The Paris Journals: Thicker Than Blood, vol. X

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. X
Thicker Than Blood
Part 1

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

DISCLAIMER: All original characters belong to Paramount. However, the
characters of Caitlin and Capt. Matthews, Amanda and Victoria Paris,
any other characters not original to the television series, and the
story itself belong to me. (Whew.)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: As always feedback is welcome. I’d be especially interested in
people’s impressions of Admiral Paris.

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

I have led her home, my love, my only friend.
There is none like her, none.

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson
“Maud”

I watched Cait crack open an egg and drop it into the bowl before
whisking it vigorously with a fork. “Hey,” I called. “How long do I have
to keep stirring this?”
“Not much longer.” She replied. “Just until it’s smooth, then
take it off the heat.”
“Gotcha.”
Walking over, she picked up a smaller spoon and dipped it into the pot
I was tending. “Let’s see… Not bad,” she said with a grin. “It’s different.
Here, you try.” She lifted the spoon to my lips.
I blew lightly across the steaming liquid before sampling. “Not bad?”
I leaned over and kissed her cheek. “It’s damn good.”
She laughed and called me a flatterer, then moved back to the counter
she was working on. I smiled briefly at her back. We didn’t often cook
together. Voyager didn’t give us the chance, but this shore leave had, and
I was enjoying the opportunity thoroughly. A week long shore leave for the
entire ship, courtesy of the Parthian government for our assistance in
evacuating one of their colonies. Cait and I had secured a tiny bungalow in a
resort located at the base of a mountain. Neelix and Kes had taken a cottage
a few doors down from ours with Valaxis and his new family, and Harry and
B’Elanna’s was further up the mountainside. We hadn’t seen much of those
two though, it was their honeymoon, after all.
In many ways, it was almost like a second honeymoon for Cait
and myself. No, it was more than that. It was like having a home of our own,
minus the kids. Not that we were planning on leaving Voyager and settling
down somewhere, but I grew up in a house on terra firma, and the longer
we were out here, the more I thought about what the kids on board were missing,
what our kids would miss. The holodeck was a good attempt at a substitute,
but it couldn’t match the relief of a real summer breeze or the near
reverent hush that accompanied a heavy snowfall. Sure, it gave us rainstorms
and sunsets, but it didn’t come close to the refreshing shower that caught us
on the way down the mountain yesterday or to the crimson and azure display
we had witnessed from the front step these past few afternoons. To put
it simply, I liked the idea of having a home on solid ground with a backyard
for our kids to play in and maybe a tiny garden tucked away in the corner for
a few tomato and pepper plants in the summer.
Of course, any accomodations we had in the future, be they shipboard
or on the ground, would have a replicator. I’m not a bad cook with one,
but without? Cait didn’t seem to mind, however. She was used to cooking from
scratch, and with the local merchants’ help, she was doing a pretty good job
of it.
Every morning, we sallied forth into the market place, bought all we
needed for the day, and returned to the bungalow to prepare lunch. Lots of
ripe fruits and vegetables, maybe a little of the local grape, fresh baked
bread, and some cheese. It reminded me a lot of the south of France.
Dinner wasn’t much different, except that it was warm. As comfortable
as the days were on Parthia, the nights were downright chilly, but what the
food didn’t ward off, we did by cuddling in front of the fire or snuggling in
the bed under the comforter. In fact, sometimes the comforter got a little
too warm, which was just fine with me. We needed the time to rediscover
each other.
The past few months had been very difficult for us after losing
Madeleine. We had argued, cried, screamed, you name it, at ourselves and
each other, but being able to throw ourselves into planning some of the
festivities for Harry and B’Elanna’s wedding had helped. Still, some days
were harder for us than others. Some days we would wake up and look at each
other, instantly knowing that she was on our minds. On those mornings, we
showered together, hugging and touching, taking time to give ourselves
the strength to face another day. We had a long way to go. We knew
that, but we also knew we were beginning to heal.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey what?”
“How do you suppose the newlyweds are making out?”
Cait snickered. “Well, I haven’t heard any blood curdling screams or
seen any medics running toward their cottage, so I’m assuming they’re both
still in one piece. However, I was present while B’Elanna was doing some of
the packing, and when she put in a medikit, I nearly fell out of the chair
laughing.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, I can imagine.” A silence fell, and I watched
her start chopping the vegetables. “How come you never asked me about what
happened?”
“Would you care to elaborate on that a little?”
“All those years ago, between B’Elanna and me on that planet.
You never asked. Why?”
The knife hovered for a minute above a Parthian carrot. “It was none
of my business.” She finally replied and the knife resumed its work. “We
were hardly on speaking terms with each other at the time, and to be honest,
I didn’t have to ask. B’Elanna and Vorrick were in sickbay nearly an hour.
You were barely in there two minutes. If something had actually happened
between the two of you, I think you would have been in there a little longer,
given the state she must have been in.”
“Oh.” My gaze dropped back to the sauce. The lumps had all but
disappeared.
“Hey.” Cait said softly. She stood beside me and placed my free arm
around her shoulders while her right arm encircled my waist. A soft light
glowed in her green eyes.
“Hey.” I murmured back and angled my head to kiss her. “I think the
sauce is almost ready.”
She took the spoon from my hand and held it up to my lips. “Well?”
I wrapped both arms about her and hugged her close. “Mmmm. No doubt
about it. I am one helluva cook.”
“You are?” She cried in mock indignation.
Laughing, I nibbled at her neck. I knew how to distract her. “Tom,
stop it. I have to shut this off. Stop it. Come on, stop. I haven’t even
fini-mmph.”
“You were saying?” I asked when I at last released her mouth.
Her hands crept up my chest and about my neck. “You’re not really
interested in dinner, are you?”
“Now, whatever gave you that idea?” I asked innocently as I guided her
backward out of the kitchen and toward the bedroom.

Two days later, we were all back on Voyager. Damn, but time had flown
by fast. Everyone looked great, however, all rosy-cheeked and loose-limbed.
I couldn’t remember the last time I saw B’Elanna smile so much–Harry, too,
in spite of his wincing when I clapped him on the shoulder. Cait smirked and
raised a knowing eyebrow, and I bit back the urge to make a crack about
a certain medikit. Still, as good as it was to see everyone again, I was more
than a little disappointed to leave. On Parthia, Cait and I had lived the way
I wanted us to: good food, good weather, and good neighbors. It really made
me wonder how Dad could have stayed away so much, especially once Vicki and
I arrived.

Three weeks passed, and Voyager suffered through yet another loss–
my friend, Kes. Looking back, that was probably why she insisted on Neelix
taking her on that shore leave. He hadn’t wanted to because she had been
feeling tired quite often lately. He thought considering her advanced age
of nearly nine that it might be too strenuous, but she had persisted. In her
own words, she had lived a full life–a doctor, a mother, and most recently,
a grandmother to Valaxis and Malia’s daughter, Charis–and she wasn’t going to
stop having fun now just because of a few aches and pains.
At the memorial service, the Captain spoke first, then I did, and then,
to everyone’s surprise, the Doctor spoke up. “I haven’t spoken at these
services before. Delivering eulogies was never included in my original
programming, but as Kes so often reminded me, part of living is doing the
unexpected, facing the unplanned, and embracing change, whether it is for the
better or the worse.
“For weeks, I have known, and at her request, kept silent as to the
true nature of her condition. We all knew her death was approaching, but only
I knew it had arrived. Yet, in spite of this, she continued her work, greeting
me every morning with her usual smile.
“She treated me from the beginning as a living, breathing member of
this crew, and it was at her insistence that I began to explore a richer life
than a hologram of my capabilities would normally achieve. She was my friend
and my colleague. I will miss her greatly.” Amen, Doc.
The ship was real quiet for days after the service. Kes’s death
affected everyone. I kept expecting to see her in the kitchen and heard a
hollow echo reverberate deep within my chest when I didn’t. Both on and off
duty my attentions wandered and I unwillingly began to ponder questions that I
had buried a long time ago because they were irrational and unpleasant.
Yet, now they seized me almost to the exclusion of everything else.
Most nights found me lying on the bed, my arms behind my head as
various memories paraded through my mind. Tonight, I could almost feel his
arm around me, holding the night’s chill at bay, his finger pointing to some
distant flashes of fire in the inky sky. An infectious excitement rang in
his voice. *”C’mon, Thomas, wake up. Wake up or you’ll miss them. See them,
Thomas? Can you see them?”*
Cait stretched out on the bed next to me and rose up on one elbow.
A finger glided lazily down the middle of my chest, barely tickling. “Penny
for your thoughts.”
“What?” I shifted my head to gaze fully at her.
“Penny for your thoughts.” She repeated. “You’ve been lying here in
bed looking at that ceiling ever since I went into the bathroom.”
“Oh. Just thinking.”
“About?”
“Nothing.” I turned over, slipping a hand behind her head to pull
her down for a kiss. “Nothing at all.” I whispered.
“It didn’t seem like nothing.” She insisted. “You’ve been extremely
pensive for days now.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s silly. Really.” I concluded, snuggling
against her, hoping she would get the hint and let the matter drop.
Cait frowned. “Tom, I’ve known you long enough to know when nothing
is something. Now, talk to me.”
With a sigh, I rolled onto my back. She knew me too well, but that
was the price you paid when you loved one another. Sometimes it was a price
I gladly paid, but now wasn’t one of those times. “Kes’s death just got me
thinking, that’s all. She’s the first of our little band to die of old age,
and it just sort of brought home the fact that we really weren’t going to
see home again. Our kids, maybe, but not us.”
“You used to say you were rather relieved by that idea, that it meant
no prison, no humiliation, no parting.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. And I still believe that, but I also keep
thinking that my family will never find out that I’m not such a blight on
the ol’ Paris name after all. It isn’t so much that I’ll die, but that they
will and never know how much I’ve changed. I mean, simply the thought of
seeing my old man’s expression as he read my Voyager record, seeing him have
to take back some of those things he said, and maybe even seeing him give a
small sign of approval, it’d almost be worth everything I’ve gone through.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t want to go home, but I do. Silly, huh?”
“No.” She said with a tiny smile. “Human. In spite of all the bad
blood, you still care about your parents. You’ve grown up. Now you can see
not just where they screwed up, but where you did, too, and I think you want
to tell them that. A part of you wants to go home, Tom, not to gloat, not to
seek approval, but to make peace with them and within yourself, to extend a
hand and say I’m sorry. Even if the hand got slapped away, you’d at least know
you had tried, but now, the fact that you won’t get that chance has really been
driven home, no pun intended.” She lay her head beside mine on the pillow,
the backs of her fingers softly stroking my cheek. “They are still your
parents, Tom, maybe not the best parents, but still your parents, and like it
or not, I think you still love them and want them to be proud of you.”
“I guess.” I replied.
“And you’re not alone, either.” Cait continued. “Even though we all
suppressed the hope of getting home, the hope has always been there, lurking.
Losing Kes has caused a lot of people, especially those with families back
home, to do some rethinking about their fate. Kes was only the first; soon,
relatively speaking, we will all follow in her footsteps. There’s nothing we
can do about it, but it doesn’t make the truth any easier to accept.”
My hand rose up, catching hers and bringing it to my lips. “I have
you,” I said. “And I’d gladly sacrifice a little peace of mind for that.”

Another few weeks went by relatively uneventfully; then, Harry made
a fateful announcement from Ops. “Captain, I have something interesting on
long-range sensors. No, wait. It’s gone. No, there it is again. Verteron
emissions from a subspace field.”
A hush fell over the bridge. “A wormhole?” The Captain finally asked.
“I think so, but if it is, I don’t think it’s a stable one.” He said.
“Transfer coordinates to the helm.” She ordered.
“Coordinates received.” I reported.
“Good.” The Captain replied. “Adjust course and engage at warp seven.
Let’s see what’s out there, Mr. Paris.”
“Aye, Cap’n. Warp seven.”
Harry was right. It was a wormhole, but not a stable one. “B’Elanna
and I have been talking it over, Captain.” He said later in the briefing room.
“And we think,” B’Elanna continued. “That if we emit a continuous
field pulse the next time it opens, we can stablilize it enough to send
a probe through.”
“And if it works,” Harry said, picking up the line of thought again.
“And if the wormhole does lead to the Alpha quadrant, we think resonating the
same type of pulse through the shields will allow us to take Voyager through.”
Janeway’s eyes darted around the table. She tried to remain grounded,
but deep inside the blue-grey depths was a spark, firing continuously and
growing by the second. “Very well. Get on it. Dismissed.”
Sixteen hours later, the probe was launched. We all held our breath
for the duration of its flight.
“Receiving telemetry.” Harry reported. “The field pulse is working.
The probe is holding course. Coming up on the exit. It’s out. Receiving
coordinates.” His face paled and he slowly looked up. “It’s the Alpha
quadrant, Captain. It made it.”
Strangely enough, there was no cheer. No one even exhaled. “Are there
any signs of temporal anomalies, Mr. Kim?” The Captain asked. “Is the probe
still within our time period?”
“No signs of temporal disturbances of any kind, Captain.”
Janeway let out a slow breath. “Very well, you and Lt. Kim begin
work on the shields. Commander, I need to see you in my ready room.
Mr. Tuvok, you have the bridge.”

At 1500 hours, the Captain made a ship wide announcement from
the bridge. “This is Captain Janeway to all Voyager crew. As I am sure you
have heard by now, Voyager has discovered a wormhole leading to the Alpha
quadrant, and there is a chance that we will be able to use it to get home.
“If we do–and Commander Chakotay is in agreement with me on this
point–I will have no choice, but to follow my original orders and turn all
Maquis over to the Federation authorities.” She paused and looked from Harry
to me. “However, I am well aware of how many of us have started new lives
out here, as well as, how much all the Maquis crewmembers have contributed
to our survival. To that end, I have been in contact with the
Parthian Minister of Interior, and he has agreed to offer temporary or
permanent residence to any crew members who would prefer to remain in the
Delta quadrant. Those who wish to stay may send recorded messages to their
loved ones through Voyager and I, personally, will see that they are delivered.
Those Maquis who choose to accompany us through the wormhole may rest assured
that I will do everything in my power to see that your work aboard Voyager is
taken into full account by the authorities.” She concluded with her gaze now
on Chakotay, and he nodded with a tight smile.
She continued. “I realize that this is not a decision which can be
made quickly. The preparations for Voyager will take thirty-six hours. You
have this time to discuss this with your friends and loved ones. In the end,
those who wish to stay behind should make their desires known to
Commander Chakotay and we, in turn, will notify the Parthian government.
Janeway out.”
My stomach writhed like a pinned snake for my remaining hour on duty.
*Well, this is it, Thomas. The sixty-four credit question itself. Do you and
Cait go home, knowing you could both be looking at a stay in Auckland, or do
you go back to Parthia to a cozy cottage for two?* The conn panel slipped in
and out of focus. Was the remote possibility of watching my father swallow
his pride worth the risk of returning to prison? And what would prison do to
our marriage? And kids. If we decided to try that path again, what
about them? What kind of life could we give them there? What kind of life
could we give them here?
Janeway’s hand rested on my shoulder. I hadn’t heard her walk up.
“Tough decision, isn’t it?” She inquired in a low voice.
“Yes, Captain.”
She gave me a tight smile of support. “Tom, I want you to know that I
will do everything I can to see that your sentence is commuted and that you
remain in that uniform. You deserve it.”
The rosy heat of intense gratitude filled my cheeks. “Thank you,
Captain. That means a lot.”
She nodded and returned to her seat.
Cait was already in our quarters when I got there. “Well,” I said,
flopping down on the sofa next to her. “Do we or don’t we?”
“I wasn’t aware that we had a choice.”
“What do you mean? Of course, we do.”
The green eyes levelled themselves at me. “No, we don’t and we both
know it. If Voyager goes, we do. We both want to see your Starfleet record
amended to reflect the true you.”
“My record be hanged! I don’t give a damn about Starfleet if it means
we end up in prison.” My hand covered hers and held it tightly. “Cait, we
were happy on Parthia. It was almost like we had created a home. We won’t
have that in prison. Trust me, I know.”
“But listen to what you just said, Tom. Almost. *Almost.* Parthia
isn’t our home. The Delta quadrant isn’t our home. Besides, to not return
flies in the face of all you have done. It’s almost like running away.
Everything you’ve done to prove yourself to everyone, including yourself,
will amount to nothing if you don’t return.”
“And what about you?”
“I go where you go.”
I shook my head. “I can’t do it, then. If it was just me, yeah, I
could go back and face whatever’s coming. But I will not drag you to prison
with me.”
“And if you think for one second that I’m staying here, you’re crazy.
I knew the risks when I joined the Maquis. I always knew I could get caught,
and I accepted it. I’m going back. You can come with me or not.” Her eyes
blazed and I could tell by the tone of her voice that her mind was made up.
I lifted her hand to my lips. “You won’t let me fail again, will you?
No matter what the cost.”
She leaned closer, her breath skimming over my lips. “No.”
And our decision was made.

Almost thirty-six hours later, Voyager stood with its entire crew on
the edge of a cliff. There was nothing left to do except close our eyes and
jump. I slid behind the helm controls for what well could have been my
last time. For a brief moment, I simply stared at them, remembering the first
time I had touched them, how strange, yet familiar they had felt as if they had
been custom fitted to my fingers alone, how the Captain’s words–“Mr. Paris,
you have the conn”–had given me back that sense of purpose I had lost.
I slowly let my fingers glide over the panel, sensing where the controls were
vaguely cool and where they retained the slight warmth from Hamilton’s fingers.
“Mr. Paris.” The Captain prompted gently behind me.
I snapped up in my seat and spun around. “Yes, ma’am.”
She only nodded and turned towards Ops. She understood. “Mr Kim, are
the shields ready?”
“Yes, Captain. They are.” My friend wore a deeper frown than usual.
“Good. Shields up. Mr. Paris, one-quarter impulse and take us in
nice ‘n easy.” Janeway said as she took her seat.
“Aye, Cap’n. One quarter impulse.” I sucked in a quiet breath. “Here
goes nothing.” I muttered to myself.
The trip through was like something out of an amusement park ride with
swirls and eddies rushing past and and testing my skills. It didn’t take as
long as I had expected, and a part of me wanted to turn to the Captain like
some little kid and say can we go again. Then, the reality of the moment sunk
in–we were home. No one said a word. You’d have expected a lot of whooping
and hollering. Heck, we had survived it all and made it home, but you’d never
have known it.
The Captain finally broke the silence as she got to her feet. “Damage
report.”
“Minor damage reported on decks nine and twelve.” Harry stated.
“But it looks like we made through intact.
“Excellent. Mr. Tuvok, what is our position in relation to the
nearest starbase.”
“We are approximately fifteen hours from Starbase Four-Six-One at
warp seven, Captain.”
“Are there any Starfleet ships in the area?” Chakotay asked.
“I am detecting a Federation signature one and a half light years
away.” Tuvok replied.
“Hail them.” The Captain ordered.
“Hailing frequencies open.”
“This is Capt. Kathryn Janeway of the USS Voyager to the Federation
starship receiving this signal. Please respond.”
“This is who?” A gravely male voice answered. “Please restate
your name.”
“This is Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship, Voyager.”
“Voyager? How did you get out here? You were lost in the Badlands
years ago.”
The Captain smirked. “Believe me, it’s a long story, and I will be
happy to explain it to you. In the meantime, if we could rendezvous with your
ship and take on some supplies, my crew and I would be grateful.”
A small silence followed, and then a female voice responded. “Voyager,
this is Capt. Diana Raines of the USS Doolittle. Please hold your position
pending confirmation of contact with Starfleet Command.”
Janeway’s eyebrows lifted and then settled into a frown. “Understood.
Janeway out.” She turned toward Chakotay. “It would seem they don’t believe
we are who we say we are.”
He shrugged. “You’ve got to look at it from their perspective. To be
missing and presumed dead all this time and then suddenly show up takes quite
a leap of faith. And we don’t know what has happened since we left.”
“True.” The Captain sat down but the air of impatience lingered.
When the orders finally came through, man oh man, did they come
through. First, we had to stay put and wait for the Doolittle to arrive.
Once it did, we were all subjected, under guard, to thorough blood screenings
by their medical staff. Then, when they were satisfied we were who we said
we were, they made preparations to tow us to the starbase. That got the
Captain’s goat, but good, and the orders were amended to having the Doolittle
serve as an escort with orders to fire on us if we deviated from our course.
Once we reached the starbase, the entire ship was placed under
quarantine. Fresh supplies were beamed aboard, and monitored communications
could be sent to family members, but no one was allowed off the ship, pending
the arrival of the USS Antigone with further orders from Starfleet Command.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. X
Thicker Than Blood
Part 2

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

DISCLAIMERS: See part one.

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

It took four days for the Antigone to arrive. Four days spent in
anticipation, impatience, and nervousness. Tension stretched around the entire
ship like an over-extended sealant ring, and by the second night, arguments
were erupting on every deck. The Captain ordered general quarters, but that
only localized the problem.
Even Cait and I argued. I didn’t want to. I wanted us to spend our
remaining time together peacefully, and it was so stupid, too. We couldn’t
turn back the hands of time. We had agreed to come and that was that. We were
here now. Nothing we could do about it, but we still fought and went to bed
facing away from one another.
We awakened the next morning to the shipwide announcement that the
Antigone was twenty hours away and that all Maquis prisoners were to report
to cargo bay two by 0800. I looked at Cait and she at me. Any lingering
anger we may have had vanished as she took my hand and pulled me toward the
bathroom. “One last shower?” she asked.
“How can I refuse?” I replied softly.
I held her tightly under the stream of hot water, kissing her slowly
and deliberately, memorizing the way she felt in my arms, the way her lips
parted beneath mine, the way her tongue boldly pushed into my mouth, equal in
its hunger and desperation. Her body shuddered against mine. She was crying,
the tears barely distinguishable from the other droplets on her cheeks, but I
knew they were there. Mine were, too.
Afterwards, we dressed and replicated a quick breakfast for two, even
though neither of us ate much of it before reporting to the cargo bay. When we
got there, Tuvok informed me that my name was not included on the list. I was
a “special case” and should report to my post as usual.
Cait squeezed my hand and smiled. “See you at Auckland.”
“Not if I see you first.” I retorted and pulled her into a strong hug.
“I will find you if we get separated. I promise I will.” I whispered.
“I know. I’ll keep my eyes peeled, too.” She pulled back slightly.
This time her smile failed her, and we just stared into one another’s eyes,
afraid to let go.
“Will all Maquis prisoners please form four rows.” Tuvok requested.
I pulled Cait close one more time, kissing her and murmuring “I love
you” before letting her go. As she stepped into formation, I noticed that
Harry and B’Elanna had been going through the same motions not half a
meter away. Geez, and they had been married for only a few months. I moved
over and squeezed his shoulder.
“Ow.”
“Sorry.” I took my hand away. “I guess Klingon good-byes must be more
painful than their honeymoons.”
He didn’t laugh. He didn’t even crack a smirk. “They are.”
We stood there and watched as our former crewmates were put into
alphabetical order and then marched out of the bay. Cait winked as she
passed by, and I attempted the best smile I could since all I really wanted to
do was wrap my body around hers and never let go. As the doors shut behind
them, I put my arm around Harry’s shoulders. “C’mon, Har. Let’s go lose
ourselves in some system diagnostic.”
He and I ate, or rather picked at, both lunch and dinner, neither of us
saying much, commiserating with each other in silence before we went our
separate ways for the evening. Back in our quarters, I tried playing a little
music to fill the oppressive quiet, but nothing I chose helped and I eventually
ordered it off in frustration. I picked up a PADD and tried to read, only
to throw the device away before I finished the second paragraph. Finally,
after staring at the ceiling for nearly half an hour worrying about how Cait
was doing, I stripped for bed. For hours, I struggled to fall asleep,
tossing and turning in the unfamiliar sensation of space. Around 0135 I moved
to the couch. Without Cait fighting for the blankets, the bed just felt way
too empty.
In the morning, I reported for duty as usual. I had just reached the
bridge when Capt. Janeway came out of her ready room. “Mr. Paris, will you
come in here, please. Ensign Batehart will cover your shift.”
“Yes ma’am.” I replied, surprised that my heart could find a new depth
to which to sink. *Buck up, Thomas. It was fun while it lasted. You always
knew it couldn’t go on forever.* I pulled myself together with an
imperceptible shake and stepped into her office. My knees nearly buckled.
My father sat on the sofa under the window–a little older, a little balder,
and a lot stouter than I remembered, but dear ol’ Dad all the same.
“The Admiral has chosen to lead the mission to escort us to Earth,
Lieutenant. I briefed him on your service record on Voyager, and he expressed
an interest in meeting you. Admiral.” With a nod in my father’s direction,
the Captain made a quick exit.
I held myself at full attention.
“So.” My father began. “You served as conn officer for this ship and
were even granted a field commission of lieutenant.”
“Yessir.” *Hi, Dad. I’m fine. How are you?*
The steel-blue eyes raked over me. “Captain Janeway has nothing but
praise for your actions. She expresses the hope that your sentence will be
commuted and that you will be allowed to remain within Starfleet’s ranks
as well.”
A lump of gratitude quickly formed in my throat. “I will always be
grateful to Captain Janeway for the chance she gave me. I have endeavoured to
show everyone that her faith was not misplaced.”
“Mm” came the noncommital answer, followed by a small, studied silence.
“I understand that you’re even married now.”
“Yessir.”
“Children?”
“No, sir. We lost our first child during an attack on Voyager.
My wife was injured and the baby was stillborn.”
“I see. I’m sorry. One of the dangers in having children is that
one day you may lose them.”
My hands curled into two fists. I knew what he really meant. “Yessir.
I suppose it is.”
He got to his feet and began to pace with his hands behind his back.
I watched, silently cursing myself for allowing Cait and me return. Was this
what I came back for? I should have known better. He’d never change.
I’d never be good enough. He stopped, stared at me for a moment, and then let
out a slow sigh. “At ease, Thomas. I didn’t have Kathryn call you in here
just to talk admiral to lieutenant. I wanted to talk to you as father to son,
*my* son.”
My chin lifted in defiance. “As I recall, I am no longer to be
referred to as that, by *your* orders, sir.”
Anger flared briefly in his eyes and he looked away. “Yes, well, we
all say things we later regret. It may take years, but eventually we
regret them.”
He met my gaze briefly then turned toward the window and stared quietly
out into the vastness of space. “You see, Thomas, it’s very easy to remain
angry with someone who has hurt you. Very often, it isn’t until they’re dead
and buried that you finally step back and examine how your own actions
contributed to the situation. Voyager’s disappearance allowed me to do that,
and I see now that I wasn’t raising a son so much as I was training a cadet.”
He turned, his eyes settling on me. “Where I should have seen a young man
trying his best to fulfill his father’s dreams, I saw only failure to live up
to my expectations. I was wrong, Thomas, and I am sorry.” His voice wavered
and he blinked rapidly, bowing his head. It was impossible. I couldn’t
remember the last time I saw him cry, not even at my great grandfather’s
funeral, and these tears were for me? He took a deep breath and
straightened up. “Thomas, you are our son, and your mother and I want you
to know that you can come home. We want you to come home.”
My mouth nearly fell open. For a minute, I wasn’t even sure if I had
heard him right, but there could be no mistaking the slight tremble in his
lower lip or the moistness of his eyes. I lowered my own head and searched
for the right response, right for me and right for him. “Dad, I’d like to,
but I don’t know.” I replied, surprised at the tremor in my own voice.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen to me, and then there’s Cait -er,
my wife.”
Suddenly all hints of compassion left his features, his eyes rapidly
returning to the stern gaze I had known growing up. “Yes. The Maquis.
That is a problem. I will be honest, Thomas, being married to her could
jeopardize your chances of remaining in Starfleet. Even with your record on
Voyager, it is quite probable that only your sentence will be commuted.
Being married to another felon could even draw that into doubt.”
My fists clenched tighter than ever, the old defiance rising fast
to the surface. “Then that’s how it will have to be. I will not abandon
my wife, not for probation and certainly not for some long shot at
a Fleet commission. You could offer me command of Voyager and it would not be
worth losing her. Thanks, but no thanks, Dad. If giving up Cait is part of
the deal, then I guess Starfleet and the ol’ Paris family will have to make due
without me.”
“I see,” he said quietly. “You’re quite sure about this? She may be
in prison for a while. Not many marriages survive a prison sentence.
Five years down the road, if you get divorced, you’ll have missed an
opportunity for no reason.”
I drew myself up to my full height, crossing my arms and setting my
jaw. “I’ll take my chances. She and I have already survived quite a lot.
We may surprise you.”
The corners of his mouth twitched. “Kathryn was right. You have
changed. Or am I simply seeing you clearly for the first time?” His mouth
spread into a wide, almost mischievous grin as he came down the steps
toward me. “So, will you accompany me to the detention area and introduce me
to this very special wife of yours?”
This time my mouth did fall open. “You-you want to meet her?”
“Considering you’re so determined to keep her in the family, I think
I’d better, don’t you?” His eyes twinkled and I nearly fainted. This had
to be some shapeshifter; my dad just wasn’t like this. “Well, come on, Thomas.
Or do I have to go introduce myself?”
“Uh, ah, no, sir. I’ll come along.”
“Good.” He patted my back as we headed for the door. “And don’t look
so shocked, Thomas. She’ll think you’re going to faint.”
As we walked past the rest of the bridge, I noticed him throw a nod
the Captain’s way. She nodded back, trying to suppress a smile which was all
too evident in her eyes.
“How’s Mom?” I asked as we entered the lift. “And Vicki?”
“Your mother is doing well,” he replied. “She suffered a mild stroke
early last year, and I took semi-retirement at Command to help take care
of her, but she has made remarkable progress with physical therapy. This year
her roses took first place at the flower show.” He chuckled. “She even has me
out in that garden now. You know, I had forgotten how satisfying it could be
to plant something and watch it grow.”
“I’m glad she’s better.” I said. “There wasn’t any permanent damage,
was there?”
His jovial expression softened about the edges, becoming tinged with
sadness. “I’m afraid there was. She has a definite weakness on her right side
now, and she uses a cane to help compensate, but her mind is as sharp as ever.
Things could have been much worse than they were, and we’re making up for a lot
of lost time together. In fact, there are times I think she wishes I wasn’t
around quite so much. She’s waiting to hear from you. I promised I’d have you
contact her as soon as possible. Don’t make me a liar now, Thomas.” He joked.
“And Vicki, how’s she?”
“Your sister’s fine. She made commander three years ago. She’s
stationed on the Sidney.”
“Good for her. She always was cut out for the command track better
than I.”
“Perhaps.” He conceded with a sigh.
My sister had always been his pride and joy, excelling where I all too
often failed. Yet, somehow, Dad didn’t seem all that happy. “I don’t get it.
What’s wrong?”
He sighed again. “Thomas, where I may have failed you as a parent,
I may have succeeded with your sister far beyond my wildest expectations.”
“I don’t understand.”
The lift doors opened and we stepped out. “I’m afraid that Vicki
is giving up everything for her career. For a while, she was stationed at
Earth, and it was wonderful to have her so close by. She and I would meet for
lunch and she’d come over for dinner every Sunday, occasionally bringing along
a young civilian engineer named Terrance. They made an excellent couple.
He was polite, intelligent and devoted to her. He made it known that he was
interested in eventually marrying her. Then, without one word to us or to him,
she applied for a transfer to the Sydney because she saw it as an opportunity
for promotion. Once he found out, Terrance supported her application and even
rearranged his own career so that he could travel more and meet up with her.
But time after time, she’d back out, saying she forgot to apply for shore leave
or she was too busy, and finally he gave up.”
“Maybe she just didn’t feel the same way about him.” I offered,
remembering the number of times as a child I had heard the same excuses
from him. “Maybe she just got cold feet.”
Dad shook his head. “I wish it was that simple, but she has treated
many of her suitors like this over the years. I’m afraid that to Vicki a
career means no family.”
“Sometimes it’s best that way.” I blurted, then caught myself. “But
she could still come around, Dad. You never know.” I tried to sound hopeful,
but I wasn’t. Vicki had been the same way in school. All through junior high
and high school, my friends drooled over her, but I never had to worry because
she was as unreponsive to them as a Vulcan.
We crossed the connector and entered the corridors of the starbase.
Dad seemed lost in thought and I let him be. I felt off-balance by all his
friendliness. I thought it was sincere, but the little kid who used to lock
himself in his room wasn’t so sure.
“So tell me about this Maquis–Caitlin, is it?–that you married.
Why did she join the Maquis?”
I shrugged. “Why did most of them join? The Cardassian’s took either
something or someone from them. In Cait’s case, they took her dad and the
crew of his ship, who were basically the only family she had. She almost
enlisted in Starfleet, but then we signed the treaty.”
“Hmm. Captured, eh? I’ll try to arrange for her to have a look at the
labor camp records. When the Klingons overran them, we discovered that many
of those captured were sent there rather than sentenced to death. It’s a slim
chance, but one of the crew might have survived.”
My eyes opened wide. “Dad, that would be great if you could. Just
finding one would mean a lot to her.”
“What of her mother’s side of the family?”
“They disinherited her mother when she eloped with Cait’s father. Near
as I can figure, and this is strictly a guess on my part, her grandfather was
Felicien Duvernet.”
My father stopped in mid-stride, his eyes nearly popping out of his
head. “Ambassador Duvernet?”
“I think so. Duvernet was her mother’s maiden name and Cait knows her
grandfather was of some importance. But I’m only guessing.”
“What was her mother’s first name?”
“Madeleine. We named our daughter after her.”
My father stroked his chin in that familiar fashion that I had so
often immitated with insolence. “Felicien did have a daughter named
Madeleine, a beautiful young woman, trained in classical ballet, I believe.”
“Cait told me her mom was once a dancer. You act like you met her.”
“Only a couple of times at receptions,” he said. “She disappeared
some twenty years ago, and the Duvernets never said why, but rumors abounded.
She was a delicate-looking person, but very headstrong, like her father.”
He chuckled. “If you thought I was hard on you, be thankful I was not
Felicien Duvernet. He could intimidate you simply by walking into the room.”
“Sometimes you did that too, Dad.” The words slipped out before
I could stop them.
His jaw tightened. “I guess I never did learn how to stop being on the
bridge when I was home, did I?”
“That’s the way if felt at times.”
He placed a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry, Thomas. I was trying
to do what I thought was best for you and your sister.”
“I know that now.” I attempted a smile to diffuse the tension.
He patted my shoulder and we continued down the corridor. “Felicien’s
granddaughter, a member of the Maquis. I’ll be damned.” He muttered under
his breath.
When we got to the security office, it took only a few seconds for them
to bring Cait out, no longer in a uniform, but in prison greys. It hurt so
much to see her in them that I almost cried, pulling her into my arms as soon
as she came through the door. She hugged me back just as tightly.
Only twenty-four hours had passed since we last saw each other, but the threat
of a lifetime apart had made it seem only that much longer.
My father waited a few discrete moments before softly clearing his
throat. “Would I be correct in assuming by this response that this is your
wife, Thomas?”
Cait and I both looked over at him. “Oh, uh, yeah, Dad, this is Cait.
Cait, this is my father, Admiral Eugene Paris. Dad, this is Caitlin Paris,
my wife.”
Cait extended her hand, flashing me a quick questioning glance in
the process. “Admiral.”
My father shook her hand and smiled. “Call me Eugene. After all,
you’re a member of the family, not a cadet.” He stared at her, the smile
slowly vanishing as he studied her. “I think you’re right, Thomas. I think
she is Madeleine’s daughter.”
“What?” Cait’s green eyes darted in confusion between us.
“I apologize. That was rude.” My father said hastily. “Thomas told
me that you might be Madeleine Duvernet’s daughter, and after seeing you, I am
inclined to agree. Of course, this was many years ago, and you are taller and
stronger-looking, but your eyes, your skin colour, and your facial structure
are all very reminiscent of her.”
Cait nodded. “My father always said I looked like my mother. Did you
know her?”
“I met her a few times at receptions. She was a lovely young woman,
poised, graceful. I always did wonder what happened to her.”
“If you knew her, did you know her parents, too?” A hint of excitement
crept into Cait’s voice.
“Not well. Like her, I saw them mostly at receptions.”
“Are they still alive?”
Dad shook his head. “I’m afraid not. Francoise died about eleven
years ago and Felicien followed her two years later. Madeleine was their only
child. I’m sorry.”
Cait shrugged, her entire body sagging slightly. “It doesn’t matter.
Considering the circumstances, I don’t think they would have welcomed my
presence any more now, than they did when I was born. I was just curious,
that’s all.”
My arm curled a little tighter about her waist and Dad shot me a brief
sympathetic look before attempting to lighten the air. “I understand, but
apart from your relation to the Duvernets, Thomas hasn’t told me much
about you. To be quite honest, I don’t think he’s gotten over the shock of
seeing me.” He grinned at me. “Am I right?”
Cait answered for both of us. “I think I’m the same way, Admiral -er,
Eugene.”
“Yes, of course. You can’t expect people to change their opinions as
easily as their uniforms. I experienced the same shock a few years ago when I
finally held a mirror up to my own actions. However, by the time we reach
Earth, I hope both of you will have come to believe that I am sincere in
welcoming you into the family.” He took a deep breath, suddenly becoming all
business once again. “In the meantime, I’ll contact my adjutant to make
arrangements for the best legal counsel to represent you, and you as well,
Thomas.”
“Dad, I-”
“What, Thomas? Did you think I was going to let you fight this alone?
This is a fight for the Paris family, more specifically, your family, Thomas,
and I do not intend to lose it. Do you have a problem with this?” The steel
was drawn in his eyes, finely sharpened and ready for battle.
“No, sir.” I almost gulped. “If Cait doesn’t, I don’t.”
The blue eyes darted to her, and she raised her head proudly as if
to meet his challenge. “No, Admiral. I would be grateful for any help you
can give us.”
“Good. Excellent. I’ll have Simmons make the arrangements. Thomas,
I believe we must be going. Five minutes non-counsel is usually the limit,
and we’ve run five minutes over. I’m sorry, Caitlin, but we must.”
“No, it’s all right. It was a pleasure to meet you.” She turned to
me, absently smoothing the uniform across my chest. “Take care of yourself.”
I tilted her chin up and we quickly kissed, more aware of my father’s
presence than we had been the first time around. “You, too.” I whispered.
“Anything you want me to pass along to anyone on the outside?”
“Just tell everyone hello. Especially one from B’Elanna to Harry.”
“Will do.” I promised and kissed her again. A guard stepped up and
led her away. I stared after them for a few minutes before turning back to
my dad. “Well, what do you think?”
“It’s not my place to judge, Thomas. She is quite unlike the women
you dated in the past, but I like her. Regardless of her pedigree, she has a
very distinctive mien.” We walked out of the office, my father’s hands clasped
behind his back. “I wonder how she would’ve done at the Academy.” He mused.
“Actually, she did have an uncle that went. A William Matthews,
I think his name was, lost with all hands on some shuttle.”
“Reckless Willie?” My father exclaimed. “The scourge of
Kilroy’s Bar?”
I halted, my jaw dropping to the floor. “I-I don’t know. Did you
know him?”
“Know him? He was my group leader at the Academy. Flaming red hair,
a hollow leg, and a right hook that could deck a Klingon. Lord, the education
he gave the rest of us cadets.” Dad rolled his eyes and moved off, still
chuckling to himself. “Oh, the stories I could tell, but I’ll wait until
Caitlin is around.”
I stood there in the middle of the promenade, frozen in disbelief as
people milled about me. I had never been able to imagine my father as
a cadet. All my life, he had seemed whole just as he was–immovable,
implacable, unloveable. The things I was learning today!

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. X
Thicker Than Blood
Part 3

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

DISCLAIMERS: See part one.

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

We went back to Dad’s quarters on the Antigone, and he replicated
tea for himself and spinach juice for me. We sat down and a few moments of
silence passed before Dad spoke. “You’re doing it again.”
“What?”
He smiled gently. “Looking at me. Wondering just what the hell has
come over your old man.”
I dropped my eyes. “Guilty as charged.”
“Well, I think you deserve to know.” He got to his feet and carried
his mug over to one of the windows. “It all started at Voyager’s memorial
service. I didn’t want to go, but your mother did, so I accompanied her.
The service itself was tastefully done and mercifully short. I felt very
uncomfortable sitting there, but it was nothing compared to the way I felt
when that damned French woman figured out who we were.”
“French? Sandrine? She was there?” My eyes opened wide. *Gods, I
love that woman!*
“I don’t know who she was. I didn’t catch her name.”
“Petite? Head full of blond hair?”
“Yes.”
I nodded. “Sandrine. Had to be. She owns a bistro in Marseilles.
I used to hang out at the bar a lot.”
“Oh?” A bushy eyebrow rose and a very familiar glare fell briefly
upon me before he caught himself. “Anyway, to make a long story short, she
came up to Amanda and me and inquired if we were your parents. I made the
mistake of saying yes and she bluntly told me I was the worst father she had
ever heard of. She then asked me if I knew how many trophies and awards you
had won. I was in such shock I said no, and she none-too-kindly suggested
that I go home and count them because you had won each one for me.
Then, before I could move Amanda away from her, she stalked off, saying the
real tragedy wasn’t your death, but my failure to know you.”
I bit the inside of my mouth. *Gods, to see his expression then!
Oh, Sandrine, only you!*
“A few days passed.” He continued, staring out the window. “And I
tried to put what that woman had said out of my mind, but I couldn’t.
Everytime I walked past your room, everytime I saw a child playing in the park,
I heard her words, right down to the bitterness and contempt in her voice.
Finally one Sunday, I woke before your mother and decided to fix coffee for
the both of us. When I opened the bedroom door, sunlight was pouring through
the skylight and hitting the hallway chest. You remember that behemouth,
don’t you?”
I nodded. “Yessir.”
“Well, I’m ashamed to tell you this, but right after your trial I had
moved it so that it completely blocked the door to your bedroom. I didn’t want
any reminder that your room was there.” He paused and took a sip of his tea.
“Well, that particular morning I moved it again, just enough so that I could
squeeze through, and I counted those awards. Do you know how many trophies
and ribbons you won, Thomas?”
I shook my head. “No, sir.”
“Thirty-three, Thomas. Thirty-three. Twenty-two in swimming alone.
Four for flying, three for Parisi Squares, three for attendance, and one
for academics in twentieth century history. I should have counted them a long,
long time ago.” He wagged his head slowly. “I spent the rest of the day
in your room. Amanda must have thought I had lost my mind, but I didn’t
come out of that room until it was spotless, all the years of dust cleaned
away and fresh sheets on the bed. I had it all ready in case you walked
through the door. I couldn’t let myself admit that you weren’t ever coming
home again.”
He stopped and swallowed several times, refusing to turn from the
window until his emotions were under better control. I set my glass down
and walked over to him. “Dad.” I was so choked up I could barely speak.
“Dad, I want to come home.”
The mug slipped from his fingers as he turned around, spilling its
contents onto the carpeting. I stooped to pick it up, but he said “leave it”
and pulled me into a bear of a hug. “Welcome home, Thomas.” His voice
trembled too much for him to say anything else, but I knew coming from him
it was as good as saying I love you.

Two days later, Voyager left for Earth with the Antigone as escort.
The Maquis were split between the two ships and remained under guard in various
assigned quarters, but under Dad’s influence, Starfleet allowed couples, like
Cait and myself to stay together, and Dad shifted his own quarters to Voyager
to be with us.
Since Starfleet hadn’t made up its mind about me, Janeway kept me
at conn. I think she did it as a favor to both me and my father. She knew
how much it would mean to me to pilot the ship into sector zero-zero-one.
Cait and Dad became fast buddies. She continued to call him Admiral,
not Eugene, but once he realized it was a term of endearment and not a title,
he really warmed to it. He told her quite a few stories about her uncle, and
together they did some research and discovered that her father was still alive,
living with J’nok and his family in a Klingon settlement near the DMZ.
Contacting them directly proved tricky, so Dad had a former representative to
the most recent peace talks arrange for a short message to be relayed. If all
went well, I would meet my father-in-law on Earth a few days after we arrived.

Twenty hours out from the Terran system, I pulled Harry aside on our
way to lunch. For the past six days, he had worn a non-stop frown, not that I
was much different. Who knew what would happen once we reached Earth, but his
scowl went deeper than mine. I could still grin on the occasion. “Hey, Har,
what’s wrong?”
The furrows in his brow deepened. “What do you mean, what’s wrong?”
“Just what I said. I’ve known you long enough to tell when something’s
bugging you, so spill it.”
He sighed heavily and leaned back against the corridor wall. “It’s
B’Ela.” He said quietly, closing his eyes. “She’s pregnant.”
“Harry, that’s great!” I exclaimed, giving him a playful punch in
the shoulder. “C’mon, you should be on cloud nine. Don’t you two want kids?”
The brown eyes flashed open angrily. “Yes, of course, but now’s not
the time. Neither of us are too fond of the idea that our kid will be born
in prison.”
“C’mon, Harry, you don’t know that for sure. The sentences could be
commuted.”
“You think so? They haven’t commuted yours yet, have they?
And whether they are or not, the fact remains I’ll still be in Starfleet and
where will she be?”
“With you, obviously.”
“Oh?” Both eyebrows shot up, then fell as his mouth twisted into
a sneer. “Just who do you think is going to want a former Maquis on their
starship? Besides what the hell is she going to do? She isn’t the type
to sit at home any more than Cait is. She’s an engineer. It’s in her blood,
but who’ll hire her?” He quarter-turned and smacked the wall with his palm.
“Shit! I almost wish I’d never found that damn wormhole.”
“Never?” My jaw hit the floor. “You can’t mean that. What about
your parents?”
A sad smirk appeared. “I did say ‘almost’, Paris. Of course, I want
to see them, and I want them to meet B’Ela in person instead of through
some vid screen, but then I think about all she and I stand to lose.”
I shook my head. “Harry, Harry, Harry.”
“Don’t Harry me, Paris! How the hell would you feel? What if it was
Cait? What if she was the one expecting and not B’Ela?” He stopped and
immediately his gaze fell to the ground. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have
said that.” With a groan, he leaned back against the wall and slid down into
crouch, covering his face with his hands. “It’s just that I never expected
it to be like this. I always looked forward to coming home. It was a dream,
you know, but now it’s more like a nightmare. And to make things even worse,
I’m taking it out on my best friend.” He looked up at me, pleading. “I’m
sorry, Tom. I’m really, really sorry.”
Swallowing my own flare-up of anger and pain, I offered him a
hand-up. “Forget it, Harry. Look, there’s no good worrying about most of this
until the trial is over. Until then be happy you have a child on the way.
Enjoy the time you have with B’Elanna. Even if she goes to prison, she’ll
get good care. There were two women expecting at Auckland when I was there
and they were well taken care of. When one went into labor a few days before
I left, even the toughest prisoners were biting their nails.” I flashed him
a tiny grin of encouragement which he did his best to return.
“You know, Tom, I sure do hope Starfleet recognizes your commission.
I don’t know what I’ll do without you around to kick some sense into me.”
With a small chuckle, I wrapped my arm around his shoulders and steered
him toward the mess. “It goes both ways. Hey, and even if they don’t, I’m
always just a transmission away, buddy.”
Later that night, after we made love, I rolled off Cait and onto
my back, enjoying those few blissful moments of exhausted pleasure before
my mind cleared and grew active again. All afternoon and evening I had thought
about what Harry had said, about being alone on the outside. I reached over
and drew the backs of my fingers down her cheek. Dear gods, I would miss her.
Her eyelids fluttered open. She turned onto her side and rose up
on one elbow. She stared silently at me, her eyes moving slowly over my face.
“Whatcha doing?” I finally whispered.
“Just looking.” She said quietly. Her fingers began to make the same
journey as her eyes, starting at the center of my forehead. “Just looking.”
She repeated as her fingertips passed softly around the curve of my jaw.
“Realizing how handsome you are. Realizing how much you mean to me and how
much I love you and how much I’m going to miss being with you like this.”
“Me, too.” My hand slipped behind her head and I pulled her down
for a lengthy kiss. She settled onto my shoulder with her right arm draped
across my chest. It felt warm and good and I tried not to think about how
temporary it might be.
“Tom?”
“Hmmm?”
“Your father is actually a very nice man.”
“Mm.”
“No, really, he is. I know it won’t be easy for you, but you two
should enjoy the time you have together. Build some good memories to replace
the bad ones.”
My eyes opened reluctantly. “I’ve been trying, Cait. I haven’t
fought with him, have I? We’ve talked, haven’t we?”
“Yes.” She sighed. I think she could tell by my tone I wasn’t in
the mood for this. “He does care about you.”
“Yeah, I guess he does.”
She lifted her head. “You don’t sound so sure.”
I shrugged. “What do you want me to say? You know there are a lot of
bad memories, a lot of pain on both sides. I don’t know if I want to risk
letting him get close again.”
Cait settled back on my shoulder, her arm tightening momentarily
across my chest. “I know.” She grew silent and I stared up at the ceiling,
now wide awake and on the defensive.
“He wants grandchildren,” she said.
“What?”
“He wants grandchildren. He hasn’t said so, but you can tell. You
should have seen him with Sam’s daughter, explaining what it was an
Admiral did. He was so patient. He answered all of her questions.” She gave
a soft laugh. “You’re going to hate me for saying so, but I can see parts of
you in him.”
“What? How? When?”
“In little ways. The way he scratches his head, the way his eyes
twinkle, little things. And then there are the stories he’s been telling me
about my uncle. Your dad was a very willing participant in most of their
highjinks. He was quite a ladies’ man back then, too. Did you know that?”
“Hmph. That’s not the man I grew up knowing.”
Her fingers toyed gently with my chest hair, and I smacked her
hand lightly. I was annoyed enough. When the hell did she jump off my
bandwagon and onto his?
“You know, sometimes it’s like that,” she said. “My father used to
tease me all the time that I was going to be twice as strict with my kids as
he ever was with me, and I was much more strict with Rowan than you were,
you can’t deny that. Maybe it was the same for your dad. He knew how lucky
he was not to have screwed up his career and he just wanted to make sure you
didn’t take the same risks he had.”
“Maybe.” I sighed. “I don’t know. Look, Cait, I can’t make any
promises. Right now, I can only wait and see.”
“I think that’s all he wants, Tom. A chance to set things right or at
least make them better.” She pressed her lips to my neck. “G’night.”
“‘Night, Cait.”
She dropped off almost right away. Lucky her. Gingerly, I re-arranged
the pillows beneath her head and slid my arm out. I slipped into my robe and
wandered into the other room.
*So, she sees me in him. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before
it becomes the other way around.* I grimaced and sank down on the sofa, gazing
out at the streaks of light flashing past. A part of me did want to let
him in. I couldn’t deny that. It had felt so damn good the other day to hear
him say welcome home. So why was I hesitating? Was I afraid he would let me
down again? Or was it that I was afraid *I* would let him down again? *C’mon,
Thomas, you’ve moved past this stage, haven’t you? You’ve piloted Voyager for
how many years now? You’ve landed her how many times? You’re married. You’re
working on a family of your own. Are you always going to have these doubts
about yourself?*
I stretched out on the sofa and closed my eyes. Maybe opening up
to Dad was the last hurdle I had to cross before my past was truly behind me.
Funny though, somehow I always figured it would involve me fighting him,
not hugging him.
The door chimed. I leapt up, answering it quickly so I wouldn’t wake
Cait. It was my father.
“I know it’s late,” he said breathlessly. “But this couldn’t wait.
Wake up, Caitlin. She should hear this, too.”
“No, I’ll tell her later. What is it?”
He shook his head stubbornly. “Thomas, if you don’t wake her up,
she’ll never forgive you. So go do it.”
I started to object again, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good.
The argument that would ensue would wake her up anyway. Stepping back into
the bedroom, I scooped up her robe from the end of the bed and sat down
beside her, shaking her bare shoulder. “Cait. Honey, I hate to wake you,
but my fa-” It hit me. He was in his robe and pajamas. I turned around.
Yep. I hadn’t imagined it. My father, the Admiral, Mr. Decorum himself,
was running about a starship in the middle of the night in his bathrobe
and pajamas.
Cait sat up, yawning, clutching the covers about her. “Wha-?
Tom, it’s only 0130. What’s wrong?”
“Beats me, but put your robe on. Dad’s here. He’s got something
to tell us.”
I stood between them while she made herself presentable. Then, we went
into the seating area where my dad paced impatiently. “Okay, Dad, here she is.
Now what’s up?”
“Yes.” He paused. “Thomas, don’t you believe in lighting? Computer,
half lights.” Cait and I both blinked, squinting against the sudden glare
as he continued. “I just received a transmission from Command and-” He halted
once again for effect, his eyes shining. “They commuted your sentence, Thomas.
You’re a free man.”
Cait let out a whoop and threw her arms around my neck, kissing my
cheek. I just stared at him, stunned. “They what?” I finally asked in
disbelief.
“Commuted your sentence.” He repeated, a wide smile lighting up his
features. “And they are going to begin reviewing your field commision
right away. You may get to keep that uniform after all, Thomas.”
Cait moved over to him and planted a kiss on his cheek. “This calls
for a celebration in spite of the late hour. Don’t you think so, Admiral?”
“Indeed I do.”
As she walked over to the replicator, I tottered toward the desk chair
and sat down heavily. Dad came over and placed a concerned hand on
my shoulder. “Are you all right, Thomas?”
“Wha-? Oh. Yeah. I am. I just- That is, I- It’s just that I
wasn’t sure, you know? I had hoped, but I wasn’t sure.” I stared at the
carpeting unable to focus on any words or thoughts. “After all this time…”
“Better make his a double, Caitlin.” Dad called over his shoulder.
“Coming up.”
He patted my shoulder. “I’m proud of you, Thomas. I truly am.”
I looked up at him. He was smiling.

“Entering the Terran System, Captain.” I reported.
“Slow to impulse.”
“Captain, we are being hailed by Earth Station McKinley.” Tuvok said.
“On screen.”
A man with a round head and a bushy, black mustache appeared.
“Voyager, I am Commander Mossah of Earth Station McKinley. You have clearance
to dock at pylon four when you are within range. Welcome home.
“Thank you, Commander. It’s good to be back. Janeway out.”
About ten minutes passed before I spoke again. “Nearing McKinley,
Captain.”
“Engage thrusters and maneuver us into docking position, Mr. Paris.”
“Aye, Cap’n. Establishing postion. Cutting engines. Docking clamps
locked on.” I spun around and flashed her my brightest smile. “We’re home.”
She stood behind me, nodding, staring at the beautiful blue and white
image on the screen. Then, she turned and looked at Chakotay, who stood
behind her. She had requested that he be on the bridge.
He smiled at her, a half-proud, half-sad smile of farewell. “You did
it, Kathryn. You brought us home. Thank you.”
She nodded and quickly turned back to the view screen. Her eyes were
moist. Maybe she was too choked up to speak.
I stood up and Bathart moved in to take my place, offering his hand.
I shook it, and then held out my hand to Janeway as I stepped up to her level.
“Thank you, Captain. For everything.”
She grasped my hand between both of hers. “It’s not over yet, Tom.
Not until I see you back in that uniform for good.”
I glanced down at my civilian attire. “Yeah, well, I’m not so sure
about that, Captain. I don’t want to get my hopes up too high.”
“If they don’t keep you, it will be the Federation’s loss. You’re one
of the best pilots and finest officers I’ve ever served with. I’m going to
miss having you at the helm.”
Tears fast clouded my own eyes and I found myself at a loss for words.
I wanted to give her a big hug, but that just wasn’t dignified enough for
the bridge, so I squeezed her hand briefly before releasing it. “Thank you
again, Captain. I’ll never forget what you did for me and the rest of
the crew. In my opinion, there’s no better captain in the fleet.”
“Take care of yourself, Tom, and Caitlin, too. I’ll see you both at
the hearings.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Oh, and, Tom, it’s Kathryn. If you’re destined to be a civilian,
Kathryn is more than enough.”
I nodded, but it was going to be a tough adjustment. “All right,
Kathryn, it is. Guess I’ll be seeing you in a few day too, Chakotay.”
He nodded and I shook his hand. I leapt up the steps toward the lift,
saluted Tuvok with a big grin and stopped. “Oh, ah, Kathryn?”
“Yes?” She turned in my direction.
“You can call me Tom.” I flashed her my brightest smile once again
and watched her fight to retain her composure. Suddenly leaving the bridge
seemed a little less difficult than it had just moments ago.
A few minutes later at 1330, Cait and I were separated once again as
the Maquis were transported down to a holding facility just outside ‘Frisco.
Dad still had some Fleet business to take care of and Harry had made plans to
meet his parents in Old Chinatown. So, for the first time in years, I was
destined to be fancy-free on planet Earth, but this time I had some place
to go. Home.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. X
Thicker Than Blood
Part 4

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

DISCLAIMER: See part one.

I set the coordinates myself. It kind of surprised me that I still
knew them, but I suppose it’s one of those things you never forget. For a
little bit, I toyed with the idea of beaming down into the middle of the
family room and surprising Mom. Yet, for some reason, that seemed
presumptuous. After all, I hadn’t been welcome in that house for over
a decade, and I guess I still had trouble believing that I actually was.
Besides, Mom probably didn’t need the shock anyway, with her health and all.
So, instead, I materialized right outside the front door.
From the outside, the house appeared to have hardly changed. The old
oak tree I fell out of when I was six and broke my arm still stood, its limbs
spreading out of the thick trunk to cover almost two-thirds of the front yard
with their shadows. From the front step, I peered around the corner of the
entrance and into the sunroom. Mom sat there amongst her plants,
deeply engrossed it appeared in some book. I smiled to myself and pressed
the chime. I could hear its familiar tone echoing through the house. It took
her a few minutes–Dad had said somedays were slower for her than others–
but finally the door opened.
Even though we had already talked, I just wasn’t prepared for how
frail she looked, an almost skeletal hand clasped tightly around the crook of
the cane. “Thomas?” Her voice cracked with emotion. “Thomas, is it
really you?” She held out a shaking hand, and I took it gently in mine,
afraid of shattering it like china.
“Yeah, Mom. It’s me.”
Her lower lip trembled and she half-flew, half-fell into my arms.
“Oh, Thomas, I’m so glad, so very glad.”
I held her weakened form for a few minutes before she attempted to
extract herself, sniffling. “Goodness, look at us. Making such a scene in
front of the neighbors. Come in, come in. Let me get a good look at you.”
Dropping the duffles beside the same hall table I used to put my school
PADDs on, I stepped back, twirled around, and bowed.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, stop that.” She laughed. “Stand up.
Let me see. Vid screens never do a person justice.” Her hand reached
up and touched my hair. “You’re losing it,” she said.
I ruffled it a little to hide the thinning. “Yeah, I know.
Cait teases me about it.”
“Your father started to lose his about this age, too. You’re looking
more and more like him.”
I cocked my head doubtfully to one side and turned to examine myself
in the mirror above the table. “You think?” I asked, my fingers sliding
along my jaw. “Funny. Cait said something to the same effect last night.”
She nodded at my reflection. “I know so.” She linked her arm around
mine. “Come into the kitchen and I’ll make us some coffee. Decaffeinated,
I’m afraid. These doctors and their notions of healthful living.” She snorted
and then smiled. “But I want you to tell me all about what’s happened to you,
about this Cait you married, and about the Delta quadrant. I want to hear
everything.”
I laughed as we walked slowly toward the kitchen. “Mom, that’ll
take hours, maybe days.”
“Good. That means you’ll have to stay. You will stay here,
won’t you?” Her moist violet eyes gazed up at me, pleading anxiously.
I patted her hand. “Yeah, Mom,” I said softly. “I’ll stay here
as long as I can. Or at least until you get tired of my company and kick
me out.” I teased.
The ash blond head shook slowly. “Never, Thomas. Never again.”
We chatted for a while at the kitchen table, with me giving her a brief
synopsis of how we got pulled into the Delta quadrant, how we got back, and of
course, what Cait was like. “So,” she said from the table as I replicated
two more coffees. “This Cait seemed like a very nice young woman from the
brief conversation she and I had, and she has certainly made quite an
impression on your father.”
“Yeah, you should see them, Mom. They get along like a house afire.”
I walked over slowly, careful not to spill a single drop on the floor,
still sparkling white after all these years. “Turns out Dad knew an uncle
of hers, William.”
“Reckless Willie!” My mother exclaimed.
I nearly dropped both cups. “You knew him?”
“Oh my, yes. He helped Frank Hamilton organize your father’s
bachelor party when we got married. He was more than a friend of your
father’s, I’d say he was more like an idol, a true swashbuckler if there
ever was one, like the old Fleet men.” She grew quiet and gazed into the
cup I had set down in front of her. “I remember when he disappeared. It was
a few months before you were born, and your father was absolutely devastated.
He had lost three friends in quick succession–Jamoka, Sasha, and William.
You see, Thomas, the man he is now is so much more like the man I married.
After Lt. Cmdr. Matthews’ disappearance though, Eugene became so detatched and
serious, focussing all his energies on his career and later yours and Vicki’s.
You never got to see the man I fell in love with, and I always regretted this,
especially as you two grew further and further apart, both of you so stubborn
in placing the blame on the other.”
A thin hand reached out and rested on my arm. “But you have a chance
to get to know him now, Thomas. To get to know him and to love him. I know
how you saw him, how you saw both of us, but we did love you, Thomas. We only
wanted what we thought was best for you and your sister. It may not have
seemed like it, but we did.”
My hand covered hers and squeezed it a little. “It may take a while,
Mom, but I think I’m starting to accept that fact.”

I lay on the bed staring up into the darkness, my stomach close to
bursting from tonight’s dinner. I had forgotten just how good a home-cooked
meal could be; after all, I hadn’t had one from Mom in over ten years.
A few moonbeams crept though the branches of the oak tree and shone
on two of my swimming ribbons. My room. This was *my* room, the room I
used to hide in, the room I lost my virginity in. Nothing had changed really.
Everything was right where I left it, only dusted and polished like I had
never been gone in the first place.
Dad had brought some hopeful news to the dinner table. Six of the
attorneys, including Cameron MacDougall, the counsel engaged to represent Cait,
had petitioned the court to release (with ankle monitors) those Maquis with
family and friends on Earth. If the court agreed, Cait could be out in time
to meet her father when he arrived.
I rolled onto my side and stared out the window at the oak tree.
Gods, just thinking about meeting the man drew swarms of butterflies into
my stomach. Cait had always said he and I would get along, but I couldn’t
help worrying. She was his only child, and I knew how protective I’d be if
the roles were reversed and she was my child. I hugged the extra pillow
to my chest and stifled a yawn. Gods, I missed her.
Through the branches a brilliant ivory sphere hovered in the sky.
Many moons existed, but if you grew up on Earth only one was truly important–
one–not two, not three, not twelve, only one. One moon. One Earth. I closed
my eyes and hunkered down in the bed drawing the crisp sheet over my shoulder.
Yeah, I was home.

When I awoke the sun had already begun to peek through the tree limbs,
the leaves glowing bright green like Cait’s eyes. A thump-shuffle, thump-
shuffle passed by my door as Mom headed for the kitchen. I sat up and
stretched then reached for a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. As I stepped out
into the long hallway, the sound of running water hit my ears from both ends
of the corridor–Dad in the shower and Mom in the kitchen. Some routines
never changed.
I padded barefoot across the warm tiles of the sunroom and into the
kitchen, yawning and scratching my head. “Morning, Mom.” I mumbled and kissed
her cheek.
She wore a light pink bathrobe and a sunny smile. “Good morning,
Thomas. Breakfast will be ready soon. How did you sleep?”
“Like a log. Fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Orange juice, no pulp.” I requested from the replicator. “So, what’s for
breakfast? You cooking or replicating it?”
“Cooking. Your favorite.”
“Mom,” I protested. “You don’t have to go to all that trouble,
especially after last night’s feast.”
“No trouble at all. I want to do it, Thomas. Once I knew you were
coming, I went out and got everything I needed. Are you going to deny me
the pleasure of seeing you enjoy it? Besides if I don’t use the blueberries,
they’ll be wasted.”
I reached around her and picked up a handful of the tiny blue spheres.
“Mmm. They’re good. At least let me help you.” I snatched up another handful
and narrowly missed getting my wrist smacked.
“If you eat them all, Thomas, there won’t be any for the pancakes.
Why don’t you go in the backyard and see if there are any more ripe
strawberries out there.” She shoved a metal mixing bowl into my hands.
“Yes ma’am.” I headed for the sliding glass door that led out onto
the patio.
“Oh, and Thomas.”
“Yes’m?”
See if there are any more tomatoes ready to be picked, but don’t
pick them. I’ll get your father to do that later.”
“No problem.” I replied, pulling the door to one side.
Most of the patio stones held onto their nighttime coolness, but a
few had started collecting the sun’s heat, and I warmed my toes on those
before venturing out into the damp grass. Breathing deeply, I filled my lungs
with the sweet fusion of smells that were an early morning in summer, and
for a second, I was twelve years old again, rising early for yet another
day at swim camp. Gods, I had loathed it at the time, but now I was glad I
had been up. Things were so quiet at this time of day, except for the chirping
birds and an occasional feathery breeze.
The grass squished softly between my toes as I walked over to the
side of the yard Mom always devoted to her fruits and vegetables. She didn’t
have as many plants as she used to have, probably because of the empty house,
but she still had the staples: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and strawberries.
Dad loved strawberries, and I really had to hunt to find some ripe ones.
Ten-to-one said he had been eating them right off the plant. Mom used to scold
him about that all the time when I was growing up, one of the few times I ever
saw the man actually look contrite. Only five berries were ready for picking
this particular morning, but three of them were monsters, two-for-one size.
They were so lusciously plump I almost popped one in my mouth, but I managed
to stop myself just in the nick of time.
About half a meter away were four tomato plants. Growing up, Mom often
planted seven or eight, and Vicki and I were always drafted for pest patrol.
White flies, aphids, tomato worms. Man, the worms were the worst–ugly, green
devils almost as big as my thumb. Vicki wouldn’t touch them. She always got
me to pull them off and kill them.
I crouched down and pulled some of the vines to one side. One, two,
three, almost four tomatoes, and if I wasn’t mistaken, one tomato worm. Yep.
Fat little bugger, too. I snapped off the leaf it was munching on and carried
it and the bowl back into the house.
The sizzling aroma of bacon hit me full force at the door. Dad was
at the cooker, spatula in hand to turn over the pancakes or the bacon,
whichever needed it first. “Smells good,” I said. “Where’s Mom?”
“Watering the plants.” He nodded at the bowl. “What have you
got there?”
“Strawberries and one tomato worm.” I held up the leaf before dropping
it and its diner into a bowl of soapy water.
“Good for you. We’ve had a lot of trouble with them this year.”
Turning on the tap, I rinsed off the strawberries. “There weren’t
many berries out there. Have you been eating them off the plant again?”
He smirked as he flipped a pancake. “Guilty, but I think your mother
has finally given up and accepted my weakness.”
“About time. It only took her what? Forty-four? Forty-five years?”
“Forty-one.” He corrected. “Sometimes it really doesn’t seem that
long, but a lot of water has gone under the bridge, a *lot* of water.”
“Yeah.” I agreed. “A whole lot of water.” We stopped what we were
doing and stared at one another, neither knowing just what to say. Suddenly,
I sniffed. “Something’s-Dad! The bacon!”
“Oh hell!” He shut off the power under the pan, but it was too late–
burnt to a crisp. “Your mother warned me this thing was cooking food
too fast.”
I shrugged. “S’okay. I’ll replicate some. No big deal.”
“What’s no big deal?” Mom called from the sunroom. “Eugene,
the bacon!” She limped into the kitchen. “Eugene, did you burn the bacon?”
“Er, yes, I’m afraid so. I don’t know how it happened. I had just
checked it not two nanoseconds beforehand.” My father kept his eyes glued
to the pancake he was very carefully turning over.
“It’s okay, Mom. I’m replicating some.”
“Hmph.” She shooed my father away from the cooker, taking charge of
the spatula. “Out, before you burn the pancakes, too.”
“Yes, dear.” He kissed her cheek and mumbled a sincere “sorry” before
ambling over to the kitchen table. I brought over the plate of bacon, and then
went back to help Mom carry over the pancakes.
Man oh man, were they ever good! Light as a cloud and bursting with
blueberries. I must have downed at least five, along with two ojs,
two coffees, and numerous slices of bacon.
My father laughed over his coffee as I finally sat back. “I guess you
haven’t been getting food like this in the Delta quadrant, hmm?”
“Let’s just say Neelix’s cooking is more than a little unusual, even
with tried and true recipes. I’m not quite sure if Earth is ready for Chez Kes
or not.” I leaned over and kissed Mom’s cheek. “Great meal, Mom. Thanks.”
She beamed. “I’m glad you enjoyed it. What are your plans for today?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m tempted to make a quick trip to Marseilles
to see an old friend. When do you think they’ll make a decision about Cait
and the others, Dad?”
“MacDougall hoped a decision would made by this afternoon. How soon
they process her out is another story.”
“Then I’d better get moving. I’ll have the communicator you gave me
last night, so if anything happens…”
“We’ll let you know.” Dad waved me away from the table. “Have a good
time, and tell your friend, if she’s who I think she is, thank you for me.”
I nodded. “Will do. I’ll tell her thanks for the both of us.”
About one hour later, I came up out of the transport terminal across
from a boulangerie/patisserie. The mouth-watering smell of fresh baking
saturated the air, and I made a mental note to stop by on my way back for Mom.
She loved French pastries, and when I was training here she always asked me to
bring some home.
I threaded my way through the streets toward the docks, the street
lamps just beginning to come on for the approaching dusk. A lot of the same
shops that were open when I was here were still open–family-owned and run
for generations. *Sort of like Starfleet and the Paris family.* I chuckled
to myself as a nearby chronometer displayed the time, 1735. Yep, the bar would
be open by now, which meant Sandrine would be somewhere around.
Her apartment was above the bistro. I had been up there a few times,
just for talking and a home-cooked meal. Despite all her flirting, the real
Sandrine was actually hooked on Jacques, her bartender, a big, burly man with a
bald spot right on the top of his head. My holoprogram was such a frozen slice
of time that I began to wonder what all had changed since I had been gone.
Had she and Jacques finally tied the knot? Did she and Jeanette still do all
the waitressing? A shout stripped me from my train of thought.
“Could it be? Thomas? Thomas Paris? Mon ami.” A hefty middle-aged
man engulfed me in a bear hug before I could reply. “Hey, Papa! Look who is
back on the streets of Marseilles. It’s Paris!”
An elderly man with a scruffy grey bead and a faded black beret sat
nearby on a pile of thick, coiled rope. “Can’t be,” he growled. “He died.”
Suddenly, I realized who had embraced me. “Antoine?”
“Oui.” A broad, predaceous grin broke beneath the dense peppered
mustache. “It is you, isn’t it?”
“In the flesh.” I smiled and casually felt for my credits. “Just got
back to Earth yesterday. Been lost in the Delta quadrant all these years.”
“See, Papa. I told you.” Antoine slapped me exhuberantly on the back,
nearly knocking me over. “When a man half my age with the face of an angel
takes me for over forty credits in pool. Oh-ho! That is a face I will
remember for a long time.” He concluded, tapping the side of his head with a
thick finger.
“You’ve obviously never played my wife.” I replied wryly. “She would
have supplanted my image easily.”
“Wife?” he roared. “You are married?”
“Mmm-hmm.”
By now the older man, Robert Chernier, had gotten to his feet and
hobbled over, a weathered hand gripping a wooden cane. “What kind of woman
does it take to settle down a playboy like him, eh, Antoine?” He cackled,
nudging his son in the ribs. “Do you remember how the women used to buy him
food and drinks? And all with a glance from those pretty blue eyes.”
“I remember.” Antoine said. “There were none left for us when he
was around.” A fleshy hand clapped me so hard on the shoulder I could have
sworn I heard a bone crack.
“Not anymore.” I snickered. “Cait would kill me, then divorce me.”
“Ho-ho!” Robert exclaimed. “Keeps you on a short leash, does she?”
“Something like that.” I laughed. “But you didn’t hear that from me.”
“Hear what?” Antoine winked, while Robert touched a sly finger to the
side of his nose.
“Listen,” I said. “I was on my way to see Sandrine. How about I buy
you two a glass of marc?”
They glanced at one another, the good humor falling from their faces.
“What?” I asked.
Robert spoke first. “Sandrine no longer tends her bar,” he said
gravely. “If you wish, though, I will take you to her. Antoine needs to
finish his work.”
“Yes, please. Take me to her. Antoine, it was good to see you again.”
I extended my hand and he pumped it thoroughly, yet solemnly.
“It was good to see you, Thomas. You must visit again and bring your
wife with you. I want to meet her.”
I smirked. “Yeah, I’ll bet you do. Lead the way, Robert.”
We walked in silence through the darkening streets. I kept getting
ahead of him and having to drop back. He was nearly ninety, and I normally
would have kept my stride under better control, but the idea of Sandrine no
longer at her establishment filled me with concern. She would’ve tended that
place until her last breath. There was just no way in hell she would’ve
retired.
Finally, Robert stopped at the intricate, wrought-iron gates of an
ancient cemetery. I stared at him as he took off his beret and rapped on the
metal with his cane. The keeper came out of a tiny shack and opened the gate.
Robert beckoned me inside.
One of three main paths wound its way to the right side of the property
and through a dense cluster of family mausoleums and plots. We halted at one
plot enclosed by more wrought-iron. The name of Millet was located over the
entrance.
“I should have brought flowers.” I muttered quietly. “She always
loved baby’s breath.”
“She is over here.” Robert led me over to a white marble marker
shining like a beacon amid the other greyed and moss-covered headstones.
“‘Marguerite Sandrine Violette Millet.'” I read as I crouched down.
“‘Warm of heart and greatly missed by all who knew her.’ How did it happen?”
I asked, my fingers skimming over the stone’s smooth edge.
“A tragedy.” Robert replied. “One she did not deserve. One evening,
a young man came into the bar. You only had to look at him to know something
terrible was about to happen. It was his eyes. They were as blue as the sea,
but harder than this ground I stand on.” He thumped the ground vigorously
with his cane. “They bore through everyone they turned upon, as if the person
wasn’t there at all.
“He sat down at the end of the bar away from everyone else. He ordered
an ale, but did not drink it, and ignored Sandrine’s attempts at conversation.
Minutes passed, and another man, a few years older than the first, came into
the bar. He, too, sat down, but rose to leave as soon as he spotted the
first man.
“The younger man was upon him before anyone knew what was happening.
No one even saw him move. Like a cat, he was swift and silent. One second he
was at the end of the bar, the next he stood beside the older man, holding
his wrist. He whispered something in the man’s ear and the man turned greyer
than a Cardassian. The older man then spoke, fast and low so no one else
could hear, but you could see that his words were wasted. The younger man
simply twisted his arm behind his back and began escorting him toward
the doors.”
Robert paused and shook his head. “For what reason, I do not know,
but Sandrine tried to stop them. She lay a hand on the younger man’s free arm
and then staggered backward against a table clutching her stomach. He had
stabbed her, but no one could remember seeing a knife being drawn.
“Jacques called for medics and security, while Jeanette and I tried
to stop the bleeding, but it was no use. The medic said the weapon must have
been coated with an anti-coagulant. She bled to death in less than five
minutes.” He wiped his eyes with a crumpled hankerchief.
My gaze moved from him back to the marker. “What happened after that?
Did they find the murderer?”
“No, but they discovered the other man’s body in an alley no more
than a block away, his throat severed. We have all kept our eyes and ears
open, as you say, but we have heard no more about the matter.” He lowered
his voice. “I will tell you this. Starfleet Intelligence was involved.
They took the case out of the hands of the local authorities and have remained
most silent about their investigation.”
I glanced up, startled. “Really? Maybe the first guy was a pro then.
Was the second man familiar to anyone?”
“Jeanette said he had been in a few times before and seemed to have a
crush on Claudine, a new waitress, often bringing her a rose or some flower,
but other than that, he kept mostly to himself. The murderer, however, was
a stranger.” He frowned. “You should have seen him, Paris. I have never seen
anything like it in all my life. His eyes had no soul. He was a dead man,
a walking dead man.”
I slowly got to my feet. “I know what you mean. I ran across a few
like that when I was in the Maquis. Thank you for bringing me here, Robert.
If you don’t mind, I think I’ll sit with her for a while.”
“Of course.” His leathery hand gripped mine with a surprising
firmness. “Now that you are back, Paris, do not be such a stranger. Come by
her place. She left it to Jacques and he has kept it open in her memory.”
“I’ll stop by.” I promised. “Thank you.”

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. X
Thicker Than Blood
Part 5

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

DISCLAIMERS: See part one.

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

It was a little past 1140 hours when I got back home. I walked in and
made my way to the kitchen.
“Thomas, is that you?” Mom called from the family room.
“Yeah, Mom. I brought you some pastries for dessert tonight.”
She came to the door as I placed them in storage and smiled.
“You remembered. Thank you. Did you see your friend?”
I shrugged. “In a way. She died two years ago, but I ran into some
people who had known her and they showed me where she was buried.”
“Oh, Thomas, I’m so sorry.” She patted my arm. “Your father will be
as well.”
“Yeah, well, it’s kind of got me in the mood to pay respects. So, I
figured if there wasn’t any news on Cait I’d go see Ricki.”
“No news yet, but a friend of yours has been trying to reach you.
Harry Kim.”
I took a glass down off the shelf and poured some water into it. “Oh?
What did he want?” I leaned back against the counter and took a long drink.
“He didn’t say, but since he and his parents are in San Francisco
for the trial, I invited them out here for dinner tonight. I hope that’s
all right.”
“Yeah, fine. What time?”
“1900 hours.”
“Sounds good to me.” I put down the glass and gave her a quick peck
on the cheek. “Good thing I got two of everything for dessert, huh?
Listen, Mom, I should be back fairly soon, but if anything comes up-”
“He knows, Thomas.” She smiled and moved slowly back into the
family room.
I stopped by a florist’s shop and purchased a small bouquet before
heading out to Ricki’s grave. It was located on an old family plot, too, but
not quite as old as Sandrine’s. I had been here only twice before this.
The first time was during her memorial service prior to my confessing my sins.
Everyone had kept coming up to me saying how sorry they were, that I shouldn’t
blame myself. I had had no right to their sympathy. I knew that at the time.
I hadn’t even wanted to be here. I didn’t think I deserved to be here,
but later, after my court-martial, I came back. Her brother had been here
then, and I had hidden behind a nearby tree and waited for him to leave before
coming over to beg for her forgiveness.
The tree had grown a lot over the years, its limbs casting shadows
across the manicured markers. I placed the flowers down in front of her head-
stone and stepped back.
“Well, here we are, Ricks. Sorry. You always hated it when I called
you that. For a while there, I guess you thought I had forgotten about you.
Trust me, I didn’t. I couldn’t. I just got a little screwed up in the head
and messed up my life even more. Hard to believe, huh, but I think I’ve set
it right now. So, here I am.” I spread my arms to let her take a good look.
“A little older and a whole lot wiser. Brief summary: I got drunk a lot,
joined the Maquis, got caught and went to prison, got paroled to help Starfleet
find a Maquis ship, and got lost along the way in the Delta quadrant. Oh yeah,
and I got married. Yeah, me, Mr. Faithful. You probably don’t believe me,
but I did. I’ve changed, Ricki. I just wish you could have met me now,
instead of when you did. Sometimes I wonder how you ever put up with me
back then.”
I fell silent for a minute, then shrugged. “But you know, time’s a
funny thing. It’s even changed Dad. He and I are actually on speaking terms
now, and friendly ones at that. He’s welcomed me back into the family and
everything. Sometimes I think that this has all been one long, crazy dream,
like something out of ‘A Christmas Carol’, and that I’ll wake up next to you a
reformed man, but it hasn’t been, has it? You’re still here, and I can’t do a
damn thing to change that, can I?”
I knelt down on the grass and pulled up two fledgling weeds. “They
take good care of you here? Mom and Dad’s money keeping away most of the
riff-raff?” I laughed softly, then sobered. “Look, I know I told you before,
but I am sorry, Ricki. I never meant for things to end like this. I never
wanted to lose you, but it is a good thing we never got married. We wouldn’t
have been very good for each other in the long run. We both still had a lot
of growing up to do. I mean, do you remember when we went to the amusement
park outside Munich and I wanted to go on the zero-grav ride and you didn’t?
I drug you on anyway, didn’t I? And you were so sick afterward, and instead of
apologizing, all I did was whine about how much of our shore leave we
were losing. Gods, why didn’t you just dump me right then? Why did you stay
with me, Ricks? Was it just to prove something to your folks? Was thumbing
your nose at them that important?”
A bee buzzed around the flowers I had brought. “I guess it seemed that
way to us at the time, huh? Me against my dad and you against yours. Remember
when you deliberately made us late to the graduation party your dad gave us and
how pissed all our parents were? Remember how we laughed at them behind
their backs, snickering at the embarrassment we had caused them? Back then,
it was hard to tell who had the worse influence on the other–you or me.”
I sighed and shook my head. “Yep. I guess we both still had a lot of
growing up left to do. I just wish you’d had the chance to. I wish you’d
had the chance to find the happiness that I’ve finally found. I don’t think
you ever found it with me, and then I took your chance away. And Chuck’s.
And Serge’s.” My lip trembled and a tear slid down my cheek. “I am sorry,
Ricki. I never meant to. I loved you, all of you. You were my best friends,
and I was selfish and careless. I should never have gambled with your lives.
If anyone deserved to die in that crash, it was me.” A huge lump rose in my
throat choking off the rest of my words.
A few hushed moments passed, and even the air stilled as I tried to
collect my thoughts. There seemed to be so much to say, and yet nothing that
I hadn’t already spoken a thousand times before in my heart and thoughts.
A tiny breeze finally rose, stirring the warm air and causing the tree’s shadow
to dance across the grass.
“I guess that’s all I had to say. I just wanted to say hello and
to let you know that I still thought about you. I was in love with you, Ricki,
and to some degree, I always will be, just not love love, you know?”
I slowly got to my feet and brushed the thatch from my trousers. “I’ll stop by
when I can, but just because you don’t see me for a while, doesn’t mean I’m not
thinking about you.” I stooped down one last time and patted the turf.
“G’bye, Ricki. I miss you.”
Dad was home by the time I got back, sitting in his usual chair in the
family room, sipping tea and listening to some familiar classical music.
(Satie, I think was who Harry once told me it was.) I took a seat on the sofa
next to him and told him about Sandrine. You could see it disturbed him.
“I am so sorry, Thomas. I’ve wanted for some time to thank her,
but I didn’t know who she was. Did they catch the man?”
I shook my head. “Nope. He killed someone else while he was at it,
slit the man’s throat and left him in an alley.”
Dad bolted up in his seat, almost spilling tea down the front of his
uniform. “When did you say this happened?”
“A little over two years ago. Why?”
His voice dropped and he moved closer to me. “I can’t give you many
details. I don’t know most of them myself, but two years ago, a Fleet
operative who had been working within the Maquis was murdered in a Marseilles
alleyway. The killer was not apprehended, and the report I saw noted that a
bistro owner had also been killed shortly beforehand by the same person. Had I
known that it was your friend…” He sat back and let out a slow sigh.
“Things used to be so quiet here, but ever since Cardassia joined the Dominion
incidents of violence have increased throughout the quadrant.”
“Does Starfleet think a Maquis killed this man?” I asked.
He nodded. “It is the most likely possibility, but not the only one.
The shapeshifters have learned how to defeat some of our tests, and people are
panicking. Anything that is the least bit out of the ordinary sparks a swift
and usually violent reaction. To make matters worse, the Maquis have somehow
survived the Jem Hadar’s hunts, and as a result, their support base within
the Federation has grown. More and more people see them as plucky freedom
fighters, succeeding sometimes where Starfleet has failed. It’s even rumored
that they have gained support among a minority of Cardassians who are tired of
the war and Dominion control. At times, I think the whole situation is spiral-
ling toward one huge war, which is, of course, just what the Dominion wants.”
He sighed heavily. “I used to believe the Federation could survive anything,
but there are days now when I’m not so sure.”
I had never heard him sound so defeated. Well, maybe not as much
defeated as exhausted. I leaned forward and placed a hand on his arm. “Dad,
the Federation will survive if I have anything to say about it. Cait and I
won’t let our kids grow up under Dominion control.”
He put his hand over mine and gave me a tired smile. “Good. I knew I
could count on you, Thomas.”

The Kims showed up promptly at 1900 hours and the dinner went really
well. It turned out that Harry’s mom shared my mother’s interest in horti-
culture and they spent almost the entire meal discussing the advances made in
rose genetics and cross-breeding. I kept thinking how much Kes would have
enjoyed their conversation, too. Meanwhile, Dad and Dr. Kim spoke at great
length on the current state of the Federation and its allies, bringing Harry
and myself into greater detailed awareness of all that had happened while we
were lost.
Harry’s parents were polite, quiet people–in short, everything I had
been led to expect. Harry looks a lot like his father, which surprised me.
For some reason, I always figured he would look more like his mom, but maybe
that was simply because he always talked about her.
When dessert was over, I insisted that both sets of parents take their
drinks out onto the patio and let Harry and me clear the table. It was more
than a bid to be helpful on my part. I wanted to get him alone. He had been
way too silent during dinner.
“Mom doesn’t like the idea of B’Ela and me being married. She wants
me to divorce her.”
“She what?” My jaw and two dishes nearly hit the floor. I couldn’t
believe it. Everything Harry had ever told me about his parents had led me
to believe that they were kind people. “She said that?”
“Not in so many words. It’s more the way she’s acted, the questions
she’s asked.”
I opened the sonic washer and he began handing me plates. “Like what?”
I asked.
“Like questions about my career: how Starfleet will view the marriage,
how long we’ve been married, is it a happy marriage, and so forth.”
“Maybe she’s just curious. You know, concerned that her precious
Harry is happy.” I teased.
“I wish.” He sighed. “But it’s not the words, Tom, so much as it’s
how she says them and how she reacts to my answers. If only I had to deal
with it, it would be one thing, but you know how B’Ela is. I know she’ll try
to put up with them for my sake, but she can only take so much, especially now.
The upcoming trial, coupled with the pregnancy, have her wound tighter than a
warp coil. I’m afraid that the situation will escalate until eventually I have
to choose between her and my parents.”
I straightened up and wiped my hands on a towel. “Harry, some people
are lucky enough to never have to, but I think most of us at some point in our
lives have to take a stand against our parents. It isn’t easy, but it has to
be done. Our parents don’t always know what’s best for us. Only we can know
what makes us happy. Hell, do you think I’d leave Cait just to be back in
Starfleet’s good graces? No way, and I told Dad so right up front.”
“But it’s easy for you, Tom. You and your dad have been at odds since
you were a kid. My childhood wasn’t like that. My parents gave me everything,
sacrificing a lot for themselves along the way. My success is their reward.
How can I deny them that? After all they’ve done to support me, shouldn’t they
expect my loyalty in return?”
“And what about B’Elanna? What’s she to expect? What do you think
will happen to her? I’ll tell you what will happen.” I said, poking him in
the chest with my finger. “She’ll be angry, hurt beyond words. She’ll lash
out at everyone, and they’ll stick her in rehab for a good long time so she can
cool down. And once she gets out, where will she go? Who’ll take her and
a kid in? The Maquis, maybe? Is that where you want them to end up?
Think about it. No, I take that back. Don’t think about it. You shouldn’t
have to. You know and I know what the right choice is. B’Elanna needs you.
You can’t leave her now.”
I turned back briefly to the washer and tried to make room for one
last glass. “Oh, and one more thing to consider and this does concern your
career. When word gets around, and believe me, it will, that you abandoned
your wife and kid to further your own career, how many people do you think will
be willing to follow you as an officer?”
He lowered his eyes. “I haven’t told Mom and Dad about the baby.”
“You what?”
“I haven’t told them, okay?”
“Why not? Are you ashamed or something?”
“No. No! It’s just that-” His lips compressed into a taut line as
he looked out the window over the sink at the deepening periwinkle sky.
“It’s just that it would only complicate an already complex situation.”
I placed my hand on his shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
“Harry, you’ve got it all wrong. It’s the answer. To accept the kid, they
have to accept B’Elanna. It’s a package deal. If they don’t, then you know
where your loyalties must lie. It won’t be smooth sailing, but have a little
faith. Miracles can happen. Just look at my dad.” I grinned and spun him in
the direction of the sliding door. “Now, come on. Dad hates to waste a
good Port.”

The next morning I was first woken by the determined chirps of the main
comm panel and then a few minutes later by a heavy pounding on my door.
“Thomas! Wake up! Wake up!” Dad bellowed loud enough to wake the
Fergusons next door.
I grabbed a pair of shorts and pulled them on before stumbling to
the door. “Whassup?” I yawned.
“Hurry up and get dressed. MacDougall’s meeting us at the courthouse
in thirty minutes. They’re releasing Caitlin and some of the others. We’ve
got to hurry.” He was already halfway down the hall toward his and Mom’s
bedroom.
“Geez!” I ducked back in my room, grabbed some fresh underwear and
flew into the shower. Thirty minutes!
We met MacDougall outside the Justice building. A heavyset man with
greying temples, he moved with surprising grace considering his size.
He confidently led the way into the building. The Kims and several others
were seated outside the main courtroom. MacDougall disappeared inside and
we waited. And we waited.
Joe Carey and his wife were there for Patel, Porter was there for
Donna Henley, and Costanza was there for Sou. The list went on and on, with a
number of Voyager’s Fleet personnel eager to help out their former crewmates.
The Captain wasn’t there, but a distinguished-looking, grey haired stranger,
who introduced himself as Mark Emory, said he was there for Chakotay. I had
to wonder how well that sat with the big man, being bailed out by the lady-
you-love’s old beau.
Harry was so nervous he couldn’t sit still. You’d have thought
B’Elanna was giving birth. He just kept pacing, back and forth, back and
forth, back and forth until Carey and I were ready to hog-tie him. Luckily,
the attorneys came out with their respective clients before either of us gave
into the urge.
Cait wore an ankle monitor just like the others. She hugged and kissed
first me, then Dad, a touch that pleased him immensely, and then she gravely
shook MacDougall’s hand and thanked him. I glanced over toward Harry and
B’Elanna. Harry’s mom had one arm around B’Elanna’s shoulders and one hand
rested briefly on her daughter-in-law’s belly. Harry must have told them
last night after all.
Mom met us at the front door and swept Cait into the house. They had
said hello over the commlink, but this was their first meeting in person, and
Cait was a bit nervous. She wore court-issued civvies, which one could hardly
call attractive. All her other clothes had been packed in with mine.
Even then she didn’t have much in the way of civilian clothes, and Mom had
already determined as she and I were unpacking two days ago that a shopping
excursion was not only necessary, but also a good way to get to know her
new daughter-in-law.
Dad just rolled his eyes as the front door shut behind them. For a man
so fastidious in his appearance, he hated shopping and had learned long ago
that it, along with gardening, were Mom’s real weaknesses. Me? It wasn’t my
favorite thing to do, but a positive attitude always made the experience more
bearable. Besides, I had lucked out in that Cait had been raised as an
immensely practical person, and the thought of frivously spending credits was
an anathema to her. So, hours later, when a pile of boxes, followed by my
wife and mother materialized in the entrance hall, I couldn’t resist teasing
both of them.
“Geez, how many stores did you clean out?”
Cait blushed, but Mom only waved a dismissive hand. “Ignore him.
He won’t complain so much when he sees you in these clothes.” She picked up
one of the boxes and limped off toward my bedroom. Cait shrugged, gathered up
all but three of the boxes, and followed her. I scooped up the last three and
jerked my head in their direction. My father just rolled his eyes again, shook
his head, and turned back to the book he was reading. I could almost hear his
thoughts: good thing poverty was eliminated all those years ago.
I met Mom as she came out of my room. “Oh good, you got them,” she
said. “Don’t want to lose that one.” She patted the red box on top. “Cait
looked wonderful in that dress.”
“Oh?” I looked over her and watched my wife’s face flush two shades
deeper.
“Yes. Oh gracious, look at the time. Why don’t you help her unpack,
Thomas. I must get dinner started.” She moved off in the direction of the
kitchen, and Cait stopped unpacking and came over to me.
“I’m so embarrassed.” She whispered. “I didn’t mean for her to buy
all this stuff. I don’t even need half of it, but almost every outfit I tried
on she said looked so good that she insisted we purchase it. And that led to
shoes and other accessories. I just feel awful.” She sighed.
I planted a kiss on her forehead. “Welcome to the Paris family, love.
We take good care of our own.” I glanced at the pile on my bed. “Maybe a
little too good, huh? Here’s a suggestion, put on one of the new outfits.
Mom’ll love it.”
“But which one? I’ve never had so many clothes to choose from in
my life. It’s overwhelming.”
I laughed and cleared off enough space to sit down on the bed. “Don’t
worry. You’ll figure it out. I have every confidence in you.”
She frowned. “Thanks, I think.”
For dinner, Cait chose a simple ankle-length knit dress in a colour
I could best describe as smoky teal. It wasn’t quite blue and it wasn’t quite
green, but she looked damn good and I said so. She swept her hair up in a
casual knot, letting wisps fall around her face. Dad was floored; Mom was
pleased.
“She’s a lovely girl, Thomas.” Mom said while Cait was answering a
subspace communication.
“Thanks, Mom.” I replied with a grin. “I think so.”
“I like her so much better than your other girlfriends, including
Ricki. I know you cared deeply for her, Thomas, but I could never get used
to seeing you two together. There was something missing.”
“Love, Mom. Ricki and I weren’t really in love. Cait and I are.”
“Yes, you can see that.” She smiled mischievously. “And hear it, too,
in the way you talk about each other.”
“Oh? And just what did-” I broke off. Cait came back in the room
looking very pale. “Cait, what’s wrong?” I reached out and touched her hand
as she sat back down at the table.
“That was a recording from my father,” she said slowly. “He was
letting me know that his transport should arrive tomorrow afternoon at 1430.”
“But that’s great!” I crowed, ignoring the sudden dive of butterflies
in my belly. “What’s the problem?”
“I don’t know. He was very brief, but he didn’t sound like himself.
He seemed upset, almost angry.”
My father cleared his throat gently. “I may be speaking out of turn,
Caitlin, but I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you. Many of the citizens that
the Klingons freed have experienced difficulty adapting to life back in the
Federation. Many blame, and to some degree not unjustly, the Federation for
leaving them there, but I may be jumping to conclusions here. Perhaps your
father was simply rushed for time to get to his shuttle. Either way, I’m sure
that having you back will go a long way to restoring his spirits.”
She grimaced. “I hope you’re right, Admiral.”
Cait remained quiet through the rest of dinner and even during our
stroll around the neighborhood afterward. There was nothing to say, no way to
ease her mind until tomorrow afternoon and maybe not even then. So I held her
tightly in my arms under the moon and later in my bed until she fell asleep.
I didn’t try to make love to her, although I wanted to more than anything.
I simply held her and kissed her and told her I loved her–that no matter what
happened, I would always love her.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. X
Thicker Than Blood
Part 6

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

DISCLAIMER: See part one.

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

The next morning Starfleet Command reinforced a pet theory of mine that
held that their timing is worse than an adolescent’s parents. On the day of
my father-in-law’s arrival, they decided, without prior warning, to begin
interviewing me for possible retention of my commission. I couldn’t believe it
and started to ask for a postponement, but Cait wouldn’t let me. So at 0830
Dad and I left the house for my interviews (read as grilling) with
Admiral Valak and others of the Judge Advocate General’s Office.
Throughout the meetings, my mind kept wandering back to Cait.
Twice last night, I had awoken to find her curled up in the chair by the
window, staring out at the tree. She hadn’t been this restless since we
lost Madeleine. Still, I answered all the questions as best I could and
emerged six plus hours later feeling only the numbness of total mental
exhaustion. All I wanted to do was go home, pitch face first onto one of
the loungers on the patio, and sleep until the moon came up, but Cait’s dad
would be there by now so I knew I didn’t have that luxury. Dad tried to buoy
my spirits by saying he thought the meetings went well, but when Mom met us
at the door, I could tell by her expression that the same was not true at
our home.
Loud, angry voices came from the family room, Cait’s and a man’s.
Their tone made me hesitate outside the usually open double doors. “Have you
lost all reason?” The man asked. “Him? He’s a liar, a traitor, and a coward.
He turned on Starfleet and the Maquis. He’ll turn on you, too, mark my words.
I know his kind. They occupy every bar from here to the Gamma quadrant looking
for vulnerable marks.”
“Is that what you think I am?” Cait flashed back.
“That’s what I know you can be. What about Nat? Remember how he
treated you? Cheated on you?”
“Right, and I called it off because of that.” She paused, her voice
softening. “Nat had his own problems, things he wanted to tell someone, but
was afraid to. I just didn’t realize it at the time. I didn’t understand
how mixed up he was under all that swagger. Tom isn’t like that. He was at
one time, but not anymore. Your sources only gave you half the story.
They didn’t tell you about his record on Voyager.
“Dad, please, listen to me. Tom made mistakes, bad ones. He will
admit to that, but once he got his shot at redemption, he worked like hell to
prove himself worthy of it. At first, no one on the ship trusted him, least of
all me, but given time, he earned all our respect. Ask Captain Janeway
about him. Ask Chakotay about him. They’ll change your mind.”
“I don’t give a damn what he’s done on Voyager. I’m concerned with
what he’ll do to you. Dear gods, the man killed his fiancee and two other
people, then lied about it.”
“You make him sound like a murderer, like he did it intentionally.”
“Whether he did or not, he is a liar and a traitor. He’ll do anything
to save his own skin.”
“At one time maybe, Dad, but you have to understand how frightened
and confused he was back then.”
“Back then? What about now?”
“Goddammit! How many time do I have to tell you? He’s changed.
Time and time again in the Delta quadrant, I saw him risk his own life to
save others, including myself. If you’d only open your eyes and look at his
Voyager record, you’d see how ridiculous all of this is. You haven’t even
met him yet. How can you be so narrow-minded after the way Mom’s parents
treated you?”
“It’s one thing to judge a man by the job he holds. It’s quite another
to judge a man by his actions. Paris lied under oath, then joined the Maquis,
and not on principle, either, I’ll bet. He broke the law, Cait, not once,
but twice, and quite possibly even more times than that.”
“And what about you? What about Rogogho? He disappeared the night
you and J’nok went looking for him. Or was that simply a coincidence?”
“We did what we had to do. He was a criminal. My gods, Cait, he had
just raped you. You were only a child and to come in and find you lying
there… What did you expect me to do?”
“File charges. Take it to court.”
“A trial? You were in no condition to withstand a trial.”
“How do you know? You never gave me a chance. You two were too busy
dispensing your own brand of frontier justice.”
“Because that’s what it was and still is. There is no justice on that
border. Before we could’ve had a trial, he would have slipped into Cardassian
territory, and the Cardies sure as hell wouldn’t have bothered with
extraditing him during the war. Rogogho knew this. He even boasted about it
when we found him. I couldn’t just walk away and leave it like that.”
“You!” I didn’t have to see her face. I could hear the image
shattering in her voice–the unprofaned image a little girl carried of her
father. “You’re the one who killed him, not J’nok. *You* did it. And all
this time…”
“Yes! I did it. J’nok only helped me dispose of the body.”
Her voice trembled, then grew steadier. “And you dare stand there and
condemn Tom? He’s never murdered anyone. The deaths at Caldik Prime were
an accident, and yet you dare tell me he’s not worthy? He’s made mistakes,
he’s admitted to them, and he’s paid the price. You never paid the price for
your crime.”
“Killing the rapist of a child is not a crime.”
“It’s homicide, Dad. Maybe emotionally it seems justifiable, but it
is homicide.”
“I wonder if you’d be so forgiving if Rogogho walked through those
doors right now.”
“Damn you! Obeying the law and forgiving the man are two very
different things. It took me years to put what he did behind me, the names he
called me, the pain he inflicted, the nightmares he left with me. But I have
now, and Tom helped me to do it. He gave me back the sense of worth that I
lost that evening. Please, Dad, don’t judge Tom so harshly. Talk to him.
Talk to the others from Voyager. They’ll tell you he’s a good man, and no
matter what you say, I am proud to call him my husband.”
I heard him sigh heavily. “Cait, I am only trying to think of what’s
best for you. What if he doesn’t stay in Starfleet? What will the two of
you do? What if he does? You could be a liability. Will he want to stay with
you once that becomes apparent?”
“Dad, if I become a liability, he won’t be the one who leaves.”
“You say that now, but in a year or two when the moment comes, will you
see things so clearly?”
“*If* the moment comes.”
“When.” He repeated firmly, so obviously confident in his perception
of me.
I shut my eyes and leaned my head against the door, my hand still
frozen on the lever. A thick lump of shame formed in my chest. All of this
fighting over me. The last thing I ever wanted to do was come between Cait and
her father. Yes, what he said about me was at one time true, but not anymore.
He was wrong about me, about us. I had pledged myself to Cait, mind, body and
soul, and I wasn’t about to renege on that covenant, not now, not ever.
Yet, how could I make him see that?
Footsteps thudded across the floor. The sliding door to the backyard
opened and shut firmly. Taking a deep breath, I straightened up and knocked
before sticking my head inside. Cait stood on the opposite side of the room
watching a tall, red-headed man stride across the yard toward Mom’s roses.
I walked up behind her. “Cait?” Without a word, she spun into my chest and I
brought my arms tightly around her.
“Cait, honey, don’t worry. It’ll be okay. Whatever is wrong, we can
work it out.” I pressed my lips against the side of her head. “Trust me.
It’ll be all right.”
“Tom.” She whispered faintly. “I don’t know him anymore. He’s so
angry and unforgiving.”
“Sort of like he and my dad traded places, huh?”
She pulled back far enough to look into my eyes, and–oh gods!–the
expression on her face. Disruptors caused less pain. “You heard what he said,
didn’t you?” she asked.
“About me? Yeah, I heard, but I kind of expected it.” I attempted a
nonchalant shrug. “Hell, I’d be protective of my only daughter, too.”
She shook her head. “But it was more than that. You must not have
heard him railing against the Federation and Starfleet, about how they had left
them all to rot in the labor camps. I just know he’s going to pick a fight
with the Admiral, and your parents have been so good to me.”
I pulled her close again, weaving my fingers through her hair and
pressing her cheek to my shoulder. “Prison changes people, Cait. Your father
probably saw and did a lot of things he would never have done had he not been
there. Remember how I was after Langar? Remember how Harry was after
Akritiria? And your dad was in there how many years? Seven? Eight? We have
to be patient and give him a little time. Don’t worry about my dad,
he’s tough. He can more than hold his own in an argument. I know that
from experience. Besides, he knows what your dad must have been through.
He’ll understand.”
I watched the figure outside stoop and smell one of Mom’s Royal Peach
roses. “Tell you what. Why don’t we go replicate a few drinks, take them
outside, and you can introduce me. It’s a beautiful afternoon, and under a
warm sun with a cool drink in his hand, I’ll bet your dad just might melt
a little around the edges.”
She kissed my jaw. “Always the incurable optimist.”
“Not always.” I grinned. “But after six hours of grilling at Command,
I could use a drink myself.”
“How did it go?”
“No offers, yet. But I think, that is, I hope it went well. Either
way, I have to go back tomorrow.” I hesitated, remembering what her father
had said. “And it is a package deal. I’m not going to leave you just to
better my chances. I’ll turn them down flat before I do that.”
“I know.” She nodded. “I just hope I’m not too much of a detriment.”
I slipped my fingers under her chin and tilted her head up, kissing her
slowly, lovingly. “No. Never,” I replied huskily. “You’ll never, ever,
be that to me. Remember that.” I smiled. “Now, let’s go get those drinks.
What’s your dad’s favorite?”
We replicated three iced raktajinos. I needed the caffeine and Cait
said it used to be her father’s favorite non-synthehol drink. She opened the
door and we took them outside.
Rowan James Matthews reminded me of some mythic Highlander, minus the
kilt and the claymore, with skin almost as ruddy as his hair. An Amazon-like
scar, probably from a knife, ran across his left cheek until it disappeared
into the thick beard. His turquoise eyes studied me carefully as he took the
drink from my hand. Dad was right. Cait must have taken after her mother,
although it was hard to picture this untamed mountain of a man capturing
the heart of a delicate ballet dancer. Not that he wasn’t a good looking man,
he was, even with the scar, but in a very rough way, like Antoine. I held out
my hand and watched it disappear within the confines of his own.
He asked me what my hopes were for the future and frowned when I said
they were to keep Cait happy and proud of me. He probably thought I was
brown-nosing. So, I went into a little further detail, explaining that while
career-wise I was in a holding position, I did want a home and a family and
I wanted them with Cait. Maybe he believed me a little in the end.
The evening passed quietly enough. Once Capt. Matthews found out that
my dad had known his brother, he seemed to become more accepting of the whole
situation, and the two of them swapped stories about William throughout the
entire meal. In fact, by the time he said good night, I was even willing to
bet that the Captain was in slightly better spirits.
As Cait helped her father settle into the guest room, I wandered back
out onto the patio and reclined in the lounger next to Dad’s. A waning golden
moon provided more than enough light. “Thank you.” I finally said.
“For what?” He asked.
“Oh, for being your charming self and staying clear of any touchy
subjects.”
Dad nodded and looked up into the sky for a minute before replying.
“That man has suffered a great deal of pain and loss, Thomas. First,
his brother, then his wife, then prison, then his daughter. At least, he has
her back now. He’s a strong man, just like his brother, but even the strong
have their limits.”
“You don’t think he’s-” I didn’t know how to finish. Several thoughts
sprang to mind and none of them were good.
My father wagged his head. “I don’t know. I’m not a counselor.
Besides being on Earth for a while with his daughter may help him see things
a little differently.”
“Maybe.” I shrugged. “But I’m not very optimistic.”
Dad set his drink down and gazed up at the stars. I did likewise.
We just lay there, neither saying a word, and my mind wandered back to the last
time we did something like this. I was six and a meteorite shower had been
forecasted for the northwestern sky. We sat out here, huddled under a blanket
until it was way past my bedtime. I could barely keep my eyes open, but then
the show started, and Dad got excited, and I got excited. It was beautiful–
nature’s own lightshow–and Dad was oohing and ahhing as much as I was.
Afterward, he took me inside and fixed us both some warm milk, and once we had
finished, he tucked me into bed, and I felt so special, so secure. Then, the
next morning I bounded out of bed only to discover he had left for a five
month trip to the Omicron system. He hadn’t even woken me up to say goodbye.
“Thomas.” Dad shook my shoulder. “You fell asleep. I’m going to
turn in myself. Shall I leave the door open for you?”
“Huh?” I rubbed my eyes and slowly got to my feet, stretching. “No,
bed sounds pretty good right now. Dad, do you remember the meteorite shower
we watched when I was little?”
He nodded as he shut the door behind us. “You were six, weren’t you?
It was right after you broke your arm.”
“Yeah.”
He pressed his lips together and swallowed. “Yes, Thomas, I remember.”
A light tremor of emotion passed through my chest. “I do, too, Dad.
It was some show. G’night.”
“Good night, Thomas.”
Cait was already in bed, her body illuminated by the moonlight.
I quietly undressed and slipped under the covers next to her. She stirred and
scooted over, pressing her body to mine. One leg slid between my thighs as
she purred a soft plea into my neck.
“Cait.”
“Hmmmm?” Teeth nibbled gently at my earlobe.
“Your dad is right next door. He might hear.”
“I don’t care.” She breathed and my heart leapt into warp.
“My parents are right down the hall.”
Her mouth moved along the underside of my jaw, nipping and sucking.
“Then…we’ll…just…have to be…extra…extra…quiet.” She whispered and
moved on top of me, taking possession of my mouth before I could construct
a coherent response.
“Extra…quiet.” I finally groaned between kisses.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. X
Thicker Than Blood
Part 7

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

DISCLAIMER: See part one.

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

Cait stood by the cooker, occasionally picking up the saute pan and
shaking it, flipping its contents with a flick of her wrist. The smells that
filled the kitchen already had me drooling, and dinner was still a good fifteen
or so minutes away. Sausage, garlic, olive oil, saffron…Mmm-mmm. I had
helped earlier by chopping vegetables and getting some of the ingredients
together; then, I just stepped back and let the “master chef” take over.
We both wanted to give Mom a break, but Cait was actually doing all the work.
Looking back, I think she kind of wanted to do it for her dad, too.
You know, give him something familiar to remember. They had already spent the
day together, gathering the necessary ingredients. I didn’t mind. They needed
to spend some time together. A lot had happened over the past few years and
their relationship was going to need a lot of time to catch up. Besides,
when I left for Command this morning, I had no idea how long I was going to
be gone, and I would have felt bad about leaving her at a loose end.

My day began in Admiral Jackson Fletcher’s office at 0900.
A diminutive man, he nonetheless had a grip like pure tritanium. He was
assigned to the Internal Affairs division of the JAG’s Office and had been
present throughout most of my meetings yesterday. He hadn’t said much then
so I was unsure of what to expect. When I entered the office, he rose and
held out his hand, the smile not quite reaching his eyes. A wiry, stone-faced
man with a captain’s rank remained seated in one of the two chairs in front
of the Admiral’s desk.
“Mr. Paris, it’s good to see you again. Please sit down.” Fletcher
waved at a chair behind me.
“Thank you, sir. It’s good to see you.”
The Admiral retook his seat, his smile quickly vanishing. “Let’s
get down to business, shall we? I should tell you that you made quite a
favorable impression on a number of people yesterday.”
“I’m glad to hear that, sir.”
“Yes, a number of people.” He repeated. “Also, your record on Voyager
speaks well of you. However, more than performance must be considered.
We must weigh how your reinstatement might affect not only those with whom you
may serve, but also any similar cases which follow. What precedent will we
be setting? How will your reinstatement affect the morale and the ethical
perceptions of all Starfleet personnel? And I raise these questions not
simply in Starfleet’s interest, but in your own, as well. It would be unfair
and possibly dangerous to place you in a position where others may be unwilling
to trust your judgement.”
“I understand, Admiral,” I said. “There is also my wife to consider.
She is a former Maquis, but others may be less than accepting of that status.”
“True.” He leaned back in his chair. “And the trial is less than a
week away. Many unpleasant questions could be raised regarding her loyalties
and your own.”
“Yessir. I’m aware of that. We both are.” I held his gaze steadily.
“Admiral, I know that my shot at getting back into Starfleet is about
a thousand to one, maybe even closer to a million, but this is something I
had to do, for my family, my friends, and myself. I know I can serve
in Starfleet again. I want to serve in Starfleet again. All I’m asking for is
the chance.”
“I see.” The Admiral’s dark eyes darted to the silent man at my left.
“As part of your consideration process, it has been decided that in spite of
your experience on Voyager, you will perform a series of flight simulations.”
He nodded toward the man. “Captain Dvorak Tai will administer them.”
For the first time, I studied the other man carefully. Slender, bronze
hands extended past the sleeves of his uniform, the thin, sharp features
pointing to any number of ethnic origins. His black eyebrows knitted slightly.
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
I shook my head. “No, sir. I’m afraid I don’t.”
“I’m not surprised. It was many years ago, and we didn’t actually
speak.” He got to his feet, standing almost a full head shorter than I did
when I got to mine. He swept his arm toward the door. “Shall we?”
“Yessir. Admiral.” I held out my hand once again and he shook it.
“Good luck, Mr. Paris.” He replied without expression.
“Thank you, sir.”
The test itself was divided into three parts. The first covered
starship simulations, the second, runabout, and the third, shuttle.
I completed the first part with no problems. Same with the second part and
the first four shuttle simulations. Then came the fifth and final one. I was
tired; my adrenaline spent. My brain felt like it had been soaked thoroughly
and then rung dry. My head ached, my back ached, and even my fingers ached
from the constant, intensive motions.
The fifth simulation was an approach to a shuttlepad on the ground,
only the trajectory and speed were way off the acceptable scale. My jaw
locked with anger. Caldik Prime. They had waited until the end of the
program and thrown in Caldik Prime, hoping I’d screw up. *Easy, Thomas.
You know what to do. Level out as best you can. Slow up and abort immediate
landing for a short return pass. There.* The shuttle landed, the display
froze, and I spun around.
Capt. Tai stared at me intently. “Well done,” he said finally.
“Computer, end program. That will be all for today. I’ll make my report to
Admiral Fletcher and he will be in contact with you.” He rose from the
observation chair and exited the holodeck, still leaving me in the dark as
to where we had met.
By that time, it was a little shy of 1200 hours. I tried to contact
Cait, but Mom said she and her dad had left for Cape Breton to see her other
uncle, “the one with a screw lose”. So, I tracked down Harry, who happened to
be at Command, and invited him to lunch. To be honest, I had also been
thinking about him and B’Elanna, wondering how they were making out with
his parents.
We met in front of the Pike Memorial, and my eyes nearly fell out of
my head. His uniform had an extra pip attached to the collar.
“Harry, what the-? When did this happen?”
“Today.” He said casually before breaking into a grin. “I wondered
if you’d notice.”
“Notice, hell, why didn’t you say something? Do B’Elanna and your
folks know?”
“Nope.” The smile broadened. “Figured I’d surprise them.”
“Well, congratulations, ‘sir’. You deserve it.” I laughed and snapped
to attention.
He laughed, too. “At ease. Hey, that’s right, I can give *you*
orders, now.”
“Nope. Still can’t.” I retorted with a grin. “I’m a civilian now.
You’ve got no authority over me. But just so there’s no hard feelings, I’ll
let you pick out the place we eat.”
He chose a little pub, affectionately known by cadets and officers
as “Pop’s”. The place was run by this old Englishman, who was already snow-
haired when I was at the Academy. I figured he’d be dead by now, but there
he stood behind the rich oak bar.
We staked our claim of a nearby table and each ordered a synthale and
a club sandwich–Pop’s speciality–piled high with turkey and bacon and lettuce
and tomato, all on oven-fresh whole wheat bread. Man, I had forgotten how
good he could make them. Harry must have, too, because neither of us talked
much until we had each downed about half of our sandwiches.
“So how are things going between B’Elanna and your parents? Okay?”
He took a long pull on his synthale before answering. “I don’t know
if I’d use the term okay. They’re going, but that’s about it. No major
clashes, and you were right about the baby. When I told them, I could tell
they weren’t pleased, but they accepted it and have put the best face on
they can. But B’Ela feels like she’s walking on eggshells. She’s kept
her temper, and I do what I can by taking her on day trips and playing referee.
Chakotay’s also spending a little time with her. Today, since I had to come
to Command, he’s taken her to Teotihuacan to see the ruins.”
“Staying next door to your parents can’t be helping too much either.”
I observed.
“Boy! You said it. You know, I never realized how pushy my parents
can be. I mean, growing up, I never thought about it. I always wanted to do
my best for them in whatever I did, but now, it’s driving me crazy since our
visions of my future don’t mesh like they once did.” He frowned into his
glass and then glanced at me. “What about you? How are things going between
Caitlin’s father and you?”
“Going,” I replied with a smirk. “He’s a nice enough man, but he’s
been through hell and back and it’s coloured his view of life. I think he
also feels a little guilty for all Cait’s gone through, too, but that’s just
a guess on my part. Either way, before he got here, he found out about my
history prior to Voyager and the shit really hit the fan. He’s afraid I’m
going to hurt Cait, dump her or cheat on her like some guy she once knew
named Nat.”
“Nat who?”
I shrugged and wiped some mayonaise off my little finger. “Don’t know
and haven’t asked.”
“Why not? Aren’t you curious?”
“Hell, yeah. From what I overheard yesterday afternoon, Cait had some
pretty strong feelings for this guy.” I took another bite of my sandwich and
chewed it thoughtfully. “But you know, Harry, when it all boils down, she’s
married to me, and as far as I can tell, she’s not interested in changing that
fact anytime soon. I guess I’ll ask her one day, but I’m in no rush.”

“Tom.” My head snapped up. Cait pointed to a kitchen towel on the
counter by my hand. “The towel.”
“Oh. Here.” I brought it over and slipped my arms around her waist,
hugging her against my chest as she spooned the shrimp and scallops into
another skillet. My chin rested on her shoulder. “I’m not much help, am I?”
“You were earlier. There’s not much you can do now.” She craned her
head around to plant a quick kiss on my cheek before shifting the seafood
around in the pan with a wooden spoon.
I sighed and nuzzled her neck, causing her shiver. “Have I told you
lately how much I love you?”
“Tom, I have to get this done. Besides, our parents are right outside
on the patio.”
My teeth closed gently on her earlobe and tugged. “You weren’t so
concerned last night.” I breathed. “And your dad was right next door. One
scream from you and he might have broken down the door. Anyway, we’re married.
If we didn’t cuddle a bit, they’d think something was wrong. C’mere.” I eased
the spoon from between her fingers and turned her around. “Doesn’t your
husband at least deserve a real kiss for all his work and not some quick peck?”
Our lips met, her spicy tongue dancing with mine. Somewhere in the
background, the hiss of sizzling food grew louder, warning us. Then, the
sliding door closed firmly to my right.
“Ahem.” Capt. Matthews stood there frowning, three empty wine glasses
in his hand. Suddenly, I felt like some teen-ager who was about to be tossed
out on his ear. “Cait, you’re going to burn dinner.” He cautioned, looking
directly at me. “That was one of your mother’s best dishes.”
Flames rose in my cheeks as she quickly spun away and resumed stirring
the contents of the pans. “Yes, Dad.”
I moved to my previous spot beside the counter. My silent accuser
refilled the glasses and returned outside without saying another word, leaving
me to wonder why the hell I should feel so guilty for kissing my own wife in
front of her father.
We ate outside. The dish, suffering no ill effects from our impromptu
display of affection, was nothing short of incredible, but I barely tasted a
single mouthful I swallowed. Whenever I glanced up, the Captain’s eyes were
on me, not glaring, just analyzing, dissecting my every word and movement.
Watching. Waiting. Waiting for the moment when he could stand up and shout
“Aha!”, triumphant in his ability to see what his daughter had missed.
The comm panel chirped about halfway through the meal, and Dad started
to get up, but I beat him to it. “Don’t worry. I’ll get it. It might
be Command.” I wiped my mouth and went inside, grateful to escape, even for
two seconds, the scrutiny I was currently under.
As soon as the blond hair in a meticulous bun appeared on the monitor,
I broke into a broad grin and sat down next to the terminal. My sister,
however, looked less than pleased, her violet eyes narrowing considerably.
“I was hoping you wouldn’t answer,” she said.
“Gee, it’s good to see you too, Vic. I tried to contact you a few
days ago.”
“Yes, I know.” She replied, assuming a perfect replica of our father’s
frozen glare. “I chose not to answer.”
“C’mon, Vic. I know we’ve had our problems, but you’re my sister.
I’ve missed you.”
“I am afraid I do not share that sentiment.”
“Why?”
“Why?” Her mouth fell open, but she quickly shut it. “How can
you even ask that after what you did? You broke our parent’s hearts and you
left me to pick up the pieces. Do you have any idea what that was like? What
my life was like?”
I hung my head. “No, I don’t, but I have the feeling you’re going
to tell me.”
“You’re damn right, I am.” She fired back. “I’ll bet you never even
stopped to think what it was like for me at the Academy after your court-
martial. Walking around, knowing what others were thinking, the questions now
in their minds. All of a sudden assignments, which had once looked so sure,
were deemed out of my reach or long shots. I had to work twice as hard as
every other cadet just to prove I was as good as they were.”
“Look, Vic.” I sighed. “I’m sorry. I know it must have been rough,
and I-”
“Rough? That was a bloody walk in the park compared to when you got
caught with the Maquis. Two months into my first assignment, my immediate
superior pulled me aside and suggested that I take an indefinite hardship leave
until the whole thing simmered down. He was trying to be helpful, but do you
have any idea how humiliating that was? I thought I was being brave by
declining, but I should have listened to him. You can’t imagine what it
was like. The insults, the looks I was given by everyone, especially by the
ship’s commanding officers. For a while they must have even thought I was
a spy because many of my duties were taken away and I was given nothing but
busy work for the next six months. Even my friends…”
She stopped and took a deep breath before setting her jaw and
continuing. “I considered, in a weak moment, resigning from Starfleet and
even changing my name, but in the long run, I knew that wasn’t the answer.
We needed someone to bring respect back to the Paris name and that job had
fallen to me. And I’ve been doing it ever since.” She added bitterly before
exploding once again. “Why in god’s name did you come back anyway? To break
Mom and Dad’s hearts again?”
“No,” I said quietly. “I came back to try and repair some of the
damage I had done. Capt. Janeway gave me a field commission, and I’ve asked
Starfleet to consider making it permanent.”
“We don’t need your kind in ‘the Fleet’.”
“C’mon, Vic, give me a chance.”
Her hand slammed down on the desk. “The name is Victoria!
*Commander* Victoria Paris.”
“All right, Victoria, it is. Look, you’re right. You are absolutely,
one hundred percent right about the way I was. After, hell, before
Caldik Prime, I didn’t think much about anyone besides myself. I was a very
angry, mixed-up, selfish brat, but I’ve learned my lessons, and even though you
probably won’t believe this, I am genuinely sorry for the pain I caused. Hell,
what do you think I’ve been doing all this time on Voyager, but trying my
damndest to make up for some of that hurt. I want the three of you to be
proud of me. I never meant to lay all of this at your feet. It was my mess.
I should have been the one to clean it up, not you. Please, Vic, -er,
Victoria, give me another chance. I have changed. Heck, I even got married.
*Me.*” I grinned weakly.
The creases in her brow deepened. “Oh yes, your Maquis with a
pedigree. Dad told me about her already. It certainly didn’t take her long
to wind him about her finger. At least you picked someone with a little more
class than the usual scum we capture.”
I sat bolt upright in my chair. “Hey! Back off! That’s my wife
you’re talking about, and she’s former Maquis.”
“Former?” She sneered. “I didn’t know there was such a thing.”
“Well, there is.” I growled. “And you’d better get used to it because
both Mom and Dad have welcomed her into the family.”
“Hmph. Right now, Mom and Dad are so potty over your return, they’d
welcome a Cardassian into their home.” She leaned closer to the monitor and
lowered her voice. “Now, you listen, and you listen well, big brother. You’d
better damn well be playing on the level now because if anything, *anything*,
happens, it will finish Mom and Dad, and when it does, I’ll see that both you
and your little Maquis wife rot in a penal facility. Paris out.”
Stunned, I fell back in the chair and stared at the blank screen.
Then, slowly, like some bludgeoned prizefighter, I got to my feet and stumbled
back outside to my place at the table.
“Who was on the comm?” Dad asked as I sat down.
“Vicki.” I responded dully without looking up. I picked up my fork
and pushed the remaining food around my plate. I scooped up a mouthful.
It was cold and tasteless; I could barely choke it down. All those things she
had said–what I had done, how I had hurt Mom and Dad, how I had screwed up
her life–made me sick at my stomach. I pushed my plate away and got to
my feet, refusing to meet their startled gazes. “I’m sorry. I’m not very
hungry anymore.”
“Tom?” Cait grabbed my arm. “Tom, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I just feel tired all of a sudden. Sorry.” Shaking free,
I hurried inside to the solitude of my room.
Once there, I shut the door and sank down on the bed, my head in my
hands. Oh gods. How could I have ever been so selfish? It was all so
long ago. It was almost hard to remember what it had been like, how I had been
treated on Voyager for those first few years. I couldn’t change things now.
Oh, but if I only could. Vicki wouldn’t hate me then, or at least she’d have
less reason to.
“Vicki, I’m sorry.” I muttered as tears bubbled to the surface.
“Oh gods, I’m sorry. How can Mom and Dad even begin…I didn’t know…I didn’t
think…Selfish…Oh gods, Vicki…Forgive me…Please forgive me.”
The tears flowed freely. I couldn’t stop them. I didn’t want to.
I prayed that each one would somehow travel hundreds of light years and touch
her, convince her of my remorse. Goddammit. If there was only some way I
could reach her–and Cait’s dad, too–and show them both what was truly
inside me.
An arm slid about my shoulders. “Tom?” I hadn’t even heard Cait come
in the room. “My cooking wasn’t that bad, was it?”
I snuffled loudly and shook my head. “No.” Slipping out from under
her arm, I stood up and walked over to built-in book shelves that occupied
an entire wall of my room. On the upper most shelf of the middle unit sat a
single swimming trophy. I picked it up, turning it gently over in my hands.
My first. I had been nine years old, and Vicki had been so proud of her
big brother. I set it down carefully in its place of honor. “Cait, if you
don’t mind, I’d like to be alone right now.”
She came up behind and hugged me. “Your mother told me what Vicki
might have said. Tom, you mustn’t listen to her.”
“How?” I responded angrily, breaking free of her embrace. “How can I
not listen to her? She’s my sister, and she just made it quite plain that she
wishes I had stayed lost in the Delta quadrant. To put it bluntly, my sister
hates me.”
“No. She doesn’t hate you. She’s been hurt, yes, but I’m sure she
doesn’t hate you. Give her time.”
“Cait, you don’t understand. She has every right to feel the way
she does. If I was in her place, I would. It’s me. Don’t you understand?
I caused it. She was blameless, innocent, and I almost dragged her career
down with my own. It was all my fault.” With a low growl of anger, I began
to pace. “Gods! I must have been some kind of idiot to believe my time
on Voyager could make up for all that I did. I should just withdraw my request
from Starfleet and make everyones’ lives easier.”
Cait grabbed me by the arm and swung me around to face her. “Don’t you
dare! You deserve to be in that uniform, Tom. Maybe you can’t make up for
what you did, but you can show people that you aren’t the same type of person
you were, that you deserve their respect, not their contempt. Putting that
uniform back on will go a long way towards silencing any doubters.” Her green
eyes flashed with an angry, defiant fire. *Oh gods, how did I ever…*
Fresh tears sprang up in my eyes, and I pulled her close, kissing her
over and over again. “I love you.” I whispered. “Oh, gods, Cait, I love you
so much. I can’t make it without you.”
“Yes, you can, but I’ll stick around anyway.”
“You’d better.” I replied with a weak laugh and hugged her tighter
before letting out a heavy sigh and pulling away. “But to be honest, between
Vicki, your dad, and Admiral Fletcher, I do wonder if it wouldn’t be better if
I withdrew. I mean, how badly will my presence effect morale? Will a crew
follow my orders if the time comes? If they don’t–my gods, Cait!–it could
lead to a disaster. More lives could be lost and I would be responsible.
I don’t know if I could go through that kind of fallout again, and I sure as
hell don’t want to put you or Mom or Dad through it.” I walked back to her,
took her face in hands, and stared deeply into a pair of softened eyes.
“But I want so much to make Mom and Dad and everyone else I know proud of me.
Most of all, I want to make you proud of me.”
She lifted one hand from her face, kissing the palm before wrapping it
securely around her own hand. “I am proud of you, Tom. I always will be.
I would never have married you if I wasn’t. Remember that.”

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. X
Thicker Than Blood
Part 8

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

DISCLAIMER: See part one.

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

The sun woke me early the next morning and I lay still, listening to
the gentle shush of Cait’s breathing. She had been amazing last night,
amazing, wonderful, incredible. Heck, even with a thesaurus, I’d never find
enough words to describe how special she was to me, how much it meant to know
she was by my side. I turned over, careful not to wake her. Strands of auburn
flowed across her pillow. Hunkering down in the bed, I brought my face level
with hers and gazed at her, reflecting on each little feature, each part
of the whole. The gentle curve of her eyebrows, the all but invisible scar
to the right of her upper lip, the gentle swell of her cheek. She said her
hermit uncle painted. Maybe if he was any good, he’d do her portrait for me,
like the one Dad had commissioned of Mom that hung in the family room.
My mother was a very beautiful woman back then, just like Cait was now.
The door next to ours closed softly and footsteps padded past our room.
I lifted my head. 0543. I slithered silently out of bed and into a pair of
shorts and a t-shirt. Cait groaned drowsily and hugged my pillow. I pulled
the sheet up and tucked it in about her before slipping out the door.
Capt. Matthews stood in the family room looking out the glass door into
the back yard. He had on a short-sleeve shirt, the first I had seen him wear
since arriving. A deep, canyon-like scar ran up the back of his right arm and
disappeared under the fabric. I hesitated to say anything, thinking that
perhaps he wanted this time alone, but after last night, I knew I had to speak
with him, to try and set things right between us. I owed it to Cait.
I cleared my throat gently. “Captain, I was on my way to the kitchen
for some coffee. Can I get you some, too?”
He spun around, frowning. “Why do you call me that? I’m not in
Starfleet. I haven’t captained a vessel in years.”
“That’s the way I was raised. Once a captain, always a captain.”
I replied. “Coffee?” I crossed the room to the kitchen and he followed me in,
sitting down at the table as I replicated two mugs.
We drank in silence, emptying our respective cups between furtive
glances around the room and out the door. “Another cup?” I offered.
“Please.”
“Er, I’m going to replicate a croissant. Can I get you something?”
“Toast will do.”
“Butter or jelly?”
“Butter.”
“Coming up,” I said and relayed the request to the replicator. I took
his to the table first, then got mine.
“My daughter is in love with you.” He said matter-of-factly as I sat
back down.
I pulled off one end of the flaky, golden crescent. “I am in love
with her.”
He spread the butter slowly over one corner of a slice. “She means a
great deal to me.”
“I can understand that. Any child does to their father, but since it’s
only the two of you, I know the feelings may be stronger than most.”
“Yes.” He bit off the buttered corner and chewed it carefully before
taking another bite then a sip of coffee. I could tell why he had excelled
in trade. His movements, like his words, were simple and deliberate,
the motions of a master poker player. I could almost see him as a Starfleet
officer, a maverick who would have been a real hell-raiser until experience and
age tempered him. Too bad he had chosen not to attend.
“How did it go yesterday?” he finally asked.
“Excuse me?”
“The meeting at Starfleet Command.”
I shrugged and clutched the ceramic mug so tightly that I nearly burned
my hand. “I don’t know. They put me through several flight simulations which
I know I technically passed. However, the brass expressed some concerns about
letting me back in, both for myself and Starfleet. I understand their
reservations, and while I don’t want to think about it, I can see why they
would say no. And if they do, that’s that. At least, I had a chance to clean
up my record a bit. Some people don’t even get to do that.”
“What will you do then?”
I took a deep breath. “Honestly?” He nodded. “Honestly, I don’t
know. I really haven’t given it much thought because I haven’t really had
time to, but then maybe because I haven’t wanted to, also.” I replied,
directing a small self-conscious smirk at my mug. “I suppose I’ll try to hire
on as a pilot somewhere, at least until I can figure something more
permanent out.”
“I see.” He brought the napkin up to his mouth briefly before
returning it to his lap.
“Whatever I do.” I added hastily. “Cait will be provided for.
That’s a promise.”
“I’m sure it is. I made the same pledge to Madeleine’s parents, but
they had the intelligence to know better.” His eyes, now more green than blue,
studied me intently. “Did Cait ever tell you how her mother died?”
I shook my head. “No, sir.”
“I’m not surprised. She was quite young at the time, no more than
four or five.” He paused and looked out into the yard. “Madeleine loved
roses,” he said quietly, as if speaking to himself; then he glanced back at me.
“Cait reminds me a good deal of her. She has her mother’s determination and
spirit. I had never met anyone quite like Madeleine, nor would I. The moment
I saw her I knew there was something special about her. She was, in a word,
elegant, quite out of place in the space station corridor in which I first
saw her. She had a quick wit, and when an idea seized her, no one could match
her enthusiasm or her stubborness.” He chuckled lightly, and I did, too.
“The times I’ve told Cait that.” I grinned.
“The times I’ve told her that.” He smiled and then sobered. “A few
days before Madeleine’s death, I made a deal to transport medical supplies
from Calodan II to the Ridiian settlement. The price was good, a little too
good, but at the time, I didn’t think much of it. I should have.
“Originally, Madeleine and Cait were to visit my mother while I made
the trip, but Madeleine suggested only Cait go so that she and I could
have a few days rest.” He smirked to himself, his thumb absently stroking
the side of his mug. “We had spent the past year with my daughter constantly
underfoot in our one-room quarters; I couldn’t argue with her reasoning.
Besides, we had been talking about having another child.” He paused and took
a deep breath. “So, that’s what we did, and Cait never saw her mother again.”
Bitterness betrayed itself as he suddenly pushed back his chair and got
to his feet. He walked over to the door and stood there looking out, his hands
clenched tightly behind his back. I waited.
“It turned out,” he finally said. “That the shipment wasn’t medical
supplies at all, but untreated biological waste. We didn’t know that at the
time, however, and one of the containers leaked. Madeleine, not realizing
what it was, cleaned the mess up. In a matter of hours, she became very ill.
I put out a distress call, and a starship answered. They were only four hours
away and we set an intercept course. Initially, they placed us all under
quarantine, but since the rest of the crew and myself showed no signs of
infection, we were released from their sickbay. Madeleine was a different
story. They weren’t familiar with the virus she had contracted and contacted
the officials on Calodan II for further information. They, of course, denied
everything at first since transporting hazardous materials the way we were
was illegal. So, while bureaucrat after bureaucrat swore ignorance, I watched
my wife die slowly behind a containment field.” His voice trembled, but he
went on. “I couldn’t hold her, I couldn’t touch her, I couldn’t even talk to
her without the entire sickbay hearing what I was saying. Finally, I convinced
them to let me enter the field using one of their contamination suits, but by
that time the virus and its fever had clouded her mind so badly she didn’t even
know who I was.” He stopped, but did not turn around. I sat quietly and
waited. *Gods, all the times I came close to losing Cait…*
He continued. “The starship towed us to a starbase for decontamination
and I was placed under arrest for illegally transporting hazardous materials.
My ship was impounded, and my crew was confined to the station during the
investigation. I suppose in some ways I was lucky. Over the years, I had
built up a good reputation and had made a number of friends who came to
my defense. The Calodane who had arranged the deal finally admitted that he
had hidden the nature of the shipment from us, and I found myself free to leave
with my crew, free to go back and tell my daughter that her mother was never
coming home. It was then that I decided to leave Cait with my mother on a
permanent basis. I wasn’t going to take another chance, this time with
my daughter’s life.” He concluded with a growl.
“I don’t blame you,” I said. “I would have done the same.”
“Yes.” His shoulders slumped forward as he turned around and more or
less crumpled into his chair. “Every night before Cait’s bedtime, my mother
would contact me and I would either talk to Cait or read her stories over
subspace until she fell asleep, but I refused to bring her back on board until
my mother died. I had to then. I had no choice, and within nine months that
sonuvabitch went and-” He broke off, shutting his eyes, his massive hands
solidifying into two powerful fists. “He deserved what he got.” He snarled
and opened his eyes, livid turquoise staring straight through me. “I killed
him. Cait didn’t know it until the other day, but I did. It wasn’t my
intent–I’m not even sure what was–but when we found him, he just laughed and
made lewd comments about her, and I hit him. I hit him again and again,
smashing him against the station bulkhead until he was long past dead.”
His voice slipped into a dream-like tone as if he was reliving the
moment all over again. “I remember J’nok hauling me off the body. I remember
staring at what was left, at the blood smeared on the wall, on the floor,
on me–all over my hands, my arms, even my face.” Suddenly, his eyes hardened
and drew back into focus. “Does that bother you?”
“A little, I suppose, but I know what you must have felt.” I pulled up
the left leg of my shorts about a two centimeters, exposing a slash of white
across my flesh. “See that? That’s just the tip of the iceberg to what I
received from some people who wanted control of Voyager. It was several days
before two friends rescued me, and I was a mess for many, many months
afterward. There was so much anger and fear hidden deep inside me. I didn’t
know how to face it. I couldn’t face it. I kept everyone, my friends,
especially Cait, at arms length. Then, one day I got in a fistfight and came
very close to doing the same thing you did. A friend stopped me just in time,
but it scared the hell out of me to think I could get so out of control.
It forced me to face my problems. And through all of it, Cait stood by me.
She believed in me, in us, even when I didn’t think there was that much left
to believe in. Whether we had married or not, I would have always been
grateful to her for that.”
“She is a very strong person.” He said quietly. “And I am very
proud of her.”
“I am, too.”
He nodded. “You should be.”
“I am.” I set my jaw and steadily met his gaze. “Captain, I know your
concerns about me, and you have every right to have them. If I was in your
shoes, I would, but I am not the same person who was sent to the rehab facility
at Auckland. I have changed, and I am deeply, *deeply* in love with
your daughter. The last thing I would ever want to do is hurt her, and for
that very reason, I don’t want to come between the two of you. I know how much
you mean to her. I don’t want to force her to choose between the two of us,
but I’ll also be honest with you. I don’t think I can just walk away and
leave her.”
The turquoise eyes narrowed. “I don’t like having my back pressed
against a wall, Paris.”
“Neither do I.” I replied and we stared silently at one another.
“What’s going on?” A sleepy voice inquired behind me. Cait shuffled
in, yawning, and gave us each a kiss on the cheek.
I got to my feet, offering her my chair. “Your father and I were just
having a little talk since no one else was up. Coffee?” I picked up my plate
and cup.
“Please, and a croissant. I’m getting addicted to your mother’s
recipe.”
“They are good, aren’t they?” I grinned. “How about you, Captain?
More coffee?”
He shook his head. “No, I’m fine.”
“So what were you two discussing?”
I gave a light laugh. “Oh, you know, the universe in general.”
“Uh-huh.”
“What? You don’t believe me?”
She shook her head and glanced at her father who was staring out
the door.
“Gee, thanks.” I replied and then sighed. “Okay. We were talking
about you and about us.”
“I see, and just what was the outcome of this little tete-a-tete?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. You walked in.”
“Dad?”
His head turned slowly, his eyes flicking from her to me and back.
“I don’t know either, Cait. However, it’s a beautiful morning. I think I’ll
go take a walk before too many other people are up.” He got to his feet and
patted her shoulder as he passed by.

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. X
Thicker Than Blood
Part 9

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

DISCLAIMERS: See part one.

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

The next two days passed uneventfully, which was both good and bad.
I kept my promise to Robert and took Cait and her father to Marseilles to
Chez Sandrine’s. Capt. Matthews seemed to enjoy himself. I could tell where
Cait got her talent for pool. The man was simply amazing, beating everyone
who was foolish enough to play him, including Cait. Through it all, he kept
quiet for the most part toward me, but it didn’t strike me as an angry silence,
more like he was trying to make up his mind.
He wasn’t the only one. Starfleet appeared to be having some trouble,
as well. Nearly three days had passed since my flight test and not a peep
from Admiral Fletcher. Although it wasn’t an outright refusal, and I probably
should have been thankful for that, it bothered me to feel so out of control,
not just of my destiny, but Cait’s as well. Part of me just wanted to throw up
my hands and say forget it, but I couldn’t do that. Too many people were
pulling for me. Unfortunately, none of them had any real say in the final
decision. Still, to quit now would mean letting all of them down, and I kept
telling myself that only the old Tom Paris would do something like that.
To take my mind off the wait, Cait suggested we go out to dinner, just
the two of us–a little wining, a little dining, and some dancing to follow.
How could I refuse? I couldn’t, especially once I saw the dress she intended
to wear, the loose layers of filmy beige fabric stopping a little below
mid-thigh. She borrowed a gold choker from my mom and put her hair up in a
loose bun. A simple, but very effective ensemble, capped off by her fancy
jewelry, as she had taken to calling her security cuff.
On our way to the transport station, we passed by the park Vicki and I
used to play in as kids. Five children played there now, three boys and two
girls, enjoying the benefits of the extended dusk. One of the little girls
had red hair, which caught the air in a vermilion wave as the swing carried
her aloft. Cait stopped, her face taking on a far away expression and I felt
a tiny hand clutch at my own heart. I slid my arm around her waist in
an attempt to steer her toward the station, but she wouldn’t budge.
“Cait, don’t. Don’t do this to yourself.”
“I can’t help it. So much has happened over the past week and a half,
I haven’t thought about her at all. Until now.” She added.
I stepped in front of her to block her view of the children. “I know.
Neither have I. That’s how it is. Life goes on and we go with it.”
She looked at me, the face that had been so strong and defiant three
nights ago, now appeared almost as frail as my mother’s. “Oh, Cait, honey.”
I hugged her tightly. “It’s okay.”
“I feel guilty.” She whispered. “I don’t know why, but I do.”
“It happens. I do, too, but we’ve done nothing to feel guilty for.”
“I know, and I try to tell myself that, but it doesn’t help.”
She pulled back and gazed up at me, her eyes glistening in the light of the
setting sun.
The ache in my chest seemed to grow exponentially, and I cupped the
side of her face in my hand. “Do you still feel like going out? We could
always go home and replicate something.”
She bit her bottom lip and glanced at the children over my shoulder.
“No,” she said slowly. “I didn’t get this dressed up just to walk a few meters
then turn back, and neither did you.”
I smiled gently. “You sure?”
“Yes.” She nodded. “Let’s go and have the best time we possibly can.”
Her face brightened a little. “It’ll be our first date on the real Earth.”
Once we made it into ‘Frisco, Cait’s spirits improved considerably.
Her curiousity returned and with it, the sparkle in her eyes. She looked
great, the outfit alone turning quite a few heads as we walked down
the streets. (Of course, it could’ve also been because of the ankle cuff
she wore, but I prefered to think otherwise.)
We ate at a restaurant in Old Chinatown, The Dragon’s Temple.
Harry had spoken wistfully about it quite a few times in the Delta quadrant.
He said he ate there every chance he could during his first two years at the
Academy because it reminded him of his mother’s cooking, and if that wasn’t
a ringing endorsement, I didn’t know what was. (Although now that I think
about it, he never did say whether his mom was a good cook or not.) We ordered
one noodle dish and one beef dish, and I nearly jumped for joy when the waiter
offered me a *real* wine list–a good one, too.
“You know, I’m curious,” Cait said, as the food arrived at our table.
“If you overheard the argument between Dad and me, why haven’t you asked me
about Nat? Or did you not hear that part?”
“Oh, I heard it.” I replied, picking up my chopsticks. “And like you
with B’Elanna and me, I figured it was none of my business. I didn’t know you
back then, or was that after we met in that bar?”
“Before. About five months before.”
“Oh. And you still flirted with me?” I popped a heavily gingered
piece of beef in my mouth and felt my nose clear all the way to the ionosphere.
Cait giggled at my predicament. “Maybe I did because you reminded me
of him a little. He was stockier than you and had a beard and mustache, but he
also had the most luscious blue eyes, and boy, could he use them, too. I guess
I just have a weakness for blonds.” She added with a saucy grin.
“Wonderful. I hope that carries over after they lose their hair.”
I winked, but now that she had broached the subject, my curiosity was growing
by the nanosecond.
The smile sagged slowly at the edges. “I suppose,” she said thought-
fully. “If I hadn’t lost my virginity earlier, he would’ve taken it. He was
the first man I ever had consentual sex with. Not that I hadn’t dated or
anything. It’s just that after the rape I was afraid–I guess that’s the best
way to describe it. I mean, the way I lived, travelling from place to place,
you met a lot of people, but you never really got to know anyone, at least
not well enough for me to trust them.”
I nodded. I could remember how difficult it had been for her to tell
me about the rape, how she had fled afterwards, ashamed and unable to face me
for one minute longer.
“Well, anyway,” she continued. “Nat just showed up one day looking
for work. We needed some extra hands, and Dad took him on. Right up front he
told us he had gotten into some trouble and had come out to the border to make
a new start. It wasn’t that unusual and he was a good worker so Dad offered
him a permanent place in the crew. Nat was polite, charming, handsome,
and close to my age. I suppose it was inevitable that we started spending time
together which led to long conversations in the cargo bay and eventually, well,
you know.” The green eyes dropped to her plate.
“You slept with him.”
“Yeah. I had told him about the rape and he took it nice and slow,
almost too slow.” Cait giggled, her eyes lifting briefly with a self-conscious
sparkle. “Afterwards, he was nervous about what Dad and the crew would think.
I guess he thought they’d toss him out the closest air-lock, but they didn’t,
and once he relaxed, we were happy. Still, sometimes I got the feeling he was
looking over his shoulder, especially when any Starfleet personnel were around.
He avoided them whenever he could. He never said why. I thought he might be
on the run, but he swore up and down that he’d already paid for his sins,
though probably not enough he thought. Then one night a couple of weeks before
we broke up, I woke up and found him staring out a porthole crying. I tried
to get him to talk about it, but he wouldn’t. In fact, he seemed even angry
that I had seen him.” She stopped and pointed at my plate. “Your dinner’s
getting cold.”
We both ate in silence for a while, but my curiosity was fast getting
the better of me. She had left out the important part. “Uh, your dad said
he cheated on you. Did he?”
“What? Oh. Yeah.” The pained tone to her voice made me regret
my question. “A couple of weeks after seeing him cry, we were at a space
station. I had pulled a double shift the day before and didn’t feel like
going out so Nat went out alone. When I woke up hours later, he still wasn’t
back yet, and I got up and went out looking for him. Dad wasn’t up, but I knew
that if he caught Nat, or anyone for that matter, reeling in still drunk,
he would have sacked him.”
She looked out the window silently for a few moments. “First, I
checked with station security, but he hadn’t been brought in so I went out into
the habitat area. I had just rounded one corner when I spotted him coming out
of some waitress’s quarters and kissing her good-bye.” She gave a little
laugh, but looked about ready to cry. “I guess you know now why I blew up the
time I caught you and Jenny together. It was like watching history repeat
itself, only I loved you so much more than I ever loved him.” She bit her lip.
“I’m sorry, Tom. I should never have…”
“Hey, it’s okay. That was a long, long time ago.” I reached up and
touched my jaw and grinned. “And I learned my lesson the hard way. I’ll never
make that mistake again.”
Cait giggled, then her face fell once again. “Well, to finish the
story, he turned around and saw me. I was so shocked all I could do was stand
there, and he walked over and said something about being sorry, but that at
least now I knew what kind of person he truly was. I wanted to scream,
but instead I just told him we were through and to pack his things and get the
hell off my dad’s ship. He nodded, said he would, and he did. And an hour
or so later, Dad got up to find him gone and me in tears. I think if Dad had
been able to find him he would’ve ripped him apart, but by then Nat had
vanished off the station.”
“I think I see a pattern emerging here.” I remarked. “No wonder
your father isn’t too thrilled with me. Parts of it almost sound like my
lifestory.”
“Yeah, I guess it does. I’d never really thought about it.” She set
her chopsticks down and stared out the window. “I’ve always wondered what
happened to Nat and whether it was something I did or not. We were happy,
at least I was,” she insisted softly.
I reached across the table and took her hand. “Keep staring out the
window like that and I’m going to get jealous.” I teased gently, fighting the
urge to forget where we were and hug her until the smile I loved so returned.
The green eyes slid flirtatiously back to mine. “No reason to be.”
She smiled, squeezing my hand.
We finished our dinner and headed out to a bar called the Tripoli.
Dad had recommended it. It opened about four years ago, and he and Mom used
to go there to dance before her stroke. He assured me that young couples
frequented the dance floor, too, and he was right. Most of them turned out to
be our age or a little older, with about a third of them wearing Fleet
uniforms.
The place itself was cozily lit with a candle on each table for effect.
The music, like the furniture, was plush and romantic. Cait and I secured an
intimate table in the corner and ordered drinks.
I rested my chin in my hand and stared at her until she started to
fidget, a warm glow creeping into her cheeks. “You’re beautiful, you
know that?” I reached over and took one of her hands in mine.
Her head cocked to one side. She always got embarrassed when I went
mushy in public. “You think?” she asked.
“Nope.” I replied. “I know, inside and out.”
The glittering emerald eyes dropped to the table and I released her
hand and scooted my chair over until we sat side by side. I placed an arm
across the back of her chair and a heady warmth rushed though me as I leaned
over and nuzzled her neck. “It embarrasses you when I do this, doesn’t it?”
I breathed. “I’m sorry, but you’re just too damn attractive. I’ve got you
and I’m never giving you up.”
Cait shivered a little and giggled. “I think you’re a little tipsy.”
“Maybe, but that doesn’t mean I don’t mean what I say.” I frowned.
“Or something like that.”
She laughed and kissed me. “Think you’re sober enough to dance?”
“Who? Me?” I stood up and pulled back her chair. “Just wait until I
get you out there.”
The dance floor was small and slightly crowded, but with Cait in my
arms, I was pretty much lost in my own little world. Then slowly, I became
aware of being bumped a number of times. At first I brushed them off as
accidents and tried to pay more attention to where we were in relation to the
other couples, but an elbow between my shoulder blades changed my mind.
“Hey, buddy, watch it.”
A baby-faced lieutenant turned around. “Why don’t you?”
Cait squeezed my hand. “Tom.”
Out of deference to her, I let it drop. She was the one out on bail.
One incident and it would be revoked whether it was her fault or not. I led
her away from the jackass and we started dancing again. This time a foot
looped around my ankle and almost sent me sprawling into Cait’s arms. There
was no way in hell that it could have been an accident this time, but before
I could turn around, a low voice spoke behind me. “Haven’t you figured it
out, yet?” It drawled. “We don’t want traitors like you and your Maquis
girlfriend in here.”
I spun around. A full commander stood behind me with some giggling
civilian half his age. “She’s not my girlfriend.” I said, drawing myself up
to my full height, which was still a few centimeters short of his. “She’s my
wife, and we have just as much right to be here as you do.”
He folded his arms across his chest, and our baby-faced lieutenant and
a few other officers stepped up behind him in support. “Not in my book,”
he said. “And quite a few of us feel the same way.”
Cait touched my sleeve. “Tom, maybe we should-”
I shook my head, keeping my gaze level with the commander’s. “No, we
came here to dance and we’re going to.” I lowered my voice as I escorted her
to a new section of the floor. “Don’t worry. I have no intention of getting
into a fight, but I’m not going to be run out of here. They’ll just have
to learn to live with it.”
A hand tapped my shoulder. “Keep dancing.” I murmured.
The hand grabbed me and jerked me around. “Hey! Didn’t the Commander
just tell you to beat it?” the lieutenant asked.
“No. He said *he* didn’t feel we should be here. I happen to disagree
with him.”
The baby-face became bright red as the music stopped and the house
lights came up. “You should have listened to him. It was a friendly warning.”
“Then, tell him thank you for me.” I turned back to Cait, only to have
my arm grabbed again. “Look, my wife and I came in here to dance, not fight.
Why not let us?”
“Because people like you make us sick. Freedom fighters. Hell, you’ll
fire on us as soon as on Cardassians.”
“That’s not true!” Cait shot back. “We always gave Federation ships
the option to withdraw and even then we didn’t fire unless they did.”
“Yeah, sure.” The man sneered. “Tell that to my brother. He was on
the Satie when your holier-than-thou cohorts attacked. Lured them out and BAM!
Hit them with everything they had and left them for dead. Your kind makes
me sick. I hope they throw the book at you.”
“Yeah, same here.” Another officer cried out.
“Yeah. You tell ’em, Castillo,” chorused two more.
“You belong in jail.” Castillo snarled.
Cait and I exchanged glances. “Tom, we should leave,” she said.
I squeezed her hand. “Maybe you’re right.”
The jeers followed us as we paid for our drinks and headed for
the door. Dad had been right. Things were getting bad. If civilian sympathy
was on the rise and Fleet animosity toward the Maquis was at an all-time high
and growing, somewhere a split was going to occur, and it wasn’t going to
be pretty.
Once outside, I pulled Cait into my arms and hugged her tightly. “I’m
sorry. I didn’t mean to put you through that.”
She pushed me away, angry. “What the hell did you think you were doing
in there? What if those people had started a fight? How do you think that
would’ve looked to Admiral Fletcher?”
“I don’t know and frankly, I don’t care. They had no right to
intimidate us like that.”
“Right? Right?” She exclaimed. “What right do you have to jeopardize
your chances just because some yahoos want to throw their weight around?
For gods’ sake, Tom, nothing would have made them happier than to know you
didn’t make it back into Starfleet because of them.”
“And maybe it would be better if I didn’t, if that’s what we’ll be
up against. I don’t want you going through something like that on a
daily basis.”
She suddenly grew quiet, her eyes dropping from mine. Reaching out,
she took my hand. “Tom, let’s walk for a bit.”
My stomach curled and twisted as we slowly passed building after
building in silence. *She can’t think Starfleet is more important than she
is, can she?* I grasped at elusive straws, trying to prepare myself for the
worse. *No, I can give up Starfleet. I’ll just contact Adm. Fletcher in the
morning and tell him thanks, but no thanks. Then I’ll talk to Dad. He might
know of some privately-owned ship somewhere that needs-*
Cait stopped in front of a bench and we sat down. Her gaze fell to her
lap where she held onto my hand with both of hers. She stayed quiet like she
was searching for the right words. By that point, I wanted to tell her any
words would do–just say something! “Tom, you know I love you, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course, I do.”
“And I know you love me, and that you’ll do anything to spare me pain.”
“Yes. Oh gods, Cait, you know I would.”
She looked up. “Then, I know what I’m about to ask will be hard for
you to do, but I-”
“Cait, it’s okay. I understand. I’ll contact Adm. Fletcher-”
She shook her head vehemently. “No. No. Let me finish. I don’t
want you to withdraw your request.”
“You don’t?”
“No. I want you to stop shielding me.” One hand rose and cupped my
cheek, as a tiny smile dallied on her lips. “I know you love playing the part
of my knight in tarnished armour, but stop treating me like a child. I can
withstand a few insults and a few punches, too.”
“Cait, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.” Her hand slid from my face. “Tom, I’m proud of my
combat record with the Maquis.”
“You should be. A lot of Fleet personnel would give their eye teeth
to have one as good.”
“Then why do you think what those people said back there would
bother me? Calling me Maquis is not an insult in my eyes. It’s a part of me.
If I hadn’t joined them and fought against the Cardassians, I wouldn’t have
been able to look myself in the eye, much less anyone else, and I wouldn’t have
wound up in the Delta quadrant, and I would never have gotten to know you.”
She smiled briefly and squeezed my hand.
“Cait, I-”
“No, let me finish. Maybe the Maquis have changed since we’ve been
gone. Maybe they use tactics now that I wouldn’t agree with, but I’m not
ashamed of what *I* did.” She sighed. “Don’t you see, Tom. Those people in
the bar can only hurt me by hurting you. Is my being former Maquis that
uncomfortable for you?”
“No, how could it be? I’m one, too.”
“Then, you don’t have to shield me from them. Life is full of pain
and anger. You’ll kill yourself trying to protect me from all of it,
and frankly, I was looking forward to us growing old together like your
parents.”
I lifted her hand to my lips. “Cait, believe me, I am, too, and I
want those years to be happy ones. I want us to have a good home with a couple
of happy, healthy kids. I-” I hesitated, remembering the park earlier, and
my gaze nervously slid from hers. “I-I mean-”
A finger on my lips silenced me. “I know. So do I, but we won’t get
that hiding from people. Someone, somewhere is always going to point a finger
at us, whether you rejoin Starfleet or not. Tell me this, do you intend not
to tell our children? Do you intend to just pack-up and move anytime someone
brings up our pasts?”
My head drooped and I took a deep breath. “No, I guess not, but I also
don’t relish the idea of our child coming home, crying, because the other
parents won’t let their kids play with him because of who we were.”
“Nor do I, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now,
we don’t even know if it lies ahead of us or not.” She raised my chin with
her fingers. “Tom, you want me to be happy, but how can I ever be truly
happy knowing that you sacrificed one of your most important dreams for me?
If you were in my place, could you be?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Some might say it proves how much I
love you. I don’t want to hurt you, Cait. You know, years ago, when we first
started seeing each other, there were days, gods, there were days when I
honestly wondered if we would even be talking to one another by the end of
the evening.” We both smiled at that remark, and with my thumb I gently
stroked one of the hands that held mine. “But time passed, and look where
we are now. To make it back into ‘Fleet may be a dream of mine, Cait,
but *you* are my most precious dream. To lose Starfleet again would be
nothing, one star in trillions, compared to losing you.”
She clutched my hand tightly. “And you won’t, Tom. Just please don’t
withdraw your request. Trust me. We will make it.”

THE PARIS JOURNALS, vol. X
Thicker Than Blood
Part 10

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1997

DISCLAIMERS: See part one.

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

Midway through breakfast the next morning, the comm system chirped.
It was a frowning Admiral Fletcher. “Report to my office at 1000 hours.”
Funnily enough, after last night, my heart didn’t sink quite as far as
I thought it would. In fact, I felt this small swell of relief bubble up.
I had no idea what I would do, but something would come along. It had to.
At 1000 hours precisely, I rapped on his office door. “Come in.”
“Good morning, Admiral.”
He looked up and immediately shoved the PADD he was using aside.
Capt. Tai sat in the same chair he had been in during my previous meeting.
“Yes. Mr. Paris. Take a seat.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The Admiral rose from his chair and walked over to the window to gaze
out over the sunlit grounds. Slowly, he turned around. “I understand you ran
into a little trouble last night.”
“Sir?” *Shit! Did one of those asses file a false report? Have I
been under surveillance?*
“Captain Tai saw you at the Tripoli last night.”
“Oh, uh, yessir. My wife and I went there to dance.”
“And you both found more than you bargained for. I expect you can
understand now why we took this time to debate your request.”
I nodded. “Yessir, I can. I had no idea the average officer’s
animosity had reached that level.”
“It hasn’t, thankfully. Last night, you had the misfortune of running
into a few extreme examples, who have since been reprimanded. However, I can
not deny that the gulf between supporters and opponents of the Maquis is
widening, with extremists on both sides, and its effect–*your* effect on
morale had to be carefully considered.”
“Yessir, I understand.”
“However, in spite of the risks, we are prepared to grant your request
and re-enlist you within Starfleet with the rank of lieutenant, junior grade.”
My mouth fell open. “I-I don’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure,
especially after last night. Thank you, Admiral.”
He nodded. “Over the next six months, you will serve as Captain Tai’s
adjutant at Saturn Defense.”
“Adjutant?” I balked.
“Yes. Do you have a problem with this?”
“No, sir. It’s just that I’m a pilot, not-”
“I am well aware of your training, Mr. Paris. These six months will
be a probationary period. Pending a favorable review from Captain Tai at the
end of it, you will be allowed to apply for a transfer. I trust you will find
this satisfactory.”
*Suck it up, Thomas. You’re lucky to get it. After all, how bad can
six months of PADD-shuffling be?* “Yessir.” I replied, rising to attention.
“Good.” The Admiral crossed the room to shake my hand. “Then,
congratulations, Lieutenant. You will leave tomorrow with Captain Tai.
Be sure to see my adjutant on the way out, he will give you all the necessary
details.”
“Tomorrow?” I stared at him, wide-eyed. “But the Maquis hearing-”
“Starts tomorrow. Yes, I know. You will only be at Saturn, Mr. Paris,
and Captain Tai is well aware that sudden adjustments may have to be made if
you get called to testify. However, given that your wife is one of the
defendants, I think that is highly unlikely. Dismissed.” He sat back down
behind his desk and picked up the PADD.
I saluted them both before offering Capt. Tai my hand. “See you
tomorrow, sir.”
“Don’t be late.” He replied as stone-faced as ever.
“I won’t be.” It still bothered me that I couldn’t remember where
we had met.
The noontime hour had passed before I finally made it home, ladened
with four new uniforms (three regular and one dress), a briefcase full of specs
and regulations I had to bone up on, and one dozen roses for Cait. The guilt
over leaving her like this really gnawed at me. It wasn’t just what her father
might think. It was the fact that after all the times she had been there
for me, I wouldn’t be here for her now, especially if the trial got a
little rough. Sure, the other Maquis and the Voyager crew would be there
for her, and so would our parents, but not me, and that made me feel lower than
a snake’s belly.
No one was in the house. Through the family room windows, I could see
Mom and Dad in the backyard, him down on his knees rummaging amongst the
tomato plants. Ducking into my room, I quickly changed into my uniform; then
I snatched up the flowers and placed them in a vase full of water on the
entrance hall table before heading outside.
Mom saw me approaching and nudged Dad with her cane. He got to his
feet, shielding his eyes, and I grinned broadly. “What do you think?
Good fit?” I asked, tugging gently at the cuffs.
Dad just stared at me and his lower lip began to tremble. Mom’s tears
ran unchecked down her cheeks. “Hey, c’mon.” I joked, struggling to conceal
the tremor in my own voice. “Don’t tell me it looks that bad.”
Dad shook his head and hugged me tightly. “It looks good on you,
Thomas. Damn good.”
A shriek filled the yard as Cait tore across the grass. Dad barely
released me in time for me to catch my ecstatic wife. Capt. Matthews
approached much more slowly.
“We have…to talk.” I gasped out between kisses.
“About what?” She responded breathlessly, a huge smile lighting up
her face. “Oh, Tom, I’m so happy for you.”
“About a lot of things, but mainly about how I’m leaving tomorrow for
my assignment.”
“Tomorrow?” The pale arms slid from around my neck.
“Thomas, that’s so soon.” Mom protested. “And the trial-”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m not happy about it either, but that’s what
they gave me.” I attempted to put the best spin I could on the situation.
“But I’ll only be at Saturn Defense. It’s less than half an hour away.”
I stroked Cait’s cheek with my fingers. “Honey, I’m sorry. I didn’t want
it to be like this. I thought they’d wait until after the trial to assign me.
I’m really sorry.”
“I know.” She smiled bravely. “That’s part of life in Starfleet,
but we still have tonight to celebrate. And just think of all the people we
have to tell.”

When I reached the spacedock in the morning, Capt. Tai was already
on board the shuttle, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat. He glanced up from the
PADD he was reading. “You take the helm. I’ve got some work to catch up on.”
“Yessir.” I replied. I stowed my bags and slid into the seat. “Are
we ready to leave?”
“Yes, the sooner, the better.”
“Yessir. Ops, this is the shuttlecraft, Argo, requesting clearance
to depart.”
“This is Ops. Argo, you are free to leave. Releasing docking clamps.”
“Confirmed. Docking clamps released. Engaging thrusters.”
I maneuvered the ship out of its berth and through the space doors.
“Course?” I asked.
“One-six-zero mark three-five. Half impulse.”
“Yessir. Course laid in and engaging at half impulse.”
A few minutes passed before he tossed aside the PADD and turned to me.
“So, have you figured out where we met, yet?”
I shook my head. “No, sir.”
“I’m not surprised. As I said before, we only met once. I was the
flight control advisor initially assigned to the investigating team at
Caldik Prime.”
I gulped hard. “You were?”
“Yes, I was the first pilot Command could lay their hands on who had
flown there on a regular basis. I was part of the group that visited you in
sickbay to get your story. When I heard it, I knew you were lying, and once
we left the room, I said so, but no one would listen. Then-Commander Casey,
who was in charge of the investigation, wanted a nice, quiet hearing and he
dismissed me from the team.”
“I suppose you must have felt vindicated when I came forward later.”
“A little.” He admitted. “But by that time I also knew your piloting
record. I couldn’t help wondering what had made someone with such promise take
such an enormous risk. I also knew that your loss was Starfleet’s loss.”
He took a deep breath and released it. “However, I’d be lying if I said I
wasn’t less than enthusiastic when Admiral Fletcher proposed having you replace
my departing adjutant.”
I smirked. “I guess that explains why you supervised my test and why
that Caldik Prime approach was part of it.”
“Yes, and even though you passed, I continued to have my doubts, until
I saw you at the bar. I was concerned how you would handle the pressure
imposed by other Fleet personnel, but you stood your ground, wisely retreating
when the odds were overwhelmingly against you.”
“To be honest, Captain, if my wife hadn’t been there, I’m not sure I
would have ‘retreated’, as you put it.”
“That’s all right.” A smile broke through the impassive mask.
“I’m not too sure I would have, either. Being my size and the youngest
of four boys, you learn pretty quickly to hold your ground, no matter how
tiny it is.”

TWO WEEKS LATER:

“So how did it go today?” I stared at Cait’s image on the viewscreen.
Gods, I missed her. Every muscle, every bone, every cell cried out for her.
“Not too bad. Closing arguments were made by the prosecution.
Tomorrow, it’s our turn. You know, your Dad really did me a great favour by
hiring MacDougall. He has been amazing.”
“Is he hedging bets on the outcome?”
She cocked her head to one side. “Nope, says he doesn’t believe in it,
but Dad’s already offered me a job at the settlement. I turned him down. It’s
a long way from Saturn.” She laughed, I didn’t, and she sobered. “Tom, don’t
worry. He’ll come around. He doesn’t dislike you. He just wants to be sure
I’ll be okay. In time, he’ll realize that he has no basis for his concerns.
But enough about him. How about you? Excited about getting your first batch
of graduates to help train?”
“No.” I grinned. “More like nervous as hell. I never saw myself as
much of a teacher.”
“You’ll do fine. You’re a natural charmer. You got Sinclair to
accept you, after all.”
“Gods, I hope so. I do not relish the thought of that man as an
enemy.” I ran a shaky hand through my hair. Just thinking about
Cmdr. Justinian Sinclair made my stomach knot. “So, how are Mom and Dad?”
“Same as they were two days ago. Fine. Last night, your mom showed
me some of your baby pictures.”
“She didn’t.”
“Oh, yes.” Cait cooed teasingly. “You looked so cute running through
the backyard in the buff with the Admiral chasing after you holding a diaper
and yelling ‘Come back here!’.”
The heat rose in my face. “Yeah, Dad always loved that footage, too.
Thanks, Mom.” I muttered to the air around me.
She smiled. “Oh, I should probably warn you. Your mother mentioned
the word grandchild twice in one conversation today. I think it’s her discrete
way of hinting.”
“Yeah, probably. I figured it was only a matter of time. How do you
feel about this?”
“Why? You sending a sperm sample on the next shuttle?”
I groaned. Sometimes she made it so difficult. “No, but remember the
park? I haven’t brought the issue up because I didn’t want to put any pressure
on you. It’s hasn’t been a full year since we lost Madeleine.”
She hesitated, staring off to the side of the screen in thought.
“Well, maybe we should start talking about it. We both still want them,
right?” I nodded. “Then we should talk. I can see you right now.
‘Captain Tai, I need a two day leave to visit Earth.’ ‘Why, Lieutenant?
You just got here.’ ‘I know, sir, but I have to go home and fertilize
my wife.'”
I snickered. “Cute, very cute. Makes you sound like one of Mom’s
tomato plants. By the way, speaking of kids, how are Harry and B’Elanna
doing?”
“Um, it’s safe to say that things have definitely gotten more
interesting. Evidently, while you and I were talking the other night, he was
busy blowing up at his parents. B’Elanna says she’s never seen him so angry.
Right now, they’re staying with, get this, Libby and her husband. Oh!
And B’Elanna may have a job when the trial is over. Seems that one of her
former instructors at the Academy was helping to review Voyager’s engineering
logs and was suitably impressed enough with her work to recommend her to a
friend who heads up a design team at the Daystrom Institute. She’s going to
meet with them during the lunch break tomorrow.”
“Hey-hey! That’s good news. I don’t suppose Chakotay has heard
anything else, huh?”
“Yes, he did. I meant to tell you the last time we talked. He finally
got in contact with what was left of his tribe. They’ve been wandering for the
past five years or so trying to find the right place to set down new roots.
Once the trial is over, he hopes to meet up with them and help them.”
“Good. I’m glad some escaped. When I heard that the Jem Hadar-”
“Yeah, we all feared the worst.”
I took a deep breath. “Okay. So, since Neelix is going full steam
ahead with his Chez Kes idea-”
“Er, it’s Kes’ Cafe now.” She grinned.
“Whatever. Well, I guess it’s just you we have to find work for.”
She waved a carefree hand. “Oh, don’t worry about me. You’ll be
surprised how far looks and charm can still go in this day and age.”
“No, I wouldn’t, especially where you’re concerned.”
“Oh, go on. I’ll bet you say that to all the girls.”
I shook my head and smiled. “Nope. Just one. Just you.” I reached
out and pressed my fingertips to the smooth screen. “I miss you. I wish I
could be there for you. You know if you had asked, I would have told them in
a heartbeat to forget it.”
Her fingers lifted to mine. “I know, but I also know what this means
to you. I do miss you, Tom, but I accept it as part of the price.” She paused
and gave a weak grin. “Do you think if we had a baby, I’d miss you as much?
I’d always have a little part of you with me that way.”
I shrugged, a lump rising in my throat. Gods, I wanted to hold her,
right then and there. “I don’t know. Ask Mom. Ask her how she stood it all
those years Dad was away.”
The antique clock chimed behind her. “I guess I should let you go,”
she said. “You’ve got a big day tomorrow. I don’t want you showing up with
PADDs in one hand and a litre of coffee in the other.” She attempted one
last smile. “Have a good night. I’ll call you tomorrow and tell you how
we did.”
“I’ll be waiting and hoping. I love you, Cait.”
“I love you. Now get some beauty sleep, handsome.” She laughed.
I grinned. “You, too, love.” Like she needed it. I switched off the
viewer and sat back in my chair. Maybe by this time next week Cait could join
me out here. I glanced about the room. The quarters were a little on the
small side. But if we got rid of that chair…and shifted the desk over
to there…and put up a screening wall starting right here…Yeah, that should
create just enough room for a crib and a changing table.

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