Author's Note: This is just another Hunters tag. This one from a lurker on the list I took a little break from what my beta-reader calls my epic-in-progress to write down my opinion of what happened with Tom's letter. This is my first fanfic attempt to be read by more than two people, so any and all feedback will be appreciated.
Disclaimers: Star Trek Voyager and all of the characters and situations are the property of Paramount. I'm just taking them out to play. I will return them unharmed.
B'Elanna Torres stood tensely over the console, as the message for Tom Paris continued to trickle in, word by word. She stared in amazement as the words came across the screen. One part of her mind told her that she should not even be reading this, but the other part could not turn away. She remembered what she had said to him just a few moments before, how she had pulled down the walls he had erected to keep the pain out. She should have listened to him. She had opened his heart, giving him a chance to hope, but now that the text of the letter was coming through, she wondered if she should have just left well enough alone. Again, she tried to pull herself away from the letter, but she couldn't. B'Elanna's anger built as each new word appeared. Just wait, it has to get better, there has to be some good news in here. Ten the transmission stopped, and started again, with a new name at the heading. It was Harry's eagerly awaited letter. But B'Elanna could feel no joy for Harry. How could she? She had promised to deliver this letter to Tom as soon as it was finished, but she could not bring her hand to her combadge. In a burst of anger, she threw the datapadd across the lab, feeling a small bit of satisfaction at the ominous crack it made as in impacted. She ignored the incoming words as they rolled across the screen. How could the man send a letter like this to his son? Wouldn't it have just been better to let him go with no news? She could at least thank her mother for that.
B'Elanna searched every incoming bit of text as it came in, hoping to find another segment of Tom's letter. Hoping to prove him wrong, that his father was willing to reach across the distance and bridge the gap, but there was no more forthcoming. When the link was severed, she leaned back against the console and sighed. She had never deceived Tom, but there was no way that she could deliver that letter to him. Not after the hope she had given him. She wasn't sure that she could let this letter cause Tom anymore pain. But did she have the right to withhold this from him? If she kept his letter to herself, could she live with herself? She had never been very good at lying. Didn't he deserve to know the truth? So she retrieved the cracked padd, and when she went to the bridge, she looked at Tom's guarded face, and made her decision. She lied to him.
Later that night, she lay awake in bed while Tom snored softly next to her. She climbed out of bed, pulled on one of Tom's robes and walked over to the viewport, watching the stars flow silently by. The smooth movement of the ship contrasted with the turmoil that was brewing inside of her. She had made her decision, but she wasn't sure that she could live with it. It was so easy at the time, but it was becoming harder to keep up the charade. All through the party, she had been quiet. She knew that Tom attributed it to the news of the Maquis, but it was more than that. Every time someone told him how sorry they were that his letter was lost she felt worse. She wondered how she would have felt if Chakotay had kept the contents of his letter to himself. She could have been spared the pain that went along with the news, but would she have been happier not knowing? She shook her head. It's not the same. But in her heart she knew it was. So she picked up the cracked padd and decided to wake Tom. But before she could turn from the viewport, a pair of warm arms wrapped around her waist.
"Couldn't sleep?" Tom's breath was warm against her ear as his whispered voice warmed her heart.
"I have something to tell you." She couldn't even look at him.
"About the letters?" His arms tightened and she could feel his body tense against hers.
"Yes. About the one for you."
"I wondered when you were going to tell me."
She whirled to face him. "How did you know?"
"You are a terrible liar." He chucked as he looked down on her face, surprised to see tears there. "Hey. What's that for?"
"Aren't you mad at me? I mean I lied to you." She shook her head again, unable to believe the tender look on his face.
"If it helps, I can understand why. I was sort of hoping you wouldn't say anything."
"Well, you were so enthusiastic about me getting a letter, so convinced that it would have good news, that when you kept it from me, I kind of figured that I was right." His voice had tightened up and his face was back to that unfeeling mask he had been wearing earlier in the day.
"Do you want to read it?" She held the padd out to him. He took it and noticed the long crack down the back. He looked up at her, the questions and amusement evident in his eyes. "Well, I didn't like what it said."
"I guess not. I'll read it if you will sit with me while I do." He gestured towards the couch. "Computer, raise lights to 60%" They both blinked against the sudden brightness as they settled in. Tom called up the file and began to read.
To: Lt. Thomas Paris
From: Admiral Owen Paris, Starfleet command
"I'm sitting down to write this letter, without the slightest idea what I'm going to say. I received word from SFHQ today that you are alive. I'm still trying to decide exactly how I feel about this, the latest development in the hell you have put your mother and I through. I can still remember I saw you. The way you were standing in front of me the day you lost your Starfleet commission. You just stood there with a smirk on your face, silently taunting me "Are you happy now?" The look that told me that this was just the latest in a series of stunts to prove to me that you would do anything you could to anger me. You did not care about your career, about the lies you had told, about the people that you had killed, about the impact this had on your mother and sisters, and most of all the embarrassment and shame you caused me. You just stood there. You looked straight through me, with an uncaring expression on your face, ignorant of the rage inside of me. I can not remember exactly what I said to you, or even what you said to me, but I do remember, with extreme clarity the realization that I never wanted to have anything more to do with you. This unfeeling stranger in front of me was no longer my son. How I wished at that moment, and so many after, that you had never been born. And although I could not change that fact, I could try and make sure that you caused no further pain to me, your mother, or your sisters. I told you that you were no longer my son, and you just turned and walked away, no pain, no comment. So I did the same. I tried like hell to put you completely out of my mind, and my life. I held your mother as she cried for you, endured her anger at the decision I had made, and attempted to piece my career back together, knowing that every one who looked at me knew what you had done. But I held my head high and made every effort to make sure that you brought no further shame to us. When Nachev sent word that you had been captured flying with the Maquis traitors, I clung to the anger and the pain that you had caused us. I can remember clearly every word of the message I sent back to her. I had no contact with you for over a year. After Caldik Prime we had gone our separate ways, and the news of your capture and arrest had no bearing on me or my wife and daughters. I thanked her for her concern, but told her that she should not have bothered. When she next contacted me with word of Voyager's loss, I can truthfully say that I grieved more over the loss of Kathryn Janeway than I did over you. She was a good captain and an asset to the fleet. The news of your death was a relief to me. At last I no longer had to worry about what stunt you would pull next, what disgrace you could further bring to the Paris name."
Tom slowly laid the padd on the table in front of him. "Was that all there was?"
"I kept hoping there was more, but we lost the transmission. I'm sorry Tom" She bowed her head, unable to look him in the face.
"For what? The letter? You couldn't have known."
"But you did. And I convinced you that it would be different. And for lying to you."
"I'm not the best one to talk about honesty. But I am angry with you for that. I know why you did it, but I wish you would have told me the truth. Even if it does hurt."
"I just didn't want to let him hurt you."
"B'Elanna, you can't protect me all the time. Just like I can't protect you from ever being hurt, as much as I want to. The most we can do is be there to help each other over it. But lying like you did just drives us farther apart."
"I'm sorry. Do you want me to leave?" Her voice hardened and she pulled back from him.
"No. Just please don't do it again." He leaned towards her and wrapped his arms around her. As she relaxed back into his embrace the doorchime sounded. "Come in."
The doors slid open to reveal Captain Janeway standing in the doorway with a padd in hand. "I'm sorry it's so late, but I have something for you. Apparently this was misrouted to me by mistake. It was one of the first letters to come through, but without the header. Seven has been trying to piece together the stray segments, and since this one had my name in it, she sent it to me, but I thought you might like it. I looked and it appears that the first part of this letter was downloaded just before the link terminated. Did you receive it?" She looked pointedly at B'Elanna as she asked.
"I've got it right here Captain. Thanks." He took the offered padd and glanced at B'Elanna, who seemed a bit uncomfortable under the Captain's gaze. "Was there anything else?"
"No. Again, I'm sorry to have disturbed you so late, but it looks like everything is under control. Good night." With that, she turned and left.
"Good thing my conscious got the better of me before the Captain did. I don't think I would have wanted to be on the receiving end of that lecture." She looked at Tom. He stared at the padd in his hands. "Are you going to read it?"
"What have I got to loose. It's not like it can be much worse than the first part. After all, he's already told me that he wished I'd never been born and that he was relieved when he thought I was dead."
"Maybe this part will be better. Maybe-" Tom's raised hand stopped her.
"Please. Can we just read it? Come here." B'Elanna curled up next to him and together they opened the last part of the letter.
"But at the memorial services, (are you surprised I went Thomas? Your mother insisted. I couldn't say no to her) I stood there, as countless people offered condolences. I accepted them graciously, repeating some line of bull about how deeply we felt the loss, how it was a shame, you were so young, and then Nechev walked in. She overheard me as I repeated this line and she gave me a look that bored straight through me. And them I was ashamed of my self, of the way I had treated you. I left the service and went home. I walked into your bedroom, sat down on the bed and cried. Yes Thomas, I cried for you. I cried for the years leading up to your entering the Academy, where I pushed you so hard to do more. To rise up and become a different person from the one you were. To become more like me. I thought back to Caldik and remembered you, the memory for the first time undistorted by my own anger, and saw the pain in your eyes as you realized that you had given up the one thing that had meant the most to you, not Starfleet, but the chance to fly. That's why you joined the Maquis, isn't it? So you could fly? I always believed that their cause meant little to you, and God help me Tom, I still believe that. You were never meant to be a political animal, that's why command held no attraction to you. All you wanted to do was fly, to sit behind the conn and let the vessel become an extension of yourself. I used to believe that You joined the Maquis just to make me angry, to embarrass me further. I was full of myself. I was so ashamed of myself, of the way I used to ignore or ridicule your attempts to make me happy. I look back now and realized that the only way you could have pleased me than, was by loosing who you were. I didn't want a son, I wanted a clone. But it was too late, you were dead, and all I wanted at that point was my son. My smartassed, fun-loving, womanizing son. And it was too late. I was devastated. I took a leave last year and your mother and I went to see a counselor. Can you believe it? You hard nosed father voluntarily going to counseling? I managed to work through some of my guilt for the way I treated you, but some of it will always be there. It's become a part of who I am. I have wondered how much of this turnaround in feeling has been as a result of regret, but since I was new to this whole self-analysis thing, I never delved to deeply into it, figuring it was a moot point. Then the call came in yesterday, and the point became less moot. I felt such a wave of relief that you were alive, and I wanted so desperately to be proud of you, but I don't have that right. Your mother is practically glowing,. She reads the report given by the EMH over and over, and brags to everyone who will listen about your warp 10 flight, about your rescuing the crew when they were stranded and so many of your other accomplishments. Her son, the hero of the Delta Quadrant. It's been years since I've seen her so happy, and I want to thank you for that. She misses you of course, and hopes that you will make it home soon, but she was so happy just to know you were alive. I guess that is what the love of a parent should be like. She is ecstatic just to know that you are alive and happy, even if she never gets to see you again. I felt the guilt returning in full fore when I saw her. I do love you Tom. I am eternally grateful to what ever deity watches over smartassed pilots that you have the chance again to do what you love, to earn the respect and acceptance that you deserve. I hope against hope that I will have the chance to see you again, and ask in person for your forgiveness. And I do want it Tom, even if I don't deserve it. I would love to tell you more, to tell you about your sisters, and your nieces and nephews, but the message is going to be sent soon, so that will have to wait fir the next one. Please give Kathryn a message for me,. Tell her thank you. Thank you for giving you the chances and the life that I tried so hard to keep from you. I love you son."
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