When the Battle's Lost and Won
Author: Briar Rose
Rating: [R]] for language and sexual situations, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be.
Synopsis: Missing scenes from "Night" to "Extreme Risk" and beyond. I wanted to explore what was in B'Elanna's head during those weeks, and Tom's seeming lack of reaction to B'Elanna's depression over the death of her Maquis family. The POV changes from Tom to B'Elanna and back againyou've been warned. Since the ending was written long before the end of season 7, it diverts from canon a bit. always to my beta readers, Barb, LA and especially Liz who pulls no punches. And though this story doesn't reference anything that they wrote, I'd advise you to check out their excellent fic anyway through the links on my homepage. Thanks also to Millicent Fawcett AKA SnoopMary for the translation. It's been so long, I'll bet she's forgotten. And the lyrics came from a fun site, Irish Folk Songs, at http://www.cs.hut.fi/~zaphod/irish/
This is NOT a song-fic. I swear it!
Disclaimer: The toys belong to Paramount/Viacom, I'm just playing in their yard.
Date: June 2001 by a nose!
She woke to the insistent pressure of an erection against her backside. Tom had pulled her close and was holding her against his body, one long leg wrapped around her own. His hand started moving in slow circles against her stomach, then moved upward under her t-shirt to caress her breasts. She pulled away from him slightly, pulling the blankets back up to her chin and burying her face in her pillow, hoping he would get the hint. He didn't. He started trailing rough kisses up the back of her neck until he reached her ear.
"Are you feeling Klingon this morning, B'Elanna?" he whispered, nipping her earlobe with his teeth. The hand on her breast was applying just enough pressure to hurt.
"Ummph," she replied, burying her face further into the sheets.
He scraped his stubble-roughened chin along her upper arm, then bit into the soft flesh of her shoulder. "Come on, B'Elanna," he breathed, his lips moist against her skin. His fingers dug into her hips as he flipped her onto her stomach; she could almost feel the bruises beginning to form.
Tom ran his palms along her spine from the small of her back to her shoulder blades. He loved the feel of her smooth, soft skin, and the slight ridges of her spine never failed to arouse him. He leaned his weight on one hand, effectively pinning her to the bed. The other hand wove into her hair and pulled her head to one side, exposing her throat. "Where's that growl I love to hear?"
She gritted her teeth. When had she started to resent the feel of his hands on her body? "Stop it, Tom," she murmured.
He didn't hear her and lowered his body onto hers. One hand came up to grasp her wrist and pin her arm above her head. "How will you throw heavy objects at me now?" he asked huskily.
She bucked him off her back and rolled away from him. "I'm not in the mood right now."
He sat up and a look of annoyance crossed his face. "You're never in the mood anymore," he complained. He stared at the back of her head for a moment then threw the bedclothes off them both, exposing B'Elanna to the cold of his quarters. "Why did you bother" He bit off the thought not wanting to start another argument.
He loved this woman deeply, but at times he had to struggle to remember that. B'Elanna had had some late night holodeck time the night before that she had refused to share with him, stating that she needed some time alone. He waited for her long past her elapsed time, but she hadn't shown up at his door. When he had woken just a few minutes ago to find her in his bed, he assumed she was there to make up in their usual way. Apparently not.
He got up and stomped to the bathroom, indignation giving him perfect posture.
B'Elanna could have finished the sentence for him; why had she come to his quarters in the middle of the night if she hadn't wanted to make love with him this morning? The reason had less to do with romance, or even habit, than with comfort. Since Voyager had entered the void two months ago, they had begun conserving energy. With the lower temperatures on the ship she was cold all the time now, and Tom's sleeping body gave off a lot of heat.
She stared after his retreating figure and muttered a barely audible "Asshole" at his back. Shivering, she got up from his bed and pulled her uniform from the duffel she had brought with her the night before. She whipped off his t-shirt, fighting down a childish urge to tear it to shreds. Instead, she balled it up and shoved it viciously into the 'fresher. When she was dressed, she pulled her favorite dark blue nightgown from his closet and shoved it into the duffel along with a few stray PADDS she had left in the living room. If she could have slammed the door behind her, she would have.
Tom came out of the bathroom still naked. If his apology sounded sincere, then just maybe... He looked around his quarters. Truthfully, there weren't too many places to hide. He tried a tentative, "B'Elanna," but she was gone. He checked his console for a message, but there was none.
"Great," he muttered. "Just great."
Tom cast furtive glances at B'Elanna across the conference table. She had come in without looking at him and sat beside Neelix, leaving 'Mr. Happy' to take the chair he had saved for her. He got the feeling that if Chakotay had allowed her to monitor the meeting from engineering, she would be there instead. She had skipped their usual lunch dateagainoffering some poor excuse about a sensor malfunction. Well, his sensors were working perfectly, and so was his internal com system. He was getting her message loud and clear.
Chakotay was rambling on about reports and sensors and Tom was only half listening. How long had it been since B'Elanna had really responded to his touch? It had been weeks since they had last had sextwenty-three days to be exactbut longer since she had initiated any true lovemaking. And when she had let him touch her, she had wanted it fast and rough, hence his behavior that morning. Well, he'd learned his lesson there.
He tried to isolate the exact moment when she had first started pulling away from him. He wanted to think it had begun when they had entered this 'starless expanse', but he knew that her self-imposed isolation had started long before then.
He missed her. Not just her body, which he had certainly grown accustomed to, but her company as well. He missed her quick wit and the smile she gave him when no one else was looking.
He listened as she told Chakotay about her staff's boredom. It wasn't like her to let them sit idle. Why wasn't she running drills or trying to come up with some new power conversion system that would see them through the next two years without going to 'gray mode?' She stared straight ahead, Tom noted, stubbornly refusing to turn her head and look at him.
Chakotay was quizzing each of them about the ship's status; it was like pulling teeth, B'Elanna thought. If anyone had anything exciting to report, they certainly weren't talking. She could feel Tom's eyes on her, his gaze flickering to her face and away as if he was afraid to really look at her. She had tried to stay angry with him, but it didn't seem worth the effort. Too much energy output for too little purpose. And they had been ordered to conserve energy. Her lips twisted at her own joke.
Tuvok was saying something about theta-radiation and Tom made some foolish comment. Respond, B'Elanna, she thought. Laugh at his joke, smile at him. Make him think everything's fine. Maybe he'll just think you were tired this morning. She knew she would have to let him touch her soon. And she would have to start touching him again, too. A hand on his shoulder, maybe brushing against him in the turbolift. She didn't want him to suspectsuspect what? That there really was something wrong with her? That there was a reason for her snappish behavior beyond this void they were stuck in for the foreseeable future.
She was tired of acting interested in the ship's happenings when in truth she wasn't. An old, almost forgotten memory came back to her, something from her childhood that she had never told anyone. She recalled playing Lady Macbeth years ago in a high school play. Another one of her attempts to fit in with the other students. She had downplayed the performance, keeping the
Lady at the edge of madness, but never going too far, never confirming for the audience whether or not she was truly insane.
The audience had been enthusiastic in their applause, but somehow it had made B'Elanna feel even more awkward, and her memory of the events had twisted their response into mere politeness. The drama coach had said she had promise and even encouraged her in a theatrical career, but she had felt like a fool with all those eyes on her. Besides, she already had her sights set on Starfleet.
Neither career had worked out as planned, but it didn't really matter. She had been acting all her life; the dutiful Klingon daughter, eager Starfleet cadet, responsible Chief Engineer and now devoted girlfriend. The drama coach was wrong, she decided. She couldn't act worth a damn.
"B'Elanna!" Tom chased her down the corridor. Damn, but she could move fast when she wanted to! He stopped her with a hand to her elbow. "I have some holodeck time tomorrow, do you want to do something? Rock climbing or a beach program, maybe?"
"I thought you and Harry were playing Captain Proton this morning," she evaded. She stood still beneath Tom's hand. She fixed a cool smile on her face and stared at his chin. Don't pull away. Smile and react, it's not difficult, she thought to herself.
"That was on his time. Look," his voice softened. "I'm sorry about this morning. I don't know what got into me." He dropped his hand from her arm and ducked a little to capture her eyes with his own. "I hardly ever see you anymore. I miss you."
She frowned at the yearning in his eyes. "I'll see you after shift. We can play some Derata in the mess after dinner. OK?" She hoped it would be enough. She didn't want to be alone with him, but she wasn't ready to try to figure out why.
"Sure," he replied. "I'll see you then." And again, B'Elanna was gone.
Tom was beginning to worry. Really worry. He had no proof that something was wrong with her, certainly nothing he could bring to Chakotay or the Doctor. And if he tried discussing her mood, then his boorish behavior from that morning would surely come up and he preferred not to think about that incident.
He had tried everything to get through to her. Giving her space, clinging to her, being gentle and understanding, forcing his opinion on her to the point where she ordinarily would have been provoked into an argument. Nothing seemed to break the layer of cool resistance she was building. He didn't want to think that it was himself, not she who was at fault somehow. Didn't want to think that she had tired of him and just couldn't find a way to tell him.
He couldn't lose her. It was that simple. It was a statement of fact. If he did, he wouldn't know what to do with himself. She was his mate; she had been from the moment she bit his jaw on that godforsaken planetoid two years ago. She had claimed him, they had claimed each other, and he didn't need a ritual oath or a wedding band to make it fact. He didn't know if she realized that yet, but he was positive she would never admit it. Certainly not now, given the mood she was in. She would tell him it was a foolish notion and call him a hopeless romantic. Or at least she would have a few months ago. Today, he had no idea what she would say to him.
It was frustrating and he was starting to become, in his own mind at least, righteously angry.
Fine, he thought. He would meet her in the mess, they would eat a nice civilized dinner, play a few games of Derata, and then he would get to the bottom of this.
Tom watched her with veiled eyes. B'Elanna was concentrating on the board, not looking at him. What else was new? He had tried to get her to talk to him over dinner, but she had said little, avoiding his questions when she could. He had watched her cut her meal into tiny bites and push them around her plate. She had swallowed exactly five mouthfuls. Mouthful, that was a laugh. Five tiny specks of food that barely covered the tines of her fork had passed her lips. He suspected
she spit one out in a simulated coughing fit, but he couldn't be sure.
She was frowning at the board, chewing on her bottom lip. He loved it when she did that; it was arousing as hell, especially now in the crowded mess when she was barely speaking to him. He decided he was a sadist. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair and sat forward to take a playing piece from her. His fingers brushed hers and lingered a bit, but she didn't seem to notice. Damn.
She wished Tom would stop staring at her and concentrate on the game. She was tired and really didn't want to play anymore, but she didn't want to mention bed. Why couldn't he leave first, go to his quarters and let her go to her own with no impending scene? She didn't want to start an argument just so she could leave the mess without him, but it was beginning to look like she would have to, just to be allowed to go to sleep. 'I'm not in the mood' was getting old and she was sure he would take 'I want to be alone' the wrong way. She had pretty much resigned herself to a cold bed.
She didn't like the way he was appraising her either, as if gauging her mood. He looked like he had something that he wanted to say to her, and she wished he would stop dragging this out and just say it. But, she mused, direct confrontation was never Tom's style.
She watched as he took the playing piece from her hand and tried not to shrink from the touch of his fingers on her own. He had done it again; the last five games in a row he had used the same opening move. Was he trying to annoy her, or just trying to see if she was paying attention? He was obviously spoiling for a fight, and for the first time in a long while she realized she wanted to accommodate him.
Then he made a crack about Klingon pain sticks and she was alarmed by the intensity of her anger. And under it came a sharp bolt of feardid he know? Had he been following her? Perhaps he'd missed the dermal regenerator.
Tom wouldn't back down. Now that he had finally sparked a reaction from her, she knew that he would drag out the argument, make a scene for the gossip mill and people were beginning to stare. She was suddenly afraid of what might happen if she let her anger out. Better to seize on any excuse to leave, she thought, than to risk a screaming match in the mess hall.
B'Elanna stood quickly. "Goodnight," she said and moved to leave. She tried to warn Tom off, but suddenly he was blocking her path. She balled her hands into fists, knowing that they were heading into an argument, but unable to stop herself. Then Neelix came over to them, clearly agitated by their cryptic words and started buzzing in her ear like an annoying insect trying to calm her. But he only succeeded in making her angrier. Tom chose that moment to make some smart-ass comment about a fight rotation.
She wanted to hit him. She wanted to see Tom's blood on the floor and glory in it, the way she felt after a good workout on the holodeck. She clamped down on her sudden rage and addressed Neelix. "He's trying to be funny. Everyone's supposed to laugh now," she said.
As a panic attack swept him, Neelix started struggling for breath, gasping something about how they should behave like senior officers. She reached for him as Tom commed the Doctor. "Paris to sickbay. Medical Emergency."
And just like that the hard edge of her anger was gone, washed away by the momentary distraction Neelix provided. She was concerned for him in an abstract way, as if she were watching the scene before her through rippled glass. Why did she feel so removed from everyone around her? She felt almost cocooned, muffled somehow. When Tom took charge and led Neelix to sickbay B'Elanna found she was relieved to finally be left alone.
She had every intention of going to her quarters and getting some rest, but the argument with Tom had sent the adrenaline pumping through her system and her pulse was pounding in her ears.
When the turbolift doors opened on deck six to let a crewman enter, B'Elanna dodged out as they were closing and found herself in front of the holodeck. She didn't question her good fortune in finding it empty. Since they had entered the starless expanse of space, the holodecks had been booked solid.
She had forty minutes until the next person arrived for their scheduled turn. No, thirty. She couldn't risk letting anyone see her leave.
B'Elanna hit the door panel and said, "Computer, activate program Torres 158 Alpha."
She walked into a jungle, heavy with mist and dense foliage. She toed off her boots, then slipped out of her uniform jacket and pushed the sleeves of her gray tunic up to her elbows. She was crouched, her knees slightly bent as she listened for intruders.
There was no ambient background noise, no birds or insects adding 'colour' to the program. B'Elanna had designed it herself a few months ago when she realized the exercise programs on Voyager's database weren't as challenging as she had come to need. The only additions she'd made were necessary ones and it had none of the zest or atmosphere that were signatures of Tom's holo-programming work.
She moved slowly through the undergrowth, ducking below low-hanging branches instead of brushing them aside. Her hands were fisted in front of her, ready to defend her torso and face from attack. She hadn't taken the time to add smells into the program, an oversight she now regretted. She sensed her prey was nearor was she the prey?and was sure she would have been able to find it by scent alone.
She cocked her head, listened, and was rewarded with a snap of a twig and a faint rustling sound. The cat was tracking her. "Computer, disengage safety protocols," she whispered.
"Warning, disengaging safety protocols presents extreme risk of injury."
"Override," B'Elanna muttered, a ripple of annoyance shooting through her. She bent to pick up a long branch about twenty-five centimeters in circumference and tested its balance. It was a little wider than she could comfortably grip, but its weight and resultant swing felt lethal.
She concentrated on the hunt, all of her senses focused on the jungle surrounding her. She moved in a slow circle, eyes darting from tree to rock to shadow, searching for her foe. The cat burst from the dense undergrowth and sprang at her with a snarl, paws splayed. Each sharp claw was extended and aimed at her throat.
B'Elanna swung the branch in a high arc, connecting with the beast as it leapt toward her. It hit the side of the cat's head with deadly force and made a sickening crunch as its jaw was crushed. She staggered under the weight of the animal as the momentum of its leap carried it through the air to land on top of her. She hit the ground and continued the roll using her legs to push the cat off her chest. Jumping to her feet, B'Elanna scanned quickly for her fallen branch. It was too far away, she realized, as she backed herself against a tree trunk.
The cat was growling softly, shaking its head, its eyes narrowed in pain. Holographic blood dripped from the corner of its mouth and nose. It pawed the ground restlessly, pacing back and forth about five meters in front of her. Too close, she thought. She had dropped the branch when it connected with the cat's skull, the reverberating shock knocking her weapon from her numbed fingers. If the cat decided to spring at her now, she couldn't get away. She might be able to dart around the tree, but there would be no time to climb it.
The cat stopped its pacing and paused in front of her. Its long scaly tail swished across the ground in a hypnotic pattern and B'Elanna's gaze was momentarily drawn to it. The cat crouched, ready to strike. B'Elanna crouched as well and gathered her energy. Suddenly, she roared her anger and frustration at the animal and charged it just as it leapt for her. As a result, the animal checked its lunge and tried, too late, to twist its long body around to catch her. B'Elanna's head impacted in the cat's gut and she sent it over her shoulder to land on its back. She somersaulted toward the branch she'd dropped earlier and scooped it up, pivoting on a heel to stand facing the animal. Its head was twisted at an odd angle against the tree and she could tell the impact had broken its neck.
The cat shimmered, then disappeared.
She had never beaten it so quickly or so easily before, but she felt no elation. The rush of emotion she had felt during her fight with Tom had disappeared and the physical exertion of the fight with the cat left her tired and breathless.
"Computer, level five," she said.
She walked to the spot on the ground where the cat had recently lain and sagged down onto her haunches, elbows resting on bent knees and waited. Her breathing was quickly returning to normal, but the sweat from her recent workout was running down her back and chest in tiny rivulets and soaking into her bra. She knuckled the hair out or her eyes.
"That was impressive," a familiar voice commented. "I always knew there was a beast in you just waiting to be set free."
B'Elanna didn't even spare her a glance. "I've tried not to hate you, Seska," she said flatly. "I've tried to imagine that you were just doing your job, like Tuvok. Maybe, in my mind, I've even assigned some noble purpose to what you did to us."
Seska came to a stop across from B'Elanna. She linked her arms across her breasts and raised an eyebrow. "Do enlighten me, please."
"Well," B'Elanna continued, "you were just doing a job, right? Working undercover for the greater good of the Cardassian Empire. You didn't enjoy the fact that your information got Dakin killed.
Or Nemik. Or Talar." Her voice caught on the last name and she raised her head. "I wasn't surprised
when you defected to Maje Culluh's ship; you really didn't have any choice. But did you have to humiliate Chakotay like that?"
"Actually," Seska grinned, "that was an added bonus. But I did enjoy my little holodeck romp with Tom and Tuvok. Thank you so much for finding Insurrection Alpha in the database. Do you think Tom would like to play hide and seek with me again sometime? Oh, and don't worry, since I do learn from my mistakes I'll be sure to kill him quickly next time. "
B'Elanna surged to her feet with a roar. "Bitch!" she spat, as she drove the branch through Seska's chest.
"She won't talk to me Harry. She won't argue with me either. Hell, sometimes it seems like she can barely even stand to look at me." Tom was pacing Harry's quarters, pausing to touch an object here or there, but not really seeing them.
Harry watched the anguished expression on his friend's face. It was obvious that something was preying on B'Elanna's mind and that it was beginning to affect her relationship with Tom. She had been quiet, and was working too much for his liking lately, but that wasn't anything new. And truthfully there wasn't much else she could do to occupy herself while they were stuck traveling in this black void. Shore leave was certainly out of the question.
But to find out that she was spending her off-hours avoiding Tom had surprised him. He shifted uneasily on the couch. "That's not what I heard," Harry replied carefully. "I heard that you two had a screaming match in the messhall last night."
"Screaming match? I'd hardly call it that. She barely spoke to me, let alone screamed at me." Tom sighed and turned to face his friend. "Actually, I wouldn't mind if she did yell at me, at least she'd be showing a little emotion toward me. It's like she's closed me off, closed herself off I just don't know what to do."
Harry could feel his friend's grief like a tangible force. He wanted to fix it, to make it better for him. He knew how Tom felt about B'Elanna; how long he had loved her before he would admit it to himself, let alone her. He also knew that, unlike his own time with Libby, their relationship had never been a smooth one. He wished there were something he could say to make it better. "Maybe you should just remind her that you love her," Harry offered.
"I don't think she wants me to love her anymore, Harry." Tom's voice was soft and edged with pain.
Two weeks later
The old dream had come back, just when she thought she had no more use for it. They were back in the caves on Sakari IV, but this time when she had told him to "just let it happen", he had kissed her and kept on kissing her even as he backed her to the other wall. His hands had come up to cradle her face, smoothed her hair from her brow, then glided down to caress her breasts and pull her closer. He had kissed her until she was breathless then gently lowered her to the cave floor, murmuring his love and need for her, all the while stripping away their clothing. Then he made love to her with his hands and mouth and body and she never wanted it to end.
B'Elanna was moaning softly in her sleep, her body rolling slightly beside him on the bed. Tom was afraid she was having another nightmare and he debated waking her, but then he heard her say his name in a long drawn out breath. Her hips were rocking slowly in a way his body recognized long before his brain figured it out. He was acutely embarrassed when it finally dawned on him just what she was dreaming. He wondered if the dream would take her to orgasm, or if she would deny herself that pleasure even while asleep.
He watched her as she slept: face flushed and lips slightly parted. She was lying on her back, one hand carelessly draped across her abdomen, the other fisted beside her cheek. Carefully, so as not to wake her, he lifted a strand of her chocolate coloured hair and pushed it aside before it could become tangled in her fingers. He felt emotion clench his gut as he looked at her. He'd come so close to losing her
He had been terrified when the Captain had commed him after her holodeck accident and disclosed the Doc's suspicions about her old injuries. Terrified and angry and guilty. He had known that there was something seriously wrong with her the last few months, but she had rebuffed any attempts by him to help her. He'd hoped that she would resolve whatever was troubling her, and that when she did she would still want him.
And that was the crux of the matter. He could admit only now, with her lying beside him in her own bed, that he'd tried to ignore her problem because he was afraid of losing her. He'd pretended she was fine, that it was just the blackness of the void that had made her distant and uncommunicative. He knew in his heart that she needed help, but he'd been terrified that that help would lead her out of herself-imposed darkness and away from him. And even when he and Chakotay stumbled across evidence of her attempted self-destruction he was still impotent. So in the end he did nothing while her old friend had been the one to save her from herself.
Instead of helping the woman he loved, he had set aside his concerns in his eagerness to begin work on the new shuttle. It was ironic that the Delta Flyer had ultimately saved her, but first it had almost killed her in a holodeck simulation. She had later claimed that the only way to accurately measure the Flyer's stress levels had been to turn off the safeties, and Tom wanted to believe her motives this time. Whatever the reason for her breach of protocol, Tom would always be grateful to the shuttleand the holodeckfor that final injury.
At the Captain's call he had run from the shuttle bay, pacing when the lift seemed to take forever to travel the few decks to sickbay. When he saw her, small and still on the biobed, her head wound still an angry purple against her pale skin, he wanted to scream. Instead, he gently held her hand as he began to scan her, his long fingers skipping over the medical tricorder's display.
The doctor came up silently behind him. "Mr. Paris," he said, then softer, "Tom?" He placed a padd with a list of her injuries on the bed. "She's going to be all right, but I have to ask you something." The doctor sighed. He wondered if he had the man's attention. He soon would.
"She has several old injuries; fractures, scaring, bruising. I have reason to suspect that they were deliberately inflicted Did you have any idea what she's been doing to herself, or why? Some of these injuries date back months."
Tom bent to rub his cheek across her hand, then opened her fingers to kiss her palm. "I knew there was something wrong, but she wouldn't talk to me, Doc. I should have done something before it went this far." His pain and guilt were written on his face.
"Don't blame yourself," the doctor tried to console him. "Lt. Torres can be a very private person, and she hid her injuries well. None of us could have known"
"I should have known," Tom retorted angrily. "I should have known and I should have done something to stop it."
The doctor noted the way Tom clenched his jaw, and the brightness of his eyes as he fought back tears. "Why don't you sit with her for a while, then get some sleep yourself. I've given her a sedative and she's resting comfortably." He patted Tom's shoulder in a gesture meant to be comforting, then left them alone.
That was yesterday. The captain had spoken to him and Chakotay, trying to figure out why B'Elanna would intentionally try to hurt herself. They had been ordered to look through her holodeck logs to see which programs she had been running. Tom had needed to use all of his old hacking skills to break through her security codes, and what they had discovered had frightened him. How could he have been so blind to her emotional pain? He had assumed that she had accepted the mass slaughter of her Maquis colleagues and moved on with her life in the Delta Quadrant without giving the matter another thought. Because it was easier for him. Because he didn't want to have to deal with her emotional baggage when he was carrying enough of his own.
He gazed at her sleeping form. Her face was still pale, but her success on the new shuttle's first mission had brought a little colour back to her cheeks. He had been thrilled and grateful to all the known gods when she had marched into the Delta Flyer and ordered Vorik out of her seat, and her triumph with the jury-rigged force field had made her glow for the first time in months.
She was beginning to wake up. He shifted slightly away from her in the bed, not wanting to crowd her. He figured watching her have that dream might be considered invasion enough and he didn't want to disturb their newfound peace.
She opened her eyes and found him gazing at her, his expression placid. She just looked at him for a moment, then reached for his hand and drew it across her body as she turned to lie against him. "I love you, Tom," she whispered into his chest. His grip tightened for a moment, then relaxed. It was enough for now, he thought. It would have to be. They would get the rest back in time.
Two years later...
Tom sat in the darkened mess hall. It was early, not even 0500. Neelix was in the kitchen quietly beginning breakfast while two crewmen sat near the window sipping real, replicated coffee. They had given Tom a celebratory cup, and it sat cooling on the table beside him. He sat with his feet propped on the adjacent chair, knees raised in the air, singing softly as he gently swung his legs in rhythm.
"...What shall we do with a drunken sailor,
Earl-eye in the morning?
Way hay and up she rises (he raised his knees slightly, then dropped them again)
Way hay and up she rises (another gentle rise of his knees)
Way hay and up she rises (a third arc upward)
Earl-eye in the morning.
Put her in a long-boat till she's sober
Put her in a long-boat till she's sober
Put her in a long-boat till she's sober
Earl-eye in the morning."
"That's an odd choice of lullaby." Captain Janeway walked up behind him and dropped a hand on his shoulder. "Oh, Tom," she said, "she really is lovely."
Tom smiled at his infant daughter. She was less than a day old and was resting comfortably on his thighs, one tiny fist curled beside her mouth as she slept. He traced the tiny ridges on her forehead with his thumb. She was the image of B'Elanna, down to her perfect, rosebud mouth.
"Is B'Elanna finally asleep?" the Captain asked.
B'Elanna had started labour two days ago in the mess hall when her water broke at that very table. She had laboured through the night, finally giving birth just at the shift change yesterday morning.
"Yeah," Tom replied. "I had to take her away so B'Elanna could get some rest. Whenever she's around her mother, all she wants to do is nurse. Once an hour on the hour. It must be that Klingon sense of smell."
"I wasn't aware the computer had 'Eau du Lait Maternal' in the database as a scent," the Captain said with a laugh. Tom's smile matched her own. "Have you named her yet?"
"No," Tom replied. "I'm holding out for something Klingon, and you can imagine how B'Elanna feels about that."
"I think I can guess. She really is beautiful, Tom. I'll stop by sickbay later to see how B'Elanna's feeling."
"Thank you, Captain." His eyes found hers and he saw the pride there; she looked almost like a puffed up grandmother. She patted his shoulder one more time and moved to slip past him toward the kitchen and her morning coffee.
"You're welcome, Tom."
He caught her hand and stopped her. "No, Captain... Kathryn, I mean it. Thank you for... for everything."
She raised an eyebrow at the familiar use of her given name. To her knowledge, he had never called her anything but Captain or ma'am.
How could he put into words all he needed to say? All the things he was grateful to her for. He needed to thank her for getting him out of Auckland; for trusting him to pilot Voyager; for saving B'Elanna and the others and making them part of the crew.
"Thank you for my daughter," he said, his voice barely above a whisper.
Kathryn blinked back emotion as she looked at Tom's earnest expression. "You're welcome," she said simply.
Tom watched as she moved toward the kitchen and Neelix's exuberant greeting. He let his gaze slide back to the tiny form on his lap. She was as beautiful, as enchanting as her mother. He would have been content to simply watch her sleep forever. He didn't want to remember how close he had come to losing her when they had first been told about the pregnancy, but the memory came back to him unbidden. How could B'Elanna ever have thought that he could leave them? He had fought too hard for their relationship to work to ever consider giving up on them. All three of them.
The doctor had warned him to watch B'Elanna closely for signs of depression, which would be so easy for her to slip into after her long difficult labour. Tom didn't need the reminder. But for the moment, he would cradle his daughter, so like the woman he adored. And he found that he was actually looking forward to her first show of independence. He was under no illusions that living with two Klingon tempers would be easy, but at least it would never be boring.
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