Stones In The Road

By Maquis Leader





Author’s note:  Set prior to Pathfinder




“Okay, now I feel stupid.”


“I told you to be careful.”


“Story of my life, Chief.” Tom sat down and rubbed his dirty hands on his pants. “Always doing something stupid.”


“Maybe if you stopped trying to prove something to everyone.” Chakotay dropped down from the small ledge he’d been climbing along. The hole they’d fallen through was simply too high to reach. They were both lucky to have no more than scratches and bruises.


“Yeah, well, I’ve got a lot to live up to.”


Sitting down opposite Tom, Chakotay rubbed his aching shoulder. “You weren’t like this at the Academy.”


“How would you – oh yeah, I forgot.”  He’d had Chakotay’s Tactical classes at Starfleet Academy. “Of course you’d remember the Admiral’s kid.”


“I remember a bright young man. Smart, intuitive, and a hard worker.”


Tom didn’t know what to say to that. No smart remark came to mind.


“I remember Tom Paris as one of the best students I ever had. He thought outside the box.” Chakotay smiled at the surprise on the younger man’s face. “I don’t know what happened to him.”


Hoping the dim lighting hid his flushed face, Tom threw out one of his standard phrases. “Yeah, well, he wised up and saw the real world.”


“Did he?”


“Oh yeah, a real good look.”


“Maybe. And maybe not.”


“No maybes about it.”


“Maybe the real Tom Paris is hiding from the world.” He said quietly.


“Spare me your spiritual crap, Chakotay!” Tom jumped to his feet. “You have no idea what it’s been like!”


“I know the pressure a father can put on his son.” His own father had never forced him, but had desperately wanted him to follow in his own footsteps. “I saw a little of myself in you. Someone wanting to make their own way.”


There was a silence as Tom paced around the small cavern they’d fallen into. Finally he sat back down and leaned against the rock wall. “I liked your classes. You didn’t treat me any differently than anyone else. I didn’t have to work twice as hard to get the same grades – but you didn’t just hand me a good grade either.”


“I busted everyone’s balls equally.” Chakotay agreed with a smile.


“I had a chance to think and express myself without – “ He stopped, embarrassed.


“Your father came to talk to me before you started your third year courses. He told me that he wanted me to be fair. I told him I treated all my students fairly.”


“He did that with all the instructors.” Tom said bitterly.


“I know.” Chakotay remembered feeling sorry for the eager young cadet he’d met. He had a tough road to walk even without his father laying stones in his path. “Will Riker contacted me and asked me about you.”


“What about?”


“You were about to graduate. Will and I are friends, and he wanted to know what I thought of you.”


“Oh, boy! I can guess.” He laughed.


“I told him you were a hard worker. That you had a lot of potential, a little wild but with the right first officer you’d develop into one hell of a Starfleet officer.”


“Wow.” Tom was stunned.


“Then you wound up on the Copernicus. Later I found out that your father had taken you out of consideration for the Enterprise posting.”


“He didn’t have any faith in me.” Tears burned his eyes and he blinked them back. “He never did.”


“I don’t think that’s it at all, Tom. He wanted to be sure everyone knew you earned your way – that it wasn’t just handed to you because you were Admiral Paris’ son.” Chakotay was silent for a moment, remembering his argument with Admiral Paris over why Tom’s name had been taken off the list. “I don’t believe he ever doubted your ability.”


“Some way he had of showing it.”


“He could have done things differently, but I don’t doubt he cares for you.”


“Care?” He huffed out a laugh. “Cared – past tense.”


“I don’t think so.”


“You weren’t there the last time we talked.” Tom scrubbed at his wet cheeks, glad that the dimness hid him from the other man. “He went on and on about what a disappointment I was and how I’d disgraced the Paris name. The Paris name? What a load of crap!”


“He may have said those things in anger, but he still loves you. You’re his son.” Tom had never been his favorite person, but his heart ached that Tom would doubt his father’s love.




They sat in silence for a long time. Chakotay was content to wait while Tom grappled with his thoughts. From experience, he knew it wasn’t easy to reopen old wounds.


“Do you really think so?”


Tom’s question was whispered, but he heard. “Yes.”


“You didn’t see him, Chakotay. He was there when they put the ankle restraint on me.” His father’s silent, stern presence had only added to the humiliation of being imprisoned in the penal colony.


“And why do you think he was there?”


“I –” He shook his head. “I don’t know.”


“Tom, I disappointed my father terribly, and we argued. But I never doubted his love for me.”  It haunted him that his last words with his father were those of anger, but he was able to take comfort in knowing his father’s love had never wavered. Nor had his. “Parents don’t stop loving a child that easily.”


“You think he was there to – to help me?” Tom had never considered that his father might have been there to support him rather than humiliate him further.


“I believe so. If you were really such a disappointment to him – if he were truly ashamed of you – then why would he bother to be there?”


“I hadn’t – I hadn’t really thought of it that way.” A spark of hope lit inside of him.


“There was something else I told Will about you.” Chakotay shifted, trying to get comfortable on the hard ground. “I told him you were somewhat withdrawn after the accident with the other cadets, but I thought it was something you could work through.”


“Yeah, well, guess you were wrong there.”


“No.” He shook his head. “You made a mistake and you learned from it.”


“After lying about it.”


“But you learned.” Chakotay said firmly. “And you stood up and took the blame. You shouldered your responsibility.”


“I guess.” Only because the nightmares were driving him crazy. “Finally.”


“And your father was there, wasn’t he?”


“Yes.” Fresh tears threatened as the spark within him grew. “Thanks, Chief.”


“Just remember when you have a child that moving the stones from their path doesn’t necessarily make the way easier for them. It just moves the stones to where they might trip over them.”


“Sounds like some kind of old saying.” Tom grinned. “A little Indian wisdom?”


“Something my father said to me.” He smiled, wondering what his father would think about this conversation.


“You’re a good guy, Chak.”


“Just shut up and help me find a way out of here, Paris.”


“Hey! Are you okay down there?” A voice called to them.


“Kathryn?” Chakotay looked up to see Kathryn’s head poking through the hole he and Tom had fallen through.


“When I told you to look for dilithium, I didn’t mean you had to mine it by hand, Chakotay.” She chuckled as she looked at him.


Tom stood up. “I was – “


“It was my fault.” Chakotay interrupted him. “You know me, rushing in where angels fear to tread.”


Kathryn looked from Tom to Chakotay and back. After a moment she smiled and shook her head. “Hang on and I’ll have you two out in a second.” Tapping her combadge she signaled Voyager for transport.


Glancing at Tom as the tingle of the transporter touched him, Chakotay winked.




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