But we only stay in orbit
For a moment of time
And then you're everybody's satellite
I wish that you were mine
Counting Crows - Recovering the Satellites
It takes a legal battle, a handful of empty threats, and two shuttle rides to a neutral location, but finally Tom Paris gets to take his daughter for the summer. Miral is six-years-old, tall for her age and oddly quiet. It’s been awhile since Tom has gotten to spend any quality time with her and he’s not sure the reception he’s going to get when he picks her up. She’s been living with B’Elanna full time, after all, and Tom knows first hand the kind of poisonous words she can spit. Tom wouldn’t put it past his ex-wife to devoting a fair amount of time turning Miral against her father.
But when he beams her aboard, she doesn’t look angry or scared or confused. A little resigned, maybe, but in that way the kids of broken families always look.
“Hey, kiddo!” Tom says, mustering up all the enthusiasm he can.
“Hi, daddy,” she says. They hug and it’s a real hug, as far as he can tell.
He suspects B’Elanna’s anger has more to do with the failure of the marriage in general than anything that he did, specifically. While he gets upset still when she sends him hurtful messages or fights with him about Miral, he remembers too how easy loving her was. How smart and beautiful she is, how kind she can be when she bothers to put effort into it.
Maybe he was foolish to think their relationship could survive anywhere outside of Voyager.
B’Elanna had wanted to stay in space and Tom had wanted to stay on Earth. When B’Elanna had found out that she was going to be allowed to keep her rank and commission, she’d signed up for a run on the Colorado without even asking him.
It had been pretty much downhill from there.
Miral watches him pilot. She watches his hands, the displays, the stars streaking by.
“You excited about Earth?” he asks.
“I guess,” she says.
“When is the last time you were on Earth?” he asks. “I guess it was with me, huh?”
She nods. Two years ago, he’d had her for a long weekend because B’Elanna had to take some certification class that only sat twice a year at the academy. She’d been gracious enough, her words, to let Tom see Miral. They’d gone to the aquarium and played on the beach.
Tom replicates her a snack and then she sleeps through the last two hours of the shuttle flight.
She wakes up at the sound of him receiving permission to dock the shuttle. It’s a loaner, obviously. He’d called a friend to get authorization and when the hatch opens, that friend is waiting for them in the shuttle bay.
“Admiral Janeway,” Tom says. “Thanks again.”
“My goodness,” Janeway says, looking at Miral who shifts uncomfortably. “You’re quite tall.”
Miral shifts again and looks up at her father. “I need to use the bathroom.”
Janeway laughs and Tom laughs and Miral just looks confused and a little desperate.
“Come on,” Janeway says. “I know where it is.”
After, she takes them out to dinner. It’s not a stuffy restaurant, but it’s nice. They sit outside and eat fresh food and Miral drinks her juice through a straw and laughs for the first time since he picked her up.
When Janeway learns that Miral is here for the summer, she promises to see them lots more before they part ways. Tom flinches - he knows the Admiral is busy and is wary of making his daughter listen to promises that won’t be kept.
“What did you think of the Admiral?” Tom says, as they walk toward the transporter station.
“She’s different than how Mom made her sound,” Miral says, and then yawns. It’s been a long day and she’s dragging and two blocks from the station, Tom picks her up and carries her the rest of the way, her long legs dangling.
Tom lives in his family home. He’d rented a crummy apartment when he’d left the Colorado but his father’s death left the large home standing empty and it didn’t make sense to let it fall into disrepair. Neither of his sisters wanted it and so he moved in. He’s glad for it now. Miral can have her own room, a yard to play in.
It’s still light out, a little, but he puts her to bed. She sleeps all the way through their first night together.
Janeway, surprisingly, makes quite good on her promise. It shouldn’t be surprising because Tom can’t remember Janeway ever making a habit of letting him down.
She contacts him and invites herself to dinner. She’s been to the house before, but it’s been years. She brings a pie and Miral a bubble machine to go in the yard.
“Did you make this?” Tom asks, looking at the pie, the dish still warm in his hands.
“Sure,” Janeway says with a crooked grin. “Let’s go with that.”
Miral chases bubbles around in the yard until dinner and then needs a bath before bed because she’s all sticky with soap.
Two weeks later, they go with Janeway to the zoo in Oakland and then they travel with her to Bloomington for the 4th of July where her little hometown still puts on an old fashioned fireworks display.
One Saturday, they rent out a holodeck and go sailing and then, for Miral’s last weekend in town, Janeway suggests an overnight camping trip. There are several local places and they end up hiking at Point Reyes and camping on the beach, all in one big tent. They roast marshmallows over the fire and and Miral eats so many that she gets sick into the ocean. Janeway holds her thick hair back and rubs her spine.
“Don’t tell Mom,” Miral says. She says it three times and finally Tom has to ask.
“Why do you think Mom would be mad you got sick? Everyone gets sick sometimes,” Tom says.
Miral just shakes her head. “Klingons are supposed to be strong.”
Tom doesn’t like that but he can’t go around denouncing her heritage.
“Well sometimes humans eat too much sugar and get sick and that’s okay,” Tom says.
Miral looks unconvinced.
In the morning, Tom crawls out of the tent to see Janeway and his daughter seated around their morning fire, talking softly to one another. There’s a pot of coffee and a Janeway holds a mug tightly in her hands. The ocean drowns out any words they say, but he sees Miral nod and then lean her head against Janeway’s shoulder.
Something inside Tom suddenly flutters to life again.
B’Elanna takes a rotation on Jupiter Station, heading up the engineering team. It’s just a year long post, but after her last stint doing deep space, Tom is ecstatic to hear it. It means Miral will be close.
It takes some negotiating, but he secures her for the month of August. He’ll have her for her birthday and she’s about to turn ten, so he wants to make a big deal of it.
Kathryn comes home from a six-week tour of duty the day before Miral arrives and when he mentions going to pick her up, she looks at him blankly for a moment.
“Miral,” he says. “My daughter. My daughter, Miral, whom you’ve met.”
“Yes,” she says. “I know, Tom, I just... I need to play some catch up,” she says. “I remember.”
Kathryn doesn’t talk about work a lot. They both ‘talk about work’ in that they complain about irritating co-workers and rush to be on time in the mornings and fret about their workload, but Kathryn never comes home from these temporary duty assignments and discusses the ramifications of her prolonged absence, the always delicate state of the federation, why her hair got so gray, so fast. He worries about her, but there’s no sense in doing it, because she dismisses his concern easily.
“All part of the job,” she says and won’t talk about it more.
Kathryn is supposed to go with him to pick her up but she gets called in early to work and so he goes alone. Miral asks after her and Tom explains about how Admirals are often very busy.
“It’s a high stress job,” he says.
“It seems like every job is a high stress job,” she says, sounding like a thirty-five year old.
At home, he fixes her dinner and they play a game. She seems tired but it’s not really that late, and so he tries to think of things she’d like to do. He offers to watch one of the popular holovids or paint her toenails bright orange but she just takes her bag to her room and unpacks it. She runs her own bath.
He sticks his head in to check on her and she’s sitting curled up in the water, her chin resting on her knees and her bumpy spine curved along her pale back. The girl needs some sun.
“I don’t think I want a birthday party this year, dad,” she says, finally. The ends of her hair are wet and curly and the rest is still dry, like she’s just been sitting there.
“Oh,” he says. “Okay. Well, it’s your birthday, you can spend it however you want to.”
“How’s your mom?” Tom asks.
“Really busy,” Miral says. “I think she was glad she didn’t have to worry about me for a while.”
Tom frets about this while she finishes her bath and long after she goes to bed.
Kathryn finally comes home late, looking haggard. She needs food and sleep but she just replicates coffee and spreads work out in front of her.
“Sometimes I worry about ‘fleet kids,” Tom says, ignoring the obvious signs Kathryn has carefully laid out that say she wants to be left alone. “They have too much to worry about.”
“That’s not true,” she says. “I had a very carefree childhood.”
“You were a ridiculous overachiever and your sister rebelled so hard she won’t hardly come back to the planet anymore,” Tom says.
“That’s your opinion,” she says.
“Miral just seems kind of sad, is all,” Tom says.
“She’s just travel tired,” Kathryn says. “She’ll settle in and have fun. She has a whole party to plan, after all.”
“She says she doesn’t want a party,” Tom says.
Kathryn finally looks up from her PADD and flicks it off, concern on her face.
“I’ll call in sick tomorrow,” Kathryn says softly. “We’ll make sure everything is okay. Spend the day together, just the family.”
Tom finds himself nodding, relieved.
Maybe he needs that, too.
“You’re taking her,” B’Elanna says.
“It’s the middle of the year,” Tom says. “What about school?”
“I don’t care,” B’Elanna says. “Enroll her on Earth.”
“What happened?” he sighs.
“What always happens,” B’Elanna says. “She skips class, she gets in fights, she doesn’t do her work. I can’t... She’s miserable here and she’s making everyone on the ship as miserable as she is.”
“She’s too much for you to handle, so you’re dumping her on me for a while,” Tom says.
“She’s your daughter; it’s your responsibility, too.” But B’Elanna looks a little guilty. “Tom, look, I know it’s last minute but I talked to Kathryn last month and...”
“Oh you did, did you?” he says.
“She said that if Miral needed to stay with you, she was always welcome. I think spending a little time under Admiral Janeway’s iron fist couldn’t hurt,” B’Elanna says.
“She’s not an Admiral to Miral, she’s just a step-mom,” Tom says. “They fight just as much as you two do, you know.”
B’Elanna just stares at him, her eyes pleading.
“Fine,” Tom says. “I’ll find a school that will take her mid-term and you can arrange travel this time.”
“Thank you,” B’Elanna says. “You’re a good father, Tom.”
“But this doesn’t mean summer still isn’t mine,” Tom says. “If you send her to me now, I get her for the year.”
B’Elanna bites her lip but he can see in the sag of her shoulders that she’s not going to fight it.
“I have leave, I can come visit,” she says.
Kathryn wants to put her into a school that is geared toward the Academy but Tom suspects the Academy is exactly what Miral is chafing against, so Tom enrolls her in the public school, there in Marin. She’d probably be the only Klingon in almost any school since Klingons in the federation are still rare, but at a public school, most of the kids are going to be human. She’ll stand out for sure.
Still, having federation schooling means she’ll get to go in as a sophomore even though she’s only fourteen.
She’s moody when she arrives, two bags instead of one because she’s coming to stay. Tom doesn’t make her talk and decides quiet and sullen is better than screaming fights or tantrums. Kathryn had made a joke about gluing down everything breakable in the house, but Tom had considered it for half a second. One time B’Elanna had hit a metal table so hard she’d dented it.
“You know the rules,” Tom says. “Go to class, do your work, and if you do that then your free time is your own.”
“Wow, thanks, dad,” she says sarcastically.
“You don’t know it, but you’re lucky,” Tom says, and then under his breath, “You could have had my dad.”
Miral’s first day of school is rough. She wears her hair down, lets the thick mane obscure her forehead as much as she can, but there’s no hiding it, though Tom doesn’t know why she wants to. All her clothes are meant for space, too, she while the kids are all wearing shirts and pants and shoes meant for comfortable walking, she shows up in a jumpsuit and utilitarian boots and is too hot all day in the sun.
The good thing is, she’s smart. The bad thing is, she’s smart enough that the school is probably going to bore her.
“I hate it,” Miral says at dinner. Kathryn is at work. Tom is still in uniform. “It’s dull.”
“Well if you wanted a more challenging education you probably should have gone to class while you had the chance.” Tom knows he has to be unsympathetic. She slumps down in her chair. “Join a sports team,” he offers.
“Go to hell,” she says.
“Glad we had this chat,” he says.
Kathryn is home all weekend. Miral actually quite likes her step-mom and so when Kathryn offers to take her out of the house for the day, Miral agrees. They come home with more appropriate clothes for her and a Parrises Squares mallet. Miral has decided to join the team.
Miral doesn’t make friends, exactly, but she’s the strongest, toughest kid on the team, so she has respect. And she has to keep her grades up to keep playing and if she skips too many classes she’s off the team.
Toward the end of the school year, their team makes it to the state finals and are pitted against the technologically based school where kids who are Academy-bound go. They wipe the floor with the public school and Miral comes home enraged and defeated.
By the end of the summer, she has decided to switch schools.
Tom and Kathryn are thrilled that she wants to stay, but in the end, B’Elanna wants her back and Miral goes without a fight.
Tom has to take a duty tour on a spaceship in order to qualify for the promotion to Commander, so when Miral comes home for the summer, Kathryn picks her up from the transport station.
“I could have just walked alone,” she says, hugging Kathryn.
“I know,” she says. “But I wanted to see you as soon as possible.”
Because Tom is away, Kathryn has light duty for the summer. Even though Miral is seventeen, old enough to take care of herself, Kathryn doesn’t want her to be alone and she could use the break, anyway.
“What are we going to do this summer?” Miral asks, jokingly. “Visit the zoo? Go camping? Shopping spree on Mars?”
“I figured we’d get you ready for your Academy application and interview,” Kathryn says.
Miral pauses. They’ve been walking at a brisk pace and she can see the house down the road but the words have made her lose all forward momentum.
“Kathryn,” Miral says softly. “I haven’t decided to go to the Academy. You know that.”
“Maybe not,” Kathryn says. “But preparing for the Academy will prepare you for any school and if you ever do make up your mind, you’ll be ready.”
Miral can’t find fault in that logic. She knows what is expected of Academy applicants. Every child raised on a Starship does. She’s smart enough, she thinks, to pass the exams, but the interview will be harder and then, if she gets in, what will she do?
“I don’t particularly care about engineering or flying,” she says warningly.
“You’re not expected to be your parents,” Kathryn assures her. “B’Elanna is a fine engineer and your dad’s flying was worth busting him out of jail for-”
Miral makes a face, slightly ashamed of her father’s past.
“But they are good at other things, too.”
“Sometimes I think about going Security,” Miral says.
“Really?” Kathryn asks, sounding less than awed.
“Just punching people in the face all day, or shooting them. It sounds therapeutic.” Miral grins as they approach the house.
“You are a terrible child,” Kathryn says.
“Why do I have to know what I want to be at seventeen?” she complains.
“You don’t,” Kathryn says. “You just need to want to be something.”
The house is neat - a sign that Tom really isn’t around.
“Sorry you got stuck with me, Kath,” Miral says, letting her bag drop to the ground.
“Nonsense,” Kathryn says. “I love you. I married this family, not just your father.”
“That’s sweet,” Miral says. “You’re still going to make me revise lessons all summer, aren’t you?”
“We can do it outside, if we must,” Kathryn says. “But yes.”
Kathryn reaches out to brush a piece of hair away from Miral’s face.
“But not tonight, step-daughter,” she promises.
There must be something wrong, but her dad won’t say anything over the comm line. Miral tries to get him to spill but he just asks her to come over. She’s just across the bay, in her last year at the Academy, but she has finals next week and has been holed up in her dorm room, making herself and her roommate slightly insane with lack of sleep and too much caffeine.
“Dad,” she huffs but he holds up a hand.
“It’s just dinner, Mir,” Tom says.
“Fine,” she says. “See you at 1900.”
When she gets into the house, she walks into the kitchen to something unprecedented - her parents talking. Miral isn’t sure if B’Elanna has ever stepped foot inside this house before.
“Mom!” she says and hugs her.
“Surprise,” B’Elanna says. “I was in the neighborhood.”
“I thought someone had died,” she says, stepping back. “I’m so relieved.”
Tom looks at the floor and clears his throat.
“What?” she says. “What is it?”
“Come on,” Tom says. “There’s dinner. Let’s sit down and eat.”
It’s weird sitting around like a family. They must have done it before, but Miral can’t remember it. They eat and her parents ask about her finals, her expected assignment once she graduates, her life goals. She answers their questions but she knows they already know all the answers and finally, she puts her fork down and crosses her arms.
“What is happening?” she asks. “You’re both hiding something.”
“We wanted to talk to you about this together,” Tom says. “We wanted you to know you have our support no matter what happens.”
“Are you getting a divorce?” she asks. She has to do something to fight the growing terror at the back of her throat. B’Elanna smirks and Tom even smiles but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “What?”
“Admiral Janeway hasn’t been off on a duty tour,” B’Elanna says, glancing at Tom.
“Yes she has,” Miral says. “She’s been in deep space. Her ship has gone dark which is why she hasn’t been able to communicate.” Miral looks at her father, who looks a little worse for the wear. He looks tired and ashen. “Tell her, daddy.”
“Honey,” he says. “Kathryn has been at Starfleet Medical for the last couple weeks. We didn’t want to scare you so close to your finals.”
“Medical?” Miral asks. “What’s the matter with her?”
“They don’t know, yet,” B’Elanna says. “No one can quite... figure it out.”
“Is she okay?” Miral asks. No one says anything. “Is she going to be okay?”
“She wants to see you,” Tom says. “I told her you were almost done with the semester but... I think you should go see her and talk to her.”
“Oh my God,” Miral says. “Can we go now?”
“We can go in the morning,” B’Elanna says. “You can go home if you want and we’ll meet you there or you can spend the night and we can go together?”
“I’ll stay,” Miral says.
B’Elanna sleeps in her room, sleeps in her bed. It’s nice to cuddle with her mother, as much as both of them can stand, but she gets up after B’Elanna falls asleep and goes out to the living room. Tom has fallen asleep on the sofa. He doesn’t sleep well in the bed alone when his wife is gone. She covers him with the light blanket they keep for the colder months. It’s nearly summer, but they live close to the water and nights are always cool.
Miral hasn’t spent a lot of time at Medical headquarters and has never been in the hospital wing before. Tom and B’Elanna wait for her outside of the room, even though a large part of her wants them to go in with her.
Kathryn is on a bio bed and Miral bites her lip at the sight. She looks frail and small. She looks too thin and vaguely swollen all at once and her hair is white now, all the way through.
“Hi,” Miral says.
“Hi, sweetheart,” Kathryn says, smiling. She sounds like herself at least.
“What’s... what’s up?” Miral asks, sitting in the chair next to the bed.
“Well, they think I might be dying, kiddo,” Kathryn says. Miral scrunches up her nose and feels a flash of hot, white anger - usually what comes before the tears.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she demands. “What’s the matter?”
“I didn’t want to frighten you,” Kathryn says. “I thought maybe... I’m sorry. They’re not sure. They think it has to do with some temporal misalignment on my cellular level.”
“I don’t... you mean time travel?”
“We did a lot of things on Voyager that I’m not allowed to talk about,” Kathryn says. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It matters a great deal,” Miral says. “It matters to me.”
“Your dad is going to need a lot of love,” Kathryn says.
“Don’t do this,” Miral pleads.
“I’m so proud of you, Miral,” Kathryn presses. “You’re so smart and kind and beautiful.”
“Come on,” Miral says. “It’s too soon for this.”
“You’re going to do the most amazing things,” Kathryn says, giving her a weak smile. “Wonderous things.”
“Please,” Miral says, reaching out to take her hand. She squeezes it but the squeeze she gets in return she can barely feel. “Mom, please.”
Kathryn shakes her head. “I just wanted you to know how much I love you.”
Miral has to take her last semester over again. While her professors all understand why she missed every single final, they can’t excuse her from them all. She graduates in the winter instead and lives with her father, not in the dorms, for those last, extra months.
She takes a deep space assignment when she graduates and wonders if she’ll ever want to come back to Earth again.