After mission chaos was normal There was always a list of things they had to repair. Engines had to be brought online, transporters, EPS conduits, and consoles to fix and wounded taken care of. Sometimes that meant restoring or wiping memories. Sometimes there were memorial services. The crew of Voyager knew how to get the ship and its crew back and running on the fly because they did not have the luxury of time. They had to keep going.
This was different. The repair crews were doing their jobs although this time it was undoing all the Doctor and Seven had done to save them. There was no way to describe the looks on the faces of the people he passed in the corridors. He knew their stories. Harry saw Libby and his parents, Tuvok his wife, Chakotay was to receive a pardon and the Captain’s ex-fiance was free again. Their deeper unspoken fantasies. Then it was all snatched away. The Captain once again bemoaned the fact that they had no counselor on board. Chakotay and Neelix would do what they could but this time, a simple party wouldn’t do it. Everyone was mourning something and everyone had to deal with it.
He had just finished a stint in sickbay when his combadge beeped.
“Carey to Ensign Paris.”
“Joe, this is Tom. Go ahead.”
“We really need B’Elanna down here but she’s in her quarters and she’s refusing to respond. Could you….”
“ Of course, I can. I headed that way anyway.”
Tom put his own lost hopes aside. He wondered about B’Elanna. What did she see?
He touched the console outside her door. There was no answer.
“B’Elanna, it’s me. Tom. Can I come in?”
Once again no answer so he took his life in his hands and open the door, anyway.
The room was a mess. Nothing she owned was in its proper place, the furniture upended. He heard her before he saw her. Somewhere in the room, she was crying. Moving around the broken bits and piles of clothes he found her huddled in a corner. Red tear-stained eyes stared up at him. It was unusual for him to see her like this because she rarely allowed herself to break down. He waited for her to tell him to get the hell away from her and had already decided that he wouldn’t but she surprised him. She stood up and ran to him and held onto him like a lifeline. She was shaking.
“What is it?” he asked. “What did you see?”
“They were alive. I could see them. Talk to them. They told me it was a trick. They fooled everyone. Then they were gone... again,” she said. The crying became a wail. Tom strengthened his hold on her.
“The Maquis. Damn. Damn that thing. This is just too cruel,” Tom said. He held onto her for a few minutes letting her cry, conscience of the fact that she had run to him instead of pulling away. He didn't know how long they stood there but her body eventually relaxed in his arms. There was nowhere to sit but on the floor but that didn’t stop him from pulling her down. He disengaged from her arms so he could look her in the eyes.
“I’m so sorry,” He said. She took a deep breath, somehow getting a hold of herself. She was silent for a few minutes. Her ragged breathing eventually evened out. She turned her still red eyes toward him.
“So what did you dream about?” She asked. “What did you see?” Her voice was soft. He hadn’t spoken to anyone about it except Seven and that was when he was in the full grips of the delusion.
“Nothing as traumatic as that. Mine seems so silly compared to what everyone else endured. The thing is its something I didn’t know I wanted…. but I have to admit that deep down, I do.”
“What is that?” she asked.
Tom hadn't had time to analyze what he had seen. All he knew was the moment he had read the fake letter a long-buried desire had come to life. He wasn't sure how to put it into words or if anyone could understand. They saw people. They saw relationships. They saw real concrete things and his deepest fantasy was a feeling. He glanced over at B'Elanna who was waiting for him to say something. He needed to direct her mind away from her own troubles so he stumbled around trying to find an explanation that would satisfy her and himself.
“I guess it started the first time I flew. I was eight years old. I’ll never forget that feeling. The release, that it somehow made me feel like I could somehow escape gravity and just go whenever and wherever I wanted just by thinking about it. I can’t describe it but I guess, even though I don't want to admit it to myself, the reason I fly and take risks is I’ve always been trying to recapture that feeling. It's like a drug. They offered me a job as a test pilot and I suppose that was the closest I could come without going back in time. It’s that unattainable thing I’ve always wanted. I know… it makes little sense.”
“Yes it does flyboy ,” B’Elanna said. She wiped her face and stared back at him. “For you, it makes perfect sense.” She leaned her back against the wall.
“Why... weren’t we in each other’s fantasies?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe because us being together is our reality. No need to fantasize about it anymore... although I admit I did my share... back before we were together.” He said. He had to smile despite the situation.
“So did I.” She said. She returned his smile. He reached over and wiped a tear from her eyes.
“Do you need, any more help? I can call the Doctor. I mean the last time…”
“No. Thanks. I don’t think I’m going to relapse. It hurts, but it’s supposed to hurt. And I felt anger. For the people who did it, for that thing... but it will pass. I really need to get back to engineering. Thank you for being here,” She said. She stood up and stared around the room.
“I’ll clean it up. I think I know where everything goes,” He said. He maneuvered himself up off the floor to stand beside her. He pulled her into a light embrace and kissed her forehead. She pulled away from him and disappeared into the ‘fresher so she could make herself presentable for her crew. She was strong. She would come through this but Tom knew that in either she would mourn the loss of her friends for the rest of her life.
He began by putting the furniture back where it all belonged. As he started to fold her clothes, he considered the things the ‘pitcher plant’ had brought up from his subconscious to the front of his mind. There was no way he could go back to that first flight. He had to be content with his memories. He was happy on Voyager. He had B’Elanna. He had a best friend and a Captain who believed in him. He had respect. He had everything he ever wanted, but he knew that intangible impossible ‘thing’ would always be there just out of reach. Taunting him. It may or may not make him happy, but he knew he would chase after it for the rest of his life.