Disclaimer: see part 1
Two Pages in a Book
2We are such stuff
as dreams are made on; and our little life
is rounded with a sleep.
-- William Shakespeare, The Tempest
The smell of burned food had escaped by the time they returned to Kathryn's apartment. The rooms were filled with the uniform odour of recycled air. When Kathryn reached for the light-switch, Tom grabbed her wrist to stop her. He wanted to introduce her to this private game of his. The light filtering in through the windows bathed the living-room in cold, harsh light that admitted the outside world in. It was almost a shock compared to the intimacy they had shared in the arboretum. Tom longed to see Kathryn in the warm golden glow again, how it softened her features and brought out the fiery highlights in her hair.
"Will you be able to read by the light of candles?"
Tom wanted to retort something witty, but his desire to see her without her well-guarded mask made him say: "It depends on how many there are."
A couple of minutes later the room's furniture was outlined by flickering light coming from what looked like a hundred candles. "This is beautiful."
Kathryn fetched two glasses for the cider, which she had put into the refrigerator before they had left the house, and when she returned, Tom had already made himself comfortable on the sofa. Kathryn paused for a second to take in his image by the warm light, and she wished she had a fireplace here just like she'd had back home. The image was added to by her imagination which saw the two of them kissing in front of the fire, their skin glistening gently, set aflame by the fire and each other's bodies.
She shook her head to get rid of her unsettling fantasy.
Kathryn joined him on the sofa and poured them a drink. The deep, rich tinkling of filled glasses drowned the constant hum of the air conditioning for seconds, and Tom watched Kathryn sip and delighted in the way she seemed to enjoy the alien drink. It spread on his tongue with a tingly lightness, refreshing but dangerously intoxicating, tasting only faintly of apples. The taste of spices was predominant.
"This is delicious," Kathryn breathed.
"It is." Tom was overwhelmed by the Antarian Cider himself.
They were silent for a moment. The silence continued even as Kathryn reached for the small parcel that contained her new book. Tom wanted her to leave it alone for that evening, but he knew that her curiosity would not leave her in peace until she had discovered what the book and its story were all about. Naomi had already told her, but, as is so often the case when you buy something new, you have to take possession of it with your mind, examine it and commit its particularities to your memory.
Kathryn carefully unwrapped the book, folding the paper neatly, because it was a luxury to her, even crumpled and worn smooth. What came to light was the copy of The Notebook, but it looked almost twice as fat as it was supposed to be. When Kathryn opened it and leafed through it they discovered that pages had been added and glued in, pages that were covered in a tiny handwriting that looked clumsy first, but the more practice the writer had, the neater it became.
Tom pulled at the book so he could read the words that opened the novel: "Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end?"
Kathryn, in turn, read the annotations: "I am Tuvok of Vulcan, and I am not employee 8583, but a Lt Commander, the Chief of Security of the Federation Starship Voyager. This story will end in my and the crew's release from Quarra, whose authorities keep us here against our will."
"He seems to be pretty sure of this," Tom remarked, but he didn't sound flippant enough to lighten the mood.
"Do you believe him?" Kathryn let the book rest on her knees and looked at him askance, her brow deeply furrowed. Tom, for the first time, chose to evade her eyes. Instead, he gazed at the open book, wondering what else Tuvok had to say in this book within the book. He took it, closed it and put it out of Kathryn's reach. "I honestly don't know, Kathryn, and I am not sure I want to know."
"But, Tom, we have to "
"Kathryn, why would the authorities keep us here against our will? It's not like we're prisoners or something, we can go wherever we want."
"You mean he is making this up, writing a book about you don't think he has some kind of a multiple persona syndrome? Oh Tom, that would be awful, he seems to be so nice."
Tom had to agree to that. Although his jokes were not the best, Tuvok was a welcome patron at the café and a competent worker. Maybe his strange behaviour was really due to an illness. "But why would he address this book to me? Naomi told us that Tuvok wanted me to have it. Why go to so much trouble when chance that another Terran buys this book is so high because no one else can read it?"
"I don't know," Kathryn murmured. "Perhaps it's because of your job. You know so many people and you could easily circulate the book and its ideas."
"To what end?" Tom started to feel frustrated.
"To spread his theory. It's a lot of trouble he goes to, so he must be very serious about it." Kathryn repeated.
"So it either is true or he's so ill that he believes it is," Tom concluded.
She gathered her hands in his. "Look, we cannot do anything to find out right now. I promise I'll talk to the efficiency lady and to Jaffen first thing tomorrow morning. I'm sorry for spoiling the mood."
Tom smiled at her. "That's okay. We'll find out. What would life be without the occasional excitement?"
Kathryn cupped his cheek, then closed the distance and kissed him just like he had kissed her earlier in the street. "That's true."
"Yes," Tom breathed, claiming her lips again, but this time he deepened the kiss. When his mouth opened so did hers and they engaged in something more passionate, something neither of them wanted to end anytime soon. Tom's arms came up around her, and as his fingers snaked into her hair to support her head Kathryn let out a small groan. She, too, encircled his neck and sought closeness to his body, feeling that she didn't want to take this as slow as she'd intended to anymore.
"Lets go upstairs ... it's --"
"-- not as beautifully lit as here," Tom finished for her.
He held on tight to Kathryn and let them slide down gently until they lay on the soft carpet in front of the sofa. There was no coffee table that needed pushing away. Tom grabbed for some of the cushions behind them and tucked them underneath their backs so they were more comfortable.
"Yes?" When he looked at her he fell in love with her all over again. "I'll be good."
"No," Kathryn smiled and shook her head. "I love you."
For a second Tom didn't know what to say. It had been a long time since someone had last said these magic words to him. He had been meaning to be the first to say them this night. "I I love you, too, Kathryn."
"So don't be good."
Tom grinned at her, revealing those cheeky teeth of his.
Then Kathryn realised and gently slapped him. "Just be yourself, will you?"
Again, Tom captured her mouth with his, and held her tight to him, making her feel warm and comfortable against his body. He was very well aware of how precious this was, and he intended not to spoil it, and take his own sweet time. "I," he began when they separated for a moment, "I haven't done this for a while either, so "
This time it was Kathryn who replied with a kiss, and it was her who sought closeness to his body, the muscles of his back deliciously firm beneath her hands but layered with too much clothing. She didn't want to feel his warmth through fabric anymore, she wanted to have his skin touch hers in as many places as possible. So she freed him from his shirt, never giving him any chance to explore her, wanting to taste and smell him first, getting an idea of how he reacted, what he liked.
Kathryn nipped at his collarbone, running her fingers gently through the course hair on his chest, brushing the tiny, hard twin nubs there and delighting in the way he sucked in the air. It seemed as though she couldn't get enough of his clean scent and the surprising softness of his skin. He must be using one of these shower gels that were a body lotion at the same time, and the sheer ridiculousness of that thought made her laugh.
"Nothing," Kathryn murmured as she looked him in the eyes. "You have such beautiful eyes," she said, tracing his eyebrow and the cheekbone with her fingertips while the other hand rested on his chest. His heart was beating very fast. "It's okay, love, ssshhh."
She had come to sit astride him, and there was no way denying his presence against the joint of her legs. Kathryn wriggled her hips a little bit. Tom's eyes fluttered shut at this intimate caress. When he opened them again, Kathryn had pulled her shirt over her head, facing him clad in a white lace bra.
Kathryn touched his cheek. "Tom?"
"I -- God." And with this he captured her mouth again, and kissing her deeply he slipped the straps of her bra down her shoulders. Before Kathryn could turn round, he had caressed his way to her back and was deftly unhooking the bra. She smiled against his lips.
Tom smiled a lot in his sleep, but by now he was relaxed so much that only a faint trace of his lips' happiness was still visible. Returning with her blanket and sheets from the upper level of the apartment which housed her bedroom, Kathryn's gaze lovingly roamed over his body. His skin was pale like hers, but it was peppered with much lighter freckles which the fair hairs on his arms and chest made almost invisible. Tom was lying on his side, one leg bent to support himself, and Kathryn couldn't help touching his flank, cupping the hipbone that jutted only the least bit. She feathered a line from there along his side and up his shoulder and neck, where she affectionately ran her fingers through his hair.
Tom stirred at this, but she kissed him and whispered that he go back to sleep. Somehow, after she had settled herself against him, they managed to tug so long at the sheets until they had themselves covered up. Kathryn lay awake for a few more beats before she could go back to sleep. She had woke because she was cold after the first blissful sleep after their lovemaking. The experience had been one of the most intense in her life, and the memory made her feel something akin to phantom limb pain; although now separate, she could still feel Tom's gentle movements with and within her body, remembered the aching and the rush of love and oblivion as their climax neared. For the moment snuggling up was the closest she could get to him in a physical way, and thus she wrapped his arm around her, and his hand came to rest domed over her breast. Wrapped up in him like this Kathryn soon fell asleep.
"Tom isn't here," Umali the proprietress of the tavern told B'Elanna when she served her a glass of vitamin-rich juice. "It's his day off."
She covered the young woman's hand with hers. "Did everything go all right yesterday?" Tom had introduced B'Elanna to another expecting couple so she didn't feel so alone anymore.
B'Elanna's face lit up at this. "Oh yes. They are really nice people. I wanted to thank Tom for arranging this."
Although the older woman could sympathise with her urge to thank Tom there was nothing she could do about it. She gave her hand a squeeze. "I'll tell him when I see him tomorrow."
"Oh don't, I'd rather I told him myself," B'Elanna said in refusal. "But that's very nice of you, thanks."
Umali smiled at her, then left to attend to other customers. They had just entered the tavern, and, as first-timers often did, gave themselves away by remaining halfway out the door to have a look around and find their bearings. They were an odd pair: a tall, darkly-handsome man with an interesting brow and a smaller, heavyset man with a kind, funnily mottled face and orange whiskers.
"Welcome," Umali went towards them. "Can I help you?"
The tall man nodded, and the two of them followed her towards the bar where she gestured for them to have a seat. They still looked around curiously, their eyes perusing the patrons as if they were
"Looking for familiar faces?" Umali couldn't help herself. Usually, she was a very discreet woman, never staying with any of her customers longer than necessary. This made her look not quite the hospitable one, but it turned out useful for each and each of her patrons was well-catered for. Besides, it was in Tom's job description to socialise with the guests as far as necessary.
"We're new in this part of the city and we thought we might find a couple of old friends of ours," Chakotay replied. His gaze briefly followed Neelix', and was relieved to see that at least they had found B'Elanna.
"Any luck so far?" Umali asked as she put two glasses on the bar.
"I think so."
Her gaze followed Chakotay's. It was beyond her to jump to conclusions about the kind of their friendship, it wasn't for her to judge. "That's good to hear. Please enjoy yourselves. This one's on the house." Then she left to wait upon a party of seven in the back of the room.
Chakotay raised his hand to his mouth and spoke into the communicator the Doctor had hidden under the skin of his palm. "Chakotay to Kim. We've found B'Elanna. She seems to be all right." In his ear-peace he heard Kim confirming the message.
"I'll go and talk to her," Chakotay decided.
"Good morning, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna jumped a little. "Yes?"
"Do I know you?"
"Actually," Chakotay reacted quickly, "no. My friends call me Chakotay, my name is Amal Kotay. And this is Neelix." B'Elanna followed his gaze, but she didn't know the man at the bar either. Her defensive mask went up as soon as she had recovered from her surprise.
"Then how do you know my name, Amal Kotay?" She deliberately used his full name.
Chakotay decided to be a little daring. "Tom told me."
"You don't look like you're going to be parents."
He blinked. "Excuse me?"
B'Elanna, who had just tried to cover her growing irritation at the stranger with humour, was as confused as Chakotay. "Never mind, I'm sorry." She looked at him expectantly.
"So," he began. He didn't really know what to say. It was obvious that B'Elanna didn't know him, and the only logical assumption was that her memory had been tampered with. Chakotay was shocked. If that was the case, the memories would be altered in a way so they didn't remember any of their past lives. The objective was clear: stop them from leaving Quarra. "I we are looking for a couple of friends here, hoping we can work together."
"You don't have their address?" B'Elanna grew suspicious again. This Amal Kotay seemed a decent guy, but what with her recent biography she was very cautious. Letting Tom help her had been a crucial experience, but she still chose to be careful.
"No. Are there any people from Earth working with you?"
"I don't know, we don't really fraternise during work."
Chakotay knew B'Elanna well enough to know that she preferred to stay on her own. This wasn't going to lead him anywhere. "Well, thanks anyway. Sorry for bothering you."
B'Elanna nodded and went back to reading her report. From the corners of her eyes she noticed his leaving. Only when he had joined his companion at the bar, did she allow herself an inward sigh of relief. This guy had really been obtrusive, but he had pursued his point with so much vigour that he had left her unsettled; even if he had only asked her if she knew any Earth workers. What a strange question to ask, for he obviously wasn't from Earth. The forehead wasn't Terran at all.
She continued reading her report with her attention undivided until the arrival of another customer raised her from her calm. She hadn't noticed the tall dark man with the pointed ears arrive. She had seen him a couple of times in here, and had failed to laugh at his attempts to be witty. His name as far as she could remember was Tuvok, and he looked Terran enough if it hadn't been for his ears. She could have told Kotay his name, but she hadn't; why, she didn't know.
"Commander Chakotay? Neelix?"
She raised her head as Tuvok addressed the stranger like this. Commander and the amicable addressing of 'Chakotay' didn't go together very well for her taste. Usually, B'Elanna wasn't one to overhear other people's conversations, but this time she couldn't help herself, probably because of Kotay.
"Tuvok?" Chakotay suppressed the urge to grab the Vulcan's arm.
"It is good to see you, Commander."
"Indeed. How are you? What happened?"
"I shall tell you later. The Quarren are keeping us here against our will. They have altered our memories so we assume we are here of our own free will. We get weekly so-called inoculations to keep our true memories and identities suppressed."
"Chakotay just told me," Neelix said, looking very compassionate.
B'Elanna shivered. This sounded very much like a serious case of the Dysphoria syndrome or whatever it was called. It was a mental illness that hadn't been discovered until a couple of months ago, so research into this field wasn't very advanced yet. There obviously was a cure for it, but that was all B'Elanna knew about this. A colleague of hers had been treated successfully for it after she had experienced serious problems with her identity. Of all illnesses she knew, those impairing your mental health were the worst.
She rose and joined the three men at the bar. "Samantha Wildman."
Chakotay flashed her a grateful smile.
"She has been treated for Dysphoria syndrome."
"I'm not sure I should be doing this. Excuse me." B'Elanna left without so much as looking back, afraid all of a sudden of what she had done. She had given those three strangers a name, had left Wildman's -- and her own -- fate in their hands. What had she done? What would the consequences be? She hadn't been terrified in her life before, at least not terrified of herself. How could she have done this?
End Part 2