Tides of the Heart- Part Fifteen: Trinity
I am beginning to think that I have made one of the biggest mistakes of my life, and let's face it, I have made more than a few really bad judgment calls in my personal life, but this is possibly the worst one since the night I walked out on Tom in the middle of our lovemaking, twenty years ago.
This time I walked out in the middle of an argument, and somehow it seems worse. Less redeemable. Which is patently absurd since I have made such a complete mess of redeeming *that* mistake too.
Strictly speaking, Tom walked out first, but since he stayed in the holoprogram instead of high-tailing it to the Delta Flyer, he clearly had no intention of actually running away. I realised that he just needed time and space to think over what I had said and so I fought my impulse to chase after him and allowed him to run down to the lonely beach. I watched him until he was little more than a speck in the distance and the very distance he ran showed that he was not hoping that I would follow. It wasn't a dramatic demand for attention. It was a serious cry for solitude.
That's why I didn't go after him. He clearly needed some privacy and I wanted to respect that. Well, that's one of the reasons I didn't go after him. The other was that in the middle of my confession to Tom, a realisation struck me. Just when my burden of guilt was already choking me, another reason to berate myself flashed into my already beleaguered mind.
Yes, I had already visited her and pointed out that there was a strong likelihood that I would be leaving Voyager if Tom chose to go. I had said my tearful goodbyes to both her and my son. What I hadn't done was told her the truth.
I'm not talking about Seven. Wild horses couldn't drag that information out of my lips to anyone other than Tom. Not because I fear repercussions over my own actions but because the love and tolerance that my children have always borne for their mother is a precious thing that cannot be lightly thrown aside. It would serve no purpose to tell them the truth of their mother's perfidy and would cause such hurt that I will avoid it at all costs.
I'm referring to Tom.
He *is* her father.
She should know that, at least, before he leaves her life forever.
Only now, as she stands here, her perfect face stained by tears, her wide blue eyes red-rimmed and haunted by knowledge that she never *really* needed to learn, I feel like a fool. I have, perhaps, thrown away the love of my daughter for nothing other than the easing of my conscience.
"He doesn't know?" Anika demands again, her voice tight with pain.
"He didn't. I told him today," I repeat yet again, wondering a little tiredly when it will sink in and yet dreading the explosion to come when it does.
"He knew about Charis though," she accuses, sending a knifing look towards her brother who is sitting on the edge of my bed, his expression an odd mix of embarrassment and compassion.
"Yes, he did," I agree.
"He didn't want Charis. He wouldn't have wanted me. That's what you're saying," Anika spits bitterly, her face twisted with anger yet her eyes so sad and hurt that I can see Tom clearly in her for the first time.
It is Charis who jumps to Tom's defense, before I can even formulate a reply.
"Why should he?" he asked calmly. "He had no reason to love me, Nik. He never asked to be a father. He wasn't given a choice. When mom got pregnant with me, Uncle Tom lost Father. He had every right to hate me. Instead he was my best friend when I was a kid. He was always there for me. He gave me all the time and love he was capable of and he would have done the same for you if he'd known. Besides, Uncle Tom's always been good to you, hasn't he? He always made time for you because of Father."
"He's not *Uncle Tom*," Anika hisses back as though the name is enough in itself to offend her.
Charis is cool as he replies.
"I know *that* Nik. He's family though and we already have a father."
"Do we?" Anika spits.
I stagger a little. Her attack is not unexpected but even so it is more than I can bear. I can't help a low moan of distress escaping my lips as my little girl repudiates me and spirits forgive me I almost feel angry at Tom, as though he has forced me into this confession . Yet it is my guilt and my choice alone, and my unfair anger at Tom only adds yet another weight to the unbearable burden of regrets that I must already carry.
"I have loved you both since the moment that I learned of your existence," I tell her quietly. "Not a day or an hour or a moment have passed that you have been out of my thoughts. You are my life, and my happiness. In loving you I destroyed the only person who ever owned my heart and yet I have never regretted my choice. You may not see me as your Father, Anika, but you are my daughter. My heart has always known the truth of that," I tell her, my voice breaking on the words as though they are shards of glass that rip me apart from the inside out.
I am angry.
Wouldn't you be?
I am eighteen years old, nearly nineteen. I have lost my mother. My father has told me that he may leave the ship and never return, and now he is telling me that he isn't even my *real* father. That a man I have always known as Uncle Tom is my real father.
That's a lie anyway.
I never call him *Uncle* Tom except in front of Charis and Father. He's Odd Tom. That's what we call him. My friends and I. A sad, bitter man who is so cold and brusque with everyone else that I have never bothered to tell the others that I have seen a different side to him. I figured they would laugh at me if I said he was nice really. That he could tell jokes and play the piano. That he had once spent a whole night without sleep to retrieve a computer program of mine that had been accidentally deleted.
It had been a project for the annual children's science competition and I had worked on it for weeks. Mom told me to back it up. She droned incessantly on about the need to always keep faithful duplicates of my data. Only I was running out of time and I was over-excited by my project, so for a couple of weeks I had been writing the program right up to the last moment in every class and so I never had the time to do a back-up.
Then, just two days before the competition, Voyager was attacked. It was the bad one, the attack that crippled the warp engines and killed Lieutenant Commander Torres. She was a scary person, B'Elanna Torres. As bitter and cold as Odd Tom but without his gentleness of nature. She nearly killed Charis once for messing up the replicators and I have never forgotten the sight of her in full fury. I was ten years old at that time and in the subsequent five years until her death, I never got over my terror of her.
Mom warned me she was unpredictable and dangerous. She said I should stay away from her and I did. Mind you, Mom told me the same about Odd Tom. Now I can see there is another reason Mom didn't want me to hang around with Tom though, so maybe B'Elanna wasn't so bad after all. Maybe Mom just didn't like her.
Anyway, after B'Elanna died, Tom was obviously distraught. I hadn't even realised that they were friends though. You wouldn't have realised it since they never spent any time together but I guess some friendships don't need constant re-affirmation. They just exist, timeless and unchanging, so that just a polite nod or a small smile in passing confirms that the old bond remains, buried but true. But I was a kid and the complexities of relationships hadn't yet penetrated my teenage self-centeredness.
My project had been wiped out in the attack but I had this vague hope that it still existed somewhere in the damaged computer. I couldn't face telling Mom what had happened. She was never sympathetic about carelessness, let alone my obvious failure to obey her orders to always back my work up. Father was the Captain of Voyager. I knew he would have done everything to help me if I'd told him but even I wasn't stupid enough to imagine that my minor problem should interfere with his job when crew had died and the ship was almost crippled.
Even so, it wasn't a minor problem to me.
I was literally sick with worry. I couldn't eat. Couldn't sleep. Couldn't face mom's disappointment in me. That was the thing with mom. She never lost her temper and shouted. She just had this way of looking at you as though you were beneath contempt. Like you were a member of a species so distasteful that even the Borg wouldn't bother assimilating you. You'd have to experience that look to really understand how I felt but, believe me, telling her that I had stupidly lost all my work was not a viable option.
It was Charis who told me to ask for Tom's help.
I didn't really know Tom. Sure, he had babysat for me a lot of times, and he'd been fun a lot of the time, and I knew that he laughed about things that made most adults furious, but still my friends all told me he was Odd and as teenage girls are, I was far more interested in popularity than in defending someone who really had nothing to do with me. Still, I was desperate and so I went to him.
In retrospect I still don't know why he helped me. His last and perhaps only friend had just died and he and I had always had an indifference to each other. Yet he listened to my tearful plea for help and then, I later learned, he stayed up all night tracking down the errant ghostly echoes of my program.
When I woke up on the morning of the competition, I found my terminal blinking and when I turned it on, my whole program tumbled down in front of me, restored and completed.
I never told anyone.
Because, although I am ashamed to admit it, the program Odd Tom returned to me wasn't just restored, it was improved. He had found the flaws in my programming and had invisibly tweaked them so that although on the surface it was all my own work, internally it was far better.
My mom was so proud of me that I never dared confess and rather than seeking Tom out and thanking him, I avoided him in case he mentioned the improvements he had made.
I'm still ashamed of myself for that, and for never telling the other kids that he wasn't "odd", he was sweet and kind and had saved my ass in a big way.
And now it turns out he's my Father.
Only he's not really, is he? Like Charis says, we already have a Father and I have just wounded him unforgivably by my angry unthinking words.
Maybe I haven't grown up at all.
Here I am, angrily telling everyone that I am an Ensign now, a grown woman, someone who should be trusted with the Tactical station on the bridge and I am still the same selfish brat who took Tom's gift and never even had the grace to acknowledge it.
Tom. Not Odd Tom or even Uncle Tom. Not Father. Dad maybe. My dad Tom. My dad Tom who had a wrecked engine room to deal with, and a friend to bury, and yet still gave up hours of his time to rescue the completely irrelevant program of a selfish little girl just because she cried.
My dad Tom who would be so ashamed of me for letting my Father stand there, his face twisted with the agony of rejection because of my thoughtless words.
"I love you," Anika cries unexpectedly, and launches herself into my arms.
Stunned, I can only clasp her to me, hugging her slender trembling body and crying into her pale golden hair. I do not deserve this. This love, this forgiveness but I embrace it because without the love of my children I am nothing but a hollow tired shell.
"I love you too," I whisper. "Both of you."
I hold my left hand out to Charis and he moves into the circle of my arms so that we three are pressed together, sobbing and comforting one another. To my surprise, it is Anika who recovers first. She pulls herself back, straightening herself and regaining her poise with gestures that are an unconscious imitation of her unlamented mother. Still, she makes the gestures her own. They become endearing to me simply because it is Anika who now uses them.
"So, what are we going to do about Daddy Tom?" she asks clearly.
"Daddy Tom?" Charis repeats, clearly torn between humor and confusion at her expression.
"I am *not* calling him uncle," Anika replies firmly. "He's our Dad. Just like Father is our Father."
"I don't think he *wants* to be a dad, honey," I find myself saying sadly. "It's not that he doesn't care. It's just that he -"
"He didn't want to be a dad," Anika interrupts. "It's okay, Father. I have realised that. It is irrelevant."
I blink. For a moment I see Seven in front of me. I find myself waiting for her to say 'resistance is futile'.
"Resistance is futile," Anika says, but she is laughing and there is a Tom-like twinkle in her blue eyes.
"Look, Nik. You can't *make* him stay. He's already had us rammed down his throat. If he wouldn't stay for me or Father, he's not going to stay for you, is he?"
"You think so?" Anika replies archly. "You obviously don't realise that he is completely defenseless in front of my tears."
I don't know what she is referring to. I didn't ever realise that Anika and Tom had any form of relationship. Even so, I can't allow it.
"I won't have him pressured, Anika. It's not fair and it's not right. If he stays it has to be his own choice," I say firmly.
"Bullshit," she snaps, suddenly so unlike her mother that I am too speechless to even chastise her for her language.
"The problem with Daddy Tom is that he has never felt loved. That's what he needs. LOVE. He needs to be bombarded with it, drowned in it, forced to face the fact that there are *three* people who love him so much he can't possibly turn his back on us," Anika exclaims.
Charis rolls his eyes at her.
"You can't walk up to him and say, 'Hi, I just found out you are my dad so I love you.' He won't buy it, Nik. No one would. It's just words."
"He's right, honey," I agree miserably.
"Do I look stupid?" Anika replies with an imperious shake of her head. "Of course he won't buy it *immediately*. It will take time."
"We don't have time," I mutter defeatedly. "He's leaving at the end of the week."
"Look, if he *wanted* to leave he would have gone years ago. If he still wanted to leave he wouldn't be giving you a chance to change his mind."
"I don't think he is, Anika. He's just saying goodbye," I reply honestly. I can lie to myself, but I can't lie to my children.
Anika raises her eyebrow in an uncanny imitation of Tuvok.
"You're wrong," she says with the confidence of a teenager. "Dad isn't the suicidal type. He doesn't *want* to die. He wants us to save him."
I feel my knees give way as her words sink in and I collapse into my chair feeling old and faint. She's right. Of course she's right. Tom isn't planning to simply run away. Tom is planning on killing himself. How could I still have been so blind?
I have been arrogantly planning to follow him wherever he runs to. Why didn't I see that he is planning to run somewhere that no one *can* follow?
"Help me," I beg shamelessly, as the tears begin to roll down my cheeks in waves of hopeless anguish.
Anika and Charis exchange glances and their faces go blank. I shudder as I realise that they are talking to each other in their heads, like drones. They aren't Borg. They are individuals. Yet the nanites in their blood have not only given them Borg resistance to infections and incredible healing powers over injuries. They also occasionally use them to communicate with each other silently. I imagine it is helpful in battle situations. It's disturbing to witness off the bridge though.
Yet it is part of who they are and I accept it with the same unconditional acceptance that I have always awarded them. They are my children and I love them.
//He's still on the holodec, Nik//
## Good. Lock down the exit arch##
//He has a comm badge//
##Nullify communication protocols##
##Check holo-safeties are on line##
##Amend program parameters to delay sunset##
//Too late. Program has reached moon-rise configuration//
I see Anika dissolve in a fit of giggles, destroying momentarily the image of two drones communicating with themselves and perhaps even the main computer.
Just as Charis had interfered with the lift, I know that he can directly link into any of the ship's systems. I think Tuvok knows what he is capable of but he has never broached the subject with me, since Charis rarely abuses his abilities and usually only with the best intentions.
I have a sudden feeling we could all end up in the brig for whatever my children are silently plotting this time though, but I don't care. All I was worried about was hurting Tom. Now I have a greater fear. That Tom will die. So all bets are off. It's not a game anymore.
We will do whatever it takes and pay the consequences.
Together, we three will save Tom.
We have to. After all, it is our trinity that has unwittingly destroyed him.
##Locate Dad's position##
//Remote beach location. Low tide.//
##Replace beach entrance with high cliffs. Cut off all escape routes##
##Initiate thunder storm.##
//You sure Nik? That's gonna be scary//
##Safeties are on line##
// Complied. Hope you know what you're doing, Sis //
##Turn tide. Ensure that high tide will reach the cliff edge##
##He can't drown. I just want him to think he will.##
//He knows he's on the holodec//
## I'm thinking.##
//We could tell the computer to tell him safeties are off-line//
##Brilliant. Do it.##
//Me and my big mouth. Complied//
##Okay. Set program to reach optimum danger at 1930##
//You're going to terrify our Dad for an HOUR?//
##Listen dimwatt. He thinks he wants to die. We need to convince him that he most certainly wants to live. Nothing like a bit of real danger to make you want to live. After an hour of watching that tide rise he's going to be damned well grateful when the cavalry arrives##
//He's more likely to just want to kill us too//
##That's okay. I'll just cry and say you made me do it##
##I'm kidding. Cool down. It's just a case of taking Father's scenario a step further. It's a metaphor, that's all##
##Think about it, Charis. Dad is drowning. He can't escape on his own. He's trapped between fear and anger. Like the sea and the cliffs. Both only offer him death and pain. We are his only hope of rescue. We are a life-line. He might not want us, but we are all he has. He has to make the choice to grab onto the rope that we throw him. He has to choose to live##
//You're going to throw him a rope?//
##Not literally, you idiot##
##Actually, that's a damned good idea for a dimwatt. We throw a rope from the top of the cliff and it will take all three of us to haul him up. He'll have to trust us, because he'll think the safeties are off line. He will literally have to believe in us all. He'll have to trust us.##
//Father will never agree to this, Nik//
##Did I ask him to? At 1915 we simply escort him back to the holodec and let it play out##
//He'll just tell the computer to cancel the program//
##And surprise, surprise, it won't comply##
//He'll kill us. They will both kill us//
##Just as long as they kill us together. That way they can share a cell in the brig##
//It's not funny//
//Flood tide has commenced//
##Adjust holodec temperature ten degrees. He's going to get wet. No need to freeze his balls off too##
##Well, Father wouldn't be happy, would he?##
//I was referring to your language. You're hanging around with Nix Ayala too much//
##Not too much, just enough. You can't marry a guy you don't spent time with##
## Well, only if Father and Dad say it's okay, of course ##
//You're serious about this Dad thing, aren't you?//
##Honestly? Not really. Not in that sense. We're both a little old to need a new 'Dad' in our lives##
//So why are you doing this?//
##Because once upon a time, Tom did something for me that convinced me that he's a seriously nice guy. The kind of guy that Father deserves. I want Father to be happy and the only way that's going to be possible is if Tom is happy too. Shit, Charis, we stole the guy's genes *and* his husband. We owe him.##
//Do you think you can love him though, Nik? If you pretend you'll just hurt him even more than he's already hurt//
##Could I love him? Let me tell you something about Tom Paris, our Dad. Do you remember when the ship was attacked? The bad one I mean. When Lieutenant Commander Torres died?.................##