Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager and its characters are the property of Paramount, not me.
Summary: Prejudice may be obsolete on Earth, but, as Tom and B’Elanna discover while on shore leave, it’s alive and well on a planet in the Delta Quadrant.
Author’s note: This story takes place sometime between "The Killing Game, Part II" and "Vis-A-Vis".
"Impure" (VOY, P/T, PG)
by JoAnna Walsvik
Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 51745.2
"We’ve arrived at the planet of Khestra on the recommendation of a merchant ship we befriended a few days ago. Khestra, it seems, is a planet whose entire livelihood depends on trade with other worlds and alien vessels. It has an amazing array of trade items, such as foodstuffs and various parts and scrap metals that we could use. Although B’Elanna and her staff have been working tirelessly day and night to repair the ship after what it went through with the Hirogen, Voyager still isn’t quite up to par due to lack of materials.
Not only can Khestra provide those materials, it’s reputed to be a popular spot for shore leave—a welcome change for the crew. With the holodecks still out of commission, cabin fever has been running rampant on Voyager, and everyone, including myself, has been a bit on edge because of it. Hopefully, we’ll all be able to relax and enjoy a small respite from our duties. In fact, I’ve already approved the first batch of shore leave requests. Two of them were from Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres, which I approved immediately. The two of them have barely had time to see each other, what with repairs and conflicting duty shifts. I’m glad that both of them have a chance to take this relaxing, if brief, vacation, and finally spend some time alone together. In fact, they should be leaving Voyager right about now."
B’Elanna Torres felt a surge of happiness as she stepped into the transporter room. She hadn’t had shore leave in a long, long time—not since the incident with the Mari, and that couldn’t really be counted as shore leave since she had spent most of her time in prison. She suppressed a faint shudder and then pushed the experience out of her mind. She was going down to Khestra to enjoy herself and spend some time with Tom, not to dredge up old memories.
Never had anyone looked forward to shore leave as much as she. Since the Hirogen had all but blown up the holodecks and wreaked havoc all over the ship, B’Elanna had been working constantly trying to get the ship back in working order. It was difficult, without any decent supplies to use. Hopefully, their time on Khestra would change that.
For now, however, she was going to forget about Voyager and Engineering, and concentrate on Tom. She felt guilty for neglecting him the past few weeks while she had practically lived in Engineering. He’d been very supportive, though, and hadn’t complained a bit. Then again, he’d been busy getting the navigational systems in order, so he hadn’t had much time, either. Shore leave was what they both needed, and they were finally getting it—together.
Tom was already in the transporter room when she walked in. His face lit up with a huge smile as he moved forward and gave her a quick, loving kiss. B’Elanna blushed and glanced towards Ensign Baxter, who was manning the transporter controls. The ensign was staring pointedly at the ceiling, a slight grin on his face.
"It’s okay, B’Elanna. Everyone’s used to us by now," Tom said in a voice audible only to her ears.
She nodded and smiled, taking his hand in hers. The two of them stepped onto the transporter pad and waited as Baxter keyed in the coordinates. "Have fun, Lieutenants," Baxter said mildly, and energized.
"Thanks," the two replied in unison before they shimmered away.
The transporter beam set them down in the middle of a bustling Khestran marketplace. As B’Elanna gazed at her surroundings, she couldn’t help but compare this planet to the Mari marketplace. This market was louder and buzzed with conversation between the merchants and their customers, as the Khestrans weren’t telepaths. It was also brighter, with vividly colored ribbons and banners hanging from the various stalls. It was very different from Mari, but that didn’t make the similarities any less uncomfortable.
Beside her, Tom squeezed her hand. "Are you okay?" he whispered.
"We can leave if this is bringing back too many unpleasant memories."
B’Elanna couldn’t help but smile. He knew her so well. "No, I’m fine."
They strolled along the marketplace hand-in-hand, occasionally stopping to view the merchandise at various stalls. All of the Khestran merchants, eager to make a sale, were extremely kind to them. One particularly zealous tradesman raved about B’Elanna’s "dark, ethereal beauty" while hinting that one of his bead necklaces would do much to improve that beauty. Tom grinned and, amid B’Elanna’s protests, bought the trinket and made a big production of slipping it over her head.
"That man was right, you know," he said as they continued to browse along the stalls. "That necklace does enhance your dark, ethereal beauty."
B’Elanna shivered deliciously as his finger stroked the inside of her wrist. "Behave yourself. We’re in public."
"That’s never stopped us before."
"Tom!" She playfully slapped him on the shoulder and they laughed, both of them relaxing for the first time in many weeks.
"Do you want something to eat?" Tom asked. He pointed towards a cluster of tents. "There’s an open-air café right over there."
"Sure," B’Elanna said, realizing that she was ravenous. No wonder, as she’d barely eaten in the past few weeks except to grab a quick sandwich whenever she had a spare minute. A meal sounded wonderful.
One thing was for certain, B’Elanna decided once she and Tom had finished their meal. Khestran food was much better than Neelix’s. She was so full she could barely move; in fact, she hadn’t eaten that much in a long, long time. When she and Tom walked away from the cafe, both of them were stuffed to the gills.
"Well, now where do we go?" Tom said. "We can either go back to the marketplace and keep looking at the displays, or we can walk that lunch off."
"I don’t—" B’Elanna began, but was cut off by the sound of cheering. After a moment of confusion, she realized that the sound was coming from a nearby park. "Let’s go see what’s going on," she suggested.
When they arrived at the park, they found a lively game of—something—in progress between two Khestran teams, one in blue and the other in green. It seemed that the object of the game was to kick a yellow ball into the opposite goal without letting it touch the ground. Like soccer, none of the players were using their hands. The green team was winning by almost ten points, and Tom and B’Elanna watched the remainder of the game, which the green team easily won.
When the game was over, they turned to leave but were stopped by a young Khestran who appeared to be only a few years younger than Tom. "Excuse me," he said, "but my friends and I—" he gestured to three other Khestrans standing nearby, "—were wondering if you two would care to join us in a game of Recossta. You see, we need three to a team but there’s only four of us."
"Recossta—is that the game we just watched?" Tom asked.
"Yes. Now that the teams are done playing for the day the public can use the field. It’s a pretty easy game. I’m sure you can learn it quickly."
"Well—" Tom glanced at B’Elanna, saw her smile, and smiled himself. "Okay, sure! We’d love to."
"By the way, my name’s Feox," the young man said as they walked towards the field. The other three Khestrans, who were about the same age as Feox, approached them. "Oh, and that’s Gondo, Calna, and Thrisa," Feox added, pointing to each one in turn.
Gondo and Calna were both rather plump, but Thrisa was reed thin and very pretty. B’Elanna was jealous for an instant, but when she realized Tom wasn’t paying the comely Khestran any attention whatsoever, she felt much better.
The six of them were soon readily acquainted, and as Feox had promised, it didn’t take either Tom or B’Elanna long to get the hang of Recossta. The six of them played several games and finally collapsed, exhausted, onto the soft grass next to the playing field.
"You’re great," Gondo said, looking at Tom in admiration. "It took me forever to learn this game and you learned in five minutes!"
"Thanks, Gondo," Tom grinned. "I used to play a game like that, soccer, where I come from."
"Just where are you guys from? And what species are you, anyway?" Feox asked curiously.
"Feox! Don’t be rude!" Thrisa hissed, elbowing him in the chest.
"That’s okay," Tom said, chuckling. "I’m used to it. I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of us—we’re not from around here. Our home is sixty thousand light-years away from here.
"Sixty thousand!" Calna repeated, wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
"However did you manage that?"
Tom told a condensed version of their encounter with the Caretaker, being careful to leave out the part about B’Elanna’s imprisonment beneath the surface of the Ocampan planet. He knew she didn’t like to dwell on that particular experience.
"Wow," Thrisa breathed when Tom was finished. "You humans are incredible!"
"Thanks, but we’re not all human," he told her. "The Federation is made up of over one hundred different races. Humans, like me, are only one of them."
"And you—" Thrisa continued, looking at Tom’s smooth forehead and then giving B’Elanna’s ridges a dubious glance, "are you a human, too?"
"Sort of. My father was human, like Tom, but my mother was Klingon—another race in the Federation," B’Elanna explained.
Suddenly, a drastic change befell the Khestrans. Gondo and Calna stared at B’Elanna in undisguised dismay while Feox and Thrisa exchanged horrified glances. All four of them slowly rose to their feet and backed away, all the while gazing at B’Elanna as if she had committed some deadly sin. Thrisa’s hand was covering her mouth, apparently holding back a scream.
Tom, rising to his feet as well and pulling B’Elanna up with him, looked from her to Thrisa and back again with evident confusion. "What?" he said.
Gondo was still gawking at B’Elanna. "You’re a half-breed?" he asked bluntly.
B’Elanna flinched at the words, but slowly replied, "Yes...you could call me that."
"Gondo, what’s wrong?" Tom asked.
"She’s a half-breed!" The young man’s rotund lavender face broke out into a nervous sweat.
"Quit saying that! What’s the matter?"
"Don’t you know, Tom?" Feox said with a patronizing glance towards B’Elanna. "Half-breeds are impure. They’re dirty, ugly, troublesome freaks."
B’Elanna’s lips tightened into a thin line and her fists clenched at her sides, but she remained silent. Tom, on the other hand, loudly protested. "What the hell are you talking about? You just played a game with her and you seemed to think she was fine!"
"Oh, Gods, we did play with her, didn’t we?" Thrisa said, shuddering with revulsion. "If we’d have known that she was—impure -- we would never have done such a thing."
"How can you stand to be near someone like that?" Calna asked, wrinkling her nose.
"She’s trash," Feox said in disdain. "Tom, surely you can do better."
"Don’t you dare call her trash!" Tom growled, shaking his clenched fist in Feox’s face. The Khestran took a bold step forward, narrowing his eyes and raising his arms in a fighting stance.
"Tom...maybe we should go back to the ship," B’Elanna said, sounding more nervous then angry. "We don’t want to start anything."
"B’Elanna, he insulted you," Tom exclaimed, half turning away from Feox. "Maybe you can stand for that sort of thing, but I—Ooof!"
Feox, taking advantage of Tom’s distraction, had socked him soundly in the jaw, knocking him to the ground. Tom recovered quickly and leaped to his feet, swinging his fist in Feox’s direction and hitting the Khestran smack on the nose. B’Elanna and Thrisa simultaneously shrieked and Gondo and Calna fled from the park when Feox went sprawling into the dirt, dark purple blood flowing from his wound. Feox immediately jumped to his feet and violently tackled Tom, sending both of them tumbling to the ground. The two rolled around, punching each other as hard as they could, while Thrisa stood by and screamed and B’Elanna tried to break up the fight. Even with her superior Klingon strength, B’Elanna couldn’t separate the two men who were hell-bent on mangling each other.
The fight came to an abrupt end when Gondo and Calna arrived with a half dozen Khestran police officers, who managed to pull the two men apart. Thrisa finally ceased screaming at their arrival and flew to Feox’s side, whimpering helplessly. B’Elanna stood by Tom, biting her bottom lip worriedly when she saw the blood streaked on his face. It gave him an almost grotesque appearance as he glared angrily at Feox, who was returning the glare with as much hatred as it was given.
"What is going on here?" A large man with an officer’s uniform barked, pushing through the crowd of policemen and standing in front of the bleeding Khestran. B’Elanna glimpsed a shiny gold nameplate on his chest which read, "Chief Malroc". His eyes flickered over to Tom. "You! You’re an offworlder, aren’t you? I want your name and your ship’s designation!"
"Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris of the Starship Voyager," Tom said, raising his chin and meeting the chief’s stare.
"Voyager, eh? And your leader?"
"Captain Kathryn Janeway."
"And you! You’re Officer Galnor’s youngest, Feox, aren’t you?" Malroc continued.
"Yes, sir," Feox mumbled, sending another hateful glance towards Tom.
"Keep your eyes on me, boy!" the chief snapped, and Feox obeyed instantly. "Now, what’s the meaning of this? What happened?"
"She’s a half-breed!" Feox announced, jerking his head in B’Elanna’s direction.
The same feeling that had overcome Feox, Gondo, Calna, and Thrisa earlier now took possession of Chief Malroc. His small, beady eyes raked over B’Elanna and his mouth twisted in an ugly facsimile of a sneer. "You! Female!" he growled. "Name and ship."
B’Elanna had to struggle to keep her voice calm. She didn’t like being called plain ‘female’, especially not when it was spoken in such a derogatory tone of voice. "I’m Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres of the Starship Voyager."
"Captain Kathryn Janeway is your leader?"
"Is Feox’s accusation true? Are you a half-breed—your parents were of two different species?"
"Yes, but what does that—"
"Silence!" he roared. B’Elanna took a step back, trying to quell the urge to follow the instincts of the Klingon blood that was now raging wrathfully in her veins. Punching out the Khestran chief of police won’t help anyone, and especially not Tom, she reminded herself, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly.
"Is that one—Lieutenant Paris—is he a half-breed as well?"
Malroc asked Feox.
"No. Just the female."
Malroc nodded to one of his men. "Take him away."
B’Elanna realized, to her horror, that he was indicating Tom.
"No! Wait!" she cried, springing towards Tom, but Malroc intervened, shoving her aside so violently that she landed on her backside in the dirt. A cloud of dust billowed around her, coating both her uniform and skin.
"B’Elanna!" Tom yelled, trying to move towards her, but the three policemen who were grasping his arms allowed him almost no movement.
"Don’t move!" Malroc ordered, pulling a phaser-like weapon on Tom, who froze instantly. A chilly silence fell over the group, pervaded only by the cheerful chirping of the birds that were nesting in the trees above them.
"Go willingly or you’ll be shot," the chief warned, holstering his gun. When the officers began to lead Tom away, the pilot made no objection, but he kept his gaze fixed on B’Elanna. "As for you," Malroc said, looking at B’Elanna in contempt, "return to your ship, and do not return to Khestra. I’ll be contacting your leader shortly."
"Please—tell me where you’re taking him," B’Elanna begged, rising to her feet and not bothering to wipe the dirt from her face or uniform.
The two words sent a visible shudder through Tom, and she saw his face twist into a painful grimace. She remembered, with a pang of sympathy, his earlier prison term in the Alpha Quadrant. "Don’t worry, Tom, it’ll be okay. Everything will be all right," she called to him, hoping that he heard, for the officers were now forcing him into some sort of official-looking hovercar that had arrived, unnoticed, during the chief’s questioning.
"Don’t speak to him. I want you off of this planet," Malroc ordered. "Now!"
B’Elanna ignored him. "I love you!" she screamed as the door to the hovercar began to shut.
"Leave!" Malroc shouted, hurling a stinging, painful slap against her left cheek, nearly sending her into the dirt again. It took all of B’Elanna’s willpower not to strike back. She knew that the last thing she and Tom needed was another conflict.
Suddenly, Malroc’s eyes narrowed. He reached towards her and grabbed something that was around her neck. B’Elanna realized, too late, that it was the beaded necklace Tom had bought for her in the Khestran marketplace. The beads scattered as Malroc pulled as hard as he could, tearing the string that had held the necklace together. "I can’t allow an ‘impure’ being to wear our jewelry," he announced with a smirk.
B’Elanna blinked back the tears that tried to form in her eyes. She wouldn’t give the jerk the satisfaction seeing her cry, even if he had destroyed her gift from Tom. "Torres to Voyager. One to beam up," she muttered, slapping her commbadge. A second later she was standing on the transporter pad, with Baxter still manning the transporter controls. She didn’t pause to speak to him, but charged out of the room and, with barely a coherent thought, headed for the bridge. Instinctively, she knew that Captain Janeway could and would clear up the entire mess and to the captain was where she was headed.
When B’Elanna stepped onto the bridge a few seconds later, Janeway took one look at her engineer and jumped to her feet. "Good God, B’Elanna, what happened to you?" she exclaimed. She opened her mouth to say more, then apparently changed her mind. "In my ready room. Now. Chakotay, Tuvok, you too."
As she walked into the ready room, B’Elanna knew that she looked awful. She was covered with dirt and her cheek was already beginning to bruise from Malroc’s blow. Right now, however, she didn’t care about her appearance. All that mattered was getting Tom home safely. "They’ve arrested Tom," she blurted as soon as the doors swished shut behind her.
"They’ve what?" The captain instantly switched to professional mode. "Why? When?"
"Just a few minutes ago, on Khestra. He was fighting with one of the locals."
"Tom was fighting? Why?" Janeway pressed.
B’Elanna wondered if the captain could see the blush on her cheeks underneath the thin layer of dust on her face. "Because they insulted me," she said, her voice low.
Was she imagining things, or was there a sudden hint of a smile tugging on Janeway’s lips? B’Elanna decided she must have been seeing things, for a moment later the expression was gone and the captain was again all business.
Suddenly Chakotay stepped forward and, with surprising force, grasped her chin in his hand and turned her face towards him, closely inspecting the visible bruise that marked her cheekbone. "You’ve been hurt."
"It’s nothing," she said quickly, not wishing to complain about her slight injury—even though it was beginning to throb rather painfully. Tom was all that mattered right now.
"Dammit, B’Elanna, you have a bruise the size of a man’s hand on your cheek!" B’Elanna had never heard the first officer sound so angry. "Who hit you? Was it the same man Tom was fighting with?"
B’Elanna hesitated at first, but then sighed, knowing that the truth would have to come out eventually. "No...it was Chief Malroc. He’s the head of the Khestran police force, or the equivalent of it."
"The head of the—" Chakotay stared at her. "Why did he hit you?"
"I wouldn’t leave the planet without saying good-bye to Tom."
"And he hit you for that?" Janeway interjected.
What the hell, B’Elanna thought. She might as well let them know the whole story now instead of later. "I don’t think he likes my kind very much. None of them do. That’s why the fight started."
"Your kind?" Tuvok asked, knitting his Vulcan eyebrows together.
"I think you had better tell us everything that happened, Lieutenant."
"They said I was...impure." B’Elanna closed her eyes for a moment, straining to recall every detail of the incident. "Tom and I were invited to play a game with a group of Khestrans. We did, and when the game was over, we started talking. They asked what species I was, and I told them that I was half-human and half-Klingon. That I was a—a half-breed—" She could barely say the word without wincing.
"Go on," Janeway urged.
"All of a sudden, they changed. I mean, their attitudes did. They became...disgusted. Revolted, even. They began hurling insults at me, and Tom grew angry. One of the Khestrans, Feox, provoked him, and the two of them started throwing punches. I tried to stop the fight, but it was one of me against two of them, and—" B’Elanna shrugged helplessly.
"And why didn’t you fight as well?" the captain asked gently. "With your temper, I’d have thought that you would have joined in, especially if someone offended you."
B’Elanna kept her gaze fixed on her hands. "This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened to me. I’ve learned to live with it." She shifted uncomfortably as she felt Janeway’s piercing eyes focused on her.
"I see," Janeway said at length. "Please, continue."
"Two of the other Khestrans must have called the police, for a few minutes later about half a dozen officers were there. They managed to stop the fight and then Chief Malroc came and began questioning Tom and Feox, and the same thing happened. As soon as Malroc found out I was a half-breed, he ordered his officers to arrest Tom and told me—rather nastily—to leave the planet."
"Do you know where they took him?"
"Prison. That’s all they would tell me. But Malroc said he’d be contacting you shortly."
"I certainly hope he does," Janeway fumed. "He’d better have a good explanation for his behavior."
"Lieutenant, was the other young man arrested as well?" Tuvok queried.
"Feox? He—" B’Elanna stopped short, her mouth dropping open as the realization struck her. "No—no, he wasn’t. I hadn’t even thought of that."
"Why would they arrest Tom and not Feox if they were both at fault?" Chakotay said.
"I don’t know, but I intend to find out," Janeway said with a glance at her desk console. "B’Elanna, why don’t you go clean up, and visit sickbay so the doctor can do something about that bruise. I’ll call you the minute I find out what’s going on."
True to her promise, Captain Janeway summoned B’Elanna to her ready room immediately after her she located and engaged in a lengthy conversation with Chief Malroc. B’Elanna had nearly gone crazy during that time; it had taken her less then twenty minutes to shower and visit the doctor, but the captain had talked with Malroc for almost two hours.
She could tell something was wrong the instant she walked into Janeway’s ready room. The captain was rubbing the tense muscles on her neck, and her facial expression was anything but reassuring. "What is it?" B’Elanna said, almost afraid to ask. "What happened?"
The captain paused a moment before answering. "Chief Malroc is refusing to release Tom."
"What?" B’Elanna nearly shouted. "Why?"
Janeway moved to her couch, dropping onto one of the cushions and indicating the seat next to her with a wave of her hand. "B’Elanna, sit down." Her voice was troubled, and as B’Elanna sat she knew she wasn’t going to like what she was about to hear.
"When I first contacted the head of the Khestran government about the possibility of shore leave," Janeway began, "I asked President Qualmor about the laws and customs of Khestra. After what happened on the Mari homeworld, we can’t be to careful; you know that, of course."
B’Elanna’s voice was barely audible as she echoed, "Of course."
"President Qualmor assured me that every member of my crew would be welcome on Khestra since the laws were very similar to those on Earth." Janeway continued. "However, I just discovered that he wasn’t very honest with me. He says it was merely an oversight on his part. I tend to believe him; in all confidentiality, he doesn’t seem like the brightest man in the galaxy."
"Please, Captain—no disrespect intended, but what is it?" B’Elanna interrupted. A sense of uneasiness was beginning to creep into her brain; the captain was obviously stalling. Her news couldn’t be good.
Janeway sighed and glanced at the floor for a moment before looking squarely into her engineer’s eyes. "As you may have already guessed, ‘half-breeds’ aren’t allowed on Khestra. In fact, they’re not allowed within the system. We’re apparently violating their laws just by orbiting their planet with you on board."
"Oh." B’Elanna felt her heart sink into the tips of her boots. She had suspected that was the case, even though a tiny part of her had hoped the entire incident was a big misunderstanding. "I see."
"It seems that the Khestrans have a very strong religious foundation that is based on purity. Anything the religious leaders deem ‘impure’ is banned from even traveling through star system. One such law prohibits anyone, including offworlders, from assisting or defending an impure being. Therefore, when Tom fought on your behalf, he subjected himself to Khestran law. That’s why he was arrested and Feox wasn’t."
B’Elanna propped her elbow on the arm of the couch, resting her forehead in her hand and trying to hide the tears that suddenly insisted on swarming in her eyes. Was there ever going to be a place where being half-Klingon wouldn’t get her or the people she loved into trouble? "So this is all my fault."
Janeway’s voice held a hint of gentle reproach as she said, "Is that what you think?"
"It’s true, isn’t it?" B’Elanna replied, resting her forehead against the soft couch cushion and gazing out at the stars as if they held the answers she needed. "First the Mari, and now the Khestrans." She shook her head and chuckled, bitterness creeping into her voice.
"Maybe I’m under a curse."
"I think it’s the curse that’s your fault," the captain said, "not the situations you’ve been in."
B’Elanna sat upright, staring at Janeway in confusion. "What do you mean?"
There was a long pause before she spoke. "You’ve never really liked your Klingon heritage, have you?"
"That’s the understatement of the century. Truth be told, I hate it."
"Because it makes me different from everyone else. It always has.
Elementary and high school, the Academy, the Maquis...I’ve always been the weird one. The freak." A touch of remembered sadness entered her voice as she added, softly, "When I was a child, the kids in school used to call me a monster."
"Children can be cruel," the captain said sympathetically. "The kids in my class used to make fun of my hair." She touched a strand at the memory. "I’d walk into the room and they’d yell, ‘Fire!’ Of course, it was a lot more red back then."
B’Elanna stared at her in amazement. "But your hair is beautiful." She didn’t realize she had said those words out loud until Janeway chuckled and smiled at her.
"Why, thank you," she said, pretending not to notice B’Elanna’s crimson cheeks. "I didn’t think so at the time. Day after day I begged with my mother to let me dye it a different color—brown, blond, anything but red—but my mother refused. She told me that the color of my hair was a trivial thing compared to the content of my character. After a long, long time I realized that she was right. It wouldn’t make any difference if my hair was blaze orange or jet black as long as I liked myself for who I was."
"But that’s different," B’Elanna objected. "Red hair is common on Earth. Do you realize that I’m probably the only half-Klingon anywhere? It’s like—" She struggled to find the right words to express what she was trying to say. "Like the Caretaker. I’m all alone in the universe."
"That only makes you all the more special. Tell me, what is it about your Klingon half that you don’t like?"
"Well...my temper. You’ve seen it; it’s awful."
Janeway dismissed that notion with a wave of her hand. "You could have easily gotten that from your human side. I have a temper that equals yours—I’ve just had more experience controlling it."
"And these." B’Elanna touched her forehead ridges. "They’re ugly."
"Tom doesn’t seem to think so, and neither do I—or anyone else on Voyager, for that matter."
"I have more then my fair share of strength."
"I’d say that’s a blessing, not a burden. It’s better being too strong than too weak."
"I’m very stubborn, and I can be really rude sometimes."
"Join the club. Anything else?"
"Well—" B’Elanna paused as she searched her brain, trying to come up with another imperfection. "No," she finally admitted.
"That’s about it."
"We all have our faults. I have so many that I’d rather not waste time listing them, and I’m sure you do, too. But my point is, I don’t think that it’s your Klingon side that’s totally responsible for them. All your life that’s what you’ve been blaming, and it’s simply not true. Except for your forehead ridges—which I hardly think qualifies as a fault—you have the same shortcomings that most humans do, and, like most humans, you have a great many more abilities than you do flaws. Your problem is that you focus on your faults rather than your abilities, or, in other words, low self-esteem." Janeway suddenly stopped short and chuckled. "Listen to me—I sound like something out of Freud. I’m sorry, B’Elanna. Once I get started it’s hard for me to stop."
B’Elanna, however, was listening attentively. "No, that’s all right. I can see what you’re getting at. It’s hard, though, liking my Klingon half when all my life I’ve had to put up with people who think I’m some kind of freak because of it—the kids at school, cadets at the Academy, in the Maquis, and now the Khestrans."
"Is that what you meant when you said earlier that this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened to you? That you’ve learned to live with it?"
She nodded. "That’s exactly what I meant."
"Well, you don’t have to worry about it anymore," the captain said firmly. "At least not on Voyager, and even if this sort of thing happens again you can be sure that every person on this ship will stand by you one hundred percent." She reached over and patted B’Elanna’s hand. "I assure you, I will do everything in my power to get Tom off of that planet as quickly as possible. I wish I could stop negotiations altogether, but considering Voyager’s current need of supplies I can’t do that. I’m sorry."
"I wouldn’t want you to stop negotiations. Engineering needs most of those supplies," B’Elanna said quickly. Her mouth suddenly formed a smug grin. "I wonder what the Khestrans would say if they knew that an ‘impure’ being would be using them?"
"Well, we don’t have to tell the Khestrans that, do we?" Janeway replied with an answering grin. "I’m going to contact President Qualmor again and see what I can do about Tom’s release. I’ll let you know if I have news."
B’Elanna, recognizing the hinted dismissal, stood to leave and was halfway to the door before she stopped and turned around, offering the captain a friendly smile. "By the way, thanks for the talk."
Janeway, who was already seated at her desk console and intently studying a padd, looked up and smiled in return. "Anytime. My door is always open if you ever need a shoulder, B’Elanna."
With a thoughtful nod B’Elanna said, "I’ll remember that," and left Janeway to her work.
She decided that, instead of going to her quarters, she might as well go to Engineering and find something to work on herself. She knew that if she didn’t keep busy her mind would eventually stray to Tom and she’d work herself up into a frenzy of worry. By keeping her hands and brain occupied she could at least delay her thoughts until later.
She was certain she’d be able to keep busy. Although she and her staff had made a lot of progress since the Hirogen, there was still a considerable amount of work and fine-tuning left to do. Most of her staff would be gone for shore leave, anyway, leaving only a skeleton crew left to work on repairs. When Voyager orbiting a planet not that many crewmembers were required to be in Engineering. B’Elanna almost liked it better that way. She worked best when alone and uninterrupted with only the steady thrum of the warp core as background noise.
When she entered Engineering, that steady thrum was almost drowned out by the sound of her staff—in fact, almost all of her staff—buzzing with conversation or working at different tasks. She stopped dead in her tracks, watching them as they worked. She couldn’t understand it Most of her staff had requested, and been approved for, shore leave. The captain herself had mentioned it to Tom yesterday when approving his—and her own—shore leave request. Something had to be going on.
She took an uncertain step forward and spied Joe Carey working at the warp core console. She knew for a fact that he was supposed to be on Khestra right now, for yesterday she had heard him telling Sue Nicoletti about his plans. Resolutely she strode forward, determined to get to the bottom of this.
"Lieutenant," she said once she had reached his side, "what are you doing here?"
Carey glanced at her momentarily, then returned his eyes to the console. "Working," he replied.
"I thought you had applied for shore leave. Aren’t you supposed to be on Khestra?"
He shrugged, but kept his attention focused on his work. "Yeah."
"Well, why aren’t you?" she demanded.
Joe gave up any pretense of working and turned to face her.
"Because," he said, looking directly into her eyes, "the Khestrans were mean to you."
B’Elanna was unprepared for his straightforward reply. "What?" she managed to say after a long pause.
She was dimly aware that Engineering had gone silent and the rest of her staff had crowded around them, quietly observing their conversation. "We—all of us—" Joe said, indicating the people around them, "heard about what happened down on Khestra. How they treated you and Lieutenant Paris, I mean. We took sort of an unofficial vote and we decided that if the Khestrans didn’t want you down there, then we wouldn’t have anything to do with them." Murmurs of agreement sounded from the surrounding crowd.
"We are, in effect, boycotting Khestra," Ensign Vorik added.
"Boycotting?" B’Elanna could barely believe what she was hearing.
"You’re giving up your shore leave—for me?"
"It’s just shore leave," Carey said, apparently unconcerned about his loss. "The holodecks are going to be fixed soon, anyway, and we decided that none of us could feel right about visiting a place where not all of the crew are welcome."
"The whole crew feels this way," Sue Nicoletti piped up.
"Everyone on board canceled their shore leave—even the captain."
For the second time that day, B’Elanna felt tears forming in her eyes. The captain had known about this and hadn’t told her? She felt a lump in her throat, astonished that her staff and especially Joe Carey who, four years ago, had told her in no uncertain terms that he didn’t approve of her as chief engineer, would do such a thing for her.
Just as she had learned to trust on them, however, they had learned the same. Trust wasn’t the only thing that had grown during their years of teamwork—friendship had developed as well. These were friends who would never let her down and, as Captain Janeway had said, stand by her one hundred percent.
B’Elanna struggled not to cry, but she couldn’t prevent a single tear from trickling down her face. "Thank you," she murmured. "I—I don’t know what to say."
Carey gave her an embarrassed grin. He’d never seen her come close to anything resembling tears. In fact, there were times when he had wondered if she could cry. Now he had his answer. "Aw, just scream at us to get back to work like you always do," he said, giving her a friendly slap on her shoulder.
She wiped the tear from her cheek and did her best to smile at him. "Well, what are you waiting for? Get back to work!" she said. Her voice steadied and her chin lifted as she gave the order.
"Aye, aye, ma’am," Carey said, performing a mock salute. The other crewmembers laughed at his antics but slowly drifted back to the tasks they had been working on before B’Elanna’s entrance to Engineering.
Carey, too, continued working on the warp core, but B’Elanna couldn’t stay. They really didn’t need her around with so many extra people on duty. Besides, if she stayed she might lose her control and burst into tears. But where to go? Not the Mess Hall; she was still full from the meal on Khestra. She wasn’t needed on the bridge, and the holodecks were still out of order.
The holodecks. That was one thing she could do to help repay her staff for what they had done. If they were willing to put up with
their cabin fever for her, then the least she could do was help relieve it by getting the holodecks repaired as soon as possible. She grabbed her engineering kit and was soon out the door. *At least this will keep me busy,* she thought as she charged down the corridor. *I just hope Captain Janeway is making some progress with the President.*
"Captain Janeway, I’m not quite sure I understand," President Qualmor of Khestra said with a puzzled frown on his plump lavender face. "*All* of your crew canceled their shore leave?"
"That’s right." There was no mistaking the pride coloring the captain’s voice. "They didn’t approve of the way their fellow officers were treated on Khestra."
"But Captain, that female was impure!" Qualmor said, aghast.
"Surely they understand that."
"No, President, I’m afraid they don’t, and neither do I," she told him. "You see, where we come from people are judged not by the species of their parents but by the content of their character." Janeway allowed a wry grin to cross her face as she repeated almost the exact words she had previously spoken to B’Elanna. "My ‘female’ is considered to have a very good character."
Qualmor shook his head in confusion. "You Starfleet people certainly come from an odd society."
Her grin faded away. Damn, she hated having to be civil to this man. "Funny, but we think the same about you."
If the President noticed the implied insult, he didn’t comment on it. "Won’t they reconsider, Captain? Khestra depends on the revenues brought by extra tourists to our world. Your people, I’m told, would have brought in considerable income."
"I’m sorry, but unless your people agree to allow my lieutenant to visit Khestra, they refuse to leave the ship. There’s nothing I can do." Janeway lifted her hands in a helpless gesture, even though she knew full well that all she had to do was say the word and her crew would beam down. "Now then, President, there are a few matters left to attend to. First of all, you’re still holding Lieutenant Paris in custody."
"I promise you, he is not being mistreated, but as I’ve said before, I can’t release him. The public outrage would be too great."
"Chief Malroc told me that the punishment for his offense is life incarceration. Is that correct?" The captain was glad she hadn’t mentioned that fact to B’Elanna—there was no use making her worry any more than necessary. Besides, if she played her cards right, Tom would be back on Voyager by the end of the day.
"For an offworlder, yes. You should consider your lieutenant lucky. The punishment for a Khestran is death."
Janeway raised an eyebrow. "Isn’t that a bit harsh?"
"Not according to our gods."
"President Qualmor, I mean no disrespect, but they aren’t our gods. My lieutenant was merely acting instinctively. The woman he loved was insulted, and he defended her honor. Surely you can understand that. He didn’t intentionally set out to break any of your laws."
"I realize that, Captain. His motives may have been admirable but the fact still remains that he was assisting a half-breed."
"If you had told me in the first place that half-breeds weren’t allowed on Khestra," Janeway said pointedly, "I never would have permitted her to leave this ship."
"Well, I—er, that is—" Qualmor blustered, "I admit that you do have a point. It was an oversight on my part. I had forgotten that you weren’t from around here."
"Then why can’t you chalk it up to personal error and let him go with a warning?"
"I don’t know if the people of Khestra will be able to accept that."
"Then make them accept it. I’m sure once you explain the situation to them they’ll understand. After all, we won’t be returning to Khestra once we leave. I can assure you of that."
"President, I can tell you one thing for certain." She narrowed her eyes and leaned towards the console, speaking forcefully and carefully enunciating every word. "If my lieutenant does not get released, I will use any amount of force necessary to retrieve him."
Qualmor would have had to be deaf and blind to miss the implied threat in her voice. He knew that she meant what she said. "All right, Captain. I’ll release him," he said with an unhappy sigh. "I don’t look forward to the explanation I’ll have to give my people—in their eyes, he committed a terrible crime."
"However, in the eyes of my people, his actions were admirable. Normally I don’t condone violence as a way of solving problems, but in this case even I would have fought—but we’ve already been through this." Now that she had managed get Tom acquitted, she had no desire to spend any more time talking with Qualmor than absolutely necessary. "When can I beam Lieutenant Paris aboard?"
"As soon as negotiations between us are finished," Qualmor said immediately.
"It will be days, perhaps weeks, before they’re completed," Janeway protested. "Why can’t you release him now?"
"He did commit a crime on our world, Captain. Intentional or not, I can’t overlook that fact. I think that incarceration until the end of our negotiations is punishment enough. I can’t agree to anything less."
"Can I speak with him? I’d like to let him know of our agreement." Despite her protests, neither Chief Malroc nor Qualmor had permitted her or anyone else from Voyager to contact Tom after he had been imprisoned. They had even destroyed his commbadge to prevent him from communicating with anyone from the ship.
"I’m sorry, but I can’t allow that."
"Fine," she relented, knowing that she wouldn’t get anywhere by arguing with him. Besides, Voyager needed the supplies they’d be getting from this world. She didn’t want to jeopardize negotiations by arguing about the details of Tom’s release.
Qualmor looked pleased with himself. "I’m glad we were able to reach an understanding."
"However, I strongly suggest that we speed up negotiations. I want my lieutenant home as quickly as possible." Or else, Janeway
thought, I’ll have a very impatient half Klingon on my hands.
B’Elanna did feel impatient when she was told by the captain that she’d have to wait several days, possibly weeks, until Tom returned to Voyager. She tried to squelch the feeling by telling herself that she was lucky he was coming home at all—Janeway had also told her that Tom’s sentence was supposed to be life imprisonment. Although she knew that the captain would have never allowed that to happen, it was a relief to know that now there was no possible chance it could happen.
She purposely kept herself as busy as possible during the following endless days by working on the holodecks whenever she had a spare moment or free time after her duty shift. Her workload was almost the same as before the entire incident had happened, only this time it was a salvation instead of a burden. Even though the captain had asked her to take some time off, B’Elanna couldn’t bear to think about Tom in prison. The memory of the tormented expression on his face right after Malroc had ordered him taken away was almost too much to endure, and the only way she could forget it was to work. Even so, the image would haunt her nights as she laid in bed, aching for Tom’s loving embrace.
Despite Captain Janeway’s assurances that the incident wasn’t her fault, she couldn’t help but feel responsible. It was because of her that Feox had become angry. It was because of her that Malroc had arrested Tom. True, she hadn’t deliberately set out to cause the brawl, but she had been its catalyst, and her guilt gnawed at her night and day.
B’Elanna’s biggest—and most secret -- fear was of Tom’s return. Though logically she knew that Tom loved her and would never unjustly accuse her of anything, there was still a tiny part of her that wondered—what if he blamed her for his arrest? She did her best to convince herself that her worries were unfounded, but there was still that minuscule corner of her soul that persisted in tying her stomachs into knots as negotiations drew to an end.
Captain Janeway had all but lived on Khestra, attempting to finish as soon as possible. Finally, after seven days of talks, negotiations had concluded. To both B’Elanna and her staff’s delight, Voyager would be receiving a plentiful assortment of spare parts, most of which were compatible with Voyager’s systems, and those that weren’t could be melted down into scrap metal for other use. Neelix was wildly rejoicing because of the large quantity of foodstuffs obtained, and the Khestrans were happy because they were given some minimal holodeck and medical technology—nothing, of course, that would breach the Prime Directive—and star charts of the Alpha Quadrant and of what Voyager had charted of the Delta Quadrant. President Qualmor planned to sell these to the various traders that stopped at Khestra for supplies.
And, most importantly, Tom Paris was coming home.
Captain Janeway had told Chakotay when she and Tom would be beaming to Voyager, and Chakotay, with a discreet grin, had asked B’Elanna to go to the transporter room to meet them. It was a nice gesture on his part, and one that she appreciated. Chakotay had always been a good friend to her, and now was no exception.
As she waited in the transporter room, with Ensign Baxter once again manning the controls, she realized that she was both happy and nervous—happy that Tom was returning home, but nervous that, maybe, he would blame her for his arrest. No matter how many reassurances and lectures she gave herself, the uneasy feeling refused to go away. The only person that could make it completely disappear was Tom himself, and he was coming aboard in a matter of minutes. "Janeway to Voyager. Two to beam up."
B’Elanna swallowed and closed her eyes, offering a silent prayer to whatever gods were out there: Please, don’t let him be angry. Baxter locked on to their coordinates and energized.
Within seconds two forms shimmered into existance on the transporter pad. When he had materialized completely, Tom’s eyes searched the transporter room for B’Elanna, and found her immediately.
The two locked eyes for an instant, and no less than a second later Tom was off the transporter pad and holding her in his arms. "B’Elanna, thank God you’re all right," he exclaimed, hugging her tightly against his body. "I was so worried!"
"You were worried about me?" she gasped, nearly out of breath from the force of his embrace. "You were the one in prison! I was worried about you!"
Neither of them noticed when Captain Janeway quietly motioned for Baxter to accompany her out of the transporter room, giving them a measure of privacy.
"Oh, I’m okay," Tom assured her. "If that’s what they call prison, I’m surprised they don’t have a higher crime rate. It was more like a hotel then a jail—but, B’Elanna, right before the door of that hovercar shut, I saw Malroc slap you. I was so afraid that you were hurt—or that you’d strike back and they’d injure you badly—and no one would tell me if you had gone back to the ship or not."
"I returned to Voyager right after it happened. I’m fine, except for being worried sick about you. Tom, I’m so sorry this happened to.
If I would have known—"
"Hey, wait a minute," Tom interrupted. "You don’t think this is your fault, do you?"
"Well—" B’Elanna couldn’t bring herself to meet his gaze.
"B’Elanna, this whole incident was my fault. I’m the one who started the fight. I got just what I deserved. Besides, it was worth it to smash that little twerp’s face in." Tom allowed himself a smug grin. "I really popped him a good one, didn’t I?"
She laughed for the first time in days. With his words, all of her previous fears had completely disappeared. "You certainly did."
He smiled down and her and reached up to softly stroke her cheek. "And I’d do it again if anyone insulted you. I don’t care what that prejudiced pig of a Khestran said—you’re the most gorgeous, pure woman in the entire galaxy. Don’t you ever believe otherwise."
He brought her lips to meet hers, fully intending to make up for lost time, and B’Elanna made no argument. She was content to spend as long as possible in his loving embrace.
Hours later, B’Elanna was cuddling next to Tom after they had shared a quiet dinner together. The captain had generously given both of them the rest of the day off as recompense for their missed shore leave on Khestra, which Voyager had left far behind.
"And good riddance," Tom had said when Janeway had given the order to leave orbit. He and B’Elanna had managed to leave the transporter room and stop by the bridge so Tom could say hello to Harry -- and, B’Elanna teased, to his beloved pilot’s seat. Tom had merely grinned, but B’Elanna hadn’t missed the longing look he had given the helm.
The captain had noticed it, too, and instructed Tom to report for duty the next day at 0800. "But not a moment sooner," she had told him firmly. "Even if that prison wasn’t harsh, it was still a prison, and I want you to take a day off to recuperate from the experience." She had paused and turned to B’Elanna. "That goes for you as well, Lieutenant. You’ve been working yourself entirely too hard the last few days, and you didn’t have much of a shore leave, either."
They had both been grateful for Janeway’s generosity, and were spending the time together in Tom’s quarters. Once they were had finished dinner and settled down on the couch, Tom confessed his relief at the captain’s thoughtfulness.
"I was kind of worried that she’d be angry with me for fighting with Feox, but when I talked to her about it on Khestra, she just smiled at me and said, ‘I would have done the same thing in your position, Mr. Paris. Don’t worry about it.’ I have to admit, I almost laughed at the mental picture those words conjured up. You know, the captain decking someone for insulting Chakotay?"
The two of them laughed together, and B’Elanna savored the sound of it. She was so glad to have him back that her heart felt like it would burst from happiness.
"Tom," she said quietly, almost shyly, "I haven’t thanked you for what you did down there."
"Punching Feox? No thanks necessary. Heck, I enjoyed it." He grinned down at her, but she remained serious.
"Not just punching Feox...everything. Defending me when I was insulted. That meant a lot to me, Tom."
"B’Elanna, I told you that thanks aren’t necessary. What I did wasn’t all that unusual. Anyone on Voyager would have reacted the way I did if the person they loved was insulted."
When B’Elanna spoke again, her voice was quivering with emotion.
Tom could hardly believe his ears. "Of course I do! How could you possibly doubt it? I’ve told you so before, haven’t I?"
She hesitated slightly, but she didn’t have to say a word. Tom could read the truth in the depths of her dark eyes. A wave of guilt swept over him as he realized that he hadn’t told her. He’dd forgotten how fragile her self-esteem was. "Oh, B’Elanna, I’m sorry," he said, gently squeezing her hand. "The way I feel about you is so obvious that I just assumed I didn’t need to say it. I do love you—with all my heart."
B’Elanna’s answering smile was filled with joy. "I know. I just needed to hear you say the words."
"I love you. I love you. I love you. I love—"
"Okay, Tom, you can stop now," B’Elanna said, smothering an urge to giggle. "I get the picture."
Tom’s eyes were sparkling rougishly. "Hey, did I mention that I love you?"
Her eyes twinkled back at his. "Not in the last three seconds."
"Well, I do."
She rested her head against his chest, feeling truly contented for the first time in a long while. "I know. Oh, and Tom?"
"I love you, too."
"Impure" copyright 1998 by JoAnna Walsvik, all rights reserved. Please request permission before copying, archiving, etc.