Tides of the Heart-Part Three: Requiem
" A fair slim boy not made for this world's pain,
With hair of gold thick clustering round his ears,
And longing eyes half veiled by foolish tears
Like bluest water seen through mists of rain."
Somehow that sonnet always reminds me of Tayven. Menily found it for me in one of her father's books from Earth. There's more, but I never manage to get past those four lines without crying.
I have been crying a lot, recently. Always in private of course. My Father says that there is absolutely no shame in a man crying, but that it is always best to lock the door first, just in case.
I've only ever seen my Father cry actual tears once. Even when mother died he was dry eyed. He does his crying with his soul. Sometimes his eyes are so dark and blank with misery that even now that I am fully grown, I find myself rushing up to him and flinging my arms around him as though it is I who needs the comfort.
Sometimes he gives me a rough affectionate hug and then thrusts me away as though we both should pull ourselves together. Other times he clings onto me as though I am his only anchor in the midst of the storms of life.
My mother was an unaffectionate woman. She cared for us all deeply, but she never liked us to actually "touch" her. She was like a perfect, beautiful statue who existed to be adored but not marred by our childish fingers.
She was perfect and wonderful and I adored her. If she was a little cool, I understood that it was only because that was her nature.
My father suffered because of her coldness, though. Theirs was a loveless marriage. I never understood that completely until I met Menily and realised that married couples could hug and kiss and dance in public and no one would as much as bat an eyelid.
I know the lack of physical affection was on my mother's side because my Father never failed to show my siblings and I so much love that we barely even noticed the emotional failings of our mother.
Every night-time, mother would graciously allow us all to give her a peck on her exquisite cheek as we said goodnight. Father, on the other hand, would always insist on a hug and a real kiss. Often he would sling Anika over his shoulders, and Tayven and me under either arm and would carry us bodily to the bedroom before dropping each of us on our beds and tickling us until we would scramble under the sheets in helpless laughter.
He was the Captain of the Ship at that time, but he never once, in all my memory, missed our bed times. When I look back at all the battles we fought, and the alien governments he would often have to negotiate with for hours at a time to obtain supplies or safe passage, I consider it a miracle that he never let us down.
He was my hero. I grew up believing that even alien battle cruisers wouldn't dare attack us at the precise moment he was due in our quarters. It wasn't until I was about nine or ten that I realised that it wasn't so much that he arrived at the same time each night, but that he forbade my mother to put us to bed before he came home.
Even so, the fact that he loved us too much to even let us go to sleep before he had a chance to remind us how much we were loved, is something I will never forget.
I pray that I will be as good a father to my own children.
Of course, with Menily being such an affectionate woman, it is not so necessary that I do it. I will not have to give double the physical love to make up for my spouse's failings like he did. Still, I want my children to grow up loving me as much as I adore my father Chakotay.
"A fair slim boy not made for this world's pain.." I read this to my father once, several weeks after Tayven's funeral. That was the one time I saw him really cry. He just broke down and wept. I was beside myself, realising that I had inadvertently wounded him when all I had been trying to do was somehow comfort him.
It was one of those rare occasions that my mother exceeded my expectations. She came forward and sat beside my Father, taking one of his hands in her own and stroking it gently as he sobbed. It was not much, but for her it was a lot, and I loved her for it.
My Father never mentioned the incident to me again, but Menily told me that he had come around to our quarters and made a copy of the sonnet for himself.
I imagine that when the door is firmly locked, he reads it and allows himself to cry.
I have a feeling, though, that Tayven is not the only fair, slim, blond and blue-eyed boy that he grieves for.
Now that Mother is dead, it is time that my father allowed himself to be with the person that he has loved all along.
I loved my Mother, and I miss her terribly. She was never a physical comforter but I miss her quiet, unemotional advice. It is good sometimes to have a relationship with someone who is not prone to mood swings. She was always constant and it was comforting to always know exactly how she would react to a situation. She never lost her temper with us, no matter how much our "inefficient use of our time" irritated her, and she taught us all a self-discipline that I now find invaluable.
But she didn't actually love us and she didn't even really love my Father.
I don't think she was capable of the emotion.
She was fiercely possessive of him though. Whenever he was in the room, her eyes would track him constantly, and when he was a little boisterous and over exuberant in his play with us, I sometimes saw her eyes narrow into a faint scowl of disapproval. Not because he was playing, but because his attention was purely for us at that moment.
I think, to be brutally honest, that she was a little jealous of us all.
It must have been terrible for her, though. She wasn't capable of intense emotion. It wasn't her choice to act as she did. It was some implant that the Borg had left inside her. When I was finally old enough to understand my Mother's history, and when I had reached the age where I had begun to resent her indifference rather than just giving her the blind adoration of my early years, my Father took me aside and explained why she was how she was.
From that moment on, whatever happened, I never allowed myself to be anything but completely tolerant of her foibles.
On the other hand, I became equally positive that my parent's marriage was a mistake.
It was at that same inquisitive age of 12 or 13 that I finally realised how much I looked like my Uncle Tom. At first it only puzzled me a little, but it wakened my awareness to other things. The fact that Father and Uncle Tom were so brusque and rude to each other, that seeing them together you couldn't imagine that they were the same people that individually were both so warm and kind.
Except that's not strictly true of Uncle Tom. He was warm and kind with *me*. He seemed to have few other friends on Voyager and he treated everyone with the same icy indifference, except for my Father and Mother who he seemed to hate, my brother and sister who he was vaguely affectionate towards, and me, who he seemed to genuinely like.
I was the only person who ever caused him to smile. He smiled widest at the things I did that caused everyone else a fair amount of consternation. I never *meant* to be bad, I just had this insatiable curiosity that seemed to always get me into scrapes. If there was a Jeffries Tube I could get lost in, I did. If there was an over-enthusiastic science project that blew up half the laboratory, it was mine. If there was a computer program that turned into a virus, I had written it.
My mother would discipline me by boring me to death with long lectures on using my time more efficiently. My father would discipline me more effectively by simply giving me no more than a disappointed look that would break my heart.
Uncle Tom, when told of my misdemeanors, would usually laugh himself stupid and then tell me something similar that *he* had once done. Don't misunderstand me, he never encouraged my behaviour. He just had a more understanding perspective about the way that my attempts to do good always blew up in my face. Sometimes literally.
I was 14 when I did something unforgivable, that hurt my Father so much that I barely can face remembering it, but it lead to my discovery of the real truth so it's too important not to recount.
I think all children go through a period of teen angst, and being trapped on Voyager only made it worse. In some ways, living my whole life aboard this ship has been an adventure. In other ways it has been a form of Purgatory.
Sixty-Seven children of my generation were born on this ship, all told. Nine, including Tayven, died. Twenty-six left the ship when their parents chose to settle on worlds that we passed. That left thirty-two. It sounds a lot until you divide that by the sixteen years of my official childhood and realise that I had, at most a half-dozen playmates of a near enough age group to become my friends.
For some reason, they were all girls.
Not that there was anything wrong with them. One of them was Menily after all. Only at age 14 she was still a little buck-toothed and plump so I never realised she was going to turn into the most gorgeous woman in the Galaxy.
Besides, it wasn't my hormones that were the problem. What I wanted was a friend. A REAL friend. A boy. Tayven was 8 at the time, and those six years were a lifetime of difference between us. I loved him, I played with him, but he was my little brother. I wanted a friend.
All of this background is just my way of trying to justify my behaviour on Kapoonis, I guess. We had found the natives welcoming and had landed the ship to do some long overdue hull repairs. So I had a whole month to run on real grass, under real skies, and I went a little wild. I also made friends with the son of the local Mayor. He was my age, and worldly wise in ways I had never even dreamed possible.
While my Father was busy with supervising the ship's repairs, and my Mother was preoccupied with a ten year old Anika who had suddenly become aware of "fashion" and dragged her from market to market in search of booty, Musin and I got up to all the no-good that we could get away with.
It was mainly harmless stuff. Climbing trees. Scrumping apples. Building a dyke across the town's main water supply (okay, that wasn't so harmless). Catching the half-broken saddle beasts that were turned out to pasture and riding them barebacked and bridle-less until they threw us to the ground and escaped. Raiding his father's study and stealing his liquor (filling the bottles back up with water to hide our crime) and generally anything else we could think of.
We got away with it until the day that Mother insisted that I took Tayven with me to get him out from under her feet. I so bitterly regret that day now, for so many reasons.
Had I known then that his time in this life would be so short, had I understood that he was just "a fair slim boy not made for this world's pain," I would never have wasted a single moment of his short life by making him cry.
As it was though, I was just furious to have my fun curtailed and I ignored him, as best I could. Musin and I laughed and joked together as we walked along and left Tayven miserably sniffling along in our wake. Musin got bored, of course, and our path led us up to the pasture so it was too much to resist our game of riding the saddle beasts.
Tayven wanted to ride too, and I refused, so he started to cry and then threatened to tell Father what Musin and I had done unless he had a turn too. So I put him on one of the animals, slapped its ass, hoped he'd fall off and hurt himself and inevitably he did.
Of course, I had wanted him to get a couple of bruises for sniveling, not fracture his arm in three places.
Father went crazy. It was the first time he had ever really lost his temper with me and despite the fact that I was almost as tall as him, he bent me over his lap and smacked my bottom.
It was the humiliation more than anything that upset me so much, and I was so hysterical with sobbing outrage at his discipline that I said something that I'll regret for the rest of my life.
I told him he had no right to spank me, because he wasn't really my Father.
I didn't mean it. It was anger talking and the fact that for two years I had become increasingly convinced that Uncle Tom was my *real* father and that was why I looked like him so much. It also explained why he and my Father hated each other. Uncle Tom had obviously had an affair with mother, and I was the result.
It didn't mean that I loved my Father any less, just because I thought Uncle Tom was my *real* father, if you know what I mean. Uncle Tom was just Uncle Tom. He was a great guy, but he wasn't exactly cut out to be a father. I was old enough to understand that Father's discipline and love was more important than Uncle Tom's amused tolerance. Even if Uncle Tom was more fun.
So I guess I only said it to get Father back for having had the audacity to spank my ass.
I never expected to really hurt him.
He turned white. Like a ghost. It was as though he were filled with air and I had pricked him with a pin. He deflated in front of my eyes. My wonderful, heroic Ship's Captain of a father was so wounded by my spiteful words that he almost collapsed.
As soon as I saw his pain, I threw myself at him, begging and pleading for his forgiveness. Assuring him, over and over, that I loved him, only him, and I *was* his son and he *was* my father and would he please, please forget that I had ever said those cruel and stupid words.
My Father's capacity for love and forgiveness have always been humbling to me. No sooner did he see *my* distress than he forgot his own and sought to comfort me instead. He hugged me and held me as though I was the most precious treasure in the universe, and he told me repeatedly that I was his heart, and his soul, and that nothing I ever did or said could extinguish his love for me.
And when I had finally calmed down, he wiped my face, and said that it was finally time that I knew the truth but that he needed to talk to someone first.
He moved over to the comm unit and had a brief, terse conversation with someone that I afterwards realised must have been Uncle Tom, and then he came back and told me everything.
He glossed over a lot of it. He didn't mention that my Mother had conceived me against my fathers' wishes. He protected her from that much and it was years later that another crew member accidentally let it slip in conversation to me.
He didn't tell me that Uncle Tom had wanted me to be aborted. Uncle Tom himself told me that. He explained himself in such a way that I have never resented him for his feelings at the time. To the extent that he has been able to, he has made room in his life for me, and considering what my birth cost him, I can hardly believe he can look me in the face at all.
Sometimes, when I think about how my own life has destroyed the lives of the two men that I love most in the universe, I am humbled that I bear their genes. My Father lived for nearly twenty years with a woman as emotionally cold as a glacier just so that he could raise me with his love. Uncle Tom spent those twenty years in lonely bitterness. Yet neither, even once, has ever borne any resentment against me, the cause of it all.
Like I said, I loved my Mother, but sometimes, when I think of the harm that she did, I am pleased not that she is dead, of course, but that she passed away before either of my Fathers did.
Surely, now, they could steal back a little happiness together.
They are both strong and healthy men. They could spend the *next* twenty years together to slowly mend their hurts, and then the twenty years after that simply celebrating their love.
If only I can keep Uncle Tom from leaving Voyager.
Captain Tuvok has been surprisingly co-operative with me in allowing me to make sure our course never passes a warp-capable society. He agrees that the situation can't go on and that Uncle Tom running away is no solution for his pain. I think Tuvok loves Uncle Tom a little himself, although he would probably turn a peculiar shade of green if I dared accuse him of anything as human as an emotion.
Uncle Tom saved his life a couple of years ago, when he came into Ponn Farr shortly after his wife died of the same fever that killed Tayven. I don't think two people can share that kind of experience without forming *some* form of attachment for each other, human or not.
I had hoped that my daughter's naming ceremony would be a place for my stubborn, heart-broken fathers to finally at least stand in the same room for more than two minutes. Then I made the mistake of saying we were considering naming her Seven.
The blood drained from Uncle Tom's face as soon as I uttered the word, and I kicked myself for my stupidity. Of course he wouldn't want his grand-daughter to be named after the woman who had stolen his husband. She did, of course, steal his husband. But like Father says, she didn't know what she was doing and we shouldn't resent her actions because without them Anika, Tayven and I would never have been born at all.
So Menily and I have decided to call our daughter Harriet, after her maternal grandfather, and instead of the private ceremony we had intended, we are going to have a Requiem for all the Voyagers who have left and a Reaffirmation of those of us who continue the journey together.
The Captain has declared that attendance at the ceremony is mandatory.
There is an old saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Similarly, we can force my Fathers to both sit next to each other but we can't make them talk.
At the moment, I'd settle for Uncle Tom giving Father a well-deserved slap across the face.
It would, at least, be a start.
(The Sonnet quoted is "Wasted Days" by Oscar Wilde)