Child’s play P2

“I believe you’re looking for this little guy.” Chakotay said strolling into sickbay. He held Tom in one arm so the kid could see in front of them. 

Tom was half-sitting in the cradled embrace and he had his torso turned in the same direction as the giant, blending in as much as possible. Tom saw the Doctor walking up to him, arms stretched out wide to get him. Oh no. He took his hand off his giant friend’s shoulder and wrapped both arms tightly around his neck, keeping his eyes forward. 

Chakotay felt Tom tighten his grip and sidestepped the Doctor, “I was thinking of taking Tom to the observation room. He wants to see the stars, is that okay?”

The Doctor rolled his eyes and turned back to his office, “Him and his stars.” He sighed exasperatedly. 

Chakotay felt Tom’s grip lessen and the child went back to looking fully forward. He followed the Doctor into his office and queried, “What do you mean?”

“He turned four years old last night. Gets a year older at midnight every seven days. He must have identified the stars for the first time when he was four, now he won’t stop asking to go and find them. I’ve tried to explain to him that we won’t find the constellations he saw from earth out here, but he doesn’t listen.”

Or understand. 

Chakotay sighed, “Can I take him?”

“Please do, I could use some peace and quiet.”

That was all the answer Chakotay needed and he turned tail, heading for the exit and strolling down the corridors towards the observation lounges. Halfway there Tom turned to look at him and asked, “What’s your name?”

“I’m Chakotay.”

“Kotay?” Tom nodded, “Do you have a, um, a-a rank” he smiled proudly, “like Captain Janey?”

Chakotay laughed, “I’m a Commander.” He paused at the Tom’s obvious frustration, “Commander Chakotay.” He clarified.

“Oh.” Tom stored that information, “I’m Tom.” 

Chakotay smiled, “I’ve heard.” He walked into the observation lounge and put Tom down. The place was deserted and he watched Tom look around. Tom smiled, his eyes widened and he ran up to the huge window in the center of the room, pressing his hands and nose up against the window. The ship was traveling at impulse, slowly navigating a few planets in close proximity and then an asteroid field, and the stars passed slowly by.

Tom turned back to Chakotay, confused, “Stars don’t move.” He stated. 

Chakotay walked over and sat down on one of the couches behind Tom, “You’re on a starship. We’re traveling in space, past the stars. Do you understand?”

Chakotay watched Tom turn back to look outside, obviously thinking hard. A small frown was etched across the four-year-old’s brow as he turned back to Chakotay, “So the stars aren’t moving. Just me?”

“That’s it.” Chakotay smiled. This child was so like Tom, and yet totally different. As Chakotay watched him gazing out at the stars he realized Tom must have always has his fascination with space and flying. His eyes were telltale, as always, and he was talkative. But this younger Tom had something different from his older counterpart; he was almost innocent. Innocent to the world around him, innocent in the way he interpreted things, innocent in the questions he asked. His eyes sparkled at everything new he saw or learned. It was little Tom versus the big universe, and Tom was loving it.  

Tom walked over to Chakotay and let the man help him up onto the giant’s couch. Why was everything so big? He even had to be lifted onto his own bed in Sickbay. Tom cocked his head and looked across at the older giant, “Kotay?”

“Yes, Tom.”

“Where’s my mommy and daddy?”

Chakotay sighed. Tell him the truth? Soften it out a little? No, the kid deserved the full story. He’d know properly in a few months anyway. “Tom, we’re far away from your mom and dad. Things are a little different out here. I’m afraid you may not see them for a while.”

Tom looked down sadly, “Okay.” He couldn’t even remember the last time he was with his parents. “I don’t really know them anyways.” So what about this Kotay giant? He looked up, frowning, “So…are you my daddy now?”

“No.” Chakotay said firmly. But he looked down at the child sat across from him. That wasn’t the Tom Paris he knew. That was one lonely, confused boy who bore only the good parts of the Lieutenant. And the child was looking up at him with such puzzlement, hope and anxiety that Chakotay couldn’t help but melt, “I could be your friend though.” 

“My bestest friend?” Tom asked softly.

Chakotay laughed gently. He’d forgotten how much he loved children. He’d almost forgotten playing with his two nephews back home. He was surprised that even Tom Paris could be such an innocent child. He looked back towards the small Tom, “Okay, I guess I can be your best friend.” He corrected softly.

Tom looked at his new bestest friend and then clambered over him, settling in Chakotay’s arms, eyes focused on the stars. Chakotay held Tom for a while; he could almost feel the small child thinking. For such a little person, he sure did a lot of thinking, but he seemed pretty smart from it. 

After a while Chakotay glanced down at Tom, he was chewing gently on his thumb, while the other hand clutched a small ball out of Chakotay’s tunic. His eyes had dulled slightly and he was leaning his head against Chakotay’s chest. Every now and again Tom would close his eyes and snuggle down into Chakotay’s arms. Chakotay tilted Tom’s face towards him gently “Tom, are you tired?”

Tom nodded a few times. It had been a long day. His first day as a four year old had been spent practicing walking, bugging Doc, escaping and watching the stars with his bestest friend. 

“Let’s get you back to sick bay then.” Chakotay tried to pick Tom up, but the boy slid off his lap and stood up in front of Chakotay.

“I don’t wanna go, Kotay. Don’t like it there.”

Chakotay leant forward, “Why not?”

“Nothing to play with. Nothing to do.” Tom said attempting to pout, but sleepily spoiling the effect with a yawn.

“I know it’s boring, but you’re going to have to sleep sometime.” Chakotay stood and picked Tom up. Despite the boy’s protests, Chakotay’s could feel Tom’s head lolling sleepily onto his shoulder. 

Chakotay brought Tom into Sick bay, the toddler already gently drifting between sleep and awake. He turned to the Doctor and whispered softly, “Where does he sleep?”

The Doctor nodded over to a biobed that was covered in a gray blanket, and Chakotay lay Tom down on it. He covered him up with the fleecy blanket and made sure he was totally tucked in. He sighed to himself, there was no way he’d do this for the older Paris, maybe it was just the fact that little Tom didn’t have a clue about the tension between them. It would be unfair to dismiss a toddler for something he hadn’t even done, yet. Oh well, Chakotay had done his duty for Paris, NOW he could enjoy his precious three days off.

“Kotay?” Came Tom’s sleepy voice.

“Yes Tom?” Chakotay said bending down so he could hear the toddler. 

“Come play tomorrow?” he asked softly.

Chakotay frowned, he wasn’t planning on entertaining Tom during his leave. One day wouldn’t hurt. Two days leave was still good. Besides, he reminded himself, it just might be fun, “Okay Tom, I’ll come by tomorrow. Goodnight.”

Tom smiled in his sleep and rolled onto his side, eyes still closed, “Night sleep tight ‘Kotay.”

Chakotay laughed, this was definitely strange. He and Paris were actually friends, but under the weirdest circumstances. Chakotay wondered if they’d still be friends when Tom remembered he hated him. Chakotay shrugged, he’d coped with mutual hatred before, and he could do it again. Except maybe it wouldn’t be mutual this time. But for now, he’d just consider Tom his youngest, strangest friend.