Disclaimer: Star Trek and its characters are the property of Viacom/Paramount. I am just borrowing them for fun, not profit.
Summary: This is a coda scene to "Once Upon A Time" where Tom Paris reflects on the farewell message he recorded for B‘Elanna when he was on the Delta shuttle.
"Things Left Unsaid"
by Julie Evans (Juli17@aol.com)
"Computer, rewind. Stop. Resume play."
"Computer, freeze image."
He stared at the face on the screen—his face—the expression faintly regretful, sad, but also...a little defiant, as if there was an underlying refusal to take what he was doing completely seriously.
So long. What the hell had he been thinking? Tuvok‘s typically fatalistic suggestion that it would be a good time to record any last minute thoughts and goodbyes had led him to record this? These were his final thoughts, the final words he‘d wanted to leave B‘Elanna with?
Tom frowned at the image of himself. What had he been thinking, really? While Tuvok had been intently typing into his datapadd, and Samantha had been staring unseeingly at the wall of rock that had them trapped in their shuttle-soon-to-be-coffin, her mind focused solely on Naomi? That at least it would give him something to do, something to occupy his mind, and while he was at it he might as well be clever and amuse the listeners, even if neither of them were listening or had the least interest in what he was saying?
No, it hadn‘t been just that others were present. It had been more, a fear that if he took it seriously, it would become real. And he hadn‘t wanted to accept that he was going to die, that he would never see B‘Elanna again, or Harry, or anyone else on Voyager. That just when B‘Elanna was really healing, when their relationship was also mending, he was going to let her down. By being flip, by deliberately downplaying the seriousness of the situation, he‘d somehow believed he could defy the odds and keep any of it from happening.
But it could have happened. And after all B‘Elanna had been through lately, he‘d treated the likelihood that he was about to put her through more, through another loss of someone she cared about, as if it was something trivial. A joke.
Look on the bright side. So long. C‘est la vie. It‘s been nice, but gotta go now. These things happen, no big deal, right?
"Nice going," Tom muttered to his unresponsive image. He wondered if B‘Elanna would have heard the things he‘d left unsaid, understood that somewhere beneath the flippancy, the usual bravado and mask of humor, his heart was breaking. He‘d known just how much when he‘d listened to Sam telling Naomi goodbye, telling her daughter that she loved her. The pain in her voice had lanced through his own soul for an agonizing moment. It was almost too much to bear, thinking of losing B‘Elanna, of leaving her alone again, and he‘d eagerly grabbed on to anything to avoid accepting it. Razzing Tuvok a little about his Vulcan philosophy had helped delay thinking about the inevitable. And then it had all been over.
Tom leaned back in his chair and allowed a small smirk at the accusing image in front of him. This hadn‘t been his final legacy to B‘Elanna after all. They‘d been rescued at the last minute, transported back to Voyager, and the first thing he‘d seen when the shuttle doors had opened and he‘d stepped into the Shuttlebay had been B‘Elanna. The look on her face had been one of pure relief, and then she had flashed a smile of sheer unadulterated happiness at seeing him alive and unhurt. He‘d returned her quick, bright—and incredibly beautiful smile—before he‘d been whisked off to Sickbay with Tuvok and Samantha, his heart light, his thoughts complacent. To hell with Death. It had missed him again.
So why concern himself with the image in front of him right now, what could have been the image of someone who‘d become only a memory, all his dreams and deeds, hopes and fears, consigned to the past? The image of someone who had spent most of his life, and devoted a good part of his energy, to making sure that few people knew who he really was, or what he really felt. Right up to the very last minute.
"Computer, delete file."
The computer neither noticed nor acknowledged the irate tone in Tom‘s voice, or the rather surly snap of the command. "Do you require deletion of file TEP2145 from all directories?"
"Yes." Personal log, shuttle log, main computer database, his own memory. Everywhere.
"File deleted." The image of himself winked out, replaced by a blank gray computer screen. "Do you wish to replace file TEP2145 at this time?"
Why was it, Tom wondered, that Starfleet‘s computers seemed to find it their place to offer unsolicited suggestions rather than simply await the next command? "No." He paused for several moments, his gaze still locked on the blank screen, before he added slowly, "Display file TEP Last Will and Testament."
The computer complied and the text of the file appeared on the screen. The file he‘d recorded a couple of months after Voyager had ended up in the Delta quadrant, and only after repeated reminders from the computer and an eventual warning that the captain would be informed of his noncompliance of Starfleet regulations. He‘d done it on text/audio rather than video file, listing his few belongings and who they should go to, basically to anyone who wanted them. Then he had added a few brief "testaments", goodbyes to those few he‘d figured at the time might care, the kind of "Looks like I‘m gone, not a great loss, it‘s been nice knowing you, take care of yourself" bullshit he‘d mastered, the kind that basically said nothing. To people like Harry, Kes, Megan and Jenny, Captain Janeway...and to B‘Elanna, though at the time their friendship had been in the beginning stages by anyone‘s generous standards. He‘d considered the file an annoying chore finished and had dismissed it, and rarely thought of it again. Except strangely when he and B‘Elanna had been trapped in space on the Day of Honor, and then only long enough to realize that she would never read it, that wherever he was destined she was going with him. But in the end their last minute rescue by Voyager had seemed proof yet again that he was charmed, and that dying, or what kind of legacy he might leave, wasn‘t something he needed to even think about.
And he hadn‘t. He‘d rarely thought about the fact that his last will and testament file was not only outdated, but empty of any real feeling or meaning. Even after he and B‘Elanna had become a couple it had only occasionally crossed his mind that he really should update that file, but somehow he‘d never gotten around to actually doing it. To recording his deepest feelings, telling her everything-- that he loved her more than he‘d ever loved anyone, that he could no longer imagine his life without her in it, that it broke his heart to think of leaving her, that what he wanted more than anything, whether he could be part of it or not, was to for her to be happy. But if he wasn‘t going to die, then he had plenty of time to tell her those things, so there was no need to say it all for posterity, not even when it might seem like he was facing death, as it had today. Right?
The door announcer beeped before Tom could get more than that one word out, and he looked up, startled. Though she was earlier than he had expected, he had no doubt who was at his door. He switched off the computer monitor manually. "Enter."
B‘Elanna entered, still in her uniform, looking slightly grimy from a very long day spent searching for, and finally retrieving, the Delta shuttle. Helping to rescue him, and Tuvok and Samantha. She hadn‘t even bothered to stop by her quarters and change before coming to see him. Now she stepped into his quarters and stopped just inside the doorway.
Tom stood up, meeting her intent gaze. It was a habit between them, had always been, after an incident when one of them had been in danger, to take this cautious stance with each other. To approach tentatively, still mindful of how their feelings had just been unsettled, assessing each other with looks and questions to assure themselves that everything was fine again, that they were the same. Their own strange reunion dance.
Tom bypassed that dance this time, and walked straight up to B‘Elanna, pulling her into his arms and hugging her tightly against him. She was stilled with surprise for only a second, then her arms slipped around him, and she hugged him back hard enough that he had to suck in his breath against the pressure on his ribs. He didn‘t mind. They held each other for a long minute, their bodies sharing warmth and comfort, her face buried in his neck, his lips pressed against her hair.
She pulled back first, far enough in his secure hold to look into his eyes. "Tom..."
He nodded at her unfinished question. He was fine. He‘d survived again. They‘d survived again. There would be more moments to complain about his day old pizza littering her coffee table and her discarded uniforms strewn haphazardly across his couch, about his attraction to the exploits of a 20th century chauvinistic "cartoon" character and her tendency to consider pouring over warp core equations on the nearest datapadd as a form of entertainment. And more often than not, to end up in each other‘s arms afterward.
"I knew you would be," she responded to his unspoken answer, her voice firm with conviction.
Tom didn‘t doubt that B‘Elanna had refused to consider the worst. She had her own ways of avoiding facing unpleasant alternatives, mostly by working so furiously at solving the problem—as she and everyone on Voyager had today—that she literally didn‘t have time to think about it.
"You knew you would be too," B‘Elanna added, a small smile on her lips.
"Of course," Tom said, confidently. "I knew we were going to be rescued." He gave her a wry, self depreciating smile. "Which is good because you wouldn‘t believe how terrible I am at saying goodbye."
"Hmmm." B‘Elanna kept her eyes locked on his, and hands stroked his back lightly. "I usually understand what you‘re trying to say, Tom, even when you don‘t actually say it."
She obviously hadn‘t been fooled by the jesting tone in his voice. "Do you?" he asked lightly.
She nodded, and her voice was soft, sincere. "Yes, Tom, I do."
He realized that she meant it, and he could see the knowledge in her eyes, and perhaps a glint of amusement. She did understand.
"But right now I‘m not interested in how you say goodbye, Tom," she added softly, slyly, and she lowered her gaze from his eyes to his mouth as she spoke.
He took the hint and pulled her closer, his mouth lowering to meet hers. He dismissed the thoughts that had been bothering him as they molded together and moved across the room, discarding clothing in their wake. With mouths and hands touching, exloring, they began to initiate a very different kind of reunion dance.
After they‘d showered together, they made love, for the first time with none of the tentativeness that had been present during the past few weeks. The remnants of the distance between them seemed to wash away under the knowledge that they‘d again almost lost each other, and again had defied the odds. Soon after Tom gently extricated himself from B‘Elanna‘s arms. He left her curled up on the bed asleep and padded quietly across the room to his desk. He stared at the blank monitor for several moments, then activated it and requested the file. He glanced at B‘Elanna, her hair beautifully mussed and her expression peaceful as she slumbered, sheltered in the love tossed sheets on his bed. With that vision to warm his heart, and feed his soul, he updated the file, replacing the old message, that left so much unsaid, with a new one.
And even though she knew, this time he told her everything.