Endless I: Planetfall
by Judy email@example.com and Etal
Day: 10, Hour: 1500, Alpha Quadrant
When Admiral Paris told B'Elanna that a transport had brought Harry's parents, her mother, and a few selected guests to Deep Space Nine today, she was initially furious. Of course she wanted Harry to be with his parents, but somebody should have asked her if she wanted to see her mother right now. B'Elanna loved her mother, Miral, but it had never been an easy relationship and she didn't know if she was up to another complicated conversation.
Taking care of Harry, being under O'Brien's supervision while she worked, all the interrogations by Sisko and Odo, and remaining supremely calm had worn B'Elanna down to the bone. In fact, the only peace she knew these days occurred during those few hours when Harry was forced to rest and she could sit alone in the quiet of their quarters.
So when the admiral arrived to escort her to her mother's guest quarters, B'Elanna was ready to scream at him to go away and leave her alone. But she knew how important it was to keep this man happy and cooperative, so she smiled her most charming smile, thanked him for taking time out of his busy schedule, and told him she was looking forward to the reunion. Admiral Paris rewarded her with a paternal smile of pride in his good judgment. This time, he took her hand gently and placed it in the crook of his arm as he escorted her down the hall.
"Your mother is a very impressive woman," the admiral said, "strong, determined, direct. I like her very much."
The smile fixed on her face, B'Elanna simply replied, "Yes, sir."
"She's missed you very much, you know. Miral contacted me every month without fail, asking about the status of Voyager." Laughing to himself, Admiral Paris continued, "And I learned pretty quickly that it was easier to answer her, even if I had no news."
"What do you mean, sir?" B'Elanna asked, unsure of what her mother had done to get this kind of reaction from an admiral.
"Because of Tom, I became the Starfleet liaison to all of your families. After the first few months, I planned to send semi-annual updates to them. You know, the standard 'We haven't heard anything, but we're ever hopeful. Your loved ones are well trained and we have confidence in their abilities' sort of thing."
B'Elanna nodded, hoping he would continue. "Well, your mother would have none of that. When she received the notice that her next update would be sent in six months, Miral closed her lab at Nessik and moved to San Francisco the next week. She showed up at my office, scared the young cadet who was filling in for my assistant, bolted into my office, and told me she was Miral Prabsa Torres and she would not be ignored. Miral told me she would expect an update every month and if ever I was a day late, she'd be back in person."
B'Elanna didn't know what to think. She was appalled and embarrassed by Miral's brashness, but proud and appreciative of her mother's devotion. Unsure what to say next, she asked the simplest question. "Sir, what did you do when she burst into your office like that?"
"Well, how would it have looked if the news reported that Starfleet was throwing a childless mother off Academy grounds for trespassing?" Paris asked with a twinkle in his eye.
For the first time, B'Elanna thought his smile was genuine. He continued, "I explained protocols to your mother, and she agreed to announce herself more discreetly next time. In return, I agreed to provide the monthly updates. Your mother, in turn, passed them along to every family member who desired to have them.
"Miral always sent a reply to me, asking questions, making suggestions. So after a year, I made her chair of a joint Starfleet-civilian task force on Voyager family rights. Miral was a strong advocate, and she and the others taught us a great deal about helping families through ambiguous loss. I hope she'll continue her work now that you're home."
"Sir, I don't mean to be rude, but are you sure you're talking about my mother?"
Admiral Paris laughed out loud. B'Elanna looked hurt -- she still hated it when people laughed at her. Realizing his mistake, he quickly apologized, "I'm sorry, B'Elanna. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not laughing at you. It's just that that's the last thing I expected you to say."
He took both her hands and said more seriously, "You may find this hard to absorb all at once, but parents can be changed in ways you can't imagine when their children are missing, even if they are grown. Things that seemed worth fighting about, even shunning your children, it all seems smaller, sometimes trivial. When you think of what you'd give up to get your child back.... Well, I can tell you that a lot of us are different than our loved ones might remember."
Looking paternal again, he added, "I know that you and Miral were distant when you joined Starfleet and later the Maquis. Maybe this is none of my business, but you'd be doing yourself a favor if you gave your relationship with her another try."
Admiral Paris left B'Elanna standing outside her mother's guest quarters, hoping she'd enter. He overrode the sensation to look back as he walked away, but the sound of the doors opening and closing brought him a deep sense of relief. Satisfied that both of his charges were delivered to their parents, he headed off to see to the comfort of his other guests.
Miral Torres looked at her daughter and smiled. "You look well. You've grown into a strong young woman."
"Thanks,"B'Elanna muttered. She felt stupid. After all these years, why was it so hard to talk to her mother? Somehow it had been easier to send a message through the array than to see her in person.
As if reading her mind, Miral replied, "I received your message. I know that I initially disapproved of your joining Starfleet. I can't deny that I'd wish you'd gone home to Kronos, learned more about our culture."
Seeing B'Elanna was about to object, she quickly continued, "But I was wrong. Starfleet inadvertently led you to the Maquis. I couldn't contact you before you left the Alpha Quadrant, but when I heard what happened and learned more about the Starfleet-Cardassian treaty, I was proud of your choice. Those people were left to fend off the Cardassians by themselves. They needed someone who was fearless and brave to protect them. You and the others were just what they needed. Since my reply to you through that array, a Klingon Opera has been written about the Maquis' adventures. And the exploits of Voyager will soon be...."
"Mother, you don't understand!" B'Elanna blurted out. "I don't want to be celebrated in opera. Besides, I doubt I would be an inspiration to anyone. My Maquis friends are dead or in jail. And Voyager is still missing. I lost the only family..."
B'Elanna stopped at her mother's gasp. It was the first time in her life that B'Elanna had seen Miral look hurt. Even after her father left them, she had never seen her mother look so unhappy. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."
Recovering from the moment, Miral hugged her daughter for the first time since her arrival. "It's all right. I knew that I didn't give you what you needed when you were a child. I thought that if I could immerse you in Klingon traditions, it would give you the strength to survive anything or anyone that hurt you. I saw your loneliness, but instead of finding out what might comfort you, I kept pushing you to accept what comforted me."
B'Elanna was surprised by her mother's admission and by the insight behind it. "I know you were trying to help."
"But it was my responsibility to do better, to listen more. In your message, it sounded as if you'd found people who listened and accepted you on Voyager. Over the past few years, I've learned that listening and patience are a form of strength, too. Brute force isn't the only way to be brave. It's no wonder these people would be family to you."
"There were times," B'Elanna began, "when I did use the things you taught me. I realized that I cannot deny being Klingon any more than I can deny being human. In fact, if it wasn't for my Klingon DNA, I'd have died when I was captured by the Vidiians and exposed to the phage."
Her mother looked at her carefully, instinctively searching for signs of danger to her child. Understanding Miral's look of concern, B'Elanna comforted her mother, "Don't worry. I'm all right now."
Shaking her head knowingly, Miral replied, "No, you may be out of danger, but you are not all right. You are without your Voyager family. And I know what is it like to be without the man you love."
As the truth of her mother's word sunk in, B'Elanna felt immensely tired. She really hadn't moved very far since entering Miral's quarters, and she didn't know what to do with herself. The impulse to fight, to flee, to do anything to squelch her pain back down was strong, but unfocused.
Instead of doing any of those, she decided to check something that bothered her when the admiral first used her mother's full name. "Since when is your last name 'Torres'? I thought you wanted nothing to do with my father after he left us."
"True." Miral smiled mirthlessly, her Klingon teeth gleeming. "But I wanted that admiral to know who I am: the mother of B'Elanna Torres."
The pride in her mother's voice shocked B'Elanna and she couldn't think of anything to say. With a gentleness B'Elanna had rarely seen, Miral led her gently to the couch. "Why don't we sit down for a while? If you feel up to it, you can tell me about your Tom. After all, most of what I know about him comes from his parents. And I will listen. If not, we can enjoy the silence."
Miral wasn't sure what B'Elanna would do until she began, "Tom was so wonderful to me on the Day of Honor. We'd planned it together, but then I wasn't sure I wanted to see it through..."
Day: 10, Hour: 2321
Tuvok noticed a non-Federation warp signature on his long range sensors. It seemed to be coming from the direction of the system where Voyager had crashed. Its direction sent the unknown ship flying at a right angle to his shuttle, taking it far from him. He made a note of the sighting in his log.
So far on this solitary journey he had not encountered any other ships. That had also been true on the shuttle fleet's trip to the new planet. He wondered if this was one of those barely traveled areas of the Delta Quadrant. If so, he was intrigued by the rapidly disappearing warp signature. Could they have been the friendly aliens the captain hoped to locate? Or was it to their advantage that the unknown aliens hadn't appeared to notice his small shuttle?
Day: 11, Hour: 0612, Alpha Quadrant
Myeong-Jai Kim smiled as she listened to her son's light snoring. As Harry felt secure in his parents' presence, the exhaustion of the last few days and the longing of the last few years to see them finally caught up with him. She knew that he didn't realize he'd fallen asleep in the middle of their conversation, and Myeong and John decided to leave him on the couch rather than move him to a bed.
She couldn't bear to be far from him, so she sat on the couch, watching him sleep. As he stretched out over the hours, Harry eventually ended up with his head on her lap, his hand on her knee. And so she sat, stroking his hair, sometimes smoothing the blanket over his back, and listened to him snore.
Her friend Grace arrived quietly, sat down across from Myeong-Jai and smiled warmly at the scene. Myeong was still amazed at how gracefully this woman could do something as simple as enter a room. Myeong knew that some people found Grace to be aloof and a little arrogant, but she had never seen anything but kindness and charm. In fact, she knew few people who were so aptly named.
Looking back down at her son, she said, "I used to do this all the time when he was little, and I think he enjoyed it as much as I did. But I still remember the night when Harry told me he was too old to be treated like a baby. After that, he'd only let me do it when he was very sick. Even now, Harry would be embarrassed if he woke up and found his head in my lap."
"And his father?"
"He tried to comfort me, told me that all boys reach an age when they start to distance themselves from their mothers, and that Harry and I would stay close. We would just have to redefine our relationship."
"But secretly John was proud that Harry was growing up and pulling away from you," Grace added knowingly.
"Fathers want their kids to grow up so quickly. They treat them more like short adults than children. They don't know how soon little ones will really become adults and then be gone from home."
"Exactly," Myeong replied. "But what neither Harry nor his father understood is that sometimes I was the one who needed to keep doing this. It comforted me, made me feel better."
Grace continued Myeong-Jai's thought, as if they were of one mind on this experience. "And it was a way that you could be close to your son that was just yours, something you didn't have to share with your husband."
Nodding, Harry's mother looked down at her son as she continued stroking his hair. They were all silent for a few moments, then she looked back at her friend. "I knew that you would understand, Grace. That's why I asked you to come. John couldn't sit any longer, felt he had to do something to help, so he left to meet with the captain and the admiral, tour the Delta Flyer and Deep Space Nine. You know."
Grace nodded with understanding as Myeong finished her thought, "I couldn't leave Harry so soon. I'd love to stay here longer like this, but I need to talk to the doctor before Harry wakes up. My son would see this as checking up on him and somehow usurping his Starfleet status, so I don't want to do it when he's awake. I'm sure we could do this over a comm line...."
"But you need to see the doctor's face when he tells you that Harry will be fine."
"Yes. So that's why I called you. Would you stay with Harry while I'm gone? The doctor has agreed to meet with me now, and then I'll need to speak to John, so I should be gone for about an hour."
Grace agreed, and they changed places. Harry barely moved and was soon resettled on a new lap. They both smiled as the snoring started again under another hand's hairstroking. Satisfied that her son was still asleep, Myeong smoothed his blanket one more time, and stood to leave. "Be careful not to catch his ears -- it's the one thing that would always wake him," she whispered.
"I'll take good care of him. And don't feel rushed. Take as much time as you need."
Exchanging a look that only mothers would understand, Myeong-Jai started to leave. As she reached the door, she turned one more time to look at Grace Caroline Paris, holding Harry so gently, no doubt thinking of her own faraway son. As Grace caught her glance, warm tears filled both their eyes.
Day: 12, Hour: 0824
At last the tube came free of his throat. The raw scratchiness was eased by the doctor's hypospray and a brief sip from a straw inserted between his lips. Tom closed his eyes, hoping the doctor would take the hint and leave him alone. But no, the EMH discussed personal habits with him and indicated that they would attempt some physical therapy once he'd had some nutrients. Tom just wished the 'nutrients' weren't going into a feeding tube that now joined a few other tubes with which the doctor had adorned his body. He felt like an assimilated Borg.
He longed to actually taste something besides the residue of the tubing that had resided for two days in his throat. He wouldn't mind trying to do some walking. Now that the low-grade fever had gone down and the lungs seemed to want to move on their own again, maybe he could actually handle it. Giving the doctor a look that was intended to say 'whatever', Tom nodded. If only the pain that came and went like a solar flare would finally give it up, he might be ready to rejoin the world.
Chakotay's entrance into the shuttle was a welcome diversion from the doctor's ministrations. Leaving his side, the EMH crossed the shuttle to attend to his lab tests once more. His departure left Tom and Chakotay with some privacy.
"Commander." He coughed from the slight irritation that talking generated. "Sorry."
"Don't try to talk. Give your throat a chance to feel better."
When Tom opened his mouth to say something, Chakotay raised a hand palm out in the sign for 'stop'. Tom shrugged as best he could in the collar that still fit around his neck. It was easier not to talk.
He knew Chakotay had been visiting at least twice a day since planetfall but some of those visits were a little hazy. Wondering what brought Chakotay here this morning, he waited.
"Tom, I'm hoping you can help us with a little problem."
That got a raised eyebrow from Tom as well as a slightly bemused expression.
"The captain has been receiving little 'gifts' each morning at the entrance to her shuttle."
Tom mouthed the word 'gifts' back at Chakotay.
"Yes. This morning it was the animal we've called a 'squirrel' because it looks like the squirrels of Earth. Yesterday morning it was a 'rabbit'. They were both dead, laid out on her porch. Can you think of anyone who would do that?"
For a moment Tom thought the commander was asking him because he might hang out with the kinds of people who would do such a thing, but he looked carefully at Chakotay's face. It didn't seem to be accusing him, more, it held an expression of genuine confusion.
As if reading Tom's momentary doubts about why he'd been asked, Chakotay reassured him, "I thought you might like a puzzle to solve and you've been very accessible to most of the crew through your holodeck programs. I hoped you might have some ideas."
"Meat eaters," Tom croaked out. "Surveillance camera."
"We'll give it a try. Although once might be a coincidence, twice is not. None of the security people can explain it. Of course, the security teams are inside while the insects swarm during the night. But someone could be out there in an EVA suit." Chakotay gave him a lopsided grin. "The dead animals weren't phasered, they weren't obviously strangled. We're not even sure how they became dead."
"Doc," Tom suggested to Chakotay.
"He hasn't had a chance to do an autopsy yet. Unknowingly, we destroyed the first one. I put the second one in storage for him."
Tom gave a nod. He didn't think much of the commander's puzzle, but what the hell, it beat staring at the ceiling. He'd give it some thought, try to figure out which crew members might be petty and stupid enough to do something like that.
"Thanks, Tom. I'll have the doctor tell you what he finds out when he's had a chance to do the autopsy."
His throat bothered him in spite of the earlier hypospray. Tom mouthed the word 'okay' and tried to thank the commander with his eyes. Even if it was a small thing, he felt grateful that Chakotay had thought of something for him to do.
"There's something else, Tom."
Tom gave him another Vulcan eyebrow lift in lieu of asking a question out loud.
"The doctor, the captain, and I believe it a fitting use of the replicator to provide you with a special chair. You should be familiar with such a device. It's called an assisted chair. Once upon a time I guess they called it a wheelchair because of the wheels. It's designed to support your back while it allows you to move out of the shuttle. You can go outside and explore the compound. It has an antigrav seat so you won't get sore and you will be able to move the chair through the use of a neural interface. Are you interested?"
Funny, Tom thought, he should be thrilled. But he didn't feel that way. All he felt was a kind of weariness. Yet the chair obviously meant a great deal to the commander. His excitement was almost catching. At the same time, Tom recoiled at the idea of being some freak in an assisted chair while everyone else was able to walk and do their work. He could feel the heat creep up his neck and cover his face and ears with a hot red blush. Dammit.
What was he supposed to say? When in doubt, say thanks. He managed to mouth the word 'thanks' as he fought the embarrassment. He knew Chakotay was trying to help him, but, gods, he hated being so helpless, so unable to make his body do what it was supposed to. He couldn't even breathe right most of the time. And where did this latest wave of self-pity come from?
He whispered, "Sorry."
"You don't have to try it now," Chakotay said with a disarming grin. "In fact, we haven't replicated it yet. Just give the word when you're ready."
He'd been about to tell the commander not to replicate one at all, to save the replicator energy, but Chakotay looked as if he'd be disappointed if Tom didn't accept their offer. "Later."
"All right, later it is." Chakotay was good at covering up his dismay, his voice had an almost jaunty tone, but Tom caught the moment when the man's guard was down.
Tom modified his statement to, "Soon," and gave the commander a brief, but deceptive, smile.
End Part 13