The Paris Journals: Casualties, vol. V

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From: crime@bu.edu (mary self)
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
Subject: VOY: Casualties
Date: 16 Mar 1996 18:37:39 GMT
Organization: Boston University
Message-ID: <4if1pj$ggb@news.bu.edu>
NNTP-Posting-Host: acs.bu.edu
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DISCLAIMERS: Original characters belong to Paramount. The story and the
character of Caitlin Matthews are mine.

WARNING: Some adult situations.

The Paris Journals, vol. V

Casualties
Part 1

By Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

Teeth nibbled at my ear. Groaning, I rolled onto my back.
“Stop it.”
“But Tommy, you always liked it when I did that.”
My eyes flew open as I bolted up, turning to face the woman in
my bed. “Ricki?” I shook my head. No, it couldn’t be.
“Who else, silly?” Her fingers crept seductively up my arm.
I stared at the raven-haired beauty. “No, this isn’t possible.
You can’t be Ricki.”
“Oh? And just who am I then? Aww, did Tommy have one of his
dreams?” She pulled my lips down to hers. Yep, it was definitely
Ricki; I’d know that kiss anywhere. “Do you want to talk about it or
are you going to let it spoil our first day off in weeks?”
Reluctantly pulling my mouth away, I glanced around the room.
It was my old cabin on the Exeter, only there were a few items there
that weren’t mine, like Ricki’s keyboard and her Tong statue. I looked
back down at her. Same ice-blue eyes, same wide mouth, same flawless
white shoulders. There was a slight bulge beneath the blanket.
*Pregnant!* Confused, my eyes met hers.
She laughed. “Only five months and I feel like a balloon. I
can’t believe I have four more months to go.”
I shook my head. “No, this can’t be happening.”
“Fine time to get cold feet on me, husband dear. As I recall,
you did agree to us having a baby now.”
I threw my legs over the side of the bed. “No, no, that’s not
what I meant. I-I-” A uniform slung over a chair caught my eye.
I always threw my clothes over that chair; it was right on the way to
the bathroom. Two solids and a hollow! I was a lt. commander?
Ricki’s arms draped over my shoulders, and I felt her expanded
belly press against my back. I guess even pregnant she continued
to sleep in the nude. She grabbed my earlobe playfully in her teeth.
“Tommy, what’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure. Look, Ricki,” I turned to face her. Damn! I
had forgotten how good she looked naked in spite of a baby being on
the way. Blinking rapidly, I tried to refocus my thoughts. “I don’t
know if I can explain this. Something isn’t quite right.”
“Thomas Paris, this is no time to tell me you want a divorce.
We’ve only been married a little over a year, and now with a baby-” Her
chin trembled.
“Oh boy, I’m not explaining this right. It’s not that I want
a divorce. I just woke up feeling a little disconnected, that’s all.
It’ll most likely pass as the day progresses.” I brushed her cheek
gently with my fingers. “Okay?”
She nodded. “So what do we do on our first day off? How about
breakfast in bed?” Pulling on a robe, she moved over to the
replicator.
“Eggs, sunny-side up; bacon; toast; grape jelly; and
orange juice.” Ricki set the two plates and glasses on a tray,
intending to carry it to the bed.
I crossed the room and took the tray from her hands. “Go get
in bed. I’ll bring it over.”
She gazed up at me in surprise before obeying. Setting the
tray in her vanishing lap, I sat down in front of her on the bed.
“So are we on schedule?”
“What? Oh, the baby. The Doctor said yesterday everything was
fine. It’s a girl and she appears to be very healthy. I know you
wanted a boy, Tommy, but the genes didn’t comply. Sorry.”
“Girl, boy, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s healthy and
happy.”
“That isn’t what you said two days ago.”
I cocked my head to one side. “Hey, can’t a fellow change
his mind?”
“His mind, yes, but his whole attitude?” The pale eyes swept
over me. “You’re a regular Ebeneezer Scrooge this morning. Did the
three ghosts of Christmas show up in your dream?”
“Huh?”
“All this caring and attentiveness. Are you seeing Carraway
again?”
I looked at her in surprise. “What are you talking about?”
“You are, aren’t you? Tommy, you promised. You swore that it
was over. I can’t believe you’d do that when I’m carrying your baby!”
She burst into tears, throwing the tray and its entire contents onto
the floor.
“Ricki-”
“Don’t Ricki, me. I’m not stupid. I knew you cheated on me,
but you swore you wouldn’t once we were married, and for the past year,
I though you had kept your word.”
“Ricki, please, listen to me.” I grabbed her shaking
shoulders. “Ricki, dammit, listen! I have not cheated on you. You’re
carrying my child. I wouldn’t do that to you.”
She gazed at me skeptically before throwing her arms around my
neck. “Oh, Tommy, I’m so sorry. It’s these rotten hormones; they make
me feel so ugly and unloved.” She giggled. “But you have to admit you
aren’t usually this attentive.”
“I’m not? Well, then, maybe it’s time I changed. C’mon, you
go take a shower and get dressed.” I watched her stoop to pick-up
the food and dishes. “Leave that. I’ll get it.”
She glanced up and smiled. “I think I like this new
Tommy Paris.”
“Good. One thing, though, could you stop calling me Tommy? My
name is Tom.”
“Sure, whatever.” Stepping over the pile of eggs, she
disappeared into the bathroom.
I dashed over to the terminal on the desk. “Computer, display
service record of Paris, Thomas Eugene.”
I blinked in disbelief. It wasn’t there. No mention of Caldik
Prime, the trial, Auckland, nothing. “Computer, search Star Fleet
records for any mention of the trading vessel, Taliesyn.”
“The vessel, Taliesyn, was reported missing on the Cardassian-
Federation border.”
“What about a Caitlin Matthews?”
“Currently serving a ten year sentence in the Federation
Rehabilitation Facility at Auckland, New Zealand.”
I heard the water shut off and quickly ran over to pick-up the
dishes and food. I had just managed to dump it all down the reclamator
when Ricki opened the door. She wandered over, pressing her body
against mine.
“Mmm, I feel so much better.” Her tongue parted my lips,
hungrily exploring my mouth. “And now I’m going to show you how much.”
She knelt before me and undid the waistband to my pajamas.
“Oh my gods, Tom! What are these? Where did you get them?”
Her face twisted in horror and revulsion.
I looked down at myself. There they were. The scars from my
imprisonment on Langar.
“Tom, answer me. You didn’t used to have them. You used to
be beautiful.”
Hastily, I covered myself up. “Nothing. Just forget about
them.”
“Forget about them? How? I can’t do that.” She ran a pitying
hand up my leg. “Who would do that to such a wonderful body?”
I grimaced. My mind was a whirl. The scars. The Delta
quadrant. Ricki. Her expression of revulsion. I clutched my head and
sank to my knees.

“No!” I sat up in bed. *Voyager? Yep, still Voyager.*
The chronometer read 0655 hours. *Might as well get up; a few more
minutes won’t make that much difference.* I chuckled mirthlessly to myself.
*Boy, the Commander will have a field day with that dream, Thomas.*
A few minutes later, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror giving
myself the once-over before heading to the mess for breakfast. On the whole,
I looked good. Except for the scars, which most people would never see, you’d
never know what a jumbled mess I still was on the inside. Although, I guess,
gradually, I was learning to live with that. My meetings with Chakotay had
been cut back to twice-a-week chats. The nightmares visited me much less
frequently, even though the cicatrices still figured prominently in my dreams,
and only occasionally when I was really disconcerted did I experience that
fearful spurt of adrenaline when a door chimed. In other words, the real hard
core therapy was over; now, it was just a matter of getting on with my life.
I had been back at conn for a while, piloting the ship successfully
through one Kazon attack and a minor spatial anomaly. I had even gone on two
away missions, nothing special, just planetary surveys, but a big step from
the safe womb of Voyager.
Possibly the only place my life hadn’t returned to normal was in
interpersonal relations. Oh sure, I hung out with my friends; I went to
Sandrine’s; I even began teaching my godson how to pilot a shuttle. However,
there was a greater distance between the `true me’ and other people than there
had been in the past. I was always careful who I let in. Hell, if you
don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you, right? Yet, as Kes noted, the walls
I had put up as a young man had slowly been coming down, until the Langarian
incident, that is. Most of the crewmembers didn’t really see a difference, but
my closer friends sensed it, and it was with Cait that it showed the most.
See, we had almost gotten back together when I was kidnapped, and now,
we bordered on being strangers. It wasn’t that I didn’t love her; I did.
I just got really nervous whenever I was around her privately; a sick to your
stomach nervousness that just wouldn’t go away. I tried to overcome it, ignore
it, push it aside, but nothing worked. The last time we were alone together it
got so bad I had to run out of the room.
All we were doing was sitting in her quarters talking about what had
happened during our shifts. She was sitting in the recliner; I was across the
room on the sofa. All of a sudden, we were bantering back and forth like we
used to do. You know, a little harmless flirting, nothing else, but it really
set me on edge. My heart started to race and the walls seemed to close in
around me. Warm, dense air engulfed me. I couldn’t breathe. My stomach gave
a warning lurch and I bolted.
The next day I apologized, but you could tell it had hurt her, and I
hated myself for it. I was so ashamed that I never even told Chakotay about
what had happened. I didn’t want anyone to know. If I had struck her,
I couldn’t have been more humiliated by my actions. Therefore, after that
incident, I decided we should stay casual friends and nothing more.
Deep down, though, we both wanted to be back together; that fact would
never change. But I wasn’t ready, and some days, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be
ready. It was bad enough that I had to make my own journey through a private
hell. I wasn’t about to drag her through it with me.
As time passed, we attempted to reconcile ourselves to the situation,
but tensions mounted daily, and they soon began to take a heavy toll on what
was left of our friendship. This day promised to be especially difficult.
It was our unofficial anniversary; the day we put aside our animosity toward
one another during an away mission. It had occurred on an unsettled class-M
planet, and we had created a holodeck program of the landscape from the
tricorder and sensor readings. If you had asked me two or three months ago,
I’d have sworn that that was where she and I would be this evening. Ah, well.
Adjusting my collar, I snapped out of my trance and shot my reflection
one last fraudulent smile of confidence before heading out the door. There
were days when getting out of bed seemed like the toughest thing I had ever
done in my life, and this was definitely one of those days.
Breakfast proved more tense than usual. No real surprise. Cait barely
uttered a word through the entire meal. Clearly, she also remembered what
today was and had therefore retreated into her silent shell. In the past,
I would have taken her aside and tried to draw her out, but there wasn’t time
this morning since she, Harry and Neelix were scheduled to beam down to a
planet for some surveying. Besides, considering the current state of our
friendship, I wasn’t too sure it would be a good idea anyway.

I joined Chakotay at lunch for our usual chat, and gave him a detailed
summary of this morning’s dream. “So, Commander Freud, what do you make
of it?”
Thoughfully, he pierced some vegetables with his fork. “Well, off the
top of my head, I’d say if Caitlin represents reality, clearly you see her as
inaccessible. Evidently, only Ricki, being either memories or a dream,
seems approachable. Yet, I’m encouraged by how much of the dream appears
to focus on the differences between who you were and who you are now, even
though some things are obviously the way you would have liked them to be,
such as your increased rank and unblemished service record.” He paused for a
moment, grinning slightly. “Who was Carraway?”
“An ensign on the Exeter.” Ashamed, I let my eyes drop to my plate.
“Ricki was on Earth, and Denise and I spent quite a few nights together.
Finally, Ricki found out about it, but somehow, we managed to patch things up,
and I proposed to her as proof of my newfound fidelity. Although, even if the
accident hadn’t occurred, I probably would have cheated on her again. I didn’t
love her, Chakotay, and I don’t think she loved me, either. Looking back, we
were both pretty selfish in our needs at the time.”
I fell silent. I hadn’t thought about Ricki in a long time.
For years, I had kept her memory alive in one holo program or another, and it
wasn’t until Cait and I started seeing each other that I had finally told
Ricki good-bye. *Guess you’ve just exchanged one heart-ache for another,
eh Thomas?*
Chakotay waited patiently for my trip down memory lane to end. “Is
that how you see yourself now?”
I took a deep breath. “No. I think I’ve changed in some respects
for the better.”
“And I would agree.” He allowed himself a small chuckle. “You don’t
get on my nerves half as much as you used to.”
I snickered. “I think I can say the same about you, Commander.”
“I’m not surprised. You should keep those improvements in mind, Tom.
They represent positive steps you’ve taken in your life, a portrait of
recovery for you to continue striving toward. However, one thing about the
dream does worry me, and that’s Ricki’s reaction to your scars. Do you
think her reaction represents your feelings toward them? Are you still
preoccupied by their presence?”
“I don’t know. I suppose I am. I see them every day. They’re a
constant visible reminder of what I went through and what I’ve lost. They
aren’t exactly some memory I can bury and forget about.”
Chakotay took a bite of food, pondering my reply. “That’s true.
You can’t, and you shouldn’t. Burying memories doesn’t solve anything. You
have to face them and learn to live with them. The scars are no different.
And until you learn to accept them as a part of you, you’re going to attempt
to hide them and yourself away from others.”
“Don’t you have some Native American ritual that will let me achieve
this state of bliss more quickly? A sweat lodge ceremony or something
like that?”
He shook his head. “There are a few that might help, but ultimately,
it’s still up to you. There is no quick fix, Paris.”
I poked dejectedly at my salad with my fork. “That figures.”
“You’ve reached a difficult point in your therapy, Lieutenant. The
dramatic revelations have stopped. Now, the tedious work of getting on with
your life has begun. It’s important that you don’t get discouraged or
impatient. Just take one day at a time.”
“I think that’s about all I can do, Chakotay. Listen, I’ll see you on
the bridge.” I sighed heavily, sluggishly rising to my feet. I wasn’t all
that hungry anymore.

The planetary survey took nearly all day, yielding some valuable
resources. Cait’s always been good at surveying. She used to do some pretty
risky reconn work for the Maquis; so she can size up a terrain and its
possibilities fairly quickly. Some of that she picked up from Chakotay, but a
lot also came from tough, first-hand experience.
The team made it back on board just in time for Neelix to prepare
dinner. It was an unusual meal to say the least. A hastily-prepared melange
of some of his worst dishes, containing generous amounts of, you guessed it,
leola root. Ugh. Need I say more.
Cait didn’t show up until Harry, B’Elanna and I had finished eating,
passing by us as we left the mess. Determined to try and cheer her up a little
bit, I playfully grabbed her arm. “Okay, Matthews, who tipped you off?”
Surprised, she immediately jerked away. “I beg your pardon?”
“Dinner. Who tipped you off to avoid it? It was awful.”
“Oh, uh, no one. I’m just not that hungry. Figured I’d pick up enough
to make a small sandwich instead.”
“I see.” *Damn, Cait. I’ll get a smile out of you yet.* “So, you
don’t have some kitchen connection who warns you off the dangerous meals?”
A reluctanct chuckle issued from the long face. “No, I take my chances
like the rest of the crew.”
*I think you’re going to have to settle for that chuckle, Thomas; looks
as if that’s the best you’re gonna get.* “Well, if you say so,” I winked. “Oh
by the way, Sandrine is opening her doors in a few minutes. You coming?”
“Maybe.” The shoulders rolled in a non-commital shrug. “I haven’t
really made up my mind yet.”
“Well, we’ll be there, in case you decide to stop by.”
“Yeah, okay.” She moved off despondently toward the kitchen.
I nudged Torres as the three of us continued our journey to the lift.
“B’Elanna, if she doesn’t show up at the bar in fifteen minutes or so, do me
a favor and go get her.”
“Why? What’s up?”
“Nothing. Cait’s upset about something, and I don’t want her brooding
alone. Okay?” The ol’ baby blues pleaded with the engineer. “Please,
B’Elanna, for Cait’s sake.”
“All right, Paris, but level with me. Did you two have a fight? I
know tensions have been mounting between the both of you for weeks now.”
I shook my head in emphatic denial. “No, we didn’t have a fight,
but it’s because of that tension that I want you to go after her, rather
than me. Understand?”
“No, not really, but I’ll do it anyway.”
True to her word, twenty minutes into our evening at Chez Sandrine’s,
Torres went to Cait’s room, only to return five minutes later alone.
“Did you talk to her?” I asked as she retook her seat by the pool
table.
“In a way. She wouldn’t open her door.”
“Why?” Harry leaned on his cue, frowning. “You know, all during the
survey her mind was elsewhere. Twice, I had to catch her when she stumbled
over large rocks. After the second time, I started keeping an eye on her to
make sure she didn’t walk off a cliff or something.”
“I think I know what’s wrong,” I muttered softly, staring into my wine
glass. “See, today is kind of an anniversary for us even though we’re no
longer together. It was the day we crashed on that planet and, um, put our
differences aside.” I balanced my cue against the table. “Maybe I should go
talk to her, instead of putting it off.”
B’Elanna grabbed my arm as I passed by. “I wouldn’t, Paris. She
doesn’t strike me as being in the mood to see anyone.”
“I realize that, but I’m going to try anyway.” I shot her a nervous
grin. “If I’m not back in twenty minutes, alert sick bay.”
Within two minutes, I pressed the chime to Cait’s quarters. “Whoizit?”
came the slightly slurred response.
“It’s me, Cait. Open up.”
“Whadda ya want?” The door remained locked.
I sighed heavily. This wasn’t going to be easy, but then, nothing ever
was between us, except sex. Sometimes. “I was wondering why you weren’t at
Sandrine’s. Do you feel okay?”
“Didn’t you talk to B’Elanna?”
“Yes, but she only said you wouldn’t open your door. C’mon, Matthews.
Let me in. Something’s bothering you; talk to me.”
“We don’t have anything to discuss, Lieutenant. Now, go away.”
I leaned against the doorjamb. “C’mon, Cait. Don’t do this to
yourself. Open the door, please.”
“Goddammit, Paris!” The doors slid apart suddenly, and I almost fell
into a pair of angry arms. “Will you please leave me alone? I don’t feel like
company.”
The auburn hair was dissheveled, her green eyes red and puffy, like she
had been crying. Behind her on the coffee table was an almost half-empty
bottle and a half-filled glass.
Concerned, I pushed my way past her. “Have you been drinking?” My
hand reached for the bottle.
“No, I’ve been watering the plants. They’ve developed a taste for
Andorian whiskey.” She snatched the bottle from my hand. “Of course, I’ve
been drinking. What’s it to you?”
*Patience, Thomas. It’s the liquor talking.* “Cait,” I began gently.
“Are you upset by what today symbolizes? Is that why you’re drinking?”
“No. What’s so special about today? Rather meaningless in the great
scope of life, I believe.” She flopped down on the sofa and picked up the
glass. “Completely devoid of meaning. Full of empty significance.”
“Full of painful memories, you mean.” I sat down beside her, prying
the glass from her hand. “Cait, don’t you think it hurts me, too? That’s why
I’m with Harry and B’Elanna tonight. If I wasn’t, I’d probably be in the same
condition you are. So, talk to me.”
She sat back in silence for a few minutes. “Tom, I told you a while
ago I understood why you wanted us to be only friends, but now I’m not sure
I do. Why do you let the scars stand between us? What do I have to do to
convince you that you’re not hideous? You’re still a very attractive man.”
Cait sat up and gazed deeply into my eyes. One hand snaked through my hair as
her lips brushed my cheek. “Tom, please stay with me tonight.”
Oh gods, a part of me wanted nothing more than to yield to her request,
but the walls were closing in, fast. I grasped her wrist and pulled her hand
down. “Cait, you’re drunk. Please don’t say anything more we might both
regret. We’ll talk about this in the morning. Right now, you’re in no shape
to discuss it.”
Sniggering, she fell back against the couch. “Talk? Discuss? Ooooh,
how rational we have become, Lieutenant. I can remember when logical thought
flew out the nearest window at the mere chance of us being alone together.”
I stared down at the floor; I couldn’t take this. “Cait, please.”
“Aw, c’mon, Paris. Don’t you remember? You practically used to rip my
uniform off me, and you liked it when I did the same to you.” Her rising tone
abated. “But all that doesn’t matter now, does it? Nothing matters.” Sitting
forward, she picked up the glass once more.
“That does it. You’ve had enough.” I snarled, anger overriding my
panic. I took the glass from her hand and picked up the bottle. Crossing the
room, I dumped both objects down the reclamator before activating the
replicator. “Dardan root infusion, hot. Account Paris, Thomas Eugene.”
When the steaming mug appeared, I carried it over to Cait. “Drink.”
She wrinkled her nose. “I’m not so drunk as to be that foolish, Paris.
I know what that stuff does.”
“Cait, dammit! Drink it!”
“Nope.” Her arms folded petulantly across her chest. “Make me.”
I slammed down the cup, splashing some of its emetic contents onto the
coffee table. “Goddammit, Matthews! I’m trying to help you. Do you think you
are the only one deeply depressed by today. It cuts me to the core to remember
what we’ve lost. Every day, I curse the Langarians and the scars they left me
with. I didn’t choose to let you go, Cait; it was a decision forced upon me.”
Pacing back and forth, I tried to reign in my mounting temper. “Look,
I want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy. You deserve as worry-free a
life as you can get, considering where we are, and you won’t find that with me.
I’m scarred, Cait, physically and emotionally, but that’s my own burden to
bear. I won’t make you bear it, too.”
I stormed off toward the door. “By the way, it makes no difference to
me if you drink that infusion or not. But in light of your present condition,
it might not be a bad idea if you did. I can tell you that from experience.”
As her doors shut behind me, I leaned against the corridor wall. *Ohhh
gods.* I shouldn’t have been angry with her, but I was. I fully realized that
a large part had been the bottle talking, not Cait, but the base emotions were
hers. I just wish I could make her understand how frustrated I was; how much I
did want to be with her.
“Lieutenant?” A hand rested on my shoulder. “Are you all right?”
I glanced up; Crewman Hogan stood beside me. “Yeah, I’m okay,” I lied.
“It’s just been one of those days, and to top it off with an argument . . .”
He looked at Cait’s door. “I think I get the picture. I’m on my way
to Sandrine’s. Can I buy you a drink?”
I flashed him a tiny grin. “You sure can.”

By the time I left the bar, I was still a little steamed, but I wasn’t
quite sure with whom anymore. I could empathize with Cait’s position. What
had happened to me was beyond her control. There was no enemy she could fight;
no deal she could negotiate. Everything was happening inside my mind, which
had chosen for its own reasons to keep her at bay.
Chakotay had been right. I felt sometimes now like I was banging my
head against the bulkhead, and if I was discouraged, I could only imagine what
Cait felt. Confused? Angry? Anxious?
Groaning, I kicked off my boots and stretched out on my bed. “Aw,
dammit, Cait. If there was some way, . . . believe me . . . I would.”
I rolled onto my side, hugging the pillow next to me. “Honest, I would.”

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. V

Casualties
Part 2

By Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

“Tom. Hey, Paris.” Harry shook my shoulder. “C’mon. Wake
up. If you leave Cait at the altar, there won’t be a star system far
enough away to escape her wrath.”
“Huh? What?” I sat up dazed. Marriage? To Cait?
He pulled back the covers. “You know, your wedding. C’mon.
Neither Cait, nor B’Elanna will forgive me if I don’t have you there
on time. Your uniform is all ready and waiting. C’mon, Paris. Shake
a leg.”
“Sure. Sure. I’m coming.” I sat on the edge of the bed,
trying to get my bearings.
He grinned. “Still feeling the effects from last night? That
was some bachelor party, huh?”
“Yeah, no kidding.” Too bad I hadn’t been there. I stood up
slowly and stumbled towards the bathroom. “Give me about ten minutes,
Harry. I’ll be ready.”
My friend laughed. “Wrong. You’ve got five.”
“Damn!” I dashed into the bath. Five minutes! And you don’t
get married every day, especially not to Cait.
I glanced down as I hurriedly scrubbed my body. They were
gone! The scars were gone. Well, that explained it.
“Hey, Paris. Two minutes.”
“Yeah, yeah.” I rinsed off and stepped out.
In the blink of an eye, I checked my reflection in the mirror
behind the bar. A little pale, but it was probably just nerves. So,
we were tying the knot at Sandrine’s; it was appropriate. I looked
over at the proprietress and smiled broadly.
She walked over. Smoothing the uniform across my shoulders,
she glanced up with tears in her eyes. “I cannot believe it. My
Thomas is getting married. Cait is a very lucky lady. She will make
you a good wife, no?”
I kissed her softly on the forehead. “Yeah, she will,
Sandrine, and I’m a pretty lucky guy.”
The hologram smiled sadly. “Will you still visit your old
friend from time to time?’
“Of course,” I grinned, chuckling slightly. “Yours is still
the only pool hall on the ship. Cait and I are only getting married;
we aren’t retiring our cues.”
She laughed through her tears, turning as the doors opened.
“Here comes your bride, Thomas. Now, you treat her well.” She stood
on tiptoe, planting a quick kiss on my cheek before returning to her
customary place behind the bar.
My eyes ran appreciatively over Cait. Her auburn hair cascaded
over her shoulders, and her cheeks were flushed with excitement.
Oh gods, she looked lovely, and my pulse began to race.
“Mr. Paris,” the Captain called. “I believe your presence is
required over here.” She looked almost as exuberant as Cait.
“Yes, Ma’am.” I quickly stepped across the room and took my
place beside my fiancee and soon-to-be wife.
Cait’s green eyes glowed. I hadn’t seen her this happy in a
long time. A whole swarm of butterflies attacked my stomach. Was this
the right thing to do? Could I be a good husband? I looked down at
the beautiful person beside me. Yeah, I could.
“Only recently have I had the privilege of joining couples in
the vows of marriage,” the Captain began. “But it is one of the duties
of my office that I have looked forward to performing. . .”
I barely heard a word; all I could think of was that somehow
I was marrying Cait. It had to be a dream. I just couldn’t be this
lucky.
“Do you, Thomas Eugene Paris, take Caitlin Rowan Matthews to be
your lawful wife?”
*That’s your cue, Thomas.* I glanced at Cait. “I do.”
“And do you, Caitlin Rowan Matthews, take Thomas Eugene Paris
to be your lawful husband?”
*Come on, Cait. Come on.*
“I do.”
*Whew!*
Janeway smiled. “Then, as Captain of the USS Voyager, it gives
me profound pleasure to pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss
the bride now, Mr. Paris.”
I shot the Captain a quick grin of thanks before taking Cait
in my arms. Dream or not, this was proving to be a very happy
occasion. As our kiss ended, everyone crowded around us, hugging us
and shaking our hands.
Chakotay clapped me firmly on the shoulder. “I know we’ve had
our differences in the past, Paris, but I think you’re going to make
Cait a fine husband.”
*Cait? Why was everyone calling her that? Only I used that
nickname.* “Uh, I’m going to try my best, Commander.”
“Tom!” B’Elanna threw her arms around my neck, planting a big
kiss on my cheek. “I’m so happy for both of you; I don’t know what
to do.”
“Well, you could start by not choking the bridegroom,” I
gasped.
“Whoops. Sorry.”
“S’okay,” I replied, adjusting my collar out of reflex. “I’m
a little excited, too.”
“Champagne, anyone?” Sandrine moved among us with a tray full
of sparkling glasses.
“Ahem,” Harry cleared his throat as he snagged a glass. “I
believe as best man it’s my duty to give the first toast, so I’ll keep
it short and to the point. To Tom and Cait, may both their lives and
their marriage be long and successful.” He raised his glass and
winked. “Congratulations, old man. I knew you’d get her one day.”
Beaming, I slipped my arm around Cait’s waist in preparation
for giving her a kiss.

BEEEEP!!
*Damn alarm. After all that happened yesterday, you couldn’t let me
have one last kiss, could you? Well, back to reality, Thomas.*
Cait joined us late for breakfast. She was looking rather pale and
acted as though the slightest noise bothered her.
“You don’t look so well,” B’Elanna remarked as Cait placed her tray
gingerly down on the table. On it was juice and toast, nothing else.
“I’m a little tired. Didn’t sleep too good last night.” Hesitantly,
she took a bite of toast.
“Are you sure that’s all?”
“Yeah.”
“Maybe you should eat something else,” I suggested. “You know,
bolster the ol’ energy level.”
“I said I’m fine,” she snapped.
Hmmm. So this was what she was like hungover. I had always wondered.
“Okay, okay,” I backpedaled. “Just trying to help.”
Cait glanced up at me. No, it was more than a simple hangover. You
could see it in her eyes, tired and more than a little glassy.
“Cait,” I began again. “Maybe you should stop by sickbay and-”
“Dammit, Paris!” She tossed down the toast. “I said I’m all right.
Now, drop it.” Quickly rising, she stormed out of the mess.
“Way to go, Thomas,” I muttered under my breath.
A few minutes later, Harry and I headed for the bridge to assume our
duties. Everything went relatively smoothly. No subspace anomalies. No
distress calls. Not even a sensor alert.
At 1230 hours, Grimes, my relief, took over allowing me to join Harry
for lunch. Glancing at my friend as we waited for the lift, he appeared to be
a little paler than he had been at breakfast.
“Hey, Harry, you feeling okay?”
“A little tired. Why?” His brown eyes were glassy, just like Cait’s.
“Well, to be honest, you don’t look so good. Kinda washed out.”
“I’ll be okay once I get some food in me.”
The lift doors opened and we stepped inside.
“Look, let’s take a quick trip by sickbay before lunch. If something’s
wrong, it’s better to nip it in the bud now, than wait. Sickbay,” I requested.
“Okay, mother hen.” He flashed me a weary smile. “Unlike Caitlin, I’m
not really in the mood to argue.”
Within seconds, we reached sickbay. Kes was bending over someone on a
biobed, but the position of her body prevented me from seeing who it was.
The Doctor came out of his office. “Gentlemen, I’m very busy. What
is it you need?”
“Um, I don’t feel so good, Doc.” Harry mumbled. “Kinda wiped out.”
Kes turned to look at us, and I caught a glimpse of auburn hair.
*Cait!* Leaving Harry to the Doctor, I quickly crossed the room.
“What happened?”
My Ocampan friend gazed down at the wan face. “She collapsed on duty
with a temperature of 38.8C degrees. We’ve managed to bring it down a little,
and right now, she’s sleeping. What’s with Harry?”
“I forced him to come. He was starting to look like Cait did at
breakfast; although if I had had any idea she was this bad, I would’ve carried
her in here this morning kicking and screaming.”
Kes smiled gently at the image. “You can’t force some people to seek
treatment, Tom; you should know that.”
“Yeah, I know.” I grasped Cait’s right hand and brushed some damp
strands of hair off her forehead. She was burning up. “How much did you bring
her fever down?”
“At least a full degree. Why?”
“Because I think it’s gone back up.”
“What?” Kes hastily scanned her. “38.6. Doctor, her fever is
climbing.”
“Lay down, Mr. Kim,” the hologram ordered before spinning around.
“Let’s see. This is impossible. Prepare an IV. I don’t want her to get
dehydrated. It would appear her body is fighting a battle against some
infection; one that is also present in Ensign Kim.”
“What?” Harry rose up on his elbows.
“Lie down,” the Doctor snapped.
Out of reflex, I took a step backward, but managed to stop myself from
releasing Cait’s hand. If it was contagious, I had already been exposed.
The hologram frowned at me. “Don’t worry. It does not appear to be
contagious. The two of them must have been exposed at roughly the same time
and place. Now,” He turned to Harry. “Where have the two of you been lately
that might have been the source of this infection?”
“Nowhere, except on the away mission, but nothing happened there. We
felt fine the entire time we were on the surface. Besides, Neelix was
with us. Shouldn’t he be showing the same symptoms?”
“Hmm,” the hologram responded. “Sickbay to Mr. Neelix.”
“Yes, Doctor.”
“Could you please report to sickbay right away.”
“But it’s lunchtime. I’m very busy at the moment.”
“Now, Mr. Neelix.”
There was a silent pause followed by a sigh of resignation. “Very
well. I’m on my way.”
I touched Cait’s cheek. The green eyes blinked slowly open as if
lifting the lids took a great deal of effort.
“Tom?”
Grinning, I squeezed her hand. “See, I told you to stop by. Now, look
at all the trouble you’ve caused. When are you going to learn to listen
to me?” I chided softly.
An exhausted smile floated over her lips. “About the same time you
start listening to me.”
“I do listen to you. Haven’t I continued to see the Commander
faithfully for therapy?”
Her chest rose slowly. “Yeah, I guess you have. Tom, I’m so sorry.
I said some awful things last night.”
“Shh,” I soothed. “We’ll have a long talk when you get better, okay?”
“Okay.” The eyes blinked twice.
“Tired?”
“Can’t focus. I feel so weak.”
“Then, rest. I’ll stay here as long as I can.”
One side of her mouth rose in an half-smile as her eyes closed.
Gently, I stroked the warm cheek. “That’s it. Go to sleep. I’ll be
right here.”
The doors to sickbay opened revealing Neelix and a concerned B’Elanna.
“Harry!” She was by his side in an instant. “When no one showed for
lunch, I traced you through the computer. What’s wrong?”
“I’ll be okay,” he reassured. “It seems Caitlin and I picked up a
bug, that’s all.”
Her hand flew to his forehead. “You’re hot.”
“So you keep telling me, Maquis, but I think I’m also running a fever.”
Torres gave an uneasy chuckle. “You hang around Paris and Matthews far
too much, Star Fleet.” Gazing over at Cait though, she quickly sobered. I
think she could tell by Cait’s pallor and my expression that this was no
laughing matter. “How is she?”
I shrugged listlessly. Harry knew the extent of Cait’s condition, but
reinforcing the bad news wouldn’t do him any good. Thankfully, B’Elanna caught
the drift of my silent gestures, and she and I both spent the rest of our lunch
breaks in sickbay, leaving only five minutes before the start of our afternoon
shifts.

I returned much later when my shift finally ended. Harry was sitting
up reading, but he looked worse. I sidled up to Kes, who was running
diagnostic comparisons.
“How are they doing?”
“Not so good,” she whispered. “Harry’s fever is continuing to climb
in spite of our best efforts, and Caitlin’s has remained pretty much where it
was. She’s drifting in and out of lucidity due in large part to the fever.”
“Is there a chance of brain damage from the fever?”
“Not yet, but every hour it stays up, the possibility increases.
What’s worse is that the infection seems to be respiratory in nature, and her
breathing is becoming more labored as time goes along. Eventually, we may have
to put her on life support, Harry, too, if he grows progressively worse. If we
only knew what was causing the infection. Neelix was completely unaffected and
conventional treatments are simply not working.” She attempted a hopeful
smile. “Why don’t you go visit? It might cheer them both up.”
“I’ll give it a try.” I strolled over wearing my best grin. “Howzit
goin’, Harry?”
“Lousy, and I’m bored stiff.” He tried to smile, but coughed instead.
I snickered. “I know how that is. Bet you’re tired of seeing the
Doc’s gorgeous face, too.”
“Yeah, that’s true.” He glanced over at Cait. “She’s not doing too
well, Tom, and to be honest, I’m getting scared for her and for myself.”
I patted his shoulder. “That’s normal. But don’t you worry. We’ll
see you both through this latest crisis.”
“Sure. Everything’s going to be just peachy. Look, maybe you’d better
go visit her. I think she needs you more than I do right now.”
“Fine. Reject my company, why don’tcha?” I winked. “I’ll just go
find a better audience.”
I moved to Cait’s bed. Kes was right; she was having difficulty
breating. Lifting her chest to inhale seemed to take all her strength.
“Cait? Cait, can you hear me?”
The green eyes opened halfway. “Tom?”
“Yeah, it’s me. I told you I’d come back. Can I get you anything?”
“Unh-unh. Just talk to me a little.”
“Sure. Any topic in particular?”
“Anything.”
“Anything?” I grinned. “You do realize you’re leaving yourself pretty
vulnerable to ol’ Tom.”
She smiled exhaustedly. “Would you really take advantage of someone in
distress?”
“In the past, maybe, but not now. And certainly not you.”
“Then, I’m fairly safe.”
My fingers brushed her warm cheek. “Yeah, you are. How about I tell
you a story. Chakotay has shared a few beauts with me during one or two of
our sessions.”
“Mmm-hmm.” The eyes closed wearily.
“All right, let’s see if I can remember one. A long time ago, before
the two-legged walked the Earth . . .”
My voice droned on. At one point, I heard a rustle of covers behind
me and looked around. Harry had fallen asleep, too. I wasn’t sure whether to
take that as a compliment or not.
After I finished the story, I remained at Cait’s bedside, clutching
her hand. Any anxiety I might have felt from being this close to her had long
since vanished; I just wanted her and Harry well again. All of a sudden, she
began to gasp like she couldn’t breath.
“Cait? Doc! Kes!”
They were both at her side in an instant.
“Respiratory arrest. Her organs are no longer receiving the oxygen
they need. Prepare the pressure shell.” The Doctor commanded.
Kes dashed across the room with me at her heels. It was a bulky device
and I knew she would probably need help carrying it.
I looked down at Cait as they erected the shell. She was fully awake
now, her glassy eyes filled with panic. Her left hand grabbed my arm, its
fingers painfully choking the flesh.
“You’ll be fine,” I reassured. “We’ll have you breathing normally in
no time.”
The Doctor activated the device and in a few seconds her breathing
steadied considerably. As the hand slid from my arm, I stroked her forehead.
“See, what did I tell you?”
The green eyes gradually blinked shut.
“That’s it. Go back to sleep. I’ll stay right here.” I glanced up
at Kes, who shook her head. *Oh gods, NO!* I stepped away from the bed.
“How long?” I whispered.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. This is such a stop-gap measure. She
could hold on a day or perhaps several days. On the other hand, the illness
has progressed so quickly; she may not make it through the night.”
“Um, excuse me,” Harry piped up. “I don’t mean to sound selfish, but-”
He lowered his voice. “Just where does this leave me?”
“That’s a good question,” the Doctor conceded, running the scanner
first over Cait, then Harry. “The infection is progressing much slower in your
body for any one of a hundred reasons, ranging from your immune system to the
amount of infection to which you were initially exposed. We’ve been attempting
to isolate the differences, especially those between you two and Mr. Neelix.
However, it could simply be that he is Talaxian and you are both human.”
Sighing in frustration, he crossed the room to his office.
Kes patted Harry’s leg. “We’re sorry, Harry.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he sighed. “I know you’re doing your best.”
I turned to Kes. “Do you think you can get the Doc’s okay for me to
stay here tonight. If she goes, I want to be with her.”
She nodded. “If I can’t, we’ll simply de-activate him, and he won’t
know until it’s too late.” Chuckling slightly, she headed back to her console.
She wasn’t serious, but I knew she’d make sure I could stay.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. V

Casualties
Part 3

By Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

The hours dragged on. B’Elanna came by with some food, and she, Harry,
and I ate a quiet dinner together. Afterwards, they chatted between themselves
while I turned back to Cait.
She was still sleeping. Her breathing remained even, so the shell was
doing its job. I picked up one of Harry’s PADDs and began reading some
detective story. The victim’s body had just been discover when Cait stirred.
“Cait? I’m here.”
“Mm.” Her head rolled in my direction, the eyes barely opening.
I took a soft, damp cloth and wiped her face. Hearing a small grunt of
appreciation, I sat back down on the stool I had borrowed. You could tell she
was trying to fight her way to consciousness, but it was a losing battle.
Whatever it was inside her had sapped all her strength. Twice, her lips parted
as if she wanted to speak, but nothing came out.
“It’s okay, Cait.” I soothed her as best I could. “You don’t have to
say anything. Whatever it is can wait until you’re better.” My voice waivered
slightly. “Listen, I’ll be right back.”
Tears had begun to fill my eyes, and I didn’t want one of her last
images to be me blubbering like an idiot. Stepping away, I cleared my throat
and took a few cleansing breaths.
B’Elanna came up beside me. “Tom, are you all right? If you want to
take a break, I’ll sit with her a while.”
“No.” I whispered, rubbing my forehead. “I’ll be okay. I can handle
this.”
By the time I moved back to the bed, Cait had fallen back asleep. I
picked up the PADD again and started to read. It was going to be a very
long night.
Around 2130, Torres tapped me on the shoulder. “Harry’s asleep,” she
whispered. “And I’m going to turn in, too. Do you need anything before I do?”
“Nah, I’m fine. Besides,” I tapped the display in my hand. “This
story’s finally getting interesting.”
She squeezed my shoulder. “You should get some rest, as well. Running
yourself into the ground won’t help Cait.”
I raised an eyebrow. “And if Harry was in Cait’s place, where would
you be?”
Her gaze shifted over to Kim and back again. “Right here where you
are. You still love her, don’t you?”
“B’Elanna, I never stopped.” I gave a little snort of frustration.
“In spite of all that’s happened, my feelings for her haven’t changed.”
“I don’t think that’s what she believes.”
“What!”
“Shh. You’ll wake them.”
I nodded and repeated my ejaculation in a whisper. “What? Why do you
say that?”
“Because of what she said through the door last night. That’s why I
didn’t think it wise of you to go visit her.”
“Why? What did she say?”
“At the time, it didn’t make sense, but after you explained that it was
an anniversary for you two, the pieces fell into place.”
I grabbed B’Elanna’s arm and led her away from the bed. “Now. Tell
me precisely what she said.”
“Well, first, she refused to come to Sandrine’s. When I asked why, she
said it was because of you. That since you had chosen to bury things, she
might as well, too. Then, she mumbled something about reminding you to delete
a holodeck program, which I figured was absolutely none of my business. So, I
left. She sounded like she had been drinking, and from experience, I know her
temper can be worse than mine when she’s plastered. That was why I didn’t
think you should see her; if she was already angry with you, I thought your
presence would only make her angrier.”
“Damn.” I raised my face to the ceiling and took a deep breath.
Shutting my eyes, I tried to regroup my whirling thoughts. What should I do?
At this point, what could I do? She was dying. I was going to lose her
for good.
“Tom?” B’Elanna put a concerned hand on my arm.
“Huh? Oh, I’m okay. Listen, thanks for telling me this. It doesn’t
help now, but it might in the future.” I cast a discouraged eye at Cait. “If
she makes it through the night, that is.”
“Don’t give up on her yet, Paris. She’s a fighter.”
I let out a small chuckle. “Believe me, Torres. No one knows that
better than I.”
She smiled encouragingly. “Just making sure you remember. See you
in the morning.”
“Yeah. ‘Night.”
As she left, I resumed my post by Cait’s side, returning to the story
I had been reading. I nodded off a couple of times and nearly fell off
the stool. For my own safety, the Doc suggested I make temporary use of a
vacant biobed, promising to call me if there was any change. I took his advice
and after another screen or two of prose, I was out like a light.

” . . . The first time I saw her she was unloading medical
supplies for the informal clinic we had set up outside the Meridan
settlement. She barked orders like a seasoned captain and rarely
smiled.” Chakotay stood at the front of the room, beside him was the
Captain. Another memorial service. Wonderful.
Harry sat on my right; B’Elanna sat next to him. For once,
there were tears in her eyes. I looked to my left, expecting to see
Cait, but Tuvok was seated there instead. Then it hit me; what
Chakotay had been saying. He was talking about Cait.
A lump rose in my throat. NO! I wasn’t ready to say good-
bye to her. I still needed her.
“She was a fine soldier, and I am proud to have served with
her both in the Maquis and here on Voyager. She would risk her life
for you, whether she knew you or not, and she would not back down, no
matter what the odds. I’ll miss her. All of us will miss her, but
we’ll carry on because that is what she would’ve wanted.” Grimacing,
Chakotay bowed his head slightly before turning toward the Captain.
“Ensign.” She nodded to the young man on her right, who
readied himself to sound the customary whistle of farewell.
Slowly, I rose to my feet and stood at attention as the
whistle was blown. Well, that was it. As far as the ship was
concerned, she was gone. As far as I was concerned, a huge,
gaping wound had just opened somewhere within me.
A hand squeezed my right shoulder. “Hey, Tom. Will you
be okay?”
“Yeah, Harry. I will be. It’s just going to take me a long
time.”
“I know. Look, if you need to talk or something-”
“Yeah, yeah. Right now, I only want to be alone for a little
while, okay.”
“Sure, Tom. Whatever.”
Without another word, I exited the room. I had to get to my
quarters before my resolve broke down into a flood of tears. As the
doors to my room shut behind me, I threw myself across the bed and
waited. But they wouldn’t come. I wanted to cry. I wanted to purge
myself of this awful emptiness, but I couldn’t.
“AUGH!” I threw a pillow across the room. “Why?”
“Why what?”
I sat up. She perched on the edge of the sofa, plain as the
nose on my face. “Wha-? Cait? How did-? I mean, you’re dead.”
“Am I?” She grinned mischievously. “Says who?”
“But I just came from your memorial service.” I stared at her,
open-mouthed; she looked so real. “I must be dreaming.”
“Of course, you’re dreaming, Paris. Could I do this if you
weren’t?” Cait crossed the room and took my face in her hands, her
lips closing softly over mine.
My arms wrapped around her waist. Pressing my cheek against
her stomach, I felt the tears finally begin.

“Oh gods.” My eyes opened to the sickbay ceiling. Rising up on one
elbow, I gazed over at Cait’s bed. We had been through so much together, and
for us to end like this, as barely friends, seemed so wrong. I lay there a few
minutes more, watching her sleep. She meant so much to me. I didn’t want to
lose her, not now, not ever. Finally, I got up and crept to her bedside.
Bending over, I kissed her tenderly on the lips before settling back onto
the stool.
“Cait, do you remember when we first started going out? A long time
ago, huh? I was so nervous; you made me so nervous. You were unlike any of
the other girls I had dated; tough, strong, a real rogue in your own way.
I wasn’t quite sure how to approach you, well, outside of bed and Sandrine’s,
that is.
“I mean, you wouldn’t believe the trouble I had coming up with a proper
setting for our first real date. Candy and flowers didn’t seem to fit you
exactly, so I got Harry to start that conversation about dates over
dinner that time. Remember? He didn’t want to do it, but good ol’ Harry,
after I promised him a replicated dinner of his choice, he finally agreed.
“And boy, was I glad I did. Considering how you ranted about
unimaginative sentimentality, you probably would’ve laughed in my face
if I had tried to park on Mars with you, especially once I brought out the
flowers. Although, you didn’t laugh when I bought you a rose from that
Parisian street vendor, did you?
“That was some night, wasn’t it? A moonlit walk through Paris. I’ll
always remember your expression when you turned to me on the Petit-Pont,
Notre Dame over your shoulder, the street lights reflecting in your beautiful
eyes. You had never been to France, and you were so excited, just like a
little kid. You wanted to see everything, and I wanted to show it all to you.
“I’ve never forgotten that evening, Cait, or the subsequent ones,
either. I love you, dammit,” I whispered, gently stroking the auburn hair.
“I’ve wanted to tell you that for so long, but I haven’t been able to. I’m
sorry. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me and I need you.”
Kissing her once more, I returned to my bed. Maybe she could hear
me and maybe she couldn’t. But the words came from the heart, and I thought
I’d feel a little better for finally saying them.

Hours later, Kes shook me awake, a huge grin on her face. “Someone
wants to see you.”
Sluggishly, I rolled off the bed. Cait was awake and sitting up.
The shell was gone; she was breathing on her own. My face lit up with a broad
smile of disbelief.
The tired green eyes twinkled pucklishly. “You look like hell, Paris.”
“So do you,” I shot back.
“Yeah, but I’ve got an excuse. What’s yours?”
“Late night at Sandrine’s. B’Elanna and I decided to whoop it up since
you and Harry were otherwise occupied.”
“Figures,” she grinned.
It was the most beautiful site I’d seen. I grasped her hand, giving it
a firm squeeze. “I’m glad you’re better, Cait. You know, my life would be
pretty dull without you.”
“Well, we can’t have that, can we?” She started to laugh and fell into
a tiny paroxysm of coughing.
“You all right?”
“Yes, the Doctor says I should stop coughing over the next twenty-four
hours. Just a little reminder of what I picked up.”
I turned on the hologram. “What happened?”
“I discovered a small parasite in their lungs. It was so small that
initially it didn’t register on our scans. For some reason, it imbeded itself
within the alveoli of the human lung, using the inhaled oxygen to feed and
reproduce. However, as soon as their population reached a significant
size, they registered on the scan I did of Lt. Matthews early this morning.
Once I knew what I was dealing with, finding a suitable treatment was actually
a very simple matter. Although, I do remain puzzled as to why the infection
was so much worse in the Lieutenant than in Ensign Kim, but I theorize it may
have had something to do with the quantity of alcohol she consumed the previous
evening.” The Doctor raised a smug eyebrow.
Unphased, Cait snickered.
“What so funny, Matthews. You heard the Doc.” I glanced back at her
trying my best to sound stern, for all the good it did me.
A big smile broke across her face. “Are you reporting for duty
like that, Paris?”
*Duty!* I hadn’t even given thought to it. “What time is it?”
“It’s 0750, Tom.” Kes tried hard to suppress a grin as Harry began
to chuckle.
*Okay, Thomas. You have two choices. Tear out like a whirlwind or
bring a little dignity to your exit.* I opted for a shot at dignity.
“Well, since both of your conditions have improved so much, I see no
need for my continued presence. I’ll stop by later this afternoon to check on
your progress.” Watching Cait choke back laughter, I gave her leg a tiny pat
before stolling casually out of sickbay.
Once the doors closed behind me, I broke into a mad dash. By the
time I reached my room, I had five minutes to shower, shave and change.
Somehow, though, I made it to the bridge only three minutes late. No one said
a word.

At 1230 hours when my lunch break arrived, I followed Chakotay up the
steps. “Hey, Commander, do you have any plans for lunch?”
“Nothing special, Mr. Paris. Why?”
“I need to talk.”
“Oh?” Concern immediately flickered across his face as we stepped into
the lift. “Deck 2. About what, Tom?”
“About Cait. I’m not sure what I should do. We had words a couple of
nights ago, and I’m really worried that we’re going to continue to drift apart.
We may not be seeing one another anymore, but I don’t want to lose her as a
friend. And to be honest, I’m afraid I’m going to.”
The doors to the lift opened, and we exited, heading toward the mess.
“Tom, I don’t think that is a genuine risk. Caitlin cares for you
too much.”
“I’m not doubting that she does, Chakotay, but you didn’t hear what
she told B’Elanna the other night.” I gave him a quick synopsis of the events.
“And to top it all off, she was drunk. She never handles her problems by
getting drunk. That’s my way, or at least, it was.” I grinned slightly in
partial jest.
A frown creased his brow as we entered the mess. “I didn’t realize
that the level of tension between the two of you had risen to that degree, but
I’m afraid what she’s experiencing also goes beyond that. Trauma, such as what
you have been through, is often a shared experience, affecting our loved ones
sometimes as much as ourselves.”
We got our trays and sat down prior to his continuing. “Paris, when
was the last time you two had an honest discussion about how you both felt?”
“Not in quite a while. After our initial conflicts when I first left
sickbay, we’ve pretty much tip-toed around the subject. Although, on the few
occasions when she has tried to reach out to me, I’ve asked her not to.”
“In other words, you’ve rejected her attempts to offer support.”
I shook my head. “Not intentionally, no. I told her a couple of
weeks ago I would only be her friend, nothing more, but she has had trouble
accepting that. She wants us to be together again.”
A dark eyebrow raised knowingly. “Is that so bad? Isn’t it what you
want, too?”
“Well, yeah,” I stammered. “I’d like us back together, but I don’t
think I’m ready, yet. Who am I kidding? I know I’m not ready.”
“Then, tell her that. You have to look at this from her perspective,
Tom. When she has tried to reach out, you’ve either rejected her outright or
you two have wound up in a fight. As a result, she feels powerless to help the
one person she cares for the most on this ship. This leads to frustration and
anger and then guilt over feeling angry. And since your current relationship
won’t allow her relieve these feelings, evidently the only way she sees out
of this dilemma is to sever emotional ties with you.”
He leaned forward in his seat. “You’ve got to talk to her, Lieutenant.
Show her where you’re coming from; find out where she’s coming from; and maybe
even encourage her to talk to someone else about her feelings. The picture I’m
getting from you is of two people who care a lot about each other, but can’t
communicate those feelings to one another worth a damn. Why not set aside some
time one evening this week and just talk to her, Paris? You might be surprised
at the results.”
“Easier said than done, Commander,” I snorted. “You know, just once,
I’d like life to have a few simple solutions.”
A small smile of experience crossed his lips. “Life does, Lieutenant.
We’re the ones who make it complicated.”

The following evening, I stood outside Cait’s quarters. She and
Harry had been released from sickbay that morning with clean bills of health.
Now came the hard part. Our little chat. My stomach gave its usual warning
lurch, but I ignored it. This was something I had to do. Running away wasn’t
an option this time. Taking a deep breath, I pressed the chime.
“Come in.” Cait sat in the recliner, wearing a pair of multi-hued
lounging pants and a cropped olive top, which revealed a portion of her toned,
pale stomach. “Hey, Paris. What brings you here?”
The smile that greeted me was warm and friendly, and out of reflex, my
own mouth spread in a wide grin. “You do, actually.”
“Oh, really? I like the sound of that.”
“Tch-tch,” I clicked my tongue in mock disgust. “Out of sickbay less
than twenty-four hours and you’re already flirting with a superior officer.”
“Superior? Since when were you ever my superior?”
I flopped down on her couch. “Well, it stands to reason, doesn’t it?
I am one of the senior officers; I’m in charge of conn; you’re only Tuvok’s
second.”
“That only means you outrank me,” she countered, moving onto the sofa
beside me. “It doesn’t mean you’re my superior.” Her eyes twinkled for a
moment before an uncomfortable silence gradually descended.
My gaze shifted nervously away. Going in, I knew this would be tough,
but somehow I had hoped it would be easier than this. I swallowed hard,
choking back the rising tide of nausea. “So, um, how are you feeling? The
coughing stopped yet?”
“Oh, just about,” Cait replied lightly, adjusting her position to allow
a greater distance between us. “Kes told me you spent night before last in
sickbay in case I didn’t pull through. I want you to know that means a lot to
me. Considering how distant we’ve been lately, I wasn’t sure-” She broke off
and stared at the floor.
“Yeah, I know. B’Elanna told me what you said to her, and I want to
apologize. I honestly didn’t think-” I paused and took a deep breath,
screwing up my courage. “Look, Cait, we need to talk. According to Chakotay,
the family and friends of the trauma victim suffer right along with the
victim, and if you take into account the depth of our past, it’s only natural
for you to-” The hardened expression on her face caused me to hesitate.
“To what, Counselor Paris?” She flipped back defensively. “A word of
advice, don’t psychoanalyze me. People have tried in the past, and I didn’t
take kindly to it.”
Stung by this response, I bit my tongue, waiting for my own anger to
pass. I hadn’t come there to argue with her, and I certainly didn’t want a
repeat of the other night. “All right, Matthews, then just how do you propose
I figure what is going on inside you? You aren’t exactly the most forthcoming
individual when you’re upset, you know.”
“Sorry,” she shot back sarcastically. “I didn’t realize I had to wear
my heart on my sleeve for you. Perhaps I should also carry a hankerchief
to dab my moist eyes.”
“Oh, for pete’s sake, Cait, I’m trying to talk to you. Can’t you see
that?” Then, it struck me. She had put up a wall now, too. Grimacing, I
summoned all my strength. I wasn’t ready to throw our friendship away; maybe
she was, but I wasn’t. And if that was true, it was up to me to knock this new
wall down.
“Okay, fine. You don’t want to be analyzed? Fine. I’ll skip the
softer explanation and go right for the jugular. Here’s the way it appears
to me. You resent the emotional barrier that I’ve erected around myself, don’t
you? It frustrates you and it makes you angry. You’ve tried to reach out to
me, only to have your hand slapped away, and you’ve tried to be patient, only
now your patience is wearing thin. So thin, you’re ready to turn your back on
our friendship and let it die. Right?”
The green eyes opened wide, and for a while, she just stared at me
unsure of how to respond. Eventually, her gaze dropped to her lap. “I don’t
think you needed to be quite that blunt,” she whispered. “I feel rotten enough
as it is. You’re the one who’s suffered; I should be here to support you, not
increase you troubles like I did the other night.”
“Cait,” I took her face in my hands, tilting it up toward me. “I
don’t blame you for your outburst. If I was in your place, I might not have
lasted this long. But I also know that if you don’t deal with these feelings,
we will lose what friendship we now share, and I don’t want that. We’ve been
through too much to let that happen. Agreed?”
The head between my hands nodded, her eyes slowly filling with tears.
Encouraged, I continued. “Then, do me a favor. Talk to someone,
Chakotay, B’Elanna, anyone. Explore the causes of these feelings; in doing so,
you may learn how to handle them better. Please? For us.”
With some reluctance, she nodded again. “Tom, I care about you so
much, and to sit by watching you go through all this and not being able to do
anything has been agonizing.” She pulled away and sat back.
“You didn’t turn to me; you turned to Chakotay, which was probably for
the best, but I felt rejected. Like I had failed you somehow as a friend; that
you couldn’t confide in or trust me when you found yourself in need.”
Her voice waivered as she angrily brushed away a tear. “Silly, isn’t it?”
“Shh.” I slipped my arm around her and pulled her head into the crook
of my shoulder. “It’s not silly. The first time you drifted into one of your
silent moods, I felt the same way and still do at times, but I learned to give
you some space before trying to draw you out.” Gently grasping her chin, I
raised her gaze to mine. “Cait, you’re one of the best friends I have. You’re
not a failure; you just feel a little helpless, which none of us likes.”
As I looked into the glistening emerald eyes, it suddenly dawned on me.
I was holding her; I was talking to her; and I wasn’t going to throw up.
The butterflies were still there, sure, but they were nothing compared to what
they had been. Perhaps this little chat had been more necessary than either of
us had realized. Maybe there was hope for us after all.
Emboldened by my discovery, I pressed on. “Now, as far as you and I
go, that’s another story entirely. You’ve got to believe me when I say that
nothing would make me happier than for us to be together again. My feelings
for you haven’t changed, but the way I can express them has. If I thought I
would wake up tomorrow ready to start a relationship with you, you couldn’t
budge me from these quarters tonight. But I don’t know when I’ll be ready.”
My finger tapped the side of my head. “There’s still a lot of stuff up
here I’ve got to sort out first, and I don’t want life to pass you by while I’m
sifting through my problems. Understand?”
A tiny smile crossed her lips. “Yes, I’m afraid I do. I’m so
sorry, Tom.”
“Matthews,” I replied softly. “You’ve done nothing to be sorry for.
What you’re experiencing is a perfectly normal human reaction. Which follows,
since you are human, aren’t you?” I teased.
“Ask the Doc. He’s certainly scanned me enough lately.” She smirked,
but the green eyes were still sad.
“I may just do that. For all I know, you could be some Cardassian
infiltrator.”
“That’s not funny, Paris,” she snickered.
“Then, why are you laughing?”
Her arms flew around my neck, hugging me close. “Because you’re my
friend, and it’s my duty to be supportive, even when you make a lousy joke.”
I chuckled and hugged her back. “It goes both ways, Matthews. It goes
both ways.”

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