Author: Asuka Jenius ([email protected] )
Date: November, 2000
Disclaimer: I don't own anything (certainly not "Miracle on 34th Street"!) and a little warning, there's a character death (but it happened prior to the fic)...this is an AU.
Author's Notes: This fic was first inspired by the question "Whatever happened to the Borg baby?" and as i thought about who could raise her I came up with the plot...the Christmas aspect came later, but I think it compliments. I don't know if we've seen the last of Erin Janeway, though. She's kinda irrepressible...
My name is Erin Janeway. I live on a starship in space. It's called Voyager. My home is with my Mommy, but she told me about another home far away. Mommy and all the people on Voyager want to go home. Mommy says there's no such person as Santa Claus but Uncle Tom told me Santa Claus can give you anything you ask for if you believe. I want to go home, Santa.
Tom smiled. Erin Janeway never ceased to amaze him. Despite her alien apperance and her enigmatic history, Erin was as much a part of Voyager's lost family as any other crewmember. Erin was brought on board as an infant when Voyager rescued 5 children, Erin and four others, off an abandoned Borg Cube. The Doctor had been able to recover the children and Seven of Nine had been able to discover who the other four had been before assimilation. But Erin was an enigma, it was unlcear if she'd been assimilated or born Borg, as it were. Oddly enough Seven had taken to the baby quite naturally and had the care of the child even after the older children had been relocated. Seven cared for Erin for a year and a half. Then, two years ago now, Seven had died when her Borg implants had failed. Kathryn had been devastated, she still couldn't bear to talk about Seven. No one expected Kathryn to take over the care of Seven's adopted daughter, but after the memorial she moved all of Erin's things into her own quarters and from that moment on, Erin was a Janeway.
"Well?" Kathryn sounded a bit impatient.
"Well what are you going to do about it?" Kathryn was exasperated. Bad enough Tom was never serious with her. He had no right to be telling her daughter fairy tales.
"Do about what?" Tom was honestly confused.
Kathryn looked at him like he was a small child. "Tom. Voyager is not going to be going home for Christmas and I don't want her to be disappointed. You told her about Santa Claus, you explain that it's not true."
"Kathryn, she's only four years old. Shouldn't she get to have some illusions?"
"There is a difference between illusions and believing that an old man in a red suit can send us home. It's not going to happen and it's not worth believing in. Santa Claus is a myth, a fairy tale, he's just the kind of illusion I don't want Erin believing in!"
"I...." Tom was at a loss. He was worried about Kathryn. She'd changed when Seven had died. She loved Erin with a fierceness that surprised them all but she pulled away from everyone else. Tom had been spending a lot of time with the two of them recently. He'd always been attracted to Janeway, but only when he saw her with Erin did he really fall for her. Now if only he could tell her..."I'll talk to her." he agreed. "I'll pick her up this afternoon and she can help me put the finishing touches on the Holiday Holodeck."
"All right." Kathryn calmed down a little. "Where are we this year?" In the past Tom had designed a Mountain Lodge, Paris in the Winter, A Moonscape, Christmas in Fair Haven...Voyager's crew had come to expect something magical when it came to Tom Paris' Christmas Program.
"New York. The bustling city....snow falling...Tree and ice skating at Rockefellar Center....you'll love it."
"I can't wait." She smiled. Tom loved that smile, he wished he could see it more often.
"Come over after your shift. Erin and I'll show you around."
"I'd like that." She reached out and brushed his cheek. "I'll see you later."
Maybe, thought Tom as he walked away, Maybe, just maybe, he had a chance after all.
Kathryn walked into the snow covered past. Bustling city, indeed. Tom's note had told her to meet them at Macy's, whatever that was. Looking around the street she found it on the corner and slipped inside. The store was full to brimming with holiday cheer. Shoppers moved among decked halls chattering away. Somewhere someone was playing carols. Kathryn smiled to herself, she'd have fun shopping for Erin and Tom here. First she had to find them and be shown around. Kathryn moved among the shoppers looking for her adopted daughter and her wayward helmsman.
"Excuse me, " She stopped a holo-shopper, "Have you seen a young man dressed like myself and a little girl? "
'Well, no ma'am. But if he has a little girl, they could be with Santa. Go to the center of the store." Kathryn thanked her and moved toward the center of the store, every step with more anxiety. There in the center was a big beautiful Christmas tree, a mountain of colorfully packaged gifts and a long line of fidgeting children and parents. And in the center of that was Santa, red suit, jolly grin, white beard...and Erin trying to pull it off. Tom was watching from below.
"Thomas Eugene Paris. I do believe I told you to tell Erin the truth about Santa not bring her to him!"
"Kathryn, I just thought..."
"Mommy!" Erin ran to her mother, arms open wide. Kathryn scooped her up and hugged her close. Erin was chattering away as soon as she reached her. "Mommy, Uncle Tom picked me up at school and I came to help in the holodeck and he told me I could see Santa cause he's a hologram like you tell me but Mommy his beard is real and he knows things."
"Yes, dear, Uncle Tom did a very good job making his Santa Claus, but that doesn't mean he is Santa Claus or that Santa exists at all."
"I know Mommy. But maybe this Santa knows the real Santa and the real Santa can bring us home."
"We'll talk about it later, Erin, let's go home." Kathryn picked her daughter up and turned to Tom. "I'll talk to you later too."
"Kathryn..." She shook her head and he knew her well enough not to press. Kathryn and Erin walked away.
"But Mommy, maybe he is real. His beard is real and he knew."
"Erin, he's a hologram. He's not real."
"But the Doctor's a hologram and he's real."
"Erin....just try to listen...Santa Claus is a very wonderful story but that's all he is. He's not real and he's not going to bring us home. Now go to sleep.". Kathryn tried to look stern. Erin was quiet but the wheels were turning in her mind, Kathryn was all too aware that Erin was Borg despite her angelic appearance. Though Seven died before she was two years old Erin resembled her first adopted mother in many subtle ways. "Good Night, Angel. Sweet dreams." Kathryn leaned down and kissed the child on the forehead, she felt so lucky to have her. Her resolve to keep her safe from harm was strengthened once again...Kathryn's ire returned as she turned way from the peacefully sleeping little girl, and she found the object of her anger waiting in the central room.
"Kathryn, I'm sorry." He started before she'd gotten thru the door, she stepped quickly past the sensor, not wanting her daughter to hear any of what she had to say to Uncle Tom. He continued, "I know I overstepped my - look, I was wrong and I know it. She's your daughter to raise and honestly, it's none of my business."
"I'm glad you finally figured that out." Kathryn's voice was barely above a whisper, but her anger was painfully evident.
"I just worry about her." He dared to come closer to her. "I worry about you both." He guided her to the sofa and gently pushed her down. She tensed in his arms, but at least he got her to sit down. He sat beside her, letting go of her arms, and looked directly into her eyes. "I heard you say 'sweet dreams'. That's all I want her to have."
"Tom, this ship doesn't run on dreams. The universe is made up of the stuff of nightmares....Borg, Hirogen, Species 8472..." She started to fidget, "...the Kazon, the Cardassians...the Romulans...Q! Real monsters exist out there, Tom, and sometimes Prince Charming is too late. Sometimes he never comes at all. " She looked right at him. "Illusions, fairy tales....Santa Claus can't get us home, Tom. Nobody can."
"You're wrong." Tom spoke so quietly she almost couldn't hear him. But he spoke with more conviction than she'd ever heard from him. "Maybe we can't rely on Prince Charming or Santa Claus to get us home, but I know for certain we will get home someday and I know exactly who will bring us."
"Who? The Tooth Fairy? Tinkerbell perhaps?" Her voice dripped with scorn, but it belied a deeper pain.
Tom looked up, into her stormy eyes, his own were crystal clear. "You."
"You used to believe Kathryn that no matter if it took you seventy years or more, you would see Earth again and you would bring us home. You made us believe it, every single soul on Voyager. No matter if we were Starfleet or Maquis or even an "Observer", we would follow you to the ends of the universe and back again because you were going to get us home. But somewhere along the way you stopped believing. You lost faith in yourself. But we all still believe in you." He paused for a moment and just looked at her. She was so still the room seemed to be held in stasis. "I believe in you."
"Very pretty words, Mr. Paris. But they won't get us home any more than Santa Claus will." Her voice was ragged, years of unshed tears were trying to break through. "Maybe somewhere I did stop believing. Because belief doesn't bring anything but grief. We have to live in reality. And reality is where you can do everything right and still lose. "
"You're right, Kathryn. Reality is the Borg and the Hirogen and Species 8472. Reality is Species 8473 and 4 and 5. Reality is even disease and good old fashioned human frailty. Reality is when people we love die and there's nothing, nothing we can do. But reality is also little girls who want to believe in Santa Claus and mothers who are afraid. Seven died, Kathryn, but Erin didn't. And neither did you." She looked at him, fighting back the tears. He wanted to hold her, he wanted to brush all the tears away. But she didn't need comfort, he knew that.
"Are you finished?" He nodded. "Then get out." He moved away. He'd said what needed to be said. He hoped she'd heard him. "Wait." He looked back. "How can you believe in me if I've stopped believing in myself? It doesn't make sense."
"Faith, Kathryn, is believing in something when common sense tells you not to." And he was gone.
Neelix smiled. The party was going well. They always did, very few of Voyager's crew actually celebrated Christmas for religious reasons, but it seemed all of Voyager celebrated for their own reasons. The season, and Tom's imaginative Holo-Programs, always served to bring the whole crew together. All around him, people were laughing and smiling and even singing. There was a general feeling of warmth that filled the holodeck.
Erin Janeway was waiting expectantly for Santa's arrival, hoping against hope that the doll under the tree was not her only gift this all important year. Kathryn watched her with worried eyes as Tom's Holo-Santa made an entrance to shouts of joy. Erin ran to him, but the closer she came the more she held back. By the time she'd reached Santa her eyes were downcast and her expression one of disbelief. It was exactly what Kathryn had feared but she no longer held Tom responsible. She knew where the real blame lay. Holo-Santa was saying something to Erin but she wasn't listening and instead fled to the tree. Kathryn followed. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Tom had followed too.
"Erin? Angel, are you okay?"
"He couldn't do it, Mommy. You were right. He's just a Hologram."
"I was wrong, Erin. Santa Claus is as real as you or me as long as you know where to look for him. And he will take us home, even if it's not today. You have to believe, Erin."
"But Mommy, if he can't take us today then why should I expect any other day to be different. That doesn't make sense." Kathryn looked at her daughter, at the beautiful child standing before her. The child Seven left her with. The child God or Santa or Whoever let her keep. And she looked up to the man who stood waiting, the man who'd come to be everything to her, as much as Erin was everything to her. She smiled at him. "Faith, Erin, is believing in something when common sense tells you not to." Tom smiled at her and the two looked to Erin. A familiar thoughtful expression spread over her face.
"Interesting." she said, and went off to find Neelix for some more peppermint ice cream.
"Good advice." Tom came round the tree to face her. "I think I heard it in a movie somewhere."
"And here I thought you'd come up with it all alone." She smiled at him, the smile he loved, the smile reserved for him.
"You'll learn, Kathryn, my love, nothing is original."
"Kathryn, my love?"
"Hmmm." He leaned down to her, his face inches away, "Kathryn. My. Love." He pulled a sprig of mistletoe from behind his back and dangled it over her head. "Kiss me, Kate."
"Oh, brother." It was the last thing she said for some time.
Mommy says even if you couldn't bring us home this year it doesn't mean you can't ever bring us home. And she says if you don't, she will. Voyager is our home, anyway. And we got just what we needed for Christmas, a Daddy.
See you next
Erin Janeway Paris