Child’s play P9
I opened my eyes to find Tom and Bugs curled up sleeping on my lap. I sighed. I couldn’t believe what Tom had told me. How could his father say something like that to his own son? It was horrific. And to have Tom remember it when I wasn’t even there to help him, shit no wonder he was so frightened.
Tom didn’t stop trembling until he fell asleep in my arms the previous night. Even then I’d wake during the night to him shaking, having nightmares. So when morning came and he was calmly dozing , I was eager to let him sleep peacefully for as long as possible.
Soon, however, natural urges presented themselves and I found myself untangling from Tom and heading for the bathroom.
When I returned Tom was sitting up, sleepily rubbing his eyes. I smiled and walked over to sit next to him, “Good morning. How are you?”
He leaned into me and mumbled, “I’m okay. I thought you’d left me.”
I swung my arm around him, “I’ve been here all night.” I reassured Tom. I glanced down at him, “Breakfast?”
Tom smiles slightly, “Yes please.”
I walked over to the replicator and ordered his usual breakfast which, with Tom’s proportions, is syrup with pancakes hidden somewhere inside. I glanced over at Tom who was fiddling with invisible threads on Bugs. He’d changed. Maybe it wouldn’t be permanent, but for now Tom had lost his sunshine.
I brought over Tom’s food and handed him a plate, keeping my version, which had slightly less syrup. I sat down across from Tom and we elapsed into a very eerie and unusual silence. After a while Tom looked up at me, “What are you doing today?”
I could see his masked hope underneath the seemingly innocent question and reassured him with a smile, “I’m not on shift, so we can spend the day doing whatever you want.”
Tom smiled gratefully, and shovelled up a syrup-covered piece of pancake, “Could we maybe head over to the holodeck? Then Sandrine’s? I missed going to those places.” Tom asked quietly.
“Janeway to Chakotay.”
I stood up and grabbed my Comm badge, tapping the channel open, “Chakotay here.”
“Commander, could you and Tom please come to the briefing room? The leader from Jarut’s world is here, so is Jarut.”
I could sense the irritation and the silent apology in her voice and looked to Tom. He met my gaze and I could see him pale slightly, “We’ll be there in five minutes Captain. Chakotay out.”
I looked towards Tom who was now shaking slightly, “You’re not going to give me back are you Kotay?”
“No way honey. They probably just want to tie up a few loose ends.” I assure him. “You going to go get dressed? Or are you planning on visiting Captain Janeway in your pyjamas?”
Tom laughed nervously at the thought and headed into the bedroom.
Tom took a deep breath and fumbled with the hem of his white sweater. I could see him thinking hard, obviously weighing up the pros and cons of doing this. He eventually looked up and his determined, if a little apprehensive, blue eyes met mine, “I want to do it Kotay. I have to see them again.”
I squeezed Tom’s hand and we walked into the briefing room to silence and stares.
Kathryn zoomed through the formalities with the experience of her Captaincy- introducing her first officer to the leader of Jarut’s race; Shakiena, Layton; Jarut’s defence lawyer and the two K’Tra security officers that flanked Jarut. She explained the situation: Shakiena needed evidence and Tom’s permission to prosecute Jarut for kidnapping and possibly physical abuse. So Tom would have to be questioned by Layton.
Tom perched on a chair next to Chakotay and knelt up so he could see over the table. He met eyes with Jarut and cocked his head in surprise. He’d remembered Jarut as a monster, with evil green eyes and a snarling mouth, but this man met him with an apologetic smile and bright eyes.
Layton stood up and paced the table’s length, hoping for dramatic effect and maybe to intimidate the small boy. But Tom seemed fascinated with staring at his client. “Excuse me? Tom?” he prompted to get Tom’s attention. The child blinked and turned to Layton with a strange look on his face, “Tell me how you were taken from this ship.”
“Well, I was playing in the holodeck-with my new pet. He’s called Speckle and he was given to me by-“
Chakotay smiled a little, “Tom, honey, stick to the story.”
“Oh. Sorry.” Tom looked back to Layton, “Well I was playing and, um, Linal stuck something on me and transported me off Voyager.”
“So you were taken against your will?” Layton said, locking eyes with Tom across the table.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Are you sure about that? Did you not WANT to see the K’Tra ship? Maybe you stowed away after a visit.”
Chakotay was just ready to punch Layton, but Tom sighed maturely, “I would have wanted to see the ship, yeah. But I didn’t want to go just then. I wanted to play on the holodeck. And I didn’t want to STAY with them, I like it here.”
“On board, did-“
Layton was cut off when Jarut put a hand up, “Don’t. I want the truth told, not a twisted half-lie.” He sighed, “Yes, I did take Tom against his own will. That, however, was how it was prophesised in our scripts. Saraiac would come from a strange ship as a child and we would have to teach him the ways of our world. But I admit, I made a mistake, I should be punished.”
Shakiena stood up and nodded to Captain Janeway, “I see it is sorted then, Captain. Jarut will be punished. He shall be placed in a holding cell for five years. On behalf of the K’Tra, I apologise.”
Tom watched as the security team escorted Jarut towards the door, accompanied by Shakiena and a very sombre-looking Layton. Something inside Tom started and he quickly jumped up, “Wait!”
The whole party turned around and stared at Tom. Tom swallowed at looked at Shakiena, “Don’t, I don’t want Jarut to go to jail. H-he just made a mistake, he didn’t hurt me or anything. He was real nice, actually. I just didn’t want to be there, that’s all. Please, don’t punish him for something he didn’t mean to do.”
Chakotay looked across at Tom. The nine-year-old looked incredibly mature; meeting Shakiena’s eyes seriously. Shakiena turned to Captain Janeway, “The victim does have a say in whether the accused is punished or not.”
Kathryn looked to Tom, “Your call.”
“No. I don’t want Jarut to be punished.” Tom said without hesitation.
Shakiena nodded the guards away and Jarut smiled at Tom, “Thank you. I think I was wrong about you. You would make an impressive leader.”
Tom shrugged, “I don’t want to be a leader. I want to fly.”
Kathryn exchanged a smile with Chakotay as she escorted the K’Tra off the ship.
“No.” Chakotay helped Tom up onto his knee and faced him, “I’m really proud of you honey. I think you did the right thing. You don’t regret it do you?”
Tom shook his head, “Just kind of glad it’s all over now. It is over, right?”
“Yes. Right now all you’ve got to worry about is fairies and whether you’re actually ever going to play pool properly.”
Chakotay was rewarded with a happy, grateful, sunny Tom Paris smile. He sighed happily. Tom was back to normal.
“Fun? Living with a hyperactive, excited Tom Paris? Kathryn, have you MET that child? He’ll excite himself to death. I don’t think it’s even possible to get more hyper.”
“Well then you’ve nothing to worry about Chakotay. Most of the crew celebrate Christmas anyway. And you can’t tell Tom to just forget his holiday.”
“I guess not.”
“Then it looks like you’ll be playing Santa Claus.”
Tom found himself bouncing along the corridor more like a toddler than the ten-year-old he was. “Tell me Kotay!”
“You ALWAYS do this.”
“And YOU always jump up and down until you find out. Why do you think bouncing will help?”
“I’m excited! I want to know!”
“Would it still be a surprise if you knew?”
“No, but-“ Tom stopped, thinking of an argument.
Chakotay laughed, “Two more corridors and you’ll know.”
“So it’s in our quarters?”
“Well figured out genius.” Chakotay said sarcastically.
“You do know it’s too early for Christmas presents don’t you? We’ve a whole four days to go. I haven’t even GOT yours yet.”
“Oh, I’m getting one am I?” Chakotay teased.
“Course. Why wouldn’t you be?”
“Didn’t think I was fully appreciated as your personal slave.”
Tom giggled, “You’re not my slave.”
“Could’ve fooled me.” Chakotay stopped outside their quarters and turned to Tom, “Wanna go in? Or shall we go to the holodeck instead?”
Chakotay laughed, it was too easy to wind Tom up. He opened the door and watched Tom’s eyes widen as he ran in. The twinkle in Tom’s eyes brightened and his smile grew as he spun back around to face Chakotay, “Kotay, it’s fantastic!” Tom threw his arms around Chakotay’s waist, “There’s something missing though.”
“Yeah, decorations. All Christmas trees have decorations.”
Chakotay pulled out two cardboard boxes, “Well, then I guess these I just happened to replicate will do just fine.”
“Kotay, you’re the best!” Tom said sincerely.
Chakotay grinned and set the boxes down next to the tree, “You want to rip them open, or shall we painstakingly undo them so we can put them all back in properly after?”
“Fine, let’s compromise, how about blue AND white?”
Chakotay lifted Tom up so he could string his blue lights around the top of the tree, carefully bypassing the star they had put on. They’d had a problem in that they had forgotten the lights, so now they had to carefully avoid knocking of any of the multi-coloured, multi-shaped baubles. Tom then crawled under the tree, arranging Chakotay’s white fairy lights around the bottom and up the middle of the tree. They stood back to admire their hard work, “Computer, activate outlet 9b.” Chakotay ordered.
They were rewarded with a glistening, multi-coloured Christmas tree sparkling in the corner of their quarters. Chakotay smiled and pulled Tom into his lap on the couch facing the tree, “Looks good doesn’t it?”
Tom leant back against Chakotay, “Looks great.” He paused, finding Chakotay’s hand- still bigger than his, “Missing my T though.”
“Your what?” Chakotay asked.
“My T. Back with my family we all had decorations made in the shape of our initials that we hung up. Mine was a glittery blue T shape. I kinda miss it.”
Chakotay looked down into Tom’s eyes- looking a bit teary “Hey, you okay?”
Tom nodded, “Mmm-hmm.”
Chakotay grinned and squeezed Tom’s shoulder, “Then go get ready for bed.”
Tom slid off Chakotay’s lap and headed for the bedroom.
Tom walked back in clad in shorts and T-shirt and climbed back onto the couch. I looped the golden thread around my finger and dangled the decoration in front of Tom. He beamed and grabbed at the T-shaped bauble, turning it in his hands, checking it was real. Tom looked up at me, “Where’d you get this?”
“Found it in your stuff.” I said returning Tom’s happy smile.
“I didn’t know I’d brought this!” Tom dropped off the couch and headed over to the tree. He hung up the decoration and I watched him stand back to look at it. I wondered what was going through his head then, and doubted whether this had been a good idea or not. Sure, it was tradition, but it would no doubt invoke some loneliness in the small child and maybe it would just make him totally homesick and add to the confusion.
Tom turned around to me, walked over and I helped him up to hide in my lap. I held him in silence for a while letting him think, letting him sort his head out, letting him decide whether to change the subject or not. He sighed, “Thank you Kotay.”
“Anytime buddy.” I paused, “Are you okay? Want to talk about anything?”
Tom fiddled with the tassel on his sweater and looked up, “I’ll be fine. I’m just a little confused.”
“About what, honey?”
“I don’t know really. I just… Kotay I remember all this stuff about my family, but I don’t actually remember doing it. It’s kinda weird.”
“I know it is Tom. But I promise you it’ll be better soon, you’ll understand everything.”
Tom let his head loll on my shoulder, “I hope so.” He said quietly.
We sat in silence for a while, I stroking Tom’s hair softly and Tom just thinking quietly. After the silence Tom looked up at me and gave me a small smile, “Merry Christmas Kotay.”
“Merry Christmas honey.” I paused, trying desperately to think of something festive to cheer Tom up, “Hey Tom. How about we hit Sandrine’s?”
Tom sat up quickly and a huge smile
spread across his face, “Yeah!”