Life With a Paris: Saying Hello
Glancing around, Delta didn't see anything so special about Earth. It looked pretty much the same as any other planet he'd been upon, except there were a lot more people than anywhere else. Strange people, and the smells on this planet weren't all good.
Delta slowed his pace beside his Daddy, dropping back until his leash was pulled taught, wanting only to go back to his home, back to where he was safe and comfortable.
Tom glanced down at the puppy with pity. The poor retriever looked terrified, his normally wagging tail drooping close to his legs, his normally jubilant eyes dull and skittish. Every time the popping sound of the fireworks reached their position, the puppy would jump and lean towards Tom, hoping that the comfort of his Daddy's legs would protect him from this busy world.
As they walked towards the large building his Mommy and Daddy referred to as Starfleet Headquarters, Delta noticed that in the growing crowds of noisy, smelly people, there were other creatures like him, barking and yapping their excitement. Speeding up, Delta smushed his nose against his Daddy's knee, causing Tom to stumble slightly. Even still his good-hearted Daddy didn't raise his voice, merely smiled down reassuringly, trying to let the puppy know that everything would be all right.
Tom turned to B'Elanna, his own eyes unsure. "Are we sure we want to do this?"
"Do you have any better suggestions? We can't spend our entire lives trying to avoid them."
"Sure we can. I managed okay in the years before Voyager."
"Tom, you were in jail."
"Yeah, and I managed to avoid them, didn't I?"
"If I have to do this, then you're not weaseling out of it, flyboy."
"Can't blame a guy for trying."
They paused at the entrance to Starfleet Headquarters, and Tom drew in a deep breath, his hand wavering before the sensor that opened the doors.
"It's now or never, Paris. Make up your mind."
Tom glanced into his wife's eyes, and knew that if there was any way to get through this, having B'Elanna at his side would be it. He nodded.
They stepped through the door.
Tom wasn't surprised to see the Admiral waiting on the other side. He was surprised, however, to see the man pacing nervously, wringing his hands when he thought there was no one looking. That one gesture of insecurity set Tom's mind at ease, and the younger man was able to walk up to his father, and extend a hand.
The Admiral smiled hesitantly, and then with more warmth. "Thomas, it's good to have you home. I've.. I've missed you, son."
Tom inclined his head, accepting this unaccustomed display of emotion with grace.
The Admiral's eyes traveled to B'Elanna and the baby, to the kitten in the crate, to the puppy at the end of the leash in Tom's hand.
"I see you've been.. busy.. during your time away."
Tom blinked. He supposed they did make quite the sight, not exactly the haggard crew Starfleet would likely have been expecting.
"Dad, this is B'Elanna, my wife." He paused, breathing a grateful sigh of relief when he saw no disapproval in his father's gaze. "And our daughter, your granddaughter." Tom watched as the Admiral paled slightly and then warm emotion filled the older man's gaze. "And this," Tom tugged at the leash, "Is Delta."
Unsure of what to say, Admiral Paris nodded at B'Elanna, resting a hand on her shoulder as he peered down into the warmly wrapped bundle that was his granddaughter. He barely registered the tickle in his leg as Delta snuffling at his uniform, adjusting to the new scents that were being presented in the form of this man that smelt a great deal like the puppy's Daddy.
Finally the Admiral stepped back, absently brushing at the puppy's head as the dog continued to make himself familiar with this new person.
"I.. I am unsure of what to say. I've thought about this moment for so many years, Thomas, not quite like this, I'm sure, but of seeing you again."
Delta glanced up at the Admiral, and whined slightly as the tickle in his belly made him aware that he had to make use of a tree. The puppy shifted uncomfortably.
"It's okay, Dad. I never really thought this moment would even happen. We'd been out there for so long, I just got used to the idea of Voyager being home."
Again, Delta shifted, whining more insistently as the tickle grew into a pinch, and then a great pressure.
"No matter what we say, Thomas, this moment is exactly as I had hoped. All I wanted was to see you again, and to let you know how proud I am of you. No matter what's happened in the past, you've done well for yourself, son." The Admiral glanced towards B'Elanna and the baby once more, warm tears threatening to blur his vision as he took a deep breath. "Nothing can ruin this, I'm just damn glad you're home."
Tom's gasp was lost in the shocked, unauthoritative gurgle that erupted from his father's throat, and the pilot covered his mouth as quick as possible.
Delta whined, stepping away from the now dripping Starfleet regulation uniform that his granddad still wore. The older man looked down at the puppy in half surprise, half anger.
Tom glanced over at B'Elanna, who, with eyes filled with mortification met his gaze in horror. What caused Delta's Mommy to begin to laugh, however, was the evil sparkle that glinted in the warp core blue orbs that were her husband's eyes. She knew, without a doubt, that behind that hand, Tom was grinning like a little boy.
Though her laughter should have been inappropriate, B'Elanna felt no guilt. Through all that she and Tom had survived in the past seven years, she learned that guilt had no place in her life. Not anymore. She grinned.
This was life as a Paris.