Child’s play P6

Chakotay held Tom’s hand gently, stroking the palm and watching the kid sleep, amking sure nothing else drastic happened to him. He thought about what Kathryn had said, ‘you do remember you’re talking about Tom Paris, right?’ and frowned. He’d obviously made a mistake where the hotshot pilot was concerned, the young child curled up on the biobed was Tom’s real self- vulnerable and innocent. Maybe, Chakotay thought, maybe if Tom retained these qualities they could be friends at the end of it all. 

Chakotay was interrupted from his thinking by Tom stirring and pulling his hand away to rub at his eyes sleepily. 

Tom looked around briefly, spotted Chakotay and grinned widely. He KNEW Kotay wouldn’t leave him but, still, it just wasn’t possible for anyone to care about you THAT much. No one had ever been as good a friend to Tom as Kotay, he was just waiting for Kotay to leave him. Everyone Tom had come across either didn’t care, or pretended to and then left just when you felt safe. But there was something different about Kotay that Tom’s sleepy and ill mind couldn’t quite make out. 

“How are you feeling honey?” Chakotay asked gently. Tom sneezed in response, making Chakotay chuckle slightly. “That good huh?” he smiled.

Tom sniffed and looked at Chakotay, his bestest friend looked tired. Tom felt guilty for dragging him to sickbay in the middle of the night, Kotay had caught hardly any sleep. Tom frowned, somehow knowing Kotay wouldn’t leave him alone- but then the older man wouldn’t get any sleep. He coughed a little and asked, “Can we go home now?” 

Chakotay smiled, he’d already cleared it with the Doctor, knowing it would be Tom’s first request. He could take Tom home as long as the child stayed in bed until the symptoms dissipated, “Sure honey.” He felt a lightness inside as a wide smile spread across Tom’s face. “Come on.” He leant over and uncovered Tom, lifting him up into his arms. Chakotay quickly informed the Doctor of their exit, and took Tom home. 

Once through the doors of their quarters, Chakotay immediately took Tom to bed. He pulled the covers back with one hand and lay Tom down, but Tom’s arms stayed stuck around his neck, “Tom, you’re going to have to let go of me.” He said with a smile.

Tom shook his head and pulled Chakotay slightly, “Stay here with me.” He whispered, wanting the Commander to go to sleep and not just watch him all night.

Chakotay felt Tom’s unbreakable grip around his neck, saw the seriousness in the kid’s eyes and sighed, “Fine.” He pulled his sweatshirt off and got into the bed next to Tom. Tom immediately snuggled into Chakotay’s chest and tugged the man’s arms around him, making Chakotay smile.

Tom stared into the darkness for a while and then asked timidly, “Kotay, are you ever going to leave me?”

Chakotay heard the shy near whisper and tightened his hold around Tom, “Not if you don’t want me to.”

“I don’t.” Tom said quickly.

“Then I won’t.” Chakotay reassured.

Tom sighed happily, feeling suddenly tired from the release of tension, “Good.” 

“Get some sleep now honey, okay?” There was no response. “Tom? TOM?” Chakotay quickly looked down, seeing that the five-year-old was already asleep, and grinned in relief. He smiled and closed his eyes, “I think you’ve got the right idea there buddy.” And he drifted of to join Tom.

Tom brightened up a lot over the next few days, getting more chatty and bouncy, but still just as affectionate. Little did I know, our troubles were not over. 

I had become accustomed to Tom’s mornings. He would jump out of bed at Gods know what time, I was never conscious enough to notice the hour, and curl up next to me on the couch. I had also become accustomed to the couch that was definitely as comfy as my bed and almost as big.

I would wake up with Tom asleep next to me, or he would be sat at the other end of the couch watching cartoons. 

On a shift morning I would drag myself out of bed and hit the shower, while Tom would already be ready to go, washed, dressed, breakfast eaten and everything. He was very alert in the mornings.

On this particular morning I was running especially late as the night before Tom had turned six and I was shattered from almost zero sleep. However Mr. Hyperactive seemed to be doing just fine. Tom was not looking forward to a morning of the Doctor, but he was looking forward to the afternoon with Neelix. He seemed to enjoy spending time with the fuzzy Talaxian, I had a suspicion this was because Neelix spent all his rations on chocolate for Tom, but who was I to judge?

Tom threw my Comm. badge at me from the table and frowned, “Come on Kotay you’re going to be late.”

I caught the badge, clipped it on and headed out the door, “Since when do you want to get to the Doctor so fast?”

“What? I like being with him.”

“What are you up to? You may be six now, but you’re still completely readable.”

“I’m not doing anything!” Tom protested, holding his arms open.

“So long as I don’t get a moaning message from the Doc or anyone else about your misbehaviour, I’m fine.”

I dropped Tom off at sickbay and headed off for the bridge silently praying to every God I know that Tom didn’t have something up his sleeve.

I got to the Mess Hall earlier than usual that day and saw Tom and Naomi sitting at a table in the corner. I crept closer, not wanting them to see me, wanting to eavesdrop. 

“He is so!” Tom sounded and looked mad, scowling at Naomi.  

“No way. I’M Captain Janeway’s ASSISTANT and she’s not MY best friend. There’s no way Commander Chakotay is yours.”

“He is!”

Tom and Naomi had met last night at the resort, while playing in a beach volleyball tournament. Tom had been a little daunted by Naomi’s excitement at having another child her age to play with, but he had eventually opened up and bounded around with Naomi as he would with anyone else. However, he had later confessed to me that Naomi was too ‘bossy’ for his liking and she kept telling him that she knew something about him that he didn’t. That was easily fixed by a quiet word with Sam Wildman, I didn’t want Tom to find out about his punishment until he either remembered or I decided he needed to know.

“Then how come you’re not his proper assistant? I get to show people around the ship, all YOU do is sit around all day doing nothing.” Naomi was talking with her ‘I’m a year older than you, so there!’ air. 

“Kotay IS my bestest friend AND, well maybe he hasn’t made me his assistant, but you don’t get to hang out with the Captain and I get to hang out with Kotay. So what if you get to show people around the ship, that’s boring anyways.” Tom said with a sad edge to his voice that made his uncaring attitude about Naomi’s position doubtful.

“You’re just jealous.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not.” 

I realized that this could quite possibly go on forever, knowing those two. Before Naomi could get her ‘are too’ in I intervened, sitting myself next to Tom, “Hi, what are you two doing?” I enquired softly.

Naomi smiled sweetly, “Just talking, Sir. By the way, have you seen Captain Janeway? I was thinking I’d arrange the next ship tour with her for our next guests.”

Jeez, since when did Naomi speak like a Crewman? I glanced at her, seeing her ‘look’ at Tom, and I saw Tom’s face fall slightly. 

I put my arm gently around Tom’s shoulders and squeezed them reassuringly, “Well, Naomi, I think Tom can ask Captain Janeway that for you, we’re heading up to the Bridge right now.”

Naomi’s mouth hit the floor and Tom turned to me, wide-eyed. Naomi seemed to drag herself over the shock, “B-but, why’s he going to the bridge, um, Sir?”

“Well he’s got to do SOME work if he is my assistant. We’ll see you later.”

I dragged Tom up, leaving Naomi looking like she’d just eaten a shuttlecraft full of lemons. 

Tom ran around so he was in font of me as we left the Mess Hall, I picked him up to my level and continued walking down the corridors. He looked at me, his eyes sparkling with excitement, “Did you mean it Kotay?”

“Of course I did.”

“Wow!” Tom’s eyes sparkled, “So I really get to work on the bridge?” he grinned at my nod, “Naomi said that’s the one place she hasn’t been on the ship.”

“And she’s telling the truth. But you’ve got to work for it Tom. It’s definitely time you started earning your keep.” I smiled. “And you’ll have to do it properly, on the Bridge I’m Sir, not Kotay, got it?”

“Yes Sir!” Tom said, his sunny grin still lighting up the corridors. He gave me a quick hug, then paused for thought a second, “Kot- I mean Sir?”

I smiled at him “Yes?”

“Am I your assistant now?” he asked nervously.

“I guess so.”

“Oh.” Tom seemed to be thinking and I wondered why he seemed so unhappy. This was what he wanted right? After a while he glanced back up, “Are we still bestest friends though? Naomi’s Captain Kathy’s assistant and they’re not bestest friends.”

“Of course we’re still best friends buddy.”

The smile reappeared as we entered the turbo lift and he gave my neck a squeeze. “Thanks K- Sir. This is the best.” 

I put Tom down as we arrived on the Bridge. Tuvok turned around from his relatively short stay at the Command Chair, and stood up, “Sir?”

“You’re relieved Tuvok, report back in an hour.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Tuvok marched off the bridge and I looked down at Tom who was marveling at the sight before him. He grabbed my hand a second as he took it all in, and then let go and stood still, his eyes still wide. I took the lead, heading down to the lower deck with Tom on my heels, I addressed the shift, “Tom will be joining us for this shift people, and I trust you’ll make him welcome.”

One or two of the crew scowled silently, the Maquis people who never cared much for Tom anyway. But the rest grinned to themselves or their neighbour and Harry caught Tom’s eye and gave him a thumbs up. 

I turned to Tom and hoisted him onto my usual seat next to the Captain’s chair, he was way too small for the chair and he drew his legs up so he was sitting cross-legged. Flipping my control panel out in front of Tom I crouched to explain to him, “See that light there? It’s green now; I want to know the second it turns red okay? You need to watch it closely, because if it goes red it means someone’s near us and I need to know about it, got it?”

Tom nodded seriously, “Yes Sir.”

I gave him a quick smile and sat in the Captain’s seat. Tom’s job wasn’t exactly vital, we had sensors, which warned us of the fluctuations, Tom’s readings were just more detailed. We’d know about the big ones before it showed up on Tom’s display. But it made him feel good, so I figured what the hell. 

Ten minutes into my extended shift Tom turned to me, “Sir? It’s turned red.”

Red? We’d had no warnings. It was probably a stray asteroid or something. I just dismissed him, “Okay. Tell me if it happens again.”

Less than a minute later Tom’s sincere voice broke through my thoughts again, “Sir, it’s red again.”

Oh Spirits. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all, I didn’t want this for a whole hour. I reached over to decrease the sensor sensitivity and glanced at the readings which had turned the sensor red. Raising an eyebrow I called over to ops, “Harry, detailed scan of sector three-oh-seven point five.”

Harry punched in the information and looked back at me, the young man’s face excited but puzzled  “It’s a ship, Sir. Running incredibly low energy readings. Automated sensors wouldn’t have caught it.”

I stood up, giving Tom a congratulatory smile, he just frowned askance at me, “Comm the Captain and hail that ship.”


“On screen.” I ordered. 

I stood and faced a humanoid that wasn’t all together too far from humans. He just had slits instead of eyes and blue spots dotting each cheek. “I am Kal Jarut, Prime of the Llang. State your intentions.”

“I am Commander Chakotay of the U.S.S. Voyager. We just wanted to offer trade of information and goods.”

Jarut looked at me as the Captain walked in, “Report Commander?”

I nodded to the view screen as Jarut began to speak, “How did you locate us? Your sensors must be superior to many of the species we’ve encountered.”

“I am Captain Janeway, the leader of this vessel.” She paused, checking out the energy readings on the screen, “Just a second Sir. Mute audio.” She turned to me, “Just how DID we find this…”

“Jarut.” I informed her, “We had someone monitoring the sensors manually.”

Too excited with the prospect of first contact and trade she didn’t ask me who was monitoring them, and she didn’t notice Tom perched nervously in my chair his hands tapping an uneasy tattoo on the armrests, as she resumed audio, “We had a crewmember monitoring the sensors manually.”

“He must be very dedicated, that would require constant surveillance. The fluctuations are small and brief. I wish to meet with him.”

Kathryn turned to me, indicating I should get said crewmember here NOW. No problem. I turned to Tom, “Come here for a second hon.” 

As I grinned at Kathryn’s shocked expression, Tom slid off the chair, uncertainty covering his face. He walked over to me slowly, “Am I in trouble?”

“No.” I lifted him up to more our height and introduced him to Jarut. “Jarut, meet our sensor surveillance chief, Tom Paris.”

“Hi.” Tom said softly, and I could almost feel his nervousness as he clung on to me.

It surprising how here we were thousands of light years from home, and yet Jarut’s surprised expression matched Kathryn’s perfectly. Jarut faltered, “B-but he’s a juvenile. How can he possibly…do you have children running your ship?”

Kathryn recovered from her shock and looked back to Jarut, “No. There’s just Tom” she turned to Tom and smiled, “Why don’t you invite Jarut over Tom?”

Tom looked at Kathryn, then to me for reassurance, then he let his gaze rest on Jarut. He paused a while before a wide grin spread across his face, “Wanna come play?”