There have been a number of good drabble series lately – by Anke (in German), BonesBird and Dax's 10th Host in particular - but I just couldn't see myself doing anything that short. Then, suddenly, this comes out, just as I'm starting Something Really Long again. Go figure. Oh, and if you're looking for a plot? I'm afraid you'll have to go to my other stories; this is way too short and ... well ... random.
A private sigh of exasperation is directed at the FFN PTB, who - as I was just reminded - arbitrarily remove punctuation marks from titles and chapter headings. The title below is as it should be...
The snippets start before "Caretaker" and end halfway into Season Three. Paramount owns the stories and characters behind each one; what remains is mine, but I suspect no one will ever pay me for it. If anyone should offer, I promise to decline - politely, but firmly.
TEN RANDOM THINGS TOM PARIS REGRETS (NOT) DOING
(And One He Doesn't Mind So Much, In Hindsight)
By Alpha Flyer
There is not much difference, really, between the magneto-hydrodynamic thruster and the magneto-plasmadynamic one, certainly not from the way their controls look on the helm console of an outdated, ill-designed shuttle. The difference becomes apparent, however, when you engage the wrong one at full impulse, on three hours of sleep, while trying to avoid a sudden gravimetric shear the size of Switzerland.
Engaging the wrong one means the difference between a relaxing evening with friends in one of the many bars on Caldik Prime station, and a downward spiral of screaming metal that will end the life he has built on his father's dreams.
The observation window slowly turns red; he hears dripping as he lies wedged under his crushed console.
They lead him out of the courtroom, his hands shackled and the security anklet weighing down his steps, and he reflects on how easy it would have been to take the plea bargain – to trade information for a suspended sentence. Almost as easy as it would have been to answer the pursuing ships' hails and lead them towards their real target, the Valjean.
But he has never been the poster boy for 'easy'. Weeks later, with the taunts of his fellow prisoners in his ears and his soul shredded by their merciless attacks, he realizes the price he will continue to pay for choosing his honour and his principles over expediency.
As he contemplates whether that price was worth what he gained (or managed to salvage), he remembers the look on his mother's face when they led him away.
She stands there in the golden afternoon sunshine, hands on her hips, her auburn hair glowing. He's never met her before, but he's sure heard of her. His father made it very clear whom he considered to be the perfect officer, and it wasn't his son.
"You must be good," he drawls. "My father only accepts the best and the brightest." But he can tell that she misses his point.
The dirty look she shoots him when he tells her, "I guess I'm yours," pleases him rather more than it should. Despite her prim and proper appearance she is obviously a spitfire of a woman, and no stranger to the double entendre.
He resists the overwhelming urge to pull her to his sweat-drenched body and devour her lip-stick-red mouth in a crushing kiss (it has been a long time).
The shock they would give him through his anklet; the days in solitary; the loss of the promise of early release from the sunlit hell of Auckland – he suspects it would have been worth it.
When he first tries to land on the planet, he looks around for a landing site for the Cochrane. Their first foraging mission, trying to supplement the ship's food stocks and save vital replicator energy.
He almost settles on a fertile looking island continent that Neelix notes has potential, but then he decides he's not going to let the obnoxious little Talaxian make that kind of decision. After all, he is in charge of this mission. Later, Neelix happily points out that they were in luck, and that Tom has made the right call.
Apparently, the small continent is the only landmass on the planet where leola root doesn't grow.
He hooks the wrench into his waistband, closes the hood and bangs it for good measure. Climbing into the cabin he is overwhelmed by the smell of carbon fuel, a scent that makes him want to inhale until he gets dizzy.
Gingerly, he turns the key, flips the choke, pushes the pedal, and prays. He's never done this kind of tinkering with an audience before and hopes he won't look like an overreaching idiot for trying. The explosion takes him aback only slightly; he had expected it. It's amazing that the engine manages to cough to life at all, after a few hundred years in the vacuum of space. He sneaks a drive on the planet with the old farmer and knows, deep down, that they don't make vehicles like that anymore.
Then he thinks of Voyager, the ship's resilience and character - and surprises himself with a vow for the future: That someday he will build her a shuttle, as good as this little truck they found floating in space (maybe a bit sleeker).
But he can't help wishing he'd tried harder to convince the Captain to let him keep the truck.
She falls into his arms, giggling like a schoolgirl, when the simulated turbulence hits. His arms go around her instinctively, and he is momentarily stunned by the softness of her skin, the blonde hair tickling his chin, and the smell of lemon and freshly baked bread that seems to follow her everywhere.
But she's barely two years old, and Neelix loves her. Really loves her.
He lets go, his fingers opening slowly, lest he break something so very fragile.
When he sees his father, he is taken aback. Why can't the man just say "I'm glad you're alive, son?"
But he gives as good as he is getting, in this tired old dance between them – except this time, he challenges his father's concept of what constitutes failure, and stands his ground.
When it's all over and the nature of the illusions explained, he is curiously relieved that it wasn't his father he'd been talking to. But he also questions why that discussion had to wait until the Delta Quadrant.
His father still doesn't know who he is.
He lies writhing on the ground, his empty lungs on fire and his insides being ripped apart by Neelix' special coffee. And suddenly, the nature of exploration and the consequences of crossing new boundaries seem as irrelevant as his desire to prove himself to the world.
All he can think of right now is that for this amount of pain, he might as well have had a glass of Romulan Ale.
The heavily armed and desperately unwashed Kazon warrior leads him off the Talaxian ship and tells him, brusquely, to wait for Seska. The room is full of consoles, ideal for doing what he has come for. But when his eyes scan for escape possibilities, there seems to be only the front door.
The soft padding of Seska's leather boots approaches, and he thinks of Harry and B'Elanna, Kes and Neelix. He hopes the Captain will tell them the truth when he does not come back.
And he wonders just why he refused her offer to leave his friends a message.
Sailing on Lake Como. He can't think of a better way to spend an evening with this woman whom he can't seem to tire of looking at. But he just had to drop that line about her living like a Tabard monk, and now he can't really blame her for rejecting his invitation.
What is it about her that has him tongue-tied one moment, babbling the next, and losing all verbal filters at the most inappropriate time? He hasn't been this awkward around a girl since puberty.
Freddy friggin' Bristow?
She cowers in a corner of the cave now. He can still taste her on his lips, feel the electric touch of her tongue in his mouth, the sting of her teeth on his cheek, and the bruises left by her fingers as they were clamping down on his wrists.
Three steps is all it would take, and he would feel her breasts pressing against him again, her hot breath in his face.
Three steps to pull her towards him and give himself to her, as she has asked.
Three steps to fulfill the dreams that have been keeping him awake for months now, and to slake the desire that is coursing through his veins.
He forces his feet to remain still, willing them to take root in the rocks of the hot, dusty cave. He believes, however irrationally, that there will come a better time to make his wishes come true. A time when they will be hers, too.