Vis A Vis Alternative Ending - - The Sequel
SUMMARY: After the events of the first alternative ending to Vis a Vis, Tom describes what it's like to be unwillingly pregnant.
DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns 'em. The story is mine. Copyright 1998.
WARNING: R is for language and adult situation of an unwanted pregnancy. Lots of Tom angst. Comfort from Chakotay.
Comments are welcome! firstname.lastname@example.org.
ARCHIVE: Just ask. Please leave all disclaimers and warnings intact.
Okay, so I passed out when I heard the doctor tell me I was pregnant. I mean, technically, in this day and age, a guy could carry a fetus, but not *this* guy. And not only that, I didn't remember doing anything that would have had this kind of result. Pregnant! Shouldn't I have some fond memory of the process?
As I did my passing out dive off the biobed toward the floor, they told me later that Chakotay had caught me. Otherwise, I would have had a concussion to go along with my queasy stomach. It'd been scary, puking my guts out every morning for days. I'd just passed it off as some kind of readjustment to getting my body back, first from that alien Steth, and then from the Captain. Yeah. The Captain had been in my body. That was beyond embarrassing.
I came to with the sting of a hypospray against my neck and the noises of a lot of people shouting at the same time. The holodoc was peering into my face while ignoring the others in the background.
"Lt. Paris, you're awake. Welcome back."
"It's not true," I whispered to him desperately.
Actual compassion appeared on his face. "I'm afraid it is."
"No," I told him. "No!"
"Easy, Lt. I know you've had a shock --."
"-- Shock? I've just had my whole life turned upside down! That's . . . "
Before I could finish my thought, the Captain and Chakotay and B'Elanna . . . oh, gods, B'Elanna was still there. . . circled around the biobed. I felt like some exotic specimen under the doc's microscope. Maybe I came across a bit belligerent, but, after all, the circumstances were upsetting. "What are you all staring at?!"
The Captain spoke first. "Tom. I'm so sorry."
"So am I," I gritted out before I thought about who I was speaking to. Chakotay gave me a nasty frown. "Sorry," I apologized.
"No need for apologies, Tom," she reassured me.
I looked to the doctor for answers. "How?"
"That's what we've been discussing," he informed me and glanced around at the others.
For the first time, I really looked at my superior offices and at the woman I loved. Well, write off the woman I loved. She looked so pissed I thought she was going to haul me off the biobed and perform a beheading without benefit of anesthesia. Then, for good measure, she'd throw me into the warp core. And Janeway and Chakotay . . . I was baffled by their expressions. I could have sworn I saw guilty looks exchanged between them. Had they . . . ? My body finished that thought for me as I began to gag. Gods, no!
The doc must have hyposprayed me before I had a chance to damage myself or them. Next thing I knew, I woke up in my own bed, the room lights dimmed to near minimum. It was quiet and I thought maybe the nightmare had passed. But the nauseous feeling in my stomach hadn't gone away. In fact, an upward expulsion of whatever might be left of earlier meals threatened momentarily.
"Need some help?" It was Harry, speaking softly and gently from across the room. "Computer. Increase illumination by 50%. Hi, Tom."
"Harry?" He'd been resting on my couch and now came over toward me. "I guess I don't need to ask you if you've heard."
"I'm sorry, Tom." That seemed to be everyone's favorite line. He looked about as awkward as a guy could who'd learned his best male friend was pregnant.
I managed to sit up without increasing the nausea. But a trip to the bathroom seemed like a good idea. Hanging about on first one foot and then the other, Harry just watched me lurch over there. He wrung his hands as if wanting to help but clueless about what to do.
Good. The toilet was in its accustomed place and I just cossied up to it and embraced it like a lover. Unfortunately, I didn't treat it like lover when I heaved into it.
Harry came to the door as I was rinsing my mouth. Without a word, he gave me a hand up and a wet cloth for my face. I guess he deemed me clean enough when he put a gentle hand to my back and propelled me toward the couch. "Do you want anything?"
"Let's see, how about my life back?" Harry didn't even twitch a smile at my weak effort as I sat down wearily, clutching the cloth in my hand. "Why are you here?"
"Doc thought someone should stay with you. Be here when you woke up."
Harry replicated some crackers and tea for me and brought them over. "I know you didn't ask for this, but I thought it might help."
Straddling a chair opposite me, he watched while I nibbled a cracker and sipped some tea. "Thanks." I thought about my situation. "Does anyone know how this happened?"
"That bad, huh?"
Oh, great. "So what's the deal?"
"The doctor isolated a pheromone that the alien gave off whenever he entered or left a person. It caused a lot of . . . a lot of . . . well, sex to happen."
I shuddered. "This wasn't an immaculate conception?"
Harry laughed and I joined in. "No, Tom. Even you can't make that one fly. But . . . when . . . you'll, uh, have to talk to B'Elanna about her experience with you when you were occupied by Steth."
"I could do that." I wasn't sure if I would survive the experience, but I could try. "Was that how . . . ?"
"No. Look, Tom, the Captain wants to explain it to you."
"Oh, gods. So it happened while the Captain was in my body?"
He squirmed and I could tell that my earlier suspicions about her and Chakotay were correct.
"Let her talk to you. Would that be okay, Tom?"
"I know you're angry," *no kidding* "but remember there were pheromones involved. She didn't plan for this to happen."
"I just don't understand, Harry, I mean if she and Chakotay got it on while she was in my body, that shouldn't make me pregnant. Should it?"
His look was something between pity and embarrassment. He mumbled, "The doctor thinks he can explain it."
"Great. And then he can cure it."
"But . . ." Uh-oh, Harry didn't like what I'd just said.
"What?" My hostile tone had its desired effect and he backed off.
"Let me call the Captain."
Okay, so Harry wasn't going to be all that supportive unless I did something really crazy like stay pregnant. I needed more information and it looked as if the Captain was it.
She and Harry briefly conversed and she would be at my quarters in a few minutes. For the first time since I woke up, I paid attention to what I was wearing: shorts and a vomit stained t-shirt. Nope. Not the kind of clothes in which a lieutenant entertained a captain in his quarters. "Harry, I need something to wear."
In this area, Harry proved helpful. He found me a pair of jeans and a clean shirt while I brushed my teeth and showered and shaved. Was it my imagination or was my beard less than usual? Probably my imagination. Pregnancy hormones shouldn't have anything to do with beard growth, should it? Truth was, I hadn't paid much attention to my medical lessons on pregnancy. Voyager hadn't had that many. But now seemed to be a good time to review that material. I was sort of amazed at my ignorance.
The door chimed as I finished buttoning my shirt. Harry let her in. Although he looked as if he wanted to bolt, I asked Harry to stay. The Captain also urged him to stay so the poor guy didn't have much of a choice. We sat around my table and I kept the tea and crackers by my hand. After being offered and declining refreshment, the Captain looked me straight in the eye.
"This is all my fault," she told me.
"With all due respect, wasn't someone else involved?"
She flushed slightly. "Well. Yes. We both were . . . we both . . .that is to say. . ."
"You don't have to draw me a picture," I said, trying to let her off the hook. "I mean, I know you and Chakotay are in a relationship."
"Yes, we . . . " her voice trailed off as she looked at me with a confused expression on her face. "What happened, happened. The doctor says, I . . . that is, your body . . . this is confusing . . . your body was giving off pheromones which affected both myself and Chakotay." She sighed. "It was your body, but I was in it. Except it's more complicated than that. It was my body."
"Huh?" Not my most intelligent question, but I was really not following what she was saying.
"The doctor says that Steth changed the body he was in to look like you as he mimicked your DNA. So, my body took on your form when he took on my form. Although I looked and appeared as you, I was still me. I just didn't look it."
I tried to figure out what she was saying and she was good enough to repeat it for me. It seemed as if she and Chakotay could have what felt like male-male sex, but even though her body looked like mine, it still was really hers, not mine. "So, when you and the Commander . . . " out of respect I didn't say what I was thinking, hell, they fucked. "Um, when that happened, his sperm found an ovulating egg?"
"Yes. Apparently, Steth had the ability to sabotage biological systems at all levels, including contraceptive systems. When the doctor beamed out all the DNA from me that wasn't me and put it in you, he assumed that it was all your DNA. But the fetus, of course, was not completely of my DNA, so it, and its supportive structures were beamed into you."
"So, it's not mine?" I said hopefully about the first somewhat good news I'd heard.
"It's a little more complicated than that, Tom."
"You'd like it back?"
She smiled without warmth. "Nice try, Lt. I don't think a pregnant captain is going to work out while we're in the Delta Quadrant."
A terrible thought hit me. "You said it's more complicated than that. Steth . . . is it . . . Oh, gods, no."
"No, Tom, there's no alien DNA. According to the doctor, it's mine, Chakotay's and . . . " she paused, "yours."
"Mine?" I heard the squeak in my voice. It sounded very far away.
Distantly, I heard Harry say, "Tom, are you all right?"
I ignored Harry. "How?"
She reached across the table to place her hand on my forearm. "My taking on your form meant taking on your ah, sperm producing capabilities. It's got all three of our DNA."
This was really unfair. I shook my head in disbelief and caught a glimpse of Harry. He must have heard it all before me 'cause I didn't see the kind of shock I thought I would see on his face. But he must have seen something when he'd looked at me. "Captain, maybe Tom's heard enough for now."
Harry taking on the Captain? I must look awfully bad.
The Captain nodded, as if she agreed with Harry, and said, "I know, Tom, it's a lot to absorb. I'm so sorry." Yeah, she'd said that before. "Is there anything I can do to help you through this?"
Everybody seemed to think I was going to go through with this pregnancy. "I'm going to ask the doctor to remove it."
She sighed again and looked disappointed, then covered up her reaction. Harry didn't handle my declaration as skillfully, "Tom, don't," he said. "You're upset. Give it time."
I stared at him. "For at least a little while into the foreseeable future, I think this is going to continue to be my body. And I think I can make a decision about what's best for me."
"Of course you can, Tom," the Captain said smoothly. "But promise me you'll take some time to think about it. You've just suffered a huge shock - - emotionally and physically. Make sure you make a decision you won't regret one way or the other."
I backed down a little. No need for truculence in front of the Captain. "I'll see."
She could tell that I'd pretty much made up my mind but she didn't push it. "Okay. If you decide to go through with it, we can talk later about . . . well, about how all of us can help you . . . and . . . and the future." She gave me a little smile. "I have the feeling you could use a few days off."
"Yes, ma'am, but if . . ."
"If you're needed, we'll make do. We seem to be in a quiet area of the Delta Quadrant." She got up to leave and turned back to me at the door. "I hope you'll talk to B'Elanna and the doctor about all this."
"Sure, " I agreed. I'm easy. Didn't my condition show that? An easy fuck, that was our Tom. "What . . . what about Chakotay?"
"He wasn't sure you'd want to talk to him. He didn't want to put any additional stress on you."
Since I wasn't sure I wanted to talk to him, I didn't say anything. I could tell the Captain was ready to leave, but I had another question. I didn't know how to say it, so I just blurted out my fears. "Does everyone on the ship know?"
"Just the senior staff."
Of course, in a few months everyone would know unless I did what I'd threatened to do. "I'd like to keep it that way."
She looked relieved, nodded, and left. I guess she was embarrassed too. It wasn't as if we were advanced lizards procreating on some planet. We were human and . . . and procreating. Shit. "Shit."
Harry gave me that 'Oh, Tom, language' look and I wanted to shock him with even more colorful words but held back. This was the guy who'd stayed with me so I wouldn't have to wake up alone. I should be nice. Instead, I felt like throwing things. I felt as if I could dismember a full Klingon warrior in the midst of an honor match, that is, if I actually had any strength. Unfortunately, all the throwing up I'd done left me barely able to hold up the mug of tea without my hand trembling. At least I was no longer nauseous. "Harry, you can go now."
"Can I get you anything?"
I needed answers from the doc and from the medical data base. "Thanks, Harry, but I'm not an invalid."
"Didn't say you were."
No, he hadn't. "Sorry. Guess I'm a little sensitive here."
There was something growing inside me, less than the size of my fingernail, and it was creating havoc with my well being and with my relationships, and, as I came to realize, with my emotional equilibrium. Without warning, my eyes filled with hot tears, and before I could stop them, sobs wrenched out of me.
Harry moved over and held my head against his shoulder all the while patting my back and soothing me with his words. "It's all right, Tom, it'll be all right. Easy now."
The uncontrolled emotion finally abated and I pulled back, wiping my face and eyes and mumbling apologies. Now I felt downright sheepish.
Harry tried to smooth it over. "Hey, you're going through a lot right now." I gave him a weak grin. Yeah. I'd kind of figured that out. "Tom, you want me to call the doc?"
"If you do, I'll never hear the end of it."
We both grinned at my feeble attempt at humor. Harry suggested that I could probably use some real food. He even offered me replicated food at his expense. I knew I must really seem badly off for him to offer up his replicator rations. In fact, I felt very tired and somewhat chilled. "Harry, I think I need a nap."
"Sure, no problem," Harry said, picking up a PADD as if he meant to stay.
"Harry. It'd be all right if I were alone for awhile. I'm not going to fall out of bed or anything."
He looked concerned, but neither relieved nor hurt, so I guess my words had walked the fine line between need and rejection. He hovered over me as I made my way to bed. With a pat on my shoulder, he left and I lay down and almost instantly fell into a troubled sleep.
In my dreams I was the joke of Voyager, the guy who got pregnant without even knowing it. I heard the voices of the crew calling out my name and laughing. When I reeled awake, I could feel hot tears on my cheeks. Enough of this, I thought. I cleaned up and asked the computer for the location of B'Elanna. "In engineering," came back the predictable reply.
I used my comm badge to contact her, hoping we'd have some time to talk. After the way I'd ignored her for so long and now had sprung an unexpected pregnancy on her, I wasn't surprised when she told me she was too busy just then. She did say she'd meet me in a few hours when she thought she'd be free.
I wandered around my quarters for a bit, trying to figure out why they seemed so strange. Maybe it was just me that had changed since I'd last been here. Some of the restlessness I was experiencing I figured could be blamed on not getting what I wanted when I wanted it. I needed to talk to B'Elanna, had been thwarted in that goal, and now wasn't sure what I would do. 'Grow up, Paris', I told myself.
I sat down by the computer and accessed the medical data base on pregnancy. There was tons of information, diagrams, pictures in three dimensions, and more information than I could process. I started with conception and couldn't quite place what happened to me in the various ways conception could take place. On to hormonal changes in the pregnant mother. Where was the information on the pregnant father? Ah, a few instructions to the computer and I was faced with two paragraphs of text and one diagram, a drawing suitable for curious children. According to the diagram, men who were pregnant had no external genitalia. Nice womb, though.
The paragraphs were not too helpful. Such pregnancies were considered experimental when the computer had received its information. I hit the high points: Consultation with a Federation medical specialist was recommended. Delivery was by Caesarian. Regular infusions of hormones and hormone stimulating drugs were mandatory. Several drugs were mentioned and I asked for information about them. For a long time the computer was silent. Eventually it told me that I could access formulas, side effects, effective dosages, schedules of delivery during the course of pregnancy and a few other items that I needed to learn more about.
I read about the side effects first. Uh-oh. If I thought nausea was bad, there were a few worse symptoms in store: mood swings (yeah, I'd already had one of those when I'd cried on Harry's shoulder; I shuddered to think what would happen if one of those mood swings hit while I was on duty on the bridge); weight gain, edema or fluid retention, high blood pressure, and intestinal upset. And those were just the side effects of the drugs, not the side effects of the pregnancy itself, many of which were similar. One thing was very clear: even when I wasn't on duty in sickbay, I was going to be seeing an awful lot of the doctor.
I didn't know if I actually wanted to know about fetal development. Better to think of it as a fingernail. Okay, I know that sounds really cold, but I just didn't want to personalize it, that would only make things harder in getting rid of it.
At the end of my studies, I stretched, realized I was actually hungry and replicated a sandwich. When I checked the status of my replicator rations I was shocked to discover I had four times as many as I thought I had. Had Steth . . . ? No, it had to be Chakotay. I asked the computer and she confirmed it. Hm-m, he must believe I needed to eat for two, or four, or whatever. Although he'd respected my privacy by not trying to see me, he'd sure been decent about the rations. I enjoyed the sandwich and thought about leaving my quarters to go to sickbay. I had a lot of questions still for the doctor.
The doctor actually seemed pleased to see me, a first as far as I could remember. Must do this pregnancy thing more often. "Doc, I've been doing some research on my . . . um . . . you know."
"Try getting used to it, it's going to be with you for awhile."
"Well, that's one of the things I wanted to talk to you about. Can't we end it?"
He ushered me into his office and we sat in chairs opposite each other. He seemed to prefer staring at me to talking to me.
"What?" I asked.
"The answer to your question is yes, we can terminate the pregnancy."
"Will it hurt?"
"But . . . ?"
"But, let me see. Where to begin. At this stage, it's a simple procedure with few physical side effects."
"You are carrying a unique fetus with the possibility of unique biochemical reactions in your body. Terminating it may provoke unknown biochemical imbalances."
"There may be emotional reactions . . . " he held up a hand to forestall my next question ". . . that you should talk over with those closest to you."
"Okay." Who would that be? Now to be fair, I felt I should ask about the other side of it. "What can I expect if I go through with this?"
He gave me much the same information that the computer had. Funniest thing about that. Where did the holographic doctor obtain his information?
"What about this experimental thing? Men being pregnant."
Yes, it was experimental. Great time to find out I was an experiment. And given the nature of the DNA in the fetus, I was more experimental than usual. According to the doctor, I could expect possibly more exaggerated symptoms than might be usual because my body might be working hard to reject its unknown DNA. The doctor thought he could counteract that with additional immune suppression drugs. He finished up by saying, "Lt., you should know that if you decide to continue with this pregnancy, you might not actually carry it to term."
"I could lose it?" That hadn't occurred to me.
"Yes." His face softened, "There are no guarantees, Tom."
Well, he'd given me a lot to think about and it was almost time to meet B'Elanna. So I left for her quarters, pretty damn troubled by all I was learning. There was a question that I couldn't answer: Had I felt hopeful or sad when the doctor indicated that I might not stay pregnant if I let nature, or whatever the hell this was, take its own course?
So much had changed between B'Elanna and myself since Steth came aboard that I was pretty damn skittish when she told me to enter her cabin.
"Hey," I said and tried to smile. I think it must have looked awfully weak. "How are you?"
She was sitting on her couch, legs drawn up under her, an afghan in real danger of becoming unraveled in her tight fingers. Not good, I thought as she motioned me to the other end of the couch.
As I sat down, I felt as if I was encountering a total stranger. She still hadn't said anything and her expression was as bleak as any I'd seen on her face. "B'Elanna?"
One hand dropped the edge of the abused afghan and made a hold-it-Tom-and-wait motion toward me. I simply couldn't read her so I sat back. But my own inability to sit still for long itched at me like a murderous spider bite and I had to forcefully still the twitching that wanted to begin in my fingers, my legs, anything.
"Tom," she said neutrally. Neutral was good, I told myself. "Tom, I'm sorry this happened to you." Then her voice and expression changed and it was no longer neutral but deadly angry. "And I'm sorry that Steth ever came on this ship!"
She looked fierce and her mouth trembled a little before she clamped her lips tight. I recalled something Harry had said about Steth and B'Elanna. Maybe something more terrible than my own situation had happened. "What . . .? B'Elanna, what happened?"
"Don't you know?"
I shook my head. "When Steth took over my body, my consciousness was in his old body on the way to who knew where. Please tell me? Did he hurt you?"
Her words came out in a hot rush of invective. "That fucking alien pretended he was you. And he acted so *charming* and I never had a clue. I fell for it, Tom, I couldn't tell that the slimy bastard wasn't you."
As quietly as I could, I asked, "What did he do?"
"*We* made love. Can you believe that?" Sure, look what Janeway and Chakotay had done.
"Are you . . . I mean did he make you . . . ?"
"Pregnant?" she spat out. "Thank Kahless, no. But that doesn't mean I don't hate him. He humiliated me! He tricked me so that I would have sex with him!"
Now it was my turn and I meant every word, "I'm so sorry, B'Elanna. I am." I wanted to scoop her into my arms and murmur in her ear and ruffle her hair but her furious look kept me away. I burned with the need to pound Steth into his component molecules for what he'd down to her. "Can I . . . ? What can I do to help you?"
Tears flooded her eyes but she kept her gaze on me. Now her voice had turned into almost a whisper. "Stay out of my way. I don't want to look at you. I can't look at you without remembering how humiliated I was by Steth. And it's not just what he physically did to me."
I couldn't speak for a moment. Had I heard her right? She couldn't look at me because of him? Oh, gods. I must have moaned or something because she almost reached out her hand to me, but then let the hand drop down in favor of that damn afghan. "What?"
Not my most articulate question, but I was virtually speechless. She snarled back at me. "What do you mean 'what'?"
"Um. . . you . . . you don't want to see me anymore?" I guess I choked up pretty good because her face got all blurry and my own face felt kind of wet.
"What part of that don't you understand?"
"I . . . I . . . " I shrugged helplessly. "I love you. I need you."
She ducked her head and mumbled something I didn't hear, then she looked back at me. The emotion in her voice was gone, instead, it sounded cold and lifeless, "I have to have some time, Tom."
"Oh." I was numb. I wasn't sure I still had arms and legs, and if I did, I wasn't sure they were still attached to my body. Somehow I made it to my feet and stumbled over to the door.
Before I could leave, she called my name. Now I saw her anguish and I wanted so much to rush back to her and to take her in my arms. My unwelcome arms. "Tom. It's also about what he did to you, making you pregnant. I look at you and I see that too. . . that he violated both of us. It hurts too much right now to look at you."
I swallowed hard over the tears that filled my throat and fled her quarters. Blindly, I made my way to my own room. Somehow, I didn't want to enter, it seemed as if I would be entering my own coffin. Without going inside, I turned and found my way to the observation lounge. Fortunately, it was deserted.
Why hadn't she told me earlier? We'd had a heart to heart talk about my isolating myself from her, and she hadn't said anything about Steth taking advantage of her. But as I replayed the conversation of a few days earlier, I realized that she hadn't known until she'd said something then about my swinging a golf club in her quarters. I hadn't remembered doing that and said so. At the time, it didn't seem important. Just a misunderstanding. Now I realized why I didn't remember the event. I hadn't been there. Steth had. She must have pieced it together over the next few days. Maybe it was something she could live with then, but finding out that I was pregnant due to Steth must have reminded her, maybe pushed her over the edge. I didn't know, I was trying on thoughts just to see if I could make sense of the nonsensical. It hurt so much I didn't think I could bear it. So I grasped at the tiniest of hopes.
She'd said she needed time. How much time? Oh, gods, I loved her and she was pushing me away just when she needed someone who loved her. And it wasn't as if I didn't deserve the treatment. If only I'd been more willing to tell her that I knew about the letter . . . If only she could see me and not Steth when she looked at me. . . Oh, fuck it all!
My misery party was interrupted by a soft male voice, "Tom."
I knew who it was without taking my eyes off the stars streaming by at warp speed out the view window. "Go away," I said to his reflection in the window.
"B'Elanna told me you could maybe use a friend about now."
Once again, Chakotay spoke softly to me. Begrudging the movement, I turned to look at him. No uniform, just rumpled old pants and a dark shirt. At first I wanted to be left alone and I almost snapped at him, but his whole body exuded warmth and comfort and gods, knew, I could use some of that. His words about needing a friend triggered a flood in me and I began to cry. He gathered me in his arms and held me against his wide shoulders as I tried to explain why I was so upset, "she . . . .she doesn't want. . . she can't . . ."
"I know," he murmured into my hair soothingly, "I know. It's all right, Tom, it's going to be all right."
Nice words but I didn't think so and I cried some more. At the moment it didn't occur to me to be upset that it was Chakotay whose shoulder I was crying on. I didn't care. It felt so good that someone would hold me and try to reassure me when I felt as if my whole world had collapsed. Steady as a redwood, he didn't let go until all that was left were a few sniffles and a bad hair day. He replicated some tissue and a cold, wet cloth and let me use them to clean up.
Gratefully, I held the cloth to my swollen and painful eyes. I moved the coolness of the cloth across my forehead and around to my neck. He simply got me another one when the first one seemed to have outlived its usefulness.
The crying jag over, he disposed of the wet tissues and cloths and sat beside me, close but not touching. "I guess you do need a friend," he said with a rueful grin.
"I need the nearest airlock. You'll finally have your wish. No more Tom Paris to taunt you."
"You don't taunt me, Tom," he replied seriously, taking my hand in his.
This felt really strange. It wasn't as if he was coming on to me, I thought that he operated still in his comforter role. But I couldn't remember receiving comfort from him before, nor could I recall having my hand held by him. I pulled back and he didn't act as if it was any big deal. Okay, I breathed a little easier. He really did just want to comfort me. And I guess he was succeeding. The dark despair that had sent me sobbing into his arms had lifted. But I couldn't define what I felt other than strange and terribly, blackly empty. In emptiness there was no place for despair . . . or love.
"Can you talk about it?" he asked me.
"Which *it*? The thing growing inside me? The fact that my girlfriend can't stand the sight of me? I'm not having a real good day here." My voice sounded clogged, as if I had a bad head cold.
"I know and so much of it is my fault. I was in charge of the ship when Kathryn was in your body. I was responsible for what happened, taking her to my cabin when I was on duty. . . I . . ." he shook his head. "The doctor says it was pheromones. I don't know."
Something about the way he said those last three words caught my attention. "Chakotay?"
I looked into troubled brown eyes, as dark as the emptiness inside my soul. He seemed to struggle with his thoughts, his words. Finally, he flipped his hand as if giving up or giving in to something. "Tom. Do you want the truth?"
"Is it going to make me cry?" I parried, trying to act the smartass since the alternative, victim role, was too painful.
"Depends," he said and a ghost of dimples shimmered briefly as he smiled at me. There was some kind of look in his eyes that seemed to be devouring me, splotchy faced, red eyed, and disheveled all the way around. "Tom. Here's the thing. . . "
With that build-up, he just stopped. For some reason he was having a really hard time with whatever it was he was trying to say. "So. It is going to make me cry."
My faint attempt at humor drew a genuine smile and I took heart. Maybe it would be all right. He placed his arm on the back of the couch, the fingers not quite touching my shoulder. I didn't flinch away but wondered what was going on behind that tattooed head of his. He sighed and spoke again. "I want to take care of you through all of this. . . the baby, everything."
I truly didn't understand. Had I missed more of my life than I'd thought when Steth ruled? "What?"
I guess I sounded incredulous. "Don't laugh," he pleaded. "I'm serious."
"But . . . why?"
"I've talked to Kathryn and we've agreed not to see each other any more . . . romantically. We'll always be friends."
"Let me get this straight: you broke up with her over this? I don't . . . "
"No. She broke up with me."
"Chakotay? What the hell's going on? B'Elanna breaks up with me, the Captain breaks up with you? And how come you're not bawling your eyes out?"
"Who says I haven't? Steth seems to have been a catalyst for a lot of things. The Captain is very good at reading people, me in particular. She sensed something . . . and she confronted me about it. Kathryn was right."
Now I was thoroughly confused. "Right about what?"
"That I want to be there for you."
I didn't see it coming and it just about knocked me out of my seat. My mouth was almost too dry to form words. "I . . . "
"Tom. I'm just saying that you are carrying a baby that is Kathryn's and mine and yours. You didn't ask for this, in fact, if asked, I suspect you would have passed on this particular opportunity." No shit. "I want to be a part of helping you through something that I'm partly, no largely, responsible for. You're the innocent party here and maybe I can help. I need to help."
Once the powers of speech returned, and I had a glass of water in hand thanks to Chakotay, I fell back on old patterns. "I thought you hated me." Might as well get it all out in the open.
He nodded. "Once I did. I haven't hated you for a long time. I've come to admire and respect you."
Nice to know that now. Good gods, what was I going to do with a concerned first officer? "Oh." I remembered something. "Thanks for the extra replicator rations."
"What do you . . . I mean . . . how do you envisage helping me? Replicator credits? Things like that?"
"Whatever you need. The doctor says you're going to go through some pretty severe mood swings. With what just happened with B'Elanna, her not wanting to see you again, I don't want to find you going out of some airlock. And I'm serious about that."
"Okay," I joked, "no airlocks."
"I'll be serious." Hell, if I couldn't joke I might start to cry again. "Chakotay. All of this may not be necessary. I've talked to the doctor about the possibility of terminating this pregnancy."
For a spiritual man, I thought I would get an argument, at the very least a moue of disappointment as I had seen on the Captain's face. But, to his credit, his fingers gripped my shoulder and squeezed in a show of acceptance. "Tom. This is your decision. Whatever you decide you're still going to need someone to be there for you."
I thought about Harry who had balked at my thoughts of termination. Harry was still my best friend but he couldn't, hadn't, shown the same unconditional regard for my well being as Chakotay just had. The Commander's interest for me and my needs reached something inside me that almost broke at the touch of another's concern. I put my hand on top of his as it still kneaded my shoulder. "Thanks. I think I'm gonna cry again."
"As much as you need to, Tom. I'm not going anywhere."
He walked me back to my cabin and it didn't seem so coffin-like anymore. And I didn't feel quite so alone. At the door he asked if I would be all right and I told him that I would and I thanked him again. I didn't know how to say it so that he knew that I meant it, but when I struggled to put the thoughts into words, he just grinned and said, "I know, Tom. I know."
I guess whatever crisis I'd been experiencing went on by and joined the graveyard of other crises I'd faced in my life. The changed dynamics of relationships on Voyager were a source of amazement to me. The Captain and Chakotay acted as if they were good friends, but they no longer flirted with each other. B'Elanna and I avoided each other but no scenes broke out if we shared a turbolift or a shift in the mess hall at the same time. I ached for her loss, but it was entirely out of my control and I knew that I couldn't push her or the only slightly uneasy meetings would become a whole lot more uncomfortable.
Harry made himself useful. In addition to helping B'Elanna by being available for her, he hovered around me. Gods, he was nervous about me and about what decisions I'd make, and just generally all around awkward about the whole thing. The really easy friendship we'd had kind of crumbled under the weight of my situation. But he didn't go away and he didn't try to feel something he didn't, so I could at least rely on him for the kind of unfazed-by-reality cheerfulness that he'd always had. And he kept me up-to-date on how B'Elanna was doing but gave me no cause for hope in that direction.
The Captain would smile encouragingly at me when she saw me and I saw the questions behind her eyes. I wasn't the one she wanted answers from, that fell to Chakotay, who couldn't or wouldn't provide them.
And then there was Chakotay. He made time for me, acted as if he genuinely cared about my well being, and all in this totally nonthreatening way. If he'd come on to me or pushed me or whatever, I'd have bolted. But he was just this steady, unwavering presence in my life. He actually seemed to like me and care about being around me. I came to rely on that presence after shift, during breaks, during whatever free time we had that coincided. He never made me feel bad about myself. Okay, I did feel a little badly about all the times I'd had chip on my shoulder about him, but that was over with now.
No. I didn't terminate the pregnancy. I figured there was always tomorrow if I felt I needed to do it
The fact that I could make that decision was a comfort to me as was Chakotay's support for me. How to explain what I did? For a guy who had rebelled all his life, the fact that I had a choice was reassuring and strengthening. And I realized that, in this case, choice meant just that. I didn't have to do one thing or the other. Maybe terminating it would have been the right decision at some other time in my life or for some other person. But I thought about how unique the being was that I carried; an unseen and unreplicable mixture of myself, Chakotay and the Captain. And I was unique. No other guy on Voyager had carried a baby. Instead of being ashamed, I could feel proud of the sheer balls it took to go through with it.
And then was the reason that was probably not so good. I think for awhile I felt B'Elanna's breakup with me meant that I was unlovable. This baby would love me. Yeah, I know that's nuts. Eventually, with Chakotay's help, I figured that out. This baby was going to require so much from me now and for my entire life that I realized I had to be the one to do the giving, not it. But for awhile, maybe that crazy thinking also kept me from taking that step of making an appointment with the doctor. The fear, the embarrassment, the shock, had a chance to wear off. So, somehow the tomorrow that would necessitate the procedure just didn't happen.
It's been five months and I've felt it kick and my clothes no longer fit. My appearance is now distinctive enough that no one would mistake my pregnancy for being overweight. Of course, on a ship this size, everyone knew about it within a week of the doctor's announcement to me. But I felt okay. The morning sickness lasted about three weeks, the tiredness, where I just needed to nap wherever and whenever it hit me, lasted for a few months more. And there was one awful moment on the bridge when I was flying and the ship didn't respond properly. I kept thinking I was doing something wrong and almost lost it in my frustration. I knew my face was turning red, and tears of helplessness were gathering to assault my dignity. Finally, Harry let me know that the gel packs were at fault. When it was all over, I went to the conference room and bawled my eyes out. Chakotay came in and just held me and rubbed my back.
But, now, in the second trimester (yeah, I'd learned the lingo), I felt renewed energy. The mood swings were still there, the swelling in my ankles got so bad at times I had to leave the bridge and put my feet up in the conference room. Sometimes my back hurt and gods, how my self-image suffered. That sure taught me not to rely on my looks or boyish charm, such as it was. But all in all, I was doing all right.
I was even beginning to refer to it as a baby. A long time had passed since I'd even thought of it as a fingernail. The doctor told us it was a boy and all three of us, Kathryn, Chakotay, and I, held name the baby sessions. Since we had plenty of time, we hadn't really settled on any names. Then came Mulxmulto Three.
Planet three was a beautiful class M globe of blue waters and green and brown continents and fluffy white clouds. A true reminder of Earth. For some reason, it was uninhabited, but the Mulxmultoans on the fourth and fifth planets gave us permission to use it for shore leave. Apparently, it was used similarly by them in its undeveloped state. There were no towns, no settlements, no signs of civilization, just indigenous plants, animals, insects, and the like, along with white sand beaches and towering snow-capped mountains. They told us to leave no sign of our passage on the planet when we left their system and the Captain promised them that we would abide very carefully by their rules.
In order to check things out, Tuvok chose Chakotay and Harry to beam down with a larger security team. From the conn, my eyes pleaded with Chakotay to be allowed to go with them and he spoke softly to the security chief. With a dimpled smile, he motioned for me to join them. I felt like a kid let out of school. I hadn't been off the ship since . . . well, since Steth.
Tuvok said he wanted to check out a seemingly shielded area in the foothills of the eastern mountains on the largest continent. He and the security team beamed down but the doctor hadn't okayed me for a transporter so Chakotay, Harry and I flew down in the shuttle. We rendezvoused with Tuvok's team and fanned out in groups of three, Chakotay heading up the group with me and Harry. None of us expected anything.
I don't know what happened. One minute I was walking through a forest of pine-like trees enjoying the smells of the forest, the sounds of the birds chirping in the limbs above me, and the sightings of small animals. Neither birds nor animals seemed afraid of us. I stopped for a moment to look at a rainbow of a bird with red, blue, yellow, and green colorings. It flew a short way to a branch on the next tree and seemed to look back at me as if wondering why I wasn't following. So, I called to Chakotay and Harry very softly and pointed to the bird. I stepped further into the forest to follow it and everything changed.
I was really lost. I was going to get it when I got home. It was almost dark out. And it was kind of cold.
I looked down at myself, dropping the heavy metal thing that had been in my hand. My clothes were sort of puddled at my feet. I looked around. Good. No one could see that I didn't have any clothes on. Oh, were they going to be mad when I got back. When I moved, my feet came out of my shoes and socks. The ground seemed really close, my feet really small. My hands looked very small too, as I pulled up a shirt and wrapped it around me. It was way too big to put on. It went from my shoulders to my feet. Like a . . . this was so bad . . . like a dress. Boys did not wear dresses.
My father was going to kill me.
I was only five years old and I wanted a grown-up, even my father. Right now. But nobody was there. I did the only thing I could do. I put my thumb in my mouth and I cried.
Not the End .