Title: Come of Age
Author: Annette Welsh-Shinya 01/99
Series: VOY
Part: 31/?
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's knees almost gave way as he materialized in the Sickbay. The Doctor immediately began hovering over Geron. Tom carefully walked over to an instrument tray and picked up a tricorder and began running it over Harry.

"Don't you think you'd better use that on yourself, Mr. Paris?" the Doctor suggested wryly, giving Geron a shot with his hypospray and turning to Tom.

"Just flesh wounds, Doc," Tom replied with a tired smile. "You're fine, Harry. Get up to the Bridge and help B'Elanna. The minute she decloaked to save our butts, the Ibesian defense forces will have picked up on us. I'm sure that their computer system is completely separate from the mines', so we're in for a battle."

"Yes, sir," Harrry replied with alacrity and made for the door.

"How nice of you to take command in Sickbay, too, Mr. Paris," the Doctor commented as he began scanning Tom, gesturing for him to sit on a bio-bed. "Releasing my patients so I don't have to bother looking at them."

"All part of the service, Doc," Tom quipped, then winced as the Doctor began removing the crude bandages. "Just patch me up, I need to get to the Bridge right away."

"You will have to hold still so I can accomplish this," the Doctor chided as began healing the wounds.

"How's Tuvok?" said Tom worried.

"Not good," replied the Doctor, his expression turning serious. "He has an incomplete spinal cord injury, which has damaged the motor and sensory function of his left leg and parts of his lower torso. Due to the nature of Vulcan anatomy and the great control he had over his brain, Mr. Tuvok has been maintaining a certain level of stop-gap treatment, preventing a full-scale deterioration of his condition. However, he has been incarcerated without proper medical treatment for some time and the damage to his spinal cord has been severe." The Doctor looked grim, "I don't know if I can repair what has been lost. It will require a long and complicated surgery and an even lengthier recovery time. Even then, I don't know if it will help him regain the ability to walk without assistance."

"Do your best, Doc," Tom got up from the bio-bed. "I'll get us out of here as quickly as I can, then I'll be back to help you get started. Keep me informed on his condition."

"I will," the Doctor said. "Oh, and Tom?"

"Yeah, Doc?" Tom paused by the Sickbay door.

"I talked with Lt. Ayala. You gave Tuvok good initial treatment. He may have you to thank for any recovery he makes. Without your treatment and spinal precautions, he would have never survived the trip to the surface," the Doctor was looking straight at Tom, his voice serious.

"Thanks, but I'll be happy when we get him back on his feet, Doc. Both of them," Tom added. The Doctor nodded as Tom left. He turned back to Tuvok and checked his readings, then Geron. They were both stable, but who knew what was going to happen now that they were discovered. The Doctor began securing Sickbay for combat conditions.

"Status report," Tom called as he entered the Bridge.

B'Elanna slid over into the chair next to the Captain's and said, "Four Ibesian light cruisers have launched from their base and are heading for us. We've left the planet's atmosphere and are almost at the distance to go to warp." She looked at Tom's bloody uniform, then continued, "Unfortunately, we will be intercepted by them approximately 30 seconds before we are clear to go to warp."

"Their weapons are powered up and they are ready to fire," Harry called out from Ops. "Shields are at maximum."

"Stand by for evasive maneuvers, Mr. McNaughton!" Tom called out.

"Aye, sir," replied McNaughton.

"Hail them, Mr. Kim," Tom ordered. "See if you can delay them a bit." The impact of the first two ships' weapons ruled that out. "Belay that order, Ensign," Tom said. "Evasive maneuver pattern Delta 5, Ensign McNaughton. B'Elanna, is the warp drive ready to go?"

"On-line, sir," replied B'Elanna scanning her data screen. "The cloaking shields are ready also."

"Ensign Seven, send out some seeker programs on their internal communications frequencies, one of those ones you've altered with the Borg algorithmic subroutines," Tom ordered. "See if that gets their attention. Mr. Kim, target their weapons systems and fire when ready. Just get us some breathing room, Harry. Ensign McNaughton, be ready the second after Mr. Kim fires to head out for deep space and take it to warp."

"Aye, sir," they each called out in response.

Tom looked at B'Elanna and said, "Nice timing, Lt. Torres. That cliff was getting a little uncomfortable."

B'Elanna gave a half-smile and replied, "Thank you, sir." Her eyes told him that they would re-visit this matter later. Tom was just glad that there was going to *be* a later. B'Elanna in Klingon mode would be restful compared to his trip to the mining colony on Abraad.

"Firing phasers now," called Harry.

"Engage, Ensign McNaughton," Tom ordered and Voyager shot into warp before the Ibesians could make an estimate of their damages. "Damage report, Mr. Neelix."

"Minor damage to the aft shield array, sir," Neelix replied. "I've dispatched a repair crew and switched to the back-up system."

"The cloaking shield is up and functioning," Seven stated from her panel behind Tom.

"Any pursuit from our Ibesian friends," Tom asked Harry.

"Negative, they're still sitting in the same place we left them, totally disabled," Harry looked up from his panel with satisfaction. "The seeker programs have hit their central cores and they have only basic system functions."

"Very good people," Tom said with approval. "I think we can mark this one in the 'win' column." The Bridge crew's faces broke out in grins of relief as they settled down to normal procedures. "Ensign McNaughton, set course for Ibesia Prime, warp 6" Tom ordered with satisfaction. "Let's go get the Captain and Commander Chakotay."

"Yes, sir," McNaughton replied with enthusiasm.

"I've got to get back to Sickbay to help the Doc with Tuvok," Tom turned to B'Elanna. "You have the Bridge."

"Aye, Mr. Paris," B'Elanna acknowledged the order. "Let me know how he's doing," she continued in a softer voice.

"I will," Tom replied softly and left the Bridge.

"What do you need me to do, Doc?" said Tom, eyeing Tuvok with a little trepidation. This was going to be a very difficult operation and he wasn't sure he was up to it. He felt the responsibility pressing down on him and wondered if he was adequate to the task before him.

"I've outlined the procedure here," the Doctor handed Tom a padd. "Study this while I prepare Mr. Tuvok and the instruments we'll need."

Tom took the padd and walked into the office and sat down in the Doctor's chair. The amount of information was staggering. He applied himself and soon was deep in the description of the surgery.

After a while, the Doctor appeared in the doorway. "It's time to begin," he said.

Tom looked up and said, "Already? I hope I'm ready, Doc. This seems like a really complex surgery to me. A lot of things can go wrong."

The Doctor turned and crossed to where Tuvok lay on the bio-bed, the med-arch up and ready to go. "It's surgery, Mr. Paris. No different than when you assisted me with B'Elanna or Crewman Arnot."

"Yeah, well, at those times, it was so hectic, I didn't have any time to think, to worry. The work needed to be done, so I just did it," Tom said ruefully. "Now that things have calmed down a little..."

"You've started second guessing yourself," the Doctor finished.

"You got it...and third, sometimes even fourth guessing myself," Tom continued shaking his head.

The Doctor turned to look directly at Tom. "You were trained as a Starfleet officer, Mr. Paris. That in itself is a very difficult job. You have also been trained to be a pilot and Conn officer. Now, you've received training to be a medic. At no time, did you ever receive extensive command training, which is the situation you found yourself in after the Vandals attacked." Doc shook his head, "I still sometimes wonder where the irresponsible, irritating, irascible Tom Paris went." Tom smiled a little at this. "But, I really know where he went," the Doctor continued. "He made way for the man who commands this ship, takes care of his crew, and makes very difficult decisions on a daily basis. In short, you've become what you needed to be in order for this ship to survive and complete its mission. This," he gestured to Tuvok, "is just another problem to overcome, Mr. Paris. I have every confidence in your abilities, command, piloting, or medical."

Tom was speechless for a moment. He'd never heard the Doc speak like this before, and didn't know how to answer.

"Mark it down on the calendar," the Doctor noted to no one in particular. "Tom Paris at a loss for words." He moved closer to Tuvok's side, "We need to start now, Tom. Please hand me the tissue separator."

Moving to the instrument tray, Tom picked up the requested device and handed it to the Doctor. "It's just that it's Tuvok, Doc," he finally got out. "I never thought of him as so...vulnerable."

"We can all be vulnerable at times," the Doctor concentrated on carefully opening the skin above the injury in Tuvok's spine and separating the tissues over the vertebrae. "Cauterize that artery."

"Got it," Tom moved to seal off the bleeder.

"You have a great deal of empathy for your patients," the Doctor continued. "You just must learn to have more objectivity with those you are particularly close to. It can make treating them difficult if you don't."

"Yeah, I know. I just never expected to be doing this, you know?" Tom said somewhat wistfully, moving the portable sensor link over the injured vertebrae. The readout on the bio-arch was not promising. It showed severe lesions to several nerves between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae. He swore internally. Tuvok was in trouble.

"Neither did I, Mr. Paris," replied the Doctor. "Hold the probe there." He shook his head. "This nerve has completely withered," he pointed to the spot on the readout. "I will try to regenerate it, but it has been so long since the original injury, I don't know if it will be effective. Hand me the nerve stimulator..."

The operation continued for quite time. When they were finished, Tom was totally exhausted. "What do you think, Doc?" he said rubbing his neck.

"Only time will tell," he replied. "Mr. Tuvok is quite exhausted from his ordeal, yet Vulcans have remarkable recuperative powers. We shall have to wait and see."

Tom looked at Tuvok for a long time. "He's gone into a Vulcan healing trance, hasn't he?"

The Doctor ran another scan on Tuvok and nodded, "It's the best thing for him. I'll call you when he's ready to come out of it. Go get some rest."

"I'll take that prescription, Doc," Tom agreed. He walked out of Sickbay and keyed him commbadge. "Paris to Torres."

"Torres here. How's Tuvok?"

"He came through the operation just fine, B'Elanna. We won't know how successful it was for a while. He's in a healing trance right now, and we'll have a better idea what we're up against when he wakes up," Tom said as he hit the call button for the turbolift.

"That doesn't sound very good," B'Elanna's voice was still worried.

"Don't borrow any more trouble than you have to, B'Elanna," Tom advised her. "Tuvok may surprise us all yet. The man's way too stubborn to give in now."

"Kind of like somebody else I know," she rejoined.

"Well, this somebody is taking himself to his quarters for a little down time. Anything exciting happening?" Tom leaned up against the lift wall.

"If you don't count recalibrating the warp coils as exciting, nothing," B'Elanna offered.

"Just the way I like it," Tom laughed as he stepped out of the lift. "Nice and boring."

"I'm turning over the Bridge to Ensign Powers. I'll meet you in about five minutes. We need to *debrief* the mission," her voice had a certain edge to it.

"Very well, Lt. Torres," he acceded to her wishes even though the formal debriefing wouldn't be until the next day. This 'meeting' he was looking forward to.

Harry and Seven took the next lift after B'Elanna left the Bridge. They weren't looking at each other, but extremely aware of the other's existence. Harry ordered the lift to deck three and when Seven didn't say anything he looked at her.

"You look like you want to say something to me," Harry finally said. The turbolift doors opened and they got out and started walking down the companionway toward his quarters.

"It is a matter of some delicacy," Seven said quite formally as they reached the door.

"In that case, please come in," his voice contained just a hint of sarcasm, but hey, it'd been a tough day.

Seven entered his quarters and stood next to his couch. Harry moved over to the replicator and ordered a cup of coffee. "You want anything?" he offered diffidently. "Coffee, tea, a shot of scotch?"

"A glass of water would be fine," she replied.

"One water," Harry handed it to her. "Sit down, take a load off, Seven. Now, what's on your mind?"

Seven sat and took a drink of her water. She didn't say anything for a long moment. "You risked your life unnecessarily trying to rescue Crewman Geron," she stated looking straight ahead.

"What exactly do you mean, 'unnecessarily'?" his voice was tense.

"You deliberately ignored Mr. Paris' order that everyone remain with the freed prisoners and escort them to the surface." she said with a little heat.

"Tom needed help," Harry moved closer to where Seven sat. "He just would never ask anyone to give it to him." He was getting a little angry.

"It did not have to be you that went. I was second in command of the mission. It was my responsibility to help him as necessary," Seven was practically yelling now, their faces were only centimeters apart.

"What, are you jealous? Do you think I was trying to undermine your command?" Harry yelled right back at her.

"No! You are my responsibility. You should not have endangered yourself. You are too important to be put at such a risk," she was so agitated that her cheeks were flushed.

"And what the hell is that supposed to mean? I'm too important? I'm a part of this crew. Sometimes it's my job to risk my life," he thundered, taking Seven by the shoulders.

"You are important to me," she said in a small voice. Suddenly, it was very quiet in the room. The only sounds were from the slight panting from the two as their bodies dealt with the rush of adrenaline.

Harry looked at Seven, his face a study in wonder. Then a pained looked crossed over him and he swore and pulled Seven to him and kissed her hard. For a split second, she did nothing, then returned the kiss with everything in her being. For an endless stretch of time, they did nothing but kiss, over and over again. At last, Harry pulled back from Seven and said, "You are important to me, too." They gazed at each other. Harry put one hand up to Seven's hair and stroked it back, then pulled her to him again. She arched against him and felt part of the horrendous tension of the day drain away as kisses trailed down her face and neck. This was what she had wanted to talk about.

End Part 31 1