Disclaimer: Paramount owns all things associated w/ Star Trek: Voyager, and I own the characters I made up.
Author’s note: This story is dedicated to Lauren Taylor and Julia Kirby, two of my best friends and fellow Parisites, who graciously allowed me to use their names. Lauren, Julia, I love you!!! P/T Forever! Also, yes, this is a lame title, but my brain was tired and I couldn’t think of anything better. I’ve been writing and rewriting this story for what seems like forever, (since August) so I was very glad to be finished with it! Anyway, enjoy and send LOTS of feedback!
Home and Family
by JoAnna Walsvik
Tom Paris stared up at the ceiling. It was strange that he was so wide awake. Usually he’d be the one sleeping in as long as possible, but he had awakened at 0500 this morning and had been unable to get back to sleep. Insomnia had never been a frequent problem for him, but it looked like today wasn’t his lucky day. On the other hand, every day was lucky when he was with B’Elanna.
Smiling, he looked down at the woman nestled in his arms, sound asleep. There was a time where he had imagined himself alone for eternity, but B’Elanna Torres had changed all that. Had it really been only five years since he had first laid eyes on her on the Ocampan homeworld? And had it really been only a month since Voyager’s return home? So much had changed since then.
Kathryn Janeway was an admiral, Chakotay a captain, Harry a full Lieutenant with rumors of a promotion to Lt. Cmdr. filling the air, and Tuvok retired and living on Vulcan. Neelix had opened a restaurant on Earth specializing in Delta Quadrant cuisine (whether that was a good or bad thing, nobody was quite sure), and Seven of Nine was still trying to rediscover humanity on Earth with a bunch of Starfleet scientists and psychologists who were helping her to further readjust to being in charge of her own mind again. She had made a lot of progress while on Voyager, but there was still room for improvement.
No one had been prepared for when, only a month ago, the Caretaker’s companion in her little girl form had appeared on the bridge. Voyager’s crew hadn’t expected to see her ever again, but just like that she was there—and a lifeform resembling an adult female had been there as well, holding the "little girl’s" hand.
In a voice that was somehow heard by everyone on the ship, the "adult" had announced that she apologized for the actions of her underlings, and that she had come to right the wrongs that had been done.
Before they knew what was happening, another displacement wave had rammed into them, throwing Voyager back to the Badlands, four and a half years after her journey had began.
Then Voyager had traveled to DS9 and had been met with shock, disbelief, and finally surprised acceptance. It was nice to be home, and living with B’Elanna on Earth, but sometimes Tom missed the anonymity of the Delta Quadrant, where no one knew who they were. There was no one there to compare him with his father, the great Admiral Owen Paris, as every single reporter in the Alpha Quadrant had done whenever a news story about Voyager traveled across the comm channels.
Starfleet, in light of the Maquis crewmember’s unwavering loyalty to Janeway and Starfleet for the last four years, had granted them all a full pardon and allowed them to remain in Starfleet if they so desired, even though they were on a probation of sorts. One critical breach of protocol or regulations, and they were out. But Kathryn Janeway had unflagging faith in all of her officers, and had made no secret of the fact that she would unhesitatingly trust any one of them with her life.
Both Tom and B’Elanna had decided to remain in Starfleet, as had Chakotay. There had been some question about Tom’s future—after all, he still wasn’t finished with his prison term. But Janeway had argued with Starfleet Command until she was blue in the face, and the decision had been that in light of his valor during Voyager’s stay in the Delta Quadrant, he would be reinstated into Starfleet as a lieutenant, junior grade. B’Elanna had been granted the same rank, and they had both had applied for a posting on the same ship or starbase. They were on leave until they heard from Starfleet, and living together in a cozy apartment located in San Francisco, just a few blocks from the Academy. They were going to stay there until they received their posting assignments from Starfleet.
Tom and B’Elanna had finally admitted their mutual love and attraction for each other just two years before Voyager’s return, and had been living together for the past year and a half. And Tom was pretty sure he had found the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. The only problem was, B’Elanna didn’t know that, and he was still waiting for just the right time to tell her.
Sighing, he glanced at the chronometer. 0650. His thoughts of Voyager had helped pass the time somewhat, but it was clear he wouldn’t be sleeping any longer. He might as well get up and do something productive.
Being careful not to wake B’Elanna, he cautiously slipped from her drowsy embrace and quietly stole into their tiny alcove that served as their office. Their computer console was there, and he switched it on, intending to work on a report for Starfleet Command that he had long neglected—about breaking the Warp 10 barrier. He preferred not to think about that particular mission, but both he and Kathryn Janeway had privately agreed that only the barest of details needed to be told.
He had been working for only fifteen minutes when the console beeped and the computer intoned, "You have an incoming message."
A message? Tom thought puzzledly. He couldn’t think of anyone who’d be calling him or B’Elanna this early in the morning. Not unless Harry had insomnia, too.
Quickly, he typed in the commands necessary and waited. Within seconds, a face appeared on the screen. A woman, in her late fifties, with a careworn face, graying blond hair and pale blue eyes—a woman that Tom recognized instantly.
At first, all he could do was stare. Then, as his flighted senses returned, he was able to gasp out a single word.
=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=
B’Elanna Torres stretched luxuriously, burrowing her face further into her pillow. It was so nice just to lay here in a pleasant half-asleep state, knowing that the one that you loved was lying next to you.
She rolled over to snuggle up to Tom, and nearly fell off the bed and onto the floor before she realized he wasn’t there. She sat up, looking around the room puzzledly. Usually, it was she who was up early. Tom loved to sleep in and was seldom up before she was. Where could he have gone?
It was then she heard his voice in the tiny alcove that housed their computer console.
He was talking to someone, and by the sound of his voice he was very surprised about something. She sat there and listened, trying to make sense out of his half-formed sentences and comments.
"You’re what?....*Where*?....Oh, Mom, no. How could you?....Yes, I know, but....it’s just that a little advanced warning would have been nice....Mom, how many, exactly?" A long pause. "Oh, that many, huh? Mom, Dad isn’t going to be there, is she? Please, tell me Dad isn’t going to be there....Aw, Mom....I can’t believe you did this. She’s going to be terrified....yes, she is Klingon, but still....we can be an overwhelming bunch....hmm? B’Elanna? Oh, she’s still in bed...." He laughed out loud suddenly. "Mother! I’m shocked by you!....Okay, at ten? Mmhmm....okay, I’ll try. But I’m not making any promises....all right. I will....yes, I love you too. And Mom—thanks for calling....yeah, me too. Okay, bye."
B’Elanna puzzled over all that she had just heard. It sounded like Tom was talking to his mother, but as far as she knew he hadn’t talked to his mother since he had been imprisoned at Auckland.
Just then, Tom came into the bedroom and noticed that she was awake. His eyes widened for a moment, but he quickly pasted a neutral expression on his face. "Oh—good morning, sleepyhead." He smiled and leaned down to kiss her. "Sleep well?"
"Who was that?" she asked, ignoring his attempt at nonchalance.
He froze, searching his mind for an answer. "Who was who?"
"Who were you talking to just now? Was it your mother?" she persisted, not giving the subject up easily as he wanted her too.
Tom sighed, sitting down heavily on the bed. "Yes, it was," he confessed.
"What did she want?" Tom seemed unusually agitated, and it just wasn’t like him. Maybe there was a death in the family or something.
"Well...she’s here," he said, his voice almost apologetic.
"What do you mean, here?" she repeated uncertainly.
"My family has come to San Francisco to meet you."
B’Elanna stared at him open-mouthed and wide-eyed. She almost, almost wished it had been a death. "What?!"
"They’re in Golden Gate Park, having a picnic, and there’s about a hundred of them. And they want to see you."
"Me? But how—how did they even know about me?" she cried.
"A friend from Starfleet who is on the posting advisory board," Tom sighed. "Apparently one of them, who is a friend of my mother’s and also a friend of Captain Janeway’s, monitored our request to have the same posting. I guess she asked the captain if we were a couple, and when the captain said we were she called my mother to see if she knew, and..." He shrugged. "Starfleet gossip and all that. You get used to it after being in an admiral’s family."
B’Elanna stared down at the blanket she was clutching in her hands. "You said there were a hundred of them?"
"More or less. All of my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, you name it. The Paris family is very large—my dad was the oldest of five kids—and so is the McNeill clan."
"My mother’s family."
"Oh. But, Tom—you told me that you haven’t even talked with you mother in years. Did she suddenly decide to—to just call you?" B’Elanna asked, still trying to sort this flabbergasting news out in her mind. Tom’s family wanted to meet her?
"Sort of," Tom said vaguely. "If you knew my mother as I do, you’d understand. Once she gets it into her head to do something or see someone, neither hell nor high water can stop her."
"So she’s like you." Somehow, this piece of information about Tom’s mother made B’Elanna feel better. If she was anything like Tom, she must be a good person.
"Huh?" Tom looked shocked for an instant, but then he laughed. "Yeah, I guess so. Actually, you remind me of her, sometimes."
"Yeah." He regarded B’Elanna thoughtfully, a speculative glint in his blue eyes. "She can be stubborn, too, and her temper is a hell of a thing to come across. But despite all of that, she’s a romantic at heart, even though she’d never admit it—just like a certain half-Klingon I know and love."
B’Elanna blushed, as she always did, when she received an unexpected measure of praise. It still amazed Tom that after months of living with him, she still wasn’t used to his frequent compliments—in fact, she wasn’t used to compliments of any kind. No wonder, as she had received very little of them for most of her life. People were usually too afraid of her Klingon temper to be nice to her. Either that or they were jealous of her successes and tried to find ways to tear her self-esteem down instead of building it up.
Life on Voyager and living among people who were just the opposite of that had changed her self-image somewhat, and he had done his best to say a flattering word to her as often as he could, but she was still suffering from low self-esteem. She couldn’t get over the complex that she had about her Klingon side. She believed it made people think less of her, but for Tom, it was just the opposite. Her Klingon half was one of her more outstanding qualities, but she never fully believed him when he told her so.
"Look," he said, changing the subject to a more comfortable one for her, "do you want to go to this thing?"
She blinked in surprise. "I have a choice?"
"Sure you do. I told Mom that I’d ask you if you wanted to go, but if you didn’t, then that was that. I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to—not that I could, anyway."
"Well, Tom, they are your family—have they come a long way to see me?"
He hesitated. "Some of them," he admitted. "Apparently, Mom’s been planning this thing since she heard Voyager was back with me aboard. It was supposed to be a ‘Welcome-Back-Tom’ party. When she found out about you, she changed it to a ‘Get-To-Know-Tom’s-Girlfriend’ party. But, basically, any member of the Paris and McNeill family who was able to come did." He grimaced slightly. "Mom knew that once I knew that my whole family was here, I couldn’t refuse. Not when they’re all here at once. That doesn’t happen often."
"You mean you’re going?"
"Well, yeah. But you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
That’s what I told Mom—it was your choice."
"Tom Paris, if you’re going, then I’m going," B’Elanna declared. "I want to meet this mother of yours, anyway."
"Are you sure?" he pressed worriedly. "I’m warning you, my family can be overwhelming at times. We’re a—occasionally we can be a very—um, uncommon bunch."
"I’m sure," she said firmly. "Besides, I’ve got to meet your family eventually. It might as well be now."
"Right," he agreed, a teasing twinkle in his eye. "How bad can it be? Everyone looking you over, the other women whispering about you, my mother scrutinizing you to see if you’re suitable for her darling son—"
B’Elanna hit him with a pillow.
=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=
Three hours later, Tom and B’Elanna, both clad comfortably in jeans and T-shirts, were walking hand-in-hand towards Golden Gate Park.
"There they are," Tom said, pointing to a horde of people milling around two of the picnic areas at the park.
B’Elanna gasped, her jaw dropping in astonishment. Was he saying that the group of people she had assumed were the entire population of an oddly-named colony planet somewhere was his family?! Tom had lied when he said there were a hundred people there—it was closer to a thousand.
Without a conscious thought to what she was doing, she turned on her heel, prepared to run back to their apartment as fast as she could. Tom held tight to her hand, refusing to let her go. "Come on, ‘Lanna," he coaxed. "You said you wanted to meet my family, and there they are."
"But Tom, all of them?! There are so many—are they all related to you?!" she said bewilderedly.
"All of them," he confirmed. "I told you my family was large. My dad was the oldest of five and my mom the second of eight, and my grandparents came from big families too. Some of them are just second-cousins-once-removed or something, but all of them have Paris or McNeill blood in them, however diluted, or is married to someone who does. Look, I promise that if you don’t like them, we’ll leave. But will you give them a try? Please?"
"It’s not your family, Tom, it’s me," she objected. "What if they don’t like me?"
"How could they not love you, B’Elanna?" Tom asked, honest confusion in his eyes. "I do."
She softened. He really couldn’t see how someone could not love her as he did—and why he did was still a mystery to her, even now. But for his sake, she’d walk across Klingon fire swamp barefoot. Facing a bunch of his relatives couldn’t be much harder. "Okay, I guess. I’ll—I’ll try."
"That’s my B’Elanna," he beamed. "Come on. Let’s go."
They walked across the grassy field, arm in arm, towards the mass of people. At first, no one noticed them. Then, suddenly, a squeal arose from somewhere in the crowd and a woman, with graying blond hair and features remarkably like Tom’s, broke away and ran toward them, shouting, "Tom!"
"Mom!" Tom cried gladly, letting go of B’Elanna and throwing his arms around his mother in a loving embrace. "God, Mom, it’s so good to see you again!"
B’Elanna hung back slightly, not wanting to intrude on the reunion. No sooner had Tom’s mother greeted him then two other blonde haired, blue-eyed women—whom B’Elanna guessed were Tom’s sisters—came running up, and soon the horde of people followed. Within seconds Tom was surrounded, everyone laughing and shouting and cheering. Tom was trying to greet or be introduced to each one of them, his blue eyes sparkling and his face lit up from some inner joy. Only one person was not by Tom’s side or trying to get there, and B’Elanna studied him carefully but discreetly.
He was about sixty years of age, with a slightly overweight build and silver hair. B’Elanna couldn’t see his eye color from where she was standing, but she guessed his eyes were blue like Tom’s. From what she could see, a great deal of the people here had beautiful blue eyes just like his.
The man was standing away from the crowd, an odd expression on his face—halfway between disdain and regret, as though he was trying to act as if he didn’t care but failing miserably. B’Elanna knew that same expression had been on her face many times as a child, when she had tried to show kids at school that she didn’t care if they teased her about being Klingon, even though she cared deeply.
Suddenly, the man turned and looked directly at her, staring with an expression of curiosity. She held his gaze for a moment, then looked away, feeling embarrassed. She wondered who he was and why he wasn’t trying to say something to Tom like everyone else was. Maybe he was a member of the family who felt uncomfortable around large groups of people, like she did.
Suddenly, Tom reached out and grabbed her arm, drawing her towards him before she could react or object. "Everyone," he announced, obvious pride and loving affection coloring his voice, "I’d like you to meet B’Elanna. B’Elanna Torres. B’Elanna, my family."
B’Elanna resisted an urge to squirm beneath the hundreds of pairs of eyes that focused upon her. She managed a wavery smile, but was unable to meet any of their gazes. Instead, she stared at her shaking hands, hoping they wouldn’t see how incredibly nervous she was.
After a moment’s silence, a hand touched her shoulder.
B’Elanna, trembling, looked up into a friendly pair of blue eyes. The woman was smiling, her face cheerful and kind. "Welcome to our family, my dear," she said warmly. "I’m Noelle Lauren Paris, Tom’s mother, but everyone calls me Ella, and I’d be delighted if you would as well."
"It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ella," B’Elanna said, liking her instantly. It was obvious whom Tom had inherited his captivating grin and beautiful blue eyes from, as well as his carefree personality.
"Oh, no, dear, the pleasure’s all mine," Ella responded enthusiastically. "You poor thing, you must be scared to death, with all these strange people around. Come, sit down, have some lemonade and we’ll introduce you to everyone as best we can."
Before she quite knew what was happening, B’Elanna found herself seated at a picnic table, a glass of ice-cold lemonade in her hand, and being introduced to more people then she could count. Most of their names escaped her, but she was able to remember Lauren and Julia, Tom’s older sisters, who shared his bright blue eyes and pale blond hair, and who were just as talkative and just as outgoing as their mother. There were numerous admirals mixed in with the bunch, as well as dozens and dozens of Starfleet officers. Most of them, when they received Ella Paris’s call, had managed to get a leave of absence, vacation time, or were able to persuade their ship to take a detour over to Earth. Apparently, the Paris reputation was very influential in Starfleet.
Everyone was unbelievably pleasant to her, and after a while B’Elanna began to relax and enjoy herself. Everyone wanted to know about Voyager, and their adventures in the Delta Quadrant, and what she did, and if she enjoyed being chief engineer, and just how did she and Tom get together anyway?
This question, from one of his teenage cousins, prompted Tom to tell an edited version of what had happened on the Sakarian planet, and also what had happened on the Day of Honor, much to B’Elanna’s embarrassment. However, to her surprise, the Paris-McNeill family thought it was the funniest and most enthralling love story they had ever heard.
After a little bit, B’Elanna was able to sit back and just look at them all. They ranged in age from tiny Quinton James McNeill, the two-month-old son of one of Tom’s cousins, to Tom’s elderly great-great-grandmother, one hundred and seven year old Margaret Pauline Paris, who was still amazingly spry and alert in her old age. She had pinched B’Elanna’s cheek and told her that "little Tommy had picked well".
A great deal of them were blonde and blue-eyed, but there were many with every eye and hair color under the sun as well. And the Paris-McNeill family wasn’t limited to just once species, either. There were a few Betazoids, Bajorans, and people of other species that had married into the family. A few even had little hybrid children, part human and part something else, running around the park. But, as one of Tom’s myriad cousins had told her, she was their "very first Klingon". The child had only been seven years old, so B’Elanna hadn’t taken offense, and had laughed when the young one’s mortified mother had hastily apologized for her son’s rudeness and dragged him away.
Everyone was laughing and lovable, except for that one man whom B’Elanna had noticed earlier. He held himself apart from the crowd, sitting by himself and reading PADDs or just staring off into space. When she was at last able to be alone with Ella Paris, B’Elanna asked her who he was.
"That," Ella said, sighing, "is my husband, Admiral Owen Thomas Paris, Tom’s father."
"Tom’s father?" B’Elanna exclaimed, instantly understanding his peculiar behavior. Tom had briefly told her about his father’s rage at Caldik Prime and after he was thrown in prison. According to him, his father had all but disowned Tom from the family.
"A more stubborn man I have never known," Ella nodded, a sad, wistful look in her blue eyes. "When Tom was court-martialed, Owen was devastated. He was also angry, and he said some things to Tom he shouldn’t have. One such comment was that he was ‘never going to consider Tom a member of the Paris family as long as he lived.’ Tom said basically the same thing, and the next day ran off to join the Maquis. When we heard he had been caught and imprisoned, Owen was beyond devastated—he was crushed. I tried to persuade him to call Tom and reconcile, but it was like talking to a brick wall. Then I tried to call Tom, but he refused to speak to me, or anyone else who attempted to contact him while he was incarcerated. I think he was beginning to believe what his father had said, that he was an embarrassment to the family."
She paused, and B’Elanna could see the tenderness in her expression. "But I still loved him, and so did the rest of the family. Owen was the only one with the misguided sense of integrity. That’s why I was so happy when Tom agreed to come here today. Most of us haven’t seen him in years, not since he joined the Maquis, and there are a few of the newer members of the family he hasn’t even met yet. We’re a very close-knit bunch, and we’re all—with the exception of Owen—very glad he’s back with us."
"Is Admiral Paris still angry at Tom?" B’Elanna asked.
"Oh, no, dear. He’s come to regret what he said and did, especially after Voyager was declared missing. But that stubborn pride of his won’t allow him to apologize. It’s very hard for a Paris man to admit defeat, and Owen is no different. He wants to reconcile with Tom, but—it’s his pride."
"So he came here on his own?"
A strange glint of smug satisfaction glittered in Ella’s eyes. "Actually, no. I had to threaten to divorce him before he’d agree to join us here." At B’Elanna’s shocked expression, she laughed. "Of course, I love my husband, stubborn fool that he is, and I’d never, ever go through with it—but he doesn’t know that."
B’Elanna tried her best to hold back laughter, but eventually she gave in to her giggles. Ella joined in her mirth, and then smiled at the woman she suspected would soon become her future daughter-in-law with a maternal glow. "I can see you’ll make a wonderful addition to our family. By the way, have you and Tom set a date for the wedding yet?"
"A date -- ?" B’Elanna was startled into being blunt. "He’d have to ask me to marry him first."
"You mean he hasn’t yet?" Ella exclaimed. "Why, that—what is he waiting for? Hell to freeze over? Why don’t you ask him, B’Elanna? After all, this is the twenty-fourth century, dear. We woman can’t stand around waiting for the men to do the important things. This galaxy would fall apart!" Ella’s eyes were sparkling and she patted B’Elanna on the shoulder, rising from the picnic table. "If you’ll excuse me, I’ve taken enough of your time. I’m sure there’s other members of the family wanting to get to know you better."
She bustled away, and B’Elanna shook her head, incredulous at her own ignorance. Ella was absolutely right. This was the twenty-fourth century, after all. Women didn’t have to sit around and wait for the men to propose to them. That notion had died about the same time as television and automobiles.
"Excuse me—B’Elanna?" A friendly voice interrupted her reverie. B’Elanna looked up to see the youngest of Tom’s two sisters—Julia—standing there with a blanket-wrapped bundle in her arms. "Do you mind if I join you?"
"No, not at all," B’Elanna said quickly, and the young woman, who was only two years older then her brother, settled herself on the bench.
"I thought you might like a chance to meet your nephew," Julia said with a bright smile, unwrapping the tiny bundle to reveal a tiny baby boy.
"My -- ?" Before B’Elanna could move, Julia had placed the infant in her arms and was chattering away at a mile a minute, paying no mind to the fact that the half-Klingon was absolutely terrified. B’Elanna had never held a baby in her arms before.
"He’s four months old—the second youngest here, just older then Quinton—and his name is Alexander Thomas Kirby, Junior, or Alex for short. It was just a lucky coincidence that my husband’s middle name is Thomas. I had planned to name a boy after Tommy, anyway, so it all worked out for the best. Isn’t he just a doll? He has blue eyes like me, but he has my husband’s red hair. Of course, it’s just a little bit of strawberry blond fuzz now, but as he gets older he’ll get more hair. I’m so glad you and Tommy agreed to come today. I never thought Tommy would get the chance to meet his nephew, but then I never expected Voyager to suddenly turn up like that! Of course, Alex isn’t Tommy’s only nephew. My older sister Lauren has two children, a boy and a girl, Stephen and Lillian, six and three. You absolutely must meet them; they’re little angels. I think the same thing of Alex, of course, and I’m sure you will of your children. I bet you and Tommy will have half a dozen; he absolutely adores kids—why, B’Elanna, is something wrong? You look scared to death."
"I—I’ve never held a baby before," B’Elanna stammered, looking down at the baby with frightened eyes. She had no idea what to do.
"What? Never?" Julia exclaimed. "Why, there’s no time like the present to learn, is there? Oh, don’t worry. You’re doing fine. If Alex didn’t like you he’d be screaming at the top of his lungs. And look, the tiny lamb is sound asleep. Isn’t he just adorable?"
"Very," B’Elanna agreed. And she had to admit, the baby was cute. He had a tiny button nose and cheeks like roses, and B’Elanna could even see a diminutive hint of Tom’s features in him. His small head was dusted with fine strands of strawberry-blond hair, and his hands and fingers were unbelievably tiny.
Suddenly, little Alex yawned and sleepily snuggled deeper into her arms, and in that instant B’Elanna fell wholly and completely in love with him. He was so tiny and innocent and helpless—no wonder Tom loved children as much as he did, if all of them were like this little baby.
"See?" Julia said cheerily. "He loves you. Oh, look, it’s about time for his lunch. Would you like to feed him?"
In a flash, Julia was holding out a baby bottle filled with formula. "It’s easy," she said as B’Elanna uncertainly took the bottle. "Just hold the nipple to his lips and he’ll start drinking."
Obediently, B’Elanna did as Julia directed. And Julia had been right. B’Elanna watched in fascination as Alex, his eyes still closed, immediately latched onto the nipple and began to suck.
"Oh, you’re a natural, B’Elanna!" Julia said approvingly. "I can’t believe you’ve never done this before!"
"Hey, Julia, are you trying to monopolize my girlfriend?" Tom Paris complained, unexpectedly appearing beside the table. He was grinning happily, and his blue eyes were glowing.
"No, I’m making up for your neglect," Julia rebuked teasingly, affectionately smiling at her younger brother. "Poor B’Elanna—you’ve spent perhaps five minutes with her in the last two hours."
"Can I help it that I’m a popular person?" he protested, sitting down next to B’Elanna and slipping an arm around her waist. "So, Lanna, what are you up to?"
B’Elanna answered without thinking, her eyes still trained on small Alex. "Feeding our nephew."
Neither Julia nor B’Elanna noticed the expression of shock, or the astonished smile, on Tom’s face once he caught the word "our".
"Isn’t she fantastic?" Julia bubbled. "If I didn’t know better, I’d say she’s fed dozens of infants. She’s a natural mother, Tommy."
"Tommy" beamed proudly. "B’Elanna’s good at everything she does," he declared.
"Oh, stop it," B’Elanna blushed. "You’re biased, and you know it."
"You bet I am."
Just then, little Alex began to whimper. B’Elanna stiffened in alarm. "What did I do?" she asked in dismay.
"You didn’t do anything!" Julia said reassuringly, lifting her tiny son from B’Elanna’s arms. "He’s finished with his lunch and he wants to be burped, that’s all. Listen, Tommy, B’Elanna’s got a lot to learn about kids. Why don’t you take Alex home for a couple of weeks so she can gain some experience?"
For a moment, B’Elanna thought she was serious, but Tom snorted derisively. "Yeah, and guess who’ll be up at four a.m. for feedings? The last thing I need on my hands is a cranky Klingon, Julia. Besides, you know as well as I do that you’d go nuts after five minutes without him."
"You know me too well," Julia sighed. "Well, you’ll just have to have a couple of your own to learn on, B’Elanna. Oh, look, there’s Alexander. I’d better run. It was wonderful meeting you, B’Elanna. I’m so glad I have a new sister! If you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to call. That goes for you too, Tommy. Bye!"
During her speech, Julia had somehow managed to gather up her things, kiss both Tom and B’Elanna on the cheek, and dash off, all within a period of no more then ten seconds.
"So, what did you think of Julia?" Tom asked, wryly shaking his head. "Quite a whirlwind, huh? When she was a teenager we used to call her ‘Hurricane Julia’."
"She does talk a lot," B’Elanna observed. "But she’s very sweet. I really like her. And that little Alex is adorable."
"Uh oh," Tom said with a mock groan. "You’ve been bitten by the baby bug! You’re not going to turn into someone who goes all mushy and says stuff like ‘you tweet itty bitty wee kiddy’, are you?"
"Well, you never know, Tom," she said sweetly. "Anything’s possible with your family."
Tom threw his head back and laughed. "Isn’t that the truth!"
"I like your mother, too," she continued. "She’s just like you said she was."
"So I take it that you like my family?" he asked, a pleased smile on his face.
"*Our* family," she corrected. "I’m going to adopt them."
Tom’s grin grew wider. "If you’ve adopted them, then what does that make me?" he asked teasingly. "Your big brother?"
"Well," she said slowly, turning her head to gaze up at him, "actually, I was kind of hoping that would make you my husband—that is, if that’s okay with you."
She continued to gaze up at him as the full meaning of her words sunk in. Tom’s grin was quickly replaced by an expression of astonishment, then one of tenderness. His arm tightened around her waist and pulled her close. His voice was choked with emotion
as he whispered, "That’s—that’s definitely okay with me. I’ve been trying to ask you for weeks, but—"
"Shhh," she murmured. "I love you, Tom Paris. I want to be your wife."
"And I want to be your husband," he agreed, bringing his lips down to claim hers.
"Ewww! Gross! They’re kissing!" someone protested from nearby. Tom and B’Elanna pulled apart and looked up in surprise to see Stephen Taylor, the son of Tom’s oldest sister, Lauren, peeking at them from behind a bush, his face twisted into an expression of disgust.
B’Elanna and Tom couldn’t help laughing at the little boy. "Just wait, young man," Tom advised, chuckling. "In a decade or so you won’t think it’s so ‘gross’."
"Stephen Matthew Taylor! I told you to leave those two alone!" Lauren Paris-Taylor came charging around the corner, sighing in exasperation. "I’m sorry if he—um, interrupted anything, Tommy," she apologized hastily, grabbing her wayward son from behind the bush. The little boy smiled, his face the model of innocence, as his mother dragged him off.
Tom shook his head. "You know, it’s positively uncanny. Stephen is exactly the way I was as a kid."
"Why don’t I find that hard to believe?" B’Elanna commented teasingly. "Were you really like that?"
"Are you kidding? I used to spy on my sisters and their boyfriends all the time," Tom laughed. "One time I was caught by Lauren, and when my father found out, he—" He broke off suddenly, his face tightening into a mask of indifference that B’Elanna had seen before. It meant he had wandered onto a sensitive subject—in this case, his father—and was putting up emotional defenses to keep from thinking or talking about him to anybody, including herself. But this time, she wasn’t going to let it slip by quite so easily.
"Tom, I think I’d like to meet your father," B’Elanna said gently.
His reaction was one she had expected. Immediately, he stiffened, pulling away to stare at her in incredulous amazement. "What?" he spat. "Meet him?! No! You—you can’t!"
"Because, he’s—he’s a jerk, that’s why. He’ll probably just insult you or something." He was angrier then she’d ever seen him before.
"I don’t think so, Tom. Ella told me—Ella said that the only thing preventing him from talking to you is his pride."
"You discussed this with my mother?"
"Yes, I did."
"B’Elanna, I can’t let you do this. He’ll just—he won’t be nice to you. Please, don’t go. Please."
"Won’t be nice to me?" B’Elanna repeated. "Tom, he’s a Paris. He’s your father. If the rest of your family is any indication, how could he not be nice to me?"
"Because he isn’t like the rest of the family!" Tom insisted.
"Your mother said that she loved him. And Ella wouldn’t love anyone who wasn’t like the rest of the family," B’Elanna declared stubbornly, folding her arms across her chest and glaring at him with her best Klingon warrior gaze.
When she stared at him like that, Tom knew that there wasn’t a chance in the universe of winning the argument. "Fine," he relented. "Go see him. But don’t say I didn’t warn you."
"Don’t worry, I won’t," she retorted triumphantly, rising from the bench before her own courage failed her. Truth be told, she was more nervous about meeting Owen Paris then she let on, but as long as Tom didn’t know that she could pull this off.
Taking a deep breath, she marched across the park over to the picnic table where Owen Paris was sitting, staring blankly off into space. As he heard her approach his head snapped up and he stared at her, shock registering on his face—a face that looked very much like Tom’s, she noted.
"Admiral Paris? I’m B’Elanna Torres," she announced without preamble, extending her hand in greeting. "Tom’s fiancée."
To her relief, after a second of startled silence the admiral actually reached out and shook her hand. "Fiancée?" he asked politely, his tone guarded. "I wasn’t aware that it was official."
"It wasn’t until about five minutes ago." In spite of herself, B’Elanna couldn’t hold back a smile.
"Congratulations," he replied, actually smiling back. B’Elanna didn’t know it, but the soft smile she had displayed to him won her the admiral’s heart forever. *What a beautiful young lady,* Owen Paris thought.
"May I sit down?"
She sat, never taking her eyes off of his face. The two regarded each other in silence for a few minutes, and then B’Elanna spoke. "Do you still love Tom?"
Owen Paris blinked in shock. "You don’t waste words, do you?" he remarked, avoiding the question.
"No, I don’t."
"Good. I abhor people who fill their conversations with senseless babbling."
"Well, do you love him?" she persisted.
"You certainly don’t give up very easily."
"Of course not. I’m Klingon." For the first time, there was something resembling pride in her voice as she spoke of her mixed heritage.
"In answer to your question, Ms. Torres, yes. I suppose I do," the admiral admitted, immediately realizing that she would never give up until she obtained an answer from him. "Why, may I ask, would you like to know?"
"Because," she announced firmly, "you’re going to talk to him." With that, she grabbed his hand and, rising from the table, all but dragged him across the park. The admiral, stunned by her actions, didn’t offer much of a protest.
She led him over to the bench where Tom was still sitting, an expression of astonishment on his face. He had been watching them from across the way and couldn’t believe that his father had actually consented to speak with his future wife, let alone follow her anywhere.
"Now," B’Elanna said firmly, gently pushing the elder Paris onto the bench next to Tom, "you two are going to talk whether you want to or not. And if I hear one word of protest, even one word, I’m never speaking to either of you ever again. Is that clear?"
Both men, too astonished to speak, nodded wordlessly.
"Good. I’m going to go and chat with Ella. Now, talk."
She marched away, leaving the two men alone with each other.
Tom looked at Owen, and Owen looked at Tom.
"Dad, I—um, it’s—that is—I mean, I didn’t think you’d be here," Tom said lamely, thinking it best to at least attempt to be civil.
"Why not?" the admiral queried.
The directness of the question took Tom by surprise.
"Because you hate me," he answered bluntly.
Owen Paris sighed deeply, distress evident in his clear blue eyes. "Oh, Tom, I don’t hate you. I thought I did, but—I don’t. I never did."
"You told me you did," Tom objected, rather nastily, but his voice held an undertone of sadness. "Right after Caldik Prime, remember?"
"I remember," Owen admitted unhappily. "I was—angry.
And disappointed. I guess I couldn’t—I didn’t want to admit that a son of mine could ever—could ever—"
"Could ever screw up," Tom finished sarcastically. "Well, I did. I’m sorry if I didn’t live up to your expectations."
"My expectations were too high," the admiral said quietly, evoking a startled glance from Tom.
"I pushed you too hard," he continued. "I was so intent on making you Admiral Thomas Eugene Paris that I forgot to let you be what you really were—a kid. I realize that now, and I’m sorry."
"Don’t you think it’s a little too late for an apology?" Tom snapped, and instantly regretted his hasty words.
"Yes, it is," Owen surprised him by replying calmly. "I should have said these things a long time ago, but my pride held me back. It’s what stopped me from speaking to you today, until that fiancée of yours ordered me too"
Despite himself, Tom broke into a grin. "B’Elanna sure is something, isn’t she?" he said proudly.
"She certainly is," his father agreed. "You’re very lucky to have her."
"I know." Tom paused for a minute, groping for the right words. "So, do you—approve?"
"Would my approval make any difference?"
"No, not really, but—do you?"
"Oh." Tom actually seemed relieved. "Um, good."
"You know, her smile could melt the heart of a coldhearted Ferengi merchant."
"Yeah, I know." Tom smiled dreamily, thinking of that beautiful grin. She was showing it a lot more then she used to. B’Elanna really was gorgeous when she smiled.
"She’s courageous, too," the admiral commented. "Coming here and bearding the lion in the den, so to speak, took guts. I admire that."
"Dad, I think this is the first time we’ve agreed on something in a long while," Tom remarked suddenly.
"I haven’t really respected your opinions much, have I?"
Owen said with a sad, almost wistful expression.
"No, you haven’t," Tom said honestly. "But—I really wasn’t willing to listen to yours, either. I think—" He hesitated for an instant, then plunged ahead. "I think we’ve both made some mistakes with each other."
"I hope that—perhaps—you could find it possible to forgive me," Owen faltered. "For anything and everything I might have done to hurt you."
"It’s forgiven," Tom said with faint smile. And it was. A few years ago, he had sworn bitterly that he would never, ever forgive Owen Paris, but things had changed. He wasn’t alone, scorned, or unloved anymore. He had B’Elanna. She was all that mattered to him.
"That means a lot to me. Thank you," the admiral said gruffly. He wasn’t used to expressing his feelings so openly, and it made him uncomfortable.
"You’re welcome," was all Tom said.
"So, Tom," Owen said casually, leaning back on the bench.
"Tell me more about your B’Elanna."
=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=
"B’Elanna, I don’t know how you did it," Ella said, shaking her blond head in admiration. "I’ve been trying to get those two talking for years, and you managed to do it in five minutes."
"You gave me the idea," B’Elanna shrugged modestly. "I just told Tom—and Owen, too—that if there were any protests I would never speak to either of them ever again."
"Well, it’s about time Daddy and Tommy started talking," Lauren Taylor said decisively. "Both of them were acting like spoiled brats."
"Amen to that," Ella said, agreeing with her eldest daughter.
"Oh, Ella, by the way," B’Elanna said suddenly. "Um, I wanted to let you know—it’s official."
"Official?" Ella Paris stared at her blankly. "Oh—do you mean that you -- ?"
"I did," B’Elanna nodded proudly. "And he said yes, of course."
"Oh, B’Elanna, that’s wonderful!" Ella squealed, throwing her arms around her future daughter-in-law.
Lauren looked from her mother to B’Elanna and back again, a confused expression settling on her pale features. "Excuse me, but did I miss something here?"
"Oh, Laurie, B’Elanna means that she and Tom are engaged!" Ella cried joyfully, clapping her hands together.
Lauren looked surprised. "You mean they weren’t already?"
"Not officially," B’Elanna blushed.
"Well," Lauren said indignantly, "what was he waiting for? Hell to freeze over?"
B’Elanna’s eyes met Ella’s, and they both promptly burst into laughter.
"Hey, what’s so funny?" Tom asked, approaching the three women. Owen was close behind him, and both father and son were grinning.
B’Elanna turned to look up at him, and her laughter died off as her dark eyes narrowed thoughtfully. There was something different about him now. Something she hadn’t seen before. A new peace had replaced the underlying hurt hidden in the cerulean depths of his eyes.
"What?" Tom asked, his hand reaching out to encompass her waist.
"Oh, nothing," she said softly, smiling up at him. "You look happy, that’s all."
"I am," he agreed, kissing the top of her head. "Thanks to you."
She rested her head against his shoulder, well aware of the sentimental looks they were receiving from Tom’s family, but not really caring. The world could have crashed down around them and she wouldn’t have cared. All that mattered was that she was safe and contented in Tom’s arms.
=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=
Late that afternoon, Tom and B’Elanna were walking arm-in-arm back to their apartment. The rest of the family had slowly dispersed, and only a smattering of people, who were helping to clean up, remained at the park. Tom and B’Elanna had said their good-byes with promises, especially to Ella, to visit often.
"So, are you glad you came?" Tom asked casually.
"Very glad," B’Elanna answered truthfully. And she was.
Tom’s family were wonderful people. She couldn’t ask for better in-laws.
"So am I," he agreed, placing one of his hands over hers in a tender gesture. "By the way—I never got a chance to say thanks for what you did for Dad and I."
She looked up at him with a small smile. "I didn’t do anything."
"Yes, you did," he objected. "You were the one who started us talking again. Captain Janeway once told me that my father had intimidated the hell out of her when she first met him, yet you walked right up to him—and then bodily forced him over to me! That’s no small feat. It took courage."
"Well," she said lightly, "you can thank my Klingon genes for that, I guess."
"No," he said firmly, halting in the middle of the park and turning to face her. "I can thank you. It was your thoughtfulness and your compassion. It was because of the goodness of your heart, and nothing else. It wasn’t Klingon courage, or human compassion. It was you. And you have my everlasting gratitude."
B’Elanna, surprised at the fierceness and passion in his voice, could do nothing but gaze up into his clear blue eyes. "You—you’re welcome," she said at last.
Tom smiled at her, but said nothing. He began walking again, and soon they arrived at their apartment. The moment they walked into the door, Tom disappeared into their bedroom and soon reappeared clutching something small in his fist.
"I have a present for you," he announced.
"Close your eyes and hold out your hand," he instructed.
B’Elanna did as he told, and a second later she felt something smooth and cool slip onto the third finger of her left hand. Opening her eyes, she gasped when she spied the ring he had placed on her finger.
"Oh, Tom," she breathed, bringing her hand up to her face so she could inspect it closer. A small but finely cut sapphire heart rested in the center of a small circlet of diamonds. The diamonds sparkled radiantly and the sapphire glowed as if blue fire was contained inside of it. The ring was exquisitely beautiful, and she could hardly believe it was meant for her.
B’Elanna remembered that a while back, on Voyager, she had once mentioned to Tom that her favorite gems were sapphires and diamonds—sapphires because they reminded her of her two favorite things, the warp core and Tom’s eyes; diamonds because they resembled the stars, her favorite place to be. And he had remembered that long ago conversation, and had gotten this elegantly lovely ring—for her.
"Do you like it?" Tom asked eagerly.
"Like it? Tom, it’s—it’s so beautiful! I don’t know what to say!" she breathed.
He hesitated slightly, choosing his words with care. "It’s - it’s an engagement ring. I’ve had it for a while—I was waiting for the right moment to propose. I guess you beat me to it, though." He flashed her a grin, the carefree grin she so dearly loved, and he shrugged his shoulders. "However, you’re the only woman I’ve ever wanted to propose to, and I’m not going to let you deprive me of the chance to do so." Dramatically dropping to one knee, he took her hand in his and proclaimed, "B’Elanna Torres, I love you. Will you marry me?"
"Of course I will, you idiot!" B’Elanna cried, throwing her arms around his neck, tears of happiness forming at the corners of her eyes.
"Aw, don’t get gushy on me, Torres. You know I hate to see a Klingon cry."
"Tom, shut up and kiss me."
And he did.
Copyright 1997 by JoAnna Walsvik; all rights reserved. Please request permission before distributing, archiving, etc. Paramount owns all things associated w/ Star Trek: Voyager, and I own the characters I made up.