"No, Honey, don't touch that!" Samantha Wildman ran after her daughter, trying to prevent her from eating the object in her hand.
"Why don't you let her keep it, Sam. It's only a part of this holographic program. It can't hurt her. When you leave after the ceremony, it'll just disappear," soothed Jenny Delaney.
"That's not the point, Jenny. Naomi has to learn she cannot take something that isn't hers. And she also needs to listen to her mother. Naomi!" Finally catching up with her energetic toddler, Samantha detached the small figure of a horse from her daughter's hand to the accompaniment of screeches of dismay from the child. "I have a feeling we aren't being very helpful to you, B'Elanna."
"It's all right. I guess I need to get used to it." Involuntarily, B'Elanna smoothed down the front of her mid-calf length, silvery dress, stroking her slightly protruding stomach. "It won't be that long before I'm running after someone that small."
Samantha smiled at Lieutenant Torres. "You're right about that. It will come before you know it."
"I don't know how much more we can do for you, B'Elanna." Megan Delaney was scooping up toiletries, combs, and the like from the top of the beat-up dresser that they had been using for their primping session. Sam, Jenny, Megan, and Susan Nicoletti had helped fix her hair, had painted B'Elanna's face as much as she would consent to having it painted, and had helped her slip into the wedding dress. Although B'Elanna hadn't really needed their services, she had accepted them in lieu of the help she could not have. Kes would have really been thrilled with being here today. After she had helped B'Elanna deal with all of the turmoil of her unexpected pregnancy, sorting out her true feelings for Tom and towards bearing a child, Kes deserved to be here. Maybe her *katra* was. B'Elanna tried to feel Kes's presence, but gave it up as an impossibility.
Snapping herself out of her reverie, B'Elanna insisted to her helpers, "I think you've all done what you can to make me presentable. Why don't you go down now and mingle. I'll just hide out up here."
"Are you sure you don't want us to tuck some flowers in your hair, B'Elanna?" asked Sue.
"No, no flowers. I'm just fine the way I am now. No more fussing! Go have fun."
"We'll send up Commander Chakotay and the captain to make sure you come down when you need to," said Megan Delaney. "Until then, make sure Tom can't see you up here. And B'Elanna, you aren't just presentable, you're gorgeous. Tom is going to love the way you look."
Saying their good byes and good lucks as they went, the four women and the very youngest female on Voyager, so far, left the chief engineer to her own devices for the last few minutes of unmarried life that she had left to her.
B'Elanna stood up to look at herself in the mirror. She liked the dress. It was simple, adorned with lacy openwork embroidery at the peasant style neckline that revealed plenty of cleavage. She felt fortunate that the dress fitted loosely over stomach and bosom. B'Elanna's pregnancy was visibly advancing, and a tighter fitting dress would have been irksome. While Tom loved her rapidly enlarging breasts and enjoyed stroking her stomach over their child within, he would not have enjoyed seeing her "Klingon side" erupt over a too-tight wedding dress. The dress uniforms that were Tom's first choice would have been even more uncomfortable. Instead, everyone had been asked to dress casually, in clothing more associated with a picnic than a wedding, as the bride and groom were.
From the window of "Tom's room" in the beach house holdeck program, B'Elanna could see the guests gathering on the deck below her. Uncharacteristically, she was peeking from the edge of the window to keep from being seen. Before leaving their quarters the previous evening to bunk with Harry for the night, Tom had given her strict orders that he was not to lay eyes upon her until the ceremony was beginning. 'Just another crazy human custom,' she had thought; but he had seemed so earnest about it that she had promised she would go along with the request. He'd said something about it being bad luck to see the bride before the wedding.
Considering the kind of luck both of them had experienced in their lives until their meeting on Voyager, following this ancient, harmless superstition did not seem to be that much of an imposition. Sitting alone in the embodiment of his old room was restful and calming. Right about now, she needed restful and calming.
"Tom, how are you holding up?" asked Captain Janeway as she hurried onto the holodeck.
"As well as can be expected, I guess, Captain."
"Getting cold feet?"
"Yes, but not that kind. It's from my footwear. Or lack of footwear. Why are you breaking orders, Captain?"
"She didn't mean me, too, did she? I thought that was a joke, and not necessarily a very tasteful one!"
"Yeah, B'Elanna got a little hot with me once she found out the connotations, but eventually even she laughed. She said that if we were going to be married on the beach and she had to be barefoot and pregnant, the least all of the guests could do was to be barefoot along with her, since she doesn't expect them to be pregnant. That goes for captains, too, ma'am."
Kathryn Janeway's laugh was full and rich. "All right, Tom, I'm not going to upset B'Elanna on her wedding day. She slipped off the sandals that matched the simple, cream-colored linen pantsuit that suited her so well. "Seven-of-Nine, you have to take off your shoes. That's an order."
The young woman who had followed the Captain onto the holodeck looked around her at various people standing around without any shoes. She had spent much of her life encased in tight-fitting clothing, mechanical fittings, and heavy boots. Seven-of-Nine already felt strange in the light clothes she was wearing, but the captain was looking at her with That Look. Seven-of-Nine removed her shoes.
Satisfied that her order would not cause an incident, the captain turned back to Tom and patted his jacket on the shoulders and arranged the pleated sapphire blue shirt so that it could be seen better beneath the soft gray collarless jacket. "Did B'Elanna pick this shirt?" she asked Tom.
"How did you guess, Captain? She wouldn't tell me why, though."
Captain Janeway considered Tom's shirt, the color of which enhanced his eyes while the design, with its low V-shaped neckline, revealed much of Tom's chest. The captain had a pretty good idea why this shirt was the one B'Elanna had wanted him to wear. "It looks wonderful on you. You all look wonderful." She surveyed the masculine portion of the bridal party with an indulgent smile that became tinged with sorrow. Tuvok and Harry were also in comfortable, casual civilian wear, although this did not prevent Tuvok from standing rigidly at attention. Harry was leaning casually against a post, but from his expression, he was feeling either nervous or sad. Considering how short a time ago Harry had been the happy groom and the events which had occurred since then to his bride, Mr. Kim could easily have been both.
"Dress uniforms would have been more Starfleet, Captain."
"Maybe, Tom, but I think most of the crew will have a better time with what you've chosen to do here, even with everyone barefoot."
"Thanks, Captain. After we talked it over, we decided that a wedding on the beach was the perfect way to celebrate. She likes this beach house program, and I have good memories from here. The Admiral didn't spend all that much time at the beach. So, we're having a party, with a short wedding to start it all off. You don't mind working today, do you, Captain?"
"That depends on whether I'm the one leading you in your vows or if I am playing 'mother of the groom.' "
"Can't you do both?"
"I guess I'm going to try." Turning to Harry and Tuvok, a gleam settling in her eyes, she asked, "So, gentlemen, have you decided yet who is going to be the Best Man and who is going to be the Man of Honor?"
Tuvok's left eyebrow slanted up towards the top of his head, but Harry chuckled slightly. "When they sent up that trial balloon asking me to be Man of Honor, I couldn't believe it. I thought THAT was a joke."
"It WAS a joke, Harry, but if you'd said, 'Yes,' we were going to take you up on it."
Everyone laughed heartily, but Harry and Tom exchanged a more serious look with one another. The previous night the two of them had spent hours talking about love, life, and death. "Each second is precious, Tom. Don't waste it on misunderstandings. Make sure that B'Elanna knows when you're joking, and when you're sincere." Tom had promised to take this advice from his Best Friend to heart. In these matters, Harry had become the expert by hard experience. Having an official title of Best Man in a wedding party had sunk to a very low priority for the widower.
An attempt at returning a measure of decorum to the group was made by Lieutenant Commander Tuvok. "I would have to say, Captain, that having Mr. Kim and myself both serve as Witnesses, without any formal designation of Best Man for either of us, seems perfectly appropriate. Of course, since I have no feelings to be hurt, my function at the ceremony could be anything, or nothing, whatever you may have wished."
"Really, Mr. Tuvok? Then why didn't you ever volunteer to be B'Elanna's Man of Honor?" asked the captain, amusement returning to her eyes.
"If Lieutenant Torres had insisted, I would have certainly complied with her request."
"That's why I wanted to use Klingon marriage customs, Captain. They have family members at the formal marriage ceremony, but there aren't any Maids of Honor or Best Men. I bet Klingons would like that terminology, though. Anyway, the entire crew is going to be our family today."
"Which is what they are every day, don't you think, Tom?"
"Yes, Captain, I think they are," he answered her sincerely.
Captain Janeway noticed Tom's attention drift away toward someone who must have been approaching from behind her left shoulder. She turned to see the tall form of her first officer walking across the deck, away from where they were standing. "Excuse me, Captain. I need to talk to the commander about something."
"Of course, Tom." The captain gave her helmsman, the son of her own mentor, a quick squeeze on the forearm as he walked past her.
Although Chakotay was not visible, B'Elanna could see the captain leaning casually against the railing, speaking and laughing with Tom, Harry, and Tuvok. Since, according to Harry and Megan, it would not be bad luck for B'Elanna to see Tom, she feasted her eyes upon him for a while, even as she wondered why the groom could be seen by the bride, and not vice-versa.
The Doctor was standing nearby with his holowife, Charlene, who turned to reveal the curve of her swollen abdomen. Two holograms, having a holographic child. It was such a surreal concept. Although this addition to his program was not simply to provide him with a replacement for the lost Belle, "Kenneth" had confided that he and Charlene were "hoping" for a girl. The sex of the holobaby was being left to the randomizing elements in the algorithms. Jeffrey and his Klingon friends Larg and K'Kath were around somewhere as well. The Doctor requested that they be invited, as he had been as eager as Tom for there to be a "Klingon presence" at the wedding. B'Elanna had reluctantly agreed, with the strict proviso that no daggers, blades, or other weapons were to be allowed.
Neelix was busily buzzing everywhere, checking on the comfort of the guests, seeing to the covered dishes of the meal he had catered, valiantly fighting a losing battle with the decorations that were blowing around in the holographic breeze, and in general, having the time of his life as he performed his self-proclaimed mission of Morale Officer. Keeping busy was good for him, now that Kes was gone. A glance down at his feet, however, made B'Elanna wonder if perhaps some exceptions to the "No Footwear" rule should have been made.
Thinking of Kes made her think of Harry. She looked back to where he was standing. He seemed to be holding up okay, but B'Elanna still felt a pang of grief. Kes' absence had been difficult for B'Elanna to accept; how much worse must it be for her husband? During the wedding preparations, B'Elanna realized that Kes had been the only female on board Voyager whom she would have liked to have had as her honor attendant in the human fashion of weddings, other than for Captain Janeway. The captain was, of course, performing the ceremony, and she was therefore unavailable to acquit the function of "Maid of Honor" for B'Elanna. As one of the witnesses, Harry was standing in for Kes, in a way, along with Tuvok, but B'Elanna truly missed her Ocampan friend.
B'Elanna turned from the window and circled the room for about the fiftieth time, give or take a few. Tom had lost his virginity in the original of this room. The recreated room had a much bigger bed in it at the moment than it held during that momentous occasion. B'Elanna had threatened to have them spend the wedding night here, telling Tom she would create memories so exciting for him that he would forget all about any other lover he had ever had. Unsurprisingly, Tom had been game for anything his bride wanted for a honeymoon. "Being married to you is enough for me, B'Elanna," he kept saying. After all she had put him through lately, she accepted it as the truth. B'Elanna had another honeymoon spot planned where she could break a clavicle or two of Tom's if she wished: their quarters, although now that she thought of it, having this bed here might be handy, just in case she was overwhelmed with the *yatlhmo' ngachuqraD* again. The Doctor had promised, perhaps a little too eagerly, to come patch Tom up immediately no matter where they happened to be.
Sitting down on the edge of the bed, B'Elanna leaned down by the bedside table, pulling out a pile of books to find something to help pass the time. It was an eclectic collection. *The Count of Monte Cristo, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Sackett Brand, The Principles of Logic* by Surak of Vulcan, *From the Earth to the Moon, The Right Stuff, Zephram Cochrane: Warp-Drive Pioneer, The Martian Chronicles, The Poetry of Paul Verlaine, A Catalogue of Ancient Automobiles and Parts, 47th Edition, Alice in Wonderland, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back*. The latter piqued her interest, since it was obviously a book for very young children, like *Green Eggs and Ham*. Glancing through the verses, B'Elanna began to feel a little warm, causing her to put the book abruptly down. This one she would have replicated in a permanent copy. For multiple uses, she thought, as a predatory grin spread across her features.
"Commander Chakotay, may I speak to you a moment?"
"Of course, Lieutenant. How are you doing? Aren't getting cold feet, are you?"
Tom grinned outwardly and grimaced inwardly. That was at least the twentieth time he had heard that quip today, and it was definitely getting annoying to hear. "Not at all, Commander. I'm ready to get on with it, the sooner the better. I'm more worried that SHE might get cold feet again."
The commander's sage response was only, "Not this time, Mr. Paris."
The grin became stronger and more genuine. "I'm happy to hear you say that, since I think you're the one who knows her best, other than me, of course."
Chakotay laughed. histhink that's safe to say. What is it that you wanted to say to me, Tom?"
The use of his nickname warmed Tom, and he decided that he had two things to ask of the commander. "Well, if you don't mind me calling you Chakotay, at least for today . . . " At the commander's assenting nod, Tom continued, "Chakotay, I wanted to ask you for your blessing. You're the closest thing that B'Elanna has to a father now, and, well, I guess I always felt that I should ask that if I were to ever marry anyone. I mean, if you said, 'No,' I wouldn't call off the wedding, but it would be nice to . . . have your approval." As he stumbled over the last words, Tom decided that it was stupid for him to ask Chakotay this. They had lots of history, much of it bad, and he was lucky that they had learned to work well together during the past three years. Asking for a benediction on a marriage was a lot to ask, under the circumstances.
Chakotay did not think it was a stupid thing to ask. "Tom, I would never second guess B'Elanna's choice of a husband, but even if that were not true, I would be happy to give you whatever sort of sanction that you may want from me for this marriage." The commander put his hand on the groom's shoulder. "I've been wanting to say to you for a while that I am impressed by the way you have worked to put your past problems behind you. You've changed a lot from the man I knew in the Maquis, grown up into a man that can be relied upon. I'm happy for you, and for Voyager, if you want to know the truth."
Tom looked down at his toes for a few seconds. This was more than he had hoped to hear, and he was gratified. "Thank you, sir, it means a lot to me to hear you say that. But you know, one thing that keeps tumbling around in my mind is that every good or bad choice that I ever made in my entire life seems to have gotten me here, to this moment, and to B'Elanna. Even some of the bad choices sting my memory a little less, now. It's strange."
"I hadn't thought of it that way, but I guess that's possible. Although who knows, maybe you would have been serving on Voyager anyway, even if all that didn't happen. But I'm glad that you can accept all that HAS happened to you."
The mellow interlude ended when the irrepressible part of Tom Paris barged in. "Of course, I am still going to be a wiseass at times, you know that, don't you, sir?"
Laughing openly, Chakotay replied, "That goes without saying, Mr. Paris! But you're going to be paying a price for that now, Tom. Once you're a father, you're going to find out the hard way about respect issues."
It was Tom's turn to laugh, a bit nervously. "Don't think I haven't thought about it, Chakotay. I have nightmares sometimes about being the same kind of father that my own father was to me. I'm going to try to model myself more on my mother, and maybe Captain Janeway, Tuvok and you, if I can."
"I think you and B'Elanna both learned the hard way about what NOT to do from your own parents."
"One thing I know we aren't going to do is to have any big expectations about having a kid that's the perfect Klingon warrior, or that we've sired the first Delta Quadrant-born admiral in Starfleet. It's going to be bad enough that she's going to be pretty well stuck going into the 'family business' here on Voyager as it is."
"I have to agree with you." The commander looked around the rapidly filling beach house program. "Tom, shouldn't we be getting ready for your big moment?"
"Yes, I guess so. Oh, wait, there was one other thing I wanted to ask you, Chakotay." Walking over to a nearby table, Tom picked up an elongated white box. "Since you're going to walk B'Elanna 'down the aisle,' or as close to that as we can get here, I was hoping you would take these to her to see if she would carry them with her."
"I thought she was adamant about not carrying any flowers, Tom. You aren't trying to start a fight just before the wedding, are you?"
"Absolutely not! Don't push her! Just ask her to look at them, and if she wants to carry them, fine; if she doesn't, that's fine, too. I just thought it might be a nice idea. By the way, there's an extra one in there for the captain to hold, too, Chakotay, if she wants it. Give that one to her."
"If you want to risk it . . . "
"Hey, life is a risk, any way, right, Commander? Chakotay, I mean."
The commander smiled. "It is, Tom. I'll see what she says. See you in a few minutes."
As the groom glided back to Harry and Tuvok, Chakotay shook his head, a tolerant smile tugging on his lips. Admiral Thomas E. Paris--not likely. The commander couldn't see Tom as admiral material; he was admiral fodder, the kind of man sent to do the dangerous missions who occasionally survived, but who more often perished heroically. For B'Elanna's sake, as well as for the child and for Tom himself, Chakotay hoped it would never come to the that while they were all on Voyager.
"Good afternoon, Captain."
Kathryn Janeway turned back from the staircase at her first officer's greeting.
"Ready to perform your part, Commander?" Her smile was a little hesitant, as if she were not sure how well it would be received, but it opened more naturally when she saw his own pleased expression.
"As ready as I'll ever be. Never thought I would ever be the 'Father of the Bride,' all things considered."
"How is the bride doing? Still nervous?" She could hear how formal this sounded but felt helpless to correct it.
"I just met Lieutenant Nicoletti. She says she is pretty sure B'Elanna just wants the whole thing over so that she and Tom can settle down and enjoy themselves, instead of all this fussing. She never has been one for a lot of ceremony and diplomacy."
The captain laughed throatily at that remark. "How well I know! But a new life together as man and wife needs some kind of special handling, don't you think?"
"I do." He smiled at the foreshadowing of the ceremony in his response. Nodding his head to indicate that the captain should ascend the staircase before him, he switched the white box he was carrying from his left hand to his right before following his commanding officer up the beach house stairs.
"Are you decent?" the commander called in to B'Elanna as he knocked on the bedroom door.
After a few seconds delay the bride opened the door with a sardonic expression on her face. "Actually, no, Chakotay, I've decided at the last minute to have a Betazoid-style wedding. Clothing off, everyone! You first."
The two senior officers laughed heartily as they entered the room. Captain Janeway grasped both of B'Elanna's hands in her own and gave them a quick squeeze before she walked to the middle of the room, turning slowly around to observe the details appreciatively. "Tom certainly has a way with hologram programming. Think of the time he must have spent with all of these details. Posters. Trophies. Sports caps. Is that a spider web in the corner, by the Parrises Squares mallet?"
"Looks like it," said Chakotay as he followed behind her. "If he's had the time to program all of this, he's obviously had too much time on his hands."
"That will be changing soon, though. In a few months, he won't be programming many holodeck scenarios, unless it's to create a park or a playground for a very small person." Janeway answered his smile with one of her own.
Enjoying her moment of relative anonymity, the bride sighed inwardly. B'Elanna held both of her commanding officers in the highest regard, but moments like this had been all too rare recently. Dressing in civvies always seemed to warm their relationship, somehow; and even if it were for that reason alone, B'Elanna was relieved she had scotched any wedding plans that involved the wearing of uniforms.
Holding the narrow box before him, Chakotay offered it to B'Elanna. "Tom asked me to give these to you."
"Not flowers! Chakotay, he promised me he wouldn't make me carry any stupid flowers." Grumbling, B'Elanna opened the box. Flowers. Her peeved expression softened when she realized what they were.
Three long-stemmed red roses lay in the box. Three and a half, she quickly realized. One unadorned rose, stripped of all thorns, remained in the box when she picked the rest of them up. Nestled among a small spray of baby's breath that formed a delicate cloud around the rose petals were two perfectly formed, half-opened roses and a tightly closed bud. Their stems were wound in a silver mesh ribbon and finished off with a multi-looped bow. One was a deep scarlet, the color of human blood. The other was more of a crimson shade, not a bad match for her half-Klingon, half-human blood, which, as she had cause to know, was of a decidedly purplish cast. The tight bud could have been from either rose, or even from some other variety that blended the two shades of red. Knowing Tom, she guessed the latter. Her resistance to carrying flowers began to melt as she realized the symbolism of the bouquet.
B'Elanna glanced up at Captain Janeway, who was gazing at the flowers with a contemplative expression, obviously comprehending the message Tom's flowers were conveying. B'Elanna held them out to Janeway, saying "There's a reason he had the stems wrapped on these; he hasn't had the thorns removed from them."
"You did specify no blades, B'Elanna," Janeway mentioned, as she carefully explored the mesh-wrapped stems. "If you want to go through with that part of the Klingon ceremony now, you can, without breaking your own rule."
"Tom wants to do it. I guess I'll go along with him."
"A good decision, B'Elanna. My mother always told me that compromise is the most important rule of marriage. It makes sense to me, even though I can't say I have any personal knowledge, beyond observing others, of course." The captain's smile faded, as she met the eyes of her engineer rather than those of her first officer..
"Compromise has never been something I've been very good at," said B'Elanna ruefully. "I think Tom is going to be working pretty hard teaching it to me--he's better at it than I am. If the flowers are his way of sending me a message about wanting the blood sharing, I guess I got it."
When B'Elanna put down the white container, Chakotay removed the last rose from the box to give to the captain. "This one must be for you, Kathryn. No thorns." Chakotay gently offered the rose to Captain Janeway. Their hands brushed against each other as she accepted it from him. Steely blue-gray eyes met deep brown eyes, exchanging a look that silently conveyed more of apology and forgiveness, equally needed on both of their parts, than usually could be expressed in many words.
Watching Chakotay with the captain, B'Elanna felt a contentment that she could not have anticipated coming to her so close to the moment when she was going to make a massive change in her own life. Suddenly remembering the reason she was standing in this replica of Tom's childhood bedroom, B'Elanna glanced out the window. The guests were slowly moving en masse towards the edge of the water. Clearing her throat, the bride stole back the attention of her superiors, stating, "Everyone seems to be moving into place on the beach. I guess it's time."
As they moved down the stairway to the sandy beach, the small bridal party passed a jumble of shoes and sandals abandoned at the edge of the deck. B'Elanna took Chakotay's left arm; and, taking a deep breath, nodded that she was ready. B'Elanna and Chakotay followed the captain in a tiny procession toward the shoreline, walking to an opening in a circle formed by about 60% of Voyager's crew. Those who could not attend the ceremony itself because they were on duty would attend the festivities later, but they were going to be able to listen to the vows over an open comm line. This particular pairing had been of interest to everyone on board, even though for some it had been because of betting that the wedding would never take place.
When the captain reached the open area in the center of the circle she turned back to face B'Elanna and Chakotay as they advanced toward her. To her left, flanked by Harry and Tuvok, stood Tom, his eyes locked upon his bride's face as she moved gracefully towards him.
Once Chakotay and B'Elanna reached the captain, Tom moved to stand near his bride, with Tuvok on his right. Harry quietly moved to B'Elanna's left, in an honor attendant's position, if not in name.
The only captain of a Starfleet vessel known to be serving in the Delta Quadrant stood quietly for a moment, catching a whiff of sweetness from the single rose she carried, mixed with the salty tang of the sea breeze. The warmth from the programmed setting sun grazed the side of her face as she listened to the cries of a gull that glided high above on the thermals of the air.
Her thoughts turned briefly to Admiral Paris. Her mentor was the father of this tall, vibrant man who stood before her, who was taking as his wife the beautiful, exotic woman standing by his side. Janeway's impression of her former commanding officer had been changed forever when she had learned of how he had raised his only son. She did not know whether or not the admiral would approve or disapprove of his son's half-Klingon engineer bride, who combined ferocity, strength and intelligence in her graceful body. Once, she had been sure Owen Paris shared the same values as she did; his true positions on these values were now complete mysteries to her.
In the same way that Janeway knew she was standing in for Tom's parents, Chakotay was standing in for B'Elanna's absent parents. They may have been even more derelict in their responsibility to communicate unconditional love and acceptance to their daughter than Admiral Paris had been to his son. She hoped that the commander was as happy for the couple as she herself was.
Smiling at her helmsman and chief engineer, Janeway began: "On this memorable day we stand together, crewmates and friends, the inhabitants of this traveling village that is known as Voyager. It is my great privilege today to perform the happiest and most satisfying of the duties assigned to a starship captain. We are gathered here to witness the joining in matrimony of two souls who have found each other far from their original homes--the union of two of our own, who now embark on their own journey of discovery through a new life together as wife and husband.
"Is there any one present who knows of any true and just, legal impediment to the marriage of B'Elanna Torres to Thomas Eugene Paris?" She paused dramatically.
Despite his sure knowledge that no such impediment existed, Tom could not completely quell the churning of his superstitious stomach. With his luck, even out here, somebody might be able to come up with something from his past, something that he could not even remember, to prevent him from marrying his love. His nerves eased as the only sounds heard were that of the wind flapping loose clothing around the bodies of the guests and the rhythmic sound of the waves as they crashed onto the shore.
Continuing, the captain addressed her chief engineer. "B'Elanna Torres, do you come of your own free will be married to this man?"
Softly came the answering, "I do."
"Thomas Eugene Paris, do you come of your own free will to be married to this woman?" was asked of the helmsman.
His answer was a firm, "I do."
At Tom's reply, Chakotay released B'Elanna's right hand from the crook of his elbow, placed it gently into Tom's outstretched right palm, and then touched his hands to the backs of both bride and groom, to give his own sign of blessing to their marriage. They looked back at him and then at each other as the commander moved back a step.
Once she again had the marital couple's attention, Captain Janeway went on. "Two milhersia ago, wise words were written that are as true today as they were then. Tom and B'Elanna have asked that I share them with you." She opened a small booklet of old-fashioned design and began to read from it:
"If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them, and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but I speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.
"If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, but I am without love, then I am nothing at all.
"If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but I am without love, it will do me no good whatever.
"Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it also does not take offense, and is not resentful."
Raising her head from the booklet, the captain recited the last few lines from memory, her eyes shifting between the couple who stood before her and to one other, who was in the line of sight behind them. His own eyes were fixed upon his captain, filling with increasing warmth each time they met.
"Love takes no pleasure in other people's sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.
"Love does not come to an end."
The sea breeze blew softly, tossing clothing and hair lightly in the streams of air. Tom looked at the Captain, and receiving her encouraging nod, turned to B'Elanna to recite his own lines from memory:
"I, Thomas Eugene Paris, take you, B'Elanna Torres, to be my wife. I promise to love, honor and cherish you from this day onward; for better, for worse; in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times, for as long as we both shall live. Take this ring and keep it as a symbol of my everlasting love for you." The plain gold band, which he had carried onto the beach precariously perched on the end of his right pinkie, was slipped onto the ring finger of his bride's left hand. B'Elanna had to carefully balance the flowers in the crook of her elbow with the help of her steadying right thumb to prevent them all from landing in the sand.
Then it was her turn. She looked deeply into Tom's clear eyes and said to him:
"I, B'Elanna Torres, take you, Thomas Eugene Paris, to be my husband. I promise to love, honor and cherish you from this day onward; for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times, for as long as we both shall live. Take this ring and keep it as a symbol of my everlasting love for you." The gold band that she had slipped onto her right thumb just before descending the staircase from Tom's bedroom was placed safely on his left hand's ring finger.
Both breathed a smiling sigh of relief. Each had been sure they would ruin the moment by dropping the other's ring in the sand.
Now the Klingon part of the ceremony was to begin. B'Elanna and Tom recited a verse from a famous love poem traditionally said at weddings in the Empire, B'Elanna first in Klingon, with Tom following, in a Federation Standard translation:
"*bomDI' 'IwwIj qaqaw
tIqwIjDaq ratlhtaH larghIlj.
'IwIlj je 'IwwIj wImuvmoH;
ej no'lI' je no'wI' wImuvmoH.
'Iwmaj ghogh yIQoy.
DaH wa' 'Iw. reH wItay'taH.*
"The memory of you sings in my blood,
And your scent lingers in my heart.
Let us join your blood and mine,
Your ancestors to my ancestors.
Listen to the voice of our blood,
Now one blood. We are together always."
Moving the roses she was holding to her right hand, B'Elanna held them so that she and Tom could each grasp a stem where a thorn was visible, pushing a sharp point into the delicate flesh between the base of the left thumb and the forefinger of their left hands until the blood ran. Handing the bouquet to Janeway, B'Elanna clasped Tom's left hand to her own, carefully joining them where the blood welled up from the shallow wounds. Raising their joined hands aloft, Tom and B'Elanna first moved their hands to B'Elanna's lips so that she could taste their blood where it slowly welled out, before moving their joined hands to Tom's mouth so that he could do the same. Placing his right hand on B'Elanna's neck below the ear, fingers cupping the back of her head, his thumb gently grazing the tender flesh at the point of her jaw, Tom said softly to her, "*qaSaw rIntaH be'nalwI'*."
B'Elanna placed her right hand in the equivalent position upon his neck and jaw, answering him, "*qanay rIntaH loDalwI'*. "
When they finished speaking the Oath, the Klingon words of which Tom had been repeating over and over to himself in order to make sure he would not forget them, they both relaxed visibly, although their eyes were still fastened upon each other. Janeway's closing words followed: "By the power granted to me as captain of this vessel, I now proclaim to all that Thomas and B'Elanna are husband and wife by the customs of both the human and the Klingon peoples. You may now kiss the bride, Tom. *reH tuqIljDaq batlh*."
Cheers from the guests rang out, but the newly married pair did not quite hear them. Every sense was centered upon each other. Still holding onto B'Elanna's neck with his right hand, Tom lifted his left to the same position on the other side of her face. She raised her face and returned his kiss.
As their lips parted, they became aware of being surrounded by a sea of their shipmates. Harry was the first to reach them, kissing B'Elanna and giving Tom the hug of a brother. Neelix was next, effusive in his congratulations. Carey. Larson. Lang. Ayala. Samantha Wildman, holding her own little girl close in h in rms. The Doctor and Charlene, with Jeffrey and his Klingon friends. Simms and Lamont. Hudson. Myers. Joseph. The crush of wedding guests gathered around them, offering congratulations in the form of words, hugs, kisses, or a combination of any and all three.
Tom was in his element, using every iota of charm and humor he possessed to bemuse the crowd. B'Elanna accepted the good wishes of her crewmates in remarkable good humor, even though she generally despised such a display. Tuvok had advised her that in emotional situations such as this one, the Vulcan would remind himself that it soon would all be over, until it actually was over. Surprisingly, the advice seemed to be working for B'Elanna.
As the crew surrounded the newlyweds, their captain stepped back to survey what seemed at the moment to be her unruly offspring, with one of the newest, Seven-of-Nine, standing close to her. The captain gradually realized that she was looking for one person in particular in the crowd. Her eyes searched until they found him, standing off to one side, waiting for the rush to be over before he offered his own salutations. His eyes met hers with a burning intensity that forced her to look away, but a few minutes later, she was aware of his quiet presence, at her side, as he always seemed to be.
"Captain?" he said quizzically.
"I recognized the last Klingon phrase you said. 'Glory to your House,' wasn't it?"
" 'Honor to your House, forever,' " she amended.
"Ah, of course." He acknowledged the correction. "But what did B'Elanna and Tom say to one another? I didn't catch the meaning, since the Universal Translator was set to leave Klingon words untranslated for the evening."
"Commander, those are really the words of the Mating Oath--the poem before was just window dressing for the ceremony, just like the passage from Corinthians I read earlier was. You could look them up, you know." A hint of amusement gras shher lips.
"I was hoping you would interpret for me."
"Well, to paraphrase, Tom said 'I marry you my wife' and B'Elanna replied, 'I marry you my husband.' "
"The Klingons certainly strip everything down to the essentials, don't they?"
"They're famous for that, Commander."
Best wishes dispensed, most of the guests began to walk back up to the beach house as the programmed evening fell, ready to sample Neelix's special wedding delights and to rib him unmercifully if they turned out to be similar to his usual, barely edible fare. Chakotay turned to the former Borg, who was standing on the other side of the captain from himself. "Seven-of-Nine, why don't you go over and congratulate the bride and groom. That is what is usually done." The captain smiled at Chakotay's contribution towards her protégé's education.
"Commander, Captain, do I understand that this 'wedding' is to form a small Collective of only two people?"
"You could say that, although humans and most other races call it a 'family.' And in a few months, Tom and B'Elanna will be adding to their family when B'Elanna gives birth to their baby."
The young woman nodded in comprehension of the captain's answer and went to stand in front of the couple. "Congratulations. Tom. B'Elanna."
"Thank you very much, we are glad you can join with us on our happy day, Seven-of-Nine," replied Tom. The young woman took three steps back to allow Jenny and Megan Delaney and Gerron, who all lingered nearby, a chance to offer their wishes for happiness for the couple, even though their attention by this point was more on Harry Kim than the bridal couple. Tom noticed and waved his friend over. "How are you doing, Harry? I know this must be hard for you."
"I'll be okay, Tom. Thanks for asking." From his face, it was difficult to tell how much truth there was to his answer.
"Come here, Starfleet. I want you to give me a hug."
Harry complied, whispering into her ear, "Be careful with Tom, B'Elanna. He has a heart that gets bruised pretty easily." Her answering squeeze of his shoulders almost made Harry gasp, but he knew his message had been received.
More loudly, so that everyone still standing around could hear, Harry shot out, "You better watch this guy closely now, Maquis. He hasn't had that much practice at being respectable."
B'Elanna laughingly gave him another hug. "Don't you worry. I can handle him. Now, since there seems to be an opening for a playboy on board ship, why don't you go on up to the party with these two women who have been waiting for you. The rest of us will be coming along in a minute."
Despite the somber look in his eyes, Harry chuckled. Turning to Jenny Delaney and Seven-of-Nine, he held out an arm to each one and said, "Ladies, may I escort you to the party?" Seven-of-Nine watched as Jenny accepted Harry's arm, then copied what Jenny had done. The three started up to the party, Megan and Gerron following them after they had said their own best wishes to Tom and B'Elanna.
Tuvok approached the newlyweds thoughtfully. "Lieutenant Torres, Lieutenant Paris. I wish you a marriage as long, as fruitful, and as complete as I have known with T'Pel." As dispassionate as he looked while expressing the sentiment, something in Tuvok's voice conveyed his deep longing to see his wife and family again.
"Thank you, Tuvok. It's a comfort to know that it's possible to be married to someone for decades and still want to be with them." There was no hint of mocking or sarcasm as Tom said these words to the Vulcan.
When Tuvok turned away, the captain and the first officer were the only ones who had yet to offer their congratulations.
"Chakotay and I have been talking about being the father of the bride and the mother of the groom. I can't tell you how much I hope that all your troubles are behind you both." The captain's smile was a bit wistful at the impossihavety of that wish.
"Thank you, 'Mom,' " answered Tom, accepting her hug. Janeway turned and gave B'Elanna an embrace before handing back the rose bouquet, which the captain had been continuing to hold from the ending of the marriage ceremony.
"I'll second that, Tom and B'Elanna." Chakotay shook Tom's hand and firmly embraced B'Elanna. The captain slipped her arm under the commander's as they turned to walk up to the house, their steps synchronized, as if they had walked together that way all their lives. The newly married couple watched them go before facing each other.
"Ready for the next step, Tom? Diapers? Midnight feedings? Childish temper tantrums? All of these serious repercussions that we've let ourselves in for?"
"Absolutely. I've had lots of practice with the temper tantrums already, just as you've had with childishness." She raised a fist in mock anger which Tom caught by the wrist, raising it to his lips for a kiss, before adding, "They're going to want the guests of honor up at the house, B'Elanna. We need to go up."
"Let's just take a minute for ourselves first, Tom. It's nice here now."
B'Elanna slipped her arms around her husband and laid her cheek against his chest, feeling his heart throbbing as it pumped warm blood throughout his body. His long, deceptively strong arms closely encircled her, his chin resting on her head, as they stood and listened to the waves break steadily in the gathering twilight.
Her mind returned to the first night they had truly been together, the first time she had placed her ear on his naked chest to listen to the beating heart of this courageous, kind, but insecure man. Huddled for warmth in a crypt built of stone columns, chunks of rocks and phaser-baked mud, their bed a pile of alien straw and Starfleet-issue emergency blankets, they had shared the taste and feel of their bodies without reservation for the first time.
B'Elanna did not feel anymore married now than she did that night. This whole effort had been more for the benefit of the rest of the galaxy, which from now on would recognize their union. She found, somewhat to her surprise, that that recognition pleased her. B'Elanna felt more at peace than she could ever remember being in her entire life. Raising her head to look into Tom's face she found him smiling down upon her. He gently placed his lips upon hers again, communicating to her that he shared her feelings of peace.
"It's time to go, B'Elanna, but before we do, I have something to give you."
"I have a poem for you. And this time, it is a real, honest-to-Gosh, rhyming love poem. Do you want to hear it now, or would you prefer I hold it for tonight? I do have a few others, too, B'Elanna, but I thought you might like to hear at least one now."
"I would love to hear what you would consider a real, genuine love poem, Tom."
Elaborately clearing his throat, Tom recited,
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
"Tom, it's lovely, but that last line had better not come true for a long, long time."
"I will do my best to accommodate you, my love," he said, giving her a lingering kiss on the forehead.
In reply, B'Elanna gently drew the rose bouquet across his cheek, to his nose. Flaring his nostrils, he sniffed deeply of its fragrance and grinned at her. Tilting the flowers to her own nose, she drank in their scent.
Separating from their embrace, B'Elanna and Tom caught each other's hands and began to walk. Side by side and laughing as they supported each other, bare feet slipping in the shifting sands, wife and husband headed up to their celebration.
^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^ FINIS ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^
The rock and roll song Tom tries to foist off as a love poem is "Light My Fire," by The Doors, written by Jim Morrison and The Doors, released in 1966 by Elektra Records.
"Written on the Wall at Chang's Hermitage," by Tu Fu, Tang Dynasty--8th century, translated by Kenneth Rexroth in *One Hundred Poems from the Chinese*, New Directions Paperbook, 1965.
"This Is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams, from *Selected Poems*, New Directions Paperbook, 1963.
"Sonnet XLIII" ("How do I love thee . . . ") by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from *Sonnets from the Portuguese* as it appears in *A Reasonable Affliction, 1001 Love Poems to Read to Each Other*, Edited by Sally Ann Berk and James Gordon Wakeman, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, New York, 1996.
The Klingon Poem is partially my own invention, but it utilizes two phrases that appear in *Star Trek: The Klingon Way, A Warrior's Guide* by Marc Okrand, Pocket Books, 1996. My feeble attempts at translating into Klingon were made possible by *The Klingon Dictionary*, also by Marc Okrand, Pocket Books, 1992 revised edition.
There are two passages from the Bible quoted: Tom's poem at Kes' remembrance service was from Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, Verses 1-8 and 11. The passage Captain Janeway reads at Tom and B'Elanna's wedding is from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, Verses 1-7. In both cases, I consulted with several, very different translations of the Bible, including the "King James Version" and *The Living Bible*, ultimately combining various parts of each to come up with what appears here. Think of it as the "24th Century Version."
By including these biblical passages and referring to Genesis within the story itself, I have not forgotten the fact that Gene Roddenberry had felt that religion, by the 23rd century, would be seen as ancient superstition. He may be right, of course. But with all due respect to Mr. Roddenberry, I personally doubt that faiths which have lasted for millennia, surviving Copernicus, Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and the advent of the atomic age and spaceflight, among other things, are likely to entirely disappear by the 24th century. I also strongly believe that because the Bible is accepted as a basis for much of Earth's cultural history and is studied even today by people of all faiths as a great literary achievement, these references will not be unknown to the crew of a starship such as Voyager. Indeed, in a time of universal translators, travel by transporter beam, and faster-than-light space travel, some of these passages would actually have even more resonance than they do today, whatever the personal belief systems of the crewmembers might be. As long as men and women still live, love, dance, and die.
J.A. Toner, AKA Jamelia116@aol.com. -- July, 1997 -- Rev. 3/98
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