Title: Come of Age
Author: Annette Welsh-Shinya 01/99
Series: VOY
Part: 8/?
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!


A new rumour was going to fly around the ship pretty soon, thought Wilson as he scraped plates to put them in the recycler. He didn't care if those two got togeher to watch Bolian Crew Team races on vids, and he was pretty sure they *weren't* going to be doing that; they needed time together. The crew's discipline was not at all affected by their relationship that he could see. In fact, he'd heard many of them talking about it from time to time since he'd inherited the messhall duties from Neelix. Almost to a one, they'd all spoke supportively of the relationship. They seemed to take a proprietary interest in them, like they were *the ship's couple*. There were other relationships aboard, even with the low numbers that they had now, but this was the *one* that everyone felt like they owned a part of. It comforted them, made them feel like all was not lost if those two were still hanging on, together. He hummed to himself as he cleaned dishes and tidied up the kitchen in preperation for Seven's culinary experiment that evening. "Oh, well, it can't be anything worse than what I make," he said with a candor he would deny if ever confronted.

Tom and B'Elanna made their way to her quarters, not needing to discuss where they were heading. They had little time, and they wanted to be alone. As they entered her quarters, B'Elanna called for lights and turned around. Tom's arms came around her, and he said, "I'd really like to do what I think you think I'm here for, but unfortunately, I'm late in relieving Seven on the Bridge."

"I thought this was too good to be true," said B'Elanna with irritation, but she still pressed herself up against him and held on for all she was worth. He was reciprocating the gesture enthusiastically.

"I just wanted to tell you that I'm free tonight," he said smiling. "Well, relatively free. I'd like to come over and show you how happy I am that you're all right."

"I think that can be arranged, Mr. Paris," said B'Elanna, her voice muffled from where she was pressing her face up against the hollow of his shoulder. She lifted her head, "How about 1900?"

"Perfect," Tom breathed and caught her mouth with his own. The kiss lingered a long time, taking on a life of its own. They brushed lips softly, ground lips fiercely, teased lips mercilously, and fed on each other like they were starving. They were starving, for something that they couldn't get in the messhall.

Tom finally, reluctantly pulled back from B'Elanna. "I've got to go," he whispered softly.

"Me, too," said B'Elanna with regret.

"I'll see you at the meeting at 1800," he said cupping her cheek with his hand.

"Yes," was all she replied, but her intent was in her eyes clear as daylight.

Tom turned to go, then exclaimed, "Oh, geez, I forgot completely about the Doc." He turned back to B'Elanna and said, "The Doc's got a request for replication time stalled in the backlog. Can you bump him up? He's getting short of critical drugs, and if we're going to be going into an unknown situation with the Ibesian Syndicate, I think we need to get ourselves set up to treat the casualties that could ensue."

B'Elanna agreed, "I'll get his requisition and process it myself this afternoon. I'm going to give Vorik the rest of the day off. I told him this morning that I expected him to be out of Engineering by 1300, or I was going to break his jaw this time. Even Vulcans have to rest sometime."

"Was Powers still down there when you came up for lunch?" queried Tom as they left her quarters and headed for the turbolift.

"Yes," said B'Elanna with a sigh. "I can't blast them out of there with less than a photonic grenade."

"Sounds like an certain engineer I know pretty well," said Tom. B'Elanna looked around the corridor next to the turbolift doors. It was empty and she made a face at Tom. Tom laughed and they got into the lift that arrived.

"Get Powers to escort him to his quarters. Make it an order, that way they'll both have to comply," said Tom.

"You're going to drag me into this matchmaking of yours, aren't you?" said B'Elanna with mock accusation.

"Who me? I just am concerned that Ensign Vorik is getting the rest he needs. I am ever concerned about the health and well-being of my crew," he finished.

"Uh-huh," was all Torres said, but she was smiling. "His" crew, huh. She bet that he hadn't even noticed when he had started saying it instead of "the" crew. Pretty soon, this Captain thing was not going to be an act. Perhaps, it already wasn't, she mused thoughtfully. She said, "Engineering" to the lift, and Tom rode down with her for company, then she went out into the department and Tom waved at her as the doors closed. He ordered, "Bridge," and began mentally outlining his schedule for the rest of the afternoon. It was going to be very busy until 1900.

"Vorik," B'Elanna called in her most irritated voice.

"Here, Lt. Torres," came Vorik's voice. It almost sounded tired. He appeared from Jefferies tube, where he was making some repairs.

"I thought I told you I wanted you out of my Engine Room at 1300," she said with ferocity. "It is now 1307, and you are in violation of a direct order, Mister. Explain youself."

Vorik blinked once, then caught himself, and said, "I'm sorry, Lt. I was caught up in my repairs. I did not realize that it was past time for me to leave."

"Vorik," said B'Elanna in a calmer tone of voice. "You are not indestructable. Even Vulcans have to sleep sometime. You need to take better care of yourself. You are the best engineer I have on my staff, and I need to know that you're not going to keel over from exhaustion during a critical moment. So, get out of here!" she roared suddenly.

Vorik made to move, then B'Elanna said, "Wait. Ensign Powers!"

"Yes, sir?" said Powers, coming up from the secondary plasma relay station, where she had been trying to realign the conduit flow.

"Escort Ensign Vorik to his quarters and see that he gets some rest. You have to be on gamma shift tonight, correct?"

"Yes, sir," replied a puzzled Powers. She looked at Vorik, who was just staring at Torres like she'd lost her mind.

"Then you should be resting, too. Ensign Vorik, you will allow Ensign Powers to escort you to your quarters. You will both observe that the other rests until it is time for Ensign Powers to report to the Bridge. Vorick, you will not set foot in my Engine Room until tomorrow morning. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, sir," Powers and Vorik's automatic answers were simultaneous. They turned to look at each other, wondering what had just happened.

"Vorik," came B'Elanna voice, very gentle.

"Yes, Lieutenant?" responded Vorik, trying desperately not to wince. Vulcans do not wince.

"Get the hell out of here!" she said sweetly. The two left with alacrity. B'Elanna chuckled as she went to her office to read reports. She was suddenly tired, and wanted to sit down. Tom had been right, drat him. She was feeling the strain of the regen. She sat back and started working on some calculations that had piled up in her absence.

Tom walked onto the Bridge and relieved Seven, telling her to take the rest of the afternoon off to get ready for her dinner making duties. She had raised an implant at this, but had left willingly. She seldom had any free time, and this was something that she was learning to appreciate. She headed down to the messhall and got a tray of food. It was pleeka rind casserole. Harry's favorite. She almost couldn't eat it. Then, she applied herself and ate a few bites. She needed sustenance, and this was what was available. It was unfortunate that, nowadays, she felt that taste was relevant. It had been so much better in the old days when she hadn't cared what flavour things were, or how they were seasoned. She hadn't even liked food, but had eaten it when necessary. She had learned a lot about being human the last few months, some of which had been pretty painful, especially when she compared herself now to how she behaved before. A spoilt child was a good analagy she had learned to use when she described herself during that time.

Naomi Wildman burst into the messhall and ran up to Seven. She was covered in dirt and laughing. "Seven," she cried. "I got it! Mr. Paris promoted me to Captain's Assistant. Isn't it great?"

"I believe it's Acting Captain's Assistant, but yes, it is *great*," answered Seven. "You are dirty."

"Yes, I was helping Jenny Delaney in the hydroponics bay this morning. We planted something that looks like tomatoes, but tastes like a squash. They should be ready in a couple of months. Then we had to wash out the old planters, and that was really messy!" the child ran on excitedly. "I did wash my hands, though," and she held out her hands, which were indeed clean, but from the wrists up were grimy.

"You appear to have had a full morning," said Seven presently. "But, now you must go take a bath. If you want to help me with my dinner preperations, that is."

"You're making dinner?" said Naomi with wonder. Was there anything this former Borg couldn't do? "And you want me to help you?"

"Yes," replied Seven impassively. "If you feel that you are up to the task."

"Oh, sure," said Naomi. "I'd love to. Are you going to finish that?"

Seven glanced down at the remaining casserole in her bowl, a good half of it was still there. She just couldn't eat any more of it. She shook her hear, "No, you may eat it if you wish."

"Great, I'm starved," said Naomi eating with gusto. "Mmmm, this stuff is great," she said with her mouth full. "Better than when Neelix makes it, but don't tell him I said so."

"Do not attempt to talk with your mouth full, Naomi," said Seven. "It is a violation of social protocol. And I would not tell Mr. Neelix, anyway. I believe that it would hurt his feelings," she finished.

"You're right," said Naomi, swallowing the last of the casserole. "You're really getting a lot better at understanding people, aren't you?"

"It is my intention to improve as best I can," said Seven somewhat wistfully.

Naomi covered the hand that had the Borg implant in it. She squeezed it, and said in a kind voice, "You know, Harry's going to be really happy when he gets back to the ship."

"Why do you say that, Naomi?" asked Seven.

"Because, you're even nicer and prettier than before. I'm sure he won't be so nervous around you now," the child affirmed. "You're much more relaxed."

"You think so?" asked Seven sincerely, touching her hair that had been shorn several months ago so it was cropped about her head in a bob not unlike Captain Janeway's last hairdo. She'd had no time nor little patience for maintaining her previous style.

"Yes," nodded Naomi and smiled at her friend. "I know he likes you a lot, so it'll be great when he gets back." Here Naomi became a little sad, then with resolution, she said, "It'll be great when my Mom and everyone else gets back, too."

"Yes, it will," said Seven, reaching her other hand over to cover Naomi's grip on her. "It will be very great."

Ensigns Powers and Vorik proceeded from the turbolift toward his quarters. They had not spoken to one another since they left Engineering. They were both in shock over Lt. Torres' orders, and not a little embarassed, although wild horses or worse wouldn't have dragged that admission from Vorik. He was a little unsteady on his feet as he walked. He tried to recall the last time he slept, and was unable to do so. Still, it was illogical for Lt. Torres to assume that he would not sleep when he was ordered to do so. To send someone to watch him sleep seemed the height of illogical thinking, so he knew that even Lt. Torres wouldn't do so without a reason. Therefore, there must be some explaination as to why she wished Ensign Powers to spend time in his quarters. However, it escaped him at the moment.

They arrived at his door, and he keyed in the entrance sequence, then motioned her to proceed him into the room. He called for lights, and the room was illuminated with the setting he preferred, a little darker than most human's liked. His Vulcan vision could see things with acuity in the diminished light, and he liked the soothing darkness. It was a direct contrast to the harsh light of day on Vulcan. He had never considered that this was an odd thing. He just knew what he liked. And, since these were his quarters, he could do what he liked, within reason of course.

"I am unsure as to whether Lt. Torres meant that you were to watch me sleep by directly observing me, or just maintain a presence in my quarters to ensure that I do not attempt to leave during this time period," said Vorik, his mind was not clear and he felt he was babbling, for a Vulcan anyway. Ensign Powers, who was mortified beyond speech, just looked at Vorik helplessly. She was really tired, and the whole situation had taken on an unreal quality.

"Are you unwell, Ensign Powers?" said Vorik looking at her curiously. Her eyes were dialated and she was slightly flushed.

"Jan," she got out.

"What?" said Vorik, who decided that he was more tired than he previously thought. He couldn't make sense of her response.

"My name is Jan," said Powers, finally getting her head on straight. "You've know me for almost five years, and you've never called me by my first name."

"Oh," said Vorik with comprehension. He was at a loss as to what to say next. He was not in the habit of entertaining people in his quarters. He had occasionally went to social functions with the crew prior to the Vandals attacking the ship, but had not recently been interacting with the other crewmembers outside of the work setting. He usually spent his time alone, sometimes eating with his co-workers at lunch, but the rest of his meals were solitary affairs. Also, Tom Paris would join him from time to time, and they would talk. Tom always treated him like he was a good friend, although Vorik didn't know if he counted as such a good friend with Paris. He would like to think of Tom as his friend as well as commanding officer. Vorik realized that he was just staring at Ensign Powers, Jan, while he thought about his social life, or lack thereof. She looked down, appearing to be in distress.

"Please sit down, Jan," said Vorik in a gentle voice. He moved to the couch and sat at one end. Jan sank down on the other, still maintaining eye contact with the floor.

"Is there something wrong?" asked Vorik, breaking the long silence. They continued to sit on the couch, facing forward for him, her eyes were still glued to the floor.

Jan closed her eyes for a moment, and then cursed her shyness around the Vulcan. She was a command officer, albeit a very junior one, she should be able to handle being alone in the same room with a man that she had just recently found that, after almost five years of working together, she had an attraction to. She replied, "Nothing Vorik. I'm just really tired. It's been a rather long day." She finally looked up at him and continued, "I know you know what I mean. It's been three days since you were off shift, hasn't it?"

"You are very aware of my movements," said Vorik with a puzzled tone.

"Oh, shit," said Jan, and she wished she could just sink through the floor.

"Ensign Powers...Jan. I have done something to upset you, haven't I?" said Vorik with concern in his voice. His thinking was not very clear, and the actions of humans were always somewhat of a mystery to him. She appeared to be angry with herself for something, and at the same time, embarassed by her being with him.

"No, you haven't done anything," said Jan, her eyes shut tight.

Vorik moved over on the couch until he was right next to Jan. He looked at her closely, and Jan, sensing him, opened her eyes in alarm. She made to move away. Vorik caught her by one arm and said, "Do not be afraid. I am not going to hurt you."

"I *know* that," said Jan desperately. "It's not that. Just, please, leave me alone!"

"Why?" said Vorik, loosening his hold, but not releasing her from his grasp.

"Because," she wailed, utterly unable to deal with her heightened emotions and killing fatigue. She lost it and began crying.

Vorik was dumbfounded. She was crying because of something he did, or was it something he didn't do? He thought back on the numerous conversations he and Tom Paris had had on the subject of interpersonal relationships. Vorik had always considered Tom somewhat of an expert in that area, and had often requested information or clarification on a behavior that intrigued him. He had learned a lot. He had also learned some human slang that he liked to use at appropriate moments. Unfortunately, he did not know a phrase that seem correct for a time like this. Jan appeared to be in great distress, although she was crying almost silently. Vorik dug deep into his memory, fighting through the fog of his own tiredness. He remembered once seeing Lt. Torres arguing with Tom in the messhall, and she had left visually upset. He had been leaving the room at the same time, and the Lt. had pushed past him and Tom had followed closed on her heels. He had wondered what it was all about, and then proceeded to the turbolift to return to his work. He had seen Tom talking with B'Elanna in the companionway, and then he had noticed that B'Elanna had tears running down her face. Tom had then taken B'Elanna into his arms for what humans called a 'hug'. She had calmed down after that, then they had left his field of vision, hand in hand.

Vorik decided that this was the proper course of action, and put both arms around Jan and gave her an approximation of what he had seen Tom give B'Elanna. Jan stiffened in his arms and looked up at him. Her eyes were red from crying, and she was very flushed, tears still wet on her cheeks. He reached one hand up and brushed away the tears from both of her cheeks with a soft touch. She looked so amazed at what was happening, but she did not protest, so Vorik surmised that he was doing the correct thing. He placed his arm back around her and resumed his 'hug'. She surprised him by slumping into his arms with a little cry and hugging him back, very hard. He was careful not to use too much strength in his grip. It was not logical, but he was very aware of how fragile she seemed. He continued to hold her. It was a pleasant sensation he decided.

After a while, Jan began to stir, and she said, "You can let go now, Vorik. I promise not to have hysterics."

"You are fatigued, Jan," replied Vorik. "You need to rest, and I have been ordered to observe you resting. So, please continue to rest, or I will be forced to put myself on report for disobeying Lt. Torres' direct order."

Jan had to chuckle tiredly at this. "You know, Vorik. Everybody thinks you don't have a sense of humour, but I know different. You just hide it pretty well."

"Mr. Paris has said a similar thing to me on several occasions also," said Vorik, shifting his arms and sitting back on the couch in a better positons. Jan's arms instinctively tightened around him as he leaned back.

"I'll bet he has," said Jan, a touch of her self-confidence returning. It was amazing what a good hug could do for you. "Where did you learn to give hugs, Vorik? If you don't mind me asking?" she added hastily.

"From Mr. Paris," replied Vorik. "He demonstrated for me on Lt. Torres one day. He believes in generous use of hugs for many different types of ailments," he improvised. Tom probably did anyway, he thought incitefully.

"Well, it's what I needed," said Jan softly into Vorik's uniform. "Thanks."

"You are welcome, Jan," replied Vorik. "Please rest now. I will make sure that you are awake in time for your shift on the Bridge."

"But," said Jan raising her head to look at Vorick. "I'm supposed to watch you sleep, or whatever it is that Lt. Torres expects me to do."

Vorik looked down at Jan, and realized that there faces were almost touching, their mouths mere centimeters apart. Her pupils had dialated even more than the lighting would warrant, and she was breathing slightly faster than normal, he observed. He suddenly understood what was happening. If he were anyone but a Vulcan, he would have said he was both embarassed and enormously pleased at her reaction to him. Being what he was, he said nothing. But, he kept looking at her, straight into her eyes. Just because he could not say anything, admit to feeling anything, had to control all his feelings behind his wall of logic, didn't mean that he *did not* feel anything. He did. It was a little harder now to keep that control. He was very young, and he knew that his mental discipline was not as good as it should be. He liked to do things that were not very Vulcan, especially things that Tom had introduced him to. Like eating pizza, or playing pool, or to go driving in a vintage automobile just for the sensation of having the wind race through the windows and look at holographic scenery. He had underwent Pon Farr almost two years ago, with disasterous results. He still did not comprehend how he had survived Lt. Torres' wrath. He had thought that Tom might just kill him, too. It had turned out a lot better than anyone could have ever thought. He still managed to work with B'Elanna, and she had even complimented his skills today, however brusk she'd been. And Tom had turned out to be a good friend to him. He decided that he was thinking too much about it, which for a Vulcan, was a pretty amazing admission.

He was aware that he was swaying slightly, or Jan was, or they both were. They were both so tired, that they could barely stay awake. Vorik called out, "Computer, set personal alarm for Ensign Powers for...," here he paused. Jan said, "Forty-five minutes." "Forty-five minutes before gamma shift," continued Vorik. His eyes had never left hers. She was mesmerized by their brown depths. They were such expressive eyes in an impassive face. They were both unaware that they had started their swaying motion again, undulating to some unheard rhythm. Vorik finally leaned all the way back on the couch, and pulled Jan with him as he went. The action effective eliminated the distance between their respective faces, and the mouths touched. Neither one of them moved a micron. Then Vorik's left hand slid up her back and lightly touched the back of her neck, then cradled the back of her head in its palm. He put a slight amount of pressure on the back of her head, causing the contact of their mouths to become more intense. Jan gave a little moan, and Vorik increased the pressure and began to move his mouth against hers. She reciprocated and they continued this behavior for several minutes. At last, they broke the contact. Both were breathing heavily. Jan gazed at Vorik for a moment, then smiled tremulously. Vorik remained impassive, but his hand came around to hold her cheek and chin in a gentle grasp.

It was a wonder, thought Vorik. Odd, this was something that he had never expected. Vulcans did not usually appeal to humans. Something about logic that made them uncomfortable around them. It was strange, he had worked with Jan for almost five years, and had never noticed that she had very blue eyes or soft, curly brown hair. He supposed that it was illogical to notice these things; they had no relevance, but they were pleasing to him. He decided that he would place Jan in the same category as riding in Tom's Camaro, a treat that had happened so long ago. She was pleasant and he liked the sensation she induced in him when they were together. He would not worry about the logic of it. He pulled her into his arms and lay down on the couch. Jan sighed and relaxed against him. He called, "Computer, lights 1% illumination. Set wakeup call for Ensign Vorik for thirty-seven minutes prior to alpha shift." He then closed his eyes and waited for sleep, noticing that Jan's hair smelled like the scent of lemons. One of his hands came up and buried itself in her hair and held her head close to him. They could vouch for each other, he decided, if Lt. Torres ever asked about this. His last thought was that she probably would not.

End Part 8 1