Disclaimer: Neither Voyager nor her crew are mine. I just borrow them.
If your sister or your brother/Were stumbling on their last mile/In a self-inflicted exile/We'd wish for them a humble friend
-"Mercy of the Fallen", Dar Williams
The Way Back Home
Tom gently shifted to reach the remote control, not for the first time thankful for the small anachronism and his wife's lack of concern for strict historical accuracy. B'Elanna's head rested against his chest, the Engineering report that she had been reading before exhaustion overtook her resting on her stomach where the cause of her fatigue was just beginning to make itself apparent. Clicking off the mid-twentieth century space adventure that he had been watching, Tom reached for the PADD that he had made sure to leave within reach.
The latest batch of communiques from the Alpha Quadrant had arrived that morning, including four letters for the pilot, responses, he assumed, to the news he had sent home during the previous window. He had downloaded them to the PADD and now stared at the names of the senders reflexively feeling trepidation at the first name and guilt at the second. The third message looked to be predictably brief, and he thumbed down to the final entry, relaxing and even smiling a bit as he tapped it open.
From: Moira Paris-Hughes
To: Lt. Thomas Eugene Paris, USS Voyager
Re: Re: For my two favorite aunties (see attached)
Congratulations! Though one would think you could manage more than a four line communique to tell your only two sisters that we are expecting our first niece. Well, actually, knowing you, one wouldn't really think that, and I do appreciate the note and even more the holo-image from the prenatal scan. Oh gods, Tommy, she is beautiful! She must have mostly her mother to thank but well done on your small part, little brother.
Kathleen, who will no doubt reply with a message equally if not more succinct than your own, is, I think, still trying to work out the idea of the brother that she remembers in diapers as a soon-to-be father. Personally, I've always thought that if it hadn't been for everything that happened (Tom snorted at the three word summary of a near decade of his life), you would have been married years ago and would have half a dozen little terrors by now. I'm glad you are finally getting around to it.
In all seriousness, please tell B'Elanna thank you from both me and K. Finding out that you were still alive was...well...words fail. Finding out that you are happy, that you found someone, that I get the Tom I remember back – even if he is a couple quadrants away – makes me reconsider the possibility of a benevolent deity. I suspect B'Elanna had more than a little to do with that. Please tell her again how excited we are to have her as part of the family. And that she is welcome for all of the beating up on you we did when we were kids – I'm sure it's made you easier to live with. Or just let her read this letter.
And, since I'm sure you are one of those exasperating and utterly endearing fathers who insists on talking to your baby in utero (and, yes, I am speaking from personal experience), tell my sweet niece that her Auntie Moira loves her and that her cousins already adore her. Your namesake has her holo-image sitting beside his bed, and his big brother has called dibs on teaching her to ride a bike, his own latest obsession. They can't wait until she makes it home, and they can all run wild over Mom and Dad's backyard. Do you remember the chaos we used to cause with the cousins back there during family parties? Those are some of my favorite memories of growing up.
I know I can only get away with this because you are half a galaxy away, but I love you, little brother. And I miss you. I suspect asking you to write again soon is likely futile, but I can at least demand more pictures of my niece when she arrives. And if her father was to accidentally sneak into one or two, his nephews would be thrilled – as would his sister.
Attached to the letter were two holo-images, one of each of his nephews. Three-year-old Tommy looked impishly up at the imager, dimple flashing and Paris blue eyes sparkling; his older brother, sitting astride his new bicycle, had his father's darker coloring and a more serious expression. Moira and her husband had met after Tom had left Starfleet; his sister had tracked him down in France to let him know of her engagement. She hadn't blinked an eye at his less than pristine clothing and hygiene, had taken him out to lunch and had even gotten him to laugh over reminiscences of childhood exploits. A couple years later, she had written to him in prison to tell him that she was pregnant; she had asked to visit. If he wanted to be generous to himself, he could claim that it was the Caretaker that prevented him from answering that letter.
B'Elanna shifted slightly in her sleep, and he bent his head to kiss her forehead and then drifted a hand down to lay against her stomach. The baby was quiet this evening. Moira was right: Tom did indeed like to talk to his unborn daughter. However, given his wife's lack of sentimentality about such matters, he had the good sense to do so mostly while she slept, which was often enough these days.
"Hey, sweetheart," he began softly, alert to any change in B'Elanna's breathing: she really could use the rest. "Your aunt and cousins say hello. They can't wait to meet you when we get home." For a moment, he let himself slip into the fantasy Moira had offered of his daughter playing together with little Tommy and his brother in the expansive backyard of the Paris home. He pictured himself lying on the hill with them in the dusk, pointing out constellations as they appeared in the gathering darkness, telling them the stories that he, Moira and Kathleen had made up about those stars years ago – stories that were filled with kings, giants, knights and ladies rather than with anything resembling starships. Blinking, he wondered how long it had been since he had imagined himself back in his childhood home. Or had imagined himself back at home and happy.
"Your aunt seems pretty sure that we'll make it home," he continued in whispers. "You know what, little one? She may be right. I think maybe she's always known that I'd find my way back home eventually."
He felt B'Elanna shift again and he closed his eyes, moving them both into a more comfortable position and wrapping his arms around her now. Beneath him, he could feel the vibrations of the ship at warp, speeding through the stars on an unerring course for home.