Vis a Vis Alt. Ending -Three
by Judy

SUMMARY: Following the events of the first two stories in this trilogy "Vis a Vis Alt. Ending" and "Vis a Vis Alt. Ending - Sequel", Tom and Chakotay confront a life where they've lost 25 years! Janeway attempts to bring her crew back with Tuvok the only logical choice to go after them. Angst all around. Some mush. A love story with Tom and Chakotay. 

DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns 'em. The story beyond Vis a Vis is mine. The idea of time portals in Star Trek has a long history from Harlan Ellison's poignant City on the Edge of Forever to a recent DS-9 involving O'Brien's daughter. Here's another view. Thanks go to Jacki for pressing me to explain just how this time portal works. Copyright 1998. 

RATING: R for adult situations and language. No explicit sex but such a relationship between Tom and Chakotay is part of the story. If this description is not for you, please read elsewhere. 

Comments are welcome!


Vis a Vis Alt. Ending - Three 
by Judy 

Chakotay's Log Day 1 

I'm recording this on our only PADD. We went through some kind of time portal. I remember something of my other life on Voyager even though here I'm only eighteen years old. Tommy doesn't remember being a grown-up. Here he's just a little boy. How this all happened, I'm not really sure. Tom was following some multicolored bird and I was right behind him. Thank the spirits Harry did not follow us. I saw Tom disappear and I went after him. After all, I was leading our team and was responsible for him. On the other side of whatever made Tom disappear, I found a little kid wrapped in a huge turtleneck. He had his thumb in his mouth, big blue eyes gazed up at me, and tears spilled out on to his cheeks. 

I stood stock still, feeling as if I was missing something important. After a few moments of this blank confusion, I realized that I was no longer the Chakotay who was first officer on Voyager, instead, I was an eighteen year old wearing a Starfleet uniform many sizes too big for me, one I hadn't earned. But my comm badge was in place and I hit it wondering if it would connect me to Voyager. Of course, it didn't. 

I approached the boy, noting the blond hair, the fine boned features and again, those blue, blue eyes. From the look on his face, I was sure he didn't know me. I was very afraid that I knew who he was. I crouched down to his level and smiled at him. 

"Hi," I said, "My name is Chakotay. What's yours?" 

He couldn't look me in the eyes, instead he stared down at the heap of clothes on the forest floor. "Um. Tommy. I'm five." 

I grinned and tried to think of what I could say to a five year old. "So, Tommy. You look kind of big for a five year old. I thought you were six." 

"I fly shuttles," he told me. 

"No kidding?" I said. I'm not sure I believed him, but it struck me as something a very young Tom Paris would say to someone he had just met. 

"I do." 

"Okay, Tommy. You fly shuttles. Do you know where we are?" 

He shook his head. "That's a funny un'form." 

I looked down at myself, at the loosely hanging top and the sagging pants, weighed down by my tricorder, phaser, and PADD. "Yes, I guess it is." 

The boy nodded solemnly. "My Daddy's in Starfleet." 

"Admiral Paris." The name popped out of nowhere. 

The boy looked at me strangely and corrected me. "Captain Paris." 

"Ah," I said now suitably enlightened. 

"Where's my mommy?" 

"I don't know, Tommy. I wish I did." Although I had emerged from the time portal, or whatever it was, 25 years younger, memories seemed to come to me as I looked at things like my uniform and away team equipment. I thought of the me who had been an adult, a Commander on Voyager. And I remembered her pilot. He was a young man with sandy hair and blue eyes and, spirits help me, I suddenly had the thought that he was six months pregnant. But did this child remember anything? "Tommy. Does the name 'Voyager' mean anything to you?" 

"No," he told me, shaking his head for emphasis. He obviously did not even have to think about it. 

"Kathryn Janeway?" Once again I spoke a name that seemed to jump out at me without my knowing why. But as soon as it did I knew she was Voyager's Captain. 


A series of questions later, I realized he had no memories at all of being a grown-up named Tom Paris. He was five and he remembered his home outside of San Francisco on Earth and his mother and father and his sisters as well as playmates and teachers from his early school. I gave up on the questions, there was no point and he seemed to become distressed by the realization that he was far from home. 

"Can we go home now?" he asked me. 

I turned around to see if I could tell where we had come from and to try to get back. I didn't see anything, but Tommy did. "It's there," he said pointing. 

When I followed his small pointing finger I saw a slight displacement in the air only a few feet from us. I picked up a small branch and threw it toward the displacement. Greatly relieved, I watched it disappear. 

"Wow!" Tommy said. "Let's go." 

I stepped closer to the child and took his hand. At the time I didn't think much about the way he almost seemed to flinch away from me. I thought about picking him up and holding him in my arms since he didn't have shoes on, but then I thought about what would happen when I emerged on the other side carrying what I assumed would be a fully grown, pregnant, Starfleet Lieutenant. I figured the few steps we needed to take to get to the other side wouldn't hurt his bare feet that badly. But when we tried to follow the branch through to our rightful place, I found that the displacement had disappeared. Only normal air existed. I pushed and pushed at the air but no displacement appeared. 

I picked up the boy and carried him as I searched for the entrance back to our world and our lives, but it was gone for good. The area around us consisted of mountain foothills, tree covered with what appeared to be mostly evergreen type trees mixed with some deciduous type trees at the lower altitudes. The height of the forest made the ground underneath generally free of underbrush although it was carpeted with multicolored fallen leaves and needles. A large number of granite type boulders and rocks interrupted the forest and provided lookout points. But as far as I could see there were hills, rocky terrain, and endless trees. As my eyes followed the slope of the hills downward, I hoped to see a river. Perhaps there was one down there but I neither saw it nor heard it. I saw no signs of habitation. We might as well have been on a deserted planet. The sky was overcast with grey, low hanging clouds and the air smelled of rain, perhaps not far away. 

We couldn't look too far afield because I didn't want to leave Tom's clothes and instruments untended and I promised the boy that I wouldn't leave him alone. So far we hadn't encountered any hostile plant or animal life, nor any humanoid life, but I wasn't sure I wanted to be responsible for leaving a little boy alone in an unknown forest. I also harbored some hope that our time portal would reopen and we could go home. I did move our things a few feet into the protection of a large boulder. 

Eventually it grew dark, although it didn't get very cold. Tommy began to cry and when I asked him what was wrong he told me he was really hungry. I tried to tell him it would be okay and that I'd find us something to eat. In our immediate vicinity, I found some berries, checked them with my tricorder and told Tommy we could eat them. The little guy was pretty tired out and just a little cold, his bare legs goose bumped under the turtleneck wrap. 

Time to start a fire, I told myself and gathered some twigs and branches together from our immediate vicinity. Tommy's eyes grew pretty big when I pointed my phaser at the pile and started a fire with a short burst from the phaser. Tommy clapped his hands and grinned with delight. Not bad for an Indian, I thought to myself. Not for the first time, I regretted my adolescent rebellion against the ways of my people. That ancient knowledge would come in handy about now. 

I sorted through the clothes that Tom had worn through the portal. Apart from the turtleneck the child had wrapped around himself, all of his clothes were there as was his tricorder, phaser, and medical regenerator. Good, I thought to myself. As his pregnancy began to show, Tom had taken to wearing a smock over his uniform, much like the one B'Elanna wore in Engineering. B'Elanna Torres, another name jolted from my unconscious. Using Tom's clothes, I made a bed for the boy, intending to use the smock as a blanket. I don't think the child liked being without underwear or shoes but he didn't complain. 

I take it back. He did cry. A lot. "What's wrong?" I asked him stupidly. 

"I want to go home," he cried into my chest as I held him to me. I could almost hear the lilting echo of the adult Tom, the man I thought of somehow as my Tom, in his voice. 

I wanted to go home, too, to Voyager and to my Tom and our developing baby. I felt a little hazy about the details concerning this baby. Regardless, we'd each lost twenty-five years of our lives and, I feared, even if we regained our years, our baby was gone. I felt such a desolate sense of loss at that thought. This child in my arms was not Tom. Even if we stayed here twenty-five years (and actually somehow survived the experience) he would not grow up into my Tom. Nor would I be his Chakotay. Scared for our future, I patted the boy's back and murmured to him. 

The fire felt good, even comforting, but outside of its light, it was as dark as a blacked out Jeffries tube and I yawned, growing sleepy. Snuggled against my chest, as if he could read my thoughts through our close proximity, Tommy seemed to choke a little and told me, "It's not 'kay." 

I hugged him tightly. "I know, little one. I know. But we're going to make it all right. I promise you." 

My promise seemed to quiet him down and he soon fell asleep. I waited until I felt sure I wouldn't wake him up and then lay him down on his makeshift bed, covering him with the smock. After making sure I'd properly banked the fire, and that my phaser was close to hand, I lay down beside him on the ground. He squirmed a little, his little body curling against mine. I placed an arm over him like him a shield and drifted off into an uneasy sleep. 

During the night, I kept awakening, alert to my surroundings, wondering if I'd heard anything that required action. Finding nothing, I'd fall back asleep again only to reawaken shortly. All night long, my mind made mental lists of the things I needed to do. Clothes and shoes for the boy, determining a safe source of water, a supply of nutritious and varied food, a shelter. These lists went revolving around and around in my mind. As an eighteen year old I hadn't yet had Starfleet survival training, but I remembered some of it from *my* own past. If it were just me, I knew I could survive. But what did I know of taking care of a five year old, a five year old who didn't remember ever being 30? 

I prayed during that night, and every night we were there, that Voyager would rescue us soon. 


Captain's Log Day 1 

Harry immediately reported the disappearance of Tom and Chakotay. None of our sensors on Voyager, none of our hails over the comm link, detected the missing men. On the ground, Tuvok reached the ensign as soon as possible and reported much as Harry had: Tom and Chakotay had disappeared into thin air. However, Tuvok didn't express it quite that way and told us he detected traces of tachyon particles in the location where Kim reported the disappearance. We didn't know what to make of this situation. I contacted the Mulxmultoans, hoping that they would have an explanation for the disappearance of my crew. 

Their official, the same one who had given us permission to use the planet for shore leave, expressed surprise at our ignorance. It took a period of frustrating mutual bafflement, but it turned out there were temporal portals winking on and off all over the planet. Didn't we know that? Wasn't that why we wanted shore leave? When I gave the Mulxmultoan the coordinates of Chakotay and Tom's last known location, he consulted a computer and murmured his surprise. 

"But that's only to be used by the elders," he told me with what appeared to be dismay in both his face and voice. 

"What do you mean?" 

"Those who go through that portal lose twenty-five years." 

"They go back in time 25 years?" 

"Yes. They lose 25 years." 

A few more back and forths such as these finally produced the clarifying and terrifying information that they had had 25 years taken off their lives. Chakotay would be only 18, and Tom, poor Tom would be just a baby of five. I shuddered to think what would have happened to Harry had he gone through the portal. He'd have been an infant. I told the official that one of my crew was now only five, but that, as a 30 year old, he'd been pregnant. 

True horror filled the man's features. On his planet, he informed me, men did not become pregnant, on his planet, people under 70 did not go through a '-25' portal as he called it, and on his planet, under no circumstances would a pregnant person be even allowed to step foot on the planet. 

"It would have helped had you acquainted us with the nature of this planet before we sent down an away team." 

"I never thought anyone would ask to go to the planet without knowing these things," he gasped in defense. 

"All right. That's behind us now," I grated out. "How do we get them back?" 

"Well, they have to come out one of the 'plus' portals. Don't you understand that if they returned through the -25 portal they would remain 25 years younger?" 

Oh, dear. "How do they find one of these plus portals?" 

"They know them," he explained as if talking to an idiot, "of course, they have their computer chip with all the portal schedules and coordinates." 

"Your people know them, my people do not." 

"Well, perhaps they'll meet some of our people? But I doubt it," he added with an infuriating reneging. "Our people use the portals but do not linger on the planet." 

"So they should be on the lookout for people who look 45 or over and who will know how to find a plus portal, but who probably aren't there. If they do find anyone, will your people there know how to find a '+25' portal?" 

He frowned. "Most do not go there to find a +25 portal, that's why they went through the -25 portal." 

I almost ground my teeth in frustration. "Could one of your people direct us to a +25 portal through which we could send a signal to our people down there?" 

He truly didn't know. His scientists would get on the problem and let me know. I didn't want him to go away. "Could you give us the coordinates of a +25 portal and we could try it ourselves?" 

"But I think you'd have to send your signal through the -25 portal because that's where your people are." He was confused and so was I. 

I took a moment to think it through. "Suppose I sent someone through the -25 portal with the coordinates for the +25 portal and that person could guide them to that location?" 

"I will have to ask my scientists. I am sorry, Captain. Your people's ways are so different from our own. These portals change location; they're open at particular coordinates for a short period of time, and then they move to other locations." 

"I see," I said although I wasn't sure that I did see. Perhaps it truly did take a computer to thoroughly complicate what should have been a simple situation. However, I suspected that it took a bureaucrat to ensure that there would be no easy solution. In mutual relief we cut communications for the time being. 

I met with the remaining senior staff after Tuvok, Harry, and the away team returned in the shuttle. It was difficult to read Tuvok, but Harry was clearly distraught, as was B'Elanna. Her reaction surprised me a little, she and Tom hadn't been close since Tom became pregnant. He'd spent almost all of his free time with Chakotay, a turn of events that didn't really surprise me, but which I did sometimes find awkward. 

"We can't leave them there!" Harry proclaimed. In disbelief, he repeated some of the information I'd given them, "Tom's only five years old!" 

"We are not leaving them," I stated firmly. "We'll get the information we need and find a way to get it to Chakotay and Tom so they can come out a +25 portal." 

"I believe I am the logical choice to go through one of those -25 portals," Tuvok volunteered. "At my age, 25 years will not unduly change me or render me unsuitable for the task." 

He was right. At something over a hundred years old, Tuvok could regress 25 years and it wouldn't show. Unfortunately, most of the rest of us would be no better off than Tom or Chakotay. And some, here I thought of B'Elanna and Harry and Seven, would be mere infants. I was very pleased by Tuvok's comments. "Thank you, Tuvok, I know you're right. As soon as we get the coordinates and schedule from the Mulxmultoans, we'll send you back down there." 

"Captain, what do we really know about these portals?" B'Elanna asked. "I mean, what assurance do we have these Mulxmultoans count time the same way we do? Or haven't got some additional surprises for us?" 

"Like what?" I asked. 

"They told you these portals open and close and move around. According to Harry, they're virtually invisible. Suppose Tom and Chakotay stepped through some portal, say a + 10 portal. We would never know it, in fact, they might never know it, and Tuvok could search in the -25 area forever and not find them." 

Her point was well taken. "I'll take that up with their official. That certainly lends some urgency to our search." 

"Captain," it was Harry again. "What about Tom's baby?" 

I looked at him directly. This part was very difficult for me as well, "According to their official, it no longer exists." 

Harry looked very upset. "I'm sorry," he told me. 

B'Elanna shook her head in disbelief. "I think he . . . I think Tom was beginning to look forward to the baby." 

"He was," I confirmed. I remembered how bright and how blue his eyes were when he and I and Chakotay had tried to pick out the baby's names, how much he'd laughed and joked over our choices. And how much Chakotay would look at him with love in his dark eyes. I pulled myself away from those memories, from the emotional pain that was mixed in with the fondness I felt for them both. Even though our baby was gone, Tom and Chakotay would still be with us. We just had to reach them soon. 


Chakotay's Log Day 2 

Last night I finally fell asleep dreaming of my Tom, remembering a recent time when I felt I had truly encountered his restless, inventive spirit. Although a number of my memories of my adult life were hazy, memories of Tom were vivid. Perhaps these clear memories had as much to do with my being eighteen, where even the sudden flash of a fish could arouse me, as anything else. 

However much Voyager's Tom seemed to love my backrubs and follow-up activities, he also wanted to invest our activities with his own stamp. Strenuous athletics were out of the question, but he found little ways of throwing me off balance. I fell into an erotic, vivid, detailed dream. 

Abruptly, my fantasy ended. A little hand patted me on the shoulder. "Ch'otay? Are you okay?" 

I startled out of my dream with a groan and returned to the reality of a dark night in a black forest with a small child behind me. I rolled onto my back and saw two eyes wide with fear in a barely seen face. Finding my voice, I told him, "It's okay, Tommy, I was just dreaming." 

"Was it a bad dream?" 

"No, no, not at all." 

"Oh," he said, his voice plainly confused. 

There was no way I could explain my dream to a five year old and I didn't try. "You should be asleep, not worrying about me." 


He burrowed under the cover of Tom's smock and molded his tiny body against mine. I sighed. Although I wasn't sure I could get to sleep without satisfying myself, and in the process keeping Tommy awake, somehow I managed. 

By dawn, however, nothing could stop an eighteen year old responding to the urgent morning call of his hormones, not an uneven dirt ground, not a damp drizzle, not the nightmarish events of the day before. I was in the midst of another dream of the last time we'd been together alone as adults. Tom had complained to me that he looked ugly and it took much effort on my part to let him know that I found him beautiful, that I thought the way he carried our baby was a picture of such awesomeness that I had not adequate words to capture it. His abdomen swelled upwards under his casual clothes in the smooth curve of a seashell. As with a seashell, I loved to place my ear to him and listen for sounds of the baby. 

Once I'd been able to reassure Tom of his singular place in my universe, he settled against me with a sigh. His fathomless blue eyes, his sadness and his sweet nature, had all won my heart. Perhaps that's what I'd responded to that first time when Kathryn's body looked like his and the pheromones had driven us both beyond irresponsibility. 

As I said, nothing stopped my eighteen year old body from responding sexually to my memory of yesterday evening. Not the damp earth, not the unyielding forest floor, not the memory of waking the child up during the night, nothing stopped me from satisfying the heated need in my body. Then a small hand pushed at my shoulder and a child's voice said, "Ch'otay? Ch'otay? I gotta' go to the baf'room." 

Even at the hormonally driven age of eighteen, I couldn't ignore that little boy. Thank the spirits I was in the post excitement stage when he called my name. I rolled onto my back to find Tommy peering at me with serious round eyes. "Okay, little one. Let's find a spot." 

We found a spot and simultaneously peed on it as a fine, thin drizzle chilled us both. It dampened our clothes and when we took the few steps back to our camp, I found it had also put out our fire. I found some drier wood under some fallen logs and phasered the fire back to life. I gathered Tommy to me and covered him with as many layers of his old clothes as I could in an effort to keep him as warm as possible. He cried against me, telling me over and over that he wanted to go home. There was nothing I could say to help him. Truth be told, I wanted to go home, too. 

Finally, the drizzle let up and a weak sun broke through low hanging clouds. I stretched out our damp clothes on tree limbs and hoped that the sun would dry them. It seemed almost too humid to think they would dry soon. In separating my sticky pants from my body, I realized how much I needed to bathe and clean up. In addition, I was thirsty and I was sure that Tommy was too. I was ravenously hungry. I knew that it took a lot to keep a teenager's body going. We'd have to do something about food and water and soon. I checked the hollows in the boulder for rainwater and the tricorder indicated it was drinkable. I made a scoop with my hands and gave some to Tommy and drank some myself. It didn't taste very good, but slacked the thirst a little. 

Tommy continued to wear Tom's turtleneck and I found a way to fold back the arms and tie them off so he could wear it over his head and shoulders. It hung down to the ground, but I think it worked better than the way he had it wrapped around himself yesterday. I put my soggy uniform on the tree limbs and wore my damp shorts and t-shirt, the comm badge in place on my t-shirt. Tommy wanted one too and I found his and pinned it on the turtleneck for him. Although when I checked the comm badges I found they didn't work. But we wore them anyway. As I sat on a rock and tried to figure out how to make Tom's huge shoes fit the little boy, Tommy stood by me. His solemn gaze at the shoes made me wonder if the answer was in there. 

"I used to be big?" he asked. I had asked him a lot of questions trying to figure out if there was any of Tom left in this child. 

"Yes, you were very big. Taller than me," I smiled at him. 

For the first time since he'd become a child, I saw him grin. I saw my Tom in that grin, mischievous, funny, sweet. Oh, spirits, it was then I felt Tom's loss as a physical blow to my chest, knocking the air right out of me. I wanted to clutch his smock to me as if somehow holding it would fill it with Tom. But I couldn't, I didn't want to alarm Tommy. Seeing the obvious pain on my face, the boy's expression turned fearful. His little shoulders hunched up as if expecting something bad. 

"I'm sorry," I told him. His face held a mix of fear and confusion. "What is it?" 

"Are you mad at me?" 

"No. Not at all. You know how . . . how since we've been here you've wanted to go home?" He nodded, able to relate my question to his experience. "Well, I've felt that way, too. For a moment there, I was reminded of how much I miss someone." 


Once again I marveled at the perceptiveness of this child. "Yes." 

"How come I used to be big and now I'm not?" 

"We came through an invisible place in the forest and it changed us. It made us lots younger than we used to be. And it took us away from where we live." 

"Why did we live on a starship?" 

Oh, my, I thought. This boy was going to ask me questions all day. I appreciated his curiosity but I felt some urgency about getting him into clothes and shoes he could walk in. I was getting very hungry. I tried not to sound impatient with him, after all, he was just a little kid. "You know, it's a long story. When we've had something to eat and done some exploring, I can tell you all about it. Kind of a bed time story. Would that be okay?" 

"I'm hungry," he replied by way of agreement. 

I figured out that I could use different settings of the phaser to cut the shoes down to size and then use heat as a glue to keep the resulting shoe together. That was the theory and I wasn't going to have another chance to make a pair of shoes if my theory was wrong or if I tested it ineptly. So I got to work and the first one looked a little rough, but it also looked as if it would hold up. When the second one turned out okay, I decided to try the same principle on his clothes. Cutting down his uniform top didn't go very well, one arm was longer than the other, but he could wear it. Similarly, I crafted him a pair of shorts, pants, and socks, none of which would win me any ribbons in the Native Peoples craft shows, but which were serviceable. When he had some clothes on, I also cut down the turtleneck to fit about as well as the rest of his outfit. 

I phasered most of the remaining fabrics together hoping to fashion a blanket or ground covering for him. I left the tunic alone since it had worked pretty well as a blanket, and truth be told, I needed it as a reminder of Tom. With the remaining scraps I made a belt for myself with pockets for Tom's phaser, tricorder and medical regenerator. 

With my own phaser, PADD, and tricorder, I had a lot of hardware hanging off my hips. That regenerator could come in handy and I was very grateful Tom had brought it, particularly as I recalled how much ambivalence Tom had about his sickbay assignment. Suited up with my instruments, I tried not to think about how long these and our clothes would have to last. For all I knew, we wouldn't be able to get out of here until we'd regained all of our lost years. 

I suppose I could have tightened up my own uniform, but it really wasn't necessary and I didn't know how long two phasers would have to last. I used the phaser to dry my own clothes and put them on me. Taking a surreptitious whiff of Tom's tunic as a reminder of other days, I threw it over my shoulder for ease of carrying. "Let's go find some breakfast, what do you say?" 

He actually didn't say anything, he'd been trying on his clothes and shoes, walking around our small campsite. I checked once again to make sure the fire was completely out and buried. It was. So, I reached for Tommy's hand and we began to walk away from the site that had brought us to this strange state of affairs. I hated to leave it but we needed water and food. 

Along the way, we found some of the same berries we'd had last night and munched on them. They didn't do much for my hunger, but did help with my thirst a little bit. We traveled through the trees with my stopping every so often to make a tricorder reading to make sure I could go back to the camp site if I ever needed to. The path that we took through the trees showed evidence of the passage of animals, and, tuning inward to mostly forgotten lessons from my father, I kept us to the path as much as possible. It should lead us to water. 

And it did. 

So two of my big concerns were dealt with. The kid had shoes and clothes he could wear, although when I saw him limping, he confided that his feet hurt. I picked him up and carried him for awhile. And we had a reliable source of water. With any luck, the reliable source of water would attract animals we could eat. Perhaps we would find fish in the water. I didn't like eating meat, but our survival was at stake. Until I could find edible roots, tubers, vegetables, grains that didn't take a complex processing procedure to use, and fruits other than berries, I wasn't sure that I could allow my preferences to hold sway. 

As we sat on rocks watching the creek bubble through the rocks and trees, the sky clouded over again. While we were seated, I fixed the blister on Tommy's foot with the regenerator. As I did, I noticed sunburn on his face and neck and applied the regenerator there as well. I checked my own skin, but I didn't sunburn and nothing really needed fixing. By the time I was done and Tommy had his socks and shoes back on, the clouds seemed to have gotten even lower. I looked up and wondered if we were in for more rain. I guessed we would need to find or construct some kind of shelter. 

Lost in these thoughts of survival, I almost jumped when Tommy tugged at my sleeve. Coming back to the here and now, I looked where he pointed. Under the water, a fish swam slowly in a clear side pool of water. 

"Good job," I whispered to him. I improvised a line with a long thread from the "blanket" and wondered what I could use for a hook. Tommy pointed to a small hook shaped rock. This boy had terrific eyesight. The rock was too big to use as a hook but a few zaps with the phaser and I had what I needed. For bait, I used a small piece of the remnants from Tom's red uniform top. 

We fished rather successfully, catching three in fairly short order and I showed Tommy how to get the fish off the hook once each had been caught. He tried it on the last fish and I praised him again for doing such a good job. He smiled shyly at me as if he didn't smile very often, or perhaps he wasn't praised very often. By then the low clouds had really dropped and a drizzle began. 

I looked around for shelter and found a deep hollow under a cliff not far away. The texture of the rock and the depth of the cliff overhang reminded me of the ruins of the Anasazi Indians of North America that I had seen on a side trip during my academy days. 

I carried the fish and Tommy managed to walk all right by my side to the place where we set up our new camp. If the fishing continued to be this good, maybe we would not be forced to try to capture the animals for meat. 

By the end of the day we had completed all on my mental list of things to do except for a reliable shelter. That was something I planned to work on beginning in the morning. For the time being, the overhang of the cliff provided a place that was protected from the almost constant drizzle. If a driving rain started, I wasn't sure we would be able to stay dry, but there was no sense worrying over something that I could do nothing about. 

That night after dinner I began telling Tommy the story of how we came to live on a starship. When I began, I wasn't really sure I remembered everything, but as I told the story, it came back to me. I started with my Maquis ship being tossed into the Delta Quadrant and how the Federation ship Voyager came after us. I greatly edited my first reaction upon seeing Tom Paris on the bridge of Voyager. This little boy was not Tom and didn't need to know all the problems his older self had had. By the time I got around to the part where the array was destroyed, Tommy was falling asleep. I placed him on the blanket and covered him with the smock, then leaned back against the wall of the cliff allowing the dancing fire to hypnotize me. Finally, unable to keep my eyes open any longer, I lay down wondering if I would dream of my Tom. 


Captain's Log Day 4 

The Mulxmultoans have tried my patience. Chakotay and Tom have been gone for four days and still there's been absolutely no concrete help from them in determining the coordinates of the portals. As far as we can tell, no other ships are orbiting the planet and no others have gone down to the surface. We don't dare go down there ourselves for fear of losing more of the crew. I find my worries about both Chakotay and Tom are interfering with my concentration on my other duties. How can a teenager and a child survive for long down there? 


Chakotay's Log Day 7 

The cabin, such as it is, is finished. I almost drained one phaser in cutting down trees and stripping and fitting them to construct the log cabin. The "roof" consists of logs slanting from back to front, the back "wall" is the cliff itself, where I left space in the "ceiling" for smoke to vent, and the floor is dirt. I couldn't expect Tommy to cut down or haul logs so his jobs were to clear the floor of all rocks and debris, and to catch fish. In addition, I asked him to gather the many kinds of foods I pointed out to him that were edible. When he had time, he was to create a wood stack for use as firewood and to sort the logs and twigs by size. I knew these were not easy tasks for someone so young and small but I couldn't babysit him or have him nearby as trees toppled. Nor could I leave him with nothing to do. He seemed pleased to be able to help, but I warned him over and over not to go too far and if he saw a place in the air like the portal we'd come through he was not to touch it but to come find me as soon as possible. I always came back for a lunch break and insisted that he take a nap after lunch. Truth be told, I used the time to rest as well. 

This afternoon as I worked, he came running up to me, shouting my name "Ch'otay! Ch'otay!" 

I wiped my brow and put down the phaser I'd been using to cut logs for the outhouse I was constructing. Tiredly, I asked, "What is it?" 

He stopped running toward me as if he'd heard something in my tone, something that made him believe that his interruption was unwelcome. 

"It's okay," I reassured him. "I'm glad for the break." 

A wooden container with water from the creek was set near a log. Tired and thirsty, I sat on the log and dipped a wooden ladle in the water, taking a long drink. "What's up, Tommy? You can come'er." 

He'd been standing a few feet away as if afraid to come any nearer until the situation was clearer to him. Tommy seemed to reach a decision and approached me. I reached out my free arm and drew him closer, his face level with my own. "Thirsty?" 

He nodded, accepted some water from the ladle. After a drink and the reassurance of my arm around him, he said, "I saw something." 


"On the other side of the creek. I was just watching, honest, the little animals." He'd been told to stay clear of any large animals, not that we ever saw any during the day. 


"Two . . . animals . . . They dis'peared." 

"You watched as two animals disappeared?" I repeated and he nodded. "What did you do?" I was worried that he might have tried to go after them. 

"I come here. To tell you?" 

"You did the right thing, little one." 

"I did?" 

Where did all his self-doubt come from? "Yes, you sure did." 

He took me to the place but the portal was gone. So, at least there were other portals like the one we'd come through. And this one took things away from here. I wondered if it went back to our own time? And if it did, how would we know? Should we go through one if we found one? I remembered a lesson from my father, if lost, stay where you are so others can find you. 


Tommy interrupted my thoughts, but that was okay, they weren't going to lead anywhere productive. "Yes?" 

His brow furrowed as he tried to work through a problem. "If I followed the animals . . . would I go home?" 

"I don't know, Tommy. We could. But we might not. Why do you ask?" I wondered if he was still as homesick as he'd been the first few days. 

"I don't want to go home." 

Oh. The declaration, so firmly stated in his child's voice, surprised me. "You don't?" 

"No. I want you to be my Daddy and we live here." 

I was a bit overcome by his sentiment, but also a little uncomfortable. "How about if I'm your friend? I'll be your friend and you be my friend? How would that be?" 

"'kay." He gave me one of his shy smiles and I gave him a hug, sealing our deal. 


Chakotay's Log Day 16 

When I came back to the cabin for a lunch break, Tommy was no where in sight. I called for him but didn't get any response. Scared that he might have gotten lost, I began a search for him. With all of our comings and goings in this area, there was no way to track him even if I had any skills for such a task. So, I worked my way out from the creek, calling him over and over. After an hour of searching I was frantic. We'd never had any native animals come near us although at night I'd seen some drinking from the creek, just shadows in the darkness. But I wondered if an animal had gotten to him, or if he'd inadvertently stepped through a portal, or fallen, or . . . my head was full of possible disasters. 

Finally, I turned back, sick at losing him. I kept calling for Tommy, but I was very afraid, sure that he was gone. When I reached the cabin, I found him inside putting away fruit as if nothing had happened. "Tommy!" I yelled at him. "Where were you!?" 

His smile on seeing me faded and fear set in. He backed up away from me as if afraid that I might hurt him. When I saw how he looked at me, I calmed down. I stopped yelling and spoke more softly, "Tommy, Tommy, I was so worried about you." 

Even my gentler voice didn't take the fear away from his eyes and I apologized to him, anything to see that fear leave him. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have yelled at you." 

As I approached him, he pulled away from me, still scared of me. His bottom lip was trembling and he said, "Please . . . don't . . . " 

I hunched down to his level and asked, "What is it? What are you afraid of?" 

His eyes filled with tears. "You yelled at me." 

"I know and I'm sorry. I couldn't find you when I came back for lunch. I've been searching everywhere, I was so afraid something bad had happened to you." I tried to touch his arms, but he flinched. "Tommy, what is it?" 

"Are you going to hit me?" 

"No. Of course not. Why? I mean, why would you think I would hit you?" Hitting him was the farthest thing from my mind. I wanted to hug him I was so relieved that I'd found him. "I would never hurt you like that." 

He cocked his head at me as if trying to figure out if I was telling the truth. It finally dawned on me, all the pieces I'd seen, that someone in this child's life had been hurting him. "Tommy? Who hurts you? Who hits you?" 

He cast his brimming eyes to the floor and tears began to spill down those fair cheeks. His voice was just a whisper, "Daddy." 

"Your Daddy hits you?" I repeated, shocked that anyone would hurt a little child. In our village, an adult who did that to a child would find out pretty quickly how wrong that was. "I'm so sorry, Tommy. I really am. But I won't hurt you. Please believe me. I may get worried about you, but I wouldn't hit you. Honest." 

The tear stained face looked up at me. "Honest? Never?" 

"Never," I vowed and hugged him to me. At first he was reluctant, as if I might be only bringing him closer to me to hurt him, but then he relaxed into my arms and began to sob. I thought my heart would break hearing Tommy cry like that, so I patted him and told him over and over that no one would hurt him ever again. 


Captain's Log Day 21 

Three weeks and we're finally getting information from these people. I do believe Tuvok wondered if he was going to have to restrain me from ripping them from limb to limb, diplomatic limbs, of course. They seem to believe that giving us a few coordinates so that we can retrieve our people is tantamount to handing over the planet to off-worlders. It didn't matter that others had been able to come to this planet and had coordinates to guide them. Somehow we were different because we didn't have the coordinates, therefore they couldn't give them to us! 

Tuvok is prepared with the coordinates to the nearest -25 portal to Chakotay and Tom's position and has four sets of coordinates of supposedly nearby +25 portals through which they may emerge. Tuvok estimates that, depending on where the men had gone, it will take him two days to find them and another day, perhaps two, to reach the +25 portal. We agreed that his trip could take longer and that we would wait up to two weeks. He has two weeks' worth of supplies, medicine, camping gear, all the things we could think of that might be needed for what he would find down there. 

If Tuvok can't locate them, I don't know what we'll do. The thought of abandoning Chakotay and Tom is intolerable. So many of us are depressed, Harry, B'Elanna, myself. But I realize that we can't remain in orbit here for much longer. The two weeks I'd given Tuvok was our upper limit. If Tuvok hadn't found them and led them out by then, he was to return to us and we would have to depart the system for home. 


Chakotay's Log Day 22 

Neither Tommy nor I feel well today. We have enough tubers and fruits in the cabin so that we didn't need to go out except to our outhouse. I wondered if we were feeling sick because we'd eaten something that didn't agree with us or if we were responding to some bug on the planet. I wish now that we had a medical tricorder and a hypospray among the two tricorders we did have. The regenerator wasn't going to help us with this sickness. I felt achy and feverish and my stomach was churning. Although I hadn't yet gotten sick to my stomach, I wasn't sure that I would be able to hold out much longer. Tommy was even sicker, with vomiting and diarrhea. The smells made me gag, but I realized I had to help him so I did. Fortunately, he slept most of the time between bouts of upset. I lay down to rest as well, I just had no energy to move. I longed for the home community I had as a child. Here there were no wise villagers to counsel us, no shaman to bring us healing prayer and herbs. 

I'm beginning to believe that we're going to remain on this planet. We still have seen no sentient inhabitants of this world, only the occasional small animal and the shadows of the larger ones at night. I worry about what this means for our future. Day after day, we've worked hard to get by, to make sure we survive to another day. This valley, with our cabin, our stream nearby, and the almost constant drizzle, seems to be our home now. But Tommy needs to be schooled and he needs friends his own age. Although that's the future, right now we need a change of clothes. Tommy is laying on his mattress of grasses with no clean clothes to wear. The blanket was soiled earlier. I have the smock around him, but it is vomit marked and in desperate need of washing. I don't know what I'm going to do if he gets worse. 

He rallied a little after some soup I spooned into his mouth and he kept it down. In a sleepy voice, he asked me to tell him a story. Anymore, it's hard to remember stories to tell Tommy about Voyager. My memories from there seem to be fading more and more with each day that we spend here. So I held him to me and hummed a song to a tune whose melody I remembered from my own childhood but whose words I could not retrieve. 

I realize as I record this day's log that last night I didn't dream about Tom. Not even once. I fear that he, and Voyager, are dimming as memories. Soon, they will be gone forever. 


Security Officer's Log Journey Day 1 

When I emerged from the -25 portal that was located at some distance from the one used by Paris and Chakotay, I did not discern any noticeable changes in myself although my mind and body told me that I was, indeed, twenty-five years younger. I hit my comm badge and tried to raise Chakotay or Tom. After several tries with no response I considered how best to locate them. In case there was no reply from the away team, Seven had modified my tricorder to detect human life signs over longer distances than would normally be possible. I scanned the area and located two lifesigns three degrees south of my position and at least forty-five miles away. The lifesigns appeared to remain in place and not move any appreciable distance. Shouldering my pack, I headed across the wooded and rocky ground. 

At appropriate intervals I consulted my tricorder to keep my destination in focus. I realized that the mountainous terrain would slow me down considerably and prevent me from reaching them anytime soon. At dusk I made camp and retired for the evening. 


Security Officer's Log Journey Day 4 

Close to midday, my tricorder gave me good news. According to the reading, they should be close. I stood on a boulder and looked around. Down the hill there was a stream and I detected what appeared to be a thin column of smoke against the backdrop of the low hanging clouds. Narrowing my focus, I realized I could detect a small shelter made of logs. 

I called out for Chakotay and Tom outside of the cabin. Although I knew that Chakotay had regressed some twenty-five years in age, I was unprepared for the sight of the lean, sickly looking teenager who came to the opening in the cabin. His stance was one of distrust and he used surprisingly muscled arms spread from one side of the doorway to the other to physically block my entrance into the cabin. 

As he stared at me, I realized he did not recognize me. "Chakotay. It is Tuvok. From Voyager." 

I watched his face as his expression changed from distrust to disbelief. He blinked at me a few times. "Tu. . . Tuvok?" 

"Yes. I've come to bring you and Tom back to Voyager." 


"Home to Voyager. Do you remember Voyager?" 

He nodded and I detected moisture forming in his eyes. He looked exhausted but pulled himself together. In an adolescent's voice, he told me, "Tommy's sick. He's in here." 

Chakotay retreated into the interior of the small room and allowed me to enter. I followed him over to a small child, noting as I did the reek of illness in the room. However, I could not fault the young man who bent down over the child. He looked just as ill. I asked a few questions as I ran a medical tricorder over the child first and then over Chakotay. They both seemed to have been infected with an intestinal parasite and I dialed up the appropriate antidote and palliative on the hypospray and administered the correct dosages to each. "You should feel better soon." 

He lay down on what was his bed, mostly a collection of grasses softening an indentation in the dirt floor, and rolled onto his side so that he faced the boy. The child had Tom's hair coloring and blue eyes. His fair skin was sprinkled with freckles that stood out against an unhealthy pallor. He regarded with me with considerable fear, obviously not recognizing me at all. Chakotay placed a hand on the boy's arm and reassured him that I was here to help them. The boy nodded as he seemed to search Chakotay's face for comfort. Chakotay smiled tiredly at him and told him everything was going to be all right now. Unselfconsciously, the child moved into the security of Chakotay's arms. 

I have never had much of an imagination, so when I learned back on Voyager that Tom had become a boy of five, I had a difficult time picturing it, let alone this sick child with only a hint of Tom Paris in his demeanor. I told them both, "I have brought food and clothes. What would you like first?" 

The boy Chakotay called Tommy said nothing, he merely looked at Chakotay and then back at me as if whatever Chakotay decided was okay with him. The teenager told me, "We need whatever you've brought." With an apparent tired sigh, he asked, "How soon can we go home?" 

I considered how much to tell him and realized now was not the time for a complete explanation. "It will take us two days to reach our destination, perhaps more, depending upon on how soon you are both well enough to travel." 

The little boy frowned at me and I could detect some of Tom Paris' impertinence in him. "You can beam us up." 

"Not from here, I am afraid." 

"Why do we have to travel?" Chakotay asked. 

"We need to go through a portal and it is not here." That simple explanation sufficed for now but I expected to answer many more questions before we moved on. 

Tommy looked at Chakotay with what appeared to be fear on his face. "Ch'otay? Where are we going? I don't want to go home." 

What a fascinating declaration for a five year old child to make. I could only wonder at what brought on such a statement. Chakotay, however, seemed to understand and told him, "Commander Tuvok is taking us to Voyager, to the starship where we used to live." 

The boy looked at me for confirmation and I told him, "That is true. We are going to Voyager." 

"Not Earth?" 

I declined to tell him that our ultimate destination, in some sixty years, was Earth. He was too young to understand all of that. So I merely told him, "No. We are going to Voyager. The ship is very far from Earth." 

My words and those of Chakotay's must have satisfied him for the next thing he said had nothing to do with Earth or Voyager. "Can I have some ice cream?" Tommy asked. 

"I did not bring any." 


Chakotay smiled and in his facial expression I recognized the commander. Apparently he had to answer many such questions in their time together. His smile told me that now it was my turn. His words confirmed it, when he said, "I'm glad you're here." 

"I have brought other foods." 

A few moments later I was pulling food out of my pack and handing it over to the two young people. 

By the time they were recovered, cleaned up, wearing fresh clothes, it was too late to venture out in the dark. The child was still somewhat dehydrated and I determined that he would need another day of rest before he would be ready to travel. Considering his small size, I revised upward my estimate of how long it would take to reach the nearest +25 portal. Nonetheless, I believed we were well within the Captain's timetable of two weeks. Moreover, the portal's opening would occur very near to our projected arrival to its proximity. 

Lightening the mood, Chakotay kidded Tommy about his new clothes. Apparently the doctor's calculations about the boy's size was right on target as the replicated pants and shirt fit him well. He appeared especially pleased by the shoes, socks, and underwear. Chakotay blushed, the first time I have ever detected such an emotion on his face, when he held up clean underwear for himself. Nonetheless, he dressed in them in the privacy of their outhouse. When he returned, he seemed pleased to be wearing a new pair of soft knit pants and shirt. 

I was impressed by what an adolescent with only a phaser and tricorder had accomplished. The log outhouse had a lime like substance in the pit, it was dug away from the stream and even ventilated. The cabin had a rudimentary table and bench, wooden utensils phasered from logs, a stone hearth, and a stone lined storage area. I provided them with inflatable sleeping bags and they gave me a sweet supplement to our meal that they called candy gum. It was rubbery in texture and, when chewed, gave off a sweet taste. They seemed pleased that they had been able to offer me something. 

Before going to sleep, I checked them both with the tricorder. Tommy's dehydration had cleared up and both were now free of the parasite, albeit weak and fatigued. My original estimate of the need for a day's rest appeared to be accurate. 

We were all stretched out ready to sleep, so I was surprised when Tommy asked me to tell him a story about Voyager. The boy assured me that Chakotay used to tell him stories every night but couldn't remember any more stories to tell. By the faint firelight, I detected a chagrined look on Chakotay's face. I was not sure what would constitute a suitable story for a five year old and I asked Chakotay for advice. He grinned at me and shrugged. 

I determined that the story of how Tom Paris had flown a shuttle at Warp 10 would be acceptable so long as I edited out the parts about his transformation into a lizard, his kidnaping of the captain and her similar transformation, and their subsequent reproductive activities. It did not leave much of a story to tell, but the child seemed satisfied. By the time I finished, he clutched a blanket to his face, Chakotay pulled Tom Paris's smock over him, and he subsided into sleep. 

I watched how gently and respectfully Chakotay treated the child. As the boy had smiled shyly, Chakotay had pointed out to me how much the stored food and supply of wood were due to Tommy's efforts. In turn, it was easy to discern the unguarded love the boy returned to the teenager. It gave me pause to consider the consequences of taking these two from this environment, having them gain 25 years through the +25 portal and return so abruptly to Voyager. In view of Tommy's inability to remember anything at all about Voyager, and Chakotay's fading memories, I worried about what would happen if these memories were unrecoverable even as their bodies returned to their appropriate ages. 


Chakotay's Log Day 28 

Today we left our home behind. Tommy would not leave his blanket and I would not leave Tom's smock. Other than those mementoes and our equipment, the remaining working phaser, the regenerator, my PADD, the tricorders and the nonworking comm badges, we left almost all the rest behind. However, Tommy did fill his pockets with the candy gum, enough for all of us, he assured me. I shouldered a spare pack that Tuvok had brought and carried some of his supplies as well as some roots and tubers from our storage area. And so, we set out with Commander Tuvok leading the way. 

Tommy's small legs were no match for our greater strides and Tuvok and I alternated carrying him toward the end of the morning. After lunch, I explained to Tuvok that we usually took a nap and, although the Commander clearly did not need one, he agreed to let us continue our routine. I had tired easily, I guess from being sick, and I was glad we had nap time. In addition, I think I was tired from letting go of all the responsibility I had carried since we'd been here. It had been really hard to act the part of a grown up when I wasn't one at all. 

By the end of the afternoon the ever present drizzle began in earnest and Tuvok agreed to stop for the day. He and I put up a tent large enough to hold us and our packs. Tommy was plainly exhausted and fell asleep as soon as he'd eaten his supper. Inside the tent, we had a small heatless lamp to see by until we put it out to go to sleep ourselves. I asked Tuvok questions that I hadn't wanted to ask in front of Tommy. But I started off slowly, asking about crew members whose names I remembered. Tuvok assured me they were fine, so I moved on to the more troubling matters. 

"I remember that I'm First Officer on Voyager, but everything is vague, as though it's some story like those I've told Tommy. Some things have been coming back to me since you came, but nothing seems very real to me." 

Tuvok looked thoughtful, hard to tell from his other expressions of concern, satisfaction, or whatever he was willing to acknowledge. "Are you asking if you were indeed First Officer?" 

"No. Just . . . I don't know . . . what was I like?" 

Definitely surprise in that impassive face. He took a moment to answer. "Fair. Able to weigh all sides. Warm. Others confided in you." 

"What about . . . what about my relationships with others? The Captain, Tom . . .?" Clearly he did not want to comment so I pushed him a little. "Wasn't Tom pregnant?" 

"Yes. That is true." 

"I don't remember how that happened," I confessed. I had my PADD entries and vague memories of it, but I didn't want to ask Tuvok just what my role had been. 

"Perhaps it is just as well," Tuvok replied. 

"Were Tom . . . were he and I . . . together?" 

"Did you have a relationship? Yes. Did you live together? No. Not that I am aware of." What kind of relationship did we have, I wanted to know but couldn't ask. "I do believe that in the two weeks before you came here your relationship with him underwent a change and that you and he at times remained overnight together." 

Behind his carefully worded statement, I had an answer to my unspoken question. With those words he validated those vague fragments of memories. I was beginning to think that they had been the imaginings of a very sexually frustrated 18 year old. I felt better knowing for sure. 

"Commander, do you think I will know what to do when I go back to Voyager?" 

"I am not certain. I have given this problem a good deal of thought. If your memories are retained but just not accessible because you are here, then you should be fine when you have returned to Voyager. On the other hand, if you no longer have these memories, I am afraid that they will not return to you simply because you have stepped through the portal." 

"And Tommy? He hasn't remembered anything about Voyager at all." 

"It may be then that his memories are gone and will not be retrievable." 

"How does the portal work? I mean, it doesn't fit my idea of a time travel portal." 

"True. We have only begun to speculate on the nature of the portals on this world. The Mulxmultoans are imprecise, at best, in describing these matters. The portals appear to transport the person not only through time, or perhaps to another dimension, but to accelerate or devolve a person's growth using the person's DNA, to take the person forward or backward in development." 

"Oh." I had trouble picturing it in my mind. "When I went through, I devolved . . ." I stumbled over the unfamiliar word but I thought I knew what it meant, "to what my body was like at an earlier time in my life?" 

"That would appear to be correct. Now that I have seen you, the physical changes were quite predictable. But the mental changes appear to be more difficult to predict. If brain cells and their connections have been lost, then these may not be regained the way bone length or weight would be regained. But at this stage of our knowledge, the answers to your questions are empirical matters still to be understood. We hope to know more when we go through the +25 portal." 

"But if Tommy . . . Tom doesn't remember on the other side . . . he won't remember the baby that's lost." 

"If, indeed, it is lost." 

"We might be restored as we were?" 

"Possibly, but unlikely," Tuvok predicted. 

"If he doesn't remember . . . " 

"He also won't know how to pilot the ship." 

"He told me he flew shuttles," I said defending Tommy. 

Tuvok raised an eyebrow. "He is only five years old. If he returns to the ship with the memories and abilities of a five year old, it won't matter that he is actually 30. Even though his skills would probably develop rapidly, it could take time for the neural connections to become reestablished." 

I looked down at the sleeping child, a boy I'd come to almost think of as my own. Tommy twitched in his sleep, as if he'd been disturbed by our conversation. Perhaps he would not even like me once he'd regained his lost years. 

"You appear troubled," Tuvok observed. 

"I guess that I am," I admitted. 

"There are many changes in store for you and Tommy. I will do all that I can to help both of you with those changes." 

I smiled only because it was nice of him to offer, but I didn't know what he could really do. I guess the future would sort itself out. It always did. 


Security Officer's Log Journey Day 8 

Chakotay was very quiet today as we traveled overland in the direction of the +25 portal coordinates. Our conversation of the previous evening appeared to weigh heavily on him. It was very clear to me that he was attached to the young child as was the child to him. Going through the portal would change all that in ways that I had been compelled to admit I could not predict. For his part, little Tommy seemed to absorb some of the discontent of the teenager. He was restless, fussy, and demanding. 

I carried him for a part of the morning as he squirmed often in my arms and asked me endless questions that began with the word 'why'. Every bit of patience that I could summon was required to make it through the morning. Chakotay gave me a commiserating grin as I put the child down for our lunch break. It was with great relief that I watched Chakotay tuck him into his blanket for the afternoon nap. With even greater relief I saw the child's eyes close and his breathing even out in sleep. 

Smiling, Chakotay asked quietly, "Tough morning?" 

"He is a very curious child." 

"Yes, he is," Chakotay said, the pride evident in his tone. "But I know why he was so difficult this morning. He doesn't really want to go back." 

The child had said that and I pondered what obligation I had to this boy and to the teenager across from me. There were adult versions of these two that deserved their lives back. Going through the portal was the only way that adult development would be accomplished. It would be unconscionable to leave these two behind on this planet with no other humans, with the possibility of portals opening up that could take one away from the other without warning or a trace. It would not be possible to leave them here. Presumably, had we had the coordinates, we could return through a -25 portal such as the one that had brought me here. In that event we would all emerge on the other side at the age we now were. However, that solution robbed the existing adults of their lives. I concluded that they must go through the +25 portal. At the same time, I realized that a heavy price would be exacted, one whose value would remain unknown until we went through it. 


Chakotay's Log Day 30 

We've reached the +25 portal. Tuvok tells us that it should open in less than an hour. Although it's not lunch time yet, we're here, so we've sat down on rocks and downed tree trunks to eat our meal. Tommy is very unhappy. After throwing his food into the forest, he began to cry. I tried to hold him but he pushed me away. He kept telling us over and over, "I don't want to go. Don't make me go. Please, please." 

I appealed to Tuvok with my eyes. Wasn't there some other solution? His implacable expression told me that there wasn't. We had to go through the portal. I explained to Tommy again that we would be going to Voyager, that he was Voyager's chief pilot. At that, his small fists pounded on my chest. "No, no! I heard him. I'll just look big but I'll still be little. They won't let me fly." 

"Spirits, Tommy," he let me hug him, the fists momentarily stilled, "it may be like that. We don't know. We have to try it. We do." 

His face screwed up in a kind of fury and turned a purple red. At the top of his lungs, he screamed, "No!" He hit me again with all his might, all the fear and pain of things he didn't understand and couldn't control coming out in his pounding fists. I just let him, understanding too well what he was feeling. Finally, he sobbed in my arms until exhaustion overtook him. Spent, he seemed to give up. 

Tuvok touched my shoulder. "It is time." 

He pointed to the place where the air seemed to waver. Although I had prayed for a month for this day to come, now that the moment was here, I almost lost my nerve. I stood up and grasped Tommy's hand. His tear stained face looked up at me and I saw that he trusted me even if he didn't trust the portal or what lay behind it. I sighed and told him, "I'll take care of you, little one, no matter what. You know that, don't you?" 

For a moment I thought he was going to tell me no, but with tears in his eyes, he nodded. 

We stepped through it together, hand in hand. Tuvok followed. 


Captain's Log Day 30 

The doctor has informed us that the away team is in sickbay. Thirty days. It has seemed like a year. I hurried from the bridge, letting Harry and B'Elanna know that I would send them word when I knew anything. 

As I entered sickbay I wondered what I would find. Tuvok stood off to one side, apparently having been quickly vetted by the doctor. Tom and Chakotay sat on biobeds. Chakotay watched the doctor as he carefully scanned Tom and asked questions of the pilot. When I approached the biobed I felt relieved that Tom looked very much like the young man who had left us a month ago. I checked right away that he no longer looked pregnant and the faint hope I nurtured that he would still carry the baby finally evaporated. The regret hit me with a force that I didn't expect. I took a moment to regroup. 

"How is he?" When I was ready, I asked my question briskly, quelling the disappointment I felt. Both the doctor and Tom turned to look at me. 

"Physically, he is a completely healthy thirty year old." 

I was pleased to hear that, but the doctor's next words were not what I wanted to hear. 

"Captain, he does not remember being on Voyager. His mental abilities are those of a five year old." 

I smiled at Tom, not the full smile I wanted to display, but uncertainty kept it at bay. "Tom? I'm Captain Janeway." 

"Hi," he said after a quick glance at Chakotay who nodded encouragement. 

Oh, my, I thought to myself. There were some complicated dynamics going on here. 

"Can I go home now?" Tom asked plaintively. 

Chakotay stepped in, "Tommy, this is our home now. It'll be okay, you'll see." 

"Doctor, can I speak with you and Tuvok?" 

We stepped into the doctor's office. "What's his prognosis?" 

"As nearly as I can tell, he has fully mature brain capacity, the problem is that the neural connections have not been consolidated. Neural pathways are reinforced from experience and he has had no experiences since he was five years old. As he lives day to day, is educated and trained, these connections will stabilize very quickly since the substrate is already laid down." 

"Captain, I believe I may be able to help," Tuvok interjected. "I retain Tom Paris' memories of his life up until four years ago." 

I frowned until I remembered. "Of course. The mind meld you used to demonstrate that Tom did not kill that scientist." 

"There would still be a crucial gap of four years." 

The last four years were very important for Tom. He'd grown from a youth with a chip on his shoulder and almost no friends to a popular and capable young man, someone who was a valued member of Voyager's family. For him to have lost these past four years would be a tragedy, but perhaps not as much of a tragedy as his remaining a five year old. "What do you think, doctor? Should we try this?" 

The doctor sighed. "I remember the Tom Paris of four years ago, an extremely trying young man." The doctor looked back at his sickbay where Chakotay had an arm across Tom's shoulders, apparently trying to reassure him of something. "But Tom should not remain as he is any longer than necessary." 

I looked at Tuvok. "Are you volunteering?" 

"Yes. I believe this is of the utmost importance. However, we should consult with Commander Chakotay." 

Tuvok explained the deep bond that he had observed between the teenaged Chakotay and the five year old Tommy. In addition, there was the relationship that had begun before the visit to the planet. In effect, Chakotay was Tom's guardian and should be the one to make decisions while Tom was unable to do so. 

"What about Chakotay?" I asked the doctor. "Does he remember Voyager?" 

"When he first arrived, he appeared disoriented, but within a few minutes he seemed to gain confidence. However, I have not performed any diagnostics yet to determine his mental age."

"Perhaps we'd better do that." 

We returned to Tom and Chakotay and the doctor ran his diagnostic instrument over the commander while Tom looked on apprehensively. Humming to himself tunelessly, the doctor finally completed his scan and then asked Chakotay some questions, "Commander, who is Seven of Nine?" 

A frown pinched his face, "A former Borg who is on our ship. She often works in Astrometrics. And just as often irritates the hell out of us." 

Good, he remembered someone who had only joined us within the past year. Not only that, he remembered Seven's personality as well. 

"How do you remember this now?" Apparently he hadn't been able to answer the question earlier. 

"I . . . I just . . .since I've been here . . . I've been looking around and things . . . memories have been coming back to me. I can't explain it very well. But I know who I am and where I am." 

The doctor addressed both Chakotay and myself, "Although the commander lost many of his neural connections, those lost connections were previously integrated and interconnected with earlier memories, hence they were not lost in the same way that Paris' memories were lost. Familiar surroundings were all that were needed to reintegrate his memories once the brain cells with their neurons and neurotransmitters were restored." 

"Couldn't Tom . . .?" I looked at that waiting, unhappy face. Very blue eyes gazed back at me but I really couldn't detect Tom's intelligence in them. These were the eyes of a lost child. 

The doctor escorted all of us out of Tom's earshot. Chakotay joined us, palming a gesture at Tom to remain where he was. The doctor told us, "Here is what I believe happened. When he went back through the -25 portal and lost 25 years, he lost brain cells and the connections that had been forged among them. The time period of 25 years for someone who was only 30 was too great to retain those connections, basically, he lost most of his original neural pathways. Almost no Voyager memories would have been integrated with the memories of a five year old. Although he now hosts an adult number of brain cells, the connections cannot be formed without appropriate experiences. It is in these connections and their biochemical actions that memories are located. 

"Without Tuvok's solution, it could take as many as two to three years to bring him to the level of expertise he had as a pilot before the portal. Actually, I'm not sure he will ever gain the true abilities he had before because so much of Tom's piloting skill was contained in his memories of previous experiences flying." 

"What about as a medic?" 

The doctor did not look pleased. "I think not. If you will remember, his assignment here came about because of his academy training. This is a sick bay, not a day care center." 

Chakotay's expression told me he was offended by the doctor's flippancy. Ignoring the hologram, he asked, "What is Tuvok's solution?" 

We filled in the first officer who stole glances back at Tom as he realized the full import of the plan. "So Tom will remember all those painful experiences that he brought with him to Voyager, but he won't remember the good experiences he has had here these past four years." 

"Correct," Tuvok intoned. 

"He will have his personal logs for the last four years that he can review. Perhaps those will stimulate him to form memories of these events," I suggested. 

"Will he remember our time down there on the planet?" 

"I believe he will," Tuvok explained, "because these are very fresh memories. He may, in fact, be fairly confused as he simultaneously holds both the recent memory of himself as a child and the more distant memories of his life before four years ago." 

I turned to Chakotay, "What do you think?" 

He sighed. "I don't think there are happy endings here, Kathryn. We have to do what we can. If we end up spending the next several years with the Tom Paris of four years ago, then that's what we'll do. But I can't help but think it will be a different experience this time around. The crew will respond to him with the warmth and friendship that he has earned over these years not with the hostility he found back then." 

I knew Chakotay was speaking of himself when he said that. I turned to Tuvok. "Very well. Let's do it." 

We returned to Tom and Chakotay explained to him what would happen. "Tommy, you know how you're very big now?" The connection between these two that Tuvok had mentioned was so evident as Tommy nodded and worried over his lip. He was fearful but he also trusted Chakotay. "Well, we want you to remember things from when you were big before. So, Commander Tuvok is going to hold your head in a special way and, when he's finished, you'll be able to remember lots more than you do now. How does that sound?" 

The boy in Tom's adult body was confused and reached out to Chakotay. The big man held the younger one to him and patted his back. Tom whispered in his ear and Chakotay broke away looking for something. A raggedy, patchworked blanket seemed to be the object of his search and he placed it against Tom's chest where Tom's hands held it to him. A very scared voice said, "'kay." 

Tuvok sat on the biobed near Tom and began the Vulcan mind meld. As we watched, we saw the sweetness, innocence, and openness of emotions leave Tom's face to be replaced by suspicion and hostility. By the time Tuvok was finished, the long abandoned Paris smirk once again masked his true feelings. Chakotay looked as if he wanted to cry as he watched the transformation. I realized how much the commander was losing even as Tom gained back most of his adulthood. 

Tuvok removed himself from the biobed and Tom looked at us with narrowed eyes. The blanket in his hands was discarded as if it meant little to this older Tom. "Okay, I'll bite. Why am I in sickbay?" 


Paris' Log Day 1 

I wanted to tell that group, 'what the fuck am I doing here?' The doctor looked as if he was gloating over something, the captain seemed to have her 'Mother Janeway' face on, and Tuvok just had that 'I can see right through you, lieutenant,' expression in his eyes. Yeah, I know, Tuvok and I had been bound together there so I guess he really did see right through me. 

Why was Chakotay standing there with tears in his eyes? Shit, I didn't need this. I knew he hated me but at the same time there was some crazy sense that he was here to take care of me, like some kind of big brother. 

"Well? Why am I here?" I guess my tone was sort of demanding, but this was fucking weird. 

"Tom, what do you remember of the past month or so?" 

My head hurt trying to figure that one out. "Prison. Delta Quadrant. Kazons." At the same time, maybe even stronger, was another memory. "Uh . . . I spent a lot of time with Chakotay? But he was a kid . . . " 

"What do you remember of yourself?" the holodoc asked me. 

Fuck. No, I didn't say that out loud. No need to get sent to my room without dinner. But I saw a kid version of myself in my mind and I didn't like it. "I was some little kid, like five?" 

"How old are you now?" the doctor asked as if he was actually curious about my answer. 

"Twenty-six?" I asked, wondering if it had been a trick question. Turns out it was. 

"Tom. This may surprise you, but there's four years of your life missing. You're now 30, not 26, or five," the captain told me. "Voyager has been in the Delta Quadrant for four years." 

"Thirty?" I put a lot of disbelief in my voice. *Thirty?* I was beginning to get a little unnerved. But I made sure my face was a total blank, okay, maybe I smirked a bit. "So how come I don't remember? If this was one of my movie vids from the 20th century, you'd tell me I was hit on the head and have amnesia." 

They didn't laugh. Instead, they suggested that the doctor should finish checking me out and then we could meet in the conference room and all would be explained. I don't know if I really wanted to hear that explanation. But they seemed to want to tell me. The captain and Tuvok left and Chakotay stayed behind. I wasn't sure how I felt about that. He kept giving me these funny looks, like he liked me? 

So, after another hour of the doctor's tests, questions, probes, whatever, I was free to go to the conference room. I was really surprised when the doctor walked with me and Chakotay. How'd he get out? Maybe I had missed a few years. 

In the conference room were the captain, Tuvok, Harry, Torres, and some exotic blond creature in a brown form- , very form-, fitting body suit. Neelix was there but Kes wasn't. I was starting to get nervous so I made sure I made my face a total blank, then fixed a phony smile on top. Never let them see you vulnerable. Never. The captain pointed to a chair. I sat down, Chakotay sat on one side of me and the doctor on another. I guess they volunteered to catch me if I passed out or threw a fit or something. 

The next two hours were one shock after another. My mind was reeling and they'd only brought me up to date on the past two years. As if he knew what I was going through, Chakotay brought me a glass of water as we took a break. I put my head close to his to whisper to him, "Is this all true? This stuff about me saving the ship and all that?" 

He smiled at me and I could hear affection in his voice when he answered, "Yes, it is and you did." 

How was I going to live this stuff down? 

"How are you doing, Tom? I know this is a lot to absorb all at once." 

Why the hell was he so nice to me? I gave him a smartass, "What's it to you?" and immediately regretted it. Chakotay looked as if I'd kicked him in the balls. I can't begin to describe the sadness in his face. 

"Shit, I'm sorry," I apologized. 

"It's okay, Tom." 

He went over to the captain and suggested that maybe I'd had enough for today. As he and the captain talked about me, I tried to listen with one ear and listen for my friend Harry with the other. He seemed to be deep in conversation with the new woman, Seven, and I got the sense that I didn't exist as long as he was near her. Oh, well. There went my only friend. 

And then there were the vibes I was picking up from Lt. Torres. Whew. My body was impressed by her, I felt a sort of a tingle in it when I looked at her. Her looks back at me were confusing. One minute I picked up something like passion and the next, more like revulsion. The revulsion I was used to, the passion I didn't have a clue about that. Yeah, maybe, this day should end here before I actually figured out who was friend and who was enemy. 

Janeway came over and asked me if I wanted to call it day. "Your friends" interesting . . . my friends. . . since when did I have friends? "will be around if you have any questions for them. In your room are all your personal logs. You may want to try to skim over them." 

"Okay." That sounded reasonable. "Uh, Captain, um, am I seeing anyone? You know, uh, off duty-like?" 

She looked distressed. Uh-oh. Who'd I antagonize most recently? 

"Tom, come over here with me a minute." She took me to a quiet corner. "There's something you should know. When you went down to the planet, you were six months pregnant. The baby was lost when you went through the -25 portal. People who see you, they may say something to you about it." 

Fuck this. I thought I'd faint. But Chakotay was there to guide me to a chair. He looked at her, she nodded as if confirming that she had told me. I couldn't find my voice to ask how it happened or who the father or mother was or what the hell I'd been thinking to agree to something like that. Mercifully, she gave me a very brief version, hitting the high or low spots. I guess it all depended on your point of view. I was pretty sure I was going to be sick but the doctor used his doctor sensitivity to find me with a hypospray in his hand. Instant wellness. Or whatever. I was too dazed to think straight. 

The captain decided I didn't need to parade myself through the decks just yet and had me and Chakotay beamed to my quarters. He led me to my bed and made sure I lay down. He asked if I needed anything. How about a head full of memories? Well, I had a head and it was swimming. I asked him, "What are you?" 

"How do you mean?" 

"You've been hovering around me since I got back. What's the big deal?" 

Okay, so once again I'd put my foot in it. Geez, the guy was sensitive. "Tom. Get some rest, I know you could use some. When you're hungry, we'll have something to eat. Maybe we'll talk then, if you feel better." 

"You're staying here?" 

"I won't leave you alone, Tom." Somehow the way he said it, it was like a promise to keep me safe. And maybe his concern, or whatever it was, started to get through to me. I just bet he didn't hate me anymore. 

I closed my eyes and felt him kiss my forehead very lightly. Nope, he didn't hate me anymore. 


Paris' Log Day 2 

If I thought my head was swimming yesterday, by the end of today, I was drowning in information. I followed the Captain's advice and skimmed most of the first two years I'd been on Voyager. There was a lot of pain there, a lot of loneliness. As I skimmed through the PADDS, I could see a change emerging. I started to think of myself as someone who had friends, real friends. 

As I moved into the year before last, there was one log entry that I didn't skim. Harry Kim and I were thrown into a brutal prison, made all the worse by implants in our brains that stimulated aggression. I started out as the big guy, relying on my prior prison experience, looking after the new guy. Some big guy. All that changed when I was knifed and damn near killed. I was scared and, for once, not too full of myself to admit it. Harry Kim stood by me, implant or no, and declared that he was my friend and no one touches me. No kidding, I owed him big time. I realized then that Harry was still my friend and I felt relieved that at least that hadn't changed. 

As I moved into the last year of logs before Mulxmulto 3, I learned about my intense affair with B'Elanna Torres and I saw that I hadn't done as much changing as I needed to if I wanted to be in a relationship. I withdrew from her after I found out she had retrieved a letter, a damaging letter, from my father, and had lied to me about it. When she tried to ask me about my emotional and physical disappearances I blew up at her. This was the Tom Paris I knew, a complete fuck-up when it came to relationships. Matters weren't helped when an alien took over my body and seduced her. She must have felt like she'd been raped or something. Hell, no wonder she dumped me. I felt pretty sick learning about it. 

There in my logs was all the stuff about Tom Paris being pregnant. The alien had something to do with it, and, oh, this was interesting, so did Janeway and Chakotay. She hadn't mentioned that yesterday. Sounded interesting. So, I didn't want to be pregnant, threatened to get rid of it, then wanted it for all the wrong reasons. As I went through this most recent period of my life before becoming a five year old, the tone of the logs changed. Un-fucking-believable: I was in love in Chakotay! And he was in love with me. I couldn't get over the intimate details I'd recorded in my personal logs. It was as if I'd never been in love before, never discovered sex before. 

Wow. No wonder the big guy's been hovering over me. Ears burning with embarrassment, I snuck a glance at him over on my couch, engrossed in his own logs, reconnecting with his own memories. But I knew that he hadn't needed a log to tell him what our relationship was all about. He knew. 

I sat back, allowing my *real* memories of being five year old Tommy to replay in my mind in light of this new information. I couldn't help it, tears just started pouring out of my eyes. I turned away from Chakotay so he wouldn't see me, but he noticed something and got up to sit in a chair near my own. His hand fell on my arm and his soft voice asked, "What is it, Tom?" 

Through my crying I asked him to call me Tommy. I felt much closer to him than to this 30 year old guy called Tom. His hand moved to my shoulder, "Tommy?" 

I turned to Chakotay and flung my arms around him and sobbed onto his shoulder. For a long time I was too upset to say anything and he didn't press me, just murmured soothing sounds in my ear and rubbed my back and held my head to him. "It'll take time, Tommy. Give it time. We'll work it out." 


B'Elanna Torres' Log Four Weeks After Paris and Chakotay's Return 

I suppose you could say that I was feeling selfish. But this past month, I've gone around thinking how glad I was that it was Chakotay who was stuck with Tom rather than me. I don't see too much of Tom, but when I do, I am reminded all over again of all the reasons I didn't like him for so long. Chip on his shoulder, smirk on his face, masks for every occasion, the old Tom Paris in all his repugnant glory. 

When Tom and I had begun to see each other, it had been Chakotay who had come around to see if I knew what I was getting into. He hadn't wanted me to get hurt. Now it was my turn. I braced him one day when we were both alone in a turbolift. 

"Chakotay, I'm worried about you," I told him, not one to engage in small talk. 

"How so?"

"Tom Paris. You know he's going to break your heart." 

Chakotay just smiled. "I appreciate that you care about me, B'Elanna. I know what I'm doing. Tom and I have a bond that . . . that goes back a long way." 

"Chakotay, you're playing with dynamite if you think that this Tom Paris is that little five year old you took care of on Mulxmulto 3." 

"No. I know he's not and he does, too. I see a little progress every day in his journey back to the Tom Paris you and I both love." 

He said that in the present tense. I bristled a little, but I was also curious. "What makes you think I still love him?" 

"I know you do. You two have an attraction for each other that isn't going to disappear over the fact that he acted like a jerk and that an alien took control of his body." 

"That's . . ." I struggled to find words to say, ". . . very interesting. If you think that's true . . . " 

"Then what am I doing with him?" 

I nodded, wondering what he was going to say next. 

Chakotay grinned at first (if it were anyone else, I would have described him as leering), then he turned a serious face on me, saying emphatically, "I love him more than my own life. When you broke up with Tom, you called me and told me he could use a friend. I volunteered. I know you were terribly angry with him, some of it with good reason, but I held off for months on an intimate relationship, thinking you would want to patch things up with him. When you didn't . . . " 

When I didn't, they began a relationship. I stood there in the halted turbolift more than a little stunned. He wasn't finished. 

"I hope," he began, then paused and started over, "I hope you and Tom can be true friends, friends who love each other." 

A million thoughts whirled around in my head. "Why?" 

"You're good for each other. I know, I know, you both used to drive each other crazy, but you also see through each other's masks." He leaned down, his expression completely earnest. "You know Tom is going through a really tough time right now. You can help." 

"How? He's hardly said three words to me since he came back." 

"Invite him to the holodeck for a Klingon bat'leth session. He's spending so much time on flying simulations, he needs to let off steam." 

"And you think I can help?" 

He grinned, those damned dimples emphasizing his words, "I know you can. And I think you have some unresolved issues with him. Bat'leths. That should work." 

The man was infuriating. I hated to admit that he was right about unresolved issues. Well, we'd just have to see. I followed up a day or so later with a casual invitation to Tom to meet me on the holodeck and to bring his bat'leth. I wasn't sure he'd accept but he did. 

He showed up in a suit that was as form fitting on him as any of Seven's outfits were on her. He looked good. Damned good. But Chakotay was right. If Tom and I were to regain any kind of a relationship, it would be friendship. 

Tom seemed a little uncertain as to why he was on the holodeck, so I whipped his butt in the ritualized battle. An hour later, somewhere between being angry with himself and vexed with me, he called it quits and halted the program. He slid down the wall of the bare holodeck, sweaty and flushed from the exertion. I sat down close enough that the odors of our bodies mingled in the air between us. 

"So, Tom, how you been?" 

He laughed and wiped at the sweat on his forehead. "Oh, you know, flying daring raids in Voyager, escaping enemies with fancy helm control. Hell, I'm flying simulations on the holodeck and I can say I'm only marginally better than I was a month ago." 

"A month ago you were a damn good pilot." 

He laughed shortly and looked at me. "Yeah. Right. So, why am I here? Besides giving you a chance to wipe me out?" 

"That's the only reason. I wanted to see you grovel, Paris." We both laughed. Okay, this looked as if it would be a good time to change the subject and I turned serious. "We broke up. I know, it's more accurate to say that I broke us up, and I think I made a big mistake." 

I had his attention but I had also created some anxiety as he polished the side of his bat'leth with his fingers over and over. "I drove you to it. I'm really sorry." 

I didn't expect him to say that. "I should have been more patient." I didn't expect to say that. When I got over being surprised, I reflected, "But maybe it's for the best, Tom." 

Puzzled blue eyes held my gaze. "How do you mean?" 

"You have Chakotay and I think, in the long run, he's going to be better for you than I ever could have been. Not as exciting, maybe, but . . . " I stopped when I saw Tom blush. "Tom Paris, you're blushing!" 

"Yeah, well," he tapped the bat'leth against the floor a few times. "I've read my logs from . . . before. . . " 

"Details, Paris, details," I demanded and he just roared with laughter. 

"Those go with me to my grave, Torres." He looked down at his feet, twitched them a few times and his tone turned serious. "We . . . not yet . . . You know?" 

"You're saying you're still too much the Tom Paris from four years ago for him to want to touch you," I speculated with as much bluntness as I could muster. 

"No!" Well, that got a reaction. "No, that's not it." He sighed. "I mean, it's me . . . ." 

I quoted him back at himself, "'It's me' what?" He got all embarrassed again. "Come on, Paris, you opened the door, don't leave it hanging." 

"But why am I talking to you about my lack of sex life?" 

"Because we're friends." I didn't hesitate to say the words and they came out as a self-evident statement of fact. I saw a smile form on the edges of his lips. "Oh, let it out, Paris. It's not like you're protecting your virginity here." His smile widened. 

"Hmm. I don't know if I know. But it's like he . . . I think. . . I'm afraid that Chakotay loves me. And I don't think I'm good enough for him. So, if nothing starts, then he can't have any regrets when he realizes I'm not worth it." 

Whew. I asked for it. I never expected such honesty from this Tom Paris. It took my breath away and I wondered at and recognized the lousy view he had of himself. Never one to rely on diplomacy, I plunged right in. "That's crap, Tom." Another startled expression tossed my way. "You're worth a lot. I know. I've seen it. Chakotay told me . . ." I paused, wondering if the big man had spoken to me in confidence. Oh, well, I'd asked for Tom's confidence, might as well give him one in return. "Chakotay told me that he loved you more than his own life. He wouldn't throw his life away on someone who wasn't good enough." 

Tom blinked as if totally undone. Not a single one of his masks was in place. His eyes filled with tears. "He said that?" 

"Yes. He did and he meant it. So. What about you? How do you feel about him?" 

The bat'leth clattered to the floor and Tom hugged his drawn up legs with his arms. "I love him so much . . . I'm afraid I'll take him down with me." 

I placed a hand on top of Tom's arm. "Tom. Listen to me. You are not taking him down. Do you hear me?" 

Give him a moment and whatever he'd allowed me to see was safely behind a bland expression. Heart to heart was over. But it was okay. Tom and I never did need a lot of words to get along. He picked up his bat'leth and stood up, ready to leave. "Thanks, Torres. Enjoyed the match." 

Out the doors he went, and as the doors slid shut I managed to say, "Anytime, Paris." 


Chakotay's Log Six Weeks After Return 

Although Tom's still not back on the bridge flying the ship - that'll take a few more weeks - Tommy's moved a long way from that embarrassed kid in his quarters who cried his heart out on my shoulder. It took weeks before he felt comfortable enough to allow me to kiss him on the cheek or forehead without flinching. I didn't press him or put any moves on him. If our physical relationship returned I'd be grateful, but the delicate balance of memories in his mind gave me pause. An inappropriate touch while he was dominated by memories of being Tommy would be wrong. I couldn't risk it. So I let him set the pace and accepted whatever he was comfortable with. To begin with, that wasn't much, a peck on the check, a lingering hand on my arm. It could mean anything or nothing. 

That first night back, six weeks ago, I slept on his couch until he got up in the middle of the night. With a petulant whine in his voice, he told me he couldn't get to sleep and that he wanted us to sleep together, that he was used to having me next to him from our time down on the planet. He literally meant sleeping together, not having sex together and I understood that. Sometimes we slept in his bed, sometimes mine. Sometimes he had a bad night, with memories of prison, that seemed like yesterday to him, intruding on his dreams. There was nothing I could do to banish those memories, they were a part of his past. But I held him and told him that was all over now and gradually the bad nights became less and less frequent. Kathryn understood when I was sometimes late on the bridge after one of the bad nights. In fact, she couldn't have been more supportive. 

I saw Tom change, sometimes from one moment to the next. He managed to move from the hostile, juvenile Tom Paris of four years ago, to someone a lot more comfortable with himself. Sudden emotional switches to five year old Tommy became infrequent. He began to see more of B'Elanna, Harry, even Seven. He also spent a lot of time on the holodecks, flying sims, revisiting old programs, and I'm not sure what all. 

I saw him smile more, his genuine smile, the one that could light a starship for a million years. The changes he'd made were emotional as well as physical. I asked Tuvok to check him out for a return to the bridge. 


Chakotay's Log Eight Weeks After Return 

Perhaps it was being back on the bridge, perhaps it had more to do with the simple passage of time, but Tom's physical desires had somehow been rekindled. He'd had a great day at the helm, outwitting asteroids, joking about the slow reaction times of the asteroid pilots in ways that made us all laugh. I felt blessed to have him back. 

That night in my quarters, we rediscovered what we had been to each other before the events of Mulxmulto 3 had torn apart our lives and future. Had I known how much time we needed to explore, to rediscover and reclaim the physical side of our relationship, maybe I would have scheduled us for a late shift the next day. Hindsight sure is helpful. 

It was hours, many kisses, and much love making later, that he spun into sleep. Tired, needing to sleep myself, my thoughts wouldn't let me go right away. The memory of my conversation with Kathryn when she told me she wanted to be just friends surfaced. 

She'd said, "Something happened to you when we made love when I was in Tom's body." 

I grinned, "Yes. I could hardly function when Tuvok called us to the bridge." 

But she was serious. "I don't mean that exactly. You wanted to possess Tom's body, maybe even punish it, in a way I'd never seen before." 

Her words had me worried. "What are you saying?" 

"I think you know. I see the way you look at Tom, touch him when you can. Chakotay, you *want* him." 

I couldn't admit to her then that she was right. At that point, I was sure she was wrong. I believed that she was simply seeing what she wanted to, that her sexual response to me in Tom's body, her insistence that turn about was fair play, scared her. 

I don't know if I was correct about her motivations for breaking things off with me. But she proved to be right about me. I would have to tell her that someday. In my lovemaking, I wanted to possess Tom, punish him, dominate him, cherish him. I think Tom just wanted to be loved. Whatever it took, he'd do it if it meant that I would love him. 

I realized I should talk more with him about what he wanted. My experiences on the planet had changed me, too. Some of that hard need to control Tom no longer permeated my being. I don't think he realized that I loved him as just Tom. Maybe it was time I told him. Midnight thoughts, Chakotay, I told myself. Time to go to sleep. 

This morning, Tom was at first all serious and sweet. Anxiously, I checked for signs that last night had been too much for him. Despite the lack of sleep, he looked very happy, even waking us up before the alarm. 

"There's something I want to ask you," he said as we lay in bed waiting for the computer alarm to remind us to get up. 

His eyes were wide awake and very blue, drawing me in and my hand started toward him. 

"No. Now this is serious," he laughed as he batted my hand away. "Maybe later, if there's time." 

"Spirits, Tom, you've got more energy than this old man." 

He blushed. "Yeah. But . . ." His voice trailed off and he looked as if he wanted to return to the topic that was on his mind more than sex. 

"Okay, it's serious. I'm listening." 

"You know, about the baby. . . " 

"Uh-huh." This was serious. 

"I've been thinking about him. He would be just about ready to join this world." 

I did the mental calculations. Tom was right. Nine months. I felt our loss all over again as a sharp pain in my chest. When I could speak, I worried about how this was affecting Tom and asked him, "How does that make you feel?" 

"Sad. Really, really sad. And I've been bothered about . . . about losing him. It was my fault, Chakotay. From what I've learned, I walked right into that portal without thinking about what I was doing." 

"And. . . ?" I wasn't sure yet what he needed from me: comfort, reassurance, reminiscence? 

"I . . . I've been thinking about him a lot. I mean, given what happened, maybe it's for the best that I'm not still . . . you know, pregnant with him. I still don't have a clear idea of who I am. All that stuff." 

I kissed his forehead. "It's okay." 

"I know, I know. But, it's also not okay. I lost our baby. I want to make it up to you." 

"I don't understand, Tom. What are you saying?" 

"Someday, not right away, but when I'm . . . ready . . . Chakotay, I want us to try again. I want a baby. With you." 

Spirits, I didn't expect that. "Oh, Tom." I reached over and hugged him tightly. "You don't owe me a baby, Tom. Don't let guilt and loss make you say things you don't mean." I tried to put into words some of what I'd been thinking last night. "Tom, you mean everything to me. Just you. No baby, no incredible sex . . ." off his look I interjected, ". . .yes, incredible sex. Nothing more is needed from you because I can't love you anymore than I do." 

He sat up and looked down at me, completely surprised. He gave me a smile that uncovered his innermost soul. Whispering, with a finger to my lips, he told me, "I love you, too," he told me softly, "It's not guilt. It's love. We can talk about it; it's okay. After our shift, meet me on the holodeck?" 

The alarm told us time was up and I agreed to meet him there later that day. All through my shift, I wondered what he had in mind on the holodeck. A romantic dinner? A pool game at Sandrine's? In the few moments that we had to talk alone, he was totally tight lipped on the subject of tonight. 

When I stepped onto the holodeck it was none of those. He had recreated our valley on Mulxmulto 3, complete with our cabin and outhouse. Anxiously, he watched my face as I took in the surprise he had created. "Tom. This is amazing." 

I must have said the right thing for he stood a little straighter and a light danced in those blue eyes. "Is it okay? I wondered if you'd be mad." 

"Mad? Whatever for?" 

"I was afraid you'd think that I couldn't let go of the past and you'd think . . .I don't know, that you'd think I wasn't making progress. All that . . . " his voice trailed off. "So, it's okay?" 

"It's something we both need, Tom. This was a part of us, of our experiences. We shouldn't let it go completely." 

He grabbed my hand and took me to the rock where we often spent time fishing for our dinner. Companionably, we sat on the rock, side by side, arms around each other, bigger by far than we had been the last time we'd been here. Listening to the creek, seeing the fish under the clear waters of the side pool, I felt a sense of contentment and peace. No, I wasn't the same Chakotay I'd been before the time portal and neither was Tom the same Tom Paris, but it was okay. We didn't have to be the same people. We had each other. 

Softly, he said, "As I was working on this program . . . This is where I realized that I wanted to have our baby. You know, like we talked about, some time in the future. I asked the doctor today. He said he can take our sperm and make it so our genes are mixed randomly on the chromosomes. Then, he'd use that to fertilize a donor egg." He turned his face toward mine. "Do you think the captain would agree?" 

A strong, unmistakable voice behind us said, "The captain agrees." 

Tom jumped up. "Captain! You made it." 

"You invited me. I had to see what's taken up so much of your time recently. I take it this is where you and Chakotay spent that month on Mulxmulto 3." I stood up beside Tom, perhaps a little protectively. "Chakotay, am I to understand that you made that cabin?" 

I relaxed. "Yes, I did. Or my eighteen year old self made it." 

She looked impressed. "I'll have to be sure to send you on all the away missions to unknown planets." 

We laughed at her remarks, knowing she was easing the atmosphere. 

"So, Tom," she asked, "what's this about a baby?" 

He explained it to her, much as he had to me in the morning. He was so earnest, so caught between knowing he wasn't ready and knowing he needed to set some course for our future. "Tom, I'm truly sorry about what happened before. And I'm sorry that once you wanted the baby, it was lost to you, to us. Of course, I'll help you and Chakotay when the time comes." She emphasized the last four words, letting Tom know that she understood he wasn't ready yet. "But this time, I think the doctor better preside over the conception." 

He grinned, as if a huge load had been taken off his shoulders. "Thanks, Captain. That means a lot to me. This place, my memories of it, this is where I found out that Chakotay would make a great father." He smiled back at me, and I remembered when he'd asked me to be his father. Then he told her about it and how I had finessed the issue by declaring that we would be friends. 

She gave us both a kiss on the cheek, and I realized that was her way of approving our deal and giving us her endorsement, all at the same time. Then she asked Tom for a tour of our lost world. As I followed them, Tom playing tour guide, I thought I might feel sadness at all this place represented. It surprised me to realize that I was happy. That first time, I had been unwillingly brought here as just a kid with few skills and fewer instruments or tools to help us survive. I tried not to look at the cabin with the critical eye of an adult, but when I couldn't help it, I realized I felt pride and a sense of accomplishment. 

A damp drizzle began, just like we'd gotten used to on the planet, and Tom escorted us inside the cabin. I almost came undone once we were inside. There was Tommy's blanket and Tom's smock, just pieces of ragged cloth now, but items that had meant so much to us both back then. I had trouble breathing for the weight of tears that seemed to settle on my chest. I felt Tommy's eyes on me and when I looked at him, he was grinning hugely. The captain cleared her throat and indicated that she'd be going now. Lost in Tom's lakeside eyes, I hardly noticed her leave. He leaned into me, I put my arms around him, and kissed him hard. 

He pulled away after a few minutes of intense exploration. There was a question in his eyes. I placed my hands behind his head and told him, "You did a good job, Tommy. Very good." 

He beamed and cried at the same time, finally able to accept the praise he deserved. I hugged him tightly to me. He whispered, "I want to go back to our quarters now, to our home." 

He's back. And my heart floats above us for a moment, then hurtles back inside as if in a hurry to share itself fully with the young man in my arms. 

The End