Life Continues
by Suz

Disclaimer - Paramount own the names. I own the situation.

Last part - twenty one - of the DQ90210 story. Thanks to all who have e-mailed me about it. I'll admit, I put off writing this for several hours because I didn't want it to end. I've had so much fun doing this that it seemed a shame. But, life continues. At least I won't have (Mary) certain (Mary) people (Mary) bugging me for the next part anymore. So thank you (Mary) for encouraging me, and for never knowing when to shut up. I love you, babe.


Sitting in a booth at Sandrines, Tom Paris was slowly getting drunk. Life hadn't been going too well lately and the synthehol helped to make his mind go fuzzy. He knew that if he concentrated hard enough he could easily brush off the effects of the drinks, but hey - why the hell should he? It'd been at least a few months since he'd drunk himself into a stupor.

Focusing on the people in the bar he became aware of the couples spread throughout the room. Smirking, he then gulped down another shot of whisky at the sight of Sam and Harry canoodling in the corner. His friend had visited him a few minutes ago, inviting him to sit with him and Sam. Tom really wasn't in the mood to sit next to another couple, so he'd rejected the idea and watched Harry walk petulantly back to his table before his mood rapidly transformed when he looked at his lover.

The doors to Sandrines creaked open and Tom's eyes were drawn to the couple who walked in. Guiding his 'date' over to the table where she sat, Chakotay then headed over to the bar and ordered two drinks - scotch, if he wasn't mistaken.

Once he had the drinks, Chakotay walked back to his table and sat down. The couple were definitely there to be seen together. They weren't kissing or hugging, but they had their hands all over each other.

Tom shook his head. He should have seen that one coming a lot earlier.

So should the woman who entered the room a few moments later. Her appearance there after recent events caused a few eyebrows to raise, not least of all Tom's. Forging bravely ahead into the room she forced a small nod of acknowledgement to everyone she passed - Chakotay included - on her way to the bar. After ordering and receiving a drink that looked suspiciously like water she sat in silence for a while. Tom stared at her the whole time, his feelings stuck somewhere between shock and admiration that she had the balls to come here after everything.

Five minutes passed and Seven was still sitting by herself. Tom was beginning to wonder if he should go and join her, but he wasn't sure if his legs were working or not. That thought turned out to be moot anyway, because a few seconds later she was standing next to him.

"May I sit opposite you, Lieutenant?"

He blinked several times. "Sure Seven."

Nodding her thanks a little too eagerly she quickly sat opposite him in the booth. "How are you?"

Chuckling, he played with the empty glass he held in his hands. "I've been better."

That was putting it mildly. He was in Sandrines - his only escape - and was trying to ignore the image of them laughing in the corner of their own booth. The real killer was that he still owed Chakotay, because the First Officer hadn't told Janeway about Tom's little contemplation of suicide and never would.

Seven studied him. "I believe I understand the emotions you are experiencing."

They sat in a comfortable silence for a while before she spoke again, sounding surprisingly vulnerable. "How long have they been here?"

He shrugged. "I guess about ten minutes. A little longer than you."

Nodding and keeping her eyes lowered she took a sip of her own drink.

Tom almost wanted to laugh at the way things had been changing lately. It had seemed so ludicrous to begin with, but now...

He understood better than anyone how Chakotay could be in love with Kathryn Janeway. Now he had to face the fact that there was nothing he could do about it. Despite everything...everything...they had always been drawn together. That had never changed, and he'd been fool to believe otherwise.

Inexorably, his gaze was drawn to the couple once again. They were staring at him, looking...upset? The Captain muttered something to Chakotay and they rapidly left the holodeck together.

Tom frowned, a headache starting, his chest burning.

Looking over at the Seven again, he realised she was staring at him. In a rare moment of nervousness she admitted something. "I am uncertain."

So was he. All the time. Leaning forward, he placed a hand on top of hers. "I understand."

Surprised, a smile appeared on her lips and she regarded him fondly.

He instantly went to red alert.

Pulling away he stood up, excused himself, and - before he made another stupid mistake in the life of Thomas Eugene Paris - he walked out of the bar.

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