Author's Chapter Notes:
Disclaimer. Only a couple of these folks belong to Paramount. The others belong to me.
Thomas kicked open the bedroom door and flung his books across the room.
He had meant for them to land on the bed, but one of them took a right hook, landing in the middle of the space-station model he was constructing. The half-done model exploded upward into a shower of plastic, landing all over the desk and the surrounding floor.
Perfect. Just perfect. "Dammit!" he yowled, then slumped to the floor, his head in his hands.
"Tom! What's going ..." The commotion had interrupted Tala, who, half-dressed, had run into the room. "Oh," she gasped. "Your model! What happened?"
"Nothing ... just go away," he mumbled.
"Don't be a twark," she retorted. "What happened?"
"Tallie," he snapped. "Go away. Go put some clothes on."
Tallie fled. Thomas put his head back in his hands.
A bit later, he heard Tallie again. "What happened ... and don't tell me to get lost." she commanded.
He leaned his head back against the wall. "Sorry ... Sorry. It was my quantum physics exam."
"No, I got a B."
"Yeah?" She sounded rightfully puzzled.
"Yeah, and that ba ... well, Mr. Conner gave it to me and said, "You'll have to do better than this on the Academy exam, Mr. Janeway,'" he said, in a mocking imitation of Conner's voice.
"Well," Tallie said brightly. "I bet there isn't even that much quantum stuff on the exam. You'll ace it."
"Maybe I don't want to ace it," he muttered as he hauled himself off the floor.
"Huh? Mom would kill you if you failed it."
"I mean, maybe I don't want to take the exam."
Tallie came up behind him. "Ah, Tom, in case no one's mentioned it. You can't get into Starfleet Academy without taking the exam."
He threw his arms up in the air, "That's just it! Maybe I don't want to join Starfleet!"
"Wow! How come? I thought you wanted to join." If she hadn't known better, she'd of sworn some sort of alien possession had taken place. Tom was probably the most laid-back person in the family ... at least next to Papa ... certainly not inclined to throw things and yell.
"I don't know ... maybe it's that everybody expects me to join. I'm a Janeway ... I'm supposed to follow my mom ... and dad ... and grandfather ... and brother ... and God only knows who else in the family." He banged his fist against the wall. "Damn it! It's just ... there's got to be more to life than Starfleet!"
His intensity was almost frightening. "You ... you talk to Mom or Papa?"
He snorted. "Oh right .. Say, Mom, I know you're an admiral ... I know you've got a whole drawerful of awards ... but I really don't want anything to do with your precious Starfleet."
"Hey, look, " she said, trying to calm him down. "Maybe you're just getting unhinged over this exam. Why don't you just take it ... and if you really don't want to join, you don't have to, right?"
"Yeah. Maybe." He grabbed a jacket and headed for the door. "Where are you going," Tallie asked.
"Out. I have to think." He stopped in the doorway. "Hey, thanks. But not a word to Mom and Dad." He shook his head as Tallie began to object. "Promise me. I have to work this out."
Kathryn had just opened the back of the hovercar when the familiar voice sounded from behind her. "Here, let me help."
"Ra'ka!" she said delightedly, and reached up to kiss the young Bajoran on the cheek.
Simone Ra'ka had been Paka's roommate at the Academy for two years, and had usually tagged along when her eldest dropped in for Sunday dinners. They had hit it off immediately, so much so that she referred to him as her third son. When Paka was assigned to Mars for pilot's training, Ra'ka had stayed behind to continue medical school ... having him around helped make Paka's absence a bit more bearable.
"Stay for dinner?"
He grinned. "Sure .. what are we having?"
He laughed delightedly. "Chakotay's not home, then?"
She laughed with him. "Nope, at a conference in New Zealand." Out of respect for his beliefs, meals at the Janeway home were vegetarian. But, at lunch, or when it was just her and the children, she gave into her carnivorous leanings.
"Is Thomas around? It's exam day, and I was wondering how it went." Actually, she was more concerned than she let on. Thomas had seemed distracted last night, which she attributed to pre-exam nervousness. He'd refused her offer to take him to campus, preferring to go on the transport.
"Nope ... he's not here ... no one is ... I was just sitting on the porch, reading."
She kept her smile to herself. Tallie would not be happy to find out she missed his arrival . Her daughter always made sure to be around when this dark-haired young man came by. Fortunately, he seemed to see her just as a kid sister..
"Well, it looks like you've been drafted for kitchen duty, then. Come on," she said as she opened the back door.
"What do you mean Thomas hasn't come home?" Chakotay looked as if he wanted to jump through the viewscreen.
"Just what I said. He left this morning, and hasn't been back." She was trying to control her irritation, but truth was, she understood. "It gets worse. Lt. Chapman called from the Academy. Thomas didn't show up to take the exam."
Chakotay seemed a shade paler than normal. She didn't feel too great, either. "Does Mattie have any idea?"
Kathryn shook her head. "She's here. She's been calling their friends, no luck."
"She's at the vids with her friends ... I don't expect her back for another hour or so."
"This isn't like Thomas ... I think we'd better call security."
"Already have, dear," she said softly. "I asked Relman to have his folks keep an eye out ... unofficially for now."
"All right. I'll leave now and..."
"No. You stay there. "Mattie and Ra'ka are both here, and having you pacing the floor too, isn't going to help."
"That's an order," she said, crisply, then softened. "Look, give me another couple of hours. If I can't find him, or I hear something else, I'll call. I promise. "
"All right . Two hours ... and I'm going to hold you to that."
She didn't answer, just blew him a kiss as she ended the transmission.
Tallie knew something was wrong when she came in the door. Mom looked upset, so did Ra'ka, which quieted her irritation at having missed him. And what was Mattie doing here?
"Hi, baby," Mom said, sliding an arm around her shoulders. She was instantly wary. "Mom? What's going on?"
"We can't find Thomas. He didn't take the Starfleet exam, and he hasn't come home."
The news hit like a thunderbolt. "Wow. I guess he meant it."
"Meant what?" Ra'ka asked.
Oh oh ... "Nothing."
Mom's grip on her tightened. "Out with it, Tallie. Meant what?"
Geez, Tom was going to kill her ... "He said he didn't want to take the exam. He didn't want to join Starfleet."
Her mother's grip loosened; she could hear the sharp intake of breath. "All right. Enlighten me. Why didn't he want to take the exam?"
"He said ... he thought everyone just expected him to join ... because he's a Janeway. He made me promise not to tell ..." she was near tears, miserable at having to rat Thomas out.
Mom looked pretty miserable, too. "Tallie, do you know where he might have gone?"
This wasn't fair, she thought. "Look, Mom, don't get so upset. Thomas will be OK. He's just working things out."
Bad move. Mom turned to look at her, and in that moment, her mother dropped away, and the Admiral slipped into place. Her lips were set in a thin, pale line ... her gaze was icy. "Don't play games, here, Tala." Her voice was low, dangerous. Behind her, Ra'ka's face went white. "Your brother could be in trouble. I need to find him. And if you have any idea where he might be, I suggest you tell me, now.!"
The tears started to flow. "I'm not sure."
"Think, Tallie," Ra'ka said kindly.
"There's a holosuite place off campus ... he's talked about going there sometimes. Some program he likes..."
Kathryn nodded, calmer now. "All right, Ra'ka, you know what she's talking about? Can you show me?" She answered his nod with her own, then turned and walked into the den, leaving the three young people looking at each other.
"Wow, " Mattie said. "My dad's a captain, but I've never seen ..."
"No kidding," Ra'ka said. He patted Tallie's shoulder sympathetically. "Well, kiddo, if you ever join Starfleet, remember what happens when you cross an Admiral."
Ra'ka cast a sidelong look at Kathryn as she sat, staring out the hovercar window. She had been deathly quiet, and he wasn't sure what to say.
She finally sighed and looked over at him. "Ironic, isn't it ... I was just thinking that you and I can talk about all kinds of things. But my own son apparently isn't comfortable enough to tell me that he doesn't want to join Starfleet."
He shrugged. "Maybe because it counts with you?"
She looked puzzled, and he stumbled to explain. "I guess he was afraid of disappointing you ... like I was with my dad. I couldn't tell him that I wanted to go into Starfleet."
Kathryn understood why. Bajor still hadn't aligned with the Federation, and for Vedek Simone, having a son in Starfleet presented certain political difficulties.
"But he supports you now, right?"
"Sure ... he did then, too. But I guess I just saw him as larger than life, somehow. His being a Vedek didn't help, either."
Kathryn laughed. "Well, I'm certainly not larger than Thomas ... not now, anyway." She patted his arm. "But I understand what you're saying. And you're too young to be so wise."
She fell quiet for a moment. "Ra'ka, remind me," she said quietly. "I owe Tallie an apology."
Kathryn was momentarily stunned when she opened the door to the holosuite. She had steeled herself for almost anything. But she wasn't really expecting Lake George.
For a moment, though, the sunset on the water unlocked a flood of memories ... of moonlight sails; Tallie's squeals as Chakotay taught her to swim; Paka's belly flops off the dock. She turned, half expecting to see a wiry, dark-haired boy building sand forts ... not the miserable young man sitting on the dock.
Thomas looked up as the door opened, and when he saw his mother march inside, his stomach sank.
But she surprised him. She stood there, hands on hips, seemingly lost in thought. "You surprise me, Tommy," she said softly. "I didn't think you remembered."
"Sure," he said, hesitantly. "I think this was my favorite program."
She nodded, then walked to the dock and sat beside him. "You want to explain this? Why you didn't show up for the exam, then disappeared?"
He looked at the small stick in his hand, trying to formulate the words. "I ... I guess I don't want to go to the Academy."
He could see his mother's eyebrow shoot up. "Perhaps I'm being a bit dense, here, Tommy, but it seems to me that you asked to take the exam. That you told us you wanted to go to the Academy."
He threw the stick into the water with such force that Kathryn was momentarily taken aback. "I don't know. I thought I did. Or maybe I thought everyone wanted me to." He shook his head. "It's just that, you see, Starfleet is all I ever knew ... you and Dad ... Aunt B'Elanna ... but watching Paka sweat through the Academy, seeing other people, they way they live ... I guess I'm not so gung-ho about it any more."
She kept her words measured, non-judgmental. "So, you couldn't talk to me ... talk to your father?"
He shrugged. "Starfleet's important to you.. Dad told me a long time ago that it was your life. I figured I'd be letting you down."
She sighed and leaned her head against the post. "You did let me down, Tommy," she said as the boy winced. "You let me down because you decided to solve the problem by running away. "
She fell silent for a moment, and he expected the worst. But she laid a hand on his arm. "As for the rest ... you would make a fine Starfleet officer. But you also have the talent to be a fine engineer ... or architect ... or whatever you think your path should be."
She slid her hand under his chin as if he were still a little boy, and turned his face to hers. "Starfleet's a demanding mistress, Tommy. If your heart's not in it ... don't do it."
Thomas' eyes widened in surprise. Perhaps that wasn't what he expected to hear, she thought. "So, you mean you aren't disappointed in me for that?"
She chuckled and leaned back against the post. "A little, " she admitted. "A Janeway dynasty had its appeal." She closed her eyes and took a breath. "But in a very selfish way, I'm glad."
"Huh?" Thomas wasn't sure he had heard correctly. "What do you mean?"
His mother stayed quiet ... he wasn't sure she had heard the question. "I told you Starfleet was a demanding mistress," she said, her eyes still closed. "Sometimes, she demands your life. I've seen a lot of people die, Tommy ... in the war, on Voyager. They all were someone's son or daughter."
Her eyes had opened, but she was staring at the lake, not seeing him. "I think about that with Paka sometimes ... that someday a counselor could show up at the door. " She turned to him now, and he could see the sorrow in her face. "So, in one way, I'm just as happy not to have that worry with you."
Thomas had no idea how to respond, so he just nodded. Kathryn quickly wiped at her eyes and gave him a lopsided smile. "You'll figure it out, Tommy ... we all do, you know," she said as she rose to her feet. "Ra'ka's out in the lobby. Maybe we should find him before that clerk gets him interested in a Dabu girl fantasy or something."
Thomas couldn't suppress a snort. "Don't tell that to Tallie ... she's convinced she's going to marry Ra'ka."
Kathryn's eyes crinkled with mirth. "Don't ever underestimate your sister's ability to get what she wants," she said. "But right now, she and Ra'ka are a bit too young to consider such things." She turned, then stopped and turned back to him. "And that goes for you and Mattie, too. Understood?"
Mom obviously knew much more than she let on, he realized. "Yes ma’am, " was all he could say.
She nodded, obviously satisfied. "Think we could go home now? I have a steak dinner that I'd like to finish before your father gets home."
He stopped, confused. "I thought Dad was in New Zealand for the weekend?"
She smiled and, though he wouldn't realize it for many years, gave him the bemused look of someone who had been married for a very long time.
"Uh, huh ... and I told him to stay there. But trust me, dear, he'll be home ... and I don't feel like vegetable biryiani for dinner. So, come on."