The Price of Freedom: Remember Me This Way

I want to apologize for the delay on this —
a series of events in the last month have
prevented me from finishing this chapter.
This is actually a story, chapter by chapter,
so if you’re wondering why it’s labeled a series,
I haven’t the foggiest clue. It’s my fault.
I apologize. (I’m a DueSer — we apologize for
just about everything! ). So, thank you
kindly for your patience. 🙂

The Price Of Freedom:
Remember Me This Way
By Jessica Ferroni

He sighed, an empty sound in the darkness.
It was the closest Tom Paris would come to
admitting defeat — there had to be a way.
There was always a way. Hadn’t Captain Janeway
taught him that?
He just needed to find it. And when he
did, he would return to the Alpha Quadrant.
Because, somewhere down the line, somewhere
during the three days he’d spent in the darkness
of the Cardassian cell, he’d realized something
his friends had tried to make him see before
he’d left them.
When all else failed, when *he* failed,
he’d still have them.
He should have been there, been there beside
his best friend Harry as the young ensign
had resumed his search for Libby. Been beside
B’Elanna as she faced Starfleet.
But he’d run and hidden away from them.
Away from the people who’d made a difference
in his life, from the people who cared about
him. He’d abandoned them, even as he’d promised
himself he’d never abandon those he cared
about. He deserved to be here, in the Cardassian
cell.
Tom rubbed a hand across his eyes. His
thoughts, as always, drifted to his last
message to B’Elanna Torres. It had been on
the spur of the moment. He’d been able to say
goodbye to Harry in person, but not B’Elanna.
He’d wanted to say goodbye, though, and let
her know he’d be thinking about her, as he
was now.

A shaft of light shot through the darkness,
and Tom blinked against the sudden glare,
shielding his eyes with the back of his hand.
He could just make out the form of a burly
Cardassian silhouetted in the doorframe.
“Come,” the Cardassian grated. “Gul Evek
would speak with you.”
“How nice of him to make time,” Tom said
roughly, his voice hoarse from lack of use.
Sarcasm had always been his best defense.
The Cardassian strode forward and grasped
his arm, yanking him upright. Tom gasped.
*Check one dislocated shoulder,* he thought
wryly to himself. He jerked his arm away,
wincing.
“I can walk myself, thank you.” He started
to take a few steps forward but was forced to
stop as waves of dizziness crashed over him.
He swore to himself as the Cardassian laughed.
Steadying himself, he followed the Cardassian
outside the cell where two other guards were
waiting. They led him to the same room he’d
met the Gul before.
“Gul Evek,” Tom managed without grimacing.
“How nice to see you again.”
Evek smiled, if you could call it that.
“Tom Paris.” It sounded like both a greeting
and a sentence. Tom repressed a shudder and
remained silent. Let the Gul play his games;
he wouldn’t be a willing pawn.
Silence reigned as the two regarded each other.

In her quarters onboard the U.S.S. Voyager,
B’Elanna Torres reached into a locked drawer and
gently withdrew a small PADD and a holopicture.
She placed the PADD on the table and looked
at the picture. Three laughing faces stared
back at her. Harry Kim, the dark-haired
navigator, laughing and cradling his clarinet
lovingly. Herself, the tempermental engineer,
smiling, a rare occasion in itself. And Tom
Paris, the sandy-haired former Voyager helmsman,
who had just finished telling the joke that had
set them off laughing. She remembered that day
all too well….

*

It had been a terrible day in Engineering, with
problems of every kind imaginable continually
mounting and adding to her already overflowing
workload. Finally, though, they had managed to
get everything done. She was exhausted and grumpy
and only wanted to get some sleep, but Harry Kim
had had other ideas….
“Come on, B’Elanna. You need to relax,”
“I could relax perfectly well in my quarters,
Harry,” she’d retorted.
“Come *on*,” he cajoled. “It’s just going to
be me and Tom, and you if you decide to come.”
He’d begged her mercilessly until she’d finally
relented and promised to come down to Sandrine’s
as soon as she cleaned up and changed her clothes.
He agreed, and she left for her quarters to
shower and exchange her uniform for some off-duty
civvies. Twenty-five minutes later she was standing
outside of Sandrine’s.
Harry was still wearing his uniform, but
Tom Paris had also changed into civillian clothes.
They were just finishing up a game of pool when
she entered.
Harry smiled and waved her to a seat and in a
few minutes they joined her.
“I still think the table’s uneven,” Harry was
saying.
“You’re just mad because you lost,” Tom teased.
“Oh, right. As if I was ever good enough to beat
you in the first place,” Harry poked good-naturedly.
Tom grinned. “You can’t beat the master.”
Harry gave a wicked grin. “I haven’t played the
captain yet, Tom.”
Paris gave him a mock-wounded look. “Ouch.”
Harry smirked at his verbal victory. “Anytime.”
Tom arched an eyebrow. “Why, Harry, I do believe
you’re developing a sense of humor.”
Harry smiled wryly. “Must come from hanging around
you.”
B’Elanna listened to the banter between the two
friends, smiling. Something about the easy friendship
Tom and Harry had made her priviledged to be a part
of it. Sometimes she wondered if she could ever
find two better, or more loyal, friends anywhere.
She had come intending to stay for five minutes
at the most, seeing as how exhausted she was, but
somehow they had ended up staying until nearly
two in the morning when Harry had begged release,
reminding them they had morning shift.
B’Elanna had learned a little more about her
friends that night: Harry had six siblings and a
fondness for classical music, and Tom was a self-
proclaimed chocaholic with a vast repertoire of
jokes that had kept them laughing until they couldn’t
laugh any more from sheer exhaustion. B’Elanna was
still chuckling as she readied herself for bed
that night.
The next day, Tom had personally come down to
Engineering and presented her with a holopicture
of the three of them at Sandrine’s and a PADD
containing every single joke he had related to her
and Harry. He explained that he also had a set
for Harry, and jokingly asked her to keep them
always and remember him when she read the jokes.
She had promised to do so….

*

B’Elanna reached a little further into the
drawer and withdrew Tom Paris’ PADD of jokes.
After three and a half years it was still there,
gathering dust. She glanced at the first line:
`A Klingon and a psychiatrist walk into the
Academy….’

Harry Kim gently replaced the picture and the
PADD in the drawer and locked it. They were for
happier times, not now. Something had prompted
him to reach for the picture in his grief, the
only memoir he had of his friend, Tom Paris.
Except his memories.
He still couldn’t believe Tom was dead. It
just didn’t feel right. B’Elanna had mentioned
it, too.
`Harry,’ she’d said, `Don’t think of me crazy.
I don’t believe Tom is dead; it just doesn’t
seem right. Remember when Hogan died? It felt
empty. We weren’t that close of friends, but
it still felt hollow inside. And, Tom,’ She’d
hesitated only a moment. `I — you and I were
both much closer to Tom. Can you tell me honestly
that you think he’s dead.’
He’d paused. `I can’t, Maquis.’ he said.

Tom blinked, groggily, and tried to sit up.
“Shh,” a soothing voice said, and pushed him
back down. “Hold still a moment.”
He could feel gentle fingers probing the area
around his eye, and he winced at the soreness.
“Sorry,” the voice apologized. “Lie still,
Tom.”
He couldn’t see the owner of the voice, but
it didn’t sound Cardassian. And it sounded
familiar.
“Who are you?”
The voice was female, and sounded wry. “We’ve
met before.”
“I think you have me at a disadvantage,”
Tom said, craning his neck as if it could help
him see her. “You seem to know me, but right
now, I don’t have a clue who you are.”
She moved to where he could see her, and
his breath hissed.
“Oh, my….” was all he could manage. “How
did….how did you….?”
Ro Laren smiled. “It’s my job, Tom.”

End of chapter five…..:-)

_____________________________________________________________________________
) Copyright January 1997 by Jessica Ferroni on all original story content.
Not meant to infringe on copyrights held by Paramount or any other copyright
holders of STAR TREK: VOYAGER. Please do not reproduce for anything other
than personal reading use (including fanzines) without written consent of
the author. Comments are welcome at jessica@p24818.cle.ab.com.

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