No Easy Answers by Ronda

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In his quarters, Tom prepared for bed. The Doctor had already been by to with his medication. He was still wearing the cardiac monitor, as a precaution. The doctor had been quite pleased with how much Tom's health had improved after his confinement had been switched to his quarters. Tom had to admit he felt much better, though the idea of not being able to leave his quarters still left him a little jumpy and edgy. At least they were room and spacious. The view port also lessened the sense of being closed in.

He turned down his bed and pulled B'Elanna's gown from under his pillow. Her scent still lingered on it, and Tom found it quite comforting. He would sleep with it again tonight. Slipping, into his bed, he snuggled the gown against his chest and closed his eyes. Tomorrow, he would commune with his spirit guide again. He was certain that the Tiger could help him deal with the pain of the past.

The next morning after the briefing, B'Elanna waited till all of the others had left then spoke. “Captain, I would like to speak with you privately, if I may.”

Captain Janeway nodded, and replied, “Of course you may.” She had a feeling she knew what this was about.

“Captain, I respectfully request permission to visit Tom,” she said in an extremely polite tone.

The Captain sighed, “B'Elanna, have a seat on the sofa. We need to talk.” She walked over to the replicator and spoke too low for B'Elanna to hear. She returned with two steaming mugs. After handing one to B'Elanna, she sat down as well.

For a few moments, both women sipped the steamy hot coffee in silence. Then, the Captain turned to her. “B'Elanna, I know everyone thinks I was too hard on Tom.” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “There are things that no one knows, not even Chakotay. I was lucky to get the Moneans to agree to let me handle Tom's actions. At first, they wanted him tried in their courts.”

B'Elanna could only stare in shock at the Captain. No one had even been aware of this.

“I was finally able to convince them of how badly we needed Tom. It took a lot of negotiating with them to come to an agreement. The details of the agreement are in my log. Riga was not as fortunate as Tom. He was convicted of high treason. He will spend the rest of his life in hard labor.”

“But why,” began B'Elanna.

“Since the records of the agreement are in the permanent ship records, I had to follow it. If we do make it home sooner than expected, then Starfleet and the Federation can't say Tom had to go back to prison for this incident,” answered the Captain.

“But, why can't I visit him for just a few minutes?” she asked sadly.

“The only good thing that has come from all of this is Tom's willingness to deal with his past. He's doing that now. Spending the next 18 days facing his 'issues' will help him move past them. At least that's my hope,” said the Captain.

“He does need to do that,” admitted B'Elanna. “But it doesn't make me miss him any less.”

“I know,” answered Captain Janeway. “I miss his presence on the bridge.” A look of pain crossed her face. “If I had known about his claustrophobia, I would have confined him to his quarters to begin with.” She looked B'Elanna directly in the eyes. “I know my anger clouded my judgment somewhat at first, but now, I am focusing on what is best for Tom. I really think that if he continues with the spirit guide that he will make progress in dealing with the abuse from his past.”

B'Elanna held the Captain's gaze. “Did you know about it before now?”

“No, I don't think anyone had any idea. Owen Paris hid his behaviors too well. I know he became a tougher instructor after the Cardassians, but I never realized that there were home problems,” she admitted. “I hope you understand why I want Tom to have those remaining days to work things out.”

“Actually, I do,” replied B'Elanna as she stood up and sat her coffee mug on the table. “Permission to return to engineering?”

Janeway nodded, and watched as B'Elanna left her Ready Room. She and Tom were so lucky to have each other. The burdens of being the Captain did not allow for her to have such a relationship.
Tom sat in a chair studying a medical text the Doctor had left for him. It was somewhat boring, but it beat doing nothing. As his chime sounded to alert him that the guard was about to allow someone to enter, he sat the PADD down and stood up.

The door slid open, and Commander Chakotay walked in. Tom moved into an attention stance. “Commander,” he said politely.

“At ease, Tom. I'm here to see if you would like to schedule you next visit with your spirit guide,” said Chakotay in a soft voice.

Tom smiled a bit, recalling how friendly the she tiger was. “I would like to continue sometime today,” he admitted. “In fact, I would like to continue with it every day. I realize Doc wants you to continue to supervise me during them for now. So, I'll understand if you don't have time for it everyday.”

“I'll make time for it, Tom,” Chakotay assured him. Now that Tom was actually working on facing his past, Chakotay was going to do all he could to help the young man. After, he owed his life to Tom, and not just for rescuing him in the tunnels of the Ocampan home world. Tom had saved the ship and everyone on board so many times.

“I really appreciate that, Chakotay,” replied Tom sincerely.

“Why don't we keep it at 1500 hours each day,” suggested Chakotay, knowing that Tom needed stability in his life more than ever right now.

“That works for me,” answered Tom. “I've already decided on things for my 'medicine bundle.'”

Chakotay nodded. “Good, I'll see you at 1500 hours.” He stood and walked to the door and left.

Tom wandered over to the view port and stared out into space. He wondered what Chakotay would think of the items he had gathered for his bundle. They were items that very very significant to him and his life. One item was from his Alpha Quadrant life. The other two were from his life here in the Delta Quadrant. The two different eras of his life seemed so far removed from each other. The Alpha Quadrant held many memories. They were both good and painful. The Delta Quadrant held mostly pleasant memories. He wondered if he was the only one who was content to be here. His mind drifted back to the letter from his father. Only the header had come through. It had read from Admiral Owen Paris. Was that because he had sent it from his office, or was it because he still rejected his son? Yet, he had taken the time to send the message. If only he knew what the message had said.........

Chakotay strode onto the bridge, nodding to the others as he took his seat next to the Captain. He leaned towards her and whispered softly, “I've scheduled Tom's next vision quest. He wants to do them on a daily basis. I decided that having it scheduled at the same time every day would provide some security and stability for him.”

Captain Janeway glanced around the bridge, then turned back to Chakotay. “Let's discuss this in my ready room,” she whispered. Then she turned to Tuvok. “Mr. Tuvok, you have the bridge.”

They rose and walked across the bridge and entered her ready room. Once inside, she walked to the replicator and got them something to drink while Chakotay waited on the couch. Handing him his mug, she sat down by him.

“So, Tom wants to do this every day?” she asked sipping on the steamy hot coffee.

“That's what he said. I'm not sure how long the Doctor will want me to supervise him, but if this will help Tom deal with the past, then it's more than worth the time and effort,” replied Chakotay.

“Yes, it is,” answered the Capitan quietly. “It's hard to accept that Owen Paris may have had a dark side. I was his Science Officer for a long time. But then, after the Cardassians held us captive, he was never the same. It was not long after that Starfleet made him an instructor at the academy. I continued with my career on ships and we only saw each when my ship was in orbit of earth.”

“The Cardassians are well known for their cruel and brutal treatment of their prisoners. You seemed to have been better able to cope than the Admiral,” commented Chakotay.

I think he blamed himself for what happened to us, and that just made matters worse,” she said.

“I think we all do that to some extent when something happens under our command,” said Chakotay, gazing off into space. “We all have some demons from our pasts. Some are just more difficult to handle than others.”

“They certainly are,” she remarked as she remembered things from her command. “Keep me posted on how Tom is doing”

“I will,” he answered. “Tom's going to come out of this a stronger, more well-adjusted person.”

“I know,” she replied. “Let's get back to the bridge. We have a ship to run.”

At 1500 hours, Tom was ready when Chakotay entered his quarters. As usual Tom rose when he entered. Chakotay sat on the floor and motioned for Tom to join him. Tom picked up a small bag off the table and sat down by the Commander.

“I assume those are the items you want in your medicine bundle,” said Chakotay in a questioning tone.

“Yes, they are,” replied Tom. He opened the bag and removed the first item. It was a pair of pilot's wings from the twenty-first century. “These belonged to Captain Thomas Michael Paris. He was in the United Stated Air Force. They have been passed down for generations to the Thomases in my family.” He sat them down, noting an approving nod from Chakotay. Next he pulled out a mesh like bag containing some dark hair. He smiled sheepishly at Chakotay and said, “Some locks of B'Elanna's hair from one of the times she cut it.” Tom blushed a bit as he looked at the bag of hair.

“It's important to you, Tom, that's what matters. Your bundle should contain things that hold special meaning for you,” explained Chakotay.

Tom smiled and pulled out a miniature scaled model of the Delta Flyer. “B'Elanna gave me this not long after we built the flyer.” Looking at the gift brought back warm memories of the night she had given it to him.

Chakotay nodded once more. Then he held out the Akoonah he had replicated for Tom. “Here's another item for your bundle. An Akoonah of your own.”

Tom took it solemnly and sat it by the other items. “Thanks, Commander,” he replied.

“Tom, there is one thing you need to be aware of. As you delve further into your past issues, the visions are likely to become very intense. Don't let that discourage you. It's all a part of the healing process,” explained Chakotay quietly watching Tom's face as he spoke.

“I understand,” said Tom softly. “But it will be worth it.”

“Are you ready, Tom?” asked Chakotay.

He nodded.

“Place your hand on the Akoonah and concentrate on the bag with B'Elanna's hair. A-koo-chee-moya, We are far from the sacred places of our grandfathers. We are far from the bones of our people. This man seeks to commune with his animal guide to get the answers he seeks. Close your eyes, Tom. Breathe to fuel the light in your belly, and let it expand until the light is everywhere. Now, return to the place of you animal guide.”

Tom opened his eyes and saw the she tiger laying on the grasslands of an African plain. He chuckled as he sat down beside her.

“Welcome, little one,” rumbled the she tiger. “Why do you laugh?”

“Well, we're in the African grasslands, and tigers are actually from Asia,” answered Tom.

“Just as a person's animal guide doesn't define who he or she is, nor does the location you feel most at peace limit the animal guide's identity,” said the she tiger. She rubbed her head against his side. “Tell me, little one, how are you today?”

“I'm feeling better physically. It's still a little unnerving to be limited to my quarters,” admitted Tom. “On the other hand, it is giving me time to deal with the past.” He slowly stroked the she tiger's back. “Dad wasn't always so harsh. Before the Cardassians, he was strict, but in a reasonable way. Then after being held by the Cardassians, he was different.”

“Tell me about,” prompted the she Tiger.

Tom continued. “After that, there was very little of the gentle dad anymore. It was all about turning me into the perfect cadet. No matter that I was six, almost seven. He was going to make sure that I was ready, and I was tough. I already told you how he would shut me up in the cedar chest when I disappointed him. There were some times that were good. He still believed in reading to me at bedtime, and it was still the classics. Jules Vern was one of my favorites.” A small smile played across his lips as he recalled lying in his bed as his father sat in the rocker and read to him.

“So, there was some good along with the bad,” stated the she tiger.

“Yes,” answered Tom. “I finished the academy, and was serving in Starfleet. Even made it up to Lieutenant Junior Grade.....then it happened.”

“What happened, little one?” asked the she tiger, who knew, but waited for Tom to reveal it for himself.

“Caldick Prime happened. Because of MY pilot error, three other officers died. At first I lied about it. I was so afraid of what my dad would think and do. Then the nightmares came. They wouldn't go away. I confessed. Starfleet was not at all forgiving. I was cashiered out of the service. My dad went ballistic on me. He told me I was the most worthless excuse for a human he had ever seen. He also told me I was no longer his son, to get out of his house and never come back,” answered Tom with tears in his eyes. “When I needed him the most, he disowned me.

“That was a decision made in anger. People often say things in anger that they later deeply regret,” answered the she Tiger.

“Well, I don't know that he regretted it,” said Tom somewhat angrily. “When I was caught on my first mission for the Maquis and sentenced to Auckland, he spit in my face and told me that I was definitely no longer his son. He said that when my 5 year sentence was up, that I should not even expect to be able to come to HIS house.”

“However,” began the she tiger. “Did he not send you letters to Auckland.”

Tom swallowed hard and looked at the she tiger sheepishly. “How did you know about that?”

The she tiger shook her head in amusement. “Little one, I am your animal guide. I know much about you and your life.”

“Then you also know I refused all of the letters he sent. I only accepted letters from my mom and my sisters. None of them even mentioned dad's letters, so they must have been pretty bad,” said Tom.

“But, do you know that for certain, little one?” inquired the she tiger.

Tom brought his hand up to his chin. “No, not really.”

“Then, there was the letter he sent through the alien relay stations,” began the she tiger.

“That never made it past the headers. Starfleet, Admiral Owen Paris, not just Owen Paris, but Admiral Owen Paris of Starfleet,” said Tom with a trace of bitterness.

“Why do you think the header read that way little one?” asked the she tiger patiently.

“That's what I don't know,” said Tom in a tortured voice. “Was it because he was at his office? Or was it because he was letting me know that he would still never consider me his son in spite of how I have grown and changed.”

The she tiger nodded her head. “Little one, you have changed. The name Tom Paris brings brings with it admiration, respect, and admiration here on Voyager.

Tom nodded. “I guess I'll have to wait a long time to find out. Meanwhile, I am getting way too restless being couped up in my quarters. Do you have any suggestions for me, she tiger?”

The she tiger looked at him carefully and realized that they would get no further with his father at this time. Tom needed to process what they had already discussed. “Little one, have you thought about making a schedule for yourself? It would help you to have your day planned out. Then, little one, you would have more structure in your day.”

“That's a good point,” admitted Tom. “I will do that. I am also going to ask the doctor if I can start exercising some in my quarters. Now that my blood pressure and heart rate are stabilized, I don't see why he would object.”

“Exercise will also help with your levels of stress and tension, little one. Now, it is time for you to return to your friends. You need time to process that which we have discussed.”

Tom found himself back in his quarters. Chakotay was sitting quietly beside him. He looked inquiringly at Tom.

“That was interesting,” said Tom in an introspective tone. “I have a lot to think about.”

Noting how truly introspective Tom looked, Chakotay rose to his feet. “I'm glad this is working for you, Tom. I'll see you tomorrow at 1500 hours. He quietly walked to the door and let himself out.