Lines in the Sand IV, part VI
B'Elanna is awake and feisty, bickering with the Doctor, when I enter. She smiles at me, a full-force, radiant smile.
"You must be feeling better," I say.
"Much better," she beams. I lean over and give her a kiss on the cheek.
"I can attest to that," the Doctor says. "She has been complaining for hours. I tell you, I've never had a more miserable patient than Lieutenant Torres."
"That doesn't surprise me," I grin at B'Elanna. "Hey, Doc, can you give us a moment? I need to talk to B'Elanna."
"Something wrong?" B'Elanna asks. She is sitting up on the biobed, knees drawn to chest, and I notice that she is wearing drab brown - the same colors she wore as a Maquis operative. After all these years together, I know that B'Elanna looks best in red; after all, red is the only color that can compete with my firebrand wife.
"You might say that," I tell her. Quickly, I relate to her the story Janeway spun so eloquently for me. B'Elanna listens in rapt attention, her chin resting in her palm. When I finish, I look at her for some measure of shock, but she shrugs.
"What?" I ask. "What does that expression mean?"
"I was there, Tom," she says. "I know what happened."
"How come you never said anything?"
"Because I didn't know his name," she says in exasperation. "Eddington did all of the talking and he and Chakotay actually worked out the details. I was just there in case anything happened to the ship. I wasn't even in the room when the discussions were going on. Can you imagine if I were the one doing the negotiations? The outcome would have been much worse if they had let me into that room."
I nod. B'Elanna as a negotiator? Wouldn't happen. She's too hot-tempered, too quick to jump to conclusions and prone to leaping across tables and grabbing unsuspecting victims by the throat; some, like me, might enjoy being throttled by B'Elanna, but others would call her diplomatic efforts attempted murder.
"I can't believe you never told me," I say.
"It never came up."
"For God's sake, B'Elanna. This was important. How could you keep it from me?"
"Because it never worked. It was a deal that fell through. I never kept anything from you. What did you want me to do? Go to Chakotay and say, `hey, who was that guy you dealt with back when we thought Starfleet might help?' It didn't matter, Tom, so I didn't ask. Besides, in the Maquis, the less you knew, the better."
"I don't believe my father would do such a thing. I don't believe he would lie to women and children and then turn his back on him. That's not like him."
"Well, why don't you ask him?" B'Elanna asks.
"Because he's dead."
B'Elanna recoils. "Tom, I-I'm sorry. I- I didn't know."
"Died in the explosion," I tell her. "He didn't get off the starbase in time, but he did get you off. I suppose I should be grateful for that."
"What are you talking about?" B'Elanna gets off the biobed and waits a second, steadying herself, before she takes my hand. "Tom, this is important. Talk to me."
"I am talking to you now. He didn't get off, but he somehow forged a release order to get you, Chakotay and the others off of the starbase prior to the explosion."
"That's not what I meant," she says quietly. "Tom, are you all right?"
"I'm fine," I tell her briskly. "Nothing a beer or two and some cartoons won't take care of."
"Don't be ridiculous," she snaps. "Your father died. It's natural for you to feel something. Damn, even I felt something when I went to gre'thor and realized my mother might be dead. You lost a parent-"
"Now you sound like the Captain. Why the hell are you all always trying to get me to talk about how I feel? Damn, I'm tired of that!"
"Are you yelling because you're angry at me or with your father?"
"Sorry," I calm down immediately. "I'm not mad at you. I'm sorry. I- I just don't want to believe what they told me and-"
"Why can't you, Tom? You know Chakotay and the Captain wouldn't lie to you."
"But there has to be some reason why. Why? That's what I don't understand. If I knew why, maybe I could reconcile myself to this - to knowing this thing about my father."
B'Elanna runs her hand up and down my arm. Her touch is light and welcome. I realize how much I've truly missed her over the last week. And it's not just the fact I've been waking up without her days, it's more of breathing her in, hearing her voice, seeing her eyes light up in that way meant just for me. I wrap my arms around her and she buries her head against my shoulder.
"I don't want my final memory of my father to be one that is so... negative," I tell her quietly.
"Why do you feel the need to redeem him?" B'Elanna asks reasonably. It takes me a long time to compose an articulate answer in my mind.
Until this very moment, I hadn't thought there might be a reason for my need to know why my father would have done something so contrary to his beliefs.
"Because it's something I would have done," I tell B'Elanna frankly. "Make a promise for my own gain and then renege on it. God, you don't know how many promises I've broken in the past. I think a part of me wants to be... redeemable?"
B'Elanna pulls away from me and cups my cheek in her hand.
"And you don't think you are?" her voice is scarcely above a whisper. "Tom, no. Please. Don't think like that. No. I hate it when you do that to yourself."
"You don't count; you're biased."
"I think I do count," she leans in for a soft flutter of a kiss. "If nothing else, you, you redeemed me."
I run my fingers through her hair and kiss her gently on the forehead, cheeks, and lips. God, how I've missed her. Missed this. In a way, with B'Elanna right here, maybe all of this doesn't matter; maybe everything I've been fighting against, well, maybe it's time to surrender.
"Yeah?" I whisper.
"Yeah," she says, smiling at me. "Yeah."
I gently disentangle myself from her arms.
"I'm leaving, B'Elanna."
"What are you talking about?"
"Voyager is on its way to rendezvous with the Delta Flyer. We're setting a course for San Francisco."
"I want to come with you."
"I'm afraid you can't. Chakotay wants you to stay."
"Chakotay thinks you were brought here for a reason, B'Elanna, and he could be right. I- I don't want anything to happen to you. Please, stay here."
"I almost died on this planet," she says. She moves her arm gingerly. "And you want me to stay here?"
"The Doctor has synthesized an antidote for the virus; you should be fine."
"I don't want you to be alone, Tom, not after everything that has happened."
"I'll be fine."
"I should be with you."
"I have Harry."
"Harry, right. Are you comparing me to Harry?"
"There's no competition, B'Elanna, believe me. I'll be fine. Please, stay here until we get everything figured out. I promise, as soon as we find out what's going on, I'll come and get you. I promise."
She looks at me contemplatively and I reach to squeeze her hand.
"I'm being selfish, B'Elanna," I tell her. "Chakotay seems to think you will be better off here and I want you with me. But at the same time, I have to acknowledge that given our circumstances... I don't want anything to happen to you, B'Elanna. So promise me you'll stay?"
"I'm worried about you."
know," I let go of her hand and squeeze her shoulder gently. "I...
and maybe it's better that
I do this alone? I need to be selfish, B'Elanna. Can you understand that?"
She bites down on her lip and nods. I sigh in relief.
"Thank you," I tell her. "You're wonderful."
"Maybe you should tell me the truth. Is there a girlfriend back on Earth that you don't want me to know about?" B'Elanna musters up the barest hint of a smile.
"What's her name? I should probably warn her that you're a pig."
"If you're going to do that, you might as well get it right. Tell her I'm an incorrigible pig,"
I lean in for a kiss. "I'll miss you."
"You know what I mean," I release her from my grip. "You do know, right?"
"Yeah, Tom," she says. "I know."
"Janeway to Paris."
"We're ready to go, Lieutenant."
"Right. I'm on my way."
I kiss B'Elanna one more time.
"I know you won't miss me," I tell her.
"Don't do anything stupid."
"You know me," I answer.
"That's what I'm afraid of."
"Computer, activate the emergency EMH."
The Doctor appears, wearing his usual dazed look. "Please - oh, Lieutenants. How nice to see you again."
"I'm leaving," I tell him briskly.
"What about me?"
"You're staying here," I answer. I look over at B'Elanna, who doesn't look back at me. "Your skills - they're needed here."
"You will come back?"
"Of course." I'm still looking at B'Elanna but she refuses to look back at me. At that moment,
"Lieutenant Paris," he says. "Are you ready to leave?"
"Yes," I tell him.
B'Elanna turns her back as we leave. I glance in one of the windows as we go past and I see her leaning against the biobed, one hand against her face. Tuvok looks at me curiously and I point towards the clearing where the Delta Flyer awaits us.
"Let's go," I tell Tuvok. "We're getting late."
time I stepped on Voyager, I felt a sense of awe that has never quite dissipated;
my ship never fails to amaze me and I wonder if this love affair of mine will
In our private moments together, Chakotay would sometimes joke about my obsession with Voyager.
"If it came down to me or the ship, which would you choose?" he asked one night, as we lay curled on the sofa, his hand gently rubbing the length of my thigh. "Or am I on dangerous ground?"
"Well? What's your answer?"
"You're still asking? Even after that warning?"
"I want to know."
"What about the crew?"
"If the crew didn't matter, would you choose the ship or me?"
"Depends on circumstances." I drew my finger in a circle across his chest. He grabbed my fingers and pressed them to his lips. "This isn't a fair question."
"I think you'd pick Voyager."
"For God's sake, don't be so ridiculous."
"I've seen the way you talk to Voyager," Chakotay said. He pressed his lips against my cheek for a moment before continuing. "There's a lot of tenderness there."
"We understand each other."
"It's a ship, Chakotay. You can't possibly make that kind of comparison."
"But you use a certain kind of voice when you talk to Voyager," Chakotay protested. "It's low, husky... the one which never quite makes it out of your throat?"
"This one?" I whispered. Chakotay smiled at me. He touched the side of my face, tucking a short strand of hair behind my ear.
"Yeah," he whispered back. His lips brushed my throat and then his eyes met mine as his fingers trailed down my cheek. "That's the one."
But joking aside, I did feel very proprietary about Voyager. I loved standing in the middle of the Bridge, taking a look around, and knowing that all this sophisticated technology belonged to me to command.
A bit egotistical, isn't it?
Allow me my arrogance, just this once.
I'm already fearing the worse on our return to Headquarters. In my nightmares, Starfleet will give Voyager to someone else - someone who does not quite understand Voyager as I do. Or they might even scrap her down for salvage, an unworthy fate for a proud ship.
So I take each step onto the Bridge as if it were my last and I memorize each detail, capturing each moment and freezing it in my faulty memory.
I note Harry, his round face eager and enthusiastic, but his eyes filled with concern; he stands at his usual spot directly behind my chair. Tuvok stands slightly off-center at Tactical. Chakotay's chair is empty. I could ask Tuvok to fill it, but somehow, it seems disrespectful to replace my First Officer so quickly.
at B'Elanna's usual station, her blond head cocked to one side, her eyes alert
and questioning. A couple lieutenants stand in the back, working busily; I'm
ashamed to say that I did not take the time to greet them when I returned to
Paris usually takes the Helm, but in a rare moment of emotion, he asked for some leave.
"Just a few hours," he said as we approached Voyager in the Delta Flyer. "I need some time to sort things out."
"Take as long as you want."
"I only need a few hours," Tom repeated firmly. He held my gaze firmly with his own before I looked away, feeling uncomfortable but not quite sure why.
"Granted," I said.
"Thank you," Tom replied with equal formality.
So, Tom sulks - or so I imagine - in his quarters.
I have half a mind to send Harry down to see Tom, but I get the feeling that Tom would not appreciate the gesture. Rather, a sympathetic expression from his best friend may shut Tom down completely. God knows if he won't share his feelings with B'Elanna or Harry, he'll throw himself out of an airlock before he talks to me.
So there you have it.
I am a woman with a ship. A good ship with a good crew, but seemingly at odds with the people who matter most to me.
Seven, however, is still speaking to me, as are Harry and Tuvok; for small blessings, I should be grateful. But I am very much like that grandmother whose grandson is carried away by a tide; upon his return, she thanks God profusely, but wonders at the loss of the child's baseball hat.
The viewscreen displays a star-map of our current coordinates; a yellow line plots out the best route to Earth while a red blinking dot signifies our progress. The helm officer - one Ensign Pablo Baytart - navigates expertly and without any sign of strain or nervousness.
Baytart is an excellent pilot, competent, and generally good-natured. But despite these obvious attributes, I miss Tom at the helm. In a moment of tension, I can always count on Tom to whirl around in his seat and deliver a wisecrack. Right now, I could really use someone with a sense of humor on my bridge.
Harry's questioning tone jerks me out of my reverie.
"What is it, Harry?"
"Incoming message from Admiral McArthur. It's marked confidential."
"I'll take it in my Ready Room."
"Sending it now."
In my Ready Room, I first get a cup of coffee and then settle myself comfortably in my chair. I bring up my small view screen and after a few moments, I'm greeted with the rather perturbed expression of Rodney McArthur.
"Kathryn, there have been questions about your activities," he begins.
"It's good to see you too," I tell him.
"I've defended you as much as I possibly can."
"What's going on? Who's saying what?"
"They know about your visit to Alonius Prime."
"I didn't think that would stay a secret from long. Starfleet is better at surveillance than it wants to admit."
"You have a lot of explaining to do when you get here."
"Let's keep it simple, all right? I wanted to check on my people."
"They are Maquis traitors."
"To you, not to me."
McArthur, in his sterile Starfleet office, leans forward, almost so close that his nose is uncommonly large; I resist the urge to smile. McArthur jabs his finger at the screen.
"You have to choose, Kathryn," he says. "Loyalty to us or loyalty to them."
"You can't be serious."
"The Maquis betrayed the Federation; some of them were even Starfleet officers. We cannot make exceptions in this particular situation."
"Are you sure you aren't spewing the agreed upon rhetoric? Or are you remembering the death of your son at the hands of the Maquis?"
"So you know about that," McArthur says.
"Yes. Chakotay told me."
McArthur looks away from the screen and then after a few seconds, turns back to look at me.
"A day does not pass when I don't think of John. I don't know what went wrong with my son, but I don't necessarily blame the Maquis for his death. I know they tried to help him, and for that, I'm grateful."
"So you forgive them for the death of your son, but not the actions they took to protect their homes?"
"You aren't going to change minds, Kathryn," McArthur says firmly. "The Maquis are universally reviled-"
"Why is that? Is it because the people in power perpetuate the hatred? Or are you just repeating the party line?"
"Don't take that tone with me, Kathryn," McArthur holds up a hand. "Look, I care about what happens to you. I don't care what happens to the Maquis. As long as they are on Alonius Prime, they are no one's problem."
"That's quite the attitude."
"It's an acceptable attitude," McArthur says. I sense from the tone of his voice that McArthur does feel some sympathy towards the former Maquis, despite his obvious reluctance to admit it.
"Tell me," I say. "Whose idea was it to move the Maquis to Alonius rather than keeping them in a standard penal colony?"
"I can't say for sure. There was a committee."
"Were you on the committee?"
"Anyone else I would know?"
"Owen Paris, of course."
"Of course," I say. "Tell me, how well did you know Owen Paris? Because apparently, I didn't know him at all."
"What are you talking about?"
I quickly fill him in on the conversation I had with Paris back on the starbase and then the subsequent discovery of Paris' diplomatic efforts - if you can call them that - with the Maquis. McArthur settles back in his chair and blinks a few times.
"I had no idea," he says flatly. I offer him my best poker face even though I suspect that my old mentor is blatantly lying to me.
"From what I gather, Commander Chakotay was the only one who could really reveal Owen Paris' part in the scheme," I tell McArthur. "When I talked to Paris, he told me that you weren't part of the scheme, but I think he was lying to protect you. I think you're lying when you say you don't blame the Maquis for your son's death. I think you engineered the destruction of a starbase, to protect yourself, Admiral Paris and others. You intended for all the Maquis to die, didn't you, as revenge for your son's death? You stalled because you wanted Owen Paris to approve of your actions. You wanted him to come and qualify your actions. And even though he agreed, he still managed to evacuate the Maquis without your knowledge. That's what I think happened. What do you say, Admiral?"
"What you're saying is ridiculous!"
"Are you denying it?"
"What you're accusing me of is preposterous."
"I have proof, Admiral. One of my officers, Seven of Nine-"
I glare at the Admiral. "She is human, sir, just like you and me."
The Admiral holds up a hand. "You do understand that there is some trepidation regarding this drone-"
"We call her Seven, sir," I tell him coldly. "I request you do the same."
McArthur fiddles with some buttons on his viewscreen and then he looks back at me.
"What were you saying about proof?" he asks. His voice shakes, but I refuse to feel any sympathy for my former mentor.
"As I was saying, Seven has run several simulations of the events leading to the core meltdown. I'll ask her to upload her findings to you, along with some of the logs she has compiled regarding the accident. I believe the evidence will show that you activated the process which eventually led to an overload of the central core and the destruction of the starbase."
"You're accusing me of attempted murder," McArthur says. "We've known each other for years now, Kathryn. You must know that what you're saying isn't true."
I know what kind of man you were." I lean forward in my chair. "Seven
years ago, I was sure of everything and now, I realize I was deceived. Even
in the Delta Quadrant, I held fast to ideals that you and Admiral Paris apparently
abandoned long ago. People died in that explosion.
I can give the families of the dead the answers they need."
McArthur rubs his hand across his eyes.
"You don't want to do this," he says. "You'll destroy my career and smear the reputation of a dead man with baseless accusations. How do you even know Chakotay is telling the truth?"
"He has no reason to lie to me."
"You won't be able to prove any of this."
"I don't need to," I answer. "And I don't want to. You forget Paris' son is a member of my crew. I have no desire to taint his father's memory with accusations. And I've always admired Owen Paris. I would rather keep this information to myself. And Admiral, I don't want to ruin your career. I only want my people to be treated fairly."
"I'd like to see the logs," McArthur says.
"Will you destroy them?" I ask.
"Destroy the information?"
"Come now, Admiral," I lean forward and for a split second, I wonder if my nose appears as large to the Admiral as his did a few minutes ago. "If I give you the results of Seven's investigation, will you destroy it?"
"I only want the truth, Kathryn."
"Don't you already know it?" I ask sardonically. McArthur looks back at me sadly.
"You've spun a fantastic theory. Truly ingenious and creative, but it's not true. I did not order the destruction of the starbase. And I was never involved in the Maquis scheme; Owen Paris was not lying to you when he said that."
"You didn't answer my question. What about the data integrity?"
McArthur nods then.
"Fine," he says. "You have my word; your data will be safe with me. I have nothing to hide and your analysis will prove that."
"If you say so. I'll have Seven begin the transfer with the hour."
"Now, Kathryn," McArthur says. "There are some who think your actions in the Delta Quadrant are indefensible-"
"I say they were necessary."
"I don't believe there will be a court martial."
"What are you talking about?"
"Would you resign quietly? Or take a demotion?"
"You can't be serious. A few days ago, you offered me another commission."
"That was before your little jaunt to Alonius Prime. Kathryn, you ruined whatever little standing you had had. I fought for you, really I did, but there are none, save me, who would willingly give you another ship to command."
"Are you telling me my career is over?"
"I'm saying that you made a mistake."
"I wanted to know about my people. What's so wrong with that?"
"I refuse to talk in circles with you."
I note that McArthur looks tired, looks old; his shoulders slump, and he rests most of his weight on his forearms. I'd like to take pity on him, for old time's sake, but the coldness in me prevents me from sympathizing in any way.
"And here we were expecting a hero's welcome," I tell him bitterly. "For all the trouble it has been to return home, we should have stayed in the Delta Quadrant. At least there, we knew we couldn't trust anyone."
"I am sorry," McArthur says. I simply shrug.
"I'll see you in San Francisco," I tell him. "Janeway out."
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