Trial by Fire
By A’Lehsen Paris
Written: June - ? 2000 (Unfinished)
Summary: B’Elanna’s back from the Borg, but a lot of things have changed. Will she be able to deal with them all? How will her crewmates respond to her now, especially the man she depends on the most?
Disclaimer: They’re owned by Paramount/Viacom. The story’s owned by me. I’m not going to try to make any money off of it, okay? Does everyone understand that? Good.
Dedicated: To Pammy, my wonderfully perceptive beta reader!
She rolled over as the alarm announced, "Wake up, B'Elanna."
Damn it, why had she reprogrammed that stupid alarm? Tom had laughed at her the first time he heard it...Where was he, anyway?
B'Elanna's sleep-fogged brain cleared slowly, and with the lucidity came pain. Pain that she still woke up thinking of him. Her arm was stretched out across the bed, as if she had been seeking his familiar presence in her sleep.
She dragged herself out of bed, silently cursing whomever had come up with the idea of "morning." It was a terrible thing, when you had to get out of a nice warm bed and face reality. These days, she'd rather be dreaming than awake.
After a quick sonic shower she put on a fresh uniform and arranged her hair for the day. Captain Janeway had spent several hours with her a few days before, trying hairstyles. B'Elanna would never have thought that spending time with the captain would be at all pleasurable, at least not lately, but they had actually had fun. The only time that the levity had faded was when Janeway teased her about Tom. Then B'Elanna had been forced to admit what she had thought everyone on the ship knew: Tom couldn't even look at her anymore.
Pulling herself away from these dangerously self-pitying thoughts, B'Elanna checked to make sure that no wisps of hair had escaped from the intricate braid at the nape of her neck. Then, avoiding looking her reflection in the eye, she turned and exited her quarters. She had to be at a briefing, her first since the mission, in three minutes.
She stood impatiently in front of the turbolift, trying to will it with her slight glare to open. When the doors finally did slide apart B'Elanna drew in a sharp breath.
No. She couldn't get on it, not while he was standing there, looking first shocked and then remote. But her pride wouldn't let her back down, not from a challenge like this.
B'Elanna entered the turbolift, making a deliberate effort not to look at him. Instead, she studied the padd she had grabbed on her way out the door, rereading Carey's latest report. It was that or scream, and she wouldn't scream. Not in front of him, anyway. She would show him that if he could live without her, then she could live without him.
But you can't, a small voice in her mind whispered.
Shut up, she told it firmly.
The 'lift stopped and the doors opened. B'Elanna hurried out them first, careful not to let any emotion show on her face. It wouldn't do to let the entire bridge know how much being near Tom upset her.
The Captain, Commander Chakotay, and Tuvok were already seated. B'Elanna took the seat next to Tuvok, smothering the hurt she felt when Tom took the seat opposite and one down. Janeway frowned at both of them but refrained from saying anything. B'Elanna was grateful to her for that.
Chakotay, his glance just as shrewd as the Captain's, said with apparent innocence, "How did you enjoy your first day back in Engineering, B'Elanna?"
She really didn't feel like talking about it, so she just shrugged and said, "It was all right." Then she turned her head just enough to look past him and to the right, out at the stars. She refused to look at any of them, not wanting to see the concern on Chakotay's or the Captain's face, or the flicker of puzzlement she knew would be in Tuvok's eyes.
B'Elanna barely noticed the arrival of the others. She kept her eyes glued to her padd, wondering why the Captain hadn't just asked Carey to come instead of her. She had heard that he had taken her place temporarily, and that Chakotay had been very pleased with the progress he had made in Engineering.
When Janeway stood up to begin her first official briefing since her return, she finally glanced around at the others. Harry sat across from her, a pained expression on his face. She eyed him coldly for a moment or two. He had taken sides, or so it seemed. Neelix sat on the other side of Tom, whom she didn't let her gaze linger on, and he smiled slightly at her, an encouraging smile. B'Elanna's lips twitched. She wanted to smile back, but she forced herself not to. The Doctor sat beside her, and Seven occupied the seat on his other side.
Seven.....how could Tom have been so nice to her all of those years if he had such aversion to former Borg? Or was it just that he couldn't handle the fact that his girlfriend....
"B'Elanna?" Janeway's tone, concerned and a bit irritated at once, told her that it was not the first time the Captain had tried to gain her attention.
"Yes, Captain?" B'Elanna didn't have to pretend the apathy she heard in her tone.
"B'Elanna, could you please give us the Engineering report?" The Captain did not sound as irritated as before.
"I don't know why I should. Carey seems to have done just fine without me," B'Elanna muttered under her breath as she stood.
"I'm sorry, Captain. I was just thinking of something else. The warp coils need replacing. There's absolutely no choice this time. The Structural Integrity Field generators were badly damaged during the last altercation with the Borg, but most of them have been repaired, although a few needed to be replaced. Most major systems are still being evaluated. The good news, the only good news as far as I can see, is that we've had some breakthroughs on the MIDAS project, and thanks to the last transmission will most likely be able to reduce the cycle to twenty days instead of thirty-two," B'Elanna finished the report dully.
There was silence for a few moments. B'Elanna ignored it and the other reports given during the rest of the meeting. What did they matter now, anyway?
"I believe that's everything. You are dismissed. Oh, B'Elanna, could I have a word with you?"
B'Elanna remained seated. It was too much effort to look at Janeway, so she stared at the tabletop.
"B'Elanna, would you snap out of it?" The irritation was back in the Captain's voice.
B'Elanna did look up then. A bitter smile twisted her lips. "What's the use anymore? I'm not needed or wanted on Voyager, Captain. No one on my staff will say more than ten words to me at a time. For that matter, no one on this damn ship besides you, Tuvok and the Doctor has been able to treat me like they used to from the moment I came back," she said sharply.
Janeway, whose implants had all been removed, ran a hand through her hair and sighed. "It's going to be tough for everyone, B'Elanna, to get used to what happened and the results. But they will. This crew has always been close, and I know that soon they'll see that you're the same person you were when you left," she said, trying to be reassuring.
B'Elanna stood up and began to pace. "I'm not, though! I didn't yell at more than a few people yesterday, I only really lost my temper once, and I don't have as much impatience with my staff as I did before. And I hate it! I don't want to be different!"
"It's really not that bad, is it?" Janeway asked quietly. She watched her Chief Engineer with wise eyes, letting her walk off some of the frustration.
"Well, no, I kind of like being more in control, but not if it makes people give me more frightened looks than when I was shouting constantly and throwing things around!" B'Elanna admitted reluctantly.
"Like I said, they'll get used to it. So will you, B'Elanna. Everyone, including you, Tuvok, and I, need time to adapt. We all will, eventually," the Captain said, laying a comforting hand on B'Elanna's shoulder as she joined her to look out at the stars.
"Some things will never be the same, though," B'Elanna said soflty, thinking about Tom.
"No, they won't. They might be better, though," Janeway told her.
For the first time since coming home to Voyager, B'Elanna began to believe that.
So, what did you think? Please, let me know. *big smiles*