Written by: T'Kalara
Spring, 1998 8th grade
Author's Note: as before, all character's are Paramount's, but the story is mine. This was written as a sequel to 'True Love' (actually beginning partway through the story), but can be read separately.
* * * *
It was 2400 hours ship's chronometer, and B'Elanna Torres-Paris stood looking out of the viewport in her quarters. Their quarters, which she had shared with her husband Tom for the past eight months. She felt a twinge, and gazed down at her abdomen, swollen with pregnancy. Baby must be kicking she thought with a smile.
"Be', come back to bed. You'll catch a chill or something in that flimsy piece of cotton." With a small sigh of annoyance, B'Elanna turned to see Tom sitting up in bed, with an expectant look on his face. His wife walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed.
"Tom, have you ever wondered what it will be like once our daughter is here?"
"Noisy, Be', noisy. Now come back and sleep some more. You know how tired you get. Plus, your shift starts at 0830."
Smiling with resignation, B'Elanna slid down and curled up on her side, feeling Tom hold her close. She loved the way it felt to be in his arms. Beneath his saucily confident and cocky exterior, he was vulnerable. That's part of why she loved him, because of his tenderness and compassion. Mistakes or no, they were in the past, and properly repented.
Devotion to her heart's feelings had led her to the happiest day of her life, when she walked down the aisle. She remembered her snowy silk dress with it's form-fitting bodice and pearls, the almost indiscernible weight of the veil. And most of all, Tom's eyes as they said their vows. A month later, she saw her own joy reflected there, when she announced she was pregnant.
Luckily, the Doctor told her that she had been spared morning sickness because of her Klingon half. All Klingon women merely experienced slight cramping in the belly, for they would not have been able to go into battle, nauseated and fatigued. Shutting her eyes, B'Elanna felt her stomach turn over in anticipation. Within a week, the Doctor said, her baby would be born.
Closing her eyes, she also remembered Kathryn and Chakotay's wedding. As maid of honor, she privately knew that honor really suited the position. Kathryn had taken her under her wing when she had first come aboard Voyager, and now this. A feeling of satisfaction surged up inside of her, as she thought of how Tom had helped the two get together.
Before she knew it, the computer awakened B'Elanna, at 0730 as she had requested. She rolled over, noting the absence of Tom, and the sound of running water. B'Elanna never did understand his affection for a water instead of sonic shower. Standing up, her thin cotton gown falling to her knees, she surveyed their quarters. Breakfast was laid out on the table, a good portion of it already eaten by her husband. At least she could pick up something later in the Mess Hall if she got hungry.
A stretch and a look over the shoulder confirmed that Tom had gotten out of the bathroom, and came up behind her, giving her a quick embrace. "Where's my morning kiss, Be'?" was his playfully whispered question. For a response, he was knocked backwards onto their bed, and she smothered him with kisses. Both were hesitant to break away when his commbadge beeped.
"Don't they ever know when not to call?"
"Apparently not, Helmboy. Must be important."
"Tom, sorry to disturb you and B'Elanna," Kathryn was on bridge duty then, "but I'm calling a staff meeting."
"Sorry, love. I guess we'll have to resume this later. Better get dressed fast, or Harry'll wonder why we're late."
"I'm getting dressed, okay? Hand me my uniform, the clean one hanging in the front of the closet. Yeah, that one."
Five minutes later they stepped over the threshold and into the conference room. Slipping into their customary positions, each smiled slightly. Kathryn noted this, and resigned to make this on short meeting.
* * * *
About a month later, the happy couple sat in their quarters, playing with little Kathryn Zyala. Only three weeks old, but with tremendous lung capacity, she looked even less Klingon than her mother did. Her brow ridges were less defined, eyes a piercing blue-gray like Tom's, which always reminded B'Elanna of the skies over a stormy sea.
The door chimed, and Tom went to answer it. His wife scowled slightly. "Love, I just had a baby! I'm not an invalid!" Nevertheless, he palmed open the door. Kathryn and Chakotay stepped in, Kayla Laurel cradled in her mother's arms.
"Hello, Zya! B'Elanna, Tom, just came to compare notes, and to see how things are going. Oh, B'Elanna, why don't you come with me for a walk?" B'Elanna caught the look in Kathryn's eyes, and leaving Kayla and Kathryn in the able care of their fathers, the two women walked down the corridor.
"Kathryn, why do I get the feeling you called me out here just so tom and Chakotay could talk?"
"Well, you were right about that. I sort of sensed what Chakotay wanted to do on this visit was to discuss fatherhood without his wife hanging around." At that, she grinned, and continued, "I suppose that this week off is starting to get to me. What about you?"
"I guess. Tom has been treating me like I'm made of glass or something. I keep saying to him that I only had a baby, and I'm not some kind of invalid. But I suppose you can't explain anything to a loving husband."
"Mmm. Now that I think about it, Chakotay has been acting like I'm a fragile treasure not to be provoked or injured. I liked it at first, but now…" she trailed off as they passed Sickbay. Starting up again, "Oh, and I had another purpose for this 'walk.'"
Groaning, "I forgot. Our weekly checkups with the Doctor." Both stepped through the door, to find Annika there, tapping perplexedly on the console. The young woman had a crease between her brows, and the distracted look of someone trying to keep her mind off the person she loved when he was hurt.
Kathryn and B'Elanna remembered this look, having seen it on each other's faces before. Peering farther into Sickbay, they glimpsed Harry lying on a biobed, a vicious blackening bruise along the side of his face, and a long cut over the front of his uniform.
"Annika, what happened?" questioned Kathryn.
Looking agitated, she replied, "Ensign Kim…Harry and I were conducting maintenance on a malfunctioning plasma conduit, via one of the Jefferies Tubes. We had just cross-linked one of the circuits, when the panel exploded, throwing out shrapnel. I blocked him, receiving most of the burn, which I was able to use a dermal regenerator on. However, a piece of bulkhead hit Harry. And now, if anything should happen to him…I would blame only myself…" At this, she trailed off, several crystal tears welling in those eyes that Harry found so captivating. And one broke free, to splash don her cheek.
B'Elanna immediately placed a reassuring hand on Annika's shoulder, as Kathryn moved to hold the young woman. Kathryn's uniform shoulder became wet with tears of frustration, but she ignored this.
"Annika, it's not your fault. I haven't been on duty for the past few days, and repairing that circuit board and conduit were on my list. Anyone could have been hurt. Don't blame yourself. Be there for Harry, now."
Jut then, the Doctor called all three over. Harry weakly reached up a hand, which Annika hesitantly grasped. A small smile touched his lips, and he slipped back into unconsciousness. Glancing over at his vitals, she was at least reassured that he would recover.
"Captain, Lieutenant, Annika…If you would please excuse me. I need to run a blood analysis. I'll get to your scans in about ten minutes." With that, the holodoctor stepped into his office.
Kathryn's subtle gesture to B'Elanna, indicating they should give Annika some privacy, was not lost on the youngest woman. "I would like to remain here a few more minutes, if you wouldn't mind, Captain, …B'Elanna."
Silent nods answered her, and she leaned over Harry, brushing a bit of hair off his forehead. His skin was slightly pallid, bruises starting to lose their swelling. As the other two women moved to the outer part of Sickbay, B'Elanna saw her place her hand alongside Harry's face, and a look of deep concern passed over her eyes, covering the tenderness there.
* * * *
A day later, Harry and Annika stood together in the holodeck, feeling awkward but exultant. Almost hesitantly, she slipped her hand into his, squeezing it slightly. His shy smile matched hers, and he moved over closer to her. It seemed to both that the perfect time to kiss was upon them…Bridge to Ensign Kim and Annika. Looking away, embarrassed over what was about to happen, Harry slapped his commbadge irritatedly. "Kim here. A problem, Captain?"
"Harry, I need you and Annika up here right away. There's a problem with the controls in Astrometrics."
A rueful look apologized to his companion, and he re-extended his hand, helping her rise. The next thing he knew, he was looking into Annika's innocent eyes, as she kissed him, light as a feather. Startled, yet pleased, Harry found himself kissing her back.
Now, Mr. Kim! You and Annika can have more time later.
Annika's cheeks reddened, as she reached over to close the still-open comm channel. "We are coming, Captain."
* * * *
Up on the Bridge, Tom was doing his very best not to fall out of his chair. "Mr. Paris, are you experiencing a shortage of oxygen?" came Tuvok's unflappable voice from Tactical.
"No, Tuvok. I'm fine. It's just that Harry seems to have a very good reason to close his comm channel, but he doesn't. And then she closes it for him!"
"Tom, please don't embarrass Harry. Or I might be tempted to tell him about when you and B'E-"
Kathryn was cut off as the turbolift doors swooshed open, admitting two very red people who were obviously avoiding meeting each other's eyes. It reminded Kathryn of how Tom and B'Elanna used to act when they came together into her presence. Harry and Annika exchanged a look before rounding the Bridge rail to stand by Kathryn's side.
"Reporting as ordered, Captain," said Harry, trying to cover his embarrassment with protocol.
"Harry, Annika, come with me to Astrometrics. There are some anomalous readings I need you to interpret for me." With that, she rose and all three moved to the turbolift. "Astrometrics," was Kathryn's command, and the lift jumped smoothly into movement. The captain couldn't help but notice that Annika's usual straight-ahead stare was faltering, and that the young man on her left seemed to have found something very interesting on his boots. Young lovers... came the fragment of an old Earth song into Kathryn's head.
They exited the 'lift, and continued down the corridor and into the Astrometrics lab. A great starfield map came into view on the huge viewscreen that surrounded much of the forward wall ahead. Annika's eyes immediately widened, and she crossed briskly over to the main controls. Tapping in a string of commands, a large red dot appeared on the viewscreen, marking a set of coordinates.
"Captain, Ensign Kim, I require your input," came her startled voice. Walking slightly behind Harry, Kathryn peered over Annika's other shoulder. With some amusement, she noted that the ensign had found something else on the control panel to look at, besides Annika's pristine face. She stole a look at the small screen as well, and her heart jumped to her throat.
"Annika, if these readings are right, this is a wormhole that terminates 50,000 light-years closer to the Alpha Quadrant!" Harry could not contain the jubilation in his voice.
"Let's not get our hopes up too soon," but even Kathryn felt exhilaration at the notion they could cut off several decades of travel! "I'll be on the Bridge, conducting all the necessary sensor sweeps from there. You two can, um, analyze further the readings."
"Captain, you can easily coordinate the sweeps from here-"
"That'll be fine, Captain. Annika and I will be able to take more readings accurately from here."
A puzzled young woman watched as her captain left, not noting her huge smile. "Harry, there was no reason why she should not conduct the sweeps from down here."
"Annika, she knows about us, well…I could tell that this is her way of letting us have time together. And there's no reason why we can't also do the sensor sweeps as well."
Not giving her a chance to reply, he hesitantly placed a kiss on her cheek. She had all the appearance of being surprised, yet pleased, and he could see the shy tenderness uncovered in her captivating eyes. Though she didn't know what compelled her, Annika found herself gathering Harry into her arms. He held her to him, and buried his face in that silky gold hair.
Things might have been worse when Tom Paris walked in. Well, not worse by much. Not only did he find his best friend in a compromising position, but also he now owed B'Elanna ten replicator credits. Never bet against her again he silently reprimanded himself. When he looked up again, Annika and Harry were working at stations on opposite sides of the lab. He grinned and walked over until he was within whispering range of the uncomfortable ensign.
"Well, Harry. Sorry if I disturbed anything. Didn't realize you and Annika were, well close."
"Tom, if you must know, ask Annika."
"Indeed, Lieutenant Paris. Ensign Kim and I are quite close. And, it is absolutely none of your business."
As the sandy-haired pilot's jaw dropped, he had the uncomfortable idea that he had been set up. "If you'll excuse me, I have a date with B'Elanna," he said glibly, doing a fairly good job of hiding the blush deepening over his fair face.
Annika looked at an equally stunned Harry Kim, and smiled that dazzling smile he loved so much.
* * * *
"Kayla, stop it! I don't have time for it right now! Please, put my PADD down!" Little Kayla Laurel had her father's data input in her tiny hand, waving it around wildly, giggling at his consternation. Just then, Kathryn sailed through the door, smoothly taking the PADD out of her grasping fingers, depositing it on her desk, and grabbed her husband's uniform back, and pulled him through the doorway into the main area of their quarters.
"Chakotay, you're off duty right now. Relax for a while, like before I have to go back on Bridge duty."
"Time to take a stroll on New Earth? We can leave Kay with B'Elanna."
"Fine, meet you there in fifteen minutes." With that, she closed their bedroom door and went to the closet, leaving him to pick up Kayla and carried her out of their quarter, and down to B'Elanna and Tom's. Kathryn chose a form-fitting jumpsuit in a forest green that set off the sparkles in her eyes, and reserved Holodeck 1 for their use.
Fifteen minutes later, both commanding officers stood side by side in a dense forest. Chakotay reached over, wrapping an arm about Kathryn's waist. His other hand reached into his pocket, removing a spirit stone. He flipped it into the air, waiting for her to take the bait, in the game they always played. As usual, her quick reflexes insured her perfect grasping of the stone.
Then came the tricky part, for he never knew what to expect next. The next thing Chakotay knew, she had lightly pushed him into the stream, and sped off into the forest like a gazelle. Sputtering with laughter, he chased after her. About an even number of times, each had won this particular little game. As usual, he soon lost her presence in the many trees. Sitting down in meditation, his spirit center led him to the stone, at the foot of a great waterfall.
That was when his wife sneaked up behind him, and once again left him wet. This time, though, he caught her arm, and pulled her in with him. Silencing her laughter with a kiss, the two very wet officers climbed out of the water. Kathryn checked her chronometer. A half an hour until they were expected on the Bridge. Enough time to dry off.
* * * *
BOOM BOOM the thud of percussive flares sounded the moment Chakotay and Kathryn stepped onto the Bridge. "Report," came her authoritative voice, assessing the scene immediately, that of Tuvok inputting commands almost faster than her human eyes could follow, of Harry bent in deep concentration over sensor readings, and of Tom, making quick course changes.
"Captain, sensors reported an anomaly off our port bow. However, we were unable to see anything on visual scans, or to find any trace of the anomaly using sensor scans. Moments later, though, Lieutenant Torres had the sudden inspiration to use percussive flares. It would seem-"
There was a flash of light in the middle of the Bridge, and Q appeared, sitting in the captain's chair, a bunch of wilted roses in one hand, and the female Q beside him, scowling deeply.
"Ah, Kathy, perhaps you could help us solve a little dilemma."
"Precisely," intoned his female counterpart. "Actually, more like a squabble about this irresponsible Q's behavior, going about endangering our child."
Kathryn raised an eyebrow at this so human version of squabbling that was so commonplace among newlyweds. Or newly-whatever-the-Q-called-it. And suddenly, in a flash of light, their son appeared, now with the semblance of a child of five.
Little Q ran straight into the arms of a startled Kathryn. Yet, his touch felt like a million pricks of fire, and she was thrown back into a wall. The female Q advanced on her downed form, shaking a threatening finger, "This is all your fault! If you hadn't convinced him," an accusatory finger pointed at the weary figure in Kathryn's chair, "none of this would have happened! Why, I'm going to-"
As her hand was about to bring itself down, Kathryn sat bolt upright in bed, sweating from anticipation in the dream that might have easily been reality. A quick check found Kayla asleep, and Chakotay at his desk, sound asleep over a stack of performance evaluations. She remembered a certain time when they had been reading over these together. Situations surrounding led to the first kiss.
Wrapping her husband in a blanket, Kathryn pulled on a fresh uniform, hung her gown back in the closet, and swept out the door of their quarters. A new day had brought itself about; much, much closer to the mysterious wormhole.
* * * *
"Harry, what is wrong?" Annika questioned of her companion. The young ensign hadn’t met her eyes for several minutes. Not that this was anything new. She herself had felt romantic inclinations towards him as well. No, this long silence had never before accompanied his almost boyish shyness.
"Nothing Annika," he tried to cover with a faltering smile, but she had watched him enough to know just how fake that smile was.
"Harry, you are not answering my question."
"Uh, uh…Oh! Look at the time," he said, pointing at his nonexistent chronometer, not realizing his gaffe, "I go on duty ion tem minutes. Gotta go. See you in Astrometrics in half an hour!" The sputtering, beet red Harry was out the door of Hydroponics and quickly vanishing down the corridor. Not towards the Bridge, where his duty shift began in tow hours, but towards Sickbay, where Tom would surely be.
Odd, this behavior. Yet, I can surely see how this works. Captain Janeway did say I could come and see her anytime I had a problem…Annika vanished down the corridor as well, in the opposite direction.
* * * *
"Tom? Is the Doc online?" Harry poked his head around the corner of the Doctor's office.
"Harry? No, he's been offline for about ten minutes. Anyway, you look as if you've fallen head over heels for a beautiful woman. Oh. Oh. Oh. It's Annika, isn't it? Sit right down, my young friend."
"Well, Tom, I think I'm in love!"
"Congrats! Now, go act on this before you think about it too much, and your mind talks your heart out of doing just that."
"Thanks, Tom! I'll, I'll, invite her to the party tonight!"
"The party I'm scheduling tonight. For the discovery of the wormhole."
"Well, Mister Timid has become assertive. Hallelujah. See ya 'round, buddy. Oh," continuing in an almost confidential tone, "I think she likes roses."
* * * *
"Come. Hello, Annika. What can I do for you?"
"Sit down, Annika. And it's Kathryn when no ones around."
"Kathryn…I am unsure how to proceed in my relationship with Ensign Kim." There. A blunt admonition if she'd ever given one. At Kathryn's encouraging nod, she blundered on, "I, I, I, I think I am in love!"
This stunned Kathryn. Sure, attraction, but love? "Annika, are you sure?"
"Yes. No. Yes. I don't know! He is so perfect, and when we are together, I am comfortable just being in his presence. Yet," a confused wrinkling of her brow, "I am new to these feelings. I do not know if he returns them, and, and, I wish him to!"
"Annika, the best advice I can give you is that which I followed: follow your heart. Do what it tells ther Yes, I know," at her confused look, "you may not even know what your heart tells you, but do what feels right. And, I think you and Harry need to talk this out."
"Thank you, Kathryn…you have given me much to ponder…"
As she abruptly got up and turned, a message light flashed on Kathryn's data receiver, and Harry's voice could be heard. Startled, the young woman stopped in her tracks, "My fellow shipmates, as you all know, the wormhole we have discovered could possibly bring us closer to home. Maybe it won't, but it's worth a shot. There is a party in holodeck 1 tonight. Oh, and…if possible, bring a special someone with you. Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to see you all there."
"Well, it would seem your paramour has things all figured out, doesn't he," said an amused Kathryn. Annika was knocked speechless. If this was all for her…
* * * *
Arm in arm, Kathryn and Chakotay, and Tom and B'Elanna walked into Holodeck One. Kayla and Zya had been left in the capable care of Sam Wildman, who would join them later with her own daughter, little Naomi.
Everything was abuzz with noise when Annika and Harry entered the holodeck. Kathryn had talked her into wearing a sleeveless long sky blue dress. She squirmed slightly, uncomfortable in such attire.
It had been a trying time for Harry to summon up enough courage to ask her, and in all her unknowing radiance, she was truly beautiful. He began to feel the tug at his heart that was Libby begin to dissolve. Yet, she shrank slightly from his offered arm, but took it after a moment's hesitation. They had drawn any exponential number of stares while walking down the corridors.
The scene conjured up was that of an open-air pavilion, set on a small hill that overlooked a rosy sunset. The brilliant, fiery rays were just dying out in this idyllic backdrop that set the mood. In fact, all the senior officers, save for Tuvok, who claimed he preferred the Bridge to this 'social gathering,' were there with their 'significant other.'
After a few awkward moments, Annika allowed him to draw her out to where other couples, including Tom and B'Elanna, were dancing. The lights dimmed slightly, and the music drifted out onto the breeze, its sweet melody blending with the night air. As Harry and his partner dance, he noticed Tom inexorably moving his way.
It came as a whisper, "Well, old buddy, are you happy? You've certainly gotten everything you wanted today."
"Tom, shut up!" he hissed back under his breath. Amazingly, Annika did not notice with her sensitive hearing. When he looked back, her gaze was riveted on his face. The danced in what seemed to both was a dream. And it was over all too soon.
This time, it was she who gently pulled Harry over to the edge of the pavilion. The stars flashed on their velvety blue background. "Harry, we must talk."
"You must be psychic!" At her small frown, "I mean, that's what I was thinking, too."
"I, I, I feel something towards you, inexorably drawn. I have never experienced this before, and-" she drifted off, unable to put her feelings into words.
"Annika, I feel the same way. It was written in the days of old," his voice took a philosophical note, "that when a man and a woman are drawn together by their hearts, it can mean only one thing."
She was aware of his closeness, of his deep brown eyes and raven hair. Almost scared to know what he would say, she continued for him "…and that is they were meant for each other. That they are in love." Her eyes spoke for her, and he could see the sincerity and depth of truth in them.
Heart pounding, Harry spoke, "Annika, are you sure? For I too think I am in love, but I would not push you into anything."
"It has been proven. You do not wish to hurt me, so I know that you care. I have read many documents pertaining to love; yet none can fully describe the sensations and thoughts. I believe too that if you did not love me, I would never hurt you."
Both fell silent fing moment. They were content to be in one another's presence, and failed to notice the identical, satisfied looks Tom and Kathryn were wearing. Gently she reached down and took his hand, and he didn't resist, but squeezed it slightly. Together, they set out down the path.
Five minutes later, with only the light from the stars to guide them, the pavilion far behind, Harry tugged her over. There he directed his eyes out to the horizon, where the last traces of evening were fading into night. A faint lavender glow disappeared on the horizon.
Each star in the sky shone as brightly as Annika's eyes. Everything she worried for seemed to disappear, and she concentrated on that inner voice she was now beginning to get used to hearing. It told her this wasn't a mistake, but the way to happiness, unpaved, full of hardship, but ultimately rewarding.
The notes of a song drifted over the warm breeze after a few minutes. He turned and looked back towards the pavilion, where he could just make out the figures of Kathryn and Chakotay, walking together. They arose and began the journey back to the others. All the while not a single word was spoken, for fear of ruining the moment. And none, they later realized, had been.
* * * *
Will men ever understand! ? ! ? ! ? ! fumed a frustrated B'Elanna. Not only had Tom not been more understanding when she took her shift off because she felt sick, but he wouldn't be back until much later, after a few rounds of pool in Sandrine's! Sighing, she pulled on her light cotton nightgown, and checking that Zya was sleeping soundly, and slipped into bed. The sheets whispered slightly, and a smug smile touched her lips. No, Tom would regret this. She would exact her payment, one way or another.
It was about two hours later that her husband quietly arrived in their quarters. Sam Wildman had come by about half an hour before, and had her offer to bring Zya to play with Naomi accepted, The exhausted, and frankly slightly under the proverbial weather B'Elanna fell back into slumber. Tom took a shower, sliding into bed beside her. He was asleep in a matter of moments. Little did he know, B'Elanna's silent promise had come true, though in a way neither one had expected.
He was awakened at 04.30, by the sound of retching. B'Elanna never gets up this early was the first thing that crossed his sleep-clouded mind. Then reality hit. B'Elanna didn't look sick when she reemerged. No, if she wasn't sick…no, but…His thoughts were confirmed when her smug grin belied the seriousness of her 'illness.'
He had guessed what she was about to say before she said it. "Tom, Zya's going to have a sibling in about eight months!" was her gleeful proclamation. And she was pleased at exacting her 'revenge,' seeing Tom open and close his mouth several times, looking incredibly like a fish. B'Elanna was impressed when her usually irrepressibly glib replying husband was speechless.
Executing a dainty barefooted pirouette, which ended with her lightly landing on the bed, she decided this was indeed as good a reaction as she'd expected. Better, actually. Not that pregnancy was a light issue, but well, with Tom like this…
The stunned Thomas Eugene Paris regained his senses before she could finish the thought, picking her up and twirling her around in his arms. "Be', that's great! We never planned this, but…surprises are always welcome, especially," his voice taking on a tender note, "Now I guess I have to be more responsible. Love, I'm sorry I wasn't more sensitive earlier."
"No matter. You couldn't have known. Anyway, I'm satisfied that you've been properly chastised," the light tone of her voice dispelled his uneasiness.
"Be', I swear during these next eight or so months, your every wish is my command! What do you want me to do? Clean up our quarters? Change Zya's diapers?" at her delighted grin, he wondered Now what ever possessed me to say that? "Well?"
"'Well,' you can do all that, and start massaging my ankles. They're starting to hurt. In addition," she added at his bewildered look, "you can run me a tub of hot water, with Klingon QlocH q'pA oils." Actually, she knew the scent of these oils mixed with water reminded him of wet hay, but they produced a satisfying steam.
Ten minutes later, B'Elanna sat in an overfull tub of extremely hot water, Tom grumbling and making his way out of the bathroom, pushing aside heavy clouds of QlocH q'pA steam. He thought he heard a whistling, but that might only have been his wife running a hand over the wet sides of the tub. Wait, no, this was something different. He peered outside the viewport, and saw a giant ship appear. Voyager rocked with the impact of an unknown weapon.
"Janeway to all hands: battle stati-" the intercom went dead. And now Tom recognized that whine; a power conduit about to blow in the room where B'Elanna was now pulling on her uniform.
"B'Elanna, get out of there!" he shouted as her turned and ran towards the door, "Get out of there now! The conduit-" he never finished the sentence. She came hurtling out of the door moments before the overload, which blew her into Tom, and both of them into the far bulkhead. Luckily, though a little groggy from the impact, Tom had broken her fall.
But he was now unconscious, a small trickle of blood coming from his forehead. She looked out the viewport, trying to find the source of the weapons fire, but no ship was there! Intercom was down. Dizzy as she was, the half-Klingon gathered her husband into her arms, and half-carried, half-dragged him down the corridor towards Sickbay.
There, she entered a scene of chaos. With Tom unconscious and unable to function as nurse, things were hectic. Only a few crewmembers were injured, but hose that were, were much more seriously than Tom. B'Elanna was forced to wait ten minutes, while other cases were treated.
The Doctor spoke softly as he ran his tricorder over the pilot's still form. "Minor concussion, no other head trauma. Be glad he stopped you from hitting the wall. From what I can ascertain from what you said, your trajectory would have carried you face first into the wall. Damage to you would have been considerably worse, possibly major head trauma. There," he added, finishing up running an instrument over Tom's head, "He should be back in shape in no time." A hypospray to the neck, blue eyes opening, "You two had better go up to the Bridge."
B'Elanna pulled his arm over her shoulders, supporting him while the last shreds of confusion fell away. She filled him in about what she knew: an unknown ship attacked, no major damage. They reached the Bridge by crawlways and Jefferies Tubes, because the turbolifts were down. All of the senior officers reconvened in the conference room.
* * * *
Voyager had been traveling at high warp for several hours, with no other traces of the mystery ship. All of the injured crewmembers had fully recovered, much to the high hopes of Kathryn. A lot of cleaning up was to be done, but that was hardly devastating.
Annika and Harry had also spent the past few hours in Astrometrics, analyzing sensor logs from the time of impact. Nothing. Finally, she sat back in frustration, for once her cool, serene front dissipating. "Harry, we have found nothing. All reasonable evidence proves this never occurred. Yet, I do not believe we were experiencing hallucinations, or that Lieutenant Paris' injuries were sustained by sleepwalking."
"Well, you're sounding quite a lot like Tuvok. Maybe I should be worried," he playfully teased.
"'No such luck,' I believe the saying goes." A wry smile appearing, "I would never be quite so stiffly logical."
"I'm going up to the Bridge and consult Tom. Don't go anywhere…" he threw a grin over his shoulder as the door swooshed shut behind him.
* * * *
"Tuvok, Harry, I want you to head an away team to the planet below. Sensor readings indicate a normal class-M world, and Mr. Neelix has found edible vegetation." At their crisp nods, she dismissed them, and concentrated on continuing her scans of the planet. Something was amiss, and she didn't know what it was.
Ten minutes later, Tuvok, Harry, accompanied by Neelix and a small party, stepped onto the transporter pads. "Energize," came Tuvok's even voice. Harry and the others found themselves transported to a lush paradise.
They stood on a bluff overlooking an emerald valley, with small spots of color their tricorders read as flowers. Harry wasted no time in finding a path to descend down to the valley. As they came closer, they could see a large stand of trees, and beyond, a magnificent waterfall. It fell like a sheet of crystal from high, rocky cliffs. At the bottom, it broke off into several smaller streams and a large river.
The landing party, besides Tuvok, Harry, and Neelix, was made up of young ensigns who immediately broke into smiles at this pristine setting. Only Tuvok remained wary, knowing that danger could appear at any time. Neelix knelt before a patch of plants with pale green stems and reddish-orange flowers.
"Alarian fireflowers! The roots and stalks," he was explaining to his curious companions, "contain many necessary vitamin supplements, and the flowers," he pinched one off and offered it to Harry for his tricorder to scan, "taste delicious. They produce a nectar sweeter than anything I've ever encountered."
"Indeed," Tuvok had taken another flower, running his tricorder over it. "I am reading large amounts of sugar, with absolutely no levels of toxicity. He pulled out one of the stamens, and cautiously tasted the drop of nectar forming at its end. "A pleasant flavor, I believe one would judge."
Harry sampled some as well. "Mmm! I've never tasted anything so sweet since those berries on T'Ralia IV!"
"You mean the dark purple berries that looked like grapes?" asked Ensign Leigh. She reached out and removed the pistil, licking the end carefully. "You're right!"
The landing party spent the next two hours below, gathering food supplies. Tuvok made half-hour reports to the Captain. "Tuvok, this sounds like the perfect place for shore leave! I'll start sending down the crew."
"And yourself, Captain?"
"I'll be down in a little while. Janeway out."
She sent down the first leave party, which included Chakotay. "Be careful, love. I sense danger, but I can't pinpoint it."
"Kat, I'm always careful. Except for when," a glint shown in his eye, "except for when I didn't see it coming and got wet." A kiss, and then, "Energize."
They arrived at coordinates down in the valley. All around, the landing party was gathering flowers, fruits, and tubers. Ensign Leigh handed Chakotay a fist-sized blue fruit. He looked around, and saw Harry enjoying one of the same. "Harry, I must confess I'm at a loss. I had no idea that Neelix found so much foodstuff."
"Oh, there's plenty around! You don't want to eat the skin on that; it's too waxy. I found out the hard way." A glimpse down at the fruit in his hand proved that there were several bite-marks. "Just twist off the top, like so," he demonstrated, "and the skin will split open.
Chakotay did so, and was amazed to see pure white flesh inside. He took a bite, marveling in the crisp, slightly tangy flavor. In the middle were piles of round black seeds. He noted that several ensigns were apparently seeing how far one could spit them. Sampling one, he noted a nutty flavor.
Neelix came running up, his arms full of pale yellow tubers. "Commander! I see you have discovered the pleasures of eating n'ragas."
"Excuse me, Neelix?"
"The fruit you were eating, is called a n'raga. Very popular in the outer Talaxian colonies. I also found a good supply of m'binda roots. If you bake them, I believe they can be likened to the taste of human…oh yes, your potatoes." He called over Ensign Leigh, transferring the roots to her to put in a growing pile inside a storage container.
"Dried m'binda can also be ground into a light flour. I usually use it as the crust for pies, with fillings of Alarian fireflowers and boiled n'raga."
With that, he bustled off, directing the efforts of the foraging party. In this time, several more groups had beamed down. These included Tom and B'Elanna, and unbeknownst to Chakotay, his Kathryn.
Tuvok had gone back up to the ship to direct everything. Kathryn took the chance to sneak up behind her husband, and push him face first into the stream, where many of the young people had taken he opportunity to wade or outright swim in.
By the time he had surfaced, the witnessing crew had begun to laugh, and Kathryn was nowhere in sight. Looking around, he saw her consulting with Harry, acting as if she was completely innocent. Grinning smugly, he walked up and dropped his handful of water over her head.
She turned around, pushing wet strands of hair out of her face. The others had apparently decided to ignore their blatant fun, that is, all except Tom and B'Elanna. Those two were plotting something, yes, Kathryn could tell.
In that instant, Annika beamed down. She peered around with frank curiosity, noting the wetness of her commanding officers with a small amount of amusement that they had probably inflicted this upon themselves. Harry carefully approached her, proffering a fireflower, which she took gently. He told her what to do, and she tasted the nectar.
All at once, she gave one of her rare smiles. He noted that she was gazing at something over his right shoulder. He turned, and broke into helpless, hysterical laughter, along with most everyone else. Tom and B'Elanna had been climbing one of the thick-trunked, tall trees. However, he was now hanging upside down from one of the branches, a vine and B'Elanna's hand holding it there.
The half-Klingon was taking delight as her husband struggled weakly to swing back up and grab the branch. At long last, she leaned over and hauled him up. Sliding lightly down by virtue of the trunk, she dashed off towards the high bluffs. Her laughter could be heard echoing through the trees.
Tom, blushing by now a bright red, chased after her. Harry turned back to Annika, who was still wearing that dazzling smile. Every time she did that, his heart melted, as if it were a wax candle under flame. Noting his attention returning to her, Annika returned to a more serene look. "Well, it would appear the situation will not be resolved for a while. Would you accompany me in assisting Mr. Neelix's efforts in gathering supplies?"
"Why yes, Annika. I would be delighted. How was the fireflower?"
"Quite," she paused, searching for the right word, "stimulating. It has a pleasant flavor, much like a stronger form of sugar."
Together, they made their way to the stand of n'raga trees, Annika sampling a little of everything. Each texture and flavor was new to all of the crew, but most of all to her. About an hour later, the supply containers and bins were overflowing with tubers, fruits, fireflowers, and other exotic foodstuffs. There was also a flat containing clippings of some of the plants, for growth in Hydroponics.
Chakotay and Tom had been exploring a chain of nearby caves as their wives were talking together. The Indian noticed some odd formations inside, resembling spheres, but forming on the walls. Running his tricorder over one, he noted a high amount of calcium deposits, and another unknown mineral. He chipped off a small amount, putting it in one of the sealable containers in his standard sample kit.
The helmsman had apparently also found an interesting feature of the caves. The walls shielded large pools of sodium-rich water. Further scans found simple organisms living in the suspended pools. However, the walls also contained large deposits of a mineral that blocked transport, making gathering a sample impossible.
There were also cliffs shrouded in darkness, unperceivable by the human eye. They did not show up on tricorder sweeps, and the unbeamable-through material also blocked Voyager's sensors, but not communications.
"Janeway to Paris and Chakotay, come in, please," her voice penetrated the silence like a dulcet chime.
"Chakotay here, Captain."
"What is your status? Voyager's sensors can't seem to penetrate the mineral deposits of those caverns you're exploring. We need you back up in fifteen minutes. There is a storm system moving your way, and I don't think you're going to want to be in the middle of a plasma storm."
"Of course, Captain. Can't have you and B'Elanna worrying, can we?" was Paris' glib response.
"No, Helmboy, we can't." Paris looked fully surprised because he had failed to notice that his wife was listening as well.
"We'll be up in ten, Captain. Chakotay out. Come on, Tom. Let's get back to the ship-aaaah!!!!!!"
"Chakotay!" Oh gods, don't step over that cliff too! Why didn't the precipice show up on sensors? No matter, gods, where did he go? "Chakotay, can you hear me? Where are you?"
"On a ledge about ten meters down. Nothing's broken, just can't get back up. Kathryn's gonna kill me!"
After a long time full of climbing and struggling, Voyager's first officer lay exhausted well away from the edge. Five minutes later, he and Tom left the chain of caverns, and found themselves in the full rage of a plasma storm. Like New Earth… "Darn! Paris, communications are down! We'll have to sit it out down here for a while, until the storm passes."
And so they settled down, intending to have an unwelcome extended stay. With this assumption, the Commander and helmsman were right. It would be hours before the storm passed, but something else, far different would come to pass as well.
* * * *
"Captain! I'm reading signs of the same unidentified vessel! It's bearing straight down on us, collision course!"
"Hail them, Mr. Kim."
Pause, "No response, Captain."
Tuvok's unflappable voice followed directly after, "They are charging a weapon of unknown strength or composition, I'm reading a massive energy buildup-"
"Evasive pattern Omega-chi, helm," all in one breath, "Shields up, arm phasers, disabling only."
WHAM. WHAM. The Bridge shook with the force of weaponry. "Shields down to 85%, Captain."
"Tuvok, return fire! Target their weapons array."
"Direct hit Captain, no damage apparent with disabling phasers."
WHAM. WHAM. B'Elanna's console in Engineering blew up in a rain of sparks. A piece of falling bulkhead hit her full in the forehead, and she dropped like a stone, Lieutenant Joe Carey catching her, ordering beam-out to Sickbay.
"B'Elanna, I need full power to the warp engines. Engineering, do you read?"
"The Chief's been injured, Captain. Carey here, attempting to feed power to the warp engines." Carey frantically stabbed at various controls at his console. "Ensign Leigh, reroute power from the replicator system to the plasma manifolds. Vorik," he addressed the Vulcan, "try shunting all extra power through the manifold, to the warp engines."
With a mighty surge, without waiting to set a course, Kathryn yanked the ship from orbit at warp 6 from her console. She sighed with relief as the explosions and impacts stopped.
"All stop, helm. Tuvok, damage?"
"Minor buckling of the hull, slight damage to deck 7, replicator systems offline. Injury reports coming from all decks, concussions and other injury from falling objects."
"Janeway to Sickbay. Doctor, how's B'Elanna?"
Down in Sickbay, the Doctor ran a dermal regenerator over B'Elanna's forehead, assessing the seriousness of her concussion. No bleeding in the brain, still unconscious, but that was to be expected. "Captain, I expect B'Elanna to recover from her head injury fully. However, please report down here as soon as possible."
Intrigued, Kathryn followed his orders. By the time she got down to Sickbay, all of the other cases waiting to be treated had been taken care of, and only B'Elanna's sedated form lay on he biobed. Entering his domain the Doctor immediately grabbed her arm and pulled her to the young woman's side.
"Doctor, why is she still sedated? You said she would recover fully from her head injury."
"Indeed, I said her head injury was fine. It's not that. Besides the bulkhead fragment that struck her head, one also blew into her abdomen at a high rate of speed."
"What do you mean? Oh, no…Doctor, you can't mean…Oh my gods, what will we tell Tom? Are you sure?" His look confirmed it, and his words drove it home.
"B'Elanna suffered a miscarriage about ten minutes after the injury was sustained. Physically, she id fine, but the psychological effects…We need her husband back here as soon as possible. Until then, I will keep her sedated."
Nodding, Kathryn departed. Oh, gods, how will Tom and B'Elanna survive? She knew that if she had miscarried, she would never be able to take it.
"Helm, best speed back to the Commander and Lieutenant Paris. I'm coming, Chakotay. Hold on…
* * * *
Half an hour later, Chakotay and Tom were sitting in Sickbay; the Doctor treating their mild plasma burns. Tom had his hands over his face, the anguish showing through. At long last, he said softly, "Doctor, please wake her up. I'll tell her now…"
The Doctor pressed a hypospray against B'Elanna's neck, and she regained consciousness slowly, giving her husband time to compose his features. A small smile spread across her unknowing feature. "Tom, love, you made it back safely!" She sensed at once that something was wrong, saying as much, "What's going on? Why do I hurt so much? Is it the baby?" His look gave all away. "No, no! I won't believe it! Our baby's not dead! Tom, say it's not true!"
He rushed to gather her into his arms, his tears mixing with her own. "I'm so sorry, Be'. The Doctor said he couldn't do anything. You miscarried because a piece of bulkhead struck you…I wish I could make this better. I hurt too, we can make it through this, Be'…Nothing will stop the hurt, but I can try…"
Kathryn and Chakotay walked up behind them slowly, while the Doctor drew away into his office to give them some privacy. The captain put a comforting hand on Tom's shaking arm, while Chakotay stood by, feeling as helpless as he looked. He knew he would probably not have Tom's strength if something like this ever happened to his Kathryn.
And so all four were in Sickbay for a long time after, sharing their grief and consolation. Completely drained of all energy, B'Elanna had to have Tom carry her back to their quarters, where she sat up all night with Zya, thanking the Powers for her first child, and praying for the lost soul of the second. All over the ship, no announcement was made, but news of B'Elanna's tragedy spread fast. Everyone sent up hopes and prayers to whatever powers they believed in.
* * * *
Yet, a month later, everything was back to normal, at least superficially. B'Elanna had recovered her sense about a day after the accident, and spent a week off duty in mourning. Tom's shifts had been shortened to allow him more time with his wife. Kathryn and Chakotay stopped by each day, checking on how she was doing lately.
Even so, after a month had passed, B'Elanna still went to tears at thoughts of what her child would be like then. A heartbeat would have been easily readable, the gender determinable. So much grief and anguish was unbearable then, and memories of it were still that.
Chakotay spoke to his spirit guide, and sometimes the mourning young mother accompanied him. Her animal guide soothed and quieted her sobs, assuaged some of her grief. Her unborn child appeared once, in the form of a small sparrow. At that, B'Elanna began to feel better, knowing the spirit would always live on, in her heart.
* * * *
"Harry," questioned Annika, "I do not understand Lieutenant Torres-Paris' grief over the loss of an unborn child. Perhaps you could explain?"
"Annika, I don't know that I can. Something about the connection of maternal warmth of mother to unborn child. Maybe I'm not the bet person to ask. True, it was an accident, but that doesn't mean B'Elanna won't be blaming herself for not preventing it."
"There was no logical way she could have anticipated it…I see now the wisdom of living each day to it's fullest." She smiled shyly then, and leaned over to look closer into the ensign's eyes. "And,' she continued hesitantly, "I would ask if you would accompany me to dinner tonight, at twenty-hundred hours."
"I would be delighted, Annika. Would you like me to bring the wine?"
"Wine? Oh, yes, that would be fine. Wear something, casual."
"Of course, lady."
"An archaic title for a woman of great dignity and bearing, actually a lot like how you are."
"Thank you for the compliment. And I hope I live up to those expectancies."
He smiled and took his leave. He couldn't spend forever like that, no matter how much he wanted to. His shift started soon, and there was no way he could neglect duty for his love. It was an uneventful day, and he spent half an hour preparing for dinner. He replicated a bottle of fine vintage E'llendrian white, pulling on slacks and a button-down white shirt.
She received him promptly, already on the holodeck by the time he arrived. Harry's breath caught in his throat at how lovely she was. A ruffle-sleeved white blouse over black leggings, her golden hair down about he shoulders…And to top it all off, a button-pearl pendant. Her manner was easy, words unadulterated by nervousness.
He found his palms sweating in anticipation. A plates and utensils on starched napkins at the table surrounded a pair of tall candles, all set in the guise of a small café. He sat down slowly, after pulling out a chair and seating Annika. Harry relaxed a little, anticipating that everything would be all right. And it was.
Kathryn and Chakotay sat together in their quarters, contemplating the stars as Kayla slept. B'Elanna and Tom had recovered from the pain, holding little Zya close as she slept.
* * * *
Far away on Vulcan, T'Pel and her grown children meditated, and she suppressed an illogical hope that her husband would return soon. Their grandchildren were growing up intelligent, just like their parents. She pushed a serene front over, and contented herself with one of T'Pau's philosophical sayings. The air is the air. What can be done will be done.
*'Young Lovers' as sung in 'The King and I'
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