“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?

Rated: G

Dedicated: To Sab, who was my beta for this part. I think that she helped me fill in the rough spots and add the best parts. Thanks, Admiral!

Part Four

B'Elanna regained her composure quickly. "I'm surprised to see you here," she said, hoping that the deliberate chill she put in her voice would disguise the way she was quaking on the inside.

There was no expression on Tom's face, although B'Elanna thought she saw a flicker of--something--in his eyes. She told herself it was just her imagination.

"Can we talk, B'Elanna?" Tom asked quietly.

B'Elanna let her chin rise, let some of the anger she felt towards him show in the set of her mouth and the stillness of her body. "I didn't realize that we had anything to talk about," she said bitingly.

His gaze dropped to the floor. "I think we do."

"I might have thought that, too, a week or so ago. But you didn't then, and I don't now," she told him coldly. Tom looked up, the shock obvious in his eyes and the set of his mouth. She turned her back to him. "Please leave."

"That's not true, B'Elanna," he said, reaching out towards her. His tone pleaded with her.

She didn't believe him. She shook her head. "Leave, Tom. Now."

"No." His voice was firm, and it made her even more angry at him.

"If you don't leave, then I'll call security and have you dragged out of here!" she yelled, turning wildly. to face him. He looked into her eyes, and in those blue depths she saw something she hadn't expected--vulnerability.

"No, B'Elanna. We really do have to talk this out. I want you to listen to what I have to say. That's all. Then, if you want me to leave, I will. If you want me to stay so we can discuss what's happened to us, then I will. Just, please, hear me out," he said with such passion that she had to give in.

B'Elanna walked around him and sat on the couch. She drew her knees up to her chest, a gesture which both of them knew was protective. "Alright. Sit down, and I'll listen," she said reluctantly.

Her dark eyes followed him as he took a seat on the couch near, but not too near, her. He made no move to touch her. He simply looked at her, looked into her eyes again and began.

"When you left on that away mission I was so scared, B'Elanna. The thought that I might loose you forever frightened me beyond anything I had ever known before. Over the weeks that you were gone I sort of--bottled it up inside. I couldn't stand the pain I was feeling. I think you know what I'm talking about." His eyes pleaded with her to answer that she did. All she could do was nod silently, and so he continued. "I thought that when we received word that you were alive and the independent drones were sending you back home that everything would return to the way it had been before, but when I saw you on that biobed...you looked so cold, so distant from anything I had ever associated with who you were. I began to think that maybe you would be different on the inside as well, that you would turn out to be like Seven, a woman with no passion, no heart, just a machine trying to relearn what it is to be an individual person. I know I shouldn't have, that the virus was supposed to keep you from being fully assimilated, but I wondered, and worried, and finally convinced myself that I was right. After all, you didn't turn to me when you woke up, and you ignored me after that. I decided to do the same, hoping that I could just turn my feelings for you off the way I would turn off the lights in my quarters. But it hasn't worked out that way. I've spent night after night torturing myself with thoughts of what it was like before you were assimilated, the way we were always right together, no matter what. I finally realized that it was my fear, not you, that was keeping me away from you. That was a week ago. I was so ashamed of myself. I treated you terribly, and I didn't know what I could do to make it up to you. So I tried to remain hidden, but that just didn't work. That's when I knew I had to come see you, to try to work things out."

She was quiet for a minute after he had finished. The sincerity in his voice, the undisguised emotions which flickered across his face told her that it was all true. And yet...B'Elanna stood up and began to pace back and forth in front of the couch. She stopped in front of Tom, who stood up so that only inches separated them.

"Tom, I understand that you were scared, before I left and after I came home. So was I. But I knew that what I did was necessary. Our galaxy will never have peace if the Borg are not destroyed, and the best way to do that was from the inside. What I did, I did for Voyager, for us, for peace and for the chance to do something I could be proud of myself for. And when I came back, I needed someone to be waiting to help me with the pain and the wounds I had received--not wounds of the body, but of the mind. I heard that Voice every single second, calling to me, Tom. You don't know what frightening is until you hear that. It called to me, tempting me to join it, and it was tempting! But I knew I had to make it back, somehow, because you were here, waiting for me. And when you turned away from me the moment I was beamed aboard...I was crushed. You gave me honesty, and now I'm giving it back to you. If you want me to forgive you, Tom Paris, you're going to have to work for it!" B'Elanna said with some of her old spirit. Her voice was strong even though she felt weak inside, weak with relief that he still loved her, still wanted her. She wouldn't back down, though. He would make up for the weeks of neglect if he wanted her back!

Tom took her hand, almost gingerly. He didn't smile, but the relief in his eyes spread so that his whole face glowed with it. "I do want you to forgive me, B'Elanna. And I will work for it. You're worth it. You're more than worth it."

As he raised her fingers to his lips to press a warm, soft kiss to them, B'Elanna felt a single tear roll down her cheek. For the first time, she really did believe that it was all going to work out in the end. Suddenly, she couldn't stand even the small distance between them. She reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck. Tom's arms came up to hold her tightly. After a few minutes of simply standing there holding one another, B'Elanna drew back so that she could look into Tom's eyes.

"It may take a while for me to forgive you, but I never stopped loving you," she whispered.

"I love you, too, B'Elanna. Always," Tom replied.

B'Elanna laid her head and his shoulder and smiled.



So, what did you think? Please, let me know. *big smiles*