Child’s play P10
Most of the crew were, surprisingly, really getting into the Christmas spirit over the next couple of days. Neelix, unsurprisingly, was competing with Tom over who could possibly get the most excited- the Mess Hall becoming various shades of silver, gold, red and green. Tom had swapped Sandrine’s for a winter wonderland bar, ice rink and sled run. A Christmas tree had sprung up in the briefing room. I even spotted tinsel twirled around a few of the Jeffries’ tubes pipelines. Being pretty new to the whole Christmas thing, I often found myself quizzing Kathryn on the festivities. Apparently it used to be a very celebrated tradition in old Earth days, most of the world getting together for the festivities. Kathryn says they used to celebrate it in her family and she can remember all the children going hyperactive, but apparently none of them as much as Tom. But I’ve come to expect exaggerated emotions from Tom Paris. All in all it sounds like it should be a pretty fun few days.
Tom really started bouncing on the day before Christmas, Christmas Eve I think it’s called. He spent the morning with Neelix and Naomi explaining the basis of how Santa heads across the galaxy in his space sleigh, which was pulled by some sort of deer with transwarp capabilities and red noses. Then I got the whole motor-mouth sequence, which has been steadily increasing in intensity over the past few days, when I joined Tom after my shift.
We headed into the holodeck, which was still running Tom’s winter-wonderland program. It was half covered bar, half ice rink and sledging hill.
Tom immediately did a full circle, gliding across the ice rink without skates. He slid over to a few people; querying whether they had received the cards he’s spent all the day before writing and delivering. I grabbed a brightly coloured warm drink and sat down next to Kathryn who was nursing a hot chocolate.
“Hello. Getting into the festive spirit?” She said, warming her hands on the drink.
“I’m beginning to resent Santa and all his associates.”
Kathryn frowned, “His associates?”
“We’ve had elves, talking snow people, flying deer…”
I frowned, “What?”
“The flying deer, they’re called Reindeer.” Kathryn smiled, sipping at her drink. “And the snow people? They’re called snowmen.”
I gave her a ‘look’, “Not you too. Is it only me who’s never heard of this? I mean, no one in Starfleet Academy ever mentioned it. Except maybe a few got presents around this time, but no flying de…sorry REINDEER and no jolly Santa.”
“They grow out of it after a while. Tom will too, I suppose. How is he?”
“Just about as hyperactive as it’s possible to get, although he’s still competing with elder Tom Paris when he was flying.” I looked towards Tom who was throwing a snowball or two at Harry “He’s definitely a lot happier than a few weeks ago.”
“I’ve noticed the smile’s reappeared. Oh, thanks for the card by the way.” Kathryn grinned.
“For the … I didn’t send any cards.”
Kathryn slid a card out of the white envelope on the table and opened it up. Clearing her throat theatrically she read, “Dear Kathy, have a great Christmas, lots of love and hugs Tom and Kotay.”
My eyes grew wide, that was certainly not the way a first officer should sign his correspondence. I glanced towards Tom who was chatting with Harry, “Gods, do you think he put that on all of them?”
Kathryn smiled “Judging from the looks various people have shot you, I’d say yes.”
I half-grinned half- blushed and turned to Tom who was now sledging down the hill, competing against, and beating, Harry. The little…
“Hey Tom, come over here a second.”
Tom skidded to a halt, jumped off his sledge and headed over to me. He threw his gloves off and grabbed my drink, “Yeah?”
“You signed all the cards like this?” I gave Kathryn’s card to Tom.
“Yeah. Why?” Tom asked looking at me with confused blue eyes.
“Well, you were working and I thought it would be easier if I did it for you.” Tom looked up into my eyes, “You’re not mad are you?”
Damn blue eyes…
“No, I’m not mad.” I squeeze his shoulder, reassuring him. “Just how many people did you send them to?” I said trying hard not to grit my teeth.
Tom shrugged and stood up, “Most people on the ship. See you later.” Tom took a final sip of my warm purple drink, pulled his gloves on and bounced back to his sledge.
Most people on the… Oh for Pete’s…
I sighed, “At least he didn’t put them from Tom, Kotay and Bugs.”
Kathryn looked at me with laughing eyes, “So… do I change your personnel file to Commander Kotay?”
I tucked Tom in, perched on the end of the bed and answered his question for the millionth time, “Yes Tom, I think he’ll come.”
“Are you sure?”
“But, are you sure you’re sure?”
I laughed and put a finger to Tom’s lips, “I’m certain that I’m sure that I’m positive he’ll come. Okay? Now get some sleep Tom.”
Tom smiled up at me and whispered, “I’m really excited Kotay. I can’t WAIT.”
I ruffled Tom’s hair and stood up, “The quicker you sleep, the quicker it’ll come. Night honey.”
“Night Kotay.” I managed to get to the door in the pause he gave me, “Are you sure he’ll come Kotay?”
I laughed at him, “Yes Tom, I’m sure he’ll come.” He was leant up on his elbows, hugging Bugs in one hand and looking at me with the same excitement in his eyes as was present when the older him got assigned a shuttle mission, “Sleep.” I ordered softly, “Computer; lights out.”
“What the…” I sleepily, but quickly, shot my hand out and grabbed the thing that had just jumped on top of me.
“Hey!” came the scared squeak from the thing I had just shoved against the back of the couch.
I slackened my grip and Tom slunk down on the couch next to me. I called for the lights to come on and turned to him, “Sorry.” Tom frowned at me, making a big show out of straightening his T-shirt. I rolled my eyes and pushed him playfully, “Jeez Tom, what are you doing scaring me half to death?”
Tom’s smile appeared and his eyes brightened, “It’s Christmas Kotay!”
I rubbed my eyes sleepily, “Wha- Computer, time?”
“The time is 0517 hours.”
I leant back against the couch, “Tom! It’s barely morning!”
“Yeah, but it IS morning Kotay. Do you reckon he’s been?”
I looked at Tom curiously. He was sat straight on the couch, beaming but looking slightly nervous and clutching Bugs in one hand for comfort. I was surprised he hadn’t sprinted over to the Christmas tree yet. “There’s only one way to find out.” I said softly.
Tom swallowed, “B-but what if he hasn’t come Kotay? What if he thinks I’ve been too bad again?”
Huh!? Again? Beginning to seriously resent fucking Owen Paris, “What do you mean?”
“He didn’t come last year. Dad told me it was because I only won second prize in my science project.”
Now I realise why Tom had been so anxious last night. He actually doubted that it would happen, it wasn’t just excitement. Beginning to SERIOUSLY hate this Admiral.
I squeezed Tom’s free hand reassuringly, “Just check out whether he’s come honey.”
Tom took a deep breath, turned around and peered nervously over the edge of the couch. His face lit up again and he vaulted over the couch like an excited puppy, “He’s been!” he yelled happily, skidding to a halt on the floor in front of the tree. “Come on Kotay!” he beckoned me over.
I sleepily got up and joined Tom on the floor where Tom was practically trembling with excitement. “So, are you going to open any of them?” I indicated the brightly coloured packages arranged under the tree.
Tom grinned at me and reached for the first gift.
I nodded and slid another package out from the back of the tree, “Here, from me. Happy Christmas.”
Tom clutched the box, “What is it?”
“Probably the only thing you didn’t get off your list.” I said remembering the comprehensive and extremely detailed list of wants Tom had given me to transmit to Santa.
As Tom ripped open the package I began to doubt giving him this for the millionth time. I could just envision terrible accidents and endless restrictions and regulations being imposed. But, I would cope.
Tom pulled out a pair of shiny black roller blades complete with four inline purple wheels. His smile got wider and he threw a hug on me so fast that I almost fell over. He squeezed my neck tightly and whispered, “Thank you Kotay.”
Then he pulled back and looked at me, “Wait here a sec.” He dove into the bedroom at warp speed and I got up, waded through the mountain of toys and padds and sat back down on the couch.
Tom walked back in, hopped up beside me and handed me a bright blue box wrapped with white ribbon. He looked up at me, “I got this for you.”
I smiled gratefully, “Thanks Tom, but you really didn’t have to…”
“I wanted to.” He said and grinned, “Open it!” he said excitedly, bouncing on the seat.
I slid off the ribbon and lifted the lid off the box to reveal a mountain of tissue paper. Inside the paper were three separate small packages. I picked up the first ad unravelled it, revealing a tennis ball sized glass sphere. I frowned at Tom, querying silently.
Tom took the sphere off me and pressed an almost invisible button on the underside. The sphere turned black with small stars dotted here and there. He handed the sphere back to me and I felt tears pricking my eyes. As I rolled the sphere around in my hands I remembered all the times I had laid on my back and looked up at these constellations. I could name every single one of the constellations, which passed Dorvan V at some point. Spirits I had pretty much given up ever seeing home again, not that there was anything there to see anymore. But, seeing them again, it was so overwhelming.
Tom must have noticed my sad silence because he ducked under my arms and popped up in front of my face with a concerned look on his, “Are you okay?
Tom cocked his head at me and tried again, this time putting even more liveliness in his voice, “It’s your home planet you know.”
He frowned at my uncommon monosyllabic nature. I could tell he was confused and making an effort to cheer me up, but I was experiencing temporary down time. “Kathy told me all about it.” He paused, searching my face for any difference in disposition, “I thought you’d like it, y’know to remember your home by. I thought maybe you missed it. I know I would if something like that happened. I-if you don’t want those stars you can change it to show any planet’s…”
I put a finger to Tom’s lips, quelling his efforts gently, “It’s perfect Tom.” I reassured, hugging Tom closer to me, “Thank you. I love it.”
Tom brightens a little “Really? You seem sad.”
“It’s just brought back some sad memories. But it’s the best present I’ve ever been given.” Tom leant up and frowned, so I expanded, “You see, I never thought I’d get close enough to my planet to see the stars like this again. Even if I did, I’m not sure I could cope with going down to the planet again. But this, this will help me remember home, whether I get there or not. Thank you for this Tom.” He gave me an incredulous look, “Honestly Tom, I love it. I’m fine and will be forever in your debt for getting me such a cool” (Tom’s influence) “present.” I grinned.
Tom laughed at me, “Are you going to open the rest of your stuff?”
I looked down at the pair of packages I still hadn’t opened and wondered what emotional roller coaster the next one was going to send me on. Tentatively I unwrapped the second one and was presented with another wolf carving. It was almost the same as my other one, except that this one was a cub and this one had a playful twinkle in its eyes. Oh spirits. I looked to Tom.
“The other one looked lonely all on his own, so I thought he needed a friend.” Tom shrugged, “Do you like him?”
I set the cub down on the coffee table next to my original wolf, “I love him.” I looked down at the two carvings and smiled. Tom was right; the wolf did look better with a friend.
Tom handed me the final package and I opened it revealing something else which made my heart turn over. Tom took it off me and headed over to the tree. He hung my new glittery, white C next to his T and trotted back over to the couch facing the tree. I pulled Tom into my knee and wrapped my arms around him, “Thank you.” I whispered, “But I thought this was just between your family.”
Tom turned and looked at me, “Kotay, you’re the closest thing to family I’ve got out here. I’m okay just with you to look after me.”
“Hey, you have to look after me too. We’re a team, yeah?”
“Tom? Can I tell you something?”
Tom frowned up at me. I could see the uncertainty at his eyes, he’s not used to me being the one confiding in him and he assumed I was. He did, however, seem eager to help, “Is there something wrong, Kotay?”
“No. Nothing’s wrong. I just want to thank you for the presents, they all truly mean something to me. You know you didn’t have to do anything don’t you?”
“I know. But best friends get each other presents,” I smiled, “and you’ve done loads for me Kotay anyways.”
I smiled and cuddled Tom for a while, “You have a gift for picking out great presents, how about you help me pick some out for the rest of the crew?”
“Okay. Can I roller blade around the deck first?”
Terrible accidents, trips to Sick bay- and not for Tom. I had a feeling the crew’s reflexes were about to be tested.
A few hours later and Chakotay had finally convinced Tom that he really didn’t need to go to Neelix’s Christmas dinner in his roller blades. They had wrapped gifts for a few of the crewmembers and the rations in Chakotay’s account were getting seriously depleted. They headed over to the Mess and Chakotay steeled himself for Neelix’s version of Christmas dinner. From what Tom and Kathryn had told him, the traditional version sounded quite nice, but add a pinch of Neelix and the whole thing could turn into a disaster.
Tom grinned up at Chakotay, “This is a great Christmas Kotay.”
“It is pretty good isn’t it? I’m hoping Neelix’s food won’t spoil it.”
“Kathy said that she’s gonna make him replicate it all. Tom wrinkled his nose, “I don’t fancy leola anything today.”
“So why’s Bugs not been invited then?”
Tom looked at Chakotay angrily and spoke with older Tom’s sarcasm, “Bugs doesn’t like public occasions.”
Chakotay laughed, feeling stupidly pleased that he was in on the Bugs secret, and followed Tom into the Mess Hall where there was already quite a crowd gathered. Chakotay looked around and raised an eyebrow; Neelix was definitely getting into the spirit of things. The Mess was decorated in tinsel, fairy lights and there was a huge tree in the corner, must have cost him a bomb on rations. All the tables had been pushed into one giant, long one in the middle of the room and it was attractively laden with silverware, candles, serviettes and some long cardboard shiny things which Tom informed Chakotay were called crackers. Chakotay walked up to Kathryn and she greeted them both.
“Chakotay. Tom. How’s the day going?”
“Well, we’ve been up since the break of day haven’t we?” Chakotay looked down at Tom who smiled sheepishly.
Kathryn frowned, “Why?”
“Well, Mr. Hyperactive over here couldn’t wait to get started on his presents.”
“Oh, so I take it we’ve had a visit from Santa, have we?” Kathryn winked inconspicuously at Chakotay.
Tom nodded happily, “Yep, he came. And he brought me the BEST presents ever. I got loads of game PADDS, a real cool sweater, music vids, another baseball and glove a-and loads more! And ‘Kotay got me some roller blades, they’re great too.”
Kathryn laughed at Tom’s chattering and handed them the two packages she had in her hands, “Speaking of presents, here you go.”
Tom took the present excitedly, while Chakotay looked at her hesitantly, “Kathryn, you didn’t have to…”
She shrugged, “Just getting into the spirit of things. “
“In that case,” Chakotay pulled out another package out of his bag, “From me and Tom.”
“Thanks Chakotay, thank you Tom.” Kathryn smiled up at Chakotay and down at Tom.
Tom looked up at them both clutching his new portable holo-toy, “Wow, thanks Kathy! I’m gonna go show Haz. Oh, Kotay I need Haz’s present.”
Chakotay handed Tom Harry’s present and Tom bounded across the room towards Harry. Chakotay turned to Kathryn and smiled, “You’ve been great Kathryn, I know you helped Tom with his gifts. You didn’t have to do this too.” he indicated the present.
Kathryn smiled, “You didn’t have to do this for me or Tom. Chakotay it’s Christmas, we’re supposed to be giving.” She passed and looked at Chakotay seriously, “Are you still okay with Tom staying with you? He can’t be that easy to look after.”
“He’s great to look after. Y’know, I don’t know where his flyboy persona got injected, but it definitely isn’t here now.”
They were ushered towards the table by an over-excited Neelix and they sat down. Kathryn looked at Chakotay, “It seems all his insecurities aren’t here either. I only saw Tom once when he was small, and he was eleven when I saw him. It was a formal occasion and…oh, Owen’s a good man Chakotay, he’s just not up to fatherhood… well he was parading Tom around, showing him off to the other guests. Tom WAS an exceptional child, just not up to showing off. But he didn’t have much choice. You could tell he hated it. Even for the few seconds he was with me he was just silently staring at the floor. NOT the Tom you and I know.
“Anyway, that night Tom spilt his drink on the floor. It was a simple mistake, but Owen, he reprimanded Tom right there in front of everyone. I don’t know if he knew what he was doing, because it definitely didn’t do much for his image never mind Tom’s. Most of the other guests just turned a blind eye, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t Owen that held me- he was his usual snappy self- it was Tom. He was just stood there shaking, not even meeting his eye. It was heartbreaking.”
She stopped when she noticed Tom slipping in the chair next to Chakotay. Chakotay looked to Tom with new eyes, in his first life (Gods that sounded weird) Tom hadn’t been this happy kid; he’d been the timid child in Kathryn’s account. He turned to Tom who was chatting away at warp speed with Harry across the table, “Tom, why don’t you go sit with Harry?”
“You don’t want to sit with me?” Tom said, a slight worry appearing in his blue eyes.
There. The insecurities were still there. Chakotay sighed, “That’s not it. I just figured you’d be happier talking when you’re next to him.”
Tom shrugged and moved around the table to sit next to Harry. As soon as he got there he turned to Chakotay, “Hey, Kotay.” Kathryn, Harry and Chakotay started to laugh and Tom looked at them innocently, “What?”
“Tom, could you tell me the whole reason you moved around there?”
Tom frowned and then grinned, “Oh.” Tom paused, “Just one thing. Look what Haz got me.” Tom held up an action figure that Chakotay could have sworn he recognized, “Haz says it’s called Captain Proton.” Chakotay grinned, “It’s great isn’t it?”
Chakotay laughed “Yeah, it’s a great present Tom.”
“Oh, by the way Commander, thank you for mine.” Harry said smiling.
And then Neelix tapped his glass and stood up, “Um, thank you all for coming to our traditional dinner honouring the ancient Earth tradition of Christmas. I’m afraid you won’t be tasting my usual natural cooking today” Chakotay felt a silent prayer of thanks come from everyone around the table, “it’s all come out of those horrible replicators. But anyway, Bon Appétit.”
Kathryn sipped her wine and firstly looked to Tom checking he wasn’t listening in, then she turned to Chakotay, “It was after that. Tom resigned to sitting on a couch as far away from his father as he could possibly manage. The things I heard people saying about him-that he was a spoilt Fleet brat, that he was just sat over there sulking- I just wondered how they could be so ignorant. Tom was sat staring into space; there was no sulking involved.
“Not knowing whether it was right or not, I went and sat next to him. He barely moved, didn’t acknowledge my presence- not through impoliteness though, he was already a trained Starfleet professional in that respect. I know it’s hard to imagine. I mean if I went and sat next to him now, I know he’d turn to me, flash me that sunny smile and start talking non-stop. But he just sat there and didn’t offer me even a sad smile.” She paused and shook her head, “So, I asked him if he was okay. And he told me he was stupid, that everything bad that happened was his fault, that he was worthless…”
“That he didn’t mean anything to anybody.” Chakotay finished.
“How did you…”
“Tom’s already remembered that stage. Spirits, how could someone drum that into their own SON?”
Kathryn shook her head, “I don’t know. Anyway, from what I heard after that, as soon as Tom got old enough to learn to hide his feelings he covered them in his flyboy side. He invented a persona that would make him popular, but prevent people from getting close enough to uncover those insecurities.”
Chakotay looked across at the hyperactive Tom shovelling down ice cream and giggling with Harry, “Poor Tom. He’s had a lot to cope with. I hope things are at least a little easier this time round.”
Kathryn smiled at Tom who was now playfully eating Harry’s ice cream, “I think they are Chakotay. He’s got YOU this time.”
Captain Proton flew across the uncharted depths of space, his rocket pack propelling him at speeds rivalling a modern rocket ship. He approached the giant blocking his path and readied himself for a fight, pulling out his ray gun holstered at his waist.
“Stand down in the name of everything good, evil giant, or face the wrath of Captain Proton!” Proton warned.
The giant said nothing, simply raised an eyebrow and Captain Proton sighed, “I shall take your silence as an unwillingness to surrender. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Captain Proton fired at the giant, flying winding, confusing circles around the giant who was still not moving- obviously bewildered by Captain Proton’s expertise.
But then Captain Proton’s rocket pack faltered! He was sent hurtling down towards the blackness of the evil giant. Impact imminent! Would he survive a direct hit into the giant? He was about to find out.
“Ow! Tom! That hurt!”
Tom frowned. Surely it would hurt Captain Proton more than it would hurt the giant. He shrugged and flew Captain Proton away from evil Harry and towards evil Chakotay.
“Tom, that comes anywhere close to crashing into me and I’ll set MY ray gun on you.” Chakotay said casually without even glancing up.
“How did you know he was gonna crash?” Tom asked, letting Captain Proton drop to his waist and climbing onto the sofa next to Kotay, Kathy, Neelix and ‘Lana.
“I’ve watched him crash into about fifty other people and it doesn’t look like much fun. Why doesn’t he just sit still and, um, quietly save the universe?”
Tom raised an eyebrow and sighed heavily, “Because that’s boring Kotay.” He said as if it was the most obvious thing in the entire universe.
“Do you know what time it is?” Tom shook his head, “It’s just after midnight. You’ve been up for over eighteen hours Tom. Aren’t you even the slightest bit tired?” Chakotay asked hopefully.
Tom shook his head again and carried on playing with his action figure. Neelix raised an eyebrow and turned to the other three, “Well, I’M tired anyway. I have to be up early tomorrow to make breakfast. Goodnight.”
B’Elanna joined him in standing up, “I’ve got to go too, I have an early watch tomorrow so I’d better turn in.”
The two walked off and Kathryn looked at Tom and Chakotay, “Seems we’ve worn out the party.”
Chakotay twisted around to see the Mess Hall deserted, “Mmm. Tom, I think we’d better go too.”
Tom looked up, “Do we HAVE to?”
“Well, if we don’t, you’ll be partying on your own because I’m shattered.” Chakotay walked out of the room.
Tom rolled his eyes and flew Captain Proton out of the Mess Hall after the giant.
“I can’t believe you’re not tired.” Chakotay said flopping down on the couch in their living area.
Tom came out of the bedroom and settled down next to him, “Well…maybe I am a little.”
“Aha!” Chakotay spun Tom around,
“So you ARE tired.” He grinned, “Well, at least you’ll sleep in tomorrow.”
Chakotay smiled and whispered in Tom’s ear, “I liked your presents best too.” he watched Tom’s face grin and then yawn, “Why don’t you go get ready for bed?”
“’Kay.” Tom slid back down Chakotay and landed on the floor. He picked himself up and bounced over to the bathroom.
I accepted it and held Tom’s while he clambered up next to me, “What made you get me one too?”
Tom shrugged, “I remember doing it in school. Milk’s really good for calcium. That helps you grow.” Tom said proudly.
“Really? You think I need to grow?” I smiled.
“No. But you can have it anyway.”
“Thanks.” I laughed and handed Tom his glass back, he downed half of it in one gulp and the rest in another, “Thirsty?” I queried with a raised eyebrow.
Tom nodded with a smile and cuddled up to my side. He sighed and turned to me, “It’s Friday tomorrow Kotay.”
“I know.” I put my spare arm around Tom, “Do you want to do the usual? Dinner, Sandrine’s and Observation lounge?”
Tom nodded, “Are you on shift?”
“No, I’ve got today and tomorrow off.” I put my glass down and turned so I was lying on my back across the couch. Tom frowned at the inconvenience of me moving and then lay down, snuggling up to my chest. I sighed at him, “I take it this reluctance to go to bed just exhibits pure laziness?”
Tom gave me a ‘look’ and began to mimic my tone perfectly, “I take it this reluctance to get changed just exhibits pure laziness?”
Tom slipped into the gap between me and the back of the sofa and snuggled into my side. I pulled the blanket over us both, “Goodnight lazybones.” I said closing my eyes.
He sighed, “Night Kotay. Merry Christmas.”