Borrowed Lives, Chapter 2


THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE

By Tommyhawk1@aol.com

*
Chakotay woke as promised, Gregory climbing into bed with them. Chakotay felt the small body shift the mattress and then the small arms were around him and the small form was on top of them.
*
Both of them. Paris was still wrapped tightly around him, an arm now slack across his stomach and Paris' upper leg resting on his thigh. He could just make out the feel of Paris' cock pressing against the side of his hip, he was snuggled so close. Funny, that hadn't bothered his sleep in the least. Potent herbal tea.
*
"Daddy?" Gregory pressed him.
*
"What is it, Gregory?" Chakotay yawned, grateful that he kept his wits about him when waking up and hadn't gone, "Daddy who?"
*
"Want to play horsey?"
*
"Not right now." Chakotay said. He'd heard of this, a child trying to entice the adult to get up, mostly wanting company and distraction, and using the arsenal of the things that interest them and hopefully interests the adult, as well. "Later, okay?"
*
"I could be your horsey." Gregory said. "Just for a minute, okay?"
*
"You could be my horsey?" Chakotay WAS intrigued by that offer. "You're too little to be my horsey. I'd squash you flat."
*
"No, you wouldn't." Gregory pressed his advantage, he had "Daddy" talking. "Come on, I want to be your horsey today, okay?"
*
"Later." Chakotay said.
*
"Can I have a drink of water?"
*
"Are you thirsty?"
*
"Ye-es." He wasn't then, just trying to get Chakotay out of bed.
*
"Gregory!" groaned Paris. "Go back to bed." With all three of their voices showing they were awake, the computer raised the lights to low automatically, giving them a dim light.
*
"But I want a drink of water." Gregory protested.
*
"No you don't. Go back to bed. It's...God, four-thirty in the morning."
*
"Can I sleep with you and Daddy?"
*
"No. Go to your own bed."
*
"But Papa-a-a-a!"
*
"No. Go to your own bed."
*
Gregory must have spotted the sound in Paris' voice for what it was; he got off the bed and slowly walked out. When the door sighed shut behind him, Paris sighed, snuggled in tight. "Every single morning the same thing." He said.
*
"It must be difficult." Chakotay said.
*
Paris stiffened and released Chakotay hastily, scooting over and away from all bodily contact before stopping. "I'm sorry."
*
"That's all right." Chakotay said.
*
"I guess I snuggled up in my sleep." Paris said.
*
"I know. You didn't keep me awake."
*
"Thanks for staying here with me." Paris said. "If Gregory had come in and you'd been gone, God knows what he may have thought."
*
"How old is Gregory?"
*
"A little more than two."
*
"He's very advanced for his age."
*
"Yeah." Paris said. "Doctor evaluates him once a month. Strong communication skills and high intelligence. He's a little behind on his motor skills though. Overall, just an average kid."
*
"He's terrific." Chakotay said. "Shows me what I'm missing out on."
*
"No children in your universe?"
*
"None."
*
"What about a...uh, what do you call it, a wife?"
*
"No wife."
*
"I find it hard to imagine you with a woman." Paris said. "You act so...normally."
*
"Thank you. I think."
*
"I don't mean it that way." Paris said. "We have bios aboard ship and nobody treats them badly. But they just act, I don't know, damaged somehow. A bit twitchy, if you ask me."
*
"Bios?"
*
"The term they prefer. Engaging in sexual intercourse with females according to biology, as if every sexual act had to end in procreation or potential procreation. Just like animals." Paris shuddered. "Human beings are not animals and shouldn't act like animals!" He was immediately contrite. "Sorry. My fathers raised me very strictly. I had to go to church and Sunday school every week until I was eighteen. You pick up attitudes that way you never entirely get rid of. I didn't mean to criticize your own, uh, sexual, uh, eccentricity?"
*
"I've never heard it called that." Chakotay said. "Let's get some more sleep."
*
"Yeah." Paris said. "I'm sorry."
*
"Don't be." Chakotay said. "But I'm curious. Whose child is Gregory, yours or mine?"
*
"Both." Paris said. "We talked about going biological, but chose instead to go tech so he'd be both of ours. The Doctor was only too happy to help us out. We both wore feedback belts piped in to Gregory's tank so he'd feel connected to us and I think he's turned out just fine."
*
"Which were you and I, uh, biologicals or techs? As babies ourselves, I mean?"
*
"You were a biological, I was a tech." Paris said. "Does it matter to you?"
*
"No." Chakotay said. "Just curious."
*
"Well, you've never shown the slightest heterosexual tendencies for as long as I've known you." Paris said. "I've had a few fantasies that way, nothing serious, you know, but you're kind of curious and wonder what it's like sometimes. What is it like? Being a bio?"
*
"How do you feel, being what you are?" Chakotay returned. "It's the norm in my universe, you know."
*
"Have you ever had fantasies of being with another man?" Paris asked, propping up on one elbow, resting his hand on his cheek, intently looking at him.
*
"Every now and then." Chakotay admitted. "Nothing serious, just kind of curious and wondering what it'd be like. You know." He grinned.
*
Paris grinned. "I deserved that. But I have to say, having a wonderful guy like you being with women, well, it seems like such a waste. Who are you doing it with in your universe?" Paris' eyes lit with mischief. "The Captain? Oh, my God! You and Captain Janeway!" Paris fell onto his back and laughed heartily. "I'm sorry, but just the image of that in my head! It must be like kissing an angry mountain lion!"
*
Chakotay chuckled himself. "I hate to burst your bubble, but the answer's no."
*
"Then who?"
*
"Nobody on Voyager." Chakotay said.
*
"Nobody?" Paris was baffled by this. "Not B'Elanna, or Seven of Nine, or any of the rest of the female crew? Nobody at all?"
*
"No." Chakotay said. "There was a woman once, but she's gone now."
*
"I'm sorry." Paris said. He reached a hand over and cupped Chakotay's cheek. "You poor man. Promise you'll look for someone when you get back. You deserve it. And any...woman would be very lucky to have you. You can tell them Tom Paris said you're the best."
*

"Thank you." Chakotay said and yawned.
*
"Go back to sleep." Paris said. "Computer, lights off."
*
Chakotay lay still in the darkness for a moment. Then, he carefully scooted over and took Paris in his arms. Paris didn't react and Chakotay snuggled closer. A hesitant hand found his waist and Chakotay embraced him fully, a hug, then relaxed the grip enough to tell Paris without words that nothing else was going to happen. "And you can tell Chakotay that I said he was the luckiest man in this universe." Chakotay said softly.
*
"I will." Paris said. "Get some sleep. We have to get you home later. That'll take a lot of work on your part."
*
"Yeah." Chakotay said.
*
"Chakotay?"
*
"Yes, Tom?"
*
"Don't let go. Please."
*
"I won't." Chakotay said. And he slept again, their faces nearly touching in the darkness, and Tom's breaths a gentle fluttering on his throat, like a butterfly's wings.
*
The next awakening was to the commlink, which first acted like an alarm, then when they were awake, the Doctor's face showed in the screen. "So sorry for disturbing you so early, gentlemen, but I have found a partial answer to your dilemma. If you can come by, I'll show you the details."
*
"I'll be there shortly." Chakotay said. "But you're convinced I'm from a different universe now?"
*
"Most definitely." the Doctor said. "It's obvious when...but this is complicated. It can wait. I'll see you at 0845."
*
Enough time to get dressed, including a hyperactive child, and then have breakfast. Gregory made that an adventure of sorts, and Chakotay found that he hadn't enjoyed a meal so much in a long time, sitting at the table and helping Paris coax food into Gregory while trying to snatch bites for himself. Gregory was feeding himself, but he made a genuine mess of the process; Chakotay could see why Paris had dressed Gregory in a loose smock for the morning. "I'll take Gregory down and get him changed and drop him off in the nursery, then come join you." Paris said as they walked out together.
*
"Nursery?" Chakotay asked. "How many children are there on Voyager?" He hadn't seen any others.
*
"Twelve." Paris said. "It's going to be a long trip home. Have to get new crew and best way is to make them ourselves. That's what pushed us into deciding to have this child. You and I may never see the Federation again, and we'll be old and feeble if we do, but Gregory can take us on home by then."
*
"We're still searching for a short-cut ourselves." Chakotay said. "The Federation is trying to help us."
*
"They know you're here?"
*
"Yes."
*
"Our Federation doesn't. We've searched for ways to make contact, but haven't found any yet. We're assuming they think we're all dead."
*
"When I get back, I'll add to the data we're accumulating. Next time we're able to contact the Federation, we'll ask them to get in touch with your universe and tell them you're alive."
*
Paris didn't need to be told how tenuous this offer was. "Thank you." They reached the turbolift. "Come on, Greg, time for another bath. Doesn't that sound like fun?"
*
"No!"
*
"Then how about a short visit with a washcloth instead, okay?" Paris compromised.
*
"Okay."
*
"I can still outsmart him, thank God." Paris sighed. "I'll be by in about fifteen minutes. If I'm lucky." Paris stepped aboard the turbolift and was gone.
*
The Doctor pointed out the chart, this time with three curves. "The clue was the ion storm in your universe. As you know, a transporter beam is very tightly aimed and protected. A central part of this protection involves a carrier beam also sent, which sort of wraps around the transporter beam and prevents its being degraded by cosmic rays and so forth. It acts like an insulating cable, so to speak. The carrier beam gets stripped instead and thus protects the transporter beam. Your transporter beam passed through the ion storm's flux and was stripped of its carrier beam, leaving it vulnerable and diverting it from its course. Your signal was pulled into the heart of the storm, being rapidly derezzed. Then, when your signal touched upon the quantum rift at the heart of the ion storm, your beam was pulled through and contacted our Chakotay's carrier beam, which enveloped it. It was cued to your signal, that is, to Chakotay's signal, and was not flexible enough to know that it had two Chakotays within its protective embrace. Then in the resolution of the beam, the reconstruction sought its own quantum level, which was no longer that of your own universe, you see."
*
"So what happened to this universe's Chakotay?"
*
"He was also in the process of beaming aboard. Your signals merged."
*
"Merged?" Chakotay said.
*
"Yes. That would explain why your body's quantum level is so close to our own. Partially our universe's Chakotay and partially the altered one from the parallel dimension."
*
"We had something like that happen to two of our crew. He became a single, and new individual. So...what happened to the other Chakotay's mind?"
*
"That is something I'm still working on." the Doctor said. "I hate to say it, but the most probable answer is that a good part of it merged totally into yours, surviving as errant memories, vivid dreams, or even simple states of mind. The rest was left behind in the buffer."
*
Paris walked in. "So this universe's Chakotay is trapped inside of me?" Chakotay said, more to inform Paris than needing the information. "I'm a hybrid individual, now?"
*
"Yes." the Doctor said. "I will perform some more tests on you and try to determine the exact status. Once we do that, we can try to set the transporter to take you two apart again."
*
"My Chakotay's inside of you?" Paris asked.
*
"I guess so." Chakotay said. "I knew I was feeling...very fond of you, Tom. That's him inside of me."
*
"Part of him and part of you. The rest of him, and perhaps some of you, are inside the transporter's pattern buffer, no doubt. I have called the Transporter room and they are recalling the buffer's information now. I'm told that every beam-up leaves additional information in the buffer, which is stored against need or added to the replicator stations after being converted back into its component matter. Hopefully, your body has not yet been converted into entrees in the mess hall. We shall have to wait and see."
*
"But shouldn't I have some of the other Chakotay's memories? Or, or something?"
*
"Your signal was outermost in the transporter signal, wrapped around our Chakotay's signal, so to speak. When it came time to reconstitute you from the signal, yours was the one most easily available and was used for most of the reconstitution. Our Chakotay's signals were used for the missing pieces."
*
"I see." Chakotay said. "So it's not a true meshing that's occurred."
*
"Not entirely. Components of him are inside you, which would explain such things as your, uh, fondness for Mr. Paris. We shall have to work on this very carefully."
*
"I have to get to the bridge." Paris said, standing up. "We'll get you safe, Chakotay, and try to contact your universe. I'll see to that."
*
Chakotay watched as Paris left. "Doctor? What chance is there that you'll be able to retrieve the other Chakotay out of me?"
*
"Not good, I'm afraid." the Doctor said pursing his lips. "We'll have to see what is left of him in the pattern buffer information. But since my diagnostic instruments didn't catch any overlap of your individual differences, I'd have to say that a significant portion of him is inside you. And that fact means a lot of you was lost in the transport before the signal was caught by the carrier beam."
*
The Doctor looked him square in the eyes. "The question may become, which one of you do we save? And what right do we have to kill you for the chance to rescue him? I know my answer according to my programming on medical ethics; we will have to refuse saving him in order to preserve you. As the dominant lifeform, your life takes clear priority. I hope Mr. Paris is up to handling the care of his son alone. Now, if you'll lie down on that table so I may gather the information I need...."
*
Chakotay walked out when the tests were done. 35% of his body was his own, from his own transport. 65% was from the other Chakotay. Of the mind's engrams which were most heavily protected in transport, over 60% of his mind was his own, while 40% was from the other Chakotay. Enough to influence his thinking, not enough to dominate in any significant fashion.
*
What was left in the buffer turned out to be a minor fraction of his old body (less than 1%) and some 25% of the other Chakotay. Of the mental engrams imbedded in the signal, nothing remained of his, and only some 35% of the other Chakotay; mental engrams degraded rapidly in buffer storage. Had they known, they could have arranged protections, but as it was...well, simply put, as the Doctor had warned, it could not reconstitute a full individual. He'd not only have to die to get this universe's Chakotay back, but have to donate part of his mind. And even if he were willing to make this supreme sacrifice to restore Tom Paris' husband and Gregory's father to him, they'd made it clear they wouldn't do it. This was no "Tuvix" situation where one could be sacrificed to make two; only one of them could be saved. And much as he sympathized with their plight, he wasn't willing to sacrifice his life for the chance to restore the other Chakotay. He knew the other Chakotay wouldn't hold it against him.
*
In this rather confusing situation, his course turned out to be amazingly clear. He had only to listen to his heart; it sang the answer clearly, without hesitation.
*
He walked onto the bridge. Paris turned around as he came in and he knew the Doctor had already brief him and the Captain on the situation. "What can we do for you, Commander?" Janeway asked.
*
"Request permission to join your crew, Captain."
*
Janeway looked at him and there was a stern coldness beneath the surprise in her eyes he had never seen in his universe's Captain. The lack of any sexual interest? "We have information sufficient to contact your universe, Commander. We could be ready to arrange the transfer within the next few hours. There is no reason for you to be marooned here."
*
"There's the best reason in the world. Part of your Chakotay is inside me. A small, but very important part. Everything I feel inside is his, all his loyalties, all his...his love is inside of me. I don't want to go back." Chakotay said.. He looked over at Paris. "If you'll all have me. I can't completely replace your Commander Chakotay, but I want to try. I need to try."
*
"You're sure this is what you want?"
*
Chakotay looked over at Paris. "Very much so." he said. "I think I could be very happy here. And you need me. As far as I'm concerned, the Chakotay I used to be was lost in transport. Death due to malfunction during an ion storm. I'm here, a new individual, and I need to make decisions based on this fact. I don't have all the answers, but one thing is clear. I belong here."
*
"We'll see what your Captain thinks about that. In the meantime, you might as well read up on our crew roster and ship operations. Even if you only stay a short time, we could use your help."
*
"Thank you." Chakotay said.
*
"I'll transfer the data to your commlink. Where do you want to take it?"
*
"Our quarters." Chakotay said. "If you please. And permission to have my...Lieutenant Paris join me? Just for a brief period. We have things to discuss."
*
"I agree. Granted."
*
Paris joined him in the turbolift. "You want to stay?"
*
"Please." Chakotay said. "Feelings I've had since I arrived are only now becoming clear to me. Part of your Chakotay has survived inside of me, Tom. And it's the part that loves you. I know it'll be difficult, but please, let me try."
*
Paris looked at him. "We'll see. I was just getting used to the idea that he was dead."
*
"He's not dead. He's right here. I'm right here. The two of us have been mixed together, two lives mixed to make a single, new person. Like the philosopher's stone of old, which could transmute lead into gold, I have been changed into this person standing before you. I love you, Tom. I never gave the Tom Paris in my universe a second look. But I can't take my eyes off you. It's like I've always loved you all along."
*
Chakotay reached out and took Paris in his arms. Their lips met easily, like a greeting between two old friends, and Paris' body moved up against him, as if he had become soft and pliable. They fit together, perfectly. It felt right, so very right.
*
The turbolift opened and a young Ensign was there. "Kiss him somewhere else, Commander." she said chidingly. "You're blocking traffic."
*
"I'd better get back to the Bridge." Paris said, releasing him and straightening his jacket.
*
"I'll be home when you get off shift." Chakotay said. "We can take it from there."
*
"Yeah." Paris said.
*
Chakotay moved down the corridors with light-hearted steps. It wasn't a destiny he had ever imagined for himself.
*
He was going to like being Paris' husband.
*

END OF PART TWO

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Borrowed Lives, Chapter 3