Title: The Rules of Intimacy
Author: Julie Evans
Date Posted: 2/13/00
Summary: Tom and B'Elanna deal with Tom's bad memories, implanted and otherwise. The resolution scene we never got in "Memorial," set right after the events in that episode.
Disclaimer: Star Trek and its characters are the property of
Viacom/Paramount. I am just borrowing them for fun not profit.
Notes: As you can tell from the code and summary, this is a P/T story, and it's a fairly short one. I have no doubt "Memorial" will inspire a much longer and more complex coda dealing with the myriad of issues brought up in that episode. I don't have the time to do that, so I freely admit to skirting many of the issues in the episode by keeping my focus very narrow--on P/T. Okay to archive to the ASC, PT Collective website, PTFever website, and the BLTS. All others please ask author for permission.
"The Rules of Intimacy"
by Julie Evans
He was breathing heavily, in ragged puffs of air that came harshly from his lips but felt soft and warm as they brushed across her throat. She was breathing just as heavily, her own breath rising upward and ruffling the short strands of his hair before it mingled with the cooler air of her quarters. Her fingers that had moments ago been pressed deeply into the muscles of his back were now relaxed, and she slid one hand up to where his skin and the hair at the nape of his neck were damp with exertion. His hands were resting loosely at her hips, and when she stroked his neck he answered her action by lightly massaging and caressing the taut skin over her hipbones.
She shifted a little under him, and he responded almost immediately, rolling off of her. His hands stayed on her hips, and hers were anchored around his back and at his neck, so she moved with him, and ended up sprawled on top of him. It was a habit with him whenever they made love in this position, though she never minded his weight on her. She was half-Klingon after all, and had the bones to prove it, but even so, he had a persistent belief that he was too heavy for her. It was a quirk based in his genuine concern for her, so she'd eventually decided to simply enjoy it as such.
His breathing was becoming more even, as was hers, and they lay contentedly together for several minutes in comfortable sated silence. They had spoken only a few words since he'd arrived at her quarters, a few sentences of deliberately casual inquiry and response; he asking if things were back to normal in engineering and she asking if everything had been taken care of on the planet. Everything *was* back to normal in engineering, and most of her crew who had been affected by the flashbacks of the Nakon massacre had returned to work, finally relieving her of the double shifts she'd put in over the past two days. He'd told her that everything had also gone as expected on Tarakis, and when they'd warped out of the system an hour earlier the memorial had been repaired and the warning buoy secured in place. She could hear in his voice how relieved he was to put some distance between Voyager and Tarakis, with its memorial to the massacred Nakon colonists, but he was no more relieved than she.
There'd been a few moments of awkward silence then, an indication of the residual tension still between them, and when he'd started to speak again she'd taken his hand and they'd moved together to her bed. Then they'd started making love, repairing the rift the events of the past few days had placed between them in the way they always did, with their bodies. It was a fact of their relationship; sex was the easiest, truest way for them to reconfirm their feelings, and to reestablish their connection after it had been strained. She didn't know what that said about them exactly, but while they were filling themselves with each other, reconnecting in more than just body, she didn't care.
Her name whispered from his lips broke the silence between them, and he lifted one hand to brush her hair back from her cheek.
She lifted her head from his shoulder and looked at him. "You've said that about twenty times already."
His lips quirked at the teasing tone in her voice. "I didn't know you were keeping count."
It was an exaggeration of course. He'd apologized right after he'd lost his temper, looking thoroughly miserable, and though she hadn't rejected his overture, she'd been frustrated by his attitude, and maybe a little hurt. She'd just told him he knew where to find her, leaving it at that. He had found her earlier today, more than a day after his outburst, tracking her down in engineering before he'd joined the away team beaming to the planet to repair the memorial. He'd repeated his apology several times then, in-between the interruptions of her work and two comm hails for him to report to transporter room two. They'd given up trying to have any real conversation at that moment, and he'd placed a fleeting kiss on her brow, murmured the words one more time, and bounded off. He'd started to apologize once again just before she'd dragged him toward her bed twenty minutes ago.
"Can't you tell that I've accepted your apology, Tom?" she asked archly, wiggling against him meaningfully.
He smiled. "Yeah, I got that impression." His fingers made soft winding trails over her shoulder. "But I want to make it up to you. Tomorrow night. How about a romantic dinner, a bottle of Merlot and some pasta, maybe some soft jazz playing in the background..."
"What about that episode of 'The Untouchables' I found in the database?" B'Elanna asked. "Unless you've already watched it."
Tom shook his head. "I haven't watched anything..." He paused for several moments, and though he didn't say so she suspected he meant he hadn't turned the television on again since he'd had those first flashbacks of the Nakon massacre. "We should do something you like to do--"
"I do like the television," B'Elanna said. She did find the whole concept intriguing, though she suspected much of the programming, whether it was of historical interest or not, would bore her pretty quickly. She just hadn't realized when she'd thought of giving it to him that he might become totally hypnotized by the thing. "But I didn't know you'd be completely mesmerized by it."
"I wasn't mesmerized," Tom protested, rather unconvincingly.
"You didn't even notice the Borg invasion."
"Borg invasion?" Tom echoed blankly.
B'Elanna smiled at the endearingly confused look on his face, and patted his chest. "Never mind."
Tom looked a little sheepish, clearly aware that he hadn't even noticed her attempts at conversation that night. "I guess I did get a little carried away, didn't I?"
"A little," B'Elanna agreed dryly. "It's okay. That just means I must have done an incredible job assembling it."
"You did an amazing job," Tom said earnestly. "Thank you again."
"You're welcome." She looked at him thoughtfully. "I forgot to tell you when I was doing my research that I found out about something called 'TV dinners.' Apparently they were complete packaged meals people ate while they watched their favorite program. Maybe we should try those."
Tom was staring at her, bemused. "You know more about this television thing now than I do, B'Elanna." He smiled a little. "I guess it would be interesting to find out just what a 'TV dinner' tastes like, if you're sure you want to try it."
"How bad can it be?" B'Elanna asked. "Besides I do want to find out how Eliot Ness captures Al Capone." This time she pronounced the name correctly. "As long as we don't base all of our activities around the television, I don't mind it at all."
"Don't worry, I promise I won't become a slave to that box," Tom said wryly.
"I should hope not," B'Elanna returned. "If you're a slave to anything, it should be me."
Tom's eyebrows rose. "That's sounds intriguing." He gave her a teasing grin. "How can I serve you?"
B'Elanna rested her head on his shoulder again, snuggled her body a little closer to his, and ran a finger lightly over his collarbone. "You're doing well enough right now."
"Well enough?" Tom echoed. His arms tightened a little around her. "Glad to hear it."
B'Elanna smiled. After several moments of silence she asked, "So, tomorrow night then? We can try out those TV dinners."
There was the smallest hesitation before Tom spoke. "Sure."
B'Elanna raised her head and looked at him. He was staring toward the ceiling, his gaze preoccupied. "You're okay with the television, aren't you, Tom?"
Tom looked at her, and smiled, though it seemed a little forced. "Of course. I told you I love it."
"I mean, you aren't afraid it will cause more flashbacks?" she asked gently. She recalled how quickly he'd turned the television off after that first flashback, and how his hand had trembled slightly in hers as they'd walked to his bedroom together. At the time she, and he, had assumed what he'd experienced was just a particularly vivid dream.
Tom frowned, as if he was considering the possibility, then shook his head with apparent conviction. "No. The doctor said the flashbacks are over, since we've all recalled as much as we're going to. The memories won't go away, but they're like any other memory now." His lips twisted a little. "They're just...there."
B'Elanna stroked the warm skin over his collarbone. "Are you remembering them now?"
"Honestly, I'm trying not to," Tom said. He sighed a little. "At least the memories aren't assaulting me the way they were. I couldn't even close my eyes without seeing it all unfolding again in my mind, over and over. I couldn't sleep without dreaming about it."
"I know." B'Elanna's hand closed over his shoulder when he shuddered slightly. "But now that you know what really happened, maybe the dreams are over."
"I hope so," Tom said. His lips quirked, and he gave her a crooked smile. "If they're not, will you comfort me?"
His tone was light, but his gaze on her was openly sincere and contrite, and B'Elanna knew he was alluding to the fact that he'd so bluntly rejected her last attempt to comfort him. "Of course," she said, her voice equally light, knowing how hard it was for him to admit that he might need it. As hard as it was for her. "Wouldn't you do the same for me?"
"I've always tried," he said simply.
They stared at each other for several moments, recognizing the truth in his statement. Tom *had* always tried to comfort her when she was angry or hurting. On occasion she had accepted it, but more often she had pushed him away. Just as he'd rejected her efforts more than once. They were each more than willing to reach out and offer support and comfort; it was being on the receiving end that seemed to give them both difficulty.
"I am sorry I was such a jerk to you, B'Elanna. I know you were trying to help me and I just started unloading on you. I didn't mean to yell at you--"
"Stop, Tom," she said, pressing her hand against his chest for emphasis. "You've apologized enough." She gave him an admonishing look. "I know you were exhausted and under a lot of stress, and I knew you weren't yelling *at* me." Then her lips curved into a hesitant smile. "Just don't push me away next time I want to help you."
He kissed the top of her head, and squeezed her shoulders gently. "I won't. I promise."
She hugged him briefly, letting her head rest for a moment under his chin. She knew he meant it, and she hoped he would do it. Just as much as she hoped the next time he tried to reach out to her when something was bothering her, she'd be willing to accept his help. "Tom?' she murmured, raising her head.
"Hmmm?" he asked softly.
"You know I never believed for a minute that you, or Chakotay, or Harry, or Neelix--that any of you had a hand in killing those people."
He nodded at the certainty in her tone. "I know. I should have listened to you."
"You should have," she agreed.
"I should have talked to you," he added contritely, for good measure.
She nodded again in agreement and her gaze held his. "So talk to me now."
He looked at her silently for several moments. Finally he said softly, "I'm okay, B'Elanna. I wasn't sure a couple of days ago, but I know now that I can handle it."
"Good," she said. "I do remember what it was like, experiencing memories that aren't your own," she added. Corinna's memories. It had been disturbing and disorienting. And it had felt very real at the time. Even though the memories had faded, they weren't entirely gone. She understood in some small way what he'd been going through.
"The Enarans," Tom said quietly.
B'Elanna nodded. "It was different though. I always knew it wasn't *me* who'd done and experienced those things, it was someone else. What happened to you had to be much worse."
"It was so real, for awhile I really did believe it had actually happened. I really did think..." He bit his lip, and shook his head quickly. "Actually I *couldn't* think clearly. The images were too overwhelming. But now I know what was real and what wasn't. The memories might never go away, but I can live with them now, as unpleasant as they are. I think everyone else can too."
B'Elanna knew not only the away team but more than half the crew had ended up experiencing some of the images. "I wonder why the transmission didn't affect me," she said thoughtfully. Not that she'd wanted to experience it, but it might have helped her know just what kind of horror Tom and the others had been going through. She'd tried to talk to Chakotay about it and he'd gently rebuffed her, claiming to be too busy to talk. She hadn't considered approaching Harry since he'd looked like he was on the edge of a total breakdown. Neelix had told her he was consumed by guilt over what he believed he'd done. The images had been so powerful none of the away team could be
completely convinced their involvement hadn't been real, not until they'd found the memorial.
"The doctor said it had to do with brain wavelengths or something," Tom answered her question. He shrugged. "Maybe you were spared because you're half-Klingon. Whatever it was, I'm really glad you didn't have to go through that."
Tom's voice was fervent, and B'Elanna frowned. "Nobody should have gone through it. I don't know why the captain didn't just disable the memorial."
"I didn't like the idea of leaving it there myself," Tom said. "But Neelix was right. What happened there should be remembered. The Nakon colonists deserve that. The soldiers who put it there deserve that. We repaired the recording, so no one else will get the garbled images like we did. And the warning buoy will keep anyone from being blindsided by memories they don't understand. They'll know it all happened to someone else, a long time ago. But at least they'll learn firsthand what did happen there, if they choose."
"I guess," B'Elanna said, not completely convinced it had been their place to make that decision. "Just as long as you know that you had nothing to do with what happened to those colonists."
"I do," Tom affirmed quietly. "Now."
B'Elanna didn't like his ambivalent answer. "I know you better than that, Tom, even if you don't know yourself better." She gave him a reproachful look. "Why can't you believe you would never have done something like that?"
"I don't think those soldiers believed they'd ever do such a thing either, B'Elanna," Tom said, his expression grim. "They were decent people, caught up in a situation that got out of control. They were tired and scared, and they reacted badly. If the situation was stressful enough, can we really know we wouldn't act the same?"
"We've all been in some pretty bad situations before in the Delta quadrant," B'Elanna said. "We never got close to losing control." She decided she didn't care for this conversation at all. Like hell she would ever do something like that. Even in the worst days of the Maquis they'd never hurt innocent civilians. Like hell Tom would either, or Chakotay, or any of them. She believed that wholeheartedly, whether it was stubbornness on her part or not.
"You don't panic easily, Tom," she told him. "Neither does Chakotay, or Harry, or Neelix. None of you would ever have started shooting those colonists, no matter how stressful the situation was." Her voice was firm with conviction. Then she gave him a small, conspiratorial smirk, hoping to lighten his mood on the subject. "Besides, you're a Starfleet officer, and we know Starfleet officers always do the right thing, don't we?"
There were several moments of taut silence after her flippant remark, and then Tom looked away from her, focusing somewhere across the room. "Not always," he said finally, his jaw tight, and his voice a soft, almost strangled whisper.
B'Elanna hadn't thought about what she was saying, and for a moment she regretted it. Then she decided that she didn't regret it. She leaned forward and pressed her forearms on Tom's chest. Her face was right in front of his, and it forced him to look at her. "Is *that* part of what this is about, Tom?" she asked softly. She didn't have to say what *that* meant. He knew.
He looked angry for a moment, and she could feel him tense beneath her, could see a veil fall over his eyes, an indication of the distance he was about to impose between them. His arms fell away from her, and she half expected him to push her off him and turn away, or jump up and suggest a late night visit to Sandrine's, or force a smile and make a joke. Anything but talk about that subject.
He didn't push her away. But his expression remained closed, and when he spoke his voice was distant, hollow. "As much as I wanted to believe the memories of killing the Nakons weren't real, that we couldn't have participated in something like that--no, that *I* could never have done something like that, I couldn't forget that I destroyed lives once before. *Those* memories are real. I know what I'm capable of."
"What you *were* capable of, Tom," she said quietly. "That was a long time ago. And it wasn't the same thing at all."
"It was close enough," Tom said, his voice tight. "People died because of me, and I panicked and tried to shift the blame to save myself. You know that."
She actually knew very little about it beyond the bare recorded facts, because he'd told her very little. Not that it altered anything now. "You've changed," B'Elanna said simply. "You're a different person now, and you'll never make that mistake again."
When he shrugged, she cupped her hand gently under his chin, keeping him from looking away again. "I know you can never forget what happened at Caldik Prime, Tom. But you took the blame in the end, didn't you? So maybe you did save yourself, just in a different way. And it's because you can never forget it that I knew you of all people wouldn't have let yourself panic and start shooting those Nakon colonists."
Tom's expression softened slightly. "You really have that much faith in me, B'Elanna?"
"Don't insult me by asking," she said sternly, though her lips curved upward a little. "You should have more faith in yourself, Tom."
He smiled back, a little wanly. "I'm working on it."
She knew he was. God knew it had taken her a long time to start having a little faith in herself. Tom had believed in her long before she'd ever believed in herself. "Tom..."
Tom's brow furrowed at her soft, almost menacing tone. "What?"
"I'm going to tell you something, and if you ever tell anyone else, I'll find my bat'leth and rearrange your internal organs for you."
Tom eyebrows rose and his lips quirked, but he just said, "Okay."
"Neelix told me he was having trouble dealing with the feelings of guilt he had from those memories, and that Seven helped him."
"Seven?" Tom asked, surprised.
"Yes. She told him that guilt had a purpose. As long as he remembered what had happened, what he thought he'd done, he would never let it happen again."
"Seven said that?" Tom nodded after a moment. "I guess she might have reason."
B'Elanna recalled Seven once saying she felt no guilt over all the assimilations she had participated in, but B'Elanna supposed time and certain experiences might have changed Seven's attitude. "The part you can never tell anyone is that Seven is right."
Tom started to smile, then quickly hid it. "I'll be sure not to spread the fact that you think Seven was actually right about something."
"See that you don't." Her elbows dug slightly into his chest for emphasis.
Tom winced a little. "I got the message." He gently pressed her elbows off his chest. "Seven *is* right though. It won't ever happen again, B'Elanna."
"I know," she said softly.
"I'll never let innocent people die again because of me..." he shook his head, and swallowed a little. "Or have to see their faces while they..."
B'Elanna touched Tom's face when he closed his eyes. She knew he was remembering his own past now, not his past manufactured past on Tarakis. "Tom."
He opened his eyes and looked at her, his emotions in control again, mostly. She could still see the ache lurking beneath his carefully composed expression. She stroked his cheek. "Tell me."
She waited several moments, while he didn't move, knowing he was caught on that precipice between opening up to her, and burying it all deeper inside himself. His eyes were locked with hers, but revealing little, except perhaps in their furthest depths a small flicker of apprehension. She dropped her head to his shoulder, allowing him to escape her gaze. She could feel his heart beating against her breast as she took his hands in hers and placed them on her waist. "Tell me," she repeated softly.
Then she waited.
Moments or minutes later, his hands resting lightly where she'd placed them on her waist slipped tighter around her, hugging her closely to him. And then he spoke, his breath rifling her hair, his eyes gazing somewhere beyond her, but his words for her.
He told her in the darkness, what he'd never shared with anyone on Voyager, what he'd only skirted around even to her. Of the faces he still saw in his dreams, not the faces of the Nakon that had been implanted in his memory a few days ago, but the faces of his friends who'd died at Caldik Prime, the faces in the nightmares that had been with him for almost fifteen years now, often shadowy and faint, sometimes
frighteningly clear, but always--always--with him.
She said nothing as he spoke, his voice dulled, his words giving her a painful glimpse of what his life had been and had become then. He paused more than once to keep his emotion from getting the better of him. She listened, without judgment, her hands occasionally stroking his chest, or rubbing his shoulders. He told her only small, isolated fragments, leaving much of the story unspoken, unfinished, left for perhaps another time. But it was enough, the few more small pieces of the puzzle of himself he revealed to her, much as she'd been over time revealing bits of the puzzle of herself to him. It was a slow complicated process, filled with starts and stops, this understanding each other, at almost the same pace at which they were learning to understand
His words ceased, and his body was coiled with tension beneath her, perhaps in anticipation of her reaction. She said nothing; she simply raised her head and kissed him. It was a long, warm, lingering kiss, not of passion but of acceptance and assurance. Their kiss ended slowly and his lips brushed across her cheek and forehead as she slid down, settling herself comfortably next to him.
They lay for a long time, absorbing the closeness between them, the only sound their breathing. Tomorrow they wouldn't speak of this intimacy in the dark, this brief sharing of minds and hearts that sometimes followed in the wake of the physical sharing of their bodies. They rarely did. What he'd shared with her would stay between them and the darkness.
Instead they would go on the same as always. He might call her in engineering, irked that she'd missed lunch with him again because of a glitch in the warp core readings she always insisted on solving herself. Or she'd be annoyed with him because he'd decided to spend the good part of another evening working on the restoration of the Fair Haven program with Harry. Or if not that, then they'd certainly fight over something, probably many things; they always did. His being habitually late, her being habitually late, his leaving wet towels in her bathroom, her writing over his personal datapadds with warp core modifications that popped suddenly into her head. Chances were they'd eventually fight over the television she'd given him, and she'd probably end up throwing the remote at him for ignoring her and stomping out.
But whatever fight drove them briefly apart, they always wound up together again hours or days later, sharing a meal in the mess hall, flirting in a corner of engineering, dancing in Sandrine's, or curled up on one couch or the other poring over new shuttle designs or watching holovids. And always, eventually, they ended up in bed, sharing sex, and sometimes more.
Tom's breathing was slow and even, and B'Elanna realized he'd fallen asleep. She wasn't surprised; he had to be exhausted from everything he'd gone through. She curled her head next to his shoulder, the one she recalled he'd grabbed after she'd awakened him from that first flashback, saying he remembered being grazed by a weapon. She lightly touched his skin there. It was as warm and solid and unblemished by any wounds as the rest of him. Well, physically unblemished. She knew his soul had been wounded more than once, as hers had. Yet they'd both recovered. They both were still recovering, coping in their own way.
She knew it probably wasn't considered normal to drift through a relationship as they sometimes did, virtually ignoring each other at times, then settling into periods of contented togetherness. It was probably also unconventional that for them it was always sex that led to intimacy, that it was in the aftermath of being physically naked and exposed in each other's embrace they were able to expose other parts of themselves to each other. No doubt their relationship violated all the standard rules of intimacy.
Tom moved slightly and made a sound close to a moan, and B'Elanna raised up and pressed her palm against his cheek, stroking his face lightly where his jaw had tensed. His movement stilled and his face relaxed under her touch. After a minute, sure whatever dream or memory had disturbed him had faded, she relaxed and rested her head back on the pillow.
Or maybe the rules were nothing more than whatever worked. It didn't really matter, because if there were rules...well, she had little knowledge of them, and she and Tom had never been ones to play by the rules anyway. Right now all she did know was that their way worked for them. It was more than she'd ever managed with someone before. Even with the imperfections and uncertainties, and the occasional grief they unintentionally caused each other, she was happy with it, and she didn't find that a mystery. The bad times might stand out glaringly by their nature, punctuating the easier, less outwardly remarkable good times, but the simple fact was, in the two and a half years they'd been together, there had been far more good times than bad, and far more contentment than sorrow.
Her hand had slipped from his cheek, but her arm stayed draped over him, and her body was pressed next to his, close enough for her to feel his movement. In that position, knowing she would be alerted if he needed her, she fell asleep.