No Easy Answers (NC-17)
Title: No Easy Answers
Author: Annie M
Series: Voyager (Alternate Universe)
Rating: NC-17 (for situations of violence, sexual activity and strong language.)
Codes: T, P/T
Summary: B'Elanna is taking some serious risks with her body in order to purge herself of the frustrations of losing her former comrades in the Maquis to death and prison.
Notes 1: I saw spoilers for the Voyager episode, "Extreme Risk," prior to the show airing back in the late summer of 98. I liked the premise and decided to write my own version.
As I live in the UK, I'd made a concerted effort not to read any full blown spoilers relating to this episode. I still believe this should be termed AU even though, since writing this I've noticed that there are similarities to the episode, but not enough to be termed a duplicate in my opinion.
I should also mention that the reason for this revision was due to all the typos, formatting and grammatical errors that existed in the previous version. I really like this story but as time wore on, and my beta-ing skills have developed, I could not help but cringe every time I looked at this story and a few of my other earlier efforts. I may do a clean up of those too, but I'm not as fond of some of them as I am of this one.
Disclaimer: Viacom/Paramount owns the ship and all characters, this story however, is all mine.
Completed November 98.
Revised, November 99.
Feedback, criticisms? I'd love to hear from you. Really, I would!
No Easy Answers by Annie M
She was watching Chakotay. He was so calm, sitting in the mess hall, talking to a table full of ensigns, drinking his coffee, laughing. He looked up and spotted her sitting alone, her only company a stack of data PADDs. Chakotay shook his head at her and smiled broadly. She responded with a tight smile of her own then bent her head and resumed her pretence of reading.
"More coffee, B'Elanna?"
She jerked her head up in surprise to see Neelix, the chubby Talaxian morale officer cum chef, standing in front of her and waving a pot of coffee in her direction; his face, a picture of happiness and generosity. "You look like you could use some," he went on.
"Umm, no thanks, Neelix. I was just going to head back to engineering." B'Elanna answered, not really hearing herself but answering as if by rote.
"Take a cup to go," Neelix offered.
"Thanks, but I'm fine." She stood and quickly gathered the pads from the table, giving the morale officer a brief smile and nod as she hurried past him to the exit.
B'Elanna Torres had been wondering around, her mind in a daze, for the last few weeks. She was feeling depressed and she didn't know why.
She had been performing her duties, as chief engineer, with her usual brook no nonsense efficiency, but there was no enthusiasm, no passion. Senior staff meetings had been a chore to get through recently as well. Did she really need to be there to tell Captain Janeway that everything was running fine in her department? Or that they were running a level 3 diagnostic on those fucking stupid gel packs again, that, in her opinion, should have been spaced with Seska and Suder's lifeless bodies.
She needed to do something to take the edge off her mood. Whipping Bristow at parrises squares didn't sound like a challenge. Maybe some hoverball would get her mind on track. Still in mid-thought she decided that she wanted nothing to do with team games.
"I need to do something!" she seethed through greeted teeth.
B'Elanna suddenly realised that she was standing in the middle of her quarters and gripping her bat'leth. Gripping it so tightly that she hadn't even realised that her hands were bleeding.
"How do you think it went?" Harry Kim asked his best friend as he studied the computer panel of the shuttlecraft, Phoenix.
"Pretty good, Har'. Nobody got arrested, we got the supplies and we even left on friendly terms."
Harry and Tom Paris laughed in unison at the remark. They had successfully concluded a trade mission with a race of silicon-based life forms called the Komtek.
The Komtek specialised in the manipulation of neutrinos. Their knowledge was such that they had developed several scanning devices that could manipulate and detect the failure of neutrino levels - very handy for engineering, when they were monitoring the dilithium chamber.
Their assignment had taken several days and Tom Paris was a little disappointed that the chief engineer had suggested that Harry accompany him on the away mission instead of volunteering herself. B'Elanna seemed a little withdrawn recently and Tom thought she might jump at the chance for a little change of scenery and some time alone with him. <Guess not,> Tom thought unhappily as he rechecked his navigational controls.
"B'Elanna would have loved it down there," Harry commented.
Tom spun his head to the ensign and eyed him warily. Harry sometimes did spooky stuff like that, voicing Tom's thoughts or feelings.
"What?" Harry asked, raising his eyebrows at Tom in a quizzical fashion. "You and B'Elanna didn't have a fight, did you?"
Tom just shook his head in reply.
"Then what?" Harry persisted.
"I was just thinking that B'Elanna would have had a great time on this mission too. No offence Harry, but I was hoping that she'd join me on the away team this time."
"None taken, buddy." Harry grinned, and then grew reflective, after a couple of minutes asked another question. "Everything is okay between you two, isn't it?"
"Sure," Tom answered a little too quickly. Tom spun his chair around and got up. Stretching his six feet plus frame in the small shuttle. "Hungry?" he asked his companion. Harry declined the offer and spun his own seat around to watch his friend at the replicator unit.
"That mask of yours is going up, Paris," Harry teased.
"That's just your imagination. Hey, how are you progressing with Seven?"
Harry's face visibly slumped. <That was easy,> Tom thought.
B'Elanna brought her bat'leth down on her opponent and smiled fiercely as she heard the crack of bone and felt her sword descend into the soft flesh beyond. She felt hot blood sting her cheeks and whirled around as another Cardassian charged at her. B'Elanna halted his charge with a swift kick to his knee joint then she swung her bat'leth around her shoulders and sent it crashing into the back of her victim's neck. She had partially decapitated him and his green blood was pumping out of the lifeless hologram like a tap. He was getting it all over her boots.
"Computer," she roared. "Next level."
[Continuation of this programme is not advised without holodeck safeties engaged.]
The computer had been stating that caution for the past 12 levels.
"Over-ride. Authorisation, Torres-omega-9-blue-1-5."
[Level 17 activated.]
B'Elanna was standing in a holographic simulation of Nachandra II, a planet that the Maquis had wrested from the grip of the Cardassian forces. The planet lay on the rim of the Badlands and mainly supported farming and agriculture. It had endured peacefully under the Federation for many years, now it was a muddy shell that could only offer up a multitude of broken bodies that consisted of Nachandra colonists, Cardassians and the Maquis.
Nine more Cardassians appeared in view, both male and female, wearing their reptilian armour over their reptilian skins. They were advancing on her in a three-pronged pincer movement, carrying phaser rifles and phaser whips.
B'Elanna took up a defensive posture and crouched down low, surveying her options; her adrenaline was pumping and she could hear her own laboured breathing.
With a roar, that would have made Kahless him self drink a toast in approval, B'Elanna dropped her bat'leth and picked up the prone, half decapitated Cardassian. She flung him at the three Cardassians at her rear, and while they dumbly thought to catch their fallen comrade B'Elanna dived into a roll grabbed her sword and sliced into the ankles of the group to her left. Bones shattered and the holodeck became filled, again, with the screams of the injured and the dying.
B'Elanna screamed in pain as she was hit with a phaser blast to her left shoulder as she swung her bat'leth around in a wild arc.
"They will pay for this!" her mind screamed. "Someone will pay!"
An enemy approached, phaser whip flailing towards her. B'Elanna grabbed its fluorescent green tendril, ignoring the white-hot pain that shot up her arm and pulled hard; sending the Cardassian attached to the end of it into her raised right boot. The enemy fell and B'Elanna pounced onto the prey sending the curved edge of her bat'leth deep into its heart. The satisfaction of hearing its final gurgle of life was short lived as another phaser blast burned past her right ear.
She rolled to her left and grabbed at a fallen Cardassian's rifle and rolled back to her right spinning herself around to face her enemies. B'Elanna emptied the phaser rifle, spraying the on-coming quarry with her unpredictable aim.
A final Cardassian jumped her from behind with swift kicks to her ribs, she doubled over in pain but managed to twist herself around and deliver her final phaser load into the face of her nemesis before she fell.
B'Elanna thought she was dreaming, but maybe she was remembering....
"Do you remember Sveta?" Chakotay asked.
"Of course." she answered.
"I got a letter from her."
"Why would she be writing you?"
Chakotay was silent for a long time. Searching in vain for the words.
"Something terrible has happened," Chakotay finally responded. "I read that letter for an hour before I could accept it. Now I have to tell everyone else... and I'm not sure how to do it."
Chakotay looked at his old comrade in arms. "It's over, B'Elanna. There are no more Maquis."
"What are you saying? There are thousands of us."
"All wiped out. It seems the Cardassians have an ally... a species from the Gamma Quadrant who supplied them with ships and weapons."
She couldn't believe it. She wouldn't! Shaking her head in disbelief.
"Atara...Roberto... everyone except us is dead?" she asked, voice rising.
"Just about. Sveta, and a few lucky ones are in prison."
This was too much for her and B'Elanna immediately started to pace, her anger boiling. Chakotay moved closer to her, to comfort her from an unbearable truth.
"Don't try to console me, Chakotay! I don't want to be comforted! Those were our friends... good people willing to put their lives on the line for something they believed in and now you're telling me that they are gone... that they are slaughtered. I swear someone will pay for this." She shook her head in regret. "If we ever get back."
By the ship's chronometer the time was 0335 as B'Elanna dragged herself to the holodeck doors. She considered using the corridors to get back to her quarters. The likely-hood of meeting anyone at this time of night was remote, but in her condition she wasn't about to take any chances. She quickly punched in an access code and called for a site-to-site transport.
She had no idea how long she had been unconscious on the holodeck. Every part of her body felt battered and bruised; she knew she was bleeding. B'Elanna called for lights and limped into her bathroom.
The sight of herself shocked her. Staring back at her from the mirror was a woman who looked like she had been dragged through all the deserts of Vulcan and every sulphur lagoon on Qo'noS backwards, by an army of Targs.
Her face and body were covered in cuts, welts and phaser burns. And she was covered in her own blood, the green of the Cardassians having been left behind on the holodeck.
B'Elanna grimaced with pain as she reached for a sponge and made her way into her shower stall. <Maybe,> she mused; <it won't look so bad once I've cleaned myself up.>
She was wrong.
Dragging her agonised body into her sleep area she reached for the dermal regenerator, an item that Tom had brought for them to use when their lovemaking got a little intense. As she activated it she pushed all thoughts of her lover from her mind. She did not want to be comforted; besides he wouldn't understand, on top of that, he wasn't even here. What she needed was to feel... Feel something. And right now she needed to feel pain; she needed to give pain.
B'Elanna also realised that if she turned up for duty shift limping and with a couple of broken ribs someone might ask questions. Questions she didn't have answers to, so she concentrated on running the regenerator over her battered body.
Captain Kathryn Janeway never considered herself to be the most intuitive of people. She liked facts; she loved unequivocal scientific data. Recently, or at least since she'd been in the Delta Quadrant she had experienced incidents that went beyond the mere explanation of scientific theory. Kathryn found herself, at times, questioning certain long held beliefs. Science, apparently, didn't have the answers to everything.
It certainly didn't take a scientist to see that there was something wrong with her chief engineer. B'Elanna Torres had come to this morning's staff meeting with a slight limp and frankly, thought Kathryn; it looked like she hadn't slept in days.
Her chief had been unnaturally quiet during the briefing and gave a lack lustre report on her department. After Kathryn had dismissed the meeting, which had consisted of Tuvok, Torres, Chakotay, Baythart and Lang -who were deputising for Paris and Kim -, she motioned for her first officer to remain behind.
"Chakotay, you're pretty to close to B'Elanna. Is there anything I should know? She looked so..." Kathryn struggled to find a description. "So... bereft at the meeting."
"I don't know. She certainly has looked down the last few weeks, but when I ask if she wants to talk about it she just says she's fine and clams up."
"You don't think this has anything to do with Tom, do you?"
It was common knowledge that the pair enjoyed a volatile and highly competitive relationship. Letting her gut take control Kathryn continued before Chakotay could answer.
"Have they broken up?"
Chakotay carefully considered the question. He and Tom Paris had never had the closest of relationships but he was pretty sure the cocky flying ace cared deeply about B'Elanna.
"I don't think so," he said cautiously "I know they've had their problems, but Tom was pretty chipper when he and Harry left for the trade mission to the Komtek."
"When are they due back?"
"Around 1800 hours today. Maybe he knows what's going on with her," Chakotay offered.
"Mmm, maybe so. Chakotay, will you try and talk to her again? I want to but I don't think she'd let her guard down." Kathryn briefly gazed wistfully out of the view port. "It's been such a long time since she and I have really had the chance to talk. I've spent far too much time trying to mentor Seven," she finished guiltily.
Chakotay gave Kathryn a sympathetic smile and promised to talk to his long time friend.
The shuttle doors opened and as Tom and Harry stepped down the ramp Commander Chakotay and Ensign Ashmore, from engineering greeted them.
"Hi guys," the engineer greeted them as he moved into the shuttle to start unloading supplies.
"Gentlemen," Chakotay added as he stepped up for a quick report. "How was the trip?"
Harry jumped straight in, letting Chakotay know that the mission had been a success and that the Komtek were, in his opinion, worthy allies and friends.
Tom wasn't paying attention he was looking around the shuttle bay hoping that the object of his affection would turn up any minute to tell him that she had missed him, as much as he had missed her. He knew she didn't have to be here but she normally was, whenever he returned from an extended away mission.
"Tom, anything to add?" Chakotay asked.
Tom hesitated for a fraction of a second.
"No, sir. Like Harry said, the whole trip was smooth sailing."
Nice recovery thought Harry, as he looked at his friend. Didn't Tom ever think about anything other than sex with B'Elanna? He shook his head ruefully at Tom's quickly recovered hangdog expression.
Just before they had landed the shuttle Tom had been boasting that he was going to give B'Elanna an enormously lusty kiss the moment he stepped off the craft. Even if the captain was there. Harry chuckled at the memory.
"Why don't you two get something to eat, before finishing your duty shifts for the day," Chakotay offered.
"Sounds good," said Harry as he turned from the commander and made his way to the doors. "Tom, come on," he urged as Tom hung back.
"Yeah, coming." Tom acknowledged and reluctantly followed his friend into the corridor.
Chakotay watched the lieutenant with interest; maybe Tom knew why B'Elanna was having a rough time. It was hard to tell, he concluded. <I think I should go on a vision quest and seek instruction before I proceed.> B'Elanna could be very prickly, he thought, and might not respond to unwelcome advice, even coming from him.
She had fallen several metres. Her safety rope held but it was difficult to climb without protective gloves and when your hands were bleeding because you'd rubbed them raw against the unforgiving cord.
B'Elanna dangled several hundred metres from the ground. She had decided to climb mount Solat, a difficult mountain that made up the Endaran range on Vulcan. The air was thin and the temperature was in excess of 50 degrees Celsius. Her body was slick with sweat that kept running into her cuts and scratches as she made her accent. Dust from small rock falls made it difficult to see, her shoulders and thighs felt like lead weights and her hearts hammered frantically against her sore ribs.
<Pain was a good thing,> she reminded herself. She could beat the pain and get to the top of the precipice before the sun set on the holographic vista.
B'Elanna looked up, only another 300 or 400 metres to go. No problem. Gathering what remained of her strength she climbed on.
"Torres to Paris."
It was 2145 and Tom was sitting in his favourite lounging chair, putting the finishing touches on his report for the captain concerning the Komtek.
He had tried to hail B'Elanna earlier but had not received a response. The computer had informed him that she was running a private holodeck programme. Tom had assumed that she was working on some new engineering project and had left her alone.
She probably hadn't realised that he had returned from his assignment and had resigned himself to seeing her the following day.
"Hey, Torres," his tone teasing, "how you been, stranger?"
Her response was all business. "Tom, come to my quarters and bring a dermal regenerator. Now."
<Oh yeah,> thought Tom, <that's my B'Elanna!>
"On my way, Chief." Tom flew out of his quarters and ran all the way to the turbo lift, he would have to make a stop in sickbay first, he reminded himself.
He wore such a broad smile when he entered sickbay that the Doctor almost insisted on running a scan on him.
"B'Elanna?" Tom called out, as he entered her darkened quarters.
"I'm in the bedroom."
"It's a little dark in here isn't it?" he responded, a little surprised that she had not yet shown herself to him.
"Forget the lights, Tom. You can find your way in here, you've done it before."
<Sure have,> he mused, but something in B'Elanna's tone was a little off.
"Are you Okay, Be?" he asked cautiously as he made his way to her bed.
<Did she just growl?>
Tom yelped as he was suddenly and roughly heel-hooked backwards onto a firm bed.
"I missed you too," he managed to get out as he tried to hold B'Elanna in a light embrace.
"Don't talk, Tom. Just fuck me," B'Elanna breathed huskily into his ear.
<What is going on?> Tom thought, as his hands encountered her naked flesh.
Even in their more passionate lovemaking B'Elanna had never resorted to such crude language. His thoughts were soon whipped away as her hungry mouth found his and he felt his uniform jacket rip under her eager hands.
They both rolled around on the bed, two naked bodies wrestling for superiority. B'Elanna bit and clawed at her lover, raking her nails over his sides, back, shoulders and buttocks. She felt for Tom's penis and stroked it roughly to life.
Tom groaned as B'Elanna panted above him, she grabbed at Tom's tousled blonde hair and positioned his head next to a waiting breast. Tom suckled and teased the nipple to erection with his teeth and tongue.
"Rougher, Tom," B'Elanna commanded through rasping breaths.
He suckled harder. Sucking her breast into his mouth, he raked his teeth over her nipple, bit into it and massaged her other breast by pulling occasionally at its stiff nub. A firm shove sent Tom over onto his back and suddenly B'Elanna's wetness was all around his shaft.
She sank herself down on his erection and squeezed her thighs, flexing her inner warmth and muscles all around Tom's engorged flesh.
"B'Elanna!" Tom moaned, not wanting this to end too quickly.
Tom tried to reach for B'Elanna's hips but she sensed his actions and intercepted his arms, bringing them down with a soft thud against either side of his head. The movement caused Tom to buck his hips up and drive himself deeply and forcefully into B'Elanna's centre.
"Yes... Ohhh," she groaned. "More..." B'Elanna growled.
Tom tried to ride her as hard as he could, bringing his legs up a little to give his hips better purchase against B'Elanna's tireless assault. From his supine position Tom tried to watch her as she rode him. There was no light to speak of but Tom could see her hair was hanging in disarray around her face and she was wearing the most feral grin Tom had ever seen on her. There had to be blood on her lips, where she had bitten him repeatedly - Tom noted absently, that she had not bitten his face to mark him as her own - she was starting to growl and uttered guttural phrases in Klingonese he couldn't understand.
"Now, Tom." B'Elanna finally managed in standard as she rolled him atop her; somehow managing to keep their genitals conjoined as she did so.
"Now!" she all but roared.
As his weight bore down on her B'Elanna grabbed at Tom's firm buttocks and scratched at his scrotum from behind.
Tom's mind was shutting down. Something was wrong here, but he couldn't stop his body from reacting to his lover's commands. Where was the sweetness? He half asked himself. This was happening too fast. It was as if B'Elanna was here and yet not in the room at all. All coherent thought soon left him, as B'Elanna raked her nails deeply into Tom's backside; sending his hips into a wild and forceful mating frenzy.
"Harder, Tom," B'Elanna instructed. "Fuck me harder."
What else could he do but obey.
Several minutes later, lying spent and exhausted above her Tom opened his eyes. The darkness still pervaded B'Elanna's cabin and he could only make out some wild strands of her hair, made possible by the starlight's illumination.
"You didn't come," Tom whispered against her damp neck.
B'Elanna did not respond and lay quietly among the rumpled sheets. Tom could feel the tension running through her body, as she remained stiff and inert under his.
He slowly disentangled his body from hers and slid onto his side so he could face her, although it was still too dark to see.
"What's wrong, Be?" he continued tenderly, moving to stroke his hand against her hip as he spoke.
"Maybe you should go, Tom." It was more of an order than anything else.
Tom's hand stilled against her.
"Leave, Tom. Get out. Go," B'Elanna repeated as she turned away from him.
Tom found he couldn't speak; he was rooted to the spot like some hologram waiting for a new parameter to be entered.
B'Elanna took the opportunity to leave the bed and snatched up the replacement regenerator, quickly making her way into the bathroom. Not even sparing her lover a backward glance.
Tom lay on her bed still too shocked to move. He was angry, confused, hurt and worst of all he felt used. For the first time in his relationship with this extraordinary woman he doubted her feelings for him; her last words to him still echoing cruelly through his brain. Something was seriously wrong here. What the hell was going on with her? Tom tried to think clearly, but his mind was a mess at the moment. Was she dumping him? Like this?!
Tom sat up in the bed, after what felt like an eternity later and put his head in his hands, trying to find answers. He'd been worried about B'Elanna for the last few weeks. She had seemed listless, withdrawn and upset about something but she had refused to talk about it.
B'Elanna had cancelled a few dates too, but that in it self wasn't unusual, engineering were always calling her to rescue them from one problem or another.
The more Tom thought about it, the more he realised that B'Elanna had been avoiding him a lot in the last couple of months. He hadn't given his concerns much thought until she had insisted that Harry go on the away mission instead of herself. She was the logical choice, but she had made some technical excuse to commander Chakotay to remain on the ship and now.…
Now, B'Elanna was using him as some sort of stud service.
The irony of Tom's situation wasn't wasted on the former ladies man either. He had done his share of sleeping around, but he thought he had found someone he could share himself with fully. Sometimes it was painful to let down your defences and be so nakedly vulnerable to another, but it always felt right when he shared himself to B'Elanna that way. Could he really be that wrong about her?
They had known each other for a long time now. They had become friends, good friends, best friends and eventually more.
This just wasn't adding up and tonight made no sense at all. Something was terribly wrong. Maybe their relationship had been floundering in recent months but what had just occurred in this bed had been light years away from the B'Elanna he cared about, the B'Elanna he thought he knew.
Come hell or high water he was going to talk to her and get some answers. And damn it, he was going to do it now!
"Computer," Tom called. "Fifty percent illumination."
As the lights went up the first thing Tom noticed was blood on the cerulean blue sheets. The second was the blood on his hands. He stared mutely at the blood then turned his head to take in the whole of the bed. Spots of her blood were everywhere: The unmistakable pinkish red of a half-Klingon.
"Oh my God," Tom breathed in shock.
He stumbled off the bed and flew to the bathroom door. The partition was sealed.
"B'Elanna, open the door," Tom shouted as he pounded his left hand against the unforgiving metal. He waited a few seconds then resumed his banging.
"Open the fucking door!" he repeated, as panic started to rise in his chest. "B'Elanna!"
She either would not or could not respond to him. He pressed his head against the cool surface of the panel and tried to calm himself down. <Think, Paris,> he ordered himself. A few seconds later he attempted to gain entry by punching in every access code he had ever used, seen or stolen. Nothing worked. Tom was becoming more frightened and agitated with every passing second. Suddenly, he had the answer; B'Elanna's access codes.
Working frantically against the command console he didn't have time to berate himself for the blunder. Twenty-two seconds later her bathroom door hissed open.
Tom was by turns, bewildered, appalled and humbled by the sight that greeted him in the harsh, fluorescent, light. For nearly a minute, he stood rooted to the spot. Unable to breathe or think clearly as his, already, numbed brain took in the devastation that was curled up on the floor.
B'Elanna lay naked, on her right side with her legs drawn up loosely to her chest. Her exposed body was covered in recent trauma. Numerous cuts, burns and bruises decorated her skin. She was still bleeding in places and traces of her blood were smeared against the floor, sink and shower stall.
It staggered Tom, that he had recently had such rough sex with her in this condition. Their physical encounter had obviously re-injured some of her wounds. This was almost more than Tom could face, but it wasn't the worst of it. What devastated him was the sound she was making.
To say B'Elanna was crying would not do the sound justice; this was the sound of a wild animal in mortal agony. Her chest heaving with the effort of her anguished cries and wails, bitter tears coursing down her cheeks. The regenerator, which she had left with, lay limply by her side. She was too distressed to activate it.
"B'Elanna...." Tom breathed her name as he took a step towards her.
B'Elanna was oblivious to Tom's presence as he approached her, but she suddenly became aware of another's scent and that was enough to send her into a defensive posture. She swiftly pushed her self up into a half sitting half-crouching position, her back up against the wall by her sink.
"B'Elanna, it's me, Tom," he tried to soothe, as he took another step forward.
She looked at him with wild, frightened eyes. He was closer to her now and he stretched out a hand in a gesture meant to placate.
"Stay away from me!" B'Elanna snarled, pushing herself further into the wall.
Tom hesitated for the briefest of moments then resumed his advance, his movements slow and deliberate, keeping his hand out stretched in the hopes that she would pick up his scent, although she looked ready to attack him at any moment.
"Ssshh ..." Tom continued in a soothing voice, as his hand gently brushed against her left knee. "I won't hurt you."
He was on his knees before her and gently, slowly, he brought his other hand up the length of her arm to her shoulder, blue eyes searching, blood shot brown eyes, for signs of recognition.
They stayed that way for a few moments, staring at each other, Tom's hands delicately against B'Elanna's trembling skin, until he finally saw a spark of remembrance behind her eyes and her bottom lip trembled in renewed anguish. Tom pulled her towards him and held on to her in a tight embrace. For the moment ignoring her wounds, stroking her back and whispering assurances to her against her neck.
B'Elanna did not respond, just rested limply against him. But she let him continue to hold her as the enormity of all that she had done to herself and to those she cared deeply about washed over her.
All of her rage, anger and fear, the need to hurt and punish her self as well as those around her dissipating, like a fog lifting from the sea.
Everything was becoming clear, but nothing made sense: except his scent. The smell of him, the taste of him, it was coming back to her. He was her mate, she had marked him: she loved him. She had used him and hurt him. Why was he still here?
Nothing made sense and everything else was already shattered.
B'Elanna moved her head to Tom's chest, relishing the feel of the springy hairs she knew she would find there. Breathing in his maleness, cuddling him close and wrapping her arms around him as tightly as she could for a brief moment. Then B'Elanna sagged in Tom's arms and started to sob uncontrollably against his chest. Telling him with her tears and her wails how much she hurt, how frightened and confused she was. Tom just held her. Crying with her as silently as he could. The uncontrollable torrent of emotions was frightening him too.
Captain Kathryn Janeway approached sickbay with trepidation. She had received an urgent call from the EMH less than twenty minutes ago. Apparently lieutenants Torres and Paris had been beamed to the Doctor's facilities with varying degrees of injury. The doctor had sounded reticent to divulge the nature of those injuries and had urged her and Commander Chakotay to come at once.
It was 0026 when he had called her, Kathryn had been hoping for an early night for a change and was already half asleep. But this news woke her up sharply. Compounding her growing fears about B'Elanna and the nature of her 'depression'. Kathryn couldn't think of any other name for the malady that seemed to have surrounded her chief engineer recently. She had called Chakotay immediately and told him to meet her outside sickbay post haste.
Chakotay fell in step with the captain as she reached the medical bay doors.
"Kathryn, What's going on?" Chakotay asked.
She came to a halt just before activating the doors, paused and looked up at the troubled expression on Chakotay's face. Kathryn knew his expression mirrored her own, but she only shook her head to indicate she didn't want to start speculating. Then took a step forward and with Chakotay by her side, entered sickbay.
The Doctor, of course, gave a clinical account of Lt. B'Elanna Torres' many injuries; mild concussion, four broken ribs, a broken wrist, multiple lacerations and phaser burns, a twisted knee, torn ligaments and two broken fingers. He went on to explain that some of those injuries had been partially healed by the Lieutenant's personal regenerator - with only limited success.
The EMH continued on gamely, to explain that he was not a psychiatrist, but felt that only some inner turmoil, as yet unnamed, had driven the young engineer to such drastic and life threatening endeavours.
He concluded his findings to the captain and commander by voicing his regret, at there being no qualified counsellor on board. After all, his programming could only stretch so far.
Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay and a distraught looking Lieutenant Tom Paris sat in the Doctor's office. They all listened in mute silence to the EMH's assessment. Either too stunned or too distressed to utter more than the odd acknowledgement or to query the Doctor regarding some point of injury.
"How long has this been going on?" the Captain asked.
"My scans aren't complete yet, Captain, but I'd say some of her earliest trauma are about six weeks old."
"Six weeks?" Kathryn breathed in horror. How could they have all been so blind? She looked towards her chief helmsman who had risen from his chair as the Doctor had concluded his dissertation.
The Tom Paris 'mask' was back up and at full strength. Barely glancing at the surrounding officers he curtly took his leave of their presence and ventured toward the biobed containing an unconscious B'Elanna Torres. Standing mutely by her side, just staring at her, his body erect.
"He didn't know," Janeway shook her head unhappily at Chakotay. He responded with a negative swish of his head to her statement.
"Why?" Janeway pleaded to both of them. The Doctor raised an eyebrow, glanced at his PADD but said nothing.
Chakotay rose and stood next to Kathryn, both of them viewing Tom and B'Elanna through the transparent glass of the EMH's office. Chakotay put a tender hand on his captain's shoulder.
"Only she can answer that, Kathryn."
'Cause you don't love me
Is awful, awful hard.
Gypsy done showed me
My bad luck card.
There ain't no good left
In this world for me.
Gypsy done tole me -
Unlucky as can be.
I don't know what
Po' weary me can do.
Gypsy says I'd kill myself
If I was you.'
Tom Paris was nursing his third drink of neat scotch and wondering how many more he might need to make that old Earth poem go away. He sat alone in the mess hall. There was no chance of company it was too late or too early in the morning - Voyager's peaceful sleep hours.
Peaceful. Sleep. What he wouldn't give for some of that right now, but he was restless, tense and confused. Why couldn't I see it? He wondered. Why didn't I know? Why didn't I do something? Why didn't she trust me?
Chakotay knew where he was and for a short while had respected his privacy. Chakotay also knew that Tom Paris drunk was one of the most pathetic sites he had ever seen, on any side of the galaxy.
Drinking never helped; it only dulled the pain, made you numb for a while, before reality would come hurtling back at you with the force of an anti-matter explosion.
The commander observed all this as he stood on the threshold of the mess hall. Standing just inside the door, completely unnoticed by the room's only other occupant. He continued to observe as Paris stood up, unsteadily at first, then made his way to the replicator and ordered himself another drink. He must have rations to burn, Chakotay mused.
"Drinking like that won't help you, Tom."
Paris whirled around to face the voice that had interrupted the only sound in the room - the sound of B'Elanna's engines.
"And it won't help B'Elanna either." Chakotay finished flatly.
Paris stared at the commander for what felt like a long time, saying nothing. Then gave a slight nod of his head and returned to his seat, empty-handed.
Chakotay followed him.
"May I sit?" Chakotay didn't wait for an answer, just pulled out a chair and sat down opposite his junior officer.
"Want to talk?"
Tom shook his head briefly as he rested his elbows on the table and put his head in his hands.
"You know, B'Elanna once told me that the Maquis were the only family she had ever really known. Her father left when she was little and she never got on with her mother."
Chakotay could see Tom watching him through his fingers.
"She bounced around from place to place after she dropped out of the Academy. Paying her way by fixing up the ships she was able to use for transport.
She was beating the shit out of a couple of Cardassians when we met. And you know how I hate fighting." Chakotay paused again and gave a small smile at the memory.
"Anyway there she was, this small warrior woman, getting the better of those two brutes when some other Cardassians decided to join in.
Some of my cell was in the bar - making an exchange of goods - we knew the bar owner was sympathetic to us so we took our chances. Busted those bullies up like you wouldn't believe.
"B'Elanna almost took my head off when she realised I had my hands on her. After she had calmed down and I got her story, saw what she could do with a thirty year old engine and spare parts, she was in." He looked straight at Paris before continuing, "I've never made a better choice, or had such a loyal friend."
"Then we've both let her down, Chakotay," Tom stated in a harsh whisper.
"Yes," Chakotay admitted, "but she still needs our help, Tom. To get over the agony she's been in. She won't be able to do it on her own. We need to get her to face her fears, whatever they are and come to terms with them."
"I don't know if she'll let me help her," Tom muttered bleakly.
"She cares for you Tom. B'Elanna doesn't give her heart to just anyone, she loves you."
Tom gave a bitter snort at that and shook his head grimly.
"Maybe she did…." Tom said no more as he pushed himself out of his seat and headed towards the exit. Chakotay's voice followed him all the way back to his quarters.
"Don't give up on her, Tom. Or yourself."
B'Elanna was sitting up in sickbay. She felt rested and her body didn't hurt as much when she moved.
"And how are you feeling today, Lieutenant?" the EMH asked airily as he approached to scan her.
She felt embarrassed and humiliated.
B'Elanna vaguely remembered Tom carrying her in here and the Doctor asking a bunch of questions, which Tom had tried to answer for her. Then nothing until she had awoken to find the Doctor peering into her eyes.
"What happened? What am I doing here?" B'Elanna asked.
"You have been taking some rather extreme risks with your life recently, young lady. Turning the holodeck safeties off is prohibited you know."
Aww shit! They know.
"Lieutenant Paris brought you in here three days ago with quite a catalogue of self-inflicted wounds. As usual my brilliant programming allowed me to perform a few minor miracles on your beleaguered body. You'll soon be back to full health Lieutenant, no need to thank me."
If B'Elanna weren't feeling so weak she would have decked him.
"Now lieutenant, just what were you trying to do?"
"When can I get out of here?" she answered defensively.
"Not for a few days yet, Miss Torres. Don't worry I'll look after you."
Did he know how infuriating he was?
"The Captain's here and she'd like to talk to you. Do you feel up to it?"
"No Doc, I just need to sleep. My head hurts..."
"Oh really?" The Doctor flipped open his tricorder and began to scan her head.
"All right, B'Elanna. You get some rest. I'll inform the Captain that you're not quite ready for visitors yet."
He had almost sounded compassionate.
That was twelve hours ago, now she was sitting up, letting the Doctor run his scans and she was staring at the approaching form of Captain Kathryn Janeway.
"How are you feeling?" the Captain asked.
"Not bad." B'Elanna answered weakly.
"You gave us all quite a scare," Kathryn went on sympathetically.
Janeway half turned and gave the Doctor a look. Her patented look.
"I'll be in my office," he said, his voice dripping with scorn as he backed away.
Turning back to B'Elanna the captain touched her arm and gently squeezed it.
"What happened, B'Elanna? Why were you trying to hurt yourself?"
B'Elanna averted her eyes and picked at sheet that was covering her.
"I'm sorry, Captain." she began haltingly. "I... I can't explain it. Things were.... I'm sorry." She shook her head.
"You need to talk about this, B'Elanna. Maybe not this minute, but soon."
"I'm here if you need me, B'Elanna. And so is Chakotay. And Tom."
B'Elanna shook her head to affirm the captain's entreaty. Kathryn gave her arm a final squeeze then retreated to the bridge. Wondering, as she rode the turbolift, who would hold the key to unlocking the enigmatic engineer.
The Doctor released her from sickbay the following day. The captain had denied her request to return to duty for the time being. Chakotay had contacted her on the Comm system and had arranged to speak to her in his quarters. She was heading there now; dreading it.
Tom Paris had visited her a few times in sickbay, but their conversations were forced and she felt uncomfortable in his presence. She suspected he felt the same. They completely avoided talking about the subject that both knew was the only thing on their minds.
Chakotay had no such reservations.
"I've known you a long time, B'Elanna. Saved your ass more than once. I've fought by your side and stood up for you. You owe me and it's time to collect. Why were you trying to kill yourself?"
"I wasn't trying to kill myself," she answered, the anger rising like sap in her veins.
"Oh I see. Do you always take callisthenics with two-dozen holographic Cardassians and the safeties off? Or try to scale Vulcan mountain ranges with your bare hands and some suspect rope?" Chakotay was glaring at her but his voice was unnaturally calm.
B'Elanna hated that about him. He was always so fucking calm.
"I didn't-" Chakotay cut her off before she could attempt to lie to him.
"Don't give me that, Torres. Are you forgetting what a good investigator Tuvok is? I've seen those programs, B'Elanna. I saw Nachandra II, I was there remember?"
"We all were," she quietly confirmed. "The entire cell, Chakotay. Goren, Roberto, Atara. All of us."
"We all knew the risks when we joined the Maquis. It was never going to be easy. You knew that."
"But they murdered them!" B'Elanna screamed. "Those fucking Cardassian pigs slaughtered my friends, my family, Chakotay! And those ass holes in the Federation locked up the rest." She was shouting at him now prowling around his quarters in a way he had not seen since she first came on board this vessel. "I can't believe you don't want to do something? Kill someone? I hate this!"
B'Elanna grabbed an object from the low centre table of Chakotay's living room and hurled it against the wall, shattering it. Chakotay had tried to stop her but he was too slow; his Akoonah was history now.
He eyed the shattered pieces wearily. "Feel better?"
B'Elanna was breathing heavily, gulping air back into her lungs.
"Sorry," she muttered through heaving breaths.
"We can't bring them back, B'Elanna. The only way we can honour them now is by living. Don't let their deaths be in vein. I mourn them too, but our lives are here right now, thousands of light years from Federation space. The only thing we can do is live, B'Elanna. Live free, that's what we fought for: The right to live freely where we wanted and the right to die where we wanted.
I know the Delta Quadrant wasn't any one's idea of the location, but we're here. Alive. Living."
"I stopped feeling," B'Elanna said as she sat heavily in an armchair. "I didn't want to care anymore ... I didn't want to hurt."
"It'll get better," he said as he knelt in front of her.
"All I did was end up hurting everyone else. You, the Captain, Tom." she faltered then. "I hurt him terribly, Chakotay. I used him," she said through her tears.
"Then you need to go talk to him. Let him know what you're feeling. He hardly talks on duty shift lately." A ghost of a smile appeared on Chakotay's lips. He held her hands in his then gave them a firm squeeze.
"You want to help me clear this mess up?"
"Okay." B'Elanna agreed as Chakotay helped her out of the chair.
They got down on their hands and knees and together cleared away the debris of his shattered Akoonah.
"I'm sorry," she said again.
"Don't worry about it. You can replicate me a new one. How's that?"
She nodded in agreement and gave him a brief half smile. They finished clearing up in silence and finally Chakotay led her to his door. As the doors opened Chakotay pulled her to him and gave her brow a kiss.
"Live, B'Elanna. Live," he whispered against her skin.
The holographic grass was fragrant with the smells of spring. Bluebells and cornflowers shifted in the wind. Honeysuckle and irises fought with Manderian roses and Bajoran orchids for attention. The multicoloured blooms were spectacular.
In amongst this colour, two individuals walked side by side. They did not touch, but they talked quietly. Sometimes the male would stop and pick a flower, impressing his companion with his knowledge, albeit limited, on horticulture.
These two had been participating in these walks for the past two weeks. It had become their new routine. Complete duties and spend an hour or two walking around these rich fields.
Tom Paris, holographic programmer extraordinaire, had been working on this simulation for some time. It was an amalgamation of places he had visited or remembered from childhood and beyond. The program wasn't complete and that in it self made it seem just right for the time he wished to share with his beautiful and willing friend. For that's what she was, first and foremost, his friend.
B'Elanna had come back to him slowly, unsure of how much Tom would be able to forgive; he, afraid that he could not be forgiven. It was painful and it was slow.
She found it uncomfortable knowing that most of the crew were aware of her troubles, found it irksome to be the brunt of their sympathies and encouragement's. However, she found truth in Chakotay's words:"Life goes on." And it did get better.
B'Elanna laughed then, at something silly Tom had told her. It had been so long since he'd heard her laugh like that. A sound so open and free that he held his breath as she giggled.
Maybe it would be all right, Tom thought. They were together, and for now that was enough.
Notes 2: The poem I used to add weight to Tom's introspection was from the selected poems of Langston Hughes and titled "Bad Luck Card".
Feed the muse, send any notes, praise or rotten tomatoes to: Annie M