NOW (Then & Now Part Two)
by JoAnna Walsvik

B’Elanna hummed as she walked along the tree-lined paths at Starfleet Academy, on her way to have a drink with a new faculty member.

It still seemed odd to think that she, who hadn’t even finished the Academy, was now a Professor of Engineering there. She still preferred being on a starship, specifically Voyager, but the ship was undergoing a complete refit that would take over a year, if not longer. Traveling for five years straight without docking at a single starbase for repairs had taken its toll on the gallant little ship, and she deserved a rest. Best of all, though, after Voyager’s repairs were complete, the original crew would be returning to serve together.

Everyone, even the doctor, whose program was being enhanced. Running constantly for five years had taken its toll on him, too. But, as Captain Janeway had declared proudly after receiving the official orders from Starfleet, "No use breaking up a winning team!"

Of course, not all of Voyager’s crew would be staying. Samantha Wildman was going to live on Deep Space Four with her husband so he could get acquainted with his daughter, and she with him. Joe Carey had taken a leave of absence to make up for lost time with his wife and sons. A few of the Maquis members had elected not to remain in Starfleet, and a few others chose to be reassigned to other ships or starbases. But for the most part, Voyager’s crew would stay together, even Seven of Nine—or rather, Annika Hansen, as she now preferred to be called. Her engineering skills were of high caliber, and she would be a valuable asset to Engineering, as she had been the last two years or so of their journey.

There were other changes, too. Harry Kim was now a full Lieutenant. Starfleet had moved him up two ranks, an honor he highly deserved. Right now he was staying with his parents, who were delirious with joy now that their son was back with them.

Neelix had actually won a place on board as a security ensign. Tuvok, surprisingly enough, had actually recommended the action to Starfleet. Although the Vulcan didn’t like to admit it, Neelix really wwas a good security officer. He had passed the examinations Starfleet had given him to test his knowledge of the Federation and security measures with flying colors, and he was now a full-fledged member of the crew. Everyone was proud of him—even Tuvok, somewhere deep down in his Vulcan heart, although he would never acknowledge it.

And she, B’Elanna Torres, taught classes at the Academy. It was only part-time, until Voyager was ready to go, but it was something to do. Tom worked at the Academy as well, giving advanced piloting classes to senior cadets. They had a small but cozy apartment together a few blocks from the Academy, and were as much in love as they had ever been.

Just that morning, she had found a message on her desk console from one of the new professors of medicine. The short note had struck her as odd—it had been signed only "Doctor Mathews," and had requested that B’Elanna meet her for a drink so they could "get reacquainted".

The name had been unfamiliar. B’Elanna had searched and searched her mind, but she couldn’t ever recall meeting a Doctor Mathews. The mystery would soon be solved, though; she was meeting the doctor at a small coffee shop called Cosmo’s that was just a few blocks from her apartment. She knew it well; Harry had spoken highly of it and she and Tom visited frequently.

The coffee shop was almost deserted when B’Elanna entered; there was only one customer—a short, petite blond woman sitting at a back table sipping a drink. She raised her head to look at B’Elanna with a pair of very familiar, very striking violet eyes.
B’Elanna stopped dead in her tracks, bringing her hands to cover her gaping mouth. "Patsy?" she managed to gasp. "Patsy Brooker?!"
Her former Academy roommate smiled. "Patsy Mathews, actually. Surprise!"

"Oh, my God, Patsy!" B’Elanna cried as her old friend rose from her chair. The two women hugged warmly, with poor B’Elanna still trying to recover from the shock. She hadn’t seen Patsy since her last day of the Academy—a time that seemed centuries ago.
"I’m sorry to spring this on you, but I couldn’t believe it when I saw the name ‘B’Elanna Paris’ on the Academy faculty roster—as a Professor of Engineering, no less!" Patsy laughed. "I inquired around, and when I found out that it was no other then my old roommate B’Elanna Torres—I couldn’t resist."

"I can’t believe this!" B’Elanna exclaimed, clasping her hand as the two sat down at the table. "How are you? What have you been up to all these years?"
"I’d ask you the same thing—but I already know the answer. The Maquis, then the starship Voyager, and now the Academy. Tell me, B’Elanna, is there anything you can’t do?"

"Well, judging from what my husband says, I probably wouldn’t do so well as a nun." B’Elanna winked rakishly and grinned.

Patsy burst into honest laughter. "And you’ve gotten a fabulous sense of humor as well! I can’t believe you’re married!"
"I can’t believe you’re married," B’Elanna returned. "Who’s the lucky guy?"

"Doctor Jacob Mathews. I met him at my first posting, when I was an ensign on the U.S.S. Yosemite."
"The Yosemite?" B’Elanna repeated, raising her eyebrows.

"Thank you. But you’re married to Thomas Eugene Paris, who is the son of ‘the great’ Admiral Owen Paris, and, from what I hear, the best pilot and one of the most handsome men in Starfleet. How, may I ask, did you pull that off?"

B’Elanna paused to order a cup of coffee before she replied, "And how, may I ask, do you know so much about me?"
Patsy blushed, laughing softly to herself. "As I said, I did some checking."

"Well, I’ll tell you how I managed to ‘pull it off’." B’Elanna leaned forward conspiratorially, lowering her voice to a whisper. "I bit him."

"What?!" Patsy nearly choked on her coffee.

"It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that being stuck on the same—and very small—ship for five years helped some."
"I’d imagine so." Patsy took a sip of her coffee, as B’Elanna received hers, absentmindedly fingering the handle of the cup. "Has everything worked out for you? I mean, you’re happy?"

"Very happy." B’Elanna smiled, squeezing her old friend’s hand appreciatively. "You know, I don’t know how I’m ever going to thank you for pointing me in the right direction."

"I was so worried about you after you left," Patsy confided. "I kept watching the comm channels, hoping I wouldn’t see your name on the lists of captured Maquis or—on a crew list of a Maquis ship that had been destroyed. And then, one day, I did—but the report said that the ship was allegedly missing, not destroyed, and that the starship Voyager had been sent out on a search mission. And when the Voyager was reported missing, too—well, then I really became scared.

You have no idea how relieved I was when Voyager suddenly turned up with you on it."
"At least there was one person who noticed I was gone."

Patsy didn’t miss the faint trace of bitterness in her friend’s tone. "Are you kidding?" she retorted. "When word got out that you had joined the Maquis, there were a lot of people who regretted treating you the way they did. And -- " She hesitated slightly, then pushed on. "Your mother called me a few weeks after you left."

B’Elanna was so stunned that she nearly dropped her coffee cup.
"My mother—but how did she know to contact you -- ?"
"I don’t know. Maybe someone at Headquarters gave her my address or something. But she wanted to know where you were. She seemed really worried about you, B’Elanna. I told her that you had joined the Maquis, and she looked really upset."

B’Elanna snorted derisively. "She was probably mad that I didn’t come crawling back to her."
Patsy shook her head pensively. "No, not like that. She seemed genuinely frightened for your safety. Maybe her feelings have changed, B’Elanna."

"You don’t know my mother, Patsy. She is the most stubborn woman that has ever lived. Once she forms an opinion about somebody or something, she doesn’t change it, no matter what."

"There’s a first time for everything. I mean, you’re her only daughter, aren’t you? And you two haven’t seen each other in, what, almost ten years? Maybe she wants to reconcile."
"Why are you so certain, Patsy?" B’Elanna asked, suddenly suspicious. "If she wanted to reconcile, she’d have done so. I’ve been back for months now."

Patsy stared into her coffee cup for a few moments before speaking. "She called me again. A few weeks ago."

"She knew you were back, and she wanted to know if I knew where you were. I didn’t, and I told her so. I swear I did. She knows you’re married, B’Elanna, and that you’re in Starfleet. I think you should call her."
"No. I absolutely refuse to have anything to do with -- "

"And you’re calling her stubborn?" Patsy interrupted. "For God’s sake, B’Elanna, she’s your mother. Maybe she said and did things that hurt you a long time ago, but that was then. This is now. She wants to reconcile, maybe even apologize. Can’t you even give her that chance?"
"You don’t know what she said to me. There are some things that can’t be forgiven."

"My God, what did she do? Murder your father?" Patsy exclaimed in exasperation.
B’Elanna’s face went deathly pale, and Patsy was instantly remorseful. She had always assumed that B’Elanna’s father had died, because B’Elanna had never spoken of him. "I’m sorry. That was tactless of me."

"She didn’t murder him," B’Elanna said, gripping the handle of her cup until her knuckles turned white. "But she did push him away, inch by inch, day by day, until he couldn’t stand it anymore and he left, and I haven’t heard from him since. I was only five years old, Patsy! Do you have any idea what it’s like to be abandoned by your own father when you’re that young? And it was all her fault!

If she had been a better wife and mother, he would have stayed. And maybe I wouldn’t have ended up a worthless Academy dropout."

"B’Elanna Torres, are you really this stupid or is it just an act?" Patsy surprised her by demanding. "You are not a
‘worthless Academy dropout’. You’re a professor of Engineering, and you’re going to be chief engineer on one of the best ships in the ‘Fleet, not to mention that you’re married to a great guy."

"But -- " B’Elanna tried to interrupt, but Patsy pushed ahead, determined to have her say.
"You can’t blame all of your problems on your mother. Okay, maybe she was a factor in the breakup of your parent’s marriage, but your father had something to do with it, too! If he didn’t even try to make it work, he was a spineless jellyfish of a person."
"I -- " B’Elanna tried again.

"Just because your parents divorced doesn’t mean that you stopped being his daughter. He could have kept in touch. He could have called, or sent letters. But he didn’t, and no matter how much you try you can’t blame that on your mother."

"She -- " B’Elanna began to protest, but was once again cut off.

"No, I don’t know what it’s like to be abandoned by your father at five years of age. But I do know that you have a mother who made some mistakes, and now she wants to be forgiven, and if you don’t even try to meet her in the middle then you’re as spineless as your father was!"

Inadvertently, Patsy had squarely nailed on the head one of B’Elanna’s secret terrors—that she would someday become like the man who had abandoned her. B’Elanna had loved her father, and still did in her own way, but she could not bear to think that she might become as weak as he had been. "I am nothing like my father!" B’Elanna shouted, slamming her empty coffee cup down on the table with such force that the thin metal crumpled under the pressure of her hand.

The two women stared at each other in almost tangible hostility as Cosmo, the bald, rotund owner of the coffee shop, rushed over. "Is there a problem, ladies?" he asked, eyeing the smashed cup with trepidation.
"No. There isn’t. I’m sorry about the cup," B’Elanna said. "I lost my temper."

"That’s all right; no harm done," Cosmo said, wiping sweat from his broad forehead, evidently relieved that she wasn’t about to disembowel him or demolish his shop.

"If you’ll excuse me," B’Elanna continued frostily, directing her gaze to Patsy, "I have a class to teach. Good-bye, Dr. Mathews. It was a pleasure seeing you again." She strode out of the shop before Patsy could even say a word.

*** **** ***

After her last class, B’Elanna took herself out of her classroom as fast as she could. It had been all she could do not to take her pent-up anger and frustration out on her students, and now that she was done teaching for the day she could finally vent some steam.
After changing into workout clothes, she entered one of the Academy’s holosuites. "Computer, activate program Torres Omega Three."

Immediately a dismal, humid marsh replaced the black and yellow grid, and a holographic bat’leth shimmered into place beside her. Picking up the Klingon weapon, she slowly circled the surrounding area, her body tense and waiting.

When a Klingon warrior leaped out at her from behind the misty foliage, she plunged the bat’leth into his chest without a moment’s hesitation. The image dissolved even as another appeared, and B’Elanna finished him with one swipe of her arm. She kept up even as the monsters were coming at her six or seven at a time, battling her holographic opponents with an almost feral rage.

As she fought, she tried not to think about Patsy’s words, but deep down in the most secret chamber of her Klingon heart she knew what her friend had said was true. Her father’s abandonment of her wasn’t her mother’s fault, but the five-year-old B’Elanna that was still inside of her couldn’t understand why her daddy had left, and she needed someone to blame. Having a palpable object to direct her fury towards made the hurt easier to bear. It always had been that way, ever since her father had left.

What had frightened B’Elanna the most was Patsy’s claim that she was just like her father. All of her life, B’Elanna had tried to be human, but at the same time wanting to reject everything about her that wasn’t Klingon, for fear that she would turn out to be like her father -- spineless, unable to fight to make his own marriage work. What would happen, B’Elanna wondered, if someday she and Tom had a serious argument? Would she walk away like her father had, and lose her husband forever? She didn’t know how she’d survive without Tom. He was everything to her.

The hysterical fear that rose in her throat at the hideous thought of losing Tom provoked her energy to new heights, and she fought even more savagely then before. As long as she was fighting, she couldn’t feel anything, not hurt, not pain. As long as she could fight, she could withstand whatever frightening emotions came her way.

It was faintly ironic that the Klingon program that she’d been so reluctant to try with Tom so many years ago was now one of her favorite workouts. The bat’leth teachings of her mother had slowly come back to her as she practiced, and now she was as skilled as most Klingon masters were. Not bad for someone who’s only half-Klingon, she thought in satisfaction as her blade slaughtered another bunch of warriors. Mother would be proud.

Bitterness seeped into her soul, and her hands tightened around the handle of the bat’leth. No, she wouldn’t, B’Elanna mentally corrected herself. *Mother has never been proud of me, no matter what I did.*

The anger inside of her boiled up again, and she attacked the approaching warriors with ferocious vigor, doing everything she could to smother the pain she felt.

But she wasn’t prepared when her program paused just as she was in mid-strike, or when a hand suddenly touched her shoulder. B’Elanna whirled around, bat’leth in hand, and narrowly missed beheading her husband.

"B’Elanna, thank God! Do you have any idea what time it is?!" Tom Paris shouted, his face belying intense relief.

His wife stared at him in evident confusion, her chest heaving as she attempted to catch her breath. Wordlessly, she shook her head as his blue eyes drilled into hers.
"It’s 1930. You were supposed to be home over three hours ago. I’ve been worried sick! I’ve had half the Academy looking for you! Why didn’t you call?"

"Computer, end program," was all B’Elanna said as she brushed past him and out of the holosuite. The black and yellow grid reappeared as Tom followed her out.

"B’Elanna, is something the matter?" he asked. She was toweling off, looking absolutely exhausted, and no wonder. She’d been exercising nonstop for three hours. He had been amazed when he had arrived at the holosuite to find that she was at level nineteen. They had never gone farther then fourteen, and even that had been a challenge with the two of them fighting together.

"I lost track of the time. But I’m fine," B’Elanna mumbled, grabbing the small tote bag she had brought with her and leaving the holosuite complex.
"No, you’re not," Tom insisted, grabbing her arm and forcibly stopping her in her tracks. "Something’s wrong. You wouldn’t have been fighting so hard if everything was fine."

"Look, Tom, I’ve had a rough day. All I want is a long, hot bubble bath, okay?" Her voice cracked suddenly, and she had to bow her head to hide the tears that insisted on swarming in her eyes.
But however hard she tried, she couldn’t hide her misery from her husband. Tom knew her far to well, and though their discussion was far from over, he was willing to postpone it for a while. "Okay," he said, reaching down to gently clasp her hand. "Let’s go home."

*** **** ***

B’Elanna didn’t feel any better after her bath. As she sat on the bed, toweling her hair dry, she wondered how her life could have gone from wonderful to miserable in so short a time.

A large pair of hands suddenly began to massage her tense shoulders, patiently kneading out all of the kinks that had formed due to anxiety and her long workout. As much as she hated to admit it, that lengthy holosuite session had drained her strength both physically and emotionally. She wanted nothing more then to close her eyes and let her husband’s hands work their magic.

And, as always, Tom managed to relax her strained muscles until she was limp against him, comfortably half-asleep. Once he sensed her drowsiness, his hands slipped from her shoulders to encircle her waist and squeeze her soft body to his. He lovingly nuzzled her neck, and she sighed in contentment. It was so easy to forget her troubles when he held her like this.

"So, do you want to tell me what made you so upset today?" he whispered into her ear, and B’Elanna wondered with an inward groan why she had deluded herself into thinking that he’d forgotten about today’s events.

She was weary of hiding the truth from him, though, and she couldn’t have concocted a good story even if she had wanted to, which she didn’t. For once she just wanted to pour out her troubles to a sympathetic ear, and that’s exactly what she did.

Tom listened patiently as B’Elanna explained about her mother and their argument nine years ago, and about Patsy and the things they had argued about during lunch. And as he listened he gained a new understanding of his wife. She had never told him about her mother in detail before, only saying that they didn’t get along and refusing to say anything more then that. But now, as she told him about their fight so many years ago, he realized that, in a way, B’Elanna’s mother was no different then his father.

Owen Paris had the same stubborn disposition, and he too had fought with his son a very long time ago. Tom could still remember with faint bitterness the insults his father had hurled at him when he had been sentenced to prison. It had taken him a long time to forgive those remarks. The difference was, he had been willing to and had reconciled with father, while B’Elanna was refusing to even speak to her mother.

"B’Elanna, honey," he said gently, "I think Patsy was right. I think you should call your mother."
He could feel her stiffen against him and try to pull away, but he held her tightly. "Just listen to me," he pleaded. "Your situation is no different then mine was with my father. And look what happened to us. We’ve reconciled, and we’ve never been closer as we are now."

"Maybe so, but your father didn’t call you a dishonorable half-breed," she muttered.

"No, he didn’t, but he did call me a worthless idiot without a brain in my head. I admit that it took me a long time to get over that. But I realized that he said what he did in the heat of anger and he probably regretted it the second it came flying out of his mouth. And I was right."

"My mother meant what she said, Tom. She said I had no honor and told me to get out of her house. She said -- " B’Elanna’s voice dwindled down to barely a whisper. "She said I was a coward like my father. I don’t want to be like my father, Tom!"

"And you’re not," he soothed. "But have you ever considered that maybe the reason your father never came back was because he was too stubborn to apologize to your mother, and vice versa? At least your mom is trying. If you don’t at least attempt to talk with her, you’ll be no better then your father was."

Apparently B’Elanna hadn’t considered this. She was quiet for a long while, and Tom knew she was thinking about what he had said. He didn’t offer any more advice, but merely hugged her tightly. What she needed most right now was for someone to hold her, to give her silent support. In a way, it was flattering that she was so comfortable with him. B’Elanna rarely opened up to someone unless she was absolutely certain she could trust them. It was a surefire way of not getting hurt, and the gods knew she had enough people hurt her in her life.
"I just don’t know, Tom," B’Elanna said softly, breaking the silence. "It’s been so long. I don’t know if I can forgive her."

"You won’t know until you try."
"I don’t know if I can do that, either."

"Why don’t you wait few days," he urged. "Give the matter some serious thought. But I want you to know that whatever you decide, I’ll stand by you one hundred and forty-seven percent."

She twisted her body so she could look into his eyes. He saw the faintest glimmer of a smile on her face. "One hundred and forty-seven?"

Tom shrugged, his finger softly stroking her cheek. "Hey, it’s a good number."
Her smile grew wider. She slid her hand to the back of his neck and pulled his face down to meet hers. "I love you," she drowsily murmured against his lips. "And I’m never going to stop."

"I love you, too," Tom replied tenderly. "Look, why don’t you get some sleep. We can talk about this in the morning, okay?""Okay," she whispered, her eyes already beginning to close.

Tom waited until he was certain that she was asleep, then gently laid her sleeping body against the soft mattress of their bed, covered her with a light blanket, and tiptoed out of the room, dimming the lights as he went. B’Elanna was more tired then she had realized. Emotional strain tended to exhaust a person, half-Klingon or otherwise, and a strenuous three-hour workout on the holodeck hadn’t helped matters any.

Tom slowly sat down in front of his computer terminal, wondering if he should act on the nagging impulse that was lingering in the back of his mind. B’Elanna would be furious with him if she knew, was ultimately for the best. From what B’Elanna had told him, Maiah Torres was honestly trying to reach her daughter in hopes of a reconciliation. But did he have the right to intervene?

Yes, he decided. I do.

After all, B’Elanna had been the one who had encouraged him to reconcile with his own father. He hadn’t wanted to have anything to do with him when Voyager had returned to the Alpha Quadrant, even when he learned that Owen Paris was at DS9, where Voyager had docked after its return.

B’Elanna had convinced him otherwise, however. She’d told him that life was too short to keep on hating his father for things that happened years ago. As a result, he had decided to at least meet with his father. And, miracle of miracles, Owen Paris had actually wept with joy upon their meeting. Tom had never seen his father cry before, and it had impressed him deeply.

And now B’Elanna was faced with the same exact situation. But why, Tom puzzled, couldn’t she follow her own advice? Perhaps she saw things differently now that it was her family. If so, then it was his responsibility to help her the same way she had helped him.

His decision made, Tom entered a few commands into the terminal and wrote a short, courteous message to the woman who was his mother-in-law, inviting her to their home. Luckily, he remembered the House B’Elanna had said her mother—and she herself—belonged to on the Klingon Homeworld, the House of Jonta’oS. And that’s where he sent it, in care of Maiah Torres. He was fairly confident that it would reach her.
There, he thought. *It’s done. Now to wait and see what happens.*