"Louise you want to do something that everlasting?"
"Like what Isabelle? Doing the dishes?"
"Yeah, something like that. How about writing the disclaimer for this story?"
"Sure, we don‘t wanna forget the legal stuff, do we?" "This is a DISCLAIMER: Voyager and her crew belong to Paramount. So, we said it."
Author note: There are things in life that are easier to deal with time, death certainly one of those. For those who read Neoplasm might think that I‘m repeating myself, but I needed to get this story out of my system (as Louise keeps putting it). Isabelle S.
Big thanks to Claire for sending I‘ve Learned to us, Amanda B. for constant support and PJ in NH for beta reading this story..
Synopsis: Alternate universe starting at the beginning of the first season. We assume that Tom and B‘Elanna had been lovers while in the Maquis. Tom has a chronic and deadly disease requiring a medicine that can‘t be replicated. WARNING, major character‘s death. VERY SAD. P/T, rated pg-13.
By Synbou- email@example.com
Captain Janeway‘s personal log. He had broken the news to me a few days after our arrival into the Delta Quadrant. He implored me to keep it a secret from the crew, informing only the members of the senior staff, including Kes and Nelix, for the time being,. Weeks and months passed quickly. Too busy adjusting to Voyager‘s new situation, the crew was hardly noticing the slight changes in his condition. He had warned me although that when things would go downhill for him that it would go fast. And it did. He was gone in a matter of weeks.
"I‘ve entered into the ship‘s log on this date that I‘m granting a field commission of Lieutenant to Thomas Eugene Paris," Captain Kathryn Janeway said. She leaned across the table to offer him her hand and a welcoming smile. "Congratulation, Tom"
Paris took her hand in both of his. His gaze fell on them. She saw his feature soften and sobered. Her smiled disappeared. It was not the reaction she had anticipated from him. He had tried so hard to prove that he could be trusted after all, and that he could redeem himself. And, he had. Why was he not happy? He looked up and made ye contact with her. She felt unsettled as she read gratitude, sadness and dismay in those clear, blue eyes of his.
"Thank you, Captain," he finally replied sincerely. "But, I can‘t accept it."
As he let go of her hand, she moved around the desk and came to stand before him.
"Why not, Tom? You deserve it. I‘m very glad and impressed with all the initiative you have shown since we arrived here. That‘s the kind of people I want on my senior staff." She allowed herself a grin. "And, you were right. You are the best pilot I could ever have." On a more solemn tone she went on "Tom is it because of your medical condition? I haven‘t talked to the doctor yet, but I‘m sure that we can work around it in order to have you as my chief pilot."
"Captain, Helerdale disease can‘t be cured, it can only be treated."
"I know. It can be treated with Fucus Campaniolus extracts."
"Well," he sight. "The fucus can‘t be replicated."
If the fucus can‘t be replicated, that means...
Her heart quickly sank as she realized the implications. Gently, she guided him toward the sofa in the far end of the room. As they sat down, she dreaded the conversation they were about to have. She did not want to have that conversation right now. Hell, she did not want to have that conversation at all. She had to admit it. It was her fault. It had been her decision to destroy the array that could have brought them back home in order to protect the Ocampa. A decision that was sentencing a member of her crew, the son of a friend, to a very painful death.
"Please, don‘t you ever feel guilty about this, Captain," he told her as if he could have read her mind. Their eyes met. "Whatever people might say, the decision you made was the right one. Any good Starfleet captain would have done the same. I know for sure that my father would have agreed with you."
She could only smile at the faith he was showing in her. She put her hand on his forearm before asking: "How much of the fucus do you have?"
"About 600 mg. I need roughly 20 mg a week. So, with this week covered, I should be okay for the next 7 months."
"Seven months," she echoed. "Alright, by then, we might just be back home. Tell you what we‘re going to do, we will discuss this with the doctor as soon as possible. Hopefully, he‘ll know about alternative treatments. Will you still accept the position of chief helm officer?"
His grin reached to his eyes.
"I will, Captain."
"Good," she settled. "Tom, I want you to remember one thing, you‘re not alone on this ship. No one is. If you ever need anything, you know where to find me. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Ma‘am! Thank you Captain."
"It‘s on mornings like these that I count my blessings," he told her softly.
B‘Elanna Torres had to fight with herself not let the comment upset her. Tom had not meant it to be infuriating. If anything, it should be taken as a compliment. But, what was he feeling so blessed about? She slowly turned around in his arms, searching for his eyes.
"I can‘t believe you‘re saying that?" she said a little more dryly than she had expected to.
"Do you regret it?"
"Regret that we made love? Of course not," she assured him.
"That‘s not the issue. I love you. But this whole situation..."
"B‘Elanna," he whispered, his hand gently caressing her cheek."I‘m just thankful that I found you. That you are back in my life. I was so worried."
"But, if we had returned to the Alpha Quadrant, you would have the medicine that you need," she argued. *Like he needed to be reminded*, she thought sarcastically. "I still can‘t believe SHE did this."
"It was the right decision to make and you know it, B‘Elanna," he defended. "And, SHE‘s the captain."
"Well, thank you," she replied bitterly. "I have you and Chakotay to remind me."
"I don‘t want to talk about this anymore," he declared. "Do you want some breakfast?"
Without waiting for an answer, he gently untangled himself from her and got out of bed. Oh, great job, B‘Elanna! She reprimanded herself. This situation was frustrating enough without her aggravating it.
The chime at her door interrupted her brooding. Now, who the hell could that be this early? Angrily, she got out of bed and put a robe on. Once in the living area, she called:
"Who is it?"
"It‘s Chakotay. Can I come in?"
This morning was getting better and better, wasn‘t it?!
"Come in," she finally responded. "What can I do for you, Chakotay?"
Tom choose that awkward moment to come out of B‘Elanna‘s bathroom fully dressed. The room suddenly felt cold. Chakotay‘s entire demeanor hardened. He stared from Paris to Torres, and back to Paris again.
"I see it didn‘t took you too long to find your away back into her bed," he said dryly.
"That IS none of your business, Chakotay!" B‘Elanna retorted dangerously. "What do you want?"
"I... I guess it would be better if I leave the two of you alone," Tom suggested obviously uncomfortable. Quietly, he made an hasty retreat. B‘Elanna picked up the nearest object within her reach and threw it toward the door, giving Chakotay just enough time to dodge it.
In a spit second, she was aware that it was the second time in two days that she had thrown something at her new commander‘s head. He was a good friend to her and he was not deserving that kind of treatment, but she could not help it.
"B‘Elanna, can we talk without you throwing things at me?"
Chakotay sighed. "What‘s wrong?"
"What‘s not wrong?!" she shouted. "What about the fact that we are on the other side of the galaxy, on a Starfleet ship? Or, that Joe Carey is the new chief engineer? Or, that the man I care the most about will leave me again, that, because Captain Janeway thought it was best to destroy the array that could have sent us home?"
"Well, you have to deal with some of that hostility because Joe Carey is not the new chief engineer, you are,"
"I am?" B‘Elanna asked incredulously. "What changed her mind?"
"The captain saw your work while we were in the nebula, or whatever it was, and was very impressed. She really thinks that you can do the job. That is, as long as you can keep that temper of yours in check." Chakotay sighed clearly disappointed. "Now, after this morning, I‘m not so sure anymore. What did Paris do to you? I can‘t believe you‘re back with the man after he betrayed us."
"Chakotay," she began more calmly. She sat on the sofa and gestured him to sit beside her. "Tom didn‘t do anything to me. Tom doesn‘t do anything that‘s the problem. He‘s so calm and acceptant."
"I‘d say that ending up in the Delta Quadrant is about the best thing that could ever happened to him," Chakotay commented sarcastically. "Not only is he out of prison, he‘s the new chief pilot. I would feel pretty acceptant in his place."
"You got to admit that he is the best pilot we have seen by far."
He just shrugged. Chakotay could be so caring and supportive, B‘Elanna thought. But also, so judgmental at times.
"You just don‘t understand," she told him with dismay. "Being here will kill him."
"Kill him?" Chakotay asked.
At least, he had the decency of sounding concerned.
"You know that Tom has health problems," she first pointed out.
"I know he takes some kind of medication everyday. Apparently it‘s for allergies," he answered.
"Allergies." She laughed without humor. "The medication is not for allergies, it‘s for Helerdale disease, Chakotay. The medicine can‘t be replicated. Without it, the disease is terminal. This... mission was supposed to last three weeks, not seventy years." B‘Elanna bit her lower lip, trying real hard to keep her tears at bay. "He has seven months to a year max, left."
Chakotay slowly made his way toward Tom Paris‘ quarters. He was still debating if he was doing the right thing. He had to talk to the man about his situation sooner or later. There was a lot of things to clarify between the two of them, both at the professional level and at the personal one. Chakotay had been waiting for the right opportunity to bring up the issue with Paris, to sadly realize that there would never be a good timing unless he made it happened.
He seriously pondered when and where to confront Paris. He resolved to go to the Lieutenant‘s quarters some time after diner. This would not be easy, and Chakotay did not want to make things worse for the younger man. He was hopping that meeting Paris on his own territory would relieve his stress. Now the only question was, was if Paris would talk to him. He would never know unless he rang the chime and announced himself. So, he did.
The doors slide opened and Chakotay walked very self-consciously into the living area. Paris was standing there in the middle of the cabin with his arms folded across his chest. Obviously, he was already on the defensive.
"B‘Elanna told you, didn‘t she?" he said resentfully.
"Yes, she did," Chakotay answered, keeping his voice as neutral as possible.
"If you‘re here to offer you pity, you‘re wasting your time," Paris warned coldly. "I don‘t want it."
"I‘m not here to offer pity,"Chakotay defended. This was not starting well, he thought. He sighed. "Paris... Tom, we need to talk."
"The situation is pretty clear, Commander. There‘s not much to talk about."
"Well, it might be pretty clear to you, but it‘s not to me. I‘m your new commanding officer, and as such I need to know what limits your performance. I also took responsibility for your safety about this ship, not that I think that you would really need it. But, my life still belongs to you" he pointed out with a small grin, hoping to get a positive reaction. "I take this life debt very seriously, Tom. And there‘s B‘Elanna."
"What about B‘Elanna?"
"She‘s like a sister to me. She loves you. And I, I‘m very concern about her happiness."
Paris looked away as sadness clouded his face.
"I love her too," he whispered. "I‘m concern about her happiness as well. I don‘t know what to do about it."
He took a few steps backward and sat on the couch. He could not fight anymore, he was evidently too tired to do so. His arrogant, cocky attitude had completely vanished exposing a vulnerability Chakotay was unprepared to face.
"When Captain Janeway came to New Zealand and told me that The Liberty had disappeared... I knew B‘Elanna was with you. Where else would she be? I had to do something. I had to find her. She‘s... She‘s my reason for living."
The last words were spoken so softly, Chakotay barely made them out. He sat beside Paris, glad that he did not push him away.
"Tom, if B‘Elanna is your reason for living," he began calmly. "Why betray us? Why betray her back then?"
"I never betrayed you, Chakotay. I did not betrayed B‘Elanna," Paris resented outraged.
"You let your ship be caught..."
"What would have happened, if my ship hadn‘t been caught?" Paris asked defiantly. "If I remember correctly, the Liberty was heavily damaged, and she didn‘t had much of an escape route. My shields and propulsion were almost gone. By putting myself between Starfleet and the Liberty it allowed you to leave. What else could I have done? Destroy my ship and take the Starfleet ship along with it? I could have done that. It would have been a hell of a more quicker and painless death. Even honorable, by Klingon standards. But, I was not alone in that ship. And Starfleet officers are not Cardassians, or Kazons."
"And no one was there to keep a lock on you," Chakotay added looking back at the stunt he had pulled himself in order to destroy the Kazon ship.
"I love B‘Elanna. I really do, Chakotay," Tom confessed after a long period of silence. "You know her best. What should I do? Should I break up with her now or pursue our relationship?
Either way, I‘ll hurt her. I‘ll leave her... Like her father left her."
"You already give this a lot of thought, haven‘t you?" Chakotay realized.
"Either way," Tom replied. "I don‘t want to leave her."
"B‘Elanna said that with the fucus you already had and with what the Doctor found in sickbay that you have almost a year. A year... A lot can happened in one year. Who knows, we might just be back home and you won‘t have to leave her."
Paris allowed himself a small smile.
"The Captain is growing on you already," he observed. "You sounded just like her."
"She‘s a woman with a lot of faith," Chakotay commented. "I really admire her."
"I know that you‘ll be there for B‘Elanna," Tom said looking directly into Chakotay‘s dark eyes. "Will you be there for the Captain as well?"
"Of course, I will. I‘m her First Officer and I‘ll be loyal to her. She deserves it."
"That‘s not what I meant, Chakotay," Tom breathed deeply before continuing. "I didn‘t mean the Captain, I meant the woman:
Kathryn. She fells guilty for stranding Voyager into the Delta Quadrant, for what it means for me. Don‘t let her dwell in that guilt. It‘ll destroy her."
As Tom looked away again, Chakotay kept staring at him. He was wondering if he had been talking to the same man all along. This Tom Paris was so different from the one he had come to expect. Was it this more caring and loving side of his personality that had led B‘Elanna to fall in love with the man?
Paris had shown that he really loved B‘Elanna, and she loved him. It was not Chakotay‘s place to object to it, in any case. But, he could make the little time Tom and B‘Elanna had a lot easier. He put a hand on Tom‘s shoulder and the young man looked back at him.
"I‘ll be there for the Captain, for B‘Elanna, and I‘ll be there for you if you let me." he whispered. "You don‘t have to be alone."
10 months later
Pablo Baythart gave an side way look to his companions as he reached holodeck one. The entire Navigation department was meeting for yet another flight simulation, while Commander Chakotay had gladly taken the helm. Captain Janeway had ordered intensive training for all pilots. In Baythart‘s opinion, the chief pilot was taking her orders a little too much to the letter. They had started with one session a week, then two, now it was the third this week. Reluctantly, they all stepped in knowing that Lieutenant Paris was already inside.
The soft jazzy music stopped them dead in their tracks.
They had expected Voyager‘s bridge or even a shuttlebay, not Tom Paris sitting at a baby grand piano playing softly in what seemed to be an unfinished holoprogram of a bistro. The piano was set on a stage. The wall at the left side of the stage was a big bay window. On the side, lights were shining through the darkness of the night on what could be a lake. A few pictures of musicians were hanging over the right wall, while the one behind them was still showing the hologrid. There were also a couple of tables in the middle of the place. The piano player though was so involved in his music that he never heard the group come in.
The four of them moved quietly to a table where a stack of datapadds were spread out, along with sheets of paper. Baythart picked up one of them showing a drawing and realized that it was a hand-made schematic of the room. Both the drawing and the end result were outstanding.
The music stopped and Paris got on his feet. He turned around and froze momentarily as he saw the group gathered around the table. Surprise and embarrassment showed on his face.
"Sorry," he apologized . "I hadn‘t realized that my time was up."
"It‘s all right, Lieutenant," Irene Hamilton said. "We hadn‘t meant to intrude."
Paris brushed her apology away, then quickly gathered his padds and put the drawings in a folder.
"Those drawing are very good," Hamilton went on. "Did you draw them yourself?"
Paris simply nodded and blushed slightly.
"How come we never knew you could draw and play piano like that?" Francis Lambert put in "You‘re really talented, you know."
"It‘s just some things I do for relaxation. I don‘t even know how to read music," he answered a bit embarrassed.
"It‘s pretty good," Hamilton told him.
"Thank you. Well, why don‘t we start?" he suggested.
He finished the program. As it was replaced by Voyager‘s bridge, only the padds. and the folder remained.
"The last session went really well," he went on, not losing anytime.
"So, I thought of doing something a little different."
The four junior pilots were sitting in a corner of the mess hall, talking discretely. The session had went well, but had been cut short by the chief pilot. A sudden fatigue had overcome the Lieutenant, and had left the rest of his staff perplexed and concerned once he had taken his leave.
"I‘m telling you guys, he‘s not well," Hamilton said. "He‘s awfully pale and always looks tired and I‘m sure he‘s lost some weight."
"We hardly see him anywhere these days," Baythart added. "He doesn‘t go out anymore. Even his shifts on the bridge has been reduced."
"You think that he‘s depressed?" ask Hamilton
"Could be," Lambert granted. "Although, I doubt it. It‘s seems to me more physical than psychological. I‘ve you noticed how much the bridge crew has become protective of him."
"Yes, even Chakotay seems closer to the man," Sorelle commented dryly. "I can‘t believe I‘m here talking about Tom Paris."
It was no secret to everyone that the Bajorian woman was still holding a grudge against the chief pilot. In her eyes, Paris was still a traitor and mercenary who didn‘t deserved to pilot this ship.
"No one is keeping you, Sorelle," Hamilton rebuked.
"Still, she has a point even the Commander is a lot more protective of the man," Baythart said. "I really wonder what‘s going on. I believe that we owe it to ourselves and to him to find out. Tom Paris has been there for everyone onboard this ship since we ended up here almost a year ago."
"Don‘t forget the fact that the guy knows how to entertain a crowd," Hamilton added. "Which he hasn‘t been doing much lately. Got to admit that I miss it."
"Yeah, me too." Lambert told them.
"Tom, are you alright?" a concerned Harry Kim asked.
"Sure, I just need to catch my breath for a second," Tom replied.
"Why don‘t you sit on this big rock over there?," Harry suggested.
The two friends were using Tom‘s favorite hiking trail in te holodeck as part of their weekly work out. It was, as usual, a beautiful summer day. The air of the mountain was crisp and the wind was playing into the lush green vegetation all along the path.
Tom had always been a more sportive person than Harry. At first, the younger man had experienced difficulty keeping pace with his friend, but after months of mountain climbing, hiking, skiing, you name it! Harry was in a better shape that he had ever been. Sadly however, he had to admit to himself that Tom‘s physical condition was not what it used to be. It was tearing Harry inside to know that it probably would never be.
The Doctor had recently started another new treatment. He was hoping that the new drug would fool Tom‘s body in believing it was the fucus. If it worked, they could gradually reduce the dosage of the fucus to the point that Tom would depend solely on the new drug. It seemed to work to a certain extent, although the side effects were obvious. Tom was more easily fatigued. He was experiencing muscle pain and respiratory difficulties. He had also sleeping problems and was losing his appetite. Hopefully, the sides effects would eventually subside and the drug would prove to be an adequate treatment.
It was a race against Time, but for the moment they could only wait and have faith. Tom was not giving up and neither were his friends. Still, they all knew that in the long run, it was a race they were unlikely to win. Harry had the feeling it would probably be the last time they do this particular difficult trail.
"Pablo," Paris called. "Can I have a word with you?"
Baythart breathed deeply in frustration and stopped half way through the arch. What now? The chief pilot had been on his back all session about everything and anything he had been doing. Hamilton, Lambert, and Sorelle gave him sympathetic looks as they exited the holodeck. Baythart turned around and face his superior officer a bit arrogantly. Paris was still standing in front of the captain‘s chair, in a very accurate reproduction of Voyager‘s bridge.
"I want to talk about the strategy you used in the last simulation," Paris told him once they were alone.
"I had a clear way out," Baythart defended.
"At that moment, yes. But you cut it too close." Paris sighed then sat in the command chair, forcing the other man to come to the lower deck to face him.
Baythart noticed once more how easily tired the chief pilot was getting this these days.
"If the Kazon ship had regained her fire power at that moment, Voyager would have been destroyed at that distance," Paris explained.
"But, it didn‘t."
"That‘s not the point," Paris replied. "You can‘t take that kind of risk in real life. And, as chief pilot, you‘ll have to be able to consider all your options. The captain will be depending on you."
"As chief pilot?" Baythart asked. "Sir... Tom, is there something we should know?"
"You know that you would be the one to become chief pilot if I couldn‘t perform my duties any longer."
Baythart came closer.
"Tom, maybe this is none of my business...Then again, the others and I wanted to talk to you about it. Well... it‘s obvious you haven‘t been well lately, it‘s nothing serious, is it?"
Paris sighed again and bit his lower lip.
"Unfortunately, it is," he finally said. "I‘m dying of Helerdale disease. I have a few months left."
The simple declaration stole Baythart‘s breath away. He suddenly felt very uneasy.
"God," he whispered as he finally decided to sit beside Paris. "I‘m so sorry. That‘s... that‘s why we are doing all training, isn‘t it. You want to make sure that we‘re prepared for anything?"
"Out here, you have to be."
"Well, eh...Thank you," he said sincerely. Paris looked up at him surprised. "Thanks for taking the time to train us. It‘s really making a difference."
"I know you‘ll do just great," Paris said confidently.
1 month later
"How is he?" Was Neelix‘s first question as he entered sickbay out of breath. "Henley just told me."
Kes came up to her frantic friend and took im by the arm.
"Tom is going to be okay. It was not as bad as we thought," Kes told him in her soothing tone as they walked towards the main biobed that Tom was laying on.
"Well, Mr. Paris, once again because of my skills you have been saved from the grips of death. You will be able to return to your duties shortly," the Doctor said, obviously quite pleased with himself. "Now in the future do as I say and stay away from Mr. Neelix‘s leola roots."
"Thanks Doc," Tom said sitting up.
"My delicious leola roots caused this?" Neelix asked dumfounded. How could something as good and gentle as leola roots almost kill somebody.
"Mr. Paris‘s new treatment does not agree with leola roots, Mr. Neelix. I strongly suggest that you remove it from your menu for the time being."
Neelix was lost. What was he going to do if he could not use leola roots? No leola roots cakes, no leola roots stew or souffle.
"Will you ever be able to eat leola roots again?" he asked Tom.
"The Doc says not as long as I‘m on this treatment," Tom answered trying to sound as little pleased as possible. "Which will be for a while."
"Okay then, I‘ll go and see what I can substitute leola roots with. Dalby was telling me about something from earth called the sweet potato. It appeared to be quite promising."
With that happy thought, Neelix left sickbay for the mess hall.
"Well, Doc, if the only side effect of this treatment is not being able to eat leola roots, then I can really live with that."
"This treatment does seem to be the answer. You‘ve been off the fucus for three weeks now and there is no sign of the disease yet," Kes said full of enthusiasm.
This new treatment, discovered by the Captain, had produced the best results yet. The Doctor knew that only time would tell how effective this new treatment was. He was a little worried that a particularly virulent pathogen could have a negative impact on the treatment. He had spent many nanoseconds debating whether he should confine Mr. Paris to his quarters or not. However, he decided that the physical health of his patient was very much related to his mental health, so he decided to let Mr. Paris do what he pleased.
A week later
Captain Janeway walked into sickbay knowing that she would not like what she would find there. The place was filled with people and her heart sank despite herself. There were patients on every biobed. A few of them were already very ill. She was thankful that many crew members had rolled up their sleeves so to speak and had volunteered to give Kes and the Doctor a hand.
Seeking the EMH, she made her way through the room giving some support and encouragement to the people she was meeting. She had to appear strong and confident that they would get through this, just as they had got through so many other ordeals since the beginning of this voyage.
She found Harry Kim and Kes by Joe Carey‘s bedside.
She smiled at Kes as a greeting before asking: "Harry, Joe, how are you feeling?"
The two men exchanged a glance.
"We‘ll be all right, Captain," Kim assured her.
"We won‘t let this cold beat us," Carey added.
"I‘m glad to hear that, gentlemen," she replied with a warm smile.
She looked toward the surgical bay and her smiled faded away.
Facing Kes, she asked. "How is Tom doing?"
"What is a bad cold for most of the crew is turning into a pneumonia in his case. Tom‘s condition leaves him unable to fight the virus. There‘s not much we can do. As it is for every other crew member, we have him on a wide spectrum antiviral agent. We also have given him tri-ox compound to facilitate his breathing and keep a close watch for opportunistic infections."
"Can I see him?" Janeway asked.
"Of course," Kes answered.
Janeway walked slowly toward where her pilot was laying. He was too pale. She could see that he had problems breathing. She sat on the edge of the biobed and put her hand on his shoulder. She could feel the heat rising from him through his clothing. His head move slightly and his eyes fluttered opened. His gaze remained unfocused, caught in the grip of his fever. Her hand moved to his forehead and down his cheek. She felt relieved as he responded to her touch.
"Tom, it‘s Kathryn," she told him. "I just want to tell you that we‘re here, if you need anything."
"Captain?" he whispered.
"I don‘t want to die here," he said in raw voice.
Die? That wasn‘t an option, she wasn‘t going to let him die! She would find a cure. She was responsible for all the lives that were under her command. She wasn‘t going to let Tom Paris die. She owed it to Admiral Paris to bring back his son to him.
But, Tom was right, he was dying. That cold realization cut through her like a sharp knife. She stomped down that notion with two mental feet and refused to believe it. After all, the last drug treatment had given favorable results.
"Tom, you‘re not going to die just yet," she assured him on tone she hope was convincing enough.
"I know. But, when the Time comes. I want to be in my quarters."
"If that‘s what you want, I‘ll see to it," she promised. "Now, go back to sleep."
She walked away, toward the doctor‘s office, her heart heavy. It was the first time Tom ever had made a request about how he wanted things to be when the Time came. It seemed that for him his premature death was an accepted inevitability. Well, it was not for her, and she would hope until the last minute that their research would at least result in an alternative treatment, if this virus did not kill him first.
"Ah, Captain," the Doctor greeted as she entered into the physician‘s office.
"I hope you have good news for me, Doctor," she said.
"I am very please to inform you that I‘ve isolated and eradicated the virus. Now, with good doctoring, it will only be a matter of days before those who have been infected can to return to their duties."
"This is good news, Doctor. Good work" Janeway said very pleased. Impulsively she looked back to the main area. "What about Lieutenant Paris?"
"He will recover as well," the EMH replied. "Unfortunately, it seems the virus destroyed the little progress we had gained with the latest treatment. We are back to square one."
Janeway sighed in frustration.
"We will keep on looking then," she said. "The last drugs reduced his need for the fucus, buying us some time."
"He is still dependant on it and there is not much left" the Doctor pointed out. "When it is all gone, Mr. Paris will have a few weeks at most. There will be nothing I can do, except making his passing as painless and easy as possible."
They still had some time, Janeway told herself. She was determined to hang on to it and make the best of it. She was not going to give up because of this new drawback. She would find a way to help Tom. She would find a cure.
2 weeks later
Kathryn rang the chime of Tom‘s quarters. It was Tuesday and she and Tom had their weekly night out. It was something she had grown to love and anticipate during the last few months. It had began the first time she had came to Sandrine‘s. Her lucky shot at pool had caught Tom‘s attention.
"Nice shot, Captain," he had said visibly impressed.
"Watch it Tommy boy," Gaunt Gary had warned. "I see someone that could beat you at your favorite game."
"You‘re right Gary, and I think will have to settled this right now." He came closer to her with a mischievous grin . "About a challenge, Captain?" he proposed.
"Is it a risk you really want to take, Mr. Paris," she answered playing along. He just looked at her very innocently. "Well, any good challenge needs a stake. What will the winner get, beside the title of the best pool player in the Delta Quadrant? Of course."
He thought about it for a few seconds.
"About the loser buys the winner dinner?"
"A dinner date?"
"Don‘t take me wrong, Captain," he replied. "I‘m an engaged man, a very in love engaged man when it comes to that. But B‘Elanna is working tomorrow night and I wouldn‘t mind some company. So... imagine that you‘re taking your little brother for dinner."
"My little brother, eh?"
Kathryn smiled. He had won the game that night. The next evening, she had bought him dinner in the mess hall and then they had went back to Sandrine‘s. She had had a lot of fun thanks to Tom‘s wicked sense of humor. The following week, he had came to her in her ready room proposing another challenge and since then they had made Tuesday night their official night out.
"Enter, Captain," Tom said the moment he heard the chime at his door which brought her back to the present.
She found him sitting at his desk terminal.
"What are you working on?" she asked looking over his shoulder.
"A new shuttle," he simply replied.
"You‘re reconfiguring a class two shuttle. That‘s interesting," she observed.
He coughed a few times and took a sip of water.
"I‘m trying to make it Chakotay-proof," he grinned.
That stole a laugh from Kathryn.
"He does have the worst track record when it comes to shuttles," she agreed.
"Seriously," he said, coughing once more. "I think class two shuttles are not quite fit for the Delta Quadrant. They‘re too small and not maneuverable enough. You want to discuss this prototype over diner?"
"You hate working dinners," she pointed out.
"Yeah well, this is different," Tom argued. "And, time is not one of my luxuries."
The last comment about his lack of time pinched her already sensitive nerve and she tried to ignored it. She gave her adopted little brother a quick kiss on the temple and said: "Well, why don‘t you tell me all about your project? You know I love working dinners."
I‘m really going to miss these dinners when he‘s gone, she though on their way out of the room She immediately gave herself a mental kick for thinking such a thing. Tom was going to make it. She was determined that they would have these dinner dates until they returned home.
Later that evening.
"What are you two working on?" Chakotay asked as he and B‘Elanna joined Kathryn and Tom in the resort.
The both of them were sharing a bench from where they had a good view of the comings and goings in the resort. Tom was slightly leaning on Kathryn. His now constant wheezing and coughing were demanding a lot of his depleted energy.
"Tom‘s latest project?" Kathryn replied.
"The Delta Flyer?" B‘Elanna asked.
"It‘s done and authorized," Tom told her. He coughed. "Now, you can build it, B‘Elanna."
She gave him a nod, visibly impressed.
"What‘s the Delta Flyer," Chakotay inquired.
"Voyager‘s future shuttlecraft," Kathryn answered cheerfully.
"It‘s Chakotay-proof," B‘Elanna told her commander conspicuously.
"Excuse me?" Chakotay said faking insult.
"It‘s for your own good, Chakotay," Tom defended. "Pablo won‘t be able to look after you all the time."
"Pablo will be looking after me? Who will be looking after Pablo?"
Chakotay not really expecting an answer.
"Suzanne Nicolletti," Tom replied simply.
"Did you figure out guardian angels for everyone," Kathryn demanded.
"That‘s so kind of you," she told him.
"So, tell us," Chakotay began playing along. "I know I‘m going to look after Kathryn and B‘Elanna, here. Who‘s looking after Tuvok?"
"Neelix, and vice-versa. They can help each other," Tom explained.
Everyone chuckled. Tom was right. Those two were so different they could learn from one another..
"I‘m counting on all of you," Tom said. "Plus Kes, Neelix, Carey, and the Delaney Sisters."
"The Delaney Sisters?" B‘Elanna asked skeptically.
"Well someone has to make sure the kid has a life if I‘m not here to do it," Tom explained. He coughed again. "And me, I‘ll be looking after all of you, even if I wind up in Hell."
"Ending up in Hell?" B‘Elanna repeated. "You? Never." Not liking what could come out of this conversation, she abruptly changed the subject: "So, what are you up to now?"
"A guide of good beside manners for Doc."
"You think he‘s going to use it?" Chakotay chuckled.
"Kes said she would make him do the lessons," Tom answered proudly. "If it doesn‘t work I know a certain chief engineer that could make a few threats about putting them into his subroutines..."
"It would be the pleasure of the certain chief engineer in question," B‘Elanna assured them.
B‘Elanna was hurting so much in side. It seemed everywhere she went on this ship, something was reminding her how soon she was about to lose Tom. Each time, it felt like she was being stabbed in an already open wound. Coming to cargo bay two where Voyager new shuttle was currently being build was no exception. Their baby, Tom was calling it. A combination of her engineering expertise and of his amazing piloting skill.
Since Naomi‘s birth, B‘Elanna could imagine, for the first time in her life, that it would have been something wonderful to have a real baby. Tom‘s baby. But, that was never going to happen. Even when he was not as sick as he had become, he was very against the idea. The 20% possibility that his child could have Helerdale disease was enough to convince him to never take the chance.
B‘Elanna sat at the engineering console of the Delta Flyer and tried very hard to concentrate on her task. Her job was something she was very grateful for these days. It had a slight anesthetic effect for a few hours. Although today, it was not enough to sooth the pain that was raging inside her. It was taking all her willpower to prevent herself from screaming and crying in front of her crew.
Someone gently put a hand on her shoulder.
B‘Elanna tried not to flinch. She looked up at Joe Carey. He gave her a empathetic smile and knelt down beside her.
"B‘Elanna," he said softly. "You‘re a very strong woman who‘s going through a pretty rough time right now. Crying won‘t make you any less stronger."
"I‘m alright, Joe," she lied.
"No, you‘re not," he continued, his voice still low. "You‘re not, because Tom isn‘t. None of us are alright with what‘s happening to Tom. I know that you have to be stronger because Tom depends on you. But, he doesn‘t expect you to be strong all the time. That‘s why we‘re here, so that both of you can lean on us."
"Did he ask you to become my guardian angel, too?" she said with a sad smile.
"Do you really think he ever had to ask," Joe whispered reaching for her hands. "We‘re the only ones here right now, it okay to cry if you want to."
B‘Elanna bit her lower lip.
"We need to finish this shuttle soon so that Tom can take her out at least once," she croaked. "We‘re running out of time."
The tears she had been repressing for so long started to fall down her cheeks, unlock by the comfort of her friend.
"This is so unfair," she sobbed. "He‘s in so much pain." Joe said nothing. He just held her hands a little bit tighter. "I can‘t bare to see him suffer... I don‘t want to lose him."
A flow of hot tears just ran down B‘Elanna‘s face. Deep, heart breaking sobs broke through her body. Joe guided her head to his shoulder and slowly caressed her back with a up and down movement of his hand.
"We‘re going to finish this shuttle as soon as possible," Joe said one her shudders finally subsided. "And Tom will take her out."
Joe and B‘Elanna both nodded at their agreed determination and went back to work. Her mind felt a little more clearer, her heart a little less heavier.
3 weeks later
Chakotay walked out of Tom‘s bedroom and leaned against the nearest wall. The faint murmurs in the room faded. Breathing deeply, he allowed the silence to sooth his pain. He had been at this edge before when Death was about to take away someone dear to him. It was not making this Time any easier. He had not realized that he had close his eyes until he opened them again. His dark eyes flew around the room. Harry, B‘Elanna, Pablo, and Kes were still there. Kathryn was gone. He sighted in dismay.
"Where‘s the Captain?" he asked even if he knew the answer.
"She went back to sickbay," Kes replied sympathetically. Chakotay nodded sadly.
Damn it, Kathryn, he told himself. * I won‘t let you do this to yourself.*
He straighten himself and purposefully made his way to sickbay. He found her in the lab, where he had found her so many times before.
Quietly, he called: "Kathryn."
Her eyes left her console for a few second and acknowledged him.
"Chakotay," she greeted
Through her neutral expression, he could still see hope and determination in her grey eyes. He could also distinguish pain, sadness and desperation. He passed his hand over his face as he breathed deeply once more. He did not like what he was about to tell her, but it had to be said.
"It‘s time to face it, Kathryn."
"Face what?" she asked unwilling to let the comment reach her.
"Don‘t do this!" he replied angrily despite himself. "You know what I‘m talking about. Tom won‘t make it through this day and right now, he needs you."
"The doctor and I might be on to something..." she told him ignoring the truth of his words.
"Tom doesn‘t need you here pursuing some desperate quest. He needs you by his side. You‘ve been there all along for him, don‘t abandon him in the moment in needs you the most."
"I‘m not abandoning him!" she snapped resenting his accusation.
"Kathryn," he tried again. "Tom has accepted the fact that he was going to die of his illness quite some time ago. Why can‘t you?"
"If it hadn‘t been for my decision, Tom would have what he needs to leave a normal productive life."
Tom had feared that she would still feel guilty about this even after all this time and all the discussions they had had about the issue. Chakotay would honor the promise he had made to the younger man to help her deal with it.
"If it hadn‘t been for the decision you made to destroy the array, the Kazon would have taken it over and the Spirits know what would have happened to the Ocampa and the rest of this quadrant."
He crossed the small space that was separating them and took hold of her shoulders, forcing her to face him.
"We can‘t change what happened. We can only make the best of it," he continued more softly. "Tom never wanted you to feel guilty about this, let alone let it consume you. He knows how destructive it can be." He hold her gaze as he implored. "Kathryn don‘t let him leave this universe knowing that the guilt you feel toward him is destroying you. Let him leave knowing that you are at peace with yourself." He pulled her into his embrace as tears started to fall on both of their faces. "Let him go, Kathryn," he whispered to her ear. "That‘s what he is waiting for."
Noting could be done anymore. Nothing, despite waiting for the Time to come.
Tom was lying so still, B‘Elanna was afraid that he would pass away without her knowing it. As he had requested, they had made him comfortable in his quarters, so that he could die in the privacy of his home. He had chosen the place, and B‘Elanna was pretty sure that he would choose the Time as well. If she only knew what he was waiting for.
B‘Elanna gently caressed Tom‘s hand. Those beautiful hands of his had become so fragile, she sadly realized. Just like the rest of his body, they had lost their strength, their dexterity, their smoothness, and their color. He was fading away like a plant without moisture and sunshine. Delicately, she brought Tom‘s hand to her mouth and gently kissed each finger goodbye.
"I don‘t know how I‘m going to be able to live without you," she admitted to him, even knowing that he probably could not hear her. "But, I will and I‘ll try to make the best of it."
B‘Elanna looked up toward the door way when she heard someone come into Tom‘s bedroom. Her wet brown eyes met with Kathryn‘s watery grey. She gave her Captain a sad smile and turned back to Tom. Her left hand squeezed his while her right caressed his pale cheek. He stirred a bit as he came out of the painless and blessed unconsciousness. It occurred to B‘Elanna that Kathryn had to be the one Tom was waiting for. He knew that everybody except her would be alright.
"Captain Janeway is here,"she whispered tenderly. "Oh, Tom," she sobbed. "Neither of us ever liked goodbyes... Now, you remember... remember as you crossed the Great River of Blood that I love you. I‘ll always will. Okay?"
"I love you, too," he whispered in a breath.
B‘Elanna bent forward and her lips slightly brushed his. Slowly, she moved to his forehead and kiss him gently. Her heart heavy, tears running down her face, B‘Elanna reluctantly let go of his hand and moved away, knowing that she was doing so for the last time.
Kathryn opened her arms and B‘Elanna willingly accepted the hug she offered. After a few moments of shared comfort, B‘Elanna detached herself and after one last farewell glance at the man she loved, disappeared into the living area, leaving the older woman alone with Tom.
Kathryn cursed herself for feeling so weak. She was about to lose a member of her crew, a dear friend, a younger brother, and all her Starfleet training was no use to help her deal with that kind of pain.
Quietly, she walked up to the bed and sat in the chair. She took Tom‘s cold hand in hers. She remained silent as she gathered her thoughts. Tom blue eyes opened a little, and she smiled at him.
"Everything is going to be alright, Tom," she assured him, her voice low and as soothing as possible. "You gave us a wonderful gift by bringing us all closer together. I want to thank you for that. You made us become a family and as such we will be there for one another to give each other love and support through the bad times and the good times. And, it‘s as a family that will be able to bring this ship home one day. So," her voice cracked. "So, it is okay to go now, it will be alright." His fingers weakly squeezed her hand and Kathryn smiled understanding his message. "I‘ll be alright, Tom. I promise."
"I know you will," Tom murmured.
He knew she would. Coming to see him had proven it. At that moment, he was finally able to let go of life and embrace the painless promise of death.
A week had passed since Tom‘s death. A long and grief-stricken week where his friends were slowly adjusting to the new normality of his absence. For B‘Elanna, it meant no one to come home to, to take care of, and to love. At times, the loneliness was so insupportable, B‘Elanna questioned her strength and her will to move on, to live with her agonizing sorrow. But her pain reminded her of Tom‘s and she found solace in the thought that his suffering was finally over. Strangely, it was enough to sooth not only her sadness, but also Harry‘s, Kathryn‘s, Kes‘, Chakotay‘s, Pablo‘s,.... Allowing everyone to grieve and accept.
Soft Jazzy music greeted B‘Elanna, Harry, Kathryn and Chakotay as they entered into the holodeck one. They all smiled at the amazing decor before them. It was Tom‘s holo-program of the bistro, finally completed. The light was low, but they could clearly make out the place. In the middle was the bar area taking a round shape, surrounded by tables. There was a stage at the far end of the room. The left wall was in fact a large bay window from which one had a splendid view of the San Francisco Bay. On the other walls, Tom‘s drawings were exposed each illuminated by a small light.
"Welcome to Tom‘s opening," Harry told them stepping down the three small steps leading to the main floor.
"You knew about this?" B‘Elanna asked, her gaze still scanning the beauty of the room.
"Yes, Neelix and I helped Tom finish the program a few weeks ago," Harry replied. "It‘s a gift. A place for us to meet and to expose our talents."
"An art gallery," they heard Captain Janeway comment delighted.
"That‘s such a nice idea."
"Ah, good evening all of you," Neelix greeted cheerfully.. He was holding a tray with glasses of champagne. "This calls for a celebration don‘t you agree? Go ahead, take a glass of this wonderful champagne."
"Thank you, Neelix," Janeway said. "And yes, this calls for a celebration."
"This is Tom through and through," Chakotay commented. "It shows so well how he loved life."
"Come," Neelix invited them. "There‘s a picture of Samantha cradling Naomi that you have to see."
Harry let go of B‘Elanna‘s hand.
"Go," he said. "There something I want to do."
B‘Elanna nodded and followed Neelix, Kathryn, and Chakotay. She glanced at every picture displayed on walls, promising to come back to each afterward. They were pictures of worlds they had visited, of the crew, and of what she knew was Tom visions of the afterlife. They were a tribute to Tom‘s talents and his attention for details. It had became a joke between the two of them of how good an observer he could be. Was it not in this capacity he had boarded Voyager? Silly joke, B‘Elanna thought. Yet, she could not repress the smile that slipped on her lips.
Her smiled widen with fascination as she contemplated a portrait of Samantha Wildman holding her few weeks old baby girl. The purity of the love and the tenderness of the mother seemed to transcend and radiate from the tableau. Yes, Tom had a gift to observe and to transpose the beauties of their universe.
B‘Elanna blinked as she heard the clear sound of Harry‘s clarinet. She met Kathryn and Chakotay‘s eyes, who had been as mesmerized as she had. Together, they joined the rest of their friends by claiming a table.
At the end of Harry recital, Joe Carey walked on the stage and sat on a stool before saying:
"This is a little something Tom asked me to share with you. He didn‘t write it, but thought it describe him pretty well. It‘s called:
‚I‘ve learned‘ and goes like this:
I‘ve learned - that you can keep going long after you think you can‘t..
I‘ve learned - that it takes years to build up trust, and only seconds to destroy it.
I‘ve learned - that it‘s not what happens to people that‘s important. It‘s what they do about it.
I‘ve learned - that your family won‘t always be there for you. It may seem funny, but people you aren‘t related to can take care of you and love you and teach you to trust people again. Families aren‘t biological.
I‘ve learned - that you can get by on charm for about fifteen minutes. Afer that, you‘d better know something.
I‘ve learned - that you shouldn‘t compare yourself to the best others can do, but to the best you can do.
I‘ve learned - that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.
I‘ve learned - that we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.
I‘ve learned -
that learning to forgive takes practice.
I‘ve learned - that there are people who love you dearly, but just don‘t know how to show it.
I‘ve learned - that sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you‘re down will be the ones to help you get back up.
I‘ve learned - that true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. Same goes for true love.
I‘ve learned - that you should never tell a child their dreams are unlikely or outlandish. Few things are more humiliating, and what a tragedy it would be if they believed it.
I‘ve learned - that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.
I‘ve learned - that no matter the consequences, those who are honest with themselves get farther in life.
I‘ve learned - that your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don‘t even know you.
I‘ve learned - that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.
I‘ve learned - that writing, as well as talking, can ease emotional pains.
Tom might not physically be with them anymore, but they knew he would always be an important part of their family. And, as a family, they shared memories and made plans for the future as Voyager continued her long voyage toward home.
There, we rest our peace.
Feedback is always appreciated.
Isabelle S. and Louise B. (a.k.a. Synbou) firstname.lastname@example.org