Where's the Girl?
By Felicia Ferguson
Keywords: T/Other, P/T, J, C
Timeline: Approximately six months into the P/T
relationship (FYI…I've never seen the Equinox episodes, so
please don't hold that against this story!)
Summary: An encounter with her past forces B'Elanna to make
some tough decisions about her relationship with Tom and her
place on Voyager.
Janeway gazed thoughtfully at the blue-green orb that
floated on the viewscreen. Two hours ago, her chief
engineer had announced in the weekly staff meeting that a
major overhaul of the warp drive would have to be done
within the next month, if not sooner. If that news had not
been bad enough, Neelix, the self-appointed morale officer
had confirmed her suspicion that the crew was in desperate
need of shore leave. Between the glum faces in Astrometrics
and the loud disagreements in Engineering, Janeway had
inwardly promised Voyager would dock at the next M class
planet - if only to get off the ship for a little while.
And then, like magic, their haven appeared: an M class moon
which circled a gas giant only three light years away. She
had tossed a smile at Chakotay and directed Paris to lay in
a course as relief washed over her. The commander, who had
over the years learned to read his captain quite well,
smiled in return and leaned toward her. "Shore leave
applies to you, too, Kathryn. Don't forget it."
She glanced back, a twinkle forming in her eyes, and nodded.
"Oh, don't worry, Chakotay. I'll be one of the first off
As Voyager neared the moon, Janeway sat up straighter in her
chair and asked, "Mr. Tuvok, are you getting any readings
from the surface?"
The dark-skinned Vulcan queried his monitors and replied,
"Yes, Captain. I'm reading humanoid inhabitants. According
to scans they do possess post-warp technologies."
"Hallelujah!" cried Paris from the conn. He more than
anyone else was ready for some time off - especially if it
included a certain half-Klingon.
Chakotay's lips twitched at the sound. "Open hailing
frequencies. Let's see if they're in the mood for some
A series of muted beeps followed mere seconds later and
Janeway waited a moment for the image to appear on screen.
"This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship
"Good day to you, Captain," answered a diminutive man of
undeterminable age. "I am Janell, First Prefect of the
Kalattii System. We welcome you to our home."
"Janell," the captain greeted with a slight incline of her
head. "My crew is in need of some shore leave. Would you
allow us to visit your world for a few days?"
The purple man smiled openly. "Captain, you do us the
greatest honor. You are most certainly welcome." He made a
slight bowing motion and gestured to a rather large pink
woman who stood behind him. "This is Adira, my consort.
She will make all of the necessary arrangements."
The woman echoed her husband's bow and brought her joined
hands to forehead and then to her lips in acknowledgement of
his words. "Captain," she stated in a soft, but melodious
voice, "you have come at the most pleasant time of our year.
Our Celebration of Life will begin tomorrow. You must come
to the opening feast tonight. We will be honoring our
Janeway smiled in response. "It is we who are honored,
Adira, Janell. I will have one of my officers contact you
momentarily. Voyager out."
She turned, her lips softening to a pleased expression.
"Sounds like we're going to have a great time," she murmured
to her first officer.
"Oh, come *on*, B'Elanna!" Tom cried, frustration seeping
into his voice. "Can't you leave the engine room for a few
days?" He stared, blue eyes pleading with her to listen to
The chief engineer tossed him a scathing glance before
picking up a tricorder and tapping out the program to begin
remodulating the warp core. "For your information, Helm
Boy, the warp core isn't going to just fix itself. I'm
going to have to use all the free time I can get to make
numerous repairs and upgrades before we leave orbit." She
glanced from the tricorder to the monitor and made a few
adjustments before turning and heading back to the core.
Tom crossed his arms and stood firm. He knew she was in
"engineer" mode, during which it was hard to reason with
her. But, dammit, any time they'd had alone during the past
month had been stolen moments and quick hand grasps as they
passed in the corridors. And, frankly, he was getting tired
of it. He dropped his arms as he watched her discuss
something with Joe Carey.
Paris' brow furrowed as he studied his lover in action.
'Well,' he decided silently, 'if she won't listen to me,
I'll just have to call on the persuasive skills of a higher
power.' With an impudent smile, he tapped his comm badge
and stated in a voice that carried through the room, "Paris
"Go ahead, Mr. Paris," she answered briskly.
Tom watched as B'Elanna's shoulders tensed. She knew what
he was doing. She turned back to him, shoving the tricorder
into Carey's open hands, and advanced slowly on her lover.
Their eyes locked, hers full of fire, his full of mischief.
"Captain, did I imagine it or did you state that *all*
officers were supposed to take a minimum of three days shore
Janeway, hearing the forced innocence in his voice, tried to
keep the smile out of hers as she replied, "No, Mr. Paris,
you did not imagine it. I especially want my senior staff
"But, Captain!" B'Elanna broke in. "Voyager can't just grow
another warp engine -"
Tom could mentally picture the captain's smile
disintegrating into what everyone on the ship had deemed her
"don't mess with me" look. "Ms. Torres, do you have a
problem with my orders?"
"Yes!" Torres replied heatedly.
Before she could list all of the reasons, Janeway, much to
the surprise of the Engineering staff answered, "Tough. The
senior officers have been invited for the Kalattii's annual
feast and celebration at 2100. You will be there and in
dress uniform. Janeway out."
B'Elanna snarled at Tom, "You'll pay for this, Paris."
Tom's smile widened to a full-fledged grin as he answered
cheerfully, "I certainly hope so!" Tossing Carey a pleased
gaze, Paris turned and followed her out of the room.
"Hey!" cried Harry Kim as B'Elanna pushed past him, stalking
toward the turbolift. Seeing his best friend trailing
behind her, he asked, "What's with her?"
"Oh, she just got some news she really didn't want to hear,"
Paris replied, looping a brotherly arm around the younger
man. "So, Harry, what are you planning on doing first?"
The ensign's eyes lit up. "Well, I've been doing some
research on this Celebration of Life. Did you know that one
of the festivities includes a glider contest on the planet?"
Tom shook his head, indicating he hadn't heard of such a
thing. "It's the ultimate in extreme sports!" Kim gushed,
warming to the topic. "Each contestant is issued a super-
thin environmental suit and what amounts to a twentieth
century hang-glider. You're taken into the atmosphere by a
shuttlecraft and then deposited into the whirlwinds. The
first person to complete 5 revolutions wins."
"That's great, Harry, but how do you get out?" Tom cast a
slightly worried glance at his friend as they rounded the
corridor and entered the turbolift.
Kim glanced sheepishly away, "Um. I haven't figured that
part out yet."
Brightly airy music greeted the senior staff as they beamed
to the surface, promptly at 2100 hours. Torres tugged a
little at the collar of her dress uniform, shooting Paris a
disgusted look as he tried to hide a smile at her
discomfiture. He sidled over to her and whispered, "Relax,
'Lanna. The warp engines will be there when you get back."
His normally cocky grin softened to a comforting smile as he
unobtrusively traced a finger down the back of her hand.
"Besides you can't blame me for wanting us to spend some
She glanced down, her bobbed hair hiding the twitch of her
own lips. "No," she murmured, looking back up at him, "I
can't. And though I'll deny it under oath, thanks."
Tom linked their hands together and squeezed lightly then
returned his to their customary position. If any of the
other members of the senior staff noticed, none objected.
Moments later, the crew was greeted personally by Janell and
"Ah, Captain," cooed the man, whose purple skin was
strikingly offset by his black tunic. His wife was
similarly attired, but she had chosen a light aqua color
instead. "We are so pleased that you have arrived. And
just in time, for we are about to announce our guest of
honor, The Most Revered." He gestured to a nearby
conglomeration of cushions and stated, "Your places will be
here; to the left of The Most Revered."
Janeway smiled warmly and took her place while the others
selected their own pillows. She turned to Chakotay and
watched him situate himself on a pair of cushions. "I asked
Adira for some history about the Celebration of Life,"
Janeway murmured, her eyes lighting up with the thrill of
Chakotay smiled at her eagerness. "I would think it would
have something to do with the harvest season."
"In all actuality, no," she replied, "it doesn't. About
four hundred years ago, the Kalattii were slaves to a
powerful race known as the Triors. When the Kalattii staged
an uprising against their masters, they lost thousands of
people, approximately 2/3 of their total population. They
celebrate their success in defeating the Triors by honoring
those who survived. Hence, the Celebration of Life."
"That's fascinating," the commander agreed. "Were you able
to get any information about The Most Revered?"
Janeway shook her head, "Nothing much. The only thing I was
able to learn was that he somehow defeated a fleet of the
enemy's ships single-handedly a few years ago."
A trillion trumpet-like instruments forestalled any further
conversation between the two and Janell humbly climbed a
smallish dais at the front of the room. "Honored guests, we
welcome the crew of Voyager and encourage that all
hospitality be shown to them. They have traveled far and
welcome a respite on our beautiful moon."
Janell bowed slightly and others of varying colors turned
and offered their own deferential posturing. Just as the
purple Kalattii raised his hand to command the crowd's
attention, Torres felt the hairs stand up on the back of her
"Honored guests, it is my privilege to present our *most*
honored guest, The Most Revered," Janell stated warmly as he
moved to one side of the dais and a human man stepped up to
Tom watched a myriad of emotions flash across B'Elanna's
face in the seconds it took for recognition to dawn. She
knew him. There was no doubt about that. When Paris heard
her growl, "You, p'tahk!" with a mixture of surprise and
anger, he felt the ground drop out from under him.
The look on Chakotay's face confirmed Paris' supposition.
Whatever the identity of The Most Revered, he and B'Elanna
had unfinished business.
Some hours later, after the ceremony's conclusion, Janeway
held court in Voyager's conference room. Seated around the
table were her senior officers, Janell, and The Most
Revered, whose identity had been revealed to be Garrick
Warwich, a former member of the Maquis.
"Mr. Warwich," Janeway began with a slight incline of her
head. "You seemed to have lucked out when it comes to final
destinations in the Delta Quadrant."
Garrick smiled and nodded his head ruefully. "Its true, the
Kalattii have been most kind to me."
"It was only reasonable," Janell interjected. "The Most
Revered saved our moon and everyone who lives here."
"Oh?" queried Chakotay from his seat to the left of the
captain. "How so?"
Janell straightened in the chair, his eyes sparkling with
the opportunity to share the story which had become a legend
among his people. "As you know, the Kalattii were once
slaves of the Triors. Centuries back, our ancestors drove
them out, but five years ago, they returned, eager to
restake their claim on our society and send us back into the
The purple-colored man paused, his normally dulcet voice
deepening as he continued to weave the story. "We were
doomed. With no weapons of any account that would battle a
fleet of starships, we prepared to hide underground." He
glanced around the table, including everyone in the tale.
"Unfortunately, only a few miles of caves had been dug -
certainly not enough space for hundreds of people. "
Janell looked to Garrick, respectful awe filling his gaze.
"At the height of the attack, when the Triors had destroyed
almost every city, The Most Revered appeared in our space.
It was Providence itself. He annihilated our enemies and
saved our world."
Janeway smiled warmly at the Kalattiian as the senior
officers absorbed the story.
"You still haven't told us how you ended up here," B'Elanna
remarked from her seat across the table from Garrick. Paris
was equally eager to hear more about this mystery man who
obviously held some key to his lover's past. The lieutenant
snuck a glance at Torres trying to gauge her emotional
investment in the other man's answer.
Garrick smiled wryly. "You remember that scouting trip
Merale Turvis sent me on?"
"You were tracking the Cardassians' movements along the
Dozaria system, right?" Chakotay asked glancing from the
chief engineer to Warwich.
Nodding, Warwich answered, "I was almost spotted a few times
so I decided to hide out in the Badlands and wait them out.
While I was there, some sort of coherent tetryon beam
snagged me and tossed me here."
B'Elanna shook her head, confused by the time frame he had
outlined. "Garrick, Voyager and The Liberty were sent
70,000 light years away from the Alpha Quadrant. Why
weren't you sent that far as well if we were hit by the same
type of beam?"
He shook his head equally puzzled by the situation.
"Captain, if I may," Tuvok interjected, "his ship, being a
small scout ship, didn’t have as much mass as Voyager and
the Liberty combined, so the inertia was less. That could
account for the differences in the distance traveled by both
sets of ships."
Janeway nodded and briskly answered, "Agreed." She turned
to Garrick and invited, "Mr. Warwich, you are most welcome
to stay on Voyager for the duration of our shore leave."
Warwich glanced uncertainly between the captain and her
chief engineer. "Captain," he began, choosing his words
carefully. "I believe the Triors were merely driven back -
not defeated completely." He glanced to Janell, who nodded
eagerly, knowing what The Most Revered would request. "I
have been working with the Kalattii to build a fleet of
ships to protect them. However, the process is slow. They
don't have the technical expertise. If I could, I would
like to invite B'Elanna to consult on the schematics."
Torres blinked, startled by the proposal. Paris, on the
other hand, felt the slow burn, that had begun in his
stomach upon Garrick's introduction flare. He was about to
object, though it would have been based on personal reasons
which were not something Janeway valued highly, when
"Captain, I would like to help. Garrick and I have worked
together before and I'm certain we could create a force to
protect these people."
Shocked, Tom swallowed his objection in favor of breathing.
Though he hadn't expected her to refuse, he certainly
wouldn’t have guessed she would jump at the chance. 'Well,'
he thought with resignation, 'maybe this will give her a
chance make a little more peace with her past.' Although,
he had the distinct feeling that more than peace would be
made over the next few days.
The captain glanced appraisingly at Paris then shifted her
gaze to the woman sitting on his left. Knowing full well
that there was a better than even chance this would turn out
badly for someone, she was unsure just who that someone
would be. Making a command decision, she nodded, mentally
preparing herself for the fallout to come.
"So, I'll meet you for lunch 1300?" Tom asked his lover as
the meeting concluded. He feigned indifference and tried
not to notice the close proximity Garrick maintained to
The chief engineer glanced uncertainly from Paris to
Warwich. "Well, um," she began. "Garrick and I have
decided to grab something to eat now and start mapping out
Tom nodding, hiding his disappointment behind his usual
cocky mask. "Alright, then. Have fun!" Torres watched as
he glanced at the former Maquis and felt something pass
between the two men, but for the life of her, she couldn't
figure out what. Dismissing it as some sort of alpha male
behavior, she shook her head and turned, gesturing for
Garrick to follow her.
As Tom headed for the Bridge, he surreptitiously watched
B'Elanna and Garrick walk to the turbolift. 'Maybe this
what we need. After all, this…relationship…is still pretty
new. Maybe this will help her figure out if a future
together is what she truly wants,' Paris tried to convince
himself, giving the pair one last look before the doors
closed. 'Just, *please* don't do anything rash, 'Lanna,' he
inwardly prayed. As he settled at the conn, his imagination
rapidly generated several possible futures for them, the
most frightening being that she chose Warwich over himself.
Try as he might, the mental image of a life without B'Elanna
would not let go. Tom smothered a grimace. It was going to
be a long shift.
"B'Elanna," Garrick began as they sat down at a table in the
corner of the mess hall. "I didn't tell Janeway the whole
truth in the conference room. I want you to stay. Here on
the Kalattii moon."
Surprised by his request, Torres shook her head. "Garrick,
"What kind of life do you have on Voyager?" She opened her
mouth to reply, but he forestalled her, raising a hand.
"Exciting, I'm sure. There's nothing like exploring an
uncharted quadrant. But does it satisfy you? Do you go
back to your quarters at night and relish the start of your
next shift? Or do you pray that nothing will break down and
force you from your bed at an ungodly hour?"
B'Elanna winced at how easily he had read her mind. Just
last week, she had berated Carey openly after he had
interrupted her first holodeck time with Tom in a month.
Another warp coil had blown out and, of course, her presence
was required for the new installation. Three hours and one
spent fuse later, she had stalked out of Engineering
demanding that for just one night no one call her with some
sort of disaster. She knew that Carey had worked with her
long enough to recognize her ire for what it was—simple
frustration for the elementary task—but she had said it
"You forget, B'Elanna," Garrick murmured as he reached
across the table to caress her cheek. "I know you. We are
cut from the same cloth." He smiled wryly, "We're
She closed her eyes, wrestling with the conflicting emotions
that warred within her. 'Am I that different of a person
now?' Torres questioned, searching her heart for an answer.
He watched her carefully, shaking his head at the indecision
that crossed her face. "What happened to you, B'Elanna?"
Garrick asked, his brow furrowing with concern. "Where's
the fire that used to fill your eyes? Is the girl I used to
know still there, buried under that Starfleet uniform?"
"Garrick," she began, still trying to find the words to
convince him that she was the person he knew. That nothing
would change her, even though she had the strangest feeling
that that wasn't really true. She had changed. Had lost
something of her former self as the years passed. And now,
she began to wonder if she missed her.
He shook his head and then glanced around them. "She's
disappeared in this world. Her passion and fire dimmed by
Starfleet regulations." Taking her hand, he urged softly,
"Come back to me. We'll find her, together."
B'Elanna's eyes drifted shut as the memories of his touch
washed over her. 'How long has it been?' she questioned
silently. 'How long since I last felt his breath on my
"You and I are destined for each other. We knew it back then
and, deep down, you know it even now. Our meeting again just
reinforces it." He took her other hand in his and a shudder
of memory tremored through her.
'How can he still have this effect on me when I had given
him up for dead years ago?' _You never truly gave him up,_
piped in her conscience. _Did you ever once say good-bye
when his ship disappeared?_ 'No,' she replied with a mental
shake of her head. 'I dove right in on the Liberty's warp
core and did a massive overhaul rather than think about it.'
She looked up guiltily and into Garrick's sympathetic
features. "Here it will be different. B'Elanna, I am
offering you the chance to build a fleet of starships from
the ground up. You will be in total control of the
schematics." Sensing her reluctance weakening, he sweetened
the deal. "And I can guarantee you the best equipment in
the quadrant. No bargaining or trading necessary." He
paused for a moment and glanced around the room, then looked
back at her with a secretive smile. "Would you like to see
one of the prototypes?"
B'Elanna's eyes widened with curiosity. "Do you even have
Garrick smiled knowing his fish had been caught. "Then
let's get out of here."
They had beamed to the surface a few feet from a large
oblong formation. The mountains in the distance served as
an exquisite backdrop to the black and red building.
B'Elanna commented on it and Warwich nodded. "It is a
beautiful world. It would be terrible to see such
devastating destruction again." As they neared the doors to
the building, two guards snapped to attention. "Gentlemen,"
Garrick soothed, "I bring a friend. She is an engineer of
much respect on her ship. She will be consulting on the
The guards relaxed at the information and one nodded and
opened the door. Garrick gestured for B'Elanna to precede
him. As she entered the building, she felt a cool flash of
air pass over her. Her companion smiled and replied,
She nodded and peered into the semi-darkness. A soft glow
from above barely illuminated the room. But it was just
enough to showcase Warwich's pride and joy. "''The
Champion','" he murmured into her ear.
The warmth of his breath tickled and tantalized her senses,
continuing to bring back memories of their nights together.
B'Elanna forced her thoughts away from that dangerous
subject and willed herself to pay more attention to the ship
than to its creator.
Though it was obviously a scout ship, the body was oblong
with clean lines sloping back to the engines. Its smallish
size was offset by the strength conveyed in the shape of the
"She's capable of warp 7 - not much, I know, by Starfleet
standards, but as I said, the Kalattii aren't the most
technically sophisticated race in the quadrant."
B'Elanna shook her head and answered, "No, Garrick, it's
perfect. Light and fast. Able to make quick strikes." She
glanced back at him, her eyebrows raised questioningly, "I
assume it has a full armament of photon torpedoes and
Garrick smiled with delight. "But, of course!" he replied,
eyes full of mirth. "Only the best for the Triors." He
placed a hand at her elbow and once again B'Elanna was
struck by how much she had forgotten about him. No matter
what, he always had the manners of a gentleman. _Unlike
someone else you know,_ her conscience interjected evilly.
'That's not fair!' she chastised inwardly. 'Tom is…." But
that was the problem: while she was with Garrick, she didn't
know what Tom was.
"B'Elanna?" her companion asked with slight concern.
She jerked her head at the sound and offered him a sheepish
smile. "Sorry, just woolgathering."
His brow furrowed then relaxed a moment later. "Would you
like to go back?"
Shaking her head, Torres replied, "Not right now. Let's
check out the inside." He smiled and led her to the ship.
Several hours and gallons of engine grease later, B'Elanna
beamed back to Voyager. Although ''The Champion'' was
architecturally well crafted, there was quite a bit of fine-
tuning that had to occur before she was ready for testing.
Exhausted, but invigorated by the prospect of creating her
own fleet, she headed for the Mess Hall, hoping for a chance
to run some of her ideas by Chakotay. As yet another person
who had had to learn to deal with second-hand technology,
she hoped to get some feedback on her plans.
Grabbing a plate of whatever Nelix was serving that day, she
glanced around the room and found the object of her search
sitting alone with several data padds scattered around the
table. "Chakotay," she greeted, her eyes lighting up with
excitement. "Mind if I join you? I've got some things I'd
like to run by you, if you've got a moment."
The commander smiled softly and nodded with characteristic
calm. "Have a seat. I was just going over the duty rosters
anyway. The shore leave has a lot of people swapping shifts
and I have to make sure everything is covered."
B'Elanna nodded distractedly. Taking a bite of the green
conglomeration on her plate, she ignored the stinging
sensation at the back of her throat as she swallowed,
allowing instead her engineer's mind to focus on her
project. "Back on The Liberty, when you had that warp coil
blow out - that I had to fix a couple of months later when I
came on board - how did you patch the systems to maintain
some sort of functionality?"
Chakotay pursed his lips, curious as to where she was headed
with this conversation. "I assume this is about Garrick and
the fleet of ships he intends to build?"
She shook her head and answered, "Not *he,* Chakotay, *I.*"
The commander's eyes widened at the implication of her
words. "B'Elanna, building a fleet big enough to counter
the Triors will take months, if not years. I hope you know
that Voyager isn't planning on taking shore leave for that
Torres nodded slowly, the steadiness of her gaze confirming
his words. "I know."
"Are you thinking about resigning your commission and
leaving Voyager?" he asked, tamping down on the concern that
was rapidly growing to panic. He knew she had been spending
a great deal of time with the former Maquis, but for her to
be questioning her life on Voyager…
Before he could utter another word, a shadow fell over the
table. "Mind if I join you?" Tom Paris asked brightly,
ignoring the tension that hung between the commander and the
Torres glanced up at him, her eyes hardening. "It's
personal, Paris. Why don't you keep Harry company for a
while? We're busy here."
Chakotay glanced up at the pilot and read the hurt in his
eyes seconds before his usual cocky mask slipped into place.
Paris cracked a grin that didn't reach his eyes and
answered, "Well, then, don't have to tell me twice. I can
tell when three's a crowd." He sauntered over to Harry's
table and the harshness in Torres' eyes dimmed somewhat.
"B'Elanna, what was that all about?" the commander asked,
leaning forward to capture her gaze.
She shook her head. "It's nothing. He wouldn't understand.
That's all. He's just a flyboy anyway." Shaking off the
sudden daze she felt, B'Elanna launched into a brainstorm
about how to get the maximum efficiency out of engines that
were only designed for warp 7.
As she continued, Chakotay watched the woman he had come to
know as B'Elanna Torres, chief engineer, revert back into
B'Elanna Torres, Maquis soldier. It was a sight he was not
happy to see.
The door to Chakotay's office chimed and inwardly the first
officer sighed. He had a good idea as to the identification
of the person on the other side and wasn't looking forward
to the conversation ahead. Straightening in his chair, he
called, "Enter!" and readied himself for what was certain to
be an interesting discussion.
Tom paused a moment before entering and asked, "You got a
The Indian nodded and gestured for Paris to take a seat.
Licking his lips, the young man sat down only to jump up a
moment later and begin pacing the confines of the room.
"How well do you know this Warwich guy?" Paris asked without
Surprised by the pilot's unexpected forthrightness, Chakotay
pursed his lips and steepled his fingers in front of him. "I
knew him. Not well, but most people in the Maquis had
something to hide so it wasn't a rare occurrence that you
really didn't know your companions well."
Tom paused mid-prowl and asked over his shoulder, "Who is he
"I think that's something that's better discussed with
B'Elanna herself," he replied sagely, trying like mad to
figure a way out of this conversation without the younger
man losing his temper and doing something he would later
Paris let out a cynical bark of laughter. "I would if I
could, but she's down on the surface going over who-knows-
what with him. So you're my next best thing." Tom turned
back to the commander and placed his hands on the desk,
leaning down into the older man's face. "Tell me,
Chakotay," he bit out gravelly. "Were they lovers?"
Chakotay, knowing he would not get out of this situation
without at least giving Paris some information, took in a
short breath. "Yes, Tom. They were lovers. They met a few
months prior to his disappearance in the Badlands. The
Liberty was, among other things, sent out there to look for
Tom's brow furrowed as he processed the information and
compared it with what he knew about his lover. "But, I
thought she hadn't loved anyone since that guy, Pedro."
The first officer offered him a grim smile. "I didn't say
anything about love, Mr. Paris."
"So it was only physical?" the pilot asked, a gleam of
something dangerous forming in his eyes.
Chakotay shook his head. "This is definitely something
better discussed with B'Elanna."
A scowl stole over the features of Tom Paris, and in the
instant that he walked out of his office, Chakotay did not
envy the chief engineer one bit.
"Just when were you going to tell me about him, B'Elanna?"
Tom barked as he stalked passed her into her quarters. "My
God, I had to go to Chakotay to find out Garrick was your
Torres, having just returned from the surface, scowled at
his invasion but let it pass in favor of avoiding the
curious stares of passing crew members. She followed him in
and sighed thankfully as the doors softly whished shut.
"Tom, he was dead to me."
He swung around and pierced her with a sharp gaze. Shaking
his head, he replied, "Last time I looked he was very much
alive to me."
B'Elanna, incensed by his anger shot back, "You haven't
exactly been very forthright about what happened on Caldik
Prime. Who was *she* to you?"
Paris set his jaw, then growled, "I'm not the one whose past
suddenly appeared out of nowhere, 'Lanna."
Shaking her head at his incomprehensible audacity, B'Elanna
retorted, "You have no demand on me. I don't have to tell
"Oh, I'm sorry," he responded sharply, "we've been lovers
now for what…six months? You've admitted that you love me
and vice versa. Pardon me for my curiosity, but what other
qualifications are needed to have some sort of *demand* on
Torres hurled the tricorder she had forgotten she had been
carrying in Tom's general direction. "How *dare* you throw
that back in my face!"
"Why not?" he shot back, ignoring the now dead tricorder
which lay mere inches from his feet. He crossed his arms in
front of him and surveyed her closely. "Isn't it true?"
B'Elanna opened her mouth to contradict him, but, to her
dismay, no sound emerged.
Tom lowered his arms and took a step toward her. His voice
soft and gaze determined, he dared, "Tell me you don't love
me." He paused and closed the gap between them, taking her
face in his hands so she was forced to meet his gaze. "Tell
me that you've forgotten the day you claimed me as your
He smiled softly in remembrance. "I haven't. Even though
the scar has faded, the memory is still there. Tell me
you've forgotten what you said when we were near death and
lost in the middle of space." Tom's thumbs absently began
caressing her face, as his eyes were lost in the memory. "I
was an idiot then, 'Lanna, to not tell you how much I love
you. But you do know that. Now."
She closed her eyes, lulled by the soothing tone of his
voice, the warmth of his hands, his breath on her cheek.
Suddenly the warmth was replaced by the softness of his
lips. The emotions she had been fighting bubbled to the
surface and she responded with a wanton eagerness. It had
been so long since they had last made love.
Abandoning her lips, he trailed a soft row of kisses along
her brow ridges as he breathed in the essence of the woman
he would die for. B'Elanna's breath caught at his
tenderness, savoring the feel of his lips on her.
Tom, lost in the sensation of holding her again and unaware
of the meaning behind his words, then murmured the
unforgivable. "Tell me he never made you feel this way."
She started as the request pierced the haze of arousal that
surrounded her. Brow furrowing in shocked disbelief,
B'Elanna jerked away from him and spat, "Tell you *what*?"
Paris, startled by her sudden retreat, blinked and mentally
replayed his last words. 'Dammit, Paris,' he thought to
himself. 'Why don't you just piss her off?' Aloud, he
tried to undo the damage, "B'Elanna -"
Torres slowly advanced on him, her dark eyes blazing. "You
want me to compare your techniques? Is that it? Who got
B'Elanna off the best?"
"He waltzes back into your life and you willingly trail
after him like a dog in heat! Why *wouldn't* I want to know
what he's got that all of a sudden I don't?" Paris shot back
at her, his chest heaving with emotion.
Torres shot him a disgusted look. "Humans!" she spat,
turning away from him once more to pace back to the window.
"Always wanting to know every lurid detail. You want to
know? Fine! Then get ready for the ride of your life
because that's what he was to me!"
Her brown eyes gleamed ferally and Tom began to wonder just
how much he really *did* want to know about her past
relationship. With a slight nod, she turned, rubbing her
hands up and down her arms, remembering the feel of the
hands she had thought long dead. "Chakotay was right.
Garrick and I were lovers," she bit out, her words almost as
bruising as her tone. She stopped a few feet from the
window and gazed out at the stars. "I'll never forget the
day we met." Her voice took on a dreamy tone and Paris
winced at the sudden change.
"The attraction was instantaneous. We shook hands and, I
swear, I saw a current of electricity snap between us." She
turned back to Tom, but her eyes were glazed as she relived
her memories. "That night…was incredible. I'd never felt
like that before. It was raw. It was animalistic. It was
as if he knew every little part of me and satisfied it
Paris pursed his lips, deciding that, if he didn't want to
hear a blow by blow account of their lovemaking, now was an
opportune time to interrupt. "So you had great sex," he
commented. He watched as her eyes cleared and focused in on
him. "But what did he do to your heart?"
B'Elanna stared at him.
Slowly, he walked closer and, though he dared not touch her
knowing he would just pique her Klingon side, he lifted his
hand and caressed the air around her face. "When you held
his hand, beneath the passion, did you feel something else?
Did you feel what I feel when *I* hold your hand?" His eyes
pleaded with her, begging that she tell him what he
desperately needed to hear.
"Did you feel the sweet joy of love singing in your blood?
Did you for once feel that you would happily sacrifice
yourself so that he could live? Did the piece of him that
you held in your heart ache every moment you were separated?
How does what you felt for him compare to what you feel for
me?" Tom watched with a sinking feeling that right now she
truly didn't have an answer.
As the silence grew, he steeled himself against the sudden
stab of pain that accompanied that knowledge and murmured,
"You don't have to have an answer for me, but 'Lanna, at
some point you *will* have to have one for yourself."
Without another word, he turned and walked out the door.
Having escaped the suddenly close confines of her quarters,
Tom leaned against the bulkhead next to her door and closed
his eyes, willing the pain that now overwhelmed him to ease.
'Maybe she never really did love me. Maybe she said it
because she thought we were dying and when we didn't, she
Setting his jaw and squaring his shoulders, Paris forced
himself to walk down the hall, past the curious stares of
his crewmates, and into the turbolift. He swore he would
not lose it in front of God and everyone. There was already
enough gossip on the ship about the newly-discovered love
triangle. With a sigh of relief, the lift doors opened and
revealed he had lucked out. He wouldn't have to share a
ride. He swallowed convulsively and ordered, "Deck four."
At this time of night Sandrine's would most likely be empty
- those working Alpha shift having gone to bed hours ago and
the Beta/Gamma workers were either still on duty or reveling
in the sorely needed shore leave.
As he walked into the holodeck, Tom found that his luck
still held. Only a handful of holodeck characters were
present and no one from Voyager itself. He ordered a scotch
on the rocks with more scotch than rocks, then sat down
heavily at a table in the corner. Tom nursed the drink,
silently replaying the fight with B'Elanna and chastising
himself for bringing up the topic. So immersed was he in
his thoughts, he didn't notice that he was no longer alone.
"May I join you, Mr. Paris?" asked a familiar voice.
Without waiting for a response from her pilot, Janeway
pulled out a chair and gestured to Sandrine for two more of
whatever Tom was drinking. The French woman smiled with
understanding and readied the drinks.
Janeway allowed the silence at the table to grow; she could
feel the young man's pain radiating off of him and for a
moment she was unsure if this really was a good idea.
However, based on her conversation with Chakotay, it seemed
like the fallout was already starting. The captain nodded
her thanks to the bar's owner as she quietly deposited the
drinks and returned to the back room.
Blanching as she took a sip of what turned out to be a very
strong scotch, Janeway pursed her lips and decided the best
approach would be a direct one. She folded her hands in
front of her and stared at the slumped figure of Tom Paris.
His hair was askew as if he had run his hands through it one
too many times and when he absently looked up at her, she
could read the pain in his eyes.
"How much do you love her, Tom?" Kathryn asked, her voice
low, but strong.
Paris looked curiously at her, his features scrunched into a
quizzical mask. "I'm sorry. Captain?"
Sighing, she offered him an understanding smile. "Do you
love her enough to let her make her own choices?"
Tom closed his eyes and dropped his head into his hands. "I
don't know, Captain. I just don't know." He bit his lower
lip then shook his head. "Last week…hell, yesterday, I
could have told you anything you wanted to know about me and
B'Elanna. But now?" He shrugged helplessly. "It's like
she's changed over night. She's not the B'Elanna Torres I
fell in love with. Every moment she spends with Warwich,
she changes just a little more - she's harder, more
headstrong...and when I look in her eyes, there's only a
glimmer of something I recognize…"
Janeway took another sip of her drink and laid a supportive
hand on Paris' forearm. "I know its hard, Tom. Watching
someone you love confront her past…"
"But that's just it, Captain. I'm *glad* she's getting a
chance to close some old doors completely. I'm just scared
she's going to lose who she's become in the process." He
offered her a sorrowful smile. "And when it's all over,
she'll realize she never loved me in the first place."
Janeway's eyebrows crawled up her forehead. "Now, I don't
believe that for a minute, Tom Paris," she chastised
forcefully. "You can't fake the way she looks at you when
she thinks no one is watching. Nor the concern she has for
you when you're injured or missing."
Paris shrugged half-heartedly in response and the captain
added, "But, neither can you tell a stubborn half-Klingon
what's best for her life." She smiled encouragingly at him.
"So I'll ask again. Do you love her enough to let her make
own decisions? And trust that she'll choose correctly in
After a moment, Tom nodded. And he did. God help him, but
he did. 'Please, 'Lanna, don't let me down now,' he
"B'Elanna!" Garrick greeted warmly as he met her in the
development building. Placing his hands on her shoulders he
pulled her into a slight hug and pressed his lips to her
temple. "You are an absolute genius!" he praised, the
corners of his mouth lifting with pride.
Confused, Torres looked up into his features, ignoring how
good it felt to be in his arms again. "What happened?"
Garrick turned her in his embrace, throwing an arm casually
around her shoulders, and walked toward the scout ship.
"The modifications you developed will increase the warp
capacity to warp 8.3! It could make all the difference in a
The engineer glanced up at him with a saucy grin. "You
didn't think I had it in me, did you?"
"I had absolutely no doubts in your abilities, B'Elanna," he
rejoined. "I was merely surprised at how quickly the
updates were completed."
"Well, Voyager hasn't exactly been a leisure cruise.
Whenever something breaks down, the captain usually wants it
fixed yesterday." She smiled again, her mind drifting back
to her early days on the ship. "It's been good for me…"
Garrick looked down at her quizzically, slowly their
meandering pace to a full stop. "Why do I sense a 'but' in
B'Elanna shook her head, glancing away. "Probably because
there is," she replied with a frustrated sigh.
Sensing she was reluctant to talk about something that was
obviously bothering her, he squeezed her shoulders once then
changed the subject, hoping to steer her back to the topic
in a round-about way. "Do you remember the time when you
beamed me out of that Cardassian brig at warp speed?"
Torres smiled with satisfaction as they resumed their walk
toward 'The Champion'. "It was pretty amazing, wasn't it?"
"How many times do you get a chance to do something like
that on Voyager? The look on your face when I
rematerialized was absolutely breathtaking."
"Once," she replied, sobering as she recalled the
circumstances behind Chakotay's rescue from Seska. "I've
had the opportunity once since I've been here."
"Opportunity?" Garrick questioned. "You mean you could have
made history again? Or, did something bad happen?"
B'Elanna shook her head. "No, Janeway wouldn't allow me to
do it. She decided a transport at warp speed was too
"Ah, but what is life without a few risks? I seem to recall
several times when we escaped the Cardassian raiders by the
skin of our teeth." Garrick smiled, remnants of the former
adrenaline rushing through his blood. "How amazing that
was. Made you feel alive!"
He turned to her and took her hand in his. "We can have
that again, B'Elanna. We *will* have that again if you
stay. We have a battle to fight. A people to stand up for.
Just like we did in the Badlands."
Warwich laced their fingers together and gazed at her
intently. "B'Elanna, you have a duty as a fellow member of
the Maquis. These people are in trouble. It was only just
by chance that I was able to drive the invaders out when I
first arrived. I promise you they will come back, and with
She sighed and closed her eyes. B'Elanna knew on some level
that he would play this card and, as much as she'd like to,
she couldn't hate him for the emotional blackmail.
"Garrick, these people you fought, they aren't Cardassians.
That is the Maquis enemy."
Warwich's gaze hardened as his memory replayed countless
attacks replacing the enemy faces with those of Cardassians.
The tone of his voice chilled as he spat, "An enemy of the
Maquis is any race who conducts unprovoked raids on a world,
raping the people and the land with no concern for anyone
The harshness in his eyes softened as his gaze refocused on
her. Garrick smiled slightly, the warmth that had been lost
slowly seeping back into his voice. "B'Elanna, your arrival
here is Providence itself. With your engineering skills,
the fleet would be built in half the time, allowing for more
training before the war begins."
"Garrick, I have a duty to Starfleet now," she hedged, her
uncertainty clearly reflected in her voice.
"You have a duty as a member of the Maquis to help me
protect a world I have come to think of as home," he
countered ruthlessly. "We took an oath…for life. To
protect those who cannot defend themselves against those who
would destroy them. How does this make the Triors any
different than the Cardassians?" he barked.
The tone of his voice chilled her blood and B'Elanna fought
the urge to shrink away from him. This was not the Garrick
Warwich she remembered. He had changed into someone
more…dangerous. But wasn’t he merely doing what was
necessary? It was a creed she, too, had once adopted as her
own: 'the end justifies the means.' But during her time on
Voyager, she had somehow forgotten. Forgotten what it meant
to live one hour - one fight - at a time. The question was,
did she want to return to that life?
Garrick, sensing her disconcertion, raised their linked
hands to his lips and kissed her knuckles. "Don't forget, I
know who you are. We're cut from the same cloth. You may
wear a Starfleet uniform now, but in your heart, you're
still a Maquis warrior. Just like me. It's not something
that ever goes away."
Slowly, she unlinked their hands and murmured, "I'll - I'll
think about it. That's the best I can do for now."
Garrick nodded with reluctant acceptance.
As she turned to leave the building, she glanced back and
felt like she was turning her back on the Maquis life she
had left behind. The only world in which she had ever truly
As B'Elanna rematerialized in Transporter Room Two, she
glanced around at the familiar surroundings and suddenly
felt claustrophobic. The starkness of the crewman's yellow
and black uniform stifled the sense of freedom she felt in
the Kalattii clothing. She offered a nod to the young man
and walked through the doors, noting for the first time in a
while how *gray* everything was. The walls, the carpet,
even the ceiling; everything around her was some shade of
It was a far cry from the riotous color that filled the
buildings on the moon's surface. B'Elanna inwardly wondered
how she had lasted so long in Voyager's sterile environment.
She passed two ensigns in the corridor and winced at their
stiff postures. Was this who she had become? Where was the
brash young B'Elanna Torres who had killed a squad of
Cardassians without hesitation? What had Janeway's
Starfleet ideals done to her?
She paused for a moment and, hearing Garrick's words echo in
the back of her head, tapped her comm badge. "Torres to
"Captain, I need a moment of your time."
On the bridge, Janeway looked over her shoulder to her first
officer. She recognized the finality in the younger woman's
voice. Chakotay nodded with resignation. They had both
realized that this moment would come. Stifling a sigh, the
captain replied, "I'll be in my ready room. We'll talk
Torres walked out of Janeway's ready room about an hour
later. The captain was left with bitter disappointment, but
B'Elanna felt lighter than she had in years. Now there was
only one thing left to do: tell Tom.
Two words shattered every illusion Tom held desperately
"I'm leaving," B'Elanna stated as she pulled out a Starfleet
issued duffel bag and began cleaning out her drawers. She
had uttered those damnably painful words quickly hoping to
end the conversation before it began. But B'Elanna
instinctively knew Tom wouldn't leave well enough alone.
Standing in her sleeping quarters, she watched his reaction
change from shock to resigned acceptance to outright fury in
the split second it took for him to walk in the door.
He closed his eyes for a moment, clenching his hands into
fists as a cold anger infused him. His worst nightmare now
stood right in front of him. She was doing it. She was
turning her back on Voyager, on the captain, and, worst of
all, on him.
He stood shaking his head as if he were trying to fully
comprehend the situation. "Is life so damned horrible here,
B'Elanna, that you would throw it all away just to go back
to being a Maquis?" Paris' voice gained strength as his ire
built. "First you tell me he's an old lover and now you're
changing your *life* for him! What kind of *hold* does he
have over you?"
Torres turned back to her packing in an effort to ignore the
disgust in her lover's eyes. "You should know by now that
no man controls me," she spat, "not Garrick, not Chakotay
and certainly not *you*!"
"Well, that's painfully obvious, but why the hell do you
want to go back to living like a Maquis?" Tom slumped back
against the wall allowing it to support his body now
boneless with bewilderment. "Was the life so glamorous and
the work so wonderful that -"
"I never *stopped* being a Maquis, Paris!" she screamed
back, rage flowing through her veins unchecked. "My true
self was just *buried*! Thanks to Janeway and her Starfleet
rules, to Chakotay for ramming The Liberty and most of all
Shocked, Paris shoved himself away from the wall and threw
his hands in the air. "Me?! What the hell did *I* have to
do with it?"
B'Elanna turned back to him, forcefully throwing her indigo
nightgown into the duffel bag. "You pumped my head full of
lies trying to change me into something I'm not! I'm a
Maquis, Paris, deal with it!"
Tom shook his head as he watched the fire in her eyes kindle
into something close to hate. Puzzled, he asked, "Where is
this coming from, 'Lanna? We were happy together…weren't
we? Or was that just an illusion as well?"
Torres turned back to the bed unable to face the concern in
his gaze. Steeling herself to hammer another nail into the
coffin containing their relationship, she bit out, "The
B'Elanna Torres you knew is dead. If she ever really
Tom grabbed her forcefully by the biceps, knowing full well
that she could wreak a lot of damage on him, but not caring.
Her words had already done more harm than her hands ever
would. "If that's true, then tell me," he commanded, his
blue gaze piercing her, "once and for all that you never
loved me. Tell me, and I'll let you go forever."
Paris stared into her dark, fiery eyes and saw the light ebb
until nothing remained but flat brown pools. He swallowed
the bile of heartbreak that bubbled in the back of his
throat as he read the answer in her eyes. No, she didn't
love him. With a vicious curse, he jerked away from her and
stalked out of her quarters.
B'Elanna, suddenly bereft of the warmth in his touch, sank
to the floor, knees buckling under the weight of pain she
had just inflicted.
'You destroyed him,' cried her human half.
'Better that than to let your enemy destroy your true self!'
barked her Klingon side.
Unable to answer either argument, Torres, wiping the tears
from her eyes, unclipped the Starfleet comm badge from her
uniform and cradled it softly in her hands. "Good-bye," she
murmured into the dark confines of her cabin.
It is a universal truth that people in close confines will
talk about anything and everything to bring some sense of
normalcy to extraordinary circumstances. In such cases as
these, news travels like wild fire and gossip even faster.
As Neelix walked down the corridor of deck 9, section 12, he
couldn't help but cringe at the latest news that spread like
Corellian fleas. If true, and based on the source, it most
certainly was, it was his job as morale officer to do what
He shifted his light burden slightly as he stopped at the
door to B'Elanna Torres' quarters. With a sigh, he tapped
the keypad and listened for the corresponding ping. An
exasperated sigh and a "What do you want?" greeted him as
the door slid open.
Smiling slightly, his eyes drifted from the tear stained
cheeks to the duffel bag and bat'leth in her hand and
concluded that the news was sadly true. B'Elanna watched as
he tried to form some sort of sentence to cover the awkward
moment. Digging to the depths of her Klingon side, she
pulled up every wall she had ever built to help her through
the next few moments. Like it or not, Neelix had become a
good friend and she knew he would do his best to talk her
out of leaving.
Shoving past him and into the hallway, she growled, "You're
wasting your time, Neelix, if you think you'll change my
"Oh!" he cried, hastening his short stride to catch up to
her longer one. "I wouldn't dream of it. I know when to
let things be. I just wanted to give you a little snack -
for the road, so to speak."
"What? Are you helping me pack?" she muttered under her
breath before turning on her heel and staring down at the
shorter man. "The trip will take 30 seconds at the most.
I'm only transporting to the surface. It's not like I
haven't done this before."
Neelix nodded, sadness softening his features. "Yes, but…"
he trailed off, seeing that B'Elanna understood. With a
glance around the corridor, he pulled his hands from behind
his back to reveal a large thermos and a sealed container.
He smiled uncertainly and offered, "Raktajino, just the way
you like it. And, a stack of banana pancakes!"
B'Elanna couldn't help but smile at the dear man. Neelix
had no equal. She shifted her duffel bag into the hand that
held her bat'leth and graciously accepted the containers.
"Neelix, I -" she began only to see the Talaxian lower his
eyes and hold up a staying hand.
"No, no," he murmured, quickly clearing his throat. "If you
believe that you're making the right decision, then nothing
more needs to be said."
Torres nodded and replied, "I'll miss you, too, Neelix.
And…thanks." She turned on her heel and headed down the
hallway toward the turbolift never seeing the twin tears
that trickled down his cheeks.
B'Elanna took in a quick breath and closed her eyes tightly
to smother the tears that threatened to form. Dammit, she
hadn't realized that leaving would be this hard. Running
the gauntlet of four years of memories and friendships was
something she knew she would have to do, but she hadn't
counted on her reactions to it. 'At least the transporter
room will be safe,' she thought wryly. The post would more
than likely be operated by a crewman with whom she only had
a passing familiarity.
However, as the doors to Transporter Room One opened,
B'Elanna realized the last leg of the gauntlet was still
left to be run: Harry Kim stood at the controls.
She glanced uncertainly at him and greeted, "Harry."
The ensign watched her closely his dark eyes steady and gaze
assessing. "B'Elanna," he returned neutrally. He lowered
his gaze to the console for a moment to check the readings.
"You know this isn't right," he murmured, his voice so soft
she almost missed the words.
Knowing he meant well, she quelled the knee-jerk reaction to
bite his head off and sighed. "It's right for *me*, Harry,"
she replied as she ascended the transporter platform. She
turned back to him and offered him a forced smile. "So
Harry nodded, hearing the double entendre clearly. "Good
luck, Maquis," he answered offering her an equally forced
And she was gone.
Harry stood at the far end of the Sandrine's pool table, cue
in hand, and watched as Tom set up for the easy win. It was
a clear shot into the corner pocket - all the pilot had to
do was hit the eight ball. Tom lined up and Kim leaned in
slightly, bodily urging the ball home. The stick hit the
cue ball…and for the third time that night, the eight ball
"Tom," Harry began softly, his voice filled with sympathy.
"It's been six weeks."
Paris tensed noticeably, knowing full well that the ensign
wasn't talking about his pool game. Tom rose from his
slumped position over the table. "I told you," he bit out,
reaching for his glass of scotch. "I don't want to talk
about it." He took a big gulp and, glass in hand, pointed
to his friend. "Your shot."
Kim nodded reluctantly and took aim, easily sinking the
"Nice shot," the lieutenant acknowledged. Paris laid his
cue stick on the table and ambled over to the bar, nodding
to various crewmen seated at the surrounding tables.
"Sandrine," he called, his voice slurring slightly. "I need
"You know, just because she left doesn't mean your life is
over," Harry chastised softly as he joined Tom at the bar.
The ensign tried to grab the newly filled glass but Paris
blocked his hand and downed the contents in a single
"Harry, Harry, Harry," Tom began loudly, a slight bite
hidden in his tone, "haven't you learned by now that women
are all the same?" He threw a jovial arm around the younger
man's shoulders and continued, "Why in the world would I
think my life is over?"
"Maybe because you were in love with her?" Harry offered
Ignoring his friend's supposition, Paris stated matter-of-
factly, "Much as I hate to admit it, I have been through
this before. You get over it and go on to the next one."
He sat heavily on a barstool and picked at a bowl of
pretzels that Ayala had asked to be added to the program.
"Besides, what is love anyway?" the pilot asked
rhetorically. "Is it wonderful and exhilarating? Or is it
simply giving another person the leverage to rip out your
heart and hand it to you?"
Harry was grateful that Paris was *finally* opening up about
what had happened when B'Elanna left, even if it was
metaphorically. "I think it has its good and bad parts, but
if you're lucky, you get more good than bad."
"You really are an innocent, aren't you?" Paris asked,
shooting Kim an amazed look. "It's probably a good thing
that you're trapped out here in the Delta Quadrant, Harry.
I don't think you'd stand a chance with some of those women
in the regular ports of call." He leaned back slightly on
the barstool but regained his balance quickly before he
could embarrass himself by falling off. "Man, I could tell
you some stories…"
Kim, realizing the alcohol was beginning to effect more than
Paris' motor skills, placed a firm hand on the older man's
shoulder and said, "I think its time to go, Tom - you've had
enough for one night."
Paris rejected the idea, quickly shrugging Kim's hand away,
but Harry was adamant. "Tom, you have the early shift
tomorrow. Don't think for one second that Chakotay would
hesitate to remove you from duty if you're even the
slightest bit hung over."
Tom's shoulders slumped in defeat. He needed the shift to
keep his mind occupied and away from other, more painful,
subjects. Just like he sometimes needed the alcohol in the
off hours. During the six weeks since B'Elanna had been
gone, not a night had passed in which Harry hadn't spent
some amount of time with him. In fact, Tom was beginning to
suspect a conspiracy since they had never been assigned duty
shifts that coincided that often before. But, when pressed,
Kim denied it saying that maybe Chakotay had mixed up the
They made their way to the door, Kim ignoring the
sympathetic stares of the crewmembers and Paris continuing
to boast about his Alpha Quadrant exploits. As much as he
tried to hide behind his usual mask, Harry knew that Tom had
a long way to go before he was truly over B'Elanna. They
had just reached the holodeck doors when Janeway's voice
came over the comm system. "Senior officers to the Bridge."
'Oh, hell,' Kim thought.
The turbolift doors opened, and Paris found himself rapidly
sobering up as his eyes absorbed the fleet of ships that
glistened in the viewscreen. 'Oh, hell,' he inwardly echoed
Harry's earlier thoughts.
"Captain, I certainly hope that's not who I think it is,"
Tom quipped, the biting edge belying his facetiousness.
Janeway stifled the urge to comfort her pilot, knowing that
everyone else felt his worries. "How far away are they, Mr.
Kim?" she asked, straightening to an almost regal height in
"Roughly three light years, Captain."
Chakotay glanced tensely at Janeway. "Have they spotted
"Sensors would indicate no," Tuvok replied as he adjusted
the read-outs on his console. "Should I hail them?"
Kathryn pursed her lips, her mind racing through a multitude
of scenarios, any one of which could easily occur.
"Negative," she decided at the last moment. "I don't want
to risk upsetting someone with that much fire power at their
disposal if I don't have to." She rose and walked toward
the viewscreen. "Mr. Paris, lay in a course that will keep
us as far away from the Triors as possible."
Surprised by her order, Paris turned from his position at
conn and protested, "Captain, we have to go back. They
can't be anywhere near ready for a fleet this large. We
have to help her!"
"It would be imprudent to take on a fleet of this size
without a substantial amount of reinforcements, Captain,"
Tuvok pointed out in a calm voice. "Besides, Ms. Torres did
choose to leave Voyager without any prompting from us. She
knew that an attack was highly probable."
"Agreed. Mr. Paris, plot the course, warp three,"
She offered him a tight smile. "Just because we're avoiding
the Triors doesn't mean we won't give B'Elanna a heads-up."
Paris visibly relaxed at her words. "Course plotted."
"Engage. Harry, open a subspace channel to the Kalattii
moon and make sure there's no way the Triors will pick up on
"Aye, Captain. Channel open."
Janeway nodded slightly and began, "This is Captain Kathryn
Janeway of the starship Voyager to the Kalattii moon. We
have encountered a fleet of ships we believe to be the
Triors. They are heavily armed and are on a direct course
for your moon." She paused a moment, carefully weighing her
options. She turned to Chakotay, who read the resolve in
her gaze and silently offered his support. "We will be
returning to your space to offer what aid we can in the
defense of your home. Janeway out."
The captain looked over her shoulder at Harry. The ensign
confirmed the transmission had been received moments later.
"Mr. Paris?" she asked knowing he had anticipated her
"Coordinates logged in for the Kalattii moon. At warp 6
we'll be able to easily beat the Triors there."
She folded her arms and ordered, "Do it."
Now all they had to do was wait.
The hours it took to reach the Kalattii moon passed like
years to Voyager's pilot. Questions raced through his head
as he considered what would happen once they arrived. Would
he see B'Elanna? Did he even want to, especially if she was
Paris balked at that idea. 'All I want is for her to be
happy even if it means we won't be together,' he thought,
chasing those questions out of his mind and refocusing on
the task at hand.
From her seat in the "big chair," Janeway watched the tense
line of Tom's shoulders. For someone who was bound and
determined that Voyager return, he didn't seem to be too
happy with her decision now. Chakotay leaned toward her and
whispered, "Don't try to read his mind, Kathryn. He'll be
alright - whichever way this goes."
Janeway smiled indulgently at her first officer. "I think
you've got the market cornered on mind reading," she
murmured, raising her eyebrows at his innocent expression.
Any comment he might have made was forestalled by Tuvok's
announcement that they were approaching the moon. Without a
second thought, Janeway's smile disappeared. She rose and
ordered, "Open hailing frequencies."
"Captain!" Warwich greeted warmly. "So good to see you
again! Thank you for the warning. We have scrambled the
ships and crews and will be ready to launch before the
Tom tuned out the remainder of the conversation and instead
focused on the helm controls while his peripheral vision
searched the viewscreen for signs of B'Elanna. Little did
he know, she was doing the same on the other side.
Torres sat just out of view range but close enough to see
the Bridge crew. She glanced at the Engineering Station and
was somewhat gratified to see it manned by Joe Carey. As
hard as she tried, though, she couldn't keep her eyes from
straying to the conn. Finally giving in to the need to see
him, B'Elanna allowed her eyes to travel over her former
lover. She couldn't see him clearly, but what she did see
gave her pause. His uniform was neat as was his hair, but
she could read the haggard lines in his face.
A pang flashed through her as she realized how much he was
still hurting over her sudden departure. In truth, she,
too, continued to feel a hole in her heart that had once
been filled by Tom Paris. Though she had done what she had
always done in the past and forced herself to ignore it,
seeing him again brought a fresh wave of pain to the
surface. B'Elanna bit her lip and jerked her attention back
to the captain and Garrick.
"Well, we haven't constructed as many heavy cruisers as we
would prefer, but with the scout ships and what few large
ships we do have, we should be able to adequately defend
ourselves," Warwich explained.
Janeway nodded. "We would like to extend an offer of help
to you and the Kalattii people," she answered. Although she
wasn't sure she liked the way Warwich's eyes lit up at her
statement, she had nonetheless already committed herself and
the crew and, barring any unforeseen problems, she would
stand behind her word.
"Captain! We would be most appreciative of the aid!" the
former Maquis replied quickly, eager to make use of
"Good. Now," Kathryn continued, her stance and expression
noticeably softening, "if I may, how is B'Elanna?"
Garrick pursed his lips, looked back over his shoulder and,
ignoring her question, interjected, "I will contact you soon
regarding strategies. Warwich out."
Brow furrowed at the abrupt end to the conversation, Janeway
glanced back to Tuvok.
The Vulcan shook his head and replied, "The connection was
terminated, but there does not seem to be any undue reason
Tom looked up from his control panel to the captain, concern
easily readable in his eyes. 'We'll find out what's going
on,' Janeway silently promised him.
Warwich turned away from the console, cursing inwardly.
'Dammit! I should've known she would ask about her.' As he
walked toward the command station, his eyes caught
"Why wouldn't you let me talk to her, Garrick?" Torres
asked, her confusion evident.
The former Maquis shrugged nonchalantly and replied, "You're
no longer a member of her crew. Why should she be concerned
B'Elanna's eyes narrowed as she stalked toward him.
"They're my *friends,*" she bit out, her hands clenched into
fists by her sides. "I left suddenly…the list of reasons
for her concern could go on and on."
Garrick waved a hand in her general direction. "So, you'll
make knew friends. You'll have tons of them on the moon
once the war is over. And, most importantly," he added,
turning to look at her arrogantly, "you'll have me. What
more could a girl want?"
B'Elanna shook her head in disbelief. Who was this man who
stood in front of her? Certainly not the Garrick Warwich
she had shared a bed with all those years ago. She looked
at him as if seeing him for the first time. "You may think
you know me, Garrick, but you obviously don't love me."
Warwich looked at her askance. "What does that have to do
with anything? What we're going to accomplish--"
"Means nothing if my heart isn't in it," she interrupted.
She finally realized the truth that she had shoved away in
favor of selfish fantasies. "I left a man who *does* love
me. Who wants me for who I am and not just for my
Warwich shook his head with amused tolerance. "B'Elanna, I
told you, our relationship will resume. Just give it time;
once the battle is over, and I don't have so much weighing
on my mind -"
"Garrick!" she cried, disgust creeping into her tone. "I'm
not talking about the sex. I can find and have found it
anywhere. I'm talking about love; complete and total
devotion to another person." She turned away from him and
gestured widely, "This job won't give me that, and I don't
think you can either."
B'Elanna sighed and dropped her hands back to her sides.
Closing her eyes, she shook her head. "When Voyager
arrives, I'm going back." She paused before turning away.
"I do thank you, though. You've shown me how much I've
grown up over the past few years. I'm not the renegade
half-Klingon who rebuilt 39 year old engines and kept a ship
of misfits a half step ahead of the enemy." Torres' lips
quirked with wry amusement. "I'm a respected Starfleet
officer who rebuilds bio-neural matrices and keeps a ship of
combined Starfleet and Maquis one step closer to home. But
more than that, I'm a woman who knows what it truly means to
be loved. And its time for me to go home."
A soft smile flitted over her lips as she walked out of the
command room, her mind already forming several variations of
the words, 'I'm sorry.'
As the door closed behind her, Garrick's previous calm
shattered violently. "No!" he raged, slamming a fist down
onto a nearby console. "She won't leave here! I need her!
She's the only one who can do this. She will *not* ruin me!
Computer, locate B'Elanna Torres."
"B'Elanna Torres is in her quarters."
"Security, take B'Elanna Torres into custody."
"On what charge, sir?"
"Illegal off-world transport. Transporting stolen
documents, and whatever else you can think up. She will
*not* leave this moon!"
"Yes, Your Reverence."
Minutes later, B'Elanna found herself struggling between two
armed guards as she was unceremoniously hauled out of her
quarters. "What the hell are you doing?" she raged
wrenching her arms out of their grasps. The slight sound of
phaser-based guns being armed stopped her struggles, though
it did nothing to ease her ire. "Let me go! Garrick will
hear about this!"
After shoving her through a door, a familiar voice
interrupted any further railing she might have blasted at
the guards. "I'm sorry, B'Elanna, but surely you didn't
think that I would just let you blithely change your mind
and walk out on me. You have too much top secret knowledge
tucked away behind those lovely cranial ridges of yours.
There's no limit to the damage you could wreak on this moon
and my people."
The two Kalattiian men slammed the low-tech cell door closed
and set the lock-out frequency before moving to stand near
"Garrick, what the hell do you think you're doing?" Torres
yelled as she jerked the bars impotently, feeling them
rattle slightly but holding against her Klingon strength.
"Holding me hostage is not something Voyager is going to
"Hostage?" Warwich asked, feigning shock, his eyes gleaming
with evil mirth. "That's such a *nasty* little word. I
prefer to think of your being in protective custody. After
all, we will be at war and space travel is so dangerous
during those times."
"Janeway won't believe you, Petahk!" B'Elanna yelled
slamming her fists into the wall.
Garrick grew thoughtful, "You're probably right. But she
will believe *you*."
"I will *not* lie to my captain!"
"Oh, no, my dear, you won't be doing anything at all," he
interjected sweetly. "You see, you'll be too busy making
last minute adjustments to the ships before we send them up
into the fight."
"Damn you, Garrick! You haven't changed! You're still the
same conniving self-serving bastard that you were in the
"Perhaps, my dear, but I'm sad to say I was wrong about you!
You're a coward now. You pine away for your safe and cozy
ship and rant and rave over some useless emotion! It's such
a shame, really. You were so much more alive back then."
Without another word, Garrick cut the communication link,
but Torres, determined to have the last word, hurled
Klingonaase at the blank screen.
Janeway watched the huge gas giant that hung in the middle
of the viewscreen as she shook off a sudden feeling of
foreboding. She had never given much credence to the notion
before, and if she had her preference, she wouldn't do so
now. Nevertheless, she mentally held her breath as she
waited for the other shoe to drop.
"Mr. Paris," she directed, shaking off the thought, "plot a
high orbit around the gas giant. Hopefully, we'll be able
to shield ourselves as long as possible to add an element of
surprise to the attack." She squared her shoulders and
turned away from the blue-green orb, ordering, "Mr. Kim,
open a channel to the moon. It's time Mr. Warwich and I
Inwardly, she still hoped for some sign of B'Elanna -- even
if it were only a glimpse on the viewscreen. Something
wasn't right but, as yet, she couldn't determine what. "Mr.
Warwich," she greeted as the Most Reverered's image appeared
on the screen.
"Captain!" Garrick returned, offering the captain a smile
which did not reach his eyes. 'Careful, Warwich,' he warned
himself silently. 'You need their help. And you damn sure
don't want them thinking anything is wrong.' Forcing
himself to relax, he continued. "I'm sure you want to get
started on working out a defense plan."
"That would be the first order of business," she returned
with a nod of agreement.
Garrick's smile broadened, and hoping to stave off the
inevitable questions, he answered, "B'Elanna will be as glad
to hear that as I am. In fact, she's doing some last minute
modifications to the fleet as we speak."
Janeway's mouth quirked into a fond smile. "That sounds
like the B'Elanna Torres I know."
The Most Revered chuckled good-naturedly all the while
wondering how the half-Klingon liked her new accommodations.
"Harry," Janeway began decisively, "transfer the comm
channel to my ready room. I'd like you, Chakotay, and Tuvok
to join me to formulate a plan of defense."
The ensign nodded as the captain gave Warwich one last
measuring look, judging the man's sincerity and finding him
lacking. She could feel the commander rising from his seat
and walking toward her. "I don't like this, Chakotay," she
murmured, crossing her arms. "If everything is so alright,
why haven't we seen B'Elanna?"
Chakotay leaned toward her, dropping his voice so that his
words wouldn't be overheard. "Maybe she *is* busy.
Readying a fleet of hastily constructed ships isn't easy."
Janeway shot him a thoughtful look. "No," the commander
replied with a cynical smile, "I don't buy it either. But
until we hear otherwise, we have no option but to proceed as
The captain nodded reluctantly and walked toward the ready
room, her mind formulating the beginnings of the attack.
B'Elanna Torres, in fact, was not enjoying her new
accommodations at all. She had paced the length and breadth
of her cell so often she had lost count, stoking her
simmering ire into a full-blown rage. Only then would she
be able to take on the antiquated titanium bars that held
She laughed harshly. In all her years, she had never found
a machine that she couldn't manipulate, given enough time.
And yet the one thing that she couldn’t sneak her way past
was a series of metal bars. B'Elanna grabbed the bars and
shook vigorously, reveling in the Klingon rage that flowed
through her. Although the action only served to irritate
her more, she took savage glee in the fact that she had
frightened off the two guards hours ago. "Damn you!" she
raged, then added another curse in Klingon that questioned
her captors' parentage.
"Think, B'Elanna," she muttered to herself, squeezing her
hands into fists. Throwing herself to the floor, she peered
absently at the cracks in the concrete wall. A tiny gleam
of light, unnoticed at first, appeared between the bars and
the wall. Her eyes tracked the light trying to find its
source, and, after a moment, she lunged to her feet.
There! Just as she suspected. The casing that held that
section of the bars to the concrete had loosened. Whether
over time or her heated efforts, she didn't care. All that
mattered was that it was potentially a way out. Smelling
the first wafts of freedom, B'Elanna squeezed her left hand
between the concrete and the bar and pulled.
Seconds passed and the gap had widened only centimeters.
Steeling herself for another try, she took in a deep breath,
then spied a bright piece of metal along the opposite wall.
Curious, she walked toward it. She easily recognized the
hyperspanner she had absently tucked in her pocket before
her encounter with Garrick. "It must have fallen out when
they threw me in here," she murmured, turning the tool over
and over. A satisfied smile crept over her features. With
a little luck and ingenuity, she'd be free in no time.
"Captain," Warwich remarked, leaning back in his chair, "I
look forward to the first strike. Now, if you don't mind, I
need to go check on B'Elanna and the fleet."
Janeway nodded. "Once the long range sensors pick up the
Triorian fleet, we'll move into position and contract you."
"Agreed. Warwich out."
The captain glanced at her officers. "Alright, then. Let's
get moving. We've got plenty to do before the Triors
The trio nodded in agreement and returned to the bridge.
B'Elanna heaved a sigh of relief as the last bar gave way.
Though it had been tedious, painstaking work, the spanner
had effectively widened the gap between the bars and the
wall just enough to allow her the leverage she needed. She
squeezed into the small hole and, thanking Kahless she had
declined Neelix's multiple offers of various chocolate
delights, inched her way out of the cell.
Once free, she rushed to the console on the far wall from
which Garrick had gleefully touted his victory. Just a few
minor modifications and…. "Aha! You don't win that easy,
Warwich!" she exclaimed as a connection coalesced out of the
static. "Torres to Voyager, can you read me?"
On the starship in question, Harry Kim peered intently at
the subspace communication monitors. Seeing a blip, he
remodulated the bands and began to get a slightly distorted
signal. "Captain, we've got a message coming in from the
Curious, Janeway asked from her seat in the command chair,
"Is it Warwich?"
"No, I think…yes, it's B'Elanna," Kim answered, startled awe
filling his voice.
The captain stood immediately, and offering a sympathetic
glance to her pilot, ordered, "Put it on screen."
The viewscreen blinked and the gas giant disappeared from
view, replaced by the fuzzy image of B'Elanna Torres.
"Torr-- to --ager…" she hailed, the static mincing her
"Clean it up, Mr. Kim," Chakotay stated briskly as he joined
Janeway a few feet from the conn.
Harry's fingers danced over the control panel and, within
seconds, the image cleared.
"Torres to Janeway -"
"We read you, B'Elanna," Kathryn reassured her former chief
"Captain, I'm being held prisoner," Torres began.
Janeway ignored Paris' sharp intake of breath at her words
and instead placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "What
The half-Klingon heaved a sigh of resignation. 'Time to own
up to one of the two biggest mistakes of your life, Torres,'
she inwardly urged. B'Elanna, uncertain of the reaction her
explanation would bring, forced her gaze to rest solely on
the captain. "When Garrick told me you had found the Triors
en route, I was already having misgivings about my role here
on the moon. I had decided that I wanted to go back to
Voyager. Needless to say, he didn't take the news very
well. He flipped out and had me arrested."
"Mr. Tuvok, can you get a lock on her coordinates?"
"Negative, it appears that the cell she is currently in is
some distance below the surface. The interference from the
moon's defense grid is making it difficult to perform a full
"I'll take a shuttle, Captain," Paris stated eagerly, moving
out of his seat at the conn.
Janeway raised a hand, forestalling any further move by the
pilot. "Chakotay, I want you to go."
Paris shook his head, unable to believe the captain's
orders. "But, Captain--" Paris protested.
She smiled softly, offering her unspoken support for the
heartbroken man. "Mr. Paris, I understand your feelings,
but, given our current position and the possibility of a
Kalaati attack, once they realize what we're doing, we're
going to need you right here."
Glancing back to the woman in the viewscreen, Paris nodded
his reluctant agreement. 'Hang in there, B'Elanna,' he
silently entreated, 'the calvary's on its way.'
Chakotay sat behind the controls of the Cochrane, his
thoughts torn between the impending battle and the reunion
with his former shipmate. When she had first told him that
she wanted to leave Voyager, he hadn't doubted her sincerity
or her resolve. But somehow, when the time had come,
Chakotay was still surprised that she had left. He knew
that her decision had placed her on the wrong path, however,
his spirit guide had warned that any interference on his
part would only be met with anger. So, he hadn't said a
word when she left. Hadn't even said goodbye. In truth, he
knew she would be back; the only unknown was when.
The double trill of the sensor alert jerked him away from
his thoughts. "Chakotay to Voyager. I'm right above her
location. Scanning for Klingon life signs…"
He tapped out several commands beginning a full sensor sweep
of the area. Seeing a lone figure running from the building
which held the cell, the commander cursed, "Dammit,
B'Elanna, what are you doing?" A group of heavily armed
guards followed her, though they were no match for her long
strides. Chakotay locked on to her life signs and Torres,
feeling the familiar initial tingle of the transporter,
stopped in her tracks.
Seconds later, the transport was complete. "Captain," the
commander hailed, "I've got her. We're returning to the
Short of breath, B'Elanna took her seat at the tactical
station. "Thought I'd give you a diversion."
"Thanks, but a simple beam out would have been preferable,"
the commander replied wryly.
B'Elanna smirked, happy to once again be subject to his
perverse sense of humor. In truth, Torres had felt guilty
about Voyager aiding in her jailbreak and, deciding she had
already put them through too much trouble, had overpowered
the guard when he returned to check on her.
In a matter of moments, the Cochrane was out of the moon's
atmosphere and winging its way toward the aft cargo bay
doors. Chakotay expertly piloted the shuttle through the
cargo bay doors, landing her with only a slight thud. He
glanced over at his passenger, gauging her reaction to her
surroundings. "Home sweet home."
"Yeah, it is," she answered. B'Elanna smiled with
contentment and sighed, feeling a slight trace of
uncertainty course through her. She wasn’t sure just how
warm the welcome would be…especially by Tom.
The daring rescue, quick though it was, had not gone
unnoticed by The Most Revered. Kathryn winced internally at
the piercing edge that fear brought to Warwich's words.
"Captain Janeway!" Garrick yelled forcefully in the
viewscreen. "This is absolutely *outrageous!* You have
kidnapped B'Elanna! I demand her safe return now."
Brow wrinkled in cynical disbelief, the captain crossed her
arms and countered, "I'm afraid that's impossible, Mr.
Warwich. Not only did B'Elanna contact us, she stated that
*you* were holding her against her will in a prison cell."
Garrick feigned a stunned look. "That is a lie! I would
never hold B'Elanna against her will. She's my right hand!
I can't do anything without her!"
The turbolift doors opened just as Warwich finished his vow
of adoration and revealed the former chief engineer and the
commander. "Well, you're just going to have to get used to
my absence, Garrick," B'Elanna bit out, fiery hatred filling
her eyes. "I don't know what I ever saw in you!"
"B'Elanna!" Garrick pleaded. "I can't win this fight
without you! You know that!"
"Maybe it was never yours to win," Janeway answered quietly.
Warwich narrowed his eyes with menace, anger smoldering in
their depths. "Then I guess I'll see you in hell, Captain,"
he swore viciously before severing the communication link.
He swung away from the console balling his hands into fists
so tightly that his knuckles gleamed a pale white under his
tanned skin. "*Dammit!*" he raged, slamming one of his
fists into the nearest wall, denting the surface slightly.
"Fine, if she wants to leave the best offer she's ever had
then let her. She can live or die for all I care." A light
of inspiration flickered through his eyes as his mind turned
over all the possibilities in that statement.
He turned back to the Kalattii man who stood at the moon's
defense system. "Phrashel, target the lunar defense grid on
Voyager's coordinates," Garrick ordered, his tone chilling
the already frosty air in the command room a few more
Phrashel turned to The Most Revered, uncertain if he had
heard him correctly. "Sir?" he asked, his confusion
"Dammit! I told you to target all defense systems on
Voyager. If I can't have her, then she won't have her
beloved ship," Garrick swore motioning for the Kalattiian to
"Captain," Tuvok's unflappable voice intoned from his post.
"The Kalattii are firing." Seconds after he had spoken,
Voyager rocked slightly with the impact.
"Damage report!" ordered Chakotay as he steadied Janeway.
The Vulcan stoically checked the read-outs. "Damage is
minimal. Shields are at 85% and holding."
"Captain!" Harry interrupted. "The Triors are now within
visual range and are arming weapons."
Janeway nodded and glanced over her shoulder at Torres who
still stood near the turbolift, unsure of her place on the
Bridge. "Mr. Paris, get us out of here."
Tom quirked a satisfied smile and answered enthusiastically,
"Yes, ma'am!" He personally couldn't wait to put several
light years between Voyager and the moon.
The captain smothered a smile and turned to Chakotay as he
took his seat. "The minute we leave this solar system, I
want all senior staff in the briefing room." She watched the
flicker of regret flit through B'Elanna's eyes and inwardly
sighed with relief. "You, too, Ms. Torres."
"Captain," Paris stated. "We're approaching 10 light years
distance from the Kalattii moon."
"Thank you, Mr. Paris." Janeway stood and surveyed the
Bridge crew quickly. "Alright, everyone..."
Relief officers quickly left their posts to man the main
systems as the Bridge officers made their way to the
meeting. B'Elanna turned and followed Janeway before she
could meet the eyes of her former peers. Elation mixed with
dread and sent her stomachs into a queasy tumult.
As the Bridge officers took their seats, Janeway and
B'Elanna remained standing. The captain slowly sat,
indicating that Torres had their full attention. She bit
her lip, indecision warring over her caramel features.
Finally, she murmured, "Gods, I had this all planned out. I
knew exactly what I was going to say, how to say it, and now
that we're all here..." She paced away from the table,
gathering her thoughts and her resolve. "First off," she
began, turning decisively back to the group, "I want to
apologize." Her gaze drifted around the room, coming to
rest on Tom Paris for a moment before returning to the
"I know I put everyone in a bind by leaving so suddenly.
But at the time, I was doing what I thought was *right*."
Janeway smiled softly as she leaned forward to rest her arms
on the table. "No one doubts your sincerity, B'Elanna."
Torres bit back a harsh bark of laughter. "Good," she
answered, "because I doubt my sanity." She walked to the
wall console and stared blankly at it. "At first, it was
just like old times."
Paris winced visibly at her words, his imagination
envisioning just which 'old times' she meant. Harry shot
him a supportive look as the half-Klingon continued. "I
built the ships, he trained the crew. Toward the end we
were running drills. Everything was working perfectly.
"We sent out one of the scout ships on a trial run a few
light years and back. Nothing too big. The whole process
was filled with celebration and there was even a token
dignitary on board when the ship left orbit." B'Elanna
paused and shook her head. "They contacted us about an hour
after take off. They had encountered a Triorian patrol.
All hands were lost, including Janell, the First Prefect,
who was the dignitary.
"When the news reached the moon, Garrick changed. I don't
know which was worse, losing his prototype ship or the
person who had supported him most. Either way, he went from
charming and dedicated to cold and devious. A man bent on
domination rather than just resistance." She paused,
reflecting on the man she once knew. "It wasn't something I
expected. But it made me realize that that wasn't the life
I wanted to live. I didn't have to choose between Maquis and
Starfleet . Subconsciously, I had made my real choice long
ago when I accepted the position of Chief Engineer."
B'Elanna glanced at the captain, uncertainty easily readable
in her eyes. "I needed to return to Voyager…to come home.
If you'll have me."
Janeway offered the younger woman an understanding smile and
rose from her seat. "I believe I speak for all of us when I
say, it's good to have you back," she welcomed warmly, fond
affection seeping into her voice. A mysterious smile tinged
her lips as Kathryn walked toward B'Elanna. Holding out her
hand, the captain sobered and stated in her most no-nonsense
tone, "I believe you're out of uniform, Lieutenant."
Torres looked down at Janeway's outstretched hand and smiled
widely. Picking up the silver communicator, she replied
staunchly, "Yes, Ma'am!"
Pleased with the outcome, the Bridge crew relaxed easily,
smiles slipping over several faces. The captain clapped her
hands together and ordered, "Alright, then, everyone back to
The officers filed out quickly leaving Paris and Torres
alone in the conference room. They stood at opposite ends
of the room, neither saying a word, both equally scared of
what the other was thinking. After a long period of
uncomfortable silence, they began to speak at once.
Chuckling weakly, Tom gestured for B'Elanna to continue.
"Kahless, Tom. I'm sorry. I-I was so mixed up." The pain
in her voice forced his gaze to hers and she closed some of
the space between them. "Garrick told me everything I
wanted to hear. He played to my guilt over the Maquis and
appealed to the pride I have in being an engineer. It was
so stupid. He said he would give me everything and I didn't
realize that all I ever wanted was right here on Voyager: a
fulfilling job, people who respect me, friends who support
me, and, most of all, a man who loves me..." Slowly, she
walked toward him until mere centimeters separated them.
B'Elanna searched his features, and seeing the uncertainty
in his eyes, she continued rapidly, "God, I know I screwed
up. You have every right to hate me for the hell I put you
through and the lies I told you…" She was babbling, but she
couldn't seem to stop. Not knowing if they still had a
chance was no better than knowing that their relationship
was over. She dreaded his answer as much as she needed to
hear it, to hear that he didn't hate her, that she hadn't
ruined the best thing that had ever happened to her.
"They aren't lies if you believe them." Tom raised a
trembling hand and traced his fingers along her jawline. His
fingers drifted almost of their own volition around her
cheek and over her lips as if refamiliarizing himself with
her features. 'God, I love her,' he thought, marveling at
the smooth texture of her skin.
B'Elanna leaned into his touch, aching to feel his arms
wrapped around her, cocooning her in his warm embrace. The
minutes stretched until there was nothing in the universe
except them. At length, Tom cupped the back of her head,
drawing it to his chest as he sifted his fingers through her
silky hair. B'Elanna heaved a relieved sigh.
"We can't go back to where we were," Tom murmured with
B'Elanna lifted her eyes to his, the tears that suddenly
formed in the brown pools barely leashed. She nodded with
regret silently mourning the loss of their past. Swallowing
the lump that was painfully lodged in her throat, she asked,
"But can we go on from here?"
He was quiet, trying to sort out the conflicting emotions
that roiled through him. She had chosen her past over him
once, would she do it again? And if so, could he go on?
Torres slipped her hand up to cup his jaw as she read the
fear in his eyes. "I know you're worried -- you have every
right to be." She ran her thumb across the phantom scar on
his cheek. "But, it's only love. Don’t be afraid, Tom.
Don't let a childish mistake destroy everything we've built
together. I love you," she murmured into his neck offering
him the solace that his heart needed. "It's all I have to
give." _But is it enough?_ cried her heart. 'Please let it
be enough,' she pleaded silently, increasingly aware that he
had yet to respond.
After a millennia of moments, each bringing its own heart-
rending outcome, Tom leaned forward and pressed a kiss to
her forehead, savoring the feel of her cranial ridges
against his lips. Relief, heady as the strongest blood
wine, coursed through her. It was enough.
"B'Elanna," he began softly, his voice scratchy as if he
hadn't spoken in years. "I love *you.* Not just the person
you were or the person you are now, but all of you." Tom's
fingers feathered through her dark tresses as he rememorized
the feel of them. "I never want you to think that I would
stop loving you just because you made some bad choices. If
nothing else," he chuckled wryly, "that would be
Basking in the all-encompassing maleness of his scent, and
unable to fight the temptation any longer, B'Elanna licked
him just above his uniform collar. She felt him tighten his
hold on her as the electric jolt her touch created coursed
through him. After a moment of silence, B'Elanna uttered
the final balm to the wounds she had knowingly inflicted so
many weeks ago. "In answer to your question, no." Tom drew
away from her and looked at her blankly, clearly not
remembering the context of the discussion.
Torres forced her gaze to his hoping not to see what she
dreaded to find in his eyes. "You asked me if Garrick made
me feel like you make me feel. And the answer is no."
Paris tensed at the subject, but did not drop his arms.
B'Elanna took that as a good sign. "How *did* he make you
feel?" he asked hating himself for still needing to know the
She bit her lower lip, searching for the right words to
describe the situation. "Alive, but incomplete. Looking
back on it, it was almost as if we did it out of rebellion.
Against what, I'm not sure."
Tom swallowed, mentally preparing himself for her answer to
his next question. "And how do I make you feel?"
A soft smile spread over her face as she cupped his cheek.
Relishing the contentment that washed over her, in a voice
filled with tenderness, she answered, "Loved. Totally,
completely and absolutely. Nothing in the world can replace
Joy incarnate radiated back at her. The dull light in his
blue eyes was rapidly replaced by elation and, strangely
enough, a sense of recognition. "There's the girl," Paris
murmured, the corners of his mouth lifting. "There's
B'Elanna Torres." And lowering his mouth to hers, he began