"Alan, you awake?" Andrew asked in a whisper.
"Yeah Andy, what do you need?" Alan asked immediately.
"I think I understand something." Andrew said in an introspective tone.
"What's that?" Alan asked and got more comfortable in his chair.
"My father... I think I know why he was... that way. And why he left." Andrew said quietly.
"What do you mean?" Alan asked, matching Andrew's quiet tone.
"When Seven was explaining what she did, she said she fixed a congenital defect. I think it's something that I inherited from my dad, and it's what makes him violent sometimes."
"I guess it could be." Alan said thoughtfully.
"If we ever get back home, I need to see him. To tell him that I understand... and that I don't hate him." Andrew said with tears in his eyes.
"Love, you know that I don't blame you... right?" Alan asked carefully.
"I know. But I still blame myself. It may take me a while to deal with it. I mean, I *hurt* you. I could have *killed* you. I didn't have any thought, any control, just pure blind rage." Andrew said with a tremulous voice.
"I know love. As soon as we get through this, I want to act like it never happened. Let's never talk about it again." Alan said seriously.
"You don't learn anything by forgetting." Andrew said in a whisper and closed his eyes.
* * * * *
Chakotay walked into the Sickbay and went to Andrew's bed.
"Tom told me some of what happened... I wondered if you feel like talking about it?" Chakotay asked Andrew quietly.
"I guess I should." Andrew said hesitantly, glancing at Alan.
"I can leave you two alone to talk, if that would be better." Alan offered.
"No love, I think I'd like it better if you were here. Is that okay Chakotay?" Andrew asked.
"Whatever you want... Tom explained that you're undergoing a treatment to alter your brain chemistry. I don't understand about that." Chakotay said and pulled up a chair.
"We're trying to make me like I was before I came here. When I was healed, they changed me and made me different." Andrew said calmly.
"Why would they do that?" Chakotay asked in confusion.
"Because they wanted to make him like everyone else. Andrew feels everything to the extreme... he always has. When he loves, it's with the passion of an exploding star and when he's hurting it's like a knife tearing through his heart." Alan explained.
Andrew smiled and said, "Thanks love. I couldn't have said it half as good."
"So when they healed you, they made it so you felt things like everyone else. And it was like feeling nothing?" Chakotay asked.
"Exactly. I felt like I was the walking dead. Life didn't have any flavor or color, I felt like I wasn't me anymore." Andrew said with pained memory.
"I understand why you did it." Chakotay said honestly.
"And I just want him to be happy." Alan threw in.
"About the incident when you hurt Alan... what can you tell me?" Chakotay asked, not wanting to beat around the bush.
"I was... angry. It was blind rage. I don't remember ever feeling anything like it before. All I wanted to do was hurt Alan... physically, emotionally, it didn't matter... and I didn't even have a reason." Andrew said helplessly and his eyes started filling with tears.
"And that's why you're in a restraint field?" Chakotay confirmed.
"He's in a restraint field because he said he would rather die than hurt me again." Alan said with pain.
"I'm not bitching about being in the restraint field because I don't want to hurt Alan." Andrew said, as he was calming.
"And how long do you intend to stay here?" Chakotay asked both men.
"Until my brain chemistry is stable enough that there is no chance of me hurting him again." Andrew said seriously.
"It seems to me that you're doing everything that can be done to see that it never happens again... but we still need to deal with the fact that it did happen." Chakotay said, focusing on Andrew.
"Yeah, that's the tough part." Andrew said with a sad smile.
"Can you tell me how you feel about it?" Chakotay asked.
"Sorry. Ashamed. Angry with myself for not being able to control it... Afraid that it will happen again." Andrew said with increasing helplessness.
"And what if it does happen again?" Chakotay asked.
"Then I'll have the implants removed. I was serious when I said that I'd rather feel nothing than take the chance of ever doing something like that again... Oh Gods, I'm going to be a father, what if I lose it around our son?" Andrew asked with a look of horror.
"Calm down love, by the time the baby is born, you'll have this thing under control." Alan said with reassurance.
"Alan, I need you to promise me that you won't let me hurt you or our son. If I ever start to lose it... blast me. Blast me hard enough that I'll never hurt another person ever." Andrew said with tears in his voice.
"Promise!" Andrew demanded.
Alan sat silently for a moment then said, "I promise. If you ever lose control and threaten our child, I promise that I'll blast you. It'll kill me to do it, but I will because I know it's what you really want."
"And you. If I ever make a move to hurt you again, I need to know that you'll do this for me. I can't... I can't stay with you if you won't promise." Andrew said with obvious pain at having to say those words.
"Andy, please don't make me..." Alan began.
"Alan, I'm your protector, either you promise or I'll protect you by leaving... I have to know that you'll be safe." Andrew said helplessly.
"I promise." Alan whispered.
Andrew shut his eyes and tears fell down the sides of his face.
"I don't think you two need me here." Chakotay said, taken aback at what he had just witnessed.
"Thanks for talking with us Chakotay." Alan said with sadness in his voice.
"Yeah. Don't worry, I'm usually more fun than this." Andrew said with a forced smile.
"I bet." Chakotay said with a smile and left the room.
* * * * *
The Doctor finished his scans and walked to the workstation.
Alan and Andrew watched with anticipation. It had been two days and after the last scan the Doctor had said that Andrew was nearly ready to be released.
"Gentlemen, as nice as it has been to have your constant company for the past two days, I'm afraid the time has come to send you on your way." the Doctor said with a smile.
"Really?" Andrew asked with excitement.
"Yes, really Mr. Wells." the Doctor said and released the restraint field on the bed.
"Your brain chemistry has stabilized to the state you arrived in. I need to give you this before you go." the Doctor said and handed a padd to Andrew.
"A diet?" Andrew asked in confusion.
"More like a list of guidelines for daily nutrition." the Doctor said.
"Big difference." Alan said sarcastically.
"The guidelines I have given you will help you maintain your current biological state. The foods you ingest can impact your system and effect your behavior." the Doctor said as he walked with the men toward the door.
"It says I can have one piece of chocolate cake, once a day, only after I've eaten a balanced meal. What will happen if I just sit down and eat a piece of chocolate cake for lunch?" Andrew asked cautiously.
"There is no way to predict what will happen. Maybe nothing, you might become tired and fall asleep, you might become hyperactive and spend the next several hours engaged in some activity to burn off the excess sugar, you might become depressed, irritable, or even violent." the Doctor said as he reached the door.
Andrew paled at the thought of becoming violent again and made a personal vow to follow the Doctor's guidelines to the letter.
"How long does he have to stay on this diet?" Alan asked.
"It is not a diet. He is not restricted from eating or drinking anything he likes, it will just be necessary for him to modify his eating habits to minimize the impact of certain foods that will aggravate his condition." the Doctor said.
"For how long?" Alan repeated.
"For the rest of his life. I would be giving him the same advice if I were just meeting him for the first time today and he had never been treated by Seven of Nine or myself. This is the treatment for your condition whether it is natural or simulated." the Doctor said seriously.
"Thank you for all you've done Doctor." Alan said and walked out of the Sickbay, followed by Andrew.
* * * * *
Alan and Andrew walked into the cabin silently.
Once inside Alan stopped near the sofa and gave Andrew a desperate look then opened his arms in invitation.
Andrew walked into the embrace and began crying.
"What's the matter Andy? What are you feeling right now, I can't tell." Alan asked hesitantly.
"I feel unworthy of you. After... what I did... I don't deserve you. I don't know how you can stand to look at me." Andrew said in a pained voice.
"Oh love... do you remember when you used to feel ugly and unloved?" Alan asked carefully.
"Yeah." Andrew said and held Alan closer.
"I only know of one cure for your insecurity." Alan said and pulled back to look Andrew in the eyes.
"You're going to make love to me tonight?" Andrew asked hopefully.
"Why wait till tonight?" Alan asked and guided Andrew toward the bedroom.
"Really?" Andrew asked with joy.
"I've wanted to make love to you ever since you woke up in Sickbay but you weren't ready... now I think you are." Alan said with a serene smile.
"Ready, willing and able." Andrew said and pulled Alan to the bed.
"I think it's time to remind you how much I love you." Alan said with joy.
* * * * *
Andrew took off his clothes in record time then laid on the bed and enjoyed watching Alan taking off his clothes at a more leisurely pace. Finally the last of the clothes were off and Alan was about to remove the prosthetic leg when he thought to ask, "Would you rather I leave it on?"
"Whatever makes you most comfortable love." Andrew said with an honest smile.
Alan returned the smile and removed the device.
"It really is uncomfortable after a while. It's been rubbing me raw." Alan said and showed Andrew the red patches of skin where the prosthetic had rubbed him.
"Let me kiss it and make it better." Andrew whispered and moved down to the stump just below Alan's knee.
"You don't have to..." Alan began, then trailed off as Andrew administered loving attention to the damaged skin.
"I know I don't have to love, but if you're hurting, I want to make it feel better." Andrew said and kissed around the sore spots then started a gentle massage above the knee.
"Oh love, how did you know that my muscles were sore?" Alan asked breathily.
"You're using your leg in a different way than you're used to. It makes sense that you'd be sore." Andrew said as he increased the intensity of the massage.
"Oh love, you do that too good. Don't put me to sleep, there's still a lot I want to do." Alan said with his eyes closed in ecstasy.
"Don't worry about it. For all that I have planned... we'll need rest breaks." Andrew said with a smile and pushed Alan, encouraging him to roll over onto his stomach.
Andrew took Alan's foot and began to massage with gentle intensity.
He carefully worked his way up the calf and to the thigh. Kneading gently all the way, taking care not to be too rough.
Andrew listened for a moment and recognized the sound of Alan's breathing. Andrew inched up the bed and saw him fast asleep.
"Oh love, get the rest while you can. You're going to need it." Andrew said as a vow and laid his head beside Alan's to get some sleep.
Andrew awoke to the sound of the door chime.
He hurriedly pulled on some clothes and noticed that Alan was doing the same.
"Take your time love. I'll go see who it is and you can join me when you're ready." Andrew said and walked out of the room.
Andrew opened the door to find Chakotay and Tom Paris.
"Hey guys, what's going on?" Andrew asked happily.
"We were talking in the mess hall and decided to come by for a visit to see how you two are doing." Tom said happily.
"We're fine. We actually fell asleep right after we got out of Sickbay." Andrew said with embarrassment.
"I'm sorry if we woke you." Tom hurried to say.
"That's fine. It's time for us to be awake anyway. Come in and sit down. Alan will be out in a minute." Andrew said and motioned to the sofa.
"If you're sure we're not keeping you from sleep." Chakotay asked with worry.
"It's not a problem guys, I promise. Give me a second to let Alan know you're here." Andrew said and walked into the bedroom.
Alan was nearly dressed as Andrew said, "Chakotay and Tom came by for a visit."
"Tell them I'll be right out." Alan said and started fastening his shirt.
"Will do." Andrew said and left the room.
Andrew walked back to the living room and said, "He's almost ready. Can I get you guys anything?"
"No, we just came from the mess hall, so we're fine." Tom said for both.
Andrew sat on the loveseat and asked, "So what's going on?"
Alan walked into the room and sat quietly beside Andrew, waiting for the answer.
"Not much. We're in a fairly boring part of space at the moment. We've just been making the rounds... Harry is trying to teach Chell how to play the clarinet, B'Elana can't leave her warp engines, so you guys were next on the list." Tom said matter-of-factly.
"And you don't know how much it means to us to be on that list." Andrew said honestly.
Alan leaned over to Andrew and whispered, "Are you ready for me to make the announcement?"
Andrew's face radiated joy as he nodded.
"Guys, we have an announcement to make." Alan said to Chakotay and Tom.
The men silenced and turned their attention to Alan.
"We've decided to have a commitment ceremony to make our partnership official." Alan said joyfully.
"You mean your getting married?" Tom asked in confirmation.
"Yes and no." Alan said and looked to Andrew.
"A marriage is a religious act based in Christianity. In our time most Christian establishments don't recognize same-sex partnerships as being marriage. Some condemn the union so strongly as to call it blasphemy. For that reason, we decided that our joining will be a formal recognition of our commitment to each other to be witnessed by our friends. We aren't asking for the blessing of any deity. We are just avowing our love and fidelity to each other." Andrew said to the men.
"You mean you're getting married?" Tom asked again.
"Yeah, if you want to call it that." Alan said with a smile.
"Congratulations guys!" Tom said with excitement.
"I thought you were already in a committed relationship." Chakotay said honestly.
"We were in a way, we just haven't taken the final step. We've been engaged." Alan said happily.
"Did you ask him about...?" Tom asked Alan impatiently.
"Yeah, we're going to become pregnant right after the ceremony." Alan said with joy.
"I think this calls for a celebration... everyone up for it?" Tom asked the group.
"Good, let's go then." Tom said and led the way out of the room.
* * * * *
Alan and Andrew walked into their cabin, amazed that they had found the way back.
"That was fun. God Andy, I never laughed so hard in my life. Tom and Harry together are a riot." Alan said tiredly.
"Yeah, and I thought everyone in the room was going to pass out with shock when Chakotay asked Tom to dance." Andrew said with a chuckle, then said, "Did you see B'Elana choke on her beer?"
"When I get my leg replaced, I want to go back there and dance with you." Alan said seriously.
"You did pretty good at the slow dancing as I recall." Andrew said with love in his voice.
"Yeah. That was wonderful." Alan said and pulled Andrew close.
"What do you have planned for tomorrow?" Andrew asked quietly.
"The morning in sickbay. The Doctor has about a dozen minor things he wants to do. Then in the afternoon I'll be talking to the Captain to ask her to perform the ceremony and to give her permission for the womb implant. If I have time after that I want to talk to Tom about a reception following the ceremony. What about you?" Alan asked tiredly.
"Not much really. I was kind of hoping to tag along with you and see what comes up." Andrew said in a sleepy voice.
"As much as I want to make mad passionate love to you right now, I'm afraid that I'm just too tired." Alan said apologetically.
"Good. I didn't know how to tell you, but I am too. Let's go to bed." Andrew said and got up.
"Okay. You know I love you, right?" Alan asked as he took Andrew's offered hand and got off the couch.
"Yeah. And I love you too." Andrew said with a smile as he put an arm around Alan and walked with him into the bedroom.
"I've got an idea... tell me what you think." Alan said as the bedroom door closed.
* * * * *
Tom found himself outside Chakotay's quarters, trying to think of a believable excuse before pressing the door chime.
The door opened and he found himself looking into the eyes of Chakotay.
"Hi Tom, I was just on my way to see you." Chakotay said timidly.
"Me too... but you... I mean... you know what I mean. God! It's like being a teenager all over again. I haven't been this tongue-tied around anyone in years." Tom said in disgust with himself.
"Why don't you come inside, maybe a cup of tea will help." Chakotay said and stepped back into the cabin.
Tom walked in and took a seat on the couch.
Chakotay came back with a cup of tea for each of them.
"Thanks." Tom said with a grateful smile and accepted the tea.
"What's got you so wound up?" Chakotay asked, sure that he knew.
"That dance..." Tom said and sat the tea on the coffee table.
"Was I moving too fast?" Chakotay asked with concern.
"No, you dance just fine." Tom said quickly.
"Not that, I mean, was it too soon in our relationship for me to ask you to dance?" Chakotay asked seriously.
Tom sat in silence for a moment, considering the words before he answered, "Yeah, I didn't even know we had a relationship. I mean, we're friends, but I never considered us being anything more than that and then we're dancing in front of half the crew."
"I'm sorry Tom, I just got caught up in the moment. I didn't mean to embarrass you." Chakotay said quietly.
"Chakotay, it's not that I'm embarrassed, not really. It's just that it was like you were announcing to the crew that we're a couple... and I didn't know." Tom said, pleading for Chakotay to understand.
"I really messed this up. I'm not good at stuff like this. What can I do to make it up to you?" Chakotay asked honestly.
"Chakotay, you don't have to make it up to me, just talk to me. You're my friend and I care about you but... the boyfriend thing... I've never even thought about it." Tom said quietly.
"But you're not against the idea? Like you might be ready for it one day?" Chakotay asked hopefully.
"Yeah, I think I will. I like you but I don't want to mess this up by moving too fast. How do you see our relationship progressing? I mean, what's the next step, the way you see it?" Tom asked carefully and took a sip of his tea.
Chakotay sat and thought about it for a moment.
Finally he said, "I guess the next step that I'd like for us to take is to kiss, hold hands... boyfriend stuff."
Tom thought about that and finally said, "I still feel like we skipped a stage by jumping from friends directly to boyfriends. There wasn't any... courting. It makes me feel like you don't respect me because you automatically assume that since I like you as a friend I will automatically be your boyfriend and we'll be having sex before the end of the night."
"Tom I didn't..." Chakotay began, then caught himself.
Tom watched silently as Chakotay figured it out.
"You're right. I was moving too fast. And it was disrespectful to you. I'm sorry." Chakotay finally said as he understood Tom's misgivings.
"So what do you want to do now? I mean, all this came from differing expectations. If we talk it through and both understand how each other feel, we'll have... ground rules, I guess. So I don't feel pressured and you don't feel like I'm not interested." Tom said seriously.
"Do you still want to be courted?" Chakotay asked timidly.
"Since the crew already think we're a couple, I guess we can skip it and go right to the boyfriend thing. But you're going to need to take it slow. Communicate." Tom said in warning.
"Okay. I can respect that. Can I kiss you?" Chakotay asked quietly.
"This is our first date. You don't get a kiss till the third. Remember, slowly." Tom said and got off the couch.
"Will you go out with me tomorrow night?" Chakotay asked carefully.
"I don't know. Ask me again tomorrow." Tom said and walked to the door.
Chakotay followed and reached Tom as the door opened automatically.
"You're not going to make this easy, are you?" Chakotay asked with a smile.
"Nope, just ask me again tomorrow. I have a feeling I'll probably say yes." Tom said with a smile and left the room.