Disclaimers: All characters (minus Maria Paris, Justine Paris, Marcie Paris, Admiral Craig Douglas, Walker, Nichola, Conel, Christophe, Grayson and Commander Parker) and everything that is Trek, belongs to Paramount and Viacom. I am merely borrowing them to have a little fun. This is set after ‚Message in a Bottle‘ and takes on the premise that the crew of Voyager received letters after sending some out with the Doc. I wrote this during a period of two weeks while on the commuter train after "Message in a Bottle‘ first aired, and it‘s taken me a while to re-read and make corrections, while working on a poli.sci. paper, at the same time. This story is copyright 1998. Thanks go towards Khan and Nick for beta-reading this (Thanks guys, I appreciate it!).
Revelations by A. Blunt
Admiral Owen Paris looked up upon hearing his name. He saw Admiral Craig Douglas walk into his office. "Craig, what can I do for you?" Owen asked as he motioned for his friend to sit in front of him. Craig seated himself and remained quiet for a while. Owen could sense that something was up, and Craig seemed…nervous.
Paris repeated his question. "What can I do for you?" "I have something to tell you Owen, and I‘m not sure how you‘re going to take it," Craig answered slowly. In the forty plus years that Owen knew Douglas, he had never known his friend to be so nervous or deliberate in his phrasing. "Craig, what‘s wrong?"
Craig took a deep breath. "Well, to begin with, we got the Prometheus back."
Owen brightened. "That‘s great news! Did we have any complications?"
"Nothing that we couldn‘t handle," replied Douglas. "But we did get a surprise onboard."
Paris looked intrigued. "Oh?"
"Two Emergency Medical Holograms were activated, and they took back control of the ship."
Owen‘s eyebrows furrowed. "Yes, but how could two holograms…" He broke off in thought. "Two? But wasn‘t only one installed?"
"Yes," Craig confirmed nodding his head.
"Then where did the second one come from?"
"The Delta Quadrant," announced Craig.
"Who in the Delta Quadrant would want to send us a hologram?" asked Owen.
Owen dropped the PADD he had in his hand, and lifted his head in shock. "What?"
"It came from Voyager," Douglas repeated.
Owen paused, trying to say something. "How?" he managed to sputter.
"Voyager found a sensor network of some kind in the Delta Quadrant. They found that they were able to send the EMH through the array, and he landed on the Prometheus." Owen remained silent.
Voyager was alive. And in the Delta Quadrant? He looked at Craig for an explanation.
Douglas sensed this and continued. "Apparently, an advanced being called the ‚Caretaker,‘ through some means, brought her there. However, in the process of doing so, roughly a third was killed or mortally wounded. The same goes for the Maquis ship that they were after." He glanced at Owen. Paris was silent. No emotions showed, his face a blank.
There was nothing to read.
However, Craig had a feeling that he knew what was on his friend‘s mind.
The Admiral and his son never got along—everyone knew that. Douglas also knew that the two Paris‘ had not been on speaking terms before Voyager disappeared. Come to think of it, they had not spoken to each other since the trial. Or was it Caldik Prime? He could not be sure, and Owen seldom spoke of his son. When Voyager disappeared, all that Owen said was that it was a shame for Starfleet to lose such valuable commodities of both ship and crew. He did admit that he had a soft spot for Janeway. She was one of the finest officers he had ever commanded. When asked about Tom, Owen just shrugged and responded: "Does it really matter?", before changing the subject. That happened every time. Some interpreted this as being cold, callous and indifferent. In fact, many did—especially the cadets. They suggested that if the ‚Great‘ Admiral Paris could act like that towards his own flesh and blood, than he would have no hesitations about doing the same to them. Owen overheard this one day, when walking with Craig and another colleague. Both men noticed Owen‘s eyes darken and show a bit of regret. Before, he had a reputation for being hard. Now, it was for being impossible, and his courses to be taken only for academic suicide.
Unfortunately this worked only so far.
Owen taught a required course.
"The two crews then combined." Owen looked at his friend as Craig continued. "They had no choice. They destroyed the array to protect an alien race, ending their chances for a quick way home. The Maquis sacrificed their ship to help protect Voyager. Besides, to operate Voyager, the two crews needed to combine—and it was only fair! Plus, it‘s under Starfleet orders."
"Oh," was all Owen managed to say.
"Tom‘s still alive," Craig announced, looking for any reaction in his friend but seeing none. "He‘s the primary pilot, and a damn fine one too according to the EMH." Paris‘ eyes now showed shock. "The EMH said that he was amazed with Tom‘s good health, especially with the way he is. Apparently, he has no hesitations about putting himself in danger. The Doctor said that with all the times that Tom‘s been in Sickbay, he may as well have his own biobed!" Craig chuckled at this. Craig Douglas had been on one of the Starships that went after the Prometheus, and had actually talked to the EMH. He had found it cute that the hologram actually had a personality. It was a bit on the strange side, but nonetheless, one was present. He was also amazed, to find that not only was the Doctor learning on his own initiative, but was also considered to be a full-fledged member of the crew.
"Tom‘s alive," said a shocked Owen.
"Yes, he is," confirmed Craig.
A bit of concern that he quickly hid, showed in Owen‘s eyes.
"He‘s fine. He‘s been through a few scrapes, died…" "What?" cried Owen. Owen knew that he could be himself around Craig. The two of them had been friends since grade school. Craig knew Owen well, and would not repeat this conversation to anyone.
"He died after going Warp 10," Craig explained. He saw Owen‘s look of incredulous. "Yes, Warp 10," he repeated. Craig felt like laughing. "How‘s that for the history books?"
Owen cracked a smile. "My wife will certainly love it. But if Tom died, how come he‘s still alive?"
"He came back to life a few hours after his death, and then proceeded to mutate into another being. They reversed it with anti-proton bursts." Owen only nodded. "Here," Craig said, holding something in his hand.
Owen took the items. "What are they?"
"Letters. One is from Janeway, the other is from Tom," Craig explained. Owen‘s eyes darkened. "You don‘t have to read them if you don‘t want too."
"I‘ll read Janeway‘s," Paris said.
"And Tom‘s?" Douglas asked, as he put three other chips onto the desk. Owen assumed that these were for his wife and daughters.
"Give me some time, Craig. Give me some time," Owen answered.
"Okay," Craig relented, getting up and walking to the door to leave. "But you will only have until 06:30 tomorrow—that‘s when we‘re taking the replies to a certain designation. From there, we‘ll send them."
"Why so soon?" asked Owen.
"They ran into a race who claimed the network. We have to send any replies quickly so that we know that they‘ll get them. Think about it Owen, but don‘t think too long," Douglas said as he left the room. As the doors closed, Owen fingered the letters, including the ones that Craig put onto the desk. There were five of them. One for his wife, his daughters, and two for him.
Tom wrote a letter to him.
How‘s that for small wonders?
But did he want to read it?
He did not know.
Owen looked at the PADD on the desk. He still had work to do, so he pushed the chips aside and lifted the PADD off the desk. As he continued his work, he found his eyes and thoughts drifting towards the letters. Each time he caught himself doing so, he quickly focused on his work—only for his focus to lapse. Around 16:30, he gave up and left his office, the chips in a briefcase. No one bothered him as he left Starfleet Headquarters for home. All had noticed the blank look on his face. A mask. The same one that his son inherited from him.
As he approached his house, he felt a chill go down his back. He remembered using this same route when his children were younger—when he taught full time, at the Academy. Owen remembered how Tom‘s face brightened, when he came home; of how Tom rushed over to him, insisting on carrying his father‘s briefcase. He remembered giving Tom a pat on the head for what he did, for being a good boy. The look on the child‘s face was priceless, full of love and worship.
‚A pat on the head,‘ he scoffed as he walked up to the front door. ‚Just like a dog.‘ He took a deep breath and turned the doorknob. "Maria, I‘m home," he called out. A blond lady with blue eyes, in her late 50‘s, early 60‘s, came out into the hallway. "Owen," Maria Paris said in surprise. "You‘re home early."
"Is that a problem?" he asked a bit defensively.
She shook her head. "Of course not, don‘t be ridiculous! Justine and Marcie are in the kitchen. I‘m teaching them to make a soufflé. The old fashioned way," "That‘s the best way to make it," he commented, giving her a quick kiss. He then followed his wife into the kitchen. He saw his daughters grumbling at what they had to do. "Girls, if you don‘t want to do the work, replicate one," Maria said. Both girls looked at her in mock horror. "Mother! You know very well, that a soufflé is just not soufflé, unless it‘s baked properly!" exclaimed Justine, the eldest.
"Besides," chimed in Marcie, "Aren‘t you the one who keeps saying that if we‘re to do something, that it has to be done properly?"
Maria joined her daughters at the table. "No, that‘s your father." Owen winced at that. He knew that it was true, but he did not like the tone of his daughter‘s or wife‘s voice. The latter sounded a bit too harsh for his tastes. He walked to the table, opened his briefcase, and pulled out the chips. After looking to whom they were addressed to, he handed one to each of the women.
"What‘s this?" asked Maria quizzically.
"From whom?" furthered Marcie.
"Tom." That produced surprised, shocked expressions on their faces.
"Thomas?" asked Maria, her voice hoarse from the hope she felt. "But how?"
Owen Paris took a deep breath. "A new ship on a shakedown run, got a visit from Voyager‘s Emergency Medical Hologram," he began to explain. "Using an alien relay sensor network in the Delta Quadrant, she was able to send him to the Alpha Quadrant. After a while, he was able to tell us everything."
"The Delta Quadrant? How did they get there?" inquired Justine, as she fingered the chip she was just given. "A being called the Caretaker, brought them there from the badlands," he answered, and continued to relate the events that were given to him.
When he got to the part of Tom being the ship‘s chief pilot, Marcie‘s eyes gleamed. "Just where he belongs." He nodded at this and went to his wife.
He put his hands on her shoulders. "He went Warp 10," he said with pride.
Her eyes widened. "What?"
"He went Warp 10," Owen repeated. "The first person to do so."
"I should have known," Justine put in. "If there was a way to go faster, Tom would have to be the one to do it." "But why can‘t they come back using Warp 10? I mean, if they have it, they would be home right now. Right?" asked Marcie.
"It was found that by going Warp 10, some…side effects cropped up. They may have found Warp 10, but with their information, I think all attempts to duplicate it will be off—for a while at least. Knowing Grayson, he‘ll have halted his research by now."
Maria looked at her husband. "Oh?" The look was returned, so she let the matter drop. He then went back to his briefcase. "I have to get some work done, so I‘ll be in the den," he announced, snapping the case together. "If you want to reply to him, it has to be done before 06:30, as they have to be sent from a certain place. It seems that the sensor network has been claimed by some race, and they appear to be a bit hostile." The three women nodded their understanding.
As he was leaving, Justine called out, "Dad? Didn‘t Tom send you one too?"
Owen looked at her. "Yes," he answered, and left for the security of his den. He entered the room and closed the door behind him. He then went to the wooden desk by the window, pulled out the chair and sat down. When he opened the case, he took out a few PADDs and the chips. As he held the chips in his hand, he closed his eyes. When he thought of the rocky relationship that he had with his son, his emotions turned from confusion of what do, to that of anger. Anger from the stunts Tom pulled at the Academy.
Anger from Caldik Prime.
Anger from the trial.
Anger for discrediting the Paris name.
He opened his eyes, full of flame. He set Tom‘s letter aside and put Janeway‘s chip into a PADD. After the information was entered, he pressed a button and began to read.
Admiral Paris; it began,
I thought that I may never say those
words to you again. I‘m glad that I am. I wanted to tell you how thankful I am with the fact that you were not only my teacher, but also my mentor and my friend. I learned a lot under your tutelage. Many of your lessons I have had to use—either in part, in whole, or in some strange roundabout way. However, I think that you have not listened to yourself entirely. This is regarding the part where if one has to find the answer, to understand a person‘s actions, you must delve below the surface, into their being. The reason why I am saying this, is because of Tom. Tom is a fine officer—one of the best that I have had the pleasure of working with. He is also one of the best pilots in history (in my humble opinion). I also consider him to be a close friend. I have given him numerable commendations, each well deserved and not to be taken lightly. He has gone Warp 10, helped track down a spy, helps in Sickbay as a part-time assistant to the Doctor, and once after the ship was taken over by a race called the Kazon (he escaped in a shuttlecraft), formulated a plan, got help and retook the ship. I can tell you that most of us on the planet which we were stranded on, thought that we would never see him again. But I‘ve learned not to underestimate your son. He is the last person to give up hope, and the first to volunteer for what some may call ‚suicidal‘ away missions. And he usually comes out on top. Of course, he has a knack for finding trouble and sometimes getting into it (unintentionally of course), but he has always survived with his quick wit intact.
I remember my dislike of Tom when I first met him. I did not like him because of the embarrassment he had caused you. But once we got to the Delta Quadrant, he wanted to help out any way he could. Apparently, he had made a friend out of an ensign fresh from the Academy; and when Ensign Kim had disappeared, Tom wanted to make sure that he was all right. Then it hit me: there was more to Thomas Eugene Paris, then met the eye. I assigned him to Conn and gave him the rank of lieutenant junior grade. Please trust me when I say that he has deserved it. In fact, I am going to give him a promotion hopefully not to far from now (if all goes according to plan).
He has not only earned my respect, but also those of the crew—Maquis and Starfleet in origin. He helps everyone out in anyway that he can. Tom helps by boosting morale (usually by holding parties and creating holodeck programs), gives shuttlecraft lessons on the holodeck, and can come up with some of the craziest ideas due to his warped sense of humour (no pun intended). But we would not have it any other way (though the Doctor would like it if he did not go into dangerous situations as often as he has in the past. I know that B‘Elanna would agree).
Looking back on this, I have to say that the Thomas Eugene Paris of today, has always been there. He has only been hiding, not letting anyone know him for who he was, for who he is. It seemed that for a while, he was afraid of letting people in, of letting others become close to him. But he got over it, eventually, with the love, patience and unconditional friendships of his friends. No one on this ship can imagine what their life would be like without Tom. Frankly, neither can I.
I wanted to thank-you for having a fine son. He can be a bit stubborn and it may take him awhile to admit that he‘s wrong at times, or to see things a bit clearly, but he is a good person. He is capable of so much in so many ways, that he has only begun to reach his potential. What you and Maria have taught him, has helped to make him the man he is today. He has made mistakes, however, so have we all. Let bygones be bygones.
Love from your student,
Owen looked up from the PADD, after reading the letter. He was shaken. For once in his life, he actually doubted himself. Was this the same Tom who was responsible for Caldik Prime? Was this the same young man with whom he had always argued with? The same person who went to prison for treason? With a shake of his head, he decided that no, it was not.
It was a facade.
He would soon show his true colours.
And then he stopped.
He had to reluctantly admit that Janeway was right. He only saw what was on the surface, what Tom wanted him to see. He did not— would not—look beneath the many layers of his own son. Tom had developed and used the art of the ‚Paris Mask‘. Only show what you want them to see; not who you are.
He became troubled by this.
Had he really misjudged his own son that much?
His own flesh and blood?
Evidently Janeway thought so.
He knew that his family did.
With a sigh and troubling thoughts, he put down the PADD and rubbed his eyes. He starred outside the window into the backyard. The den was on the ground floor and with the architecture of the house, at this angle, he could see the entire backyard. With a smile, he remembered seeing his children playing in the pool. Swimming, splashing, torturing each other.
Tommy! Stop splashing me!
I am not!
Are too! Dad, tell him to stop splashing me!
Thomas, stop splashing your sister.
But Dad, you can‘t play water-polo without any splashing!
Really? Who are you playing water-polo with?
I am not!
Yes, you are!
I am not!
*Thomas, your sister is not playing water-polo with you, so
stop splashing her.*
But who will I play with?
You have better things to do with your time.
But it‘s Saturday!
*It doesn‘t matter! You are a Paris! You have to be the
"Have to be the best."
"Pardon me? Owen?" Owen Paris turned in surprise at hearing an unexpected voice. Maria looked at her husband with concern. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, why?" he quickly asked, recovering from the memory. "You scared me. For a moment, you looked haunted—almost the same as you were after the war," she answered, putting down a mug of coffee on the desk. "Distant even."
He shrugged and brought the mug to his lips. "Just thinking."
"Do I even have to ask about what?" He smiled at this. His wife knew him even better than he knew himself, at times. He shook his head. Maria smiled and gave her husband a kiss on the forehead. "You know where to find me if you want to talk," she said, then left the room.
Owen looked back out the window. Hard as he tried, he could not hear any more children antics. He looked at the PADDS he brought home with him. Who was he kidding? He could not do any work! He swung his chair 180 degrees to face the rest of the room. His gaze roamed until finally settling down on a wall of shelves, filled with books. His wife insisted that it would provide an ambiance that would be more conducive for work. At the time he had protested against it, but he had to admit that she was right. He gave a small smile as he noticed the oversized chair by the wall of shelves. Owen went over and sat down in the chair, and fingered the books. This was Tom‘s chair, and his little section of the shelves. Sure he had a bookcase in his room, but Tom had said that these books would be better off in here. Whatever that meant.
He gently took a hardback out, and saw that the it had a place saved. He turned to that page, and came across the poem ‚And Death Shall Have No Dominion‘ by Dylan Thomas. He did not know that Tom liked poetry. He saw another saved place in the same book and found Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s ‚The Rime of the Ancient Mariner‘. ‚Insensibility‘ by Wilfrid Owen was next. All had feeling to them—if you allowed yourself to feel. He could understand how Tom could spend hours in here reading books of poetry—and plays he added, as he noticed Shakespeare. He got off the chair, the book of poetry still clutched in his hand and noticed the literary selection. Bronte, Dumas, Dostoyevsky, Fielding. He then squinted his eyes. Tom Clancy? Robert Ludlum? He grabbed another book. ‚The Hunt for Red October.‘ He took both books with him and sat down at his desk. Owen opened Red October and began to read. It started off a bit slow in his opinion, but he soon got into the plotline. He was at the part where Mancuso was thinking of the submariners motto in that there were two kinds of ships; submarines and targets. Admiral Paris gave a laugh in appreciation of this. He was sure that he could turn this analogy into something he could presently use (since there were no longer submarines in usage today).
Ryan is now with Greer in CIA Headquarters at 4:45 am. He certainly could relate to that.
Five and a half hours of sleep in the past thirty? Ha! He had survived on less! But still, Ryan was a civilian.
Though one would think that a former Marine would…
Owen dropped the book that he was reading. "What?!" he cried out in a cross between a state of irritation and alarm. He turned his head and saw Justine peering through the doorway. She gave him an impish smile. She had never seen her father so engrossed in something not related to work, let alone a piece of late-twentieth century fiction! That was one of Tom‘s favourite books, and area of interests.
"Having fun?" she asked mischievously.
He looked at her ruefully. "I suppose."
"Yes, I like it. It‘s a surprisingly good read."
Justine pushed the door and leaned against the doorway. "You may be interested to hear that the President of the United States of America at the time, also liked it." The Admiral brightened. "Really?" His daughter nodded.
"So, what can I do for you?"
"I have to go now," Justine announced. "Walker will be home soon, and I want to surprise him with my soufflé." "Justine, can I ask you a question?"
"Have I been a good father?" Owen asked.
"What?" she exclaimed, barely believing her ears. "Yes, you have." ‚I guess,‘ she thought.
"Have I always been there for you?" he persisted. Justine looked uncomfortable, put the soufflé on the desk and sank into a nearby chair. "Permission to speak freely, Admiral?"
‚Oh boy‘. "Permission granted." *I don‘t want to hear this!* his mind screamed.
"You have been a good father—in your own way. But…," "I was not there for you, was I?" She shook her head sadly. Owen closed his eyes with a shaky breath.
Justine went over to her dad and hugged him from behind.
"But you had other things on your mind to worry about. Grading papers, the war with Cardassia, dealing with…what happened."
"The torture," he stated.
"The torture," she affirmed. "You went through a lot and kept it bottled up inside. You wouldn‘t let anyone near you. And you sometimes took it out on us."
Owen looked at her in horror. "I never hit any of you!"
"No, you didn‘t. At least, not physically."
"Then how did I take it out on you?"
"Mentally. Emotionally. Psychologically." She paused for a moment. "I know that…" she trailed as she took a deep breath. She tried, but she could not go on.
Owen could see this, how it affected her. "I‘m sorry. I know that it‘s not enough, but I don‘t know what else to say."
"It‘s okay. We understood—or at least I did," she consoled as she sat back down.
"But what of Tom and Marcie?" he asked.
"I don‘t know. They never talked about it with me. Dad, I take after you. Marcie takes after Mom, and Tom takes after the two of you. You control yourself. Rigidly. Mom‘s Italian, and when she feels, you know it. I control myself, that‘s why I‘m a good lawyer. Marcie lets herself feel and that‘s why she a good artist," Justine explained.
"Tom feels. It‘s just that, he‘s learned how to mask those feelings. He tries to control them the best that he can. However, sometimes in order to do so—in order to push them away— he uses humour, cockiness, or tries to get someone else mad at him."
"What? Why?" asked the Admiral, interested in how his son was being explained.
"A way to release those emotions, a way to try to get out of there. It really depends on the context. Have you noticed that he never gets mad?" Justine asked her father. "No. No, I never have," Owen said slowly.
"He‘s a bit of a control freak in that area. According to him, he has one hell of a temper. And one time, he let out that he nearly lost control once—when he was a teenager. And it scared him. And Marcie too. I don‘t know what happened, or how she was involved, but she said that she didn‘t know that he was capable of that."
"Of what?" Owen asked.
"I don‘t know," Justine responded. "She wouldn‘t tell me. Neither would he. In fact, Marcie still won‘t." Owen only nodded.
"Do you think that I treated…misjudged your brother?" he inquired.
With a lump in her throat and seeing the inner pain, she only answered truthfully. "You should have gone lighter on him, especially as a kid. I mean that there is more to life than studying. You could have been a bit more understanding, and yes, you did grossly misjudge him. There is a lot more to your son than meets the eye." He gave a small smile. "That‘s what Janeway said in her letter."
"She‘s right," agreed Justine. "Tom is very complex; even more so than you or me."
"We can blame your mother for that."
Justine laughed. "Maybe. Tom may be a Paris, but he‘s still human. He‘s not infallible, or omnipotent, or a Q." "Thank god for that."
Justine looked at the clock on the wall. She was uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation. "I have to go now. I wrote a reply to Tom and I want to stop by Starfleet Headquarters on the way home to drop it off. Who do I give this to?"
"Uncle Craig?" Owen nodded. Justine got up and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Good-night," she said, as she scooped up her pastry and left.
"Good-night," her father called out after her. ‚Tom feels. That may explain this poetry,‘ he thought, as he picked up that book and opened it. It seemed to open to a page on its own. ‚The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.‘ He noticed that some of the passages were marked by a pencil. One being:
‚Ah! Well-a-day! What evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.‘
According to something written beside it, it meant: ‚The shipmates in their distress, would fain throw the whole guilt on the ancient mariner: in sign whereof they hang the dead sea-bird round his neck.‘ The next passage that was also marked was:
‚The pang, the curse, with which they died,
Had never passed away.
I could not draw my eyes from theirs,
Nor turn them up to pray.‘
The ‚curse‘ he understood. It was Caldik Prime, Owen thought. He thought about that day, being informed that his only son was in an accident.
An accident which killed three others.
Three of Tom‘s friends.
The accident to which Tom admitted being responsible for.
Did he not teach his son better than that? Apparently not.
But as Justine said, Tom was only human, and not infallible. So why did he expect Tom to be perfect? Why was he harder on Tom in every aspect of his life? Why did he push so much? He thought of every conversation that he ever had with his son from being a young child, to a young man after graduating from the academy. For the majority of these talks, they were not pleasant. There was something always wrong with Tom back then. It was either ‚You should be doing this,‘ or ‚You should be doing that‘, or ‚You ought to know this already—or are you that stupid?‘ The Admiral winced at this.
He had basically called his son stupid. No child should ever be called stupid. He also remembered several other…words which he shot at Tom, which he called Tom, in the heat of various arguments. He thought that his kids would know that he did not really mean them. Evidently they didn‘t, and he had a feeling that they took them to heart. At least, Marcie and Tom. Justine too, he felt, but he could not tell. She was too good at hiding her feelings. But so was Tom. Owen closed the book and put it on top of Red October. He sat there, remembering, not liking what he was seeing. Not liking himself at all. For a moment, he thought that he saw himself and Tom inside this room. After Caldik Prime.
I made a mistake!
*You made a mistake?!? Paris‘ do not make mistakes!!! What you did was inexcusable! Do you know how you made me look?
In front of all of Starfleet? You are a disgrace to me,
this family, and the Paris name!*
*I made a mistake, Dad. I know that nothing I can ever say
or do will change things, or make amends…*
*Amends? Oh, that‘s rich! Listen now you snot-nosed, no-
good spawn, you are not fit to be my son!*
Owen‘s eyes widened as he remembered this—basically for the first time. He did not know what he had said when he spoke those words to his son. But he knew that Tom did. He could see Tom‘s eyes widen in fear, shock.
You don‘t mean that.
*The hell I don‘t! Now get out of my house and out of my
As his eyes started tearing up, Owen had to get out of there, out of the room. It was too constrictive. He quickly moved his chair and left. The Admiral found himself in the living room, and noticed the baby grand piano. He went over to it and sat on the bench, after pulling it out. As he opened the lid and skimmed the keys, he remembered Tom playing it. Actually, playing very good for a lad so young.
*Thomas, it‘s time to stop playing around. Go upstairs and study.* *But Dad, I‘m done my homework. Besides, I‘m practicing, not playing around.* *No Thomas, you are playing around. What will this bring you? How will this help you with a job?* Maybe I‘ll be a pianist.
*No! You will not be a pianist! You will be in Starfleet!
We have a family tradition to uphold, and I will not allow
you or any frivolous activities get in the way! Do you
Now go upstairs and study.
Owen could see the fear in Tom‘s eyes at the time. He was only seven, and had never heard his father talk with such venom in his voice before. Owen realised that he should never have done that.
"Dad, are you okay?" A voice brought him back to the present.
"Hmm?" He turned around and saw Marcie. "Yes, Sweetheart.
She sat down beside him. "You look lost, distant." She turned her attention to the piano. "When was the last time that Mom played this thing?"
" A few years. Maybe more."
"I bet that this hasn‘t had a proper tuning since Tom was here." Marcie mentally kicked herself. Her mother had told her and Justine of what had happened when she was in the den. He was distant and uncomfortable. A man with a lot on his mind.
"Maybe we should get it tuned."
"Why? Who would play it?"
"Your brother," he answered softly.
Marcie looked at surprise at her father. "I was under the impression that he was no longer welcomed here." "Maybe I was wrong."
Marcie peered at Owen. "What brought this on?"
"He was good, wasn‘t he? Playing the piano, I mean." She smiled wistfully. "Yeah, he sure was. Mom once said that if he had kept up with the practice, and with his potential, he could have probably made it to Juillard. Or something like that." She knew how her father felt about that. For his only son, it was to be Starfleet and nothing else.
"Maybe he was meant for the Arts," he mulled softly. "Oh, I don‘t know about that. He always said that flying to him, was an art. ‚A good pilot feels as though he‘s one with the ship that he‘s flying‘. He used to say that, until Caldik Prime."
Owen turned to his daughter. "Have I been a good father?"
"In your own way."
He harumphed. "That‘s what your sister said."
"She‘s right," agreed Marcie.
"But was I there for you? The way a father is supposed to be?" he asked. His eyes were pleading for the truth. Even though she wanted to, Marcie was like Tom. She could not live with a lie. Not with her own father pleading with her. "No."
Owen Paris closed his eyes, and tried to control the myriad of emotions he felt inside. Anger. Sadness. Regret. "You and Tom are a lot alike, aren‘t you?"
Marcie smiled. "In a way, yes, I guess we are. I could relate to him better than I could with Justine," she confirmed.
Owen nodded his head. "That‘s what your sister said."
"Oh? And what else did my dear sibling say?"
"That she takes after me, you take after your Mom, and Tom takes after both of us," he answered, referring to him and Maria.
"That sounds about right," Marcie confirmed.
"She also said that while I may not have hit you physically, I did do you emotional and psychological harm, after the war."
"She said what?" cried out Marcie in disbelief. What on earth could have possessed her sister to say something like that to their father—even if it was true!
"You heard me. And she was right too, wasn‘t she?"
Marcie tried to disentangle herself from answering. "Gee,
look at the time…"
"Marcie, the truth!"
"Fine! Okay, you did! And it hurt! It hurt back then, and it hurts now whenever I think about it! There, happy?" she cried out.
"Why didn‘t you tell me?"
"Would you have listened?" she asked with tears welling up in her eyes. That stopped him.
"No. No, I would not have listened," he admitted.
"So why should we have told you, when you would have disbelieved us, and not listened?" she pointed out. The Admiral was at a loss for words.
"How did you deal with it—all of you?"
"Promise that it goes no further between us?" she asked shakily.
"No, I mean PROMISE, promise."
"Yes," he said, exasperated.
"Justine dealt with it by studying and sex. I dealt with it by music, writing and sex. And Tom dealt with it by closing himself off, playing the piano when you were not here, and by sex," she answered candidly.
"I guess I should not have done that."
"No. No, you shouldn‘t have," she agreed.
"Justine said that Tom feels. How much left did he feel after I got through with him, with that last blow before prison; when I kicked him out? Or did he feel anything at all?" Owen asked his daughter with hurt, regret and sorrow filling up his eyes, along with unshed tears. Marcie noticed how much this was affecting her father. She could see that he was remembering the past, and that made her remember too.
"He tried to bury all of his feelings. He felt guilt for what he did to his friends. To you. If he could have gone back through time to change what he did, he would have. But he couldn‘t. Then he lost your..." and stopped short. She swallowed before continuing, "Then he lost you. He tried to replace all feelings he had with anger and indifference. And it worked! It worked so well that he became a part of it—actually, I should say that it became a part of him. In some respects, you didn‘t know if the ‚real‘ Tom was still alive, or if this ‚new‘ Tom took over. Completely. And that maybe the real one was dead," Marcie explained, as tears ran down her face.
Owen closed his eyes and clutched his daughter‘s hand. "What did you mean by ‚your‘ Marcie? Before you broke off, you were going to say something else. What was it? And please don‘t lie to me. What else did Tom lose?" "Dad, please. Don‘t" Marcie pleaded.
"Please. I have to know," Owen begged softly, his eyes welling with tears.
"Your love. Tom said that when he lost you, he lost your love as well. Or maybe he never had your love before, and on that day, he knew for sure that he didn‘t. He also said, that he knew your true feelings about him."
"No." He tried to deny it but could not. "Mary Mother of God, what have I done? What did I do?" he ground out, tears spilling onto his cheeks. He wanted to force his daughter to admit that she was lying.
But he couldn‘t.
Because he knew that she was right.
And he hated himself for it.
Marcie put her arms around her father to comfort him. Maria, wondering what had happened to her daughter and husband, came into the living room unnoticed. She did not want to intrude, hid by the entrance, and stayed there due to curiosity. She had overheard most of the conversation and made herself stay put. It was not for her to interrupt; this was something that Owen had to do on his own. However, she had never seen or heard her husband open up so much to his children before. She did not like the fact, that her husband made his children feel what they did as youngsters. She knew that it affected them, but did not know how much so. When she heard what it did to Tom—especially with regards to Caldik Prime, she felt her heart break. Still, she did not like to see her husband hurting like this. Then again, maybe some good could come out of this yet. Maria heard her daughter trying to comfort Owen; the latter holding on for deal life. Crying.
"Feel better?" Marcie asked her father.
Owen sniffled. "No," he answered flatly, as he let go of her. "I grossly misjudged my own son and never gave him a chance. I don‘t suppose you know if he really wanted to be in Starfleet?"
Marcie shook her head. "I don‘t know. I know that he wanted to join because you were in it."
"And also because I pushed him into it."
She shrugged at her father‘s answer. "I don‘t know about that. I suppose that‘s partly true. I know that he wanted to please you. He didn‘t like the Academy too much—too many snobs—but he liked the fact that he got to see new places. Adventure. Excitement. He had always craved them. Being in Starfleet delivered that."
Owen nodded, then stopped short. He looked at Marcie.
"Snobs? At the Academy?"
"Yes, Dad. And they were usually Fleet brats too. He didn‘t like their superiority complexes. In fact, that‘s one thing he—or I—didn‘t like about Starfleet. And to a certain degree, I still don‘t," Marcie voiced. Owen felt that he had to defend the institution he both grew up with, and now worked for. "Starfleet does not have a superiority complex!"
"Most of the officers do. Whenever someone makes a mistake, how many are willing to give that person a second chance—or look beyond that mistake? If Tom had not falsified reports, would you have?" Marcie asked her father piercingly. Owen had to admit that he would have had a hard time. He also remembered a friend of Tom‘s—Ro Laren. She had made a mistake. Some were willing to let her prove herself again, and gave her a second chance. People like Jean-Luc Picard. But what of people like him? It had taken him a long time, but eventually he had come around. Then she had joined the Maquis. They were good friends, Tom and Ro. He wondered if Ro Laren was just as complex, as his son was. He then remembered what Justine mentioned.
"Marcie, just how bad of a temper does Tom have?" Marcie sobered up immediately, guarded. "Why?" she asked, knowing that something was up.
"Something that Justine said, that‘s all."
Marcie measured her words. "Let me guess: she asked you if you‘ve ever seen Tom mad or lose control, right?" Owen nodded. "She said that Tom once mentioned that he had a temper, and that you once said that you did not know that he was capable of something. What was it? Did he get violent?" he fished.
‚Violent?‘ Marcie thought. ‚Baby, you go straight to ‚Go‘
and collect $200!‘
It was when Tom was 18, and in Marseilles. He had brought her to his favorite watering-hole called Sandrines. Sandrine liked Marcie, and commented on how fresh-looking and innocent she looked. She remembered smiling at this, because she was in a hot and heavy relationship with her boyfriend at the time. Sandrine also mentioned how different the two sisters were (Justine had visited their brother beforehand). Marcie had a fun time. It was the afterwards, that she did not like.
A few guys in the bar were interested in her, but backed off when she said Conel‘s name repeatedly. But one guy did not. It seemed that when Justine had visited two months previously, she had made a…friend out of him (AKA, the one-night-stand). Apparently, he wanted the same type of ‚friendship‘ from her. He just kept hitting on her, making lewd suggestions and groped her a few times. Each time she ignored him, took his hands off of her rear, and finally—and in polite terms too— told him to take a hike. Tom was getting angry and tried to confront Christophe, but Sandrine intervened and told Christophe to leave. He protested saying that he still had his drink to finish off. Sandrine relented, but warned him that Marcie was a guest of hers and Tom‘s sister, so please, keep his hands off of her friends. Christophe looked surprised to hear that, but nodded. Sandrine then turned to Nichola (a friend/bouncer) and nodded. Keep an eye out on him. The latter nodded back.
Tom was steamed. And the looks that he was giving Christophe, could have burned a hole in the Frenchman‘s chest. The Frenchman just sneered. Finally, Sandrine brought the siblings into the back until Christophe left, as Tom was scaring away some of her customers. When Tom had later seen that Christophe was gone, he loosened up. Sandrine smiled at this. Many cadets had frequented her establishment before Tom came, and she knew that more would come afterwards, but she had a soft spot for him. He may have come from Starfleet ‚royalty‘, but he was a down to earth fellow. There were so many facets, and despite his tough, easy going exterior, he had a vulnerable side to him. She only saw a glimpse of it once before, she admitted to Marcie after the ‚incident‘, but she saw it nonetheless. The ‚incident‘ in question, occurred after they left the tavern. They were outside when Marcie mentioned that she left her book in the back. Tom had said that he would get it, and left her by the door. He had only been gone for less than a minute, when Christophe came out from the shadows of the streets, of nighttime Marseilles. To say that he was not too pleased, was putting it mildly. She had little reaction time as he was in front of her with a few strides and grabbed her arm. When she asked him to let go, he only laughed and pulled her closer to him. Marcie struggled and Christophe seemed to enjoy it. It seemed to…turn him on. This…enjoyment, only increased when she hit him. He made a moan and hit her back. He then grabbed her other arm, took her around the corner, backed her against a wall and began to neck her.
Let me go! Please let me go!
*Non, non. You must be taught how to accept a man‘s company, and what to do to please him.* No thanks, I‘m not interested! Now, let me go! Marcie at this point, tried to knee him in the groin.
However, Christophe expected it, and went to the side. Still, he did not like the fact that she tried to hurt him, so he retaliated by taking a knife out, and put it at her throat. It was at this moment, that Tom came back outside. When he did not find his sister by the entrance, he went around the corner and froze at the activity before him. He did not like anyone to manhandle his sisters, and was protective of them. He was almost behind Christophe when the latter took out the knife. Tom, at this moment, was almost at the point of no return. As he explained to Sandrine and Marcie later on, he did not know what he was going to do next. He only knew that he had to help his sister at any cost. Tom had said that he remembered taking one arm and putting it around Christophe‘s neck, while his hand tried to grab the knife. When he saw that there was blood on Marcie‘s neck and realised that Christophe had cut her, he blanked out.
Marcie had never seen her brother so mad before. Or violent. He had taken Christophe off of her and slammed him into the wall face first. Tom then applied pressure onto the arm and repeatedly slammed it against the wall, until the knife dropped. Christophe retaliated by elbowing Tom in the stomach, forcing Tom to release him. As he scrambled away, he took out another knife from his pant leg. Tom picked up the sweater that he had dropped (evidently she had also left that behind too), and wrapped it around his arm. He had a dangerous look on his face, with cold blank eyes. He was in a ready-for-anything stance when Christophe charged. Tom sidestepped and gave a back kick to Christophe‘s back. He fell to his knees and could not do anything, as Tom was on top of him. He grabbed Christophe‘s hair, forced him up, turned him around, and gave a head-butt. Christophe was stunned momentarily, but recovered and kicked Tom in the leg. As Tom‘s leg wobbled a bit, Christophe tripped him and down went Tom. He was on his back when Christophe tried to stomp on his chest, but rolled to the side. Then Tom did something that Marcie had never heard him do.
Just like an animal would do when threatened (she thought). She did not know what to make of this. Clearly, neither did Christophe, as he stood there with a questioning expression upon his face. This enabled enough time for Tom to get up and give off several side kicks, followed by a roundhouse kick. Christophe was on the ground now. He did not have time to react before Tom picked him up, and rammed his head into the wall several times. When that was done, Tom threw Christophe across the alley and caught up to him. He gave the Frenchman several punches and jabs, along with more kicks. Christophe than said something to Tom in French, which infuriated the latter even more. Tom threw Christophe to the other side of the alley, the side they had just left. Christophe put his hands down on the ground, and reached for a fallen knife. Tom saw this and rushed to prevent this, but was unable to. Christophe waved the knife around like a crazed maniac. Her brother had tried as best he could to avoid getting cut, but was unsuccessful at one point. The wound on his leg was not serious, it was only a flesh wound. But it still hurt. Or at least, it should have. Using his wounded leg, Tom kicked the knife out of Christophe‘s hand (actually, he kicked Christophe‘s arm). Afterwards, he used a front kick which made contact with Christophe‘s face, who then went down. Tom went over to the downed body, knelt down, and elbowed the Frenchman, in the face. He then picked up the discarded knife and was going to do Christophe even more bodily harm, when Marcie started yelling his name; calling for him to stop. After the third time, he looked at her, with concern in his eyes.
I‘m all right. I‘m all right.
Are you sure?
*I‘m a lot better than he is. I don‘t think that he‘ll try to mess with you again. Not with you as my protector.* That was when Tom noticed the knife in his hand. He glanced in surprise at Christophe‘s condition. As he got up, he felt a twinge of pain in his leg. He put his hand on top of the pain and felt something liquidy. He brought up his hand and noticed blood. He looked at the knife again, then dropped it, then backed away from the unconscious body. He looked at Marcie, confusion in his eyes.
Marcie, who did this?
Marcie could only nod at Tom‘s expression of disbelief. But then he remembered the cut on Marcie‘s neck.
*C‘mon, let‘s go back to Sandrine‘s. She‘ll have something
to heal that.*
What about your leg?
We‘ll fix that too.
With that, he picked up the knife he dropped, and put it into the sweater he unfolded from his arm. It had a few cuts in it due to when Christophe was waving the knife around, but other than that it was okay. However, Marcie would have to remember to recycle it and replicate a new one. As Tom picked up the other knife, she was about to ask why, but he interrupted her.
*I don‘t want to give him the opportunity to use them again
I think that he‘ll be out for a while.
He will. Come on now.
They went back to Sandrines. When Tom opened the door, he motioned for Nichola to join him. When the latter came over, Tom spoke French rapidly to him. The Frenchman looked in surprise and nodded, then went back inside. Tom guided Marcie to the back door of the building where Sandrine met them. She gave a sigh of relief at seeing them, then hurried the siblings inside. She gave both of them a hug. As she did so for Marcie, she gave a small cry at noticing Marcie‘s neck, and Tom noticed for the first time at how big the cut was. His eyes darkened and looked deadly. Sandrine noticed this.
I have seen worse Thomas.
But Sandrine, this is—
*Yes, I know that she is your sister and is special to you, but I am telling you that I have seen worse. Can you please get the medkit? You know where it is.* Tom only nodded and left. Marcie looked at Sandrine quizzically. Sandrine only smiled.
How often is he hurt?
*This is your brother we are talking about; someone who is accident-prone.* Marcie could only laugh at this too true remark. Tom had returned with the medkit, and wordlessly gave it to the older woman. She opened it, cleaned Marcie‘s wound and used a thermal regenerator to repair the tissue. When Marcie told her about Tom‘s leg, she was insistent on healing that too. Tom had protested about removing his pants, but his sister soon learned what it was like with Sandrine. Looking back, she realised that dealing with Sandrine, was like dealing with the Borg: Resistance was futile. He finally relented when Sandrine said that he could use a blanket to cover himself. As he tried to take his pants off under the blanket (a very amusing sight), Sandrine asked them to explain what had happened. Tom however, could only go so far, so Marcie had to take over. Both Sandrine‘s and Tom‘s eyes widened as she described the fight—especially when she came to the part about the knife. He only stared at her in disbelief.
No. I didn‘t do that. I couldn‘t have.
But he did. Nichola came in as this was happening. He cast an eye when he saw the state that Tom was in, and tried not to chuckle. He had a few of Christophe‘s friends take the defeated fighter home. Many of them had given a rough time to various cadets—including Tom, but now re-thought this at seeing Christophe‘s condition. One man—one teenager—did this. Christophe had been one of the toughest fighters in the back alleys, too.
"Marcie?" questioned Owen Paris, bringing his daughter back to the present. She glanced at her father, seeing concern in his eyes.
"Hmm? Yes, Dad. Tom does have a temper," she answered, and left it at that. Her father had seen the far away look she had in her eyes, on her face. He knew that she was remembering something and wanted to know more. Marcie, however, noticed this. "I have seen his temper. It was not directed at me, but at someone else. It‘s a bit scary." Owen just looked at her with wide eyes, not knowing what to say. Even Maria who was hidden by the entrance was speechless. She wondered what her son was capable of doing. What affected them the most was not what was said, but how it was said. It left them, unnerved. Owen gave his daughter another questioning look which she ignored. What happened that night was between her, Tom and Sandrine. Christophe would never tell. According to Sandrine, after that night, he never showed his face around the tavern again. Besides, Tom had frightened him, and the Frenchman would not speak of the younger man (or so she was told). He was not the only one. Tom had frightened himself, and was embarrassed over the incident. He did not want their parents to know. After that night, he did his best not to lose control or get mad, and used humour to defuse situations. She hoped that he still did that. She smiled. "I‘m leaving for a few hours—but don‘t worry, I‘m still staying here for my vacation. I told Sandrine that Tom added a letter for her, with mine. She‘s on her way here with a message to send to him. I‘ll put it with mine." "You still chum with her?" he asked.
"Yes, Dad," she answered. "She‘s a good friend of mine—and of Tom‘s. We would do anything for her, and she would do anything for us."
"Really?" a skeptical Owen commented.
"She has before. She‘s always been there for us, whenever we needed her. Please don‘t make comments like that about my friends again, okay?" Marcie pressed.
"Uh-huh. Yeah. Right. Well, I won‘t be home for supper. We‘re eating out. And afterwards, we‘ll drop off our messages at Starfleet Headquarters. Who do we give them to?"
"Uncle Craig?" Once again, Owen nodded. Marcie looked at her father. She gave him a kiss on the cheek as she got up, and put a hand on his shoulder. "Write dad. You need to. For yourself."
Owen looked up in surprise. He smiled at her ruefully.
"Maybe you should have gone into psychology." "No. I‘m an artist. I feel people‘s moods, their inner turmoil. That, is how I can tell that you need to write to him. Remember that the two of you are only human, and are subject to make mistakes. You are not perfect. Even if you want to be."
"Maybe I will." Marcie, now off the bench, began to move.
She turned around. "Yes?"
"I know that I was not there for you, but was Tom?" "Yes. Yes, he was always there for me. Even if I didn‘t want him to be."
"So am I," she replied, and left for the hallway. As she got there, she saw her mother running the other way to the kitchen. She smiled and shook her head resignedly. Some things just never changed. She then took a light jacket from the closet and went out the door.
Owen remained seated at the piano after Marcie left, thinking. His daughter was right in that he should write to Tom, he knew that. He could admit that. But what should he say? What could he say?
He did not know.
What should he do, apologise for what happened between them in the past? For how he treated his kids? For how he treated Tom? Especially with regards to what happened after Caldik Prime and the trial? He could do that. He could swallow his pride. For once. But would Tom believe it? Believe him? Once again, he did not know. If the positions were reversed, Owen knew that he would have a hard time believing it. But he was not his son. Even though he did not know who his son really was, Owen suspected that Tom was a better person than the Admiral gave him credit for, or that he himself was. He had expected so much from his son, that maybe it was too much. As Marcie pointed out, he himself was not perfect. No, he just expected his son to be that. He mentally recalled Janeway‘s letter. ‚A fine officer…One of the best that I‘ve had the pleasure working with…A close friend…Tom of today, has always been there…only hiding…only begun to reach potential…Learned not to underestimate your son…‘ Not like him. He definitely underestimated his son. Not only underestimated, but also misjudged and mistreated him. Owen was ashamed of himself. Today had been…confusing, interesting and a real eye opener to say the least.
"Owen?" He looked up, and saw his wife at the side of the piano.
"Yes?" he asked.
"Marcie‘s right. Write to him," Maria cajoled. Owen seemed a bit annoyed. "Tell me that you did not eavesdrop, in my conversation with my daughter," he ordered. "Owen! I did not eavesdrop!" she exclaimed, as she sat down bedside. "I merely overheard."
"Merely overheard," he repeated. "Yeah. Right."
"All right, all right. I eavesdropped. Guilty as charged. But your daughter is right; you do need to write to him. If it‘s not because he‘s your son and you love him, then do it for your own peace of mind."
"Yes, Mother," he retorted.
Maria got up and went behind him. She draped her arms around his shoulders, and put her head on top of his. "Dinner will be served to you in five minutes. This is how we will proceed: you will go back to your den and I will bring you supper. You will then eat that said dinner in the said den, and read your son‘s letter. You will then reply to him, getting whatever needs to be said off your chest. I will be in my domain—the family room to refresh your memory—writing my own letter. After you are done, you will then proceed to the family room and get me. Together, we will bring our letters to Starfleet Headquarters where tomorrow, they will be whisked away to lord knows where, to our son. How does that sound?"
The Admiral mulled this over. "Can we go out for ice cream later on?"
Maria shrugged. "Why not?"
"Even if I protest, you‘ll just ignore me, right?"
"How well you know me."
Owen held up his hands. "Okay, okay. I know enough to listen to the boss," he said, as he got up. He had a genuine smile on his face now. "What‘s for supper?" "Halibut steak with baked seasoned potatoes, mixed vegetables, green beans and a small garden salad with Italian dressing."
"I‘m salivating already."
"Go!" ordered Maria, as she swatted his behind lovingly. Owen went back to the den with renewed vigor, at having made up his mind to write to his son. At least he was, until he was seated at his desk again, with Tom‘s chip in his hand. He remembered the argument he had with Tom in here. That was the last time that he spoke to his son, but not the last that he saw of Tom. That was at the hearing. Actually, he did say something to Tom at the hearing. He must have blocked it out, because he could not remember what he said. And that bothered him. He figured that it was not very nice at all.
But the one in here—in the den— was the same argument that he thought he saw earlier. It sort of spooked him, but he inserted the letter into a PADD to read. At first, he put down the PADD, hesitant to read what his son had to say, and stared at it. Maria came in through the opened door, with a tray of food for her husband.
"You do realise, that it won‘t bite you," she kidded, as she put the tray down.
"I‘m afraid Maria," he confessed, in an almost whispered voice.
Maria kissed the top of her husband‘s head and rubbed his shoulders. "I know Owen, I know. But you have to take a chance. You have to find the courage to read it—just as you‘ve found the courage to question yourself today. And don‘t say that you haven‘t, because you have. I heard the conversation between you and Marcie, and I assume that you had a similar conversation with Justine." Owen could only nod. "Now I have no idea what made you do it—though in my humble opinion, it‘s long overdue—but you did it. And what did you find out?" she questioned.
Owen remained quiet until Maria thought that he would never answer her. "I could have been a better father to my children. I should have gotten to know them. When it comes to Tom and Marcie, I really don‘t know them. Or Justine for that matter. I guess I saw, what I wanted to see. Or maybe what they wanted me to see." He twisted around and looked up at his wife. "Sex? They coped with sex? What kind of kids do we have?"
"The hormonal kind. Remember, they‘re half-Irish and half-Italian," Maria answered.
"So you‘re blaming this on their heritage; on what nationalities they are derived from?" Owen accused incredulously.
Maria shook her head. "No. Well, maybe. But we also have to consider the possibility of genetics."
Owen‘s eyes narrowed. "Maria?"
Maria laughed. "Well, you know very well when you married me, that I was not exactly a choir girl. And I don‘t think that you were exactly an alter boy either."
Owen could only blush at this, because it was true—especially with the way that the two of them were, when they first got together. "True," he conceded.
Maria became serious. "How are you going to find a way to get them back?"
Owen leaned into her arms. "I don‘t know. And we still have the Dominion to deal with."
"When it rains, it pours."
"Yes, you certainly can say that," he agreed. "This may be the only communication that we‘ll have with our son for a long time so…" "So make every word count," Maria finished. She reached with her hand, and put the PADD into his hands. "Now read!" "Yes, Master!" Owen called out, as she left the room. Her reply was a stuck out tongue as she closed the door. Owen chuckled as he shook his head resignedly. His wife could certainly be a character at times, he thought as he pushed a key of the PADD. He froze as Tom‘s letter came into view. He had not meant to read it so soon. He at least wanted to eat his salad beforehand; but maybe it would be better this way. He would only have picked at his food anyway, only to abandon it for the PADD.
Dad; it began,
Dad. I don‘t know if I‘m allowed to call you that anymore. When we last talked, I was under the impression that I was not. Maybe for the rest of this letter, I will call you Admiral.
Admiral, I know that there is a good possibility that you will not read this, and throw it away. If that‘s so, then what on earth am I doing by writing this thing? Maybe I am doing it, because I hope, that you may read it. I screwed up.
I bet that you have been waiting for me to say those words, for a long time now. And it‘s true.
I screwed up.
I screwed up not only my career, but also my life after Caldik Prime. I totally admit this. I don‘t know what was worse, losing out on a promising career that was already planned out for me;
Or losing you.
The day I admitted that I falsified reports and was later on court-martialled, I not only lost your respect, but I also lost you.
Would you like to know why I falsified the report? As I once told Captain Janeway: ‚My father only accepts the best and the brightest.‘ But I was neither. Not in your eyes. Do you know how many years I lived under your scorn? How it made me feel? What it helped me turn into? I am totally responsible for my actions, all those years ago. I know and admit this. But I remember seeing that look of concern on your face in Sickbay, when I regained consciousness. I also remember seeing your look of relief, when you saw that I was all right. I then suspected that maybe Mom was right, that you did care for me in your own way. It was the first time that I had ever seen you worried, or care, about my welfare.
I liked it.
I remember praying as a kid, for you to care about me, to give some signal that you did care. And when I was asked to give a statement of what happened, I did not know what to do. You always had high hopes that I was better than most people, that I could not make a mistake.
But I did.
And I lied about it.
I could not bear you looking at me, as though I were beneath you.
So I lied.
But I found that I could not live with that lie. I found that I had a conscience that actually worked! Can you beat that? So I told the truth. And then everything that I was afraid of happening, came true.
I lost my career.
I lost my self-respect.
I lost Ricki.
I lost you.
You did not want to speak to me. You did not want to be near me. You did not want to see me. You did not want to be associated with me. In other words, you cut yourself off from me.
The last time that I saw you, was during the sentencing hearing. You never came to the trial, just the hearing. As I was being led from the courtroom, you gave me a cold harsh look and said: "Good-bye Maquis."
Not even Mr. Paris.
For a while, I could not quite accept the fact that you did not want me. It was hard for me to accept that in the beginning (and in the beginning, I mean Caldik Prime). But then it soon sank in. You no longer considered me to be your son. I was no longer a Paris. Not in your eyes. I was a disgrace to you and the family. Maybe it was best if I did not exist. After the argument in the den, I became self-destructive, and did not care about anything or anyone. It was as if everything that was inside of me had died.
Then came the trial. The one that you did not show up for.
You were present at the hearing, though. Just the hearing. When you said, what you said, it was with so much hatred and venom that what I had thought was dead previously, did die that day. For good. Okay, so maybe not dead, just buried so deep inside that even now, a lot of it is still not up. And I don‘t know if they will come out again. I‘m not explaining myself clearly, am I? To tell you the truth, I don‘t know how to explain it. Maybe one day, I will be able to. But not now.
But do you know what? I actually like being here in the Delta Quadrant. Of course, I miss Mom, Justine and Marcie, don‘t get me wrong about that! However, I found several things while out here.
I‘m getting my self-confidence back.
I‘m getting my self-respect back.
I‘m learning how to trust again.
Yes, you read right. Love. I finally found someone with whom I would not mind (okay, I want to), spending the rest of my life with. I had always thought that I would not—or could not—love another being, as I loved Ricki. I was wrong. Before, piloting was my life. It was who I was; it was the definition of Tom Paris. But somehow, B‘Elanna slipped in. It‘s come to the point that I don‘t know what I would do without her. We‘ve had some pretty harried moments (i.e. An almost engramatic purge, a crazed isomorph), but we‘ve gotten through them. Together. We‘ve got some baggage to take care of, but hopefully we won‘t drive each other away with them. Lord knows that it will be a challenge with regards to me. She‘s seen me—the person I am inside, and is still with me. Most would have run the other way by now, but not her. At least, not yet. If you‘re wondering about B‘Elanna and what kind of woman she is to make a ‚playboy‘ like me sort of settle down, don‘t. She‘s the best kind.
She is half-human and half-Klingon, and I don‘t care of whether or not you approve—though I‘m sure that you‘ll disapprove more when I say that she used to be Maquis. Once more, I don‘t care. It‘s my life, and for once, I‘m living it for me. She went to the Academy, but dropped out. She could not handle what I grew up with, with what I made myself immune to (Do you know something? A lot of Fleeters and Fleet brats are real snobs!). She is chief engineer and is a damn fine one too. She has brought out feelings in me which were dead for a long time, and increased them. I love her with all my heart, with all my soul, and would give up my life for hers in an instant. I cannot explain the intensity of my feelings or choose what I love most; her eyes, her face, her intelligence, her sense of humour, the way she gets mad at me (I was always teased about this by my dear sisters, but I realise that it is probably true. I‘m an masochist) etc.… My love for her is total and makes me feel complete.
She completes me.
Now, I just have to find a way to tell her that. I know that it seems a bit…cowardly (especially when she has admitted that she loves me), but I‘ve been hurt before. When I say those three words out loud, there will be no going back. I tell her in so many ways that I love her without actually saying them, but I know what it‘s like to hear the words. I just have to work up the courage. But I will do it. There are times that I wonder, ‚How did I ever get so lucky? Do I really deserve all this?‘ I don‘t know.
Do you know how long I had prayed for a second chance? And I got it too. Well, what do you know, something finally went my way.
For the longest time, I had blamed you for most of how I turned out. I am in the process of confronting myself (it actually started in prison), and while you did have some say in my thinking back then, it was I who was responsible. It was my actions that I carried out. Not yours. I want you to know, that I don‘t blame you for what I did, for what I‘ve done. It‘s my past, my ghosts, my demons. I thought that I could get rid of most of them by going Warp 10 (yes, you read right. Warp 10. But I would not advise anyone else doing so. Not unless you want to mutate into an alien, salamander-like being), but I couldn‘t. I guess that I will have to deal with them for the rest of my life—along with the nightmares that accompany them.
According to Captain Janeway, I‘m one of her finest officers (how‘s that for small miracles?). She has given almost everyone on the ship, a commendation of some kind. But more than that, she has given all of us a chance to prove ourselves (or to the Maquis and myself, a second chance). She has always been there for us, giving us her all (sometimes I wonder if she ever sleeps). And we will never let her down (well, not as long as we can help it). Basically, for all intensive purposes, we are one crew. No one really considers themselves to be either Starfleet or Maquis anymore . We are all Starfleet. Sure we may have the odd squabble due to our backgrounds, but they get sorted out quickly. However, it was the Captain who made this possible. Everyone on this ship, will do anything for her. Or die trying. She has given complete faith and trust in us that…Well, you get the picture.
I better check off now. We‘re only allowed a certain amount of space for letters. I‘ve written ones to Mom, Justine, Marcie and Sandrine. Admiral, please look out on my mother for me and give everyone my love. I just wanted you to know that I still consider you to be my father—even if you don‘t. But I hope that you do. If you don‘t write back, I‘ll understand. Please take care of yourself, and listen to Mom when she says not to overdue it. The Doctor (the EMH) has told us about the war against the Dominion, and everyone on the ship wishes you the best. We hope that you defeat them. And this time, please don‘t relinquish anything to the Cardassians/Dominion, because remember what happened last time.
Also, don‘t be afraid of the Maquis‘ help—or really, let them help out! Does it really matter now, that they were ‚traitors‘ to the Federation? I would not to think so. ‚The Enemy of my Enemy, is my Friend.‘ Both you and the Maquis are the Dominion‘s enemy, use that! Besides, the Maquis have done what they did, because they believed in it. And if you decide to go out to the front, try to stay alive, okay? At least do it for Mom‘s sake.
Love from your son,
After Owen was done reading Tom‘s letter, he just blinked his eyes a few times. He put down the PADD and munched on his salad, as he contemplated what he just read. A mixture of emotions flooded him. So much was said, that he did not know what to think.
‚Why could he not call me ‚Dad,‘ throughout the letter? And not just Admiral either?‘ But then again, Owen could not really blame him. Not with the way he, Owen, was like back then. Maquis? Did he really say that to Tom with hatred and venom? Apparently so. How long had he wanted his son to say—to admit—that he screwed up? Too long. Far too long. He was ashamed of himself to admit this fact. Any other time in the past, he would have reveled at his son‘s admission of this. But not now. Not anymore. ‚Or losing you.‘ Dear God, Tom did lose Owen‘s respect and to a great extent, the Admiral himself. But not his love. Never his love.
Tom would forever be his son. Owen supposed that he should have been more expressive and more open with his praise, and with the fact that he loved his kids. He now knew why Tom had falsified reports, what drove him to do so. Part of the answer, most of the answer, was because of him, Owen Paris. But it was true. Between Tom‘s letter, his talk with Marcie, and his memory, he realised that he had certain expectations of his children. Ones, which were too high. Especially those concerning his son. Come to think of it, he was most annoyed and displeased with Tom when he failed to get above a certain grade or level, or whatever else, Owen demanded of his son. That should not have happened. He should not have done that. What kind of a father was he, to put his kids through that…mistreatment? Or should he say ‚abuse?‘ He had trusted himself with the thought, that he was a better father than that. Evidently he was wrong. It all came into focus now, the way his daughters tried to avoid giving a definitive answer to "Was I a good father?", with the answer "In your own way." What kind of answer was that? You either were or were not—it was simple as that! He definitely needed an in-depth talk with his daughters. Self-destructive? Part of him felt dead? That would probably explain the cocky attitude Tom showed at both trial, and hearing. No, that was wrong. Tom had that attitude throughout the Academy. Owen put down the empty bowl, brought the plate near him, and attacked his fish. He was glad that things were looking up for Tom though, even if it was in the Delta Quadrant.
Kathryn also mentioned a ‚B‘Elanna‘ in her letter. Half-Klingon? That he had no problems with. Maquis? That he had a problem with. Still, Janeway had appointed her Chief Engineer. She was most likely extremely capable, and very good. He could always check out her Academy record. An almost engramatic purge?
A crazed isomorph?
What the hell was going on over there?
Hopefully, Janeway had the foresight to include a complete report of Voyager‘s encounters and activities. He would inquire about this tomorrow.
Emotional baggage? Yes, from what he had read and heard from his kids, they certainly had emotional baggage. He still did not want it to sink in that sex had helped them deal with it though. When it came to his kids, he knew that they were not exactly angels, but he did not even want to think of them doing…that activity, while growing up. After all, he was still a father. What father wanted to hear…this? He wanted to be oblivious to this! From what Tom had written, he certainly loved B‘Elanna very much, and she seemingly returned his love. Now, if Tom could only return the words. He had said that he did not blame Owen for what happened; that it was his actions alone, that were enacted. But while Owen knew that this was correct, he knew that he did his part, played his piece. Nevertheless, a part of him felt content at this. Tom did not blame him. Maybe because he was on the path of forgiveness. He did not know. Perhaps one day, it would be possible for Tom to forgive Owen, completely. Now, if Owen could only forgive himself.
He did not know if he could.
He wanted to, felt like it.
But he did not know.
He scrunched his eyebrows. ‚Alien salamander?‘ he thought, as he picked up the PADD and put some green beans into his mouth. Yes, it did say alien salamander. That was definitely an unwanted side-effect to going Warp 10—at least in his opinion. Owen smiled a wicked grin. Maybe he should tell Grayson what the exact side-effects were; after all, his colleague would be terribly upset at being ordered to halt Warp 10 research for the time being. He could not wait to see Grayson‘s reaction, to this tidbit.
He was happy that Tom had gotten a second chance. The Admiral was also glad that Janeway had the insight, to grant him that second chance. It was certainly a lot more that what Owen would have done.
A chance to prove himself. Somehow, he was not surprised that his protégé had proven herself to have good judgment regarding the Maquis—if not better. Two crews working together as one? She certainly pulled off a miracle. Of course, being stranded in the Delta Quadrant had helped to pull off this feat; but still, not everyone would give their complete loyalty to their Captain as Voyager‘s did. It was nice to know that Voyager and her crew were behind Starfleet in the war. Maybe they would get things right this time. Even he had to admit, that having the Maquis join Starfleet‘s side, was sound advice. However, he did not think that many in Command would appreciate this. He was thrilled that Tom still considered him to be his father. Owen did not like it that Tom added ‚even if you don‘t.‘ He supposed that he did give that impression. All right, all right, he did give that impression. Yet, he still thought of Tom as his son. Because it was true. Thomas Eugene Paris was the son of Owen Paris, and it would forever be that way. No matter how many fights, disagreements, or arguments that they had, or whatever it was about, Tom was his son.
He just had to find a way to convey this.
As Owen put the PADD down for a second time, he realised that he had eaten most of his food. What to say, what to say. What could he say? How should he start? He opened a drawer of the desk and took out a new PADD. He took a chip and inserted it, pressed a button and was ready to write.
Dear Son; he began,
Today, Admiral Craig Douglas came by my office to see me. He said that Voyager‘s EMH was sent through an alien relay network from the Delta Quadrant, and ended up on the Prometheus. I was surprised to hear that Voyager was all right. I was even more surprised to hear that the Maquis had joined the Starfleet crew. But that was nothing compared to the shock I felt, when I was given a letter from you addressed to me. I gave your other letters to you mother and sisters, who probably read them as soon as I left the kitchen (they were making soufflés. Before you ask, men are involved; Marcie‘s latest ‚boy-toy‘, and Walker. Him and Justine married a year after Voyager disappeared). I read Captain Janeway‘s letter first (she also sent me one). In it, she told me of the man that you have become—or maybe that you always were. At first, I refused to believe this, and I will admit that I was not sure of whether or not I was going to read yours. However, as you once said, ‚curiosity killed the cat‘. I also felt a need to know what you wrote, what you had to say. I was troubled by Janeway‘s letter, or maybe disturbed is more like it. Nevertheless, it forced me to realise that I only saw what was on the surface, not what was underneath. And it hurt to acknowledge that I did not take the time to look at what was underneath that thick skin of yours. So I did some searching of my own and talked to your sisters. What can I say? I‘m sorry? I am sorry, but I know that just saying those words are not enough. I grossly misjudged you, and I never should have done that.
Why is it so hard writing this letter? Why can‘t I just say what I feel? Is it because I feel so much inside? How can I convey that emotion? Not until today, did I realise how hard I was on you; to be the best, better than I was. Better than I could have ever been. I never knew that you were interested in poetry. Some of the classics yes, but I did not know that you had accumulated such a collection. Most of the books that are in the study have not been read (at least mine), but you have read all of yours several times over (I can tell this from the wear and tear).
I‘m sorry for misjudging you.
I‘m sorry for being too hard on you and your sisters. According to Justine and Marcie, it was basically psychological abuse that I threw onto all of you. Justine said that she understood that it was in part, due to the torture I suffered during the war. I was never quite the same after that, was I? Justine may have understood, but did you? I can‘t explain what it was like, because even today, I still have a hard time with it. I want to avoid talking about it. I want to bury it in the past, where it belongs.
But I did not do a good job, did I? Instead, I took it out on you. And I was never there for all of you, not as a father should have been; what I should have been, and I‘m sorry for that too. I‘m just thankful that you were there for your sisters, that you could rely on each other. According to Marcie, it still hurts for her. And you, I would assume. I ask one simple question "Have I been a good father", and I get "In your own way." To me, that does not signify what a father should be. I guess I failed you all in that aspect.
I love you son.
I never said that aloud enough, did I? I kept accentuating the negative, not what you did right, but what you did wrong. That was nice of me now, wasn‘t it? I regret doing that to you. I never should have done that. I did not give you a chance, and I should have. Marcie said that after Caldik Prime and our argument, you became a different person, one full of pain, anger and indifference. She also said that she did not know if this new one had completely taken over, or if the real you, still existed. She seemed afraid, scared, as she said this. She was afraid for you.
You were right.
For a long time, I did want to hear you admit that you ‚screwed up.‘ And that makes me ashamed of myself. I felt a deep pit in my stomach when I read what you did not know what was worse; losing your career, or losing me. And I have to admit, you did lose a part of me.
But I never stopped loving you.
You are my son.
You will always be my son.
And I will always love you.
I guess, I should have made that clear. No, I know that I should have made it clear.
And I‘m sorry that I did not.
I‘m sorry for what I said to you at the hearing, and for the fact that I never showed up for the trial. Remember the reputation I had at the Academy from before, for being too hard? Now, it‘s for being the most impossible. The cadets are scared of me. They know how I treated you, what I thought about you for the longest time, and figured that if I could be that way to you, imagine what I could do to them. And do you know what? They were right. I never knew what had possessed you to falsify reports. I do now. And I‘m sorry. I know what I expected of you. I guess I did not realise how unreasonable these expectations were until now.
Am I explaining myself properly?
I don‘t know.
How do you apologise to a son for making them feel useless and inadequate? I know that there is more to it than that, but I never should have misjudged or mistreated you. I should have gotten to know you—the real you—and lightened that upon you. I should have praised you more, and told you that I loved you more often too; not belittle or ridicule you.
I‘m proud that you made Warp 10. The first human to break the transwarp barrier. That‘s quite an achievement, one not to be taken lightly. I‘m sorry that it did not prove to be safe. Hopefully one day, we will be able to correct that. I‘m happy that you got another chance. I‘m also glad that Janeway saw fit to give it to you. She certainly has surpassed what I taught her. I‘m pleased to hear that both Maquis and Starfleet are getting along. I‘m not sure of how some of my colleagues would react to your suggestion of working with the Maquis—or what‘s left of them. They took quite a defeat against the Dominion/Cardassians. I don‘t know how may died though. No, that‘s wrong. Most of them did. If you want, I can try to find out if your friend Ro Laren was one of the casualties. But you do have a point of combining Starfleet and Maquis strengths.
B‘Elanna. I‘m pleased that you found someone to love.
Half-Klingon you say? I can get used to that quite easily. However, about the Maquis part, give me some time to get used to that. But I hope that it works out for you. Tom, you have given her your heart, don‘t be afraid to tell her that. She needs to hear it, and you need to say it. Love is a two-way street. You will get into arguments—that‘s a fact for anyone in a relationship—but don‘t let them, or any other kind of disagreement tear you apart. It appears that you have found someone who can keep you on your toes, and keep you coming for more.
I remember when I first met your mother. She hated my guts. According to her, I was nothing but a snob who came from Starfleet royalty. But I fell in love with her the moment I saw her. It took me nine months to break through her defences, to even get her to agree to go out on a date with me! I had also just graduated from the Academy. By the time we got married, I had promotions to Lieutenant junior grade, and Lieutenant. I‘m not the easiest person to live with. I never was, and I never will be, but your mother has stuck with me because of the love we share. Why am I saying this?
Because between your temper and hers (I assume that she has one), you will have blowouts—big ones. But never lose sight of the fact that you love each other. That is the key to saying together. Also, don‘t be afraid to talk to her, to let her in. Tell her what is on you mind, what you are feeling—but don‘t be an idiot about it either! She may know that you love her, from all of the things you do (from what you say), but she still needs to hear the words. Say them! Have I already said this? Who cares? I‘ll say it again! Once again, I hope that it works our for you—I want it to work out for the two of you. Personally, I can‘t wait to meet her. From what you wrote, it sounds as though it was the tip of the iceberg.
I guess, that it is time for me to go now. For one thing, I want to drop this off early at Craig‘s office, so that you will get it. For another, your mother promised me ice cream (she always goes straight for my weaknesses). Please take care of yourself, and try to stay alive. Craig told me what the EMH had to say about you (he‘s thinking of giving you your own biobed?), and try not to get hurt so much.
But most of all, remember that you have a family who loves you, is greatly relieved to hear that you are alive and safe, and cannot wait for you to come home. And yes, you do—and always will—have a home to come back too.
P.S. A crazed isomorph? An engramatic purge? Geez, the two of you, upon your return, will have to tell me the details of what happened out there! By the way, what‘s an isomorph? The Admiral did not bother to re-read it. What was written, was what he mainly wanted to say; what was from the heart. Also, he did not want to give himself a chance to make any changes, because he did not know what they would be. He saved the letter onto the chip, and took it out. He then inserted a fresh chip, and took several minutes to write a few things onto it. This one he re-read. After saving this letter and removing the chip, he took both chips, got up and went to find his wife. Contrary to what she had said, she was in the kitchen drinking tea, and not in the family room.
Maria heard footsteps and looked up from the PADD she was reading. "Are we done already?" she asked with a grin.
Owen smirked. "I don‘t know about you, however, I am." Maria looked insulted. "Of course I‘m done! I have been for a while now."
"Oh? Then what are you doing with that PADD then?" he challenged, pointing to the apparatus in her hand. "This old thing?" she asked, waving it around. "I‘m just reading a little Jane Austin. My letter is ready to go," she said, as she picked up a chip beside her. "Are you ready?"
"Yes, I am," replied Owen, as Maria got off the chair. She picked up a box, and put her chip inside. She then passed it to her husband, who did likewise. There was cotton inside, to cushion the chips. It was apparent that Maria Paris, did not want her messages harmed. Owen took the lid from underneath, put it on top, then gave the box back to her.
She then looked at her husband. "Great. Let me get my sweater and we‘ll leave, or do you want to change?" Maria asked, looking at her uniformed husband.
Owen bent his head, and looked down at himself. "Why? Is there anything wrong with what I‘m wearing?" he inquired. Maria sighed. Her husband was certainly Starfleet, through and through. "No, nothing is wrong," she answered, as she walked to the hallway closet. She took out her sweater, and put the box in one of the pockets. "Come on. We have a few letters to deliver."
They decided to walk to Starfleet Headquarters, as it was a beautiful night. However, both were silent on their way, each filled with their own thoughts and emotions. Maria was thrilled to hear that her only son and baby (he may be an adult, but he was her youngest and she would always think of him in that manner), was still alive. She went to the memorial service for those aboard the ship, with her daughters and Sandrine. Owen went too, but only because she had pushed him into doing so. It was the first time that she had met Sandrine, and had her stay over for the night. All four women stayed up late, laughing and crying. Marcie and Justine had a hard time accepting the fact that their brother might be dead. Sandrine, however, refused to accept it. "Thomas is still alive. I can feel it," the Frenchwoman had said, with unwavering conviction. And she was right. And Maria was thankful for it. She too, had said that Thomas was still alive—at least in the beginning. Before Tom‘s letter arrived, her faith had been dwindling.
Now, if they could only find a quick way home…
She looked at her husband. His mask was half up. He was in a pensive mood, undoubtedly thinking of his son. Maria remembered the conversation she that overheard, between him and their daughter. He had learned a little about himself; things that he did not like. She hoped that his letter to Tom was at least, civil. She smiled at remembering the letter she received. She stifled a giggle at her next thought.
Her husband felt the motion anyway. "What is so amusing?" "Our son. He kept glowing about B‘Elanna. I think, that she may be the one," Maria responded.
Owen chuckled. "Well, she will certainly keep him on his toes."
"I want to meet her," Maria said seriously.
"As do I," Owen agreed. "A half-Human, half-Klingon." Maria gave a hearty laugh. "Well, Tom was never the one to take the easy route." She looked at her husband. "Owen, Starfleet will try to find a way to get them back, won‘t they?"
"We will. It won‘t be easy, and we probably won‘t know where they are after tomorrow, but we will get them home. Even if it takes decades," he answered with a serious determination, as they came onto the grounds of Starfleet Headquarters. Maria smiled as they went inside. As she thought of her son and his girlfriend, her smile widened. Owen noticed her smile grow, and knew what she was thinking. Yes, his wife was right, Tom never took the easy way when it came to women. He was truly a Paris in that aspect. He smiled back as they passed some junior officers. Maria tried to hide a snicker. It was really quite amusing, she thought. Several more officers had passed the couple and gave a polite hello to Owen, only to be greeted with a semi-goofy grin. This had shocked them, for they were used to her husband‘s quiet, serious demeanor. As they got into the turbolift, she broke out into laughter.
"What is this for?" a suspicious Owen asked.
"Y..You. Did…Did you see the loo..looks on their faces?" Maria managed to get out. Owen contemplated this, and snickered too. This set Maria off even more, and made her laugh harder. Her husband soon joined in because her laughter was infectious. When the turbolift doors opened, they faced a startled Commander Parker, aide to Admiral Douglas.
"Admiral," Parker greeted.
"Commander," Owen choked out, as he began to compose himself. "I don‘t that suppose your boss is here?" "Yes sir, he is. It‘s going to be a long night," Parker replied.
"I‘m sure that it will," Maria agreed.
Parker smiled. "Yes Ma‘am, that‘s a fact. I only hope that I get overtime for this," he grumbled as the couple got out of the lift, and he into it. As the doors closed behind him, Owen and Maria looked at each other and started laughing again.
"I think that someone needs a cup of coffee," Maria said, as they headed for Craig‘s office. They walked into the office and saw Sandrine and Marcie.
"Mom, Dad. Hi," Marcie said in surprise. She knew that for sure her mother would send something, and after what happened earlier, she had a feeling that her father would follow suite. Still, it was a surprise to see that he, himself came—he had to have passed Commander Parker, who would then tell his wife (one of the biggest gossips in San Francisco). In other words, it would be all over Starfleet, and she was not sure how her father would take this. "Hello Marcie, Sandrine," Owen greeted the younger women. "Admiral," Sandrine returned. Thomas had told her about his childhood, and of growing up under the Admiral once when he was drunk, after being cashiered out of Starfleet. And she did not like what she heard. Ever since, she had been weary of Owen Paris. Marcie had told her that he was re-thinking a few things, regarding his son. In her opinion, it was long overdue. To say that Owen Paris was not one of her favourite people, was putting it mildly. Sandrine had always been a bit protective of Tom ever since they first met, and he was a true friend. He had always been there for her, and vice versa. She was elated to hear that he was alive, well, and content. Sandrine also mirrored the Paris‘ sentiments in wanting to meet B‘Elanna. She sounded very special to Thomas. After Ricki, she had feared that her young friend would give up on love permanently, only settling for meaningless relationships and one-night stands. Now she was delighted to hear that this was not so. Owen stood as Sandrine looked at him. He felt uneasy, and not for the first time, wondered what she knew and who had told it to her. He finally realised, that what his daughter had said was right: Sandrine was a good friend to her and Tom. And protective. "Did you drop off your letter yet?" he asked.
"Oui. I just gave it to Admiral Douglas here. Are you here to do the same?" she challenged. Craig looked upon this amusingly.
"Yes, I have," Owen replied as Maria took out the box, opened it, and gave it to Craig.
Sandrine looked upon this approvingly. "Bien." For some reason, Owen felt that he had passed a test; one that he wanted to pass. "Have you eaten yet?" "No. We‘re going to Gilly‘s after this," Marcie answered, referring to a favourite restaurant of hers and that of her siblings.
"Well, just don‘t come home too late. Sandrine, if you like, you‘re welcome to spend the night," Owen offered. This surprised Sandrine greatly. "Of course. Thank-you very much Admiral," she accepted. "It is more reasonable for me to spend the night over here, instead of catching a shuttle back to Marseilles."
Owen looked at his old friend, as the latter was holding the chips. He pointed to them. "Those are going out tomorrow, right?"
"Yes, Owen. They are," Craig confirmed.
"Just checking. Now if you excuse us, a butter pecan ice cream cone awaits my taste buds."
Sandrine cocked her head. "That is Thomas‘ favourite," she mused.
"Butter Pecan?" Sandrine nodded. "Live and learn. Hey, how about we have a gab fest tonight?" he asked.
Maria looked at her husband. "A Gab fest?"
"Isn‘t that what you women call it?" he asked innocently.
"I agree with him," Marcie said, referring to Craig.
Owen turned to Craig. "You‘re supposed to be on my side!" "When it comes to women and arguments, the person who on the receiving end, is on his own," Craig replied. "Now if you excuse me, I have five messages to enter, so if you please?" he said, as he shooed them out with his hands. "We can take a hint Craig," Maria joked, as they moved out into the corridor.
"Yeah, well, sometimes your dear hubby can‘t," Craig retorted, before the doors closed.
"How rude!" mocked Owen. The three women smiled at this and headed for the turbolift.
Upon exiting the building, the two younger women left the couple. That night, the four of them stayed up late, trading stories of the crazy and cute things that Tom did—both as a child and as an adult. The Admiral could trade few stories of his own (though Tom was usually on his best behaviour around Owen), but laughed at what he heard. He began to learn more about his son, and what he was like. When discussing some of the good times (and some bad ones too), he became convinced that Janeway was right; that the Tom on Voyager, had always been like that. But she was wrong about another thing. Tom had not been hiding; he was always there. It was just that no one ever bothered to look.
Especially Owen himself.
As they went to bed, Owen decided to have Sandrine, and his daughters come over again one night, so that they could do this again. So that he could learn more about his son.
The next day, bright and early, the messages were delivered by the Prometheus and sent through the array, where it was picked up in time by Voyager before the Hirogens destroyed the network. All crewmen received letters from loved ones, and eagerly read them. Some had good news and some were not so good. Tom and B‘Elanna read theirs together in his quarters. B‘Elanna only received one letter, and that was from her mother. She was on the Klingon homeworld and was fine. B‘Elanna was surprised and elated that she was called, ‚Daughter‘.
"I never thought that she would ever call me that again. It feels…great!" she had exclaimed snuggled up against Tom under the covers of the bed. Tom smiled at his beloved‘s happiness. He had just read letters from Sandrine, his sisters and mother. He had read a little off each one, omitting the fun that they had poked at him regarding romance (always doing it the hard way). When he came to his last letter, he was a bit afraid to read it. He just starred at the PADD. "What‘s wrong?" she asked. "I‘m a bit scared," came the answer.
"Of what your dad might have written?" Tom nodded. B‘Elanna gently kissed him on the neck. "Remember what you told me in the Vidiian mines?" she asked.
Tom thought for a moment. "About what I said of courage?"
Tom looked at B‘Elanna‘s face. He gave a weak smile, and pressed the button to read. Unlike the other letters, Tom read silently. Every once in a while, he would close his eyes. Even though patience was not one of her greatest virtues, B‘Elanna remained silent. This is something that he needed to do on his own, but she would be there for him. He finally lifted his head and grinned.
"So, I take it that it‘s something good?" asked an intrigued B‘Elanna. Tom wordlessly passed the PADD to her. She was surprised that he was allowing her to read his father‘s letter. She quickly read it, and a grin also appeared on her face. "You told him about the isomorph?" "I just mentioned it," Tom replied, encircling her with his arms.
"I‘m glad that you have a place to go back to. I know how much that means to you."
"Well, I hope that I won‘t be going back alone." "It sounds like you see a future in this," B‘Elanna said, repeating the dialogue the couple had spoken in the turbolift months earlier, while stroking the side of her companion‘s face.
"I think, that I might want to be that presumptuous," Tom said slowly.
B‘Elanna looked at him, with love in her eyes. "Smooth recovery Lieutenant," she continued, as she raised her head to his.
"I thought so," Tom responded, as he lowered his mouth to hers. They kissed for several minutes before breaking off. "I love you, Thomas Eugene Paris," she murmured, as she nuzzled his neck.
Tom used his head to cuddle hers. "I love you too, B‘Elanna Torres."
He felt her smile. "I was wondering when you would get around to saying that. I mean, I knew it, but…" "It‘s always nice to hear the words. I know. Believe me, I know. It‘s just that the last person I told that to was…" Tom trailed.
"Was Ricki," she finished. "Who then dumped you after Caldik Prime."
"Like a sack of potatoes."
B‘Elanna gave Tom the PADD. While he put it on the night table beside the bed, she put her arm around his chest. He then brought her closer to him. "You do know, that I will never do that to you, right?" she asked.
"Bella! Of course I know that! You‘re nothing like her! You don‘t have that pompous, airy, petty and conceited attitude that she did. You‘re not a fake. You don‘t put on an act on what you feel," Tom assured her. "I love you for who you are—for everything that makes you…you." "Oh? Such as?" she fished.
Tom gets a tender look in his eyes, and lowers his mouth. "Your eyes, your intelligence, your sense of humour, your determination, the way you get mad at me…" he mumbled between kisses.
"The way I get mad at you?" she asked amusingly.
"Helps keep me on my toes," he said, as he nuzzled her ear.
"Ready for anything."
B‘Elanna smiled seductively. "Really? Anything else?" "I‘m sure that I can think of a few more. Or if you want, I can show them to you," Tom answered, as he caressed the curve of her hip and kissed her.
"I think, that I‘m going to like this."
"I know I am."
Meanwhile, Captain Janeway was in her quarters, reading the letters that she received. Her mother and sister were well, and Mark had moved on with his life and married someone else. Molly had her pups and was also fine. The last letter was from Admiral Paris.
You have done a fine job. From what I hear, you have brought the Maquis and Starfleet crews to work together as one. One crew that will do anything for their Captain. The student has surpassed her teacher. We will do everything that we can to get you all home, safe and sound. I‘m not one to admit that he has been wrong very much, but this time I was. You were right about Tom. He is a good person, and I‘m sure that he is a fine officer too. It has taken me quite a while to see this, but I finally have. Take care of him Kathryn. Bring him—and the rest of your crew—home. I would very much like to have a chance, to get to know my son.
P.S. Please don‘t tell Tom that I asked you to look out for him. He‘ll accuse me of asking you to ‚baby-sit‘ him. Then he‘ll kill me when he gets home!
Kathryn Janeway grinned widely at this.
"I will Admiral. I promise."
‚The Rime of the Ancient Mariner‘ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was used without permission, but is acknowledged by the author. I got this poem from ‚The Mentor Book of Major British Poets‘, edited by Oscar Williams, and can be found on pgs.107-124.
The Admiral, at one point is reading Tom Clancy‘s ‚The Hunt for Red October‘ (which is a very good book, I must say), and was also used without permission, and is also acknowledged. I am not getting anything by having him think what Mancuso is saying, or anything at all for putting it into the story.
The part about Tom‘s temper, is an idea I got from Terri Zavaleta‘s ‚Trials‘ series, as for how bad his temper could be. I sincerely hope that she does not mind me using this concept, though, as I think it is a good way of explaining why Tom does not seem to get mad (has anyone seen him lose his temper?). Also, Terri? Great work for Shadow‘s Trials!