By: R. Mackenzie

Date: January 14, 1999

Setting: Voyager welcomes a new member to their family.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns them, I‘m just borrowing them.

"Voyager to Shuttle Cochrane."

Captain Kathryn Janeway looked anxiously at her first officer as she again attempted to hail the long overdue shuttle craft while pacing nervously across her bridge. Her hail was met by silence.

The away mission was suppose to have been a simple one, meet up with a local trader and exchange goods. The man was reputable and his goods would have made life a little easier on Voyager for a while. Now her away team were two days past the scheduled rendevous time and they‘d been unable to locate them. Any contact with the various planetary governments had been met with obstinance. No one would say whether or not the shuttle and away team had made it to the planned meeting place.

"Captain, I‘ve found the shuttle!" Ensign Harry Kim exclaimed. "She‘s about three light-years away, just entering the upper atmosphere of the fourth planet."

"Status?" Janeway turned and faced the ensign, praying that the away team was all right.

"The shuttle appears intact," he meticulously continued to push buttons, trying to coax out the readings they all wanted to hear, "there‘s too much interference to get an internal scan. But we should be able to contact them as soon as they clear the planet‘s atmosphere."

"Let me know when they‘re clear," she ordered while answering Commander Chakotay‘s hopeful smile with one of her own. "Helm, set an intercept course with the Cochrane. Maximum warp."

Janeway reclaimed her center seat as her orders were carried out. She made note of the anxious atmosphere on the bridge, everyone waiting for news, hoping for the best. The last two days had been stressful on everyone. So many people had already been lost to the follies of the Delta Quadrant. No one wanted to add any more names to an already too long list.

"Shuttle Cochrane to Voyager. Please come in."

"On screen," she again stood to face the screen, this time Chakotay standing with her, offering his silent support, "Shuttle Cochrane, this is Voyager. Are you all right, Crewman Dalby?" she asked the man who appeared on screen. He appeared to be okay, but they all knew that looks could be deceiving, "Where‘s Ensign Paris?" She cringed inwardly. For Tom Paris to allow someone else to fly a ship while he was on board, something serious must have happened to him. What if he wasn‘t even on board? She stopped that train of thought. She was not going to lose another crew member, especially not Tom Paris.

"I‘m fine, Captain," he stole a glance at something behind him before continuing, "but Mr. Paris has been injured. Are we in transporter range yet?"

"Five minutes to transporter range, Captain," replied Lieutenant Commander Tuvok from his tactical station.

Not letting on how relieved she was, she addressed the man before her, "Mr. Dalby, we‘ll be in transporter range in a few minutes. What happened?"

Before Dalby could respond to the question, a baby‘s cry could be heard over the link.

"What was that?" Janeway immediately asked, not believing that it could be what it sounded like.

"Um, Captain," the man hesitated, unsure how to explain, "it‘s a long story," he again turned to look behind him and then turned back around, his face reflecting his unease and concern, "one that you‘re going to have to see to understand."

Janeway took a moment to decide whether or not to push the point. She wanted to know what had happened, but it was apparent that the man before her was in no condition to pilot the shuttle and give her a report, "Very well, Mr. Dalby, we‘ll meet you in sickbay."

"Aye, Captain. Cochrane out."

"Mr. Tuvok, have the transporter room stand by to beam a pilot over to bring the shuttle in and have the away team beamed directly to sickbay," she knew she didn‘t have to wait for an ‚aye, Captain‘ from her Vulcan tactical officer, "Commander, contact sickbay, let them know they‘re about to have at least two patients coming their way."

Chakotay nodded as he returned to his seat to fulfill her orders, his imagination going into overdrive. Was that really a baby‘s cry that they had heard? And if so, where had it..he...she come from? What had happened on the away mission? Just how serious was Paris injured? With a glance around the room, he knew the rest of the bridge crew were all wondering the same things.

"Transporter room one is standing by," Tuvok‘s voice broke the silence that had descended on the bridge.

Janeway began to pace the length of the bridge again, the seconds passing by with an exaggerated slowness.

"Transport complete," Tuvok informed them a few minutes later.

That was all Janeway needed, "Mr. Tuvok, you have the bridge," she was already moving toward the exit, "Commander, you‘re with me."

When they arrived in sickbay they found the Doctor working at the main bio-bed over the unconscious form of Ensign Tom Paris. Crewman Kenneth Dalby was seated on a nearby bio-bed, cradling a small baby in his arms while anxiously watching every move the Doctor made over the prone man. Ensign Samantha Wildman, the Doctor‘s current assistant, stood by Dalby attempting to run a scan over them both while fighting the urge to take the baby from the obviously nervous man.

"Report," Janeway called out as they made their way over to the crewman. They came to a stop between the two bio-beds and awaited the Doctor‘s diagnosis.

"Mr. Dalby is fine, just a slight case of exhaustion," the Doctor began while continuing his work on his most frequent and troublesome patient, "Mr. Paris has a concussion, five broken ribs, a broken leg, a fractured jaw and wrist, a bruised kidney and spleen, a punctured lung and numerous other cuts and contusions. I had to sedate him to get the baby out of his arms so I could treat him," he stated in his usual annoyed toned, "He refused to let her go."

"They put him in a pit and made him fight for her."

The occupants of the room turned as Dalby softly spoke. He had his eyes focused on the baby in his arms, still trying to calm her. They could tell he was unsure of what exactly to do with the little wiggling bundle, but had no intention of letting her go.

Janeway looked to her first officer. They needed to know what had happened, but were they going to be able to handle what they were told? How could someone have made Paris fight for a child that wasn‘t even his? Before they could begin their questioning, the sickbay doors opened to Lieutenant B‘Elanna Torres, Tom‘s friend and lover. Chakotay watched her as she practically ran over to his unconscious form, "What happened? Is he going to be all right?" she begged of the Doctor.

"Lieutenant," Janeway interrupted the engineer‘s interrogation, "the Doctor is still assessing Mr. Paris‘s condition. Perhaps you would join us in his office," she motioned for Chakotay to escort her from the room, noticing the look of relief that crossed the Doctor‘s face. He may be just a hologram, but he, like everyone else, still feared for his well-being when the half-Klingon got upset, especially over her mate.

Turning back to the other occupants of the room, Janeway continued to direct her people, "Mr. Dalby, would you be up to giving us a report?" He looked haggard, but they needed to know what had transpired, needed to know if there was something for them to be worried about.

Dalby raised his head to look at his commanding officer and nodded his head. Slowly moving to the edge of the bed, he carefully jumped to the ground, still cradling his precious cargo.

"Crewman," Ensign Wildman moved closer to him and held out her arms. Noting his reluctance to relinquish the tiny bundle, Wildman added with a reassuring smile, "I promise, I‘ll take good care of her."

Looking again at the small child in his arms, he bent to drop a gentle kiss on her forehead, brushing the thick strands of dark black hair that had fallen forward. Wrapping the dirty blanket tighter around her, he then carefully handed her over. Janeway noticed the smile growing on the ensign‘s face. Who‘d have thought a big, burly man such as Ken Dalby could be so gentle with a baby? Once he was sure she wasn‘t going to throw a fit over the shift in care givers, Dalby turned toward the Captain and walked with her into the Doctor‘s office.

He took the empty seat next to B‘Elanna, away from the door, as Chakotay and the Captain perched themselves on the edge of the Doctor‘s desk.

"Mr. Dalby, what happened?"

He took a moment to collect his thoughts, unsure of what to say. The story was really Paris‘s to tell, not his, but there was no telling when the other man was going to be able to tell it. He decided to start at the beginning and tell them what he could.

"We were en route to the meeting place, no problems, when we picked up a distress signal. It was a short distance away, so we deviated from course and went to offer what assistance we could," his dark eyes were distant, unfocused as he spoke, "We were the first to arrive. It was a small recreational vehicle, the father had been killed instantly, the mother was pinned in the wreckage. She‘d gone into labor. Paris was able to deliver the baby, but the mother was too far gone."

He closed his eyes at the memory, fighting the tears that threatened to fall again. It had been awful. "She begged him to take her. She didn‘t seem to be able to let go until she had his promise that he would. After..." he had to take a deep breath to steady himself, grateful that no one was pushing him. This was harder than he‘d thought it would be. "We contacted the local government, informed them of the crash and what happened. The local militia arrived and we were escorted before the governor. We explained our actions and then Paris was immediately challenged for guardianship of the baby. We didn‘t understand what was going on or what we were suppose to do."

"Why didn‘t Mr. Paris just leave the baby? They were her people, surely there was a family member that could have taken her?" Janeway questioned. Prime Directive aside, the baby should be raised by her own people, not a group of strangers.

"It wasn‘t that simple, Captain. As we came to find out," Dalby replied bitterly. "The mother had given the baby to Paris, as far as their laws were concerned, he was now her father."

At that moment, the baby chose to cry out and Dalby was immediately on his feet and heading for the door.

"Mr. Dalby," Janeway stood and intercepted him, "I‘m sure Ensign Wildman can handle the baby," she placed her hand on his arm and steered him back to his chair. If anyone on Voyager knew how to care for a baby, it was Samantha Wildman. Up until a few minutes ago, she was the only person on board ship with a child of her own.

He hesitated and looked out of the office window, fighting the urge to ignore his commanding officer and go get her. With Paris incapacitated, Dalby felt an overwhelming need to know that the baby was safe, hold her in his arms. Noting that she was quieting down, he reluctantly returned to his seat and the story. No one said anything and he was oblivious to the looks that were passing back and forth between his senior officers.

"According to their laws, he had been challenged, he had to fight. Hand-to-hand combat, winner to take the baby. The only other option was for Paris to be executed as a dishonorable man. One who obviously couldn‘t fulfill his obligations," he looked to his right as he heard the sharp intact of breath from B‘Elanna. He sent her a sympathetic, sad look. "They kept us locked up until the day of the fight. Today," he was back to gazing at nothing, the blank expression on his face, "I still don‘t know how he did it. They weren‘t exactly uncivilized, we were fed and had beds to sleep on, but taking care of a new born baby didn‘t leave a lot of time for rest," his gazed wandered to the view outside the office window, "once it was over, they just let us go."

Janeway didn‘t know what to say as Dalby ended his report, not sure she wanted to know any of the details. They had faced many unknown and unusual situations on their trek home, but this one. She shook her head and looked to her first officer, noting that he too seemed to be at a loss.

"Does she have a name?" This from B‘Elanna who hadn‘t said a word since entering the office. Chakotay noticed the pensive look on her face and wondered what she must be thinking. Paris was now apparently a single father and she was his girlfriend. What would be her roll in his life now?

The Doctor chose that moment to walk into his office, carrying the baby now wrapped in a clean, pink baby blanket and contentedly sucking on a bottle. "I‘ve repaired Mr. Paris‘s injuries, for yet another time," he stopped a few steps in, unsure of who to hand his newest patient to, "this little one is fine, just hungry," he said while looking at the faces of the people gathered in his office.

B‘Elanna stood and walked over to him, "May I?" she asked while holding out her arms, ending the Doctor‘s dilemma. He gently handed her over and B‘Elanna returned to her seat, making herself comfortable while getting use to the feel of a baby in her arms. She didn‘t see the amazed and amused looks on the faces watching her.

After casting his own amazed look at the engineer, the Doctor addressed his superior officers, "I have relieved Mr. Paris from duty for the next week. He‘ll need to stay here tonight, then he can complete his recuperation in his quarters. I have also relieved Mr. Dalby for the next twenty-four hours to rest."

Dalby‘s head nodded in acknowledgment, his attention focused on the chair next to him. "He hadn‘t decided on a name yet. Just kept calling her his little beauty," he stated as he watched B‘Elanna, with growing confidence, handle the baby, one arm cradling her small form, the other hand holding the bottle for her to eat. "He was afraid that you wouldn‘t like her. That you wouldn‘t want her," he continued bluntly while leaning over to run his fingers across her small forehead, watching her eyes appraise the woman holding her. In the past four days he had gotten to know more of who Paris the man really was than he had discovered during the last five years. People expected him to act and be a certain way because of who he was, because of his family name, but that wasn‘t him, not really. Dalby now understood Janeway‘s faith in him, Harry‘s undying friendship and loyalty and B‘Elanna‘s love. Even understood how Chakotay could get past his hatred and call the man a friend. This away mission had been quite the eye opener.

Janeway, Chakotay and the Doctor looked on as B‘Elanna tore her eyes away from the baby‘s face and looked at the man across from her. She couldn‘t deny the fears Tom had voiced to him. She hadn‘t really ever wanted children, not after her own messed up childhood and the fear that she could end up being like her own mother. But now, holding this small creature in her arms, memorizing her tiny features she found she wasn‘t so disinclined to the idea. Was she still scared? Terrified. Definitely. But that was okay, she figured what new parent wasn‘t? Smiling, she returned her gaze to the baby‘s face, brown eyes looking into innocent dark, green ones, "People have been known to change."

Chakotay‘s mouth fell open. He had known her the longest, probably knew almost as much, if not more, about her than Paris did, but this was something he never thought he would see. Janeway tried not to laugh at her friend‘s disbelief. She, herself was pretty amazed at the sight before her. Who would have thought the volatile half-Klingon would have risen to the occasion, Tom was going to be quite surprised.

"Doctor," Janeway turned her attention to the medical officer, "I want to be informed when Mr. Paris awakens. There are some questions he needs to answer."

"I plan on keeping him sedated until morning. Although I have healed his injuries, his body needs time to recover from the shock. He‘s going to be quite stiff and sore for a few days."

"Tomorrow morning then. Mr. Dalby, you‘re dismissed," Janeway turned her attention to the crewman, "I‘ll let Commander Tuvok know that you‘ll be off duty until the day after tomorrow. Also, please have your report on my desk upon your return."

"Aye, Captain," he confirmed her orders and reluctantly left after placing another kiss on the baby‘s forehead.

"What about the baby?" questioned Chakotay, "If Paris is out until tomorrow and even then not going to be able to move around very well, who‘s going to take care of our newest crew member?"

"Get that smug smile off your face, Commander," B‘Elanna stated while scowling at her friend. He gave her a who me? look at which she just rolled her eyes. "I‘ll take care of her."

"Okay, then who‘s going to take care of you?" he retorted.

"B‘Elanna," although Janeway found the interaction amusing, the fact remained that her chief engineer had more knowledge and abilities with the warp core than she did with children, especially one so young and dependent on someone else.

"Captain," B‘Elanna looked up, cutting off her commanding officer before she could voice her doubts, "She‘s Tom‘s daughter. I‘m not going to just turn her over to anyone. Besides," she returned her gaze to the baby, removing the now empty bottle from her mouth, "I‘m going to have to get use to taking care of her."

Janeway made note that there was no doubt in the woman‘s voice as to how this situation was going to resolve itself. Tom was the father, so apparently, B‘Elanna was going to be the mother. She bit her lip to keep herself from laughing. The irony of things.

"Very well, if you think you‘ll be all right, she‘s yours for the night," Janeway smiled at her junior officer, "why don‘t you check with Sam and see if maybe there‘s some baby things left over from Naomi that she wouldn‘t mind loaning you."

Chakotay took the empty bottle and helped B‘Elanna out of the chair.

"Thank you, Captain. Doctor, can I see Tom before I leave?"

"Yes, of course, follow me," he stated, unable to keep the surprise and awe out of his own voice while gesturing for the new mother to proceed him from the room. He had always dreaded the day when these two would undoubtably start having children, but it never occurred to him that they could be so protective, gentle and loving. He was going to have to rethink his previous assessments.

"I never thought the day would come when B‘Elanna Torres would willing say yes to taking care of a baby," stated Chakotay as they watched her walk to Tom‘s bed side, expertly lifting the baby to her shoulder to burp her.

"This has certainly been a day full of surprises," Janeway ran a tired hand across her forehead. Although it appeared that Tom and B‘Elanna were willing to take on the care and responsibility of this child, were they going to be able to give her all she needed, especially with their already full list of duties and obligations?

B‘Elanna Torres walked through the quiet corridors of the Starship Voyager carrying a box with the last of her things, feeling content with herself and the world around her. Life had certainly thrown her a curve and the last several months had been full of a lot of changes, ones that she was now willing to admit were for her own good.

After Tom was released from sickbay, they had talked for hours about what they wanted with their lives. From work to their relationship to what they saw in the future, both wanting to make sure that they were heading in the same direction, not moving apart. Neither of them wanted to jump into a family and then have it fall apart later. But as they would both come to find out, they had already made their decisions- they wanted to be together, the baby was giving them the push they needed to put their fears and insecurities behind them.

And now, three months after the entrance of Melissa K‘Lynne into their lives, they had not only combined their personal items, but their lives as well. She entered their new quarters and looked around at the boxes and furniture scattered throughout. Shaking her head at the disorganization, she set the box down and wondered where they were going to put everything. They didn‘t have a lot of things, but add in everything that had been given to them for baby and wedding gifts, they now had more than they knew what to do with.

"You kept your face like that for too long and it‘s going to stay that way permanently."

She jumped, never having heard the door open, and turned to face the person entering the room. Fighting to keep the scowl on her face, she scolded, "It‘s not nice to sneak upon someone like that."

Tom smiled as he walked over to her, their sleeping daughter cradled snugly in his arms. He leaned down to give his wife a kiss and an apologetic smile.

Although they had been given two weeks for a honeymoon, they hadn‘t wanted to leave their daughter for that long. Their friends had tried to reassure them that she would be well looked after and that they had nothing to worry about. It didn‘t help. They enjoyed the time they had to spend together but could only take so much of not seeing and being able to hold their daughter. After a week, they ended their solitude and while B‘Elanna gathered the last of her things from her old quarters, Tom had gone to retrieve their daughter from Ensign Wildman‘s care.

"So, where do you think we should we start?" he asked, looking around the room himself.

She watched as his blue eyes scanned the various items scattered throughout the room and realized how natural it was to see him standing there with a baby in his arms. How could she have ever thought that this was not what she wanted? She couldn‘t believe that she had fought him about starting a family.

"Earth to B‘Elanna," Tom softly called to her, noting the far away look in her brown eyes.

Not wanting to give up the peace and happiness she was feeling, she suggested, "How about we just sit for a while. It‘s not like we don‘t have time to sort through things later. After all, technically we are still on our honeymoon."

Smiling in understanding, he responded, "I have no problem with taking some time for our little family," the tone in his voice reflecting how happy he was at her request. He had never thought the day would actually come when they would be a family. For so long they had kept each other at arms length, dancing round the idea of a commitment, never talking about it unless forced to. And now, thanks to one little child, he had what he had always wanted-a family of his own to love and cherish.

Gently placing their sleeping daughter in her mother‘s arms, Tom cleared away the things stacked on the couch, pulled over the coffee table and reclined back against the couch cushions, kicking off his shoes and putting his feet up on the table. B‘Elanna joined him, fitting perfectly into the crook of his arm, with her head resting on his shoulder, her shoeless feet next to his. Nothing was said as they sat together, enjoying the time they had to just be with one another.

The End