Kathryn's Point of View
I never like going to after-funeral receptions because I hate putting on a superficial face of calm and reassurance. I hate the pretense, the shallowness of the entire thing.
But when I walked into the Messhall, I was struck by the festive atmosphere positively emanating from the people thronging the buffet tables and talking in small groups. There were plates of fancy-looking finger food and glasses of wine. Colorful fruits, both familiar and exotic, arranged tastefully. Bowls of Delta Quadrant delicacies. I felt my eyes widen in astonishment. There were even flowers, bold breath-takingly beautiful blooms that decorated the main table in a vibrant declaration of life. I spotted tiger-lilies, white arums and shiny green leaves as I headed towards my dear friend who hung silently in a corner.
My heart ached to see his gentle face darkened by sorrow. It was too fast, too cruel. I could still remember the horrible day when the Doc broke the news right there on the Bridge. I could almost hear his heart breaking into million painful shards. Kim's crying didn't help much either. But I had to control myself, keep my own terrible sadness in check. Even then, I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks .
I dodged Neelix deftly who bustled around with a tray laden with nibbles looking like tiny sea-urchins on crackers. The little Talaxian smiled cheerfully but I saw the pain in his eyes. Tom was his friend and the loss was so evident. I only smiled gently and nodded, continuing to walk towards my first officer.
He must have seen me striding up to him because he immediately straightened up and tried to look alert. I put a hand on his arm, squeezed it re-assuringly. His handsome face was lined with sorrow and tiredness. His hair seemed to have grown more white now. I inwardly sighed. He had aged.
"Tom wanted this, " he murmured with a rueful smile.
I gazed around, seeing people chatting, so at ease. Young Harry sat near B'Elanna and Seven, talking softly. Harry had sobbed openly at the funeral, clinging onto B'Elanna's strong shoulder. My chief engineer herself struggled visibly to suppress her emotions and I spied her wiping away tears in a corner where she thought no-one would intrude. Now the two youths were calm, silent. The pain was there but they were learning, painfully, to accept the cold hard fact. Seven was observing everything, her cool aristocratic features unruffled. However, I knew that she, too, was affected.
A girlish giggle. Little Naomi pounded after a red ball, an embarrassed Samantha running after her. I smiled, touched by the little scene. I could also see Ensign Yale carrying her baby boy in a light blue blanket. C'est la vie, I mused.
"Chakotay?" I turned to the quiet Native American. Chakotay who had lost his lover to a cruel, relentless virus ...
"Yes, Kathryn? " His voice, mature and steady, shook a little.
"Go eat something, " I said concerned. "You have barely eaten ..."
Chakotay chuckled. His dark eyes looked at me. A crying soul were in those dark-brown orbs.
Oh Chakotay ...
I spoke at the funeral conducted earlier in the day . I poured all my feelings, my emotions into the eulogy. I had seen how Chakotay and Tom were intimate with each other. I was so pleased that they found one another. Chakotay with his gentle mature spirit, protecting Tom's fragile young soul like kid-gloves holding a precious filigree-glass phoenix. Chakotay was so lucky, finding a soul-mate after the fiasco he had with Seska, a name which was by this time fading away. For Tom, he flourished under Chakotay's nurturing and care, his guidance and his love. Chakotay encouraged Tom's talents of piloting and navigating ; Tom absorbed everything gratefully. Chakotay healed Tom's tortured heart, piecing it back together and infusing it with unconditional love. The young man shone with this care, this respect. He was so different from the angry, bitter and cocky man I'd met in New Zealand. That Tom was a disturbed youth, torn apart by his father's impossibly high standards and by his own failures. He was sarcastic, snappish, a hurt animal whose only response was to bite back, snarl. Like a lone wolf, he wandered along the fringes of Voyager's society.
The Tom under Chakotay's care would have made a father proud. Owen, I mused, you should have seen your son ... I found myself immensely proud too, of Tom's accomplishments.
I sighed. Then I watched Chakotay give his eulogy. His tears ran unchecked, in bright shiny streams. Yet he remained dignified, a proud warrior, even as his hands shook and his voice quivered. Without Tom, Chakotay was lost. It was bizarre, a man whom everyone looked up to ...lost ? Yes. As I heard his words, felt his terrible feelings of loss and pain throb so palpably in the air, I concluded that Chakotay was alone ...
So alone ...
Tears brimmed in my eyes and I quickly dabbed them away. Chakotay was still quiet, watching a party held in his lover's honour. He wasn't saying anything.
Maybe I should never have turned up for the reception. I should have stayed in my quarters. Yet this was not right. Chakotay and Tom are my friends.
I patted Chakotay on his shoulder once more and he looked up, smiling for a second. Then the dark cloud descended upon his visage again. He wanted to be alone, to be with his private pain. So I left and the door hissed close behind me.
Harry's Point of View
I must have turned B'Elanna's shoulder into a virtual swimming pool. But she held me tightly, her face grim. We hung onto each other for support, for comfort.
I don't believe he's gone.
One minute, he seemed to be standing beside me, teasing me with his sarcastic jokes and playing pool in the Sandrines. The next, he was dead, reduced to ashes in a robin's-egg blue urn.
Life is so unfair !
Tom was always the picture of health and vitality, his eyes sparkling with life. He always beat me in racquet ball and mountain-climbing. He brimmed with energy. Even when I first met him, on DS9 (which seemed so long ago ...), he moved with an innate grace, like a golden cougar walking nimbly along his lofty abode. He crackled with live fire, a kind of fire which was both abrasive and attractive. I was drawn to him, maybe because of my youth and because he seemed so worldly wise.
Now he is dead ...
I hated that thing, that virus which had murdered my friend. I hated it, called it vile despicable names.
But all my anger couldn't bring Tom back to life.
I saw how bad Tom'd looked, tormented by the evil claws of the monster. All the lifeforce was sucked out, leaving him shrunken, bereft of strength. His limbs became so thin, I sworn I could snap with my hands. He reminded me so much of the preserved Egyptian mummies I' d seen when I were a child : desiccated, terrible, pitiful. Every night, I sat with him while he slept in the sterile Sickbay, accompanied him when Chakotay went on his shift. Those nights, I prayed for some form of salvation , some divine intervention. Sometimes, I even asked for death. Something to stop the pain ...something ... anything ...
The fits he had .... They tore at my heart, so much so as I tried to hold him down, I wanted to run far far away and weep.
Even the Doc couldn't do anything to save him ...
I will always remember the conversation I'd had with Tom, two days before he passed away. He looked at me, that day, tears in his blue eyes. I knew, by this time, that the pain was unbearable. But he bore it, my brave Tom ...
"I think I am going home, " he told me, his blue eyes bright with tears and something else. I took a look at him and shuddered. There is something in Chinese beliefs that speaks about the soul leaving the material body. Before the person dies, there will be the final hurdle in the journey to eternity. And when the person finally crosses this final hurdle, he/she is ready to die. The readiness to die is seen in a sudden change of behavioral pattern, ie. eating and talking. Sometimes the readiness is detected in the attitude. It is said that the dying person is lucid and calm, at peace. When I saw Tom's eyes, I knew. He had crossed the final hurdle.
But I didn't want to let him go. "Don't say that, Tom. You know the Doc's working his pants off on the cure ..."
"Harry, please ..." Tom put his hand on mine and gripped it gently. " Don't argue with me ... I am going home ..."
His eyes shone with an inner serenity I'd found unnerving. "Do you remember the time I crossed the threshold? Warp 10? I dreamed last night that I repeated the same thing again ...'cept that I didn't turn into some lizard this time!" He chuckled to himself. "I saw everything, Harry ...and it was so beautiful ! "
I tried to clamp down the rising torrent of tears. Oh Tom ... The only thing he knew was flying ...
"There was this place, " Tom was still saying, his eyes misty now with remembrance. " It was as if I stood on a cliff, looking down and beyond. There was this greenish-blue haze glowing below me ... I gazed at it and my mind was clear ... I wanted to dive into the blue haze, Harry ! I wanted to feel that clarity ..."
"Nooooo ..." I whispered, my voice cracking.
"If that place's really Heaven, " Tom sighed, "I would have leaped straight into it ..." He gripped my hand again.
Two days later, he died. Alone in Sickbay, with the holographic doctor as companion.
The dam of tears broke the moment I heard the voice of Doc on the Bridge. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. Captain Janeway held me close but she let me cry.
Yet you know something ? I envied Tom. He had Chakotay who cared the world for him. The day I heard that Chakotay and Tom were lovers, my heart tightened in a mixture of sorrow and jealousy. I hated it. I was so blinded by the terrible jealousy that I didn't make myself speak to either Tom or Chakotay. However, as I observed the two of them, I could sense that they were happy, complementing each other. Slowly my anger died away. I wanted to apologise to Tom because I had made some snide remarks about Commander Chakotay. I knew that he had forgiven me ...
But I couldn't forgive myself.
Now he's gone : my dear brave friend. My heart still aches -- there is a terrible void in my chest that refuses to heal. Tom, if you are out there, please forgive me, dear friend. You have been a great help, a good solid friend. I pray that you are truly flying in Heaven ...
Chakotay's Point of View
I stood in the empty Messhall ...
Empty tables, empty chairs, empty floor. Empty.
Neelix had cleaned up most of the plates and kept the left-overs in small containers. He was still lingering in the kitchen, wiping the counter tops. Perhaps he was unwilling to leave, like me. Unable to let go ...
Kathryn came to the 'party' but she didn't say much. She only squeezed my arm. Maybe she, too, was unable to express herself. Oh Kathryn, if you only know how comforting your presence is to me ...
I looked around, feeling the silence in the darkened Messhall like a tangible thing. I could almost feel him, lingering in the room too. But he was truly gone. I held, in my hands, the urn where his ashes were kept. I stroked the cool porcelain urn, the ache returning forcefully, reminding me ...
My knees shook and I steadied myself.
He is gone.
The realization screamed in my head.
He is gone.
Yet, somehow, I could sense him in the room, standing with me. I could almost see his bemused grin and his blue eyes sparkling with wit.
I sucked in a shuddering breathe, knowing that the tears were already flowing down my cheeks unchecked. The pain was terrible. That pain, with misery and loss giving it an extra kick. I felt like one half of me was excised away, burned off. I felt like a man who had his limbs amputated but still feeling them as if they were not loped off.
I felt ... lost.
Neelix's concerned face.
"I am leaving the Messhall. Do you wish to leave too?"
"No, Neelix. I am staying for a while."
The Talaxian nodded and turned to walk away.
"Neelix?" I said suddenly and the cook looked at me. "Thank you."
Neelix smiled quietly, a very subdued Neelix. Then he left the Messhall.
The Messhall was silent now.
I drew one more intake of air ... and broke down. I sank down to the floor and let all my tears flow out in a shameless relentless flood. In the emptiness of the room, my sobs sounded desolate, alone. But I still cried ...
Now I can mourn Tom's death ...alone.
Sometimes I think that I know
What Love's all about
And when I see the light
I know I'll be all right