Title: The Last To Go
Disclaimer: If they were mine, I'd promote poor Harry. The lyrics are by Styx from their song "Dear John."
Summary: Tom Paris looks to the sky and remembers. Just a little thing that wouldn't leave my head till I wrote it. Warning: There be death here, but it's a peaceful type of demise. Feedback's appreciated.
The Last to Go
I knew you about as well as anyone
We were the wild ones
So sure those days would never end
Now they're only memories, my friend
On brisk autumn nights, Tom Paris liked to watch the stars. Sitting amid the fern and goldenrod on a quiet hill, he was as close to the cosmos as he would ever be again. Sometimes, Tom felt like one of those figures in renaissance art whose eyes are always turned heavenward in prayer or supplication.
He so longed to fly.
The stars no longer shone like diamonds. They were merely pale opals to his aged eyes. The skilled hands that once guided a great Starship were gnarled now, and too clumsy to work the controls. Arthritis had set in, and Tom Paris, upstart pilot, would never again sit straight and tall in the pilot's chair. Still, the heart demanded and the spirit tugged whenever he looked to the skies, his youthful playground.
Over 50 years had passed since the journey ended, and greater ships than Voyager patrolled areas that Tom, at the helm, had been the first to see with human eyes. Technology was advancing every year, and ragtag bands of adventurers no longer struggled through space, learning, loving, fighting, sometimes dying. Lost ships were easily retrieved.
That was too bad, for adventures were fine things.
They shaped and soldered the soul, forging a spirit all the stronger for having been formed in fire. Voyager's intrepid crew spent years dreaming of home, and even longer trying to return to that moment, to recapture those danger-filled years when they were safely suspended beyond earthly cares. They were a society unto themselves, a mini-tribe that fiercely protected their own.
I swear I saw you on a crowded street today.
I almost called your name,
Thinking of all those yesterdays.
Heaven help me,
How I miss my friend.
Nothing was ever the same after Kes vanished into the void, only to return years later in the strangest manner. She was soon gone again, a voyager of one, and Tom hoped she'd found Ocampa before her ninth, and final, year. Careening through space in his beloved Delta Flyer, Tom always looked for Kes, hoping to see her waving from atop a shooting star or dancing on moonbeams. She deserved no less.
Something special had to await young people like Kes and Harry, who were given every gift but time. A tear traveled down Tom's lined cheek. Ah, Harry. Lost to them, he was, but not to God. A strange virus hit Voyager in their eighth year of travel, carrying off several crewmen and one earnest young Ensign. Tom vividly remembered the weight of Harry's casket in his hands and how he'd watched it's spinning, tumbling journey into the darkness until nothing more could be seen. He'd stood straight and tall for Harry, who was the best of men.
The days after Harry's death were among the hardest of his life, matched only by the despair of losing B'Elanna. Fifty years together was far too little. Two years she'd been gone, his beautiful, courageous warrior, the love of his life. The two of them were destined to meet, like oxygen and hydrogen, and produced one fiery daughter. A particularly bright star in the sable cloak of night caught Tom's eye. He hoped Brianna would return safely before the time came. The Paris legacy in Starfleet was a formidable one, and Tom's child was the best and brightest of that distinguished line. He could depart this life in joy.
The children of Voyager were making their mark: Tuvok's were highly decorated; Naomi Wildman had died in space, where she'd been born, choosing the destruction of her ship and crew over enslavement and torture. Tom had seen Janeway struggle with the terrible choice. He honored Naomi's bravery and remembered her with love.
There will be a celebration
When all will be revealed.
We'll have a reunion
High on a hill.
He'd seen tranquility on the face of Kathryn Janeway in her last days. Her mind wandered toward the end, and she spoke to ghosts. The Captain, still lovely despite the march of years, held conversations with Neelix, that good-natured Talaxian whose gypsy life ended when his good lung failed, some twenty years before. Tom hoped he'd found his way to the base of the guiding tree in good time. Perhaps Kes waited there, and Alixia, the lost sister.
The call of a night bird drew Tom's thoughts to a man eagle-like in his nobility. As Janeway retreated into a cocoon of memory and self, Chakotay's name usually brought recognition. They never married, but stayed together until his death. Always a soldier, Chakotay died in flight when his craft malfunctioned near the Badlands. Tom missed him keenly, for he was like no other. Over the years, Paris had come to see Chakotay's quiet disapproval for what it was: a challenge to better himself.
In the end, they were linked by respect for one another, a passion for history, overwhelming love for B'Elanna, and great affection for the extraordinary Kathryn Janeway, who now rested from her labors. She was buried back in Indiana, on a verdant slope where she'd said she wanted to lie. Chakotay's body was lost forever, but Tom and Tuvok brought Seven there when her undeniably human heart beat it's last. It was fitting that they rested together. The women of Voyager were pioneers, crossing dangerous frontiers in an era of intense discovery. Tom Paris felt blessed, not cursed, to have lived in interesting times, for what other age could have produced a woman like B'Elanna Torres, who worked, played, fought and loved with such ferocity? The world would never see her like again.
How are you?
God knows, it's heaven where you are.
Find some peace there...
May it never end.
The night was growing brisk and Tom could hear voices in the sigh of the wind: Chakotay's quiet orders, his own crisp "Aye Captain!," Seven's monotone and the Doctor's annoyed reprimands. The day Starfleet deprogrammed the Doctor was one of the worst in memory. Janeway, a legend in her time, insisted for years that the hologram remain in use. With the Captain's decline, and the decommissioning of Voyager and her sister ships in favor of newer, better models, there was no need for an outdated EMH program. He just winked out of existence, and Tom cried that day. He cried for the Doctor, Neelix's failed lung, and Harry Kim's susceptibility to germs. He mourned for the old Starships, for the loss of Kes, and for Chakotay, who had to die to discover all the secrets of the Rubber Tree people. There were tears for his own aging body, and that of his beloved B'Elanna, for Brianna, who was reckless like him, and for Kathryn Janeway, who sat in a nursing home babbling of the Prime Directive, Talax, and Q.
My heart knows we'll meet again.
I'll see you someday again.
Tom's bones ached, and he was sure it wouldn't be long now. Paris and Tuvok, they were the last to go, the only remaining members of that elite little group of explorers. For all his swashbuckling, Tom's death would be a quiet affair, to be sure. He wasn't dying young, like Harry Kim, or in a blinding flash, like Chakotay. He would simply slip away, leaving Brianna to spin his wild tales, and Tuvok to bury his body next to B'Elanna's. Someday, the long-lived Vulcan would come join the party, and the circle would close. Maybe heaven was Voyager again, recreated and fully commissioned by the almighty, Starfleet be damned. They would all be young and strong again.
It was time to go in now. If B'Elanna were alive she'd insist he come in from the evening chill, nicely at first, then with increasing irritation. As he wended his way down the hill, Tom thought of the misguided Alice, who'd nearly been his downfall, and the look of wonder on her face when she saw the particle field. One word had escaped her lips, filled with longing, exiting on a sigh: home. There was another home waiting for Tom Paris, one of the last to go, colonized by all the trailblazers he'd loved. They had gone ahead to put down roots, and Tom was anxious to follow. Above him, the stars twinkled their understanding.
Adventures were, after all, fine things.