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'Blurb': What ifs are explored. What if Tuvok had captured the Maquis ship? What if Tom Paris had never been called to assist Voyager? What if B'Elanna Torres had been captured and ended up at Auckland?
Disclaimer: In the cookie jar of life, Paramount is that giant chocolate chip cookie. Me? I'm just one of those nuts in the bottom of the jar hanging out with the crumbs. In other words, Star Trek Voyager belongs to them and not to me, never will. J
Feedback: Always appreciated, always a cause for celebration. E-mail to LtLyra@startrekmail.com This is my first attempt, so PLEASE be kind. Also, if reactions are good and I pass Geometry, there will probably be a sequel.
Dedications: Of course, to those who first sparked my creative juices, Robbie and Roxann. Also, to Amanda/Mercedes, who first beta-ed this for me and George, who gave me pointers.
Now, all technicalities aside, on with the show:
A loud conflict drew Tom Paris's attention away from under the console he was restoring. The day had been as pleasant as it could be considering he was in New Zealand's Rehabilitation Center; the sun was bright and warm, the air quiet except for the occasional comment by other inmates or the chirp of an idle bird. But now, a throaty and vaguely familiar voice ripped through the serenity. "Let go of me!" the unseen voice demanded, "I have the right not to be dragged off like some animal!" In a few seconds, Tom had deduced that the voice, although low and angry, came from a woman, and most probably from a new inmate, if he knew the guards well enough. Curious, he stood up and stretched his cramped muscles, glancing towards the cause of the noise, which would seem to come past him soon.
"You gave up your rights as a citizen long ago," one of the guards, probably the tall and imposing Ga'thus, answered with practiced indifference. Tom's ears perked up at the thought; maybe it was another former Maquis. The Center hadn't had a new inmate in a long time, and, well, he could use a little entertainment. He bent down again towards the console as the contingent of people moved towards him.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement and, feigning casualty, he lifted his head ever so slightly to look at arrivals. He had planned on only looking up casually, allowing himself to absorb the scene through his choppy blond hair. However, what he saw astounded him and he stood up fully to stare with eyes wide in amazement. Walking down the path was several of the guards, one of them was indeed Ga'thus, escorting a struggling woman with fierce dark eyes and short brown hair. His presence stopped her and she stood stock still, staring at him. "Tom," she breathed out softly. The guards accompanying her shot him a curious but grateful look. Obviously, the woman had put up one hell of a fight and they were glad of the reprieve, however short, that her surprise at his appearance had wrought.
Before he could stop himself, Tom moved towards her. "What are you doing here?" he couldn't help asking.
"So you know this Klingon," Ga'thus sneered contemptuously as he poked B'Elanna.
He recognized her stance and remembered how she often reacted when provoked. "Lay off, Ga'thus," he told the tall, looming Andorian. Knowing that Tom had once testified on his behalf when he had been reported for insubordination, Ga'thus complied, albeit unhappily.
"We don't have time for this," one of the other guards, a trim, gray skinned Tressil reminded Ga'thus as she tried to continue on the path. B'Elanna resisted, unable to look away from Tom, but a brief smile and slight nod from him convinced her to continue on her path.
Tom waited until both the Tressil and Ga'thus had gone before he beckoned to a youthful looking guard who hung back uncertainly. "You're Alex Lea, right?" he asked amicably.
"Yeah," came the wary reply, "And you're Tom Paris."
Tom allowed himself a dry chuckle; he'd lost the advantage of anonymity, but that was understandable, considering he was an inmate and this boy was security. "That new one, she's a handful, isn't she?" he continued.
"You said it," Alex agreed, then added nonchalantly, "But you two seem to have been acquainted. You'd know better than I would about that half breed."
Tom drew in a sharp breath. "I could report you for using derogatory slurs," he reminded the officer.
"She's here, isn't she?" the beady-eyed young man retorted, "Former Maquis like her gave up their Federation citizenship and their rights when they started fighting the Cardassians."
"Former Maquis, huh?" Tom mused, feigning ignorance at the fact and trying to hide his surprise at the fact that this officer didn't know of his own record. "What happened?"
Alex Lea lowered his voice slightly. "This one was caught when a Vulcan Starfleet officer infiltrated the Maquis ship she was on," he explained, "He turned them in just under a week ago."
Tom's heart sank; he'd hoped that maybe she was here because she had been caught in the DMZ on an unauthorized trip. That way, maybe she could have gotten a shorter sentence, but, now, she was going to be here as long as he was, maybe longer. "Where is Ga'thus taking her?" he continued casually.
"To Building Delta-4," came the immediate answer, "That's where all the difficult ones go, right?" A bellow from Ga'thus sent the young officer scurrying to catch up. Tom thought about it quickly. Delta-4 wasn't far from where his own lodgings were, and if he remembered correctly, Delta-4's inmates usually had the same schedule as he did, which meant he might have a chance to talk to B'Elanna later. However, it still saddened him to see her here. He'd hoped that the Badlands had been enough protection for her and the rest of the Maquis, but now that he knew that it wasn't, well, he wasn't even sure exactly what he was feeling.
It wasn't very much later when Tom first got his chance to see B'Elanna again. It was lunchtime, and when he had gone into the cafeteria, he noticed that sitting at a solitary table near the back was B'Elanna, characteristically scowling as she looked at the table. Grabbing his own tray without bantering with the others, he made his way towards her, ignoring all the speculative looks and comments he was receiving as he slid into the seat across from her.
"So what happened?" he inquired pleasantly after sitting down.
She stayed stonily silent, unwilling to look at him as she suddenly developed a fascination with the food in front of her. Faced with her chilly reception, he forced himself to swallow his disappointment and turned to his food. After having taken a few bites, his attention was taken from his meal when she finally spoke. "So this is what happened after you left in the shuttlecraft," she finally remarked.
"What did you expect?" he asked, "That I'd abandoned the Maquis?" 'And you?' he added silently. Feeling bitter disappointment well up in his throat again, he swallowed quickly and forced himself to remain cheerful. "Do you really think so little of me, B'Elanna?" For the first time since their chance encounter on the path, B'Elanna looked up at him. It surprised him to see the changes in her. Before, he'd been too shocked by the fact that she was there to concentrate on specifics, but now, he couldn't believe the changes he saw. Her eyes, which had before shone with fierceness and almost reckless courage, now held immeasurable sadness, and overall, she seemed defeated. "What happened?" he asked worriedly.
"Chakotay's dead," she replied flatly, unable to disguise the grief in her voice, "Yuri was captured by Cardassians, and Seska was really a Cardassian spy." Her eyes regarded him emotionlessly and she continued, "What else can I say?"
Tom couldn't believe what he was hearing. Chakotay was dead and Yuri was a Cardassian prisoner? Even though he'd had disagreements with Chakotay, he'd regarded the Indian as a father figure of sorts, and Yuri was like a best friend to him. "How did all this happen?" He hated to ask, seeing the effects the mention of the mere facts had on her, but he had to know.
B'Elanna took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. It hurt to even say what happened, but he had a right to know. "A few weeks after you left, Chakotay brought a Vulcan back with him; his name was Tuvok and he was supposedly another disenchanted ex-Starfleet officer. Even without you, we went back to the Badlands. It was the safest place we had to go. One time, we sustained heavy damage when we ventured too close to a plasma eddy. We practically had to push the Liberty to Vega II, which had always been sympathetic towards us, but the damage we took was too severe for the Vegans to help us repair. What they had was a small runabout, and Yuri volunteered to take it back into the DMZ to bring replacement parts back. On his second run, the Cardassians found out he wasn't just ferrying humanitarian supplies like he'd claimed. They caught him."
Tom looked at her in disbelief, then reached out and touched her hand with his. Apparently strengthened by his gesture, she continued. "It was then that we found out that Seska was a spy. I stumbled onto some hidden records of encrypted transmissions in her personal database to various Cardassian ships. She almost killed me when she found me looking at them, but Tuvok heard the noise. Chakotay contacted Sveta, the woman who recruited him into the Maquis, and she had Seska taken to some other Maquis commanders. I don't know what they did to her then." Her voice choked for a second as she came to the hardest part of her story. "When Tuvok's ship showed up and tried to capture us, we tried to escape, but that ship was smaller and faster than anything we'd faced before. It followed us into the Badlands. We'd taken a couple of hits and there was a lot of damage. We flew too close to a plasma storm, and it caused more damage. Chakotay was standing at the weapons console when it exploded."
"I'm sorry," he muttered, "But at least you're alive, right?" As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he knew it was the wrong thing to say.
Her eyes lit up with indignant anger and she practically spat out the words. "And what good is being alive?" she hissed angrily, "I've been caught and found guilty of treason. I'm here in prison with this damn electronic anklet on my leg. I'm not so sure if being alive is such a wonderful idea anymore."
Her words frightened him, and Tom couldn't help but look at her with concern in his blue eyes. "It's not always that bad," he tried to convince her, "I don't know if I can convince you that it's going to get better, but promise me something, will you?" She stared at him impassively and he held her hand tightly. "Promise me you won't do anything rash. Don't hurt yourself, okay?"
B'Elanna couldn't stop the surprise from registering on her face. She had thought about it, about how easy it would be just to end it all now, but it was foolish and she had dismissed the idea quickly. "I'm not going to kill myself, Tom," she muttered softly. She couldn't help the tiny skip that her heart did when his hand gripped hers tightly; it seemed for a second that he actually seemed to care... But shaking the uninvited thought away quickly, she let go of his hand.
Sensing her uncomfortability with the topic at hand, he tried a less personal subject. "So how do you like it so far?" he asked, "Any trouble?" He gave her a small grin as her sable colored eyes fixed on his face intently.
"Nothing I can't handle," she answered flatly, slipping back into the role of the defensive, self-reliant woman she had played her entire life, any semblance of the previous, life-weary woman disappearing.
"You have a friend here, B'Elanna," he reminded her, "This is a tough place, especially for people like you and me. Don't think you're alone here."
B'Elanna put down her fork and made a move to get up. "I've been in tough places all my life, Tom," she said as she took her tray to the disposal slot, "I can take care of myself." He watched in fascinated concern as her gray prison jumpsuit clad form walked off gracefully.
Tom didn't see her later that day, nor did he see her the next day, but then, he knew from prior experience that new arrivals were usually required to spend a few days, a 'transitional period' as it was called, with the authorities before setting into the usual routine. But on the third day, as he made his way to his designated work area where he was currently finishing a repair job on a console, he happened to look up and caught a glimpse of her between masses of lush green foliage. However, that was the only encounter he had with her; he didn't even see her during the recreational period the incarcerated were allotted weekly. He wondered why she'd been so elusive, considering her Delta-4 group were often assigned to the same activities at the same time he was. He had no idea how soon his next encounter with B'Elanna would occur, and how unpleasant it would be.
It was Saturday when Tom next saw B'Elanna. He was with the several other inmates whom he was somewhat friendly with on the beach of the recreational area when he heard a low, almost inaudible growl from somewhere nearby. His ears perked up instinctively and he looked at the others around him. "Did you hear something?" he asked curiously, straining to catch wind of the sound again. The others looked at him uninterestedly and shook their heads. He caught the elusive sound again and turned towards the possible source. "I'll see you guys later," he excused himself as he picked up his pace and began jogging towards a small sand swell and the nearby clump of mangroves.
As soon as he scaled the swell, he saw the origin of the noise and couldn't help but skid down the sand dune haphazardly. There, behind the coverage provided by the mangroves and the sandbank there were a contingent of maybe five of the other, more thickheaded and aggressive prisoners. And restrained in the mist of them was B'Elanna, struggling to break from their collective grip while the others threw random punches. He could see she wasn't coping well, even with her inherited Klingon abilities, it was five against one. Before he even reached them, he called out, "Hey, what's the occasion?"
One of the assailants, a gray eyed, muscular man with a muscular build, looked up with a grin. "Teaching this Maquis half-breed a lesson," he replied, "It's time she learned how the rest of the galaxy feels about traitors." While he was talking, Tom had sidled up to one of the other men and now looked at Gray Eyes with a look of understanding. Interpreting his look as one of agreement, Gray Eyes grinned and extended a hand to him. "Want to join in?"
Tom breathed in slowly, trying to rein in the anger that was coursing through his veins as he glanced at B'Elanna, whose eyes betrayed no emotion although there was a thin trickle of blood already making its way down her chin and dark bruises manifesting themselves on her already dark skin. "I think I'll pass this time," he replied cordially before pulling his fist back and punching one of them square in the jaw. The unexpected action caused the others to look up in surprise and that moment of inattention was all B'Elanna needed to pull away from those restraining her. Instinctively, the others advanced on Tom, forgetting that she had been their primary target, now more interested in this man who had dared to retaliate. Despite her injuries, she leapt back into the fray beside Tom. The two of them fought off the five with the fervor of ten, and in a few minutes, the others had retreated.
"Are you alright?" Tom gasped out when he finally turned back to her with concern.
She paused for a few moments to draw deep breaths. "I'll be fine," she answered, speaking carefully around her sore jaw. As far as she could tell, nothing had been broken, although a lot of places on her body did feel worse for wear. Wiping aside the thin trickle of blood from her mouth, she glanced at him, feeling surprisingly guilty for the bruises he sported as well. Unable to fully comprehend the sensation, she met his gaze and said, somewhat awkwardly and uncertainly, "Thanks."
Even as Tom gingerly felt his pained jaw, he managed a grin for her benefit. "Don't mention it," he answered cheerfully, "I can't remember the last time I've had this much fun." He paused for several seconds to assess the damage done to himself before he turned to look at her worriedly. "You don't look too good," he informed her, "Are you sure you're okay?"
B'Elanna glared at him as she touched a bruise on her cheek with gently probing fingers. "I'll live," she retorted, "But why did you do something so dumb like get yourself beaten up over this? It's not like I couldn't take care of myself."
Tom settled down on the warm sun-kissed sand as his azure eyes met hers seriously. "Five against one?" he said, "I've seen you fight, 'Lan, but even you couldn't have taken all five of them at once."
She sat on the sand near him and muttered, "Don't call me that."
"What?" he asked, unaware of what he had done.
Turning away slightly, she elaborated, "Don't call me 'Lan." She winced involuntarily as the motion jarred something and caused a brief wave of pain.
He allowed a smile to flash on his face for a second before replying. "But I've always called you 'Lan," he protested, struggling to get the smile off his face; he was deliberately baiting her and he knew it.
B'Elanna couldn't stop herself as she replied, "Never before have you ever called me 'Lan."
The smile that had been teasing at his lips finally broke free and Tom couldn't help but laugh. "You remembered me from the Maquis. I'm touched, why, B'Elanna, I never knew you cared."
She frowned, knowing that she'd allowed herself to be led into a trap, and gave him a glare from her dark, chocolate colored eyes. "You flatter yourself, Tom," she answered as she stood up, careful not to disrupt anything that might cause further agony. However, her body had other ideas and she couldn't help but hiss in pain as her seemingly routine movements aggravated something within her.
The sharp sound drew Tom's attention and he peered at her with renewed concern. "Is it that bad?" he asked worriedly, "We could go and get someone to look at you and see if they did some damage we can't see."
Waving a hand, she discounted his offer. "I'll be fine," she gasped out, "I don't need anyone to patch me up." She walked ahead a few steps then looked back at him with a wry smile. "I can't let people think I can't take a few punches now, can I?"
He couldn't help but smile at her words as he rose to catch up to her. "What would people think?" he agreed, offering her his arm for balance. Touching his arm briefly for balance, she accompanied him as they made their way back to where the others were.