Lines in the Sand: The Darkest Hour

By Seema

Note: Characters and places belong to Paramount, not me. No profit or infringement intended.Thank you to Liz and Maude for the beta reads, JEWEL mailing list for supplying the all important canon details and Kim for his technobabble expertise.


"Get us out of here!" Janeway calls as Voyager lurches yet again. The view screens show the minor explosions on the outer hull of the starbase and to our horror, we see four or five of the EVA-suited technicians floating away. "Harry, see if you can beam them in!

"I'm on it!" I yell back. "We're cleared to evacuate, docking clamps released... damn, there's something wrong -"

"What is it?" Janeway is at my shoulder.

"The deuterium exchange filter," I slam my fist against the console. "I'm unable to go to warp."

"Seven, get down to Engineering," Janeway says. "Tom, try impulse."

We can see a flurry of shuttles leaving the starbase and I hope that B'Elanna is on one of them.

"We're good here," I say. "We've got impulse."

"I hope that's good enough."

"It's going to have to be," I answer. I chart a temporary course away from the starbase, hoping that even though we're crawling at impulse, we'll have enough time to get away. That's going to be a hell of an explosion, one worth noting for prosperity, but I sure don't want to be around when the place actually blows.

"Harry?" Janeway asks. "What's the status on the transport?"

"Got them but the Doc says they were already dead," Harry reports.
"Apparently the explosion which propelled them off of the station killed them. Blew out their oxygen supply."

I shudder, remembering the time when B'Elanna and I were drifting in space, basically waiting to die. It's a terrible way to go; you get dizzy from lack of oxygen, your head begins to ache, and each breath drawn in grows increasingly painful as your lungs begin to gasp for oxygen. Eventually, you lose consciousness, knowing in those last lucid moments that you are going to die.

Janeway sighs and then looks at Tuvok who is sitting where Chakotay normally would be.

"Any indication of what happened?" she asks.

"No," Tuvok says flatly. "I am still running an analysis-"

"Captain!" Harry exclaims. "I'm picking up a wave - Tom, do you see that on sensors?"

"Got it," I yell back. "Compensating now. Diverting power to the inertial dampers."

"What is it?" Janeway asks. Voyager rolls and we all struggle back to our feet. I dust myself off before returning to my seat.

"Status!" Janeway bark.

"Shock wave," Tuvok says. "Apparently quite a large one."

"The station is gone," Harry reports.

There is silence on the bridge as we digest this information.

"Only a reactor meltdown could cause some damage," Janeway muses. "It must have been highly unstable from the beginning."

"Makes you wonder why they wanted us to stop here," Harry says.

"Harry, did you get any scans prior to the explosion?" Janeway asks.

"No, sorry," Harry says.

Voyager shudders as the another shock waves hits us.

"Harry, open all hailing frequencies. I want to talk to Admiral McArthur," Janeway says.

"Opening all frequencies."

It seems like eternity but only a few minutes pass before a wane Admiral McArthur appears on the view screen. He looks old, his brow furrowed with concern.

"Captain Janeway," he says. "You escaped."

"What happened?" she asks.

"Reactor meltdown," McArthur sighs. "I'm sorry about that, Kathryn."

"What about my people?" she asks. "The Maquis?"

"I believe there were orders to safely evacuate them."

"You believe? You don't know?" Janeway asks.

"It is my understanding that all prisoners were to be evacuated,"
McArthur says carefully.

"Were they evacuated?" Janeway persists.

"Unfortunately I won't know until the final count is tallied," he says. "We will rendezvous at Starbase 91. Is your crew all accounted for?"

"Except for those on the station, yes," Janeway says.

"Then you may proceed to Deep Space Nine for your new assignments. McArthur out."

The blue and white Federation logo replaces McArthur's face. I twist around to face Janeway, who is standing in the middle of the bridge, arms akimbo.

"Captain?" I ask.

She shakes her head, taking deep breaths.

"I can't help but think..." her voice drifts off. "Tuvok, is there any way we can find out whether Lieutenant Torres and Commander Chakotay were evacuated?"

"I will try to find a way," Tuvok says. "But I am not optimistic."

"New assignments?" Harry asks. "What is he talking about? Are we being reassigned?"

"Just me," the Captain says. "I'll be captaining the Dauntless."

"When?" I ask sharply.

"Effective when I get to Deep Space Nine."

"Don't you get any time off?" I ask.

"They needed someone right away. It's a deep space mission, two to five years."

"Haven't you already spent enough time in deep space?" Harry asks without a hint of irony.

"Yes," Janeway settles back into her chair. "How long until we reach Deep Space Nine?"

"Looks to be about five days," I report. "At warp five."

"Not enough time," Janeway says.

"Captain?" I question.

"There's something going on, Lieutenant, and I'm not sure what," she says. "We need time to investigate."

I look at Tuvok, who is nodding his head.

"If I take this commission on the Dauntless as scheduled, I'm afraid that the Maquis will be forgotten," she says. "Tom, what does it look like out there?"

"There is a solar radiation storm, magnitude several thousand kilometers," I say. "Going around it will add three to four days to our journey."

"Is that the best you can do?"

"Warp three adds another day or two," I say.

"Good. Do that," Janeway says. "Tuvok, any indication on whether Chakotay, B'Elanna and the others made it off safely?"

Her voice is crisp and clear, but it sends shivers of fear through me. What if B'Elanna did not get off of the station? What if she was there in the Brig, unable to get out? And I can only imagine her fear - seeing her in my mind, pacing back and forth, maybe even trying to disrupt the force field with her own body.

Things have not been exactly smooth for B'Elanna and me. Some of the fault lies with me, but blame also belongs to her; we're too busy fighting each other and we don't stop until it's too late. There have been times when I've wanted to throw in the towel, just walk away from her. But the good outweighs the bad and the moments we share are entirely too precious to let go of.

I want her back.

"Would my father know?" I ask, twisting around. "Could he tell us?"

"Hail him," Janeway says to Harry.

To our dismay, the view screen remains blank. My heart is nearly beating itself right out of my ribcage.

"Looks like we're experiencing some difficulties with communications," Harry says. "Our communications array was slightly damaged in that last shock wave."

"Send an engineering team to work on it," Janeway orders. "Tom, keep trying to hail Admiral Paris, anyone. I need to know what happened back there."

Then she chuckles lightly, "I don't suppose this was the homecoming any of us expected, was it?"

No one else laughs.


Cold. That is the first thing I feel as my eyes open. I'm lying on the bench, my hands still handcuffed behind my back. I sit up, notice the pilots up front, both talking in low voices. Chakotay is awake, but lying down, also on his side.

"Hi," he says softly.

"How long?" I whisper.

"I've lost track of time," he says.

"Where are they taking us?"

"I don't know. I asked again. They won't tell me."

I struggle to sit up. There are only two pilots. If somehow we can release our hands...

Chakotay glances at me.

"Don't even think it, B'Elanna," he warns. "It won't work."

"I'm going crazy!" I burst out.

One of the pilots turns around.

"Problem back there?" he asks.

"We're fine," Chakotay answers. "B'Elanna, don't."

His voice is calm, soothing. I grudgingly admit that he is right; no need to start anything here and now. I settle back against the wall.

"What about Voyager?" I ask.

"They tell me only that there were many casualties."

I close my eyes, bite lip, try hard to keep my emotion from bubbling up into something audible. I'm not used to crying. It's not something I do. When I'm upset or angry or sad, I grab my bat'leth and proceed to knock famed Klingon warriors into the next quadrant. I fight until I'm exhausted and too tired for tears to even squeeze from behind my eyelids.

"B'Elanna," Chakotay says. "They made it. I know they did."

I bend my head forward, still not opening my eyes. My stomach churns. I'll be damned if I'm going to be sick.

"I'm cold," I say instead.

"Hey, can one of you get her a blanket?" Chakotay calls out.

To our surprise, the request is actually granted and a blanket is tossed back to me. I lay down and awkwardly gyrate on the bench, trying to spread it over me. Finally, I pull the hem to my chin with my teeth. I look over at Chakotay, who is actually smiling as he watches my gymnastics routine. I finally settle on my side, since it's impossible to sleep on my back with my hands handcuffed.

"Better?" he asks.


"I know you're upset," he says. "But-"

"Upset doesn't begin to cover it," I tell him. "If Tom didn't make it, he'll never know-"

"He knows."

"No, he doesn't. All I do is fight him," I say. "We even fought on our wedding night."

"You fight because you're afraid to open up."

"I don't want it to be that way," I say. "I was going to change. Now that we were back, I was going to change for him. I might not get that chance now."

"Don't think that way."

"It might be better this way," I say. "He would have left eventually. You even think so."

"Tom wouldn't have left you, B'Elanna."

"Yes, he would have," I retort. "That's why you warned me away from him in the beginning because you know what kind of person he is."

"I see what you're doing," Chakotay says gently. "You're hardening your heart so that if he is dead, it won't hurt as much. You'll think he would have left anyway, and that makes it a little better, doesn't it?"

I think of my father, the man who forms the basis of most of my knowledge of human men. When I was little, I adored him. I loved the way he would pick me up, swing me in his arms and throw me up. I was never afraid of hitting the ground because I knew he would catch me again. Sometimes, he would run his fingers through my curls and whisper, "Who loves the Little Bee?"

And I would clap my little hands together and squeal out, "Daddy! Daddy!"

I remember other moments like the last time he took me for an ice-cream cone.

"Things change, Little Bee," he said very seriously.

"Like what?" I asked with all of the solemnity a five-year old can muster. At that point in my life, the biggest conflict was whether I should have strawberry or chocolate ice cream. In the end, I picked vanilla.

"Your mother and I," he said. "We both love you very much, but we don't love each other."

I remember just staring at Daddy, not really comprehending what he was telling me. He said something about moving to another city, that he had already picked out a new house.

"What does my room look like?" I asked.

"Well, you won't be coming with me," he said. "But I'll come and visit often. I won't be far. I'll take you to the zoo," he promised. "And when it's warmer, we will go to the beach."

My mother wasn't there the day my father left. I don't know where she went during those few hours when my father was packing up his worldly goods. I was his little helper, and every now and then, he would smile at me and say, "You're so good, Little Bee."

So I asked, "If I'm good, you'll stay, right?"

"I'll come back, Little Bee," he said as he gently disentangled me from his leg. "I promise."

And then he walked out the door, his suitcase in one hand and he only turned once to wave good-bye. I remember standing there in the doorframe, watching him leave and even when I could no longer see him, I stood there.

"B'Elanna?" Chakotay asks. "What is it?"

"Just thinking," I say. "About my father."


"I don't know," I confess. "Actually, I do. He and my mother, they
must have been happy together once, right?"


"But he left. I don't understand how that can happen. How can you love someone enough to marry that person and to have a child and then suddenly you're not in love anymore?"

"You have to understand what was like for them," Chakotay says. "The political climate didn't favor anything Klingon and for your father to have married one, that was an enormous risk he took."

"I'm afraid that will happen to Tom and me," I say. "I'm afraid that one day we'll wake up and realize we're not in love anymore."

"That doesn't just happen, B'Elanna."

"It did to my parents."

Chakotay sighs and leans forward. If he could, I'm sure he would cradle his head in his hands.

"Are you in love with the Captain?" I whisper.

He lifts his head, "Why would you ask that?"

"I just have to know."

"I respect her."


"Admire her?"


"That's all."

"That's all?"

"What do you want, B'Elanna?" he says in an exasperated tone. "My feelings for the Captain are irrelevant."

"Now you sound like Seven."

"I don't know why you're asking the question."

"Would you leave her?" I persist.

Chakotay shakes his head. He smiles, wistfully, I think.

"Not willingly," he answers and then he laughs.

"That's what I thought," I say quietly.

"Not all men are like your father," Chakotay says. "It's unfair for you to think so. In fact, you don't even know the whole story about why your father left. You have drawn conclusions but you could be so wrong. Has that ever occurred to you?"

I take a deep breath.

"I wrote him a letter," I say. "Before we ended up in the Delta Quadrant, I wrote him. He was in Mexico and I wanted so much to find out what had happened and if I was still his Little Bee. I wonder if he got it."

"When this is all over, we can find out," Chakotay promises.

The pilot on the left turns back to look at us.

"We're going down," he says. "Should be down on the planet in about twenty minutes."

"What planet?" Chakotay asks. "Aren't we going to a starbase?"

"No," the pilot responds. "This is where we were ordered to bring you. Alonius Prime."

Chakotay and I glance at each other; we know Alonius Prime well. It is an irony, maybe a planned one, that seven years after we launched our last raid from this planet, they have brought us back here.

"Welcome home," the pilot tells us.


It's funny. We spend seven years in the Delta Quadrant longing for the Alpha and when we get back here, the stars look exactly the same. Sure, there are differences. Constellations and galaxies are arranged differently and for the most part, we know where we are. There are few surprises here for us and the lack thereof is amazingly refreshing. It is, in fact, almost a bit boring.

"I almost miss the Hirogen," Harry says as he carries his tray over to the table. "It might be nice to see a Krenim or two."

"You're sick," I tell him. I put my hand to his forehead. "Primitive, but effective. You're running a fever. You can't be blamed for wanting to break bread with the Hirogen."

"You don't have sickbay duty anymore," Harry says. "So don't try to play doctor, okay?"

"Thank God for small favors," I answer. I pick at my food; it's all fresh. Since coming home, we've been blessed with an endless stream of replicator rations. I can have tomato soup, pizza and beer three times a day and not think about it twice.

"Not hungry?" Harry asks.

"Actually, I wouldn't mind a bit of leola root."

"I never thought I'd hear you say that."

"I never thought I'd say it either."

I push my plate aside, trying not to look at the congealing cheese oozing out of my grilled-cheese sandwich.

"I wonder where they are," I say.

"B'Elanna and Chakotay?"

"Yes," I look around. "It's been almost a day. You'd think we'd know by now."

"I'd like to think they got away."

"The whole thing feels funny," I say. "You know, I didn't even get to talk to my father."

"The Captain said he was proud of you."

"It's not the same. I want to hear him say it. I want him to tell me to my face that he is proud of me."

"Yeah," Harry says. "I heard from Libby."

"How is she?"

"Good. Not married."

"That's good. You think...?"

"No," Harry shakes his head. "Too much time. It wouldn't feel right."

"You're not going to try?"

"It wouldn't work."

"How do you know?"

"She doesn't even sound the same in her letter."

"I'm sorry."

"Me too," Harry sighs. "But I'm okay with it, mostly because I wasn't expecting her to wait for me. A year or two, maybe, but certainly not seven."

"Seven years is a long time," I agree. "It took me, what, two years to get used to being on Voyager? A year, almost two for B'Elanna to warm up to me? And then two or three years to get used to being with B'Elanna? It's funny. We're sitting here and it's almost like we're right back where we started. We're going back to Deep Space Nine and there are no Maquis on board. In another couple days, we could head into the Badlands and run into the Caretaker again. Then you'd get your wish. You'd see the Hirogen again."

"That was a joke."

"Not a very good one," I say. "Damn. I miss her."

We sit in silence for a long time. I'm thinking about the last time I saw B'Elanna. She was in the interrogation room back on Starbase 87, looking pale and a bit thin. I wondered then if she had been sleeping or eating properly. I knew she wanted to talk to me, could tell it by the look in her eyes, but they wouldn't let me go near her.

"She's my wife!" I yelled at the guards restraining me. "You have to let me talk to her. I just want to make sure she's all right."

As they dragged me out, I saw B'Elanna mouth three words to me and I hope that she saw me say them back.

"They got out," Harry, perpetual optimist that he is, says.

"Yeah, well, I can't think about that," I look back down at my food, now cold. "I've got to go, Harry."

Without waiting for his response, I get up and deposit my tray back into the replicator. The trip back to my quarters seems endlessly long, and on my way, I pass the quarters, which used to belong to B'Elanna.

Knowing she won't be in there waiting for me, I let myself in. The rooms still smell like B'Elanna and all of her possessions, including all of her Starfleet uniforms, remain where she left them.

The bed is neatly made and I note the absence of Toby the Targ. Flowers droop in the vase next to the bed; I had given them to her not long before we arrived in the Alpha Quadrant. Most of her cosmetics are still on the dresser and when I open the drawers, I find them mostly full.

The top drawer holds an odd assortment of objects, from rarely used barrettes to isolinear chips. In the back, I find a small black box. A holoimager. I pull it out and set it on the dresser, pressing a switch in the back to turn it on. To my surprise, it's a holoimage of me. I'm sitting on a rock, leaning forward, my elbows resting on my knees.
There is a bit of a breeze ruffling my hair. The holoimage of me turns slightly towards the filmer and says her name.


I do not remember B'Elanna taking this image and I certainly did not think that my unsentimental half-Klingon would keep a holoimage of me. Yet, here it is, tucked away with the other possession dearest to her heart - a phaselink coupler.

A pair of shoes, kicked off in a hurry, lie next to the bed. I put them in the closet, not really looking at the uniforms and nightgowns still hanging there. There are one or two off-duty outfits in there too, including the flowered sundress she had worn once to a holodeck party. I touch the soft cotton material lightly with my fingers and then shut the doors. Wherever B'Elanna is now, she won't need these.
I'm on my way out when I notice the PADD lying on the table. My heart beats faster. With my luck and knowing B'Elanna, it's probably nothing but schematics on improving the warp nacelles, but I have to think - want to believe - that she would leave a message for me.

I'm not disappointed.

"Dear Tom, I knew you couldn't stay out of my quarters. I know that because whenever you were gone on away missions, sometimes I would visit your quarters just to remember what you smelled like. Silly, isn't it? I don't know what's going to happen and it scares me. I've spent the last fifteen minutes packing necessities and it's so hard not to take everything with me. I feel like I'm leaving an important part of my life behind, including you. I have to believe that everything happens for a reason and whatever happens now, well, we'll just deal with it. And we'll deal with it the way we should have in the past - together. Tom, I don't have much time. Chakotay is on his way and I want you to know that I'm thinking about you. I love you. B'Elanna."

I sit down in the chair and rewind the letter and reread it. Again and again and again until the PADD squeals in protest. I look up at the ceiling and the back down at the PADD, my eyes blurring on the last four words.

"I love you. B'Elanna."

I rub my hand across my eyes. My throat feels scratchy, almost as if I'm been singing endlessly for hours.

I look around B'Elanna's quarters one more time. It feels like her, smells like and even has her style, but B'Elanna's not coming back.

I get up, PADD in hand, and leave.

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