Child’s play P4
I walked down the corridors, now holding the sleepy toddler in my arms. After a while Tom lifted his head form its perch on my shoulder and looked into my eyes, “’Kotay, I don’t want to go back to sickbay. I don’t like the Doc.”
I turned my head so I could see Tom’s face, “Why don’t you like the Doctor, Tom?”
Tom shrugged limply, “He’s moody, and he won’t let me play. And he won’t let me out of sickbay, it’s boring with him Kotay. He wouldn’t even let me Comm. you.” Tom moaned sleepily.
I put on my most sympathetic smile, “I’m sorry buddy. You’ll just have to put up with him. I’ll come around and see you as often as I can, and we’ll go out loads too.”
As we rounded the corner and went through the sickbay doors I felt Tom tighten his grip and bury his face in my neck. I felt sorry for Tom. I could barely stand the Doctor for short amounts of time, never mind the amount of time Tom spent in his care. I sat Tom down on his bio-bed and watched as the Doc came over, huffing as usual, “I have to deactivate myself tonight, so I’ll have to put Mr. Paris behind a force field. I don’t want him running around sickbay, or causing havoc over the ship whilst I’m not here to play babysitter.”
I looked at Tom’s fallen face, it seemed he knew what ‘force field’ meant. I motioned to the Doctor to follow me, and I headed out of Tom’s earshot, “Why can’t somebody else look after Tom, instead of him being locked up?”
The Doctor looked up, annoyed, “You try and find a babysitter for a four year old with the personality of Tom Paris.”
I sighed, making up my mind, “How about I take Tom home with me tonight? He’d be better spending the night with me, where I can watch him, than behind a force field.”
The Doctor shrugged, seemingly not caring less, “If you think you can put up with him, take him.” The Doctor said strolling off towards his office.
I rolled my eyes and walked back over to Tom who was watching my movements intently. I sat down on the bio-bed next him and looked into his eyes, “I don’t suppose you really want to stay with the Doc tonight do you?”
“No.” Tom shook his head, “I HATE staying behind the force field. It’s scary being shut in and all alone.”
I was reminded of Tom’s frequent claustrophobia in the brig, the hyperventilating and the shaking and the having to be transported to sickbay. Tom didn’t cope with it all too well as his older self, I wasn’t surprised little Tom was scared too, “How about you come and stay with me for the night then?”
“With you? Yeah! Please Kotay, I want to stay with you!” Tom said excitedly.
“Come on then, let’s go.” I watched Tom jump off the bed and follow me with a huge sleepy smile on his face.
I turned around after a while to see Tom dawdling behind me, struggling to keep his eyes open. I turned around and walked back to him, “Hey sleepyhead, want me to carry you?”
Tom nodded, his eyes closing as he did so. I picked him up and hugged him against my chest, feeling his hands come up to rest on my shoulders and his head tip to the side and settle on me.
When I got back to my quarters Tom was asleep in my arms. I walked into my bedroom, lifted Tom down, pulled the duvet back and laid him in my bed. Tom stirred at the movement and his eyes opened slightly, “Kotay? What are you doing?” he asked softly, rubbing his eyes.
“I’m just putting you to bed buddy. Go back to sleep.” I coaxed gently.
“’Kay.” Tom whispered, closing his eyes again.
I replicated shorts and T-shirt, using Tom’s unlimited rations and changed Tom into them. I tugged the t-shirt over Tom’s head and covered him over with the duvet. Making sure he was fully tucked in, I watched him subconsciously snuggle down into the nest of blankets. I ruffled Tom’s hair, whispered ‘goodnight’ and went to go sleep on the couch.
I threw down my reports, jumped gracelessly off the couch and sprinted to the bedroom, “Tom? What’s wrong?”
Tom was sitting up in my bed, hair messy and eyes sleepy, but alert. Tom breathed a huge sigh of relief, “I didn’t know where you were, Kotay.”
My theories of Tom in horrible pain or having something awful happening to him were disproved and I relaxed. I walked over to my bed and perched next to the boy responsible for the false alarm, “I was just in the lounge.” I pulled the covers back over Tom, “You okay Angel?”
Well THAT one was a wake up call. Had I just called TOM PARIS angel?
“Yep.” Tom said cheerfully, “What are you doing Kotay?”
“Well I’ve got some reports to finish first, then we’ll go out for lunch, then I’ve got something I want to show you. That okay?”
Tom nodded and followed me out of the bedroom, “Can I sit with you?”
“Sure.” I watched Tom clamber onto the couch and pulled my duvet over him, intending for us both to lie around that morning. “Breakfast?” I offered.
“Yes please. Toast.” Tom said getting comfy and pushing my scattered PADDS over to what I figured he’d deemed ‘my side’ of the couch.
I replicated the food and gave it to Tom who started eating while I fiddled with my vid screen. “From what I can remember, you’ll enjoy this.” I switched on the screen and stepped aside so Tom could see.
Tom’s eyes widened and he smiled, “Cartoons!” he yelled happily.
I sat at ‘my side’ of the couch and picked my reports back up, smiling at Tom giggling at the cartoons every now and again.
Two hours later Chakotay put down his last report and looked at Tom. He was still sat watching the show with a permanent grin plastered across his face. This was the fun part of the Tom Paris he used to know, the old Tom without the bitterness and the dry wit. He liked this part of Tom, hoping it wouldn’t change and the boy wouldn’t inherit the rest of his original personality.
Chakotay waited for the rest of the cartoon to finish before turning to Tom, “You ready to go for your lunch? We’ll have to go to the Mess Hall.”
“Yuck.” Tom said, pulling a face.
“I know. What do you want to wear?”
Tom looked down noticing he had pajamas on, how did THAT happen? He could have sworn he went to bed in his clothes. He shrugged. “Jeans and a t-shirt? I think they’re in sickbay, the Doc replicated them for me.”
“I’ll ask him to transport them over, go get washed up. The bathroom’s through there.” Chakotay pointed.
Tom hopped off the couch and walked over to the bathroom. He stood on his tiptoes and turned on the tap. Somehow he managed to get himself washed up, only splashing the minimum amount of water over the bathroom, the sink and himself. He turned to see Chakotay sticking his head around the door, “The Doc deems transporting your clothes as a waste of energy and I’m tempted to agree…”
“Then what am I gonna wear?” Tom asked, shocked. He wasn’t going around in his pajamas all day.
“You can use the replicator in there. You know how to?”
Tom nodded. He could replicate his OWN clothes, no dodgy posh clothes like dad used to make him wear. Proper clothes that he liked and felt comfy in. Oh yeah, life as a four-year-old on this ship was pretty cool.
Chakotay perched on his couch wearing slacks and a casual shirt. He was anticipating what baby Tom was going to wear with amusement and a little apprehension. Spirits, Tom was four, he wasn’t going to wear one of his usual ‘fuck me’ outfits.
Chakotay watched Tom emerge from the bathroom, blue eyes searching his own for approval. Tom was wearing baggy blue jeans, a yellow t-shirt, white sneakers and a red cap.
Chakotay stood up and marched over to Tom, looking down at him, he took a deep breath, “You do know you’ve got your cap on backwards don’t you?”
Tom grinned, “Yes! It’s SUPPOSED to be like that Kotay.”
Chakotay led Tom out of his quarters and towards the Mess Hall, “Says who?”
“Says twentieth century people.”
“What is your obsession with that?”
“What is my what?” Tom asked, puzzled.
“Why do you like the twentieth century so much?” Chakotay rephrased his question, still adjusting to Tom’s level of intelligence. Sure, he was very smart for his age but that was still different from his older self.
“They have really good ships, like boats. And they go really fast and underwater and everything!” Tom said excitedly, “And they have THE BEST cartoons. They’re fun.”
Chakotay shook his head and laughed softly.
“Kotay tell me what we’re doing!”
“Patience is something you don’t have Tom Paris.”
Chakotay and Tom made their way towards the holodeck, their lunch still wriggling uncertainly in their stomachs. Tom was practically dancing, hating not knowing what he was doing. They approached the holodeck and Chakotay glanced down at Tom, “You ready?”
“KOTAY, JUST TURN ON THE, um, the PROGRAM!” Tom shouted, frustrated.
Chakotay laughed, “Okay already.” He activated the holodeck program Neelix had suggested Tom might like and turned back, “Go ahead.”
Tom walked into the room and found himself standing on a white, fluffy cloud. Tom looked around seeing lights twinkling in the sky above him and in the city lights below him. Tom wandered to the edge of the cloud and peered over the edge, gauging the great distance between himself and the tiny lights below.
Chakotay started when Tom slipped on a piece of cloud and went falling over the edge. The breath he let out when another piece of cloud floated back up with Tom sat on top surprised him, did he have that much air in his lungs? Chakotay watched Tom look up with a mischievous glint in his eyes, apparently unaware he’d just almost given Chakotay a heart attack.
“Tom, I think we should get down from the clouds, you’re gonna kill yourself, or me.”
Tom laughed and ran back over to Chakotay, “You mean there’s more to this place?”
Chakotay walked over to the edge of the cloud and, this time, jumped onto a cloud, pulling Tom with him. Chakotay could hear his Spirit guide laughing at him for playing in a place like this. For Gods sakes he was sitting on top of a cloud floating downwards to fairyland. He began to laugh himself.
“What’s so funny Kotay?” Tom asked balling up pieces of his cloud and dropping them over the edge.
“Just that I haven’t done anything like this in a long time.”
“I haven’t done this EVER.” Tom smiled, “It’s the best.”
The clouds floated down into another world. The sky brightened and they landed among lush green forests and sunny fields. Tom tumbled off his cloud and landed on the grass. Chakotay stepped off his feeling stranger and as if he’d just be reverted back to his childhood dreams. Trust Neelix.
Tom looked up from the grass at Chakotay, “So, what now?”
Chakotay looked down at Tom, the kid’s eyes were shining with eagerness, “Well, I know you’re just itching to explore, so how about you go off for a while? I’ll stay here.”
“’Kay, see you later!” Tom ran off into the forest and Chakotay chuckled quietly to himself.
Chakotay sat down on the grass and crossed his legs. This was a perfect place to meditate. Hell this place may as well BE his spirit world it was so tranquil. He sat down, slowed down his breathing and slipped naturally into another state of mind.
I heard the soft whisper in my trance and slowly pulled myself out of it to see Tom standing curiously in front of me. He was looking down at me, with two shiny things buzzing around him.
I looked back up into the inquisitive blue eyes, “What’s up Tom?”
Tom swiped at the buzzing things and they landed contentedly, one on each shoulder. He cocked his head at me, “What are you doing?”
“Meditating.” At his confused gaze I smiled, “Just an Indian thing, I guess.” I paused, “Tom, what are those things on your shoulders?”
“THINGS!?” One of them buzzed off Tom and hovered in front of my face, “I’ll have you know we are THE most respected fairies in the land.”
The other one joined it, “AND we expect to be appreciated by puny mortals.”
Oh spirits, talking fairies were having a go at me? I wondered if Neelix had programmed them especially to do that.
I watched as Tom giggled and bounced up to me, settling in my lap. He looked up at the pair, “Kotay’s sorry, aren’t you Kotay?” I nodded feeling ever so slightly phased, “See? He doesn’t understand that even the King of this place looks up to you guys. I haven’t told him yet.”
Tom stretched out his arm and laid his palm flat. One of the fairies buzzed down and landed on it, it looked like Tom had made friends already, “He is forgiven. We will see you tomorrow Tom?”
“Maybe.” The fairies accepted this and flew off into the trees and Tom followed them with his eyes, “Bye!” he shouted happily.
By this time I was getting worried, a four-year-old was doing a better diplomatic job than me. Tom twisted in my arms and looked into my eyes, “Don’t be mean to those guys Kotay, they’re very touchy, like the Doc.”
I laughed at Tom’s analogy and watched him for a while. He focused his attention on his twiddling fingers and sat in silence for a while. Even though he didn’t look troubled, the silence was unnatural for Tom and I felt slightly un-nerved by his stillness, so I enquired gently, “Tom? Anything wrong honey?”
He looked into my eyes, flooding me with the emotions he was feeling, “Kotay?” he asked nervously, “D-do I have to go back to the Doc tonight?”
“Why?” I pushed him lightly
“Well…I, um, he- the Doc’s really bad at looking after me. I told you before, he doesn’t let me do things and he puts me behind that stupid force field loads.” Tom paused and avoided my eyes, “It’s better staying with you. But the Doc said not to bug you coz you’re real busy.” He looked up at me again and began speaking quickly, “But I’m real good Kotay, and quiet, and I can stay still forever and…”
I put my finger gently to his lips and silenced him. I didn’t believe a word of that last sentence. Good? Quiet? Still? He may be four, but he’s still Tom Paris. But he was practically begging to come and stay with me, and I didn’t know what to say.
I WAS really busy, being the first officer and all. But Tom had been good when I did my reports that morning. Of course I’d be on shifts most days, but there would be someone to look after him. And, of course, there was the fact that those damned blue eyes were so hard to refuse. Shit, where did Tom get off being such a cute kid?
But what about when he grew up? I was NOT having un-cute big Tom Paris loafing about in my quarters.
Well, he’d realize he hated me soon enough and move out off his own back.
“Okay, you can stay with me, but only if you agree to a few conditions.”
He sensed my business like tone and nodded seriously.
“One, I’ve got to work, so when I’m on shifts you’ll have to be watched by someone else, and it may be the Doctor from time to time.” I paused, watching this sink in, and carried on, “Two, I’ll have reports to do too, like this morning, so you’ll have to be good sometimes okay?”
I could see Tom’s face crumpling as he realized there was more coming and it might not be so much fun living with me after all.
“Three, you have to be my personal slave and do whatever I say whenever I say.” I smiled.
Tom laughed and swung his arms around me, “Don’t think so Kotay. But I’ll do the first two.” He smiled. “So I can come and stay with you?”
“Yes. Sure you can.”
Tom hugged me tightly and softly whispered ‘thank you’.