Title: Conflicting Emotions: A Coda Author: Julie Evans (Juli17@aol.com)
Summary: After B‘Elanna returns from the Malon freighter, she and Tom talk in her quarters. A short coda to "Juggernaut", set immediately after the episode.
Disclaimer: Star Trek and its characters are the property of Viacom/Paramount. I am borrowing them for fun only, not profit.
Notes: This story can be archived to the ASC, PTF, BLTS and PTC archives. All others, please ask the author for permission.
"Conflicting Emotions: A Coda"
by Julie Evans
By the time I finally made it to B‘Elanna‘s quarters I half expected she might already be asleep, which is why I let myself in after I pressed the announcer once and got no answer. Despite our relationship, I‘m not in the habit of walking into B‘Elanna‘s quarters unannounced, unless I have a good reason, or a dozen roses in my hand. But I had to see her, even if it was only to see that she was peacefully asleep.
She wasn‘t asleep. She was sitting on the couch, her legs crossed beneath her and her wrists resting lightly on her knees, and her eyes closed. She didn‘t look exactly peaceful or particularly relaxed; in fact she was frowning slightly as if she was intensely concentrating on something that was eluding her. But even with the visible tension in her body there was no doubt about it. She was meditating. Or trying to.
And she must have sensed my presence even if she hadn‘t heard—or simply hadn‘t acknowledged—my beep or my entrance, because as the door slid shut behind me she slowly opened her eyes.
I suppose I had a small smile on my face at that moment, probably a pretty bemused one. It‘s not every day—heck, it‘s not any day—that I come upon B‘Elanna meditating. And my smile was elicited in part simply from seeing her sitting there clean and scrubbed, looking fresh and beautiful despite the physical ordeal I knew she‘d been through on the Malon freighter. And most of all, looking safe and sound.
Her eyes narrowed in that way B‘Elanna has when she feels defensive about something, or is trying to protect some inner feeling of vulnerability, so I guess I was definitely smiling. "Don‘t say anything," she warned.
I didn‘t say anything, certainly not that she looked completely delectable sitting there curled up on the couch in her satiny indigo nightgown with her shapely arms and legs bared. She looked at me for a long moment and slowly closed her eyes again. I walked around the coffee table, and my nose collided with the stream of smoke that wafted from the incense bowl in the center of the table. I thought the stuff was pretty noxious when she first became fond of it several months ago, but I‘m getting used to it. In fact, I suppose it‘s now completely imprinted on some region of my brain that holds all the smells and sights and sounds that will forever make me think of B‘Elanna.
I sat down next to her, close enough that our bodies were near but not quite touching, and I turned sideways so I could look at her, bending one leg under me. I draped my arm along the back of the couch over the burgundy afghan that she sometimes wraps herself in if she gets chilly while she‘s scanning through engineering reports or reading one of those infamous Klingon "romance" novels she likes. I stared at her profile for several seconds, at the gentle ridges that defined her forehead, at the way her lashes brushed softly against curve of her cheek, at her slightly turned up nose, at her full lips pursed right now in concentration, at the slight jut of her small stubborn chin—
Her tone was mildly exasperated, but not angry. And I know B‘Elanna. If she didn‘t really want me there, she‘d say so in no uncertain terms. "Am I bothering you?" I asked.
She opened her eyes and looked at me. "It‘s a little hard to concentrate when you‘re staring at me like that."
"Sorry." I probably didn‘t sound very apologetic for devouring her with my eyes as if I‘d been terrified I might never see her again. "But I‘m just glad to see that you‘re okay." And that I meant sincerely. I‘d been worried as hell. Not that I‘d shown it on the bridge, beyond the standard "our crewmates are in deep shit again but we‘ll get them out of it at the last second like we always do" mild look of concern that was considered acceptable. After all, we‘re Starfleet officers and no matter how bad the odds are we don‘t show fear or anxiety because we‘re trained to believe that we are going to win. Even when we sometimes lose anyway. And even if those "crewmates" we might lose are now our friends, and lovers—our family. So while the freighter was careening toward the "O" star, and B‘Elanna and Neelix were stuck in the control room where we couldn‘t get a transporter lock on them, I maintained my façade of composure and concentrated on the task at hand, my hands and mind performing my duties by sheer instinct. And all the while my heart was in my throat, almost choking the breath out of me. When Harry finally announced that B‘Elanna and Neelix were safely aboard—at the very last second of course—even as I was watching the Malon freighter begin to break up and explode into the star, my knees felt weak. I was incredibly grateful that I was sitting down.
The disturbing direction of my thoughts must have been reflected in my expression, because B‘Elanna reached out and pressed her hand lightly over my knee, and pulled my attention back to her. I held her gaze for several moments, my mouth opening slightly, then closing when I couldn‘t find the words to say what I was feeling. She knew. We‘d both been through this before. Maybe it was one reason certain Starfleet brass had argued in the past for a regulation against any and all fraternization on starships, as if a regulation could keep humans and other social species from forming emotional attachments to each other, or make us suddenly dispassionate in the face of the pain or death of those we‘ve come to care about. As if anyone or anything could regulate love. Well, maybe the Vulcans could follow such a regulation, but I think even they‘d be pretending sometimes.
I cleared my throat and finally managed to say something to change the subject, to relieve the tautness in my chest and the heavy silence between us. "So, is it working?"
B‘Elanna understood my meaning. She glanced at the incense bowl and frowned. "Tuvok seems to think meditating will help me control my…emotions." She leaned back and uncurled her legs and pushed the coffee table back several centimeters with one foot, her expression frustrated. "Yeah, sure. It hasn‘t worked so far."
I dropped my hand from the back of the couch and let it rest against the curve of her neck and shoulder. Her muscles were tight, but she‘d been tense for several days, ever since the incident in engineering when the doctor had provoked her into breaking his camera, and Chakotay had ordered her to start seeing Tuvok for "anger management" sessions. At least she didn‘t push my hand away. "Well, I guess today was a bad day that got worse," I said quietly.
"Yeah." She spoke somberly, and leaned her head back and closed her eyes for a moment. I noticed the deep shadows under her eyes, and realized that she looked exhausted, not surprising after spending the better part of the day in the noxious atmosphere on the Malon freighter and then undergoing radiation treatment in sickbay. But B‘Elanna wasn‘t one to admit when she was tired, or hurting. I pressed my fingers against the base of her neck, gently massaging her warm skin and tense muscles there. She relaxed into it for a moment.
"So, are you okay, B‘Elanna?"
She raised her head a little to look at me. I curled my fingers into the soft hairs at the base of her skull, still gently massaging as she nodded. "Yeah. It was just another pleasant experience in the Delta quadrant."
I smiled at her sarcasm. "And I told you not to have fun over there."
Her mouth quirked a little at my teasing. "I guess I should have taken your advice."
My own smiled faded. "You did. Thank you for that."
She looked at me, obviously confused.
"For being careful," I said. "For taking care of yourself and getting back here alive."
"Oh." She frowned a little, then a flash of anger crossed her features, and some other fleeting emotion. Maybe regret. She sat forward suddenly, dislodging my hand from her neck, and pulled her legs up, wrapping her arms around her knees. "Sure. I only had to kill one person, and that‘s not such a big deal, is it?"
I really didn’t like the caustic way she said that. I‘d been able to glean part of the story from the communications between the freighter and the bridge all day, and the rest of the official version I heard while I was still on duty there after B‘Elanna and Neelix had been taken to sickbay. I‘d wanted to be in sickbay when she returned, but wouldn‘t you know that today was the one day I didn‘t have secondary medical duty, and wished I did. I laid my hand over hers. "You did what you had to do, B‘Elanna."
"Maybe." She didn‘t sound entirely convinced. "Maybe I could have done something different."
"You tried to talk to him," I reminded her. "He just didn‘t want to listen to reason. So you had to bash his skull a few times—"
B‘Elanna shoved my hand away from her knee, where it had been quite comfortable. "That‘s not funny, Tom. I didn‘t want to kill him!"
I wasn‘t trying to be funny, actually, though maybe I‘d worded that badly. "B‘Elanna, I didn‘t say you did—"
She didn‘t let me finish. "The Malon exploited him, turned him into that…that…"
"Mutant?" That time I was being a smart-ass and B‘Elanna glared at me, and stood up. "From what I hear he took the job by choice," I pointed out. "And obviously he suffered for it, but maybe he should have fully considered the consequences."
"That‘s beside the point." She crossed her arms across her chest, in that mutinous self-protective way she has. "The Malon were are willing to do that to their own kind, Tom. Did you know that seven out of ten core workers die of radiation poisoning? And the Malon don‘t care. They just use them, then leave them for dead. His life—his family—everything—it was gone, and he was left alone, already as good as dead. It‘s no wonder he was so angry." She frowned. "I understood how he felt."
Okay, that sort of annoyed me. B‘Elanna and I were looking at this from two different perspectives, but I damned well didn‘t care. Maybe the guy had reason to be angry, but I couldn‘t muster up a whole lot of sympathy for him, considering his intended plan and all his potential victims. My concern right now started and ended with B‘Elanna. "Great, so you identify with him, B‘Elanna? Even though he was willing to kill you, and everyone else on that freighter, in the entire sector, just to get some sort of revenge?" I knew my own voice sounded irate now. I took a deep breath. B‘Elanna had been through enough today. "Okay, so the Malon are jerks,
and they‘re willing to treat their own people horribly, and to abandon them to their fate, but there has to be a better way to rebel against the unfair…"
My voice trailed off as a thought occurred to me then, and I leaned forward, scooting to the edge of the couch and putting myself pretty close to B‘Elanna, who was standing with the back of her legs against the coffee table, probably seconds away from telling me to get out of her quarters. I looked up at her, pretty sure my thought was right. "Is this just about that core worker, B‘Elanna? Or is it about the Maquis?"
The combative expression on her face froze for a moment, and my question was enough to give her pause. And I have to admit my heart fell just a little. I‘m not sure B‘Elanna will ever get over what happened to the Maquis, and even I hadn‘t completely understood the significance of their loss for a long time. I‘d known she had friends among them, but that their deaths would so devastate her—that had taken me by surprise. It took me a while to realize that B‘Elanna had felt an acceptance among the Maquis, a place to belong and to be herself, that she‘d never felt before in her life. Until Voyager. And though I didn‘t expect her to forget the Maquis, or her regret over their deaths, I wondered how much time would pass until all her friends here were enough to make up for the loss. Until I was enough.
"Maybe it is."
Her voice almost startled me, I was so lost in my own sober thoughts for a moment. My eyes locked with hers and we looked at each other for several seconds. "Maybe the way the Malon treat the core workers did remind me of the way the Federation treated the Maquis," she admitted.
"But that‘s only part of it, Tom." She frowned. "The anger that core worker felt, and the way he let it completely take him over, it was too much like looking at…" I thought she was going to say "myself", but she just squeezed her arms tighter against her chest, almost hugging herself. Her eyes on me were dark, but not with anger now as much as regret. "I just wish he hadn‘t made me kill him…"
I reached out then and gripped her hand, deliberately insinuating my fingers between hers. "I know you didn‘t want to kill him, B‘Elanna. And I‘m sorry you had to go through that, but you did the right thing. You didn‘t let your anger take over. You tried other options, then you took the only choice that was left, to save yourself and everyone else." I squeezed her hand gently. "If it means anything, I‘m proud of you."
She looked at me silently, her lips pressed tightly together, and several conflicting emotions crossed her features. "Of course it means something," she finally said, her voice soft and husky as she twisted her hand and threaded her fingers in mine, gripping my hand tightly. "And you‘re right. He didn‘t give me a choice." She shrugged once. "Besides, it‘s done now."
I doubted that it was "done", since that sort of thing tends to stay with you for awhile. And those sort of things stay with B‘Elanna for a long while. I tugged on her hand and she let me pull her back down onto the couch. She sat down right next to me and let her head drop to my shoulder as I slipped my arm around her. I pressed my cheek against her hair, catching the clean scent of her shampoo, and just held her close. B‘Elanna‘s tolerance for that sort of comfort is limited, so I wasn‘t surprised when she pulled away after a minute, though not very far away, since my arm was still around her.
"I guess I‘ve been a little testy lately, haven‘t I?" She said, rhetorically. "And the Malon just added to it."
"A little testy?" I said teasingly.
B‘Elanna eyebrows rose. "After the doctor yanked my chain the other day—"
"Yanked your chain?" I repeated incredulously, grinning just a bit.
B‘Elanna‘s lips quirked, even while she said admonishingly. "You‘ve had a horrible influence on my vocabulary."
"At least I‘ve had some influence on you."
B‘Elanna looked at me closely for a moment, and I wondered if I‘d sounded a little petulant. "I know I shouldn‘t have lost my temper with the doctor, but he just wouldn‘t give up."
I shrugged. "The doctor should have known better than to provoke you."
"Well, Chakotay thought I was being unreasonable, and maybe I was."
"I like you unreasonable, " I told her easily, a smile on my face. "It keeps things lively."
B‘Elanna gave me a searching look. "Good, because I don‘t think this meditation stuff of Tuvok‘s is going to suddenly turn me into a different person." She glanced at the incense bowl, with its little plume of smoke wafting ever upward. "I guess I just am who I am."
"I love who you are, B‘Elanna," I said softly. I pressed my hand over hers where they were clasped together in her lap. "I don‘t want you to be different." My lips quirked again. "And I sure as hell don‘t want you to turn into a Vulcan."
B‘Elanna snorted. "I don‘t think there‘s much chance of that, no matter how many sessions I have with Tuvok. It‘s more likely I‘ll turn him into a Klingon."
I laughed. Truthfully, I could see B‘Elanna really trying Tuvok‘s patience. I really don‘t want to know the details of their sessions, beyond what B‘Elanna chooses to tell me, but I would love to watch that part. After all I‘ve successfully tried Tuvok‘s patience a time or two myself. If trying a Vulcan‘s patience was an art form, I‘m sure I could excel at it.
I turned B‘Elanna‘s hand in mine, stroking her palm with my thumb. "I told you once that I‘m not afraid of your Klingon side." And I had meant it, though even while I‘d encouraged her to accept her Klingon side, I hadn‘t realized myself how much turmoil both her mixed heritage and her anger caused in her. I‘m not afraid that B‘Elanna will hurt me, she‘s never really tried, not even during our most furious arguments. And the incidental injuries of our sometimes over-enthusiastic lovemaking don‘t count. And as far as words go, I‘m more than capable of giving as well as I get. It wasn‘t that. "But you do scare me sometimes."
B‘Elanna stared at me, her expression confused, clearly not sure what I meant by that. She started to pull her hand away from mine, but I didn‘t let go. "I‘m not afraid your anger will hurt me, B‘Elanna," I told her, and then I smiled with intentional smugness. "I can handle whatever you can dish out." Then my expression sobered. "But I can‘t stand to see it hurting you." And I‘d already seen it happen, more than once. "So if Tuvok‘s meditation techniques help at all, then I think you should keep trying."
B‘Elanna accepted my words, maybe because I meant them wholeheartedly. "Well, it doesn‘t look like I have much choice anyway," she said after a few moments, and she actually didn‘t sound too put out about it. "And maybe it will help a little," she admitted.
"Though that doesn‘t mean I won‘t still have a temper."
I smiled involuntarily. "No kidding."
"So you don‘t mind if we still argue about every little thing?" she asked dryly.
"Well, we don‘t argue about every little thing," I said slyly. "Just most of them." I pressed my hand tighter into her lap and raised my eyebrows, giving her a significant look. "Besides, we always make up so…satisfactorily after."
The meaning of my drawled words was clear to B‘Elanna.
Her lips curved upward and her hand tightened over mine. "Just…satisfactorily?" she asked, sounding vaguely insulted.
"Make that spectacularly," I corrected without hesitaton, since it was the complete truth.
B‘Elanna smiled, mollified. "I don’t guess that will change—the fighting or the making up—if you keep insisting on hanging around."
"Oh, I plan to keep hanging around for a long time," I told her, in case she had any real doubts. I leaned over then and kissed tender skin at the corner of her mouth, then whispered with my breath grazing over her lips, "A very long time." She moved her head slightly, brushing her lips against mine and we kissed slowly, lips and tongues stroking gently, until I pulled away.
I still had one arm draped over her shoulders, and my other hand was clasped in hers, as I looked at her a little regretfully. "You look tired. You should probably get some sleep." I didn‘t ask if she wanted me to leave, or to slip into her bed with her. We were in her quarters, and she‘d let me know.
"Actually, I‘m still feeling a little wound up from today," B‘Elanna said, flexing her shoulders a bit, giving me a sideways look. "I think I still have a little excess tension I need to dispel."
I squeezed her shoulder lightly, kneading the taut muscles there, and looked down at her. "You do feel a little tense," I concluded. I met her smoky gaze expectantly, fully willing to offer my services to help her release her excess tension. "What can I do to relax you?"
She smiled, then twisted sideways on the couch and slung her leg over mine so that she was pressed up against my side. Then she slid her hand into the neckline of my regulation t-shirt, and curled her fingers against my chest.
I skimmed my hand up her side, sliding my palm slowly along the satiny material of her nightgown where it hugged her curves, until I closed my hand gently over her breast, stroking lightly. "Are you sure you‘re not too tired?"
She answered my question by sliding up and over me, and straddling me. She insinuated her hand further into my shirt, stretching the cotton material to its limit, and she pressed her slightly parted mouth firmly against mine. I liked her answer.
I fisted my hands in the folds of her nightgown and slipped it up over her, while she wrestled my t-shirt with one hand, and unfastened the waist of my pants with the other, pulling downward. I‘ve never known a woman who could get my clothes off faster than B‘Elanna. Not that I‘m not complaining about that, and nowadays there‘s no other woman I even remotely want ripping my clothes from me.
Sometimes we make love leisurely, but most of the time we are much more…unrestrained. This time it was somewhere inbetween. And despite all she‘d been through in one day, B‘Elanna had some energy reserves left. Suffice to say, as we came together on the couch, it was intense and satisfying, if not the full on fierce encounter we sometimes engage in. And there was comfort in it, the kind B‘Elanna is more willing to accept. Not just the comfort of kissing and stroking, of breath mingling, and of the physical joining that lets two bodies—two souls—merge briefly. But the comfort that lingers afterwards in the mere touch of warm skin against warm skin, the simple embrace of another that reminds you in the truest sense that you‘re not alone.
Okay, maybe that‘s a little quixotic, but in those moments afterwards I feel it. I was feeling it then, as B‘Elanna lay sprawled over me, our legs still entangled, and her cheek resting against my shoulder, while I was trying to catch my breath as usual. After a couple of minutes of laying there content in that blissful feeling, I touched her cheek, brushing back a strand of soft, slightly damp hair. "B‘Elanna?"
She shifted a little, repositioning her legs around mine, and her cheek rubbed against my chest as she made herself more comfortable. "Hmmm?"
From her barely audible murmur I could tell that she was already half asleep. I smiled a little, figuring that we‘d just taken care of whatever excess tension, and energy reserves, she‘d had left. But I wanted to say something before she was completely unconscious.
"B‘Elanna. About what you said earlier today…"
She murmured again almost inaudibly at my brief pause, in acknowledgement that she was listening, I hoped. I couldn‘t see her face, cradled as it was against my chest, but I brushed my fingers through her hair again. "You said it was always going to be you against the galaxy." My fingers touched her cheek. "But it‘s not just you, B‘Elanna. Not anymore. I hope you know that."
She didn‘t move or speak for a moment, and I figured she‘d fallen asleep and hadn‘t even heard me. Then I felt her lightly touch my other hand where it was still hanging limply over the edge of the couch. Her fingers closed over mine and she pulled my hand up and pressed it securely against the small of her back, where I could feel the dampness of our recent exertion against the smoothness of her skin. Then I felt the soft rush of her breath brush across my chest as she whispered, "I know."
I lay there for several minutes with a small contented smile on my face, one hand splayed over her back holding her closely against me, the other hand tangled lightly in her hair, and wondering as I sometimes do how I‘d managed to get so lucky.
Maybe B‘Elanna isn‘t an easy woman to get along with—okay, there‘s no maybe about it. But then I‘m no prize in that area either. She‘d tell you that, or the doctor, or Tuvok, or Chakotay. There‘s a nice long list of people I can irritate with regularity. And I‘ve got my own unresolved issues and conflicting emotions, and not a few demons from my past that still haunt me from time to time. I‘m no great catch, that‘s for sure. The fact is that B‘Elanna and I may be the only two people on this ship who can manage to put up with the other on a continual basis. And I know a lot of our fellow crewmates think that all we do is fight, and then engage in make-up sex. Harry‘s teased me on that score, even though he knows me, and B‘Elanna, maybe better than anyone else on this ship does. But even he doesn‘t know everything about us. There‘s a little more to our relationship than others can see, but those private moments nobody knows about, they stay between B‘Elanna and me. Maybe it‘s not always easy for us, and maybe it never will be, but someone once did say that nothing good is ever easy. And, despite the rough moments, when it‘s good—which is more often than people might think—it‘s very good.
I shifted a little on the couch, and B‘Elanna didn‘t move. I could tell from her dead weight on me—slight as it was—and from her soft even breathing, that she was sound asleep. I don‘t really fit well on B‘Elanna‘s couch since I‘m so tall, and I knew I‘d feel cramped if I stayed there all night. I could have roused her long enough to get us to the bed, or even carried her there (no doubt to her annoyance the next morning). But I didn‘t want to disturb her. Maybe her sleep would be deep enough that she wouldn‘t dream about the awful day she‘d had. And even if it was bound to give me a crick or two, how could I complain that a beautiful, passionate woman who loves me was curled naked over me, her arms circling my shoulders, and her cheek burrowed against my chest?
I moved just enough so she would be caught between me and the back of the couch if she should shift in the middle of the night, then I pulled the afghan down and draped it over us. Then, with my arms wrapped securely around her, I closed my eyes. And, feeling pretty damned content and not at all uncomfortable after all, I fell asleep.