Do the Walls Come Down

By Seema (seemag1@yahoo.com)

Disclaimer: Characters and places belong to Paramount. No profit or infringement intended.

Author's Notes: This belongs in Rocky's "Glory Days" universe and takes place about four years after Voyager returns home and one year before the events in "Glory Days." My gratitude to Rocky for allowing me to play in her sandbox and also for her thoughtful betas.

****

Kathryn Janeway's boots clicked hollowly on the slick marble tiled floor as she made her way through the atrium to the receptionist's desk at the far end. It had been years since she had last been at the Miramar campus of Starfleet's flight school; she had attended a six-week session here during her third year at the Academy. These days, Miramar served as the training ground for the best and brightest of Starfleet's pilots; a level four certification with a passing score of 95 percent was the minimum requirement for entry.

As Janeway approached the receptionist's desk, she turned her head slightly to see a demo of the latest two-person combat craft Starfleet had introduced the previous year. Its sleek lines and rounded shape were alluring. Looking at the model, Janeway felt the familiar rush of space and the exhilaration of discovery briefly wash over her. Janeway swallowed hard as she quickened her pace towards the receptionist's desk.

The ensign seated behind the desk did not look up as she greeted Janeway with a curt, "Yes?"

"I'm looking for Tom Paris," Janeway said. "He's expecting me."

The ensign, her attention still focused on the computer console in front of her, said, "He's on the flight deck. Only level six security clearance and higher is allowed."

Janeway leaned forward, lowered her voice and said, "Oh I assure you I have security six and higher, don't worry, Ensign. If you'll just point the way..."

The ensign finally looked up, blanching when she noticed the pips on Janeway's collar.

"I'm sorry, Admiral," the ensign said hastily. She stood up. "I'll take you out there myself."

"Thank you. I appreciate that," Janeway said.

The ensign did not speak as she led Janeway down a long corridor. Pictures of famous pilots lined the whitewashed walls, including innovators and pilots like Amelia Earhart, Chuck Yeager, Sally Ride, John Kelly and Zefram Cochrane. There were also portraits of some of the early starships captains who had truly made their mark on Starfleet, such as Jonathan Archer, Christopher Pike, Robert April, and James Kirk.

A double-glass door at the end of the hallway led out onto the flight deck. Under the ensign's watchful eye, Janeway tapped in her security clearance quickly and the doors opened. Janeway stepped out into the bright sun, blinking as her eyes adjusted. She scanned the people milling the flight deck and then immediately picked out Tom Paris; in his black leather jacket, black pants and aviator glasses, Tom stood out against the backdrop of the gray-clad cadets who surrounded him.

Tom's decision to leave Starfleet a year after Voyager's return to the Alpha Quadrant had come both as a surprise and a disappointment to Kathryn Janeway. Granted, Tom had never been as absorbed with the Starfleet culture as his father had been, but Janeway had still believed that the young man had had an element of loyalty to the organization, in spite of his checkered past. In addition, Starfleet had commuted Tom's sentence shortly after their arrival and had even offered him a promotion to lieutenant commander, which Tom had curtly turned down.

Janeway also had to admit that Tom's decision came as a personal disappointment; she had assumed that Tom had found himself on Voyager, that he had finally found a purpose for himself. She had also thought this new found motivation of Tom's would be his driving ambition once they returned to Earth; she had been disappointed to learn otherwise. It had taken her a few days, after Tom had broken the news to her, to understand why he had chosen to leave Starfleet.

"I have to find my own way," Tom had told her then. "One that is not defined by my father, by Starfleet or even by-" he had stopped there but Janeway filled in the blanks herself. She had given Tom a chance and he had made the best of his opportunities on Voyager; now she needed to step back and let him continue the rest of the way on his own.

Whatever else, Janeway had to admit that teaching flight at Miramar was probably the next best thing Tom could have hit on; this way, Tom was able to work with some of the best pilots Starfleet Academy produced.

From her vantage point, Janeway had a clear view of Tom, despite the fact she could only hear traces of his words over the occasional roar of engines which filled the air. Tom was gesturing enthusiastically, his students leaning in ever so slightly, as if hanging on to every word. The animated expression on Tom's face reminded Janeway of the young man's passion for all things concerning flight. Not to mention, Janeway thought with a grin, how many times Tom had turned that same energetic focus on her, trying to convince her that dangerous shuttle maneuvers were necessary or certain modifications needed to be made to improve helm efficiency.

After a few minutes, the cadets dispersed and Tom, noting Janeway, lifted his hand in acknowledgement as he jogged towards her. The few cadets who did happen to pass by snapped to attention and Janeway relieved them with a crisp, "At ease."

"Admiral!" Paris exclaimed.

"How are you, Tom?" Janeway asked.

"Good, good. You? I haven't seen you in quite a while."

"Too long," Janeway said. She squeezed Tom's arm lightly. "I'm glad you could fit your old captain into your busy schedule. I hear your classes are constantly enrolled to capacity, not to mention there is a list at least a kilometer long of cadets waiting to get in."

Tom had the grace to blush. "They want the maverick instructor, I suppose."

If there was one word to describe the Tom Paris Kathryn Janeway had met over a decade previously, 'maverick' would be the appropriate one. Now, she wasn't quite sure.

"Well, it's quite an honor to be considered one of the most sought after instructors in the flight school," Janeway said. "I was pleased to hear the news."

Tom brushed away this last comment with a casual flip of his hand and Janeway caught the hint; some things, she understood, never changed, and among those were Tom's penchant for self-deprecation.

"I'm glad to see you, Admiral," Tom said, changing the subject. "You didn't say in your note what brought you to Miramar though."

"A retreat." Janeway's lips curved up into a smile. "Apparently, the Admiralty can think better away from the fog of San Francisco. We had meetings all morning and now, we have the afternoon off. Most of my colleagues are on the golf course, but I think I prefer spending my free time here."

Tom laughed. "Half meeting time and half golf, if I've heard correctly." He shook his head. "I guess when you're an admiral, it's a perk of the job."

"I'm sure, as you must have heard from your father. Speaking of Owen, I understand he is on a deep space mission."

Tom's face took on that guarded expression that always manifested itself any time his father was mentioned. Kathryn knew that Tom's relationship with Owen Paris was tenuous at best and hostile at worse. Yes, things had improved between the two in the last few years, especially with a granddaughter underfoot to break the tension. However, years of animosity and hurt could not simply be swept under the rug so easily.

"Yes," Tom said. "A new spatial phenomenon out in the Sale sector, which apparently only occurs once every three hundred years. A once in a lifetime opportunity, you might say, to collect the data."

"That sounds like it's right up his alley." Janeway nodded. "I'd love to catch up with him. I've just come back from a trip myself."

"Really?" Tom looked interested.

"A goodwill mission, you might say. Touring planets devastated in the Dominion War. Reconstruction is slow and will perhaps take several decades before certain worlds, including Cardassia, are restored to their pre-war state," Janeway said seriously. Her trip had been more of a sight-seeing excursion, checking on progress and offering assistance from the Federation, but she could not forget the damage wrought to the planets she had visited; many treasures, including ancient architectural wonders, had been destroyed and it bothered her greatly that some culture may have been irretrievably lost.

"So I hear," Tom said. He turned slowly as a sleek craft powered into the sky, the force of its take-off shaking the ground. "Would you like to go get some coffee? It's a little warm out here and we might be more comfortable inside. It's the mess, so I can't vouch for the quality. I don't have access to the private officers' mess. You need to be in Starfleet for that."

Janeway didn't miss the slight note of scorn in Tom's voice, but she let it pass. Despite Starfleet's pardon, she did wonder if the events of Caldik Prime and Tom's brief stint with the Maquis (not to mention Auckland), were still held against the young man.

"Sounds like an offer I can't pass up," Janeway said lightly. She followed Tom back into the building and into the hallway with all of the portraits. She shivered as she stared at the stoic faces immortalized in gold frames. Tom noticed her reaction.

"I feel like they're all staring at me," Tom said finally. He chuckled. "I know, I know, silly, but it's true. Apparently the ghost of Yulepe Franik roams this hall."

"Yulepe Franik?" Janeway asked. "Of the Franik Maneuver?"

Tom nodded. "The one and the same. Legend has it that the day he died, he was on the flight deck preparing for a new move. Slow burning plasma for a gradual entry into atmosphere," Tom said. "He never got a chance to test his theory. The vessel he was pilot-testing crashed within seconds after take-off. It happened so quickly, he wasn't able to initiate a beam-out."

"And so now he roams this hall," Janeway said. "Well, every building in Starfleet needs to have
a ghost story or two to its credit, right?"

"I think it's standard procedure that nearly every building at HQ had a ghost or two of its own," Tom said as they turned into the mess hall. The room was mostly empty, with the exception of a group of cadets sitting at the far end, absorbed in their various manuals and PADDS. "Replicator coffee or brewed? I warn you, one is not necessarily better than the other."

"Warning noted," Janeway said. "Brewed coffee. I've had enough of replicators, what about you?"

Tom nodded. "I won't argue with that."

Janeway poured herself a mug of coffee and then stepped aside for Tom to fill his mug. "How is B'Elanna?"

Tom didn't look up. "Fine. She's pregnant."

"Congratulations!" Janeway exclaimed. She had to admit to being startled; it seemed only yesterday when she had held a newborn Miral in her arms.

"Thanks," Tom said. He smiled, a little shyly Janeway thought. "It wasn't a surprise, not this time." He indicated a table by the window. "Shall we sit?"

"When is she due?"

"She has another four months to go," Tom said. "We think." He pulled out a chair for Janeway before sitting down opposite her. "You know how it is with a hybrid pregnancy."

Janeway cupped her hands around the mug, the heat warming her suddenly cold hands. "Boy or girl?"

"Don't know," Tom said. "She won't let me find out. I told her that no matter what, the sex would be a surprise to us. It was just a question when." He shrugged. "It doesn't matter. We just want a healthy baby."

"I'm really happy to hear this," Janeway said sincerely. "Is she still working?"

"Yes. You know B'Elanna. She could be dying and still insist on going to work," Tom said. He looked up. "She's working as a civilian contractor to the Starfleet Corps of Engineering." He paused. "I'm planning to transfer to the flight school in San Francisco."

"Why?" Janeway was surprised. Taking a position at the Academy's main flight school in San Francisco was a noticeable step down for Tom, not to mention more frustrating as the students wouldn't be of the caliber Tom had probably become accustomed to at Miramar.

"I think I should be with B'Elanna," Tom explained. "I know, I know, it's only a forty-five minute transport one way and I could beam over in cases of emergency, but I would just feel better if I was actually in San Francisco."

"Is there something wrong with the baby?" Janeway asked carefully.

"No, no," Tom said. "But you never know. With hybrid pregnancies, you can never tell. With Miral, it was something simple - a deviated spine. And B'Elanna was so healthy during that pregnancy, but-" his voice trailed off. Instinctively, Janeway reached over to cover Tom's hand with hers. "She's working long hours, Admiral, and Miral barely gets to see either of us with the kind of schedule we have. I want to be with them."

"That's understandable," Janeway said quietly, but she wondered if Tom knew how much he was giving up by transferring.

Almost as if Tom had read her mind, he said, "After I left Starfleet, you know they gave me a choice. Miramar or Utopia Planetia." He grinned. "All of the latest craft are tested on Mars, you know that."

"Your dream job," Janeway said softly.

"But I turned it down because-" he shrugged -"three hours is a long time to travel one way. As it is, I don't get to see B'Elanna now, and I can't help but worry about..." Tom's voice drifted off. He stared into his mug and then cleared his throat. "I never worried this much on Voyager. And we had more to worry about then, didn't we?"

Janeway nodded. She couldn't help but wonder if there was more to Tom's decision to leave Miramar than he was letting on.

"I never worried about me," he said. "Not after B'Elanna and I married. But when Joe Carey was killed-" he stopped and Janeway clenched her fingers into a fist tightly under the table. Tom cleared his throat and then continued, "I was the senior officer on that away mission. I should have been the one-"

"Tom."

"No." The young man shook his head. "Grace Carey no longer has a husband. Her sons don't have a father. It should have been me. Sometimes, I look at Miral and I feel so selfish for being here and for not thinking about Joe enough."

"Tom." Janeway's voice was harsh, even to her own ears. She had not been close to Joe Carey, but she had sincerely mourned his death. Every command decision which led to the death of a member of the crew invariably led to weeks of despair alternating with second-guessing. And no matter how many times she had lost someone under her command, the pain of loss had never eased. "What happened there was not your fault."

"Perhaps." Tom sighed. "I wish I could convince myself of that."

"I know."

"I guess you're wondering what this has to do with B'Elanna," Tom went on. "It's just strange. I feel -" he looked up - "at loose ends."

*****

Janeway's head jerked back as she focused on that single phrase, "at loose ends." Boredom, when it came to Tom Paris, was never a good thing as it usually drove him to reckless behavior. In another instance, Tom had endangered his own life by using the bioneural interface on the shuttle he had named 'Alice.' There was also the time he had helped the Moneans against her direct orders to the contrary and not to mention the incident when he had been accused of murdering the husband of a woman he had been friendly with. Voyager had at least given Tom a way to channel his restlessness into purpose; Janeway doubted whether he had such an outlet here in his 'settled' life and it worried her to consider what this meant for his relationship with his wife.

"In what way?" Janeway asked carefully. She watched the man in front of her closely, wondering if he was going to tell her now that his marriage was a mistake, that he resented the ties of family, that his career decisions were now based on wife and children.

"On Voyager, I didn't have to worry so much," Tom said quietly. "I knew where B'Elanna was and what she was doing all of the time. If I thought she was working too hard, I could go to Engineering and get her. And the Doctor was always nearby. I guess that's what I miss most about Voyager. Proximity."

Janeway felt her throat tighten as she stared at the man who had so ably helmed Voyager for seven years. 'Proximity' was euphemism for something else, Janeway knew - for the family they had created aboard Voyager. And she knew - and understood - all too well what Tom did not say: that reentry had been difficult for all of them.

"I know it's a step down," Tom went on. "But I think it'll be worth it. And maybe, after the baby is a year old or so, I'll come back here."

He sounded cavalier, but Janeway knew the truth: once Tom left Miramar, it would be years before he would be considered for a position here again. In addition, a position at Utopia Planetia would be out of the question without the stepping stone that was Miramar.

At the same time, Janeway could understand the difficulty of Tom's decision; she had faced a similar situation three years ago when she had accepted the promotion to admiral, understanding that this would mean she would not have the chance to command her own vessel again. It would mean that she would be negotiating treaties, making diplomatic appearances, assuaging hurt feelings, and the like. No, there would be none of her famed 'saber rattling' tactics in the admiralty and Janeway hated to admit that yes, she occasionally did regret her decision to accept the promotion, but she also knew she would be deluding herself that Starfleet would have allowed her to stay if she had not accepted the promotion.

"I think you're doing the right thing," Janeway told him. She smiled, recalling the angry sarcastic young man she had offered a deal to in Auckland. "You know, Tom, it's been just over a decade since we first met. You've come a long way since then. You really have."

"I could say the same about you," Tom said. He sounded sincere enough. "You're an admiral now and I can't think of anyone who deserves the honor more."

"Thank you, Tom," Janeway said quietly. She sipped her coffee, silently reflecting that horrible as this so-called java was, it wasn't half as horrid as some of the brews she had resorted to drinking while in the Delta Quadrant. "The promotion surprised me as much as you."

"I didn't think you'd actually take the promotion," Tom said. He paused. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."

But Janeway was intrigued by his remark, wondering if he would finally put into the words that nameless restlessness which would occasionally drive her to distraction. She carefully set the mug back down on the table. "Why do you say that?"

Tom shrugged. "Sitting behind a desk isn't your style."

"I don't just sit behind a desk, Tom."

"No, you get to go on goodwill tours, and if Starfleet really wants to reward you, they may let you negotiate the odd treaty." Tom stopped speaking abruptly. "Sorry. That was out of line."

Janeway remained completely still, her fingers curling protectively around the mug handle. In an even voice, she said, "Perhaps you're right. But this is the way it is now." She laid the emphasis on the last word. "There is value in that, Tom."

"Yes, but don't you miss -" Tom leaned forward - "the thrill of commanding your own starship?"

Janeway drew back slightly. No one had asked her that question; instead, Starfleet Command had piled accolades on her and acted as if they had done her a huge favor, relieving her of the burdens of command. It had never dawned on them, that despite the hardships of the DQ, she had, in retrospect, enjoyed every minute of it."

"I don't think I could ever have a command experience like Voyager again," Janeway said slowly. "Anything else would pale in comparison."

"So instead you decide to take a step backwards? I know you got an extra pip, but all of your experience - I'm just surprised that Starfleet didn't want to parlay that into something more significant than diplomatic trips to soothe bruised egos," Tom said earnestly.

"It's not like that, Tom," Janeway said sharply, even as she acknowledged the truth behind Tom's words. "Experience or no, there comes a time in every person's life when they have to move on. And that time for me is now."

Tom ran his fingers over the smooth surface of the table. "Speaking of moving on, it seems I never talk to anyone from Voyager anymore, except for Harry and even his notes are few and far between. I don't think anyone has had a problem moving on."

Janeway could hear the sadness in his voice. Yes, some people had moved on better than others. Harry, for example, had received a well-deserved promotion and was serving a tour of duty on the Livingston. The Doctor was teaching at the Academy and had recently endured some rather painful upgrades to his holomatrix but the results - enhanced database and improved multitasking abilities - had benefited the EMH greatly. Tuvok had returned to Vulcan, while Seven and Chakotay had yet to settle down in one place. In addition, Naomi apparently was doing well in school as was Icheb, who had entered Starfleet Academy two years earlier.

"Tom," Janeway said quietly, "are you happy?"

Tom appeared startled at the question. "What?"

"Are you happy?" Janeway asked. She leaned forward, anticipating his response.

Tom considered and then nodded. "Yes."

"And you would be, even if you left here and went to San Francisco?" she pressed.

"Yes." The reply was strong and confident.

Janeway settled back in her seat. "Even though you know that San Francisco will never compare to Miramar?"

"Yes," Tom said, an edge creeping into his voice.

Janeway pushed her empty coffee cup aside. "We give up a lot when we make certain decisions, Tom, in order to get something else. I know, it's not necessarily what we think we deserve." She smiled. "Or even what others think we deserve. But in the end, you have to be comfortable with the path you've chosen."

Tom contemplated his fingers for a second before asking, "Do you think Starfleet promoted you because they didn't know what to do with you?"

"That's a strange question." Janeway leaned back in her chair. "I'm not sure I know what you mean."

"You were a hero when we came home," Tom stated. "Do you think that bothers the other admirals?"

"My colleagues, you mean?" Her voice echoed loudly in her ears. "It's not like that, Tom."

"Sometimes, people make comments about the fact that I was on Voyager," Tom said slowly. "We missed the Dominion War, you see, and in a way, that's unforgivable. It doesn't matter that we faced our own dangers in the DQ, but more that we weren't here. Suddenly, we were the heroes, the celebrated ones, and the officers who died during the War were all but forgotten when we came home."

Without a trace of irony in her voice, Janeway replied, "I know." She thought of the rumors she had heard, of the captains who had fought bravely against the Dominion, and yet had not received a promotion. How, Janeway wondered, could the two experiences possibly be compared?

Tom pushed his chair back. "It was good seeing you, Captain -" he paused, smiling slightly. "I mean, Admiral. A slight change in title, but still hard to get used to."

Janeway bit her lip; she knew exactly what Tom meant.

"I've got to get back to prepare for my next class. You know these hotshot pilots. They are chomping at the bit to get off the ground," Tom said.

Janeway nodded and then smiled as an unfocused memory of a young man pleading to be allowed to join in an alien race for peace came to mind. "That description reminds me of someone I once knew."

Tom glanced at her curiously as she rose.

"For what it's worth, Tom, I miss Voyager more than you could possibly know. I had the luck to command one of the finest crews in Starfleet and truth be told, no matter where Starfleet assigns me, they can't take that experience away from me." She felt her eyes misting, so she paused for a moment to clear her throat. Janeway considered reaching out to touch Tom, but held back for reasons she could not understand. "I'm proud of you."

Tom swallowed hard. "Thank you."

They stared at each other for another second before Janeway nodded in the direction of the door.

"I think you said you had a class to teach," Janeway said. "I can find my own way out."

"Are you sure?" Tom sounded reluctant to let her go. "You know admirals are never unaccompanied..."

"If I wanted to be 'accompanied,' I would have stayed on the golf course," Janeway said. "I also wouldn't want Miramar's most popular instructor to be late for his class." Janeway impulsively reached to squeeze Tom's forearm. "Besides, I did a stint here years ago and I'd love to take a minute or two to relive old memories. Tell B'Elanna I said hello." Impulsively, she added, "Everything is going to be fine."

"I will. Thank you for stopping by. And -" Tom lowered his voice - "I never thanked you for all you did for me. I'm not very good with the 'mushy' stuff, but I want you to know that I am grateful. Please, come and see us soon. I know B'Elanna would want to visit with you."

"I will."

They walked to the door of the mess together and parted there. Janeway made her way back towards the corridor filled with the portraits. She paused for a moment, staring at the great names in Starfleet history, before heading out into the bright sunlight.

~ the end ~