"


Two - Caretaker II

"You'd rather die than have me be the one to save you."

He makes the observation matter-of-factly, even as he readies himself to drape the Maquis leader around his shoulders. Shit, that guy weighs a ton, all muscle and attitude.

The open contempt Chakotay showed him on the bridge hit harder than even Cavit's disdain. The man knows nothing about the circumstance of his arrest, or about the hell he lived through at Auckland. And he'll be damned if he'll tell him.

He heads up the disintegrating staircase, the truth heavy on his back.


Three - The Chute

The clanking of the chute is almost immediately drowned out by the hungry excitement in the voices, the scuffling of dirty feet on the metallic grating that passes as a floor in this rat cage of a prison.

"Fresh meat."


The words - and the sounds of fists connecting with helpless flesh - echo and reverberate inside his skull, until they reach a screeching crescendo of revulsion and hate that he has no idea where to focus.

All he knows is, the only way to fight them is to be them. His knuckles crack as they connect with his best friend's chin. Moments later, the heady feeling that washes over him when he presses his makeshift knife into the attacker's aorta is an unpleasant revelation.

And yet, he is still here. Submerged and battered, clawing at the cage they built inside his head, but still here.

"This one is mine."

He hangs on to that feeling, makes it stick.

As it turns out, they both do.


Four - Basics

He brings the shuttle to a sudden dead stop by putting her engines in reverse. It is a risky maneuver, he knows, but it places him squarely behind his pursuers. He has always been taught to shoot to disable, but the odds are horrendous and he has a mission.

"I don't have time for this," he mutters to himself.

He squeezes off a few rounds with his phasers, targeting the rear propulsion of the primitive Kazon craft in the precise place where he expects the fuel cells to be located. He feels nothing when it explodes in the merciless vacuum of space.

Much later, at the service for Hogan, Suder and the crewman from biosciences he now regrets he never really got to know, he reflects on Seska, and how many Kazon lost their lives to the extreme prejudice with which he retook the ship.

And try as he will, the best he can muster is an indifferent shrug.


Five - Future's End

For a whole day now, he has delighted in her company. She is smart, and pretty in an unconventional way; her mouth is as fast and acerbic as his own. For the first time in his life he hasn't met uncomprehending stares when discussing the relative artistic merit of The Swamp Thing and The Creature from the Blue Lagoon.

He knows that she feels the same way. The spark of recognition they shared, and the shy but determined way in which she has made her interest known, tell him as much.

She could never take the place of the woman he dreams about every day on Voyager, though - but she doesn't need to know that.

He leans in to give her a soft, deep kiss, full of affection and genuine regret.


Six - Real Life

He can still feel the tingle left by her fingers on his, where they tangled over the PADD. He heard the small hiss her breath made, and wonders whether she felt it too.

Despite his lame opening line, their banter is free and fun; she even takes it in stride when he talks about making her 'heart quicken'. The sparkle in her eyes sure does things to his.

But when the anomaly appears outside the mess hall window and the call comes from the bridge, she jumps up even faster than he does, seemingly anxious to get away. The PADD stays forgotten on the table, and with a practiced move he slides it into his pocket.

Later, after the Doc sends him to his quarters to sleep off the concussion he got from riding that plasma tornado, he picks up the slightly scratched PADD, and smiles again at the hoaky title. He does a word search to get to the good bits quickly, and his eyes widen in appreciation as he reads.

It really is a manual.


Seven - Revulsion

"Shut up."

Not the most eloquent declaration of his feelings for a woman ever, but when he hears her trying to convince herself that he would be wanting an out, it's the best he can come up with before closing her mouth with a kiss.

And now, after the Doc's oblivious interruption, his own heart is pounding even faster than his feet as he races along the corridor after her, wondering what his reception will be.

He stands at the door, as tongue-tied as a schoolboy.

"Um, Sorry for the interruption. I was wondering whether you'd like to … talk some more. Whether you wanted to … Whether we should …"

She grabs his uniform jacket and pulls him roughly into her quarters, hoarsely whispering the two most beautiful words he has ever heard.

"Shut up."


Eight - Scientific Method

Waking up in the morning, he is briefly disoriented by the different smell in his quarters, and by the warmth of a body curled against his bare chest. They are still new to each other. He turns his head slightly and smiles into the soft hair against his lips.

Last night has been an affirmation, their love-making ranging from surprisingly shy and tender discovery to wild and uninhibited (he can see one of the wine glasses on the floor). But none of this compares to the feeling he enjoys now - the knowledge that she trusts him enough to breathe deeply and evenly in his arms.

He really wants to keep the bite marks, but she has made him promise to erase them when they wake up. For now, though, he is still hers, and he whispers a silent suggestion into her ear with the tip of his tongue. She stirs against him, her smile turning feral when she sees his clear, blue eyes on her.

Who needs alien hormones?


Nine - Nothing Human

She's in Sickbay, with this thing on her body that reminds him of a 20th century horror movie they once watched together; the film makers' idea of space travel and problem solving had them in stitches even as the body count mounted.

The monstrosity in Sickbay, though, is anything but funny, and neither is the idea that it would take another kind of monster to cure her.

He argues to the point of insubordination, he pleads, he begs. When he gets the answer he wants, his exhaustion takes over and he almost cries with relief.

She'll hate him, but she will live.


Ten - Thirty Days

He sits in the brig, the PADD containing the letter to his father in his hand as Tuvok disengages the force field.

The knowledge that he has disappointed his Captain still leaves a bitter, metallic taste in his mouth. Through the nightmares, the claustrophobia, the leola root and the boredom, he has thought long and hard about the kind of officer he could be – and, as he has discovered to his surprise, really wants to be. But he also knows, as surely as he knows anything, that he has found his conscience.

Thirty days and a pip – he's paid far more than this, for knowledge of far less value.


Eleven – Drive

The first thing the Captain asks when they burst into her ready room is "What the hell happened?"

She doesn't mean the explosion – he knows that. She means the sudden dead stop in space, which she knows couldn't have had anything to do with the danger they were in. She's like him, she doesn't like to lose.

But the answer is too complicated, and he really doesn't think she's entitled to know just what went on in that shuttle. And so, his hand in B'Elanna's, he throws out what he knows is the perfect diversion.

"We need to get married. Now."