Transitions

Okay, I know, it would never happen. What can I say? This is my universe, I can do what I want in it.  

I feel the need to comment on all the 'indiscriminate breeding' going on, as one of my beta's put it.  I always felt Voyager and The Next Generation never had a handle on what the personal lives of their officers were really like.  Deep Space Nine did it the best.  Relationships, marriages, and children were an integral part of that show.  I don't know about the rest of you, but my life has all that in it too.  They may be officers, but they are people first and I believe they want lives like the rest of us.

Star Trek belongs to Paramount. I only wish is was mine. This is all for fun and games.

Thanks to Annie, Jam, Mel, Junior and Senior for beta reading and storyline help they all gave.

Special thanks to Juli for the loan of the 'you know what' and to Jam for letting me keep Uncle Martok. I did write that scene before she posted "Man of Honor", honest.

Rated R for sexual situations.


Klingon Hearts--Enterprise

Transitions--Changing of the Guard

by: Tracy L. Sobieski



"Are you sure you don't want Deanna, too?" Will Riker asked his former Captain. "You've taken the rest of the senior staff, what's one more?"

"That's all right, Number One." Jean Luc Picard's lips twitched at his friend's sarcasm. "I think I'll leave your wife where she is."

"You just don't want to deal with the mood swings. Coward."

"I heard that!" A very pregnant Deanna Troi joined the two men. It was Admiral Picard's going away party. Most of the crew had beamed down to Starfleet Headquarters to be there.

Will stood up and helped her sit down on the couch then resumed his seat next to her. She looked exhausted. It had been a long day and being more than eight months pregnant didn't help.

"You about ready to get back to the house?" he asked her. They kept a home in Anchorage for when the Enterprise was in orbit. Sometimes they just needed to get off the ship.

"No...I'm fine, just a little tired. You two have your talk. I'll sit here and rest."

"Sure?"

"Yes. I'll let you know if I change my mind, okay?" She reassured him.

Will sat back on the couch and pulled her close so she could lean against him. Deanna gratefully curled up along side of him, resting her head on his shoulder.

Jean Luc watched the entire exchange with amused indulgence. And not a little twinge of regret, that his friend had managed to do what he never could. Have a Starfleet career and a family. All those times Will turned down the Captain's chair. Jean Luc knew why. His First Officer was -happy- where he was. Perfectly content to wait for the Enterprise. So different from the gung ho young officer that boarded his ship at Farpoint. He discovered what was important to him.

"Do you have any suggestions for replacing the crew members you took?" Will asked.

"As a matter of fact, I do. I was informed today that Voyager is being decommissioned. Her Senior Staff is available."

"Voyager... It only took Command, what? Three years to decide what to do with her? She's been sitting in space dock since Janeway got her home," Will's disgust at Starfleet red tape was evident.

"Things were complicated. There were legal matters to attend to. For Janeway and her crew. Plus all the modifications made to Voyager over the years have kept the engineers busy. There is so much alien technology integrated into her systems, the only ones who can maintain the ship are the engineers who were in the Delta quadrant with her. They'll be studying Voyager for years."

"I suppose it makes sense. Have you heard anything from Kathryn Janeway since the review hearings?"

"Yes, I spoke to her at some length after them. She was not happy that the review board refused to press any charges against her. She didn't agree with the decision that she was technically not under their jurisdiction."

"Sounds like her," Will smiled broadly. "I would have loved to have seen the expression on the board members faces when -she- presented the list of charges against herself."

"They were not pleased," the Admiral smirked. "Janeway and her crew were lauded as hero's upon their return. To bring them up on charges, even the Maquis, was not something Command wanted to do. It would have meant too much backlash."

"Did she really marry the Maquis who served as her First Officer?"

"The minute they resigned their commissions, I'm told. They live in Ohio now. Farmers, if you can believe that."

"I think I can, they were stuck on that ship so long I'm surprised any of the crew would want to take another ship posting."

"Well the rest of the Senior Staff does."

"I'd like Torres for my engineer. What she did with that ship was amazing."

"I thought you might. I told her to expect your call before she takes any other posting. It actually works out rather well. Her husband will be able to fill another one of the open positions on the Enterprise."

"Really? Is she married to their Ops Officer?" That would work out nicely for him.

"No," the Admiral paused and Will got the feeling he wasn't going to like what was coming. "She's married to Voyager's Chief Helmsman."

"Paris?!" Riker roared and looked at Picard like he'd lost his mind. "No way! I don't want him on my ship."

"Will," his wife interrupted, "he's changed."

"No one can change that much. I remember Caldik Prime. He was a mercenary, for God's sake! Paris wasn't even Maquis, just hired gun. The man has no principals."

"I've met him, Will. He's not who you think he is," the Admiral said.

"Does he have to come with her, can't you get him assigned to another ship?" Riker half jested.

"Sorry, they go together or not at all. They have children, Will. Commander Torres is still on maternity leave."

"Great, well, it seems I have no choice. I'm not letting Torres go because her husband is a screw up. Who else is available from Voyager? Would it be too much to hope for that the Chief of Operations is unassigned."

"That would be Lieutenant Harry Kim and he is available for transfer in about three months. His wife will have completed her academy training and they will be free then."

"He's married to a cadet?! Isn't he a little old for that?"

"She's not your average cadet. They picked her up in the Delta Quadrant, she served with them on Voyager as a civilian consultant."

"Oh well, I'm sure we can fit her in somewhere. It's not like she's the Borg Voyager had." As soon as the words left his mouth Will knew who Mrs. Kim was. His wife was trying to hold back the laughter.

"Ummmmm...."

"Don't!" Will held up his hand. "Don't even say it. Did everybody on that ship pair off with someone? The Captain and the First Officer, the Chief Engineer and the Helmsman, the Ops Officer and the Borg. It sounds like a bad holo-novel, if you ask me."

"I think their Morale Officer is still single," Deanna couldn't resist.

What did he expect? They were on that ship for almost seven years, with only each other. It was a miracle they even made it home. In all likelihood they should have spent the rest of their lives stuck on Voyager.


*****


Tom answered the door when the bell rang.  B'Elanna was busy with the baby.  They were living with his father, in the family home.  After so many years apart, Owen Paris practically begged them to move in with him.  There had been so much that needed to be said.  So much hurt that needed to be healed.  It had been good for all of them.

"Captain Riker, please, come in."

"Mr. Paris," Will greeted him with a nod as he walked into their home.

"Please, have a seat," Tom motioned to the couch.  "B'Elanna will be right with you.  She's just putting the baby down for his nap.  Can I get you anything?"

"No, thank you," Riker replied as he took a seat.  He was uncomfortable around Paris.  His dislike of the man was difficult to hide.

Tom viewed the visitor to his home warily.  He got the feeling Captain Riker didn't want to deal with him.  He grinned inwardly.  His reputation preceded him in all circles.  

"You don't want me on your ship," Tom stated plainly.

Will looked up, a little taken aback.  Was he that obvious?

"Truthfully?" Riker asked.

"No...I think it would be best if you and I stayed away from that, don't you?"  Tom's gaze was intent.  This was no laughing matter.  His wife's career was at stake.  He would do nothing to jeopardize her future in Starfleet.

Will Riker was a smart man, he understood what Tom was telling him.

"Yes, Commander, I think it would."

A tense moment passed as each of them sized the other up.  Then, a shriek of delight interrupted them as a small bundle of energy flew into the room.  Her long red hair flying behind her as she ran to Tom.

"Daddy!  I wanna go!"

Tom bent down and picked up the child.  His face transformed when he looked at his daughter.  The expression of amused tenderness surprised the Captain.

"In a little bit, as soon as Mommy is done with Robert.  I have to keep Captain Riker company, until she can talk to him."

K'Leena noticed the other man for the first time.  Tom placed her on the floor and she walked over to Will.

"I'm K'Leena."

"Nice to meet you, K'Leena," Will replied with a smile.  "You know, I have a little boy who is just about your age, I think.  His name is Lucas."

The child pulled a face.

"No girls?" she asked.

"Sorry," Will chuckled.

She shrugged and lost interest in him, turning back to her father.

"When's Momma gonna be done?" she asked.

"Soon," Tom looked down on his daughter. "So, what do you want to do today at the holopark?" It was their time together. Just the two of them. Tom made it a point to do this with her at least once a week. "Flotter?"

"No.  I wanna fly."

Tom couldn't keep the grin from his face. He knew what she was going to say before he even asked. It was always the same.

"You sure? We could try another program. Dr. Seuss, maybe?" he teased.

"The Flyer." Once K'Leena and her one track mind were set, there was no stopping her.

"All right, but we can't tell Mommy," Tom whispered in a conspiratorial tone. "She made me promise to try and get you interested in something other than flying." Not that B'Elanna believed for an instant that he would be able do it.

"kay, it's a sec'et."

"Why don't you go and see if Grandpa is still in the kitchen.  I think there are some cookies left.  He might share with you."

"kay, bye," and she was gone as fast as she came.

"She can fly?" Will couldn't stop himself.  The child was so young.

"Holosims," Tom shrugged.  "She loves it."

"Is she any good?"

Paris grinned with pride.

"Better than I was at that age."

"No luck trying to get her interested in anything else?" B'Elanna asked with a smile as she walked into the room.  Riker stood up as she entered.

"Did you really think it was possible?" Tom's eyes flashed with mischief.

"What I think, is you didn't try very hard," she replied with an arched eyebrow.

"Next time, I promise.  I'll leave you and Captain Riker now, I'm sure you don't need me hanging around for this."  Tom gave his wife a kiss on the cheek then nodded to the Captain on his way out of the room.

Will watched as he left.  Tom Paris was not at all what he expected.  

"So, Captain," B'Elanna began as they sat down.  "Is it true?  Do those fools down at Command really expect us to switch the Enterprise over to the new gel-packs while we're deployed?"

"Yes, Commander, I'm afraid they do.  How much of a problem is this going to be?"

"I can't even begin to guess.  Worst case scenario: we have cascade failure of each system when we install the new packs.  This should be done in space dock...."


*****


Tom found his daughter in the kitchen, telling her Grandpa all about their plans for the day.

"Daddy an I are goin' flyin'," she was so excited.

"Are you ready to leave, sweetheart?" Tom asked when he came into the room.

"Yep," she jumped down off the chair.

"Go upstairs and get a sweater, we'll go as soon as you get down here, okay?"

"'kay," and she was off running again.  Tom was pretty sure he'd never seen her -walk- anywhere.  The child went straight from crawl to run.

"Tom," Owen began seriously once they were alone.  "I don't want to tell you how to raise your daughter...."

"But...," Tom stiffened slightly, old habits die hard.  His father still had the power to unsettle him.

"I just don't want you making the same mistakes I did," his father said sadly.  "I know she loves to fly and I am glad you encourage her, it's just that it can become something else so very fast.  Before you know it, it's not just for fun anymore and you're pushing for better performances, higher scores.  You know the talent is there and you think you're promoting it, but you're really crushing it."

"I won't, Dad.  I'm very careful about how much I let her do.  We only move up a level when she asks to and I've made sure she understands she is learning as much from her failures as she is from her success."

"Good...I was just a little worried.  I'm sorry if I've overstepped my bounds."

"You haven't, I know you love her and just want what's best."

"I want that for all of you.  B'Elanna and you as well."

"I know," Tom smiled.  "You want to come with us today?  K'Leena loves an audience."

"Sorry, I have a date with your wife today.  We're taking Robert to the park when she's done with Captain Riker."



*****



Will bent over and kissed his wife. She was curled up on the bed, their newborn son sleeping next to her.

"How are you feeling?" She gave birth only a day ago and looked exhausted, in his opinion.

"Tired, but good," Deanna replied, her eyes still closed and a small smile on her lips.

"I'm taking Lucas with me to meet the Parises then I'll drop him off at the nursery. Do you need anything before I go?"

"No, I'm fine. Do me a favor though," she asked.

"Anything."

"Give Tom Paris a chance. There's more to him than you realize."

"That was low, Deanna. Now I have to," Will smiled at her.

"If you weren't so stubborn...."

"All right, all right. For you, okay?"

"I love you."

"I love you too."



*****



"My Daddy's the Cap'n. You havta lis'en to me."

"Lucas Ian Riker!" Will was floored at his son's statement, censure was evident in his reprimand. So much for bringing the kid along to ease the tension.

K'Leena Paris looked at the arrogant little boy with all the disdain a three and a half year old can muster and promptly stuck out her tongue.

"Naw uh, you'r mean!"

Will fought the urge to groan aloud.  This was going well.

"That's enough, little lady," Tom tried to sound stern as he picked up his daughter.

"You will apologize, Lucas, the Captain told his son firmly.

"Suhry," he said, looking down on his shoes.

Lucas just -knew- she was going to be trouble, he was  already getting yelled at.



*****



"Captain's Personal Log--stardate 56858.4. The integration of the new crew members seems to be going well, as well as can be expected anyway. It is difficult when you lose the Captain and several senior staff members at the same time. Admiral Picard decimated my staff when he took Beverly, Data and Geordi back to Starfleet Command to serve on his personal staff. Finding replacements to serve on the Federation's Flag Ship has not been an easy task. I was lucky enough to get Lt. Commander B'Elanna Torres for my Chief Engineer, Voyager's decommission has helped with my search. Commander Torres is the for most specialist in ships with bio-neural circuitry. Her expertise has been invaluable in the switch over to the redesigned gel-packs. Unfortunately, the posting of Commander Torres has also meant her husband has been assigned to my ship. My wife had the nerve to tell me it was a blessing, since my Chief Helmsman accepted a posting on the U.S.S. Zulu as it's First Officer. For some reason she finds Tom Paris a fine officer. I find him a royal pain in the ass. It is hard to reconcile his service record aboard Voyager with the arrogant man who now sits at my helm. My wife tells me he reminds her of someone she used to know a long time ago. I'm beginning to think my wife needs the services of a good councilor."

--Bridge to Captain Riker. We are approaching Deep Space Nine.--

"On my way, Riker out," the Captain of the Enterprise responded. "Computer, end personal log."



*****



Captain Riker entered the bridge from his ready room.

Lt. Commander Tom Paris rose from the command chair. Until they reached DS9 and picked up the remainder of the new crew, he was the highest ranking Senior Officer, and by order of Starfleet Command, the Enterprise's Acting First Officer. It was no small annoyance to Will Riker, that he was doing a very good job at it as well.

"We're being hailed, Captain," the operations officer told him.

"On screen."

"Will Riker, it's good to see you again!" Commander Kira Nerys greeted him.

"You as well, Commander. The new uniform suits you."

"Well, Starfleet wanted one of their officers in command here. It was either accept a commission or let someone else take Captain Sisko's place. I decided this was the lesser of two evils," she replied with a grin.  "Welcome to Deep Space Nine, Enterprise. You are cleared for docking on upper pylon three."

"Acknowledged, Commander Paris will be waiting at the airlock."

Riker nodded to Tom, letting him know he was dismissed.



*****



The airlock opened and a squeal of delight could be heard.

"Tom!" Mezoti cried out as she jumped through the hatch and into Tom's arms.

"Mezoti, you've gotten so big. Wait till K'Leena sees you, she won't even recognize you anymore," Tom smiled down at the youngster.

"Permission to come aboard, Commander?" Harry Kim asked, smiling ear to ear.

"Granted, Lieutenant Kim, Ensign Hansen," Tom formally replied returning the smile as Harry and Seven of Nine came aboard.

"It's about time you got here, Starfleet. I needed you yesterday!" B'Elanna yelled down the corridor as she got off the turbolift.

"Sorry, Maquis. We had to drop the twins off with Chakotay and the Capt...Kathryn, and get Icheb settled at the academy before we could accept the posting." It had been more than two years and they still thought of her as Captain Janeway. It would probably always be that way.

"Hey, Seven. Nice outfit," B'Elanna said. It was about time Seven put on a Starfleet uniform.

"That's Ensign Hansen, Commander," Seven of Nine said in full Borg mode.

"Yeah, and I still outrank you," the half-Klingon retorted in a near growl.

Both Tom and Harry rolled their eyes as the women squared off on each other.

It was B'Elanna who broke first. Unable to keep the grin from her face any longer.

"Boy, Seven, I sure missed you."

"As I did you," the former Borg said as the women embraced.  "How is that new baby?"

"Getting bigger every day. Come to our quarters for dinner tonight.  K'Leena has been waiting for you to get here. You know how patient she is," B'Elanna drawled.

"We'll be there. I want to get settled in to our quarters first," Harry told her. "Oh, I almost forgot. This is for Captain Riker, it's about his new First Officer."

Tom took the PADD Harry held out.

"Crewman Tallist," Tom spoke to the man standing at attention next to the airlock.

"Yes sir."

"Show the Lieutenant and his family to their quarters and arrange to have their belongings beamed over from the station."

"Yes sir."

"Report to the Captain as soon as you're settled. I'll see you tonight, I have to get back to the bridge. I'm sure the Captain will want to read this."



*****



Tom Paris was extremely grateful when his shift ended that afternoon. He spent his entire day dealing with one headache after another, he was sick and tired of it. Dr. Bashir still had not come aboard, there were some problems with his transfer that Captain Riker had to handle personally. At least that problem was off his desk.  To top it all off, whatever that message from Command was, had not made the Captain a happy man.  The beginnings of a headache throbbed behind his eyes.

K'Leena spotted him immediately upon his arrival in the ships nursery. Jumping up from the play area she leapt into his arms. Poor Lucas Riker was left behind without another thought. She was still her daddy's girl.

"Daddy!" she squealed as he lifted her up and turned her around.

"How's my little girl?" he asked her.

"Daaaddddyyy...I not little girl. I three years old."

Tom tried to keep a straight face as he looked at the tot. She was a beautiful child. Of course, Tom always thought Klingon women were the most spectacular looking females in the galaxy. She had B'Elanna's temper, too, along with her features. It went well with the flaming red hair she inherited from his mother. The only thing Tom could see of himself, in her, was the blue eyes. And that was just fine with him.

"You're right. I'm sorry, I'll try harder to remember."  Placing her on the floor, he took hold of her hand.

"Let's go and get your brother, your Mom and I have a surprise for you tonight," he said to her as they walked into the infant's room. There was a small baby making a large fuss at the shoulder of one of the attendants.

"Dey took Robert down to 'gineering so Momma could feed him, 'gain," K'Leena told her father in an exasperated voice. "What's the 'prise?"

Tom chuckled. K'Leena was not long on patience. A trait inherited from both her parents.

"Commander Paris," a nursery worker approached him. "Your wife asked me to tell you that she would bring Robert home herself since she was almost done in Engineering for the day."

Tom's attention had become focused on the distressed infant as she spoke.  The child was arching his back and screaming in pain.

Walking over, he took the baby from the helpless ensign and held him out to get a better look at him. Something was seriously wrong. The child's body convulsed in pain.

"How long has he been like this?" he asked the ensign in an abrupt tone.

"It started a few minutes ago. I was just about to notify his mother," she replied a little shaken.

Tom looked intently at the child's face. The baby threw his head back and wailed in agony.

"How old is this infant?" he wanted to know.

"Seven weeks," she replied.

The baby opened his eyes and looked at Tom with his inky black gaze.

Betazoid.  A faint memory began to stir.

Suddenly, the child went into seizure. His eyes rolled back and he began to convulse uncontrollably.

"Is this Captain Riker's son?" Tom demanded, pulling the baby to his chest in a effort to hold him steady.

Stunned at the fierceness in the question, the attendant just nodded.

"Sweetheart, you need to stay here," he told his daughter then looked at the ensign. "Call my wife, tell her to pick up K'Leena," he tapped his comm-badge as he spoke....

--Paris to transporter room two. Medical emergency, two to beam directly to Sickbay.--

He disappeared before the ensign knew what was happening.

"We'd better notify Commander Troi," she told the other woman.



*****



Tom materialized in Sickbay. The on duty nurse approached him.

"Can I help you?" she asked.

"Get the doctor!" he demanded as he lay the nearly unconscious child on the bio-bed.

"Dr. Selar is off duty. I will call her."

"Computer, activate the EMH," Tom instructed. The infant needed immediate medical attention.

"Please state the nature of the medical emergency," the EMH said as his program initialized. For a moment Tom felt like he was back on Voyager.

"This baby has developed Nestiszine Syndrome," he told the holo-doctor.

"Who are you?" the EMH asked.

"Tom Paris, Chief Helmsman."

"Well, I think I'll be the one to diagnose any illness' around here. If you don't mind." Tom had forgotten how insufferable a newly activated EMH could be.

"Then do it! NOW!" The EMH was put out at the forceful command, but proceeded to examine the child.

"You're right," he looked up at Tom in surprise. Grabbing a cortical monitor and a hypo-spray he began to treat the infant.

At that moment Deanna Troi came running into Sickbay.

"What happened?" She asked.

"He's developed Nestiszine Syndrome," Tom told her as gently as possible.

She paled visibly and swayed on her feet. Tom reached out to steady her.

Imzadi!



*****



Captain Riker was getting an update from B'Elanna. She had been on her way out of Engineering for the night. Her 3 month old son sound asleep on her shoulder.

--Nursery to Commander Torres--

"Torres here."

--Commander Paris had to leave the nursery with a sick infant. He needs you to pick up K'Leena.--

"Acknowledged, Torres out."

"Why would your husband take a sick child out of the nursery?" the Captain wanted to know.

"There must have been a good reason, Captain. Tom has an extensive medical background," B'Elanna told him.

Riker was about to say something else when Deanna's anguished cry touched his mind.

Imzadi!

"Excuse me, Commander. I'm needed in Sickbay."

B'Elanna stared at the Captain's rapidly retreating back in confusion.



****



Tom, on the other hand, was not surprised when the Captain strode into Sickbay. He knew what Imzadi were capable of. Deanna had probably called to her husband as soon as she had learned of her son's illness. He took his arm from around her shoulders and she went to her husband instantly, drawing the strength that only he could provide. The Captain looked to Tom and said:

"Explain yourself, Commander."

"When I went to pick up my daughter in the nursery, I noticed how distressed the baby was. I brought him to Sickbay for treatment." Tom downplayed his role in the matter.

"It's a good thing the 'ships pilot' is such a good medic. Nestiszine Syndrome has an incredibly fast onset and if isn't treated quickly, it is fatal. Had he not realized what was going on, your son might have died in the nursery," the EMH told them.

Deanna sagged against her husband, and Will lost all remaining color in his face.

"How did you know about Nestiszine Syndrome? It's not a common illness in Betazoid children," the EMH asked Tom.

"One of the half-Vulcan/half-human children on Voyager developed it when he was two months old. Hybrid children of telepaths are at an increased risk for developing the condition," Tom replied.

Will looked at Tom thoughtfully. He was beginning to think his opinion of the man may have been formed too hastily.

Dr. Selar chose that moment to enter Sick-bay.

"What happened?" she asked the EMH.

"The child has developed Nestiszine Syndrome. I have stabilized his condition and begun treatment."

"Very well. Computer, deactivate the EMH," she instructed.

Tom looked at her in shock.

"That was pretty rude, don't you think?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" The Vulcan doctor didn't understand the question.

"Shutting off the Doc like that. You didn't even warn him." There was anger in the pilot's voice.

"I merely turned off a computer program that was no longer needed," she replied with a raised eyebrow.

Stunned, Tom held her gaze for long moment. Then, with out another word, he turned on his heel and left the medical center.  He never noticed the Captain's contemplative expression.



*****



B'Elanna looked up at her husband when he entered their family sized quarters. After years of living on Voyager, they had forgotten how luxurious Senior Officers had it on a ship the size of the Enterprise.

She sat on the sectional style sofa, nursing the baby. K'Leena was in her bedroom playing. Tom could hear the child chattering away with wild abandon. It brought a smile to his face. Walking over to his wife, he kissed her softly on the lips.

"Can I get you something to drink?" he asked her.

B'Elanna smirked at the seemingly innocent question. Tom gave her a hard time about her eating habits normally. When she was pregnant or nursing, he was positively annoying.

"Some juice would be nice," she said to pacify him, too tired to get into tonight.

"How did it go today?" he asked, hearing the weary reply.

"Oh, great. Every time we convert a section over to a new gel-pack, we have a total cascade failure. The whole section needs to be reinitialized then.  The ships systems will continue to be vulnerable until the change over is completed. We should be in space dock. I told those idiots at Starfleet this would happen." B'Elanna raged with frustration. She didn't suffer fools gladly. "I've got double teams working around the clock while we're docked here at DS9. I want helm control and weapons converted before we leave. Thank Kahless Harry is finally here."

"Will you still be able to attend the reception with me tomorrow night?" He didn't relish the thought of going alone.

"I don't have a choice. I'm under orders to attend. The Captain says they can go without me for one night. Besides, my uncle will be there, I haven't seen him in almost a year."

Placing the glass of juice on the table in front of her, he sat down in the corner of the sectional. Kicking off his boots and stretching out his legs on the couch. Slipping one of his arms behind her back and the other under her knees, he pulled her on to his lap in a quick move. Unfortunately, the action dislodged his son from his mother's breast. The child made his displeasure known loudly. Smiling Tom stroked the baby's cheek as he routed for the nipple. He latched back on with a ferocity that caused his mother to gasp slightly in pain.

"What happened in the nursery, today?" she asked him once the baby settled again.

"Captain Riker and Councilor Troi's son was ill. He has Nestiszine Syndrome. I took him to Sick-bay," Tom made it sound like it was no big deal, but B'Elanna knew better. They almost lost Vorik and Marla Gilmore's son to the condition.

"Well, that explains it then," she said absently.

"What?"

"When the Captain was in Engineering he got the most pained expression on his face right after the nursery called me. Then he headed off to Sick-bay in a near run."

"They're Imzadi," was all Tom said.

B'Elanna nodded in understanding. She and Tom were Tlqwlq, 'of one heart'.

They knew what the Captain and his wife shared.

"Is the baby going to be okay?"

"Yes, he was treated early enough. He'll be fine."

B'Elanna leaned back against his chest. Acutely aware of how fragile life aboard a starship could be. Tom's arms tightened around her as he kissed the top of her head. They sat there for a long time, quietly thanking God, Kahless and the powers that be, for each other.

It wasn't until the Kims showed up that they moved.



*****



"So, what's it really like serving on the Enterprise?" Harry asked Tom.

They finished dinner and Mezoti took K'Leena into the other room to play. Both of the children having enough of the adult company for the evening. B'Elanna sat next to Tom, curled up against his side. Seven and Harry, likewise, sat together. Seven was holding Robert as he slept.  B'Elanna noted the wistful expression on her friend's face. Seven could not have any children, thanks to the Borg. Every time a conception occurred the nanoprobes in her blood stream terminated the pregnancy. The best doctors in the Federation were working on a solution for her, but it didn't look promising. It was good that she had Mezoti.  Harry and Seven officially adopted her a couple of years ago.  B'Elanna was so lost in thought she didn't even hear Tom's question.

"Right, B'Elanna?"

"Huh...oh, sorry. My mind was wandering."

"I was telling Harry that Captain Riker was a fair man, and a good Captain.  Much different than Captain Janeway, but not difficult to serve under."

"No, not difficult at all. Not at all what I expected, mind you, but I enjoy being under his command. Tom's right, he's fair and open minded. I don't think you'll have any problems with him. He requested you himself. He expects a lot, but never more than you're capable of."



*****


Will Riker sat at the desk in his quarters. Deanna was putting Lucas to bed. Dr. Selar decided to keep Thomas overnight in Sick-bay, giving their family an unfinished feeling. He didn't like it.  With a sigh he leaned forward and activated the computer interface in front of him. There was something he wanted to know.

"Computer, display Personnel Records for Lt. Commander Thomas Eugene Paris."

The screen filled with the younger man's service record. What he wanted to know wasn't being displayed.

"Display Educational Records for Commander Paris."

Again, what he wanted was glaringly absent.

"Computer, what is Commander Paris' medic rating?"

--Commander Paris is rated as a Class Four Medic.--

Class Four? That couldn't be right.

"Did Commander Paris receive medical training while he was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Voyager?"

--Affirmative.--

Finally, they were getting somewhere.

"Display all medical training and experience Commander Paris received aboard Voyager."

--Unable to comply. That information is restricted.--

"Restricted? By whom?"

--Thomas Eugene Paris.--

"Override restriction, authorization: Riker-alpha-four-seven."

--Authorization recognized. Accessing information.--

The screen filled with numerous medical procedures, tests and training.

Will didn't know enough about medicine to make heads or tails of it, but it certainly didn't look like simple medic courses.

"Computer, is this training and experience typical of a Class Four Medic?"

--Negative.--

Is it just him or was the computer being particularly obnoxious today? It's never a good thing when something you work with on a daily basis sounds that much like your mother-in-law.

"What level of training has Commander Paris completed?"

--Commander Paris is a fully trained Doctor of Internal Medicine, with a secondary degree in Pediatric Medicine.--

"Why does that surprise me?" he wondered. He should have been expecting it.  The more he learned about the man, the more he discovered just how little he really knew.

Leaning back in his chair, he became aware of a presence behind him. His wife's hand came to rest on his shoulder.

"You're right. There's more to him than meets the eye," Will rubbed a hand across his face as he spoke. God, he was tired.

"You forget how well I know the crew of Voyager. I spent months with them during their debriefing. One of the constants I came across was the crew's unfailing confidence in the man. They were nearly as devoted to him as they were Kathryn Janeway. Did you know that he almost single-handedly retook the ship when a race called the Kazon seized Voyager? The entire crew had been left for dead on a desolate planet. Tom Paris, the EMH and a man named Lon Suder took back the ship by themselves. The only person who died was Mr. Suder. That was just one of the times Tom literally saved the entire crew, at great risk to himself. I even hear he is a better pilot than you," she teased him with a smile.

"I'll believe that when I see it," he snorted.

One hand traveled down his chest and the other played with his ear as she leaned over to whisper:  

"Lucas is asleep."

"Hmmm, did you, perhaps, have something in mind?"

"Maybe...if you're interested."

Will turned slightly and pulled her onto his lap.  Considering he they hadn't made love since before Thomas was born, he was -more- than interested.

"I think I could be persuaded."  

His lips found the sensitive spot on the back of her neck.  He felt her shiver of pleasure as if it was his own.  

Imzadi.

Their minds came together with incredible intensity, igniting the flicker of desire into a blazing inferno.

Will stood up and Deanna wrapped her legs around his waist.  He carried her effortlessly into their bedroom as his mouth found hers.  Her lips softened and parted under the insistent pressure of his.  He separated from her just long enough to remove their uniforms.

Drawing her to him again, he took a step back.  His leg encountered the bed.  He lifted her off the floor and brought her down with him, rolling them over to bring her beneath him.  

Will buried his face in her shoulder for a moment trying to gain some semblance of control.  The feel of her, soft and yielding under him was almost more than he could take.  It had been far too long.

He drove a hand through her hair and brought her lips up to meet his.  His other hand traveled over her milk-swollen breast.  She cried out against his mouth at the touch.  She was so sensitive there, it was almost more pain than pleasure.  Then his mouth closed over the nipple.  A shudder of delight ran through her as he suckled her, tasting her.  At the same time his hand found her center and he began lightly caressing her.     

His body slid lower and he used his mouth to help her along.  She arched against him at the relentlessly tender assault.  He slowly coaxed her toward a gentle climax.  It came to her like the break of dawn.  The light slowing easing the darkness away, building in intensity, until the sun breaks the horizon and blinds you with it's light.  

Will rose up and kissed the tears from her face.  She was shaking beneath him.
Entering her cautiously, he was careful not to hurt her.  When the stroke was fully done, he stilled, allowing her time to adjust to his presence.  Even with all the wonders of modern medicine, she still had just given birth recently and she had not had an easy time of it.

"Am I hurting you?" he asked in a whisper.

"No," she breathed in response and moved against him.  "Please, Will, don't stop."

He chuckled, softly.  Will Riker couldn't have stopped if his life depended on it.

Moving with slow, steady strokes he brought them both to the edge.  He felt her mind open to his.  Thought and sensation linked with emotion.  What was happening with their bodies became almost secondary to the marriage of their thoughts.  When they fell over, it was as one.  Nothing separated them anymore.     



*****


The Klingon Ambassador surveyed the room. Starfleet dress uniforms and formal wear adorned the guests. He hated these functions. He had attended more than his fair share of them in the last three years. Tugging impatiently at the jacket of his Dress Whites he was about to go looking for the Chancellor when a heavy hand came down on his shoulder.

"Ambassador Worf!" The deep voice behind him boomed.

Worf turned around to face his old friend, Will Riker. A smile replaced the frown that had been there moments before.

"Captain Riker. It is good to see you again." His gazed dropped to the Captain companion. "You as well, Deanna."

"Hello, Worf. It's been too long," she replied with a grin.

"Yes, it has," all but growling as he brought her hand to his lips for a kiss, knowing it would annoy the hell out of her husband.

"Worf! There you are," Chancellor Martok approached the small group.

"Captain Riker, Councilor Troi. You are looking well," he greeted the couple.

"Thank you Chancellor. How are you enjoying the life of politics?" Will Riker replied.

"I am aging rapidly. I am not suited to the life of a politician," Martok grumbled.

Deanna laughed and said, "You seem to be handling it just fine. I hear you negotiated a peace treaty between the Brunia and the Zularians, last week."

"Bah! Peace Treaty. I told them if they didn't stop bickering I would declare war on both their worlds and take them as providence's of the Klingon Empire."

"They were more -receptive- to negotiating peace after that," Worf deadpanned.

Worf's gaze wandered as his companions laughed. A small woman in a red dress caught his attention. He didn't know her. She was Klingon, but not full Klingon. Klingon/Human perhaps? She moved with such grace, he was entranced. When she laughed out loud at something the tall blond man next to her said, he could hear the strength in her voice.

"Captain Riker. Who is the Klingon woman over there?" he asked his friend.

"That's my new Chief Engineer, B'Elanna Torres...." Worf walked away before Will could finish.  "Wait!" Will called out but Worf ignored him.

"Let him go, Captain. This should be interesting," Martok's voice was full of mirth.

"But she's married. That man next to her is her husband," Deanna broke in.

"Yes, I know who they are. Commander Torres is my niece." There was a devilish gleam in the Chancellors eyes. The three of them watched the tall Klingon as he headed to the other couple.

Worf approached the petite woman. The blond man's hand rested lightly on the small of her back.

"You dare to dishonor the Lady by touching her, human?!" Worf all but spat at Tom Paris.

Tom turned wide eyed to his wife, "Friend of yours?"

B'Elanna returned the look with a similarly perplexed one of her own.

"Well, human?" Worf taunted with naked aggression, striking Tom's hand away from B'Elanna.

Tom moved with a quickness that took the other man by surprise. The speed of his attack was the only advantage Tom had over the tall Klingon, and he knew it. He used it. The other man had underestimated him, it would only happen once. With a lithe turn he delivered a blow to the face of the aggressor, taking him off guard for just a moment. It was long enough for Tom to hook his leg behind the Klingon's, causing him to lose his balance. Another hit to the shoulder and the other man was down. Worf lay flat on his back, in the middle of the banquet room, with all eyes on him as Tom's boot rested on his neck.

"petaQ!" Tom cursed, pressing with his foot to emphasize his displeasure. "You will apologize to my be'nal for insulting her."

The Klingon appraised the human standing over him. Their eyes locked in prelude to battle. He saw strength and honor in the depths of those eyes. He also saw pain and suffering. The human knew the trials of battle. This was a strong man. Worf had paid the price for not knowing his prey.

With a nod of his head, Worf conceded to the other man. There was only a slight moment of hesitation before the boot was lifted and he rose. He straightened his jacket with a tug and faced B'Elanna.

"My apologies, Lady. I did not realize you were mated." Turning back to Tom, he continued, "You have the heart of a Klingon, human. She has chosen well."

There was a tense second of silence, then Tom smiled and stuck out his hand.

"Tom Paris. It's nice to meet you, Ambassador Worf."  Worf took the offered hand and shook it while Tom spoke.  "May I introduce my wife, B'Elanna Torres."

"Well, Worf. It's nice to see you can still uphold the honor of the House of Martok." The Klingon Chancellor was laughing as he approached with Captain Riker and Councilor Troi.

"Uncle Martok!" B'Elanna cried out as she was engulfed in the older Klingon's embrace.

"Uncle Martok?" Worf asked, realizing just how much his adoptive father set him up. He was rewarded with another round of laughter at his expense.



*****


Captain Riker stood outside the Paris' quarters. It was late, but this needed to be done. Reaching forward he keyed the door.

Tom Paris was naked as the day he was born when the chime sounded. So was his wife, whom he had pressed up against the wall. Her legs were wrapped around his waist and he was buried to the hilt inside her.

Tearing his mouth from hers with a frustrated groan, he drew in a deep breath.  

It was a conspiracy.  First the baby, then K'Leena had a nightmare and now someone was at the door.  Tom was beginning to wonder which god he offended recently, because some higher power was definitely depriving him of a sex life.  

"Don't even think about it, flyboy," B'Elanna growled, grinding herself down to show him just how serious she was. Tom's fingers dug into her thighs as he moved hard against her in response. If it was Harry he was going to kill him, friend or not.  

"Computer, who's at the door?" he whispered, fiercely.

--Captain Riker.--

"Damn!" B'Elanna cursed as she unlocked her ankles and Tom lowered her to the floor. The chime sounded again.

"Hold on, I'm coming," Tom called out as he quickly pulled on the closest thing he could find. A T-shirt and workout pants. B'Elanna crawled into the bed as Tom left the room. The closed the door behind him, and he went to let the Captain in. Whom, to Tom's surprise, was still in his Dress Uniform. The reception must have lasted longer than expected.

"Sorry to make you wait, Captain. Come in."

"Don't apologize, Commander. It's late, I should have called first. I'm the one who is sorry," Will Riker apologized as he entered the room.

"I take it there is something important you wanted to talk to me about.  Something that couldn't wait until morning?"

"Yes, can we sit down?" The Captain indicated to the sofa. Tom followed his lead and sat on the sofa while the Captain took the chair facing him. Will leaned forward and placed his elbows on his knees, looking decidedly unsure of his next words.

"Captain?" Tom prodded, it was three in the morning and he would really like to get back to what he was doing before the Captain interrupted.

"I was just remembering the first time I met Jean Luc Picard. He ordered me to do a -manual- docking of the saucer on the old Enterprise D, a Galaxy Class. I was never so intimidated in my life. I completed the docking, an impressive thing. It barely rated a nod from the man. From that moment on I knew I was expected, at all times, to deliver my very best. And I always did. His high regard for me as an officer made it easier to live up to those expectations." Riker looked at Tom, a wry grin played at the corners of his mouth. "I'm afraid, Commander, that I have not paid you the same respect. I held your past against you from the moment you stepped on my ship. I overlooked the man you had become, because I was too busy convincing myself the Tom Paris of Caldik Prime could never change. No matter how many people told me he had."

"You wouldn't be the first, Captain, and I'm sure you won't be the last," Tom said with little emotion, he didn't know what to make of this.

"You're probably right about that, unfortunately. I do, however, owe you an apology. I am sorry if I have made life on board the Enterprise difficult for you. I can't say it was never my intent, but I can say I regret it," the Captain spoke quietly, remorse etched deeply on his face.

"I understand, Captain. Thank you for being so honest," Tom said, a little shaken at the other man's confession.

"I have a question for you, and I would like an honest answer. Although, I doubt you would give me anything but. Which is why I want to ask it in the first place."

Tom just smiled and cocked his head, letting the Captain know he could go on.

"I've received word from Starfleet Command that Commander Rigel will be unable to join us for another two months...."

"And you want someone else to fill in as Acting First Officer. I understand Captain, I'm not offended."

"Well I am, if you really think that is what I was going to say," Will was indignant. "I was going to ask you to accept a permanent posting as the Enterprise's First Officer, I think you're up to the job. What do you think?"

There have been very few times in the life of Tom Paris when he was rendered speechless. The day B'Elanna told him she loved him. The day he found out he was going to be a father for the first time. The day Captain Janeway got Voyager home. This day would be added to that short list.

He got up and dragged a hand through his hair as he crossed the room. Turning back to face the Captain, he leaned forward and placed his hands on the back of a dining chair, gripping the fabric tightly as he took it all in.

"You're sure about this?" Tom asked, still in shock.

"Tom," the Captain used his name for the first time. "I wouldn't ask if I wasn't. Even when I didn't want to admit it, I could see you were doing the job as well as I ever did. The crew has taken to you also."

"What about Starfleet Command, won't they have something to say about this? I doubt they want me as First Officer on their Flag Ship."

"I've already spoken to Admiral Nechayev. She has approved the promotion and sends her congratulations. The only thing left is for you to accept the post."

There was a long silence before he answered. He had never aspired to this, but he had to admit, he enjoyed serving as First Officer the last six weeks. Something that still took him by surprise.

"Then I accept, Captain." Tom briefly wondered if he had lost his mind.

Will got up and held his hand out, Tom took it.

"I have something else I need to say." Will paused to gather himself, "I want to thank you for saving my son's life, Commander. Don't try to deny it. I've done a little research, -Doctor- Paris. I know full well why my son still breathes. Deanna and I will be forever in your debt," Will Riker said hoarsely, emotion almost choking him.

"You're welcome, Captain," Tom replied quietly.

"Well, I should be going. My wife will be wondering what the hell I'm doing out this late, and I think I've interrupted enough of your evening," the Captain smirked as he looked at Tom. Heading to the door, Will had almost left when he suddenly turned back with an evil grin.

"I'm sorry, Tom. I have to ask...B'Elanna's Beach Tour?"

Tom looked down in horror at the shirt he unwittingly pulled on in his earlier haste. The bright orange letters were faded from years of wear, but still completely readable, blazoned across his chest.

"I'm a dead man," Tom croaked.  Well, at least he didn't have to worry about his sex life anymore.  B'Elanna was -never- going to allow him to touch her again.

Will Riker roared with laughter at his First Officer's expression.



*****


"You heard?" Tom asked as he came back into their bedroom.

B'Elanna was sitting up in the bed reading a PADD, waiting for him.  She looked up and met his troubled gaze with one of tender compassion.

"Yeah...how do you feel about this?"

"I don't know.  I never expected this.  I think I'm still in shock."

"You've been a good XO these last several weeks.  He had to see it.  The crew respects you."

"-Command-, B'Elanna, what the hell am I doing accepting a Command posting?  I'm just a pilot."  

"You've never been just a pilot," she said softly.  "You tried to be just a pilot, you may have wanted to be just a pilot, but you've never been able to stay just a pilot for very long."

"This is what we wanted, right?  Starfleet careers.  Starship life.  God...Dad is going to love this.  I can't believe he actually got his way," Tom chuckled as he crawled into bed.

"Well, it certainly wasn't for lack of trying on your part," she teased him.

Tom reached over and pulled her to him until she lay sprawled across his chest.  His fingers entwined in her hair as he brought her mouth to his.  She was breathless when they separated.

"Now...where were we?" Tom asked huskily and rolled them over so she was trapped beneath him.

"Right about...here," she whispered back and a groan came from deep within him.  

They weren't interrupted again that night.


*****


Tom stood in front of the mirror, staring at the three solid pips in his hand.  Full Commander.  Four years ago, he was an Ensign.  This had to be some kind of Starfleet record for the fastest rise in the ranks.  His lips twitched with a grin.  He couldn't wait to see Harry this morning.  

B'Elanna took the pips and began fastening them to his collar, one by one.  With comfortable familiarity, his arms slid around her waist and pulled her against him.  

"You know...I'm not sure I like the fact that you out rank me," she teased.

"Really?  Why's that?"

"It could go to your head and you might start thinking you can order me around, even when we're not working."

Tom chuckled, "Don't worry, love.  I'm under -no- illusions as to who's in charge around here."

Just then, Robert let out a wail as K'Leena came bounding into the room, scaring him.  Immediate chaos ensued.

"It certainly isn't either one of us," Tom told his wife as he picked up the screaming baby.



*****



"So, they're getting along better now?" Deanna asked the nursery worker.  She and B'Elanna were concerned that their children had been caught fighting.

"Oh, yes," the ensign chuckled.  "Lucas promised not to call her 'K'Leena the Klingon'...and she promised not to hit him."

B'Elanna attention was on the two children.  Lucas handed K'Leena a crayon.  She watched as he did it again a few moments later.  This time the pink crayon was handed to her, she took it and continued to color. B'Elanna crouched down next to the little boy to look him in the eye.

"Lucas, why did you give K'Leena the crayon?"

"She ask's for it," Lucas told her.

"I didn't hear her say anything."

"Not wit' words," he said like he was explaining something to a child. "In my head."

Deanna, who was listening now, got down to their level and spoke.

"You hear K'Leena in your head?"

"Uh huh."

"K'Leena, do you ever hear Lucas in your head?" Deanna asked.

"Yes, ma'am."

The two mothers exchanged looks and stood up. They took several step away from the table to speak.

"Is this common with Betaziod children?" B'Elanna asked.

"Not with non telepaths. Lucas is only one quarter Betazoid, he shouldn't be able to do this at all. Especially with K'Leena, Klingon's and human's are not telepathic."

"Tom and I are," B'Elanna told her. "It's called qa'nalq. Empathicly linked mates. We've been able to do it for several years now."

"Really? I've never heard of that. It's just between the two of you?"

"Yes, we can't do it with anyone else."

"Will is telepathic with me as well, but that is between bonded mates, not like this," Deanna gestured to the children.

"What do you think it means?"

"That life around here is going to get -very- interesting."



*****


"First Officer's Log--stardate 56875.3.  The gel-pack conversion is taking longer than expected.  Commander Torres is encountering unexpected complications when the new and old gel-packs have to work together.  She is working on the problem, but we may need to divert to the nearest star base if it continues.  We are losing systems in an unpredictable manner, making the ship more vulnerable than I like.  The Captain has filed a formal complaint with Starfleet Command, telling them it is bad policy to do this while deployed.  Both Commander Torres and I have filed formal complaints as well on the subject.  We are en route to the Brunia system to ratify the peace treaty.  I am hopeful the change over is complete by the end of this mission.  Since we won't have to worry as much about inoperative systems on a diplomatic mission, I am also hoping it will take some of the pressure off of the Ships Systems and Engineering crews.  End First Officer's log."

Tom turned off the monitor and leaned back in his chair.  He was definitely going to have to write Chakotay a letter, apologizing for all the hard times he gave him when they were on Voyager.  Being XO on a starship was a job that you never got away from.  Everything came through your office first.  It was worth it though.  He did enjoy his position on the Enterprise.  It was nice not to have to fight for respect anymore.

Four hours later, Tom wondered if he had been mistaken.  How could so much go wrong in such a short amount of time?

The reception before the treaty signing was held on the Enterprise.  It was a simple affair, even the children were invited because the Brunia delegates had brought their families.

On the surface, everything appeared to be going as planned, but Tom couldn't shake the feeling things weren't all they seemed.  He overheard some of the Zularians complain bitterly about the treaty concessions and B'Elanna noticed it as well.

"This is bad, Tom.  These people are -not- resigned to what's going on.  I know, I've been there.  The Zularians remind me of the Maquis," she told him quietly, her eyes darting about and her body tense.

"I know, do me a favor, get K'Leena and Lucas back to the nursery.  I'm going to talk to Councilor Troi," Tom replied.

B'Elanna nodded and went off to gather the children while Tom walked over to the ship's councilor.  Her black eyes were troubled when they met his.

"Damn!" Tom swore under his breath at her expression.  "I was right, something's up."

Deanna nodded, "I can't tell you what, but I am sensing a lot of anger and hate here."

"I have to tell the Captain...," Tom began.

"He knows," Deanna said, meeting her husband's gaze across the room.  Tom noted the Captain's alert stance.

"Okay, I sent B'Elanna to get the children back to the nursery, I need you to keep doing what you're doing.  Try and find out what's going on and I'll...."

The explosion tore through the room, knocking everyone to the floor.

"Nobody move," said Ria Lenz, the Zularian representative.  "We have another explosive that will kill everyone in this room and I will use is if necessary."

The Zularians began hauling the Brunia delegates and their families to their feet.  

"Her too," Lenz pointed at Troi.  "And him," he motioned to Lucas.  "It will make you think twice about using any force against us," he told Riker with an evil smile.

"This isn't going to solve anything," Will rose to his feet slowly and spoke in a calm voice.  "We can work this out better if you don't...."

"Enough!" furious, Lenz cut him off.  "You weren't concerned about 'working things out' when this all started.  We won't stand for this.  The Brunia have taken too much from us already.  We won't willingly give them more just to stop the fighting.  Now -we- have the advantage.  You will listen to our demands."

With a touch to his belt the Zularians and their hostages were gone.

Tom got to his feet and glanced over to see B'Elanna sitting on the floor.  K'Leena was screaming in her arms.  She wasn't hurt, just terrified.  He turned to Riker.  The Captain was looking at his sobbing daughter with an inscrutable expression.

"Commander, you can stay with her," Will told B'Elanna.  "I want the rest of the Senior Staff in the briefing room in five minutes," he said to Tom just before he stalked out of Ten Forward.


*****


"I've spoken to the Zularian High Command," the Captain began.  "It seems this little siege is not of their doing.  They have given us free reign to deal with the terrorists, seeing as our people are being held as well."  

Riker nodded to Seven and she took over.

"They've sent us all the tactical data they have regarding the installation where the hostages are being held.  The facility is shielded so transporters are useless, but we should be able to beam down close enough to send a small team in."

"I'll be taking Kim and Hansen, the three of us...."

Tom interrupted Riker's order, "Captain, may I speak to you privately?"

"In my Ready Room," Will replied, seeing the determination on Paris' face.  

"Captain, your place is on the bridge," Tom reminded Will, firmly, as soon as they were alone.

"I know that, Commander, but they have my wife and son."

"And I will get them. Let me do my job."

"Not this time.  I'm going."

"No...you're not."

"What?" Riker asked with deadly quiet.

"This is it, Captain," Tom stated with conviction.  "Either you respect my decisions or we can't work together.  I won't allow you to beam down to the surface.  As Executive Officer, my job is the safety of this crew and that includes you.  I won't let you go.  Not only is this no situation for the Captain to be in, but you're too close to it.  You might jeopardize the safety of the away team and the hostages.  I can't let that happen."

"I'm still the Captain, here.  You will follow my orders!" Riker demanded, angrily.

"Starfleet regulations say this is -my- call.  If I determine the situation is too dangerous, you stay," Paris' voice rose as well.

"You can't keep me on this ship, Tom," the Captain threatened.

"I can and I will," Tom told him, harshly.  "Don't push me on this, Captain.  The regs back my decision.  You won't win."

Will Riker looked at his First Officer, somewhat shocked at the command tone of his voice.  Once again, Tom Paris had surprised him.  He spent so many years in that position. It still was hard to accept it wasn't his anymore.  Paris was right, he didn't belong on the surface, he would have never let Picard go, but....

"This is -my- family we are talking about.  I need to go.  You can't imagine how difficult something like this is."

"Yes, I can," Tom told him quietly.  "I believe Kathryn's exact words were, 'as your friend, I can't let you go, as your Captain, I -won't- risk the safety of this crew on your personal vendetta'....As you First Officer, I -can't- let you do this, Will.  It all comes down to trust.  Do you trust me?  Or was everything you said the other night meaningless?"

Paris was right, again.  Either he trusted him or he didn't, there were no half measures here.  

Tom looked at his Captain, intently, waiting for an answer.  

"Go," was all he said.

Tom left the Ready Room and gestured to Harry and Seven to follow him.



*****



"Cap'n Riker?" The small voice beckoned from behind him. Will stood up and turned around to see the little Paris girl standing there. How she got to the bridge unnoticed was a mystery. He walked over to the child and crouched down in front of her.

"How did you get out of the nursery?"

"I left," she replied simply.

Not a comforting thought, obviously the nursery needed better security.  How the hell had things become so lax on his ship?  The first thing he was going to do when this mess was over, was overhaul the entire security protocol.  Kidnappings, children running loose, who knew what else was going on.  Riker was going to get some answers.
"What are you doing here? The bridge is no place for children," he spoke gently to soften the admonishment.

"Lucas is a'scared," her lip trembled as she spoke. Lucas wasn't the only one scared.

"I know, honey. Your Daddy is going to get him, okay?"

"Daddy an' U'cle Harry?" K'Leena felt better, Daddy could do anything.

Will nodded his head, "And your Aunt Ani."

"A't Ani's a Borg. She'll make 'em sorry," K'Leena said with a tiny growl.

"I bet she will." Will had to chuckle. Quite the fierce little Klingon. Tom and B'Elanna must have their hands full with her.  "Come on, you need to get back to the nursery.  Can I walk with you?"

Will stood up and held out his hand, she nodded and took it.


*****


Tom scanned the horizon with his eyes.  Eight guards and a motion sensor.  Seven silently signaled she had four more guards and Harry had two.  There was no way the three of them could take all of them.  He motioned for them to fall back and regroup.

"What do you want to do?" Harry asked.

"We should get reinforcements, we have more than enough officers and firepower to overtake this facility," Seven said.

"I don't want a massacre down here," Tom hissed.  

The crew of the Enterprise was trigger happy.  It was the Captain's son and wife that the Zularians took along with the Brunia delegates.  Tom didn't want to risk blood shed.  Even though the crew had accepted him, he wasn't their Captain and he didn't have the history with them that Will and Deanna did.  They were devoted to Riker, and Troi for that matter.  He didn't know if he could keep things under control with emotions running so high.  Damn, what was he going to do?  After a few moments a slow smile spread across the Commander's face.  Of course, he should have thought of this before.


*****


The Klingon Ambassador walked boldly toward the heavily guarded installation, flanked by a dozen armed warriors, Commander Paris and two other Starfleet officers.  

"Who is in charge here?" he demanded angrily.

"Commandant Zephild," a guard told him.

"Get him out here, now."

"I'm sorry, but he is too busy...."

"Do you know who I am?" the Ambassador approached the guard with a menacing expression.

"Y...yes, sir, Mister Ambassador."

"Then why am I still talking to you?!" Worf roared.  "You have five minutes to get the Commandant out here before I order my ships to start firing.  I have half a dozen warships in orbit with more on the way.  You were warned, that if the fighting continued, we would declare this a providence of the Empire."

"Yes, sir," the guard hurried into the building.

"Do you have any idea how much trouble we are going to be in if this doesn't work?" Worf growled under his breath to Tom.

"Today might be a good day to die, Ambassador," Tom whispered back with a grin and Worf burst out laughing.

"It just might be, Commander, it just might be."

Harry just stood there wondering how Tom could find this so funny.  They were violating half a dozen Starfleet regulations.  Looking over to his wife he was surprised to see a small smile playing at her mouth.  The woman had the most bizarre sense of humor.  She raised her eyebrow when she caught him watching her, as if she knew what he was thinking.  Harry just shook his head, they were all insane.



*****


"Captain, I am picking up six Klingon Birds of Prey decloaking in orbit of the planet," the tactical officer said.

Will looked up in surprise.  "Hail them," he commanded.

"This is Captain William Riker, of the Federation Starship Enterprise, please state your intentions.  We have a hostage situation down on the planet."

"They're responding."

"On screen."

"We are aware of your status, Enterprise.  Ambassador Worf is on the surface at the request of Commander Paris to help resolve the situation.  Kryton, out."

Worf was here?  What the hell was Tom up to?  



*****


"What do you mean, the Klingons are here?!" the Commandant practically squeaked.

"Ambassador Worf is at the gate, sir.  He has a dozen guards with him -and- three Starfleet officers.  He is demanding to see you.  Immediately."

Deanna sat on the floor of the large room with the hostages, Lucas was curled up on her lap.  She watched the exchange between their captor and his officer with a smile.  Something had scared him.  She caught the words 'Klingon' and 'warships' and she knew, Worf was here.  She thought she felt his presence, but it was hard to be sure, they were never as close as her and Will.  She could feel her husband's desperation and fear with no problem.  Even though he was not here on the planet, he wasn't far.  She tried to reach him, but couldn't.  Their telepathic link was tenuous at best, any type of distance weakened it.  It was frustrating not being able to let him know they were all right.

"It's okay, Mommy," Lucas spoke in a small voice.  "I can still talk to 'Leena."

Deanna looked down at her son in surprise.

"You can talk to her, now?  In your head?" she asked him.

"Uh huh, I told her I's a'scared.  She told me her Daddy an' U'cle Harry an' Aunt Ani are coming.  It's okay."

Deanna smiled back at him, "Of course it is, baby."


*****


When you want something done, I guess it pays to call the Klingons, Harry thought to himself.  In less than fifteen minutes the twelve hour standoff was resolved, the hostages freed and the cease fire reinstated.  It was enough to make your head spin.  

Once the Commandant confirmed there were indeed six Klingon warships in orbit, he backed down.  Of course, no one wanted to tell him that the ships were undermanned and barely armed relics.  It just didn't seem necessary.


*****


The Captain was alone in the transporter room when they arrived.  He was up on the platform, pulling his wife and son into his arms the instant they were on board.  His eyes met Tom's over their heads.

"You have the bridge, Commander," Will told him shakily.

"Aye, sir," Tom smiled back and motioned for Harry and Seven to follow.

"Daddy!  You'r squishin' me!" Lucas squealed and his parents laughed.  

Deanna placed him on the floor and Will pulled her back into his arms fiercely.  Her sudden hiss of pain startled him.

"What's wrong?!  Did they hurt you?  They told me you weren't hurt!" he raged in anger.

"Umm...no, it's just that we've been down there for over twelve hours and...." her hands moved to her chest and Will chuckled in relief.

"Well, I know someone who will be even happier to see you than I was.  They had a hell of a time getting him to take a bottle."


*****


He was worried...she could sense it. Something was wrong, something he couldn't identify. B'Elanna checked the systems read outs, nothing out of the ordinary. Glancing up at the warp core she reached out with her mind, joining with his for a brief moment, letting him know she was aware also....

Tom stood just behind and to the left of the conn. Eyes focused on the viewscreen. Something was out there, he could feel it. He could feel B'Elanna's apprehension as well. She had picked up on his concern. He answered her thoughts with his own.

"Seven, do another full spectral sweep," he ordered.

"Aye, Commander," she had learned, over the years, not to question orders that might seem unnecessary. Especially his.

As he turned around to retake the command chair....

"-Commander- is it now?"

"Oh, hell!" he cursed and ran a hand through his hair. "Red Alert! All hands to battle stations! Captain to the bridge!"

"What's the matter, Helmboy? Aren't you happy to see me?"



It begins....