Bridging the Rift

by

SoulfulSpike1880
(formerly CherPal2)


 
A Starfleet crew was once again in control of the Prometheus and the doctor and his new friend and colleague, Mark 2, had just completed their report to the captain of the Federation ship Taragon, sent to recapture the Prometheus from the Romulans. As the astounded Captain Winters stared at the two holograms in stunned disbelief, the doctor, looking extremely pleased with himself, turned to Mark 2 and extended his hand.

"It has been a great pleasure serving with you, Mark 2. I am confident that you will have a bright and noble future in Starfleet." The older doctor beamed as he zealously pumped Mark 2's hand. "Just look how far you've come in one day under my tutelage! It makes me proud to know that I had a hand in molding the future generation of EMH's. To think that someday emergency medical holograms all over the universe will--"

The captain's pointed cough caused the pontificating hologram to pause. The captain had finally composed himself enough to remember that he was the captain and that the two in front of him were, after all, holograms. Fortunately, the pause allowed the doctor to remember his purpose. "Captain, I would love to stay and chat some more with you about today's historical events, but I am needed on Voyager--"

"Of course, Doctor," the captain responded quickly, grateful for the reprieve. He hadn't realized that holograms could be so talkative. He'd had to remind himself repeatedly throughout their account that they really were computer generated programs. "I'll contact Starfleet Headquarters immediately so you can make your report. I think everyone has waited long enough to hear news of Voyager. Turning his attention to Mark 2, he ordered the experimental prototype back to sickbay.

Mark 2 looked at the older doctor, his mentor, and for a moment the captain thought the younger hologram was going to burst out in tears. Instead, Mark 2 impulsively reached for Voyager's doctor and pulled him into a bear hug. The doctor looked nonplused for a moment but quickly adapted and returned the hug. The captain didn't know whether to laugh or scream at the sight. With a final melodramatic sniff, the young EMH transported himself back to sickbay.

Captain Winters contacted Starfleet and within minutes the doctor was facing a council of five Starfleet admirals on the viewscreen. Winters quickly brought the admirals up to speed, afraid to let the long-winded EMH begin his tale again.

The admiral sitting at the center of the table smiled warmly at the doctor. "Congratulations, Doctor. You have accomplished a great deal today. Not only have you traveled back from the Delta Quadrant, you nearly single-handedly defeated the Romulans. I can't wait to hear the Romulans' response to this one!" Three of the admirals chuckled at the remark. But one remained solemn as he stared intently at the doctor, his gaze never wavering.

"Doctor, allow me to introduce everyone. I am Admiral Brian Stenton." He pointed to the others as he introduced them, "To my right are Admirals Jonathon Lembeck and Adam Barrows and on my left are Admirals Owen Paris and Cynthia Krenshaw."

Elated, the doctor turned to the solemn-looking admiral. "Admiral Paris! Tom's father! This is a very pleasant surprise!"

Taken aback by the effusive EMH, Admiral Paris asked warily, "You know my son?"

Noting the apprehension in the admiral's voice, the doctor proclaimed, "Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris is a senior officer on Voyager." Pleased at the stunned expression on not only the admiral's face, but everyone else's, the doctor smiled broadly and continued with aplomb, "Mr. Paris has been responsible for saving the lives of the crew numerous times -- often at great risk to himself, I might add. He is Voyager's chief helmsman and the general consensus is that he's the best pilot in the quadrant. As a matter of fact, if not for the benefit of his piloting tutelage, I may not have been able to save the Prometheus from the Romulans today."

The doctor, expecting Admiral Paris to be delighted at this good news about his son, was disappointed by the admiral's impassiveness. Somewhat disconcerted, the EMH continued in a more sober tone. "In addition to his piloting duties he is also my medical assistant -- although he's spent more time in sickbay as a patient than my assistant. Actually," he mused as he absently rubbed his chin, "Mr. Paris been a patient more often than anyone else on board, now that I think about it." Before the EMH sidetracked any farther, Admiral Stenton cleared his throat, bringing the doctor's attention back to the present.

"Ah, well, I suppose it would be best to start at the beginning . . ." He then proceeded to relay the events of the past four years. He watched Admiral Paris closely as he recounted the trials and triumphs of Voyager.

"Thank you, doctor, for your very precise and complete report. I think I speak for all of us when I say that Captain Janeway and the entire crew of Voyager have exemplified the best Starfleet has to offer. We will be sure to notify the families of the crew immediately. Please tell Captain Janeway that we will be making every effort to get Voyager back home. We won't stop until we do. She is no longer alone."

"Thank you, Admiral. I know how much it means to the crew for their families and loved ones to know that they are alive and well.  And for those families who have lost their loved ones, to know once and for all what happened." The doctor spread his gaze across the panel of officers before him. "It is an amazing crew -- more than a crew, really. They are a family. And they've taught me the importance of family. Some have taught me more than others," the doctor finished, resting his gaze on Admiral Paris. The admiral had said little during the doctor's report, asking only about the different alien races they had encountered and some of the tactical choices Captain Janeway had made. He had not asked any questions regarding his son, nor had he commented on any of his accomplishments.

Admiral Stenton rose as he addressed his associates, "This is the best news we've had in a long time. And retrieving the Prometheus from the Romulans was an added bonus. But we have a great deal of work ahead of us. We will reconvene at 1900 hours to begin strategizing our next steps. Godspeed, Doctor, to you and your crew. Captain Winters, we look forward to your bringing the Prometheus home." He approached Admiral Paris and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Congratulations, Owen. It's not every day a man gets his son back." Admiral Paris silently accepted the sentiment with a nod as the officers began filing out of the conference room.

Disappointed that Admiral Paris hadn't wished to speak to him about Tom, the doctor watched dismally as Captain Winters reached over the console to end the transmission. He quickly debated whether it would be proper Starfleet protocol for an EMH to broach a personal matter with an admiral, when the admiral solved the dilemma for him.

"Doctor! If you could spare a few more minutes I . . . I would like to speak with you."

"Of course, Admiral," the EMH responded happily.

Admiral Stenton nodded approvingly at Paris before following the others out. Captain Winters, aware of Tom's history, wisely left the room without being asked, instructing the doctor to notify him when ready to return to Voyager.

Admiral Paris stared at the doctor, a war raging behind the familiar blue eyes. The doctor saw the vulnerability the admiral tried so valiantly to hide and was gratified to finally see the admiral display some emotion. Now he better understood how Tom had become so adept at hiding his emotions behind the affable mask he often wore.

After a prolonged silence the doctor finally asked matter-of-factly, "Would you like to ask me about Tom, Admiral?"

A myriad of emotions flashed over his features as Owen Paris struggled to find the words. Years of pain and sorrow and silent suffering had taken their toll. Now that he had the opportunity to get to know his son again, albeit indirectly, he didn't know where to begin. What he had heard today had stunned and moved him and he wanted to hear more -- know everything there was to know about this new, apparently reborn, Tom Paris. His son.

"Doctor, my son and I . . . we. . ." Owen Paris began haltingly before he stopped altogether, shaking his head in frustration. He sighed before continuing, "I don't know how much you know about the . . . difficulties Tom and I--"

The doctor cut him off. "Admiral, I have known Lieutenant Paris longer than I've known pretty much any other crewmember on board. He and Ensign Kim were the first to activate me and, other than Kes, no one has spent more time in sickbay than Mr. Paris. Although he usually tries to hide his true feelings, he has disclosed some of the . . .  difficulties, as you say, on occasion."

"Then you are aware that when he left we were not speaking? That I had cut him off completely?" Paris asked bitterly, the bitterness directed inwardly.

The doctor stepped closer to the viewscreen. "Admiral," he began quietly, "I am aware that Tom knows he made some mistakes and let his family down. I know you had a very difficult relationship. But I also know that Tom, whether he will consciously admit it or not, loves you and wants to -- no, needs to, earn your respect. After he broke the Warp 10 threshold he suffered a side effect which, among other things, caused delirium. During his rantings it became very clear that he wanted you to be proud of him. I hope you are, Admiral, because your son has successfully traveled a very long, difficult, uphill path these past four years."

"Are all of his shipmates staunch supporters like you?" the admiral asked with a small smile.

The doctor made a sound which sounded remarkably like a snort to the admiral. "Mr. Paris and I did not start out on the best of terms, believe it or not," he revealed dryly. "Had this conversation taken place two or three years ago, I doubt my opinion of him would be so high. To be perfectly honest, he annoyed the hell out of me -- still does on occasion. He was very cocky and arrogant with a carefree, cavalier attitude towards life. Signs I now recognize as defense mechanisms. Few people in the beginning trusted him, let alone liked him. This was a ship full of Starfleet and Maquis, both of whom considered him a traitor. And the only reason he was on Voyager and had been released from prison early was to help Starfleet capture the Maquis ship. Something that, for a very long time, Commander Chakotay didn't forgive him for, as you might imagine." The holodoctor paused.

"But Captain Janeway saw something in him and gave him a chance. He was considered her 'personal reclamation project' to many on board and he never let her down. You know from my report earlier how often he's been responsible for saving the lives of crewmembers; how his piloting skills have repeatedly saved the ship. He has put his own life on the line for the others countless times. That man has more lives than a cat. I told him once he was too stubborn to die and I'm beginning to believe it. He enjoys flirting with danger and likes to push things to the limit and yet, for as reckless as he seems to be sometimes, he always seems to come through triumphant. Any uncertainty people had of him early on was eventually displaced once they realized that he really could be counted on when the chips were down. He has gone from being ostracized to being one of the most well liked and respected officers on board."

"I think my opinion of him changed for good after he orchestrated the rescue of Voyager from the Kazon. While Mr. Suder and I managed to sabotage the ship, without Tom we never would have been able to retake Voyager and rescue the crew from that godforsaken planet they had left them on."

"And he was one of the first to treat me as a person, not a hologram. I went to him for advice on some, shall we say, rather personal issues and he always treated me with respect. While we've had our disagreements, and he can still be a very difficult patient at times, not to mention exasperating, I think of him as a friend. One of my best friends, even."

The doctor's testimonial had left Paris emotionally drained. He was so proud of the man Tom had become, and yet felt such sadness that he may never have the opportunity to meet that man himself. It was a piercing pain, the sorrow and joy combined. He slowly sat down on the edge of the conference table, feeling his age more than ever before. "Doctor, you're describing a Tom I knew many years ago but one I had thought was gone forever. Those last years before he left . . . we had already grown apart. I know that the blame is mostly mine. I was away from home so much, one mission after another. And then when I came home after the Cardassians . . ." his voice cracked slightly at the memory. He concentrated his gaze on the floor while he tried to regain his composure. The doctor remained silent. When Paris again raised his head, the doctor saw unshed tears glistening in his eyes.

"When Tom was a little boy, I had such dreams for him. He was so bright and gifted -- even as a boy he displayed the most amazing piloting talent. And he was full of charm. Everyone loved him. It seemed like he could do anything.  And, foolishly, I expected him to do everything and do it perfectly." He paused before adding with a wry smile, "We come from a long line of Starfleet elite. A Starfleet career is practically a given, especially for the men. I certainly felt the pressure --  and my father wasn't nearly as demanding as I was with Tom. I wanted to mold him -- to make him the best Paris, the best Starfleet officer there ever was. And he seemed to want the same. Only now I realize that what he wanted most was to please me."

"It is a very common human trait for children to want to please their parents," the doctor attempted to comfort the admiral.

Paris responded with a humorless laugh, "But what if the parent is impossible to please?" With a heavy sigh he continued, "His mother and sisters were always telling me to go easier on him -- he was just a boy. But, of course, I knew better. I knew my son was going to be the next James T. Kirk. I just didn't realize that Tom didn't want to be Kirk. And in the end it seemed like all he wanted to do was anything that would displease me -- make me angry. The last few times we spoke we said terrible things to each other. I've had a lot of time to think about everything that was said and done before Tom went to prison. I was too proud to think that I was responsible for how he'd turned out -- hadn't I pushed him to always be the best -- be better -- do better-- than anyone else because I knew that he could?" He snorted derisively. "But what I really did was push him away, from me, from Starfleet, from a wonderful future where he would have been happy. What a loving, supportive father I turned out to be! Family is supposed to support you,  not turn you out. I can just imagine what his views on family and fatherhood are like," he finished dispiritedly.

"Admiral, I can tell you exactly what Tom's views on family are. I know from first-hand experience." The doctor told him about his holographic family and what had happened to Belle.

"I stopped the program and decided to never go back.  I couldn't, or rather wouldn't, deal with the pain or the loss of my Belle. But Mr. Paris said some things that changed my mind -- and my life. I had created my family so I could learn what it meant to have a family -- to be part of a family. Only I wanted to run away from it when it became too difficult. But then Tom said, and I now believe he was referring to his relationship with you, he said 'All of us would avoid that kind of pain if we could -- but most of us don't have that choice. The good times and the bad -- you can't have one without the other.' And then he told me something that I will never forget:  'Everyone left people behind and everyone suffered a loss, but it brought us all closer together. We've found support and friendship and we've become a family -- in part because of the pain we shared. If you turn your back on this program you'll always be stuck at this point. You'll never have the chance to say good-bye to your daughter or to be there for your wife and son when they need you. And you'll be cheating yourself of the chance to have their love and support. In the long run, you'll miss the whole point of what it means to have a family.'" The doctor paused before adding quietly, "I believe, Admiral, that Tom has a very positive view of family, don't you agree?"

A beatific smile graced the admiral's face as tears streamed freely down his face. The doctor was amazed at the transformation. He was no longer looking at a hardened Starfleet admiral; he was looking at a father who loved and missed his son.

"You see, Doctor, I was right." The admiral was laughing and crying at the same time. "Tom has become everything I ever wanted. Even despite my influence -- or maybe in spite of it. He is a senior officer on a Starfleet ship captained by the best student I ever had, exploring a part of space that Starfleet has never seen before. He's earned the respect and admiration of a crew that despised him and didn't trust him. And he's doing what he loves more than anything -- flying a starship. What else can you tell me about my son?"

"Hmm, well, did I mention he's in love with our chief engineer who just happens to be half-Klingon?"

"I spoke directly with Headquarters. Apparently Voyager was declared officially lost fourteen months ago. I set the record straight. I told them everything that's happened to this crew. They said they would contact your families to tell them the news and promised that they won't stop until they've found a way to get Voyager back home." The doctor took a step closer to Captain Janeway and continued softly, "And they asked me to relay a message. They wanted you to know -- you're no longer alone." He smiled gently at his captain.

"60,000 light years seems a little closer today," she replied huskily, her emotions nearly overwhelming her. Chakotay placed his hand comfortingly on her shoulder. This was indeed a momentous day. Even Tuvok appeared slightly stunned at the magnitude of the doctor's successful mission.

Realizing that his mission was not yet completed, the doctor requested, "Captain, if Mr. Paris' presence is not needed on the bridge at the moment, may he be relieved to report to sickbay?"

"Of course, Doctor." The captain had a strong feeling that the request had nothing to do with sickbay. She tapped her combadge, "Janeway to Paris."

"Paris here, Captain."

"Mr. Paris, please report to sickbay."

There was a palpable beat before Tom's less than enthusiastic response was heard. "On my way, Captain."

Chakotay chuckled, "I think Tom has had more than his fill of sickbay lately."

"Well, at least he's left my sickbay cleaner than he did the last time I left him in charge!" the doctor responded huffily.

Kathryn laughed as she squeezed the doctor's shoulder. "Doctor, you have made a very important contribution today. I look forward to reading your full report." Turning to Chakotay she continued, "I'll make a ship-wide announcement of the good news. I think this is a perfect opportunity for one of Neelix's gala events, don't you?"

Chakotay's eyes sparkled as he shared the captain's grin, "Absolutely, Captain. I'll  get on it right away."

"Welcome back, Doc!" Tom exclaimed as soon as the sickbay doors opened. "We missed you."

"I'm sure you did," the doctor replied dryly. "And how did you manage in my absence?"

"Oh, just fine, Doc. Nothing out of the ordinary. Mostly just your typical post-Neelix culinary emergencies. Everything's recorded in the medical logs."

"I look forward to reading them," the doctor replied lightly. He concentrated on rearranging the equipment on the medical trays. He had been so excited about talking to Tom about his father, but now that he was there the doctor found himself feeling uncharacteristically apprehensive. He wasn't the only one. He saw out of the corner of his eye that Tom was fidgeting nervously.

"I ran into Tuvok on the way here and he told me how successful your mission was. Congratulations, Doc. Our chances of getting home sooner rather than later have never looked better."

The doctor smiled broadly at the lieutenant. "It was an exhilarating mission, Lieutenant. Romulans, battles, a new prototype ship -- actually it was more your type of mission than mine. But I managed quite nicely with a little help from a fellow EMH." He proceeded to tell his story once again. Tom was amazed -- and a little jealous, if truth be told. He shook his head in awe. "Doc, you never cease to amaze me," he laughed.

"Ah, yes," the doctor preened, "I do believe those Starfleet admirals were quite impressed with what two holograms were able to accomplish."

A taut smile on his face, Tom asked somewhat caustically, "So, Doc, how are things at Starfleet Headquarters these days?"

The doctor turned to face him. Looking Tom directly in the eye, he responded, "Somehow, I don't think you're so much concerned with Starfleet Headquarters as you are with whether or not your father was there."

Tom eyed him warily but remained silent.

"I spent quite a bit of time with Admiral Paris. Quite a charming man, once you get past the Starfleet stuffiness. I liked him."

Tom stared at the EMH in surprise and waited for him to go on. He had spent a great deal of time worrying and wondering about the possibility of the doctor meeting up with his father. Even the thought of his father finally learning about what he'd accomplished on Voyager had filled him with a mixture of dread and hope. Why, after all this time, was his father's approval still so important to him?

The doctor crossed his arms and eyed Tom closely. "Hmm, yes, I can definitely see the resemblance. Especially the eyes. And your coloring." He halted his appraisal when he noticed Tom's impatient frown. "And I believe your temperaments are pretty similar, too," he said under his breath, but just loud enough for Tom to hear.

"We had a very pleasant conversation, your father and I," the doctor continued, heading towards the lab station that held the experiment he had been working on before he'd been abruptly pulled away from it for the mission.

Tom's patience was wearing thin. "Really? And what did you and dear old dad chat about?" he asked cynically.

The doctor entered a code into the lab console. "Why, you, of course!"

"Of course," Tom snorted. "And I'm sure he told you all sorts of wonderful things about me, didn't he?" Tom retorted resentfully. "I'm surprised you even want me helping you out in sickbay now."

"Mr. Paris," the doctor reprimanded the young lieutenant, "do you want me to tell you what we discussed or would you prefer to make up your own conversation?"

Tom blushed slightly at the rebuke. "Sorry, Doc. I guess I'm just used to my father telling me I wasn't good enough. Old habits die hard, you know. If he told you half the things he'd said to me, I'm sure you'd think twice about my working in sickbay."

"That's very interesting. Because I know for a fact that your father is very proud of you and that he regrets many of the things he said."

"Are you sure we're talking about Owen Paris here?" Tom asked in disbelief. "I can't even remember the last time he said he was proud of me."

"Well, maybe, Lieutenant, that was because you didn't give him much reason to be proud of you the last few years you were in the Alpha Quadrant," the doctor retorted.

Tom winced. "Touché, Doctor."

The EMH sighed heavily. "I'm sorry. This is not going as I had hoped. Let me start over. Your father is proud of you and everything you've accomplished here on Voyager. I told him everything you've done--"

"Everything?" Tom squeaked in dismay.

"Oh, yes, everything," the doctor answered confidently. "My program retains a complete record of all my memories, so to speak. I was able to provide your father with a full report of all those reckless activities you so like to engage in." Imagining the worst, Tom gaped at the doctor in dismay, but the doctor was too wrapped up in his narrative to notice. "But your father was much more interested in all of your accomplishments . . . like breaking the Warp 10 threshold, although I didn't go into graphic detail of what happened afterwards. I didn't want to leave your father with an image of you as a lizard. Besides, I didn't think you'd want your father to know about you and the captain -- not that what happened between you and the captain was a conscious choice, of course," he added hastily upon seeing Tom's expression. He quickly moved on. "And how you rescued, with some assistance from Mr. Suder and myself, the ship and crew from the Kazon. And then there was your undercover work to expose the Kazon spy . . . and saving Chakotay's life, and the work you've done in sickbay . . . and all of the times your piloting skills have saved the ship. Speaking of which, I'd like to schedule another piloting lesson with you. I plan to be better prepared next time I go on an away mission!"

Shell-shocked as he tried to absorb everything the doctor was telling him, Tom heard himself answering feebly, "Sure, Doc, anytime you want."

That settled, the doctor resumed recounting of his visit with Admiral Paris. "Your father is also aware of the difficulties you had fitting in with this crew in the beginning, what with the distrust and loathing much of the crew felt towards you and how your rather infuriatingly arrogant and devil-may-care attitude exasperated the situation."

"Gee, thanks, Doc," Tom cracked wryly. "Nothing like balancing out the positive with some negative. Wouldn't want him to think too highly of me now, would we?"

"Really, Lieutenant, you're missing the point. In order for him to understand the progress you've made, he needed to understand where you'd started from. And that no matter how bad things seemed you never gave up. On the contrary, you seemed to thrive on the challenge. You created Sandrine's for everyone to have a place to relax and have fun in. And you constantly risked your life for the crew even when they didn't always treat you well. You may have come aboard as an Observer, but you quickly became an integral part of the crew. And you have a number of close friends, both Maquis and Starfleet. Your father realizes what it took for you to reach the point where you are today."

By now Tom was shaking his head in wonderment. "Doc . . . I don't know what to say. I had no idea you even thought of me like that. You always seem so . . . annoyed . . . with me. I can't believe you would say all those things about me to my dad -- and go out of your way to do so. Because I know that a report to a Starfleet council doesn't include personal sidebars."

"Well, this was a special circumstance," the doctor huffed a little defensively. "Your father was there already and it would have been remiss of me not to let him know how you were."

"But you could have spent that time telling him about Captain Janeway or sending messages to the families of other crewmembers. Instead it sounds like you went into great detail about me."

"Starfleet is notifying the families. Besides, I've spent more time with you on this journey than anyone else, between your frequent visits as a patient and your duty shifts in sickbay. And you have assisted me with some personal issues in the past--"

Tom grinned broadly. "Doc, are you saying that I'm your friend?" The doctor snorted as he busied himself with his experiment. Tom chuckled as he squeezed the doctor's shoulder. "It's okay, Doc. I guess I consider you my friend, too."

"Well, actually," the EMH replied rather indignantly, "I told the admiral about the family atmosphere on board and repeated your words to me about family. He was very moved by what you had told me. He was afraid that you would have an unfavorable image of what family meant because of him. He realizes now that's not the case."

Tom's mood sobered. How many times had he wished he weren't a Paris? How many years had he tried to run away from his family, from who he was and where he came from? And yet, the harder he had tried to get away from the Paris name, the more it had come back to haunt him. And now, when he was finally free of the burden of the Paris name, here he was living up to it after all.

The doctor captured Tom's gaze and held it. "And he wanted me to tell you that he is very proud of you and hopes that you can someday forgive him for the terrible things he said and for cutting you off as he did. He's had a lot of time to think about everything that happened, and his role in your life, and he knows he made mistakes. There is so much he wants to say to you, Mr. Paris -- I hope someday he will get the chance. I remember you saying once that your father said a Paris didn't cry. But he cried today. He asked me if I thought you were happy and I told him that you are. Except for missing your family like everyone else, you have a good life here. I hope you don't feel I was out of line to tell him that?"

Tom shook his head slowly. "No, Doc," he answered hoarsely as the tears threatened to overwhelm him. "You weren't out of line." He brushed the back of his hand over his eyes. "I'm sorry. I don't know what to say." He laughed self-consciously. "Thank you just doesn't quite cover it, considering what you've just done for me and my dad. I feel like a gigantic weight has been lifted off my shoulders. You know, when I was a kid my father always told me that I was special and that someday I'd do something important. And ever since, I've had this burden hanging over me because I felt that if I didn't do something significant he wouldn't love me. But when nothing I ever did was quite good enough I realized I would never be able to fulfill his expectations -- so I finally stopped trying. And then all these years I was a disgrace to my family and I thought that's how they, especially him, would always remember me. I never thought I'd have the chance to show him that I'd changed . . . that I'd turned my life around and made something of myself. In Starfleet, no less."

"Well, Mr. Paris, he knows now. And when I left him, he looked as though a gigantic weight had been lifted off his shoulders as well. He was very happy and was laughing quite uproariously, I must say, as I left."

Puzzled, Tom said, "I never imagined my father crying, but I think it's even harder to imagine him laughing uproariously at anything. What was so funny?"

"Well, of course I told him about you and Lieutenant Torres. At first he seemed a little taken aback that you were involved with a half-Klingon. But once I'd told him about all of your, umm . . . trials and tribulations and how your backgrounds and temperaments seemed well suited, well, he just seemed to find that very funny. He said he couldn't wait to tell your sisters." He stopped, perplexed, as Tom started to laugh. "Would you care to tell me what's so funny?"

"Sorry, Doc," Tom gasped. "It's just that growing up my sisters would always tease me, saying that I had it too easy with the girls. That it would take . . ." he started laughing again as he choked out, "a Klingon woman to put me in my place!"

The doctor snorted as he returned to his experiment. "Well, then, I'm sure they'll be happy to know they were right about you. Is B'Elanna aware of your sisters' prophecy?"

Tom managed to compose himself. "Uh, no, Doc. And I'm not too sure I want her to know about it. I don't want to give her any ideas."

"A wise decision, Mr. Paris," the doctor concurred dryly. Finished with his experiment, the doctor entered his office to review the recent medical logs. Tom followed the doctor into his office. Tapping in the commands, he stopped suddenly, a puzzled expression on his face. "What is this? An Emergency Medical Hologram Replacement Program?!?" The doctor began scrolling through the file.

"No, Doc!" Tom yelled, panic-stricken as he desperately reached for the controls to delete the log. He was too late. The hologram leveled a murderous glare at the horrified pilot.

"You were trying to replace me?! And with a few modifications it looks like!" he thundered, advancing menacingly on Tom.

"Doc, wait! I can explain!" Tom cried, nervously backing away from the doctor -- and right up against a wall.


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