And This Is His Story 4
By Zappy Zaps
Thanks to Brigid for beta-reading this and all the other parts! ?
Rating: PG-13

Part 4: Where the Heart Is

 For the first time in over ten years he walked in to his old home.  Removing the bag that was slung around his chest he walked to the living room and peered inside.  He remembered this place but there were subtle differences proving to him that things had changed.  He looked at the main entrance of the house where his parents were entering.  His father was carrying his other bag and regarding Thomas’ snowboard curiously.  He had changed, his parents had changed, everything he had been taken away from a decade ago had changed, but he was determined to make the best of his new life and with the help of his family he would attain this goal.  Smiling at his parents he continued his exploration of the first floor of the house.
 Thomas was more comfortable around them now.  He had stayed in guest quarters at Starfleet HQ for the past four days and everyday his parents had been there everyday getting to know him again and vice versa.  His initial apprehension about being with his parents had dissipated and he was comfortable calling them ‘mom’ and ‘dad’.  Although there was still a touch of awkwardness when he was with them they all hoped it would fade with time.  
 Owen and Emily showed Thomas to his room.  Little had changed.  They had added a desk to the room but almost all his toys from when he was five were still in the room.  He walked to the window and gazed at the landscape outside.  Thomas, absently traced the band the security officer had placed on his wrist before he left the Starfleet building.  It monitored his position at all times so they could keep a watchful eye in Thomas.
 “Your sisters are coming over later today,” Emily said as she walked over to Thomas.  She had to look up to see into his eyes, which she found slightly odd.  The last time she had seen him, she could carry him but now he was taller than she.  Every time she looked at him it caused a pang in her heart, knowing that she had missed so many years of her child’s life.  She chose not to dwell on the lost time she had missed and rather focussed on the rare second chance she and her husband had been given.

 A few hours later Moira and Kathleen arrived at the house.  Kathleen was in her second year of university in L.A. while Moira was studying in Europe to be a civil engineer.  They had arrived at the house and were greeted by their parents.  Thomas hung back not wanting to intrude.  He couldn’t help the feeling of isolation that washed over him.  After he had been abducted the four of them had been a family and through shared pain they had become closer to one another, so where did Thomas fit in with them now?
 “Tommy,” his father called him and he approached his family who congregated at the entrance.  They all still called him ‘Tommy’ but Thomas didn’t mind. In fact, he kind of liked it.  It reminded him of a time when he was secure and was sure of his place in the universe.  “Moira and Kathleen,” Owen introduced Thomas to his sisters.  They were smiling and feeling both apprehensive and excited.  
 “Hi,” he said quietly and studied them.  They had grown up but he could still see hints of the little girls that he had known so long ago.  He smiled and Moira, who was still the leader of the Paris children, approached and hugged her brother.  Kathleen took her turn hugging Thomas and noted the changes in his appearance from when they had last seen him.  
 They spent the evening and night as a family getting reacquainted.  Moira and Kathleen told stories of what happened at their respective places of study.  Thomas was quiet most of the time and the others noticed it.  Tommy had always been an out going and vibrant child but Thomas was more subdued.
 Thomas was content just to listen to what the others said.  He had little to add or comment on since he wasn’t even sure he fully understood many of the things they spoke of.  Surrounded by family but still isolated and lost was how he was feeling.  When he was with Takara and Murphy he wasn’t totally at ease but at least he knew them.  He knew what to expect from them, how to act and relate to them but around his family things where different.

 A comment that Kathleen made stirred Thomas’ memory. “Wait a minute,” he said and Kathleen stopped talking and they listened eagerly.  “You’re going to be a marine biologist?” he asked and Kathleen nodded. “You don’t even like frogs,” he said and at the confused expression on their faces he explained,  “I found a frog one time and I showed it to you and you screamed,” Thomas laughed at the memory.  The rest of them remembered the picnic with friends and family members where Tommy had found a pond and caught a frog.
 “You didn’t show it to me!  You put it on my head!” she said in outrage and the others laughed.  For a brief time that night they laughed together and cherished what had been returned to them.

 Nights were the worst and that night was no exception.  Thomas had gone to bed and tried to sleep but he had been plagued with night terrors since the night Takara had been killed.  It was always the same dream.  He could see the shadows of Douglas and Takara.  Douglas raised the weapon and prepared to fire.  Everything was in slow motion and he could hear Takara’s voice softly calling him to help her but he couldn’t find her.  Every direction he ran he came to a wall.  He couldn’t find them or any light source but the shadows had to come from somewhere so he kept searching.  Takara’s pleas became softer and he yelled for her to keep talking to him.  He wanted to follow the sound to where she was but the echoes made it impossible to do so.  
 Her voice faded away and only his foot steps and shouts for Takara echoed off the invisible walls.  The silhouettes faded and the shadows engulfed him for a few seconds until a woman’s scream pierced the darkness and a red beam of energy briefly illuminated the area just long enough for him to watch her body slump to the ground.  He ran to her and cradled her in his arms.  “Why didn’t you help me?” she whispered. 
 “I tried, I tried. I’m so sorry,” and he rambled on, telling her how sorry he was.
 “I needed you…” she choked out as another weak breath left her.  Her eyes closed and her body began to fade away.
 “Takara!” he yelled. “I’m sorry!”
 “I needed you…” her voice surrounded him and shook him to the quick.
 “Takara!” he bolted upright in his bed, breathing heavily.  His room was dark and he reached for the light on his nightstand.  His fingers fumbled to turn it on but another hand brushed against his and turned on the light.
 “Tommy?” it was his father. 
 “Dad!”  Thomas was startled.  It looks like both the Paris men were having trouble sleeping.
 “Are you alright?” Owen asked as he crouched next to his son’s bed.  Thomas nodded, not trusting his voice.  
 “What are you doing here?”  Thomas asked after he had calmed a little. 
“I had trouble sleeping,” Owen said and was silent for a few moments before he asked: “Who’s Takara?”
 “She was….a friend,”  Thomas said looking down.  He told his father a little more about Takara.  He needed to tell someone about what had happened and his father was at the right place in the right time.  He told him about how Takara had been there for him since the time he arrived with his kidnappers and lastly he told him how she died, careful not use any names other than Takara’s.
 “And that’s why you left,” Owen said, hoping that he understood.
 “I tired to help her, I really did but… I …I couldn’t get to her and,” Thomas started.  He wanted his father to understand he had tried.
 “Tommy, it’s okay,” Owen said and sat on the side of Thomas’ bed.  “I know you tried,” Thomas stopped rambling and tried to control his emotions.  “It’s alright,” Owen cautiously wrapped his arms around his son not sure whether the gesture would be welcomed or not, but was pleased when Thomas relaxed. “It’ll be okay,”

 The next few days went by quickly.  Moira and Kathleen were staying at home for a while so the house was full and several extended family members visited to see Thomas.  Thomas was also seeing a psychiatrist at Counsellor Troi’s suggestion, meeting with some security officers from Starfleet every few days, and he had to undergo testing so that he could start at a new school.  The days were filled with meetings while the evenings where spent with guests.
 Everyone was glad when things settled down and no one more than Thomas.  He had enough to do trying to fit in again with his family, more people was just added stress.  He wanted to get to know his sisters again but having so many people around he never got a chance to and it wasn’t long before they had to leave.  Thomas said good-bye and hoped he would get to see them again soon.  They hadn’t been able to connect on many levels but it would only be a matter of time before they were as close as they once were, hopefully.

 A few days later Thomas was taking the tour of the new school he would be attending in San Francisco while his parents met with the Advisor and principal and discussed his test scores and what grade they suggested for Thomas.  His tour guide was one of the senior students, Isaac Henderson.  Isaac showed Thomas the gymnasium, track field, labs, a few classrooms and the other ‘highlights’.  It was a pretty regular school but the only school Thomas had ever been to was his kindergarten and he could remember very little of it.  
 When the tour ended he said goodbye to Isaac and joined his parents.  Thomas was informed he would be going into the senior year of high school.  According to the academic advisor, Thomas didn’t even need to be going to high school.  Partial differential equations were beyond the scope of the high school curriculum but was the level Thomas had already reached.  He was learning about warp theory and quantum mechanics when other students his age hadn’t yet touched on those subjects.  He could probably write the entrance exam to Starfleet Academy or other post secondary institutes and get in but his parents were adamant that he would go goes to high school.

 “Tommy, are you ready?” Emily called to her son from the kitchen where she was having her morning cup of coffee before she went to work.  Thomas came down the stairs and replicated some toast and juice.  He finished quickly and was ready to go.
 “Bye Dad!” Thomas yelled down the corridor to the office where he knew his father was.  He picked up his bag and waited for his mother to finish her coffee.  
 “Tommy, hold on a second,” Owen said coming from his office.  He carried a small package in his hand.  “We got this for you,” Owen said and handed Thomas the package.  He examined it for a few seconds and shook it and listened to the sound.
 “Open it already,” Emily laughed.  He had done the same thing when he was five any time he received a gift.  
 Thomas opened it and inside was a wristwatch.  Smiling he put it on.  It fit right over the wristband, which monitored his position.  Owen and Emily had noticed that every so often he would absently trace it.  The wristband would only cause other students to ask unwanted questions.  They had also noticed Thomas had an interest in the twentieth century and they had gotten him a watch that resembled those from that era.  “Thanks,” Thomas said and he and Emily left the house.

 The story of Thomas Eugene Paris was mentioned on the news for a few days after he left Starfleet Headquarters and went home with his parents.  Little information had been given to the media so there was much speculation as to what had happened to Thomas in the past ten years of his life.
 On his third day at the school he walked through the halls heading to his locker, ignoring the curious glances following him as he passed.  A group of guys a little older than Thomas took notice of him and, after talking amongst themselves for a few moments, walked over to where Thomas was placing a few things in his locker.  
 “Thomas Paris?” the one who appeared to be their leader said.
 “Who wants to know?” Thomas did not take his eyes off the minimal contents of his locker.
 “Jeremy Dumas.  My friends here thought that we should introduce ourselves.” Jeremy was a few inches taller than Thomas as were his friends.
 “No need to.  Your reputation precedes you,” Thomas closed his locker and turned to face Jeremy and his cronies.  They were in their senior year as well and Thomas shared a few classes with them but he knew of them mostly from what he overheard some other students saying in the cafeteria or during the break.  They were generally popular but also troublemakers and in this school they made the rules.  “I have a class to go to,” Thomas said and went to walk past Jeremy but Jeremy stepped to the side and blocked his path.
 “We haven’t excused you yet,” Jeremy said arrogantly.  
 “Look Dumb-ass, I have better things to do than waste my time with you and your pals,” Thomas glared at him and was ready to force his way past but a hand on his shoulder and a familiar voice stopped him.
 “Tom!  I’ve been looking for you!”  Thomas turned his head slightly to Isaac who was trying to stop a fight from breaking out between Paris and Dumas.  “We’ve got physics now,” Isaac needlessly reminded.  He looked to Jeremy who looked like he was ready for a fight. “If you’ll excuse us gentlemen.” Pulling on Thomas’ shoulder he got his friend to come with him and the brawl was averted.  Isaac kept looking over his shoulder to make sure none of Jeremy’s friends were following.  Luckily for them, they were not being followed.  “Tom, jeez!”  Isaac let out the breath that he had been holding.  “What the hell did you think you were doing?”
 “I had a class to get to.  I didn’t have time for his games,” Thomas said flatly.
  “Just be careful.  They won’t let that incident slide,” Isaac looked over his shoulder again just to check.
 “You’re being paranoid.  They’re harmless,” Thomas said.  They walked in silence until they reached their destination but before they walked into the classroom Thomas asked a question.
 “Since when did my name become ‘Tom’?”
 “You don’t like ‘Tom’?”  Isaac responded to Thomas’ inquiry.
 “I’ve never been called Tom before,” Thomas stated.
 “Well get used to it,” Isaac smirked and walked into class followed closely by the newly minted ‘Tom’.

 A few weeks later Kathleen’s university was on break and she decided to go home, see her parents and hopefully get to know her little brother. When she arrived, however, relations in the household where not what she had expected them to be.  She had walked into her house with a smile on her face and greeted her mother warmly.  She noticed her mother’s expression of happiness was brief and when Kathleen heard the yelling in the other room, her smile faded as well.  There was no mistaking the voices of Tom and Owen as they had another argument.  Kathleen approached the room where the voices were coming from but her mother stopped her before she could reach them and shook her head.
 A few moments later the yelling stopped and Thomas stormed upstairs to his room per Owen’s orders.  He had glanced briefly at Emily and Kathleen as he went upstairs but had not greeted them in any way.  The look in his eyes was one of hate and Kathleen could not understand why it was directed at them.
 “I just don’t understand him,” Owen said tiredly as he collapsed into a chair.
 “What happened?”  Kathleen asked. She sat next to her mother who had already seated herself on one of the couches.
 “I don’t know,” Owen sighed. “Lately….lately he’s been difficult: challenging everything we say, breaking rules, staying out late,”
 “We just can’t connect with him; make him understand that what we’re doing is for his own good,” Emily said.  The assembled group lapsed into silence, each lost in his or her own thoughts.
 Kathleen regarded her parents and quelled the anger and disappointment threatening to overcome her.  Why was he doing this to them?  Why does he want to hurt them?  Kathleen stood up and abruptly left the room and headed for Tom’s.
 She didn’t knock on the door intending to barge her way in but it was locked.  She knocked and waited for a response but didn’t get one right away. “Tommy, open the door!”  Kathleen yelled. She pounded on the door for a few more seconds and without warning it swung open.  Tom caught the hand the she was using to hit the door before it could hit him in the face.
 “What?” Tom asked, irritation colouring his voice.
 Kathleen pulled her hand from his grip. “What do you think you’re doing?”
 “You’re going to have to clarify what you mean,” Tom turned his back to her.  Kathleen was angry and she put her hand on his shoulder and spun him around. “Don’t touch me!”  Tom moved away from her.  His hands clenched and unclenched.
 “Do you know what you’re doing to them?” she asked. “They’re worried about you and you act like you don’t care!”
 “You don’t know….” Tom started but couldn’t finish. “You’d never understand.”
 “Try me!” she retorted.  Tom took a moment to organize his thoughts. What he was going to say was going to sound horrible but he wanted her to understand.
 “I hated them….I hated you!” he said.
 “Why?” Kathleen’s brows furrowed.
 “Because you didn’t want me!  You weren’t the family that everybody else had.  You weren’t the family I wanted.  You lied to me!”  Thomas’ explanation started to go awry as his emotions clouded his thoughts.
 “We didn’t lie to you,” Kathleen said immediately.
 “Maybe, but I didn’t know that,”
 “What are you talking about?” Kathleen was completely confused and Tom came to the realization she had not been told of what happened to him.
 “For the past ten years I’ve been living with the same people who abducted me.  They told me you didn’t want me, my parents didn’t want me-”
 “And you believed them?”  Kathleen asked in astonishment.
 “Yes….I did,” he noted the scepticism on her gace. “If you hear something enough, you begin to believe it, and it’s hard to stop,”
 “But you know that’s not true.  They love you,” she told him but he didn’t respond.  He turned away from her and put his hands on the windowsill.  “But you don’t love them,” she spoke her new found insight.
 “I don’t know.  Maybe one day I’ll know for sure,” he said quietly but loud enough for her to hear.
 “Well it better be soon! They can’t take much more of this!” Kathleen raged.
 “Neither can I!” Tom said but did not face her.  
 “I’m beginning to think we were better of without you,” Kathleen said in quiet anger but regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth.  She wanted to take them back but Tom spoke before she could.
 “I’m beginning to think that same thing,” he looked back at her.
 “Tommy,” she started to apologize.  Tom ignored her, opened the window and began to climb out. “What are you doing?”  He didn’t say anything.  “We’re on the second floor!” she started towards him. He crouched on the ledge and lined up his jump to the tree branch a few meters away. “Tommy!” she reached out to grab him but he jumped and she couldn’t make it to him in time.  She watched helplessly as he dangled from the branch and hoped he didn’t fall.  He swung his legs up to the branch and began climbing down.  “Tommy, be careful!  Where are you going?” Kathleen asked.
 “I don’t know,” he said as he jumped the last few meters to the ground and walked away without a look back.  Kathleen watched until she lost him in the night.  She had considered going after him but she would have to go out the front door and her parents would want to know where she was going.  She wasn’t about to tell them their son had run away because of what she had said so instead she chose to wait.  She would tell her parents Tommy was in his room and didn’t want to be disturbed and she would wait for him to come home, if he came home.

 Three hours later the front door silently swung open and in the darkness Tom crept back in.  He headed towards the stairs to go back to his room but a slight movement in the living room caught his attention.  He stopped and turned on the lights.  On the couch sat Kathleen holding a picture in her hands.  She looked up and Tom noticed the tears stains and red eyes.  Neither of them said anything for a short time but Tom decided to approach her.  He knew he was responsible for her current state so he would try to do something about it.
 “Why are you still up?”  Tom asked.
 “I….was waiting for you,” she said and looked down at the picture in her hands.  
 “I was afraid you wouldn’t come back and it’d be my fault,” She said as more tears threatened to fall.  Tom didn’t know what to say.  He came closer to her and looked at the picture in her hands.  It was one from many years ago showing him, Kathleen and Moira playing on the beach.  
 “I’m back, so go to bed,” Tom said.  He waited for her to move but she just stared at the picture.  “Look, I’m sorry for causing so much trouble,” he said in all sincerity but mostly because he wanted her to get up and go to bed.
 “No, I’m sorry,” Kathleen finally stood and faced him. “I’m sorry for what I said.  I didn’t mean it,” she began but was interrupted by Tom.
 “Stop!  I know you meant it at the time you said it and I agree with you, things would be simpler if I hadn’t shown up but I’m here now and I have nowhere else to go, so we’re all going to have to deal with it.”  Tom was about to leave but was stopped.
 “You’re home now, this is where you belong,”
 “I used to but I can’t keep walking on eggshells around everybody, hoping I don’t do something or say something to make them mad at me,” he snapped at her.
 “They just don’t know you yet, and you don’t know them.  Things will get better.”
 “Let’s hope.”
 “It has to, because if we lose you again….” She couldn’t finish as the tears finally fell.  She clutched the picture to her chest.  He closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around her offering whatever comfort he could.  She cried on his shoulder and Tom wished he could bring back the boy in the picture.

 He had a few minutes before classes started so he decided to spend the time in solitude, outside the school.  Not too far from the side entrance he sat leaning against the wall and thinking.  He shouldn’t have come back here.  He shouldn’t have left the ship, but he couldn’t stay there either.  He leaned his head against the hard material of the wall and looked up into the clear blue sky.  It was a beautiful day.  The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky but he didn’t take the time to enjoy it.
 Some voices and giggling caught his attention and he turned his head to see who it was.  Going into the side entrance were a group of girls, some of whom he had seen previously.  They were looking at him and whispering but he paid them no mind and returned to his tumultuous musings.
 “Tommy,” a sickeningly sweet female voice called him.  He knew to whom it belonged to and a slight smile graced his features.  She always used that voice to annoy him.
 “Sabrel, what are you doing here?” he said, still gazing up at the sky.
 “Checking on my favourite enigma.” She sat down beside him and joined in the sky gazing.  Sabrel was a betazoid and a friend of Isaac’s and thus a friend of Tom’s.  She had short brown hair and the characteristic black eyes. “So….” 
 Tom turned slightly to look at her. “So?” he asked.
 “What brings you out here?” she asked,
 “What’s in there.” He pointed to the wall they were leaning against.
 “I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who can’t stand them,” Sabrel said.  She was not among the popular girls in school because she didn’t conform.  She was a free spirit, doing as she pleased and dressing as she pleased.  Her clothing was baggier than what was currently considered in style and because of it the more popular girls tended not to socialize with her.  Tom however, thought that she was beautiful but knew she wasn’t interested in him.  She had her sights set on one of the members of the Parisee Squares team.
 “It’s not that I can’t stand them but I’m tired of the stares and whispers,” Tom explained.
 “Well nobody knows anything about you,” she said and looked at him. “They’re just curious,” 
 “Well they could just ask,” Tom said. “I can just imagine all the rumours,”
 “I’ve heard most of them but I’ve yet to hear the real story and there’s only one person who can tell it.”  She looked pointedly at him and Tom got the idea so he gave her the abbreviated version.  The first bell rang just as he finished and he stood up and offered her a hand.  Sabrel was still reeling with what she had just been told and hadn’t even heard the bell.
 “Earth to Sabrel, please respond.” Tom waved a hand in front of her face and she finally returned to the present.
 “I’m so sorry Tom,” she said softly.
 “Don’t worry about it.  Besides we’re going to be late for class,” Thomas said looking at his watch.  They walked to the entrance and went inside.
 “Can I still ask more questions?”  Sabrel asked him.
 “If you want,” Tom offered and Sabrel took him up on his offer and asked question about his watch and headband before they had to take separate routes to get to their classes.  They parted and planned to meet with the others after the school day was over.
 The last bell finally rang and a few minutes later after retrieving the items he wanted from his locker, Tom waited outside for Isaac, Sabrel and Cal.  Cal was the last member of the small group of people Tom spent time with.  Every so often he would look at his watch and check the time.  He had a meeting and he had to be on time.
 Cal and Sabrel emerged first and the three were left waiting for Isaac to show up.  Cal noticed Tom kept looking at his watch. “Are you in a hurry?
 “Yeah, where the hell do you have to be that’s so important?” came a voice from behind Cal.  They looked and to their displeasure stood Jeremy and his friend Brian.
 “Well, well, if it isn’t ‘Brain’ and ‘Dummy’,” Thomas scoffed.  These two in particular had been giving Tom trouble since he arrived.
 “I’ll ignore that and give you a second chance to answer the question,” Jeremy stated.  Tom and Jeremy glared daggers at each other.
 “At least he’s asking,” Sabrel said quietly to Tom.
 “If you must know, I have a meeting with my probation officer,” Tom said without breaking eye contact and watched in satisfaction as shock registered on Jeremy’s face.  Isaac exited the building and joined his friends.  He noticed Jeremy and Brian talking to Tom and hoped Tom hadn’t said something to aggravate them.
 “About time you showed up,” Cal said to Isaac and then addressed Jeremy and Brian. “We have to go now.”
 “I don’t know why you’re so scared of them,” Tom said once they were away from Brian and Jeremy.
 “It’s an unwritten rule.  You, just don’t bother them!” Isaac said.  Tom shrugged and the group continued walking.  Tom was walking to the stop where he could catch a public transport to take him to Starfleet Security.  Isaac, Sabrel and Cal where going to Cal’s hover-car.
 “Are you really on probation?” Isaac asked and the other two looked at Tom as well.  Tom nodded and took off his watch.
 “Monitored probation,” he added as he showed them the wristband. “Not only that but they won’t even let me get my pilot’s licence.” In the distance he heard the sound of a transport coming and knew it would be the one taking him to his meeting.  He quickly put the watch on again. “I’ve got to. My ride is almost here.”  He began to run to the pick up area where a few other students where already waiting. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow!”  Tom called over his shoulder to his friends who where still in a state of shock, each of them wondering what he could have done to be put on monitored probation.

 “You’re late,” the officer said as Tom walked into the room.
 “Bite me,” Tom snapped at him.  He hated these meetings.  They asked him how things were going as if they actually cared and then after they were done with the niceties they tried to get more information from him about the people he had been living with.  He had already agreed to help them improve their security systems by showing them how he would have bypassed them and show them what security set-ups are best for different situations but he was not going to give them any specific information about Douglas, Vaiyer, Murphy, Mec or Takara.  He didn’t want Starfleet tracing them.  Tom had a good reason why he wouldn’t give them any information but since he did not tell anybody they resorted to speculation.
 “How have you been?”  Lt. Hargan asked from across the table.
 “Cut the crap and let’s get this meeting over with,” Tom said as he sank into one of the other chairs.
 “You’ll curb that mouth of yours while you’re here.  Is that understood?” Hargan asked and Tom nodded after a moment.  “If you want to get right down to business then come with me.” Hargan stood and headed for the exit.  Tom swivelled his chair around but didn’t make any move to follow.
 “Where are we going?”  Tom asked.
 “Holodeck,” Hargan said and left the room.  Tom paused for a moment before he too got up and left the room, following Hargan through the corridors until they made to the holodeck.  As they walked Tom saw a few officers waiting outside what he assumed was the holodeck.  Their uniforms where also yellow and black so Tom assumed they would be participating in whatever it was Hargan had planned. 
 Tom’s assumption had been correct on all counts.  Hargan outlined what his objective was and what the other officers would be doing.  Basically Tom had to get through the program and the Security officers were going to try to stop him. They would be monitored by the cameras and sensors in the holodeck and, a few rooms over, Hargan and another officer would be watching.  Tom and three officers entered the large holodeck and began the scenario.  Four minutes later it was over when Tom reached his goal.
 In the other room Hargan was shaking his head in disbelief while the other officer tried to determine what had happened.  A few seconds after they had started Tom had disappeared from the cameras and he only appeared on sensors a few times before vanishing again.  Tom didn’t know it but this was the best design the engineers had come up with for a security outpost near the outskirts of the Federation and he managed to by pass every system.  //They’ll just have to find something better,// Hargan thought to himself.  It had been his idea to test out the systems this way.  Use a thief to catch a thief, as it were.  
 He reset the holodeck after saving the information and the scenario changed.  This time Tom would be alone in the holodeck and would have to try and reach his goal.  Hargan informed Tom of this and began the scenario with all sensors and cameras locked on Tom.
 Inside the holodeck Tom looked around.  The scenario had already started but he hadn’t moved yet.  He didn’t know the layout so this would be a challenge.  The room, as far as he could tell, was a large cargo storage area with several tall stacks of crates.  The crates prevented him from seeing very far but he saw one holographic guard pass by about ten meters away.  Luckily he had not been looking in Tom’s direction.  Tom decided it was about time he started moving.  He moved to the left and hid behind some of the crates.  Sneaking a quick peak around the next corner he estimated how far he had to go to reach his goal.  He formulated a plan and executed it.
 “Well?” Hargan asked the other officer who was looking at the sensors.
 “I can’t find him sir,” the other man said.  Tom had once again disappeared from sensors and the cameras.  A few seconds later the a small light on the console changed form red to green meaning Tom had successfully completed the scenario.
 “Do you have him on sensors?”  Hargan asked as he looked at the video feeds.  He thought he caught a glimpse of Tom but he couldn’t be sure.
 “I still can’t locate him,” the officer said and Hargan sighed in frustration.  
 “Where the hell is he?” Hargan asked to no one in particular.
 “Aww, did you miss me?” Tom asked and two startled people turned around and saw him leaning, with his arms crossed over his chest, against the wall beside the door.
 “How long have you been there?” Hargan asked.
 “A while,” Tom walked over to them. “How’d I do?”
 “Let’s just say you’re about to make the engineers who designed this scenario very angry,” Hargan said with a slight smile.

 “Why?” Owen asked.
 “I just can’t,” Tom said with his hands gripping the back of a chair.  Both his parents where in the living room while Kathleen stood at the far doorway listening.
 “You just don’t want to,” Owen interpreted. “Those people aren’t you’re friends Tom,” Owen had been told by Lt. Hargan that Tom still refused to disclose any information about the kidnappers.  He had received the information yesterday but had been too busy at the office to talk to Tom about it until now.
 “I know that,” Tom said tersely.
 “Then why keep protecting them?” Emily asked.
 “Because I promised them I wouldn’t snitch!” Tom finally said. “I left them a message before I left and told them that I wouldn’t tell anybody anything about them.  It was the only way I could assure them and keep them from hunting me down.”
 “You’re safe here.  You don’t have to worry about them,” Owen said.
 “Yes I do! Now more than ever!”
 “Why?  I don’t understand,” Emily said to her son.  She looked at him with pleading eyes hoping he would tell them. 
 “When I first left, I had nothing to loose but now….” Tom trailed off.
 “We’re safe here!” Owen said.
 “We weren’t safe here ten years ago and if what I saw yesterday at the security building is the best you have then we aren’t safe here now!” Tom said.  That statement quieted his family for a few seconds before Owen spoke again.
 “If you’d give us some information about them, then we’d be able to catch them and they wouldn’t be a threat anymore,” Owen reasoned.
 “You can’t guarantee you’ll catch them,” Tom said.
 “But with your help-” Emily began.
 “Why?” she asked.
 “Because they’ll kill you to get at me!” Tom finally told them.
 “Would they really do that?” Kathleen asked from the doorway.  Tom looked at her and then looked at his father.
 “I told you what happened to Takara,” Tom said and Owen stayed silent. “They’ll do it, because I’ve seen them do worse,” he told them all. “I can’t take that chance.”

 The next day at school more glances and stares followed him as he made his way to his locker.  He didn’t understand why but for some reason the looks they gave him spoke of more than curiosity.  When he reached his locker one word was written on it in bold letters, ‘CRIMINAL’.
 “Is it true?” Tom turned around and saw Cal and Isaac.  
 “Is what true?” Tom asked.
 “This,” Isaac thrust a paper in his face and Tom quickly skimmed the content.  “These are floating around the school.  Is it true?” Isaac said.
 “To a degree,” Tom said and handed the paper back to him.
 “How much of it?” Cal asked but before Tom could respond another voice intruded.
 “All of it!” Jeremy said.  “I guess your secret’s out,” Jeremy said.
 “I take it this is your doing,” Tom said to him and Jeremy bowed.  “It was never a secret, just not common knowledge,”
 “I had to do a little research but now they all know and can finally see you for what you really are!”  Jeremy stepped up closer to him but Tom didn’t move away. “A liar, a cheat, and a crook, and those are your good qualities,”
 “You better watch what you say,” Tom warned.
 “Oh, I’m so scared,” his words dripped with sarcasm and Tom was tired of his attitude.  He pivoted and was about to walk away but Jeremy grabbed him and slammed him against the wall of lockers.  “Where the hell do you think you’re going?  I haven’t dismissed you yet!”  
 Shouts started coming form the crowd of students who had come to witness the confrontation.  The mob mentality was firmly planted in place as they shouted repeatedly for them to fight.  In the crowd Isaac and Cal tried to come to Tom’s aid but Jeremy’s friends where blocking them.
 “Let go of me or you’ll regret it,” Tom articulated each word and forced himself not to lash out at Jeremy.  He was making himself a welcome target for Tom to take out his frustrations and emotions on but he resisted the urge to beat him senseless.
 “Threats from you don’t scare me!”  Jeremy leaned in closer and spoke softly so only his victim could hear him. “I have the power here.  Their idiots!” He nodded in the direction of the crowd. “They’ll follow whoever is strong enough to lead them and that’s me.  I tell them what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s in and what’s out and I say that you,” he slammed Tom into the lockers again for emphasis “are out!”
 When the tirade ended Tom decided Jeremy needed to be brought out of his dream world and proceeded to show him the reality of the situation.  In one swift motion Tom switched their positions so Jeremy was now pinned against the lockers.  He pressed his forearm against Jeremy’s neck enough to lessen his ability to breath but not enough to choke.
 “You don’t know who you’re dealing with and you grossly overestimate your influence!”  Tom leaned closer.  “I am not afraid of you.  I’ve beat tougher and smarter people than you and I can do it again.” Tom held him there to make sure his point got across before releasing him.
 “You’ll regret this,” Jeremy choked out as he gasped for precious oxygen.
 “Not a half as much as you will.  I won’t be intimidated by the likes of you!”  Tom stated evenly as he reigned in his emotions.  He walked away from Jeremy and towards the crowd that parted as he took his leave.

 The end of classes came around too slowly in Tom’s opinion.  Throughout the day he received several comments and was taunted whenever a teacher or school official wasn’t present.  The whispered comments where now spoken loud enough for him to hear as he passed but he ignored them, acted like they didn’t matter.  Everybody had an opinion about what was none of his or her business.
 Nobody was willing to take him in a fight, which was one thing that Tom was thankful for but being pushed around in a crowded hallway was not uncommon.  Several times he was knocked to the ground and on the last occasion someone had managed to take his headband.  Fortunately the scar on his forehead was partially concealed by the hair the fell to his forehead but it managed to earn him more glances.
 When the day came to a close Tom left immediately, hoping to escape further embarrassment.  He didn’t wait for his friends thinking they probably wanted nothing more to do with him but when he heard his name being called without an insult being attached at the beginning or end he knew it was his friends.  He still held hope but knew they would want the whole story; he could give them that.

 “Hey, Tommy,” Kathleen said when she saw her brother walk into the house.  He was a little later returning from school than usual but she assumed he had finally joined an extracurricular group like their parents had been insisting he should.  It seemed all he did was read, listen to music and watch vids.  Normally they wouldn’t mind but his behaviour was very anti-social and they didn’t want him to have any trouble fitting in at school.
 “Hey Kath,” Tom said as he put his bag down and went to the kitchen to get something to eat.  When he didn’t come out for at least five minutes she decided to see what he was doing.  Kathleen found Tom looking at the replicator console as it displayed a list of items it could replicate.  Tom’s brow was creased in confusion.  He had never heard of most of these foods.  His diet before had consisted mostly of the bare essentials and not much more.  These foods were foreign to him as was much of his new life.
 “You need some help?” Kathleen asked him with a smile. 
 “Yeah.  What’s a….dough…nut?”  Tom read the strange word from the list.
 “You’ve never had one?”  Tom shook his head and continued looking through the list of junk food.
 “Gummie Bears?  Pixie stix?  Pop…corn?”  Tom read more of the strange names from the list and looked to his sister hoping she could shed some light on what exactly all of this was.  
 “You have to try some of these,” Kathleen said as she approached the replicator.  It started out innocently enough but it soon exploded into a massive taste test.  They replicated several types of junk food and ate them together while they talked in the kitchen.  An hour later that was how Emily Paris found them; happily talking over a bowl of gummie worms.

 As the year wore on Tom found himself growing more accustomed to his new life despite the radical changes.  Generally he was happy.  He still had arguments with his sisters and his parents –usually his father-but he knew his place was with them.  They were his strength and with them he had found contentment, which he had rarely experienced before.  Still, there was a gap between them.  Tom would not speak of his time with his abductors nor would he give any information about them.  Countless times his family and friends would assure him of their security but every so often Tom would look over his shoulder expecting to see somebody following him but never had he found them.

 “He is no threat to us,” Mec said as he stepped off the transporter pad.  Douglas still wasn’t appeased.  He stood leaning against the transporter controls deep in thought.  “He has not given Starfleet any information.”
 “Yet,” Douglas added. “One day he’ll tell them and they’ll track us down.”
 “You are being paranoid.” Mec stated. “He has nothing to gain from turning us in and he fears us; you in particular.” 
 Douglas was silent as he tried to convince himself.  “In time he’ll forget everything we’ve taught him,” Douglas stated to himself, “but mark my words, if he turns on us he’ll regret it for the rest of his life.”

 His life right now was everything he could have imagined and more-a family, real friends who stood by him and a bright future.  Every day he would walk the short distance to his house from where the public transport would drop him off.  As he approached the building he knew it wasn’t just any building, inside were the people who meant the most to him.  They loved him unconditionally and he was now absolutely certain he loved them as well.  It felt like he always had, as if the feelings had never truly been lost, only forgotten.  With the help of his family and the familiar surroundings the emotions had been rekindled but not in the same magnitude they had been before.  
 Ten of the most important years of his life had been spent away from his family and Tom had grown up without them.  There would always be a rift separating Tom from the rest of his family, one only time could bridge.  Despite the set backs, every day when he approached the structure after school he knew he was home.

End Part 4: Where the Heart Is

Sorry it took so long but there it is.  Comments and stuff to The next chapter won’t take quite so long to be posted (hopefully).