by Kat Hughes
Summary: Tom and Kes get the chance to say goodbye, properly.
Set: 6th Season
Note: Yes, this is written in response to a certain spoiler…
Disclaimer: Borrowed the names…sorry Paramount, will send chocolate if I put your noses out of joint.
His mouth dropped open, hairs on the back of his neck stood up, he blinked.
The image remained.
Something he’d never expected to see, ever again. The pretty face, the neat jump suit, the mix of sweet natured calm and fierce intellect. Those large blue eyes and delicate golden hair, curling about her shoulders. She was smiling.
It had to be a dream.
Shore leave had been granted for a month on this particular safe haven in the Delta Quad. It was unremarkable, really. A fair and gentle people, a strong yet gracious leader, tall buildings, pretty communal gardens. All standard for the enlightened races he’d encountered. It just wasn’t his thing, too settled and…stable for his tastes. Of course, a bar or two would have done wonders for the place…
Still, he’d wandered away from Harry and B’Elanna, insisting that he wanted to get a real sense of the planet. Harry had nodded and then drifted off into the crowd as some trinket or other caught his eye. Torres had smiled wryly and eyed him very carefully. She’d asked him exactly what "sense of the planet" he was looking for. He’d just let her have his smile and had then slipped off, heading for the square shaped building he’d seen as he’d piloted them in. He’d thought at the time it was out of sheer curiosity, with just a little boredom thrown in for good measure.
Looking at her, he wondered if it really had been his idea to come.
"Hello, Tom." Just as deep as he remembered, the same inflections, that same warmth, the same smile. Yet…
She laughed quietly, deep and familiar, like she’d never been away. "I thought you’d ask that."
He dropped to the cold seat. A white stone of some kind, shaped by an artist, worn by visitors. The square building loomed in the distance.
"It’s just that…last time we…I mean…I never." He stopped trying to talk and broke a large grin, turning to her. "I missed you." That was easy to say, easy to explain and something he hoped she already knew.
She shared his smile. Her eyes showing her amusement at his indecision, her mind still ringing with the words he’d utter next. It almost took the fun out of it, knowing how he’d react, but seeing it, seeing it, was completely different.
"I’ve missed you." She looked to the view, still smiling. "I’ve missed Kathryn and Tuvok, B’Elanna, Chakotay and Harry and of course, of course I’ve missed Neelix and the Doctor."
"Of course." Tom echoed, grinning.
"It’s been too long. I always regretted that I never got to say goodbye."
"I wondered, I wondered about that a lot. Last time I saw you was…"
"Hydroponics," she nodded, remembering. "I can still see the look on your face." She turned to him and smiled fully, her eyes shining. "You were very confused that day."
"I…" he started.
"And, I asked you why you looked like you found out you were going to live to be 100."
He narrowed his eyes at her in confusion.
"Old Ocampa saying," she informed him. He had changed more than she thought.
"Yeah," he smiled, "I never did ask about that. As I recall I kept asking you about…"
"B’Elanna," she finished for him, smiling.
He smiled at that, distantly. "That makes sense."
A short pause.
"This is going to sound like a stupid question…"
"I don’t think so." She already knew what he was going to say. She wasn’t actively probing his mind, it was almost like she couldn’t help it, habit had a lot to answer for.
"How do you know?" He grinned at her, his hands resting idly in his lap.
A small smile. "You never asked stupid questions before."
"Oh," he nodded, understanding, "that’s right, you never did listen to me."
"Tom, ask your question." She ordered playfully.
"Curious are we?" That smile, that hadn’t changed. So, he’d got a little older, a little wiser maybe, a little more cautious, but he still had that smile. And it still had the same effect.
"Do you know? Do you know what happened to us? Since, you’ve been gone. I had this stupid idea that maybe…maybe you were watching us."
His brow creased. "No?"
She hadn’t meant to say it like that, say it as if she didn’t care, as if she hadn’t wanted to stay, as if what she had now was something better. She’d thought at first that it might be, better, she wasn’t sure now, sitting here, talking to Tom.
"It would have been too hard, they said…"
She shook her head smiling. "No one."
He looked away, still forcing the smile. "Everyone."
She’d forgotten things about him too. The way he hid, challenged, and told you what you didn’t quite believe yourself yet. An insight you always wished he’d apply to his own life once in a while. Maybe then things wouldn’t turn out the way they were going to, the way she’d seen.
"Maybe, I just want you to tell me."
"Not much to tell."
"I know that’s not true." She relaxed and he hated the way this seemed so normal, so familiar, so much like it’d happen again tomorrow, like she was still just Kes, his Kes.
"Okay, maybe it’s not. Let’s see, Seven of Nine, there’s a change, you didn’t really know her did you?"
Kes shook her head slightly. "Did she ever find what she was looking for?"
"No." He went distant again, avoiding her constant gaze.
"Do you think she ever will?" Kes pressed.
He sat up straight and turned to her, looking her straight in the eye. "Are you coming back?"
She paused, watched his eyes, heard his thoughts, saw everything there was and still knew she didn’t understand him, and could not even begin to. "No Tom, I’m not."
"Not even to see everyone? They’d be thrilled." His voice didn’t echo that sentiment. He wondered if things could have been different, if she’d ever returned…
"Then why are you here?"
"I’m not meant to be here."
"Then why are you?"
"It doesn’t make sense, why just me, why not the Doc, Neelix…Neelix?"
Kes always finished her sentences. So headstrong and bright, frightening in her knowledge and her need to know more, understand. She had been wonderful when she was angry, defend you until her throat was so dry she could barely speak, knowing she was right but willing to listen to you all the same.
"I’m here to see you." So deep it was almost a whisper. She couldn’t stop her head inclining a little towards him, drawing him closer.
He watched for a reaction in those large blue eyes and his own reply was quieter still. "Why?"
"I needed to say goodbye." She leaned in further.
His brow lowered, but he maintained the mere centimetres between them. "After nearly 2 and a half years? Why not before?"
"I wasn’t ready before."
"Cryptic." He nodded and moved away from her a little.
"I suppose." She looked down.
"You’re different." He turned away from her and looked up towards the square building, a botanical greenhouse made of light purple glass, shining majestically in the late sun.
"So, are you," she returned. "You want to tell me about the Moneans?"
He turned to look at her. "How’d…?"
"I said I wasn’t allowed, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t listen out occasionally, see who was thinking."
And she earned a full grin for that. "I did a lot of thinking."
He laughed, "Same old Kes, perceptive to a fault, especially where I was involved."
A half smile, "I just told you the truth."
"I’m grateful for that."
She reached out to touch his hand. "In another time, I got to know you very well."
He looked into her eyes and she almost lost concentration, that effortless control that was holding her in corpeal form. "I know," he said slowly, smiling with it.
She didn’t move her hand. "She was beautiful."
He nodded. "I think, I can just about imagine."
"It hasn’t complicated things?"
"B’Elanna doesn’t know. I didn’t tell her, maybe I should, honesty and all that. But I don’t think she’d understand." He paused, thoughts drifting and then recollecting. "We only met the Krenim briefly though."
"That’s what you think."
He bowed his head and chuckled. "I won’t ask."
"Don’t" She sat back up straight and moved her hand, the moment passed.
Late evening sun bathed the scene. People of all races walked around them, coming or going, ending or beginning…somehow it didn’t matter.
"I really missed you. Sometimes I think…"
"Sometimes you don’t think."
He laughed at that. "Too true. Hair pasta comes to mind."
She laughed softly. "Sometimes, I don’t think either."
"I never noticed." He inspected his hands. His voice held the strength he required.
She couldn’t hear his thoughts anymore, wondered when she’d stopped.
"I never let you." She admitted, her voice low but her eyes marking the gap between them.
"Were we not ‘meant to be’?"
"Why ask questions you know the answers to?" It was an easy return, maybe too easy.
"So, you can answer them for me." The smile again.
She closed her eyes and drank it all in. Being near him, hearing him, being alive, breathing for what seemed like the first time in her life. Knowing she would have been 5 by now, middle aged.
Only an hour, that was all she’d needed, just to see him, hear his voice. She had to be sure, sure it wasn’t nostalgia or something misguided leading her to him. She’d meant to tell him so much, tell him all that he needed to know… He’d told her he missed her, it was enough.
"Talking to yourself is the first sign of madness." He almost fell from the bench.
"So, have you got a "sense of the planet"?"
She moved and stood behind him, watching the same view.
"Nice." B’Elanna said vaguely. "Who were you talking to?"
He turned to look at her, narrowly.
"Okay, I won’t ask." She smiled again at him. "It is nice here, maybe we could come back tomorrow."
"No," he said weakly.
"Okay," she said again, in too much good humour to let him put her off. "Then we won’t. Remind me not to let you out of my sight in the future…not sure if I like the results."
He didn’t even smile.
She nudged his shoulder. "Come on, that was a joke, throw another back at me…you know you want to."
She’d gone and he hadn’t even noticed. That’d hurt when he remembered how to think clearly.
"Let’s go." He stood, but reached out his hand to grab hers.
And so they walked hand in hand back to the shuttle, B’Elanna talked mostly about nothing in particular, making the odd jibe, waiting for him to respond. The sun fell from the horizon.
It had been a goodbye, of sorts.