Disclaimer: I'm sorry to say the Paramount owns them. There are any number of people I can think of who would treat them better, but…Meh, what can you do but take them out somewhere special, occasionally?
Rating:PG, for heavy angst.
Summary:How does a six-year-old deal with losing herself on Quarra? Not too well, it turns out. But if the Voyager family pulls together, maybe all of them can come to grips.
Set a few weeks after Workforce.
Author's Note:This story is part of a collaborative effort with members of my 'Board Collective'—like-minded writers-turned-friends who met on the P/T Collective Archive boards, we trade stories back and forth for the purposes of editing and critiquing. We started a story ring called Circle One after Workforce aired, and this is one of our interpretations of how the crew faired after being 'stolen back' to Voyager. Please hop over and read all our codas for this thought-provoking episode, and don't forget to tell my friends what you think of their tales when you're done,*g*.
Copyright May, 2001 by LA Koehler
Living with the Lie
At first, I thought I had fallen.
I was hurrying to work with my Mom when they beamed us all back to the ship, into the bay filled with the Neurazine gas. Only my mom wasn't my mom then—she was my sister Samantha, who was the evening shift advisor for the University's research rooms.
We were rushing to her job at the laboratory building where I also worked, after school, watching the faculty's children in the childcare facility. It was a school requirement—volunteer hours in childcare services—for all of us ten to fifteen years old, which I'm not yet, but they didn't know that, I guess.
Even I didn't know that.
I didn't mean to make us late. My friend Adila was going to be picked up by her father's new assistant, and she wanted me to see the silver jewelry he had implanted in his face. 'Cute face' is what she said when he finally showed up, but I'm not interested in boys that way yet. Hopefully not ever, if I have my say.
Anyway, by the time I rounded the corner to home we had to jog to get to work on time, and that's why I thought I had tripped and hurt myself. Because the next thing I remembered was looking up into a doctor's face in the hospital.
Only it wasn't some doctor's face—it was my favorite uncle, Tom. And it wasn't a hospital—it was Voyager's sickbay. And then another smiling doctor joined him, who was really our holographic Doctor. And I felt a little scared because I couldn't see my sister—I mean my mom. And then that crazy man, who was really Tuvok, started yelling and they ran over to restrain him, and I started screaming, and screaming, and screaming, then they came after me—
And it was after that that I didn't know what I felt anymore.
=/\= =/\= =/\=
"Naomi, please! I'm going to be late for duty shift," Samantha almost whined as she tried to brush and braid her daughter's hair while the girl fidgeted and made disgusted noises about the snarls.
"I can't be late today—Ensign Swinn has a breakfast date and I promised her I'd be on time, or earlier."
Naomi seemed to stiffen, and her foot tapped nervously on the carpeted deck. "Bahni's never had a date before," the girl said quietly.
She's never noticed such a detail before, thought Wildman as she shifted her eyes from the back of the small head to the sliver of face visible from her position behind her daughter. Perhaps she was growing again, thought the harried mother, and not just physically.
Everyone was on edge since their rescue from the workforces of Quarra. Naomi seemed to be manifesting her restlessness in keen observations, especially ones beyond her six years. She asked unusual, specific questions about the interactions amongst the crew—about aggressive posturing between people who had been good friends. About new friendships between acquaintances who had found they had had similar experiences on Quarra. About lover's spats which were indiscreetly carried out in corridors.
Sam had thought the traumatic acceleration into an older life on Quarra was responsible for her seemingly abrupt interest in these relationships, but perhaps Naomi's own psychological maturation was playing a natural part. They would have to start talking soon about such topics—about grown-up topics. She tried to convince herself that the timing of the two events was just a coincidence.
Damn those people! Damn them for what they had done to her baby, and who knew how many others—damn them, what they had done to her friends!
"Mom, you're hurting me!" Naomi whined, and Samantha realized she was clenching her daughter's hair.
"I'm sorry, honey. I'm just—I'm so, so sorry."
=/\= =/\= =/\=
"How can you say that—Yora Enru was the greatest end-line stake in the game. Ever!"
"Not true. In an even contest Luther Neves-Ytrof from Bandis Colony," Walter Baxter puffed up proprietarily, "would outplay her like a newbie from nowhere."
"'Yora the Scorer' still holds the record for highest personal and assisted goals! Her plant-and-pivot rebounds are Parrises Squares legend—that's why they're called 'Yora maneuvers'?" Jim Morrow's questioning lilt implied ignorance of the topic on Baxter's part.
Samantha felt annoyance with the argument that reached them as she raced into the mess hall, Naomi purposely dragging behind her. Truth told the stupid discussion had reached them—loudly—long before the mess hall doors, and might account for the headache she could feel forming.
Neelix's own headache had apparently already arrived. He squinted one eye as if the light hurt, and did not appear to be his cheerful self.
"But she played most of her career before the rule changes, and scoring from that position was much easier then. Luther's the man of fame, here—"
"Good morning, Neelix…I think," Wildman murmured, glancing at the disagreeable men, then the chronometer. "I'm late, Neelix—I need to—"
"I've asked them and asked them to keep it down, but they just keep bringing up the same, stupid arguments…" the Talaxian rambled under his breath. "First it was soccer, then kor beng, now Parrises Squares—they're like rutting muck boars," he shook his head disapprovingly.
"Neelix, I really need to leave. Now, we haven't had breakfast—"
"Mom, I want to eat with you! Can I come with you? I won't touch anything!"
"Naomi, please—" Wildman closed her eyes.
"They changed the rules because lauded players like your pal Luther were spiking themselves with lawatbromide so they had to level the field somehow to combat the drug usage!"
"Oh, like nobody ever used it before 2343. It was invented in, what—2289? It's the aspirin of coordination enhancers—wake up, will you!"
"AH! Lizwix's Backside!" Neelix cursed suddenly as his hand slipped from the pot handle, and burned on the exposed metal below it. He dropped the steaming cauldron back to its heater—too close to the edge, it turned out—and jumped back as the porridge within cascaded down the counter front and flowed across the floor.
"Mom, please? You could still relieve Bahni, and I wouldn't make a sound!"
"Neelix! You promised not to curse in front of—"
"Well, forgive me, but I burned myself, Sam!" Neelix replied earnestly, but annoyed, as he bent to clean the cooling mess. "I wouldn't normally use that language, but I was distracted—"
"I guarantee you, Yora never used it—"
"You're probably right; she wasn't the sharpest laser on the tool rack. Probably couldn't spell the drug's name well enough to order it!" Baxter crowed.
His gloat was ill-timed, all around.
Amid stress-induced human curses, Morrow flung the table askew as he jabbed a fist into Baxter's face, then grabbed his hair. Baxter bellowed in rage and met the attack full on, pulling Morrow into a clutch and slamming them both to the deck in a tangle of arms and legs, Baxter's nose bleeding atop his opponent. Steam rose from the puddled porridge coagulating nearby.
"That's it! Now, I've had enough of you two!" Neelix waded into the writhing mass of flesh on the deck, trying to separate the instigators by spreading his feet.
"This is ridiculous, both of you!" Wildman restrained Baxter's right arm with one hand and rubbed her aching temple with the other. "Neelix, be careful!" she admonished wearily.
"STOP!" The childlike screech cut through the chaos like a phaser rifle—the shear incongruity of such a noise on Voyager, and the eerie need to be obeyed conveyed by the sound froze them all. "Just stop it, all of you, stop it!"
"I don't want to go with you anymore," she pierced her mother with her intensity, "and I'm not staying here, either! Everyone, just stop being this way!"
They watched in silence as the young girl ran out, pushing violently past the newly arriving diners.
=/\= =/\= =/\=
Naomi fled in a hot fury from the mess hall, plowing down the corridors and into the Wildman quarters before she even knew where she was headed. When she came to the wall in her bedroom and could go no further, her emotions caught up with her and she sobbed, once. She began shaking again as she did often since her return from Quarra, and her chest grew tight. She feared that if she cried, she wouldn't be able to breathe, so she drew in a huge draught of air and tensed her diaphram, holding the air in her lungs like a vise.
She wanted them to leave her alone, but she knew that it wouldn't last. And she was right.
"Ensign Wildman to Naomi," she heard her mom cue the computer, "honey, answer me, please" her mother pleaded. For a moment, she felt horrible for her mother's suffering tone—she hadn't meant to hurt anyone else, especially not her Mom.
But enough was enough…and this was too much. She needed to be alone for a while, and to think for herself.
"Nnnno!" She removed her commbadge savagely and flung it at the bulkhead. "Listen to me! Just leave me alone!"
They would come for her, she knew. They meant well…she just didn't know what she thought anymore, about many things. She caught a glimpse of herself in her terminal screen. The disheveled image reflected there frightened her. She couldn't go out into the corridor again; everyone would be concerned for her appearance.
Life on Voyager had taught her a thing or two about making quick decisions. She knew it was an admirable trait to have.
Without a moment's hesitation, she dragged a sleeve across her wet nose and opened the access hatch to the Jeffries tubes.
=/\= =/\= =/\=
By day's end.
Voyager would be whole again by day's end, according to the newest update in B'Elanna's hand. But instead of her customary sense of victory, she felt only ambivalence.
The engineer walked slowly along the corridors of deck 14, partly because she had assigned herself the task of replacing the last of the blown relays, and partly because she cherished the solitude that the lower decks offered her from the frenetic pace of engineering.
By day's end, the body would be whole, but the soul…
The soul was a mess. People did their jobs by day, but spend their off-hours dissecting their feelings with their friends. Everyone seemed normal enough on duty, but Tom had told her in discouragement one evening that Sickbay had been flooded daily since Quarra, treating injuries from altercations, or self-inflicted ones from relentless exercising and over-aggressive contact sports. They were dispensing sleeping aids with a fire hose, he had said.
Chakotay was working overtime as ship's counselor, she knew, but had her own bitter thoughts on that entire subject. She had heard of Jaffen and the Captain. Heard that Chakotay had seen them together. Saw Jaffen herself when he had come aboard to say his farewells, and couldn't help but notice how very much he resembled Janeway's old fiancé, Mark—or at least the image she used to keep in her ready room.
Chakotay needed counseling of his own, B'Elanna snorted to herself, but that was another story.
She shook her head, disgusted. When the repairs were finally completed, she determined, she would check in on him. Maybe he would agree to have dinner with her and Tom tomorrow…
A sudden, muffled noise brought Voyager's chief to a wary halt. She heard a sound like a heavy sack being dropped from a distance, a noise incongruent with Voyager's normal murmurs. Though it didn't repeat it was unusual enough to make the chief consider the possibilities.
She looked through the bulkheads around her with her mind's eye and realized there were several shafts within twenty meters of her current position that dropped down from the upper Jeffries tubes to this level, and from this level to deck 15's tubes. Someone could have lost their tool kit from above, except she had heard more of a soft-bundled sound, not a clatter. And no one but she was assigned to this area at the moment.
Reaching for her tricorder, she opened the nearest access panel.
"Hello?" she called tentatively. "Anybody in here?" She listened carefully, but there was no answer, and the tricorder showed clear. She began to turn—there! In the next tube, the instrument showed. She hurriedly opened the hatch.
"Hey, who's down here? You didn't fall, did you?" she began, then froze.
If it were possible to be flushed and pale at the same time, Naomi Wildman was accomplishing it. She sat crouched at the bottom of the vertical access to deck 13, her face a charged mask of fear, and guilt. The combination on a child's face was heartrendingly painful. Dismissing immediately the question of why she was in the restricted tubes, the chief engineer decided to cautiously feel out the situation.
"Naomi! Did you fall? Are you—"
"I…I don't know what's real, anymore, and what isn't!" B'Elanna startled as the normally cool and collected girl burst into full-throated crying, burying her head into her drawn-up knees.
"Naomi! Hey—hey, honey, what's wrong? Please, tell me what's wrong," B'Elanna asked in a desperate voice as she frantically pulled her gravid form up into the opening and scrambled to reach the sobbing child.
Naomi was babbling now as B'Elanna approached, and the engineer tried to pick up as much of the muffled rambling as she could.
"I thought—I thought Icheb was scary! Creepy—with all those surgical things on his face. And I saw Bahni in the market all the time—she takes me to the beach on the holodeck every week, ever since I was born; we talk about girl stuff together, and ship gossip stuff, and—but she was nobody to me then! And Captain Janeway didn't have our ship! And I feel sick all the time—like I want to throw up, but not from food or sickness, and I don't know why! And my hands shake when we have to hurry in the morning, to make-make it to duty stations on time, or school; and I'm afraid! I'm afraid, and afraid, and everyone just fights, and my Mom is not my sister!" She looked up with angry conviction at B'Elanna, ferocity in her eyes.
"My Mom is not my sister!"
She hissed out the last sentence before the fire left her. She trembled with the spent emotions, and collapsed once again into weak crying.
Instinctively, B'Elanna knew the last thing the situation needed was more people, more confusion, so she just grasped the child and held her while she drained herself out. The diatribe replayed in her mind while she patiently comforted the crumpled mess in her lap, and the engineer felt an icy stab of fear.
She remembered her initial feelings upon awakening in this 'strange' place, among 'strange' people who claimed to want the best for her. Even after her memory was fully restored, she felt the terrible insecurity of being returned to a life that had been stolen from her with such cavalier ease—she felt the laughable impermanence of everything she held dear. Still felt it for her baby. For Tom…
Why had she thought that Naomi would be any different?
She was six years old, despite her appearance. She had never suffered a loss this large. She lacked the life experiences that could bolster her self-esteem and grant her the assurance that she could wade through this terrible violation. Voyager was all she'd ever known.
She hugged the girl tighter in a tremendous rush of protectiveness. B'Elanna may have come to some sense of self and security late in the game, but she had arrived in the last few years. She resolved to use every gram of self-confidence she had earned to make Naomi understand.
"Honey, listen to me," she said with confidence, continuing to cocoon the hiccuping girl on her lap. "You're not crazy, and you're not sick; you're scared. Just like you think you are—all of this stems from being frightened, and you have every right to feel that way.
"No. No, I'm crazy—"
B'Elanna knew she was sincere in her belief.
"Well, if you are, you have lots and lots of company. Myself included."
Perhaps it was the statement, but more likely it was the casual tone the engineer used to make her pronouncement. The sniffling stopped suddenly, and Naomi risked a tentative peek upward at her savior.
"W-what do you mean?" she quaked out. She was almost too afraid to ask the question—the hope itself that she wasn't alone was worth not knowing.
"First," B'Elanna said, "let's take some deep breaths." Then she offered the skirt of her maternity top, glad that it was good for something besides looking foolish. "Now wipe," she grinned ruefully. "I hear I need to get used to this, anyway," she consoled when Naomi looked dubious.
"All the things your describing—Icheb, the captain, nausea—they're all ancillary to what you're really worried about, Naomi. Do you know what ancillary means?"
"Side systems," the girl answered immediately, and B'Elanna had to smile inwardly. She was definitely a product of her environment.
"In this case, side feelings. Not the main ones. Your worry about other people and other things just makes you feel worse, doesn't it? You can't do anything about any of that—about anyone else. You need to face your real fear to take its power away."
Naomi looked like she was witnessing a Borg attack. Frightening as B'Elanna's words were, she could not turn away from their approach. B'Elanna took her bravery as her cue to continue.
"You're fearing the loss of your life, Naomi! Someone stole who you are, they did it without your permission, and they lied to you about it—like you didn't matter! Even though you were safe down there, you're angry now. Angry at what they did, to you and everyone you love. Angry that you might never have known the truth. And now that you're back, you worry that it could happen again."
Naomi looked stung by B'Elanna's bluntness. "How do you know?" she wailed in anguish, admitting the truth of what was said in her pained tone.
"Because that's how I feel, too. Look around us, Naomi—it's how we all feel right now. So you see—you're not crazy, and you're definitely not alone. We'll all work through this."
B'Elanna's face darkened slightly as she admitted, "Well, that's the trick to what I'm going to tell you, but you have to believe me, because this is one area in which I have too much expertise, I'm afraid." She paused, gave herself time to redirect.
"Naomi," she took the girl's hands, "what happened to us on Quarra was bizarre, even by Voyager's standards. The chance of it happening again are…well, too remote to think about; it just won't.
"To take back what was stolen from you, you need to forgive what happened—now, wait, wait! I'm not saying forget! I'm saying to forgive, and be willing to go on. Trust me on this one, kid. I've had more betrayals happen to me before Voyager than I care to count. But if I hadn't been willing trust in something after those times…do you think I'd ever have become who I am today?"
She knew Naomi admired her and the Captain, that she aspired to be like them some day. And she knew the girl adored Tom. She hoped it would be enough to bring her to trust again.
"I don't know how to do that."
"You need to talk with your mom first. I guarantee you, whatever you are feeling, she feels it twice, for both of you. Start with how sad you feel over the loss. Then work your way down from that. Step by step, you'll put everything back in place where it belongs."
"But how can I do that when I still don't know what is real anymore!"
B'Elanna sighed, considered her options.
"Honey, I know better than to tell you there's no risk. Your life has always included one safe spot or another, for our emergencies. Kahless, I designed your first one myself—the padded incubator, to keep you from being bruised during our—crappier—moments." The girl gaped, then giggled tentatively at the engineer's shocking turn of phrase.
B'Elanna shook her head, marveling at how things in life often come full circle. Her own daughter would be the beneficiary of her work for Naomi so many years earlier. She glanced down at the expectant face waiting patiently for her to make her point, and she felt herself smile. Naomi was great—she really was. She was a great kid, and if she could turn out so wonderfully, then so could her and Tom's child. She would be in the arms of Family.
They all were, already. They all just needed to remember that.
B'Elanna had never felt particularly close to Naomi. But with suddenly genuine affection, B'Elanna reached up and tucked a dangling strand of fine, wispy red hair behind an ear.
"Let me tell you your reality, Naomi Wildman of Voyager. Your reality is that you enjoy each day as it is, because you've never learned the foolish art of thinking you have more than that. You hug your mom and tell her everything you're thinking, good and bad, because you appreciate her being there for you. You know in your heart that 145 people love you and would die for you, just because you're you, because you belong to us. And," B'Elanna was whispering now, one palm cupping the small chin for emphasis, "if you were the *only* crewman to go missing, you know Captain Janeway would risk us all before she would abandon you to any fate removed from Voyager—from your given family.
"That's what's real for you right now. Can you live with that reality?"
The huge eyes never left B'Elanna's face, clearly impressed with the woman's take on her life. She hadn't considered it that way. She nodded solemnly, the very economy of the motion conveying the depth of her emotions.
"I want to," she barely whispered, "every day."
"Then do it, every day. One at a time." She enunciated each word with quiet intensity. Neither of them moved for some time.
Then Naomi nodded and her face lost the rigidity that fright and uncertainty had given it. Her eyes calmed.
"I envy you it, Naomi. In many ways."
=/\= =/\= =/\=
They spoke in quiet tones then, for a while longer. Naomi wondered if things would ever return to 'normal', if there was such a thing on Voyager, and B'Elanna assured her that everyone would indeed work through their problems and insecurities just as Naomi herself was doing. They just needed some time, and the right release.
And suddenly Naomi was no longer afraid of the fight in the mess hall. Suddenly, she understood. All those people, whether fighting or kissing—they were all just reaching out to each other, needing something. She said so aloud to B'Elanna, who knew that feeling, also. And the fact that Naomi understood told B'Elanna that the girl needed something more, too. She took a breath, smelled the sweet sweat rising off the damp strawberry hair.
"You know, I haven't talked to your mom yet, but…you think you might be ready for another responsibility in a few weeks? Babysitting? I know, I know—Mother's Assistant seems like a step down from Captain's Assistant—" She was cut off by a young body flinging herself into her arms.
"I had hoped you would ask me! I had more than hoped! Oops—sorry, baby," she murmured to B'Elanna's bulging belly as she got off.
"Yeah, well, there's a lot to learn, you know."
"Oh, I know—the Doctor is already helping me! We practice on the holographic baby in sickbay—my old scans and images were the matrix for it; did you know that? And we're laying-in a supply bag, in case of emergencies, for when you drop her off there. And I know how to request her formula from the replicator, and where you'll store your personal milk, and how to hold her properly, and how to burp her, and how to change a diaper…both wet and messy!" Naomi practically glowed, to finally be able to show off her knowledge to B'Elanna. "Messy is not my favorite thing, but you know what? If you just think of it in terms of the deuterium storage tanks and waste manifolds, it's really not that bad."
She was touched by the lengths to which Naomi and the Doctor had obviously gone already for her child. B'Elanna stared mutely at the flushed girl. When she spoke, it was softly, with awe.
"You're so confident."
Naomi looked confused by the remark. "Why wouldn't I be?" she puzzled, face scrunched up, freely expressing emotion as only a carefree child is able.
B'Elanna sighed. The trauma of Quarra would pass; Voyager's firstborn would take with her the lessons she needed from the incident, would toss out the insecurities without a backward glance.
Perhaps they both would do that. She unconsciously rubbed her abdomen.
Then she gathered the child against her side and crushed her in her arms, adding superfluously into her hair, "How about a hug before we get out of here, Mother's Assistant?"
"Yes, ma'am…A-Aunt B'Elanna," came the muffled reply from the side of her breast. B'Elanna closed her eyes in quiet contentment, and sighed. Yes.
Yes, that would work just fine, the engineer felt.
=/\= =/\= =/\=
Neelix found them crawling gracelessly from the Jeffries access.
"Great Forest, we've been worried sick about you!" Neelix trotted up to Naomi and squeezed her to his chest for emphasis.
"Neelix." It was a contented statement. Then Naomi pulled away. "Is Mom mad at me? Did she miss work?"
Neelix made a dismissive gesture, smiled. "No, she's not mad, and who cares about the work? Noah Lessing was coming in for breakfast as you left—he offered to go relieve Bahni for your mom. And Captain Janeway didn't even give it a thought—she's just concerned that you're not feeling well."
"Well, I'm feeling a little better now, Neelix." The Talaxian looked toward B'Elanna with a knowing grin. She felt herself accept his unselfconscious gratitude with grace. She grinned in return, nodded.
"Oh!" Neelix remembered, and produced a commbadge from his side pocket. "I guess this fell off when you left your room," he ventured diplomatically, giving the child an out.
And Naomi thought about taking it, too—for a moment. But life on Voyager had taught her a thing or two about honesty, and integrity. She knew they were admirable traits to have, and she squared herself.
"No, Neelix, I took it off myself, so I could be alone for a bit."
"You know, you should never remove your commbadge. I mean, my goodness—what if something happened while you were without it?" He had intended to scare her therapeutically with his cautionary hypothesis.
Naomi smiled slyly at B'Elanna.
"Life is risky, Neelix. You just need to live with that, sometimes."
"Well, uh, I think the Captain might feel a bit differently, and definitely your mother, but I won't argue with your very grown-up observation. Speaking of your mom, we should go find her; she's very worried, honey." He looked between the two ladies.
"Not so fast," B'Elanna stated firmly.
She took Naomi's hand, and with Neelix trailing behind, led her to the next Jeffries tube down the corridor. She opened the panel, but did not crawl in. She turned, and held up an ODN relay.
"This," she rotated the small component, her voice quiet, "is the final relay that we need to replace, to be done with Quarra. Naomi, would you replace this one for me?"
The girl stared at the engineer, unable to believe her good fortune. She was almost never allowed to touch anything on Voyager in an official capacity, to make such a genuine connection to the ship. She hoped this would be the first in a long, long line of jobs she would come to be responsible for aboard her home. She took the mechanism reverently and did as B'Elanna directed. It snap-locked in place solidly.
She sighed. It had felt good.
=/\= =/\= =/\=
The small entourage found Samantha with Tom Paris in the holodeck, where she had gone to look for Naomi. She had mistakenly thought her daughter might have sought out Flotter for advice. Ironically, it was she who received counsel from Tom Paris, who had been working there when she entered.
B'Elanna watched the mother and daughter reunite—literally, in a tangle of arms and wrapped legs, fingers combing through loose hair, tears falling freely from both Wildmans onto each other. She felt her hand involuntarily clutch at the bulge of her middle, yearning already to hug her own daughter with so little inhibition. And she would some day—she knew this.
Her action wasn't lost on her husband, who was listening attentively to his favorite piloting student, alarmed and reassured by her words at the same time. He had been surprised when she came in with B'Elanna. His wife had been too busy wrapping up the last of the repairs to have breakfast with him; he had understood.
And as he listened to the girl share her feelings and the highlights of her Jeffries tube encounter—sometimes softly, sometimes with enthusiasm—he was actually grateful for the missed meal. His instincts told him something had happened to B'Elanna as well as Naomi in that tube, and he knew their dinner conversation that evening would be rewarding.
B'Elanna admired her husband from the exit, then held out her hand for him to take when she next caught his eye. He seemed surprised and she didn't blame him—like everyone else on the grieving ship they had been quiet lately, processing their experiences and shelving them in turn.
With a nod to Samantha and Neelix, they left the family to work through their healing, finally begun. Hand in hand, they left the holodeck. Tom ventured to speak first.
"You know, when you said this morning that you needed to finish repairs, I never thought you meant broken hearts," he smiled as she giggled, thrilled that he could eke from her such a spontaneous response.
"Aw, Tom, you should have seen her." She shook her head regretfully. "I'm glad I could help, but it made me want to turn right around and go kick some Quarren a—"
"Aaaah, how about lunch?" he interrupted, amused that 'normal' B'Elanna was evidently back with panache. It was nice. He had missed her.
Made him see what he missed in himself, too. He made a fist, her hand still in his, and felt her squeeze back.
"Give me ten minutes," she said. "I need to finish replacing these relays on deck 15."
She realized that Tom had stopped walking when her hand came up short behind her, and she turned to a confused face.
"But…but I thought I heard Naomi tell Sam that she—"
B'Elanna smiled cryptically and backed up to plant a quick kiss on her husband. "She did—in the part of her mind that needed to heal. And now I'm going to make it true for her." She continued toward the turbolift.
"I understand, B'Elanna. I really do," Tom said softly. He put his arm around her—or attempted to, anyway, placing the other hand on her belly. "You know what," he realized with admiration, "you are going to be great at this mommy thing!"
B'Elanna turned to him fully. "You know what—you're right," she stated confidently.
And she believed it. It felt good.