Why, oh why, had she married a blanket hog

Title: Prodigal Daughter

Contact: MEGDENTON@prodigy.net

Series: Voy

Rating: PG

Date: 10/14/00

Disclaimer: I have no claim on the Voyager crew. I wish Tom was mine, but he belongs to Paramount and B'Elanna. She'd kick my butt if I tried to take him. The lyrics are by Maureen McGovern, from "The Earthling."

Prodigal Daughter

By Starbaby

The road seems so long,

I pray I'll be strong.

Afraid, I think of you,

I'm halfway home.

Why, oh why, had she married a blanket hog? If Tom wasn't stealing the quilt, he was wrenching her pillow away. If she grabbed it back and clobbered him, he merely smiled beatifically and sank farther into his dreams. It was the lazy, golden-stubbled grin of a man unaware that he was going to have his very own bed out on the couch if he didn't leave her comforter the hell alone.

B'Elanna sighed and flopped onto her back, tugging ineffectually at the sheet, but Tom was rolled up like a Trellian crepe, tighter than Seven's plum unitard. She stared at the ceiling, wishing for some Kylerian goat's milk to help her sleep. But if Q appeared in her bedroom, milk or no milk, there'd be an omnipotent being with a badly broken nose. Tom snuffled in his sleep and B'Elanna reached over to touch him.

Two lives, worlds apart,

You reached for me and touched my heart,

And, oh, how I've grown.

I'm halfway home.

She wouldn't really banish him, of course. Her life as as a Tabern monk was long over, to B'Elanna's relief. Her love life burned hotter than Voyager's engines at warp nine, thanks to the passionate Tom Paris. Seven years after their marriage, they still couldn't get enough of one another. Five years after the crew's return to the Alpha Quadrant, every time was like the first.

B'Elanna's eyes drifted to the corner. Proof of their satisfaction with one another lay in a white bassinet, sleeping soundly, for once. Alexander was a great blessing, a beautiful, dark-haired baby with a warrior's lungs. His father claimed he was a prodigy. Alex was just a newborn, but B'Elanna could see the Klingon nature in this child, much more than she detected it in his blonde sisters. At three and five, the girls were already adventurous, like their father, with an easy popularity that would serve them well. Sera and Skylar would be leaders someday. She hoped they would be good and kind, inspiring loyalty in their people as Kathryn Janeway had in hers. B'Elanna would have followed her Captain into hell, if the need arose.

B'Elanna dearly loved her children, her husband, and her life, but her Klingon nature was always at odds with her gentler human side. She'd brought punch to the Kindergarten Moms meeting last week, but had to fight the urge to take down the Moms who voted against her motion for more supervision in the sandbox. When Sky complained of monsters under her bed, B'Elanna's instincts told her to load a weapon to chase her child's ghouls away. Sometimes, she wondered if she was cut out for parenthood.

Take today, for example. By mid afternoon, both girls were hyperactive and the baby was fussy. Finally, B'Elanna threatened them with a rendition of Falor's Journey if they didn't settle down. Apparently, the Paris children weren't as enlightened as Tuvok's. By verse three they were usually jumpy as Tika cats, asking to hear how Neelix vaporized a pot roast. Sometimes, B'Elanna wondered if her children were normal.

A good mother wouldn't threaten her children with unbearably long Vulcan folk songs, would she now?

B'Elanna heaved another sigh and tried to wrest control of a blanket. Tom murmured something about reaction control thrusters. Giving up, B'Elanna pressed herself against his warm body and dragged some of the blanket over them both. She fell into a fitful sleep and dreamed of the therapy sessions her babies would surely need.

When B'Elanna awoke, the quarter moon was still high in the night sky. In the next room, Sky sang softly, a three-year old's epic song about her beloved Uncle Harry battling assorted Kazon. That must have been what woke B'Elanna. The slightest murmur brought her to full alert these days, the same way a tremor in Voyager's engines would rouse her instantly. Muttering a Klingon obscenity, she sat up to gauge the chances of getting any of the bed linens onto her side. Her eye was drawn to Alex's cradle, and she froze.

There, cast in the strangest golden light, sat Kes.

She perched in the chair beside the bassinet, rocking it gently with one dainty foot. Her golden hair gleamed, framing the gamine features. In her rustic little tunic, Kes had always reminded B'Elanna of an elf, a fairy creature from Neelix's great forest.

B'Elanna's instincts screamed at her to leap up, grab the baby, and engage Kes in a good old Klingon-style brawl. Kes had wreaked havoc on board when she returned, hitting with the force of a Torean ice storm. But this wasn't the furious creature who'd come in place of Voyager's prodigal daughter. This was Kes before the sadness, as B'Elanna had first known her, the way she liked to remember the gifted girl. Kes was like a comet streaking across the sky, leaving a mark in crossing, making the heavens her own for the brief time allotted. Her life-light was brilliant, but so fleeting. The glow that surrounded her now was indescribable, made up of many hues. There was gold, purple, and indigo. There were colors B'Elanna had never seen in all her travels through the Federation and beyond.

B'Elanna lay frozen, too shocked to even poke Tom, not that a jab would have roused him. Nothing short of a housefire, or her offer to fool around, would bring Tom to consciousness. B'Elanna wondered if she was delirious. Maybe it was the mendakan pox. Or else she was in the Q continuum.

Kes leaned over the tiny, ruffled bed and B'Elanna held her breath. Alex made a baby sound, that kittenish noise newborns had made since the dawn of time. B'Elanna didn't think it possible, but Kes-or was it her katra, or soul-brightened more at the tiny sigh, lighting up as if she'd just been plugged in. B'Elanna expected sparks to fly from her ears like a photon burst.

I'm not sure what will be,

But part of you I take with me.

Afraid, but not alone,

Cause you're part of me.

I'm halfway home.

She'd thought of Kes as they left the Delta Quadrant. Somewhere in that vast expanse, the Ocampan was declining, and when her time came, she would die all alone. There would be no one to mourn the gentle dreamer who enjoyed poetry and watching seedlings grow. Kes was a true explorer, entering each adventure in enthusiastic lockstep with her Starfleet comrades. She deserved a ceremony, with blessings and prayers, before her mortal shell was committed to the stars.

Kes's eyes were still on the baby, then she looked to B'Elanna. There was wisdom there; knowledge only gained once the spirit leaves the body to traverse a million different levels of being. There was also longing, for Kes had missed out on the things that someone of her sweet nature should have had by right: home and family. Kes would have made a wonderful mother. Instead, she vanished in life's morning. Nine years wasn't even the noon hour in a normal life span.

As fast as she'd come, the Kes-spirit was gone. The whole vision couldn't have lasted more than a minute or two, but B'Elanna felt like she'd been hit with a phaser beam. It took a visit from a lonely ghost to bring home to her the fleeting nature of time, and how foolish it was to squander the gift of years. So her family was unconventional, more Talaxian ale than Ktarrian merlot. So she read picture books now instead of "Women Warriors at the River of Blood." Her copy was somewhere under the bed, and she could drag it out if she felt the need. Surprisingly, she didn't. Her life could have gone in another direction so easily. She, not Kes, might have become a shade, gazing upon what might have been.

Who am I without you there?

Will my dream be worth a dream if you can't share it?

I was lost until you came,

Now you've gone and, once again, I'm not the same.

B'Elanna rose and went to the cradle. She picked up her son and moved to the window. Dawn was near, and she imagined Kes was on her way back to that place in the east where the sun rose and set. Thank you, Kes, she thought. Safe journey, my sister.

Tom stirred and B'Elanna put the baby down, turning to him with a smile. He looked rumpled, and his golden hair stood in spikes.

"Hey, Tom Terrific." She greeted him in her sultriest voice, using Gaunt Gary's nickname. It always made him blush. B'Elanna squealed as he jumped up and tackled her onto the bed. Life was good.

Tom Terrific, indeed.