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.
Tom sighed as he closed the channel, a huge smile brightening his features. His sisters hadnít changed that much over the years. They still teased him a little and still called him ĎTommyí. He was thirty-seven years old and they still treated him like he was three. He didnít mind though. Heíd missed them terribly.
He turned back to look at Seven and Isabelle who were standing behind him. "Well thatís your Aunts Kathleen and Moira, Izzy. Theyíre my big sisters."
"Theyíre nice," Isabelle decided. They had exclaimed over her and told her she was adorable. On top of the way his mother had reacted to Isabelle, he could see one spoilt little girl coming up.
He looked at Seven. "What did you think? Do you feel a little more comfortable about meeting them now?"
She nodded. "They seem very friendly."
"But youíre still uncomfortable about Mum and Dad?"
She nodded again. "They were shocked when you introduced us."
Tom thought back to that first communication from his parents the day before. It hadnít been very successful, he admitted, but Sevenís bluntness had certainly not helped matters.
After speaking to his parents alone for a few minutes, he had called Seven and Isabelle into the room. His mother hadnít stopped crying through the whole conversation and he had been close to tears himself.
"Thereís something I want to tell you," he had finally said. "I got married three years ago."
"Married?" his mother had repeated. "Oh Tom. Iím so happy for you. When can we meet her?"
"Right now if you want to. We have a little girl. Isabelle."
"Thatís wonderful Son," his father had said. "Bring them on. Itís time they were officially welcomed into the Paris clan."
Tom had called out over his shoulder, "Seven, Izzy, come here. There are some people that want to meet you."
He had turned back to the screen to see the puzzlement on his motherís face and the dawning awareness on his fatherís. His mother may not understand the significance of the name Seven, but his father obviously did.
Izzy had scurried over first and climbed onto his knee.
"How do you do," she had said politely. "I am Isabelle Kafryn Paris and I am free."
"Oh Tom. Sheís absolutely gorgeous," his mother had gushed. "Hello darling. Iím your grandma and Iím so pleased to meet you. Wait till you see all the presents that Iíll have for you when you get here."
"Fank you. I like presents," Isabelle had answered.
"Iím going to have a room full of them, just for you. You are going to stay with us until everythingís sorted out, arenít you Tom?"
"Of course he is," his father had answered instead. "How do you do Isabelle? I am your grandpa. Do you like ponies? I have a pony that is just the right size for you."
"I donít know," Isabelle had answered, a little uncertainly.
"It doesnít matter. Iíll show him to you and see what you think."
"Okay," Isabelle had nodded. "Youíre just like the Doctor, Grandpa."
"I am? Why? Does he have a pony?"
Isabelle had giggled. "No. But all his hair falled off, just like yours."
"I see." The Admiralís eyes had twinkled as he looked at Tom. "I see she has your sense of humor."
Tom had laughed and turned to Seven, who was standing just outside the screenís view. "I think she takes after her mother. Come on Seven. Come and meet Mum and Dad."
"Yes dear," his mother had said. "We canít see you."
Seven had stepped into full view, standing stiffly at attention.
"Admiral Paris, Mrs. Paris. It is a pleasure to meet you."
"Likewise my dear," his mother had answered. "Seven. Thatís an unusual name."
"I was Borg," Seven had stated flatly.
His motherís eyes had opened wide in shock and his father had nodded. "I thought so," was all he said.
"I was assimilated at an early age," Seven had continued. "I do not remember my life before being Borg. I only remember being Seven of nine, tertiary adjunct of unimatrix zero one. I am comfortable with the name Seven."
His motherís face had been a picture of horror. "That must have been - very traumatic for you," she managed to say.
"On the contrary. It is all I knew."
"I - I see."
Tom winced as he remembered the stilted conversation that had followed. No, the introduction had not been successful.
"Give them time to get used to the idea," he said now. "It was just the shock of first finding out. You saw my sisters were a lot better with you. Theyíve had time to adjust to the news."
"It may be as you say."
"Of course it is. And when youíre with them, try to relax. Donít be so stiff and formal."
"I will try."
Tom stood up and hugged Seven closely. "Itíll be all right. I promise."
Kathryn paced up and down nervously as she waited for Tom to report to her ready room.
Chakotay, tense and worried, watched her.
"It may not be what you think," he told her.
"I hope not, but they wouldnít answer my questions directly. They spoke in circles and thatís always a bad sign. And they kept calling the Doctor, Ďití, as if they hadnít even heard everything I told them. When I tried to present our point of view, Admiral Carmichael actually told me to stop being so defensive, itís only a hologram."
"And you think if they can do this to the Doctor then who knows what they have in store for Seven?"
"Exactly." The beeping of her door chime stopped her from saying anything else. "Come in," she called.
Tom came in, and smiled at both Chakotay and her. She knew he was on cloud nine at the moment, and she hated to do this to him.
"Tom, something has happened. Iíve just finished a rather heated communication with a board of Admirals from the science department of Starfleet. They want both Seven and the Doctor to be taken to one of their labs as soon as we disembark."
"Well they wouldnít tell me much. They merely said that they needed to create a regeneration chamber for Seven, since she still needs to regenerate once a week and the ones on Voyager would not be able to be used, as the shipís going to be completely stripped."
"Well Seven can help them with that I suppose, but why does it have to be done as soon as we disembark?"
"Thatís what I wanted to know, but they were rather vague. In the case of the Doctor they werenít vague at all. They intend to disassemble his program, to find out why he developed the way he did. Why he became a person and didnít stay a holoprogram."
Tom gasped. "They canít do that. Thatís murder."
"They donít look at it like that Tom. They donít see him as a real person, only a hologram."
"And these same people want Seven?"
"You canít let them Captain."
"I donít intend to, but I need a few options."
"I canít believe this is happening," Tom said miserably. "What if we threaten to go public? Starfleet wouldnít want their image tarnished. According to the news releases, weíre the returned heroes. The public loves us. Theyíd certainly be on our side."
"Tom, Iím sorry, but I donít think so," Chakotay told him sadly. "They wouldnít understand. Unless they lived the past ten years with us it would be impossible to comprehend how a hologram became so much more and as for Seven, theyíll see her as a Borg. I canít believe that theyíll be terribly sympathetic towards her."
"Damn it Chakotay. Her connection was severed seven years ago."
"I know that Tom, and weíve gotten to know her over that time. The people out there havenít. All Iím saying is that going public isnít the answer."
"There has to be something we can do," Tom said passionately. "I wonít let them take her to be experimented on."
"We donít know that thatís what they plan," Kathryn said quickly.
"But you suspect it," Tom argued.
"I donít know what to think anymore. But I promise you Tom, Iíll go all the way to the top if I have to."
Tom went over to Ensign Anderson at ops. "I need a huge favor, Nicole. I know itís not my turn, but I need to get in touch with my Dad."
"I donít know Tom. Communications is still going mad. Iíve got so many people backed up waiting, that weíll probably be on Earth before I can clear them. The Captain has a constant commlink. If itís important, sheíll let you use hers."
Tom shook his head. "Sheís using it herself. This is really important, or I wouldnít ask. I know itís not fair to jump the queue."
Nicole sighed as she looked at him. "All right, but you owe me one Tom. I expect you to put in a good word for me, so that I can be reassigned with all of you."
"So youíve decided to stay in?"
"Yeah. I canít imagine doing anything else. But I want to be on the same ship as you and Captain Janeway."
"Iíll see what I can do, but I should warn you, I donít know if Iíll be staying in Starfleet after all."
"What? But I thought it was all cut and dried."
"So did I, but things change. There are some things more important to me than my career. Who knows? Seven and I might just run away back to the delta quadrant."
Nicole shivered. "Donít even joke about it." He didnít bother to correct her. If things were as bad as he thought they might be, he had every intention of leaving before they reached Earth.
"Can you patch the link through to Chakotayís office?"
"Sure. Does he know youíre borrowing his office?"
"Ask no questions and I shall tell you no lies," he answered.
She grinned at him. "Give me five minutes."
"Dad, I need your help."
"Of course. What is it?" Admiral Paris sat forward in his chair, concerned by the distraught appearance of his son.
"The Captainís just told me that thereís some board of science Admirals that intend to rip the Docís program to pieces and they also want Seven to go straight to this lab too. Iím worried about what theyíre going to do to her."
Owen felt slightly relieved. Heíd been briefed about this. He tried to put Tomís mind at rest. "I know about that Tom and thereís no need to worry. They want to run a few tests on her, but thatís only natural. Youíll all be subjected to medical tests when you get back. They wonít hurt her."
"Youíre sure about that?"
"Of course I am. They need to find out as much about her as they can, so that they can set up her regeneration chamber."
"The Doc has all the information that theyíll need."
"Well, they prefer to run their own tests. The EMH turned out to have a few glitches in it."
"They werenít glitches Dad. The Docís program adjusted to his prolonged usage. It expanded and grew. He was able to learn. He became a proper person."
Owen felt more than a little surprised. "Tom, youíre talking about a hologram."
"Not to me he isnít. Heís as real to me as you are. Everyone on board feels the same. Chakotay said that people wouldnít understand, but I was hoping that you would be different. I was hoping that youíd have an open mind."
Owen Paris shifted in his chair. "You seem to care a great deal about this."
"Of course I do. The Docís been my friend and teacher, not to mention all the times heís saved my life. If youíd just meet him for yourself and talk to him, youíd see heís more than just a hologram."
"Even if I did as you suggested, what can I do about it? Itís completely out of my hands. I've been requested to keep right away from anything to do with Voyager's return, as I'm so involved personally."
"That's never stopped you before," Tom said with a grin.
"You're right there," Owen replied, with a smile of his own. "But I don't know if there's anything I can do this time."
"I donít believe that. Youíre one of the highest-ranking Admirals in Starfleet. I know theyíd listen to you."
Owen sighed. "If it means that much to you, Iíll talk to Carmichael and see if I can get the disassembly stopped. They may be able to learn just as much by talking to this EMH of yours."
Tom sighed in relief. "Thanks Dad. I don't like the idea of running to you to fix this, but the Captain doesn't seem to be making any headway with the board. I know this reeks of special favors, but the Doc deserves a chance."
"It's all right Tom. I understand. Besides, I think one 'special favor' is acceptable in more than ten years." He immediately regretted the words as he saw Tom's eyes cloud over. He didn't do 'special favors' for his son. He had never given Tom an easy ride. The one and only time he had done a 'special favor' for Tom was when he had ensured that his son had been sent to Auckland, instead of one of the harder prisons.
He sighed as he remembered how he had instructed Tom's lawyer to let Tom know how much he owed him, as he had refused to speak with Tom, himself. He had been too mad, too bitter and yes, he could admit it to himself now - too embarrassed.
If he had stood by Tom after he'd been cashiered out of Starfleet instead of virtually disowning him, Tom would never have slowly self-destructed. And, since he was being completely honest with himself, Tom would never have lied and been cashiered out if he had not put so much pressure on him.
"When you get back, we need to talk about the mistakes I made with you," he said quietly. "If I could go back in the past and change everything." But Tom was shaking his head.
"You can't change the past Dad. We both made a lot of mistakes. You shouldn't blame yourself for what I did. I had choices Dad, and I made the wrong ones. It's as simple as that. I'd like to just start our relationship all over again." Tom's eyes were full of tears and he had to struggle to continue. "I love you Dad and I want you to be proud of me."
Owen nodded, his own eyes full of tears as well. "I love you too son, and I've never been more proud of you than I am at this moment." Both men needed some time to compose themselves.
"Dad, there's something else," Tom finally said. "I really need you to find out as much as you can about these tests that they want to run on Seven, too. Iím really worried about them."
"You really love her, donít you?"
"Yeah, I do. I know you probably find that hard to believe, but sheís not an ex-Borg to me. Sheís simply Seven. My wife, lover and best friend all rolled into one. For the past seven years sheís been struggling to regain the humanity that was stolen from her as a child, but with Isabelle and me, sheís already found it. I couldnít bear it if anything were to happen to her. Please Dad, you have to help me."
The desperation on his sonís face convinced him. "Iíll do everything I can Tom, and thatís a promise. Iíll contact you as soon as I can." He signed off quickly and buzzed his secretary.
"Get me Admiral Carmichael. Itís urgent."
Chakotay stepped slowly into his office, surprised to see Tom sitting behind his desk, his head in his hands.
"Tom?" Tom looked up at him and smiled a little sheepishly. "I borrowed your office. I hope you donít mind. I didnít want Seven to hear me."
"Of course I donít mind, but what are you doing?"
"I contacted Dad. Heís promised to help."
"Can he really do anything? After all, heís one lone Admiral."
"One lone, very important Admiral. A lot of people owe him favors. Heís become even more powerful over the past ten years."
"But he has a vested interest in this. Will anyone listen to him?"
"My marriage to Seven isnít exactly common knowledge. I doubt if anyone on Earth even knows, so that could work in our favor."
"I hope so."
Tom nodded. "Me too. But if it doesnít I intend to resign Chakotay. Now, before we reach Earth. That way the Captain can transport us off the ship as we pass Mars. As civilians Starfleet will hold no jurisdiction over us. Weíll simply be Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Eugene Paris and their daughter Isabelle, passengers asking to be let off. If you happen to find the Docís holoemitter missing after weíre gone, then so be it."
"I donít think youíve thought this through very clearly Tom. The Captain has orders for Seven and the Doctor to report to the science lab."
"What if thereís no such person as Seven? Just Annika Paris?"
"It wonít work Tom. And what about the Doctor? If you take him with you, Starfleet will view it as theft of very important technology. Youíll be hunted down. You and Seven will be wanted criminals. Is that the sort of life you want for Isabelle?"
"Of course not, but I canít leave the Doc behind. I canít let them experiment on Seven, using her to find out all they can about the Borg. Treating her like a thing instead of a human being. Tell me what Iím supposed to do then."
Chakotay sighed, placing his hand on Tomís shoulder. "I donít know Tom. I know youíre upset and feeling desperate, but this isnít the answer. I think you should go and tell Seven. She has the right to know."
Seven sat down slowly as Tom told her the troubling news. "They did not tell Captain Janeway what type of tests they would be conducting?"
"No, but considering what they want to do to the Doc, I think we have something to worry about," Tom answered grimly.
"I believe it would be sensible to wait and see what your father can discover, before we succumb to anxiousness."
"Itís too late. I succumbed ages ago," Tom told her with a smile.
"I have survived before. I will again."
"But you shouldnít have to be put through this. Besides, I donít think Starfleet has the same type of equipment that the guardian used."
"You do not think that they will kill me, do you?"
"No," Tom answered quickly. "God no. They wouldnít do that, but some of the tests may be painful and theyíll all certainly be intrusive."
"That does not matter."
"It matters to me. I love you. I canít stand the thought of you going through any of this."
She patted his hand. "We must wait for your father."
Tom nodded and pulled her against him. "Youíre right. Iíve probably been getting carried away for nothing."
"No, it was not for nothing. Their plans for the Doctor must be stopped. He must not be disassembled."
Tomís commbadge chirped, interrupting them. "Tom, Iíve got your father on a commline. He wants to talk to you urgently," Nicole told him.
"Put him through," he said, hurrying over to the computer terminal.
"Dad," he said as soon as his fatherís face appeared. "Did you find out anything?"
"I have good news about the EMH. I think Iíve managed to stop the boardís plans concerning him, but as for Seven, I havenít been able to find out very much at all. It all seems quite benign on the surface, but Iíve now become suspicious myself. Thereís something more that Iím not being told. I can feel it. There are still a few people who owe me, so I intend to throw my weight around a little."
"Thanks Dad. I really appreciate this."
"Think nothing of it. Besides, I donít like the fact that something may be going on that I donít know about. Iíll contact you if I can find out anything else."
Tom turned back to Seven as he signed off. "Donít worry. Dad will get to the bottom of it. I have great faith in him."
"Then I have great faith also."
Kathrynís head jerked up sharply as her commbadge beeped. She must have fallen asleep at her desk.
"Captain, you have an incoming transmission from Admiral Paris."
She quickly straightened her hair and pulled down the top of her uniform. "Put him through."
She smiled in delight as her former mentorís face filled the screen. His eyes twinkled back at her. "Kathryn, itís so good to see you again. You look well, although a good nights sleep wouldnít do you any harm."
Laughing she answered. "Iíll sleep when we set down on Earth. Itís good to see you too Admiral. I must say that Iím a little surprised, however. I tried to contact you actually and was told that you were unavailable. You were keeping a low profile, due to your personal interest in us."
"Youíre right. I was asked to stay in the background, but unfortunately I can no longer do that. Tom contacted me a few hours ago about the situation with Seven and the EMH."
"He did? Of course he did. I should have known he would."
"Well, I was a little surprised. The Tom of old would never have asked me for help. Heís changed a lot over the years, Kathryn. Heís grown up and I have you to thank for that."
"No Admiral, he did it himself. Right from the start he was one of my most loyal and trusted crewmembers. We couldnít have made it back here without him. I gave him a chance. Thatís all he needed."
"Well, Iím grateful for the chance you gave him. He's a son anyone would be proud to have. He loves this Seven a lot, doesnít he?"
"Yes, he does. I might add that she loves him just as much. Sheís come a long way over the past seven years. Sheís a good person Admiral. Intensely loyal and devoted to Tom and Isabelle."
The Admiral nodded. "Your judgment has always been good enough for me, Kathryn. As you know many vessels are coming out to greet you. Iíve decided to as well. Iíve managed to talk the board into holding off the disassembly of the EMH until Iíve spoken to him and theyíve agreed to accept my recommendations."
"Thatís wonderful news."
"It wasnít easy. I had to cash in quite a few favors."
"I can imagine. What about Seven? Are they planning anything with her that we should know about?"
The Admiral looked grim. "They were. Iíve managed to put a stop to their plans. They view her as the enemy. A prisoner that you were fortunate enough to capture."
Kathryn felt her heart sink. "I was afraid of that. Havenít they even bothered to read some of my reports concerning her?"
"Theyíve read some of them. But she seemed to have a hard time fitting in at first."
"That was hardly surprising under the circumstances."
"I agree. But they tended to view it as a sign that she may try to contact the collective."
"That is a ludicrous idea. Seven would never do that. They canít legally hold her, can they?"
"Iím not so sure. Things have changed since youíve been gone. The war with the Dominion has caused a lot of paranoia."
Kathryn shook her head, wondering just what the hell they were coming back to. "I never dreamed that weíd be coming back to anything like this."
"Iím sorry; I may have made it sound worse than it is. Iíve managed to convince them that she will be under my supervision. I did have an ace up my sleeve, after all. Sheís my sonís wife and that seemed to sway them around to my way of thinking."
Kathryn smiled. "I doubt if Seven or Tom for that matter will want you supervising them."
"I have no intention of doing that, although I do think it would be better if she stayed at my house until things have settled. The most important thing is that she is under my protection, and Carmichael and his cohorts will know that."
"I understand," she told him.
"Kathryn, I have to leave now. Iíll be rendezvousing with Voyager in a little less than three hours. I think that perhaps things will go a little smoother, if Iím there with her."
Kathryn nodded. "Iíll let Tom know youíre coming."
She signed off and made her way to Tom and Sevenís quarters. Theyíd be reaching Earth in less than six hours and she hoped fervently that things would be resolved before then.
Tuvok stood stiffly at attention in the transporter room awaiting Admiral Parisí arrival. He noticed that Tom, who was standing next to him, was finding it difficult to stand still.
"You are nervous about seeing your father?" he asked quietly. He was aware that both Commander Chakotay and Captain Janeway, who were standing on the other side of him, had heard him as well, as they both looked at Tom. That would mean that BíElanna, who was standing above them at the transporter controls would have heard him as well. He regretted his words immediately.
"No," Tom answered, giving him an annoyed look. "Everything is great between us." He tugged at the collar of his dress uniform before continuing. He did not bother to keep his voice down, but spoke to the room in general, since they were all listening anyway. "Itís just that I havenít seen him for fourteen years. In the flesh, I mean. Itís hard to stay calm."
"I would advise deep breaths."
"Thanks Tuvok. Youíre a big help."
Tuvok recognized the sarcasm, but chose to ignore it.
"Hold on everyone," BíElanna said. "Heís on his way."
Tuvok once again stood at attention, the rest of them doing so as well.
The transporter tingled and then Admiral Paris appeared, beaming around at them all.
As he stepped down from the transporter padd, the Captain stepped forward. "Welcome aboard Admiral," she said, holding out her hand.
The Admiralís eyes twinkled as he said gruffly, "Protocol, be damned" and enveloped her in a huge hug. "Welcome home Kathryn." The Admiral then turned to Tom and engulfed him in a warm hug as well. "Itís good to have you back, Son."
Tuvok watched with an air of detachment. Although he could understand the Admiralís actions, he found he did not fully approve. As the embrace continued, Tuvok became more uncomfortable.
He glanced across at the others in the room. BíElanna had come down to stand next to Chakotay. They were both smiling broadly and the Captain was wiping tears away with the back of her hand. Tuvok decided that this public display of affection could be overlooked.
After both the Admiral and Tom had managed to get themselves under control once more, Admiral Paris then turned to Tuvok. "I am pleased to see you again after all this time, Commander."
"Thank you Sir. The feeling is mutual." He had known the Admiral for many years and had had quite a few dealings with him.
"Youíre family arrived on Earth only moments before I left, Tuvok. I made sure they were made comfortable before leaving."
"That is much appreciated Admiral." Although his face remained impassive, Tuvok could not control the sudden pleasure that coursed through him at the Admiralís words.
The Captain then introduced Admiral Paris to Chakotay and BíElanna and they exchanged pleasantries for a few moments before the Admiral turned back to the Captain. "Kathryn, there will be a group of Doctors coming aboard shortly, just to check you all over before you reach Earth. That way there can be no delays and everyone can go straight to their families and friends when they disembark."
The Captain nodded. "Iím sure everyone will be happy to assist, but we are all quite well. Our Doctor has seen to that."
The Admiral smiled. "Iím sure you are. I must speak to this Doctor of yours shortly, but first I would like to see my new daughter and granddaughter."
"Of course. Tom, Iíll leave the Admiral in your capable hands."
"Yes Maíam," Tom answered with a grin and the two men left the room.
"So thatís Admiral Paris," BíElanna commented. "Somehow, heís not at all what I pictured. I thought heíd be some mean old man with a whip and a chain. Although Tom never spoke badly of him, I always got the impression that he was cold and cruel."
Tuvok frowned at this disrespectful observation. "He is one of the most respected Admirals in the fleet," he chastised, his voice stern with disapproval. BíElanna merely shrugged.
"Admiral Paris has always been a little stern and forbidding. I was terrified of going to see him the first time," the Captain said. "He had high expectations of people and brooked no excuses. But I never doubted his love for his family. The Admiral is the first to admit he made a lot of mistakes bringing up Tom. He once told me that if he could go back and do things differently, he would. And Tom made a few mistakes himself. They seem to have put their past problems behind them however and Iím pleased to see it."
BíElanna nodded. "Me too."
Seven shook hands with the Admiral firmly and scrutinized him as much as he did her. Tomís father had the same twinkle in his eye as Tom often did, although his eyes were not as blue. His gaze never wavered as he looked deeply into her eyes. It was as if he could see into her very soul. There was a look in his eyes, that she thought might be approval, as he said, "welcome to the family Seven."
"Thank you," she returned.
The Admiral then bent down to speak to Isabelle, who was clinging shyly to her leg. "Hello Isabelle. I brought something to show you." He pulled a picture out from his jacket and held it out to her. "This is your Daddy, when he was three."
Isabelle took the picture eagerly, her shyness forgotten. She studied it closely.
"Oh no Dad. If thatís the one of me lying on the bearskin rug," Tom warned.
The Admiral laughed. "No, I didnít think sheíd be ready to see that one yet."
"Wow Daddy," Isabelle exclaimed. "You look just like me. But you look like a boy and I look like a girl."
Tom knelt down to examine the picture for himself. "Youíre a lot prettier than I was, Izzy."
Isabelle giggled and held up the picture to Seven. "Look Mummy."
Seven smiled at the picture of Tom sitting behind the controls of a shuttle, pretending to fly.
"You are incorrect, Tom. You were very pretty too." She handed the picture back to Isabelle. "I would like to see this other picture of the bearskin rug, Admiral."
The Admiral looked up at her, his eyes twinkling. "Iíll see what I can do, and please, call me Dad." He turned back to Isabelle, who was holding the picture out to him. "You can keep that if you want to, Isabelle."
"Thank you Grandpa."
The Admiral stood up once again. "So, did Kathryn brief you on my findings?"
Seven nodded. "We would like to thank you for all youíve done."
"Say no more. Youíre family."
Seven felt a lump in her throat. Her memories of her own family were rather vague and the Admiralís support was more than she had truly expected.
"Yeah, but youíve really gone out on a limb for us, havenít you Dad?" Tom persisted.
His father looked at him for a few moments in silence. "Perhaps," he finally answered. "But Iíve learnt a few things over the years. Families are precious, not to be taken for granted; the way I did. Youíll find Iíve changed, Tom. My family is much more important to me than my career these days. Now take me to your Doctor. Weíll be in orbit of Earth soon."
"Ah Admiral Paris! I was told you were coming to speak to me."
"Yes, er, Doctor. I promised Tom I would come and speak to you myself. He appears to hold you in high regard."
"Really?" The Doctor looked at Tom and he felt himself redden slightly.
"Dadís going to recommend what happens to you," he told him significantly.
"I see. So I suppose I should behave myself." The Doctor sniffed his disdain. "Well, youíll have to excuse me. Iím very busy."
"Doc," Tom hissed. "Be nice."
"I can only be what I am, Mr. Paris. If the Admiral doesnít like it - too bad."
"Doc," Tom pleaded. "Donít do this." His father looked slightly taken aback and then a little annoyed. He cursed silently. "I know this is kind of offensive to you, but----."
"It is more than offensive," the Doctor interrupted. "Itís downright insulting, thatís what it is. For the past ten years I have been Chief Medical Officer on board this ship. Except for the first few months my abilities have never been questioned. Now we are almost at Earth and a team of Doctors are beamed on board to repeat my health checks on the crew."
"Weíve been away a long time. Iím pretty sure Starfleet would insist on that no matter who was the Doctor on board."
"Well you may be right," the Doctor conceded, but he still looked annoyed. He turned to the Admiral. "I find it rather demeaning to discover that you all view me as a piece of equipment that can be pulled apart with the click of your fingers."
The Admiral nodded. "You are a little different than most holograms. The science department wants to know why."
The Doctorís sniff was full of contempt. "And the only way they can find that out is to tear me apart? I was under the mistaken assumption that I would be regarded as a unique individual. I was fully prepared to have my holomatrix and program studied and endure all sorts of questions, but did not expect this narrow-minded reception."
The Admiral looked thoughtful. "Your point is valid. Iíve been reading the shipís logs. You are a valued member of the crew, who has saved most of their lives at one point or another, including my sonís - more than once."
The Doctor looked slightly mollified. "Lieutenant Paris is my most frequent patient."
"Um, okay Doc," Tom hurriedly interrupted. "I donít think you need to continue with that."
The Doctor ignored him. "I believe he has spent almost as much time in sickbay over the years as I have, what with his numerous injuries and his medical training."
"Yes, the medical training. Tom has been serving as your assistant for the past seven years and Iím surprised to find that youíve trained other members of the crew as well."
"Yes, that became necessary, as problems with my holomatrix deemed it essential that I have backup. Tom is fully qualified to become a doctor. All he needs to do is sit for the exams."
Tom felt he was flushing even more as his father turned to look at him in surprise. "Thatís wonderful, Tom. I had no idea you were interested in medicine."
"I wasnít." Tom mumbled. "I was sort of volunteered."
"Quite a few of the crew were Ďvolunteeredí for nursing duties, at some stage during our journey, but only Tom showed true promise," the Doctor told the Admiral. "He has an empathy with the crew and a gentle, caring bedside manner. He has assisted me with some very tough situations and has saved the lives of more than one crewmember. I believe it would be a waste of his skills not to become fully qualified."
"Exams give me hives," Tom grumbled. "Besides Doc, this is the first time youíve ever praised my skills."
"Well Voyager is a small ship. I didnít think there would be enough room on board if your head became any more swollen."
The Admiral coughed in amusement, his eyes twinkling merrily. He cleared his throat. "If Tom wants to sit his medical exams, Iím sure I can set something up, but itís his decision."
Tom was surprised that his father wasnít pushing him one or another. He certainly had changed. "Thanks Dad. Iíll think about it."
The Admiral nodded. "Iím sure you have things to do Tom, so Iíll let you get back to them. Itís time the Doctor and I had a nice long talk as to his role at the new research facility thatís being set up."
"My role?" the Doctor queried.
"Yes. Weíre researching our holographic technology, discovering how far we can take it. I believe that you would be perfect to head one of the departments. You have hands on experience."
"You mean the plans to pull my programming apart are cancelled?"
"Definitely. You may not be flesh and blood, but you are as Ďrealí as I am."
"I donít know what to say."
"You donít have to say yes or no right away. There are many other options open to you, and of course, you may prefer to remain as Voyagerís chief medical officer. The shipís going to be completely refurbished, so youíll have some time to fill in."
"Thank you Admiral."
Tom, beaming happily, left them to their discussion.
Isabelle hid behind Sevenís legs as they made their way out of the ship and down to the huge crowd below. Admiral Paris led the way with the Captain at his side. A band was playing somewhere and everyone was cheering and clapping madly. The little girl was overwhelmed and Seven couldnít blame her; she was feeling more than a little breathless, herself.
Tom had been pushed forward, to stand with the Captain and Tuvok. Chakotay and BíElanna were also pushed forward. The Captain gave a small speech to the crowd, thanking them for the warm welcome.
As soon as she was finished, the crew broke away to be greeted by family and friends and soon there were small groups of people everywhere.
Tom pushed his way past everyone, so that he could rejoin them; his father following close behind. "Are you two all right?" he asked.
Seven nodded. "The crowd is bothering Isabelle a little. She is not used to so much noise."
"And I canít see anyfink," the little girl complained.
The Admiral laughed and knelt down next to her. "How about if you sit on my shoulders? That way youíll be able to see everything."
Isabelle nodded eagerly and Tom lifted her up. "Iíll be really, really careful, Grandpa."
"Thatís all right Sweetheart. I wonít let you fall."
"No Grandpa. I meant, Iíll be careful of your head. I wonít rubbed anymore of your hair off."
They were still laughing when Tomís mother and sisters managed to reach them.
"Tom," his mother cried, hugging him tightly. "Itís so good to see you." His sisters crowded around him also, trying to hug and kiss him at the same time. They were all crying, including Tom.
Seven looked around her and noticed the Captain with her mother, sister, brother-in-law and their two children. They were all weeping and laughing. Chakotay, BíElanna and the twins were not far away, engulfed by Chakotayís huge family. She swallowed the lump in her throat.
Isabelle must have been looking around as well. "Why is everyone crying, Grandpa?" she exclaimed loudly. "Theyíre aspost to be happy."
"They are happy," he told her. "Theyíre so happy that itís made them all cry."
Tomís mother looked over at them then. She was a tall woman, as tall as Seven was. "Seven. Isabelle. Welcome to our family," she said smiling, as the tears streamed down her face.
Tomís mother held out her arms and Seven stepped into them, tears starting to fall from her eyes as well. She looked across at Tom, who was watching her, the love shining brightly from his eyes, as he smiled at her.
The crowd started to slowly drift away and with them most of the Voyager crew and their families. The Captain came over to them. Tom's mother gave a shriek of delight and hugged her warmly. "Kathryn, it's so good to see you again."
The Captain smiled and turned to her family. "It's time you all met my daughter and granddaughter."
Gretchen Janeway gasped as Kathryn indicated Seven and Isabelle. "I don't understand."
"Seven may have been over the age of consent when I found her, but I'll always think of her as my daughter, which of course makes Isabelle my adopted granddaughter," she tried to explain.
Seven felt the lump in her throat tighten, as the Captain's family welcomed her.
"Well, I think it's time to get out of here," Owen Paris said with a smile, as he led the way to a waiting shuttle, Isabelle still clinging tightly to him. "Why don't you all come back to our house and we'll make it a real family get together?" Everybody followed him, laughing and smiling.
Seven stood where she was, watching them all walk away, her heart ready to burst with happiness. Tom came over to her with a smile. He put his arm around her shoulders and hugged her to him. "Everything okay?"
"Yes," she said softly. She turned around to have one last look at Voyager.
Tom followed her gaze. "Hey, we're not saying goodbye to her. We'll be back in six months and she'll be all refitted and modern, but still the same ship underneath. And I'll bet that more of the crew will be back than you think. The Captain will still be the Captain and Tuvok will still be there, although I have a sneaking suspicion that he'll be the first officer this time around. Even the Doc said he'd be back."
"Isabelle will miss the twins and Naomi," she said.
Tom agreed. "But they're turning Voyager into a family ship, so there will be other kids on board for her to play with and we'll be coming back here a lot. Chakotay and B'Elanna have promised to stay in touch, so she'll still have contact with the twins."
Seven smiled as she looked at him. "I think we should give her some more company as well. A little brother or sister would be nice."
Tom laughed. "How about one of each?"
Seven nodded. "Very well. I will have one and you can have the other. I am told that birthing techniques for men have improved greatly over the years."
Tom shook his head and hugged her tightly. "You are a wicked woman."
A sudden shout made them both turn around. "Mummy, Daddy! Come on! It's time to go home. You can do your privaties later."
Tom groaned and shut his eyes as everyone in the shuttle started laughing. "Come on Seven. You heard the young lady. Let's go home."
She nodded wordlessly, her eyes shining brightly. She had been accepted. She belonged.
The End (At last.) Phew, I didnít think I was ever going to get this monster finished.
T'Pam April 2000
Let me know what you think. Feedback is always appreciated, but please don't be too mad at me for killing Harry. I love Harry - honestI do. email@example.com