Flight of the Nightingale

From crime@acs.bu.edu Sat Feb 17 10:34:44 1996
Date: Sat, 17 Feb 1996 09:45:07 -0500 (EST)
From: mary self
To: David Tremel
Cc: mary self
Subject: Flight of the Nightingale

Disclaimers: See part 1 of the trilogy.

Flight of the Nightingale
Part III of The Onca and the Nightingale

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1995

He had been asleep; how long he didn’t know, when the dream came.
A small voice in the back of his head told him he was alone, but he ignored
it. Curling his arm around the pillow, he imagined her lying beside him, his
arm draped over her waist. Softly, he called her name, and saw her head turn
towards him. A whispered `I love you’ escaped from his lips before he sank
into a deeper dreamless state.

The cold water felt good, reviving him from a near zombied state.
The dream always had a carryover effect, leaving him sluggish the next
morning.
Putting both hands on either side of the basin, he stared into the
mirror; the face that stared back didn’t seem to have changed that much in
ten years. Sure, there were a few wrinkles and experience had replaced the
unabashed cockiness in his clear blue eyes. But overall, *you’ve still got
it, Thomas.* He flashed his trademark grin at the reflection.
Two years. It was hard to believe it had been two years since he
last saw Mylaa and the twins at Harry’s funeral. It seemed only yesterday
that he had been bestman at their wedding, and then the twins, Thomas Harold
and Katheryn Eugene, had been born. Both he and the Captain were honored
with the role of godparents.
*Tommy and Genie would be almost six years old, now,* he mused.
*Gods, I bet they’ve grown. They were only two when we found the wormhole
leading home; the same year that Kes died,* he thought, grimly.
“I guess a lot has happened in the past ten years,” he muttered to
himself. Then, he looked admiringly at the three solid pips on his collar.
A full commander, now. *Dad would’ve been pleased; so would have Harry.*
He could almost hear his friend’s voice of approval. Harry had
been almost as happy as he when Starfleet had allowed Tom to retain his rank
and position, assigning him to the USS Farragut. The next year, the five of
them had all met to celebrate Tom’s completion of command school and Harry’s
promotion to Chief of Operations at Starbase 14. Nine months later, an
explosion had cut short his friend’s life, leaving Mylaa alone with
the children.
She had returned to Earth with Harry’s parents and now lived near
Boston, teaching part-time at Harry’s old alma mater, Julliard. According, to
her last subspace message, something wonderful had happened, but she had
refused to say what, leaving Paris burning with curiosity and a little afraid.
He moved into the seating area of his quarters and sat down in front
of the viewscreen. Reaching into a storage compartment, he removed a yellow
chip. Harry’s last communique before his death; in some way, Harry had known
about his impending death. Tom fingered the chip gently before placing it
in the reader. Sitting back, he waited for his friend’s image to appear
on the screen.
“Hi Tom.” Kim’s face and voice flooded Paris’ mind with memories.
“Haven’t heard from you in a while, although rumor has it Captain
T’sai has put you up for another commendation after the Largos incident.
At this rate, I know you’ll make Commander, maybe even Captain.
“But the real reason I’m contacting you is,” the young Lieutenant
paused. “Well, I’ve been thinking. Something has been nagging me at the
back of my brain for a while now, and it wasn’t until today that I realized
what it was. Listen, old man.” The voice choked with emotion. “You are the
best friend I’ve got. We’ve been through a lot together, and I don’t know
anyone better I can ask this of. If, gods forbid, something should happen to
me, could you keep an eye on Mylaa and the twins. You know, just check in
with them periodically to make sure they are okay.
“I know my parents will take them in, but at their age, there is a
limit to how much they can do. Besides, I don’t know if Mom would go for the
idea of her granddaughter becoming a Starfleet engineer,” he grinned.
“I tell you, Tom, it’s amazing. Genie takes apart and reassembles
almost every toy she comes in contact with; while Tommy is content just to sit
on his mother’s lap and bang on the aleel. Kids.” The image shook its head.
“They really are something else. I hope you can settle down someday, Tom.
You don’t know what you are missing; the diapers, the colds, the tantrums.”
A huge smile spread across Kim’s face. “And you know, I wouldn’t trade any
of it for all the gold-pressed latinum in the Alpha Quadrant.
“Seriously though, Tom. I know how you feel about Mylaa. No, don’t
be upset; you’ve always been the perfect gentleman and friend. In fact, I
don’t think Mylaa has clue one as to the extent of your feelings, but a
couple of days ago, while I was working on an ODN subprocessor, it hit me.
I guess maybe, I’ve always known; it just took me a little while to
discover it. Anyway.” The ghost cleared it throat. “If something should
happen to me, don’t let our friendship stand in the way; go after her. She is
a great wife and mother, and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have than
you as a stepfather to the twins.
“Oh, one more thing. Like I said before, you are my best friend, and
I love you, Tom. I’ll never forget all that you have done for me and Mylaa.
I only hope someday I can repay you. Sorry this is kind of a depressing
message, but I just felt I had to get this off my chest. I promise I’ll be
more upbeat in the next communique. Take care, old man,” Harry signed off.
A few weeks later, he was dead when a master station monitor exploded, taking
half of the starbase’s ops area with it.
Tom removed the chip and returned it to the storage container.
*Harry,* he moaned inwardly. *What was the old saying? Too good to live; too
young to die?* Tom buried his face in his hands and sat still waiting for the
tidal wave of emotions to pass over him.
A familiar voice summoned him back to the present.
“Janeway to #1.”
Tom took a deep breath and stood up before responding. “Paris here,
Captain.”
“Commander, I have been waiting in the shuttlebay for five minutes.
Have you reconsidered your plans to pilot me into Starfleet Headquarters?”
The voice was not unkind, just impatient. She knew Tom was nervous about
seeing Mylaa again, but she had a report due at 0800 with Admiral T’Kala.
And the sooner, she got through with it, the sooner she could see Mark, Little
Bear and her godchildren.
“On my way.” Tom grabbed a nearby duffle bag and ran out of the room.

“Sorry I kept you waiting, Captain. I-” He felt as nervous as a
freshman cadet.
“It’s alright, Tom; we’re not late.” She gave him a supportive smile.
“I just want to have time to see the twins, as well as Mark and Bear. So,”
She headed toward the waiting craft. “The sooner we get started. . . ”
He nodded. She understood; she always had, in spite of her early
distrust. And when Commander Jenkins had left to take command of the newly
refitted Magellan, she had honored Paris first by supporting Captain T’sai’s
promotion recommendation, and then by requesting him as her new first officer
on Voyager. Stepping onto the bridge one year ago had been like coming home
again, even if every now and then he expected to run into old ghosts.

*******************************************************************************

“1341,” Tom read the number on the tiles set into the low wall.
Behind lay a small neat yard divided by a stone walkway leading up to a one
story dwelling. Fragrant flowers bordered the walkway; their sweet smell
inviting him to take a deep breath. Bending down, he took a few deep sniffs
of a peach-coloured rose, when the sound of running feet made him look up.
“Uncle Tom,” came the chorused shout from two children as they
rounded the corner of the house.
Smiling broadly, Paris dropped to his knees, catching one child in
each arm. He felt four small arms encircle his neck, practically choking him
in their excited affection.
“Hey, you two,” the grown man protested. “Hold on a minute; let me
get a good look at you.” Gently, he removed the children’s arms. “Good gods,
you two have grown. The last time I saw you, you were barely bigger than a
Bajoran kandipper. At this rate, you’ll be ready for the Academy by fall.”
Genie giggled, her hazel eyes lighting up in a way her mother’s never
could. “He,” pointing a finger at her brother. “Doesn’t want to go to the
Academy. He wants to stay here and play for the London Philharmonic, but I’m
gonna go to the Academy and become a starship captain, just like
Aunt Kathryn,” she declared, tilting her chin defiantly.
“And I’m sure you’ll make a great one, but,” Tom turned to his
godson. “Playing in such a prestigious orchestra is a wonderful ambition, in
its own right. Something your dad would’ve been proud of.”
The mention of their father brought a touch of sadness to the twins’
expression; evidently, even after two years, Harry’s absence was still keenly
felt. Trying to salvage their earlier happiness, Tom picked up the duffle.
“Omigosh, I almost completely forgot. I brought some presents
with me.”
“Presents!” The twins faces brightened.
Burrowing into the bag, he pulled out four packages. “These are from
Mr. Tuvok and Chakotay. When they learned that Voyager was coming to Earth,
they asked me to deliver them. And-,” He reached in again. “These are from
me; the Captain, ah, Aunt Kathryn will be bringing hers by later.”
“Aunt Kathryn’s coming?” Genie asked anxiously, taking her presents
from Tom. “Really? When?”
“Well, she had a meeting this morning at Command, but if she gets out
early enough, she promised me she would stop by. Now, why don’t you take me
to your mother. I didn’t travel light years just to see you two gremlins,”
he teased.
“Mommy is out back by the pool. Galen had it put in two months ago as
a present; it’s really neat,” Tommy enthused. “Will you come swimming with
us, later?”
“Yes, will you?” pleaded his sister.
“Maybe,” Tom’s manner stiffened slightly. *Who was this Galen?*
“If there is time,” he finished, picking up the almost empty duffle.
Oblivious, to the alteration in his mood, each twin took a hand and
began leading him toward an open gate on the side of the house. Passing
through it, Tom saw across the small pool, a woman in a bathing suit sitting
under the shade of a small tree.
The twins flew to her, eager to display their new treasures. Calming
them as best she could, Paris heard her ask as he advanced, “Did you thank
your uncle?”, obviously expecting the answer to be negative.
“Thank you, Uncle Tom!” the twins shouted in unison, as they sat down
to examine their booty.
“You’re quite welcome,” he replied bowing in feigned formality.
Hearing his voice, the woman rose from her chair and turned to face
him. He sucked in his breath. *She’s more beautiful than I remembered.
Those damn viewscreens just don’t do a person justice.*
“Hello, Tom,” came the clear voice. “I’m so glad you could come.”
She walked toward him slowly, holding out her hand.
“If you think that I would come all the way to Earth and not stop by
to see my two godchildren-” he stopped. Something was different about her.
*Something.* He stared at her. She was smiling broadly, her eyes lit with a
warm glow of friendship. *Her eyes!*
“Mylaa,” he whispered disbelievingly. “You can see, can’t you.”
“Surprise!” she laughed and ran to him. “Oh, Tom it’s so good to
finally see you.”
He caught her in his arms, pulling her close. Then, he grabbed her
upper arms and held her away. “How? When?” he sputtered.
She giggled. “About five months ago. The Doctors at the Quaice
Medical Institute installed visual pathway enhancers; this pool was a `get
well’ present. Now, let me get a good look at you,” she added, a mischievous
tone creeping into her voice.
“No,” Tom laughed. “You might not like what you see.” He pulled her
close again, feeling the body he had last night held in his dreams press
against his. *Oh gods! I can’t. Harry, help me.*
Realizing that he might have hugged her a little too close, a little
too long, he released her without warning. Covering himself, he intoned
casually, “The Captain is going to stop by later if she can, and knowing her,
I’m sure she will.”
“The Captain?” Mylaa looked puzzled, then brightened. “Oh, that’s
right. You are back on Voyager, now, and a Commander, too,” she added,
noting his collar. “Harry always did believe that you would make it.”
He looked at her, seeing the pride in him reflected in her face.
She was still standing close to him, her hand resting lightly on his arm.
*So close,* he thought. *Damn, who was this Galen?*
As his eyes fixed on some faraway object, Mylaa studied his face.
B’Elanna had been right. He probably had been an arrogant, handsome youth.
Time has diminished the arrogance, however, but not the looks.
She had reviewed messages from him and the others after the operation,
anxious to fit faces to the voices she knew so well. *His eyes are so blue.
As blue as the Aldean crystal earrings Harry gave me on my birthday.
I wonder why he never married?*
The children giggled, snapping them both back from their separate
thoughts. Genie had already taken Tom’s present of a mini-transporter
platform apart, while her brother gazed admiringly at Chakotay’s present of a
hand-crafted Kokopelli pipe.
“I haven’t heard from B’Elanna lately, have you?” Tom was the first
to break the silence.
“Yes. I got a transmission from her the other day, actually. The
negotiations are plodding along, but both the Federation and the Klingon
Empire seemed determined to see this treaty through. Oh, and you won’t
believe it. She’s getting a mate. He’s the son of one of the Klingon
ambassadors. Quite handsome she says with, and I quote, `the spirited black
eyes of a true warrior’. They plan to take the marriage oath in seven months
when negotiations subside for a few weeks. She has asked me to come and bring
the twins. She was also going to try and contact you and the Captain, but I
guess she hasn’t been able to yet.”
“The Captain will be thrilled,” Tom observed. He shook his head.
“B’Elanna married, heh, I’ll believe it when I see it. I guess that only
leaves Chakotay and me as the lone bachelors.”
“Well, there is the Doctor,” Mylaa joked. “By the way, do you still
use him as the regular physician on board?”
“No, and I never thought I’d say it, but I miss him. When Voyager
was spacedocked after we returned, they downloaded his program, replacing it
with a more up-to-date physician, as well as a live CMO.”
“There must be a lot of ghosts that haunt you on that ship,” Mylaa
stated sympathetically. “And it isn’t exactly built for families.”
“That’s true, but it’s still home. And I’ll probably always see it as
such, no matter who is on board.”
Mylaa nodded, then brightened. “Listen to us, going on about ghosts
and old memories, we sound like bunch of officers at a retirement party.
Can I get you something to eat or drink? We have just about a little of
everything, even,” her eyes twinkled. “Plain tomato soup.”
Tom laughed. “If I never hear another word about tomato soup, it will
be too soon. However, a tall, cool glass of spinach juice would do nicely.”
“Well, come on inside, and I’ll see what I can find. You will be
staying for a few days, won’t you?” She noted his duffle for the first time.
“You can have the spare room, and Genie and Tom would love to have you around.
On cue, the twins ran over crying, “Please stay, Uncle Tom. You said
you’d come swimming with us.”
“How can I refuse you, two?” Tom smiled down.
“Oh, you learn to,” replied their mother. “You learn to.”
“Uncle Tom, will you coming swimming, now?”
“Well, I-”
“Please,” they chorused.
“Why don’t you take a dip, Tom. It’s a beautiful day.” Mylaa smiled.
“Well, I didn’t bring a suit,” Tom began.
“Oh, that’s no problem. I think I can come up with a pair that fits.
You and Galen are about the same size, and he always keeps some clothes stashed
here in case he can get away from the Institute.”
Tom felt his jealousy get the better of him. “Who is Galen?” he
demanded, following her into the house. “The kids said her gave you the pool.”
“He’s a boyhood friend of Harry’s. I met him through Harry’s parents
when we moved here.” Mylaa led the way down a short hallway to the guest
room. “I think they are worried about the children not having a father
figure around. Anyway, Galen and Harry had grown up together, but had gone
their separate ways when Harry had applied to the Academy and Galen went to
the Daystrom Institute. He teaches there now, and it was through him that I
was able to get a teaching job at Julliard. In fact, if it hadn’t been for
Galen, I might never have gone to the Quaice Institute. He has another friend,
who works in Experimental Opthamology there and who agreed to see me as a
personal favor. The rest, as they say, is history”. Mylaa stopped in the
doorway.
“Here is the guest room. You can put your things in these two drawers
or in that closet.” She pointed to a nearby panel. “Let’s see,” she opened
a third drawer. “Here we go. I think these will fit you.” She playfully
tossed a pair of dark blue trunks at him.
Tom caught them, jealously repulsed at the thought of borrowing his
rival’s clothes. “Really, I-”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m sure Galen wouldn’t mind.” Seeing his
expression, she continued. “He’s been good to me and the twins, Tom. When
I’ve needed someone, he’s been here, never asking for anything in return.
I know you would’ve been here, too, if you could, Tom.”
Tom winced, thinking about Harry’s words. *`You know, just check in
with them. . .make sure they are okay. . .I can’t think of anyone I’d rather
have. . .you’re my best friend.’ I’m sorry, Harry; I didn’t mean to
fail you.*
“Tom.” Mylaa put a hand on his shoulder. “Tom, it’s okay. Harry
would’ve understood.”
*Yeah, but can I?* Tom forced a rueful grin, trying to hide the pain
which had seized his chest. “Yeah, you’re right,” he agreed, nodding his
head. “It’s just that he was my best friend, and you’re my friend, and . . .”
he broke off, feeling the words choke in his throat.
“I know,” came her soft reply. “Tom, you did your best. Harry would
not have wanted you to sacrifice your career a second time. Besides, we’ve
done okay on our own. Now, why don’t you change and meet us out at the pool.
The twins are counting on you.”
Tom nodded again. *Yeah, you’ve done all right, with Galen’s help,*
he thought grimly as she left the room.

A few minutes later, he emerged from the house. The twins were
already in the pool splashing water at each other. Mylaa sat on the far side
with her legs dangling listlessly in the water. She didn’t look up, and her
expression told him she was thousands of kilometers away.
Noting the depth, he dove in and pulled himself through the water with
strong, rhythmic strokes. He stopped in front of her and peered up into
her face. Startled, she found herself looking into a pair of concerned
blue eyes.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-” He didn’t get a chance to finish, as
two small bodies jumped him from behind, knocking him off balance and
underwater.
When he came up, the twins were furiously making for the other side,
evidently pleased with their successful ambush. “Why, you. I’ll get you
both,” he threatened playfully, swimming after them. His long limbs easily
cut the distance between them, and with one powerful kick, he reached out,
catching one leg in each hand.
The twins screamed in mock terror. Holding one in each arm under the
shoulders, he turned towards their mother, who was trying unsuccessfully to
keep a straight face.
“What should I do with them?” he shouted. “On board, attacking a
superior officer would land them in the brig.”
“The brig it is, then,” Mylaa teasingly agreed. “With only bread
and water to eat.”
“Aye, Captain,” he responded, hauling the screaming twins toward the
steps. Relaxing his grip just enough, he allowed them to kick free of his
grasp. He stood up in the shallows with his hand on his hips. “Captain, the
prisoners have escaped. Shall I go after them?”
Mylaa shook her head, laughing too hard to reply. She watched him look
after the twins with feigned disgust. *He’s kept in shape,* she noted
admiringly. *Lean, but strong, with not an milligram of fat, probably.* Her
eyes followed appreciatively the flow of muscles from his shoulders down his
chest to his tight stomach.
“Hey,” he called. “What are you looking at?”
“You.” she replied, truthfully.
“Oh, really?” He swam over. *Maybe it wasn’t too late for him,
after all.* “Why?”
“I was just wondering why you never married.”
A brief look of pain crossed Tom’s face.
“Did Ricki hurt you that much?” She caressed his cheek tenderly with
her hand.
Tom looked into her hazel eyes, softened by compassion. Every fibre
in his body screamed at him to tell her the truth. He closed his eyes, took
a deep breath and lied.
“I guess I’ve just never found `Miss Right’.” He answered, avoiding
her gaze. “But enough about me.” Reaching up, he grabbed her around the
waist and pulled her into the pool.
“Yea! Uncle Tom’s got Mommy!” came the cry of support.
*I wish,* he thought. *Gods, do I wish*, as he defended himself
against her counter-attack.

*******************************************************************************

Mylaa stood on the porch watching but not seeing the twins scampering
around outside. She couldn’t remember the last time she and the children had
had so much fun. *Probably when Harry took us to Bracas.*
Tom had been wonderful, treating them like they were his own kids.
*He’ll make someone a marvelous husband and father some day.* She thought a
moment. *Even me.* Memories of him over the past twenty-four hours flitted
across her mind. Him helping Genie; him standing in the pool; him embracing
her when he had first arrived.
She hadn’t heard him come up behind her, and now less than three
centimeters separated their bodies. She felt the flush begin; a light pink
stripe which ran down both sides of her neck and shoulders indicating a
Kera’anians sexual receptivity. *He must know; he must have noticed.*
She closed her eyes, hoping to feel kisses caress the darkening flesh.
Tom looked at her neck, feeling his own desire increase when he saw
the pink strip of flesh. Putting his hands on her shoulders, he pulled her
back into his chest. Murmuring her name, his lips traced the path of her
hair down to her neck.
“MOMMY! MOMMY!” Genie’s screams broke through the moment. She was
running toward them, motioning urgently.
Still dazed by desire, Mylaa shook her head. Looking out across the
pool area, she saw the reason for the child’s panic. “Oh my gods, TOMMY!”
The boy was floating face down in the pool with a reddish patch of
water spreading out from his head.
Tom raced to the pool with Mylaa close behind. Jumping in, he grabbed
the child and turned him over. A large gash on the child’s forehead was the
source of the blood. He hauled the boy to the side where Mylaa lifted
him out and laid him on the ground. Tom pulled himself out and checked the
child’s pulse. *Nothing, and he isn’t breathing either.*
As he began CPR, Mylaa ran to the outside comm center to request
assistance. Seconds later, the medics arrived and transported the boy, Mylaa
and Genie to the hospital. After they disappeared, Paris went inside to change
before heading to the hospital to join them.

*******************************************************

Tom lay back on the bed, his arms tucked under his head. They had only
gotten back from the hospital a few hours ago, and now it was, what 2400?
0100? He didn’t know.
The day had started out so well. The four of them had felt like a
real family, *his* family. And Mylaa. He could still sense the presence of
her skin on his lips, still smell the mild fragrance of her hair. *And she
had wanted me just as much as I wanted, hell, still want her,* he thought
bitterly. It seemed like Fate would never to grow tired of playing its sick
little jokes on him.
At the hospital, he had sat with his arms around both Mylaa and Genie,
leaving them only to see if any new information about Tommy had come through.
Then, *he* had shown up. Tom’s mouth wrinkled in disgust.
Ferret had been the first word to spring to his mind; though, he
conceded that some women might find Galen attractive. Dark, glittering eyes
and dark hair which contrasted starkly with the smooth white skin. *A little
too much time in the laboratory, Herr Doktor?*
As Mylaa rose to greet him, Genie had tugged at Paris’ sleeve. “That
is Mommy’s friend, Galen. I don’t like him. Tommy thinks he’s only nice to
us because of her.”
Tom had looked up at the two adults as they embraced for a second
time. “You know what, Genie. I don’t think I like him too much either.”
Later, after introductions were made, the four of them had sat together
and waited. Mylaa had been between the two men, Galen’s arm draped
protectively?, possessively? around her shoulders. Genie had sat on Tom’s lap
eventually falling asleep with her head on his chest.
Nobody had really said much. *Thank gods for small miracles.* What
little talking there was had been done by Galen, using his connections to
assure that Mylaa’s child got “the very best care possible”.
At 2100, the attending physician had informed them that Tommy was out
of danger, but had to remain for observation. Tom had noted that Galen had
hesitantly let him take Mylaa and Genie home alone.
“I’ll call you tomorrow, if I learn anything new,” had been his
parting comment. *Yeah, right. Like you’re going to stay up all night at a
hospital for a kid that isn’t even yours and that you really don’t care about.
Don’t make me laugh, Doctor.*
Tom rolled over on his side. Two rooms away, Genie was sleeping with
Mylaa. The little girl had been a real trooper through the whole ordeal, and
it wasn’t until they had reached home that she had awoken and started to cry.
*She probably will make Captain one day.* He thought of her namesake on
Voyager and smiled. *This hasn’t been much of a shore leave, yet, Captain,
but maybe things will change tomorrow.*

***********************************************************

He woke at 0600 automatically. Everything was quiet. Tom showered
and dressed quickly. *I’ll let them sleep and fix my own breakfast. Then,
in a little while, I’ll take breakfast in to them,* he thought, creeping
noiselessly down the hall.

He was turning the bacon when he heard the comm panel chime.
Afterward, he heard the bedroom door open and water splashing in the bath.
In a few minutes, Mylaa appeared at the kitchen entrance.
“Oh good. You’re awake. I hated the thought of having to disturb
you. Galen just called. They are releasing Tommy this morning; evidently,
he just fine and is screaming to leave. Anyway,” she continued. “Galen is
meeting me at the hospital in a few minutes; so-” She stopped, suddenly
noticing the aroma of bacon and coffee.
“You’ve made breakfast.” A note of appreciation was in her voice.
“It smells delicious, but I’ve got to run. Genie is still asleep in my
bedroom. When she wakes, if you could tell her where I’ve gone and make sure
she eats more than just the sugared gromlach for breakfast. I’d really
appreaciate it.”
She looked at the clock. “Omigosh, I’ve got to fly. Thank gods for
transporters, huh?” She stopped and gave him an impulsive hug. “Oh, Tom,
I don’t know what I’d have done if you hadn’t been here. I just wish there
was some way I could thank you properly for saving Tommy, but I don’t know
where to start.” Hearing her voice quiver, she pulled away, slightly
embarrassed, and Tom saw tears well up in her eyes as she cast her
glance downward.
“Mylaa,” he said softly. He took her face in between his hands,
lifting it to meet his gaze. “You don’t owe me anything; friends never have
debts to settle. Now,” he invoked his command tone. “You’d better get going;
Tommy’s probably very anxious to come home.”
She laughed and snapped to mock attention. “On my way, Commander.”

Galen joined them for supper that night to celebrate the young boy’s
release, and at first, the doctor was polite. But as the night wore on, Paris
found himself becoming annoyed at the younger man’s arrogance and blatant
attempts to verbally spar with him.
“We are making a mistake pursuing this alliance with the Klingons.”
Galen declared. “It would be much more advantageous for us to pursue closer
relations with the Romulans.”
“I disagree.” Tom shook his head. “I know someone who is part of the
Federation team, and she says many Klingons are as committed to renewing the
peace as we are. Besides, Starfleet believes that an alliance with the
Klingons gives us more leverage when negotiating with the Romulans. And,”
he challenged Galen’s gaze. “I agree.”
“I was not aware of how committed you were to Starfleet policy.” The
younger man’s eyes glittered dangerously. “I wonder if you were so committed
after Caldik Prime?”
Tom stared at him, feeling his face flush with anger. After almost
twenty years, he thought he had heard the last of that particular hell which
had once been his life.
“Galen, may I speak with you in the kitchen?” Mylaa’s voice was quiet,
but commanding. “Now.”
Galen rose, still savouring his verbal thrust, and followed her into
the kitchen. She turned on him; fists clenced at her side; her eyes flashing
with a fury that he had never in all his life felt. *But I think I’m about
to,* he remarked inwardly.
“How dare you! How dare you throw that in his face?” she hissed.
“I’m only trying to remind you what type of person he was and possibly
still is. What kind of person your children could choose as a role model.”
His voice was polite, but patronizing.
“What kind of person he is! I know what kind of person he is, probably
better than anyone, certainly you. Yes, he’s made mistakes; we all do. But he
has paid for those mistakes many times over. Not only that, but he has been
forgiven by just about everyone, including Starfleet, and he has 3 latinum pips
to prove it. Even if he was what you seem to think he is, he is a guest in
MY home, and will be treated as such as long as he is under my roof. Do I make
myself clear?”
Her eyes held his gaze, and he felt himself weaken under her attack.
“Yes, if that is what you want.” His voice was hardly more than a whisper.

As they disappeared into the kitchen, Tom looked from the children’s
puzzled faces down to his plate. Mylaa’s delicious cooking had suddenly become
inedible. He pushed himself back from the table. “If your mother wants me, I
will be in the guest room. Tell her, tell her I’ve lost my appetite.”
Reaching the room, he locked the door behind him and leaned against it
breathing heavily. *I can’t stay here,* he told himself. Crossing the room,
he picked up his duffle and automatically began throwing his clothes into it.
*I can’t stay here, not with him under the same roof. If I do,* he
grimaced. *I may be forced to breach protocol yet again. Funny, after all
these years, you’d think I’d be used to the taunts.* He sank down on the bed,
his head in his hands. *Oh gods, Harry, I don’t know what to do.*
There was a soft knock on the door. “Tom,” he heard Mylaa call. “Tom,
can I come in?”
He rose and opened the door.
“Tom, I’ve been talking to Galen, and he-” She stopped, seeing the
half-packed bag on the bed. “Tom, please say you’re not leaving.”
“I have to Mylaa; really, I can’t stay. Staying would put you in
between Galen and myself, and I won’t have that.” He turned from her and
continued packing.
“But what about the twins? They have been so looking forward to having
you around. If you leave like this, they’ll think they’ve done something
wrong.” She grabbed his arm.
“Tell them there was an emergency on the ship, and that I had
no choice. What’s done is done.” He turned to face her.
The hurt and anger in his eyes pierced her to the core. Throwing her
arms around his neck, she whispered, “I’m sorry.”
He pulled her arms from around his neck and held her hands between his.
“I’m sorry, too,” he said, releasing them and picking up the duffle. “Paris
to Voyager.”
“Go ahead, Commander.”
“One to beam up. Energize.”
Mylaa watched as he vanished infront of her. Dazed, she turned and
left the room. Walking into the dining area, she felt her knees begin to
buckle, and she grabbed the table for support.
Galen was at once by her side. “What’s wrong, Mylaa? What has he done
to you?”
She stood there, staring at, but not seeing the table. “He hasn’t done
anything; he’s left. And now, Galen, I would appreciate it if you would leave
as well. I think I would like to spend the rest of the evening with my
children, alone.” Her last word carried more than a ring of finality.
“Of course, I’ll let myself out.”
As soon as he was gone, Mylaa allowed herself to sink into a chair and
cry, much to the confusion and concern of the twins.

*******************************************************************************

“Computer, any messages?” Mylaa entered the house, arms full of food.
The twins followed behind her.
“No messages.”
*Damn!* She had left messages for Tom all morning, feeling certain
that once he knew Galen was gone, he would return at least to say good-bye
to the children.
Thinking for a moment, she decided to try and contact someone else on
board and see if they could find him. The Captain would be too busy; besides
she really didn’t want Kathryn involved. Of course! Tuvok. She could count
on him to stay dispattionately uninvolved in these muddy emotional waters.

“Tuvok here.”
“Mr. Tuvok. Oh, it’s so good to see you. I want to thank you for the
children’s gifts. Genie has already begun reading her tech primer.”
The Vulcan nodded. “I am gratified that my presents are of use, and
may I add that I am pleased to see that you recent operation had been
successful. However, I do not believe that you contacted me just to express
that rather emotional human response of gratitude. Would I be wrong in
assuming that you are looking for Commander Paris?”
“Guilty, as charged.” Her eyes twinkled at the stoic image. “I’ve
been trying to reach him all day, but everytime I’ve called, he hasn’t been
on board.”
“I believe he left quite early this morning with the intention of
staying overnight in Marseilles. Logically, I would conclude that he is
visiting the real Sandrine.”
“Oh, that’s right. What with Tommy’s injury and all, I completely
forgot,” she lied, hoping she sounded convincing. “I’m so sorry to have
bothered you. I really should have remembered.”
“That is quite all right. I am pleased to have been able to help.
Tuvok out.” He touched the commpad and sat back. “Curious.”

*******************************************************************************

Mylaa sat back. Her plan was starting to fall into place. Harry’s
parents had agreed to watch the children for the day. Now, it was just a
matter of convincing some young ensign to beam her aboard tomorrow morning.
Voyager was leaving for Minos Kova day after tomorrow. This might be the last
time they saw each other for some time; the last chance she might have to find
out what was eating him. *And I’m pretty sure it concerns more than Caldik
Prime,* she thought to herself.

The next morning after transporting the twins off to their
grandparents’, Mylaa returned to the house.
“Voyager, transporter room,” she requested, activating the commlink.
“Transporter room, Ensign Quelar.”
“Ensign Quelar, my name is Mylaa Kim. I am a friend of
Commander Paris’; has he returned from the surface, yet?”
“Not to my knowledge, ma’am. Let me check the transporter logs. No,
transporter logs confirm; he is still on the planet.”
“That’s not surprising. I am early.” Mylaa smiled warmly at the young
man. “Ensign, my late husband and I used to serve aboard Voyager with the
Commander, and when I spoke with him last night, we arranged to meet on board,
and he would give me a quick tour of the ship for old times sake. I wonder if
you would be so good as to transport me now so that I could be ready for him.
His duties must keep him very busy, and I’d rather not waste too much of
his time.
“If you have any doubts,” she continued lightly. “Please feel free to
check with the Captain or Lt. Commander Tuvok; they should both be able to
vouch for me. At least, I would hope they could, considering the Captain is
the godmother of my children.” *Easy does it, girl; you don’t want
to oversell.*
The ensign’s face looked flustered. *Poor kid,* Mylaa thought.
*I really hate putting you on the spot like this.*
“Ma’am?”
“Yes, Ensign.”
“I’m locking onto your coordinates now. Prepare for transport.”
*Yes!* “Acknowledged, Ensign.”
“Energizing.”
*Voyager. It still feels the same; at least, the transporter room
does.* Mylaa reflected as she stepped off the platform. “Thank you,
Ensign Quelar. I believe they have reconfigured the ship since I was last on
board. Is the Commander’s quarters still on Deck 3?”
“Yes, ma’am. Take the first turbolift on the right. You’ll find the
Commander’s quarters two doors down on your right.”
*And hopefully, I won’t run into anyone I know between here and there.
Ensign, you are far too trusting,* Mylaa thought as she headed for the lift.
Moments later she found herself in Tom’s quarters. The lock had been
easier to pick than she remembered. *But then I also hadn’t been able to see
when Tom taught me, either.* Calling for lights, she looked around. There
were very few personal effects. *Transferring around so much, I guess he’s
learned to pack light.
A picture of Harry and her sat on a low shelf beside another one of her
and the twins. On the desk by the viewer, sat a badly constructed model of the
Farragut. Tommy had made it when he was four; nearby was Genie’s better
built runabout.
Sitting down in the chair, she picked up the models one at a time.
*As busy as he is, he kept them,* she marveled silently. *He-* She noticed
an isolinear chip in the viewer. Pulling it out, she noted the date.
Two years ago. Why would Tom be listening to such an old chip. She placed it
back in the viewer; curious, she activated it. *I won’t listen; I just want to
see who it is. It may-*
“Hi, Tom,” her late husband’s image said. “Haven’t heard from you…”

“Commander, nice to have you back on board. Did you have a good time
in Marseilles?”
“Thanks, Ensign.” Paris stepped gingerly off the platform. *Starfleet
has got to start drafting quieter personnel.* “Maybe too good. I’ve got a
headache that could lay out a Nausicaan,” he grinned ruefully. “If anyone
needs me, I’ll be in my quarters with my head in a bucket of ice.” Tom moved
towards the exit.
*His quarters!* “Commander!” the young ensign sung out.
Tom winced at the sound. “Yes, Quelar, what is it?” He turned slowly
to gaze at the all too fresh face.
“Your friend is already in your quarters waiting for you.”
“What friend?” *What the hell is this kid babbling about?*
“A civilian, Sir. In her thirties, I would guess. She said you had
promised her a tour of the ship,” the ensign replied, beginning to hear the
mad peal of warning bells inside his head.
Tom sighed. “Does she have a name?”
“Yes sir,” came the prompt reply. “Mylaa Kim.”
*Mylaa? What the-oh no! The chip! I left it-if she finds it.* Tom
began running for the lift.
“Sir, should I call security?” he heard the ensign yell.
“Negative.” Paris shot back over his shoulder. This was one situation
he hoped he could contain himself.

Reaching his door, he keyed open the lock. She was sitting on the sofa
directly opposite him. “Mylaa,” he smiled. “What a – surprise.” His voice
fell when he saw the chip in her hand.
“I came up here to find out why you left like you did. You seemed so
upset that I thought maybe it concerned more than Caldik Prime. I guess,”
she tossed the chip onto the table. “I was right. Tom, why didn’t you
say something?”
Running his hands through his hair, he crossed the room and stared out
one of the windows. His last wall, that he had so carefully maintained with
Kes’ help, had finally been broken down, and now, he was at a loss as to what
to do. “Say something?” Turning to her, he shook his head. “What? When?
When could I have told you? At your wedding, maybe? At Harry’s funeral?
I can hear it now. `Look, I know we just laid your husband and my best friend
to rest, but by the way, I love you.’ C’mon, Mylaa.” He turned back to the
window. Sarcasm always had been his first and best line of defense when he was
younger. *I guess somethings never change,* he thought.
Mylaa felt her own temper flare at this response. Counting to ten, she
responded quietly, “No, but you could have told me later.”
“I did try to tell you later. As I recall, my godson’s near drowning
intervened. After that, Galen was with you.” His voice ground out his
rival’s name.
“Galen? Wait a minute! You thought that I, that he, that we were a
couple? Tom, he’s been a friend, that’s all. Nothing has ever happened
between us, and nothing ever will. He’s just not my type. Oh, Tom.” She
stood up and walked over to where he stood. “Tom, if I had only known, I
wouldn’t have-” She embraced him from behind. Pressing her cheek into his
back, she felt him weaken in her arms. “I am so sorry.”
He stiffened and spun out of her grasp. “I want your love, not your
pity.” His blue eyes were the colour of cold steel.
She stared at him as he moved away. *All right.* She took a deep
breath. *If you want to exercise you childish pride, go ahead. But you’re
forgetting I have six years of experience in dealing with tantrums. And I’m
betting I can force your hand, too.*
“All right, Tom, have it your way.” She headed for the door. “Just
remember, nothing is in your way now. If you let me walk out this door, you
and you alone, are letting me go. You will have noone to blame but yourself.”
She stated brutally, as she brushed by him.
Surprised that he had allowed her to pass, she turned when she reached
the door. He hadn’t budged; he wasn’t even looking at her. Angered that her
bluff had been called, she exited the room and hurried to the lift.
“Oh gods, I’ve really lost her this time,” he moaned as he collapsed
onto his hands and knees.

“Mommy, are you going to eat your ritooli pudding?” Tommy asked, his
eyes glued to the yellow glob his mother was picking at.
“No, I guess not.” Mylaa reached across the table and dumped a
spoonful on each child’s plate. They had been good all through dinner; they
deserved a little extra.
“Is Uncle Tom going to come say good-bye before he leaves tomorrow?”
Genie piped.
“I don’t know,” her mother responded truthfully. “I expect that
depends on whether or not he can get away.
“But-”
“Shut up, Genie,” her brother hissed. “Leave Mommy alone. Can’t you
see she’s upset.”
Mylaa smiled gratefully at her son. “C’mon you two, finish your
deserts. I want to call it an early night. And NO arguments. Eat.”
They finished the rest of the meal in silence, and she shuttled them
off to change for bed. As she started clearing the table, the gate’s chime
sounded. *Who the hell? Please let it be the wrong house; I am in no mood to
receive visitors.*
“Uncle Tom!” Genie streaked past her to go open the gate. She
returned triumphantly leading Paris behind the hand. “See I told you he would
come say good-bye.”
“Hello, Mylaa.”
“Tom.” Her eyes were cold.
“I thought I’d come say good-bye to the twins, maybe read them a story
since I may not be seeing them for quite a while.” *Maybe ever,* he added
silently. “That is if you don’t mind.”
“Yes, read us a story.” Genie begged.
“I don’t suppose I really have much say in the matter,” Mylaa said
bowing to her children’s wishes. “Excuse me; I have dishes to take care of,”
she continued, heading for the kitchen.
A few minutes later, she stepped onto the porch and stared out over the
pool. All the events of the past few days were whirling around her mind. She
shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. *So much, too much has happened.
I don’t know what to do. I suppose I could try my animal guide.* She smiled
to herself, not sure if she even remembered how to summon it. It had been
almost two years.
She sat down on the ground and began to softly to recite:

Akoo-chemoya

We are far from the sacred places of our grandfathers . . .

Her eyes slowly closed, and she felt a warm wind stir her hair. There,
coming towards her across the garden was the onca, her onca. And now she could
see it in all its grace and fierce beauty. She wanted to jump off the porch
and run to it, but she restrained her impulse, waiting instead for it to come
to her. Presently, it sat beside her. Crying, she threw her arms around its
neck as all the sadness and frustration of the past few days bubbled over.
The onca sat there soothing her with its deep purrs. And when she had
cried herself to exhaustion, it turned and as always, licked her face clean
of the tears.
“Thank you,” she said eventually.
The big cat nodded, turning its head toward the trees. High up, a
small bird was singing; it was the same song she had heard when she first came
on board Voyager and again right after Harry’s funeral. Halting in mid-tune,
the tiny creature flew down and landed at her feet. The next thing Mylaa knew,
she was back on her own porch.
She took a deep breath. *I could use a swim.* Passing Genie’s room,
she heard Tom still reading to the twins and smiled. Quickly, she changed and
returned to the pool. Diving in, she felt for the first time in as many days,
truly cleansed of all her worries.

She had been in the water about five minutes, when Tom emerged from
tucking his godson in. Hearing her splashing about, he had the sudden urge to
join her and ducked into the guest room to grab the trunks. *If they are still
here,* he prayed. They were, and he changed as fast as he could, hoping she
would still be out there.
“Mind if I join you?” The sound of his voice made her jump.
“Not at all.” Her voice bore none of its earlier frigidity. “The
water is divine.”
Tom dove in and swam two laps before pulling up in front of her.
“Mylaa,” he began.
“Shhh, don’t say anything.” Her fingers touched his lips. “We can’t
alter what has happened these past few day, Tom, but I’d like to try to
ignore them; just pretend they never happened.”
“Nothing would make me happier; well, almost nothing,” he replied with
a devilish grin.
Mylaa laughed, and threw her arms around his neck. “Oh Tom, I love
you.” The words tumbled out before she could stop them. Seeing the look on
his face and fearing a recurrence of the afternoon, she added, “I really
mean that.”
His eyes softened and she felt his arms encircle her body, pulling her
close. “I know,” he whispered.

*******************************************************************************

Epilogue

Two years later:

Commander Thomas Eugene Paris, First Officer, USS Endeavor to Captain
Kathryn Janeway, Captain, USS Voyager. Captain, by the time you receive this
transmission your newest god child, Harold Kim Paris, will be two weeks old.
And you’ll be happy to know both he and Mylaa are doing well. He- Computer,
halt transmission.” Tom ordered, his eyes catching sight of Harry’s old
recording next to his personal logs.
Picking it up, he gently traced it outline with his finger, and he felt
a mixture of happiness, regret, and gratitude well up inside him. “Harry,” he
whispered. “Wherever you are, I want you to know that the debt has
been payed.”
Then, placing the chip back with the others, he turned back to the
monitor. “Computer resume transmission. He’s beautiful, Captain; I really
wish you could see him.” A note of pride crept into his voice. “He’s got his
mother’s hair colour and a pair of the clearest blue eyes you’ll ever see.
“Genie and Tom send their love. Both of them are excited about having
a new brother. . . ”

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