Tom settles in Ireland when all is said and done. There's a lab there, a small one that is technically Starfleet but hires civilians, too. Tom designs shuttles, runs passengers and cargo, and maybe most importantly, gets to retain his rank. He doesn't kid himself – his rank was a gift in the first place and here, back on Earth, he is surprised still to have it. No one knew what would happen when Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant. What of their careers? What about the Maquis and the crew they'd picked up along the way? What of ex-cons who should have never been anything more than observers?
Tom is lucky, he knows. A father high up in Starfleet and a Captain willing to fight for every member of her crew has done him a world of good. He got his rank and a choice pick of assignment in the sector. Another starship, the academy, headquarters, anything he wanted really. When this assignment came to his attention, he couldn't pass it by.
"Trying to capture your glory days?" Janeway had asked. Technically, Janeway had to authorize Tom Paris out from under her command. He stood in her new office at Starfleet Headquarters. She'd been promoted to vice-admiral and the new uniform and pips looked good on her. He would miss serving with her.
"You mean Fair Haven?" he'd asked and she'd nodded once.
"Nah," he'd said. "I'm happy to leave that behind. But Ireland is Ireland. It's still beautiful country. You should visit sometime."
"Sometime," she'd agreed. "Good luck, Lieutenant."
"Good luck, Admiral," he'd grinned.
Sometime turns out to be one year and four months later. He is in his office when the communiqué from Starfleet Command gets routed to his terminal. He's surprised – their little office is far off the beaten path and when his father calls, which is rare, he does so on civilian channels when Tom is at home.
"Lieutenant Paris!" Janeway greets him warmly with a big smile.
"Admiral," he greets, returning her grin. "You're a sight for sore eyes."
"I'm not catching you at a bad time, am I?" she asks.
"For you, I have all the time in the world," he promises flirtatiously. She raises her eyebrow at him but doesn't chastise him.
"I have a three day meeting scheduled next week," she says. "In Dublin."
"Why, I live in Dún Laoghaire," he says, affecting a thick Irish brogue.
"I know," she says. "I was hoping we could get together. Catch up a little?"
"Better yet, why don't you stay with me," he offers. "I just moved into a house along the coast."
She hesitates only a moment before nodding.
"All right," she says. "I'm transmitting my schedule to you now. See you next week?"
"Yes Ma'am," he says.
Tom's house is a small, two-story home built to be a summer escape. Though it has been renovated to accommodate the winter conditions, the charm of it has remained intact. The night before Janeway is to arrive, he strips the bed in Miral's room and puts on clean sheets and warmer blankets. Miral hasn't slept in her bed since the summer. Tom looks around the room and decides to tuck the stuffed animals that sit on top of the bureau away in the closet.
The house is old and has a functioning kitchen as well as a replicator. His home terminal provided by Starfleet sits on an old wooden table in his kitchen. The table came with the house and has been in the kitchen for over a century. It's Tom's favorite piece of furniture in the house. It is B'Elanna's least favorite.
Tom picks up the Admiral at the transport station. She comes several hours earlier than the other Admirals who are attending the meeting with her so she can settle in with Tom. When she materializes, he hugs her and takes her bag to carry.
"You look good," she says, peering up at him and squinting slightly in the sun. She wears her hair up in a bun and for a moment it's like the last 8 years have never happened. But then, there are more lines by her eyes and a smattering of white hairs in her red ones.
"Why thank you," he says. "Come on, it's only a couple blocks to my place."
"I was surprised you invited me," she admits. "But then, you were never frightened of the command structure."
"Fleet brat," he says, as they head down the sidewalk. "You aren't my Captain anymore, you know. Sure, you outrank me by like, a lot, but you called me as a friend and I invited you in the same way."
She stops and stares at him for a moment, her face surprised and amused.
"Glad we got that cleared up," she says, laughing. "So, how are you liking the job?"
"I love it," he says. "And I love Ireland."
She looks around at the green around her, at the sun on the water.
"Me too," she decides.
Tom opens the gate to his yard and lets her walk in front of him. She stops in the front garden and looks around grinning.
"This is lovely," she says. It is the second day of October and the garden is holding up nicely. In a week or two, the leaves will fall and the petals will drop but Janeway has caught the garden just in time. The house is white and the door has a window of etched and beveled glass. She stands on the porch and peers in while Tom fishes in his pocket. She can see a dark hallway and a table at the end of it but little else.
Tom pulls out a key and slides it into the lock.
"A key?" she asks.
"You know how I like authenticity," he grins, turning the lock. Inside, he flips a light switch and a lamp springs to life. "There's no centralized computer system but I have a communications center and a big fire place so…"
"It's perfect," she grins. "I love it."
"Really?" he asks, setting her bag at the foot of the narrow stairs.
"Crown molding, hardwood floors, authentic fixtures and lighting, it's like something you designed for yourself on the holodeck!" Janeway says.
"And it was a steal." Tom waggles his eyebrows.
"I live in Starfleet issue San Francisco housing," Janeway says, walking into the living room. There is a brown couch and Tom's old-fashioned television set in the corner. On the mantle over the fireplace, there is a picture of Miral and another one of Tom and B'Elanna on their wedding day. "It's very beige."
"Buy a house," Tom offers.
"Yeah," she says. "Someday."
"I'll show you to your room," he says. "I hope you don't mind the décor of a toddler."
"Where is my lovely goddaughter?" she asks, following him up the stairs.
"With her mother," Tom says. "On the Minerva. Three months on and then two weeks home."
Janeway pauses at the top of the stairs.
"When I authorized her transfer to the Minerva, she told me it was a six week mission!" Janeway exclaims.
"It was," Tom says, opening the door to Miral's bedroom. "They just wanted to keep her longer."
"And you agreed to this?" Janeway asks.
"It's a good job for her and I love my job here," Tom says. "Miral stays in Ireland during the summer and with her mother the rest of the year."
"Tom," Janeway says. "Are you and B'Elanna having problems?"
"Marriage is never easy, Admiral," Tom says, artfully dodging the question. "How do you like the room?"
Janeway can take or leave the room; it's the view that captures her heart. The sea roils and turns outside the window and the sky is hugely blue.
"Beautiful," Janeway says.
"Why don't you settle in?" Tom says. "I'll go make a pot of tea and then maybe we can take a walk before you have to go?"
"Sure," she says.
Downstairs, Tom fills the kettle and sets it on the stove. He gets two mugs from the cabinet – not metal mugs but real ceramic mugs and sets dry, fresh tea bags in each of them. There's cream in the temperature controlled cabinet as well as sugar in a white jar on the counter. The kettle is just starting to whistle when he hears her feet on the stairs. It takes her a bit to appear in the kitchen but he isn't worried; he can hear that she's giving herself a tour.
"Really," she says, walking into the kitchen. "I love this house."
"You're welcome any time," he says, handing her the mug. "It's really good to see you, Captain. Oh." He blushes. "Admiral. Sorry."
"How about just Kathryn for now?" she says. "You're not exactly under my direct command anymore, right?"
"Right," he says.
They walk along the shore for a while, talking about his job.
"The Federation Naval Alliance has contracted us to make a line of Class 4 shuttles that are both space and sea worthy," Tom says, excitedly.
"Really?" Janeway asks.
"I sent them the original schematics for the Delta Flyer with the water modifications and they ordered 10 ships," Tom says. "We're not using the exact design, of course, but it's a good place to start."
Neither brings up why the Delta Flyer had to be made sea worth in the first place.
"Keep me appraised of your progress," Janeway says. "It all sounds fascinating."
"I'm pretty happy," Tom says. The tide surges toward them and Tom gently steers her back so the water doesn't get their boots. They walk slowly on the sand, careful not to let the house out of their view. Soon, Janeway's chronometer beeps.
"Oh, I have to head for the transport site," she says.
"I'll walk with you," Tom says. "Will you be home for dinner?"
"I hope so," she says. "If not, I'll let you know."
When she is gone, Tom goes to his office. He usually doesn't go in on the weekends, but he doesn't feel like spending the day by him self. He has a message from Harry waiting for him and he watches it right away. Harry, finally a Lieutenant, is serving on the USS Bonaparte but never strays too far from earth. He and Tom exchange regular messages and Harry always spends a night or two in Ireland when he is planet side.
Tom hits the record message.
"Hiya Harry," Tom says into the blinking light. "You'll never guess who I have as a house guest for the next couple days. None other than Kathryn Janeway. She's in Ireland for some high up Admirals conference and I convinced her to stay with me. She asked after you – I think it's about time we got the gang together. I don't think the whole Voyager crew has been in once place since we got home. Want to help me organize that next time you're on Earth? Anyway, B'Elanna and Miral are fine, they say. I'll get to see them next month. Maybe you'll be around then too? Let me know your duty schedule. Talk to you later."
He sends the message and sits back content to spend the next several hours pouring over shuttle schematics. On the way home, he stops at the market and picks up some fresh vegetables to make a green salad for dinner. At home, he lights a fire and tries to warm up the place. With the evening has come a thick layer of fog. It occurs to him that the fog could be somewhat disorienting to someone who doesn't know the terrain well. Abandoning dinner, he slips on his jacket and makes the short walk to the transport station just in time to see Janeway materialize on the pad. She grins at seeing him, obviously relieved, obviously exhausted.
"How was it?" Tom asks. Janeway just raises her hand as to wave away both his question and her day. "Not at liberty to discuss the inner-workings of Starfleet's finest?"
"Let's go with that," she says.
"What time do you have to be back in the morning?" he asks.
"0900," she says. "Not too bad."
"One thing I learned how to do in Ireland is eat well," Tom says, leading them back to his house. "You hungry?"
"Famished, actually," she says.
At the house, he watches her dig into her salad in a way he never witnessed on Voyager. On the ship, she'd been flippant about food. Too tired to eat, too busy, not interested. Some of that probably had to do with their chef, but for some people, food and stress were connected.
She stays with him while he does the dishes before retiring to bed.
The days pass all too quickly and soon he is walking her back to the transport station for the last time.
"I know I spent most of my time working, but this was like a vacation," Janeway says, looking at him. "Thank you so much."
"Anytime," Tom says. "And I mean that. My home is yours."
"Until next time, then," she says, stepping onto the transporter pad.
"Bye," he says and watches her disappear.
"Do you ever worry about the future?" Harry asks, staring intently into his teacup.
"No, I have you to do that for me," Tom says, grinning.
"I'm serious," Harry says. He is on three days leave from the Bonaparte and spending it with Tom. He'd hoped to see B'Elanna and Miral as well, but their leaves hadn't overlapped this time around.
"Of course," Tom says. "It's human nature. Why do you ask?"
"You haven't put in for a promotion in over a year," Harry says. "You'd make Lieutenant Commander no sweat."
"Funny," Tom says, his face falling slightly with the weight of sarcasm. "It looks like Harry but it sounds like B'Elanna."
"Tom," Harry says, frowning.
"I'm happy with my life," Tom says. "Is that so hard to understand?"
"Yes!" Harry says. "You never see your family and you rarely see your friends."
"I see you all the time," Tom says. "I saw Admiral Janeway last month."
"All the time?" Harry says. "You saw me all the time when we worked on the same ship. Now? We're rarely in the same sector."
"I like my life," Tom says.
"You might like it more as a Lieutenant Commander," Harry says.
"It seems scummy when you put yourself in for promotion, did you ever think of that?" Tom says.
"That is ridiculous," Harry says. "Tom, half the people who work with you aren't even Federation personnel!"
"Which is half the charm," Tom says. "I like charm, I like quaintness, I like Ireland, and I like my life, so can we drop it?"
"Sure, sure," Harry says. "So tell me about Admiral Janeway's visit."
"It was fun," Tom says, brightening up. "She worked most of the time, but she had dinner here every night and we took some walks."
"How'd she seem?" Harry asked.
"How did she seem?" Tom repeats, confused. "She seemed fine."
"Good," Harry says, leaning back in his chair.
"Why?" Tom demands.
"Well, it isn't official yet or anything, but rumor is she was ordered to take a sabbatical," Harry says.
"For how long?" Tom asks.
"Three months," Harry says. "I heard it from my C.O. His wife works at headquarters."
"You missed the Alpha Quadrant gossip train, didn't you?"
"I did," Harry says, grinning.
"Well, everyone needs a vacation," Tom says. "Maybe she just had too much leave coming to her."
"Maybe," Harry says. "Rumor is she appealed it and her appeal was denied. Three mandatory months."
"That would drive a woman like Kathryn Janeway crazy," Tom mutters.
"You should invite her out again," Harry suggests.
"Here?" Tom asks.
"Sure," Harry says. "She could see B'Elanna and Miral. You said she had fun while she was out."
"Well, yeah, but…"
"Plus I'm sure she'd have no problem recommending you for advancement."
"Come on, Harry!" Tom says, standing up. The kitchen table is still covered with their breakfast dishes and Tom starts clearing them away; he noisily drops the dirty dishes into sink to wash later. Another one of the things he and B'Elanna fight about is hand-washing dishes versus recycling everything away. He likes to have dishes in the cupboard for when they hand make food without having to replicate new ones every night. B'Elanna doesn't want to deal with the mess.
"Fine, fine," Harry says, sulking.
But when Harry goes to bed, Tom can't sleep. He paces around downstairs. He stokes the fire and watches twenty minutes of his television set before getting bored and turning it off. He turns on his computer and before he knows it has encoded a message to Kathryn Janeway. He sends her only text.
A little bird told me you have some leave coming to you. Remember that there's always a room for you in Ireland if you get tired of your beige, standard issue walls.
He sends the note and shuts down the system before he changes his mind. When he passes Miral's room, he can hear Harry snoring. He turns off lights as he goes and puts himself to bed.
Tom is at work when his supervisor, Commander Hayes, sticks his head into Tom's office.
"What's up?" Tom asks. He's standing at the display on the wall, looking through schematics.
"You have a visitor," Hayes says, grinning.
"Who?" Tom asks but Hayes just shrugs and says nothing.
"She's in the observation lounge."
"She?" Tom asks, confused.
"I wouldn't keep her waiting, Lieutenant," Hayes says and disappears down the hall. Curios, Tom shrugs into his gray uniform jacket and zips it up before winding his way through the office complex to the observation lounge.
The observation lounge is really just a conference room with a spectacular view. It's a small room with a long table and several chairs, but one of the walls is full of windows that look out over the ocean. On a clear day, one could see for miles.
There's a small woman waiting in the room for him. Her back is to him as she looks out over the water. Her long hair is loose and she's wearing a green dress with a darker jacket over it.
"Hi," Tom says and when she turns around his face breaks into a grin. "I didn't realize it was you!"
"Out of uniform," Janeway says, lifting her arms and giving a spin. "What do you think?"
"Lovely color," Tom says. "To what do I owe this surprise?"
"I… uh, I got your message," she says. "I was wondering if your offer still stands?"
"Of course," he says. "You're always welcome."
"Good," she says, relieved. "I know I should have called first."
"No," he says. "I love surprises."
"I know," she says.
"Let me show you around," he offers. She has a duffel bag by her feet and he picks it up and slings it over his shoulder. They wind through the office while he points out rooms and introduces her briefly to the people he works with. The Federation employees stand up and everyone else offers a friendly wave.
"And this is my office," he says, setting the bag down gently. It makes noise – so not just clothing, but technology as well.
"Nice," she says. "What are you working on?"
"Shield harmonics," he says. "Boring."
"No," she says. "It isn't."
"No," he agrees. He motions for her to have a seat and they both sit, the desk between them. "So, how long are you planning on staying?"
"You know how they say that I wrote the book on the Borg?" Janeway says, conversationally. This is a bizarre turn of subject, even for Janeway but it doesn't throw Tom. He leans forward on his elbows a bit.
"Yeah," Tom says.
"Well, I thought I might literally do that," she says. "I have some time to do it, so I thought I may as well do it now."
"And you need my help?" he asks, clearly confused.
"I need a quiet space and someone I can trust," she says. "So yes, I need your help."
"I've been reading your articles," Tom says, leaning back in his chair. "About the Borg. About deep space travel. I think there was one about diplomatic weapons trade."
"There was," she confirms, nodding. "You keep up with Starfleet academic publications?"
"I keep up with you," Tom says. It's a statement that should be paired with a saucy wink or a flirty grin, but Tom plays it straight. "You can stay as long as you need, Admiral."
"Call me Kathryn," she says, again.
"On Federation ground I'm going to call you Admiral, but anywhere else, your name will be just fine," Tom says, standing. Janeway rises too. "Admiral, I have to stay here, but I'm going to give you my key so you can make yourself at home. Can you find the way?"
"Well, as it turns out I'm an explorer and I'm pretty good at finding my way," Janeway says. Now, Tom does grin and hands her the key to his house.
"See you in a few hours," he says and watches her walk out of his office.
Tom's favorite time of day is when he gets to walk home. Even when it's cold and the weather is hostile at best, he enjoys the walk. He puts his hands in his pockets and cuts down so he can walk along the water. The sky is daunting and by morning, there will be first snow. Tom hopes the Admiral packed warm things for her stay because while San Francisco boasts damp air and fog, it never really gets the bone chilling cold that Tom has witnessed in Ireland.
Janeway has left the porch light on for him and he stamps his feet on the mat before stepping into his warm house. He can hear that she has built a fire in the hearth but he doesn't hear her.
"Kathryn?" he calls.
"I'm up here," she says and he climbs the stairs. She's in Miral's room, sitting on the edge of the bed. He knocks lightly on the doorframe and she looks up at him and smiles. "How was work?"
"Fine," he says. "You all settled in?"
"Sure," she says, standing up and smoothing her skirt over her thighs. "Tom, thank you again."
"Hey," he says, "What are friends for?"
"To tell you the truth, I came here rather impulsively and have spent the last two hours wondering what the hell got into me," she says, looking sheepish.
"Harry said that, and forgive me, but Harry said that your sabbatical is mandatory?" Tom asks.
"Strongly encouraged," Janeway says. "But I'm pretty sure that was Starfleet for get the hell out. They think I'm over worked."
"Have you taken any leave since we got home?" Tom asks.
"I took the five weeks of medical rest we were required," Janeway says.
"So, no," Tom says. "And now you're going to spend this time working on a book."
"Don't act like you don't know I'm a workaholic," she says. "It's better than being bored."
"We'll see," Tom says, before changing the subject. "Come on, let's go down to the pub to get dinner."
"The pub?" she asks.
"The heart of my fair city," Tom says. "And if you're going to spend any amount of time in Dún Laoghaire, you need to know where the pub is."
"Sure," she says.
"It's cold, you may want to dress in something warmer," Tom warns. "Did you bring anything warm?"
"Define warm," she says.
"All right, I'm sure B'Elanna has a coat that will fit you," he says. "I'll meet you downstairs."
But when Tom is in his closet, it feels strange to be rooting around in his wife's clothing for another woman. He tells himself that B'Elanna and Kathryn are friends and that B'Elanna almost never wears any of the clothes that hang beside Tom's in the closet. B'Elanna's winter coat is still practically like new. He takes it off the hanger and goes downstairs.
"Here you go," he says. "I think there's a pair of gloves in the pocket."
"Thanks," Janeway says, and shrugs it on. It's long in the sleeve and too broad in the shoulder, but neither comment. "I do have warm things, you know. I grew up in Indiana. I'll send for them."
"If you want," Tom says, noncommittally. He puts on his own warm things and holds the door open for her before closing and locking it behind him. He glances over at her and sees her holding the coat close. If she stays she'll need gloves and a scarf. Maybe a hat if she plans to spend a lot of time outside. The thing about living in space is, for the most part they live at a constant temperature. Unless they go planet side, or something goes terribly wrong, there is a standard temperature. It took Tom a long time to get used to weather again.
"Do you have friends, Tom?" Janeway asks.
"You know that Harry is my best friend," he says.
"I meant here in town," she clarifies. They pick up the pace as the cold starts to seep in.
"I have co-workers," Tom says. "We're friendly enough. I go to their house for dinner. Sometimes, when B'Elanna is home, they come to mine."
"There's a group of regulars at the pub," Tom adds. "Sometimes I play rings with them."
"There's rings?" Janeway asks, trying not to sound interested.
"Wait until you see what the pub is called," Tom says.
When they get there, she stands under the sign that reads 'O'Sullivan's' and makes a face but says nothing and he let's her go without a ribbing. Inside is dark but it isn't that crowded. It's still early, and the crowd is mostly diners, not drinkers. Tom feels that he is both. With Janeway on his arm, however, he is a stranger. All eyes glance over them but only a few people openly stare.
"Do you get a lot of new people here?" Janeway asks.
"Not many, no," Tom says, grinning. He guides them to a table and gets her seated before scooting up to the bar to get some menus and two pints.
"Aye, Tommy," the bartender, Andrew, says. "Who's that?"
"An old friend," Tom says. Andrew raises his eyebrows. "An old boss."
"From the Voyager?" Andrew asks, curiously. They had made the news, after all.
"Yeah," Tom says, smirking. "From Voyager."
Word travels quickly and by the time he and Janeway have their meals in front of them, everyone knows that Janeway is a 'Voyager' and a few have even worked out who she is, Tom imagines.
"Is this what it's like wherever you go?" Tom asks, but Janeway doesn't meet any of the eyes around her. She knows they're staring.
"More or less," she says.
"By next week, you'll be old news," Tom promises. Janeway takes a long pull from her beer.
"We'll see," she says.
By the time B'Elanna and Miral come home, Tom and Janeway have found an easy pattern of living. Tom works during the weekdays and so, he imagines, does Janeway. He isn't certain what she does during the hours he's gone, but when he comes home, she's still usually camped out in the kitchen, her research spread out across the old wooden table. When he walks in, she looks up, surprised. Her eyes are glazed and he's seen this look before. This is the look she gets when she's deep in it, when the world and time stops and she's living in the moment, her heart beating only to solve the problem that stands in the way of her goal.
"Tom," she says, blinking a few times. "Is it really that late?"
They do this every day. He stands in the kitchen, deciding what to make for dinner while she clears off the table – replaces PADDs with dishes and her computer with the candles that usually sit in the middle of the table. She sets her empty, used coffee mug in the sink and the glass clinks against the porcelain.
They eat together. Tom will tell her about his day but she doesn't say much about her research or what it is, exactly, that she's decided to write. He doesn't doubt that she's qualified to write about the Borg. She's been inside Borg ships and lived to tell about it more than anyone else he's ever met. She's been assimilated; she's interacted with the Queen. He does doubt, however, that she's impartial. He's seen the Borg make Janeway do impossibly insane things.
After dinner, Tom relights the fire and they'll move to the living room to watch the television or to read. Sometimes, they'll walk down to the pub if the weather permits. A few times, they've walked to Tom's offices after hours. There's a holodeck there, meant for flight simulations, and Tom's allowed to use it if no one else is around. They've played pool a few times in the holodeck. She still can whip him pretty good.
It's companionable and comfortable and while Tom has grown used to living alone, he finds he likes this much, much better.
So when it's time for his wife and his daughter to come home for two weeks, he begins to dread it a little bit. This worries him. Usually he can't wait to see his daughter and to kiss B'Elanna and listen to her chatter about life aboard the Minerva. And when Miral goes to bed, sometimes things are a little strained between him and B'Elanna but long distance relationships are never easy and marriages have to be worked at. He knows this.
It's not that B'Elanna doesn't know Janeway is staying in Ireland on her sabbatical, but perhaps Tom hasn't been clear on just how involved Janeway has become in his life these last three weeks. He hasn't explicitly stated that Janeway has been living with him, has been sleeping in their daughter's bed. Janeway is a friend, a family friend and he knows if he would have told B'Elanna that upfront, she would have probably been fine with it but Tom had wanted to keep Janeway to himself, for some reason. Now, he fears, an explanation will fall on deaf ears.
On the weekends, when Tom doesn't have to work, he sleeps in. When he wakes up, Janeway is usually in the kitchen. Tom isn't sure how she does it, but the moment he walks in, she sets breakfast in front of him. The woman has a good sense of timing. They eat and then, usually, go to town. Tom lives on the outskirts because his office is on the outskirts. They walk to the transport station and transport into town. Neither dress in uniform but they do both wear their communication devices. Being marked as Federation officers is never a bad thing on Earth.
On their first weekend together, Tom took her to a concert of local music. On their second weekend, they went to the indoor market and saw the local crafts and art. Janeway had obtained a necklace that she'd worn ever since. The chain was thin and silver and the stone was dark green and opaque and sat at the base of her throat.
On this weekend, as they finish breakfast, Tom knows he must tell her the truth.
"Shouldn't B'Elanna and Miral be home soon?" she asks, beating him to the punch.
"Are you reading my mind?" he asks in all seriousness.
"No, you just said three months on and two weeks off, and according to my calculations, that should be around now," she says.
"Monday," he says, faintly.
"Why didn't you say anything sooner?" she asks.
"I was about to," he argues. "I just…"
"I'm going to go home while they're here," she announces. "You need time alone with your family."
This proclamation distresses him probably more than it should.
"They'll want to see you," he says.
"And they will. I'll have you over for dinner, or I'll come back here," she promises. "But I really think you and B'Elanna need to spend some time together. Alone." She says the last word as if it is an order, as if he has to comply. "I'll even take Miral for a day, if you want. She is my goddaughter, after all."
Tom can't argue so he simply nods. This Saturday, they stay in. Janeway stakes a spot out in front of the fire with a book doesn't move for hours except to use the restroom or to refresh her coffee. Tom cleans, as he does every time his family is about to come home. At dinner, he explains to her how it all works.
"I take a shuttle to the space station where they dock the Minerva and take them back to Earth," Tom says. "It's one of the perks of where I work. That way they don't have to spend half the morning traveling when we don't have that much time together."
"That sounds nice," she says.
"I was thinking of taking one of the test shuttles," Tom says. "You could come."
"I don't think that's a good idea," Janeway says. "I'm going to go home and then maybe visit my mother in Indiana." There is finality in the way that she speaks.
"You'll come back though, right?" asks Tom. "To finish your book?"
"I'm sure I'll have more work to do when two weeks are up," she says which is not exactly an answer.
Sunday morning, Janeway leaves before Tom wakes up. She leaves a note on the old table, handwritten on paper.
Wanted to let you sleep, good luck today. I'll call you about dinner.
A note. The room is vastly empty without her and the house stretches out even more, gaping and still. He calls his father before he leaves the house to get the shuttle to fetch his family.
"It's early," Owen says, which isn't a complaint, merely an observation. His father is in uniform, even though it's Sunday. There is no day in the week that Owen doesn't wear his uniform anymore.
"I'm picking up Miral and B'Elanna today," Tom tells his father. "Are you still coming for dinner tomorrow?"
"Sure," Owen says. "Of course."
"Dad…" Tom hesitates. Their relationship has been much better since his return to the Alpha Quadrant, but they don't exactly share everything. "Did you know Admiral Janeway has been staying with me while she works on her book?"
"Yes," Owen says. "But not because you told me."
"Right," Tom rolls his eyes. "It's just… you spend seven years solid with a person and you think you know them, but suddenly, it's like she's a complete stranger."
"Son, let me stop you right there," Owen says, chuckling slightly. "Kathryn Janeway is unlike anyone else in the universe. Don't even try to understand her."
"That's your advice?" Tom asks.
"I've served with her on two ships and now here at headquarters," Owens says. "She's a hurricane."
"Wait, what?" Tom asks.
"She always gets her way, Tom. Haven't you noticed that?" his father asks.
"Well… yeah, but… okay."
"Whatever she wants, just give it to her and save yourself the trouble," Owen advises.
"She didn't want anything," Tom says. "That's the thing!" Owen stares at him and says nothing. "Dad, what was she like when you served with her?"
"She was the same, I'd imagine," Owens says.
"What's that mean?"
"No one likes the smartest person in the room," Owen says. "And that was her. She cared more about her job than making friends. That's why she made captain at 36 and got her own state of the art ship." He pauses. "What happened to you all was some rotten luck, Tom."
Tom couldn't say he agreed with that exactly, any of it. Kathryn Janeway may be the smartest person in the room, but on Voyager it had never made her unpopular. Other things had, for a time, but generally she was a Captain beloved by her crew. And what some considered bad luck others considered a gift from above.
"You don't think people can change?" Tom asks.
"I think they can," Owen amends. "I'm just not sure they do."