"Into the Looking Glass"
PG13, for sexual situations
Disclaimer- Star Trek and its characters are the property of Viacom/Paramount.
I am only borrowing them for fun. No profit intended.
Synopsis- Sequel to "Down the Rabbit Hole". The alternate B‘Elanna finds herself standed on Voyager in a concurrent timeline. She must try and adjust to her new situation, and decide whether to tell that timeline‘s Tom Paris just what she is ‚expecting‘. This story takes place just after the episode "The Gift."
Into the Looking Glass
by Julie Evans
B‘Elanna Torres sat back and looked at the opened console in front of her. Once again the shuttle Cochrane was in less than optimum flight condition. She grabbed her tricorder from the small pile of tools at her side and ran its sensors over the Ops circuitry. Sure enough, there was a leak. She ran her tricorder once more over the offending conduit and valve. The tiniest of fissures registered.
B‘Elanna sighed and picked out the thermofuser from her assortment of tools. The maintenance required to keep the shuttlecraft up to satisfactory safety standards was considerable and time-consuming, given the lack of resources available on Aurora. But if nothing else did, the fact that Tom was the person most often dependent upon those safety standards gave B‘Elanna the impetus to oversee every inch of regular inspections and repairs.
B‘Elanna positioned the thermofuser to apply the metallic sealant to the leaking valve, thinking of Tom as she did. She wondered if he had reached the area in Northwest Sector 3 where they had detected possible deep deposits of verterium. At least the Sagan‘s pre-flight check had been perfect. If she just didn‘t think about the Sacajawea every time Tom lifted off in a shuttle...
B‘Elanna immediately dismissed that memory from her mind and activated the thermofuser. She had barely begun applying the sealant when she saw a sudden intense flash of light flare out and fell back, dropping the thermofuser.
A few moments later- at least she thought it was a few moments later- B‘Elanna shook her head to clear away the dizzy, disoriented sensation that had overtaken her. She realized that she had slumped against the Ops console, and quickly pulled herself back into a sitting position, wondering if she had passed out briefly. But stray arkenium particles shouldn‘t have that effect. Strange....
B‘Elanna picked up the tricorder and ran a scan again. The valve was completely sealed. Apparently she had injected enough sealant to close it, despite its brief and intense expansion.
"Lt. Torres, are you all right? I registered a brief energy surge just now."
B‘Elanna stared at the man who had stuck his head into the shuttlecraft doorway. "Freddie?" What the- He was supposed to be with Tom on the Sagan. He was with Tom... "What are you doing here?"
Freddie Bristow looked at B‘Elanna in complete confusion.
B‘Elanna realized that not only shouldn‘t Freddie be here, he was also wearing his uniform. Though some of the crew had kept their uniforms for sentimental reasons, no one wore them on Aurora anymore.
"I‘m, uh, I‘ve been doing the diagnostic on the shuttle‘s engines like you asked...Lieutenant?"
B‘Elanna had barely heard Freddie‘s reply. She‘d glanced down and noticed that she too was wearing her uniform, which she hadn‘t worn in months. Even more shocking, when she‘d looked back up at Freddie she‘d gotten a good view through the open shuttle doorway. Now she was staring past Freddie, and what she was seeing was impossible. The shuttlebay on Voyager.
"Lt. Torres, are you ill? Maybe I should contact Sickbay."
"No!" B‘Elanna wasn‘t even sure why she stopped him, except that she was completely confused and didn‘t like the feeling. "Freddie- Ensign, I‘m not ill." But perhaps delusional.
Freddie slowly dropped his hand from his combadge. "Okay, if you‘re sure."
He didn‘t sound too sure himself.
"I‘m sure..." B‘Elanna tried to tear her eyes away from the shuttle doorway.
What was going on here?
Freddie didn‘t push her any further. "Are we done here?" he asked, glancing at the tools scattered at B‘Elanna‘s side.
"Um, yes," B‘Elanna said. Actually she had no idea, but she needed to think for a minute, without Freddie Bristow‘s presence. "Ensign, why don‘t you go back to Main Engineering and update the repair logs, and I‘ll clean up here."
Freddie looked at her for a moment, as if puzzled, then shrugged. "All right, Lt. Torres." He moved out of the shuttle doorway and walked toward the shuttlebay exit.
B‘Elanna stood up and walked the few steps to the shuttle doorway, noting that she didn‘t feel particularly dizzy or disoriented, as she had a few minutes ago. That should be a good sign, a sign that she hadn‘t sustained some sort of brain injury. She watched Freddie exit the shuttlebay and heard the swish of the doors as they closed behind him. Her gaze fell on the monitoring stations and consoles along the adjoining wall.
Of course she wasn‘t on Voyager, B‘Elanna chided herself. No matter what her eyes were telling her. Voyager had been destroyed over 7 months ago. No matter what she thought she was seeing, this had to be some sort of dream. Or hallucination.
B‘Elanna stepped to the side of the doorway and pressed a pad on the shuttle‘s control panel, reactivating the door‘s automatic sensors. The shuttle door immediately slid shut. Then she closed her eyes and counted to ten. She tried to ignore the fact that her actions made her feel about ten years old. Whatever worked.
B‘Elanna opened her eyes again and stepped into the door‘s sensor range, telling herself that everything she had just imagined would be gone when the door opened. She willed herself to see reality, the blue green grass of Aurora and the buildings of New Lourdes beyond.
Instead the sharp, uniform lines of the shuttlebay greeted her as the door opened. Voyager. Whatever was going on here, it apparently wasn‘t a hallucination. It was real.
B‘Elanna took a deep breath to brace herself, and stepped out of the shuttle. The shuttlebay flooring was solid beneath her as she walked toward the shuttlebay door. She glanced around the bay one more time, feeling an odd sense of ambivalence. She‘d tried so hard these past few months to forget this ship, to put everything that had happened behind her. To suddenly find herself on Voyager again, by whatever strange means...
B‘Elanna jumped back as the shuttlebay door opened and Susan Nicoletti stepped in.
"Ah, Lt. Torres." Lt. Nicoletti looked momentarily startled to find B‘Elanna right in front of her, but recovered quickly. "The IPS diagnostic reports are finished. Do you want to see them now or shall I route them for your review later?"
"Later will be fine, Su- Lieutenant," B‘Elanna replied.
Lt. Nicoletti looked at B‘Elanna for a moment, then nodded. "Will do." Her fingers flew across the PADD she was carrying. "I‘ll finish up in Impulse Control," she added, turning toward the door. "I guess I‘ll see you at the party tonight."
"I‘ll...see you there," B‘Elanna confirmed hesitantly. She watched Lt. Nicoletti walk out of the shuttlebay. Party?
B‘Elanna followed Susan out just quick enough to see her turn the corner at the end of the corridor. She looked at the control and communications panel next to the shuttlebay door.
"Computer, what is the current date and time."
"The current stardate is 51502.87. The ship time is 1627 hours."
Virtually the same as on Aurora. She hadn‘t somehow moved into the past... or future.
"Computer, what is the distance to the galaxy‘s central singularity, and the directional coordinates?"
"The central singularity is 16,432.54 light years distant. The directional coordinates are 024-mark-02."
B‘Elanna was surprised by the computer‘s reply. The distance and coordinates indicated this ship was nearly eleven thousand light years from Aurora, far beyond the limits of the position that Voyager might have attained if the ship had survived and had continued traveling toward the Alpha quadrant for the past seven months. Unless something had given the ship a boost.
"Computer, give me a hypothesis on how a person might find herself on a planetary surface one moment, then on a starship thousands of light years away the next."
"Said person might have been transported via a technology currently unknown to this computer."
To a ship that doesn‘t exist? "Computer, what if the starship she finds herself on was completely destroyed seven months ago and no longer exists."
"Said person may be in a delusional state since she cannot really be aboard a nonexistent starship."
No. This was definitely too real. B‘Elanna ran her hand along the shiny surface of the panel. Solid. Too solid to be part of some insubstantial hallucination.
"What if the starship absolutely does exist, even though the person believed it was destroyed. And the person is also positive no transporter device got her on the ship."
This time there was a fractional pause before the computer‘s toneless voice answered. "One possible hypothesis is that said person has been aboard the now existent ship all along, and said person‘s presence on the planetary surface was in fact the delusional state."
That was patently ridiculous. But even as she thought that, the tiniest niggling of doubt pressed at B‘Elanna. The idea that none of it had been real- losing Voyager, Aurora, building the colony, her and Tom, the baby-
No! It was absurd to even dignify that thought. Still... B‘Elanna activated the tricorder she was still carrying and did a quick scan. It wasn‘t a medical tricorder, but it could differentiate life signs. And it told her without a doubt that there was another life growing inside her. B‘Elanna touched her stomach lightly and felt an absurd sense of relief, even though she told herself there had been no real doubt in her mind.
B‘Elanna looked at Ensign Hicks and quickly shut off the tricorder and dropped her hand to her side.
"Is something wrong?" the ensign asked, glancing at the tricorder in her hand, then looking at her questioningly.
B‘Elanna hadn‘t even heard Hicks approach. "This tricorder is not working quite...properly."
"Oh," was Ensign Hicks only reply.
"Excuse me, Ensign, I have to get back to Engineering," B‘Elanna said hurriedly as she pushed past him and strode to the turbolift. She could feel his eyes following her until she stepped through the turbolift doors.
B‘Elanna leaned against the back wall of the turbolift as it began to move. Her hands unconsciously splayed against the smooth paneling, as if receiving comfort.
"Computer, if a person, who is completely sane and non-delusional, found herself on a planetary surface one moment, then in the next moment was on a starship thousands of light years distant, a starship that shouldn‘t exist, and is populated with the same people who live on the planetary surface...is it possible that these are two alternate timelines that diverged from each other, and the person has moved from one to the other?"
"Your question is poorly stated and lacking constructive specifics. However, alternate concurrent timelines are theoretically possible."
The turbolift doors opened to reveal Main Engineering just as the computer gave its general answer. B‘Elanna stared at the cavernous room, feeling a sense of the surreal. How many times had she wished to be back here, heard the pulse of the engines in her dreams, imagined that the consoles and displays and flashing lights that now confronted her still existed somewhere patiently waiting for her return?
B‘Elanna walked to the master systems display and ran her hand over the smooth obsidian surface. Several status displays lit up. She forgot momentarily how she‘d abruptly arrived here and simply absorbed the information, marveling at the health of the ship, made more amazing by her unbidden memory of the last time she had stood here, on the Voyager she‘d known. That time most of the status displays had been silent, attesting to the progressing death of the ship‘s systems, and of the ship itself. The few that had still monitored working systems had shown only that they were irreversibly shutting down. B‘Elanna had almost cried as she‘d watched those lines slowly fading away.
B‘Elanna looked up and shook the disturbing memory away, hoping her face wasn‘t betraying her sudden sense of anguish.
"I routed the WPS diagnostic report to your office," Janine Lamont said, half her attention on the PADD in her hand as she approached B‘Elanna.
"Thank you, Ensign," B‘Elanna replied. "I plan to review it right now."
Ensign Lamont nodded and continued past B‘Elanna, intent on her own work.
B‘Elanna raised her hand slowly from the master systems display and strode the few meters to her small office. She dropped into the chair at her desk, and looked at the console in front of her. If she was on some sort of alternate Voyager, and that seemed to be the only likely answer, then maybe it was time she found out just where this ship had been for the past seven months.
For the next hour B‘Elanna called up status and damage reports, computer analyses, and Engineering logs, many of which the B‘Elanna here- her counterpart- had filed. As she read she got a pretty good idea of where the ship had traveled and what it had been through, from an incredible macrovirus infection that had nearly killed the crew, to being caught in the middle of an all out superpower war between the Borg and the other-galactic race referred to as Species 8472. And then, just days ago, Kes‘s transformation into something...new, a transformation that had thrown Voyager 10,000 light years across the Delta quadrant.
In between there had been a period in the Nekrit expanse, including an attack by a Nasari ship that had heavily damaged Engineering and left her counterpart B‘Elanna seriously injured, and a run in with subspace eddies that again caused damage to Voyager and nearly killed Tom Paris in a shuttlecraft. Then there were encounters with races that had impeded Voyager‘s progress, including the Voth, who had held Voyager hostage for a time aboard their own immense city ship, and the Nyrians, who had emptied Voyager in preparation to steal her and imprisoned the crew in an artificial habitat, more like a zoo. But the ship and crew had overcome the odds and survived it all, and now remained on course for home.
B‘Elanna was musing on that goal of returning home that this crew still held onto, when Ensign Lamont popped her head in to say she was signing off shift. B‘Elanna realized as she acknowledged Janine that she had been completely engrossed in Voyager‘s recent history, so much that she hadn‘t noticed the passage of time. She had also been so momentarily stunned to be on Voyager, reveling in the balm of seeing the ship whole and intact after the agony of losing her, that she had focused solely on the ship itself, rather than the people aboard her.
B‘Elanna watched Janine leave Engineering and thought of those people. Chakotay, Janeway, Harry, Neelix, Joe Carey, Gerron, Susan Nicoletti, Mikel Simms, Janine, and all the others she‘d worked with and sometimes socialized with for over two years on Voyager. But most of whom she hadn‘t truly known well until they had been completely isolated together on Aurora. The mutual interdependence they had to rely on to survive had created new relationships and revealed hidden facets of old ones. It had made her see the people she had thought she knew in a completely different light, none more so than Tom Paris.
B‘Elanna stood up and deactivated her console. Maybe she had focused first on the ship because she didn‘t want to think about dealing with the people she had come to care about more deeply than she had thought possible. The people on Aurora, who were also the people here now on this ship, the same, yet not. Though she‘d already spoken to several of them, the distance that Starfleet protocol and rank automatically created in duty situations had allowed her to maintain a certain distance, to keep her feelings uninvolved. But when she finally ran into those people she felt closest to- Chakotay, Kathyrn Janeway, Harry, Kes, Joe, the Doctor, Tuvok, even Neelix- how strange would it be? Could she interact with them not as the people they had become on Aurora, but as the people they had become here? And she couldn‘t even think about Tom...
B‘Elanna rushed out of her office and headed for the turbolift. She had satisfied her curiosity about the state of the ship. Voyager had survived this far. But she had a burning desire now to know about those aboard Voyager, what had been happening in their lives and what changes had taken place in the past seven months. And more than anything else, to know exactly where her counterpart stood with Tom Paris.
Two hours later B‘Elanna sat curled up on her bed, her robe gathered loosely around her, and an empty bowl that had held replicated beef stew sitting next to her. She hadn‘t wanted to take the time to go to the mess hall to eat, or maybe she hadn‘t wanted to run into too many people just yet. She‘d needed to learn more about their lives here first.
She‘d come directly to the quarters that she‘d always had on Voyager. She‘d felt a small stab of disappointment to find that she‘d made the right choice as she keyed the code and walked in. Whatever her counterpart and Tom meant to each other here, they weren‘t sharing quarters.
After she‘d surveyed the room, feeling both strangely at home seeing many of her own things from Aurora eerily duplicated here, and slightly voyeuristic looking through other, apparently more recent items that she didn‘t recognize, she‘d showered and replicated the stew, though her recently voracious appetite was dulled. Then she‘d instructed the computer to replay the computer‘s daily summary logs for the past seven months, followed by B‘Elanna Torres‘ personal logs.
She hadn‘t listened to every one of them of course. She‘d skipped through them, stopping here and there to listen, until she‘d heard enough. About Janeway‘s temporal illness, Chakotay‘s unnerving experience with the Borg ‚cooperative‘, Kes‘s vaguely reported precognitive experience in the future that the Ocampan apparently had found disturbing enough to drop hints about how Voyager could avoid ever meeting it head on, the doctor‘s holofamily creation, Tuvok‘s holodeck insurrection novel that had been tampered with by Seska and had nearly killed him and Tom, Harry‘s horrifying infection by Species 8472, and Janeway‘s decision to ally with the Borg against the 8472 invasion.
There was much more. It seemed everywhere Voyager had turned, some challenge had reared up to meet them. But the series of logs that had caught B‘Elanna‘s greatest attention were those regarding the planet of the Sikari and what had happened there, both reported and implied.
The computer daily logs had mentioned the away team‘s search for galacticite on the planet, Neelix‘s injury and vague references to both Vorik‘s and her counterpart‘s ‚illness‘, along with an analysis of the Sikari situation and the discovery of the remains of a Borg. If the mention of Vorik and the stardate hadn‘t given B‘Elanna a clue about what had actually taken place, the personal logs of this ship‘s B‘Elanna Torres certainly would have, unintentional though it might have been on her part.
So, she mused, Vorik had caused a major upheaval in this B‘Elanna‘s life also. She had previously considered that Vorik‘s pon farr might have been medically controlled on Voyager. But apparently she and her alter ego had suffered the same fate. Up to a point.
B‘Elanna stood up and carried her bowl to the replicator station, addressing the computer as she did so. "Computer, play back personal log dated 50557.4."
"Everything seems back to normal, but I can‘t help feeling that rumors are still circulating around the ship about what happened on Sikari. I know Tom Paris hasn‘t said anything. He knows I‘d rip his heart out and for some reason he seems to consider it as private as I do. And Ensign Vorik won‘t even meet my eyes, I think he‘s so embarrassed about infecting me with that...condition. Still, I‘m on edge. I can‘t remember clearly everything that happened, but I remember enough. Enough to still flush inwardly when I see Tom, though hopefully not outwardly. I know he didn‘t take advantage of my...illness when he could have, and he hasn‘t smirked, teased, or even mentioned it since the turbolift. So why am I still so irked at him, so bothered..."
So, this ship‘s Tom and B‘Elanna apparently hadn‘t taken the pon farr to its natural conclusion on Sikari. Nor had they followed their own feelings to their natural conclusion at any time up until the present, as far as B‘Elanna could figure. Still, she heard Tom mentioned enough in B‘Elanna‘s logs to know what was going to happen. Eventually.
B‘Elanna sat on the bed again, replaying the last words of the log entry in her mind. She could identify with her alter ego‘s reaction, because it initially been her own also.
B‘Elanna‘s comlink beeped.
"B‘Elanna? It‘s Harry. You ready for the party?"
The party. Joe Carey‘s birthday party mentioned in her alter ego‘s personal log from this morning.
"I‘m almost ready, Harry. I‘ll meet you there."
"Okay. Tom‘s already there helping Neelix tinker with his resort program. It starts at 2030, so don‘t waste too much time in front of the mirror."
B‘Elanna heard the teasing note in Harry‘s voice. "Ill try and restrain myself."
Harry chuckled through the link, sounding like the same Harry she knew, had known for three years. "See you there."
B‘Elanna looked around the room after Harry signed off. She wasn‘t prepared for this, but she would be expected to show up. And she and Joe had progressed from cordial coworkers to good friends on Aurora. She didn‘t know what had happened here with the constraints of protocol and position. But she still felt she owed it to Joe to be there.
B‘Elanna looked at her counterpart‘s permanent selection of clothing. Mostly uniforms, with several jumpsuits and casual outfits. And two slinky dresses, one black that she didn‘t recognize, and the other the red dress that was an exact duplicate of the one hanging in her own closet on Aurora.
B‘Elanna pulled out the red dress and quickly put it on. Although she was only two months pregnant and not showing yet, she‘d put on a kilo just because of her suddenly ravenous appetite, and the dress was a little snug. Hopefully her alter ego hadn‘t worn it recently enough for that to be noticeable. B‘Elanna heard another insistent beeping as she found the right shoes. She realized it was coming from the computer console on her desk. She hobbled over and checked it as she pulled on her shoes. It was her daily log reminder, ready to record.
B‘Elanna hesitated a moment, ready to flick it off and ignore it. Instead she said a few words about the day‘s accomplishments in Engineering, of which she‘d had no real part, and mentioned Joe Carey‘s party. For some reason when she‘d been on Voyager she‘d always felt compelled to record something in her personal log, even if it was just simple facts, and it struck her that she‘d just reacted automatically. Almost as if she‘d never been gone. How easy it was to slide right back into her life on Voyager...
B‘Elanna shut off the log and strode toward the door, then did an about face and rushed over to the replicator. She‘d forgotten about a gift.
Joe‘s family lived in New Mexico on Earth, and he‘d mentioned a fondness for certain types of spare, "Southwestern" style art. The 23rd century sculptor Andre Serati, and a 20th century painter...Georgia O‘Keefe. Some others that she couldn‘t remember. She quickly replicated a Georgia O‘Keefe print, giftwrapped, and exited her quarters. She hurried toward the turbolift and headed for the party on Holodeck 2, feeling that if she focused on her lateness she wouldn‘t have to acknowledge that the fluttering in her stomach was a reaction to the strange and absurd prospect of meeting people she hadn‘t seen in seven months, yet lived with every day.
Joe Carey was staring at B‘Elanna with a puzzled look on his face.
B‘Elanna had walked into Holodeck 2 half an hour earlier, just as everyone had been preparing to hide and surprise Joe. After he‘d entered and displayed the appropriate astonishment, the party had moved on to noisy revelry and gift opening. B‘Elanna had been casually greeted by several people, but with all the activity going on had yet to enter a real conversation. She had spotted Tom in animated conversation with Neelix, and he had raised a hand in greeting, no more.
B‘Elanna wasn‘t sure what she‘d expected. No one had looked at her as if they saw something strange or out of place, as if they knew she somehow didn‘t fit here. Beyond simple greetings, her presence might have gone unnoticed. Except that now Joe Carey was staring at her as if she had somehow acted out of character.
"I don‘t know what to say, Lieutin- B‘Elanna," Joe said slowly. "How did you know?"
"You mentioned that you liked Southwestern art once, in Engineering I guess," B‘Elanna finished lamely. Of course he had never mentioned it in Engineering. By the end of the first year on Voyager she and Joe had headed different shifts, and they had never talked about anything on Voyager at any time she could remember other than subjects that fell under the heading of Engineering.
Joe obviously didn‘t remember either, but after a moment he shrugged. "Well, thank you, B‘Elanna," he said, a genuine look of appreciation on his face. "I love it."
"You‘re welcome," B‘Elanna replied with a small smile, that hopefully belied the fact that she felt ready for a hasty retreat. "Enjoy your party."
B‘Elanna could feel Joe‘s eyes on her, not to mention the eyes of several of the Engineering staff who had been witness to the exchange as she crossed the room.
B‘Elanna turned to see Harry smiling at her. "Wow, Neelix outdid himself with the resort program this time didn‘t he?" Harry said enthusiastically. "With a little help from Tom, of course."
B‘Elanna had gathered from scattered comments that the resort program was something that had been around for several months, though it hadn‘t existed on her Voyager. But the brightly colored Mexican decor that Neelix had referred to a few minutes ago as his "Acapulco" motif was apparently special for the occasion. "It‘s very..."
"Tropical?" Tom finished from behind her. He rested his hand briefly on her shoulder, then moved around to stand next to her.
B‘Elanna stared at Tom. From across the room she could rationalize that he was not the same man she knew on Aurora. But standing next to him, hearing his voice, feeling his touch... It was much harder to remember that all the moments she had experienced with Tom in the last few months had been with a different Tom entirely. Her memories, her feelings, were not his.
B‘Elanna shook herself out of her reverie. "Sorry, Tom," she said, hoping her voice wasn‘t as shaky as she felt. "My mind was elsewhere. But I like what you and Neelix did with the program," she added quickly, hoping to stay on neutral ground.
Tom shrugged. "I just helped Neelix make a few adjustments, the first being getting rid of that pool." He gestured toward a large dance floor. "I wouldn‘t want anyone falling in after too many margaritas."
"They‘re only synthehol, Tom," Harry pointed out, holding up his own glass partially filled with a light blue somewhat frothy looking concoction.
"Blue agave? Very colorful." Tom held up his own drink, a clear gold color with ice cubes clinking against the side. "I prefer mine straight up on the rocks." He grinned at B‘Elanna. "That was my true contribution to Neelix‘s program. Every kind of margarita ever created on Earth throughout the centuries is available at the bar."
Harry laughed. "And you probably didn‘t even have to look most of them up, Tom."
"You‘re absolutely right, Harry." Tom‘s grin didn‘t fade at all.
The chatter between Tom and Harry allowed B‘Elanna to relax for a moment and rein in her emotions. Then Tom had to go and kick them into full gear again.
"You look great in that dress, B‘Elanna."
B‘Elanna caught the appreciative look in Tom‘s blue eyes. She‘d been afraid she‘d overdressed when she saw what kind of program it was. But although some of the women were wearing more festive costumes, others were wearing simple cocktail dresses like hers. Now she wondered why she had really worn it.
"Thank you, Tom," she replied. Most of the men at the party were dressed simply also, like Tom. She wanted to tell him how good he looked in black pants and his open necked white silk shirt, one she‘d seen many times before, but she didn‘t dare. She tried not to remember how many times she‘d pulled that same shirt off his body- her Tom‘s body...
"Tom to B‘Elanna."
She‘d done it again. She had to stop remembering and pay attention. "I‘m sorry, Tom." She gave him what she hoped was a casual smile. "I‘m a little preoccupied tonight."
"I thought everything was pretty much back to normal in Engineering," Tom commented, looking at her closely.
"It is," B‘Elanna replied. She moved her eyes from Tom to Harry, both to quit torturing herself and to give herself a moment to formulate a reply. She noticed Harry staring pensively across the room, his attention as distracted as hers had been a few moments ago.
"Harry?" She followed Harry‘s gaze until she saw a blond woman in the shadows in the farthest corner of the room. Her features were obscured by the shadows, and she stood apart, as if she were more comfortable observing than interacting. As if she didn‘t quite fit here either.
Harry turned at Tom‘s voice. "Sorry, guys," he said, smiling a little sheepishly.
"Jaw still smarting from where she whacked you?" Tom asked.
"No it‘s not, Tom," Harry said, sounding a little annoyed. "And if she hadn‘t completely taken me by surprise..." His voice trailed off. "It‘s just that seeing her here reminds me of everything that‘s happened."
Harry let the words trail off, but B‘Elanna saw him shudder slightly. She realized now that the woman must be the one mentioned in the computer log who‘d been part of the Borg, and had been remained on Voyager after her connection to the Collective had been severed. Most of that time Harry had been in Sickbay fighting for his life against the 8472 infection.
Tom reached out and squeezed Harry‘s shoulder. "She had nothing to do with what happened to you, Harry."
Harry smiled again, but there was a bitter edge to it. "I know that, Tom. That part I can...forget. Eventually."
"But seeing her is a reminder of how much you suffered," Tom said softly.
"The worst part is remembering it all so well," Harry said quietly. "Every moment."
B‘Elanna had understood from the logs that Harry had been ill and near death for days, but she hadn‘t realized until now how agonizingly painful that illness must have been. She could see that it still haunted him, although he‘d hidden it well earlier. She reacted instinctively and reached out to hug him.
"It‘ll pass, Harry," she whispered, wrapping her arms around his neck for a moment.
Harry looked momentarily nonplussed as she pulled back from him, then he smiled. "Thanks, B‘Elanna. It‘s not just that, though. It‘s also Kes."
"She‘s here and Kes is gone," Tom said, looking at Harry with understanding.
"It‘s like there was some sort of trade off arranged, and we had no choice in it."
"Exactly," Harry said. He sighed. "Maybe it wouldn‘t be so bad if I had gotten the chance to at least say goodbye."
"I know," Tom agreed. "But Kes wanted to go, Harry, to move on to...the next part of her existence. She‘d want you to be happy for her."
"I am," Harry said, not completely convincingly. Then he smiled wryly. "To Kes, wherever she may be." He raised his glass.
Tom smile was slower to come, but he held up his glass to his friend. B‘Elanna, who wasn‘t drinking anything at the moment, just smiled.
Harry drained the rest of his drink in one swallow. "Okay, I‘m leaving you two alone. I promised Neelix I‘d help him bring in the cake. Behave yourselves."
"Don‘t we always behave ourselves, Harry?" Tom drawled.
Harry rolled his eyes at Tom, then leaned over and dropped a light kiss on B‘Elanna‘s cheek. "See you later."
Tom and B‘Elanna watched Harry go, winding through the milling people and past the festive tables laden with a variety Mexican foods.
B‘Elanna looked at Tom, who was staring after Harry pensively. "Do you miss Kes?"
"Of course," Tom said. He turned back to B‘Elanna. "She was a good friend.
Like Harry. Like you. Those kind of friends don‘t come around too often."
B‘Elanna smiled slowly as he held her gaze. "No, they don‘t."
"I am disappointed that it all happened so quickly, and that I didn‘t get to say goodbye to her. Or to tell her what a good friend she was."
"She knew how you felt, Tom."
Tom nodded. "I‘m sure she did. She usually knew what everyone was feeling."
"And she only left behind good memories," B‘Elanna added, starting to feel a little melancholy. She had to remind herself abruptly that Kes hadn‘t transformed to another existence, not on Aurora.
"Do you want something to drink?" Tom asked, changing the subject. "Or something to eat?" He grinned suddenly and gave her a conspiratorial look. "I happen to know which dishes are replicated and which are Neelix‘s own attempt at authentic Mexican food. I can steer you in the right direction."
B‘Elanna glanced at the nearest table. "I already tried the meat rolls in the blue dish. They weren‘t bad, just a little too sweet."
Tom followed her gaze and then laughed. "Those are chimichangas, B‘Elanna, and they‘re not supposed to be sweet."
"Neelix, I take it?"
"Oh, yeah. Our favorite cook, who hasn‘t met a recipe he doesn‘t think he can improve." Tom chuckled again, and looked back at B‘Elanna. "I‘m sorry I couldn‘t save you from that experience, but luckily you do have a strong stomach- stomachs."
Tom had reached out and brushed his fingers lightly across B‘Elanna‘s abdomen for emphasis as he spoke those last words. Although the gesture had been offhand, and no doubt relatively meaningless in Tom‘s mind, B‘Elanna felt her breath catch. How many times on Aurora had Tom reached out and touched her abdomen in that light, caressing way in the past month, ever since they had found out she was pregnant. Some of those times he‘d continued to explore the soft, still flat curves of her belly with his hands, delighted and amazed that there was a baby growing inside.
B‘Elanna‘s gaze flew up to collide with Tom‘s. His hand was back at his side and he was looking at her intently, obviously puzzled by her reaction yet completely alert. Fortunately, he had to turn and acknowledge Kathryn Janeway‘s greeting. B‘Elanna gratefully did the same.
"Captain, are you enjoying the party?" Tom asked lightly.
"Why, yes, I am, Tom," Janeway replied, a contented smile on her face. "It‘s nice to see the crew able to enjoy themselves without any threats hanging over our heads for once."
"That it is," Chakotay, who was standing next to Janeway, agreed. He glanced around the room, then looked back at Tom. "Do I see your hand in this, Lieutenant?"
"Just a few refinements here and there," Tom said, with a purposeful tone of false modesty. "It was nothing."
"Well, I like the music anyway," Chakotay commented in a dry tone.
"Latin jazz, with a little salsa thrown in, from the 20th and 21st century," Tom elaborated. The lively music held at a background noise level had been playing since the party began, and B‘Elanna had suspected immediately that Tom had chosen it.
"And it‘s certainly popular with the crew," Janeway commented, glancing at the small group of people now gathered on the dance floor, moving to the strong beat.
B‘Elanna was struck by Janeway‘s completely open and relaxed smile. Since they‘d abandoned Voyager to its destruction, she‘d seen that true smile from the Kathyrn Janeway on Aurora perhaps two or three times.
"Okay, folks," Neelix‘s raised voice bellowed out. "Time to sing Happy Birthday." He, Harry Kim and Ensign Molina lowered a huge white frosted cake decorated with colorfully frosted cactuses, horses, and tiny adobe buildings onto a cleared area at one of the tables. B‘Elanna assumed the decorations represented the ranch land home Joe had mentioned near a place called Santa Fe.
Neelix lit the candles with a flourish and the holodeck lights dimmed. Joe looked acutely embarrassed as everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to him. Most of the crew watched him with amusement, and the captain looked on with an expression of complete satisfaction.
After the momentous task of serving cake to everyone present was completed, B‘Elanna found herself part of a large group, including the captain, Chakotay, Harry, Joe, Tom and several others. She was glad that she didn‘t have to face Tom alone for the moment. She caught his gaze on her several times, still slightly puzzled, as if something about her was confusing him. She wasn‘t sure she was completely ready to deal with that now. In fact she was just beginning to realize the enormity of what she might be facing if she didn‘t somehow find herself back on Aurora soon. Not just getting to know these people, who were still so strongly focused on a goal that had been lost to those who had begun to build a different life on Aurora. But finding a way reintegrate the person she had become into this different version of her life. The pregnant person she had become...
B‘Elanna excused herself a few minutes later, claiming tiredness, but fully unnerved by the possible implications of her predicament running through her mind. She wished Joe a happy birthday again and everyone else goodnight, and headed for the holodeck exit. She‘d just reached the exit, fashioned as large wooden saloon type doors with two large steer horns overhead, when she was waylaid by the one person she didn‘t really want to talk to right now- Tom.
"B‘Elanna, are you all right?"
B‘Elanna turned to meet Tom‘s eyes, his gaze both concerned and curious.
"I‘m fine, Tom, just a little tired with everything that‘s gone on in Engineering this past couple of weeks." B‘Elanna hoped that explanation sounded convincing.
Tom appeared to consider her comment at face value. "Well, now that Voyager‘s pretty well recovered, maybe we‘ll all get a chance to get a full night‘s sleep for a change." He still had that half curious look on his face. "Is there something else going on?"
"Nothing else," B‘Elanna said quickly, doing her best to keep her voice steady.
"Why do you ask?"
"You‘ve seemed preoccupied most of the night. Kind of like you‘re not really here." Tom shrugged. "And when you are you seem a little...intense. Heavy thoughts?"
Very, B‘Elanna thought, but she just said, "No more than usual. Nothing too stunning, Tom. Like I said, I‘m just tired."
"Okay. Sleep well." Tom started to turn away, but then stopped and gave her a sly grin. "But if you ever want to unload your deepest thoughts to your friendly barfly here, just remember that I don‘t shock easily."
B‘Elanna almost laughed. He might not shock easily, but this could do it. She wanted to tell him to be careful what he wished for. He just might regret it, and soon. That fear was already gripping her.
B‘Elanna realized her thoughts had drifted again and Tom gaze had sharpened on her. "I‘ll remember that, Tom," she said simply. Then she gave in to impulse and leaned over to lightly kiss him on the cheek, whispering "Good night" as she did. She turned to leave before she could gauge his reaction. But she could feel his eyes on her back until the holodeck doors closed between them.
A short time later B‘Elanna lay on her bed, pondering her counterpart‘s logs that she‘d just listened to again with a sort of clinical fascination, despite how little they actually revealed. She‘d come back to her quarters and realized she wasn‘t ready go to sleep yet- not in this bed. And not alone. Or to think about what she might be dealing with if she remained stuck here in this alternate reality. Instead she occupied her mind by wondering again about what had actually happened between this B‘Elanna and Tom on the Sikari world during the pon farr infection. It was easier to focus on that as some sort of mystery to be solved, than to focus on her own dilemma right now.
Obviously it had been different from what had happened on Aurora. Or rather, from the parts she could actually remember. How it began, not two months after they‘d arrived on the planet, she remembered vividly.
She‘d thought at the time that it was the most ludicrous thing that had ever happened to her. A Vulcan making a pass at her. Asking her to be his mate no less. She hadn‘t quite laughed at Vorik after he‘d made that request, but she‘d told him in no uncertain terms that it wasn‘t about to happen. And she‘d thought that was the end of it.
An hour later he‘d cornered her in the meeting hall. That time she‘d really looked closely at him and had seen that his eyes were...burning. She couldn‘t get out of his way before he grabbed her hard by the face. But she could bring her fist around and dislocate his jaw after the fact. Which she did. And again she‘d thought that was the end of it.
Several hours later she‘d been preparing to leave with Tom Paris and Joe Carey in the Sagan to check some readings in Southwest sector 2. Readings of platinum, a metal they could definitely use. Then Janeway called the shuttle to report that the portable replicator, the workhorse they couldn‘t easily do without, was acting up. Joe had immediately volunteered to go back and take care of it.
B‘Elanna had waited impatiently for Joe‘s replacement to show up. She hadn‘t bothered to request anyone in particular, it didn‘t matter who it was as long as they could get going. She didn‘t know why, but she couldn‘t sit still. She felt invigorated, anxious to get moving, to do something. Tom had made several comments about her sudden restlessness, which she‘d ignored. Then Vorik had shown up.
B‘Elanna had left Vorik on the floor in the meeting hall after their little altercation. She‘d decided he could damn make his own way to Sickbay for medical treatment. She hadn‘t reported him, she‘d figured that would pretty much come out when he explained his dislocated jaw.
"The doctor treated me," Vorik told her in a low, monotone voice as he entered the Sagan. "I am fully recovered from my...illness."
B‘Elanna had looked daggers at him even though he‘d avoided meeting her eyes, and considered shoving him bodily right back out of the shuttle. But she didn‘t want to wait for another replacement. She didn‘t really care about Vorik‘s...whatever his problem was. She wanted to leave, to get rid of this excess energy that was threatening to make her jump out of her skin. Besides, if the doctor had already taken care of it...
B‘Elanna would later find out that Vorik had in a most un-Vulcan like manner flat out lied to the doctor about the circumstances of his injury. And if she hadn‘t already been in the early throes of the chemical imbalance herself she might have noticed that Vorik‘s voice was overly controlled, and his eyes were overly bright when he finally looked at her. Instead she‘d ignored him, jumped into the co-pilot‘s seat and told Tom impatiently to lift off. She‘d barely noticed the look Tom gave both her and Vorik, implying they were both acting a little strange.
Still, everything had seemed relatively normal after they‘d landed the Sagan. They‘d found the platinum soon enough and collected samples. Vorik had taken the first batch back to the shuttle, while Tom and B‘Elanna had followed with a second batch. B‘Elanna had felt incredibly exhilarated by the find, although Tom had commented that her enthusiasm was completely out of reason. As they‘d arrived at the shuttle she‘d been suggesting they look for more samples, spend the night combing the area if necessary. Tom had responded by almost bodily pulling her into the Sagan with him. As he‘d prepared to start up the engines he‘d suggested that she see the doctor when they got back and get some tranquilizers. His tone had been half serious and the look he‘d sent her was...worried. She‘d just grinned back at him. Then the engines had refused to start, the first sign that things were about to get out of control.
It had taken Tom all of three minutes to find the problem. A small section of the main circuit in the starting mechanism had been disconnected. And removed. Tom had stared at the open space for a moment, then abruptly turned around and looked right past B‘Elanna, straight at Vorik. "Where is it?"
"I threw it in the woods out there somewhere," Vorik had said indifferently, motioning vaguely toward the shuttle door. Then he‘d stood and taken several steps toward Tom. "It is now time for B‘Elanna and me to mate. I suggest you step outside, Lt. Paris, so you do not get hurt."
B‘Elanna had watched in complete fascination as Tom stared speechlessly at Vorik for several seconds, then walked right up to the Vulcan and asked him in an incredulous and deadly calm voice, "What did you say?"
"I have bonded with B‘Elanna and we are now experiencing the urge to mate. It cannot be denied. I must insist that you leave us now."
B‘Elanna had jumped up at that moment and hurled herself toward Vorik, snarling. "I‘m not mating with you, you p‘tak!"
Tom had forcibly inserted himself between Vorik and B‘Elanna, forcing her back. "She‘s not mating with you, Vorik. Now tell me where you threw that circuit."
"You cannot deny the urge, B‘Elanna," Vorik had said with smug satisfaction.
"It is too late."
B‘Elanna had realized with a sense of not unpleasant shock that he was right. The energy, the exhilaration she was feeling, the...fever that was heating her blood and making her feel giddy with need... She did want to mate. Badly. But not with Vorik.
Tom, who was by this point getting visibly angry, had then managed to push Vorik down into the nearest chair, helped by the fact that Vorik was staring fixedly at B‘Elanna and was caught unprepared. She‘d smirked back at the Vulcan, feeling a sudden sense of triumph, and moved toward Tom.
"No one is doing anything except sitting down and shutting up," Tom had said sharply. He‘d turned toward the front console. "I‘m calling New Lourdes and getting someone to bring the Sacajawea-"
Tom hadn‘t finished the sentence because Vorik had plowed into him from behind and slammed him hard into the console. B‘Elanna, momentarily stunned by Vorik‘s action, had watched Tom pull himself up and turn to stare at Vorik in astonishment, blood dripping onto the console from a gash on his arm.
"If she desires you instead, then we shall fight for her," Vorik had said between clenched teeth, glaring coldly at Tom. B‘Elanna had already launched herself at the Vulcan.
She gotten in a couple of good punches before Tom had pulled her off Vorik. She‘d struggled for a moment, torn between the desire to pulverize Vorik and the feverish pulsing in her blood that was demanding that she mate. The fever won out. She turned and pressed herself bodily against Tom, nearly knocking him offbalance, and crushed her mouth against his.
"B‘Elanna!" Her name, muttered half strangled from Tom‘s lips, had spurred her on and she‘d pressed even harder against him. And been unpleasantly surprised when Tom managed to literally throw her off himself. She‘d stumbled backwards and landed hard against the wall of the shuttle. Tom had looked chagrined and started to reach toward her.
She‘d watched Vorik once again catch Tom from behind unaware and slam him bodily into the front console. For a moment her feverish need had abated, as she realized that Tom, no matter how willing to stand up to him, could not win against the Vulcan in a direct fight. And Vorik‘s eyes had shone with the intent to kill.
B‘Elanna had pulled herself to her feet as Vorik dragged Tom off the console by his shirt collar. She‘d launched herself again at Vorik, colliding into him with enough force to knock him down and dislodge his grip on Tom. Vorik‘s eyes had bored into hers as she landed on top of him, shining with a blazing promise to get to her next. He‘d pushed her off him with much more ease than Tom had and she‘d quickly brought herself up into a crouch. Again the urge to mate had warred with the urge to fight, and intermingled in a confusing haze in her mind.
But she‘d had no chance to choose. Tom had been given enough time to grab a weapon, the large shoulder tricorder that was stored next to the pilot‘s seat. Still on his knees, holding one hand to his ribs protectively, he‘d slammed the tricorder into the side of Vorik‘s head with brute force as the Vulcan had started to stand. Vorik went down in a heap, a trickle of green blood running from his forehead and along his hairline.
B‘Elanna had stood up then, feeling dizzy, weak, unsated. Her thoughts were a confused jumble but she knew instinctively what she needed. She‘d stumbled past Vorik, toward Tom. She‘d reached for him, but he‘d grabbed her by the shoulders, forcing her arms down, and pressed her into the copilot‘s seat.
"B‘Elanna, sit down, please," Tom had pleaded. "I have to take care of Vorik and call for help. I don‘t know exactly what‘s going on, but you‘re going to be okay."
"Tom, please..." She‘d pleaded back, but he wasn‘t listening. He didn‘t understand. She couldn‘t just sit there. She felt sick, the hunger to mate with him tearing through her mind, destroying her ability to think clearly. She‘d sat in a miserable huddle, trying to focus her thoughts through the feverish haze that was engulfing her mind, as Tom had run a medikit over Vorik to gauge his condition, then once satisfied, gone to the front console to try and contact New Lourdes. She‘d watched him curse when he‘d discovered the communications had been knocked offline, probably by the force of the impact of his own body against the console. He‘d dropped into a crouch in front of the opened console panel and started searching for the problem.
B‘Elanna‘s mind had only registered the barest details of his actions, instead she‘d been watching him. This man she considered her friend, who had occasionally incited stirrings in her that she‘d immediately dismissed as unwise to pursue. Why hadn‘t she realized before how attracted she really was to him? She watched his movements, the play of his muscles under his shirt, the look of grim concentration on his face. And the blood from the small cut by his eye that made a trail along his cheek.
When she could no longer stand the feverish need coursing through her body, she had stood up unsteadily and approached him. Her hands pulled his arms away from the console circuitry as she knelt beside him. Then she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and kissed him passionately, tasting his blood. Her own blood rushing through her veins sang in response.
She‘d felt Tom momentarily respond and she‘d relaxed her hold on him, moving her hands down his chest. Then he‘d once again pushed her away, this time maintaining his grip on her at arm‘s length.
"Tom, I need you," she‘d pleaded, barely recognizing the desperate note in her voice. "I want you so much. Please..."
"B‘Elanna, you can‘t know how many times I‘ve wanted you to say that," Tom had said urgently, keeping the pressure on her arms. "But not like this. You‘re ill. I can‘t take advantage of you-"
B‘Elanna had jerked her arms out of his grip. "Fine, then leave me alone. Just let me die," she‘d whispered bitterly, moving away from him. Then she‘d dropped to the floor and curled herself into a ball, no longer able to even make an effort to fight. Or mate. It was as if her strength was fleeing her.
"B‘Elanna." This time Tom‘s voice was gentle, pained. She‘d felt his hand touch her hair, then he‘d pulled her against him. "You‘re not going to die."
"She may do so, if you do not help her."
Through her clouded mind, B‘Elanna had realized that Vorik was speaking. She‘d raised her head and looked at him, now sitting up and touching his injured head. She‘d briefly noticed that his eyes looked calm, focused, unemotive. No longer burning.
"What the hell did you do to her?"
Tom‘s voice had been clipped and furious, though his hand softly stroking her hair had remained gentle and soothing. She‘d tried to focus on what was happening, what was being said, but her concentration was gone. She‘d barely registered Vorik‘s explanation of his pon farr mating urge, that he‘d transferred to her during their encounter in the meeting hall. Or his assurances that the violence of his fight with Tom had effectively quelled his mating fever. But that hers would not be quelled until she mated, or fought, or the emotional destructiveness of the pon farr rendered her comatose, or dead.
"I will wait outside while you...help her, then we can reestablish communications with New Lourdes and summon help. I will attempt to find the missing circuit while I am gone but it is unlikely that I will be successful, given its size and how far I threw it."
Of everything that had happened, the part B‘Elanna could barely recall was what had taken place after Vorik had spoken those words and left the Sagan. She‘d vaguely remembered Tom holding her, soothing her, kissing her gently. Then the fever that had zapped her strength had flared back up into a raging fire and consumed her. She remembered the sense of urgency, tearing of clothing, hands moving agitatedly over heated skin, the mingling of blood and desire, the final incendiary explosion that had reverberated throughout her body, shattering her soul. But she only remembered the sense of it all, like some hazy dream that you couldn‘t quite recall once you woke, but that still teased at the edge of your mind. She couldn‘t remember the specifics at all. Only Tom could. And later, that was what had really infuriated her.
B‘Elanna had all but passed out afterwards, worn out from the emotional and physical toll of the pon farr imbalance. She didn‘t know it until later, but Tom had carried her to the back of the shuttle and wrapped her in a blanket, then he and Vorik had fixed the communications and summoned help from New Lourdes.
She‘d also missed the Sacajawea‘s arrival, and the subsequent melee that had ensued. The sight of blood at various spots around the Sagan, both Vulcan and human, B‘Elanna‘s shredded and abandoned clothing, and Tom‘s barely wearable clothing in tatters on his body, and B‘Elanna herself all but unconscious in the back, had all been enough to send Chakotay into a simmering fury, as close to raging as he got. While Tuvok had assessed the likely situation and pulled Vorik aside to converse before Chakotay could get to him, the former first officer had instead all but dragged Tom outside and the two had engaged in a shouting match while Mikel Hudson and Ethan Simms had done their best to simply stay out of the way.
B‘Elanna had found out about all of this later, after she‘d awakened in Sickbay and been cleared to leave by the doctor. The doctor had informed her that her chemical balance had been severely compromised but had returned to normal levels, that Vorik and Tom had been treated for their injuries and released, and that he would not be keeping a record of the incident. As a medical matter he would consider it best forgotten. And B‘Elanna had agreed entirely.
Although no one had said anything to her in the following days, B‘Elanna had been sure that the events on the Sagan had become common knowledge. She‘d always guarded her privacy, and she‘d felt embarrassed and oddly exposed. She‘d reacted by being surly to anyone who crossed her path, which kept pretty much everyone out of her way. Except Tom.
He‘d kept his distance for a couple of days, but he‘d finally approached her and insisted in no uncertain terms that they needed to talk. She‘d snapped at him and told him not to bother her again. He‘d looked hurt, then annoyed, then he‘d walked away. She‘d been glad. She didn‘t want to acknowledge what had happened between them. Not when she couldn‘t even remember it. It was too humiliating.
She‘d expected him to stay away from her, and she‘d told herself that was what she wanted. But the next day he was suddenly there every time she turned around. Sitting by her in the mess hall at meals, checking some minor piloting detail in one of the shuttles every time she was in the shuttlebay, showing up uninvited in the meeting hall offering to do some small task for one of her engineers. He was friendly, charming, completely unperturbed, acting as if nothing had changed between them.
After several days she‘d finally told him in an exasperated moment in the meeting hall to get lost. He‘d just smiled impassively at her and said "no". Then he‘d moved over to converse with Joe Carey, ignoring her nonplussed stare.
It had gone on like that for two weeks, B‘Elanna irritable and unbending, Tom congenial and unmoving. She didn‘t know how long it might have lasted if it hadn‘t been for the Sacajawea.
Tom had been particularly annoying that morning- smiling, laughing, joking with Janine Lamont and Susan Nicoletti. B‘Elanna had been thrilled when he‘d finally gotten on with his task at hand and entered the Sacajawea. As he‘d floated the shuttle out of the bay to prepare for a sample run, she‘d thought bad humoredly about locking the bay doors so he couldn‘t get back in.
Because she‘d been pensively thinking about Tom, her eyes had remained on the Sacajawea as it gently dropped down on the grass several dozen meters away from the shuttle bay. She‘d seen the strange spark erupt from under the Sacajawea‘s hull just a moment before the shuttle had become engulfed by flames.
Despite their complete shock, the crew in the shuttlebay had acted immediately, dragging out the portable extinguishers and quickly aiming them at the fire. B‘Elanna had blindly assisted, moving by rote, as she watched the flames tear from the back of the shuttle forward, melting the edges of the main door as they swept past. She knew they were traveling through the inside of the shuttle just as quickly. The extinguishers fought futilely for control, but it was obvious that for anyone inside there was no escape.
B‘Elanna came to a bitter realization as she faced the horror in front of her. She loved Tom. She‘d tried to avoid facing it, accepting it. Love of any kind had rarely worked in her life, and feeling so strongly about something or someone had just been an invitation for inevitable pain. Denying her feelings had allowed her to believe they weren‘t real. Or at least to pretend. Now she realized the agony of losing him was only second to the agony of knowing that she could have had him. He‘d made it clear he was simply waiting for her. And she had blown it. She had never really believed that human saying that it was better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. The losing hurt too much. But how much worse was it to have loved and lost and to have never told him how she felt? And to have never let him tell her how he felt.
Several cries from the front of the shuttle had broken through B‘Elanna‘s numb reverie. She glanced up slowly, her curiosity dulled. Then she recognized what she was seeing. Tom Paris stumbling from around the front of the Sacajawea. Several hands reached out to steady him, and pulled him further away from the burning shuttle. His clothing was charred and from several meters away B‘Elanna could see that he had burns on his face and arms.
Tom staggered slightly then looked around as if he was searching for something. His gaze found B‘Elanna‘s and for a moment their eyes held. Then Tom slumped down and Tuvok, who had seen the flames and had just arrived from the village with several others, lifted the falling pilot effortlessly into his arms. The doctor met Tuvok before he had moved ten steps and moved his medical tricorder over Tom‘s inert body as they hurried toward the Sickbay.
B‘Elanna had barely noticed Joe Carey move her carefully out of the way and take over at the extinguisher for her. Nor was she consciously aware of Chakotay wrapping his arm around her and gently leading her toward the village. She was thinking of Tom, that he would live, he would be fine, she would make him fine. And then she would tell him that she loved him.
B‘Elanna woke with a start. She‘d been dreaming. No, remembering. She must have dozed off. She stared at the ceiling, wondering for a moment what had happened to the wooden beams. Then she realized she was on Voyager. For a startled moment she thought this was the dream. But the gleaming white ceiling remained unchanged. Voyager. No, it was real, and she was in her old quarters.
But she wasn‘t alone. Even as she realized that, she sat up and looked into the shadows past her bed, whispering the one name that came naturally off her tongue. "Tom..."
"No, I‘m afraid not."
Q glided out of the shadows and came to a stop a meter from B‘Elanna‘s bed, looking down at her with a smirk. "I hope you‘re not too disappointed."
B‘Elanna jumped off the bed and stood facing Q with her hands on her hips before she even realized what she was doing. "Q, I should have known you were involved in this!"
Q curled his lip. "You know, you are a very accusatory person in any timeline. As I told your alter ego on Pastoral Paradise planet, I am an innocent bystander to the Universe‘s shenanigans."
"You are an innocent bystander?"
"Yeeesss." Q walked around her and looked around the room. "Rather sterile decor here, isn‘t it, after the intimate love nest you‘ve become used to, eh?"
B‘Elanna ignored his suggestive grin and decided not to dignify his comment with a response. "Q, if you‘re here, then you must be able to tell me, what is going on?"
Q rolled his eyes. "Oh, no, not again. Let‘s just skip the long and ultimately incomprehensible explanation of how you and the B‘Elanna who belongs here managed switch places and land in each other‘s realities. Suffice to say, you are here and she is there, and it would be preferable for the Universe and for my aching head if you both got back to where you belong."
B‘Elanna narrowed her eyes. "You‘re saying that this is completely real and that I‘m in some sort of alternate timeline?"
"Congratulations, you‘re a quicker study than your counterpart," Q said sarcastically.
"And here Voyager didn‘t self destruct," B‘Elanna murmured to herself.
"They‘ve continued to travel a thousand light years past Aurora. But seven months ago-"
"You and she were the same person, and now there are two of you, living two different lives. Well, more than two of you actually, if you count all the other temporal divergences during your lifetime. But let‘s just concentrate on these two entangled timelines. I think that‘s enough to boggle your limited three dimensional mind." Q gave her a patronizing smile.
It was more than enough, but B‘Elanna wasn‘t about to admit it to Q. Besides she had other things on her limited mind. "I take it you‘re here because you know a way to put me- us- back where we belong."
"What, right to business, no witty repartee, no traded insults?" Q frowned in mock disappointment. "You‘re a little less fun than Lani."
Obviously the other B‘Elanna. "I hope you don‘t plan to call me that, Q."
Q considered her. "No, you‘re right, it doesn‘t suit you somehow. My how a person can change after seven months of different...uh, experiences."
B‘Elanna crossed her arms and stared at him.
"Oh, all right, let‘s get this over with." Q waved his hand and a glass appeared in it. "This is a little cosmic cocktail I borrowed from the Continuum. Rather than describe the physics behind it, let‘s just say this tasty little concoction will help realign your energy signature and improve the probability of your recrossing temporal paths with your alter ego and finding yourself back in Happy Camper Village. Which will of course readjust the Universe back to its delicate balance. Well, except for those few other temporal mix-ups that have yet to correct themselves... but forget those, that‘s another subject altogether."
B‘Elanna stared at the glass Q thrust toward her. The contents looked about as tasty as mud. In fact, it looked exactly like mud. Except it was pulsating, perceptively swelling back and forth within the glass.
"You can drink it all at once, or just sip it slowly if you like," Q suggested drolly.
B‘Elanna took the glass from Q. Despite his penchant for sheer obnoxiousness, she couldn‘t deny that Q and his Continuum cronies possessed a vast knowledge about things no one in the Federation or Klingon Empire had even began to discover yet. And even as she‘d marveled at seeing Voyager in one piece again, she‘d known that she didn‘t belong here. If the alternative was to be stuck here in another B‘Elanna‘s life for however long, then...
B‘Elanna drank the contents of the glass down in one long gulp, forcing herself not to gag as the thick viscous stuff seemed to crawl slowly down her throat. She grimaced and handed the empty glass back to Q.
"Yummy?" Q inquired with a raised eyebrow. He waved his hand again and the glass disappeared.
B‘Elanna didn‘t bother to answer his question. "Just tell me if this is going to work, Q?"
"Hmmm." Q appeared to ponder that for a moment, then he shrugged. "I don‘t know, but let‘s just say I‘m optimistic. And if it does work you‘ll probably be forewarned by some dizziness and a feeling of disorientation, perhaps severe."
"Great." B‘Elanna sighed.
"What do you expect crossing temporal boundaries from one reality to another?" Q asked sarcastically. "That stuff you drank isn‘t candy, you know. It has some rather disruptive effects on primitive physiologies like yours. Oh, it‘s not permanent," Q added irritably, in response to B‘Elanna‘s alarmed look.
But B‘Elanna wasn‘t thinking about herself. She wasn‘t concerned about dizziness or any unpleasant symptoms she might feel. Getting back to her own life was worth whatever discomfort it entailed. But it had just occurred to her that she‘d swallowed Q‘s concoction without once considering if it might be harmful to her baby.
"What??" Q sounded exasperated. Then he answered his own question before B‘Elanna could. "Ah, you‘re worried about that little bit of foreign matter inside you. You corporeal beings, you concern yourselves so deeply about single minuscule lives, when there are countless billions of you in the Universe. And I do mean countless. So what difference would one less make?"
B‘Elanna felt a cold numbness wash over her. It was an effort to keep her voice from trembling. "Q, what are you saying?"
"Oh, don‘t give me that wounded look," Q complained, holding his hands out in supplication. "All right, all right. I was just speaking hypothetically. As for the particular minuscule life residing in your womb, it‘s surviving just fine. I actually went to some trouble to insure that my concoction won‘t harm a cell in its tiny body. You can thank me for my incredible benevolence."
Relief had washed over B‘Elanna first, then anger that Q had callously frightened her. She gritted her teeth as he invited her to thank him. "Q, you are a worm."
"Excuse me? You‘re calling me a worm? That is an expression of gratitude like I‘ve never encountered before in this Universe." Q looked offended, but B‘Elanna had a suspicion that he was actually amused, which didn‘t make her any less angry.
"All right, take it easy," Q said, when B‘Elanna gave him an even more furious look. "Neither my concoction nor your newfound predilection for crossing timelines will hurt your baby. Consider it a promise if you like."
"I will," B‘Elanna said sharply.
Q shrugged. "Actually, it‘s amazing how well your frail organic bodies protect your undeveloped offspring. In fact..." Q frowned slightly, as if he was concentrating deeply, the he refocused on B‘Elanna. "Yes, your little embryo is very healthy." Then he grinned conspiratorially. "Want to know if it‘s a girl or a boy?"
"No, I don‘t." B‘Elanna managed to keep a semblance of indignation in her voice. In fact her anger had pretty much drained away. No matter how irritating Q was, she knew she could believe him if he said her baby was fine. More than just fine. Very healthy, despite the strange experience they‘d both been through. She felt a sudden sense of gratitude to Q, and it was very annoying.
"Suit yourself." Q rolled his eyes and sighed dramatically. "Well, I‘m getting perilously close to being nice enough to make myself sick, so I‘d better be going before that happens. I don‘t know what it is about the process of birth, that eternal fight against the entropy of the Universe, that makes me so sentimental."
"I‘m sure it will pass," B‘Elanna said unsympathetically. Q paused in the process of waving his arms in his typically dramatic exit fashion. "Why, you‘re right, Little Mommy, I believe it already has."
"Don‘t call me that, either."
Q just grinned slyly at her. "I did say there were no guarantees, didn‘t I? The potency of my concoction will slowly wear off in, oh, forty eight hours. If you haven‘t switched places with Lani by then...well, you may just end up here in this reality for quite a long time. Long enough to have to explain your expanding belly to poor, unsuspecting Lt. Paris. He‘ll probably demand a paternity test. After all, it might be a little annoying to find out you‘re a father and you didn‘t even get to participate in the fun."
B‘Elanna narrowed her gaze at Q‘s insolent tone. "You obviously don‘t know Tom Paris very well at all, Q, if you think that," she said coldly.
Q shrugged. "Well, with my luck you‘ll probably end up back in your own Helmboy‘s arms before the real fireworks can even begin." Q waved his arms with dramatic flair. "But if not, I‘ll be back...just to lend you moral support, of course."
B‘Elanna watched Q disappear with an infuriating grin still plastered to his face, then sat down on the bed heavily, feeling suddenly drained. But at least she now had some knowledge of what had happened to her, and what she might have to face. She could only hope Q‘s concoction worked before that became necessary. In the meantime, she knew she should try and get some sleep. No matter whether she woke up here or on Aurora, she‘d certainly need the rest.
B‘Elanna pulled back the bedsheets and slid between them. She‘d never expected to sleep in this bed again. She‘d been sorry about that when they‘d first been stranded on Aurora, since she‘d always found it comfortable, especially after some of the places she‘d slept while she was with the Maquis. But now it just felt...foreign.
B‘Elanna curled up and tried to relax. She knew it wasn‘t really the bed. It was being in this bed alone. In just a few short months she‘d become completely accustomed the feel of Tom‘s solid body next to hers. More than accustomed.
All her life she‘d been used to being alone, sleeping alone. Even with the few men she‘d been with before, their desire for her company in bed had faded after the initial encounter, with no offers to extend the contact further. And no wish on her part either. She preferred to sleep alone, with no one there to crowd her or invade her space. After all, her mother had told her enough times that it wasn‘t the Klingon way to hug or cuddle. It certainly wasn‘t something she needed or wanted. Or so she‘d thought. Until Tom.
B‘Elanna shifted position, trying to ignore how much she missed the feel of Tom‘s warm body against her back, of his arm draped over her, his hand lightly splayed across her stomach, of his breath soft against her hair as she fell asleep. But she failed completely, and slowly sank into a restless sleep, her thoughts drifting repeatedly back to Tom and Aurora...
B‘Elanna lay on her back under the Sagan, where she‘d been doing a diagnostic run through of every circuit, wire and fuel line that ran along the shuttle undercarriage, connecting the IPS system to the engines. She‘d already spent most of the day checking every system on both the Sagan and the Cochrane with her engineering crew. She‘d gone back to the village just long enough to take a shower and grab a quick meal. Then she‘d been driven to come back to the shuttlebay again. Joe Carey, who‘d come back with her, probably just to pacify her, had tried to persuade her that everything had been double checked. But she couldn‘t help herself, she had to run through it again. Joe had finally left, no doubt figuring he was better off just leaving her alone.
B‘Elanna pulled herself out from under the Sagan, knowing in her mind that everything had once again checked out fine, but still feeling dissatisfied. The Sacajawea had checked out fine, too, and what should never have happened had. With no warning, no clues.
B‘Elanna sighed. First Voyager, now the Sacajawea. It was almost like they had fallen under some curse. And this time someone had almost died.
B‘Elanna hands clenched involuntarily and she had to force herself to relax as she pressed the control to slide the rear panel of the shuttle back into place. Those moments of watching the Sacajawea engulfed in flames while Tom was trapped inside had haunted her all day. She shook herself mentally to dispel the memory.
Tom was fine. He‘d managed to force the warped edge of the melting front window back enough to escape, though not without suffering serious burns. But the doctor had worked his magic, regenerating nerves and skin and clearing Tom‘s smoke damaged lungs, and assuring everyone that Tom would be as good as new after a day or two of rest. That knowledge had comforted B‘Elanna while she‘d worked unhaltingly- and unsuccessfully- to discover what error, what oversight, had caused the Sacajawea to burst into flames.
B‘Elanna walked toward the front of the Sagan, knowing full well that every inch of it and the Cochrane were in perfect condition. But that didn‘t stop her from thinking that perhaps she should recheck the rear fuel lines, just one more time. Ignoring the voice inside her that was chiding her obsessive behavior, she rounded the front of the Sagan and nearly ran headlong into Tom.
Tom‘s hand reached out to steady her, and B‘Elanna stared at him, stunned. She hadn‘t seen him since their eyes had met just after the accident early this morning. The doctor had adamantly refused to let anyone in Sickbay while he was administering the extensive treatments to his patient. She had planned on stopping by Sickbay before she eventually went home, knowing Tom would certainly be asleep, but knowing she had to at least look at him, even for only a moment, and see for herself that he was truly all right.
"Tom, what are you doing here?" B‘Elanna asked, torn between relief to see him standing in front of her whole and looking completely himself, if a little pale, and a unwelcome sense of nervousness thinking of the last look that had passed between them.
"The doctor let me out on my own recognizance," Tom said lightly.
"Translation, you were driving him insane," B‘Elanna said in an equally easy tone, though her heart was still fluttering.
"The doc has a low level of tolerance, or maybe I‘m just very persistent." A ghost of a smile crossed Tom‘s face, then faded. "Besides, he was finished with me. Twelve hours of pain suppressors, nerve regenerators, dermal regenerators, pneumatic enhancers, it was more than enough. I‘m just fine."
B‘Elanna had finally managed to still her nerves and focus not just on the shock of Tom‘s presence but on Tom himself. He really did look pale. And tired. No amount of treatment could make up for the rest his body obviously needed. "Tom, you don‘t look fine. I can‘t believe the doctor released you. I think he needs his license revoked."
"I don‘t think he has one. Besides, I did promise to go directly home and rest, without passing go or collecting any credits."
B frowned at Tom‘s cavalier tone. "You‘re not funny," she said, starting to feel annoyed. It was bad enough he‘d scared her silly, made her feel for several horrifying minutes that her life was completely empty. Now he was standing here taking it all lightly. Her voice came out harsher than she had intended. "Why are you here, Tom?"
"Joe Carey told me you were here," Tom said simply, quietly, all trace of humor gone from his face. He looked at her closely. "He said you were doing umpteen checks on every centimeter of the Sagan and the Cochrane. Unnecessary checks. Obsessive checks."
B started to protest. "I wasn‘t..." Well, yes, she was. She sighed, and started to explain, if she even could. "Tom-"
Tom raised a hand and lightly touched B‘Elanna‘s lips, startling her into silence, then said softly, "B‘Elanna, it wasn‘t your fault."
B‘Elanna flushed, both unnerved and touched by Tom‘s gesture and by the understanding in his blue eyes. But she hated letting herself off too easy. What had happened to the Sacajawea might not be her fault, but she was the person most responsible. As she had been for Voyager. And the thought of what might have happened to Tom, what had almost happened to him, because of some unexplainable failure she hadn‘t foreseen, couldn‘t control... The anguished words spilled out of her. "Tom, you don‘t understand what it was like to watch the Sacajawea go up in flames for no reason, what it felt like to know that you were...to think that you..." The words stuck in her throat.
"I do know, B‘Elanna," Tom said gently, his hand caressing her jawline. His thumb grazed her lower lip. His eyes met hers. "I saw your face."
When he‘d stumbled from the Sacajawea, injured and barely able to stand, and their eyes had met briefly, searingly. B‘Elanna met Tom‘s gaze now and felt like he was looking directly into her soul. She reached up and caught his hand with hers. She looked down at his long capable fingers, and tightened her grip, turning his palm up. His skin was smooth and slightly reddened, the after effects of the dermal regenerator that had healed his burns. She had the urge to kiss that tender new skin. Instead she reached up with her other hand and touched his flushed cheek, where the dermal regenerator had also worked its magic. Then she slid her hand around the nape of his neck and pulled him toward her. Their eyes met again, and she was sure his gaze had never left her face for a moment. Her slightly parted lips met his and they kissed, first slowly, exploringly, then with rising hunger. Their arms slid completely around each other and tightened, and they didn‘t pull apart until they were both out of breath.
Tom looked at B‘Elanna, his face far more flushed than a dermal regenerator could account for. "Are you trying to tell me something, B‘Elanna?" he asked softly, his voice slightly breathless.
B‘Elanna looked at him, this man she wanted, needed with every fiber of her being. She had no reason to deny it anymore, nothing to lose. She‘d already almost lost everything once today. "I love you, Tom," she said simply.
A slow, cocky grin spread across Tom‘s face. "I know."
B‘Elanna‘s eyes narrowed, and she slid her hands down to his chest, pushing further back from him. She felt his hands, which had been loosely cradling her back, tighten.
"But I wasn‘t sure there for awhile," Tom‘s grin faded. "I was starting to wonder if you hated me."
B‘Elanna shook her head. "I‘m sorry I acted that way, Tom. I just couldn‘t stand
the thought that I‘d behaved like a fool. It was too humiliating-"
"You hardly behaved like a fool, and you weren‘t in control, B‘Elanna. You were...ill, sort of."
B‘Elanna smiled wanly at Tom‘s awkward search for the appropriate words. "I was out of control, that‘s just it. Some of the things I said and did, how I must have acted..." She paused, then shrugged. "I don‘t even remember."
Tom brought his hands up to B‘Elanna‘s shoulders and squeezed gently. "That‘s it, isn‘t it?" he asked. "You can‘t remember."
B‘Elanna sighed and nodded. She met Tom‘s comprehending gaze. "I can‘t remember most of it, Tom. Just images, emotions, that‘s all. Especially the last part. You and I had...we had..."
"Sex, B‘Elanna," Tom said gently.
"If you say so."
"Tom, it‘s like I wasn‘t even there." B‘Elanna shrugged Tom‘s hands off her shoulders. "For all I know I acted like some violent animal, like a Klingon in heat-"
Tom gripped her shoulders again, tighter. "Stop it, B‘Elanna. And don‘t insult your Klingon side. I‘m rather fond of it. Besides, you didn‘t break any of my bones. Just my heart."
Tom murmured those last words wryly, but B‘Elanna saw a shadow of pain cross his eyes. She closed her eyes against it, even though it was gone as quickly as it came. Then she felt Tom‘s hand caress her cheek and opened her eyes. He was looking at her with an expression of regret.
"B‘Elanna, I‘m sorry it happened. I didn‘t want to hurt you. But I couldn‘t let you die-"
"Tom, don‘t apologize," B‘Elanna said, placing her hand over his and pressing it closer to her cheek. "I should be doing that. I know you were just trying to save my life. I guess I‘ve never been very good at being saved."
"Don‘t make it sound like it was a chore, B‘Elanna, because it wasn‘t." Tom said softly. "And you don‘t have to be good at it, because I don‘t want to save you. I just want to love you."
This time it was Tom‘s hand that slid into the silky hair at the nape of her neck and pulled her to him. Their lips met in a deep, shudderingly intense kiss, their bodies pressed close together, their mutual arousal apparent. Tom pulled back first, his breathing a little labored, and looked into her dark eyes. "Why don‘t we try it again, B‘Elanna, for the first time. And this time I promise you will remember everything."
B‘Elanna had never wanted anything more. She caught Tom‘s quick glance at the Sagan, then watched a slow, suggestive smile creep across his face. And she felt his hand trembling slightly against her hair. "Tom, you should be resting..."
"So, we‘ll lay down."
He said it casually, irreverently, and left the implication unsaid. This time. He was watching her closely and she realized he was waiting to see if the pon farr incident was going to stay wedged between them. Part of her still wished she could remember, but she now realized that Tom Paris was the one person she could trust to accept whatever part of herself she revealed, and keep to himself whatever she didn‘t want shared. Her lips curved into a smile.
An answering grin spread across Tom‘s face, and he lowered his hand and pressed the combadge she was wearing. B‘Elanna looked at him questioningly as he spoke. "New Lourdes?"
B‘Elanna recognized Joe Carey‘s voice. She wondered if he had kept his combadge on just to keep tabs on her. At one time she would have smacked him for that.
"Joe, it‘s Tom."
"Ah, Tom. The doctor was just here to report that he sent you home and straight to bed. We‘ve been told not to disturb you under any circumstances."
"I...took a little detour." Tom paused. "I just wanted to let someone know that B‘Elanna and I will be here awhile. There are still a few...circuits we need to check over one more time."
B‘Elanna could tell from the amused tone in Joe‘s voice that he did. She gave Tom a warning look.
"I just didn‘t want anyone to wonder where we are."
"Tom, I‘m sure no one will be wondering." Joe cleared his throat, sounding as if he was trying not to laugh. "Nor will anyone be particularly happy and relieved that you two have resolved your...differences."
"And don‘t worry, Tom, hardly anyone else is listening to this conversation."
"Hi, Harry," Tom said, giving B‘Elanna a sheepish grin. She kept her expression grim. "Where are you, Joe?"
"In the mess hall, with about twenty other people. Lucky for you the doctor isn‘t one of them."
"Just don‘t overexert yourself, Tom."
"And watch out. Some of those circuits can be pretty hot-"
That was enough. "Goodnight, Harry. Joe. Everyone." B‘Elanna‘s steely tone didn‘t invite a reply, and she deactivated her commbadge with a hard tap before anyone could reply anyway, then looked at Tom.
"B‘Elanna, don‘t give me that Janeway stare," Tom said with mock alarm, taking
a step back. "I didn‘t know so many people would-"
B‘Elanna grabbed a handful of Tom‘s shirt and pulled him flush against her. "Tom..." she said softly. Then she pressed her lips firmly against his for a mere moment. She pulled back and smiled up at him. "I don‘t care."
A satisfied smile lit up Tom‘s face. "Good." This time he brushed his lips against hers, lingering for a few moments. Then he gave her an impudent grin. "Now, let‘s go in the Sagan so I can lie down and you can take complete advantage of my weakened state."
B‘Elanna took him up on it. On the floor in the back of the Sagan, on a pile of blankets, they made love to each other, slowly, completely, passionately, savoring every touch. And Tom was true to his word. She remembered every moment.
Afterward, she lay in Tom‘s arms, their legs entangled, her head resting on his chest, feeling sated and content. Feeling like she was right where she belonged. The blankets they had pulled out of the back storage compartment lay in disarray around them. B‘Elanna‘s arm was draped across Tom‘s chest, her hand resting near his face, her fingers touching the damp curls at the nape of his neck. She could feel the damp sheen of perspiration on his skin.
B‘Elanna raised her head and looked at Tom. His eyes were half closed and a small smile played across his face. He moved his hand up to push her mussed hair back from her face and his eyes opened and met hers.
She thought he looked a little tired. Maybe they should have waited until he was fully recovered. "Tom, I‘m not sure this was good for you," she said with a concerned frown.
"B‘Elanna..." Tom‘s smile widened into a teasing grin. "I can assure you it was good for me."
"That‘s not what I meant," B‘Elanna admonished, but she couldn‘t help a small smile of her own. Then she looked into Tom‘s clear blue eyes and her smile faded. "I‘m glad, though."
Tom didn‘t say anything for a moment, he just curled a strand of her hair around his finger, and then brought his palm down to rest along her cheek. "The way it is between us, I don‘t think that will ever be in doubt. Because it was the same for you, wasn‘t it, B‘Elanna?"
B‘Elanna nodded. No man had ever treated her the way Tom just had. He‘d been tender, passionate, artful. And he‘d actually focused on her. She hadn‘t once seen that inward distant look in his eyes, the one that she‘d seen in other men‘s eyes, that made her feel as if she wasn‘t even there, that had made her feel alone, even during the most intimate of acts. Nothing about being with Tom made her feel alone.
B‘Elanna felt suddenly uncomfortable with her feelings. She looked away from Tom‘s watchful gaze, and ran her hand unconsciously along the firm skin just above his collarbone. Over a small, barely visible crescent shaped scar. She swallowed and looked at Tom.
"I asked the doctor not to remove it," Tom said softly. "Because I know what it means, and you can‘t take it back."
This time B‘Elanna saw a hint of vulnerability in Tom‘s eyes, perhaps the same that she‘d been feeling a moment ago. She‘d already recognized the mark for what it was. She must have bitten him, during the pon farr incident, the Klingon method to lay claim to a mate. She traced the scar with her finger. "Oh, Tom. I don‘t want to take it back," she whispered, leaning over and touching her lips to his marked skin. The salty tang of his perspiration aroused her all over again.
Tom pulled her face up to his and kissed her. Their tongues intertangled as the kiss deepened. B‘Elanna moved her hand down through the soft, curly hairs on his chest, to his flat abdomen. She‘d already explored the intriguingly taut lines of Tom‘s physique, but she wanted to do it again. Tom tightened his fingers in her hair, then groaned. Their lips reluctantly parted and they looked at each other, breathless.
"B‘Elanna." Tom‘s breathing particularly heavy. "Believe me I‘m very motivated to make love to you again, but I think I need to rest."
B‘Elanna reached up and pushed a stray lock of hair off his sweat dampened forehead. He smiled at her wanly, and fatigue etched his features. She wanted to cradle him in her arms and hold him until the shadows under his eyes disappeared, but she just nodded and dropped a light kiss on his lips, then started to get up.
Tom grabbed her arm before she could completely rise. "B‘Elanna, what are you doing?"
"Getting up and getting my clothes, Tom, and yours. You don‘t want to walk into your house naked, do you? What would the boys think?" She saw him frown and made an effort to smile. "When you‘re feeling better, we have an appointment for a...rematch. Very soon."
B‘Elanna‘s effort at lightness elicited no amusement from Tom. "An appointment?" he echoed slowly. He just stared at her for a moment, looking like he wasn‘t sure what he wanted to say, then he shook his head and sighed. "B‘Elanna..."
Tom‘s hand pulled on B‘Elanna‘s arm just hard enough to unbalance her and she landed softly against his chest. His arms slid around her and held her there.
B‘Elanna pushed against his loose grip enough to look at his face. He looked
back at her with a small smile, but it didn‘t reach his eyes. "Tom-"
"B‘Elanna, we‘re not done just because we‘ve...gratified our sexual desire, for the moment. I love you, B‘Elanna. I don‘t just want to sleep with you, then go our separate ways until the urge strikes again. I want to sleep with you. Every night. And as far as I‘m concerned, we‘ll never be done."
"Tom..." B‘Elanna swallowed. Further words wouldn‘t come. Instead she leaned up and touched her lips gently to his, and moved her lips softly along his in a whispery caress. Tom smiled at her when she pulled back and this time it reached his eyes. Then she settled herself back against Tom‘s chest, her arms sliding around him. "Go to sleep, Tom. I‘ll be here, as long as you want."
"Forever, Bella," Tom said softly, repeating the word he‘d used while they were in the throes of passion. He pressed one hand in the soft tangle of B‘Elanna‘s hair and his other hand rested lightly against the small of her back.
B‘Elanna stroked Tom‘s chest, her fingers playing with the soft blond hairs there. "Bella..." she whispered.
"It means beautiful in Italian," Tom murmured dreamily. "Which you are. And always have been. I thought so from the first day I saw you...." Tom‘s voice sounded groggy, and his words started to drift. "Beautiful...my beautiful Bella...I love you...I won‘t ever leave..."
Tom‘s voice faded slowly away. B‘Elanna felt his hand relax against her hair, and his chest moved evenly as his breathing slowed. He was asleep. B‘Elanna positioned herself more comfortably against him, feeling the warmth of his skin next to hers. Then she closed her eyes and rested her hand over the soft steady beat of his heart. "I love you, Tom," she said quietly. "And I won‘t ever leave either..." Then, her body pressed warmly, intimately against his, she drifted off into a deep, satisfying sleep.
"Tom..." B‘Elanna woke and groggily reached for Tom‘s warm body. But her hands found only cool sheets. She sat up quickly, trying to focus on the insistent beeping sound that was disturbing her sleep. An alarm.
B‘Elanna, fully awake now, glanced around her dim quarters and remembered. She was on Voyager. She‘d been dreaming, reliving what had happened on Aurora. But she wasn‘t there. She was still on Voyager.
"Alarm off. Computer, what is the time?"
The light in her quarters brightened, and she winced a little as she pushed the sheets back and stood up. And then was sorry she did. She felt distinctly queasy. Q, his concoction...
No, Q had said she would feel dizzy. This wasn‘t quite right. Right now she felt definitely...nauseous...
B‘Elanna stumbled into the bathroom and barely made it to the toilet before she was sick. She sat on her haunches for several minutes afterwards, then stood up slowly. Morning sickness. It had to be. It rarely occurred in Klingons, but she was half human and the doctor had warned her it was a possibility. Unfortunately this was not the best time.
B‘Elanna walked to the sink and splashed cold water over her face. She stared at herself in the mirror, then she touched the reflective surface, thinking of the similar one on Aurora. What was the old fashioned term Tom had used recently, when they‘d used some of their very precious rations to replicate some children‘s stories for the baby? A looking glass. One of those stories was about going through a looking glass to another world.
It was a fanciful idea, but B‘Elanna felt suddenly as if she understood the feeling. Here she was, and on the other side of that mirror was another B‘Elanna, stuck in the wrong place also, looking back at her. If they could just step through, back to their own sides...
B‘Elanna sighed and walked away from the mirror, going to her closet to retrieve her uniform. Right now she needed to concentrate on just getting through the hours, waiting to see if Q‘s concoction would work. It should be soon. Hopefully, it would be soon...
B‘Elanna put her uniform on, grateful that at least her stomachs had settled down. She remembered the doctor mentioning crackers and seltzer water to her. She would stop by the mess hall on her way to Engineering. Hopefully that would forestall another occurrence.
Ten minutes later, B‘Elanna approached the mess hall, and knew she was not going to be so lucky. Her stomachs were roiling again as she entered. Only a few people were sitting at the tables, which was unusual before the first shift. But a small crowd was gathered at Neelix‘s counter, including the doctor, the captain and Tuvok.
"Captain, I‘m sure it wasn‘t the cake," Neelix was saying plaintively. He heaved a large bag up on the counter and white grain spilled out of the top. "This Borali flour was cleared through the transporters biofilters."
"I have over a dozen crewmembers in my Sickbay violently ill, Mr. Neelix," the doctor said sharply, running his medical tricorder over the small pile of flour that had spilled on the counter. "And two dozen others who have informed me they are suffering more privately from the same intestinal illness. And by an amazing coincidence they all ate some of your perfectly innocent birthday cake last night."
Neelix winced at the doctor‘s blatant sarcasm, but had no chance to reply as the doctor continued on.
"I‘ve isolated a parasite with a very odd chemical composition that appears to be the cause of the distress, and- Ah ha!"
Neelix jumped back at the doctor‘s sudden shout of triumph. Even the captain started. Tuvok simply watched him impassively.
"Here it is, Captain," the doctor said. "As I suspected, this flour is contaminated."
"But the biofilters-"
Captain Janeway held up a hand to forestall Neelix. "I know, and it‘s not your fault, Neelix. Somehow the biofilters missed this parasite..."
The doctor spoke again. "As I said, Captain, the chemical composition is very unusual."
"When will you be able to devise a remedy, Doctor?" Janeway asked. She brushed a hand across her face, and B‘Elanna, who had moved forward to listen to the conversation, saw that the captain was pale. She obviously was suffering also. In fact, of the other people gathered in the room, only Tuvok and Neelix appeared unaffected. And the doctor, of course.
"A couple of hours at most, Captain," the doctor replied.
"Good." The captain smiled grimly at B‘Elanna, acknowledging her presence, then glanced past her. "Mr. Paris, you don‘t look much the worse for wear."
B‘Elanna looked at Tom, startled. She had no idea how long he had been standing behind her, but then she‘d been concentrating on fighting down the increasingly unsettled feeling in her stomachs. She noted Tom looked a little pale, but otherwise composed.
"I am feeling a little queasy, Captain, but I didn‘t eat very much cake. Still, I think I‘ll skip breakfast. No offense, Neelix."
Neelix nodded at Tom‘s apology, still looking miserable.
The doctor gave Tom a critical look, then turned his gaze to B‘Elanna. "Lieutenant, you appear to have ingested too much cake. Perhaps you should come to Sickbay, or lie down in your quarters."
B‘Elanna swallowed with difficulty, determined not to let anyone see just how bad she felt. She certainly wasn‘t about to go to Sickbay and submit to any scans. "I‘m just a little queasy, like Tom. I‘ll be fine."
She felt several doubtful looks trained on her but ignored them and continued in a firm tone. "Doctor, if you‘ll download the specifics to Engineering, I will get a team together and we will make sure the biofilters won‘t miss this type of parasite again."
Janeway nodded. "If you‘re sure you feel up to it, B‘Elanna. And Neelix, get rid of that flour."
"Right away, Captain." Neelix glumly pulled the bag off the counter and began to sweep the spilled grains away.
"Captain, I‘ll contact you when the antidote is ready. I assume you will be on the bridge?" The doctor‘s tone was disapproving.
"Captain, I am quite willing-"
"I‘m all right, Tuvok," Janeway stopped the Vulcan in mid-sentence. Tuvok simply raised an eyebrow. "Doctor, I will be on the bridge. There are many worse off than me, apparently."
The doctor turned his gaze to B‘Elanna again. "Lieutenant Torres, if you don‘t
mind my saying-"
"Doctor, I‘ve got to get to Engineering. Just make sure you download that data." B‘Elanna turned and practically ran out the door of the mess hall before anyone could say anything else. She stopped just outside the door, knowing she‘d never make it to Engineering. Instead she ducked quickly into the small bathroom adjoining the mess hall, barely in time again.
A few minutes later she stepped back into the corridor, still holding the small damp towel she‘d soaked in cold water and run over her face. And she found herself face to face with Tom Paris.
"Feeling better?" he inquired, looking at her intently.
"Um, yes. Much better," B‘Elanna lied.
"Hmmm." Tom sounded unconvinced. "You look a little green, B‘Elanna, which would be all right if you were a Vulcan."
"Tom, I am fine. And I‘ve got to get to Engineering." She started to push past him, and the towel slipped out of her hand. She actually debated for a moment whether leaning over or kneeling down to retrieve it was less likely to upset her barely maintained stability. Then Tom reached down and picked it up.
"Here." Tom placed the towel in her hand and squeezed lightly as he did. "You should go to Sickbay, B‘Elanna, but if you‘re going to be stubborn at least sit down when you get to Engineering before you fall over."
"I will." B‘Elanna gently extricated her hand from Tom‘s. She didn‘t want to be rude, but she had to get away from him before forgot where she was and gave into the insane urge to put her arms around him. It had to be her weakened state. "Thanks, Tom," she mumbled, pushing past him and hurrying into the turbolift a few meters away. She stepped in and leaned against the back wall for support. Tom was watching her as the door closed.
B‘Elanna did sit down as soon as she got to Engineering and although she didn‘t feel much better, at least she was able to maintain an uncomfortable truce with her stomachs. She spent the better part of the morning working with her drastically reduced Engineering staff to recalibrate the biofilters against the new found parasite. When the doctor called to say that he‘d treated the more serious cases in Sickbay and would now be personally delivering the antidote to everyone else throughout the ship, B‘Elanna breathed a sigh of relief. Hopefully she could avoid a medical scan and simply get her dose from the doctor.
Freddie Bristow breezed into Engineering a couple of minutes later. He‘d been one of the ones confined to Sickbay all morning with severe symptoms. He practically skipped into Engineering.
"Feeling better I take it, Ensign?" Lt. Nicoletti asked sarcastically. B‘Elanna had noticed that Susan Nicoletti looked almost as bad as she felt.
"Good as new," Freddie said, smiling from ear to ear. The doctor will be down here soon to spread the cure. Believe me, you‘ll thank him."
"Thank god," Nicoletti muttered under her breath.
Freddie was still smiling. "Yeah, it‘s pretty potent stuff. The doc said it goes right for the alien parasites just like a rejection drug and aborts those little buggers right out of your system."
"Thanks for the visual, Bristow," Nicoletti said, wrinkling her nose in disgust.
B‘Elanna was only half listening to them. She hadn‘t even thought... Again she‘d been so disoriented by her situation, focusing on keeping a low profile and passing as the B‘Elanna that belonged here and waiting hopefully for Q‘s concoction to send her back to Aurora. Then this intestinal illness... She hadn‘t thought once about how the illness could affect the baby. Or the cure.
B‘Elanna picked up her PADD from the master systems console. "Fre- Ensign Bristow, take over here and help Lt. Nicoletti finish this final diagnostic on the transporter biofilters. I have something else to attend to right now."
Both Nicoletti and Bristow looked at her in surprise.
"Sure, Lieutenant," Bristow finally said. "But the doctor will be here anytime
with his hypo. Don‘t you want to-"
"I‘ll intercept him on the way." B‘Elanna rushed out of main Engineering before anyone else could speak. She had to get to Sickbay while the doctor was out making his unscheduled rounds, so she could check on the baby.
B‘Elanna entered the turbolift and leaned against the wall for support. She realized didn‘t feel any better than she had a few hours ago. But she had to think about the baby first. "Sickbay." Her hand drifted to her abdomen and rested there as she leaned her head back and closed her eyes as the turbolift started to move.
She‘d been so surprised when the doctor had told her she was pregnant. She had never thought it could happen so quickly, so easily, with her mixed genes.
But it had. She hadn‘t been immediately sure how she felt about it, but Tom
had. He‘d been delighted. His enthusiasm had calmed her doubts. In the past
few weeks she‘d come to feel as happy with her pregnancy as Tom was-
The turbolift doors slid open, interrupting her thoughts, and B‘Elanna stepped out in front of the main Sickbay. She was relieved to see no one in the corridor. There was also no one in the main treatment room as she entered. They had all apparently been cured and sent on their way. The place appeared completely deserted, exactly as she had hoped.
B‘Elanna moved quickly over to the Doctor‘s main computer console and punched in the appropriate codes. The chemical formula of his antidote popped up on the screen. It would take a few minutes and some cross referencing to verify that it would not harm the baby. She entered the appropriate information via the keyboard, the feeling that she was sneaking around- which she was- influencing her not to request the information via voice commands, as if talking out loud might give her away.
While the computer analyzed the data, B‘Elanna stepped over to the adjoining counter and saw what she needed, a medical scanner. She set the functions and quickly ran the scanner over her abdomen. She bit her lip as she checked the readings, then breathed a sigh of relief. Every reading was normal for the baby‘s stage of development. She reset the functions on the scanner back to Bolian physiology, then set it on the counter and turned back to the computer console. And almost collided with the doctor, who was looking at her quizzically.
"Doctor!" B‘Elanna realized she had almost shouted his name as he stepped back abruptly and gave her an annoyed look. "What are you doing here?"
The doctor raised his eyebrows. "Lieutenant...this is Sickbay...I am the doctor...," he said slowly, giving her his most patronizing look.
"Thank you for clarifying that," B‘Elanna said curtly. She saw him glance curiously at the scanner again, then turn his attention to the computer console. She quickly stepped between him and the screen. "Ensign Bristow said you were making your rounds with the antidote," she said, looking at the data displayed on the screen while the doctor moved to step around her.
"I recruited some assistance from Sciences in the form of- Lieutenant, what are you doing?" the doctor demanded irately as she hit a key and deleted the data from the screen.
"I‘m done. I needed some data for the biofilter recalibration."
"On the chemical interactions and systemic effects of the antidote?" the doctor asked disbelievingly. He‘d obviously recognized some of the displayed data. B‘Elanna could only hope he didn‘t ponder on what it might mean for too long.
"Can‘t you come up with a better explanation than that?"
B‘Elanna opened her mouth to formulate a reasonable answer to the doctor‘s sarcastic question, then realized it would be a wasted effort. There wasn‘t one that wouldn‘t raise further suspicions in his mind. Better to just divert his attention. Her mouth snapped shut and she gave him an affronted look. "Doctor, why don‘t you let me worry about Engineering applications, and you can concentrate on medicine!"
B‘Elanna almost regretted her rudeness as the doctor stared at her. Then he rolled his eyes. "Perhaps you‘re right, Lt. Torres. I‘m sure you would never try and usurp my medical perogatives," he said, reaching past her to pick up the medical scanner lying on the counter.
B‘Elanna knew he was going to activate it and scan her, and she fought the impulse to knock it out of his hands. She probably deserved his biting comeback, but she just wasn‘t ready to face the explanations yet. Not here, and not to the doctor.
"Doctor, I‘ve got to get back to Engineering and finish my work," B‘Elanna said, turning swiftly toward the door. The sudden movement unsettled her equilibrium and she grabbed the counter to regain her balance. She closed her eyes, hoping she wouldn‘t get sick. When she opened her eyes, the doctor was staring at her, completely perplexed. Then he looked down at the scanner.
"Is there some reason you reset this to Bolian physiology, Lieutinant?"
"That‘s how it was set originally," B‘Elanna replied. And she had recognized that it would take a minute to recalibrate if the doctor wanted to use it on someone non-Bolian. Like herself.
But only a minute. The doctor was already reseting the functions. He looked up at B‘Elanna and held her gaze for a long moment. His brow creased into a frown. Then he slowly put the scanner down on the counter. "All right, Lieutenant, since you‘re so worried I‘ll interfere with your time schedule, we‘ll dispense with the scan, since you apparently already did it yourself. I assume it was normal, except for the intestinal parasites, of course."
"It was normal," B‘Elanna said, as the doctor picked up a sealed vial and a hypo. She hadn‘t missed his hint of sarcasm, and she wasn‘t sure why he had suddenly backed down. But she breathed a sigh of relief.
"And I presume you‘re not particularly enjoying the distress you are so obviously feeling right now, Lieutenant?" he asked sardonically, as he filled the hypo.
No, she wasn‘t. And her quick glance at the data she had called up on the computer had assured her that the antidote‘s effects were limited to the gastrointestinal system only. It was harmless to every other system in her body. And harmless to her baby. She held out her arm.
The doctor pressed the hypo against her uniform sleeve and its contents emptied with a slight hiss. "There you go, Lieutenant," he said in a perfunctory manner. "You should feel the effects in a minute or two."
"Thank you, Doctor," B‘Elanna said sincerely.
The doctor had no chance to reply as the Sickbay doors opened and Ensign Subarri from Sciences entered.
"Doctor, everyone on Decks One through Six have been dosed," the ensign said, dumping a container of empty vials and hypos on the counter.
"Just leave it all right there, Ensign," the doctor said as several of the duraglass vials clinked against each other and settled into a haphazard pile.
The doctor‘s sarcasm was lost on the ensign, who just said "Sure, Doctor," and bounded right back out the door.
The doctor shook his head. "I can see I‘m going to have to give some further thought to who might assist me in Sickbay when the situation warrants, now that Kes is gone." The doctor‘s expression turned grim for a moment, and B‘Elanna knew he was already missing Kes‘s presence greatly. She felt a twinge of sympathy for him. Despite his holographic nature, she knew he often felt things as deeply as any other crewmember.
The doctor sighed heavily. "Maybe someone on this ship has a medical background that I missed on the first file search. Otherwise I may have to rely on Lt. Paris and his inadequate Starfleet field medic training."
The doctor‘s expression was something between resignation and annoyance at the thought. B‘Elanna could well imagine Tom might feel the same way. She had to smile though, at the thought of the two of them administering medical treatment together, if it came to that.
"Since you find that idea so amusing, Lieutenant, I must assume you are feeling better."
"Yes, I am, Doctor," B‘Elanna said, pleased to realize that it was true. "I think I‘m even hungry."
"Then my medical suggestion is that you go get something to eat," the doctor said matter-of-factly, moving past her to collect the vials Ensign Subarri had deposited on the counter.
"Good idea," B‘Elanna said dryly. She walked to the Sickbay doors, then turned back hesitantly as they opened. "Doctor, thank you. I‘m sorry I jumped down your throat. I guess I was just a little out of sorts."
The doctor straightened and looked at her. His eyes narrowed. "Lt. Torres, I don‘t think I want to know what is really going on with you right now, in fact I won‘t even ask. It‘s been enough dealing with all the other upheavals on this ship over the past several weeks. But I promise you," the doctor switched to his sternest lecturing voice, "the next time you come into Sickbay, I will run a scan on you. And at that time perhaps we can explore your newfound phobia to medical treatment, that today has progressed far beyond your general spirit of non-cooperation."
"Whatever you say, Doctor," B‘Elanna replied meekly as she crossed the threshold. She smiled at the unconvinced look that crossed the doctor‘s face as the doors closed between them. Hopefully she would be long gone before that encounter could occur.
A few minutes later B‘Elanna walked into the mess hall and was surprised to see the tables nearly full.
"I guess everyone does understand that it wasn‘t my fault," Neelix said happily, handing her a plate filled with food.
"Why wouldn‘t they understand it, Neelix?" she asked, looking down at her plate.
Neelix shrugged, then followed her gaze. "Don‘t worry, Lieutenant, I threw the Borali flour out the nearest airlock."
She hoped he didn‘t mean that literally. But she wasn‘t looking at the brownish bread. She was looking at the meat in a green sauce, the lavender...vegetables?, and the rest of the colorful items she was expected to eat.
"I call this my rainbow plate," Neelix said informatively. "Varkin stew, Mikaen
"Thanks, Neelix," B‘Elanna said, cutting off any further unsolicited description.
If she had to eat the stuff, maybe it was better not to know what it was.
B‘Elanna didn‘t see Tom anywhere, and she wasn‘t sure if she was glad about that or not. She joined Chakotay and Kim and kept up an innocuous conversation while she ate, ravenously. She caught Chakotay‘s astonished look once.
"It‘s nice to see you have your appetite back, B‘Elanna," Harry said dryly, after they had finished and were rising to leave. "One would think you were eating for two."
"Or three or four," Chakotay added, grinning at her.
B‘Elanna managed to ignore the thudding of her heart at Harry‘s words. Of course it had just been a chance phrase. Chakotay‘s added comment allowed her to regain her composure. She shrugged nonchalantly. "I guess I was hungry after not eating all day."
"I guess so." Harry winked at her as they exited the mess hall. "See you, B‘Elanna."
Chakotay clapped her on the shoulder. "Maybe you should ask Neelix for a little snack to take back to Engineering."
B‘Elanna wrinkled her nose at Chakotay as he walked past. "Very funny."
She watched Chakotay follow Harry into the turbolift, then headed for Engineering.
For the next several hours B‘Elanna immersed herself in work, feeling again the draw of working on Voyager, among the leading edge technology, with the constant challenge to her skills. She could remember shortly before her Voyager had been lost, she‘d lamented the lack of backup technologies in the Delta quadrant for a ship like Voyager, the primitive fixes she sometimes had to implement to keep the ship going. That was before Aurora.
But even as she reveled in Voyager and all it‘s challenges, she recognized somewhere in the back of her mind that the challenges on Aurora were no less demanding, no less satisfying to meet. Sometimes more so. Yes, she missed Voyager. This drawn out moment of being on Voyager again was, in some ways, intoxicating. But it was no longer her home. And part of her thoughts focused on when she might return home.
At the end of her shift she turned Engineering over to Joe Carey, and she wondered as she left whether she would see it again. She hoped not, fond of it as she was. She returned to her quarters and showered, then considered what to do with herself for the evening. She would probably be best off staying in her quarters, and waiting. And it would no doubt be best to avoid any chance of facing Tom, until and if she had to. It was just too hard to remember that he wasn‘t the same Tom, too easy to slip up and forget where she was, when she missed him so much...
"Computer, is there any holodeck time available this evening?"
"Holodeck 2 is available from 1930 to 2100."
"Reserve it under my name, authorization Torres B Four seven."
"Holodeck 2 is now reserved under Lieutenant B‘Elanna Torres from 1930 to 2100."
B‘Elanna knew it probably wasn‘t wise, but she had an idea how she might utilize the holodeck tonight. If the Tom here on Voyager had actually finished the program. And if she could even get into it without his authorization. She had plenty of time to replicate her dinner, another way to avoid running into Tom. And if she ate in her quarters no one could comment on her appetite, since she was again ravenous.
At 1930 B‘Elanna stood outside Holodeck 2. Mikel Simms and Janine Lamont had just left the holodeck from their handball program, looking sweaty in exercise clothes.
"Computer, locate files for all holodeck programs listed to Lieutenant Tom Paris."
There was a momentary pause. "Files located."
"How many files are there?"
"Forty six files, nine of which are private files and cannot be accessed by anyone other than Lieutenant Tom Paris."
"Understood." B‘Elanna hoped he hadn‘t designated this particular program as a private file. If he had followed through on it at all. "Do any of the files have data relating to the word Pigeon Point?"
"Affirmative. One file contains data under that designation."
"Computer, load that file."
B‘Elanna held her breath in the ensuing brief silence, hoping.
"File Paris Alpha Q Twelve loaded. You may enter."
B‘Elanna expelled the breath, and entered the holodeck.
Tom had told her something about the setting of the program, and since she‘d spent time in the San Francisco area during her Academy days, she had a pretty good idea of what the climate and topography might look like. It almost surprised her that she wanted to be here, since back then she had despised the cold damp weather so much she‘d never even cared to explore much beyond the Academy grounds. Now she looked around with much more interest.
The Pigeon Point lighthouse stood at the end of the bluff several hundred meters in front of her, looking like Tom had described it, a tall white rounded structure with the lantern room at the top where the old fashioned lamp still flashed out over the ocean. The lighthouse looked run down, slightly decrepit, not surprising given it existence for some five hundred plus years, and Earth government‘s penchant for keeping its untold thousands of "landmarks" in their original condition.
B‘Elanna walked over the uneven ground, strewn with tufts of gold grasses, hardy dark green plants and scattered rocks. The area seemed wild, desolate, for all that it was only some 80 kilometers from San Francisco. But she knew this coastal area was often battered by the enormous energy of Earth‘s great Pacific Ocean.
B‘Elanna reached the lighthouse and walked around it to the cliffside that overlooked the small cove below. Below the eroding and scarred cliffside was a crescent shaped beach, where the high surf sent waves crashing onto the gold sand. The swells approaching the beach were visibly warring with each other to get there, and slammed with hard force against the tiny rocky island half a kilometer off the shoreline, causing huge waves to break high over the rocks and crash back down in splashes of white foam.
B‘Elanna shook her head. This was where Tom had swam on occasion, alone. A more reckless pursuit than even she‘d thought him capable of. And she could only imagine how cold that water must be.
B‘Elanna shivered and pulled the cable knit sweater she was wearing closer to her body. She‘d come prepared for this, at least as well as she could. She glanced at the leaden sky, and the swelling ocean, its darker shade of leaden gray broken only by the surging whitecaps. The visibility was perhaps a kilometer in any direction. Just ocean, battered beach, grassy hills and bluffs. And an ancient ribbon of blacktop highway, used centuries ago, disappearing into the distance along the coast. And beyond it all the cloaking grayness of the sky. It was as if the whole within the circle of B‘Elanna‘s vision had been plucked up and dropped into some timeless, placeless existence, unrelated to anything else. Just as Tom had said.
B‘Elanna found a large rock on the edge of the bluff and sat down, pulling her knees up and wrapping her arms around them to conserve her body heat against the chill, and the ever present biting wind. She could instruct the computer to change the weather. Even here Earth‘s sun occasionally shone and warmed the ground and water. But then it wouldn‘t be the place Tom had told her about, his haven of solitude and later the place where he had given up his life to save his soul.
B‘Elanna watched the birds on the beach below, the sandpipers being chased up the sand by the surging waves as they looked for lunch in the surf, and the large brown pelicans that flew low over the water ready to snatch up unwary fish. Seagulls screeched in the sky above, and on the rocks beyond the shore she could see several sea lions stretched out for a nap. Tom had said there was an amazing amount of life here, belying the sense of isolation.
Despite that nearly overwhelming isolation, B‘Elanna didn‘t feel alone. She‘d felt alone before, many times. There was no more alone feeling than being among a crowd of people who didn‘t notice or care that you existed. In this place she felt her existence keenly. There was solitude certainly, but also a strange sort of harmony with her surroundings, with the ocean, the harsh landscape, the sea life. And with Tom, who‘s presence seemed palpable, as if he might appear at any moment.
B‘Elanna shook herself out of her reverie. That perception was no doubt due to the strength of his feelings about this place, good and bad. The good he‘d told her easily. How he had discovered this place as a teenager hiking with friends. And how something about it had called to him. It was close enough to San Francisco, where his family was living, for him to return periodically.
Given the heavy personal and social responsibilities of his family name and their place in Starfleet, Tom had only rare opportunities to escape by himself. Infrequent retreats here to swim, relax, and reflect had helped him deal with those pressures. He had shared the place with very few people, since few could see the socially adept and convivial Tom Paris searching out nor enjoying solitude. But occasionally he had. Particularly through his Academy days, when the pressures of his father‘s expectations and Starfleet‘s demanding regimen had been the greatest. He‘d come to consider Pigeon Point his own personal retreat, and had told her he could count on one hand the number of times he‘d unexpectedly run into anyone else there. That had been before Caldik Prime. After that incident he had returned to Pigeon Point only once, then never again.
B‘Elanna‘s sharp eye caught a movement in the turbulent water below, distracting her from her thoughts. She stared intently at the undulating waves, and was rewarded by a fin smoothly breaking the water, followed by an arched silvery back. A second later it was gone, and the unruly waves were back in place. A dolphin. Tom had mentioned that they often swam by here in groups, along with larger whales. He‘d once been surprised by several of the friendly creatures surrounding him in the water and had spent half an hour swimming in their frolicking presence before they‘d moved out to deeper waters.
The dolphin broke the surface again in a graceful arc and as quickly disappeared, and B‘Elanna smiled, knowing how fondly Tom remembered those other dolphins. His blue eyes had sparkled when he‘d related that story to her. In contrast, there‘d been no life in his eyes at all when he‘d told her of his last visit here, shortly after he‘d returned from Caldik Prime.
They‘d been in each other‘s arms, in bed, in their newly constructed house, and somehow the conversation had drifted into darker realms, into their difficult pasts. Tom in particular had seemed to need to unburden himself, albeit he had done so reluctantly, as if expecting that she would find what he told her unforgivable. He had told her the whole story of Caldik Prime, and she had realized as he spoke that he had probably never told anyone else what had happened in such stark and complete terms, always before having been casually self derogatory when mentioning the incident, and changing the subject quickly.
Now, years later, he‘d assumed full responsibility for his own mistakes, his own bad judgment, for the lives that had been lost in the shuttle accident. She‘d noticed as he spoke that he took no credit for the other lives he had saved by his quick reaction, but she hadn‘t commented on that. But she knew the accident itself and the lives he couldn‘t save still haunted him in unbidden, tormenting moments. But perhaps not as much as the actions he‘d taken afterward.
The lies, of course, and the deliberately falsified report. Even though his mistake had been an error in judgment that could have been easily forgiven by Starfleet, if not eventually forgotten, he had been unable to accept that he was flawed, imperfect, afraid. And certainly unable to admit it to his father. So he‘d ignored the scream of his conscience and he‘d lied, then allowed Starfleet to absolve him of all responsibility, and been cordially invited to take up his life where he‘d left off. And he had tried.
But a few weeks later he had found himself sitting on the rocks at Pigeon Point, stinging wintry rain pelting him, feeling completely alone as he confronted the rot that was slowly and irrevocably eating his soul. He‘d found no comfort there, no respite from the darkness of his own self tortured psyche. But the memory of the contented earlier times on the beach, of the self respect he‘d had then, contrasted with the current self loathing he was feeling had helped him make a decision. He‘d left resolved, knowing he would do what was necessary, what was right, even though it meant saying goodbye to his dreams, to his life as he knew it. It would be only a small step, but one of infinite relief, after the devastation he‘d already visited on his own soul. And, although he‘d recognized the place had in part helped him make the right decision, he‘d never returned to Pigeon Point.
He‘d confessed the next day, in front of his father and Starfleet brass, numb with fear, yet flooded with relief. As expected there‘d been no hint of forgiveness from his father or Starfleet, his reparations were far too little, far too late. So he‘d left his former life behind, and spent the following years never quite overcoming his own self loathing, never feeling he deserved more than the purposeless, self destructive new life he had so singlemindedly pursued. Right up until he‘d ended up where he‘d so pointedly set his course, in prison.
B‘Elanna had lain with her head resting on Tom‘s chest, her hand over his rapidly beating heart, listening as he related it all in a sometimes halting voice, his arms laying loosely at his sides, his body held stiff. She knew it was his way of all but inviting her to get up and leave. Instead, when he‘d lapsed into silence, she‘d taken his hands in hers and placed his arms around her, pressing herself closer and looking up at him. "I never doubted you were a man of honor, Tom."
Tom had stared at her, baffled. Then he‘d laughed harshly. "B‘Elanna, I think you missed the major point of the story. I did the most dishonorable thing a human, or a Klingon, could do. I lied. That was the defining moment of my life, nothing was ever the same after, and honor certainly had nothing to do with it."
"That I already knew, Tom, except for the specifics," B‘Elanna had said quietly, meeting his vulnerable gaze. She wouldn‘t disagree that his lie had been dishonorable or that because of it he‘d given up his youth, masked his vulnerabilities under a jaded exterior, and spent years trying to regain his self respect. "But there‘s no rule that makes that moment the defining moment of your life, or the definition of your character. You could have left the lie in place, lived the life you‘d wanted, reassumed the role of the perfect fair-haired admiral‘s son and no one would have been the wiser. But you confessed your lie, despite the tremendous consequences, and nothing influenced you to do that, except your own character. I think that was the defining moment of your life, Tom, even if you couldn‘t see it then. Or now."
Then B‘Elanna had touched his tense mouth lightly with her fingers, then reached up and kissed it softly. "Tom, if you think I‘m going to condemn the past that made you who you are today, you‘re wrong. You ended up on Voyager because of it, and here with me. That I will never regret."
B‘Elanna had been rewarded by watching Tom‘s beautiful mouth relax into a slow smile, and a soft glint had shone from his blue eyes. "B‘Elanna, if the questionable path I‘ve followed is what got you in my arms, then I‘d do it all over again, ten times." Tom had pulled her back down and kissed her. Thoroughly. All over. For several hours...
"B‘Elanna, what are you doing here?"
B‘Elanna jumped and slipped on the rock she was precariously perched on. Her hands reached back to find purchase on the uneven surface before she slid far enough down to lose her grip completely. Her foot jostled the smaller rocks at the base and several fell, bouncing along the uneven cliffside to the sand below.
She managed to scramble to the other side of the rock with the help of a hand that had clamped around her wrist. A moment later she found herself standing on solid ground, face to face with Tom Paris.
"You do have the safeties engaged." Tom‘s inquiry was more of a statement than a question. "B‘Elanna?"
"Of course," B‘Elanna managed to murmur. Her heart was pounding, whether from her body‘s instinctive reaction to the sensation of almost falling, or from the shock of Tom‘s voice right next to her just as she was thinking of him, of making love with him...
"B‘Elanna!" Tom had slowly loosened his hold on her wrist, but now she felt both his hands grip her shoulders. It wasn‘t just her heart that was pounding, her head was pounding, too, in waves of bright dizziness that swam in front of her eyes. She closed them protectively, just as she realized what must be happening. Q‘s concoction. It was working, taking her back to Aurora.
The sensation completely overtook her for a moment, and if Tom was saying something she didn‘t hear it. Then she became aware that the sensation was passing, her equilibrium was steadying. And someone was practically holding her up.
B‘Elanna opened her eyes, and stared at Tom, confused for a moment. Then her gaze focused on the weathered peeling white paint of the tall lighthouse behind him. Pigeon Point.
"B‘Elanna, I‘ll take you to Sickbay."
B‘Elanna looked at the partly concerned, partly relieved look on Tom‘s face.
Then she shook her head. "No, I‘m fine."
"No, you‘re not-"
"Yes, I am, Tom." She shrugged her shoulders to dislodge his grip. He dropped his hands. "I was just dizzy for a moment. I...stood up too fast. It was the medication. The doctor said it might have side effects."
Tom stared at her questioningly. "Really? The doctor didn‘t say anything on the Bridge."
"I think it‘s my Klingon genes," B‘Elanna said, trying to keep her voice steady. She still felt a little shaky. And a little stunned. She was still on Voyager. She‘d thought for sure she‘d be back on Aurora. That‘s what should have happened, according to Q. Now, disappointed, she wondered when or even if she‘d get back.
"At least sit down, B‘Elanna," Tom said, gripping her shoulders again and pressing her down on the rock, away from the cliffside. "You look a little dazed."
B‘Elanna sat down willingly. She looked up at Tom, who rested one hand on her shoulder for a moment before letting it slide away. But his attention had been diverted, and she noticed he was looking out at the ocean. His gaze drifted to the beach, then back to her. "How did you know about this program, B‘Elanna?"
Obviously Tom hadn‘t told the B‘Elanna here on Voyager anything about this place. Not surprising, their relationship hadn‘t progressed far enough for him to willingly reveal so much about himself. Yet. That left her in a quandary.
She couldn‘t say he‘d mentioned it to her. She couldn‘t say she‘d just randomly chosen it out of the thousands of programs on file, that would be a little too coincidental. She couldn‘t say the name of the program had intrigued her, since he‘d only labeled it undescriptively as Paris Alpha Q Seven. Damn, what could she say? That she‘d been methodically searching through his files, checking them all out, which must seem like the only explanation?
Tom was watching her closely, his eyebrows raised. "Maybe Harry mentioned it to you," he suggested. B‘Elanna wasn‘t sure if he believed that or was simply letting her off the hook, but he continued on before she was forced to answer. "A lot of cadets at Starfleet Academy couldn‘t stand the weather, but Harry hiked around the Bay area a lot when he was a cadet, so I thought he might like it here. Aren‘t you cold?"
B‘Elanna shook her head. She‘d been chilled earlier, but now she was feeling pretty warm. "Not really. I definitely wasn‘t fond of this weather when I was at the Academy, but this place seems...special."
Tom glanced at the ocean again, and a faraway look entered his eyes. "Yes, it is," he said softly. Then he turned his attention back to her. "I‘m sorry I startled you, by the way."
B‘Elanna shook her head. "It‘s okay. I guess I‘ve been a little jumpy lately."
"I‘ve noticed that," Tom said, his gaze on her intent, thoughtful.
B‘Elanna shifted a little under his searching stare. She tried to think of something innocuous to say, something that wouldn‘t get Tom more suspicious. She wasn‘t ready to burden him yet. Q had said his concoction would wear off slowly over 48 hours, so there was still a chance for things to be set right.
Maybe she was clinging to a fading hope, but if it was still a possibility, then
she shouldn‘t even be here. She needed a quick way out. "Tom, you probably
have the holodeck reserved next. I must have overstayed my time. I didn‘t hear
"You haven‘t," Tom interrupted her. "I‘m early. I just got curious when I saw what program was running. And who was running it."
B‘Elanna started to get up, definitely feeling like she was intruding where she
didn‘t belong. "I shouldn‘t have come here without-"
"I don‘t mind, B‘Elanna," Tom said. "It‘s not a locked program. I was just a little surprised to see you here." He looked at the ocean again. "I‘ve been here once myself since I loaded it."
B‘Elanna could hear a certain ambivalence in Tom‘s voice, as if he was still hadn‘t quite come to comfortable terms with his memories of this place. She knew she shouldn‘t do it, should wait and give him the chance to tell his B‘Elanna in his own time. But she sat down against the rock. "This place must have been important to you, Tom, for you to have recreated it in such precise detail."
"It was once, in my callow youth," Tom said depreciatively. "But I haven‘t been back to the real place since...well, since quite a few years before I came on Voyager." Tom was silent for a moment, then his voice perked up. "Is that a dolphin?"
B‘Elanna followed Tom‘s gaze and saw a small, lone shape plying through the water in the distance. "I think that‘s the same dolphin that‘s been here for awhile, swimming by himself."
"Dolphins usually travel in schools. They‘re very social animals," Tom mused.
B‘Elanna thought suddenly that the tiny creature moving slowly through the immense ocean was a lonely sight. "Maybe he got separated from his companions, and he‘s trying to get back."
"Or maybe he wore out his welcome, and he has nowhere to go."
B‘Elanna looked at Tom. He was watching the dolphin, his expression again pensive, thoughtful. She sensed a subtle withdrawal, and knew he was thinking about his own past. "Then he‘ll just have to keep looking until he finds a new group where he really belongs."
Tom looked at B‘Elanna. She flushed a little under his probing stare, wondering if he was realizing how easily she‘d followed his thoughts.
"I think maybe we‘re anthropomorphisizing a little too much," Tom just said lightly, looking back toward the ocean. They watched the dolphin slowly disappear into the grey distance.
"I‘ve missed this place," Tom said. "I should come here more often."
"Why don‘t you?"
"Let‘s just say the focus of my life changed, and this place seemed part of the past. I didn‘t want to contaminate my memory of this place after..." Tom paused for several moments, obviously undecided about how much he wanted to reveal. Then he shrugged dismissively and smiled at B‘Elanna. "I guess when our lives radically change directions some things just get left behind."
B‘Elanna knew how many things, places, people she‘d left behind in her life. For her, few of them left any sense of loss at all. "I guess you can‘t go in a much more radical direction than the Delta quadrant."
Tom smiled. "No." He looked at her. "I don‘t regret it though."
B‘Elanna smiled back. "You don‘t miss seeing the real places and people you left behind in the Alpha quadrant? I don‘t know if recreating them in the holodeck is quite the same."
"It‘s not the same," Tom agreed. "And I miss some things, but not enough to want to give up what I‘ve found here, or the friends I‘ve made, because of Voyager." A small, rueful smile came over Tom‘s face. "Could you imagine you and me even striking up a conversation in the Alpha quadrant, let alone becoming...good friends?"
Sadly, she couldn‘t. They probably wouldn‘t have had the motivation to look past each other‘s protective masks. She knew in whatever timeline, any relationship between her and Tom would always be hard won, or nonexistent. She dismissed that somber thought and said archly, "I can see myself striking you in the Alpha quadrant."
Tom smiled faintly at that, looking regretful. "I guess that wouldn‘t be unlikely, since I was pretty much in continual pig mode there." Then his blue eyes turned serious. "That‘s why I‘m grateful for whatever quirk of fate sent me here. I know without a doubt that I am exactly where I belong."
Tom‘s heartfelt statement ruthlessly reminded B‘Elanna that she was not where she belonged. She bit her lip, for a moment feeling a swell of unhappiness wash over her. She‘d never have believed even a couple of months ago that she could miss Aurora this much. Or Tom, her Tom...
B‘Elanna looked at Tom‘s hand that had gently closed over hers, then up at Tom‘s concerned face. She again felt a second‘s disconcertion, trying to force herself to remember that this wasn‘t the same Tom, that she shouldn‘t be feeling this way at his mere, unexpected touch...
Tom‘s hand tightened over hers, and she knew she was giving herself away. Stop, B‘Elanna, just stop, the voice inside her was saying. But she didn‘t know if she could listen...
"Warning, you are within five minutes of program end time."
B‘Elanna stood up abruptly at the sound of the computer‘s toneless voice, pulling her hand from Tom‘s. She moved several steps away from him. "I‘d better go so you can start your program."
"Really, Tom, I‘ve got to go."
Tom looked at her, and she could practically see his mind working, perplexed by her behavior, and trying to decide what he should do next. She wondered just how out of character she had been acting. She took a shaky breath, wondering if she should just push past him, get out of here before anything else happened. Then Tom visibly relaxed, and he smiled at her with that typical Tom Paris easy charm. She wasn‘t sure if that was good thing.
"It‘s just Sandrine‘s tonight," Tom said easily. "You‘re welcome to stay."
"No, I‘m a little tired," B‘Elanna said. And she needed to find her equilibrium again. "Maybe it was that intestinal thing."
Tom nodded, accepting her explanation. "Okay. If you change your mind..."
B‘Elanna didn‘t reply to that. "Goodnight, Tom."
The arch appeared in front of B‘Elanna. She started to walk though it, then turned around. "Tom, what is the story where the little girl goes through the looking glass?"
Tom looked surprised, as if it was the last thing he‘d ever expect her to ask.
"Alice in Wonderland?"
B‘Elanna nodded. "That‘s it. Is it in the data banks?"
"I‘m sure it is," Tom said. He gave her a bemused look. "It‘s not Women Warriors at the River of Blood, you know."
"I know. Thanks." She turned toward the arch, then looked back at Tom one more time. "Tom?"
"Yes, B‘Elanna?" Tom said slowly, patiently, but with a hint of a smile on his face.
"Don‘t leave all the memories behind. Come back here and visit the good ones once in a while."
Tom stood silhouetted against the tall, gracefully aging lighthouse, his blond hair ruffled by the wind, watching her with a disconcerted expression on his face. She smiled at him, and walked through the arch, leaving him to wonder.
B‘Elanna sighed and dropped the PADD she‘d been reading into her lap. She‘d found Alice in Wonderland in the data banks easily, and started to read it. She was far too tense to consider sleeping, and she‘d wanted something to occupy her mind for awhile. The story was fanciful, full of unlikely circumstances, completely unbelievable. Yet, surprisingly, she could appreciate its charm. Still, she couldn‘t focus on it for more than a minute or two at a time.
An beeping sound caught her attention. Her log reminder again. She‘d continued to record the logs. When- or if- her counterpart returned here, at least she would have some idea of what had happened while she was gone. Regarding the ship‘s business anyway.
"Computer, record personal log."
"Recording," the computer replied.
"Personal log, B‘Elanna Torres recording. Today began in a typically unconventional manner for Voyager, with an illness raging onboard. I thought at first my upset stomach was..." B‘Elanna hesitated fractionally, "something else. But it seems the flour Neelix used to make the cake for Joe Carey‘s party was contaminated. Three quarters of the crew were ill from it. Luckily the doctor was able to provide a remedy. And a culprit, a microscopic parasite with a bizarre molecular structure that initially eluded the biofilters. That problem was fixed and the rest of the day was...normal for Voyager."
A quick, harsh laugh escaped B‘Elanna‘s lips. Well, normal for Voyager, but certainly not for her. She wasn‘t sure what normal was anymore. Normal had changed so many times for her in her life she‘d quit trying to keep track. And Voyager had been the best she‘d thought it could get.
The words spilled out of her, almost without volition. "I dreamed of this for months, being back on Voyager, back to what I thought of as my "normal" life instead of my banishment to Aurora. I hadn‘t realized how far I‘ve come from feeling that way. I don‘t belong here anymore. They‘re all the same people, but they‘re not. Especially Tom. He‘s not really my Tom. He‘s her Tom. Or will be soon enough, when she wakes up and realizes what she‘s got..."
B‘Elanna stopped abruptly. What was she doing, venting her frustration, her feelings, so openly? She hadn‘t intended to get personal at all. "Computer, close log."
B‘Elanna considered instructing the computer to delete the log altogether, but then shrugged to herself. No one else would hear it, except the other B‘Elanna. Aurora‘s existence would come as no surprise to her. And maybe she needed a good kick in the right direction, as far as Tom was concerned. If she ever even got the chance to hear the log...
B‘Elanna curled up and hugged her legs, and the PADD slid off her lap. She looked at it, laying on the bed beside her. The bed that wasn‘t really hers anymore. In fact she decided she hated this lonely bed, on this ship where she no longer belonged. It was true that she‘d loved Voyager almost from the moment she saw it, over three years ago, and had come to believe she‘d found her true home here, the first time in her life she‘d felt she had a real "home". Then the ship had been destroyed. It had taken her months on Aurora to realize that Voyager had never been her home. The people on Voyager had been her home. And Aurora was just a place, like Voyager. It was her home because the people she cared about were there. Wherever they were, wherever Tom was, that was her home. The actual location didn‘t matter at all.
B‘Elanna sighed. She had to face the fact that she might not get back to Aurora soon, if at all. And if she didn‘t, she would have to make the people here, subtly changed by their different experiences, hers again. Starting with telling them everything that had happened to her. They would either find it pretty amazing, or they would think she was completely nuts. Of course, there was the little fact that she was pregnant...
She would tell Tom tomorrow, if she was still here. She had to tell him first. She wondered how he would react, and felt a moment‘s apprehension. What if he refused to believe her, what if he didn‘t care?
That was a ridiculous thought. He wasn‘t the same Tom, not exactly, but he was still...essentially Tom. His basic character hadn‘t changed, and he wouldn‘t just desert her, no matter how incredible the circumstances. Besides, she‘d seen the look in his eyes a while ago. He cared, though he wasn‘t quite ready to admit it to her, or rather to the B‘Elanna who belonged here, the one who he should be admitting it to. Of course telling him she was pregnant, that it was his child, even though he hadn‘t in the strictest sense participated, that would be a bit of a shock...
I‘m sorry, Tom, she thought silently. I shouldn‘t be doing this to you, throwing you into something you‘re completely unprepared for, but what other option is there? Only one, and that was out of her control. She could wish, she could hope, but she couldn‘t make it happen, as much as she wanted to...
B‘Elanna gripped the bedclothes with her hands as a light headed feeling overtook her. She felt dizzy for a moment, a heartstopping moment when she thought that her simple wish had actually precipitated the event. But the feeling was never fully realized, and it faded quickly. Almost as if she‘d imagined it.
B‘Elanna fell back on the bed, groaning. She pulled her pillow from under her and put it over her face, hugging it with her arms. Gods, was she so desperate that she was now imagining things?
She rolled on her side and moved the pillow down, hugging it to her chest. Again she realized how used she had become to sleeping with her arms around something. Someone. The pillow was a very poor substitute.
B‘Elanna sighed drowsily and hugged it tighter to herself anyway. She was certainly not a fanciful person, she‘d never made up imaginary friends, pretended to be a princess or a Starfleet captain, or played any of the make believe games many of the human children had played on Kessick. To her practical mind, well trained by her mother, there was no point in evading reality by pretending it wasn‘t there. So she would have been surprised as she drifted into semi-sleep to know that her so rational mind was telling her that she was on Aurora, her arms wrapped around Tom‘s warm, firm chest, her hands feeling the steady beat of his heart, her face pressed against his throat, his clean, earthy scent filling her senses. It was intoxicating, dizzying...
B‘Elanna felt as if she were sliding down a steep hole, slowly spinning out of control. Her head was reeling and she was falling, like...Alice. She tried to wrap her arms even tighter around Tom, to anchor herself, to anchor him. She didn‘t want to lose him again, she wouldn‘t lose him...
B‘Elanna‘s eyes flew open moments later as she realized the fall had stopped. Everything swam before her eyes, and it took her a moment to focus. She stared at the heavy wooden ceiling beams crossed above her in herringbone fashion, their rough surface glowing with reddish hues in the dim light of the room...
She was back on Aurora. And Tom‘s solid body was pressed close to hers. She realized it in one breathtaking moment and had to close her eyes again, overwhelmed by the sense of relief. Her arms were wrapped around Tom and his mouth was moving from her throat slowly downward, his hands pushing the robe she was wearing back to expose her skin to his ministrations. She felt her senses responding to the sweet assault, and she gripped Tom‘s golden hair and tugged. Tom complied, raising up and meeting her lips in a deep, intense kiss. Her arms tightened around him until he pulled back from her slightly.
"Baby, you‘re choking me," Tom protested, looking down at her, his blue eyes slumberous with passion. B‘Elanna had never liked that endearment. She‘d once kicked a man in the groin for calling her that, and the first time Tom had used it she‘d warned him in no uncertain terms that if he ever used it in public she‘d kick him in the same place. But hearing it from him right now was like music.
Tom raised himself up a little further and pushed a strand of hair back from her face. He frowned at her in concern. "B‘Elanna, what is going on?"
B‘Elanna knew she must have just been looking at him as if she was in shock.
She just shook her head slowly. "Nothing."
"Really? You‘ve been acting a little strange tonight."
She‘d just bet she had. It had just occurred to her that the other B‘Elanna had been here, with Tom. In this position with Tom. She felt a twinge of jealousy, but found it a little hard to be angry with...herself. Well, if this hadn‘t opened the other B‘Elanna‘s eyes to what she was missing, then nothing would. B‘Elanna laughed softly. "Nothing is wrong, Tom. Not a thing." Not anymore.
Tom looked at her uncertainly. His eyes narrowed. "Are you going to act like this for the next seven months?"
B‘Elanna smiled at Tom‘s mock expression of dismay. "Maybe. Will you miss my even temper?"
Tom chuckled. "Your even temper? I must have already missed that day."
"You‘re lucky I like you, hotshot," B‘Elanna replied to his teasing tone, "Otherwise I might have to punish you for that remark."
"B‘Elanna, you can punish me anytime," Tom said provocatively and ran his thumb lightly across her lips.
B‘Elanna anchored her fingers in Tom‘s blond hair and pulled him down so she could kiss him properly. Instead of complying he pulled slightly away from her and frowned. It was B‘Elanna‘s turn to ask, "What‘s wrong?"
Tom brushed the back of his hand across her cheek. "Your face...it was red a little while ago, from the storm. It‘s healed..."
B‘Elanna stared at Tom‘s puzzled expression. The storm? She realized she had no idea what had happened here while she was gone. "Um, it was the salve I used. I guess it finally started working."
"Hmmm." Tom brushed her cheek one more time, then dropped a soft kiss where his hand had been. She moved slightly so that their lips brushed, then clung in a deep kiss. Her hands moved down Tom‘s back, caressing the lean muscles through the silky material of his robe.
"B‘Elanna," Tom murmured against her mouth. "I‘m really sorry I wasn‘t here, because I really did miss you." He moved his mouth and dropped small kisses along the line of her jaw. "Once the satellite system is up, I‘ll never get caught in one of those storms unaware again."
Caught in the storm? What kind of disaster had she missed? B‘Elanna shuddered and pulled Tom closer. Maybe she really didn‘t want to know what had happened while she was gone. "All that matters is that we‘re here together now," she whispered, pulling his mouth back to hers. She felt the length of his body press closer, as aroused as hers.
Tom smiled at B‘Elanna as their lips parted again, and his hands tangled in her hair. Then he winked suggestively. "It‘s time for you to take advantage of me again."
B‘Elanna grinned wickedly and pulled Tom‘s robe the rest of the way off, tossing it to the floor. Then she raised up far enough for Tom to do the same for her. She took advantage of his position and pushed him over onto his back.
Tom landed with a small "oomph" and laughed. "Ah, Klingon tonight?" he
asked fearlessly. "I love it when you‘re-"
B‘Elanna straddled Tom and brought her mouth down on his, cutting off his words. His hands moved slowly along her heated skin. Her heart pounded at the joy of it. "I love you, Tom," she whispered fervently, her dark eyes melding into his blue ones.
"And I love you, Bella," Tom responded softly, pulling her back down to him.
Their hands explored, their mouths plundered, they moved together in a timeless rhythm that for them seemed new and all consuming every time.
Later, much later, B‘Elanna lay in Tom‘s arms, listening to his steady breathing, feeling pleasantly drowsy, feeling like she was home again. Knowing that she was home. Before she fell asleep, she thought briefly of the other B‘Elanna, another version of herself who she would never meet. But she knew her, and suspected her alter ego was now realizing that there was something far more deserving of her complete devotion than her engines. Something she‘d never expected to find, never even had the presumption to look for. But it had found her, if she had the guts to reach out and take it.
As she dozed off, B‘Elanna hoped that the other B‘Elanna would take that chance. It was a leap into the unknown, a risk she had told herself she would never take. But if she did, she would find out that it was incredibly worth it. And she would never regret it.
The scattered stars in one of the more barren sectors of the Delta quadrant shone down on a small class M planet, a planet lit by a single orange sun, and surrounded by a brilliant magnetic field, a planet appropriately named Aurora by it‘s new inhabitants. Any passing ships would see those brilliant fields moving across the atmosphere of the planet in brightly dancing hues of color. But the planet and its star were far off the regularly traveled space lanes of the quadrant. And a galaxy away from the hub of the Federation, in the distant Alpha quadrant, from whence the new inhabitants had originated.
Aurora, the so named planet, supported a vast quantity of plant and animal life, but had never supported sentient life. In the eons of time only a few sentient races had set foot on the planet, and all had completed quick surveys, or replenished food stocks, and then departed, barely recording the planet‘s existence, to be filed away in some forgotten archive. In the energy seeking mind-set of most space faring races, the isolated, resource deficient planet was of little interest. But now, people from stars far out of any scanner‘s range had arrived to make Aurora their own.
Those people had carved out a place on one of the fertile plains of the planet‘s southern hemisphere, built habitations, begun to adapt to their surroundings, and to adapt their surroundings to their needs, using what resources were available, and learning quickly how to shelter, feed and protect themselves. On the small planet, remote enough to keep them safe from the interest of the more predatory Delta quadrant races, and equally to make their presence difficult to detect by those races that might call them friends, they began to build a new life.
Those people, now safely ensconced in their habitations- homes- on the night side of the planet, slept peacefully or restlessly, some together, some alone, dreaming of their new home or of old homes left behind. Because it was in their nature, they would continue to adapt, to build, to meet the challenge of creating a new kind of life on a new planet, and inexorably push forward to the future, to their destiny, and the destiny of the planet they called Aurora, a destiny of their own making.
The end (maybe)