The Joy Within the Sorrow


By Tommyhawk1@aol.com



Paris was sleeping after the operation. Chakotay stood over him, looking at the small bulge now distending his abdomen. The Doctor came out, wiping his hands and said, "Isn't he awake yet? I didn't use that much anesthetic."
*
"We didn't get much sleep last night." Chakotay said, yawning. "How did it go?"
*
"Wonderfully." the Doctor said. "Your son is developing quite well and is now over two inches long with his fingers and toes well developed. The womb contains one and a half liters of amniotic fluid, which is more than sufficient for his suspension. You have nothing to worry about so long as Lieutenant Paris avoids all excitement and engages in no forms of heavy exercise. Normally we encourage a pregnant female to exercise her body, but Lieutenant Paris would only damage the child and himself if he tries. I wish he would have agreed to stay in the bed the entire two months like I asked him to."
*
"You did?" Chakotay asked. "I didn't hear that."
*
"No matter. When he awakens, take him back to your quarters and encourage him to stay still. His body isn't designed for what you're using it for. I cannot make this any clearer."
*
"It was necessary."
*
"Oh, I agree, or I would have refused to perform the procedure. Speaking of which, shouldn't you inform N'Gah of your success?"
*
"I think you're right." Chakotay said, but he didn't move. Stood, watching the small bulge. It was only when Paris touched his hand that he realized Paris was awake. "Good afternoon."
*
"Same to you. Is it over?"
*
"Yes. Take a look at yourself."
*
Paris looked down. "Well, that's not so bad. It looks like the Doctor implanted a wine bottle beneath my navel."
*
"It's beautiful." Chakotay said. "Just beautiful."
*
"Chakotay, are those tears?"
*
"Tears of happiness." Chakotay wiped at his eyes. "My father would be ashamed at my losing control like this."
*
"The N'Gimelii call it 'the sorrow within the joy.'" Paris pontificated. "They feel that joy and sorrow are so interlinked that you cannot have one without the other. When you get happy enough, you touch the sorrow which is at the heart of joy, and so you do things like cry."
*
"Makes sense to me." Chakotay said. "I wish my father thought that way."
*
"Well, you're setting a very bad example for your own son." Paris said. "Ignore your father, Hal. He's not himself right now." He patted his stomach gently.
*
"Yes, Hal, listen to your mother." Chakotay said in turn.
*
"Ooh, touche!" Paris said. "Hey, guys!"
*
"Is this the maternity ward?" Kim called out.
*
"Or the psychiatric ward?" B'Elenna sang out behind him.
*
"A little bit of both right now." Paris said. "Come on in and--what the hell is that?"
*
"Traditional gifts for the expectant mother." Kim said, lifting the square box. "Ice cream."
*
B'Elenna showed the squat jar. "And pickles."
*
Paris laughed, then grimaced, clutched his stomach. "Ooh!"
*
"Are you all right?" Kim asked, his face changing to concern in an instant.
*
"I got to avoid all excitement. I guess that includes jokes." Paris said. "Just goes to show what a guy will do to keep his father happy. And his husband."
*
"Guess we'll stick to needling Chakotay." Kim said. "While he's on the bridge."
*
"Sickbay." came Janeway's voice.
*
"Doctor here."
*
"Give me a screen to Paris' bed."
*
"Over here." Paris called.
*
Another screen lit, showing Janeway's face. Paris lifted his hand at her. "Hello, Captain."
*
"How are you doing?"
*
"I've felt better physically." Paris said. "Though emotionally, this is right up there with winning the racing trophy."
*
"I can imagine." Janeway said. "N'Gah is very eager to see you right now. Are you up for company?"
*
"For N'Gah, certainly." Paris said.
*
"Switching transmission."
*
N'Gah's face lit up as he saw Paris. "My daughter!" he crooned. "You look absolutely radiant."
*
Paris had learned by now not to haggle gender with the N'Gimelii. "Take a good look, Father. Your grandson is right inside that little lump. We can even send you some sonic pictures of him if you'd like."
*
"Better yet, my child. Why don't you come spend some time with your family?"
*
"I need to rest." Paris said. "No movements unless absolutely necessary. They want to keep me in bed here."
*
"Then you will do that." N'Gah immediately ordered. "Physician of the humans, confine my daughter to her bed there."
*
"Lieutenant Paris will be fine so long as he restricts his activities to the minimal movements of daily living." the Doctor said. "While bed rest would be preferable, there is nothing to bar him from a short walk back to his quarters."
*
"And I want to do that right now." Paris said. "I didn't get much sleep last night."
*
"Insomnia?" the Doctor asked. "You should have mentioned that to me."
*
"I'll go to my quarters and right to bed." Paris said. "And it wasn't insomnia, it was more of an investment."
*
"I'll mention one further thing. The artificial womb is designed to trigger sensations of pain when you do something which may damage it. Listen to your body and stop when there's pain. And if the pain stops suddenly during such a movement, get here immediately."
*
"I understand."
*
"Rise up gently." the Doctor said. "No, Commander, please don't help him. I want to see his movements."
*
Paris pivoted and rose up. There came a gentle tug at his stomach, but not quite pain.
*
"Now stand. Walk. Bend at the waist."
*
"Oooh!"
*
"Physician of the humans, what is the matter with my daughter?" N'Gah demanded.
*
"I'm sorry. I was testing his limits. That last motion should have caused a mild amount of pain."
*
"Mild amount?" Paris asked incredulously.
*
"Compared to the pain you would have felt if you had been damaged." The Doctor pulled out his medical tricorder and scanned Paris' stomach. "Very good. The implant is working perfectly. You may go home now, and come in tomorrow morning for some tests."
*
"All right, Doctor." Paris said.
*
"Doctor, after the two months, where will my grandchild be kept?" N'Gah asked, scooting forward in his chair.
*
"We have the tank set up over there."
*
"Let me see it." N'Gah demanded.
*
"Certainly." The Doctor utilized his memory chip to access communications. To his human observers, he did nothing, but the screen holding N'Gah's impatient face switched to another screen. "Over there."
*
"That container? Are you sure?"
*
"Of course I am, N'Gah." the Doctor said. "I have modified a specimen container to function as a tank for the fetus when it reaches five months' gestation. Your, uh, daughter would not be advised to carry it beyond that limitation, as I explained to you yesterday."
*
That reminded Paris. "Father, where is N'Tih?"
*
N'Gah's eyes dropped. "He is occupied with his duties elsewhere in the ship."
*
"Oh." Paris was disappointed, he hadn't yet had an opportunity to speak with his adopted younger sibling and best friend among the N'Gimelii. "Please ask her--him to call me when he is done. I want him to see his nephew."
*
"I will inform him when he becomes available." N'Gah switched off without further comment.
*
"That's odd." Paris said. "He should have ended with the ritual blessing. He must have been pre-occupied."
*

* * * * *
*
N'Gah swivelled in his chair. "You got the coordinates?"
*
"Yes, Captain." N'Ber said.
*
"Very good." N'Gah said. "My grand-child will be out of my daughter's womb in two more months and in a self-contained and self-powered tank. That will be the time to beam it to our vessel."
*
"Understood." N'Ber answered.
*
N'Gah rocked. "N'Tih, N'Tih! Where are you, child?" he moaned to himself.
*
N'Ber concentrated hard on his duties. Fortunately, he was the most junior officer on the bridge, and no one ever looked at him. Instead, everyone was surreptitiously watching their captain as he mourned for his missing child.
*
Finished with his shift, he should have gone down the promenade to their quarters in the outermost levels of the ship. Instead, after a short walk to a deserted corridor, he looked around, opened an access hatch, and went down the ladder there, sliding rather than stepping the distance.
*
Over a hundred levels later, he finished his count and stopped his descent. He stepped into a corridor where only a small light here and there showed the way. There was the smell of poverty and despair all about him. He tried to breathe lightly as he walked, half-feeling his way. He was stopped when he least expected it.
*
"Halt!" was the sole word. A crude spear was pointed at his chest, and unless his next words were correct, he would be dead.
*
"All beings are worthy, all are useful, all are honorable." he declaimed carefully.
*
The spear went away from his midsection. "Welcome, friend." came the reply.
*
"I seek the Inner Council."
*
"What is your business with the Inner Council?"
*
"I have information." N'Ber said, took a deep breath. "And I seek asylum with the Inner Ones."
*
"You, N'Ber, son of N'Dim and nephew of N'Gah?" the voice was incredulous.
*
"I deny my father and declare myself an orphan with no status."
*
Murmurs from the darkness. His opponent was not alone! Then, "Come with us."
*
N'Ber followed down corridors until he was completely lost, deliberately, he was sure. Then he entered a room with lights and their dim, yellow glow was almost blinding to him.
*
"N'Ber, you seek asylum and it is granted." the middle one intoned. "All are welcome here, where all are needed and all are worthy. Welcome to the Inner Ones."
*
"You also said you have information." said the one on the left. "I am the gatherer of information. What do you bring to us?"
*
"My father, N'Dim, has captured the daughter of N'Gah and is currently holding her in our quarters."
*
"Daughter. Her." repeated the one on the left.
*
"Yes." N'Ber admitted. "It is O'Tih."
*
"She has denied her own father by becoming female again." intoned the one on the left. "Explain."
*
"We.... I...."
*
"Enough. We understand."
*
"She is dying. Father refuses to give her enough food. I must get her here to safety, though it means that we must both live here in exile."
*
"She need not come here, only you." intoned the one on the right, speaking for the first time. N'Ber didn't like the harsh voice it belonged to. "If you truly love O'Tih, then you will not bring her here. You will take her to her father and then come alone."
*
N'Ber bowed his head. "I agree." he said sadly. "My mother and sister are in despair. We have lost everything while my father pursues his vengeance and hopes of becoming captain one day. I had to trade our cooking ware for the means to give him his vengeance."
*
"We know." said the center one. "Over there."
*
N'Ber looked and there was every plate and saucepan he had taken to trade the day before.
*
"The first gift of being an Inner One. Take these items back to your mother and sister."
*
"I cannot."
*
"Do you still hold the pride of the Outer Ones?" said the one on the right.
*
"I...don't know."
*
The center one said, "We Inner Ones help each other without seeking in return. Only by pooling our efforts and skills into a single unit can we survive. By joining us, you have pledged to do this as well. We will take much from you in the days ahead. It is only proper that you have the memory of a gift to assist you through these times."
*
"Thank you." N'Ber said. "It is difficult, but I will accept the gifts, and I stand ready to do what you need of me."
*
"Take the cookware to your mother. If N'Dim asks, you challenged one of our people to a gambling game and won it back."
*
"Lie?" N'Ber asked, stunned.
*
"Our resources are few. We must use those we have, including deceit. You will lie."
*
"I will lie."
*
"We will come for you and O'Tih at the end of tomorrow's shift. Prepare her for the journey back into the light, and prepare yourself for the eternal darkness."
*
"I will obey." N'Ber said.
*
"Go."
*
N'Ber turned and found as he exited that he was led to another direction. A short distance away was the very ladder he had come down. He started the long trek up the ladder to the outermost levels, where light, food and happiness were not in short supply.
*
* * * * *
*
"Chakotay, listen to this!" Paris said.
*
"What?" Chakotay said, as he roused himself once again from his efforts at meditation. Tom knew better than to interrupt!
*
Paris excitedly quoted from his reading.
*
"In the dawn of the day, I waited for you,
*
"In the morning of the day, I greeted you,
*
"In the afternoon hours, I made love to you,
*
"And when came the twilight, I bade you good-bye.
*
"And my heart with the day turned dim."
*
Chakotay waited. "That's it?"
*
"Yeah. Isn't it beautiful, the N'Gimelii Book of Laws?" Paris said.
*
"Tom, I am trying to meditate. I always meditate at this hour. I know you're normally on the bridge right now, but I need quiet at this time."
*
Paris was immediately furious. "It's not my fault I'm stuck in this place!" He threw the pocket computer at Chakotay, who dodged it by weaving on his knees. "God, less than a day and I'm already bored stiff! Can't I even talk to you?"
*
"We can talk this evening. And I'm tired of hearing about the N'Gimelii!" Chakotay closed his eyes and groaned inside. He shouldn't have said that!
*
"Well, if it hadn't been for the N'Gimelii, you and me wouldn't be together right now."
*
"I know, Tom and I'm sorry."
*
"And if it weren't for the supplies the N'Gimelii gave us, we'd have had to scour a dozen planets by now, stopping our travels each time. Tuvok says we have cut almost a month off the anticipated travel time already. One more month earlier, we'll be home. We may actually live to see Earth again!"
*
"You're right, Tom, and I'm sorry."
*
"And if the N'Gimelii weren't escorting Voyager right now, we'd be under constant attack from the Vidian colonies in this area."
*
"I know, Tom, and I'm sorry!"
*
"Stop saying you're sorry!" Tom shouted. "Ooh!"
*
"Are you all right!"
*
"I'm fine!" Tom yelled. "Stop worrying about me, I can take care of myself!" He got to his feet.
*
"Tom, the Doctor doesn't want you moving around."
*
"I'm just going to the bathroom. This damned womb is sitting right on top of my bladder, you know. Jesus, I drink a teaspoon of water and I have to go right over and piss it out again. And the Doctor wants me to drink three quarts a day or more. To help my body fill this damned plastic bag our son is floating around in."
*
Paris stormed into the bathroom, not even closing the door. Chakotay closed his eyes and concentrated on his animal guide, but that particular sound was impossible to close out. It ended with a few loud splashing bursts and Tom stalked out and sat down again, not reading, just looking at him. Chakotay closed his eyes again and tried to ignore the glare, but it was impossible. Chakotay rose to his feet with a sigh. "I'd better get back to the bridge." he said.
*
"I thought you meditated for an hour each day at this time." Paris said tightly.
*
"I need to go check on a project in Engineering." Chakotay said. Whoops! The back half of his brain said to the front. You flubbed it!
*
"I thought you were going back to the bridge."
*
"Yes, after I go to Engineering."
*
"Well, which is it, the bridge or Engineering?"
*
"Tom, I...."
*
"Anything to get away from me, is that what you're saying!"
*
"Tom, please, darling."
*
"Don't start sweet-talking me!"
*
"You're being unreasonable. You're just upset right now and I understand that."
*
"You understand! What do you understand! I'm just...I'm just...I...I...."
*
Chakotay reached out and took Paris in his arms. "It's all right, darling, it's just your body adjusting to the new hormone levels."
*
"I don't see why I need hormones to have a baby." Paris snuffled. "It's just a damned plastic bag in my body. Why do I have to feel like this? My God, if women feel like this all the time, how do they get anything done?"
*
"I guess they get used to it."
*
"Maybe."
*
"And one thing's for sure." Chakotay said. "No matter how much they yell at us men, we'll always keep coming back for more."
*
"After you get away for a while, yeah." Paris said, smiling. "I'm sorry I'm being such a jerk right now."
*
"It's all right. We both knew these months would be difficult."
*
"I've been thinking."
*
"What?"
*
"I've been reading that Book of Laws. You remember N'Gah wanted me to come right over and spend a few days with him? Well, it turns out that they have a ritual they want to say over me. I've read it through. It sounds nice and relaxing and comfortable and it takes about three days to get through. Frequent breaks are available, it doesn't have to be done all at once."
*
"You want to go, then?"
*
"I think it might be for the best." Paris said. "The Doctor can come visit me every day and make sure I'm all right. And by the time I get back, maybe I'll be a little more stable."
*
"It's your decision." Chakotay said. "I want you to stay with me. Even if you spend the next two months yelling at me the entire time."
*
"I know."
*
"It's whatever you want to do."
*
Tom stood silent, considering. "I think I want to go. I can finally talk to N'Tih, no matter how busy he is."
*
"All right. Want me to help you pack?"
*
"I'd appreciate that."
*
Chakotay walked Paris to the transporter room and communicated with N'Gah to get the coordinates. Watched as he beamed out and walked to the bridge, relieving Captain Janeway, and sat down in utter quiet.
*
"Troubles?" Kim asked sympathetically.
*
"Huh? Oh, nothing we weren't expecting. Tom's beamed over to the N'Gimelii ship for a few days for a ceremony they have. He'll be back by the end of the week."
*
"I was walking by your quarters earlier." Kim prompted.
*
"Oh, that. Well, when you tamper with the natural order of things, you have to expect some bumps."
*
"Tom sounded furious."
*
"It was nothing." Chakotay smiled. "Actually, he reminded me of a Klingon woman I met once and who I ended up going home with."
*
"Commander? You with a Klingon?"
*
"I was young and stupid. And I had studied some of the Klingon love poetry for just such an eventuality and was very eager to put it to a test. So I started off with..." Chakotay paused to remember the words, "N'Rou-oo'nahk Shash!"
*
"Nahk Shoo!" Kim corrected him.
*
"Yeah, that's right. I guess every human wanting to make it with a Klingon female learns that particular poem, doesn't he?" Commander Chakotay said, smiling. "So, after I dodged the first couple of items she snatched up and threw at me...."
*
"We're being hailed." Ensign Galloway said.
*
"On screen." Chakotay said. "N'Gah, what can we do for you?"
*
"You can tell me when my daughter will be coming aboard my ship. We're waiting for her."
*
"What? But Tom beamed over almost fifteen minutes ago."
*
"He did not arrive."
*
"Computer, where is Lieutenant Paris?"
*
"Lieutenant Paris is not aboard this vessel."
*
"N'Gah?" Chakotay said.
*
"Our scanners pick up nothing aboard our vessel."
*
"Scan the surrounding space." Chakotay ordered. "Hurry!"
*
The young ensign fumbled, and Chakotay pushed her out of the way, ran the scan himself. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
*
His husband had vanished.
*

* * * * *
*
Paris regained consciousness in darkness. "Uuh?" he said. His head pounded and his world was whirling.
*
"Lie still, my sister." came a soothing voice.
*
"O'Tih! I mean, N'Tih!"
*
"O'Tih is correct, my sister." O'Tih said. "I have been female ever since my capture."
*
"Capture? Who? Where?"
*
"Rest, my sister."
*
"Brother." Paris said. "Despite the fact I'm carrying a child right now, I am a male, as you will remember." He slapped his chest, felt only cloth. His communicator had been taken.
*
"Brother." O'Tih corrected herself. "But lie still. You have been injured."
*
"What? How?"
*
"A blow on your head as soon as you materialized. Do you not remember it?"
*
"No." Paris quickly checked the bulge at his waist. Everything felt all right and there was no pain. He raised one leg until a warning tingle came. Good! There WAS still pain.
*
"We are now prisoners of our Uncle N'Dim. I have been a prisoner so long, my father must think I am dead."
*
"Dead? But he has said nothing to me."
*
"Because you are carrying his grandchild." O'Tih said. "He would not want to upset you. But still, he should have mentioned something to you."
*
"No, nothing."
*
O'Tih pondered this. "This child you are carrying within you, when will it be born?"
*
"Not for another six months. In two months, we will take it out of my body and put it in a tank to finish its development. N'Gah said that would be all right."
*
"He did not state the truth." O'Tih said. "Do not let the child leave your body, my brother."
*
"Why not?"
*
"Because as soon as you put it in that tank, our father will steal it from you. He needs an heir to take his place, and if I am dead, he will look to his grandchildren. He is permitted to adopt your child as his own, and you are to be honored. But if he has not said this to you, then he does not trust you to turn your child over to him."
*
"He'd be right." Paris said. "My child is staying with me and Chakotay."
*
"So we have two enemies to consider." O'Tih said. "If I cannot return to our father because of our uncle, you cannot return to our father either."
*
"What are we going to do?" Paris said, beginning to feel panicked. Damned hormones have me terrified, he though to himself.
*
"For now, we wait for a chance to escape. I feel it will not be much longer in coming."
*
"Why?"
*
"Wait, my brother." And that was all O'Tih would tell him.
*
Hours later, Paris shifted on the steel floor, which stank horribly, and tried to sleep. He heard whispers for some time before their words became clear to him.
*
"I cannot leave without my brother and my nephew which he bears." O'Tih said firmly.
*
"But my dearest love, it will be difficult enough to get one of you to safety. I have prepared a path for us."
*
"We must wait for another chance, then." O'Tih said.
*
"I cannot. I have...I have joined the Inner Ones."
*
"N'Ber!" came the pained sound from O'Tih. "Why?"
*
"It was the only way to buy their help. And I am sickened by what my father is doing. There is no longer honor in my house. Even exile within is better than this."
*
"But if we are to live in exile...."
*
"No, my love. You are to return to your father. I will go within."
*
"I won't." O'Tih said. "We are to be together. That was the plan!"
*
"It cannot be." N'Ber said sadly. "The Inner Council has commanded that you return to your father. I must obey them in all things, or I forfeit both our lives."
*
"Then we are to be apart after all." O'Tih said. "The only reason I have continued living was the thought of you holding me when it was over. If I have lost that, then I have lost all reason to live."
*
"Dearest one, do not be sad. Seek the joy within the sorrow. I will always love you, even though we must live our lives apart, you in light and me in darkness. You will be Sister Joy and I will be Brother Sorrow, just as in the Laws."
*
"I cannot be Sister Joy. For my heart holds nothing but sorrow."
*
"But even Brother Sorrow holds within him the kernel of Joy. Let it go through you and over you and you will find the comfort of the Kernel of Joy."
*
"N'Ber, what are you doing?" came a voice.
*
"Father! I was just talking with the prisoner."
*
"I heard you, my son. You have fallen in love with your own cousin?"
*
"It is not forbidden, since I was adopted. I just--" A loud whack ended his speech.
*
"You deny me in order to pursue my niece! I shall not tolerate this! Return to your quarters, my disobedient son. I shall decide later what to do with you. I have to have my own talk with the prisoners. And they won't enjoy it half as much as they did your talk, I assure you."
*
The door opened, and Paris felt O'Tih's body crouch against his. The light from the other room blinded them and he could not see. It dimmed until he could see N'Dim as a black outline standing over him.
*
Then pain exploded in his stomach. He'd been kicked right at the womb. He crouched, partly in agony, partly to protect his child from further attacks. Stayed crouched and curled into a ball while kicks rained over his body. There were more than one in the room.
*
"That should take care of N'Gah's grandson." N'Dim declared. "And the son as well, unless I have misread their database. His body can be found at some appropriate location, having suffered a nasty fall. Such a tragic incident. They have already stopped looking for O'Tih, so she can go out the airlock as soon as we finish with the human."
*
Paris groaned. His stomach was one mass of flame. But it still hurt, and he took comfort knowing that that meant the womb was still intact. And the pain was going away.
*
"No!" he screamed. "No, no, no!" Crying not in the pain, but in the loss of pain. "My son! My son! Bastards!"
*
"Very good." N'Dim said. "He will be out of our way in no time. Let's leave them until late tonight and we can carry him away. N'Han, guard this door against my lovesick adopted son."
*
"I obey, N'Dim."
*
Paris sobbed for some unknown time, then felt O'Tih crawl over to embrace him. "My son!" he sobbed. "They've hurt him. He's dying, O'Tih. He's dying inside me, right now! We've got to get help. We can't wait."
*
"I know." O'Tih said. "But it is N'Han who guards this door. I know what to do. Wait a few minutes, then crawl to the door. It will be unlocked. Go out the door to the left of this and that will take you into the corridors. Climb the first ladder to the right. Up three levels and you will be in a public corridor, where you can find help."
*
Paris sobbed as the pain decreased further and further, now only a dull ache in his body. He listened as O'Tih said, "N'Han? N'Han?"
*
"What is it?"
*
"N'Han, you have heard how my uncle plans to kill me. Do you want that?"
*
"It is the same to me."
*
"But that is not what you said to me a few months ago. You begged me to join with you. Remember?"
*
"I remember." came the response after a time.
*
"I have not yet known the act of love-making." O'Tih crooned. "I don't want to die without tasting that joy. Please, N'Han, won't you unlock this door and give me that one final pleasure?"
*
"Do not toy with me, O'Tih." N'Han said. "If I unlock this door, you won't be getting away. I will take your body and use it. Better that I kill that human as well."
*
"He is already unconscious." O'Tih said. "He'll be dead soon, just as N'Dim said. Why not leave him, then."
*
A long pause and the small light from outside went out. Then came the sound of the door opening in the total darkness. Paris lay very still as he heard them moving. Then O'Tih gave a sharp gasp and Paris began to stealthily crawl. Toward the door. He bumped a foot and N'Han said, "What is that?"
*
"I'm sorry, dearest."O'Tih said. "Please, more, more!"
*
N'Han didn't answer. There was an obscene smell of blood in the air, blood and sweat. The grunts from N'Han and O'Tih were all Paris could hear, as he made it to the door. O'Tih was giving her body so he and his son could live. For himself alone, he would never have tolerated it. But for his son...yes, he would. He'd have made love to N'Han himself if that had been the price.
*
He made it to the door on the left, fumbled for the latch. There was no longer any pain in his body to prevent his movements. His stomach felt flattened and there was a vague wiggling feeling at his navel. Oh, God! He thought to himself. Hold on, Hal! Hold on!
*
He yanked the door open and stumbled into the blinding white light. Tears filled his eyes as he struggled with shouts behind him and to both sides. There was the ladder. He forced himself to move faster as the feeling of movement in his stomach stopped. "Hang on, baby!" He said. "Daddy's going to get you out of there real soon. Oh, God, real soon!"
*
The ladder was interminable. He took the steps as fast as he could, fifty, a hundred. There was the first level. Oh, God, two hundred more! Up the ladder! Fifty, seventy-five, his breath coming quicker and his heart pounding. Second level. Up, up, up!
*
Twenty-five. Forty. Forty-five. His feet were lead weights he lifted and lifted. He felt a different pain in his stomach, a tearing feeling. He kept on climbing. Fifty. Fifty-five. Sixty. Sixty-five.
*
A hand grabbed his foot from below and he started to kick.
*
"No, O'Tah-Em! It is I!" N'Ber!
*
"N'Ber, for the love of God, help me!" Paris sobbed. "Don't let my son die! Please!"
*
Paris felt his legs sliding over N'Ber's shoulders. N'Ber made it to where Paris was piggy-back on him and hunched upwards. "Release your feet, cousin." N'Ber said. "I will lift both of us."
*
Paris looked up, sweat pouring off of him. There was the exit hatch. "Just a few more steps." He was being shoved up step by step. But at least he could stop moving himself. "Three more steps. I can almost reach it." Paris said.
*
N'Ber was wheezing as Paris grabbed the hatch and turned it. Paris grabbed the door, pulled it open and fell out into the light and sounds of civilization.
*
And that was the last thing he remembered. He never even saw that it was Chakotay himself who picked him up, yelling, "Two to beam to Sickbay, stat!"
*


* * * * *
*
"Well, N'Han, do you have an excuse to offer me?" N'Dim said. "Was the child of N'Gah so beautiful to you that you would throw away your only hope of stepping into command status, child of my youngest sister?"
*
"Uncle N'Dim, I didn't know the human was still alive. O'Tih told me it was dead."
*
"So you decided to dally with O'Tih beside a dead alien's corpse, leaving the door open? My, my, that is an extraordinary thing."
*
"How can I possibly make this up to you, Uncle?"
*
"Easy." N'Dim said. He handed N'Han his weapon. "Kill O'Tih for me."
*
"Uncle, I...."
*
"If you cannot, then I will speak with your younger brother about the command position."
*
O'Tih looked wearily at the two. She knew N'Han for the fool he was, so she wasn't surprised when he raised the weapon and aimed it at her. She found she didn't really care. Her body ached from the months of abuse she had suffered and the pain of the violation of her body. And she knew that death was an end to pain.
*
And it was.
*
* * * * *
*
Paris came around. He was in Sickbay! "My son! My son!" he croaked. He was trying to shout, but it was only a sound. Still, with the Doctor, it was enough.
*
"Welcome back to the living, Lieutenant." he said.
*
"My son!"
*
"What's that?"
*
"My son!"
*
"Oh, your son? Well, I'm happy to say that he will be all right. We got him out of you just in time and the tank was already set up. No signs of permanent damage. I need to wait until he's bigger to finish repairing his left leg, but that will pose no problems, I assure you. Now rest."
*
"O'Tih?"
*
"Who?"
*
"O'Tih!"
*
"I will try to find out for you." the Doctor said. "I haven't heard. Now rest or I will give you something to make you rest."
*
Paris slumped back.
*
"Oh, by the way, if you'll turn your head to the right, you can see your son." the Doctor said. "Chakotay said you'd want to be able to, so we moved it."
*
Paris turned and saw the reddish liquid in a huge tank right beside the bed. Inside was a small form. He watched as one small arm moved away from the form. It wasn't the vague movements of liquid. His son had decided to suck his thumb. Paris watched it and smiled, and fell back asleep.
*
* * * * *
*
"My father-in-law, your son and grandson will recover." Chakotay told N'Gah. "We got them to our Sickbay in time."
*
"Excellent." N'Gah said. "N'Dim and his family have been banished to the Inner Level, where the despised ones live."
*
"What about N'Ber?" Chakotay asked. N'Ber was with him on the Voyager's bridge.
*
"Return him. He will go with his family."
*
"But N'Gah, he saved the lives of your son and grandson. As I understand N'Gimelii custom...."
*
"I decide whether or not my son obeys the Laws or not." N'Gah snarled.
*
"Well, we have already declared N'Ber to be our son. So if you don't mind, we'll keep him here with us. We can use a man of his courage and honor."
*
"He is a valuable man." N'Gah conceded. "Does my son know his sister is dead? Killed by her own cousin, according to N'Dim while he was sniveling for some scrap of honor."
*
N'Ber gasped. "Dead! I demand the right to challenge."
*
"You'd have to come back for that, N'Ber." N'Gah said appraisingly.
*
"It is worth becoming a despised one in order to avenge my cousin's life." N'Ber said.
*
N'Gah smiled suddenly. "Excellent! My son was wise to accept you, N'Ber. As you are my oldest grandson, I claim the right of adoption. With O'Tih gone, I need someone to guide my ship and my people when I am dead. I had planned to take my son's natural son, but you are a better choice."
*
Chakotay gasped. Good thing Tom doesn't know this, he thought to himself.
*
N'Ber bowed his head. "I am honored, Grandfather. But I would give it all up and accept the disgrace with gladness, just to see O'Tih's smile and hear her voice again."
*
"We will all see each other again in the next cycle." N'Gah declared. "And remember the joy that lies at the heart of sorrow. Come to me, and we will mourn her together, until our hearts find peace."
*
* * * * *
*
Paris tried to be allowed to go to the funeral. The Doctor had to strap him to the bed to keep him in place. Instead, he had to console himself with his memories and the sight of his son. Wise Chakotay, to arrange that for him. But there was an ache in his heart still for O'Tih, and the pain inside wouldn't come out. He couldn't yet mourn for her, and he needed to!
*
Chakotay entered the Sickbay and Paris said, "Hello, dear! Our son is beginning to suck his thumb already. When I get out of here, can we move this tank to our room?"
*
"Be better if he stays here." Chakotay said. "The Doctor will keep a close eye on him and we'll have our hands full caring for him after he's born. We'd better enjoy these final months of peace and quiet."
*
"Yeah. What do you have there?" Paris asked. Chakotay was standing with both hands behind himself and Paris realized he was holding something.
*
"Something I'm not sure you're ready for."
*
"Give it here and quit being so protective." Paris said.
*
Chakotay showed it to him.
*
"A memory flower!" Paris said.
*
"Yes, that's what N'Gah called it." Chakotay said. "He said you'd want it if you were strong enough to handle it yet."
*
"The N'Gimelii believe that it can act as a conduit for the spirits of the dead. A part of O'Tih's ashes were buried in the soil and part of it placed inside the flower in that thick part in the middle there." Paris pointed. "They give them to all the close relatives of the departed. This flower is actually a part of O'Tih."
*
"I don't see any flowers, though." Chakotay said.
*
"They only bloom for a few hours, and at random. The N'Gimelii believe that they will bloom for you when you need them most. Also that their scent will only come forth for the person for whom the flower is intended."
*
"You mean you could smell it and I wouldn't smell anything?" Chakotay asked.
*
"Yeah." Paris said. "Give it here and I'll say the prayer over it you're supposed to say every day."
*
Chakotay handed it and Paris spoke a short verse in N'Gimeliian. Then he gasped. A single, pink bud suddenly poked through at one juncture of the leaves and a pink flower promptly sprang to life just as Paris completed the prayer. Paris touched the flower and it fell into his hand. He lifted it and sniffed. "Very nice. A soft, sweet smell. Just like O'Tih."
*
Chakotay leaned over and sniffed. "I can't smell anything."
*
"Of course not." Paris said. "It's meant for me. O'Tih always watched out for me. It was her way." Paris smelled the blossom again and the tears suddenly flowed freely. Chakotay held him while he cried for his lost sister. And Paris found that the tears were enough, the pain of losing her left him, leaving only the happiness behind.
*
He had found the joy within the sorrow.
*
* * * * *
*
Four months passed, and Paris was back at Voyager's controls. N'Gah was on the screen, saying good-bye. "Voyager, you are beyond the Vidian colonies now, and near the edge of our space." N'Gah said. "We will leave you now and wish you well. I wish I had seen my grandson being born, but I thank you for the images of him you have sent us. And I thank you for the gift of your son to be my own."
*
"I'll tell my son all about you when he comes out about six weeks from now. And I'm glad that N'Ber will be taking care of you for me." Paris said. "N'Ber, take care of my father. And take care of the N'Gimelii. I'm going to miss you all very much."
*
"I hope you make it home, Father." N'Ber said. "We will remember you. We are even now working on the poems to be added to the Book of Laws that will include you."
*
"Really?" Paris said. "May I have a copy?"
*
"We will send them over right now. Farewell, my son." N'Gah said.
*
"Farewell, Father."
*
A brief pause. "Message complete." Ensign Galloway said.
*
"Well, don't leave us guessing." Paris said. "Tuvok, you read their language quickest. Let's hear it."
*
"I'm scanning it now." Tuvok said. "They apparently are using what happened as a way to restore the so-called despised ones back into their culture. Their language is very flowery and does not match the actual events."
*
"Let's hear it anyway." Paris urged. He looked over at Janeway. "With your permission, Captain?"
*
Janeway nodded.
*
"Very well." Tuvok said. "The beautiful O'Tah-Em stepped forth into the light of the main corridor. Her face was the gentle breezes of spring, and her hands held her stomach with its new life raging to be born. Her hair was long and the color of autumn grass, and her delicate hands embraced her new life. 'Look, oh my people, upon your princess!' she called to her adoring people. 'I, the beloved daughter of the Emperor, owe my very safety and existence to the actions of an accursed one, and I declare that this accursed one is my own son, the issue of my flesh, and superior in claim to the throne than the one that was given to me by my beloved N'Cha- Koh-Tey, whose strong arms are even now reaching to embrace me.'"
*
"There was nothing of the kind going on." Chakotay protested. "I heard the crowds and went to investigate and there was Tom, lying on the ground half out of the entry hatch. And the only thing that came out of your mouth, Tom, was a bit of vomit. I got it on my uniform when I picked you up."
*
"Vomit, poetic phrases, what's the difference?" Paris said. "You and I are going to be remembered for the milennia."
*
"Which part?" Kim asked. "Your long hair like autumn grass or your delicate hands?"
*
Paris laughed with the others, and the signal was nearly overlooked. Janeway took it. "Janeway here."
*
"Captain, I am happy to report that our ship will soon be having another member."
*
"Who?"
*
"A new child, of course. Someone has turned up positive on the pregnancy test."
*
"Really?" Paris said. "You hear that, Chakotay. Our son will have a playmate other than Wildman's son."
*
"Who is the lucky parent?" Janeway asked.
*
"I don't think lucky is the right word. It seems to have been the result of a brief fling and missing contraceptive shots. Lieutenant Torres has just left my office with blood in her eye, mumbling about the, uh, bastard that did this to her."
*
"B'Elenna?" Paris said. "Boy, how did the ship's gossips miss that one? Harry, if you hurry, you have time to get a pool up as to who the father is and who she's going to kill for this. Harry?"
*
Kim's mouth was working like a fish out of water.
*
"Ensign Kim?" Janeway said, wonderingly.
*
"Harry, you sly dog you!" Paris said with admiration. "How did you manage it?"
*
"Uh, Telaxian brandy. Neelix used it to pay off a debt and we got to drinking it one night after shift." Kim said. "It was just that one time."
*
"That's all it takes." Paris said.
*
"I was wondering how you knew that Klingon love poetry better than I did." Chakotay chipped in.
*
"She's going to kill me." Kim moaned.
*
"You'd better go find and talk to her, first." Janeway said.
*
"Yeah." Kim said. "Maybe if I drop to my knees and beg for mercy?"
*
"Never works with Klingons, but give it a shot anyway." Paris urged him.
*
"Permission to leave the bridge." Janeway said.
*
Kim started out, then paused at the elevator. "Promise you guys will give me a proper funeral?"
*
"We will if we can ever find the body." Paris promised. "Or at least part of it."
*
"I don't think she'll leave pieces that big." Chakotay said. "We'd better go with a memorial service."
*
The elevator opened. B'Elenna was inside. Before Kim could react, she had grabbed him and hauled him in. The doors closed just as she yelled. "Harry!"
*
"Help!" And the elevator was gone, and Voyager continued her long journey through the eternal night.
*

END OF PART FOUR

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