P/T, some long overdue “mushy stuff”
Season 6’s “Alice”
Star Trek and these characters belong to Paramount Pictures/Viacom. I would never dream of infringing on their intellectual property. I would, however, consider smacking them around a little if they screw up the ending to my favorite television series.
Sooner or later, every Paris/Torres fan writes a variation on this “for God’s sake, would you just let him say it?!” theme. This is mine. For those keeping track, this was my very first Voyager story, only recently dusted off and polished up for sharing. Others have written better versions of this, but it’s a rite of passage for every P/Ter, so it was out of my hands. I had no choice.
Setting the scene: ** EPISODE SPOILER **
Tom Paris convinces Chakotay to let him trade his jukebox and some old power cells for a derelict shuttle offered for sale by an old junk dealer. He twists Harry’s arm to get him to help fix up his new ship, not realizing that the vessel’s neurogenic interface is not as harmless as it appears. Using this direct connection to Tom’s mind, the ship begins to take over Paris’s life. He nicknames it ‘Alice’ after Alice Batisti, a smart and sexy woman who wouldn’t give Tom the time of day back at Starfleet Academy. Soon Tom is ‘seeing’ and talking to a physical manifestation of ‘Alice,’ and he begins to do anything–including ignore B’Elanna and steal parts from Voyager’s key systems–to get the shuttle in working order.
When ‘she’ almost kills B’Elanna, Tom rejects Alice and tries to get help. She ‘kidnaps’ Tom and makes him think he’s flying her home and himself to freedom. In fact, she’s steering him toward a deadly particle fountain. At the last minute, the Doctor is able to send an image of B’Elanna into Tom’s mind by tapping into the neurogenic interface. B’Elanna pleads with Tom to come home to Voyager and to her. Only then does Tom stop to think about what he is doing. B’Elanna’s distraction allows the crew to rescue Tom just before ‘Alice’ flies into the particle fountain and explodes.
Back on Voyager, Tom is checked out by the Doctor and declared healthy. Even though Alice had manipulated Tom’s mind, he feels terrible about hurting B’Elanna, and thanks her for being his ‘alarm clock,’ and waking him up from his Alice-induced ‘sleepwalking’. He apologies to his girlfriend and swears he’ll never again cheat on her with another ship. “What about the Delta Flyer?” B’Elanna asks. “We’re just good friends,” he says as they embrace.
The doors to his quarters closed behind him and he headed straight for the bed. It had been the worst of bad days, wrapping up a pretty terrible week. Tom Paris, who had spent most of the last six years reclaiming his life, once again came painfully close to losing it all. He had disobeyed orders, lied to his friends, cheated his way around the rules, and came close to death. Worse, he had openly rejected B’Elanna, practically assaulting her, in favor of a stupid machine that had almost killed them both.
They had come so far before this mess. Years of piqued curiosity and stolen stares had tuned into a great friendship, a strange but wonderful courtship, and finally the comfort of love both wildly and tenderly expressed. It had been a delicate dance they had only recently mastered.
The Tom Paris who lived most of his life hiding from himself had spent the early part of their journey tucked behind the wall he had built to keep everyone at arm’s length. At first, his instinct for self-preservation kept him from openly pursuing B’Elanna when he started having feelings for her. He didn’t believe that this incredible, smart, beautiful woman would believe he saw her as anything more than another Paris conquest. His reputation as a woman-chaser didn’t help his chances. Yet the more he got to know her—beyond their mess hall banter and holodeck glances—the more he came to realize that it was her own insecurities that would never have let her jump into a relationship with him casually. Once he figured it out, it had taken him a long time to melt her resolve.
But, while he probably knew he loved her first, in some ways she had taken the biggest risk in their relationship, making the first big move by openly admitting that she loved him.
As they got closer, B’Elanna seemed to see some other qualities in Tom. Things he had stopped believing about himself. Only since he started caring how she viewed him had Tom really started caring how he behaved. Once he had been guided by a fear of letting his father down. Then to prove the captain right about placing so much trust in him. Now, his chief motivation was becoming the man B’Elanna seemed to believe him to be. Of course, that was before ‘Alice’….
In Tom’s mind, getting a “note from the Doctor” proving that his actions were out of his control didn’t seem to excuse how horribly insensitive he had been to B’Elanna. And he remembered every word he had said, every callous thing he had done. “Stay out of this B’Elanna!” It replayed in his head until he thought it would drive him crazy.
He needed something to make him stop hearing his own cruel voice. Chez Sandrene’s hadn’t been a refuge for a long time now (too many reminders of the “old” Tom, drunk and flirting with anything with breasts). He hated the thought of taking a sedative, and he was in no condition to take on a duty shift. Plus, he knew there was only one person who could help him get past this enough to get some sleep. He rolled off the bed and headed for the door.
It opened to reveal B’Elanna—he almost walked right into her—and the look on her face revealed an ambivalence that only made him feel worse. She had clearly been trying to decide whether or not to come in. Her mixed feelings, so clear on her face, could only mean she had doubts now. It stopped him in his tracks.
“Hi.” He was trembling, but doing everything he could to hide it. No pity wanted here tonight.
“Hi.” She was just as tentative.
“Do you want to come in?” he asked her, though he wasn’t sure how he wanted her to answer.
“Sure.” She took a step inside. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“I’m fine…I’ll be fine.” He wondered if he was lying. “I just…if I could just get some sleep.” God, did that sound too pitiful? Try to cover, Tom. “How are you feeling?” A bit of a loaded question.
“I think we should talk,” she said moving to his couch. No good conversation ever began that way. He took a deep breath and sat down beside her.
“Tom, I need to confess something to you.” Not what he expected her to say. “I almost let you down tonight.” He couldn’t imagine where that came from. She had just saved his life, literally and figuratively.
“What are you talking about?” His mind was racing to catch up to her.
She started slowly, “Tonight, when you were with Alice and racing toward that particle fountain, I was angry. I knew from the Doctor that you couldn’t help what you had done or said, but I was hurt, and I….” She paused for several seconds, during which Tom found it hard to breathe. “I almost didn’t come after you.”
“What do you mean?” He still couldn’t follow her.
“When the Doctor suggested sending me into your neurogenic interface…I really hesitated to go. But I wanted you to know why.” She was conflicted and seeing her discomfort actually made Tom forget his own regrets for a minute. B’Elanna’s intensity brought out his protectiveness and he cleared his mind to focus on what she was saying.
“Tom, I love you. But I wasn’t sure I could do it. I’m not sure I really believed my being there would be enough to make you realize what was happening, what you were putting at risk. And I wasn’t sure I’d like what I saw while I was ‘inside your head’.” She looked down, for a moment unable to meet his gaze.
He hadn’t even considered this before—that the cortical monitor carrying B’Elanna’s pleas might have connected her to his uncensored thoughts, revealing the truths she might only have guessed at before. He knew his actions and words during the past few days had been influenced by Alice’s neurogenic connection. But he also knew there were real demons lurking inside him, ones he certainly couldn’t blame on that ship. Now B’Elanna had been able to glimpse his deepest secrets. What awful things did she now know?
“I understand,” he said softly. Truth was, he didn’t understand at all. “And what you found out about me during the link…it’s changed things between us.” His stomach knotted, but he tried not to let it show.
“Yes.” Her voice was equally soft. It felt to Tom like hours passed before she spoke again. He searched her eyes for a sign of what was coming next. What had she seen? And where did they go from here? “I wish you could have told me,” she continued. “Although…I guess maybe, seeing for myself….”
“B’Elanna, whatever you saw or think you saw,” he interrupted, “ I can explain….” Her hand went to his lips and she looked him in the eye for the first time in minutes. “Tom, I’m not asking for an explanation. I just need to hear you say it.” What a bizarre torture this was for him: did B’Elanna know something about him that he didn’t even know himself? “Say…?”
“These past few years, have been great, Tom,” she started slowly. “You know, we’re both ‘damaged goods,’ and here we’ve been thrown into this crazy situation, a lifetime away from our families and our failures, living the life of responsible Starfleet officers, finding each other. I’ve always wondered—haven’t you wondered?—is this real? Is this really us?” She had seen inside him, he was sure now. He stared deeply into her eyes as she continued. “I think I wanted this to be true so badly, I guess I didn’t want to risk finding out that it wasn’t as real for you.”
Tom was getting too desperate to understand what she was trying to say. “Do you want me to admit that I’ve had those doubts, too?” he asked. “Of course I have. But, no matter how we got here, B’Elanna, I know that I want this to be real. I want this life. And I want you in it. I know that as sure as I know anything.”
“I believe you. I really do, in a way that I’m not sure I could have trusted it if this whole stupid ‘Alice’ thing hadn’t happened. And, Tom, I want it, too.”
He was totally lost. “Then what is it you want me to say?” Maybe his exhaustion was keeping him from understanding just what it was she needed from him. She had expressed her doubts—and his—and was saying what he hoped would be true for them both: that this crazy trip through the Delta Quadrant was more than just a fantasy. They were building new lives, separately and together. That this was something they both wanted. He loved hearing her admit her doubts. He loved that she knew he had them, too. He loved that they were both committed to making their new lives their real lives. He loved…
For a man with such a sharp mind and great education, he could sometimes be very stupid. He knew, now.
“Tom, I just…”
“I love you.” He cut her off. “I love you. I love you.” He smiled and breathed in deeply for the first time in days. “I guess I haven’t said it. I just thought you could tell. But you need to hear me say it. ‘I love you.’ B’Elanna Torres, I love you.” He hugged her to him and felt the tension drain from them both as he pulled her close.
“I know.” She whispered softly in his ear. “I love you, too, Tom.” He closed his eyes, making the moment last as long as possible.
“I know,” he said, believing it without a doubt for the first time. “I really do.”