Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim to own any of the following characters, places, or events, with the exceptions of Brogan, Briley, and Sham. Just this trio and the story.

Author's Note: Set during season 7's "Lineage" and written for Laura W's "Delirium" challenge on VAMB. Credit goes to her for the first line. For the recounting of Tom & B'Elanna's date in Fair Haven, see my story "This Heart of Mine."

What Not to Say When

"You're delirious."

"Gee, thanks, Tom. You're so supportive. I mean, I only just fainted in—"

"No! That's not what I meant! I mean. That is. It's so… so…"

"Unexpected?" she offered, arms crossed and hip jutting, her usual unreadable posture. What was she thinking? Was she happy? frightened? angry? And why couldn't he say anything intelligent?

Kahless, he was a mess. He needed advice. Someone who'd gone through this before.

"History is brimming with accounts of unexpected pregnancies," the Doctor offered from his place two feet away. His tricorder was out and humming, just as it had been when Tom walked into the room five minutes ago.

"Aren't you ever going to put that away?" B'Elanna growled, arms uncurling from her ribcage. Tom's fingers twitched, ready to restrain her if necessary.

"I'm ensuring that the fetus is healthy," the hologram replied, as if speaking to a kindergartener.

"And?" Tom asked, inching forward.

"The fetus appears to be about seven weeks old and doing quite well. So are you," he said with a glance at B'Elanna.

"Why did she faint?"

"Klingon and human metabolisms sometimes… clash."

B'Elanna rolled her eyes and shifted back against the biobed. "Tell me about it."

"It's not uncommon for such pregnancies to cause biochemical fluctuations in the mother."

Tom felt his heart stutter. "Is that serious?"

"Not usually. You can expect some behavioral volatility, increased nutritional needs." He punched the air and grinned. "Creating new life is a big job."

"Creating new life…" He couldn't believe it.

Neither could B'Elanna.

Hours later, Tom dogged his way through Voyager's halls, thoughts writhing like one of Neelix's more lively concoctions.

A baby… when would he get used to the idea? Probably never. Look how long he'd dated B'Elanna. He'd only just adapted to married life. And the fact that she hated peanut butter toast…

The corridors and turbolifts inched by until he came to deck six. There, he stopped, squared his shoulders, and asked the computer if it would please load Paris 042. Why he said please was anyone's guess; maybe he was practicing for those behavioral volatilities the Doc had mentioned.

The doors slid open and Tom stepped into Fair Haven, the usual bustle of people dulled by the afternoon heat. Most were at lunch, he surmised, noting the hour by his stomach's grumbling. He hadn't eaten breakfast that morning… he and B'Elanna had stayed up late watching old movies. And cleaning up popcorn. Mm, popcorn…

"Shut up," he muttered.

"I beg yer pardon?" came a voice.

"Seamus!" Tom exclaimed.

"Tommy! Good to see ye, ole boy! Where've ye been these past three weeks? Ye used t' visit every day. Now we're lucky t' get a whiff of ye in a month o' Sundays."

Whiff is right, Tom thought, nearly staggering at the amount of alcohol riding Seamus' breath. Breathing through his mouth, he made a mental note to reduce the program's accuracy in depicting drunks.

"Sorry, Seamus. Just got a little busy, I guess. Is Brogan over at the livery?"

"Aye, I s'pose he is. He's always over there. Say, ye happen t' have a penny on ye? I'm gettin' a mite dry…" the grizzled man waggled his eyebrows.

"Sorry, no pennies on me," Tom said, indicating his pocketless uniform. "I'll try not to disappoint next time." With a wave, he headed for the stables.

Please, let this work… he pled to no one in particular. I need some sanity in my life. And someone who knew what he was talking about.

Ingenious, Tom. Going to a hologram for parenting advice. Wouldn't you be better off going to the Doc? At least he could hand you solid evidence of what did and didn't work for those before you. Then again, you don't want evidence. You want experience.

Right. Like a hologram he'd programmed could offer experience. But he had installed intelligence subroutines. And tossed in several declassified personal logs for good measure. Maybe old Brogan had picked up a few stories in all the hours his programming had run.

Tom sure hoped so.

The stable was awash with shadows when he entered, the cool gloom welcome after the sun's heat. Tom breathed deeply of the hay-drenched air and looked around. No Brogan that he could see. But that didn't mean anything.

Pausing to give Briley and Sham a pat on the nose, he made his way down the aisle, letting the livery noises seep into his bones. It had been a long time since he'd come here. Not since his date with B'Elanna three months ago.

"Tom Paris!" a voice rumbled. "Back for more riding lessons, are ye? An' here I thought I'd licked the stuffin' outta ye the first time."

"Brogan! No, no. Not here for lessons. At least, not this time."

"Eh? What're ye here for then? Don't tell me she ditched you. Not after that night on the beach. Shoot, if she—"

"We actually got married," Tom interrupted with a grin.

Brogan's eyebrows rose. "Well, I'll be. Tom Paris, married. An' I thought I'd never see the day. Congratulations!"

"Thanks." A pause. "I actually came for some advice."

"Ah, I thought so. What're ye plannin' this time, Tom Paris?"

"Nothing. Everything."

Brogan frowned. "Ye'll have t' be a mite more specific. I'm not given t' puzzles."

Tom laughed shortly. "You and me both." He looked up. "She's pregnant. We found out today."

Brogan's eyes bugged. "Well, ye didn't waste any time on that, did ye? Young people these days…" he wagged his head, and Tom half expected him to cluck like a mother hen.

"It came as a surprise."

"I bet it did. An' now ye're scramblin', aren't ye? Aye, figures."

"I, uh… was hoping you could give me some advice. You know, man to man. Seeing as you've got three of your own."

Brogan chuckled. "I know that look, Tom Paris. Ye're scared outta yer mind. Tell me—how did ye react when she told ye?"

Tom grimaced. "Well… I said, 'You're delirious.' "

Brogan guffawed. "No wonder ye're desperate!"

"Hey! It's not like she broke the news gently. I walk into sickbay and bam, she opens her mouth and says 'I'm pregnant.' What's a guy supposed to do?"

"Take it," Brogan harrumphed.

"Take it?"

"Ye asked for my advice, Tom Paris. Now I'm giving it t' ye. Take it."

"But what about—"

"Take it."

"Take it?"

"Take it."

Tom sighed.

"It's scary—I know that. Heck, when my wife told me she was expectin' our first, I fainted dead away. Aye, you better believe it. Took me near nine months t' get used t' the idea. An' by then, the little booger was here!" The big man sobered, black eyes intent on Tom's blue ones. "It'll take some adjustment, son. Everything in life does—and the best things always take the longest."

"So telling my wife she's delirious is normal?"

"Well… no. An' if ye want t' live t' see yer son or daughter, ye'd best not call her that again."

"I thought so."

"Say. Why don't we take a ride, just the two of us. I could tell ye a few stories, give ye a coupla pointers. Could be fun. What d'ye say?"

"I'll tack up Sham?"

"An' I'll get Ronan. Meet ye outside in ten."

Tom headed for the tack room with a smile. Maybe there was hope for him yet. Just so long as he struck the word delirious from his vocabulary. Maybe joking would do better instead…?