Child’s play P7
Tom and I headed down to the transporter room to meet Jarut and guests. I suspected Kathryn would already be there, along with Tuvok and his security detail. When we entered the turbo lift, Tom looked up at me, “Why am I coming Kotay?”
Tom had slipped into his unfamiliar ‘silent mode’ ever since everyone started to busy around him on the bridge, arranging activities for the ambassadors. He’d just curled up in my Command chair and watched us all buzzing around, until Kathryn had suggested Tom be made part of the welcoming team. So we had gone home and I’d quickly changed into my dress uniform. Tom had insisted on staying in his jeans and white T-shirt, but he had agreed to lose the cap, on the accounts that backwards wasn’t very smart and forwards lost the view of his face.
“Because you’re the one who found them Tom. You’ve earned your right to be part of the meeting.” I paused, remembering how easily these things intimidated Tom, and crouched down to his level, “Are you okay with this? You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to you know.”
“I know.” Tom looked into my eyes, “I’ll come if you stay with me. Things are getting busy and I feel really, kind of not important.” Tom shrugged his confession.
“Oh Tom.” I pulled Tom into my arms and hugged him tightly, “Tom, you’re important to me okay? I’m sorry, there are just a lot of things we have to do to get ready for these people. But that could never make you unimportant honey, alright?”
I felt Tom nod in my embrace and heard the lift doors open. I lifted Tom up a little, “You ready for this buddy?”
“Yeah!” Tom said and bounded out of the lift, leaving me completely puzzled at his change of attitude. I put it down to him simply being Tom Paris.
They had a few minutes spare before the aliens transported over and Tom decided to go and eavesdrop on Kathryn and Chakotay’s conversation.
“You seem to like looking after Tom.” Kathryn turned to Chakotay who was reading over a few ship reports.
“Hmm? Yeah, it’s fun. It’s a complete shock though, I mean getting on with him. Before his punishment I wouldn’t have gone and chatted voluntarily with Paris, but he’s quite an, um, perceptive child.”
“Tom Paris? Perceptive?” Kathryn laughed, “Maybe this punishment will do him some good after all.”
“Maybe it…” Chakotay cut himself off when he realized Tom was making his way up to them, “Hey. You ready for this?”
Tom nodded and he turned to Kathy who was lecturing ‘Kotay again, “Chakotay, you could have dressed him up a little.”
Tom looked down at his clothes, he thought he looked pretty good. Chakotay grinned and turned to Kathryn, “Kathryn you’re paranoid. We don’t do dress uniform for six year olds, remember?”
“Yes, but still, this is a different occasion. We didn’t anticipate this one.”
Chakotay smiled and looked into Kathryn’s eyes, “Kathryn, breathe. It’s okay. They’re not going to start a violent war with us just because Tom looks like he hasn’t changed out of those clothes in a week.”
“Hey!” Chakotay looked back down to Tom, who pouted, “Quit insulting me!”
The adults both laughed and Kathryn relaxed, excusing herself and attending to the transporter chief. Chakotay bent down to Tom’s level, “Sorry, I didn’t mean that. You look great.”
“Oh yeah? Then why did you say it?” Tom said folding his arms and attempting an intimidating posture.
“Because it’s true. But the look suits you.” Chakotay grinned. Kathryn immediately grabbed Chakotay by the arm and dragged him over to the transporter pad. Then she went back and brought Tom, straightening his clothes as they went, and stood him next to Chakotay. She indicated to them both to plaster a smile onto their features, and turned to face the transporter.
Tom stood in-between Kathryn and Chakotay, waiting for the aliens to transport over. He didn’t have to wait long because one nod from Kathryn and the aliens came into view. As soon as they appeared Tom gave a low whistle of surprise, only to be nudged quiet by Chakotay. The aliens were all taller than seven meters and Tom found himself craning his neck to see them properly.
Jarut stepped down off the transporter pad and stepped in front of Captain Janeway, “Captain. Thank you for having us to your ship. This is my second in command, Linal and our ambassador, Kale.”
Kathryn smiled a greeting, “This is my security chief Lieutenant Tuvok, my chief engineer B’Elanna Torres, my operations officers Harry Kim and…you’ve already met Tom Paris and Commander Chakotay.”
Jarut walked over to Tom and lifted him up, Tom giving a gasp of surprise. Tom was picked up, held high over the alien, his head almost hitting the ceiling and then placed back down on the ground. Once back down Tom edged slowly away from Jarut and made sure he was partially hidden behind Chakotay.
Jarut noticed the other humanoids were staring at him and decided to explain his actions, “It’s a traditional greeting in my culture. We thank the Gods for blessing us with a child.”
Kathryn held back her smile and gestured to the door, “After you…”
Tom and Chakotay hung back, letting the aliens head out first and then taking a position behind Tuvok and B’Elanna. Chakotay placed his hand reassuringly on Tom’s shoulder, “Kind of different than shaking hands, huh?”
Tom nodded, still a little shocked, “Yeah. They’re taller than you, I thought I was gonna go through the ceiling.”
Chakotay smiled, “Then just be grateful I’m not eight foot tall.”
Chakotay shouted for him to come in and Tom jumped up to activate the sensor, which was also placed too high. The door opened and he walked in to find Chakotay sitting at his desk surrounded by padds. “Kotay, you said you’d be done at 1700.”
“Just give me a sec. It’s not my fault I have extra work now that the K’Tra are visiting.”
“But Jarut, Linal and Kale aren’t even here.” Tom knew for a fact they were in holodeck two.
“That doesn’t mean I haven’t got reports to do.” Chakotay touched the last one off, “Anyway, I’m done now, where did you want to go so badly?”
Tom grinned impishly, his eyes sparkling, “S’prise. Come on.”
Chakotay followed Tom out of the door, not completely sure whether he should have agreed to go somewhere with Tom. Knowing the six-year-old’s sense of adventure, he could be walking towards an airlock with the idea of going for a space walk sans suit.
Chakotay found Tom stopping in front of holodeck two and he groaned inwardly, not another visit to the fairies and that damn King who had it in for him. He sighed, he wasn’t in the mood for flying dragons, talking elves and floating castles.
Chakotay lapsed into a world of reports he still had to do, while Tom opened the holodeck. His heart practically leapt out of his chest when he heard the chorus of “SURPRISE!”
Before he had time to guard his bulging eyes, gaping mouth and basic overall shocked appearance they had plastered themselves over his body and the people in front of him laughed heartily. Chakotay looked around to see about forty of his closest friends watching him from the middle of a clearing in a lush, green forest. He screwed up his eyes for a second and tried to make the right words connect with his mouth, “B-but, you didn’t, I thought you f-forgot.” He stammered out, smiling at himself.
Kathryn laughed and walked out of the crowd towards him, “No chance of that, Tom found out everyone’s birthday whilst hacking our systems. We’ve been reminded about this constantly for the past fortnight and he insisted on throwing a party.”
Chakotay looked at Tom who was standing smiling at him, looking ridiculously pleased with himself. Chakotay picked Tom up so they were eye to eye, “You organized this?”
“Yup.” Tom said excitedly with his face beaming, “Haz helped me program this,” he gestured around at the settings, “And Neelix did the food for me, and ‘Lana helped me hide it from you, and Kathy helped me pick your present and the Doc covered for me while I worked on it and…”
“Thank you Tom.” Chakotay gently quieted his ramblings, “This is amazing.”
Tom smiled and produced a small box from his sweater pocket, he handed it to Chakotay, “For you.”
Chakotay put Tom down, fully aware of the rest of the party’s smiling gazes and the sincere whispers of ‘how cute’ and the like. “Can I open it?” he asked Tom.
“Yeah!” Tom said, shocked at the revelation that Chakotay could possibly wait.
Chakotay opened the box and pulled out a beautifully carved white and gray wolf with bright yellow eyes. He gasped softly and crouched down to Tom, “How did you know?” he whispered.
Tom seemed to sense the privacy of this discussion and kept his voice low, “Know what?”
“That my spirit guide’s a wolf?”
“I didn’t know that. It’s just when you were meditating you whispered ‘wolf’ out loud and I figured you liked them.” Tom paused, unsure why Chakotay was smiling gently at him and fixing him with a warm look, “What’s a Spirit guide?”
Chakotay laughed and pulled Tom into a friendly embrace.
Kale’s eyes sparkled with interest as he plagued Chakotay and Kathryn with questions, “So why is this Tom growing at such an alarming rate. He seems to be bigger every time I encounter him.”
Kathryn and Chakotay exchanged glances. They had already discussed what they would do in this situation. They would tell the ambassadors about Tom’s abnormal aging, but they would not tell the circumstances under which he acquired the irregularity. Besides, finding out that their helmsman had been so immature as to be reverted back to a child wouldn’t much help trading. Chakotay looked toward Kale, “Tom had an accident and was reverted back to a child. He’s growing one year every week.”
Jarut’s eyes widened, “That truly IS an interesting case.”
Chakotay smiled, “Yes, I guess it is pretty unusual.”
The group talked for a while and then the K’Tra excused themselves and gathered together, talking excitedly.
“We’re not THAT close, and it’s bestEST friends.” He smiled.
Then, as if to purposely disprove Chakotay, Tom emerged from in-between some trees and headed over to the pair by the fire. Tom pulled himself into the Commander’s lap and curled up against his chest, snuggling into the warmth. Chakotay, all too aware of Kathryn’s raised eyebrow and wry smile, put his arm around Tom so he was supporting him in a half-lying position. One of Tom’s hands gently clutched at Chakotay’s shirt and he sucked the thumb on his other hand absent-mindedly. Tom drew his legs up and rested them on Chakotay’s knees nudging himself back into Chakotay’s embrace. He then sighed and closed his eyes feeling, and looking, completely at home in Chakotay’s arms.
Kathryn watched the whole display with more than a little amusement, “Not THAT close, huh?”
Chakotay felt Tom’s hand move down from his shirt and curl around his thumb. He smiled at the young boy and turned it to Kathryn, “No, I just have a warm lap I guess.”
Kathryn laughed softly and grinned down at Tom whose eyes were drifting slowly towards sleep. She thought a while and then frowned, “What are you going to do when Tom grows up?”
“You mean about our friendship?” Chakotay checked Tom was asleep, while thinking, “I guess he’ll realize that we’re not really too close after all. But by then he’ll be…about twenty-five, so I don’t think he’ll be clinging onto me at that age.”
“Still,” Kathryn rubbed her hands together, “It’ll be a shock for him to remember.”
“There are lots of things that are going to be a shock for him to remember. He hasn’t exactly had a fun-filled life. We’ve already had his mother leaving him.”
Kathryn smiled sadly, “You beginning to see why it’s a punishment now? It was tough on Tom having to live it once, but twice? And he doesn’t even understand what’s happening properly, we’re just a bunch of strangers to him at the moment.” She sighed, “I guess it’s not much fun for him.”
Chakotay stroked Tom’s spiky blonde hair flat, “No, it can’t be. But we can only do our best to make it as easy as possible for him.”
Kathryn nodded her agreement, “Is he asleep?”
“Yes, he’s been out of it for a while. He hasn’t heard a word we’ve said.”
Just then the timer warning went; we had fifteen minutes left. Kathryn stood up, “I guess we’d better be going then. Are you going to wake Tom up?”
I looked down to see Tom sleeping softly in my arms. He was becoming a light sleeper and I knew he’d wake up as soon as I moved. “I’ll try not to.”
As predicted, as soon as I shifted Tom into a safe position so I could stand, his tired blue eyes opened and he looked at me with a question in them. Kathryn began to laugh softly from next to me and I looked down at Tom, “We’re going home honey, do you want to walk or shall I carry you?”
Tom frowned as his sleepy brain tried to process the question, “Carry me. I’m tired.” He said softly.
We both stood up and I nudged Tom so he was lying down in my arms. He rolled into my chest and snuggled down to sleep. Coming to the junction where we would have to part, I bade goodnight to Kathryn and she leaned down to Tom, “Night Tom.” She whispered.
Tom turned his head so he was looking at Kathryn. I didn’t even know he was awake, he had been so quiet and still. “Night Kathy.” He said softly.
I turned and walked towards our quarters, Tom rolled onto his back and looked up into my eyes, “Kotay? Did you like your party then?”
“Loved it. You can organize a mean party.” I grinned down at him.
Tom smiled sleepily, blinking his blue eyes slowly, “Hey Kotay, do you think I could come onto the bridge again tomorrow?”
I turned into our quarters and sat Tom on the bed, “I don’t think so. You’ve had a pretty late night, you’ll be too tired.”
Tom immediately perked up and bounced into the bathroom changing into his pajamas and washing up at light speed. He sprinted back into the bedroom and almost knocked me over as he dove into my arms, “See Kotay. I’m not tired AT ALL!”
“Sure you’re not.” I dropped Tom onto the bed and pulled the covers back so he could crawl in, “Lie down.” I ordered, watching him slide down so he was lying on his back staring up at me.
I looked down at Tom Paris lying in my bed, looking up at me with an impish twinkle in his eyes. I’d never imagined having this happen, it was definitely too weird. I sat next to Tom, “Go on then, start talking.”
“What?” Tom asked, confused.
“I want you to tell me about anything and everything Tom.”
“So that, hopefully, you’ll talk yourself to sleep.” I said, knowing that Tom would barely get through one story before dropping off into slumberland.
Chakotay was proved utterly wrong as Tom ventured through several tales of his holodeck adventures, extremely detailed crew descriptions of what Tom thought of them and a few select memories from his other life, without faltering at all. Tom finished telling Chakotay about his time sailing with his Uncle and looked at the older man. Chakotay had lied down next to him a long time ago and Tom saw that his eyes were closed. He frowned, “Kotay? Are you awake?”
Chakotay’s only response was a sleepy
snore and Tom giggled to himself. He climbed out of bed, noticing Chakotay
was lying on most of his cover and that there was no way he could lift
the man off. Tom sighed, he didn’t want to wake his friend, but Kotay couldn’t
sleep all cold like that. Tom grinned to himself, suddenly getting an idea.
He entered the lounge and dragged Chakotay’s blanket off the couch. Tom
returned to the bedroom and covered Chakotay over with the blanket. The
Commander sighed sleepily and subconsciously tugged the cover over himself.
Smiling, Tom climbed back into bed and snuggled down, “Night Kotay.” He
whispered, closing his eyes.
Linal found him in what the humans called the holodeck. He seemed to be playing some sort of game, laughing with a small red animal, but Linal wasn’t concerned with that. He had his orders.
He walked up behind the small child who turned and beamed at him.
Sticking a tracking device onto the
child, who frowned and tried to tear it off Linal immediately ordered the
waiting transport and prepared for one hell of a space chase.