Child’s play P8
“Captain, unauthorized transport in progress. Deck five, section two.” Tuvok reported.
“Who?” Kathryn asked.
“Linal, Captain. And someone else…”
“Find out who it is.”
Tuvok looked up, “Mr. Paris.”
Kathryn turned to Chakotay’s shocked eyes, and then they both snapped their heads to the ship on the view screen, which had just jumped to warp. “Follow them.” Chakotay ordered, the worry showing clearly in his voice.
Voyager quickly matched the speed of the vessel, Kathryn stood up, “Hai-“
“They’re hailing us.” Harry reported before she could get her sentence out.
“On screen.” Kathryn ordered, and saw Jarut’s face appear on the view screen. She pulled herself up to her full height and felt Chakotay’s presence at her side, “Why have you taken Tom? Send him back NOW.” She said slowly and dangerously.
Jarut smiled innocently, “You must be mistaken Captain, we wouldn’t take your child.”
“Liar.” Came Tom’s voice over the viewscreen, making Jarut snap his head to the left and send evil looks to whoever was there.
“Send him back or I shall be forced to disable your ship.” Kathryn warned.
“I’m sorry Capt-“ Jarut was cut off when Tom came hurtling across the screen followed by two seven-foot guards. Jarut looked at them angrily, “WILL YOU CONTROL THE CHILD!?” he snapped and then turned back to Captain Janeway, “I’m sorry Captain, but we must examine this- Tom. He shows a rapidity in growth that is only prophesized in our holy books.”
Kathryn and Chakotay both had to physically stop their mouths from hitting the floor and Chakotay blinked, “You think Tom is something prophesized from your holy books?” Jarut nodded, “This is a misunderstanding, come back over here and we’ll prove otherwise.”
Tom stopped running around the bridge of the other ship and landed in the seat behind Jarut and was pursued by the two guards who attempted to settle officially at the sides of the chairs. Tom frowned and squinted his eyes at the view screen, “Kotay? Kotay, will you get me out of here? I don’t like it anymore, these guys are no fun.”
“Hold on Tom. We’re doing our best.” Chakotay reassured him softly.
Jarut looked between the two and decided it was time to go, he looked at the Captain, “Goodbye Captain.”
Janeway watched as the ship jumped to warp in front of her. She spun to the pilot on duty, “Follow them.”
There was a hesitation, and she turned back to the helm in the moment when the ship should have hit warp. “Ensign?” she asked the helmsman.
“They’re refracting their warp signature ma’am, we’ve got a choice of five different courses- all leading in different directions.” The Ensign said nervously.
Chakotay swore under his breath and Kathryn tactfully ignored it, turning to Harry, “Is there any way we can pinpoint the actual course?”
“Yes ma’am, but it’ll take me about an hour to work it out.”
“You’ve got half an hour.”
“Yes ma’am.” Harry said and got straight to work.
The Doctor alien started walking up to him again and Tom rolled his eyes, this was WAY too easy. All he had to do was refuse to be poked and prodded and they’d stop. He hoped Chakotay would come and get him soon; they were way overdue for a play date.
Tom heard the force field deactivate and prepared to tell the Doctor guy where to go, but Jarut approached him instead. Tom walked up to him, “I’m bored. I want to go home now.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be happening Saraiac.”
“My name’s Tom.” He said frowning.
“No it’s not. You were prophesized to be a God. The elders said you would be a rapidly growing child who would gain superior powers as he matured. Then he would be a God and lead our people to glory.”
Tom didn’t really understand most of the statement, something about him being God (which was wrong), having superior powers (which was wrong) and leading people to glory (no WAY! He was being a pilot!). Jarut was crazy, Tom decided. “But I’m none of those things. I just want to go back to Voyager.”
“Saraiac, you are a rapidly maturing young boy and, maybe you’re not of our species, but you’re different. You will stay with our people.”
“I’m NOT staying here.” Tom turned and clambered back on his bed, crossing his legs and folding his arms, “You CAN’T poke me with all your medical stuff and keep me locked up. I don’t like it and I won’t help you. And I want to go back to Voyager, to ‘Kotay and Kathy and Haz and ‘Lana and…”
“AND MY NAME’S TOM! Thomas Eugene Paris- Tom. It’s not very hard.” Tom yelled.
Jarut sighed and re-activated the force field, “Finish the scans,” he said to the Doctor, “then send him to my quarters, I’ll give him a tour of the ship.”
“I don’t WANT a tour of your stupid ship!”
Jarut walked out.
I had been ordered to rest, I hadn’t slept at all in the past three days. I suppose, looking at it rationally, I was becoming a serious hazard to the ship- with not knowing the difference between a planet and clear space and all. But I wasn’t in the mood for being rational. I was in the mood for finding Tom.
So it was sleep or be relieved of duty. I guessed a couple hours of sleep wouldn’t hurt. Selfishly, I thought it would be relief to escape for a few hours. Reasonably I figured I’d be fresher to search for Tom when I woke up.
Walking into my bedroom before I could stop myself, I felt a pang of insanity. I didn’t have to tuck Tom in tonight; there was no Tom here to tuck in. I stood at the door watching the room for an immeasurable amount of time. I don’t know whether the tears I felt burning my eyes were right or wrong, but they were there all the same.
Tom’s clothes were strewn across his unmade bed, and his padds were all in a huge cluttered pile on the floor. His baseball and glove rested on my nightstand and his red cap hung on one of the drawer handles. As I headed to sit down on the bed I almost flew over his disregarded sneakers, which lay haphazardly in the middle of the room. Tom’s collection of posters from old movies and cartoons stared me down from the walls.
At that moment I had never felt so alone.
I reached into my pocket and curled my hand around the small carving Tom had given me. I ran my finger down the wolf’s back from the rough hair between its alert ears to the curled silver and white tinted tail.
And I told myself it was stupid. It was just Tom. Just a miniature version of Paris. But, when I allowed myself to be honest, there had always been something in that immature rebel that made my heart flip-flop. Ever since the Maquis when we would exchange smart-mouthed comments across the bridge to Voyager where we would do basically the same thing, I had always had a thing for that hotshot flyboy.
And to think I would never see those blue eyes staring angrily at me again, never hear him sarcastically acknowledge my orders- that was devastating.
I realize what you’re probably thinking. My thing for Tom has been put off while he’s been reverted to the state of a child, but he’s still going to be the same guy when he grows up. And now we have a great friendship. Jeez, my closest friend is a six-year-old.
I flopped backwards on the bed and brought my knees up so I was curled in a loose ball. Realizing I was lying on some soft, bumpy object I lifted the duvet up to find out what was sticking in my back. And I couldn’t help but manage a sad smile at what I found. I pulled out a well-loved grey rabbit. The fuzzy bunny had one well-chewed ear and one well-held paw with a grubby pink underside. I clutched the rabbit tightly, wondering where Tom had acquired the toy. I certainly hadn’t seen it before anywhere. Eventually I fell asleep, still holding the teddy and still racking my brains for ways we could find Tom again.
He tried to curl up and snuggle into the bed, but he was still shaking and he couldn’t sleep like that. Although Tom couldn’t help shivering, he was overwhelmed and frightened. He could remember lots of things that his head told him had happened, but he couldn’t actually remember doing them.
Like being told that there was no point in having piano classes if he was going to hit a wrong note in front of important ambassadors.
Like he wasn’t good enough.
Like it wasn’t the place of a seven-year-old to question his punishment.
Like there was no point in him being alive, he didn’t mean anything to anybody.
Tom sniffed back his tears. Dad had told him crying was a sign of weakness.
“Tom isn’t Saraiac. He’s too weak, too vacant, too defiant. He’s the equivalent of eight years old, he’s supposed to be showing at least some signs of leadership by now.” He sighed, “We made a mistake in taking him from these Voyager people. We should take him back, but they’ll surely destroy us.”
“What are we going to do Sir?”
“I don’t know Commander, I don’t know.”
“Captain!” Came Harry’s excited, eager voice, “I’ve found him! I’ve got Tom!”
“Beam him over. Commander, you have
the Bridge, Tuvok, Chakotay you’re with me. Break off the attack. Harry
you’ve got the bridge.”
When Chakotay walked into the transporter room, Tom was backed up against the wall looking incredibly frightened of the Doctor’s advances. Kathryn and Tuvok joined the crowd moving in on the small boy, and Chakotay hung back, not wanting to frighten Tom.
“Mr. Paris, you really should be checked up.” The Doctor said brandishing a tricorder.
“I suggest the boy be put under guard against further attacks.” Tuvok said calmly.
“Tom, come here, we just want to make sure you’re okay” Kathryn said softly, reaching out towards him.
Tom eyes darted between his three friends, feeling confused and disorientated. Then his eyes came to rest on a person behind them all who’d just walked in. He took his chances and darted forwards through them all, “Kotay!”
Chakotay picked up the running Tom and held him closely against his chest. Tom’s arms wrapped tightly, reassuringly, around his shoulders and Chakotay rubbed his back soothingly whispering softly, “It’s alright honey, I’ve got you now. Shh.”
Tom buried his face deep in his bestest friend’s neck and felt warm tears of happiness falling down his cheeks. He could feel Chakotay rocking him gently and attempted to crawl under the man’s skin, but he couldn’t get any closer. It had been so long since he’d been home and he’d missed everything: Chakotay, the Holodeck, playing pool with Harry and everything else.
Chakotay pushed Tom back from his chest a little and gazed into his eyes, which were a strange mixture of misery and happiness, “Tom.” He whispered softly, “Are you okay?” Chakotay cringed, of course he wasn’t okay. Tom had been trapped on that ship for his equivalent of almost two years.
Tom rubbed his eyes and looked at Chakotay. He swallowed and lowered his voice so only he and Chakotay could hear, “Can I ask you something?” he asked, still clinging onto Chakotay tightly.
“Of course you can honey.” Chakotay nudged the tears off Tom’s cheek with the back of his hand.
“Don’t, y-you’re not going to let them take me again are you?”
Chakotay’s eyes filled with pain and he clutched Tom closer, “I didn’t, I would never LET anyone take you baby. It was an accident and we’ve been trying to find you non-stop since. We’ve all been worried about you Tom. I’ve missed you so much.”
Tom snuffled and nuzzled into Chakotay’s embrace, “I’ve missed you loads too Kotay.”
Chakotay rocked Tom gently and saw Kathryn walk up behind them, she put a comforting hand on Tom’s back and Tom jumped slightly. Tom’s head whirled around, he identified Kathryn and gave her a small smile, leaning his head back onto Chakotay’s shoulder. She looked at Chakotay, “We need to get him to Sick Bay for a physical, will he be okay to do that?”
Not slackening his hold on Tom, Chakotay addressed him, “Are you okay to go to see the Doc, Tom?”
“Do I have to?” he whispered.
“If you’ll come too.” Tom said clutching at Chakotay’s tunic and pleading silently with his blue eyes.
Chakotay squeezed Tom’s hand, “I’m not leaving you again.” He said sincerely, beginning to leave the transporter room.
Kathryn put a hand on Chakotay’s shoulder, “We’ll transport you there. You’re off duty until Tom’s alright again.”
Chakotay smiled a thanks and felt himself shimmer out of the room.
I managed to sit him down on the bio bed with him satisfied to virtually break my hand with his hold on it, while the Doctor ran a tricorder up and down him. When he was done Tom immediately scrambled into my lap and swung his arms around my waist. I wrapped my arm around the child and let him hide in my embrace.
Two minutes later the Doctor walked up to us, tricorder in hand, “Tom is only suffering from slight bruising to his right side, I can’t detect any more problems. However,” he shut the tricorder, “I fear that the psychological damage inflicted might not be so easy to cure” he said running a regenerator up and down Tom’s side.
“I know.” I said softly, “He’ll be okay though. Won’t you Tom?”
Tom nodded into my chest, and I could feel the uncertainty in that one movement. He was just as unsure as I was to whether things would ever be the same again.
“We’re going home now.” I told the Doctor, ordering a transport for us. “Anything you want me to do?”
He shook his head, “Just bring him in for another check up in a few days.”
I nodded and looked to the Doctor. For all everyone complained about his bad bedside manner and his annoying personality, he really wasn’t such an insensitive hologram. I transported us to our quarters and carried Tom to the bedroom, sitting him down. I helped him change into his pyjamas and tucked him in, Tom watching me all the time with his distant blue eyes. He pulled me so I was close to him again, not seeming to want to leave the home he had built in my arms. He eventually dropped off and I pulled away from him gently. I walked back out to the living area, leaving the lights on low and the door open, Tom didn’t need to feel alone tonight.
Tom picked up on the hesitation and figured Chakotay would be just as mad with his midnight wanderings as Jarut had been the night he had regained his memories. Jarut had been mad when Tom had sought out comfort for his recollections, saying it was no place for a potential leader to be scared of a few bad memories. He quickly stepped back a little, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you, I-“
Tom was cut off as Chakotay’s arms surrounded him and brought him up to be cradled. “Shush honey.” He smiled, rocking Tom. “You know, you’re getting to be too big for me to pick up.” Then he paused and glanced into the blue depths, “Don’t ever be sorry for coming to me. You know you can talk to me about anything, anytime.” He waited until Tom snuggled down into him trustingly, “Now, what’s wrong?”
Tom paused as Chakotay sat on the sofa and positioned him on his knee, covering them both with his blanket, which was now in permanent residence on the couch. Tom turned to Chakotay, “I just can’t sleep, there’s something bugging me that I want to ask you.” Tom looked up.
“Ask me.” Chakotay said turning Tom to face him and wrapping his arms around the nervous child.
Tom swallowed and looked into Chakotay’s eyes, “Am I, um, is there, um” Tom sighed, closed his eyes and focused, “Kotay, do you mind me being here? I mean, d-do I bug you?”
Chakotay tightened his grip and shook his head, “No. No way. Tom you don’t bug me and I love having you here. Whatever gave you that idea?”
“It’s just, it was a Friday- and you know how stuff comes to me then? – Well I-I remembered my Dad telling me that I was worthless. A-and that I didn’t mean anything to anybody, and that I’d never be good enough for anything.”
“Oh Gods Tom. You mean something to me and everybody else on this ship, and don’t you ever forget that. I can’t believe he’d say something like that to his own son.” Chakotay looked deep into Tom’s detached eyes, “Honey, you are NOT worthless, you contribute a lot to this ship, especially in holodeck creation terms.” He stroked Tom’s hair, “Nothing he says can make a difference between us. And it won’t affect anybody else. Don’t believe it Tom.” Chakotay smiled gently, “We’re best friends, right?”
Tom nodded, his eyes showing a vague trace of sparkle.
“And best friends don’t believe bad things they hear about each other without making sure it’s true. And in this case it is most definitely not true. Okay?”
“’Kay.” Tom said quietly cuddling into Chakotay. He felt incredibly relieved, it was so good to be home and have everything sorted out. Chakotay could always stop him feeling scared and alone. He buried himself in Chakotay’s arms, he was sleepy and he felt safe here. Maybe Chakotay wouldn’t mind him staying here on the couch tonight.
Chakotay looked down at the bunny, which was crushed between him and Tom, and he pulled its head out so that it wasn’t in an unnatural position, petting it gently. Tom looked up at Chakotay with such a disbelieving look in his eyes that Chakotay laughed softly, “What’s his name Tom?”
Tom ducked, blushing, “Bugs.” He mumbled.
Chakotay smiled, “Where did Bugs come from?”
Tom looked up at his best friend’s face, finding no mockery (unlike Naomi who had laughed even though Tom knew she had loads of teddies) “Neelix took me to some guy’s quarters and said I could have anything I wanted from there. I don’t know who’s it was, but I found Bugs under the bed and I kept him because he looks exactly the same as the Bugs I had back home.” Tom paused, playing with Bugs’ long floppy ear, “Do you know whose quarters it was?”
Chakotay smiled, silently thanking Neelix for his good idea, which seemed to be going a long way to comfort Tom, “No. But I’m sure the person wanted you to look after Bugs.”
Tom hugged Bugs closer to him, “I will.”
Chakotay lay down keeping Tom, who was still trembling slightly, in his arms, “Get some sleep now honey.”
Tom nodded and closed his eyes, “Night Kotay.”
Chakotay ordered the lights
out and tightened his hold on Tom, “Goodnight Tom. It’s good to have you
home.” He said softly, squeezing him goodnight.