B’Elanna stormed into Engineering with a look that would bowl over a battalion of Khaless’s strongest warriors. Vorik could sense the turbulent thunderstorm of emotions boiling out of her. He winced and glanced over at T’Loran who had managed to convince both him and the EMH that she could handle light duties. Obviously, they had all overlooked the tendency their Chief Engineer had of wearing her heart on her sleeve. T’Loran blanched and hunched over her terminal, pulling her shoulders in and looking as if she were trying to make herself as unobtrusive as possible.
“Lieutenant Torres,” another one of the gold-shirted engineer crew said warmly. “How are they?”
“Prepare the med bay units,” the half-Klingon growled. “I want them reinforced with the strongest forcefields you can manage. We’ll also need to redesign the physical restraints.”
“Aye, sir,” the crewman said cautiously. “We’ll be running the same procedure as before?”
“The doctor is sending down the protocols. The Captain and Mr. Paris are under sedation in Sickbay. Ensign, is there a problem?” she said, rounding on T’Loran. “I thought you were on sick leave.”
“I believe I may recover more quickly if I am allowed to resume partial duties, Lieutenant,” T’Loran said calmly.
“No. I want you out of Engineering until you have a clean bill of health. Vorik can fill in for you.”
“Aye,” T’Loran replied. Vorik watched her carefully — her face had grown drawn and pale and her pupils were dilated from stress. He could see the blood vessels in her temples standing out. Part of him — the illogical part — wanted to follow her as she walked quickly out of Engineering. However, he disciplined his mind and ordered his thoughts so he could focus on his duties.
“Vorik,” Torres snapped as she strode over to him, “no sneaking out to check on your little Betazoid girlfriend. Understood?”
“Aye, sir,” he replied. “Ensign T’Loran is quite capable of taking care of herself.”
“Yeah, I’m sure about that,” Torres snorted. “I’m willing to overlook the fact she’s spent the past three nights in your room…”
“Because my quarters are isolated,” he said, “not because there was anything improper taking place.” B’Elanna flinched and Vorik wondered at that. “Betazoids require privacy in order to maintain proper neurobiological and chemical balance. All telepathic species require that when living among non-telepaths.”
“Fine. I’m not your mother or your betrothed,” she snarled.
“May I speak with you privately?” he requested politely. B’Elanna nodded and gestured for him to lead the way towards the Chief Engineer’s office. When the doors slid shut behind them, Vorik stood at parade rest. “I do not appreciate your implication that there is anything improper between Ensign T’Loran and myself. And, speaking on her behalf,” he added with a meaningful lift of his eyebrow, “she does not appreciate the implication either.”
“Then the two of you need to stop putting yourselves in situation where people might infer there is something ‘improper’ taking place. I am merely repeating the Engineering gossip,” she said heatedly. “Half the crew thinks the two of you are sneaking off to play out scenes from some kind of hot-off-the-presses Vulcan-esque romance novel.”
“That is…illogical and completely inappropriate,” Vorik stiffened. “If she were human, there would be no need for her to be isolated.”
“Vorik, I get that you’re protective of her,” B’Elanna sighed. Her temper had burned out quickly — not uncommon when she wasn’t truly angry at the person she was snapping at. “However, I also know that if I don’t give you a bit of grief, everyone’s going to assume that there is something going on. This is your chance to side-step the quagmire, Ensign. Now, get out there and get back to work.”
“Aye,” he nodded. At some point, he was going to have to have a chat with Lieutenant Tuvok concerning the random leaps in logic that were so common among the non-Vulcans on the crew.
“The Chief’s just taking her temper out on you because she can’t take it out on Paris,” Lieutenant Carrey whispered to the Vulcan once Vorik had resumed his station. “Don’t take it personally.”
“I will bear that in mind,” Vorik replied evenly.
“We all know there’s nothing going on between you and T’Loran. You’re both married, right? With your mates back on Vulcan? You must miss your wife terribly.”
“Neither of us is married,” Vorik corrected the human. “I was betrothed but my intended has, no doubt, selected another mate since I am lost.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll find someone here on Voyager, then,” the lieutenant said soothingly. “Unless you and T’Loran are…”
“We are friends.”
“Well then,” Carrey sighed.
Vorik felt his temper rising despite his understanding that humans were notorious for misunderstanding matters of telepathy. They were also notorious gossips who loved nothing more than a potential scandal. No, that was an unfair assessment. Vorik chastised himself silently and continued his work. If he and T’Loran wished to avoid being the subjects of gossip, they would have to cease spending so much time together during their off-duty hours. It was as simple as that. He tried to ignore the twinge of pain he felt at the thought of not seeing her as often as he had been.
T’Loran was not surprised when Vorik told her of the ship’s gossip concerning them and his decision that they should spend less time together. She had reached the same conclusion and made the same decision. Neither of them cared much what the rest of the ship thought about either of them. However, neither of them wished to be put on report or to inspire others to engage in inappropriate fraternization. However, she could not quite mask the sharp pang of disappointment she felt when Vorik calmly and coolly announced his intention to keep their relationship professional and during duty shifts only. She resolved to redouble her efforts to perfect her telepathy using the holodeck or working with Kes. Perhaps the Doctor would have some advice to offer her in this regard.
“Did you and Vorik have an argument?” Ensign Kim asked her a few days later when he noticed that she and the Vulcan were seated at different tables. “Or are you practicing your telepathy right now?”
“I am not,” she replied. “And, we had no wish to continue providing fodder for the ship to gossip over. Therefore, we have decided to keep our relationship strictly professional.”
“Oh,” the human said with a touch of surprise. “I hope I didn’t do anything to make you uncomfortable.”
“You did not,” T’Loran replied calmly. “Tell me, how is Lieutenant Paris faring?”
“Tom’s back to his old self.”
“You do not sound pleased to hear that.”
“I mean his old self. The way he was before he came to Voyager,” Ensign Kim sighed. “He’s shirking his duty shifts, showing up late for meetings, being insubordinate to the commanding officers. I don’t know what’s gotten into him. Frankly, I’m worried,” he said in a rush as he sat down across the table from T’Loran. “Maybe you could talk some sense into him?”
“I will endeavor to help him see how illogical his current course of behavior is. However, he is human and may not be swayed by logical arguments.”
“I’m ready to try anything. I’m afraid he’s going to get himself sent to the brig for the rest of the trip home. Or maybe under house arrest like Suder.” T’Loran shivered involuntarily at the casual mention of the man who once tried to kill her. Ensign Kim did not seem to notice her reaction and she quickly suppressed it. Such emotions were illogical in the extreme. Lieutenant Tuvok had reported to her that Crewman Suder had gained mastery over his killing impulse and, with continued meditative therapy, seemed to be almost normal. He had expressed sincere remorse over killing Darwin and over attacking her. However, T’Loran had not yet been able to gain sufficient control over her own instinctive reaction to the Betazoid to visit him in his quarters. “Or maybe you could try some kind of telepathy on him? I don’t know,” Ensign Kim had continued to rattle off ideas of how T’Loran could aid Lieutenant Paris in ‘coming to his senses.’
“I do not believe a telepathic suggestion would be sufficient to change the lieutenant’s behavior — nor would I attempt to do so covertly,” she replied dryly. “It would be unethical and illogical.”
“I suppose it would be,” Ensign Kim agreed with a rueful grin. “At any rate, if you’re not spending time with Vorik during the evenings, maybe you’d like to join me on the holodeck? Just to unwind,” he added quickly. “Though why Vorik would let you get away, I don’t understand.”
“Perhaps I will join you one evening, Ensign Kim…”
“You can call me Harry.”
“That would be inappropriate. You are a senior officer.”
“Yeah, but we’re not on duty. You can use my name.”
“Tell you what,” Harry said quickly, cutting T’Loran off. “Why don’t you meet me and Tom on the holodeck at 1900 hours? We can try to talk some sense into him then.”
“Agreed,” she glanced at the clock on her PADD, “I must report to Engineering to begin my duty shift. I will meet you both promptly at 1900 hours.”
As she rose to depart, she glanced over and noticed Vorik staring at Ensign Kim with a look that, in any other species, she would have termed ‘annoyance.’ Blinking and dismissing the thought from her mind, T’Loran hurried to Engineering and hoped that today she would manage to get through a shift without having Lieutenant Torres shouting at her.
“So, it’s not enough for you to be attracted to the wrong Delaney sister, now you’re chasing the Ice Queen herself?” Tom teased as he and Harry entered the holodeck. “C’mon, man. She’s a Vulcan. I don’t think they mate at all. They reproduce artificially.”
“First of all, she’s not Vulcan, she’s a Betazoid. Secondly, what do you know about Vulcan mating rites? They marry and have children just like every other humanoid race.”
“I’m just saying you don’t stand a chance. You’d get more response from B’Elanna.”
“I am not going after B’Elanna Torres,” Harry sputtered. “I value my limbs too much to try that.”
“Still, the Queen of Logic?”
“I assume you are referring to me, Lieutenant Paris?” T’Loran said dryly. The lieutenant spun around, his eyes wide with shock. Harry Kim looked as if he wanted to crawl into a distant corner and disappear.
“Why yes, I am, T’Loran,” Lieutenant Paris said impudently. “I thought you’d be pleased.”
“It is nice to know that my logic is appreciated. One might hope that, if you term me the ‘Queen’ of such a thing, you would be willing to listen to me and allow yourself to be guided by my advice.”
“Oh, so you’re going to advise me now? Like you did with Vorik? What happened? Did you get tired of him?” the human taunted.
“Matters between myself and Ensign Vorik are none of your concern, Lieutenant. However, your friend Ensign Kim has expressed some concern regarding your recent change in behavior. Have you considered going to see the Doctor? Perhaps there is some lingering effect from the transformation you underwent after the transwarp flight.”
“No, I’m fine. Completely recovered. I just don’t want to be here anymore.”
“Then where would you go?”
“Frankly, any place other than this ship would suit me just fine. Jeez, Harry, bad enough you badger me like a mother hen, now you have to sick the Vulcan-wannabe on me? What next? You going to ask Chakotey to speak to my spirit guide? I’m out of here,” the helmsman growled as he turned and left the holodeck.
“T’Loran, I’m sorry for the way he’s acting.”
“Lieutenant Paris’s behavior is not within your control, Ensign Kim. However, it does seem that he has set himself on a rather reckless path. If he leaves Voyager, it is logical to assume he would not be returning to the Alpha Quadrant within his lifetime.”
“I don’t know what’s gotten into him,” Harry sighed. He sat down at one of the tables in the shadows of Sandrine’s bar. “Maybe he just needs a break.”
“That could be the case.”
“Could you get a read on him? His thoughts or feelings or whatever you Betazoids pick up?”
T’Loran blinked in surprise. “I was not attempting to read him at all. I have been practicing blocking out all external stimuli.”
“Oh. Well, maybe the next time you see him, you could try to sense his emotions?”
“Perhaps. I do not think I will learn much, however. He seems quite forthright in his contempt for being on Voyager and adamant in his desire to depart the ship.”
“Do you think you could tell if he were being influenced by some kind of alien?”
“I do not know,” she admitted. She ran a hand through her blond hair as she pondered the possibility. “It does not seem logical that any alien who wished to select a target for telepathic attack would select Lieutenant Paris. If they were trying to gain control of the ship, the captain or first officer would be more desirable and logical choices.”
“Yeah but maybe Tom’s particularly susceptible to such things right now. I don’t know,” Harry groaned.
“You very much want such an explanation to be true,” T’Loran noted. “I believe your friendship with Lieutenant Paris has clouded your judgment. It seems that the simplest option — which is often the correct option — is that Lieutenant Paris sincerely wishes to be off Voyager and away from the rest of us. Including you, Ensign.”
“Please, T’Loran,” Harry pleaded, “call me Harry. I need to know I have at least one friend on this ship.” Without thinking, he reached out and took her hand in his own. The sudden physical contact struck T’Loran like a blow. She could feel his thoughts and emotions. They were a turbulent storm brewing within the deceptively mild human. She sensed his anguish over Paris’s behavior, his intense loneliness, the desire he had to be back in San Francisco with Libby, his fear that he would never see his family again and the stress that he carried on his shoulders — the fierce desire to be viewed as an adult by the rest of the officers, the tension that came with being trapped in the Delta Quadrant — so many warring passions. She could even sense his momentary infatuation with her. She could also tell it was a passing fancy borne out of nothing more than his own imagination.
“Very well, Harry,” she said haltingly, pulling her hand from his nearly painful grip. She gently placed it on top of his hand and tried to wall off the waves of emotions he was flinging at her, “I would be honored to be your friend.” The over-warm waves of relief that slammed into her helped T’Loran to make another difficult decision. “I will see what I can do to help Mr. Paris. However, there is someone I must speak to before I make any attempts.”