Title: Remember Me...
Synopsis: P/T An alien attack leaves B'Elanna without memories of her life on Voyager
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the characters. I thank them for letting me play with them.
Date: February 2002
Thanks to the PTCollective for their inspiration and to Dasia for her excellent beta skills.
Once again Tom Paris stood vigil over B'Elanna as she lay in sickbay. It seemed like he spent half his life either on the biobed or sitting next to it praying that Voyager's Chief Engineer would survive yet another accident. This one was the result of an attack by an alien race from the Delta Quadrant who hadn't even bothered to identify themselves. Their unprovoked assault had hit Engineering hard. The warp engines were off line, the computer databanks severely damaged and B'Elanna had a nasty concussion. Doc said she should be coming around any time now so Tom had left his repair team on their own while he went to sickbay to wait.
B'Elanna's eyelids began to flutter as she slowly opened them. She shut them again almost immediately, startled by the lights. Willing herself to brave the brightness again her gaze fell on Tom Paris sitting next to her and holding a tricorder like he knew what to do with it.
He smiled, "Hi, welcome back."
"What the hell are you doing here?" she snarled.
Tom looked startled, "I just wanted to be sure you were okay," he assured her.
"You run off and leave us at the mercy of the Cardassians and then you have the nerve to say you're worried about me. You have a strange way of showing it." B'Elanna was getting angrier by the word and Tom was getting more confused.
The EMH hurried over and began to scan B'Elanna with his own tricorder. His face showed worry as he studied his readings. "Lt. Torres, can you tell me what the stardate is and where you are?"
B'Elanna answered him with another question. "Who the hell are you and get your own damn calendar." She started to rise from the bed, throwing off Tom's restraining hand with another snarl.
"I am the Emergency Medical Hologram on the Starship Voyager and the date is 52601.3." The doctor's reply was brusque and a little frantic.
"What?" she gasped, "It can't be." She stood up abruptly and just as abruptly sank to her knees, faint from the pain in her head and the dizziness. She felt nauseous, naked and alone.
Chakotay strode through the door of sickbay and B'Elanna looked at him like he was a lifeline. "Chakotay, where are we and why are you wearing that uniform?" She reached out her hand and he grabbed it, pulling her to her feet.
Looking first at the doctor and then at Tom, he answered her, "What's wrong, B'Elanna? What else would I be wearing?"
"You should be wearing..." her voice trailed off as she looked down at her own singed uniform. Shaking her head, she stammered, "Stardate 52601? I thought it was 47299. Where are the Cardassians and why are we on a Starfleet ship?" It had become obvious to B'Elanna that they were indeed on a Starfleet ship.
"We're in the Delta Quadrant, B'Elanna," Tom answered, "where we have been for nearly six years. We're trying to get back to the Alpha Quadrant. Don't you remember any of this?" His voice held concern and he was anxious to know just how much she had forgotten.
"Shut up, Paris. I know I don't have anything to say to you," she answered him viciously.
Chakotay looked at Tom in alarm, "B'Elanna," he began. Tom Paris just shook his head in response to the silent question. "B'Elanna, we are on a Starfleet ship, Voyager. I'm the first officer, you're the Chief Engineer. Tom, uh..., Ensign Paris is the pilot."
B'Elanna shook her head in confusion and the doctor took this as a sign that he could safely intervene. He pushed her back onto the biobed and continued his scans while Tom stood silently by. The EMH's look of concern deepened, "the concussion has seriously damaged her memory engrams this time. It may take a while for them to heal and they may not heal at all."
"I have amnesia?" Her tone was incredulous.
"Yes, Lieutenant, you have amnesia. You seem to have lost the last five years of your life." B'Elanna closed her eyes as she lay on the bed and tried to calm the wave of fear that was coursing through her. She felt the pressure of a hypospray in her neck and let the darkness overcome her again.
"Was that smart? Do you think she should be sedated again with a head injury?" Tom asked angrily.
"I think I am qualified to determine what treatment is best for my patient, ensign. She needs to rest and give her body time to heal itself. Sleep is the best thing for her right now." More gently he added, "She may also be a little less confused when she wakes up."
Tom nodded but his face still showed the pain of B'Elanna's words. Chakotay began to question the doctor more about her condition for his report to the Captain. They moved to the doctor's office while Tom kept his vigil next to the biobed where B'Elanna lay. The thoughts were tumbling through his head at warp speed. What if she never regained her memory? Would she ever remember what they had? What would she do when he told her what they had? He had the answer to that one: she'd push him out the nearest airlock. Her opinion of him was painfully obvious at this time. Could this be what she really had been thinking all along?
Tom's insecurities began to run rampant. B'Elanna had insisted on keeping their relationship quiet. Whenever they were in public Harry was with them and only Harry really knew how close their relationship was. The nights they spent together were always cut short so that each of them could get ready for work in their own quarters. Tom was more than willing to announce to the ship that he was in love with this beautiful woman but B'Elanna wasn't ready. She felt it wasn't anyone's business but theirs. Tom had always respected her wishes but the old doubts were rushing back to envelop him in a cocoon of uncertainty. Was she really ashamed of him? Or was she just tired of living like a tabard monk and using him for the sex?
Harry entered sickbay to find Tom sitting next to an unconscious B'Elanna, holding his head in his hands. "Tom, what's wrong, I thought the Doc had said she'd be fine?" His voice held alarm and the look on Tom's face wasn't doing anything to relieve that feeling.
Harry's voice had brought the EMH out of his office with Chakotay following behind, "She will be fine, Ensign, as long as she gets the proper rest. This memory loss could easily be a temporary condition. However, she needs to sleep and you and Ensign Paris have repairs that need to be finished, I'm sure. A quiet sickbay would be far more conducive to Lt. Torres' recovery."
Chakotay entered the conversation before Tom or Harry had a chance to answer the doctor. "He's right, Tom. The Doctor will call you when she wakes up and we'll talk to her then to see what she remembers."
"Remembers?" asked a confused Harry, "What has she forgotten?"
The EMH sighed his most patient sigh, "Lt. Torres has lost the last five years of her memories. It seems she has selective amnesia. It will take some time to determine the extent of her memory loss. It may also take some time for her to recover those memories, and she may never recover them."
"Five years, Tom! Then she doesn't remember..."
Tom stopped his friend from going any further. He wasn't sure how much Chakotay knew about the relationship but he wasn't about to answer for it here and now. "No, Harry, she doesn't remember Voyager at all, not the engines or the Starfleet uniforms or Sandrine's or our weekly pool games, nothing."
Harry recognized his friend's pain and saw the Paris mask being pulled out of retirement. Tom had always hidden his true feelings behind a façade of indifference. It had only been in the last year that he had let his guard down, first with Harry, then with B'Elanna. The only other person he trusted enough to show his true self was Naomi Wildman, Ensign Samantha Wildman's three-year-old daughter. The Tom that Harry knew was a warm, caring person with a lot of unresolved issues. Chakotay only knew the brash pilot who could irritate him quicker than a swarm of mosquitoes on a hot summer's night.
However, Chakotay knew far more than Tom realized. He had observed the amount of time that the three friends spent together and he also knew how much time Tom and B'Elanna spent alone. He hadn't been happy when he discovered that the pilot was spending so much time with the chief engineer but no matter how much he wanted to dislike Paris, he had to admit that he and B'Elanna seemed happy together. B'Elanna had admitted her love for the cocky pilot when he had been lost on the demon planet many months before but they had never discussed it. If she and Paris wanted to keep their relationship quiet then he would honor that. "Go on, Tom. She'll wake up in a much better mood if her quarters aren't still in a shambles. Why don't you and Harry go work on that?" Several of the crew quarters had been particularly hard hit during this latest Delta quadrant squabble; hers were the worst. That was one of the drawbacks of having a room with a view.
Wordlessly Tom and Harry left sickbay to go look at B'Elanna's quarters. Tom paused only to squeeze her hand one more time, willing her to remember him and what they had together.
B'Elanna's living area was indeed a mess. Emergency force fields had been holding the hull in place while the crews worked on repairing the damage. The outer wall had been restored but her computer console had been destroyed and most of her personal belongings were in piles on the floor, at least those belongings that hadn't escaped before the force fields kicked in. B'Elanna had been a Maquis so she had brought very little on board when she joined Voyager with all the other Maquis. Tom saw few of the memories that they had made together, the picture she had kept on her table was gone, the souvenirs of various shore leaves were smashed against the wall. Even Toby the targ, a birthday gift from Tom, looked like he'd been through a couple of rounds with an angry wildcat.
The two men began to put things to right, working in silence for quite a while. Harry finally broke the silence with a question. "Tom, what did B'Elanna say when she woke up? Did she remember you?"
"Yeah, she remembered me, as the traitor who sold out the Maquis. She hates me. There was nothing in her eyes but disgust, nothing of the last couple of years was there."
Harry was quick to come to B'Elanna's defense, "She couldn't hate you, Tom. If she's still back in the Alpha Quadrant, she barely knows you. Give her some time, it will all come back to her."
Tom nodded grimly as he returned
the remnants of her life to their appropriate places. Toby was returned
to the dresser, the padds full of reports were set again on the coffee
table which Harry had righted. Tom re-hung the clothes that had been sucked
out of B'Elanna's closet during the chaos. They still carried her scent
and he filled his senses with it, trying to quell the fear that continued
to hold him in its grasp. Her Maquis leathers hadn't been damaged but the
dress she'd worn on their first date, a little bit of taupe silk that brought
back happy memories, hadn't fared as well. Tom thought of recycling it
but decided to let B'Elanna make that decision. Instead he folded it in
her rarely used bottom drawer. This was the drawer where she kept the warm
sweatshirts and pants needed during a run in power conserving "gray" mode.
She also had banished her flannel gowns to that location. She preferred
now to sleep in Tom's oversize tee-shirts. Or at least she had. What she
Joe Carey interrupted Tom's musings as he strode through the door with a new computer monitor. He was B'Elanna's second in command in Engineering and had come to respect his boss a great deal over the years. He also knew the things that would irritate her the most and a damaged computer was one of those things. Harry cleaned off the desk where the computer normally rested --> [Author:PC] so Joe could set down his burden. As he made the appropriate connections he shared some concern with Harry over B'Elanna's personal logs. "We checked the data banks for lost files and it's not too bad except that several of the crew's personal files have been destroyed, including B'Elanna's. We may or may not be able to get the back-ups to restore them. That section of the databank was hit hard too."
Harry looked grimly at Tom. If all of B'Elanna's records were destroyed then any hope of her logs reminding her of their relationship was gone also. Tom watched Joe work in silence, trying to determine the best course of action. Unsure of how much Joe knew, Tom waited until he left to answer Harry's look.
"What are you going to tell her, Tom?"
"Nothing, and neither are you."
Harry was incredulous. "You're just going to let her go?"
"I have to, Harry. Think about it. There's nothing B'Elanna hates more than being told what to do with the possible exception of being betrayed. Right now she thinks I betrayed the Maquis and if I tell her that she is supposed to be in love with me I think she might just throw me out the nearest airlock."
"Don't you love her too? Do you want the relationship to be over?"
"No, and yes. No, I mean yes and no... Maybe I don't know what I mean, Harry. I love B'Elanna and I want a life with her but it has to be on equal terms. She has to want that life just as much. I can't help but ask myself if she forgot the last five years for a reason. Maybe she really wasn't as sure about things as I was."
"You're wrong, Tom. She loves you."
"Then why was I so easy to forget?"
"She has a head injury, Tom. You're taking this way too personally." Harry's frustration was mounting.
"Maybe I am but I need to know for sure. Look at it this way, Harry: I won her heart once, I can do it again. Only this time I already know what her secrets are. I should be able to do it in record time." In spite of the levity in his words Tom's face was grim as he continued, "No one but you really knows we were seriously seeing each other. That was the way B'Elanna wanted it. If you can keep this to yourself then I'll take the chance that I can win her back."
Harry was reluctant to agree but he knew that Tom had a stubborn streak and it wouldn't do much good to argue. He was also pretty sure that if anyone on this ship could win B'Elanna's heart again, it was Tom. In spite of Tom's misgivings Harry knew that the two of them belonged together. "I can keep it to myself, Tom. If B'Elanna doesn't remember anything about Voyager then she doesn't remember anything about me. She probably won't have much to say to me either."
Tom nodded, wondering who else might have suspected he and B'Elanna were more than friends. Chakotay was one of B'Elanna's closest friends but he didn't think that B'Elanna had confided in him. In fact Tom was pretty sure that the commander would be delighted at this turn of events. Other than Harry, Tom had no real confidants on the ship so he knew their secret was safe in that respect. "Let's keep it between us right now. I'll just have to start courting her again."
Harry's reply was interrupted by the call from sickbay asking Commander Chakotay and Ensign Paris to return. "I'll finish up here," Harry offered as Tom moved quickly towards the door.
"Thank, Har, for everything."
When he reached sickbay Tom heard a heated argument coming from within. Chakotay had obviously arrived there first and was trying to explain to a very angry half-Klingon just what their situation was.
"B'Elanna, just listen to me and stop yelling. I know you're angry and frustrated but at least give me a chance to explain."
"What's to explain? We are in the Delta quadrant, 30 years from home, on a Starfleet ship. I'm the chief Engineer and I don't remember a damn thing about it. What could be simpler?" Her words were punctuated by a medical instrument hitting the opposite wall.
Chakotay looked up with relief as Tom entered the room. Maybe he could get further with her. His hopes were dashed by B'Elanna's next words.
"Just how did you get pulled into the Delta Quadrant, Paris? I thought you were doing time in a Federation resort?"
Tom blanched at her cruel words but decided an honest answer was best. "I was on Voyager as an observer trying to locate your ship in the Badlands."
"Typical mercenary, were they paying you well?"
"Captain Janeway was going to give me a recommendation at the next parole board meeting." Tom was being brutally honest.
"This detour must have really been a disappointment for you."
"No, it wasn't. I've had opportunities here that I would never have had in the Alpha quadrant, not the least of which is being a part of Starfleet again, flying Voyager and meeting..." he hesitated, "having a chance to straighten out my life."
"Touching," B'Elanna spat back. Chakotay flinched at her tone.
"What are you doing back here?" B'Elanna asked, her displeasure evident.
"I'm the doctor's assistant. I came to see if he needed any help." Tom's answer was devoid of any emotion.
The doctor had grasped the situation very quickly and nodded his agreement. "Come into my office, Ensign so I can update you."
Chakotay watched the two men walk away and turned back to the angry engineer. He studied her face as she watched Tom walk away. There was some uncertainty there, she hadn't really expected the answers that Tom had given her and it seemed like she was feeling something else too. "You and Tom are friends, B'Elanna. Maybe when you see Harry Kim again you'll remember some of that. The three of you are pretty tight."
"I don't see how I could possibly be friends with a traitor who was willing to sell the Maquis out to the highest bidder."
"There's more to the story. Ask him about it." Chakotay directed.
The appearance of Captain Janeway cut off B'Elanna's retort. "Well, B'Elanna, I'm glad to see you're awake. How are you feeling?" she asked gently. Chakotay had briefed her but she wanted to assess the situation herself.
B'Elanna had the presence of mind to recognize that this was the captain of the ship and she trod lightly. "I'm feeling fine, physically. But I seem to be very confused."
"Tell me what you do remember," the captain asked.
"I remember a firefight with the Cardassians. I was in the middle of repairs when things start to get fuzzy. Someone was pursuing us, evasive maneuvers... That's about all," she finished uncertainly.
"You're my Chief Engineer, B'Elanna. Do you remember anything about that?"
"No, but one engine is like another, I shouldn't have any trouble with that."
"This ship is powered a little differently than any other," the captain began hesitantly. If B'Elanna couldn't remember how to deal with the gel packs that constituted Voyager's internal power systems then they really might be in trouble.
B'Elanna interrupted her, "I'm sure it will all come back to me, Captain. When can I get out of this place?"
The doctor and Tom had reentered the main sickbay area and the captain looked to the doctor for an answer. "You are released to your quarters but I don't want you anywhere near engineering for 24 hours. Maybe you could just study the systems from your computer console. A little refresher course, you might say."
Tom finally entered the conversation. "That might be a little difficult. B'Elanna's quarters were badly damaged, her console destroyed. Joe has hooked up a new one but he's still programming it. All she'll have access to for right now are the general databanks. Her personal files have not been recovered and her access codes will have to be reinitiated."
"How do you know so much about my quarters? Are you the housecleaning department as well as the pilot and nurse?"
Janeway was surprised by the caustic tone of B'Elanna's voice. "Lieutenant, Ensign Paris is one of the senior officers on this ship, as such I expect him to be treated with the courtesy which his position commands." It hurt to have to say "Ensign Paris" and she certainly hoped that B'Elanna didn't question her on why an ensign held a senior position.
Captain Janeway continued, "Commander, why don't you walk B'Elanna to her quarters and try to help her get reoriented to life on Voyager. I'm sure Lt. Carey has things under control in engineering and those files won't be necessary just yet."
Chakotay nodded and moved so that B'Elanna could precede him through the door. She left without a backward glance.
"Now, Mr. Paris, would you care to tell me what's going on with you?" The Captain looked with concern at her personal reclamation project. He appeared a little worse for wear and was tightly holding on to his self-control.
"I'm not sure what you mean, Captain." Tom answered.
"Right," the captain smiled and taking his arm, steered him towards the office. "Mind if we use the facilities, doctor?"
"Of course not Captain, my house is your house. Of course, I have nowhere else to go, but what difference does that make?" He walked off mumbling about holographic rights to privacy.
"Alright, Tom. You are pretending that you barely know B'Elanna and I know that's not true. You are friends, close friends, why the distance?"
"Did Chakotay tell you about her reaction to me when she woke up the first time?"
"A little, he said she didn't recognize Voyager and thought you had betrayed the Maquis to Starfleet."
"She hates me, Captain. In her eyes I am a traitor and a mercenary."
"Did you tell her about the last five years, about the number of times you've helped to rescue Voyager and her from danger? About your friendship with her and with Harry?"
"No, I haven't told her anything. For one thing, she isn't really interested in hearing anything I have to say. And for another, this is still B'Elanna we're dealing with. She isn't about to be told anything. She pretty much has to find things out on her own."
Captain Janeway smiled as she nodded. The chief's stubbornness was legendary.
Tom continued, "If I tell her we were friends, more than friends, she'll dismiss it as a fantasy on my part. I think the best thing is to give it time and see if she comes around."
"Tom, are you unhappy with your relationship with B'Elanna? Do you want it to end?"
"No!" Tom's reply reflected the misery he felt. "No, Captain, I want her to know me and what we had more than anything in this world. But I also know she can't be pushed. If I try I may lose any chance of getting her back." He hated revealing himself to the captain this way but he wanted to forestall any intervention on her part. "Please don't say anything to her, Captain. Let's just give it some time."
"All right, we'll try it your way. Is there any chance someone else might tell her?"
"No, I guess I'm even surprised that you seem to know about it. B'Elanna really wanted to keep it quiet. She felt it was our business and no one else's. I've talked to Harry but I'm not sure how much Commander Chakotay knows."
"I'll talk to Chakotay," Janeway volunteered. After a minute of silence she realized that no more information was coming from her pilot so she sent him back to his repair work while she returned to the bridge.
Chief Engineer Torres slowly picked up her duties again. Her staff was briefed and made every effort to steel themselves for life as it had been the first couple of years in the Delta quadrant. B'Elanna's temper and impatience had made engineering a difficult place to work and the crew was expecting the worst. It was pretty bad for a while. They handled her with kid gloves but she really didn't like being told that things had to be done a certain way, even if she was the one who had set up the procedures in the first place. Joe Carey manipulated the shifts so that someone who had a strong enough constitution to deal with a Klingon temper was always left in charge. Sue Nicoletti seemed to be able to reason with her and Vorik maintained a stoic demeanor at all times. The other engineers made an effort to stay out of her way.
After a couple of weeks their patience paid off. B'Elanna was a brilliant engineer and she recovered her knowledge of the ship's systems very quickly. She was in control again and the senior staff, as well as the engineering staff, breathed a sigh of relief, all except for the pilot, Tom Paris. B'Elanna had avoided him, making it a point to walk out of a room when he walked in, staying in meetings only long enough to give her report and leave before he had a chance to say a word to her. She was also rebuffing any advances made by Harry Kim. He was Starfleet and she spent her time with the Maquis crewmen with whom she was familiar, Ayala, Chell, Dalby, Gerron, and a few others. Chakotay had tried to talk to her about her other friendships, particularly with Harry and Tom, but B'Elanna would hear none of it. She wanted familiar people around her right now and Harry and Tom were not in that category --> [Author:PC] .
Tom allowed this to go on until he felt she had reached a comfort level in engineering that was similar to the one she had before. After that he put his plan in place to win back the heart of Voyager's Chief Engineer. He began by hand delivering his helm reports to B'Elanna instead of sending them directly to her computer. He always delivered them in front of the full engineering staff, all of whom greeted him warmly when he entered the area. B'Elanna took the reports with little or no comment but she noted that engineering brightened when he entered the area. His friendly demeanor and obvious rapport with her crew forced her to grudgingly admit that perhaps there was more to Tom Paris than mercenary and traitor but she had no intention of falling under the spell of those blue eyes. `Blue eyes, why did I notice his eyes?' she thought as she watched him leave after delivering a report.
Ayala and Dalby had dragged B'Elanna to Sandrine's for a pool tournament. It was the first time she had visited the place that she could recall but there was a familiarity when she walked in that surprised her. Sandrine surprised her also by greeting her warmly and asking the whereabouts of To-mas?.
B'Elanna had answered coldly, "Why should I know or care where he is?" before she proceeded to the table where the former Maquis were holding a place for her. Sandrine's enigmatic smile left B'Elanna even more confused.
It wasn't long before Tom Paris walked in, obviously planning on participating in the tournament. Michael Ayala saw him as he entered and waved him over to their table. B'Elanna's back was towards the door so she didn't notice who Michael was signaling until Tom Paris appeared at her side carrying four mugs of beer. He had made a slight detour on his way to the table.
Smiling, he handed each a mug, "This one is `light' for you, B'Elanna."
"How did you know I preferred light beer, Paris?" she grumbled.
"I've been plying you with liquor for a few years, B'Elanna, I know your preferences." Tom answered as he slid into the seat beside her.
B'Elanna was immediately struck by his scent. It was heady and spicy and very familiar, sending shivers down her spine. `No' she thought, `I am not going to be manipulated by Tom Paris.' The memory of women falling all over him in the Maquis was still sharp in B'Elanna's mind and she fought against the physical attraction she was feeling.
Fortunately Harry Kim entered the bar at that moment and the tournament began. It was fun to watch the men vying with each other, each swaggering cockily in his own way. Tom was obviously the reigning champion and cheerfully taking all bets as to whether or not he could keep his title. B'Elanna learned that the only one who had ever seriously challenged him was Captain Janeway. This tidbit of information increased her admiration of the captain significantly.
As the evening wore on the patrons of the bar shifted smoothly from command roles to those of friendship. One of the Maquis crew stayed close to B'Elanna all night but she discovered that they were just as comfortable with the Starfleet crewmembers. The seat next to her was occupied by several different people, Starfleet and Maquis alike, who all seemed to be interested in her, in her ideas on engineering matters as well as personal matters, in her well-being.
By the end of the evening B'Elanna's head was spinning at the realization that a lot of these strangers considered her a friend, and that included Tom Paris. She stood to leave and took one more look at the pool table where Tom was patiently waiting for his turn, his eyes trained on her. She saw him smile and nod and could have sworn that he said, "Good night, Bea," but that was impossible. No one but her father had ever called her that. She had never allowed anyone but her father to call her that. Shock prevented her from doing anything but nod in his direction as she left.
The next few days brought the discovery of a moon that held dilithium deposits, a mineral that Voyager desperately needed. Since this was the first away mission that B'Elanna had been asked to lead since the accident, she chose her crew from those she knew: Ayala would pilot the shuttle and Chell and Dalby would be on the collection team. Chakotay might have overridden her decision but he and Tuvok were on a diplomatic mission, negotiating for supplies on another planet. Captain Janeway hoped that giving B'Elanna a little freedom might help restore some of her confidence and stir a few memories at the same time.
It wasn't to be that easy though. The mineral deposits were deep within a system of caves and required climbing down into areas that hadn't looked nearly as steep on the original scans. The former Maquis weren't used to being on a team together and chose to take chances that proved far more dangerous than they had anticipated. Chell was now at the bottom of a chasm with a broken leg. No one on the mission had the medical knowledge to stabilize him or the climbing expertise to move him. As much as it angered B'Elanna, she was forced to call Voyager for help.
"Torres to Voyager." B'Elanna's voice crackled with interference.
"Go ahead," Captain Janeway replied.
"We have a problem, captain. Chell has fallen into a cavern and we think his leg is broken. The mineral deposits won't allow a transport back to the shuttle."
Kathryn Janeway looked over at Tom who was manning the conn before she answered, "Is he the only one injured?"
"Yes, I left Ayala and Dalby with him inside the cave and came back out to contact you."
B'Elanna heard Harry Kim's voice in the background, "Captain, there's an ion storm moving in, we may have time to transport someone down there to help but it has to be fast."
Janeway nodded as she responded, "We'll get someone down to you right away, B'Elanna. Janeway out."
"Tom," she continued, "you'd better go, you're the best field medic we've got and you have the climbing experience. Don't waste any time though."
"I won't, Captain. I'll have them all back safe and sound quick as I can."
Tom sprinted to the turbolift as the replacement pilot slid into his chair. He thought he heard Harry murmuring something about watching out for caves and déjà vu but when he turned to look, his friend's face was a study in concentration.
B'Elanna was anxiously waiting at the transport coordinates when Tom was beamed down to the planet to effect a rescue. "What are you doing here?" she asked angrily.
"I'm a field medic and an experienced climber. I was the best man for the job," he replied as he checked his equipment and glanced up at B'Elanna asking, "are you going to show me where Chell is or do I have to be the tracker too?"
The glare would have cowed a lesser man but Tom Paris was not afraid of B'Elanna Torres. Standing and swinging his pack onto his back he motioned for her to precede him into the cave. Silently they moved into the darkness, their wrist lights casting shadows on the walls around them. With Tom behind her the caves started to look frighteningly familiar. She was remembering bits and pieces of another climbing expedition, another cave, but the same Tom Paris. Just then a waft of air from outside gave her his scent and her nostrils flared seeking more of the sensation that it caused. Her skin tingled and her heart pounded but she quickly pushed all those emotions down, hiding them away to be analyzed later when he wasn't around. But the question remained, why did his scent affect her so?
A half-hour of hiking found them at the edge of an abyss with Ayala and Dalby calling words of encouragement down to the injured Chell who lay on the ground at the base of the wall. Both men sprang to attention when Tom appeared and relief was evident on their faces. B'Elanna was curious about their deference and obvious trust of Tom but didn't voice her curiosity.
Tom was relieved to find that Chell was coherent and began setting his pitons and ropes so that he could rappel down and assess Chell's condition. B'Elanna began to insist that she go with him but Tom had his own ideas on that.
"No, B'Elanna, you stay here with Ayala and Dalby. I'm going to need all of you on top to hoist him up once I get his leg splinted and get him ready to move."
"This is my mission and Chell is on my team, I can help get him ready to move," B'Elanna answered stubbornly.
"I don't care whose mission it is. I'm the field medic and I make the decisions here. You stay on top and be ready to follow my instructions." Tom set his ropes and began his climb down the cliff being careful to avoid the sharp outcroppings of rock on the face of the precipice.
The ever-cheerful Chell greeted him and Tom was able to assess his condition quickly: no internal injuries but a compound fracture in his right leg. Tom smiled at his Bolian crewmate, "This leg has to hurt, Chell and it's going to hurt worse when I set it to put the splint on. I can give you something for the pain but it may not be enough. I need you wide awake while I try to get you to the surface."
"I understand, Tom, you just do what you have to do. I can take it."
Tom nodded and pressed a hypo-spray
into the blue skin of Chell's neck. Splinting the leg was the easy part.
Rigging the ropes so the men on top of the ledge could pull Chell up without
doing him any more harm, now that was going to be tricky. Tom managed it
however and gave the waiting crewmen a signal. Tom stayed at the base of
the cliff to balance the ropes so Chell wouldn't bounce around on the way
up. Once Chell reached the top B'Elanna strapped him to a stretcher so
that Ayala and Dalby could carry him out to the shuttlecraft. Tom began
his ascent unobserved and unaided. His climbing experience told him he
needed a spotter on top but no one seemed to be available. He had almost
finished his climb when his foot slipped and his back hit one of the sharp
outcroppings that he had so carefully avoided on the way down. A grunt
of pain left his lungs but it wasn't loud enough to be noticed by the others.
Tom stopped long enough to catch his breath and continued his climb
Once they were free of the cave Tom tried to call for transport only to be told there that the ion storm was covering the planet and transports would be useless. The shuttle was now the only way of getting off the planet. The weary group hiked the two kilometers to the shuttle with B'Elanna in the lead, determined to get control of this mission again.
Once they reached the shuttle Tom secured Chell in the back while Ayala prepared for the flight back to Voyager. Michael Ayala was a capable pilot but the sensors told him there was trouble ahead. The storm was picking up in intensity. B'Elanna ordered him to take off but Ayala looked to Paris for confirmation.
"Why are you looking at him? Just fly the shuttle, Ayala. You're a pilot."
"I'm not the pilot Tom is, B'Elanna. If it weren't for Chell I'd say we stay here until the storm blows over."
Tom made his way slowly to the front of the shuttle and silently motioned for Ayala to vacate the pilot's seat. Ayala was happy to comply in spite of B'Elanna's disapproval. Tom eased into the seat and prepared to navigate the storm. "Everybody, brace for turbulence, it's going to be a rough ride."
The small craft bounced through the atmosphere of the moon while her crew held on to anything stable. Chell had been sedated further so he was asleep during the trip and Ayala and Dalby envied him. Torres sat at the engineer station and monitored their progress without a word. If Tom needed help, he could ask for it. She wasn't volunteering anything. She knew her attitude was petty and uncalled for but Tom's obvious capabilities and the deference that even the Maquis crew gave him was a source of intense aggravation.
Once they had cleared the moon's atmosphere it didn't take Tom long to pilot the small craft into Voyager's shuttle bay. He called for an immediate transport to sickbay for Chell and waited for the others to leave before making his way slowly outside. Captain Janeway met the team with assurances that they would try again to gather dilithium. Her words only angered the chief engineer more and B'Elanna was struggling to maintain a hold on her temper. When Tom appeared at the door of the shuttle Captain Janeway only needed one look at his face to know that something was very wrong. His face was pale and lines of pain were etched around his mouth. She moved to go to him as B'Elanna stormed out of the shuttle bay.
"Tom, what is it?"
"The safeties were off on this climb, Captain, and I got bounced around a little." Tom's joke was marred by his groan when he tried to straighten up in the shuttle bay.
"Let's get you to sickbay too," the captain said motioning Ayala over to help Tom, who nodded and gratefully took the support that Michael offered.
B'Elanna was surprised to find Tom Paris on one of the biobeds in sickbay when she went to check on Chell an hour later. "What happened to him?" she asked the holographic doctor.
"He injured himself in the cave on the away mission. He must have hit an outcropping of rock during his climb. This time he has managed to bruise his kidney and rupture his spleen. Of course, due to the excellent medical care he receives, he will be up and around by tomorrow, sooner if I hadn't learned to keep him sedated until his body was ready for him to place it in the way of danger again," the doctor grumbled.
"Always has to be the hero, doesn't he?" she asked snidely.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Nothing. How's Chell?"
"I have released him to his quarters. Tom had already set the leg so the bone knitting went fairly quickly. He may also return to duty tomorrow."
B'Elanna nodded and left taking one last look at the sleeping pilot. It seemed she had spent time here before watching him sleep but it was another one of those memories that just flitted through her head leaving her grasping for its meaning.
Chakotay's knock interrupted B'Elanna's analysis of the bungled away mission. At her answering call he entered and sat down on the couch. `Looks like it's going to be a long meeting' B'Elanna thought as she steeled herself for his reprimand.
"What's your feeling on how the away mission went today, B'Elanna?" he asked.
"Lousy would be the first word I can think of," B'Elanna replied.
"What went wrong?"
"The sensors told us the dilithium was inside the caves but there was a lot of interference on the scans. We weren't prepared for the depth of the caves and the chasms that seemed to appear out of nowhere." B'Elanna began.
Chakotay nodded and waited for her next words.
"Chell really isn't an experienced climber and he took chances he shouldn't have. He lost control on his descent and landed hard at the bottom. I managed to get down to him but we didn't have the medical supplies to treat him or the means of moving him without further injury so I left him in the cave and hiked back out to call the ship."
"You hiked back out alone?" Chakotay's voice was carefully neutral.
"The way was clearly marked. It was faster than two of us trying to get out." B'Elanna knew where this was going and wasn't looking forward to the outcome.
"All right, what happened next?"
"Tom Paris rode in on his white horse and saved the day." B'Elanna answered bitterly.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"He's so damn cocky. He was the one who had to climb down and treat Chell and then he has to rig a harness so Ayala and Dalby can pull him up and then Michael lets him fly the damn shuttle back because the conditions were a little rough. They act like he's superman." Her voice level has raised until she was practically shouting at the executive officer.
"That was the job Captain Janeway sent him down to do." His quiet answer seemed to calm B'Elanna a little. "What I want to know is why was Chell on that away mission? In fact the only one with any serious climbing experience was you."
"The caves didn't look that steep or that deep on the preliminary scans. He had said he didn't ever get a chance to get off the ship so I gave it to him."
"And Ayala and Dalby?"
"We've been on a lot of away missions together. I knew I could count on them to think on their feet." B'Elanna stubbornly defended her choices.
"B'Elanna, if you had asked Tom he could have told you who had the climbing experience to make this a successful trip. Ensign Vorik for one is almost as experienced as Tom and might have had the sense to prevent this accident."
"Why should I ask a mercenary for his advice on an away mission?"
Chakotay's voice was now rising to the level that B'Elanna recognized as dangerous. "Because he is a senior officer on this ship, as are you. With Tuvok and myself away Tom is the acting executive officer. He would have seen right away that you didn't have anyone with enough experience."
"If Captain Janeway hadn't wanted me to pick my own team then she would have said something." B'Elanna angrily retorted.
"It isn't Captain Janeway's place to know all the strengths and weaknesses of every crew member, it's mine. I would have told you to choose a different team and Tom would have too, if you had asked him. But instead you allowed your prejudice against Tom and against Starfleet to cloud your judgement and because of that both Chell and Tom were seriously hurt and the mission was a failure."
"I couldn't talk to him. I don't know him or any of them! Harry just looks at me like he's lost his best friend and Tom ... I don't know, Tom seems to expect something I don't have."
"Harry has lost one of his best friends. You and he and Tom were very close. You were always together in the messhall and on the holodecks."
"Chakotay, I have this huge hole in my life, a part of me is missing and I don't know who I can trust any more but I just can't believe that I ever let myself be friends with Tom Paris."
"Well, you'd better start figuring out how you're going to fix that hole in your life and Tom Paris or Harry Kim would be a good place to start. I've also recommended to the Captain that you not lead any more away missions until I determine that you are fit. Ensign Vorik and I will take care of procuring your minerals for you." Chakotay's voice was calm and reasonable and B'Elanna knew that he was right but her anger was overriding her common sense right now.
"You had no right to do that. I am perfectly capable of performing my duties."
"Tell that to Chell and Tom Paris. If you defy me on this B'Elanna I will remove you from duty and confine you to quarters."
Her silence was all the answer that Chakotay needed. It was apparent that he had made an impression this time. "Anything else you'd like to discuss?"
Morning found a very subdued Chief Engineer in the messhall pondering the purplish glob that Neelix had told her was a very nutritious breakfast. She had overcome the urge to force feed it to the friendly Talaxian and she now sat alone in contemplation of her life which obviously now included unidentifiable purple blobs. A familiar voice disturbed her thoughts and she looked up to see Harry Kim at her side. "Mind if I sit down?"
B'Elanna bit back the sharp retort that had threatened to jump out of her mouth. She shrugged and nodded to the seat across from her. As Harry sat he gave her a sideways look trying to discern her mood, always a little iffy in the morning. He decided to try a smiling, friendly approach. "How are you doing this morning, Maquis?" His answer was a glare. "That good, huh?"
"Why do you care, Starfleet?"
Harry's face lit up at the salutation, "B'Elanna, you called me Starfleet. Did you remember that was your nickname for me? Are you starting to remember some things?"
"I called you `Starfleet'?"
"Yeah, just now."
"I guess I thought that seemed like a good name for you." She looked confused and Harry didn't want to make things any worse so he wisely just smiled and began to eat today's offering of haute cuisine from Chef Neelix.
"Ugh, this is awful." The look of revulsion on Harry's face made B'Elanna laugh in spite of her lousy mood.
"Tell me something, Starfleet, has the food been this bad since we started?" B'Elanna laughed softly and Harry joined her.
The sound of their amusement was music to Tom's ears as he cautiously approached the table. Harry caught his eye, "Tom, you look better. Come on and sit down."
Not wishing to push his luck, Tom took the seat next to Harry and began to give his purple glop some serious attention. "Do you think it's safe to eat?"
"As safe as usual," Harry grunted.
B'Elanna was still smiling at the expression on Harry's face when her eyes caught Tom's. He was looking at her with an unfathomable expression. Part hope, part fear, part something she couldn't identify. She looked away, blushing as Tom attacked his meal with renewed enthusiasm.
"Your stomach must be lined with cast iron," Harry moaned as he watched his friend actually enjoying the colorful, oatmeal like substance.
"I've had worse, Harry. And I've had better. It's just another day in the Delta quadrant." His grin was infectious and Harry had to laugh.
"Are you back on duty today?" It seemed like a fairly safe question to Harry.
"Yeah," Tom laughed, "sickbay duty. The Doc has a golf game this morning."
"That's convenient," B'Elanna added, "you'll be right in place to play the hero again."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You always have to be the hero don't you? You saved us all by flying the shuttle back in that terrible storm." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm.
"I'm the chief pilot," Tom stated evenly, " it's my job to get shuttles home safely."
"And you're the chief medic so it's your job to rescue Chell and you're the big strong man so it's your job to do all of this alone. I could have flown that shuttle as well as you and I don't need your condescension." B'Elanna was standing now and stormed out of the messhall.
Tom shook his head as he watched her leave, disappointment on his face. Harry's face showed the sympathy he felt for his friend.
B'Elanna returned to her quarters instead of Engineering and threw herself down on the sofa in the living area. `Why did I attack him like that? He didn't do anything. It was just a conversation over breakfast and I had to jump down his throat. Why does he have that effect on me? He was with the Maquis a month, I shouldn't have any reaction to him at all. Well, he betrayed us, jumped at the chance to side with the federation again... but if he really went back to the Federation then why did he wind up in prison?'
Pacing now, she paused to pick up the stuffed targ that sat on her dresser and continued her line of inquiry. "Toby, why does something inside me start to feel funny whenever he comes near me? Why do I get so angry I want to scream when he's around? I try to hold my temper with everyone else on this ship but not Tom Paris, him I just go ahead and let loose. Why do his eyes have to be so blue...?"
Another thought penetrated B'Elanna's mind as she gazed at her confidant, "How the hell do I know your name and where did you come from?" Her arm raised to hurl the small creature across the room she paused one more time, sinking to her knees in frustration she clasped him to her and moaned, "why can't I remember? And why aren't you helping me, Tom?"
Harry Kim was not happy with Tom's plan to win B'Elanna back at his own pace. He had an idea on how to speed things up a little. It was either that or those two were going to have to find a different referee.
Lunchtime found Harry in engineering searching for the chief. She found him. "What's up, Harry?" There was a touch of suspicion in her voice.
"Want to catch some lunch?"
"No, too much work to do and I seem to be a little slow at it." B'Elanna laughed a little ruefully but she was still wary.
Harry was looking decidedly uncomfortable. "Can I talk to you for just a few minutes?"
"Yeah, come on into my office."
Once in the office Harry's courage threatened to leave him all together. Tom had asked him not to interfere and here he was interfering. Better get it over with... "I have a report for you."
"You don't owe me any reports, Starfleet," she said, suspiciously.
"I think I owe you this one."
"What kind of report is it?"
"It's one of my personal logs from two years ago." Harry answered as he handed the padd to her.
"Why do I want to read your personal log?"
"Two years ago Tom and I were arrested on a planet called Akriteria. We were tried, convicted and thrown into prison. They don't give pardons or parole on Akriteria. It took a while for Voyager to find us and rescue us. Tom kept us both alive during that time. It's something I'd like you to read." Harry sounded more sure of his decision to share his logs with every word.
B'Elanna hesitated before taking the padd from his outstretched hand. "Why?"
"There's a side of Tom that you're not seeing, B'Elanna. Maybe this would help."
"Look, Harry. I do know Tom. He's a mercenary who ran at the first sign of trouble in the Maquis."
"I've never seen Tom run away from danger. He seems to thrive on it. He came back when the Kazon had left us on that desert planet. He stuck by me in the Akriterian prison and he's pulled you out of plenty of scrapes. You saw him save Chell..." Harry regretted that remark as soon as it came out of his mouth. That was what had started this morning's fight!
An arched eyebrow was all the reaction that Harry's words netted. After a pause B'Elanna agreed to take the padd. "I'll read it and get back to you. Thanks." Her voice held a hint curiosity.
"Okay, well, I've got to get back to the bridge." A nod was the only answer that he received.
It was early evening when Sam Wildman talked B'Elanna into leaving engineering and stopping for a drink at Sandrine's. It seemed like it had been a long day. Nothing had really gone wrong in engineering but nothing had really gone just right either. Sam recognized that B'Elanna barely knew her but they had established rapport fairly quickly. It wasn't on the same level they had had before but it was more than B'Elanna seemed to be able to maintain with any of the other Starfleet crew. When Sam had suggested, two hours into beta shift, that perhaps they needed to take a break, her boss had absent-mindedly said, "Sure, go on. I'll see you tomorrow," without looking up from her report.
"That's not what I meant, Lieutenant."
"I'm sorry, Sam, what did you say?"
"I said beta shift has been here two hours already. Let's go to Sandrine's for a drink and unwind a little before I have to pick up Naomi. We've both put in a long day, Lieut... B'Elanna."
A quick shake of her head seemed to clear out some of B'Elanna's thoughts and allowed her to pay attention to her companion. Looking up in surprise she began, "You don't need to watch me, Sam. I'll get out of here eventually."
"That's not what I meant. Give yourself a break. You're pushing yourself too hard. Things will come back to you if you just relax a little and let you memory recover at its own pace." Sam hadn't meant to be so blunt and tensed as she waited for B'Elanna's reaction.
Surprising even herself, B'Elanna smiled and said, "You're right. I guess I am trying too hard. Let's go to Sandrine's and forget about all this mess and my mind and see what we can do about solving the problems of the rest of the quadrant."
Sam laughed at B'Elanna's turn of phrase and waited at the door of Engineering as B'Elanna turned all the glitches over to a grateful Joe Carey. As his boss turned to leave Joe caught Sam's eye and mouthed `thank you' with a thumbs-up sign. Sam responded with a nod and a knowing wink.
Sandrine's hadn't really filled up yet but there were a few people there, Starfleet and Maquis. B'Elanna quickly noticed that you really couldn't tell the difference any more between the two crews. It was as if everyone but her had gotten over the fact that they were bitter enemies. She picked up two beers, both light, from the bar and joined Sam at a nearby booth. Now that she was here, she realized that she didn't have much of an idea of who Sam was and what made her tick. She was Starfleet, a science officer and had a little girl, Naomi, born here in the Delta quadrant. Were they friends? Did they get together like this often? Where was her little girl tonight? How did one arrange childcare on a ship like Voyager?
The silence between them was growing awkward and Sam finally spoke, "I see I persuaded your body to leave Engineering but I think your mind must still be there."
Embarrassed, B'Elanna looked up at the other woman and gave voice to her thoughts, "I was just wondering if we do this sort of thing very often. I thought about asking `Are we friends?' And then I feel really stupid for having to ask that question."
"Don't feel stupid, B'Elanna. Most everyone on Voyager is a friend. It's hard to live day in and day out on a ship with 140 people and not be friends with most of them. It's a lot easier than being enemies."
B'Elanna had to agree with the wisdom in that but there was something more, she felt Sam was holding something back. "It seems like we're here for a reason, though."
"I confess, we are here for a reason. Joe really wanted to get you out of Engineering so he asked me to find a way. I chose this spot because Naomi is on Holodeck 2 and I need to pick her up in a few minutes." Sam laughed, embarrassed at her confession.
"Now, that makes more sense. I must be driving them all crazy down there."
"No, they're anxious to do what they can to help. They all admire you and your health and welfare are important to the whole crew. How are you doing? Things seem to be going a little more smoothly."
"I suppose they're going a little more smoothly but I still feel like I have this hole in my mind that I need to fill up. I can't just ignore it but the harder I try to remember, the worse it seems to get."
"B'Elanna, can I offer you some friendly advice?"
"Sure, we are friends... aren't we?"
Sam laughed at B'Elanna's attempt at humor. "Not close friends but yes, we are friends."
"Sam, who am I close friends with? The Maquis crew seemed surprised when I wanted to spend time with them, the engineers all seem to consider me the boss. Chakotay is in full commanding officer mode so I'm pretty sure I didn't hang around with him much. Do you know who my friends are?"
"Yes, I do. You and Tom Paris and Harry Kim are very close friends. You spend, well... spent, most of your free time together. You work closely together and seem to really enjoy each others' company."
"I just can't see it. Why would I spend that much time with a couple of Starfleet ensigns, one of whom was in prison for treason against the federation because he sold out the Maquis and got captured!"
"There's more to the story than that, B'Elanna. You need to ask Tom, he's not a traitor and he doesn't run out on people. You also might want to ask him why he's an ensign now when he started out as a lieutenant at the beginning of this voyage."
"A lieutenant? What did he do, try to romance Janeway and fail miserably?"
"Why would you say that, B'Elanna? He's not a playboy."
"I don't care if he is or isn't. I just know that I can't imagine being friends with him. Now, I guess I can see Harry, he's harmless but not Tom, not in a million years."
"Do you have any idea how may times Tom has saved this ship and everyone on it? He's saved my life a time or two and he lost his rank trying to save an oceanic world from self destruction." Sam was tenacious in her defense of Tom.
"This is so frustrating, why can't I remember anything about this journey, these people?"
"B'Elanna, forget about the hole in your mind, your biggest problem right now is the hole in your heart. Find out where your heart is leading you and your mind will follow."
"Sam, I can't... I don't need any more complications. I'm fine, just the way I am. Eventually I'll remember it all. I just wanted it sooner rather than later."
Sam nodded as she finished off the rest of her beer. "Why don't you walk next door with me? I have to pick Naomi up from her date."
B'Elanna laughed as she rose from the table with Sam. "Don't you think she's a little young to be dating?"
"Oh, I'm sure she's safe, he's a perfect gentleman."
They entered holodeck 2 unobserved by its occupants. Naomi was building a sandcastle with Voyager's pilot, Tom Paris. As the two were putting on the finishing touches Naomi asked Tom a question. "Uncle Tommy, this is Aunt B'Elanna's favorite place. Why isn't she here tonight?"
"She has to take care of her engines and can't always come play with us." Tom replied as he worked to smooth the parapets and create the tiny windows.
"Does she love her engines more than she loves us?"
"We're the reasons she loves her engines so much. She takes care of Voyager so we can keep flying and get home."
B'Elanna gave a soft strangled cry and turned to leave the holodeck as Naomi answered, "But, Uncle Tommy, you said wherever Aunt B'Elanna was, was home..."
Her quarters seemed to be suffocating her but B'Elanna didn't know of anywhere else she could go and be alone. And most of all she needed to be alone. Harry's logs had told of a man who was smart, brave, a little fatalistic and mighty damn lucky. Tom had told Harry to leave him behind if there was a chance for escape and he had almost died. What had touched her most was Harry's obvious admiration for his friend and his guilt at how close he had come to killing Tom. But Tom had pushed that guilt aside, telling Harry that all he remembered was the act of friendship. "This man is my friend and nobody touches him."
First Chakotay, then Captain Janeway, now Harry and Sam Wildman, all were trying to defend Tom to her. Even Naomi Wildman seemed to have him on a pedestal. What was it about this man that made seemingly rational people defend him so passionately? And what was it about herself that kept her fighting her own gut instinct to trust him?
Maybe the answer to that question was back on the Liberty. B'Elanna remembered when Tom had come aboard the Maquis vessel. He was cocky and sure of himself. Chakotay had told her privately that the man was a drunk with a string of bar bills but Chakotay also felt that Tom's skills were worth the price of the bar bills. Tom had tried to impress every woman on the ship with his charm but B'Elanna just wasn't susceptible, at least on the surface. That trait seemed to make her all the more intriguing to Tom. B'Elanna quickly noticed that the more she ignored the brash pilot the more persistent he became. She had even been considering letting him get a little closer when he had betrayed them; selling out the Maquis to Starfleet. She had never admitted, even to Chakotay, the emptiness she felt when Tom left.
Breakfast was always dicey and today was no exception. Neelix had greeted B'Elanna this morning with something he called `green eggs and ham', a real culinary delight. She decided that a piece of fruit vaguely resembling an apple was all she could handle. Eyes glued to the report she was studying, B'Elanna was only vaguely aware of the hovering cook. After a few seconds she gave up on ignoring him and glanced up. Neelix was standing next to her holding two cups and a coffeepot. "Can I offer you some coffee, Lieutenant?"
"Sure, okay," B'Elanna mumbled, hoping to get rid of him without being rude. It didn't work.
After filling her cup, Neelix sat across from B'Elanna and put the pot and extra cup on the table. "I'll just leave this here for Tom. He should be along shortly shouldn't he?"
"Why would I know if Tom is coming to breakfast or not?" B'Elanna asked suspiciously.
"Why, he used to eat breakfast with you on a regular basis. Said it was the nicest way to start his day," the little man sputtered.
B'Elanna looked stunned at Neelix's words. She had no idea why Tom would think breakfast with her would be nice. Mornings were definitely not her favorite time of day and few people even dared to approach at that time. Neelix just smiled at her confusion and walked away leaving her with the pot and two cups. Shaking her head she returned to studying her report, drinking a cup of Neelix's latest coffee substitute and peacefully munching on her apple. A few minutes later her senses told her that Tom Paris was headed her way. She avoided acknowledging her awareness until he was right on top of her.
"Mind if I join you?"
B'Elanna curbed her sharp retort and shrugged her shoulders. Tom took this as an affirmation and sat down across from her. "How are you this morning?"
"You mean, do I need saving from anything?"
"No," he patiently answered, "I mean how are you? Are things getting any easier in engineering? Is it starting to seem more familiar?"
B'Elanna was surprised by his gentle answer to her sharp question. "I don't know. I guess things are going smoother. Joe didn't throw me out until two hours into his shift last night."
Tom's smile brought out something unexpected in B'Elanna, a feeling of warmth and belonging. "That's great. Do you think he'd let you have the night off? We could have dinner and do something on the holodeck."
"I'm still the boss, I don't have to ask for time off."
"Great! How about 1800, holodeck 2?"
Unsure how the conversation had gotten to this point B'Elanna was unable to do anything but nod in his direction. And she was surprised at how easy it was to nod. Tom's smile did something to her insides. Tom didn't want to press his luck and chose to leave while he was ahead in the conversation, way ahead. "I'll see you at 1800," Tom affirmed as he rose to go to the bridge.
"I'll be there." She noticed he hadn't even tried the coffee.
The day seemed longer than others as B'Elanna anticipated the date with Tom Paris. She came close to canceling several times but something held her back. She was curious. What would the evening bring? Had they done this before? There's a thought. Maybe this was routine, something they did regularly. Would he expect her to remember other times? How close were they? Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Her distraction was evident to the engineering staff but at least she wasn't yelling at them. She just went about in a daze.
Joe Carey reported for duty at 1600 hours to begin beta shift. A whispered word with Nicoletti convinced him that he needed to check on the chief before she left for the evening. His soft knock on the door grabbed B'Elanna's attention immediately and she was more than a little surprised to see Joe standing there.
"What time is it?" she asked.
"1610 hours, Lieutenant. Any instructions before you leave?" Joe replied.
"No, I guess not. I had no idea it was that late. Everything looks okay here, I guess..."
"B'Elanna, you're obviously upset or distracted about something. Want to talk?" Joe asked kindly.
"No, I'm fine. It's just been a long day. I really do have your orders for the shift here, somewhere. I'll just ... here, here they are." B'Elanna was searching her desk for the appropriate padd and avoiding looking at Joe.
"Got any plans for the evening?"
His casual question caught B'Elanna off guard. She recoiled backwards as she answered, "Why would you ask that? Should I?"
Noting her defensive posture Joe knew he'd hit close to home but Lt. Carey also had a keen sense of self-preservation. He answered offhandedly, "No, no reason. Just seemed like you could use some down time. Maybe a couple of hours on the holodeck."
"Well, I told Paris I might join him later... on the holodeck." B'Elanna was carefully gauging Joe's reaction to this statement. She'd learned to trust Joe over the last few weeks. He had a good head on his shoulders and she realized he was genuinely concerned about her as well as the engines.
"That's great, B'Elanna. It will do you good and I know Tom will see that you forget about everything except relaxing." His pleasure was obviously genuine.
"Joe, how do you know that?" she asked, warily.
"He knows how to get your mind off your work better than anyone on this ship." Once the words were out, Joe immediately regretted them. This was dangerous territory. He knew that Tom and B'Elanna had been keeping their relationship quiet and he had made it a point not to comment on it even though he considered them both friends. Now that they had no relationship the whole staff had been hoping they would be able to work things out again. Engineering was a much nicer place to work when the pilot and chief engineer were together.
B'Elanna's reaction surprised Joe. Her face held a pensive expression, a look she seldom wore. She was actually chewing on her lower lip, looking for the way to phrase her question. Joe had been prepared for anger but not uncertainty. "What is it, B'Elanna? Don't you want to go out with Tom tonight? Has he done something to upset you?"
"No, he hasn't done anything except ask me out. I'm just not sure what he expects."
"He expects you to have a good time, B'Elanna. That's all. He's a nice guy. Just go and enjoy yourself." Joe tried to be honest as well as discreet. Tom obviously wanted to do this his own way but he knew that Tom would never deliberately hurt B'Elanna.
"Thanks, Joe. I guess I just don't like first dates, particularly when I don't remember whether I've ever dated the guy before or not. Maybe I'm just too tired to do this. I should just wait..."
"B'Elanna, go out with Tom. Give yourself a chance to have some fun."
"Okay, I guess I'd better go get ready. I'll just hang out with him for a little while and see what happens. I have reports to catch up on, I can't possibly stay out late."
Joe smiled as she left the office still making excuses. B'Elanna barked a few orders before turning to smile at her second. "It's all yours, Lieutenant. And thanks," she added a little more softly.
Outside Holodeck 2 B'Elanna steeled herself for whatever was to follow. Tom had said to dress warm and casual so she'd chosen brown suede slacks and a chocolate colored sweater. The color matched her eyes and brought out the gold in her skin. She wasn't sure why she had dressed so carefully but it seemed to have something to do with the torn taupe silk dress that she'd found while searching for a sweater. It had brought back feelings of security and comfort, anticipation and more. She had caressed the garment and held it to her face, inhaling the scent. It was hers but mingled with someone else's, someone who meant a lot to her. The memories were there, just on the edge of her conscious mind, a little too far for her to grasp firmly. She stuffed the dress back into the drawer in frustration and slammed it shut. This evening had better be good if it was going to improve her mood now.
The door opened to reveal a stark setting. It was a laboratory of some kind. A colorless setting that looked like it came from a bad B movie, but it brought back a flash of memory: sitting on this cold set and talking about higher ideals, following your conscience and doing what was right not what was ordered. She stared at the room, trying to recapture that conversation. Tom's voice startled her from her reverie.
"B'Elanna, you're a little early. I'll be done in a minute." The words came from underneath a console behind which sat a ridiculous looking robot. He seemed to be twitching aimlessly with his head spinning in a circle. B'Elanna curbed the urge to laugh as she followed Tom's voice and peered behind the robot.
Addressing Tom's feet she asked, "is this why I dressed warmly?"
"No... ouch... uh, no. I was early and I needed to fix something in this program. I figured it would only take a minute but I guess I kind of lost track of the time." Tom emerged rubbing his forehead where he had smacked it on the console.
"Why not just reset the parameters of the program and let the computer fix it?"
"That's just not as much fun, takes all the challenge out of it," he replied lightly.
"What is this program, Tom?"
"It's called Captain Proton. Harry and I run it when we want to save the universe from imminent disaster. Want to try it? I'm sure we can find you a good part."
"No thanks, it looks like fun but I'm not sure it's my kind of fun." B'Elanna was trying to be gracious but she really thought the program looked ludicrous! It was getting hard not to laugh and Tom's grin wasn't helping anything. "What? Why are you looking at me like that?"
"I'm trying to see how long you maintain this façade of indifference. You think this program is ridiculous male posturing and you are about either start laughing or let me have it with some crack about my maturity."
Unable to contain herself any longer B'Elanna laughed. "Well, it is ridiculous. Just look at this stuff." She was pointing to a ray gun sitting idle on the floor and the small screen where Dr. Chaotica could view the world. "Dr. Chaotica," she whispered, "how did I know that this was Dr. Chaotica's lab?"
"You've been here before," Tom answered softly.
"Surely I never got involved in this, this... scenario." Skepticism dripped from her words.
"No, you never lowered yourself to that level," Tom answered good-naturedly, "but we have sat here and talked. Tried to solve some of the world's problems."
B'Elanna nodded as she continued to look around. Tom's words shook her out of her reverie. "We could stay here if you like but I had really planned on going sailing."
"Yeah, I've got a picnic basket from Neelix and I thought we could sail out to the middle of Lake Como and drop anchor while we ate. I promise it'll be a quiet night and the lake is smooth as glass. That's one of the advantages of creating your own programs." He watched her reaction carefully.
"That sounds like it would be nice. I just don't want to be too long, I have some work to finish up," B'Elanna's answer was a little too fast and unsure. Maybe it wouldn't be the night that Tom had hoped for but it would be a beginning.
Tom asked the computer to shut down the Captain Proton program and run Lake Como. A beautiful lake appeared with the moon rising just above the water, full and breathtakingly luminous. The water reflected the moon and stars on its smooth surface and the wind ruffled B'Elanna's hair. A small sailboat was moored at the edge of the lake, bouncing on the gentle waves. The beauty of the scene took B'Elanna's breath away. Tom took her hand and walked her to the boat. She could see the picnic basket stowed in one end and settled herself on the seat at the other end. As he hoisted the sails, Tom stole a glance at her and was pleased to see her eyes shut as she enjoyed the gentle breeze playing with her hair and caressing her face. He directed the nimble craft out to the center of the lake, enjoying the feel of the rudder in his hand. After 30 minutes or so, the `captain' slowed his vessel, dropped his sails and set his anchor.
B'Elanna shifted on her seat and began to help Tom lay out the feast that Neelix had prepared. She was pleased to see that most of it looked edible. Tom must have offered Voyager's cook a significant bribe to get food this good! So far the trip had been silent but, now that they were at rest, B'Elanna felt the need for conversation to fill the void.
"What's her name?" she asked innocently.
"Whose?" Tom answered in confusion.
"Your boat's. They all have names don't they?"
"The Warrior," he replied.
"That's a name for a battleship, not a sailboat!"
"I named her after one of my favorite novels."
"The Warrior?" Her tone was perplexed.
"Women Warriors at the River of Blood." Tom calmly answered her.
B'Elanna nearly choked on her sandwich. How in the hell did he know about that novel? She gave him an accusatory look, "Where did you find such a book? Sounds Klingon."
"I borrowed it from you. You told me it was one that you enjoyed but not to consider it a technical manual." His reply and his expression held nothing but innocence.
Stammering, she asked, "Why would I feel the need to warn you about that?"
"It just came up in conversation once, I think we were dealing with a very big bug at the time."
"A bug?" B'Elanna repeated cautiously.
"A virus actually, a really big virus. But Captain Janeway managed to get rid of it for us."
B'Elanna shook her head in confusion. "I'm not sure I really want to hear that story."
"You're right, you probably don't," Tom laughed.
B'Elanna shivered as a cool breeze came up. She was glad Tom had told her to dress warmly but the cool, damp air was penetrating the heavy sweater that she wore. Tom smiled and said, "Come over here."
"No you're not, you're cold. Come on, sit in front of me and I'll steer the boat so that I block the wind," he coaxed.
More interested in warmth than decorum, B'Elanna consented and carefully edged toward Tom's end of the vessel. Soon she was leaning against him, sharing his body heat and allowing him to shelter her from the breeze. This felt so safe and comfortable and familiar. She wanted to ask if they had done this before and was just gathering her courage to speak when the red alert klaxon started blaring.
"Damn it," yelled Tom as he started to stand in the boat. "Stand up, B'Elanna, or we'll wind up on the floor of the holodeck."
B'Elanna scrambled to stand and was forced to put her arms around Tom for balance as the small boat listed dangerously. Tom held her for much longer than the second it took to steady her and B'Elanna found herself losing her train of thought in the blue of his eyes.
Captain Janeway's voice intruded
on their moment. "We are under attack, battle stations."
The scenery of Lake Como faded into the grid of the holodeck. Tom and B'Elanna moved rapidly towards the door. Entering the corridor they turned to move in different directions toward their respective stations. They paused however to look back, "I had a nice time, Tom." B'Elanna spoke softly.
"I did too, thanks for coming." He wanted to steal a kiss but the flashing red lights and the captain's voice deterred him. Backing down the corridor he called back to her, "We'll do it again, I promise."
"All right!" B'Elanna answered him as she sprinted towards engineering. Her thoughts were on Tom as she assumed her post. Something was so familiar and yet she couldn't quite reach it in her mind.
Voyager had been attacked by the G'Karians, another hostile Delta Quadrant race. They had heard reports that the federation starship was approaching their boundaries and had lain in wait. Voyager's technology was in demand and it was a well known fact that they didn't trade technology. These aliens meant to take what they wanted. Their attack had been well planned and executed but like others before them, they had underestimated Voyager's determination. Their systems were damaged, the defense systems almost gone, the crew reeling, but Voyager withstood the attack.
Six hours later the attacking ships had backed off and the red alert klaxon had been silenced. Repair crews were assessing the damage and beginning repairs. Tom was grateful to see the relief pilot arrive at the conn. He took the opportunity to stretch and nod to the captain before he left the bridge. His first thought was to look in engineering for B'Elanna but he knew she would be very busy and unwilling to focus her attention anywhere but her engines. He'd heard the reports as they came in, damaged warp coils, exploding plasma conduits, weapons were at a minimum but shields had held. Thankfully injuries had been minimal and the doc hadn't needed his services. Right now he was going to go to his quarters for a shower and a change of uniform. Well, maybe just a quick pass through engineering. He was a field medic and they might have some minor injuries that needed to be assessed.
Engineering was a busy place. B'Elanna
was barking orders to her crews and they were scampering to follow her
instructions, all in an organized fashion. The warp core was silent and
it gave the area an eerie feeling. Tom tried to catch B'Elanna's eye but
she was oblivious to anything but the reports and the repair crews. He
had just about given up when he heard a change in the rhythm of engineering.
The best pilots, like the best captains could judge the health of their
ship by the noise she made. The creaks and the whines gave him a fairly
accurate picture of the way she was feeling. B'Elanna had caught the change
too and was moving towards the offending console. Maybe it was the damaged
engrams that prevented her from sensing the danger but it didn't prevent
Tom from realizing it. He raced across the room as the steady whine became
audible to the rest of the engineering crew. Sensing the imminent explosion
of the console Tom threw himself at B'Elanna, throwing her to the
B'Elanna felt herself falling and her head hit the floor. Memories came flooding back to her along with the realization that Tom was on top of her and his back was on fire. She could feel the heat emanating from his body and heard the engineers frantically pulling out the fire suppression equipment. She felt the cool spray as it splashed onto her hands, the only parts of her body which were exposed. Moments later Joe Carey was kneeling next to her, trying to find a way of moving Tom. Shaking her head she acknowledged the gravity of the situation. "Call for transport to sickbay, Joe. I'll hold him up till we get there."
When Captain entered the sickbay five minutes later she found Chakotay had beat her there and was holding a shaken B'Elanna while the doctor was assessing the injuries of the pilot who lay face down on the biobed. The sight of his back caused her stomach to lurch. There was no skin left and the entire area was bloody mess. The captain couldn't imagine how the doctor would be able to salvage anything from that gore. Sam Wildman ran in moments later to offer assistance.
"Ah, Ensign Wildman, please determine the extent of injury to Lt. Torres. Then clear the sickbay. I will need your assistance as I try to save Ensign Paris' life once again." All of the gracious bedside mannerisms the doctor had been practicing flew out the viewport in the face of the danger Tom was in.
Sam waved the medical tricorder at B'Elanna and found that her injuries consisted of nothing more than a minor concussion. One of the readings did catch her attention though. She started to ask another question but B'Elanna shook her head and Sam abandoned her curiosity. The doctor became quite adamant that sickbay was to be cleared, now, and he wanted no interruptions while they operated on Tom. Chakotay took B'Elanna's arm and urged her into the corridor but she would go no further. She began a vigil outside sickbay and no one was going to move her from that spot, including the captain. Unwilling to leave her alone Chakotay discreetly found crew members to stand vigil with her, Neelix for starters and Harry Kim after that.
Dinner had been served and Neelix had returned to sickbay with Naomi when the doctor finally opened the door and surveyed the area. B'Elanna was sitting with her eyes shut and her head leaning against the bulkhead. Harry stood beside her, reading a padd and looking like he had been pacing. Neelix sat on the other side of her with Naomi Wildman's tired head in his lap. Shaking his head at the site the doctor reached out to B'Elanna, offering a hand to help her rise. He saw the question on her face and answered it immediately. "He's going to be all right, B'Elanna. Sore and miserable for a while, but he'll pull through."
"Can I see him?"
"Yes, he's sleeping and heavily sedated but you won't disturb him."
B'Elanna stood next to the biobed where Tom was carefully laid on his stomach, reducing all pressure on the newly formed skin on his back. He looked vulnerable and in pain and she wanted badly to touch him but she wasn't sure where. His back was completely exposed, the new skin pink and delicate. A sheet protected his modesty from the waist down. She settled for brushing the hair off his face, since that seemed to have suffered the least damage.
The doctor was surreptitiously scanning her again and the readings put a frown on his face. He scanned her again before he cautiously asked, "Lieutenant, you have your memories back, don't you?"
Unwilling to take her eyes off Tom, B'Elanna simply nodded and whispered, "All of them, including the last month."
Harry looked at her in surprise but hastened to offer his reassurance, "B'Elanna, nothing this last month was your fault. You couldn't have known."
"I should have, something in my heart should have told me," she whispered through her tears.
Sam walked over to B'Elanna to add her comfort, "Your heart was trying to tell you, B'Elanna. You just hadn't figured it all out yet."
"But I had, Sam, I had. I just hadn't had the courage to admit it to Tom."
Harry's hand was on her shoulder as he consoled, "He knew he could win your love again. And he was willing to give you all the time you needed."
When Captain Janeway and Chakotay arrived a little while later they found sickbay deserted, well, nearly deserted. The doctor was nowhere to be seen, Tom was asleep on the biobed and B'Elanna was sleeping in a chair next to him. Hesitant to wake B'Elanna they surveyed the scene for a full minute before the doctor entered from the lab area. "Ah, Captain, Commander, I see you've come to be updated on Ensign Paris' condition."
"Yes, doctor. I understand from Neelix that the prognosis is good."
"Come into my office so we don't wake either of my semi-permanent residents." He said dryly as he offered the command team chairs. "Ensign Paris will make a full recovery but I intend to keep him sedated for 24 hours and off-duty for a full week. I have repaired his kidney and his spleen again and regenerated all the skin on his back and shoulders. Other organs have been bruised but should heal on their own with rest. He was very lucky, as usual. I hope Mr. Paris' luck continues to hold. I think he has used up the nine lives usually reserved for a cat and I'm not sure how many more he has left."
"How is Lt. Torres?" the captain asked.
"Lt. Torres also is fine. She has recovered her memories and recognized that she had a relationship with Mr. Paris. I think she will begin to heal now also."
Surprised at the compassion she heard in his voice Janeway smiled, "I take it their secret was known to you also?"
"Captain, do you really believe that anyone on this ship doesn't know how they feel about each other? Or at least how Mr. Paris feels?"
Janeway looked at Chakotay in surprise. Chakotay shrugged and allowed the smile on his face to reach his eyes. "Don't tell them. Let's just let them think they have us all fooled. It will make B'Elanna a lot happier." They were still laughing softly as they left sickbay a few minutes later.
Tom opened his eyes slowly. His mind was foggy and his body felt like it was on fire. One glance told him he was in sickbay, again. As he attempted to focus he saw B'Elanna sitting in a chair next to the biobed but he couldn't seem to move or gather the thoughts necessary for speech. She recognized his confusion and leaned down with a soft, "Hey."
"Hey," he answered as his eyes drifted shut. Tom exerted all the energy he had to force them open again and look into B'Elanna's chocolate pools. He saw relief, and love and recognition, "You remember," he whispered.
"Everything. I love you."
"Me too." His eyes drifted shut as B'Elanna looked to the doctor for reassurance.
"He's fine, Lieutenant. He just needs to rest. He'll probably be in and out of consciousness for the next several hours. Why don't you go to your quarters and get some rest too."
"No, I don't want him to be alone."
Muttering something about stubborn Klingons, the doctor retreated to his office to call for reinforcements.
When Tom awoke again he found the captain sitting in the chair next to his bed reading a padd. He closed and reopened his eyes again to be sure he wasn't dreaming. Noticing his confusion, Janeway smiled, "It was the only way we could get B'Elanna to rest, Tom. One of had to promise to sit with you till you woke up."
"Paris sitting?" he quipped.
"Something like that. How are you feeling?"
The sound of their voices had alerted the doctor. He strolled over to the bed and began to assess his patient's current condition. "You have every right to feel lousy, Mr. Paris. But at least you're alive, thanks to expert medical care."
"Thanks, doc," Tom responded as he tried to move.
"Wait a minute, Tom. Let me help you. Turning over is going to be a lot more painful than you realize." The doctor had switched from his medical practitioner mode to his concerned friend mode. Captain Janeway was surprised at how easily he slipped into that role with Tom.
As she watched, the doctor offered the holographic strength of his arm for Tom to hold as he carefully turned over to lie on the new skin of his back. She watched him grimace in pain as he slowly eased himself down onto the biobed. The doctor had managed to preserve Tom's modesty as he helped him but the captain still felt the need to straighten the sheet that covered him, drawing it up to cover the red-gold hairs on his chest. His skin felt warm even through the soft cloth and she telegraphed her concern to the doctor quietly. "He's running a slight fever, Captain. It's to be expected. I'm giving him antibiotics and medication for the pain." The doctor's words were soft as he administered the hypo.
Janeway's eyes went back to Tom. His eyes were closed again and the tension in his face began to relax a little as the pain medication took effect. When he opened them a few moments later they were clear and focused and intent on getting information. "How's B'Elanna? Is she okay?"
"She's fine. You took the brunt of the explosion, probably saving her life." Tom's face turned pink at that. He really didn't mind being the hero, he just hated people telling him about it. Recognizing his discomfort the captain smiled and gave him a brief rundown of the condition of the ship and her crew. Thankfully it was a very positive report.
"I'm glad to know things are okay." Tom answered. He gave her that sideways glance she knew so well and added, "I'm really fine, Captain. Don't you think you should get back to your ship?"
"I haven't been relieved yet, Tom. There's still another bridge officer who has to have a turn Paris-sitting."
"All the bridge officers have been sitting here watching me sleep?" Tom was incredulous.
"Yes, they each took an hour or so, whoever could be spared."
"That's ridiculous!" Tom sputtered.
"Well, it was the only way B'Elanna would agree to leave you."
Tom was still shaking his head when Sam Wildman walked in with Naomi. "Uncle Tommy," the child cried as she ran to stand next to the biobed and grab his hand, "you're awake! Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Munchkin. What are you doing here?"
Naomi looked horror stricken and turned to face the captain. Her back was ramrod straight as she offered her apology, "Crewman Wildman reporting as ordered, Ma'am. I'm sorry I forgot to report in as soon as I got here, Captain."
Captain Janeway was hard put not to crack a smile at the serious demeanor of the anxious child. "That's all right, crewman. I understand. Are you ready to assume your duties?"
"Yes, Ma'am." She answered with military precision. It was difficult to explain `crunch time' to a small child so the captain took the `ma'am' in stride.
"All right crewman, here's your assignment. You need to watch Mr. Paris closely, let him sleep when he wants to sleep but keep him company when he is awake. Is that clear?"
A tall stool was brought for the smallest member of the crew so that she could at least see her assignment. Once settled, Naomi began to tell her favorite uncle all about the ship's current state of affairs. With a final smile and pat on the arm the captain left Tom to Naomi's tender care as she and Sam resumed their repair duties.
It was a little over an hour later when B'Elanna returned to sickbay having rested and assured herself that repairs on her engines were proceeding at the necessary pace. Now she wanted to check on the repairs to her love life. She had met Sam in the corridor leading to sickbay and they were laughing softly as they entered the area. The sight that met them warmed both of their hearts and brought a tear to the young mother's eye. Tom was still lying on his back with his eyes shut and Naomi was curled up next to him, sound asleep, her head resting on his chest. It seemed she had talked herself into exhaustion.
Sam was carefully lifting her sleeping daughter to take her back to their quarters when Tom opened his eyes. "Hi, Sam."
"Hi yourself. I hope she didn't talk your ear off."
"No, she performed her duties admirably."
"I'll tell her. Thanks. We'll see you later," Sam reassured him as she carried Naomi out of sickbay.
Tom's eyes followed B'Elanna as she made her way to his side. He searched her face for confirmation of their earlier words, hoping that it hadn't been a dream. He wasn't disappointed, the love they had shared was there along with her memories of their life together. He reached out to take her hand. "I'm not sure what I said earlier, but just in case I missed the opportunity, I love you."
"I know," she answered him. "I'm sorry for the way I've treated you these last few weeks."
"There's nothing to be sorry for. You had no idea. I'm just glad you gave me a chance to get close to you again."
"Yeah, I'm glad too."
"When did you know?" Tom asked gently.
"You mean, did it take a second concussion when you tackled me in engineering to bring me to my senses?" B'Elanna asked with a trace of sarcasm.
"A second concussion? Geez, Bea, I'm sorry," a look of chagrin was on Tom's face.
"It's okay. I'm fine. And no, it didn't take a second concussion. I think I knew on the holodeck."
"While we were sailing?"
"No, before that. I saw you there with Naomi. She asked you where I was and did I love the ship more than the people on Voyager. You told her that it was because I loved the people on Voyager that I took such good care of the ship so we could get home. I knew then that you saw something in me that I thought I had kept well hidden. I needed to love and be loved and I wasn't as strong or independent as I claimed to be. I realized then that I loved you and was pretty sure I had for a long time. But, Tom, why didn't you tell me about us, about our relationship?"
"B'Elanna, I had already seen your opinion of me. And I know you well enough to know that you don't like to be told anything. I was hoping that I could win back your love. I'd done it before but I was really hoping it wouldn't take so long this time," Tom's laughed ruefully.
"Well, you had a lot of help."
"No way, I told Harry to stay out of it. For some reason Captain Janeway seemed to know but she promised not to say anything and said she'd talk to Chakotay."
B'Elanna laughed at Tom's adamancy. "Well, what about the engineering crew, Neelix, Sam and Naomi? Even Chell and Ayala were defending you!"
"You're kidding," Tom replied in wonder. "Do you suppose that more people know about this relationship than we thought?"
"If you didn't tell them and I didn't tell them I don't know how they could."
"Well, I didn't tell them... but it seems like the cat is out of the bag now. What are we going to do?"
B'Elanna paused for several seconds, pondering her answer. In the end the solution was simple, "We're going to love each other, Tom. The captain doesn't seem to mind and I know the engineering department is a much happier place when you are an integral part of my world."
Tom grinned as she leaned over to kiss him, "I'm always happy to do whatever I can for the engineering department."
Lost in the kiss and the blue of his eyes B'Elanna couldn't even think of a sharp retort. He had won her heart again.