Author's Note:

Dearest Alpha: I was informed by another fencer that "foil is for practice, sabre is for theater, and épée is for real." Seeing as you were an eppist, I trust you'll appreciate the value of me hitting... a little below the torso in this installment.

. . .


From: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager
To: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
Stardate: 65975.3
Subject: Miral's present
_

B'Elanna and I wanted to send a thank you for the sweater you knitted Miral for our next sledding trip. One question though- a small matter really - is there a reason it has two neck holes? I mean, the last time B and I checked, our darling daughter is humanoid and possesses only one cranium. [Smirk]

Thanks for the Saurian brandy, Miral's present, and the much-needed laugh. We'll try to make it back to McKinley soon, if only to acquire more 'unique' winter garments. The last one proved a great icebreaker in my one-on-one with Chakotay!


From: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
To: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager

Stardate: 65976.12
Subject: Re Miral's present
_

Ahem. I believe I mentioned over drinks that knitting is a new hobby for me, and I'm still getting the hang of it, yes? Not that your or Chakotay would know what it's like to have difficulty with a task such as, say, understanding the very basics of temporal mechanics, or flying a shuttle craft in something resembling a straight path.

Sigh. Who am I kidding? Knitting is something my mother and sister love, yet somehow, in my hands, a knitting needle becomes... err, weaponized. I guess we should all be grateful it's one of fairly localized yield?

I need a hobby, maybe something to do when I have to travel on Fleet business. Hate to admit it, but I kind of wish I had you around to design me a new holo-program. I could even go for some Captain Proton at this point.


From: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager
To: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
Stardate: 65976.51
Subject: You kind of asked for this...
_

A new holo-program, you say?

I can do that.

How tall would you like him this time?


From: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
To: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager

Stardate: 65977.2
Subject: Re You kind of asked for this...
_

Thomas Eugene, you're a petty little man, and the first chance I get, I'm suggesting to Chakotay you manually check Voyager's waste recycling system. You did say you wanted to be familiar with every part of the ship, if I recall correctly.

Oh, and know that I'll bide my time on that recommendation, waiting for the week when Chef Chell has served his famous 'Warp Core Chili' to the crew.

Yours, The Unamused Architect of Your Doom


From: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager
To: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
Stardate: 65977.3
Subject: Re You kind of asked for this...
_

I surrender! Unconditionally even!

Speaking of surrender, I forgot I was supposed to be the one picking up Miral from the nursery today. Now I have on my hands one tiny, tantrum-throwing Klingon and another fully grown, dangerously pissed version of the same.

Gotta go engineer a diplomatic solution. Gulp.


From: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
To: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager

Stardate: 65986.74
Subject: Hope springs eternal
_

I had hoped, these last few days, that your comm silence indicated B'Elanna had finally done the only sensible thing and tossed you out an airlock. But then this morning Chakotay sent me a report citing you, and all those hopes were dashed.

Anything new in the life of the most childish XO in the Fleet?


From: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager
To: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
Stardate: 65987.2
Subject: Rumor has it
_

Childish, eh? Strange that a certain Vice Admiral enjoys comming me so frequently, what with my total lack of maturity. Hmph.

Domestic crisis averted last week by making my angry wife her favorite dinner, then rubbing her feet for an hour. Also, we got Miral to stop crying by telling her to put on that sweater you made her. (It took her so long to figure it out, she forgot why she was throwing a tantrum in the first place...)

Past few days have been a grind, doing my job and being acting Captain, as Chakotay's the keynote speaker for some conference on the anthropology of social hierarchy. By the by, he made- I mean invited- the senior staff to a dry-run of his presentation before we dropped him off on Bajor. ("The Hirogen: The Basics, Beginning with Alpha.") I imagine only Seven and the Vulcans made it through without yawning. Can't say for sure since I took the opportunity to get in a much-needed nap.

Speaking of hierarchy, a little birdy told me that you've been seen around San Francisco, looking quite chummy with the Captain of a certain flagship. Should I assume that Monsieur Picard is no longer mourning the loss of the thief-turned-Q's-Muse, and you, my dear Vice Admiral, have found a more satisfying hobby than the activity a mere knitting needle can provide?

Cordially, Curious in Cardassia Sector


From: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
To: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager

Stardate: 65987.65
Subject: Re Rumor has it
_

Dear Commander Curious,

Please pass onto Mr. Kim that the next time he spreads unsubstantiated gossip about my persona life, he'll be playing that clarinet of his with an orifice other than his mouth.

No, no, no. Jean-Luc and I aren't dating. It's true that he's a nice, intelligent man, and has apparently become...very attached to me. But I think of our relationship in professional terms, platonic terms, and under no circumstance will that be changing.

Also, re Miral putting on her sweater, hardy har har. Glad to know that 'epic' wit hasn't failed you yet. [Grumble]

Sincerely, Single (I Said Single!) in Sol System


From: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager
To: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
Stardate: 65988.1
Subject: Rumor has it
_

"Nice man"?

Kiss of a death, coming from a woman. I take you at your word that nothing's going on there. Still, that line about him being 'attached' sounds vaguely familiar to a certain someone we both know, back in the old days.

Anything you want to talk about? I'll treat all information as top secret. (Promise)

P.S. Harry is now living in profound fear, and won't even disclose his location to me.


From: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
To: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager

Stardate: 65989.22
Subject: Re Rumor has it

Well... Jean-Luc and I have to sit through all these briefings together on the Borg, and along with that comes the informal receptions and the working dinners. Which is fine, because he's a great conversationalist and well-read and yada yada. But to me it's just work. Until one night he brings out this wooden instrument he apparently got when he was implanted with the memories of a life he didn't really live, on some planet that died out centuries before, and plays it- plays me a song, on this odd, little wooden instrument! During a working dinner! I swear I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Now, Tom, I'm not a person without some semblance of self-awareness, nor am I ignorant to the fact that some of the crew used to call me 'Captain Touchy.' So maybe, possibly? by leaning into his conversation or trying to sound interested in his stories I've given the wrong impression. But this... misunderstanding is bad. As in, Chakotay humming at those alien dignitaries bad. And for all my diplomatic experience, I'm not quite sure how to get out of this.

Tactical recommendations?


From: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager
To: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
Stardate: 65991.6
Subject: Picard's ancient instrument

Try not to be so hard on yourself.

Yeah, I guess the fact that you're warm and like to touch people in conversation might sometimes give rise to a few misunderstandings. (FYI- those rumors about you and Seven? Still going, despite the fact that one of you is now engaged.) But it's also part of what makes you such a great person, and such a great leader, and it would be a real shame to abandon that because one guy pointed his weird ol' instrument at you.

So, game plan: Beyond the old 'honesty is the best policy' approach, I would recommend that the next time things get a bit too chummy, you bring up a topic that's grounded in work and only work. Say, the excruciating pain of assimilation? Maybe then JLP won't be so tempted to toot his little kazoo at you...


From: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
To: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager

Stardate: 65993.5
Subject: Re Picard's ancient instrument

I'm going to charitably assume, based on the genuine kindness and maturity of your advice, that this subject line isn't the crude joke I would otherwise expect from you.

And as a side-note, it really isn't a kazoo; more like a flute or maybe a lute. Though, you know, it does kind of sound like a kazoo... Whatever. I'd consult Harry's expertise in musical ontology, if he weren't still hiding somewhere, in fear for his personal safety. As he damn well should be.


From: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager
To: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
Stardate: 65995.4
Subject: Re Picard's ancient instrument

Ma'am, you feel free to assume whatever you like about the intentions behind the subject line.

But, just for the sake of clarity, you've been telling me you want nothing to do with Captain Picard's instrument? You have not one iota of interest in the wood Jean-Luc is packing?


From: Adm. Kathryn E. Janeway, SFHQ
To: Cdr. Thomas E. Paris, U.S.S. Voyager

Stardate: 65996.3
Subject: Re Picard's ancient instrument

To be honest, Commander... my standards are really quite high at this point in my life. I'd only be interested in some fairly sizable wood, and would never in a million light years find any instrument so hopelessly old to be of any utility to me.

Of course, I trust you to keep that information classified. Janeway out!