The Symbols of Our Love

By Seema

Author's Note: This is a sequel to "And Baby Makes Five". This one is for Caffey, with an apology for the delay. Many thanks to beta babe Rocky for her help.

Disclaimer: Paramount, which usually owns these characters, had nothing to do with this story. I did dry-clean everything and put it back in better shape than I found them. Mostly.


Tom Paris had his customary hop-skip-and-jump in his step until he realized that it was Wednesday. And not just any Wednesday, but the third Wednesday of the month; in other words, dinner with the Captain and Mr. Janeway tonight.

He stopped short. How could he have possibly forgotten? Perhaps there was still a way to get out of the dinner date and still make it to the holodeck to play out the next Captain Proton scenario. After all, he *had* given B'Elanna flowers the other day and this morning, he'd remembered to compliment her on her new Klingon-style hair. Tom brightened and started walking again, this time heading to B'Elanna's quarters.

He had barely reached her door when it opened and B'Elanna yanked him in by the shirt.

"Where have you been?" she hissed.

"In Sickbay." It wasn't lost on him that B'Elanna was wearing a dress, a brown-red sleeveless dress with a plunging neckline and was it his imagination or was the material just a little tight around the stomach and breasts? Really high heels with pointy toes completed her outfit.

"We're going to be late for dinner!" B'Elanna angrily yanked a comb through her unruly hair.

"About dinner--"

"The Captain made it very clear to me that she wanted us to be on time," B'Elanna said. "You *know* the triplets go to bed at 1900 hours."


"Are you going to wear *that*?" B'Elanna stared at him in horror.

Tom looked down. He had just come off duty so he was still wearing his uniform. Truth be told, when he came off duty and wasn't playing in the holodeck or hanging out in the mess hall, he liked to lounge in front of the television in just his boxers, usually balancing a bowl of popcorn on his now slightly rounded stomach. "Um--"

"Here, wear this." B'Elanna yanked a blue button-down shirt, blue pants and a blue tie out of her closet. "Thank Kahless I replicated this. I don't understand how you're allowed to pilot this ship. Did you forget about tonight?"

"Um, no, but--"

"Hurry up." She pushed him roughly into the bathroom. "We can't be late. I want quality baby time while they're still awake and *not* cranky."

Tom gulped as he closed the door. B'Elanna *had* been spending a lot of time with the Janeway triplets lately, cooing over their every gurgle and bowel movement. In fact, the bowel moments of the three babies were the current topic of conversation aboard Voyager. Janeway had proudly announced the other day that her babies, at the age of six months, would now begin toilet training because Starfleet regulations required all personnel aboard a starship to be able to use the facilities without assistance.

Chakotay had objected, saying their children were too young to begin toilet training, but Janeway had simply ignored him as she did in most things, and had proceeded with her plan. Daily toilet training bulletins were posted regularly to the crew's electronic bulletin boards, usually by Neelix; apparently, the Captain was not enjoying very much success in this endeavor.

Tom left his uniform in a red-black puddle on the floor of B'Elanna's bathroom; ever since the triplets had made their appearance, the First Officer hadn't been particularly enthusiastic about enforcing the dress code. As a result, crew members regularly showed up in wrinkled uniforms and more recently, with hair a little past collar length; Lieutenant Ayala had even begun sporting dreadlocks. Last week, a pony-tailed Harry Kim had come to duty one day straight from the holodeck dressed as Buster Kincaide, but the snoozing Chakotay had never even noticed. With a sigh, Tom took a quick look in the mirror.

He turned thirty-five years old this month, and his best feature -- his inconsistently blue-grey-green eyes -- were now rimmed with red and edged with crow's feet. His hairline had started to recede, a typical genetic trait in all Paris males. Tom took little comfort in the EMH's comment that male pattern baldness was usually a sign of elevated levels of testosterone, thus leading to enhanced virility; while the genetic science was a little suspect, Tom rather liked this explanation. In addition to his tired eyes and thinning hair, Tom was starting to fill out and he now sported the beginnings of love handles; B'Elanna didn't love them so much, and every night after his shift, Tom kept trying to muster up the enthusiasm to head to the holodeck and work out in the Klingon programs like he used to, but then he'd see the television and it was all over for him. He liked nothing better than ending a day by slumming half-naked on the couch, enjoying a beer, topped with plenty of froth and watching his favorite cartoons.

"Tom!" B'Elanna knocked impatiently on the door.

"Coming!" He took another quick look, and ran his hand through his hair. It stood up rakishly on end -- obviously, not Starfleet Regulation, but then again, when was the last time either the Captain or her First Officer had had a good hair day? "Sorry." He stepped out. B'Elanna looked him up and down approvingly and then grabbed him by the tie and led him out into the corridor. Thankfully, once she realized he was choking, B'Elanna let go and took his hand instead.

All the way down to the Janeways' quarters, B'Elanna held Tom's arm possessively, being sure to hug and kiss him every time someone passed them in the hall. Every now and then though, they had to watch out for the scattered rose petals that mysteriously appeared in various parts of the starship. Tom wasn't sure who was responsible for the rose petals, but he did know for certain they were against Starfleet regulations; at least two or three crewmembers slipped on those petals every day, but no one dared to clean them up. Harry had commented once that the smell of decaying vegetation was starting to grow on him, much in the same way the pungent miasma of sour milk, drool and regurgitated food on the Bridge had.

Finally, they reached the Janeways' quarters. B'Elanna rang for entry, still holding tight to Tom's arm. Janeway opened the door. She wore her black uniform pants and a grey tank top, adorned with splotches of green and orange. A streak of something white had congealed on her forehead, while her red-gold streaked hair hung limply in her eyes. In the background, a baby cooed happily.

"Come in," Janeway said and then stalked away, very much a woman on a mission.

B'Elanna and Tom exchanged a look and followed the Captain into the quarters. Tom narrowly missed tripping over a pile of colorful blocks and B'Elanna gasped when she tried to sit, but instead came away with a handful of something... white. She wiped her hand on Tom's shirt.

"Hey!" he exclaimed.

B'Elanna just looked cranky.

Chakotay was fast asleep on the sofa, with a baby -- the one with born with a tattoo, Taya, -- on his chest. Another baby played peacefully on the floor while the third crawled towards the remains of the Janeways' replicator. The Captain didn't seem to notice and Tom carefully picked up the child, hoping to divert her from the pile of wires and circuitry splayed out on the floor.

"Make yourselves comfortable," Janeway said. She looked around, wrinkling her brow in slight confusion. "Um, wherever you can find a spot."

Tom went through the motions of trying to sit *somewhere* before choosing to awkwardly stand next to the window. It was no wonder, he thought, that the Captain and Chakotay ran out of rations every month, given the pure amount of *stuff* they'd crammed in here. Who knew babies needed so much accessorizing?

"I'm so sorry I'm not ready for you. I lost track of the time. But give me a minute and uh, can you keep an eye on the babies for a minute?" Janeway asked.

Before they could respond, Janeway disappeared into the bedroom, leaving Tom and B'Elanna alone with a sleeping Chakotay and the three babies. B'Elanna, who had been so anxious about getting some good quality baby time, didn't seem so eager now and she shuffled slowly towards the door, but Tom caught her by the arm, pulling her back.

"Should we wake Commander Chakotay up?" Tom whispered. In his arms, baby Chaka squirmed, but then settled down after leaving a big damp spot on his shoulder.

B'Elanna stared. "He did look especially tired today when the Borg showed up..."

Tom dismissed B'Elanna's comment with a wave of his hand. Yes, the Borg had shown up at their regularly scheduled Wednesday appointment, but Taya was throwing a temper tantrum and Chaka had gone after the science station with a vengeance, pounding on the console with her Voyager-shapped rattle, thus causing a massive system failure.

Janeway had very calmly put her knitting needles aside and informed the Borg that it would be impossible to fight today; the children were making it very difficult to concentrate on coming up with new -- or hell -- not-so-innovative ways to kick Borg ass. At that very moment, Katie had let out a loud screech just before vomiting, jolting Chakotay out of his semi-coma and the Borg Queen had turned an even greener shade of green.

Tom, who had just narrowly avoided stepping on Janeway's breast milk pump, had suggested perhaps they should consider negotiating for a Borg maturation chamber?

"The Borg Queen wants Seven back, and the triplets could grow up really fast," he had suggested hopefully. Janeway had glared at him -- how dare he suggest she part with Seven of Nine? -- and then promptly returned to her chair, brandishing her knitting needles. Tom, however, had sent Harry an instant message; of course, his sidekick *would* agree with him. Operation Rapid Grow would be set into motion the very next week, when Yet Another Encounter With the Borg was scheduled.

"I bet the Captain and Chakotay don't get much sleep. Triplets are three times more work than just one baby," B'Elanna said now, interrupting Tom's thoughts. "We shouldn't wake him up."

"That's ridiculous," Tom said. "The babies sleep through the night and have been since they were two days old. It's on all of the electronic bulletin boards and livejournals."

"This is true." B'Elanna made another attempt to sit down, but then realized every single surface in the living room that wasn't occupied by Chakotay was instead covered with various bottles and toys and other baby paraphernalia. She settled for sitting on the arm of the sofa, and in the process, kicked over a stuffed Voyager replica which immediately went into red alert. "I didn't realize they had nine sets of everything..."

"One set for the mess hall, one for here and one for the Bridge," Tom said. He suddenly felt very tired. It was very hard work navigating a starship such as Voyager when there were babies constantly underfoot. One always had to be aware of where one was stepping these days because the chances of crushing a baby was very good – especially on the Bridge. Since Chakotay and Janeway worked the same shift, and Neelix or Samantha Wildman also had duties to attend to, there was no other option than bringing the triplets to the Bridge. As a result, it had become quite commonplace to see Janeway breast-feeding right there in her command chair, with Chakotay helping to swap babies out; more than once, Janeway had commented she wished she was a member of the Kon'Aia, a species in which the females had three or more breasts. "It must get tiring to lug all of these toys every where," Tom said now.

"I can't sit still," B'Elanna said resolutely. She headed to the remains of the replicator, almost tripping over a small musical box. The toy fell on its side, the lid opening, and the sticky sweet strains of "It's a Small World" overpowered the Voyager toy's klaxons.

"Careful, B'Elanna!" Tom exclaimed.

"Stupid shoes," B'Elanna grunted as she settle down to examine the replicator. Tom, meanwhile, tried to cuddle and play with the baby in his arms, but gave up when he realized she was only interested in gnawing on his shoulder. He tried to put her down, but immediately, she scrunched up her face and her big eyes filled with water. Tom sighed.

"You're going to be a heartbreaker when you grow up, you know that?" he asked. Chaka gave him a toothless grin, and Tom had to admit, the child was cute. Though, earlier in the day, Tuvok hadn't thought so. Chaka had managed to crawl her way up to Tuvok at the tactical station and had banged her Borg doll against his shin; Tuvok had yelped (Tom, until that moment had been unaware that Vulcans could actually *yelp*). In his distress, Tuvok had accidentally set the red alert off, and Harry Kim had fired photon torpedoes at will. A small cargo ship or two had been destroyed, but Janeway had soothed the matter over with local authorities by giving them some holodeck technologies and replicators. Tom had privately thought Janeway should have given the *babies* or Seven of Nine, but given the death glare he'd earned when making similar comments earlier, Tom had remained silent.

Now he watched as B'Elanna set to work on fixing the replicator but after about five minutes, she gave up.

"I should just build the Captain a new one," B'Elanna said. "This one is beyond salvage." She kicked a piece and immediately, Katie grabbed it, put it in her mouth and swallowed. B'Elanna gulped.

"Ack!" Tom screamed.

Chakotay sat up and said, "Push, Kathryn, push!" and then he fell back against the cushions.

"Do something!" B'Elanna exclaimed frantically to Tom. Katie, crawling at the speed of light, seemed completely unaware of the chaos around her as B'Elanna tried to chase her down. B'Elanna had almost reached the child when she once again tripped and fell, hitting her shin against the music box, which once again erupted into "It's A Small World." Katie giggled, clapped her hands, and the baby -- Chaka -- in Tom's arms because to squirm.

B'Elanna remained on the floor, appearing slightly dazed and confused, and unable to prevent Katie from toddling off with a PADD, which she then promptly began to bang loudly on the coffee table.

"I guess she's okay," Tom said uncertainly. "What did she swallow?"

"It's a replicator, Tom. More specifically, the *Captain's* replicator. She could have swallowed any number of highly toxic, non-biodegradable substances." B'Elanna looked miserable and Tom decided not to press the issue, especially since it appeared Katie was none the worse for wear. He continued to walk, bouncing Chaka as best as he could. He paused at the stack of books next to the window; the top one was titled "The Little Drone Who Could..." but before he could pick it up, Tom caught a whiff of *something*.

"Eh, what's that smell?" Tom wrinkled his nose.

"It could be anything," B'Elanna said, painfully getting to her feet. "Ever since these babies were born, you have to admit, Voyager has smelled... different."

"No, this is a very specific and *new* odor."

B'Elanna sniffed the air thoughtfully and then pointed to the child in his arms. "I think it's time for a diaper change."

"You do it." Tom thrust the baby into her arms.

"Kahless, why is it always the woman's responsibility?" B'Elanna handed the baby back. "You do it."

"Not a chance."

B'Elanna shook her head defiantly. "I'm not changing the diaper either."

"There's a very easy solution to this," Tom said. "I say we wake up Chakotay."

As if responding to the sound of his name, Chakotay stirred, and then yelled, "Whatever you want, Kathryn!" And then he started snoring again. Tom and B'Elanna looked at each other again.

"You're the one who picked up the baby in the first place," B'Elanna said. "*You* accepted the responsibility."

"I picked her up because I didn't want her to impale herself on the pile of junk you call a replicator," Tom said furiously. He held the baby at an arm's length. Chaka kicked her chubby legs fruitlessly. "A starship is *no* place to raise a baby."

B'Elanna opened her mouth and then closed it again. Tom continued to hold the baby out to her, but B'Elanna crossed her arms against her chest.

"You're the medic on this ship. You can change her," she said.

"I don't know *how* to change a baby."

"Well, you'd better think about learning."

"This is the Captain's *daughter*," Tom said. "She already knocked me down a pip. I'm not ready to be demoted down to crewman if I get *this* wrong."

They stared at each other. In the background, Katie had moved on to beat her PADD on the replicator in rhythm to her father's snoring.

"I outrank *you*," B'Elanna said tensely. "I can *order* you to change that diaper."

"Changing diapers *isn't* in the Starfleet Rules and Regulations."

"Starfleet Rules and Regulations?" Janeway asked brightly as she came out of the bedroom. She was now dressed in a pretty pink dress that clung nicely to her hips and now that her hair was pulled back from her face, the glow of motherhood tinged her cheeks a nice rosy color. Despite being in her late forties and having had triplets, Janeway had managed to lose the thirty kilos she had gained in pregnancy quite easily, much to the envy of Samantha Wildman. "Do you have a question about them?" Janeway held up a PADD. "I read them to the children every night. I find them to be quite educational and much more interesting than Chakotay's stories. They seem to prefer the intellectual substance of my choice versus the obviously contrived and mythical stories Chakotay tells them." She glanced sideways at her husband's prone figure.

"Actually, Captain, we've got a slight problem," Tom said. He held Katie out to her. "The baby needs changing."

"Changing?" Janeway recoiled.


Janeway waved off the comment. "It's Chakotay's turn to change the baby."

"Should we wake him up then?" Tom was starting to feel a little distressed. Who was going to change the baby?

"Let him sleep. Today's non-encounter with the Borg sapped his energy and he passed out within minutes of coming off shift." Janeway pointed to the table. "I've got dinner mostly ready. How do you feel about carrots and peas?"

Tom and B'Elanna exchanged a look.

"Fine," Tom squeaked.

"Perfect," B'Elanna said tightly.

"Have a seat." Janeway swept all of the toys off the table and then did the same to the items covering the chairs; they all clattered to the floor, some of them breaking on the way down. "What would you like to drink? Apple juice? The girls love it."

"Apple juice is fine," B'Elanna said helplessly. Tom shrugged.

Janeway handed them little colored cups -- pink for B'Elanna, blue for Tom -- complete with covers in contrasting primary colors.

"If you drop them, they won't spill!" Janeway exclaimed gleefully. "These have been a godsend, B'Elanna. Thank you so much for designing these for us."

As B'Elanna explained she had found the designs for the sippy cups in the Voyager database, Tom awkwardly gulped down some juice. In the background, Katie's banging continued, accompanied by Chaka's wails, who was now starting to like a waste reclamation unit long past its 5,000 light year tune-up. At random intervals, Chakotay yelled out, "Whatever you want, my lovely, wonderful heart!" and "Anything for you, my warrior princess!"

Janeway bustled around, seemingly oblivious to the ruckus around her. She carefully set the table with tiny utensils and plastic dishware in various colors. Tom's green plate featured a picture of pink hippo dressed in a tutu. A singing lion with a red bow around his neck adorned B'Elanna's.

"I took a look at your replicator," B'Elanna said hesitantly, "and I think I'll just build you a new one tomorrow. I'm afraid yours is beyond salvage."

Janeway appeared crestfallen. "But I thought I'd finally figured it out. I thought I'd hit upon a sure thing when I reconfigured the phase connectors and used the leola root paste the Doctor prescribed for Taya's diaper rash as a cementing agent."

Tom had to admire B'Elanna's restraint; the half-Klingon engineer didn't even blink at Janeway's comment.

"Well, you should never connect the red wire to the--" the rest of B'Elanna's statement was interrupted by yet another instance of Chaka howling. Without missing a beat, Janeway stuck a pacifier in Chaka's mouth, but that apparently made no difference. B'Elanna stared helplessly at Tom, but he only shrugged.

"For God's sakes," Janeway said as she kicked at the stuffed Voyager toy and setting off its klaxons. "I run a starship all day, I was pregnant for a *year* with *his* children and *he* balks at changing a single diaper!" She pointed an accusatory finger in Chakotay's direction.

"I can change the diaper," Tom said, feeling the heat rise in his face. Anything, anything to make the infernal noise stop! But Janeway didn't even hear him. She stomped over to the Chakotay and roughly shook her husband, waking up Baby Taya in the process. Now there were *two* crying babies in addition to the odiferous one. B'Elanna suddenly looked pale and Tom wondered when they could politely make a getaway; if they left within the next few minutes, he could still make it to the holodeck to play out the next Captain Proton episode.

"Get up!" Janeway poked Chakotay in the chest. "I'm *ordering* you, as your commanding officer to wake up and *change* that diaper."

"Kathryn! My love! Will you marry me? I love you so much, I can't even imagine living life as anything other than your devoted servant!"

"I already married you, you, you--" Janeway stopped, red-faced; all the glow and joy of motherhood had vanished. Swallowing hard, Janeway whispered, "Oh my love, I didn't mean to lose my temper with you. You've given me the greatest possible gifts. I only wish you would help me take care of them."

Chakotay sat up, wearily rubbing his eyes. "Your angry warrior is ready to serve. I would like nothing more than to sit and worship your feet."

Tom blanched.

"Would you? That's so sweet," Janeway said. She sat down on the sofa next to her husband, resolutely plucking Taya off Chakotay's chest and putting her down on the floor. "You are such a wonderful and loving husband, Chakotay. I love you so much. My life has never been so wonderful and I've never been so fulfilled. I never realized how empty my life was until I married you and had all of these babies. Chakotay, I want to have another baby with you!"

"I burn with passion for you, my glorious Kathryn, my flame!" Chakotay hugged his wife.

"There's no reason to put off having any more children," Janeway went on. "We can have a dozen more if we'd like!"

"A dozen!" Chakotay kissed Janeway. "I can't think of a better way of showing my love for you than being the father of your children. I'm honored that you wish me to be in your life in this manner."

"B'Elanna..." Tom muttered under his breath. "Can we go now?"

"I think that's a good idea." B'Elanna stood up but before they could make it to the door, Janeway called them back.

"But you haven't *eaten* anything yet!" Janeway exclaimed. "And I prepared some wonderful carrots and peas for you."

Tom thought longingly of pepperoni pizza and tomato soup, but this *was* his Captain and she *had* gone through the trouble of making a meal for them. Chakotay joined them at the table; for a moment, it felt like the old days, before triplets, when he, B'Elanna, Chakotay and Janeway would regularly double-date. Then Chaka's ear-shattering cry -- a reminder she had not yet been changed -- pierced the air, jolting Tom painfully back to reality. Janeway glared at the baby and Chaka promptly resumed chewing on Tom's shoulder. Janeway ladled out strained carrots first, followed by a glob of strained peas. Leola root pudding completed the meal. B'Elanna ate several bites and then pushed her plate away; she looked ill. Tom forced himself to eat.

"Isn't it delicious?" Chakotay asked, beaming. "My Kathryn is a wonderful cook. She doesn't even need a replicator."

"It's very interesting," Tom said politely. Next to him, B'Elanna was dabbing at her lips with a Flotter-decorated paper napkin.

"It's all my own recipes," Janeway said. "The babies love it."

"I can see why," Tom said. "Very nutritious."

"Is it too spicy?" Janeway asked in concern. She took a big heaping spoonful of strained carrots and then another of strained peas. "Hmmm, not quite right." She jumped up. "I know just the thing?"

"Salt?" Tom muttered under his breath. B'Elanna kicked him. Hard. "Ow!"

"Apricots for my love!" Janeway said gaily as she spooned some orange-pink goop onto Chakotay's plate. Chakotay's expression remained impassive as he continued to eat whatever it was on his plate. Tom hastily covered his with his hand.

"I'm full," he said.

"Me too," B'Elanna said shakily.

"I'm forgetting something," Janeway said. She turned around to glance about the room. "There's Taya, and there's Katie. Where did Chaka get to? Oh yes, be careful, Chakotay, she's crawled under your chair."

"Anything for you, my Kathryn!"

"Oh my love! My precious love!" Kathryn made herself comfortable on Chakotay's lap. "I'm so sorry for screaming at you earlier and I'm even more sorry I never listen to you. I do love you and I'm so thankful you have given me such wonderful and beautiful children!" She kissed Chakotay passionately.

Tom squirmed in his chair, while B'Elanna seemed to have turned an even paler shade of white.

"You make my life worth living! I was nothing before I met you!" Chakotay proclaimed.

Suddenly all three babies were howling, for ostensibly different reasons, but Tom didn't dare to move from his chair. The doting parents didn't seem to notice the wailing babies any more than they noticed the green and orange stains on the gray carpet and also on the walls.

"You make every day on Voyager so special for me." Janeway turned to face her guests. "Do you know that every night he gets up to decorate the corridors of Voyager with rose petals? So that no matter where I walk, I'm reminded of his love for me?"

"I had no idea," Tom said.

"It's so sweet!" Janeway kissed Chakotay again. Tom pushed his plate away. He was definitely done eating now.

After dinner, Chakotay retreated back to his sofa to fall promptly back asleep. Janeway asked B'Elanna if she wanted any leftovers and B'Elanna shook her head.

"I, um, don't have much of an appetite these days," B'Elanna said. The Captain declined her offer of help, saying she was just planning to stack the dirty dishes in the corner. It was then Tom became very much aware of a new and equally rancid smell in the air.

"Are you sure you don't want us to give you a hand?" B'Elanna asked.

"Go on, no, I'll be fine." Janeway stacked the dishes and then true to her word, dropped them behind the sofa. Chakotay snored loudly, and as Janeway threw the sippy cups back there as well, Chakotay sat up and yelled, "My love is true and steadfast!"

Tom just wanted to get the hell out and he firmly took B'Elanna by the hand, gave their collective thank yous to the Captain and left.

"Maybe we should have reminded them about Chaka's diaper," B'Elanna said pensively. She turned as if to go back, but Tom yanked her by the hand and pulled her along.

"I'm not going back there," Tom said. "It's bad enough that everything on this ship is about the triplets. I want to go to my quarters where I can be sure I won't be bothered by baby-talk or anything remotely baby-related."

"Uh Tom." B'Elanna stopped.

"What is it?" He tried not to sound impatient with her, but he'd already missed the holodeck appointment with Harry and now he wanted nothing more than to unwind and watch another episode his favorite cartoon, 'The Rugrats'. Plus, he couldn't wait to take a shower; he smelled like drool, milk and something else not so pleasant smelling.

"I have something to tell you."

He let go of her hand. "Eh..."

"I'm pregnant."

As the Doctor blithely said later on, it was very fortunate Tom Paris possessed a thick and hard skull; the concussion received when he fainted was classified simply as mild and the Doctor stated confidently Tom could resume his duties as chief helm officer and medic in no time at all.

~ the end

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