The Paris Journals: Futures Past, Futures Present, vol. XI

DISCLAIMERS: All original characters belong to Paramount. The story and the

other characters are purely my invention.

CAUTION: This story is not intended for minors: L, S.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This story is a part of “The Paris Journals” storyline.

The character of Nat Lawson first received mention

in the story “Thicker Than Blood”. You will also note that

Admiral Paris’ name is Eugene and not Owen, as has since

been revealed on the show. Comments and criticisms

are always welcome.

Futures Past, Futures Present

Part I

by Carly Hunter

copyright 1998

Back, he spurred like a madman, shouting a curse to the sky,

With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished

high.

Blood-red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet

coat;

When they shot him down on the highway,

Down like a dog on the highway,

And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his

throat.

-Alfred Noyes

“The Highwayman”

Aeropa II:

(an unsanctioned settlement located in the demilitarized zone

between the Federation and the Cardassian-Dominion Alliance)

I have only the clothes on my back. Nat pulls out a storage chest

filled with a meager assortment of his late wife’s clothes. Dust flies as he

shakes out a gown and I sneeze. He says she and I were about the same size.

He is right. The nightgown fits.

A dead woman’s clothes. I wear a dead woman’s clothes. Maybe I will

be dead soon, too.

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

(Saturn Defense Station)

*BEEP*

“Computer, half lights,” I called sleepily, unwilling to pry open

the ol’ baby blues just yet. Through my lids, I could tell that the command

had been carried out with its usual efficiency.

I lay still, savoring the warm hollow my weight had created in

the bed. A little longer? Yeah, why not? With Cait gone, I didn’t have

to worry about the noise I made or the mess I left behind on my way out

the door. Yeah, just a few minutes more…

Shit! I bolted up. “Computer, time.”

“It is now 0735.”

“Shit!” Leaping out of bed, I ran over to the bureau. Underwear.

Socks. Shirt. Shirt? “Shit. Double shit. Triple shit. Great, huge,

heaping mounds of shit! Where the hell is my shirt?” I stood in the middle

of the room and scanned high and low without success. “Oh hell! I must have

forgotten to replicate the damn thing.” *Smart move, Thomas, and just who has

a flight sim to run at 0800?* I dashed into the bathroom.

Minutes later, still clasping a half-full mug of coffee, I met

Ensign Frederick Cohen outside one of the training holosuites. He was leaning

against the wall, but drew himself to attention as I approached.

“At ease, Ensign.” I grinned. “Ready to try to kick my butt?”

The broad shoulders relaxed and a smile lit up the fresh-scrubbed

features. He reminded me of Harry when we first met on DS9. “Good morning,

sir.” The hazel eyes darted to the container in my hand, but he said nothing.

I shrugged off the silent question with a sheepish grin. “Tried to

squeeze in a few extra minutes of shut-eye. I was a little too successful.”

He nodded. “I know how that is. Maybe I’ll have a chance against you

after all.”

“Maybe. We’ll see.” I punched the program code into the holosuite

console. “One thing’s for sure. I won’t have the chance to sleep in once

my wife gets back. She won’t let me.”

He laughed. Cohen was a good kid. I liked him. Actually, I liked

most of the young pilots that the Academy had sent us, but as I said, Cohen

reminded me of Harry. Same height, same build, same fresh-and-ready-for-

anything determination. At times, it was still hard for me to believe that he

and B’Elanna had a kid now.

“Yessir,” Cohen responded. “I know just what you mean. My girlfriend

and I were together all through the Academy, and she was always on my case

about something. Still, I’ll bet you’ll be glad to see Mrs. Paris when she

gets back. When’s she due in?”

“Not for two more days, but you’re right. I will be glad to see her.”

Cait had been gone for a week and a half, visiting her father, who

lived on a Klingon settlement near the Klingon-Dominion border. We had tried

to talk to each other every day, but the settlement’s nearness to the border

didn’t always make that possible. Two days ago, she had only been able to

get three minutes transmission time and had simply left me a message with her

arrival time and her love. Freddie was right. Gods, I had missed her.

Cohen’s shoulders shifted slightly in sympathy as we entered the

holosuite. “I guess I’ll feel the same way when Jin finally ships out.

Did I tell you? She got her assignment–the Mycenae, as soon as Utopia

gets through putting on the finishing touches. She’ll be in Operations.”

“Good for her. Tough job. My friend was Chief of Operations on

Voyager and I wouldn’t have traded places with him for the whole universe.

You’ve got to know a helluva lot about everything and at least one department

is always complaining.”

“Jin’ll handle it. She’s super smart. By the way, sir, if you don’t

mind my asking, do you have any idea who’s going to captain the Mycenae?”

“Nope. No idea. Sorry.” I nodded my head toward the holographic

cockpits in front of us. “Ready to try your luck?”

“Yessir!”

“Then let’s get to it.”

I took my place in the “predator” cockpit and strapped myself in.

After gulping down the last of my coffee, I donned the nearby sim helmet

and adjusted its black face shield. “Ready, Cohen?”

“Ready.”

“Computer, begin program.”

I smiled to myself. The hunt. A modern version of an ancient game

known as survival. Spot your quarry. Plan your attack. Then, close in

swiftly, careful not to become prey yourself. Down wind or over a magnetic

pole, it all boils down to tactics and experience ground so deeply into

memory that they become instinctual. Cohen fought hard, but a last-minute

charge secured his fate, as my phasers sliced into his ship, ripping its

belly wide open.

“Computer, end program,” I requested, pulling off the helmet.

The whole scene vanished as Cohen and I got to our feet. I grinned and

patted him on the shoulder. “Nice sim run. You really took me by surprise

with that beta pattern fake.”

He blushed a little, but shook his head. “Not enough to get away.

You still scored on me, sir.”

“Thanks to experience. You’re good, Freddie. Have you ever-”

“Tai to Lt. Paris.”

“Paris here.”

“Please report to my office immediately.”

I frowned, puzzled. “On my way. Guess that’s it for now, Ensign.

Download the run and review it and we’ll discuss it later this afternoon.”

“Yessir.”

When I stepped into Captain Tai’s office and saw Dad, I knew something

bad had happened. I just got the “who” wrong. “Dad? Er, I mean, you sent

for me, Captain?”

Tai nodded, his thin face drawn tighter than usual. “The Admiral has

asked to speak with you, Lieutenant. Please use my office for as long as you

need it, Admiral.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

With a brief, sympathetic gaze in my direction, my C.O. hastened from

the room.

“Sit down, Thomas,” my father said quietly. His tone and expression

told me it was one order I had better follow.

“Why? What is it? What’s happened? Is it Mom?”

“No, your mother is fine. Worried, but fine.” He glanced up at the

ceiling and then turned toward the window. “Thomas, I don’t even know how

to begin.” His voice was so low I had to strain to hear him. “Four hours ago,

I received a transmission from Caitlin’s father.”

“Rowan? Why- Oh gods. Something’s- What? What happened?”

“We don’t know, Thomas. She’s-” He stopped and turned around, still

avoiding my anxious gaze. “I wish there was an easier way to tell you this,”

he muttered.

“Tell me what?” I almost screamed.

He took a deep breath and slowly lifted his eyes to mine. “Caitlin’s

gone, Thomas. Missing, I mean.”

“Missing? But-but how? Why?”

“We don’t know. She’s been gone for over twenty-four hours.

According to Rowan, she went down to the market to pick up some fresh meat

and never returned. Searches and interviews are still being conducted, but

so far, nothing. Not even a hint of foul play, which in its own way,

I suppose, is a blessing.”

“No. No. That’s not possible. Someone must have seen something.”

The nearly bald head shook slowly as he walked over, taking a seat in

a nearby chair. “No, nothing. The Klingon authorities have been very

thorough, but as it is a trade-based settlement, non-Klingons do not attract

the same attention that they would on their homeworld. Many races come and go

throughout the day.”

“But can’t we do something? Send one of our investigative teams over

to help them? I mean, we can’t just sit by and do nothing.”

“Thomas, this is a Klingon settlement. We can’t barge in uninvited.

Protocol aside, it would be an affront to their honor. Besides, Rowan is

friends with several of the security personnel. He assures me that they are

treating the matter as if she were one of their own.”

“Yeah, I know.” I sighed, letting my chin sink to my chest. I didn’t

know what else to say. My mind was racing but going nowhere. Missing? Kid-

napped? Why? Killed? Oh gods. No. No, she couldn’t be dead. She just

couldn’t. She was only visiting; she was supposed to leave there tomorrow;

she had said so. She couldn’t be missing. This had to be some kind of

grotesque mistake.

Dad’s hand squeezed my shoulder gently. “I can only guess at how

difficult this must be for you, Thomas. That’s why Rowan contacted me and I

came out here. We know how much you meant to each other.”

I couldn’t help it. My shoulder quaked as he used the past tense.

“It’s all right, Thomas,” he said softly.

I drew a deep breath and tried to compose myself. “What do I do?”

I looked up, too distraught to be shocked anymore by the compassion of

his gaze. “Dad, tell me, what do I do? And please don’t say nothing because

I don’t think I can just sit back and-” My voice faltered and Dad’s jaw

tightened, the muscle rippling beneath his skin.

“I’m afraid there’s little any of us can do, Thomas, except wait

and hope.” He glanced at the door. “If you wish, I’m sure I can arrange it

with Captain Tai for you to have some leave. You could come back home.

Your mother and I would-”

“And do what while I’m there? Wait? I can’t do that.” My muscles

tensed with sudden frustration. Leaping to my feet, I began to pace, somehow

suppressing the scream that surged into my throat. “Nothing,” I muttered.

“Nothing. My wife is missing and there’s nothing I can do. I can’t believe

this! Dammit, Dad, isn’t there something- There’s got to be!”

His eyes closed and he sighed heavily. “Thomas, believe me, there is

nothing I would like better than to lead an investigative team over there,

but we don’t have that option. I’m sorry. Shall I speak with Tai?”

My gaze dropped to the floor, then rose slowly until I could see

Titan through the window. “No,” I sighed. “No, if there’s nothing I can do,

then I’d rather stay here on duty. I-I need-” My throat closed, choking off

the rest of my words.

“I understand. Rowan said he would contact you later to give you a

more detailed report on their efforts. In many ways, I think he must have

toughest job of any of us.”

“What? Oh, yeah, I guess he does.” I continued to stare out the

window. Time was slowly slipping out of sync. Nothing seemed real–not the

chairs, not the desk, not even the station. Had I even woken up this morning?

Was this a dream? Maybe? I closed my eyes. Please.

“Thomas?” I jumped. Dad stood right beside me. “Come on, Thomas.

Let me buy you a drink. I think we both need one.” He placed a hand on

my back and gently propelled me out of my thoughts and back into the harshness

of reality.

DISCLAIMERS: See part 1. Comments should be addressed to Carly Hunter,

(crime@bu.edu).

Futures Past, Futures Present

Part I, cont.

copyright 1998

Aeropa II:

Layers of red dust cover everything here, the living and the dead.

I taste it when I wake, crunching the grit between my teeth. Vulture country,

Ayala would call it.

My reflection stares back at me from the mirror. Sweat and dirt have

left coppery smudges across my face, my arms, and my hands. My skin suffocates

beneath the dust. “I used to be tougher than this,” I whisper. “I used to

fight. Not so long ago, I would’ve died before surrendering. Now all of that

has changed. Everything has changed.” And I feel once again the weight press

against my chest. No. No, I won’t cry. I won’t. I won’t give them the

satisfaction.

Goddamn you! All of you! I used to be Maquis. I know all about how

precious supply lines are. I wouldn’t have betrayed yours. I don’t care

about it, but you wouldn’t listen to me, would you? Not now, but you will.

In three months, when it starts to show, I’ll make you listen. I’ll make

sure you hear every damn word. I’ll make you sorry you ever brought me here.

The door opens behind me and Nat walks in, his blond hair choked

brown by the soil and plastered down with sweat. Thick, rust-colored clouds

billow out of his pants as he slaps his thighs. He walks over to the sink

and drinks thirstily from the water jug, not bothering with a glass. Ass.

Bastard. Petagh. Bachautu. He sets the jug down and leans back against the

counter, studying me from behind as he draws the back of his hand slowly across

his mouth. I don’t turn around.

“Can I give you a little friendly advice?”

My reflection frowns at him. “I think friendly is pushing it at the

moment.”

“Okay. Fine. Look, maybe you’re not aware of this, but you’re not

winning any friends here.”

“I didn’t know I was trying to.”

“Oh, for- Caitie, I’m not the enemy.”

I spin around, glaring. “You’re not? I could’ve sworn you were.”

The streaked brow puckers in a deep frown. “Well, I’m not. I’m just

trying to-”

“Trying to what? Make my stay at the thirty-ninth level of Hell

pleasant? I didn’t ask to come here, or have you forgotten that little fact?”

“No, I haven’t forgotten, but maybe you’ve forgotten that Remy

would’ve killed you if I hadn’t stepped in.”

“Oh, how could I forget?” I retort, and clasp my hands over my heart.

“You’re my knight in shining armor. You rescued me from everything I held

dear–my friends, my family, my husband. How can I ever thank you?”

Beneath the sigh of frustration lurks a low growl. I am pushing him.

I know it and I don’t care.

“Look, Caitie, you may as well face facts. Like it or not, you’re

here, and either you can make your stay here agreeable or you can make it a

living hell for everyone, yourself included. It’s your choice, but I’ll tell

you this. Right now you’re topping everyone’s resentment list, including

mine.”

“So? You don’t really believe I give a damn, do you?”

“You should. We all saw you out there. For every two pails we

carried, you carried one, and then without a word, you stopped and came back

here. That pissed a lot us off, including me. You aren’t any better than us,

you know. You may not like being here, but if we don’t eat, you don’t eat.

It’s as simple as that.”

“Just as simple as that,” I repeat with a sneer.

“Yes.”

“Fine. Next time, I’ll just keep right on working until I faint.

Will that impress all of you?”

“C’mon, Caitie. Don’t be so melodramatic. I know you. You’re tougher

than this.”

“I am not being melodramatic. I’m not the same little kid you slept

with on the Taliesyn. Time has passed and a lot has changed.”

“Yeah. No shit.” He takes a deep breath and his arms rise and quickly

fall in exasperation. “Okay. Fine. So you felt ill. If you wanted to take

a break, all you had to do was say so. We all have to at one time or another

in this heat.”

“You still don’t get it, do you? I was dizzy. I was hot and tired

and dizzy. Hell, it was a toss-up as to what I was going to do first–vomit

or pass out. I am pregnant, dammit! What the hell do I have to do to convince

you? Bring me a fucking medikit and I’ll prove it to you!”

“Caitie-”

“Don’t ‘Caitie’ me, you sonuvabitch! If you want to delude yourself

into thinking you can grow tomatoes in the middle of this fucking desert,

be my guest, but I am not going to lose this baby helping you. Nor am I going

to lose it thumbing my nose at the Federation and the Dominion. Maintaining

this colony in defiance of resettlement orders may sound good in principle,

but it’s a losing proposition. For gods’ sakes, how many people have you lost?

Ten? Twenty? Fifty? How many more have to die? It may seem worth it,

but it’s not. Believe me, I’ve seen this before. And now, by bringing me

here, you’ve condemned two more lives. How could you? What gave you that

right?” My chin trembles, but I fight it. I will not let him see me cry.

He stares at me, his blue eyes opening wide. “You’re serious,” he says

softly. “You were really serious in the cargo bay.”

“Of course, I was serious. In spite of what Remy might think,

I wouldn’t lie about something like this. Why the hell do you think I’ve been

eating in snacks instead of full-fledged meals?”

He drags a filthy hand over his equally filthy beard. “Oh shit,” he

curses under his breath. “Shitshitshit. Ah hell, Caitie, I’m sorry. I am

so sorry. I didn’t think you were serious. I thought it was simply a trick,

like Remy said. I mean, you used to be pretty devious in your own right when

we were together. I just didn’t understand.”

“No, you certainly didn’t. And when my child is born, if you and

Remy are still alive, perhaps you’ll do him or her the courtesy of explaining

just why their father isn’t around. Excuse me.”

I storm out of the house and stop at the dried up trunk of some tree

a meter or so away. I am so angry I’m shaking. Now he believes me! Now, when

it’s too late. The others–Remy, Atlal, Mosc–won’t let me go. I’m trapped

here. My baby and I are trapped, and Tom has no idea where we are. Oh gods!

What do I do? I’ve got to do something. What?

I clutch at the tree. Oh shit, I’m getting dizzy. Breathe. Breathe.

That’s it. Whatever the situation, this little one comes first. I can’t lose

this one, too.

Leaning back against the tree, I slowly slide to the ground. My lip

quivers and my shoulders quake. I can’t hold back the tears anymore. I draw

my knees up and wrap my arms around them, burying my face. I’ve lost

everything, everything that ever mattered, everything, except this little one.

“Caitie?” Nat crouches beside me. “I’m sorry. It doesn’t mean much,

I guess, but I really am. Is-is this your first?”

“No.” I gasp for breath. “And that’s why I can’t lose it. I-I lost

the first one.”

“Shit,” he swears again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. If I had-”

I raise my head. “If you had, would it really have made a damn bit of

difference? Or would you have just saved yourself the trouble and let Remy

shoot me?”

That wounds him. I can see the bleeding deep within his eyes.

“I wouldn’t have let him do that no matter what the cost.”

“Oh? You would’ve just let me walk out of the cargo bay, free

and clear?”

“If that’s what it came down to, yes.”

“Then why the hell didn’t you?” I push him so that he loses his

balance and topples backward. Then, scrambling to my feet, I flee back into

the house, into the bedroom, locking the door behind me.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

The doors to our quarters slid aside. Darkness. No light. No wel-

coming smile. Would there ever be one again? I wanted to believe so. I tried

to believe so, but as the lights came on and revealed the emptiness of the two

rooms, a stone dropped in my belly. I stumbled to a chair and collapsed,

burying my face in my hands, trying desperately to release the tears I had

been holding back. They wouldn’t come.

Three months. Only three months had passed since her release from

the rehab facility. She shouldn’t have even served one damn day. It was

nothing but politics, pacifying the goddamn Cardassians, and through them,

the Dominion. Exile for nearly a decade hadn’t been enough. No, they had

to steal six more months of our lives. At least, I had known where she was

then and that she was safe.

I sprawled back in the chair and stared up at the ceiling. Wearily,

I closed my eyes. Gods, and we had just started trying to have another baby.

“Lt. Paris, you have an incoming transmission from the Klingon colony

on Tova’as Minor.”

I bolted for the terminal at my desk. “Put it through.” I crossed

my fingers. Oh gods, please. Please.

The bearded face of my father-in-law appeared on the screen. My heart

plummetted. He looked as though he hadn’t slept in days. “Good evening, Tom.

I suppose your father has told you what happened.”

I crumpled into the chair. “Yes. I saw him off on a transport

about an hour or so ago.”

“I’ve been trying to contact you directly for a while. Are you

all right?”

“Yeah. After Dad left, I took a walk about the station. I just

couldn’t bring myself to come back here.”

The red-headed man nodded sympathetically. “Yes. I understand.

I simply wanted to let you know that we’re doing all we can to locate her.”

I nodded. “Dad told me. Rowan, is there really nothing? No clue?

No lead?”

“Unfortunately.” The former trader sighed heavily. “One of the

regular merchants, a Ferengi, did say he saw a woman meeting Cait’s description

heading for the cargo transport area, but he couldn’t swear that it was her.

Six bars of latinum were occupying a good deal of his attention at the time.”

“But the Klingons did follow up on it, didn’t they?”

“They did, but this happened during the busiest time of the day.

Cargo and people were being transported in and out of those bays, and there is

no record of anyone matching her description beaming off the surface.”

“But the logs could’ve been altered. It’s not hard to do. Did anyone

check to see if they showed signs of tampering?”

“Yes.” His voice held a sorrow-filled tone I had heard only

once before, when he was talking about his wife. “Tom, she was- is

my daughter. She is all I have left. We’re doing everything we can. We’re

following every possible lead.”

Chagrined, my gaze fell to the desk. “I know.” He and I had had a

strained relationship from the first time we met. Had I really just inferred

that he didn’t care enough?

“Son.” I looked up; he had never called me that before. “I know how

much she loves you, and I’m beginning to realize how much you care for her.

Please believe me when I say we’re doing all we possibly can to find her.”

“I do. I didn’t mean to imply you weren’t. Hell, she’s your daughter

and I know you’d do anything for her. It’s just that-” *No. Not tears.

Not now.* “It’s just that it’s so hard to sit by and do nothing. I’ve been

racking my brain ever since Dad left trying to remember if there was anything

in her transmissions, if maybe I forgot something, but there was nothing.”

“I know. It’s hard. I’ve spent the better part of the past thirty-

six hours at the security office. If Rogaath wasn’t a friend of the family,

I’m sure he would’ve had me forcibly removed. And after what happened two

weeks ago, he wouldn’t have exerted himself doing so,” he concluded with a

weak grin.

“How is your back?”

“Better. The therapy has helped immensely.”

“Well, that’s some good news. Cait was really worried.”

“Truth be known, so was I.” He chuckled slightly, and then sobered.

“Tom, I promise I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything.”

“Yessir. I know you will, and I do appreciate your contacting me.”

I wanted to sign off. The tears hovered closer and closer to the edge.

I didn’t know how much longer I could hold them back.

Rowan’s mouth tightened beneath his thick, red beard. “I’ll be in

touch,” he said somewhat huskily. “Keep faith.” Then, with a nod, he broke

transmission.

Slowly, I got to my feet and stumbled into the bedroom. The bed,

which had felt so comfortable and roomy this morning, now looked unbearably

empty. Without undressing, I fell upon it, pulling Cait’s pillow to my chest.

Quietly, I repeated a small prayer I had learned from Chakotay. On quite a few

occasions, I had heard him mutter it over and over to himself on the bridge

of Voyager. He said it was a prayer to help the lost find their way back to

their relatives. Sometime during my hundredth utterance I finally fell asleep.

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

DISCLAIMERS: See part 1. Comments should be addressed to Carly Hunter,

(crime@bu.edu).

Futures Past, Futures Present

Part I, cont.

copyright 1998

Aeropa II:

The sun rose over the horizon an hour ago, and the warm wind already

hints at the heat to come. West of the settlement, clusters of rock pillars

loom up red-orange, like the massive columnar remains of ancient cities.

Nat and I join the small procession marching toward the parched fields.

A large, winged shadow passes over us, once, twice, circling. Neither of us

has spoken a word since last night, but my anger has grown weary, lessening its

hold and allowing prudence to dictate my actions once again.

“I wish you didn’t have to do this,” Nat says finally. “I’m really

sorry, Caitie. If I had only known…”

“I know,” I reply, and try to send him a look telling him so. “But

what’s done is done. I’m here now, and short of stealing that moth-eaten

thing you call a ship, there’s not all that much I can do about it.”

He frowns. “You wouldn’t try that, would you? It may not be much,

but it’s the only way we can get supplies. Some people would do just about

anything to protect it.”

“I may be desperate, but I’m not stupid. Flying that thing solo would

be a death sentence. How many times did we lose life support on our way here?

Five? Six?”

“Only twice, but if you did manage to take it, we’re hardly in a

position to pursue you.”

“True, but the Cardies might do the job for you, or this Dominion.”

“They’re one in the same,” he remarks with a smirk.

“Whatever. From what you’ve told me, once they spot the ship, they

won’t stop to ask questions before opening fire.”

“No, probably not.”

“Then what choice do I have?”

“None.”

“Exactly. So, heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s to the fields I go, right?”

He chuckles. “I had forgotten about your rather dry sense of humor.”

“Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the

coming days.”

Some settlers are already hard at work, hauling water and staking up

fragile stalks against the wind. As we near, Remy sets down the water buckets

he carries and straightens his wiry frame. His thin lips part in a smile that

is anything but friendly.

“Well, well, well. It looks like the princess is joining us again.

Why’d you stop yesterday? Get callouses on those royal hands?”

“Lay off, Remy. She was ill,” Nat says, and then turns to me. “Now

let me know if you start feeling bad again.”

“Feeling bad?” Remy crowes. “She looks healthy enough to me. Stop

babying her, Lawson.”

“I said to lay off, Mazrin. She’s pregnant. She shouldn’t be working

as hard as the rest of us in this heat.”

The harsh guffaw catches the wind and flies across the fields, causing

others to look up. “Pregnant? Man, I told you already she’s lying. She’s not

pregnant. She’s just trying to get out of work.” He seizes my arm, the thin,

strong fingers biting into my flesh. “I say we let her go a few days without

food. Then she’ll see how important work is.”

“Take your hands off me!” I try to jerk away, but his grip is

too firm. “Let me go!”

“Let her go, Mazrin,” Nat says quietly. “We’ve done enough already.”

“We?” Remy’s grip tightens and I gasp in pain. “If she hadn’t been

snooping, she wouldn’t be here.”

“I wasn’t snooping, dammit! You’re paranoid.”

With a harsh jerk, he pulls me closer, the moist heat of his breath

sticking to my face. “I’ve got reason to be paranoid. We need that supply

line. Some of us have been here since the beginning, and we’ve watched the

Dominion destroy what we’d built, piece by bloody piece. We didn’t attack

them. They attacked us.”

“Mazrin, she had nothing-”

“So what? So the hell what?” His glare shifts from me back to Nat.

“If her precious Federation had a backbone, they’d do something, instead of

keeping their asses glued to their chairs. What about Doc Berger, Lawson?

What about Alicia? What about all the work they put into this settlement?

What about the kid she was carrying? I don’t recall you being quite so calm

back then. Or have you forgotten about that?” Remy’s dark eyes narrow and

sweep over my borrowed clothes. “Maybe you have. Dressing her in Alicia’s

clothes. Letting her stay in your house. Trying to recapture the past,

Lawson?”

The muscles ripple in Nat’s neck, drawing into a taut line. When he

finally replies, his voice is still low, but more menacing than I ever knew

it could be. “That’s not true, Mazrin, and you know it. I loved Alicia.

I will never be able to forget what happened to her, what *they* did to her,

but Caitie is innocent. We’ve taken her away from her husband right when she

is expecting their child, and that makes us no better than the Dominion.

All she wanted was to say hello to me. She thought I was a friend. She didn’t

realize how much things had changed. Now, let her go.”

Anger burns in Remy’s eyes, but he turns me loose, and I rub my arm

under his resentful gaze. Then, with a huff of disgust, he picks up his water

buckets and walks off.

For the rest of the day, every time I look up, he is watching.

Deep down, it frightens me. I saw that same expression all too often in the

Maquis and sometimes in my own mirror. I know the level of callousness and

cruelty that lurks behind it. Nat is right. Remy would’ve killed me and never

given it a second thought. If I’m not careful, he still will.

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

“Sir?”

At first I didn’t hear them, my mind light years away from the bustle

of the mess and the coffee I was supposed to be drinking–light years away from

everything, that is, except Cait. No matter where I was or what I was doing,

she, or rather her memory was with me. Six days had passed now and still no

word, not even a promising lead.

“Sir? Lieutenant? May we join you?” Cohen’s tone reflected the

concern etched in both his and Fatima Nazir’s faces.

“Oh, uh, yes, of course. Sorry about that. Have a seat.”

They exchanged glances and sat down, but remained silent.

“Is there something on your minds, Ensigns?”

“Well, sir, it’s like this,” Freddie began. “We just wanted to let

you know how sorry we were about-” He paused, glancing at Nazir, and she

nodded. “About your wife, sir,” he blurted finally.

“Thank you. I appreciate that.”

“You two seemed so in love,” he continued. “It just doesn’t make

sense. Something must have happened because- Ow!” He jumped as Nazir gigged

him with her elbow. “That is, we hope it’s nothing bad, but-” He stopped,

flustered.

“It’s all right, Cohen. I think I understand what you mean.

Thank you.”

“Sir?” Nazir broke in. “Is it true? Commander Sinclair said you

wouldn’t be leading our training sortie tomorrow. He said you removed your

name from the flight rotation.”

“That’s true. I did.”

“But you were the best, sir. I’ve learned more from you these past

few weeks than I did my last two years at the Academy.”

“Same here,” Cohen echoed. “Each time out I learn something new.”

The gentle warmth of their friendship flowed over me, passing all too

quickly. “I’ll still be running the holosims, but given the present state of

my personal life, I thought it wise to ground myself. Flying is a responsibil-

ity, and you have to treat it as such. Years ago, I learned just what a small

margin for error there is out there. To allow myself to fly while I’m dis-

tracted would be irresponsible and dangerous. So I asked Captain Tai to

temporarily ground me.” I forced a small grin and wagged a warning finger.

“But I still intend to kick your proverbial butts in the holosims.

Understand?”

They smiled uneasily. “Yessir.”

“Okay. And now that that’s settled, was there anything else on

your minds?”

“No sir.” Cohen shook his head and they rose to their feet. “We just

wanted to let you know that we were concerned and that we were going to miss

you out there.”

“Concern noted and appreciated. Thank you, both of you.”

They nodded and walked out of the mess. Good kids, both of them.

I ran my finger around the rim of the mug and then took a swallow.

The coffee was cold now. I hadn’t even wanted it. It had just been something

to do, one more way to avoid going back to my quarters and getting drunk.

I had done that the past two nights, which was why I grounded myself. If I was

heading down that road again, I wasn’t about to take along any unwitting

passengers.

Ah, 1945 hours. What to do, what to do? I got to my feet and pitched

the mug and its dark contents into a nearby reclamator. Home again, home

again, jiggety-jig. Yessiree, there were wings beneath these feet.

“Paris! Hey, Paris!”

Footsteps pounded on the floor behind me and a hand grabbed my

shoulder. Harry Kim pulled alongside, panting, a half-worried, half-happy

smile on his face.

“Harry?” It seemed almost too good to be true. Sure, he was still

stationed on Earth, but to have him here, *now*, just when I needed someone.

I could’ve cried, probably would have too, if we hadn’t been in public.

“Man oh man, Harry, it’s so good to see you. You have no idea how good

it is to see you.”

“Same here.” The smile fell from his lips. “I heard about Caitlin.

How are you holding up?”

“Okay, I guess, or maybe I’m just still in a state of shock.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised. I probably would be, too.”

“Yeah, I suppose.” An unfamiliar tension began to rise between us.

“So,” I said. “How’s B’Elanna? Still enjoying her work?”

“Yeah. She’s doing fine. Working hard. Only K’Elynne can drag her

away from the drafting table.”

“Oh really? How is the little one? I’ll bet she’s grown five meters

since I last saw her.”

He chuckled. “You aren’t kidding. She’s faster than a weed.”

“It’s those Klingon genes,” I teased.

“Maybe, but it seems like only yesterday she couldn’t lift her head,

and now, she’s sitting up and trying to crawl. Each morning, it seems like

she does something new. It’s all happening so fast. I never…”

He prattled on like any proud father as we walked through the corridors

on the way to my quarters. I smiled and nodded when I thought it was

appropriate, but memories of Cait kept intruding: her with our star-child,

Rowan; her holding Madeleine’s hologram; the two of us deciding to take that

plunge again. I didn’t even realize that my expression had changed until

Harry’s did and he abruptly quieted.

“Sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have gone on like that. It isn’t

what you needed to hear, is it?”

I shrugged and stared down the empty corridor. “I don’t expect people

to put their happiness on hold just for me, least of all you, Harry. You’ve

got a lot to be happy about.” I looked back at him. “Is that why you came

here? Because of Cait?”

He nodded.

“Figured. Who told you? My dad?”

He nodded again. “He was worried about you and contacted me, asking if

I wouldn’t mind dropping in on you. I came as soon as I could get away.”

I gave a tiny snort of mild amusement. “Gods, all those years when he

was away and acted like he didn’t care, and now, look at him. Guess he’s

making up for lost time.”

“Looks that way. You angry?”

“Nah. To tell you the truth, I’m kind of glad. I could use the

company.” I smirked. “Preferably of someone who’ll keep me sober.”

He tried to laugh. “No longer on Voyager and we’re still saving each

other’s nether regions.” He swung his arm around my shoulders. “C’mon,

old man, let’s go some place quiet and talk, or rather, you talk and I’ll

just listen.”

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

DISCLAIMERS: See part 1. Comments should be addressed to Carly Hunter,

(crime@bu.edu).

Futures Past, Futures Present

Part I, cont.

copyright 1998

Aeropa II:

I haven’t worked the fields in three days. Rachel ordered me to take

it easy since I haven’t been able to keep food down. She says that I need

to relax, that stress is probably the biggest contributor to my nausea.

To quote Nat, “no shit”.

On the whole, she seems competent. She calls herself a ‘medical

practitioner’. She had been a nurse in Starfleet for ten years before she

resigned, and she had served as the nurse here until the doctor was killed

during a Dominion bombing. She’ll be the one who delivers my baby. It’ll be

the first delivery she’s done on her own. Finding that out did wonders for my

stress level.

With each passing day, Nat grows more and more attentive. I’m almost

willing to believe that Remy is right; maybe subconsciously Nat is trying

to replace Alicia with me. I suppose it could also be a guilty conscience,

but somehow it feels like more than that. I wonder if my wearing some of

Alicia’s clothes contributes. I try not to, but I wasn’t exactly given the

chance to pack before I was brought here, and I do have to wash what little I

have sometime.

He hasn’t mentioned her really, except for occasional comments, and

I’m reluctant to pry. There’s no rush anyway. I’m sure I’ll get the story

from someone soon enough.

“Can I get you something?” Nat’s shadow from the open door stretches

past me out into the darkness. “Are you warm enough out here? Once the sun

goes down, it can get chilly.”

“I’m fine.”

“You sure? How about some juice and a little bread? Rachel said you

should try to eat more.”

The thought of anything solid passing my lips makes my stomach

somersault, but I humor him. “Maybe a little something, but I can’t promise

it’ll stay down.”

“Just try.”

He disappears for a moment and reappears with a plate and two glasses.

He hands me one glass and the plate; then he sits down beside me on the step.

“Just try a little at a time. Don’t rush it.”

“Don’t worry. Gobbling is the last thing I have in mind.”

His mouth pulls to one side in a sympathetic smile. “Alicia was never

this bad. She felt a little queasy at first, but nothing like this. Was it

this way with your first?”

“Yeah, for the first two months and then everything settled down.”

“How far along were you, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Eight months. Three weeks away from delivery.”

He lets out a low whistle and shakes his head. “Shit.”

“The doctor did a fetal transport, but she didn’t make it.” I stare

off into the darkness. “Tom thinks she would’ve looked like me.”

“You didn’t see her?”

“No, but Tom created a hologram of her. It let me hold her and say

good-bye.” The memory of the moment overwhelms me and I almost drop my glass.

I can almost feel the warmth of Tom’s arms around me. I miss him so much.

“He sounds like a good guy. You must love each other very much.”

“We do.”

Nat grows silent, sipping his juice. “You said you met on that Fleet

ship in the Delta quadrant. What was he, another Maquis?”

“At one time. He also used to be in Starfleet, too, but he made a

big mistake, and they kicked him out. On Voyager, he redeemed himself.

Our captain, Kathryn Janeway, gave him a field commission, and when we

returned, Starfleet let him keep it on a trial basis. He trains pilots at

Saturn Defense. He could’ve transferred once his probation period ended,

but he waited until I got out of rehab. Then, once we decided to try for

another baby, he postponed it again. He wanted to make sure he would be

there when the baby was born.”

“Oh.” For a moment, Nat falls silent. “So, he’s a pilot?”

“One of the best I’ve ever seen.”

“And Starfleet kicked him out and took him back?”

“Yes.”

“He must be fucking amazing. The Fleet isn’t usually so forgiving.”

“Well, having a father in Starfleet probably didn’t hurt, but he and

his dad had been at odds for years, and I’m sure it was no secret around

Command that he and the Admiral-”

Nat coughs, choking on his juice. “His dad’s an Admiral?”

“Yes, partially retired. Years ago, he kicked Tom out of the family,

but he took him back in when Voyager came home.”

“Nepotism strikes again.”

“Yes and no. Starfleet didn’t have to take him back. Tom’s record

on Voyager did that. He’s a good pilot and a good officer.”

“He’s an officer?”

“A lieutenant. That was the field rank he held on Voyager.”

“So he got through the Academy?”

“Yes, but not too long after, he got in an accident and panicked and

lied to the investigators. Later, he came forward and told the truth, and

they booted him out for his trouble.”

“And then they let him back in.” Nat shakes his head. “Guess that’s

where dear ol’ dad’s influence comes in.”

“Maybe, but I think Tom’s own record had a lot to do with it.”

“Mm.” Nat looks out into the darkness and doesn’t speak, falling into

one of his silences that I learned a long time ago to accept–the ones he

never explained. “So how do you fit in with the Fleet brass? How does

‘the Admiral’ feel about you?”

I ignore the sarcastic tone. “He likes me. So does Tom’s mother.

His sister, however, is another story. She isn’t too fond of Tom or me.”

“She in Fleet, too?”

“Yes, a commander, I think.”

“A regular Fleet family.”

“Yes, for several generations.”

He grows quiet again before softly clearing his throat. “Is he

handsome?”

“Tom? To me, he is. His hair is thinning, but he still turns heads.

Blond hair, blue eyes, like you in some ways. Only a few years older and

no beard. Maybe a little taller, too.”

“I guess you have a thing for blonds, then, huh? Especially if they’re

losers,” he adds with a snort.

“Tom’s not a loser.”

“He was.”

“Well, he isn’t now.”

“Of course not. How could he be with all that Fleet heritage in him?”

I sigh. Even after all these years… “I never thought of you as a

loser, but you couldn’t accept that, could you?”

“No,” he replies with a shake of his head. “I couldn’t even after

Alicia married me. I kept wondering who I was fooling more, her or me.

Of course, it hardly matters now.”

“It matters because you’re still in love with her.”

He looks at me in surprise, and then his head slowly drops to his

chest. “Yeah. It’s been a year and a half, and I still miss her almost as

much as I did that first morning I woke up without her.” He glances back up

at me and gives a tight, humorless smile. “Remy was right. Sometimes when

you come out of the bedroom wearing her clothes, I have to do a double-take

because I think it’s her. I don’t think a day has gone by that I haven’t

thought of her and wondered if it will ever end–the pain, I mean.”

“I don’t think it ever does, not when you really love someone.

I guess most people simply learn to live with it, like my dad did.” And like

Tom and I will do, I add silently.

“Yeah, I guess.” Nat tosses back his head and drains the last of

the juice from his glass. Then, his eyes alight on the plate. “Hey, I thought

you were going to try and eat something.”

“I did. I got down about a slice and a half.”

“Uh-huh. Well, better than nothing, I suppose. Finish up your juice

and let’s go inside. I’m going to shut the power down, and I don’t want you

out here by yourself.”

“Why not? I haven’t seen much in the way of wild animals.”

“It’s not the four-legged variety I’m worried about. Mosc has a still,

and every now and then, some of the other settlers relax a little. They’re

usually harmless, but I’d feel better knowing you were inside. With real

alcohol you can never tell.”

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI

The door chimed. I looked up and threw aside the PADD that I hadn’t

really been reading. “Come in.”

“Good afternoon, Lieutenant.” Kathryn Janeway stood in the door,

smiling warmly.

“Captain!” I sprang to my feet. “This is a surprise. I had no idea

you were coming to the station. Please have a seat.”

With a small nod of thanks, she sat down in the chair next to the sofa.

“It’s good to see you, Tom. How are you doing?” The smile faded quickly from

her lips, and she added, “I heard about Caitlin.”

I sat back down and tried to shrug off the question I was so tired of

hearing. “I’m doing all right, I guess. Keeping busy, taking one day at a

time, you know…”

“Yes, but it must be very difficult, staying here, surrounded by

memories.”

I smirked sadly and looked past her into the bedroom. “Not that many

memories, Captain. Cait hadn’t been out of Attica all that long. Look, can

I get you something? Some tea, maybe? Replicator use isn’t rationed here.”

She smiled at my weak joke. “Some hot tea would be nice. Green, if

it’s no trouble.”

“No trouble at all. Coming right up.” I walked over and relayed my

order to the replicator. “So,” I asked as I carried the steaming cup to her.

“What brings you to Saturn Defense? Surely you haven’t missed my charming

personality that much.”

“I miss everyone, to be quite honest. Ten years is a long time to

spend together.”

“True, but that didn’t answer my first question.”

She blew across the hot liquid and took a cautious sip. “Delicious.

Just right.” She smiled and set the cup down. “I don’t know if you’ve heard

yet or not, but they’ve given me the Mycenae.”

“Really? That’s great! From what I’ve heard, the modifications

they made to her designs are absolutely amazing, especially the cloak. Any of

the old crew going with you?”

“Yes. Tuvok will be my first officer, Carey will be in charge of

Engineering, and last night Harry agreed to be my Chief of Operations. He’ll

have a much bigger staff under him this time.”

I chuckled. “What does B’Elanna think of this new development?”

A wry grin dallied on her lips. “I believe she is rather divided.

Part of her supports the move, but I believe the other part is envious,

wishing she could go, too. After the trial period is completed, I wouldn’t be

surprised if she and K’Elynne joined us since the ship can accommodate

families.”

“Gee, then all you’ll need are Neelix and Chakotay, and it’ll be

Voyager all over again.”

“And you, too,” she added. “Which brings me to my visit. The position

of conn officer is still vacant. I was hoping either you or your Captain might

know someone qualified, someone from here perhaps.”

I leaned back and thought for a moment. “Gee, there are a lot of good

people here, Captain, and quite a few who have more than enough experience.

I wouldn’t know who-” The twinkle in her grey-blue eyes stopped me. “Me?

You want me?”

“Can you think of anyone better? I know you, Tom. I’ve served with

you. I trust you. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel as safe with someone else at

the helm. Your probationary period has passed and Captain Tai has submitted

nothing but glowing reports on you. In my mind, you aren’t simply the logical

choice, you are the *only* choice.”

I glanced down at the floor, my breath stolen away. “Wow,” I said

softly, and then felt a hot flood of shame prickle my cheeks. “Captain…

Oh boy. I’m flattered, really flattered, but are you sure about this?

There are lots of people better qualified than me, and lately, well, lately

my attention has been…preoccupied.” I looked up. It wasn’t fair, but

I had to tell her. She had to know. “Look, maybe Captain Tai didn’t tell you,

but I took my name off flight rotation.”

“He told me. Perhaps a wise precaution, but I think you judge yourself

too harshly, Tom.”

I shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t know. Either way, the bottom line is

that if you get me, you won’t be getting one hundred percent.”

“On the contrary, I know that when asked you will always give me one

hundred ten percent. With someone new, I don’t have that assurance.”

She smiled sympathetically. “Tom, I understand your reluctance and I

appreciate your honesty, but this assignment may be just what you need, to be

with old friends and see new people and places. It might be better for you

than staying here.”

“Maybe.” I took a deep breath and stood up, moving slowly, thought-

fully, toward the window. Calypso barely peeked around the edge of Saturn.

Five training ships were headed back toward the station–Sinclair and four

students, my group. I closed my eyes and hung my head. “I don’t know, Captain.

I really don’t. Two weeks ago, I knew exactly what I was doing and where I was

going, but now…now, I simply feel lost. I am tempted by the offer,

believe me, but a part of me says I should stay here a little longer in case

Cait tries to contact me or something.” I shrugged and looked back over

my shoulder at her. “I know it’s a long shot, but it’s all I’ve got left.”

Janeway nodded and got to her feet. “I suppose that would be my

response, too. Hope was all we had sometimes in the Delta quadrant.

Why should it be any different now that we are back?” She clasped her hands

behind her back and came over to where I stood. “Tom, I don’t want to pressure

you into doing something you have reservations about, but if you stay here,

will you allow yourself to fly again?”

I turned back to the window and gazed out at the vast planet that

served as our neighbor. “I don’t know, Captain, to tell you the truth. I used

to think that no matter what happened, as long as I could fly, I’d be okay, but

even that has lost meaning to me now. You see, no matter what the mission,

whenever I sat down behind a set of flight controls, I felt something,

an excitement, a tingling, like each time was my first, but it’s not like

that now. I can’t feel anything, and it frightens me.” I spun around,

desperate for her understanding. “Do you see now why I grounded myself?

Do you? I can’t get past her. Her loss has infiltrated every part of me.

How can I let people put their lives in my hands at this point in time?

It would be wrong.”

Her hand reached out and lay itself gently upon my arm. “Tom, I had

no idea.”

“No one does, Captain,” I replied, and looked back out the window, not

wanting to sink into the pity she was offering.

She took her hand away and said nothing for a few minutes. “Tom, a

transfer doesn’t mean you have to stop grieving over your loss.”

“I know.”

“And it won’t necessarily make it easier for you to get out of bed

in the morning.”

“I know.”

“But it may give you the means to accept her absence and learn from it.

Do you think Caitlin would’ve wanted you to stop living on her account?

She never struck me as being that type.”

“No, she wasn’t.” I took a deep breath. “You’re not going to let this

go, are you, Captain?”

“Tom, I said before I don’t want to push you into anything, but you

are too talented a pilot to not make use of those skills.”

I shrugged. Maybe it would be a good move for me. What was the worst

that could happen? Crash the ship and kill everyone on board? No, I’d ground

myself again before I’d let that happen. I looked back and shot her a weary

grin. “Then, I guess you’ve got me.”

With a smile, she extended her hand. “Welcome aboard, Mr. Paris.”

I straighted up, drawing myself to attention, and shook her hand

firmly, praying that my voice didn’t quiver as badly as I thought it did.

“Thank you, Captain. It’ll be a pleasure to serve with you again. When do

we leave?”

“You’ll need to report to Utopia at the end of the week for a detailed

briefing. We expect to leave on our first assignment two weeks from tomorrow.

Tuvok will contact you with the specifics. And now, speaking of U.P., I have

to get back there–an late meeting with Admiral Carleton.”

“Understood. I guess I’ll see you in a few days then,” I said as we

walked toward the door. “You know, Cait had been after me to apply for a

transfer. I guess this would’ve made her pretty happy.”

“I’m sure it would have. She was always very proud of you.”

“I always tried to make her proud, Captain, and I’ll continue to try.”

“I know you will. I’ll see you in four days. Take care.”

“You, too, Captain. And thank you.”

Two evenings later, I folded the last of Cait’s clothing–a dress of

smoky teal that my mother had bought for her–and placed it in a storage

trunk for shipment to my parents. For a long time, I knelt by the container,

its lid still open, and stared at the contents. It was like closing her

coffin and sealing her inside forever, and I wasn’t ready to do that.

My fingers lingered on the smooth fabric. Beneath the dress lay gold

silk pajamas. She could look so sexy in the simplest clothes, thoroughly

natural and unpretentious, but then, that was the way she was. What you saw

was what you got and that was why I loved her. I picked up our wedding picture

and started to place it under some of the clothes, but stopped.

“Cait,” I whispered, caressing her image gently. “I don’t know if I

can explain this, not that you’ll actually hear it anyway, but without you,

my life is darkness. The future, the one that we planned together, has

vanished before me and I don’t know what path to follow now. I thought for a

while about quitting Starfleet and roaming, trying to find you, but without a

lead, I wouldn’t know where to start, and it would mean throwing away every-

thing we worked so hard for. And don’t you think for a single minute that I

don’t mean we because I don’t think I could’ve made it this far without you–

without your support.” I sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe I’ve made the wrong

decision to leave here. In some respects, it seems too soon, almost heartless,

but you must know by now that I’m not that way. I never could be concerning

you. I love you. I always will. Wherever you are, please, remember that.”

Taking a deep breath, I placed the picture on the floor; it would come

with me on the Mycenae. I pulled the lid of the trunk down and secured it,

listening as the vacuum seal promised to keep the memories fresh. Gods, my

head ached, but not half as much as my heart did.

I picked up the picture once again. “This is all for you, love.

I miss you so much.”

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

DISCLAIMERS: See part 1. Comments should be addressed to Carly Hunter,

(crime@bu.edu).

Futures Past, Futures Present

Part I, cont.

copyright 1998

Aeropa II:

It’s taken days of subtle recon, but I’ve finally discovered where

the comm system is. The only problem now is getting enough time alone.

Most of the settlers work in the fields during the day, but one or two always

stay around the houses doing odd tasks. At least I don’t have to fake the

morning sickness to get out of work…

Okay. This is it. Gods, I hope no one saw me come in here. Shit.

Now I really do feel ill. No, I can do this. Power on. Set signal route.

Shit, most of the system’s fried–one too many Jem Hadar attacks probably.

Damn. At this rate, it’ll take me hours to set up a relay to Tom. Maybe I

can get to Dad quicker…C’mon…Dammit! Why is this taking so long? C’mon…

Got it! Now, set up second relay to sector four-two-one of the Klingon-

“Get away from that!” A hand grabs my arm, jerking me out of the chair

and onto the floor.

“Shut it down! Shut it down!” someone screams.

“Not yet. I’m going to try to hide the route first.” Remy slides

into the chair and begins to furiously tap out sequences. “There. Now shut

it down.” He stands up and leans over, seizing my shirt and hauling me to

my feet. “Thought you’d be clever, didn’t you? I haven’t trusted you from the

moment I saw you.”

“The feeling is mutual,” I snap back.

“You stupid bitch. You’ve got no idea what you’ve done. I oughta-”

His hand draws back to hit me, but Nat grabs his wrist.

“I’ll take care of this, Mazrin.”

“Shut up, Lawson. If you’d listened to me-”

“I know.” Nat squares his jaw, but doesn’t release his grip. “This is

my fault. I’ll take care of it.”

Remy looks at me, his lips curling back in revulsion. “You’d better.”

He turns me loose with a not-so-gentle push. “And if you don’t, I will.”

Nat seizes my arm. “C’mon, Caitie.”

He marches me silently back to the house, and my cheeks grow warm like

a child caught red-handed by her parents. Yet I have done nothing to be

ashamed about. *They* brought *me* here. I have every right to try to escape.

“Sit down!” Nat snarls, and shoves me into a chair at the table.

Vivid pools of blue glare down at me; then he steps back and begins to pace.

“Nat-”

“Shut up! Just shut up, Caitie! Don’t say one word!”

He stomps back and forth a few more times before finally dropping into

the chair across the table from mine. He looks at me, then looks away,

two of his fingers tapping out an angry rhythm on the table. I hate the

silent treatment.

“Why don’t you just day it?” I sneer. “Tell me how naughty I’ve

been.”

His lips blanch beneath the blond mustache as his mouth draws into a

taut, angry line. “What do you want me to say? I trusted you, Caitie.

I thought we had an understanding.”

“You didn’t really expect me to sit around and do nothing, did you?”

“I expected you to show a little sense, yes. Do you know what could

happen if the Dominion traces that transmission? They could use it as an

excuse to land troops. Is that what you want? To kill us all? Because that’s

what will happen. Dammit! I can’t believe you did this! Who gave you the

right to decide our fate?”

“The same power that let you decide mine and my baby’s.”

For a moment, he simply stares at me. Then with a heavy sigh, he leans

back and runs his hand through his hair. “Touche, but the last time I checked

two wrongs didn’t make a right. Like it or not, Caitie, you’re stuck here.

It’s not what you want, but it’s what you’ve got. Now, am I going to have to

follow Mosc’s advice and treat you as a prisoner? Keep you locked in this

house? Only let you outside when I can watch you? Do you understand what I’m

saying? You’ll be confined, and I may not have much say as to when you get

out. Caitie…” His voice softens and he reaches across the table for my

hands, but I pull away and defiantly cross my arms over my chest.

He sighs again and sits back. “Look, Caitie, several years ago,

I failed you as a friend and a lover. Just recently, I failed you again. I am

trying not to fail you a third time. I’m trying to make life here as bearable

as possible for you, but I can’t do it if you keep fighting me. Please,

Caitie, don’t make me lock you up, if not for your sake, then for your baby’s.

If you’re locked in here and the Dominion bombs the settlement, I might not be

able to reach you in time. Please, work with me. I lost Alicia. I don’t want

to lose you, too.”

His eyes remind me of Tom’s whenever he saw me in prison greys–so

pained that even death must seem preferable. I don’t want to hurt him, but…

“Nat, if you were in my place, what would you do?”

He takes a deep breath and exhales it slowly. “I was hoping you

wouldn’t ask me that,” he replies with the tiniest of grins. “Because to tell

you the truth, I don’t have an answer. It’s not that I don’t empathize. I do,

and I’m not sure I would have acted any differently than you have, but this is

bigger than you and me, Caitie. There are more than just our lives at stake.

The others don’t know you like I do. Everything you do is suspicious to them.

Do you understand what I’m saying?”

I look away and don’t reply.

“Shit.” He rises slowly to his feet. “Look, I still have some work

to do. Why don’t you make yourself useful and fix us some dinner. You might

as well because I’m going to lock you in here. You haven’t left me with any

other choice, but please, Caitie, think about what I said.”

I watch him cross the room and shut the door. I’ve lost my chance.

They’ll probably put a guard on the system now. Dammit. I should have planned

this better.

My hand strokes my still-flat belly. I’m sorry, Tom. I blew it.

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

My goddaughter grabbed a handful of my hair, tugging hard as she tried

to remain upright on my lap.

“Ow! Hey, kiddo, not so hard. There’s not much left up there as

it is.”

B’Elanna moved toward us with her arms outstretched, but I waved

her off. She shook her head disapprovingly. “You’ll spoil her.”

“Godparent’s prerogative.” I grinned. “Besides this is the first time

I’ve had a chance to hold her since she was born.”

With a sigh of exasperation, B’Elanna sat down beside us on the sofa.

“Fine. You and Harry spoil her and I get stuck being the demon who tells

her no.” She reached over and took one of her daughter’s hands in her own.

“But you’re happy to see Tom, aren’t you? And you’re being good for him,

aren’t you?

“She sure is, aren’t you, sweetheart?” I rubbed my nose gently against

K’Elynne’s, and she squealed with laughter.

B’Elanna smiled. “You’ve always been so good with children: Wildman’s

daughter, Rowan, the Parsons’ kids…”

“Yeah, well, I like them, and I’m a firm believer that childhood should

be fun, which seems to help.”

“Even if yours wasn’t.”

“Sometimes it was. When I was little. Like I remember the summer

Mom and Dad took my sister, Vicky, and me out for ice cream after dinner.

I must have been around five or six because it was around the same time I

broke my arm. For some reason, Dad was stationed at Command that summer, and

at least once a week the four of us would walk down to the coffee shop near

the transport station and get some on sugar cones. It always melted too fast,

and by the time we reached our front door, Vic and I would have it all over

ourselves–hair, hands, chin, you name it.” I chuckled, but sobered quickly

at an intrusive thought.

B’Elanna frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Don’t worry.”

“Tom, how long have we known each other?”

I fake a tiny smile. “It’s nothing. I just remembered that Cait and

I did the same thing before I took her to Saturn, that’s all.” I bit my lip.

*No crying, Thomas. You promised.*

B’Elanna released her daughter’s hand and sat back. “You know, Tom,

Harry and I think you’ve made the right decision. I know it seems difficult,

but you have to keep going.”

“So everyone keeps telling me, but it’s not that easy.”

“I know, and Caitlin has always been such a survivor, it’s easy to

keep your hopes up, and for right now, you should. Just so long as when the

time comes, you can let go.”

‘When the time comes…’ The words echoed painfully, and I shut my

eyes. I didn’t want to think about that.

K’Elynne plunked herself down in my lap and stared up at me, her dark

eyes full of curiousity. What had happened to the laughing man who was

holding her? He wasn’t laughing anymore.

I spent the evening with Mom and Dad, one more home-cooked meal before

I shipped out. Mom didn’t say much, leaving Dad to hold up their end of the

conversation on his own. We began by talking about my new ship, but as always

the discussion expanded pretty quickly to include the state of the Federation.

After several months of peace and quiet, the Maquis had become active again,

launching two attacks on Cardassian convoys and then retreating into the DMZ.

“Do you think it’s possible the Dominion is correct?” I asked.

“Possible, certainly, and quite probable,” Dad admitted. “By virtue

of their location, those settlements fall under no one’s jurisdiction.

Only privately owned ships with joint authorization can cross into the Zone,

and who knows what they may carry in concealed holds. According to the reports

I’ve seen, we’ve stopped a few ships for inspection, but so far we’ve yet to

find any contraband.”

“What about sending a team into the Zone to inspect the settlements?

We could make it a joint team–Starfleet and Dominion.”

“That idea has been under discussion for several weeks now. The hangup

seems to be what action to take if we find something. The Dominion wants the

settlements, all of the settlements, regardless of their innocence, eliminated.

The Federation council disagrees. It feels that uprooting the legitimate

settlers would only lead to increased support of the Maquis, the same way the

original treaty with the Cardassians led to their founding.”

He sat back and swirled the remains of the Burgundy around in his

glass. “Up until now, we’ve managed to convince the Dominion that, in the

interests of peace, they should leave the settlements alone. But,” he added

with a sigh, “I don’t know how much longer they will agree to our requests.

I hate to say this, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if there was some

manner of conflict over this issue within the next six months.”

“Please!”

Startled, we both looked at my mother. Her gaze dropped to her half-

empty plate. “Can’t we please talk about something else?”

I reached over and gently squeezed her arm. Moist violet eyes lifted

to mine. “Mom, don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”

Her lip quivered as she patted my hand. “I know. I don’t mean to

act so silly. We’re not at war, but I can’t help feeling like I’m sending you

off to battle.”

I glanced over at Dad’s grave expression, then back to Mom.

“You’re not silly, Mom. Forty-two years of marriage have taught you that any-

thing can happen out there.” I got to my feet and bent over to hug her.

“I’ll be okay. I’m serving with good people, the best as far as I’m concerned.

We’ll be fine.”

“I hope so,” she replied as I crouched down beside her chair. A thin,

cold hand cupped my cheek. “Oh, how I hope so,” she repeated in a trembling

voice. “I don’t want to lose you, too.”

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

Aeropa II:

The air is hot and stagnant, hanging about us like a thick, wool cloak.

I feel like I’m suffocating. I want to throw up. I want to go outside,

but I can’t.

The cave rumbles like thunder, sometimes loud, sometimes soft, building

and falling, the rock walls shaking around us. If I close my eyes, I can

almost imagine that it is thunder, announcing the rain that the crops need

so desperately, but I have heard the sound of phaser bombardment too often

to fool myself. It is the Dominion, and it’s my fault they are here.

Nat won’t say so, however. He claims they do it whenever they feel

like it, just to remind everyone they’re still around. As I look around the

cavern, stocked with food, blankets, and other provisions, I try to convince

myself that he’s right. After all, the bombings started over two years ago,

long before I showed up; yet the other settlers seem content to hold me

responsible for this particular raid, and maybe they should. Trying to send

that message was stupid on more than one level.

After a while, Rachel breaks the angry silence and comes over to sit

with me.

“At least we were prepared for this one,” she says softly.

“How long do they usually last?”

“As long as they want them to. One attack lasted four days. That was

the one that took Alicia’s life.” She adds, “Has he told you?”

“No.”

“I’m not surprised. He was out in the field, and Alicia had come by

the infirmary for a check-up. Right as she left, we took a direct hit.

The doctor was killed and I was injured. Broke my arm. A fragment of the

building struck Alicia in the head. Nat carried her all the way here, but she

never regained consciousness, and without the doctor or the proper medical

instruments, there was little I could do for her or the child she was carrying.

Nat held her the entire time, until she drew her last breath. I felt terrible.

It happened right over there.” She nods in the direction.

I look across the cavern. Nat stands alone, the other giving him

a respectful distance. He stares down at the cave floor and then looks up,

gazing in my direction. His eyes close for a moment, and then he turns and

walks away, retreating deeper into the caves. I start to follow, but Remy

blocks my way.

“Let him be. Haven’t you caused enough trouble already?”

“Me? I didn’t start this. You did when you brought me here.”

The cave grows silent; even the bombardment seems to lessen as we face

each other.

“If it had been up to me, you wouldn’t be here,” he growls. “You’re

a liability. We had enough trouble without you bringing more.” He glances

down at my belly.

“Then deal with it,” I snarl and push past him. “I am.”

I follow a trail of lights and find Nat in a smaller cavern pitching

pebbles into a tiny pool. He pauses briefly and looks up as I enter.

“You should go back. Stay with the others.”

“Why? It’s cooler in here.”

“The other room is safer. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“Then, I wouldn’t send me back if I were you. I don’t think I’m too

popular in there right now.” I step a little closer to him. “Why did you

come in here?”

He turns away from the pool and sits down on a small ledge. He stares

down at the floor. “Cutting right to the chase again, aren’t you? Somehow I

remembered you as being less direct.” He snorts. “Funny the tricks your

memory plays.”

“Things change. I’ve learned that diplomacy only gets you so far with

some people.” I sit down next to him. “Do you mind?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Sure. You can get up and walk away or you can tell me to leave.”

“Lot of good that did me.”

I catch my breath. What was I thinking? I’m no counselor; I never

have been; and Nat isn’t Tom. “I’m sorry. I’ll go. I just thought you might

like some company.”

“I might, but not yours.”

His words hit hard as I get to my feet. “I’m sorry,” I whisper.

He reaches up and grabs my wrist. His brow puckers, not in a frown,

but more like a small child refusing to give into tears. “I’m sorry, Caitie.

I didn’t mean that the way it sounded. It’s simply that seeing you here,

knowing your condition, cuts a little too close to the bone.”

“I understand. I should’ve thought of that.” I turn to go, but he

holds fast to my arm.

“Wait.” He sighs. “You’ll hear it sooner or later, so I may as well

be the one who tells you.” He releases my arm and pats the stone. “Sit down.

See, it all started a little over four years ago. I was still wandering from

ship to ship, like I did when we knew each other. Only, it was getting old,

Caitie, real old.

“Then, one day, I walked into the bar on Deep Space Fourteen, and there

sat Alicia. I don’t know how to describe it, but something just clicked,

as if every part of my life immediately fell into place. It was almost as if

every bad thing that had ever happened in my life suddenly made sense–all of

it culminating to bring me to that one place at that one moment.”

He gives a tiny chuckle. “I don’t know. Maybe I was simply tired of

wandering and found in her an excuse to quit.” He pauses and takes a deep

breath. “Anyway, we got hitched, and then I heard about this settlement

starting up. They needed a pilot to fly a supply ship. Alicia wasn’t too

thrilled, but I convinced her, and for a while, we were doing okay. She really

put her heart into making this our home. We both did, I guess, but then the

raids started…”

His voice drops to a whisper. “It was my fault, see? It was my idea.

She didn’t want to come. It was my fault.” He leans forward, burying his

face in his hands. “If I hadn’t been such a coward. All my life, trying to

get as far away from Starfleet as I could, and this place seemed such a

godsend. I didn’t want her to find out. I was too ashamed. I ran away from

the truth she died.”

“No, no, Nat.” I place my hand on his back and he flinches. “It was

the Dominion, not you. It wasn’t like this when you came here. If it

had been, you wouldn’t have brought her here.”

“But we stayed. I could’ve taken her away, but I didn’t.”

“Nat, the two of you had put down roots. You had worked hard to make

this you home. You don’t just pick up and leave.”

“That’s such an easy excuse. I didn’t want to leave. That’s the

truth. That’s what I have to live with.”

“And now I’m here,” I say quietly. “Reminding you. Punishing you

even further.”

He nods and reaches out, briefly taking my left hand in his. “You

don’t deserve to be here, Caitie, and God as my witness, if it had been up

to me, I would’ve let you go, but maybe now you can draw some satisfaction

from knowing that this hasn’t been easy for me either.”

I shake my head. “I don’t draw much satisfaction from hurting people

anymore, especially people I know and care about. Well, maybe I would like to

give Remy a right cross, but other than that…”

The left side of his mouth rises in a small smirk and he looks at me.

“Still got that punch, huh?”

“Mmm-hmm, but it’s been a while since I used it.”

He glances down at my lap. “I think it’s going to be a little while

longer, too.” He gets to his feet and offers me his hand. As he does so,

another phaser blast shakes the rock around us, sending a waterfall of pebbles

cascading down the wall just a few meters away. “C’mon. Let’s go join the

others. It isn’t safe in here.”

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

I ran my fingers lightly over the flight control console, admiring

the smooth, unblemished surface. The Mycenae was everything I’d been led to

expect and more. She was a lot bigger than Voyager–ten decks bigger with

ivory walls instead of grey–but still sleek and fast by design. I couldn’t

wait to take her to warp.

Harry and I had finally gotten settled into our respective quarters

(*much* larger than Voyager’s), and I had already succeeded in getting myself

unofficially lost twice. (Officially, I was exploring my new assignment.)

“Mr. Paris.”

“Yes, Captain?” I spun around to find her standing behind me,

her hands on her hips. Yeah, this was how it should be. I couldn’t imagine

flying a ship without her in the captain’s chair.

A small look of amusement crossed her face and then she turned toward

Ops. “Mr. Kim, transmit our request for departure.”

“Aye, Captain. Request transmitted…Clearance received.”

“Good. Mr. Paris, maneuver us out. Once we clear the bay, set course

two-one-two mark four. Full impulse until we clear the sector. Then take her

to warp five.”

“Yes ma’am. Clearing the bay…Course and speed laid in.” I looked

back at her and grinned. The tingle had returned, if only for the moment,

and it felt *so* good.

Janeway’s mouth curled in an approving smile as she took her seat.

“All right, let’s see what she can do. Engage.”

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

DISCLAIMERS: See part 1. Comments should be addressed to Carly Hunter,

(crime@bu.edu).

Futures Past, Futures Present

Part I, cont.

copyright 1998

Aeropa II:

I sigh and flop back down on the bed, peeling off my pants. They’re

just too tight now. I have no choice left but to swallow my pride and

admit it.

All over I feel swollen, and my breasts are huge. I get to my feet and

walk over to the mirror to stare again at the protrusion of my belly. A warm

shiver of excitement runs down my spine as my right hand glides over the small

rise.

“Hey, Caitie.” Nat knocks on the bedroom door. “You ready?”

“In a minute.”

I kneel down beside the trunk and pull out some of Alicia’s maternity

clothes, specifically an earthen-colored skirt and blouse. Ever since our

conversation in the cave, I’ve avoided them. I know how much seeing them will

hurt him, but I’ve run out of options.

“Okay. Here I am,” I say a few minutes later when I open the door.

Nat’s mug halts halfway to his lips. As he stares, wave after wave

of naked emotion falls over his face. Finally, he takes a deep breath and

forces a smile. “Pants getting too tight?”

I nod, lowering my head self-consciously.

“Thought so. It was becoming a little obvious.”

I look up. “Oh?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think it was my place to say anything.”

“Oh, so instead you were letting me walk around looking like some

bloated olapag.”

“No. No, you didn’t look bad. You looked good, a lot more curvy.”

“Oh?” I raise an eyebrow and almost burst into laughter as he

turns six different shades of red.

He turns away and sets down his mug. “Um, we’d better get going.

Most of the others are probably out in the fields by now.”

We reach the front door at the same time and he steps back to let me

pass through. “You do look good,” he whispers, and my cheeks grow warm.

He laughs. “Gotcha.”

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

I closed my eyes and stretched out, letting the Clanonian sun

warm me from the tips of my boots to the roots of my hair. The morning mist

had vanished, leaving in its wake a thick blanket of humid air, which wrapped

itself snuggly around every object. It was exactly the kind of day that made

you want to kick back and snooze in a hammock. The kind of day that made you

lazy. The kind of day that could clear your mind of every thought, good or

bad, if you gave it half the chance. I didn’t want to move. I just wanted to

lay here and doze.

Even the birds had quieted in deference to the heat, leaving only the

baffling chatter of my goddaughter to break the silence. I yawned and folded

my hands behind my head, attempting to push any thought of Cait out of my mind;

eventually I gave up and just let the memories come, drifting, mixing with the

sounds around me.

We had been in space for almost three months, and the ship and its

crew had performed almost flawlessly. As a small reward, the Captain had taken

the unusual step of arranging two days of staggered shore leave for the entire

crew on Clanon. Harry had even found out in time to have B’Elanna and K’Elynne

meet us when we arrived.

I turned my head and opened one eye. Harry lay on his side propped up

on one elbow. He smiled up at his wife as she spoon-fed K’Elynne. “Great idea

of mine, huh?” he asked. “Having the two of you meet us here.”

“Hmph. It was a long way to come for just one day.” B’Elanna griped,

and then her face slowly broke into a smile. “But it was worth it, I suppose,”

she teased.

“Oh, thank you. It’s good to see you, too,” he retorted with an even

larger grin, and reached over to tickle his daughter under her chin. “But you

missed me, didn’t you, honey?”

As my goddaughter giggled, I rose up on my elbows and gazed down the

small slope to the glittering lake below. Time to leave the three of them

alone. I stretched and yawned and got slowly to my feet. “I’m going to take

a little walk. I’ve got the sudden urge to skip a few stones.”

“I’ll come with you,” Harry said and sat up.

“Nah, stay here.”

“You sure?”

“Harry, I’m a big boy. I don’t need a nursemaid.”

He glanced down at the picnic blanket and then over at B’Elanna.

“I didn’t mean it that way.”

“I know, but you see me every day. Stay here. I’ll be back.”

Before he could respond, I strode away. Okay, so being around them

bothered me a little. All day I had looked up at the sunny sky and at them and

had thought about little else but how much I missed Cait, how much I wished

she was with us. But there wasn’t much I could do about that, was there?

Nope, sure wasn’t.

I picked up a large stone and hurled it as far as I could out into

the lake. It sunk with an unsatisfying plunk. Bending down, I chose a

smaller, flatter stone. “Okay, Thomas, let’s see if you can beat your old

record.”

One, two skips.

“Aw, c’mon. You can do better than that,” I muttered, and picked up

another rock.

One, two, three. And a half.

“That’s more like it.”

I tried again, but didn’t fare any better. “Just rusty,” I mumbled

as I crouched down and sifted through the available pebbles. Not one fit

the bill. “Maybe I’ll have more luck over there.”

About half a meter away, a willow tree bent over the lake edge, its

branches barely kissing the water. Jackpot! I scooped up five stones and

beginning flinging them out into the water one at a time.

One, two, three, four, five, six.

“Yes!” My fists shot triumphantly into the air. “Yes! The old

touch is back.” I drew back my arm with the final pebble, but spun around

as the curtain of golden-green leaves rustled and parted. A female ensign

stepped through. “Geez, Latel, isn’t there some regulation about giving

officers coronaries?”

The full lips barely curved. “Sorry, sir.”

“No, it’s okay. I was just kidding.” I reared back a second time

and tossed out the fifth stone. Five skips.

“Freddie used to skip stones,” she said quietly. “A few times,

he tried to teach me, but I couldn’t get the hang of it.”

“It takes practice,” I replied, bending down and picking up another

rock. “I learned on my uncle’s farm one summer.”

“Oh.”

I hadn’t really had the opportunity to speak with Ensign Jinara Latel,

beyond the normal greetings. I was usually on the bridge, and her duties kept

her pretty much in the bowels of the ship. Now, as I turned my head to look

at her, I was struck speechless. The hair, which was usually pulled back in

the efficient regulation ponytail, hung down past her shoulders in thick waves,

catching the sunlight and revealing a rich garnet cast normally hidden within

the dark brown strands. I could see why Freddie had stayed with her through

the Academy. “You know, I didn’t expect to find you here. I thought you’d be

with that group of junior crewmen that went to the festival.”

Her arms, folded across her chest, tightened their hold as she stared

out over the water. “I changed my mind, sir. I didn’t feel like going.”

“Oh? Would you like to talk about it?”

“Talk about what?”

“Whatever’s bothering you.”

She unwound her arms and clasped her hands behind her back, standing so

ram-rod straight it made my back hurt just to watch her. “I’m sorry, sir.

I don’t know what you mean.”

“Like hell you don’t,” I muttered under my breath. Another stubborn

one, just like Cait. “Look, Ensign, knock off the stoicism. It doesn’t

impress me. If you don’t want to talk about whatever it is, that’s fine.

It’s your decision, but don’t stand there and tell me nothing is wrong when

anyone can see you’re upset.”

Surprised, she stared up at me with eyes as deep and dark as the

tar pits on Scalos IV. A man could fall into those eyes and be lost forever.

Her lower lip began to tremble and she bit it and looked down at the ground.

“Men!” she said finally, with a viciousness that caught me off-guard.

“Okay…” I replied slowly, not sure if defending my sex would be

worth the risk implied. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“Freddie Cohen is what happened,” she snapped. “Stupid, insensitive

jerk. We were together for four years–since first-year, and all of a sudden

he decides it was a mistake.”

I frowned. That sure as hell didn’t sound like the Freddie Cohen

I knew. “A mistake? Are you sure you didn’t misunderstand him?”

“It’s kind of hard to misunderstand a transmission that says ‘I’ve

found someone else and we’re engaged’. The ass didn’t even have the courage

to tell me in real time.”

My mouth fell open. “You’re kidding.”

“Hardly. It’s some other pilot on Saturn. Some bitch named Nazir.

Well, she can have him, the inconsiderate sonuvabitch.” She paused and gazed

up into the the tree, shaking her head. “My mother warned me. I should’ve

listened. ‘Don’t get involved with a pilot. They’ll never be around when

you need them. Love ’em and leave ’em, that’s all they know.'”

I stared down at the ground a little ashamed at the accuracy of

her description. Both men and women at the Academy had that reputation and

relished it equally. “Um-”

She glanced back at me and a pale rose crept into her cheeks. “Oh, I

didn’t mean you, sir.”

“No, it’s okay.” I grinned, slightly sheepishly. “In my younger years

I probably fit that description all too well.”

A small, relieved smile broke on her lips. “Well, actually, that’s

what I’ve heard, too,” she responded shyly.

“Oh? From who?”

Her head jerked up the hill toward Harry and B’Elanna. “A couple of

days ago when our team was running a level one diagnostic on the sensor

arrays, a few of us started talking about the men on the ship we thought were

really attractive. Anyway, your name came up and the Lieutenant overheard and

started laughing.”

“Laughing?”

“Yessir. Oh, nothing bad. He just said something like you used to be

a real ladies’ man until you got married.” The brown eyes opened wide. “I-we

didn’t even know you were married.”

I sighed and looked out over the water. “Yeah, well, it’s not some-

thing I talk about.”

“Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-”

“No, it’s not your fault. Heck, I’m kind of surprised the story hasn’t

made it through the ship by now.” I flung the rock I had been holding as far

as I could out into the water.

“I try not to listen to gossip,” she said.

I hesitated. Was it necessary to tell her? If I stopped now, maybe

the grief would be easier to push down. It had been a relatively good day,

after all. I crouched down resting my arms on my thighs. “It’s not what

you’re thinking,” I said with a reluctant sigh. “I’m not separated or going

through a divorce. It’s just that-” I stopped, afraid to go on, afraid of

the quiver that even now rose in my chest.

“It’s just that what, sir?”

*Just get it out and get it over with, Thomas.*

“My wife disappeared a couple of months ago. She was visiting her

father and vanished. No one’s heard from her since.” I glanced up, squinting

at her through the sunlight.

Her mouth fell open, but she quickly shut it. “That’s terrible.

Freddie never told me. No one knows what happened to her?”

“Nope,” I replied, hoping the conversation would end quickly, but I

knew from experience that it never did.

“Oh, sir, I am so sorry.”

I shrugged. “Not your fault.”

“I know, but if I had known-”

“It’s okay, Ensign. Forget it.” I picked up a flat pebble. “Here.

Try your luck.”

“But I can’t. I’ve tried.”

“So? Try again. Here.”

She took the rock and drew back her arm.

“Wait. Hold it,” I said. “Not like that. Like this. Okay, now

try it.”

There was a small sploosh as the rock hit the water and sank out

of sight. Her shoulders slumped forward. “See. I told you.”

“Never mind. Try again.” I forced a grin and chose another stone

trying desperately to concentrate on the basics of the moment–the smoothness

of the rock, the rustle of breeze-stirred leaves, the warmth of the sun–any-

thing, but Cait.

The second rock sank just as quickly, followed by a third. I shook my

head and handed Jinara a fourth. “Ensign, with my help, you are going to skip

at least one stone into this pond or my name isn’t Thomas Eugene Paris.”

She looked at me and let out a small giggle. “Eugene?”

“Don’t ask. It’s a family name.” I snickered. “For years I hated it,

but recently it’s begun to grow on me.”

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

DISCLAIMERS: See part one. Comments should be addressed to Carly Hunter,

(crime@bu.edu).

Futures Past, Futures Present

Part I, cont.

copyright 1998

Aeropa II:

Tom, your probation period has long since passed. Have you

transferred? I know you weren’t going to until the baby was born, but maybe

you have now.

All those times we argued…I tried to make you see reason, but you

wouldn’t listen. No matter what opportunity came up, you weren’t going to

leave my side until the baby, *this* baby, was born. Forget that I wasn’t

pregnant yet. Forget that it might have taken us months, years even,

perhaps never. Sometimes you are your own your worst enemy. So stubborn,

and yet, so devoted. I can’t help but love you for it.

You were so determined to be at the birth. An admiralcy, let alone

an admiral’s direct orders, couldn’t have drug you away. I wish you were

with me now. If you were, maybe I wouldn’t feel so alone and frightened.

Two weeks. Two weeks that have stretched into months. Why the hell

did I have to see Nat at that market? What idiocy impelled me to follow him,

just to say hello? He was part of my past. I should have let him stay there.

You were my future, and now, he and his friends have taken away that future,

our baby’s future. They could have let me go…

So, am I dead once again? Missing and presumed dead? Does Dad think

I am? The Admiral? Your mother? Our friends? Do you believe it? Will you

accept it?

I don’t want you to, but that sounds so selfish, and yet, I know you

won’t, not easily. You’ll fight it. You’ll tell people they’re wrong.

You’ll refuse to listen to reason, but in the end, little by little, you’ll be

worn down, and my tarnished knight will lay down his arms and weep over

an empty grave.

“You’re not eating.”

I look up.

Nat points to the food on my plate. “You’re not eating,” he repeats.

“I’m not hungry,” I reply, and my gaze returns to my gradually

vanishing lap.

“Any particular reason? You’ve seemed down for the past three days.”

I can feel the tears building once again. I will not cry. I won’t

allow it. “Today-” I stop to clear my throat, annoyed by the tremor in

my voice. “Today is my wedding anniversary. Tom and I have been married

for four years.”

He says nothing, quietly lowering his eyes and his fork. He will not

meet my gaze.

Slowly, my anger yields to the pain, and I push my chair back, getting

clumsily to my feet. “Excuse me.”

Nat leaps up. “Caitie. Caitie, I’m sorry.”

I don’t turn around, and I don’t stop until the bedroom door slides

shut behind me. There is nothing he can say that will alleviate the oppressive

grief I feel. I don’t want him to even try.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI

The door chimed and I groaned in response.

I didn’t want visitors. I wanted to be left alone. Harry had come by

earlier to ask me to dinner, but he had had sense enough to withdraw and leave

me be.

The door chimed again.

“Come in,” I called, not even bothering to sit up on the sofa.

“Sir?” Latel called out. “Are you here?”

I lifted my arm from my eyes and sat up. “Computer, half-lights.”

Squinting in the sudden brightness, I set my wedding picture on the table.

“What is it, Ensign?”

“Nothing important, sir. I just didn’t see you at dinner, and I

wondered if everything was all right. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

She began backing toward the door.

“That’s all right, Jinara. The reason you didn’t see me is that I

don’t feel very hungry. I’ll probably replicate something later.”

“Yessir.” She turned to leave but stopped. “Sir? If you don’t mind

my asking, would it help to talk? You’ve seemed very down these past few days,

and you were good enough to let me cry on your shoulder, would it- would it

help you to cry on mine?”

I sighed wearily. “That’s nice of you, Ensign, but I don’t-”

“Is it your wife?” she asked, moving closer to the sofa. “Is that

why you’ve been upset? Did they find her?”

“No, nothing like that.”

She leaned over and picked up the picture I had been holding. “May I?”

She stared for a moment at the image. “Is this her?” I nodded. “Your

wedding?” I nodded again. “She’s very pretty.”

“Beautiful,” I whispered, more to myself than to her. “Today was our

anniversary. We would have been married for four years.”

“Oh, like me and Freddie. Together, I mean. We weren’t married.”

She placed the picture back down and gazed at me, her dark brown eyes

enveloping me like a warm blanket. “Would you like to talk about it? I know

I’m only an ensign, but…”

The left side of my mouth rose slightly. “Rank has nothing to do with

it, Jinara. I know you feel an obligation and are trying to be nice, but I

really would rather be alone.”

“I understand, sir. I’ll leave.” She turned away once again, and the

sudden cold made me cry out.

“No!” I could hear the anguish in my voice. I felt certain she could,

too. “Please. Stay. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I would feel better if I

talked.” I patted the sofa cushion beside me. “Here. Have a seat.”

As she perched on the edge of the cushion, I reached forward and

picked up the picture. “Her name is Caitlin,” I began, sinking back into

the sofa. “We met on Voyager. She was part of the Maquis crew…”

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

Aeropa II:

Tom, so often your name is the first thought in my mind, the first word

on my lips when I wake. Even when we were together it was this way.

Time and time again I try to see you in my mind. Through Nat’s eyes,

I remember yours, but my memory, my heart?, says that yours are bluer. I try

to picture you now, but you have grown a beard and mustache…

Tom, it’s been months since I was taken from you. I know you have

cried. I’ve felt your tears on my cheeks. If only I could let you know. Tom!

I’m alive! I’m safe! I love you! Please, hear me!

The seasons are changing now. All morning, I have watched grey clouds

stalk us slowly from the east. Maybe it will rain tonight. The crops still

need the rain, the few that have survived…

Ow! Tom, the baby has kicked again, not as much as last night, but

enough to remind me that it is there, that it is alive. I wish I could do

the same. I wish you could feel it, feel me.

Last night, the rain and thunder came, and this morning the air is

thick, like my body. Nat will be up soon. So will the others. I should get

up, too, but I don’t want to. I want to lay here thinking of you…

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

I watched Jinara bend over the pool table and take aim. “Hold it.

What are you shooting at?”

She raised up halfway, tucking some hair behind her ear. “The five.”

“Okay, and after the five what are you going for?”

She looked back down at the table. “I don’t know. Chances are I

won’t sink the five so I-”

I shook my head. “Wrong answer and wrong attitude.”

Leaving my cuestick balanced against a table, I walked over and took

the stick from her hand. “This isn’t some random game. It’s like chess.

You can’t think only about the ball you’re aiming at. You’ve got to think

about your next shot, too, and the shot after that, and so forth. And you’ve

got to think about where the cueball will end up if you miss, because if

you’re going to miss, at least leave your opponent a lousy set-up while you’re

at it.”

I pointed to the bright purple four ball halfway down the table.

“Now see that. It’s a trickier shot to send it into the side pocket, but if

you tap it just right, not only will it go in, but it’ll leave you set-up for

a shot on the seven and after that, the three or the one. If you go after the

five, you may get it in, but you’ve left yourself with a much harder shot on

the four and the seven, and absolutely no chance with the three or the one.

Besides, even if you don’t make the four, where’s the cueball going to stop?”

She shrugged and pointed. “There?”

“More likely here.” I circled the air space just behind the eight ball

with the tip of the cuestick. “And that’s not exactly a favorable position

for me.”

“Although he’s been there quite a few times,” a voice said behind us.

We both spun around. “Geez, Harry, are you trying to give us heart

failure?” I asked with a grin.

My friend didn’t return my smile. “Would you excuse us, Ensign?”

Jinara nodded quickly. “Yessir. Thank you for the lesson, Lt. Paris.

Same time day after tomorrow?”

“Sure. A little more practice and you’ll be beating me.”

She laughed, color creeping into her cheeks. “I think a lot more

practice is necessary before I reach that point. Sir.” She nodded at Harry

before disappearing through the heavy wooden doors.

“So, what’s on your mind, Harry?”

He looked around the bar as I bent down and pocketed the four ball.

“You know, I’m kind of surprised to find you in here.”

I shrugged and took aim at the seven. “Why? I told you a long time

ago that Sandrine’s always travelled with me.”

“I know. I guess I thought there’d be a few too many memories attached

to this place.”

The seven rolled gently into the pocket. “Oh? Like what? Like my

wedding reception? The games Cait and I played here? Things like that?”

I moved to the other end of the table and lined up to sink the three.

“To be honest, yes.”

“Well, I’ll tell you something, Harry. Before I ever met Cait, I had

memories of this place, good ones, bad ones, painful ones. Hers have just

added to the count.” The three grazed the edge of the bumper and rolled back

from the pocket. “Damn.”

“Uh-huh.” His gaze swung briefly back to the doors. “And Latel?”

“What? Oh for gods’ sakes, Harry. I told you about her. Her former

boyfriend was one of my trainees. They broke up recently and she needed a

shoulder to cry on. She’s a friend, that’s all. Hell, even if I wanted to,

I can’t petition for Cait to be declared dead for another six months, and I’m

not sure I’ll be ready to then.”

“Six months won’t do it now,” he said quietly. He punched up

something on a PADD he held and handed it to me. “These came in a few minutes

ago from Saturn Defense. They received them yesterday.”

I looked down. “Oh gods.”

The whole floor seemed to tip and I staggered backward against the

table. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Two pictures of Cait. The first

was only a head shot of her looking off to the left. There were rusty smudges

on her cheeks and forehead and strands of auburn hair jetted out from a wind-

ravaged bun. She looked tired, worried too.

The second picture was nearly identical, same unkempt bun, same far

off gaze, but this image was full-length. She stood in the doorway of some

battered building, and the clothes she had on were loose-fitting and

unfamiliar, but anyone could tell that beneath the swirling dress she was…

pregnant! I groped blindly for a chair, collapsing into one just before my

legs turned to plasma.

“Where?” I finally gasped. “Where did they come from?”

Harry pulled up another chair and sat down. “Saturn Defense received

them yesterday. They’ve been trying to trace the signal, but whoever made the

transmission hid the path very well.” He hesitated. “Almost like they

were part of the Maquis.”

I glanced up. He was serious. “No. No, she wouldn’t do that to me.

She wouldn’t just pick up and go with them again.”

“Maybe she didn’t have a choice.”

“No. She wouldn’t, Harry. C’mon, you’ve known her as long as I have.

You know she wouldn’t.”

He slowly nodded. “I know. Besides, that looks like the doorway of

a house. The Maquis aren’t exactly known for setting up permanent residence.”

He paused before adding, “You didn’t say she was pregnant, Tom.”

I gazed back down at the images. “I didn’t know, Harry,” I whispered.

“I didn’t know.”

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

DISCLAIMERS: See part one. Comments should be addressed to Carly Hunter,

(crime@bu.edu).

Futures Past, Futures Present

Part I, cont.

copyright 1998

Aeropa II:

Thunder rolls across the black sky, but I barely hear it. Nat’s

words burn in my ears. “You did what?” I ask, hoping I had misheard him.

“I sent two pictures of you to your husband. I hid the location

pretty well so I doubt the Dominion will be able to trace it, but at least

this way he’ll know you’re alive.”

“The pictures–what were they like? When did you take them?”

“Four days ago. They were of you standing in the doorway. I felt

bad after last week and I thought I’d surprise you.” His brow crinkles.

“I don’t understand, Caitie. I thought you wanted him to know you were okay.”

The room twists, its contents stretching out of proportion. I reach

out and somehow find the back of a chair. What will Tom think? No. Oh gods,

please no.

“Caitie, what’s wrong? I thought it was what you wanted.”

“I did, but just pictures, no explanation? What will he think?” With

a clap of thunder, I break down, sinking into the chair and covering my face

with my hands.

“Caitie? Oh hell, Caitie, don’t cry. I don’t understand. Why was

it so wrong? He’ll know the two of you are still alive now. He may wait.

Isn’t that what you wanted?” Nat crouches at my feet and tugs my hands away.

“Caitie, please, talk to me.”

“He- he didn’t know.” My words stumble over my breath. “He didn’t

know about the- the baby. I found out when I was at Dad’s, and I was waiting

to tell Tom when I saw him. What will he think now? That I ran off and left

him? That I carry another man’s child? Oh gods.” I jerk my hands out of

his and shield my eyes, but I can’t hide from the image of Tom, alone in our

quarters, sitting and staring at the viewscreen, hurt beyond words.

“Oh shit,” Nat mutters softly. “Oh shit.” He scrambles to his feet

and staggers toward the door.

The rain pours down, dripping steadily through the roof and forming

a puddle on the floor beside me. I raise my head and struggle to my feet,

wiping my eyes on my sleeve. Nat stands in the open doorway, gazing out into

the downpour; my legs are barely strong enough to take me to him. He doesn’t

turn around.

I reach out and touch his arm. “I’m sorry. I know you were trying

to help.”

He turns and hesitantly brushes my left cheek in his fingers. A sol-

itary tear rolls down his face. “Caitie, I’ve destroyed so many people’s

lives. Gods, even when I’m trying to help.” His hand jerks back and he stuffs

both deep in his pockets. “I’m sorry, Caitie. It never occurred to me that he

wouldn’t know. I’m really sorry.” Before I can stop him, he walks out into

the rain and disappears into the darkness.

Slowly I move back to the table and sit down, exhausted. The puddle

continues to grow. After all these months to receive those images… What will

he think? What would I think? That I am alive and well and carrying a child?

Your child, but you don’t know that. Oh gods, Tom, please hear me! It is

yours! It is yours!

The stew, tonight’s forgotten dinner, bubbles away on the cooker, and I

walk over and turn off the heat. I take out a bowl and ladle out some of the

rich, brown liquid. It has no taste, but it wraps me in a comforting warmth.

I sit down on the sofa to eat, but halfway through, I yawn. Too tired to move,

I set the bowl down and curl up, drawing Nat’s blanket over me and falling

asleep to the insistent patter of rain.

Thumps and curses awaken me, what must be hours later. The rain

has stopped. The door slides open and Remy half-carries, half-drags

Nat inside. They are both sopping wet, and Remy dumps him in the nearest

chair.

“Drunk,” he explains as I walk over to them. “You want him here?”

Nat’s head lolls to one side and he grins up at me, a sloppy, pathetic

grin. I shake my head. “No, but I’ll take care of him. Thank you for

bringing him back.”

Remy frowns, his dark hair plastered to his brow. “Are you sure?

He isn’t much help in his condition. You positive you don’t want some help?”

I hesitate. “Well, if you could help me get him out of these wet

clothes and over to the sofa…”

He nods. “No problem.”

Halfway through the disrobing, Nat stirs from his stupor and pushes

us away, but when he tries to stand, he collapses onto his knees.

Remy patiently picks him up and practically carries him over to the sofa.

Together, we tug off Nat’s boots and pants and force him to lie down.

“Pretty, isn’t she?” Nat slurs as I pull the blanket over him.

He grasps my hand and pulls it toward his lips. “Pretty as they come,” he

says, kissing it.

A hot flash runs over my body and I jerk my hand out of his. “Go to

sleep,” I tell him sharply, and then I soften my tone. “You’re drunk. Go to

sleep before you say something you’ll regret.”

The drunken glow drains from the blue eyes. “Regret? I regret so

much of my life. What’s a little more?”

I straighten up and turn to Remy. “Thank you for bringing him back.

I think I can take care of things from here.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Thank you, but you should get out of your own wet clothes.”

He shrugs and leaves. I close the door and lock it as Nat always

does before returning to the sofa. Nat’s eyes are closed, but as I tuck the

blanket more securely about him, they open.

“Caitie, I’m sorry.”

“I know. Go to sleep. You’re going to have a rough morning.”

He grabs my hand. “No. Please. Sit with me. Just for a little bit.

I want- Ah hell, I’m not sure what I want. Confession? Absolution?

Redemption? Such archaic terms, but we still need them, don’t we?” He laughs

softly. “I’m not making any sense, am I? Of course not, Lo- Lawson, you’re

drunk.”

I sit down beside him. “I don’t know if I can give you what you

want, Nat. I don’t hate you. I’m not sure I ever could, but-”

“I know.” The blue eyes gaze up at the ceiling. “Pity him who longs

to touch the face of God, and finds none but those of mortal men.”

“Who said that?”

He snickers. “No one important. I made it up. I get poetic when

I get drunk. Oh, Caitie, we had so much promise. So much promise.” His eyes

lose focus briefly before slowly swinging back to me. “I was at the Academy,

Caitie. Did I ever tell you that? I won awards. I flew Fleet ships.

I was one of the best and the brightest, and boy, I sure as hell thought

I was, too.” His eyes squeeze shut and he clutches my hand.

“It’s all right, Nat. You don’t have to tell me.”

“All those years ago…we got so close…I was ashamed. I never

wanted you to find out. I had to leave. They made me.” He releases my hand

and rolls away. “And now I’ve done it again. Taken another life. How many

more…”

I am silent. I don’t know what to say. I think of Tom and realize

how much he and Nat are alike. Small wonder that I loved them both.

Each struggling to correct past mistakes. Each searching desperately for a

way to forgive himself. Both convinced that they could never do enough to pay

for their crimes. How did Granma Dorie describe their kind? Angels that fell

from Heaven and landed short of Hell?

A heavy snore brings me back from my thoughts, and I smooth the damp

blond hair with my hand. Even with the beard he still looks like a lost

little boy. I place a light kiss on his temple and get to my feet. The stew

can sit out for the night.

The next morning, as I am quietly preparing breakfast, Nat wakes and

stumbles over to me. He looks awful and probably feels much, much worse.

I can’t resist teasing him a little. “Good morning, sunshine.”

He grunts and leans over the sink and pours a ladle-full of water

over his head. “I feel like shit.”

“You look like it, too.” I snicker. “Go clean up. I’ll fix you

some coffee.”

“Yeah. Thanks,” he mumbles and starts to turn away. Suddenly, he

grabs my arm and places his left hand on my belly. He stares at me, his eyes

wide open and unusually alert. “Caitie, I’ll take care of the two of you.

I promise. I won’t let anything happen to either of you. I swear.”

“Nat-”

“No, Caitie, let me. Let me take the responsibility. Please. It’s

important to me.”

I gaze up at him and nod slowly. “All right, Nat. I trust you.”

The right side of his mouth curls and then falls. “That’s probably

a mistake, but I’ll try my best not to let you down.” He pats my belly.

“Either of you.”

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

Cait, do you remember the first time I held your hand? It was full of

blood and splinters, but still hard and strong, unsoftened by your time on

Voyager and speaking more eloquently of a lifetime of struggle than your

personnel file ever could. In that brief moment, I became more ashamed

than I ever had been of my past actions, even more than I was at my trials.

B’Elanna said it best–you were a warrior, and I knew, in that brief moment,

that I was far beneath your contempt.

Yet, scant hours later, you showed me your playful side, taunting me,

daring me, flirting with me. You kissed me. You made love to me. For days

afterward, I told myself it had been a mistake, that you had just been a little

lonely. I knew my reputation on the ship. It was fear and shame that kept me

from you, not the reason I gave at the time. You’ll never know close I came

to turning and walking away from your door that night. That was how afraid

I was, but I didn’t, and you made love to me again. I never knew I could feel

so honored, so thoroughly forgiven of all my sins.

But what do I do now, Cait? Tell me. What does one do when they have

given themselves to someone as freely and completely as I have given myself

to you? I don’t understand. Please, Cait, help me to understand. What do

these pictures mean?

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

Aeropa II:

I sigh and poke at the steamed tubers that constitute my dinner.

Nat left five days ago with Remy and Mosc on a trade deal. He said it might

take a few days, but I can’t help worrying. That scrap heap he calls a ship

couldn’t outrun a shuttle on thrusters.

A knock on the door draws me out of my morbid thoughts. “Yes? It’s

open.” I hadn’t bothered to lock the door. For the past four evenings,

Rachel has stopped by to check on me. Sweet, but a little annoying. I’m not

a child, just having one.

“Trusting, aren’t you?”

“Nat?” I spin around in the chair and fly, at least as much as I am

able, into his arms.

“Hey. Hey. I’ll go away more often if I get this response.”

“Don’t you dare. I was worried. That ship isn’t safe.”

He shrugs. “It gets the job done.”

“Barely. Did you get my message to Tom?”

He shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Caitie. I couldn’t.”

“Oh.” I step back and lower my head, trying to conceal my disap-

pointment.

Nat takes my hand and squeezes it. “I’m sorry. I tried. I know how

much it meant to you, to both of you, but I couldn’t get the transmission

time.”

“It’s all right. I know it can be tough. You did what you could.”

“Lot of good it did,” he mutters and drops my hand. “I’ll get the

supplies.”

He steps back outside and brings in a crate. “This one has our share.”

He grunts and sets it down just inside the door. “And this one…” He lifts

a second, smaller box and carries it over to the table. “This one is for you.

It won’t make up for not getting through, but… Go ahead. Open it.”

I look at him and then at the box. “Go ahead,” he repeats. “Open it.”

I press the lock release and the lids lifts up. Inside, on top, is

a box containing small, wooden blocks with the letters of the alphabet

painted brightly on their sides. Underneath them are five children’s books,

three yellow baby blankets and baby clothes. Tucked between the blankets are

two plastic rings. I lift one out, twisting it in my hand. “What the-?”

“They’re teething rings,” he explains hastily. “God’s gift to

mothers, or so my older sister used to say.”

“I know what they are. I want to know how you got them, or all of this

for that matter.”

He shifts his shoulders and sits down. “It was no big deal.

The trader we dealt with this time is an old acquaintance of mine from my

wandering days. He owed me a few favors and I told him he could pay up by

replicating this stuff. After I couldn’t get the transmission time, I couldn’t

come home empty-handed.” He takes my hand and squeezes it again. “Besides, I

told you I’d take care of both of you. I know I can’t replace the kid’s real

father, but I can try my best. You both deserve that.”

Tears spring up in my eyes. “Nat, that’s so-so-” I don’t get any

further, losing the battle with my quivering chin.

“Oh, Caitie.” Nat gets to his feet and pull me close, wrapping his

arms about my shoulders. “Caitie, don’t cry. Please don’t cry.”

“But you didn’t have to do this. This was so thoughtful.” I raise my

head and place a kiss on his cheek. Then, I sniff. “Ugh. I need to blow

my nose. I’m all drippy.”

He laughs and fishes a hankerchief out of his pocket. “Here,

use this.” He wears a huge smile now. “I’m glad you like the stuff. I had

Jack make the blankets yellow since we don’t know… I mean, I realize its

old-fashioned, blue for boys and pink for girls, but I guess deep down that’s

what I am–an old-fashioned guy.”

“Old-fashioned? Ancient is more like it,” I tease. “But it’s okay.

I like yellow better anyway.”

His smile grows even wider.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

Cait, I have sat at this desk and studied these pictures for two

weeks now, and I still don’t understand. What am I missing?

Have you begun a new life? It looks as if you have. Is that what

you are saying? How is it? Is it what you hoped for? Is that the doorway of

your new home? Who took the pictures? A friend? Your lover? Why did you

send them to me? As torment? No. No, I can’t believe that. You were never

cruel. You could get angrier than B’Elanna, but you were never cruel. I don’t

think you can be.

So why send me the pictures? To tell me you were alive? To tell me

to get on with my life? Is that it? You have a new life, and I must have

one, too? Is that it? Do I have your blessing? Under the circumstances, do I

even need it?

Dear gods, Cait, I *love* you. I trusted you. You filled my soul,

my veins, but now you drain away, drop by drop, like blood, and I feel empty.

I try to keep it together, to put on a smile and joke around, but others,

like Harry, see through it. Soon everyone will.

Shit! Why can’t I just say it? I AM ANGRY! How could you do this

to me? I tried to be everything I should–husband, lover, friend. Dammit, I

tried my best. Was it not enough? Why didn’t you tell me? I would have done

anything for you–tried harder or something, anything. Didn’t you know that?

For gods’ sakes, a day didn’t pass that I didn’t tell you I loved you.

Didn’t you believe me?

Look, I promise, if you want to stay away, I’ll give you what you want,

a separation or a divorce. Just please, please tell me why. What made you

leave? Please, worse than anything is not knowing. Was it my fault? Am I

to blame? Please, Cait, I’ve got to-

*BEEP*

I set the PADD face down on my desk and wiped the stray tear from

my cheek. “Come.”

“Sir?” Jinara peered around the doorway.

“Yes, Ensign. Come in. What can I do for you?”

She took two hesitant steps inside with her head bowed. “Um, sir, I

know you’re an officer, but I was wondering if you’d like to have dinner

with me. See, I normally eat with Celia, -er Ensign Cartwright, but she eats

with Josh now, and I just can’t face them tonight. I mean, I’m glad they’ve

found each other, but-”

“It brings home the loneliness even more, doesn’t it?”

She gave a soft sigh and nodded.

I glanced back down at the PADD on my desk. *Misery loves company,

or so they always say.* “Well, I think you’ve had a pretty good idea, Jin.

I was feeling a bit blue myself, but I think dinner would do us both good.”

“You-you do?” The brown gaze rose from the floor, eyes wide with

disbelief. “You mean you accept?”

“Sure. Sounds far more constructive than what I was doing. Just give

me a second.” I picked up the PADD and hastily saved what I had written.

“Okay, I’m ready. Let’s go.”

The mess was located three decks away from my quarters. We caught an

empty lift, but a split-second after I said “mess”, the car stopped with a

violent jerk, throwing me back against the wall and Jinara into my arms.

The lights flickered off and the car jerked again.

She clung to me. “It’s okay.” I said, trying to reassure her.

“Probably just a malfunction. These things happen. Engineering will have it

fixed in no time.”

Fulfilling part of my prophecy, the lights came back on. Jin looked

up at me, her brown eyes wide and frightened. A terrible heat surged through

my body. How could I not have noticed how full her lips were? Or that her

hair radiated the sweet innocence of lily of the valley? My heart pounded and

my mouth went dry. I licked my lips. “Are-are you all right, Ensign?”

“Uh…yes…sir,” she replied, still staring up at me.

“Are you sure?” I whispered. Her body moulded so well to mine,

soft and gently curved in all the right places.

A delicate flush spread over her cheeks, and she nodded without

looking away. “Yes, I-” The car began to move and she pushed herself out

of my arms. “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t know why I panicked like that. I don’t

know what came over me.” Her gaze dropped to the floor, the color in her

cheeks ripening like a young peach.

I stared at her, breathing hard. *Dear gods, Thomas, what are you

thinking?* I straightened up and cleared my throat. “It’s all right, Ensign.

Lifts have a way of making us all claustrophobic when they break down.”

We reached the correct deck and proceeded to dinner, but things

had changed. The meal was stilted and uncomfortable, bound now by the rules

of protocol instead of friendship, and later, as I lay awake alone in my bed,

I prayed that she hadn’t noticed.

It was laughable–a man nearly twenty years older than she was. Yet, I

couldn’t stop myself from thinking how alive she had felt, the scent of her

hair still fresh in my memory.

With a sigh, I rolled onto my stomach and pressed myself against the

mattress. Too many nights alone. Too many nights spent between cold,

uninviting sheets. And for what? The bittersweet confirmation that Cait

lived somewhere, with someone? Where the hell did that leave me?

It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t. Jinara had been my one solace since

losing Cait. A friend I could talk to with no connection to my past. And now,

that refuge was denied me. It wasn’t fair. I could still feel her in my arms.

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

DISCLAIMERS: See part one. Comments should be addressed to Carly Hunter,

(crime@bu.edu).

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

DISCLAIMERS: See part 1. Comments should be addressed to Carly Hunter,

(crime@bu.edu).

WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS MATERIAL THAT MAY BE INAPPROPRIATE FOR SOME

READERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Futures Past, Futures Present

Part I, cont.

copyright 1998

Aeropa II:

Overnight it seems, the days have grown much colder, and everyone

bundles up in whatever they can find. In the morning light, I can see my

breath.

The power generators sustained heavy damage in the latest bombing and

only produce about sixty percent of their normal output. Usually this means

we choose between heated rooms and purified water. So now we build fires on

stone hearths at daybreak and dusk; after the wood burns away the stones hold

the heat for hours.

Four days ago, we finished harvesting the last of the crops which had

survived the summer heat and the Dominion. It doesn’t look like much food

to me, but Nat says it’s more than they had last year and the other settlers

seem equally jubilant.

Why would anyone want to live like this when they didn’t have to?

I saw the same struggles when I was in the Maquis–farmers scraping what life

they could from the land–and I didn’t understand it then either. Maybe if I

had been raised a farmer…

This morning the cold in the bedroom is unbearable. First light has

not broken, but I can’t take it any longer and wrap myself in the blankets and

go into the other room to sit by the lingering warmth of a long dead fire.

Nat wakes and sees me, bundled up and trembling. Without a word, he stumbles,

yawning, into the bedroom and drags the mattress out here close to the

fireplace.

“Shoulda said somethin’,” he mumbles. “Woulda done it sooner.”

“It hasn’t been this bad. Besides, you’ve been tired in the evenings.”

He shrugs. “Turning soil does that. But I don’t want you catching

cold. C’mere.” He lowers me onto the bed and tucks the blankets securely

about me. “Warm enough now?”

I nod. “Much better. Thanks.”

“Anytime.” He yawns once more and shuffles back to the sofa as I

snuggle further under the covers.

He has been wonderful. Anything I want or need, he gets it if he can.

He spoils me really, just like Tom did…

I fall back asleep, relatively warm and content, and slip into the

most delicious dream. In it, I lie in bed, wide awake, but keeping my eyes

shut. Someone is with me, beside me, but strangely enough, I am not afraid.

Firm, sensuous fingers make quick work of my nightclothes, laying me bare,

and I hear an intake of delighted breath before the hands return, caressing me

in such a way that I can’t help but cry out in pleasure. Oh gods. It feels

so good. His breath, his lips, his teeth as he tastes every centimeter of

my skin. Oh gods. Yes. Don’t stop. Yes. Oh, Nat-

Horrified, I sit up. Did I? Heavy breathing tells me he still sleeps

soundly on the sofa. Maybe I did not speak his name aloud. I lie back down

with the pulse still thundering between my legs and stare out the window at

the slowly lifting darkness…

Later, I wake as Nat moves about the kitchen, his shirt open, revealing

a sprinkling of golden hair. The memory of the dream returns in a rush.

Oh gods, Tom, please forgive me. If you were here… If you were here,

I would not have watched him so closely. I would not have noticed how broad

his chest is; or how dark his skin has become; or how much definition the

fieldwork has given his muscles. And he would not have looked up and seen me

watching, the hunger so visible in my eyes. I feel so ashamed. I’m sorry,

Tom. I didn’t mean to.

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

It had been a long week, filled with dreams, anger, and above all,

guilt. Finally at the end of my shift yesterday, I had allowed myself to

escape to Sandrine’s, alone, deleting the characters and replicating my own

drinks. I didn’t even play pool. It-everything reminded me too much of

Jinara. So, I just sat by the fire and drank.

All week, I had done my best to avoid her without being rude or

suspicious, but things had only gotten worse. She seemed to be everywhere,

on the bridge, in a lift, everywhere, always smiling, always meeting my gaze.

Was she doing it on purpose? Perhaps. Or maybe I was simply desperate enough

to imagine it. After all, when I was with her, the emptiness went away.

I felt alive, and that was something I needed more than anything else in the

universe.

*But she doesn’t need you, Thomas. You, foisting all your misery and

anger onto her. Doesn’t she have enough of her own? Just what kind of a man

are you?* I stared down into my drink, the firelight dancing brightly in the

amber liquid. *What would your father say?*

My commbadge chirped. “Latel to Lt. Paris.”

*Damn.* I groaned silently. “Yes, Ensign?”

“Well, um, sir, I noticed that Sandrine’s was running, but the door

is locked. Is everything all right, sir?”

“Yes. Computer, disengage privacy lock. Authorization, Paris-gamma-

four-one-three.”

The heavy oak door swung open slowly, and Jinara entered, hesitating

while her eyes searched the dimly lit room. Then, she walked toward me, her

slim legs scissoring gracefully, one before the other under the wondrous

curves of her hips. “Are you here alone, sir?” Her voice wrapped around the

words like Natalian cashmere.

“Yes.”

“Should I leave?”

*Yes!* “No.”

She sat down and my gaze returned to my drink. Neither of us spoke,

and her hands, with their exquisitely tapered fingers, fidgeted nervously.

“Would you like to talk, sir?”

“No.”

I looked up and our eyes met. I sat forward and placed my hand

over hers. “Pull away, Jinara,” I warned. “You shouldn’t be here. Not with

me. Not now.”

“No.” Still holding my gaze, her head moved slightly from side

to side. “No. I want to be here–with you.”

The next thing I knew she was in my lap, the two of us kissing like

frantic teenagers. My hand crept up to her breast and she moaned softly.

“Mmm. Please,” she begged, and fumbled with the fasteners of her uniform,

opening the front and guiding my hand beneath her shirt.

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” she whispered. “It’s been a

fantasy of mine for so long.”

“Has it now?” I mumbled, angling my head and sucking gently on the

soft flesh just beneath her jaw.

“Ohh, yes…sir.” She pulled back, her cheeks flushed golden in the

firelight like sun-ripened peaches. “It’s silly, but-” She paused and then

groaned as I tweaked her nipple ever so slightly.

“But what? Tell me. I won’t laugh.”

She swallowed hard, the dark eyes wildly aroused, and yet still a

little fearful as they searched my face. “I-I’ve wondered what it would be

like to do it here, with you, on the pool table.”

A drunken smile twisted my lips. Gee, not quite so innocent after

all. “Do you want to find out?”

Her eyes opened wide; then with a small smile of her own, she bent her

head and took hungry possession of my mouth. Without a thought as to who could

walk in, I gathered her light form in my arms and carried her over to the

table.

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

Aeropa II:

The heat, the touch of another. It has been so long that I almost cry.

I don’t want to let go. I want to be held. My body aches for it. The warmth,

the strength of his arms. My clothes must be melting…

“Caitie…” His voice rumbles like thunder rolling down from the

mountains. Fingers gently pry my head from his chest. I don’t dare open

my eyes.

“Caitie?” The whisper blows across my lips followed by the briefest

of pressure. My lips part, begging, and the pressure returns again and again,

lingering longer each time. My heart pounds. A wave of nausea rushes over me

leaving my skin tingling. My clothes are on fire. I can’t breathe.

I’m suffocating. What a delicious way to die!

Then, the pressure is gone and I can breathe. My eyes open. Eyes as

blue as lapis stare helplessly into mine. Nat releases me and steps back,

panting. His slim fingers slide through his hair and his gaze sweeps down to

my protruding belly then back up to my face.

“I-I’m sorry,” he says quietly. “I didn’t mean to- You carry another

man’s child- I-I can’t. I can’t let you. You’ll hate me and I can’t live

with that.” His eyes close and he bows his head. “I’m sorry, Caitie,”

he whispers. “It won’t happen again.” Then, a little louder to himself.

“I’ve got to get out of here.”

I don’t stop him. I can’t. I am rooted to where I stand. If I move,

I’ll fall; my legs are that weak. I am that weak. What have I done?

Hours later, as I am washing dishes, Nat returns. How easily I have

grown accustomed to his strong step thumping across the floor. He stops behind

me, close enough to sense my warmth and I his. His hands rise to touch

my shoulders; then, catching himself, they drop to his side. He backs away,

neither of us saying a word.

I stretch and twist my neck, trying to free it from the tension.

I feel more imprisoned than ever. Nat must feel it now, too.

“Does you neck hurt?” he asks.

“A little.”

“W-would you like me to rub it?”

We both catch our breaths. “Please.”

I hear him blow on his hands and rub the palms together. Then, strong

fingers glide over my skin, carefully brushing strands of hair out of the way.

Familiarity aches so deeply within me that a tear rolls down my cheek. I wipe

it away quickly. He won’t understand, I tell myself. He reminds me of Tom.

That’s why I want to shut my eyes and tumble back into his arms. That’s why

I want him to hold me and kiss me and tell me I’m beautiful.

But I can’t keep my eyes closed forever. Sooner or later they will

open and I won’t see my husband. I will see only an old lover, my captor,

the man who took me from Tom. I should hate him. I should, but I don’t.

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

That was how it started, with me taking her right there in Sandrine’s,

not caring if anyone walked in on us. I should have known better. I should

have shown greater respect for my own marriage vows even if Cait hadn’t

of hers. I should have, but I didn’t, and for whatever reason, I let it

continue.

It was too easy. She was so young and eager to please. Her roommate,

who had a boyfriend on board, was only too happy that Jin had found somewhere

to spend her nights, and Jinara was careful–always checking the corridor

before she came and left and removing her commbadge so she couldn’t be traced.

Occasionally, my conscience tried to rear its meddling head, but it

was never very successful. Whenever Jin leapt into my arms, I lost myself

in a little fantasy world and that was all I wanted. No feelings. No commit-

ments. Nothing that would reach inside and touch my heart. Then, one day

at breakfast, Harry took it upon himself to shatter my illusion of peace.

“You know, I think Latel has a crush on you.”

I almost laughed, choking instead on my orange juice. Gods, he didn’t

know the half of it. “So?”

“So, you might want to stop spending so much time with her.”

“She’s a grown woman, Harry. I’m not going to treat her like

some teenager.”

“Hey, just a little friendly advice. This isn’t Voyager. Regulations

are etched in stone here.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” I said, and busied myself with slicing up a

sausage link. If I met his gaze I knew I would laugh in his face.

“Shit,” he swore quietly. “You already knew, didn’t you? You’ve done

it, haven’t you? You’ve slept with her.”

“Is that a statement of fact or a question?”

“Fuck.”

“Nice choice of words, Harry.”

“What the hell are you trying to do, Paris? Get kicked out of Fleet

again? Shit. Great. And now I know, too.”

I sighed and took a bite of my toast. “No, you don’t. I haven’t

admitted one thing. Don’t worry. Everything is under control.”

“Like hell it is. All you have to do is see her face when you walk

in the room. She’s in love with you. Dammit, Tom! What the hell are you

trying to do? Destroy your life and hers, too? Geez!” His fork clattered

to his plate and others turned to look.

“Pipe down, will you?” I muttered. “You’re the one attracting

attention.”

He picked up his fork and resumed eating long enough to pacify the

curious. “Look, Tom, think about what you’re doing. Think about all you’ve

gone through to make it back into Starfleet. Think about your folks and all

the people who helped along the way–Janeway, Tai, Admiral Fletcher. Those

people put their reputations on the line for you. Hell, think of Latel.

This could destroy her career. For gods’ sakes, Tom, you still have a life,

even if it is without Caitlin. Don’t throw it away.”

I put down my fork and glared at him. “Shut up, Harry, and mind your

own business. I know what I’m doing.”

He challenged my gaze for a moment before getting to his feet.

“Like hell you do,” he muttered and picked up his tray.

I watched after him. Deep down, I knew he was right, but gods help me,

I didn’t want to end it. It was the only time I felt halfway alive. I scooped

up another forkful of eggs, but set it down and pushed my tray away. Shit.

Harry’s words commanded my full attention for the rest of the day.

Twice, Janeway had to repeat orders to me, but by the time my shift ended,

I knew what I had to do and headed reluctantly to my quarters. Jin would be

stopping by, if she wasn’t already there. Damn. There would be no easy way

to tell her. The whole situation was my fault. I was older. I should have

known better, and I did. That was the worst thing. With a heavy sigh, I keyed

in the lock sequence.

The door slid open. Jin stood just inside, wearing a black lace teddy

and holding a scotch and water in her hand. Shit. She wasn’t going to make

this easy.

“Surprise!” she said, handing me the drink. “How was your day?”

I took a large gulp, letting the smooth fire glide slowly down my

throat. “I’ve had better,” I replied, moving over to the sofa.

She sat down next to me, tucking her lean legs beneath her. Her

fingers slipped easily through my hair. “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can

do to help?”

I stared down at the drink and tried to focus on the issue at hand,

but her breasts hovered in the corner of my vision. Why did she have to be so

damn attractive? I turned my head, and before I could say anything, our lips

met. Just this once, I told myself as she crawled into my lap, and it will be

the last time.

An hour or so later, I lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling. Jin lay

on her stomach, her arm resting across my chest. She groaned softly and

snuggled closer.

“Mmmm. That was wonderful.”

I sighed. “Good. I’m glad.”

She raised her head. “You’re still upset. What’s wrong?”

Shit. This wasn’t the time, but when was? If I didn’t tell her now,

when would I? Ever? Never? When they were reading our names out at a

court martial hearing? “Jin, we need to talk.”

“About?”

“About this. About what we’re doing. As much as we both enjoy it,

it has to stop.”

She sat up, her brown eyes widening. “Haven’t I pleased you?”

I raised up on my elbows. “Yes. Gods, yes, you have. A lot, but that

isn’t the point. What we’re doing is dangerous. We’ve both worked hard to get

into Starfleet. If we’re discovered, we could lose everything. If it was just

me, I wouldn’t care, but you’re young. You’ve got your whole life ahead

of you. I’m not going to let you destroy it because of me.”

She clutched her knees to her chest and stared down at the crumpled

sheets. “But if we love each other, what does it matter?”

“It matters a lot.” I sat up and grabbed her chin. “Look at me.

Do you think you’re in love with me?” The moist brown eyes couldn’t lie, and I

relinquished my hold with a sigh. “Harry was right. You are, aren’t you?”

Her lower lip trembled. “You-you told the Lieutenant?”

“No, and that’s part of the problem. I didn’t have to. He guessed it

and if he can, others will too. We can’t let that happen especially when you

aren’t really in love with me.”

“I’m not?” She sniffled and a tear trickled down her right cheek.

I wiped it gently away with my thumb. “No. It’s sex and it’s passion

and it may be thrilling as hell, but it isn’t love. Believe me, I know. I’ve

experienced both. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but it would be

wrong to let you go on believing this to be something it isn’t.”

“I don’t understand. You make this sound like some teenage crush.”

I shook my head. “No, I know it’s not, and the first time a woman said

the same thing to me, I didn’t understand either. I thought she was wrong,

too, but years later, when I met my wife, I realized she had been right.”

“But your wife left you.”

“True, and that’s the other reason this should end. I’m not ready

to embark on a relationship. I’m still trying to adjust to life without her.

You’re still going through the same thing with Freddie. We both need time

to get our bearings. We need time to heal.”

The pale shoulders began to shake as she clutched the sheet about her.

I tried to hug her, but she shrugged me away. Couldn’t say I blamed her.

“You know,” she mumbled. “He-he was my first.”

“Your first?”

She snuffled loudly and nodded. “He taught me everything. I really

thought he loved me. I thought I loved him until I met you.”

*Shit. Well, congratulations, Thomas. You’ve certainly done it

this time.* “Jin. Jin, look at me. Please.”

Slowly, she lifted her head, the mahogany eyes already swelling.

“Now, listen to me, and listen well. You are a beautiful woman, and

what you deserve most is someone who’ll make you happy and show you what it’s

really like to be in love. If I could, I would volunteer in an instant to be

that guy, but I can’t. Too much has happened, too much could happen, and I

can’t be that person, no matter how much I may want to be. But he is out

there somewhere. You’ve just got to give things time. Understand?”

Tears cascaded down both cheeks. A heart was breaking before my eyes,

and I was the one causing it, but she nodded bravely. “I-I’m trying to.”

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

DISCLAIMERS: See part 1. Comments should be addressed to Carly Hunter,

(crime@bu.edu).

Futures Past, Futures Present

Part I, cont.

copyright 1998

Aeropa II:

Rachel’s hands pass over and around the gigantic swelling that is

my baby. Her hands feel rough, the hands of a farmer, not a healer.

She smiles as she checks her conclusions by a scan. “Yes. The baby has

dropped right into position. Any day now, any day now.”

I try to laugh. “Finally.”

She pulls down my shirt and helps me to sit up. “Is something

bothering you? Nerves, maybe? Nat tells me you’ve been very quiet this

past week.”

“It’s nothing really. Just memories.”

“Would it help to talk about them?”

“I don’t know.” My shoulders rise in a helpless shrug and I look down

at my hands as the tears press closer and closer to the surface. “I’ve been

thinking about my daughter a lot.”

“The child you lost.”

“Yes. I carried her for eight months and lost her.” My left hand

rests against my belly and I feel a faint, but comforting wriggle. “He doesn’t

move much anymore. I guess I’m just afraid that I’m going to lose this one,

too.”

“Nonsense.” Rachel’s hand clutches mine, gripping it with surprising

strength. “I suppose that is only a normal reaction, but it is a baseless

concern. You are a strong, healthy woman, and everything indicates that

your child is equally healthy. Complications can always arise, but at this

point, I see no reason to believe you will experience any. Beside,” she adds

with a small smile. “I won’t let anything happen to him.

“You see, in some respects, Caitie, this isn’t just your child.

Our whole settlement has come to feel responsible for him and not just because

we brought you here. For many of us, this child has become a symbol–

an affirmation of life in the midst of all the destruction we’ve seen.

The two of you, whether you realize it or not, have given us hope, which was

something we desperately needed.”

I tear my gaze from hers and bow my head. I know I have no reason to,

but I feel guilty, selfish for wanting to be with Tom and deny them this small

happiness. A lone tear trickles down my cheek.

Rachel wraps her arm around my shoulders, guiding my head to the

crook of her neck. “Go ahead and cry. We all have to at one time or another.

Go ahead. It will make you feel better.”

It does, and after she leaves, I find myself humming as I prepare

dinner. The night is unusually mild, and when we finish eating, Nat and I step

outside. The sky sparkles, and Nat jokes about being able to see all the way

to Earth, leaving me in a helpless fit of giggles, that even I don’t

understand. For whatever reason, I feel calmer now, more at peace. My baby

is coming. Soon. Soon.

“Did Rachel visit you today?”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“How is everything?”

I take his hand and place it on my belly. “Wonderful. Any day now,

she says.”

He looks down at his hand and then up at me. Uncertain, he leans

forward and kisses me, once, twice, as my arms encircle his neck. His tongue

slips between my lips and a damp warmth grows between my legs.

“Caitie…” he whispers, but a bolt streaks out of the sky, hitting the

ruins of the abandoned house next to ours. “Shit!”

Another beam hits the ground even closer to us and nearly knocks us

down. Other settlers quickly emerge from their dwellings, and we run as

fast as we can for the caves, dodging phaser fire and the resulting showers

of debris. Twice I stumble, but Nat, with Remy’s help, keeps me on my feet.

Miraculously, we all make it inside.

Nat settles me on a now familiar low ledge before starting to assist

Mosc and Chuck set up the emergency lights and heat. As soon as he steps away,

Rachel comes over and sits down beside me.

“How are you doing?”

“I’m okay,” I reply, still panting from the unexpected exertion.

“Good. I thought I saw you trip and I was concerned.”

“I did, but Nat and Remy kept me from falling.”

“Good.” The lights come on as she pats my hand. “This close we have

to be careful. Damn them!” She growls protectively as the walls rumble

around us.

For minutes which stretch into hours, we sit in silence, listening to

the irregular thunder outside. I lean my head on Rachel’s shoulder and doze as

best I can, dreaming of Madeleine again, holding her, playing with her.

Years older than she was when she died, I watch her run through a field on

chubby, uncertain legs. She falls, but picks herself up, a determined look on

her face which erupts into giggles as Nat swoops in from nowhere, like a giant

bird, and scoops her up into his arms. Their laughter floats together over

the green grass and I wake with a start.

“Shhh,” Rachel says and pats my knee. “Go back to sleep. They’re

still firing.” As if in confirmation, the ledge trembles beneath us.

“Mmmm.” I nod sleepily and lower my head back to her shoulder. Then I

feel it–a cool dampness against my thighs. Rachel pats my knee again.

“Go to sleep.”

“I-I can’t,” I whisper, suddenly terrified. “I think my water’s

broken.” I struggle to my feet and Rachel gasps.

“Oh my goodness! Here. Sit back down and try to relax. I’ll be

right back.”

Within the hour, she and some of the other settlers have created a

makeshift delivery room in an alcove, separated from the main room by a wall

of blankets. Nat, meanwhile, begins to walk me around the cavern, torrents of

encouragement pouring from him and the others. I am so frightened and, sillily

enough, embarrassed to the point of tears. I parade around, the center of

everyone’s attention, with this huge spot on the back of my dress like I’ve

wet my pants. My baby’s going to be born here, in this cave; the thought alone

makes me tremble.

“It’s all right, Caitie,” Nat says bravely, but his eyes flick

nervously over me every few steps. “Everything will be just fine.”

I start to reply, but the first, truly painful contraction hits and

I double over instead, gripping his hand tightly.

“Uh-oh,” he says, and calls for Rachel.

She hurries over. “All right. Let’s start timing them.

Has it ended?”

I nod and slowly straighten up.

“All right. Now, we’ll just wait for the next one. Don’t forget to

breathe. I know it seems hard to do, but it’s important to the both of you.”

The next contraction comes quickly, but not quickly enough, and Nat

and I resume walking at a slower pace with more and more frequent stops.

Finally, only three minutes separate the contractions, and Rachel, Nat, and

another woman named Annie lead me behind the blankets.

Nat sits down with his back against the wall on a blanket covered by

towels. He spreads his legs and the three of them guide me gently to the

ground between them. I lean back against his chest and he wraps his arms

around me, pressing his lips firmly to the right side of my head.

“It’s going to be all right, Caitie. I’m right here. You aren’t

alone.” His voice quivers a little, and he clears his throat. “Here, hold my

hand. That’s it. Squeeze it when you need to.”

Rachel lifts and separates my legs and cleanses the entire area from

my navel to my knees before running the scanner over me again. I am grotesque,

pale and bloated like a drowned body. “Almost” She smiles. “You’re a little

over seven millimeters. This little one isn’t wasting any time. Why don’t you

doze a little if you can?”

Obediently, I close my eyes, but the contractions grow worse and worse

until they almost blend together. “All right,” she says. “This is it. I want

you to push with the next contraction. Okay? Good. Now deep breath. Good.

And another. Good. Feel it coming? Okay…Now, Caitie. Push. Push. That’s

it. That’s it. Okay. Good. Breathe. Breathe. That’s it. Breathe. Get

ready for the next one. Don’t tense. You’re doing fine.”

I try not to cry out, but I can’t help it. It hurts so much.

Like I’m being ripped in two. Stretched beyond my limits. Sweat, tears?,

run down my face. I’m scared. It’s all wrong–being here. The light is

so dim; the shadows so large. I shouldn’t be here. Not here. Not giving

birth. The others talk. “It won’t be long.” “You’re doing fine.” “Just a

little more.” “You can do it.” I can’t. I can’t. I’m tired. Just make the

pain stop. Please, make it stop. Please, please…

He’s crying! Oh gods! *He* is crying! My baby is crying! A boy!

I am crying, too. Nat’s chest quivers behind me, and Annie draws the

back of her hand beneath her eye. Nat kisses the side of my head and hugs me

carefully. “You did it. You did it, Caitie. You did it.”

Rachel and Annie clean the baby and wrap him well before placing him

in my arms. Oh gods. Oh gods. He is so…so…everything–handsome, beauti-

ful, helpless–everything! My arms are shaking, and Nat slides his beneath

mine, and together we hold my baby.

“What will you call him?” Rachel asks.

“William,” I whisper hoarsely. “After my uncle and Eugene after

my husband’s father. It was the male name Tom and I settled upon when we

started trying to have children again.”

“William Eugene,” Nat repeats to Annie before she steps around the

curtain.

A collection of jubilant whoops rise up from the other side and Nat

laughs softly. He gently strokes the tiny cheek with his finger as my son

yawns for the first time. “Hey there, Gene,” he says in a voice nearly lost

amidst joyful shouts and phaser fire. “Welcome to the thirty-ninth level

of Hell. You sure do know how to make a grand entrance.”

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

“Knowing what I do about your misfortune, I have to admit that I

expected you to contact me sooner.” Ship’s Counselor, Lt. Clifford Connors,

sat back in his chair, his jet black eyes moving slowly over me, scrutinizing

my reactions. A little younger than myself, with a pale, crisp face, he was

definitely a ‘Clifford’ and not a ‘Cliff’.

His quarters, too, were as streamlined as he was. Very little of a

personal nature sat within sight. On the coffee table was a carved wooden box

containing tissues. To his left on a side table was a picture of himself and

an older woman; his mother, I guessed, although the only resemblance was in

the eyes, darkly lashed and almond-shaped.

“Would you care for something to drink? Some tea? Or coffee perhaps?”

“Nothing. Thanks,” I replied, and flashed a hollow smile as he leaned

forward to pick up a PADD.

“I have to be honest.” I continued, shifting slightly in my seat.

“I do feel kind of silly coming to see you after all this time.”

“Why have you?”

“I don’t know. I guess it just took me a while to admit that I wasn’t

coping with everything as well as I needed to. My attitude, as a friend

pointed out, was suffering, and I realized it would be only a matter of time

before it effected my performance. I’ve worked too hard to get to where I am.

I am not going to lose it.”

“That’s encouraging,” he noted, hastily scribbling with a light pen

across the PADD. “The first step in dealing with a problem is to admit one

exists.”

I nearly laughed out loud at the stock answer. “Um, yeah,” I said,

trying not to smirk. “That’s what I’ve heard. Where do you want to start?”

“That’s entirely up to you. We can start wherever you want or not

at all. Some patients feel subsequent sessions are easier if we get better

acquainted first. Others want to dive right in on the first session. Which-

ever you feel most comfortable with.”

“Doesn’t really matter to me.”

“All right. Then why don’t you tell me how you felt when you first

learned of your wife’s disappearance.”

“Yeah. Okay.” I lifted my right foot and balanced it carefully on

my left knee. “Well, at first, I kept hoping it was just some horrible mix-

up, you know? I kept thinking how awful it would be for her to step off

some transport and not have me there, waiting for her like I promised. So for

the first two days any time a ship docked, I dropped whatever I was doing and

ran to meet it.” I chuckled uneasily and uncrossed, then re-crossed my legs.

“I wasn’t thinking too clearly back then. Sometimes I was on the other

side of the station and I’d literally have to run all the way. Heck, I’m

surprised they didn’t sedate me.” I laughed.

He didn’t. “Do you think that would’ve helped you?”

“Er, no, not really. I just meant that as a figure of speech. I mean

looking back it seems kind of foolish on my part.”

“But not at the time.”

“No. Not at the time.”

“And yet, within the week, you were concerned enough to ask your

commanding officer to ground you.”

“Yes.” My gaze darted quickly away. “I-uh-I’ve never had a drinking

problem per se, but I do drink pretty easily, and I found myself drinking more

often than usual, and it concerned me. So I grounded myself until I felt more

in control.”

“Wise. Is that why you have chosen to consult me now?”

“No. No, I haven’t been drinking, but my attitude, toward myself and

others, is almost as bad.” I sighed and shooed some lint off my knee. “And…

Well, I just want to stop it now before I hurt my friends and my family and my

crewmates.”

“Your latest performance review indicates no cause for concern.”

“Are you saying I shouldn’t be here?”

“Not at all,” Connors replied hastily. “I’m simply making the

observation that this attitude seems not to be noticeable to others, save

your friend. Perhaps the cause is different. Something that you, yourself,

perceive as less acceptable.”

I clenched my jaw together and looked away. “You could say that.”

“Anger? Guilt?” He prodded, but I didn’t answer. “Both are less

sympathetic, aren’t they? Less welcomed by others, even by you.”

The truth bubbled in my chest. All I had to do was open my mouth and

let it escape. Connors sat patiently, waiting like some inquisitor, confident

that sooner or later I would break down and confess everything. Trouble was

he was probably right.

“Yes…” he finally said. “I think we both see now where the help

is most needed, but,” he concluded with a sigh, “I don’t think it’s going

to be a subject that’s quickly reached. Perhaps we should call it quits for

today, and plan to meet at the same time, say day after tomorrow?”

I nodded, and we both got to our feet.

“You’ve taken the right step in coming to see me, Lieutenant. Your

record as a conn officer speaks for itself, and we both know how much Starfleet

needs good men at the helm. Day after tomorrow then?”

“Yeah.” I shook his hand. Now that I had gotten myself into this,

there was no backing out. “Sure, day after tomorrow.”

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

Aeropa II:

Two days pass before we finally emerge from the caves. So little has

been left standing: Mosc’s house, Rachel’s, Nat’s, and five others in varying

degrees of habitability. Rachel helps me home with Gene while Nat and the

others survey the damage. There is no heat, and I keep Gene secured to my

chest, wrapping my cloak tightly about both of us until a fire is set.

Rachel offers to stay, but I insist she go check on her own home.

For the past seventy-two hours I have been surrounded by people. A few hours

alone, even under these circumstances, sounds like heaven.

As the daylight starts to fade, Nat stumbles in, collapsing into a

nearby chair at the dining table. “It’s over. It’s all over,” he mutters

weakly. “It’s all destroyed. The comm system, the ship, everything. We can’t

repair them this time. We’re having to scavenge what parts we can just to fix

the generator.” He takes a deep breath and looks up, staring straight at me.

“We’re on our own now, Caitie. No one can help us. It’s just us against

the Dominion.”

Before I can say anything, his head drops into his hands and his

shoulders begin to shake. I glance at Gene, sleeping in his makeshift crib,

before going to Nat. Kneeling, I place a hand on his knee. “Nat?”

He sucks in a ragged breath and parts his hands. “Scream at me,

Caitie,” he whispers.

“What?”

“Scream at me. Yell at me. Tell me what a fool I’ve been. Tell me

what an idiot I was for taking you and Gene away from everything you deserved.

And all for the sake of some stupid supply line that we can’t even begin to

maintain now. Goddammit!” His fist hits the table with a powerful crash and

wakes Gene, who lets out a startled cry.

Nat pushes his chair back, stumbling over a leg in his haste to

get up. “Stupid! Idiot! Selfish, selfish bastard!” His other fist crunches

painfully against the wall and he turns toward me grimacing and shaking his

hand. “Tell me, Caitie. Scream it. Yell it. Just for gods’ sakes, do it!”

I sigh and shake my head. “I already did. Months ago. Repeating

myself now won’t change anything. As you said, we’re on our own. The situa-

tion has changed, and I have to change, too. Pining for Gene’s father won’t

put food in my stomach or milk in Gene’s. Besides, Tom has probably begun

building a new life for himself. Maybe it’s time I did, too. And if that

means strapping Gene to my back and working dawn to dusk in the fields,”

I pause, taking a deep breath. “Then…Well then, so be it.”

Moist blue eyes stare at me in amazement. Without warning, Nat rushes

me, seizing my face and kissing me over and over. Slowly, my arms encircle

his waist, and we are still kissing, kneeling together on the floor, devouring

each other. A warmth–his hand–covers my tender breast and I gasp causing him

to draw it back quickly, leaving behind a cool dampness.

“The baby will be hungry.” His words float across my lips. “We can’t

afford to waste anything.”

I nod and glance down at where his hand was, the tan fabric now dark

brown. Silently, he unfastens my shirt. A tiny milky droplet stands out

starkly against my red nipple. Nat gently lifts my breast and wipes away the

milk with his thumb.

“Beautiful,” he murmurs and then adds with a familiar roguish grin.

“I’m jealous.”

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI

I sat at my desk staring at the PADD before me. ‘I, Thomas Eugene

Paris, hereby and forthwith declare my wish to terminate my marriage…’

Ten months. Almost a year. Gods.

The door chimed. “Come.”

“Hey, Tom.” Harry walked in. “Are you ready for breakfast?”

I glanced down at the PADD and slowly got to my feet. “Sure, Harry.

Let’s go.”

“Was that what I think it was?” he asked as we walked down the

corridor.

“What?”

“That PADD you were looking at.”

“Oh.” I sighed. “Yeah.”

“Did you fix your print to it?”

“No.”

“Paris…”

“Hey, I know. I know. It’d probably be better for me if I did,

but it’s not that simple. I know I may never see her again, but this makes

it so final. I mean it hasn’t even been a full year yet.”

He frowned. “Do you honestly think six more weeks will make it any

easier for you?”

I smirked. “You sound like Connors.”

“Tom, I’m simply being rational.”

“Yeah, I know, but give it a rest for a while, okay? What’s the rush?

It’s my life, my marriage. I don’t want to end it in a fit of anger. Years

from now, I want to look back and know that I took that final step with a cool

head and a clear conscience. Does it really matter all that much if I take a

few more weeks to reach that stage?”

“No. I suppose it doesn’t,” he admitted with a shrug. “Tom, I’m not

trying to force you to do something you don’t want to. Caitlin was my friend,

too. I just want to-”

“Help. I know. And I’m grateful for it, but I’ve got to do this in

my own time, all right?”

“All right,” he agreed as we strode into the mess.

We got our orders and sat down. “So,” I said, eager to change the

subject. “You ready for your leave?”

He nodded, a big grin spreading over his face. “Yep. Finished packing

K’Elynne’s presents last night.”

“Geez, Har, you know you do still have two days to go.”

His smile broadened. “Yeah, I know, but I’d trade just about anything

to be with the two of them sooner.”

“All senior officers, report to the conference room.” Tuvok’s

unwelcome voice floated out over the comm system.

Both Harry and I glanced dejectedly down at our barely touched food.

“Wonderful,” he muttered. “Now what?”

“Screw it,” I said, getting to my feet and picking up a piece of toast.

“I’m eating on the way.”

“…and with this recent information provided by the Dominion and

Starfleet Intelligence, we have good reason to believe that certain non-

aligned settlements are supplying the Maquis.” Admiral Mandel droned on.

“Now as a result of negotiations with the Dominion, we are ordering two ships,

the Curzon and yours, into the DMZ. Your job is to evacuate as many of the

settlers as you can and bring them to transport vessels waiting outside

the DMZ. Those who stay will become prisoners of the Dominion.”

“And summarily shot by the Jem Hadar,” I muttered under my breath, and

received a sharp look from Janeway.

The Admiral continued. “I don’t need to tell you how important it is

that we evacuate as many people as possible.”

“Not at all, Admiral,” Janeway replied. “We will do our best.”

“I know you will. Good luck, Captain. Mandel out.”

The screen went black and Janeway spun around. “All right. We will

go to red alert as soon as we enter the DMZ. Any thoughts? Questions? No?

Good. Dismissed.”

Harry sighed as he got to his feet.

“Is there a problem, Mr. Kim?” Tuvok asked, and the whole group froze,

waiting.

Harry’s eyes darted quickly around the room. “No,” he responded.

“I was just doing a few calculations in my head, that’s all.”

The right side of the Captain’s mouth curved in sympathy. “It won’t

be too much longer, Mr. Kim.”

“I know, Captain.” A slow red crept into his cheeks, and he tried

to smile. “These things happen. Life in Starfleet.”

“It is the life we choose,” Janeway added.

“Yes ma’am,” he replied. “It is.”

DISCLAIMERS: See part one. Comments should be addressed to Carly Hunter,

(crime@bu.edu).

WARNING: SOME PARTS OF THIS STORY MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR MINORS, DUE TO

LANGUAGE AND SEXUAL CONTENT.

Futures Past, Futures Present

Part I, cont.

copyright 1998

Aeropa II:

When I was taken from Tom, I felt, besides anger, a distinct agony,

a weight which pressed upon me until I could no longer breathe, and yet,

as much as I may have wanted to, I knew I would not, could not die. I had

within me a part of him, and now that that part has seen the light of day,

I cannot deny Tom’s presence. Through me, Gene will know his father,

and in Gene, I will always see his father. I will never see Nat in Gene.

Gene is not his child. Tom will always be my husband and the father of

my child.

Yet, what I feel when Nat holds me in his arms is more than a simple

physical attraction born from memories and isolation. A trust exists.

A bond, not of love and marriage, but of friendship and loss. This is not the

future I had hoped for, but it is what I have now, and at night when we share

the bed, sleeping skin to skin and breast to breast, our bodies tangled as if

we have made love, I know just how strong that bond is.

This morning, I wake to find him lying beside me, watching, just as

Tom used to do. He smiles and kisses my forehead, my lips, my finger-

tips–everywhere until I quiver with anticipated pleasure, and the milk beads

on my nipples. He laughs softly and moves up, licking them clean. “Soon,” he

whispers in my ear, his hardness pausing at my entrance. “Soon. I don’t

want it to hurt. I want to make you scream with pleasure.” I shudder and nod

my agreement, even though a plea lingers unspoken on the tip of my tongue.

Then, I rake my nails gently up his back making him shudder too, and I laugh

softly when he growls some warning about playing with fire.

He is happier than I have ever seen him.

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI

Harry looked up from the Ops Console. “The last of the settlers have

beamed aboard, Commander. Twenty-seven have elected to stay.”

“Understood, Lieutenant. Tuvok to Captain Janeway. The settlers of

Piramedes have beamed aboard. Twenty-seven have chosen to remain on the

planet’s surface.”

“Understood” came the reply. “Have Lt. Kim notify both Starfleet and

the Dominion fleet at Seco Malek. Then set our course for the Amarna. I’ll be

there shortly. Janeway out.”

The ever-serious face turned toward Harry. “Mr. Kim, see-”

“All ready on it, Commander.”

“Good. Mr. Paris, what will be our next destination?”

I craned my head back toward the helm to check my flight plan.

“After we rendezvous with the transport, our next destination will be the

Aeropa system. According to Starfleet records, there is a settlement on the

second moon of the second planet.”

“Very well. Set our course for the Amarna’s coordinates.”

“Yessir.” I spun back to my console.

Seconds later, the lift doors opened and the Captain strode onto the

bridge. “Are we ready?”

“Yes, Captain,” Tuvok and I inadvertently chorused.

“And eager to get underway, I see.” She glanced at Harry. “Twenty-

seven elected to stay?”

“Yes, Captain.”

Her eyes darted to Tuvok. “And they will not change their minds?”

“Apparently not, Captain. They have been fully apprised of the risks,

but they are unwilling to abandon their homes.”

She sighed, almost inaudibly. “Very well. Mr. Paris, set course and

speed, warp three.”

“Course and speed set, Captain.”

“Engage.”

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

Aeropa II:

Each day the air grows a little warmer and the sun remains in the sky

a little longer. Nat has been puttering around, busily catching up on the

non-essential repairs needed by the house. For the past two days, he has

hummed and whistled and smiled in a way I have never seen before. Something’s

up and I’m dying to know what it is.

“You’ll see,” he says with a laugh and kisses me. “I’ll show you both

tomorrow, weather permitting.”

The next day the sun rises soft and golden and full of promise, so

unlike when I first came here. While Gene gorges himself on my milk, Nat

clatters and clangs about the kitchen, packing some food and two containers

of water into a backpack. He sees me watching curiously and grins.

“I thought we’d go on a picnic. There’s a small hiding place I know

of not far from the caves. Plenty of shade for Gene and plenty of sun for us.

How does that sound?”

“Wonderful!” I smile, thrilled at the thought of getting away from

the house, even for just a few hours.

His hiding place is a narrow canyon pass between two mesas.

The entrance is so slender as to be nearly invisible, even when we come

upon it, but once inside, it grows to an area as big as our house. To our

left, a small depression in the rock collects water as it runs off the side

of the cliff; to our right, an overhang provides shelter from the sun.

“Well, what do you think?”

I look upward; past the many layers of red, orange, and purple rock is

nothing but sky, glowing blue like Gene’s eyes. Nat’s eyes, too. Speechless,

I watch as a large black bird glides into, then out of, view.

“It’s beautiful,” I finally say. “I think you could hide in here for

years and no one would ever know.”

He nods. “Alicia used to say the same thing. We loved to come here

in the spring. This was the place we came to escape the settlement. Sometimes

we’d camp out for one or two nights. Once we stayed a whole week.” He draws

a deep breath and lets his gaze wander up the colorful walls. “For a long

time, I couldn’t bring myself to come here, but that’s finally changed.”

He glances down and smiles as Gene starts to fidget in the harness

Annie made. “I think you know who is hungry again. Why don’t you sit over

there in the shade and feed him while I get things set up?”

Nat helps me untie the harness, and I sit down on a small boulder

beneath the overhang and open my dress. Gene gives a tiny grunt and

immediately latches onto my left nipple. Thank gods, the skin has toughened.

He is hungry *all* the time.

After a few moments, Nat comes over and crouches down in front of us.

He draws a tanned finger up the rise of my breast to my chin, lifting my gaze

from Gene to him. “You are so beautiful when you do this. But then, you’re a

beautiful woman.”

A warmth flows over my face and down my body until the tips of my toes

tingle. “Thank you.”

He grins and gently strokes the fine, blond hair on Gene’s head.

“Lunch is ready. Are you?”

“And how.” I laugh. “Between this little one and the walk, I’m

starved.”

“Thought you would be. Here, let me help you.” He takes my reluctant

son into his arms. “C’mon big guy, let your mom get up. Thatta boy.”

We move over to the blanket Nat has spread upon the ground and

sit down. He hands me Gene, who immediately reattaches his mouth to my

other nipple. “Aren’t you done yet?” I groan and Nat laughs.

“What do you want? He’s a growing boy,” he says with a chuckle.

“I thought this was some ritual for you women. A bonding men will never know.”

“Believe me, the novelty wears off after a while.”

He snickers and hands me a slice of bread covered with Rachel’s

toma root spread. “Eat well, Mommy.”

Halfway through the meal, I burp and change Gene. Then, I wrap him

snuggly and place him on a shaded portion of the blanket to sleep.

“He’s a good kid,” Nat remarks quietly. “I mean really good.

I guess that’s because you’re such a good mother.

I blush. “No. I think he’s just good period. Of course, all he

can do right now is eat and sleep.”

“And cry, but he doesn’t do much of that.”

“No, he doesn’t, but then two months isn’t what they call ‘the terrible

twos’.”

“You’ve got a point there. Still, he doesn’t strike me as a screamer

like some kids are. Some kids are born screaming their heads off and they

never stop. They grow up to be drill instructors at the Academy,” he adds

with a snicker.

“Or guards at the rehab facility.” I laugh.

Still grinning, Nat moves aside the dishes and the food and stretches

out on the blanket, patting the space beside him. I scoot over, laying my head

over his heart. “You certainly have led a colorful, -er life, Caitie.”

“I suppose.” I yawn, quickly growing drowsy in the sun’s warmth.

He chuckles softly and strokes my hair. It is so quiet I can hear

Gene’s breathing. Nat’s fingers continue to slide through my hair, and I fall

easily into a light sleep. Minutes slip by–exactly how many I neither know

nor care–before Nat calls to me quietly.

“Caitie? Caitie, are you awake?”

I don’t open my eyes. “Hmm?”

“I’ve been thinking a lot lately.”

“Mm?”

“You know how important you and Gene are to me, don’t you?”

“Mm-hm.”

“Well, I’ve been thinking that since we’re stuck here that maybe

sometime in the future we could make it, you know, official, that is, you

and me.”

My eyes fly open and I raise my head. “What?”

“Us, as a couple. Gene could just be the first. We could have more

kids, even grandkids.”

“Nat, I-”

“Hear me out.” He squints up at me, smiling, and raises a hand to

my cheek. “I don’t want to push you or anything. I know you’ve still got a

husband, but he’s light years from here, and given our situation, you may not

see him again. So, don’t you think it would be nice? Boys and girls. Two or

three of each.” His hand drifts down, capturing mine and bringing it to

his lips. “Think of it. Gene would only be our first. You and me, Caitie.

You and me and five little rugrats.”

He laughs and I nervously join him, settling back down on his chest.

“You’ve made me happy, Caitie. Happier than I’ve been for a long, long time.

I want to make you happy, too.”

I sigh and snuggle against him. Why not let him dream? Right now,

it is only the three of us. Who knows what the future will hold? Haven’t I

learned by now that carefully laid plans can collapse without warning? So why

even make them? Nat is good to us. He loves us. And Tom? Tom has become,

by virtue of both circumstance and distance, a part of my past. Why do I need

to think beyond this? Why can’t I simply lie here with Nat and sleep without

a care for what might happen tomorrow? Make this be my life now. Make this be

my future.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI

“Entering the Aeropa system, Captain,” I announced.

“Slow to impulse.”

“Captain,” Harry sung out from Ops. ” I’m picking up a Jem Hadar

warship moving out of sensor range.”

“Shields up!” Janeway responded. “Switch to long range sensors.

Are they continuing on their course, Mr. Kim?”

“Yes, Captain. They’ve gone to warp.”

“Good. Lt. Marquez, keep an eye out for any anomalous sensor readings

that may indicate their return. I don’t want them to interfere with our

mission. Mr. Paris, take us into orbit around the settlement’s moon.

Mr. Tuvok, you know the drill. Take a small away team down to speak with

the settlers. Convince as many of them to leave as you can.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Establishing orbit,” I said.

“Captain!” Harry called. “We’ve got a problem. Sensors indicate no

humanoid lifesigns on the planet’s surface.”

“What?” Janeway leapt to her feet as I spun around. “Are you certain?

Check the sensors for a malfunction. Records stated that at least fifty

people should be down there.”

My friend shook his head. “It’s not a malfunction, Captain. Sensors

detect buildings, or rather the remains of buildings, but no humanoid life-

signs around them.”

“You don’t think the Dominion…” I started.

The Captain glanced in my direction and grimaced. “I hope not.

Mr. Tuvok, break out the phaser rifles and take an armed party to the surface.

Find out what you can and be careful. We’ll keep a transporter lock on you at

all times.”

“Understood, Captain. Mr. Paris, Mr. Kim, Mr Marquez, you are with me.

Ensigns Ivanova and Simmons, meet us in transporter room two.”

“Good gods,” Harry muttered under his breath.

All of us stood still and gazed at the destruction. Nothing had been

left standing. The ruins of a few dwellings still smoldered, and body after

body lay sprawled across the ground. Some lay near doorways, pulled from their

homes. Others lay alone in the streets, shot in the back as if they were

trying to flee. A shriek from above caused us all to jump and look up.

A large black bird glided down and lumbered clumsily up to a body.

“Get away!” Marquez shouted, and fired a warning shot close to the

beast. It shrieked again and hopped away, spreading its wings for flight.

Simmons, a recent Academy graduate, stood next to me; all the blood

drained from his face. “You okay?” I asked.

He nodded slowly, uncertainly. “I-I’ve just never seen-” He broke off

unable to finish his thought.

I moved over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Bend over.

Take a deep breath.”

He did as I instructed and then straightened up. “How-how could they?

I don’t even see any weapons.”

“Neither do I. Are you going to be okay?”

His square young jaw tightened and he swallowed. “Yessir, but right

now, I’m mad as hell.”

“Yeah, me too. C’mon.”

We rejoined the others and spread out, rifles at ready, to inspect what

was left of the buildings and to do an informal body count. I wasn’t even

remotely hopeful. No one could have survived this destruction. Yet, as I

walked along, one thing I noticed was that all those shot in the back were

headed in the same direction. It might not mean a thing, but you never knew.

I ducked inside one of the less damaged homes, a standard one-bedroom

with an open floor plan. A table had been overturned and toy blocks had been

scattered across the floor. Close by, what looked like the remains of a crib

lay smashed to bits. My breath caught in my throat and a warm wave of nausea

spread over me. Blindly, I turned and ran from the building, gulping down

large breaths of air once I was outside.

Harry stood about three meters away staring down at the body of

a woman. I took one last deep breath to steady myself before walking over.

As I approached, I placed her age at about thirty-five to forty, but her hands,

weathered and tanned by hard labor, made her seem much older.

“Why?” Harry shook his head. “Why the hell do this?”

“That’s what Simmons asked me,” I replied and squinted up at the sun.

The bird we had encountered earlier had been joined by others, and now they

circled in the sky above us, their heavy wings strumming the air. “I wish

I knew.”

“I mean, we had a deal. They weren’t supposed to come in until after

we left. Look at her.” He crouched down beside the body and gently pulled

aside some of the long, brown hair, exposing a pale, terrified face. “Look at

her, Tom. She couldn’t be too much older than B’Ela.”

“I know. I know.” I frowned and looked down the road. “Harry, is it

just me or do these people appear to have been going in the same direction?”

He glanced from the woman to the body of a tall, thin man who lay a

few meters away and then to the portion of another man who lay two meters

beyond that. “Yeah,” he responded slowly. “They kind of do, but that could

be simply because they were running from the Jem Hadar.”

“Then why not scatter and make it harder for them? Unh-unh, I think

they knew where they were going.” I pointed at the house I had just come from.

A blackened slash on the wall had been half-covered by new mud. “Look. See

that. That’s a phaser burn and it was being repaired. This colony had been

attacked before. And inside I found a crib and toy blocks, but I haven’t

seen any children’s bodies. I think maybe these people might have had some

form of shelter nearby.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe you’re right. The rock around here

does contain sizeable concentrations of magnacite. Sensors would have a

hard time penetrating it.”

“Tuvok to away team. Proceed at once to my location.”

I tapped my commbadge. “Paris here. Lt. Kim and I are on our way.”

Following the bodies, we soon caught up with the other members of the

away team. “See. That way,” Anya Ivanova was saying as she pointed to a

cluster of rock towers less than half a kilometer away. “This is registering

high concentrations of magnacite. The rock would shield them from most scans

inside and out.”

“Agreed,” responded Tuvok. “We will proceed on the assumption that it

was in that direction that the inhabitants were heading.”

We passed fewer and fewer bodies as we approached the weather-worn

formation, but as we got closer, I could see the partially concealed mouth

of a cave. The body of a human male sat slumped against a boulder near the

opening, his sky-blue eyes staring blankly past us. Blond and well-built,

he had been shot in the chest, a medium-sized stone still gripped tightly in

his right hand.

“Not much of a weapon,” Harry noted with a shake of his head.

“You take what you can find,” I replied.

“Sir?” Simmons called from just inside the mouth of the cave.

“Commander Tuvok, over here. I know this may sound crazy, but I could swear

I heard a cry of some sort. Listen, there it is again.”

Tuvok stiffened, cocking his head ever so slightly. “You are not

mistaken, Ensign. That was indeed the cry of an infant.”

Marquez snapped his tricorder shut. “This damn thing is useless.

The rock is causing too much interference.”

I switched on my beacon. “Then we’ll just have to do this the

old-fashioned way.”

Marquez and I took point, followed by Tuvok and Harry, with Ivanova

and Simmons bringing up the rear. The cave’s main passage was narrow, barely

wide enough for two of us to move forward abreast. Smaller, almost impassable

corridors branched off it, causing the sound to come from all different

directions, in front of us, to our left, to our right, but we pressed on ahead,

and gradually it grew louder. Tuvok was right; it was definitely the cry of a

child, a baby.

As we advanced, the passage began to widen, and we came upon cables

leading to lights. “Looks like someone set up shop in here,” I commented.

“Maybe they used this as a shelter.”

“A not altogether illogical assumption,” Tuvok remarked. “However, a

young child could not have made it this far inside without assistance. Someone

must have accompanied him. For that reason, we must-”

“Hey! Over here. Look at this.” Marquez pointed his beacon at

the left wall. “Is that blood?”

A dark purplish smear about waist-high gleamed in his light. “Looks

like it,” I said.

“And there’s more.” He pointed to another blotch about a meter away.

“Whoever came this way can’t be in good shape.”

“Listen!” Harry said. “The crying’s stopped.”

“C’mon,” Simmons urged. “The kid could be-”

“A trap,” Tuvok finished. “We will proceed with caution.”

Up ahead, the passage opened onto a large cavern. Blankets, rations,

and other supplies were piled on the left, and on the right sat a small

generator with cables running around the perimeter of the cavern and down three

others, including the one we had just come from.

“It would appear your supposition was correct, Mr. Paris,” Tuvok said.

“It would indeed seem-”

A high-pitched wail cut him off.

“It came from behind there.” Simmons pointed at a wall of strung-up

blankets.

Tuvok gave the signal and the six of us took up position silently

on either side, rifles at ready. Ivanova nodded and held up two fingers

to Simmons. Two. One. Simmons pulled aside the blanket and she charged in.

“Clear!” she called out. “We’ve got one infant and one adult, female

it looks like.” She slung her rifle across her back and gently lifted the

baby from under the adult’s arm. “He can’t be more than a few weeks, but he

seems fine. Shhh. Shhh. It’s all right. Everything’s going to be okay.”

I handed Harry my rifle and knelt beside the figure. It was a woman,

curled away from us on her right side, her body until now wrapped protectively

around the child. I touched her side and instantly drew back with blood on

my hand. “Damn.” I reached across for her wrist. “There’s a pulse there,

but just barely. Marquez, take her legs and help me turn her over. Easy.

Easy. There.” I brushed away the dark red hair covering her face.

“Oh my gods,” Harry said softly, as the light from his beacon hit the

pale face.

I just stared. It couldn’t be. Here. After all this time. I pressed

my fingers against Cait’s neck. “We have to get her back to the ship,”

I muttered. “Marquez, help me lift her. Yeah. Okay. I’ve got her. Let’s

get going.”

End Part I

**********

‘To wicked deeds I was inclined,

And wicked fancies crossed my mind;

And every man I chanced to see,

I thought he knew some ill of me:

No peace, no comfort could I find,

No ease, within doors or without;

And, crazily and wearily

I went my work about;

And oft was moved to flee from home,

And hide my head where wild beasts roam.

-William Wordsworth

“The Last of the Flock”

Futures Past, Futures Present
Part II

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1998

But in the dark then
as you slept, the gray
figure came so close

and leaned over,
between us, as you
slept, restless…

-Robert Creeley
“The World”

Sickbay, USS Mycenae:

Voices… That hum…warp engines! I open my eyes, blinking in the
sterile brightness. “Gene!” I struggle to sit up, but a bolt of searing pain
shoots across my stomach, pinning me where I lie.
A human shape instantly blocks the light. “Cait?”
Nat? Clean-shaven? Uniformed? Tom? No. No, it can’t be.
His hand strokes my forehead. “Cait, it’s okay. You’re safe.”
Gene! I don’t hear Gene. I try again to sit up, but fall back,
and then try once more. “The baby?”
“The baby’s fine. He’s asleep right now. Lie back down.”
I am no match for the soft pressure he places on my shoulders.
The Jem Hadar! Nat? The others? “Who-who else?” I gasp.
He sets his jaw and glances away. I know that look. Slowly, he shakes
his head. “You were the only two. You and the baby.” He tries to smile.
“He’s beautiful, Cait. What’s his name?”
My lip trembles. Everyone. Gone. Nat. Oh gods, I remember.
The Jem Hadar–worse than Cardassians. Nat picking me up when I was hit,
helping me toward the caves. “Get inside, Caitie. Go on. I’ll be right
there. I just want to see if…” A tear rolls out of my eye, followed quickly
by others. My body quakes, and- Oh gods! It hurts, but I can’t stop crying.
“You and me, Caitie. You and me and five little rugrats.” I can still hear
his laughter.
“Cait, honey. Honey, don’t cry. Doc!”
A hypospray hisses quietly in my ear, and gradually the pain fades
into darkness.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI

“There.” Orlando Anaya stepped back, drawing a pudgy hand across his
brow. “Sleep is best for her now anyway.”
My gaze dropped back down to Cait as he moved away. For hours I
had waited here–through the frantically-administered treatment, through the
small eternity afterwards as she lay pale and motionless. The Captain had come
and gone, removing me from duty for the rest of the day. I wouldn’t have been
much use on the bridge. I knew how bad the damage was, and my thoughts would
never have left Sickbay.
Even now, with her blood still on my uniform, I continued my bedside
vigil, holding her hand while the sedative took its effect. I spoke to her
and stroked her hair, but I didn’t kiss her. I wasn’t sure I had that right
anymore.
At some point, Harry stopped by and tried to convince me to go
to dinner, but he wasn’t successful. My heart- my thoughts were too full of
Cait and the questions I wanted to ask her. Her hands had become rough like
when we first met–strong and workhewn. Had she really chosen that life over
the one I had offered her?
Eventually, I turned away and wandered over to the bio-crib where her
son lay asleep. At least I knew he was hers; Anaya had done a genetic
comparison to determine if he belonged to one of the other female settlers
or to her. I bent down and gently stroked the downy gold hair. Sapphire eyes
blinked opened and gazed up at me, puzzled? curious? I wasn’t sure which,
but found my mouth curving in a smile. A tear formed in the corner of my eye.
I hadn’t exaggerated. He was beautiful, and he could have been mine, but I
remembered the man by the cave–blond hair, lifeless blue eyes-
“You’ll be able to take him home tomorrow.”
I jerked up, startled. “Huh?”
Anaya smiled. “Tomorrow,” he repeated patiently. “You should be
able to take your son home tomorrow.”
My son? Was that what people would assume? “Oh.”
“He’s quite healthy,” He continued oblivious to my hesitancy. “given
the conditions he was found under. However, his mother will be unable to nurse
him in her weakened state. I’m afraid he will have to be fed one of the infant
formulas programmed into the replicator. We’ve already started him on Formula
One-C, and if all goes well, I see no reason why he can’t go home with you
tomorrow.”
“Oh.” Nothing like having the weight of someone else’s world land on
your shoulders. I took a deep breath and released it slowly, managing a small
nervous grin. “Wow. I guess that gives me about twelve hours to transform my
quarters, doesn’t it? What about his mother-I mean, my wife?”
He sighed and smoothed his silver goatee. “She will need to remain
here for two more days minimum. If she remains stable through the night–and I
don’t see why she won’t–we’ll make further repairs to her liver and kidney
tomorrow.”
“Well, I guess I have my work cut out for me then.” I glanced over
at Cait’s still form. She hadn’t looked happy to see me. Would she later on?
“Thanks, Doc. I’ll stop by in the morning before my shift.”
I looked back down at the small form in the crib. The huge blue eyes
stared up at me, and I took his hand, allowing the tiny fingers to curl around
one of mine. He was a beautiful child, no matter whose he was.

Calling Rowan was more or less my only coherent thought when I entered
my quarters. I hadn’t spoken to him in months. I felt guilty about that,
but Cait had been our sole connection, and with me one step away from
severing that connection, I hadn’t been able to bring myself to face him,
but now I had to.
He had lost weight, his eyes sunk deep into dark circles. If not
for the distinctive red hair and beard, I’m not sure I would have recognized
him. “Yes?” His voice sounded as weary as he looked. “Oh. It’s you.
I didn’t realize-”
“S’okay. It’s not like I’ve been in contact much. My fault.”
“That’s all right. I haven’t been around lately–traveling, visiting
old friends, you know.” Yeah, I did. Ten to one, he had been searching for
Cait. His jaw tightened beneath the thick beard. “You’ve heard something,
haven’t you?”
Looking at him, seeing past the surface to the pain lurking below,
I suddenly realized how closely his own pain had mirrored my own. The Cait
I married would never have put him through this. “We’ve found her, Rowan.”
My voice trembled as much as the rest of me. “We’ve found her.”
“What? Where? Alive? How is she?”
“She’s in our sickbay, but the doctor thinks she’ll be all right in
a few days.”
The turquoise eyes rolled skyward. “Thank Kahless. Has she said
what happened?”
“No, not yet. She’s sleeping, but there’s more. She had a baby–
a boy.”
There was a swift intake of breath followed by a shaky smile. “So, now
you have a son and I have a grandson. She always was one for surprises.”
“Yeah, well, we don’t know that yet–at least, I don’t. The baby
is hers, but I don’t know if he’s mine. Appearances don’t mean much at this
age. He could be-” I stopped. “That is, I mean-”
“I know what you mean.” His eyes narrowed and hardened to an icy blue.
“And perhaps you have valid reasons for those doubts, but she is my daughter,
not a perfect person, but still my daughter.”
“I know and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to- Oh Hell!” There was no
getting around it. I did mean exactly what I said. I knew it and he knew it.
“I’m sorry, Rowan. Really. It’s just been a shock. Finding her after all
this time, and then the baby- I-I’m sorry. That’s all I can say.”
He sighed heavily. “I’m sorry, too, Tom. Perhaps if I was in your
place, I would act no differently, but she is my daughter. I must believe
in her. When can I speak with her?”
“I don’t know. She’s asleep right now, and she’s scheduled to
undergo further surgery tomorrow. I expect a day or so, depending on what
the doctor says.”
“I see. Well, give her my love then, will you? And let me know how
the surgery goes. Do you know what happened?”
“It’s not clear, yet. We’re hoping she’ll be able to fill in the gaps.
I’ll tell her I spoke with you. Paris out.”

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

Sickbay, USS Mycenae:

I lie awake, listening to the hushed sounds around me, but I keep my
eyes closed. I don’t want to talk to anyone. Nat’s gone. My new life
is gone. And now they have taken Gene away. They say I can’t nurse him.
They took him away from me.
Footsteps approach. Go away. Please, go away. A hand gently touches
my shoulder. “Cait?”
I open my eyes. Tom stands on my right, Captain Janeway and Tuvok
on my left. “Captain?” My voice claws its way past my lips.
Tom quickly fills a nearby glass with water and holds it to my lips.
“Better?” He asks as I drink thirstily.
“Better,” I reply and lie back down.
“Caitlin,” The Captain gives me that motherly look of hers. “If you
feel up to it, we’d like to get a quick statement from you on what occurred
at the settlement. According to an agreement reached with the Dominion,
the Federation was to evacuate the DMZ settlements. Yet, according to reports
from my away team, it appeared that the Dominion or someone had visited
the colony prior to this occasion.”
“The Dominion has been bombing the settlement from space for years.
That’s what the caves were used for. They protected us.”
“For years?” Janeway repeats, her eyes opening wide.
“Slowly killing people off. I guess they finally realized it wasn’t
doing the job and they came down to finish what they started. Bombing and
blocking trade just weren’t efficient enough for them.” I bite my lip,
fighting angry tears. My old animosity for the Federation rises toward
the surface. “Don’t tell me you didn’t know about this.”
Janeway glances at Tuvok. “I received no reports of this. Had you?”
“I had not, Captain. Although with the human proclivity to indulge
in gossip, I had heard rumors concerning the matter. However, as these tales
were unsubstantiated, it was difficult to discern whether they were indeed
factual or merely Maquis propaganda.”
“I think we’ve established they’re not propaganda,” Tom snaps.
Tuvok raises an eyebrow at Tom’s misdirected anger, but says nothing
as the Captain turns her gaze back toward me. “Do you feel strong enough to
tell us what happened, Caitlin?” she asks. “I’d like to get the information to
Admiral Mandel as soon as possible.”
With a painful breath, I nod and slowly began. All three listen
closely, especially Tom, as I tell about how I got there; about the picnic;
about the screams and phaser fire we encountered on the way home; about fleeing
for the caves; and about Nat getting us there after I was hit. “He helped me
inside and told me to keep going until I reached the main cavern. Then, he
went back outside to see if he could help any of the others who had been
behind us. I hid in the alcove and tried to keep Gene quiet, but I blacked
out.”
“He left you alone!” Tom’s eyes narrow in anger. “When you were
injured?”
“It didn’t seems that bad at first,” I say defensively. “But when
I got inside the bleeding wouldn’t stop. It wasn’t his fault.”
“Yes, it was. He shouldn’t have left you. He brought you there.
He was responsible.” The irises deepen to a savage cobalt, and his fingers
compact into two thick fists.
“Lieutenant.” The Captain’s voice gently reprimands him, and he looks
away, retreating a short distance from my bed.
She pats my shoulder. “Well done, Caitlin,” she says. “We’ll prepare
the report, including your statement, and bring it by later for your print.
For now, rest. That’s an order.” She smiles gently and glances at Tom.
“Lieutenant, take good care of her.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He turns and tries to smile, but it fades quickly
as Janeway and Tuvok leave the room. He moves closer, keeping his hands
clasped behind his back. “Your baby is with me.”
“They told me when I woke up.”
“You-uh didn’t tell me his name last night.”
“William Eugene, just like we agreed on. I call him Gene for short.”
His eyes open wide, and then he blinks, the tension in his expression
melting ever so slightly. “Gene? I would’ve thought Will was the more obvious
choice.”
“Nat called him Gene, and I picked it up, I guess. Who’s he with now?”
“Harry.”
“Harry? Kim? Don’t tell me Neelix and Chakotay are here, too.”
He tries again to smile. “No. Just Harry. Oh, and Carey in
Engineering. Speaking of Harry though, I should get back. I think he misses
K’Elynne, but not this much.”
“Yes. Maybe you should.”
“Oh, I talked to your father last night. I told him we had found you.
He asked me to give you his love.”
“Thank you.”
He nods and then pauses and bends down to place a kiss on my cheek.
His lips are soft without a hint of scruff, and I shrink away from their
unfamiliarity, shutting my eyes, afraid that I will burst into tears.
“Sorry,” he whispers. “I-I thought- That is, I know we have a lot to
talk about, but I’m glad that we found you. I wasn’t complete without you.”
“Please-” My voice quavers.
“I know.” His gaze falls away, but he takes my hand in his and
squeezes it. “I’ll leave now, but I’ll be back tomorrow to help you to our
quarters. The Doc says you’re doing well enough to leave. Besides, I think
the kid, uh, Gene misses you.” He raises my hand and this time his lips
lightly brush my knuckles. Then, he is gone.
Alone. I start to turn on my left side, but it is too sore. I want
my baby. I just want to hold him, that’s all. To hold him and know he’s
all right. I close my eyes and pretend to sleep. I don’t want to talk
to anyone.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI

“Come in,” Harry called, glancing up as I entered. “How’s Caitlin
doing?”
“Better. She told us what happened. How has he been?” I nodded
toward the bundle in his arms.
“Great. He finished off a bottle and I think he’s just before dozing
off. Aren’t you, buddy? Yeah, that’s a good boy.” Harry looked back up as I
sank heavily into a nearby chair. “Don’t you want to take him?”
“Not yet, if you don’t mind. Let him get to sleep first.”
“Okay.” Harry sat back and got comfortable. “So…”
“So… what?”
“So what did Caitlin say? Or should I not ask?”
“You can ask.” I leaned forward. “Well for starters, he’s mine, or so
she inferred. One William Eugene Paris.”
“I didn’t know there was any doubt about that.”
“Aw c’mon, Harry. You saw the pictures. You saw the guy at the cave
entrance. The kid could just as easily be his, especially since he happened
to be an old boyfriend of Cait’s.”
“What?”
“You heard me. Supposedly she saw him in the market and tried to say
hello, but he and a few of the other settlers kidnapped her instead to protect
their supply line’s secrecy.”
“You don’t believe her?”
Instead of answering, I leapt up and crossed over to the viewport.
Outside, the glowing streaks of countless stars and planets sliced through the
darkness. Did I believe her? No. Deep down, the sad truth was I didn’t, even
though I wanted to. “I don’t know, Harry. I honestly don’t know. I want to,
but the story is so crazy, and she didn’t mention the pictures she sent.”
“Oh for gods’ sakes, Tom, give her time. You can’t believe she
willingly went along with this.”
“I can’t?”
“No!” he snapped, and then, glancing down, lowered his voice. “For one
thing, she loves you. You and you alone.”
With a sigh, I fell against the bulkhead. “Harry, you have no idea
how much I want to believe that.”
“Then, believe it.”
I looked over at him, my gut twisting painfully. He hadn’t been there;
he hadn’t seen- “A woman who loves you doesn’t shrink back from your kiss.
You would’ve thought I was the one who shot her.”
At that, he was silent for a moment. “All right, but it still doesn’t
mean you aren’t his father. Why don’t you have Anaya compare his DNA to
yours?”
“I already thought of that. Hell, I almost asked him to do it
yesterday, but I can’t.” I moved back and retook my seat. “What do I say
to Cait by doing that?”
“The same thing you’re saying to me now.”
“Exactly, and I can’t do that. She’s my wife, and I have to believe
her. I mean, what if I’m wrong? What if she told me the truth? What do I
say to her then?”
“Don’t tell her. Anaya must have his- What did you say his name was?”
“Cait calls him Gene.”
“Gene? Okay. Well, Anaya must still have Gene’s DNA profile on file.
Just have him compare it to yours. Caitlin doesn’t have to know.”
“But I’ll know.”
He shrugged. “Suit yourself, but you’d better come to some decision.
What are you going to do if she expects you to play the role of father?
Fill it? Reject it?” He glanced down at the child in his arms. “He’s asleep.
You’d better take him home.”

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

Deck Four, USS Mycenae:

Tom walks me slowly down the corridor, his arm about my waist,
my left hand in his for support. We are going to ‘our’ quarters, or so he
calls them. His quarters is what he should have said. They are not mine.
Unfamiliar eyes peer at me as we shuffle down the ivory corridor.
So much time has passed. So much has happened. His touch is alien, soft and
uncalloused, but unlike yesterday, he has yet to try to kiss me.
“Where did you say Gene was?”
“Our quarters.”
*Our* quarters. He said it again. There is no ‘our’ quarters. We are
strangers now. Doesn’t he see that? Can’t he feel it?
“The Captain’s watching him,” he continues. “She says it’s only
appropriate considering we’re the Mycenae’s first family.”
“First?”
“We had just finished our trial period when we got ordered to the DMZ.
We didn’t have time to take on family members or a school staff.”
“Oh.”
“So, that makes us the first family on board,” he concludes with a
shaky grin. It fades quickly, and we walk on in silence.
Is that what he truly believes? That we’re going to be one happy
family now that we are reunited? He has me back and that’s all that matters.
Doesn’t he realize it’s not that simple? I can’t just forget Nat and the
others. Nat held me when I gave birth. He got up and fed Gene at dawn so I
could sleep. He was ready to start a new life with me and Gene, who wasn’t
even his son. To return so quickly to Tom… I can’t. It feels wrong–
a betrayal of Nat’s memory. He was my friend, my lover-
Tom stops. “Cait, are you in pain?”
I stare at him and then feel the tear tickle my cheek. “No,” I reply,
and wipe it away. “How much farther?”
“Just around the bend. A few meters at most.” He frowns. “Are you
sure you’re all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Just remembering happier times.”
“Of what? Us?”
I lie. How can I tell him otherwise? “Yes.”
His fingers brush back some of my hair, tucking it gently behind
my ear. “There will be more,” he whispers with a determined smile.
“I promise.”
I turn my head away, feeling an anguished cry growing deep inside.
“Cait?”
“Can we continue?” I ask softly. “I’m not in pain, but I am a
little tired.”
“Of course, it’s right down here. Not much further.”

The Paris Journals, vol. XI

I keyed open the door and ushered Cait inside. The Captain rose from
her seat by the crib and brought a finger to her lips. “I just put him down,”
she said in a whisper. “He was an absolute angel.”
I beamed. I couldn’t help it; my son or not, I was proud of the little
guy. “I told him he had to behave himself for the Captain if he ever wanted
to be in Starfleet.”
Janeway laughed. “Have you pre-enrolled him in the Academy, too?”
“Working on the application right now,” I retorted, still grinning.
“Got to keep the Paris tradition alive.”
“Well, if he stays this good, you can depend on my recommendation.
Good night, Tom. Good night, Caitlin.”
My wife, who was bent over the crib, didn’t respond.
“Uh-she’s a little uh-tired, Captain,” I explained hastily. “She’s
been through-”
Janeway held up her hand. “No excuses necessary, Tom. I understand.
Good night.”
“Good night, Captain, and thank you.” I waited until the door shut
behind her before turning around.
Cait looked up. “He’s been taking the formula all right?”
“I told you in Sickbay he has.”
“Yes. That’s right. You did.” She straightened up and crossed her
arms across her chest. Her green eyes meandered around the room.
“Carey and his team have made a few alterations already,” I said,
beckoning her to me. “See. They put up this wall and installed this door
to give us more privacy in the bedroom, and an intercom runs between the two
rooms so that Gene can let us know at 0200 that he’s hungry.”
“Mm.”
“Oh, and if space allows once everyone is on board, Herb Walker, next
door, has agreed to move so we can annex his quarters to create a bedroom
for Gene and a bigger living area.”
“That was nice of him,” she replied listlessly.
My heart sank. She wasn’t looking at me, so much as looking past me,
as if I wasn’t even there. I laced my fingers through hers and brought them
to my lips. The kiss didn’t have much effect. “Honey, why don’t you lie down?
I’ll replicate us some dinner and bring it in. How about that?”
“I’m not really hungry.”
“What about some soup? Nothing fancy. Chicken noodle? Tomato?”
“I hate tomato soup.”
“Okay. How about chicken then?”
“Please, Tom.” Her eyes blinked wearily. “I’m not hungry.”
“All right. No problem. I won’t force you. Here, let’s get you
settled in bed.”
I led her into the bedroom, but she stopped abruptly at the foot of
the bed, staring. I picked up the bronze silk nightshirt and held it out
to her. Slowly, she reached out and took it from me.
“All your clothes are stored at my parent’s house, so I replicated this
for you. I thought you’d appreciate a change from sickbay greens.” I gave her
a hopeful grin. “Replicator use isn’t rationed here. So I can spoil the two
of you as much as I want.”
Her face grew frighteningly pale and the gown slipped from her fingers
to the floor.
“Cait?” Panicking, I leapt to her side, ready to catch her in my arms.
“Cait? What’s wrong? Here, why don’t you sit down?”
She shook her head and remained on her feet, but she would not look up
at me. “No, I’m okay. Don’t worry.”
“Don’t tell me not to worry. What is it? Cait, tell me.”
She shook her head again. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know
how to say it. I’m afraid I’ll hurt you.”
“As opposed to me blundering on, knowing that I may be causing you
pain? Cait…” Placing my right hand beneath her chin, I gently tilted her
gaze up to meet mine. A tear leaked out of the corner of her eye. “Aw Cait,
don’t cry. I love you.” I leaned forward and kissed her softly on the lips.
She caught her breath, her entire body stiffening.
*Thomas, you idiot.* I released her quickly and began backing away.
“I know,” I said quietly. “It’s me, isn’t it? I-I’m coming on too strong,
too fast, aren’t I? That’s the problem, isn’t it? Honest, I’m not trying
to pressure you. It’s just that I’m so glad you’re back. I’ve missed you.”
My back hit the wall, and without thinking, I swung my fist down against it,
hard.
“Shh. You’ll wake Gene.” She took two steps toward me, then stopped.
“Don’t be angry. You did nothing wrong. I’m the one who should apologize.
So much time has passed. Only a year, but it seems so long and so many
have died… I have memories of us, you and me, on Voyager, coming home–
so many, but all distant. Almost like dreams.” Her lip quivered. “They
weren’t dreams, were they? None of this- It’s all real, isn’t it? It all
happened, all of it-”
She broke off, and I gathered her quickly to my chest, shushing her
gently and kissing the top of her head. “It’s okay. You’re safe. Shhh.
It’s okay. I understand. You need time to settle in. Anyone would,
but you’re home now. Both Gene and I are here, and we’re not going anywhere
without you.” I lifted her cheek from my chest. “Tell you what. Let me just
grab a few things in here, and then, you can get some sleep. And if you get
hungry later, give a shout, and I’ll bring some food right in. How’s that?”
She nodded, and I let her go. I turned back the covers on the bed
for her before moving over to the drawers and pulling out a pair of pajama
bottoms. “Okay, now I just need a blanket, and I’ll be out of your way.”
“A blanket?”
“Yeah. Won’t you be more comfortable if I sleep out on the sofa?”
“I-I- You don’t have-”
I cupped her cheek in my hand and pressed my thumb against her lips.
“I know, but I think it would be better if I did, at least for a little while,
until you get more comfortable with my presence. I won’t lie to you, Cait.
I do want to hold you, and I want to make love to you, but I can wait. Simply
knowing you’re in the next room is a lot more than I’ve been living with.”
I placed a light kiss on her forehead. “Okay?”
She nodded, and in spite of her earlier protest, she appeared relieved.
About an hour later, I crept back into the bedroom. She was sound
asleep, and I bent down and brought the covers up around her chin. A tiny
smile came to her face as she snuggled down.
“Nat,” she murmured.

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

Cargo Bay Two, USS Mycenae:

I leave Gene in his stroller by the door and take a seat on the
storage container I drug days earlier to its current place beside Nat’s coffin.
Tom told me two days ago that that wasn’t his real name, but it doesn’t matter,
not to me. It’s the name I knew him by, the one I think he wanted to be
known by. For the last time, my fingers stroke the black metal. He and the
others are to be transferred to another ship tomorrow, and he will be taken
back to Earth, back to his family.
Each morning, I have come down here to say good-bye and shed the tears
I hide from Tom. He wouldn’t understand. To understand, he would have to know
how close Nat and I became, and I can’t allow that. How can I tell him after
all he has been through? His face has always been so naked. I can see
everything within him–uncertainty, jealousy, anger, pain. He tries to hide
it. He wants to save us. He loves me. But would he love me if he knew I
shared my bed with Nat? Would he love me if he knew I spent my mornings here,
crying beside Nat’s body?
“Maybe I should hate you both,” I say, but with none of the viciousness
that my words imply. “Tom, for loving me too much, and you for selling me on
your dreams and then leaving. Why did you leave us? Why didn’t you come
with us into the caves? You would still be alive. Was it so important to
face them? Was it so important to die fighting?”
I close my eyes and rest my head against the cold metal. “I know.
It doesn’t matter. I don’t know why I even bring it up. You’re gone and
nothing can change that. I’m back with Tom and that’s that. He is my husband,
the father of my child, and I should be happy, or at least, relieved that I
found him; that I found him and he’s willing to take me back.”
Pausing, I raise up and look over at the stroller. It shakes a little,
and I see first one hand then another appear and disappear as Gene fidgets
impatiently. I turn back around. “Last night, Tom offered to take us on a
small tour of the ship, but I said no. This is his home. He expects
it to be mine, but it isn’t. Maybe he can ignore the looks, but I can’t.
Just this morning an ensign stared at Gene and me, long and hard enough to be
considered rude. She didn’t say a word. She only stared at us, like we had
tentacles instead of hair. I should have said something, but I didn’t. I just
walked on past like an idiot, completely humiliated.
“I don’t belong here. On Voyager, it was different; I was part of
the crew. But here I’m surrounded by strangers. Even Tom. He’s a stranger
too, a stranger who barely talks to me for fear of causing offense.
“No. No, that’s not true. Every now and then, he tries. He simply
can’t face the truth, and I haven’t the strength to make him do it. How can I
tell him I was ready to have your children? How can I tell him I fell in love
with you–again! This past year has hurt him so much. I don’t want to cause
him any more pain, but I can’t let him continue to believe in our marriage.
It’ll never be as it was, and I have to tell him. Maybe not everything, but at
least the truth. I can’t be his wife. I can only be Gene’s mother. That’s
all I have the strength for.”

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

The Academy had known who he was. The Captain. Tuvok. Even my father
had known; now, I knew. I knew what he had done–what had made him leave Earth
and take the name of Nat Lawson–but I would never tell Cait. It was enough
that she now knew for certain that Lawson wasn’t his real name, that he had
lied to her about that, too.
The lift doors slid apart and the last passenger besides myself
stepped out. Finally, alone in the silence of the car, I closed my eyes and
fell back against the wall. Dear gods, I was tired. Between caring for the
baby and tiptoeing around Cait, a good night’s sleep had become an unobtainable
state of paradise. Last night, I had dreamed of Cait’s blood on my hands
again, only this time, without knowing how, I was certain that my own actions
had put it there.
Oh gods, what was I going to do? Sometimes it was hard just to look
at her, much less talk to her. She was so silent and so sad. This woman had
given birth to the most beautiful, most perfect child in the universe and I
couldn’t think of one word to say to her.
Sometimes I really wanted to believe that she had been unfaithful,
that Gene wasn’t my child, that I could simply walk away from both of them and
never look back. I could still do it. Nothing was really stopping me–except
Gene. Somehow, whenever I held him, all my thoughts, all my doubts became
irrelevant. Whatever Cait might have done, he, just like Rowan before him,
was a child in desperate need of love, and like Rowan, whether he was my son
or not, I couldn’t turn him away.
The lift stopped, and without looking where I was going, I exited,
plowing straight into Jin and nearly knocking her over. I caught her and tried
to smile, but that bewitching dark gaze dropped immediately to the floor.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “It was my fault. I wasn’t looking-”
“No sir,” she replied, quickly twisting out of my grasp. “It was
my fault. Excuse me.” She leapt for the safety of the lift and disappeared.
I stood, staring at the turbolift doors, my heart thumping wildly.
I hadn’t seen her since Cait came on board and I sure as heck hadn’t thought
about her. Damn, if Cait found out… My eyes rolled briefly toward the
ceiling, and finding no immediate answer to this newest potential calamity,
I turned and continued on my way. Caught between heaven and hell and sliding
closer to hell each day…
Within minutes, I reached our quarters, but Gene and Cait weren’t
there. “Computer, location of Caitlin and Gene Paris.”
“Both Caitlin Paris and Gene Paris are in Cargo Bay Two.”
I didn’t know why I hadn’t guessed it myself. I should have. She had
spent almost every morning there since she was well enough to leave our
quarters. Until now, I had stayed away, trying to be the understanding husband
and giving her time to grieve. At least, that was what I kept telling myself,
but it didn’t help much. So, with my jealousy on constant simmer, I left our
quarters and headed for the mess, but halfway there everything suddenly came
to a boil. I was damned if I was going to eat lunch alone again. I had made
the choice to accept Gene; now dead man or no dead man, Cait had to choose.
She was content to have me play “daddy”; well, then, didn’t I deserve a family?
When I entered the bay, Cait was sitting next to his coffin, her head
bent low and resting in her hands. She didn’t look up, I’m not even sure that
she heard me, but Gene opened his eyes and let out a happy gurgle as I bent
over his stroller.
“Hey, buddy. You okay? You are? Good. I’ve got to talk with
Mommy, so shhh.” I brought my finger briefly to my lips and then straightened
up. “Cait?”
No response, so I moved closer. “Cait?”
Slowly her head lifted, revealing an ashen face with swollen red eyes.
“Oh honey, c’mere.” I pulled her to her feet and into my arms about
her, trying to ignore the invisible weight which suddenly hurled itself
against my chest.
“No,” she whispered in a strangled voice. “Tom, please don’t.”
She tried to push me away, but I didn’t let go. “Please, Tom, I just want
to be alone.”
She twisted out of my arms, but I grabbed her shoulders. “No. Not
this time, Cait. I’m worried about you. Hell, I’ll be honest. I’m worried
about us. Sometimes I’m not even sure there is an ‘us’ anymore. No! Dammit,
listen to me! Lawson or whatever his name was is dead. I’m not. I’m your
husband. Doesn’t that mean anything?”
The crimson eyes stared up at me, but she remained silent. With a
sigh, I released her. “Do you wish you had died with him?”
There was a wounded gasp and her body weaved slightly like I had hit
her. “I don’t know,” she replied softly. “Sometimes I think I so.”
My heart exploded in a silent, deafening scream, my knees nearly
buckling under the blow. I staggered backward and then lunged for the door.
Somehow I had to get out of there. I had to be anywhere, except with her.
“Tom! Tom, I’m sorry!” she called after me. “You asked. I didn’t
want to lie to-”
The closing doors cut off the rest of her words, and I stumbled into
an empty lift. “Deck four. No. Computer, halt lift.”
I slid to the floor. How could she? How could she love him? Look at
what he had done to her! Done to us! A howl–part rage, part agony–grew
deep in my belly, and I doubled over, my arms clutched against my chest to hold
it inside. He had destroyed us. Destroyed everything.
“Kim to Paris.”
I sucked in a painful breath. “Go ahead.”
“Tom, are you okay? The lift hasn’t moved in the past two minutes.”
“Yeah.” I reached up and grasped a portion of the wall with
my fingertips, pulling myself to my feet. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just doing a
little thinking, and time sort of slipped by. Thanks for checking. Paris out.
Computer, resume.”

Paris Quarters, USS Mycenae:

I lie awake, staring at the wall. It is past 2300 hours, long past,
and still no sign of Tom. I tell myself I shouldn’t be surprised, not after
this morning. How did I expect him to take it? How else should he have
taken it?
Through the intercom, I hear the outer door open, followed by
muffled footfalls. There is a whispered request for one-quarter lights,
and the footsteps grow louder as they approach the crib. A rustle of fabric
is followed by a soft, low “sweet dreams, tiger”. I hear him take three steps
and then pick up the PADD I found earlier and left for him on the coffee table.
He sighs heavily, murmuring “damn”, and the footsteps resume, pausing just
outside the bedroom.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

I took a deep breath and pressed the door release. Cait lay on her
side facing away. I didn’t know whether to be thankful or not that she
was asleep. I sat down on my side of the bed and pulled off my boots. Cait
stirred and I glanced at the PADD. “Cait?”
“Yes?”
“You awake?”
“Yes.”
“This, uh, PADD you left out…”
“I found it yesterday when I was storing some of the clothes you
replicated for Gene.”
“Yeah, well, I can explain. I made it before-”
“I know. I thought you might still want it.”
“Want it? No, I don’t want it! I’m deleting it.”
She flipped over and grabbed my arm. “No. Don’t.”
I tossed the device to the floor with my free hand. “Too late.
I’m not giving up that easily. I won’t lose you to a dead man. I refuse to.”
I jerked my arm free and stood up to strip. “You want a divorce, you file it.
Otherwise, you can just get used to me being around because I’m not leaving.”
She stared at me open-mouthed for a moment; then, she gathered the
covers about her and rolled back over onto her side. “If that’s what
you want.”
“What *I* want?” I sighed, too exhausted to fight. “What I want is
my wife back. I want us to be a family, like we both wanted.”
“Tom-”
“Don’t bother.” I interrupted. “I expect too much. I already
know that.”
I pulled back the covers and with a groan, crawled between the sheets.
Every muscle in my body ached. Three hours of Parisi Squares against holo-
graphic opponents had that effect, even in my younger years, turning up the
play level had only intensified the pain. I would consider myself lucky if
I could lift my little finger in the morning. But that was how I wanted it,
anything that would take my mind off the other ache I carried inside.
Cait glanced over her shoulder. “Are you all right?”
“I’ll be worse in the morning. Nothing to worry about. I just over-
matched myself on the holodeck. Go to sleep.”
She flipped onto her back and raised up on her elbows. “Is there
something I can do? Something I can get you?”
“No,” I answered, not bothering to hide the grimace as I turned away
on my side. I wanted her to feel guilty. “Good night, Cait.”

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

Paris Quarters, USS Mycenae:

I lie on the sofa, my thoughts drifting far beyond the confines of
this room, all the way back to Earth. Nat’s body must be there by now.
I wonder, will his family bury him, or will they scatter his ashes on the wind?
That’s what he would’ve wanted, I think, to fly one last time–free.
To imprison him in some jar or coffin would be cruel. Do they understand that?
Do they even-
“What do you think?” Tom asks, and with effort, I bring myself back
only to realize he isn’t talking to me.
He kneels by Gene’s playpen installing a mobile he replicated last
night. My son watches his every movement from a nearby blanket. Can Gene see
the difference? Does he know that this isn’t the same man who held him when
he was born? Does he even remember Nat?
“What do you think, buddy?” Tom asks again. “Right here good? Yeah?
You think? Okay.”
It takes all my strength to watch them.
“Almost ready… One more twist should do it…almost… There. Now
let’s see what you think.”
He lifts Gene and sets him carefully inside the pen. “Like it?”
He taps the main support rod and makes the small ships shake and bounce.
Gene screeches. The noise echoes cruelly, slicing through my head
with all the swiftness of a dull knife. He reaches up toward the dancing
objects, catches one and pulls. Then he lets go, shrieking loudly as the
entire toy bobs up and down.
His happiness mocks me, angers me. He has forgotten, and Tom is
encouraging him. I am your father, his gift says, and this is my world.
It will be your world, too.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

I sat back on my heels and grinned down at my son. “So you like it,
huh? Good looking ships, aren’t they? See that one? That’s a Nebula-class
ship, the first class of ship I served on. And that one? That’s the new
Galaxy-class, the biggest in the fleet. And that’s an old Intrepid, like
Voyager, the ship your Mom and I met on. And let’s see…that’s a Type-6
shuttle, top speed warp two, and that’s a-”
“Ops to Caitlin Paris.” I recognized Jinara’s honey-toned voice and
looked up, but Cait continued to lie there, silent.
“Cait, did you-”
“Ops to Caitlin Paris,” Jinara repeated.
Cait didn’t even blink.
“Lt. Paris, here,” I responded. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh -er, Lieutenant, we -uh have an incoming transmission for your wife
from the Klingon settlement at Tova’as Minor. Shall I put it through?”
Cait lifted her head and shook it.
“Lieutenant?”
“Hold on a minute, Ensign. Cait, c’mon. It’s your Dad.”
“I know,” she murmured, so softly I could barely hear her. “I don’t
feel like talking to him. Can’t you say I’m asleep?”
“C’mon, honey. I can’t keep doing that. Don’t you even want to say
hello? It might make you feel better.”
“It won’t.”
“Cait, he’s worried about-”
“I know, and that’s why I don’t want to talk to him.”
“Huh? I don’t-”
“Look, just tell him I’ll-”
“Sir? Lieutenant, shall I-”
“Cait, he’s not-”
“-put the transmission-”
“Tom, please!”
“-through? Lieutenant?”
“Yes, what? No! Oh hell!” I scramble to my feet and slid into the
desk chair just as Rowan’s image appeared on the screen. “Hi, Rowan. How are
you? Uh, let me see if Cait’s awake.”
I muted the transmission and went over to the sofa. Cait rolled away
toward the back as I perched beside her on the edge of the cushion. “Honey,
are you sure-”
“Please, Tom, just tell him. I’m tired. I don’t want to speak
with him.”
I sighed heavily. How could I reach her? Every day it became harder
and harder. “All right, but on one condition: that you contact him tomorrow
or the next day, okay?”
“Yes,” she mumbled, but my gut warned that she didn’t mean it; that in
a few days we’d be having the same conversation when Rowan contacted us again.
I gently brushed some auburn hair aside exposing a pale cheek.
Her eyes scrunched closed; she must have thought I was going to kiss her.
I was.
“Sorry,” I whispered, and got gently to my feet so as not to disturb
her. “I’ll go tell him you’re asleep.”

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

Captain’s Ready Room, USS Mycenae:

Tom and I sit before Janeway’s desk, and I listen to the words that
come from her mouth. Words like “mistake” and “apology” and “tragic miscommu-
nication”. Words, that’s all they are. That’s all the Federation knows.
For nearly ten years, I lived as Starfleet. I came to believe that
I had been wrong in condemning its ways, but I wasn’t. The Federation had
no right to evacuate us, just as the Dominion had no right to attack us.
Neither had the right to say people couldn’t live there, and yet they did.
Nothing’s changed. It’s happening all over again, and if I close my
eyes and listen, I can hear the screams, not just of Nat and the other
settlers, but of so many others–Meridan, Rina’ar. First, the Cardassians
came, and now, the Dominion. It never ends. There is always someone else.
“Cait?” Tom reaches over and touches my arm. “Cait?”
I swallow back my anger for the moment. “And the bombings prior to
the landing?”
“Efforts to disrupt the resupplying of Maquis ships,” Janeway replies.
“The Dominion remains steadfast in their belief that this was one of their
supply bases. It was their hope that the bombings would intimidate the
settlers sufficiently, but after the destruction of the outpost on
Mendoc Three, they decided it was not enough.”
Her expression softens as she leans forward. “Caitlin, their repre-
sentative continues to insist that it was an honest, but tragic mistake.
He also says that the Cardassian communications officer has since been
disciplined. Please understand, whether we believe the Dominion or not,
there is little that the Federation can do, short of starting another war,
which Starfleet is not prepared for. In light of this apology, our hands
are tied.”
I get to my feet. “Yes, Captain. I’ve noticed that they often are.”
Without waiting for further impotent condolences, I turn and exit the room,
leaving Tom behind.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

Momentarily stunned by her rudeness, I watched Cait leave. The heat
rose in my face, and I turned back to the Captain. “Captain, I’d like to
apologize-”
She held up her hand. “Don’t, Tom. Knowing her, knowing what she
went through, her reaction does not surprise me.”
My gaze fell to the floor, my cheeks growing even warmer. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet. There is more to this matter than I relayed to
Caitlin.”
I looked up and at her expression, felt a painful wrench in my gut.
“More?”
“Yes. The Dominion sees her past involvement with the Maquis as
further proof of the settlers’ affiliation with them, and some Federation
council members have begun an investigation to determine her role. If the
evidence warrants, they may have charges brought against Caitlin.”
I stared at her for a minute, unable to believe what I was hearing.
“What? But she-”
The Captain nodded. “I know. I can’t believe it either, and until
the matter is settled, I have persuaded them to allow Caitlin to remain
on board this ship. However, if she attempts to leave, I have orders to place
her under arrest and confine her to the brig.”
Investigation. Arrest. With each passing second, my anger grew until
the Captain vanished all together. All I could see was Cait in prison greys
being led down a corridor, and me, holding Gene, unable to stop his bawling as
she turned and waved goodbye. There might not be an “us”, but I couldn’t let
them do that to him.
“Tom? Tom, are you all right?”
“Six months,” I muttered. “They already took six months, and now they
want to take more? No!” I leapt up, my body quivering with pent-up rage.
“I can’t believe them! After all she went through, all I went through, all her
father went through, they want to use her as some scapegoat? ‘Cause that’s
what they’re doing, Captain–using her! You know that, don’t you? Just like
before. Well, I won’t let them! They can demote me. Hell! They can boot me
out again! I don’t care. But I won’t stand by and let them do this to my
family!”
My eyes met Janeway’s defiantly, challenging her to stop me, but she
only nodded. “Knowing you, I would expect nothing less, Tom. Your family is
important to you. You are trying your best to preserve it. I’m just sorry I
had to add to the pressures you’re currently under. Yet, I thought you ought
to be warned.”
As always, she was my voice of reason, and for the moment, I swallowed
my anger. “Yes ma’am. I appreciate it. I won’t tell Cait–not yet, at least.
Is there anything else I should know?”
She sat back, her mouth drawing to one side and curving upward sym-
pathetically. “Isn’t that enough?”
I sighed. “Probably more than enough, Captain.”
“Then, dismissed.”
When I got to our quarters, the bedroom door was shut, and Ensign
Celia Cartwright was pacing the floor with a dozing Gene in her arms.
“Did my wife come in here?”
She stopped and nodded. “Yessir. She didn’t say anything. She just
walked in there and shut the door. I thought maybe I should stay with the baby
until you got here.”
“I appreciate that,” I said, and gently pried Gene from her shoulder,
waking him. “How was he?”
“Good as latinum, sir. Not even a whimper. I’d be happy to sit for
him anytime.”
“Thanks. We may take you up on that.”
With a nod, she headed for the door.
“Ensign?”
“Sir?” She stopped and turned around.
I hesitated. “How is Jinara-I mean Ensign Latel? With all that has
happened, I haven’t really seen her to speak with her.”
“She’s all right. She was in the dumps for a while, but she’s coming
around.” A mischievous twinkle caught fire in Cartwright’s blue eyes. “She
has a date tomorrow night with George Bruchac in Engineering. It took me weeks
to get her to agree to it.”
I forced a smile. “Good. Good for her. Tell her I asked about her,
will you?”
“Yessir.”
The door closed behind her, and I stood there for a moment as Gene
fidgeted sleepily in my arms. Jinara and George? That he was an engineer was
about all I knew of him. Maybe this time she’d have better luck. She deserved
it. No more pilots-
A thud in the bedroom brought me back to present, and I walked over to
the door. “Cait? Cait, can I come in?”
“Suit yourself.”
I pressed the door release with my elbow and sucked in a sharp breath
as it slid aside. Drawers were open. What few clothes Cait had replicated
over the past two weeks either lay scattered on the bed or were in the process
of being stuffed into a duffel.
“Cait, wha-what’s going on?”
“I’m packing.”
“I can see that. Why?”
“I’m leaving. I can’t stay here.”
“Here? As in, here in these quarters?”
“No.” She paused, glaring. “As in on this ship.”
“What? Hold it. Let me go put Gene down.” I stepped away and
deposited my son in his playpen. He whimpered his unhappiness, but I had
little choice. To stop Cait would require my full attention. “Okay, I’m back.
Now, do you want to tell me why you are so determined to leave?”
“I can’t stay here. Not after what happened, not after what Janeway
just said. They’re going to forgive and forget and sweep it all under the rug,
and I can’t do that.”
“Whoa. Wait a minute. It’s not that simple.”
“Oh? Isn’t that what Janeway said? A tragic mistake? Miscommuni-
cation? Sounds like that’s exactly what your precious Federation is doing.”
“My precious Federation!” Gods, if she only knew! I stepped into
her path. “Now stop. Wait a minute.”
“Get out of my way.”
“No.” I grabbed her arm as she tried to push past me. “Not until you
calm down and think about what you’re doing.”
“Let go of me!”
“No! Just what do you plan on doing? Running off and joining the
Maquis again?”
“Why not? They’re not sitting on their hands. I heard it in Attica.
They need people, people with experience.” The burning green eyes tried to
stare me down. “Give me one good reason I shouldn’t leave.”
“How about our son for starters? How about the possibility you’ll be
killed or arrested again? Think, Cait. We’ve got a child. If you leave,
there’s a chance, a very good chance, you’ll never see him again. You’ve been
there, you know what it’s like. Do you want him to grow up without his
mother, too? Is that what you want?”
“Don’t you dare guilt trip me! You wouldn’t have a son if Nat hadn’t
saved us!”
“Wrong! If he hadn’t interfered, I’d not only have a son, but I’d
still have my wife! Don’t even try to defend that sonuvabitch to me!”
Her breath quickened and her glare narrowed and grew personal. I was
saying all the wrong things, but I couldn’t stop myself. The anger had built
up and built up, and now the seal had broken.
“You don’t understand,” she protested. “You can’t. You’ve never
been there.”
“No, I think it’s you who doesn’t understand, or rather who doesn’t
want to understand. C’mon, Cait, think! If they weren’t part of the Maquis,
if they were simple colonists, would they have been so hostile? Would they
have kidnapped you?”
“They might have!”
“No, they wouldn’t and you know it as well as I do.”
Once again she tried to get by me, but I crossed my arms and remained
defiantly in her path.
“Get out of my way!”
“Unh-unh. Not this time. Not until you face reality.”
“Face it? You’re one to talk! You don’t know the first thing about
it. You’ve never been a colonist. You don’t know how precious supply lines
can be.”
“Precious enough to risk a felony charge? I don’t think so. Open your
eyes, Cait. The guy lied to you, starting years ago with his name. He didn’t
deserve your friendship, and he certainly doesn’t deserve you throwing your
life away on his memory.”
She trembled, silenced, but only for a moment. “Get out! Leave me
alone! You’ll never understand! I hate your cowardly Federation and I
hate you! You stand there in your precious uniform and judge him. You’re
nothing but a hypocrite! Nat was a good man. He loved Gene. He was ready to
accept him as his son. He didn’t deserve to die. None of them did!”
She fled into the bathroom, the door sliding shut and locking before
I could stop it. Quietly, I turned and walked back into the living area.
It was almost Gene’s dinnertime, but halfway to the replicator, my knees
buckled and I sank into the nearest chair. “I hate you” she had said.
“I hate you.” Wide blue eyes regarded me silently through the playpen mesh.
I tried to smile, but didn’t succeed.
“Well, buddy,” I said, feeling the quiver in my voice spread throughout
my body. “It looks like it’s just going to be you and me tonight. It may be
just the two of us for a long time.”

Paris Quarters, USS Mycenae:

Tom wakes me in morning. His face is grey and his eyes wear the same
impassive shield they wore so many years ago. I don’t think he has slept
at all. “I’m late,” he says in a heavily gravelled voice. “Gene is fed.
I realize you are eager to leave, but before you discuss your plans with
anyone, please wait until you hear what I have to say this evening.”
Leave? Oh. Yes. I remember now: what I did, what I said, the awful
things I said. “Tom, I-”
“Not now, Cait,” he says with a sigh that surpasses his age. “I can’t
go into to this now. Just promise me that you won’t tell a soul, that you’ll
keep this wish to yourself until we have a chance to talk. Promise me,
not for my sake, but for Gene’s. Now, promise.”
The strength of his determination causes me to catch my breath. “I-I
promise.”
“Good,” he says, and is gone, the outer door shutting firmly behind
him.
I almost run after him, dressed as I am, to throw my arms around him
and beg for forgiveness, but instead I pull on a robe and wander out to the
sofa. I didn’t mean it, any of it. I was angry. I never meant to hurt him
like this.
A few tears squeeze through my lashes as my eyes from exhaustion.
I hate to cry. I’ve cried so much over the past few weeks I’m not sure if
I’ll ever stop. I didn’t cry this much when my father disappeared, but I was
younger then, tougher too, maybe. Now I just feel old and tired.
I never wanted to hurt Tom like this. I didn’t mean what I said.
I didn’t mean to say I hated him. I don’t. I can’t. It’s myself I hate:
for betraying him, for falling once again for Nat, for ever leaving Saturn
in the first place, for so many things. He’s been too good to me; waiting at
my bedside; taking in Gene without question, and I know he must have questions,
doubts. Anyone would, and yet, he lets them go unspoken, placing Gene’s
happiness far above his own. How could I say those things to him? How can I
be so terrible to him? I loved him once. Don’t I love him now? I must.
A year isn’t that long. How can my feelings have changed…

Somewhere I hear Gene begin to cry, but dimly as if through a thick
haze. How much time has passed? The door opens, but I still do not open my
eyes, the lids as heavy as the rest of me. How could Tom leave him with me?
I’m not fit to be a wife or a mother, but I’m not fit to be a soldier either.
I bleed far too easily.
“Cait? The baby-” Tom’s footsteps cross the room. “Hey, tiger,
what’s all the fuss about? Aww, c’mere. Phew! I’d scream too if I had a
diaper as stinky as yours. Let’s see if we can’t do something about it.”
I turn over, rolling away from the sounds. Behind me there is more
movement, soft words and snuffling.
“There. Isn’t that better? More tears? Gosh, is it your lunchtime,
too? Formula One-C, room temperature. Here we go. Yeah. That’s what you
really wanted, wasn’t it? Yeah. Tell you what. Why don’t we go over here
and sit with Mommy? I bet she’d like to see you.”
The footsteps come closer and I draw up my feet, giving Tom enough room
to sit down on the couch. In his arms, Gene sucks noisily on a bottle.
“Cait, are you okay?”
With what seems like a great deal of effort, I sit up and shrug.
“I was just thinking and I took a nap after a while. That is what you wanted
me to do, wasn’t it–think?”
“Yes.” He sighs. “When was the last time you changed Gene?”
“I don’t know. A while ago, I guess. I fell asleep.”
“You guess? Are you even sure you changed him after I left this
morning?”
I close my eyes. No, I wasn’t sure. Had I? “I know I’m not a fit
mother. I don’t need to be told.”
“Cait, I didn’t say that. I didn’t even think it. I’m just worried
about you. You barely eat. When you sleep, it’s so restless I hesitate to
call it sleep. And look, it’s after 1200 hours and you haven’t even bothered
to dress. This isn’t normal for you.”
I glance down at the thick blue robe–Tom’s robe. I hadn’t realized
that I had grabbed it instead of my own. “I’ll go change.”
“No, don’t. You don’t have to, honestly. If you’re more comfortable,
stay like this. It’s all right with me. I’m just concerned, that’s all.”
I twist the robe’s belt around my finger, too ashamed of myself to meet
his gaze. “After what I said last night, you shouldn’t be.”
“I’d like to think you didn’t mean what you said, at least the part
about hating me,” he adds gently.
“I don’t-didn’t. I didn’t mean it at all. I-” My eyes meet his–
a blue so full of compassion that my tears rise to the surface and I quickly
let my gaze fall.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

“I- I don’t hate you, Tom. I can’t. Not after all-” She stopped,
biting her lower lip and halting its trembling.
“Then don’t leave me.”
“You don’t understand. I can’t stay. It wouldn’t be fair to you
or to Gene.”
“How?” I set down the now empty bottle and shifted Gene up onto my
shoulder to burp him. “How would leaving us be fairer?”
“I don’t know. It just would. I can’t be what you want me to be.
Can’t you see that?”
“See what? That things have changed? I see it, I admit it, but let’s
give things a chance to work themselves out.” Gene gave a tiny burp and I
shifted him down and wiped his chin. “Thatta boy. Now, will you be good and
take a nap while Mommy and I talk? ‘Scuse me. Back in a jiff.”
My son’s earlier tears appeared to have taken their toll, and his
eyelids blinked slower and slower, closing longer each time as I paced back and
forth, joggling him gently in my arms. “That’s it. That’s the way. If you
don’t sleep now, we can’t play tonight, and I know you like that. That’s it.
That’s it…”
“But you don’t understand,” Cait continued as I lay Gene down and
tucked his yellow blanket around him. “I have to leave. You want a wife and
Gene needs a mother. I can’t be either. It isn’t fair to the two of you.”
“And running away is?” I straightened up. “Look, Cait, right now
you’re upset. I am too, but it will pass. In the meantime, I’ll do what I can
to help, and I know of at least two people who won’t mind sitting Gene to give
you some time alone.”
I crossed back over to the sofa and sat down, taking her hands in mine.
“Cait, I love you and-”
“Don’t,” she said, and jerked back, her hands slipping from my grasp.
“Don’t what? Say I love you? Is it so painful for you to hear that?”
Her eyes closed. “Please, Tom.”
“Why? Why does it hurt you? Because it’s the truth? Because you
no longer love me? Because you’re afraid of hurting me? Why? Cait, tell me.”
She didn’t reply.
“All right,” I said with a heavy sigh. “You don’t have to tell me.
Just listen. I don’t care what happened between you and this other guy. Okay?
All right, that’s not exactly true. I do care, but I’m willing to move past
it, and let the past belong to the past. The future, our future, Gene’s future
is what’s important, and Gene needs his mother. You know better than anyone
what his life will be like. Don’t leave him. Stay. Give us a chance for
his sake.”

Paris Quarters, USS Mycenae:

I look over at the pen and see a tiny hand stretch upward toward
the mobile. Suddenly, I am back in the cave with Nat’s arms around me,
his voice in my ear–“C’mon, Caitie. You can do it. Squeeze my hand. C’mon.”
–his arms and mine holding Gene…
Gods! His words, his touch follow me wherever I go. I can’t escape.
I can’t think. So much has happened. I’ve tried and tried to rationalize
it all, but I can’t. The roles of wife and mother–I never saw them as mine,
and after Dad disappeared I vowed they never would be mine. No one would get
that close again, but Tom did, and I’ve failed him.
I betrayed him; I betrayed his trust, our future happiness, and yet in
returning to him, I feel as if I betray Nat, too. I made promises to both of
them, promises that have shattered far too easily. I don’t want to make
anymore. I want to be whole and solid and resolute. Then and only then can I
make promises I can keep.
A tear slips down my cheek as I turn to look at Tom. “I’m sorry.
I can’t–not now. Please, let me go.”

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

I stared at her, the tear-filled green eyes stretching my heart to its
breaking point, and then I looked down, unable to bear the sight of the pain
my answer would cause. “Cait, I-” I stopped. Could I even say it? “Cait,
I can’t.”
“Why not? Why can’t you?”
“I just can’t. I would, no matter how much it hurt me, I would,
but I can’t.”
A heavy silence fell between us, and I continued to stare at the
carpeting.
“Why?” she whispered finally. “Why can’t I make you understand?”
“Cait, I’m trying. Honest. All this time, I’ve been trying, but-”
“I thought- I hoped I could make you, but I guess too much has
happened.” Abruptly, she got to her feet. “I don’t need your permission,
I can leave without it, but I had hoped that you would understand.”
“Cait, please. Don’t. You don’t know why-”
She spun around, glaring. “You’re right! I don’t! Why are you
doing this to me? To punish me? Is that it? To punish me for leaving
you? For going with Nat and the others? Can’t you see that I had no choice?
They were going to kill me. I was thinking of Gene. I didn’t want
to lose him. I would have done anything to have him born healthy.”
She dropped to her knees in front of me, a tear trickling down her
cheek. “He was-is our baby. Yours and mine. I didn’t want to lose him.
After Madeleine, I was afraid. I know I could have told them no. I could have
tried to escape or fought them or something, but I was scared, Tom. I was
scared. Can’t you see that? Can’t you believe it? I wanted to protect him.
“All I need is some time to set things straight,” she pleaded. “I will
come back if I can. I will. I promise I will. Please, can’t you trust me
this once more?”
I slid down onto the floor and took her hands in mine. Without a word,
I brought the pale fingers up, briefly brushing their tips with a kiss before
securing them to my chest right above my heart. How could I explain it to her?
If she wanted to leave now, she’d be packed and halfway out the door once I
told her about the investigation.
Two years ago, I could have turned to Chakotay to help her see reason.
Two years ago, we were far away, alone, with nowhere for her to run. Two years
ago, I had more confidence in our marriage and in my own persuasive abilities.
Now, however, I was too full of doubt.
“Cait, I’ll admit I don’t want you to leave. I know you think you
need to, I know you honestly believe it’s the right thing to do, but I don’t.
I’ll also admit that the main reason I don’t want you to go is because I’m
afraid- afraid that if you go I’ll never-” The words caught in my throat,
and I glanced down at our hands, trying to summon the strength to force
them out. “I’m afraid that- that I’ll lose you for good, that Gene will lose
you for good, but I swear, Cait, I swear I would still let you go in spite of
all that. Please believe that I would, but I-”
She jerked, trying to pull her hands from mine, but I would not
let her, securing my tenuous grasp. “Dammit, Cait, listen to me. I love you.
I’ve always loved you and I’ve always let you do whatever you wanted, even if
it caused me pain. Do you know how much it hurt me when the seven of you
accepted that plea bargain? Hell, you had only been a foot soldier. B’Elanna
had designed and programmed bombs, but I knew why you accepted the responsibi-
lity. You did it for Harry and for B’Elanna and for K’Elynne, who hadn’t been
born yet. As much pain as it caused me to see you board that prison transport,
I knew and accepted your decision because that is who you are: a loving, loyal,
and protective friend, the very reason I love you in the first place.”
“Then, if you understand that, why are you trying to stop me? I know
I’m hurting you. I’ve been causing you pain ever since I came aboard.
That’s why I want to leave. I don’t want to do that anymore. I can’t stand
seeing it happen. Please, Tom.”
I bowed my head and shook it. I had failed.
“Why not? What is it that’s stopping you? Tell me!”
“Because your leaving isn’t up to me, or you for that matter,” I said,
and hesitated, still reluctant to reveal what the Captain had told me.
“I don’t understand.”
I clutched her hands even tighter. She would never let the matter
rest now. “Because there are some idiots,” I said slowly, “on the Federation
Council who, for one reason or another, have chosen to listen to the Dominion’s
charges and as a result, are actually contemplating bringing charges against
you. Until the matter is settled, we are to keep you on this ship, even if
it means arresting you and putting you in the brig.”
Her response was barely audible. “What?”
“I know. I couldn’t believe it either when the Captain told me.”
“Based on what? I haven’t done anything.”
“Based on your past with the Maquis. The Dominion says you’re still
involved.”
“But I’m not!”
“I know. I know. I’m as angry as you are about this. As far as I’m
concerned, they’ve stolen six months from us already. I don’t want to give
them years more.” I reached out with one hand to touch a pale cheek. “Now, do
you understand?” I asked. “It isn’t up to me.”
She tore her hands out of mine. “How can they? They can’t! This
isn’t fair or legal! I won’t let them do this! They have no right to keep
me imprisoned on this ship! This room or the brig, there is absolutely no
difference! They have no right to hold me here, and they won’t!”
She started to get up, but I grabbed her arm. “Cait, wait. Sit down.
Please. You’ve go to look at the bigger picture. This wouldn’t be just your
trial. The Dominion, to divert attention away from their own part in this
action, would make damn sure evidence supporting their assertions suddenly
appeared. They won’t allow you, or more importantly from their point of view,
the settlement to be found innocent. If you were, support for the Maquis
would skyrocket overnight and so would pressure on the Federation to take
action on the massacre. Do you understand what I’m saying? The Dominion will
not allow you to be found innocent, even if they have to manufacture evidence
to convict you. By trying to leave this ship, you’ll only be helping them
send you back to prison. Can’t you see that?”
“I’ll take my chances!”
I started to reply, but stopped, staring, momentarily transfixed by
the furious flush coming to her wan cheeks. Here, here was the woman I
married–angry, yes, but undefeated, still full of fight, so unlike the
creature who minutes earlier had sat crying on the floor in front of me.
“Cait, I can’t let you do that.”
The green eyes narrowed. “Can’t or won’t?”
“Both.”
“It’s hardly your decision.”
“And it isn’t solely yours either. We have a son now. Think of what
his life will be like, how others will regard him. He’s already got our
past records to come to terms with as it is. What hardships will another
conviction bring him?
“Cait, our lives are a third, almost one-half over. His is just
beginning. If you go to prison, he’ll grow up here, with me, in a Starfleet
world. Do you have any idea what it will be like for him, what the other
children will do to him, how he will be scorned and ridiculed because he has
an imprisoned Maquis for a parent? Think. No matter how much I would try
to protect him, some of the abuse would get through and sink in. I don’t think
you really know how cruel kids can be, but I do, especially once they get
older and begin to comprehend the power their words possess.”
She stared at me, not responding, for what felt like something just
short of forever. Slowly, very slowly, layer after layer of her anger fell
away. Her head drooped forward, a thick curtain of auburn hair shielding her
face from view. I waited, and eventually her head rose.
“What do I do?” she whispered.
“I can only think of one option,” I said, and bit my lip nervously.
“You won’t like it, but I don’t know what else to tell you.”
She shut her eyes as if bracing for a blow. “What is it you want
me to do?”
“Start seeing the ship’s counselor. I know, I know,” I said, as her
eyes opened wide and she shook her head. “But Connors is a good guy, Cait.
He helped me when you were gone. He won’t judge you. Just talk to him.”
“No. You know how I feel about them.”
“Yes, I do know, but what option is left? You need to talk to someone.
I’ve known you long enough to recognize the signs. Look, I’ll go with you,
if you want. I’ll sit beside you. I’ll hold your hand. I’ll do anything you
ask. Just please, please give this a try. It was hard for me to admit I
needed help when you disappeared. I was afraid Command would take everything
away if they found out, but I eventually realized I’d lose everything if I
didn’t get help. I had already lost you. My job was all I had left.
I couldn’t afford to let it go, too. Please, Cait.” I felt a tear trickle
down my own cheek as she bowed her head. “Please, honey. Even if you and I
lose each other, we can’t let Gene lose his future, too. Please, for our son,
for Gene.”

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

Counselor’s Office, USS Mycenae:

I bring Gene with me. This Lt. Connors, however, seems less than
pleased with my son’s presence, frowning as I position the stroller next to my
chair.
“I’m not sure that bringing your child was a good idea,” he says.
“He might distract you from what we are trying to accomplish.”
“He won’t,” I insist, prickled by the ‘we’. There is no ‘we’.
*I* am here. *I* am the one who is hurting, not him.
“May I ask why you brought him?”
“Gene is the reason I’m here. I promised both him and his father I
would give this a try.”
“I see.” Connors shifts in his chair, crossing one long leg over
the other. “I understand you don’t like counselors much.”
“You understand correctly. Who told you? Tom?”
An expression of mild amusement comes to his lean face. “Actually,
it’s pretty evident by your body language, but yes, your husband did mention
that you were distrustful of my profession.” His dark head cocks to one side
and the smirk disappears. “Why do you suppose that is?”
Every shield, every defensive hackle rises as the black eyes study me,
and I look away. On the table beside him is a picture, probably taken by
his father, of him and his mother at some Starfleet Ceremony. The good son.
Made his parents proud. Talks to both of them every week without fail, I bet.
I shrug. “I suppose I’ve just never found it to be of much help. Maybe it is
for others…”
“But not you.”
“No.”
“Why do you think that is?”
“I don’t know. I simply prefer to keep my own counsel.”
He takes a deep breath and slowly twirls a lightpen between three bone-
white fingers. “Perhaps you didn’t stay with it long enough. Counseling isn’t
a quick fix. You have to stay with it. Get to know your counselor. Let him
or her get to know you.”
“I don’t want to know them. I don’t want some stranger knowing my
most intimate thoughts and problems.”
“That is your choice,” he concedes. “Some people are more at ease
discussing their problems with a stranger. For others, it takes a while,
until that stranger is no longer a stranger. In either case, true improvement
doesn’t take place in sudden flashes of insight. Rather, it comes with
learning to use that insight to make beneficial changes in your life, and that
takes a much longer period of time.”
“Wonderful,” I mutter under my breath, and look over at Gene who
has fallen asleep.
“What was that?”
“Nothing. Where do we start?”
“Any place you wish,” he replies, readying his pen. “Why don’t you
tell me about your son–Gene, I think you said his name is?”
I follow the dark gaze to the stroller and am nearly overcome by the
impulse to flee out the door with Gene in my arms. “William Eugene. He is
named for my uncle and Tom’s father.”
“How interesting. Was your uncle in Starfleet, too?”
“Yes.” I lick my lips. “What difference does that make?”
“None. Just curious. But your father didn’t attend the Academy,
right?”
“No. He had his own ship. He was a trader on the Cardassian border.”
“And you grew up on his ship?”
“For the most part.”
“That must have been tough for you, as a child, I mean. Always moving
about, never staying in one place.”
“Not really,” I say defensively. “I saw a lot of things most people
never get to see.”
“Yes, I’m sure you did, but it must have been a very rough ‘n tumble
life for a child. The border has never been peaceful. I can’t imagine
raising my child, especially a daughter, there. Try as he or she might,
a parent can’t protect their child from everything.”
I feel my anger rise to the surface. I wondered how long it would take
him to bring up Dad; his kind always does. “My father was a good parent.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that he wasn’t. I’m simply trying
to get an idea of where you are coming from, the kind of life you have led.
I have the report from the rehab facility and your Federation file, but they
only tell me so much. I’m sure there is a lot they leave out.”
My mouth and throat go dry. What has Tom told him? What is it he
wants to know? “I-I’m sorry. This is a mistake. I don’t feel comfortable
here.”
“I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do to help change that?”
“No,” I say, getting to my feet and waking Gene as I hastily ready the
stroller. “I was simply raised to keep family matters private.”
“Even when doing so means the disintegration of that family?”
I draw a sharp breath, but recover, straightening my shoulders and
releasing the air slowly and steadily. “I believe in this case, Counselor,
that has already occurred.”
“Are you so certain?” The PADD slides from his lap as he sits forward
hitting the floor with a dull thud. His dark eyes glitter with controlled
energy. “Caitlin, as long as there is a chance, however small, to save your
family, shouldn’t you take it? If it involved physical rather than psycho-
logical trials, wouldn’t you take it? Wouldn’t you risk your life to save your
son or your husband? Haven’t you done so already?”
I freeze, staring at him, unable to answer.
“Caitlin, I can’t guarantee success. I can’t guarantee that your
marriage will emerge from these sessions intact, but as a Voyager survivor you
know, perhaps better than I ever will, that you can’t succeed if you don’t try.
Won’t you give this a chance? Please. Please, won’t you sit back down?”
My decisiveness wavers, but only slightly. “No,” I reply. “I’m sorry,
but this would only be a waste of time.”
“I’m sorry, too,” he says as the doors shut between us.

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

I heard the voices coming from around the corner and for some unknown
reason, I stopped to listen. They weren’t loud; they didn’t need to be.
“Oh yeah? Well, all I’m saying is I wouldn’t be so quick to take
her back, that’s all. I mean, heck, he’s a good-looking guy. Before she
stepped into the picture, at least half the females and a few of the guys
on this ship were eager to give him their shoulder to cry on.”
“The way I heard it one of them did,” said a second voice.
“Yeah, I heard that too.” A very nasal third voice piped up. “He and
that ensign, right?”
“Which ensign? You mean the one in…”
A hoot of laughter ensued. “Yeah, that’s the one. “Hell, who would
kick her out of his bed?”
“No one.”
“Not me.”
“Yeah, right. You wouldn’t kick Hutchins out of your bed.”
“So? Don’t knock her if you ain’t tried her. She can do the most
amazing things with her…”
The voice lowered and howls of laughter echoed down the corridors as
a door opened and shut, cutting me off from the rest of the conversation.
A thick heat rose in my face. Sure, no names had been mentioned, but then I
didn’t really need any names, did I? I knew who they were talking about.

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

Holodeck Two, USS Mycenae:

“Do you remember the first time we came here together?” Tom asks,
as we pause on the crimsom bridge which arches over a stream of carefully
raked pebbles. “You were carrying Rowan…”
A quiver grows in my chest. “I remember.”
He leans over resting his arms on the bridge’s top rail. “We sat on
that bench over there,” he continues, pointing toward the shade offered by a
minature red-leaf maple. “And you told me you were going to name him after
your father and me.”
The quiver rises becoming a lump in my throat, and I swallow before
replying. “I remember.”
“You’ll never know what that meant to me then. Still does. I mean,
things hadn’t been going all that well between us, even as friends. And I had
made that giant blunder of bringing Jenny Delaney to pool. You were so angry.
Had every right to be.”
He stops, hesitating. “You know, maybe I shouldn’t tell you this,
but after we found out about, well, your condition, Harry tried to talk me out
of being your coach. He thought things might, you know, get even more strained
between us, but I couldn’t. Call it ego, call it devotion, but I wanted to be
the one you needed. To think of someone else- I couldn’t accept it. I just
couldn’t walk away and leave you in another man’s care. The thought of it made
me so jealous. I couldn’t allow it, no matter what the cost.”
He turns his head slightly and grins. “I guess I’ll always be jealous
where you’re concerned. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me,
and-” He breaks off, looking down at the immobile stream. “And- and I guess
what I’m trying to say is: I don’t want to lose you again, no matter what.”
He reaches out and places his right hand over my left, giving the fingers a
tiny squeeze, but he removes it quickly as I look out over the stone pond.
A small breeze stirs the trees, the shadows of their leaves sliding
back and forth like black waves on the rippling grey rock. Total silence,
except for the merest rustle. I can’t tear my gaze away. It’s so peaceful.
I think I could lie down there in the middle of the stones forever. Silent.
At peace. No promises. No responsibilities. Only silence. Complete and
beautiful.
“You know, I saw Connors yesterday in the corridor,” he says quietly.
“And I asked him how you were doing.”
I catch my breath. While not lying to him directly, I have let Tom
believe I was going to therapy–swallowing my tears instead of shedding them;
biding my time until I am allowed to leave the ship. But he must know the
truth now. Yet, he hasn’t mentioned it, and he doesn’t appear to be upset.
“What did he say?”
“The standard cryptic reply: that he couldn’t talk about any patient,
but he did say he was concerned about you.” He sighs and straightens up,
a small, hopeful grin on his face. “I don’t know why. To me, you seem lots
better. You’re dressing, getting out and about, playing with Gene more.
Considering where you were just days ago, to me, that’s progress.”
My gaze lowers, picking out one brown pebble in the midst of all
the grey. “I try.”
I can almost hear his smile grow. “And it shows! C’mon, how about
one more turn around the park and then we go rescue Celia from Gene? Hm?
How about it?”
I shrug and drag myself from the railing to fall in step beside him.
His hand once again captures mine, and I let it. To free myself takes too
much effort. Besides, this will make him happy, and isn’t that all that
matters for now?

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

We walked along in silence, but she kept her hand in mine, and I
reminded myself that this was progress–a small step, but progress nonetheless.
Cait was getting better. In spite of Connors’ comment, I honestly
believed that. She looked better; still sad, sure, but she wasn’t crying
as much, and she didn’t lie about any more. She was getting up and taking
Gene for walks, and now–now, we were holding hands. I was so happy I wanted
to scream; to take her in my arms and hug her and kiss her; but I couldn’t
do that. Small steps. Small victories. One day at a time, I told myself,
patience. Patience.

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

Paris Quarters, USS Mycenae:

Tom charges in, breathless and grinning, as I am getting a cup of tea.
“I don’t have much time,” he says loudly. “I’ve got to get back to the
bridge.”
“Shh! I just got him down.”
He sneaks a glance at the crib, but his blue eyes are unrepentant.
“Whoops. Sorry. But I had to come down and tell you the good news.
The Council decided not to bring charges against you. No trial, no prison,
nothing.” He bounds toward me, arms spread wide, ready to scoop me up
into them.
“Am I free to leave?” I ask quietly.
He halts in his tracks. The smile falls from his face and the light in
his eyes dies. My words have slapped him hard; I can almost see the patch
of scarlet on his cheek. His gaze drops to the floor. “If that’s what you
want,” he says in a low voice. He takes a deep breath and his whole body
stiffens. “If that’s what you want,” he repeats in a harder voice, “I won’t
stand in your way.”
He turns quickly and walks toward the door. “I have to get back to the
bridge. I have a shift to complete. When you talk to your dad, tell him hello
for me.”
The door closes behind him. With a sigh, I sit down in front of
the terminal and wait. Presently, the transmission comes through and my
father’s face appears on the screen.
“Matthews here.”
“Hi, Dad.”
“Cait!” The familiar smile appears immediately, sending warmth surging
down my spine. I want him to hold me. I want to burrow into his arms and cry,
like I did when I was little. “What a pleasant surprise! How are you? How’s
my grandson?”
“He’s fine. Asleep right now.”
“Good, and growing bigger each day, I bet. I’ve been thinking about
you. The last few transmissions… Well, anyway, you look better. Feeling
better? How are things going between you and Tom?”
“Pretty much the same. Although now, he wants me to see the ship’s
counselor.”
“What!”
“Yeah. I said I would, and I did, once, but no more. It was just
too awkward.”
“I can understand that, but a counselor?” His wild eyebrows knit
in a deep frown. “Caitlin, what aren’t you telling me? What’s really
happened?”
“Nothing, Dad, really. Just a lot of time has passed between us.
I told you. Circumstances change. People change.”
“I’m well aware of that. Which has changed in your case?”
“Both. Maybe not so much in Tom as in myself. I don’t feel like
I belong here.”
“Of course you don’t. You’re a passenger now. You’ve been a crewman
all your life. How do you think your mother felt when I brought her on board.
She didn’t know the first thing about the workings of a ship. She barely
knew how to program a replicator, much less repair one, but as time passed,
she learned.”
“But I’m not Mom, and this isn’t a private vessel. It’s Starfleet
and I’m not one of them anymore.”
“Cait,” he says, reproving me with a shake of his head. “Since when do
you give up so quickly? You have to give yourself time to adjust. You can’t
just pack your bags and walk away. Tom and I may have our differences, but-
He loves you, Cait. Every time we spoke, I could see it in his eyes–the light
gradually dying, just as it did in me when I lost your mother.”
He pauses and his eyes lose focus; then he clears his throat and they
are back, a bright aqua, almost, but not quite like Tom’s. “This isn’t easy
for me to say, but over this past year, I’ve come to realize that Tom does have
his good qualities, one of them being his deep commitment to you.”
A small chuckle escapes as he shakes his head. “Besides, he is an
improvement on some of those you dated. Like that one…blond fellow, who
looked a little like Tom. Remember? I was at such a loss as to what to do
about him. I could tell it was going to end in heartbreak, but you were
so infatuated with him that you wouldn’t listen, even though I tried to
warn you.”
Angry, defensive tears prick at my eyes; I look down at my hands.
“I know you did, Dad, but Nat did have his good qualities, too.”
“I suppose. He was a good worker, but there was just something…
I wonder whatever happened to him. Probably still roaming from job to job,
I bet.
“Anyway,” he continues, “back to my point. Tom loves you, Caitlin,
as much as a man can love a woman. Don’t be so eager to give that up.
Be patient. Give things time.”
I nod and somehow mumble, “Yes, Dad”. He would be so disappointed
if he knew.
“Good girl! You can do whatever you put your heart and mind to.
I’ve said so before and I meant it. When I held you for the first time,
I could see that you’d be a beautiful person and you are, inside and out.
Time and time again, you’ve made me proud. You’re loyal-”
I clamp my fingers around the edge of the seat cushion, bracing for
a fresh wave of guilt.
“Honest…”
My knuckles blanch.
“Responsible…”
He goes on and on. I want nothing more than to cover my ears and
scream, drowning out his words of praise. Yet, I just sit there and listen,
a coward and a hypocrite.
“…how those idiots on the Council can begin to-”
“Dad, look, I’m sorry, but I think Gene is waking up. I’ve got to go.”
“I understand.” He smiles broadly. “Give my grandson a hug and tell
Tom I said hello. I love you, Cait. Keep in touch. Matthews out.”
The screen goes blank. “Same here,” I say and sit back, glancing at
the crib where Gene still sleeps contentedly. Tom, my father–how many more
will I lie to?
Slowly, I get to my feet and shuffle into the bedroom. In front of
the mirror, I peel off my shirt. Look at yourself, I command silently.
Look what has happened. My hair hangs down loose and stringy because I
have not washed it in two days. My breasts have have lost their fertile size;
yet my belly has grown rounder as if another child grew within it. I turn to
my right and lift my arm, exposing my left side. The blotch of grafted skin
tissue has almost disappeared, blending, becoming one with my skin. Only the
faintest outline of pink remains and that will be gone soon. Like the
settlement, no trace of my wound will remain, and in time, I, like everyone
else, will forget about it. No one will know. No one. I can’t let that
happen. I have to remember.
Then, as my fingers trace the jagged course, the idea comes to me and
suddenly the knife–a gift to Tom from Chakotay–is in my hand. I press the
obsidian blade point hesitantly to my skin, but it slips in easily with far
less pain than I anticipated. A bead of blood appears, then another and
another as I follow the vanishing trail carefully remarking it…
“Cait? Oh gods!” A hand grabs my wrist and spins me around. The
knife falls to the floor with a thud.
“Cait! What the hell are you doing? Answer me!”
I stare up at Tom. He seems so unreal, all fuzzy and out of focus
like someone on the edge of a dream. He brings his right hand up between us,
blood smeared across his fingertips. He stares at it, his eyes growing wide.
“Why?” he asks softly, and then grabs my shoulders with both hands
and shakes me. “Why? Answer me, dammit! Why?”
I can’t answer, and I gaze up at him searching, almost as much as
he, for a rational answer. Ashamed, I finally bow my head. “I don’t know,”
I whisper, and then the tears hit in a rush.
“Oh Cait,” he murmurs, and wraps me in his arms, kissing my hair,
my forehead. “Cait. I’m sorry. I am so sorry.”
I am too weak to do anything other than stand there, accepting his
kindness and soaking his uniform with my tears. Gently, he guides me to the
bed and sets me down.
“Here,” he says, beginning to pull away. “Let me get the medikit
and your shirt.”
I don’t reply or let go of his hand. Instead, my attention is drawn
to a shiny black splotch on his uniform. “I’ve gotten blood on you.”
He glances down quickly. “Don’t worry about that. Just sit here.
I’ll be right back.”
On his way to the bathroom, he picks up the knife. It has left blood
on the carpet. He pauses and looks back at me; then he touches his commbadge.
“Paris to Connors.”
“Connors here.”
“Cliff, could you come to my quarters?”
“I’m in the middle of a session. Is it an emergency?”
Tom looks down at the knife, his thumb carefully passing over the
blade, smearing my blood. “Yes,” he says quietly, a tremor passing through
his voice. “I think it is.”

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

Connors came out of the bedroom as I was feeding Gene. “Anaya has
given her a sedative,” he said, stopping next to my chair. “She’s beginning
to drift off now.”
“Oh, good” was all I could think of to say. I was functioning on auto-
pilot–change Gene, feed him–the numbness of shock slowly giving way to anger.
She promised. She promised she would get help and she didn’t. Had all I said
meant so little to her? Did I-we mean so little? She promised, dammit,
she promised! She lied.
“Gee, you don’t like carrots too much, do you, sport?” Cliff asked,
as Gene first took a spoonful of the orange puree and then pushed it out of his
mouth with his tongue.
I sighed with annoyance and dropped the spoon, grabbing for the now
mottled napkin. “No, he just doesn’t like eating them for me. He never gives
Cait this much trouble.” I roughly wiped the small, stained chin and
then froze, staring down into Gene’s trusting eyes. Almost a bone, a muscle
at a time, the panic seeped into me. Gene. Cait. The ship. All three.
How could I handle this? What was I supposed to do?
As if reading my mind, Cliff squeezed my shoulder. “Don’t worry,”
he said, pulling up a chair. “If necessary, I am prepared to ask the Captain
to give you leave, but I don’t think it will be necessary. Caitlin and I had a
small chat, and I believe the child will be perfectly safe with her. This
wasn’t really a suicide attempt. Instead, from what I can understand, this was
more like an act of sacrifice, a ritual mutilation brought on in large part
by guilt.”
“But why? What has she done to feel so guilty about?” I could guess,
but I couldn’t bring myself to say it anymore. The thought of Lawson and her
had grown inside me since the day she came on board, twisting cruelly,
permeating my every thought, my every breath, my every action. Nothing could
remove it; it was too deeply rooted.
“Surviving mainly,” he replied. “But I don’t believe she is a
suicide risk. She still has far too much strength and pride left in her.”
The bedroom door opened, and Dr. Anaya came out, a distinct divot
between his grey brows. “She’s asleep now. Her side will be sore for the
next few hours and she may wake as a result. I’ve left a hypospray with a
very mild sedative next to the bed in case she does wake and has trouble
getting back to sleep.”
“Thanks.” I swallowed, trying hard not to break down and cry like
Gene. “I appreciate all you’ve done, both of you.”
“Don’t mention it,” Cliff responded, with a pat on my shoulder as
he rose. “Comes with our respective jobs. Oh.” He paused as they moved
toward the door. “I’ll come by before you leave for duty tomorrow and talk
with her again to assess her condition.”
“All right. I’ll see you then.”
Soon after they left, I gave up on feeding Gene. He had taken his
bottle, some applesauce, and a little of the peas, but he continued to refuse
the carrots, often pushing my hand away. “Fine!” I snapped, throwing down the
spoon. “Be that way, but you’d better not be hungry later on.”
He looked up at me, his eyes widening at my cross tone. It was
the first time I had raised my voice to him. It was the first time I had come
close to yelling at my child, and it wasn’t truly his fault. How many times
had I promised myself that I would be a better father to my own children than
mine had been to me? How many times had I promised that I wouldn’t lash out
in anger no matter what the circumstances? My chest quivered and I lifted him
out of his chair and cuddled him close, letting the green and golden and orange
blobs on his bib smear onto my uniform. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, a tear
slipping down my cheek. “Daddy’s sorry. I didn’t mean to yell. You didn’t
do anything.”
I hugged him like that for minutes maybe, speaking softly, telling him
I loved him, before I finally loosened my grip. “Now let’s get you cleaned
up.” I said, sniffing, and wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. “And then
we’ll play a little. How’s that?”
He was getting old enough to stand up with help (an accomplishment
he was extremely proud of); so we did that and a little crawl chasing
before I finally plunked down in a chair with him on my chest for what had
become our “story time”, possibly the best part of my entire day. To my great
relief, however, tonight it took him only half of “Sebastian Bear” to fall
asleep; I wasn’t sure I could have read much more and not fallen asleep myself.
Once he was tucked in, I ordered off the lights and went into the
bedroom. Cait, thankfully, was still in a deep, immobilizing sleep and gave
no indication of stirring, much less waking as I sat down on the bed and pulled
off my boots. Physically, emotionally, I was spent, and for hours, or so it
seemed, I just sat there on the bed, waiting until I had enough strength
to strip, pull on a pair of shorts and crawl beneath the sheets.
I fell asleep almost at once, only to waken a few hours later from a
nightmare, my heart pounding and sweat leaving icy trails down my chest
and back. Cait still lay beside me, asleep, whimpering slightly from a dream
of her own. With a deep breath, I lay back down and mindful of her side,
I moved closer and rested my arm across her belly. To my surprise, the whim-
pering stopped, and she appeared to slip into a deeper, dreamless state.
I placed my head beside hers on the pillow and eventually drifted off
once again.

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

Paris Quarters, USS Mycenae:

I kneel on the floor on a white blanket decorated with pink, yellow,
and blue teddy bears. With my help, Gene stands uncertainly on his tiptoes.
He giggles and screeches with excitement at his triumph, which is short-lived
as his balance falters and his legs give out. I ease him down onto his back.
With his spirits still undampened, he laughs and clumsily claps his hands.
“Good boy!” I tell him and lean over to rub my nose against his.
“Good boy! You’ll be walking in no time. Now let’s try sitting up.” I grasp
his arms. “Ready? Okay, and-a-one. Good boy! And down we go. Mum-mum-mum-
mum-mum.”
He giggles as much from my nuzzling his neck as his own achievement.
“And-a-two. That’s it. And one more. Threeeee! Good boy!” As I lay him
back down his blue t-shirt draws up a little, exposing his tiny, yet somewhat
expansive belly. “Oh-oh. I see someone’s tummy. Who’s tummy do I see?
Is it Mommy’s tummy? No, it’s not Mommy’s tummy. Is it Daddy’s tummy? No,
it’s not Daddy’s tummy. Is it Gene’s tummy?” I tickle the skin with a puff
of breath, evoking a fresh peal of laughter. “Yes, it’s Gene’s tummy! It’s-”
The door chimes unexpectedly and instantly shatters the joy of the
moment, reminding me that more exists in this world than my son, myself,
and the happiness we were sharing. “Come in.”
“Hey there.” Harry enters with a smile. “How’s he doing?”
“Fine. Being a silly goose as always.”
He sits down cross-legged beside me and holds out his hands. “May I?”
“Be my guest,” I say, and pass Gene to him. “My arms are getting
tired.”
He laughs and gently lifts Gene into his lap. “And just how are you?”
he asks my son. “I hear you’re standing already. You want to show me? Whups!
C’mon, try again. There you go! Look at you!”
Gene jabbers excitedly and promptly loses his balance, settling instead
for a supported seat in Harry’s lap.
“I was on my way to the bridge and I thought I’d take a detour to stop
by and say hello.” Harry reaches out and grasps my arm, giving it a brief,
gentle squeeze. “How are you doing?”
“Me?” I repeat, uncomfortable by the sudden shift of attention.
“All right, I guess, all things considered. Did Tom ask you to stop by?”
“Nope. Thought of it on my own. I talked with B’Ela last night and
she said I was to tell you hello. So here I am.”
“More dependable than Neelix’s cooking.”
“Hey!” He grins. “That isn’t that difficult to achieve, you know.”
“I remember.”
He glances back down at Gene, who squirms in his lap. “What? Whatcha
want? This?” He holds up Gene’s empty bottle. “Nah. You don’t want this.
How about…” He looks around and then stretches behind him, snagging a blue
pacifier off the coffee table with his fingertips. “Here, try this. There
you go.” A wistful expression comes to his face as Gene settles back into
the crook of his arm. “Seems like only yesterday K’ey was this little guy’s
age, and now she’s walking and trying her best to talk.”
“But you’ll see her soon.” I remind him, relieved to be changing
the subject. “They’ll both be here in a week or so.”
He lets out a sigh and shakes his head. “No, they won’t. That was
part of the reason B’Ela contacted me last night–to tell me that she and K’ey
won’t be coming out for a while. Evidently, the project she was working on
failed during testing. Now everyone and everything has to go back to the
drawing board. Bottomline is, it’s going to be another six weeks minimum
before she can get away from the Institute.”
His disappointment sinks into me. “I’m sorry, Harry. I wish I could
do something.”
He shrugs. “Well, that’s life for you. At least, my mother and father
are getting to spend more time with K’ey. They won’t have that chance once
she and B’Ela come on board.” He tries to smile. “I’ll bet Tom’s parents and
your dad can’t wait to see Gene.”
“I guess. It isn’t something we’ve discussed. I suppose they’re
holding off, giving time for things to settle down.”
“That’s good of them.” He glances down at Gene for a moment. “You
know, Caitlin–and I’ve told Tom this, too–if there’s anything I can do,
whether it’s a sympathetic ear or babysitting this little guy, please let me
know. You two have been true friends to B’Ela and me. We owe you a great
deal, and if there is any way-”
I shake my head. “Harry, I honestly don’t think there’s much anyone
can do for us.”
“Yeah, Tom said as much, but I wanted to say it to you anyway. I mean,
Tom’s no saint. We’ve all made our mistakes, and sometimes it’s easier to
forgive others than to forgive ourselves. Sometimes talking to someone else
can help.”
The phrase sounds so pointed that I can’t help frowning. “Tom’s been
talking to you, hasn’t he?”
He nods and flashes a tiny grimace. “Just a little here and there,
but nothing too personal. He just needed to get a few things off his chest.
You know how he is.”
“I know, and honestly, Harry, there really is nothing I would like
better than to put all of this behind me and get on with my life.”
“With Tom?”
I hesitate a moment. “It’s strange. For the longest time, I wasn’t
sure. So much had happened. I- We had learned to live without each other.
To try and recapture what we had- I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing
for either of us, but now, now that I’m finally getting my life back in order,
if he’s still willing, yes, I think I do want to try. But sitting here saying
so is much different than telling him. After the other day, it’s even more
difficult to talk to him, as if that were possible. He’s so silent now.
I’ve hurt him, I know, but I am trying to make up for it. I’ve started seeing
the counselor. I’m taking the medicine Connors prescribed, but it doesn’t seem
to matter to Tom anymore. It’s like I’ve already lost him. Sometimes, I just
wonder if I can do anything right,” I add with a dejected shrug.
“Hey, listen to me. You haven’t lost him. Give him a while to come
around. I know he still loves you. He wouldn’t be acting like this if he
didn’t, and as for doing anything right, try being married to a pregnant
Klingon,” he adds with a grin. “Especially when she’s going through the final
stage of the cycle. Any time you open your mouth, you take your life into your
hands. But you can’t give up now. You have too much going for you.” He looks
down at Gene, who gazes happily up at him. “Just ask this little guy.”

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

Exhausted, I leaned against the lift wall and wondered how Cait’s
visit with Connors had gone. Since last week, she had appeared calmer and more
in control, but exactly how much of that was due to the therapy or to the anti-
depressants, I wasn’t sure.
My head tilted back to rest against the wall. My eyes shut auto-
matically. As it always did, Cait’s image–the knife poised for a fresh
incision–appeared unbidden. My fingers curled into fists, a scream lodging
in my throat, and I pressed myself back into the wall in effort to maintain
control. Cliff said I could trust her, but he hadn’t touched her blood;
he hadn’t had it on his hands. How could I believe her, believe in her?
The lift stopped, pulling me back from my thoughts. I took a deep
breath and opened my eyes. Nope, not my requested deck. The doors opened;
Jin stood there, waiting. She started forward, but seeing me, she stopped,
apparently reconsidering; finally, she stepped into the lift.
“Deck eight,” she requested.
I stared straight ahead before gradually allowing my gaze to wander
about the car: up to the ceiling, down to the floor, over the control panel,
anywhere, except to her.
Finally, she cleared her throat. “How is your wife doing, sir?”
“Better.”
“And your son?”
“He’s fine. Thanks for asking.”
“I guess he must still be keeping you up nights.”
“Not so much. He’s getting pretty good.”
“That’s good.”
Silence. I leaned back against the wall. A sudden jolt could send her
back against me, into my arms. “I, um, understand you’re seeing Bruchac in
Engineering.”
“Saw,” she corrected. “He’s a nice guy, and we did go out once,
but we really don’t have that much in common.”
“Oh. That’s too bad. Seemed like a nice guy.” I glanced down at my
boots. The left toe had a small scuff mark. I’d need to take care of that
before duty tomorrow.
“I, uh, heard from Freddie yesterday,” she ventured.
“Really? What did he have to say?”
“Not much. You know, started off by saying how sorry he was that
things ended the way they did, how he misses my friendship and hopes we can be
friends again. Standard BS. I figure he either got dumped or finally feels
guilty.”
“What did you say?”
“I told him to piss off.” She turned her head, flashing me a feisty
grin. “No, not really. Wanted to, but didn’t. I told him I wouldn’t mind
hearing from him, but that it would be quite a while before we could become
true friends again.”
She spun around, tilting her chin up proudly and smiling. A youthful
energy radiated from her entire being, and a smile easily rose on my own face
as I stared into her dark eyes. So close. Had I lifted my hand, I could have
touched her cheek. Then the lift stopped, the doors opened, and she moved
to step out.
In that instant, it all passed before me–what Cait and I had had;
what we had lost; what Jin and I had had–and in that instant, I reached out.
“Jin!”
She turned. “Yessir?”
“I-I’m sorry. I know this must have been rough for you. I never-”
“No.” Her head shook slowly. “You were right. I see that now, and
don’t worry. I won’t make trouble. You’re a good person. You deserve to
be happy.” She smiled sadly. “Still, I can’t help wishing you had found
it with me.”
The deep brown gaze floated up, shyly meeting mine, inviting me into
its depths. My hand reached out and touched her cheek, and she leaned her
head into it, ever so slightly parting her lips. “My time with you was won-
derful, an oasis,” I whispered, leaning closer until our lips almost met.
Suddenly voices came from the corridor running perpendicular to ours,
and we both drew back. Two crewmen passed deep in conversation, and I looked
down at the floor, deeply ashamed. What had I almost done?
“I-I’m sorry,” I mumbled, and then I added. “You’re a very special
person, Jin. You deserve someone equally special.”
She gave a laugh, too high-pitched and forced to convey anything other
than unease. “Know anyone?”
I managed a small grin. “Not off the top of my head, but if I meet
him, I’ll send him your way.”
Amazingly, her smile broadened and she laughed again as she held out
her hand. “Thank you, sir. I won’t forget you.”
I took her hand in mine–it was smooth as cream–and I shook it firmly.
“Nor I, you.”
With a nod, she turned and headed down the corridor. I watched after
her until the lift doors obscured my view. Cohen had no idea what he had
lost, but I thought I did.

Paris Quarters, USS Mycenae:

I come out of the bedroom, stopping at the mirror by the door to adjust
the comb in my hair. “Well, how do I look?” I ask my son, twirling around in
my newly replicated dress, a deep rust-colored jersey which almost matches my
hair. It hangs loosely down to my ankles, hiding my softened shape. “Do you
think Daddy will like it?”
“Gah!” he shrieks, holding up his hands. “Da-gah!”
“Yes, yes. I know. It’s almost time for Daddy to come home, isn’t
it?” I bend down and pull up his t-shirt to tickle his tummy. “This dress is
part of Mommy’s surprise for him, remember?”
The door to the corridor slides open, and I straighten up, smiling,
as Tom comes in. Without a word or glance in our direction, he walks quickly
toward the bedroom.
“Hi,” I say.
“Hi,” he mutters, without stopping.
“Bad day?”
He halts briefly but doesn’t turn around, letting his shoulders rise,
then fall. “Not really,” he says, and then continues into the bedroom.
I stand there, silent, as he disappears, the smile frozen on my lips.
For two days, I had planned what I would say, what I would wear; had prepared
myself for his response–a smile perhaps, a hug I would not shrink from,
even tears. Now I can’t think of one word to say.
The bedroom, too, is quiet. I hear none of the familiar sounds:
the thumps of his boots hitting the floor; the hiss of a drawer opening;
or even the rustle and grunts of him removing his uniform. “Tom?” I call,
but receive no answer.
He sits on the end of the bed, his head buried in his hands. I can’t
tell if he’s crying or not; so I approach and sit down beside him. “Tom?”
My hand touches his shoulder, and it twitches, jerking from beneath my fingers.
“Cait,” His muffled words barely reach my ears. “I’d like to be alone
right now, if you don’t mind.”
Inside, my earlier excitement crumples. “All right. Are you going
to want dinner?”
“No.”
“Oh. Well, I’ll feed Gene then, or do you-”
“No. You go ahead.”
I get to my feet and walk slowly toward the bedroom door, hoping that
he’ll raise his head and call me back. He doesn’t, and I close the door
behind me. My surprise will have to wait.

Hours later, when Gene is finally asleep, I walk over and knock softly,
but there’s no answer. Quietly, I go in. He lies on the bed, his arm across
his eyes, shielding them from the light. I tiptoe over to my side of the bed.
“You don’t have to tiptoe,” he mumbles. “I’m not asleep.”
“All right. I wasn’t sure.”
As I sit down on the bed, he sits up, swinging his legs over the side.
“I’m going for a walk. Don’t wait up.”
“Tom, wait. I-” My courage falters as he stops but doesn’t turn
around. “I-I’ve been thinking it over, and I don’t want to leave. I want
to stay here with you. I-I want us to be a family.”
He stiffens, drawing in a sharp breath, but says nothing.
“Tom? Is that all right? I thought that was what you wanted.”
He sighs heavily, his head bowing. “If you’re doing it just for me,
don’t.”
“It’s what I want, too. I know that now.”
“Then, I hope you don’t regret it,” he says, and continues on his way.
The outer door opens and closes, and I look down at my new dress.
Tears bubble to the surface. He hadn’t even noticed it.

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

“Mr. Kim, Mr. Paris,” Janeway called to us from the door of her ready
room. “May I see you both a minute?”
I shot a glance at Harry as I rose to my feet, and he shrugged. “Yes,
Captain,” he replied for both of us.
Sweeping her arm toward the two chairs in front of her desk, she waited
for the doors to shut behind us before taking her own seat. “I have learned
from Mr. Tuvok that a crewman–one of your crewmen, Mr. Kim–has applied for
an immediate transfer–an Ensign Jinara Latel. She cited personal problems as
a reason, and I was hoping you could shed some light on this.”
My mouth dropped open, but only a little, and I closed it quickly.
A fast-moving flush overtook me, leaving my palms damp. Did they suspect?
Had she and Tuvok heard the rumors? Was that why I was here? To confront me?
Harry looked down at the floor. “Captain, I wish I could help you,
but I don’t know all the details either. I do know that privately she has had
a rough year, starting when her boyfriend dumped her, but anything else
is pure rumor and speculation, which, without confirmation, I hesitate
to repeat.”
Janeway picked up the PADD that had been lying on her desk. “Your most
recent evaluation doesn’t indicate any problems. In fact, this report could
hardly be more favorable.”
“I’ve never had a quarrel with her work, Captain.”
“Then, I would certainly hate to lose her to another ship. Perhaps
changing her shift and having her meet with Counselor Connors would rectify
the problem.”
“I don’t think it would, Captain, and her shift has already been
changed once.”
“Um, Captain,” I spoke up. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to know
one way or the other. “What exactly am I doing here?”
“It was my understanding that you knew Ms. Latel on a personal level.
I hoped that she might have told you something.”
The word ‘personal’ rang oddly in my ears. Did she know? She must!
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. “Um, no, she hasn’t, Captain. Truth be
known, I -uh haven’t spoken with her too often lately.”
“I see.” Janeway’s eyes moved slowly from me, traveling back to
Harry. “So, is it correct for me to assume that without knowing the precise
circumstances, you still support this transfer request, Mr. Kim?”
“Yes, Captain. I think she’ll be much happier on another ship.”
He stole a quick, almost angry glance at me. “At least, that is my under-
standing.”
“Running away from a problem never solved it,” she countered.
“I know that, Captain, and I believe she does, as well,” he replied.
“She has never struck me as someone who makes rash decisions. I feel confident
that she has thought this through thoroughly.”
Janeway sat back, tossing the PADD onto her desk. “Very well. Thank
you for your input, limited though it is. Perhaps I will speak with her
myself before rendering my decision. Dismissed.”
My knees nearly buckled beneath me as I stood up. Was it all going
to come out? Would Jin tell her? I staggered out onto the bridge, nearly
collapsing into my seat at the helm. Harry hadn’t said one word. I could
lose it all, and he hadn’t said one–Not one!–damned word to me. And now
Janeway was going to talk to Jin personally. Gods! I could lose it all.
Everything. All of it. I could lose it all: my job, my-
“Mr. Paris!” The Captain’s voice sliced through my thoughts like a
phaser on max.
I swung around. All eyes were fixed on me. “Yes, Captain?”
“I gave you a heading, Mr. Paris.” A deep frown puckered her brow.
“Would you be so kind as to carry out my order?”
“Yes, Captain. I’m sorry.” I turned back and hastily programmed
the helm. “Course and speed set.”
“Very well. Engage.”

As soon as my shift ended, I leapt for the nearest turbolift. Harry
started to follow, but I scowled and held up a warning finger, and he stopped,
allowing the doors to close between us. Damn sonuvabitch hadn’t even told me.
No, I had to hear it from the Captain.
I paced the confines of the car, trying to set my thoughts straight,
but they kept slipping through my grasp. The only one I could hold onto was
that I cared about Jin, and I had hurt her so badly that she wanted to leave.
I couldn’t lose her, not now. As crazy as it sounded, she was the only part
of my life that made sense; I wanted her, and I thought, judging by the other
day, she still wanted me. Simple. Unbelievable. But somehow straightforward.
I couldn’t have her, not yet, but soon enough, maybe. Cait had said she
wanted to stay, but she didn’t really. It was only a matter of- The doors
opened and I charged out of the lift and plowed right into Captain Janeway.
“I’m sorry, Captain,” I said breathlessly.
“Lieutenant.” She looked me up and down. “Is there a fire somewhere
I should know about?”
“Um, no, ma’am.” I shot a nervous glance down the empty corridor.
“I-I was just going to see Ensign Latel. I hadn’t heard she was leaving until
today, and I thought maybe I could talk to her or something.”
“Oh. I see. Well, I’ve just come from her quarters. She refused
to discuss her reasons for leaving with me. I doubt you’ll meet with any more
success.” Again the blue-grey eyes swept over me. “But I might be wrong.”
I swallowed hard. “Um, you’re probably right, Captain. About not
talking, I mean, but I felt I owed it to her as a friend and crewmate to try.”
Her gaze bore into me. I could only thank the gods that she was not
a telepath. “If you feel you must.” She stepped into the lift. “Deck three.”
After the doors closed, I continued onto Jin’s quarters, but at a
much slower pace. The Captain had seen her already; there was no longer any
need to warn Jin. I walked along, ignoring the stares of the other junior
crewmen as best I could. Yes, they had all heard the stories, hadn’t they?
Which image did they believe? Me, the officer who used his rank to get what
he wanted? Me, the evil seducer? Or me, some kind of tragic hero, caught
between love and duty? Yeah, right. How about me, the lonely man she
made the mistake of loving? I stopped. Yes, this was her door.
“Come in.” There was no mistaking the honeyed voice.
As I walked in, Jin looked up from her seat on the bed and with a sigh
tossed aside the PADD she was reading. “I thought you would be looking
for me.”
“Can you blame me? I just heard this morning your were leaving,
from the Captain no less. Harry didn’t even tell me.”
“I asked him not to. I didn’t want you coming down here and asking
me to stay. That is what you’re going to do, isn’t it?”
Humiliated, I looked down at the floor. “Yes, but I guess it won’t
do much good, will it?” I looked back up and she shook her head. “All right,
then why don’t I apologize for making you so miserable you feel you have
to leave. I didn’t intend for what happened the other day to happen. I swear
I didn’t, and I’m sorry that I’ve forced you to make this choice. Except for
me, I know you like it here, and I wish to gods that I wasn’t the reason you
are leaving, but I know I am. I don’t know what else I can say except that
I’m sorry. I am really, truly sorry.” I paused to catch my breath, and she
drew her feet up and patted the end of her bed.
“Have a seat, sir. Please,” she added, when I hesitated. “To be
completely honest, I’ve been thinking about this transfer off and on for weeks
now, ever since I saw your wife and son in the corridor. I saw the pain in
her face. I saw how much she needed you, much more than I did, and it hurt.
I knew then I didn’t stand a chance with you, even if I got a promotion.
What happened between us the other day only served to make up my mind. I don’t
want to be the reason your marriage fails. If I was, I think I would still
leave. I don’t know if I could wake up next to you with that knowledge.”
She paused briefly and looked down at her hands–beautiful hands, slim
and smooth. “Besides, wouldn’t I be the all-time hypocrite to stay mad at
Freddie for cheating on me, while at the same time I am ‘the other woman’?”
She glanced up, a tiny smirk pulling her mouth to one side.
“I would never use the word hypocrite to describe you,” I replied
huskily. “You’re what my old man would call the backbone of the Fleet.
Loyal, principled, a true friend. You’ve endured a lot for me: the Captain,
Tuvok, Harry, the rumors. Through it all, you’ve kept silent. I don’t know
how to thank you for that.” I stopped and sighed. “Gods, that sounded crass,
didn’t it? Like I was more concerned with keeping my life intact than I am
in not ruining yours, and I don’t mean-”
“You’re not ruining my life,” she interrupted. “Sure, I’ve been- am
hurt, but you aren’t ruining my life. I went into this just as freely as you
did, and I’m leaving just as freely, too. And if anything, by transferring,
I’m starting a whole new life with fresh faces and fresh challenges. I have
that option. You don’t. You’ve got responsibilities I don’t have. My leaving
is the logical choice for both of us.”
“Maybe so, but I can still feel guilty, can’t I?”
A small grin curled the full lips. “Of course, I won’t stop you.”
I gave a small laugh. “Thanks. Thanks a lot.”
“Then,” She scooted closer, the smile vanishing. “Kiss me. One last
time. Please.”
I brought my hand to her cheek. It was warm and soft to the touch,
just like a few days ago. Her lips parted and I leaned in, bringing my mouth
to hers. Then, the gentleness of the moment exploded and one kiss led to
another and another, our tongues eagerly seeking, probing. She moved,
still kissing me, and straddled my lap, grinding herself against me. My
response was immediate and undeniable.
“I want you,” she whispered, her breath damp on my skin. “I’ve been
wanting you. It’s wrong, but I do. Just once more.”
My hand was already fumbling with the fasteners of her uniform.
She was so beautiful. To possess this body again… “Just once,” I mumbled.
“Just this once.” I slid my hand inside and tugged her shirt up. “Just this
once,” I repeated, as my hand closed over her breast.
“Kim to Latel,” chattered her commbadge.
We froze, staring guiltily into one another’s eyes. The moment,
the frenzy, had been shattered. Wistfully, she brought her fingers to my lips,
gently tracing them. “Latel here.” Tears appeared in her brown eyes.
“Please come to my quarters.”
“Now?” The word was almost a whisper.
“Yes, as soon as possible.”
“Yessir.”
She pulled away, dismounting my lap. I sat still as she re-fastened
her uniform; I had no words to sum up what I was feeling. What we had almost
done, what *I* had almost done, what I would still do if given the chance…
Her hand touched my shoulder, searing my flesh through the fabric.
“Are you all right?”
I shook my head slowly. “No.”
“I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I thought, or rather I didn’t think that
one little kiss goodbye would-” She broke off, biting her lip. A tear rolled
down her cheek. “I wish I could take it all back, rather than leave you
like this.”
“That’s my line.”
“Is it?”
“Yes, but I don’t mean it. I don’t regret what we did together, any
of it, even this. I just regret the circumstances that surround us.” I took
her hand from my shoulder and brought it to my lips for a kiss. “I keep
wondering, what if-”
“No, please,” she pleaded, jerking her hand free from my grasp.
“Hearing it will be worse.” She wiped her eyes. “I suppose I should go see
what the Lieutenant wants.”
“Yes.” I stood up, feeling the heat, the nearness of her. Centimeters
separated us in the cramped lower deck quarters, but the moment had passed.
I couldn’t recapture it; I shouldn’t even try; and if she stayed on board,
I knew I would. My flesh was so weak that I knew I would try.
“Good-bye, Jin,” I said, and fled out the door.

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

Paris Quarters, USS Mycenae:

For two and a half weeks I have been under Connors’ care. Am I
better for it? Pride won’t let me answer that question. I stopped taking the
anti-depressant three days ago without permission, but I don’t think either he
or Tom have noticed. I have, but I keep going. Tears have simply become part
of my daily routine, like changing or feeding Gene. A memory comes, and they
appear, and then as long as I keep busy, they pass.
Two containers from Tom’s parents arrive at 1600 hours on a supply
shuttle. I open the smaller of the two, first, and find on top the gold silk
pajamas Tom gave me years ago, before we were married. As I hold up the top,
Gene coos. “This is older than you,” I say, turning toward him. “Much older.
What do you think? Does it look good on Mommy?”
He stares at me in his quiet, curious way over the side of his pen.
Tom is right. He probably will end up either in Starfleet or at some
scientific institute. Everything intrigues him: people, objects, it doesn’t
matter.
I toss the shirt aside and open the larger container. On top is a
plush golden bear almost as large as Gene with tawny eyes and a tan muzzle.
“Look at this! Look what your grandparents sent you! Would you like him in
there with you? I’ll be you would.”
I unwrap the toy from its protective covering and bring it over,
setting it down beside Gene. He stares at it a moment, his blue eyes glowing
with curiosity, before he finally reaches out and grasps a soft, squishable
paw.
“Mm-hm. Nice, isn’t he? I’ll bet the two of you will be best friends
just like-” I stop remembering the toys that Nat had bought for him. I wish
I had them to give to Gene. Tom would not approve, but I would like Gene
to have something to remember Nat by. He won’t remember the midnight
feedings, or the diaper changes, or the songs with which he sung him to sleep.
“Just like me and Sebastian,” I continue, fighting to control the
quake in my voice. “Sebastian was my bear. I named him after the bear in the
story my mother used to read to me, the one Daddy reads to you now. When I was
a little girl, he was my best friend. I read him stories and told him secrets
I didn’t want anyone else to know, and in return, he frightened away monsters
when I was asleep because that’s the oath all teddy bears take–to protect the
one who names them. What do you think you’ll name your bear?”
Of course, I receive no reply. To be honest, I hardly receive a
glance. Gene is too fascinated by his new companion. “Well, while the two
of you get acquainted, I’m going to put the rest of these things away. If I
can find room, that is.”
In the bedroom, I begin shifting Tom’s clothes to free up another
drawer. Beneath a few of his shirts, I find our wedding picture. I’m not
surprised to find it hidden; I’m just ashamed I hadn’t noticed its absence
before now. It used to sit on our coffee table, both on Saturn and Voyager,
I suppose because we were proud of it, of our marriage. We look completely
in love with each other–our eyes gleaming with excitement. Tom’s eyes don’t
shine like that now, and deep trenches of worry have been dug into his brow.
Tears rise to the surface as I touch his smooth image with my fingertips.
“I’m sorry,” I say softly.
“Sorry for what?”
I spin around, the picture falling from my hands. Tom stands in the
doorway, frowning, his arms folded across his chest. With three steps, he is
beside me, bending to pick up the picture. “On second thought,” he says with
a sigh, “I don’t think I want to know.”
He tosses the picture onto the bed and then jerks his thumb over his
shoulder. “That stuff from my parents?”
I sniff and wipe my eyes. “Yes. It arrived on the shuttle.
The smaller one has my old clothes, the larger has toys for Gene.”
“Hmph. Spoiling him already, huh?”
“It would seem so. I thought we’d give him only one or two toys at
a time, that way he won’t get bored too quickly.”
“Yeah, whatever, sounds good. How’d your meeting with Cliff go?”
“Haven’t had it yet. He had some personal transmission due in–from
his mother, I think–so we rescheduled.” I glance at the chronometer–1705.
“And I’m going to miss it if I don’t get moving. Could you change Gene and get
him ready for me? I’ll be out in a minute.” I dash for the bathroom.
“Yeah, sure,” he replies dully. “Anything to help.”

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

Once Cait and Gene were out the door, I wandered back into the bedroom
and plopped wearily down on the bed. After a minute or so, I plucked up
the courage to stretch over and pick up our wedding picture. “I’m sorry”,
she had said. Sorry for what exactly? I stared down at our images. Happy.
In love. A different ship, a different quadrant, a lifetime ago, or so
it felt.
Back then, we were truly in love. No lies. No secrets. Completely,
totally in love. All you had to do was look at us. Us. Her and me.
Her and *me*.
“Gods! You are such a hypocrite, Paris!”
I tossed the picture aside and fell back on the bed. They were both
wonderful women–intelligent, warm, each so beautiful in their own way.
Yet, the way Cait and I talked, or rather didn’t talk to each other…
She wanted to now, I could tell, but I didn’t, and she didn’t seem sure of how
to begin. So instead, every evening, the silence rose between us; speaking of
a marriage in name only, of two strangers sharing a room, circling one
another, wary.
Maybe she had been right after all. Maybe things would be better if
we went our separate ways: Cait with her memories and me- Me with Jin. Yeah.
Right. Sure. In three days Jin would be stepping onto the newly-commisioned
USS Martok; in three weeks, she would find someone new and I would become
only a distant memory of a youthful mistake.
With a sigh, I got to my feet and stumbled across the living area
to the replicator. “Scot- No. Coffee, black.” I carried the steaming mug
over to the desk and activated the terminal. I wasn’t sure what made me think
of him, but I was in luck. He was home. “Hi, Dad.”
“Thomas!” My father’s face broke into a huge smile. “This is a
surprise! Your mother and I were just looking at the latest pictures. He’s
such a beautiful child. We can’t wait to see him. Did you receive the two
containers?”
“Yes, today. Thanks. Gene seems to have really taken to the bear.”
“Good. Good. Your mother thought he would. How are things going
between you and Caitlin?”
“They’re going, I suppose. She’s at one of her sessions now.”
“How is she?”
I lifted my shoulders and sighed. “I don’t know, but she hasn’t hurt
herself anymore, so I guess it’s not completely hopeless.”
“Few things are. How are you doing?”
“Me? I’m okay, I guess.” I started to continue, but hesitated,
letting my gaze fall to the desk. Nearly thirty years of mutually enforced
distance couldn’t be made up in two. Did I really want to risk losing all the
respect I had managed to gain?
“Is something on your mind, Thomas?”
“Well, um, yeah. You could say that. I’m just not sure…”
“Thomas,” He smiled gently. “I know that after all, well, all our
past difficulties, it must be hard for you to think of me as someone you can
turn to, but I want you to know you can. After all,” he added with a chuckle,
“I think there is very little you can say that I haven’t heard already in some
form or another.”
I smirked and then took a deep breath. “Okay. Well, here goes.
You know all those times when you were away on missions?”
“Yes,” he answered slowly. “What about them?”
“Well, did you ever- That is, I mean, were you ever, um, tempted?”
“Tempted?” The white brows drew together. “Why do you want to know?”
“It’s a long story, Dad.”
“They always are.”
I closed my eyes. Why had I thought he would understand? “Never mind.
Just-just forget it. I’m sorry to have bothered you. I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Wait, Tom.” My finger hovered above the disconnect key as he took a
deep breath. “Thomas, I don’t think there’s a man or woman alive who hasn’t
been tempted either by thought or deed at some point in their marriage.
To answer your question, yes, I’ve been tempted, several times as a matter
of fact. Yet, I never acted upon those urges.”
I glanced down at my coffee. Of course he wouldn’t have. What the
hell did I expect? The man spent his whole life establishing himself as a
paragon of virtue to all around him, completely and utterly beyond reprove.
“Thomas…”
At his gentle tone, I lifted my gaze back to his, but I couldn’t hold
it there. I was too ashamed.
“Thomas, when we serve out there, death lurks at every turn. It is a
pressure we accept as part of our duty. It is a pressure we learn to live
with, but it is always with us, constantly simmering beneath every other
problem we may encounter. It can get rough out there. Yet knowing that
we have the support of our loved ones gives us the strength to make it
through the day, but there are times, when we find ourselves lonely and alone,
that even that isn’t enough. On those occasions, it seems as if only the
warmth of another will satisfy our needs, and yes, there were times,
particularly after a mission resulted in injury or death, when I would’ve
gladly severed my right arm to have your mother beside me. Sometimes, it
seemed all too easy to turn to another for comfort. Your mother was back on
Earth with you and your sister. She would never have known, but for whatever
reason, I couldn’t do it.
“Instead, I would contact her, regardless of the hour, and tell her
I loved her. I’d pour out my heart, as they used to say, and she would sit
there, even at 0200 in the morning, and patiently listen. It wasn’t the same
as being with her, but it reminded me of just how much I did love her and
it strengthened my resolve to never, ever betray her faith in me. Without her
sympathy and understanding, I don’t know what I would have done. Perhaps
embarked on numerous affairs. More than likely, we would have divorced.
Does that answer your question?”
I looked up at him expecting to find the familiar frown from my
childhood, but there was none, only an expression of true concern. He was no
longer judging me, a fact that, more often than not, left me speechless.
I nodded and he went on.
“The temptation is always there, Thomas, even when you see each other
every day. Factor in distance, time spent apart, and the disagreements that
normally arise between two people, and it can seem overwhelming, but you have
to fight it. Sometimes you have to sit down and literally remind yourself of
every single thing you have to lose–is it more than you have to gain? In most
marriages, I would venture to say that it is.”
A sympathetic smile warmed his eyes. “Thomas, your mother and I can
only imagine what the two of you are going through: the doubts, the frus-
tration, the anger, but you can’t quit. Caitlin is finally getting the help
she needs. To walk out on her now would deal a severe blow to all the progress
she has made. She needs stability, Thomas, and it’s up to you to provide it.
It won’t be easy, and you have to do it without a thought to thanks or your
own needs, but she’s depending on you. You can’t let her down.”
“Dad, don’t you think I’ve told myself that? Gods! Every night I tell
myself that. Every morning. Every damn time I lay eyes on her. But it’s been
weeks and weeks. I know she’s finally making progress. I see it, and I’m
relieved, but–Gods, this sounds so selfish!–I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired
of worrying. I’m tired of closing my eyes and seeing her in another man’s
arms. I just want my wife back. I want things to be the way they were. I-”
“That isn’t possible, Thomas. Things will never be the same between
the two of you.”
“I know that!” I snarled, and his eyes opened wide. I took a deep
breath. Knots the size of boulders had amassed along my neck and shoulders,
each twisting seemingly to its own rhythm. “I’m sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean
to- It’s just that I feel so, like you said, frustrated, you know? And not
only because I want to, you know, make love to her. Although,” I half-grinned
with embarrassment. “I’d be lying if I said-”
“Of course, of course. Absolutely. That certainly plays a part.”
He paused, a slight flush rising briefly in his cheeks. “You mean to tell me
you two- Of course, it’s none of my business, but the two of you haven’t…”
I shook my head. “No. How could I? Since that first night when
she spoke his name in her sleep… Every time I look at her, it’s as if this
ghost is standing beside us, watching me. My own wife and I feel like the
seducer. What am I supposed to do?”
“Oh.” He sank back in his chair, his mouth slightly agape. “I had
no idea-”
“Yeah, well, it’s not something you go about saying, is it?”
I muttered. “That your wife is in love with a dead man?”
A minute passed as compassion flooded his features. “Thomas, I am
sorry. I knew from what you had told us that things were rough, but it never
occurred to me that- that they were as bad as this. But she has decided
to stay, surely that is some comfort.”
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” I replied. “And maybe three or four
weeks ago, it would have been, but it isn’t now. She lied to me about getting
help, Dad. She didn’t get it. She didn’t want to save our marriage. She was
happier, relatively speaking, with his memory than she was with me. Gene and
I came in second. Do you have any idea how that feels?”
“Tom, I’m sure she didn’t mean-”
“Like hell! She knew. She promised to get help and she broke her
word. She knew how important it was. And when I think that just a few decks
away there’s a beautiful girl, who, by her own admission, is in love with me-
Hell, Dad, I’ve got to ask myself: why shouldn’t I? I could be missing a
chance at something wonderful and all for a lost cause. Why shouldn’t I have
a little happiness? After all that’s happened over this past year, don’t I
deserve some?”
“Everyone deserves happiness, Thomas. Whether we receive it or not
is another matter entirely.”
“Hmph. Don’t I know it.”
He sighed heavily and got to his feet, turned, and paced back and
forth behind his chair. “Thomas,” he said finally, retaking his seat. “I wish
I could tell you what to do. I wish that I could peer through time and say
‘yes, you should stay with Caitlin’ or ‘no, a better life awaits you else-
where’, but I can’t. I can only tell you that were the decision mine to make,
I would stay with Caitlin. Maybe I’m looking at this through an old man’s
eyes, maybe I’m just an old-fashioned romantic who believes in the sanctity
of marriage, but whatever the reason, that is what *I* would do, and that is
what I think you should do. But the decision is yours. Tell me, when you look
at Caitlin, what do you see?”
“I-I’m not sure what you mean.”
“All right. Then let me put it another way. For myself, even before
we were married, I couldn’t imagine growing old with anyone besides your
mother.” He grinned. “She knew me too well–all my quirks, all my foibles–
and she accepted them when few people could. When you look at this other
woman, can you see yourself growing old with her? Can you see her as the
mother of your children?”
I shut my eyes. What I saw was a sexy young woman who squirmed on
my lap and banished any worries, any thoughts of responsibility; a young woman
who made me feel young and free; but marriage? kids? I hadn’t thought that
far ahead. Sure, I could picture Jin with kids, but whether or not those kids
were mine… I opened my eyes. “I don’t know. I-I can’t-”
“Think about it, Thomas. Don’t rush to any decisions, and if you need
to talk some more, I’m here. The last thing your mother and I want is for you
to be unhappy. I think there’s been more than enough of that, agreed?”
I smirked wearily. “More than enough. Thanks, Dad.”
He beamed. “Glad I could be of help. Good luck, Thomas. Paris out.”
I sat back. Was it so simple? Did it really boil down to who I saw
with my children? Hardly. Besides Cait already had the advantage there,
didn’t she? Not to mention, with ships the way they were, it was only a matter
of time before she heard the rumors about Jin and me, and what would happen
then? Would she understand? Would she forgive me? Even if I stayed with her
now, there was no guarantee she’d stay with me once she found out, and then
where would I be? Where would Gene be?
I’d have to say goodbye to him. I’d have to accept the fact that I’d
no longer be a part of his life; that he’d take his first step; say his first
word; hell, go out on his first date without me being present or perhaps even
knowing about it. Seeing your kids when you were married and serving could be
hard enough; to see them when you’re divorced and serving, even with visitation
rights, was damn near impossible. (Carey’s wife had remarried before Voyager
came home, and he hardly ever saw his kids now. Didn’t want to disturb the
family, or so he said, but the brutal fact was that he wasn’t necessary.
His sons had a father, and it wasn’t him.)
Given his age, Gene would forget about me. He’d never know, unless
Cait told him, that I was his father. Unnecessary. Her dad would most likely
fill my shoes, or maybe even someone else, a new lover? a new husband? Someone
else would teach him how to catch, how to hit a baseball. I would just be
some stranger, at best a friend, who sent birthday gifts and every now and then
talked to him over the commlink. I’d be less of a father to him than Dad had
been to me, something I swore years ago I’d never be to my children.
I took a deep breath. Okay, so I stayed. Then what? Did I tell her
about Jin? Did I keep Jin a secret? I wasn’t sure I could do that. We
didn’t- well, we didn’t use to have secrets from one another. Sure, there were
things in her past I didn’t know about, and there were things in my past she
didn’t know about, but not because I didn’t want her to know about them,
but because they simply never came up. Yet to keep this from her. To live
with it locked away inside. To make love to her in the same bed, knowing her
ignorance, knowing my deception… Could I do that? Or by telling her, would I
simply be trading my guilt for her misery?
Perhaps in time, I could tell her. Perhaps in time, I could make a
full confession of exactly what happened before we found her; and perhaps in
time, she would forgive me and understand why I kept it from her; but I would
never tell her what had happened between Jin and myself recently. That shame
I would keep to myself. That pain she would never know.
“Computer, time.”
It is now 1752 hours.”
I got to my feet. Cait would be getting out soon.

Counselor’s Office, USS Mycenae:

I frown. “You make it sound like I don’t believe Tom loves me.”
“Do you?”
“Yes, I do. But he’s been so distant lately, ever since… I don’t
know how to talk to him–about it or us. At times, it’s easier to talk
to you,” I add with a small smirk, which Connors returns. We both understand
just what that means, how much trust has grown between us. His smile broadens.
I think he is truly complemented.
“I’m glad to hear that. Not about the difficulty between Tom and
yourself, but that you’re finding it more comfortable to speak with me.”
“Yeah, well, you aren’t as bad as some I’ve dealt with in the past.
The first one I went to was right after my mom died. My grandmother took me
to a friend of a friend, even though Dad didn’t like the idea too much. Did I
ever tell you about her?”
“No.”
I sit back, cradling Gene a little closer. “She just gave me the
creeps for some reason. I don’t know why, but I remember- For whatever
reason, I remember that she had the worst smell about her. It wasn’t bad,
I mean, just strange and unpleasant. I think it was the hand lotion she used,
but whatever it was, it put my hair on end. It’s funny. I can’t describe it
to you and I don’t think I’ve smelled it since, but I remember not liking it
at all.” I chuckle with embarrassment. “Weird what we remember, huh?”
“Mmm-hmm. For good reason too. Smell is one of our most powerful
senses psychologically. The memories and emotional responses it can trigger
are nothing short of phenomenal. What do you think caused this strong
reaction?”
“I don’t know. Honestly,” I reply with a shrug.
“How long did you see this therapist?”
“Not very long. We-uh didn’t get along too well.” A blush rises in
my cheeks. “I kicked her once, or so my grandmother told me. On the next
trip I refused to go into her office, and when she tried to take my hand
and pull me in, I hit her. She finally told my grandmother that I needed
hospitalization because I was so completely out of control, but Dad put a stop
to that.”
“How?”
“We talked one night and he said if I didn’t like her I didn’t have
to see her, and that was that. I got the impression that he didn’t care much
for her either, but since my grandmother knew her, he felt it only polite
to give her a try.”
Connors’ brow furrows. “She didn’t do anything to you, did she?”
“No. Not that I recall. I just remember not liking her.”
“How old were you at the time?”
“About five or so. I had-have quite a temper, but it’s more under
control now.”
“I’m relieved to hear that. I’d hate to think I might be in for
the same.” He grins.
“Only if you start using weird-smelling hand lotion.”
“I won’t,” he retorts solemnly, but the dark eyes twinkle. “I won’t
even change my aftershave. Perhaps this is something we should discuss more
in future sessions, but getting back to the present… You know, as frus-
trating as this may sound, there may be nothing you can do to alter Tom’s
current attitude, except to give him time. From what I observed, it was quite
a blow to him to discover you hadn’t followed through on your promise to get
help.”
“I know it was, but I am now. You’d think that meant something, but
when I told him I had decided to stay, he hardly batted an eye. Weeks ago
that was all that seemed to matter to him.”
“All right, why don’t we go back to then? What were you feeling
at the time? Weren’t you being distant with him?”
Ashamed, I look down. In my lap, Gene stretches and yawns,
the pacifier slipping once again out of his mouth. I catch it before it
tumbles to the floor. “Yes. I was.”
“Mm-hm, and he tried to give you time and distance, didn’t he?”
“Yes. Do you think that’s what he needs from me?”
“Possibly. Perhaps it’s your turn to be there for him. As strange as
it may sound, he may need time to accept having his wife back.” He sets the
PADD and lightpen aside, balancing them on the arm of his chair. For a moment,
he stares up at the ceiling, the long fingers of his right hand tapping on the
chair’s arm. Then without warning, he energetically thrusts himself forward
in his chair, nearly knocking the PADD and lightpen from their precarious
perch. “Caitlin, you’ve opened up to me. It’s taken courage on your part,
and now I’ll do the same.”
He reaches out and plucks the picture off the side table to his left
and holds it out challengingly. “Why haven’t you asked me about this picture?
I’ve seen you look at it–everyone does. Why haven’t you asked about it?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. I suppose I just took it for granted that
it was you and your mother.”
“And you’d be correct. That’s the two of us at my Academy graduation.
I suppose you also assumed my father took the picture.” Before I can reply,
he shakes his head. “My father wasn’t there, although I wished- still do wish
he could’ve been there, but he wasn’t. Probably didn’t even know about it.”
A small sigh escapes as he gazes at the picture before replacing it
on the table. “You see, my parents divorced when I was very little. I never
knew my father. I suppose you could say that was one of the reasons I went
into counseling–a little therapy within therapy, if you will–to prevent
what I went through from happening to others. Don’t misunderstand me.
Like your father, my mother was a good parent, but it isn’t the same, is it?
Growing up without both?”
“No, but there are plenty of children with both that didn’t have it
as good as I did, or you did.”
“Equally correct,” he acknowledges. “And trust me, if I thought
divorce was the answer to a situation I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as
an option, but in your case, I think it is much too premature. So let’s set
that solution aside for the moment. Now, without talking to Tom, I imagine
that he is feeling confused, probably frustrated, and even angry that things
have not gone as he wished. Most of this he, rightfully or wrongfully, may
be directing at you through his silence, but don’t give up on him. Don’t
mistake the signs of slow adjustment for a loss of affection. In fact,
if you feel comfortable with the idea, why not ask him to join us during
our next session, or if you prefer, we can schedule an entirely separate
session for both of you together, but we need to get the two of you talking
before we draw any firm conclusions on a course of action.”

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

I leaned against the corridor wall, waiting. Two ensigns from
Environmental Systems came down the hallway. “Sir,” they said, giving me
a curious look. “Ensigns.” I straightened my slouch slightly, issuing
them my customary nod. They passed by and I settled back, crossing my arms
impatiently over my chest. More minutes crept by. Finally, the doors slid
apart and Cait came out of Connors’ office, carrying Gene.
“How did it go?”
She started. “Wha-? What are you doing here?”
“Didn’t have anywhere else I had to be, so I thought I’d swing by and
pick you two up.” I stopped. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“No. Just surprised, that’s all.”
We walked toward the nearby lift. “So, how did it go?” I asked again.
She shrugged. “Okay.”
“Are you liking Cliff any better?”
“He’s all right.” She sniffled. “As far as his kind goes. I think
he really tries to understand, but there’s only so much he can. Even he admits
there are some things I have to figure out for myself.” She sniffled again.
The doors to the lift opened and we stepped inside. “Deck six,” I said
and held out my arms. “Here. I’ll take Gene. It sounds like you need a
tissue.”
Cait gave a tiny, embarrassed giggle as she handed over our son. “Yep.
Good thing I’ve got a few,” she replied, pulling two out of her skirt pocket.
I gently tickled Gene in the ribs causing him to squeal. “Hey there,
buddy. Howzit going? What’s your opinion of Counselor Connors? Do you think
he’s helping Mommy?” I tilted my head to one side to catch his eye, but
received no answer. I crinkled my brow playfully. “Uh-oh. No answer. Not a
good sign.”
Cait giggled again and blew her nose. Without really thinking,
I leaned over and kissed her cheek. “Good. You haven’t forgotten how. I was
kind of worried you might’ve.”
She glanced up, frowing slightly and tilting her head. “Forgotten?”
“How to laugh, or smile for that matter.” My face grew warm under her
gaze. “You, um, haven’t done much of either since you came on board. I-I’ve
missed them.”
A mist formed over the moss-colored eyes, and her lower lip quivered
slightly before she linked her arm through mine and lay her head against my
shoulder. I shifted Gene to a more secure position in my left arm and freed
my right arm to slip it around her shoulders. Yes. *This* was how it was
supposed to be–the three of us.
I placed a kiss on the top of her head. “I suppose, though, I haven’t
given you much reason to laugh, have I?”
“It’s not your fault.”
“Isn’t it?”
“Not entirely, and we both know it.”
She looked up at me. Her hand crept slowly toward my face until her
fingers reached my cheek. I closed my eyes revelling in the soft caress.
“Cait.” Her name slipped between my lips like a gentle breath. “I love you.
I swear I do.”
The fingers fell away abruptly, and I opened my eyes. “Would you?”
she asked, her eyes opening wide. “Would you if-”
The lift doors opened, and she made a move to step out, but I grabbed
her arm. “Would I if what? I want you to finish that sentence.”
“But it’s dinner time,” she protested. “It will take too long, and
Gene will get cranky.”
“Fine. We’ll get him fed, and then you can tell me.” I guided her out
of the lift and down the corridor. “I guess maybe I’ve been avoiding this too.
Maybe things would’ve been better if I had forced the issue earlier, but we
can’t go on like this.”
She stopped and I stopped, too. Then, she bowed her head and nodded.
“Maybe you’re right,” she said. “Maybe it would be better if you
knew.”
We continued to our quarters in silence, and by the time I had secured
Gene in his chair, sliding the tray onto the arms and locking it into place,
I was in a cold sweat.
“While I’m here,” Cait called over her shoulder as she replicated
Gene’s food. “What are you going to want for dinner?”
I straightened up. “What if I said you?” I asked quietly.
She spun around quickly, too quickly, splashing yellow and green puree
onto her hand and the cuff of her shirt. For a brief moment, she just stared,
her mouth slightly agape. “I-I-I-” she stammered; then she looked at her
sleeve. “I-I have to go change,” she said, and shoved the plate of food into
my hands.
“What is it?” I asked, as she practically dashed past.
“Squash and green beans,” she shot back as the bedroom door closed.

Paris Quarters, USS Mycenae:

I sit on the bed; long after I’ve stripped off my shirt, dabbed off the
food, and put it in to be cleaned; long after I’ve taken off my skirt, kicked
off my shoes, and put on a pair of sweats. Why is Tom doing this? Why this
sudden change? Why today? Why now? I’m not prepared. I’m not ready.
I’m afraid. I don’t know how to tell him. You can’t just blurt out that
you slept with another man. You just can’t, no matter what the circumstances
were when you did.
“Cait?” Tom raps softly on the door. “Are you okay?”
Afraid or not, I tell myself, it has to be done. “I’m fine.”
The door slides open, and Tom comes in, frowning, but not as deeply
as when he is angry. He sits down beside me on the bed. “Gene is fed and
in his pen. I asked him to be a good boy and play quietly while we talked.
I didn’t receive a reply, so I can’t guarantee we won’t be interrupted.”
He valiantly attempts a smile.
I try to laugh, but fail miserably. “Well,” I say, “Where shall I
begin?”
Tom allows his gaze to slip from mine as his hands rub nervously
together. “I guess the beginning, wherever that was. I know the official
story. I know how you got there, how the pictures came to me, how we found
you. What I don’t know, although I can guess, is how you felt while you
were there, how close you and this guy got.”
“All right,” I say, and begin.
He sits beside me the entire time, barely moving. He listens closely,
nodding occasionally in sympathy, trying to be understanding, but the hurt
shows in his eyes. It always does. “I’m sorry,” I say when I finish. “Maybe
I shouldn’t have told you.”
His hand reaches over and covers both of mine. “Don’t be,” he says,
clearing his throat. “I needed to know where we stand.”
“It’s good one of us does,” I reply quietly. “I’m not sure I do.
Sometimes it’s all a blur. Nat’s dead. They’re all dead, and I am here,
alive and well, like it was nothing more than a dream. Each day, I tell
myself that I shouldn’t let it bother me so much, that you and Gene are the
important ones, but I can’t stop. Nat- all of them were good to us, and I’ll
never see them again. They’ll never see Gene, and he’ll never know them.”
Tom’s hand squeezes mine gently. “Nowhere is it written that you
should stop caring, Cait. You can’t, no more than I can stop the anger I feel
toward them for taking you away in the first place.” He pauses and then gives
a tiny snort. “It’s ironic, you know. When you first told me about this guy,
gods!, nearly two years ago in that restaurant, I couldn’t help but feel a
little jealous. I could tell that you still cared about him, but I was never
afraid that you would run off and leave me for him. Not that you did,” he adds
hastily.
“I might as well have,” I say, and look away guiltily. “I’m sorry.
I didn’t ask for this to happen. It just did.”
“I know.” His fingers touch my chin, lifting my head and turning it
toward him. “I can’t say it doesn’t hurt to hear this. It hurts like bloody
hell, and if he wasn’t dead, I might not be taking this so calmly, but the
facts are these: he’s dead and I’m not. You can’t marry a dead man, Cait,
and you can’t bind yourself so tightly to a memory of what might have been.
We have a child. We have to live for his future, whether we face it as a
couple or not, although, if I had my way, we’d face it together.”
He endeavors a brave smile, cradling the side of my head in the palm
of his hand. “Don’t you think I know how lonely and desperate you must have
been? I felt that way, too, but it’s behind us now. We are here, together,
you and me, and I love you so much,” he murmurs, and brings his lips to mine.
His weight bears down upon me, pressing me back on the bed as he kisses
me over and over. “Cait…I love you…You mean…everything…to me…Let me
…make love to you…Please.”
His words roll out, thick and burning. I can’t breathe. I’m going
to be sick. I can’t breathe. I press against his chest, but he doesn’t
understand. “No! Stop!” I finally gasp and somehow manage to twist away,
tumbling off the bed.
I sit up, panting, dizzy, gulping down cool lungfuls of air. “Cait?”
Tom crouches beside me. “Are you all right? What happened? Did I push you
too- I’m sorry. It’s my fault.”
His hand brushes some of my hair back behind my ear, and I look up.
He gazes down at me with concern, but mixed with it pain and a little fear.
“Are you all right?” he asks again, and I nod. “Here, then. Let me help
you up.” He pulls me easily to my feet, and we sit down on the bed once again.
“Can I get you something? Some water maybe?”
“Yes.” I can barely whisper. What just happened to us, to me? Does
it matter? I’ve hurt him again.
“Water?”
I nod.
He disappears into the living area, and after a moment I stumble after
him, meeting him as he returns with the glass. “Here,” he says, handing me
the glass. “Come sit down.” He guides me to the sofa, noting my glance at
the pen. “Don’t worry. I’ll check on Gene.”
I drink as though I’ve had nothing for days, the cool liquid sliding
down my throat, soothing me gently. “There,” Tom says as I drain the last bit.
“Better?”
I nod and hand him the glass. “Thank you.”
“No problem.” He sets the glass on the coffee table and sits down
beside me. “Gene’s okay. I think he’s going to sleep so I moved him to
the crib. Do you want some more water?”
“No.” I shake my head and fix my stare on the carpeting. “I’m sorry.”
Out of the corner of my eye I see him shrug. “It’s okay. As long as
you’re all right, that’s what’s important.”
“That’s not true! Don’t lie to me. I’ve pushed you away again.
I’ve hurt you. Don’t tell me I haven’t.” At his shocked expression, I stop
and give him a small smile. “I’m sorry. I don’t really know what happened.
I do know that your response wasn’t what I expected. I felt overwhelmed,
and I guess I panicked a little, in case you couldn’t tell.”
He returns my tiny grin with one of his own. “To be honest, my
response wasn’t the one I expected either. But as I listened to you,
I realized how truly torn up you’ve been, and I realized how thankful I should
be that you decided to stay. At first, all I intended to do was hold you and
give you what comfort I could, but when I kissed you, it was like a dam broke
somewhere inside me. If you hadn’t pushed me away, I’m not sure I would have
stopped.” He hangs his head. “I’m so sorry. Gods, I am so sorry.”
Knowing how harshly he can punish himself, I lean over, placing my hand
on his thigh and my head on his shoulder. “It’s all right. So we surprised
each other and ourselves. It happens. Anyway, at least now you’ve heard the
whole story. Connors said you would understand, but I didn’t believe him.
I’ve found it so hard to forgive myself that I didn’t think you would know how
to either. I should have listened to him.”
“Shh.” Tom lifts my hand from his thigh and kisses it. “Just let me
hold you.”
He sits back, and I curl up on the sofa, leaning across him so that he
cradles me in his arms. We sit in silence, my head tucked just beneath his
chin. I can hear his heart beating slow and steady. A different heat washes
over me now, a comforting one, one that nudges me gently toward sleep.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

It felt so good to hold her like this, her weight on my chest, her heat
seeping into me, warming me down to the bone. I gently tilted her head up with
my fingers. “You going to sleep?”
She smiled drowsily. “I could. This feels so good.”
“Yeah. It does.” I bent my head down and kissed her. The blood
surged once again through my veins, and I kissed her again. “All right?”
She nodded and lifted her lips toward mine, this time kissing me.
“Mmmm.” Her soft hum vibrated against my mouth, leading me on until my tongue
slipped past her lips.
My right hand cupped her breast, and my thumb moved lightly back and
forth over the nipple. Almost immediately, I was rewarded with a small,
hard hump beneath the fabric and a groan, which reached deep inside me,
swelling my heart until I thought it would burst.
“Cait. Cait, wait.” I pulled back slightly. Her mouth was dark pink
now, the lips slightly pouted. “We both know where this is going. I want to
be sure it’s all right. I don’t want-”
A finger rested momentarily on my lips. “It’s fine,” she said, the
corners of her mouth curving gently. “This time, I’m ready. I want this.”
She slipped out of my arms and got to her feet, and then she reached back
and took ahold of my hand. “C’mon. Let’s go into the bedroom before we
wake Gene.”
I didn’t protest, and as soon as we were inside, I shut the door and
activated Gene’s monitor, turning around just in time to see her pull off her
shirt. “That was my job,” I said with a grin.
“Wait a minute then,” she replied and picked it up, slipping it back
over her head. “Now you can do it.”
I pulled her close, the two of us first giggling, then kissing while my
hands eased beneath the shirt, lifting it. Once it was off, I looked down, my
fingers gliding appreciatively over her breasts and down her stomach. “Have
you been working out?”
“A little. You like?”
“Always, no matter what shape you’re in, but yeah,” I licked my lips
hungrily. “I like.”
I bent down and picked her up, laying her gently on the bed, and we
made love. For the first time in a year, I made love to my wife. It wasn’t
perfect–we hit heads once and her elbow clocked me in the jaw–but it was
real, filled with laughter and apologies and uncertainty and pleasure.
Later, I lay on my side and watched Cait doze just like I used to do.
A single bead of sweath sparkled up at me from its place between her breasts.
Gingerly, I rose up and leaned over, licking it up and replacing it with
a kiss. Her eyes opened and met mine. My heart pounded. There it was–
the love I thought I’d never see again, like opening the door after a cold
winter and having the warmth of spring rush in full force. Tears clouded my
eyes, and she reached up and guided my mouth down to hers.
Somewhere in the golden haze that surrounded me, I heard a door chime,
but I didn’t want to believe it. Then, it chimed again.
“You’ll have to answer it,” Cait said. “It doesn’t sound like they’re
going away.”
“Screw ’em.”
A third chime sounded, and through the monitor, we heard the door
open. “Lieutenant Paris?” It was Tuvok’s voice. “I must speak with you.”
Damn. I pulled away and snatched up my robe. Of all the- “This had
better be good,” I muttered to myself, and opened the door. “What can I do
for you, Commander?”
He held out a PADD. “At 1630 hours tomorrow, you are to report to the
conference room.”
“What for?”
“For an informal hearing to decide whether formal charges should be
brought against you concerning alleged sexual relations with a subordinate.
The Captain has asked me to defend you. I suggest we adjourn to my quarters
immediately to consider the evidence and witnesses.”
“What? Now?”
The dark gaze flicked past me briefly and then resettled. “Considering
your present state, a delay of an hour would be acceptable, but no more.
I will be waiting,” he concluded and left.
I stared down at the PADD as I turned slowly back toward the bedroom.
Conduct unbecoming an officer. Improper relations with a subordinate.
Possible courtmartial. The words leapt up, exploding full force in my face.
Why? Why had Jin- She had said she wouldn’t. I looked up. Cait stood in the
bedroom doorway, her robe clutched about her. As I stared, a portion of the
robe slipped and revealed her bare shoulder. My wife- the progress we had
just made- gone. Humiliated and unable to meet her stare, my gaze fell to
the floor between us.
“You sonuvabitch,” she growled softly. “All these weeks, you allowed
me- You made me feel guilty, and you-you-”
The hem of her robe swirled over the carpet, and I looked up to see
the bedroom door shut between us. “Cait, wait.” The door was locked, but this
was one time I wouldn’t-couldn’t let it stay that way. She stood in the center
of the room, her arms folded tightly across her chest. “Cait, please. Let me
explain.”
“Explain? Explain what? What Tuvok said is true, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but let me explain. I-”
Without warning, she snatched the PADD from my hand. “Who’s Bruchac?”
“Bruchac?”
“Yes, Ensign George Bruchac. He’s the one who requested the inves-
tigation.”
“What?” I grabbed back the PADD. “Bruchac? What the hell? Oh gods.”
The PADD slipped from my fingers, and I sank down on the bed, covering my eyes
with my hand. I had done it again–screwed up, lost everything. Dad, Mom,
Cait, everyone who believed in me…
Cait stood in silence, and then, the bed dipped beside me. “Tom.
Tom, look at me,” she commanded, and I did my best to comply. “Now listen
to me. You are going to tell me everything. You are not to leave out
a single detail, no matter what it is. If you think you’ll be sparing me by
omitting something, think again. It will all come out if formal charges are
brought, and I’d rather hear it now than in court. Do you understand me?”
I nodded and watched her bend over and pick up the PADD. She scanned
it again, more thoroughly this time. The soft light of moments earlier had
long since vanished from her eyes, replaced by a sharp, calculating gaze.
“Tell me. Who is Jinara Latel?”

Paris Quarters, USS Mycenae:

His blue eyes tremble and he looks away. “Tell me,” I repeat, and he
does. How they met; how her boyfriend had dumped her; how listening to her
problems allowed him to forget his own; how one night at Sandrine’s their
friendship became something more. I listen, and I wonder why I feel nothing.
I should be angry, I tell myself, I should be hurt. Yet, I feel absolutely
nothing. I have lain, unknowingly, where they lay, and I feel nothing.
He has finished and now sits, waiting for my response.
“Cait, please say something.”
“What would you have me say?”
“I don’t know. Yell at me. Something. Anything. Please.”
“I don’t know what to say,” I reply, and his whole body sags.
“I never loved her,” he says quietly. “I even knew it at the time,
but I was so hurt, so angry. Those pictures- I thought you had run away,
and for the life of me, I didn’t know why. And to see you were pregnant-
Gods! Made it ten times worse. I didn’t know the baby was mine. I thought
it belonged to him, whoever ‘him’ was. I was lost. Confused. Please. You’ve
got to understand.”
“I understand,” I reply calmly, too calmly. “I understand perfectly
what you did. I even understand why you did it. What you must understand is
that I need time to confront this. Ever since I came on board, you’ve known
where I was and who I had been with. You’re not a naive man. I’m sure you
drew your own conclusions, whether they were correct or not.”
“Turns out they were,” he says defensively.
“Yes, but that’s not my point. My point is that you’ve had all this
time to prepare yourself for what I told you. This is the first time I’ve
heard about this woman, and right now, I’m simply stunned, like I’ve been
punched out of the blue. I keep waiting for the pain and anger to hit, but
they haven’t, and until they do, I don’t know what to say, or do for that
matter. Can you understand that?”
He takes a deep breath and slowly nods. “Yes.”
I close my eyes, listening to the silence that envelopes us once again.
There is so much I need to know, and yet at the same time, I don’t want any of
the answers. Why did he have to tell me? Under the circumstances, he had to,
but I wish with all my heart that he didn’t. Why couldn’t this Bruchac let Tom
keep this to himself? Why did he have to expose this to others, including me?
“Can I ask you something?” I say, finally opening my eyes.
“Yes. Anything.” His voice sounds almost eager.
“Tell me the truth. That divorce application. Was that actually
for her, so you could be together?”
“No.” He shakes his head vehemently. “I didn’t even begin it until
after I started seeing Cliff, which was after I called it quits with her.
He thought the only way I would ever get on with my life was if I forced myself
to let you go. I didn’t want to file it, but deep down, I knew he was right.”
He smirks. “I should thank the stars that I never got around to doing so.
“Cait, please understand, I thought you didn’t love me anymore. To be
rejected by you–I couldn’t bear it. Being with her allowed me to hide from
the pain, even though I knew that it wasn’t the answer. Sooner or later,
I knew I’d have to face it, and when circumstances forced me to, I realized
that I was still too tangled up in you to even attempt another relationship.
Please forgive me. I would have told you sooner, but things between us have
been so-so uneasy that I was afraid. I certainly never intended for you to
find out this way.”
He looks down at his hands, and when he looks back up, tears glisten
in his eyes. “I love you,” he says, his voice barely a whisper. “I honestly
thought I’d never get the chance to say that to you again. I had no right to
resent the bond you and Lawson forged. You needed someone, and he was there.
He kept the two of you alive, and for that I should be grateful. I’m sorry,
Cait. I never meant to hurt you so much.”
Before I can reply, a soft cry comes from the other room. Gene is
waking. Our son is waking.
“Our son is waking up,” he says.
“Yes,” I say. “Our son.”
Quietly, Tom gets up and goes into the living area. Through the mesh
of the crib, I can see Gene’s arms reach up toward him as he bends down.
He will be a good father to Gene–loving, devoted, more so than anyone can ask.
“Hey there, buddy. Did Mommy and I wake you?”
A soft babble of happiness is the response as he gently lifts our
child. “We did? We’re sorry. We didn’t mean to be so noisy. Are you going
to sleep some more tonight, too, or was that it?”
Tom’s hand passes gently over the sleep-ruffled hair smoothing it down.
“Mommy’s in here. I’ll bet she’d like to-” His voice cracks and he does not
finish the thought. Instead, he kisses Gene and carries him into the bedroom.
As they both sit down beside me, I see a tear roll down Tom’s cheek. He twists
his head, wiping it off on his shoulder. He thinks he is losing us–has lost
maybe. Not yet.
I grasp his chin and turn his face toward mine. He looks at me,
bewildered, nearly a lost child himself, and I lean forward and kiss him softly
on the lips.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

For a moment, I couldn’t say a thing. I could only stare at her,
my heart slowly swelling to the bursting point. When I finally could speak,
the words felt woefully inadequate. “I love you, Cait. I love you both.
Nothing is more important to me–not Starfleet, not flying, not one thing.
I-I hope you can believe that.”
Her green eyes misted, but then, she blinked and cleared her throat,
becoming all business once again. “Give Gene to me. You have to get dressed.
Tuvok is waiting, and this is what you will tell him, no more, no less…”

Paris Quarters, USS Mycenae:

“Oof!” I drop the deliberately over-stuffed duffle onto the floor and
sink down on the sofa. The recorder I replicated after Tom left this morning
waits patiently on the coffee table and after double-checking it, I slide it
into an easily accessed pocket within the duffle and conceal it with one
of Gene’s fresh towels.
Gods, if I only had an extra day, I might be able to come up with a
better plan than this one. I don’t even know if I can bring this off. I may
be completely underestimating the kid; I may be overestimating myself. It’s
been a long time since I pulled a bluff like this. Is it- Are we even worth
the risk I’m taking? You can’t rebuild a marriage in one night, and thanks to
Tuvok’s interruption, we didn’t have that. What will happen to Tom if they
bring formal charges? To us? To Gene? Am I doing the right thing? What if-
With a mild screech, Gene brings me back from my thoughts, and on my
way to the play pen I struggle to push aside my fears until the task at hand
is completed.
“All right, young man,” I say, bending down to pick him up. “Have you
rehearsed your part?”
I balance him on my left hip and hitch the duffle’s strap up onto my
right shoulder. “Ready for your first lesson in battle? Okay. Lesson number
one: learn what you enemy knows. Get to know him. What motivates him, how he
thinks, every thing you possibly can, and that’s just what we’re going to do.”
Within minutes, I stand before the quarters of Ensigns Bruchac and
Mallory. I give Gene a quick kiss and press the chime. “We’re on,” I whisper.
A few seconds elapse before a short, freckle-faced man clad only in
pajama bottoms opens the door, yawning and rubbing his eyes. Good. I woke
him; that’s one for our side. I smile as sweetly as possible.
“Ensign Bruchac?” Without waiting for a reply, I continue, “I suppose
you know who I am.”
He gulps and drags thick fingers through ruffled cinnamon hair.
“Yes ma’am. Uh-I’m sorry. I was dozing. Um, let me get a shirt on. I, uh,
just came off duty.”
I feign ignorance. “Oh. You did? I’m sorry. I didn’t realize-
I’ll come back later. No. No, I can’t do that. The hearing–and I can hardly
talk to you then.”
“Talk to me?”
“Yes.” I painfully shift my shoulders. “Do you mind if I come in?
Between him and this duffle I think my back is going to break.”
“Oh, um, yeah.” He stumbles back.
“‘Scuse the mess,” he says, clearing some PADDs and clothing off the
nearer bed. “My roommate isn’t the neatest person in the world. I don’t know
how he passed inspection at the Academy.”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” I reply lightly. “You should see our
quarters. The mess this child can make. Here. Could you take him for a
moment?”
“Uh…” He takes Gene with all the fear and enthusiasm of a man who
has never held a child before and never intends to again, dangling my squirm-
ing son at arm’s length. With a grunt, I ease the duffle onto the floor and
crouch down beside it. A giggle from Gene causes me to look up in time to see
a slow flush creep over Bruchac’s face. Good boy, I say silently, keep him
off balance for me.
“Now where is that PADD?” I mutter, and pull out first a pacifier,
then a chew ring, followed closely by a small stuffed tiger, a towel, and a
fresh diaper. “I know I put it in here.” I glance up and grin hopelessly at
the discomforted young man. “You know, I didn’t use to be this scatter-
brained, but having a child completely re-arranges your life. Ah, here
it is.” I pull out the device, surreptitiously activating the recorder in
the process.
I settle myself on the spot cleared on the bed and feign forgetfulness
until Bruchac impatiently clears his throat. “Hmm? Oh yes, Gene. I’m sorry.
I didn’t mean to leave you holding- Here, you can put him down on the bed.
He won’t mind.
“He’s such a good child,” I continue, as Bruchac hastily hands my son
over and retreats to his own rumpled bed. “You know, he never gives me any
trouble. Some children you can’t take anywhere, always screaming and crying,
but this one…I can take him anywhere. I think he would behave himself on
the bridge. You would, wouldn’t you? You’re just so good, aren’t you? Yes,
you are. Yes, you are.”
I bend over, cooing and teasing, bringing smile after giggle to my
son’s face until Bruchac clears his throat once again. “You said you wanted
to speak to me, Mrs. Paris?”
“Hmm?” I sit up and gradually sober almost to the point tears. “Oh.
Yes. Yes, I do. About…well, you know…” I roll the hem of my tunic
between my fingers and then smooth it down, only to pick it up again. Finally,
I sigh. “I suppose the best thing would be just to get straight to the point
of my visit. Beating around the bush isn’t going to make this any less painful
or embarrassing. You see, to make a long story short, when we got married he,
that is, my husband swore that he’d be faithful, and I honestly believed that
he meant it.” I drop my gaze. “You must think I was pretty naive to do so.”
“Um, I-”
“No, you’re right,” I say, looking up, but still avoiding his eyes.
“I suppose I was, but I was in love with him. I believed in him, but to hear
this now… Well, I have to wonder how much he did mean it. I don’t know if
you heard, but on Voyager, before we got married, he had quite a reputation as
a-a womanizer.”
“Um-” Our eyes meet and the tint gradually rises in his cheeks.
“I had heard something like that.”
I let my gaze drop back to the floor. “Yes, I thought you might.
His reputation always precedes him. Still some, I’m sure, would say I was
judging him too harshly after all he has been through this past year, but how
do I know if this is the first time? How do I know it will be the last?”
“I-” Bruchac pauses as I look up. “I don’t know. Some men-”
He stops as if afraid he’ll say too much. He’s not stupid; I just have to give
him time.
“Yes, some men should never marry, I know. Still,” I add, hopefully.
“You could be wrong, and nothing ever happened. Is there a possibility? Maybe
they were just good friends. Maybe he just needed someone to talk to. Maybe
that was all there was between them. Maybe…” I twist my hands together,
raising my voice slightly in agitation. “Oh gods, think of the repercussions
if I was! To take Gene away from his father and discover I was wrong. Neither
would ever forgive me! I wouldn’t forgive myself!”
Bruchac says nothing, but shakes his head in response. I bite my lip
and cast a calculated glance at my son before turning back to the young man.
“Do you see what a predicament I’m in? If the charges are true, I want
to take Gene away, to protect him from the trial and its publicity. You can
understand that, can’t you?”
He nods.
“Good. I hoped you would. That’s why I came to you. I was hoping you
could help me.”
“Help you?” The freckled brow puckers. “How?”
“Well, all of this happened before I came on board, and as awful as
this sounds, I can’t trust Tom to be honest with me. I mean, after all I’ve
been through to discover this, and in *this* way, too! I just don’t know where
to turn. I don’t want to make a hasty decision, but I don’t think I could
bear a trial, which is probably where all of this will end up. Please.
I would be so grateful for any information you could give me–what you’ve heard
or seen. I don’t want to make the wrong decision.”
“Mrs. Paris, I really don’t think I should-”
“Oh, please. Since this happened before I came on board, I’m not a
witness. You wouldn’t be influencing any testimony. All I want to do is
protect my child. Please,” I beg. “Any help you could- No. No, Gene, don’t
chew on that.” I pull a small PADD out of my son’s hands and replace it with
a chew ring. “There. Isn’t that better?”
I hold the PADD out toward Bruchac, one corner still covered with
Gene’s spittle. “Here. I think this is yours. Oh- Wait. Let me wipe it.
There. Here you go.”
With evident revulsion, he takes the PADD carefully from the opposite
corner and sets it on a nearby desk. “I really don’t know what I can tell you,
Mrs. Paris.”
“Well, um… Could you at least tell me why you requested the inves-
tigation? I would have thought it was up to this Ensign Latel to do that.”
He pauses and clears his throat. “Have you ever met Jinara?”
“No. I’m afraid I haven’t. Although, her roommate has watched Gene
on occasion.”
“Well, aside from being beautiful and smart, Jinara’s very forgiving,
and people, like your husband, take advantage of her. If it were up to her,
she’d walk away rather than bring charges, even though she’s the one who’s
been used and thrown away.”
“But maybe she didn’t file them because nothing happened,” I suggest
once again, but he stubbornly shakes his head.
“No, something happened. I know it did. The amount of time they
spent together- A guy like him with a girl like her-” He stops and looks at
me doubtfully for a moment. “You want me to be honest, right?”
I nod. “Please.”
His jaw tightens. “Okay. I will be. The truth of the matter is that
your husband doesn’t belong here. He’s done things–you’ve probably heard
about them–that should keep him out, and what happened with Jinara proves it.
He’s blackened this uniform in the past, and he’ll blacken it again, and the
way the quadrant is now we can’t afford it.”
“But Tom has changed,” I insist on cue. “He’s a good pilot. He was a
good officer on Voyager. Ask anyone.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that from Lt. Kim, but it still doesn’t mean he
should be back in Starfleet.” He pauses, letting his eyes sweep around the
room before resettling on me. “Look, I don’t know about your family, but my
dad served in Starfleet. His best buddy served under Admiral Paris–only he
was still a Captain back then. Anyway, according to both of them, you couldn’t
have asked for a better officer than Captain Paris. He was demanding, sure,
but ‘Fleet is demanding, and if you can’t measure up, you shouldn’t be here,”
he concludes smugly.
Snot-nosed little ‘Fleet brat, I think, I’d like to see you on the
surface facing an advancing company of Cardassians. I wonder just how cool
you’d remain. Phaser fire has a way of taking the pleats out of your clean
little uniform. Two minutes in a holosim with me, and you’d- I struggle
to control my anger, to keep it out of my voice. “And Tom doesn’t measure up?”
“Personally, no, I don’t think he does. Look, I know this may be
painful for you to hear, but you asked, so I’m telling you. If I were you,
I’d take my kid and leave as soon as I could. Things will only get worse,
and as you said, the less the kid’s exposed…” He trails off, closing his
eyes briefly and shaking his head.
“You know,” he says after a minute silence. “I still can’t believe
they did it–let him back in, I mean, given what he did. What were they
thinking? It just doesn’t seem possible. The way I was raised- I mean,
my dad was proud of the uniform. My older brother’s proud of it, I’m proud
of it, but we don’t have the ‘Fleet legacy of the Paris family. We don’t even
come close, and for a guy to come from that background, to have everything,
and screw up like he did, well, all I can say is something’s wrong with him.
I mean, you make a mistake, okay. Everyone does, but to kill people and lie
about it? We don’t need that kind of person around. What he did was cowardly
and selfish. You can’t deny that, and a zebra can’t change its stripes no
matter how much it wants to. Starfleet’s reputation mean everything. Without
it, both ‘Fleet and the Federation are disgraced. We’re responsible for making
first contact, for gods’ sakes. We…”
I listen to him, his voice rising the higher he climbs on his soapbox–
how Tom’s conduct disgraces and mocks the Starfleet uniform; how toleration of
such behavior is harmful, even dangerous to the future of the Federation.
Oh, save your jousting for warp cores, Ensign. I’ve heard all of this before.
Do you honestly believe that years from now people will remember you as the
great moral leader of Starfleet? Are you ‘The One’ who will save us all from
slipping into ethical decay? Is the public humiliation of my family to be
your first step on this road? Not if I can help it.
Yet somehow, I keep my temper and tongue, if not my thoughts, in check,
(Dad and Chakotay would be proud!), and when Bruchac finally finishes, I thank
him for his candor and leave.
“Well done,” I whisper to Gene as we walk down the corridor. “You were
perfect in there. Just don’t take anything that man said seriously.
Your father isn’t some kind of monster, and he loves you very much. Don’t ever
doubt that.” I kiss him once again and sigh.
One down, one to go.

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

As I stared at the plasma output readings, my mind drifted, no small
wonder considering what awaited me later that day. Cait had promised she would
be there to show her support, but how could I tell her that *I* didn’t want her
there. My confession last night was bad enough; that she would hear about it
from others today… Did she know how much it would hurt me to sit there,
humiliated for her by what was said, by what I knew to be true? Was this to
be part of my punishment? Her loyalty in the face of it all?
“You okay?”
I looked up at Harry. “Just thinking.”
“About this afternoon?”
“What else?” Embarrassed, I dropped my gaze. “They’re everything
to me, Harry: Cait and Gene. I don’t want to lose them.”
“What about Jinara?”
“What about her?”
He shrugged. “What about Starfleet?”
“Starfleet could go hang and I’d find some way to survive, but them…”
I closed my eyes, remembering the publicity of my first courtmartial, Mom’s
and Dad’s expressions. This would kill her- this would kill my mother.
Dad? Dad would never speak to me again. And Cait- would she stay with me?
Would she and Gene be there waiting when it was all over? How could I face
them? How would I face my son? He was too young to understand any of this
now, but in ten or so years, when he was older… If he wanted to apply to
the Academy…
“Marquez-” Harry lowered his voice as Crewman Shuja passed by
the helm. “Marquez has requested I testify.”
“Yeah, I figured he would. Hell, if my best friend doesn’t know
who I’ve screwed, who will, right?”
“I imagine that’s his angle, but since you didn’t confide in me,
I can’t reveal anything, now can I?” He smirked.
I tried to smile, but almost ended up crying instead. “Thanks, Harry,”
I whispered, too choked up to manage anything else.
He patted my shoulder. “Try not to worry,” he said, and flashed
another hard smile that was far from convincing. “You’ve made it this far.
You’ll survive this, too.”

Lower Decks, USS Mycenae:

Carmichael, C. and Latel, J. reads the sign on the door. I push the
chime. “Just a minute,” two voices chorus.
Damn. “Get ready,” I whisper to Gene.
Celia opens the door and steps back a pace in surprise. “Mrs. Paris!
Wha-uh- What are you doing here?”
I adjust Gene on my hip and produce only a perfunctory smile. “Hello,
Ensign. I think you know full well why I’m here. May I come in?”
“Um, I don’t-”
A slim brunette, who has been watching us from one of the bunks, stands
and walks up behind her. “It’s all right, Celia,” she says, and sweeps her
hand over the rest of the room. “Please come in, Mrs. Paris. I’m afraid lower
deck quarters aren’t designed properly to receive guests, but you’re welcome
to have a seat, such as it is,” she concludes, indicating the foot of the bed
upon which she had been seated.
“Thank you.” I sit down awkwardly due to my load, and both she and
Celia immediately extend their arms.
“Can I help you?” “Would you like me to take Gene?”
Nervous, I almost laugh at their eagerness. “Yes, to both.”
“Here, Jin, let me.” Celia gently lifts Gene from my arms. “He and I
have been friends for weeks now, haven’t we, Gene? Besides I have the feeling
that this conversation won’t be including me.”
“There are some toys in here,” I say, unzipping the duffle and shoving
it the short distance between the two beds. “And a change, too, if he
needs it.”
With a nod, she sits down on her bed with Gene and begins to entertain
him quietly. Latel smiles briefly at the two of them and then sits down cross-
legged at the head of her bunk. “He’s a beautiful child,” she acknowledges.
“Looks quite a lot like his father.”
“Yes, he does,” I reply.
Her mouth twitches nervously. “I assume that Celia is correct, that I
am the one you wish to speak with, but given the hearing this afternoon, I’m
not sure I should be talking to you.”
Prudent, very prudent. Attractive. Intelligent. Hardly the helpless
creature Bruchac described.
A virulent heat rises from my belly, spreading quickly and blurring
my vision. In my mind, I can see the two of them, Tom and her, together and
quite happy. She would laugh at his jokes. She would give him his space.
She would be clever enough to make him want her without even realizing it.
I blink once, twice to clear away the tears; now is not the time. All my
tears, all my anger, all my fears must wait until later.
“The questioning is part of an informal investigation,” I remind her.
“You may not be put under oath, but you are wise to be reticent. However,
the purpose of my visit was not to suborn perjury. Rather, I simply wanted
to satisfy my own unforgivably twisted curiosity and see just who this woman
was who brought these charges against my husband.”
Immediately, she shakes her head, protesting. “I wasn’t the one who
brought the charges. I didn’t even know about it. Lt. Paris has been a good
friend to me. The last thing I would do is hurt him.”
“Well, if you didn’t, who did?” I demand angrily.
Her dark eyes study me for a moment before she replies, “Another
ensign. George Bruchac.”
“George!” Celia exclaims. “You didn’t tell me that. Why would George-
Jin, I thought you weren’t seeing him.”
“I’m not. We only went on that one date and that was weeks ago.”
“Did he want another?” I ask bluntly.
She looks at me, surprised. “Well, yes, but I told him no. He’s a
nice enough guy, but we don’t have that much in common. To be perfectly
honest, I haven’t been as bored as I was on that date in a long time.”
She snickers, but sobers quickly, her brown eyes opening wide. “Do you think
that’s why-”
“Jealousy has always been a strong motive,” I reply. “Especially when
it can be justified by the purest of causes. Did you talk with him about my
husband?”
“No. Not really. I’ve never been one to talk too much about my
private life. It’s no secret that the Lieutenant and I were friends, but I
never said anything to George to intimate that we were ever more than that.”
“Sometimes it isn’t what you say, Ensign, but the impression that
you leave.”
A bright pink rises in her perfect complexion, and she lowers her gaze.
“I suppose,” she says after a pause, “I should admit that I did have a
crush on Mr. Paris for a while, and maybe others guessed it, but he was always
the perfect gentleman. When he discovered the extent of my true feelings,
he was the one who said we should stop seeing each other–as friends, I mean.
He said we had both worked too hard to get where we were to lose it all due to
-er misinterpretation.”
Misinterpretation? The word contains so much perverse amusement that
I nearly laugh. Celia coughs, and I cast a brief glance at her, as she quickly
bends back over my son. If she doesn’t know the truth, I am sure she suspects
it, and I am equally sure that she will be questioned, too. If this were my
case, she would be.
I turn back to my husband’s former lover–young, pretty, just one year
out of the Academy. Yes, he can be charming, can’t he, Ensign? The worst part
is that sometimes he doesn’t even mean to be. It just bubbles out of him, like
champagne, sweet, intoxicating, sweeping you off your feet when you least
expect it. It happened to me, and I was older than you when it did. All it
took was a brief glimpse behind the devil-may-care exterior and it was
all over. I suppose you really didn’t stand a chance.
“Jinara- May I call you Jinara?” She nods and I continue. “Jinara,
it is not my intention, whether the charges are true or not, to ask you to lie.
What I will suggest to both you and Celia is that you choose your words quite
carefully when you are being interrogated. Since this is part of the inves-
tigation, your responses will be subject to far more interpretation than they
will be during a formal courtmartial. Do not allow yourselves to be pressured
into making hasty replies. It is your choice of answers that will determine
whether this matter ends here before Captain Janeway, or whether it ends weeks
from now before a panel of captains and admirals. You must keep in mind that
there is much more at stake here than simply the careers of two people. By an
unguarded tongue, it maybe the family members who suffer more than the
accused.” I shift my gaze from one girl to the other. “Don’t you agree?”
“Yes,” Jinara answers slowly. “I do.”
“Good. Well, I suppose we’ll see each other later this afternoon.”
“You’re going to be there?” she asks, but not, I perceive, in surprise.
“Yes, both Gene and I will be there.” I get to my feet and sling the
duffle onto my shoulder before taking my son back from Celia. “But for now,
I have to get him fed and down for his nap. Thank you for seeing me.”
Jinara nods, her dark gaze steadily meeting mine. “Your husband is
a good officer. Please believe that I would never intentionally do anything
to hurt him and by extension, any member of his family. I know how much you
mean to him.”

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

With unsuppressed irritation, Marquez paced behind the chair which Jin
currently occupied. So far, she had neither denied nor admitted to anything,
and he was clearly frustrated, as was Bruchac, who sat at the opposite end of
the table from Tuvok and myself. “Ensign Latel, will you please answer my
question?”
I watched in amazement as Jin shook her head, stubbornly refusing
our head of security. “No, I will not. I will not involve any more people
in this spectacle. It is no one’s business where I spent my nights, not yours,
and certainly not George Bruchac’s! For all I know, what with his uncon-
trolable jealousy, he might file charges against them, too!”
“Ensign,” The already sizeable divot in Marquez’s forehead deepened.
“Is it your contention that these charges are without merit?”
“Yes, it is,” she replied. “I went out once with Ensign Bruchac,
but declined his subsequent offer. I believe that he is jealous of the friend-
ship Lt. Paris and I have shared, and I believe that these charges have been
motivated by that jealousy. I certainly have never confided in him any of
the details of my personal life, and any conclusions he may have drawn
regarding it are based purely on his own imagination and ship’s gossip.”
“That’s not true!” Bruchac leapt to his feet. “Captain, she’s lying!”
“Order!” Janeway thundered from her place in the middle of the table.
“Ensign, you will have your turn. Now sit down.”
As Bruchac, fuming, retook his seat, Marquez once again voiced his
displeasure. “Captain, I cannot conduct a proper investigation under these
circumstances. Questioning these people is pointless unless they are under
oath. This does not conform to Starfleet procedure.”
“I am well aware of Starfleet procedure, Lieutenant, but I am also
aware that so far this ‘case’, such that it is, is made up of nothing more
than hearsay and gross speculation. The only reason I have allowed it to
reach this stage is due to the nature of the charges themselves. I will
not allow this to become some form of witch hunt and destroy two promising
careers on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations. Now, continue your
examination.”
A angry, but resigned sigh escaped Marquez. “I’m through with this
witness, Captain.”
Janeway nodded. “Very well. Tuvok?”
“No questions at this time, Captain, but I reserve the right to
recall Ensign Latel should the need arise.”
“Fine. Thank you for your cooperation, Ensign. You are dismissed.”
As Jin left the conference room, Marquez said, “I now call
Ensign Bruchac.”
My accuser quickly took the witness seat and Marquez began. “Ensign,
in the statement of charges you cited Ms. Latel’s flagging spirits, moping I
believe you called it, as one of the primary signals that something was amiss.
Had you ever seen this crewman ‘moping’ before?”
“Yessir. Almost a year ago, when her boyfriend, Freddie, broke up
with her. You see, when she first came on board, she was always friendly and
smiling, but then she began to withdraw, became very quiet, and didn’t laugh
much at all. To help cheer her up, her roommate, Ensign Carmichael, planned
for a group of us to visit the fair when we stopped at Clanon, but Jinara,
that is, Ensign Latel didn’t go, saying she was going to stay on board
instead. Yet hours later at the beam out site, we met her and Lt. Paris
coming back from the lake. They were talking and he was telling her some
story, and from that day until about five months later, she was like her old
self, smiling and laughing, especially once they really started spending
time together, you know, eating together and that sort of thing. She told
Celia he was teaching her to play pool.”
“But you didn’t believe that.”
Bruchac shook his head. “At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but
you don’t remove your commbadge to play pool, which she did on numerous
occasions.”
“And were you the only one who noticed this?”
“No sir, but none of us said anything at the time.”
“And why was that, Ensign?”
“Well, she seemed happy. I mean, for all we knew, they really were
in love, and I guess none of us wanted to spoil it for her. Heck, I wouldn’t
have done anything now if not for the way he’s treated her, what with driving
her off the ship now that his wife’s back.”
“I see. So you did this for Ensign Latel.”
“You bet, sir, and for the rest of the crew. She’s a good crewman,
and she liked it here. She shouldn’t be the one who has to leave. He caused
it. He should be the one who pays the price.”
A soft coo came from behind me from Gene followed by an even softer
shush from Cait, and I lowered my head in shame. He was right. Jin shouldn’t
have to leave. I didn’t deserve her loyalty, or Harry’s, and certainly not
Cait’s. I turned and looked back at them, Gene’s hand reaching for her face.
Oh gods, to lose them… I swiftly spun back around.
“No more questions for this witness, Captain,” Marquez said and retook
his seat.
With the deliberate calm that only Vulcans posses, Tuvok rose to his
feet. He studied Bruchac a moment, long enough to make the young man visibly
squirm before he spoke. “Let me make sure I understand you, Ensign. It is
your assertion that you brought this matter to light to help Ensign Latel.”
“Yessir, and any other person who might find themselves serving
with him.”
“Interesting, but I am curious. How will such a blemish as this on
Ensign Latel’s service record help her career?”
“Well,” Bruchac fidgeted. “It won’t, I guess. But I didn’t think
she would cover for him. I thought once the matter was in the open she’d
tell the truth. I mean, she isn’t the one who should be on trial. He is!”
He pointed straight at me, and it felt like a brand struck my chest. For a
moment, I couldn’t even breathe. He went on. “He’s the senior officer.
He’s the one responsible. I didn’t think that she-”
“No, I don’t believe you did think, Ensign. Tell me, do you, as you
humans are prone to say, like, Lt. Paris?”
“Like, sir?”
“Yes, as an individual.”
Bruchac shifted slightly in his seat. “Well, I, uh, don’t really
know him, sir.”
“I see. Well, up until recently, did you respect him as a person
and officer?”
“Well, um, if he gave me an order, I’d carry it out.”
“Because you respected him or because he was your senior?”
“Uh-” Bruchac eyes shifted from Tuvok toward the Captain and then
toward Marquez. “I, um, I guess I’d have to say because he was a senior
officer.”
“Indeed? Thank you for your honesty, Ensign. Captain, I realize this
is entirely irregular, but it is the defense belief that this witness is not
as unbiased as he would have us believe. Furthermore, it is my opinion that
Mr. Bruchac’s own feelings not only may have tainted his testimony, but also
may have been the very reason he brought charges against Mr. Paris in the
first place.”
“Jealousy, Mr. Tuvok?” More than a hint of disbelief crept into
Janeway’s voice.
“No, Captain. Ensign Latel was in error in her assumption that
jealousy was the primary motive. However, it did serve perhaps as a convenient
secondary motive, masking the real, and more serious, intent behind these
charges.”
“And that being?”
“The destruction of Mr. Paris’ career in Starfleet, Captain.”
“What!” The word slipped out before I could stop it.
Janeway frowned. “Do you have proof?”
“I do indeed. Upon learning of the charges pending against her
husband, Caitlin Paris visited Ensign Bruchac to assess on her own their
validity. Knowing that such a visit might be deemed improper, she recorded
the interview. In the recording, Mr. Bruchac makes his feelings towards
Lt. Paris quite clear.”
The Ensign’s eyes opened wide and settled on the seat behind me. “You
lied to me! You set me up! Captain, she-”
“You set yourself up, Ensign.” Cait retorted. “Had you conducted
yourself with less obvious prejudice, I might have even been persuaded to
believe you.”
His freckled jaw clenched angrily. “You lied to me! I tried to help
you and you lied! Captain, I was tricked! She forced her-”
“Order! Order!” Janeway pounded the gavel furiously. “Ensign, that
is enough! Now, Commander, about this recording…”
“Yes, Captain, I will endeavor to explain. As I stated, without
informing counsel or the defendant, Mrs. Paris decided, however imprudently,
to investigate the matter on her own, and in the course of said investigation,
she spoke with Mr. Bruchac. Aware that such an action might be viewed as
coercive, she recorded the interview for her own protection. However, once
Ensign Bruchac voluntarily stated his own prejudices, she turned the recording
over to me. I submit it here only to demonstrate the obvious bias within
the witness’s testimony.”
“I see.” Janeway turned toward her head of security. “Lt. Marquez,
do you have any objection to hearing the recording? This is an informal probe,
after all. If Mr. Bruchac has any prejudices against Mr. Paris, this will
have to be taken into account if a formal case is to be prepared. I see no
harm in discovering now whether or not this is indeed the case.”
“Captain, need I remind you that the alteration of recorded material
is not difficult, especially audio recordings? And I don’t believe I need to
mention Mrs. Paris’ own, rather obvious interests in this case.”
“I fully realize both, Mr. Marquez, but I trust Commander Tuvok’s
judgement. If he believes the recording is pertinent, we will hear it.
Commander, if you please…”
Tuvok inclined his head slightly in appreciation. “Thank you, Captain.
Computer, playback recording Paris-Bruchac-one.”
Once more I turned in my seat to look in amazement at Cait as her voice
floated out over the room. She cocked her head ever so confidently to one
side, but did not smile. On the recording, she sounded almost inane; I nearly
laughed–she had set him up but good. Then, slowly her words registered…
“How do I know if this is the first time? How do I know it will be the last?..
I can’t trust Tom to be honest with me.” Each word, like an invisible whip,
slashed across my face, burning, and as I stared at her, my fists clenched
tightly to stifle the tears. She just gazed back, completely impassive.
Soon, Bruchac’s voice took over, but I heard very little of what he
said. Instead, I eased out of my chair and crouched at Cait’s feet, caressing
Gene’s head gently with my hand. “I’m sorry,” I whispered.
“You’re hardly responsible for his actions,” she hissed.
“No, you misunderstand. I-”
“I understand perfectly. Now, sit down and be quiet.”
A bone-biting cold pierced my skin as if my uniform had been stripped
away, leaving me exposed before her. I slunk back to my chair and turned
around toward the table. If she talked with Bruchac, had she talked with
Jinara, too? Had Jin told her what had happened in the lift? in her quarters?
Or had Cait figured it all out on her own? Not that the “how” mattered
anymore–she knew. She knew!

Conference Room, USS Mycenae:

Through the rest of the recording, Tom sits, unmoving, no longer
turning from time to time to look at Gene and me; but as Janeway dismisses
the investigation, citing a lack of credible evidence, and he stands
and shakes Tuvok’s hand in thanks, I see the tears gathered in his eyes.
Without a word, he holds out his arms, silently offering, almost pleading
to take Gene. I let him, and we walk quietly back to our quarters.
There, we feed Gene and dine ourselves in near silence. When I do
speak, Tom barely replies and will not meet my gaze across the table.
After dinner, he sits down to read to Gene, but halfway through the
story his voice drops to a whisper and he stops. A tear lingers briefly on
his cheek and then rolls down, landing on his uniform beside Gene’s head.
He closes the book and sets it aside before he hugs Gene and kisses him.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers, but loud enough for me to hear. “Daddy’s so
sorry–for everything. I didn’t mean to hurt you and Mommy so much. I love
you both. I am so, so sorry.” He kisses Gene once more and then picks up the
book, beginning the story once more from the first page.
The hours go by slowly, quietly between us. Now, it is 2115. Over
thirty minutes have passed since I came to bed, and still he lies on the sofa
alone with his thoughts, as if last night never happened between us. Has all
my work been for nothing? Is he even thinking about us? Or, the thought stabs
like a knife, is he thinking about her? From now on, I suppose I’ll always
wonder that, won’t I? Whenever he stares off into space…
I pull my legs up and hug my knees to my chest. I can’t push the pain
aside any longer. It has swollen within me all day until just now it bursts
and runs scalding down both my cheeks. How could he do this? Why didn’t
he tell me? I never doubted him before, but I do now and I don’t want to.
All this time, he was the solid one, letting me swirl and flow around him
until I found my footing. But now, I feel as if I’ve been standing on sand,
helpless as the tide steals grain after grain from beneath my toes. I could
still lose him, couldn’t I? Maybe not today or tomorrow, but sometime in the
future… How could he do this to me? How could he set me up like this?
All night, I’ve tried to tell myself that all of this will become
nothing more than a bad memory, something I will tuck away in a dark corner
of my mind and never speak of again. Time will pass; Gene will grow; perhaps
we’ll even have another child; perhaps Tom will be present for its birth.
That is what I hope, anyway. It used to be what Tom hoped; at least, that was
what he said. But that was before-
Before? Before what? Before Tuvok barged in and thrust the past into
our faces? Why should that make a difference? How can I begrudge his turning
to her, when I turned to Nat as I did? I can’t. I shouldn’t. It would be
unfair. She’s no threat to me, to my marriage; he gave her up months ago.
No, for us to stay together, I can’t give into my fear. I must learn to
forgive him, as he has forgiven me. Otherwise, everything I did today was for
nothing. She will leave the ship in a few days, and that will be the end
of it.
I wipe my face and glance at the chronometer. When will he come to
bed? When? Is he waiting until I’m asleep? A huge sigh rises within me,
and I let it escape slowly, deliberately. Tom, come to bed. Please. I told
you you could.
“Ahem.” He stands just inside the doorway. “I haven’t done so,
I know. I wasn’t sure how to, but I want to thank you for what you did today.
You saved my career.”
“You’re welcome.”
“I know you did it for Gene, but I wanted to thank you anyway.”
He smirks nervously. “Bruchac never knew what hit him.”
“That was the idea.”
“Well, it worked. And you talked with Jinara, too?”
“Yes.”
“Figured. You must have really gotten to her as well, convincing her
to lie like that.”
“I didn’t have to. She’s a clever girl and evidently has a very
generous heart. Under different circumstances, I think we might have even
become friends.”
His eyes open wide. “Really?”
“Yes. I can see why you were attracted to her.”
He smirks again briefly, sadly. “She is special, but I wasn’t in love
with her, not like I am with you.”
“They say second love is always different.”
“Is that what you think? That I was in love with her?”
“Weren’t you?”
“No! No, I wasn’t.” He shakes his head vehemently. “I-I couldn’t
have been. You were always on my mind. It just happened. I needed someone,
and she was here. There was no love involved.”
He’s lying, but he can’t admit it yet, even to himself.
I lie back, easing myself down between the sheets. “Are you coming
to bed?”
He takes two steps forward and halts. “Are you sure you want me
in here?”
“I said so, didn’t I?”
“Yes.” He takes a deep breath and lets his gaze fall. “Cait, I’ve
hurt you terribly. I’ve humiliate you in front of others, strangers and
friends alike. I find it hard to believe you can put that all aside so
easily.”
“I haven’t put it aside.”
“Then why? Why do you want me in here beside you? How can you?”
“I don’t know. I just do.” I sit up deliberately holding his gaze
with my own. “Tom, I told you last night I needed time to accept what has
happened, and that fact hasn’t changed. I still need time, but I have no idea
how long. Weeks? Months? Years? And during that time, do you propose to
spend every night on the sofa? How can that help us? It won’t bring us any
closer together, and you know that as well as I do.”
He doesn’t respond; so I throw back the covers on his side of the bed.
“Look, it’s been a very long, very stressful twenty-four hours for both of us,
and this isn’t something that can’t be resolved overnight. So won’t you come
to bed? Please?”
He stares at the bare area of sheet beside me. His jaw clenches and
his eyes shut. “Computer,” he says softly, but I detect a quiver in his voice.
“Activate comm speaker and initiate sleep mode.”
In the near darkness, I watch him approach and strip before taking a
seat on the bed. He sighs once as I lie back down, and once again, and then
for several minutes he simply sits there, his back to me, silent and motion-
less.
“Tom?” I reach out and feel him tremble beneath my fingertips. “Tom,
what is it?”
With a small cry, he rolls to me, pressing a damp cheek against my
chest. His entire body quakes and shudders as, sobbing, he swears his
hereafter fidelity. Tenderly, I stroke his hair. I tell him I love him.
I whisper it over and over, and still he cries, perhaps even harder. Gently,
gently, I try to soothe him; yet his guilt will not be pacified and continues
its rampage unabated, until he lies in my arms gasping with exhaustion.
“I’m…sorry…Cait…I am…so sorry. I didn’t mean to give up on us.
I didn’t. I swear I didn’t.”
“I know. Neither did I. It just happened, but it’s over, and we’re
here. That’s what matters. We’re here. We’re here.”
He raises his drenched face from my breast and brings his salty lips
to mine. “I love you,” he murmurs, kissing my cheek next. “I love you.
I love you. I swear I do. I love you. I love you.”
The intensity in his voice and kisses grows, leaving us both panting.
The two of us. The two of them. Like last night. Together. Here. In this
bed. In this bed. The two of them. Together. Nausea rises in my throat,
and I twist, trying to escape both him and the vision. “Please. Please.”
“What? Cait, what’s wrong?”
I shut my eyes tight and turn my face away, but it’s no use. She was
here in *this* bed with him.
“Cait? Honey? What is it?” His fingers stroke my cheek, my hair.
“It’s silly,” I tell myself softly, trying to fight back the tears.
“It’s silly. It’s over. Don’t think about it.”
“Don’t think about what?” he asks, anxiety simmering in his voice.
I open my eyes and stare at the wall. Was this her side of the bed?
“This morning…when I talked with Jinara, I could-”
His hand freezes, the fingertips still touching my cheek. “What?”
My voice trembles. “I could- I could see the two of you–together.
I saw you, and the image won’t go away.”
“Oh.” His hand draws back and the rest of him follows allowing cool
air to rush beneath the sheets. “I knew this was a mistake. I knew it was.
I shouldn’t- I’ll go-”
“No!” I cry and turn back, reaching for him. “Don’t leave! Please
don’t leave.”
He stops and pulls me into his arms, crushing me against the warmth
of his chest. “Cait-”
“Please don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me alone. Please.
Please,” I beg, and with words and kisses, he promises over and over to stay.
With deep shuddering breaths, I inhale him–his aftershave, his sweat–
his own unique musk. How could I have forgotten it? How could I have lived
without it? It is comfort. He is home. Why was I so eager to run away?
Now, I can’t imagine anything worse.

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

The Paris Journals, vol. XI:

An inquisitive coo woke me right before a stubby finger jabbed itself
up my right nostril. With a snort, I jerked up, opening my eyes. My son lay
on his stomach, his bright blue eyes regarding me with what seemed to be
amusement. Cait lay next to him on her side, still asleep, with one hand
placed protectively on his back.
“So, you thought that was funny, huh?” I whispered. I eased him out
from beneath Cait’s hand and lifted him onto my chest. He squealed with
apparent delight.
“Shh. Don’t wake Mommy.”
“Too late” came the groan. “Try 0300.”
I scrunched up my face. “Did you wake Mommy at 0300? Why did you
do that?”
Cait yawned and rolled onto her back. “He didn’t say, and he wouldn’t
go back down. So I brought him in here and he dropped right off.”
“Hope it doesn’t become a habit.”
“It won’t,” she responded firmly. “Even if we have to issue ear plugs
to everyone on this deck, the deck above us, and the deck below.”
She moved closer and rested her cheek against my shoulder. I twisted
my head around and planted an awkward kiss on the top of her head. She rose up
lifting her head to kiss me on the lips.
“Ow!”
She stopped and pulled back. “What’s wrong?”
I grimaced and looked at my son. “Chest hair,” I grunted. “Ow! Hey,
leggo. Ow!” I seized his hands and pried myself free as painlessly as I
could. “Stop laughing. It isn’t funny. It hurts.”
“I know.” Cait’s cheeks turned a light pink as she struggled to speak.
“I’m sorry. I know it must. Here, do you want me-”
“No, he can stay here as long as he keeps his hands to himself.”
I directed a frown at Gene, which did not seem to phase him in the least.
“Besides I have to get up soon.”
Cait wiped her eyes and settled back down at my shoulder. She took
Gene’s left hand in hers. “He’s growing so fast. He’ll be walking before we
know it.”
“Yeah, but we still have a little time.”
“True.”
*BEEP* “The time is 0700 hours,” announced the computer.
“Except for right now,” I said with a sigh.
“Mmm-hmm.”
Cait sat up and held out her hands. Reluctantly, I handed Gene over
to her and drug myself out of bed, stretching and twisting my back. I heard a
gentle “Where’s Gene? Where’s Gene?” behind me and smiled to myself.
One week had passed since the hearing and we were still a tentative
family. We had yet to make love again, but our level of intimacy grew every
day so I hoped it was only a matter of time. I turned to look at them.
Cait was clapping Gene’s hands together; they were both smiling.
She glanced up at me. “If you don’t get moving, you’ll be late.”
“I’m going. I’m going.” I knelt down on the bed and leaned over to
kiss her. “Right after this…Okay, now, I’m going.” I smiled, hoping with
all my heart that she accepted my kisses for what they were–the purest
declaration of my love, my vow to labor day and night beside her to save
our marriage.
Her lips curled and a soft flush crept into her cheeks. It took all
of my self-restraint to pull away and answer the call of duty. Yet, at the
bathroom door I paused once more and turned around. “Cait.”
“Hmm?” She looked up.
“I do love you, both of you.”
Her lips parted, and she caught her breath. “We know,” she whispered.
“And we love you.”

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

And the questions never asked.
The answers learned at love’s expense.
I’ve promised myself.
I will not ask where you have been tonight.
I’ll only say hello
and hope.

-Rod McKuen
“Listen to the Warm”, No. 15

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