COMPARISONS
By TíPam
 

This story took a while to write as real life kept intruding. I started it quite a few months ago, with a certain direction in mind and then all of a sudden I changed tracks. It had a mind of its own - like most of my stories seem to. I hope you like it.

Disclaimer: Voyager and all her crew belong to Paramount/Viacom. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit will be made, as this story is just for fun.

This is an AU story. What would Tomís life had been like if he hadnít lied after Caldik Prime? What would have happened if heíd told the truth, right from the start? Would his life have turned out any differently, or would he still be where he is now?

I have taken the liberty (please donít take my head, Paramount - whoops, wrong program!) of using some direct dialogue from the pilot episode, ĎCaretakerí. There is also a little taken from the episode ĎFacesí. If you haven't seen either episode or the episodes in between them, you might find this a little confusing as I've left a lot out, assuming that you already know what happened.

Rated PG-15 - for disturbing images.
 

Comparisons
Part One

Tom Paris pushed through the crowded, noisy room looking around desperately for an escape. His father caught his eye and beckoned him over. ĎDamn it!í Tom muttered to himself. The Admiral was standing with a group of Starfleet Admirals and Captains, and the last thing he felt like doing at the moment was facing a bunch of stiff necks and being forced to make polite conversation. Tom quickly darted his gaze away and continued to push his way out of the room.

Finally he reached the big double doors that led out onto the patio and he stumbled through them. Taking a few deep breaths of fresh air he noticed with dismay that there were nearly as many people out here as there were inside.

"Tommy," a voice called and he looked over to see his oldest sister, Kathleen, pushing her way towards him. "Dadís really outdone himself this time," she said as she reached him and linked her arm through his. "This would have to be the biggest party heís ever held." They walked out into the gardens, to get away from the crowd.

"Yeah, well its not every day his one and only son graduates from Starfleet Academy," Tom said bitterly. "I donít even know half these people. And the other half, I barely do."

Kathleen laughed lightly. "Trust Dad," she smiled. "He would turn your graduation into an opportunity to improve his public image."

Tom stopped in mid-stride, frowning fiercely. "Iíve got a good mind to spend the rest of the night in my room."

"Dad would probably send a security team up to drag you down. Grin and bear it Tommy. Just like you have countless times before. Let Dad have his little moment in the spotlight."

"This isnít what I wanted. Iím so sick of everything," Tom said angrily. "I didnít want a big fuss made over my graduation. Dad knew that. Gods, I wish heíd listen to me just for once in my life."

Kathleen sighed tiredly. "I know Tommy. But this means a lot to Dad remember. This time last year it looked like your career in Starfleet was over. If it wasnít for Admiral Brand talking you out of throwing it all in and repeating your final year instead, it would have been. Dadís dream would have been too."

"Sometimes I wish I had quit."

"You donít mean that."

"Damn it Kath, Iím going to be twenty-three years old in a couple of months and most of the time I donít feel like Iíve got a life at all. My whole life revolves around what Dad wants me to do."

"I understand that, but just be patient. Soon youíll be on your own. Away from Dadís influence and constant interfering. Youíll be on the Enterprise - Starfleetís most coveted vessel. And thereís no way in hell Captain Picard will let Dad interfere. Itís a dream come true for you."

Tom shook his head. "Charlie would have been on the Enterprise now. We could have served together. I just wish - well you know," he ended softly.

Kathleen squeezed his arm, as she nodded. "Tommy, the accident was more than a year ago. You have to stop with all the self recrimination."

"Kath, I killed them. All of them," he said in anguish. "My three closest friends."

Kathleen hugged him tightly. "It was an accident. You made a mistake. No one blames you."

"I blame myself."

"They wouldnít want this Tommy. Theyíd want you to get on with your life."

"I know," Tom said softly. "Itís just so hard."

"There you are," someone cried racing towards them. "Tommy, youíd better get back inside quick. Dadís about to send a search party out for you." It was Moira, their sister. "Whatís going on? Anything I should know about?"

Kathleen shook her head. "Tommy just needed to get away from the crowd for a while."

"Jeez, I donít blame you. You do realize donít you, that most of those people up there are complete strangers?"

Tom sighed. "We noticed."

"You know, if I wasnít such a loving, adoring sister, I could be just a tiny bit jealous right now, little brother," Moira teased. "Jeez, when Kath and I graduated uni, Dad invited about ten people."

"Hey, well youíre welcome to this mob," Tom answered quietly.

"I wouldnít wish this on my worst enemy," Moira laughed before hugging him as well. The truth was, she adored her younger brother. Both sisters did. He was special. Although both sisters wished their father paid them a little more attention than he did, neither of them wanted the kind of attention that he lavished on Tom. Any jealous tendencies had been wiped out years ago.

"Come on you two," Moira said standing up straight and linking her arm through Tomís. She gestured to Kathleen to do the same. "We Paris kids will march in there with our heads held high. Just as the Admiral drummed into us years ago. Weíll get you through this Tommy. Thatís what big sisters are for."

Tom couldnít help but laugh as he marched back up to the house between them both. Heíd be leaving in two weeks. He wouldnít miss much about his life at the moment, but heíd certainly miss them. And his mother, he thought as he saw her heading down towards them, a worried frown on her face.

She smiled as she saw them approaching. It reminded her of when they were children and they used to march around the gardens. Only now Tom towered over his two older sisters. "I was just coming to see if everything was all right," she said as they stopped in front of her. "Your father wants you to meet someone Tom."

Tom sighed. "Let me guess. Another Admiral."

"No. A Commander this time. Sheís really very nice. Kathryn Janeway. Iím sure youíve heard your father speak of her."

Tom grimaced. "His little protégé. The little science officer heís single-handedly turning into a Captain? Gods, havenít I been punished enough tonight?"

"Tom, donít be so quick to judge. Sheís a lovely lady," his mother frowned.

"Momís right, Tommy. Kathrynís great," Moira enthused. "And you know Iím not one for all these Starfleet types."

"High praise indeed," Tom said sarcastically.

Kathleen gave a small laugh. "If youíd hung around the house a little more over the past few years you would have met her already. Just give her a chance."

"Yeah - right," Tom scoffed, but refrained from saying anything else. He didnít want to upset his mother, but he really didnít feel like meeting this drab little - yes sir, let me lick your boots clean sir - perfect Starfleet officer his father was always talking about. Heíd managed to avoid meeting her up until now. He might have guessed that tonight would be the night.

Sighing heavily he marched back into the crowd and determined to get it over with, but if his father thought that he was going to be all over this woman asking for help on how to be the perfect officer too, he had another think coming.


Kathryn Janeway watched the young man standing in front of her and decided she didnít like him. No, that wasnít strong enough. She detested him. Smart aleck, spoilt brat. She wanted to smack that insolent look right off his face.

The way that he had acknowledged her when his father had introduced them had been snide and he continued to look at her as if she were saying or doing something amusing. The look in his eyes was mocking.

That this was the son of her mentor, the Thomas that she had heard so much about, was a shock. He was rude and insufferable and totally without any redeeming qualities that she could see.

"Yes," he was saying. "You wouldnít believe how much my father raves on about what a paragon of virtue you are. Ah - If we could all only be like you."

"Thomas, I think youíve said enough." Kathryn looked up into the Admiralís face at the quiet rebuke. His eyes glimmered dangerously and he was turning a deep shade of red, as he glared at his son.

Tom barely glanced at him. "Have I embarrassed you Commander? Please accept my apologies."

Kathryn looked him up and down a small smile on her face. She was pleased to notice that Tom turned a little red. Two could play this game. "Thatís not necessary. I wasnít embarrassed. Iím pleased to know that young people can look up to me as an example. Iím sure if you try a little harder you too can be a - um - paragon of virtue."

Tom turned redder and mock saluted her with his glass of champagne. "Ah - but would anybody really want to be?" he countered.

"How very astute," Kathryn said in the most condescending tone she could, raising her glass also. "Admiral," she asked turning towards him. "How old did you say your young son was? Eighteen? Nineteen?" She watched Tom out of the corner of her eye; stiffen.

"Thomas is twenty-two Kathryn. After all, heís just graduated from the academy." There was a definite twinkle in the Admiralís eye now.

"Really? Twenty-two? Iím surprised. I thought he must have started at the academy early or something, but I forgot - you actually repeated your final year, didnít you?" She turned her icy stare back to Tom and saw the insolent, mocking look wiped away. Genuine pain flashed through his eyes and he turned a little pale.

Kathryn wished the words back at once. When would she learn? She was always letting her temper get the better of her. She knew all about Tomís past, of course, and knew that he had had a difficult time coping after the accident near Caldik Prime. The past year at the academy couldnít have been easy either.

The majority of the other cadets had given him a pretty rough time. Nobody trusted a pilot that could make a mistake and kill three people. Nobody wanted to be in the same squadron as him, and although she could understand the sentiment, it must have been hard for him. She opened her mouth to apologize, but Tom had already recovered his composure.

"Thatís right," he nodded. "I chose not to graduate last year. I didnít feel I deserved to. I think I needed to be punished and this last year has certainly been that. I still think I was right." Kathryn was surprised at the sincerity in his voice. Gone was the smart aleck, insolent young man from before and in his place was someone Kathryn would have liked to know. "Excuse me," Tom said suddenly. "I see someone over there that I actually know; and would actually like to speak to." And with that he walked off.

Kathryn watched him go, speechless at his audacity. Did he speak to all senior officers in that way? After all, he was only an Ensign. Admiralís son or not. Her opinion of Tom Paris reverted back to her original thoughts. If she never had anything to do with him again it would be too soon.

"I must apologize for that," the Admiral said obviously embarrassed. "I donít know what got into him. Heís not usually like that."

ĎYeah - right,í Kathryn thought to herself but she didnít say it. She felt sorry for the poor Admiral, having a son like that. The Admiral obviously worshipped the ground Tom walked on -he was always talking about him - boasting about his achievements - and since the accident, worrying about him - and Tom just as obviously didnít care. He obviously took it all for granted.

She wondered how heíd go on the Enterprise. Captain Picard wouldnít put up with any nonsense, thatís for sure. She wondered why Picard had especially requested him, as from what she could gather, nobody else had really wanted him. She knew that Tom had become one of the most safety conscious and careful pilots at the academy since Caldik Prime, but his past would always hold him back. Knowing that Tom was a gifted pilot, she was still a little surprised that Captain Picard was willing to take him on.

She reassured the Admiral as best she could, trying not to let him know just how awful she thought Tom really was until Kathleen and Moira joined them.

"Hi Kathryn," they both said at the same time. Kathleen looked up at her father. She could tell by his face that something had happened.

"Whereís Tommy?" Moira asked.

"Heís gone off somewhere with his friends," her father answered shortly.

"Is something wrong?" Kathleen asked.

"I donít think Tom and I hit it off very well," Kathryn answered diplomatically.

"Oh dear. I had a horrible feeling that he was going to give you a hard time. What happened?"

Admiral Paris snorted. "Thomas was insubordinate."

"Oh! Did you put him on report?" Moira asked crisply.

The Admiral flushed angrily. "Thatís not funny, young lady. Iíve had enough from your brother tonight."

"Well honestly Dad, what did you expect? You know Tommy didnít want any fuss and you organized all this." Moira waved her arms around.

"It was a surprise for him. He could have been a little grateful."

Kathryn privately agreed. She was a little surprised at Moira. Sheíd gotten to know both the Paris girls quite well over the past few years and thought they were both very polite and charming. She hadnít expected Moira to speak to her father like that. And in front of someone outside the family too.

"Moira - please," Kathleen said quickly. "Kathryn doesnít need to hear our family squabbles."

Moira turned to her and smiled. "Iím sorry. You must think Iím terribly rude."

"She probably thinks it runs in the family," Admiral Paris said with a disapproving stare. "Please accept my apologies Kathryn."

"As Iíve already told you, thereís nothing to apologize for," Kathryn said with a smile. The Admiral couldnít be held responsible for his children - after all, they were adults now - she decided.

Two more Admirals claimed Admiral Parisís attention just then and Kathryn found herself alone with the two Paris sisters. "Iím so sorry if Tommy was rude to you," Kathleen apologized.

"Well, it was hardly your fault," Kathryn answered dryly. "I just hope he doesnít treat all senior officers he meets the way he treated me. His career wonít last long if he does."

"Iím afraid youíve got the wrong idea about him," Kathleen went on to explain. "Heís had a bad night. Please excuse him."

"You donít have to explain," Kathryn said quickly. Tom Paris was obviously coddled by his sisters. Her opinion of him went down even further. She decided to change the subject. Tom had managed to avoid meeting her all these years, and since he was assigned to the Enterprise she really didnít believe that she would have to have anything to do with him from now either. Anyway, she certainly hoped so.


Captain Kathryn Janeway stood on the bridge of her new ship. The U.S.S. Voyager. NCC-74656. A new intrepid-class vessel, especially designed for its maneuverability and speed. Kathryn looked around proudly. It was a beautiful ship. Sleek and modern. This was only the second intrepid-class vessel ever built. And it was hers. If it werenít for the fact that she was worried sick about her Vulcan chief of security, Tuvok, she would be completely happy.

Tuvok was more than just her security officer. He was a trusted friend and he was missing. He had been working undercover infiltrating the Maquis, a group of rebels fighting against the Federation-Cardassian treaty. Heíd failed to report in when he was supposed to and word had come back from the Cardassians that a vessel, that from last reports Tuvok had been aboard, had disappeared in the Badlands.

Traveling through the Badlands was extremely hazardous, but this new ship was especially designed for it. Kathryn itched to get under way. The sound of the turbolift doors opening behind her made her swivel around. Admiral Radissan stepped out and smiled at her in greeting.

"Katie, I thought I might find you up here. Canít tear yourself away?"

Kathryn smiled. "Sheís my baby."

"Well baby or not, you should be home relaxing and getting some sleep. Youíve got a big day tomorrow." Voyager was scheduled to leave first thing in the morning and head for ĎDeep Space Nine.í

Kathryn sighed. "I know. I just wanted to make sure everything was ready. Last minute jitters, I suppose you could say."

Admiral Radissan grinned at her. "Well, I have some marvelous news for you. Iíve just come from a meeting with Admiral Paris and weíve come up with the perfect solution for your piloting problems."

Voyagerís chief helmsman had been called away suddenly. Lieutenant Parkinís Mother had been taken seriously ill and the Lieutenant had been given compassionate leave. Kathryn had requested an experienced pilot to take his place, as this mission would require better than average pilots.

"Thank you Admiral, but Iíve had more than one skilled pilot assigned now. Lieutenant Stadi will be taking over as chief helmsman. Sheís a Betazoid with a lot of experience. We should be fine."

"But wouldnít you prefer to have the best?"

"The best?"

"Thatís right. One of the best pilots in Starfleet, just so happens to be between postings at the moment. Heís waiting for the new Enterprise E to be finished. Itís still quite a few months down the track yet, so we thought he could come with you. Itís just temporary, of course. Just for this mission, probably. I donít think Jean-Luc wants to part with him, permanently."

Kathryn felt a sick churning in her stomach. "Thatís really not necessary, Admiral."

"Nonsense," Admiral Radissan chuckled. "It was Owenís idea, and a good one at that."

"I assume weíre talking about Tom Paris here?" Her voice was more than a little dry.

Admiral Radissan frowned. "If youíre worried about his past, donít be. Heís proven himself again and again on the Enterprise. He never takes any chances with the safety of the crew. The accident was a foolish mistake that happened to a young man that had quite a lot of things to deal with at the time. We are more than confident that nothing like that would ever happen again."

"Oh, Iím sure of that too," Kathryn quickly agreed. "Thatís not what Iím worried about. I just thought he would have been busy. Iím surprised that he isnít."

"Heís on leave at the moment. He hasnít had any for quite some time." The Admiral nodded enthusiastically. "Quite a stroke of luck actually. Apparently young Thomas was only saying the other day that he would love to have the chance to fly one of the new intrepid-class ships."

"Well lucky him." Kathryn couldnít help the sarcasm.

Admiral Radissan raised his eyebrows. "Youíre friends with the family arenít you, so you know Tom, donít you?"

Kathryn shook her head. "I know the Admiralís wife and daughters, but Iíve only met Tom once. It must have been three years ago now, at least. Admiral, Iíd really prefer not to have him here. I donít need him."

"Lieutenant Paris is a fine officer. Heíd be an asset to any crew. Maneuvering through the Badlands is going to take the best pilot you can get, and Tomís it."

Kathryn shook her head, an obstinate frown on her face. "That wouldnít be fair to Lieutenant Stadi. Sheís really looking forward to this mission. And sheís more than capable."

The Admiral crossed his arms across his chest and regarded her steadily. "Kathryn," he said finally. "Lieutenant Stadi will be assigned as your chief helmsman when you return from this mission. I donít understand your attitude. Itís almost as if you donít like Tom, but you said youíd only met him once."

"Once was quite enough," Kathryn answered shortly.

"I see. I gather he didnít make a favorable impression."

Kathryn snorted. "He did not."

Admiral Radissan frowned. "I have always found Tom to be very likeable. Very easy to get along with and Jean-Luc speaks very highly of him."

"Perhaps he didnít think I was worthy of impressing at the time."

The Admiral frowned again. "Iím not sure I understand what the problem is. So, you donít like him? Is it a rule that Captains must like all their crew? Are you worried that he wonít follow orders? I can assure you that he will, and besides, since when have you had a problem getting anyone to toe-the-line? I wonít force him onto you if you truly donít believe that you can work with him - after all itís your ship, but this mission is very important. You should have the best people you possibly can have working under you."

Kathryn sighed. "Youíre right of course. And I shouldnít let my personal feelings affect my judgment."

The Admiral patted her arm. "Thatís the spirit. And quite frankly, I donít think youíll regret this decision. Tom is a very nice person. Just give him a chance. It canít be easy trying to make a mark for yourself when you have an Admiral as famous as Owen Paris for a father."

"Perhaps," she allowed. "And after all itís only for a few weeks. Surely I can put up with him for that long."

Admiral Radissan smiled. "Three weeks at the most Kathryn. Three weeks at the most."


Tom threw himself on his bed and pounded the pillow in disgust. He couldnít believe it. Heíd just set everything up to be temporarily assigned to the new shuttle testing facility in Sydney, Australia and now this happens. His father had done it again. He pounded the pillow again and then picking it up, threw it with all his might against the door of his room.

A soft thud followed. The noise was not very satisfying. Tom walked over and picked the pillow up, throwing it back on his bed. Rummaging around in the back of his wardrobe he found his bag and promptly started throwing his clothes into it, without a lot of thought about what they might look like when he pulled them back out again.

Slamming the doors of his cupboard with unnecessary force, he scooped his padds and personal items from the top of his bedside cupboard and threw them in on top of everything. Gritting his teeth, he sank back down on the bed and wished for about the thousandth time that he hadnít come home to visit.

He wouldnít have either if Commander Riker hadnít made it sound like an order. In the three years since heíd been assigned to the Enterprise D, he had only come home once before. That visit had been a disaster also. His father had immediately started what could only be called an interrogation and when Tom had sarcastically remarked that he didnít realize he was at the Spanish inquisition, things had deteriorated quickly.

Heíd spent the rest of his visit flitting between his sisterís houses and only visited his mother when he was sure his father wasnít home. The hurt sheíd tried to hide still pierced his heart more than two years later. That was why, this time, he had been determined to make it up to her.

He had withstood his fatherís endless questions and comments about everything he had done and should have done differently, and his endless criticism about the Enterprise and its crew. His father was obviously not one of Captain Picardís fans. He had quietly disagreed with his father over practically everything he said but had managed to keep his temper at all times. His motherís obvious pleasure had made it all worthwhile.

And then heíd come home this evening practically bursting with the news that Will Riker had just given him, to be told he was being temporarily assigned to Voyager. Under Captain Kathryn Janeway - no less, and he had to report first thing in the morning.

"But Dad, I canít go to Voyager. Commander Rikerís set up an interview for me with the shuttle testing center in Sydney, tomorrow," heíd argued.

Admiral Paris had sniffed disdainfully. "A test pilot Thomas? I think not. I thought youíd outgrown all that nonsense years ago."

Tom had flushed angrily. "No Dad, I just put it on hold for a while. Itís something Iíve always wanted to do. Nowís my chance. Just until the Enterprise E is ready."

"You have more important things to do. Now itís all been arranged, so thereís not much sense arguing. You have orders to follow."

"Naturally," Tom had replied bitterly.

"Thomas, I donít think you realize what an important assignment this is. It will help your career. And youíll get to test out the new intrepid class vessel. What more could you want?"

"I want to do what I planned," Tom had answered quietly. "The Commander went to a lot of trouble setting up this interview for me and I canít just not turn up. That wouldnít be very good for my career now either, would it?" heíd ended sarcastically.

"Donít worry about that. Iíll explain to them," his father had said dismissively. "Perhaps Commander Riker could take your place instead. Thatís probably what he should be doing anyway."

"Whatís that supposed to mean?" Tom had asked, his voice rising a little. His father had made quite a few cutting remarks about all of his shipmates over the past few weeks but he had managed to ignore him up until then. But at that moment - well he was spoiling for a fight.

"Will Riker has had the opportunity to captain his own ship on numerous occasions and each time heís turned it down. The man has no ambition. He should probably take himself right out of the running."

Tom, whom respected and admired Will Riker, answered furiously. "How dare you say that? The Borg would have assimilated us all if it wasnít for him outsmarting them and getting Captain Picard back. It was one of the first things I was told about when I joined the crew. Everyone on that ship thinks the world of the Commander. He made a decision to stay aboard the Enterprise because heís happy and content there. Quite frankly, I envy him."

"Thatís what worries me. Will Riker was one of the most ambitious cadets weíd ever had at the academy. Gods! He was a Commander by the age of thirty, and now look at him. All of his aspirations gone. I wonít allow you to do that."

"What are you saying? Are you crazy?" Tom had shouted, bringing his mother hurrying into the room.

"Iím saying that this Voyager mission could be the turning point in your career. The Maquis have to be stopped and if you can be one of the key people instrumental in doing that you could be a Lieutenant Commander by the end of the year. Just think of that Tom."

"I am," Tom had yelled. "It makes me want to puke."

"Thomas!" his father had roared while his mother had stepped between them.

"Iím not sure whatís happening here, but I wonít have you yelling at one another," sheíd said firmly, the distress obvious in her bright blue eyes. "Now, both of you calm down and tell me whatís going on."

When Tom had finished explaining she had turned to her husband. "I know why you did this Owen, but you have to stop it. Tom is a grown man. Let him lead his own life. You have to stop interfering. You have to leave him alone."

"Fine." Owen Paris had turned away abruptly. "This is the last time Iíll try to help you Thomas. Youíre on your own."

"Good," he had said gruffly, not believing his father for a moment, and then turning on his heel had marched from the room.

Tom lay back down on the bed and closed his eyes. He needed to get some sleep. Tomorrow would be one hell of a day.

End Part One