Disclaimer: see part 1
Two Pages in a Book
4Perhaps the gorgeous
world of the book was more than
just fictional; perhaps it was untrue.
-- Sebastian Faulks, Charlotte Gray
"I was wondering if I could have a word with you."
Seven met his gaze with the kind of curiosity adults usually offer when annoyed by a child. Tuvok hadn't known this with Seven, particularly not towards his own person. She was curious and eager to learn about being human again, even if she didn't always understand it. Perhaps it was because he as a Vulcan occasionally had difficulties with understanding, too. He hoped that this was just a side-effect of being employee 8586. "Go ahead."
"Do you remember Annika Hansen?"
She looked puzzled. "Of course I do. I am Annika Hansen."
"What exactly do you recall about the last four years?"
"This is a highly personal question, and I do not see why I should tell you."
"I am a friend. My name is Tuvok. We have known each other for four years."
"A friend," Seven repeated, and it almost sounded amused, amused but incredulous. She consulted her padd. "I see you have been on Quarra for eleven days. And you have missed two of your inoculations. I suggest you report to the infirmary immediately."
Neelix, who was passing by, asked if there was a problem. He touched Seven's elbow to make sure he had her attention.
"No, not at all," she said, and turned to look at the Talaxian for a split second. It was, however, sufficient time for Tuvok to establish a mental link. Through the crucial acupressure-sensitive points in her face Tuvok let memories of Voyager flood into her mind. He did not know if this method of making the memory-suppressant drug ineffective worked, but it was worth a try. Particularly so since Seven's position offered access to all the information they needed.
"Wha --" she screamed in surprise, and as the mental force hit her, her knees buckled. Neelix broke her fall by a firm grip around her waist. Then she passed out.
This time it was Tom who woke Kathryn with a steaming mug. He had also made some warm rolls. A selection of marmalades, jam and honey were also on the tray that he now brought to the bed. Kathryn was on her side, one arm dangling over the edge of the bed, the other hand was curled under her chin. It made her look sheltered yet thoughtful. Tom almost hated to wake her then, because she needed her sleep. But it was already late, and he didn't want to rush things in the morning. Real life would take over soon enough, so why not take advantage of what little time they had.
He caressed her hair, wondering yet again what it was that made it so beautiful, especially when its tendrils decorated the whiteness of the pillows with its filigree work. A lingering kiss on the spot behind her ear made her stir.
"Hi there," he whispered. He rose, picked up the tray and carefully climbed into bed next to her, placing the tray between them. "Breakfast in bed saves us the way back from the table."
Having had time to wake, Kathryn laughed. "You're a little overdressed for the occasion, don't you think?" She said casually and sipped from the hot drink. "Oh, this is good," she sighed.
The door bell rang, so Tom couldn't retort anything. "Forget to tip the room-service?" He blew her a kiss and went to open the door. Kathryn pulled the sheets closer up around her, although she didn't see a reason why an early morning visitor would disturb the privacy of the bedroom.
"Are you Tom Paris?"
She didn't recognise the male voice.
"Yes." That was Tom's voice. "And what can I do for you?"
"I'm Investigator Yerid, sorry to disturb you this early in the morning."
You'd better, Kathryn thought angrily.
"Do you know this woman?" Kathryn visualised Yerid producing a picture on a padd.
"B'Elanna Torres. May I ask what this is all about?"
"She hasn't been to work for two days."
"Well, she's pregnant, I guess that's a fair enough reason --"
"She is missing," Yerid interrupted. "And we were wondering if you could help us." Kathryn froze. So she was probably the last person who had seen B'Elanna. She had completely forgotten to tell Tom about it.
"I'm sorry I can't help you," Tom said. "I had my day off yesterday."
"Maybe I can help," Kathryn offered. She had quickly donned Tom's bathrobe and joined him at the door. Yerid eyed her carefully. "I'm Kathryn Janeway. I met Ms Torres on my way to the transport yesterday. She asked me to give Tom a message. Sorry I forgot to tell you." She linked arms with him.
"Where exactly was that?" Kathryn offered a minute description. "Did she say anything strange?" Yerid asked while jotting down the new information.
"Well, I asked her if she'd come to Umali's today, but she said she didn't know yet. She seemed to be distracted and nervous."
"Do you know where she wanted to go?"
Kathryn shook her head. "No, I'm afraid not." She remembered the padd, but since she didn't know what was on it she didn't want to give it up yet. The investigator would certainly offer them a number to contact him in case they remembered more. Which he did. After that he excused himself.
"I'm really worried about her," Tom murmured. "So, what did she want you to tell me?" Kathryn was grateful that he wasn't angry at her -- or that he didn't show it.
"She wanted to thank you for what you've done for her." They walked back to the bedroom. They sat on the bed again to finish their breakfast.
"I wonder why she didn't tell me personally. She doesn't seem the type." He had finished spreading his roll with jam, and ate it just for the sake of eating. It wasn't as delicious anymore as he'd intended it to be ten minutes earlier. "Did you say she didn't know yet?"
Kathryn, taking a bite off her roll, nodded. "I wonder if she already knew that she wouldn't come."
"She obviously didn't plan on going on maternity leave," Kathryn concluded. "Maybe it's on the padd."
Seven recovered quickly and without causing too much of a stir. Neelix and Tuvok were very well aware of the fact that they had been very lucky in that regard. Yet it remained to be seen if the mind meld had had any effect. They helped Seven up, but didn't give her the padd. Tuvok kept it safe in the pocket of his coat.
"Are you all right?" Neelix asked in concern. He hadn't been too fond of the mind-melding idea but had agreed because there was no other option. It had been the same with B'Elanna, because the Doctor needed time to find out about the drug this Dr Kadan was using. With Seven's help, they might be able to get to Division 6 on a better basis than the status of a patient.
"Yes, I feel a little bit dizzy, but --" she stopped herself short as she realised something. The two very different men looked at her expectantly in their very different ways. "Now I remember. What happened? Where's Voyager?"
"Is there a quiet place where we can talk?"
Kathryn stood in front of the window, and her gaze wandered restlessly out into the city. Their building was surrounded by other residential buildings. They were arrange in a square around the glass dome of an arboretum. The glass was blind with grime and dirt, matching everything else in this city. Even the sky was dull, and the sun's disc hung there, its glare dimmed by smog. It was a dreary place to live and work. Even the embankment gardens conveyed nothing but dreariness.
The padd had captured her imagination. It had given her a life as a starship captain, travelling through the Delta Quadrant to get home, a life as an explorer, a life of constant danger and a life burdened with responsibility. Tom Paris was her pilot. B'Elanna Torres was her Chief Engineer.
The two of them were married and expecting their first baby.
The story sounded incredible, but well made-up and supported by evidence. It explained one or the other strange thing that had happened in the past couple of days. Most of all, it supported Tuvok's story in the book and vice versa. How could she have missed the fact that some one-hundred-fifty people had been employed on the same day during a labour shortage, all of them having sequential personnel numbers?
Tom stepped up from behind her and touched her shoulders. He didn't know whether he should believe what he had read. Kathryn turned and looked at him askance, her blue eyes restless, searching for an answer -- which he couldn't provide.
So he gathered her in his arms, and to his surprise she answered the embrace. She seemed as though she found the story sound enough. He had expected her to turn away from him, a married man and father-to-be.
The first sobs were choking her, she didn't want to give in to her tears. Eventually, she lost the fight just as she had lost this life, abruptly and without compromise. Her body was shaking, and when her knees gave way, Tom gently knelt with his arms still around her. He didn't want to be strong or pretend that this affected him any less, but his tears were silent, and they tickled Kathryn's scalp, comforting her. This was their good-bye, and it was the only decent way.
With the debriefing over and Investigator Yerid taking charge of the conspiracy there was nothing for Voyager to be done on Quarra any longer. The government had had their supplies replenished and the engine overhauled. They had been grateful if not glad that Dr Kadan's wheelings and dealings had been discovered. It was of course a serious problem for their already precarious economic situation to lose many good workers who had been manipulated. Additionally, many executives who were involved in the scheme had to be replaced -- which had Jaffen, who was a native of Quarra, promoted.
So Voyager resumed her course, taking good care to evade the booby traps that had started the whole story. She passed a couple of sapper ships that cleaned Quarren space of the hidden mines. Voyager had hit one of the mines, and they had had to evacuate the ship. The escape pods had then come across Quarra, where Dr Kadan had been as kind as to help them -- and treat them for Dysphoria syndrome, which was a made-up mental illness, a pretext for manipulating their memories.
The only difference to the Hirogen neural interfaces was that their memory centres hadn't been completely circumvented so they retained part of their identity -- and the memories of their Quarren lives, of course. Nobody of the crew had any memories of what had happened to them on the holodecks, but everybody remembered Quarra.
"Hi honey, I'm home!"
His apprehension hidden behind his usual mask of sang-froid, Tom entered their quarters. Lights were down to thirty percent, as always when nobody was home. He called for lights and found the place as he had left it, and the first thing he looked at was the bit of the crib that could be seen through the door. Then he saw B'Elanna coming out of the bathroom.
His apprehension forgotten, he crossed the space between them and flew into her arms. He was so relieved that she was all right. When B'Elanna returned the embrace he grew suspicious. Her calm was either that before a storm, or hormones.
"How are the two of you?" He felt her stomach. The baby seemed to be asleep, because she usually kicked a lot.
"Why would you care!?" B'Elanna spat and tore away from him. Storm, Tom thought. "So, is she good?" Tom was speechless for once. But B'Elanna wasn't finished. "Oh I know. I'm too fat and too ugly."
"Please don't do this!"
"Why? Because you've always had difficulties facing the truth?"
"Ouch." That had been worse than a slap.
"Just go. Leave. Please."
B'Elanna seemed calmer now, and he knew her well enough to do as she said.
She sat on the bed after the doors had hissed shut behind him. She rested a hand on her stomach, hoping that her baby hadn't woken. Her eyes inadvertently locked on the mobile hovering above the crib. Tom had put it there, and he had built the tiny ships himself, already convinced that their daughter would share her parents' interest in piloting and engineering. But that had been before Quarra.
"What have I done?" She could not be sure if Tom really loved Janeway. Maybe it was just a carnal attraction between them, just like Chakotay had said. People did have sex just because. Maybe it was all her own fault and she wasn't attractive to Tom anymore now that she was pregnant. But what if he really loved Janeway?
Kathryn stood in front of the window, and her gaze wandered restlessly out into space. They had by now reached the outer reaches of Quarren space. She had ordered the Bridge to inform the sapper ships of all mines they encountered, just to make sure that none was missed. Kathryn had not yet donned her uniform again, instead she was wearing comfortable clothes. The events of the past day had come thick and fast, and they had left her in a state of confusion.
Realisation of who they really were had struck quickly, too quickly. She had hardly had time to analyse her feelings for Tom, and just when she had begun not to question her feelings for him any longer, everything lay shattered. They had tried to deny the impossible story, and she knew neither of them had been honest about their findings. She had put it off rather than reasoned, and Tom had chosen not to tell her about the news he had seen on Quarren TV.
This had left her unsettled because she did not know about the nature of their relationship. Now it turned out that Tom was married and an expecting father. The worst was that B'Elanna knew about their affair. It all came back to Kathryn now, the pained expression on B'Elanna's face on the way to the transport, and her gazes at Umali's. She felt ashamed of herself. It hadn't been her fault and yet it had.
She had to talk to B'Elanna. Unless this thing remained unresolved between them she knew she would be unable to cope with this. And she guessed that B'Elanna felt the same way.
The worst of this was her selfishness. Kathryn had been happy on Quarra, happy with Tom. Hers had been a life of routine, with little responsibilities but the certainty of a loving relationship. Back on Voyager life was one of constant danger and challenges, the responsibility of having to look after some one-hundred-fifty people, three of whom were very young yet. This was not so bad, because she had done it before. The worst was her loneliness. Now she had no one to turn to as a lover, all she had was her friends. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate or love them, but having a lover was entirely different. Romantic love kept you strong as well as weakened you, but to a degree that friendship -- no matter how intense -- could not match.
Kathryn turned briskly away from her reflection among the stars and squared her shoulders. She had to go and talk to B'Elanna now.
When B'Elanna opened the door to her, Kathryn's shoulders were still squared. She had brought the padd, a couple of books and a bottle of what looked like wine. She was the last person B'Elanna had expected to turn up at her doorstep, next to Tom, of course.
"If you're looking for Tom --" B'Elanna's voice trailed off. She didn't know how to put this. She hadn't really thrown him out, she had just asked him to leave her alone.
"Actually, it's you I've come to see."
"Oh." B'Elanna wasn't sure if she wanted to talk to Janeway right now, but then she wasn't sure if she ever wanted to talk with her about what had happened. So she might as well do it now. "Come in." She stepped aside to let her in.
Kathryn looked around. She had never been to Tom and B'Elanna's before. She was impressed by how the couple had managed to use the space as efficiently as possible, particularly with the baby coming. They had put two quarters together, but still it was confined. Kathryn, however, didn't miss the very personal and comfy atmosphere in the living-room. It was more comfortable than her own quarters, which sometimes seemed too spacious for just one person to live in. Also, her place was not as warm as the Paris-Torres home, simply because she didn't spend as much time in her quarters as they did.
"Thanks." B'Elanna crossed her arms over her stomach, looking at Kathryn expectantly.
"How's the little one?" Even to Kathryn, the conversation seemed strained. She didn't talk to B'Elanna about private matters often, however well they got on in Engineering.
"B'Elanna, I have to talk to you. About what happened back on Quarra."
The half-Human woman shifted the weight of her body to the other foot. Had she looked that petulant all the time? Kathryn asked herself. "May I take a seat?"
"Suit yourself." B'Elanna, however, seemed glad to sit. She looked tired.
"If you're too tired I'll come by tomorrow," Kathryn offered.
"No. We need to talk about this now."
"Where can I get two glasses and a corkscrew for this?" Kathryn stood, determined to do anything to alleviate the tension in the room. Soon the two of them sat with a glass of wine in front of them. B'Elanna had already relaxed a little bit by then, as she always would when given enough time to calm down. Kathryn knew that and had taken advantage of it.
"B'Elanna, I love Tom." She had decided to approach this directly. "But it's very different from your love. I know that and I'd be a fool if I thought otherwise. There has always been an attraction between the two of us. Back on Quarra, with our memories wiped and not knowing any better, we acted on that."
"But you still love him?"
Kathryn sighed. "Just like you love Chakotay."
B'Elanna blushed a deep crimson. Hastily, she grabbed her glass and took a swig. Janeway had -- wittingly or unwittingly -- touched upon a sore point. There had been a time when B'Elanna had felt a lot for Chakotay, but Chakotay had been too much of a gentleman. "Does he feel the same way for you?"
"I don't know." Kathryn knew better than to advise her to ask him herself. With Tom off duty but not in she could tell that they'd had a fight. "B'Elanna, I don't want to destroy your relationship. I can't get romantically involved with anyone on this ship, I can just love enough to let go of the person in question and be friends with them."
They were silent for a while. B'Elanna didn't quite trust her ears. This sounded so sad on the one hand, because it had never occurred to her before that this was the reason why Janeway held everybody at arm's length. If she thought that being in love impaired her judgement, she was utterly wrong -- being friends as they were was hard enough already, it was only a small step further. But B'Elanna saw that love was very distracting -- but wasn't this very human, so very charming as long as it didn't get anyone into serious danger? On the other hand B'Elanna got angry at this. "I can just love enough to let go." This had such a condescending ring to it, particularly now. Who did she think she was?
"I just --"
"No. Captain," B'Elanna interrupted her.
"B'Elanna, I'm not here as your captain, but as your friend."
"A friend I can't trust anymore. Just as I can't trust my husband," she said, looking anywhere but at Kathryn, whose heart sank at these words. "I accept your apology, because I know what happened to us. But Tom and you are very passionate lovers, and I just can't trust you enough to end the affair like this." She snapped her fingers.
"But you trust us with your life and vice versa." Kathryn finished off her wine. She understood B'Elanna only too well. "This is the padd you gave me on Quarra, and these books are Tom and yours." Then she got up and left.
The books and trees on Quarra had been a mystery for the crew. When they had abandoned ship they had been lucky enough to make their way to the escape pods and bring rations and additional survival equipment. No one had even thought of bringing books, let alone trees and other plants from Kes' arboretum and hydroponics bay. Yet books and flora from Voyager had found their way to Quarra, although they had never been removed from the ship.
It turned out that with the initial scanning of the ship, notes about arts and literature and flora had been taken so the items could be duplicated for the abducted. Dr Kadan had been prudent enough to think of bringing them to his planet so the Quarren life of the Voyager crew seemed more natural. He had also thought of copying the memorabilia and other things they kept in their quarters, but his fellow conspirators had been able to provide only so many resources. So they settled for the books and a download of art and music from their database.
The download had of course not gone unnoticed, but getting the crew back had been the Commander's first priority. With the crew back and the conspiracy uncovered, this mystery had been solved, too, and one of Dr Kadan's assistants had shed light on this by returning the books. They were useless now on Quarra because no one could read them; apart from that, downloads of literature for translations were still available. The trees and other plants remained in Voyager's Arboretum, of course.
Chakotay was on his way back from the mess hall, where Neelix and Naomi took care that the books were returned to their owners. At first, people did not want them back, because they were duplicates and as such not missing from their quarters. But soon they discovered that by recycling them they would get additional replicator rations. Chakotay had reclaimed the duplicates of his books, too, and was on his way to his quarters with a huge stack of them on his arms, the padd with the list of books he owned tucked under his arm. He realised he had better gone and borrowed an antigrav trolley because he would have to go back and get the rest of his books.
He wished he had got the trolley when he ran into another crew member and the books shattered all over the corridor. After the proverbial dust had settled, he noticed it was Janeway into whom he had crashed. She must have been very absentminded because she usually was alert enough to avoid obstacles even when deep in thought.
"Are you all right?" Chakotay asked. He wanted to touch her to make sure.
"Yes. What about you? I'm sorry," Kathryn replied, still sounding distracted. "Here, let me help you." She started to collect the books and put them into a neat pile. Chakotay joined in silently, and he stopped short when he saw Kathryn staring at a book in her hands. It was a copy of The Notebook.
"This is the book that started it," Kathryn explained without looking up. She had always had a kind of sixth sense that alerted her when someone was looking at her. "Tuvok used it as a diary so we remembered Voyager." When she looked at him, Chakotay saw an almost unprecedented sadness in her eyes. It cut him to the quick when he remembered their return from New Earth. This was the same kind of sadness. He didn't know what to say.
"B'Elanna doesn't trust either Tom or me. And I can't blame her." She mused. Obviously, she was completely oblivious of the fact that they were in a very public place to discuss this. Again a pang surged through him, but it was a pang of compassion rather than jealousy. The affair must have meant so much to her.
"Kathryn," he said softly. This time he touched her gently at the shoulder. "Why don't we talk about this in my quarters?"
"You're not angry?"
"Come on." He helped her up, not really wanting to answer her question.
"Do you trust me, Chakotay?" Kathryn had sought comfort in the view while Chakotay was getting them something to drink, and as he handed her a mug of steaming coffee, she turned and asked him.
"You know I do, even if I don't always agree with you."
"I don't want to destroy Tom and B'Elanna's marriage."
"B'Elanna is afraid. And you know it's hard to forget about loving someone."
"But sometimes you have to love in order to let go of someone. That's the kind of love I have for Tom -- it's the kind of love B'Elanna has had for you."
Chakotay smiled. He knew that Kathryn was telling the truth, and that he could absolutely trust her in this matter. But it wasn't him she needed to make trust her. It was B'Elanna. Before he replied, he carefully sipped at his tea. "Have you ever forgotten to love somebody? Like in the book?" He reached behind him and grabbed The Notebook.
Kathryn knew he was talking about the two of them. "I am sorry for what happened on Quarra, Chakotay. But we didn't know any better, and it's hard to remember a budding love for someone you've never met." She met his eyes. "Please give me some time to let go of Tom. If --"
"No, that's okay, Kathryn," Chakotay smiled at her. The whole talk had been about them rather than Kathryn's affair. It had been painful for him to see her in Paris' arms, but as it was it was a catalyst for Kathryn. She didn't want to be alone anymore.
Again, Chakotay interrupted her. "Don't, Kathryn." He suppressed the urge to kiss her. A hug wouldn't hurt, though, and so he gathered her in his arms so she lost even her last doubt about this. It felt good to hold her like this again after all those years. Kathryn returned the embrace gratefully. She didn't how much time she would need to let go of Tom.
"Keep The Notebook. I happen to have a spare copy."
A couple of days later Quarren space lay far behind them. Two columns of books sat in front of Kathryn's desk in her quarters. The columns got shorter and shorter as Kathryn threw them into the recycler, until all of the duplicate copies were gone. Those were the books she hadn't been able to trade with the crew. This, had been Tom's idea. Everyone who had been willing to trade their spare copies was welcome to do so. So, several new books were piled up under a viewport in her quarters, waiting to be read.
The door chimed.
"Here are the books I promised you." He offered her four books of different sizes. Kathryn accepted the volumes and bade him enter. She didn't want to do this in half-public, and they needed to talk. She swallowed hard as she skimmed the titles: Wuthering Heights, The English Patient and the two books she borrowed from him on Quarra. She put them on top of the book Chakotay had given her.
"Jaffen gave me a ten year's supply of the leaves and kernels that make Quarren coffee. Would you like some?" she offered, forcing humour into the situation. It didn't work.
"Kathryn, I find it hard to forget what happened," Tom answered instead. Kathryn put the books on her desk with a sigh. When she turned back at him, he was standing close to her. Too close.
"Tom, I don't want you and B'Elanna divorced, and I certainly don't want to deceive her. She's my friend and I couldn't face her anymore if I did." She grabbed his upper arms to literally hold him at arm's length.
"I just came to say good-bye, Kathryn, and that you're not alone with this," Tom offered. "But I do love her."
"Yes, you do." Tears were welling up in her eyes, despite herself. "Thanks for the books." "Hey," he gathered her in his arms. "Remember what Ondaatje wrote about people being like two pages in a book?" He waited for to nod. "There are always two other pages next to them to which they're linked. I love you, too, but B'Elanna is special."
"She is," Kathryn pulled away. She had had time to gather herself. Why was this hurting so much? "Well, thanks again."
Tom stood, hesitating. Then, suddenly, acting on impulse, he bent and kissed her cheek. "Chakotay is next to your page."
"I find it hard to forget what happened," she echoed his very words. Kathryn was glad he left so quickly. The lump in her throat had become unbearably painful, and she feared she would suffocate if she couldn't release it soon. It was the last chance for her to release these feelings before she would have to channel her loneliness into the power that ran Captain Janeway and the ship.