NOW: TWO WEEKS LATER (Then & Now Part Three)
by JoAnna Walsvik
It was a blithe, laughing B’Elanna Torres who ran light-footedly through the small apartment to answer the chiming of the doorbell. Her good mood was due to the fact that she and Tom had just received word that Voyager would be fully operational and ready to go in just over four months—exactly four days before their second wedding anniversary.
The two were ecstatic that they’d be able to celebrate it on Voyager among all of their friends. Their first wedding anniversary had come about a month after Voyager’s return home. They’d had a quiet dinner together, then had met a few friends for a drink, but the joyousness of the occasion had been marred by the fact that all of their friends were scattered around the galaxy and were unable to be there to celebrate with them.
B’Elanna could hardly believe her good fortune. Life had become bearable again these last two weeks. Tom had seemed to forget all about her promise to think about contacting her mother, and she was thankful. She had given the matter a lot of thought, but her two sides were still warring with themselves. She simply could not decide.
She missed her mother. She always had. B’Elanna had not stopped loving her mother just because of their argument, but Maiah Torres’s words of long ago had hurt her deeply. Insults like that were not easy to forgive, especially when they had come from the mouth of your own mother.
A long, long time ago, shortly after her father had left, Maiah had come into her small daughter’s bedroom late one night, supposing she was asleep. B’Elanna had been awake, however, and had listened in quiet amazement as her mother had stroked her hair and murmured words of pity and love. Such an act of tenderness was unheard of in her mother, yet it had happened. She was certain it had not been a dream. It was for that reason and that reason alone that B’Elanna yearned to see her mother again, to discover if the love her mother had shown that night was still there.
But the stubborn half of her soul was hell-bent on holding the long grudge. After all, her mother had called her a dishonorable half-breed, among other words. Those cruel words had plunged into her sensitive soul just as if her mother had used a knife, and the wound refused to heal, even after all this time. She hadn’t seen or talked to her mother in almost ten years, not since she was a young, naive eighteen-year-old girl.
She was older now, and a great deal less naive, but the old hurts still rankled in her heart. B’Elanna didn’t know if she could forgive her mother for causing them.
It wasn’t time to think about that now, however. It was a time for celebration. But first, she had to answer the chiming of the doorbell.
She was smiling when she keyed open the door, but the moment after she opened the door her smile immediately faded as she realized just who was there.
Standing in the doorway was a tall Klingon woman with graying locks of flame-red hair rippling over her shoulders. The expression on her finely etched, aristocratic features was of nervousness—and even a little bit of fear. B’Elanna knew that face as well as she knew her own.
"B’Elanna? Who’s here?" Tom Paris asked, coming up behind her.
His blue eyes widened as he caught sight of their visitor. Tom was fully able to put two and two together, and he immediately grasped the identity of the Klingon woman. "Oh."
The Klingon woman’s eyes moved from B’Elanna’s face to his Tom’s. "You’re—Tom Paris?" she said. Her voice, not unlike B’Elanna’s own, was smooth and rich but held the tiniest hint of apprehension.
"Yeah, that’s me," Tom said, trying to smile reassuringly. It was difficult with B’Elanna looking like she was about to faint at any moment. He placed a supporting hand on her shoulder as he said, "And you’re Maiah?"
The women he had guessed to be Maiah Torres nodded, her ebony eyes moving back to B’Elanna, scrutinizing every detail of her daughter’s still ashen face. She spoke again, still gazing at B’Elanna, but directing her comment to Tom. "I received your message."
B’Elanna came to life, whirling around on her heel to face her husband. "Message?" she cried. "What message?"
"I sent your mother a communiqué a couple of weeks ago, after our discussion," Tom replied. "I invited her to come for a visit."
She looked stricken, as though he had just slapped her across the face. "You what?" she whispered, her mouth dropping open in shock.
"How—oh, Tom, how could you?"
"Your mother has been trying to find you, and I helped her," Tom said, barely even flinching at her accusatory tone. "I thought it was about time you two reconciled."
"You thought! What gives you the right to—to interfere?" Tom’s cerulean blue eyes looked squarely into her dark brown ones.
"I’m only trying to help, B’Elanna."
"I can’t believe you betrayed me like this—and to her," she whispered. With a choked sob of anguish, she fled from the entryway.
"B’Elanna! Wait!" Tom called after her, but it was no use. She had ran into the bedroom, violently slamming the door behind her.
He turned to Maiah, an apology on his lips, but she held up her hand, stopping the words from leaving his mouth. "I see she still has a temper."
"Yeah," he agreed ruefully. "She certainly does."
"One of her inheritances from me, I’m afraid." Maiah actually looked guilty, as though she were completely to blame for her daughter’s explosive temperament.
"I have a bit of a temper myself," Tom told her with a half-hearted smile. "I have to, living with B’Elanna. Um, do you need a place to stay? We don’t have a spare bedroom, but -- "
"I have a room at the San Francisco Hilton," Maiah assured him.
"I didn’t think B’Elanna would...appreciate...my presence here."
"I should have told her you were coming," Tom confided guiltily, "but I thought it would be a nice surprise. I didn’t think she’d act quite like this."
Maiah began a reply, but before she could say a word, a blood-curdling scream sounded from the bedroom. Tom’s heart skipped a beat and he dashed to the bedroom, nearly tearing the door down in his haste to get to B’Elanna. Maiah was right at his heels as he entered the sleeping area.
B’Elanna was kneeling on the floor of the bedroom, clutching her stomach with her face twisted into a horrible grimace of pain. "Tom," she whimpered as he all but threw himself down next to her, and nearly screamed himself as he realized she was crouching in a pool of crimson blood. "It hurts...oh, God...it started...suddenly...I can’t..." She screamed again as another wave of pain crashed over her.
"You’ll be okay, B’Elanna," Tom soothed with a terrified glance to Maiah, who was already starting for the console to call for help.
"Don’t worry...everything will be all right."
NOW: SIX HOURS LATER
But everything wasn’t all right.
Tom had gotten B’Elanna to Starfleet Medical as quickly as he could, and had waited anxiously with Maiah for hours before a doctor, grave and serious, had come to give them the sad news.
B’Elanna had suffered a miscarriage.
Tom was completely shocked. He hadn’t even known B’Elanna was pregnant—and, the doctor believed, neither had she.
"The baby was only a month old," Doctor Kherson, the doctor in charge of B’Elanna’s case, said solemnly. He was a kind, elderly Betazoid man, and it troubled him to have to give such devastating news to such a devoted young husband. It was the worst part of being both a telepath and a doctor—having to deal with the palpable emotional pain of your patients and their families when a tragedy occurred. And this tall young man and the older Klingon woman were projecting sadness, shock, and grief so tangible that it was all the doctor could do to shield his mind from it.
"Your wife had no idea what was happening," he continued. "I doubt she knew or even suspected she was pregnant. I can’t say I’m surprised—many Klingon women don’t show symptoms until after the second month."
Maiah Torres, who was as pale as a Klingon could be, nodded in agreement. "When I was carrying B’Elanna, I didn’t have symptoms until my third month." She was strangely calm under the circumstances but, the doctor realized, being Klingon it was easier for her to hide her true emotions. He could sense the real heartache she was feeling.
"But, Doctor, what caused this?" Tom asked, a terrible wave of guilt washing over him. Had he brought this about with his meddling? B’Elanna had been so upset when Maiah had arrived that morning, and he had been the one to invite her. Was this whole thing his fault? Maiah’s expression indicated that she was thinking much the same thing.
"She was—very upset—this morning. Could that be why...?"
Doctor Kherson shook his head. "The most common cause of miscarriages—in sixty percent of all cases, in fact—is
abnormality in development of the fetus, usually as a result of extra chromosomes. That was most likely the case with your wife. We’re still running tests, however." He managed a reassuring smile. "Don’t worry, Mr. Paris. No one was to blame for this. It was just one of those things."
"Can I see her?" Tom said. He was slightly relieved that he hadn’t caused B’Elanna to lose the baby, but that relief was quickly replaced by an almost overwhelming wave of sorrow. He hadn’t even known he was going to become a father—but the grief he felt was as acute as if he had known.
"Yes, but she’s sedated. She’s lost a lot of blood and I want her to lie still for a while. She’s on the second floor, room two twenty-seven."
Tom nodded his thanks and started down the corridor towards the turbolift, with Maiah following him. Doctor Kherson watched them go, shaking his head sadly. He felt dreadfully sorry for them, but there was nothing anyone could have done. Besides, Mrs. Paris was young and strong, and in time she’d fully recover and be able to have dozens of children.
But that didn’t make the sorrow of now any easier to bear—for any of them.
*** **** ***
When B’Elanna awoke from her drugged sleep the next morning, the first then she saw was sunlight streaming through the windows of her hospital room. For an instant she was disoriented, but then the memories of the preceding night washed over her and she closed her eyes, wishing she could sleep forever. She couldn’t feel this mind-numbing sensation of pain and loss when she was asleep.
She hadn’t known she was pregnant—she hadn’t suspected a thing. There had been no symptoms whatsoever; she had felt absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. In a way, B’Elanna was grateful that she hadn’t known. The heartache would have been worse if she had.
But that still didn’t help alleviate the grief she was feeling now. The baby -- her baby—was gone. The poor little thing had barely started to live when its tiny little life had been cruelly snuffed out by forces of nature unbeknownst to even the best of the best of Starfleet doctors.
Doctor Kherson had been very kind. He had explained that the miscarriage wasn’t her fault, nor anybody else’s, and that these things just happened sometimes. His sympathetic rationalizations hadn’t made the pain any easier to bear, though, nor would anything else. B’Elanna had never given much thought to parenthood before—she and Tom had never discussed it—but B’Elanna knew that, at this very moment, she would gladly give up anything and everything she had if only her little baby could live.
There was a horrible empty, aching feeling in her abdomen, and she felt exhausted and weak despite her long sleep. Her lips were dry and parched, and she wished longingly for a glass of cool water to soothe her dry throat.
"B’Elanna?" a quiet voice suddenly asked.
She nearly jumped out of her skin, for she hadn’t realized there was anyone else in the room. She turned towards the voice and received a second shock—it was her mother.
"How do you feel?" Maiah Torres asked, her concern apparently sincere.
B’Elanna spoke before she thought. "What are you doing here?" As soon as the words had escaped her lips, she regretted them. To her, the question sounded unbearably rude, and if memory served her, Maiah Torres could and would not tolerate rudeness. The last thing B’Elanna wanted to face right now was her mother’s formidable anger.
To her surprise, however, Maiah barely blinked an eye. "I sent Thomas back to the apartment to get some rest. He sat up with you all night and he was exhausted—even though he wouldn’t admit it. He’s a stubborn one, I’ll say that for him."
"Thomas?" B’Elanna repeated. No one but Tom’s parents called him by his full name—and Tom himself disliked it.
"As you already know, I don’t particularly care for nicknames. ‘Thomas’ suits him, anyway."
Was it her imagination, B’Elanna wondered, or was there just the faintest glimmer of amusement in her mother’s eyes? She must be seeing things—maybe she was still groggy from the sedative. "How long have you been here?" was B’Elanna’s next question.
"Since you were brought in yesterday, of course. Where do you think I’d be?" Maiah asked indignantly.
"Oh, I don’t know—maybe the same place you’ve been for the last nine years," B’Elanna answered bitterly, turning her head away. She didn’t want any pretend sympathies from her mother—the same woman who had kicked her eighteen-year-old daughter out of her house just for trying to realize a dream. Hopefully, if she made her mother angry enough, she’d leave.
But Maiah didn’t become angry. "You were over sixty thousand light-years away for five of those years, you know," she pointed out.
"I couldn’t have contacted you even if I’d wanted to."
The truth of this statement made B’Elanna feel ashamed of herself, but the next moment she was furious at her own mortification. "You didn’t want to, I’m sure," she retorted icily.
"Your grandfather died."
B’Elanna’s head jerked sharply around and she stared at her mother, confused as to what this matter-of-fact mention of her grandfather’s death—the grandfather she had never known, much less met—had to do with the current conversation.
"He died shortly after you left for the Academy," Maiah continued. "As eldest daughter of the House of Jonta’oS, I had to travel to the Klingon homeworld and take over supervision of his affairs. I tried contacting you, but red tape and stubborn Klingon officials made it almost impossible – you know how touchy relations were between Klingons and Earth back then, not to mention that complications arose with your grandfather’s estate that took up most of my spare time. When I finally managed to contact the Academy, it was almost a year later and you had already joined the Maquis." Maiah paused, then added in a quiet, almost inaudible voice, "I did miss you."
B’Elanna tried not to show how much this unexpected admission astonished her. "Yeah, right," she said skeptically. "You called me a dishonorable half-breed, a coward with no honor, and you told me to get out of your house. I’m sure you were positively miserable once I was gone."
Maiah looked pained at these words. "At the time, I was angry."
"Angry? You were furious!"
"All right, I was furious," Maiah conceded. "And I stayed that way for a few days after you left. But after a little while my anger died down and I regretted every single word I had said to you." She paused, absently toying with a strand of her long red hair. "I didn’t try contacting you because I was afraid you’d refuse to speak with me."
"*You* were afraid?" B’Elanna exclaimed before she could catch herself. The entire concept was so ludicrous—as far as she knew, her mother had never been afraid of anything.
"Even more so after I spoke with a young lady who knew you, Patricia Brooker—she’s Patricia Mathews now, I believe—and she told me what had happened to your ship in the Badlands."
"I know. I saw her a few weeks ago. We—had an argument aboutyou."
"She thought I should contact you. I didn’t agree."
"Was that why you were so angry with Thomas yesterday?"
"Yes! Mother, he betrayed me. He interfered -- "
B’Elanna suddenly cut herself off, dismayed at the words she was hearing from herself. " -- just like I interfered when Tom and his father reconciled. He was trying to help, like he said, and I—I treated him horribly." B’Elanna buried her face in her hands. "And now this happened—he probably hates me."
"B’Elanna Torres!" Maiah spoke sharply. "You are not to blame for this, do you understand me? You heard the doctor said. As for Thomas, if he hated you, would he have spent the night by your side, refusing to leave until I all but threw him out the door so he wouldn’t pass out from sheer exhaustion? No, he wouldn’t have! Kahless’ bones, child, don’t be a fool!"
"What right do you have to tell me how to act and how to feel? You have no idea what it feels like to—to -- " She choked over her words and bowed her head to hide her suddenly tear-filled eyes.
"Oh, haven’t I?" her mother said, a forgotten anguish springing into her dark Klingon eyes. "Before you were born, I was pregnant with a baby boy. When I was five months along, I had a miscarriage. The human doctors told me that I’d never be able to carry a half-human child to term, but two years later you came along, despite their prognosis. My marriage to your father may have been a mistake, but you weren’t and I have never regretted your birth; never!" Maiah broke off suddenly, having revealed more then she had intended to.
Two pairs of identical dark Klingon eyes stared into each other, and both women realized that the pain of losing a child was firmly etched into their respective souls. The shared sorrow only served to strengthen the occasionally wavering but permanently intact bond that had always joined their hearts together, despite both of their refusals to openly acknowledge it. That bond had always been there and would always be there, no matter what happened or how far apart they were separated—and at that very moment, both of them recognized that bond as one that would last forever, albeit their attempts to forget it over the years. Now, however, wasn’t a time for forgetting. It was a time for forgiveness.
"Do you remember," B’Elanna said in a voice very near to a whisper, "when you came into my room, late at night, a few weeks after Daddy left?"
Maiah gazed at her daughter with wide, surprised eyes. "You were awake?"
She nodded. "You stroked my hair—and you called me your ‘poor,sweet little one’."
"I thought you were asleep," Maiah admitted, something like guilt creeping into her voice. "I didn’t know you could hear me."
"I’m glad I did," B’Elanna said simply. "Mother, I’m sorry. About -- about the baby you lost...and everything else."
"I should be the one apologizing," Maiah said gently. "I shouldn’t have said and acted the way I did when you were accepted to the Academy. Will you forgive me?"
"Only if you’ll forgive me, too."
Mother smiled at daughter, and both reached simultaneously to grasp the other’s hand.
Tom Paris chose to enter the room at this juncture. He stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of Maiah smiling and holding his wife’s hand. For a moment he backed up as though he’d entered the wrong room. He had been afraid that if he left the two of them alone for very long, conscious or otherwise, one of them would eventually maim or kill the other—hence his early return to the hospital.
"Thomas," Maiah said, releasing B’Elanna’s hand and glaring at Tom with her sternest expression, "I thought you were going to get some sleep."
"I did," he said, cringing visibly at the look she gave him.
Tom said, with a helpless gesture towards his wife, "I—I didn’t want to leave B’Elanna alone."
"You were afraid that we’d kill each other, you mean," Maiah said coolly. "Well, you shouldn’t have worried, Thomas. B’Elanna and I are two civilized adults and I think we’re capable of acting maturely."
Klingon though she was, Maiah had to stifle a wild burst of laughter at the bewildered expression on her son-in-law’s face. B’Elanna’s face showed no hint of the amusement that her mother was having trouble containing, but Maiah knew that it would be a long while before B’Elanna laughed or smiled again.
"It’s okay, Tom," B’Elanna said suddenly, lifting her eyes to meet her husband’s. "Really. It’s okay."
Tom swiftly crossed the small room and reached for her hand, taking it in his own. B’Elanna clung to it as though it were a lifeline. His other hand went to her cheek and caressed it tenderly, his thumb running lightly over her jawbone.
"I—I think I will return to my hotel room and get some sleep," Maiah said quickly, rising from her chair and backing towards the doorway. Her daughter and son-in-law needed to be alone right now, and she wasn’t about to stick around and, as humans phrased it, "play gooseberry".
"I’ll see you later, Maiah," Tom said, keeping his eyes fixed on B’Elanna’s face.
"Good-bye, Mother," B’Elanna said absently, resting her face against Tom’s strong hand.
The minute Maiah was gone, Tom’s arms moved to encircle B’Elanna and hold her firmly against his body. B’Elanna buried her face into the comforting warmth of his chest, allowing a few small tears to escape the corners of her eyes.
"Oh, Tom," she choked, grateful that what her mother had said was true—he didn’t blame her for what had happened. "I’m sorry. I’m so sorry."
"Shhh," he murmured, gently stroking her red-brown hair. "It’s not your fault, sweetheart. I’m just glad you’re all right. When I saw all of that blood -- " He broke off, hugging her tightly as though he were afraid that she would slip away from him at any moment.
They sat and held each other for a long while, neither of them breaking the stillness with words, but instead speaking in the silent language of lovers—a language that no one but themselves could hear or understand.
"Tom," B’Elanna said suddenly, her voice muffled against the fabric of his shirt, "you were right. About Mother and I. For once in our lives, I think we’re friends. Just now, she was so sympathetic and understanding—oh, Tom, she was so motherly! You were right about everything. I’m sorry I was angry with you. I should’ve listened."
"Well, now we’re even," Tom consoled her. "You reunited me with my father and I reunited you with your mother." The sudden irony of the entire situation caused him to chuckle slightly. "We’re not exactly storybook families, are we?"
"No, I guess not," B’Elanna admitted, snuggling deeper into his arms. "But everything’s going to be all right now, I think."
"I don’t think," Tom told her, placing a tender kiss on her cheek and resting his chin on the top of her head. "I know."
EPILOGUE: FOUR MONTHS LATER
"So," Maiah Torres asked through the commlink that connected herself, on the Klingon homeworld, to her daughter on Earth, "Voyager leaves in two weeks?"
"Right," B’Elanna Paris answered, obvious excitement filling her voice. "She’s been completely overhauled and restored to mint condition, and she’s ready to go."
"‘She’?" Maiah teased lightly. "You still speak of that ship as if it’s a real person. Thomas does it quite often, or so I’ve noticed."
B’Elanna grinned. "So does everyone else. Voyager was our home for five years, and I guess we became attached to her. Mother, if you could see her, you’d begin to feel the same way. She’s not just a ship, she’s a—a presence. She has a soul."
"A ship? With a soul? Dap, puqbe’!"
B’Elanna shook her head and chuckled. "Oh, Mother." While a few years ago her mother’s obstinate opinions might have irritated her, now she actually found them amusing.
"Have the rest of your friends arrived on Earth yet?" Maiah said.
"Neelix was the last to arrive, and he came yesterday," B’Elanna said, smiling at the memory. "We had dinner together last night. None of them have changed except for Seven of—excuse me, Annika Hansen— and I barely recognized her! actually learned how to smile, believe it or not. But Captain Janeway, Chakotay, Harry, Neelix, the doctor— all of them are the same as ever—and I’m glad. I wouldn’t want any of them to change."
"Did they know about....what happened? I mean, about the baby?" Maiah said, her tone gentle.
After a brief pause, B’Elanna answered, "Yes." A tiny, almost undetectable sliver of pain was hidden in her calm voice. Although it had been four months since her miscarriage, both mother and daughter knew that that particular wound would never completely heal. "Tom saw Harry a few weeks after I got out of the hospital, and told him what happened. Harry told the others." In truth, B’Elanna was glad her friends knew. It made conversation a lot less awkward.
"That’s good." Maiah understood how she felt. "Have you received official orders from Starfleet yet?"
"Yesterday, actually. I have to admit, it was strange seeing ‘Lieutenant B’Elanna Paris’ after answering to ‘Professor Paris’ for all of these months."
"My daughter, the teacher," Maiah said, smiling in amusement. "I still wonder how you had the patience for it."
"Academy students are surprisingly well-behaved...unless they’re like I was," B’Elanna said, her eyes dancing. "Luckily, I know how to handle those particular ‘problem children’."
"Oh, B’Elanna, you were never a problem child. A bit temperamental, perhaps, but never a problem child."
"Tell that to my elementary school principal."
The two women shared a moment of laughter. "Well, I suppose I’d better let you go," Maiah said, a bit reluctantly. "I’m sure you have much to do before you leave."
"Oh, I do—wait a moment, I almost forgot why I called you in the first place!" B’Elanna exclaimed. "I have some good news for you. Guess what it is."
"B’Elanna, I detest guessing games."
"Oh, come on, Mother. Humor me for once. Please?"
"Oh, all right." Maiah paused and thought for a moment. "You’re coming to visit Qo’noS?"
"No, guess again."
"Thomas was promoted to Commander?"
"*You* were promoted to Commander?"
"Not that, either."
"Well, B’Elanna, tell me!" Maiah said impatiently. "I give up. What is it?"
B’Elanna’s eyes sparkled as she gazed at her mother through the screen of the console, aware of the distance that separated them but suddenly feeling very close to her. "Maiah Torres...you’re going to be a grandmother!"