The Paris Journals: Disintegration, vol. I

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Subject: VOY: Disintegration
Date: 22 Nov 1995 12:23:28 GMT
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DISCLAIMERS: The original characters belong to Paramount. The story, the
character of Caitlin Matthews, and the crew of the Mekon-Rai
are my creation, however. All quotations which proceed each
story can be found in `The American Night’, a collection of
the writings of Jim Morrison.

WARNING: This story does contain what some might consider slightly offensive
material. If you are under seventeen or of a delicate nature,
consider yourself forewarned.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. I
by Carly Hunter
copyright 1995

Disintegration
part 1

“A Monster arrived
in the mirror
To mock the room
& its fool
alone”

_______________________________________________________________________________

I guess the sh*t really hit the fan about four months ago. Cait and I
had been together for a little over three years, the longest I’d ever been with
any one person. In a way it’s funny because she isn’t what I ever considered
my type. Harry’s fond of saying that I always choose the ones who’ll best set
me up for rejection. Selfish, pretty, and sometimes already taken; it never
really mattered. They’d use me; I’d use them, and that was that. But Cait was
completely dissimilar. Not that she’s not pretty; she’s very attractive, (91-
68-91, if I remember correctly), but still not the raving beauty I usually go
for. Her beauty comes from within her, fiesty, arrogant and puckish to
the extreme, a lot like me, I guess, depending on who you ask.
We started out as adversaries, who somehow tumbled into bed. After
that, it was total acceptance for the most part. She knew who I was; I knew
who she was, and we took it from there. Competitors, teammates, lovers. Gods,
were we lovers. She was great in or out of bed. Sometimes at night, I dream
about her and wake up as hard as duranium. I really miss her body. Hell! I
really miss her.
All my life, I’ve fallen in and out of love easily, but this, this is
something else entirely. Before whenever I left a woman or she left me, it was
just a matter of revelling in the ache, gaining a little sympathy, and finding
someone new, if I hadn’t already. The whole procedure usually took about a
week or two, and I could plot it on a calendar like a flight path on a star-
chart. This time, though, the ache won’t leave, and it’s ten times worse than
it’s ever been, even for Ricki.
Anyway, the final split, itself, occurred about three months ago.
Although, it had been building for a couple of weeks prior to that; we just
didn’t want to see it. I had hit the scotch bottle pretty good the previous
night after an argument and done something truly idiotic, like not going
home. . .

“Get out!”
I ducked low as a metal bowl whizzed past my head. She’s always had
a good arm. “Cait, wait a minute. Let me explain.”
She momentarily halted her wind-up. “Explain? There’s nothing to
explain. You stayed out all night, and then this morning I saw you and Jenny
Delaney kissing outside her quarters. I don’t think further explanations are
necessary. Or had you forgotten that last little detail?”
I rubbed my jaw gently. “Forget? How can I? It still hurts where
you slugged me, even after visiting sickbay seven hours ago. C’mon, Cait.
Please listen to me.” I dodged yet another projectile.
“I said, get out!”
“This is my room, too. Where the hell am I supposed to sleep? No!
Cait, please don’t throw that!”
Luckily, she didn’t throw the small, fragile dish, but she continued
to hold it in readiness. “You can sleep in the Jeffrey’s tubes for all I care.
They’re more than large enough for rodents like yourself.”
“Cait, please listen to me. Nothing happened. Ask Jenny; she’ll
tell you.”
“I already did, and do you know what she said?”
I shook my head. I didn’t know, but by Cait’s reaction, I could guess.
Although why Delaney would lie eluded me at the time. I just stared at Cait.
I had never seen her so angry, even during our fight the night before which had
started the whole ball rolling. But there was nothing I could do; it was
beyond my control now. “Okay, okay. I’m leaving, but I’m not lying to you.
Nothing happened. I wouldn’t cheat on you.” It really rankled me that she
distrusted me in that way; however, given the circumstantial evidence, I can
see how I might have drawn the same conclusion.
A few minutes later, I found myself outside of Harry’s quarters, and I
could hear music, so I knew he was home. This was embarrassing, but I had
nowhere else to go. A couple of months ago, I had convinced Cait to share my
larger quarters on an official basis. It was all part of my campaign of easing
her toward marriage and eventually, kids. Yet ever since she moved in, we had
argued almost constantly; stepping on each other’s toes, with her especially
missing little moments of privacy. Going in, I had known it wasn’t going to be
easy, but I really hadn’t expected the amount of conflict which had since
ensued.
Harry stopped playing and called `come in’; so swallowing my pride, I
entered. “Hey, Harry, would you mind terribly if I bunked with you tonight?
Tomorrow gonna be a real early call for me, and I, uh-.”
He looked up from his music. “Caitlin throw you out?”
My cover was blown. *’Fess up, Thomas.* “And how. I can’t blame her
in one sense. I’d probably have done the same thing in her place.” I slumped
wearily down on his couch, all the energy I had draining quickly away. “I just
wish she would’ve let me talk; I could’ve explained everything.”
“Uh-huh. Sure.” The glance I received was doubtful.
“Honest, Har. I could have.”
“And I’ll bet it’s a doozy of an explanation, too.” He shot me a
sympathetic grin. In his heart, I think he knew I wouldn’t cheat on her,
however, the evidence was stacked pretty tall against me. “Hey, ah, you know,
Paris, I could get in a lot of trouble with B’Elanna for providing aid and
comfort to the enemy.”
He was trying to be funny, but I wasn’t in the mood. “I’m not the
enemy. Nothing happened between Jenny and me. Doesn’t anybody on this ship
believe me?” That was a question I hadn’t asked in a long time.
My buddy nodded. “It’s okay. I believe you. But start at the
beginning. I can’t defend you if I don’t know what went on.”
I shook my head. “To tell you the truth, a lot of it is still very
fuzzy. Last night, Cait and I had one of our classic blowouts, over drawer
space or something silly like that. Finally, we gave up and separated as
always with me going to Sandrine’s to cool down. I was more upset than usual
for some reason; so I used a few replicator rations for some scotch and
proceeded to polish off a goodly portion of the bottle. Admittedly, I was
getting pretty ripped, when Chakotay `suggested’ I leave the bar and go home.
I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea, but considering his tone of voice, I
didn’t think I had much of a choice.
“Jenny was passing by out in the hall, and we started talking. Since I
still had the bottle with me, we went back to her quarters to conclude our
conversation and finish it off. Next thing I remember is waking up on Jenny’s
couch with a blanket thrown over me and one helluva hangover. I figure I
must’ve passed out, but I swear to you, Harry, I was fully clothed underneath
those covers.”
He grinned in amusement at my assertion of decency. Okay, so in the
past, I would’ve glossed over that last little fact, maybe even ignored it
entirely. Things are different now, though. “Anyhow, Jenny was coming out of
the bathroom, dressed and ready for breakfast; so we left together. Outside
her door, I turned to thank her, and the next thing I know, she’s throwing her-
self in my arms and kissing me. Then, she says `see you later’, you know, the
way she does, and leaves. Hell, I’m still so cloudy I hardly know what’s
happening, and then, I spin around to see Caitlin and B’Elanna standing there.”
I closed my eyes and let out a deep sigh. “Oh gods, Harry, I’ll never
forget the look on her face. She was so hurt and so angry. Neither of us
spoke; we just stood there staring at each other. Finally, B’Elanna tried to
drag her down the hall away from me, and I made the huge mistake of grabbing
Cait’s arm and trying to talk to her. Then, BAM!. I’m down on the floor; my
jaw’s hurting worse than my head; and she and B’Elanna are gone.
“I swear to you, Harry; I don’t know why Jenny kissed me, and I sure as
hell don’t know why she didn’t tell Cait nothing happened last night. But she
didn’t, and now, I don’t know if Cait will ever forgive me.” I buried my face
in my hand and groaned.
He regarded me thoughtfully for a little while. “Would Jenny have
been able to see Caitlin approaching?”
I looked up and shrugged. “I don’t know; her quarters are on a curve.
She might have. Why?”
“I’m not sure, but I’ve heard rumors that Jenny was kind of angry when
you and Cait started seeing each other; maybe this was her way of getting even.
I’m not saying that there was any premeditation on her part; it was just the
perfect opportunity that dropped into her lap. Everyone knows you and Caitlin
are having problems, and remember `hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’.”
“No, she wouldn’t. She couldn’t.” The initial feeling of disbelief I
had at the suggestion quickly began to transform into one of pure rage. “If
that’s true, I’ll-. It must be true; it’s the only explanation that makes any
sense. Dammit, Harry! How could I have been so stupid?” I stood up and began
to pace angrily.
“Hey, take it easy. Nothing can be done tonight. Now, that we know
what’s going on, though, we can deal with it. I’ll talk to B’Elanna tomorrow
and try to get her to see reason. With her help, we may be able to convince
Caitlin. Until then, we should both try and get some sleep; our shifts are
gonna to come awfully early in the morning, what with that nebula the Captain
wants to explore.”
My hand flew to my forehead. “Oh, damn! I forgot all about that. She
wants me to take a shuttle into it to collect samples.”
“All the more reason you should get some sleep. Here. Here’s a spare
blanket and pillow. You’re more than welcome to use the couch.”
I smiled at him. Friends, like Harry and Kes, are so rare, especially
for people like me. “Thanks, Harry. I really appreciate this.”
“No problem,” he replied with a grin. “What are friends for?”

“How are those samples coming, Lieutenant?” I looked up from the
flight control panel as the Captain’s voice crackled over the comm relay.
“Fine, Captain. No problems to report. There aren’t as many serranite
particles as expected, but other than that there haven’t been any surprises.”
“Good. How much longer do you think you’ll be?”
“Not much longer; probably only another fifteen minutes or so. I’ve
only got one more sample to gather and then, I’ll be heading back. Paris out.”
The sample that I needed was a few hundred meters off to starboard; so
I set the impulse engines at one-quarter and moved off toward it. A sensor
alarm activated almost immediately. There was suddenly a large increase of
tetryon particles surrounding the ship. I swore under my breath and tried
to shut the engines down.
“Voyager to shuttlecraft. Mr. Paris, shut down the shuttle’s impulse
engines. They seem to be causing a chain reaction with the contents of the
nebula in your area.” I could barely hear the Captain over the sensor alarm
and the tetryon interference.
“I’m trying, Captain, but they aren’t responding. I’m attempting to
bypass the command sequence and access the controls directly. Damn!”
“Mr. Paris?” I could hear the concern in her voice. She wasn’t the
only one who was worried.
“I can’t access the controls. They’ve locked into position. Captain,
some sort of opening has appeared behind me; it’s pulling the ship in. I don’t
know if I can keep her out.”
“Warning. Impulse engines are overloading. Initiate emergency shut-
down.” The computer’s cool command voice filtered over the comm system;
sometimes I really hate that voice.
“Can you do it, Tom?”
“I don’t know. I’m trying.” I think my voice must have sounded pretty
frayed back on Voyager, partly from interference and partly from my own
mounting panic. It was beginning to dawn on me that they probably couldn’t get
a transporter lock; so it was up to me to save my own hide.
I decided to shut down the main power and then re-initialized a start-
up, hoping that it would shake the controls free. It was risky, but I didn’t
think I had too many options by that point. Well, it worked – sort of. The
controls unlocked, but I couldn’t get a system-wide start-up going in time.
I yelled out to Voyager, but I got no response. As the ship slipped into the
abyss, a bright flash of light enveloped it, temporarily blinding me and
probably any of the bridge crew watching the viewscreen. I was thrown from my
chair, and that’s the last thing I remember happening for the next few minutes.

“Warning. Anti-matter containment field is off-line. Core breach in
thirty seconds.”
I slowly raised my head from the shuttle’s floor. I figured I must’ve
hit my head on something as I was thrown from my seat, because I had a
splitting headache. Luckily, nothing else seemed to be broken, although my
right knee was pretty badly bruised.
“Warning. Core breach in twenty seconds.”
“Damn! Ow!” Grabbing my knee, I struggled to my feet and lurched back
into the pilot’s chair.
“Warning. Core breach in fifteen seconds.”
“I know, I know. I’m doing the best I can. I’m not exactly anxious
to die.”
“Warning. Core breach in ten seconds.”
“Damn! Come on!” My palm smacked the flickering display in front of
me, which sputtered to life in response. Hey, if nothing else works, hit it,
I always say.
“Warning. Core breach in five seconds.”
I tried to reroute any auxillary power I could find to strengthening
the field’s integrity. “Come on. Damn you, work.”
“Warning. Core breach in . . . Anti-matter containment
re-established.”
“Whew!” I slumped back in the seat. That had been too close, even for
my tastes. I looked out the window at the stars. There was no nebula in
sight. “Computer, condition of shuttle’s main systems.”
“Maneuvering thrusters, off-line. Impulse engines, off-line. Warp
engines, off-line. Weapons systems, off-line. Communications, off-line.
Shields, -”
“That’s enough. Damn!” I ran a hand through my hair and over my face.
Reaching down, I thoughtfully massaged my sore knee. “Better get started,
Thomas,” I told myself. “You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.”
About half-an-hour later, I wriggled out from beneath one of the
consoles. “Computer, status of sensor and communication systems.”
“Both systems are on-line and functioning within normal parameters.”
“Okay,” I exhaled. “Two down and at least five to go. Computer, scan
the surrounding area of space. Is there any sign of either the nebula or
Voyager?”
“Negative.”
“Sh*t!” Oh well, it had been a long shot. “Computer, can you
determine our position in relation to Voyager’s last known coordinates?”
“Unable to comply.”
I let out a tired sigh of frustration. Why me? Why is it always me?
“Computer, can you ascertain what exactly our current position is?”
“We are approximately 1.7 light years from the Mablonis cluster.”
I slid behind the helm console to check the starcharts. “The Mablonis
cluster? That’s in Cardassian space near the border colonies. I’ve got to get
out of here!” I threw myself under the engineering console with renewed vigor.
Amazing how the threat of injury and death can revitalize you.
Another hour passed, and maneuvering thrusters were finally back on-
line. I gave the impulse components a disparaging glance. There was at least
another three hours of work waiting for me before the impulse engines would be
even close to being on-line. Of course, B’Elanna or Harry would have had the
whole ship up and running by this time.
I looked out at the blackness of space and felt very alone. I closed
my eyes for a minute and thought of Cait. I wondered what Voyager thought had
happened to me. Somehow making it back to Earth alone didn’t thrill me; no one
would believe my story. I wondered if Cait would miss me; I sure as hell
already missed her.

“This is the Mekon-Rai to the Federation shuttlecraft. Do you read?”
“Owww!” I sat up quickly and banged my head against the console. The
hail had startled the almighty heck out of me. Holding my forehead, I crawled
over to the comm relay. It was a long-distanced hail, audio only. The name
didn’t sound Cardassian, but you can never tell. “This is the Starfleet
shuttlecraft, Monroe. Your name is not familiar. Are you a Cardassian ship?”
“Cardassian?” the female voice smirked. “We are a simple trading
vessel. Are you in need of assistance?”
“I sure am. My engines are down. I don’t suppose you could give me a
tow to Federation space, could you?” That probably wasn’t the wisest thought
on my part, but I was desparate. I didn’t know how much longer I was going to
be stranded, and I’d rather take my chances on getting my throat slashed by
pirates, than winding up in some Cardassian prison or labor camp.
“Federation space? Oh, ah, yes, of course. Hold your position; we
will be there momentarily.”

“Shuttlecraft Monroe. This is the Mekon-Rai. Activate your viewer.”
At the woman’s request, I appeared on the viewscreen.
For a human, she was pretty in a hard sort of way. The hair was short
and dark, and her eyes were as cold and black as the surrounding space. I had
a feeling she wasn’t someone you ever wanted to cross. “What is your name?”
she demanded sternly.
“Lt. Tom Paris of the Federation starship, Voyager. I, uh, ran into a
subspace anomaly and went off course. I’d really appreciate it if you could
give me a lift back to the border.”
“The border?” She frowned.
“The Federation-Cardassian border.” What other border could I be
possibly talking about?
“Lt. Paris, did you say?” I nodded. “Lt. Paris, there is no border
anymore. I don’t know what game you’re trying to play, but I should warn you,
the phasers of this ship are locked onto your craft. If this is a trick, you
will be the first to go.”
I gulped; I could tell she meant what she said, at least, the part
about the phasers. The rest of it, I didn’t understand at all. What the hell
did she mean there’s no border? There had to be one. “Captain, I give you my
word that this is no trick. This morning I was launched from my ship in the
Delta quadrant to take samples from a nebula. I encountered some sort of
spatial anomaly, and the next thing I knew I was here with an almost completely
dead ship. I know this may sound crazy, but I swear to you it’s the truth.”
I gave her my most pleading, innocent look. “Listen, Captain, you said there
was no border anymore; well, when did it end? The last I heard it was still
very much in effect.”
The black eyes narrowed. “What do you mean when did it end? It ended
with the Dominion invasion of 2401.”
“The Dominion invasion? Of the Alpha quadrant?” I know my eyes opened
wide and my jaw probably dropped a good two meters. “2401? Captain, when I
left my ship the year was 2377. The anomaly must have also had a temporal
effect; it would seem that I have been pulled into the future, as well as
halfway across the galaxy.” Gods, I hate temporal mechanics; at least what
little I know about them.
“The future? I’m sorry, but your time is up. Dahra’an, fire phasers
on my signal.” She turned away from the viewer.
*Sh*t!* “No, wait! I’m not lying, but you obviously are. You’re no
trading vessel. Who the hell are you? If you’re going to kill me, I have a
right to know.”
There must have been something in my tone of voice, a note of pure fear
maybe, that made her turn back. “My name is Alana Pocanah, Captain of the
Maquis ship, Mekon-Rai.”
“Maquis?” Oh great! This was getting better all the time. “What is
the Maquis doing in Cardassian territory? You’re a sitting duck! You’ve got
to get out of here!”
She studied me for a moment. “You really don’t know, do you?”
“Know what? I swear everything you just said is news to me. I don’t
know anything about a Dominion invasion, the dissolution of the border, or what
the Maquis are doing in Cardassian territory. Please, you’ve got to believe
me.”
She signaled to someone behind her and the audio transmission was shut
off. I figured she was conferring with her bridge crew, maybe even looking up
Voyager’s file if she had access. Whatever she was doing, I was rapidly
dissolving into a puddle of nervous sweat, until she reappeared before me.
“Lt. Paris, we are going to trust you for the moment and bring you on
board. I assume you will understand if we insist upon running a few tests to
prove you’re not a changeling. We cannot be too careful nowadays.”
“I understand, Captain, and thank you.” I flashed her my friendliest
grin, causing her to catch her breath momentarily. It’s always nice to know
you’ve still got it, even when you’ve lost everyting else.
“There is nothing to smile about, Paris.” She barked, quickly
composing herself. “You still haven’t passed our security check, yet. Pocanah
out.”

They tractored me in, and a young Vulcan administered some sort of
blood test, while the shuttle was thoroughly checked over. All of which was
overseen by the biggest Klingon I’d ever seen. He had to be over 190 cm,
easily. After a few minutes, this same Klingon escorted me to the
Captain’s quarters/ready room. The room was small with a bunk on one side
and a desk and two chairs on the other. A very compact bathroom was tucked
neatly into one of the corners. As we entered, Captain Pocanah stood up
from behind the desk and extended her hand. She wasn’t all that tall, about
B’Elanna’s height and build, but she had a handshake of pure iron.
“Lt. Paris, congratulations on being humanoid; you have no idea how
luckly you are that you passed Dahra’an’s tests.” She nodded at the hulking
Klingon behind me.
“Actually, Captain. I think I do.” I never could read Klingons well,
but I had the distinct impression that this one was not too thrilled with my
presence on board.
“Come, have a seat. Can I get you something to drink or eat perhaps?”
She gestured to the chair opposite her. “I’m afraid we don’t have much of a
selection, though, with the war on.”
Until she mentioned food, I hadn’t realized how hungry I was. Earlier
in the morning, I hadn’t felt much like eating and had only picked at my
breakfast, but now I was ravenous. “I’ll take just about anything you’ve got,”
I grinned. “I’m not all that picky.”
She shot me a cool, professional smile in return. “Dahra’an, see if
Martag can scare up something for our visitor.”
“Yes, Captain.” The Klingon bowed slightly before exiting the room.
“So, you claim to have been on the USS Voyager.” She sat back and
gazed distrustfully at me. I guess I should be used to that by now.
“According to old ‘Fleet records, there was a Thomas Eugene Paris on board as
an observer, and yet, you claim the rank of lieutenant. Further, Voyager was
never sent to the Delta quadrant; it was lost in the Badlands. Just how do you
account for these discrepencies in your story?”
I took a deep breath and hoped she believed in the old saying about
truth being stranger than fiction. “It’s a long story, Captain, and I’m not
even sure you’ll believe it when I tell you.”
She grimaced. “It’s been quite a while since I heard a good story,
Paris; why don’t you tell me yours? Whup! Wait a minute; here’s your food.”
A small, grey-skinned humanoid entered the room and placed a steaming
tray in front of me. On it was a large chunk of bread and a hot bowl of what
appeared to be tomato soup. I picked up the spoon and took a tentative taste.
Oh gods! It was honest-to-goodness, hot, plain tomato soup. I broke off a
piece of bread and dunked it in the red liquid before popping it in my mouth.
Delicious! I closed my eyes and sat back in the chair, smiling contentedly.
“Paris?”
My eyes flew open. Whoops! “Sorry, Captain, you just don’t know how
long it’s been since I had a good bowl of soup.” I grinned up at the small
chef. “My compliments. It’s delicious.”
He cast an uncertain glance at Capt. Pocanah, who shrugged; then, he
looked back down at me, as I greedily devoured his creation. I’m sure he
thought I was crazy, but he only shrugged to himself before leaving.
A few minutes, later, I finished my meal and reclined back in the
chair, a small sigh escaping my lips. I figured that if this was to be my last
meal, I couldn’t have asked for any better. Slowly, my gaze wandered back over
to the Captain, who was growing impatient. “What? Oh, my story. Well, you
see, Captain, Voyager went into the Badlands looking for a missing Maquis ship,
when a displacement wave pulled us into the Delta quadrant. The long and short
of it is, we lost a lot of crew members, and as a result, Capt. Janeway gave me
a field commission and assigned me to conn. Then, we began our rather lengthy
journey back to the Alpha quadrant. Like I said earlier, it was 2377 when I
left Voyager in the shuttle this morning to collect samples from a nebula.
From what I can remember, the shuttle’s impulse engines somehow caused a chain-
reaction with the particles, and a hole in space opened up behind the ship,
dragging me in. The next thing I know I’m here. From what you’ve said, I
gather I must have traveled forward in time as well as across space, but I
don’t have any knowledge whatsoever of anything else. I don’t even know what
year it is.”
She studied me carefully, making me decidedly uncomfortable under the
intensity of her gaze. “The year is 2410, Paris. There is no Federation, no
Cardassian Union, no Romulan or Klingon empires. We, the Maquis, are the
military strength in the Alpha and Beta quadrants. We were all that was left
after the organized fleets were destroyed during the invasion. It is simply
us versus the Dominion. The Maquis is now made up of all the former unions
and empires, and we fight as the Maquis always have, for our people with any-
thing we can find.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “There’s no Starfleet, no Federation,
nothing?”
“That is correct. I’m afraid your uniform is nothing more than a
symbolic relic from the past. A painful memory of worse or better times for
all of us. Therefore, I am afraid for the morale of my crew, I must ask you to
change. We can provide you with suitable clothing.”
No more Federation; that was so hard to believe. I wondered what had
happened to my family, especially my father. Maybe he took command of one of
the ‘Fleet ships and went out in a blaze of unremembered glory. What was it my
English ancestors used to say? For God, King and country? I looked down at my
uniform, one of the few pride and joys still left in my life. How ironic that
it was lost to history now, too. I gently fingered the two pips on my collar.
I couldn’t give those up; the uniform, yes, but not the commission. “I under-
stand,” I finally replied. “But may I at least keep my rank insignia. I don’t
expect it to mean anything to anyone except me.”
Alana sat back in contemplation. Maybe she understood my desire to
keep them. Maybe she just felt sorry for me. I don’t know, but for some
reason she agreed. “Very well, you may wear them and the communicator, as
well. Working communicators are scarce and are one of the first things taken
from prisoners and the deceased by the Jem’Hadar.
“As you can probably gather, our crew accomodations are limited; I am
afraid you’ll have to bunk with someone until we can decide what to do with
you.” She touched a small button on her desk. “Tovar, please report to my
quarters.”
“Yes, Captain.” came the prompt reply.
A few seconds later, the door slid open, allowing the same young Vulcan
who had taken my blood earlier to enter. “Tovar, this is Thomas Paris.” She
waived a hand in my direction. “I am assigning him to your quarters until
further notice. Do you have a problem with this?”
“I have feelings neither for or against it, Captain. Experience has
taught me to respect your judgement.”
“Good. He will also need a change of clothes. See what you can do.
Dismissed.”
Tovar nodded and gestured me toward the door. I glanced back at her.
“Thank you for believing me, Captain.”
“I didn’t say I believed you, Paris, but as yet, I have no reason to
distrust you, either. And I highly recommend it stay that way.” Her
expression seemed older and more worn than I thought it should be for some
reason. Conflict will do that to you.
“Understood, Captain,” I responded, but my thoughts were already
beginning to turn toward fixing the shuttle and returning somehow to Voyager.

Disintregration
part 2

“So much forgotten already
So much forgotten
So much to forget”

_______________________________________________________________________________

I lay on my bunk. I had been on board for over two days now and
had almost finished repairing the shuttle. All of which had to be done in my
precious spare time. Captain Pocanah hadn’t wasted a nanosecond putting me to
work; first, picking apart my brain for Starfleet tactics and then actually
giving me bridge duties. “Well-trained pilots are a luxury. You may prove
very useful in the near future,” she had said before assigning me as her
helmsman’s relief.
The crew was a real diverse group with a Cardassian named Kilan at the
helm; a female Bajoran named Solan at communications and sensors; Dahra’an at
weapons; and assorted other humanoids scattered in various positions throughout
the ship. They all got along well, due to a combat-forged camaraderie. Alana
was a good captain; strong and authoritative, but willing to listen to her
crew. She didn’t appear to be much older than I was, but I suspect she had led
a far tougher life. She never really smiled, except in that professional,
detached manner, and I never heard her laugh heartily once. Not that there
was much out here to laugh at. But I could see where if she did she would be
very attractive; the head thrown back, the dark eyes lit up and her full lips
stretched in a broad grin. In many ways, she was so much like Cait; tough,
combative, resilient. My jaw and fist clenched in impotent rage. Damn, I
missed her.
“Paris?” My roommate’s voice drifted up from the lower bunk. “I feel
that I should thank you for sharing the circumstances of your arrival with me.
It has proven to be a most intriguing problem.”
“My pleasure,” I ground out sarcastically. “I only hope that when I
die, I can provide you with similar entertainment.”
The young Vulcan’s head popped up above the top bunk. “I fail to see
the need for such a response. I, too, miss my family, but I do not believe
that releasing this frustration upon others will in any way lessen my own
burden. They will still be on Vulcan, and I will be here.”
I rolled over on my side, propping myself up on one elbow. “You’re
right, Tovar. I apologize. I’m afraid it’s nothing but good ol’ human
emotionalism. So what have you figured out?”
He handed me his PADD. “I believe I have figured out how you came to
be here; figuring out how to get you back is quite another matter. The nearest
area of space with similar features to those contained in the shuttle’s sensor
logs is in territory held by the Dominion, quite inaccessible to you, I’m
afraid.”
I studied his analysis for a moment before flopping over onto my back.
“Story of my life,” I moaned.
“One part, yes, but I fail to see how this incident qualifies as a
description of your entire life experience.”
I grinned at him; if I had my way, this was one Vulcan who would have
a sense of humor by the time we parted company. “It’s just an old Earth
expression, Tovar, not meant to be taken literally.”
“I see,” he replied, picking up the processor and disappearing back
underneath my bunk. A short time later, he put out the lights, and I lay there
in the dark, wondering for the first time what I would do if I couldn’t
get back. It was a depressing prospect I was not too eager to dwell upon.

At least, I didn’t have to wait long to be tested in combat against the
Jem’Hadar. The next day we ran afoul of three ships, and I’ll say this right
now, our little ship withstood a lot more damage than I thought she could.
“Shields down to forty percent!” Dahra’an bellowed from his post.
“Evasive pattern delta-one-gamma!” ordered Alana.
Another blast rocked the ship. A panel blew out sending more sparks
and smoke onto the bridge. “Damn!” she cursed.
“Captain, we’re losing power to the deflective grid,” Solan called
out. “A few more hits and we’ll lose shields and warp capability.”
The ship shuddered again. A small explosion and a scream came from the
helm. I turned to see Kilan lying unconscious beneath the smoldering console.
“Paris, take the helm,” Alana ordered, and I slid into the chair, as
she pulled the Cardassian out of the way. “Bring the ship about. Evasive
pattern alpha-three-omega. Reroute all available power to the forward shields.
Dahra’an set torpedoes on the middle ship, but hold your fire until my say so.
Then, let ’em rip, and prepare to go to warp. Course one-three-two mark
four-five.”
I gulped hard. Was she nuts, flying straight at them like this?
“Um, Captain, we’re going to take a lot of damage on this course.”
“I’m counting on your skill to help prevent that, Paris.”
I swallowed hard again. *C’mon, Thomas; show ’em what you’ve got.*
“One thousand kilometers and closing. . . 850 . . . 700. . . 600-”
“Open fire,” yelled Alana. “Engage warp engines.”
“Engaging warp,” I shouted back, hoping my voice wasn’t shaking as
much as the rest of me was. Flying headlong into any group of attacking ships
wasn’t exactly something I planned to do on a regular basis. The ship
shuddered momentarily and then leapt ahead.
“Reset course to five-one mark one-zero-two. Some heavy plasma storms
have been reported in the Seladin sector of the Badlands; so we’ll head there.
Medic to the bridge,” she ordered, gently examining Kilan’s wounds. He uttered
a soft moan as she tried to remove his torn, burnt shirt, revealing more burns
on his neck and chest. “Shh, you’ll be all right. Tovar’s on his way.”
I stole a quick glance at her before turning back to the helm and
executing a few hasty repairs on the damaged controls. It was nice to know she
had a gentle side after all.
“Captain, the Jem’Hadar are pursuing. They will overtake us in ten
minutes,” Solan reported.
“Time to the Badlands, Paris?”
“Twelve minutes at our current speed.”
“Transfer power from the weapons to the warp nacelles.”
Dahra’an growled, but complied.
“Increase to warp 8.5.”
“Aye, Captain,” I replied. “At that speed, we should reach the
Badlands in seven minutes.”
“Captain,” Solan called out. “The Jem’Hadar have also increased their
speed. They’ll overtake us in four minutes.”
“SH*T! Dahra’an, launch a probe. Maybe that will slow them down.”
“A probe?” I spun the seat around. “How the hell is a probe going to
slow them down?”
A grim smile appeared on Alana’s face. “You’ll see. We have very
special probes, Paris; they should buy us a few seconds of breathing room. How
is he doing, Tovar?’ She crouched down beside my recently-arrived roommate.
“I’m afraid he needs medical attention beyond the capabilities of this
ship, Captain. I can stabilize his condition, but beyond that, I am not at
liberty to give you an accurate prognosis.”
“DAMN!”
“Captain, the probe is working; they’re falling back,” Solan reported
excitedly. “We should make it to the Badlands now.”
We all let out a heavy sigh of relief.
“Paris, when we reach the Badlands, drop to impulse and take us in.
Then, plot a course through the storms for the farming community on Larida.
That’s the nearest colony with medical facilities. They owe the Maquis a few
favors, and I think it’s time to collect.”
“Aye, Captain. Dropping to impulse in five. . . four. . . three. . .
two. . . one.”
The pinkish-purple haze of the Badlands loomed before our battered
ship, both welcoming and defying us to enter.
“Take us in, Paris,” Alana barked, locking her arms around Kilan’s legs
while Tovar lifted him gently by the shoulders. “Have the crew begin making
all the necessary repairs to the damaged systems. I’ll be down in sickbay.
Solan, you have the bridge.”
“Yes, Captain,” acknowledged the Bajoran. I liked Solan; my guess was
that she was about twenty-four, too young to remember the Cardassian occupation
of her homeworld. But that didn’t matter much because now the Dominion held
it. Poor Bajor, it just couldn’t win for losing. I knew the feeling.

“Captain, we’re nearing the edge of the Badlands; should we alert the
colonists to our arrival?” Solan inquired a few hours later over the
comm system.
“Negative,” came the reply. I don’t want to take the chance on the
Dominion picking up our transmission. We’ll wait until we’re in orbit. I’ll
be there momentarily. Pocanah out.”
“Report,” Alana called as the door to the bridge opened.
“Most of the damaged systems are back on-line. According to Paris,
helm controls are still a little shaky, but further repairs have helped.
Shields are back at one hundred percent and weapons are fully operational.”
Solan rose to restore the command chair to her.
“Good. Excellent work. How long to the colony?”
I turned around. “At our current speed, about half-an-hour, barring
any surprises,” I added wryly. My first encounter with the Jem’Hadar had left
me a trifle more shaken than I was willing to admit.
Alana noticed that Solan had remained quietly beside her, and she
grasped the young woman’s hand and gave it a brief squeeze. “He’ll be all
right. Tovar’s doing everything he can. Why don’t you go see if you can
help?” The cold dark eyes grew soft for a moment as she regarded the Bajoran.
“Yes, Captain. Thank you.” Solan turned quickly and hurried from
the bridge.
“Hodges, take her place. Keep an eye peeled for any possible Dominion
activity.” She swung back around to find me studying her curiously. “Is there
a problem, Paris?” The hardened mask had already dropped back into place.
I felt a light flush creep into my cheeks. I hadn’t meant to stare; I
just hadn’t expected her to express that much warmth. “I’m sorry, Captain.
It’s just that from my time a Cardassian-Bajoran couple is a little unheard
of.” Okay, so I lied.
She grimaced. “I believe there’s an old Earth saying, `politics make
strange bed fellows’. Well, it has been my experience that politics has
nothing on war.”
Or on being stranded in the Delta quadrant, I added silently, an image
of Cait briefly crossing my mind. I flashed a rueful grin to no one in
particular and turned back to the helm. The controls were still a bit sluggish
for my tastes.

“What the hell do you mean, we can’t transport down? We’ve got an
injured crewman who needs treatment at your facility.” Alana barked harshly.
Everyone on the bridge, except me, stared in disbelief at the humanoid on the
viewscreen. “Pelar, the Maquis have helped your people out before on more than
one occasion.”
The middle-aged man looked both nervous and embarrassed. “I’m sorry,
Alana. After we requested your help last time, the Jem’Hadar returned and
wreaked horrible destruction on our colony. We’ve only just completed most of
the major repairs. The council thinks it’s too dangerous to allow you back.
I’m sorry.” He paused and glanced over his shoulder. “Look,” he whispered.
“Tell me what you need. I’ll see if I can get it for you, but that’s the best
I can do. The council just won’t risk another attack.”
Alana looked at Tovar, who rattled off a list of drugs and equipment.
“Okay, I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t promise anything. Pelar
out.”
I watched Alana pinch her lower lip before slamming her fist down on
the arm of her chair. “Idiots! Don’t they realize they are only doing what
the Dominion wants them to do? Act like good little children and get a pat on
the head, but be naughty and get a visit from the big, bad Jem’Hadar.”
“Fear can be a powerful weapon, Captain.” Tovar remarked, patiently
standing by her chair.
She glanced at him briefly, her lips tightly pursed. “It’s a weapon
the Dominion exploits all too well,” she growled. I think it really hurt her
to be rebuffed like this, and I could see why. Being rejected by the very
people you were trying to help, couldn’t be easy to take.
“Captain,” Solan interjected. “Pelar is hailing us.”
“On screen.”
“I’ve gotten most of what you asked for; they should be beaming aboard
now. The council has asked that you break orbit as soon as you have them.”
A small vein pulsed dangerously on the older man’s temple. “Please, Alana; we
don’t want any more trouble.”
Alana rose and turned to Dahra’an. “Do we have the supplies?” He
nodded in response.
Spinning on the viewscreen, she drew herself up stiffly. “Pelar, I
appreciate what *you* personally have done for us, but you tell that council
of yours that this will not be the end of the Jem’Hadar attacks. Someday in
the future, you will want the Maquis’ help again. At that time remember,
nothing is ever forgotten. Nothing. Pocanah out.” She slumped wearily back
into her seat. “Take us out of orbit, Paris. Course one-eight-six mark one-
five-two. Warp factor six.”

We made the next few hours journey in total silence; everyone, except
me, had been hurt bitterly by the colonists’ rejection. The crew change was
fast approaching, and I was really looking forward to escaping this
uncomfortable stillness. I had just about finished repairs on the shuttle’s
driver coils; after what Tovar had told me though, I was beginning to realize
that this had probably been the easy part of getting back to Voyager.
“Something wrong, Solan?” The Captain’s question finally broke the
quiet.
The Bajoran sat at her console, staring absently at the readings.
“It’s those colonists, Captain. Don’t they understand that we’re fighting for
them? It’s risky to fight back, sure, but if we do nothing, the oppression
will only grow worse.”
Alana grimaced. “I know that and you know that, but some people are
unable to see beyond their own day-to-day existence. For their own reasons,
they close their eyes to their neighbor’s plight. They refuse to look beyond
their immediate future and contemplate their actions in relation to it; how
what they choose to do or not do might effect them or their children further
down the road.”
Solan nodded. “That’s why Kilan and I have decided to wait to have
children. He’s not too thrilled by the idea, but neither of us wants our child
growing up under Dominion control.”
“I think that’s a wise choice. Besides, marriage and children can make
you complacent. And these days, complacency is a dangerous thing, as the
colonists on Larida will eventually discover.” She gave the girl a supportive
smile. “You’ve made the right decision, and don’t let Kilan convince you
otherwise.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; it was like listening to Cait
all over again. I shook my head. “I don’t agree. You can’t put your life on
hold forever.” I spun around and stared Alana straight in the face. “Haven’t
you ever hoped to get married and have children?”
A dark shadow passed over the Captain’s face, and I knew at once I had
said something wrong. It never fails to amaze me how I can stick my foot in it
time and time again.
“At one time, I did,” she growled, her dark eyes burned with a bitter
hatred. “But I don’t have time for that now. Solan, you have the bridge. If
you need me, I will be in my quarters.”
Solan wagged her head sadly as the door slid shut behind the Captain.
“You’ll have to excuse her response; you couldn’t have possibly known.”
“Known what?” My face was probably already bright red. What had I
done now?
“She was married at one time to a young farmer. When the Dominion
invaded, the Jem’Hadar massacred almost all the inhabitants of her colony.
She saw her husband killed, and she, herself, was badly tortured. That’s how
she joined the Maquis. They were the first on the scene and patched her up as
best they could. Physically, she healed, but emotionally, she’s just a bitter
shell of who she once was.”
Damn! I looked in the direction of her departure. “I feel terrible,”
I acknowledged, rising as my relief took the conn. “I should probably go
apologize.”
Solan shook her head again. “Leave her alone. Most likely, she
doesn’t want to be disturbed.”
“I can’t do that; I have to apologize. Excuse me.” I hurried from the
bridge.

Disintegration
part 3

“Naked we come
& bruised we go”

_______________________________________________________________________________

“Come in.” Alana was sitting on the bed, her back against the wall,
gazing at a small pendant she held.
I nervously cleared my throat; I hate apologizing. “Captain, I just
wanted to say I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t know.”
She shrugged. “It’s not your fault; I don’t blame you. Let me guess.
Solan gave you the `bitter shell’ story. Am I right?” I nodded. “Trouble is;
she’s right.” She placed the necklace on a tiny ledge by the bed. “There
really isn’t anything else left.”
“That’s not true. From what I’ve seen, you care quite a lot about the
people under your command.”
“Feeling a responsibility toward and caring about are two very
different things, Paris. The Dominion took away my life, and all I have now is
this.” She stood up and pulled off her shirt, revealing a horribly scarred
midriff.
I stared at the disfigured body before me. I didn’t know what to say.
You could see where she had once been a beautiful woman, an object of desire
for more men than just her husband. The more I looked the angrier I became.
For the first time since I met her, she became flustered and reached
back for her shirt, but in two steps, I was in front of her taking it from her
hands. I dropped to my knees and placed my hands along her ribcage, tracing
the marks first with my thumbs and then with my mouth, almost as if I felt
kissing them would make them go away. I followed the longest one past the
waistband of her pants, slowly opening them until they hung loosely on her
slender hips. I hadn’t realized how badly I wanted her.
She watched me in stunned silence. She hadn’t expected this response,
and I think that’s the only reason I wasn’t decked like I should’ve been.
“Why?” she finally whispered. “Why are you doing this to me?”
“Because I want to and because I think you need me to,” I explained,
gazing up into the dark eyes. “But I’ll stop if you think I should.”
Her face bore an expression of pleasured confusion. Taking one of my
hands, she quietly helped me to my feet and pulled me down onto the narrow
bunk. “I think I would like you to apologize some more, Paris,” she stated
simply, stretching out her lean frame.
Balancing as best I could beside her, I began to trace the other scars
with my lips and tongue. There were too many on this body, and I felt my
desire and respect for her increase with every touch. At first, I tried to
kiss her mouth, but she denied it to me. So, removing her pants and underwear,
I followed the cicatrices down her legs and up her buttocks and back. Only
then, did she roll over and open her mouth to mine.
“I wanted you to understand exactly what you were getting,” she
whispered, undoing the front of my shirt.
“It doesn’t matter to me.” Years ago, they would have, but not
anymore. I sat up and removed my boots and the rest of my clothes. Stretching
out beside her again, my fingers once more lightly traced the long scar on her
stomach. “You aren’t hideous, Alana; you are still in many ways a very
attractive woman.”
She smiled sadly and wound some of my hair around her fingers. “And
you are a great liar and charmer, Thomas Paris. But for some reason, tonight,
I want to be charmed.” Her hand led my head down to hers, our mouths meeting
in deep, arousing kisses.
After a few moments, she pushed my shoulders up, forcing me to release
her mouth. “This is your last chance to leave, Paris. If you don’t depart
now, I will make you stay the night.”
“I don’t intend to leave,” I replied, my voice husky from restrained
desire. Gods, I wanted her. “I accept you for who you are, mentally and
physically.”
A tired, joyless grin spread across her face. “Then you are a fool,”
she whispered, her hands running lightly over the muscles of my shoulders
and chest.
“So I’ve been told,” I breathed, lowering my face to hers once again.
We made love and then fell asleep. Only mine was hardly what I would call
peaceful. I don’t remember what all each dream was about, but I remember the
first. It was one that has been with me ever since I was a kid.
It starts off anywhere; this time I was on Voyager. I’m usually alone,
and it’s very quiet, but not frighteningly so. Then, they begin; voices,
incoherent, but threatening, nonetheless, and they just get louder and closer.
At first, I try to be brave and find out who’s there, but I always end up
running, scared out of my wits. Eventually, I either trip and fall or collapse
in exhaustion with my invisible tormentor closing in on me. And that’s when I
wake up, gasping for breath. This time it was no different.
Sitting up, I forced my breathing to slow, counting silently between
deep intakes of air. Then, I realized I wasn’t alone. I looked down at the
woman’s body next to me. SH*T! What had I done? How could I have-? I ran a
shaking hand through my hair. “You’ve really passed the point of no return
this time, Thomas,” I whispered to myself. Slowly, I lay back down and closed
my eyes. I kept trying to tell myself I had done nothing wrong that Cait and I
were through. But it didn’t do any good; I still felt guilty as hell.
A hand brushed my cheek and I turned my head toward Alana. “Tell me,
Paris. Back where you’re from, did you have a girlfriend or wife?”
“Yeah.” My voice sounded ragged, as I fought back tears of anger and
disappointment, mostly directed at myself. “I have a girlfriend, or rather, I
should say had. The day before my shuttle accident, we had a really bad mis-
understanding, and she threw me out of our quarters. Spirit-wise, you remind
me of her, tough, resilient, a real fighter in every sense of the word. She
had a great sense of humor, too; we were always teasing each other in some
way. Well, up until a couple of months ago, then it seemed like all we did
was argue.”
“You love her very much, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I’d give anything to be able to get back and apologize to her.
But I’m beginning to doubt that’s ever going to happen.”
“Did you two have any children?”
“Nah. I was trying to convince her to give marriage and kids a try,
but she wanted to wait.”
Alana rose up on one elbow, her hand lightly stroking the hair on my
chest. “Did she say why?”
“She felt our lives were too unsettled, being in the Delta quadrant and
all, and at first, I thought she was right. Soon, I began to realize that she
was just scared, unable to take that first big step. So I tried to ease her
into it by having her move into my quarters. She agreed, but afterwards, all
we did was fight.” I raised a hand to my eyes, trying to staunch the tears.
I couldn’t cry, not in front of her. “I tried to be patient; I really did.
I didn’t want to lose her. Everytime I get close to someone . . .” My voice
trailed off as I fought to maintain control.
“It’s okay, Paris. I understand. Fear makes us do a lot of things
we wouldn’t normally do, even if it means pushing away the very people that we
love.” She lowered herself back down and pulled me into her arms. “Go ahead
and cry. It’ll make you feel better.”
She was warm. She was real. She was there.
And I needed someone.
Badly.

I rolled over slowly. My back and neck ached something fierce, and I
let out a low groan of complaint.
“Ah, I was wondering when you were going to get up. Your shift starts
in less than thirty minutes, Paris.”
I rose up on my elbows, blinking sleepily. My slave driver was sitting
at her desk looking over a PADD. “What time is it?” I crashed back onto the
pillow. At least if I had been drinking, I’d have an excuse for feeling
like this.
Getting up, she came around the desk and perched on the side of the
bed. “It’s 0738. You’d better get a move on.”
I raised a hand to my forehead. “I feel awful; my neck and back are
both stiff as a board.”
Alana smirked. “I’m not surprised, the way you were tossing and
turning. I finally gave up trying to sleep in the bed and camped out on the
floor. You must have been having some pretty powerful dreams.”
“Oh gods, I’m sorry. Why didn’t you kick me out.” I sat up quickly,
forgetting my state of undress; embarrassed, I hastily re-adjusted the covers.
“It didn’t matter. Believe me, I’ve slept under worse conditions.”
She reached for my clothes. “Is Kate your girl in the Delta quadrant? You
mumbled her name a couple of times.”
My babyblues opened wide. “I did? Oh, hell, I’m sorry. I-” I broke
off, remembering how she had held me last night. “Alana, I-I don’t know what
to say.”
“It’s okay, Paris. We both needed some companionship last night. No
harm done, as long as you remember who is captain of this ship. By the way,
you’ve got fifteen minutes to get dressed and report to the bridge.” She moved
off to the desk and settled back in her chair. She picked up the PADD that she
had been studying, as I began to dress quickly.
“Tovar informs me that you’ve almost completed repairs on the shuttle,
and he has given me the specs on your possible method of returning to the
Delta quadrant.”
I zipped up my pants and sat back down on the bed to pull my boots on.
“Oh? When did he do that?”
“This morning when he reported on Kilan’s recovery.”
“This morning!” I stared at her in disbelief. “You mean while I was-”
She nodded. “This is a small ship, Paris. We don’t have many secrets
from each other. You have five minutes now. Being with the Captain will not
excuse your tardiness.”
“I’m going, I’m going.” Gingerly, I twisted and stretched my spine.
It was going to be a long shift. “Alana.”
“Hmmm?” Her head remained bent over the processor.
“Thank you for last night.”
The dark eyes glanced up; they didn’t seem quite so cold anymore.
“We’ll talk later, Paris. I believe we still have a lot to discuss.
Dismissed.”
I didn’t know what she meant by that, and I was a little afraid to ask.
In spite of my reputation, I usually don’t make a habit of sleeping with my
commanding officers.

Five minutes after my shift ended, I was wedged halfway into an access
panel on the shuttle. I only had four more things to do, and then the shuttle
would be fully operational. Of course, once it was, then what? I hadn’t
allowed myself to dwell too much on that after Tovar’s initial report. Even if
I could get back, what was there for me? Cait and I were through. Delaney had
seen to that.
I closed my eyes. That thought hurt worse than any punch. I really
thought I loved her; that we were meant for each other. *Come on, Thomas,
you’re a big boy now,* my old bravado chided. *You should know this is what
happens when you are foolish enough to let someone into your life.* I took a
deep breath and cleared my throat. “Get back to work, Thomas,” I muttered.
A banging on the wall startled me and a voice called, “Knock, knock”.
Twisting my head, I could see Alana’s boots outside the panel.
“Be right, there.” Slowly, I began to inch my way out; getting in was
obviously a lot easier than getting out.
Amused by my lack of progress and prodigious use of swear words, I
could hear her chuckling. Bending down, she inquired, “Should I pull on this
end or can you make it out by yourself?”
“Very funny. Owww!” Damned laser clamps.
“You okay, Paris?”
I could feel my face heating up from exertion and embarrassment.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Why don’t you sit back and enjoy the show?”
She chuckled again. “All right. Let me know if you need some help.”
Presently, I extricated myself, not too much the worse for wear.
Stifling another chuckle, she leaned forward and rested her arms on her knees.
“So. Am I to gather by your continued work that you intend to try to get back
to the Delta quadrant?”
“To tell you the truth, I hadn’t decided, Alana, I mean, Captain.” I
caught myself as her brow furrowed. “Working on this shuttle has almost been
like an automatic reaction. Something I feel I should do, with no real reason
behind it.”
One eyebrow arched. “Are you certain about that, Paris? Do you
honestly expect me to believe that you are ready to leave your life with this
Kate behind? Face it, you are as in love with her as any man could be. Who do
you think you made love to last night?”
“You, of course.”
Alana shook her head. “Unh-unh. Up here maybe.” She tapped my head.
“But not down here.” She pointed to my heart. “I’m no counselor, but I think
maybe you were trying to say good-bye to her. Listen, I’m not going to push
you into this experiment. I think it’s insane with a high probability of
failure. Besides, you’re a damned good pilot; the Maquis could always
use you.”
“What about you?”
“What about me? Oh no, don’t do this to yourself, Paris, or to me
either, for that matter. Last night was nice, and in its own way, it was
special to me. But if you stayed here, I would make sure you were put on
another ship. I’ve fought too many battles and put up too many defenses to
bring them down now. I can’t afford to; this crew can’t afford me to.”
“Alana-”
“No, Paris. You don’t love me; you don’t even know me well enough to
like me; you respect me as a combat veteran, that’s all. Combine that respect
with a little pity and loneliness, and pow! Instant sparks, but that’s all
it was.”
I shook my head. “You make it sound as if there were no feelings
involved.” I couldn’t believe that `I’ was saying this; I used to juggle three
girlfriends at a time without blinking an eye, but that seemed like a helluva
long time ago, a past I was no longer too proud of.
“That’s not true. If you stuck around, I could become mighty fond of
you, Paris. So fond, that I might jeopardize a mission to save you, and I
can’t do that. No, one way or another you will leave this particular ship.”
She rose from the seat. “Think about what you want to do. Kilan should be
ready to resume his duties tomorrow, and right now, we have no set mission.
I can either drop you off at the border or make arrangements to transfer you.
Just let me know.” She ducked out the rear hatch.
I remained sitting on the shuttle’s floor for a few minutes after she
left, staring into space. I had a choice to make. I could stay here and live
the life I was headed for before being sent to prison, or I could try to get
back to Voyager and lead the life I had always wanted to live. But could I
really face a life on that small ship without Cait, seeing her day-in and
day-out? Hell, who even said I was going to make it back to Voyager in the
first place?
I turned around and looked at the open panel. I wasn’t angry like I
was all those years ago; I was tired of fighting. I had done so much of it
lately; now, I was just in pain. Without another thought, I began squirming my
way back into the narrow space. I guess I had made up my mind, after all.

“Come in.” Alana glanced up from her desk as I entered. “Yes, Paris.
What can I do for you?”
“I’ve finished the repairs on the shuttle. I guess it’s as ready as it
will ever be.” I detected a tone of resignation in my voice, and she did, too.
“Paris, sit down a minute. That’s an order,” she added observing my
reluctance. I didn’t want to embark upon another soul-searching coversation.
“The shuttle may be ready, but are you?”
I shrugged. “To be honest, I’m not sure, but I can’t stay here,
can I?”
“I never said that. I said you couldn’t stay on this ship; the Maquis,
though, can always use an experienced pilot. However, it would be a very
lonely life for you, being away from her.”
“I have the feeling it’ll be a lonely life for me there, too,
especially after what happened last night. Once, I tell her-”
“Tell her! Paris, for a man who seems to have had a lot of experience
with women, you know nothing about relationships. Don’t tell her. Don’t lie,
but don’t volunteer any information either. Some things are best left unsaid.
Tell her!” she snorted derisively.
“I can’t do that; in the past, I would have, but not now. I have to
tell her; I can’t hide this.”
The dark eyes narrowed. “Then you really are a fool, or do you think
she will forgive you?”
“I don’t know, maybe she will, maybe she won’t, but I can’t pretend
nothing ever happened. I don’t want to deceive her.”
A small smirk settled on Alana’s lips. “A lot of people wouldn’t risk
their future happiness for the sake of admitting past sins. That takes a great
deal of courage and faith.”
“And a whole lot of stupidity. Yeah, I know; I’ve been down this road
before.” I grinned sadly.
She looked at me uncertainly; maybe she didn’t know about Caldik Prime.
“Very well, Paris. I’ll order the course change. We can drop you off at the
border, but that’s the best we can do. Once you cross into Dominion territory,
you’re on your own. I can’t risk the ship in an all-out attack.”
“I understand. This is my problem, and I accept the risks. Hey, we’ve
all got to die someday, right? It may as well be trying to get home.”
She gazed at me again, and then smiled. “Very well. Dismissed.”

“Captain,” Kilan called out from the helm. “We’re at the border.”
“All stop. Solan, is there any Dominion activity in the area?”
“No, Captain. Not yet.”
Alana looked up at me, standing beside her. “This is it, Paris; this
is where we say good-bye.”
“Yes, Captain. It is,” I replied solemnly.
“You’re sure you want to go through with this? Your shuttle will set
off a perimeter alarm, which the Jem’Hadar may or may not respond to, and we
won’t be able to help.”
“I understand, but this is what I should do.” I flashed her a tight
smile and extended my hand. “And we both know that.”
Nodding, she rose and shook my hand. “Good luck, Paris. I hope you
find her.”
“Good luck to you, too, Captain. Thanks so much for, everything.” I
stood there looking at her; it’s hard saying good-bye forever. With a nod of
farewell to the rest of the crew present, I strode quickly from the bridge.
They had a long fight ahead of them, and in my heart, I wished them all the
prayers of protection I knew of and quite a few that I didn’t.

Disintegration
part 4

“Give me songs
to sing
& emerald dreams
to dream

& I’ll give you love
unfolding”

_______________________________________________________________________________

I made it to the nebula in one piece. I guess the Dominion didn’t
consider a small shuttlecraft much of a threat. I dropped out of warp and
proceeded into the dust cloud on impulse. Luckily, the engines triggered the
same reaction as before. Since I knew what to expect, I was able to shut down
impulse power before the controls locked. Hopefully, all systems would make it
through this part of the journey in one piece. Of course, where exactly I
would make it to was quite another question.
Crossing my fingers, I guided the shuttle into the patch of blackness.
In a matter of nanoseconds, the ship was thrown clear of the it and into a
star-filled sky. According to the readings, I had lucked out. I was in the
Delta quadrant and only .15 light years off Voyager’s course. Mind you, the
time and distance between Voyager and myself was another matter entirely.
Sensors detected a small, uninhabited M-class planet nearby. I decided
to land there for a few days and see if Voyager passed by; if they didn’t, I
wasn’t quite sure what I would do. The planet was densely forested, but I
managed to pull off a successful landing in a small clearing, activating the
shuttle’s distress call as soon as the ship settled.
I had picked a pretty good place to land. A quick sweep of the area
revealed a small creek close by with clean water and some nearby bushes were
covered with blue and red berries. According to the tricorder, they were non-
toxic and high in vitamins. The red ones were sour, the blue, sweet, and they
complimented each other well. I decided to use them to augment my ration
supply, which was only going to last me a few days as it was.
I touched down in the equivalent of late afternoon, so dusk began to
fall pretty quickly. I gathered up some wood for a campfire, creating a
cheerful blaze in a matter of minutes. As night continued to fall, I sat
around listening to the strange sounds around me; sensors had indicated no
large predators in the area, so I felt fairly safe. Camping has always been
fun for me, and after the Mekon-Rai’s tight quarters, it was nice to be able
to spread out.
To be on the safe side, though, I chose to sleep in the shuttle;
getting here had been pretty nerveracking and sleep snuck up on me before I
knew it. I pulled a blanket out of the survival kit and bundled up my clothes
from the Mekon-Rai to use as a pillow. Good thing, too, because I conked out
as soon as I stretched out on the passenger seat.

“Tom.” A hand gently shook me awake.
It was daytime, and I blinked rapidly from the bright light as I
opened my eyes. “Cait? Is it really- My gods, Cait, where is your
uniform? Cover yourself up before someone sees you.”
“Why? It’s lovely here.” She lay down on top of me, her
mouth eagerly plundering mine.
With a certain degree of difficulty, I turned my face away.
“Cait. Stop it. Where’s the rest of the away team? What if they come
upon us?”
She giggled in reply, her tongue licking my ear, sending shock
waves down my spine.
“No, I mean it.” I put my hands on her shoulders and tried,
unsuccessfully, to push her away.
She only chuckled some more and gently nibbled at the skin
beneath my jaw. Her hand unfastened the front of my uniform and slid
inside. Gods, I loved it when she initiated sex, however, now wasn’t
the time or place.
It took a lot of will power, but I pulled her hand out. “No,
Cait, not now.” I pushed her off me and sat up. “Where are the
others? Where’s Voyager?”
“Don’t worry about them.” She stradled my lap, taking my face
in her hands. Her tongue invaded my mouth, exploring it thoroughly
before moving down to my neck.
“You can’t be Cait,” I gasped. “Are you even real? Or am I
just dreaming?”
The hand slipped down into my uniform again, boldly caressing
me. I closed my eyes and groaned. “Does this feel like a dream?” Her
breath brushed seductively over my ear.
I nodded. “Yeah, a real good one.” I lay back and pulled her
down with me. If this was a dream, I couldn’t see the harm in at least
enjoying myself while I had it.

I woke up in the shuttle. It was still dark outside. I was fully
clothed, and Cait was nowhere around. It had only been a dream. Smirking in
expected disappointment, I turned over on my side and drifted off again.

I was laying on the ground, Cait’s sleeping head nestled on
my shoulder, the sun keeping our bare, tangled bodies warm. My fingers
gently stroked her hair, and she muttered something unintelligible in
reply. I grinned; I loved her so much.
Suddenly, a twig snapped. Something was moving toward us
through the trees. Waking Cait, I grabbed my phaser and sat up.
“Put that down before you hurt somebody.” The condescendingly
superior tone was unmistakeable. My father emerged from the woods and
sat down on a nearby log, his cold, unforgiving eyes glittering at us
from underneath bushy eyebrows. “So, I see you’ve found yourself
someone new.”
I stared at him. No, it couldn’t be.
“Well, answer me, Thomas.”
“Yeah, Dad. I have.” I turned to Cait, who was partially
concealing herself behind me. “Honey, could you go inside the shuttle
for a few minutes?”
“But-”
“Don’t argue, Cait. Please, just do as I ask.” I kissed her
softly.
Her hand caressed my cheek, as she nodded her accession. She
stood up and ducked quickly out of sight.
My father watched her disappear. “It figures that she’s the
type you’d choose.”
My temper flared. “And just what’s that supposed to mean?
Cait’s a wonderful person; she’s intelligent, attractive, courageous-”
“But hardly the type you’d take to an affair at Starfleet
Command. At least, Ricki had the breeding.”
“So?” I snorted. “You never liked it when I attended those
things anyway.”
“Can you blame me? You always did something to humiliate your
mother and me, like getting drunk or worse. I will never forget the
time Ambassador Karel caught you with her daughter in my office. She
was very gracious, attributing it to too much champagne and youth, but
we were mortified.” My father’s eyes swept down my body, and he
shrugged. “I suppose I should have been thankful you both still had
your clothes on then. Tell me, Thomas, were you trying to cause an
interplanetary incident or just giving us one more example of your
usual poor judgement?”
Attempting to forget my state of undress, I closed my eyes and
took a deep breath. I couldn’t lose my temper; I couldn’t let him win
again. “Dad, that was a long, long time ago. A lot of things have
happened since then.”
“Yes, they certainly have, haven’t they? I don’t understand,
Thomas. Your mother and I gave you everything, the right schooling,
the right opportunities, and you either disregarded them or exploited
them for all they were worth. I introduced you to all the necessary
people at Starfleet, made sure the correct classes were selected for
you, that the field assignments were choice. I had you on the road to
a commander’s post by the time you were thirty-five, a captain by
forty-five, easily. Then, you decided to change all that by lying
about that disastrous accident of yours.” He leaned forward. “My gods
boy, what were you thinking? Were you even thinking? Were you?”
Damn him! He always knew the right buttons to push. I looked
away, blinking back the tears; it never changed. I might as well have
been seven years old again. “No, Dad. No, I wasn’t thinking.” I
swallowed hard. “I didn’t have to; you were always there doing it for
me. You pushed me into things I either wasn’t ready for or didn’t want
to do because it was time for me according to your schedule. And then,
when I didn’t give a grade-A performance, you told me I had failed,
let you and the family down.” I sneered at the stern face. “You and
your damned policy on failing. I wasn’t your son. I was just some
puppet you manipulated from behind the scenes; only when you dropped
the strings, you couldn’t understand why I crumbled. You got me so
afraid of failing that it was the only thing I could do.”
I snatched up my uniform and held out the collar. “Do you see
these? I’m not failing now! I’m a helluva good pilot, and
Capt. Janeway trusts me. She believes in me. You never did.”
He stood up angrily. “Don’t use that tone with me, Lieutenant.
When did you ever give me a reason to trust you? You were always in
trouble. I could never understand how-”
“You could never understand because I wasn’t like you. I was
never obsessed by the dream of an admiralcy. I only wanted to be the
best pilot I could be. You were never a father to me. Just once I
wanted you to take the uniform off and listen to me, but you
never did.”
“Well, you certainly don’t have to worry about an admiralcy,
now; you’ve seen to that.”
I jumped to my feet. Didn’t he hear what I just said? “Damn
you, old man! Get out of my life! I don’t need you anymore. Come to
think of it, I’m not sure I ever needed you. So why don’t you just
return to your throne at Starfleet Command and pick on some other poor
kid. If you’re lucky, he’ll have your ambition. Then, maybe you can
adopt him, call him son, and leave me the hell alone!”

Sunlight through the shuttle window woke me. It had only been another
dream. I’ve always had a proclivity for intensely lucid dreams. One of my old
girlfriends used to say it revealed a troubled and creatively repressed psyche;
I think she’s a counselor on some starbase now.
I stretched out my stiff muscles; might as well get up and get moving.
My stomach growled noisily. Slinging a survival pack onto my back, I tried to
put last night’s images behind me. “Breakfast first, then a little exploring,”
I muttered to myself, inserting a phaser and tricorder into my belt.
The woods around the ship were fairly open, but the deeper in you went,
the more it became like a rainforest. According to the tricorder, the humidity
registered at 90%, and I believed it, as I mopped my forehead with my sleeve.
Most of the animal life was small. Insects mostly, with a few tiny,
mammal-like creatures and birds thrown in. There didn’t seem to be any big
predators, but just in case, I kept the ol’ phaser handy.
The longer I explored, the more hopeful I grew about meeting up with
Voyager. There was lots of edible, nutritious plant life; it would make sense
for the ship to stop here and stock up on food supplies.
On the way back to the shuttle, I stumbled on a small waterfall and
pond. The water checked out okay; so I quickly stripped off and jumped in.
The waterfall made a pretty good shower, and all I could think of was that Cait
would’ve loved it. I climbed out after a few minutes feeling much fresher, too
fresh for my sweat-soaked uniform. I still had my clothes from the Mekon-Rai
in the ship; so I dunked my uniform in the water and gave it a good scrub. Why
not? I was the only humanoid present, and as long as some away team didn’t
take me by surprise, who would care? Besides, there is a certain feeling of
freedom that comes with being naked in the woods. I laughed out loud as I
trudged through the trees, imagining the individual expressions of shock on my
crewmates if they were back at my camp.
I needn’t have bothered. They weren’t. I slung my uniform over a low
branch to dry, before ducking inside the shuttle to dress. Dusk was falling
pretty fast, and I still needed to build a fire.
The hike had really done a good job of wearing me out, and almost
immediately after dinner, I began to nod off, partly from fatigue, partly from
boredom. I kicked some dirt over the fire and headed into the shuttle. As I
lay down, I sincerely hoped that this night would be less dream-filled than the
previous one. Cait, I didn’t mind, but my father was something else entirely.

I was walking down a hallway toward a large reception room.
It was a ‘Fleet Command function, a party for some ambassador. Passing
by a mirror, I checked out my reflection; my dress uniform looked
pretty good on me, I had to say. No one was watching, so I flashed the
reflection a grin. Yeah, Thomas, thata way.
I followed a small group of people into the room. The place
was packed. I spotted Harry standing with a few other people by a
window and made my way over, snagging a glass of champagne off a tray
as I went. “So where’s the guest of honor?”
“The Ambassador’s over there.” He pointed to a porcine little
figure with long droopy earlobes. A very well-shaped blond was hanging
off his arm.
*Takes all kinds,* I thought, admiring the curvaceous figure.
“Who’s the woman with him?”
Harry chuckled. “That’s not a woman, Tom. That’s the
Ambassador’s husband.”
My jaw hit the floor. “That gorgeous blond is- is a he?”
“Mmm-hmm. Makes you think, doesn’t it?”
“Hoo-boy.” I whistled in relief. “Glad you told me.”
He snickered again. “Oh, by the way, how’s Anais doing? She
starts school this year, doesn’t she?”
“Huh?” I stared at him blankly for a moment. “Oh, yeah. I
guess so.”
“You guess so! Your own daughter and you don’t know? Maybe if
you were home more often you would.”
Before I could reply, there was a small commotion at the
entrance. An auburn-haired beauty in a long, shimmering gold dress
walked in. Around her were a small cluster of ‘Fleet guys, vying for
her attention. “Cadets,” I sniggered, taking a sip of champagne upon
which I promptly choked. “Cait?”
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Harry observed. “She looks so different
out of uniform, but then, I guess you’d know that better than I.” He
gigged me knowingly with his elbow.
“Um, yeah,” I mumbled, unable to take my eyes off her. I had
never seen her look so lovely. “Excuse me for a moment will ya,
Harry?”
I made my way, with some difficulty, through the throng of
admirers and tapped her bare shoulder. She whipped around, her green
eyes out sparkling the emeralds in her necklace. “Tom! What a
surprise!” She grasped both of my hands, proffering her left cheek,
which I kissed. “It’s so good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you, Cait. You look beautiful.” I stepped
back, giving her a good once-over. All right, a twice-over.
She laughed lightly. “So do you, in you dress uniform. I’m
betting you’ll turn many an eye and heart tonight.”
I grinned. “Even yours?”
“Maybe,” she winked. “Oh, Admiral. It’s so nice to see you.”
One of her hands extended past me.
The older man grasped it. “Representative, the feeling is most
mutual. Come over here; you must meet Ambassador Toman. Excuse us,
Lieutenant.” His back muscled me to one side in an effort to sweep
Cait away, but she clung to one of my hands.
“Why, Admiral, we’d love to. You remember my husband, Thomas,
don’t you.”
The grey head turned and gazed haughtily at me. “You’re
Admiral Paris’ son, aren’t you?”
Oh, brother; here we go again. “Yes sir, I am.”
“Hmm, I would’ve thought you would be a commander by now.”
“Well, I- I” I could feel my face flush. I might as well have
been talking to my father.
Cait stepped in and saved me. “Oh, Admiral, rank isn’t
everything. Happiness and family are much more important.”
The Admiral raised one bushy, grey eyebrow in doubt. “Ah, here
we are. Ambassador Toman, I want you to meet Caitlin Paris, trade
representative for the Margellian Consortium.” He cleared his throat.
“And this is her husband, Lt. Thomas Paris.” The contempt in his voice
as he spoke my name was unmistakeable.
“Representative, this is indeed a pleasure.” The creature had
a lovely feminine voice. “And this is my husband, Hutan.”
“Pleased to meet you.” A deep bass came from the blond. You
almost had to laugh; it was so incongruous.
The five of us gabbed for a few minutes, and I was getting
bored stiff. I’ve always hated these functions. For the first hour or
so they’re great, but after that, who wants to stand around listening
to old Admirals go on about their illustrious careers and their role
in the future of Starfleet. Not me, that’s for sure, but Cait was
there, so I braved it.
It was hard not to be in awe of her. She practically had the
Ambassador signing a trade agreement already. Damn, she was skillful.
Presently, a tall, handsome officer strolled up. I judged him
to be in his mid-thirties, brunette, and about 180cm. His collar
indicated that he was a full commander. “Ambassador, do you
intend to occupy all of Rep. Paris’ attention?”
Cait spun around, her eyes glowing. “Ben! Where have you
been? I’ve been looking all over for you.”
He laughed. “Yes, I can see that.”
She giggled. “Oh, um, have you met my husband, Tom? Tom, this
is Commander Ben Eckersly. Right now, he’s assigned to the Judge
Advocate’s office here at Starfleet Command, but he used to serve on
the Exeter, you old ship.”
I extended my hand. “Commander.”
“Lieutenant.” I hated him, everything about him. His smile,
his firm handshake, his rank, and especially the way he looked at Cait.
“I’ve heard a lot about you, Lieutenant. You’ve done some good work on
Voyager. Cait’s very proud of you.”
Cait! Only I called her that. I attempted to swallow my
jealousy, but my arm automatically slipped around her waist. “I’ve
always tried to give her reason to be, Commander.”
“And you do.” She glanced up at me only briefly before turning
her gaze back to him. “Oh, Ben, before I forget, I need you to look
over a few things before tomorrow’s meeting. You’ll excuse us won’t
you?” She looked from him to the Ambassador. She didn’t look at me.
“Of course,” the Ambassador trilled, as they moved off.
“You’re a lucky man, Lieutenant.” The blond observed. “She’s
quite a woman. I don’t see how you stay away like you do.”
“Sometimes, neither do I,” I retorted quickly. “Excuse me,
please.” Without waiting for a reply, I headed off in the direction
which they had disappeared.
I reached the edge of the room, but they were nowhere to be
seen. A corridor with offices was a few feet away from where I stood;
if they had `business’ to discuss, they had probably ducked down there.
As I paused at the first door, I heard a noise come from inside.
Stealthily I opened the door just wide enough to pop my head in. They
were in there all right, but they weren’t discussing business.
Her arms were around his neck; her face tilted up to his,
welcoming his mouth. His hands caressed her back, crushing her to
his chest.
I stood there silently. I didn’t know what to do. Part of me
wanted to scream, another part to cry, still another wanted to charge
in there and punch him, and a fourth wanted to just curl up somewhere
and die. Finally, I stepped back and quietly closed the door.
I sagged heavily against the wall, blinking back the tears.
Oh gods, why? Was it my fault? I needed a stiff drink. I stumbled
back towards the main room and collided with Harry.
“Hey, I’ve been looking all over for you.” He stopped. “Tom,
what’s wrong? You’re as pale as a ghost.”
I shook my head. I couldn’t talk about it. “Nothing. I just
need a drink. C’mon.” I grabbed his elbow and hustled him in the
direction of the open bar.
I was in the process of downing my second shot of whiskey when
I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Cait. “Hey, Harry, mind if I
steal him away for a while?”
“Be my guest. He’s always been lousy company anyway,” he
teased.
She laughed and led me over to the same small office. I spun
around as she closed and locked the door behind us. “What, Cait?
Why have you- mmph!”
Her arms encircled my neck, her mouth closing over mine with
an arousing ferocity. But it didn’t make any difference. I was too
hurt and now I was mad.
I pulled her arms down, holding them between us by the wrists.
“What are you doing? Why are you doing this?”
She giggled. “I would’ve thought the answer to both questions
was obvious.” She freed one of her hands and ran it along my jaw.
“I thought maybe we could sneak away somewhere with a bottle of
champagne. You’re always gone for so long; I really do miss you
terribly.” Her finger lightly traced my lower lip. “You know, rumor
has it that our marriage is almost non-existent. I thought we might
change that fact tonight.” She tried to bring my mouth down to hers.
“Marriage?” I shoved her roughly away. “How can you say we
have a marriage? Does your Commander Eckersly think we have a
marriage? Apparently not, considering how close you two are.”
“What- what are you talking about?”
“Don’t lie to me. I saw you two in here a few minutes ago.
He was kissing you as only a husband should, as only I should kiss you.
And now you’re coming on to me? Saying how much you miss me? Don’t
lie to me, Cait. I may love you, but I won’t play the sap.” Angrily,
I turned away.
A hand clapped me soundly on the back. I spun around to face
a grinning Harry and B’Elanna. We were on Voyager outside sickbay.
“Congratulations, old man! What are you going to call him?”
“Call who, what?” I sputtered.
“Your son, of course,” B’Elanna responded, giving me an
enthusiastic hug. “Don’t tell me you two haven’t decided on a name.”
The doors to sickbay opened before I could respond, allowing a
smiling Captain to exit. “He’s a beautiful child, Tom; he’ll make a
wonderful addition to our growing family.”
“Thank you, Captain. I-”
“Tom!” A familiar voice beckoned me inside. A tired, but
radiant Cait was sitting up on a biobed a small bundle cradled in her
arms. Chakotay was standing beside her, beaming his approval.
I dashed across the room and peered down at the tiny face. The
child had jet black hair and dark, piercing eyes. I glanced up at the
Commander, who arrogantly challenged my gaze with a knowing smirk.
“Isn’t your son lovely?” She held the child out towards me.
I shrank away in horrified disgust. “This isn’t my son.”

“Ahhh!” I bolted up, throwing my legs over the side of my make-shift
bed. I was shaking from head to toe I was so angry. Taking slow, deep
breaths, I gradually managed to calm myself down. The light was barely peeking
over the horizon. Another night shot to hell, and I didn’t know how much more
of this I could take. The dreams were getting worse not better. At this rate,
Caldik Prime was due for an appearance anytime now.
I stood up and flexed my tense muscles in preparation for another day
of surveying, as I reflected back to the dream. Was I that insecure about
Cait’s affection now? Was I so sure that I had lost her for good? Or was I
subconciously trying to prepare myself for a life without her?
Stepping outside, I took a deep breath, letting the morning light warm
my face. My head was killing me, thoughts whirring non-stop around my brain.
I reached back into the shuttle for my backpack; hopefully, a little hiking
would clear my mind.

Disintegration
part 5

“Blue Shadows
of the Canyon
I met you
& now you’re gone

& now my dream is gone
Let me back into your garden.

_______________________________________________________________________________

I chose to explore the mountainous terrain to the north of the shuttle.
I figured it would constitute more of a challenge and keep me from dwelling on
my dreams until I was ready to face them.
As it turned out, the planet was pretty rich in mineral resources, most
useless to Voyager. Still between recording the data and collecting samples,
it was well after noon before I took a break for lunch. I sat down on a large
rock about one quarter of the way up one of the smaller mountains and looked
down over the valley. It was really beautiful here. I wondered why it had
never been settled, but I was glad it hadn’t.
Little by little, my thoughts began to turn back to Cait. What if she
didn’t forgive me? I could understand now how she had felt when she saw Jenny
kiss me, and I really couldn’t blame her if she didn’t. But how would I make
it without her? I had come to depend on her for friendship, advice and so many
other things. Somehow, though, I would have to. Yeah, it would hurt at first,
but I got over Toria. I got over Ricki, too, eventually. I could get over
Cait if I had to.
I mean, hell, what made her so different from all the others? She was
good-looking, but Toria had been prettier. She was clever, but Jinata had been
better educated. And Ricki had had the looks and the all-important family
connections; both of Cait’s parents were dead.
So what then? Maybe it was because to her, I wasn’t some `pretty-boy-
Admiral’s-son; although, at first I had been, much to her disgust. But once
she got by that I was just Lt. Tom Paris, the conn officer on Voyager.
A flirt, yeah, I’ll admit it; an arrogant rogue, yeah, okay, I’ll admit that,
too. But underneath that, I was just plain Tom Paris, a guy who was trying,
unsuccessfully, to rebuild a 1938 Ford on the holodeck, and somehow she had
managed to see through to that, accept it and even encourage it.
I knew her. I trusted her. We had shared some of our deepest fears
and most hidden memories. I had never let anyone into my life the way I had
let her in. Yeah, Cait was very, very special.
Okay, so what were my options. We don’t get married and don’t have
kids. I think I could learn to live with that. It wasn’t what I wanted, but
right now, just having her with me was far more important. Face it, Thomas.
Alana was right. You are in love with Cait and nothing’s gonna change that
little fact.
I closed my eyes as a cool breeze whipped across the mountainside.
In my mind, I could see her clearly. “Cait,” I whispered to the image. “I
want us back together. I’m sorry I was such an idiot; I never meant to hurt
you so. I love you.” The vision smiled at me, and I smiled back before re-
opening my eyes. Too bad it was only my imagination.
The sun was starting to set. I had to start back if I wanted to reach
camp prior to nightfall.
The kindling of my campfire had just begun to catch when the Captain’s
voice filtered over the shuttle’s comm system. I had never been so happy to
hear anyone’s voice in my life. Needless to say, the shuttle’s distress call
had brought them all quite a shock, and at first, I think they must have
thought it was a hoax. Evidently, when the light had flashed in the nebula,
it had given a false resonance trace from the shuttle’s warp core, leading them
to believe that the shuttle had been destroyed, even though no debris could be
found. So after a memorial service, they had continued on their way; almost
two whole months had elapsed for them since then.
Overall, I felt pretty optimistic as I piloted the shuttle back onto
Voyager. It didn’t seem possible for Fate to drag me forward and backward
through time, only to thumb her nose at me so close to the finish line.
Secretly, I hoped that Cait would meet me in the shuttle bay, but she didn’t.
As soon as I landed, I was bundled off to sickbay for a thorough
examination and interrogation by the Doctor, Captain Janeway and Lt. Tuvok.
In between rounds of questions, I sat back and contemplated how Cait and I
would spend our first evening together. There would be no fights; no words,
except maybe our names and `I love you’. Any apologies or confessions could
wait. All I wanted to do was hold her and make love to her until we fell into
a satiated sleep.
The Doctor quickly pronounced me fit for duty, and the Captain,
herself, escorted me to new, smaller quarters right down the corridor from
my old ones. This struck me as odd, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it as
she gave me a direct order to shower, shave, and change for a hastily arranged
welcome home dinner. Within twenty minutes, I found myself in the mess,
receiving hugs, kisses and pats on the back. It was so good to be back that
words failed me.
I looked around for Cait, but I didn’t see her. It didn’t make sense;
I had expected her to be here. Now, I started to worry. Was she still so
angry with me? In sickbay, I had asked Kes about her, but she had only shaken
her head, refusing to say anything more than “you’ll have to speak with her”.
I guess my face reflected my anxiety because Harry began bringing me up to date
on the situation as soon as we sat down to eat.
It seems that Jenny had come clean almost immediately after I was lost,
and Cait had taken the whole thing pretty hard, feeling both depressed over my
`death’ and guilty as hell for not having listened to me the night before. She
had shut herself up in our old quarters, emerging only for quick, solitary
meals and for her duty shift. She was just starting to put my loss behind her
when here I was popping up again. Sometimes, my timing is really lousy.
Knowing how she can brood, I could barely choke down the meal fast
enough, but everyone wanted to hear what had happened, and since they had all
been so nice, I felt kind of obligated to relate a revised tale of my
adventures. I left out the part about Voyager not reaching home by 2410; the
Dominion invasion seemed to cause enough worry as it was. Even then, it was
still three hours later before I finally got away and stopped by what was now
Cait’s quarters.
“Come in.”
The door sshhed open. She was seated on the couch looking out of the
window. “I expected you over an hour ago,” she remarked without glancing
around. “The dinner went on much longer than I anticipated. You must’ve had
some tale to tell.”
It took every bit of self-control I had not to run across the room and
take her in my arms. “Um, yeah. Actually, I did. Do you want to hear it?”
She turned and gazed up at me for the first time. “Not especially.”
I stared at her in disbelief. Gods! She looked like she had aged ten
years. Her face was pale and drawn, and the once-beautiful eyes regarded me
dully from their sunken depths.
She rose slowly and walked over to one side of the room, picking up a
box from beside the desk. “I packed most of your things in here. I assumed
you’d want them in your new quarters. The Captain was going to re-assign you
here, but I asked her not to.” Her back was to me, but I could tell by the
ragged edge to her voice that she was fighting back the tears. She doesn’t
break down very often; for some reason, it’s just a luxury she doesn’t allow
herself.
“Why? Harry told me that Jenny confessed, and I certainly don’t blame
you for your reaction to the situation. The whole episode was my fault
entirely, and I’m sorry. Honest, I am. I never wanted to hurt you like that.
Please, Cait. Say you’ll forgive me.” I came up behind her and placed my
hands on her shoulders, feeling the body I love so well flinch beneath my
touch. “Cait, what’s wrong? Are you still so angry with me?” A lump rose
in my throat.
She shook her head and set the box on the desk. “No, I’m not angry
anymore, Tom, but we can’t stay together. I can’t take it. First, Dad; then,
you. And now just when I’ve said good-bye, you turn up again, expecting things
to be as they were. But they can’t be, Tom; they just can’t be.”
I squeezed the shoulders gently. “I never said I wanted things to be
the same. We fought way too much before, but I do want to live with you. I
want to wake up every morning and find you next to me. Cait, I love you.”
Brushing her hair aside, I kissed the nape of her neck.
“And how long until the next argument splits us apart?” She twisted
from my grasp. “No, Tom. You don’t understand. It’s not that I’m just tired
of fighting; I’m tired of losing the very people I’m closest to. I mean, a few
years ago, I lost Dad and his crew, the only family I’ve ever really known.
And then, I met you, and you were crazy enough to want to start a family with
me. Well, now I’ve had to say good-bye to you, too, and it even hurt more than
the first time. So, please. Please don’t make me go through that again.” Her
green eyes swam in uncried tears.
“But Cait, I-”
“Please, Tom.”
We all have our limits on pain and suffering, and I guess that she had
reached hers. I also knew her well enough to know that once she had made up
her mind, nothing short of time and circumstances could change it. As our
future together dissolved in front of me, I pulled her into my chest, and we
hugged each other tightly. I didn’t want to let her go; I had to, but I didn’t
want to. Eventually, she was the one who broke away.
“I’m sorry, Tom.” Tears ran silently down her cheeks and her gaze
dropped quickly to the floor.
I tilted her chin up and kissed her tenderly for the last time. “I’m
sorry, too, Cait.” Without another word I picked up the box and left.
I must have been in some form of shock because the full impact of what
had just happened didn’t seem to hit me until I began unpacking the box and
came across the picture of us at Harry’s birthday party. In it, Cait is
sitting on my lap and we are smiling at each other. I think she was about to
kiss me, or maybe I was about to kiss her. Either way, our affection for one
another is plain.
I sat down on the bed and just stared at the picture long and hard,
remembering both the good times and the bad. But it wasn’t until the first few
drops hit the frame that I realized that I was crying.

The next day, the Captain assigned me permanently to my new quarters;
thankfully, our shifts are such that Cait and I don’t see each other as often
as we could. However, when we do run into one another, we maintain what she
calls a friendly distance. You don’t want to know what I call it.
I guess we’re just too alike in some respects to stay together;
headstrong, arrogant, vexatious and scarred. In a way, I’m surprised we lasted
as long as we did. Gods, I miss her, every single thing about her.
It’s 2230 hours now. I’m wide awake and still in pain, despite the
fact that I’ve got half a bottle of scotch in me. I always could hold liquor,
much to my father’s disgust. Oh, hell, who cares? I certainly don’t.
How did that poem go? I don’t recall who wrote it. Although, I should
find out; I have the feeling we had a lot in common. Oh yeah.

Being drunk is a good disguise

I drink so I
can talk to assholes.
This includes me.

Good night, Cait. I love you.

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