Tides of the Heart- Part Thirteen: Confessional
"I still see myself in Charis sometimes," I tell Tom, as he rests against me, wrapped in the temporary safety of my arms, his cheek to my chest, his body exhausted by his tears.
"Although I know it is an illusion, I still sometimes imagine that my dormant genes have some life within him after all, that they have had some tiny influence on him. That your genes did not completely displace my own as they mixed in the petri dish. Yet, then I wonder whether his expressions are just those that he learnt from me, like the timbre of his voice and his occassional placidity of nature."
"I can think of many adjectives to describe Charis," Tom replies with a choking laugh. "Placid is never one of them."
I merely smile down at him softly. I cannot explain what I mean without hurting him. I cannot detail those precious moments that I have shared with my son, *my* son, as he has grown. Despite the raging power of Tom's genetic inheritance, Charis has found a stillness and peace within himself. I like to believe that it is my calming influence and perhaps a tiny trace of rebellious DNA that would not accept its redundancy in his cells. I probably fool myself with that thought though. The real difference between Tom and Charis is that Charis had a father who gave him unconditional love.
I gave to Tom's son that which I could not give to Tom. I couldn't replace Tom's bitter childhood memories of a father who was cold and remote from him. I did, however, give Tom's son a better start in life. I gave *all* Tom's children that better start.
He doesn't know. He never knew.
I, on the other hand, always knew Tayven and Anika were not mine. Seven and I did not share the manner of relationship that would have allowed for a natural pregnancy and, of course, each time that Seven declared herself pregnant it was in response to a crisis in our lives when I would finally feel that I could no longer keep the charade of our marriage together.
When Charis was two, I married Seven to keep him on board, just as I have admitted to Tom. I thought that it was the *right* thing to do, the *noble* thing. It was just stupidity really. Within a year, I was chaffing at the bonds of that marriage because the man that I loved more than my own life was falling apart. He had just lost his best friend in the same accident that killed Kathryn Janeway who had, in many ways, been almost a surrogate mother for him since the day she had rescued him from Auckland and taken him under her protective wing with tolerance and affection.
I wanted to go to him. I was Captain now of the ship. I had the authority to break whatever Federation Laws I wished. Not so noble after all, was I? Seven could no longer take Charis without my permission. I could let her go wherever she wished and I could keep my son, Tom's son, and reunite with my poocuh. He would forgive me, I knew that he would. He would take me back.
So Seven became pregnant once more.
At first I did not care. The child was not *my* responsibility after all. This time I would not take the child into my heart. Which is when she told me who the unknown father was of the baby.
She was clever, of course. This time it was Tom's genes that she suppressed. There is nothing in Anika that betrays the Paris spirit, she does not have her father's fire and I never, I admit, have loved her quite as much as Charis because of that.
But I *do* love her. From the first day that she opened her perfect blue eyes I saw Tom's eyes not Seven's and although her hair grew with her mother's Nordic blonde and her nature was quiet and reflective rather than inquisitive and fiery like her older brother, she was the perfect angelic child of my Poocuh. She was Tom's daughter and so she was mine.
I fell in love with the perfection of her tiny fingers, so long and elegant even when she was just a few hours old, and I was trapped once more into my loveless marriage because with Anika's birth all hope I had of Tom's forgiveness was severed.
He turned away from me on that day. Before then he had been cutting and rude, yet he had still mourned me from afar. After the birth of Anika, he could often be heard disparaging me in public, telling people that he hated me and that our marriage had always been a mistake. I knew his words were only because of his pain, but his very vindictiveness proved that I had now hurt him beyond forgiveness.
Tom naturally assumed that the conception and birth of Anika was proof that Seven had replaced him in my affections.
I know, damnit. I know I should have told him, should have confided in him, should have given him the opportunity to claim me and his children. Only I was too frightened that he would reject me, reject them and they would grow up as he did, unloved and bitter.
In acknowledging that I was not their real father, in publicly denouncing their mother, I would gain nothing for Charis and Anika. Seven would have been forced to leave Voyager as the weight of scorn descended on her shoulders for actions that I hate her for, yet even now I still do not truly blame her for. The best that Charis and Anika would have had was an "adoptive" father and Tom's disinterest.
I could not risk that for them. They grew up safe in the love of a mother and father. We were a family. For their sake it had to be enough and I had to content myself that the status quo should continue.
Our next crisis was two years later with the gradual exodus from the ship. One by one and couple by couple, people were leaving Voyager. Each time we stopped for supplies we lost another member of the crew and I became increasingly certain that Tom would soon follow them.
I became jittery and nervous, constantly checking on his whereabouts on the ship, refusing to stop at any inhabited worlds unless it was imperative and never sending Tom on away missions lest he should take the opportunity to abscond. Seven, of course, became aware of my distraction and decided on her own.
Thus Tayven was conceived.
I was furious with her. I truly lost my temper with her for the first time, calling her names that even Tom would struggle to repeat, only to be brought crashing down to earth again by the frantic wails of Charis who was now old enough to understand too much of our discussion. He ran to protect his mother from my wrath, planting his tiny body in front of hers as though he would die to protect her.
It was the end of my rebellion. The end of all hope.
There was never any need for a fourth child.
My children loved their mother and I could not destroy their faith in her without destroying something within them too.
Tayven, like Anika, did not have that Paris spark that so enchanted me in Charis. Even so, I adored him and although I threatened Seven that if she should ever become pregnant again I would reveal her perfidy to the crew, I do not know whether that is true or not.
But, like I said, there was no need for another child because I knew that it was too late to leave my family now.
As the years passed and our children grew, Seven and I grew comfortable together. I suppose that is an unbelievable fact for you to understand, yet it is true. Long familiarity becomes a form of contentment after a time. It becomes easier to accept a life which is sorrowful but familiar rather than take the risk of breaking away to find something new and better.
Besides, my children were a constant joy and comfort to me.
Sometimes I am honest enough to wonder whether I always favored Charis because I knew that *somewhere* inside him there was part of me. I do not really believe that though. I favored Charis because he was so like his father that in a way, despite the fact that I had lost Tom, I still kept him.
I loved Charis because in many ways he *was* Tom.
Yet Anika and Tayven stole my heart too. Anika was so beautiful, so prim and precise, such a lady even when she was just a tiny girl. A child that even Admiral Paris himself would have worshipped if he had met her.
And Tayven, my youngest son, was in many ways my pride and joy. He was a quiet boy, introspective, a loner. Just as Charis was Tom's wilder side, so Tayven was his vulnerable one. In Tayven I saw the quiet reflective side of my Poocuh. Charis was a warrior, Tayven more destined to be a shamen.
His death ripped my soul apart.
I had been ill with the fever myself, as had we all, and then I discovered that my youngest son was only a memory when my fever broke. I remember visiting him in the make-shift morgue in cargo bay two, where the environmental controls could be adapted to keep the bodies in a state that still allowed visitation.
He was perfect. A little pale perhaps, but nothing else suggested that he was anything but asleep and as I rocked his frail, empty corpse in my arms, I howled not only for him and for me but for his *real* father who had never even known that he had this child to lose.
That's why I cannot tell the truth to Tom. The whole truth I mean. Not just because I cannot tell him of my crime, but because I cannot bear to tell him that he had not one child, but four, and that I allowed one of them to be murdered and the fourth died still little more than a promise in his mother's treacherous womb.
Secrets and love make poor bedfellows.
I love Tom. I always have and yet I did not love him enough to trust him. In not trusting him, I caused the death of two children that should never have even been born. *His* children.
Perhaps that is the truth of why I suggested this bizarre simulation where we could pretend to be strangers. Because Tom already has enough reasons to hate me without him knowing the rest of my secrets.
If I do not tell him the truth, he will leave me. I understand that now. It is what he is demanding, my confession. It is the price I must pay to keep him.
It is also what will drive him away from me forever.
I am not the person that he thinks that I am.
I am a murderer.
There. It's too late now. You know the truth. I have taken a life and I do not regret it. I only regret that it took me so long to do it.
Could I turn back time and retrace my steps back to that moment, I would still not change my actions despite the cost that I must pay.
You see, I think he will forgive me for killing Seven but how can he ever forgive me for the death of his son in her womb?
I killed my beloved Tayven twice.
I believed he had died of the fever the first time. Why wouldn't I? He was one of twelve victims and to be brutally honest, the fact that he was dead at all was too much for my mind to accept. I didn't have the strength to even imagine that there could be anything worse than that single fact.
Can you imagine how it feels to seal the body of a child in a casket and watch it float out into the lonely depths of space? To know that he will forever be alone. That you cannot wrap your arms around him and comfort him in the darkness of forever. My mind told me that he was dead. That his spirit was free and happy on the spirit plane. My heart insisted that my baby boy was cold and alone in a tiny tube, endlessly crying out to me for warmth and comfort.
A part of me wanted to be sealed into that casket with him so that I could hold him through eternity.
A part of me still does.
Sometimes, in the still of the night, I wake in the silence and imagine that he is calling me though the endless expanse of space and time, crying in his abandonment and I have to stop myself racing to the shuttle bay and chasing after his floating tomb.
Tayven's death affected me badly. So much so that I asked to step down as Captain. I could not sit on the bridge and give orders that might cause Charis and Anika to take that same solitary journey into the depths of space. Something broke in me the day my youngest son died and it has never mended.
Of all the times I was tempted, that is the time I would have finally turned to Tom, too numb in my grief to even care anymore for propriety. Yet I could not. Tuvok lost his wife to the disease and then, perhaps hastened by grief as though his body was responding to the age old need to replace old life with new, he unexpectedly entered his ponn farr.
Few of the crew were single by then, and of that bare handful it was only Tom who had the courage and kindness to step forward and offer himself to save Tuvok's life.
I knew that they would mate, they would mind-meld and I would lose Tom forever just as I had lost his child and it seemed to me, in that time of grief, that this was the Spirits' punishment for my carelessness in letting Tayven die.
Had I known then, in that moment of total despair, the truth of Tayven's death I think that I would have not only taken Seven's life but that of my own too.
As it was, time moved on, Tom did not mate with Tuvok, for reasons that they may never explain to me, and although I did not 'get over' Tayven's death any more than *any* parent can get over the death of their child, I remembered my responsibilities to Charis and Anika and I carried on.
It was on the anniversary of Tayven's funeral that Seven admitted that she was with child once more. I was furious at first. I could not bear the responsibility of another child. More than that though, I could not believe that she would have the affrontery to again steal Tom's DNA.
She cried in the end, an unnatural and ugly thing it was to see, her emotions clearly an act although, as I have said many times, I did not blame her for her deception. She was incapable of acting in any other way.
She told me that she hadn't taken the DNA from Tom this time, that the baby was a gift from the Spirits, a way that Tayven could be reborn to us and something clicked inside my head. I insisted that she came to the Sickbay with me and the Doctor withdrew a sample of her embryonic fluid and my suspicions were confirmed.
The baby inside her *was* Tayven. A clone duplicated from his very own cells. She told me that she had taken the sample from his body as a way to bring him back to life.
I am a spiritual man. To me the body is only the host of the spirit. What was growing inside Seven was not a child, it was an obscenity.
But that is not why I killed her.
I killed her because the Doctor confirmed that the cell that she had taken from Tayven must have been removed before his death and before his illness.
So that is when I knew.
She had killed my son, Tom's son, and whatever travesty was growing within her womb was a mockery of my beloved child.
I did not kill her in anger. She was what she was. She had seen that I would leave her once the children were grown and so she had done what she believed needed to be done to keep me. If anything, it was my fear for Charis and Anika that moved my hand, and to be honest, the fear that she would logically turn on Tom if she saw him as a real threat once more.
I realised that she had only ever let Tom live because he was her hold over me. If her carefully constructed web of lies and deceit began to crumble, then Tom would be an obvious casualty.
Not even my children questioned her death. Everyone knew that her pregnancies had been life threatening, although the more I think about it, the more I believe that her life was *never* in danger. It was always an elaborate deception, as were my children's childhood illnesses. All were controlled by her Borg nanites for maximum effect.
I suppose, if I am being completely honest, there was perhaps some element of vengeance in my decision to kill her, but it was not for my sake, or even for Tom's, but for the countless times my children had suffered the agonies of their supposed illnesses and for my son Tayven who will spend eternity alone in space.
How can I say any of this to Tom? How can I possibly hold him in my arms and tell him the secrets that will make him spurn me forever?
Yet, if I stay silent, he will leave me and even though I will follow him to the ends of the galaxy we will never bridge the rift of distrust that I will dig by my silence.
At this moment, as he rests in my arms, his head so trustingly bent into my chest so that his tear-stained cheek presses into my skin, I have never felt so terrifyingly alone in my whole life.