The Paris Journals: Incubation, vol. III

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From: crime@bu.edu (mary self)
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Subject: VOY: Incubation
Date: 19 Jan 1996 12:20:50 GMT
Organization: Boston University
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DISCLAIMERS: All the characters in this story belong to Paramount, except
Caitlin, Rowan and Valaxis, which along with this story
are my creations.

REQUIREMENTS: A willing suspension of disbelief. I claim no authoritative
knowledge in medicine or mechanics.

WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS MATERIALS NOT SUITABLE FOR THOSE UNDER 17 OR
THOSE WITH EXTREMELY NARROW VIEWS ON CARNAL BEHAVIOR.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. III

By Carly Hunter
copyright 1995

Incubation
Part 1

“You know, something told me I’d find you in here.”
I looked up. A voluptuous blond by the name of Jenny Delaney rested
her hands on the pool table directly across from me. As usual, her uniform was
unzipped a little lower than most women’s to accentuate her, um, assets.
“Oh yeah? Well, I’m meeting some people.”
She smirked. “I thought as much. Harry, B’Elanna, and the wicked
witch, right?”
“If by that you mean Cait, the answer is yes.”
She sauntered around the table as I bent down again to take my shot.
Leaning beside me on the bumper, she allowed the fingers of her left hand
to meander up my arm. “I don’t know why you chase after her, Tom. You’ve got
a ship full of women who would give anything to be with you, and yet, you
ignore them all for her. Has she got you wound that tightly around her
finger?”
I shoved her hand roughly away. I couldn’t believe after all that
happened, after all the trouble she caused, here she was coming on to me.
“Tom, are you still so mad at me? You two were having trouble long
before I stepped into the picture.”
I glared at her. “True, but we might have worked them out. Your
interference, though, made sure we didn’t.”
“Whoa. Back up. I didn’t drag you into my room that night. You’re
the one who passed out on my couch. Would you have preferred it if I had
called her to remove you from my quarters?”
“No, I guess not, but you didn’t have to kiss me in front of her. That
was strictly your doing.”
She glanced down at her hands. “Look, I was wrong to do that, and I
apologize, but you are better off without her. She wasn’t the right girl for
you, and I hate to see you wasting your time pining over someone who has no
intention of letting you back into her life.”
Shrugging, I moved away to take my next shot. “Well, it’s my life to
pine away if I want to.”
“You wouldn’t think that way if you heard some of the things she’s said
about you.”
I glanced up. “What things?”
“Oh, just stuff. Like how she wouldn’t marry you because you would be
a bad father.”
I straightened up and leaned on my cue. “When and where did you hear
this?”
“I don’t remember exactly when, but she and B’Elanna were talking about
kids and marriage in the mess,and the remark popped right out like it was an
established fact. I couldn’t believe it.”
“Oh really?” My eyes narrowed slightly. “She never mentioned this
to me.”
“Come on, Tom. It’s not the kind of thing you say to someone; friends
don’t even say it to one another.” Her blue eyes opened wide in implied
honesty. “Like I said, I couldn’t believe she said it either.”
I frowned. “Look, Jenny, you’ll forgive me if I don’t take what you’re
telling me as the gospel truth, but I do have some friends meeting me here
shortly, so if you don’t mind . . .”
“Sure, Tom, whatever.” She strolled around the table until she stood
very close to me. “But we used to have some pretty good times together, you
and I, and I don’t want to see you become a bitter old man waiting for her to
change her mind.” Soft hands smoothed the uniform over my chest, and I could
smell her perfume. “Caitlin doesn’t own you, Tom. There’s nothing that says
you can’t date others while you wait. It would certainly be preferable to
going to bed alone, every, single, night.” She raised her face to mine, the
soft, rouged lips parted in an open invitation to my own mouth.
*Thomas . . . * A voice of caution came from somewhere in the back of
my head. I took a deep breath and swallowed hard. Clasping Jenny’s hands in
mine, I pried them off my chest. “Not now, Jenny. Understand?”
Her head listed saucily to one side. “Oh well, you can’t blame a girl
for trying.” She stepped back. “But I did mean what I said, Tom, about her
not having a claim on you. Even if the girl isn’t me, you really should open
your eyes and look around. It would be a shame to let all that `talent’ go
to waste.” She drew her tongue hungrily across her lips before turning on
her heels and exiting.
I stood looking after her even when the doors had closed. Maybe she
had a point. Gods, the last time I had gotten laid was when? I hadn’t
intended to go on a fast, if you will, but to tell the truth, no other woman
had really interested me except Cait, so I hadn’t bothered. Well, that isn’t
entirely true. I did go out on a couple of dates, one of which ended
disastrously with my face getting slapped, and since I was already rather
morose I didn’t see the need to increase my depression. In a way, this was all
new to me; I’m used to turning my emotions on and off, and now, I’ve found out
I can’t do that. But maybe it wouldn’t hurt me to get out more. There were
some pretty good-looking women on board, who were still available, and Cait,
herself, had told me to see other people. On the other hand, if I truly loved
Cait and was willing to wait for her, would I see others? The doors opened and
Harry walked in, followed closely by B’Elanna and Cait. Any further ethical
philosophizing on my part would have to wait until later.

I stepped into the lift. Cait was already in it. “Deck 15,”
I called. “Where are going?”
“Deck 6. I’m off for the day.”
“Lucky you. I’ve got to run a level two diagnostic on the
navigation control system, and then, I’ve-” I wanted her; nothing else
mattered. I shook my head trying to clear my thoughts, but it didn’t
help. I had to have her.
“And then what?” She gazed at me in confusion. “Tom?”
“Computer, halt.” I couldn’t stop myself. I grabbed her by
the shoulders and pressed her into the wall of the lift. Grinding
myself against her, my mouth descended onto her neck, the one spot I
knew would elicit an immediate response.
She gasped, but didn’t try to free herself. Instead, she clung
to me, arching her body into mine. My right hand cupped her breast,
squeezing it gently; with my thumb, I massaged the nipple until I felt
its arousal through her uniform.
“Computer, resume,” she moaned. “Deck 6.”
“We’ll never make it,” I whispered. “I’ve got to have you.
Right here, right now.”
Her hands pulled my face away from her neck. “Oh yes, we will.
Just think how much fun we can have in your quarters.” She kissed me
forcefully on the mouth.
My teeth nibbled their way back towards her ear. “Somehow
that’s not going to help me make it there.”
The lift doors opened. Without a word, she grabbed my hand and
pulled me out of the lift. We were only five doors away from my
quarters, but it seemed to take forever to reach there. Keying open
the door presented yet another challenge while her hands stroked my
erection through the fabric of my uniform. Oh gods, she wanted me as
much as I wanted her. We were both out of control. Finally, I got the
door open, and we stumbled inside locking it behind us.
Our mouths bruised one another with the force of our kisses.
I felt her open the front of my jumpsuit and pull it and my briefs down
just far enough. Her nimble fingers caressed me gently as she knelt
down to take me into her mouth. *Oh Gods!* It was wonderful, but I
wanted more, a lot more.
I jerked her to her feet. Grabbing her behind the neck, I held
her head firmly in one hand, allowing my tongue to invade her mouth
once again. With my other hand, I ripped open the front of her uniform
and thrust my hand inside her underwear. Yeah, she was ready, good and
ready.
She slipped quickly out of her clothes and turned her back
toward me, placing her arms on the table. “Here, if I bend- ohhh!”
I didn’t let her finish, plunging as deeply as I could into the
center of her moisture. I put one hand on the table to balance myself
and brought the other around to tease her along. “Come with me, Cait.
I know you want to. I can feel it.” My fingers sped up their rhythm a
little, but not too much.
“Ohh, yes,” she moaned, thrusting back onto me. It was
perfect. If she moved forward, she felt my fingers; if she moved back,
me in all my glory. It was a win-win situation for the both of us.
“Come on, Cait. I’m waiting for you. Yeah, that’s it. Just
let go.” Her motion increased, making it more and more difficult for
me to hold back. And then, she strained back against me, groaning in
pleasure, and I knew I was home free.
“Oh yeah. That’s it,” I breathed, filling her with everything
I had. My head collapsed against her back. “I love you so much.”

“Whoa!” Opening my eyes, I bolted up in bed. “What a dream. I-
Sh*t!” Great. It was 0200 hours, and here I was having to change the bed.
This was ridiculous, as well as embarrassing. I’m over thirty, not thirteen.
I sat down on the edge of my fresh bed and dropped my head into my
hands. Whether I was asleep or awake, Cait was there. She was everywhere; I
couldn’t escape her. Hell, I was obsessing about her, which is definitely not
normal for me. Jenny was right. I had to meet someone else.

The next morning before the start of my shift, I took a little detour
down to stellar cartography to ask Jenny to join me at Sandrine’s after dinner.
In retrospect, it might have been wiser to mention it at least to Cait, but I
honestly didn’t think about it. Last night’s dream had left me kinda shaken,
and quite frankly, I was trying my best to keep any thoughts of Cait out of my
mind. Besides, it wasn’t a date, merely two people renewing an acquaintance.
When Jenny and I arrived at the bar, Harry, B’Elanna, and Cait were
already at a table. Initially, a look of shock flickered across Cait’s face
when we asked to join them, followed quickly by an impassive mask, which
remained there the rest of the night. She was polite, but in a frozen way, and
she changed her drink order to blood wine very soon after we took our seats.
We shot a few games of pool as teams; Harry and Cait against Jenny and
me. Cait played like a shark, clearing the table almost every time it was her
turn; so much so, the game quickly lost it enjoyment for all concerned. We
sat back down, but the conversation lapsed quickly into a stony silence.
Within two hours, I had had enough of the `merriment’, and asked Jenny if she
was ready to leave. To my relief she said yes.
“Whew,” she sighed as the holodeck’s doors closed behind us. “Her eyes
weren’t the only things green in there tonight.”
“Huh?”
Jenny grinned. “I’m saying the dear Lieutenant was jealous that you
were out with someone.”
“C’mon, Jenny. She probably had a bad day, that’s all. She’s told me
before I should feel free to see other people.”
“Augh, Tom! Open your eyes! She was colder to you then liquid
nitrogen, and how often do you see her order blood wine. I won’t even mention
how she deliberately sabotaged each game we played. I told you, she likes
keeping you in a cage, with a big sign that says `no petting’.”
“You’re exaggerating, Delaney,” I replied, but not as convincingly as
I would’ve liked.
We strolled in relative silence back to her quarters, and right on cue,
she invited me in. I accepted, more in defiance of Cait, than because I wanted
to be with Jenny. I didn’t really believe what Jenny was saying, but nothing
else sufficiently explained Cait’s actions, and it made me angry to think that
perhaps Cait was only stringing me along.

I awoke the next morning with Jenny cuddled next to me. It took me a
minute to figure out where I was and with whom. For a brief instant, I even
thought Jenny was Cait, but then, reality slapped me hard in the face. The
whole experience had felt wrong from the instant I entered her room; I had just
been too confused and upset to realize it at the time. Now, I simply felt
hollow, but I went through the usual motions anyway. Yeah, it was great for
me, too. Sure, you’ll see me later. Right, much later. It’s funny how your
commitment to quality drops when you’re with someone you know will go to bed
with any reasonably attractive male.
Back in my own quarters as I prepared for my shift, I had time to
reflect upon Cait’s actions, and my initial anger returned threefold. She had
been the one who called it quits. She had no claim on me, and she certainly
had no right to treat me the way she had. One way or another, that redhead and
I were going to have a little talk, the sooner, the better.
After my shift ended, I located Cait in the gym. We were the only ones
there, so it was the perfect opportunity to have it out. Taking a deep breath,
I casually sauntered up. “So, what’s wrong?”
She didn’t take her eyes off the wall as she hoisted a 10kg bar over
her head. “What do you mean what’s wrong?”
“Don’t play games. You know damn well what I mean. Ordering blood
wine. Acting colder than polar ice caps. It did seem rather obvious that your
actions were deliberate.”
“Well, if they were so obvious and deliberate, oof, then why are you
bothering me now?” She lifted the bar up and down once again. It was clear
she wasn’t going to make this easy.
“C’mon, Cait, level with me. You’re upset, and I want to know why.”
She slammed down the weight and stood up. “You want to know what’s
wrong? I’ll tell you what’s wrong. It’s your taste in women. It stinks. How
could you go back to her after what she did to us, to you?”
“Because things are different now. She and I used to be friends, and
she has apologized for the trouble she caused. I guess you could say we’re
simply renewing our friendship.”
The green eyes narrowed considerably. “Is that what you call it? I
didn’t think Jenny Delaney was capable of being `only friends’ with any male.”
“That remark was uncalled for,” I growled. “Did you really expect me
to sit around my room waiting for you to change your mind? Or maybe that *is*
what you wanted me to do.”
“How dare you! I told you before to start seeing other women. It just
never occurred to me that you’d choose her.”
I crossed my arms defiantly over my chest. “Oh, so I can only date
those women who meet your approval, not mine.”
“If your criteria are low enough to admit Delaney, then I’d say you
need some guidance.”
“That’s funny. You didn’t complain when they were low enough to admit
you.”
Her hand lashed out, but I deflected it easily enough. Looking back, I
deserved the slap, but at the time, it only fueled my anger. “Violence is
always the last recourse with you, isn’t it? Sometimes you’re as bad as
B’Elanna.”
“Well, if you were half as good as Harry, we wouldn’t be having this
conversation.”
I smirked. “If you wanted a goody-goody lapdog, why didn’t you say
so?”
“If you think Harry’s a goody-goody, you don’t know him as well as I
do.”
My eyes bugged out for a moment. It had to be only a cruel tease on
her part; she wouldn’t betray B’Elanna like that. “Exactly what are saying?”
“I’ll leave that up to your imagination, and I’m sure Jenny can help
you fill in any gaps. She’s quite good, I understand, at disguising the
truth.”
“She’s not the only one.”
Cait gaped at me. “Are you implying that I-”
“If the shoe fits, wear it.”
“I have *never*ever* lied to you, Tom.”
“No, you just keep your true thoughts locked away from me.”
“My true thoughts? What the hell are you talking about?”
“Oh, ones like how you think I’d be a bad father.”
“A bad father?” she repeated. “Where did you hear that? From Jenny?”
I nodded. “As a matter of fact, yes. She overheard you and B’Elanna
talking one day.”
“When?”
“That’s not important. What matters is that you stated one of the
reasons you wouldn’t marry me was because I would be a poor parent.”
Cait’s manner softened slightly. “Tom, I swear to you, I do not
remember saying those exact words. Have I questioned your parenting skills?
Yes, in passing. But deep down, I’ve always thought that given the right
opportunity, you would make some child a wonderful father and some lucky lady
a great husband. But not me, and certainly not Jenny. She only wants you for
one thing, Tom. Sex. Sex is power to her. Can’t you see that?”
“And just what is it to you?” I regretted the words as soon as I said
them.
Cait glared at me. “That’s it. I’m not continuing this argument any
further. If you want to see Jenny, fine. Go ahead, screw up your life. See
if I care.” She snatched up her towel and stormed out of the gym.

By the time dinner rolled around, I was still pretty angry, and I
purposefully sat down early to eat alone. Usually, that’s the last thing
I would do, but I didn’t want to sit with Harry and B’Elanna. At times, it
hurts to be with them, although, I know it isn’t their fault.
About halfway through the meal, Jenny sat down beside me and proceeded
to stroke my arm lightly with her hand. “I’ve been looking for you, and here
you sit all by yourself. I would’ve joined you for dinner, Tom. Why didn’t
you ask?”
I took a deep breath. “Look, Jenny. I’m not in the best of moods
right now, and I thought it would be better for everyone if I had a quick
dinner and cooled down on my own. All right?”
“I’ll bet I could make that nasty mood go away. Why don’t you come
by my room for `dessert’ later?”
I never noticed until that moment how much she spoke in inuendoes and
cliches. `Dessert’, yeah, I knew what she had in mind. Simpering, I shook my
head. “No, Jenny. I appreciate the offer, but I need a little time alone.”
She rose to her feet. “Well, if you change your mind, just drop on by.
You know where I am.” Her fingers deftly caressed the hair on my neck before
she left.
I let out a heavy sigh of relief. It was unfortunate, but I wouldn’t
go. She didn’t understand. It was only sex to her, and while in the past, I
would’ve thought that was exactly what I required, I didn’t anymore. I needed
someone who was willing to take things slowly, someone who realized that I was
still pretty cut up inside.
By the time I got back to my quarters, my anger had subsided for the
most part, but I was still a long way from calm, so I decided to do a little
work on the Ford. I scooped my design PADD and headed down the hall to
holodeck 2.
Ah, there she was. My little beauty. I was still having a few
problems with the pistons firing irregularly, as well as with the gears of the
differential. So, slipping on a pair of holographic coveralls, I wriggled my
way under the rear of the truck. I banged away for a couple of blissful,
uninterrupted hours, when suddenly someone grabbed my legs and hauled me out.
“Hey! What the- What’s up, Harry?” I looked up at my friend, who was
clearly unsettled about something. “Did you and B’Elanna have a fight?”
“You know something, Paris? You’re an idiot!”
My temper flared; evidently, I hadn’t wound down as much as I thought.
I leapt to my feet, bringing my face within inches of his. “You want to take
back that last statement? Just what the hell did I do to you?”
“Not to me, to Caitlin. Were you trying to hurt her? B’Elanna was
going to come yell at you herself, but I figured I’d save you the trip to
sickbay and come instead.”
“Thank you ever so much,” I sneered. “But would you mind telling me
exactly what I did to Caitlin? As I recall, she was the one who was pretty
rude last night.”
“Rude? I think she showed remarkable restraint. Didn’t you stop to
think that after all the trouble Jenny caused, bringing her to Sandrine’s
would be a slap in the face to Caitlin? You as much as told her that you
would choose some, well, some slut like Jenny over her. You hurt her last
night, Tom, you hurt her badly.” He took a deep breath. “Well, that’s all I
wanted to say. I thought you had changed, but I guess you really haven’t.
You’re still a selfish bastard.” Before I could reply, he spun around and
quickly left.
“DAMN!” I hurled the wrench in my hand across the room and began
kicking the truck. “DAMN! DAMN! DAMN! Computer, end program.”
I sank down onto the holodeck’s floor. “What the hell am I gonna do?
It never occurred to me she would- Selfish! It never occurred to you because
you were only concerned about yourself. You didn’t stop to think how she would
feel. Idiot!” I smacked the palm of my hand against my forehead. “Let a
woman stroke your ego just right, and you’ll believe anything she says. Why
the hell did I listen to Delaney? Now, how am I going to set things right?
Computer, is Lt. Matthews in her quarters?”
“Affirmative.”
*Get going, Thomas. You know what you have to do.*
Within five minutes, I had reached the door to Cait’s quarters.
Crossing my fingers, I pressed the chime.
“Come in.”
She was sprawled across the sofa wearing the pair of gold silk pajamas
I had given her on her last birthday, before we broke up. “Oh, so it’s you.”
She sat up. “What do you want?”
I sat down in a chair and rested my arms on my knees. My hands twisted
nervously as I stared at the floor. “Um, I wanted to apologize for this
afternoon and for last night. I’m a real jerk, Cait. I didn’t stop to
consider your feelings when I invited Jenny to Sandrine’s, and I wanted you to
know I was sorry. Honest.” I glanced up briefly before dropping my gaze.
She didn’t respond. She merely sat there watching me, which only
increased my anxiety.
“Look, that’s all I came to say. Well, that and that you were right.
About Jenny, I mean. She isn’t what I need in my life, right now.” I rose
slowly to my feet. “I’m really sorry I hurt you, Cait; I didn’t mean to.
Sometimes I get the feeling that’s the only thing I’m good at. Anyway, I’ll
let you get back to whatever you were doing. Good night.”
“I never said you would be a bad father.” Her voice halted my exit.
I turned around, shooting her a rueful grin. “I know. Heck, I’m so
good at managing my own life; I must be a natural at managing someone else’s,
right?” Before she could reply, I beat a hasty retreat out the door; I didn’t
want to know the answer.

Over the next few days, I avoided both Jenny and Cait as much as I
could; Cait, because I figured it was the wisest and safest thing to do; and
Jenny, well, just because. By the second day, however, I reasoned that Cait
must have accepted my apology because both Harry and B’Elanna stopped treating
me like the enemy. On the third day, Harry went so far as to specifically
invite me to Sandrine’s. I declined. Cait would probably be there, and well,
coward that I am, I didn’t feel very comfortable with idea of seeing her yet.
Maybe in a day or two.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. III

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1995

Incubation
Part 2

Day 1

The next morning at 0715 hours, I sat down, alone, to breakfast. I
had taken about three mildly disgusting mouthfuls when a familiar voice made
me look up.
“Did you want to be by yourself, or would you care for some company?”
Cait stood before me, tray in hand.
Grinning, I waved at the seat next to me. “Company, please. I hate
eating alone.”
“We missed you at Sandrine’s last night. What happened? Another hot
date with Jenny?”
“I thought I had made it clear that that particular chapter of my life
was closed.” Frowning, I stared at her tray. She had gotten double helpings
of almost everything. “You did leave some for the rest of the crew, didn’t
you?”
She coloured slightly. “I think so. For some reason, I’m simply
starving this morning. But don’t try to change the subject. Why didn’t you
join us last night? Harry said he asked you, but you declined.”
“He did,” I sighed. “And please don’t take this the wrong way, it was
because I thought you would be there.”
“Me? Why? Look, Tom, if I’m making you uncomfortable, I’ll go sit
somewhere else.”
I put a hand on her arm to stop her. “No, no. Stay. Please. I can’t
really explain it, Cait. Last night, I just wasn’t ready to face you after all
that’s happened lately. I guess I was scared.”
“Scared? Of me? Why? I don’t bite.” I raised one eyebrow, causing
her to blush. “You know what I mean.”
“Oh, of course, I do,” I responded innocently. “And I don’t recall
ever complaining either.”
“Tom.”
“All right, all right. All kidding aside, I don’t know why. Maybe I
was afraid I would do or say something wrong. I just don’t know. I- Good
Gods! Harry, what the hell happened to you? Did you and B’Elanna have a
fight?”
My friend walked up, sporting a shiner almost as black as his uniform.
“Of sorts, I suppose. All I know is she woke up with a sore back and in a foul
mood. I made one little comment, and POW! Down I went. She disappeared into
the bathroom, and I left as fast as I could.”
“She has a sore back?” Cait looked surprised. “That’s funny. I do,
too, but I figured I just slept on it wrong.”
“Yeah, well, whether you do or not, I’d advise you to stay out of
B’Elanna’s way if at all possible.”
“That’s not going to be easy,” I observed. “She’s coming this way.”
He whipped around. “B’Elanna, I’m sorry. I didn’t-
“Harry! Did I do that?” She touched the bruise gingerly, and he tried
hard not to flinch. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what got into me.” Hugging
him tightly, she began weeping, which was very peculiar.
“Hey, it’s okay. You know, Caitlin’s back is sore, too. Maybe there’s
a virus or something you two picked up.” He tilted her face up towards his.
“Enough with the tears, you’re forgiven.”
She smiled sadly. “Sometimes I just don’t deserve you.”
“Oh, yes, you do. Now, come on. Let’s get some breakfast and join
these two. That is, if you don’t mind?”
“Not at all,” Cait replied. “As long as it’s all right with the
hermit, here.”
“By all means, join us,” I countered cheerfully. “Save me from the
devastating Matthews wit.”
Cait raised an eyebrow, a sly smile dancing across her lips.
“Good.” B’Elanna responded, wiping her eyes. “I think I could use the
entertainment. You know,” she continued as they moved off toward the server.
“I’m simply starving.”
When they returned, the engineer sat down next to Cait and whispered
something to her friend, who grinned broadly in response.
“No kidding? You, too? How was it?”
“Best ever,” Torres winked. “You?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Cait’s eyes sparkled mischievously. “Was it- um?”
“Of course. How about you?”
“I’d rather not say.”
Harry glanced curiously at me, and I put my fork down. They could have
been talking about tricorders for all I knew, but it was the inuendo that was
killing me. “Is this conversation private, or can Harry and I participate?”
“Well, it is kind of private,” Cait began, absently dunking a piece of
sausage in the small mound of jam on her plate before popping it into her
mouth.
B’Elanna’s head bobbed up and down in agreement. “Yeah, you know, girl
talk.” She winked at Cait, and the two immediately exploded into laughter.
“Well, I’m glad someone can find something amusing,” Harry noted.
“Because this breakfast sure isn’t. Why can’t Neelix just fix a plain, simple
meal?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Cait said, munching down on a piece of purple
fruit. “This really isn’t too bad.”
I took a bite of the same thing and screwed up my face. “Ugh, you’re
right. It’s awful. How the hell can you eat it, Cait?”
“I don’t know. I’m hungry; it’s food; one pretty much follows the
other.”
Harry and I gazed at them devouring the contents of their trays. “Are
you two feeling okay?” he asked. “You’re acting kind of strange.”
“Except for my back, I feel fine,” Cait replied, her mouth full of
food. “How about you, B’Elanna?”
“Same here. Now that I’ve got some food in me, even my bad mood is
gone.” She bit into a piece of jam ladened toast.
Kim frowned. “B’Elanna, that was ralata jam. You hate the stuff.”
“Tastes good this morning for some reason. Don’t ask me why.”
“Okay! That’s it. Get up.” Harry stood and grasped B’Elanna’s arm,
hauling her to her feet. “I’ve got to go to sickbay to get this eye taken
care of, and you’re coming with me.”
“Why?” she growled. “I don’t feel sick.”
“I realize that, but you’re aren’t acting like yourself, either, and I
want the Doctor to take a look at you. Consider it a part of your apology for
this.” He pointed to his eye.
“But Harry-”
“No buts. Come on.”
“Have fun,” Cait waved smugly.
“You know, maybe you should join them.” Rising, I pulled her to her
feet.
“Let me go, Paris,” she hissed. “Or you will be very, very sorry.”
When she’s like this, I’ve discovered that force does no good, rather
you have to resort to reason, logic and a little bribery. “Cait, think about
it. Neither you, nor B’Elanna are acting like yourselves, and you are both
exhibiting the same symptoms. Doesn’t it make sense to have the Doctor check
you out? Look, if everything’s fine, I’ll owe you dinner. How’s that?”
She eyed me suspiciously. “Oh, all right. Let’s get this over with.”
She tossed her napkin down in annoyance.

“Mmm-hmm,” the Doc mused thoughtfully as he scanned B’Elanna. “Very
interesting.”
“What?” Harry demanded.
Without replying, the Doctor moved over and began scanning Cait. “And
you say the two of you are exhibiting the same symptoms.”
“Yes!” we chorused. Sometimes, he can be so irritating.
“Well, that explains it.” He snapped the scanner back into the medical
tricorder.
“Explains what?” Harry exclaimed. “What’s wrong with them.”
“Nothing is wrong with them, Mr. Kim. They are both quite healthy for
women their age and in their condition.”
*CONDITION!* The word rang around my head. *NO!*
“Condition?” Kim spat. “What condition? What- Oh Gods!”
My heart plummeted. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t.
“No.” Cait shook her head violently. “That’s not possible. No, no,
NO!”
“Congratulations,” the Doctor smiled. “You are each roughly three
weeks pregnant. It puzzles me, though, why I have no record of removing your
implants. Did Kes do it?”
“Doctor, *no one* has removed my implant,” Cait responded vehemently.
“Nor mine.”
“Someone had to. They are no longer in your bodies. And you two are
definitely pregnant.”
Cait gave an uneasy chuckle. “Doctor, I believe we have a problem
here. I cannot be three weeks pregnant. There just isn’t any way. I haven’t-
um.” Her face flushed and she lowered her voice. “I haven’t been with anybody
during that time period.”
“Are you saying that it isn’t Lt. Paris’?”
Cait glanced briefly at me. “I’m saying it couldn’t be anyone’s, and I
think I would know.”
The Doctor frowned. “Well, I can do a genetic scan if you like, and
then compare the results against Voyager’s crew.”
“Yes, I think that would be a very good idea. Because I sure as hell
want to know who has been breaking into my room, removing my implant, and-”
Her voice wavered, and she broke off her rant.
I stepped forward and took her hands in mine. None of this made sense,
but I could tell she wasn’t lying. She was too upset. “Cait, it’s okay.
Everything will be okay. Yelling at the Doc isn’t going to help, unless of
course, it’s his.” I winked.
“I don’t find that very amusing, Lieutenant.” The Doctor stepped
behind Cait and pulled her shoulders down onto the biobed. “Please lie down;
this should only take a few moments.”
I looked at her as she nodded her comprehension. Her face was so pale.
I gave her hand a gentle squeeze and held onto it. “Don’t worry, Cait. We’re
going to get you and B’Elanna through this.” I glanced over my shoulder at the
couple behind me, B’Elanna cradled protectively in Harry’s arms. I figured she
had to be in shock, or she would be in full voice, too.
“Hmm. This doesn’t make sense.” The hologram frowned at the readings.
According to this, the fetus is humanoid, but it bears none of your genetic
code. Lt. Torres, let me run the same scan on you.”
As the engineer lay down, Cait sat up and I hopped up on the biobed
beside her. Placing my left arm around her shoulders, I took her right hand
in mine, causing her to look up at me. I hugged her closer. All the harsh
words we had spoken a few days ago didn’t matter now. She needed someone, and
I was there. “I’ll be with you every step of the way; no matter what happens,”
I whispered. “I promise.”
She leaned a little more into me. “Thank you.”
“Hmm.” The Doctor’s frown deepened. “You two appear to be impregnated
by the same individuals. The same unknown genetic sequences are present in
both fetuses. I’m afraid this is no long a private matter. I must inform
the Captain.”
“NO!” B’Elanna bolted up and lunged for the hologram, but was inter-
cepted by Harry.
“He’s right, B’Elanna. Listen to me.” He held her wrists securely.
“If there is an intruder on board, we have to find him. Besides if Caitlin and
you have been affected, who’s to say other female crewmembers won’t be as
well?” He nodded to the Doc.
“This is the emergency medical holographic program to Captain Janeway.”
“Go ahead, Doctor.”
The hologram cleared his throat. “A situation of extreme delicacy has
arisen, Captain, of which I believe both you and the Commander should be
informed. Could you please come down to sickbay immediately?”
“Of course, Doctor. We’ll be there as soon as the rest of my bridge
crew shows up.”
Harry and I exchanged glances; duty shift had become the furtherest
thing from our minds.
“I believe you will find them here, Captain, as well as Lts. Torres
and Matthews.”
“Very well, Doctor. The Commander and I are on our way. Janeway out.”

“They’re what?”
“Pregnant, Captain, by humanoid entities unknown. Three weeks
according to the tricorder.”
“Computer,” the Captain called out. “Are there any unauthorized life-
forms on board?”
“Negative.”
Janeway spun on Chakotay. “Commander, I want every section of this
ship searched, and all the transporter logs thoroughly gone over. These things
got on board somehow, and-”
The doors to sickbay opened, and a very wan Ensign Sara Nicoletti
walked in. “Doctor, I’ve been-” was all she managed before crumpling to the
floor.
The Commander and Doctor were by her side in an instant. “She’s all
right; she’s only fainted,” the hologram reported. “But her condition is
exactly the same. Three weeks pregnant.”
“Whoever `they’ are, they’ve been busy,” I observed drily, as Chakotay
carried Nicoletti over to a biobed.
The Captain whirled on me. “I don’t think that’s very funny,
Mr. Paris.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be, Captain,” I fired back. If she only knew
how angry I was at whoever had done this.
The Doc stepped between us and scanned her. “My congratulations,
Captain. You are the only female present besides Kes who is not expecting.
Perhaps, since these three women are of almost the same age, that is a
determining factor in the selection process. Unfortunately, I will need to
test every female on board before I can give a more definite hypothesis.”
“Understood. Commander, you will assist the Doctor and Kes. I have
the feeling that some may need a shoulder to cry on when their examination is
finished. In the meantime, Lts. Torres and Matthews, you may consider yourself
off-duty for the rest of the day. This has been a shock to both of you, and
until we know more, I want you to take it easy. Mr. Kim, Mr. Paris, will you
escort them back to their quarters and stay with them if they need you?”
“Yes, Captain.” Harry pulled B’Elanna off the bed and into his arms.
I placed a hand on Cait’s arm as I hopped off the bed. “C’mon, Cait.
Let’s go.”
She shook her head stubbornly. “No, there’s something not right here.”
“Yeah, no kidding. C’mon.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. There’s something missing; something I
know.”
The Captain stepped toward us. “What do you know, Lieutenant?”
“That’s just it. I can’t remember. There’s a piece to this puzzle
floating around my head; I just don’t know where.”
Janeway smiled at her supportively. “If you think of what it is, let
us now at once. In the meantime, I want you to go to your quarters and rest.”
The Captain nodded at me.
Taking Cait’s hands, I pulled her off the biobed. “Cait, you heard
what the Captain said. Maybe you’ll think of it later. That’s it. Come on.”

One hour later, Cait nervously paced the length of her quarters. I sat
on the sofa with my feet propped up on the coffee table. I had given up trying
to get her to relax, but the pacing was driving me nuts. “You want to take a
walk?”
“Huh?”
“I said you’re wearing a hole in the floor; do you want to go take
a walk?”
“What? Oh, sorry.” She made a conscious effort to calm herself by
sitting down; it didn’t last long, as she sprang back up almost immediately.
“I can’t help it. I feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin.”
“It’s probably hormone related. My mother was the same way when she
was pregnant with my sister. Here, come sit down, and I’ll give you a back
rub.” I flashed her a sympathetic grin. “It might make you feel better.”
“Yeah, I guess. I-” Suddenly, she became very pale. “Excuse me.”
Before I could say anything, she bolted into the bathroom; right away,
the sound of vomiting reached my ears. Morning sickness on top of everything
else! At least that’s what I hoped it was. By the time, I reached the door,
the sound of wretching had been replaced by running water.
“Cait, are you okay?” I cautiously peeked in.
She glanced up at my reflection as she reached for a towel to dry her
face. “Yeah, sure. Probably just morning sickness, that’s all.” Her face was
nearly as white as the towel, and she was trembling like a leaf, a fact she
tried desparately to hide.
“No, you’re not. Come here. Atta girl.” I drew her into my arms and
held her tightly. In a matter of nanoseconds, her resolve broke down into a
flood of tears. As the sobs began to ease, I led her out into the sleeping
area. “Here lie down. That’s it. No, I’ll get your boots.”
After I removed her boots, I sat down beside her and smoothed some of
the auburn hair off her brow. She looked so frightened, a rarity for her;
she’s usually so in control, but what was happening now was beyond anyone’s
control. Quickly, I took off my own boots and stretched out beside her.
“Computer, sleep mode.”
“Wha-what are you doing?” she snuffled.
“You’re tired. You’ve had a stressful morning, and you need some
sleep. I just thought you might liked to be held until you fell asleep.” It
was presumptuous of me, but I knew she would never have asked.
She snuggled promptly into my arms. “You’re so good to me.”
“Hey, what are friends for? You’d do the same for me.”
“Sure, the very next time you’re pregnant,” she snickered.
I chuckled. Her resiliency never ceases to amaze me. “Close your
eyes, kiddo, and go to sleep. You’re going to need it.”
We lay still for a few minutes before she spoke again. “Tom.”
“Hmm?”
“For one of the few times in my life, I’m really scared. Just what the
hell is growing in the three of us? It has no right to be there, whatever it
is, and I don’t want it. I’m going to ask the Doctor to abort it.” She looked
up at me. “Is that wrong? I mean, should I? It’s not like it had anything to
do with the current situation.”
“I wish I could answer that for you, Cait, but it has to be your
decision, not mine. Whatever you decide, though, I’ll stand by you. You have
every right to be scared and angry; I am, too, and I’m not the one who’s
pregnant. If you keep it, however, you’ll be choosing to live with a constant
reminder of being violated. Not many people can do that, and putting it up for
adoption, isn’t much of an option on this ship. But all this can wait.”
My hand pressed her head against my chest right above my heart, and slowly she
drifted off to sleep.
I lay awake for a few minutes staring into the darkness. This wasn’t
how it was supposed to be. She should be carrying my child; we both should be
elated, not angry. And I was so powerless to do anything. I hugged her a
little closer. “You won’t go through this alone, Cait. I promise.” I kissed
the top of her head before eventually dozing off myself.

It was almost 1100 hours when I awoke. I felt her stir in my arms, and
my hand moved around from her back to gently caress her cheek. Her face tilted
up towards mine, as her hand glided from my chest to my back, drawing us
closer. I inclined my head, our lips centimeters away when the door chimed.
Flustered, we pulled away and sat up. I requested lights, causing us
both to blink, while she called out “Come in.”
Chakotay looked around before spotting us on the bed. “Am I
interrupting anything?”
I shook my head. “We were just napping, or rather I should say Cait
was napping and I happened to fall asleep.” I hadn’t intended to try to kiss
her; it was more of a half-asleep reflex.
The Commander stared as us peculiarly, but said nothing as he sat down
on the foot of the bed. “Well, we’ve discovered one other crewmember in the
same condition, Ensign Carmichael, which makes four of you overall, and it
appears that the same entities were responsible in each case.” He paused for
a moment. “Caitlin, what I’ve got to tell you isn’t pleasant, but you’ve got
to believe me when I say that we’re exploring every available option. As it
stands now, though, you are going to have to carry the fetus to term.”
Panic swept across her features, mine, too, probably. “No! No, I
can’t. Not for nine months! There has to be some way. There’s got to be!”
He shook his head. “I’m afraid not, at least, not yet. There may be
a bright spot, however; let me check you out.” He ran the scanner over her
abdomen. “Good. You’re almost five weeks.”
“Good?” She repeated in disbelief. “How can that be good?”
“Whoa, wait a minute,” I interrupted. “She was only three weeks this
morning. How can she be five weeks now.”
“Well, that’s the good news. It looks as if whatever it is only has a
gestation rate of six days. In another five days, this part, at least, should
be over.” He leaned forward and patted her knee. “I’m sorry, Caitlin. I wish
I had better news.”
“Have you told B’Elanna yet?” She stare down at the bed, perhaps still
a little stunned by the new information.
Chakotay shook his head again. “No, not yet. I’m going there right
after I leave here.”
“Then, may I make a suggestion?” she snickered. “Duck.”
Surprised, the Commander glanced at me, and I flashed him a half-
hearted grin. Like I said, resilient. He chuckled. “I’ll keep that in mind.
By the way, do you mind if Tom stays with you a little while longer. Since we
don’t have a counselor, the Captain wants to make certain none of you feels
alone and tries something foolish.”
“No, I don’t mind; that is, if Tom doesn’t.” Her gaze fell on me.
I reached over and grasped her hand. “I told you already; I’ll stay
with you as long as you need me.”
Rising to his feet, Chakotay nodded encouragingly at me. “All right,
now that that’s settled; I’ll go talk with B’Elanna. Oh, the Doctor wants to
see you again tonight, and then, every morning henceforth. Also, our resident
tailor, Tuvok is whipping up a few outfits for you to wear, since by tomorrow
evening, your uniforms may begin feeling a little tight. Your revised duty
schedules will be posted shortly; the Doctor feels that a light shift might be
beneficial to you four by helping to keep you minds occupied.” He headed for
the door. “Let me know if there’s anything else we can do.”
“We will, Commander.” I answered for her; they were my responsibility
now. I scooted across the bed to Cait and put my arm around her. “Are you
okay?”
Cait shook her head. “I feel sick.”
I removed my arm as a precaution. “Do you want to throw up?”
“Not yet, but you never know.”
“Maybe it would help if you ate a little something, like a few ration
wafers. When Kes was pregnant, she said an increase in stomach acid was partly
responsible for her morning sickness.”
She let loose a nervous giggle. “You mean almost afternoon sickness,
don’t you?”
“Okay, afternoon sickness. Would you like some or not?”
“Actually, now that you mention it, I’d love some oatmeal cookies.”
I gaped at her. “Cookies?”
“Mmm-hmm, and some milk, too.”
I shook my head. “Whatever you say. It’s your craving.”
Almost immediately, I returned from the replicator balancing a large
plate of cookies on top of two glasses of milk. “Here you go. I hope you
don’t mind if I have a few.”
She took the plate from me and directly crammed half a cookie in her
mouth. “Not at all,” she mumbled between bites.
“Hey, eat slow, or you will be sick. You’ve got to give your body time
to digest them.” I handed her a glass of milk and sat down beside her. “So,
ah, it looks like I’m going to be your nurse for a while.”
Taking a swallow of milk, she cocked her head to one side and studied
me a moment. “You don’t have to be. I’m sure someone else would do it or I
could handle things myself. I’m not going to jump into a plasma stream, you
know.”
“I’m glad to hear it, but no, I don’t mind. It’s no big deal since
I’m right down the hall.” I watched her down two more cookies. “You seem to
be taking this awfully well all of a sudden.”
She gave a rueful chuckle. “Not really. I think I’ve just accepted
that there’s nothing I can do. You heard what Chakotay said; I’m along for the
ride whether I like it or not. Mind you, if I was facing nine months instead
of five days, I might be acting quite differently.”
“But five days isn’t the end of it, Cait. What are you going to do
after it’s born, whatever it is?”
“I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Getting upset only
makes me feel sicker than I already do.”
I bit into my first cookie. “Would you raise it alone?”
“If I have to. It has been done before.”
I grinned. “Yeah, I know. Your dad did a terrific job. I just want
you to know, that is, if you want me to-” I paused; there was no telling how
she would take this.
“Want you to what?”
“What I mean is, if you want me to be a surrogate father, I will be.
Or an uncle or whatever you want to call me. You don’t have to assume all the
responsibility yourself.”
“Tom, I appreciate that, but it’s not yours. You don’t know what you
are committing yourself to.”
“Neither do you.”
“That’s different. I don’t have a choice; you do.”
I took a deep breath; why couldn’t she make this easier? “Okay. Well,
I’ve made my choice, and I’m offering you my untested skills at fatherhood,
however bad they may be. Take ’em or leave ’em. That’s your choice.” I
glanced down at my milk. “Cait, I’m not asking you to marry me, if that’s what
you’re afraid of.”
“I know. It’s just that-” She paused and shrugged her shoulders.
“All right, Tom. If you really want to be its `uncle’, you can be.”
“Hmph. Don’t be so grateful,” I replied sourly. “I don’t think I can
stand it. Are you through with your glass?” I held out my hand.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
As I threw the plate and glasses down the reclamator, she burst into
tears. I whipped around and dashed over, quickly kneeling at her feet. “Cait,
hey, what’s wrong?” I pulled her hands away from her face. “Don’t cry. I
didn’t mean it; you know I have a big mouth.” I twisted my head to one side,
smiling up into her down turned face. “Right?”
A tiny grin crept through the tears. “Always have and always will,”
came the half-hearted giggle. “I’m so sorry, Tom. I didn’t mean to sound so
ungrateful.”
I hugged her tightly. “It’s okay. You’ll probably bite my head off a
few more times before all this is through. But don’t worry; I’ll survive.”
Cait pulled out of my embrace, drawing the back of her hand over her
eyes. “You’re going to spoil me.”
“You deserve to be spoiled, especially by the man of your dreams, but
since he’s not here, I guess the job falls to me.”
The green eyes opened wide. “What did you say?”
“Huh? That you deserve to be spoiled?”
“No, no. Not that. The part about dreams.”
I frowned in confusion. “You mean the man of your dreams?”
“That’s it. Damn! Why didn’t I think of it before?” She jumped to
her feet and hurried for the door.
“Cait, what are you talking about?”
“I don’t know, but I just remembered what I couldn’t think of in sick-
bay. Come on; I’ve got to find B’Elanna and Chakotay.” The door opened and
she began running down the hall.
“Cait! Wait!” I took off after her, finally catching up by the lift.
“Should you be running like that in your condition? And what exactly did you
remember?”
“A dream I had last night.” We stepped into the lift. “Deck 9. It
was very, um, vivid. B’Elanna had one, too. If the gestation rate is that
short, then the logical conclusion would be that fertilization didn’t take
place three weeks ago, but last night. We just need to find out if the others
had a similar experience.”
I grinned wickedly. “This `dream’ you had, what was it about?”
She blushed. “I’d rather not go into the details, but suffice it to
say, it was quite explicit and extremely complete. More so than any dreams
I’ve had in the past.”
“Hold it,” I protested, grabbing her by the arm as we exited the lift.
“Are you saying you think a dream- Cait, that’s not possible.”
“Neither is what’s happening to me and three other women. Think about
it, Tom. What if it wasn’t entirely a dream, but a diversion so we wouldn’t
realize what was actually being done to us?” She stopped in front of
B’Elanna’s quarters, and we both heard the tinkle of smashing glass. “Chakotay
must’ve already been here,” she sniggered. “B’Elanna, open up. It’s me,
Caitlin. We’ve got to talk.”
A howl of rage replied.
“I’ll take that as a `come in’. Get ready to duck. Security override,
authorization, Matthews, delta-two-five.”
“Are you crazy?” I exclaimed as the doors slid open.
“Incoming!” she screamed, pulling me down with her as a bowl whizzed
by overhead.
Harry stared at us from behind a chair. “What the hell are you doing
here? She’s out of control. We can’t get near her.”
“We?”
Chakotay’s head popped around the other chair in response, causing Cait
to burst into laughter. “B’Elanna, you’re amazing.”
Our rampaging engineer halted her wind-up and stared at her giggling
friend. “It’s not funny!” she screeched. I was afraid for a moment she was
going to attack Cait and readied myself to jump between them.
“Oh, yes, it is.” Cait sank down into Kim’s shield, holding her sides.
Torres glared at her, but lowered the bowl she held. She looked from
Harry to Chakotay. Slowly, a small grin spread across her face, and she began
to giggle. Collapsing onto the bed, she covered her face with her hands, her
shoulders shaking in a mixture of hysterical laughter and tears. With effort,
Cait rose from her seat and walked over to the bed. Plopping down beside her
friend, she slung her arm over B’Elanna’s shoulders.
“Only you could have two grown men cowering behind furniture. Listen,
what we discussed at breakfast, you know, the dreams; we’ve got to find out if
the other women had them. Chakotay, can you get the other two women to meet us
in sickbay? I think only the Doctor and Kes need to be present, at first.”
The Indian sheepishly straightened up. (Cait was right. It was
hysterical, and I was glad I saw it.) “I should be able to. Why? What’s this
all about, Matthews?”
“I’m not sure yet, but I remembered what I was trying to think of in
sickbay this morning. Now, it’s just a matter of seeing how it fits in. Come
on, B’Elanna; it’s time for more girl talk.”
The three of us watched, stunned, as the two women left the room.
After the doors shut, Chakotay and Harry cornered me. “Do you know what this
is all about?”
I shrugged. “Only partially, and I understand none of it, so don’t
even bother asking.”

The meeting between the Doctor, Kes, the four women and the four
coaches, as Harry, Porter, Kyoto, and I, have been nicknamed, proved somewhat
more illuminating. It seems that at some point during the night, each woman
had a very detailed erotic dream about some male she knew. The Doctor was of
the opinion that such a state of arousal may have made the implantation easier.
(Cait wouldn’t say who she dreamed about, and I’m dying to know. Selfishly,
of course, I hope it was me.)
Each fetus is covered by a thick, almost shell-like membrane, which has
attached itself to the wall of the uterus in such a way that any forceable
removal would injure the woman. However, the babies do still appear to be
humanoid, which is of some relief, I guess.
After the meeting, Harry and Cait took B’Elanna back to her quarters;
she seemed to be taking the news the hardest of all. I’m not sure why, maybe
because of her own estranged relationship with her mother. Anyway, I returned
to my own quarters. Kes had prepared a PADD full of information for each of
us, and I had just settled down with mine when the door chimed.
“Come in. Hey, Harry, what’s up? Where’s B’Elanna?”
“I left her with Cait. She seems to have better luck calming her down
than I do.” He sat down on the sofa and stared down at the floor.
I felt sorry for him. Starfleet never prepared you for things like
this. So much had happened to him in a relatively short span of time; he had
lost so much, including most of his innocence. I had tried to help him out
whenever I could, but this was totally out of my realm of experience, too. I
watched him for a few moments, not quite sure what to say. I needn’t have
worried.
“Dammit, Paris!” He jumped to his feet and began angrily pacing around
the room. “Who the hell thought they had the right to do this to us? This
should be something we decide, not something that is forced upon us.” He ran
a hand through his hair. “I mean, I care for B’Elanna, and maybe one day we’ll
have kids, but I didn’t want them now.
“Hell, it isn’t even ours! But I’m having to put a good face on for
B’Elanna’s sake; otherwise, I’m scared to death she might try something
foolish. You know how she reacts to being caged. Dammit!” His palm smacked
the wall, hard. I had never seen him so upset.
“Hey, be careful. Those bulkheads are pretty solid. Believe me, I’ve
found out the hard way.” I flashed him a sympathetic smirk.
Grinning ruefully, he wrung his stinging hand. “Thanks for the advice.
There is, I suppose, one bright spot to this whole thing. B’Elanna said I was
the guy in her dream, which, I guess, means that I’m pretty special to her,
huh?”
“More than likely. Cait won’t say who she dreamed about, and I’m dying
of curiosity.”
“Speaking of Caitlin, how are you going to handle being around her so
much under these circumstances?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know; I just will. I’ve committed myself now.”
“But considering your past, you know, how close you two were, not to
mention what happened this past week. Can you really put all that aside?”
“I have to, and I will. My feelings are secondary at this point,
Harry. She’s the important one; she’s the one I’ve got to see through this
nightmare. And I’m not going to let her down.” I stared defiantly at him.
He frowned. “Be careful, Paris. This could really screw up
your head and your heart, if you let it.”
“I know, I know. I will be. But thanks for looking out for me all the
same, old man.” I grinned. “Honest, Harry, I’ll be all right.”
“Okay, Tom. Whatever you say.” The look I received was more than a
little doubtful. “Hey, um, thanks for listening.”
“Anytime, us coaches have to stick together. Oh, remind Cait
I’ll pick her up at 0700, will ya?”
He flashed me a tight smile. “Will do.”

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. III

By Carly Hunter
copyright 1995

Incubation
Part 3

Day 2

I picked Cait up at 0700 sharp. She was in uniform and complaining
that I was a little more snug than usual. According to the Doc, she shouldn’t
show yet, but all of the women claimed they felt a change. Everything else
checked out okay, so after breakfast, all eight of us reported for duty. Cait
is handling this whole situation so well. Nicoletti is a walking tear factory,
and B’Elanna’s snapping everyone’s head off. Only Cait and Laura Carmichael
are seemingly in control, accepting the inevitability of their position. I am
so proud of her; gods know, I don’t think I could deal with it so well.
By dinnertime, though, Cait was the equivalent of twelve weeks along,
and it was starting to show. Tomorrow morning she isn’t going to be able to
wear her uniform, and I know that is going to upset her. She’s very
conscientious about keeping in shape without being a fitness nut. Still
jumping uniform sizes overnight would bother anybody. To ease her mind, I
suggested a long walk in a holodeck zen garden after supper. She accepted.
The walk did us both a world of good. Ever since Harry brought it up,
I’ve felt a little unsure about whether or not I could handle being around her
so much, but the walk swept those fears away.
We just strolled along, admiring the lush mosses and plants, listening
to the softly bubbling stream, and talking about anything that came to mind.
We came to a bench and sat down. Automatically, I put my arm around her, half-
expecting her to jerk away. Instead, she reclined against me, resting her
head on my shoulder. Maybe she needed a little re-assuring, and my arm
provided that, I don’t know.
“I, ah, realize it may seem a little premature, but have you given
any thought about what you’re going to call it?” *Keep it positive, Thomas.*
She tilted her face up towards me. “You mean aside from unexpected-
alien-child-who-has-no-business-in-my-body?”
I snickered, tapping her gently on the chin in rebuke. “I’m serious.
You’re gonna have to name it something.”
“I know,” she sighed. “Don’t laugh, but I was actually wondering about
that during shift today, and I’ve decided on two.”
“Okay, let’s hear them.”
“Well, if it’s a girl, I think I’ll name her Madeleine Duvernet after
my mother.”
Cait never talks about her mother; she died when Cait was young, so
this surprised me a little. “Duvernet?”
“Yeah, my mother’s family is French. I don’t know much about them. I
think they still live somewhere around Provence.”
“All right, Madeleine Duvernet Matthews it is. What if it’s a boy?”
“Rowan, after my father, of course, and I was thinking Thomas would
make a good middle name, after its `uncle’. Do you mind?”
“Hmmm.” I frowned in mock deliberation. “Rowan Thomas Matthews. Hmm.
No, I don’t think I mind. It sounds like a good name to me.” I winked at her,
and she poked me playfully in the ribs. I think, I hope, she realized that I
couldn’t have been more pleased.
We sat there a few more minutes in silence. In all honesty, I felt
more like a protective older brother, than an ex-lover. They were my
responsibility, and I was going to take care of them. Both of them.
Presently, she sat up, rubbing her eyes. She might have even dozed a
little; I’m not sure. “I guess we should leave. Someone else might want to
use the holodeck.”
“Whatever you say.” I stood up and offered her my hand.
She shook her head. “I’m not incapacitated, yet,” she muttered,
rising. “Wait a day.”
I chuckled. “Computer, end program. You know, maybe this would be a
good thing for us to do in the evening. The walk does us both good, and the
garden does seem to have a restful effect.”
She mulled it over as we exited. “Yeah, I think you’re right. Let’s
do it the next three nights after dinner.”
“Okay, you’re on.”
We didn’t say much else on the way back to her quarters. Her mind
appeared to have drifted back to the `growing’ matter of concern. Finally, we
reached her cabin.
“Good night, Tom.”
I leaned against the doorway reluctant to leave her alone just yet. It
had been such an enjoyable evening. “Good night, Cait.” Grinning, I patted
the gentle swell of her stomach. “Good night, lil’ fella. I guess I’ll be
seeing you both for breakfast again?”
She nodded. “0700 sharp, if you want to take me to sickbay, or I can
meet you later at the mess if you want to sleep in.”
“Nah, I’ll be here. Listen, do you want anything? I could give you
a backrub, fix you some tea, or whatever.”
“I’m fine, Tom. Really. I think all I want right now is some sleep.”
She yawned. “2130 and I’m tired already. This is pathetic.”
“No, it’s being pregnant. Your body’s doing the work for two now. Are
you sure I can’t do anything else for you?” I squeezed her shoulder slightly.
“Mmm-hmm. You’ve done too much already. I’m not the only one who
requires sleep; you do too. Now, go.” Determined hands spun me around and
shoved me gently down the corridor.
“Okay, okay. I’m going.” I turned back for one last look. “0700.”
“Go,” she teased, pointing down the hallway.
I bowed in mock obedience before resuming my course to my room. As I
walked along the corridor, humming to myself, I was completely oblivious to
Kes’ summons until she touched my arm. “Kes, what can I do for you?”
“Nothing. I was wondering how Caitlin is holding up?”
“Her?” I waved a careless hand in the air. “She’s fine; well, fine,
considering the circumstances. She’s tough, Kes. I don’t think there’s much
she can’t handle.”
“Well, she does have you there, supporting her. I know when I had
Valaxis I couldn’t have made it without Neelix beside me. Everyone
concentrates on the woman. Not many realize how important it is for her to
have someone she can lean on, especially under circumstances like these.”
My face turned a little pink. “I’m only trying to help. Although, I
have the feeling sometimes I’m more of a pest.”
She laughed. “That’s normal. There were times when I simply wanted
Neelix to leave me alone, and then, there were times when I was glad he didn’t.
Oh, here are your quarters.” She sounded disappointed.
I looked up at the door. “Yeah, was there anything else you wanted to
know?”
“Actually, yes, there was. Something I wanted to ask you.”
“All right.” I keyed open the door and stepped inside. “Computer,
lights. Fire away, Kes.”
“I was wondering how you were holding up.”
“Me?” I flopped down on the couch, propping my feet up on the coffee
table. “I’m fine, but then, I don’t have something growing inside me. Why
shouldn’t I be okay?”
My friend sat down on the bed across from me. “I was watching you this
morning and at dinner, Tom. If she was carrying your child, you couldn’t be
more attentive. Most people in your position, feeling the way you do, couldn’t
withstand the pressure.”
I tilted my head back and stared at the ceiling. “She has to have
someone, Kes. I suppose in many respects, I am the only choice besides
Chakotay. She trusts me, and after all that has happened, that’s a great
compliment in and of itself.” I lifted my head and regarded my confidant for
a moment. “But you’re right; it isn’t going to be easy. There are times when
I have to consciously remind myself that we are only friends and that I can’t
take advantage of the situation.”
I sat up. “Kes, in the past two days, I’ve listened to her rant, I’ve
held her when she’s cried, and in one sense, it’s been wonderful. Sometimes,
I just hold her, that’s all, and feel her warmth.” For a moment, my eyes lost
their focus as I drifted back to earlier in the evening. “But I keep telling
myself `you are only her friend’ and somehow, I’m managing to muddle through.
She feels vulnerable and violated enough as it is. I won’t allow myself to
increase her anxiety.”
“But you wouldn’t mind if relations became warmer between you two as a
result of all this.” The Ocampan prompted.
“Mind?” I snorted. “No, I wouldn’t mind. Hell, Kes, you know I’d
give anything to get her back, but it’s funny. In a way, I’m enjoying just
being her friend. Yeah, there’s an underlying tension there. I can feel it,
and so can she. But we’re learning to work around it and still enjoy each
other’s company. Hmph, maybe I’m just getting old and sentimental. I don’t
know. Am I making any sense?”
She smiled and nodded. “I think what you’re trying to say is that you
are taking life more seriously now. You’ve found someone besides Tom Paris
that you want to take responsibility for, and you’re finally realizing there’s
more to life than piloting a starship through a subspace anomaly. There’s a
lot of empty space out there you have to get through, too.”
I chuckled. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I am growing up. Hell, I’m
over thirty; I guess it’s about time, huh?” I stretched up my arms and yawned.
“Geez, I must be getting old; it’s only 2130 and I’m beat.”
Kes laughed as she got to her feet. “Actually, it’s almost 2200, if
that makes you feel any better.”
“Oh, yeah, that makes me feel a whole lot better.” I rose to see her
to the door. “Look, Kes, thanks for listening. You always seem to be there
when I need you.”
“I think that’s part of being a friend, Tom.”
“Hey, if it is, then you’re the best. G’Night.”
“‘Night, Tom.”
Turning around as the door slid shut, I sat back down on the sofa.
Maybe Kes was right, but then, again. Responsible. The word danced about
elusively inside my head. Responsible. Me? That’s a laugh. Since when? And
yet, here I was readily agreeing to become a surrogate parent. Why had I
volunteered to be the kid’s `father’? Was I just trying to prove Cait wrong?
What the hell did I know about being a parent? Gods know, I didn’t have a
great teacher in my old man. Cold and distant; never there when I needed him;
always there when I didn’t. I could still hear him.

“You can do better than that, Thomas. People expect more from
a Paris. What do you mean you did your best? I will not tolerate
laziness in my children. My own son, a B-. I’m so ashamed of you,
Thomas. Sometimes I wonder if you’re really a Paris.”
“Yeah, Dad. Thanks for all the love and support. I just don’t
know what I’d have done without you. Go ahead, call me a lazy, good-
for-nothing, again. Go ahead, I dare you. See, it just rolls off.
I don’t care anymore. You can’t hurt me now. I won’t let you.”

“Huh?” I sat up. “Hmm, must’ve fallen asleep.” I mumbled groggily,
rubbing my eyes. “Better get to bed, Thomas; Cait’s expecting you to be there
in the morning.”

Day 3

I picked up Cait at 0700 on the dot. She was wearing her maternity
uniform, and as expected, grumbled about it all the way to sickbay. I tried my
best to tell her she looked fine without gushing on about it, but no go. Ah,
well, when did she ever listen to me anyway?
She does look good though. I always knew she would. Her height allows
her to carry the extra weight better. (B’Elanna’s going to look like a little
ball, but I wouldn’t dare tell Harry.) Some women are very attractive when
they are pregnant. I thought Cait would fall into that group, and I was right,
but then, I guess my opinion isn’t completely objective.
In the evening, we went for another walk in the garden, but since
Cait’s back hurt a little, we returned to her quarters instead of resting on
the bench. We sat on the sofa, listening to a little music. I had my arm
around her, and her feet were propped up on the coffee table, her head resting
on my shoulder. We didn’t talk; we just relaxed there quietly.
All of a sudden, she sat up, her hands flying to her stomach.
“Oh, my!”
Right off the bat, I panicked. “What? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Everything’s fine. Here, give me your hand. There. Can
you feel that?”
A faint wriggle came from beneath the fabric of her uniform. “Is
that-?” I balked, my eyes wide in amazement.
Cait nodded. “Mmm-hmm.”
We both felt it move again and stared at each other smiling. She
looked lovely, and for the first time during this whole ordeal, she almost
seemed happy.
“That’s incredible,” I whispered, overcome by the wonder of the moment.
“You’re incredible.”
I took my free hand and brushed back some of her hair, leaving my palm
resting against her cheek. She didn’t pull away, and we gazed deeply into
one another’s eyes. Oh gods, she was so close, but I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.
If I exploited her at this emotionally vulnerable time, I’d never be able to
forgive myself.
I jerked my hand away. “Um, are you planning on going to bed soon?”
Her eyes fell to the floor as a thick atmosphere of nervous tension
settled between us. “Actually, I though I would.”
“Okay. I guess I’ll leave then.” I patted her abdomen. “Goodnight,
kiddo. Don’t keep your mother up too late with your gymnastics. 0700?”
“0700.”
“‘Night, Cait. Call me if you need anything.”
“Don’t worry. I will.”
Outside her quarters, the corridor was empty, and I leaned heavily
against the wall. My heart was pounding. I took a couple of deep breaths and
released them slowly before trudging off to my room. That had been way too
close. I had to be more careful.

Day 4

GODS! I am such an assh*le! Without a doubt, the biggest, most
selfish assh*le in the universe. *Goddammit, Thomas! How could you do it?*
Even after I told myself over and over that I wouldn’t take advantage of her
situation, how could I? I swear if I could take the holodeck safeties off-
line, I’d program some hologram to beat the sh*t out of me. It’s the very
least that I deserve.
After last night’s close call, I suppose I should have seen it coming,
but I didn’t. I honestly thought I had it all under control. We were sitting
in her quarters after our usual evening stroll, during which she stumbled
twice. All of a sudden, she started crying. I don’t know why. I held her,
stroking her hair and soothing her as best I could. No problem. I could
handle that, but this time was worse than before. She kept mumbling something
about being ugly and clumsy and losing her center of gravity. I tried to tell
her she wasn’t any of those things, but she wouldn’t listen, and my patience
began wearing a little thin.
Finally, I knelt in front of her, giving her shoulders a tiny shake.
“Cait, listen to me! You are *not* ugly. You’re beautiful. You are the most
beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Each morning that I’ve come through that door,
you’ve taken my breath away. Believe me, you are light years from being ugly.
To me, there isn’t a prettier woman on this ship.”
By the time I concluded my little confession, she had stopped sobbing,
her gorgeous emerald eyes open wide in amazement. I could feel myself being
dragged into their depths, no matter how loud a voice inside my skull screamed
“NO!”.
She spoke only one word, “Tom”, softly, almost disbelievingly, and I
was lost. My hands cupped her face, and I kissed her, tenderly at first, but
with increasing passion as I sensed her response. One of my hands wandered
down and rested lightly on her belly. I felt the kid kick, and it must have
kicked a little wisdom into me because I tried to pull away.
Cait didn’t let me though. She held my face in her hands and gazed
deeply into my eyes, pleading with me. I can still hear her whisper, her
breath warm against my face. “Tom, please don’t leave me.”
I should have said no; I should have jumped up and run as far away as I
could. But I didn’t. I kissed her. I kissed her again and again, my hands
roaming all over the body I once knew so well. It was both frightening and
fascinating feeling the changes which had occurred to her breasts and the rest
of her.
It became increasingly obvious that a move to the bed was a necessity,
so I helped her to her feet. She called for sleep mode as I began to undress
her in front of the window. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the image of her
round, nude form silhouetted against the stars. Oh gods, she was so beautiful.
Her hands reached out, and she began to undress me, sitting down on the
couch instead of kneeling like she used to. I was already pretty stiff, but
when her mouth slid over me . . . I closed my eyes and concentrated on the
incredible sensations she was causing throughout my body. I had been wanting
this for so long, but I also knew if she kept going I wouldn’t last. So, I
pushed her away gently and helped her to her feet, kissing her my thanks.
Picking her up, I carried her over to the bed. She was heavier than
I remembered. I had expected that, though, and wouldn’t have dropped her for
the world. I stretched out beside her, and we began kissing again, our tongues
twisting and circling, leading our arousal on.
I began kissing along her jaw and down the sensitive area on her neck,
whispering how beautiful she was to me. Cupping one of her enlarged breasts
caused her to gasp involuntarily. Evidently, they were still slightly tender,
but caressing them as gently as I could, I was rewarded with a soft moan of
pleasure, along with a small amount of pre-milk. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too
bad, almost sweet.
Moving my mouth slowly down the length of her torso, I planted lots of
little kisses on and around her stomach. Hey, kids need to know they’re loved,
too, and that’s the real scary thing. I think I am beginning to love it simply
because it’s a part of her. I don’t know; maybe I’m just going crazy.
Everything that’s happened in the past ninety-six hours is enough to make
anyone a little loopy.
Anyway, I eventually reached my goal. She was really moist, and I
wanted to be inside her so much, sliding around in her juices, but I was
afraid. So, I licked her slowly, alternating the rhythm with quick teasing
flicks of my tongue, the kind I knew would drive her crazy with frustration.
Cait groaned, thrusting her hips forward as best she could. She tasted
different from what I remembered, not bad, just different, and it certainly
didn’t take me long to bring her to the brink. (It’s always nice to know
you’ve still got the touch.) She stopped me, however, beckoning. I stretched
out alongside her once again, and she licked my chin like she used to do.
“I taste different.”
“Yeah, but you’re still delicious.” Which was true; she was. I
swallowed hard, summoning up what little courage I have. “How do you want to
procede? I-I really don’t have too much experience in this type of situation.”
Of course, that was a lie. I had no experience. Zip, zilch, nada.
She giggled. “And I do? Well, first let me turn on my side. Lying
on my back hurts after a while.”
“Sorry. I should’ve-”
She stroked my cheek. “Hey, I wasn’t complaining. Believe me, I was
enjoying myself.”
I kissed her. “Good. I’m glad.”
Rolling onto her left side allowed me to spoon up behind her. I slid
my left arm under her neck and brought the right one over her vanished waist.
I gently stoked her stomach, feeling the little guy kick some more; I don’t
think he liked having his sleep disturbed. I traced the roundness of her belly
down until I reached the source of her moisture again, which I began to fondle,
oh, so delicately. Her hips rocked back against me, and she must have felt how
aroused I was because she reached back and guided me through her legs. I
raised my head from where I had been nibbling on her neck. “Cait, do you think
that’s wise?”
“Shh, I know what I’m doing.” She trapped me between her thighs in a
deliciously tight vise. I could feel her juices slowly rubbing over me as I
thrust myself forward and back. I had never done it this way before; never had
the need, but if it feels good . . .
I continued to fondle her, and my own rhythm increased with hers.
Oh gods, it felt so wonderful. She started to moan, and her movements became
quicker, surer. Soon, she trembled slightly as I felt small palpitations began
beneath my fingers. Her body strained against mine, and she cried out my name.
That was all the encouragement I needed, and I shot out all over her legs and
the sheets in response. A couple of tears trickled down my cheeks onto her
neck, but I don’t think she noticed. The baby was putting up such a fuss. He
was kicking and punching up a storm, and I held her while we both tried to
soothe him back to sleep.
In time, when he quieted, we dozed ourselves for a little while. When
I awoke, she was still in my arms; my face was buried in her hair; and my left
hand had lost all sense of touch. At first, I was happy. But as I gradually
realized what had happened, I wanted to scream. I couldn’t believe it. I had
to get away from her before I exploded.
Stealthily, I eased out from behind her, got dressed, and cleaned up
the sheets as best I could before covering her up. I borrowed a PADD, leaving
a message at her bedside telling her I would be by at 0700 as usual. Maybe I
should’ve stayed the night in case she woke up and felt rejected, but I
couldn’t.
I stumbled out of there and ran down the corridor until I reached my
room. Locking the door behind me, I sank down against the wall. I must have
sat there, crying and cursing, for the better part of an hour.
It’s 0117 now, and I need a drink, but I’m not going to have one. This
kid may have a weak, spineless uncle, but I’ll be damned if he’s going to have
a drunk one.
I am so sorry, Cait. I didn’t mean to let you down.

Day 5

After last night’s immense blunder, I didn’t get to sleep until around
0300 hours and overslept my alarm. It was the door chime that finally woke me
at 0650. Cait was at the door, and I must’ve looked like death warmed over by
the expression of concern which came to her face.
“Can I come in?”
“Sure,” I rasped.
“Are you okay?” she asked as she crossed the threshold. “You sound
almost as bad as you look.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. You just woke me up, that’s all. Good thing, too,
considering the time. What can I do for you?”
She stared down at the floor. “I know I’m early, but I had to see
you.” Taking a deep breath, she slowly raised her eyes to mine. “I want to
apologize for what happened last night. I took advantage of you and your
feelings toward me, and I’m sorry. This.” She patted her protruding stomach.
“Doesn’t give the right to do that; no matter how insecure I may feel. I was
wrong and I’m truly sorry. I also realize this may make you feel uncomfortable
being my coach, and I want you to know you can back out if you feel you should,
with no hard feelings on either side. Honest, I’ll completely understand.”
The green eyes gazed up at me. Did she really know how fragile she looked
right then? It was all I could do not to take her in my arms and kiss her, but
I didn’t.
I shook my head. “Cait, we’ve come this far; I’m not backing out now.
I said I would see you through this and I meant it. Last night, well, last
night, I guess we both were feeling a little vulnerable. We’re human; we make
mistakes. I’m just glad you trusted me enough to reach out when you needed
someone.”
As I said all this, tears started welling up in her eyes, and I
couldn’t take that at least not at that point in time. “Look, let me go jump
in the shower and dress; then, we’ll head up to sickbay. Why don’t you put
your feet up? I won’t be a minute.” I steered her by the elbow over to couch
before dashing into the bathroom. I had only five minutes, and the Doc hates
it when people are late.
We made it to sickbay at ten past the hour. After a shower and shave,
I looked a little better, but not by much, and Kes regarded me with concern
throughout Cait’s examination. “Overslept,” I grinned.
She nodded, but I could tell she didn’t buy it as the complete truth.
Her and her damned empathic abilities. Sometimes it’s like being around a
Betazoid.
The pregnancy is still on schedule. At this rate, Cait should go into
labor sometime tomorrow morning. The Doc asked if she wanted to know what sex
the baby was, but she declined. Heck, everything up to now has been a
surprise; what’s one more, right? Besides in less than thirty-six hours,
everyone will know.
We had breakfast, reporting for duty as usual. Cait occupied my
thoughts all during my shift; what had happened last night between us; what
she had said this morning. I had been so afraid that she would hate me for
what I did, but she didn’t. And while I was still mad at myself for losing
control, knowing she wasn’t made it easier for me to face the situation. The
important thing was that she knew I loved her and would never do anything
intentionally to hurt her.
In fact, the more I mulled things over, the better I began to feel.
After all it had been me to whom she turned, and it was my name she cried out
last night. Not that I’m naive enough to believe that means anything. I’ve
met more than my share of `actresses’ in my time, but I would never classify
Cait as one of them, at least not under these circumstances.
I picked her up for dinner at 1900 hours and got the shock of my life.
Her hair, those beautiful auburn waves were gone.
“What do you think?”
I stared speechless. She looked okay, but I liked her hair long.
It was so sexy when it tumbled over her shoulders. “Why? I mean, it looks
fine, but you had such beautiful hair.” Tentatively, I reached out and touched
the short layers.
“I used to always have short hair. It’s only been in the last couple
of years that I’ve let it grow out, and with this kid on the way, I figured
short and efficient made more sense.” Her head cocked to one side. “You don’t
like it do you?”
“No, no. It’s not that.” I paused; after last night, telling her I
thought it was sexier long didn’t seem like such a good idea. Besides, she
was right; it would be more efficient. “I guess I’m just so used to seeing it
long it’s going to take me a while to adjust.” I grinned. “You know if you
weren’t pregnant, I’d almost mistake you for a guy.”
Cait laughed. “That’s me one of the guys. Now, about dinner, are we
going or not?”
“Oh, yeah, sure.” I stepped aside to allow her to pass.
All through the meal, though, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. This
new haircut is going to take some getting used to, but it’s more than that. I
keep thinking there is something familiar about it, like she reminds me of
someone I met once, maybe at the Academy. Oh well, it’ll probably hit me
sooner or later.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. III

By Carly Hunter
copyright 1995

Incubation
Part 4

Day 6

Cait went into labor at 0930 hours. The shell detached itself and
began its slow slide out. I was with her all the way, talking to her, trying
to take her mind off what was happening inside her.
Nicoletti and Carmichael had delivered earlier that morning and were
already back in their quarters with their children. The babies’ skin had a
pale, almost translucent quality; their eyes were dark grey with no visible
pupil; and they were completely hairless, even on their heads. Other than
that, physically, the infants looked human enough.
Finally, at about 1200 hours, the contractions really kicked in. She
was fully dialated and within minutes, the tip of the flexible shell started
to show. It was so strange, like watching a chicken, instead of a humanoid,
being born. Cait even made a joke about having to sit on it until it hatched.
She was incredible. You knew she was in pain, but she kept herself
together,except toward the end when she was beginning to get tired. I held her
hand, occasionally brushing the damp hair off her brow, offering what help
I could. She is so strong. I couldn’t have handled it half as well.
After the `egg’ was out, the shell split open to reveal a hairless,
male humanoid with pinkish translucent skin. Kes wrapped it up and placed it
in Cait’s arms. I thought I would cry. She just sat there, smiling at it,
playing with its tiny hands. It wasn’t until she looked up at me and I
could see the tears silently streaming down that I lost it, too. I put my arm
around her and stroked the baby’s head. “Cait, he’s beautiful, and so are
you.”
She glanced up at me. “He is, isn’t he?”
At that moment, the doors opened and Harry walked in with B’Elanna who
had reached the delivery stage. As Kes and the Doc settled her onto a bed,
Harry peeked over at our kid. I quickly wiped the tears off my face and
cleared my throat.
“Boy or girl?”
“Boy,” I replied, grinning proudly. “Rowan Thomas.”
He gave me a strange look before heading back over to B’Elanna, who was
in full voice by then. I did not envy him his task.
After a few minutes, Cait pushed the infant toward me. “Your turn to
hold it.”
“Me?” I had briefly held my godson, Valaxis, when he was born, but
that was months ago, and somehow this was different.
“You’re the `father’, aren’t you?”
“Well, `uncle’, yeah.”
“Then get used to it. Here.”
She held it out, and I carefully took him in my arms. I was so scared
I was going to drop him. He seemed so tiny, like he would slip right through
my fingers, but he didn’t. Cait scooted over, and we both sat on the biobed,
watching him doze.
In a few minutes, I realized that Cait had fallen asleep, too, with
her head against my arm. She must have been exhausted because B’Elanna was
screeching up a storm. So, I sat there surrounded by the two most precious
things in my life. I had never been so happy; the feeling was simply
incredible.
About the time B’Elanna delivered, Rowan woke up and began crying. It
scared the hell out of me; I had no idea what to do. But Cait did, as she
brought the crying infant to her breast. The rapid gestation had to have
carried over to allow her to produce milk this quickly after delivery. Rowan’s
skin had changed, too, losing its pinkish colour for the white tint of the
other infants. She grimaced as he began to suck.
“Does it hurt?” It never occurred to me that it might be painful.
“A little.”
“That’s normal,” Kes called over. “It should stop in a few days.”
“I hope so.”
I planted another kiss on her head. “You’re going to be a wonderful
mother.”
Cait smiled nervously. “You think?”
“Mmm-hmm. I know you are.”
“Oh my gods!” Harry exclaimed, and we both looked over. He glanced up
sheepishly, grinning. “It’s a girl.”
“Congratulations,” we chorused.
Kes put the baby in Harry’s arms first, who, in turn, showed it to
B’Elanna. A tired smile spread across her features. Amazing the effect a baby
can have on us humanoids.
The Doc came over to scan Cait and Rowan. “Everything appears to be
normal, relatively speaking. You may leave. Congratulations.”
We went back to her quarters, and I put them both to bed. Around 1910
hours, Rowan woke up, and I quickly picked him up and tried to stop his crying.
It wasn’t any use, though, and I found myself reminded of why I hadn’t given
much thought to children until recently. Cait, by that time, was awake; so I
sat on the bed and watched her nurse him. They both seemed so content that I
felt a tiny wave of jealousy wash over me.
“Does it still hurt?”
“A little, but it feels natural.” She continued to gaze down at the
infant.
I stretched out on my side, raising up on one elbow to keep an eye on
him. “Greedy, isn’t he?”
“And you weren’t at this age?”
I chuckled. “I don’t remember. I was very young at the time. You
know, he seemed heavier when I picked him up. Do you think he’s going to
mature as fast as he developed inside you?”
“I don’t know; I hadn’t thought about it. I suppose it’s always a
possibility. Hey, that’s enough. Are you trying to bleed me dry?” She pulled
the small mouth away from her nipple.
I stood up and took him from her, cradling the tiny head against my
shoulder.
“Here. Wait a minute.” Cait rose and placed a towel between Rowan and
my uniform. “Just in case.”
Almost in response, he gave a small hiccup, spewing a mixture of saliva
and milk onto the towel. “Good timing, Mommy,” I grinned. “Anymore?” I
looked down at the pale face which gurgled back. “I’ll take that as a `maybe’.
Uh, Cait, can you-?”
“Oh, yeah, sure.” She exchanged towels as I held him away from my
shoulder.
“That’s better, isn’t it?” I walked out into the seating area and
began to pace slowly up and down. “Why don’t you go take a shower?” I figured
after all that had happened she probably wanted one.
“You sure?”
“Yeah, we’re fine, aren’t we?” I tickled him underneath the chin and
was rewarded with a smile. “See?”
“Okay.” She hastily gathered some fresh clothing before turning back
to us.
“What?”
Cait eyed me strangely. “I don’t think Rowan could’ve asked for a
better uncle or father, Tom.”
I gaped. “You really mean that, don’t you?
Stepping closer to us, she squeezed my arm. “Yes, I do. He’s very
fortunate.”
She quickly turned away and headed into the bathroom. I heard the
shower turn on, and Rowan and I resumed our pacing.
“Do you have any idea how lucky you are?” I asked him. “You have got
one great lady for a mom. She’s beautiful, intelligent, and loads of fun.
Between the two of us, we’ll teach you all sorts of games and things; you’ll
probably be hustling the rest of the crew at pool by the time you’re twelve.
Although, you stay away from Sandrine; you won’t be ready for her for quite a
few years, despite what she says. And I’m gonna teach you how to swim, pilot
a starship, and so many other things. I know I’m not your real father, but I’m
going to do my best. However, this is a first for me, so take it easy,
will ya?”
The door chimed, interrupting our little tete-a-tete. I pressed the
release. “Commander, come on in. Cait’s in the shower, but she should be out
soon. What can we do for you?”
Chakotay studied me curiously for a minute before breaking out into a
large smile. “You know, fatherhood becomes you, Paris. You’re postitively
glowing.”
My face must have turned scarlet. “Yeah, well, someone’s got to
help her. Is there something in particular you wanted?”
“Not really. I just stopped by to see how things were going and to
inform you that the rapid rate of development will be continuing at an even
faster rate.”
“I figured as much. Rowan seems to be getting heavier and larger as I
hold him. What’s the deal with that?”
He shook his head. “Unknown. We are going to set up a day care center
on holodeck 2 so that the Doctor can observe the rate of change, as well as let
the mothers and, ah, the coaches return to their duties.” He gave a slight
chuckle. “You know, Paris, sometimes you really surprise me. I’d never have
pictured you as a dad, but seeing how you’ve taken care of Caitlin and now, the
child, well, I think you’re going to make one helluva father.”
My jaw dropped about twenty meters. “I’m gonna try my best, Chakotay.”
He clapped me firmly on the shoulder. “I know you will, Tom. Tell
Matthews I stopped by; I’ve still got to check on Harry and B’Elanna.” He
glanced down at Rowan. “They are unusual, aren’t they?”
“They?”
“The babies. Their skin, their eyes, their growth. So like us, but so
unlike us.” His head shook in disbelief. “See you later, Lieutenant.”
“Yes sir.” I looked at the small face as the door slid shut. He was
right. I stared into the large grey eyes. They seemed to turn blue while we
gazed at each other.
“Who was that?” Cait stepped out of the bathroom. I barely heard her.
The voice was almost like the distant echo of a memory. “Tom? Tom?”
“Huh, what?” My head snapped up. I felt like I had fallen asleep. I
blinked rapidly several times. “What did you say?”
“I asked who was at the door.” She quickly crossed over to me. “Are
you all right? You’re almost as pale as the baby.” She took the child from
me.
I brought a hand to my forehead. “Yeah, I think so. Maybe I’m just a
little tired.” I ambled unsteadily over to the sofa. That was putting it
mildly; I was exhausted. I hadn’t even been sure my legs were going to get me
to the couch. I watched Cait turn toward the crib and felt my eyes slowly
close. Damn, I was sleepy.

“Tom. Wake up.” Cait’s voice called softly. “C’mon. I hate to wake
you, but I thought you might want some dinner.”
Rubbing my eyes, I slowly raised my head. I was stretched out on the
couch with a blanket thrown over me. On the coffee table was a tray of food
and a glass of juice.
“Isn’t he a sleepyhead?” She glanced from Rowan to me and grinned.
“You dozed off quickly. By the time I got back from putting Rowan down, you
were already asleep.”
“Passed out is more like it,” I grumbled, sitting up and stretching.
“Sorry about that. What time is it?”
“2145 hours.”
“You’re kidding. How long was I out? An hour?”
“More like two. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I rubbed my face in an effort to shake off the
remnants of my nap. “Did he sleep, too.”
“Unh-hunh, almost as long. Just what were you two doing while I was in
the shower, running a marathon?” Rowan began struggling in her arms, reaching
out towards me. “Hey, whoa, kiddo. Let him eat first.”
I held out my arms. “It’s okay. I don’t mind. I think I can manage
both.” Sliding down to the floor, I tucked the baby into the crook of my arm.
He settled in almost immediately, watching me intently as I ate.
After dinner, I sat on the sofa beside Cait and lay Rowan on my chest,
his head directly over my heart. Cait tucked her legs up under her and placed
her chin on my shoulder, gently stroking Rowan’s head. We felt like a family.
I didn’t want the moment to end.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. III

By Carly Hunter
copyright 1995

Incubation
part 5

Day 8

“Mr. Paris!” The Captain’s voice cut through me like a knife. I
jerked up. *Sh*t!* I had fallen asleep on duty. Janeway was standing
directly behind me with her hands on her hips. “Lieutenant, I can appreciate
the fact that you are helping Lt. Matthews care for the child. It’s a very
noble act on your part, but when it begins interferring-”
I nodded. “I know, Captain. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. I
just had no idea parenting was this exhausting.”
“Exhausting, Lieutenant?” She studied me a moment. “Mr. Paris,
may I have a word with you in private? Commander, you have the bridge.”
I rose and headed for her ready room. Great, just what I needed.
“Sit down, Tom” She pointed to a chair in front of her desk. “Exactly
how is it exhausting?”
“I don’t know, Captain. It just is. I mean, I’m not doing all that
much physically, but I’m tired all the time. Maybe it’s stress.”
“Is Lt. Matthews experiencing the same level of exhaustion?”
I thought a minute. “No, she isn’t. In fact, she’s almost back to her
old self.”
The Captain sat back in her chair, gazing at me over steepled fingers.
“The reason I’m asking, Tom, is because two of the other coaches seem to be
experiencing similar symptoms. According to Lt. Torres, Kyoto fell asleep
while on duty, and Porter nearly fainted coming off his shift. I am-”
“Captain, you’d better get out here!” Chakotay’s voice indicated a
distinct degree of urgency.
“What’s wrong, Commander?”
“It’s Ensign Kim.”
The Captain and I both jumped to our feet and dashed for the door. I
reached it first and ignored protocol. Harry was laying on the floor with
Tuvok and Chakotay kneeling over him.
“Harry!” I dropped to my knees beside Tuvok as Chakotay stood up.
“What happened, Commander?” Janeway demanded.
“I don’t know, Captain. All of a sudden, I heard a thud behind me and
Kim was passed out on the floor.”
Tuvok rose, snapping his tricorder shut. “Before he collapsed, I
observed Ensign Kim waiver slightly on his feet and shake his head as if trying
to refocus his attention. Initial readings indicate extreme exhaustion,
Captain.”
“Exhaustion?” she repeated, and we both looked at each other.
“Commander Chakotay, would you and Mr. Paris please take Ensign Kim to sickbay?
I want the Doctor to examine both of them as well as the other coaches. This
is not normal. Oh, and have the mothers and children checked out as well.
If we are dealing with some illness, I want to know about it before the rest of
the crew is infected.”
“Yes, Captain. Come on, Lieutenant, give me a hand.” Together, we
hoisted Harry up, each placing one of his arms over our shoulders before making
our way to the lift.

“Report, Doctor.” The Captain entered just as I swung my legs over the
side of the bed. Cait stood by me, holding Rowan; although, by all outward
appearances, he wanted to be in my arms.
“Exhaustion, Captain. Complete physical exhaustion. And yet, the
women are unaffected. In fact, their readings are quite normal. The men, on
the other hand, are exhibiting exhaustion comparable to that of severely mal-
nourished nursing mothers. I can’t explain it. Nutritionally, their diets are
healthy, but their individual energy levels have dropped considerably.”
At that moment, Rowan let out a loud bawl and kicked Cait in the
stomach. “Oof! Rowan, what is the matter with you?”
I reached out. “Here give him to me. Maybe I can make him behave.”
Reluctantly, she handed him over, and at once, he settled back peacefully in
my arms.
The Doctor’s eyebrows shot up. Immediately, he began scanning me.
“Lt. Matthews, take the child away.”
“What? All right, if you say so.” She took Rowan from me, and he began
kicking and crying.
“Now, give him back to Lt. Paris. Mmm-hmm. Well, that explains it.”
“Explains what, Doctor?” The Captain spoke for us all.
“It’s the children, Captain. They are the ones who are draining the
men’s energy or nursing on their energy, considering the circumstances.”
“No, that’s not possible,” Harry protested.
“Look around you, Mr. Kim. Each of you is holding an infant, not the
mother, as it would normally be. And observe the child’s reaction when put in
Lt. Paris’ arms, just like an infant getting fed. Cranky, and then satisfied.”
“Fine, Doctor,” the Captain interrupted. “Say your theory is correct,
what do we do? These men are getting progressively more exhausted; they can
not even complete their duty shifts.”
“Nor should they,” the hologram retorted. “You didn’t expect the
mothers to. Think of them as nursing mothers, Captain. They will need
lighter, shorter shifts and plenty of rest. In short, the women will have to
start acting like the fathers.”
“For how long?” B’Elanna asked.
“I have no idea. My programming has never encountered such a situation
before.”
“So, in other words, the children are energy-based beings, which
need a biological energy source to survive,” the Commander inferred.
“That would appear to be the case. We may be able to wean them from
the men somehow or perhaps they will wean themselves. I cannot tell at this
point in time. However, . . . ”
As the Doctor droned on, I looked down at Rowan and our eyes met. The
grey eyes began to change colour again, only this time a blue-eyed being came
clearly into focus. I was staring up at myself through Rowan’s eyes. I saw my
eyes start to close. My lips moved, but I couldn’t hear what I said. Then,
everything went black.

“Lt. Paris, can you hear me?” I could hear the Doc, but I was still a
long way off from seeing him. I heard the hiss of a hypospray and felt a
sudden surge of electricity ripple through my muscles. My eyes blinked slowly
opened. The Captain and the Doctor hovered over me; Cait stood with Rowan at
the foot of the bed.
“Wha-what happened?”
“That’s what we would like to know, Lieutenant. All of a sudden, you
whispered `help me’ and passed out, your vitals dropping to a nearly comatose
state. However, you seem to be recovering your strength rapidly,” the hologram
concluded, snapping the tricorder shut.
I swallowed hard. “It was Rowan. He did it. It was just like
before.”
“What was like before, Tom?” Janeway’s hand gave my shoulder a gentle
squeeze.
“I’m not really sure. All I remember is our eyes meeting, and his eyes
slowly changing colour. Then, suddenly, I wasn’t looking down at him anymore;
I was looking up at me. I could see my own eyes start to close, but I can’t
tell you too much beyond that.”
“The same thing happened to me last night,” Harry piped up. “I was
looking at Francesca, and the next thing I knew, B’Elanna was shaking me
awake.”
“Doctor,” Kes called. “Come see this. These are the child’s readings
prior to Tom’s blackout and these are his current readings.”
“Hmm. Fascinating. The child’s entire cell structure is changing.
I’ve never seen anything like it. It appears that the children’s cells are
mutating, allowing them to more efficiently absorb energy, rather than food.
If they continue in this manner, they should be able to ingest energy in any
form, not just from biological sources. Almost like any other child, they are
progressing, metaphorically speaking, from liquids to solids via pureed food.”
“And we’re the pureed food,” Harry observed drily.
“Precisely. Considering the children’s development, it should only be
a few more days until they are fully altered.”
“And then what?” Chakotay interrupted. “Then, where do they get there
next meal? The impulse engines? The warp core? Our resources are quite
limited already.”
“Perhaps we could use the holodeck,” B’Elanna mused out loud. “Create
a generator there that would satisfy their needs. Of course, we would first
have to download the individual programs to a safer location.”
“Have Lt. Carey get on it immediately.” Janeway ordered. “Your place
is with Mr. Kim. Ladies, it would seem that you are the coaches now. The
men’s health will be your responsibility over the next few days, during which
time you are all off-duty. Doctor, I assume it will be all right for them to
return to their quarters?”
“I believe so, Captain, but during each `feeding’, I strongly suggest
they monitor each man’s vitals. If the readings dip too low, remove the child
from the man’s presence and report the situation immediately. I believe Kes
will stop by and check on each crewman periodically.”
The Ocampan nodded.
“Very well.” The Captain turned back to us. “Gentlemen, you know what
is expected of you. Lots of rest and a healthy diet. Ladies, they are all
yours.”

“Comfy?” Cait grinned down at me.
I was lying in her bed. We had decided that I would stay in her
quarters because they were larger and because Rowan’s things were there. “I
feel like an idiot; all weak and helpless. I always hated being sick.”
She snickered at my discomfort. What a bedside manner! “Can I get you
anything?”
I glared over at the crib where Rowan was sleeping peacefully. Of
course, he was sleeping; he had just digested a huge chunk of my energy.
The green eyes followed my gaze. “Strange how happy we were forty-
eight hours ago, isn’t it? And now, he’s back to being an `it’. Doesn’t quite
seem fair, does it?”
“You were happy?” I looked up in disbelief.
“Well, yeah. I mean-” She fluffed the covers nervously. “We seemed
almost like a family. I know it sounds silly, but we did. To me, at least.”
I grasped her hand. “It’s not silly. It did to me, too. But you’re
right; now, everything’s changed.” I unsuccessfully stifled a yawn.
She freed her hand, ducking behind the safety of her wit. “Get some
sleep, `Mother’. You’re going to need it. I’ll be right out here, so yell if
you need anything.”
I rolled onto my side, watching her disappear around the partition.
So, she had been happy. Good. My eyes blinked slowly. Gods, I was tired.

“Hungwee!”
I sat up in bed as Cait dashed in, her eyes wide in amazement. We both
stared at Rowan. He looked about one and a half now, and he was standing up in
the crib. “I’m hungwee!” he demanded again.
She looked at me doubtfully. “Do you feel up to it?”
“Yeah, I guess so. I don’t really have much choice, do I?”
“Hungwee!”
“I don’t think so.” Cait picked him up and brought him over to the
bed. She placed him next to me, and he scrambled up onto my chest. At first,
it felt nice and cozy, but then, my eyes started to lose their focus.
Cait opened the tricorder and scanned us. “The Doc’s right. His cells
are changing and your vitals are dropping. How do you feel?”
“Tired,” I slurred, blinking slowly as I struggled to stay awake. “But
I’m okay. I think I can handle it a little longer.”
She continued to monitor me carefully; suddenly, she snapped the
tricorder closed. “That’s enough. I don’t like those readings.” Her hands
reached out for Rowan, who pulled his head off my chest.
“All done,” he announced, grinning, before slithering off my chest and
onto the floor. He toddled uncertainly out into the seating area.
“Hey, come back here!” Cait jumped up and ran after him. Scooping him
up, she inquired, “Just where so you think you’re going?”
“Want down!” He kicked. “Want down!”
“All right, all right. There you go. Great, now he’s acting like a
two year old.”
I got up, coming to lean on the room divider behind her. “You know,
he’s going to tear this place apart,” I snickered as he scrambled up on the
sofa and stared out the window.
“You aren’t supposed to be up. Get back in bed.”
“Unh-unh. I can’t stay exclusively in bed. I’ll just sit down out
here. I’ll be okay. Trust me.” I sank down on the couch next to Rowan.
“Whatcha lookin’ at, kiddo?”
He grinned. “Home.”
“Home? The stars?”
Pointing out the window, he nodded. “Home.”
Cait sat down on the other side of him. “Rowan, are you saying you’re
from out there, in space?”
“Home. Home soon.”
Gazing from him to each other, we both thought the same thing.
“Rowan,” I asked softly. “Do you understand what’s happening to you and to
me?”
A chubby hand reached out and touched my cheek. “Daddy sick. All
better soon.”
“How soon, Rowan? How soon?” Cait placed a hand upon his back to help
him balance. “Are you going to leave us?”
He threw his arms around her neck. “Home soon,” he repeated. “All
better.” Abruptly, he released her and slid off the couch. He crawled under
the coffee table, popping up on the other side. “Mommy, catch me.” He pointed
proudly at himself and staggered quickly off into the bedroom.
Cait glanced at me. I shrugged; what the hell did I know?
Reluctantly, she got up and chased after him, intentionally never quite
catching her quarry. I lay down on the sofa and watched. Presently, he
toddled over to me, a grave look coming to his face. “Daddy sick.”
I shot him a fatigued grin. “Not sick, only tired.”
He shook his head stubbornly. “Daddy sick. I make Daddy sick.” Tears
began to form in the grey eyes. It was too much.
“Hey, it’s okay, Rowan. It’s not your fault. You can’t help it.” I
sat up and pulled him into my lap. “It’s okay, kiddo. I’ll be fine.” Our
eyes locked and I heard Cait dart away for the tricorder. I didn’t have the
strength to fight this time. I closed my eyes, listening to all the sounds
around me growing fainter and fainter.
“Daddy, fight. No sleep.” Tiny fists pummeled my chest. “Daddy,
fight.”
“I can’t.” My voice echoed back and forth in my head. “I’m too
tired.”
“Mommy!” He pushed himself away.
“Tom! Tom! Can you hear me?” Her voice was a long way off.
My eyelids were as heavy as trianacite; somehow though, I forced them
open. “I’m okay. Just tired; need to sleep.” I slumped heavily onto my side.
Cait lifted my head and tucked a pillow under it before pulling a blanket over
me. “Not his fault,” I murmured. “Not his fault.”

“Thomas, is that you?”
“Yeah, mom. It’s me.” I slammed the PADDs down on the table
in the entrance hall.
“Your father asked that you come down to Command. He wants
you to meet Capt. Marshall of the Lexington.”
I groaned. Not another officer. How many could a person meet
in their lifetime? I had already been accepted to the Academy; what
more did he want? “Did he say when?”
“As soon as you got home.”
“Today?”
“Yes, today, Thomas.” She sounded exasperated.
“Capt. Marshall is a very important man, and the Lexington doesn’t
often visit Earth.”
“But Mom.”
She came into the living room, frowning. “Don’t `but Mom’ me.
To land a position upon either the Lexington or the Exeter would be
quite a coup, and would be helped considerably by favourably impressing
Capt. Marshall while he’s here. Now, go clean up and transport over.”
“Mom-”
“Now, Thomas. Do you want to end up some unknown officer with
a nowhere career?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“What?”
I snickered the look on her face was priceless. “I mean, `yes
ma’am’, I’m going.”
“Good.” She disappeared back into the other room.

“Well, you certainly took your time getting here, Thomas.
Capt. Marshall has already left.”
“Dad, I came as soon as I could. Practice ran late. I
couldn’t help it.”
The bushy eyebrows knitted. “Well?”
“Well, what?” I was tempted to add a sarcastic `sir’, but
I refrained.
“How did you do?”
“Dad, it was only a practice. The meet isn’t for two days.”
“Practice is not an excuse to slack off, Thomas. You should
always try your best.”
I glared at him. “What do you care? You aren’t coming to the
meet anyway; you never do.”
“I’m a busy man, Thomas. When you become an officer, you’ll
understand.” He smiled coldly. “But it doesn’t mean that I don’t take
a fatherly interest in-”
“Fatherly interest? When have you ever taken a fatherly
interest in anything I do? When have-”

“Tom, wake up. You need to eat something.” Cait gently shook my
shoulder.
“Huh?” I rubbed my eyes. A huge feast was laid out on the coffee
table, heavy on the protein and calories.
“Oh, wait a minute. Before you start.” She gave me a hypospray. “Kes
brought this by while you were resting. It’s an enzyme the Doctor whipped up.
Supposedly, it will increase the efficiency of your metabolism. Now, dig in.”
I lowered myself onto the floor. My level of exhaustion had prevented
me from realizing how hungry I was, but now, I was starving.
“Daddy’s up!” A jubilant shout came from around the partition, as
Rowan dashed into the room.
“Hey, tiger.” I held out my arms. Sure, he made me feel awful, but I
couldn’t blame him. He felt bad enough about it as it was.
“Whoa! What did Kes and I tell you?” Cait intercepted him before he
reached me.
His face fell. “Not to touch Daddy until he ate.”
“That’s right. Now, you can sit here with me while he eats, but
that’s all for the moment. Understand?” He nodded solemnly in reply.
“Why can’t he come sit with me?” I didn’t like the idea of Rowan being
told not to touch me.
“Because, according to the Doctor’s findings, any physical contact is
draining, so you need to eat first. B’Elanna is already working with the
Doctor to create a device that will synthesize bio-energy in the hopes that we
can wean them off you four.”
I nodded, barely glancing up from my soup. Damn, I was hungry. What-
ever was in that hypospray was working; I was feeling better, more playful. I
cocked my head to one side and winked at Rowan. A bright smile lit up his face
before he buried it in Cait’s uniform. She looked at me, and I grinned. We
were a family again, for the moment.
“How’s everyone else holding up?” I inquired between mouthfuls. “How
is Harry doing?”
“Everyone else is doing about the same as you. Exhausted, but holding
their own. The children are all at the same stage of development as this
little rascal.” She tickled the child’s ribs, sending him into squeals of
laughter. “But that’s all I can tell you. This is way out of my realm of
experience.”
“Oh, and like nursing children is something I make a habit of,” I
teased, downing a protein drink in four gulps. I grinned at Rowan and winked
again, sending his face back into Cait’s chest.
She gently tilted his chin up. “Is Daddy playing with you?” He
nodded. “Well, why don’t you go get what you made for him?”
He obediently slid off her lap and ran into the sleeping area. He
returned with a PADD, which he handed to Cait before clambering up into her
lap. She passed it over to me.
“It’s a story he made up with my help. I was trying to keep him quiet
while you were sleeping, so we began creating a story. It was one he wanted to
tell. I think we did a pretty good job for the first time, don’t you?” She
gave him a little hug.
He smiled. “Daddy read.”
“I’ll read it after I’ve finished eating, all right? I promise. Is
there, ah, any more food?”
She gaped at me. “Do you have any idea how many replicator rations you
just devoured?”
“I can’t help it; that da-, uh, shot is making me ravenous.” *Good
going, Thomas. Watch the mouth.*
Cait snickered and set Rowan down. “What do you want?”
“I think a PBJ would hit the spot, well, that and a glass of milk.”
“What’s a P-B-J?” Rowan peered over the table at me.
“A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’ve been eating them since I
was about your age. Want to try one?”
He nodded vigorously.
“I’m sorry, Rowan, but you can’t.” Cait said as she placed the order
in front of me.
“Want one!”
She crouched down beside him. “I know you do, but they might make you
sick, and that would upset Daddy. And we don’t want to do that do we?”
“No,” he sniffed. He turned to watch me consume the food. Somehow it
doesn’t taste that good with a pair of sorrowful grey eyes staring at you.
I pushed the plate away. “Okay, I’m done. Now, can he come see me?”
Hey, I missed holding the little tyke. Maybe this is how a mother reacts when
she’s breast feeding, I don’t know. I simply wanted to hold him.
Cait nodded, and cautiously, he ambled around the table. I placed him
on my chest, tickling him in the ribs. He giggled and snuggled in. The Doc
was right; I began to feel tired almost immediately, though not quite as bad as
before.
I reached for the PADD. “Let’s see what you wrote. Once upon a time,
there was a little boy from the stars.” I planted a kiss on top of the bald
head. “Is that supposed to be you?” He nodded and I continued. “He and his
brother and sisters needed mommies and daddies because they were very lonely.
One day, a big ship flew by with people. `I’ll bet we can find families
there,’ he said. So they made themselves very tiny and snuck on board. Sure
enough, each found a mommy and daddy who loved them very much. But something
went wrong and the daddies all became very sick. And the little boy was very
scared . . . ”
I put the PADD down. Tears were running down his cheeks, soaking my
pajama top. It took some effort, but I hugged him tightly. “Rowan, listen to
me. I’ll be all right. You heard what your mom said; everything’s being done
to correct this problem. I’ll be fine, really.” I kissed him again, blinking
wearily. Gazing over at Cait, I motioned for her to take him away. I didn’t
want to collapse in front of him again.
She picked up the crying child, and summoning what felt like all my
strength, I pulled myself to my feet. “See. I can still stand. Now, isn’t
it past your bedtime?” I grinned.
Cait nodded. “It most certainly is. Wave good night to Daddy.
That’s a good boy.”
“‘Night, tiger. Love you.” My knees were starting to buckle, but I
couldn’t collapse, not yet.
“Love you,” came the snuffled response.
As soon as Cait’s back blocked his view, I dropped onto the sofa.
Leaning back, I closed my eyes.
“Tom?”
I looked over at her and brought a finger to my lips. Quietly, she
crossed the room and ran the tricorder over me.
“I’m okay,” I whispered weakly. “But I couldn’t, not after that story.
I won’t have him thinking he’s killing me.” I gazed up into her concerned
green eyes. “You can understand that, can’t you?”
Kneeling on the couch beside me, she gently stroked my hair. “I can,
but silly heroics will kill you. Don’t push yourself so; remember he’s not
really your son. You and I both got sucked into this without our permission.”
“I know, but it feels like he’s my child. I mean, I really love the
little guy, Cait.”
“I know, I think he’s pretty special, too.” She pulled me toward her
so that my head rested on her shoulder, her arms wrapping securely around me.
“I guess we’re just doing what comes naturally, `Daddy’.”
Snickering, I closed my eyes. “Who would’ve thought it, huh? Good
night, `Mommy’,” I whispered, silently adding an `I love you’ in my thoughts.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. III

By Carly Hunter
copyright 1995

Incubation
Part 6

Day 9

I spent the night on Cait’s sofa, and we both lucked out in that
Rowan slept the entire time. The morning started off with another hypospray
and a huge breakfast. Once I felt sufficiently strong, Rowan was allowed into
my lap. I held him tightly while my energy plunged. Damn, he was hungry.
“That’s enough. Time for you to go visit the other children.” Cait
picked him up and carried him toward the door.
“‘Bye, Daddy.” He waved to me over her shoulder.
“‘Bye, Rowan. See you later.” Smiling weakly, I reached for a piece
of toast. *Got to get the old strength back up, Thomas.*
I was feeling slightly perkier by the time Cait got back. “Do you have
any idea how piggish I feel?” I inquired, sweeping my arm over the empty
dishes in front of me.
She laughed. “Don’t worry. You’re burning it off. Now, do you want
to sleep some more.”
I shook my head. “To be honest, no. I’d actually like to take a
shower and then a walk. It doesn’t have to be much, just enough to get the
blood circulating.”
“Okay, it’s your call.”
While I was in the shower, Cait went to my room and grabbed some
clothes. Since I was obviously going to be spending most of my time in her
room, it made sense to transfer a couple of changes of clothing over here.
We walked slowly along decks six and seven, with me occasionally
leaning on her for support. In a way, it was very humiliating; something I
definitely could never picture my father doing. But I couldn’t have stayed
cooped up in her room. I wanted to be with people, to forget what was
happening, and to that end, I convinced Cait to take me to the mess for lunch.
B’Elanna and Harry were already there, she bending industriously over a
PADD, he cramming his face full of food.
“How’s the `weaner’ coming?” I asked as Cait administered my hypospray.
“Not so good. The biggest hurdle seems to be adjusting it to match
your specific energy patterns. Even the slightest variation causes rejection.
We tried it with Francesca this morning.”
“Without much success,” groaned Harry between mouthfuls. “I didn’t
feel this exhausted when I caught Komarian flu.”
“Don’t worry. According to the Doctor’s findings and what Rowan keeps
saying, it’ll all be over soon.” I smiled supportively at him, but it wasn’t
funny. He looked as if he had aged ten years. There were dark circles under
his eyes and his whole face looked pale and sunken, not that I looked any
better, mind you.
“Yeah, but how soon is soon?” demanded B’Elanna. “Porter’s in sickbay.
His body almost gave out after this morning’s feeding. Now the Doctor isn’t
even sure he can continue with his feedings. How much more of this can you
realistically stand, Tom?”
“However much I have to.” I replied.

After lunch, the four of us headed to holodeck 2 to pick up our
children. Rowan spotted us the moment the doors opened. “Daddy!” he
screeched, darting over. Cait adroitly intercepted him, swinging him playfully
into her arms.
“Hey, kiddo,” I teased. “You ready for lunch?”
His head bobbed up and down enthusiastically. Thank the gods, he had
adjusted to a three meal day.
“Then, let’s go. See you guys later.” I clapped Harry on the
shoulder. “Don’t worry. We’re going to make it. We’ve survived everything
else, right?”
Grinning ruefully, he gave my own shoulder a squeeze. “Piece of cake,
Paris.”
When we got back to Cait’s quarters, I sat down on the sofa and pulled
Rowan into my lap. My level of fatigue skyrocketed. Maybe B’Elanna was right.
Just how much more of this could my body take? I looked down at the toddler in
my arms and decided I could hold out a little longer.
My eyelids began to droop. I heard Cait call to Rowan who obediently
climbed off me. He was a good kid, and I was proud of him. Hell, who was I
kidding, I loved him. Singlehandedly, he had brought Cait and myself closer
together than we had been in months, and that alone seemed reason enough
for me.
After she put the child down for his nap, Cait came and sat down beside
me. I stretched out on my side, placing my head in her lap. I’ve always
enjoyed doing that, feeling her fingers rake soothingly though my hair.
Somehow, it seems to make all the problems in my life melt away.
“Tom?” She spoke softly almost as if she feared waking me.
“Hmm?”
“Please don’t push yourself like Porter did. It won’t help anyone,
including Rowan.”
“I won’t, I promise.”
“Because if it comes down to a choice between the two of you, I’ll
sacrifice him before I see you die.”
I twisted onto my back, gazing up at her. “I am rather hoping you
won’t have to make that decision, you know.”
“I know.” Those beautiful eyes misted slightly.
I shot her a tired, roguish smirk. “You know, if I had my strength,
I’d try to kiss you now.”
She chuckled quietly. “I know that, too. Now, go to sleep. He’ll be
awake before you know it.”
“Spoilsport,” I kidded, rolling onto my side.

“Daaaddeee.” A soft voice called to me.
I awoke to find a pair of mischievous grey eyes regarding me from
across the coffee table. “Hey, Rowan,” I muttered sleepily. “Whatcha doin’?”
“Nothin’. Watching you sleep.”
“Rowan!” Cait called from the other room. “Did you wake Tom?”
He cast me a fearful glance, and I shook my head. “No,” he replied.
Cait came to the partition. “Are you sure?”
He looked back at me.
“Don’t look at him. Look at me.” She bent down and grasped his chin,
turning his face toward her. “Did you wake Tom?”
“No. Woke Daddy.”
“Same thing,” she countered, releasing him. “Now, what did I tell
you earlier?”
His head and voice both lowered. “To let Daddy sleep.”
“Mmm-hmm. And what did I say would happen if you disobeyed?”
At that point, I felt I had to step in. “C’mon, Cait. He didn’t
really wake me. It was time for me to get up anyway.”
“Tom, that’s not the point. He deliberately disobeyed me, and he has
to learn that his actions carry consequences.”
“Cait, he’s not the equivalent of three, yet.”
She shot me a glare that would have frozen lava. “One is never to
young to learn how to behave, and on a starship, especially, it’s necessary for
children to obey their parents.”
*Okay, Thomas, time to try bargaining with her.* I sat up. “I’ll
concede that, but don’t you think we could cut him a little slack this time.
I think he’s learned his lesson, haven’t you, Rowan?” I winked at him.
He nodded vigorously.
“All right, this time we’ll let it go, but I can see that we,” She
looked at me and frowned. “Are going to have to have a little talk.”
Rowan gazed at me in wonder. I grinned. “Looks like we’re both in the
dog house, kiddo.”
He broke away from Cait and scrambled up on the sofa, careful not to
sit too close. “What’s a dog house?”
I snickered. “It’s an old saying on Earth; it means to be in trouble,
as in you and I are in trouble with Mommy.”
“Oh.” He smiled at Cait, pointing proudly to himself. “I’m in the
dog house with Daddy.”
She burst into laughter. “You certainly are. Oh, Tom, Harry and
B’Elanna are dropping by for dinner. I thought it might be a nice change of
pace, and Francesca and Rowan get along well.” She frowned. “Is it just me or
did what I just say sound very domesticated?”
I sniggered. “It certainly did, `Mommy’. How long do I have to
freshen up?”
“Thirty minutes.”
I eyed her playfully as I got to my feet. “So I guess it was a good
thing he woke me up, huh?”
“Aren’t you in enough trouble as it is?” She tried so hard to maintain
a serious expression; it became quite comical.
“The dog house, the dog house, Daddy’s in the dog house.” Rowan danced
around the table.
Cait caught him on his second lap. “So are you, young man. Don’t
forget that.” She swung him up into her arms, kissing him on the cheek.
*She’s so good with him.* I ducked into the bathroom. Why
didn’t she want to have children? Was it me? Or was it something else?
I glanced at the two of them one more time before closing the door. We really
were becoming a family.
I splashed some water on my face and gazed at my reflection. I hadn’t
looked this bad since the accident on Caldik Prime. My skin had an unhealthy
pallor with dark circles beneath the eyes, which, themselves were almost devoid
of life. There were no two ways about it; I looked like hell. And that
amazing, adorable little monster in the next room was responsible.
Scuffling and giggling came through the closed door. Cait had to be
chasing Rowan, maybe she had even caught him. I smiled to myself and glanced
back at the reflection. “C’mon, Thomas. You can do it. You have to do it.
They need you.”
I wondered what my father would say if he could see me now. Would he
have done the same if he had been in my place? Part of me wanted to think so,
but another part wasn’t so sure. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath;
thinking about things like that wasn’t going to help me now.
“Tom, are you all right?” Cait knocked on the bathroom door.
Pulling myself away from the mirror, I opened it. “Yeah.”
“Rowan said you were upset.” She gazed into my eyes. “And you
are, aren’t you?”
“A little, I guess. I was just thinking about my dad.” I blinked
rapidly, as what she said sunk in. “Wait a minute. Rowan said I was upset?”
“Mmm-hmm. We were playing chase when all of a sudden, he stopped,
looked at the bathroom, and said `Daddy’s sad’. Then, he grabbed my hand and
pulled me over here. That’s why I knocked. He must have formed some sort of
empathic bond with you, maybe from the energy transference.”
I looked past her to the child by the bed. He smiled. I grinned back
out of reflex.
“Daddy’s happy.”
“Yeah, I’m happy. Now, let’s see if I can’t catch you.” I took a step
toward him, and he screamed with delight, darting into the other room.
“Tom,” Cait reproached.
“I’ll be careful. Don’t worry.” I followed the fleeing child into the
seating area, chasing him as best I could. He ran back into the bedroom and
hid behind Cait’s legs.
“Safe,” he announced boldly.
“Oh, you think so,” I replied, snatching at him around her.
“Hey, you two, leave me out of this. They’ll be here-” The door chime
cut her short.
Rowan dashed off. “I get it. I get it.”
I came up behind him as he jumped for the door’s control panel. “I
think you’ll have to grow a few more centimeters first. Here, let me.”
I pressed the release. “Harry, B’Elanna. Come on in. And you’re Francesca.
Hi there.” I stooped down to address the child at B’Elanna’s side. It was
probably safe for me to touch her, but I refrained all the same.
She hid behind her mother’s legs. “Francesca, don’t be rude. Say
hello to Tom,” Harry prompted. “Remember, I told you about him.”
“Oh, thanks,” I retorted, rising to my feet. “No wonder, she’s
hiding.” I gazed at Harry. He looked terrible, worse than he had at lunch.
“Harry, old man, don’t take this the wrong way, but you look horrible.”
“So do you, Paris. But there’s more to it. We just got word from Kes
that Kyoto’s in sickbay now, too.”
Cait and I looked at each other. “Damn!” was all I could think to say.
Rowan walked around and stood expectantly in front of Harry. “Daddy
and I are both in the dog house,” he annouced proudly, causing Cait to nearly
drop the dish she was carrying to the table. I dissolved into laughter. On
the heels of what we had just been told, it was the perfect antidote.
Cait came up behind him. “Rowan, you mustn’t tell people that. It’s
not something to be proud of.”
“You’re starting him early, Paris.” Harry winked. “A little over two
days old and you’re already getting him into trouble.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault,” I protested. “I was made an accessory after
the fact.”
“Uh-huh. Sure, you were.”
B’Elanna bent down to detach the child from her leg. “Francesca, why
don’t you go play with Rowan?”
Rowan grabbed the girl’s arm. “C’mon. Mommy showed me this file on
di-no-saurs. She said they lived a long, long, long time ago where she and
Daddy are from.”
Harry stared at me. “Daddy?”
I shrugged and thumped him on the back. “C’mon Harry. Let’s you and I
get comfy, while the women-folk set out dinner. How often are we going to find
them so willing to serve us?” B’Elanna uttered a low growl as I winked at
Cait.
“Keep it up, Lieutenant,” she replied sweetly. “And you’ll stay in
that dog house.”
Before we sat down to the meal, Cait and B’Elanna administered our
hypos; the only difference being, Harry got his with a kiss. Rowan looked at
them and then at Cait and me. He didn’t say anything, but I could see the
question already forming in his mind. It was one I wasn’t looking forward
to trying to answer.
After dinner, while Harry and I sat back on the couch, Rowan and
Francesca came in and immediately scrambled up on our laps. “Hey, kiddo.” I
gave him a bear hug. “Dinnertime?”
“Mmm-hmm. I’m hungry.” He snuggled into my chest.
I looked over at Harry. He acted so cold and distant to Francesca,
as though he resented feeding her. He didn’t cuddle her, and she just lay
there on top of him. No words were exchanged, no smiles, nothing. It kind of
reminded me of my father. My arms tightened around Rowan and I gave him a
kiss. No wonder their little girl hid.
My eyes were beginning to close when Rowan threw his arms around my
neck and hugged me. “All done,” he announced, slithering to the floor.
B’Elanna gaped at him. “How did you get him to do that? I have to
practically tear Francesca away from Harry.” She glared at the child on my
friend’s chest.
I shook my head weakly. “I don’t know. He’s very protective of me.
He-”
Harry let out a shuddered breath. Cait leapt forward and yanked
Francesca off him, handing her to B’Elanna. Quickly scanning him with the
tricorder, she frowned. “Damn! Matthews to sickbay, activate emergency
medical holographic program and prepare for emergency transport. Transporter
room, lock onto Ensign Kim’s and my signal and beam us to sickbay on my orders.
B’Elanna, stay with Tom. He’ll need your help with Rowan.” She pulled Harry
up into her arms. “Energize.”
As they disappeared, I reached over for the tricorder; the readings
weren’t good. “B’Elanna, take Francesca with you to sickbay. Harry needs
you.”
“But what about you?”
“Rowan and I will be fine. Right now, Harry needs you more. So, go.”
I clicked the tricorder shut before she could see the readings. “Trust me.
We’ll be all right.”
She nodded and dashed out the door with the little girl in tow. I
watched the door shut behind them, too fatigued to do much else. I wanted to
be with them, but that was an impossibility at this point. Eventually, my gaze
fell on Rowan. He was peeping fearfully out from behind one of the chairs.
Poor kid. Any child would’ve been upset, but he understood what had happened.
“C’mere, Rowan.” I patted an area of the couch next to me.
He shook his head.
“Rowan, I’m too tired to argue. Now, come here.”
He stubbornly shook his head again.
I sighed heavily; I was beginning to appreciate Cait’s earlier comment
about making children behave. “Rowan, it’s okay as long as we don’t touch.
Now, come here.” I flashed him a tight smile. “Please, it’ll make me feel
better.”
Hesitantly, he ambled over and pulled himself up on the sofa.
“You’re frightened, aren’t you? You’re afraid that what happened to
Harry is going to happen to me, right?”
He nodded, the large grey eyes filling with tears.
“Yeah, well, I’m frightened, too. But I’m not going to let it happen,
and I don’t think you will either. You’re very good about taking only what you
need. You’re also good about letting me rest, most of the time.” I winked,
but got no response. Damn, he was really upset. If I could have just held
him. “Would you like me to tell you a story?”
He cocked his head to one side. “Ye-e-es,” he sniffled, trying to hold
back the tears.
*Good move, Thomas. Divert the kid’s attention.* “All right, I will.
Now, let’s see. Once upon a time, in a far away land, there lived a husband
and wife. They loved each other very much, but had no children. You see,
despite their love for one another, they were very, very poor, and could barely
put enough food on the table for themselves, much less a little one.”
Rowan stretched out on the sofa, lying as close to me as he dared. I
pulled the blanket off the back and threw it over him before continuing. We
had gotten about a quarter of the way through the story, when Cait dashed in.
As soon as she saw us, she sagged against the wall breathing heavily. She
must have run all the way from sickbay. “Are you two all right?”
Sitting up, Rowan blinked sleepily at her. “Yeah, Daddy’s telling me
a story.”
“Oh, I see.” She crossed the room and picked up the tricorder.
Scanning me, her features relaxed measurably. “How do you feel?”
“Tired, but all right. How’s Harry?”
“He’s, um,” She glanced quickly at Rowan. “Holding his own. I
thought I told B’Elanna to stay with you.”
“And I told her to leave. She should be with Harry. And we did all
right on our own, didn’t we, tiger?” I patted his shoulder.
“Yes.” He looked at me cautiously.
Stepping around my legs, Cait sat down between us, pulling Rowan into
her lap. She hugged him tightly and kissed his cheek. “You are such a good
boy to take care of Daddy. Such a good boy.” She swung her sights on me.
“Oh, the Doctor wants to see both of you tomorrow, after you’ve eaten, but
before you feed Rowan. He thinks that maybe something in your metabolic rate
is preventing your collapse. However, I’m of the opinion it’s only a matter of
stubborness and devotion.”
I leaned my head on her shoulder and smiled at Rowan. “I think you’re
probably closer to the truth. Whadda you think, kiddo?” I tickled him under
the chin.
He emitted a squeal of delight, but pulled away. “Daddy can’t touch
me.”
Cait pressed her cheek briefly against the top of my head. “He’s
right, Tom,” she said softly. “I know how you feel. I know how much Rowan
means to you, and he knows, too, don’t you? You know Daddy loves you, don’t
you?”
He shifted his gaze from me to her. “Daddy loves me. Daddy loves
Mommy, too.”
My mouth fell open. It wasn’t so much what he said; it was the way he
said it. The conviction contained within that tiny voice.
“That’s right.” Cait laughed lightly, kissing his cheek. “He does.
And I love you, too.”
“Does Mommy love Daddy?”
She blushed. “Well, yes, in a way.”
Uh-oh. Here it came. As soon as he saw Harry and B’Elanna kiss, I saw
it coming.
“Daddy kisses me and you kiss me. Why don’t you kiss Daddy?
Francesca’s mommy and daddy kiss.”
“Well, I-ah.”
“Rowan, it’s very complicated,” I interrupted. “There are different
kinds of love. The love that Cait, I mean, Mommy and I share is different from
the love we have for you. It’s also different from the love Harry and B’Elanna
share.”
He shook his head stubbornly. “No.”
I shot a quick glance at Cait for assistance. She only grinned. “It’s
your ball, run with it.”
“Thanks. Thanks a lot. I’ll remember this.” I growled. “Look,
Rowan, I don’t think I can explain it. When you get older, you’ll be better
able to understand what I’m trying to say. On one level, love is love. It’s
what bonds us to whomever we care about. However, the way that we care about
each person differs from individual to individual.” He looked confused, and I
wasn’t too far behind. I had no idea how to explain love to a two year old
equivalent; hell, I can’t even figure it out on my own. I took a deep breath.
“How about I just finish the story I was telling?”
To my immense relief, he nodded, snuggling into Cait’s chest. I sat up
and put my arm around her. “Okay, now, where was I? Oh, yes. At first, they
were both happy to find the baby, but there wasn’t enough food for all three
of them . . .” After a few minutes, he began to doze off. I’d like to think
it was because my voice was so soothing and not because the story was boring.
With some difficulty, Cait got to her feet and carried Rowan into the
sleeping area. Slowly, I followed. I hadn’t put him down since the second
day he arrived, and lately, I had been too tired to move after his feedings.
For some reason, though, I wanted to, no matter what the cost. Maybe it was
Harry’s coldness to Francesca. Maybe it was Harry’s collapse. Maybe it was
the threat of my own mortality. I wasn’t sure, but tonight, I was determined
to tuck Rowan in.
Cait gently placed him in the modified crib/bed, and I pulled the
covers up over his shoulders. “‘Night, tiger,” I whispered. “I love you.”
Bending down, I planted a quick kiss on his forehead.
The grey eyes flew open. “Kiss Mommy.”
“What?”
“Kiss Mommy.”
I straightened up and looked at Cait. She shrugged, so I leaned over,
kissing her lightly on the lips. “There, satisfied?”
He giggled and closed his eyes. “‘Night.”
We turned back toward the seating area, but I only got as far as the
bed. My heart was racing so fast it hurt, and my legs felt about as solid as
plasma.
“Tom?”
I brought a finger to my lips. “Don’t wake him. I’ll be okay.” In
all honesty, though, I didn’t know if I would be or not. I lay back on the bed
and tried to slow my heart, as Cait went for the tricorder.
Hastily, she scanned me. “That’s it; you’re going to sickbay.
Matthews to-”
“No.” I sat up, dizzy. “No, I’ll be all right. I just pushed myself
a little too hard. I need some sleep, that’s all.”
“But, Tom-”
“No. No buts. Just get me into bed.”
Cait helped me out of my clothes and into some pajama bottoms. I was
too sick to feel embarrassed. She did most of the work; I hardly exerted
myself, but my breathing was really labored by the time she pulled the covers
up over me.
“Tom, please reconsider. If the Doctor can see you now, maybe he can
prevent your collapse.”
I shook my head. “No, Cait. Nothing can prevent that; it’s
inevitable. I simply need sleep, and I don’t want to do it in sickbay.
Please.”
“All right,” she relented. “Can I get you something? Maybe some
spinach juice or a protein drink?”
“No, just stay here and hold me until I fall asleep. Honest, it won’t
be long.”
“Okay. Let me take my boots off.” She sat down for a few seconds
before crawling in beside me still in uniform. “Would you like me to tell
*you* a story?” she teased, as I cuddled up beside her.
“Mmm-hmm.”
“All right. Once upon a time, there was this very headstrong, handsome
young man, and one day he became very ill. But he wouldn’t take care of
himself, and- Oww!”
“Shh. You’ll wake Rowan,” I chastized, having pinched her arm gently.
“But you said you wanted a story.”
“I said a story, not a biography. And if you aren’t going to tell me a
proper one, then give me a kiss and tell me good night.” I tried not to let
on, but I was scared, real scared. I had never felt like this in my life.
“I’ll do better than that.” Her lips closed briefly over mine as her
arms wrapped around my shoulders. “I’ll do both. Once upon a time . . .”
I closed my eyes. Soon, my heart calmed, and it wasn’t long before
I slept.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. III

By Carly Hunter
copyright 1995

Incubation
Part 7

Day 10

When I woke up the next morning, I was spooned up behind Cait, my nose
resting against her neck. (I still miss her long hair.) Careful not to
wake her, I raised my head and saw Rowan standing by the side of the bed
watching us. He opened his mouth, but I motioned otherwise, and he promptly
shut it. I pulled back the covers, indicating for him to crawl in, which he
did, immediately snuggling into Cait and waking her.
“Rowan, that was a dangerous thing for you to do. You should know
better,” she scolded.
“Cait, it’s okay. I told him he could. Don’t worry. I had every
intention of closely monitoring his proximity.”
“Tom.” That damned reproaching tone.
“Dammit, Cait. I am an adult. I can take care of myself.”
“Not under these circumstances. I know you. You’re thinking with your
heart, not your head.”
“Yeah, well, maybe you should, too, ice maiden.” I shouldn’t have
called her that, but I had had it up to my eyeballs with being told what I
could and couldn’t do.
“How dare you! Who the hell do you think has been taking care of you,
getting your food, giving you hypos, monitoring your vitals? Me. And if you
think it’s been easy, you’re wrong.”
“I know it hasn’t, but look at it from my perspective. I’m practically
a vegetable. I feel like hell; I look like hell; and when I try to live a
semi-normal life, my chest feels like it’s going to implode. And on top of all
that, I’ve seen three healthy men drop, 1, 2, 3, the last one being my best
friend. Do you honestly think I’m under any illusions as to what awaits me?
Do you?” I was screaming; we both were screaming. The stress of the past week
and a half had finally supassed our individual limits of control.
“Dammit, Tom, then act like it. Show some common sense. Show-”
“Mommy! Stop! You’re hurting him!” Rowan tugged at her hand.
His warning came a little too late. My heart was racing again, this
time irregularly, and the pain extended from my chest to my shoulder. I tried
to take a deep breath, but found that I couldn’t. As their images began to
blur, I crashed back onto the pillows, gasping.
“Tom! Tom! Matthews to sickbay-”
“Cait,” I called to her weakly. “Help me. It hurts . . . so much.”
She took me in her arms. The last word I could make out was
“Energize”.

Through my eyelids, I saw a bright light, and I could hear the steady
hum of the warp engines, so I figured I wasn’t dead quite yet. Otherwise,
though, it was pretty quiet. My chest was sore, almost like I had been kicked
there, hard, but the sharp pain was gone, and I could take a normal breath.
Slowly, I opened my eyes to the ceiling of sickbay.
“Tom?” Cait was beside me in an instant, stroking my forehead. “How
do you feel?”
“Like I went twenty rounds with a Klingon and lost,” I croaked. “What
happened?”
She poured me some water, holding my head up while I took a sip. “You
experienced a coronary insufficiency, a type of heart attack. It was an
unforeseen reaction to the metabolic stimulant you’ve been taking. The attack,
itself, was mild, but considering the amount of scarring on your heart, the
Doctor believes you may have had a smaller one last night. You know, when you
wouldn’t let me bring you here.” Her demeanor was teasing, but an undercurrent
of concern and anger was present also.
“Mea culpa,” I smiled weakly. “Where’s Rowan?”
“Feeding. B’Elanna and the Doctor took your readings and fed them
into the holodeck’s imaging system. They’ve been able to generate an image of
you that emits a bio-energy pattern similar to your own. Rowan has accepted
it, although, he knows it’s not you. Ones have also been created for each of
the other men, allowing them to finally leave sickbay. Their children are
feeding, as well, and even Porter’s kid is showing marked improvement.”
“Geez, all that has happened? How long have I been out?”
She grinned. “Almost two full shifts. We could’ve woken you sooner,
but the Doctor figured you could use the rest while the regenerator replaced
the scar tissue.” Her face sobered. “Tom, I am so sorry. I would never have
flown off the handle like that if I had had any idea-”
I squeezed her hand as best I could; the left side of my body still
felt a little weak. “Skip it, Cait. We had both reached the end of our rope
and needed to let off a little steam. It couldn’t be helped. Heck, I’m
surprised we held it in as long as we did.”
“Ahem.” The Doc cleared his throat from the foot of the biobed. “Am
I interrupting anything?”
Cait pulled back quickly. “No, Doctor.”
“Then, let’s see how we are doing, shall we?” He ran a tricorder over
me. “Hmm. Well, Lieutenant, I’m pleased to say your heart has healed nicely,
and the rest of your systems are functioning normally. You should be able to
leave sickbay tomorrow.”
“Great.” I tried to sit up, but didn’t get very far.
“Tomorrow, providing you take things slowly.” The Doc frowned as he
adjusted the bed into a sitting position.
“Daddy!” The doors opened and Rowan dashed in, followed closely by
Kes.
“Hey, Rowan!” I smiled. Damn! I wanted nothing more than to hug him
closely, but we all knew that wasn’t possible.
“I tried to stop him,” Kes explained. “But all of a sudden, he
screamed `Daddy’s up’ and ran off the holodeck. He seems to have forged an
empathic bond with you, Tom.”
“Yes, we know. We discovered that last night.” I looked down at the
end of the bed over which Rowan peeped. “Hey, tiger, howzit goin’? Hungry?”
He shook his head. “I’m okay, but-”
“You miss me, huh?”
“No.” He snickered.
“No?”
“Miss you lots and lots and lots and-”
I chuckled. “Okay, okay. I get the picture. I’ve missed you, too.”
“Lots and lots?” he grinned.
“Lots and lots.” Gods, I wanted to hold him, to have him snuggled up
beside me.
“It’s okay, Daddy. I know.” He inched his way alongside the bed, and
Cait picked him up.
“All right, Rowan. Let’s you and I leave Daddy to rest. Maybe we can
come back later and have him tell you another story before bedtime.” She
glanced questioningly at me.
“Sure,” I enthused. “And I’ll make it a good one this time.”
“Okay!” He bounced up and down excitedly before waving good-bye.
As I watched the doors close behind them, I became acutely aware of the
Doc’s and Kes’ eyes upon me. “What?”
“Hmph,” the hologram replied. “I was going to say something about
taking things slowly, but your vitals grew remarkably stronger during that
little exchange, so I’ll reserve my opinion until a more appropriate time.”
He turned towards his office.
“Are you going to say the same thing?” I gazed at the bemused Ocampan.
“Not at all. I was only marvelling at you.”
“Me?”
“Yes, you. I’ve always felt that you had a lot of love within you; you
were simply afraid to let it show, and this little scene proved it. Little by
little, the walls have come down, haven’t they, Tom?”
Tilting my head back, I stared at the ceiling before answering. “Yeah,
I guess so. I mean, I think back to how I used to be, to what I did, and it’s
like it wasn’t even me, that it was a totally different person. I realize it
wasn’t. I recognize that there are still bits and pieces of the old Tom Paris
lurking around inside, ready to leap out at a moment’s notice. I sincerely
hope I’m not foolish enough to delude myself on that point. But you’re right.
I’m not quite the same swaggering, unreliable cur I was when I began this
little detour.”
She patted my arm. “None of us are. Look at me.” She stepped back.
“I can’t begin to squeeze into my old clothes.”
I leered playfully. “Yeah, but you still look pretty good in my
opinion, and feel free to tell Neelix I said so.” I glanced back up at the
lights and sighed heavily. “Oh gods, Kes. Cait and I have been so close
these past two weeks. There have been times when we’ve really felt like a
family.”
My friend smiled supportively. “Give her time, Tom. I’ve already told
you that. Besides, nothing is more irresistible to a woman than a man with
good parental instincts, and you certainly appear to have those.”
I chuckled. “Who woulda thought, huh? Especially when you consider
how distant and cold my father was. Future captains and admirals, that’s all
we were to him, continuations of the Paris-Star Fleet legacy.” I cleared my
throat; I didn’t want to think about him. “But Cait makes a good mother, too.
She’s so natural and playful with Rowan; it just doesn’t make sense for her to
not want kids. I wish I knew why. You know, if it was me or something else.”
“I don’t believe it’s you, Tom. You have to look at it from her point
of view. She’s lost so many people in her life; her mother, her father, his
crew, other Maquis. She realizes how fleeting life can be. Perhaps she is
afraid of causing another the same pain she bears.” Kes bit her lip and then
brightened. “However, all of this is a topic for discussion at a later date.
You need some rest. Rowan’s going to be looking forward to that story.”
“Oh boy,” I groaned. “And all I have to do is come up with one. Got
any ideas?”
She shook her head.
“Thanks. Thanks a lot.”
“Anytime,” she laughed, moving into the office.

Day 12

“Whatcha doin’, Mommy?” Rowan stared up in amazement at Cait, who was
keeping up a pretty good pace on the toner, or rack, as I like to call the foul
invention. Give me a swimlane any day.
“Exercising, so I can keep up with you. What are you doing here?”
“I’m taking Daddy for a walk. See.” He held up a strip of cloth.
“See, he holds that end and I hold this end, so’s we can hold hands and not
touch.”
She grinned. “Clever, but be careful. Don’t wear him out too much.”
He shook his head. “I won’t. I’m takin’ him to the mess. Unca Neelix
is gonna fix Daddy some PBJs, and we’re gonna watch the stars go by.”
“Don’t blame him. It was my idea.” The sound of my voice made her
look up. “I was feeling a bit caged in. So, I nipped by the holodeck and
picked him up. Honest, I feel fine and I promise I won’t overdo it.” I bent
down, stretching out my hand. “C’mon, Rowan. Let’s go watch those stars.”
“Yippee!” He skipped over to me holding out the piece of material.
“Tell Mommy good-bye.”
He spun around. “‘Bye, Mommy.”
“‘Bye, sweetheart. I’ll see you in about an hour.” The green eyes
shifted from him to me. She didn’t say anything; she just stared for a minute,
a strange softness coming to her features before she returned her gaze to the
machine’s monitor. Maybe Kes was right after all.

The couch under the window was empty as was the rest of the mess when
we entered. “Go snag it for us while I get the food. Okay?” I whispered,
winking conspiratorily.
“Okay,” he whispered back and scampered off.
I wandered over to the counter. “Hi, Valaxis. Howzit goin’?” I
smiled at my godson. He was almost as tall as his father now, even though he
was only eight months old. He looked a lot like Neelix, too, except for the
blue eyes, which he had inherited from Kes, along with the shorter lifespan.
“Not too bad, Uncle. Father’s fixing your sandwiches right now while
the kelama stew simmers.”
I sniffed; it smelled awful. “Is that what I detect?”
“Yes. Do you want some with your PBJs?”
“Ah, no.” I retorted a bit too quickly. “Thanks all the same. Hi,
Neelix.”
“Tom, I thought I heard your voice. Here are you sandwiches, cut
exactly the way you like them. How are you feeling?” He placed a plate of
two diagonally cut sandwiches on the counter in front of me.
“A world of difference, even from yesterday.” I grinned.
“I don’t mind telling you, you had us all very worried.” He waved to
my son, who took a break from star gazing to smile and wave back.
“Neelix, I was pretty worried myself there for a minute or two. But
I’m doing fine now and so is Rowan, and that’s all that matters.”
“C’mon Daddy.”
“Be right there.” I called. “Sorry, Neelix, but it would seem the
stars wait for no man.”
“Understood,” he grinned, passing me a glass of milk.
Biting into a sandwich half, I sat down next to Rowan. “Well, now how
much have I missed?”
“Lots,” he giggled, turning around to face me. “But there’s always
lots more.”
“That there is, lil’ buddy. That there is.”
He watched me finish off the first sandwich and start on the second.
“Something on your mind, Rowan?”
“Do you love me, Daddy?” The grey eyes were quite serious.
“What kind of question is that? Of course, I do and so does Mommy.”
I put down the sandwich. “Rowan, has something upset you? Are you angry at
me? Tell me. I’m your father; you can always talk to me.”
He glanced briefly out the window before looking down at his snow-
white hands. “The other kids say their ‘rents don’t love them, like you and
Mommy do me. They say you’re just pretending to care.” He stuck his chin out
defiantly. “I told ’em they were wrong, that you do love me.”
That was it! The final straw! Heart attack or no heart attack, the
situation called for a hug, and I was going to give him one. No child of mine
was *ever* going to doubt my affection! Before he could protest, I scooped him
up into my lap, hugging him close. “Don’t you listen to them. They are only
jealous. Your mother and I love you more than words can say.”
“Lemme go, Daddy! Lemme go!” He pushed hard against me.
“Not until you say you believe me. Now, do you believe me when I say
I love you?” I gazed down at him. My energy level was plunging and my heart
was racing, but I didn’t care.
He nodded and then propelled himself out of my grasp. I sat back on
the sofa and closed my eyes.
“Daddy?” His soft voice called fearfully.
“I’ll be fine.” I opened my eyes. “The important thing is that you
believe what I said. Maybe those other kids’ parents don’t love them as much
as we love you, but don’t you *ever* doubt our love. Do you understand me?”
He nodded again. “I understand. But Mommy’s gonna be mad at me.”
“How so?”
“‘Cause you’re all tired now, and I promised you wouldn’t be.”
“Well, we’ll just have to fix that, won’t we? Hand me the rest of that
sandwich and the milk. We’ve got about twenty minutes before she shows up. I
think that’s enough time for me to rest, provided you go ask Uncle Neelix for
another sandwich and some more milk. Can you do that? Just tell him I’m real
hungry, okay?”
“Okay, Daddy.” He slid off the couch and dashed into the kitchen.
In a few minutes, Neelix followed him out with my request, looking me
over carefully as he put the plate and glass down. “Are you all right, Tom?
You look much paler than when you first came in. Should I call Kes?”
I shook my head and sat up. “No, I’m fine. I simply gave Rowan a
quick hug, and now I’m paying the price.”
“You shouldn’t have done that. You could wind up in sickbay again.”
“I know, I know. But he and I both needed it.” I polished off the
first glass of milk. “Listen, don’t tell Cait. Please. Let it stay Rowan’s
and my secret.” I winked at my son.
“Very well,” our chef sighed. “But if you begin looking or acting
worse, I’m calling Kes and Caitlin.”
“Fair enough.” I smiled. “Thanks, Neelix.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” he muttered, heading back into the kitchen.
“Daddy?”
“Hmm?”
“I’m sorry.”
“For what? For telling me what you did? Rowan, I’m glad you told me.
Neither your mother, nor I want you to doubt our affection for you. And now,
that we’ve settled those fears, I hope.” I turned toward the window. “Let’s
watch those stars.”
He stood up on the couch and hung over its back. “Okay.”
We remained like that, viewing the streaks of light flying past the
ship, and slowly, I began to feel better, stronger. Presently, Rowan smiled
and turned towards me. “Did you hear what they said, Daddy?”
“Huh? No, what did they say?” I figured it was his imagination; heck,
I had a pretend friend when I was little, lots of kids do.
“They say I won’t hurt you now. That it’s almost time to go home.” He
reached out and touched my cheek. “See, I don’t hurt.”
He was right. There was no energy loss on my part. I could touch him,
hug him, tickle him, and then it hit me. I was going to lose him. It wasn’t
fair.
Rowan threw his arms around my neck. “Don’t cry, Daddy. I love you.”
That tore it. I had no choice but to cry. I held him close, managing
somehow to snuffle out, “I love you, too.”
About then, the doors opened and Cait entered. “Rowan! No!” Holding
our her arms, she dashed over, but I waved her off.
“It’s okay. He’s not feeding off me anymore. He’s getting ready to
leave us.”
“To . . . leave?” Her voice faltered as she sank down onto the couch.
“Rowan, is this true?”
He nodded and stretched out to her. As she took him in her arms, I ran
a thumb under my eyes. “We were simply sitting here when he said the stars
told him it was safe to touch me and that it was almost time to go home.”
She cleared her throat. “Did they say anything else, Rowan? Like how
soon you would be leaving? Why? Anything?”
“Ye-e-s. They said I would have to leave for good. But I don’t wanna.
I like it here.” Bursting into tears, he clung tighter to her neck. “I wanna
stay.”
Cait glanced helplessly at me. I shook my head; my gut said he had no
other choice. “I know you want to stay,” she whispered, rocking him gently
back and forth. “And we want you to stay, but you may not be able to.”
The doors to the mess opened again, allowing two crewmembers to enter.
The lunch crowd would be trickling in soon. “C’mon. Let’s go see the Doc.”
I stood up and took him from her. “Maybe he can at least tell us why I can
hold you now.”
“Tom, shouldn’t I-”
I shook my head. “No, Cait. Let me carry him. I want to.”

“Lieutenant!” The Doctor thundered as we entered sickbay. “You should
not be carrying him.” He moved quickly from behind his desk. “Lt. Matthews,
you really shouldn’t have-”
“It’s okay, Doc,” I broke in. “He isn’t feeding off me anymore; that’s
why we came here.”
The hologram picked up a tricorder and began scanning Rowan. “His
cells have almost completely mutated. Your body will no longer produce the
type of energy he needs; to be blunt, you simply aren’t powerful enough for
him. He should now be able to consume energy directly from any power source,
which means the only crewmember he’s a threat to now is me.” He snapped the
tricorder shut. “Doctor to Kes.”
“Go ahead.”
“Could you please come to sickbay? A situation has arisen for which I
require your assistance.”
“I’m on my way.”
A few minutes later, the Ocampan came through the doors. “What is-”
She stopped short upon seeing Rowan in my arms.
“It would seem,” the hologram interjected, saving me from a third
explanation. “That the child no longer finds bio-energy acceptable as a food
source. His cell structure has reached a ninety percent changeover rate,
making it risky for me to handle him. Therefore, your assistance is needed to
run a few tests.”
“Of course, Doctor.” She smiled at Rowan, holding out her arms.
“Come here, Rowan. That’s right. My goodness, you’ve grown, just like my
Valaxis. There you go.” She put him on a biobed. “Now, I need you to be
extra good while the Doctor runs these tests. I promise they won’t hurt a bit.
Can you do that for me?”
He glanced fearfully at Cait and myself. Just like any kid in a
Doctor’s office – scared.
Kes continued to speak in her most soothing tone. “Your parents will
be right here the entire time. They won’t go anywhere. Now, will you show
show them what a brave young man you are?” He nodded uncertainly. “That’s
good,” she enthused. “I knew I could count on you.”
I winked at him and grinned. He was upset enough; I wasn’t going to
let him see I was, too. Cait, on the other hand, was wound tighter than a harp
string, with concern written on her every feature. Her face was a rigid,
unsmiling mask, and her arms were strapped across her chest. I stepped in
front of her, temporarily blocking Rowan’s view. “Smile, damn you.” I
whispered. “Or I’ll give you a reason to smile.” I leaned forward,
suggestively cupping her chin in my hand. “And believe me, I could.”
She stared up into my determined eyes and nodded.
“Oh, darn. I thought I had you that time,” I teased, causing her to
snicker nervously. “That’s more like it.” I turned back to Rowan. “How are
you doing, kiddo?”
“Okay. It doesn’t hurt.” He grimaced bravely.
“I should say not,” retorted the Doctor. “I make it a practice to
cause my patients as little pain as possible.” He paused to check his
readings. “Everything seems to check out fine given our limited knowledge of
the child’s natural state of progression. For nutrition, I believe you will
find that a portable generator will fulfill his requirements. He should
complete his transformation sometime over the next ten hours; as to what will
happen during that final stage I cannot say.”
“Can I go now?” Rowan demanded, sitting up. “I’m hungry.”
“I bet you are,” I replied, extending my arms. “C’mon, tiger. Oof!
You’re getting too heavy to carry.” I lowered him to the floor. “If the Doc
says you can leave, we’ll go see B’Elanna about finding you a small generator.”
“Yes, he can leave. By the way, Lt. Paris, I’ve informed the Captain
that you are cleared for duty, medically speaking. I believe she expects you
to report to conn in the morning.”
Conn! Damn, it had been a long time. Automatically, a huge grin
broke out across my face. “That’s great, Doc. Thanks.”
Rowan tugged at my sleeve. “What’s conn?”
“It’s what I do, Rowan. It’s my job. I’m one of the people who flies
this ship.”
His eyes opened wide. “You?”
“Do you find that so hard to believe? I haven’t always just been your
Daddy, you know.”
He stared up at me. “Wow” was all he said.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. III

By Carly Hunter
copyright 1995

Incubation
Conclusion

Day 12 (continued)

We ate supper in the mess, two plates of food and one portable
generator. A larger holographic generator was going to be created on the
holodeck for the children to use the next day.
Rowan monopolized most of the conversation over dinner, asking me
question after question about flying a starship. I soon learned to hate the
words `why’ and `how come’. I tried to direct some of the questions in Cait’s
direction, but that slippery old trader slithered right out of the way with one
beautifully evasive sentence.
After dinner, back in Cait’s quarters, a game of chase ensued between
Rowan and myself, ending in a tickle fight. It was wonderful to finally be
able to play with him; I really felt like a father as I picked him up and swung
him around in a circle. `Airplane’, my uncle used to call it; all I know is
that as a kid I loved it, and so did Rowan.
Cait was catching up on some work, though how she could concentrate
I’ll never know. After a while, Rowan tugged at my sleeve. “Let’s get Mommy.”
“Okay,” I whispered. “How?”
“Airplane?”
I shook my head. “Nope, she’s too heavy.”
He frowned. “Tickle her?”
“Possibly, but we’ll have to sneak up.”
“I don’t know what you two are plotting over there.” Cait responded
without turning from her work. “But I highly recommend you consider the
consequences of any actions you may take.”
Rowan looked up uncertainly at me. “I think she’s trying to tell us
we’ll both end up in the dog house, kiddo.”
“Oh.” He appeared to ponder his options for a moment; then, without
warning, he darted over and snatched the PADD she was using out of her hand.
“Rowan! Bring that back here!”
He hid behind me. “No. Catch me.”
“Rowan. I have work to do. Besides, Tom is playing with you.”
“Mommmeee.”
“Um, Cait, I think he wants all three of us to play together. C’mon.
It may be our last chance.”
She couldn’t deny that fact, although I think she wanted to. I know I
did. Rising deceptively slowly, she sprang at him, much to his and my own
surprise.
“Stop her, Daddy,” he cried, running into the other room with her in
pursuit.
As he dashed back past me into the seating area, my arm shot out,
catching him and I swung him high into the air. “Gotcha.”
“Nooo,” he squeeled. “You were ‘sposed to catch *her*!”
“I was? Are you sure?” I tickled him in the ribs.
“Ye-es,” he giggled, dropping the PADD.
Cait stooped down and picked it up. “That’s enough, you two. It’s
almost your bedtime, young man. Now, go change into your pajamas.”
I set him down. “You heard your mom. What she says goes.”
“Okay, but will you read me a story?”
“Hey, don’t I always?” I grinned. “Go change and when you come back,
I’ll read you the end of `The Blue Shoe Tale’. How about that?”
“Yippee!” He dashed into the other room. Opening one of the lower
drawers, he pulled out his pajamas and disappeared into the bathroom.
Cait smiled sadly in his direction. “He’s a good kid, you know.”
I placed my hands on her shoulders. “Yeah, I know. Listen, Cait,
since I’m not feeding Rowan anymore and I’m healthy, I was wondering if you
would prefer me to sleep in my own quarters starting tonight?”
“I honestly hadn’t given it much thought, but perhaps it would be
better.”
“All right. I’ll stick around long enough to read him the story and
tuck him in. Then, I’ll leave.”
She turned to face me. “Tom, I don’t know how I can ever thank you for
all that you’ve done. I mean, when you agreed to be my `coach’, you had no
idea it was going to entail all this.”
“Hey, forget it. Neither did you. Besides, like you said, he’s a good
kid; except for the feedings, it hasn’t been too bad of an experience.”
Cait chuckled. “That, my dear Lt. Paris, is quite an understatement.”
“Ready.” Rowan stood patiently at the bathroom door.
“Well, come on, then.” I entended my hand. “Let’s find out what
happens.”
After we tucked him in, Cait and I moved back into the seating area,
I paused by the door. “Do you mind if I come by in the morning and take him
to daycare with you?”
She shook her head. “No, that’s okay. I’m sure he would appreaciate
it.”
“All right, 0715 hours, then?”
“Yes, that’s fine.”
I pressed the release. “See you then.”
“Daddy?”
I had managed to get one foot out the door. “What?”
He was standing at the partition, blanket in hand. “Where you goin’?”
“To my room. I need to get some sleep before work tomorrow.”
“But this is your room.”
*Uh-oh.* I shot Cait a nervous glance, and she bent down, beckoning
him over. “No, Rowan. This is yours and my room. Tom has his own room down
the hall. He’s just been staying here while he was feeding you.”
“So, now, he’s leaving ’cause he doesn’t have to.”
“Well, yes, in a way. He’s only going to his room to sleep. He’ll be
back tomorrow morning to take you to daycare.”
I stepped back into the room, crouching beside him. “That’s right.
I’ll be back before you know it.”
His chin began to tremble, the grey eyes filling with tears.
“Hey, Rowan, it’s okay. You won’t even miss me. You’ll be asleep.” I
gave his arm a gentle squeeze.
He shook his head, tears spilling down both his cheeks. “Stay. Don’t
go. Please, Daddy.”
“Well, I-” I looked at Cait. Suddenly, I could remember saying the
same things to my old man, right before he left on some mission. I wondered if
it had been as painful for him as it was for me now.
His gaze followed mine. “Please, Mommy. Make him stay. I want him
to stay.”
“Rowan-” she began.
“Please.”
She let out a sigh of resignation. “All right. He can stay if he
wants to.”
He shifted his sights back to me. “Please, Daddy.”
“All right, I will, but I have to go to my room to get a few things.
I’ll be back in a few minutes, okay?”
“Okay.” He drug a fist over a cheek. “Can I come with you?”
I stood up. “Sure. Cait, we’ll be back in a few.” I picked him up.
“Oof. C’mon, kiddo.”

Day 13

I spent a wonderfully, undisturbed night on Cait’s couch.
Unfortunately, it was the calm before the storm, as the three of us tripped
over one another getting dressed in the morning. Since we hadn’t been on duty
these past few days, Cait and I hadn’t been rushed in our use of the bathroom,
and I think we had both forgotten just how crazy it can be in the morning
trying to get ready. Rowan’s scurrying around only added to the challenge of
the situation. But somehow we got him to the holodeck and ourselves to our
stations on time.
It felt great to finally slide behind the helm. I never knew a week
could seem like such a long time. The Captain smiled as I took my seat. “Good
to have you back, Mr. Paris.”
I grinned. “You have no idea how good it is to be back, Captain.”
She nodded. “Set course, one-eight-five mark seven-four.”
“Course plotted and laid in,” I spun around waiting for her order.
“Engage.”

We traveled along at warp seven for a few hours. It appeared that my
first day back was destined to be a slow one, so I filled in the giant holes
of monotony with thoughts of Rowan. How could I convince him that my moving
out didn’t mean I was abandoning him? Maybe, if Cait agreed, I could stay
until he left.
A momentary loss of power, jerked me quite literally from my thoughts
as the ship dropped out of warp. Within a nanosecond, though, the power was
back on.
“Janeway to Engineering. Lt. Torres, what just happened?”
“I don’t know, Captain. The entire ship experienced a loss of power.”
As she spoke, the bridge lost power again. “Now what?” The Captain
rose to her feet. “Lieutenant, what the hell is going on down there?”
“We’re not sure, Captain. I am re-routing what power I can from the
emergency back-up. Carey is trying to trace the source of the loss.”
Emergency lighting returned to the bridge. “I’ve restored power to all
the critical systems, Captain, but that’s the best I can do right now. We
aren’t going anywhere. Wait a minute, we’ve traced the source of the power
loss to holodeck two.”
“The kids!” I blurted, whipping around.
Janeway stared at me for a split second. “Commander, you have the
bridge. Mr. Paris, Mr. Kim, you’re with me. We are going to pay a little
visit to our daycare center.”
“Captain,” Tuvok interrupted. “Sensors indicate a large energy mass
moving toward us.”
“Shields up! Red alert!” Janeway commanded.
“Shield are not responding, Captain,” the Vulcan advised.
“Lt. Torres, divert any power you can to the shields,” ordered the
Captain.
“If I do that, we’ll lose life support and sensors, which we can barely
maintain as it is.”
“Energy mass will collide with us,” Harry sung out. “In five . . .four
. . .”
“All hands brace for impact.” Janeway cried, and I grabbed hold of the
helm console. Okay, so it wasn’t going to be a slow day after all.
“Three . . .two . . .one.”
We waited, but nothing happened.
B’Elanna’s voice over the comm system finally broke the silence.
“Torres to the Captain. We have power back. All systems, including back-up,
are at full operating capacity.”
“Full operating capacity?” The Captain repeated. “Explain.”
“I can’t. They just are.”
“Captain, this is Kes. I hate to bother you, but the children are
gone.”
“Gone?”
“Yes, Captain. Only the Doctor and I are left on holodeck two.”
“Kes, please report to my ready room. I want a full report of what
happened.” The Captain’s voice seemed a long way off to me.
So, that was it. No warning. No chance to say good-bye. They were
gone as quickly as they had come. The hug that I had given Rowan this morning
was the last one I would ever give him, the last one I would receive from him.
Dazed, I stared at the panel before me. I didn’t feel sad or angry, only
empty, very, very empty.
Like an automaton, I continued my duties. Kes arrived on the bridge,
shortly, and she and Janeway disappeared into the Captain’s ready room.
Occasionally, tears clouded my field of vision, but I blinked them away. Now
wasn’t the time or the place.
A few minutes later, I felt the Captain’s presence behind me, her hand
giving my shoulder a re-assuring squeeze. “Mr. Paris, I would like to see you,
Mr. Kim and the other six `parents’ in my ready room. Commander, you still
have the bridge.”
Cait stood stoicly by my side during the Captain’s brief, but un-
enlightening account of what had happened on the holodeck. All of us declined
the offer for time off, opting instead to remain at our stations. As I retook
my seat at the helm, I could almost hear my first year group leader at the
Academy: `Sh*t happens, Paris, and sometimes we never know why’. During the
rest of my shift that day, every single task I did took on a deliberate
necessity as I tried not to think of what else was now missing from my life.

Day 15

Two days have passed since Rowan and the others left, and things about
the ship have settled back to normal. I’d be lying, though, if I said I had,
on the inside, at least. It’s not that I’m even angry anymore, just intensely,
hurt. What right did whoever it was think they had to interfere in our lives?
To rip the children away from us like that without so much as a good-bye? I
miss him so much. For seven days, I had been a father; now, I was simply some
damned pilot on a lost starship. Suddenly, it all seemed so meaningless.
Around 2015 hours, I stopped by Cait’s. I thought maybe it would help
us both to talk a little about what happened. While she hasn’t been reclusive,
she hasn’t said much either over the past forty-eight hours, so it’s pretty
obvious she’s hurting, too.
“Come in.” She sat on the sofa, resting her arm on its back, gazing
out at the stars.
I sat down behind her and snaked my arm about her waist, resting my
chin on her shoulder. “You’re thinking of him, too, aren’t you?”
She leaned back into my chest, nodding. “I miss him.” Her ragged
voice told me she had been crying. “Sometimes, I think I hear his voice or
feel his presence, like he’s going to come wandering around the partition
demanding a story. I mean, these past two weeks were a nightmare, and yet-”
“There were times when you’ve never been happier, right? Yeah, me,
too.” I hugged her a bit tighter. “Kes told me that of all the children,
Rowan was the most reluctant to leave. He knows we loved him, Cait, and he
loved us.”
She let out a long, slow sigh. “I know, and I understand he had to
leave, but I just feel like something’s missing from my life now.”
“Well, we could correct that problem, if you really want to. You know
I’m willing.”
Cait chuckled. Craining her neck around, she gazed up at me. “You
never give up, do you?”
“Not where you’re concerned,” I replied with a small grin. “I figure
one of these days you’re bound to say yes, either from simple affection or
pure exasperation. Until then, though, I’ll just be a good friend.”
Twisting her body, she threw her arms about my neck. “No, you’re a
great friend, Tom, probably the best I’ve ever had. I couldn’t have made it
through these past two weeks without you.”
We embraced, slightly longer than it was comfortable for friends to
hug. Nervously releasing her, I rose to my feet. “How about a game of pool?”
Simpering, she ran a thumb quickly under both eyes. “You’re on.”
As we walked down the passage, I gave her a curious glance. “Now, that
this is all over, can I ask you a question?”
“You can always ask, Paris, but I’m not promising an answer.”
I cleared my throat. “If B’Elanna dreamed of Harry, who did you dream
of? Who made love to you in your dreams?”
She halted by the holodeck’s computer controls and cooly raised her
eyes to mine. “Do you really want to know? What if it’s not the answer you
want to hear?”
I searched her face intently for any hint of a clue. What if it wasn’t
me? Did I want to spend the rest of this crazy trip knowing that? Once again,
cowardice won out. “No, I guess I don’t, but I will always wonder.”
She laughed rather sadly. “Maybe one day, when we’re old and grey, and
if we’re still speaking to one another, I’ll tell you. In the meantime, how
about splitting a bottle of wine with me? I figure between the two of us we’ve
earned a bottle of Chateau Monceau 2320.”
“Computer, run program, Paris three.” I swung my arm around her
shoulders as the doors opened. “You know something, Cait? I’ve always said
you have good taste.”

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