When you set out for Ithaka

Title: The Road Home

Contact: MEGDENTON@prodigy.net

Series: VOY

Date: 12/3/00

Disclaimer: If they were mine Janeway would have flung the Doctor in the brig for that incident with the Holograms. Just like she did to my poor Tommy, Yes, starbaby is in a snit. But I digress. They're not mine, dammit. The poem is by C.P. Cavafy.

Summary: My sister requested this. She suggested I call it Almost the Last to Go. This is a companion piece to TLTG. You don't have to read that one, but it's the same universe. This takes place, oh, two or three years before that story. Just before BLT met her maker. It's her side of life after the DQ.

The Road Home

By starbaby

When you set out for Ithaka

pray that your road's a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery

B'Elanna had often heard age and infirmity referred to as the night-side of life. How could it be so, when she spent her halcyon days in this warm sunshine? Beyond her window, Tom's favorite hill was just visible, a tangle of burdock and dandelion. Warm evenings found him on its summit, to her dismay. The trail was stony, overgrown with laurel, and Tom's eyes weren't very good anymore, but the stars were his birthright; he was drawn to them.

Over the familiar clatter of Tom puttering in his workshop, B'Elanna heard shouts and splashing from beyond the trees. Their pond was a gathering place for the neighborhood children, who swam in summer and skated in winter. They'd dug and filled it themselves one long-ago June. Most of the old crew was alive then, and they all came to help on a fine morning. Neelix cooked, Janeway issued orders, and Chakotay did most of the work. That was a good day, one that lived in the memory. She didn't recall how it ended or began, but remembered dappled sunlight, laughter, and mud on her bare feet. Years later, the small pond still echoed with the voices of those who built it on a brilliant summer day.

Pray that your road's a long one

May there be a summer morning when-

full of gratitude, full of joy-

you come into harbors seen for the first time

The sun shifted in the sky, shining like fire. Shielding her eyes from the shocking brightness, B'Elanna's hand brushed the ridges on her forehead. They were less prominent now, almost lost among her wrinkles and care lines. Once, they had seemed a badge of dishonor, notice to the world that B'Elanna Torres was unlovable, a wild creature and a darkling. Her father had gone, and her mother encouraged the culture that was at the root of that great sorrow. Clearly, the lost father had wanted a young lady for a daughter, not a young warrior. In her youth, she chased identity, searching for self. She was Starfleet, then Maquis. Almost an officer, after that a freedom fighter. She fought other people's wars, ignoring the battle within.

It took the faith of a remarkable Captain and the love of a fine man to show B'Elanna Torres her own worth. The Klingon were a fighting people, but they loved and worked with intensity. The heritage she rejected could give her the gift of years. Without strength of will and body, she might not have survived the Borg, the Krenim, Ensign Vorik's amorous attentions, or the Day of Honor, when Tom Paris became hers.

May you visit numerous cities

to fill yourself with learning from the wise

Janeway took her in from the cold and gave her a family, one that loved her when she succeeded and loved her when she failed. She needn't fight for her place at Voyager's board, she learned. A place was made for her, with loyalty and hard work the only repayment. Kathryn Janeway was the Federation's own Father Flanagan, a collector of strays who thought there was no such thing as a bad Starfleet Officer. Her patchwork crew was highly skilled, perhaps the best there ever was.

Janeway was gone now, but she smiled out from photos in B'Elanna's memory box, captured in moments of contentment. Those were rare times, and B'Elanna was sorry for that.

High above her window, the clouds seemed to shift into the form of a man walking, striding with purpose toward some secret destination. B'Elanna thought herself unsentimental, but the site brought tears to her eyes, tears for Chakotay, her lost friend.

After Voyager, the Captain and Chakotay lived together for many years. They always came back to one another, but he was a wanderer by nature. It was in the blood, flowing back through Kolopak to his nomadic ancestors. His restlessness brought him to the Badlands, and the soldier's death he'd always wanted. Chakotay's passing brought always Tuvok's Vulcan prayer to mind: May your death bring you the peace you never found in life. She prayed it was so.

Don't hurry the journey at all

Better if it goes on for years

So you're old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you've gained on the way

A crash from the kitchen made her sit up. They were clumsy these days. Their bodies shook with fine tremors, like a mild case of the Talucan ague. She feared going on alone. She feared staying without Tom. That, she supposed, was the night-side they spoke of. There was peace despite the terror, the type of contentment one feels toward the end of a long journey. A chapter closes, but another opens. She'd felt the same sense of loss, accomplishment, and anticipation on the day her child was born. Their only daughter came into the world during a Kazon attack, screaming along with the klaxon warning system. Brianna made a spectacular entrance, one befitting a Paris-Torres child. She took her first tottering steps across Voyager's bridge, and had an away mission at age two, when she accidentally beamed down to an M-class planet. No crew ever loved a child more. No daughter was ever so like her father. Sitting in her splash of sunlight, B'Elanna felt very lucky. Every girl should have a Tom Paris. Every mother should see a daughter fulfill dreams whispered of over her cradle.

Slowly, the daylight began to fade. As evening cast flickering shadows on the hardwood, B'Elanna thought of Kellis, the poet. He was a lucky fellow; she was bleeding and angry that day, more likely to tear his lips off than help him with his play. But he'd made art out of her life, set her story to music, and showed her the adventure through the eyes of a simpler people, who were dazzled by the tale.

Exploration was different now. Only the elite went to deep space. In her day, everyone was going, hopping rides to distant planets. Janeway's ship was like an intergalactic wagon train, picking up the dumped and stranded as it chugged toward Earth. Voyager's adventure was unique; There wouldn't be another play like The Away Mission of B'Elanna Torres, inspired by a reluctant, nebula-trotting muse. The magic came home with Voyager. It went to the scrap heap with the Delta Flyer. They couldn't afford to buy it, she wouldn't let Tom steal it, and he was too blind to fly it. All that remained of those years was a few snapshots and two dusty uniforms in the attic, one red, one gold.

If the play had a coda, it would reveal how she ended her days in the sun; how she was loved, and loved in return; how shining Voyager, far from home came home for the last time.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey

Without her you wouldn't have set out

She hasn't anything more to give you

Tom would be heading outside soon, climbing his hill to sit among the brambles and peer at constellations he'd seen thousands of times before. With Tom, enthusiasm forged ahead of common sense. He was a foolish old man; she'd told him so.

Perhaps she'd join him, just this once.

They would climb the hill together and sit amid the wisteria, talking of the holodeck and the Hirogen. They'd speak of the passion winds on Alastria that come before the dawn, creating euphoria.

She'd keep to light subjects, recall the happiest times, avoiding Voyager's decommissioning and Harry's death. B'Elanna was strong, but that loss was still with her, like a pebble in the shoe. Fifty years later, Tom still grieved. B'Elanna worried about him. If she went first, he'd be on the hill every night, lost in a morass of memory.

When the hour was late, she'd take his arm. They'd follow the winding path down the hill, stepping carefully on the moonlit path, the stars above lighting the way home.