Title: Sun and Sky
Series: VOY Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: All characters herein owned by Paramount Studios and various other entities. No copyright infringement intended.
Thomas Eugene Paris. Missing. Search discontinued due to unfavorable meteorological and diplomatic conditions. More information as received.
It was your typical, kick in the stomach, 'Ma'am, your husband is probably dead' missive. Owen Paris sent it. In official format. I wanted to tear the bastard apart at the seams. After his son, of course, assuming said son was still alive enough to make the effort worthwhile.
Picture it. Our first Christmas at home, home being a cozy house in Marseilles with Sandrine's within walking distance, our own sod for a growing quarter-Klingon kid to kick around in, and beautiful winters. I normally hate winter, Klingon blood detests cold, but my human romanticism adores Marseilles at Christmas.
It was a simple mission, supposedly, routine enough, otherwise Tom never would have agreed to it. We'd both become more cautious with Miral's birth...with our pasts, neither cared to leave an orphan. It was a simple mission, just he and Seven, on a joint test run and training stint, her first as an Academy cadet.
I received the missive Christmas eve, and Chakotay showed up on our doorstep hours later, holding his own version and looking, as only he can, like a big, lost puppy. I took his arm, walked him in, and we sat in silence for at least an hour before he finally threw the padd down and stood to stare down into Miral's crib.
"She was pregnant."
His voice was quiet, forceful, perhaps a little too even. His eyes held the emotions of a desperate man...a look I hadn't seen since Seska.
"We don't know that they're dead, Chakotay." It felt strange, talking him back from ledges, I had been on the receiving end more often than either of us probably care to remember.
He shook his head, jaw clenching. Frustrated. Fine, I could empathize. "I talked to Kathryn. They've peeled the place apart with scans and sensors. No human lifesigns. They found the shuttle, burned up. The doors were stuck shut. It had to be an inferno within."
Did he even realize how...gruesome...he was being? Maybe not. Maybe he just assumed my Klingon side could take it. I hated his assumptions. "Transporters, then, the shuttle was configured with an emergency one."
"But could it have been activated in time?"
There were no guarantees, not on the prototypes, I knew that. I had been designing the things, the mission, in part, was a test run. I decided on direct honesty. "Maybe. Maybe not. We can't know unless they pull something from the recorders. That could take hours...in the meantime, they may've gotten out and found shelter offworld."
"That's a little far to go for emergency escape routes, don't you think, Torres?"
I got angry then...maybe it was the fact that Miral was awake and staring at me with Tom's eyes, maybe it was the fact that our perfect family holiday was just those recordings away from being another in a long line of devastating disappointments. Maybe it was the fact that as much as I cared about Chakotay, had always cared about him, he never managed to show up on any personal level until I had done something wrong or he needed a shoulder to whine on.
Maybe it was the fact that he was probably right.
I hit him.
We sat in silence again.
The updated logs were transferred to my official channels later that evening. Starfleet offered a drawn out report, of course, but words weren't needed, we knew enough to decipher the bare chronological sounds and actions.
Tom, first, sounding more annoyed than alarmed, reporting anomalies in the reactor coils, Seven analyzing and attempting repairs. More systems down, the initial indications that helm control was failing, a debate over life pods, and then the fires.
The audio log came through first, a cursory formality of official remarks, then more personal matters. The smoke must have been awful, Seven coughed between every few words, and Tom swore every other sentence. Finally, visual recording kicked in, and the damage was made clear. It would soon be an inferno, and though time was running out, they managed to keep level.
Tom disappeared behind a console, and I mentally guessed the intention before he called out. "I'm going to work on the transporter, it's been iffy all day, and...dammit."
"I intend to inform Commander Torres that one should create safer methods of transportation for one's spouse..."
"Hey, Cadet, you talked me into flying it." He came out again, grinning faintly, and a barely perceptible smile passed her lips as well. Another wall of flames sparked up, searing her arm , and she jumped back, crying out softly. He pushed forward, steering her back, moving towards a wall console.
"What are you doing?"
"Shutting the log off, I don't want them to see this. Neither do you."
And then, silence, and darkness.
Janeway appeared back on the com line, face creased in the worried frown we recognized well, hands crossed under her chin. "That was fifteen seconds before atmospheric integrity was breached for good."
"They didn't stand a chance in hell." I hated to admit it, hated to even attempt to comprehend it.
She nodded slowly. "I don't believe they did either. We'll keep searching for them, of course, but..."
"No hopes up." Chakotay filled in, face carefully blank.
Her gaze focused on him for a moment, sadly. "No hopes up, Chakotay."
And so that Christmas passed on.
They searched for weeks, and kept alert up for months, allowing for every contingency...enemy capture, amnesia...
Chakotay disappeared in his own fruitless search for answers, for requiem, I suppose.
The next Christmas Lieutenant Commander Thomas Eugene Paris and Cadet Annika Hansen were officially declared missing, presumed dead. No bodies were ever found in the shuttle, but with the fire, none were really expected. Even Seven's implants would've melted at that level of heat.
With the official declaration, Chakotay returned, alone, lonely. He had grown old in that year, his hair streaked with more grey than I had ever noted in it before, his dimples rarely present. He returned on Christmas Eve, kissed Miral on the head, and then, he found my lips.
I was shocked, and unnerved, and had he done it a few years before, I wouldn't have managed the protest I did. "Chakotay, it's only been a year." A year of anger, and pain, and nightmares, and watching my daughter, *Tom's* daughter, grow up in his absence...
"No, Torres." My oldest friend and first desire nodded, smile bitter, ironic. "It's been a lifetime, and I don't think I can survive another alone. We need each other, Lanna."
And, of course, we took what we needed.
The holidays are better now.
There should be something to add besides that, some grand declaration of happily ever after. I don't believe in fairy tales, and may never again.
When I joined the Maquis, it didn't take long, or much, to become infatuated with Chakotay. He was a girl's parcel dream. I've grown up since then, and I suspect I owe him for forcing me to take the space and time to do so.
We aren't soulmates, and I'll never rank him above Tom, and he still has nightmares about Seven and that unborn child...but we've created a family, something to gain comfort from, something better than memories. Miral will have a mother and a father, and somehow, in the process, we might save each other.
I think Tom...and yes, even Seven...would understand that. Were things different, they might have found the same answers. We've been to the crash site, of course, and left three grave markers, and pictures of Miral...and I still have the logs. I've caught a few more seconds at the end, and found that while Tom managed to shut down visual, he left audio on, near mute, but on.
And maybe in truth, or maybe simply because of the low volume, there are no screams. Just whispers.
I love you, B'Elanna. I'm sorry, Miral. And I understand, Chakotay.
Collectives are more efficient, Chakotay.
And there are still days I wish I could kill them for their sacrifice.