The Love of a Good Woman

From crime@acs.bu.eduWed Aug 7 16:01:11 1996
Date: Wed, 7 Aug 1996 07:47:14 -0400 (EDT)
From: mary self
To: David Tremel
Cc: mary self
Subject: Latest VOY story

DISCLAIMERS: The characters belong to Paramount, but the story is mine.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: While this story isn’t supposed to send you running for Kleenex
or Puffs or whatever brand you prefer, it is supposed to make
you sympathize with a certain character and wonder about his
relation to another peripheral character.

The Love of a Good Woman

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

Janeway paced the bridge directly behind conn. Every now and then she
sat down only to jump back up within two seconds. The search party had been on
the surface for nearly two hours now. Night would fall soon, and all he had
with him was a tricorder.
“Chakotay to Voyager.”
“Janeway here. Commander, have you-?”
“We’ve found him, Captain.”
She already knew by the gravity in his voice, but a small ray of hope
demanded she ask. “Alive?”
“No, Captain. I’m sorry.”
Her gaze fell to the floor before finally settling on Bathart’s back.
Only pride kept the tears at bay. “Bring him home, Commander. Mr. Tuvok,
you have the bridge. I’ll be in sickbay.”
In six steps, she entered the turbolift; in twelve more, she entered
the ship’s infirmary. “Report.”
The hologram looked up from the young man’s body. “Severe cerebral
trauma, Captain. If we had found him earlier, I could have-”
Janeway held up her hand. Could haves no longer mattered. They
couldn’t infuse warmth back into the cold cheek or rekindle a fire in the
blue eyes. She gently stroked the blood-matted hair.
Chakotay moved up beside her and cleared his throat. In his hand, he
clutched a tricorder. “Ensign Kim found this near his body, Captain; it was
set on record. From what I can tell he was making a personal log entry,
possibly to stay awake or say good-bye. I don’t know which.”
Without blinking, Janeway held out her hand. “I’ll listen to it in
my quarters, in case he recorded his final wishes.”
“Yes, Captain.” The first officer stepped aside, allowing her to pass.
“Shall I arrange a memorial service?”
She paused at the doors. “Yes, Commander, if you would. I for one
would like to tell Lt. Paris good-bye.”
Inside her quarters, Janeway placed the tricorder on her desk.
Sinking down into the nearby chair, she gazed at the device over steepled
fingers. It was, after all, a small tool, hardly bigger than a man’s palm when
closed, and yet the amount of information it could store belied its size.
“Computer, transfer log entry from the tricorder and begin playback on
my command.” With a sigh, she stood up and moved over to the sofa.
“Transfer is complete.” The computer replied.
Janeway closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Begin.”

“Welcome to the pit of despair.” A familiar voice began. “In reality,
it’s a cave floor about six meters below the entrance. Don’t ask how I got
here. Suffice it to say, nostalgia beckoned and I was stupid enough to follow.
Now, I’m stuck. No broken bones, but I don’t need the Doc to tell me I’ve got
a concussion. Clammy skin, racing pulse, and a headache that could flatten
a Klingon.
“It hurts like hell to think, much less talk, but I can’t take the risk
of losing consciousness. Beaming out is always an option, except for the thick
magnacite concentrations in the cave walls. Besides when I fell, my commbadge
got knocked off and without a beacon, I haven’t got a hope of finding it
amongst these rocks.
“I keep telling myself a search party will find me soon, but no one
knows where I am. I wasn’t part of the official away team; I only came down
here for a few breaths of unprocessed air.
“The terrain reminded me of my uncle’s farm in the midwest, grassy with
rolling hills. It also had caves on it and that’s how I wound up in this mess.
I used to spend my summers there as a kid. I loved that place almost as much
as I loved him. I’d show up at his door, some pasty-faced bookworm from the
city and leave a hard-muscled kid.
“There was always so much to do. The caves had been used by Native
Americans, maybe for shelter, I don’t know, but almost every pebble you picked
up around them was either an arrowhead or a spear point. I used to tie them
to sticks and pretend I was a hunter stalking a herd of buffalo through the
tall grass. Of course, the buffalo were nothing more than my uncle’s cows,
and the tall prarie grass barely covered my ankles, but that didn’t matter.
It was real enough to me when I was six.
“I learned to swim on that farm, too. There was a pond, which my
uncle kept for irrigation during droughts. Earth doesn’t have bad
droughts anymore, but my uncle believed in being prepared just in case, and in
the meantime, it made a great swimming hole. Once after a hard, hot day
in the field, my uncle picked me up and threw me in, clothes and all. Sort of
a baptism by fire, but I took to the water instantly, and by the end of the
summer–I was seven, I think–I could out-swim most of the kids my age and
older in the area. Gods, I loved it there. [Pause]
“Then, it happened. When I was fourteen, my dad came to pick me up.
He never did that. He was always away on some mission, but that summer he did.
He watched me pull myself through the pond waters and promptly signed me up
for my school’s swim team. That was the end of my summers on the farm.
Every summer after that I was shuttled off to swim camp for the first half and
to academic camp for the second half. No more fun in the sun for one
Thomas Eugene Paris. Nope. Got to work hard and practice, practice, practice,
if you want win, Thomas. Winning is everything, *never* forget that.
“I could have quit, I suppose. You know, sabotaged myself so the coach
kicked me off the team, but I didn’t. I kept swimming just to please my dad.
For the first time, he took a real interest in me. He would even ask to speak
to me when he contacted Mom through subspace. How did practice go today,
Thomas? Did you win? Are you ready for this weekend’s meet, sport?
“Hmph. Of course, he was never there to pat my shoulder and say
good job. Only win, win, win. That was all that mattered to him, another
trophy on the shelf when he came home. He never understood that I hated
competing and all of the nerve-wracking tension that went with it. I only
wanted to swim, that’s all.
“See, swimming for me is like flying. I love it pure and simple. The
fact that I can do either well enough to win competitions is incidental because
when I dive into the water or slide behind the helm, I enter another world.
It’s like coming home where everything is familiar and peaceful. I belong
there. Trophies, ribbons, and plaques don’t matter.
“You know, come to think of it, I guess I got my love for flying from
my uncle, too. He had an old hovercraft that he sometimes used to get from one
end of the fields to the other. When I was eleven, he showed me how to pilot
it, and from then on, I was hooked. During the summer, the craft became my
responsibility. I maintained it, fixed it, and flew it. It was an open air
model, and when you rode in it, the wind hit your face full force, almost
taking your breath away. It was great. In it, I finally discovered what it
meant to feel alive.
“Hell, that was the only reason I kept my grades up at school.
I wanted to get in the Academy and become the best pilot I could be. I didn’t
care that my dad wanted me to go there; I just wanted to fly.
“I guess if I had been thinking straight though, I would have chosen
some other school to go to. I didn’t stop to think what it would be like to be
the son of Admiral Paris at the Academy. The other kids didn’t like me; I was
the kid who’s father was real cozy with HQ, you know, the one guaranteed to get
the best assignments after graduation. Some of my teacher’s felt the same way
and took every opportunity they could to shoot me down in some way in front of
the class. Those that didn’t expected me to be some supergenius, who had the
answer to everything, including their promotions. It didn’t take them long to
discover that the Academy’s newest golden boy was nothing more than a
paper tiger. [Pause]
“But I think the worst experience at the Academy was being in my
father’s class. He always called on me, whether I had my hand raised or not,
expecting me to have the answers. When I didn’t, he’d come by my room later.
Why weren’t you prepared? You embarrassed me. You’re my son; I expect you to
have the answers ready. Heck, I almost failed on purpose just to humiliate
him, but I was already struggling with my theory course, and two Fs would have
meant repeating the semester, and I couldn’t take that. All I wanted to do was
graduate and get as far away from him and the school as possible.
“I mean, everyone else has fond memories of their Academy years, Harry,
Jenny, even B’Elanna, and she quit. The only fond memories I have of that time
was when I could leave the grounds and disappear into the anonimity of the real
world. That’s why I always liked Sandrine’s. No one cared who the hell I
was there. The name Paris meant nothing to them except as a city. Drink;
play pool. Drink; play pool. That was the only reason you went to the bar,
well, that and to flirt with Sandrine.
“Heh. Gods, I had a huge crush on her. She’d lean over the bar and
listen to me spin my latest tale of romantic woe with nothing but sympathy.
Then, she would tell me what I had done wrong or how I was chasing after the
wrong girl. Sometimes we ended up in her tiny apartment over the bar.
I learned a lot that year. She was a very patient teacher, and for a while,
I even fancied that we were actually in love. I went through the usual
motions, telling her I’d leave the Academy, promising my undying lover, begging
her to let me stay. She didn’t. Instead, she made me promise to graduate
before returning to her. Well, I graduated, but I didn’t go back. I guess
she knew I wouldn’t. Ricki was in my life by that time, and we had a pretty
good thing going.
“I think every guy needs a Sandrine in his life to show him the ropes,
and I really feel sorry for those who never knew one. Having sex is one thing.
Anyone can do it. Sandrine taught me how make love, and she was so proud of me
when I got my commission. She came all the way from Marsielles to tell me,
kissing me on the cheek for good luck. Boy, did it steam up Ricki to walk
into my dorm room and find her there. Heh. But her visit meant so much to me.
“Then, along came Caldik Prime, and life as I knew it ended. When they
cut me loose after the court martial, Dad kicked me out of the house; Ricki
dumped me; and I wandered for weeks from bar to bar, hustling drinks through
pool, until I showed up on Sandrine’s doorstep one morning at 0200, half-
starved and reeking of cheap booze and piss. Someone was there, but she took
me in anyway, shoving me, clothes and all, into the shower. I camped out on
her sofa for two or three weeks, hanging around the bar and helping Bernard
throw out drunks. I didn’t think I was good for much else until I met Torage
one night.
“He was my connection to the Maquis. Sandrine tried to talk me out of
joining. She kept saying she could get me a job with a freighter captain she
knew, but I was too angry at my father to listen.
“Dad thought he was rid of me, but I would show him. I was going to
embarrass the hell out of him. He could kick me out of the family, but he
couldn’t change my name or my DNA. Admiral Paris, upstanding member of
Star Fleet Command, would have a son who was a member of the outlawed Maquis.
Yeah, I really liked the thought of that.
“Things didn’t turn out that way, though. In the process of
humiliating him, I humiliated myself by getting caught, which definitely was
not part of my so-called `grand plan’. In retrospect, I guess Auckland wasn’t
that bad compared to some places and nothing like the old correctional
facilities you hear about, but in the long run, none of that mattered.
Prison was still prison whether there were bars on the windows or an electronic
band on your ankle.
“I thought I would go crazy. I probably would have, too, but every
chance she could, Sandrine would contact me or vice versa. She would tell me
something amusing that happened at the bar, what the latest news was, anything.
She was my lifeline to the outside world for those first few months until I
adjusted to the prison routine. Once I did, we talked less, but she still
kept me up-to-date on what was going on at the bar.
“If we ever do get home and I’m cut loose again, I think I’ll look her
up. She’s the only family I have now that my uncle’s dead. Her bar is the
only place I feel at home besides Voyager, and even then, I’m not always real
comfortable here.
“What I wouldn’t give to be with her now. She would take care of me,
clucking all the while like a mother hen. Oh, Thomas, what have you done now?
Let me see. Hold still. What am I going to do with you? How am . . .I . . .
“Whoa. Not good, Thomas. Don’t doze off unless you want to stay that
way permanently.
“The first thing I’ll do when I get out of sickbay is run my program
on the holodeck, set the privacy locks, and delete every character except
Sandrine and the band. Then, I’ll slow dance with her and tell her how much
she means to me. I wish I could do it with the real Sandrine, but I may
never get that chance.
[Silence]
“Damn. It’s getting harder and harder to stay awake. I hope they find
me soon. If they don’t, well, I just hope there’s a Sandrine’s in the
afterlife.
“C’mon, Thomas, don’t think like that. Help is coming. You’ve got to
hold on. Ah, the irony of it all. To die thousands of light years from the
one person who truly cares whether you live or die. To die without being able
to say good-bye or thank you or, more importantly, I love you. [Sniff] Aw,
hell! Why did I accept Janeway’s offer? In another year or two, I could’ve
been out and back at my old table, the one tucked in the corner where I could
watch everything that happened and not be bothered unless I wanted to be.
I miss that. On Voyager, the bar get so crowded I don’t have that luxury.
“I’d love to walk into that bar right now. The real one, that is. See
that bright smile light up her face. Chances are she would drop whatever she
was carrying to give me a hug and I’d give her one right back. I’d stick
around until after the bar was closed, and then we’d take a bottle and two
glasses up to her place. For the first hour or so, we’d do nothing but sit and
talk. I’d tell her about a few of the close shaves I had had in the Delta
quadrant, but not all of them. I’d hold some back for later. Then, I’d lean
over and kiss her. Soft and seductive, catching her lower lip in my teeth and
tugging gently. Yeah, she always liked that. And then I’d let my hand slip
down to undo the first few closures of her dress. She would protest, saying
how old she was now, but it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to me. She’ll
never be old in my eyes, only more experienced.
[Silence]
“Goddamn, I wish they’d get here. My head is as heavy as a block of
tritanium, and I don’t think I can hold it up any longer. Maybe if I stretched
out. . .[Rustle, crunch, shuffle] Yeah, that’s better, or rather it would be
if the pounding would stop. [Pause] God, I wish they would hurry up.
Don’t they know it’s late? I’ve been waiting for so long. [Pause] Come on.
Finish your drinks and leave. She and I want to go upstairs. Finally. Yeah,
yeah. Good night to you too. Lushes. Heh. Alone at last. You know,
I really do love you, Sandrine.”

Janeway sat still for several moments, hoping maybe there was something
else. Even if there was, it wouldn’t change the fact that Lt. Paris now lay
in stasis. Silence filled her quarters. One tear fell from her eye, trickling
down her cheek, followed quickly by another and another. She let them fall,
staring straight ahead. He had deserved to make it home. They all did, but
he, especially, deserved to receive the commendations that had been so long
in coming.
Rising, she made her way to the bathroom where she bathed her face
with a cool, moist towel. For a minute, she stared at her reflection before
nodding in silent agreement with the image. Yes, this case would be
an exception. This time the service would be held in the bar, not in
the mess. Sandrine, hologram or not, should be present to hear that his last
thoughts were of her. Maybe if he knew that, Tom would find peace at last.



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