Armpits


By Tommyhawk1@aol.com


[The action (such as it is) in this story takes place approximately six months after the conclusory paragraphs of "The Joy Within the Sorrow."]
*
Tom Paris walked onto the bridge with a baby in a sling on his chest and a large, square diaper bag on his back. "I'm so sorry, Captain." he said. "B'Elanna is going to babysit for me, but she's delayed in Engineering. She'll be up in about a half hour. If you can stand the visitor for that long...?"
*
"That's all right." Janeway smiled. "I haven't seen my godson in a while."
*
Tom smiled a greeting at Harry Kim, with a now prominent scar on his cheek, and pulled off the upper strap of the sling, thus freeing the baby, who immediately set up whining. Janeway fished Hal out of the sling and held him up, cooing to him, and he quieted.
*
"I wish I knew how you do that." Tom said. "Anyone else holds him and he immediately starts crying."
*
"It's a gift." Janeway said. "After all, I babysit grownups all the time."
*
"Ouch!" Paris jokingly winced.
*
"Where's Chakotay?" Janeway asked.
*
"Meditating." Paris explained. "Taking advantage of the peace and quiet, what little there is of it in our quarters, anymore." He yawned.
*
"It gets better." Janeway said calmingly.
*
"Oh, I know that." Paris said. "It's only the first twenty-five years that are the hardest."
*
Janeway grinned her appreciation and cradled the baby in her arms. He was very much Chakotay's child, with the dark skin and black hair. But his eyes, those few times he would open them, were Paris', deep blue, and the cheeks were prominent and rather flat like Tom's, rather than the rounder Chakotay features. The Doctor explained that he had done this on purpose, so that "No one would accuse me of making a mistake in my gene splicing."
*
Paris tucked the diaper bag under his duty station and rigged the sling so it could hang over the currently-vacant other chair at his station. "Whenever you get tired of him, Captain, I'm ready for him." he announced as he started his duties as usual, by scanning their surroundings. "Captain, have you detected that anomaly at thirty-four Mark ten?"
*
"No." Janeway said as she walked up, handed the baby to Paris who tucked him into the sling as she looked over his finding. "What is it?"
*
"Energy, mostly, but it has some temporal aspects. Temporal rifts make me nervous. You never know what's going to come out of them."
*
"Agreed. Get us out of here." Janeway said.
*
"Changing course to one hundred twelve Mark seventy-two." Paris chose a course that would let them make a wide curve around the anomaly. "Increasing speed to Warp six."
*
As they moved around the anomaly, they saw that it was growing rapidly. A bright white inner core was surrounded by angry purples and reds.
*
"Object coming through!" Paris reported.
*
"Yellow Alert!" Janeway ordered. "All decks report when secured."
*
A horn signal alerted those who didn't see the flashing light.
*
"All decks report ready." Tuvok relayed.
*
"It's a ship." Paris reported. "Small shuttlecraft. Captain, it's a Federation vessel!"
*
"All stop. Hail them."
*
"Captain, it's badly damaged. The engines are overheating. It's going to explode."
*
"Transporter Room, lock on to that craft and beam all occupants directly to Sickbay." Janeway said. She watched as the tiny shuttlecraft hung almost expectantly in their center viewscreen, then exploded a few seconds later.
*
"Transporter Room, did you manage to lock on in time?"
*
"Yes, Captain. Transport complete."
*
"Sickbay, what have we got there?"
*
"He's all right." the Doctor said. "I didn't know you had gone out in a shuttlecraft, Mr. Paris."
*
"Doctor!" Paris heard his own voice respond. "What the hell am I doing back on Voyager?"
*
"Your shuttle exploded, Lieutenant." the Doctor explained. "We beamed you here, fortunately for you. Remember that you're a married man and can't take foolish risks anymore."
*
"Married!" came a startled explosion.
*
"Get me Sickbay on the viewer." Janeway ordered. "Display only, no transmittal."
*
"Transferring." Kim said.
*
Paris goggled and stood up in astonishment. There on the Sickbay table was himself!
*
"Ensign Galloway, take over Paris' station. Lieutenant Paris, come with me."
*
Paris almost forgot Hal, he was so startled. "It must be an alternate universe impinging on our own!" he exclaimed as he turned and went back, scooped up the sling with a now- practiced lift and took his infant son back to his chest. He grabbed the diaper bag as well and hurried to join the Captain in the elevator.
*
"Sickbay." Janeway requested and the elevator took off. "Well, Lieutenant, feel up to having a long talk with yourself?" she grinned.
*
Paris grinned himself. "I know that if I were me, I'd have lots of questions."
*
"I suggest you start by finding the point of divergence. We'll have to help the other you get back to his own ship."
*
"Absolutely." Paris said. "He's probably got his own Hal waiting for him."
*
They went into Sickbay and the alternate Paris turned to Janeway. "Captain, what happened?" he demanded.
*
"Keep calm, Lieutenant." Janeway said soothingly. "You're not in your own ship. You're on an alternate Voyager."
*
The alternate Paris didn't say anything, for he had just noticed Janeway's companion.
*
"Hello, Tom." Paris said, grinned. "And how am I feeling today?"
*
"Damned confused." the alternate Paris responded.
*
"Well, uh, I'm going to call our own Tom Paris 'Paris Alpha.'" Janeway decided aloud. "And the alternate Tom Paris, 'Paris Beta.'" She looked from one to the other. "Both of you okay with that?"
*
"Fine with me." Paris said, simultaneously.
*
"Well, the divergence can't be too great." Janeway said.
*
"I don't know about that." Paris Beta said. "Whose baby is that?"
*
"Mine." Paris Alpha said. "Say hello to Hal. Hal, meet your alternate daddy."
*
Paris Beta looked at him. "Well, he's got our eyes, all right. But who's the mother?"
*
Paris Alpha and Janeway looked at each other. "Better sit down for this, Paris Beta." Paris Alpha said. "I have been busy for the last year, apparently much busier than you have."
*
Paris Beta obligingly took a seat on the sickbay bed and Paris Alpha took the other. "What do you know about the N'Gimelii?" Paris Alpha asked.
*
"Never heard of them." Paris Beta said.
*
"That explains a lot. Without meeting N'Gah, you never would have gotten married. It was sort of a shotgun wedding and a shotgun pregnancy. But in this timeline, I have been married thirteen wonderful months."
*
"Yeah, I already asked. Who's the lucky woman?"
*
Paris Alpha saw the door open and Chakotay walk in. "You'd better brace yourself for a bit of a shock, because he just walked in the door."
*
Paris Beta turned. "Who?"
*
"Chakotay." Paris Alpha said. "Surpri-ise!"
*
"Tom, what's going on here? Tom?" Chakotay was suddenly confronted with two versions of his husband.
*
"I'm over here." Paris Alpha quickly waved. "In case you can't tell by your son hanging on my chest."
*
"Well!" Chakotay grinned. "I guess I'm seeing double."
*
"The hell you are!" Paris Beta promptly exploded. "I don't know what happened, but this is just too damned much!"
*
"You haven't told him?" Chakotay said, surprised. "Tom, uh."
*
"He's Tom Beta." Paris Alpha chipped in. "And I'm Tom Alpha."
*
"Tom Alpha, haven't you explained yet?"
*
"I was working on it." Paris Alpha said. "But there's a lot of ground to cover."
*
"I've heard enough." Paris Beta said. "Damn, I knew alternates can be very weird, but I never thought I'd see myself as a, as a...."
*
"As a what?" Paris Alpha was now as mad as his counterpart. "Just what word are we both groping for, Mr. Paris?"
*
"At ease, both of you." Janeway ordered. "Paris Beta, I suggest you and Paris Alpha go to the mess hall and get Neelix to fix you a drink and get Paris Beta caught up on just what happened with the N'Gimelii. In the meantime, we'll start trying to program a way to get you back to your own universe. Why don't you leave Hal with his other father? I'll make do without Chakotay on the bridge for a few hours while you work things out."
*
"It's my turn to care for Hal anyway." Chakotay said. "B'Elanna is still tied up in Engineering. Trying to fit in a small Jeffries tube in her condition."
*
Paris Alpha laughed, saw the puzzled look on his counterpart's face. "She's about out to here." he explained as he made a round-belly movement.
*
"Fat?"
*
"Pregnant!" Paris Alpha grinned. "And you'll never guess who the father is?"
*
"Given this ship, I'd say the Captain." Paris Beta sniffed.
*
Paris Alpha felt his smile slip. "I'll overlook that. No, the father is our old friend Harry. They got drunk one night and the rest is Voyager history."
*

"Harry?" Paris Beta smiled. "Shy, mousy little Harry Kim?"
*
"That's the one." Paris Alpha laughed. "B'Elanna thought about cutting him to ribbons and barbecuing his remains, she says, but she settled for giving him a nasty scar on his right cheek and told him it was the mark of a scoundrel. And that if he ever had it removed, she'd go back and remove a very important part of his anatomy. So now he has a distinguishing mark to remind him not to drink too much."
*
"Come on, papoose." Chakotay said as he scooped the sling off and fixed it to his back. "Darling, you take all the time you want. Hal and I will be fine."
*
"Thanks." Paris Alpha said and gave him a quick kiss.
*
"Jeez!" Paris Beta said. "Don't make me watch you do that!"
*
"Right." Paris Alpha said. "Come on, twin brother, you and me have some catching up to do."
*
By the time they made it to a table with their drinks, Paris Alpha had finished telling about rescuing the N'Gimelii king and being adopted as his son. "So there I was, stuck on the flagship of the N'Gimelii, unable to leave without getting a very powerful people angry at me and at Voyager. So I waited for rescue. And it came the damnedest way. The third call Voyager made to N'Gah, it was Chakotay doing the N'Gimelii equivalent of asking for my hand in marriage."
*
"Why did he do that?"
*
"Because the only way to get me out of N'Gah's clutches was to marry me off. But as the son of a king, I couldn't marry some lowly ensign. Captain Janeway would have done it, but she's already married, and the N'Gimelii emphatically don't believe in divorce. But the N'Gimelii do change their sex at whim. Yes, really. My best friend among them was female when we first met, became male, and was female again just before she died."
*
"Interesting."
*
"So they didn't care that Chakotay was male. And he had the rank to get me married and back on Voyager. The trouble is, the N'Gimelii have their own ideas of how to make a happy marriage. Chakotay and I had to make love in public right after our wedding."
*
"My God!" Paris Beta looked fascinated and horrified at the same time.
*
"Yeah, I wasn't thrilled about it, either." Paris Alpha grinned. "I had to ask the Doctor for some pain-killer to make it through that little ceremony, and Chakotay had to be loaded full of Xexol so he could get it up."
*
"So you got...."
*
"I got fucked up the ass for the very first time by Chakotay in full view of everyone on Voyager." Paris Alpha nodded.
*
"My God!" Paris Beta said. "How can you bear to show your face around here?" And he tucked his head down, afraid to be seen.
*
"Because I also can't get a divorce." Paris Alpha explained about the borti coating on Voyager and how they could be watched at any time still by the N'Gimelii. "So Chakotay and I decided to make a go of the marriage. And I am now a happily married man despite being railroaded into being a faithful husband as well."
*
"You're still sleeping with him?"
*
"Every night." Paris Alpha grinned. "Sometimes twice and three times a night. Chakotay is very hungry that way. Fortunately, so are we."
*
"You're getting fucked by Chakotay every night?" Paris Beta shook his head. "I am so lost! I'll never find my way home again!"
*
"What makes you say that, Tom?" Paris Alpha said. "I agree, I never thought about Chakotay that way, at least, not on top of my head, I didn't. But tell me, twin brother of mine, do you still have that dream?"
*
"Dream?" A look in his alternate's eyes was enough.
*
"The one you don't quite remember? But you wake up..."
*
"Horny as hell and have to beat off. Yeah." Paris Beta said. "You mean to say that the dream lover that is doing that to me...."
*
"Is none other than our dear Commander Chakotay." Paris Alpha said. "You've got the secret hots for him and have for a very, very long time."
*
"I don't believe that." Paris Beta scoffed.
*
"I didn't either, at first. But tell me, have you noticed that cologne he wears?"
*
"Yeah."
*
"Like to know where he gets it, wouldn't you?"
*
"Yeah." Paris Beta said. "I've tried every combination of musk in the databanks and I can't find it."
*
"Have you tried asking him what the cologne is?"
*
"And admit I like the way he smells?" Paris Beta grinned.
*
Paris Alpha matched his grin. "Yeah. Something like that. When I moved in with him, I went looking for that cologne."
*
"Which one is it?" Paris Beta asked eagerly.
*
"Ready to handle this? I went into his medicine cabinet first. Only a null-scent aftershave. No colognes of any sort. Unscented soap, too. And no deodorants, he doesn't use them. Also nothing he sprays on his clothing or keeps in his room like air fresheners."
*
"So what is it?"
*
Paris Alpha leaned over to whisper to him. "That scent, my dear Tom, is nothing more or less than Chakotay himself. You are hankering after his armpits."
*
"Yuck!" Paris Beta said. "That is disgusting."
*
"Really? I suppose so." Paris Alpha shrugged. "But every night, I snuggle underneath that armpit and get a very, very good night's sleep. At least, until the baby came along."
*
"How did the baby happen?" Paris Beta said. "I mean, I know it wasn't a case of us forgetting to take birth control pills."
*
Paris explained and the afternoon wore on and on.
*
Janeway came in for an early supper and saw them. "Well, Tom and Tom, how is it going?"
*
"I think the moment of divergence was at the time I rescued N'Gah." Paris Alpha said.
*
"I don't recall being late getting back to Voyager from any missions I flew that long ago." Paris Beta said.
*
"And if I hadn't been running late, I never would have seen N'Gah's ship being attacked."
*
"That makes sense." Janeway nodded. "Tell me, Paris Beta, how did your Voyager handle the Vidian colonies we flew through not so long ago? Without the help of the N'Gimelii flying along with us, we might have had a bad time of it."
*
"We did. Very badly." Paris Beta admitted. "We took a lot of damage and lost over forty members of our crew to Vidian raiding parties. Including Tuvok, B'Elanna and Harry."
*
Paris Alpha hissed. "I hadn't heard any of this."
*
"We were talking about this universe up until now. And the Vidians are still after us, back in my universe." Paris Beta said. "I need to get back and help them fight. If I'm not too late already."
*
"We have a shuttlecraft ready." Janeway said. "Tuvok says that if we use our deflector array, we can rip a space-time hole open between our universes once we know the moment of divergence. And it sounds like you've found it."
*
"Could you send me back to the moment of divergence?" Paris Beta asked. "If I could stop myself long enough to rescue N'Gah, then so many members of our crew would still be alive."
*
"We'll be doing well just to re-open the rift and get you back to your old space-time continuum without trying for a temporal warp as well." Janeway said. "I'm sorry, Paris Beta, but I have to refuse."
*
Paris Beta's shoulders sagged. "I guess I expected that. I miss Harry the most, I think."
*
"And I would miss Tuvok a lot." Janeway said. "But we'd better settle for getting you home to Voyager. I'll give you a shuttlecraft to fly back in. Same one you lost. It'll be like you never left it."
*
"Almost." Paris Beta said. "Almost."
*
A few hours later, they were ready. Paris was at his station, looking at Paris aboard the shuttle. Chakotay, behind him, held their son.
*
"Do me a favor, Commander?" Paris Beta asked.
*
"What is it, Tom?"
*
"Stand next to Tom Alpha for me."
*
Chakotay stood next to Tom and rested his free hand on Tom's shoulder, making a family triangle. "That's perfect." Paris Beta said. "I just wanted to remember that. An image of me that is perfectly happy."
*
The signal went off and Chakotay asked, "What did you two talk about?"
*
Paris grinned. "Armpits and babies, mostly."
*
"Armpits?"
*
"Yeah. I think my alternate is going to go looking for a particular armpit when he makes it back."
*
The shuttle flew through the rift and was gone.
*
* * * * *
*
Back on the badly damaged and undermanned Voyager, Paris stepped out of his shuttlecraft, walked the rather empty corridors, and remembered a happier Voyager that lived right next door to his own. It helped, a lot, knowing it was there.
*
He got to the mess hall where an ensign (poor Neelix gone, as well) handed him a ration pack and he walked over to where Commander Chakotay was eating a quick meal before returning to the bridge.
*
"Mind if I join you, Commander?" Paris asked.
*
"Not at all." Chakotay gestured to the seat.
*
"Thanks." Paris took his seat. "I've had the most extraordinary adventure on my last shuttle flight."
*
"Really?" Chakotay asked.
*
"Yes, but there's something I want to say first."
*
"Go ahead."
*
"Chakotay, I really like the way you smell."
*
Chakotay looked surprised, then grinned. Paris matched his grin. "Now let me tell you about my little adventure and what I learned there. It's a story about armpits...."
*

THE END

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