Title: Come of Age
Author: Annette Welsh-Shinya 01/99
Series: VOY
Part: 21/?
Rating: R
Codes: P/T, K/7, EMH Doc, Neelix, Vorik, Naomi Wildman
Summary: Spoilers for Night and 30 Days. After an encounter with a hostile species, most of the crew of Voyager is scattered throughout a region of space as prisoners. Tom Paris leads what's left of the crew in an attempt to recover their missing members.
Disclaimer: Paramount's property, my story, who wants to go a round with the Bat'leths?
Feedback: Encouragement/criticism gladly responded to. Flames will be consigned to the nearest airlock where proper venting procedures per Starfleet Engineering regulations will be followed.
Posting: OK to ASC, ASCEM, BLTS, & PT Fever. Please notify me if you post anywhere else...I love to see my name in lights!


They finished treating the bulk of the returned crew fairly quickly. Like most of the others, they really just needed rest, good food, and time to readjust to life on Voyager. Even Vorik had requested, and been allowed, to return to his quarters. Tom made a mental note to talk to B'Elanna about contacting these crew members with the offer of some counseling. They had been through an exceptionally brutal experience, and he knew that they would need to share it with someone to help them through their recovery from it. He was just cleaning up the last of the disorder when the Sickbay door opened, B'Elanna and Naomi entered.

"Hi, I'm almost finished here," Tom called to them.

"OK, Tom," Naomi beamed at him.

"I told Naomi that we would like her to spend some time with us this evening," said B'Elanna carefully. "And that we had something we wanted to tell her."

"Is is a surprise?" quizzed Naomi. "B'Elanna wouldn't tell me anything when she came and got me."

Tom crossed to where Naomi and B'Elanna waited and knelt down to be at the child's level. "It's a surprise, a really good one. Remember when I told you that I'd find your Mom for you?"

"Sure," said Naomi, looking excited and frightened all of a sudden.

"Well, when we went down to the planet, we found her," Tom spoke very softly and reached out to touch Naomi's face. "And we brought her home."

Naomi shut her eyes for a moment and squeezed them very tight. Opening them back up again, her voice took on a quavering tone. "Is she all right?"

"Yes," replied Tom, stroking her cheek. B'Elanna had taken hold of one of the child's shoulders and was squeezing reassuringly. "Your Mom's fine. She's been through a lot, and she looks a little different than she did before, but she'll be all better soon."

"You mean, she's going to be like Ms. Delaney?" asked Naomi with sadness.

"No," crooned Tom as he took Naomi in his arms as she began crying. He rocked her gently as he continued, "She's physically just fine, but has been through an awful lot. She was so worried about you." Tom looked over to where Joe Carey lay behind a containment field and decided not to mention this to the child yet. She had a lot deal with at one time. He went on, "You'll just need to give her some time to get used to being on Voyager again."

"What do I do?" asked Naomi, determination coming into her voice and demeanor.

Tom sat back a little and looked approvingly at the child. "You just love her for now, and that will be enough."

Naomi gave Tom a watery smile and put her arms around him and hugged very hard. "I love you both very much," she said shyly against Tom's shoulder and then looked up at B'Elanna.

B'Elanna, who had been so mad at Tom for not telling her he'd been injured, forgave him on the spot for his delicate handling of explaining to Naomi what happened to her mother. She supposed she'd bring the subject up for form's sake, but knew that he'd been doing what he had done all along since this whole thing had started. He was protecting each and every one of the crew as much as he could, even her. It was a brave, noble, romantic, silly thing to do, but she marveled at his strength of resolve to continue doing it. He cared so much, almost too much sometimes. She wondered if he gave away too much of himself to others by doing it. B'Elanna reached a hand down and ruffled Naomi's hair.

"I love you, too, Naomi," she replied softly to the girl, and bent to hug her.

The Sickbay was quiet except for the slight humming of the equipment. The threesome did not notice the Doctor quietly standing in the doorway of his office, watching this scene unfold. He had an expression of emotional, almost tender approval on his face. Holograms cannot get lumps in their throats that don't exist, but the Doctor might have been able to say that he felt a certain restriction in the neck region of his projection. Probably a malfunctioning sub-routine, he thought happily, as he watched the three embrace again before leaving the Sickbay.

Jan rang the doorchime to Vorik's quarters. She'd had to wait until being relieved from her position before she could come see him. She'd been in agony, having read the initial report of his condition that the Doctor had made. Later, she'd seen that he'd been released back to his quarters, so he was out of danger. But, she needed to see him for herself. Really, she had no business being here so late. One night sleeping together, literally, did not a relationship make. Still, she hadn't hesitated. The moment that she'd been relieved, she'd made directly for Vorik's quarters. The door opened, and there he stood.

"Jan," he said simply. He was in a dark blue robe, and looked like he was fresh from the shower. His hair was still damp and fell in slight disarray, so different from his usual neat presence. Jan had to take a deep breath.

"I just stopped by to find out how you were," she explained, unable to take her eyes off of his face. He was sporting a slight bruise on one cheek, giving it a greenish-blue tinge. Her hand ached to reach out and soothe the injury, minor that it was. She realized that they must have been pretty busy in Sickbay that night to overlook such a thing. Vorik, she knew, would never have protested the oversight.

"I have received treatment for my injuries and am recovered," replied Vorik, who realized that it probably improper to have this conversation in the doorway. He gestured with one hand, "Please come in." Jan stepped into his quarters and immediately felt the low light and slight odor of incense relax her. Strange, it felt like coming back to a place she knew and liked very well.

"Please sit down," Vorik gestured to the couch. "I will be back in a moment." He turned to go, then paused. "Would you like something to drink?" pleased that he remembered to offer hospitality. His mother had attempted to teach him the basics of social protocol, but his retention of that information had always been marginal at best. He tended to become preoccupied by other things, and forgot to relate to people on a more basic level.

"Uh, sure," replied Jan, still awed with herself for coming here, again.

Vorik walked to the replicator and asked, "What do you wish to have?"

Jan couldn't speak for a moment, then decided that Vorik would *never* say that line in any other way than with its straight meaning. "I'd like some tea, please."

"Please specify the type of tea you would like," came the patient query for clarification.

Jan bet he spent a lot of time getting things clarified. Most people tended to speak in a very general way, and to a species that logic and preciseness was paramount to, it must be aggravating. That is, if Vulcans got aggravated, she mused. She then realized that Vorik was just standing there, waiting for her response. "English Breakfast, with cream," she said quickly. Vorik turned and made the order, which she noted was for two.

Setting the small tray on the low table in the center of the room, he said, "Please excuse me for a moment."

"Of course," she managed to get out. Directing her attention fiercely on the tea tray in front of her, she poured out two cups. Realizing she had forgotten to ask him how he took his tea, she stood up and walked over to the bedroom door and called, "How do you like it?"

Vorik's head appeared in the doorway and he said, "Like what?"

"Your tea," said Jan, noticing that he didn't have his shirt on. She went very still.

Vorik tugged a grey standard issue t-shirt over his head and came out of his bedroom. "I prefer it with creme, no sugar, please." He was wearing blue jeans, no less.

Jan just stared. She'd never seen Vorik in anything other than full uniform. Mentally she chastised herself. He would begin to think she was a total idiot. But, he looked so...different.

"You're wearing blue jeans," her voice was surprised. Jan would swear he looked a little sheepish, just for a second, then his usual impassive mien returned.

"They were recommended by Mr. Paris as appropriate casual wear," Vorik replied. Looking down at them, he added, "I find them to be very comfortable and durable." Glancing back up at her, he crossed to where she stood, his head tilted slightly to one side, a puzzled expression on his face. "You look flushed again," he noted. "Have I done something to upset you?"

Jan was unable to understand how she could react the same way as before. It was like reliving really bad dream. You know what's going to happen, but there's nothing you can do about it. She stared at Vorik's face, then her gaze dropped to his chest, where she knew that he had been badly injured during the mission.

"I am fully recovered," repeated Vorik, his tone had dropped almost to a whisper. He reached out a hand and lifted Jan's chin so her eyes met his. His hand remained on her jaw.

"I'm glad," whispered Jan, unbidden tears forming in her eyes. Dammit, she thought, I haven't cried so much as once for anyone else this whole trip, and now, I can't seem to control myself around him. She knew that Vulcans prized control above all else, except maybe logic. She wasn't sure which was higher in regard, but they were definitely the number one and two on the list.

Her despair must have been evident to Vorik, because he said, "An emotional reaction after the stress of a difficult situation is a normal reaction in humans. You *let go* after the crisis in order to process the overload of emotions." The explanation was given in that same low, even voice. Somehow, it didn't sound like a lecture, more like an understanding.

"Yes, I suppose so," Jan trembled and closed her eyes, turning her face into his hand. His thumb stroked a tear that spilled from her eye.

"You should drink you tea before it grows cold, Jan," Vorik presently said. He was looking intently at her when she opened her eyes.

"All right," she replied and his hand dropped from her face as they turned to go sit on the couch. "You said, creme no sugar, right?" and picked up the creme pitcher and added small amount to each cup. Handing his cup to him, Jan realized she felt better. She smiled at Vorik, who, of course, looked back at her impassively. Much better. They drank their tea in a nice, comfortable silence.

Outside the Wildman's quarters, Naomi stopped and looked at Tom. "What do I say to her?" she asked anxiously. "I don't want to say the wrong thing."

"Just be yourself, Naomi," Tom reassured the girl. "It's just what your Mom wants, I'm sure."

"OK," replied Naomi, and gave a tremulous smile to Tom and B'Elanna. "Here goes," and rang the doorchime.

The door opened immediately, and there was Sam Wildman, much cleaner, her hair in a tidy braid down her back. Naomi gave a cry of, "Mommy!" and ran straight into her arms. Sam picked her up and hugged her, voicing, "Naomi," in a reverent voice. Tears were streaming from her eyes when she looked up at Tom and said, "Thank you, so much." She turned to B'Elanna and said, "Thank you," to her.

Neither Tom nor B'Elanna felt there was anything more for them to say or a reason for them to be there. They both nodded and smiled at Sam and Naomi and took their leave. Sam carried Naomi into their quarters and into her bedroom, sitting her down on the bed. Sitting next to her and taking her into her arms again, Sam said, "Tell me everything that you've been doing..."

Making their way to Tom's quarters, B'Elanna reached over and took his hand. She squeezed it and when he looked at her, she smiled.

"Does this mean you're not going to kill me for not telling you I got injured during the mission?" asked Tom carefully.

"No," replied B'Elanna smiling wider. "But, I'm not going to forget it, either. You'll just have to wonder when I'm going to bring it up."

Tom rolled his eyes upward and shook his head as they came to the turbolift and got in. It was time for bed and he didn't want to get into it with her. He looked at B'Elanna, who was enjoying this a little too much. "How about you yell at me tomorrow," he asked, finally letting himself feel tired after the day's labors.

"Deal," B'Elanna promptly replied. They got off the turbolift and walked arm in arm to his quarters.

Seven sat in the command chair on the Bridge, reading the latest reports and working on some projections from the data she'd received that evening from Astrometrics. It was quiet on the bridge. It was just Ensign McNaughton at the Conn and herself. Traveling at warp, their shielding in place, they had finally gone back to skeleton staffing on the gamma shift. Seven found the quiet of the late shift a productive time. It enabled her to contemplate things with greater clarity than when there were many people around her. She looked up as the doors of the turbolift opened. Turning in her seat, she saw that Harry Kim was the one coming onto the Bridge.

"Ensign Kim, I believe you were instructed to rest in your quarters," Seven said neutrally.

"I'm not used to sleeping more than a few hours at a time," replied Harry who was walking around the Bridge, looking at the stations, anywhere but at Seven. "It wasn't too healthy to sleep very long or deeply where I've been staying," he finally came up to where Seven was standing. "You might not wake up at all if you did." He had dressed in his off-duty clothing. Coupled with his hair that tumbled to his shoulders, he had a wild, untamed look that did not fit the memory of Harry Kim which was so fixed in her mind. She was unsure if she found this appearance of him pleasing or not.

"It was very difficult," Seven half spoke, half queried.

"Difficult?" Harry said with a rising tone. "Yeah, you could say it was difficult." He took another step closer to her. "It was pure hell, that's what it was. On a good day, you tried to stay alive, but on a bad prayed to die," he rasped out.

Seven's face took on an appalled expression and she actually recoiled a little from Harry. "I am...sorry," she finally gone out.

"You're sorry," said Harry, his mouth curling in a travesty of a smile. "Well, that makes it all right then," he added sarcastically.

Dragging one hand through her hair in an emotional gesture that had Harry staring at her, Seven said, "I cannot comprehend fully what you have gone through, Ensign Kim." She glanced over to where Ensign McNaughton was trying very hard to pretend that she was not listening to this conversation. "But this is neither the time nor place for this discussion." At Harry's disgusted noise she hastened to add, "I will talk with you when I have been relieved of my shift." She walked over to where Harry had turned his back on her and touched his shoulder, "Please," she begged in a low voice.

Harry flinched, then turned slightly and looked at this woman that he had convinced himself that he hated for so long. Her hair was cropped around her head, she wore a Starfleet uniform and was ranked Ensign, had command of the Bridge, and Tom called her his Second Officer. Things were different, and now she was begging him, *begging* him to listen to her. It was too much for him at the moment and he turned to leave.

"Harry," came Seven's voice, so filled with emotion that it touched something deep within him. As hard as he had had to become, it touched him, and triggered his own churning feelings to the surface.

First came anger, "I don't want to hear it, Seven." He took a shaky, ragged breath, and walked up to the turbolift, then for some reason stopped. He could feel her looking at him, imploring him. He turned suddenly around and stared down at her. He saw the tears in her eyes and the ones falling down her face. It was too much, he told himself again. Too many feelings at once, he needed to get away. All he wanted was to go away, be alone. But, he found himself saying, "Come by my quarters after shift. I'll listen. I won't promise anything else, but I'll listen." With that, he turned and exited the Bridge.

Seven stood looking at the lift doors for a long time. Finally, she turned and walked back to the command chair, wiping her cheeks. Ensign NcNaughton turned to look at her and smiled, a warm, reassuring smile. Seven smiled softly in response and they went back to their duties. She felt a little better. Tom had been right. Harry was very angry, but in the end, had agreed to listen to her. The rest was up to her.

End Part 21 1