No Easy Answers by Ronda

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Down in sickbay, Tom laid his PADD aside as he saw Neelix approach him with his lunch tray. The security officer nodded to Neelix and moved so that he could place the tray on the over bed table.

"Enjoy your lunch, Tom," said Neelix. Knowing that any and all unnecessary chatter was forbidden, Neelix gave Tom an encouraging look and left.

Tom lifted the covers off the dishes and found Tomato Soup, salad, a roll, and what looked like applesauce. He picked up a spoon and tasted the soup. He was pleasantly surprised that the replicator had finally gotten the soup to taste right. He recalled the soup he had tried his first day on Voyager. This was a 100% improvement.

Ensign Lang watched as Tom ate his lunch. She had already eaten. In her opinion, assigning a security detail to watch over Tom in sickbay was ridiculous. Tom was not a dangerous criminal, he was a Starfleet officer. Yes, he had made a mistake, however, as Gilbert and Sullivan had put it so long ago, "let the punishment fit the crime." Others had pull outrageous stunts with much less censure. The only reason she enforced the Captain's orders of no unnecessary conversation was she had no choice in the matter.

About an hour later, Neelix came to retrieve Tom's tray. He noted with satisfaction that Tom had eaten everything. He still looked as if he had been through a long illness, but at least he was eating. Since he was not allowed to speak with Tom, he simply gave him a thumbs up and was rewarded with a bright smile in return. Taking the tray, he quickly left sickbay to finish the after lunch clean up and get ready for supper.

Tom was bored. He had studied medical texts all morning. That was the only diversion that he was being allowed. He was sleepy, but he was not sure he wanted to take a nap. He did not want to have the nightmares again.

The Doctor walked over to check on his patient. Though he could be irritating at times, Tom was glad to have a chance to talk to someone.

"How are you feeling, Tom?" he asked.

"A little bored, I read the medical texts this morning, but I thought I'd give it a rest for while," he answered.

The Doctor looked at the panel over Tom's biobed. "Your blood pressure seems to be stable for the moment," he noted with satisfaction in his voice. He looked back at Tom. "You appear to be sleepy, perhaps a nap would be in order."

An apprehensive expression clouded Tom's face. Sleep meant nightmares.

The Doctor put his hand on Tom's shoulder. "I know your nightmares are troubling, I will be monitoring you. Perhaps I can come up with a solution for them that will help. I know the previous attempt did not work, however I have not been defeated yet."

"Okay, Doc," relented Tom. "I'll try to take a nap."

"Good," answered the Doctor. "Perhaps the change in environment would help keep the dreams at bay."

He left, and Tom settled down for a nap, hoping that his sleep would be peaceful.

Back on the bridge, everyone was working quietly when the Captain stepped off the turbolift. She stood there for a few moments surveying the activity, then proceeded to her seat.

"The diagnostics are preceding as ordered, Captain," reported Chakotay.

She nodded, "Good, while we are in a relatively calm area of space, I wanted everything checked out. We never know when things can become turbulent out here."

"That's a given," agreed Chakotay. He looked around at the officers working on their various tasks. The moment the Captain had returned, he sensed that they had become more tense. He wished there was a way to improve things, but only the Captain could change her current attitude. There were no easy answers to the problem.

An uneasy silence settled over the bridge. The only sounds were those from the consoles as they were put through various tests. After about an hour, the Captain got up and strolled around checking on progress.

As she observed B'Elanna's work, she noted that the Engineer was nearly done. "You've been very industrious this afternoon, B'Elanna." The Captain moved on to Harry's Ops station. "Mr. Kim, did you manage to track down the source of the problems?"

"Yes, Captain, it was from when we were attacked by Species 6339. They were minor issues that would only show up in a complete diagnostic. From now on, after any attack, I plan to run a full diagnostic."

"An excellent idea, Ensign," commented Janeway. She continued on to the helm. "Ensign Culhane, I see you are finally making progress on your diagnostic."

"Yes, Captain, I called up Mr. Paris' notes on it, and they have been very helpful," answered Ensign Culhane.

Janeway bristled a little at the mention of Tom's name. "Very well, carry on." She returned to her chair and sat down. The cold reception she had been getting from everyone was getting old. Tom disobeyed orders and was disciplined. The rest of the crew would just have to get over it.

Tom was stirring restlessly. Ensign Lang called for the Doctor, reasonably sure a nightmare episode was about to start. He came immediately. He had medication pre-loaded into a hypospray to use if necessary. Tom was becoming more agitated.

"Daddy, please don't put me in there," he suddenly cried out. He began crying and screaming, "Let me out, please let me out."

Alarms began sounding, and the Doctor immediately woke Tom up. Tom sat up shaking. The Doctor quickly administered medication to lower his blood pressure and control his heart rate.


"Tom, you need to lie down," he said softly guiding the young man's body back down on the biobed.

"I should have known that I wouldn't get any peaceful sleep," muttered Tom.

"It might help if you would open up about your dreams," said the Doctor. "Anything you tell me would be held strictly confidential."

Tom shook his head. "I just can't talk about them, Doc. You don't understand. No one does."

The Doctor sighed. "I am trying a new medication. I think that it will keep your blood pressure and heart rate in check in spite of the stress the nightmares put on your body. If not, I'll keep you here till I find one that does."

Tom frowned. "I'll never finish my days if I have to stay here."

"Yes, you will," replied the Doctor. "The Captain stated the time you spend here in sickbay will count as time served too."

Tom rubbed his face, relieved to know that sickbay days were not going to be counted against him. Now if there were something that would stop the nightmares. When he spent the night with B'Elanna, he seldom had nightmares. He hated being alone.

Up on the Bridge, it was finally shift change. Chakotay watched as the officers coming on duty were briefed by the ones going off. The Captain had left the bridge as soon as Lieutenant Rollins came on. He was taking the command this shift. Chakotay had briefed him for the Captain. He stood up and walked to the turbolift and was joined by Harry and B'Elanna.

"Let's head directly to my office to finish our discussion," he whispered.

They both nodded and quietly got on the turbolift. They rode in silence. When the doors slid open, they walked to Chakotay's office and sat down.

"Okay, B'Elanna, what can you tell me about Tom's nightmares," inquired Chakotay, who had decided there was no sense in wasting time on pleasantries.

"Well, at first he had them two or three times a week," began B'Elanna. "Then, they seemed to taper off. Maybe once or twice a month, unless he got stressed out over something. Then he had them more often."

"But he never tells you about them?" asked Harry.

"No," she said resignedly. "I know a lot of times I hear him calling out Daddy. He and his dad didn't get along very well."

"I had Admiral Paris for a few classes at the academy," began Chakotay. "His classes washed out a lot of cadets. He was very demanding. I never saw him interacting with Tom, so I only know the rumors."

"Chakotay," ventured B'Elanna. "Do you think maybe....." She stopped and seemed to be considering very carefully how to phrase what she wanted to say.

"Do I think what?" he prompted her.

"Well, I was thinking, he might open up to his animal guide.......if you could teach him how to reach his animal guide. I don't think he'd try to kill his," said B'Elanna with a chuckle.

"It would only work if he was open to it," said Chakotay.

"I think he would be, sir." began Harry. "That might be the one........ uh thing he would open up to about his dreams. I think the reason he doesn't want to talk to us is that the Admiral was abusive."

"I am certain that he was," said B'Elanna. "Tom did tell me that his dad was gentle and patient, until he was taken prisoner by the Cardassians. When he was finally rescued, he was a very different man. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome changed the Admiral a lot according to Tom."

"Hmmm, I was aware of the Admiral being taken by the Cardassians, but I was not aware he had been diagnosed with PTSS," said Chakotay.

"He wasn't officially, it was something Tom learned from his studies with the Doctor. He commented that he could understand his dad a little better after he had studied that particular text," explained B'Elanna.

"Well, I will check with the Doctor, and if he approves, I can approach Tom about learning about his animal guide," said Chakotay. "Harry do you have anything to add?"

"Not that I can think of, sir," he replied.

"Good, I'm going down to sickbay to talk to the Doctor and see how Tom is faring," said Chakotay.

A longing expression crossed B'Elanna's face. She wished she could see Tom. "I don't suppose I could go too?"

"Sorry, B'Elanna, but that would be up to the Captain," answered Chakotay regretfully.

When Chakotay walked into sickbay, Tom was eating his supper. The security officer was sitting reading something from a PADD. He stood up when he saw his superior officer.

"As you were Ensign Molina," said Chakotay with a wave. He walked over to the Doctor's office.

"Doctor, I came by for a report on Tom Paris, and to discuss an idea that might help him deal with his nightmares," said Chakotay.

"I'd be interested in hearing that idea myself."

Chakotay turned and saw the Captain standing behind him. "Hello, Captain."

"If both of you will have a seat, I'll brief you on Mr. Paris' condition," said the Doctor.

The sat down and the Doctor began.
"Tom was napping and had another nightmare episode. I was able to rouse him. His blood pressure and heart rate were significantly elevated. I administered new medications which I hope will keep that from happening again. If he has nightmare episodes tonight, we will know if the new medications worked. He has yet to open up to anyone about his nightmares."

"Lieutenant Torres, Ensign Kim, and I were talking, and B'Elanna suggested that perhaps if Tom were open to learning about his animal guide that he might open up to it about the dreams," said Chakotay.

"That may be an option that will work," commented Captain Janeway. "He definitely needs to talk about them."

"I would suggest we wait until we are certain his medical condition is stable before he makes an attempt. I am very aware of animal guides. However, before he uses an Akoonah, I think we need for him to be medically stable," stated the Doctor.

"That is reasonable," said the Captain. "When you deem he is ready, I would like for the Commander to raise the issue with him. I'll make that exception to his solitary confinement, only because it is a health related issue."

"If the new medications work, I will be ready to release Mr. Paris from sickbay tomorrow. I assume you still intend to allow him to serve the remainder of his sentence in his quarters," said the Doctor.

"I will follow your recommendations, Doctor. I have no desire to see Ensign Paris suffer any more than you do," said the Captain defensively.

The Doctor nodded, "I realize that Captain, now if the two of you will excuse me, I have a patient to attend to." He rose and walked out of his office.

Chakotay looked at the Captain. He could see the pain in her eyes. He knew that she truly believed she was right in her discipline, but now realized just how much it had hurt her to have to do it.

"Let's go see what Neelix is serving in the mess hall," he suggested quietly.

She nodded, stood up, and walked out of the Doctor's office.

B'Elanna and Harry were eating supper. She could tell Harry was out of sorts and wondered what was troubling him.

"Hey, Starfleet, what's wrong?" she asked.

Harry looked around and saw that the tables near them were empty. "The Captain forced me to fire. She had intended for me to fire on Tom at first. I could have killed my best friend."

She nodded, "That had to be really hard on you, Harry."

She noticed Harry's eyes dart to the door. The Captain and Chakotay entered the mess hall. Harry picked up his empty plate. "I'll see you later, B'Elanna." He was gone before she could reply. She put her plate in the recycler and headed for her quarters.

Chakotay watched as the two younger officers left the mess hall. They were both hurting and there wasn't a lot he could do about it. He got a plate of hot food and sat down with the Captain.

"Well," she began. "It looks and smells edible. Time for the acid test." She put a bite of the casserole in her mouth and chewed. After she swallowed, she grinned at Chakotay. "It's edible. Neelix's cooking is getting better here lately."

Chakotay skeptically took a bite. It was pretty good, he decided. "It's taken him some time, but I agree, he has improved."

"I'm glad the diagnostics are over with," said Janeway as she set down her coffee cup. "I wanted everything checked out. You never know what might happen from one day to the next out here. Without Starfleet to back us up, we are way too vulnerable."

"I know," said Chakotay. "We seem to run into more than our share of trouble. We're lucky to have such a well trained crew."

"Yes, we are," agreed the Captain.

Meanwhile, B'Elanna sat in her quarters. Everywhere she looked there were reminders of Tom. She spotted his robe still draped over a chair from the last night they had spent together. She walked over, picked it up, and held it to her cheek inhaling his scent which lingered on the dark blue robe she had given him. Laying it down, she quickly shed her uniform and put the robe on. It gave her a small measure of comfort. Somehow, she had to convince the Captain to let her see Tom.

Harry sat in his dimly lit quarters. His clarinet lay beside him. He had been unable to find the usual comfort and pleasure his music always brought him. The Captain's order to fire on the Delta Flyer echoed relentlessly through his head. Had the Captain not changed her order and had him fire at the torpedo Tom launched, he would have surely killed his best friend. They all owed Tom their lives so many times over. How could the Captain have been so cold hearted?

Captain Janeway sat brooding on the observation deck. At this late hour, she was the only one here. Tom was one of her best officers. How had he managed to make such a poor judgment call. She knew most of the crew thought her discipline had been overly harsh. They just did not understand. Out here, she had to be hard on everyone. That was the only way they would survive and make it home some day.

Tom lay quietly in the bio bed. He dreaded going to sleep. Sleep would only bring the nightmares. No one could ever know the things he dreamed about were very real. After his father had been rescued from the Cardassians, he was never the same. Tom knew enough from his studies with the Doctor that Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome had caused most of the changes in his dad. The six years before that had been wonderful. His dad had been a doting father, so proud of his only son. He hated the Cardassians for what they had done to his father. He turned over on his side and punched the pillow a few times.

"You okay, Tom?" asked Ayala.

"Yeah, thanks for checking though. I guess I'm going to try to sleep.......at least till the nightmares start," he answered ruefully. He closed his eyes and willed himself to relax.

Chakotay sat in his quarters. On his vision quest, the wolf had agreed that he should teach Tom to contact his animal guide. She told him that Tom would be receptive. So, as soon as the Doctor gave him the okay, he would work with Tom. Perhaps, Tom would find some measure of peace.

Tom was stirring restlessly on the bed. The Doctor and Ensign Ayala stood watching, knowing that it was another nightmare. So far, his blood pressure and heart rate were staying within normal limits.

"No, please, daddy, don't!" cried Tom. "I'll be good. Please don't put me in the chest again."

The Doctor and Ayala exchanged troubled looks. Ayala had already been told, as had all the security officers that anything Tom said during his dreams was to be considered confidential. It would be put into reports, but it would not be discussed with others.

"Please let me out, daddy. Please!! I'm sorry, I'll be a good boy," he begged.

The Doctor gently shook Tom to wake him up. He sat up breathing hard, but not feeling as badly as he had from previous episodes.

"Well, Tom, it would seem the new medicines have your blood pressure and heart rate under control. When I release you to your quarters tomorrow, I'll put a cardiac monitor on you to be on the safe side. More than likely when your days of confinement are over, we will be able to discontinue the medication." The Doctor looked very pleased.

"Thanks, Doc," said Tom, "For everything. I know it's because of you that I don't have to go back to the brig. It won't be nearly as bad in my quarters as it was there."

"You're welcome, Tom. Now try to go back to sleep," said the Doctor.

He laid back down and pulled the covers back over himself. Hopefully, he would not have any more dreams.

The next morning, the Captain and Chakotay went to sickbay to get a status report on Tom. They walked into sickbay and saw that he was still sleeping.

"Ah, Captain, Commander, I've been waiting for you. If you'll step into my office, I will update you on Mr. Paris' condition."

They went into his office and sat down. The Doctor picked up two PADDs and handed it to each of them. "As you can see, Mr. Paris had two episodes of nightmares last night. However, the new medications have his heart rate and blood pressure under control. I will be allowing him to return to his quarters today. He will be wearing a cardiac monitor to alert me to any changes. I plan to examine him again after he eats breakfast. Provided there are no changes, he will be able to be confined in his quarters."

"Contact me when you're ready to release him. The security officer on duty will then escort him to his quarters and be posted outside his door," said the Captain.

The Doctor looked at Chakotay. "Commander, if his condition remains stable for the next forty-eight hours, you may proceed with introducing Mr. Paris to his animal guide if he wishes to try it. I would like to be present to monitor the process."

"If that is what you think is in Tom's best interest, I have no problems with it," replied Chakotay.

The Doctor rose to his feet. "Thank you for time, I must now see to my patient." He followed them out of his office and went to Tom's bedside as they left sickbay. Tom was awake and had watched his commanding officers leave sickbay.

"Tom," began the Doctor, "After you eat your breakfast, I want to exam you one more time. Then, provided nothing changes, I will inform the Captain, and you will be escorted to your quarters."

"That works for me, Doc. I am feeling a lot better than I did. Say, I've sort of lost track of days, how many more days do I have left?" asked Tom.

"You have twenty-one days left. If you start having severe problems again, you will of course be transfered from your quarters back to sickbay," replied the Doctor. "I will be checking on you more often due to health issues."

Tom nodded, "Best to be on the safe side." He smiled, knowing that he would have a frequent visitor, even if it was the Doctor. Tom had noticed the Doctor had been treating much kinder than usual.

After a finishing his breakfast, the Doctor examined Tom one more time. "Well, Tom," he began. "You're in much better shape than when you came in a few days ago. I am attaching a cardiac monitor to alert me to any changes. As soon as I contact the Captain, Ensign Lang will escort you to your quarters." He walked over to his office to contact the Captain.

"Thanks, Doc," said Tom. He was a little apprehensive at the thought of spending 21 days in his quarters. However, it was better than a tiny cell in the brig. He knew Doc would be by to check on him every few days, and that more than likely Neelix would be by with his meals. So it would not be too bad.

The Doctor came back from his office. "Ensign Lang, if you would escort Mr. Paris to his quarters now." He turned to Tom. "The Captain and Commander Chakotay will be waiting there for you. I believe the Captain will explain what you will and won't be allowed."

Tom got up off the bed and stood to his feet. He slid his feet into the slippers that were at his bedside. He looked at Ensign Lang with a teasing grin. "Forward, onward, outward, and sideways."

She laughed, and gestured for him to follow her. Even after all he had been through, she was glad that Tom had been able to maintain his sense of humor. The orders for Tom to be escorted were so pointless. Tom would have gone directly to his quarters without anyone taking him. The Captain was going way overboard.

When they got to his quarters, the Captain and the Commander were waiting for them. They followed him into his quarters as Ensign Lang took her position outside his door. Inside, they all sat down.

"Now, Tom," began Janeway. "You will serve the remaining twenty-one days here in your quarters. At the Doctor's request, Mr. Neelix will continue to bring your meals so that your diet may be better regulated."

Tom forced himself not to smile. Atta boy, Doc, he thought. Company three times a day. That would help make the next twenty-one days a little easier.

"You will not be allowed to access your computer during that time. However, you will be allowed PADDs with medical texts assigned by the Doctor," continued Janeway. "When your days are served, you will resume your duties as Chief Helmsman." She glanced at Chakotay. "Do you have anything to add, Commander?"

"Tom, I would encourage you to use these days to try to resolve whatever issues cause you to have nightmares. I had difficulties with my father as well. It took a lot of soul searching, but I made my peace with it," advised Chakotay.

"I'll consider that, Chakotay," replied Tom.

"That's all for now, Ensign Paris," said Captain Janeway. She stood, and Chakotay followed suit. Without another word, she walked out the door with Chakotay following her.

Tom walked around his quarters. They were just as he had left them. Spying B'Elanna's gown on the floor by his bed, he picked up it. Lifting it to his face, he inhaled her scent. It was a comforting aroma. He laid it on his bed, and walked over to the window and watched the as stars zipped by. He could tell by the view from his window and the vibrations under his feet that the ship was traveling at warp 8. He missed piloting the ship. Twenty-one days to go, just twenty-one days.