Romancing the Stone: Stage III


Darrel W. Beach

Looking for story notes?  You'll find them in Chapter 1.


     He felt a cool metallic object press into the base of his neck.  Within moments the blood rushed through his body as if superheated and he was forced to inhale deeply for oxygen.  He began to stir, his eyes fluttering open, but the bright light and the aching in his limbs quickly cut short both attempts.
     "Ugh.  Did someone get the registry number of the shuttlecraft that hit me?"  Tom groaned, screwing his eyes tightly closed.  Every muscle in his body felt tired and stiff, and his head filled with cotton.
     "Don't worry, Tom, the sedatives will wear off in a few minutes."
     "Kes?"  Tom's eyes snapped open, a manoeuvre he immediately regretted.  He lifted a hand to shield his eyes from the light and squinted.  Kes smiled cheerfully at him.
     Tom squinted, not trusting his senses.  "What's going on?"  He finally noticed his hands.  "My hands."  His free hand trembling, he reached back and brushed a thick head of hair.  His eyes widened as much as the bright light would allow.  "I'm me again, but...but how...?"
     "We found the Cochrane landed on an uninhabited planet less than five light years from where you went into transwarp.  Commander Chakotay's away team found you and beamed you both back to Sickbay so the Doctor could reverse your conditions."
     His hand flipped around, palm outward, performing a double duty of light blocker and stop signal.  "Whoa, wait a minute.  'Both'?"
     Kes' smile disappeared.  "You don't remember?  The captain, you put her aboard the shuttle before you took off."
     Tom eyes, growing accustomed to the room's illumination, widened further.  "I kidnapped Captain Janeway?"  He searched the room frantically and spotted her, sitting up on another biobed while the Doctor performed tests.  The captain, upon hearing her name, looked over at him.  "Oh, this'll go great with my permanent record."
     "At ease, Lieutenant," Janeway said.  "From what the Doctor tells me, you may have been acting on survival instincts more than conscious thought.  I can't exactly punish you for something that was beyond your control."  Her lip curled upward slightly in a smile.  "The next time you evolve in an advanced life form, though, take somebody else."
     The Doctor's medical tricorder snapped shut.  "I've completed my initial scans, Captain.  You are in excellent health given your postnatal condition."
     There were few times, if any, that Tom saw the captain flustered.  "I beg your pardon?" she asked, dumbfounded.  He wasn't sure if he'd heard the Doctor correctly, either.
     "The results are incontrovertible.  There are traces of placental material present in your uterus.  I'd congratulate you but the identity of the biological father is fairly obvious."  The Doctor turned and looked snidely at Tom.  "Not even millions of years of evolution could curb Mr. Paris' libido."
     Tom was acutely aware that everyone was staring at him, mostly in shock.  He could feel his blood pressure plummeting.  "I think I need to lie back down," he said just before he fainted.

     When Tom reawakened, his thoughts picked up right where they had left off.  Looking up he saw that things had apparently returned to normal.  The Doctor was again at the captain's side with a medical tricorder.  He couldn't see Kes.  He wondered how long he'd been unconscious.  At least they all weren't still staring at him.
     The Doctor's pronouncement sent shivers down his spine.  He and the captain...had procreated.  Somewhere on that planet were alien life forms that he had spawned with his commanding officer.  The most chilling part was that he couldn't remember anything about it.  How could he have done such a thing?  Had his brain become so demented by his mutations that he didn't know what he was doing and with whom?
     The captain noticed his attention and locked on to him with an equal stare.  Tom wanted to look away but felt helpless to do so under her scrutiny.  He felt ultimately embarrassed and humiliated.  Whatever respect she had left for him was no doubt snuffed out by his indecent behaviour.  The guilt and shame would haunt him for the rest of his life.      "I've eradicated all traces of the mutant DNA from your system and restored your original genome," he heard the Doctor say to the captain.  "Congratulations, you're human again."
     Her gaze never wavered.  "Thank you, Doctor."
     Tom felt his cheeks burn with blood.  That's probably more than what she thinks of me right now.
     "Captain, it will take some time for your genetic codes to stabilize.  I'd like to keep you in Sickbay for the next three days, just to be safe."
     When she glanced at the Doctor Tom felt as if he could breathe again.  His head flopped back on to the bed cushion.  He felt mentally and spiritually exhausted.
     "Excuse me."  Tom heard the captain get to her feet.  Her footfalls, barely audible, foretold her approach to his bedside.  His mind raced, searching for some kind of apology.
     Too soon, it seemed, she came into view.  He sat up, swinging his legs over the side, and he noticed that his muscles were no longer sore.  "Captain, I...."  His mind turned up a blank.  Given a week he still wasn't sure if he could find the words to adequately express his regret.
     "I've thought about having children," she said.  The almost conversational tone of her statement was enough to give him pause.  Then again, anything short of a berating tirade was unexpected.  "But I must say, I've never considered having them with you."
     "Captain, I'm sorry.  I don't know what to say.  I don't remember very much about...uh, you know."
     She seemed a little put off by his apology.  "What makes you think it was your idea?"  Tom did a double take as she paced around him. "Sometimes it's the female of the species that initiates mating.  But apology accepted nonetheless."
     Then Tom realized: she would have been driven by uncontrollable instinct as much as he had.  The captain considered the incident a no- fault situation.  It was ironic, considering it never would have happened if he hadn't kidnapped her in the first place.
     "You may be interested to know I'm putting you in for a commendation.  Regardless of the outcome, you did make the first transwarp flight."
     The surprises just kept coming.  "Thank you, Captain."  He started to say more, but he instead sighed as the words died in his throat.  Everything seemed to be in order, but something didn't feel quite right.
     "Is there something wrong, Lieutenant?"
     He shook his head.  "I don't know.  I guess this whole experience has left me feeling a little overwhelmed.  Flying at Warp 10, evolving into a new life form.  Mating, having alien offspring."
     "You've broken more than one record, that's for sure," the captain replied sardonically.
     "Breaking the threshold, it was incredible, but," he shook his head.  "Somehow it doesn't mean as much as I thought it would."
     The captain offered a quizzical look.  "Oh?"
     "I guess I went into this looking for a quick fix.  I thought making history would change things - not just my service record: my reputation."
     "If I'm not mistaken you changed quite a few minds on this ship.  You've earned a lot of people's respect and admiration."
     Tom almost laughed her off until he really thought about her remark.  When he had first boarded Voyager he was entirely on his own.  Not counting Harry Kim's naive loyalty, the entire crew unilaterally despised him; no one trusted him.  A year and a half later, though, the situation had changed.  As they'd gotten to know him the crew had come to rely on his navigational abilities.  There were still those on board who regarded him with aloofness, but on the whole fewer people were treating him with disdain and more with respect and even open friendship.  People like Robert Fowler, Jackie Renehan and the Delaney sisters.  They had learned to put the past behind them.  People like Leena Calloway.
     Tom's memories of the last few days were extremely muddled, but he did recall her visit to Sickbay.  Indeed, he remembered all too vividly the last several weeks since the transwarp theory was first proposed.  He could understand if Leena wanted nothing to do with him now.  He had convinced her to have a change of heart about him.  Even though it had taken a lot of effort and a leap of faith, he had turned her to his side.  Then when she decided to push forward with their relationship he had fallen back on his insecurity and paranoia.  She had offered her support and he had been rude and mistrustful in return.  Leena deserved better than that.
     "Yeah," he finally admitted, "but I'm starting to realize that it's not other people's opinions I should be worried about.  It's mine.  Seems, Captain, that I still have a few barriers to break.  I just hope they're not a theoretical impossibility."
     The captain patted him on the shoulder.  "Somehow, I don't think they will be."

     Tom saw Leena walk into Sickbay and breathed a sigh of relief to finally have someone other than the captain or the Doctor to talk to.  It had only been one day into his recuperation and he was already itching to leave.  There was only so much he felt comfortable talking to the captain about, and the Doctor's social skills were about as polished as his bedside manner.  The Doctor, likewise, was getting visibly irritated with Tom, which was probably the major reason why he had agreed to allow visitors without much debate.  "Leena, are you a sight for sore eyes."
     "Hi," she said, smiling.  "How are you feeling?"
     Tom sat up.  "Bored out of my skull.  You'd be surprised how little fun it is to be in Sickbay when your doctor is a hologram."
     "I would hardly call it a pleasure having you around here either, Lieutenant," the Doctor sniped from across the room.
     Leena giggled.  "Maybe I should visit the captain instead; it sounds like she's the one doing most of the suffering."
     That earned a chuckle from the captain.  "You don't know the half of it, Lieutenant."
     "Ouch, no fair," Tom said, clutching his chest.
     Leena sat on the edge of the bed next to him.  "I'm so glad you're back, Tom.  I was so worried that I'd never see you again."
     "Hey, I thought you would have liked getting me out of your hair," he teased.
     She slapped him lightly in the arm.  "I'm being serious.  I was starting to get used to the idea of you and me together.  Those things you said the other day were really unsettling."
     "Uh, right." Tom nervously glanced at the captain and the Doctor.  "Hold that thought for a moment."  He got to his feet and guided Leena towards the Doctor's office.
     "Where do you think you're going?" the Doctor asked the moment Tom got up.
     "Relax, Doc.  We're just borrowing your office to talk in private for a few minutes."
     "Did I say you could use my office, Mr. Paris?"
     "You're not using it now, anyway.  I'll be back in what you call 'hair' in no time, I promise."
     "Okay, what's going on, Tom?" Leena asked once the office door closed.  She leaned back against the desk and folded her arms across her chest.
     "Nothing.  I just thought we should have some privacy to talk about...what it is you want to talk about, that's all."
     Lines creased her forehead.  "Why do I feel like I should be worried by what you just said?"
     "No, no, it's not like that.  I want us to be together, too."  Tom paced the floor and sighed.  "It's just that, well, I don't remember too much about what happened since the test flight.  I'm not sure.  I think I recall seeing you when I was in Sickbay, but I haven't a clue what we said to each other.  My head's pretty messed up."
     "You tried to convince me that our relationship was too shallow to survive, that I deserved someone who could offer more than just physical intimacy.  You were making excuses because of your disfiguring mutations."
     Tom stopped pacing and stared at the wall.  It was a while before he spoke.  "Maybe there was more to it than just the mutations."
     "What do you mean?"
     "I've been thinking a lot about the last few weeks," he said after a pause.  "I've acted like such a hypocrite, telling you that you shouldn't hide from your problems.  I made it my mission to help you work out your problems and socialize with the crew again.  When all was said and done you came to trust me as a friend."  He turned around and faced her.  "So as soon as the scale tipped in the other direction, what happened?  I shut you out.  I denied you the same courtesy you showed me, even when you didn't want anything to do with me.  How can I be any good to you when I can't even follow my own advice?"
     "It's a lot easier to give advice than take it, Tom.  I should know.  No one really wants to admit that they have failings.  It takes a lot of courage to do what you just did."
     "Yeah, I suppose.  Still, I could have told you about the penal colony when you first asked."
     Leena smirked.  "What do you mean, 'could have'?"
     His eyes widened in surprised, then narrowed to slits.  "You know, there's still that matter of you breaking into my medical files.  I'm sure the captain and Lieutenant Tuvok would be very interested to hear about that."
     She got up and sauntered over to him.  "I'll forgive you if you forgive me."
     "Hmm, I don't know," he said, trying hard not to smile.  "What you did was pretty serious."
     She stepped behind him, snaking her arms over his chest and abdomen in a provocative caress.  A stray wisp of her hair tickled the back of his neck when she leaned over his shoulder.  "Surely there must be something I can do to make you reconsider?"
     Tom could feel the excitement begin to stir.  He was quickly coming to enjoy Leena's newly developed sense of playfulness.  "Resorting to bribery now?  We're becoming quite the felon, aren't we?"
     "Trust me, when I'm through you won't be able to recall your own name, much less what I've done," she said as she buried her nose into the nape of his neck.
     The nuzzling and choice of words, though innocently spoken, sent a chill down Tom's spine.  Sometimes it's the female of the species that initiates mating.  He suddenly flashed on an image of Captain Janeway standing behind him instead of Leena.  He shuddered as if immersed in ice water and pulled away.  "M-maybe later, okay?"
     Leena's look was pure confusion.  "What?  What is it?"  It took her a moment to realize the faux pas.  "Oh, sorry.  I didn't mean it like that."
     "I know.  We both got carried away."  Tom steadied his breath. "It's probably just as well; I doubt the Doctor would appreciate us using his office as a make-out point."
     She chuckled, breaking the tension in the room.  It seemed to Tom that in spite of - or even because of - their turbulent conflicts over the last few weeks, his relationship with Leena Calloway was more secure than ever.  "Are you sure you'll be all right?"
     "Yeah, I'll be fine."  He glanced through the office window, spying the captain resting.  "I just need some time to work through a few things, that's all."

End Stage III

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