Tides of the Heart-Part One : Lament
This is not a main character death story as such, although it assumes that Voyager never found a short-cut home and is set more than 20 years after Season 6, so inevitably a number of the crew have either died or have chosen to leave the ship and settle down rather than complete the Voyage home.
(Yes, I know. This story completely disregards any of the events in Season 7 - but then again, after the Tom/B'Elanna storyline any previous attempts by myself to keep within canon went completely out of the window. Besides, if you want canon, why the hell are you reading slash?)
The starfield slides past the viewport like streaming ribbons of light as we surge forward through space towards our long lost home.
We original Voyagers are few now. Weary and tired, often lost in reflection of what might have been had we just taken a small step in a different direction before our feet were inexorably caught in this bitter path.
There is another generation now on the Bridge and Captain Tuvok shepherds them with a protective aura of complete emotionless assurance. He has survived the physical loss of one mate, T'Pel, and the death of two more, yet still he remains a rock of calm and continuity as time erodes everyone and everything he ever knew.
He does not adapt to the changes as much as he molds the new crew into fresh imitations of the old.
Charis, the only child of myself and Tom Paris, now has taken the place of his father at the helm. Sometimes, if I visit the bridge and see the back of his blond hair, and the careless way he tosses his head as he laughs with delight, I am transported back two decades to a time when I only dreamt of possessing the beauty and wildness that was Tom.
The resemblance of my son to his other father is almost frightening. Rarely do I ever see in his features even the smallest resemblance to myself. It is as though Tomís genes completely overwhelmed mine as they mixed, even before Charis was transplanted into Sevenís womb.
Seven raised him with the same understated love as she did all of our children and never allowed him to feel any less treasured or wanted than the others. Conversely, she always managed to cover up my own thoughtless favoritism for him lest his siblings grow jealous. As much as I adored Anika and Tayven, they never stole my heart like my first born. When Tayven died, at the tender age of twelve, a part of me died with him. Had it been Charis who had died though, I don't think I would have survived.
Seven and I had three children. Three blond blue-eyed angels, and they were all complete little devils, but I suspect, of course, that it was the Paris influence in Charis that inspired his devilry, and the other two simply followed in the footsteps of their older brother.
Tom himself refused to acknowledge Charis at all until he was about two years old, when the toddler staggered across the room to him, lost his feet and would have fallen if Tom hadn't finally stopped pretending he was invisible.
Over the years, Charis's love of flying and mischievous nature have slowly chipped away at Tom's reserve and they are friends at least. They can often be found playing pool together. Not in Sandrine's. The program was deleted by a computer malfunction during one of our many battles as we have limped home. Tom replaced it with a perfectly functional bar, one that bears no more clues to his soul than the frigid mask that has guarded his expression these past years.
Should I enter the bar on an evening and walk towards them, my son's bright smile of welcome is totally eclipsed by Tom's scowl as he hurries from the room rather than face me and say, in front of Charis, things that we would both regret.
Day by day, as Sevenís jumpsuit was distended by the growing presence of Charis in her womb, Tom grew more distant from me. At some level he understood why I had made the choice that I did, and yet overall he was bitterly disappointed in me.
As he said, if he wanted children he wouldnít have married a man.
It was Sevenís fault, although she meant no harm and I cannot say that I truly regret her actions since I cannot even consider the idea of how my life would have been if Charis, Anika and Tayven had never existed. Things happen in life and we make our choices and then we have to live with them, whatever the personal cost.
Seven decided that she wanted a child. She decided that she wanted me to be the father and with convoluted logic, since I was married to Tom at the time, she concluded that if the child was both mine *and* Tomís then we would be less upset with her when we found out. Since she quite rightly assumed we would be emotionally outraged by the idea, she decided it would be more "efficient" to tell us what she had done, after the event.
So Seven acquired samples of our genetic material from the Sickbay files and then Tom and I were presented with a fait accompli. A three-month old fetus already gestating in Sevenís womb.
Tom was furious. He considered her actions little less than a Borg-assimilation of his genetic code. He was so outraged that he demanded her actions were undone by the Doctor since it was still early enough for a safe termination of the pregnancy.
His attitude horrified me. I shared his outrage and sense of personal violation, but the child was still a human being and was innocent of any wrong doing. After my initial shock, I also accepted that Seven had had truly no conception of the wrong that she had done.
I finally convinced him to allow her to bear the child to term. I pointed out that it was my child too but I promised him that I would lay no claim on the baby.
I always wanted children, you see, and although I had taken Tom as my Life Partner and in doing so had turned my back on my dreams of a family, I couldn't escape the call of my own feelings as my son gestated.
If Seven had had an easy pregnancy, perhaps the subsequent events would never have happened. Certainly Tom wouldn't have divorced me.
He made me choose between him and my son, and my son won.
Over the years, most people have taken my side. They have said that Tom was unreasonable to try and deny me access to Charis. It wasn't as simple as that though. Since Tom and Charis have always had a special relationship together, and he has acknowledged his own, albeit reluctant, responsibility towards the boy, it is not fair to say that he would have denied me the chance to be Charis's father.
What he wouldn't, couldn't accept, was the way that I grew to care about Seven and her child.
Don't misunderstand me. Although I grew to love her in my own way, and we had two more children together over the years, Seven never replaced Tom in my heart. Tom has always known that, and after the first few years of bitter animosity, he finally let go enough of his resentment to at least talk civilly to both of us when we were on duty.
He never re-married though.
I think I destroyed in him whatever capacity he had to trust another person with his heart. He flaunted his casual affairs with the same brittle mask of glib indifference as he had shown in the early days of our voyage. As always he hid his pain behind a playboy veneer and was often heard telling people that his marriage to me had been a mistake and he had been glad of a reason to end it.
I was only hurt by his words because I knew the truth. That I had almost destroyed him with my decision and that his only way of coping was to pretend that he didn't care. I hurt because I had hurt him, not because of his words, and I never resented the lies he told that helped him keep the shredded tatters of his pride.
If I could have torn myself into two people, I would have.
Even so, had he been able to control his jealousy I would never have had to leave him.
Seven's borg-implants continually rejected the presence of Charis. At the same time his tiny fetus was infested with borg-nanites that needed to be constantly replenished by Seven's immune system. This meant he could not be removed from her womb and placed instead into the safety of an incubation chamber.
From the fifth month of her pregnancy, Seven was forced to remain permanently in a regeneration chamber while the Doctor fought a daily battle to save the life of both her child and herself.
The specter of termination hung over my son's head for four months as Seven suffered untold agonies in her determination to proceed with the pregnancy, and during those four months I spent almost every available moment at her side.
How could I not?
Yet, how, conversely could I have expected Tom to tolerate my behaviour?
For four long months I deserted our quarters, I abandoned our marital bed, and I stood vigil over a child who should never have even been conceived in the first place.
I bitterly regret that I didn't fit Tom around the corners of my life. I should, at least, have gone straight home occasionally from the Bridge instead of first rushing to check on the status of my son.
How can I blame Tom for believing that Charis's welfare came first in my mind?
I suppose I thought he would understand that the situation was temporary and that as soon as Charis was safely born, Tom and I could return to our previous relationship.
He didn't see it that way, though. He saw only a future of me being at Seven's beck and call. Rushing to her side whenever she needed anything. Visiting my son every evening instead of going home where I belonged. He knew that I would want to be there for my son's first step and first word. That I would want to spend my days off with my child rather than with my lover.
Spending time with my child *and* my lover was not even offered into the equation. Tom did not want the boy, did not want to spend time with him, and clearly stated it was unreasonable of me to expect that he should.
He was right. He had no obligation. It was wrong of me to try and force him into a relationship with our child when he had never pretended to have any paternal urges.
Tom didn't hate children. He's always been *good* with children as long as they have reached the age of mischief. Once Charis, Anika and Tayven were all walking, talking and had developed interesting personalities, he even babysat for Seven and I so many times that the children all grew up loving "Uncle" Tom.
Sometimes I wondered whether the mess I always found our quarters in after he had minded them was a subtle form of revenge. Tom never controlled them, he just played with them. On the other hand, discipline was never one of Tom's strong points and his failure to control my rowdy brood was just one of his ways of demonstrating why he wasn't cut out for parenthood himself.
It wasn't until they were in their teens that the kids finally noticed that "Uncle" Tom never arrived until I was leaving and always left as soon as I returned home so that "Hello", "Thank you" and "Goodnight" were the extent of every conversation.
Sometimes, over the years, I have resented Tom's lack of faith in my love for him. I had room in my heart for Charis *and* Tom. Then I remember his own insecurity, his neediness, his deep vulnerability that made him hide behind a wise-cracking persona and I understand that he was too fragile to share me.
On the other hand, what else could I have done? For me to have turned my back on Seven and her child would have been against everything that I believed in. Even Seska had realised that my heart bore no armor to shield it against the need to take responsibility for a child of my body.
Tom divorced me, and despite his bitterness I honestly still believe that it was an act of love on his part rather than hatred. I was being ripped in two between Tom on one side and Charis and Seven on the other. So he let me go.
I agreed to the divorce out of my love for Tom. The situation was obviously intolerable for him. I wasn't cut out to be a "weekend" father and despite all of my best intentions to put Tom first, whenever Seven commed me that there was a problem with Charis, I would drop everything and run.
Charis was five before the Doctor finally came up with a way of controlling the nanites in his bloodstream. Up until then, his body over-reacted to every childhood illness so that a simple case of croup would cause his bloodstream to fill with tiny robotic defenders, clogging his arteries until his body's own immune system became more dangerous than the disease.
Quite simply, there were too many crises for my relationship with Tom to survive.
The final straw for Tom was when Charis was 9 months old. A series of minor emergencies had followed each other so quickly that I had moved a cot into the quarters that had been adapted for Seven and our son. I hadn't even shared a meal with Tom for ten days.
The night I finally returned home, he was quiet but made no comment on my absence. He even made the effort to enquire as to Charis's welfare and then pretended to be interested as I gave stupidly recounted all the intricate details. When I finally noticed how glazed his eyes were becoming, I decided it was time I took him to bed and reminded him why I was worth putting up with.
So many things in life just come down to timing, don't they?
I have had twenty years to wonder what would have happened if Seven had commed me just 10 minutes either earlier or later. Regrets can't change the past though.
He had been ready for me after all the days of deprivation. I remember him purring like a contented lion as I ran my hands over his perfect ass cheeks and my fingers found that he was already prepared for me. My heart and cock had both leapt in love at that moment, for my tolerant husband who had not even known whether I would bother to come home at all, but had readied himself for me just in case.
I remember sliding into him in one smooth continuous movement, delighting in the hot, velvet tunnel that welcomed me in, and then tightened with possessive glee.
"Fuck me, Tay," he had groaned, and the need and love that he transmitted with those three words have filled my dreams ever since.
Nightmares, to be more precise, since they were immediately followed by the chirping of my Com badge, Seven's hysterical scream that I had to come immediately, and Tom's bitter, heart-wrenching sobs as I pulled out of him and hurriedly dressed.
The next day, he sent a message to the terminal in Seven's quarters to say he wanted a divorce.
I commed him, begging and pleading with him to reconsider and he *did* agree to meet me to discuss the situation, but I had to cancel because Charis took ill again. He refused to take my calls after that and eventually I gave in and agreed to his request. Not to free myself, but because it seemed unfair not to free *him*.
After a couple of years, I finally agreed to marry Seven. I didn't love her, not like I loved Tom, but we shared a child and I practically lived in her quarters so it seemed logical in the end for us to become a proper family.
Seven's pregnancies with Annika and Tayven went more smoothly because of the lessons we had learned from Charis and although we never shared a passionate love for each other, Seven and I became comfortable with one another and I gradually learnt to be content with my life.
It's difficult, when you have known true love, to settle for a mediocre one. Especially as the only person who has ever made your heart burn is still in the periphery of your life. In a world as small as the confines of Voyager, Tom and I could not avoid each other. If we were on duty we would manage to at least be civil. Off duty, I would enter a room and he would leave it. This became the pattern of our behaviour for years.
Every time Tom turned his back and stalked away from me, the hurt evident in every line of his back, I would have to bite my tongue not to beg him to come back to me.
I was never that selfish though. I bore my own pain in private and prayed only that Tom would one day meet someone who would mend his shattered heart. Someone who would not abuse his love as I had done.
He never did though. He was as prickly as a porcupine and although his looks and charm ensured a constant stream of visitors to his bed, the moment anyone tried to climb under his skin he would shoot them down with a volley of well-placed spikes.
He's with Tuvok now, off and on. Tuvok cannot face anymore emotional entanglements. After the death of Kathryn, he mated with Megan Delaney. After she died of a virulent Delta Quadrant disease that took 12 victims, including my son Tayven, Tuvok did not take another mate. Tom helped him through his Ponn Farr two years ago and I believe they occasionally still sleep together, but they have not bonded and never will.
Neither are interested in an emotional relationship.
So, twenty years have passed by, my wife is dead, and my son is a grown man now. He has married and his wife, Menily Kim, has just borne my first grandchild.
Her parents, Harry and Jenny, died years ago in the Borg attack that took Kathryn from us. Now that Seven has died, Tom and I are the only possible Grandparents that the baby will have.
That's why Charis is insisting that I finally make my peace with him.
Now Seven is no longer here as the unbridgeable gap that has prevented us from even speaking to each other. Now that I have handed the Captaincy to Tuvok and Tom has finally acceded the helm to younger hands so that he can spend more time patching up the sad remains of the Engine Room in the hope that one day we might again exceed warp 2. Now, perhaps, it is time that we talked.
Since the warp engine explosion that took B'Elanna to her final voyage on the Barge of the Dead, we have been virtually crippled. The gel paks, that new science that made us so sleek and fast, have degraded past repair.
It is not an engineer we need now to get us home, but a miracle.
If we could just get the warp engines running to 40% even, we could be back within range of the Alpha Quadrant in just 5 more years. As it is, at our current speed, it will be nearer to 12.
No wonder so many people have abandoned ship.
With Kathryn's death, a lot of people decided not to continue the Voyage. Within her tiny body had resided an indomitable spirit that had shamed people into sharing her dream of returning home. With the quenching of that spirit a lot of the soul of Voyager died too.
Only a few dozen crew stayed with we diehards of the Senior Staff. Me, Tuvok, Tom, Seven, Harry, Sam, Vorik, B'Elanna and Ayala. Now only Tuvok, Tom and I remain of the original officers.
To be honest, I didn't think Tom would stay on board when the others left, and if he had decided to leave, I am not sure what I would have done. Impossible that I could have turned my back on my family and followed him. Equally impossible that I should have let him go.
Fortunately, he never thrust that decision on me. Perhaps because he had lost his last ultimatum and therefore knew ultimately that my children would come first. Or maybe, because he stayed for his own reasons and he really is now as indifferent to me as he appears.
Charis says it's time I made my peace with him.
More than anything I want Tom's forgiveness.
Who am I kidding?
What I really want is Tom's love. I want back what I lost all rights to when I chose Charis over his father. From Tom's point of view, though, it will probably seem that I only want him because Seven has gone.
My vanity tells me that I have aged well. That the silver at my temples suits me. That I am still physically strong and hale. That I still am the man that Tom fell in love with, albeit my face bears the many lines of laughter and grief that the last twenty years have brought me.
Tom himself is a little heavier, but it suits him. His hair is a little thinner and is peppered with silver. That suits him too. It emphasizes the blue of his eyes, like sunlight and clouds over pools of clear water. He still inspires the poetry of my heart, although those pools are frigid ice whenever I am reflected within them.
Perhaps it is too late to thaw that ice for my sake. But maybe, just maybe, he will defrost just enough to agree to attend the naming ceremony of our granddaughter.
It is time that I talked to him, at least.