THE MEASURE OF A MAN
Pairing: J & P.
SUMMARY: Tom Paris has a history of screwing up. Long before he joined the USS Voyager, he was labeled a misfit, damaging relations with those closest to him. How far would he go to heal the many breaches created?
A coda following the events of "Thirty Days".
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for the VAMV 2014 SECRET SUMMER. My recipient asked for a J & P friendship story, early Voyager, some pre- Delta Quadrant.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: To Mary, my super beta/editor for her work done on betareading this project
Starfleet Academy – office of Captain Owen McKenzie Paris
Eighteen year old Cadet Kathryn Janeway stood nervously twisting her fingers as she waited for the man behind the desk to speak. Captain Owen Paris was standing, studying the data of her new assignment that she'd worked nights to complete. Her heart was pumping. She could feel the heat in her cheeks and knew she must be blushing furiously. Of all the cadets, she had been the most fervent in conducting simulations required to complete her paper while all they wanted to do was make eyes at Will Riker, senior cadet.
No one ever disturbed Captain Paris, back at the Academy to teach Survival Strategies. Kathryn's assignment was to create a scenario quite similar to the Kobayashi Maru in a so-called no-win situation. She had been driven with her innovative idea, with streams of data to support it. So she kept her eyes on Owen, carefully observing the changes in his features, whether he remained shuttered, not giving away anything, or let slip a ghost of a smile of pleasure. Very rarely did he compliment any cadet. He had impossible standards. That was the first thing any first year cadet heard who wanted to take a class in Survival Strategies.
He had been the hardest of all her instructors to please. Everyone was scared of Owen Paris mainly because he could shrivel cadets with a just a look and reduce them to tears. But she was ambitious and single-minded. Ideas tumbled about in her head and all she wanted to do was get them out there and demand that someone - Owen Paris - take notice of them.
The captain shifted his weight. He was moving at least. When he made some indeterminate sound, her heart raced. Was he satisfied? Pleased? More than pleased? Dismissive? She knew her theories were well researched; there were no loopholes. After a few minutes in which the silence could have been shattered by the crack of a whip, Owen looked up, his gaze piercing, his lips compressed. Did she detect a flash of pride? Maybe surprise, more like.
Please, let him approve it...
Then, just as he was about to open his mouth, his door burst open. A young boy of about eight or nine darted inside. His hair was blond, his face alive. He had the bluest eyes Kathryn had ever seen in a young child. Not the restful, bright blue some children had, but stark, piercing, memorable. He hardly looked at her, his eyes eagerly on his father. Owen Paris frowned deeply at the intrusion, appearing decidedly annoyed with his son.
"Tom, what did – "
"Dad, I must show you something!"
"What did I tell you about not – "
But the boy seemed super animated, oblivious of his father's censure. In his hand he held a PADD. Kathryn frowned this time. It was not uncommon for young children to be doing all their assignments using that device, but the boy was extremely agitated about something he'd created. She stood and watched the little tableau, growing increasingly uneasy as she stared in turn at the boy and then the father. Owen stood rigid, ignoring Tom's imploring gaze, ignoring the PADD in the boy's hand.
"But, Dad! This is important! I've designed the basic specs for a Federation warship! A warship! It can break up into three separate ships to maximise firepower! Each section can have its own pilot! Here, look! It can be done!"
"Tom, son, those are the impractical imaginings of a young boy who should be at home studying. Go on home now. Your mother will be worried."
Kathryn noted how Owen Paris did not once look at the PADD. She had heard the son of Owen Paris was already a precocious flyer, that he'd be piloting starships soon, way before most cadets had that honour.
Tom's expression changed. His eyes darkened. He looked directly at Kathryn for the first time, a silent entreaty that she do something. She recognised that look. It was her look when she thought Owen Paris might accept her assignment as awesome, more the work of a senior cadet than one just starting out. She had done everything imaginable to gain her own father's respect, to gain his approval. Now she too wanted Owen Paris to approve her work, to commend her ideas.
Tom's face fell. His hand went limp, hanging by his side with the PADD in danger of slipping through his fingers.
He walked towards the door, turned and stared at her again before he stepped out, a disconsolate figure.
When the door closed, Owen Paris straightened up, smiled and asked, "Now, Cadet Janeway, where were we?"
Kathryn dragged her eyes away from the door to look at Owen Paris.
She knew she was going to remember for a very long time how stark, piercing blue eyes broke into pieces.
Star date 52179.4 - Delta Quadrant on board Voyager
Chakotay followed Kathryn out of holodeck two as she walked briskly towards the turbolift.
"So, Captain," he began as they entered the lift, "this is the third time this month I've beaten you at Velocity."
"You want to announce this in a ship wide communication, Commander?"
"No, but you're not usually that distracted. Something bothering you?"
"Computer, halt turbolift."
"I'm not talking to you, Commander. Computer, belay that order."
"Computer, halt turbolift," Chakotay requested again.
Kathryn Janeway gave a long drawn out sigh. Chakotay stood hands on his hips, staring her down. She avoided his gaze.
"This is not Velocity, Captain. Most times you beat the hell out of me. Now your mind drifts when we're in the ready room discussing crew evaluations, or on the mess hall during breakfast or sitting on the bridge. What is troubling you?"
"He's ignoring me, you know?"
"Paris? He was released from the brig six weeks ago. Is that why you look so preoccupied these days?"
She ignored his question. Instead, "He was never evasive before."
"Captain, you shut him away for a month in solitary confinement." Chakotay stressed the 'solitary'. "It takes time to adjust to normal activity. What did you expect?"
"I almost killed him. That's what he must be thinking."
"You think Tom Paris would have reason to hate you? You've both been raised in Starfleet. He knows the rules as well as you. Hell, I'd even accuse him of swallowing the damned rule book!"
"I thought we could be - "
"Friends again? Give him time, Captain. Tom Paris will be the first to tell you your decision was in accordance with Starfleet regulations. He disobeyed an order and he paid for it. End of story."
"I wish, Commander, it could be that easy."
Chakotay frowned heavily as he stared at Kathryn Janeway.
"Why do I get the feeling there's more to this than meets the eye? That the roots go deeper than anyone suspects?"
"Chakotay," Kathryn said softly, "perhaps you have a point there. But you are right. He's not engaging in small talk with me. There used to be such a great camaraderie. Now he speaks only when absolutely necessary, like - "
"You put it so beautifully," Kathryn replied a little sarcastically.
"I know you, Kathryn. You're like a little limpet that refuses to detach itself from the rocks. You're not going to give up on him, are you?"
"He's my personal reclamation project! You said so yourself!"
"You have to remind me of that, you little...limpet!"
Kathryn Janeway smiled for the first time. It warmed Chakotay to see the humorous lift of her mouth.
"You know me too well, Commander."
"Computer, resume turbolift."
It was the look in Tom's eyes that unsettled her, gave her sleepless nights, made her sit in her ready room pondering whether she had made the right decision. It had been the same look all those years ago in his father's office, when a parent dismissed his son's achievement, whether big or small, however insignificant. Tom's eyes had shattered then, and while he had appeared heroic in her ready room almost three months ago, she had seen the same look of disappointment, the way his eyes hurt.
That got to her. How was she different from his father? A man who hardly listened to his son then, who put him down because he was not sensational enough?
She hadn't wanted to tell Chakotay just how far back the hurt to Tom must have gone. It was nobody's business. Tom had not dealt well with his father's rejection, unable to understand later, after their capture by the Cardassians, that Owen Paris had simply retreated into his own hard shell. While many young adolescents were resilient and became well-adjusted, Tom had gone off the rails by the time he entered the Academy.
By then he had become a wayward cadet, intent on self-destruction, yet a genius pilot blessed with the gift of creativity. Long before Voyager left for Deep Space Nine, she had heard through the grapevine that Starfleet was building a revolutionary combat vessel, one fitted with multi-vector assault mode. The germ of an idea spawned by a very young Tom Paris, who had tried to show his father the early specifications for it. The USS Prometheus, the ship they sent their EMH to through alien sensor arrays.
She'd called Tom to her ready room, recalling the knowing look in his eyes when she told him about the Prometheus. He'd been cynical then when he'd said, "Dear old Dad managed to use my ideas after all..."
She kept seeing Tom's eyes.
In the beginning she had been fuming, then berated herself that she could have killed him. Sending him to the brig for thirty days in a way also prevented her from having to see him on the bridge, at the conn, in the mess hall, the holodeck with eyes that pleaded for something. Perhaps there was truth in the dictum that a genius or an individual blessed with a unique ability was often the loneliest of people. His father did not share his vision as a young boy. Had Tom been asking her to share his vision of a perfect Monean world? He had been so damned single-minded, so completely committed to his mission that he was right, passionate enough to disobey her.
But she was concerned. Now Tom was playing hide and seek. It had been six weeks since his release, yet he was avoiding all social contact. He kept to his quarters mostly, almost to the point of obsession. B'Elanna Torres had simply accepted that she was no longer a focal point in Tom's life. Harry Kim sought to divert himself in more prurient ways according to Chakotay, since Tom had side-lined his best friend as well. He didn't exactly alienate himself from them, just lost interest, it seemed; he was simply not there and according to Chakotay, seemed preoccupied.
It was time, she decided, that this nonsense came to an end.
She missed him, she had to admit. She missed his cockiness, his energy, his unfailing loyalty to her, especially. Their families had been in Starfleet for so long, at times their lives intersected. That was the one common bond they had. On Voyager it might not always have been viewed with cordiality. Despite his time in the Maquis, despite his time in jail, despite being cashiered out of Starfleet, the crew sensed an unconscious bearing about Tom that told them: Starfleet born and bred, from a long line of admirals.
Tom had made mistakes in his life and paid dearly for them. The last was to lose the respect of the one man who perhaps, now that they were lost in a mostly hostile quadrant, had time to reflect on his treatment of his son.
She believed Owen Paris had been just as unhappy and filled with remorse about losing a son long, long before he actually lost Tom. Tom always spoke in bitter terms about Owen Paris. Even though his treatment of his father was so shabby, she had no reason to believe that Owen Paris wouldn't have been as devastated as the loved ones of all her crew who had believed them dead.
She gave a sigh, She was ready for bed, although it was already past 1200 hours. Sleep was in short supply tonight. If she couldn't get Tom's eyes and his proud bearing that day in her ready room out of her mind, it was time to read to forget them.
And so, the one book she grabbed from her little shelf in her bedroom was the last book Tom had read before his fascination with the ocean of the Monean Homeworld: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.
The old man's eyes bore into him. The tall ship's rigging trembled, but he knew it was his hands that shook. The ship was beautiful, her lines sleek, a replica of a nineteenth century schooner.
"But, Dad, I built it myself. It took me three months!"
"You will get rid of that thing. You are meant for greater things than sailing around in naval yards." The old man's voice brooked no opposition. "Go and complete your paper on warp core engineering!"
"But I - I used all my credits for this. I want to sail the seven seas! I love it!"
He loved the oceans. He wanted to live on them. He wanted to live beneath them. The boy looked defiantly at the old man.
The old man's face hardened even more. The boy could swear there was smoke coming out his ears. Yes, that was it, he decided. The old man was fuming. But he shrank back even though he tried to be brave. He was afraid, afraid that the old man could stare him to death. Then he'd rather run away from the death stare so the old man couldn't catch him.
The boy started running as fast as he could to get away from death. He held the tall ship tightly in his hands as he ran. His chest burned. Just then the sails unfurled and began to swell in the breeze, lifting him from the ground, up, up, high up into the sky. He looked down and saw his father running after him. The faster he ran, the more the sails billowed, but the old man also began to run faster, chasing the boy as fast as he could. Would the old man never get tired?
Suddenly the tall ship with its splendid sails dipped and the boy found himself on the open ocean of the Southern Seas and he was standing on the deck of the vessel. He called the vessel the Enterprise. Then the old man got tired and stopped running. He was standing on the shore of an island.
"You can't catch me, you can't catch me!" he shouted to the old man.
The old man cried out, "Stop the ship! Stop now or I will shoot you!"
The boy turned to look and saw his father pointing a phaser rifle at him. His eyes widened in alarm, thinking that his father was really going to shoot.
Then he saw a flash as his father fired the rifle, the blast lighting up the dark sky like fireworks.
Tom sat bolt upright in bed, cricking his neck as he did so. He groaned, looking groggily around him, realising he was no longer on an open ocean sailing a schooner called the Enterprise. He rubbed his neck. A deep thickness settled in his head, the start of yet another headache. He'd been having a lot of those lately, ever since they had been under attack while he had been in the brig.
He'd also been having a lot of nightmares lately...
He got up and made his way to his bathroom. Opening his med-kit, he retrieved a hypospray and filled it with a sedative. A minute later he felt better.
"No sleep for me tonight," he muttered as he realised it was only 0100.
He needed to keep busy. Always busy, especially when he was off duty, so he could forget a pair of accusing blue-grey eyes that stalked him day after day and most nights, especially the thirty days he'd spent in the brig.
"Forget her, Paris. She'll be the death of you."
He tried to remember the nightmare. The same one he had in the brig, only this time the old man was about to phaser him into oblivion. Maybe he should have dreamt on, just so he could be phasered and remain in the realm of oblivion. Then he didn't have to dream again of the old man and his accusing eyes, or of her with her accusing eyes, or of their anger which always, always, always lay so close to the surface.
Sighing, he walked to his closet where he'd installed a large drawer and side-cupboard when he boarded Voyager at Deep Space Nine. No one needed to know of his secret hobby, not even B'Elanna. B'Elanna was as good as dead to him anyway. Since his release from the brig he'd ignored her, kept away from his friends and generally distanced himself from them. Though, to their credit, they refused to take his 'no' for an answer and remained friends. He still felt so damned negative! He didn't want to be seen around them wearing only one rank pip. Janeway had the other one, what could he say? Ensign expendable. What a crock.
He took the cloth covered object from the cupboard and walked to his tiny alcove, placing it on the counter. He removed the cloth and stared at his ship for so long that he forgot for a moment his resentment, his shame, the embarrassment of being an ensign again. How had he managed to keep this a secret for so long? His father! That's it! Dear old Dad was the reason. Made him think he was never good enough!
"Sweet baby, you're almost complete..." he murmured as he caressed the ship from bowsprit to the aft section, all along its oak hull.
Although he'd been building and dismantling tall ships from around age seven, this particular project began life as an idea in his senior high school year and started at the Academy. It had gained momentum years ago at Caldik Prime, throughout his period in the Maquis and in the New Zealand Penal Colony. There he'd been allowed to pursue his hobby as part of his rehabilitation.
From his tool box Tom retrieved four black objects, no longer than three centimeters, each resting on a gun carriage marginally bigger.
"Time to glue you babies into place... In real life you would have been 12-pounder naval guns..."
The four guns - black on yellow gun carriages were perched on the upper gun deck. Deft fingers gingerly controlled the tiny cannon and their supports, carefully inserting them into their slots. When all were glued into place, Tom sat back and gave a satisfied smile.
"That's cannon 101, 102, 103 and 104. Now to complete the sails. But first..."
Tom moved so that he could look at the bowsprit again. He had chosen Lady Emma Hamilton to grace the bowsprit. The eyes were blue-grey. For a moment there flashed a pair of angry blue-grey eyes. Tom closed his eyes to dispel the image of the face. No, keep away from me, Janeway!
"Damn Janeway," he murmured and pulled his gaze away from the bowsprit.
Over the years, and especially on Voyager, he'd saved every available credit and ration to replicate the parts, but the sails were going to be hand-made from a cotton-like fabric he'd purchased at a bazaar on the Gorkoran Homeworld a year ago. B'Elanna had given him a strange look. "It's for my mother, when we get home...one day," he'd answered her lamely. She never asked about it again. He stored the cloth in his tool box. Now he was ready to cut and sew the sails.
"Your father used to say you never finished anything."
Tom frowned. Those were Harry's words to him in the brig. The things he used to tell Harry! Dear old Dad's favourite line when it came to his son. "Go to hell, Harry..." he muttered.
"I wrote you a letter, Dad. Maybe you won't think so badly of me when you read it, which you probably never will. We're stuck here forever. But little Tommy will feel better for having finished his ship. There, Harry Kim, you can take that and swallow it."
Now his tall ship was nearing completion. The rigging was complete - every single rope, line and naval knot. He still felt wide awake. Janeway's fault.
"Go to hell, Janeway, you ruin my nights," he mumbled as he took the sail cloth from the box and started cutting the first of the ship's thirty seven sails. If he worked nights, it would take him two weeks to sew and attach them all. Then his ship would be complete and he'd be able to say, "There, I finished something I started, old man. Take that and swallow it."
So he started cutting the sails from the polytarp cotton. Come morning, he'd be finished. Tomorrow he could start sewing the sails - fine, fine stitches just like he'd taught himself when he was nine or ten and Dad never knew.
The sound came from the deepest recesses of his brain. It started as a light tingle from his dream - this time he was out-sailing the old man in the Southern Oceans, playing a game called "Catch me if you can."
Now it was more persistent, the tingle became a persistent beep that sounded like...
Tom sat bolt upright, bleary eyed.
He rubbed his eyes. He'd fallen asleep, the cutters still in one hand, a sail in the other, his forehead dented where it had come to rest on a piece of flotsam on the counter. He ran to the room and picked up his commbadge. It beeped again.
"Janeway to Paris."
"Be in holodeck two at 0700. Commander Chakotay has freed you this morning."
It was morning?
He was certain he slurred his words. He was certain she thought he'd been drinking. He was still groggy from sleep which had finally overtaken him at who knows what time? He looked at his chronometer. It was 0600! He swore under his breath as he swiftly proceeded to pack away his tall ship and tools, pulled the sheets on his bed into some semblance of order and hurried into the bathroom.
What did Janeway want with him and in the holodeck of all places? Why not her ready room, where she could strip him of the only rank pip still on his collar these days? Why not?
Eyes, Paris. Remember the eyes and keep angry. Keep angry and feed your resentment. What resentment? Long ago in her ready room, he had accepted her decision, accepted that he had been wrong to disobey orders.
"One can be right and disobey orders," he murmured as he showered. "No, to disobey is wrong. Or, wait, why not disobey because you're entirely convinced you're doing the right thing?"
Goddammit! I believed in my cause this time. Even though I searched for one before but didn't believe in it. This was different. I have an unholy attraction to water, didn't you know, Father? Didn't you know, Captain Janeway?
By the time he was dressed, a single pip adorning his collar, a hundred thousand scenarios had played out in his mind. Why did she want to see him? What did she want? She'd already dressed him down good and solid. She'd taken his rank from him. She'd made him an ensign. How much lower could he go? He was a poster boy for lost causes. Once upon a time she had bartered for his freedom. He had accepted her terms with bravado. Why? He was the best pilot she could have, was what he told her. Still, what she had done for him established good relations between them. It had been a good four and something years.
Now, he pondered over the terse instruction that he be in holodeck two at 0700. It was certainly not to engage in games with him. He had managed, in the last six weeks, to avoid having to socialise. He had remained strictly professional, perhaps even more conscientiously than ever before. He wanted to eradicate the old idea that they had something other crew didn't have - Starfleet history, with parents who were friends.
Should he tell her some crew -
"No, I'm no goddamned tattle-tale! No way I'm going to snitch and look like an itch...bitch."
He laughed at his own crude alliteration as he exited his quarters and proceeded towards the turbolift.
END CHAPTER ONE