Disclaimer: All characters (with the exception of Elisabeth, Christine and Victoria Paris; along with Loreena, Gael, Sayana, Soleen, Audrey etc...—who belong to Synbou), belong to Paramount and Viacom. I‘m only borrowing them temporarily.
This is a coda of sorts, to Synbou‘s, "The Secret Path", that is part of the Corridor Series, and is part of the "Meanwhile," series. I had read a rough draft of ‚The Secret Path,‘ when this story began in my mind, and would not let go (and trust me, when you have papers, assignments, readings and notes to do, you really try to concentrate on nothing else). However, the end result is this.
I‘d like to thank Isabelle S. and Louise B. for letting me play around with their universe and characters! I hope that they can write fast enough to settle my appetite, which they wet, for the next chapter in their saga (yes, I know, that‘s like the kettle calling the pot, black). I‘d also like to thank Isabelle for beta-reading this, and thank her for her answers and input.
Prior stories in the Neoplasm Universe:1) Neoplasm"I‘m telling you, that‘s what it means!" laughed Christine Paris, as she playfully argued with her father.
2) In The Dark
3) CorridorMeanwhile: Around the Kitchen Table
A. Blunt- firstname.lastname@example.org
"You can‘t be serious," Owen jokingly returned, as he cut some Granny-Smith apples for his granddaughters, who were outside with his wife. It had been a year, since the girls had come to live with Victoria—and for reasons of security— with him and his wife, Elisabeth.
"Yep." Christine was grinning like a Cheshire cat as Owen laughed.
"Whatever you do, don‘t tell your nieces that."
"Oh, they already know. Gael told them."
Owen frowned at this. He was not sure of what to think of the young man, whom Tom had helped bring up. He only knew what his daughters had told him—or rather, what he overheard them saying, and he was not sure if he wanted the twenty-three year old around Sayana and Solenn. However, Victoria took the girls to visit him regularly, or he came to visit them. The young man certainly had a bit of a checkered past. But he did have to admit that the girls adored him and vice versa.
Christine noticed her father‘s expression. "Dad..." she warned.
"I know, I know," Owen responded. "But he‘s not in here, he‘s out there." It was true. Gael was outside with Elisabeth and the girls. The girls insisted on calling him their brother. Oh well, Gael kept calling them his little sisters. "I never realised...maybe it‘s because he never spent so much time with us, but... He‘s a lot like your brother, isn‘t he?"
His daughter pondered this. "What makes you say that?"
"He‘s his own person, no doubt about that. But he has a lot of your brother‘s mannerisms; his shrug, the way he banters, the way he can keep everything inside."
"But, he can‘t really mask what he‘s feeling," she pointed out.
"Dad," Christine began, as she got a plate out and passed it to her father. "There‘s a lot more to Gael than meets the eye. You just have to speak to him."
"I know. It‘s just that it‘s so damn hard to. I can tell that he doesn‘t like me."
Christine shrugged. "Maybe he has a reason."
"He‘s never met me until last year!"
"Where are the girls?" came a voice approaching them. They turned around to see Victoria Paris, guardian of Sayana and Soleen. Her eyes were red and swollen, and one could see dried tear streams on her face.
"Outside with Gael and Mom, why?" Victoria turned to the back door. "Vicki, what‘s wrong?"
"We got word. It‘s back."
"What‘s back?" asked Owen.
"An old ‚friend,‘ decided to visit Tom."
Realisation entered Christine as she felt as though she had been suckered-punched in the stomach. "Oh gods! How bad?" Her sister tried to compose herself. "Damn it, Vicki!
You‘re scaring me! How. Bad. Is. It?!?"
Christine leaned onto the kitchen counter. "No. No. This can‘t be happening. Not now. Of all the times..."
"What‘s wrong?" the admiral demanded of his daughters. "Is something wrong with Tom?"
"I have to tell the girls," Vicki said, avoiding his question.
"I‘ll go with you," Christine injected, as she brushed by her father, and followed her sister out the door. The walked a few metres, to where Gael, Elisabeth Paris and Tom‘s daughters were. They had been playing in the sand, on the beach.
Solenn looked up from her pail and saw the approaching adults. "Aunt Vicki!" she exclaimed and rushed to hug her aunt.
Vicki bent down and hugged her niece. "Hey, Solenn." She looked up and saw Sayana and Gael go right by their sister. "So, mucking about in the sand, huh? Getting into any mischief?"
"Naw," smiled Gael. "Whirlwind and Soleil, here, are too young to do that."
"But I‘m sure that when they‘re old enough, you‘ll be there to teach them the ropes."
"It‘s my brotherly duty. So, how come you‘re home so early?"
"We heard from the Amnesty."
The young man‘s ears perked up. "Great! How long will it be, until they get back?"
"They ran into a few problems, but hopefully soon."
"How‘s Daddy?" Sayana asked.
Victoria disengaged from her niece. "He‘s sick, sweetheart."
Gael felt a chill go down his back. "How bad?" he asked in a near-whisper.
"Is he sick like he was before?" Sayana persisted. "Has the cancer come back?"
Owen and Marie looked at each other in half-horror. Cancer? Their daughters had never mentioned this. Sure, Tom had been sick...but cancer?
Owen‘s eldest daughter nodded. "Yeah, the cancer is back."
Gael swallowed. "How bad?" he repeated, his voice lower than before.
"Bad," Vicki allowed.
"Is Daddy going to die?" Solenn asked, eyes wide open.
"No one lives forever, Soleil," Christine replied softly. "We‘ll all die someday. It‘s just that...some people may have to go before the rest of us."
Sayana started crying. "No, no! He‘s not dying! HE‘S NOT DYING! He can‘t be! He promised! He—" She then broke from the rest of the group and ran down the beach.
"Saya!" Christine yelled, and began to take off, but Gael stopped her.
"I‘ll get her," he said. "*You* have some explaining to do." He then bobbed his head towards the Paris‘. Christine and Victoria followed his gaze and nodded.
"Why? Why didn‘t he tell me?"
"We told you why! Haven‘t you been listening?!?" Christine ground out.
Owen paced around the kitchen. Victoria and Elisabeth were seated at the table, with Christine leaning against the counter, by the refrigerator. Gael was outside with the kids. Owen stopped pacing. "And this first happened at the academy?"
Victoria nodded. "He was given a bone marrow transplant, along with ‚double billings,‘ of chemotherapy and radiation. When it started to show, he came to live with me."
"And we never noticed," Elisabeth said.
"He didn‘t want you to. As for you," Christine began, looking at her father. "You were still dealing with what happened with the Cardassians—you still are in some aspects! Do you really think that you honestly could have been there for Tom, the way he would have needed you to be?" Owen remained silent at this. "Well?"
"No," he whispered. "No, I wouldn‘t have. I couldn‘t have."
"Exactly," Victoria affirmed. "He thought that if you
could deal with that by yourself—"
"And Audrey was involved?"
""I think that she had a right to, don‘t you?" Christine asked. Owen closed his eyes at this. "Besides, you know that she‘d do anything for him." Owen nodded. "As for him telling you, he was going to. Later on. On Kimira. When it came back."
"How many times has he had it?" Elisabeth inquired.
"Including this bout, four. On Kimira, it got so bad, that he would have died without the Decytologenesis."
"Decytologen..." trailed the admiral. Victoria nodded.
"Why? Why did he undergo...?"
"He wanted to see his little girls grow up. It was a do or die situation."
"He was going to us—tell me—when we were on Kimira," Owen stated. "And then I opened up my big mouth, said what I said, and then he—we..."
"Yeah," Christine agreed. "We had just convinced him to tell you, when you...opened up your big mouth."
"Oh, thank-you for agreeing with me."
Christine shrugged. "You said it, not me."
"He wasn‘t going to tell us of the girls. Why didn‘t you?"
"It wasn‘t for us to say. Tom had to be the one to tell you, not us," Victoria defended.
"And you wouldn‘t have told us—you didn‘t tell us, until the girls were almost killed! You two were willing to keep us in the dark?"
Victoria got up from the table to confront her father. She was furious now. ""Damn it, Dad! Yes! Okay? Is that what you wanted to hear? Yes, we would have kept it from you!"
"No, you listen to us, and listen hard! He didn‘t want to tell you! We had to do some serious arm-twisting to get him to even agree, to meet with you! Then you did meet, and you did the normal, male, pigheaded thing that you do so well—you spoke without thinking first! What, you had expected him to tell you everything after that little tirade of yours? The one that you performed oh, so well," she ended sarcastically.
"He was dying! Damn it, Dad, our baby brother was dying.
He didn‘t... he loved the girls so much..."
"I think what Vicki is trying to say," continued Christine, "Is that they girls knew him—remember him—as a good father. And he was. Better then you." She knew that she deliberately threw in that dig, but she could not help it. She wanted him to hurt as much as he hurt Tom, after the court-martial, after everything he had been through. "He didn‘t want you to influence them otherwise, after he died." She sniffled. "He was our brother. Who were we to refuse his wishes—especially since he had a good point?"
Their father gazed at them in horror. "Is that what you think?"
"Would it have been true?" Victoria pointed out.
Owen fell silent, as he leaned against the counter. "Gods, you must think of me as a perfect idiot."
"Nobody‘s perfect," Christine quipped. They all looked at her. "What? It‘s true!"
Owen turned to his wife. "And thank you for defending me."
"Owen, shut up," Elisabeth returned.
"Owen, just think about it," she suggested. "I can understand why Tom didn‘t want us to know, about the girls. All you have to do is to see it from his point-of-view. Then ask yourself, would you have done the same? Because I‘m doing that right now, and I can say that I wouldn‘t have changed anything."
"Okay, so maybe I would have done some of what he did,
too. But that doesn‘t excuse—"
"Dad! He was dying! He was dying and we were afraid that he wouldn‘t even see Solenn, because she hadn‘t been born yet! We would have done anything for him. Anything!" Victoria exclaimed, as tears fell down her face. Owen looked to her younger sister and saw the same occurrence. "And when he got well, it was the best thing that anyone could have asked for! Would you believe me when I say, that Chris and I, actually went into a Church and prayed?!?! We don‘t believe but we still...prayed. And now to hear that—to hear that it‘s back... To hear that it‘s spread everywhere, and that it‘s not likely that he‘ll see the kids ever again..."
"Vicki?" popped up a voice. Everyone turned to the back door, to see Gael peeking inside. "The girls are asking me questions that...well, um...I just think that it would be best that you or Christine answer them—that is, if you don‘t um...mind."
Victoria looked harshly at her father. "Actually, with the way that I am right now, that‘d probably be a good idea." With that, she quickly walked around the table, and gave Gael a quick hug. "He loves you."
Gael hugged her back. "I know. Go." Victoria nodded and went out the door.
Christine pointed to her now-departed sister. "I think she has the right idea."
"Christine!" Owen exclaimed.
"What? It‘s either leave or say something that I may regret later on. And I chose to leave." Then she too, walked quickly to Gael, also gave him a hug and went out the door.
Elisabeth looked around. "Well, I guess this would be a good time to go to the store."
"How come?" Owen asked.
Elisabeth glanced at her husband as she got up. "Gael has said that he‘ll cook dinner tonight, right?"
"Yep," the young man confirmed as he went by her. "It‘s the least that I can do, since you‘re letting me stay here."
Elisabeth patted his shoulder. "Think nothing of it, you‘re family. Besides, the girls love seeing you and having you here, it‘s good for them. For you too, I imagine."
"I‘m not arguing with that," Gael agreed. "Do you have the list?"
"Right here in my pocket. You already know where everything is, so you should have no trouble navigating around the kitchen. Just a..." she shrugged her head towards her husband.
"Right," Gael confirmed. "Well, you know a little about me, and I can take care of myself. Usually."
Elisabeth smiled at him, as she placed her hands on his face. "You have so much of Tom in you, that it‘s hard to believe that you‘re not his biologically."
Owen cringed at this remark.
"I‘ll be back as soon as I can," she called out, as she went by her husband. "Behave," she whispered to him, than left.
Gael went to the cupboard and got out a glass, as Owen sat down at the table. "Listen," he began as he went to the refrigerator, got out some orange juice and poured it into the glass. "I know that you don‘t think too much of me— it‘s obvious from your body language." Owen glanced at him in surprise. "What? You didn‘t think that I wouldn‘t notice that cringe?" Silence. Gael waited until he knew that Owen wouldn‘t say anything before continuing. "I‘m here because Gwanna is off with the Amnesty, and asked Vicki—who asked your wife—if I could stay with her. It seems that I have a knack for getting into trouble— unintentionally, of course—whenever I‘m not in school. Correction, I still get into a bit of trouble at times, while in school."
Gael went to sit across from Owen at the table, carrying his beverage. "I‘m not sure how much you were told about me—or how much you know—but, I have to say that I can understand why you‘re like this. After all, I was Tom‘s foster son and he did have a large influence on me."
"But I have to say that I‘m grateful that he did," Gael began, "Because, I have no idea of how I would have turned out, otherwise."
This got the Admiral‘s attention. "What do you mean?"
"Truth?" Owen nodded. Gael took a deep breath. "I was a bit of a mess, when he and Loreena took me in. They didn‘t have to—after all, they had Sayana. I mean, why would you want a street-kid in your home, with a young child? But they did take me in. And to me, that‘s a testament to how they were. I know that Loreena must have had some reservations—even though she liked me. But Tom didn‘t. He had no hesitations whatsoever."
"You used to live out on the street?"
"Yeah," Gael nodded. "I did. And I have to admit that I did stuff that I‘m not too proud of."
"How much did Thomas know?"
"Everything," came the response. "We knew each other for a while—we gave each other information, when I was still out on the street. And we had talked about some—stuff whenever I stayed the night over at their place. But he didn‘t know everything."
"So how did he find out?"
Gael took a sip before continuing. "There‘s a difference, between being friends who pass information along and to being someone‘s foster son. I had been in the system before, and I gathered a few ‚experiences,‘ due to that. And what I learned was that things changed afterwards, that it wouldn‘t last long—me staying with them, I mean." He quickly took a few gulps of iced tea. Owen waited. "He said that he wanted to know everything, and for me not to leave anything out." He gave a snort. "I was cynical as hell because of everything that had ever happened to me. I was afraid that it would only be a short time, before they‘d kick me out. So I put up defensive barriers. And for some reason, I wanted to shock him. So, I told him everything. Everything."
"He wasn‘t phased out about it. He said that I could stay as long as I wanted to. Oh, there were a few rules that I had to follow, but nothing that I couldn‘t live with. And he said, that he would be there, if I ever wanted to talk to him. About anything."
Owen raised an eyebrow.
"I was screwed up to a certain extent. Everyone had abandoned me—willingly. They sent me away. They all sent me away. Tom and Loreena—besides my parents—were the first ones not to."
Owen put his gaze onto the table.
"My parents died during the war. I was six at the time, but I don‘t remember too much about my dad. But, Tom, he did all sorts of things with me—like what a father would do for his son—like what I‘d always imagined, wished for."
Owen began to play with his fingers, still staring at the table, but listening to what Gael had to say.
"He taught me how to mountain climb, how to get my math straight—and trust me, I was horrible at it! How to fish, how to navigate using stars as your guide... How to be a kid again. I found the meaning of fun and loyalty and love. They‘re family—Tom and the girls. They‘re my family. And I love them to the extent that I would kill or be killed, to protect them." He sniffled. "You know, I used to hate you—no, loathe you—so much, that it wasn‘t funny. I don‘t hate you anymore, but I don‘t wholeheartedly like you, either."
"Why? Why did you hate me?" Owen inquired curiously.
"You hurt Tom," was the reply. "Tom and Loreena, they were the best thing that ever happen to me. Then the leukaemia came back and Tom was dying. They told me that I was wanted, and could stay. Even after he died." Gael put an elbow on the table and cradled his head on his hand. He sniffled again. "I didn‘t know whether to believe it or not. And this was while Loreena was pregnant. For some reason, I was afraid that I would get thrown out."
"Tom, he...he wouldn‘t have done that."
"No, he wouldn‘t," Gael agreed. "But tell that to a thirteen year old at the time. Anyway, Vicki and Chris kept coming over, saying that you had a right to know everything. Tom kept replying, ‚no.‘ I think that he was afraid of you doing...what you did."
"Yeah. He saw you, you two argued, he left." Gael stared at the table‘s surface. "I remember him coming home. He went straight into the study and slammed the door shut. Loreena went after him, and I followed her. That was the first time...that I ever saw him cry. He already had lots chemo and radiation sessions by this time—and they were painful enough—but he never cried. But then he sees you, and he comes back in pain—not just physical pain due to the cancer—but emotional pain, because of that afternoon." He looked up. "Because of you."
Owen felt small. It was a very uncomfortable feeling.
"Then Loreena closed the door when she noticed me. But I found a way to eavesdrop."
"Lessons from the street, right?"
"Something like that. Anyway, I heard what happened. I
heard everything. I heard how it affected him." He glared
at Owen with coldness in his eyes. "And I began to hate
you more. More than I had ever hated anyone, in my entire
life! And that hate increased with each passing day, each
passing night, each hour—"
"I get the picture!" Owen interrupted.
"It went up a notch every time he had chemo, radiation, and when it seemed to be the end. He parents should have been there. After all, isn‘t that what a family does? Be there for each other when..." the young man trailed.
"It should," Owen conceded with a whisper, feeling smaller.
"I learned then, that they‘re two kinds of families. A family like Tom and Loreena‘s, where people accept you for who you are—mistakes and all, who love you unconditionally and make it known frequently. And then you have families like yours; you may love your kids, but you don‘t say squat about it; you don‘t do anything to reinforce that notion—at least overtly."
"Pardon me? I‘m sorry to dispel this notion of yours, but
"Did they? Did they know?" Gael interrupted. "Can you think back and honestly believe it?"
"Yes," Owen said without a second thought.
"God," Gael began, shaking his head. "Semack is more open-minded than you—and he‘s a Vulcan!" He quickly finished his drink, and got up to put the glass in the sink. "Gods, it‘s no wonder why you‘d believe the worst of anyone— especially about Tom. You believed everything you heard and didn‘t ask him about anything, didn‘t ask him for the entire story." He faced Owen. "Tom Paris is one of the greatest men that I‘ll ever have the pleasure of knowing, and I‘m glad that he‘s my dad." At Owen‘s look, he continued, "Oh, in case you didn‘t know, Tom and Loreena had placed a petition with the courts to adopt me. It went through five months after Loreena was killed. So, like you, I have the last name of ‚Paris.‘ However, whenever some comments on the name, I say that I‘m not related to you— though most on Kimira know otherwise."
This stunned Owen. Tom‘s adopted son. He was speaking to Tom‘s son. His grandson.
"Why couldn‘t you have just said that loved him? Why couldn‘t you understand or even make the attempt to ask him?"
"Now see here, Gael," Owen said as he got up. "I love Tom!"
"Yes, you may. But would you say that right to his face?"
"My son knows that I love him."
"But you didn‘t answer my question. And to me, that‘s your answer. You...believed the worst in him. Even when it came to Caldik Prime."
Owen went cold at his. "What do you know of Caldik Prime?" he asked. From what he could gather, he had grossly misjudged what happened. And also of why his son owned up to something that was more, then met the eye. He had first found this out when the girls came to live with Victoria. Gwanna (whom he found out was Tom‘s sister-in-law), Audrey, and his eldest daughter had been speaking a little about it, in low voices. He also overheard something about some attempts being made on Tom‘s life.
"Enough to know that I should have kept my mouth shut."
"And enough to get you killed," Owen finished. At Gael‘s panicked look, he felt a chill go down his back. But this time, it wasn‘t from any uneasiness around the young man. It was from the thought of someone trying to hurt—or kill—
Tom and his kids. All three of them. "Don‘t worry. I won‘t tell anyone," he reassured his grandson. Funny, why was he now thinking of Gael as such, with no hesitations? "After all, you‘re family."
"So was my dad," Gael said sombrely. He walked to the door.
"Gael," the admiral called out. Gael turned around. "I know. Believe me, I know. I‘ve known for a long time. I was just too stupid to... I should have known better. And a lot sooner, too."
"Yes, you should have," Gael agreed as he went towards the table. "But why are you saying that now? How come you‘re only realising it now?"
Owen seemed lost in thought. "I‘ve always thought that I knew what was best for everyone, that I was the one who was right about everything. But I was wrong—completely wrong— when it came to my son." He got up and walked to the window by the sink, staring at his daughters, playing with his granddaughters. "Tom...he doesn‘t mind change, usually. Oh, he may not like it, but he won‘t mind it for the most part. Myself, on the other hand, I‘m set in some ways."
"Like when it comes to your family," Gael finished.
Own nodded. "My family. My daughters can tell you, that since I began to treat him awfully, when he confessed to Caldik Prime, my relationship with them has been...tense at times. And I have to admit that it‘s my fault. I don‘t like change too much unless I‘m confronted with something, unless I‘m forced to...at least with family."
Gael remained silent.
"And would you like to know something? I‘m ashamed of myself. I‘m ashamed of how I had always acted around Tom, how I made him feel. I‘m glad that he was a better father to you and the girls then I was ever to him."
"He was a great father--*is* a great father," Gael put in. "But he could have been a great son to you, if you had only given him half a chance, along with a little slack."
"I know. Believe me, I‘m beginning to realise it. More than I did last year." Owen turned to his grandson. "But now it seems that I‘ll never know, will I? I won‘t be able to make it up to him, or anything like that. I won‘t..."
Gael remained quiet as Owen contemplated the situation. He felt for the older man. Oh, he still may not totally like him, but he disliked him less. "Well, I better start getting the ingredients together, your wife is going to be back soon with the meat."
"What are you making?" wondered Owen, as Gael went to the pantry.
"Chicken Souvlaki, rice, Greek salad, and French fries."
At Owen‘s look, he continued, "It‘s a Quebec thing."
"Oh. So, Gael, what are you studying and where?"
"I‘m doing a double major of social work and psychology, with a minor in sociology. Usually, I‘m at the university in Port Ayalexis, but for the semester I transferred to McGill."
"Why?" At Gael‘s glance towards the window, he understood.
"Oh, right. Need any help with dinner?"
The youth was surprised at this. "Really?"
Owen nodded. "I‘d like to get to know my son—and my grandson."
Gael shrugged. "Sure, you‘re over five feet."
"Pardon me?" asked a confused Admiral Paris.
"Inside joke. Tom never let anyone under five feet in the kitchen, whenever he cooked. This included Mr. Blue and Mocha."
"The cat and the dog." Gael confirmed this with a bob of his head. "And the animals listened?" Another bob. "So, did Tom teach you how to cook?"
"Yep. He‘s a great cook."
"So, you‘re also taking psychology. Think you could give me a discount for all of these issues, that I have to deal with?" Owen asked almost-jokingly as he took a bowl from the young man.
"For family, it‘s free," Gael replied, as he opened a bottle of extra virgin olive oil.
"Good," mumbled Owen, as he tried to open a bottle of herbs that had been passed with the bowl. "Because I figure that with everything, I‘d have to mortgage my house."
Thanks for reading
Feedback is always appreciated at:email@example.comCopyrights @ January 2000
A. Blunt and Synbou