by Kat Hughes
Disclaimer: Paramount/Viacom own the character names. I own the story.
Feedback: Bishclone@aol.com All will be appreciated.
Dedication: Inspired by a K/T piece by Amiroq, and dedicated to all the gals on the NICEST message board on the internet, Deck 9 Section 12. Especially Lark, for giving me a few suggestions.
A beach. *Predictable.*
She could see him in the distance.
Faint sunlight illuminated his features, a contrast to the long shadows.
She thought about leaving.
*Too late.* Two blue eyes had fixed on her, trapping her. Forcing further footprints in the wet sand.
Slowly she made her way towards him.
Her stomach turned, her fingers shook a little, her face was expressionless. She didn’t want to be here.
He turned back to the seascape. He knew.
She was quite close now but he didn’t move to her. "I didn’t think you’d show." He said at last. All of his customary good humour was gone. He stood almost still, waiting for her response. His eyes still far away.
"I thought you had more faith in me…"
He shot her a glance, a harsh one. He remembered himself and looked away again, back to the sunset.
She remembered where she’d heard those words before.
"Like it?" He asked.
"Yeah." She moved closer and stood by his side, a safe distance, her eyes studying the same view.
"I’ve never been here." He smiled.
Tight muscles in her neck relaxed, her breathing steadied. It was more…comfortable than she expected.
"Then why?" She asked. He still didn’t look at her. He couldn’t see the smile on her lips.
"You have a problem with that?" He looked at her now, his thoughts with her, if only for the moment.
"No, no, not at all. I was just a little surprised that’s all." She said, amazing herself at how easy this all was. Daring not to think about how hard it’d get.
"Surprised, really? That’s not like you at all B’Elanna."
It felt so real. She was sure it was real Risan sand beneath her feet, real tropical breeze dancing with her hair.
She bit her bottom lip. "And since when did you know me so well?"
He bent close to her ear and whispered lightly. "I’ve always known…" Hot breath on her ear lobe. Her body responded, an after-effect of being near to him. Or thinking she was near to him, or…
She pulled away, a vain effort to stop the flush forming on her cheeks.
He reached out to catch her hand. She let him take it.
"I suppose you always have, haven’t you…" She said distantly, her eyes on the horizon and the mass of colours that formed the sunset.
"Always." He repeated. Content to just stand there, touching only her fingertips.
She turned sharply away from him. "Another line." Her eyes closed for a long beat, savouring the moment, holding back the tears.
"It’s not a line when you mean it." He said. She opened an eye and took in the forceful gaze he cast in her direction. And he does mean it.
She needed to change the subject. "So…"
"So?" He asked, bending over to grin at her, his hand grasping hers as though he’d never let go, couldn’t let go.
"So," she smiled wryly. "How’ve you been?"
"Look around." He said, the grin lessening slightly. "Paradise," he breathed.
"But enough about me."
*Enough? Enough? We haven’t talked about you. You don’t change*.
"How’s Engineering?" He tugged at her arm leading her down the pathway, the classic seaside path, the slight salt taste on her lips. Him, the warm touch of his hand, the same inflection to his voice. Acting as if nothing had ever changed.
"Fine, fine." She tried to keep emotionless, tried to stop the thoughts rushing through her head, the hot tears in her eyes. She chuckled, "Carey’s being too nice and then realising he’s being too nice and starts getting difficult, just for the hell of it. To keep things normal for me--I suppose." She stopped sharply, and thought for a moment. "It’s damn annoying."
He laughed. She’d missed that too. She was kidding herself. She’d missed everything.
She moved off again. A little too quickly, as though she was running from him.
"Sounds like him. He’s a good guy Joe." He slowed her pace, almost pulling her into step with him.
The red sun cast a pink haze over everything. His blue shirt looked almost purple in the light, his hair a little more of a ruddy colour, ruffled, like she remembered.
She looked down at her own clothes, white muslin, loose fitting. Taken easily by the sea breeze, running against her skin. It made her shiver; it wasn’t the only thing.
The wind blew a little harder; some hair fell across her face. Before she could even move, his hand was there, brushing against her cheek, tidying her appearance. It lingered a little too long.
"Please…" she said in a pleading whisper. Her eyes down, her feet making circles in the sand. Something to focus on.
He removed his hand but didn’t apologise, maybe he forgot, maybe he didn’t, maybe he had nothing to apologise for. "Okay," was the only word that escaped from his lips.
"It’s not that…" she stopped, and took a deep breath. He tentatively kept his distance, hovered behind her. Like a presence.
"It seems like so long." He said, looking at the waves hit the beach and then to their hands, still clasped.
"What does?" She asked, interested in anything that would take her away from her circulation of thoughts, her own very familiar thoughts.
"Since we talked. Since we…" And for once he seemed unsure of how to continue.
"We never talked like this."
He sighed. "I, We, I mean I--should have," he screwed his eyes up in annoyance and then concentrated on her. "Gees, B’Elanna, where did it all go wrong?"
"I’m not sure. Before," she looked around her. "Before this."
"And now it’s too late." He added forlornly, against the faint sound of waves crashing against the beach.
She pulled her hand away, suddenly uncomfortable.
"I’m glad you understand that." She nodded before she carried on, walking stridently.
He jogged to catch up with her. Darting in front of her, pulling her forcibly by the shoulder.
She stared at him. His eyes darted across her face; his breathing was a little heavier than usual, indecision flashed across his features. He ran his free hand through his short hair.
"God I loved you B’Elanna." He placed both hands on her shoulders now, holding her in his gaze, his eyes willing her to stay with him. But one thing ran through her mind. Past tense. Past tense. Past tense.
She smiled, a poor imitation. "I loved you." She tried to slip away from his grip. She was unsuccessful. Behind her the sun finally left the sky and a haunting dusk settled upon the scene. She looked down.
He moved a hand to his head and rubbed a temple. He tried a smile to make it easier, it came out wrong. "Goodbye B’Elanna."
Both his arms were by his sides now. She was free to go. She didn’t want to.
With careful precision she took a step towards him, he looked at her warily but didn’t step back. He retried the grin, again it failed.
She moved a hand to his forehead, brushing away a lock of hair. He caught her hand in his and she moved in even closer. Her body touching his. He entwined his fingers in hers, delighting in the way they interlocked. She moved her gaze from their hands back to his eyes. He wrapped his free arm around her, holding her steady and tight. She rested her head against his chest.
"I’ve got to let go." She whispered. Their fingers still locked.
"I know," She could feel his warm breath on her hair. The way their breathing rhythmically slowed. The way he smelled to her. The rough touch of his shirt against her cheek. It was all too real.
He kissed the top of her head. She didn’t flinch.
And for a long moment that was all they needed. All they wanted to be. Together like this, forever. A romantic dream, a forgotten possibility. An illusion, a re-lapse into what had once been there, between them.
"I’ve got to let go," she said again, but with such apathy in her voice even she knew she didn’t mean it.
"Shhh," He soothed.
She looked into his eyes. He lowered his head to hers. For a second their lips brushed. She didn’t resist. It deepened.
Anyone watching from afar would have cooed over the young lovers. Wrapped in immortal embrace, lost to the world. But there was no one watching. There never would be.
"I lost you." She said, tears wanting to be shed, voice wanting to waver, body wanting to be close to his again. She stepped back, their hands still touching, a solitary lifeline.
"I’ll always be here." He said, sincerely, his tone low.
"Not like this." She said her eyes turning harsh at him, blaming him for something he could not control.
"No, not like this." He moved his hand so that he held hers completely. He caressed her delicate fingers with his thumb, calming circular motions.
Swallowing hard she took another step back. "I’ve got to go."
"More than that," he said, laughing quietly. "I’ve got to let you." She followed his gaze down to where he still grasped her hand. Or rather where she still let him grasp it.
She looked to him and he looked back. More than words could describe, more than either could say. Just understanding.
With a solemn nod to her, tears brimming in his own eyes he unclasped her hand. Slower than time it fell down by her side.
He was gone.
B’Elanna moved quietly from her bed and into the bathroom. The chrono on the wall read 0300.
She laughed grimly at her bloodshot eyes and the glass of replicated ale on the side table just before the door.
She grinned to subside the pain in her gut, to stop her head from spinning. To show her aching body that she could cope.
She’d woken to stop the pain, from tomorrow morning being harder than it needed to be, than it was going to be.
She angrily pulled her hair behind her ears, her bare feet shuffled along the floor of the bathroom.
Another dream. Third night in a row. Third night since he’d beamed to that planet. Third night since he’d left her.
Second night since they’d been sent down to find him. Second night since Janeway had demanded his return. Second night since she’d hit her desk console with such force she’d knocked it flying.
She craned her neck. It still lay there, her console. Components easily buried in the carpet. The engineer in her was quietened; it could be fixed tomorrow.
First night since they’d brought him home. First night since she’d held his hand on that damned biobed. First night since she’d silently watched the torpedo-casing shoot away from Voyager and towards Earth.
She reached for her sink and began to run cool water over her hands. She splashed it over her face.
B’Elanna had regretted many things in her life, too many to count. But nothing even matched up to the intensity of what she was feeling now. Of what she’d lost, of the possibilities now gone.
She rammed her hands against the mirror. Against the drawn face that looked back at her.
He wasn’t coming back.