Home, But Not Alone
By Ronda Sexton
B'Elanna's eyes fluttered open and she saw Tom sitting at her bedside holding her hand.
"Tom," she whispered hoarsely.
"I'm here, B'Elanna," he replied reassuringly.
"If the Doctor doesn't let me out of here soon, I am going to go crazy. I hate sickbay," grumbled B'Elanna.
Noticing she was still rather hoarse, Tom got her some water and helped her sit up to sip some. The very effort seemed to exhaust her. He eased back down on the bed.
"You may be here a little longer, B'Elanna. You're still pretty weak. He won't risk a relapse by releasing you too early," said Tom firmly.
"I could rest just as easily in my quarters," complained B'Elanna.
Tom frowned, "If we let you rest in your quarters, you'd wear yourself ragged with these damn engineering reports."
"I'm reading them here. I'm not wearing myself out," argued B'Elanna grumpily.
"That's because I limit the amount to time you are allowed to read them, Lieutenant," said the Doctor, who had stepped over to her bedside.
A very disgruntled expression appeared on B'Elanna's face. "When are you going to release me, Doctor?"
"If you have no further complications, then I will release you to your quarters tomorrow. However, you will still be off duty for a few days," said the Doctor. "You will not be allowed in Engineering until I clear you for duty."
"Engineering is still picking up the pieces from the battle with the Borg. I need to be down there making sure everything is repaired properly," snapped B'Elanna.
"Your body has been through extreme trauma. You must give it time to recover sufficiently. It will only be an additional two or three days," answered the Doctor.
"Say, Doc, now that she's on a regular diet, is it okay if I fix her supper for her tonight?" asked Tom.
"Certainly, Tom, you may be able to persuade her to eat more than she has been," answered the Doctor. He left to check on the Captain and Tuvok.
"What would you like, B'Elanna? I have plenty of replicator rations, so the sky's the limit," said Tom more cheerfully than he felt. B'Elanna's assimilation had been very difficult for him to cope with. He just wanted her to be well and back to her old self again.
B'Elanna thought carefully. She was still experiencing bouts of nausea, so nothing really spicy appealed to her. "I think I'd like some banana pancakes with maple syrup," she said softly.
"Coming right up," said Tom. He hurried to the replicator and ordered her meal. He brought it back and helped her sit up enough to eat.
B'Elanna smiled as the scent wafted towards her nose. "Mmmmm, these smell wonderful. I actually feel hungrier just smelling them." She cut into the pile of pancakes and took a bite, sighing.
Tom grinned, and sat down beside her bed. It was great to see her enjoying her meal. She had protested the special diet she had been on for the first two days. While she had understood the fact that she needed a lighter diet while her body's systems readjusted, she had been very vocal about her displeasure over the special diet.
She glanced up and saw that Tom was not eating. "Aren't you going to eat something too, Tom?" she asked.
"I had a late lunch today," he replied. As Acting First Officer, he had been doing that a lot. He had never realized how much time was required in the administrative tasks involved in running the ship. He had to work hard to find time to be with B'Elanna. He spent every spare second he could sitting with her. The dark circles under his eyes were a mute testimony to hours of missed sleep.
After she had finished her pancakes, she took Tom's hands in her own. "Tom, I know you're tired. Why don't you go back to your quarters and get some sleep. I'll be fine here. I'm ready for some sleep myself."
Tom smiled and shrugged, "Okay, if you're sure."
"I'm sure," she replied.
Tom bent and tenderly kissed her. "I'll see you tomorrow." Then he left sickbay for his quarters.
B'Elanna sighed and settled herself in the bed. Hopefully, tomorrow she would be getting out of here. She was worried about Tom. She knew he was pushing himself very hard to help Chakotay run the ship. Oh well, in a few days, everyone would be back on duty................
The next day, B'Elanna and the Captain were released. Tuvok had still not recovered enough to be released yet.
Seven, who had been by several times to see B'Elanna helped her back to her quarters.
"Thanks, Seven, if I had stayed in sickbay for another minute, the Doctor's program may have suffered some serious and permanent malfunctions," said B'Elanna.
"I understand, I am not fond of being confined to sickbay," answered Seven.
B'Elanna sat down and gestured for Seven to do the same. Seven had been endeavoring to assist all the members of the away team cope with the trauma of assimilation, but B'Elanna so far had been resistant to her overtures. Seven knew she was fiercely independent, yet realized that a part of her needed support from someone who had been through a similar experience.
"It feels good to be in my quarters again," said B'Elanna with a relieved sigh.
"That is understandable, Sickbay is not as conducive to comfort as one's quarters," answered Seven.
B'Elanna picked up the blanket off the end of the couch and wrapped it around herself. It's warmth, along with Tom's lingering scent was comforting to her. No matter how many covers she had in sickbay, she always tended to feel chilly.
"Are you cold, Lieutenant? I can adjust the temperature for you if necessary," said Seven.
B'Elanna shook her head. "This blanket is all I need, thanks anyway." She looked at Seven thoughtfully. Seven had spent time with all of them trying her best to help them after they had returned. She had not been very receptive to Seven's help at the time. Slight pangs of guilt washed over her as she remembered how it felt to be unwanted. In her days before the Maquis and Voyager she had often felt unwanted, even when all she was doing was extending help and compassion to others.
Seven felt a little uncertain as to what she should do next. Clearly, B'Elanna had wanted her to stay, or she would not have gestured for her to sit down. Uncertainty was not a feeling she was accustomed to.
"It was the hardest thing I have ever done," began B'Elanna softly. "I did what had to be done. The things that frightened me the most were the possibility of never seeing Tom again, or even worse, being the one to assimilate him."
Seven nodded, seeing the pain in B'Elanna's eyes. The guilt she lived with every day of her life was a constant reminder of why the Borg had to be stopped at all costs.
"When the Borg tubules began to pierce my neck, I waited to see if the Doctor's suppressants were going to work. Either I would still be an individual, or I would be one of many drones......and never be able to share with Tom again. I was so relieved when I realized I was not hearing the voice of the Collective....that I was still me......" She stopped as the painful memories threatened to overwhelm her.
Seven hesitantly reached over and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Because of what you have done, my people now have a chance for freedom. You were all very courageous."
B'Elanna looked up at Seven, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. "I was scared, Seven."
"That is understandable. Assimilation is a terrifying event," replied Seven softly.
"But, I'm an adult............"
"It is terrifying for adults as well. When the Captain and I
were heading towards Borg space on the Dauntless, I feared reassimulation. Fortunately, we were rescued," answered Seven.
B'Elanna reached up and grasped Seven's hand. She had begun to realize just how much Seven understood her feelings.
Seven sat quietly, allowing B'Elanna to hold on to her hand as long as she required the touch for comfort.
After a few minutes, B'Elanna released Seven's hand and wiped her eyes. Suddenly, she was extremely tired. She felt as if she could barely keep her eyes open.
"You are fatigued, B'Elanna," said Seven softly. "You should try to get some rest."
She nodded in agreement. "I think I will take a nap. That way I won't be so tired when Tom comes by later." She looked at Seven thoughtfully. "Thanks for listening."
"I was pleased to be able to assist you, B'Elanna," answered Seven. She rose and walked to the door. "I am available if you need me to listen more." Then she walked out the door.
B'Elanna walked slowly to her bed and collapsed in a heap. The emotion charged discussion with Seven had drained her. Yet, she realized that it was necessary for her mental and emotional well being to discuss what she had experienced. Drawing her comforter over herself, she dozed off quickly.
Tom entered her quarters quietly. When she did not answer the chime, he assumed she was sleeping. He padded softly over to the bedroom area. She was sleeping peacefully, not being disturbed by dreams as she had been in sickbay. He sat in the chair by her bed, waiting for her to wake up.
He had not wanted her to go on this mission in the first place. The thought of losing her had been devastatingly painful. He had been working through his anger that this mission had brought on. He was trying as hard as he could not to take it out on B'Elanna. But there had been times while she was in sickbay that she had truly tried his patience and he had snapped at her.
After a while, she began stirring on the bed. Opening her eyes, she saw Tom sitting by the bed and smiled at him. "Hi, Tom," she said in a sleepy tone.
He reached over and took her hand in his. "Hey, B'Elanna, how are you feeling?"
"A little better, the nap helped," she replied.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there to help you back to your quarters," began Tom.
She shook her head, "It's okay, I know you and Chakotay are both really busy running the ship. Seven walked me here from sickbay. We talked a little about the mission."
Tom nodded, glad that B'Elanna was finally opening up to Seven, who had been doing her best to help the away team. She was by far the one person on the ship who knew and understood what they had been through.
"Are you ready for some supper?" he asked.
"I suppose so," she answered starting to rise from the bed. "Let's go to the mess hall."
"I think you should eat in your quarters tonight and conserve your strength, B'Elanna," said Tom firmly.
"I am sick of being confined. If I don't get out and do something, I am going to go crazy," she snapped.
Tom shook his head, "The Doctor released you to your quarters. You are supposed to stay here and rest for at least two days."
"Tom, I am tired of being forced to rest," she groused.
Tom checked his temper, blowing up at her would not help matters. "I know you're restless, B'Elanna, and I'm sorry. If you leave your quarters, the Doctor is going to put you back in sickbay."
B'Elanna slumped back in the bed, accepting defeat for the time being. "So I guess I have to use my replicator rations for my meals."
"Actually, the Doctor has authorized extra rations for you to use during these two days. That way, you don't have an excuse to leave your quarters. He also thought the replicated food would be easier on your systems than Neelix's cooking," answered Tom with a chuckle.
She smiled crookedly. "That's true."
"Just tell me what you'd like, and I'll bring it to you," said Tom.
B'Elanna thought a few moments. "I think I'd like a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with a garden salad."
"Coming right up," answered Tom with a smile. He walked over to her replicator and ordered her meal. Afterwards, he ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and iced tea for himself, using his rations.
Tom carried both trays back to the sleeping area and sat them on her night stand. Then he helped her situate herself with plenty of pillows behind her to help her sit up. As soon as he saw she was comfortable, he placed her tray on her lap.
B'Elanna smiled, "Thanks, Tom, this looks good." She bit into her sandwich and chewed slowly.
Tom began eating his meal too. "I was really worried about you while you were in the cube."
"I did what had to be done, Tom. There was no way I was going to let the Captain and Tuvok go in alone. Considering what happened while we were there, it's a good thing I was there to help."
"I know why you went, but knowing why didn't make any easier on me."
She looked at him, seeing the pain in his eyes. "Tom, there are going to be times when one of us has to go on a dangerous mission."
"I know," answered Tom quietly. "I just don't know what I'd do if I lost you. I can't imagine my life without you."
"You've been on a lot of do or die missions too, Tom."
"I know, but....."
"But nothing, Tom," she interrupted him. "There were a lot of times we could have lost you too."
Tom decided rather than further irritate her, he would change the subject. "As soon as Voyager is back in shape, I'd like for us to have a special evening out. Just the two of us."
B'Elanna flashed him a sexy smile. What special things do you have in mind?"
Tom smiled back at her. "Dinner, dancing........" His voice grew husky. "Making love to you."
She felt her desire stirring. "Sounds like fun." She wiped her mouth on her napkin and then handed the tray to Tom.
He smiled as he noted the empty dishes. She had eaten everything.
Her next actions nearly caused him to drop the trays. Stroking his butt, she whispered seductively, "How about a preview of that date, Tom?"
He sighed and took the both trays to the replicator to recycle them. "That would normally be a great idea," answered Tom as he walked back over and took her hand in his. "But you're still not fully recovered, and I don't want to do anything that could cause you to relapse."
The sincere concern on his face warmed B'Elanna. Though he seldom verbalized it, she knew from his actions that he loved her. Times like this were proof enough. She grinned crookedly at him. "Well, I guess you'll just have to make it up to me on that night."
Tom felt his desire simmering. He sat on the bed beside her. "Oh, I will," he breathed. "I'm planning on a night you'll never forget." He smiled wickedly. "It'll be the ultimate test of the soundproofing enhancements you've added to your quarters."
B'Elanna blushed. "I can't believe everyone was hearing us all that time, and that no one ever said a word."
"Well, one good thing about Seven's study was we found out," said Tom roguishly.
Looking back on the incident, B'Elanna could see it in a slightly different light. "She has come a long way since then. Growing up as a Borg, she didn't learn any social skills." She grew quiet as the horror of the mission began to creep back into her mind.
Tom noticed and put his hand on her cheek. "Because of you, a lot more people may eventually be free from the Borg."
She looked at him longingly. "Tom, stay with me tonight."
"I will, let me get you a gown. You'll be more comfortable in your own gown, rather than a sickbay one."
He helped her change and got her settled in bed for sleep. Then, he stripped down to his tee shirt and briefs. Sliding into bed beside her, he gently took her in his arms. It felt so good to hold her in his arms once more.
"Mmmmm, this is nice," murmured B'Elanna sleepily.
Tom kissed her tenderly. "It's wonderful to be able to hold you again."
As she dozed off, she whispered, "Don't ever let me go."