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Disclaimer: Paramount owns Voyager, Tom, B'Elanna, everything else mentioned, and way too much of my free time. The lyrics quoted are from the song "You're Gone" performed by Diamond Rio, written by Jon Vezner and Paul Williams and are used without permission. In fact the only thing that belongs to me is the story.



Lingering Effects


I said hello I think I'm broken

And thought I was only jokin'

It took me by surprise when you agreed


 
 

Tom half awoke and shifted in the bed to snuggle closer to the other body in the bed. The sudden shock of finding empty space where that body should have been drew him fully awake. And once awake, the truth intruded rudely upon the fantasy that was so easily maintainable in the hopeful world of his dreams and semi-conscious thoughts. But awake, he was unable to ignore the reality. B'Elanna was gone, never to return to him in this lifetime. Her death had been sudden and unexpected, the result of a random power overload on a console she was repairing. The resulting explosion had killed her instantly, a fact that gave those that loved her a small sense of relief in knowing that she had not suffered.
 
 

Tom had not yet shed so much as one tear. From the moment that he had skidded to a halt just inside the doors to sickbay to see his captain standing before him with silent tears making tracks down her face, he had been numb. He tried to brush past her to make his way to the prone figure he could see laying on the diagnostic bed, only to be stopped by Tuvok, stepping in front of Tom from where he had been standing unnoticed.
 
 

Her own grief evident on her face, Kathryn stepped up to Tom, placing her hands flat on his shoulders, and with the help of Tuvok tried to steer him towards the sickbay office. Tom peered over his shoulder, watching vainly for some glimpse of movement, any sign of life that still existed in the body of the woman he loved. He was so intent on his study that when the quiet voice sounded in his ear, he jumped. "Tom," he turned his head back to his captain, trying to fight his way through the myriad of panicked thoughts that kept blanketing his mind. "Tom, please come with us. You really don't need to see this."
 
 

Blindly, he nodded and allowed them to move him away. He focused on Janeway's face as she struggled to pull together the words to deliver her message. But Tom already knew that B'Elanna was dead, and had since the first moment he saw the tragedy written across the captain's face. Later the thought would occur to him that he could have spared her the pain of having to say the words to him, but at that moment, with his mind attempting to numb the already overwhelming pain, he wanted her to hurt. The anguish it caused her to have to speak the words to him was minute compared to what he was feeling at having the center of his life ripped away. So he remained quiet and let her explain to him about the explosion and the instantaneous loss of life that accompanied it. He could see her pain, even through the haze of his own, and immediately felt guilty, he could have spared her at least that much, it didn't help ease his, in fact it only made it worse.
 
 

I was tryin' to be clever

For the life of me I never

Would have guessed how far the simple truth would lead



He vaguely remembered the doctor joining them, and could remember speaking, but could not remember what was said. Later those present told him that he systematically and calmly proposed treatment after treatment, from allowing Seven to attempt to heal her in a manner similar to what she had done for Neelix a year earlier, to placing the body in stasis in hopes that someday she could again be restored to the vibrant young woman that he had kissed goodbye only hours before. Gently the Doctor explained to him why the extent of the damage to B'Elanna's body would render each option useless.
 
 

Finally he stood and asked to see her body. The EMH nodded. "I've repaired a good deal of the external signs of trauma." The trio stayed in the office as Tom approached the bed, and for that he was grateful. Although most of the conversation in the office was nothing but a blur to him, the sight of B'Elanna's lifeless body burned into his memory, a sight never to be forgotten. Although the doctor had attempted to repair the worst of the burns and abrasions that covered her beautiful face, the lack of circulation gave the healed areas a ghastly grayish hue. Trying to reconcile the mottled face before him with that of his lover, he instinctively reached out one hand to cup her cheek. Quickly he jerked his hand back. Her skin, usually a few degrees warmer than his own was cool and clammy to the touch. Backing slowly away from the body on the bed, he felt the captain's hand on his shoulder.
 
 

"Do you need a few more minutes to say goodbye?"
 
 

Turning towards her he struggled to find words. "I can't say my good-byes here, not to…" He gestured towards the figure on the biobed. "That's not my B'Elanna. I look at that face and see a stranger. She was more to me than that. It was her, her voice, her smile, her love… I don't see any of that when I look at her body. To do this right, I really need to be alone."
 
 

She looked at him in concern. "Would you like us to leave?" The tears where streaming freely down her cheeks again.
 
 

Tom shook his head. "No, I think I should leave. I just want to go home and be by myself."
 
 

She squeezed his shoulder. "I understand, but remember that we are here for you. Promise me you will call someone if you need to."
 
 

He nodded and left quickly, needing to put as much distance between himself and the body in sickbay as he could. The reality of her death was present in his mind, but the cold that crept into him at the sight of her lifeless form scared him.
 
 

You knew all my lines

You knew all my tricks

You knew how to heal that pain

No medicine could fix



The next morning Tom reported to duty, politely refusing the offers of time off, finding that it helped keep him centered for the few short hours a day that he was on the bridge. It was a welcome relief to the hellish hours he had spent the previous night alone in the quarters he shared with B'Elanna. He still felt none of the expected pain, just slightly out of phase with what was going on around him. He waited for the hurt that he knew was coming, feeling almost guilty at the blessed numbness that seemed to have settled over his mind. He had spent all night wandering around the rooms, unable to muster the courage to climb into the bed where her scent still lingered. So he curled up on the couch, where he lay awake for most of the night, trying to imagine his life without her. The thought was just so incompatible with the plans that they had made together that his future was now just a huge blank.
 
 

Morning found him still awake and sitting quietly on the couch staring into a cup of coffee that he held in one hand. He had been sitting there for hours, quiet and calm. He had not yet reconciled himself to the fact that this was not just a matter of working opposite shifts, that she would never again walk into this room, never again hurl heavy objects at him as he scurried and ducked around the room. The door chimed unexpectedly, and Tom tore his eyes from the black liquid in his cup and turned them towards the door. He called out softly "Come."
 
 

Janeway strode through the door, her eyes swollen and red. She seemed slightly taken aback by his demeanor. She walked over and sat beside him. "How are you holding up?"
 
 

"Fine. That's the strange thing. I'm not feeling anything right now." He stood and began to pace. "I have never been as in touch with my own feelings as I have been this last eight months."
 
 

Janeway smiled gently at him. "Since B'Elanna." She shook her head. "You both changed so much since you came together."
 
 

Tom nodded. "It took a while for us to get to that point, well at least for me. I kept pushing her away. When I almost lost her because of Steth, I finally opened up to her. She helped me deal with things that I hadn't for a long time, my father, my guilt, and a lot of my insecurities. She taught me how to feel again. And now that she's gone, I can't. I don't want to live like that again, and I'm terrified that without B'Elanna, I'll never feel anything again."
 
 

Lookin' back it's still suprisin'

I was sinking you were rising

With a look you caught me in mid-air



The next day, Tom stood silently in the center of the mess hall. The memorial service was over, the torpedo casing drifting silently away from the ship, carrying in it the one person that could have cut through his emotional barrier. He was aware of the whispered comments that seemed to follow him everywhere, from almost every mouth he caught the wisps of conversation.
 
 

"How is he holding up?"
 
 

"…so calm."
 
 

"How is Tom dealing with this?"
 
 

"…denial."
 
 

"He's so quiet."
 
 

"…not dealing, just shutting down."
 
 

Tom held his head high, recognizing the truth in their words, but unable to breech the barrier holding back the pain. And he tried. Burying himself in memories of B'Elanna he tried to cut through the wall separating him from his feelings, but even that was not sufficient. The walls were nothing new to him, only something that had been gone from his life for too short of a moment. The time that he and B'Elanna had spent together had changed him. She had helped him get past his defenses and deal with the years of buried and denied feelings. As a result, he had become calmer, more centered. But when that center was ripped unfairly from him, he found himself unable to cope with the overwhelming emptiness within him. He would have welcomed the pain, the hurt, anything but the overwhelming numbness.
 
 

Looking around at the people surrounding him, he envied them their abilities to cry, to feel, and to mourn for the one who meant everything to him. It struck him as strange, he had spent most of his life denying and hiding from his emotions, and only a scant few months trying to deal with and accept them, yet at this point when his mind stubbornly tried to revert to it's previous ways, his heart screamed in challenge.
 
 

Janeway noticed her pilot standing stock still in the middle of the room, staring absently out at the passing stars, she walked up behind him and put her hand on his shoulder in concern. "Tom?"
 
 

The look of sheer disappointment on his face when he realized who was speaking to him brought tears to her eyes. He tried to speak, paused and finally managed to bring forth a shaky voice. "I'm sorry Captain. I just… almost forgot for a moment why we were here,"
 
 

At the haunting tone of Tom's voice, the tears that had been threatening in the captain's eyes began to fall in full force. Without thinking, Tom took a step closer and wrapped his arms around her in a comforting gesture. Only when she dipped her sobbing head into his shoulder did he realize the breach of conduct he had committed. However judging by her reaction, protocol was the furthest thing from her mind at the moment. As she continued to cry, he held her and envied her ability to do so.



Now I know God has his reasons

But sometimes it's hard to see them

When I awake and find that you're not there


 
 

The night of the memorial, Tom returned to their, no, his quarters. They would never again be theirs, never again be a them, only he. Without thinking, he climbed into bed and surrendered to the overwhelming exhaustion that permeated his body. And for the first time since her death, he slept. When he awoke after a few hours of dream filled sleep to the cold reality that the object of his dreams was no more, all of the pain of his loss finally broke through the barriers of his mind. Sitting straight up in bed, he gasped for air through the sobs that wracked his body. He had lost people close to him before, and had felt the pain associated with their deaths, but nothing could have prepared him for this. For when he lost her, he lost her on so many different planes of his life, not only his present, but his future. And as he cried for the long hours into the night, he did so not only for the immediate loss of her in his life, but for all they had anticipated sharing together. He cried for the marriage that was never to be, for the babies that had been spoken of in a cocoon of warmth, arms and legs intertwined, dreamy contented smiles mirrored on the face of the other, Children that would now never be born. He grieved for himself, for what he told himself were selfish reasons, for the thought of continuing this journey without her, for the loneliness that was already beginning to seep into him.
 
 

Morning was a welcome relief, as it brought an end to the hellish night, but no end to the pain. With much effort he managed to pull himself together enough to present himself for the morning briefing, with just a shatteringly brittle hold on his emotions. A hold that broke as he walked through the door of the observation lounge and saw Joe Carey standing awkwardly in the corner of the room, looking like he would rather be anyplace but there.
 
 

The senior staff was shocked by the appearance of Tom Paris. The worry that many of them had felt over his lack of emotion disappeared only to be replaced by the fear that he was not strong enough to handle the pain that was so obviously etched into every part of him. He looked so fragile and vulnerable, as if the slightest touch might break him, and as he glanced around the room, he did break. At the sight of Lt. Carey, the tears broke free and began to flow down his face, the look of anguish that appeared on his face as he began to gasp for air was disturbing to see.
 
 

You found hope in hopelessness

You made crazy sane

You became the missing link

That helped me break my chains



And so life on Voyager continued. Tom pushed on, learning how to live with the pain and loss that became a constant companion to everything he did. He saw memories of B'Elanna everywhere. He returned to duty both on the bridge and in sickbay, although the small shudders of remembrance and tears silently streaking down his face were not unusual occurrences. On his first day back on duty after his breakdown in the observation lounge, he steeled his mind and headed for engineering to hunt down Joe Carey. In retrospect, he realized that it was harder going down there than into the quarters they had shared. For their quarters belonged to both of them, and many of the memories there were ones that they had shared together, and even with her gone, his presence still remained to fill them. However engineering was B'Elanna's. Everywhere in there he saw her, and the things she loved.
 
 

Tom took a deep breath and walked forward, seeking out the new chief engineer to apologize for the incident in the briefing room. It was short, and Tom's voice shook, but there was no doubt to the sincerity. As Joe watched the stiff back walk away from him, he sighed. The apology was one of the last things he would have expected from the Tom Paris that he had first met, even the Tom Paris that he knew a year ago. But the man had changed, had realized the importance of his own feelings, and by association had become much more sensitive to the feelings of those around him. And the reason for that was obvious, B'Elanna. As Tom had changed so had she, both of them becoming centered, less of the loose cannons that they at the beginning of the long journey.
 
 

In his new position as a member of the senior staff, Joe was aware of the concern over Tom. His initial non-reaction to B'Elanna's death had driven a sliver of doubt into people's minds as to whether they would soon be seeing the return of the caustic, sarcastic man that many had encountered soon after the Caretaker had stranded them. But these same people were now awed by the man who was emerging from his blanket of grief. This man was the same one that many had come to know and care for throughout the duration of his relationship with the former chief engineer. He had been courteous, caring, and a pleasure to be around, and that still hadn't changed. What was new was the silence. The man who for so long could always be counted on to lighten the mood with a joke, or speak aloud what everyone else was thinking, had become one who rarely spoke without being spoken too. This left the family wondering if the Tom that they knew died with B'Elanna.
 
 

And I bless the day I met you

And I thank God that He let you

Lay beside me for a moment that lives on



As time went on Tom learned to live with his loss. What else could he do? He couldn't say that the pain ever lessened, he just learned to live with it. It would appear at the oddest times. The first time he left the bridge at the end of a duty shift and realized that he hadn't thought of B'Elanna all day, he barely made it to his quarters without breaking down. It hit him hard the first time he commed engineering and realized that he expected Carey to answer. Tom found as time wore on, that it was the little things that got to him. He still missed her terribly, and he keenly felt the loss every time he climbed into the bed they used to share, but feeling this on a daily basis had helped him to deal with it. It was the little things, the times Neelix would serve a dish that she used to love, the way her things would turn up unexpectedly in odd places in his quarters, memories of her responses at things he would do.
 
 

But over time it got better. After six months he finally worked up the courage to pack away her clothes and listen to the message she had left for him in the event of her death. For as much as he had been dreading it, he found it strange how much better he felt for doing it. Slowly he began to return to himself. He began to smile again, to laugh. The first time he cracked a joke on the bridge, he thought the grin on the captain's face was going to split her face open. He began to let Harry drag him out of his quarters at night, to Sandrines, to the parties that Neelix would organize.
 
 

The first anniversary of her death found him alone however. Wondering why on this particular day it was so much more painful than the one before it. The hardest part for him was the realization that it had in fact been a year. He had been concentrating so much on just getting though each day as it came, that the anniversary snuck up on him. He had actually realized what day it was standing in the mess hall waiting to get his breakfast. The Delaney sisters were speaking of their upcoming birthday and he realized what the old earth calendar date was. Clutching his tray between suddenly cold fingers, he felt the tears start to well up. He quickly returned to his quarters only to find a message from Chakotay waiting for him, inviting him to take the day off if he felt like he needed it. He gratefully sent a message thanking him for his thoughtfulness and gratefully accepting the offer.
 
 

He spent the day listening to his logs over the past year, a great many of them having taken the form of letters to B'Elanna. He cried, he laughed, and when the day was over, he recorded one more.
 
 

"…Even though you are gone, you are still my life. I used to say that I couldn't imagine my life without you, and at the time I couldn't. I still wonder just how my life came to this point, living with nothing more than your memories, but I have to admit that I would rather have those memories than nothing. I know that sounds kind of trite, but it is amazing just how true it is. I still love you more than I could have ever imagined, and miss you more than I ever thought it was possible to do and still survive. Not a whole day ever goes by without me thinking of you at least once, and I hope to God that one never does. I wonder what the Doc or Chakotay would think of my mental state if they knew just how important that you still are to my mental stability. Even though you are gone, you are still my center. I promised you the rest of my life, and that is one promise that I intend to keep."
 
 

And the good news is I'm better

For the time we spent together

And the bad news is you're gone



~~finis~~
 

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