Title: Come of Age
Author: Annette Welsh-Shinya 01/99
Series: VOY
Part: 33/?
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!


Harry finally let Seven partially go. He still retained his arms around her person, as if he was afraid she would attempt to leave. She had no intention of leaving unless he asked her to. This was what she had hoped for some time to accomplish with him, but had been unable to approach it directly, as was her habit. Normally, she did not feel any qualms about saying exactly what she wanted or thought, but her investigations and experiences in her development as a human had taught her that this was one subject that did not respond well to the direct approach. Fortunately, Harry had seemed to discern what she was saying and wanted, even though her communication had been inadequate and confused.

"What's going on in that brain of yours, Seven?" Harry queried, half serious, half in jest.

"I am contemplating how you were able to comprehend my desire to kiss you without my being able to verbalize it in a coherent fashion," Seven replied evenly.

Harry laugh was deep and real. "Oh, Seven. Never, ever change that part of you. The other stuff is great, but that is so *you*," he smiled at her.

"You wish me to continue to converse in the same manner as I am accustomed to doing?" she asked, a slight smile graced her mouth.

"Uh-huh," he nodded. "Just the way you are is perfect," he added, putting his mouth on hers and gently kissing her several times.

"I am not perfect," she said. "But I attempt to maintain as high a standard as possible, so you may be assured that I will comply with your request to the best of my abilities." She reached a tentative hand up on his forehead and stroked back his hair that had fallen into his eyes.

"That's what I like to hear, lady," Harry's hands came up to her shoulders and pulled her closer to him. He leaned back on the couch and Seven wriggled into place between his legs and lay down on his chest, her head on his shoulder.

"Your body's reaction to the recent stimuli is apparent to me," Seven said matter-of-factly. She gave another wriggle against his groin, which had indeed responded to the recent stimulus it had received.

"What do you know," he reached one hand up to tug open her jacket and to gently stroke a nipple that was visible through her turtleneck. "I can see that yours has, too." Her quick intake of breath told him that she was not indifferent to the action. In fact, her face was a study in surprised pleasure. "I guess you like that," he said in a husky, slightly amused voice.

"The sensation is pleasant," Seven said, her own voice going a little husky. "It causes me to..." she seemed at a loss for words.

"Ache," Harry finished for her as she shifted again against him. He moaned a little.

"Yes," she murmured intensely, her eyes shutting. "Ache, and...want...," she trailed off into a moan and his hands slid under her shirt and stroked her breasts, only a the light layer of her bra between him and her flesh.

"That's how you're supposed to feel," he could barely speak. He panted slightly, "Seven, this is not exactly how I thought this evening was going to end."

She opened her eyes and looked at him. "You do not find this pleasurable?" she asked, almost forlornly.

"Hell, yes, I find it pleasurable," he replied. "I just wonder if this is what you really want. I mean, the logical conclusion to these activities, that is."

Seven smiled a smile that was ages old. "'The logical conclusion to these activities'," her eyebrow implant raised slightly. "You may yet learn to speak more concisely, Ensign Kim." She leaned in closer to his face, "I know what you are speaking of, and that is precisely what I wish, Harry."

It was the 'Harry' that did for him. He knew then that he wasn't going to be able to let her leave then. The sound that came from him would give a Klingon growl a good run for its money. Rolling her over, they fell off the couch, just missing the edge of his table. Neither took any notice. They were kissing and stroking each other with abandon. The restraints were finally off. The waiting over. Pulling each other's clothing off, they were intent on their final objective. When they were naked, Harry stood up and picked Seven bodily up. He took her into his bedroom and put her on the bed. He stood there, just looking at her for a moment, then joined her on the bed.

"Why did you bring me here?" Seven said, puzzled.

"Because I'm getting too old to think that the floor is a great place to make love with someone for the first time," Harry said stroking her cheek and nuzzling her ear. "And if you make one comment about comfort being irrelevant, I'll get violent," he said with mock fierceness.

"I would not desire for you to get violent," she replied dryly. "I will endeavor to restrain myself from stating my opinions on the relevancy of things."

"You just do that," Harry said, taking a breast into his hand and sucking not too gently on its nipple.

"Besides, I have recently found that comfort, and being comforted, can be very relevant," she shuddered with pleasure as he moved his attentions to the other breast.

"Seven, you talk too much," Harry muttered, closing his mouth over hers. She would have agreed, but had no opportunity to do so. It was not relevant anyway.

Sickbay was quiet. The hum of the various devices monitoring Cmdr. Tuvok were discrete. The Doctor was deep in contemplation of the various therapies he'd downloaded onto a padd from the medical database. There was much written about spinal cord injuries, unfortunately, most of it tended to be treatises on how to assist a person in living with their disability, rather than how to treat it successfully. He was very frustrated. The operation that he had performed with Tom's help had gone as well as could be expected under the circumstances, but he well knew that Tuvok would not have full use of his legs when he recovered. It had been too long since the initial injury had happened for the operation to have its optimal benefit. The damage to the nerves and tissue were just too severe. His only hope was that Tuvok's ability to control his brain and the wonders achieved with Vulcan healing trances would give him an edge when dealing with this.

It was humbling to be reduced placing your hopes on the patient's own abilities, when your have been proven to be less than what was needed. All the medical marvels of Starfleet and Federation doctors at his fingertips, but no one had yet designed a treatment to regenerate nerves that had been damaged for such a long time. It was not only Tuvok. Jenny Delaney couldn't hear in one ear, and very poorly in the other, because he couldn't help her either. The scar on her face was another story. He just wished he could convince her to let him remove it. He knew the reasons that she wouldn't were very complex and emotional. Tom had been right. They needed a counselor on board in the worst way. He mentally catalogued all the crew, but could come up with no good candidate for counselor. Except, he muttered to himself, Tom. He had that knack of listening to people and getting them to open up to him. That was why he was so good in Sickbay and so good at being Captain. But, he wasn't about to suggest to Tom that he take on that duty also. The Doctor leaned back and sighed. He wasn't supposed to feel fatigued, but that's what he was. All these new subroutines, he thought. I must have picked up some more humanisms than I bargained for. He was contemplating calling in a crewman to keep watch on Tuvok and shutting himself down for a while when the alarms at Tuvok's bio-bed started screaming. He was coming out of the trance and sinking fast.

"Doctor to Mr. Paris," he said after hitting his commbadge.

"Paris here," came Tom's sleepy voice.

"Mr. Tuvok is coming out of his trance," he replied urgently. "I need you in Sickbay right away."

"On my way, Doc," Tom called out, and jumped out of bed. B'Elanna watched him as he donned the nearest set of clothes, which happened to be a t-shirt and jeans that were laying on the bureau. He didn't bother with shoes. "Computer, initiate emergency intraship transport from my quarters to Sickbay. Authorization Paris 4Delta23."

As Tom started to dematerialize, B'Elanna called, "Good luck." She sighed and got up out of bed to get dressed. She wouldn't be needed in Sickbay, but she couldn't stay in bed either. She decided to head to the mess hall and get something to eat. They'd passed on dinner earlier, and though she wasn't really hungry, it would give her something to do.

Tom materialized just as the Doctor was finishing his initial analysis of Tuvok's condition. "He's gone into shock and his vital signs are close to flat lining," he called out to Tom. "Help me lift him up and turn him over, and I'll start hitting him."

Tom moved over to one side and the Doctor held the other. Then, the Doctor hauled back and proceeded to slap Tuvok on one side of the face then the other. Tom said in a strong voice, "Tuvok, come on, Tuvok. Snap out of it. You can't just lay around all day. Tuvok!"

Finally, Tuvok's vital signs began to steady, then climb a little. The Doctor kept slapping him, until Tuvok managed to say in a rusty voice, "That will be sufficient, Doctor. Thank you."

"Tuvok," Tom spoke, then cleared his voice. "Nice to have you back," as he and the Doctor let him back down on the bed.

"I believe the appropriate response is 'it's good to be back'," the Vulcan replied, his voice still a little rusty and quite weak. Tom smiled down at his friend and felt a great weight lifted off of his chest.

"How are you feeling, Mr. Tuvok," asked the Doctor, professionally, but with a hint of affection that Tom picked up on.

"I am weak, but otherwise in a much superior condition than I have been in recently," replied Tuvok. "However, I must report that my right leg has no sensation, and my left leg feels numb. Also, my lower torso has areas of numbness."

The Doctor nodded. It was just as he had suspected. He took a tricorder from his cart and ran it over him for an additional diagnostic. "The impairment of the damaged nerves in your spinal column was too great for the operation to fully heal them," the Doctor said regretfully. "I did what I could, but it had been too long since you were injured. I'm sorry." Tom didn't say anything, but his face was a study in regret and chagrin.

"I am certain that you performed to the best of your ability, Doctor," Tuvok said with sincerity. "And, I am also certain that nothing further could have been done to treat my condition, had I been at any other facility. I comprehended several months ago that, should I survive, my injuries would be of a permanent nature."

"I am attempting to find other methods of treatment," the Doctor explained earnestly. "I would not give up hope that there may yet be a way of treating your injuries."

"It is to your credit that you continue to seek new treatments, Doctor," Tuvok answered. "But totally unnecessary. I will adapt. It is the logical course to follow."

"Just the same, I'm going to continue to look, Mr. Tuvok," the Doctor said with a slight smile. "For me, it's the logical thing to do." Tuvok inclined his head a fraction and looked tired. "Get some rest, Commander. We'll discuss this some more tomorrow."

Tom followed the Doctor over to his office. "Do you need me to stay, Doc?" Tom offered.

"No, Mr. Paris. Go get some sleep. You'll need it," the Doctor replied, sighing a little.

"He's right, you know," Tom noted.

"About what?" the Doctor asked.

"He couldn't have gotten any better treatment anywhere. You know it. So, don't beat yourself up about not being able to fix him back the way he was," Tom advised. "I know you probably won't listen to me, but I'll say it anyway. You did everything you could for him. Now, it's up to him to adjust to what has happened."

"That's a bit like the pot calling the kettle black, now isn't it?" the Doctor said wryly to Tom. "I know you. You'll be making this your fault before you walk out of this room."

"Well, isn't it?" Tom accused himself with a bitter voice. "If I had been able to get to him and the others quicker, he might have had a better chance to recover fully."

"That is simply not true, Mr. Paris," Tuvok's voice called across the room, still weak, but carrying well. Tom turned with some surprise to look at Tuvok. He crossed back over to where the Vulcan lay. The Doctor remained by his office door, curious, but not wanting to interrupt their exchange. "Your attempt to take responsibility for my injuries is noble but misguided," Tuvok added. "It is logical to assume that you had difficulties in re-taking the ship. You would have certainly proceeded with all dispatch to rescue what crew you could find. I was injured the second day of my captivity on Abraad. The unavoidable length of time between my injury and my treatment ensured that it could not completely succeed. Therefore, it is logical to state that there was little that you could have done to remedy my situation beyond what you have already done." His voice trailed off here, as if this spate of talking had weakened him.

"Just rest, Tuvok," Tom said with some distress. "I know you don't want let me take responsibility for what happened. But," he added with emphasis. "*I* was in command of Voyager at the time. That makes it *my* responsibility." Tuvok looked curiously at Tom here. "I could have done things differently, made better decisions. Unfortunately," Tom gave a humorless laugh. "I didn't know what the hell I was doing half the time, so I just had to do the best I could. I'm just sorry you got caught up in that."

"Tom," Tuvok said, his voice weak but insistent. "You are in command of Voyager. I am physically unfit to take over. It is illogical for you to blame yourself for events out of the span of your control. You must concentrate on continuing the course you have set. Rescue the Captain and Cmdr. Chakotay. I am confident that the abilities that have served you to allow you to come this far are sufficient to support your continued path."

Tom looked at Tuvok for a while, then spoke softly, "I think that's just about the highest compliment that you could have ever paid me, Tuvok. Thanks. I'll try to live up to the abilities that you seem to think I possess." His lips twitched in a ghost of his trademark Paris grin. "Although, if ever confronted that you made that statement, I'm sure you'd deny it. Get some rest. I'll be by to see you tomorrow." Tuvok nodded once more and closed his eyes, utterly exhausted.

Tom swallowed and then turned from the bio-bed and looked over at the Doctor. The Doctor inclined his head once and gave him a look of support. Tom smiled weakly back and ran a hand through his hair. "Well, I'm going to head back to bed, Doc. I can just get about four hours of sleep if I hurry."

"Good night, Mr. Paris," the Doctor called softly as Tom waved on his way out the door. It had been an interesting exchange to witness between Tom and Tuvok. There was a friendship there that he had not thought could exist. He supposed that it wasn't any more odd than Tom and him being friends. Everyone, he added mentally, could use as many friends as they could get. He went back into his office and started reading again, periodically getting up through the night to check on Tuvok's status.

Tom headed back to his quarters. When he got there, B'Elanna was gone. She must have went back to her quarters, he though sleepily to himself. Rats. He crawled back into the bed, now cold, and shivered a bit at he tried to go back to sleep. A few moments later, the door to his quarters opened and B'Elanna came into the bedroom. He didn't need the lights to know it was her; he could tell her by her scent. "Where'd you go?" he mumbled. "The bed's cold."

"I couldn't sleep, waiting to find out about Tuvok," she explained as she got back into bed. "I went to the mess hall for a cup of coffee. How's he doing?"

"He's OK, but his condition is not 100%," Tom replied in a low voice, the sleep cleared from it. "He's going to have a permanent disability, B'Elanna."

"Oh, Tom," she called softly, pulling him into her arms. "I know that makes you feel awful."

"Yes, you would," Tom affirmed, burying his head in her breasts, needing to be comforted. "I feel like it's all my fault. If I had made better decisions, figured things out faster, that he wouldn't be injured, or at least not so badly injured."

B'Elanna just rubbed her arms up and down his back and shoulders for a minute or so. "You did everything that was possible, Tom. You know that. I was here. I saw what shape the ship was in. I know that you drove yourself more than anyone else to get us and keep us going. You couldn't have done any more than that. And, if I know Tuvok, he would have the same opinion."

"Pretty much," Tom replied, pulling back from her a little and looking at her face in the gloom. "How did you get so smart?" he asked wonderingly.

"It's a gift," she replied lightly. Then she turned serious again, "You have to let it go, Tom."

"I know," he said sighing, laying his head down on her again. "It's just hard. I feel the need to..."

"To take responsibility for everything," she finished knowingly. "You really could be taking this command responsibility a little too far, Tom."

"I don't know, B'Elanna," he said thoughtfully. "I don't think you can. It's the part about not letting it get to you that I don't have that great a handle on yet."

"Yet is the operative word, Helm-bo

y," she said stroking her hands through his hair. "You'll get that down, too," she added with confidence.

"You're my biggest fan," he responded with a voice of thanks.

"Go, Tom, go," B'Elanna replied in his ear, nudging his mouth toward one aching breast.

"Yes, Ma'am," he complied with her order with the greatest of pleasure. Thankfully, thoughts of Tuvok, the ship, and anything else besides B'Elanna faded from his mind. They would return soon enough, but now was a time for comfort, to be given and received. The ship slid on through space toward their last mission before resuming their interrupted course for the Delta Quadrant.

End Part 33 1