Summary: Tom and B'Elanna become parents. Chaos ensues. Seven gets a wardrobe change. Rated R for language and frank discussions of sex, pregnancy, and childbirth.

Paramount owns these characters, I'm just borrowing them.

Explanatory rant : I had a baby in June 1998. While pregnant, I really liked reading fanfic that had characters having babies. After I had my daughter, I wondered what some of the authors were thinking of! Their stories were great in lots of other aspects, but the characters adapted to parenthood as easily as if they'd adopted a puppy! After reading about natural childbirth with total healing in the blink of an eye, babies that slept all the time except when they were eating or acting adorable, and an easy return to the pre-baby sexual relationship, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, I wrote this story. I've inflicted upon Tom and B'Elanna things that have happened to me and friends of mine. They handle it as gracefully as possible.

Thanks to D'Alaire for beta-reading and excellent suggestions.

Please send feedback to  AC's Mailbox  Please ask permission before archiving or linking.

The Parises' Postpartum
by AC

Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres-Paris wriggled her shoulders against the back of her chair and sighed as she gazed at the stars streaming past her window as the starship *Voyager* continued its course towards the Alpha Quadrant. The sigh turned into a yawn, and she gazed longingly at her bed. Maybe, just maybe in a few more minutes...

"Ouch!" She hissed, gritting her teeth as her infant son decided it was time to clamp his gums down on the tip of her nipple. Wincing, she inserted a pinkie into his mouth to remove him from her breast before trying to get him properly latched on again, and reached for a tube of lanolin ointment.

"AAAAAAWEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHH!" Michael opened his mouth wide and howled his rage at his mother daring to remove his food source. He shook his head back and forth, trying to find her nipple again.

"Shhhh...," B'Elanna frantically tried to soothe him. "Just a moment, just one more moment and we'll try this again. Please calm down? Be patient?" The wailing continued as he insisted that it was his right to maul her any way he pleased. "Open wide, and *please* don't bite Mommy this time, ok?" Her voice quavered slightly as she brought her son back to her breast.

The baby started sucking with the speed of a striking cobra, and B'Elanna sighed in relief as she realized that he was eating properly, without running his firm, sharp little gums all over her sore, cracked nipples. At least he wouldn't get teething fangs at four weeks like Lieutenant (j.g.) Wildman's daughter had, but *why*, oh why did everyone seem to think that breast feeding a baby was easy? She loved her week-old son desperately, but she flinched every time she heard him wail with hunger.

However, it did appear that their constant practice was beginning to pay off. Michael was nursing contentedly, without hurting her at the moment, and she was sure that once he was through eating, he'd go to sleep without any protest--


* * * *

Lieutenant Tom Paris strode eagerly out of the turbolift and turned towards his quarters. His conn shift had been uneventful, and after a two-hour spell in Sickbay helping the Doctor with some lab tests, he was ready to spend time with his wife and child.

The doors to his quarters opened and he walked in, looking around expectantly for his family. Not seeing them in the main room, he entered the bedroom, and smiled tenderly.

B'Elanna was sleeping deeply, burrowed down into the blankets. Tom peered into the cradle at the foot of the bed. Michael lay on his back, swaddled tightly, except for one tiny fist which he held near his mouth.

Tom gazed blissfully down at his son, only slightly annoyed that he and B'Elanna were both asleep already. He had wanted to play with Michael, cuddle him, and just sit and look at him. He hadn't thought of himself as someone to go crazy over a child, but he was certain (in his own completely objective opinion) that his son had to be the most exceptional child in the universe. When Michael had been placed in B'Elanna's arms while the Doctor cut the umbilical cord, she had looked into Tom's eyes in weary triumph. Both of them found the same expression in the other's eyes -- disbelief and awe at the sight of a new life they had created together. Even if, as B'Elanna maintained in one of her increasingly rare sharp comments, she had done most of the hard work so far.

Tom frowned. It just wasn't *fair*. He had waited all day to come home and play with his son, and his son was asleep when he arrived. He ran a hand over the soft dark hair on Michael's forehead, then traced a finger over his faint forehead ridges. The baby slept on, looking innocent and perfect.

Tom looked over at B'Elanna. She hadn't moved. Michael seemed to be deeply asleep, and Tom doubted he would wake up if moved. Surely there was no harm in picking him up for a cuddle, was there? Babies needed to be held for proper emotional development. Michael *needed* to be picked up and held, right this minute, in fact, and what kind of father would he be to deny his son?

Grinning, Tom carefully picked up his son, and settled them both into a chair for a nice relaxing cuddle. He stared down at his sleeping son's face, softly stroking a finger over the soft skin on Michael's cheek, marveling that this perfect creature was his child.

Humming softly, he held his son closer, breathing in the sweet baby smell.Michael sneezed. Tom flinched in surprise. Then, the baby's inky gray eyes opened.

"Mmmmmmaaaaaffff," the baby mumbled.

"Shhhh....shhhh...don't wake up your Mommy, ok?" Tom whispered. Don't panic, he told himself.  You'll get him back to sleep in no time. If only B'Elanna's mommy sensors don't go off.

"Wah," the baby said, just a bit louder.

"Huuuh?" Tom heard a sleepy voice say from beneath the covers.

Oh gods, I'm dead, Tom thought.

"Waaaaaaaaah!" Michael sobbed, as B'Elanna groaned and sat up in bed, rubbing her eyes blearily.

"Tom," she smiled at him. "How long have you been here?"

In a panic, Tom blurted out, "I'm sorry, darling, I didn't *mean* to wake him up..."

"What!" B'Elanna was now a bit more alert. "Computer, what is the time?"

"The time is 2147 hours," replied the precise tones of the computer.

"You woke him up?!" B'Elanna hissed at her husband in disbelief. "I just got him to sleep half an hour ago! I just got to sleep myself and this was the first rest I've gotten all day!" Her voice rose in counterpoint to Michael's wails, and they both sounded slightly hysterical.

Tom wished he could melt into the bulkhead. "I'm sorry," he said meekly, rocking Michael back and forth, trying to comfort his son.

"Here, give him to me," his wife sighed in exasperation. "Maybe if he eats for a few minutes, he'll go back to sleep." Tom handed the baby to her as she opened her nightgown. "And *this* time," she added in a threatening tone, "if you wake him up, I swear I'll.....I don't know what I'll do. But it will be very, *very* unpleasant and you don't want me to think of it, ok?"

"Ok," Tom agreed, as he watched his son monopolize his wife's chest. "B'Elanna, I really am sorry..."

"I know." Her voice trembled slightly, and she looked incredibly fatigued. "Tom, I'm too tired to stay angry, and I know you didn't mean to wake him. But please, don't do it again. I just want to get Michael to sleep and get some sleep myself." She yawned. "Neelix brought me a tray earlier, but you should eat something if you want to."

Tom nodded, stood and moved towards the replicator. "Can I bring you anything? A cup of juice?"

"How about twenty-four hours of uninterrupted sleep?" B'Elanna leaned back against the pillows, holding Michael in her arms while he ate. "No, don't tell me, I know it's impossible. I'll just keep my wishful delusions to myself."


* * * *

Captain Janeway looked up expectantly as Lieutenant Tom Paris practically flew through the opening doors to the conference room.

"Glad you could join us, Tom," she said dryly, "but the senior staff meeting began seven minutes ago."

Tom stopped in front of his chair and stood at attention. "My apologies, Captain, everyone, but I had to make repairs to my appearance before I went on duty."

"Repairs to your appearance?" Lieutenant Kim asked curiously.

"Remember when B'Elanna had really bad morning sickness and threw up all over me right before my conn shift?" Heads nodded and a few smiles popped up around the room. "Well, this was a similar situation."

"The baby spit up on your uniform?" Chakotay asked.

"Um, not exactly." Paris turned an alarming crimson shade.

"What happened, Tom?" the Captain asked. "It was Michael, wasn't it?"

"Yes, Captain, it was the baby's fault. But it wasn't spit-up." At her questioning glance, he shuffled his feet and looked down at his hands. "Wrong end," he explained.

Most of the senior staff still looked puzzled, but Commander Tuvok raised an eyebrow and nodded. "Tom, I will come by your quarters after our shifts are over and help you with this problem so it does not happen again."

"What won't happen again?" Captain Janeway looked slightly exasperated.

"Lieutenant Paris's son sprayed urine into his face during a diaper change, if I am not mistaken," Tuvok explained calmly while the room exploded in laughter and Tom sat down, burying his head in his hands. "Do not worry, Tom. I have three sons, and have had the same experience. I developed a defensive diaper changing technique that is most effective."

"Good," Tom replied succinctly. "So," trying to control his blush and wishing everyone besides Tuvok would stop laughing, "what have I missed?"

* * * *

"...and Naomi is beginning to try and reprogram the Holo-Nanny, so I've had to program it to ignore any attempts to reconfigure it without a password." Samantha Wildman shrugged her shoulders and laughed. "I'm glad she's learning about holographic programming, but I never expected anything like this."

Megan Delaney nodded. "Every time I think that I have Mara figured out, she ups the ante on me.  I think that I have things under control, and then she changes into something completely different.."

The lounge doors opened with a swoosh as B'Elanna entered the room, flopped down into a chair and reached for the popcorn. "So, have I missed anything important?"

"Not really," Elizabeth Lang replied. "Just the usual Thursday Mommy Gripe session. You've got the youngest baby, B'Elanna. Is he doing anything that really has you confused?"

"You mean besides the fact that he did nothing but eat and eat and eat today? I finally had to put him in his crib for a moment while I went to the bathroom and he howled like I was torturing him." B'Elanna shuddered at the memory. "But you all told me there would be days like this. Seven came by to give me a report, and looked so confused. She told me, 'I thought babies only ate every four hours.'"

All six women howled with laughter. Crewman Sharon McKenzie wiped tears from her eyes. "Did she suggest a Borg maturation chamber, B'Elanna? She did with me!"

"No. And aside from me being very tired and wanting to get back to work in Engineering, Michael isn't being too difficult. Yet."

Megan looked up. "You still have four more weeks before you go back to work, right?" At B'Elanna's nod, she smiled sympathetically. "I was climbing the walls. I love my daughter with all my heart, but I couldn't wait to leave her with Gerron or the Holo-Nanny for a few hours a day."

"Michael isn't being hard to handle. His father, on the other hand..."

Elizabeth grinned expectantly, "Did the baby pee in his face again?"

"No," B'Elanna replied, "Tuvok taught him how to handle that. But he's been leaving PADDs around our quarters that explain how wonderful twenty-fourth century medical technology has removed much of the physical trauma of childbirth, and how most women are back to normal within a week postpartum." She shook her head in chagrin. "I suppose he thinks he's being subtle."

"In other words, he wants sex," Sharon said dryly. "Jason tried the same lines on me. I don't care what medical science says, and your baby is only two and a half weeks old, B'Elanna! Whenever the baby is asleep, you need to try and sleep, too."

Megan blushed. "Actually...Gerron and I only waited one week. And we didn't have any trouble. But I had the shortest, easiest labor of any of us here. I didn't have any tearing, and even when that's healed with a dermal regenerator, it still takes a while to feel normal again. At least, that what I've been told. Tom's just going to have to wait until you're ready, B'Elanna."

Lisa Montgomery nodded. "Kyle and I waited until Sally was two months old, and the doctor assured me I was completely healed. It still was uncomfortable the first few times. And then there was the fact that I felt guilty for not even being interested, and Kyle was practically salivating every time he looked at me."

Samantha sighed. "Oh, to have that problem.... Hey, B'Elanna, if you don't want to sleep with your husband yet, can I have him?" She laughed and pasted a lascivious grin on her face. "I've always fantasized about having a senior officer!"

She ducked as handfuls of popcorn flew in her direction.

* * * *

"Do you have the pillows?"




"Wine and the lubricant?"

"Yeah, I have them. But B'Elanna, you never needed either of them before..."

"I'm going by some trusted advice, flyboy. 'Inebriate and lubricate.' With all the medical research you've been doing on postpartum physiology, you might have read something about some of the physical effects breast feeding hormones have on women."

"Oh. Oh! You mean that you're..."

"Dry as the deserts of Vulcan, sweetheart. Without the lubricant, you won't be getting anywhere with me. Are you sure Michael's asleep?"

"Sound asleep. Now come here. You're looking extremely overdressed..."

"And you're just the person to help me, right?"

"How right you are. Here, help me get this blanket spread out..."

"I don't see why we're on the floor in the main room while Michael gets to sleep in the bedroom."

"Because he fell asleep and I didn't want to risk waking him by moving his cradle out here. And having our child in the same room while we make love, even if he is sound asleep and oblivious, is a complete turnoff."

"Mmm. Careful, don't bite my ear too hard, Tom. Mmmm. Oh, that's nice."

"Not such a bad idea after all? Glad I talked you into it?"

"I'll....ah!...I'll have to get back to you on that one. Mmm, your skin is so warm..."


"Damn! Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!"

"Tom, he's just one month old. Don't get mad at him."

"I tell, you, B'Elanna, he is doing it on purpose. It's all part of his master plan to make sure he never gets siblings. If we can't have sex, we can't reproduce again. He's eliminating any chance of competition."

"How very astute of him. Quite clever for a baby."

"Well, of course. He takes after me."

* * * *


"Uuuuh. Computer, what's the time?"

"The time is 0312 hours," the computer replied helpfully.

B'Elanna groaned. "Michael, go to sleep! I fed you half an hour ago!"


Tom sat up in bed. "I don't think he understands you, darling. Want me to check his diaper?" He swung his legs to the floor and rearranged the blankets around B'Elanna.

"Please? That would be great. Gods, I'm so tired...." B'Elanna pulled the covers over her head and moaned with fatigue.

A few minutes later, whimpers heralded their return from the changing table. "B'Elanna, I hate to do this to you, but I think he's hungry again."

With a long-suffering sigh, B'Elanna pulled up her pajama top. "Lie him down beside me, will you?"

Tom carefully placed Michael next to his mother's breast, and watched as the baby started sucking. He went into the bathroom and washed his hands.

"Ouch! Dammit!"

Tom stuck his head back into the bedroom. "What did he do?" he asked as Michael began to wail again.

B'Elanna pulled her pajama top back down. "He nipped me! He's obviously not hungry." She glared down at her son. "Why won't you go to sleep?" she growled in a low voice. "Don't you want a sane mother?" She picked him up as his howls grew louder.

"Hmm. He's got a clean diaper, a full stomach, and he's not too hot or cold." Tom brushed his hand over Michael's forehead tenderly. "It could be colic, Larson told me most babies have it just a little at one time or another. Could it be something you ate?"

"No, it could not! I already know that if I eat dairy products, he gets a stomach ache. What do you *think* I do, keep a list of foods I shouldn't eat and then make sure I eat at least two or three a day so he'll never sleep?!" B'Elanna transferred her glare to her husband, then handed the baby to him. "Hold him for a moment, I have a solution."

Tom watched as she picked up the cradle and carried it into the next room and placed it in a dark corner. She marched back into the bedroom, took Michael from his father, and carried him to his cradle. Next, she went to the replicator. "Earplugs. Two pairs."

The replicator whirred. "B'Elanna, do you really think this is going to help?" Michael was sobbing piteously. B'Elanna stomped back into the bedroom, handing Tom a pair of earplugs. "He's obviously crying for a reason."

"I don't care! Let him cry!" B'Elanna inserted her earplugs with a defiant look on her face.


"What?! I don't know what's wrong with him, but I know what's wrong with me! I haven't had more than half an hour of uninterrupted sleep in three days!! If I don't get some sleep, I'm going to go even crazier than I already feel!" B'Elanna threw a pillow at him and her face started looking crumpled as she continued more quietly. "I can't do this, Tom. Even when he's asleep, I can't sleep. If he moves or makes the quietest sound, I'm awake immediately. I feel like my arms and legs and head have twenty kilo weights attached to them."

"What do you think we should do?" Tom asked quietly, trying to stay calm, or at least calmer than his wife.

"Throw him into the warp core for all I care! I don't know what made me ever think I could be a good mother!"


Michael's wails were joined by the sound of his mother weeping into her pillow, as Tom looked on helplessly. He shook himself, then went to his son and picked him up, trying to console him.  Next, he returned to B'Elanna and stroked her shoulder while she sobbed. "What to do, what to do?" he pondered to himself. "Shhh...B'Elanna, please don't cry. I know you're exhausted. But you're a wonderful mother, never think you're not." He stroked her arm and lifted her hand for a quick kiss on the palm. He stood up again and moved into the main room. Crossing to his desk, he tapped the communicator.

"Paris to Kim."

"Kim here."

"Harry, you have the night watch tonight, don't you?"

"Yes. What's up?"

"Can I use your quarters for a few hours? Michael's keeping B'Elanna awake and she's not going to get any sleep if he's anywhere near her."

"Go right ahead. You know my access codes, right?"

"Sure do. I owe you one, Harry. Paris out." Still holding his whimpering son close, Tom went back into the bedroom and laid Michael on the bed. Pulling on a pair of pants and a shirt, he told his wife, "Darling, I'm going to take Michael to Harry's quarters for a while so you can get some sleep, ok?"

B'Elanna's damp face peeked out from the pillows. "Really?" she quavered. "You'll do that for me?"

"B'Elanna, you need sleep desperately. You're not going to be any good to Michael if you let yourself collapse from exhaustion. You have to take care of yourself, too."

She nodded. "Thanks, Tom. I'm sorry I got so angry." A few more tears leaked from her reddened eyes.

He wiped her face with a corner of the sheet, then pulled a hypospray from the medkit on the bed stand. "Mild sedative, ok?" She nodded, and he depressed the hypospray against her upper arm. Next, he pulled the covers up around her shoulders and caressed her hair. "I love you, B'Elanna. Sleep well, and don't worry. You're going to be fine." As he carried their son out into the corridor, he turned out all the lights. His wife had fallen asleep before he'd even left the room.

* * * *

B'Elanna arched her back and grabbed Tom's ankles. Getting back into sex, she thought lazily, was just a matter of degrees. At first, what with taking care of Michael all the time, she didn't even want to be touched if there was the slightest chance she could sleep instead. But eventually, being held and kissed was nice. Then, intensive cuddling without clothes was nice. And now, as long as they could be very slow and relaxed, making love was nice.

She gasped as Tom moaned and grabbed her hips. This time, she was certain she would finally have a real climax again, not just a small amount of enjoyment that didn't compare to sex before the baby had been born. As she shuddered and growled, she thought once again that this was nice. Very nice. *Damned nice*. She was sure there were other superlatives out there besides nice to describe what she was feeling, but she just couldn't be bothered to think of them at this moment.

"B'Elanna!" She became aware of Tom beneath her, spluttering and reaching for a pillow to shield his face. "You're drowning me!"

"What?" B'Elanna looked down in consternation to discover that milk was spraying from her breasts all over her husband. She quickly grabbed the pillow from him and pressed it against herself to stop the flow.

Tom wiped off his face with the sheet and looked up at her reproachfully. "I thought you didn't want me to eat in bed."


* * * *

"Enter," Tom called out in response to the door chime, and B'Elanna looked up from her desk where she was completing an energy consumption report. The doors hissed open, and Seven of Nine walked in.

B'Elanna raised an eyebrow in surprise. Instead of one of her skintight bodysuits, Seven was dressed in a loose green coverall. "Hi, Seven. What's up?"

Seven nodded at B'Elanna, and at Tom who was down on the floor playing with Michael. "Lieutenant Torres, I have the results of the latest warp core diagnostic. Lieutenant Carey asked me to bring them to you."

B'Elanna took the PADD with a smile. "Thanks, Seven. I'll review it before my shift tomorrow morning."

"Seven," Tom asked, "Are you all right? You look terrible."

Seven shook her head, looking almost as green as her outfit. "Excuse me..." she blurted out as she lunged for the bathroom. Sounds of retching emanated from the smaller room.

"Seven?" Tom's face was etched with concern. "Can we get you anything? To drink? To eat?"

"No! No food....ugh!" Seven washed out her mouth at the sink, and came back out of the bathroom, wiping off her mouth with a handkerchief. "I do not wish to consume food again in this lifetime."

"That's a pretty strong reaction to an upset stomach, Seven. What's wrong?" asked B'Elanna.

Tom had already pulled out his medical tricorder and was scanning Seven. She shook her head "There is no need to scan me, Lieutenant. I am pregnant. I did not realize that the nausea would be so unpleasant."

B'Elanna turned to her husband. "Tom, pick your jaw up off the floor." She looked at Seven. "Seven, how did this happen? When did this happen? No, wait, don't answer that first question.  Obviously, you had intercourse with someone. Is it a member of the crew?"

Seven shook her head, looking somewhat bewildered at the barrage of questions. "No. The last time we stopped for trade eight weeks ago, on Vekranthos V, I attended a banquet hosted by the Prime Minister's son-in law."

B'Elanna looked confused. "Tom, did we go to that banquet? I don't remember."

Tom shook his head. "I had the night watch on the bridge and Michael was teething so you stayed here with him." He raised his eyebrows. "Obviously, we missed a hell of a party."

"My impregnation did not occur at the banquet, but afterwards, in the gardens. I was with Keralnot, an aide to the Prime Minister. He was a very pleasant companion. To quote Jenny Delany, he had a "killer ass". When he proposed intimacies, I was not averse, so I assimilated him."

B'Elanna choked. "Assimilated him. Never heard it called that before. So. When are you due?"

"In approximately ten months. The doctor was able to extrapolate the gestation length for a human-vekranthan hybrid. Fortunately, we exchanged medical information, and it does not appear that there will be any complications." Seven looked down at her flat stomach. "Being pregnant for an entire year is not an appealing thought, but *Voyager* will need new crew members eventually, and it would be most inefficient to procreate and then discard the embryo."

"Hmmm. Ten months. Well, that's plenty of time to learn some of the essentials of taking care of a baby. You should come to the Thursday Night group soon, Seven, to learn more about motherhood." B'Elanna could hardly wait to drop the bomb on her friends. "I can give you the most important piece of information right now, though, so listen carefully." Seven nodded, and gazed at her with interest. "No one gives you a medal for giving birth without pain medication, so if you need any, make the doctor give it to you."

Seven nodded thoughtfully. "Very well. I suppose pain is counterproductive." She looked at Michael curiously, as he suddenly grew red in the face. "Is your son well?"

Tom looked more closely at Michael, then nodded. "Yeah, he's just filling his diaper. Would you like to watch me change him into a clean one so you'll know how to do it?"

"I would. Biological elimination is a rather messy method. Borg regeneration is much more efficient." She sighed. "The doctor had to remove the Borg implant that regulated my excretory system to better facilitate this pregnancy."

B'Elanna's eyes narrowed. "Seven, are you saying that you've been out of the Collective for four years now, and you'd never used the bathroom before the doctor removed your implant?"

"That is correct. I have had to adjust my wardrobe to facilitate such a change, since my preferred clothing took too long to remove when I needed to relieve myself. Now, how do you change a diaper?"

B'Elanna stifled her urge to howl with laughter as Tom and Seven took Michael over to the changing table. The Thursday Night meetings would never be the same.

* * * *

Tom settled Michael into B'Elanna's arms for his final meal of the day. Within seconds, he was eating so voraciously that his ears moved with every suckle. B'Elanna stifled a yawn and briefly scanned the energy consumption report Seven had brought her, then placed it on the table next to the couch. Tom moved quietly around their quarters, putting away Michael's toys and putting their dinner dishes into the recycler.

"I'm having a cup of tea. Would you like some, too?"

"Yes, please." He handed her a cup, then settled onto the couch beside her.

"I almost felt the need for something stronger, what with the news that Seven told us. I can hardly believe that she's going to have a baby." Tom chuckled and took a gulp of tea.

B'Elanna nodded. "I thought I was going to rupture myself from not laughing when she talked about the Doctor removing her implant. I guess it explains why she's always worn those tight outfits up until now." She shook with laughter, then restrained herself as Michael startled. She stroked his hand softly.

"She's going to have to deal with a lot of changes. I can't see how telling a crying baby that teething pains are irrelevant would do any good."

"Well, she will have some help. I think Neelix would love to have another baby to play with. Since Naomi Wildman's getting so big, and all the other babies have two parents on board, I'm sure he'll be glad to help. I'm sure the Captain will want to help as well." B'Elanna smiled at her son, and glanced over at Tom. "And the Thursday Night crowd will give her lots of advice."

"I'll be sure and warn her to run for the hills," Tom teased her.

"She'll be fine, Tom. I think we all can adjust to big changes. Sometimes it just takes a while."

"Does this mean you no longer want to toss Michael into the warp core?"

"Tom! I only said that once, and only because I was so tired I was certifiably insane! I think....maybe at first I was frightened to be responsible for a child. This isn't exactly the best place for a baby to grow up, Tom." B'Elanna bit her lip in thought. "I know we keep getting closer to the Alpha Quadrant, but we're still at least thirty-five years from home."

"How's that artificial wormhole experiment that Nicoletti's working on coming?"

"Slowly. She's managed to open three so far, but only for a few seconds at a time. And they aren't even big enough for an escape pod to go through."

Tom looked at B'Elanna and Michael intently for a few minutes before speaking again. "B'Elanna....I've told you before, I don't care if we never return to the Alpha Quadrant." She opened her mouth, only to have him place a finger on her lips. "Remember when we found the Hirogen array a few years ago?" She nodded. "I still feel the same way. What I have here, on this ship, this life with you and our son, is better than anything I had on Earth."

Her eyes gleamed in the soft light. "Don't you want to see your family again? Have Michael meet his grandparents and other relatives? I think I'd like to see if my parents are still alive."

He nodded. "It could be wonderful to see my family again, to let them see what I've become. But I don't need that to happen to be complete." He ran his fingers over her face. "My home is wherever you and Michael are."

B'Elanna softly stroked Michael's small, chubby hand where it clung to her shirt, and gazed out the window at the stars streaming by. She felt him stop eating, and shifted him in her arms. He hung limply in her arms, sound asleep. She nudged Tom with her foot.

"Asleep?" Tom gathered Michael up, and stood as B'Elanna pulled her shirt back down and kissed her son on the cheek. He moved to the far end of the main room and quietly placed Michael in his crib after coaxing a burp from the sleeping baby. B'Elanna watched silently. At first, Tom had been intimidated by the thought of caring for a baby, even more than she. Yet he had adapted even faster to Michael's needs, to the unlimited patience that being a parent required.  She knew how important it was to him to be a good father to Michael and any other children they might have, and while she sometimes had doubts about her own abilities, she never doubted her husband.

B'Elanna moved into their bedroom, putting on her pajamas, washing up before bed, and turning down the covers. Tom headed for the bathroom as she walked over to Michael's crib for one last check on him before she went to sleep. She stared down at him as he slept peacefully, mouth open, dark lashes fanned out on his cheeks.

It was true what Tom had told her, that home was where her family was. At the same time, she still felt a fierce longing for familiar places. After eight years of travels through exciting but always unfamiliar territory, she was ready for stability, a time where she could merely exist on an even keel for a while. She knew that children were adaptable, yet worried nonetheless for the future of her child, for every child on *Voyager*. She sighed softly. It was possible that before Michael was old enough to ask why they lived on a starship instead of a planet, they would find some way to return home. B'Elanna ran her hand over her son's soft hair, and closed her eyes, wishing and hoping that before her son was no longer a child, she could show him the stars of the Alpha Quadrant, sitting on a planet beneath a familiar sky.

* * * *

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