The Paris Journals: Madeleine, vol. IX

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From: crime@bu.edu (mary self)
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
Subject: NEW: Madeleine (VOY, Paris)
Date: 25 Jan 1997 16:47:44 GMT
Organization: Boston University
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DISCLAIMERS: The characters belong to Paramount, but the story and the
character of Caitlin Paris, nee Matthews, are mine.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. IX

Madeleine
Part 1

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

“I saw her mid the realms of light,
In everlasting radiance gleaming;
Co-equal with the seraphs bright,
Mid thousand thousand angels beaming.

I strove to reach her, when behold,
Those fairy forms of bliss Elysian,
And all that rich scene wrapt in gold,
Faded in air–a lovely vision!”

–Alfred, Lord Tennyson
‘And ask ye why these sad tears stream’

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

“Well, Carey, what’s it gonna be?” Pablo Bathart grinned confidantly
across the table in his quarters.
The engineer looked from the pot to the cards in his hand and
back again. “Too rich for me.” He sighed. “I fold.”
Bathart’s grin widened. “Looks like it’s just you and me, Paris.”
“Looks that way.” I closed my cards and strategically fingered one
pile of chips.
“Well? What’s it going to be?” He asked.
Bingo! He was bluffing. Bathart always got antsy when he was
bluffing. “I’ll see your ten and raise you twenty.” I replied.
“You’re bluffing!”
I raised a cool eyebrow. “It’ll cost you twenty to find out for sure.”
Bathart stared at his cards. Finally, he shrugged and tossed in the
matching amount of chips. “I just know I’m going to regret this. Call.”
“Three lovely ladies and a pair of twos.”
“Damn.” He threw down his cards. “Pair of tens.”
“Two tens!” Harry exclaimed. “Are you crazy? You bet a weeks worth
of replicator rations on two tens?”
Carey and Ma’ataaba both rolled their eyes. The folly of youth!
“Well, yeah.” Bathart replied sheepishly. “Okay, so it was a stupid
move.”
With a chuckle, I reached across the table to collect the small mound
of chips. “Come to papa.”
“Papa-to-be.” Carey corrected. “So what’s it gonna be this time,
Paris? A toy? Another blanket? I swear you’re spoiling that kid before he’s
even born.”
Smiling, I shook my head. “None of the above. I thought I’d replicate
a few books this time, like ‘Tales of Grigo-Rahna’ or ‘Green Eggs and Ham’.”
“Hmph. ‘Green Eggs and Ham.’ Sounds like tomorrow’s breakfast,” noted
Ma’ataaba wryly. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I still haven’t
recovered from tonight’s entree.”
“Oh, it wasn’t so bad.” Bathart commented. “As long as you didn’t
pay any attention to the way it quivered on your plate.”
We transferred the rations to my account and scattered to our various
quarters. All in all, not a bad haul for an evening’s pleasure.
Cait was already asleep when I walked in, but woke up when I bent over
to kiss her cheek.
“What time is it?”
“2430, give or take a minute or two.” I replied, pulling off my
turtleneck.
“Did you win?”
“Of course. Martinez didn’t play this evening.” I slipped between the
covers and cuddled up behind her, my arm resting over her expanded waist. “I
figured I’d replicate a few children’s books this time. How does that sound?”
She snuggled into my chest. “Fine. Now, be quiet and let me get back
to sleep before you know who wakes up.”
“Why? Was he restless tonight?”
“There you go again. What makes you think it’s a he? And yes, *she*
was. So if you don’t mind.” She turned her head to glare over her shoulder.
I rose up on an elbow catching her chin briefly in my hand and kissing
her. “I won’t say another word.” Lying back down, I buried my face in her
neck and inhaled the spicy fragrance of her shampoo. “Except to say
I love you.”
A hand slid lightly over my arm, and fingers intertwined with mine.
“Shhh,” she said. “I love you, too.”

The following week we entered an area of space frequented by a people
known as the Britac. We had been warned that, while they had no territorial
claim to the sector, they sometimes attacked solitary vessels for economic and
technological gain. As soon as we entered the region, Captain Janeway ordered
yellow alert, but as the days passed without incident, this increased
vigilance really took its toll. Tempers became frayed and patience was
stretched to its limits. At any moment, I expected one or more of the crew
to stand up and scream ‘I can’t take it anymore!’. Heck, I might have even
joined them.
With a grunt of exhaustion, I flopped onto our couch and toed off
my boots. At least the navigation and propulsion systems still checked out.
Every day at the end of my shift, I had gone down and run level three
diagnostics on all of them, leaving any necessary maintainence to B’Elanna and
her crew.
B’Elanna. Now there was a spot of sunshine, snapping crewmen’s
heads off like stalks of celery and growling at everyone, including Chakotay.
Hoo-boy, I did not envy Harry in the least. It took someone with more patience
than Tuvok to put up with her at this point. Luckily, he was just the man
for the job. I had to grin. Almost seven months had passed since his injury
and he could still pull a pretty effective guilt trip on her. For once they
were giving Cait and me a show, instead of vice versa. I just couldn’t believe
she still let him get away with it. Guilt could be a very powerful ally.
I stretched out on my side, letting my eyes roam about the room. Maybe
Carey was right. Over the past few weeks, it had literally become strewn with
baby stuff, a crib, blankets, clothes, toys, you name it. Some were out right
gifts; others were the unintentional gifts I made from the replicator rations
I won at the poker games. Enh, so what? Even if we were on the other side of
the galaxy, my kid wasn’t going to grow up wanting, whether it was for material
items or love and affection.
“Computer, time.”
“It is 1723 hours.”
Hmmm. It surprised me that Cait wasn’t back yet, but if anything had
happened, someone would’ve contacted me. I had reached my anxiety threshold
about two months ago when it came to worrying about her. She was bound and
determined to do what she wanted, and I couldn’t stop her. All I could do
was bite my nails and hope for the best.
Other dads had had it worse in some ways. Carey said he had had
sympathetic labor pains during the birth of his first son, and Ma’ataaba had
suffered through bouts of morning sickness whereas his wife had felt perfectly
fine, and yet before Voyager was lost, both had gone on to have more kids.
Unbelievable. And here I thought Rowan had prepared me for pregnancy and
fatherhood. Hmph, not by a long shot!
The doors opened and Cait waddled in, all seven and a half months
of her. “Oh gods, my back hurts.” She moaned.
I sat up and moved my legs to make room. “Here, sit down and I’ll
rub it.”
She slipped off her boots and complied. I began at her shoulders
but quickly worked my way down to her lower back because that was where the
pain really gathered.
“Ow! Unh. Oh gods, I just want this to be over.” She groaned as
I worked on a particularly stubborn knot. “Rowan was so easy. In and out
in a matter of days, but this, this goes on and on. I’m tired of being an
elephant. I’m tired of sleeping on my side. I hate this uniform. I want my
body back.” Her voice wavered a bit. “A clumsy, overstuffed targ.”
Thank gods she couldn’t see my eyes roll. Here we went again. “Cait,
you’re not ugly. You’re just tired and anxious. So am I.”
“But you don’t know what it’s like. The extra weight. The added
responsibility. Seeing others move gracefully, flitting around the pool in
their bikinis, bending so low their breasts practically fall out of the
halters. Don’t deny it. I saw you looking at that blond.”
Good grief, not this again. “Right. And looking was all I did.
I didn’t program her, Cait. Besides once you have the baby, you’ll have her
beat easily.” I scooted a little closer to whisper in her ear. “You know
I can’t take my eyes off you when you’re in a swimsuit.”
“Before you couldn’t, but what about after all this? What if I stay
fat? Everytime you come to bed, you’ll think ‘there’s my fat wife’ and
you’ll-”
“Cait, stop it! That’s not true and you know it. I should never have
suggested we visit that damned program.”
“But you can’t understand what it’s like.” She sniffled. Oh brother,
here came the tears. “I can’t stand up or sit down with any measure of grace.
My back always hurts. My feet hurt. And what if I’m not a good mother,
after all. What if-”
“Oh for gods’ sake! Cait, will you listen to yourself?” I was too
exhausted to be very patient. *Think, Thomas. Think. Something you can-
Bingo!* “Okay, you don’t believe me? Come with me.”
I grabbed her arm and helped her to her feet, leading her into the
bedroom and in front of the full-length mirror. “All right. You want to know
what I see when I look at you? Stand right here and I’ll show you.”
“But, Tom, my back hurts.”
“Humor me for a few minutes and keep your eyes glued to that mirror.”
I took a position directly behind her. “Now, look at yourself, Cait. How
wonderfully round and fertile you look. Minus the tears, you’re beautiful.”
My voice dropped to a breathy whisper as I began to unfasten the top
portion of her uniform. “Whenever I see you, you take my breath away. There
is a power within you that I’ll never have, never know.” I lifted off the
maternity jacket and threw it aside.
“Tom, please, I’m-”
“Shhh. Keep looking in that mirror. First, we have to get these
trousers off. Place your hand on my shoulder and lift up your right foot.
Don’t worry. I’ve got you. Now the left. Good. Now for this damn shirt.
There. See. These clothes hide your beauty, Cait. Even these.” I unclasped
the bra, and her swollen breasts surged over my hands. “Beautiful. Look how
full and rich they are, ready to feed our child. You’re so beautiful, Cait.
Look at yourself. How could you ever think you’re ugly?”
I pressed my lips along her shoulder slowly making my way up her neck.
“Beautiful…You’re simply…beautiful…and I love you…very…very…much.
Mmmm. Feel how hard I am. I’m this aroused just by undressing you. To me,
you’re the most beautiful woman in the galaxy.”
Fresh tears gathered in her eyes, but this time a smile formed on
her lips. “Tom, can we?”
I spun her gently around and kissed her on the lips. “I thought you’d
never ask.” I winked at my vanishing reflection as she pulled me toward
the bed. *Good going, Thomas. I do believe you’ve saved the day.*

Later that night, I woke up to the sounds of whispering. Cait wasn’t
in bed, and I pushed myself up on my hands to look around. A dim light came
from the other room. Cait sat on the sofa stroking her belly and reading
softly, “Green Eggs and Ham” if I wasn’t mistaken. I got up quietly and went
to her.
“You okay?”
She looked up. “Yes. *Your* child is keeping me awake again.”
“Mine? It takes two to tango, love.”
“So that’s what she’s been trying to do. And here all this time I
thought it was a Scottish jig.” Her green eyes twinkled sleepily as she held
up the book. “This is a very strange story.”
I laughed as I sat down. “Wait until you read ‘Horton Hears a Who!’ or
‘The Sneetches’. Although, I think my favorite will always be the Grinch.”
Seeing her puzzled expression, I asked, “Didn’t you ever read any Dr. Seuss
when you were a kid?”
She shook her head. “Guess I’m making up for lost time now. Go back
to sleep. I’ll be in as soon as she’ll let me.”
I placed my hand on her belly and felt a determined wriggle beneath my
fingers. “Man, she is restless. Can I get you something to drink?”
“No thanks. I’ll be okay once she settles down.”
I kissed Cait’s cheek and returned to our bed. With a low “oof”,
I fell down on my pillow. As long as I knew they were safe, I could sleep.

**********

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. IX

Madeleine
Part 2

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

“They are retreating, Captain,” Cait announced. “But shields are
down to twenty percent and forward phasers are off-line.”
I spun around quickly to check on her. My wife, my *pregnant* wife,
was on the bridge during a firefight. I shook my head. It didn’t matter.
I could have talked until I was blue in the face and she still would have
reported for duty. At least up here I knew where she was and if she was safe.
The Captain noticed me staring and turned toward tactical. “Everything
all right, Lieutenant?”
Cait grinned and ran a hand over her belly. “Yes, Captain. We’re
fine.”
“Good. Keep it that way.” Janeway glanced back at me and raised a
confidant eyebrow.
With a relieved sigh, I swung back around. Shit. No warp.
No impulse. Not even thrusters. “Captain, we are dead in space.”
She grimaced. “A better choice of words might be in order, Mr. Paris,
but I get the picture. Bridge to Engineering, B’Elanna, what’s your status
down there?”
“Critical, Captain. We’ve taken a lot of damage and I’ve got wounded
down here. We’ve had to divert power to a containment field around the warp
core to prevent a breach. At this point, I can’t even begin to estimate when
propulsion will be back on-line.”
I got to my feet. “Captain, permission to go down to engineering and
lend a hand.”
“Granted. Commander, I want …” She turned away as I headed for the
lift.
I cast one last glance at Cait. She flashed me an encouraging smile
and mouthed ‘Be careful’. ‘You, too’, I nodded before ducking into the lift.

B’Elanna wasn’t kidding. Engineering was a mess. Five people were
in sickbay being treated. Seven crewmen remained at their posts nursing less
severe wounds.
The threat of counter-attack loomed over us. Voyager, even in
its current battered condition, was too great a prize for pirates like the
Britac to pass up, and I was eager to get propulsion back on-line and get
the hell out of there.
Ma’ataaba, Carey, and I worked like fiends, barely getting impulse and
thrusters operational when Voyager shuddered around us. Martinez sung out the
damage. Decks two through four and the bridge. I didn’t wait for the details.
I had to get to Cait. Stumbling my way across the quaking floor, I collided
with Chakotay, Harry, and others from the bridge as they came out of the lift.
Cait and the Captain weren’t with them. Chakotay said they had been taken
to sickbay. I stared past him at the lift and he grabbed my arm. “We’ve
relocated the bridge to engineering, Paris. I need you here. You can’t help
her if you don’t help us.” Another hit sent us flying into the wall, me in
his arms, both of us fighting to keep on our feet. He was right, and I obeyed,
and somehow, by the skin of our teeth, we escaped.
Yet, none of that seemed to matter now as I sat here in sickbay
clutching Cait’s hand. I should have stayed at conn. If I had, maybe none of
this would have happened. Maybe I would have spotted some weakness in their
attack plan or chosen a different evasive maneuver or something. Anything.
Gods, she looked so fragile with that jagged line of pink scar tissue
cutting across her face, almost exactly like the porcelain doll my grandmother
kept in a glass display. It had a crack in just about the same place, across
the forehead and the nose, ending on the right cheek. I was the one who put it
there. I must have been about nine and I was chasing my sister through their
house when I crashed right into the cabinet and knocked it over. Gram cried
for almost a week. Cait’s cicatrix was hardly permanent. It would disappear
in an another hour. It was the scars inside her that wouldn’t be so quick
to heal.
The baby was gone. The Doctor had performed a fetal transplant and
done all he could to save it, but the damage was too great. The little heart
just wouldn’t respond. Kes showed it to me. Cait was right. It would’ve
been a little girl–a beautiful little girl.
I pressed the back of Cait’s hand to my cheek. She had been barely
conscious and in a great deal of pain when they brought her in. Neither Kes,
nor the Doctor were sure she had known what was happening. When she woke, I
would probably have to tell her.
A hand clasped my shoulder and squeezed it. “Tom, I can’t begin to say
how sorry I am.” The Captain spoke softly, the way she did when she tried to
retain her composure.
“I know, Captain.”
“I have informed Commander Chakotay that you and Caitlin are to have
as much time off as you feel is necessary.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
The hand remained on my shoulder, but she was silent. I kept my eyes
on Cait rather than look around. If the Captain was crying, I knew I would,
too, and I didn’t want Cait to wake up and find me blubbering uncontrollably
at her bedside.
“Tom, I know I speak for the entire crew when I say our thoughts are
with the two of you, and if there is anything either of you need, please don’t
hesitate to ask us. We are your friends, Tom. We want to help any way
we can.”
I glanced up. The cuts on the Captain’s face had healed, but her blue-
grey eyes were moist. I swallowed and quickly looked away. “Yes ma’am.
Thank you, Captain.”
Her hand squeezed my shoulder once again and lifted. Behind me, the
doors opened and shut. Cait and I were alone. I bit my lip, but hardly felt
it. *I will not cry. Not now. Not yet.*
A few more minutes passed before the fingers in my hand wiggled.
Cait’s eyelids fluttered slightly, and then sprang open.
“Cait.” I whispered, getting to my feet. “Cait, honey, I’m here.”
Her green eyes darted from the ceiling, to me, to the walls, and back
to me. You could almost see the gears turning as she tried to make sense of
her surroundings. Then, all of a sudden, everything locked into place. Her
eyes opened wide and her right hand rose hesitantly and rubbed across her
flattened stomach. She uttered a small cry and turned her face away. I didn’t
have to tell her after all.
“Cait, it’s-” I stopped. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t tell
her things would be all right because they wouldn’t be, at least not for quite
a while. I swallowed the lump rising in my throat. “Cait, I love you and I’m
here. I’m not going anywhere.”
Her shoulders began to shake gently, and I reached over with my free
hand to dry the tears spilling down her cheek. She pushed my hand away.
“Please, please leave me alone.”
“Cait, honey-”
“Please, Tom.” She wrenched her hand out of mine and curled up on
her right side.
I stared at her, my mind not quite comprehending what it was being
told. I placed a hand on her shoulder and she scrunched herself together even
more. I sank down onto the stool and dropped my head into my hands.
She had every right to be angry with me. I had let her down when she
needed me most. If only I hadn’t left the bridge…Oh gods, why did I? I drew
a ragged breath and got slowly to my feet.
“I’m sorry, Cait. It probably doesn’t mean much, but I am sorry. I’ll
be in our quarters. Call me if you need anything.” My knuckles turned white
as I clenched my fists to hold back the tears. “By the way, the Doc said you
could come home tomorrow afternoon. I’ll come by and pick you up.
How’s that?”
“If you want to.” She mumbled.
My mouth opened, but I shut it quickly. What more could I say? I
turned and walked out of sickbay.
All the way to our quarters, I prayed no one would say anything to me.
If they did, I wasn’t sure what I would do in response. Scream? Break down
into tears? Take them by the uniform and smash them into the wall? Either of
the three seemed possible as I long as I teetered on this emotional precipice.
It would only take one touch or word to send me over the edge.
The doors to our cabin came into view. *Almost there, Thomas, almost
safe.* The doors slid apart and shut behind me. I froze. I had completely
forgotten about the crib and all the other items we had amassed.
“Computer, secure quarters.”
Shaking from head to foot, I glared at the crib. There it stood, some
silent testament to the happiness which had been snatched away from us.
I couldn’t think of anything, except how much I wanted to destroy it and any
other reminder of the baby. It wasn’t fair. We had gone through so much.
We wanted this baby. Dammit, it wasn’t fair!
Three steps brought me beside the tiny bed. *Get rid of it! Get rid
of it all!* I tore it apart piece by piece, my hands trembling with rage.
I broke it all down, even further than I had to, snapping joints,
tearing out fasteners, even ripping the books I had replicated just a week
earlier into shreds.
An hour passed, maybe two, before I finally turned back from the
reclamator. All that remained now were the same furnishings we had started
with eight months ago. The room was clean. It was gone, all of it. There
was nothing left to destroy. I let out a whimper of triumph and sank to my
knees, my arms wrapped around my stomach. Gods, it felt so empty it hurt.
Crashing onto my right side, I curled up on the floor and began to cry.

The next morning, I surprised the hell out of Chakotay by requesting
to remain on duty. I didn’t see that I had much choice. If I was working,
I was doing something that made a difference to me, to Cait, to everyone.
For some reason knowing that was more important to me than ever. Besides what
else could I do? Sit around our quarters thinking about how bare the rooms
now looked or about how hollow I felt inside?
When the lunch break rolled around, Harry made it a point to ask me to
join him and B’Elanna. I refused. I didn’t want to be around anyone, except
maybe Cait and Kes said she was asleep. Breakfast had been hard enough to get
through without all the sympathetic stares and words of condolence. I wasn’t
ready for round two. So I hightailed it down to navconn instead and ran a few
diagnostics. They didn’t have to be done. B’Elanna and her crew had just
finished repairs, but they needed to be done, at least, I needed to do them.
Anything to keep me busy and get me through the day.
I felt almost numb, but not completely numb. I could hear people,
but I couldn’t focus on their words. I could smell food, but it all smelled
and tasted the same. Even just walking took an extraordinary amount of effort.
All I really felt like doing was curling up on the bed, but I knew if I did
that I would never move again.
At 1730 hours I stopped by sickbay to pick-up Cait. “So.” I asked as
she pulled on the clothes I had brought with me. “How do you feel?”
“About as well as can be expected.” She replied, keeping her gaze
fixed firmly on anything other than myself.
I rubbed my forehead. *Stupid question, Thomas. How do you think she
would feel? Ready for a night out on the town?* Shit. I still didn’t know
what to say to her. I was so afraid I would say the wrong thing. I had so
often in the past.
“Oh, by the way, I removed the crib and the rest of the things.”
“Why?”
“Why? I don’t know. I guess I thought it would be better for both of
us, less pain or something. I just felt I had to do it.”
“Oh.” Her back stiffened and then her shoulders jerked in a clumsy
shrug. “Yes, you’re right. It did have to be done. I’m ready. Let’s go.”
I reached out and brushed a strand of auburn hair from her face. “All
right. Do you want to go straight home or do your want to stop by the mess
first for an early dinner?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“No, I didn’t think you would be. Home, it is then.”
She stiffened once again as I slid my arm around her waist, but I
attempted to brush my apprehensions aside. Yet, as we walked down the
corridor, I couldn’t ignore the fact that her rapid pace made it impossible for
me to keep it there. Once inside the lift, I tried to pull her close for a
hug, but she pressed hard against my chest forcing me to release her.
“Please, Tom, we only have one deck to go.”
“You won’t let me hug you?”
“I don’t feel like being hugged, all right? I don’t feel much like
anything.”
“All the more reason we should-”
The lift doors opened and she bolted down the hallway. I caught up
with her at our doors as she punched in the code.
“Did Tuvok say if I was still on the bridge or back on deck patrol?”
“I don’t know. The Captain gave us both as much time off as we need.”
Her gaze swept over my uniform. “I see.” The doors opened and she
stepped inside, stopping immediately. I barely had room to squeeze around her.
“You really did get rid of it all.”
“I told you I did.”
Her eyes closed and the colour drained from her face. She swayed
slightly and I put my arms about her just in case. The mossy eyes flew open.
“What are you doing?”
“You looked like you were going to faint. I wanted to catch you.”
“Well, I’m not. You can release me. I’m fine. In fact, I’m going
to shower and then go by Tuvok’s office to request a return to duty.” She
twisted herself out of my arms and marched toward the bathroom.
“Duty? Cait, c’mon. No one expects-”
“No. You’re right. We have to get on with our lives. We can’t dwell.
It won’t bring the baby back.”
“Cait, I didn’t say that.”
“No? Well, then, it’s what I’m saying. Sitting around here will only
make me morose. Keeping myself busy has always been the best thing for me
to do.”
The bathroom door shut behind her and I sat down on the bed. I wasn’t
sure what I had expected. When faced with other tragedies, she had shut
herself away for a while, doing her work, sleeping, and eating, but nothing
more. Usually, I gave her a little time, two or three days max, before trying
to coax her into talking, but not now. We needed each other like never before,
and the feelings of apprehension I had pushed aside earlier returned with their
full force. Maybe she thought I had let her down, and now she felt she
couldn’t turn to me. I had to show her she still could. I needed her, too.
I walked over and knocked on the bathroom door. “Cait?”
“I’m just getting ready to step in.” She replied and I heard the
shower come on.
“Okay, I’ll wait.” I went back to the bed and threw myself across it,
staring up at the ceiling. A little girl. We would have had a little girl.
On an impulse, I got up and went over to the terminal on the desk. It took me
a minute or two, but I convinced the Doc to let me see the autopsy report. I
scanned it quickly, bypassing most of the medical mumbo-jumbo, until I found
what I was after–the DNA scan.
“Computer, extrapolate from physical and genetic records a possible
image of the Paris infant at full-term birth.”
“There are twenty-five possible images available.”
“Choose the most likely one.”
“There is a .0175 margin of error.”
“That’s okay. Do it.”
Slowly, a face took shape before me. Beautiful. Green eyes and red
hair, just like her mother. The bathroom door opened. I hastily saved the
image and shut down the terminal.
“You still here?” Cait sniffled, pulling the robe tightly about her
as she walked past me into the closet. Her eyes were red and swollen.
“Where else would I go? Have you been crying?”
“No. I got some soap in my eyes. Excuse me.” She darted back into
the bathroom and closed the door.
It was no use. I crossed over to the bathroom and rapped on the door.
“Cait, I’m going to go snag some food. I didn’t eat much today and probably
need something. Shall I wait for you?”
“No, I’m not hungry. You go ahead. I may replicate some toast a
little later.”
“All right. Will you be okay?”
“Yes, I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
“I’ll try not to. Cait?”
“Yes?”
“I do love you.”
A small silence fell before I heard her soft reply. “I know.”
I almost broke down the damn door, a part of me determined to hold her
until the sorrow we both felt melted away. But I didn’t. Instead, I backed
quietly away and left.
Luckily, the dinner crowd hadn’t arrived yet so the room was fairly
empty. Neelix gave me a supportive smile and told me to take a seat, that he
would bring me something. I nodded and sat at one of the smaller tables in the
corner.
A soft gurgle drew my gaze over to the sofa. Megan Delaney-Parson sat
there spoonfeeding her first, a six month old named Blake. I watched them;
I watched her try to coo and cajole him into taking the pureed goop she
offered; I watched his chubby little hands push hers away because he evidently
didn’t like whatever it was. A tiny smile curved, then fell from my mouth.
Eight months from yesterday morning and it might have been Cait sitting there
with our daughter. I started to look away and found out that I couldn’t.
It hurt like hell to observe them, but it was like a wound that itched.
I couldn’t stop myself.
“Tom, are you all right?”
“What?” I jerked around. Neelix held out a napkin. Oh geez!
I hadn’t even realized I was crying. I wiped my face and shoved the napkin
in my lap as he set a bowl of soup in front of me. “Thanks.” I said,
silently wondering if I could even eat now.
“You’re welcome.” He sat down in front of me and remained silent for
a moment. “Tom?”
“Hm?”
“Kes, Valaxis,and I want you and Caitlin to know how very sorry we are,
and if there’s anything you need, anything at all, you can call on us day or
night, even if it’s just to talk, especially if it’s just to talk. You two
are our friends, you’re practically family, and we want to be there for you.”
I set my spoon down and stared into the steaming broth. I couldn’t
look at him. “Thank you, Neelix.”
“Will Caitlin be joining you?”
“No. She’s going to talk with Tuvok about returning to duty.”
“I see, and you don’t think she should, do you?”
“I didn’t say that. She can do what she damn well pleases.”
“Oh. You know, Tom, for some people work is necessary to keep them
grounded. It lets them feel that at least one part of their lives is still
under control. I know cooking does that for me.”
“I know. I know. I just wish-” I stopped. *Not now. I will not
break down again now.*
“You just wish what?”
“Nothing. Listen, Neelix, I hope you don’t mind, but I’d kind of like
to be alone. You know, get some thinking of my own done.”
“Of course. Just let me know if there’s anything else I can do.” He
stood up and reached over the table to pat my shoulder. As he bustled back
into the kitchen, I glanced over at the sofa. Megan and her kid had left.
I was alone.

Cait was back in our quarters by the time I returned. She sat on the
sofa staring at the streaks of light outside the window. Two untouched pieces
of toast and a half-drunk cup of tea sat on the coffee table.
“Are you finished?” I asked.
“What? Oh. Yeah, I guess.” She glanced in my general direction
briefly before turning back to the window.
“The tea is still warm. Are you sure you don’t want it?”
“I’m sure.”
With a shrug, I tossed the two items down the reclamator. “Did you
talk with Tuvok?”
“Yes. I’m back on duty tomorrow. Mostly administrative, but by the
end of the week I’ll be back on corridor patrol.”
“Good for you!” I hoped my enthusiasm sounded genuine. I took a seat
on the sofa facing her and looked out the window. “Cait.” I ventured after a
few minutes. “Do you want to talk about what happened?”
“No.” She turned away from the window, looking past me into the
bedroom. “Actually, I think I’m going to go to bed, what with duty tomorrow.”
“That’s probably not a bad idea.” I said and followed her in despite
the early hour.
We undressed in silence, with Cait opting for pajamas instead of her
usual gown, and we crawled into bed. Immediately, she rolled away on her side.
“Good night, Tom.”
I snuggled up behind her, placing my arm over her waist. “‘Night.”
“Tom?”
“Hm?”
“Would you mind moving back to your side? I don’t feel like cuddling
tonight.”
“Of course. I understand.” But I didn’t. I wanted to hold her. I
needed to hold her, to feel her warmth pressed against me telling me I was
still alive no matter how eviscerated I felt on the inside. I scooted away and
called for lights out. “Good night, Cait.”

“No. Please no. Oh, please, no.”
Somehow Cait’s soft mutterings filtered through and I woke. She lay
facing me, still asleep. A tear squeezed out from beneath her lashes and
rolled toward the pillow she clutched tightly. “No, no, no,” she begged.
“Cait.” I shook her shoulder gently. “Cait, honey, it’s okay. It’s
just a dream. C’mon, wake up.”
Her eyes blinked open and her hand reached out slowly for my face.
I caught it and pressed the fingertips to my lips. “It’s okay, honey.
I’m here.” I whispered.
She sucked in a sharp breath and jerked back, sitting up and tucking
her knees under her chin.
“Cait?” I sat up, too, and placed an arm about her shoulders. “Do you
want to talk about it?”
“There’s nothing to talk about. It was a dream, that’s all.”
“It was more than that. You’re trembling. Cait, c’mon, talk to me.”
Shrugging my arm off, she lay back down. “Tomorrow. Right now, I just
want to get some sleep.”
With a sigh, I settled back down, draping my arm over her waist.
“Tom.”
“What?”
Her hips jerked. “Your arm.”
“What about it? You don’t want me to hold you? I thought it would
help.”
“Well, it won’t. I told you, I’m tired.”
“Sorry. I wasn’t aware that being held was exhausting work.” My jaw
tightened as I withdrew to my side of the bed.
Without a word, she sat up, grabbed her pillow, and marched into the
other room.
“Cait? What the devil? Computer, half-lights.” I scrambled out of
bed and followed her. “Cait, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
She shook her head. “It’s not that. I just feel restless and I’ll
only keep you awake. Now go back to bed.”
“Like hell I will. Not without you.” I grabbed the throw just as she
reached for it.
“Give me that.”
“No. Not until you look me in the eye and tell me what’s wrong.”
“Wrong? Wrong?” Her green eyes lifted to mine, but the angry fire I
expected to find in them was missing. “What could possibly be wrong? Less
than thirty-six hours ago I lost our child and just because I don’t want to
cuddle with you, something is wrong with *me*?”
“Cait, that’s not what I meant.”
“Oh? And just what did you mean? Never mind. Give me that throw.”
She snatched it from my hands and stretched out on the sofa. “Go back to bed,
Tom. Computer, sleep mode.”
“Cait.” I stood there in the dark trying desperately to think of
something to say and failing miserably.
“Tom, do us both a favor and go back to bed.”
The words struck me as brutally as any fist in the gut. It was no use.
She wouldn’t talk to me and she wouldn’t listen to me either. I stooped down
and tucked the throw in around her. “Cait, I do love you.”
“I know, Tom. Please wake me in the morning.”

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

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. IX

Madeleine
Part 3

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

“AHHHH!” Cait gasped as another contraction began.
“Breathe, Caitlin.” Kes instructed. “That’s right. Breathe.
You’re doing fine. You’re almost there.”
“Oh, thank gods.” Cait looked up at me. “See what I go
through for you.”
I squeezed her hand and smiled. “Almost there, ‘Mommy’.”
She swallowed and bit her lip. “Oh gods! Oh-oh-oh-oh gods.”
A sputtering wail came from the foot of the bed.
“Beautiful.” Kes observed.
“Yes, she is. Congratulations, Lieutenants,” the Doctor
remarked. “Kes, could you-?”
“Of course, Doctor.”
*She! We had a daughter!* I kissed Cait’s hand, then her
lips. “I love you. How do you feel?”
“Exhausted.” She smiled.
“Here you go.” Kes placed the child in Cait’s arms.
Oh gods, she was beautiful. A dusting of fine red hair and
a pair of glistening emeralds for eyes. Amazing.
“She is so beautiful, Cait.” I said softly.
Her tired green eyes looked up at me. “She takes after
her father.”
I stroked the tiny cheek, watching my daughter yawn for the
first time. “Welcome to Voyager, Madeleine.” I whispered.

*BEEEP*
My eyes blinked open. It was the same dream I had been having for the
past month and it always woke me with a smile on my face. I stretched and
lazily rolled over to hug Cait. My hand hit the bed with a soft thud. She was
gone! I sprang out of bed only to spot her curled up on the sofa. Oh. Right.
How could I have forgotten?
“Cait.” I went over and gently shook her shoulder. “Cait, it’s time
to get up. Are you sure you want to report for duty today?”
She rubbed her eyes and sat up. “Yes, I’m sure.”
“All right. Just checking.”
She got to her feet and shuffled off toward the bathroom. “I’ll be
out in a minute.”
“Yeah, fine.” I sank down on the sofa and ran a tired hand through my
hair and down my face. I wondered if she could make it through the day; hell,
I wondered if I could.
My hand clutched at my stomach. The empty blackness still lay deep in
my belly, growing larger it seemed with each breath I took. Cait wasn’t any
better. You could see it in her face, the skin drawn so tightly you could
almost see bone. I walked over to the desk and activated the viewer.
The image was still there. Beautiful, just like in my dream. My finger
reached out and caressed the cool, plexiglas cheek. If only, oh gods, if only.
The water shut off and Cait came out of the bathroom. Her movements
were slow, almost deliberate, as if she concentrated on each single action.
She glanced briefly in my direction. “Aren’t you going to shower?”
*At birth, had she looked just like Madeleine?*
“Tom?”
“What? Oh, yeah. I guess I had better get going.” I closed the file
and got to my feet. It was like walking in quicksand, each step sinking
deeper and deeper until I scarcely had enough energy to drag myself under the
shower, but I did. After all, our lives hadn’t ended. They only felt
like they had, and that was infinitely worse.
We reached the mess by 0650 and chose to sit by ourselves. Cait hardly
said two words, but she did eat, easing my mind somewhat until Nicoletti
walked in. She had been one month behind Cait in her pregnancy, and here she
was still round as a beach ball, while Cait sat beside me barely able to choke
down food. Wave after wave of resentment broke over me, sweeping away all
reason.
*Goddammit! It isn’t fair! Our child had just as much right to live
as hers! Why did ours have to die? What did we do? It just isn’t fair!*
The screams grew and grew inside me, swelling like a tide all the way from
my gut. I bit my lip hard to hold them back.
My gaze shifted to Cait. What little colour that had been in her face
drained away and her fork lowered to her plate. “Cait?” I placed my hand over
hers, but she jerked back fast, nearly toppling her tray.
“I’m not very hungry anymore,” she said quietly, gluing her eyes to
the table.
Something told me I had to get her out of there and fast. “It’s all
right. I’m not hungry, either. I’ll take care of the trays. You go ahead.”
For the first time that morning she truly looked at me, a faint
expression of gratitude on her face. “Thank you.”
I hastily compiled the trays and carried them over to the reclamator.
As I followed Cait out the door, Nicoletti caught my eye. She looked close
to tears herself as she mouthed ‘Sorry’. I shook my head. It wasn’t her
fault. Whatever anger or resentment Cait and I felt, it wasn’t really
directed at her or her baby, only the circumstances.
As soon as we were outside, I pulled Cait into a deserted side corridor
and into my arms. For a nanosecond, she surrendered to the warmth I offered,
but when I lowered my head to kiss her, she pushed against my chest tearing
herself out of my grasp.
“Cait, don’t.” I said, reaching for her.
“Please, Tom. This isn’t the time or the place.”
“Since when did that ever matter? Cait, don’t go.” I grabbed her arm
as she started to walk away. “Is it room? Is that it? Is it room you want?”
“I think it would be for the best.” She replied softly without looking
around.
My heart plummeted through the thirteen decks beneath my feet. She
didn’t want me. She needed someone, and she didn’t want it to be me. I had
let her down once too often. “Cait, please.” I pleaded, ready to drop to
my knees if necessary.
Slowly she turned her head and our eyes met, hers swimming in tears.
“Tom, please let me go.”
That was the last thing I thought I was capable of doing; yet I did.
She flew around the corner and down the hall. I sagged against the wall, my
hand holding my belly. The blackness had expanded so much I felt like I
was collapsing in on myself. “Cait, I’m sorry.” I begged in a whisper.
“Please don’t hate me. I never meant-”
Voices came from the other passage headed in my direction. My hand
dropped to my side and I straightened up as best I could. The last thing I
needed was to be relieved of duty.

Three more days passed, and the silence between Cait and myself grew
worse and worse. I peered over the top of the PADD that contained the monthly
crew evaluations for conn. Cait sat on the opposite end of the sofa staring
at, but not really seeing the PADD resting on her knees. I could guess where
her thoughts were.
Tonight was my usual poker night. Nobody had mentioned anything to me,
but I knew from the last game it was to be held in Harry’s quarters around 2030
hours. I glanced over at the chronometer. In five minutes, to be precise.
Maybe propriety dictated my absence, but I had to do something. I couldn’t
concentrate on my work, and this quiet only made the ache in my belly worse.
“Er, Cait, I think there is a poker game at Harry’s tonight. Would you
mind if I went?”
No reply.
“Honey, did you hear me?”
“Yes.” She answered without looking up. “It might be a good idea.”
“I’ll stay here if you want me to.”
“No, go ahead. It will do you good.”
With a sigh, I tossed down the PADD and got to my feet. I bent over
and kissed the top of her head. “Don’t wait up.” I said, knowing full well
she wouldn’t. “You never know how long these games can last.”
“I know.”
“Well, wish me luck. Maybe I’ll win us enough rations for a whole
dinner. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Maybe not now, but we could save them for our anniversary. Maybe we
could have a night-time picnic on the holodeck. Just you and me under a starry
sky with a little wine, some chicken, and anything else we want.”
“Whatever.”
Yeah. Whatever. I stooped to kiss her once more and then left. Why
the hell was I doing this? I certainly didn’t feel lucky. Hell, I couldn’t
feel much of anything anymore except for this damned emptiness that hour by
hour sucked away a little bit more of my life. It was as if some invisible
cord still stretched between me and Madeleine.
I stumbled into the safe haven of an empty lift and sunk to my knees,
doubled-over like I’d been punched. “Computer, hold lift.” I could see
her little body as clearly as if it lay in front of me. Blue, fragile and
still–oh gods, she was still. *”Help her. Doc, you’ve got to help her.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Paris, but she’s dead. I did all I could. I’m sorry.”*
“I know, I know.” I cried quietly. “But I can still see her. I can
see her.”
*Thomas, stop it! Stop it! Get a hold of yourself!*
My hand reached up and I pulled myself to my feet, a drowning man using
his last ounce of strength. I scraped a fist across my eyes and dusted off
my uniform. “C’mon, Thomas, old man, you can do it. Get yourself to Harry’s.
Computer, resume. Deck seven.”
*Head up, shoulders back. Just like the old days, Thomas. Remember
how long Dad used to make you stand at attention? You did it then, you can do
it now. That’s the way.* The lift doors opened and I exited. *C’mon, smile.
Okay, don’t smile, but don’t cry either. C’mon, you can do it. Get to
Harry’s. You’re almost there.*
I pressed the door release to his quarters. “Hey, Harry, ready to lose
a few replicator…rations…to me?” I froze. The first round had already
been dealt with Martinez taking the fifth seat. I stood there, unable to
think, unable to speak, just staring at them like some dimwit with my mouth
agape. “Oh. I guess you’re not.” I finally stammered, backing out the door.
Carey scrambled to his feet. “It’s okay, Paris. Take my place. I’ve
got some work I’ve been neglecting.”
“No, no. That’s okay. You go ahead.” I ducked down the corridor.
“Tom! Wait!” Harry called and gave chase. “Wait!”
I stopped to let him catch up.
“Tom, I’m sorry, but we didn’t think you’d want to play, you know,
being so soon after-”
“You could’ve asked, Harry.”
He hung his head. “You’re right. We should have. I’m sorry, really
sorry.” He placed a hand on my shoulder. “Why don’t you come back in? We can
deal you in on the next game.”
I shook my head. “Nah. You guys were right. I don’t actually feel
up to it.”
“Tom, c’mon, we-” He stopped as I continued to wag my head. I could
tell my refusal hurt him and I was glad. He was my best friend. How could he
push me aside like this?
“Harry, go back to your game.”
“Tom, c’mon.”
“Harry, go.”
Realizing he couldn’t persuade me, he reluctantly went back inside.
I bolted down the corridor. I didn’t know where I was heading, only where
I wasn’t. I couldn’t go back to my quarters; Cait didn’t want me there.
My friends didn’t want me around either, not with the stench of death clinging
so tightly to me.
Voices approached from around the bend. Shit. I didn’t want to see
anyone. I slipped down a side corridor to wait. An access panel sat in the
opposite wall. I jerked it open and climbed inside, shutting it behind me.
The voices passed, but I crawled further into the tube.
*Crawl away, Thomas. Crawl away and hide. Hide? Hide from what?
The crew? My friends? My wife?* Everything I really wanted to hide from
was on the inside. The pain. The memories. The dreams. They were all
inside me, trapped. They couldn’t get away and neither could I, but I
tried anyway.
I must have crawled through half the ship until my palms and knees were
raw and bruised. My elbows buckled and I drug myself the last few meters to
another vertical conduit. For several minutes, I sat in it, exhausted, trying
desperately to collect myself, but I couldn’t.
The pain had grown beyond my control. All the voices in my head,
the images, even the sound of her heart–beating slow and steady. I could
hear it. *Oh gods, she isn’t dead, is she? It’s all been a bad dream.
Dammit, tell me it’s all been a dream. No, Thomas, she died. It’s the warp
core you’re hearing. You must be near engineering. See, deck ten. Oh.*
“Oh gods.” I cried softly, covering my ears with my fists. “I’m
losing it. Help me. Oh gods, help me. I can’t-I can’t lose control.
Not now. I have to stay together. I have to stay together.”
*Then stay together, Thomas. That’s an order.*
Cait was in bed by the time I returned. She pretended to be asleep and
I let her think I was fooled. How could I tell her where I had really been?
How could I tell her what I had been doing? How could I tell anyone?

I opened the rear gate of the shuttle. Chakotay stood in the
bay, shifting his weight with impatience. “It’s about time, Paris.
Get going.” He seized me roughly by the shoulders and propelled me
toward the corridor.
“Why? What’s up?”
“Cait went into labor. She’s been calling for you. Hurry.
Run, Tom.”
I fled down the empty corridors, his words snapping at
my heels. “Run, Tom. Hurry. Hurry. Run, Tom, run.”
“Deck five.” I gasped, reading the sign. “Almost there.
Right around-”
Dead end.
“What?” I spun around. “I couldn’t have taken a wrong turn.”
“Run, Tom.”
Another dead end.
“Hurry.”
Another.
And another. No sickbay anywhere!
I grew desperate, calling Cait’s name, asking where she was,
screaming for her not to give up, that I was on my way. Finally, a set
of doors appeared. Sickbay! Choking with relief, I dashed in.
Everyone stood clustered around a biocrib. I stepped forward
eager to see what my child looked like. The Doctor glanced up.
“The child is dead, Lieutenant. Where were you?”
“You took too long, Mr Paris.” Tuvok echoed.
Kes stared at me, her blue eyes brimming with tears. “Oh, Tom,
how could you?” She turned and buried her face in Neelix’s shoulder.
B’Elanna glared at me too angry to even speak, and Harry’s face
was filled with disappointment. “Where were you, Tom? Cait called
and called.”
“I tried.” I panted. “I tried to get here. I ran all
the way. Where is she? Where is Cait?”
“How could you?” cried a voice behind me.
I looked around. Cait flew at me, her fists raised.
“You lied! You lied and now she’s dead. I hate you! I hate you!
IhateyouIhateyouIhate-”

“Nunh.” My eyes opened and my hand slid down the empty pillow beside
me. The room was still dark. Without even looking, I knew where Cait was.
I sat up. Yep, standing beside the couch, staring out the window as usual.
It had become her habit after her own dreams left her too upset to go back
to sleep. I got up and went to her.
“Another nightmare?” I asked.
“What else? Did I wake you?”
“No, I managed to do that quite nicely on my own. I don’t suppose you
would like to talk about it?”
“No.”
“Figured.” By now, I knew this conversation by heart. “Can I get you
something to drink? Some tea?” She would refuse, but I always asked anyway.
“No. I’ll be fine. Go back to bed.”
“Cait, I-” My hands rested on the gold silk covering her shoulders.
I had given her the pajamas a few years ago on her birthday. “Cait, what’s
happened to us? We’ve lost the baby, but not each other. We need to talk.”
“Not now, Tom. I’m tired, you’re tired, and we’d probably say things
we didn’t mean. Maybe in a few days.”
“All right. Sure. Whenever you’re ready.” I kissed the back of
her head and returned to our bed. A few days. First, it had been tomorrow.
Then, it had been a few days. Now, it was a few more days. I rolled onto my
side away from her vacated spot. With a little luck, maybe I could fall back
asleep.

**********

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. IX

Madeleine
Part 4

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

*BEEEP*
I rubbed my eyes. The water was on in the bath. Cait was already in
the shower. I rolled over and hugged her pillow tightly. She had bought the
shampoo during a one day/one night shore leave on Halalamin. It smelt of
incense and floor cushions and garments of silken gauze. I closed my eyes
and inhaled deeply.
Cait had looked so lovely at dinner that night, her hair flickering
scarlet and gold in the candlelight. She had been only three months along
then, her stomach just starting to display a gentle curve. I touched it
whenever possible. I loved feeling the growing roundness of her belly.
Every morning and evening, I would run one or both hands over it, tracing the
expanding profile of our child. It must have driven her crazy, but it
fascinated me to think that she and I had created this other being.
The water shut off, and I released the pillow, reluctantly as if it
were her. She came out of the bath and the steam carried the shampoo’s scent
over to where I lay. Without a word, I got up and went into the bathroom.
It didn’t take either of us long to dress anymore–no kissing or
cuddling to distract us. We made our way up to the mess, and just like the
previous two mornings, Cait left me halfway through the meal. This morning it
just hurt more when she did. After all that happened last night, I really
wanted to be with her. We didn’t have to talk. I simply needed to feel the
reassurance of her presence, but what could I do? I couldn’t make her stay
when she obviously didn’t want to. I took a bite of toast and tossed the slice
back onto the tray. Shit, I didn’t think I could chew, much less swallow now.
Shit. *Keep it together, Thomas.*
“Mind if I sit down?” Harry’s voice made me look up.
Still too choked up to speak, I waved a hand at the vacated place
across from me. He set his tray down and slid into the seat. An uncomfortable
silence fell as he took his first bite of food. We both knew why he was here,
but that didn’t make what he had to say any easier on either of us. After a
few moments, his fork clattered to the plate and he drew his napkin up,
furtively glancing at me as he wiped his mouth. I sipped my coffee and let my
eyes wander around the room.
“Tom.”
“Hm?”
“Tom, I want to apologize for what happened last night. I don’t
pretend to know what you are going through, but you are my best friend, and
last night, I let you down when you needed me. I’m sorry.”
I swiped the napkin across my mouth. “Harry, you don’t have to
apologize. I can’t really fault you for what happened. If our places were
reversed, I might easily have done the same thing. Yeah, it did hurt, but I
know you didn’t do it intentionally.”
“But it’s more than that. I told you how sorry I am the baby died,
but I feel like maybe I should say or do more, and I don’t know what.”
“Harry, there’s nothing you can do. Helplessness comes with the
territory. You’re not the only person who feels uncertain around me.”
“But I’m your friend. I should be able to-”
“To what? Change the past? Erase my pain? Harry, I don’t expect
either from you or anyone else. What happened happened, and we all have to
learn to live with it. If it’s any consolation, simply by sitting down and
eating with me this morning, you’ve helped. I was getting ready to leave
until you came over.”
He brightened slightly at that. “I did? Good. We could do it more
often, just the two of us like it used to be in the good ol’ days.” He flashed
me a grin, which I tried my best to return.
“Yeah, Harry, I’d like that.”

One by one, the days passed. Harry kept his promise; sometimes I ate
with just him, sometimes with him and B’Elanna. Otherwise, I usually skipped.
I wasn’t very hungry and Cait no longer ate with me at any time of the day.
To be honest, we hardly ever saw each other anymore. That seemed to
be the way she wanted it, and it worried me. Each time I did see her, she had
grown paler and thinner, like she wasn’t eating at all, and I wondered if
anyone else had noticed. Then one morning I stared long and hard at my own
reflection and realized I didn’t look much better.
I was living from duty shift to duty shift, and I guessed she was doing
the same. Neelix had been right. It was the one time during the day when I
felt somewhat in control. Yet no matter how hard I tried not to, I thought
about them–Madeleine and Cait. Sometimes it was just a passing memory of Cait
triggered by something someone said or did. On other occasions, it was either
the computer image of Madeleine or the memory of seeing her in sickbay.
The last was the hardest to control. Once or twice, I almost broke down
at conn.

“What the hell is this?” I barked and Ensign Hamilton blushed deeply
before the rest of the bridge crew. I shoved the PADD back into her hands.
“Just scanning it, I’ve counted four mistakes. How the hell am I supposed to
make heads or tails of this report?”
“I don’t know,” she said quietly. “I’m sorry, sir.”
“Fix it. I want to see a corrected copy by 0800 tomorrow.”
“Yessir.” She stood rooted to the spot, her chocolate eyes wide open.
“Do you have a problem with that, Ensign?” My own gaze narrowed. I
was in no mood for anything, particularly some plea for leniency.
Her eyes darted over my shoulder. She swallowed hard and shook her
head. “No sir. I’ll get right on it.”
I let out a nearly inaudible sigh of relief as she walked away.
My shift was almost over, and my nerves felt like tinder. I hadn’t slept
well in so long I had forgotten what a good night’s sleep was like. Right now,
all I wanted to do was retreat to Sandrine’s and have a few drinks. Alone.
How long could she do it? How long could Cait stay away? Sooner or
later she would have to talk to me, wouldn’t she? Or would I simply walk in
after shift one day and find all her things gone? Dear gods, if she only knew
how often I crept over to the terminal while she was asleep and stared at
Madeleine’s image, my eyes darting back and forth between the screen and her
own sleeping countenance. Same hair. Same colouring. Mother and daughter.
Looking at one was like looking at the other. They were so beautiful. Both
of them. So very, very beautiful.
“Lieutenant?” Bathart tapped me on the shoulder and lowered his voice.
“Tom, I’m here to relieve you.”
“Oh, right.” I sniffled. *Sandrine’s, old man. Get yourself to
Sandrine’s. You need that drink.* “Listen, keep an eye on the port nacelle
output. It’s operating within normal parameters, but I’ve noticed a small
fluctuation every now and then. If it gets worse, notify engineering.”
“Gotcha. Will do.” He slid into my seat and glanced up. “You okay?”
“Yeah, just a little tired.” I gave his shoulder a friendly pat and
headed for the lift.
“Mr. Paris, one moment.” Chakotay’s voice caught me right at
the doors.
“Wonderful.” I muttered under my breath. “Just what I needed.”
I stepped back and let the full lift leave without me. “Yes, Commander?”
He walked up the steps and ushered me into a newly-arrived, empty lift.
“You were a little hard on Hamilton, weren’t you?”
I bristled, my fingers curling into two white-knuckled fists. “I don’t
think so. The report was slipshod. Reading only the first few lines,
I encountered several mistakes. I don’t think you would have accepted it
either in that condition.”
“Probably not, but your response that time and a few other times today
did seem sharper than necessary. I’m sure you haven’t meant them to, and with
all you have been through recently, I think-”
“Computer, halt lift. Look. Don’t patronize me, Chakotay. If you
don’t think I’m fit for duty, fine. Relieve me. Otherwise, let me do my job.”
“If you would let me finish, Tom.” He continued quietly. “I was about
to say I thought you and Caitlin had held up very well considering the
emotional load you must be bearing. You’re fortunate to have each other to
lean on at a time like this.”
“Yeah, you have no idea.” I growled. I leaned back against the wall
of the lift and crossed my arms over my chest. “Is there anything else you’d
like to tell me?”
He studied me for a moment. “I suppose not. Although, I do have one
question.”
“Oh? What?”
“How are things *between* you and Caitlin?”
My eyes opened wide and I just stared at him, speechless. In all this
time, no one had asked me that, and unlike the other questions I regularly
received, I didn’t have a carefully rehearsed response ready. A lump rose in
my throat and my gaze dropped to the floor.
He placed a hand on my shoulder. “Why don’t we go to my quarters, Tom?
We can talk there. Computer, resume.”
I followed him mutely out of the lift, biting my lip. Something inside
me had just snapped and if I wasn’t careful, I would break down right there
in the corridor. *Keep it together, Thomas. That’s an order.* My mind
chanted the words over and over, and by the time we reached his quarters,
I had managed to regain some control, but my hold on it was so slippery I
wasn’t sure if I could maintain it. “I don’t know where to begin.” I said
as the doors shut behind us. “You might be in for more than you bargained for,
sort of like popping the cork on a bottle of champagne.”
He glanced around the room, his mouth twitching in mild amusement.
“Nothing too fragile in view. I think the room will survive. Have a seat.
Can I get you something?”
“Like a shot of scotch?” I hinted, taking a seat on the couch.
“Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of tea or coffee.”
“How about a shot of spinach juice then?”
“Coming up.” Within seconds he placed a chilled glass in my hand and
then sat down in a nearby chair with his own steaming mug. “Now, let’s start
with you, Tom. How are you doing?”
“Ah, hell, Chakotay. I haven’t the foggiest. It depends on when you
catch me.” I took a sip of the cool, green liquid. “Some days are better than
others. Sometimes I’m angry; sometimes I’m just tired; and sometimes I think
I’m going to drop everything and bawl my eyes out. Sometimes I even wonder if
I’ll ever be able to think about having another kid.”
“From what I’ve heard and studied that sounds like a fairly normal
reaction. The death of a child hits us very deeply, even more so than that of
another adult. It strikes us at our cores, and it isn’t something that can be
brushed aside or ignored, because the pain will always be there in some form
or another.”
“Wonderful. Just what I needed to hear. That I’ll feel this way
for the rest of my life.” My eyes darted nervously about the room. “You know,
I used to be joking when I called you Commander Freud, but that’s what you’ve
become, isn’t it?”
Chakotay took a sip of his beverage. “If people feel comfortable
speaking to me, I am more than willing to take the time to listen.”
“But it must be tough. I mean, who do you talk to? Your spirit guide?
The Captain?”
“Sometimes one. Sometimes both. Sometimes neither. And yes, you’re
right. At times it is quite difficult, especially when I know that a few words
in someone’s ear can ease the spirit of another. However, I respect the trust
the crew has given me over the years. I have no desire to lose it.
Furthermore, it’s the duty of every first officer to know the crew he serves
with.” The dark eyes narrowed slightly. “And I know you, Paris. You and your
attempts to redirect topics that hit uncomfortably close to home. We were
talking about you and Caitlin. How is she holding up?”
I set the glass down on the table and let a long, heavy sigh escape
through my lips. “I wish I could tell you, but I don’t know. Terrible, isn’t
it? She’s my wife and I don’t know. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it? But
honestly, Chakotay, if you think she’s been quiet in public, you should see her
in our quarters, that is, when she’s there. Half the time she avoids it and me
like the Endaran plague. We don’t talk anymore, we don’t eat together, and
anytime I try to hold her she pushes me away.” I stared down at my hands,
eager to avoid his gaze. “And then there are the nightmares. She has
them almost every single night. I try to get her to talk about them, but she
won’t. Most nights she exiles herself to the couch because she can’t get
back to sleep right away, and I lie awake, listening to her toss and turn.
I don’t know what to do. I’m scared she’s falling apart before me and I can’t
stop her. I’m scared I’m going to lose her, too.”
A scream exploded silently in my chest. The thought had occurred to me
about a week ago, but this was the first time I had admitted the possibility
out loud, as if saying it would make it come true. “You can’t understand.”
I whispered between clenched teeth. “I’m really scared, Chakotay. I can’t
lose both of them.”
“Tom, the one thing I do understand is that you can’t help someone
who doesn’t want help.”
“No, she does want it. I can feel it. Metaphorically speaking, she
may have put up a wall, but I can see through small gaps in it. Sometimes
they are almost large enough for me to stick my hand through and touch her,
but then they close up, and I’m right back where I started.” I drug my hands
over my face. “I don’t know. I think maybe she blames me. I wasn’t there
when she needed me. I failed her. I failed both of them. Maybe if I had
stayed on the bridge instead of going down to engineering.”
“Tom, you can’t start thinking that way.”
“Like hell, I can’t. I promised her I’d be there for her, and I
wasn’t, and if I hadn’t let her down then, maybe she would turn to me now.
Instead, she’s so angry I don’t know how to reach her, but I have tried.
Dear gods, I’ve tried and nothing.”
He slowly set the mug down on the table. “Tom, I want you to listen
to me. Is it possible that you’re overreacting or misinterpreting Caitlin’s
responses to some degree?” I opened my mouth, but Chakotay held up his hand.
“Let me finish. It’s not unusual for a bereaved parent to experience
nightmares and incredibly intense feelings of anger and guilt. Caitlin has
always dealt with her problems quietly. Is it possible that your own sense of
loss and guilt has coloured your vision of hers?”
“Have you talked with her recently?”
“In passing.”
“Then, with all due respect, how the hell do you know? You aren’t the
one she’s married to. You aren’t the one she lives with. And you sure as hell
aren’t the one she keeps pushing away.”
“No.” He acknowledged softly. “I’m not, but without getting into any
contest with you, I have known her longer and I am also someone she has turned
to in the past. I’ve seen her handle tragedy before. She doesn’t blame
others. Like you, more often than not, she finds a way to blame herself.”
He leaned forward in his chair. “Tom, I’ve told you before it’s tricky
with her, being there without hovering, but if you push too hard, you push her
away. My advice would be to give her time, but since you’re uncomfortable
with that, why not ask her for help? Ask her to listen to you. You’ll make
her feel needed while showing her she isn’t alone in her grief. The death of a
child is as much a shared experience as its birth. Maybe you need to open her
eyes to this fact.”
“Maybe.” I sat back and let out another sigh. “I just wish I knew
why, you know? Why did it have to be us? Why did it have to be our first?”
“I can’t answer that, Tom. No one can.”
“I know. It’s just that we were really looking forward to her birth.”
I gave a half-hysterical giggle. “You know, it’s funny. I kept calling it a
he and Cait kept insisting that it was a she, and Cait was right. It would’ve
been a little girl. Did you know that?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yeah. I saw her. Kes showed her to me. She would’ve looked like
Cait.” I closed my eyes as the memory of the metal tray came flooding back.
“Oh gods, if there had been any way, *any* way, doesn’t she know I would have-”
The words caught in my throat, tangling in a sob I tried desperately
to suppress.
“Tom, listen to me. You can’t blame yourself. Your going to
engineering was in the best interest of everyone, including Caitlin and
the baby. This tragedy would not have been prevented if you had stayed on the
bridge or gone to sickbay with her. In fact, things might have been much
worse. This wasn’t your fault.”
“Don’t you think I want to believe that? Gods, you have no idea how
much I want to believe that, but I can’t.” I bent over, hiding my face in my
hands as the tears began to flow. “I just can’t.”
Chakotay moved to the sofa and guided me into his arms, holding me
there for several minutes. “It’s all right, Tom. Let it out. There’s no
shame in it. That’s it.”
“There are times when I see her so clearly.” I bawled. “She was
so tiny. Ten fingers and ten toes. Almost perfect. We had made all these
plans. So many things I wanted to do with her. We would’ve named her
Madeleine after Cait’s mother.”
“Why don’t you?”
“Huh?” I lifted my face and drew a sleeve across my eyes. “Why what?”
“Why don’t you name her?” He stood up and crossed over to the
bathroom. “If you wanted, you could even have a memorial service, either
privately or with friends. Here. I think these are what you’re looking for.”
I gratefully accepted the tissues he proffered. “Thanks. Don’t you
think it’s a little late to do something like that?”
“There’s no time limit on mourning, Tom, and it might bring you and
Caitlin closer together.”
“I don’t know if Cait will agree to it.”
“You’ll never know unless you ask her. It will at least give you one
more reason to talk to each other about what has happened.”
“True. Look, can I use your bathroom?”
He waved a hand. “Be my guest.”
“Thanks.”
I let the cool water run over my fingers for a moment before splashing
my face several times. Bloodshot baby blues stared back at me as I patted dry.
The man in the mirror didn’t look like me anymore–a good ten years older than
I was and eaten away by life. Tell Madeleine good-bye? What was the use?
She was already gone. I never even got to say hello.
Still, a part of me liked the idea. I could almost picture Cait and I
sitting side by side surrounded by our friends, both of us trying to hold in
our tears until we were back in our quarters and in each other’s arms. Yeah,
right, she wouldn’t agree to it.
I stepped back into the room. “Say Chakotay, I was on my way to
Sandrine’s. How about a game of pool?”
He shook his head. “Give me a raincheck. I have some work to finish.
However, if you still want to talk, it can wait.”
“No, not right now, I guess. You’ve given me a lot to think about
already. Thanks.”
“Anytime, Paris. My door is always open.”

**********

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. IX

Madeleine
Part 5

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

I made my way to the holodeck, more drained now than edgy. The bar was
already open. Shit. Dalby and a few others clustered around the pool table.
I nodded a greeting but made no effort to join them. Instead I took my usual
table by the fireplace and stretched out my legs. Almost immediately, Sandrine
placed a glass of burgundy in front of me. I looked up and gave her my best
attempt at a smile. It didn’t fool her for a minute. I had made her much
too real. She set her tray down and slid her hands along my shoulders.
Her palms gently kneaded my tense muscles.
“My poor Thomas. I have heard the tears of so many, some of joy,
some of loss, but it is different when it touches someone you are
fond of. And I will always have a soft spot for you, cheri.”
I grasped one hand and pressed my lips to the ivory fingers. It never
ceased to amaze me–the almost human warmth the computer could give
these images. “Thank you.” I whispered.
She nodded, a soft sadness lurking at the corners of her eyes as she
moved off to serve another patron. If she had been the real Sandrine, I would
have cried in her arms.
A hand tapped me on the shoulder. “Tom, may I sit down?”
I shut my eyes. Oh no. Not now. Please. “Sure, Jenny. Go ahead.”
Delaney shot me a quick hint of a smile as she took the seat next
to me. “Look, Tom, I know we haven’t been the best of friends for some time
now, although that’s probably putting it mildly.” She added with an uneasy
laugh.
I gazed at her warily out of the corner of my eye. “Yeah, I think it
would be.”
The blond head drooped as she glanced down at her hands. “Yes, you’re
right. It would be. I was quite the jealous bitch when it came to you and
Caitlin, and I’m truly sorry. Watching you two over these past months, I’ve
slowly come to realize that you two belong together. You never looked at me
the way you do at her.” She paused, still staring at her hands, and then
abruptly, she looked back up. “But that’s not the reason I came over. See, I
can remember what it was like when my brother died. He drowned, you know.”
“No, I didn’t know.”
“Yes, when he was five. Megan and I were twelve at the time and we
were on one of those family vacations we took with my uncle’s family every
summer. All totaled that meant about ten kids running everywhere. That
particular summer we went camping at some lake, and right away we decided to go
swimming. We were all laughing and splashing about with a lot of other kids
when my mom started looking for Blake. He was the youngest and very quiet
compared to the rest of us noisy Delaneys. It wasn’t that unusual for him to
wander off by himself and just sit down somewhere and watch animals. Birds,
fish, even insects, it didn’t matter what it was. Life fascinated him.” She
gave a sad chuckle and clenched her hands together. “My Dad was always saying
he was going to grow up to be this great biologist, but to us he was just a
weird little brother. So at first, when he didn’t respond, we didn’t think
too much of it, and we just went on playing, but it got near lunchtime and
he still hadn’t shown up. I remember my mom and dad and my uncle and
my aunt running back and forth along the shore shouting his name. Other
parents, fathers mostly, joined in the search; the other mothers were too busy
hanging on to their own kids like they were going to disappear, too.
“Tom, I got so scared. Mom was screaming and crying. I mean, she
completely lost control. I had never seen her that upset. She kept calling
him ‘her baby’, and nothing anyone said or did could calm her down. Luckily,
one of the other mothers was a doctor and she finally gave her a sedative.”
Jenny paused and took a deep breath. “It was almost nightfall before one of
the park rangers found him. He had waded into a thick cluster of reeds,
probably looking at tadpoles or something, gotten tangled up and drowned.”
Her voice had dropped to a near whisper, and I reached over to give
her arm a squeeze. “I’m sorry.”
She tossed her head defiantly and cleared her throat. “Yes, well, it
hit us all very hard. For a while, Mom and Dad fought all the time over any
little thing. Some days they wouldn’t even speak to one another. They seemed
so angry at each other. I’m not sure why. Maybe they each thought the other
was to blame or something silly like that. Megan and I were even afraid they
would split up, but they didn’t. They began seeing a counselor, and about two
years later, a new Delaney entered the world, my baby sister, Julia.
“Anyway, the long and short of it is, I know what you two must be going
through, and if you ever need an ear to bend or a shoulder to cry on, you know
where my room is. No strings attached, honest.” She concluded with an
sympathetic smile.
I was floored. This certainly wasn’t the ditsy sexpot I was used
to seeing. “Um, thanks, Jenny. I really appreciate that. Maybe I’ll take
you up on the offer, but not right now, okay?”
“I understand. I just wanted you to know.” She stood up and placed an
impulsive kiss on my cheek before moving away.
I reached up, savouring the warmth the slight pressure of her lips had
left. In one of the metal plates mounted on the wall, I watched her reflection
sway its way toward another table. It was all so wrong. The kiss should have
come from my wife, not an ex-girlfriend, but it would be so nice to hold
someone and be held in turn, to feel their warmth and energy, to finally feel
my own after all these weeks. *Dammit, Cait, I just want to hold you. Is that
to much to ask–to want to hold you and tell you I love you? I swear that’s
all. Honest.*
I emptied my glass and lifted it, signaling Sandrine for a refill.
She brought it over, but I barely raised my eyes from the fire to acknowledge
her. It just didn’t make sense. How could the death of one tiny being who
never even saw the lights of sickbay cause this much pain?
*Goddammit, Madeleine, why did you have to die? I was so ready to be
your father. I wanted to hold you and feed you and read you all sorts of
stories, not just Dr. Seuss. And once you got older, I would have taken you to
the park on the holodeck and I would have taught you how to swim and-*
I could picture us so clearly, her standing on the side of the pool in
her little swimsuit, a yellow one, maybe, with white polka dots or daisies.
I would be standing waist deep in the water in front of her with my arms
outstretched. *C’mon, honey. Jump. I’ll catch you. On three. Yes, you can
do it. C’mon. One, two, threee!* With a splash, she would land, little arms
and legs flailing wildly. *C’mon, kick. That’s it. Just like we’ve done
before. Atta, girl. You’re doing it. You’re doing it! Keep paddling, keep
paddling. Don’t stop. Good girl! You’re swimming!*
I could almost hear the pride in my voice, and a tear rolled down
my cheek. I wiped it away quickly hoping no one had seen. Chakotay was right.
We needed to say good-bye, at least I did. I couldn’t keep living like this–
lost in a future that would never exist–too much in the present needed my
attention.
The doors creaked open and someone walked toward my table only
to stop halfway. I heard Sandrine whisper, “Try to cheer him up.” I didn’t
hear the response, but the steps came closer.
“Tom, you busy?”
I didn’t bother to glance up. “Not at all, Harry. Like the little
lady says, try to cheer me up. It’s a new game, winner gets a free drink.”
I cavalierly waved a hand at the seat across from me. “What’s on your mind?
I haven’t seen you or B’Elanna outside the bridge in two days.”
He grinned and sat down. “I need a favor.”
“Shoot.” I said, taking a swallow of wine.
“I need a best man.”
I choked, coughing half the wine back into the glass and blazing a
trail up my nose with the rest. “What?” I gasped, frantically signalling for
a napkin and a fresh glass. “When did this happen?”
“Officially? Two nights ago.”
“Ah, that explans your scarcity. Well, I’m damned. Congratulations.
Have you set a date? Hey, Sandrine, Harry here is getting married.”
She smiled and rolled her eyes as she handed me a fresh glass of wine
and a towel. “Not this one, too? Who will be left for me?”
“You can have the Doctor.” Harry replied with a grin.
“Oh?” A cunning look came to her face. “You know, I have been having
this sore throat recently.” She winked and moved away.
“A date?” I prompted him.
“That all depends. Are you going to help me?”
“Of course, I will. I’d be honoured to. This is the best news I’ve
heard in a long time.”
“Well, we just figured it was time. We’ve more or less built a life
together, might as well take that final step.” His fingers tapped nervously on
the table. “Were you this anxious when Caitlin said yes? I feel like I’ve got
enough energy to run through Tuvok’s fitness course fifty times.”
“Comes with the territory.” I chuckled quietly. “I don’t think
there’s any getting around it. Hmmm, this means I get to plan your bachelor
party. This could be good. Revenge can be very sweet.” I stroked my chin
thoughtfully for effect and watched his eyes open wide as his fingers sped up
their little dance.
“C’mon, Tom, that’s not fair. I pared yours down a lot. You should
have heard some of the suggestions I got.”
The memory of the evening brought a genuine smile to my face. “I can
just imagine, but you still threw quite a doozy. A holoprogram in your hands,
my friend, is a dangerous thing. I’m definitely going to have to put in a
little overtime to top it.” I lifted my fresh glass of wine in salute.
“Uh-huh, just so long as you remember who I have to go home to.
Getting married from a biobed is not the type of ceremony I have in mind.”
I nodded solemnly. “So noted.”
Leaning back in the chair, I listened to him lay out the tentative
details. They had already taken the Klingon oath in private–go figure!–and
now planned to have the human ceremony on the holodeck. As it stood, I would
be the best man and Cait, if she agreed, would be the matron of honour.
Matron. I snickered. She’d love being referred to as that. I couldn’t wait
to tease her about it, and then I remembered I wouldn’t be doing that any
time soon.
Hell, when we got married, I thought we were home free and right away
began looking forward to kids and growing old together. It never occurred to
me that we might find ourselves being ripped apart like this.
“So you’ll do it?” Harry jerked me back from my meandering thoughts.
“Oh, yeah, of course. Do you even have to ask?”
He grinned and I felt a twinge–all right, more than a twinge–of
jealousy. He thought they had everything to look forward to and here I felt
like everything was slowly draining away. His brow puckered in a frown.
“Tom, you okay?”
I stared into my glass and tossed down a large, uncooth gulp of wine.
Too bad it wasn’t scotch, I could have used the burn. “Just remembering my own
wedding, buddy, and how happy I was.”
“Was?”
“That particular day, I mean. Harry, my friend, I wish you twice as,
no, make that four times as much happiness.” I lifted my glass.
His frown deepened. “Tom, I told B’Elanna I’d meet her in a few
minutes, but if you’d like to talk I know she’ll understand.”
“Nah, nah.” I shook my head emphatically and winked. “Don’t keep the
little woman-to-be waiting. Besides, I just got through having a drink with
Chakotay and I think that fulfilled my counselling quota for the day, maybe
even the week. You go ahead, and give B’Elanna my congratulations while you’re
at it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yep.” I tried to smile as I waved casually toward the exit, but it
was little more than a tight grimace.
“All right. If you say so. But you know my door is open day or
night.”
“Better not let B’Elanna hear you say that or there’ll be no wedding
at all.”
“Paris.”
I snickered at his exasperation. “Yeah, I know, Harry. And thanks.”
My gaze followed him out the door. Sandrine hovered nearby, but I
shooed her off, too, finished my drink, and left. I caught an early dinner
alone and returned to our quarters. Cait wasn’t there. Somehow I didn’t think
she would be.
Choosing some mournful Adalian flute music, I sprawled across
the couch. Our wedding picture sat about a meter away on the coffee table.
I stretched my hand I out as far as I could, but it remained just out of reach.
Cursing, I lay there and studied her from afar, in my mind, my hands tracing
over the gentle slope of her bare shoulders. I could almost feel her skin
beneath my fingertips–its smoothness, its warmth, so alive then and so
beautiful. I rolled away, squeezing my eyes shut to stop the tears and the
memories, but they came and came, beating and kicking me as I tried to burrow
out of their reach in the sofa cushions.
Hours later, I sat up and rubbed the salty crusts from my eyes. Shit.
I hadn’t even realized I had dozed off. I looked around. 2145 hours and still
no Cait. It had almost become some sort of sick game. She knew what time I
woke up, she knew what time I went to bed, but tonight, dammit, I had made up
my mind. I was through playing.
I went over to the drawers in the bedroom and pulled out her dark green
nightgown, laying it out just so on the foot of the bed. It was one of–no,
wait–it was *the* first present I ever gave her, seeing it just might spark
some pleasant memory. At least, I hoped it would.
I ducked into the bathroom to get ready for bed. After my impromptu
nap, I wasn’t all that sleepy, but just to be on the safe side I kept all the
lights on while I lay in bed planning out exactly what I would say to her.
No way in hell, she was sneaking by me tonight.

“This is the Doctor to Lt. Paris.”
“Paris, here.” I responded groggily, sitting up and rubbing
my eyes.
“Lieutenant, we need you in main engineering immediately.”
“Doc, can’t it wait? It’s, what, only 0217!”
“Now, Mr. Paris!”
From his tone, I knew I had no choice, but why me? I glanced
at Cait’s side of the bed. Still empty. Oh shit. Panicked, I pulled
on some sweats and stumbled out the door.
“It’s about time.” He said when I arrived. “The Commander
has been up there for some time, but she will not come down.”
“Who?” I asked as my gaze followed his up to the top of the
warp core. Three people were up there, one extending a hand to the
other two, who stood way out on a support beam. My mouth went dry.
“Oh gods, no.” I said softly. “Cait, don’t.”
“We thought if you went up there,” the Doctor continued. “You
might have more success than Commander Chakotay.”
“Huh? What?” I couldn’t take my eyes off them. If I did,
they might fall. “I’ll try, Doc.”
B’Elanna held out a safety harness and helped me strap it on.
“You can do it, Tom. If anyone can reach Caitlin, you can.”
A huge lump rose in my throat. “I don’t know if I can,
B’Elanna.” I mumbled. “I’ve been trying for weeks and she’s pushed me
away each time. Who’s to say this time will be any different?”
She grabbed me by the harness and slammed me against the wall.
“I say so. It has to be. You have to make it different. If you go
up there convinced you’ll fail, you will. Do you want that? Do you
want to spend the rest of you life living with that or do you want to
spend it with them? Goddammit, Paris! They need you! Don’t let them
down now!”
My sights rose from her flashing eyes to the top of the core.
This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. I had to stop her.
Shaking free of B’Elanna’s grip, I began to climb. I reached
Chakotay’s position, my body shaking more from nerves than exertion.
He backed off the beam and removed the safety wire from his harness and
attached it to mine. Slowly, I inched my way out onto the beam.
Cait stood there motionless with her eyes closed, like some
Vulcan monk in meditation. Madeleine stood beside her, her hand in
Cait’s. One jerk of the ship would have sent them both tumbling.
“Cait?” I called softly. “Cait, honey, it’s me.”
“What do you want, Tom?”
“I want to help you.”
“Then leave.”
“Why, Cait? Why? Don’t I at least deserve to know that?”
“I’ve told you already.”
“Tell me again. Please. Please, tell me.”
“Why should I? You weren’t listening before.”
“I’m listening now, Cait. Talk to me.” I stuck out my hand.
“Please, let Madeleine go at least. C’mon, honey, move slowly toward
Daddy.”
“I can’t. Mommy won’t let me go.”
“Cait, please don’t do this.” I begged. “Please let her go.
Madeleine, ask Mommy to let you go. Tell her you don’t like it
up here.”
“I won’t let her go, Tom.” Cait leaned forward. “Not now,
not ever.”
“Daddy, help me!”
“No! Not Madeleine! NO!” I lunged for them, my own descent
prevented by the harness and Chakotay. Surprisingly, neither screamed.
There was only a soft thud that echoed mercilessly. Chakotay hauled me
up and wrapped his arms around me, lowering us both to the catwalk.
I was shaking too much to stand.
The Doc scanned them and then looked up. “Multiple concussive
injuries. Their dead, Mr. Paris. There is nothing I can do.”
“No.” I whispered. “Oh gods, please no. No!”

My eyes flew open. The room was dark and I lay on my belly, the covers
wrapped securely around my legs. Cait’s side of the bed was still empty and I
freaked, kicking my way out of the bed and backing into the partition.
I stared at her unused pillow, my breath caught somewhere between my throat
and my lungs. I opened my mouth to call for her location. Then, I heard it,
a quiet sob just to my left.

**********

WARNING: This part of the story contains material some may find offensive.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. IX

Madeleine
Part 6A

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

I spun around. “Computer, half lights.”
Cait sat huddled against the wall, the gown lying in an emerald
pool at her feet. Her face was buried in her knees and smothered sobs
shook her bare frame. Without a word, I pulled the sheets from the bed and
knelt beside her, draping them around her goose-pimple shoulders. Her head
lifted, great rivers of tears coursing down both cheeks. “Oh, Cait.” I sat
down and opened my arms, drawing her into my lap and wrapping the covers
around both of us.
“I heard you. I heard you call for her.” She cried. Hot tears
trickled down my chest as she clung to me, gasping out words between sobs
that didn’t make too much sense at first. “You-you called for her. I heard
you. Tom, I love you so much. Please don’t leave me. I’ll try to do
better. I’ll try. Just please don’t leave me.”
“Leave you?” I tilted her chin up and wiped her face with a corner
of the sheet. “Why would I ever leave you? I love you. All I’ve wanted to
do these past few weeks is hold you and tell you that.”
Her gaze dropped from mine. “I know.” She replied with a sniff.
“Cait, you mean everything to me. I’m the one.” I whispered. “I’m
the one who should be sorry. Please forgive me.”
“I don’t-”
“Cait, please.” My words tumbled out like tears, slowly at first,
then in a steady torrent. “I’m the one. I know I let you down. I promised
you I would be there, and when you needed me, I wasn’t. I keep telling myself
that leaving the bridge was the right thing to do, but a part of me keeps
saying that if I had stayed, you and the baby would have been safe and we’d
have a daughter now instead of this awful emptiness. I’m the one who’s sorry.
I let you down and I let Madeleine down. I never, ever, meant to-” The words
broke off and the tears took over, racing down my face. “Cait, I’m so sorry.”
Her fingers slid over my cheek, smearing away some of the tears.
“No, Tom, it wasn’t your fault. You can’t blame yourself. I never blamed you.
Please don’t blame yourself. I love you, Tom. I know what you did was in the
baby’s and my best interest.”
“You and Madeleine meant the world to me. I would never have
intentionally hurt such a beautiful little-”
“You saw her?” Cait’s eyes opened wide.
“Yeah, but I almost wish I hadn’t. I asked Kes if I could, and she
cleaned her up and showed her to me.” I bit my lip to hold back more tears.
“That’s almost always how I see her–a tiny, delicate body on a cold metal
tray. Oh, Cait, she would’ve been so beautiful. I just know she would’ve.”
“I never saw her, Tom.” She mumbled, glancing away. “I simply woke
up and the baby was gone and I could tell by your expression that it was gone
for good. I felt so awful that all I could do was curl up and cry. I didn’t
want to see anyone, least of all you, because that only made me feel worse.
I knew how much the baby meant to you and here I had lost it. I wanted you to
hold me, but I felt like I didn’t deserve it.”
“Didn’t deserve it? Cait, honey.” I tightened my arms about her.
“Honey, don’t you ever think that.”
“But then the next day,” she snuffled. “The next day everything seemed
so normal as if nothing had happened, even you.”
“Me?”
“Yes, you. You showed up in uniform, right off duty, and the furniture
and toys were all gone, and everything was just as it had been, except for me,
and it seemed so unfair. My arms felt so empty. I carried the baby for
eight months and never got the chance to hold it. Something had just been
ripped out of me, and there you stood in uniform telling me you got rid of the
furniture like it was all nothing more than a worn-out shirt. It was as if you
wanted to forget the baby ever existed and I hated you for it. You wanted to
get on with life and I couldn’t even look at you without wanting to burst
into tears. You were all I had left of her and I was losing you, too.
And it hurt. Oh, Tom, it hurt so much.” The auburn head fell forward against
my chest as her tears began to flow again.
I smoothed her hair and rocked her gently. “Cait, why didn’t you tell
me this? I asked. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“How could I?” She sobbed. “I thought I was letting you down again.
I’m an emotional wreck. I couldn’t keep up with you, but I wanted to be with
you more than anything. I thought maybe if I was alone for a little while
I could pull myself together, but I couldn’t no matter how hard I tried.
I felt like such a failure. I couldn’t face you.” The reddened eyes lifted
to mine. “Then B’Elanna told me today that-that she and Harry were going
to get married, and I got so jealous. All I could think about was how happy
we had been and how much I wanted you to hold me. So I spent all evening
trying to work up the courage to see you. I finally thought I had, but when I
came in, you were already asleep. I almost burst into tears. I thought I
was too late. Then, I saw the gown. I-I was going to surprise you, but as I
started to put it on, I heard you mumble the baby’s name. I froze. I couldn’t
think. I couldn’t move. All I could do was sit down and cry. I-I-”
“Shhh.” My thumb brushed gently over her mouth. “It’s all right.
We’re together now. We love each other, and we love her whether she is with us
or not. That’s all that matters now, Cait. That’s all that matters.” I
angled my head and carefully took her lips in mine, like it was our first kiss.
Maybe, in a sense, it was.
Her arms encircled my neck, and we kissed slowly, each kiss lasting
slightly longer than the one before it. Her lips parted and our tongues met
to taste each other through slippery caresses.
A small moan crept out of my chest. “It’s been so long, Cait.” I
whispered. “I’ve missed you.”
“Missed you.” She murmured back.
A dense darkness fell around us like a thick, woolen blanket.
I couldn’t see or hear anything beyond my hammering heart and the muffled hiss
of our breath. It was like I was drowning, but I didn’t struggle because it
felt so good as long as she was with me.
“Cait, stop me.” I gasped. “Stop me, or I will make love to you. I
swear I will.”
She pulled her head away, her eyes as wild as a rainforest. “Please,
Tom, do. I want you to.”
With a small cry, I buried my face in her neck, nipping and sucking at
the patch of skin I knew from experience to be sensitive. She writhed
in my arms, but I held on tightly, letting one hand explore her body with
feather-light strokes. I wanted to touch every centimeter of her flesh,
to kiss her and taste her until I knew her body once again by heart. She had
changed so much since we last made love, losing her soft fullness for something
harder, yet just as fragile.
I helped her to her feet and led her to the bed. She sat down on
the edge and I knelt before her, parting her legs and kissing a path up the
inside of her thighs. She lay back with a sigh as I nibbled the white skin
just below the auburn curls. Her heady scent nearly drove me over the edge,
but I wanted-I needed to be in her, to be held while I held her. I got to
my feet. “Scoot up.”
We repositioned ourselves and I kissed her slowly, taking my time along
her jaw and neck. She moaned and trembled beneath me, her hands gliding down
my back to clutch my hips. Nails bit into my flesh like sharp, tiny teeth.
“Please, Tom.” Her breath burned my cheek. “Please.”
“I will. Oh gods, I will. Anything you want, Cait. Tell me. I’ll
do anything.”
I ra themselves into mine.
“I love you, Tom.”
My body quivered against hers as fire raced through my veins. At times
I had wondered if I would ever hear her say those words again. Even now, they
frightened me a little with their power.
“I love you.” I replied.
Her eyes closed. I watched in fascination as varying shadows of
pleasure fell across her face while I eased into her. She felt so good, her
warmth spreading through me like a slow flush. With a gasp, I stopped and lay
still. Cradled inside her, for the first time in weeks, I felt almost
complete, as if the horrible darkness in my belly was finally shrinking. I was
connected to life again and all its subtle energies, and, oh gods, it
was wonderful. I pressed my lips to her ear. “Love. Oh my sweet, beautiful
wife, I love you so much.”
Cait wrapped her arms and legs about me. I raised my head in time to
see a single tear roll toward her hair. “Don’t let me go, Tom. Ever. Please
don’t let me go.”
“Never, ever.” I promised, catching the tear with my tongue. I caught
the next tear, too. And the next, but I couldn’t catch them all.
All of a sudden, with half-suppressed sobs, her grief entered freefall.
She pushed against my shoulders, trying to squirm away. “I can’t, Tom. Not
now. I just can’t.” I tried to hug her, but she only struggled more. “Please
let me go.”
“Cait, it’s okay. We don’t have to.” I said, reluctantly severing our
connection and rolling aside.
“No, no, no. It’s not okay. It’s all wrong. Everything.” She turned
away, curling her knees into her chest.
For a second, I just lay there in shock. I was confused, disappointed,
and even a little angry, but her sobbing pulled things back into perspective
pretty quickly.
I snuggled up behind her, pulling her firmly back into my chest. At
first, she resisted. “No, Cait, it’s okay. Let me hold you.” I whispered,
keeping a secure grip on her waist. “Go ahead and cry. It’s all right.”
We stayed like that for quite a while, and eventually her sobs eased
and her breath quieted. I peeked over. Yep, she was sound asleep. I sat up
and retrieved the sheets, tucking them about her so she wouldn’t get too cold.
Then, I pulled on a pair of shorts and walked into the other room.
With a deep sigh, I sank down on the sofa. This wasn’t how it was
supposed to be. Each kiss, each caress was supposed to be curative, binding
our mutual sorrow together. At least, that’s how I imagined it would be
between us. But this, this I didn’t understand at all. She had
said it was okay. Hell, she had even asked me to make love to her, and I
had wanted to for so long that it never occurred to me that she might not
actually want to. Had I pushed her? Had my own needs and desires blinded me
to what she needed? Or was she more angry at me than even she realized?
Had I really hurt her that much? I was only doing what I thought was best.
I hadn’t meant to appear callous. Gods, somedays it had been all I could do
just to make it through my shift without bursting into tears.
I drug my hands down my face and rested my elbows on my knees, my chin
in the ‘L’ of my thumbs. Thoughts whirled around my head so fast I couldn’t
focus on just one, but I still tried my best to make some sense of what had
happened, of what Cait had said, of everything. Nothing fitted together.
It was all guesswork and to make matters worse, my own emotions kept tangling
in the web. I finally gave up in frustration and stretched out on the sofa,
drawing the throw over me and covering my eyes with my arm.
“Computer, sle-”
“Tom.”
I lifted my arm and twisted my head in the direction of her voice.
Cait stood at the partition in the green gown. I sat up quickly.
“I didn’t hear you get up. I thought you were still asleep.”
“I was, but I woke up and you weren’t there. Tom, I-I’m so sorry.
I know how-how much you-” Pale arms folded tightly across her chest as she
fought for control. “I don’t know what happened to me. I didn’t mean to go
to pieces like that.”
I got up and went to her, unclasping her arms and refastening them
about my waist. “Shh. It’s all right. I understand.”
“No, how can you? I don’t understand myself. I’m still so-so angry.”
“At me?”
“No. Yes. I don’t know. I’m angry at everything and everyone, even
myself. I can’t stop crying. I can’t be a wife. I can barely do my job.
I just feel so lost and out of control.”
“Did the cry you just had make you feel any better?”
She shook her head and hugged me closer, pressing her cheek to my
chest. “No. I think I may even feel worse. I disappointed you.”
“In one sense, yeah. Tears do have a way of taking the wind out of a
guy’s sails.” I gave a tiny grin, but sobered as I took her face between
my hands and stared deeply into a pair of anxious emerald eyes. “But I would
rather have you cry in my arms any day than keep yourself away. I love you,
Cait, and I always will.” I bent down and held her lips in mine for a good,
long time to emphasize my point.
She attempted a faint smile as I released her. “I could use some tea
or warm milk. How about you?”
“Tea, please.”
I hastily remade the bed while she used the replicator. She brought
over the two steaming mugs and we settled in side by side.
“Tom?”
“Hm?”
“What did she look like?”
“Madeleine?”
“Mmm-hmm.”
I thought of the image stored in the computer. That was how I really
wanted to remember her, and even if I couldn’t, Cait could. “She would’ve been
beautiful, Cait. A lot like you, I think. Auburn hair and green eyes. From
what I could tell, physically, she would’ve been okay. Two arms, two legs,
ten tiny fingers, and ten even tinier toes.”
“Oh. I wish I had seen her.”
“I’m sorry, Cait. The Doc offered to put her in stasis, but I said no.
I guess I thought it would be just that much more painful for you, but maybe
that was selfishness on my part. I didn’t stop to think that you might want
to see her. I’m sorry.” I twisted her head around gently so she could see me.
“Really, I am.”
Her fingers reached up and touched my cheek. “Tom, you did what you
thought was best. Regardless of what I feel now, deep down I know that.”
We finished our tea and lay down, her head pillowed on my chest. Bit
by bit, she dropped off to sleep. My own lids blinked slowly, closing a little
longer each time as disjointed thoughts and pictures flitted through my mind.
Family. Mother. Daughter. Cait. Madeleine. Then, the idea hit me. Yeah.
That was it. The perfect way to say good-bye.

**********

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. IX

Madeleine
Part 6B

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

For four days, I worked on it. Every spare minute after shift, I
could be found in our quarters sitting either on the sofa or at the desk
working on a PADD. The only time I stopped was when Cait came in to drag
me to dinner.
“Thomas Eugene Paris!”
I leapt nearly two meters out of the seat. “Geez, you sounded just
like my mother. I didn’t hear you come in.”
Cait leaned against the wall, the tiniest of grins on her face. “You
look like the proverbial cat who swallowed the canary.”
“Who? Me?” My eyes opened wide with implied innocence. I turned off
the device and stretched out a hand, guiding her into my lap. We hugged and
kissed until she finally pulled away, reaching for the PADD.
“What were you doing?” She asked, as I snatched it from her hand and
held it behind my back.
“When?”
“Just now. You’ve been mighty busy these past few days. What’s on
this PADD?” She tried to reach around, but I kept her at bay.
“Ah-ah-ah. It’s a surprise. I just got through putting in the
finishing touches.”
“A surprise?”
“Mmm-hmm. Meet me after dinner on holodeck one and I’ll show it
to you.”
Something close to fear sprang up in her eyes. “Tom, I thought we
had agreed-I mean, you said we could take our time.”
“Cait, I know what I said, and I intend to abide by it. We’ll make
love when you feel up to it.” I brushed back a strand of her hair and smiled.
“Don’t worry. It’s not that kind of a program.”
“Not that kind?” She frowned. “I don’t understand.”
I pressed a finger to her lips. “You don’t need to, not now, at least.
And you aren’t getting another word out of me. In an hour, you’ll know
soon enough.”
“But-”
“No buts. One hour. And don’t bother trying to access the program.
It’s encrypted. Now, let’s go have some dinner.”
If the rest of the crew had noticed a change in our behavior over the
past few days, no one, except Chakotay, acknowledged it, and he simply nodded
and said that he was glad things were better between us. Which was true.
They were, even though, after what happened the other night, Cait was hesitant
to make love. She still didn’t smile much, either. To be honest, neither
did I, but at least now we cuddled and spoke with one another, and at meals,
when I placed my hand over hers, she didn’t jerk back. Instead, she looked up
at me and squeezed my fingers like she used to do. Only now, there was a
heartbreaking sadness in her expression that I knew I could never erase, no
matter how hard I tried.
That particular evening, we ate by ourselves, and for a change
I was the one who excused himself early to start the program and see that
everything was as it should be. Thankfully, it was.
The doors opened and closed behind me, and I spun around to greet Cait.
Her eyes darted about our created quarters before settling on me with a
perplexed frown. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s all here, Cait.” I said with a sweep of my arm. “Madeleine’s
furniture, her books, her toys, everything, including a surprise. Go sit down
on the sofa and I’ll bring it over.”
Throwing me a doubtful glance, she perched on the edge of a cushion.
I crossed my fingers, muttered a small prayer that went something along the
lines of ‘please let Cait approve of this’, and walked over to the crib.
A small form with red hair and hazel eyes gurgled up at me. Beautiful, even
if the eye colour wasn’t exactly right. With a smile, I bent down and gently
picked her up. I shifted her into the crook of my arm and stroked the tiny
nose lightly with my finger. “Shh. It’s all right. I have someone over here
who wants to meet you.”
I turned back toward the sofa. Cait’s face was ashen and her eyes
were opened wider than the deflector dish. She looked as though she might
faint and I was in no position to catch her if she did.
“Weeks ago.” I began softly. “I had the computer create an image
of Madeleine based on genetic and physiological estimates. I stored it in a
file and have stared at it so many times during the past few weeks that I’ve
wondered if I wasn’t gradually losing my mind. Then, the other night when you
said you never saw her and wished you had, it all clicked together. So, the
past four days I’ve spent my free time writing up this program.” I looked
around a little anxiously. “I hope it works all right. I haven’t tested it.”
My daughter jerked and struck out with a fist as if to say get on with
it. Precious time was ticking away. I smiled at her and sat down beside Cait.
“Isn’t she beautiful, Cait. If the Britac hadn’t attacked us, this is
what we would’ve seen five months from now. All except the eyes, of course,
somehow they came out more hazel than green. I’m not sure why.”
Cait just sat there and stared at the infant. For a second, I thought
that I had miscalculated her response and screwed up again, but after some
hesitation, her finger rubbed a chubby cheek.
“You were right, Tom. She would have been lovely.”
“Do you want to hold her?”
“I-I don’t know. She’s not real. It’s not her.”
“I know. You don’t have to if you don’t want to.” I watched a small
glow spread over Cait’s face as Madeleine seized her finger. She did want to
hold her. “Cait, why don’t you hold her? Just for a minute. I think
Madeleine wants you to.”
“You do?”
“Absolutely.” I replied and passed the baby smoothly into her arms
like it was something we did all the time.
She sat back and stared at the infant, finally hugging it and pressing
her cheek to the tiny forehead. Madeleine cooed softly, and I wrapped my arms
around the both of them, planting a kiss on the side of Cait’s head. This was
how it should have been–just Cait, the baby, and me. The way it was now,
if only for a few illusory minutes.
“When we turn off the program,” I said, gently chucking Madeleine under
the chin. “We will lose her. I thought saving the program might make this
too tempting a refuge for both of us so the computer will erase the program
when we turn it off, but I can change it if you want.”
“No. Don’t change it. We do have to say good-bye. How long do
we have?”
“About ten minutes.”
Cait’s faint smile of joy vanished. “Not much time.”
“No, it isn’t, but infinity didn’t seem long enough either. You’d
better say what you’re going to now.”
“Yes, but what do I say?” A tiny hand grabbed her finger again and the
tearful smile returned. “Oh, Madeleine, I wish I had known you. I wish you
could’ve known me, or at least, more than the inside of me. I wish you could
have seen the stars and met some very good friends on this ship. But most of
all, I wish you had had the chance to know your father. He’s kind and gentle
and so patient and loving. He’s given me so much pleasure during our time
together; more than that, he’s given me you, twice. He would’ve made you a
wonderful father, and I know you would’ve loved him as much as he loves you.”
She kissed our daughter’s cheek. “Good-bye, Madeleine. I miss you. We both
miss you, and we always will.”
“Chatterbox.” I whispered, drawing a finger across my eyes. Cait
smiled up at me through her tears as I cupped a side of the tiny head
in my hand. “Madeleine, your mother left out the part about what a wonderful
mom she would’ve been. I couldn’t have made it this far without her. You
both mean so much to me and always will. Good-bye, angel. I wish I had
gotten to know you.”
The small mouth opened in an ‘o’ while two little fists swept clumsily
across sleepy eyes. Sure, I had programmed her, but she looked and felt so
real, a large part of me didn’t want to believe she wasn’t. It was all
so sedhere with my arm around Cait, watching my daughter yawn
and blow a bubbly raspberry. Every fibre of my being wanted to believe that
she was real, that this room was real, that the grief which waited beyond those
doors was the hologram and not this.
Cait glanced up at me, and I wiped a tear from her cheek with my thumb.
“She is beautiful, Tom. Thank you.”
I swept a loose auburn wave back behind one of her ears. “Just like
her mother.”
She bit her lip and looked back down at the baby, who declared her
growing crankiness with choppy cries that were increasing in volume. “I think
she needs a nap. May I put her down?”
I nodded. “I thought you would want to. We’ll both do it.”
I stood up and helped Cait to her feet and together we walked over
to the crib. Cait hugged and kissed Madeleine. “Good-bye, sweet one.”
I leaned over and kissed the tiny forehead, smoothing the cap of downy
red hair with my fingers. “Good-bye, Madeleine.”
Cait started to bend down and stopped. She rose back up, clutching
Madeleine tightly. “I can’t do this, Tom. I can’t let her go.” The trembling
in her voice spread through her body. “I can’t lose her again.”
“Cait.” My hands rested on her shoulders. “You have to, for her sake
as well as our own. We have to let her rest peacefully in our hearts. It’s
the only gift we can give her now.”
Her eyes darted from me to the baby. “I-” She stopped and drew a deep
breath. “I know.” With a determined effort, she placed Madeleine gently in
the crib.
Our daughter sighed drowsily as I tucked the covers about her. Then,
I straightened up and pulled Cait into my arms. “Are you ready?”
She shook her head. “No, but do it anyway. Please.”
“Computer, end program.”
In a swish, the room vanished and a loud sobbing “No” came from Cait
as she sagged against me. Silently, my own wail joined hers. I wasn’t ready
to say good-bye either. I thought I was, but I was wrong. My own strength
succumbed to the grief, and we melted to the floor, clinging to each other and
crying for the better part of an hour.

Chakotay was right. The pain will never end. Cait and I understand
this now.

Good-bye, Madeleine. Rest well. I-We love you.

**********

—————————————————————————-
“In almost everything you do, you teach, whether you are aware of it or not.
Some people aren’t aware of what they are teaching. They should be wiser.
Everybody teaches all the time.”
–George Lucas
(‘The New Yorker’, Jan. 6, 1997)
—————————————————————————-



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