Borrowed Lives, Chapter 1


"BUTTERFLY DREAMS"

By Tommyhawk1@aol.com

*
Chakotay looked up as the sky rumbled. It was an ugly purplish color, with reds and yellows flickering through it. This planet was normally placid, lush with vegetation which had never discovered the benefit of tree-sized growth, but the ion storm had entered the system. If they hadn't had to rescue some of their crew from a cavern they had discovered the hard way (the ground had given way beneath them), he'd be safe back on Voyager right this minute.
*
They hauled up the last of the injured crewmen from the cavern, and the men retrieved the ropes. A loud lightning crash lit up everything with blue-white glare, and then the thunder was the sound like the heavens had split open.
*
"Transporter Room, five to beam up." Chakotay snapped.
*
Crackling response.
*
"Repeat!" he said.
*
They boosted the gain, he could just make out the words, "The ion storm has burnt out most of our transporter systems. I can only bring up four of you."
*
"You men, go." Chakotay said quickly. Not simple bravery on his part, he knew that he could survive this planet during its brief hell of an ion storm where most of these crewmen, while they had passed survival training, may not. They didn't argue and the transporter caught them.
*
Chakotay stepped over to the clear space where his men had been beamed up, and waited for the signal to capture him. Nothing. "Transporter!" he said after a time.
*
Then the signal caught him.
*
Normally a beam-up is a mild tingling of the entire body, lightly annoying but no more than that. This jolted him, wrenched him. He felt his body pulling itself apart, squashing itself together.
*
Then nothingness.
*
This must be death, he thought, and then the transporter grabbed him again. There was a feel like being strained through a small opening, a bouncing back of his body into proportions, and then the tingle came, practically a relief, and he was aboard Voyager.
*
"Report." he snapped.
*
"I'm sorry, sir." the transporter room ensign said. "I don't know what happened. It was like your signal faded out."
*
"Perhaps the ion storm affected transmissions." Chakotay said mildly, noting that there appeared to be nothing wrong with the system. Why did they claim to only be able to beam four out?
*
"What ion storm?" the ensign asked, baffled.
*
The door opened and Paris walked in, holding a young child in his arm. The child, a boy, human beyond doubt with black hair and skin fairer than Chakotay's but brown against Paris' fair skin, had a firm hold on Paris' hair and was pulling with all his might.
*
"Yeowch!" Paris winced. "Gregory, stop that! Are you all right?" he asked Chakotay.
*
"Yes, I'm fine." Chakotay asked. Who was this child?
*
"Thank God!" Paris said. "They said they'd lost your signal in transport and I just grabbed up Gregory and came running. Greg, darling, let go!"
*
"Daddy!" Gregory said, looking at Chakotay.
*
"A great idea!" Paris agreed. "Here, Chakotay, take your son for a while."
*
"My son?" Chakotay said as he took the child; if he hadn't raised his arms, Paris would have dropped the child on the floor. It was like he expected Chakotay to take the child from him.
*
"Thank you." Paris said, rubbing his head where Gregory had been pulling. "He's become all hands. Let him yank your hair out for a while."
*
"Tom, whose child is this?" Chakotay asked.
*
Paris laughed. "I feel like disowning him myself at the moment. Did you enjoy your shore leave, darling?"
*
And Paris reached up and kissed Chakotay on the cheek.
*
Dumbfounded, Chakotay looked at Paris. He would have said something, but then he noticed the tattoo.
*
HIS tattoo. On Paris' forehead.
*
"Tom, what is going on here?" he asked.
*
"What do you mean?" Paris reached up to massage his head again. Chakotay grabbed his wrist and yanked his hand away. Paris was startled.
*
"Where did you get this tattoo? Who is this child? What is going on here?"
*
Paris stared, and realized Chakotay was serious. "I got the tattoo on the day of our marriage. This child is ours."
*
"Marriage?"
*
"Chakotay, we've been married for three years now." Paris said. "Do you have amnesia or something?"
*
Chakotay sighed. "The ion storm must have opened an alternate. Your Chakotay was beaming the same time as I was and we got switched. Tom, you and I aren't married. We don't even like each other that much."
*
Paris took it well, Chakotay had to admit. Just looked into Chakotay's eyes and saw the truth and then.... "I'll take you to Sickbay." Paris said. "We can scan your quantum signature and work out a way to get you back." He hesitated. "Gregory, come here." he said, holding out his hands.
*
"No." Gregory said willfully. "Daddy!"
*
"I don't think we'd better try explaining this to Gregory." Paris said. "Let's get you to Sickbay and we can get my Chakotay back again."
*
"All right."
*
The ensign was reporting to Captain Janeway as they left the room.
*
Gregory had Chakotay's ear and was twisting it, but Chakotay ignored the pain. "In this universe, you and I are married?"
*
"Sure." Paris said. "After I saved your life, you felt you owed me something. Enough to let us start talking. After that, things took their natural course."
*
Chakotay didn't need to ask about how natural the marriage was, he had noticed the couples along their path. "Your culture has same-sex marriage as the norm, I see."
*
"Sure." Paris said, as if this were a rather stupid question. Then a pause. "Yours doesn't?"
*
"No." Chakotay settled for saying. He was a guest here, after all.
*
Paris looked at him and managed a very familiar smirk. "You, Chakotay, are REALLY lost."
*
"So I gathered." Chakotay said.
*
The Doctor was the same familiar figure, and his normal waspish attitude felt homey to Chakotay in the midst of all this strangeness. "Analyzing your quantum signature." he said. "Comparing to our own quantum state." Pause. "Permit me to recalibrate and try again." Another sensor scan over Chakotay. "Commander Chakotay, you are not lost. This is your universe."
*
"But that's impossible." Chakotay said.
*
"Permit me to scan for neural impairments, or false memories." the Doctor said.
*
The scans showed nothing. Chakotay was in his own universe and in full command of his faculties. But in this universe, he was married to Tom Paris!
*
Paris stayed by his side. He commed Kim to come and babysit Gregory, and Chakotay could tell from the their conversation that Kim was their favorite babysitter. Gregory went with him willingly, and Paris moved over to sit next to Chakotay.
*
"Tom, I swear, I don't understand the readings." Chakotay said. "I'm not lying to you."
*
"You've never lied to me." Paris said calmly. "I believe you. But if you're not Chakotay--my Chakotay--then where is he?"
*
"I guess he's in my universe." Chakotay grinned. "Probably trying to kiss a very surprised Tom Paris."
*
"You surprised me the first time you kissed me." Paris grinned back.
*
Janeway came in and she was the same Janeway he'd always known, right down to her facial expression and hair style. Yet she wasn't, in some vague way. "Commander, I understand there's a problem."
*
"Yes." Chakotay said and explained as well as he could.
*
"But there is no quantum variance?" Janeway asked.
*
"None." the Doctor showed them on a screen, two intricately curved sets of lines in red and blue, that meshed and became yellow to show similarity, they matched perfectly. "Variance from normal quantum state is less than one thousandth of a percentile, well within the normal parameters for this universe."
*
"Then the scan must be in error." Chakotay said. "Captain, I can't explain this any better than you can. I was on the planet, rescuing some of our crewmen who had fallen into a cavern. The ion storm caused me to stay behind to beam up last. I felt the transport go awry and then I was here."
*
"I'm not calling you a liar, Commander." Janeway said soothingly. "But we must investigate this further. It's late. Why don't you go to your quarters and rest while I consult with Tuvok and B'Elanna about further lines of investigation."
*
"Thank you." Chakotay said and stood up. "But where are my quarters?" He looked at Paris.
*
Janeway looked and saw the problem. "We'll assign you one of the guest quarters, Commander."
*
Chakotay went to the quarters they gave him, undressed and fell into the bed. Gods, he was tired, working most of the day on the rescue, only to be confronted by this damnable puzzle. Yet if this was some trick of Q's, for example, then everybody but him was in on the joke, and that would explain the quantum readings. Still, Q didn't make sense as an answer, because Q usually showed up to enjoy his game and so far he hadn't made an appearance.
*
Perhaps Q was actually in the other universe. He could just imagine Tom's face when the First Officer walked onto the bridge and then over to him, leaning over and laying a big, wet one on his cheek. What wouldn't he give to see the look on that face! Have to check the records of the ship's internal logs when he got back....
*
His communicator beeped and he said, "Chakotay here."
*
The screen turned to him bearing a small, brown face. "Daddy!" came Gregory's voice. "Daddy, come home!"
*
Oh, my God! Now what? "Uh, I can't right now, Gregory."
*
"Story!" the small image demanded.
*
"Sorry, no story tonight." Chakotay said.
*

"Gregory, get off that comm!" Paris' exasperated voice commanded. "Chakotay, I'm sorry."
*
"That's all right. I wasn't asleep yet." Chakotay said.
*
"Story!" Gregory ordered.
*
"No story tonight." Paris said firmly.
*
"No! Story! Story, story, story!"
*
"Maybe if you told him a story?"
*
"I can't." Paris said. "Chakotay's been telling him an Indian fable. I don't know it. The story of Little Bear and Black Kettle."
*
"Oh, that one!" Chakotay said. "It's a long one. How far have I gotten in it? I can tell the story, if it'll let me get some sleep."
*
"To be honest, I don't know." Paris said. "That tale goes on and on. I think you're making a lot of it up as you go along. I missed last night's installment of it."
*
"So what do we do?" Chakotay wiped his eyes. "Gregory wants his story."
*
"Uh...come on over." Paris said. "I'll set up the logs to let you view last night in Gregory's room and distract him while you look it over."
*
Chakotay thought about it. He was tired, but sleep was pretty far away. "I'll be over shortly."
*
He looked at his grimy uniform, settled for pulling a bathrobe over the pajama bottoms that had been replicated for him. Paris' quarters were only down the hall, he would be in public view less than thirty meters.
*
Paris answered his signal and his eyes widened at Chakotay's broad, exposed chest. "God, you look just like him wearing that. I should have replicated a different color or style."
*
"You did this?" Chakotay looked down at himself. Royal blue silk pajamas, a lighter blue robe of terrycloth. "I like it. I'll have to make one for myself when I get back."
*
"Daddy!" Gregory hit Chakotay's leg and wrapped around it. He was wearing only a pair of briefs, white with red trim. Chakotay was unaccountably reminded of himself looking down. Gregory was much lighter-skinned that he was. Paris' genes?
*
"I'll get Gregory into a bath and into bed." Paris said, prying Gregory loose by brute force, a finger at a time. "He's dirty enough to warrant a bath before bed anyway. That'll give you time to preview the log of last night." Paris gestured to the commlink. "Just press display and it'll come up. Gregory, time for you to take a bath!" he said as he succeeded in parting his son from Chakotay's leg.
*
"Story!"
*
"Bath first, then story."
*
"Promise?" Gregory asked, stopping his struggle as Paris scooped him up.
*
"I promise." Paris rubbed noses with Gregory, who giggled.
*
"Yay!" Gregory screamed in Paris' wincing face. "Story, story, sto ." The door shut off the sound.
*
Chakotay smiled for a short time, trying to imagine his own Paris dealing with a small child. Would his Tom be as adept at handling Gregory, or would he give up in dismay after five minutes' acquaintance? He turned and pressed display.
*
"Time for your story." he watched as the other Chakotay, dressed only in the pajamas like he now wore, placed Gregory on the bed and pulled the synethetic sheet over him. "Now, where was Little Bear when we saw him last?"
*
"In the garden with Black Kettle." Gregory said. "They were digging up yams and there was this big yam that reached way, way down!"
*
"Oh, yes." Chakotay said. "Well, Little Bear pulled and pulled on the yam, but it wouldn't come up. Then Black Kettle came over and helped him pull, and still it wouldn't come up."
*
"'This is magic.'" warned Black Kettle. "'We must leave it alone.' But Little Bear was being Little Bear, and he got angry with the magic yam. He pulled out his hoe and he said, 'If it won't come up, then we'll cut off what we can and leave the rest in the field to rot.'" And before Black Kettle could catch his arm to stop him, he had chopped at the magic yam, whack!"
*
"Ooh!" Gregory cooed. Chakotay didn't blame him, he knew this fable well. Little Bear was always starting his adventure by going whack with something or other, his knife or a rock or, as in this case, a garden hoe.
*
The other Chakotay's story meandered along slowly, loaded with the sensory detail that lulled the active child's mind into slumber by focusing their dreaming, the magic yam turning into a mighty cornstalk, at which Little Bear chopped, whack, and then it turned into a tall tree at which Little Bear chopped, whack, and then it turned...well, it should have turned into a wise man at that point, but then Chakotay stopped the story; Gregory was asleep. He kissed Gregory's forehead.
*
The Paris on the screen came in. "Is he asleep?"
*
"Yep." Chakotay said. "Little Bear and Black Kettle do it every time. Worked on me when I was a child."
*
"Are you ever going to finish that story?" Paris asked.
*
"I hope not." Chakotay said. "If I do, what'll I tell Greg at night?"
*
Paris smiled softly and moved into that Chakotay's arms. "Time now for MY bedtime story." he said softly.
*
The other Chakotay smiled and reached to kiss Paris but before their lips touched on the screen, the image stopped, ending the transmission, the screen turning that annoying shade of blue with the white Starfleet image.
*
Chakotay stared at the screen, that last image frozen on the screen of his mind. The smile on his face in that image, when was the last time he'd smiled like that? And that Paris, comfortable and silent. Hard to imagine Paris being silent, he was more inclined to start shouting just to liven things up a bit. But this Paris was a different from his Paris in a lot of little ways like that. More than just his choice of sexual partners!
*
"The bathroom door opened and Paris came out, bearing Gregory in a towel, partially wrapping his body with it with one hand and toweling his hair with the rest of the towel in the other.
*
"Okay, sport, time for you to get in your bed and dream a while." Paris said. "Nice, quiet dreams this time, okay?"
*
"Story!"
*
"Yes, story." Chakotay said. "Let's get you tucked in your bed." He hesitated, then removed his bathrobe; Gregory may expect to be held in his bare arms.
*
Gregory dived for Chakotay, Paris had no choice but to relinquish him. Chakotay swung the totally naked child the way his own father had, ending him up on his shoulders and carting him off that way to the bedroom.
*
"Other way, next to the bathroom." Paris said quietly.
*
Chakotay turned his mistake into a wide tour of the room, giving Gregory a ride while the small hands clung to his forehead and the legs kicked a staccato rhythm on his chest. "Story, story!"
*
"Right, story, story!" Chakotay chanted along with Gregory.
*
Paris laughed, a free-hearted laugh and again, this was not his Tom Paris. His Paris never laughed like that, carefree and whole-bodied. He liked that sound, coming from Tom Paris. He wondered what else was different about this Tom Paris.
*
He saw the door now, partially obscured by a tall shelving. He wended his way over to it and ducked very low, though Gregory bowed down and pressed against his head in a way that showed he had guessed right about the nighttime ritual. The other Chakotay had simply raised Gregory the way he'd been raised. Good, he'd been raised very happily.
*
He stayed with his father's ritual, lifting Gregory off by his wrists, then bowing down to lever the child over the top of his head and onto the bed, and Gregory bounced high just like he was supposed to in this ritual. As Gregory bounced up, Chakotay caught the bedsheet and wafted it backwards, and only a small amount of scooting was required for Gregory to be completely free of it. Gregory lay down and Chakotay pulled the sheet over him. And now he was in total synch with the video image he had seen.
*
"Time for your story. Where were Black Kettle and Little Bear when we saw them last?" He had to know how much Gregory remembered before falling asleep.
*
"The spear turned into a tree!" Gregory crowed. "A big, tall, strong oak tree!"
*
"Yes, the biggest oak tree they'd ever seen." Chakotay picked up the story again. Little Bear and Black Kettle made it to the wise man, who told them to dig where he had been planted and they'd find the secret jewel of the Great River. So they dug and dug.... And he noticed Gregory was asleep.
*
"So what happens next?" Paris asked softly when Chakotay finished by kissing the forehead of the sleeping child. "I'll have to tell him the story tomorrow."
*
Chakotay looked up, yawned. "Let's get comfortable and I'll tell you the rest of the story. Except that it makes me sleepy, too. And I didn't get shore leave today, either, I was working."
*
"I know." Paris said. "Want to hold off until tomorrow on the story?"
*
"That's okay." Chakotay yawned. "I could use with some herbal tea to help me sleep. If you don't mind putting up with me for a little longer."
*
"Not at all." Paris said. "I won't sleep worth a damn all alone anyway. You get so used to someone in bed with you, you just...you know."
*
"Yes." Chakotay said. Their eyes met and Paris licked his lips, turned away. "Let me get you the herbal tea."
*
Chakotay wondered that Paris didn't ask what kind he wanted, but Paris walked over to the replicator and said, "Chakotay's herbal tea number four. Two of them."
*
The replicator hummed and Chakotay caught the blend of herbs. "Ahh, my old family recipe." he sighed. "Except I never did get the recipe from my mother, and never could match it just right."
*
"You and I experimented for nearly two years to find the right blend." Paris said. "Found some nice combinations along the way. That's why this one is number four."
*
Chakotay sipped it. His mother's nighttime herbal tea. "This is it, all right. Guaranteed to give you pleasant dreams all night long."
*
"I sure hope it works." Paris sipped at his. "Sit down, get comfortable. Please."
*
Chakotay sat in a chair and Paris watched him as he positioned himself. "God, every move you make is his. How can you be so much like him and not be him?"
*
"I don't know." Chakotay said. "I keep thinking the same thing about everything on this ship. Just like mine, only it isn't."
*
"You're sure about that other universe?" Paris said. "I mean, maybe you ran into something that jumbled your memories or...or something." he finished lamely.
*
"Like Chuang Tzu's butterfly dream." mused Chakotay.
*
"Eh?" Paris said.
*
"Maybe you didn't have him over here." Chakotay said. "Chuang Tzu was a Chinese philosopher. One day he dreamed he was a butterfly, fluttering around and happy. Then he woke up and wondered which he was, a philospher who had been dreaming he was a butterfly or was he currently a butterfly dreaming he was a philosopher? I'm in that predicament; I may be dreaming this, but how do I tell? Or was I dreaming before and am now awake?"
*
"You're awake." Paris said. "I'm sure of that. I can't prove it, but I'm sure I'm not a figment of your dreams."
*
"And I'm sure this isn't my Voyager." Chakotay said. "In my Voyager, you and I are more likely to argue than sit and sip tea together."
*
"I wonder why you two would argue." Paris said. "I mean, if you're you and I'm me over there, we ought to be best friends, at least."
*
"Despite your leading Voyager right to the Maquis hideout?"
*
"Huh?" Paris asked dumbly. Chakotay asked; it turned out that there were no Maquis in his universe because the Cardassians had never invented space travel. Bajor controlled that area of space, utterly. Another area of divergence.
*
"So how did you and I end up here in the Delta Quadrant, if Voyager wasn't engaged in chasing my ship?"
*
"The Caretaker caught the ship." Paris said. "We'd just been assigned to Voyager for its maiden voyage, you from the Intrepid and me from the Valiant, both of us getting higher posts on a smaller ship; a good career move. So we ended up dealing with the Ocampa and when things went sour and that bridge gave way and I had you just by one arm...."
*
"Here, too?" Chakotay smiled. The ancient herbal tea mixture was working its usual wonders with him. He felt drowsy already.
*
"Yeah, you told me to let go and I refused and we got you up safely and I said, 'Well, now you owe me your life, don't you?' and you said, 'Sorry, wrong tribe.' and I said, 'I wasn't thinking of your customs, Chakotay.' and you smiled and then you kissed me. Right there, in the middle of that collapsing cavern, you kissed me. Then we came to our senses and got the hell out of there. It was two days after that before you came over to my table and sat down and said, 'About my owing you my life.' and I said, 'Forget it. That kiss was payment in full, big man.' and then you grinned like you are right now and you said, 'Then how about me paying a little interest on top of that?' and I said 'I'm interested, all right.' and...but you're falling asleep."
*
He was. His eyes were so heavy. "I'd better get back to my quarters." He said and stretched mightily.
*
"You can stay here." Paris urged. "Gregory usually wakes us up about five in the morning. If you're going to pretend to be my Chakotay for him, you need to stay here."
*
"I'll think about it." Chakotay said, standing up, wobbling. "God, that tea. I'm not used to it any more. And it's not appropriate for me to stay here. I'm not your Chakotay."
*
"Just shut up and lie down." Paris guided him to the big bed. "I'll keep my hands to myself. Just sleep tonight, I promise you. I'm a married man, you know."
*
"Yeah." Chakotay said. "Married to me." He yawned those last three words out.
*
A pause. "Yeah." Paris said. "Now climb in, big man. I need your body beside me. If I pretend real hard, I can forget you're not my Chakotay long enough to get to sleep."
*
The bed was warm and soft. Chakotay was fast losing consciousness when he felt Paris' body press against his. Warm, pale arms enveloped him and hugged him tightly with a barely audible sighing sound, and before he could think about how he felt about that, he was sound asleep.
*
END OF CHAPTER ONE
*

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Borrowed Lives, Chapter 2