Lines in the Sand IV, part VIII

By Seema

I've lost track of time.

Morning or night, I have no idea.

I don't even know what day it is.

I don't think it matters.

I've been walking for hours. Or maybe seconds, or minutes, or days - I have no idea. I pass crewmembers in the corridors and their names escape me. I mumble a hello and pass them, without waiting to see if they respond.

When I accepted my first commission, it surprised me how easily you could lose a sense of time in space. You see only the dark coldness of space and that - that never changes.

I end up in my quarters because roaming the corridors endlessly has started to get to me. I'm sure the crew thinks I'm crazy; hell, even I'm inclined to agree with them.

The first time I entered these quarters over seven years ago, Mark was with me. He looked around pensively. He stood like he does when he's nervous - hands jammed into pockets, shoulders slightly hunched.

"Nice," he said. "Bigger than your quarters on the Al-Batani."

"I'm the captain now, Mark," I reminded him. I opened some dresser drawers and peered into the closet. "The position does have a perk or two."

"So do I call you `sir' now?" he asked. He peered out of the window. "Nice view of the space dock you've got there, Kathryn."

"I prefer `ma'am,'" I replied. "And the view will change."

"Well," Mark said. "For what it's worth, I'm proud of you."

"Thank you," I said. I peeked into the bathroom, which was amazingly large for a starship. I even turned on the sonic shower, putting my hand beneath it to feel the pressure. "This is good, really good."

"Who decorates these quarters anyway?" Mark said. I went back out into the living area and saw him staring at a rather dismal picture - gray canvas streaked with maroon.

"Starfleet has an entire department responsible for decorating starships."

"Functional design, but certainly not attractive."

"Well, I do intend to bring some of my own things to brighten the place up."

"Hmmm," Mark smiled. "Well, I do have something for you. Something to make it a little more homey."

I looked at him in surprise.

"You didn't have to do anything," I told him.

"I wanted to," he said. "Look over there."

Mark pointed to a side-table, located to the left of the sofa.

"A tea set?" I asked. "Mark, it's lovely."

I picked up the silver pot and then examined each of the matching cups in turn. I felt Mark watching me the whole time.

"I know how you are about your coffee," he said. "And I thought this might make things a little more... elegant?"

"It's lovely," I repeated. "And you're sweet. How did you get this in here? I couldn't come onboard until a couple hours ago."

Mark smiled.

"It pays to make friends with the cleaning crew," he said. I crossed over to him and put my arms around his neck.

"Thank you," I said. "For everything. And especially, thank you for agreeing to take care of Molly."

"Not a problem," he said. "She's a good dog."

"I appreciate it."

A moment of silence passed, and then Mark cleared his throat.

"We need to talk, Kathryn, when you get back."

"I know," I answered. "Be patient, all right? It's just for a few weeks. Maybe six months, at the most."

Mark sighed and looked around the quarters once more, taking in the mostly gray and maroon decor with a jaded eye. I put my hand on his forearm.

"It won't be so bad," I told him.

"Right," he said in the matter-of-fact tone that meant he did not agree with me, but did not feel like arguing the point.

I held his hand tightly as we continued to look around. Mark tried out the replicator and it produced a decent cup of coffee.

"Voila. I suppose you'll be all right now," Mark said. "Coffee, that's all you've ever needed, isn't it?"

I looked at him for a long time, contemplating his craggy, aquiline features and dark eyes I loved so much.

"Coffee makes most things better," I told him.

"Not the answer I was hoping for, but I'll take it."

"Well, you shouldn't make statements like that then," I said crabbily.


Mark looked so crestfallen that I felt terrible for snapping at him.

"We'll have that talk when I get back," I said softly.

Mark nodded.

"When you come back," he said. "God, I am going to miss you."

"Me too," I said with a trace of insincerity, only because I was dreading the talk we would have on my return. The thought of marriage - however much I loved him - seemed to be a step towards restricting my freedom. We would be equals in everything, bound together, and forced to take the other into consideration for every decision. In truth, I was secretly glad for the time away to think about what I truly wanted, but of course, I couldn't tell Mark that I was having second thoughts about spending the rest of my life with him.

"Truly," he said. "Come back soon."

During our first weeks in the Delta Quadrant, I found that I missed Mark with a frightening intensity. I would wake up at night, missing his presence next to me and it disturbed me greatly that I did not know what he was doing or how he was feeling. Did he miss me the way I missed him? Did he wonder if I was alive? Some nights, I would write him letters before going to sleep.

The letters would be exactly the kind he hated - chatty, gossipy, a basic list of events that had gone on Voyager. I would have written deeper letters, the ones that revealed my most inner feelings, and I would have told him that if we had had that talk, I would have said yes. But I could never bring myself to spill my emotions into a data PADD, because that seemed like a lousy way to confess what I should verbalize. More importantly, I wanted to see his face when I told him. I wanted to be able to run my fingers over his cheek and down his jawbone as he held my hand in his.

I dreamt of my reunion with Mark so many times until the day I found out he had gotten married. After reading that message, I spent most of that day philosophizing in the holodeck with daVinci when Chakotay showed up.

"I was looking for you," he said. "Dinner?"

A simple request uttered in a casual tone, but I looked at Chakotay differently that day. So I nodded, joined him in the mess hall. He told terrible jokes and I laughed so hard that tears ran down my cheeks. That night, I pretend that Chakotay had a sense of humor, for no other reason than to persuade myself that those tears weren't shed for Mark.

Even when Chakotay and I moved past dinners and the occasional date on the holodeck, I still thought about Mark on occasion and I would find myself obsessing over an endless "what if" fantasy.

I didn't realize that Chakotay knew I occasionally mused about the life I should have had with Mark, until one day Chakotay was lying in bed, watching me get dressed. He looked lazy, his hair rumpled, his torso exposed from waist up.

"Good morning," I said. Chakotay grunted back.

"Talkative today, aren't you?" I continued. I pressed my lips together as I applied lipstick.

"Do you really want to talk?" Chakotay asked.

"Before coffee? Not really, but go ahead."

"I don't know if I should."

"If you have something to say, say it," I said in exasperation. I hated it when Chakotay tossed out little hints but didn't follow up on them, for whatever reason.

"You put up boundaries," Chakotay said. I looked at him in surprise.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"We've been... together," Chakotay began and then his voice trailed off. I sat down on a chair to lace up my boots. "You don't think about me outside of this bed, do you?"


"You don't think about me. You rely on me to be there when you need me, but it doesn't matter to
you how I feel, does it?"

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Why do you ignore my advice?"

"I don't. I listen."

"You pretend my opinion counts. I don't know what hurts more: knowing you're going to ignore what I have to say or asking what I think and pretending it counts."

"That's not true."

"I suppose it's too much to ask how you really feel."

"You know how I feel," I told him. "That's never been a secret."

"You want to let me in on it?"

"Chakotay, I don't have time for this."

I stood up and took a quick look in the mirror. I noted that my cheeks were still slightly flushed and my eyes sparkled just a bit more than usual. I straightened my clothes, fluffed my hair lightly, and then turned to look back at Chakotay.

"You're wrong," I told him. "I can't believe you'd even say such things."

"You know it's true, Kathryn. Even when we returned from New Earth, you wouldn't talk to me about what happened between us there."

"For heaven's sake," I said. "I need to be on the Bridge. We'll talk about this later."

Chakotay shook his head.

"No, we won't," he said. "We won't ever talk because you don't want to say certain things out-loud. You're afraid to."

"Do you have an ancient warrior story about that?" I asked snidely. "Maybe you can come up with one between now and dinner."

"This is why I should never try to have a meaningful conversation with you," Chakotay said. He got out of bed and grabbed his clothes. "You're an impossible woman. Sometimes, I don't even know if you're real."

He stalked off into the bathroom and a few seconds later, I heard the hiss of the sonic shower.
I sighed and left my quarters at a brisk pace.

Now I barely recall the way Mark looked when he stood here in my quarters. I do remember Chakotay though and the way his features would soften when he looked across the table at me and I would shiver, knowing that the emotions on his face were not a trick of candlelight.

I curl up on the sofa, pulling a shawl over my shoulders. I focus on the endless starscape outside my window, thinking how a nice walk out an airlock would surely cure all that ails me now - and forever.

Chakotay was right. I'm a statue, a goddamned marble masterpiece. I can't risk emotion for I will crack, and I can't risk motion for surely I would fall and surrender to a passion greater than me.

And maybe it wouldn't have been bad to say those three little words - just once.


I wake with a gasp.

The logs, they're over. God, those logs...

They sounded just like my father - overly formal, stilted, and occasionally vague. I marvel at the fact that he even recorded his thoughts for prosperity, knowing how incriminating this information could be.

But then he never intended to return home from Starbase 87.

My father's logs show me a piece of the father I've always wanted: the father who missed and loved me desperately. But then, there was also the cold, calculating ruthless Starfleet officer and that's what I'm having difficulty with.

I hate to have such a schizophrenic view of my father.

I'm hungry, so I replicate some oatmeal and peanut butter toast. I'm halfway through eating when
the door chimes.

"Come," I call.

Harry walks in.

"You doing okay?" he asks.

"Now that I have food, yeah."

"I tried to comm you a couple times. You didn't respond."

"I was busy. Sorry."

"Sure you're okay?" Harry grabs the chair opposite me and sits down. He raps his fingers gently on the table. "The Captain hasn't been on the Bridge in hours. Tuvok recommended she get some rest. I think she's wandering around the ship."

"I see," I answer neutrally. At this moment, I don't care what Captain Janeway is doing. If she feels the need to take a look around a ship that won't be hers in a few days, by all means, she should go ahead. She's more sentimental about this ship than some mothers are about their children.

"I thought I'd let you know we're only a couple hours away now," Harry says. "Everyone is getting more excited now. Even Seven received some letters from relatives." Harry's broad face lights up with a smile. "She is... unsure as to how to respond."

"Is that a direct quote?"

"Yes," Harry answers. "I don't suppose you would help her out?"

"Why not you? It would be some good, quality bonding time with Seven. Isn't that what you've always wanted?"

"Come on, Tom," Harry says. "Help her out, okay?"

"Why not you?" I ask again.

"Why not you?" he counters.

"Because I don't feel like it."

Harry relaxes back in his chair. His finger tapping gets on my nerves.

"You're not okay, Tom," he says. "Stop lying to me, to yourself, to everyone around you."

"I just need time alone."

"I bet you didn't even tell B'Elanna. I bet you acted like everything was just fine. She probably doesn't have the first clue."

"I told B'Elanna."

Harry doesn't look convinced. He shrugs.

"Have it your way," he says. "I'm just trying to help."

"You don't believe me."

"Of course not. You're a first class escapist, Tom. Even before you commit yourself to anything, you're looking for a way out. Just once and I really mean, just once, can't you be honest? With me, if no one else?"

I look around my quarters, focusing on everything except for Harry. I can't deal with his concern and care right now for the pure fact that I don't believe he can help me; no one can help because no one else on the damn ship knows what I'm going through.

I hate when people tell me they understand because damn it, they don't. They simply look at you with wide eyes, thin lipped expression, and they nod at you in a sympathetic manner. Somehow, you feel that they really aren't listening when you speak; you imagine that they are thinking about a dinner date or maybe what they plan to wear tomorrow. And then, they all cluck at you, pet you gently on the shoulder and say, "I'm sorry. I understand how you feel."

Occasionally, my father would come into my room during the turbulent teen years. He would stand at the foot of the bed, stare down at me and in his most dignified voice, he would say, "Thomas, I understand what you're going through. If we discuss this, we can arrive at a solution together."

Hell, I hated that. I never wanted to arrive anywhere; I was already where I wanted to be and not for a single minute did I believe my father could understand me or anything in my life. So when he came, I would roll onto my stomach and pull the covers over my head, hoping to block out the irritating sound of his voice. And invariably, my father would say, "Dammit! Would you just talk to me?" and I wouldn't respond; eventually, he would leave, and I would feel like I had won a small victory.

I sigh and look back at Harry.

"I've been listening to my father's logs," I tell him. "I- I don't know what to make of them."
Because I feel the need to talk to someone, I quickly tell Harry about my father's activities.

"I don't understand, Tom," he says.

"I don't either," I tell him. "I've listened to some of the logs over again but even that doesn't help."

"Why would your father do such a thing? The land he's talking about, why should that matter? It's not like it would be of any value to anyone who is not Cardassian."

"Maybe he planned to sell it to the Cardassians," I say. "Maybe he wanted to auction it off to the Ferengi, I don't know."

"There's got to be a mistake."

I look up at Harry.

"Yeah," I say very softly. "I wish I'd gotten the chance to talk to him. Really talk to him."

Harry nods.

"I thought you might feel that way," he says. "Regardless of anything else. Are you going to say something to the Captain?"

"I haven't thought about it."

"Seven's tests indicated that the explosion wasn't an accident. The Captain believes that Admiral McArthur is responsible."

"Sounds like McArthur did everything to convince my father not to go through with it," I answer bitterly. "Wish he'd listen. I don't understand why my father thought he was at the point of no return. I don't get why he didn't pull back when he had second thoughts. It's beyond my comprehension."

"Does he explain himself in the logs?"

"Not very well."

"So are you going to tell the Captain?"

I look down at my hands.

"I- I don't know," I answer. "I suppose if she asks..."

"That's an easy one. She won't ask," Harry says. "You're off the hook. Another decision avoided."

"Very funny, Harry. Nice of you to kick me when I'm down."

"I'm not kicking you, Tom, at least not intentionally. I'm trying to figure out what's going on with you. Hell, I don't know why I even try."

There's something in his tone that reminds of the way I used to speak to B'Elanna during my unrequited love phase in an attempt to get her to see me as more than an arrogant pig.

"Because you're a good person, Harry," I tell him. "And I do appreciate it."

Harry allows himself a tiny smile.

"Glad to hear it," he says.

I lean back in my chair, turning my body sideways, so I can see out of the windows.

"It wasn't all bad, Harry. I also learned some things about my family from Dad's logs," I say. "I can't wait to meet Linsey, my sister Julia's daughter. She sounds like a handful, a bit like me."

"That's what we need, another Tom Paris," Harry says with a laugh. "Mind if I get something from the replicator?"

"Help yourself."

A few seconds later, Harry returns with a cup of coffee. He inhales deeply.

"I missed this stuff," he says. "Back at the Academy, I swear, I had more coffee than blood running through me. Insane. Made me jittery all night, but I didn't want to try those drugs. You know which ones I'm talking about."


Harry's eyes narrow.

"You tried those stimulants, didn't you?" he asks. "The ones that keep you awake all night?"

"And into the next, yeah," I answer. I push my empty plate away. "Kept you wide-eyed and active, let me tell you."

"Did you use them often?"

"What is this?" I ask him. "Why are you interrogating me?"

Harry shrugs.

"I've never asked before and I don't know what kind of time we've got left."

"You sound like San Francisco is the end of the road."

"You don't think so?"

"I told you already I don't know what to think. I certainly don't expect that San Francisco is where it's all going to end for us."

"You're an optimist," Harry says.

"Look who's talking," I lean forward. "Harry, I've got too many questions. I need to know why."

"You know I'll help you."

I shake my head.

"No," I tell him.


"Look," I say. "I appreciate what you're trying to do. I want to do this alone. I need to."

Harry looks doubtful but after a moment, he nods his head.

"Yeah," he says. "I get that."

I gaze at my friend. I allow myself a smile, even if it doesn't seem to fit on my face right now.

"Thanks," I tell him. "For everything."

"Don't mention it."


He leans back in his chair.

"I don't have anywhere to be," he says. "And I checked the holodeck before I came down. It should be free. What do you say?"

I look down at the PADD, which contains my father's last words, and back at Harry. Taking aim at some of the bad guys in the Captain Proton simulation seems like brilliant idea right now; if I can't shoot my father, disrespectful as that sounds, I might as well take this pent-up anger everyone insists I have and put it to good use.

"Yeah," I say. "The holodeck, that sounds like a good idea."

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