Tom Paris noticed that patient two was awake and trying to move himself to get a better view of patient one.
"Here, let me help you." Tom said and adjusted the bed into a different position to afford him a better view.
"Thanks." Alan said sadly.
"My name is Tom. What's yours?" Tom asked in a friendly tone.
"Alan. You work here?" Alan asked, really feeling the need to talk to someone.
"Yeah, I help out the Doctor sometimes. What do you do?" Tom said and pulled a chair over beside the bed.
"I fight." Alan said tiredly and looked again at Andrew.
"I don't think I'd like that. I mean, I can fight if I need to, but I'd rather talk my way out of trouble." Tom said with a rakish grin.
"Yeah, well I've fought for years to protect our way of life... but our way of life became fighting." Alan said, now staring steadily at Andrew.
"Do you think the fight will ever end?" Tom asked casually. He could tell that this man just needed to get some things off his chest.
"It did. There's no more fighting on my world." Alan said and looked back to Tom.
"Who won?" Tom asked quietly.
"Nobody won. Everyone is dead... everyone on the planet was killed by a plague." Alan said and rested his head back on the pillow.
After a long moment of silence Alan turned to look at Andrew and asked, "What's going to happen to him Tom?"
"I don't know. I just help out around here, they don't tell me a lot of things." Tom said, underplaying his own importance.
"The things I tell you, are you going to tell that Janeway woman?" Alan asked carefully, looking into Tom's eyes to gauge his truthfulness.
"Depends on what you tell me. If you tell me your favorite color is blue, I won't tell her. If you tell me you're going to try and take over the ship, then yeah, I'd tell her." Tom said and finished with a shrug.
"Fair enough but, ship?" Alan asked cautiously.
"Yeah, you mean no one told you that you're on a star ship?" Tom asked in wonder.
Alan shook his head.
"Yeah. We're trying to get back to Earth. We've been stranded out here for nearly four years." Tom said with his own pained look.
"Where is here?" Alan asked curiously.
"The Delta quadrant." Tom said and got up from his chair.
"What's that?" Alan asked in confusion.
"First, you take the galaxy and cut it up like a pie. Then label each slice of the pie with a Greek letter. The Earth is in the Alpha Quadrant, we're in the Delta Quadrant." Tom said and opened the viewport.
Alan looked in wonder at the stars streaking by outside.
"What year is this?" Alan thought to ask.
"Oh man... if you have to ask... let me take a shortcut here. Computer, what is the current month, day and year as measured on the Earth Gregorian calendar?" Tom said, having a feeling he knew what the reaction would be.
"The current date is August, twenty-sixth, twenty-three eighty-six." the Computer said in a feminine voice.
Alan sat stunned. "Four hundred years." he whispered. Then he started to put together pieces from the earlier conversations with the current state of Andrew. Finally he felt he understood.
"Thank you Tom. Now I feel like I'm aware enough of my current situation to talk to Janeway again." Alan said quietly.
"I thought you'd be a little more freaked out by this." Tom said honestly.
"Before I met Andrew I would have been." Alan said and smiled fondly at Andrew.
"Andrew?... It suits him." Tom said after a considering look.
"Yeah. He's the best thing that ever happened to me." Alan said with a smile.
"I'll go get Captain Janeway. Try not to be up too late, you're scheduled for another surgery tomorrow." Tom said and walked away.
"Tom!" Alan called out.
"Yeah?" Tom said, poking his head around the corner.
"Surgery for what?" Alan asked quietly.
"We're cloning you a new stomach. It'll be ready tomorrow." Tom said and left the room again.
After a few moments he returned and sat back in his chair.
"She'll be down in a few minutes. I get the feeling you've got some questions for me." Tom said, looking at the worried expression on Alan's face.
"Yeah, I'm just wondering about what's going to happen to me." Alan said, surprised that he hadn't thought about his own condition until now. He looked down and noticed the burned skin on his arms and that he was missing four of his fingers.
"You've already got a new liver, the stomach will be put in tomorrow and you'll have a new kidney next week. After that you're getting a new leg." Tom said calmly.
Alan could only nod as he assimilated the information.
"If you can do all this for me, why can't you help Andrew?" Alan asked quietly.
"Because our technology can only do so much. I'm not a doctor, but to me it looked like most of the blood vessels in his brain exploded. There just isn't any way we can repair that kind of damage..." Tom trailed off seeing that his words were only hurting Alan.
After long minutes of silence Tom finally said, "I'm going to leave you two alone for a few minutes. The Captain will be here soon."
"Thanks Tom." Alan said and turned his tearful gaze back to Andrew.
* * * * *
"Mr. Paris said that you wanted to talk to me." Kathryn said carefully.
"Yes Captain. I'm sorry I was so cautious earlier but I didn't want to reveal too much until I understood my situation better." Alan said with a professional tone.
"Perfectly understandable. So how about answering my questions now... who are you and your friend?" She asked with equal professionalism.
"My name is Alan Summers, my partner's name is Andrew Wells. We are currently members of a group who are trying to get mutants and non-mutants to coexist peacefully." Alan said and spared a glance at Andrew.
"From the look of your condition I'm guessing the non-mutants were against the idea." Janeway said wryly.
"You could say that. A group of scientists and government officials conspired to create a virus specifically engineered to seek out the X gene that is common to all mutants... and kill the mutants in the most horrible way imaginable." Alan said and turned his head to look at Andrew, feeling soothed by his presence.
"Biological research for the purpose of creating a weapon has been forbidden by the federation for hundreds of years... even the thought is..." Kathryn trailed off, not able to find a word horrific enough to describe the sensation.
"They did it. They released the virus on my world." Alan said quietly.
"How did you survive?" Kathryn asked with increasing interest.
"Andrew has the ability to create doorways into different dimensions. He found me near death from..." Alan stopped and looked down at his scars.
"I understand." Kathryn said, not needing for him to spell it out.
"While I was recovering, they released the virus in my world. The virus mutated. It killed everyone." Alan said in a pained voice.
"Then how did you come to be here?" Kathryn asked, more out of curiosity than official business.
"The world that Andrew and I were living on... they were about to do the same thing... release the virus. We were trying to stop it. While I was destroying a research data warehouse I triggered an explosion." Alan said and looked back toward Kathryn.
The Captain nodded for him to continue.
"I can only guess at what happened next but, I'm sure it goes something like this: Andrew found out I was hurt and took me to the doctor and was told that I was beyond help. So Andrew found some way to bring us both here... but the portal he created to get us here took so much of his power that it... left him like that." Alan finished in a whisper and looked back toward Andrew with tears beginning to fall.
"Thank you for talking with me Alan, welcome aboard Voyager. I only wish it could be under happier circumstances." Kathryn said and turned her own pained gaze toward Andrew.
"He's the best thing in my life... What am I going to do now?" Alan asked in a lost voice.
"That's one of those questions only you can answer, but I think I know someone who may be able to help you." She said with a friendly smile and a gentle tone.
"His name is Chakotay. He is my first officer and also serves as the ships counselor. More importantly, he will be able to relate to some of your experiences. He should be able to look at your situation and help you to identify your options." Kathryn said, then got to her feet.
"Captain?" Alan called in a small voice.
"What's going to happen to Andrew?" Alan asked, knowing that whatever it was would be her ultimate decision.
"Ask me again when you're healed and able to walk on your own. I won't do anything before that time." Kathryn said and walked toward the door.
"Thank you for that Captain." Alan said with relief.
"I'm not your Captain, you can call me Kathryn." She said as she left the room.
* * * * *
Tom entered the sickbay and went directly to Alan's bed.
"Do you mind if I talk to you for a while?" Tom asked quietly, trying not to notice the tears falling down Alan's face.
"Sure Tom, in my current condition, that's about all I'm good for." Alan said with irritation.
"I talked to the Doctor about that, he said that after tomorrow's surgery we'll do some regeneration work on your kidney. As soon as that's done, you should be able to be released from the restraint field." Tom said and took his chair.
Alan nodded to indicate that he heard.
"I wanted to ask you about your relationship with Andrew... I don't know how it is with two guys and I just wondered..." Tom stopped, not knowing how to voice his question.
"Before Andrew I could have told you what you wanted to know, but now... he took everything I thought I knew about love and turned it on it's ear." Alan said fondly.
"How so?" Tom asked and leaned forward in his chair.
"He loves me completely. There aren't any words to describe what I feel for him. He brings me peace, joy, comfort, pleasure, confidence, beauty... basically all the good things in life. Because of him, I know what it is to love and to be loved." Alan said with an expression of joy crossing his face.
"I don't understand." Tom said in quiet awe at the transformation that came over Alan as he talked about Andrew.
"And I don't know if I can describe it. Andrew is my best friend. He is also my lover. Physically, emotionally, even spiritually he connects with me to bring me joy and pleasure. He's my teacher, telling me the things that no one else would dare. He's my protector, otherwise we wouldn't be here. And the best thing of all is that I can say without a doubt that I am all those things to him too. I'm a better person than I was before I met him and even if I lose him... I will continue to be a better person because I have known him." Alan said with confidence.
"I can't imagine that feeling. I mean, I've been with several women here on Voyager since we came to the Delta, but I didn't really have a relationship with any of them... just sex." Tom said sadly.
"I wish I could honestly say that it will happen for you, but I have the feeling that the love that Andrew and I have for each other is rare. Few people find it, most just settle for someone to hold them close at night to keep them from being alone and afraid." Alan said and noticed Tom flinch.
Tom looked away, that last comment hit a little too close to home for his comfort. "So did you two ever talk about having kids or anything?" Tom said, trying to change the subject.
"We're both men... there isn't any way we could have our own. But no, we never discussed it." Alan said, understanding the change of subject.
"Oh I forgot, four hundred years. Now two men can have a baby as easily as a man and a woman." Tom said offhandedly.
"Really? How? I mean, I can foresee some... plumbing problems with that." Alan said curiously.
"An artificial womb. It implants in the abdomen and works almost like a woman's womb. It's a simple procedure and poses much less risk than natural childbirth since the unit doesn't require the alteration of hormones or body chemistry. Almost as many women choose to use the artificial unit as the natural way for that reason." Tom said, obviously knowledgeable on the subject.
"What about the birth? I mean there isn't a..."
"...birth canal? The baby is delivered by the doctor when he removes the implant. But if you wanted a birth canal, it is possible... it requires some rearranging of the internal organs in the abdominal cavity and is a fairly invasive procedure. I wouldn't recommend it." Tom said seriously.
"If I wanted to have a baby... what would I have to do? I mean, I assume that the doctor wouldn't just pop one in because I asked." Alan said in a considering voice.
"It would be up to the captain. Honestly, in your present condition, I'd bet she'll want you to talk to Chakotay before she decides anything."
Alan noticed the inflection Tom placed on Chakotay's name and remembered that his original question had been about two guys. "I'm supposed to meet with Chakotay anyway, I might as well talk it over with him before I bother the captain. Could you tell me about him? I want to know what to expect." Alan asked, hoping to pick up some more of Tom's feelings toward the Commander.
* * * * *
Alan awoke to find a stranger sitting by his bed.
"Good morning Alan. My name is Chakotay, the Captain asked me to come down and talk to you." Chakotay said gently.
Alan gave the commander a slight smile before saying, "Good, I've been wanting to talk to you too."
Chakotay was surprised by Alan's response. Most people went out of their way to avoid him.
"What would you like to talk about first?" Chakotay finally asked.
"Honor, promises, duty, I want to know how you feel about such things." Alan said bluntly, hoping to catch Chakotay off guard enough to get the truth.
"I value those qualities very much... they are among the most important things in my life. They are core to my beliefs." Chakotay said, surprised at the bluntness of this troubled man.
"If you were in debt to someone, how important would it be to honor that debt?" Alan asked seriously.
"It would be the next priority behind my duty to the ship. Why do you ask?" Chakotay questioned, confused.
"Because the only person who's sat down and talked with me since I came on board is Tom Paris. I asked him to tell me about you and some of what he said seemed to be contradictory, so I wanted to ask you about it." Alan said honestly.
"What contradiction?" Chakotay asked with irritation at hearing the name Tom Paris.
"Lets see. He risked his own life to save yours. And what have you done to honor that debt?" Alan asked, curious by the immediate irritation exhibited by Chakotay.
"My tribe does not believe that you owe your life to another person when they save yours." Chakotay said in a practiced tone.
"I'm not talking about the letter of the law, I'm talking about personal honor. He risked his life to save yours, that creates a debt. You dishonor yourself and him as long as you refuse to honor that debt." Alan said with a little anger creeping into his voice at the pigheadedness of the Commander.
"He doesn't care about honor." Chakotay said dismissively.
"Are you blind? I've known him one day and I can see how much he values honor. I don't know about his past, but I can guess that he had to live with disgrace and dishonor at some point to value it so highly now. I don't know if he is consciously aware of it, but he feels dishonored by your dealings with him."
"I have dealt with him fairly despite our past." Chakotay said defensively.
"Professionally you have been fair. That's not what I'm talking about. Do you want me to just tell you what I'm leading up to?" Alan said with exasperation.
"Please." Chakotay said with a little relief at the offer.
"Tom needs a friend. He needs you to be his friend." Alan said and watched Chakotay's reaction carefully.
There was a flash of surprise and a spark of hope before disbelief took over Chakotay's features.
"Tom has plenty of friends. He doesn't need me." Chakotay said sourly.
"He has one friend, Harry. The rest are acquaintances. And from the way he describes Harry, they are friends in an almost adolescent way. I can almost see the two of them having a sleep-over, building a fort out of blankets and chairs, then sitting up half the night reading comic books with the flashlight." Alan said with a smile.
Chakotay easily formed that image of Tom and Harry. He couldn't help but laugh.
"He needs an adult friend Chakotay. I can tell that he has become disenchanted with the random sex partners, the adolescent pranks, the empty day-to-day routine... he needs someone to show him how to relate to people as an adult." Alan said and glanced at Andrew.
"Why me?" Chakotay couldn't help but ask.
"Why not? From his point of view, your refusal to even try to be his friend after saving your life made him feel worthless. Anytime he made an overture of friendship, it was met with disapproval by you."
"When did he *ever* try to be my friend?" Chakotay asked with disbelief.
"Remember that he has been operating with an adolescent mentality. How does an adolescent get someone to notice them?..." Alan asked, leading Chakotay to figure it out.
"Teasing, pranks... All that time he was trying to get my attention? I thought he was trying to make fun of me." Chakotay said with wonder.
"Yeah, you have to understand, he doesn't know any better. He's never had a positive role model to show him how to behave as an adult. He may be a few years behind, but he's finally ready. Now he needs you to help him. And you owe him." Alan threw in, to clinch the deal.
"I guess I do. It's my duty as ships counselor and my personal duty to do this for him." Chakotay said, resigned to his fate.
"If you approach it as strictly duty, you may hurt Tom more than help him. Just be honest and give him a chance. Don't say anything you don't mean and don't do anything you don't want to." Alan said with caring in his voice.
"Did you ever think of becoming a counselor?" Chakotay asked, realizing that he had just been thoroughly counseled.
"No, that's Andrew's department. I'm just standing in for him while he's out of action." Alan said with a fond smile.
"You know he's not going to get better." Chakotay said quietly.
"I know. But I'm not ready to let go. Everyone says there's no reason to hope, but Andrew is always surprising me. I'm going to hang on for a little while longer before I give up." Alan said with tenderness directed at Andrew.
"I can't fault you for that. Everyone deals with things in their own way, and I'll be here to help you." Chakotay said, surprised at how much he had come to like this man during their short acquaintance.
"Actually, that's something else I wanted to talk to you about." Alan said nervously.
Chakotay prompted him to continue with a raised eyebrow.
"I want to have a baby... Andrew's baby." Alan said quietly.
"Why?" Chakotay asked carefully.
"So some part of Andrew will survive. So I can honor his memory by raising our child to know him as I do. It just seems the right thing to do." Alan said with a look of peace falling over his face.
"Are you sure this is what you want?" Chakotay asked with caution.
"What I want is for Andrew to be alive and well, so no, this isn't what I want, but it's what I can have. Tom said that if I asked the Captain, she would have me talk to you about it before making a decision. So I decided to talk to you about it first. What do you think?" Alan asked with some trepidation.
"I think I've heard much worse reasons for having a child. But I have to ask you about the scars on your arms first. You've tried to take your own life. What are the chances that after Andrew is gone, you'll try to do that again?" Chakotay asked bluntly.
Alan cast a fond look at Andrew and said, "Thanks to Andrew, that's never going to happen again. When I cut myself, it was because I didn't know how to deal with what I had lost. Now I'm a different person, a better person. I may be unhappy for a while, but I'll survive with the support of friends like you and Tom... and eventually I'll honor Andrew by living my life the way he would want me to. By letting go and moving on."
"I will ask the Captain about the baby for you. If it helps you to know, I'm going to recommend that she allow you to have the baby. And you are correct about having the support of friends. I will be there whenever you need me as I am sure that Tom will. And I promise that over time, you will find even more friends on Voyager. There are some very good people here." Chakotay said with pride.
"Thank you Chakotay. I don't know if I can. I mean, I had a group of friends on my home planet... and now they're all dead, my best friend died a few weeks ago and I saw my next closest friend die about five days ago. I made more friends on the world where Andrew and I live. I don't know if they're alive or dead. I just don't know how many more times I can go through this."
Chakotay thought for a moment and finally decided to try something. "What would Andrew want you to do?"
"Low one." Alan said with an insincere sneer, then smiled and said, "Of course he'd want me to make new friends and be happy."
Chakotay got up from his chair and said, "I'm going to talk with the Captain now. As soon as she makes a decision about the baby, I'll let you know."
"Thanks Chakotay, and what are you going to do about Tom?" Alan asked carefully.
"I'll think about what you've said. There's so much baggage between us, I don't know if we'll be able to put it all behind us." Chakotay said sadly.
"Just let him know that your interested in being his friend and I bet he'll be ready to put the past behind you." Alan said with confidence.
"I hope your right." Chakotay said with a smile and left the sickbay.
* * * * *
"Good morning Mr. Summers." The Doctor said cheerily.
"Good morning Doctor. I hear we're going to have a surgery today." Alan said, watching the Doctor move hurriedly around the room.
"Yes, later this morning. I have one other thing to do first." the Doctor said as the door to sickbay opened.
"Good morning Doctor, you require my assistance?" A tall blonde woman said in a monotone.
"Yes, good morning. Seven of Nine, this is Alan Summers. I was hoping that we could adapt a version of your ocular implant for him so that he wouldn't need to wear the glasses to control his optical discharges of energy." The Doctor said with excitement.
"Explain." Seven said with her version of curiosity.
"Here is his medical file, you see how his genetic mutation has changed his optic nerves to allow the passage of a great deal of energy to be discharged through the eyes?" the Doctor said, pointing at the panel.
"Intriguing." Seven said flatly, her version of giddy histrionics.
Finally Alan couldn't take it anymore and said, "What are you planning to do to me Doctor?"
"Nothing without your permission, I assure you. But if Seven confirms my suspicion, we may be able to adapt her ocular implant to make it so you won't have to wear the glasses anymore." the Doctor said calmly.
"Does that mean I'll have one of those metal things on my face like she does?" Alan asked, not thinking he would like that idea.
"You would have an ocular implant similar to hers, but yours would be subcutaneous... under the skin, since you won't have need of the implant's scanning abilities. It will simply be a control mechanism to allow you to restrict and focus your optical energy." The Doctor said patiently.
"How long would that take, I mean, would it mean I have to stay in this bed for another week?" Alan asked carefully.
"No, the process would be performed by Borg nano-probes and wouldn't place any restriction on your activities." Seven said as she looked at the medical file, checking a few things.
"You kind of lost me after 'No' but that's okay. As long as I'm not confined to this bed any longer, I'm fine with it. Will there be any risks?" Alan asked carefully.
Seven looked up from the panel and considered for a moment before answering.
"No, the worst that will happen is the procedure won't work and you'll be no worse off than when you started." she said confidently, then returned her attention to the panel.
"I concur, that is why I suggested this treatment. The possibility to remove your dependence on the glasses while introducing no risk to you was too much to pass up." The Doctor said proudly while watching Seven's journey through Alan's medical data.
"Okay, then my next question is when?" Alan asked, he had never considered being able to give up his glasses.
"It will take approximately two hours to program the nano-probes to perform the necessary task. The actual construction of the device will take approximately three hours." Seven said and looked curiously at Andrew.
"Thank you Seven." Alan said and followed her gaze to Andrew.
"What is the status of this man?" she asked flatly.
"He is on full life support." the Doctor said absently, looking over Alan's medical file again.
"When is he expected to recover?" Seven asked, not seeing any signs of treatment being administered.
"He isn't. His brain is damaged beyond our ability to repair." The Doctor said, sparing a glance at Alan.
"Then the unit will be terminated?" Seven asked with actual surprise in her voice.
"Eventually yes. His name is Andrew, he is Alan's partner..." the Doctor began, then remembered to whom he was talking and continued, "He's one of two, Alan is two of two, without his counterpart Alan's performance will be decreased."
"Is there no replacement available?" Seven asked, glancing at Alan.
Alan wasn't sure why she talked that way but decided to go along with it to aid in her understanding. "No. It will take a great deal of time to find one...even then it won't be the same."
"May I look at his medical file?" She asked in a no nonsense tone.
"Of course." The Doctor said with a trace of excitement.
After a few long minutes she finally said, " Normally a drone with this much damage would be disconnected from the collective and terminated. But there have been occasions when a replacement wasn't readily available and repair of the unit was the only viable option."
"Is there something you can do for him?" Alan asked with hope.
"I believe I just said that." Seven said in a flat tone that might either be teasing or chastising.