TI: "My Grown-Up Christmas Wish." VOY (T, J, P)
AU: SnoopMary (MillicentFawcett@aol.com)
DI: Paramount's people, but my story. I have a phaser, and I will use it! RA: PG (angsty)
SP: Post-Drive. Oblique reference to "Extreme Risk", and to the upcoming "Lineage".
SU: B'Elanna isn't just a pretty face, or a brilliant engineer. An alternative explanation for
the life of Tom Paris.
AN: Think of it as only hearing one side of the conversation.

Thank you for meeting me.

The issue? Yes, it is very important, in my opinion, and we definitely need to discuss it. It's not something I'd feel comfortable writing a memo on.

You know, I've never truly appreciated the lessons of my grandmother until now. Not my Grandmother Torres, but my Grandmother K'Treya. She told me that to truly understand a man, to gauge a man's honour, to know what he believes and how he thinks, you need to discover what he'll kill for. Tom has always been a mystery to me on that level. I knew he'd fight to the bitter end for me, for you, for Harry, for everyone on this ship. I knew that he'd die for the ship or for his friends if it would save them. But what would make him kill? That I didn't know. I wanted to know. I *needed* to know. A lot of people assume Tom's told me about his past, about his pre-VOYAGER life. He hasn't. It's like pulling teeth to even get him to talk about his parents or sisters, and I'm his damn wife! What I know about Caldik Prime is what you know.

It's funny how everything really can change in what Harry calls a 'New York' minute. We're sitting on the sofa, talking about regrets that really aren't regrets. I don't regret hurting myself on the holodeck, because it taught me that it's okay to ask for help. Then Tom tells me that he should regret the accident at Caldik Prime, but doesn't. I asked why, and do you know what he said to me? "It was them or me. That's the day I learned that Starfleet had no problem sacrificing its own to hide its dirty laundry. So I took the only exit." Then he kisses me, goes off to work his shift in sickbay, and leaves me sitting there. I don't even think he realized just how much he told me.

Yes, it was a shock. But it got me thinking. I started to dig, to use my old Maquis skills to rip the bandages off the wounds that my husband still wears. I know every single thing about the class of shuttle, about Caldik Prime, and about those cadets. But they weren't cadets, were they?

You know perfectly well what I'm talking about. I *know*, Captain, so quit hiding it!

Surprised that I figured it out? Don't be. Even Chakotay doesn't know how high up I was in the Maquis Intelligence section. When I looked at the incident report in Tom's dossier - yes, I hacked it - I noticed that it was very blunt about the accident and Tom's involvement in it: he was completely at fault for crashing the shuttle and then, to make matters worse, he lied about causing the three deaths. That isn't the way Starfleet writes reports. The tone of the entire thing was just *wrong*. If anything, it was vengeful and bitter. It was a retaliation against him, against his confession, not against the incident! The characterization of Tom didn't ring true, either. That report vilified him.

So I may not have known him then, but I do now. Tom Paris doesn't avoid taking responsibility for his actions. In fact, he'll take responsibility for things he didn't have anything to do with if he thinks it's the right thing to do! And that kind of honour is not something that you learn. You either have it, or you don't. Then I thought, if this is what happened, and if Tom really was such a walking disaster when he was arrested, why would you have even bothered with him?

Blah, blah, blah. You didn't need him to lead you to us! There was no real need to bring him along if he was that unreliable. You could have simply had him interrogated for the answers. Besides, it is a truly rare case where a prisoner is released on parole when he's been convicted of treason and terrorism. I won't lie to you, a lot of us thought that he was here because you knew his father, and were trying to bring the prodigal son to heel. We gave him no respect, and he didn't seem to care at all. The way he was treated, the beatings -

He got beat up a *lot* before Chakotay found out and put a stop to it. Tom didn't complain, and he only fought back if he thought he was going to be seriously hurt.

We thought you knew. And no, I wasn't involved!

According to the same incident report, he has a hair-trigger temper and a very short fuse, which is what the authors of the report held caused the accident. If we accept the validity of that report, Tom would have had no qualms about retaliating, violently and without remorse, to those assaults. That assessment of Tom Paris describes a very, very different person than the Tom we know. He may not follow and never has followed procedures exactly, but he's the first to lend a hand if asked. He has never lost his temper or held a grudge since joining this ship, and I doubt if he ever will. He just would not see it as productive or good for the ship.

I'm glad you agree, as I'm sure you agree that Tom is a fabulous pilot, probably the best, and a great officer. There is no way he would make a mistake like the one they pinned the accident on; he would never miss an engine overloading. The sound alone would be unmistakable! Secondly, you know as well as anyone does that there is no way a cadet would ever have been allowed to fly a mark-II combat shuttle, or fly anywhere near the Cardassian border, regardless of how good they were! And there is no way that the son of a serving Admiral, especially an Admiral who sits on the policy and appropriations committees, would be placed near the border when the Cardassians are suspected of abducting officers with connections to influential committee members! You know it, and I know it. Guess what my next step was?

No. I looked to see if there were any of his classmates aboard VOYAGER. I figured they would know if it was part of a training run. I wanted confirmation about the accident, or of Tom's character. I figured that he had to have known someone before, considering the rumours there were before we completely integrated. After all, he's about the same age as Nicoletti and some of the other Starfleet crew. But not one person aboard this ship was at the Academy when Tom was there. Curiouser and curiouser. Then I just had an epiphany.

What was my epiphany? Tom made it through the Academy, didn't he? Just earlier than he lets people think. And he never went off to Command School and an ignomious expulsion. He was sent off for specialized, advanced training, and then to Caldik Prime. Caldik Prime is a backwater planet in an area the Federation refuses to license colonies in.

That's a pile of crap, *Sir*. Why on Kahless' grave would they have ever built a state of the art medical facility there?

I don't think so. Truth is, it is a medical facility, but it's a medical facility in a staging area. And its only patients are those who can't be treated anywhere else because of regulations requiring the reporting of certain kinds of injuries to Starfleet's  Incident Commander's Office.

Captain, give me *some* credit. No one builds a hospital for wounded that close to what is most likely to be a fluid front line in a potential war.

My conclusion?

He's not just a pilot. He's a highly trained former member of the Starfleet Special Ops Division.

I'm glad you find this amusing. I don't. Especially when I realize that flight operations and command were on the peripheries for him, weren't they? That's why he had an extra week's worth of protocol and procedure classes when you handed down the commissions back at the Ocampan Homeworld. He was used to making up the rules as he went along, only pausing occasionally to make sure that they fell within certain boundaries. Those rules were fluid because the objective was more important than the means. You needed to reprogram his responses, to make sure he reacted the fleet way. And it wasn't that he had a problem with authority, like Chakotay thought. He just doesn't normally give authority the unquestioned respect a normal officer would; he's had to pick up the pieces after command's messed up more than once, so he has no illusions. He will critique orders if he feels it's necessary.

Oh, I'm not confused or picking at straws. I'm finally putting the pieces of the puzzle that I married together. He can fix every single system on a shuttle better than I can, and fly one that's held together with spit and bailing wire without breaking a sweat. He speaks fifteen languages. His weapons and combat training are so advanced that he wipes the floor with Tuvok every time he has to get recertified. He had above-average emergency medic certifications before the Doctor started training him. He can make computers do things that even *Seven* can't. He rock-climbs better than anyone aboard. He took orbital diving lessons. He can slip into any role or character he's handed without effort; the new identity just becomes a second skin. And let's not forget, the man can't be broken; you only know what he lets you. Those skills don't exactly transfer well to civilian endeavours. Explains why someone with his heart and with a near-maddening  devotion to his friends became an unsuccessful mercenary, though. And that's the key to the Kazon Conspiracy, isn't it?

You know very well what I mean. Those skills are why you and Tuvok were so willing to send him off to engage in a battle of wits with Seska and the Kazon. After all, he'd been trained to do that, to put his life on the line. To go into no-win scenarios, get the job done, and hopefully come back alive. Risk quite literally was his business, and he didn't even blink when you issued the orders, did he? And that's when, *wham*, I knew. I looked up Auckland; it has some of the tightest security in the Federation. Those anklets have explosives in them. They send some of the worst criminals there. It's unusual for a member of the Maquis to be sent there. So why was he there? Did they think he would run, or did they just want easy access to him in case they needed his not exactly common skills? He's here in the Delta Quadrant. I think that answers the question, don't you?

Was he being brought back into the fold after being "convinced" that it was the right thing to do? Or was he going to "escape" to fulfill some purpose?

Nevermind. I started to look at Caldik Prime, to try and figure out what he'd meant by 'them or me', and dirty laundry and exits. Were those non-cadets members of his unit? Of another unit? Were they spies, traitors, mercenaries, all of the above? Or just in the wrong place in the wrong time?

Those three 'cadets' had spotless records, Captain. Even *Harry* had some dirt under his nails when he was posted here. They were too clean, much like Tom's academy 'record' before hitting 'command school'. They had been listed as attending the academy with Tom. I'm guestimating that they were members of his unit, that they had betrayed the unit, and were becoming mercenaries. I checked the shuttle specs, and the forensics report. There is no way that shuttle would've broken up like that unless Tom had actually flown the thing into the ground. If he was even piloting the shuttle, but I'll come back to that. Tom was the one who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, wasn't he? They'd bargained with the Cardassians, hadn't they? They were going to trade an Admiral's son and trained special forces operative for something, most likely a ship, credits, or both. And according to the medical report - yes, I have been busy, this is important to me - the concussion had basically torn apart the cadets.

Tom wasn't *lucky*. The helm was *shredded*. There is no way Tom could have survived if he'd been piloting.  But that's not what I found most interesting. The medical report appended to the file by the Chief Medical Examiner, Starfleet Medical Division, disputed the medical report cited by the incident report. She stated categorically that "The fatal wounds for Cossack, Press, and Blitzer were not inflicted during the crash. These wounds were inflicted after the crash, and in my opinion, were the result of a manual engagement with the surviving cadet." Now, according to the same dissenting doctor, the wounds inflicted upon the dead cadets were in-keeping with wounds resulting from Tal K'dek, a Romulan form of kickboxing, that is illegal to teach at Starfleet Academy. The only place it's taught in the Federation is at the Starfleet Tactical Training Institute. And guess what? Tom had to have surgery to repair the bones in his wrists. The surgeon's assessments indicated that the injuries were sustained while he was *cuffed*  *from* *behind*! His concomitant injuries were inconsistent with injuries that one would find in a shuttle crash. The computer analyzed my data and his medical reports and determined that to have avoided  the injuries one would expect him to have sustained during a shuttle crash, he had to have been in some very small space that kept him from being thrown around. That's how he survived, and why he's a closet claustrophobic! They had him boxed and wrapped like a present! But that's not the whole story, is it?

Stop lying! That shuttle didn't crash! They were driven into the ground, weren't they? The dispersal of wreckage doesn't match the scorch marks on the surface! Those were blast points, and they were too precise for the Cardassians! A starship, on the other hand, has targetting scanners that are precise enough for the job.

What am I implying? I'mn not implying anything. I'm stating it outright! It was a Starfleet vessel that brought that shuttle down! A shuttle that didn't have its shields up when it was fired on!

Oh, drop the morally outraged routine! After what you sent Tom into and after what you did to Noah Lessing, you don't have a leg to stand on! Those bastards managed to grab Tom and beam out of that shuttle before impact, gambling that they could either get away from the squad sent in to retrieve him, or use him as a hostage! But he fought back. He survived and they didn't.I have my answer to my grandmother's query. Thomas Eugene Paris will kill when he is threatened. When he has no other choice. When it is either his life,  or his enemy's. Tom confessed not because of guilt, or onus, but because he damn well knew the truth, didn't he?

You know the truth. He knew that the Starfleet of the United Federation of Planets, the organization that his family had helped build and that he'd grown up in, that he had been willing to *die* for, had been ready, willing and able to obliterate him for the sake of expediency! That's the real cover up!

Dammit, stop lying! Please!

No, I won't control myself! This is the one thing I can't walk away from! I need to know!

Thank you. This is what actually happened, isn't it? Tom couldn't, in all good conscience, continue to serve them. He tried to resign, the powers that were refused. So he found a way out. He confessed to an external review committee, and rather than embarass the Tactical Division for failing to screen its members correctly and subsequently endangering another operative, one who just happened to be the son of the Admiral who held the swing vote on the appropriations committee, they met his terms. But they ensured his continued silence by having him cashiered. He was out, effectively disowned by his family, and he couldn't fight back when they made it sound like he was some deviant without a conscience. And because he was in the throes of severe post traumatic shock, Tom lived up to his newly-constructed reputation. He used alcohol and sex to drown out the voices and stop the nightmares. He paid for it by co-opting his skills for the use and abuse of the highest bidder.

Am I right?

I thought so. But we're not done yet. I know that you can't afford to let this get out. If people knew that they had an unwillingly reactivated member of Starfleet Special Ops on board, it could do a real number on morale, and could revive some of the tensions between Maquis and Starfleet. And I'll keep quiet, fix it so that no one else can ever learn the truth, if you give me one thing. My grown-up Christmas wish, Captain, is that you stop taking advantage of my husband, that you recognize that he is no longer a member of that unit. Don't expect him to be special ops when he isn't. Don't place the weight of our world on his shoulders, and expect him to hold it up without help. He hasn't been that man in a very long time. He can't do it alone. And I can't afford to let you use him anymore.


Because I won't let my daughter grow up without her father.
Happy Holidays!

Feedback?  MillicentFawcett@aol.com