By Chap Dirkson

For my cat.

Disclaimer: All characters, names, and places in this story belong exclusively to Paramount. The story itself, however, belongs exclusively to me.

The Doctor was sitting at his desk working on crew vaccination reports when Kes came in for her shift. Her hand was bleeding. He jumped up. "What happened?"

"Oh, it's nothing. I just nicked myself as I was trimming up some roses."

The Doctor's concern was not alleviated. "Let me see."

She obligingly showed him her hand. He carefully scanned it with a tricorder, and then as he healed it he made a very unsuccessful attempt at scolding her. "Well, at least it's not infected. You really should be more careful, you know. Even the simplest of tools can be dangerous when not used properly."

Kes smiled. She knew that the Doctor never really got angry with her. "I brought you one."

"One what?"

"One of my roses."

He had not noticed it before, but now as she handed it to him he saw that in her other hand she held a small, pink rose.

"I've been cultivating this group for almost three months. I think I've finally perfected it."

He took the delicate flower in his hand. He was touched. "Thank you, Kes. It's beautiful."

She beamed. "I thought you'd like it."

The Doctor crossed the room and carefully set the flower on his desk. Kes began cataloging bio -- readings from various away missions. As the EMH sat down to continue his work, his mind began to wander. This was pretty dry stuff. I wonder if I should do some tutoring with Kes instead. He leaned back in his chair so that he could see what she was doing. She looks busy. Oh well, maybe later. He was notably disappointed. This is tedious. Well, all in a day's work, I suppose.

* * * * *

Some two hours later, as the Doctor was finally getting done with his project, Tom Paris strode through the sickbay doors. The Doctor sighed. Of all the officers on Voyager, Paris was his least favorite. However, much to his surprise and dismay, he had recently discovered that after more than two years of being stranded together on the same ship, Tom was beginning to grow on him. Of course, he would never admit this, not even to Kes. He still retained a small hope that there was some slight glitch in his personality subroutines.

"What brings you in today, Mr. Paris? You're not injured, are you?"

"No, the captain sent me down. I'm taking a shuttle into a highly radioactive nebula, and I was wondering if you could give me some sort of protection."

The Doctor looked irritated. "I'm not even going to ask you why you're doing this. What type of radiation is it?"

Paris went blank for a moment. When he spoke it was with an edge of uncertainty. "Um, ionic I think."

"You think?"

"I'm pretty sure."

"Didn't you bother to check before you came down?"

"Well, I was kind of in a hurry, if I don't get out there soon -- "

"Mr. Paris, if I don't know the type of radiation we're dealing with, then I can't possibly know what type of protection to give you!"

"But I'm almost positive that it's ionic!"

When the Doctor spoke next it began as to a child, but worked itself up into a bark. "Well why don't you double check seeing as how your life could be at stake!"

Tom thought about that for a moment. "Um, okay, yeah. I'll do that. Okay."

As Paris left sickbay the Doctor rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh. At this, he thought he heard Kes giggle, but he couldn't be sure.

A few minutes later, Lieutenant Paris reentered the Doctor's domain. "I was wrong."

The Doctor looked up from his work. Imagine that.

"It's EM radiation."

"Aren't you glad you double checked?"

"Yeah, I guess I should try listening to you more often, Doc."

What a concept. "EM radiation is it? Well, this could be a little tricky. However, I'm sure that I'll be able to whip up something. Wait here, Mr. Paris."

Tom watched as the EMH proceeded to fill several hyposprays with some unknown compound. He loaded all but one of them into a medical pack and carried both it and the remaining hypospray over to Tom.

"This ought to do the trick. However, this particular protectant can only be administered in small doses. Each dose will last approximately twenty minutes. I've taken the liberty of packing you two extras, but you'll have to administer them to yourself. You will only be protected from the radiation for an hour, but any longer in there will cause you serious harm anyway. Here." The Doctor injected Tom with the first hypospray. "Your hour begins now. Try not to kill yourself."

Tom nodded and took the pack from the Doctor as he headed for the door. Before leaving, he turned back to the EMH. "Thanks, Doc."

The Doctor cringed after Paris left. Doc! Actually, he couldn't make up his mind whether he despised the title or was rather fond of it. Suddenly, he was sorry that he was so harsh with Mr. Paris.

* * * * *

It was several hours later and the Doctor was once again slaving over his tabletop console. Tom Paris had not come back into sickbay, but since the captain had not called on the Doctor to inform him of complications, he assumed that the lieutenant had returned on schedule.

"Computer, what is the time?"

"Twelve hundred, twenty-two hours."

He rose from his desk chair and walked to where he could see Kes. She was as absorbed with her work as he had been a few moments earlier. "Aren't you going to go to lunch?"

She looked up, surprised. "Is it noon already?"

He nodded.

She looked down at what she had been working on. "Well, I guess this can wait. All right, I'm off. I'll see you in an hour, Doctor." Kes clasped her hands behind her back and headed for the door, but then she stopped and turned around. "Don't you ever take a lunch break?"

The Doctor was puzzled. "A lunch break? What for? I can't eat."

Kes shrugged her shoulders. "Oh, I don't know. Just for a break, I suppose."

The hologram was taken aback. The thought had never occurred to him. Take a break? Just like that? This deserved some thought.

Suddenly, a light came on in Kes's eyes. "Don't go anywhere, Doctor. I'll be right back." With that brief adieu, she hurriedly left sickbay.

The Doctor wandered into his office and leaned against the side of his desk. What is she up to now? I wonder.... "Computer, what is Kes's location?"

"Kes is in the mess hall."

Well, there's certainly nothing unusual about that. People do tend to eat where the food is. You're just paranoid. This is pathetic, if you don't have anything else to think about. He shook his head and proceeded to busy himself with various trivial tasks around sickbay. A few minutes later, Kes reentered. She was carrying a tray with her lunch on it, and she wore a broad smile on her face.

The Doctor looked up from the work he was pretending to be busy with. "Back so soon, Kes?"

"Yes, I've decided to eat in here today, to keep you company on your lunch break."

"Oh. Well, that's very nice of you, but -- "

"That's not all." Kes handed the Doctor her tray and strode over to the nearest console. After tapping in a few commands, she said, "Computer, run program Neelix one." A holographic tray appeared on the floor. Kes walked over and picked it up. As she carried it over to the Doctor, he eyed it curiously. There appeared to be some sort of food on it.

"What's this?"



"Yes, I utilized a holoprogram that Neelix created when we first came on board. He used it to make some of his favorite dishes from Talax. Now you can take a real lunch break!"

The Doctor was delighted. He thanked Kes, and they carried their trays over to his desk, which they used for a table.

All through the course of the meal, the Doctor pondered Neelix's handiwork. He had always heard from the crew (mainly Mr. Paris) that Neelix's cooking was somewhat . . . unpleasant. But this isn't half bad. It's quite good, actually. I wonder what it is. Upon asking Kes he learned that it was Talaxian root pasta. I'll have to pay my compliments to the chef the next time I see him.

* * * * *

The holodoc had just dismissed a formerly nauseated ensign when B'Elanna Torres entered sickbay. When he saw her he started to smile, but then he remembered that she was here to perform his weekly maintenance checkup.

He groaned inwardly. He hated maintenance checkups. Being at the mercy of someone else's fingertips made him somewhat nervous. After all, what if she made a mistake? His entire program was right there in front of her, each subroutine at her beck and call, to do with as she pleased. He was entirely at her mercy, and that was enough to make him uncomfortable. He only hoped that she knew what she was doing. One slip of her finger and he could be decompiled in an instant! He hated relinquishing control of his program to someone else. Not to mention her lousy bedside manner. . .

"Good afternoon, B'Elanna."

"Good afternoon, Doctor. I'm here to give you a diagnostic."

"So soon?"

"It's been a week."


At that moment Kes came around the corner and Harry Kim limped into sickbay. "I twisted my ankle, Doc."

The Doctor's face brightened and he started towards Ensign Kim. "Really? Well, This sounds serious. I'd better have a look -- "

B'Elanna grabbed his arm.

"I think that Kes can handle this."

"Well, um, I think that Kes is busy, I'd better do it myself."

Kes, however, failed to notice the desperate look in her instructor's eyes and cheerfully stepped in. "It's all right, Doctor, I can take care of it if you're busy. I've finished what I was. . ."

The Doctor glared at her.

She looked at B'Elanna, then back at him. A light came on. "Oh! Oh. I mean, well, maybe you should take care of it, Doctor. After all, I'm not sure that I'm advanced enough to treat -- "

"Nice try, you two," B'Elanna jumped in dryly. "Come with me, Doctor." She ushered the physician into his office, and he threw himself into his chair. "Very well. Let's get on with it."

She started tapping on a console. "I'm glad to have your cooperation this week."

He rolled his eyes.

She pretended not to notice. "Now, let's see how good of shape you're in."

"I am in perfect health, I can assure you. However, I think that you're about due for a checkup."

"I feel fine, Doctor."

"That's what they always say."

"Well your bedside manner is enough to keep anyone healthy enough to stay out of sickbay."

"For your information, yours is just as bad as you claim mine is."

"At least I only have one patient to agitate."

"Well, I'd hate to be the main computer."

"The main computer doesn't talk back."

"It's probably too scared."

"I thought that computer programs didn't get scared." B'Elanna looked at the Doctor.

He looked at the ceiling.

She continued working.

The hologram smiled inwardly. B'Elanna and he had played this game for as long as he could remember; the fine art of repartee. They were both very good at it but nothing said was really meant, and they both knew it. She had won this time, that was plain enough. Oh well, I'll get her next week.

* * * * *

Some time later the Doctor was tutoring Kes on how to operate the optical transponder. She had almost mastered it when the captain came in. As Janeway paused just inside the door she cringed and pinched the bridge of her nose.

The Doctor turned to Kes. "Keep working here, I'll be right back." He snagged a tricorder from a bio-bed as he approached the captain. "Headaches again?"

She nodded. "Worse than before, Doctor."

He scanned her for a moment before speaking. "Your occipital tissues are all flared up again. Twenty cc's of anethazene should bring them down."

After he administered the hypospray she sighed with relief. "Thank you, Doctor. That feels much better."

"Have you been getting plenty of sleep like I told you to?"

"I try to, but things just pop up to keep me up late. Like last night in engineering, there was a glitch in the magnetic constrictors and I had to supervise repairs.

The Doctor stared blandly at her.

She sighed. "I'll try harder."

"Thank you. Please try to remember, Captain, that it is only your health that I'm concerned about. I'm not saying these things just to complicate your life. "

"I understand Doctor, and I appreciate your concern. I'll try to follow your guidelines more closely from now on."

"Well, I'm glad to hear that. Sometimes I think that you're worse than Mr. Paris."


"I had to terminate his holodeck privileges for a week because he kept spraining his ankles on some idiotic surfing program."

The captain laughed. "It sounds like he and I are two of your 'problem patients.'"

"And how. By the way, how did Mr. Paris's away mission go this morning?"

The captain glanced at the Doctor. "Didn't anyone tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"After Tom examined the nebula he spotted a small debris field nearby and went to investigate. We haven't heard from him since."

The physician was apprehensive. "That was over six hours ago! Don't you think we should see if he's all right?"

"Oh, don't worry Doctor. Some away missions just take longer than others. Besides, Tom can take care of himself. I'm sure he's fine."

She hadn't even finished her statement when Commander Chakotay's voice came on over her com badge. "Captain Janeway, report to the bridge. We've received an auto distress signal from Lieutenant Paris' shuttle."

The captain shot the Doctor a look. "Maybe I was wrong." She turned and quickly marched out of sickbay.

The hologram watched as the doors closed behind her and said under his breath, "I hope not."

He paced around sickbay for a few minutes. Upon inquiry he learned from the computer that they had changed course to intercept Tom's shuttle and were at warp nine point six.

His mind raced. What had happened? Obviously something was wrong or they wouldn't be traveling at this velocity. What had Commander Chakotay said? An auto distress signal? That would suggest that something had disabled the shuttle and incapacitated Lieutenant Paris. Then the shuttle would automatically send out a distress call.

Suddenly, an awful thought occurred to him. What if Tom was . . . dead? He shook the thought away. But then again, it was a distinct possibility. As Chief Medical Officer, it was his duty to prepare for anything.

Another thought took hold of him. This one much worse than the last: The last time he had seen Tom he had been pretty irritated with him and he didn't try to hide it. If Paris was dead, then the Doctor would have a heavy conscience for the rest of his life.

He kicked himself inwardly for being so harsh. Why am I always such a jerk to him? He's not that bad. He even made an attempt at being pleasant before he left. "Computer, E.T.A."

"Thirty-seven seconds."

The Doctor rose from his desk chair where he had planted himself and strode around the corner to where Kes was still working. "Kes, Lieutenant Paris will be coming aboard momentarily, he may be injured. We should prepare for possible trauma."

"Yes, Doctor." Kes went to work filling hyposprays.

The Doctor's com badge chirped. It was the captain.

"Doctor, we've located Lieutenant Paris. He's still on the shuttle but his life signs are very faint. We're beaming him directly to sickbay."


Tom Paris' unconscious form materialized on a bio-bed, and the EMH rushed to his side. He scanned the lieutenant thoroughly with a tricorder. He has major radiation burns. His shuttle must have drifted back into the nebula.

"Kes, get the dermal regenerator."

Kes obeyed, and the Doctor began to heal the burns which covered most of Tom's body. Slowly, healthy skin began to appear.

The captain entered sickbay. The Doctor handed the regenerator to Kes. "Here, you can finish this. I need to talk with the captain."

"Yes, Doctor."

The hologram met the captain in the middle of the room.

"Is he all right?" Captain Janeway asked, concern etched in her voice.

"Yes, he should make a full recovery. But I want to know just what happened to give him such severe injuries!"

"Of course, Doctor. Apparently, the debris field Tom investigated contained several plasma-particle mines, probably from some quarrel abandoned years ago. He ran into one shortly after his last communication with us. The blast must have rendered him unconscious."

The Doctor nodded. "Yes, he has a moderate concussion."

"The shuttle, however, was not badly damaged," the captain continued, "but without a pilot it drifted through the debris field until it ran into another mine, which caused enough damage to trigger the auto distress signal approximately twenty minutes ago."

"And the force from the explosion drove it back into the nebula."

"Exactly. Thus the radiation burns."

Armed with an explanation, the Holodoc returned to the bio bed and supervised Kes's work. Her mind at ease, the captain returned to the bridge.

* * * * *

After about fifteen minutes of dermal regeneration, Tom was as good as new. The Doctor watched from his office as Kes explained to the lieutenant what had happened. After he was up to date, she left for the airponics bay.

Tom remained seated on a bio-bed, pondering his afternoon.

The Doctor hesitantly walked across sickbay and stood beside him.

Tom looked up. "Hey, Doc. It looks like I managed to get myself hurt after all, huh? I did try to stay out of trouble this time, though."

The Doctor took a deep breath. "Mr. Paris, there's something I need to say to you."

"Listen, Doc, I know I should have been more careful but -- "

"That's . . . not what I was going to say."


The Doctor hesitated for a moment, then plunged in. "I . . . wanted to . . . apologize for my irreverent behavior this morning. It was uncalled for. And . . . I'll try to be more pleasant from now on."

Tom's jaw dropped and he gaped, not knowing quite what to say. After a moment he collected himself. "Well, um, apology accepted. And I'll try not to agitate you so much any more."

The Doctor smiled and held out his hand. "Friends?"

Tom shook it heartily. "Friends. While we're at it, how about shooting some pool at Sandrine's later?"


"Yeah, It'll be fun." Tom saw the disfavorable look on the Doctor's face and quickly decided on a compromise. He swallowed hard. "We could even listen to some opera at the same time."

The Doctor's face brightened. "Well, that doesn't sound too bad. It might be fun, actually. All right. What time do you get off duty, Mr. Pari -- . . . Tom?"

Tom smiled. "Seventeen hundred hours, Doc."

"I'll be there."

Paris jumped down from the bio bed and left sick bay with a spring in his step.

The Doctor wandered into his office and sat down. Doc. I think I like that.


Story © 2003 by Chap Dirkson. Reproduced on the Official Robert Picardo Home Page with permission of the author.

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