Title: The End and the Beginning
Author: A'Lehsen Paris (aka Ally)
Rated: PG (adult language)
Summary: This story takes place eight and a half years after "Caretaker." B'Elanna and Seven of Nine integrated transwarp technology successfully into Voyager's warp drive. However, Voyager's hull was not designed to withstand the pressures of transwarp travel, so the new drive is used as sparingly as possible. It did shave decades off their trip. Here is my version of the future of Voyager and her crew. It includes the Janeway we all knew and loved until the fifth season, when the writers started destroying her character. It has a decidedly P/T tilt. Please don't mind the chronological inconsistency.
Archive: Yes to anyone who lets me know.
Disclaimer: Voyager, her crew, and any other little odds and ends I borrowed from the Star Trek Universe belong to Paramount/Viacom. I'm just adding my own two cents (and more!). A'Lehsen and S'Ehra, Annalise, Omaga, and all other characters which were NOT mentioned in any Star Trek episode come from my fertile imagination. They may be used only with my permission.
Part One: Surprises
Lieutenant Commander B'Elanna Paris looked up in surprise when Captain Janeway's voice came over the ship-wide comm. 'Damn,' she thought. There had been no mention of an announcement at this morning's briefing, as far as she knew. But then, she had dozed off for a few minutes during Tuvok's report. B'Elanna had made a mental note to go to Sickbay after this shift because the last time she had done something like that.....
The Captain's rather shaken voice interrupted her thoughts. "Senior officers to the briefing room, now. I am calling a Priority One meeting. Janeway out."
B'Elanna glanced at Lieutenant Susan Nicoletti, who had been giving her a report on the hull status after Voyager's transwarp jump the day before. It was not good.
"I'll be back in a while, Susan. You're in charge until then," B'Elanna said.
"Yes, sir," Nicoletti said with a nod. Her dark gray eyes were troubled.
B'Elanna left Engineering and got onto the nearest turbolift. "Bridge," she said. The 'lift began to rise. It stopped on Deck 4, and her husband, Lieutenant Tom Paris, entered. They smiled at each other.
"Before you can ask, I dropped A'Lehsen and S'Ehra off at the Stuarts'. Alna has daycare duty this shift," Tom said, referring to their three-and-a-half-year-old twin daughters.
Over the last few years, many of Voyager's crew had gotten married. Tom and B'Elanna had been the first couple, and others had begun to follow their example, including the Captain and Commander Chakotay. Most of them had one or two children by this time, so shifts had been rearranged and daycare had been started. It was run by volunteers who received rewards like extra replicator rations, holodeck time, and shifts off.
"That's good. Alna knows how to handle them if they start to make mischief. Ivan, on the other hand..." B'Elanna said with a sigh.
"You know he tries, but he's so used to Gretchen's mild temperament that our girls are a little too much for him," Tom said in defense of his fellow pilot and father, although he privately agreed with his wife.
B'Elanna grinned. "Just wait until she's old enough to walk. He'll be just as useless with her as he is with A'Lehsen and S'Ehra," she said knowingly. "He could definitely take some lessons from you."
"In what?" Tom asked suggestively.
B'Elanna's smile widened. "Oh, I don't know. Maybe this..." she said.
They exchanged a kiss that they wished could last longer. Luckily, they broke apart just before the 'lift doors opened.
The tension on the Bridge suggested that everyone here knew what was going on, at least partly. Tom and B'Elanna walked quickly across to the briefing room. Janeway, Chakotay, and Lieutenant Commander Tuvok were already there. Their faces were blank yet held a hint of tension, which indicated that something big had happened.
The Parises took their usual places around the horse-shoe shaped table. B'Elanna leaned back in her chair and let out a sigh under her breath. Her responsibilities as Chief Engineer and the mother of two toddlers must have been making her more tired than they normally did. At least, she thought that might be the reason.
B'Elanna's thoughts drifted to her two precious daughters. When she had found out after her marriage to Tom that she was pregnant with twins, she had been so worried about motherhood. What if she turned out like her mother? How could she help her children accept their Klingon heritage when she was not sure that she had fully done so herself?
As soon as those two small bundles had been placed in her arms, her worries had evaporated. She knew that she and Tom would be able to raise them well. Together, they could do anything.
A'Lehsen and S'Ehra had been born simultaneously. Like Samantha Wildman, B'Elanna had not been able to give birth naturally. She had been too small, so the Doctor had transported both girls out before the labor had gone too far. B'Elanna had only had to deliver the afterbirth.
B'Elanna was sometimes amazed at the girls' combinations of looks and personalities. A'Lehsen and S'Ehra were identical. They each had raven-black hair, blue eyes, dark complexions, and faint forehead ridges. There were a few differences, of course. A'Lehsen's ridges were slightly more pronounced, and S'Ehra's eyes were more violet than blue. They had inherited her quick temper and Tom's wonderful smile.
The two girls took turns being the leader in games and mischief. A'Lehsen appeared to enjoy and seek leadership more, though. S'Ehra was the thinker, the problem solver, while A'Lehsen made their decisions. B'Elanna privately hoped that A'Lehsen would enter Starfleet Academy as a potential command officer and that S'Ehra would choose Tactical or Engineering. However, no matter what dreams B'Elanna and Tom had for their bright daughters, they both agreed not to push them. They would allow A'Lehsen and S'Ehra to find their own paths in life. The lack of that freedom had nearly destroyed them at one point or another before coming on Voyager, and they weren't about to inflict that kind of pain on their children.
The entrance of Lieutenant Harry Kim, the Doctor, Neelix, and Seven of Nine interrupted her thoughts. After the latest arrivals were seated, the Captain stood up and cleared her throat. She and the other on-duty Bridge officers wore strained expressions. What did they know?
All eyes turned to Janeway, who cleared her throat again. She leaned forward and began to speak. "As you know, that last transwarp jump brought us into the Beta Quadrant. There has been some speculation as to how close to Federation territory we are. Since the Romulans did not share their starcharts of the area with Starfleet, we had only basic calculations to rely on. Even Seven could not tell us much. The Borg took a different route to the Alpha Quadrant, and the data from assimilated Romulans did not include starcharts. well, we have encountered something that changes our current status. Tuvok, if you would," she said, nodding to the Vulcan.
Tuvok rose as the Captain sat down. He walked over to the wall console. the touch of a button brought up a subspace signal pattern. "We picked up this signal an hour and six minutes ago. I have pinpointed its origin. It is a probe four point seven light years away from our present location. The signal is--"
"Romulan!!" B'Elanna finished for him with a hiss of disgust. She had a Klingon's very natural distrust and dislike of that particular species, even if she did not like it. After Khitomer, no one really blamed them for that attitude. The Federation kept them behind the Neutral Zone as much as possible.
"Indeed," was Tuvok's only comment. He continued, "We have copied the starcharts. We are now aware of our exact coordinates, as well as those of Romulus and, thus, the Federation and Earth."
"Harry, Seven, I want you to use those charts to plot a course around Romulan space. We don't need a confrontation with them. B'Elanna, when will the hull be repaired?" Janeway asked.
"I can give you ninety-percent integrity in a week. I could give you more if I had permission to use more replicator rations," B'Elanna said with a small, stern frown. "But we won't be able to maintain the transwarp field for more than a month at a time. I warned you last time, but you insisted on staying in that extra month..."
Janeway nodded with a wry smile. "You told me that four months in transwarp would do a lot of damage to Voyager's hull and secondary systems, but we were so close to the Beta Quadrant. I wanted to shave another fifteen years off of the trip. And it looks like it worked," she said.
"Yes, it sure does," Chakotay said with a grin.
"When the hull is patched, we can start for home..." B'Elanna let her voice fade.
Everyone was quiet. They had all learned to think of Voyager as home. Now that they were so near their goal, the thought of being back on Earth was so strange. It would seem odd to be anywhere but the ship for longer than a few days of shore leave.
Janeway was the first to break the silence. "All right, I will expect each of you to inform your staffs. Doc, you can tell the scientists."
"Yes, Captain," they all chorused.
"Fine. Are there any questions?"
"What will happen to the ex-Maquis members?" Tom asked.
"And Tom?" B'Elanna and Harry asked in unison.
Janeway shrugged. "I can't know the future. However, what we learned four years ago leads me to believe that Starfleet may decide to ignore the fact that my crew has ex-Maquis members in it. They may make their decision from your files since coming to *Voyager*. That goes for Tom, as well. I really can't say."
Everyone, except Tuvok and Seven, nodded solemnly. They had all known the answer to those two questions, but they had had to be asked.
"All right, then. Dismissed," Janeway said.
They all left the briefing room. The Bridge crew gave them odd looks, but no one said anything. Tuvok, Chakotay, and Janeway resumed their posts, and the rest piled into the turbolift. Decks were called out. Harry and Seven got off at three, Tom and Neelix at four.
When B'Elanna and the Doctor were alone, she said, "Doc, I need to see you after I finish my shift."
"Is something wrong, Commander?" the Doctor asked with some concern.
"Not really, I just think I should come in for a check up."
The Doctor looked at her but decided not to comment. B'Elanna never came in for a check up voluntarily. However, he just nodded and said, "All right."
The lift doors opened at Deck 6, and B'Elanna got off.
Part Two: Not Again!
First, B'Elanna called all of the engineers together. She even pulled them from their quarters, the Mess Hall, and the holodecks. Since every other senior officer was doing the same, they didn't complain too much. Something important had obviously happened, and they wanted to know what it was.
B'Elanna told them of the Romulan probe and the starcharts. Then she gave them their jobs.
"The hull has to be repaired in one week. You may replicate only as much as you need, but within that limitation you have permission to exceed normal rations. We also need to realign the core matrices and repair damage to the main EPS conduits on Decks 3, 7, and 8. That last drop from transwarp disrupted the matrices long enough for me to worry. These are priority jobs. From now until they are done, no one takes a break unless it's for food, sleep, or a medical problem."
"Including you, Chief?" a lieutenant asked.
"Yes, including me. I know many of you will miss your families, but if we all work quickly it won't take too long. I will make exceptions for family emergencies, but that's it. Dismissed."
After her scheduled shift was over, B'Elanna did go to Sickbay. She left Nicoletti in charge again. The Doctor was waiting for her. Tom had pilot duty, thank the powers that be. She didn't want him to worry.
"What seems to be the problem, Commander?" he asked as he motioned for her to lay on the first biobed. When she complied, he began to scan her with a medical tricorder.
"I'm tired all the time, Doc. I was fine a few weeks ago, so I don't think it's stress," she said quietly.
"Hmmmm..." he replied. When he read the data the tricorder gave him, he smiled.
"Commander Paris, may I be the first to congratulate you on your second pregnancy?" the Doctor asked with a grin.
"Not again! I knew it!" B'Elanna said with a frown. "Maternity leave, mood swings, people coddling me until I want to scream, and those stupid maternity uniforms!" She had hated the last the most of all. Those uniforms had not been designed to flatter an expectant mother's figure, and they made her feel like she was wearing a large, uncomfortable tent! At least, it had seemed that way the last time.
"Not only that, B'Elanna, but you're having twins again! You and Lieutenant Paris must have very compatible genes for that to happen twice in a row," he informed her pleasantly.
B'Elanna felt her eyes widen. Twins? Again? Thankfully, her Klingon half refused to faint. After a few minutes of thinking it over, B'Elanna realized that this would be perfect. She had worried that her next child might feel a little left out.
"How far along am I? Tom and I were trying a few months ago, but we stopped trying last month. We decided to wait a while longer," she explained.
"You conceived about two months ago. My readings say that the feat are developing within normal parameters. You just showed the symptoms a little late this time. Every pregnancy is different, you know," the Doctor said with a shrug in his voice.
B'Elanna nodded. Her mind was still reeling. "I have to tell Tom," she said out loud.
"Yes, and the Captain. You should try to rest as soon as possible," he replied sternly.
"But my staff--" she began.
"Will agree with me, and you know it. In fact, they could probably do more than I could to make you rest in this situation. They certainly did the last time," the Doctor finished. He smiled to himself at the thought.
B'Elanna was not smiling. She knew that he was right. When she had been pregnant with A'Lehsen and S'Ehra, her staff had conspired with Tom and the Captain to monitor every move she had made. She had not been allowed--allowed--to do more work than the Doctor said she could. Every need had been answered before she had even made it known. If she had wanted something from one of the upper workstations, one of the ensigns had it for her before she could get near a ladder. She was often reminded (by several people at once) that she needed to eat or rest.
'Not again!!!!' she thought.
B'Elanna thanked the Doctor and left Sickbay in a daze. She returned to Engineering and when back to work. She noticed that most of the engineers were giving her odd, concerned looks when they thought she wasn't looking.
When her stomach informed her that it needed food, she put down her padd with a sigh. She had worked through Tom's shift. He should be on his way to the Mess Hall. She would have to tell him there.
B'Elanna and several of her engineers left for a meal break. She assigned Lieutenant Carus to take over for her while she was away.
Tom was in the Mess Hall when the small group entered, staring distastefully down at Neelix's most recent culinary "masterpiece." B'Elanna got her meal and went to sit across from him.
"How's it going?" he asked.
"All right. We made some progress on the hull. The realignment of the core matrices may take a few days longer than I first thought, and we had to replace four EPS conduits. It takes an extremely delicate touch to fix a matrix, but thankfully the conduits aren't as bad. We should be done with them by tomorrow. Most of my engineers aren't bad, but I could wish for more, anyway," she said softly. "Any word from Harry and Seven on those starcharts?"
"Yeah. We had two plausible routes to choose from. With one, we'd get to the Neutral Zone in four months, but we'd have to cut through a corner of Romulan space. The second course would take a month longer, but it's safer. That's the one the Captain chose," Tom replied.
B'Elanna nodded. "It sounds good. Tom, don't forget to explain to the girls that I'm going to have to be in Engineering more than usual this week," she said as an afterthought.
"I already have," he said with a grin.
"Now I remember one of the reason's I love you so much," B'Elanna said with a rueful shake of her head. "You're always anticipating me." Tom's grin grew bigger, but he didn't reply.
They ate in silence for a few minutes, just content in each other's company. Finally, B'Elanna decided to drop her bombshell.
"Tom," she began quietly. When he looked up and caught her serious gaze, she continued, "I went to Sickbay today, to see why I've been so tired lately. The Doctor gave me some very interesting news."
"What? What's wrong?" Tom asked with a frown. He reached across the table and gently captured her hand.
"Nothing is wrong, so calm down. The Doctor told me I'm two months pregnant...and, Tom? We're having twins again," B'Elanna told him with a small smile.
Tom stared at her for a few moments, his face going pale. He croaked out, "Not again!" Then, like the last time B'Elanna had given him this announcement, his eyes rolled back into his head, and he began to slide from his seat. Tom Paris, daredevil pilot, the man who had broken the warpspeed barrier and who had flown their ship through slipstream and transwarp calmly, fainted.
The entire Mess Hall saw it this time. B'Elanna heard one of her engineers call out, "I think the Chief's having another baby!" However, she was too busy lifting her unconscious husband back into his chair to reprimand her as she deserved. She took her cup of water and splashed it into Tom's face.
Tom came quickly back from the black pit he had fallen into. B'Elanna was standing over him, a grin on her face. For a moment, Tom could not figure out what, exactly, had happened. Then, he remembered her announcement. His eyes widened a little at the thought of another set of twins. All he could manage to say was, "Again?"
B'Elanna nodded. "Yes, again. The Doctor said our genes must be very compatible for it to happen twice in a row," she told him.
"Twice in a row? B'Elanna, is there something you aren't telling the rest of us?" Harry asked as he pushed his way through the crowd surrounding his best friends. He had a silly smile on his face, just like last time.
"Actually, I wasn't telling you anything. However, since you all would have found out soon anyway, I'll tell you. I'm pregnant with twins again," B'Elanna said calmly as she sat back down.
A shocked pause followed by cheers and good wishes filled the Mess Hall. B'Elanna regretfully noticed one of her ensigns quickly leave, probably to spread the word to the rest of the engineers--and anyone else who would listen. Nevertheless, Tom saw the same beautiful glow on her face that she had worn the last time she had delivered the same news to the crew.
"Well, I guess it's a good thing that we'll be on Earth for the delivery. Voyager is getting too small for your family, Tom," Harry joked. B'Elanna punched him lightly on the shoulder. Tom just grinned.
B'Elanna saw the smile and nearly sighed with relief. She had been a little worried about Tom's reaction to this pregnancy, but he seemed to be taking it in stride.
"We should go tell the Captain before the news spreads to the Bridge," B'Elanna said.
"You're right. After we take care of that, you are getting some rest," her husband told her sternly.
"No buts. I'm sure your engineers will agree that a small rest is necessary in your condition. In a few hours, you can be back at the helm, telling them everything they've done wrong or forgotten to do while you weren't there," Tom said.
Susan Nicoletti spoke up. "Don't worry, Chief. When the rest hear the good news--and I just saw Ensign Sental leave--I'm sure they will be delighted to help in any way," the lieutenant said eagerly, voicing B'Elanna's worst fears. "You know that we're all so happy to be getting back to the Alpha Quadrant at last that we'll leave no stone unturned in getting Voyager back into top condition. You'll get your rest, sir."
Now, while B'Elanna could, and very often had four years ago, order her staff to stop babying her, she had learned last time that they would just find "subtle" ways to "help." So, with some grumbling, she turned Engineering over to Nicoletti for five hours. The lieutenant beamed at her.
"Come on, Tom. Let's get this visit to the Captain over with. Not that she probably doesn't' know already," B'Elanna said under her breath as she and Tom left the Mess Hall and entered the nearest turbolift.
All she could think was: 'Not again!!!!'
Part Three: Telling Everyone
"She might not have heard yet," Tom said optimistically.
"Bridge. Yeah, and we might not have to move into larger quarters in seven months," B'Elanna said with a sigh.
Tom took her into his arms. "We have to tell the girls, too, you know," he said.
"Yeah, I know."
They stepped apart as the 'lift doors slid open. And, from the amused looks on the Bridge crew's faces (Tuvok was not on duty), the rumor had reached the Bridge. But had anyone told Janeway?
"She's in her ready room," Chakotay told them. Tom nodded their thanks as they passed the commander.
"How do they do it?" B'Elanna asked in a whisper.
"I'm not sure," Tom replied in kind.
B'Elanna pressed the chime button, and they waited for the Captain's reply. The muffled "Come in" gave them permission to activate the door.
Janeway was obviously expecting them as well. Her smile was wide as she took in the couple's exasperated expressions.
"Well, which one of you wishes to confirm the rumors that have reached me?" Janeway asked mock-sternly.
"Captain, the Doctor has confirmed that Tom and I are having another set of twins," B'Elanna said as formally as she possibly could under the circumstances.
"Yes, the rumors are reasonably accurate," Janeway said with a chuckle.
B'Elanna sighed. "I have seven months to go, Captain. Although these two may be early like A'Lehsen and S'Ehra were."
"Thank you for informing me. Tom, I expect you to make sure that she gets some rest every once in a while," Janeway said a little more seriously. "I wouldn't want anything to happen to you or the babies, B'Elanna."
"My staff will start conspiring with Tom any day now to make sure my life is completely restricted. In fact, they already have," B'Elanna said in a slightly sour tone. "You'll have nothing to worry about, I'm sure of that."
"Good. I'm not saying that I want you to be giving orders from your bed, B'Elanna, but I do want you sitting down or resting your eyes whenever you feel the need. And you should eat more, too," Janeway said thoughtfully.
Tom spoke up before his wife lost control of her notorious temper. "We have to tell A'Lehsen and S'Ehra now, Captain. If you would excuse us?"
"Of course. Dismissed," Janeway said with one last chuckle. "And congratulations!"
B'Elanna smiled wanly at her before Tom whisked her out of the room. The couple got back on the turbolift, ignoring the sly smiles. The information chain on Voyager was too good, in their opinions.
They took the 'lift to Deck 4. Tom led the way to the Caesaros' quarters, where he had dropped A'Lehsen and S'Ehra off before his last shift.
There were nine children under the age of four there. They were all playing with the various toys that were supplied for each daycare volunteer. A'Lehsen and S'Ehra were working together to build a series of towers, each one unique. Then, with that odd intuition that they seemed to share, the twins looked up and over to their parents.
"Mommy!" A'Lehsen called happily.
"Daddy!" S'Ehra said half a second later.
They stood up, careful not to knock over their towers, and ran over to their parents. B'Elanna picked up A'Lehsen, and Tom picked up S'Ehra.
"Daddy said you had to work today, Mommy," A'Lehsen said, squeezing her mother's neck with unusual strength for such a small child, unless one considered her Klingon heritage.
"Well, something has happened to change my plans a little, sweetie. Daddy and I will explain later, alright?" B'Elanna asked, staring into her daughter's bright blue eyes. She was so much like Tom!
"All right," A'Lehsen agreed with a nod.
Ensign Lauryn Caesaro walked across the baby-covered room to stand next to the small family. "The girls were great, sirs. They didn't get into nearly as much trouble as they usually do. They've already had dinner, and they drew you each a picture," she said, handing them each a sheet of ink-covered replicated paper.
"Oh, really?" Tom asked.
"Yes, Daddy, I drew you at CONN, and A'Lehsen drew Mommy in front of the warp core," S'Ehra told him proudly.
"We can see that, sweetie," B'Elanna said. Amazingly enough, she could see herself and Tom in the pictures. "You both did a very good job. Thank you, Ensign," she said to Lauryn.
"You're welcome, sir. Oh, and congratulations," she said with a grin.
"Is everyone on this ship telepathic?" B'Elanna muttered as they left.
"As far as I know, we only have a handful of Betazoids onboard. The ten or so Vulcans don't gossip. I would bet on the communicators," Tom replied.
"You would probably win," B'Elanna told him.
They let the girls chatter on the meters-long walk to their quarters. When they had gotten A'Lehsen and S'Ehra dressed for bed, tucked in, and quiet for a few minutes, they told them.
B'Elanna, who sat at the end of A'Lehsen's bed, began. "Girls, how would you like to have a little brother or sister?" she asked.
S'Ehra looked at her father, who was sitting at the end of her bed. "Would we have to move out?" she asked.
"No, of course not! We don't want you to move out until you're all grown up," Tom said firmly, looking from S'Ehra to A'Lehsen and back again.
"Mommy's having a baby, isn't she? That's why Ensign Lauryn was talking to Lieutenant Susan so 'citedly on her commbadge! She said something about the "Chief" having more. She meant that Mommy's having a baby!" A'Lehsen guessed tensely.
"Yes, you're right. I am," B'Elanna told her cautiously. Both A'Lehsen and S'Ehra were looking at her with challenge in their eyes.
"And you and Daddy will love it better than you love us!" they said in unison.
B'Elanna, recognizing the apprehension and defense behind that statement, reached over and tipped A'Lehsen's chin up, forcing watery blue eyes that had turned away to look into her dark brown ones.
"We will always love you, no matter how many other children we have. You each have a special place in our hearts, and no one could ever take that away," she said with a fierce tenderness.
A few tears dropped onto her hand. B'Elanna gathered A'Lehsen into her arms gently. S'Ehra slipped her small hand into her father's larger one. Tom looked down at her. Her bright eyes begged for reassurance. He smiled and reached over to hug her.
A'Lehsen finally pulled back a little. "What will the baby look like, Mommy?" she asked.
"Well, we won't know until the baby is born. Actually, I'm going to have two babies," B'Elanna said with a soft, happy smile for Tom.
"Twins?" A'Lehsen asked.
"Like us?" S'Ehra asked simultaneously.
B'Elanna nodded. Tom said, "They won't be exactly like you two. There may be one girl and one boy, or two boys. Even if there are two girls, they will be different from you."
"Will Mommy's tummy get big, like it was with us in the holos?" S'Ehra asked, looking with wide-eyed curiosity at her mother's still-flat stomach.
"No, not right away, but it will be by your next birthday," Tom said with a wicked smiled for his wife.
"And Daddy will be running back and forth between here and the Mess Hall, getting Mommy all the different foods she wants," B'Elanna retorted, giving him a not-quite-vicious smile in return.
Tom closed his eyes for a few moments. He remembered the odd foods B'Elanna had craved with her last pregnancy. He never wanted to see another leola-root/Mexican chili/targ's heart pie again!
The girls giggled. "Like Julie Simmons's daddy before her mommy had their new baby?" A'Lehsen asked.
"Even more than Ensign Simmons," B'Elanna said with satisfaction.
"Time for bed. Back under the covers, both of you," Tom said hastily, ignoring his wife's grin.
When they were settled back under the blankets, B'Elanna told them their favorite story, the one about First Contact between Humans and Vulcans, the progenitors of the Federation. They usually picked this one four out of five times. They loved to hear about Vulcans because of "Uncle Tuvok", who was surprisingly attached to the small girls. Janeway said that she believed it was because they reminded him of his own daughter, who was still in the Alpha Quadrant. As B'Elanna told the story, she found herself hoping that Tuvok would be able to see his daughter as soon as they were home.
When the story was over, Tom said softly, "Computer, lights out." The room went dark, the only light coming from the open doorway.
Tom and B'Elanna were just leaving when A'Lehsen said quietly, "Mommy, Daddy, I'll take good care of them."
"We know you will," Tom told her.
Part Four: Tension and Frustration
Over the next several months, tensions rose in the ranks about what their welcome home would be like. For years, everyone had put such worries out of their minds. The problems of the Federation had seemed so far away compared to the struggle to survive the trip through the Delta Quadrant. Now that they were a few days away from the Neutral Zone, fears and anxieties had begun to resurface.
Birthdays and anniversaries were celebrated as usual, although everyone seemed to be more enthusiastic in an attempt to make the tension disappear. Sixteen other women had conceived at just about the same time as B'Elanna, including, surprisingly (for everyone), Captain Janeway! The pregnant women tended to be moody, adding to the edge of suspense.
B'Elanna and Janeway were closer than ever during this time, spending their off-duty time together discussing the irritations of pregnancy and playing with A'Lehsen and S'Ehra on the holodeck.
Janeway had ordered that any pregnant woman not suffering from complications could wait to take maternity leave until after they arrived at Earth. The Doctor had reluctantly agreed to that, as long as all seventeen women came in for weekly check-ups and honestly reported anything that went wrong. All seventeen of them had agreed.
Many husbands were seen rushing up to Neelix at odd times of the night and day. Ensigns were even sent from the Bridge and Engineering, which was where the majority of the pregnant women worked. Neelix's leola-root experiments were very, very popular, much to the husbands' and the ensigns' chagrin.
The senior officers were in a briefing session when the ensign at Ops reported that they had entered the Neutral Zone. Janeway acknowledged this, and told her to report when they were half-way through.
Everyone was quiet. Tuvok, who had been speaking, did not continue. This was what they had been working towards, what there first priority had always been. Yet....
B'Elanna looked around the table at those who had been strangers nine years ago, but who were now her family. Tom looked worried; she felt him grasp for her hand and hold it tightly. Harry looked thoughtful; he was so different, no longer the overly-eager boy she had first met in that Ocampa hospital. Chakotay was watching his captain and wife; funny, how he had never seemed to regret giving her command over himself and his Maquis crew. Janeway looked as anxious as Tom; maybe she should, since she really had no idea what kind of Federation she was leading her people back into. The Doctor looked relieved; yes, he had never been very comfortable being the only doctor that Voyager could rely on. Neelix looked the most excited; this would be a big change for him, coming to the Alpha Quadrant. Tuvok and Seven wore no expressions, but B'Elanna could tell that these most logical members of the crew were affected by this as well. Tuvok would be reunited with his family, and Seven would have to find her way of being human, different now that there would be more interactions with others.
B'Elanna herself felt a kind of peacefulness about it all. As Chakotay would say, things had come full circle. She had run from the Federation, from Starfleet, and now she was coming back, an officer on a Starfleet ship. She knew that she was stronger for her experiences on *Voyager*, and that no matter what happened, as long as it didn't harm her children, she could take it. She was ready to face her past now.
She felt something compel her to say quietly, "You did it, Captain. You got us home."
Janeway smiled at her, friend to friend. "No, B'Elanna, WE did it, this crew. Every one of us played a part in our homecoming." She was silent for a moment, and then she asked, "Chakotay, are any of the Cargo Bays empty?"
Chakotay checked his padd. "Cargo Bay 4 is only one-quarter full. Why?"
"I want to have a general crew briefing. Please arrange to have just a skeleton crew on duty in twenty minutes, and have the ship-wide channels open. Children may come, also, since I want every member of this--family there," Janeway ordered.
"Yes, Captain," Chakotay said with a smile.
"Oh, and Chakotay? Have pips replicated for the ex-Maquis crewmembers. We will show Starfleet a united front. Any questions? No? Then you are all dismissed," Janeway said with a small smile.
Part Five: Speeches
Twenty minutes later, just as Janeway had ordered, only twelve people were on the Bridge and in Engineering. The rest, babies and all, were gathered in Cargo Bay 4. A raised platform had been placed for the senior officers.
Janeway stared out at the crew in front of her and felt tears begin to well up in her eyes. She willed most of them away, but a few escaped. After wiping them away, she began.
"I know that many of you were angry nine years ago, when I ordered the Array destroyed. I hope that after a while you forgave me." She managed a small smile.
"At the time, I knew that I had wronged you all by dooming you to an exile that might turn out to be life-long. I excused myself by saying that I was simply following regulations."
"As I look at you all today, I wonder, not for the first time, if my decision was really such an awful one. I see husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and children. I see a family."
"To tell you the truth, at first I didn't think that the two crews, Starfleet and Maquis, could join together peacefully. But, in keeping with most sentient lifeforms, we have bonded. Together, we faced Kazon attacks, Borg incursions, and Hirogen war games. We have explored planets that no one in the Alpha Quadrant ever thought existed--like the Demon planet, and the human society descended from the slaves of an alien culture that died out over four hundred years ago."
"I have seen many of you grow into the potential you showed when you first came on board--and not just the Maquis. I, myself, have grown, becoming more than just the one in charge, the one who gives the orders. I have performed your marriage ceremonies, celebrated with you the births of your children, and mourned with you over lost friends."
"I am proud to call this crew my own, and I promise to do everything I can to see that the ex-Maquis are pardoned and may retain their commissions if they choose. Not that I have many doubts after Starfleet Command reads my logs and your records."
Janeway was unsure of what to say next, but B'Elanna stepped over to her side and began to speak.
"Most of you who knew me as a Maquis probably remember how reckless and hotheaded I was. I didn't care for the universe, and the feeling seemed mutual in most cases. Being on Voyager, having all of you to turn to, and finally opening my heart to many of you showed me that I was truly a worthwhile person, one who deserved love, respect and loyalty, and on who was capable of returning it. I learned to accept myself, the bad as well as the good. Although my staff can assure you that my temper has only lessened slightly over the years, and I still don't like being told what to do by people who have no idea what they are talking about, I have learned to be tolerant of others."
"I have wonderful family, friends who I never would have spoken to in the Alpha Quadrant, and a position of respect and authority. Without you all, I never would have made it. I guess I had to leave behind everything I knew and venture into a part of space that seemed galaxies away from "home" before I could fully understand what that word meant," she finished with a rueful smile.
Tom came over to stand on Janeway's other side, holding A'Lehsen's and S'Ehra's hands. He cleared his throat quietly and started to speak.
"I've been told by a very reliable source that I was an arrogant, over-bearing pig when I first came on board. I believe her. I pushed away every real emotion. I felt like the universe was watching me, waiting for me to make a mistake. I gave it an eyeful. My life seemed to get worse with everything I did. Then, Captain Janeway gave me another chance. I don't think she knew how important it was to me at that time that she believed in me. I'm sure she saw what everyone else, including myself, saw: an up- start kid, who wasn't worthy of his illustrious name. But, in the long run, it was that chance that made the difference. I can't say that I've been perfect these last nine years. We all know that I've had my bad times. All I can say is that I hope my Dad will be proud," he concluded.
Chakotay spoke up behind him. "After the Array was destroyed, all I could think was that the Captain must be crazy. How could two such different crews become one? I thought that it could never happen. You know, I've never been so glad to be proven wrong in my life. In all the time I was in Starfleet, I never saw such a well-knit group. At times, the lengths that we have reached have surprised me. And I certainly would not have predicted some of the marriages. I, too, am proud to be a member of this crew."
One by one, each crewmember on the ship spoke of his or her doubts at the beginning of the journey, and the happiness that had taken its place. Harry was the last to speak.
"I know I was pretty green when I first came on board. In fact, it was once described by a close friend as a deep, fluorescent green." He and Tom grinned at each other at that. "But I like to think that I've gained a confidence in myself that I know I lacked then. And to prove how confidant I am, I would like you all to be the first to know that Susan Nicoletti and I are engaged!"
Everyone cheered. It was almost expected, since gossip had been linking their names for almost a year, after Harry and Megan Delaney broke up.
Janeway retook the floor, so to speak. "I commend each and every one of you, and I have a surprise of my own. This whole meeting has been recorded, both audio and visual. I will send it along with my logs to Starfleet Command. Dismissed. Computer, end recording."
As everyone filed out, Janeway smiled at her senior officers.
"Thank you for your support. I wasn't sure how to go on," she said.
"That's all right, Captain. After all, like you said, we're family," Tom said. He picked up A'Lehsen. "Speaking of family, we had better get these two sleepy-heads to bed."
As B'Elanna picked up S'Ehra, Janeway said, "After they are asleep, come to the Bridge. I want all of my senior staff with me when we cross into Federation territory and I contact Starfleet Command. Get one of the ensigns to baby-sit."
Part Six: We Made It!
That was how, fifteen minutes later, the entire senior staff was on the Bridge to witness crossing the Neutral Zone. There wasn't much of a change on the viewscreen. If you were at a console and could see the difference in ion trails or the subspace frequencies being used you could tell. But somehow, they all knew. The final leg of their journey had begun.
Tom, Harry, Chakotay, Tuvok, and Janeway were all in their usual places. B'Elanna sat at the Engineering station. The Doctor, Seven and Neelix stood on the platform behind the Captain and her first officer.
Just to make it official, Harry said, "Captain, we have cleared the Neutral Zone."
"Thank you, Lieutenant. Mister Paris, slow to full impulse," Janeway ordered.
"Aye, Captain," Tom said.
After that was done, Janeway opened the shipswide channel again.
"People," she said to gain their attention. "We have just left the Neutral Zone. We made it!"
There was a moment of silence. Then, all over the ship, the crew rose to attention and began to applaud their captain. Janeway allowed this to go on for several minutes. Tears were welling up in her eyes as she said, "All right, back to work!" She knew she was blushing. She closed the channel as everyone returned to their posts.
"Mister Kim, please send the following transmission, audio only. 'From Captain Kathryn Janeway of the USS Voyager to Starfleet HeadQuarters: We're home.' End transmission," Janeway said.
"Aye, Captain," Harry said. There was a pause. "Tranmission sent, Captain, along with our current coordinated and course heading."
"Good thinking, Lieutenant. Thank you."
"Whoever is in charge of Communications at HeadQuarters is about to get the shock of his life," Tom said with a grin.
Janeway laughed. "Tom, for once you've made an understatement. The whole *Quadrant* is about to get the shock of their lives!"
Part Seven: They're Back!
Admiral Owen Paris sat behind his desk at Starfleet HQ reviewing the recent communications between the Gamma and Beta Quadrants. Since the war had ended four years ago, Starfleet had made a priority of hunting down the renegade Vorta and placing them on a very strictly quarantined planet in the Gamma Quadrant. Changelings were taken to their homeworld and unceremoniously dropped off to rejoin their Great Link. That world, too, endured strict quarantine. Patrol ships were assigned to make sure no changeling attempted to escape. The Federation did not want to take any chances with the former rulers of the Dominion.
Starfleet had pulled all of its admirals out of the Academy when the war had begun. Every man and woman had been needed then. Owen felt more useful at HQ than he had at the Academy, so he had stayed.
Suddenly Owen's aide, Lieutenant Commander Jennifer Omaga, came rushing into his office clutching a padd in her right hand, looking for all the world like the Hounds of Hell were chasing her. Since she had been about to leave for the day, and her face was pale and her brown eyes wide, Owen knew that whatever had happened must be important.
"Admiral, you won't believe it! I still can't, and I've read it five times! It's so amazing, so unbelievable!" she said, not pausing to for a breath.
"Calm down, Commander, and tell me what has happened," Owen said sternly. He held out his hand for the padd.
"I'm sorry, sir," she said quickly. She handed it to him.
Owen read, "'From Captain Kathryn Janeway--' Kathryn? What the hell?" He looked up at his aide, who just grinned down at him. "'From Captain Kathryn Janeway of the USS Voyager to Starfleet Command: We're home.' Am I reading these coordinates correctly, Commander?"
"Yes, Admiral, you are. I had them verified before I brought this to you. That means that they are now in our side of the Neutral Zone."
Owen felt the sting of tears at the back of his eyes, but he did not give into them. "Omaga, take the coordinates and open a channel with Voyager, please. Inform Captain Janeway that I would like to speak with her," he said in a husky voice.
Owen heard her walk quickly across the room. The door swished open and then closed. he just sat there with his eyes glued to that padd.
Part Eight: Discussions
Captain Janeway and her crew waited tensely for a reply. During the interval, Janeway programmed the viewscreen to show only her, and just from the shoulders up. The officer who answered did not need to have the added shock of a very pregnant Captain, not to mention the other three expectant mothers on the Bridge.
Finally, the UFP symbol appeared on the wide screen. Then, a Lieutenant Commander in a red uniform similar to the ones the Doctor had described five years ago faced them. She smiled tremulously at the Captain.
"Captain Kathryn Janeway?" she asked.
"I am Captain Janeway," she replied with an answering smile.
"I am authorized to inform you that Admiral Owen Paris wishes to speak with you," the other woman said hesitantly.
"Well, then, Commander, put him through," Janeway said with a quick glance at Tom, who seemed remarkably composed.
The UFP symbol reappeared. There was a moment of silence, then Admiral Paris was looking down at her. Janeway was amazed at the way her old mentor had aged. He looked twenty years older than he should.
"Kathryn! How the hell did you get back?" Owen shouted.
Janeway smiled. Now this was the Owen Paris she knew. "Well, sir, it's a long story. Basically, we have managed to adapt a transwarp drive to our engines. We have our Chief Engineer and her staff to thank for our success," Janeway said.
"Ah, yes. You had to replace several of your people with Maquis, didn't you?"
"I don't think of them as replacements, sir. I prefer to say that they are successful transplants," Janeway said with a slightly reproving frown.
"Yes, of course. Kathryn, what aren't you showing me a full view of your Bridge?" the admiral asked. He frowned at her even more.
"I'm sorry, sir. I thought you should only have to deal with one shock at a time. You see, Admiral, we weren't sure how long it would take us to get home. So, many of us have found spouses on Voyager. Almost all of those fifty-seven couples who are married have children. And," Janeway paused to switch Owen's view to a wider spectrum. "Seventeen women, myself included, are seven to five-and-a-half months pregnant," she concluded.
Owen stared at his one-time protégé and the three other women on the Bridge who had turned to show him their protruding stomachs. One dark-haired woman was larger than Annalise had ever been with any of their three children!
"Kathryn, that engineer is going to go into labor any minute now!" he said with some alarm.
Owen heard someone choking just before Janeway replied.
"No, sir. She is going to deliver twins in two months. Admiral Paris, may I present my Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Commander B'Elanna Paris?" Janeway took no little pleasure in introducing father-and-daughter-in-law.
"Paris!!!!" Owen bellowed. His eyes locked with B'Elanna's. She looked intelligent, spirited, and defiant. She was perfect for his son. Then he connected that with the rest of what Kathryn had said. "Twins?!" He looked away from B'Elanna to Tom.
"Yes, sir. It will be our second set," Tom said proudly. He glanced back at his wife, giving her a wicked grin. B'Elanna just looked over his shoulder, her lips twitching.
"Please don't encourage them, sir. They get very caught up in whose fault this set is if they are allowed to talk about it for too long," Janeway said with amusement shining in her eyes.
"Kathryn, I am trying to speak to my son!" Owen shouted at her. Janeway sat up straighter and hid a smile.
"Now, did you say that this will be your second set of twins, Tom?" Owen asked much more quietly.
"Yes. We have two girls, A'Lehsen and S'Ehra, who are four years old," Tom told his father.
Owen looked down at his folded hands for a moment. When he looked up, Janeway thought that she saw tears in his eyes. They did not fall, so she was not sure.
"Thank you, Tom," he said softly.
"Sir?" Tom asked, a puzzled frown in his eyes.
"Your girls are my first granddaughters," Owen said. "Congratulations, son, for both sets of twins. Welcome to the family, Commander," he said to B'Elanna.
B'Elanna stared at him for a few minutes, remembering the talk Janeway had given her the day before her wedding to Tom.( "B'Elanna, even though you may never need to know this, I would like to tell you about Tom's family," Janeway had said.These memories flashed through B'Elanna's mind as she stared into an older version of Tom's bright, cerulean blue eyes. "Thank you, sir," she said with a soft smile.
"All right," B'Elanna had replied hesitantly.
"Tom has probably told you some of this, but there a few things even he might not know of. I'll start with the basics. Tom has a mother, Annalise, a caring woman who always had room in her heart for one more student who wasn't sure they could make it. He has two sisters, Lizbeth and Jesica, whom I don't know very well. I do know that one is an artist, a very successful one. I believe that the other is a writer. Neither of them chose Starfleet, which may have been one reason Tom's father was so determined to see him succeed. And that brings us to Admiral Owen Paris," Janeway had begun. She had smiled when B'Elanna had stiffened. "Yes, I know you may have gotten some bad impressions of him. He seems hard, demanding, unloving, and uncaring of his son's mental state, doesn't he?"
When B'Elanna had nodded, she had continued. "I first met Owen Paris in my third year at the Academy. At the time, he was a very personable man, intimidating, but kind. He was also extremely proud of his five-year-old son, whom he knew was destined to be a pilot in Starfleet. Then, on my first mission, which Admiral Paris was commanding, something happened that--changed him." Janeway had stopped for a minute at that point. When she had looked at B'Elanna, her eyes had been gray-blue pools of infinite sadness. "Although I hadn't known it at the time, our mission was to infiltrate a Cardassian post in what was supposed to be Federation space." Another pause, then, "The Admiral and I were captured, and he was interrogated for information, which he was completely conditioned against. The longer he held out, the more painful and creative the torture became. I could hear him screaming constantly. It haunts my sleep at night even now, after all these years." Janeway had closed her eyes and shuddered.
Then she had gone on. "We were rescued, but even as early as a day afterward he was--different. He was harder, more withdrawn. He had always been so full of life before, but that was missing. He seemed to have improved after we returned to Earth. I didn't see much of him for many years. I was going through Command school, and then I was away from Earth most of the time. It was after my first mission as a Captain that I noticed his stiffness. This was when he heard about Tom's accident, and yet he had seemed so completely unaffected by it. Then, a couple of years later, I was asked to 'make a man' out of Tom. But after getting to know him, I realize that all he needed was a little guidance in the right direction, a little patience, and some parental love from someone who believed in him. That his own father couldn't see that...B'Elanna, it was then that I realized that something more serious had happened to the Admiral's mental and emotional state in that Cardassian prison than I had originally thought. Unfortunately, we were already out in the Delta Quadrant, and I couldn't do anything to help him heal the rift he had caused between himself and his son. I could only try to be what Tom needed then, to make his father see that he wasn't like everyone thought he was." Janeway had gone quiet, watching B'Elanna closely.
B'Elanna was the one looking down then. When she looked back up she had a few tears running down her cheeks. "Some of my friends were captured by the Cardassians, near the beginning of my time with the Maquis. They were sent back as warnings. After that, every Maquis carried an ingestive poison in case of capture. I understand why you told me this. And you have just given me the perfect wedding gift for Tom," she had said.
The next night, while Tom and B'Elanna were changing for their two-day honeymoon on the holodeck, B'Elanna told her new husband Janeway's story.. When she had finished, Tom had sobbed into her shoulder for a few minutes, saying that he should have realized that something was wrong, should have been more understanding.
B'Elanna had told him that he had been too young and inexperienced to know that anything was psychologically wrong with his father.
In the end, both Tom and B'Elanna had forgiven Owen Paris, and Tom had begun the last stage of his emotional healing.)
Owen smiled back at her, and B'Elanna suddenly knew where Tom had gotten his amazing smile. "You are very welcome, my dear. Anna will be absolutely thrilled to learn that she has another daughter--and granddaughters! That will make her so happy!" he said. Then he turned his attention back to Janeway. "And you, Kathryn, who has put you into such an awkward position?" he asked sternly.
"Actually, being pregnant isn't all that awkward," Janeway said, not fazed at all. She turned and smiled at Chakotay. "Sir, this is Commander Chakotay, my First Officer, my husband, and the father of my child," she said.
Owen turned his bright gaze on Chakotay. He looked over the man who had married his Kathryn, who was like a third daughter to him. Chakotay had a strong, warrior-like look about him, but underneath the fierce Amerind face was a calm and stoicism that made Owen think that he was more than a match for Kathryn. Yes, he was just what she needed.
"You chose well, Kathryn," Owen said gruffly.
"I thought so, sir," Janeway replied crisply.
Owen shook his head. He had missed Kathryn's sarcastic, brisk comments these last nine years.
"Aren't you going to introduce me to your senior staff, Kathryn?" he asked in an abrupt change of subject. "Starfleet'll want me to give some kind of report, and I can't say that all I did was talk about family."
"Yes, sir. I'm sure that you remember Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, my Security Chief. Directly behind me is our Doctor, an EMH who has essentially turned himself into an LTMH out of necessity. Also, Seven of Nine, the human we de-assimilated five years ago. She and Commander Paris were the key elements of Voyager's transwarp drive. Ambassador Neelix is a Talaxian who joined our journey at the beginning, and who has been very helpful. He is our cook, and he was our guide for the first few years. Lieutenant Kim was our original Chief of Operations. And you know my CONN officer, Lieutenant Tom Paris," Janeway finished.
"Very good. Send the logs you didn't manage to get to us four and a half years ago, your recent logs, and any other pertinent information to us, and the Council will review it all. How long do you think it will take you to reach Earth?" Owen asked.
Janeway did not even need to look toward Tom. He was already tapping away at the CONN.
"It would take us four days at Warp 4, six days at Warp 3, and nine days at Warp 2, Captain," he informed her. "That's the best Voyager can do after the latest jump."
"Thank you, Lieutenant. Commander, what speed can Voyager's hull handle right now?" Janeway asked B'Elanna, who scowled down at her console.
"I would've said Warp 4 if we hadn't stayed in transwarp that extra week. My crews are still repairing the damage. It'll have to be Warp 3, Captain. It should take my people about that long to finish repairing the new hull damage," she said darkly.
"Thank you. Warp 3 it is," Janeway said to Owen and Tom.
"I'll expect you in six days, then, Kathryn. Oh, and don't worry too much about your people's welcome. I don't think that it will be much of a problem," Owen said. He ended the transmission, and the UFP symbol appeared one more time, briefly, before the screen returned to the normal starfield.
Janeway and her crew did not move for several seconds. The admiral's last words had shocked them.
"Did he mean what I thought he meant?" Chakotay asked slowly.
"I think so. Tom?" Janeway asked, needing a second opinion.
"Yes, I think he did. My dad might not have been the best in the last years I knew him, but he always told the truth as he saw it," Tom said. He turned and gave them all a big grin.
Tom turned back and locked in his coordinates. He set the speed at Warp 3. The computer gave him several possible courses, and he chose the one with the least obstacles. Suddenly, he was very eager to get home.
Part Nine: Our Son
Owen waited impatiently to receive Kathryn's logs and files. When they finally were completely downloaded, he skimmed over them. The amount of children amazed him--there were 63, all but one under five years old. When he found the four personnel files he had been looking for, he copied them onto a padd. Then he sent it all on to the Council, who had been informed of Voyager's return during Owen's conversation with Kathryn, Tom and B'Elanna, and who were waiting for everything.
Owen then picked up the padd, stood up, and walked out into Omaga's office.
"I would suggest that you go home, Omaga. We will both need our sleep if we are going to deal with tomorrow," he told her.
"Tomorrow, sir?" Omaga asked him.
"Tomorrow, every starship, starbase, and space station will be trying to verify the news that Voyager has returned. Every news link will be clamoring at our doorstep for information. Not to mention the amount of personal messages to family members we'll have to send," Owen said with a wry smile.
Omaga paled a little with each word. "I hadn't thought of that, sir," she said weakly.
"Don't worry, we'll delegate some of it," he said.
She nodded. The admiral left the office, his step quick. For once, the twenty minute trip home seemed to take hours.
* * *
Annalise Paris was getting worried. Her husband had never been so late before. He was overdue by at least three hours. What had happened?
She was standing by the window in the living room when Owen entered. Annalise was surprised to notice his wide grin. He had not looked so happy in years!
"Anna, I've got wonderful news!" Owen said. He strode over to her, picked her up, and twirled her around.
"Owen! What's going on?" Annalise asked, shocked by his behavior.
Owen put her down. His eyes shone with excitement as he told her, "Kathryn brought our boy home, Anna! He has quite a few surprises for us."
"Tom? Home?" Annalise asked faintly. She put her head down on her husband's shoulder, trying to absorb the news.
Eleven years ago, when Owen had all but turned his back on their son, she had been so angry with him. Then, when Owen had gotten Tom a position on Voyager as an observer, she had thought he might be softening a little. And when Voyager had been reported as missing--Owen had broken down.
Voyager and her crew had been officially pronounced dead a few years later. The Paris family had mourned deeply. Owen had felt so guilty.
Then, four and a half years ago, Voyager's EMH had arrived on the Prometheus prototype via an alien communication system. He had given Starfleet the very welcome news that Voyager was safe and on her way home--even if she was in the Delta Quadrant.
Owen had been on Starbase 159 when the news reached him that Tom was alive and well. He had contacted Annalise and their daughters, Lizbeth and Jesica, and together they had sent a message to Tom.
Now, by some miracle, Tom was home. Annalise felt tears burning her eyes. She quickly blinked them away.
"Where are they?" was her next question.
"They were just on our side of the Neutral Zone when Janeway contacted Starfleet. Voyager will arrive in six days, give or take a few hours," Owen said happily.
Annalise sighed. "We are so fortunate, Owen," she whispered.
"More than you know, Anna," he replied mysteriously.
"What?" she asked, frowning up at him.
"Our family on Voyager is bigger than we knew," he said. When Annalise just kept frowning he continued, "Tom is married, Anna, and he has children."
Annalise felt her knees go weak. She stumbled over to the couch and sat down. Owen sat beside her.
"He has made a wonderful life for himself on Voyager. Do you remember what I told you after I was allowed to read over Kathryn's logs four and a half years ago? I told you that she mentioned that Tom and her Chief Engineer looked like they might be getting serious," Owen said.
"He married the engineer?"
"Yes. She's half Human and half Klingon; I remember that much from the logs. She was the Maquis captain's engineer as well. I got the feeling from Kathryn's logs that she's something of a genius," he said. He handed Annlise the padd he was holding. "I copied the personal files Kathryn sent with her recent logs."
Together, they read of Tom's various achievements and his few failures. He had done well for himself. Janeway's many commendations made them proud, although Owen grumbled a bit about Tom's one big mistake on the water world. Annalise frowned at him, and he stopped when she commented, "Sounds like something another hot-head I once knew would have done."
Next, they studied their daughter-in-law's file. B'Elanna had had a rough time of it before coming onto Voyager. As they read more about her, they felt closer to the beautiful hybrid who had never quite managed to fit in.
When Owen tapped the button to open the next file, he had to hide a smile. Annalise was about to get two very big shocks.
The picture of a small girl with slight Klingon ridges, dark hair, bright blue eyes, and Tom's grin appeared on the padd's screen. Annalise gave a little gasp as she read the information beside the picture.Name: A'Lehsen Kathryn ParisBelow the picture was an IQ test A'Lehsen had taken a few months previous. Her IQ was 169.
Age: 4 Standard years
Race: .75 Human, .25 Klingon
Before Annalise could say anything, Owen brought up the next file. The only difference between this one and the one before was the name, S'Ehra Annalise Paris, and the IQ, 173.
Annalise raised tear-filled green eyes to Owen's blue eyes. "We have granddaughters!" she said joyfully. "Twins, too! Oh, Owen, this is so wonderful!"
Owen held his wife as she cried with joy. He was feeling very humble at that moment. His son was home, with a wife and children. There had to be some Higher Power at work in the universe, to let such happy things happen to him after all of the pain he had caused for his family.
"That's not all, Anna. B'Elanna is expecting another set of twins in two months," he told her. When her eyes became wide, he said, "It's true. B'Elanna was at the engineering station on Voyager's Bridge when I responded to Kathryn's transmission. Kathryn had called all of her senior staff in. Anna, she's huge! I didn't know who she was or that she is carrying twins, and I told Kathryn that she was going to go into labor right then. I saw Tom's face out of the corner of my eye, and I swear the poor boy looked scared. B'Elanna gave me a glare that should have vaporized me right there, and Kathryn was grinning. I don't think I've ever felt so stupid as I did when I learned the whole truth," he finished sheepishly.
Annalise laughed a little, then she turned serious. "Did you talk to Tom?" she asked.
"Yes. I tried to apologize without actually saying the words. I think he understood, and I can only hope that he has forgiven me," he said quietly.
Annalise hugged him. "Of course he will forgive you. He was always a good-hearted boy."
"I want to try and get in touch with him in a few hours, Anna," Owen said. "Even if I have to leave a message."
"We will, Owen. We will."
Part Ten: Why?
When B'Elanna and Tom had picked up the girls, they took them to the Mess Hall for some dinner. Neelix was beginning to really experiment with Alpha Quadrant foods, past and present. On the day's menu was barbecue chicken, Vulcan lentil salad, and a Bolian tongal-fruit pie for dessert.
"Mommy, why did Neelix make such strange things tonight?" S'Ehra asked as she eyed her chicken warily.
'Poor thing,' B'Elanna thought. 'She's been eating Neelix's cooking all of her life. She doesn't know what she was missing.' In fact, B'Elanna was a little unused to "normal" food herself.
"This is the kind of food Daddy and I ate when we were younger," B'Elanna told her daughter.
"Why?" A'Lehsen asked. She took a bite of the salad and wrinkled her nose.
"Well, we didn't have any of the foods Neelix cooks. They don't grow in the Alpha Quadrant," Tom said, anticipating another "why?", or so he thought.
"Why didn't you just go to the Delta Quadrant and get some?" A'Lehsen asked with a puzzled frown.
B'Elanna silently asked for help from a higher power, but none came. It usually doesn't for the parents of young children who have just learned that "why?" can open the universe to them.
"It would have taken too long, A'Lehsen. In fact, after Voyager was stranded in the Delta Quadrant, we weren't sure that we would get back in our lifetimes. Since Seven and I fixed the engines to make them go faster, we have gotten to the Alpha Quadrant much more quickly," she told her.
A'Lehsen thought about that for a few minutes. Peace and quiet reigned until she piped up again. "Did you always live on Voyager?" she asked her parents.
"No, I grew up on Earth, in San Fransisco, where Starfleet Headquarters is located," Tom said.
"And I was raised on Kessick IV, a colony planet," B'Elanna added.
"You mean you were both raised planet-side?" S'Ehra asked. She seemed half-scornful, half-horrified. A'Lehsen wore a similar expression. They stared at their parents with wide blue eyes.
B'Elanna and Tom glanced at each other in alarm. They had never guessed that their children might become prejudiced toward planet-bred people. Did the other Voyager children share this way of thinking? If so, no one had ever mentioned it. Janeway would have to hear about this before they got to Earth. The children might need some counseling.
B'Elanna decided to take control of the situation before it got any worse. She frowned fiercely at her daughters. "There is nothing wrong with that. Planets and space are equally nice places to grow up. Never forget that!" she told them with every ounce of motherly command she possessed.
An observer might have found the scene amusing: three hard-headed, hot blooded females, one-to-two, glaring at one another. Age did not matter, just strength of will. In the end, B'Elanna's will won out. The twins glanced away first. They looked at each other and became shame-faced.
"We're sorry, Mommy," they said meekly in unison. Their little lips trembled, and their big blue eyes, so like their father's, filled a little with tears.
"We won't ever do it again," A'Lehsen added.
"Are you still mad at us?" S'Ehra asked.
B'Elanna felt her face soften, despite her resolve to remain firm. "I'm a little mad. I didn't like hearing such things from you girls. Everyone is important, no matter where they live or have lived," she told them.
A'Lehsen and S'Ehra nodded. S'Ehra smiled, and looked relieved when her mother smiled back.
The family went back to eating. Then Tom, knowing his wife's habits, went to Neelix to collect the two unbreakable containers filled with leola- root based foods. He went back to their table. B'Elanna had cleaned up the girls, and they were all ready to go.
They walked slowly to their quarters. This was partly for B'Elanna's benefit. Her gait had gone from smooth and brisk to a waddle. Fortunately, her staff knew better than to make jokes; otherwise, one of them might have ended up in Sickbay. Tom needed the slow pace as well; those containers were very full!
When they got home, A'Lehsen and S'Ehra ran to their room. Tom sat the containers down on the table, and then he and B'Elanna collapsed simultaneously onto the sofa. They listened to the girls play with their favorite dolls.
They were just relaxing, trying to conserve their energy, when the communication console beeped. It was such an unusual sound that they both jumped. Then they smiled at each other sheepishly.
"The worst part about being back in the Alpha Quadrant is that we'll have to put up with calls we don't want at times that are inconvenient," Tom commented wryly.
"We don't already?" B'Elanna asked with a pointed look towards their daughters' room.
Tom chuckled, then closed his eyes in frustration when it beeped again because he really felt too tired to move. B'Elanna smiled a little and stood up slowly. She had perfected the art during her last pregnancy, and it seemed she hadn't forgotten anything.
When she mad it across the room to the console, B'Elanna pressed the receive button.
Part Eleven: Long-Distance Reunion
Owen and Annalise Paris waited anxiously for one of the Parises on Voyager to answer their call. They were just about ready to give up and record a message when they were answered.
B'Elanna Paris stared back at them, her dark brown eyes wide. Annalise could tell that the exotically beautiful woman had not expected to see them on her com. The silence on both ends was interrupted suddenly by an unusually low peal of childish laughter.
Annalise came to herself with a start. "Hello, B'Elanna. I'm Annalise Paris, Tom's mother. We were hoping to speak with you both," she said warmly.
B'Elanna turned her head slightly. "Tom?" she called.
"I heard, 'Lanna," Tom said. He was already halfway across the room.
When Annalise saw her son, she nearly started crying. He looked so much older, more mature. In fact, he looked a lot like his father had when she had married him.
Tom stared at his parents. He was very surprised at the changes in his mother. Her dark blond hair was mostly silver, and there were many fine lines around her eyes and mouth.
"Hi, Mom, Dad," he said quietly.
"Oh, Tom--" was all Annalise could manage. She smiled at him through her unshed tears.
"Hello, son. I tried to tell you this earlier, without actually saying it in front of your colleagues. I'm sorry. I just kept holding in all of the positive emotions I felt and letting out the negative ones. At least, that's what my counselors told me eight years ago," Owen said. His face took on a pained expression. "I realized after Voyager went missing how much I had lost by pushing my family to a distance. I feel ashamed of what I did."
Tom knew how hard it was for his father to admit all of that to him. "Don't, Dad. Captain Janeway told B'Elanna what had happened in that Cardassian prison, and B'Elanna told me. Knowing that, it's easy to forgive you," Tom said with the comforting voice he often used to soothe A'Lehsen , S'Ehra--or B'Elanna.
Owen nodded. He quickly changed the subject. "Your mother knows all about your family, Tom. She--"
"Your mother," Annalise interrupted reprovingly, "can speak for herself. I wanted to meet your wife and daughters, Tom. Your girls are our first granddaughters. Lizbeth and Jesica each have a son."
"I'm happy for them," Tom said. He had a hard time imagining his sister Jesica with a son, though. She had never even wanted children! But the, until he had fallen in love with B'Elanna, neither had he.
Just then, A'Lehsen and S'Ehra wandered over to their parents. A'Lehsen tugged on B'Elanna's sleeve.
"Mommy, who are you talking to?" she asked.
B'Elanna picked her up, and Tom picked up S'Ehra. "Girls, these are your grandparents," B'Elanna told them.
A'Lehsen frowned in confusion. "Grandparents?"
"My mom and dad," Tom explained.
A'Lehsen turned her big blue eyes to her grandparents. "What's their names?" she asked her mother in a whisper.
"You can call me Nana, dear. Tom, which one is which?" Annalise asked.
"I have S'Ehra, and B'Elanna has A'Lehsen," Tom said.
"They are so beautiful," Annalise said. She smiled at them.
"What do we call him?" S'Ehra asked, pointing at Owen.
"You call me Grandfather, little one," Owen said gruffly, a suppressed smile making his mouth twitch.
"Where are you?" A'Lehsen asked in curiosity.
"We're on Earth. We'll be meeting you when you get here," Owen said, not just to her put to Tom and B'Elanna also.
"That's good. Do you know if the families of the other crewmembers have been contacted?" Tom asked him. He thought of Harry and how much his friend was looking forward to seeing his parents again.
"Yes, it's standard procedure. My aide took care of it while I was talking to you earlier," Owen informed him. "You have friends with family on Earth?"
"Yeah, our best friend, Harry Kim, the Ops officer," Tom replied.
"Uncle Harry's going to marry Lieutenant Nicoletti," A'Lehsen said seriously.
Owen smiled at her. "If you're lucky he'll ask you two to be flower girls," he said. "That's a very important job in a wedding."
"He did ask us. And Mommy's going to be the madon of honor, and Daddy's going to be Uncle Harry's best man," S'Ehra said.
"Matron of honor, S'Ehra. It means a married woman who is a special part of a wedding," B'Elanna corrected her.
"Matron of honor," S'Ehra repeated with the frown that meant she was memorizing the information.
"Well, I'm very happy for your friend," Annalise said. "He couldn't have picked a better family to be his wedding attendants."
There was a pause, then Tom set S'Ehra down. "Honey, why don't you go play in your room," he said. It was more of an order than a request.
B'Elanna put down A'Lehsen. "Yes, you two should go play." She knew what Tom was going to ask.
The girls nodded. "'Bye, Nana, Grandfather," they said in unison. After quick waves they ran back into their room.
Tom turned back to his parents. His expression was serious. "Dad, tell me the truth. What do you think the chances are that Starfleet will accept us?" He didn't need to elaborate.
Owen sighed. "Tom, you don't realize how awful the Dominion War was. Although in the end it was the Cardassians who helped us win, the fact that they were the ones who brought the Dominion into the Alpha Quadrant was never forgotten," he said. When Tom frowned, he said, "I'll explain another time. It's too complicated to get into now. The point I'm trying to make is that the Maquis were regarded as heroes after the war began. Not all of them were killed, and the survivors helped us with information and strategies they had found useful. That will be in your favor, B'Elanna. Tom....it hurts me to admit this, but I could have gotten you out of jail, and probably accepted back into Starfleet, if I had tried. I'm willing to do that now, use the contacts I have to make sure you keep your rank and aren't reprimanded or anything. I'll have to call in a lot of favors, but I'm willing to, if you'll accept my help." Owen lowered his eyes in shame.
Tom smiled sadly. "I suspected that even back then. I'd be very happy if you would help me," he said. After a moment, he added, "If you had offered me that six or seven years ago, I would have told you--well, I'm sure you can guess. Now, I have a family, and I know that it doesn't hurt to let someone else support me." He glanced at B'Elanna and smiled. She smiled back, and for a moment they were in their own little world.
Owen cleared his throat, hiding a smile. "All right, I'll get on it in the morning. I don't know about you, but it's night here, and I'm tired," he said.
B'Elanna nodded. "I have to get to engineering early in the morning. It's going to take some work to get Voyager into the condition I think it should be in when we get to Earth, but we'll do it," she said. Her determined expression relayed that she would see to every repair personally if that's what it took.
Annalise smiled. "Before you go, I forgot to ask about the new ones," she said.
"New--oh, the babies. They're fraternal, we know that. One boy and one girl. We plan on naming them Kyle and K'Ehtra," B'Elanna told them.
Annalise's smile widened. "Those are wonderful names. I can't wait to hold another baby in my arms!"
"It won't be too much longer," Tom said. He patted B'Elanna's stomach affectionately, and she slapped his hand away.
"Tom, if you don't stop--oh, never mind, I need something to eat," she mumbled. She smiled at Tom's parents. "I'll see you soon," she said.
"Goodbye, B'Elanna," Annalise said.
"You take care of those babies," Owen said. He smiled, too, and didn't elaborate on which "babies" he meant.
B'Elanna went over to the table and opened one of the containers of food. 'Mmmm, leola-root and chili,' she thought, and began to dig in.
"I should go tuck in the girls. Goodbye, Mom, Dad," Tom said.
"Goodbye, son," they answered. Owen reached forward and ended the transmission.
Tom turned to B'Elanna. She was watching him as she ate, and she raised her eyebrows. "Happy?" she asked between bites.
"Very. I wasn't sure how I'd react, even after talking to him on the Bridge," Tom said as he took a seat beside B'Elanna.
"I knew you'd get along all right," she said confidently.
Tom grinned at her, tugging on a lock of hair. "Well, once again, you were right!"
Part Twelve: Preparation
B'Elanna growled in frustration as one of the cleaning crews came back covered in a filthy muck that she was sure couldn't have come from the EPS conduit they had been assigned. And the smell...
"What in hell happened?" she asked them as she motioned for them to set down their equipment.
"Somehow--we still haven't figured it out and we've been going over it for the last ten minutes--somehow there was four liters of Serillian tlis-mud in one of the Jeffries tubes. We had to go into it to gain access to EPS conduit number jc4783," Ensign Pratell said in disgust.
"How did it get there?" B'Elanna's voice was dangerously edged.
"Like Pratell said, we aren't sure. There was no indication that anyone had been in there for months, maybe even a few years," Lieutenant Benor said dispiritedly. He tried to wipe some of the mud off of his uniform, but he just succeeded in making it even worse.
B'Elanna suddenly saw the funny side in their situation, and it was all she could do to keep from laughing out loud. "Why don't you two go to your quarters and get cleaned up. I'll send another crew to take care of the mess in--which tube?" she managed to say somberly.
"J25d8, sir," Benor told her.
"All right then. Go on, go to your quarters," she ordered them.
"Yes, sir," the two engineers said. They walked carefully out of Engineering, trying not to drip the ripe smelling stuff every where.
Once they were gone, B'Elanna allowed herself a good laugh. She hadn't really had time for that during the last few days. They were two days away from Earth, and B'Elanna was determined that Voyager would look as good as possible, inside and out. That meant extra stress for her and the other engineers.
Finally, once her amusement was under control, B'Elanna picked up a padd and read over the list of off-duty crewmen. There weren't many, and most of those were asleep. She chose two that were listed as on a meal break, and tapped her combadge. "Ensigns Yero and Jasdir, report to Engineering for duty," she said. She really hated to do this, but somebody had to clean up the mess.
B'Elanna went back to the realignment of the warp core matrices, which had been affected by the transwarp travel--again. It was one of the few things that she could count on happening on Voyager these days.
She was almost finished when the drafted ensigns arrived. They looked annoyed and resigned, which she thought was just as well. She knew they were willing to do whatever it took to make them all look good when they arrived at Earth. Engineers had a certain pride, after all...
She smiled at them apologetically. "Pratell and Benor discovered a few liters of Serillian mud in a Jefferies tube. I need you two to clean up after them," she said.
Yero blanched. She had been one of twenty unfortunate crewmembers to stumble into a lake of the stuff three years before, and she obviously wasn't looking forward to encountering it again. However, she swallowed and nodded. "Aye, sir. I'll get started right away," she promised.
B'Elanna nodded back and returned to her work. She hoped that there wouldn't be any more disasters that day, because she really wanted to see Tom and the girls. She had been working for the last two shifts, and she needed rest.
* * *
B'Elanna didn't manage to get out of Engineering for another shift, thanks to the discovery of a network of circuits on Deck 8 that had been fused together somehow.
"Why is it that we're just discovering all of this now?" she muttered to Susan Nicoletti, who was helping her carefully separate the circuits.
"Because we always had bigger problems to worry about," Sue replied.
B'Elanna shook her head. "Not always. This must have happened months ago, and yet we just found out about it," she pointed out.
"It wasn't affecting any of the primary or secondary systems, and it's relatively small," Sue replied as she pulled yet another wire away from the bundle.
B'Elanna had to admit that she was right. At least it hadn't been too damaging to the rest of the systems. "Remind me to have Vorik scan for similar bundles. Leaving some of this unattended would make us look sloppy," she said absently.
"We wouldn't want that, would we?" Sue asked. They shared a smile and kept on working.
* * *
B'Elanna got to her quarters later tired, hot, and uncomfortable after sitting in one position for so long. What she saw when she walked in made that all seem to disappear, though.
Tom was sitting in a chair with A'Lehsen and S'Ehra in his lap. He had obviously been reading to them. They were all fast asleep.
B'Elanna tip-toed over and shook Tom's shoulder gently. "Tom," she whispered. She brushed a lock of dark blond hair off his forehead. He looked so handsome.
Tom stirred a little, although not enough to disturb the twins. "B'Elanna? You done in Engineering?" he asked sleepily.
"For now, at least. We'll get as much as possible done in the next day or so," she said wearily. She picked up S'Ehra, being careful not to wake her up. Tom stood up slowly with A'Lehsen still in his arms.
"You need to get more sleep, 'Lanna," he said quietly as they tucked in their daughters.
"I know that, Tom. Believe me, I know. But I want *Voyager* to be in perfect condition when we get to Earth," she said as they went to their own room.
"That's impossible. 'Lanna, no one's going to fault you for having to cut a few corners. They'll know what we've gone through the last nine years," he said as he watched her shuck her uniform and get dressed for bed. He thought that he had never seen her more beautiful than at that moment, her stomach swollen with his children. Of course, B'Elanna would never agree. He just didn't understand women sometimes.
"Maybe. I just want this ship to be one everyone can be proud of," B'Elanna said. She climbed into bed and slid under the light blanket. Tom joined her, and she let herself revel in the feel of his strong arms around her.
Tom laughed softly. "B'Elanna, we are proud of this ship. Look at how much she's been through, and yet she's managed to get us home," he said.
"Thanks to you and me. Without your piloting skills and my engineering skills, this ship would have fallen apart a long time ago," B'Elanna said smugly. She was quiet for a few moments. "You're right, I guess. Voyager is already a ship we can be proud of. We're as ready as we're ever going to be," she added with a yawn.
Part Thirteen: Homecoming
The Bridge was quiet as a solar system appeared on the viewscreen. It was a system like many others in the galaxy. It had nine planets, an asteroid belt, and a yellow sun. The third planet was M-class, like many other third planets orbiting many other suns.
Of course, this third planet was unique. It's name was simple, and yet for nine years it had represented one thing to the crew of the starship Voyager: home. The planet was Earth.
They couldn't see it yet. They had just passed Neptune. It was there, though. In ten short minutes, their journey would be over.
Janeway sat back in her seat and sighed happily. She had dreamed of this day every since they had been pulled into the Delta Quadrant, and it was finally upon them. She would no longer bear the full responsibility for the lives of her crew. That was more of a relief than anyone might have guessed. On the other hand, the crew would probably split up in the next few months, and that was a little depressing, if inevitable. She would miss those who left so much. She stared at the back of Tom's blond head and wondered if this would be one of the last times she would do so.
At the Helm, Tom let his fingers fly over the console in the familiar routine of entering a star system. He allowed his mind to wander, and the first thought that came to him was that if they had managed this four or five years ago, he probably wouldn't have been so happy as he was right then. In fact, he probably would have taken the first shuttle away from Earth that he could get. His life had changed so much, and most of it for the better. He glanced over his shoulder at B'Elanna, who was gaze was fixed on the screen. He wondered what she was thinking...
B'Elanna was glad that Janeway had insisted that she be on the Bridge for this. It was amazing, to think of how much her reaction to any mention of Earth had changed since she had left it eleven years before. Instead of seeing the Federation and Starfleet as a threat, now it seemed more and more like home. Perhaps that was because it had been unattainable for so long, but she was sure that it was more than that. B'Elanna looked at Tom and found him looking back. She smiled at him, then she looked over at Chakotay. She wondered how was he handling this.
Chakotay hadn't expected to feel so much joy when he saw Earth's solar system. After all, he hadn't been raised there. He had attended the Academy on Earth, but he hadn't been back more than four times before he had quit Starfleet to join the Maquis. He knew that the others were experiencing emotions much like his, and that comforted him. He glanced back at Harry, and allowed himself an amused smile at the expression on his face.
Harry had never felt so happy as he did when his screen showed them getting closer and closer to Earth. He imagined his parents, who had contacted him every night since they had received new that he was on his way home, waiting for him as he and the others beamed down for the special meeting Starfleet had asked them to attend. He would hug his mother first, as he always did, and then his dad would grab him in a bear-hug. He let himself reminisce on the wonderful childhood he had had on Earth, keeping one eye on his readouts out of habit.
Perhaps those who were least affected by this monumental occasion were Tuvok, Seven, the Doctor, and Neelix. The last three were again on the Bridge at the Captain's request. They stared either impassively or curiously at the viewscreen, depending on their personalities. They had no real ties to Earth, except Seven. However, she had not truly accepted the Human part of her as yet, so it did not seem to her as if she was coming home.
But, still, for them all Earth was a symbol of all they had accomplished, of all the hard work that had gone into their journey.
Finally, they got passed Mars, and Janeway said quietly, "Magnify." She didn't have to explain herself. Harry quickly did as she ordered, and the blue and white ball appeared on the viewscreen. There were space stations and ships in orbit around it, and more ships coming and going than she had seen in quite some time. Shuttles were visible, carrying passengers back and forth between Earth and the various stations.
Tears sparkled in several pairs of eyes, and there were joyous smiles exchanged by almost everyone. This was the moment that they had been waiting for, for what seemed like an eternity.
Harry startled her when he said, "Starfleet Command is hailing us."
Janeway nodded. "Put them through." She didn't bother to adjust the spectrum this time. Let them be surprised.
A human admiral, his dark skin contrasting with his white hair, smiled at her. "Welcome home, Captain Janeway. I'm Admiral Gentree. May I say that it is a relief to see you home again?"
Janeway returned the smile. "You may, since we are equally relieved. You have no idea how good it is to be home again, Admiral," she said sincerely.
He nodded. "I understand. Are you and your senior staff ready for the meeting that we have scheduled?"
"Yes, we'll beam down as soon as we get into orbit," Janeway informed him.
"Very good. I look forward to seeing you there, Captain," Gentree said formally.
"And I, you," she replied.
"Until then. Gentree out."
When his image had faded, Janeway allowed one tear to slip down her cheek. She wiped away, and then she reached for Chakotay's hand. She was always so grateful for his support.
Behind her, she heard a sniff. Then, B'Elanna muttered, "Damn these mood swings!"
Janeway and the rest laughed. It felt so good to know that some things wouldn't change at all.
Part Fourteen: Beyond Measure
Tom and B'Elanna were the last to arrive in the transporter room. They had had some trouble with their new formal uniforms--well, B'Elanna had had some trouble. It seemed that formal maternity uniforms were just about as uncomfortable as the normal ones, and so she had complained all the while as Tom helped her into it. She still wasn't happy with the results, but she wasn't going to make everyone late because she was miserable.
B'Elanna felt a little better when she saw the look of discomfort on Janeway's face. Even though the Captain was smaller than her Chief Engineer, she hated the maternity uniforms just as much.
Janeway looked around at them all. "Is everyone ready?"
All five of them nodded. For this meeting, Seven and Neelix weren't needed. They would be introduced to the various admirals at a formal reception later in the evening. Only Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, B'Elanna, Tom, Harry, and the Doctor were attending this special debriefing.
Almost as one, they stepped onto the transporter pad. Janeway nodded to the ensign on duty.
"Ready, Yardley?" she asked.
"Aye, Captain," he answered.
B'Elanna saw the familiar blue shimmer, heard the usual hum, and then she was staring out at a veritable sea of faces. There were the admirals and captains standing at the back of the room, but in front of them was--family.
Owen Paris stepped forward first, grinning at the stunned officers. "Welcome home," he said. His eyes were fastened on Tom, standing beside her so tall and proud.
B'Elanna gave her husband a small shove toward his father. She smiled as Owen wrapped Tom in his arms and held him tightly. Tom was holding on just as hard, and B'Elanna was probably the only one who knew how important this was to him.
B'Elanna saw Harry rush past her and into the arms of an older Oriental couple. The woman was crying and saying his name over and over again in amazement, and B'Elanna felt very happy for her friend. He had finally gotten his wish, to see his parents again.
In what seemed like mere seconds, only B'Elanna, Tuvok, and the Doctor were standing apart from the reunited families. Janeway had dragged Chakotay over to meet her mother and sister, Tom's parents were still hugging him, and Harry was enjoying the presence of his parents silently.
B'Elanna felt the stare of someone to her right. She turned to see--no, it wasn't possible!
A Starfleet officer with hair that had as much gray as brown and dark brown eyes smiled at her hesitantly. He took a few steps forward, and then he stopped, as if unsure of himself.
"Hello, Belle," David Torres said quietly.
B'Elanna swallowed, trying to get rid of the lump in her throat. "Hello--Daddy," she whispered. "What--what are you doing here?"
"I came to welcome you home," her father said. He cleared his throat. "I--I got the message you sent, all those years ago. You'd already disappeared, though," he told her.
B'Elanna nodded, but she couldn't seem to say anything.
"Did--did you mean it? That you forgave me?" he asked.
B'Elanna smiled a little. "Yes. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner," she said.
David shook his head. "It's my fault, Belle. I should have taken you with me when I left Kessick. I just thought--mistakenly--that your mother would be able to raise you better," he said. He stepped a little closer. "Would you mind if--if I gave you a hug?"
B'Elanna felt a tear slide down her cheek as she shook her head. She held out her arms, and then, for the first time in more than two decades, she was being held by her father.
David pulled back a little. "Boy or girl?" he asked, patting her stomach.
"Both," B'Elanna answered with a grin for the surprised look on his face.
"And they won't even be our first," Tom said from behind her. "'Lanna?"
"Tom, this is my father, Commander David Torres," B'Elanna said. "Dad, this is my husband, Lieutenant Tom Paris."
"It's nice to meet you," David said with a smile. He held out his hand.
Tom glanced at B'Elanna, then took David's hand in his own strong grip. They stood like that for a minute, as if frozen. Owen Paris's voice behind them interrupted their concentration.
"I wish that you had brought A'Lehsen and S'Ehra with you, B'Elanna. Annalise would have been happy to look after them during the meeting," he said jovially as he came over to stand on B'Elanna's left side.
B'Elanna smiled at her father-in-law. "They have lessons right now. We're trying to keep the children's schedules as normal as possible, so that there's no culture shock," she told Owen. She noticed that her father's eyebrows had risen.
"You have other children, Belle?" he asked, as if it had just sunken in.
"Yes. A'Lehsen and S'Ehra are four," B'Elanna said proudly.
"And they're already the apples of their grandfather's eye, Commander--" Owen gave David the opportunity to introduce himself.
"David Torres, sir," he answered, standing to attention. "B'Elanna's father," he added.
Owen nodded thoughtfully. "At ease, Torres. I believe that you'll find that you have every reason to be proud of what your daughter has accomplished," he said, giving B'Elanna's shoulder an affectionate squeeze.
David smiled. "I already am. It's not every day that a man's estranged daughter comes home an honored hero," he commented.
It was B'Elanna's turn to raise her eyebrows. She exchanged a glance full of astonishment with Tom. "I didn't know we were being considered heroes," she said in a hushed voice.
"Of course you are! You managed to cross a vast amount of space, staying relatively in one piece. You have created a version of transwarp that we will be able to adapt to our own engines--which has made you very popular with the scientists and those who prefer exploring. There was a minimum of loss to your crew--barring the initial pull into the Delta Quadrant. Not only that, but the alien communications system you found encouraged many Federation scientists to work together to create something similar. All in all, I'd say you have every right to the title of hero, every one of you," Owen said sternly. A twinkle in his eyes belied his tone.
B'Elanna felt as the world was spinning. She had left the Alpha Quadrant a criminal, and she was returning a hero? It was almost too much to comprehend.
"It sure sounds like it to me," Tom said. He looked relieved, and B'Elanna wondered what Owen had said to him. It must have been good news, whatever it was.
B'Elanna nodded. "Yeah, it does," she said softly. She was remembering the days and nights without sleep, trying to make sure that just one more critical system stayed online for a few more hours; the times when she was sure her body was so exhausted that she wouldn't be able to make it through one more day of keeping the ship together; the nights when she had headaches so painful that she couldn't even close her eyes. All of that, she had suffered through on Voyager, because she had known that one day it would be worth it. She had been right.
A shrill whistle interrupted her thoughts. Another admiral, a Trill whose white hair contrasted sharply with her olive skin and even darker spots, smiled at them all.
"Will those called for the meeting please follow me to Conference Room Two?" her fluid voice called out. B'Elanna was sure that the woman had to be joined. It would take several lifetimes to learn to perfect one's tones like that.
The Voyager's officers and ten admirals and captains, including Owen, followed in her wake. Their destination was only five or so meters down a corridor that looked just like any corridor on any starship in Starfleet.
Conference Room Two was as much a contrast to the regulation corridors as Earth was a contrast to Qo'nos. It was large and airy; the chairs had more cushioning than was usual, and they were a bright gold color; there were tall windows that let in the bright light of Earth's yellow sun at its zenith.
B'Elanna felt herself relaxing in this hospitable atmosphere. The same Trill admiral motioned for Voyager's officers to take their seats among a row of seven chairs. They chose to seat themselves according to rank. B'Elanna was pleased by the fact that that let her sit beside Tom.
The six admirals and five captains took seats opposite them. They all wore the same relaxed, slightly bemused expression, except for the two Vulcans.
The Trill cleared her throat delicately. "I am Admiral Yarnax. It is my pleasant duty to inform you, the senior members of Voyager's crew, that the Federation Council has voted in favor of the former Maquis members keeping their current commissions, if they so choose, or to leave Starfleet and seek new lives, if that is what they wish. As for the matter of Lieutenant Thomas Paris, Starfleet has judged that he has made up for his past crimes in his exemplary behavior during the past nine years. If he wishes, he may stay in Starfleet, with full honors," she said in a carrying voice that somehow never went above a conversational level.
B'Elanna reached over and squeezed Tom's hand. He smiled at her with a joyful light in his bright blue eyes.
"As for any actions made or ordered by Captain Kathryn Janeway that stretched the Prime Directive and Starfleet regulations, Starfleet has decided that they were necessary and made in sound mind, with an eye towards protecting her crew, and they will be forgiven," Yarnax continued.
"To put it bluntly, you are all fully pardoned, and will be accepted into Starfleet again with full honors. There will be a formal reception tonight, as I'm sure you have expected. I don't wish to keep any of your crew from the homecoming they so richly deserve. Those who wish to may begin their shore leave immediately. Just try to keep a skeleton crew on board Voyager," the admiral finished with another gentle smile filled with amusement.
B'Elanna saw Janeway return the smile. "Thank you, Admiral. I'm happy to know that Starfleet agreed with my assessment of my crew," she said.
"Oh, we do," a human captain said. B'Elanna thought that he looked familiar, but she couldn't quite place him. He was bald, which made his dark eyes and long, straight nose stand out prominently.
"Captain Picard, it's wonderful to finally meet you," Janeway said. She stood up and walked over to the other captain.
That seemed to be the cue for the rest of the meeting to dissolve into little groups of three and four. B'Elanna found herself accosted by a fellow engineer, a captain, who wanted to discuss Voyager's modified warp drive. She settled happily into a discussion with him, noting that Tom and Harry were talking with Owen.
* * *
Later that day, Tom and B'Elanna changed into fresh formal uniforms. They then spent the better part of an hour helping their young daughters dress in matching jumpsuits of contrasting design. A'Lehsen's outfit was red with gold piping, and S'Ehra's was the opposite.
A'Lehsen scrunched her face as her mother braided her long, dark hair in an intricate pattern that made her want to squirm away after two minutes of trying to be patient. It took another fifteen minutes, then her mother turned her over to her father, so that B'Elanna could do S'Ehra's hair in an identical style.
A'Lehsen was allowed to sip a cup of juice while she waited for her mother and sister to be finished. She glanced up at her father through her lashes.
"Daddy," she said softly. "I want to stay up late tonight."
Tom smiled down at her. "Sweetie, by the time this party is over, I promise you that you won't be able to keep your eyes open. Federation parties can be one of two things: dull as dirt, or the most excitement in the galaxy, and both are equally exhausting," he told her as he gathered her into his arms. He reflected that she seemed to have grown overnight, again. Soon, she would probably think herself too old for a cuddle with her dad, so he was going to take advantage of every opportunity to hug her. She would remember that, someday, and it would give her comfort.
B'Elanna ushered S'Ehra into the main room then. "All done," she declared, as triumphant as if she had just saved the ship from a warp-core breach. In a way, doing the hair of two active young girls demanded just as much energy.
"Then let's get to the transporter room," Tom said.
As the small family made their way to the transporter room, they saw many other families doing the same. Thankfully, the captain had had the foresight to draw up a schedule, so that each family *had* to wait their turn. Since the Parises were at the top of the list, they drew several envious, yet good-natured looks from other parents who were ready and waiting.
A'Lehsen and S'Ehra had rarely had opportunities to be transported, so this was a double treat for them. They giggled as the blue light sur- rounded them.
The room where they were delivered opened into another, far larger one. It was that room that would hold the hundreds of guest expected.
The decorations were beautiful and exotic, mixes of colors that would have been gaudy in any other circumstance. There were flowers everywhere, and they gifted their perfumes to the guests unstintingly. Tom noticed a rare Delta Quadrant variety from their own hydroponics bay, and wondered when Neelix had found the time to "help" the decorators...and if he had managed to influence the caterers as well.
* * *
From the moment the musicians (live, a full orchestra) began playing a lively song that Tom recognized from the twentieth century, the party was a whirl of color and sound. He could hardly remember who he talked to, except that he knew he had been polite and kind, as protocol demanded. He tried to keep an eye on A'Lehsen and S'Ehra, until their grandparents, Owen and Annalise Paris, and David Torres, claimed them, on account of the fact that they had four years of grandparental spoiling to catch up on.
He danced with B'Elanna (although it wasn't easy, and they were nearly dying of laughter when they came to a halt), Janeway, and Seven. Those were the only faces he recognized among the sea of women he partnered that night. He was diplomatic and gracious, thanks to years of training, and he was sure that he would remember this night as one of the most magical of his life. The music was never-ending, the drinks were *not* synthetic, and everyone was enjoying themselves thoroughly.
Finally, sometime around 0400, he danced again with B'Elanna. He noted how tired she looked, the way her eyes closed more from fatigue than from enjoyment of the dance, and the limp way she hung in his arms when the music died.
Tom led her off of the dance floor, helping her sit in one of the comfortable chairs provided. "I think it's time to go home, B'Elanna. You're tired, and I think the only thing keeping me as awake as I am is the alcohol. We should find the girls and go," he said tenderly.
B'Elanna nodded, too overcome with weariness to argue.
"I'll go look for my parents--" Tom began.
"Too late, we've already found you," Owen said from behind him. Tom turned and smiled at his parents and B'Elanna's father. When he noticed that A'Lehsen and S'Ehra weren't with them, he frowned.
"I took the girls to our house, Tom. Our housekeeper, Genny, is watching them. We came to ask you to spend the night with us. We'd enjoy it. David is staying, too," Annalise said in her softly persuasive voice.
Tom gave in without argument. "Thanks, Mom, Dad. I just want a nice bed to lay down in for about ten hours, then I should be fine," he said with a wry grin.
B'Elanna nodded, her eyes expressing her agreement. "I'd give up engineering for good right now if I could just have a sonic shower and a mattress," she said. Tom stood up and then assisted her to stand, as well.
Owen grinned. "You can have both at our home, never fear," he told her.
The five left quietly, hoping to avoid being noticed. They succeeded, and Tom didn't even bother to keep track of how long it took the hovercar to reach his parent's home. He just let him self relax. It had been a good day, topped off by the perfect night. He looked over at his wife, already sound asleep beside him, her head cushioned on his arm. He gently shifted so that he could gather her closer, and he reveled in that closeness.
It was, indeed, a day beyond measure. Tom was sure that his life would just keep getting better. After all, they were home, safe, with their families and friends again. That was what they had been striving for all along. The feeling of "home".
Part Fifteen: So The Circle Is Complete
(A/N: This part takes place three months after Voyager's return. Please excuse any chronological errors, because I'm sure I have made some.)
B'Elanna Paris smiled at the chaos surrounding the tables in the middle of the San Fransisco Voyager Park, which had been commemorated the day Voyager had been proclaimed officially dead six years before. It seemed fitting that this party should be held there.
It wasn't formal, it wasn't fantastically catered and organized. It was simply the crew of Voyager and their families, not just spouses and children, but as many relatives as could make it, getting together one last time before duties and commitments separated them.
The chaos was mainly being caused by the hundred or so children attending. B'Elanna could spot A'Lehsen and S'Ehra playing with their cousins, eight-year- old Jonethan Tregarde and six-year-old Ian McCoy. The four had become nearly inseparable over the past two weeks, and B'Elanna was happy for her daughters. At least they seemed to have gotten over that odd prejudice they had had. It would be good for them to become friends with their cousins.
B'Elanna glanced down at the infant sleeping peacefully in her arms, oblivious to the noise surrounding him. Kyle Paris, at one month old, was so good-natured and content that B'Elanna sometimes considered with some amusement if there had been a mix-up at the hospital! Of course, there hadn't been, but she thought it might be possible at times.
Kyle had his father's blond hair already, a light, downy covering over his scalp. He had inherited his father's blue eyes, as well. His small ridges, the only testimony to his Klingon heritage, were even less noticeable than A'Lehsen's and S'Ehra's had been at that age. He looked, for the most part, like a fully human replica of his father--minus a decade or two.
Tom was chatting with his sisters, Lizbeth Tregarde and Jesica McCoy, and their husbands, Rikard and Kennith. He was holding their newest daughter, K'Ehtra. She also had blond hair, but more of it. She was the only child to get B'Elanna's dark brown eyes, which would surely make her stand out in a few years at family gatherings. K'Ehtra had also inherited her mother's temperament, like her sisters. Tom had remarked, more than once, on the fact that the female side of the family seemed to be the ones who lost their tempers more easily. B'Elanna had punched his arm each time he had given that opinion, but she had privately admitted that he was right.
On B'Elanna's left, Kathryn Janeway sat holding her own baby, Phoebe Janeway, as if she just knew that something was going to happen to the precious bundle.
B'Elanna leaned over and said just loudly enough for the captain to hear, "Relax, Kathryn. We're all family here."
Janeway grinned ruefully. "I know. It's just that this is her first time in such a large group of strangers, and I'm afraid she's going to start fussing any minute!" she said with a sigh.
B'Elanna studied Phoebe, who was watching the antics of the older kids with large, light gray eyes. She seemed fascinated, and B'Elanna didn't think that the exposure to a larger group was doing her any harm.
"She'll be fine, Kathryn. You've been here for the past fifteen minutes, and she's barely made a sound," B'Elanna said with the experienced opinion of a mother of four.
Janeway cast a skeptical glance at her daughter. "I'm not so sure. She has a habit of surprising everyone, including me," she said.
B'Elanna laughed softly. "Now, who does that remind me of?" she teased gently.
Janeway just shook her head and smiled, refusing to answer the question.
They were silent for a few minutes, savoring the sights and sounds of the younger generations enjoying themselves all over the park's lush green lawn, between tall trees and brightly colored flowers.
"They are our future. All of them, someday, will take on the roles that we will be forced to leave behind," Janeway said quietly, reflectively.
B'Elanna nodded. She gazed proudly at A'Lehsen and S'Ehra. "Somehow, I have a feeling that they'll make it. They may even turn out better than we did," she commented.
"I have no doubt about that. Our children, B'Elanna, are going to make one hell of a difference to this Quadrant--and others," Janeway added thoughtfully.
This apparently casual comment caused B'Elanna to think of the various activities that had been going on in the past few months.
"They're saying that the *Voyager*-A is going to be twice as large as the original, but it'll still look like an *Intrepid*-class ship," she said reflectively. "I won't mind getting my hands on those engines in a few years."
Janeway smiled. "I can't wait to sit in the Captain's chair. I do feel kind of sad that Voyager is being decommissioned. I suppose it's for the best, since Voyager-A will have your specially designed shields and your transwarp modifications built in," she said, absently letting her daughter catch one of her fingers and drool on it.
"Yes, although it'll feel strange to be walking the corridors of another Voyager. At least this ship will be able to accommodate the crew's families, as well. That's my favorite part of the new design. Have they said how many ships will be accompanying us?" B'Elanna asked curiously.
Janeway nodded. "Three other ships, all of the same class as the Voyager-A. I'm not sure that they have commanding officers picked out for any of them as yet," she replied.
B'Elanna shook her head woefully. "I'm sure that whoever they are, they'll think that this is going to be an easy mission. They'll think that all they have to do is turn on the transwarp drive and cruise into the Delta Quadrant, which will, of course, be familiar to them from our reports. They won't be expecting any of the difficulties that we faced," she said.
"In a way, they would be right. We won't have half so many difficulties during our next visit to the Delta Quadrant, since we're much more familiar with it," Janeway said, shifting Phoebe to a more comfortable position.
B'Elanna gave her a look of disbelief. "Captain, after all we've been through, do you truly believe that?" she asked.
"Why not? I'd like to try to be optimistic about it, B'Elanna."
"Optimisism has its place, but I don't think that plae is anywhere near the Delta Quadrant! I've learned that no matter what we think will happen, something else will happen instead," B'Elanna said.
Janeway smiled. "That's not always a bad thing, B'Elanna," she said softly.
They were distracted by A'Lehsen, who had come running over to them.
"Mommy, can I hold Kyle for a little while?" she asked.
"Don't you want to play with your sister and cousins?" B'Elanna asked.
A'Lehsen shook her head. "No, I want to hold Kyle now," she said with a determined nod of her head.
"Then sit down beside me, sweetie," B'Elanna instructed.
A'Lehsen wiggled in between B'Elanna and Janeway. She held out her arms expectantly. After a few months, she was a pro at holding the babies.
Kathryn Janeway watched the little girl proudly holding her little brother, and her mind was taken back to a time, too many years ago, when another little girl held her new little sister, unhappy at the disruption in her life. It seemed so far away from the present, and yet Kathryn could remember it so clearly.
Staring at the Paris children, and then her own, Kathryn thought with some startlement of the fact that, yes, in too few years these precious little ones would be making lives for themselves, and they would be having adventures of their own. It did seem, as Chakotay often said, that the universe was more like a cosmic circle, constantly renewing itself.
With that thought came another. This circle, the circle that had begun more than nine years ago, was complete. It was very comforting.