Title: Come of Age
Author: Annette Welsh-Shinya 01/99
Series: VOY
Part: 24/?
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!

At this point in the epic, I would like to thank profusely my beta-goddesses, who have gone far beyond the call of duty in helping me make my babble into a coherent story. Cheile, Lesa, & PJinNH: This Tom's for you!


B'Elanna's laughter had continued all the way into the bedroom. Tom dropped her on the bed and grinned leeringly at her. He felt better now. Their mission had been a success, and although he still felt really terrible about the people that they had lost and how the surviving crew had suffered, he refused to think about it at this moment. Now, he was going to celebrate life with his mate. That was how is should be. His last thought of anything not directly concerning B'Elanna was, Harry, old man, I hope you listen to what Seven has to say. It will certainly be worth it in the long run.

"So, you were going to keep me hanging," Tom said in an accusing voice. "Make me wait for you to exact vengeance." He loomed over the bed and brought his arms down on either side of B'Elanna. "And now you say my talk is cheap..."

"The truth hurts, Helm-boy," B'Elanna's neck was arched proudly, unintimidated by Tom's show of mock outrage.

"Yeah, well, you know what else hurts?" he said sliding his arms down her shoulders and slowly across her chest, and delved into the gaping robe opening. Stopping momentarily to caress her nipples, his hands wandered further down to her ribs. "This," he added suddenly, and began to tickle her mercilessly. B'Elanna convulsed into laughter, trying to turn away, but Tom threw his weight on her legs, and Klingon strength or not, she was laughing so hard, she couldn't get away. "Resistance is futile," Tom chanted as his mouth came up to her left ear and began tugging on the lobe. B'Elanna just howled with laughter and continued to thrash and gasp with delight as Tom delicately chewed first one ear and then the other. Gradually, his hands stopped tickling and started caressing her waist and breasts in a circular motion. The robe's belt had come completely untied and it had fallen open, revealing all. Pushing himself up on one arm, Tom used the other to stroke down her body, now slow and leisurely in his movements.

"You will be assimilated," B'Elanna breathed back, half in fun, half serious. She pulled his head down and their mouths met, fusing their lips. Very quickly, the mood became urgent. The contact between then increased in pressure and their arms tugged and stroked over each each other's body. Murmurs became moans.

B'Elanna pulled off Tom's clothes and pushed him over on his back. Lingering over the side of his chest, where a slight paleness on already white skin was the only mark of his earlier injury, she stroked the site for a moment, then brought her mouth down on it. Kissing gently, she moved upward, sliding over the smoothly developed muscles of his upper chest. He held her shoulders in his hands as he watched her. His expression was one of almost pained expectation of pleasure. Moving his hands to her face, he cupped her cheeks and stroked the sides of her face with his thumbs.

"You are the most beautiful woman, anywhere," he said in a low, husky voice. "Sometimes when I look at you, I just catch my breath, and think, does anybody else really see you? It's almost blinding, the force of life within you."

B'Elanna was speechless. Tom could make her so angry, yet could move her so extremely. Truth be told, she liked both reactions, but perhaps the latter a bit more. She smiled at him and slid down to his side, and they faced each other.

"You never stop amazing me," B'Elanna replied. "I think I know what you're going to do or say, then you turn around and come up with something more." Her head ducked down, "I guess I'm pretty predictable."

Tom's lips touched her forehead, gently kissing. "You are just the way I would like you to be."

"And if I changed tomorrow?" B'Elanna asked, looking up.

"I'd like that, too," Tom was very serious. "The essence of you is fundamental, B'Elanna. The surface can change, but what makes you *you* remains constant. That's who I love."

"I think that's about the nicest thing I've ever heard you say about me," B'Elanna said softly. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Tom replied smiling gently.

"I'm not good with using words for how I feel; it's hard for me to put them the right way," she said. "I love you," she added slowly, with emphasis. "That's all I can think to say."

"That's enough," Tom said, stroking her face again. "For the next lifetime or so, then I want more."

"I can do that," B'Elanna said as they kissed again.

Tom ran his hands down B'Elanna's torso and touched her, everywhere. She did the same for him. The urgency was returning, desire burning very hot, not a red flame, but a white-blue glow that could melt the hardest substance. It moved through them as they joined their bodies. The room heated with their actions, and both were sweating with their efforts.

Nothing broke into their thoughts as they pleasured each other, so intent were they. Tom stroked her as he thrust into her, impatient for her to reach her climax, wanting to pleasure her more than once. He didn't have to wait for long as she glided into her orgasm. It was a lovely thing to watch. He slowed his movements, gazing at her face, struck by the aching completion she reached. B'Elanna opened her eyes and they implored/ordered him to continue on, and he picked up the pace again. They slid rapidly down the path to completion. Tom felt himself at the edge of control and he wanted to speak, but couldn't get out a coherent word. B'Elanna didn't seem to care, she just arched up against him and gave another cry of release. At this point, Tom gave up the fight, and allowed himself to climax, his breath sharply inhaled at the critical moment.

Spent and exhausted, Tom tumbled down upon B'Elanna, her strong arms encirculed him, and she welcomed him into her embrace. She stroked his damp hair and turned to cuddle him against her breasts. The day's activities, as well as this night's, had finally taken their toll. Tom Paris, hero at large, was fast asleep, snoring slightly. She quirked a small grin and nudged him a bit, knowledge gained through long experience sleeping with the pilot, and he stopped immediately. She scooted them down a little and reached over for the covers. She was pretty tired, but held Tom snugly against her, keeping him safe.

The morning came and neither Tom nor B'Elanna reacted well. The standing order that they had in both of their quarters was a level one extreme alarm forty-five minutes before alpha shift. It had never failed to highly irritate the two of them whenever it went off. Stumbling blindly to the bathroom, Tom mumbled, "B'Elanna, get up. We've got a staff meeting this morning at 1100, and I need to get to the Bridge and relieve Seven. She's probably totally exhausted."

"Like I was going to forget," grumped B'Elanna as her tousled head appeared from under the covers. "I'm not the one who was always late to everything."

Tom's voice came from the bathroom, "Nag, nag, nag..."

"Coffee, black, one sugar," B'Elanna ordered from the replicator.

"There are insufficient credits available to this account for that order." replied the computer.

"Then use my account you stupid machine!" B'Elanna roared.

"Please state the account authorization."

"Computer," B'Elanna said tightly, "Use Lt. Torres' account credits, authorization 5Delta67. And make that two coffees." At the magic words, the coffees appeared and B'Elanna grabbed them from the replicator pad. She sipped at hers and stuck a hand around the doorway of the bathroom bearing the other. A reverent "thank you" was heard from the interior of the room, and she smiled, a little more amiable now that she had her caffeine.

They switched places in the bathroom, and Tom started picking up the bedroom, laying out new uniforms for the day, still sipping from his cup. Glancing at the chronometer, he swore and made for the bathroom again. B'Elanna was just getting out of the shower when he slid in, kissing the side of her mouth is passing. She chuckled as she made her way out of the bathroom and to the bed, noting with satisfaction that Tom had laid out a fresh uniform for her. The man could be very thoughtful, at times anyway. She pulled out some underwear and a bra from the top drawer and began dressing. As she finished dressing, Tom appeared from the bathroom, one towel around his waist, another in his hand, drying his hair. He handed her the towel in passing as she went back to the bathroom. Tom got dressed while B'Elanna tidied up the bathroom.

He was brushing his hair when she said, "All set here."

He replied, "I'm done. Let's go get some breakfast." He looked at the chronometer again, "We've got fifteen minutes." They each picked up their padds and left for the messhall. Another day had begun.

Tom had always enjoyed the first part of alpha shift. The ship would be waking up and personnel starting to interact. The shift change marked the beginning of a new day, and he was very fond of new beginnings. Even with the recent need for running practically non-stop around the clock, he still felt a little thrill at the start of the shift. This morning was a pretty good morning. B'Elanna and he had managed to make it through breakfast with nary a disagreement in sight, some sort of Voyager record, he was sure. The ship was in better shape than it had been since the Vandal attack, some things were even better. Best of all, Harry and the others were back. It gave him heart. There were others left to find, but the halfway point had been crossed. The crew had functioned exceptionally well, and he was going to make note of it in his log. He especially felt that commendations were in order for Harry, Seven, Neelix, and Vorik. He thought of Seven. She had looked a little distressed when he had relieved her. She had stated that she was fatigued and would retire to her quarters until the staff meeting, and he had wondered if she had talked to Harry yet. He hadn't even talked to him. He had left Harry a message yesterday, requesting that he meet him for lunch, but hadn't heard back from him. He pulled his command screen toward him and began to read the first reports of the day and to check his messages. There was a short note from Harry, agreeing to lunch. His luck was holding.

"Mr. Baytart," Tom called a while later. He had just finished reading the Security report.

"Yes, sir," Baytart turned in his chair.

"Please accompany me to my ready room," Tom instructed, standing up. He gestured for Ensign Plover, who was standing the 'fill-in' position on the Bridge to take over at Conn. "Ensign Neelix, you have the Bridge."

"Aye, Mr. Paris," responded Neelix, looking up from his board. He watched with interest as Baytart followed Tom into the ready room. He had not liked filing the report, but felt that it was his job to do so. He had noticed on more than four separate occasions Mr. Baytart questioning authority, and one time even refusing to follow a direct order for several minutes. He knew that discipline must be maintained, or they were lost. Inwardly he sighed, the transition from prisoner back to Bridge officer had not been easy for Mike. Neelix was at a loss as what to do for him. Perhaps B'Elanna would be willing to talk to him, although Mike had expressed hostility toward her also. It was a difficult situation. Perhaps the, he thought, that probably was not the best idea. He resolved to try to help the man as best he could.

Tom gestured for Baytart to take a seat. Looking at him over the desk, Tom said, "It's come to my attention that you have been having some difficulties adjusting to returning to duties, Mr. Baytart." Tom referred to some information on his screen. "You have been discourteous, even insubordinate at times. This behavior is not tolerable in a Bridge officer. Would you care to offer an explanation, Mister?"

Mike sat in what he and many others had always thought of as 'the hot seat'. He'd never been there before. He'd always done his duty, played it safe, never made waves. Good old Mike Baytart, still an ensign, still in the middle of the promotion listings. Dependable, non-remarkable, a red uniform that got shoved out of the way when things got hot, so Mr. Paris could save the day. Looking up at Tom, he had no answer. He just felt tired, unable to go back to being 'just' Mike Baytart also-ran, but unsure of who he was or even wanted to be. There was anger in him, self doubt, fear, more emotions than he'd ever dealt with in his low key existence before. "Sir, I...I have no explanation, sir," came Mike's reply. "I don't know why. I just don't." His voice reflected his confusion, despair, and some real anger.

Tom gazed at Mike for a long time. He'd worked with this man, been his direct superior, for five years, and he really didn't know much about him. Mike had always been a dependable, hard working officer, not given to talking much, but fairly pleasant when he did, a good listener. Nothing really remarkable about him, he just seemed to be there... And with that, Tom had a thought. What if a person who was 'just there' suddenly wasn't, and things went on just fine without him? How would that make him feel? Probably less than stellar, he mused, maybe even angry, disillusioned. Put that on top of the stress of his captivity, it would make just about anyone have difficulty in adjusting. He came to a decision.

"Mr. Baytart, I'm going to reassign you," Mike looked alarmed at this. Tom continued, "Only temporarily, if you can demonstrate to me that you have adjusted back to life on Voyager as it is now, and your behavior is appropriate to such a visible position as Conn." Tom's voice dropped out of 'command mode' and he added, "Mike, I'm going to give you some time. Use it. I can't bring you back until you get some conflicts within you cleared up."

"Yes, sir," replied Baytart, wondering how he was supposed to 'clear up' what he didn't understand in the first place. He looked at Tom, realizing that this was not the same man who he'd worked under since this journey home had begun. Paris had changed, and he seemed the better for it. Mike wondered at the hurdles they had overcome that had prompted all the changes. He felt overwhelmed.

"I'm sending you down to Astrometrics. You'll be working under Ensign Seven and with Jenny Delaney. It's going to be hard work, we'll need detailed charts of the systems were entering if we're to keep ahead of the game," Tom looked at Mike. "That's all, dismissed."

Baytart got up and said, "Aye, sir.

"Mike," said Tom.

"Yes, sir," Mike turned back.

"Don't worry, you'll get through this."

"I'll do my best, sir."

Tom nodded and Baytart left. Sitting back down, Tom decided that it was past time to do something about a ship's counselor. B'Elanna had filled in, but they really needed someone full time. He keyed his comm system and called Sickbay.

"Paris to the Doctor."

"Doctor here. What can I do for you, Mr. Paris?" the Doctor asked.

"How's Joe doing, Doc? Any ideas on his treatment?" Tom searched his desk for a new padd.

"Lt. Carey is recovering quite nicely. I worked most of the night and found the chain of nucleic acids that contained the key to the virus' reproductive cycle. It has been eradicated from his system and the cure logged in my ever-growing pile of extraordinary therapies for the multitude of mysterious diseases of the Delta Quadrant."

"That's great! Doc, how much of your database is given over to psychological and psychiatric information?" Tom queried, finally finding an empty padd.

"Only about 12%," replied the Doctor. "There just isn't room in my sub-routines for all the Starfleet medical data and the data used in counseling. Why?"

"I'm thinking that we need to start a counselor-in-training. There's just so much that's been happening to the crew, they really need to have a trained professional to talk to," Tom's voice held concern, and he made notes of his new idea.

"Well, even if we started now, it would be quite some time until someone could become proficient in it," the Doctor noted.

"Yeah, I know. That's the problem," Tom said. "We always need things yesterday. Do you think that you could access the information so we can begin training someone? I'm no expert, but I think the effects of captivity, and especially those crew that were held on Barnok, could cause them problems for a some time."

"I believe that is a sound hypothesis, Mr. Paris," the Doctor said. "Did you have someone in mind?"

"Not right now, Doc, but I want to review the materials," Tom's voice was thoughtful. "Access that information and get me the first few texts necessary. Have it ready for the meeting at 1100, OK? Paris out."

The enthor's eyebrow raised at this last request as he looked at the Sickbay chronometer. It was 0947.

"Nothing like giving someone some notice," he muttered as he went into his office and began accessing the database. "The man has let the power go to his head."

End Part 24 1