Title: Problems Settling In 3: Retroversion or Fall From Grace

Author: Susan Maddy

Series: Problems Settling In 3. You need to read them in order to fully understand the stories, but each section is fairly well wrapped up. This is likely to be the last in this series for a while. It's not finished yet, but other projects have taken precedence.

Rating: PG

Codes: JC, PJ

Summary: Tom relapses in all areas of his life. Set after Prime Factors, mid first season

Disclaimer: I'd like to thank all those creative people at Paramount for letting me use their wonderful characters from Star Trek: Voyager. The only profit I get out of it is the intense enjoyment I get from entwining my life with theirs. The characters and universe fully belong to Paramount. The story is mine.

Warning:

Thanks: To Jan Monroe for archiving my story and my kids for listening.

Constructive comments welcome. Remember a human being lives under my skin. smaddy@computelnet.com

Retroversion or Fall From Grace

Note: If you can't figure out why it's titled with two titles email me with comments and I'll tell you. J

Prelude

Personnel Log of Harry Kim Stardate:48649.4

It's catch up time for this. I've never been able to consistently keep my log current so I'm doomed to play catch up. My last entry was right before we met the Vidiians and Neelix lost a lung. They are a tragic people. They have to steal the organs of other species in order to live.

For a while we thought we had a way home. That didn't work out either. We found a wormhole that went into Romulan space. We even beamed the Commander of the vessel to our ship. Tuvok found out that it went into the past so we couldn't use it. Everyone was in the dumps for a month.

Paris was convicted of murder. He didn't really do it, but they punished him by making him relive the act every 14 hours. Tom said that was the most horrible punishment he had ever received. Thank Tuvok for the investigative work that exonerated him!

I died. Yes! That's what happened to me. I still can't talk about it.

We are still suffering from our last adventure. We were intercepted by these very pleasant seeming people, the Sikarans. All they cared about was their own pleasure and wouldn't help us unless they received something from it. They had the ability to fold space, but they wouldn't share because of a law like the 'Prime Directive' they had. The Captain decided she couldn't deal under the table with the Sikarans. Several of the engineering crew had talks with some of the Sikarans who weren't quite as morally erect as the leader. B'Elanna was the highest ranking officer from engineering. At the last minute Tuvok came in and closed the deal with the underground Sikarans. It turned out that our energy systems weren't compatible and the ship was almost blown up. That was nothing compared to what must have gone on between Lieutenant Tuvok and Captain Janeway. Tuvok emerged from the Captain's ready room looking more Vulcan than I've ever seen him look before. Captain Janeway didn't leave her ready room for over an hour and hardly said two words for the rest of the shift. She simply sat in her chair and brooded. She still hasn't snapped out of it. I think her mood is bothering Tom.

1***************1

The time is 0700. Your wakeup call was set for 0700. This is the computer wakeup call you ordered. The time is 0700. "I'm up computer." I'll never get used to being wakened by a computer. The thing is relentless. Ugh, I didn't even have anything to drink last night and I feel like I have a hangover. There is no justice. I checked myself last time I was in sickbay. I'm not sick. It's not a holdover from that horrible implant they put in my brain when I was framed for murder. So why do I feel so lousy? I'll just rest for a minute. . .

Bang. Bang. Bang. "Hey Tom, if you're not up, you better get that way."

"Harry? Oh no. Come in. What time is it?" Tom asked as he ran into the bathroom.

"O750 I've got to go, Tom. If they ask, I'll tell them you're coming."

"Yea, right." This is the second time this week I've been late. Nobody said anything the first time.

When Tom walked onto the bridge, he decided to play it cool. Chakotay was in a huddle with one of the engineering staff and the Captain wasn't on the bridge. He relieved Mabouto, apologized to her quietly for being late, and began his day. He was off all morning. Chakotay even had to repeat an order he missed. Not to mention reminding him about the weekly report he forgot to file yesterday. Paris began to get irritated, first at himself, then at all he little bits of administrative trivia he had to put up with. Sickbay. He had to endure the Doctor this afternoon. Chakotay was beside him.

"Mr. Paris." He spoke quietly. That usually boded ill.

"Yes. . .sir."

"You were late this morning for the second time this week. Did something unusual happen?"

"No sir. Poor planning." There was no sense to lying about it.

"I'm sorry to hear that. You'll miss 20 minutes of lunch."

"Sir." That was standard. Paris had even seen Chakotay dock himself 20 minutes. It didn't help him feel much better. Lunch was that horrible leola root. He also managed to snap Harry's head off while he was there and Jenny Delaney's, too.

Sickbay couldn't have been worse. Tom couldn't concentrate on the reading the Doctor wanted him to do. Even when he tried to read and digest only a paragraph at a time, he couldn't do it. The Doc first reprimanded Tom. Then he checked him out physically. He found no problems. The Doc saw no other choice but to report what he saw as Paris' lack of cooperation to Commander Chakotay. The shift ground to a close. Paris drifted reluctantly to his quarters. His quarters. Now he was all by himself. He and Kim had been split up about two weeks ago. It seemed to Tom that was when his problems started. He was lonely. Everything seemed to be dreary and colorless. Tom entered his quarters and flopped down on his couch. Suddenly, he was angry and he started to pace. He couldn't believe he was here and he wanted to be anywhere but here. He quickly deflated and curled up in the fetal position on his couch. He missed Carly. She would know what to do. She always did. He mused about what she really was. He vividly remembered the 'dream' where she told him she had been with him since he was eight. All except the time when he had made that devastating mistake of lying about the accident at Caldik Prime. He hadn't done anything really wrong now! Why was everything going so badly for him?

2****************2

After his shift, Larry Ramsey waited in his quarters for Commander Chakotay and his weekly progress evaluation. He didn't have too many more weeks to go until his sentence would be completed. Ramsey thought he probably would leave his quarters and never return. It turned out he didn't mind working in computers, either. He was really good at what he had done so far. The people were OK, too. He didn't have to put up with a lot of command structure. In computers, people worked together and didn't pay too much attention to rank. There wasn't a lot of 'yes sir' and 'yes ma'am'.

Staying in these quarters when off duty. That was tough, especially when my friends came back with such glowing reports about what they were doing with their off time. He was really out of the loop with that! He was confident he would be off restriction soon. Without that meddler Paris' help either!

His door chime rang and he got up to answer it. At least I'm given the respect of being able to answer the door. In the brig everything I did was visible.

"Please come in, Commander. I've been looking forward to our meeting."

"Oh."

That was a strange response. He acts like I shouldn't be looking forward to our meeting. "Yes, sir, one more week down. Fourteen days from now and I'll have finished my sentence."

Chakotay looked at Ramsey for a moment without saying anything. "Let's, talk about what happened in Computers today."

"I don't know what you're talking about!"

"Mr. Ramsey, I shouldn't need to remind you I speak to Lieutenant Anderson everyday."

"Oh, I can't believe he'd report me for something like that."

"I'm going to give you one more chance to tell me what happened."

"I was only having some fun." Ramsey pouted. "I tapped into Ensign Miller's station and sent her a message."

"The content of the message."

"I didn't mean anything. . ." Chakotay's hand snaked out and grabbed Ramsey's arm with an iron grip. "It might have been a little suggestive. I was playing around."

"Ensign Miller did not think it was funny. I don't either. Harassment is not funny. Since this is the first time something like this has happened, I will give you a choice. You may accept the punishment I assign to you for this offence or you can be court-martialed."

"Court-martialed! For the note I sent to Ensign Miller! You've got to be kidding!"

The look on Commander Chakotay's face indicated he was not. "What will it be, Mr. Ramsey."

For the first time in the interview Ramsey looked subdued. "I'll take your punishment."

"Very well, You are assigned one additional month of restriction to quarters. In addition, you will have extra duties assigned to you for the hours of 1800 to 2200 hours to be performed in your quarters every other day. During this time you will not be permitted to have visitors. These duties may be anything that needs to be done that can be completed in your quarters and will be delivered to your quarters during your regular duty shift. Anything not finished will be held over to the next day. Sometimes the work will be given a priority, sometimes you will be able to choose when to do it. I will expect you to give Ensign Miller a personal and written apology tomorrow at the beginning of your duty shift. Any questions?

"No, sir."

"Next let's review the computer records from this week. You logged onto your station 3 minutes late once. You were late back to your quarters 3 times, the first time 10 minutes, the next time 6 minutes, and the final time 14 minutes. Lieutenant Anderson reported you were late back once from lunch 5 minutes. None of these occurrences did you report having any problems or report them to me. You'll recall that you had one incident of lateness last week. Review for me what we said."

I don't believe this! Chakotay is going to make a major incident about this. "If I ran into problems that would cause me to be late, I was to call either Lieutenant Anderson or you. I just forgot. No big deal!" The irritation was obvious in Ramsey's voice.

"The consequences for not doing so." Chakotay prompted.

"Commander! I told you, I forgot, can't you cut me a little slack?"

"Do you need me to remind you what the consequences are for not following the procedure?" Chakotay's voice had developed a flinty edge.

"Yea, why don't you do that!" Ramsey added disrespect to the irritation.

"One day is added to your restriction to quarters for every unexcused lateness. Is it possible that they would have been unexcused anyway, Mr. Ramsey?"

"Well, gee I wouldn't know." He sneered back.

"You have 6 additional days added to your sentence. This week every day late will be two days. I find it interesting that for the first 9 weeks of your sentence you were not late once. Now we have lateness. Your sentence is in your hands Ramsey. Tell me, Mr. Ramsey, how many days will be added if you are late this week."

"I heard you, two."

Commander Chakotay had a couple of lesser matters to discuss with Ramsey, and the tone of the interview didn't improve. It appears Paris was right about the attitude problem. It seems to have hit with full force. I don't think Paris could do Ramsey any good now though.

3****************3

He awoke completely disoriented and called for lights. He was in his quarters. Oh, now he remembered. "Computer, What time is it."

"The time is 2333." Tom groaned. He'd never get to sleep again, and he'd be exhausted from being awake when he should have been asleep in the early morning. He hated this time of night. What could he do? He finally decided to try to read the information the Doc wanted him to learn. He called it up on his computer and began to read. The next thing he knew it was 20 minutes later and he hadn't read anything and he couldn't even remember what he had thought about. He exited his quarters and started roaming the halls aimlessly. He found himself in engineering. B'Elanna was there.

"Hi, B'Elanna."

"Oh! Tom, what are you doing here? You startled me."

"I couldn't sleep. I wandered here. I don't know why I'm here." Tom became flustered and backed away. Too quickly to hear B'Elanna's next words.

"Well, since you're here, why don't you lend a hand." When she didn't get an answer she pulled her head out of the wall unit and looked around. "Tom? I know I heard him. He's been down lately. I'll have to check on him tomorrow."

He walked the ship's corridors for most of the night. About 0530 he found himself in front of his quarters and entered. He flopped on the couch his only company the dark thoughts that had accompanied him all night. He had reevaluated who Tom Paris was. He could never succeed here on Voyager. He was deluding himself. His father knew all along. He'd never measure up. Sooner or later he'd fail. He always did. That was the one constant in his life. Failure. He was a loser.

"Tom. TOM!"

"What, what now! Come in. Harry, what is it?"

"Tom, what is wrong with you. I came a little early in hopes that I could get you to the bridge on time. I don't know what Chakotay would do if you were late three times in a week. Come on. You need to go."

"OK, OK. I'm coming." Thanks to Harry, Tom was on time to his shift. It couldn't be said he was ready for it though.

Captain Janeway was on the bridge today and was beginning to put the situation with the Sikarans into perspective. The pain still troubled her and she felt it anew every time she saw Tuvok. She hadn't thought she could feel a betrayal so keenly. Even though Tuvok was Vulcan, Janeway knew he understood how she felt. He had yet to meet her eyes since their discussion of the incident.

She surveyed the bridge. All else seemed satisfactory. Except. Her eyes remained on Tom Paris. He was a mess. His uniform looked like it had been slept in, his hair uncombed, it looked like he wasn't even monitoring his station. "Mr. Paris!"

"Captain." He answered her quickly enough.

"Are you attending to your station?"

"Of course!" Uh oh, what was I doing? I can't even remember what the course is. It's easy enough to find out.

Janeway watched the flurry of activity Paris engaged in and determined for herself he hadn't been attending to his station. Maybe it was time a certain Lieutenant was taken down a peg or two. Chakotay had informed her about the other infractions Paris had committed. She expected better of him. Much better.

The morning was quiet and uneventful and the bridge ran smoothly. About 1100 Janeway's attention was again drawn to Tom Paris. He was sleeping! That was it! Janeway marched up to Paris and saying his name, shook him roughly by the shoulder. Paris started, flinging his arms and narrowly missing her. "Leave me alone!" He said reacting more to a dream he had been having than to Janeway.

"I will not leave you alone! Get to my ready room, mister!" She motioned for one of the ensigns on Ops to take the helm and reseated herself in her chair. In a little corner of her brain, she knew she wasn't handling this correctly, the rest of her brain didn't care. After she thought she had waited long enough to regain her equilibrium, she entered her ready room.

It appeared Lieutenant Paris had reported to her ready room and remained at attention as per regulations. At least he had that in his favor.

"Mr. Paris, you were asleep on the bridge. Do you have an explanation?"

Paris stood there. He couldn't trust his voice.

"Mr. Paris." Captain Janeway's voice held a warning as deadly as a rattlesnake's rattle.

"Ma'am."

"Answer my question!"

"No ma'am." He stopped and realized what his answer sounded like and continued. "I don't have an explanation for why I was asleep."

"Sleeping on duty can be a court-martial offence. It is neglect of the most serious form and places the ship in jeopardy. You could be responsible for the deaths of 150 people instead of three." Paris winced, never, he would never live that down. "This isn't your only infraction lately. I believe it is the most serious."

"You have been tardy repeatedly and when you do come on time it's not with a professional promptness. You are barely making it on time. This shows disrespect for your other shipmates. Utter disrespect for their time and the work they do. This behavior is completely unacceptable, doubly so from the head of the section."

"Your uniform is a mess. It looks like you slept in it. What is the problem? You are letting all the gains you have made in the past several months slide away. What is your excuse? What excuse could you possibly have?"

Paris was still standing at attention his eyes to the front. His seemingly ever present flush was creeping up his neck. He couldn't seem to formulate an answer.

"The disrespect you are showing by not answering me galls me more than all the rest of it together. You have been given every chance, every opportunity and this is what is returned." Captain Janeway's voice carried heavy scorn. Paris was reminded of his father and the dressing downs he had suffered from him. Paris sank even further. His posture even drooped though he still stood at attention. Was he ever doomed to fail?

Janeway continued, the hurt she was feeling from Tuvok's betrayal transferred to Paris. "You have been given a position of responsibility. With that responsibility comes trust, your behavior in the past weeks has betrayed that trust. My trust in you. This betrayal has hurt me, and your shipmates, Lieutenant. It has hurt more than you will ever know." Janeway had moved in front of him and as she said the last sentence his eyes flicked to hers. She saw a wildness, a reckless turbulence that frightened her on a level she couldn't quite touch. She didn't heed the warning. She was too caught up in herself and the pain she was still feeling about Tuvok.

She walked away from Paris all the way to her view ports and stood looking out. He was standing by her desk. "I'm disgusted by your lack of gratitude and respect. I'm sorry I ever brought you on board Voyager. If you don't shape up you'll find yourself busted down to crewman. Don't expect any more special treatment from me. For the multitude of infractions of the last two weeks, your replicator rations for this month are cut in half. I expect to see an improvement." Janeway turned to deliver her last sentence to see Paris struggling for control.

"Permission to leave," he ground out between clenched teeth.

"Get out." She snapped.

Janeway stood for long moments gazing at the stars. They were her home and she found comfort in them. Gazing at them calmed her and she found she was thinking about the Sikarans incident clearly for the first time. In so doing she blocked out of her mind the actions she had taken against Paris. The situation was far from simple. We aren't in Kansas (or the Alpha Quadrant) anymore. The same rules may not apply. Perhaps my first priority needs to be to get us home, not whether something is honest or follows regulations. That thought didn't sit well. It fought against every level of training she had ever had. It challenged her gut. Regulations can be disregarded. Flaunted even, but honesty? Truth was an absolute, was it not? Could expediency take the place of honor and uprightness? No, Kathryn, she said to herself. It can't be a general rule. The question was, this time. What was the right choice this time? Tuvok and at least three people in engineering thought dealing with the underground was the correct choice. I stayed with the official Starfleet line. Tuvok. Tuvok chose to go behind my back and acquire the space folding technology. What would I do if it worked and we were home? Court-martial him? He would be a hero! Have I become such an autocrat that I can't entertain an opposing viewpoint? So controlling I must have my finger in everything? This situation put Voyager on the 'wrong' side of the Prime Directive. . .I definitely understand better the frustration the races we have refused to give technology feel. Did our need make it right to deal with the underground? Did it make Tuvok right to disobey my orders? Kathryn stood for a long time contemplating the questions. Finally, she sighed and turned away from the stars. She had not really come to any answers. Each situation would need to be analyzed on its own merits. She knew she had to do one thing. She needed to talk to Tuvok.

"Mr. Tuvok, would you come into my ready room, please." Janeway went to her sitting area. When Tuvok entered, she motioned for him to come up and sit down. He was still being more Vulcan than Vulcan. She looked at him and could see signs of tension. This week had exacted a price. She attempted to choose the best way to say what she wanted to say and gave up. "Tuvok, I didn't take into account all of the facts in the Sikarans matter. I've been able to evaluate the different choices you had to choose between. The answer wasn't clear cut or easy. I may have taken the coward's way out. Please accept my apology and stop being so 'Vulcan.'

"Captain, though I am not sure an apology is warranted, I did directly disobey your orders. I cannot be any less Vulcan."

Janeway saw for the first time in over a week that slight shift of expression that told her all was well where Tuvok was concerned. She felt as if a burden had been lifted from her shoulders and smiled. "Let's get back to the bridge."

Janeway stood by her chair and surveyed the bridge. Paris had a relief. Where was he? Oh yes, he, Kim and Torres were continuing to work on developing the collapsible stasis chambers. The work had slowed significantly since they were now developing new technology. They had made some significant progress, but it was far from certain whether they would succeed. Something else was nagging at her. She wasn't sure what it was yet. It would come to her. She was so relieved she had settled the situation with Tuvok.

4****************4

"Harry, can't you see reason." Paris was on an idea and wouldn't let go. "The only way it's going to work is if we modify the stasis field to a lower frequency."

"Tom, B'Elanna and I don't think it's going to work that way. Remember the trial before last. The field wouldn't sustain itself when we lowered the frequency."

"Look."

"No, Tom, you look." B'Elanna interrupted sharply. "We are going to try it our way. Calm down and accept it!"

"Fine!" Tom walked to the far side of the holodeck and tried to regain his poise. He took some deep breaths letting them out slowly, a relaxation exercise he had learned once. Chakotay hadn't been on the bridge. He was able to get control of himself unobserved from his interview with Janeway. He knew his control was tentative and if something caught him by surprise, he was done for.

"Chakotay to Paris."

"Paris."

"Come to my office immediately, please."

Great! "On my way." As he passed Harry and B'Elanna he asked, "You heard?" They nodded.

After Tom left the holodeck, Harry said, "I've been concerned about Tom. He's been moody and disagreeable lately. I've been coming past his quarters every morning and more often than not he's still in bed. Janeway really reamed him out this morning, too. I wasn't sure he was going to stay on the bridge when he came out of her ready room. He hesitated and looked toward the turbo lift doors. Then he looked at me and I shook my head. When he sat down at his station, he clutched the edge of his console like he was going to rip it out of the floor."

"He came down to engineering last night, but disappeared right when I was going to put him to work. Let's get back to work. I have a feeling he's not coming back."

5****************5

"Paris reporting as ordered."

"At ease, Lieutenant, sit down." Chakotay came around his desk and sat on the edge. "I'd like to tell you what I've seen the past two weeks. I've seen your appearance, grooming, job performance, basically every part of Tom Paris deteriorate. Is there something bothering you?"

"It's not your problem! Leave me alone." Tom's voice already had a ragged edge to it.

"Paris, it is my problem if it effects the ship and as Chief Helmsman your position is vital." Chakotay was calm and reasonable. Tom was anything but.

"I've come to find out that Ensign Kim is dropping by your quarters to make sure you are awake. Are you sleeping poorly? Have you talked to the doctor about it?"

"Please, let me alone." He was unconsciously clenching his fists. His voice had a ragged quality to it. "May I go? I was working with Kim and Torres."

"No, Tom, I'm not finished yet."

Tom closed his eyes. He was trying to keep control.

Chakotay observed Tom's tenuous emotional state and knew he needed to be on his guard. He laid the papers he was holding down. "Tom, I want to help."

Tom jumped out of his chair. "NO, YOU DON'T. YOU DON'T CARE. NO ONE DOES." Tom swung wildly at Chakotay and Chakotay grabbed Tom's arm and pinned it behind him.

"Tom, I'm going to do you one favor. I'm going to pretend you didn't do that. Do you hear me?" Tom nodded leaning back against Chakotay in an effort to ease the pressure on his arm. "Now, can you go back to your quarters by yourself or do I have to call security."

"I can go by myself."

Consider yourself restricted to quarters until you can discuss your frame of mind with me rationally." Chakotay let him go, but before Tom left he had one more piece of advice. "Tom, read Carly's Journal."

Chakotay shook his head after Tom left. Tom seemed determined to dig a hole for himself he wouldn't be able to get out. Carly's Journal. . . I wonder where that piece of advice came from!

****************

Tom didn't know how he made it to his quarters. He was so shattered and discouraged. He didn't care if he was restricted to quarters. He didn't care about anything. He wanted to sleep. And sleep he did. A deep sound sleep. The first one in several weeks. Carly came to insure that.

Sometimes even Carly maked mistakes. Tom had been doing so well for so long she had forgotten how new he was at what he was doing. She had watched his attitude and demeanor degenerate; however, she forgot this was the first time he had had a slump since he had been on Voyager. By the time she saw her mistake. She couldn't influence him. Immediately, she went to her mentor and begged him to intervene. Her mentor smiled inwardly, Carly hadn't been concerned with the consequences she might incur for her negligence. Her only concern was for Tom. He taught her what to do for Tom and asked her to return to him. Carly knew why.

Tom awoke about 2030 hours with a clear head. The journal, he wanted to read Carly's Journal. He fetched it from its place above his desk.

'Dear Tom, I hope you can forgive me. Most of the pain you are suffering is my fault. Not yours. I made a mistake. I'm sorry.' Tom had read this part of the Journal before. It hadn't said the same thing. He shrugged and read on. 'I'm so happy you did as Chakotay directed and read this. Everything will work out. Be sure to thank him for showing you mercy instead of reporting you for swinging at him. He chose to do that. I had nothing to do with it.' Tom stopped reading. Now that he thought about it, he couldn't quite believe Chakotay had actually done that. 'Tom every so often, simply because you are you, your mood will slump. If you think back over your life, you will remember this has happened throughout your life.' She's right, I can think of several times it has happened. 'You also have times that you have more energy and drive than average. Those times are not problems for you.'

'Each slump will normalize, but you must be careful to fight them the best way you can or something similar to what happened this time may occur. First, and this is most important, keep interacting with people. Your first impulse will be to withdraw. Fight it. Even if all you can do is sit in a room and watch people. Next, make sure you keep up with your personal grooming and hygiene. After that, fulfil your duties. Lastly, seek out help if you become overwhelmed. Your friends will have noticed you are having problems and will want to help; however, they may not know how.'

'Captain Janeway has been unavailable to you during this crisis because of problems she has been having of her own. She is beginning to realize she has injured you. When she comes to you to apologize, expect it to strain you, but both of you will benefit.

You are culpable for the times your words hurt others. Where they have, make it right. This slump will take some time to resolve. Remember, it will resolve. Accept help.' Tom sat for a long time pondering Carly's words.

****************

Immediately after Carly saw to it that Tom was reading the Journal she returned to her mentor and waited his recognition. She had made a serious mistake and serious mistakes held serious consequences. She had been over confident. She had caused her charge pain, without purpose and without benefit. She was deeply regretful. She saw no way to make it up to Tom. Her mentor's eyes were upon her. They were depthless and full of sadness.

"Carly, come here." She moved to her mentor and they communicated as only their species can.

Carly was stunned and shaken when she left the presence of her mentor. Her consequence was to feel the same pain Tom felt. She was to go to the beginning of his 'slump' and experience day by day all of his emotions. She quailed at the prospect. Even when she had taken on human form, she had not had to experience the negative emotions. There was only one way out. She would not have to finish her penalty if she chose to give up helping Tom. She would no longer be permitted to help Tom or any other person again. Tom would be taken from her care. He would forever be without the type of help Carly provided. She was determined to endure.

Gradually, he realized he was sleepy and prepared for bed and went to sleep. He awoke naturally at his regular time and for the first time in what seemed like years he felt OK. He began to prepare for his shift and remembered that the first officer had restricted him to quarters. He couldn't remember whether he was to perform his regular duties. He would have to ask.

"Chakotay."

"Sir, do you want me on shift today?"

"That depends mostly on you, Mr. Paris. I still want to talk to you. Are you ready to do that?"

"Yes sir, I think I am."

"Good, we'll talk after the shift change settles. Chakotay out."

Tom finished preparing for the day and thought about going to get Kim, but decided instead to wait here and surprise him. Kim started right in ringing the chime and calling and almost jumped out of his skin when Tom answered he door fully dressed, and fairly chipper.

"You're awake!" Kim said unnecessarily.

"Yea, I finally got a decent nights sleep." Tom hesitated. "That and some good advice. Harry you're always a good friend to me. I know I've been, and probably will continue to be, difficult for a while. Thanks, thanks a lot for staying with me."

"OK, you're welcome. That's what friends are for."

Tom's emotional control was shaky and he felt tears behind his eyes. He was so grateful for Kim's friendship. He clapped Kim on the back and changed the subject. "How went the holodeck session after I left?"

"We know a couple more things that won't work. No break throughs. The second trial we did try your idea of the lowered frequency. We thought you would be back and wanted to surprise you. We finally called Chakotay and he said not to expect you for the rest of the day." Kim looked expectantly at Tom.

Tom looked over at Kim his face a mixture of embarrassment, and reluctance. He said in a low voice, "I'm restricted to quarters at least until I talk to Chakotay again."

"What happened, Tom?" Concern was evident in Kim's voice.

"I really can't say. Ask me some other time." Tom was silent the rest of the way to the bridge.

Paris and Kim were early to their shifts and the duty officer from gamma shift acknowledged them. Tom was frankly happy he didn't have to face Captain Janeway or the first officer yet. He knew he was just putting off the inevitable. He was nervous and his hands were sweating. They tended to slip on the smooth surface of his board. Just what he needed. The turbolift doors swished open, without turning completely around, Paris couldn't see who entered. That was a drawback to his position on the bridge. Alpha shift was coming in and gamma leaving. Anyone could be on the bridge. He had to calm down. He could drive himself loony if he didn't stop doing this. What did he think the Captain was going to do, come in and flog him on the bridge? That helped, he was getting some sense of humor back. The bridge had settled into the routine and Commander Chakotay summoned him to his office.

"Mr. Paris, one positive I can see already. You look much better. Please have a seat." Chakotay again sat on the corner of his desk.

"Yes sir, I slept well for the first time in several weeks. I also woke up on time."

"Tell me what's been going on. I'd like to help if I can."

"It's a long story, sir. I'll make it as concise as possible. Carly Shoemaker wasn't what she appeared to be."

"The Captain and I discussed this. She filled me in on the doctor's autopsy."

"Good, that helps. She has a special interest in me and has been with me since I was eight. She left me during the time I covered up the events of Caldik Prime. She was instrumental in influencing the Captain to bring me onto Voyager. Carly says that Janeway and I are linked somehow. Captain Janeway is helping me improve and sometime, I will save her life. Carly is still helping me. I read part of the journal last night. It said she had made a mistake and let me alone too long before intervening and was sorry. She said mood shifts, like the one I'm in, will happen to me all my life. I must deal with them in a certain way or they will get out of hand." Paris paused and looked at his hands. "Commander, I owe you an apology for my behavior yesterday. I'm truly grateful you didn't report me for swinging at you." He looked back up at Chakotay and was surprised to see what looked like a fond smile on his face.

"Accepted, Mr. Paris. Now what can I do to help you get through this 'slump.'"

"Carly said the most important element is staying in contact with people. That is what I want to do least. I also need to keep up with normal hygiene, perform my duties, and seek help if I can't overcome it myself. I don't know what you can do. I think I can deal with it now. I don't know if I can recognize it next time. From my past experience, they sometimes happen close together and sometimes there is a long period between these slumps. They usually aren't this bad."

"Very well. You're dismissed."

"Commander."

"Yes" He looked up from what he was doing.

"How long am I restricted to quarters?"

He smiled that unique 'Chakotay' smile. "That wouldn't help you socialize with people would it."

"No sir, I guess it wouldn't."

"The restriction is lifted. I think I forgot to tell the Captain. I don't think I wrote it down either."

"Thanks again, sir."

Tom went back to the bridge and as the turbo lift doors opened the first thing he saw was Captain Janeway. His heart constricted within him and he carefully avoided meeting her eyes. Her words were still burning like a hot brand in his soul.

Janeway noted the manner in which Paris entered the bridge, but did not connect it with anything she said. She still had something nagging at her. She still couldn't put her finger on what it could be. The good feelings she had from resolving the situation with Tuvok were still too fresh. Paris seemed efficient enough. The morning worked its way peacefully to lunch. The bridge seemed a little too quiet, but everyone was working efficiently. How could she complain about a quiet bridge?

When Tom Paris left for his lunch break, Janeway tried to catch his eye and while he gave an impersonal nod in her direction, he did not meet her eyes. Something was definitely wrong. Paris usually actively sought her recognition. She pondered the question the entire time he was gone.

7****************7

Tom picked up his rations and looked around the mess hall. B'Elanna was over in the corner sitting alone. Maybe this would be a good time to apologize. "Hello, B'Elanna, may I sit down?"

She looked up at him appraisingly, "I guess so. You look a lot better today."

"It really must be noticeable. Everyone says that."

"It is."

"Um. B'Elanna, I've been disagreeable lately."

"I'll say!"

"What I'm trying to say is. . ."

"Go on!" She interrupted.

"You aren't making this any easier." He glared at her. Tom could feel his control slipping again and tears creeping into his eyes. He held her gaze as long as he could wanting to see a hint of mercy. He started to get up defeated.

She grabbed his arm and said, "Please stay. I'm sorry, that was cruel. I've had a really rotten day in engineering. The Starfleet crew members have all taken it into their heads to be obtuse. What did you want to say?"

Tom sat back down and collected himself. "I want to apologize for being such a jerk lately. You've done a lot for me and. . ."He was shaking with the effort to control himself. He started to get up again set to flee. B'Elanna covered his hand with hers.

"Would you like to go to my quarters? We'd have more privacy there." Tom started to shake his head 'no' but remembered Carly's guidelines and nodded, 'yes.'

Tom followed B'Elanna into her quarters sat down on her couch and hid his face in his hands.

B'Elanna sat down beside him. "Can you tell me what has you so upset?"

It's nothing specific. My emotions are barely under control. I read part of Carly's Journal last night. I go through ups and downs because I'm me. She said I have always done it and will always do it. This time Carly said that she made a mistake and should have intervened sooner. B'Elanna. . .B'Elanna. . ."

"What is it, Tom?"

"Will you, . . . will you hold me?" He visibly stiffened as if preparing to be rejected.

"Come here, Tom." She reached around his shoulders and pulled him over to her and felt him relax over the next quarter hour as they sat there.

Eventually, he sat up and smiled self-consciously at her. "Thanks, I needed that." He said it as a joke. He was well aware it was true.

"Computer, time." Tom requested.

"The time is 1142 hours."

"I need to go soon." He hesitated. "B'Elanna." She met his eyes and couldn't look away. "I wonder. . . you could come to Sandrine's someday. I could delete the gigolo." Oh, I want to kiss her! He thought. Abruptly, Tom looked away and the spell was broken. "Thanks again. I better get up to the bridge." He backed out and left looking as off balance as he had looked when he came in, but with a different emotion.

B'Elanna searched her feelings. Something significant had passed between them. Tom attracted to her? No, surely not. Tom goes for girls like the Delaney sisters. I couldn't look away. I didn't want to look away. I don't like men like Tom Paris. Now Chakotay. That's the type of man I like. What was I thinking about?!

***

On his way to the bridge, Tom mulled over what had happened between him and B'Elanna. I already knew I was attracted to her. I think she is attracted to me. I'll bet she won't admit it to herself. I'll be happy to be her friend. Maybe something will happen and she won't be able to deny her feelings someday. He was in pretty good shape by the time he reached the bridge. Then, he saw the Captain and adrenaline shot through his system again. He carefully avoided looking at her on his way to his post. He was nonetheless aware that she watched him every step of the way.

Janeway considered Paris carefully. He has never acted like this toward me before. I remember! I dressed him down yesterday before I reconciled myself to the Sikarans situation. I don't even remember what I said. Maybe there's a computer record. "Commander, you have the bridge, I'll be in my ready room."

The computer did have a record and as painful as it was, she forced herself to watch it twice. First, she listened to her words, next she watched Paris. She was ashamed and embarrassed and pondered how she could salvage the situation. She couldn't remember when she had ever been as unfeeling and harsh to any one of her officers. Couldn't she have seen how exposed and vulnerable he had been as he stood there. If one of her officers had treated a subordinate like that and she had found out about it, she would be furious! Serious consequences would be incurred by that officer. She thought a moment. She was furious with herself. Any serious consequences needed to be hers and not Lieutenant Paris.' She realized her judgment may not be clear on this matter. Who could she trust? There were only two possibilities, Chakotay and Tuvok. Tuvok had the advantage of being a long time friend and would be unfailingly logical. On the other hand Chakotay would not mince words and knew Paris well. He has also been a Captain and would understand a Captain is human. She decided on Chakotay. "Commander Chakotay, could you come in the ready room, please?"

"Yes Captain." Janeway was standing at the viewport looking at the stars. She turned when he spoke. He had never seen her look so grim. "What's wrong, Captain?"

She didn't speak immediately. "Have a seat if you wish." He didn't. "We have a situation on the ship where a senior officer has verbally brutalized a subordinate. They are both Starfleet. I may be too close to the situation to be objective. I will take care of the discipline aspect. I need your assistance in repairing the damage to the subordinate. This is a gifted officer; however, he is fragile emotionally and lacks confidence." She stopped talking but gave no indication she expected an answer.

Chakotay continued to assess his Captain. She is more than angry about this. She's ashamed. She's talking about herself! Paris. Yesterday when he came to me he was already on the very edge of frenzy. It was amazing he held together as well as he did. Janeway had turned back to the viewport. Chakotay walked up behind her and placed his left hand on her right shoulder. "Kathryn, what happened with Paris?"

Janeway turned sharply toward him and searched his face, her own face full of questions, scant inches separating them. Her eyes rested upon his and she saw the deep wisdom and compassion Chakotay posses. She had to look away, but not before Chakotay saw the tears that came unbidden, a response to his acceptance. Impulsively, he embraced her. She stiffened momentarily and then acceded to the embrace by relaxing into his arms. Chakotay had never been able to deal with tears, much less his captain's tears, so, he stood there holding her until she made a move to leave. He gave her the time and space she needed to regain her composer by moving to her sitting area and facing away from her.

"You are quite a gentleman, Commander."

"And you are quite a captain."

Janeway's face darkened as her mind recalled the purpose of the meeting. "No, not today."

"I can't believe. . ."

"Perhaps you should see it." She went to her computer monitor and called it up. "It isn't pretty."

Janeway had retreated to her viewport while the record was running. After it ended Chakotay turned off the monitor and sat contemplating what he had seen.

Janeway turned around. "See."

"You hit him pretty hard. You're timing couldn't have been worse. He's having a tough time even coping with life now. You may have fallen off that pedestal he had you on. I think you will survive, he will survive, and your relationship will survive. He needs the intimate, mentoring relationship you have with him, Kathryn. He needs mothered. Apologize to him as an equal, not as the captain. Didn't your parents ever do something that hurt you and later apologize, really apologize. Mine did and I think that taught me more about what being an adult meant than any other one action they took. In the long run it will help Tom to know you aren't perfect. To have experienced it personally will drive the lesson home."

Janeway listened to all Chakotay said while she stood near the viewport. As he finished she came down and sat opposite him. "I'm afraid." Today was a day to admit vulnerabilities.

"What of?"

She sat and thought, it took a while to ferret it out. "I'm afraid he won't forgive me."

Chakotay pondered the answers he could give her. Some would make it easier to do, some harder. He opted for a fairly neutral one. "Yes, that is a possibility." He continued. "You need to apologize today."

Janeway was up to the viewport again, physically rejecting the idea. Her courage and honesty reasserted themselves. She turned, "Yes, you're right, as soon as possible." She came back down and went to Chakotay. He received her standing. She reached out to him and touched his elbow. "Thank you for being my conscience and my support. I needed both today."

"Anytime, Kathryn." He smiled. "Let me know how it goes. Before 2300 tonight." He walked out of the ready room.

Captain Janeway spent a few minutes gathering her thoughts and planning what she would do. She left her ready room and paused beside her chair. Chakotay smiled at her encouragingly and nodded. Janeway walked over to Paris and gently laid her hand on his shoulder. He jumped out of his skin. She took it off. He took a quick look at her and riveted his eyes on his board. She leaned close to him and he actually leaned away. This was going to be difficult! "Mr. Paris, I'd like to speak to you. You are not in trouble. I am." When she said that, he looked straight at her for the first time. "I'd like you to come with me." The way she said it he realized he had a choice. He thought, then nodded and rose assigning an Ops ensign to the helm with his eyes. As he followed Captain Janeway, he looked over at Chakotay and was surprised by his smile and nod. What could this be about?

They walked in silence off the bridge and into the turbolift. The Captain made one feeble attempt at conversation.

Tom looked at her intently. She was uneasy. He might even say apprehensive. "Captain forgive me for being forward. Is anything wrong?" She looked at him sharply. Then Tom remembered the comment she made to him on the bridge. She was in trouble. "What kind of trouble are you in, I'll help you."

Janeway looked at Tom like he had sprouted feathers. "Let's wait to talk. It won't be long." She had noticed holodeck two was free for two hours. Sometimes things work out. She decided to take Tom to the Rocky Mountains near Estes Park. One of her favorite places. They arrived at the holodeck and Janeway called up the program. They entered.

"I know this place," Tom said. "It's so familiar. The Rockies. It's in old Colorado. I can't think of it. . . Estes Park! We went there for several summers when I was a boy."

"This is one of my favorite places in the whole world."

"Why did you bring me here, Captain?"

She sighed. "You come right to the point! Let's sit down. There are some good rocks over there." They seated themselves. "Tom, first off you have permission to say anything and everything that needs to be said. We are speaking as two human beings, not as a captain to her Lieutenant. Clear?" Tom nodded. "I need to ask your forgiveness." He shook his head not understanding. "I was much too harsh with you yesterday in my ready room." Tom remembered and as Janeway watched he closed in on himself and looked away. "Don't do that, Tom. I was wrong, not you." She reached out toward him. He leaned away, again. "I understand you have had a hard time the past two weeks. I have, too. Were you aware of the group in engineering that decided to purchase the space folding technology?"

Tom nodded. "Lieutenant Tuvok actually made the purchase."

"Yes. Tuvok and I have been colleagues and friends for many years. I felt betrayed by him until I could understand the situation from his point of view. Much of what I said to you was what I was feeling toward Tuvok. It was an unfair and petty way to act."

Paris was silent and motionless for a long time. Janeway didn't know what to say so she waited. Softly as if afraid to say the words louder, he spoke, "I was afraid you'd turn on me someday, now you have. Who can I trust now?"

Janeway's heart ached. This was what she feared would happen. "Tom. . ." He looked at her. What could she say to him? "I made a mistake, a big one and it hurt you terribly. It hurt you where you are weak and when you were already hurting." For the second time today she felt tears threatening to overtake her. "I am so sorry."

He didn't acknowledge her apology. "Did Chakotay talk to you about the meeting we had yesterday?"

"No, he didn't."

"I was almost crazed. I could barely think much less understand what was going on after you dressed me down. Chakotay tried to talk to me about my lapses recently. I lost control and swung at him. He was ready and pinned my arm behind my back to subdue me. Then he restricted me to quarters. He told me to read Carly's Journal. I finally slept well. When we talked this morning he lifted the restriction and said he wasn't going to tell you or write me up." He thought for a moment and looked her in the eye. "Captain, if I'd hit him. . ." This time Janeway dropped her gaze. Her tears so close she turned away from Tom.

Tom may have a problem with his Captain now. He understood women on a feelings level and knew she was crying. It made her more human somehow. He gave her his handkerchief. That caused the dam to break and he wanted to hold her to comfort her. He wanted to hold her to comfort her; however, he hesitated not quite able to embrace his captain. Then he reached around her shoulders and held her with one arm. As soon as she began to regain her composure, he dropped his arm and moved a discreet distance away. She was soon calm.

Tom went on as if nothing had happened. "Captain, I want to forgive you. I don't know how. I'm afraid of what you might say. You said hurtful things, you might do it again."

"I'm human."

"But, you're my captain. Humans make mistakes, not captains." He paused considering. "I've been pretty naïve. It's unfair to put a person on a pedestal. I guess I should apologize to you. I thought you could do nothing wrong. I didn't think what you had done was wrong until you mentioned it here. I had blamed and condemned myself. I have to work on my thinking."

"If it would help, we can do some of that here."

Tom nodded. Out of the blue, he asked, "Can you forgive yourself?"

The question brought Captain Janeway up short. "I don't think I'll be able to for a long time unless you forgive me first."

"It's hard to forgive yourself. I've never forgiven myself for lying about the accident at Caldik Prime. I don't think I ever will. It's a painful burden I carry. I may be able to say the words. I don't know if I can stop that rush of adrenaline that shoots through me every time I've seen you on the bridge since you reprimanded me." Tom stood up and started to walk. Janeway followed. He knew where he was going and they were soon on a path. The path meandered through the pines and Aspen until the trees stopped at the edge of a huge mountain meadow. Tom stopped. "I saw my first bald eagle when I was standing right here. She came from that direction and soared high and dipped and flew out of my sight. Do you mind if we sit down here?" Janeway answered by doing so.

They sat a long time in silence. It couldn't be called companionable, the thoughts of the participants were not amicable. They coexisted. The Captain desperate to find a way to ease Tom's discomfiture. Tom wanted to forgive her, but he wanted to be able to do more than say the words. He needed the Captain as a mentor and teacher. With the cruel words she had said, that relationship had been damaged. He wanted it back, needed it back. Tom knew himself well enough to know he needed someone to lean on, as much as he wished he didn't.

"There are five minutes left in your two hour holodeck period." The computer informed them.

Janeway drooped, "Computer is the next period booked."

"The holodeck session for 1700 is scheduled."

Captain Janeway profoundly wanted to complete this discussion with Tom Paris. She knew she had to have his cooperation. She decided to leave the decision of whether they would continue up to him. "Mr. Paris, are you willing to continue talking?"

He studied Captain Janeway. She was deferring the decision to him. He wanted this resolved. "Yes, Captain." She was visibly relieved. She wants this more than I do.

"Computer, end program. I would like to go to a neutral location like a cargo bay. Is that alright with you?" Tom nodded.

They entered the cargo bay and Janeway called for lights and placed a privacy lock on the door. Tom wandered in struck by the drastic difference between the holodeck and the cargo bay.

"Captain, what caused you to decide to grant me a field commission?"

"Several things. Your concern for Harry Kim. Coming back for us in the Ocampa escape tunnel. Your willingness to help Chakotay without question, even though there was bad blood between you. Then some lesser considerations. For instance, a professionalism snapped into place when you were thrown into the emergency. You immediately pitched in to help. Those are the major reasons. Your piloting ability was almost an aside. However, that was why I assigned you to be Chief Helm Officer. You pilot circles around my other helm officers."

"Did you realize I would need as much support as I do? I don't think another captain in Starfleet would consider spending the amount of time with any one crewman you have spent with me. I wonder if I'm really worth it?"

"In the back of my mind, I knew you would need support. I had studied your record and talked to several people who knew you before seeing you in the prison. Not your father by the way. They all said the same thing. Even your advisor from the Academy. You had the potential for brilliance, but your performance was erratic. You had been checked for all types of mental pathology and none could be found. This was Tom Paris."

"Are you worth it? Without question! I have found the time I have spent with you more personally rewarding than any other single thing I do as Captain." She looked at Tom and smiled expecting a smile in return. Instead, she received a look of abject disbelief. "You don't believe me? Tom you must!"

Paris met her eyes and rushed away from her needing to get as far away from her as he could. This session with Janeway was draining his already meager resources. He was not sure how much longer he could hold himself together. Perhaps he should beg off and rest. He had a feeling though that if their plight was not settled now it might never be settled and they would both loose. He slid down a crate and rested his head on his knees.

"Your exhausted." Tom shrugged. "Let me ask you a question. What have you gotten out of our relationship?"

Between his emotional exhaustion and the intensity of the past couple hours Tom's control was slipping again. Tears burned behind his eyes. He blurted out, "You've given me a life back." He stood and strode away from her unwilling for her to see him cry. She respected his wishes for a time. When there seemed to be no end in sight, she took charge and led him to a low crate and sat with him patiently. "Captain, I need what you give me. You can get along without me. I need you. Somehow, I have to get past this. I have to forgive you. I have to trust you." He rose and started to walk. Janeway followed. There wasn't much of a place to walk. Paris couldn't stay still, he was too anxious. There was too much at stake. He turned toward Janeway. "I don't know how much more I can take today. I will work on getting past this and trusting you again. You have done so much for me. I owe it to you to . . .I don't quite know how to say it. Give you another chance. It'll be hard." At that moment the ship was given a terrific shaking.

8****************8

Commander Chakotay had cleared the turbolift doors by mere nanoseconds when the ship was severely jolted. "Report."

"Commander, we suddenly dropped out of subspace. I haven't found a reason yet."

"Can we reestablish the warp field?"

"There doesn't appear to be any reason why we shouldn't be able to do that."

"Bridge to engineering."

"Carey here. Commander we suffered a sudden falloff of energy to the warp core. We can't find a reason, but our energy levels are normal now. I ask Lieutenant Torres to come to engineering. She'll be here directly."

"Is there any reason we should avoid resuming warp speed?

"I'd like to have Lieutenant Torres opinion on this before going to warp again."

"Alright Lieutenant, keep me updated. Bridge out."

"Ensign Jackman proceed at full impulse."

"Full impulse, aye sir."

"Torres to the bridge."

"Chakotay."

"Commander, it appears there was a temporary blockage of the fuel stream. There are no ongoing effects. There shouldn't be any problem with using the warp drive. To make sure I'd suggest we start at warp one and remain at that speed for five minutes then accelerate slowly from that point."

Thank you, Lieutenant. Ensign Jackman, did you hear Lieutenant Torres?"

"Yes, sir. Warp one for five minutes."

"Notify me at that time."

Chakotay stayed on the bridge until Voyager had been flying smoothly at warp four for a significant time. While he was there the Doctor reported that Captain Janeway had suffered a concussion in an incident with a falling crate. She had been urged to go to her quarters. A falling crate? He made a mental note to ask the Captain about the incident.

"Ensign Kelly, you are officer of the day, correct?"

"Yes, sir."

"If anything should come up, call me, not Captain Janeway. Please transmit these orders to the OD of gamma shift."

"Understood, sir."

"You have the bridge." Chakotay went to his quarters. He debated with himself for a moment whether he should change into civvies and decided that he might need a formal demeanor for Kathryn. Her first name came easily to his mind. He was not overly concerned about the outcome of the talks between the Captain and Paris. His gut told him that Paris desperately needed her support and this more than his ability to forgive a wrong would cause him to work with her. Still Kathryn had been vulnerable and had not been comfortable stepping out of the persona she wore as Captain. His uniform was definitely the better choice.

***

Movement from above caught Paris' eye and he realized the top crate was going to fall. No time for any graceful solution, he dove for Janeway, shoving her out of the way, and landing on top of her. Her head cracked on the floor sharply and she went out immediately. Paris didn't immediately realize this since he turned back in time to see the crate hit with a resounding thud. Turning back to her, Paris moved off her quickly and noted to his horror she was unconscious. He was about to call for transport to sickbay when she moaned and opened her eyes. "Oh, does my head hurt!"

"I'm sorry, Captain. I couldn't do it any other way."

"What did you do?"

Paris indicated the crate with his head. "It fell." He said lamely. "It would have fallen on you."

Janeway sat up and stared at the crate. "Tom Paris, you saved my life."

He started to discount it, but walked over to the crate and tried to move it then found the manifest. "There's over 2000kg of materials in here. You would have been badly hurt, at least. You better go to Sickbay and get your head checked out."

"No, I'm fine."

"Captain, you were unconscious, you need to go to Sickbay."

Captain Janeway almost refused to go again. Tom was using a tone she had never heard from him. His voice rang with command. This was something to encourage. "Very well."

"Can you walk or would you like me to call for transport?"

"I can walk, Mr. Paris." On the way to Sickbay, Janeway commented. "Mr. Paris, did you realize you ordered me to go to Sickbay."

Paris colored slightly and stated resolutely, "Yes, Captain." He looked directly into her eyes. "You were going regardless of what you said. The Doc has taught me about treating people who were knocked unconscious." With obvious relief he added, "I'm grateful you agreed."

In Sickbay the Doctor examined the Captain. "Well, Mr. Paris, it seems you made at least one good medical decision. The Captain is suffering from a concussion and has ruptured a small vessel about 2.45cm from the surface of the brain. Without being repaired it could have bled for days causing increasing damage. When we did discover it, it may have been too late for medical science to do anything. It is quite easy to repair now."

Captain Janeway caught Tom Paris' eye and mouthed, "That's number two." She was rewarded by the first real smile she had seen from Paris all day.

The Doctor began his instructions, "I want you to relax in your quarters for the evening. At least no physical exercise. Mr. Paris would you escort the Captain to her quarters."

"Sure Doc. End EMH. Captain." Tom indicated the direction with a sweep of his hand. They walked the distance to the Captain's quarters in silence, Tom becoming thoughtful again.

They entered and Janeway offered Paris a seat. "We're no longer in neutral territory."

Tom agreed. "Captain, I need your support too much not to forgive you. I'll do my best to believe what you say and come to you when I need to. I've always had trouble believing the positive things you say about me anyway." He looked at her, she was accepting all he said. "Apology accepted, Captain."

Janeway closed her eyes and Tom again realized she was fighting tears. He laid his arm lightly across her shoulders and said, "No Captain, no." He chided gently. These aren't needed now." He saw a tear slide down her cheek and wiped it away with a gentle finger.

Janeway sat up and pulled away reestablishing her command presence. "Tom, I owe you some explanation. It took me a good 24 hours to realize I had hurt you. I was so relieved I had come to an understanding with Tuvok. I was preoccupied with that. This morning when you wouldn't look at me it came together for me and I remembered dressing you down and revoking replicator rations. They are reinstated by the way. I couldn't remember what I had said so I accessed the computer records. I was disgusted and shamed by my display. Especially since you were so obviously needy. I asked Commander Chakotay to help me find a way to repair the damage I had done. He basically said to do what we did. My greatest fear going into this was that you would be unable to forgive me and I would loose the close association we have."

"Remember Captain, I have forgiven you intellectually. Be patient if I have trouble accepting things you say. It would be good if we could work together a lot in the near future."

"That does sound like a good idea. Computer, time."

"The time is 2127."

"Plenty of time." Tom looked at her quizzically. "Commander Chakotay assigned me to report to him before 2300 tonight about our talks. This was difficult to do, it helped to have a deadline. Would you like some dinner? It's on me."

"OK, a turkey sandwich with mayonnaise and a glass of milk."

They ate in a companionable silence, both talked out and exhausted by the emotional gauntlet they had run today. When he had finished his food, Tom looked over at his captain and had a sense that acknowledging her authority was important. The normal boundaries of command had been blurred tonight. He stood up, snapped to attention, and asked, "Captain, could I be dismissed? I'd like to get to bed early tonight."

Captain Janeway looked at Tom and knew what he had just done. She smiled. "You're dismissed and thank you, Lieutenant." He flashed her that irreverent grin and walked out the door.

One more 'chore' to take care of and this day is over. She walked over to Commander Chakotay's quarters and rang the chime. He answered it still in uniform and appraised her demeanor and face and smiled. "It went well, I see. Come in. Tell me what happened."

Hosting by WebRing.