Endless IIB: Hitting Home
by Judy jlf@door.net and Etal

Part 9

Day 52, Hour 0900, Alpha Quadrant

"Don't take her to your home. Her best chance for survival is here."

Miral looked at John Torres carefully. Is this something he wanted for himself, or for their daughter? As if reading her thoughts, he added, "I really believe they can help her."

Miral started pacing again. This was one of the few times in her life when she felt unsure of herself. Oddly, it had been easier to make decisions while she was on the ambiguous loss committee. Maybe because then the goal was always clear: get B'Elanna and the rest of Voyager back. Now that B'Elanna was home, nothing was clear. And she couldn't focus on helping the rest of Voyager until she knew what to do for her own daughter.

Turning back to the viewscreen, she looked at her husband again. He was so worried. Miral wondered bitterly for a second if their lives would have been so different if he'd been concerned enough to not abandon them all those years ago. Still, he'd been there for her any time she needed him since the day that B'Elanna disappeared. And he'd respected her wishes to stay away until she thought B'Elanna was ready to meet him.

"You don't know what it's like," she said. "You don't see her pain".

He almost snapped that he didn't know because she wouldn't let him. Reminding himself that this wasn't about him, he replied, "It's got to be tough on you. You can't just rip out her problems and destroy them for her. If she's lost right now, then we need to give her space to be found. If B'Elanna is the same as she was as a kid, being with either of our families won't help. She's not going to connect with them just because we tell her to."

"You're asking me to let strangers do my job. You're asking me to give up my role as her mother."

"No," he answered, "I'm asking you to use their skills to help you do more. If she was physically injured and could be healed, you wouldn't do the surgery yourself. You'd let a doctor, Klingon or Vulcan or Tholian or human, do it. Then you would help B'Elanna after the surgery was over. Even if she wouldn't admit it, yours would be the first face she'd want to see when she woke up. It always will be." Smiling in a way, he hoped his former wife would find encouraging, he added, "Let the counselor do some of this surgery for us. Give him a chance to cut some of B'Elanna's pain away."

Miral wouldn't say it out loud, but his smile still got to her. That look, that glimmer of kindness was what she had fallen in love with so many years ago. Yet, she still couldn't trust him completely. Would he abandon her and B'Elanna again if their daughter didn't get better? A little guiltily, she wondered if he, his humanness, was the source of B'Elanna's weakness now.

Reading some of her reactions, he suggested, "Don't rely just on my opinion. Talk to someone else who understands being Klingon and what your world can offer. Then talk to somebody who can tell you what Starfleet can give her, because it's possible that she isn't going to want to be in my world or your world again. Like you told me, she thinks of Starfleet as her family now. Just be careful that you don't choose to do something that makes you feel better simply because you think you're taking charge of the situation."


Day 53, Hour 0212, Alpha Quadrant

"Mrs. Torres, my captain told me to contact you immediately. If there's an emergency, then we should get to the point."

Miral felt instantly relieved. She'd followed John's advice, talking to others, but no one really seemed to understand what she needed. Finally, an admiral friend said he thought he knew just the right person, and arranged this communication with Lieutenant Commander Worf.

She replied, "It is an emergency for me. Have you received reports about the rescue of two crew from the missing ship, Voyager?"

"Yes. Good news travels fast. One of the survivors was Klingon," he noted with pride.

"Half-Klingon," Miral corrected him, "and my daughter." She watched him carefully, looking for signs of revulsion she'd seen in other Klingons before. Miral was prepared to defend her daughter's heritage, but it was obvious this would not be necessary.

Sensing her suspicion, he volunteered, "The mother of my child was half-Klingon. She was one of the fiercest warriors I've ever seen." Shifting his focus back to the present, Miral could see that he was thinking about B'Elanna and putting the pieces together for himself. "How can I help? If your daughter is being treated badly...."

"It's not that she's being treated badly. It's that humans are treating her at all." Trying to explain her concerns, she added,"Every Klingon knows about you. You were raised by humans and have spent your adult life in Starfleet, being on the premier ship, getting promoted to head of Security. You've succeeded in their world, so you must know them better than any of us. Normally, I'd respect your privacy, but I need to ask personal questions about your experiences, so I can decide whether to allow them to continue being involved in B'Elanna's life."

Miral could see that he was embarrassed at his own reputation as she spoke, but he didn't end the transmission either. After a moment, he asked, "What information do you need?"

"Do you trust them? I know how they act with outsiders, but are they honorable towards their shipmates?"

"Yes. Starfleet officers practice a code of honesty and integrity. When one becomes part of Starfleet, one becomes part of their clan, a clan extended to everyone who wears this uniform. In this way, it is not so different from being part of a Klingon house." He couldn't help adding, "I am from the house of Mogh. A house whose honor has been restored by the High Council."

"Worf, Son of Mogh," she acknowledged. "Would you allow a human counselor to treat you or your child?"

"I have allowed it recently, although this was not always so. I used to doubt the value of their work, thinking they were only encouraging weakness. But I have seen the difference that a good counselor can make. It will never replace battle as a test of one's inner resources, but it can be a useful tool," he replied.

Miral was considering his words carefully. "If a human counselor treats B'Elanna, will other Starfleet officers see this as a lack of courage or strength on her part? Would she have to battle this image for the rest of her career?"

Worf explained, "They see using counselors under some circumstances as a form of strength. Just as we see killing one's first targ as a test of courage, Starfleeters think that facing ugly truths or one's inner demons takes courage. In this way, they respect someone who accepts help from others. If B'Elanna wants to stay in Starfleet, she will not be demeaned or diminished for the counseling she uses today."

They talked for a while longer, but Worf could see that Miral would not make a decision tonight. Before ending transmission, he added, "Tell your daughter she may contact me. I will help her if I can. Miral, I am curious. Why did you want to speak to me? There are other Klingon officers in Starfleet that you could have contacted."

"You are the first, Worf, so you will always receive public attention that the others will not. B'Elanna is also receiving a lot of public attention right now. So your situation is more similar to hers than any other Klingon."

Worf smiled as he replied, "Very logical. Very Vulcan of you, Miral."

As he had hoped, Miral recognized the gesture of humor and began to laugh. He thought that she'd probably had little to laugh about during the last few weeks, and could use a moment of levity. He enjoyed her loud and gutteral tone, something he heard too rarely among his human friends. Beginning to share the laughter, he was intrigued by Miral and hoped to meet her and B'Elanna in person someday.


Day 65, Hour 0900, Alpha Quadrant

"This is stupid." B'Elanna complained. "It's antiquated and it's stupid."

"Probably," Quaice agreed nondefensively.

"Nobody plays this kind of racquetball anymore. Where did you even find this equipment? I don't see the point of this at all," she continued as if he hadn't spoken. "If we're going to play a game, why not Parises Square or something more modern?"

"Actually, we're not going to play. You're going to play and I'm going to watch. And you won't be playing a more contemporary game because, in my experience, nothing has as good a thwack as an old fashioned racquet."

B'Elanna looked at the counselor as if she wished for a universal translator. "Thwack? What is a thwack?" she asked.

"Thwack is the sound that a racquetball makes when you hit it hard and it slams against the wall. Did you ever hit something in engineering with a tool and it worked better? Even if that wasn't the way the manual prescribed repairs?" B'Elanna didn't answer him, but they both knew he was right. "Sometimes a thwack is effective and gratifying."

Intrigued, but unwilling to admit it, she asked, "What is the point of this game? Am I to keep score? Is this a test of endurance?"

"You can keep score if you like," Evan answered. "It's really quite simple. I'm going to toss out a ball and you start hitting it against any of these walls. When I throw the ball into play, I'm going to mention one of your crewmates' names. While you're playing the game, just say anything that comes into your mind. When you don't have anything more to say, grab the ball and stop play. Then I'll throw out the next one."

As Quaice expected, she looked incredulous and irritated. He wasn't sure if she would stay, or flee, or possibly swing the racquet at him. He watched her pace around the room like a caged targ, turning the racquet over and over in her hand. Without looking at him, B'Elanna said, "I'm not doing this for every crewman, I'm not doing this more than 130 times."

Smiling, he answered, "No, just for a few of them today." He didn't want B'Elanna to think too much or find another delaying tactic, so he pressed her a little to begin. "Go ahead and take your position behind that red line. I'll be protected by a forcefield, so don't think about my presence. Just focus on the ball and the racquet."

B'Elanna had to reset her position 3 or 4 times before she looked ready. Saying nothing more, she simply nodded at him. Quaice threw the first ball out and said, "Chakotay."

"A friend," she stated as she swung at the ball. "Strong, reliable, a little naive...."

Evan listened to her carefully for the next half hour. As he'd hoped, B'Elanna was good at distracted disclosure, revealing more than she realized when given a task that took her mind off the fact that she was in therapy. He also saw that her self-competitive streak wouldn't let her quit too soon, not before he had some of the information he needed. Hoping that she was too much in a rhythm of play to stop, he threw out the most important ball. "Tom," he said.

B'Elanna turned on him. "I can't," she growled.

Prodding her, Evan added, "Just start with some good memories. Try again." He threw another ball and repeated the name.

This time, B'Elanna took it into play. "He's kind, resourceful, funny...." After a few moments, her play took on a new ferocity. "But he is a child. Making games out of everything. Captain Proton," she added, spitting out the last two words. "If, if he hadn't made the Delta Flyer a toy, then the controls would have been normal. Harry and I wouldn't have wasted nanoseconds making the conversions in our heads. It might have made the difference. Tom might be here today. Why did he do that? Why isn't he here?"

B'Elanna let the ball roll past her as she kept running to the wall and smashed the racquet to pieces, repeating her last question, "Why isn't Tom here? He promised he'd never leave me. Why isn't he here?" Her agony opened for the moment and she crumpled to the floor in exhaustion.

The counselor felt her pain so strongly. How hard it must have been for B'Elanna to be vulnerable to Tom, and how much she must have loved him, even now. Careful not to crowd her, Evan sat next to her on the floor. After a moment more, he placed an arm over her shoulder and when B'Elanna didn't withdraw, held her a little closer as she cried. "I don't know why Tom isn't here," he started slowly, "I don't know what's going to happen next. But I believe in you and your ability to survive. You will continue to exist for now, and later you'll find a way to give your life meaning and purpose."

If B'Elanna had the strength, she might have socked Quaice. She hated when the therapist said things like that, words that were so cliche. Worse, B'Elanna hated that she couldn't think of other options. She would exist. If nothing else, she had to stay alive long enough to yell at Tom for making her wait so long for his arrival. And then she would hold Tom close for a hundred years.


Day 80, Hour 1500, Alpha Quadrant

"What's their status?" Paris asked Quaice.

Evan had learned the kind of language that Owen Paris understood, so he made his reports simple. "B'Elanna and Harry are much better. Both are past the shock and making good progress. They aren't healed completely and will need continued support, but they are successfully through the initial trauma."

"If we return them to duty, can they function effectively?"

"They both are looking for a way to be useful now. I think they would work to earn your trust. I believe they are ready for new assignments."

"Fine," the Admiral replied, "have them here in an hour."

When they arrived, Owen Paris looked carefully at B'Elanna and Harry. He thought that B'Elanna looked professional, but haggard. Sort of like Kim did a month ago. Harry, however, looked stronger and more self-assured. But he'd misjudged Kim before. Admiral Paris hoped that Quaice knew what he was talking about.

Uncomfortable with talking about their leave time, Owen simply jumped to the purpose of the meeting. Speaking to Torres and Kim, he said, "You'll be returning to active duty next week. Take the next few days to finalize your personal affairs. Lieutenant Kim, you will be assigned to Deep Space Nine. Lieutenant Commander Torres, you will be assigned to Starfleet Command. The search for Voyager remains suspended." Neither of them responded. Not a word, not a blink. He disliked that he couldn't read their reactions, but somehow felt more sure that his instinct about the next step was right.

The Admiral said, "I'm going to show you why no more resources will be directed toward the search. I've been advised against this, but I believe that you've earned the right to know. More than that, you'll both be expected to contribute in future events, if you prove yourselves worthy." Now they were intrigued. Good, he could use that. "We're going to transport to another room. When we get there, speak to no one and touch nothing unless I direct you otherwise." They stood up and Paris gave the transport order. When they materialized, the Admiral simply said, "Welcome to the War Room."

Kaczinski was already there keeping a close eye on them, but Paris wasn't worried now. As the hours went by, the Admiral saw that they understood the weight of the situation. They asked intelligent questions about the Founders, the Vorta, and the Cardassians. Both were smart, making connections between what they'd seen at DS9 and what they were seeing now on the stellar cartography maps. Normally, officers this young would have been intimidated by the prospects of interstellar war, but these two were almost taking it in stride. Owen guessed that they'd seen worse things in the Delta Quadrant than he'd surmised.

Finally, Paris asked them, "Do you understand where Starfleet's priorities lie at this time?"

"Yes, sir," they answered in unison.

"If you engage in search efforts on your own, your actions could have devastating consequences. Our enemies could misinterpret your search as spying or an attack. If they retaliate, millions, possibly billions could pay the price. This is why the search must stop completely for now," the Admiral added.

Harry replied, "If I don't act on my own, is there anything that we can do for Voyager?"

B'Elanna thought the Admiral looked very tired when he answered. "Harry, we are about to engage in activities that will make all of us old before our time. For the next few years, the rest of your crew might be safer in the Delta Quadrant. So all we can do is wish them well. And hope that the Alpha Quadrant will still be a place that they want to live in when they make it home."


Day 83, Hour 1411, Alpha Quadrant

Grace knew that the Kim family had moved out of the lakehouse and had come home for good last night. She also knew that Harry would be leaving soon for his new assignment. She simply wanted to see him again. Dennis met her at the front door and kindly led her to the backyard, where they both saw Harry kneeling in the garden. Now that she was here, Grace was at a loss for what to say. Wanting to help, Dennis pushed her gently out the screen door, adding, "It's okay. Harry's in a good mood today. Go say hello."

As she approached, Harry noticed her shadow, and started to stand up. "No, please don't let me interrupt," Grace said, "In fact, I'll join you, if I may. What are you doing?"

Harry didn't expect this elegant woman to be willing to get her hands muddy, but she had surprised him in so many ways. Grace had been so generous to him the last few months. He thought if anyone had the right to resent him, it was her, but she'd treated him with constant warmth and kindness. So it was easy to include Grace in his plans today.

Handing her a seedling, Harry explained, "Mom loved the plants around the lakehouse so Dad and I thought it might be a nice surprise for her if we could transplant some of them here. Dad took her out for a few hours while I planted the seeds. Of course, we don't expect anything to sprout right away, but you know Mom, she'll have them springing to life in the next few months."

"So Mye'll have a reminder of you when you're away," Grace explained, "a way for her to feel close to you."

"Yes," Harry agreed as he added some water. "I'm trying to focus on the things I can do these days. Now that I have forewarning that I have to say goodbye again, I'm trying to do it right. I have to make this as easy as I can for them." Surprised by his own words, Harry looked at her and said honestly, "I don't know why I'm telling you this, Grace. Sometimes I just blurt out whatever's on my mind. I didn't used to be like this."

"So many of us have made demands on you to talk these last few months, I'm not surprised that you're more open now," Grace answered. "But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. When you try to protect Mye and John too much, you also keep them at a distance. In the days you have left, Harry, be honest with them, and let them take care of you. You'll be on your own again soon enough."

Trying to live up to her own advice about honesty, Grace was ready to say what was most on her mind. She stopped gardening and Harry stopped too, sensing a change in her mood. He watched her carefully as she said, "Harry, I haven't told you this directly, but I need you to know that I don't blame you for anything. Whatever happens to Tom and the others, I know he is better for knowing you. I also believe that his four years of friendship with you were probably the happiest time of his life. I want to thank you for what you have given my son."

Unsure of what to say, he simply answered, "You're welcome."

"I do believe that I still know Tom well enough to ask you to do something for him. When you're ready, move forward with your life. I know that you've been changed by this experience, but Tom would blame himself if your existence became a monument of guilt and regret over this. Instead, he'd want you to let new people and new experiences into your world. Be happy again, Harry." Grace could see that her words had the intended impact. One more form of guilt, perhaps one that Harry wasn't even aware he carried, was falling away as she spoke.

Harry truly didn't know if he could fulfill this request, but he couldn't refuse it either. "I'll try, Grace."

She hugged him gently and with a sense of relief. "Good. And if it helps, think about it this way. When Tom comes home, he'll be disappointed and bored if you have no new stories for him. He'll need to know that you've had adventures, even if he wasn't with you at the time."

Harry had to smile at that image. Grace was right; she did know her son.

Harry turned back to the garden, remembering that he wanted to complete this before his parents came home. Understanding the change in his attention, Grace handed him another seedling. Harry accepted and requested, "Grace, tell me about Tom's first trip on the sailboat again."

Grace happily complied and they shared their favorite memories for the rest of the afternoon.


Day 87, Hour 1700, Alpha Quadrant

Weyoun, the Vorta assigned to serve the Founder Leader, approached with the mix of excitement and reverence he always felt in her presence. He instantly sensed her dark mood and sought a way to please the Founder.

Bowing deferentially, he stated, "I live to serve."

"They treat us as fools. That the Solids defy us is intolerable, but to insult our intelligence, that is beyond comprehension," the Founder said. It was unclear whether she was speaking to him or simply thinking out loud in his presence, so he thought the best strategy was to repeat her viewpoint. "They do not show the proper respect."

"Why bring only two back from the Delta Quadrant? Are they spies, rejects, defectors? And why separate them now, placing them on opposite ends of the Alpha Quadrant? Did Starfleet think we wouldn't know about Torres and Kim?" the Founder continued.

So it was these two solids again. Why did this agitate her so? Hoping to relieve her discomfort, Weyoun volunteered, "Perhaps their arrival is a coincidence. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the Solids' plans."

"Coincidence? No. Coincidence is the excuse for small-minded fools who don't pay attention to details. No, Kim and Torres are here for a reason and I will know what it is." She turned to Weyoun and commanded, "Tell our operatives to keep a closer eye on both of them. When the time comes, we will take control of them."

Pleased to have a clear way to serve, Weyoun replied, "The Founder is wise in all things."

End Part 9