SECOND CHANCES, by Lisa Browning

Summary: Admiral Paris reaches an important decision and reflects back on his life and relationship with his son. Written from the Admiral's POV, this story has some angst, but mostly attempts to show the other perspective on Tom's difficult relationship with his father. It is set during the 5th season.

Paramount owns all the Voyager characters and the Star Trek universe. I am simply borrowing them for my own amusement. There will be absolutely, positively, no profit made from this effort, and no copyright infringement is intended. Honest.

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Admiral Paris' Personal Log, Stardate 52157.5

"It has been a while since my last entry. {Pause} I've been preoccupied with the Dominion conflict {cheerless snort}; at least that's what I've been telling myself. {Sigh} Sometimes I'm not sure if I'm really that busy or I'm just trying to avoid thinking about anything else. I guess I've never been one to do much soul-searching.....but perhaps it's time I did. {Long pause}

I've come to an important decision, one I never thought I would make. I've decided to retire from Starfleet. Of course, I will fulfill my duties until the war is over. I wouldn't dream of taking leave from my responsibilities in the middle of a crisis, but after the hostilities cease, I will resign my commission. Maybe I will stay on as a part-time instructor at the Academy, but I do not want to be part of the command structure any longer.

My decision has nothing to do with Starfleet or the Dominion conflict. I know that everyone here at Starfleet Command feels drained by the war and the high number of casualties we've suffered. It has put a strain on all of us, but what I am feeling started building long before this latest conflict. I've always taken great pride in being part of Starfleet and I still strongly believe in the principals that it stands for, but, ....{Pause, with a deep sigh}.....

When I was a younger officer, I didn't mind putting in all of the late hours and sacrificing my personal life for Starfleet. It's something that comes with the territory, and I accepted that. The Paris family has always had high-ranking officers in the chain of command, so I knew what to expect. I can remember many late dinners, missed birthdays, and skipped holidays over the past thirty years or so, all in the name of Starfleet and my career. I guess what I've come to realize is that my dedication to my duties came at a price.

I've always considered myself a family man. I was very proud of the fact that I juggled both a Starfleet career and a family life, when so many of my peers chose not to. Starfleet has never required officers to forgo marriage and raising children, but it is difficult to do both. My wife understood that from the beginning, and she accepted it. I guess you don't marry a Starfleet officer without knowing what to expect. The problem was my children. I didn't realize how much it affected them, or maybe I just didn't want to see it at the time. Neither Moira nor Kathleen wanted a Starfleet career. Now, I understand that they both resented the time I spent away from them and my lack of participation in their lives while they were growing up {mirthless snort}. I can only imagine that Thomas feels the same. I guess I didn't juggle family and career as well as I thought. It's funny how differently people can remember things. My daughters both remember all of the times that I wasn't around, while I recall all of the times we spent together.

What I've come to realize is that having children isn't the same thing as being a good family man, no matter how many pictures adorn your desk at work. I made plenty of mistakes, and I allowed my pride to keep me from acknowledging them. It took a lot to make me reevaluate my role as a father. As my mother would say, I am a Paris male, which of course means I'm stubborn, almost to a fault. I guess she would know, having dealt with both me and my father {small chuckle}. Looking back on it, I can actually pinpoint the date exactly when I began to look back on my life and what it has done to my family. It was the day I heard that Voyager was missing in the Badlands.

Thomas. My son. I will never completely understand what went wrong between us, but I let go of most of my anger with him that day. I guess I never actually considered losing him, which is funny really, since I'd "lost" him emotionally years before. I realized that it didn't matter to me what he had done. He was my son, and I thought I would never see him again, or at least that's what I thought at the time. There is a special pain that only a parent can feel over the loss of a child. It is an ache inside that leaves you feeling tired and empty, guilty over the mistakes and arguments that you can never take back, and never ceases, no matter how much time passes. It makes you reevaluate your life, and see the time you've wasted in fruitless anger and judgment, which in itself only increases your sense of loss. The idea that he was gone was devastating to all of us, but I think it was the worst for me since there had been so much anger between us. Even thought I now know he is alive, I still have to live with the realizations his disappearance forced me to see.

Starfleet counselors offered to speak with all of the families of those lost with Voyager, but I was a Paris - stubborn, proud, self-reliant. I refused to talk with them, or anyone, about Thomas. For a while, I buried myself in my work, as usual, but even that eventually failed. Eventually, I succumbed to my grief and my wife's badgering. Like I said, I've never been one to do much self-evaluating, so counseling wasn't an easy thing for me. It was even harder for me to admit that I might have been partially responsible for the rift between me and my son. It was so much easier to be angry with him, and to blame him for all of our problems, then to take an honest look at our relationship.

The rift began long before Caldik Prime, but it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when it all started. I can still remember how different things was when he was a child. He would get so excited when I would take him to Headquarters with me, or even when we would just sit together while I told him stories from my latest mission. He would hang on every word. His mother used to say that he worshipped the ground I walked on. Thomas was so bright, funny, talented.....I was shamelessly proud of him. Maybe that is why I pushed Thomas so hard. {Sigh} I doubt he would agree with me, but I only did what I thought was best for him.

Thomas needed direction. As a boy, he was always curious about everything, but he never stayed focused on any one thing for very long. I felt he needed to learn how to see things through to completion. He was always seeking out adventure and danger, sometimes taking unnecessary risks and not thinking things through before acting. He needed to understand responsibility. I was hard on him, but I truly felt it would help him, and I never did anything with malicious intent. I suppose I was a better officer than I was a father, but I never realized that I treated him more like a cadet than my own son (Moira's words, not mine). I never wanted to intimidate him or pressure him into following me into Starfleet, or to choose a career path for him to follow. I wanted what all parents want; I wanted him to be happy. I guess I just wasn't very good at telling him that, or maybe I was too busy to show him or listen to him. {Deep sigh}

I wanted to make things easier for Thomas, not harder. I tried to instill a sense of discipline and commitment in him, but I suppose he mistook it as my being overbearing and demanding. Moira and Kathleen even suggested that he thought that I was never satisfied with him or proud of him. If that is true, it was the furthest thing from my mind. I thought all of my children understood how proud I was of them. I was stunned when Moira told me that Thomas felt intimidated by me. {Pause} Okay, maybe it wasn't that surprising. I suppose I have to admit that I "encouraged" him to see things my way more than a few times, but I never withheld my support, even when I disagreed with his decisions. I just never noticed that most of his decisions were exactly what I wanted him to do.

Looking back on it, I never really sat down and talked to him, or asked him what he wanted, but we both are to blame for creating, and continuing, the wall of silence between us. I let my anger get in the way after the accident, and I've regretted it ever since, but Thomas has to take some of the responsibility for it as well.{Pause, with a deep sigh} I suppose it might have been difficult for him to approach me, given the anger of our last conversation. I never wanted any of my children to feel they couldn't talk to me. My wife has always said we are both too stubborn for our own good, and more alike than either of us care to admit. I just hope we can put our anger and pride aside, and sit down and talk, when he gets back.

I suppose I should consider myself lucky. Not everyone gets the opportunity to see their mistakes and make amends. If anything positive has come out of Voyager's disappearance, it would be that I've been given a second chance, both with my daughters and my son. My relationship with Moira and Kathleen has improved tremendously, and I am very grateful to our counselors for that. We've worked through most of the anger and resentment they felt, and I am looking forward to spending more time with them and their families. And, there is still a chance that I might see Thomas again one day, and I might get the opportunity to fix the rift between us. I've always been proud of my Starfleet career, and that hasn't changed, but I find myself even more proud of the relationship I've been able to rebuild with my family. I suppose I've finally gotten my priorities in order.{Small snort}

{Formally} My decision to leave Starfleet is final, and I've already informed Admiral Brandt and the Admiralty of it. Brandt did not try to talk me out of it. I suppose my change in attitude hasn't been much of a secret. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Starfleet and proud of my years of service with this fine institution. I have no regrets about my career. I only wish I'd been better able to balance my time with my family. Now, I will have the opportunity to devote myself to them, and I am looking forward to it. I feel it is time to pass along the responsibility to younger officers. I wish them and Starfleet well.

Computer, end log."

The end