Part 17

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Tom Paris awoke slowly. He arched his back, trying to rid his spine of the stiffness induced by the hard Brig bunk. He wondered briefly if covering a rock with cloth and calling it a bed was against Star Fleet regulations. If not, it was definitely a violation of the Federation's Prisoner's Bill of Rights. As was only giving said prisoner one meal a day, which had happened to him yesterday.

Tuvok had brought him lunch, which he had eaten without the fear of poison. He knew Vulcans didn't have the capacity for revenge. Harry had come to see him afterwards. There'd been a huge fuss in the Mess Hall, Harry had told him. About what, Harry wasn't sure. He'd promised to tell Tom once he found out. Tom had a pretty good idea what the fuss was about, but said nothing to Harry. Tom had asked Harry how Neelix was, but Harry hadn't known.

Neelix hadn't recovered by dinner, though, because one of the Delaneys-he couldn't remember which one-brought him dinner. She'd made a nasty comment; something like it was about time someone put atleast one of the ship's cooks in prison, some of the meals were crimes against humanity. Very funny. He hadn't known if she knew why he'd been put in the Brig, but he hadn't taken the chance. He'd chopped the meal up into little pieces, to make it look like he'd eaten some of it. He'd gone to sleep uncomfortably hungry, actually hoping Neelix would be well by the next day and bring him some Leola Root Stew.

Damn, he was hungry. Tom sat up on the bunk, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Not that he really needed to see his surroundings. He could describe them by memory, with his eyes shut. Tiny Brig cell, Security Guard standing behind the console, and a whole lot of nothing. He dropped his hands from his face, expecting to see the same old, same old.

Except, there was a tray of breakfast set on the floor. He almost dove toward it, remembering just in time to question its source.

"Hey," he called to the Security Guard. "Neelix bring that?"

Tom pointed to the tray.

The Security Guard looked up, clearly surprised Tom would talk to him.

"No. Megan Delaney."

Aw, shit!

Tom's shoulders slumped. He was so hungry. He sat down and poked at the meal. It looked fine. Looked delicious. Smelled normal. Smelled wonderful.

Everything you made, he reminded himself, looked and smelled perfectly normal.

Yes, he tried to argue with his brain from his stomach's point of view. But I'm an angry, vindictive man with a nasty temperament and a tendency to hit people where they least expect it. Megan Delaney isn't.

She's not a man, he responded to his stomach, but you did get her sister pretty good with the Klingon laxative.

Yes, I certainly did.

And Tom found himself grinning insanely.

Oh, this wasn't healthy, he knew that.

Tom began chopping the waffles into little pieces, like he'd done with dinner the night before. He sat there a while, miserable, trying to find a distraction from the temptation before him. His eyes fell on the Security Guard, who met Tom's eyes with confusion in his own.

What was that old saying? When the news is bad, kill the messenger.

And when there's a force field between the two of you, annoy the hell out of him.

Tom smiled.

He knew this was what got him in the Brig so many times before; his irresistible desire to cause trouble where there had ceased to be any, or atleast increase the amount of trouble. He'd been taking revenge with his food poisoning endeavors, this was just because he was pissed. And hungry.

Tom put a piece of waffle on his fork. Turning the fork so the prongs were toward him, Tom catapulted the piece of waffle against the force field.

Fizz.

That was an amusing sound, Tom thought. Apparently the Security Guard didn't share Tom's sense of humor, because he sent an irritated glance in Tom's direction.

So Tom did it again. And again. And again.

He didn't stop when the irritated glances turned into a steady glare.

He didn't stop when the Security Guard told him to stop.

And he didn't obey the commands when they got even louder and profane.

And he definitely didn't stop when the man stepped out from behind the console and started walking towards him.

Come on, Tom thought, I want you to drop the force field. I want to get the hell out of here.

And that's just what the man was about to do, when the door slid open and Security Guard for the next shift walked in.

"Hey, Lang. You're off," said Crewman O'Donnell.

Lang shot Tom a withering look. Tom stared back at him innocently. Lang strode out of the Brig, passing O'Donnell on the way out. Lang muttered something to him. Tom didn't hear the entire message, just that it included the word 'asshole'.

O'Donnell stared at Tom for a moment, with measuring gaze. Tom stared sullenly back at him. He didn't have enough waffle left to provoke this one in to dropping the force field. O'Donnell took his place behind the Security console. He was only there a few minutes; Tom only had time to discover that drops of milk made a much softer, much less annoying sound against the force field, before Ken Dalby entered the Brig.

"O'Donnell, Torres needs you in engineering," he said.

"Engineering?"

"That's what she said."

"Why would I be needed in engineering?"

"I don't know. Why don't you ask her?"

O'Donnell had stepped away from the console, but was wavering as whether to stay or go.

"I'll cover for you," offered Dalby, tossing his head toward Tom.

That convinced O'Donnell, who quickly left the Brig. Dalby watched Paris watch him. Dalby walked over to a panel on the wall, feeling Paris' eyes on him the entire time. When he opened it, he took the phaser out in full view of Paris.

Tom wasn't hungry anymore.

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