Child’s play P11
I sat back and watched Tom over the top of my reports. He was sat cross legged in front of the observation window drumming his fingers on the floor. He’d grown so much in the past few weeks. Tom was fourteen and had been through a very fast growth spurt. His personality had changed slightly too, and I had a feeling it was to do with some of the memories he was getting. He’d become a lot quieter and a lot tenser, not coming to me for comfort as much during the day. He’d also begun having infrequent nightmares and I’d wake up to his screams and find him trembling in bed, hiding under the covers. Then he’d spot me and clamp his arms around my neck, he told me he needed to reassure himself that he was with me and not back on Earth.
Tom had changed into just the teenager I had expected him to. He was tall and thin, very into recreation. He got me into basketball and skiing, and I taught him how to box. Tom’s attitude was basically the same; he was still innocent and treated new things with a large dose of caution- although I suspected that had something to do with the Jarut incident. He was a fun loving teenager, he’d be out as late as he could playing with me or Harry until twilight. Unfortunately this version of Tom, who didn’t mask his emotions, was prone to impulsive reactions and sometimes mood swings.
Suddenly Tom slammed his fist down on the floor, interrupting my train of thought and cursed quietly under his breath. I snapped my eyes up and put the reports down, tactfully ignoring the bad language “Tom? What’s wrong?”
He stood up and started pacing the room and then stopped and looked at me, “Why can’t I just do something for myself for once? Am I not good enough?”
I frowned, hoping this was something to do with one of his memories and not me. “Want to tell me?”
He sat down again on a single-seater couch across from me, “The Academy. H-he got me in. I didn’t even have to take the test. And then he had the nerve to call me selfish for wanting to take it! How am I ever to know that I can do something off my own back? Or is that it? It is isn’t it? I couldn’t get in on my own. I can’t do anything off my own back. But- I’m not even on Earth, I’m here. It hasn’t happened, has it?” He clenched his fists in frustration, “I DON’T GET ANY OF THIS!” he yelled suddenly.
“Come here Tom.” I motioned to the place next to me on the couch. He shuffled over miserably and curled up next to me. I put my arm around him and took a deep breath, “Okay, Tom I have to tell you something, but I can only tell you part of the story.” Tom looked at me, his eyes curious, “Everything you’re experiencing now, everything you remember each week- it’s all happened. But this is the second time you’re going through it.”
Tom frowned at my bad explanation, “I don’t get you.”
I paused, choosing my words carefully, “A few months ago, you were an adult on board. You were still Tom Paris, still the same person you are now, just a little older. There was an accident and you were changed back to a child, with all your memories wiped. You will remember a part of them every week, like you’re doing now, until you’re back to your original age.”
Tom took a minute for it to sink in, “So… everything I remember, I DID experience?”
I nodded, “Yes.”
“And, you know everything that’s gonna happen to me?”
“Most things.” I said softly.
“So you mean everyone on the ship knows too? Oh God, I don’t want everyone to know all this about me Kotay. It’s personal, a-and everyone on board knew the older me? What if I don’t turn out exactly like him? What if everyone hates me coz I’m different? What-“
I cut Tom off in mid-sentence by hugging him to me, “Let’s deal with this point by point, okay? Right, not everyone on this ship knows what you’re experiencing. Kathryn only knows because she met you back on Earth, do you remember?” Tom shook his head, “And I only know what you’ve told me and what I have to from the rest of your life. Two, yes everyone on board knew the older you and you won’t turn out different because once you get back to that age you will be the exact same guy. Even now you’re pretty much the same as, well, you.” I paused, “I know it’s confusing honey, heck I’m even confused, but I promise once this is all over nothing will be different at all.”
“Okay.” Tom said softly. Suddenly he turned to me, his eyes serious and anxious, “We’ll still be friends right? Promise me that Kotay. You’ve been the best to me a-and…” he must have caught a glimpse of my face, “Oh God, we’re not are we? We’re not friends.”
Sometimes I wish Tom were still four. He was a lot less observant back then. I sighed, reached across and squeezed his shoulder reassuringly, offering him a gentle smile, “We don’t know each other as well as we do now. But, Tom I promise that if you still want to be friends, we will.”
Then Tom did something that shocked me. He wrapped his arms around me and proceeded to hug me so tightly I found it hard to breathe. But it was a good feeling. Tom had lost most of his affection in his few teen years and I had strangely missed cuddling with him. He whispered softly, “I always want to be bestest friends with you Kotay.”
Tom looked up at me after a few minutes and breathed, “So THAT’s why I remember Bugs. He’s mine isn’t he? That guy’s quarters I got him from- that guy was me.”
“Yes.” I paused and smiled, “I haven’t seen Bugs in a while, I was thinking maybe you’d abandoned him.”
“No. I just don’t need to carry him everywhere I go anymore. It’s embarrassing.”
“You didn’t find it so embarrassing a few weeks ago.”
“Shut up.” Tom growled and swatted me playfully before cuddling into me again.
After a few minutes of this Tom slackened his grip and looked up at me, “Kotay? I have to know something. Am I an officer on the ship?”
“Can you tell me what I do?” he asked softly.
I sighed and decided that I would tell him, he seemed so dependant on knowing this and I figured it wouldn’t do any damage, “You are Lieutenant Tom Paris, Chief Helmsman and assistant medical officer.”
“Really?” he asked, eyes widened and smile reappearing.
I nodded, “Why’d you want to know?”
“Because being a pilot is the one thing he can’t do for me. I’m the only one there at the helm and there’s no way my Dad can fake passing any pilot exams for me.” Tom said happily. He smiled at me, “CHIEF helmsman? Wow.”
“You’re the best pilot I’VE ever seen Tom.” I laugh softly, “Now that’s all I’m telling you hotshot. Come on let’s go home.”
“Okay. Oh and Kotay?” I turn to him, “Thanks, for everything.”
Chakotay walked into their quarters, “I DO live here Tom.” he paused and sat next to Tom, “So how many encryption codes have you broken through so far?”
Tom painted a look of innocence, which didn’t fool Chakotay for a second, across his face, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Chakotay looked down at Tom, “The Captain’s not stupid you know, and neither am I for that matter. She put alarms on those codes. Once you break through one, she’s alerted and we can be here before you have chance to break through the next two.”
Tom sighed, shutting his computer screen “And I guess you’re the result of Captain Janeway being alerted.”
“Kind of.” Chakotay met Tom’s blue eyes, “You know Tom, there’s a reason we won’t let you into your files. They’re not all that detailed and you may get the wrong idea about some things from there not being enough information. I don’t want you to have to go through anymore than you are already.”
“But it’s so horrible Kotay, not knowing stuff about my own life.”
“I can imagine that it IS horrible Tom, but I can’t let you spoil it. Captain Janeway’s only doing what she thinks is best for you.”
“And you agree with her?”
Tom sighed, “Then I suppose it’s probably best for me then. How long to go until I’m back to normal?”
“Under four months.”
“You make it sound as if it’s only a short amount of time.” He sighed.
Chakotay smiled and hugged Tom, “It’ll fly by.”
“Chakotay?” Chakotay stopped running and turned to Kathryn, panting for breath. She raised an eyebrow, “Problem?”
“Just a small one involving MATURITY!” Chakotay yelled down the corridor and heard a laugh coming in reply from around the corner.
Kathryn frowned, “Care to elaborate?”
“We had a diminutive discrepancy relating to roller blades, darting around the decks and being seventeen. I informed Tom that he couldn’t skate anymore because, surely, he must have grown out of it. However, he decided to skate around the deck even though I told him numerous times it was against regulations.” Chakotay realized that no amount of big words would make it sound better, “Then there was the small matter of bets and running and skating and blackmailing.”
Kathryn just looked at him incredulously, “Whatever you do in your free time Commander…” and she walked off.
Chakotay smiled sweetly and watched Kathryn round the corner. As soon as he was sure she was out of earshot he dove in the opposite direction, “TOM! How many times? You’re not allowed to blade around the-“
Chakotay crashed straight into Tom who fell to the floor, and they both burst out laughing. Tom cuffed Chakotay lightly, “Kotay, I’ll never be able to get up now!”
Chakotay laughed, “You are SUCH a kid Tom Paris! Honestly, I never had this much trouble even when you were a toddler.”
“What? You kept me tied up?” Tom asked teasingly, wobbling to his feet.
“No, you were quite content playing with your fairies in the holodeck.”
“Don’t even remind me.” Tom cringed, “Well maybe I’m just experiencing a second, no third, um… another childhood. Gods this is weird.”
“It’s weird for me too you know.”
“Yeah, but not as bad as it is for me. This really HAS felt like seventeen years even though it’s only been, what, four months?”
“Mmm.” Chakotay walked next to Tom, “Want to go and play with the flying dragons then?”
Tom rolled his eyes, grinned cheekily and darted off down the corridors.
“Hi.” Chakotay moved his tray back so Tom’s could fit on, “Since when did you start getting preferential treatment in the desert department?” he raised an eyebrow which told Tom he’d been watching him.
“Since Neelix started feeling sorry for me and leaving them there. I used to think I was really clever in finding them, but now I’ve realised that not even Neelix is that gullible. Want one?” he offered.
Tom shrugged, took a mouthful of his dinner and then looked up at Chakotay, “Aren’t you on shift?”
“Believe it or not, I’m allowed a lunch break.”
Tom laughed softly and picked at the fluorescent substance, “I wanted to ask you something.”
“Do you want me to move back to my old quarters? I mean, you can’t sleep on the couch anymore.”
Chakotay sipped his tea, “Do you WANT to move out?”
“Well, not really, but-“
“Chakotay smiled, “Then stay. Until your memories have finished coming back.”
“Then at least let me take the couch.”
“I’ll be fine on the couch, we’ve become accustomed to each other, it’s practically the same size as a single bed anyway. Besides, it’d take forever for me to get all your stuff out of my room. Spirits know what you keep in there.”
“I’m not one for tidiness, y’know a rebelling against, um, my first upbringing. Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“Positive. And don’t keep on asking me, if I change my mind I’ll let you know.”
Tom smiled, “Thanks. But, why didn’t you just replicate another bed? You could have used the large objects replicator in engineering.”
“Right so whilst feeding a hyperactive toddler, who had a fixation with expensive holodeck sessions, and myself, I was supposed to have enough rations for a bed? I don’t think you would’ve coped if we had to stop going to the holodeck for a few weeks.”
Tom grinned and nibbled at a cookie, “You’re the best, you know that don’t you?”
Chakotay returned Tom’s smile and stood up, “Of course I know. I better be getting back to the bridge. See you later.”
I looked up to see Tom walk up to me and settle on the sand. I knocked my sunshades back down over my eyes and sat up, “Sure.”
“You know tonight?”
I sighed, this was going to be a big one. I knew Tom very well by now; he would drag a big question out the asking as long as he could, afraid of getting the answer which wasn’t desired. “Yes Tom.”
“How we usually go to the observation lounge?” I nodded, and Tom took a deep breath, “Well, there’s a party at Sandrine’s, and I was thinking maybe we could go to that instead.”
I took a deep breath. Any other night, any other week, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it. But tonight. “Tom tonight’s not so good. I don’t think you should go out tonight.”
Gods, I couldn’t tell him that. He’d have to find this out for himself. “I can’t tell you Tom. I just think you’d be better off without a huge crowd tonight.”
“But, I don’t see why. I love Sandrine’s. You can come you know, in fact I love it when you come too.”
He didn’t get it. “I know Tom, and I’m not stopping you going, I’m just telling you what I think.”
Tom frowned at me, “You just don’t want anyone else to be with me. Gods Kotay, it’s only one week. I’m going.” He said decisively.
He stood up and glared at me, “No. I’m going Chakotay.”
He stormed out, leaving me shocked and hurt. It wasn’t the fact that Tom had just got mad and stomped out of the resort, it was what he had called me- Chakotay. He’d always called me Kotay. I found it incredibly weird that being called by my name could hurt so much. I did understand Tom though; he didn’t know what was coming. I sighed and lay back, well he’d find out soon enough.
And I’d still be there for him.
He finished off his turn, missing potting the six ball by mere millimetres, and checked his watch. Five minutes to midnight. He looked around and sighed, he was surprised Chakotay hadn’t turned up. Tom felt bad for getting mad earlier. He knew Chakotay wasn’t selfish, he just couldn’t figure out why Chakotay didn’t want him to go to the party. Tom knew Chakotay was usually right about these things, but there couldn’t be anything about to go wrong in his life. It was all going so well. He was excelling at the Academy, mostly without his father’s help, and he was on the ski team with all his best friends. Yeah, at the moment, both his lives were going great.
Tom watched Harry almost clean up the table and step aside to allow Tom his shot. Tom stood over the table, aimed, pulled his cue back and froze. His heart stopped and he stared straight forward, past the green of the table to the yellows and whites of the explosion that killed his three best friends. He looked up slowly, “Oh shit.” He breathed.
Harry looked towards the young pilot who was looking very pale, “Tom? Are you okay?”
Tom blinked the tears from out of his eyes and offered his Harry a very fake smile, “I-I’m sorry Haz, I gotta go. I-I’ll see you later.” Tom darted out of Sandrine’s, tears now falling liberally down his cheeks.
Tom knew where he’d find his best friend and he ran for the observation lounge. He hated himself for not listening to Chakotay. Chakotay had known something bad was going to happen, why hadn’t he taken any notice?
Tom burst through the door and saw Chakotay sitting on the couch, looking straight at him. Tom batted at his tears and ordered a privacy lock. He began to speak shakily, “’Kotay, I’m so, so sorry. I should have listened to you. You’re always right about these things.” He paused, “I killed them Kotay.” He sobbed.
Chakotay stood up and silently moved towards Tom, wrapping his arms around the pilot. Tom felt the embrace and let loose, crying into Chakotay, mourning his loss for the second time.
Chakotay carded his fingers through Tom’s blonde hair and whispered soothingly to him, attempting to quieten the broken man. Chakotay gently led Tom to the couch and cuddled up with him, gently cradling Tom in his arms. Tom snuffled miserably, burying into the familiar safety of Chakotay’s arms. Chakotay took Tom’s hand and whispered softly, “It wasn’t your fault Tom, you know it wasn’t.”
“B-but it was Kotay, I shouldn’t have…”
“Tom, it was a mistake, okay?”
“I didn’t even tell the truth about it. I should have told them, not blamed it someone else.”
Chakotay rocked Tom gently and sighed, “You do tell the truth honey. Eventually you go back and tell the real story. What’s the last thing you remember?”
Tom laid his head on Chakotay’s shoulder, “I’ve just been assigned to the USS Copernicus.”
“You’re not too far away from it. From what I remember you were only on the Copernicus a few months before you go back and tell the truth. No-one blames you.”
Tom tried to pull himself closer into Chakotay, to crawl into the man’s skin, “I’m sorry Kotay. I was horrible to you. Jeez, you’ve done nothing but be good to me ever since I can remember and what do I do? I go and ignore you, when you’re only looking out for me. Oh, Kotay you must hate me.”
Chakotay turned Tom so he was looking straight into his eyes, “Don’t say that. Of course I don’t hate you Tom. There was no way you could have known about what you’ve remembered. Don’t worry, I’m fine.” Chakotay felt Tom lean back into his arms and the pilot let out a huge sigh of relief. “Do you remember the first time we came in here?” Chakotay asked softly.
“You’ll have to jog my memory. I don’t think I remember it. Um, I was staying with the Doc wasn’t I?”
“Uh-huh. You were about three and you escaped from him and decided to hurtle around Voyager at warp speed. Unfortunately you crashed into me. You informed me that you wanted to go and see the stars. So I brought you here, and you just sat for a good few hours staring at them. They seemed to comfort you.”
Tom smiled, glancing out of the window, “They do. It just seems so peaceful out there. And because everything’s so vast, I find it kinda puts things into perspective. So is that when I came to stay with you?”
“Almost. The next day you did. It was supposed to be just for one night, but here we are six months later.”
Tom laughed, “I always knew how to get my own way.” He paused, “So when do I meet you in my, um, other life?”
“Is that as much as I’m getting?”
Chakotay laughed a little, “Yes.”
Tom smiled and snuggled again, “That’s a relief really. I’ve had enough to cope with tonight. Jeez, I had a miserable life.”
Chakotay squeezed Tom reassuringly, “Just remember I’m here.” He looked down at Tom, “Want to go home?”
“Can we stay here for a while?”
“Sure we can Tom. Anything you need.”
Tom smiled and cuddled into Chakotay,
feeling safe in his arms. He closed his eyes, but immediately snapped them
open again. He remembered. He remembered being held in Chakotay’s lap the
first time he’d come here. He grinned and shook his head. Maybe he wasn’t
such a little kid anymore, but he still felt just as good when he was snuggled
up with his bestest friend.