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D'Alaire — 18 Sep 1998, 10:08 AM

...Tom gasped, jerking up to sit, his chest heaving, wrought by cold chills and tremors. He couldn't catch his breath, his throat and throat were swollen, and all his limbs hurt.

He barely realized he was beaing held until the water began pouring down his face again, then wiped away, cooling him. He barely realed his head was propped up on somebody's knees.

The dream, that crazy, terrible dream -- his Mama and him, Chakotay Torres. Yeah sure, he loved his Mama, but the talk in town would have it she loved him a little too much, protected him too much, that he was making up for lost love with his father on her because of his own past indescretions and bitterness. But to think it'd be anything intimate-like, even if he was adopted...eew! And sure, him and Chakotay didn't get on, especially since he and B'Elanna started being friendly, and sure, he might've wanted to take a couple swings at him before....But that he'd act like....

Tom groaned and tried to swallow. Water was poured down his throat and the swallowing became easier. He slowly felt life creeping back into his senses. Finally, he was able to turn his eyes upwards.

There above him was none other than B'Elanna, who, though concerned, tried to look scolding. Tom felt his heart begin to beat hard again. He drew a deep breath, tried to speak.

But B'Elanna softly put her hand on his mouth. "Shh, Tom. Looks like you got a little case of sunstroke." She scowled down at him. "Serves you right for not wearing your hat."

"How long was I out?"

"Not too long," she said, then dabbled his face with water again.

"You'd better not stay, B'Elanna. You pa's gonna come after you hard if he sees you with me."

"Yeah, I heard him and your mama arguing in the big house." She sighed. "Pa's a little jealous, but I can handle that. He'll come around someday" She then smiled down to him. "Besides, I like being able to return a favor when I can."

Tom smiled and touched her hand. "I'm much obliged, B'Elanna. Much obliged."

B'Elanna nodded. "Well, when you're able then, why don't we head down to the stable, get you in the shade, and maybe look in on Frisco and Kona?"

"I'd like that," he answered, closing his eyes and letting her soothing bath refresh him, the memory of her sweet voice divest him of his hallucination.

(shrug, grin)