Disclaimer: see part 1
Two Pages in a Book
3My mind was a blank
sheet on which somebody had just been on
the point of writing a message of happiness.
-- Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
"I have to go to work," Kathryn softly said. She kissed him lightly and handed him a mug. The steam rising from it in delicately swirling tendrils carried the scent of the Quarren equivalent of coffee. Tom carefully sipped at the hot drink.
"This is good."
"I can make a hot drink."
They grinned at each other. Kathryn looked gorgeous, even in her silver-blue work suit. The colour complimented her glacier eyes and the embers in her hair. Kathryn was perched on the edge of the bed and rested her hand on Tom's bare chest. It was his day off, and she envied him, was even a little bit angry because they couldn't share their time.
"I must. But I'll be back as soon as possible." Again she bent to kiss him.
After she had left, Tom almost dozed off again, and in this state between waking and dreaming he saw in his mind's eye Kathryn in the last night. He had woken when she went to get the blankets. Some of the smaller candles had extinguished themselves by then, and as Kathryn blew out the taller and thicker ones the air was heavy with the acrid smell of fire and hot wax. He watched her move around the room in her nakedness without the slightest hint betraying any self-consciousness.
"He wants ... their foreignness intimate like two pages of a closed book." — a line from the classic The English Patient that came to his mind when he saw her like this. Like two pages of a book, intimate and yet separate, linked to each other not only by a spine but more importantly by words and sentences, words that both produced clarity and bent reality, complicated yet simple.
As it was in Tuvok's notebook. Tom got up and went to fetch the book which he had put on the windowsill the night before. It was still sitting there, warmed now by the sunlight pouring in through the window. For a moment he hesitated. It was very tempting just to leave the book be and move on, come up with a surprise for Kathryn. But the impact the book had had on their lives was too huge already.
He picked up his clothes, and after taking a shower put them back on again. He sat with the now lukewarm drink on the sofa, the book on his knees. This time he wanted to go through it more carefully so as not to miss any hint at Tuvok's personality. On the title page he found an autograph by the author, who had personalised the book for a woman named Claudia. Thus it was a very old book. As he thumbed through the book, ignoring Tuvok's additions for the moment, he found several passages in the book underlined and the respective page-number encircled for easy retrieval. He wondered whether this Claudia woman had done this. There was no name in the book that told him of the previous owner.
"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."
The effect of these tiny clumsily written words was even stronger on this morning than they had been in the night before. A news-flash he'd seen a couple of days ago came back to mind. Some one-hundred-and-fifty-odd workers had been hired on one and the same day during a labour shortage. His employee's number was 8579, which was pretty close to Tuvok's. The obvious difference in their appearance was insignificant considering the fact that they must share a cultural background: Tuvok was proficient in English.
And last night Tom had taken Kathryn to Voyager's Arboretum. Did starships have arboreta? He wouldn't know, space-travel made him sick. So how could he have come to Quarra by starship unless he usually travelled in a stasis chamber?
"On the pretext of treating us for Dysphoria syndrome, a Dr Kadan of Division 6 at the local hospital has erased our original memory patterns so the crew of Voyager embrace Quarra as their new home. I know this because I have skipped one of his so-called inoculations for obscure reasons. Now I work for the Quarren, pretending to be employee 8583, hoping that help will be on its way soon. Commander Chakotay, Ensign Harry Kim and Neelix were on an away-mission when the crew of Voyager was abducted."
That was certainly a good story, a story Tom probably would have enjoyed a lot if it hadn't been for the fact that Tuvok was trying to force a completely different life on him. It was obvious that Tuvok was seriously ill, he even pointed it out himself in his writing. Tom had never heard of the Dysphoria syndrome before, nor could her remember ever being treated for it. He would know if that had been the case, wouldn't he?
"I'm sorry but that's all I can tell you," B'Elanna said when Amal Kotay had caught up with her. She refused to meet his eyes, instead studied her rounded stomach. She placed her hand protectively on it. "I shouldn't have told you in the first place."
"We are friends, B'Elanna, even if you don't remember us. You don't remember us, do you?" There was a gentleness and sadness in Kotay's voice that made her look up. His impressive brow made him look fiercer than he was -- she knew the effect of her own ridges only too well.
"No." She was still defiant. People could deceive you, even with eyes like his.
"Is everything all right?" A tall blonde woman had joined them. Her eyes were like steel, her left one accentuated by a crescent shaped, shiny implant instead of an arced eyebrow.
B'Elanna exchanged grateful glances with her. "I believe so. It was a misunderstanding."
The woman nodded curtly, yet fixed a stern gaze on the stranger. B'Elanna turned around and left, her pace quickening as much as her condition allowed. "Employee 9363, isn't it?"
Chakotay tore his eyes from B'Elanna. He had just missed a good opportunity to learn more about their crew's fate. "Pardon?" Seven didn't seem to recognise him either.
"Employee 9363, Amal Kotay," she repeated, her voice betraying her annoyance at the slow communication. "I have found a station for you and employee 9364, Mr Neelix."
"That's great. Thanks," was all he managed.
"Well," Seven crossed her arms behind her back in her perfectly familiar manner, "I suggest you report to your station unless you have to have breakfast first."
Tom went to pick Kathryn up so they could at least have lunch together. It was incredible how all of a sudden he seemed incapable of keeping himself occupied. Every other thought was Kathryn and what they could do together once her shift was over. Especially now that Tuvok's writings had proven themselves illogical there was nothing in particular he wanted to do. Usually, on his days off, he would just hang out at his place and read, or run some errands. Today he couldn't concentrate on his book, and his fridge was crammed with food. He had planned on making dinner tonight, but he wouldn't have to start until later that afternoon.
Of course he was early. How he hated this feeling of not knowing what to do. So instead of taking a transport to the power plant he walked along the river and checked out the narrow strip of garden that ran along both sides of the embankment. Brought up in a rural area back on Earth, Tom had a hard time getting used to the grey, concrete-and-steel dominated environment of Quarra.
When the employees eventually left for lunch, he noticed two men gazing at him. Tom looked around to see if maybe their gaze was directed at someone else, but he was the only person on this side of the road. Before he could decide on what to do, Kathryn had spotted him and hurried to meet him. She flew into his arms and kissed him as though she hadn't seen him in ages. Tom hated himself for returning the kiss only half-heartedly. He looked at the two men, whom Tuvok had joined in the meantime. The tall, dark one looked as if he'd seen a ghost.
"Hi love!" Kathryn whispered. Tom tore his eyes away from the strange trio and kissed Kathryn as she deserved it.
"I've missed you."
"I can tell," Kathryn grinned mischievously as she wriggled her hips against him.
"Let's not do this here." Tom suddenly felt uncomfortable. Although the trio were not looking directly at them anymore, he still felt observed.
"What is it?" Kathryn turned in his embrace. It took her only a split second to notice what was going on. "Tuvok."
"Yes, and he's obviously made some friends."
Kathryn, feeling wicked all of a sudden, kissed him again, a fierce, open-mouthed kiss. "Let's go, Tom." She grabbed his hand and led him down to the riverbank, without looking back. "Hey, forget about them."
Tom flashed her a smile he didn't mean.
"You haven't found anything about Tuvok, have you?"
"Yes. He's suffering from Dysphoria syndrome."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," Kathryn stepped in front of him. "Let's return the book tonight. I'll get a new one." She gathered him in her arms again. Although the news about Tuvok were less than good, she felt relief surging through her.
Tom didn't pick her up in the evening as he'd done for lunch. Instead, the woman named B'Elanna was waiting for her, which she only realised when the young woman approached her, a padd in hand. Kathryn smiled at her. She seemed more relaxed now than she remembered her to have looked in Umali's tavern.
"Yes. B'Elanna, isn't it?" Kathryn slid her left arm into the sleeve of her coat. It had been pleasantly warm during the day, but the temperature would drop dramatically after sunset.
"Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"If you don't mind walking a little bit. I've promised Tom to get home as soon as possible." Since Kathryn was one to look carefully at people when talking to them she noticed that B'Elanna almost winced at that. "Are you all right?" Kathryn wanted to touch her shoulder to support her. It seemed to early for her going into labour, but you could of course never tell with people coming from other places.
It cost B'Elanna a lot not to flinch away from Kathryn's touch. She knew by now what was going on, Chakotay, Neelix and Tuvok had told her. Her real memories were coming back slowly, but she knew enough to be -- what? They had been brainwashed. So was it really their fault that they had fallen in love?
"I'm all right," B'Elanna eventually managed. "I'd like to ask you a favour."
"Please tell Tom —" She paused. The thought that Kathryn was on her way to his place right now was painful. She had seen the two of them together on the embankment this midday. The situation had been as unambiguous as it could be. "Tell him that I'm grateful for what he's done for me."
"I will, but why don't you tell him yourself? You're coming to the tavern tomorrow, aren't you?"
B'Elanna smiled nervously. "I don't know yet." She turned to leave, but then remembered the padd. "A friend asked me to give this to you. Good night." Then she left, leaving behind a very puzzled Kathryn. She stared after the young woman with the ridged brow. There had been so much pain in her eyes, pain that reminded her of how it felt to lose a lover. Kathryn wondered what had happened to her. She pocketed the padd without looking at it. It was already late, and she had a transport to catch.
"Here. Let me do this for you," Tom offered. Kathryn hadn't noticed him stepping up to her from behind. He took the towel from her and gently rubbed her skin dry. Having finished, he wrapped the towel around her and kissed her shoulder. Her soft skin tasted clean and was very warm after the shower. "Are you hungry?"
"For you or for dinner?"
Tom grinned. "Actually, for both."
"Oh yes," she purred, locked her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply.
Tom had prepared several antipasti for them, which they enjoyed without teasing each other much. Kathryn was almost famished, and her delight at the cold and warm Italian delicatessen was very obvious, so obvious, in fact, that Tom took great pleasure in their meal. It weren't so much the compliments she paid him, but the way she enjoyed the taste and texture of the food. "That was delicious, thank you."
She got up and came to sit in his lap. When she kissed him she tasted faintly of all the different dishes and spices. Mixed with her very own taste, it was an intoxicating combination for Tom. "Tom?" Kathryn whispered in his ear.
"Let me do this for you, okay?" She shifted so she was straddling him. Tom watched her unbutton his shirt, and he gasped for air when she first grazed her perfect, manicured nails over his skin, teasing his nipples erect. Instinctively, he grabbed her waist. He leaned into her palm as she asked him to kiss her again. Having him thus distracted, Kathryn opened the fly of his trousers and was rewarded with a moan as her fingers brushed over him. "Like this?"
"I love it," he breathed. "Let me --" She lifted herself off him so he could rid himself from the garments. When she lowered herself again, she teased him almost viciously. As she reached between them to caress him, the towel came loose and allowed for Tom to return the caresses. He trailed kisses along her collarbone, and when he reached the spot behind her ear he had her breathing in in pleasure. His hands wandered over her back, along the shallow line of her spine. When she rose again, he held on to her, also in preparation for what was to come.
Kathryn forced her eyes to remain open when she felt him sinking into her. His eyes were squeezed shut, and she swallowed all of his voiced passion. "Oh God," she sighed when they were fully joined. She wrapped her arms tightly around him, feeling the electric jolt shudder trough both their bodies as their navels touched. "This is --"
"I love you, Kathryn, I love you," Tom whispered between kisses. "Please make it last." He strengthened his grip around her, felt her shivers as she forced herself to be still. He stroked her hair, tugged some of the front strands behind her ear. "Look at me."
Kathryn did as she was asked, hoping that it would distract her enough from the growing tension in her abdomen, a gentle aching that spread into her legs and rose up her spine. "I love you, too, Tom." She kissed him, and for a second or so it was their tongues making love. "I can't do this any longer." And with the slightest of movements she began the rhythm. Kathryn took her time, just as she had promised, this was for him. She almost didn't allow him to touch her, all she needed was his hands supporting her back.
Finally, he arched himself into her as his release neared, and she kissed the side of his neck as he bent his head back in pleasure, delighted in his long throaty groan that accompanied his orgasm. It didn't matter to her that she hadn't peaked with him now, she knew that he would make it up to her that night. This was for him. She rested against him and listened as his breathing and heartbeat slowly calmed.
Long after that -- they had somehow made it to his bed -- Kathryn was curled around him, her head resting on his stomach, and she enjoyed his fingers in her hair, an absentminded game of his as he was reading to her from a book, as he had promised. Her fingers in turn were preoccupied with the jutting hipbone, which she had admired in the previous night, cupped it in her palm, studied the change of colour in his pale skin that grew less taut as it sloped down into the plain of his stomach and groin.
She loved listening to him. Tom had a way of reading to her, of infusing the stories with life, that made the stories more vivid in her mind's eye. Kathryn could lie like this until the wee hours of the morning, but she was so tired and contented that she soon fell asleep.
B'Elanna sat in their quarters, and stared at the crib that had been placed within easy reach of the bed. The mobile of different spaceships still hadn't stopped moving after she had gently nudged it. The little bed was already made, the sheets neatly tucked in. "Now I know why he was so protective of me," she softly said, averting her gaze from the crib to look at the framed wedding-photo that sat on the bedside-table.
B'Elanna looked at Chakotay askance.
"I'm sure he still is protective of you," he repeated, careful to emphasise the present tense. He could hardly take her pain and anger amiss. There was anger, of that he was sure, but she carefully hid it. He was angry, too. It had hurt him just as much when he had seen Kathryn and Tom kiss in the Quarren city.
"Sure he is," she murmured. "Can you brain-wash feelings? Can you change the love of a man so he loves somebody else?" She stroked her swollen stomach. She did not want to be left alone with the child.
"I don't know." Tom and Kathryn had always been attracted to each other. There was a tension between them, an erotic undercurrent that they had masked very well, but it was there, and Chakotay had sensed it. He hadn't, however, been able to put into words what he had sensed until now.
"I guess he wanted to be with me."
Chakotay looked at her, waited for his friend to go on.
"You know, in Umali's tavern, he wanted to be more than friends with me, but I pushed him away. I can't even remember why. I have no memory of the father in my Quarren life," B'Elanna mused. "Chakotay, am I really that -- bad about men?"
Her friend managed a smile. "It took Tom and you more than six years to get together, Maquis-times not included."
They were silent for a while. "Are you still in love with her, then?"
Chakotay looked up in surprise. He hadn't intended for them to discuss his own love-life. "You know, there's an even stronger erotic undercurrent between the two of you."
"Honestly, I don't know."
"It hurt to see them like that."
"They won't forget about Quarra once they're back. That's what I'm afraid of."
End Part 3