The Paris Journals: Choices, vol. VIII

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From: crime@bu.edu (mary self)
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
Subject: NEW: Choices (VOY, P, NC17)
Date: 25 Oct 1996 11:58:15 GMT
Organization: Boston University
Message-ID: <54qa0n$r86@news.bu.edu>
NNTP-Posting-Host: acs1.bu.edu
X-Newsreader: TIN [version 1.2 PL2]

DISCLAIMERS: The original characters belong to Paramount, but the story and
the character of Caitlin Matthews are mine.

WARNING: This story contains material that some may find offensive.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This started out as two separate stories, neither of which
I felt I could make stand on their own. Therefore, after
a tussle here and a curse there, I merged them. I’d be
interested to know if you think it worked.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. VIII

Choices
Part 1

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

I stepped out of the shower and winced as I lifted a towel off the
nearby rod. I wrapped it around my waist and crossed over to look at the
bruise in the mirror. It had already begun to turn a bluish-purple.
“Idiot.” I muttered. “It was an impossible return, but you still had
to try, didn’t you? And what did it get you? A bruised shoulder and Harry got
matchpoint anyway.”
Gently, I raised and lowered my arm. Yep, it was going to be sore for
a while, but I didn’t want to go to Sickbay and hear another one of the Doc’s
smug lectures. Oh well, I would just have to live with it, sore or not.
I walked out into the sleeping area and pulled a fresh pair of
underwear out of the drawer. The door to the corridor opened and I flattened
up against the wall, sighing with relief as only Cait stepped in.
“Hmm. I like what I see.” She said with a grin.
“Oh really? Then should I even bother with these?” I twirled the
underwear around my finger.
She walked over and put her arms around my neck. “Not unless you
want to.”
I tossed them quickly back into the drawer. “Nah. They can be
pretty confining.”
Her fingers gently traced the discolouration on my shoulder.
“Springball?”
I grimaced. “Yep. Harry won the first game, but I won the second.”
“Good for you.”
We kissed and her hand slipped down to my waist. The towel hit
my feet. I raised an eyebrow. “Now?”
“Why not?”
A sore shoulder hardly seemed a valid excuse, and I began to unfasten
her uniform. I eased the turtleneck over her head and sucked in a delighted
breath. “I like what *I* see.”
Cait laughed and took my hand leading me over to the bed. We paused
at the foot and kissed some more. I ran my fingers over the small bump on her
upper arm where her implant used to be. She smiled slyly.
“Feel lucky tonight, Lieutenant?”
“I suppose it would be cliched to say every night I’m with you I feel
lucky.”
“Very cliched, and in your case, very true.”
“Oh really?” I eased her back onto the bed. “I could say the same
thing about you.”
The green eyes glowed with suppressed laughter as she twined her arms
around my neck. “Less talk and more work, Mr. Paris.”
“Yes ma’am.”
As if one could call trying to get Cait pregnant work. Personally,
I couldn’t think of a more pleasant job. And if we happened to fall asleep
for a little while afterwards, so much the better. It gave my little guys a
better chance at a successful upstream swim.
When we first got married, we swore we would wait at least a year
before having children. Yet, Rowan had given us both a taste of parenthood,
and after many late-night pillow debates, we decided we didn’t want to wait
after all. Now, we were into our third month of trying for a baby, but
somehow those few hours of fertility kept eluding us.
The Doc had warned us it might take a while since Cait had been using
implants for so long. Most girls started around age seventeen or eighteen,
but Cait had been using them since she was thirteen, right after she was raped.
To help us, he suggested using a tricorder to find out when she was at
her peak. We declined. We weren’t that discouraged, yet. A couple of months
from now, maybe, but right now, we were having too much fun. I mean, the sex
was great. No, more than that. It was incredible, amazing, the best either of
us had ever had. There was just something in that element of chance, an added
intensity from that nagging gambler’s hope that maybe, just maybe, we would hit
the jackpot this time.

*BEEP!*
I opened one eye and peered over last night’s dishes at the
chronometer. Damn. Cait sat up beside me and I heard the familiar click as
she opened the tricorder and scanned herself. She sighed and shut it.
I raised up on my elbows and looked at her.
“No luck?”
She shook her head and stared down at the small grey bearer of bad
news. “Looks like I’m still on active duty.”
I sat up and hugged her close. “So we try again in a few days.
No big deal. The Doc says we’re both okay. We’ve just got lousy timing.”
She gave a reluctant smile and kissed me. “Shower?” she asked.
“Definitely.” I replied. “Together?”
“Definitely.”

We met Harry and B’Elanna for breakfast fully expecting a little
ribbing about missing dinner, but received none. In fact, they were strangely
silent through the entire meal. They didn’t even smile at each other when they
parted company in the corridor.
I studied Harry carefully as we waited for the lift to take us
to the bridge. “Hey, Harry, you okay?”
“Huh?” He glanced up, his thoughts still kilometers away.
“You okay? Things all right between you and B’Elanna?”
“Yeah. They’re fine.” He kept his eyes glued to the lift car’s floor
when we entered.
“Bridge.” I requested. “Are you sure? Something’s bothering you,
both of you. It was written all over your faces at breakfast.”
The doors opened dumping us on the bridge before he could reply.
Chakotay looked up from conferring with Tuvok at Tactical. “Mr. Paris.
Mr. Kim.”
“Good morning, Commander.” I replied.
Harry mumbled a “morning”.
Chakotay looked from him to me. I lifted my shoulders. He glanced
back at my downcast friend and shrugged. “By the way, Tom, how’s Caitlin’s
shoulder doing?”
I stared blankly at him. “Fine, I guess. Why wouldn’t it be?”
“The fight between T’shar and Corrigan yesterday afternoon. She helped
break it up and dislocated her shoulder in the process. She didn’t tell you?”
“She what?” My jaw tightened. That little- “No sir. She didn’t
tell me, but I’m glad you did.”
I stewed all through the first half of my shift. Was she crazy?
What if she had been in the early stages of pregnancy and not known it? She
could’ve miscarried. I didn’t care if what she did was in the line of duty.
This was our possible child we were talking about. And once she was pregnant,
then what? She couldn’t go around breaking up fights when she was six months
along, not when she was carrying my child at least.
By the time I reached the mess for lunch, smoke had stopped coming out
of my ears, but I was still plenty steamed. I grabbed a tray of pasta and
sat down. Cait came in a minute or two later. I barely looked up when she
took her seat.
“Where’s Harry?” she asked.
“He’s skipping. Staying on the bridge.”
“Oh. Did you find out what was bothering him? I haven’t had a chance
to talk with B’Elanna yet.”
“Too busy breaking up another fight?”
“What?”
“Nothing. No, I think he was about to tell me when Chakotay brought
up something a little closer to home.” I stabbed the pasta and twisted it
carefully around the fork.
“Oh? What was that?”
I chewed my food slowly and didn’t answer, letting her squirm in the
silence. She put down her fork and made a quick pass over my hand with
her fingertips.
“Tom, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. How’s your shoulder?”
“My what?”
“Your shoulder. Which one was it the right or the left?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Come off it, Cait. I know you dislocated your shoulder yesterday.”
“Oh, that. I had forgotten all about that. The Doc popped it right
back into place. I was back on duty in less than thirty minutes.”
I glared at her. “You forgot. As simple as that. You forgot.”
“Yes.” She frowned. “I don’t understand. Why is this bothering you?”
I shut my eyes, trying not to explode. The mess was not the place for
one of our fights. “Have you forgotten we are trying to have a child?”
“No. I haven’t forgotten. Didn’t last night prove that?”
“Then why the hell are you going around breaking up fights? What if
you had been pregnant? Did you stop to think about that? Or did you just
charge headlong into the melee?” I barely kept my voice to a low growl.
Cait stared at me for a moment, her mouth slightly agape. “How could
you even think-” she began and stopped, her gaze falling to her plate.
Suddenly she pushed back her chair and stood up. “Excuse me. I’m not
very hungry anymore.” She picked up her tray and dumped the contents down
the reclamator before striding quickly out of the mess.
I plunged my fork into the pasta, bringing up a mouthful. I looked at
the food. No, I wasn’t that hungry, either. My fork dropped to the plate.
Damn her. Did she think she could run away from this?
“Trouble in paradise?” Neelix sat down before I could even answer.
“Want to talk about it?”
“Not really, Neelix. It’s between Cait and myself.”
“You know, I do have first-hand experience in matters of a marital
nature.” He continued. “Kes and I have certainly had our share of
disagreements over the years.”
I should have known he wouldn’t take no for an answer. “Okay. Okay.
You know how Cait and I decided to have a child? Well, we haven’t exactly
been meeting with success, and then this morning I find out that she got
injured breaking up a fight yesterday. She never told me.”
“Was she injured badly?”
“No, it was only a dislocated shoulder, but that’s not my point. Here
we are trying to get her pregnant and she’s breaking up fights.”
Neelix looked at me non-plussed. “She isn’t pregnant, is she?”
“No.”
“And security is her job, right?”
“Yes, but that’s not the point. What if she had been pregnant?
She could’ve lost the child.”
“Don’t you think she knows this?”
“Well, yes, but breaking up fights doesn’t exactly show it.”
“But if she knew she wasn’t pregnant, why shouldn’t she continue to do
her normal duties?”
“Look, Neelix, all I did was point out that what she did was risky
under the circumstances.”
He shook his head. “From what I overheard you said a little more
than that. You called into question not only her commitment to having her
child, but also her devotion to the welfare of that child. How would you feel
if she asked the same of you?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Not in so many words, but the implication was the same.”
I leaned back in my seat and let what he said sink in. Idiot. Yes,
Thomas, you are a true idiot. By questioning her devotion to our child, you
questioned everything, including her love for you, your marriage, everything.
My fingers drummed angrily on the table. “You’d think by now I would
have learned to watch what I say, wouldn’t you? How could I be so stupid?
It’s just that we’ve been trying, you know, and nothing. And I guess maybe I’m
getting a little more frustrated than I want to admit, but when Chakotay
mentioned the fight, all I could think of was how one wrong punch could bring
everything we’ve worked so hard for to an end.” I picked up the fork and let
it drop, giving the tray a disgusted push. “Dammit! Now, how am I going
to apologize?”
He patted my sore shoulder as he got to his feet, and I tried hard not
to grimace. “I’ve always found flowers work with Kes, and I happen to know
that the aloreas are in full bloom in the airponics garden.” He winked.
I shot him a half-hearted grin. “Flowers aren’t exactly Cait’s thing,
but thanks for the suggestion.”
“Not at all. Good luck.”
Yeah. Luck. After the mistake I had made, I was going to need it.
I finished up my shift and ate dinner alone. No one else in our group
showed. Yep, she was mad at me. If she was avoiding me, it was a sure sign
that the very sight of yours truly would cause her to blow a nacelle. At best,
I reasoned I would have to settle for her remaining on civil terms as an
acceptance of my apology. True forgiveness–when I could make love to her–
lay several days away.
So in preparation for groveling, I stopped by the garden and picked
a few flowers. Hey, it couldn’t hurt, and bright, sunshine yellow was one of
her favorite colours. I set them in a vase on our coffee table so she couldn’t
miss them when she came in, and then, I picked up a book and waited.
Hours passed. My thoughts weren’t really on what I was reading.
I kept thinking about Cait, and not just her, but women in general. How we,
human males, used to regard them. How the Klingons regarded them. How the
Ferengi regarded them. Humans had changed their ways. (Even if I did
set them back a few centuries at lunch today.) The Captain was a
prime example of that, and yet, I wondered if we ever got back to Earth if
she and her guy, Mark?, would have children. As a captain, it wouldn’t be
easy. I knew that from my own childhood. Both women and men gave up
something to sit in “the big chair”. But for women, I guess the price was a
little higher. Or maybe it wasn’t. If I was a captain, I’d want my family
with me. I couldn’t accept seeing them only once or twice a year. I would
want to be there for my kid’s first word, for his first steps, for his first
day at school. I’d want to be there for everything my own dad missed.
Rowan’s face flashed before me, and I couldn’t help but smile.
“Hungry” had been his first word, (how appropriate!), and he had walked right
after that. Having a human child was going to be quite a different story.
It would be months before he or she could crawl or talk, and we’d be changing
diapers for well over a year. Heck, Rowan had let us off easy. Easy.
Yeah, right, Thomas. You almost died feeding him, remember? True, but I
never thought about that. Holding him and telling him stories and playing
airplane with him were always what sprang to mind first.
I sat up and stretched. 2200 hours. Still no Cait. I got up and
moved the flowers onto the ledge by her side of the bed. Then, I stripped
and crawled beneath the covers.
I didn’t go to sleep. I stared up at the dimly lit ceiling, wondering
where she was. I didn’t have to wonder long. The door opened and she came in,
disappearing into the bathroom. A few minutes later, she pulled back the
covers and climbed in, her back to me.
My hand touched her shoulder. “Cait?”
“Not now, Paris. The flowers were a nice touch, but not now.”
Yep, she was still angry. She called me Paris, not Tom. “I just
wanted to apologize. I didn’t think about what I was saying. I should have,
and I just-”
“Not now. Go to sleep, or at least let me. I’m tired and the last
thing I want is a late night argument.”
“All right. All right.” I removed my hand and lay back. “I just
wanted you to know I’m sorry.”
“You always are” came the curt reply.
I deserved it.

If you were looking for any of the three of us in the mess, all you
had to spot were the two dark clouds hovering over our table, one from Cait
and the other from Harry. Cait was still giving me the silent treatment, and
Harry, well, Harry was looking like someone had just killed his dog. Something
told me to just keep quiet and eat my breakfast, but did I listen? Hell, no!
“Um, Harry, where’s B’Elanna?”
“Not here. She got a brainstorm late last night and I haven’t seen
her since.” He angrily stabbed a piece of sausage with his fork. He studied
the food for a moment and then let the untensile fall with a clatter. “I’m not
very hungry. I’ll see you on the bridge, Paris.”
Cait and I watched him leave. She put her fork down and slipped her
hand into mine. I gave it a squeeze. Suddenly, our fight seemed very trivial.
We had heard the rumors, but we had ignored them. Neither of us put much
stock in the ship’s rumor mill, having been the subject of it ourselves
numerous times.
“You don’t think that B’Elanna-” I began.
She shook her head. “No. She loves Harry. Talk to him, Tom.”
“Cait, we can’t get involved. It’s their relationship. If we meddle,
we could wreck our friendships with both of them. They’re adults. Let them
handle it.”
“But-”
“No buts, Cait. You know I’m right. Look, I’ll see if he wants to
talk, and if he does, fine, but that’s it.”
She nodded. “And I’ll see about talking with B’Elanna, but she’s been
so busy lately with the-”
The lights flickered throughout the mess.
“-gel packs.” She finished over Neelix’s cursing in the background.
“Speak of the devil.” I commented. “We lost warp for a few minutes
yesterday. Luckily, Harry spotted the power fluctuations in the core output
ahead of time and I dropped down to impulse. Otherwise, the whole ship would
have had a very nasty jar.” I weaved my fingers through hers. “What would you
say to a trip to Lake Como tonight, if the gel packs comply?”
“And if they don’t?”
I gazed deep into her emerald eyes. “Then, we’ll just do whatever two
consenting adults do when they find themselves together in the dark.”
Her eyes opened wide in implied innocence. “You mean tell ghost
stories?”
“Ah-that wasn’t quite what I had in mind.” I grinned.
We got to our feet and dumped the contents of our trays down
the reclamator. I followed her out into the corridor and around the corner.
The side passage was conveniently free. I put my arms around her waist and
pulled her close. Her fingers tickled the hair on the back of my neck.
We kissed and then, hearing footsteps, said our hasty good-byes.
It was always nice to know I was forgiven.

I woke up the next morning and stretched before snuggling up to Cait.
We hadn’t spent too much time on the holodeck, partly because of the gel packs
and partly because we had other things on our minds.
When a friend’s relationship falls apart, it does one of two things.
It’ll either make you value yours more, or it’ll make you question yours, but
it will never leave you unaffected. I snaked my arm over Cait’s waist and
pulled her closer. We decided last night to value ours.
“Janeway to all senior staff. Please report to the briefing room as
soon as possible.”
Cait and I both groaned. “Stay in bed.” I whispered, planting a kiss
on the back of her neck. “You’ve still got time.”
“No, I don’t. If Tuvok’s in a meeting this early, ten to one says he
will want to brief Rollins and me as soon as he comes out. So I may as well
get up now.”
We showered and dressed quickly, bidding each other a hasty kiss good-
bye in the empty corridor.
The meeting lasted about an hour. According to B’Elanna’s report, the
gel pack failures were getting worse and more and more unpredictable, and the
worst part was that she still didn’t know what was causing the problem.
With that in mind, the Captain decided I should prepare a shuttle for launch in
case of an emergency. A Talaxian colony was located about four days away and
had agreed to be of assistance if the need arose.
So instead of taking my usual position behind conn, I headed down to
the shuttlebay. I ran a pre-flight check on the Cochrane and found everything
in order. All I had to do was move it into launch position so it would be
ready to go. I was halfway up the ladder to auxilary controls when the ship
jerked violently slamming me against the wall. I lost my grip and crashed
to the floor. Everything went black.

Choices
Part 2

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

I hear voices. A bright light slashes through the darkness. My head
hurts like hell, but I still do something stupid like trying to sit up.
An older woman is beside me almost immediately. She has kind blue eyes and
tells me to lie back down. The higher I rise, the more stars I see, so I
follow her advice.
“Where am I?”
“Sickbay.”
A man with a receded hairline walks up and runs a scanner over my head.
He must be the doctor.
“How do you feel, Lieutenant?”
Lieutenant? “My head hurts.”
“I’m not surprised. You suffered a severe concussion. If you weren’t
so hard-headed, you might be dead.”
I stare at him. Is he trying to be funny or is he just some wise-ass
medico? “How did I get here? What happened to me?”
They exchange glances. “You were in the shuttlebay,” the woman begins.
“You were climbing up to the auxillary controls when the ship dropped out of
warp without warning. You fell and struck your head.”
“Oh.” I don’t know what else to say. My head feels like a springball
after a hard-fought tournament. Thinking only makes it ache more.
“Lieutenant, do you remember the accident?” The doctor asks.
“No.”
“Do you know who I am? Who she is?”
“You’re the doc and she’s the nurse.”
He sighs with impatience. (What a bedside manner!) “Obviously, but do
you know her name?”
I squint up at her. She knows me. They both do. I- Shit! Who are
they? Who am I? I don’t know! Shit! I can’t remember who I am! They could
be lying! It could all be a trap! How do I know I’m safe? No. Hold it.
Don’t panic. That won’t help. Just play along and see where it takes you.
“No.” I say.
“My name is Kes.” She squeezes my forearm gently. “Do you know who
you are?”
Damn! I’ll have to tell them. “No.” The word drops heavily from my
lips and explodes like deuridium, taking my last vestige of security with it.
They exchange glances again. The woman pats my hand. “Your name is
Tom Paris. You are the conn officer on the USS Voyager, this starship. You
hold the rank of lieutenant.”
“Oh.” I wince. Damn my head! I need time to think.
The doctor starts to give me a hypospray, but I grab his wrist.
“Lieutenant! What are you doing?”
“I could ask you the same thing, `Doc’.”
He jerks free. “You said you were in pain. This is merely a hypospray
of analgesic to relieve it. I assure you, it will not harm you in any way.”
A soft hand brushes over my forehead. “Tom, I know you feel very alone
and very frightened right now, but we are your friends. We want to help you.
Please, you have to trust us.”
Oh, she’s good. I’ll give her that. What choice do I have anyway?
I nod and the doctor administers the drug. In a few seconds, my head clears
a little. No memory, but no pain either. Score one for them.
“All right,” I say, trying to act more confident. “Tell me about
myself.”
The woman squeezes my shoulder. “In time. For now the only thing you
need to know, besides what I just told you, is that you have a lovely wife,
who has been very worried. May I call her for you?”
Wife! Hell! Maybe I’ve got kids, too. “Yeah, sure. Call the
little woman.”
She chuckles. “I don’t recommend you call her that, or you might end
up back here with more than just a concussion.”
So. I picked one with spirit. Good. I like ’em with spirit, don’t I?
“Is she- Are we on good terms?”
“The best,” she replies.
Whew!
“Kes to Lt. Caitlin Paris.”
Caitlin?
“Paris, here.”
“He’s awake, Caitlin, and ready to receive visitors.”
“I’ll be right there.”
In a few minutes, the doors on the other side of the doc’s office open.
A young woman walks in and the other woman, I mean, Kes immediately draws her
aside. Maybe that’s the little woman. Nice figure from here. Yellow collar.
What’s the break-down of those colours again? Blue for…Well, the doc’s
wearing blue so it must be for medicine and science. Gold’s for what?
Oh yeah, engineering and security. Engineering? Security? Engineering,
probably.
From time to time, they look in my direction. I can just imagine what
is being said. Everything’s fine; he just won’t know you from Adam. Oh hell,
she’s coming this way. What do I say? Hi honey, who the hell are you? Nah.
That’s a little too sarcastic.
She’s distinctive. Unusual hair. A rich, dark auburn. I’ll bet its
pretty when she lets it escape the ponytail. Wow. Eyes the colour of sunlit
moss. I could have done worse. A lot worse.
She bends down and kisses me on the cheek, not on the lips as I expect.
Could be she’s a little unsure, too. “Hi.” She says with a smile. Wow. I
bet that smile knocks you over when it reaches her eyes.
“Hi.”
“The Doctor says you can leave tomorrow. He wants to keep you around
for observation, just to make sure you’re all right physically. Kes has
offered to help you with your memory loss, sorting through files and all that.”
“That was nice of her.”
“Maybe the two of you could start later on, if you feel up to it.”
“Yeah. All right.” I crumple the blanket in my hands. “Can I ask you
a question?”
“Of course, anything.”
“Do we have kids?”
Her mouth falls open and then she laughs. (I was right–a knockout
when it reaches her eyes.) “Not yet, but we have been trying to change
that fact.”
“Oh.” I feel a little relieved. Explaining to children why their
father doesn’t know them anymore wouldn’t have been easy, and to be honest,
I don’t think I’m in any shape to deal with kids at this point anyway.
She bends down and kisses me on the lips, long and with a tad of
pressure to let me know we are more than just friends. Yeah, she’s got spirit.
I like them with spirit. Definitely.
“I have to go back to work. I’ve got two disturbances to write up and
Tuvok wants the report in one hour.” She kisses me again. “I’ll be by later.”
“I’ll be here.”
So, she’s security. Somehow, although I’m not exactly sure why,
it fits her.

I pass the afternoon by studying the ship’s plans on a monitor.
The doctor suggested I start with that before my personnel records so I don’t
get lost when I leave Sickbay. It makes sense, I guess.
I really like Voyager’s lines. It’s funny. I think I could slide
behind the helm right now and fly her with no problem, but I don’t remember
getting to the Delta quadrant, or getting married. I can recall vividly the
feeling of slow motion I experienced as I fell out of a tree when I was six,
but I can’t remember the fall that landed me in Sickbay or even what my
favourite food is. This is weird. Very weird.
About an hour into my lessons, I step away to take a piss. Yeah, I
think I can remember how it’s done. You’re a real riot, doc. I pull down my
pajamas. Shit! What the hell? Scars. One, two, three, eight of them.
How the hell did I get them? I mean you have to be pretty badly injured
to get scars like these in this day and age. When I come out of the bathroom,
I am whiter than the colour itself.
Kes hurries over. “What’s the matter? Oh dear. The scars?”
I nod. “How?” is all I can manage.
“You were captured and tortured while on an away mission. It’s in
your medical file, and I’m sure Caitlin will tell you about it. It happened
some time ago.”
“Oh.” I collapse onto a stool and stare at my reflection in the office
window. What other surprises await me?
Caitlin joins me for dinner, but we don’t talk much. It’s almost like
a first date. I ask her the usual questions. How long have we been married?
Did we meet on Voyager? How did we meet? She’s a little evasive with
that one. I guess we didn’t like each other too much at first, her being
Maquis and me being Starfleet. She tells me about the scars in a very clinical
way, almost as if she is reading a report. She says it was a very painful time
for both of us, and that I shouldn’t worry about it too much now. She leaves
me with the feeling there is more to this story than anyone wants me to know.
After she is gone, I start to get up, but the doctor sternly orders me
back to bed.
“But what about my personnel records?” I protest. “I haven’t seen
those yet.”
“In the morning.”
Now, I am sure they are hiding something, but since my head is
beginning to beat in time with the warp engines, I lie down and wait for him
to leave, figuring I’ll make use of the monitor when he goes off-duty. But he
doesn’t leave. He just sits in that office reading. Talk about your
workaholics! After a while, I give up and fall asleep.
I find myself in a shuttle, flying it recklessly. The man next to me
begs me to change my angle of descent. No way, I say, they will call this the
Paris maneuver. I cringe at my arrogance. The landing area approaches too
quickly. Something is wrong. This isn’t how it happened in the simulation.
Screams erupt. I’ve lost control. Abort! Fucking Abort! Shit! NOOOO!
I sit up gasping. Sweat pours down my face. I am shaking all over.
The screams still echo within. A dream. Only a dream. Little by little,
I stop trembing and lie back down. I know I will dream again. How, I’m not
sure, but some tiny voice warns me that this one was only the first.
The second dream follows as soon as my head hits the pillow. An older
man with steel blue eyes stands before me. I hate him, and I am a little
afraid of him, even though I am taller. He berates me. My fear.
My cowardice. My dishonour. Each word rends flesh, and it grows dark when he
walks away.
The next thing I know I am standing in a dock. Admirals and captains
line a table to my right. A commander struts before me. The man with metallic
eyes sits in the audience. He won’t look at me. Neither will the blond woman
on his right. My parents. I’ve disappointed them. I know that. What have
I done? The commander marches over and snatches the commbadge from my chest.
A court martial? Did this happen? Is it only a nightmare? What the hell
is going on?
I bolt out of bed, panting. My hands quiver. I can’t stop them.
I have to know. I tiptoe into the doctor’s office and activate the monitor.
All I can find is my record on Voyager. Everything else is restricted.
My rank is a field commission, given to me by the Captain. Before that
I am listed as an observer. So, I wasn’t in Starfleet, after all. Why?
What happened? Maybe my nightmares are more real than I know.
A hand reaches over my shoulder to shut off the monitor. The doc
stands behind me.
“Wha-? I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Of course not,” he replies smugly. “Because I didn’t. Now, if you
will return to your bed.”
“But you weren’t in here. I checked.”
He sighs with impatience. “I am the emergency medical hologram.
I was activated to replace the assigned physician when he was killed.”
A hologram? Screw it. I don’t care. “Why can’t I see my whole
personnel file? What are you hiding?”
“Abolutely nothing.” He looks insulted. “You have only to ask the
Captain for permission to review it. Now, will you please return to your bed?”
I eye him. Hologram, huh? “Computer, deactivate emergency medical
hologram.”
He blinks out of sight, but returns with an irritating smirk. “I was
given the power to deactivate and reinitialize myself quite a while ago.” He
extends a firm finger toward the door. “Your bed, Mr. Paris.”
I acquiesce. I can’t learn anything more with him around anyway.
Before I know it, a hypospray hisses in my ear. I try to sit up, but my body
is lead already.
“Pleasant dreams.” He gloats.
“Bastard.” I mumble.

Caitlin wakes me with a kiss on my cheek. I’m still groggy from the
shot and slur my good morning. She laughs and kisses me again, on the lips.
My mind may still be asleep, but parts of me aren’t. She informs me that I
can return to my quarters this evening and that she will come by to collect me
for dinner. Then, she squeezes my hand and leaves, flashing me a blinding
smile I can’t help but return.
I like her. At one time, hell, yesterday morning, I obviously loved
her, but I can’t remember that. Yet, there is such an honest warmth in
her manner. I can’t explain it. Even if someone hadn’t told us we were
married, I would think we were more than friends anyway. There is too strong
a current rushing below the surface.
The Captain stops in just as I’m finishing breakfast. Captain Janeway.
Have to remember that. She confers with the doctor before coming over.
“How are you feeling, Tom?” Her smile barely masks the concern on her
face. Maybe this is more than some protocol-required visit.
“Okay, I guess, Captain. A little confused.”
“Understandable. I’ve spoken with the Doctor. He tells me you wish
to view your records prior to coming on board.”
“Yes ma’am.”
“Under the circumstances, I will release them. You may view them at
your leisure beginning tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? Why not today?” I demand. To hell with her rank, this is
my life we’re talking about here.
“The Doctor feels it would be wiser for you to study them tomorrow.”
She pauses. “I will not lie to you, Tom. There are some unpleasant things
contained within them. Tomorrow you should be in better condition to deal
with them.”
“But-”
“I know you’re eager to re-learn your life, Lieutenant. If I was in
your position, I would be, too, but you can’t expect to do it in twenty-four
hours. Give yourself time. It is more important that you learn about your
life now, than what it was in the past.” She pats my shoulder and gives it
a firm squeeze. “Get well, Tom. That’s an order. I need you back on
the bridge.”
I watch her leave. Unpleasant *things*. Plural. Like a court
martial? What else? Isn’t that enough?

Caitlin picks me up at 1845 hours for dinner. She brings some
civilian clothes with her. I change quickly and we head for the mess. Deck 2.
I’ve already memorized it. Same goes for our quarters, the gym, the holodecks,
engineering. Yeah, I think I can find my way around.
A chubby humanoid, who introduces himself as Neelix, serves us some
brown goop. I try not to let my nose wrinkle too much. He calls it stew.
I don’t say what word springs to my mind.
He is assisted by a thin, young humanoid with Neelix’s hair and
piercing blue eyes. Valaxis is his name. He calls me uncle, and Caitlin
explains that I am his godfather. Thank the gods, he has Neelix’s hair or I
might wonder if I wasn’t something more.
Caitlin and I eat with another couple, a human by the name of
Harry Kim and a knockout Klingon called B’Elanna Torres. Torres, hmmm.
Must be part human. She is the chief engineer and he is the ship’s operations
officer. According to Caitlin, he is my best friend, too.
The conversation is casual. I get the impression it is also carefully
orchestrated. They only speak of things that happened today. I ask Harry–
that’s what he says I call him–a question about my past and he immediately
clams up.
Caitlin places a partonizing hand on my arm and I jerk away.
“Give it time, Tom. Don’t rush things.”
“Yeah, that’s what everybody says.” I snap. Some friends.
Dinner is real quiet after that. When we’re done, Caitlin gives me the
grand tour of the ship, including the Jefferies tube in which I proposed
to her. She was dying and I proposed. How cliche!
The next stop is a bistro on the holodeck. The program is my creation.
I based it on a bar I frequented on Earth, right outside of Marseilles.
Caitlin tells me that I chose that area for my physical training semester at
the Academy, but that is all she will say, except that I did graduate and
receive a commission on the USS Exeter, all of which only confirms my worst
suspicions.
We stay for one drink. I can’t remember the waitress’s name, but she
knows mine and winks. Around 2115 hours, we leave and go to our quarters.
As soon as the doors shut behind us, Caitlin is in my arms.
Holy smokes, is she a live one! My response is hesitant from shock as much as
anything, and she pulls away apologizing. I can’t blame her, I suppose.
Except for the scars, I’m a good-looking guy, albeit with a less than good-
looking record. Yeah, it bothers me. It bothers me a lot.
She disappears into the bathroom to change giving me an opportunity to
poke around. Not bad quarters, all in all. Sleeping area to the left. Closet
to the right. Moderately-sized common area. My fingers glide up the tall,
spiky leaves of a plant. Hers or mine? I cross over to the coffee table.
Two pictures sit on it. She and I are in that bar in both. In one, we’re
in uniform, and she sits in my lap. In the other, she wears a long creamy
dress, quite simple in its bare-shouldered design. Her hair is pinned up
and decorated with ivory rosebuds and lily of the valley. A few soft wisps of
auburn hang down to frame her face. Wow. No wonder my eyes are glued to her
in the picture.
“That’s from our wedding reception.” Caitlin says at my elbow. “You
expected me to wear my uniform, but I saw the dress on shore leave and decided
to surprise you.”
“Did you?”
She laughs. “And how. I thought your eyes were going to fall out of
your head and roll down the aisle.”
“I can see why, too. You look fantastic.” I turn and suck in a
sharp breath.
She wears a long silk nightgown. Its forest green colour really brings
out her eyes. Nice figure. Very nice figure. The breasts hang a little
lower than I expected, but still firm and round beneath the glossy fabric.
Gods, I think I’ve forgotten how to breathe.
Caitlin spins around slowly, even drawing up one side of the gown to
expose a shapely calf. “Do I meet with approval?”
I gulp. “Yeah. Yeah, you do. I couldn’t have picked a better-looking
bride if I tried.”
She laughs and leads me toward the sleeping area. Her hand guides
my head down and she kisses me gently, but with increasing passion. My shirt
is open before I know what is happening, the smooth fabric of her gown brushing
against my chest. Good gods, she’s skillful. I feel her tongue caress
my lips. Oh damn. It’s so easy to oblige her, and so damn hard to stop.
“I’m sorry.” I finally gasp, twisting my head away. “I can’t. Not
now. I don’t know you. I mean, you say you’re my wife, but I don’t even know
who I am, much less who you are. I’m sorry.”
The pain of rejection flickers in her eyes, but she conceals it
quickly. “I understand.” She brings one of my hands to her lips and kisses
the palm before wrapping it securely around her own hand. “Here, let’s get you
some pajamas. You’ll probably feel more comfortable wearing them tonight.”
She opens a drawer and digs out some shorts from the very bottom.
“I guess I don’t wear them too often, huh?”
A mischievous grin creeps across her face. “Not usually.”
“Yeah, somehow I figured that.” I take them from her and go into
the bathroom.
I undress and stare at myself long and hard in the mirror. My fingers
trace slowly over my face and down my torso, exploring each line of muscle and
bone, even the scars. It’s not a bad body. I must keep in shape. Swimming?
Hmm, maybe. I lean close to the mirror. “Who am I?” I ask the reflection.
Its answer is about as helpful as everyone else’s.
When I come out, Caitlin is in bed reading. I stop short. In bed?
With her? She is my wife, or so she says. She throws back the covers on my
side and smiles. It might be cruel to refuse considering how worried Kes
said she was, and then I’d feel guilty on top of feeling uncomfortable.
My stomach knots up as I crawl in.
“Tom, I realize sex is out, and believe me, I understand. But would
you feel terribly uncomfortable if we cuddled? No kissing, just snuggling.”
I hesitate before answering. Her body had felt so good, so damn good,
would it stay just snuggling? I doubted it. I didn’t trust myself.
“I’m sorry, but no. I feel out of place. I don’t know if I can
explain this very well, but, oh hell! I’m sorry, but I just can’t.”
She nods bravely. “It’s all right. I understand. No, really I do.
Amnesia must be very frightening, not knowing who you can trust.”
“No, it’s not just that, but I don’t even know if I can trust myself.
I mean, I look in the mirror and the man I see is a total stranger.”
Caitlin kisses my cheek. “Just remember I trust you. I know I can.”
She turns over and calls for lights out. I slide down in the bed.
I like her. A bit over-sexed, maybe, but that’s not necessarily such a bad
thing, and I think she is trying to understand.
I roll onto my side and stare at the curve of her figure. Gods, I
could make love to her so easily. Without even realizing, my hand touches her
bare shoulder.
She flips over. “Yes?”
So easy. It would be so easy. “Nothing. I’m sorry. Good night.”
I turn away ashamed.
It takes me a while to fall asleep and when I do, I am back in the
shuttle. The passengers scream at me. I scream at myself. Then, I see them,
bent and twisted like the rest of the wreckage. The girl calls to me. I try
to reach her, but the console pins my leg. She coughs and blood trickles from
her mouth.
“NO! NO! Ricki! NO!”
“Tom! Tom! Wake up!” Someone shakes me.
I open my eyes.
“Tom, it’s all right. It’s only a nightmare.”
I pull away and tumble out of bed. It was so real. I killed them.
It was my fault. I killed them. I back into a wall and slide to the floor,
trembling just like last night.
Caitlin comes over and hugs me close. “It’s all right. It was just
a dream. Everything is all right.”
“B-but I killed them. They died because of me.” I want to be sick,
but I can’t let go of her. She is my sole anchor to this reality.
“Shhh. I know. You told me all about it. You called out `Ricki’.
Do you remember who she was?”
“The girl in the shuttle, I guess. The other two were men.”
She nods. “That’s right. You’ll read all about it tomorrow. Now,
let’s get back to bed.
She helps me to my feet and we crawl under the covers. I let her
hold me close. I still feel awkward, but the chill left by my nightmare
overrides that feeble protest. She continues to speak softly, telling me a
story from her childhood. Gradually my pulse slows and I drop off to sleep.

Choices
Part 3

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

I wake the next morning with my stomach still in knots from the dream.
I decide to skip breakfast. After promising not to tell the doctor, Caitlin
leaves me with this thought: she knew all about what happened before Voyager
and she married me anyway. As the doors close behind her, I have to wonder if
she is just crazy or whether love really is blind.
After a shower, I sit down at the terminal. I am afraid to look, but
I have to. I have no choice. The Captain is as good as her word. It is all
there. I’m horrified. Worse still, I am deeply ashamed. I killed three
people and lied about it. I refused to take responsibility. What kind of
person am I? How could Caitlin marry me if she knew this? How could anyone?
And the Captain made me conn officer? Funny, she didn’t strike me
as a softie or a dupe.
I pace the length of both rooms, self-loathing oozing from every pore.
My record on Voyager be hanged, why should any of these people care about me?
I’m a fuck-up who turns and runs. I even came out of prison on a deal to
fink on my former comrades. What a prick! And now I’m married to one
of the same people I was to betray? It doesn’t make sense. None of it.
Throwing myself on the sofa, I stare up at the ceiling. I can still
see that brief flame of pain in Caitlin’s eyes. Maybe it’s for the best–
my amnesia, that is. No one needs me for a husband or a father. I’ll probably
turn tail as soon as labor begins.
My “musings” are interrupted when Caitlin comes in to ask me to lunch.
Gee, time sure flies when you’re having a good time. I decline. I’m not
very hungry.
She sits down beside me on the sofa. “You read your record,
didn’t you?”
“How’d you guess?”
“Your sunny disposition.”
“Figures.” I stare out the window. I can’t look at her.
“You were a pretty mixed-up guy for a while. You made some pretty
stupid mistakes.”
“That’s one way of putting it.”
“We all make mistakes, Tom.”
“Oh yeah? How many people have you killed pulling a stupid stunt?
Did you take the blame for it when you did? I didn’t.” I stand up and move
away.
“Tom, listen to me. All of that happened years ago. You can’t start
blaming yourself all over again. There is no need. You’ve paid your dues.”
“How the hell do I know that? All I know is that I woke up this
morning and discovered that I’ve been guilty of the very qualities I dispise
most in a person, dishonesty and cowardice. Goddammit! Do you have any idea
what that’s like?”
She falls silent for a minute. “No, I don’t, but you have changed
since then. People can, you know.”
“Yeah? Well, I don’t remember changing. For all I know, I still am
a cowardly s.o.b., just biding my time until something better comes along.”
“No! Look at your recent record. Look at me. Do you think for one
minute I would have married you if you were still a self-centered prig?” Her
eyes flash like phasers in my defense.
I shift my gazed toward the wall. “No, I don’t, and that’s part of
the problem. Maybe you shouldn’t have.”
“Shouldn’t have? Of all the fuzzy-headed, cock-eyed-” She breaks off.
Then, she jumps up and grabs my arm, dragging me over to the desk. “That’s it!
Sit!” She pushes me into the chair and disappears into the sleeping area,
returning with two PADDs, which she thrust into my hands. “Here. Read these.”
“What are they?”
“Your journal. When we broke up a second time, you started keeping a
journal. I’ve got no idea what’s in it, but maybe it’ll help you see that
you have changed.”
She walks over to the replicator and requests two peanut butter
and jelly sandwiches and a glass of milk. These, she sets in front of me.
“Promise me you’ll eat while you read. Oh, and if you really want proof, maybe
you should search for entries about Rowan.”
“Who’s Rowan?”
“Our son.” With that, she leaves.

I read all afternoon. I start at the beginning, barely suppressing the
desire to skip ahead after that “our son” remark. Perhaps she is right.
It appears that I do take responsibility now.
One thing is certain. My relationship with Caitlin, be it friendship
or otherwise, has been tumultuous to say the least. I’ve hurt her a lot in the
past, and at times, she has pushed me away with equal force. Yet, as I read,
I discover just how much I loved her and between the lines, through her
actions, I realize how much she loved me. I wonder if I ever told her
about Alana. I wonder why I ever gave this Jenny Delaney a second glance.
Engrossed, I skip dinner, replicating a ham sandwich instead. The hour
grows late. Caitlin comes in, kisses my cheek and goes to bed. Finally, I
reach the point where I began to contemplate marriage and stop. That’s enough
for one day. I know she says yes.
Caitlin lies on her belly facing away from my side of the bed. Her
hair is a cascade of fire on the pillow, and she wears the same nightgown from
last night. My heart thunders in my chest. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t
aroused.
I undress quickly and pull on the shorts. Caitlin turns her head and
watches me settle in. The backs of her fingers slide slowly down my cheek.
She raises up to kiss me with soft restraint. Soldier, seductress, wife, and
last night, almost mother to me.
“Who are you?” I whisper when she frees my mouth.
“Your wife.” She strokes my cheek once more before moving away.
“Good night, Tom.”
I stare at her silent back, consumed by guilt for denying her the
warmth she wants. Yet to me, she is almost another man’s wife, someone I am
slowly coming to know, a friend I could so easily betray.
“I’m sorry, Caitlin.”
A hand reaches back and clutches mine. “I know,” she replies without
turning around. “This won’t be easy for either of us, but I do love you, Tom,
and I will not give up this marriage without a fight.”
“Neither will I.” I promise and close my eyes.
After a while, I hear her get up and go into the bathroom. She is gone
for several minutes. Finally, I tiptoe over. She sobs quietly on the other
side of the door. The sound slices clean through my heart and carves a path
deep into my soul, a pain worse than anything I could ever imagine. My fingers
reach up tentatively and caress the cool, metal door. I don’t know what to do.
So, I stand there, my head against the door, listening, wishing I had the
courage to go in and comfort her, but I don’t, dammit, I don’t.
Presently, she stops crying and I hear water running. I bolt silently
back into bed, pulling the covers up just as the door opens. She climbs in,
once again facing away. I make a vow to speak to her, but in the morning, she
kisses my cheek and is out the door before my eyes are fully open.

For two days I search for the rights words to say. In my journal
entries, she is a very private person, one who holds her own counsel when
confronted with a problem. In fact, a lack of communication appears to have
been our biggest problem on many occasions. But how do I approach her now?
Will she be angry that I eavesdropped on her? Will she be even more hurt by
the fact that I did and did nothing?
The safest thing would be for me just to keep my big mouth shut, yet
whenever I look in the direction of the bathroom, I hear her. I can’t stay
in these quarters knowing I cause her such grief, but I can’t simply pick-up
and leave either. We have to talk. There is no avoiding it. If she gets mad,
she gets mad. So be it.
We eat tonight with Harry, just as we did last night. I hardly say a
word, and she and Harry exchange worried glances throughout the meal.
Afterwards, we head straight back to our room. It’s now or never.
“All right,” she says as the doors shut. “What is bothering you?
You’ve hardly said two words in two days.”
I flop down on the sofa. Our wedding picture sits in front of me and
I try to casually block its view by picking up and setting down the other
picture in front of it. “I’ve been thinking.”
“About?”
“You. Me. Us.”
The blood drains from her face. “I see.” Her body tenses and her
eyes close as if expecting a blow.
“The rules have changed, Caitlin. I’m not the man you married. I may
never be him again.”
“I know that.” She sits down beside me, taking my hand in hers. “I’ve
told myself this over and over. I’ve accepted it.”
“Maybe you have, but it didn’t prevent you from being hurt the other
night. I don’t want to be the source of your pain, Caitlin. I won’t be.”
I pause and take a deep breath. “So if you want a divorce, I won’t fight it.”
“A-a divorce?”
I nod. “In the journals, your happiness meant more to me than
anything. That’s one fact that hasn’t changed. I heard you crying night
before last, and it felt like someone tore my heart out. I don’t want you
sacrificing your happiness because of some admirable sense of duty. I want-”
I stop. If I had slapped her, her face couldn’t have registered more
pain. She drops my hand and walks across the room, keeping her back to me.
A thick silence descends. We are further apart than ever before, and the agony
inside me is heightened, not lessened.
“Caitlin, I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear, but-”
“How can you even propose such a thing?” She asks in a strangled
voice.
“Because I have to. One of us does.”
“No! One of us does not!” She whirls around, her face contorted by
efforts at self-control. “I told you the other night I would not give up
on this marriage. You said you wouldn’t either, and now this? Why are you
so anxious to run away? What have I done to make you want to leave? I’ve
tried to be patient. Have I been too patient? I’ve tried to be loving. Have
I pushed you too far, too fast? Tell me, Tom, please. What have I done?”
“You haven’t done anything. It’s nobody’s fault. The rules have
changed, that’s all. I’ve changed. Things are different now, and I don’t
want to cause you anymore heartache than necessary.”
Her arms close tightly across her chest. “Tom, I know things have
altered. I’m trying my best to adjust, but it takes time. Do you think I got
to know you overnight before? Why should it be any different now? You can’t
even get to know yourself overnight. You’re still learning. Should I be any
different than you?”
“No, I suppose not. But when I heard you the other night-”
“That was a moment of weakness on my part. You’re not the only one
with little voices inside you, you know. The other night mine wondered what I
would do if you decided you didn’t love me. It hurt like hell to consider the
possibility, and the more I tried to push the thought aside, the more firmly
entrenched it became.”
“And rather than turn to me, you locked yourself away and suffered
alone. Tell me, have you always been so stubbornly proud?”
“Always.” She flips back. “It’s one of my more endearing
qualities.”
“Hmph. Look, Caitlin, I won’t lie and say I’m not attracted to you
because I am. You are a very desireable woman, and the old Tom Paris probably
jumped into bed with you whenever he could. He’d have been stupid not to,
but I’m not him. I mean, I am, but I’m not. Almost everything he knew has
been lost to me; I have to re-learn it all. And frankly, that scares the hell
out of me. I don’t want to make the same mistakes again, especially with you.
Can you understand that?”
She nods slowly. “Yes, I think I can. If you need time, Tom, take it.
I don’t mind waiting. Only give us a chance before making your decision.
Please.”
I stare at her. I don’t know what to say, but I do know anyone would
be a fool to let her go so easily. I lean back. “So now what do we do?”
“What do you mean? I’ve already told you where I stand.”
“And I told you where I stood. I just wanted to make sure you knew
you had a way out if it was necessary.” I flash her an innocent grin.
“I guess I didn’t phrase my thoughts too well, did I?”
She doesn’t smile, but her arms do uncoil. “Perhaps I was a bit
defensive. I apologize.”
I glance down at my hands. “I suppose this is usually where we kiss
and make up, huh?”
“Usually, but I’ll settle for a hug instead.” She says, the corners
of her mouth lifting ever so slightly.
“I think I can oblige.” I get up and she meets me halfway.
“I love you, Tom.”
The whispered words surge down my spine, and a warm flush gathers in
my belly. I do like holding her. Our bodies fit so well together. As I
look down, her chin lifts. We gaze at each other. Gods, I could kiss that
mouth so easily. Then do it. Her lips part to receive mine. Do it.
She’s asking you to. Show her you love her. Love her? Do I? I blink
rapidly. What am I thinking? I unclasp her arms from my waist.
“I-I’m sorry.” I say. “I guess I-”
Fingers fly to my lips. “Give it time,” she says. “I’m more than
willing to wait. In the meantime, I think we both could use a relaxing trip to
the holodeck. Come on.” She grabs my hand and pulls me toward the door.
“Where are we going?”
“Trust me.”
As it turns out one of the smaller holodecks is free until 2200 hours.
“Perfect.” Caitlin says with a smile that rings alarm bells in
my head.
“Look, why don’t you go ahead. I’ll go back to our quarters.” I start
to walk away, but she holds fast to my hand.
“Tom, please. Trust me. We can sit at opposite ends of the boat.”
“Boat? What boat?”
“You’ll see. Computer, run program Paris two.”
“Program is running. You may enter when ready.”
“Let’s go.” She says.
The night is soft with a grape-scented mist which surrounds everything,
but clings to nothing–a small breeze won’t allow it. We enter under a curtain
of weeping willows, and I hear waves lap at some unseen shore.
“You used to bring all the women you wanted to seduce here. You even
tried to interest B’Elanna in a trip before we started seeing each other.
We use it more for getting rid of stress.”
“Oh?” I raise a dubious eyebrow as a string of leaves slips through
my fingers. “When was the last time we were here?”
“Five nights ago. We didn’t stay long. The gel packs shut the
program down twice and we, -ah, had other things on our minds.”
“Yeah, I can just imagine what they were.” What else would a guy think
about in a setting like this with an attractive woman? Botany?
“This way,” Caitlin says. “The boat is over here.”
As we pass through the trees, a lake stretches out into the darkness
underneath the clearest sky of stars you could ever hope to see. Across the
small inlet, lights twinkle in a house. I follow Caitlin down a narrow dock
to a small rowboat.
“Get in,” she says.
“Where are we going?”
“Nowhere.”
In the rowboat, plenty of cushions are strategically positioned for
two near the bow. “Um-” I hesitate.
“Oh, will you get in. Even if you don’t give yourself any credit for
self-control, at least give me some.”
“All right, all right. I’m gettin’, I’m gettin’. Geez!”
“Good.” She clambers down gingerly after me. “Now, get comfy. Come
on, lay back. I’ll push us off, and, oof, we’ll just let out the line and
see where the current takes us.”
I look up at the sky. She’s right. It is restful. The waves wash
softly against the sides of the boat like a lullaby. I let my arm dangle over
the edge. The water is surprisingly warm.
“Sometimes, when you’re really tense, you take a swim.”
Hmm, that explains the water temperature. I shrug. “Stupid me.
I forgot my trunks.”
“Don’t let that stop you. I won’t look.” She covers her eyes and
turns her face away.
“Ahh, maybe some other time.” I reply.
“Darn.” She pouts.
“Look, you’re not making this very easy, you know. I told you I was
uncomfortable, and yet every time I turn around, you’re making some suggestive
remark. Are you trying to seduce me?”
Her jaw drops, but she closes it quickly. “I’m sorry. You’re
absolutely right. Old habits die hard, I’m afraid. We’ve always been a very
physical couple, whether in actions or words. I’m going to have to adjust,
that’s all. You’re right to remind me.” She leans back and stares up
at the sky. “Do you remember any of the stars and constellations?”
I look up. “No, but they do look familiar, especially that group of
stars.”
“Which group?”
“Those that almost form a square with a tail.”
“That’s the Big Dipper, I think. You’ve been teaching me their names,
but they’re so different from the stars I grew up with that I have trouble
keeping them straight in my head.”
My gaze drifts downward. “Where did you grow up?”
“The Cardassian border mostly.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right. You told me.”
“You’ve tried to introduce me to little pieces of Earth. Paris,
Venice, San Francisco, Beijing, and a few other cities. It’s been a real
learning experience.” She slides across the boat to sit beside me. “Every
time we come here, you make me pick out a star, learn it and make a wish on it.
You have a very romantic nature.”
“Sounds rather sentimental.” I remark.
“Perhaps, but I think deep down you’ve always liked seeing yourself as
some knight who saves the day and wins the hand of his lady love.”
“No offense, but I’d hardly call you the quintessential damsel
in distress.”
Caitlin laughs. “And you’re hardly a knight in shining armour.”
My jaw tightens and I look out across the dark waters. “You’ve got
that right.”
“Hey.” Her hand guides my face back around. “I didn’t mean it like
that. We both have done things we aren’t proud of. Galahad types are fine
in books, but rarely do they survive in real life. I don’t care if your armor
is a little damaged; mine is, too. We’re survivors, pure and simple, but
even survivors can appreciate starry nights. In fact, maybe we appreciate them
a little more because we are survivors.”
“Maybe.” Gods, she’s beautiful in the moonlight, the stars sparkling
like micro-crystals in blackness of her pupils. A man could lose his soul in
those eyes. Given time, I really think I could fall back in love with her.
The question is can she wait. She says she will, and she’ll try, but even she
can’t hold out forever. I look up at the sky.
“Caitlin?”
“Hmm?”
“Pick a star and make a wish.” I glance back at her. “For both
of us.”
“I already have.” She whispers. “Three guesses what it was.”
A soft hand caresses my cheek, and her lips brush mine lightly. I sit
frozen in shock by the heat of her words, barely aware of my own response until
the merest suck pulls my tongue into her mouth. Instinctively, my body moves
against hers, rolling her back into the pillows. Her fingers tickle the hairs
on my neck. I cover her right breast with my hand, squeezing it gently.
She moans into my mouth, and I feel control slip further and further out of
my grasp. I have to stop this now! I pull away and sit up, my breath coming
in short gasps. She watches me in silence.
“You aren’t going to make this easy for me, are you?” I growl, angry
at both her success and my weakness.
“No. There’s too much at stake.” The fierce glow of determination
in her eyes burns me to a crisp.
I swallow hard. “I suppose there is. The rest of our lives?”
“Yes.”
My gaze flees out over the water. “I’m sorry, Caitlin. For the
accident, the amnesia, everything. I’m sorry.”
“Tom, you don’t need to apologize. The accident and its consequences
weren’t your fault. You can’t blame yourself.”
“Who else can I blame? The shuttlebay floor for being too hard?”
“Try the gel packs or whatever is causing their problem. Blame it on
anything, but yourself.” She pulls me back against her, her arms around my
neck. “It’s not your fault,” she whispers. “Accept that.”
Her fingers run softly through my hair. I close my eyes. She’s back
to being a mother again. Maybe that’s all I am–a big baby. No, I’d have to
be more than that or she wouldn’t have married me. Mmmmm. I could fall asleep
like this. I don’t think she would mind. Hmmm, Paris, Venice, San Francisco,
Como, Bei- Wait a minute! I sit up too fast, tipping the boat precariously.
“What is it? Tom, what’s wrong?”
“Como. Is that the name of this lake?”
“Yes, it is. You remember it? Do you remember anything else?”
I squeeze my eyes shut. C’mon. Think. There’s something else. There
has to be. It can’t just stop with a name. Think! I sigh. Nothing.
“No. Nothing else. Sorry.”
“It’s all right. Something is better than nothing. Shall we call it
a night?” She stands up and offers me her hand.
“Yeah. I guess so. Computer, end program.” I say as I get to my
feet. It’s been a helluva long day. We could both probably use a good night’s
sleep.

“C’mon, you stupid punk, get up! What’s the matter? Had enough,
`Admiral’ Paris?”
I glance up at the figure in the grey jumpsuit, its fists still raised.
My hand clutches my heaving stomach, and I run my tongue over my split lip.
My prison welcome. All around I hear the taunts from both men and women.
“Welcome to Auckland, Tommy boy.”
“Fuckin’ traitor!”
“Don’t hurt him too bad, Jasha. He’s kinda cute.”
The figure above me grins cockily. “You want me to save him for you,
Darsca?” He bends down and grabs the collar of my jumpsuit. “She’ll eat you
alive, pretty boy.”
It’s the chance I need. “Fuck you!” I snarl and my fist connects
with his right eye.
“Owwww!”
My eyes fly open at the howl of pain. Caitlin lies beside me, her hand
clutching the side of her face. Her left eye stares at me in confusion and
fright. Oh shit! I reach for her, and she scoots away almost falling out
of bed.
“Caitlin, wait. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. Please.”
She blinks. “What the hell? Why?”
“It was a dream. A nightmare. I was back in prison. I’m sorry.
I didn’t mean to hit you. I didn’t even know-I-Oh gods, please forgive me.
I’m so sorry. I would never-” I can’t help it. I’m crying. After all she’s
done, I go and repay her this way. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please
forgive me.”
She brings her hand down and draws me into her arms. “Shh. There’s
nothing to forgive. It was an accident. I know you didn’t mean it. Shhh.
It’s all right.”
I look into her face. Her right eye has a reddish purple cast.
“Oh shit.” I whisper, watching her flinch as I gently touch it. “I am
so, so sorry. Everybody will think I’ve been beating you.”
“No, they won’t.” She chuckles. “Everyone knows I can take you any
day in a fight. They’re far more likely to believe that I walked into
something.”
I give a half-hearted snicker. “Really? So you wear the pants in
this relationship, huh?”
“No, we both do. I’ve had more training, but you are pretty handy
in a fight yourself. How the hell do you think you survived your prison
welcome? The guy who was beating you up also landed in the medical ward
courtesy of you fists. You were so angry at yourself and the world back then,
they had to pull you off him. That won you some respect, even at the cost of
two days in solitary. Like I told you earlier tonight, you’re a survivor.”
Her lips brush my forehead.
“How did you know that was what I dreamed?”
“Because you’ve had the dream before. The first time, you smacked me
in the shoulder and scared me half out of my wits. We stayed up the rest of
the night talking about it. You often have nightmares when you’re under a lot
of stress. I’ve learned to expect it.”
I bury my face in her neck. “You’re wonderful. I don’t deserve you.”
Two fingers press against my lips. “Ah-ah-ah. We’ve discussed this
already. You do deserve me, and vice versa. Believe it.” She kisses me once,
twice, until I lose count in my own response.
Our lips part and her tongue touches mine. My hand slides over the
curve of her waist, and I slip a leg between hers. The warmth in my belly
gathers strength as she presses herself against me. What the hell am I doing?
I just hit her and now I’m making love to her? Why don’t you just rape her and
get it over with, you opportunistic sonuvabitch!
“Caitlin, please.” I extract myself from her embrace and sit up,
drawing my legs to my chest to hide my arousal.
She sits up beside me and leans her head on my shoulder. “I know.
It’s okay. Take it slow. I don’t want to push you.” Her hand glides along
my arm.
I grasp her hand and give the fingers a squeeze. Her eye is swelling,
and a fresh pang of guilt wrenches my gut. “I’m sorry. Excuse me.” I pick up
my pillow and head into the other room.
“Where are you going?”
“The couch. I don’t want to risk hitting you again.”
“That’s nonsense. Come back to bed.”
“No, I can’t.”
“Oh for heaven’s sake! Tom, I’m willing to risk-”
“And I’m not! I’m not willing to risk hurting you anymore.”
Her good eye opens wide at my angry tone. “Will-will you come back
tomorrow night? Or will this be permanent?”
I sigh heavily. “I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
I slink to the couch and pull the throw off the back to use as a
blanket. Once or twice, I think I hear a tiny sob, but I’m not sure if it’s
her or me. I roll onto my side and hug the pillow.
Oh gods, Caitlin, I’m so sorry, for everything.

Choices
Part 4

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

It’s been over a week since the accident and still nothing. The Doc
says the longer I go, the less likely I am to recover my memory, unless for
some reason the problem is psychological, rather than physiological.
Right, Doc. I like waking up as half a person or living my life with some
unseen shadow trailing me. Personnel records only tell so much. Even my log
and journal entries only partially illuminate my recent past. My life has
become one huge jigsaw puzzle. Only no matter how I position them, piece after
piece refuses to fit and I toss it aside, hoping I’ll discover its rightful
place later. Perhaps I’ll never know who I really am.
Caitlin tries to remain optimistic. She says we’ll build new memories
together, but she looks worse with each passing day, paler than normal with
deep troughs carved under her eyes. In her off-duty, hours she’s taken me
to the pond where we got married, to Sandrine’s, to Paris (I had to snicker at
that choice), and to Lake Como. Each place has meaning. I know they do.
I can feel it in my gut. But each reason why is lost to me like latinum at a
dabo table.
I keep reading and re-reading parts of my journal, mostly the
stuff about Rowan, hoping it will trigger something in my mind. No such luck.
I can sense the love behind what I’ve written, but I can’t picture him.
He’s like a figment of my imagination. I don’t doubt he existed; I just can’t
remember what he looked like. You can’t re-learn memories. Either you have
them or you don’t. And believe me, when you don’t you feel very alone and
very vulnerable, no matter what the people around you say or do.

Socially, I’ve kept pretty much to myself over the past few days as
I’ve tried to piece my life back together, but for the second afternoon in a
row, Harry stops by and we head to Sandrine’s for a game or two of nine-ball.
At first, I thought Caitlin had put him up to it in order to talk some sense
into my head, but today I get the feeling there’s more to it than just that,
like he has something on his mind.
I lean on the table as he lines up his break. “So, what was I like?”
“Huh?”
“What was I like when we first met? I’ve gotten Caitlin’s perspective.
What’s yours?”
He grins and shoots, scattering the balls, but sinking none. “An ass.”
“That’s what Caitlin says.” I snicker.
“Let’s see. You used to think life was a game.”
“Well, it is, isn’t it? Winners, losers, people who break even. Two
in the corner.”
“Yes, I guess, but you didn’t take any of it seriously until you
started losing.”
“Ricki, huh?” I don’t need the memory; the thought alone is a cold,
hard slap.
He nods. “Among other things, but you still drank. You gambled.
You put the make on half the female crew.”
“Only half?” I bend down to take a shot on the four.
“Some of the women were already taken.” He blows across his knuckles
and dusts them off on his chest. “However, under my patient influence, you
grew to value substance over style and quality over quantity.”
I glance up momentarily and grin. “Your influence? From what Caitlin
told me, I corrupted you.”
“You mean loosened me up.” He laughs. “Yeah, you did that. Influence
can run both ways. You were like a wild older brother I tried to keep on the
straight and narrow.”
“Sounds like a full-time job. Damn.” My shot on the seven sinks the
cue ball, too.
“You got that right. Eight in the side.”
“Caitlin said you and I met in a bar?”
“Mmm-hmm. It was on the space station, Deep Space Nine. The Ferengi
bartender was trying to con me into buying a box of Lobi crystals. He was
succeeding, too, until you stepped in. We’ve been friends ever since, even
when you kept setting me up on double dates while I was trying to be faithful
to Libby.”
“Libby?”
“My old girlfriend back on Earth. For the longest time, I tried to
be faithful, but the longer we were gone, the harder it got. You and Caitlin
finally convinced me to start building a life out here.” He pauses. “When I
first came on board, the First Officer, Cavit, and the doctor, Fitzgerald I
think his name was, tried to warn me away from you. Even you tried to warn
me away. But you know what?” The dark eyes appear to mist slightly, but
maybe it’s my imagination. “I’m glad I didn’t take your advice.”
He’s serious. Really serious. My jaw tightens and I blink away the
lump in my throat. How the hell did I get so lucky, out here, in the middle
of nowhere? “I am, too, Harry.”
He nods and bends to take the final shot. “By the way, things going
okay between you and Caitlin? I’m not trying to pry, but I figure this could
put a lot of strain on a marriage, new or not.”
I knew it. Here we go. I take a deep breath. “We’re hanging in
there. I guess that best sums it up. She’s been super. Patient, caring, you
name it. I couldn’t have handled this whole situation half as well
without her.”
Harry raises up and stares at me quietly. “Do me a favor, Paris.
Tell her.”
What an odd thing to say. Suddenly my stomach rolls into a tight ball.
“Is there something I need to know, Harry?” I ask sharply. “Has she said
something to you? I know I haven’t acted much like a husband lately, but I’ve
really been trying hard to sort myself out.”
“No. No. She hasn’t said anything.” He leans on his stick for a
moment; then, he shakes his head. “Consider it free advice.”
“No. Back up. She’s my wife. If something’s wrong, I need to know.”
“Look, it doesn’t have anything to do with Caitlin. I swear. It’s
simply a little advice.”
I’m so relieved my knees almost buckle, but if it’s not her, then who?
“Is there something on your mind, Harry?” I walk up beside him and lean
against the table. “C’mon, tell your big brother.”
He grins, but only briefly. “B’Elanna and I are having a little
trouble, that’s all. Don’t worry about it. Another game?”
He starts to lean down, and I grab his shoulders. “Whoa, Harry. I’m
your friend, right? Right?”
“Yes.”
“So talk to me. I’d consider it a welcome break to worry about someone
else’s problems.” I motion to the waitress, -er, Sandrine for two more
drinks as I propel Harry toward a table. “So, what’s the matter?”
“Well, for a while now, the ship has been having trouble with the gel
packs. That’s what caused your accident.”
“Right, when the ship lost warp.”
“Exactly. Only the problem isn’t biological like we first thought,
and B’Elanna has been stuck running all these tests to find out what’s wrong.
Or so I thought.”
I take a sip of wine. “Meaning you think it’s an excuse?”
“Not until two nights ago. She’s been pulling a lot of late hours, but
I’m used to it. Once she gets hold of a problem, she won’t let go until it’s
solved. That’s how she is and I accepted that a long time ago, even when it
means I see her only two waking hours out of seventy-two. But three days ago,
she and Orlando discovered the source of the problem, deterioration of the
irudium in the gel, which is why I’m going on that away mission tomorrow.”
“Right. With Caitlin and Chakotay.”
“Yep. Anyway, after she announced the problem was discovered, I
thought `Yea! I’ll finally get to see her’.”
“But you didn’t.”
“Nope, and after 2200, I got dressed and ran by her quarters, but she
wasn’t there. Three guess where she was.”
I shake my head, but only one answer makes sense. “With Orlando?”
“Bingo! First try!” Restrained anger crackles in his voice. “And
guess where she was last night.”
“Orlando’s?”
“Right again! Years ago, when she first came on board she had a crush
on him. A lot of women did. I just had no idea she was so unhappy, you know.
I thought we were doing real well. After you and Caitlin got married, we even
discussed tying the knot.”
“Could that have frightened her?”
“I don’t see how. This was months ago, and I didn’t propose. We
simply talked about the possibility in the future.”
“And she won’t talk to you?” I ask.
“Short of me breaking her door down, no. To be honest, she’s been
avoiding me.”
“Then I don’t know what to say, Harry. Maybe if I could remember more,
I could spot something. The few times she’s eaten with us, she did seem
distant, but I wasn’t sure if that was how she was normally or if she felt
uncomfortable around me, like she’d say the wrong thing. Some people do.
Would you like me to talk to her?”
He shakes his head vehemently. “No, I don’t want to involve you.
Like I said, you’ve got your own problems. Don’t worry. Either we’ll work it
out or we’ll break up. That’s how it goes sometimes.” He shrugs.
I don’t like it. He’s got to be putting on a good face. If they’ve
been together so long, I can’t believe he, or anyone for that matter, would
take this with such nonchalance. Could be he’s one of those people who hold
everything in. Or maybe he’s trying to shield me. Dammit, I’m not made
of glass. Maybe if he thought I was one hundred percent, he’d let it out
and feel better.
“I’m sorry, Harry. Really I am.”
“It’s not your fault.” He slowly rises to his feet. “See you at
dinner?”
“You bet.” I watch him walk through the swinging doors, and then I
think of Caitlin. Nothing is ever permanent. Haven’t I learned that by now?
I go back to our quarters and think about what Harry said. By the
time dinner rolls around, I’ve formulated a plan as to how I can show Caitlin
how much I appreciate all she has endured.
First, I persuade her to take a stroll with me on the holodeck after
dinner. I choose a New England country road during autumn. A low, crumbling
stone wall lines one side of the road, and the maples, oaks, and white birches
are all at their chromatic peaks. The scent of a fire from some unseen
farmhouse fills the air, and a crisp breeze sweeps across the field and scoops
up the fallen leaves, spinning them into colourful mini-tornadoes. Caitlin
crosses her arms over her chest as if she’s cold, and I put my arm around her.
Hers immediately goes around my waist.
“Have I ever brought you here before?”
She shakes her head. “No, but it’s beautiful.”
“Mmm-hmm. Fall in New England. There’s nothing quite like it. Too
bad we can’t see it in the flesh.”
“You mean, you’ve been there?”
“Yes. A couple of times, I think. I keep trying to remember why.
Maybe it had something to do with relatives. I’m not exactly sure, but I know
I’ve been there.”
“Funny.”
“What?”
“Your amnesia. The way you can remember some things and not others.”
“Hmph. Tell me about it. It’s pretty frustrating, too. I can’t tell
if I’m getting a memory back or whether it’s one of those I never lost in the
first place. Most of the ones I didn’t lose are those either from childhood
or from times I’d just as soon forget; it’s the good stuff, like being
with you, that’s more or less gone with the wind. If you’ll excuse the pun,”
I add as a gold leaf flies by.
She snickers and gives my waist a small squeeze. “I don’t know, I’ll
have to think about it. That one was pretty weak, even for you.”
I grin, and after about thirty minutes, we head back to our room.
We reach our door, but I bar her entrance.
“You can’t go in yet.”
Her eyes open wide. “What? Why?”
“I’ve -er got a surprise planned for you and I need five minutes to
get everything ready.”
“A surprise?”
“Yeah. Give me five minutes, no more, no less. Okay?”
Her arms cross and she studies me suspiciously. “All right. Five
minutes.”
I nod and slip inside the room. The time passes quickly and I shut off
the water just as she walks in.
“Okay, Tom, your time is up. You wouldn’t believe some of the looks
I was getting…in the…hall? Tom?”
I step out of the bathroom, wiping my hands on a towel. Caitlin halts
in her tracks and sniffs the air, her eyes opening wide.
I grin nervously. “I drew you a bath. In my journals, I mention how
you like to take them, and I thought I’d draw you one as a kind of thank you.
I know it hasn’t been easy for you, living with me like this, and I just wanted
to show you I appreciate everything you’ve done and put up with. I hope I got
the temperature right.”
Her entire face glows. “Tom, I don’t know what to say.”
“Yeah, well, don’t think too long or the water will get cold. Go on.
I’ve already put your robe and gown in there. I think everything is ready.”
She throws her arms around my neck and kisses me, long and hard, before
retreating into the little oasis I’ve created. I run my fingers over my lips
and smile. Yeah, good going, Thomas. You finally did something right.
I sit down at the desk and pull up the file on flight patterns.
For the past four days, Chakotay has been retraining me on the holodeck.
My fingers know the patterns, but I can’t remember their names. Beta two.
Omega four. It’s all Greek to me. (Bad pun, Thomas, you can do better than
that.) Yet, I activate and fly them without a second thought, although it
doesn’t do much good if the rest of the bridge crew doesn’t know what’s
happening. So, I’ve been “hitting the books” on top of everything else,
and I’m deep in study when arms–filled with the seductive sweetness of
jasmine–encircle my neck and Caitlin kisses my cheek.
“Mmm, thank you.” She says.
“Did I get it right? Temperature, amount of soap, etc.?”
She sits herself down in my lap, her barely covered breasts level with
my mouth. “You got everything right.”
Her fingers weave their way through my hair as she kisses me, coaxing
my mouth open and gently sucking my tongue between her lips. Oh damn. She
frees my mouth and begins leaving a fiery trail up my jaw to my ear. “I love
you.” She whispers.
I close my eyes. It’s so hard to maintain control. “Caitlin, I
didn’t do this to make love to you. I did it because I wanted to-to-ohh shit.”
She strokes my erection through the fabric of my pants while licking
my ear. Oh man. Her fingers, her tongue. Her tongue, her fingers. Her
breasts. I peel away a portion of the silk to expose a tight pink nipple.
She groans in my ear as I circle it with my tongue. My hand slides beneath
her gown. She’s still moist from the bath and growing more so every second.
Shit! I’ll take her right here on the desk if I’m not careful. Gods know,
I’m more than ready to, the way she’s stroking me.
I wrench my head away. “Caitlin, stop. Please. I-” The glow in her
eyes catches the words in my throat. Dear gods, I want her.
She kneels at my feet and runs her hands over my thighs. “Shh. Don’t
think about it, Tom. Just enjoy it.” She says, unfastening my trousers.
“There’s no commitment. I only want to make you feel good.”
My penis pops out, stiff as a rod of duranium, and she cradles its
length in her hand while she kisses it. Ohh geez! Something tells me she more
than knows what she’s doing. I-oh gods!-that feels so good! I don’t think I
could stop her even if the Captain walked in.
I gaze down at the curtain of auburn shielding my view. I run my
fingers through it and pull it back gently. Gods! I knew she was taking me
deep, but watching her–that’s another story entirely. Ohhh man, I’m not
going to last long, not at this rate. Yeah. Yeah…Suck me…Harder…
Oh yeah, that’s it…That’s it…Just like that…Oh damn, you’re good…
Caitlin…So good…Can’t…Hold…Back…I-
“OH GODS!”
My head flies back and my shout echoes in the room. I know someone
walking by outside must have heard me. My head rolls slowly forward and I
watch her tuck my limp little friend back into my underwear, refastening
my trousers as if nothing has happened. She stands up with a big grin on her
face and kisses me. I can taste myself on her tongue.
“Thank you,” she says.
I stare up at her, still a little dazed. “Thank you? Shouldn’t I be
the one-”
She shakes her head. “No, I should. You trusted me enough to give me
the chance. Several days ago you wouldn’t have. Thank you.” She kisses me
again and moves off into the bedroom.
I gaze at the desk, the monitor still on. No way in hell I can study
now. My mind is completely blown. Blown. Ha-ha, good one, Thomas. I shut
off the monitor and walk over the couch. I rub my face to clear my head.
Her scent lingers on my fingers and I feel a twinge of guilt.
Ignoring the butterflies, I strip and go into the bedroom. Crawling
in bed beside her, I begin kissing her back and shoulders.
She rolls over. “What are you doing?”
“Me? Well, um, I thought I’d do you. You know, turn about is fair
play and all that.”
She smiles gently and cups my cheek in her hand. “Thank you for the
offer, but no. Let’s take this slow. I don’t want you to feel obligated to
do anything. I didn’t do that just for you. It was for me, as well.”
“But-”
“No buts, Tom. You may feel a little guilty now, but you might feel
worse in the morning if I let you. I don’t want to take that chance. One step
at a time, remember?”
I shut my eyes. Good going, Thomas, you screwed up again. “Yeah.
Okay. Whatever you say.” I start to get up, but she grabs my arm.
“Tom, please understand. I’m not rejecting you.”
“Sure, I know. I just felt like I owed you, that’s all.”
“All right, fine. You owe me. Tonight, the price is cuddling. I want
you to hold me until I fall asleep. How’s that?”
“Yeah, sure. Whatever.” I lie back and let her snuggle up. “But I
still feel like I’m cheating you somehow.”
“You think so?” She raises up on her elbow and stares me staight in
the eye. “Well, let me tell you something. Ever since the accident, more than
anything else, I’ve wanted to feel your arms around me, not doing anything,
just holding me, making me feel warm and secure. That night you were in
Sickbay, this bed was so empty. I felt alone and cold and scared, and while
you’ve been back, with your self-imposed exile to the couch, those feelings
haven’t gone away. Twice tonight though, you’ve given me hope by showing that
you care about me and that you trust me. I don’t feel nearly as scared or cold
as I did when I sat down at dinner tonight.” Her fingers trace over my lips
and chin. “Tom, you haven’t cheated me at all. Can’t you see that?”
I study her long and hard, letting the words sink in. “Yeah, I guess
maybe I can when you put it like that. You are one amazing person, Caitlin.
How’d you ever fall for an ass like me?”
She laughs and settles into the hollow of my shoulder. “It wasn’t
easy, but the benefits have far out weighed the deficits.”
“I’m glad to hear that.” I caress the slim, pale arm lying across
my chest. This is so much better than the couch. “Sleep well, Caitlin.”
Her arm tightens momentarily. “I will now.”

“Good morning!”
A cheerful voice and a kiss waken me. I blink rapidly. Caitlin sits
on the side of the bed in her robe, her damp hair hanging loose.
“How did you sleep?” I croak.
“Wonderfully. How about you?”
“Can’t complain.” I sit up and rub my eyes. I could get real used to
this off-duty thing, if I’m not careful. I throw back the covers and stumble
into the bathroom.
By the time I step out of the shower, she pokes her head in the door
and waves. “Later,” she calls.
I snatch a towel off the rod and wrap it hastily around my waist.
“Hey! Wait a minute!”
She halts at the door to the corridor and I skid to a stop. No sense
giving the rest of the ship a free show.
“C’mere” I beckon her over so the door will shut.
“What?”
“Be careful, okay?”
“Always am,” she replies lightly.
I grab her arm before she flits away again. “I mean it. From what
I’ve read you and disaster go hand-in-hand on away missions.”
She taps me lightly on the nose. “Whereas you don’t even have to leave
the ship.”
I don’t bother with a retort. I grab the back of her head and kiss
her, long and deep, the kind of kiss she’ll feel all the way down to her toes.
“Whoa,” she gasps. “Where’d that come from?”
“I’m serious, Caitlin. Be careful. I know I haven’t been much of a
husband lately, but I would be lost without you, especially now.”
She stares at me, and her eyes grow moist. A soft hand strokes my
unshaven cheek. “I’ll be all right. I promise.”
“I’m going to hold you to that.”
Her eyes sparkle like green crystals. “Promise?” she asks with an
impudent leer.
“I-uh.”
She places a finger over my lips. “It’s okay. I’ll still be careful.”

I shave and dress, grabbing a late breakfast before heading to the
holodeck. I’m itching to fly this ship for real. Practicing here has only
wetted my appetite, but this morning, I simply stare at the helm controls,
unable to focus my attention enough to start the program.
I keep thinking about Caitlin, what she did, why she did it, how much
I enjoyed `it’ and holding her afterwards. She had fallen asleep almost
immediately, and I had lain there quietly, watching her, marvelling at how
peaceful and lovely she looked. A good night’s sleep. She had needed one
so badly. For the past couple of nights, I had listened to her toss and turn
until a fitful exhaustion overtook her. All of that suffering because of me.
Keeping herself quietly at bay, taking things slow, giving me time and room
to decode my feelings, while she agonized in silence. Then, somehow just
by drawing her a bath and letting her give me a blow job, I had made it all
better.
Geez, Thomas, she really does love you, but that’s not the problem,
is it? The problem is how do you feel about her. How do you feel about her?
Can you spend the rest of your life with her? Do you even want to? Or do you
simply feel grateful because she’s there, in your bed, waiting for you, doing
everything in her power to make you life better? Well? I don’t know, dammit!
But last night, when she went down on me, man, it felt good. I’m
getting hard thinking about it. All right, I’ll admit it. I want to fuck her,
but she was right last night. What if I did and realized it was a mistake?
Gods, it would shatter her, and I can’t do that. Wife or not, she is a
beautiful person, and she doesn’t deserve that kind of pain.
I lean forward in my chair, sprawling my arms and head across the
console. What the hell am I going to do? How can we-
“Kes to Lt. Tom Paris.”
“Go ahead.”
“Tom, the away team requested emergency transport. I thought-”
“On my way! Computer, end program!”
I run the entire distance. Oh dear gods, please let her be safe.
The Captain reaches Sickbay just as I do. Caitlin sits on a biobed while a
technician treats a nasty cut over her left eye. A burn mark on her cheek
awaits treatment.
“Caitlin?” I am by her side.
Her gaze shifts toward me. “I’m okay. Just a little bunged up.
Harry’s hurt bad. He pushed me out of the way and took a phaser hit in
the chest.”
I glance at the next biobed where the Doc and Kes work feverishly.
There’s a black hole in the middle of Harry’s uniform.
“Twenty cc’s cordrazine! Cortical stimulator!”
I look over at the Captain and Chakotay.
“Verdur lied to us.” He says. “The irudium wasn’t his at all. He
stole it. The rightful owners showed up at the meeting place and opened fire,
no questions asked.”
The Captain nods gravely. “How is he, Doctor?”
“Lucky to be alive.” The hologram quips. “Although, I don’t know if
that will continue to be the case. His heart has suffered massive damage to
three of the four chambers.”
“Keep me informed. Commander, I would like to see you and Lt. Paris
in my ready room as soon as possible.”
“Yes, Captain.” Chakotay looks at Caitlin, who nods and hops off the
table. She shoots me a sympathetic look before following him out the door.
I stick around Sickbay. B’Elanna doesn’t show, even though Kes says
she contacted her after me. I wait a little longer. Someone should be here
with him.
It takes two hours before the Doc finally backs away from the bed.
“He’s stabilized for the moment. Any further treatment will have to wait.”
I walk over to the bedside. “Will he make it?”
“I don’t know,” the hologram replies. “At this point, he won’t.
The damage to his heart is far greater than I originally thought. He needs a
replacement.”
“But you can do that, right?”
“I have the skill, yes. But we don’t carry such specialized equipment
on board. One would have to be made, and I don’t know if he has time for that.
I’m sorry,” he adds and walks away.
I look down at the face, deathly pale and so still. My friend. He had
chosen to stand by me, even after learning what an unprincipled cad I was.
He had believed in me before anyone else on this ship. And now he had saved
the most precious thing in my life–Caitlin. How do you begin to thank a guy
for that?
I close my eyes to choke back the tears and all of a sudden, I am
jogging through a corridor with Harry beside me. As we round a bend, we spot
Caitlin and B’Elanna walking ahead of us. I glance at Harry and he drops
behind me.
“One side! One side!” I blast between the two women, my hand moving
down to pinch Caitlin’s right cheek.
“Yeow!”
“Coming through! Coming through!” Harry bellows and B’Elanna yelps.
We both grin at them over our shoulders.
I open my eyes. The world tips, and I clutch the biobed. A memory?
Maybe? Oh gods, please.
The Doctor touches my shoulder. “Lieutenant, are you all right?”
“Yes. I think so.” I give Harry’s shoulder a squeeze. Perhaps there
was something I could do, after all.

Choices
Part 5

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

I hurry back to our quarters and replicate a bottle of scotch and
two glasses. I know he said not to interfere, but what further harm can be
done at this point in time? Within seconds, I stand in front of B’Elanna’s
quarters.
“Go away.”
The door is unlocked so I ignore the request. “Wrong answer.”
Her face is white-hot with fury. “Get out! Get out or I’ll throw
you out!”
Yikes! I forgot about her Klingon half. She probably could at that.
Remember Harry, Thomas. This is for him.
“Look,” I say as casually as I can. “I just needed a drink, and I
didn’t want to drink alone.”
“That’s never stopped you before.”
“No? Well, I thought you might want to join me.” I hold out a glass.
“No.”
“C’mon.”
“I said, no.”
“Fine, fine.” I sit down on the couch, much to her annoyance, pour out
a shot and down it for courage. “I’ll just drown my own sorrows then.”
Slowly, she sits down at the other end of the sofa. “Is he that bad?”
“Who?”
“Harry.”
I lean back. “He’s not good, B’Elanna. He took a shot in the chest.
The Doc’s doing his best, but it’s not enough. If we were back home, they
could pop in a replacement, but out here, well, you know.”
Her hands ball up into two white-knuckled fists. “I think I will take
that drink now, Paris.”
“Sure. No problem.” I pour out one for her and another for myself.
We drain the glasses and she holds hers out again.
“I suppose you think I should be with him.”
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.” I reply, refilling both glasses.
She peers into the amber liquid. “I don’t deserve to be.”
“Can I ask why?”
“Why not? You probably already know.” She smirks and empties her
glass.
“Okay. Why?”
“Because of what I’ve done.”
“What did you do?”
“Oh, come off it, Paris! You know! Everyone knows! The whole ship
has been talking about it for weeks now!” She slams down her glass and begins
to stalk up and down before me.
“Ah, hello? B’Elanna? In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t exactly
been myself lately.”
She stops in her tracks. “Oh. Right. Sorry. See Rafael Orlando and
I have been working closely together to solve the problem with the gel packs.
He’s very charming and people started to talk.”
“Talk is talk. I’m sure I’ve had my share.”
The full lips crinkle a little at that remark. “You could say that.
Ask Caitlin about Jenny Delaney and watch her reaction.”
“I’m not an idiot, thank you.” I toss back my shot. “I’ve studied my
journal entries enough to know that’s one subject I stay away from. Far away.
Anyhow, we were talking about you.”
“Well, like you say, talk is talk, and I ignored it, but then Harry
got jealous. He didn’t accuse me or anything; he’s not that way. I could just
tell he tensed whenever I mentioned Rafael’s name. It made me angry that he
didn’t trust me, and the longer the project went on, the more stressed he
became, and the angrier I got.”
“Did you try to talk with Harry?”
“Of course, but he said nothing was wrong. Anyway, I started spending
more time with Rafael, out of defiance, as an escape, I don’t know. But I
swear to you it was only as friends until-” The dark eyes drop to the floor.
“Until?” I prod and refill the glasses.
She glances at the door like it’s an escape hatch on an exploding ship.
“Until three days ago.” She retakes her seat, her chin drooping to her chest.
“I don’t even know how it happened. One minute we were joking around,
celebrating our success at solving the problem and the next we were kissing.
I could have stopped it right there. I should have, but I didn’t. It was my
ultimate expression of anger at Harry. He didn’t trust me, and I was going to
show him, but all I did was prove him right.”
“Was it just the one night?”
“Yes. The next evening Rafael and I talked about what had happened.
Neither one of us was very comfortable with what occurred or the repercussions.
Since then, I’ve avoided Harry out of guilt. I can’t face him. I never wanted
to hurt him like this.”
We both fall silent and empty our glasses. She reaches for the bottle,
offering to refill mine. I decline. I’m feeling a little warm already.
I take a deep breath. “B’Elanna, I’ll be honest. You’re going to have
to make a decision. I think you already know that. You either stay with Harry
or you leave him. To leave, in some respects, is the easier choice, but if you
leave, you’re turning your back on a great guy who loves you. He said as much
to me yesterday. On the other hand, if you stay, you’re looking at a damaged
relationship that will never be quite the same again. Is your relationship
with Harry worth the effort? Do you love him?”
“I don’t know. I thought I did, but if I had, would I have-”
“No, forget Orlando. He doesn’t enter the picture. Think of Harry.
Think of all the good and bad times you’ve had together. Now listen to your
gut. What does it say?”
Her eyes close, the ridged brow knotting in concentration. “I don’t
know. I do care about him, but I feel so guilty. You don’t betray one’s mate.
And now with him lying in Sickbay,” A gleaming tear wriggles from between the
dark lashes. “I could lose him even after I decide.”
I scoot across the sofa and put my arm around her shoulders. “You
haven’t lost him yet, and when he wakes, he’s going to need someone to help
him recover. Do you want to be that someone?”
She gives a brief laugh. “Harry always says my bedside manner is worse
than the Doctor’s. He says it gets him back on duty twice as fast.” She drags
the back of her hand across her cheek. “You know, when you grow up like I did
with my dad walking out, you never see relationships as permanent, and anytime
the other person does the leaving, it drags all that pain to the surface again.
But I’ve never been afraid of that with Harry. I’ve always known he would
stand by me as a friend or as a lover.”
“Sickbay to Lt. Torres.”
Her eyes widen considerably and dart up to mine. “Go ahead, Doctor.”
“Could you come up here, please. A situation has arisen in which your
assistance would prove invaluable.”
“H-Harry?”
“Yes, it involves Ensign Kim and time is of the essence.”
“I’ll be right there.” She stands up and nervously smoothes her
uniform.
“Will you be okay? Do you want me to come with you?” I ask.
“No. I can handle this. He needs me.”
“All right, but if you need someone, come find me.”
“I will.” She pauses at the door. “Thanks, Tom.”
“No charge.”
I sit back as she disappears. There, Harry, I’ve done what I can.
I wish I could do more. With a heavy sigh, I get to my feet, picking up the
bottle and the glasses. I toss the glasses down the reclamator. I don’t need
them anymore. I can drink straight from the bottle.
When I get back to our quarters, I don’t bother with the couch.
The floor suits my needs. I plop down and dump a big load of scotch down my
throat. It burns like a plasma stream. I need that. I want it to hurt.
And then I want someone with dusky red hair to put their arms around me and
make it all better.
Everything is falling apart. Voyager. Harry and B’Elanna. Harry
himself. I don’t know how much longer Caitlin and I can last as we are.
She wasn’t fooling me last night with that take it slow and trust stuff. She
knows there’s nothing left to save. We’ve been kidding ourselves.
Let’s be honest, Thomas. You need her a helluva lot more than she
needs you. Look at yourself. All this time, Caitlin’s been so strong,
suffering in silence, but always putting on a smile for you, encouraging you,
and look at youself! Sitting on the floor, crying into a scotch bottle.
She needs someone like you like she needs a hole in the head.
Oh, but you need her, don’t you, little man? How could you have gotten
through this without her? She’s what has kept you going, isn’t she? She’s
what has kept you poking around in that dust-covered attic you call a brain.
She and the thought of flying this ship. You’re pathetic. You couldn’t leave
her now if you tried.
For gods’ sake, why did you stay in the first place? You knew from
the beginning it would be a mistake. Why did you agree to stay? You’ve only
compounded the heartache. Did you think it would get any easier to cut her
loose as time went along? Or were you simply foolish enough to believe things
could be what they once were? Or maybe, maybe you were just too afraid to face
all this on your own? That’s it, isn’t it? That’s what it all boils down to.
Your fear. Your cowardice. Always wanting to be the venerated hero and
failing miserably. How many lives did you ruin this time, Paladin?
No! No, that can’t be it. It just can’t be! Oh gods, why did this
have to happen? Why? Because illusions never last, Thomas. You should know
that by now. Sooner or later, reality catches up with you. But this wasn’t
an illusion. This was my life, and I want it back. Is that too much to ask?
Dammit, I’ve worked too hard for this. I want things back the way they were,
whatever that was. I want my life back. I want to know who I am.

Caitlin finds me later still sitting on the floor of our darkened
quarters. I give her a hopeless grin. “Hi, honey. I’m home.” I spread my
arms and knock over the bottle. A little of the amber liquid spills onto the
carpet. “Oops.”
She frowns and picks up the bottle. “How much have you drunk?”
“Not nearly enough. Gimme.”
She dumps the bottle down the reclamator. “I don’t think so. You’ve
had enough.”
“Are you mad?” I sit bolt upright. “Do you know how much that stuff
cost me?”
“Mmm-hmm.”
I sigh and sink back against the sofa. I’m in no condition to fight
with her. I don’t want to anyway. I lean forward and bury my face in
my hands.
Caitlin kneels beside me. “Tom-” she begins.
I can’t help it. I throw my arms around her and she cradles my head
against her breast. The tears which have been simmering below the surface
pour down my face and onto her uniform. She rocks me gently, smoothing
my hair.
“Shhh. He’ll be all right. Shh. Everything will be just fine.”
I cling to her, reassured by the beat of her heart, drawing strength
from it. “Caitlin, please don’t leave me. I need you.”
“It’s all right. I’m here. I’m not going to leave.”
I look up, her image shimmering through my tears. She is so beautiful,
both inside and out. “I’m sorry.” I drag the heel of my palm across
my cheeks. “I didn’t mean to fall apart like this.”
She nods. “It’s all right. We all have to from time to time.” She
sits down beside me and takes my left hand in hers. “I stopped by Sickbay.
B’Elanna’s helping the Doctor construct a artificial heart. Harry won’t make
it without one.”
“I know. The Doc said as much to me earlier. Did you know about the
trouble she and Harry were having?”
She nods. “I had heard the rumors, if that’s what you mean, but I’ve
hardly seen her. She’s been keeping strange hours lately, and over the past
week, my attention has been focused a little closer to home.”
I stare at our clasped hands. “Yeah, I guess it has at that.”
“Hey.” She lifts my chin until our eyes meet. “You come first.”
I catch her hand and press her fingers to my lips. “Caitlin, I-I
don’t know how I’ll ever be able to thank you. You’ve been so supportive and
patient.”
“Patient? Me? Never.” She grins.
“Yes. You.” I reply with all seriousness.
The saucy grin vanishes, leaving in its wake an expression of fragile
hope. If she keeps looking at me like this, I know I will kiss her. My hand
slips behind her head and pulls her closer to me. Only millimeters separate
our lips when the door chimes. I release her and struggle to my feet,
tottering into the bathroom as she gets the door.
I lean heavily on the basin, hating whoever rang the chime and then
thanking them silently for stopping me before I promised her more than I could
deliver. The cold water runs over my fingers. I splash my face and cup
my hands, taking several swallows. As I dry off, I check the mirror. Thomas,
you look like hell. “Tell me something I don’t know,” I reply.
When I finally open the bathroom door, Caitlin stands beside the bed
in her robe. The pile of clothes on the floor tells me she is naked
beneath it, and I feel the familiar warmth gather in my stomach.
“Who was at the door?” I ask. “Was it about Harry?”
She shakes her head and walks slowly toward me, the robe opening wider
with each stride. I meet her halfway, the heat flowing into my belly in a
torrent.
“Tom, please. I need you.” Her mossy eyes swim in tears.
I incline my head and kiss her, feeling the robe slip away in advance
of my fingers. It falls in a crumpled heap to the floor, and she kneels
to help me off with my boots. As she tosses them aside, I kneel and let
my lips trace the path of her shoulder up to her neck. She moans softly and
opens the front of my shirt. I place my right hand under her breast and thumb
the tight nipple gently. Her arms encircle my neck and we kiss. Gradually,
her hands slip lower, exploring my chest until she reaches the waistband of
my pants.
I am so hard I can hardly see straight. Through the fabric, her
fingers stroke my erection. “Please.” I groan and feel the waistband open.
Pulling away for one moment, I rip off my shirt and toss it blindly
aside. Caitlin spreads her robe on the floor and presses me down onto it.
“Here?”
“Now.” She says, caressing the flesh on my neck with her teeth.
Her nails rake lightly down my flanks and tiny stars dance in my head.
I shudder beneath her. Cait. It’s what I called her in the journals; it’s
what I call her now. She purrs and slips down further to remove the rest of
my clothes.
Once they’re gone, she crouches between my legs and traces the scars
on my stomach and thighs with feather-light kisses. Conscious thought?
What’s that? She laughs quietly. I raise my head to smile at her, but let it
fall back as she begins to kiss my balls. Ohh gods. Didn’t last night teach
me anything? She licks the head of my penis, once, twice, bathing its entire
length with her tongue; then, she swallows it whole in one moist stroke. Damn.
This isn’t fair. She knows how to turn me into jelly. How could I ever
forget this?
I bite my lip, but a groan escapes, and she moves up to catch
the next one in her mouth as she envelopes me with an exquisite swiftness.
Ohhh gods. She feels so good. . .Rocking back and forth. . .Fucking herself
. . .On me. . .Slow. . .Oh yeah, drives me crazy. . .Nice and slow. . .
Ohh gods, try to hold back. . .So hard. . .Speeding up. . .Must be close
herself. . .I hear it. . .My name. . .”Tom, I love you”. . .Trying to hold. . .
Can’t. . .Can’t hold back. . .Ohhhh gods!
“Cait, I love you!”
She tosses her head back with a loud moan. You can hear us in the
corridor probably. Who cares? She falls forward onto my chest and I hug
her tightly.
For several minutes, we don’t move. I’m still inside her, a little
limp, but not for long. She raises up on her elbows and we stare at each
other, tongue-tied. Finally, she leans down and her lips brush mine.
“Thank you.”
“For what?” I reply glibly and quickly realize it’s the wrong thing
to say when her eyes dart away. “Sorry.” I whisper and bring her head down
to kiss her again, taking my time, exploring her mouth gently and thoroughly
with none of our earlier desperation. “Bed?” I ask hopefully.
“It might be more comfortable,” she says with a tiny grin.
I nod in agreement and instantly regret it as she pulls away, leaving
me cold and vulnerable. I think that I can’t get back inside her fast enough,
but once we lie down, we take it step-by-step, touching, kissing, cuddling,
becoming reacquainted all over again, and my fear vanishes long before I move
between her legs.

Choices
Part 6

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

I wake the next morning before the alarm. The bed is a mess.
The floor is a mess. But we aren’t. At least, I hope not. Cait lies in my
arms, the strength she has shown over the past week stripped away. She looks
as vulnerable as a seduced virgin. I lift my head to kiss her and she hums
in drowsy pleasure.
*BEEEP!*
With a groan, she reaches over me and shuts off the alarm. “Good
morning,” she mumbles.
“Good morning to you.”
Her sleepy eyes fly open, glancing at me and the clothes scattered
across the floor. I smile to dispel her fears.
“You-you don’t have a problem with-” She stammers.
“With what we did? No. No problem. I enjoyed it. Really,” I add,
stroking her cheek with my finger.
“But I promised we’d take it slow. I don’t want you to feel guilty
about what we did.”
“I don’t. What we did felt so right no argument could have
overridden it. We’ve needed each other for over a week, but I’ve been too
confused to allow myself to admit it, until last night, that is.” I say
with a mischievous grin.
Her eyes glisten like polished crystals. “Then you won’t mind if I
kiss you?”
“Mind? I insist on it. This very minute.” I flip her onto her back,
pinning her beneath me.
Her feet stroke the back of my calves, and I nibble at a violet splotch
I left on her neck. She groans and her back arches sharply.
“Hmm. I’ll have to remember that spot.” I whisper. “I can’t be the
only one turned into jelly around here.”
“We’ll see.” She rakes her nails over my buttocks and lower back, and
the room twists like a glitter-filled kaleidoscope.
I grope desperately for some measure of control. “You play dirty.”
I growl. “I’m going to have to teach you a lesson.”
Cait giggles. “Oh, you should. I’ve been such a bad girl.”
Several minutes of “painful punishment” later, we lie back in relative
contentment. I seize her earlobe in my teeth and emit an evil chuckle. “And
now that I know just what you like, my dear wife…”
“I’ll be putty in your hands.” She finishes with a smile. “Mmmm,
sounds divine.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” I ask, pulling her closer.
She raises her head and glances at the chronometer. “Oh shit!”
She bolts for the bathroom, snatching up her robe along the way. I lie back
and stretch, fully intending to join her once the water comes on. Maybe it’s
a good thing she doesn’t have the day off. If she did, I’m not sure either one
of us would be able to move tomorrow morning.
“Oh gods!” Something clatters to the floor.
“Cait?” I’m up in a flash. “Cait, what’s wrong?”
She sits on the side of the tub, pale and shaking, a tricorder open at
her feet. “I didn’t know. Oh gods, I didn’t know.” She mutters and looks up
at me pleadingly. “After your accident, I didn’t think to check.”
I kneel before her and pick up the tricorder. Elevated HCG levels.
Pregnant! Almost two weeks by the scan. Our eyes meet again, hers dialated
by more than a touch of fear.
“How do you feel about this?” she asks.
I sit back on my heels, numbed by the shock. “Does it matter?”
“Yes. It matters very much.”
“In all honesty, I don’t know. I mean, I can’t even remember knowing
you for that long.”
Her gaze drops to the floor. “I’m sorry. I had no idea. If I had-”
I tilt her chin up. “Hey, if you had, how would that have changed
things? Look, maybe I haven’t sorted out how I feel, but I do think I know how
the other Tom Paris would feel.”
Her eyes open wide. “You do?”
The tricorder clatters to the ground for a second time. I clasp her
face gently between my hands and kiss her repeatedly. “And I think he would
tell you that you were beautiful and that he loved you and that he is scared
out of his wits, just like me.” I grin, forcing a giggle from her.
“You aren’t the only one.” She says. “I have to go to Sickbay for
confirmation. Then, I’ll request Tuvok to restrict me to bridge and
administrative duties.” She studies me for a moment. “Are you sure you’re
all right with this?”
“I’m not sure of anything at the moment, to be quite honest, but you’re
having my child, and that fact alone puts me by your side.” I get to my feet
and offer her a hand up. “Shower for three, mother-to-be?”
She bites back more than a smile as she rises. “Please.”
“Right this way, then. We have a standard Starfl-whoops!”
Cait grabs my arm and spins me toward her. Without a word, she wraps
her arms around my neck and kisses me. “I love you, Tom Paris, whichever one
you are.”
I return the kiss without any hesitation and then turn on the shower.
She steps in and I follow, my feet no longer touching the tiles, but floating
a centimeter or two above them. I don’t know why I’m so happy. I should be
nervous as hell, and I am, believe me. Yet, beneath that, there is something
else, something much stronger. Love maybe? I said I loved her last night,
but that was during the ever-compromising heat of the moment. Does it still
hold true now?
I rub the soap over her shoulders, down the curve of her back, and
around to the pale, flat stomach. She glances up and smiles as my hand dawdles
on her belly. I swear, even though I know it’s impossible, I swear I feel the
tiny life in there, the life I helped put in there, the life she *wants*
in there. Her lips lift to mine and we kiss. I feel both warm and cold at the
same time, and I realize at that moment I’ll do anything to protect the both
of them. They are my life now.

We dress and head down to Sickbay, grinning and holding hands
like teenagers. Too hell with PDA regulations. As the doors open, we
halt abruptly, the smiles fading quickly from both our lips. The Doctor and
Kes stand in the surgical bay bending over Harry. Oh shit! I had forgotten.
Harry, I’m sorry. My earlier happiness crumbles to dust.
Cait squeezes my arm. “We’ll come back later.”
“No. No, I want to stay. Give me the tricorder. I’ll see that the
Doc gets the readings.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Go on or you’ll be late.” I try to smile, but fail miserably.
His life for that of my child. Why? Why did there have to be a choice?
Cait kisses me. “I’ll find you later. It’s not your fault,” she adds.
“Harry would have wanted us to be happy.”
“I know.” I stare down at the floor, not quite willing to forgive
myself just yet.
She casts one last glance at the surgical bay and leaves. I walk over
and hop up on the biobed closest to them.
“Is there something you need, Lieutenant?” The Doctor asks with more
than his usual impatience. “We are rather busy at the moment.”
“It can wait. How’s he doing?”
“So far, so good.” Kes replies. “There has been no sign of rejection
and the device, itself, is working perfectly. B’Elanna and the Doctor worked
all night to create it.”
“Where is B’Elanna?”
“I ordered her to her quarters.” The Doc says. “She seemed to be
under the erroneous assumption that, like me, she did not need sleep. There.
I believe we’re ready to close. Micro suture.”
“How long before he regains consciousness?”
“A few hours if all goes as it should, and I see no reason why it
shouldn’t. By the way, what is the tricorder for?” He nods at the device
sitting beside me on the bed.
“What? Oh, that. It has Cait’s readings for you to check.”
Kes’s blue eyes glow with excitement. “Tom, do you mean?”
“I think so. Two weeks by my interpretation.” I grin nervously.
“Pretty amazing, huh?”
“Amazing? I might go so far as to say miraculous.” The Doctor quips.
“Doctor.” Kes chides softly.
“He knows I’m being facetious.” He replies defensively and then
smiles. “Congratulations, Lieutenant.”
“Thanks, Doc.”
After receiving confirmation of Cait’s readings, I dash back to our
quarters and return with a PADD of my homework. It’s going to be a long wait,
but I want Harry to be the first person I tell outside Kes and the Doc. I owe
him that.
B’Elanna stops by at 1045 hours. She looks almost as bad as Harry,
with the dark circles under her eyes and a new, seemingly permanent crease of
worry in her brow. “How is he?” she asks.
“Holding his own.” I reply softly. “The heart’s working fine
according to the Doc. I’m just waiting around because I’ve got nothing better
to do.”
She smiles. “Yeah, right, Tom. I believe that.” Her hand moves
gently over Harry’s face, tracing the features with an extraordinary depth of
feeling, her fingertips doing what her lips would do only in private. “You
are right, Tom. I don’t want to lose him. I want to be here for him.”
“I thought as much. And I’m willing to bet he feels the same way.
He strikes me as a very forgiving person.”
“I hope so.” She squeezes the pale hand, holding it briefly up to
her own heart. “I have to get back to Engineering. If he asks, tell him I
was here.” I think she’s so tired and torn up she could be a puddle of tears
at the snap of a finger, but she clears her throat and draws herself together.
Strong, just like Cait.
“I’ll tell him, B’Elanna.” Whether he asks or not, I add silently.
“Thanks, Tom. You’re a good friend, to both of us.”
“No problem.”
She almost walks past me, but then turns and gives me a quick hug.
“I almost forgot. Congratulations.”
“Wha-? Oh, thanks. How did you hear?”
“Rollins switched positions with Caitlin, and through him Sutherland
found out, and Nicoletti overheard the conversation, and well, it’s spreading
like wildfire throughout Engineering and probably through the rest of the ship,
as well. Another infant in the nursery. Harry will be thrilled.”
I shake my head. “Great. The first person I want to know is going to
be the last person to find out at this rate.” I glance over at my friend.
“But he’s going to hear it from me, not some grapevine.”
“He’ll like that even better. I’ll stop by later.”
I pick up the PADD I had put down. “Sure. See ya.”

It’s almost 1200 hours before he stirs. I am by his side like a shot.
“Paris?” he asks weakly.
“Hey buddy, how do you feel?” I smile down hopefully.
“Like someone kicked me in the chest over and over again.”
“You took a phaser shot there. You saved Cait’s life. You pushed her
out of the way and got shot in the process.”
“Oh.” He frowns. “Right. I kind of remember.”
“The Doc and B’Elanna created an artificial heart for you. It was put
in this morning.”
“The Doc and-and B’Elanna?” The lead-lidded eyes widen ever so
slightly.
“That’s right. Look, I know you said not to, but I talked with her.
In fact, she was here just a little over an hour ago. She still loves you,
Harry. I hope you can give her another chance.”
“I-I don’t know. I-”
“No. Don’t decide now. Wait until your head clears.” Then, I grin.
I can’t hold it back any longer. “The Doc’s going to kick me out soon, but
before I go, I want you to be the first person I tell this tidbit. Are you
ready for a shock?”
He frowns again. “You’ve got lousy timing, Paris. Replace a man’s
ticker and you want to give him a shock?”
“It’s good news. I promise.”
“Okay. What is it?” He sighs wearily and I can feel the Doc’s
needle-like glare pricking my shoulders.
“Cait’s pregnant. You didn’t just save her; you saved our baby, too.”
My voice crumbles. “I’ll never forget this, Harry. Never. Neither will
my kid.”
He smiles as best he can in his condition. “It’s okay. You would’ve
done the same for me. When’s she due?”
“Not for eight months, at least, thank the gods. If she went into
labor now, I-”
“You’d be right there beside her.” He squeezes my hand slightly.
“No charge, Tom. There never is between friends.”

********************

It’s been four weeks since my accident, and I think some of the pieces
of the Tom Paris jigsaw puzzle are finally starting to fit. Even Voyager is
back to her old self, thanks to some scrounging by Neelix.
Harry is up and about, but still taking it easy under B’Elanna’s
protective glare. The Doc says the replacement is doing well and Harry should
make a full recovery. I hold out the same hope for his and B’Elanna’s
relationship.
Tonight, I took Cait to Lake Como to stare up at the stars, but she
couldn’t take the waves. I barely shut the program down in time. Poor kid.
She’s having a devil of a time with morning, noon, and night sickness. It has
her going to bed almost two hours earlier than normal.
A few minutes ago, I tiptoed in and brought the covers up around her
shoulders, before sitting down to watch her sleep. Ours. Our child.
Somewhere beneath that still flat stomach our child grows. It doesn’t seem
possible, and yet, it is. Tricorders don’t lie about these things. Neither
do holograms. Maybe once it starts to show, I’ll believe it, but maybe not
even then.
Every hour, I jump back and forth between nervousness, excitement,
ecstasy and downright terror. No matter how much I read or discuss the matter
with other fathers, I don’t feel prepared to handle the upcoming events.
I mean, once you’re on this ride, it doesn’t stop, and I wonder just how good a
father I can be. And then, I think of Rowan. Like some of my other memories,
I can recall him in brief snatches now. I can remember telling him stories and
holding him. It calms me down, and I think, yeah, I can do this. Piece of
cake. Riiight, Thomas.
But this is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Loving someone and creating
something out of that love. Amazing. The whole thing is simply amazing:
Cait, the child, the process, everything.
It’s getting kind of late now. I should probably get some sleep, too.
I’ve only been back on-duty for four days. It wouldn’t look good for me to be
late in the morning.
I undress and crawl under the covers, snuggling up to Cait and placing
my hand protectively on her belly. Goodnight, little Madeleine or Harry,
whichever you may be. Try not to make your mom quite so sick in the morning.
Goodnight, Cait. I love you. I’ll always love you.

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