Letters to Neelix

RATING

G

SUMMARY

An original short story set exactly five years after the Voyager series finale, ENDGAME. Starfleet’s only permanent ambassador to the Delta Quadrant is now receiving his own private monthly datastream. Two of his old friends have a lot to tell him about the changes in their lives and the lives of the rest of their friends.

SPOILERS

“Endgame” and Season 7 in general

CODES

P/T and updates on the rest of the crew

DISCLAIMER

The characters and settings described in this story are the property of Paramount Pictures and its parent corporation, Viacom. My speculation on their futures, however, is all mine.

Utopia Planetia LQ Unit 487. DQ Datastream: Encode TEParis05.83. Continue recording:

Sorry for the interruption, Neelix. Where was I? Oh, right…

She’s playing with a baby doll that would frighten any other child. Of course, she made the modifications herself. Her mother and I found her one morning, rooting through my model shop, gluing tiny hubcaps and engine parts to the side of the doll’s head. “I want Baby to look like Aunty Annika,” she said, innocently. I don’t think she realized the implications of assimilating her favorite toy into the Borg. Of course B’Elanna rolled her eyes. Out of respect for my wife’s annoyance, I kept my laughter to myself.

Of course our daughter would gravitate toward Seven. I’ve often wondered what it is about our favorite ex-drone that makes adults so edgy and yet children so comfortable. Miral has some of the most attentive aunts and uncles any child could ask for, and she loves them all dearly. But somehow, Seven–Aunty Annika–is special to her. B’Elanna likes to pretend that it annoys her, but I think everyone can see that the old rivalry is a thing of the past, left behind in the Delta Quadrant along with the Hirogen, the Kazon, the Vidiians, and–thankfully–the last of your leola root. (Sorry.)

Of course, she sees Seven more than most of our ‘family’ since she works here on the station. Admiral Janeway–who has become quite a celebrity–spends most of her time lecturing about defeating the Borg and writing books about the different aliens we encountered in your neck of the woods. We’re lucky if we see her every few months–but we do hear from her regularly, though. And we’re grateful that she arranged this monthly link-up with you, ‘Ambassador.’

I guess you heard that Chakotay is working with Tuvok on an archeological dig on Vulcan. I never would have pegged those two to become close friends. B’Elanna says that they’re both happier now that they’re out of Starfleet. Funny: I think everyone would have predicted that B’Elanna and I would resign before they did. Kind of ironic, when you think about it.

Miral’s favorite, ‘Uncle Harry,’ is hopping from posting to posting, trying to make up for lost time. Dad says he’s in line for first officer on the Grissom. Couldn’t happen fast enough for Commander Kim. He loves that he outranks me now. You know, that kind of thing always mattered more to him than it ever did to me.

We’re lucky to see any of them as often as we do. Of course, the Doc drops by every week. It’s a short hop from Starfleet Medical, and he takes his duties as Miral’s godfather very seriously. I had to put a stop to the toys, though–he was spoiling her rotten. One every six months is the limit now.

Miral loves to climb on his lap and hear stories about his latest medical breakthroughs. Unfortunately for her mother and me, she also loves to hear him sing. Out of compassion for us, he’s been kind enough to stick to Gershwin tunes instead of the opera we all know he likes better. His duets with Seven are a little easier to take–though there’s something a little surreal about the sight of a sentient hologram and a former Borg drone singing showtunes in your living room.

I’d never tell him this, but I’m just as glad to see the Doc as my daughter is. Part of me misses those old days on Voyager, even the sickbay shifts I once considered another kind of prison sentence. None of our lives will ever be as exciting or interesting or full of surprises as the seven years we spent on that ship. It’s corny but ironic that I had to get lost in the Delta Quadrant in order to find myself. Damn, that almost sounded poetic; not like the lowbrow stuff the Doc says is my specialty.

But I’m happy here now, coming up with designs for new shuttles, watching B’Elanna build them, and watching our daughter grow up. It’s a different life than I ever thought I’d have, and certainly less exciting than the ones that came before it. But I prefer it this way.

Now I’m sitting at my desk, getting ready to register our ‘baby’ for school, wondering how five years could possibly have gone by so fast. “Miral,” I just caught myself saying without looking up, “hold that glass with two hands.” Then I had to smile, wondering when I started to sound like my father. Happily, these days, the comparison is a good one.

I’ve never liked filling out forms, but I’m a parent now and it seems to take up a lot of my time. Most of the questions are easy. Name: Miral Kimberly Paris. Address: Utopia Planetia Family Quarters, Unit 487. Sex: Female. Race: Human/Klingon. Father: Lieutenant Commander Thomas E. Paris. Mother: Commander B’Elanna Torres. Date of Birth: May 15, 2378.

Then I get to the inevitable: Place of Birth. The space is never long enough.

I resisted the impulse to try and squeeze in ‘Borg transwarp conduit, somewhere between the Delta and Alpha Quadrants.’ Instead I usually tell the shorter version of the truth: the USS Voyager.

I can hear our little ‘welcome home present’ now, making up a story to amuse herself while her daddy does his grown-up work.

“No, you cannot go visit Naomi, Baby Annika. Naomi is at school.” She’s lured the dog into her game with the promise of a bite of her sandwich. “No, Neelix, didn’t you hear me? Naomi cannot come out and play.” (Thanks for being such a good sport about the dog’s name, incidentally. He really does resemble you!)

This is her subtle way of telling me that she misses her favorite babysitter. I get the message; I’ll call the Wildman’s tonight. Incidentally, I assume you’ve heard that Naomi aced her advance placement tests? She’ll be in the command track at the Academy this fall–and captain of her own starship by spring if she has her way! She and Icheb seem to be in some kind of race to see who can outrank the other first. (B’Elanna thinks she has a bit of a crush on him, too–but you didn’t hear that from me.)

Naomi is more like Miral’s older sister than her babysitter, though. And I guess it would be good for them to see each other as much as possible before Cadet Wildman goes away to the Academy. Besides, B’Elanna and I could use an evening out alone. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that my wife is working too hard.

Oh boy, the poor dog is getting a lecture, now. “No you cannot talk to Daddy, Neelix. Daddy is working.” My daughter is trying to tell me that she’s bored and wants me to play with her. The application can wait.

“Monkey, how about if we take a trip in Daddy’s shuttle?” I ask her–as if there’s any doubt what she’ll say.

I watch the remains of her sandwich hit the floor as Neelix seizes the day and scarfs it up. “Really, Daddy?” She’s in my arms in a flash, and I lift her over my head–which I notice is getting harder and harder to do lately; either she’s getting big or I’m getting old.

“Really,” I say back to her, waiting for the arms I know are about to curl around my neck. I take her hug and give one back, along with a big raspberry in the middle of her belly.

“Let’s blow this Popsicle stand!” she says as she wriggles out of my arms. I can only laugh and shake my head. I have been a terrible influence on this little girl.

“Go put some shoes on,” I tell her, “while I tell Mommy where we’re going.” She’s off in a flash.

~*~*~*~*~

Utopia Planetia Engineering Station 7813. DQ Datastream: Encode BLTorres05.83. Continue recording:

I’m back. Some days I think they need my approval to go to the bathroom…

You know, Neelix, sometimes being half-Klingon comes in handy. I’ll say the most innocent thing, but–by throwing the proper growl into my voice–I can keep the cadets on their toes without having to really blow a gasket. Of course, my regular staff caught on to my little act a few years ago, and they’ve long since stopped being afraid of me. Just like my engineers on Voyager, I think.

Of course, it took them a little longer to realize that my bark was worse than my bite. Maybe breaking Joe Carey’s nose during my first week aboard got us all off on the wrong foot.

You know, it’s only been the last few years that thinking about Joe brings more happy memories than sad ones. I still miss him, despite our rocky first week in the Delta Quadrant, and will always wonder…if I hadn’t been pregnant, if I had been the engineer on that mission instead of Joe… It’s an unproductive thought. That would have made Tom the only human captive. They probably would have killed him instead of Joe.

It took me a long while to live with the guilt of feeling so grateful to see my husband come home alive. I know you and Tom felt the same way, Neelix. But I’ll never forget those thirty seconds–Tom yelling frantically over the com, hearing the hail from the Doctor, his shaky voice telling us that Joe was dead–it’s part of me now. One more souvenir from ‘Starfleet’s longest away mission.’

I’ve got to shake off these memories. We’re three weeks behind schedule and there’s a lot riding on this shuttle. I have got to get back to work.

“Commander Torres.” Yeoman Pebble, playing secretary again. She dotes over me, but she means well. “It’s your husband.”

Five times this week I’ve told her to call him Tom. But she’s fresh out of the Academy and still afraid of me. In the mood I’m in, maybe she should be. “Thank you, Yeoman. I’ll take it in my office.”

If I’m going to keep my well-earned reputation, I can’t have my crew hear my ‘mommy voice’–or worse. After a few long days on separate shifts, Tom and I have been known to make up for lost time over the com. We’ve been flirting for over ten years–married for almost six–but we still get carried away sometimes. I can say with some confidence that I think our marriage will never be boring.

Still, I’m busy and this had better be good.

“Hey,” he says when he sees me. “You alone?”

I’m trying to be annoyed with his interruption, but he’s smiling, and I realize I should just surrender. “For the moment. But I’m really backed up, Tom. What is it?”

Thankfully, he gets to the point. “I’m taking Miral to San Francisco for the afternoon. Do you want to meet us there for dinner?”

Do I want to? Yes. Can I? Not a prayer. “I can’t. I’ll be lucky if I make it home before her bedtime.” Thank goodness all weeks aren’t this busy. “Hey, is she there?” I see him look away from the monitor.

“Miral! Come say hi to Mommy.” Then I see him laughing and shaking his head. “I told you to put on your shoes, not Mommy’s!” He’s trying to look mad, but she’ll see right through him as easily as I do. “Say hello to your daughter,” he says to me, as he lifts her onto his lap.

“Hi, Mommy! Daddy is taking me and Neelix in the shuttle!” I see Tom shaking his head behind her: the dog will not be making the trip.

“That’s nice, sweetie.” Please Kahless, let my office door be soundproof; my voice has jumped an entire octave. “Promise Mommy that you’ll be good and hold Daddy’s hand while you’re in the shuttlebay.”

She’s blowing me kisses now, and I want to change my mind and go with them. “Bye, Mommy,” she says as she slides off her father’s lap and out of the image.

“Bye, sweetie,” I say as she goes. Tom knows these moments make me sad, and he’s looking a little sorry he called.

“I’ll let you go. Com me before you leave tonight and I’ll have dinner waiting.” Then he takes his daughter’s cue and blows me a kiss.

“You two have fun today,” I say half-heartedly. Then I remember to add, “And, Tom do not let her fly the ship!”

He’s grinning and making staticy noises. “What’s that? I think I’m losing the channel…”

“Tom! Thomas Eugene Paris, do not let that child fly the ship!”

He’s laughing now. “We’ll be safe. I promise. You worry too much.” He’s probably right.

“I’ll see you tonight,” I say, then look around to make sure no one can hear. “Love, you.”

“Love you, too,” he says back before cutting the channel. Then he’s gone.

So, I’m slightly less agitated as I head back to work. It’s a good thing they don’t know what a soft touch I’ve become; we’d never get anything done around here.

~*~*~*~*~

Shuttle DF74656. DQ Datastream: Encode TEParis05.83. Continue recording:

I’m amazed we got out of the house without tears or a tantrum. As I suspected, Miral had her heart set on bringing Neelix along on our little ‘away mission,’ but I explained that he was working on a very important project to try and contact Uncle Tuvok with his puppy telepathy. For such a smart little girl, she seemed to believe me that the dog’s afternoon nap was actually some kind of intense Vulcan meditation.

One day soon she won’t buy my silly stories and I’ll have to come up with a new plan of attack. But for now, I’m the Amazing Daddy, and she’s my gullible little girl. And I hope she stays just as naive and innocent for a long, long time.

I let her hit the button to turn on the secondary power systems and the Delta Flyer comes to life. Yes, we have the only family car with multiphasic shielding, but Starfleet didn’t approve of my little tactile interfaces and I’m allowed to keep her as long as I stay in the Fleet. Then they’ll probably decommission her or add her to the museum.

Besides, I designed them a newer, sleeker model, which B’Elanna tells me is about to replace the Class 4 runabouts on all Galaxy-class starships. Of course they have standard, boring control panels. It’s funny: I got so much grief for adding my little ‘Captain Proton’ touches to the Flyer, but I notice that Chakotay and Mike Ayala still ask to borrow her every time they need a long-haul shuttle. They’d never admit it, but they know I was right about the way you can feel her maneuver.

Miral is behaving, and has stayed away from the control circuitry. I lift her into the booster seat, and key in the security code to deactivate the navigation computer. Oh, she can still run a few harmless scans, but there’s no way for her to fire the phasers or activate the transporter. Of course, she does have her mother’s gift for engineering, so her little duncel console won’t keep her satisfied for long. By the time she’s seven or eight, I’ll have to switch to Borg encryption codes. I’d rather not think about that just yet.

I blow through the pre-flight checklist and we’re ready to go.

“Cadet Paris, enter our course into the navigational computer.” I can hear her punching buttons and reassure myself that she can’t unlock the controls. “Are we ready to launch?”

“Uh-huh,” she says, less than officially. “Go, Daddy!”

And we’re off.

~*~*~*~*~

Utopia Planetia Engineering Station 7813. DQ Datastream: Encode BLTorres05.83. Continue recording:

So I know I shouldn’t skip lunch. But stopping to eat would slow us down by a whole hour, and I am desperate to get this project behind me. Not that she isn’t a beauty; my husband always did have a way with shuttles. And this one will fly like a dream.

But I’ve been exhausted lately, and the long hours here aren’t helping. Besides, I miss them: my crazy Flyboy and our little angel. Despite all my worries, Miral is a dream of a child, Neelix: even-tempered, happy-go-lucky. Like her daddy. So maybe my temper is less about being Klingon than I used to think. Maybe there’s something about growing up with parents who love you and each other that makes more of a difference than your genetics.

Still, after a long day with no nap, she can growl with the best of them–and it makes her father laugh. “My little warrior,” he calls her. Then one little tickle or hug from him and she’s over it. Not like her mother. Although, I’ve learned to respond to his tickles and hugs, too, these days. I guess I really am getting soft.

Whoa. That’s the third time today I almost hit the deck. So maybe I’ll replicate myself a sandwich. Peanut butter and jelly, maybe. (Guess who taught me to love that?)

~*~*~*~*~

Shuttle DF74656. DQ Datastream: Encode TEParis05.83. Continue recording:

Her grandfather was thrilled with his surprise visitor. “Pop-pop!” I heard her clomping down the steps from the deck to the beach before I was even out the kitchen door.

“Miral, don’t run,” I called after her. It was useless, but it’s my job. I saw her take a flying leap from the third step into his arms–then watched my dad try to catch his breath along with his granddaughter when he realized how heavy she’s gotten.

“I hope it’s okay that I didn’t call,” I apologized. I knew he’d make a big fuss if I had and he really shouldn’t go to a lot of trouble just for us.

It’s been five years since Voyager got home, but the look on his face when he first sees me is the same every time. Maybe it’s a prodigal son thing; I think he’s always surprised that I really did make it back alive and well. “How’s my favorite granddaughter?” he asked Miral before answering me. “You can drop by anytime, Thomas, you know that. It’s always good to see you.”

It used to bother me when he called me Thomas, but not anymore. Not since I read the reports of my dad’s role in the Pathfinder project. Next to Reg Barclay, no one did more to try and get us home than the Admiral. The official logs are full of his correspondence with headquarters, of the struggles he had to get the project green-lighted, and of his determination to find a way to communicate with Starfleet’s lost lamb. In a few of the letters some of the brass had accused him of losing perspective because of his personal connection to the ship. ‘Damn right,’ he had written in one of them. ‘Try knowing your only son is lost out there and see if you don’t feel a personal connection.’

So he can call me Thomas if he wants.

Miral wriggled her way out of his arms took off down the beach, chasing Neelix’s sister and squealing with joy. (I’m sorry to tell you that my dad calls her ‘Lixie’ instead of ‘Alixia,’ but I know you appreciated the sentiment anyway.)

That puppy really pulled my father through a rough time. He’s almost as protective of her as he once was of me. “I’m glad Annie got to know Miral before she died,” he said as he watched the game of hide-and-seek my daughter played with the dog. It’s something he tells me every time I see him, but I know it’s just because I remind him of mom.

And I did what I always do, which is put my hand on his shoulder and squeeze. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live without the wife you’ve loved for fifty years. I hope I never have to find out.

~*~*~*~*~

Utopia Planetia Engineering Station 7813. DQ Datastream: Encode BLTorres05.83. Continue recording:

I thought for a minute that it would pass, that maybe it was because I’d skipped lunch. But a woman knows her body. One quick sweep of a tricorder and I confirmed that it was more than my blood sugar.

The first time it happened–back on Voyager–I was scared. (Okay, so that’s a pretty big understatement.) Now…well, now I can do this my own way. The way I would have done it the first time, if I’d found out before Seven did.

Three more hours and this damn shuttle is out of my life. Three more hours and I can get the Doc to confirm what I already know.

It’s times like this that I miss you the most, Neelix. You were always there for me when I needed to figure out how to tell Tom what was really going on inside me. At least this time, I’ll be bringing good news.

~*~*~*~*~

Utopia Planetia LQ Unit 487. DQ Datastream: Encode TEParis05.83. Continue recording:

Wait until her mother finds out what I let her eat today. Not only did she down about six of her grandfather’s chocolate chip cookies, she ate almost half a pizza while we were down at the wharf. I hope she ends up with her mother’s metabolism. Why is it that B’Elanna can eat whatever she wants and never gain an ounce? I look at a slice of pepperoni pizza and balloon right up. At least until recently. But chasing after this monkey has kept me in better shape than I’ve been since Tuvok and I were stuck in that gravity well and had to eat nothing but spiders for three months. Do you remember that, Neelix? Yep, those sure were the days…

I know I shouldn’t call B’Elanna. She’s desperate to get that shuttle out of her life and I don’t want to do anything to make her day more stressful. But it’s getting late and she should have called. I try to have dinner ready when she’s working late. She usually calls… I’ve made up my mind. I’m risking the wrath of a tired Klingon: I’m gonna call her.

Oops. Excuse me, Neelix, there’s someone at the door.

Well, this is interesting. It was Naomi–and I didn’t even call her. I’ve been given strict instructions to change into my best suit and head for the Flyer for further orders. Seems like my Commander wife is pulling rank.

Not that I mind. I’m betting this means they finished early. She blamed me, you know. Told me if I hadn’t added so many features to the damn shuttle they would have finished it a week ago. I guess it’s time for me to go make it up to her. Not that it’s any huge burden, of course…

I’ve gotta go get dressed. I just hope my ‘best suit’ still fits.

~*~*~*~*~

Shuttle DF74656. DQ Datastream: Encode BLTorres05.83. Continue recording:

So I planned this down to the letter. The hardest part was getting the Doc to keep his mouth shut–after the last time, we all know he can’t keep a secret. But, unlike the last time, I asked him to give me all the details–though I could see him hesitate as he ran the scans. What he said surprised us both. I just wonder what Tom will think.

I replicated a special dinner–thank goodness Naomi was available to babysit on such short notice–and I even ordered up a new outfit. Well, I wasn’t about to give my husband this kind of news in a sweaty old Starfleet uniform. Besides, it will probably be a while before I get to squeeze into a slinky dress for him again. I’m trying hard not to remember how long it took my body to get back into shape after the last time. Still, it was worth every backache and stretch mark and false start.

So I’ve got it all planned: a little romantic music, some synth-champagne–with the Doctor’s permission. Tom will think we’re celebrating our newest creation. Well, I guess, in a way, we will be.

Then I’ll ask him to get our dinner out of the picnic basket I left in the pilot’s seat. He’ll open it, and find the mobile. The one he made for Miral’s crib. Only this time, we’ll have to do a little repainting. This time, the crib will be blue.

Ooh, I just heard the shuttlebay doors opening. That’s him. Wish me luck, Neelix!

~*~*~*~*~

Utopia Planetia LQ Unit 487. DQ Datastream: Encode TEParis05.83. Continue recording:

So, did she tell you? It’s a boy.

There were a few other surprises, too. Despite all the odds against it, interspecies conception rolled its dice differently this time. Only a wisp of cranial ridges. Blonde hair. And blue eyes. Like mine. Suddenly I don’t feel so recessive any more. Not that I minded with Miral; she’s the spitting image of her mother and I wouldn’t change a thing about her. Besides, my dad says she has my smile, though frankly I think he’s projecting. But my boy
–my son–will have blue eyes. Like his old man. He’ll look like me. Although, I hope for his sake he inherits his hairline from his mother’s side of the family.

I was stunned. And thrilled. And now I’m just stupid; I don’t think my feet have touched the deck in days. So much has changed since the last time we were pregnant. We don’t have to wonder what kind of parents we’ll make, or how we’ll cram another person into our tiny quarters. And we won’t be looking over our shoulder for the Borg. Well, except for Seven and Icheb. (Rumor has it the doctor is planning another baby shower, incidentally. This time Seven has promised to come.)

I was thinking about the last time I got this news, Neelix. You were the first person to congratulate me. I wish you could be here now, buddy. This time, it’s all the happy excitement without any of the fear.

Tomorrow, B’Elanna and I are taking Miral on another little road trip. We’re going back to San Francisco to tell my dad. But we’re also making a stop at the museum. B’Elanna pulled a few strings with a certain redheaded admiral and we’ll have Voyager all to ourselves for a few hours.

She’s been there lots of times before, but we want our daughter to see where she was born, to tell her stories about how B’Elanna and I met and fell in love. To show her your mess hall, and the captain’s ready room, and our old quarters. To let her sit on my lap at the helm. We want her to know all the stories so she can share them with her baby brother one day. And we just felt the need to walk the old corridors and remember a time when our family was 150 former strangers we lived and died for.

We’re about to welcome a new member to that family. Our son will probably never set foot in the Delta Quadrant, but we want him to know where he comes from. Not from Earth or Qo’noS, or Utopia Planetia. But from an insignificant little Intrepid class cruiser that made a big difference in a lot of people’s lives. That’s his heritage. And we want him to know it.

We miss you, Neelix. Love to Brax and Dexa. And send us a picture of your new baby in the next datastream. Until next month, then.

All our love,

Tom and B’Elanna

DQ Datastream: Encode TEParis05.83. Uplink and transmit.

~*~*~*~*~

The End

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