Title: Come of Age
Author: Annette Welsh-Shinya 01/99
Series: VOY
Part: 26/?
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!


Tom sat at the desk in his ready room, reading reports and making log entries. He was determined to get down each crew member's commendation into his log. Not knowing what was waiting for them on Abraad, he felt it only right that he update the log with the incredible amount of things that had been accomplished by his crew.

"...and Crewmen B'Tall and Cooley performed well above the call of duty and their own training, performing stretcher duty and assisting in Sickbay as needed..."

Seven's voice over the comm system interrupted him, "Ensign Seven to Mr. Paris."

"Paris here. Computer, pause log. What is it, Seven?"

"We have reached the outer region of the Abraad system, sir."

"Acknowledged, Ensign. Any sign of other ships in the area?" Tom asked.

"Some freighters, a few small inter system ships. No Vandal or Ibesian Defense Force vessels are within our scanning range," Seven answered. "Our shields are maintaining their integrity."

"Slow to one-quarter impulse and slowly ease our way into the system, Seven. Keep those shields up and scan continuously for any unwelcome neighbors. Have Astrometrics get on those detailed scans of the third planet. I want to know the molecular makeup of their flooring materials, got it?"

"Yes, sir," Seven's voice was dry. "I will have Astrometrics draw up a diagram of their floor plan, sir.

"Keep me updated," Tom replied smiling. "I'm going to be in my ready room until we get closer to the planet. Carry on, Ensign."

"Aye, sir."

Tom chuckled and thought to himself, last night's party had been quite a success. A more relaxed Seven had made her return. Neelix had thrown together a bash that had been truly an event to remember. Wilson had outdone himself with the food - it had actually been quite good. They'd opened up a holodeck and ran the resort program without any holocharacters to save power. Most of the crew had been able to attend, and Neelix had worked up a schedule that had allowed those who were on duty to be rotated in for at least a short time.

The crew had been so relaxed and happy. So much of what they had been through had been so grim and unyielding. They still had a lot of work to do, but they'd lived through the very worst of times and found that they had endured. Not only had they endured, but had succeeded, even improved their lot. The ship now had capabilities that it never had before. Crew members had a confidence in their ability to adapt and overcome disaster and tragedy. There were those who now had new skills to add to their old ones. Younger, lower ranking crew had had a taste of seniority, and most had found that they liked it. Tragedy had forged them; success and self-confidence had tempered them; their humanity and caring had saved them. Tom felt a surge of pride. They were going to make it, whatever they tried to do.

Harry had come to the party, making his entrance just after Seven showed up. Tom had been talking with a group from Engineering when he saw Harry come in. He's waved at his friend, who'd come over and began talking to the group. He seemed very relaxed, so Tom eased his way over to where B'Elanna stood next to Seven, both of them not saying anything, but companionable together.

"How's it going?" Tom said.

"The party looks like it's a success," B'Elanna smiled at Tom and took a sip of her drink. It was amber in color and looked suspiciously like scotch.

"That's not the punch that Wilson made for the evening's festivities," Tom noted with raised eyebrows.

"Uh-uh," B'Elanna agreed, taking another sip, her eyes merry. "Seven brought it. She thought she would like to contribute to the party."

"Seven, that's very kind of you," said Tom is a wry voice.

"I find that kindness that can be poured in the form of pure malt scotch is often well received," Seven observed, taking a generous mouthful of her own portion. It seemed to not affect her in the least. She'd developed quite an affinity for whiskey in the past few months, and her tolerance had gotten a lot higher than it once had been.

"So noted, Ensign," Tom said with formality that didn't go to well with the amusement in his eyes. He knew that she wouldn't go overboard with the beverage. They'd already had this discussion. "Just be clear-headed enough for tomorrow's duty."

"Yes, sir," replied Seven with a slight smile that faded as Harry approached them.

B'Elanna, however, brightened and said, "Harry! Finally. I thought you were avoiding me." And she actually gave him a hug.

Harry stiffened for about a second then hugged her back. "You know I value my health too much to do that, B'Elanna." But he seemed very pleased by her unconditional warm welcome.

"Have a drink, Harry," B'Elanna offered, gesturing to Seven. "Seven's got some great scotch. If you're really nice, she'll give you some."

Harry looked at Seven and then said, "How about it, Seven? Can a guy get a drink around here?"

Seven turned and took a short tumbler from the table next to them and reached behind a potted palm for the bottle. "Would you like a drink?" she inquired politely.

"Make it a double," Harry said with conviction, and looked very grateful when she handed it to him. Without ceremony, he tipped half the contents into his mouth and swallowed. He coughed once, then said, "Thanks," in a huskily reverent tone.

"Ensign Kim, that is pure single malt scotch whiskey," Seven actually sounded like she was scolding. "It is meant to be savored, not drunk like water."

"Believe me, Seven," Harry gestured with his glass. "I needed to do that."

Seven considered this for a moment, while Tom and B'Elanna laughed a bit. Harry actually smiled back at them, but waited patiently for Seven to consider the matter. Finally, she said, "If you will finish the portion in your glass, I believe it would be considered 'medicinal' to pour you another."

Harry stared at her for moment, then let out a laugh, a real laugh, not a bitter or forced one. "Seven," he said and threw back the rest into his mouth without a blink. "Keep 'em coming."

Tom looked at B'Elanna and inclined his head toward the beach. She nodded and said, "Hey, Harry. Tom and I are going to go down to the beach. Why don't you and Seven join us?"

Harry shrugged his shoulders and looked at Seven, who raised an implant, but nodded. She picked up the bottle and fell in with Harry, who was following Tom and B'Elanna. They made their way through the crowds of people, all having a very good time. Neelix stopped Tom, and he congratulated the Talaxian on his quick and effective plans for a great party. Neelix just glowed with happiness. It was his nature to love a good party and entertaining people. The group moved off toward the beach again, leaving Neelix to walk around playing host.

Making their way across the sand, they passed Ensigns Powers and Vorik, who were seated on a blanket, having a discussion about tetryon particles. They were sitting very close together, both in off duty clothes. Tom grinned at B'Elanna after they had passed, while Harry just looked blankly at Vorik and Jan. Seven, to whom mating practices were such an unknown, had no comment. To her, they seemed to be interacting in an acceptable social manner.

Reaching the harder sand, the group sat and watched the sunset as it began. Seven poured Harry and herself another drink. Both B'Elanna and Tom declined, preferring to sit leaning on one another, savoring the view. Harry sipped his drink this time, watching Seven as she drank hers, her eyes on the waves as they washed ashore.

B'Elanna felt very contented. She was warm and safe, with the man she loved and her friends. She looked over at Harry and Seven and gave a sigh. The evening wouldn't last, but while it did, it was wonderful. Tom looked down at her and put an arm around her shoulders and squeezed. They were in accord. He bent down and whispered, "Let's get out of here and leave those two alone. I think now is a good time for us to take a nice walk down the beach."

"Pig," she whispered back, good-naturedly. "You just want to get me home and in the sack."

"Yup," he mouthed back, unrepentantly. "I have a one-track mind."

"It's going my way," she murmured back, not trying to hide her smile.

Harry had seen the interaction between Tom and B'Elanna, and he was not surprised in the least when the stood up and announced that they were going to take a 'walk' down the beach and they would see them later.

"Bye," Harry saluted him with his glass, then looked at Seven, who had nodded when they left, but was now back gazing at the water.

"Penny for your thoughts," he said without thinking himself.

She looked at him, startled. Her eyes were very wide and blue looking. "I was contemplating the wave action. It appears random, but is actually a pattern repetition of four different sets of waves. May I have my penny now?" she asked.

Harry looked at her for a moment, then smiled in admiration. She really had him going there for a moment. "Sorry, Seven. I'm fresh out. I guess I'll have to owe you," he replied.

"I have observed that Humans often make promises that they cannot fulfill in order to get what they want," Seven said.

"I don't know, it depends on the promise," Harry stated, his meaning on more than one level.

"What about a promise to try harder at assimilating the correct behaviors in social situations?" Seven queried, letting him know that she had understood him a little at least.

"That would be a good one," he replied carefully. "Do you think it could be done?"

"I have been attempting to discover that, Ensign Kim," Seven said, resuming her gaze of the ocean.

"Harry," he said.

"What?" she was confused.

"Start by calling me Harry," he instructed. "That's the 'correct social behavior' right now. You can do it," he encouraged. "I've heard you before."

"That was in a moment of...stress," Seven said slowly. She looked for a moment into his eyes. "Very well," she continued. "I will attempt to use that designation for you."

"Very well, *Harry*," he said with a teasing light in his eyes.

"Very well, Harry," she echoed, tilting her head to one side, considering him. She looked down at his glass. "You have consumed your drink, Harry. I shall provide another portion."

He looked pleased at her and said, "Seven, you have a way with words," and he handed her his glass.

Tom and B'Elanna walked hand in hand down the beach, relaxing in each other's company. There were others on the beach, but they didn't attempt to talk with them. Some nodded or greeted them in passing, but somehow knew that they wished to be left alone.

"You think Harry and Seven will work it out?" B'Elanna asked Tom after a while.

"What makes you think I know the answer to that?" he asked back.

"You're the relationship counselor," she teased. "You've been playing cupid for Vorik and Jan, and you deliberately requested that the Doctor have Sam Wildman come 'nurse' Joe Carey back to health, claiming that you had too much to do to have a Sickbay shift today."

Tom grinned at her, "Guilty as charged, Ma'am. What's your sentence?"

B'Elanna grinned back and said, "You'll find out when we get back to your quarters."

Savoring the anticipation, Tom thought for a moment, then offered, "I think that both Seven and Harry need a lot of time, but that they could work it out. If they really want to."

"I think they really want to," B'Elanna replied softly, leaning into Tom and he slid an arm around her.

"Do them both some good," he added thoughtfully. "They've both been through so much lately."

"So have you, Mister," she said with emphasis. "Or have you forgotten?"

"That's not very likely, B'Elanna," he said, stopping. "But so have you...we all have gone through hell, and it's not likely to get much better."

"The ship is better," she said with pride. "So are we."

"That's what is going to get us through this, B'Elanna," Tom replied, holding her close and lifting his head to watch the sun slip below the sea.

"Together," she breathed, looking up at him.

"Yes," he said as he kissed her. They lingered in their embrace until it was dark on the beach, then made their way off the holodeck and back to his quarters.

Tom's reverie was interrupted by the computer querying him on whether he wished to resume his log entry.

"Computer...resume log.."

Astrometrics and Ops had completed the scans of the planet and the mining colony. It was a large operation, mining pergium and some useful metals. The tunnel system was extensive, with security based largely on Vandal technology. This was very good news, because they would not have to spend any time trying to figure out how to circumvent it.

Tom was reading over the last of the reports submitted, when B'Elanna arrived on the Bridge. She r wadown next to him and said, "Those the reports on Abraad?"

"Yes," he replied. "Take a look. I think our luck's changed. Their security is based on Vandal systems and technology." She looked very happy at this and began reading the reports.

"Mr. McNaughton, how much farther to the colony?" Tom asked.

"I estimate our arrival in about eighteen minutes, sir," McNaughton replied.

"Keep an eye on things, Ensign," he ordered. "Establish us in a bi-polar orbit, and ensure that we don't hit any ships in the process. I don't want to be anywhere they'll be looking if they get a hint that we're here."

"Yes, sir," she said, making the necessary calculations. "Course is laid in, sir."

"Very good, Ensign. Engage it when we're in position."

Tom looked over to Seven at Ops, and she nodded back at him. They were on course for another confrontation, but the rewards would far outweigh the risks.

"Well, what do you think?" he asked B'Elanna when she sat back.

"I think it's going to be a lot of work finding our personnel," replied B'Elanna thoughtfully. "On the other hand, having the inside track on the security system is going to make our job a lot easier."

"That's what I thought," Tom agreed. "We're going to have to talk with Harry about exactly how they Ibesians run their prisoner operations. It looks like we'll have to be in stealth mode for a while, until we can track down exactly where everyone is."

"Why don't you take Seven and go talk with Harry," B'Elanna offered. "I'm not going to be a part of the away team, and she is. You can fill me in later."

Tom looked appreciatively at B'Elanna. He knew that she wanted to go on these missions, but that he needed her stay aboard the ship in order to have someone of her caliber in reserve. Should anything happen to him, she was the next candidate for Captain. He knew she didn't want the job, but would do it, and very well, if need be. It was his fervent wish that she not be put to the test.

"Ensign Seven, please accosaidy me. We're going to have a little chat with Mr. Kim about Ibesian prisons and their security procedures," Tom called to Seven.

"Aye, sir," she replied, and Ensign Powers stepped over from where she was minding the Engineering station while on 'fill-in' duty.

"Lt. Torres, you have the Bridge," Tom ordered. "Call me if anything changes."

"Aye, sir," B'Elanna replied.

Tom and Seven left the Bridge. As the lift doors closed, B'Elanna could hear Tom keying his commbadge and asking for Harry Kim. The plan was just beginning to take form.

End Part 26 1