Lines in the Sand, part II

By Seema

Voyager is in frenzy; there are countdowns and plans for a "Welcome Home" type party. Sue Nicoletti made this last suggestion and I could only respond, scorn dripping from every word, "You can't welcome yourself home. That doesn't make sense."

I could tell from Sue's expression that if such a party were held, I would not be invited. "That B'Elanna Torres," she would say in a kindly and sympathetic tone, "she's not really, you know, a party type of girl."

It doesn't matter; I wouldn't want to go anyway.

I listen to the conversations around me, hear the expectations in voices that rise and fall in excitement. Most talk about seeing their family and friends again. Even Harry, who has not mentioned Libby in years, is looking forward to seeing her again - even if the relationship isn't quite as he left it.

I envy them their anticipation, envy their nonchalance. I want that secure feeling of knowing that someone in the Alpha Quadrant loves me and is waiting eagerly to see me.

I have these fantasies of getting off of Voyager and running straight, like a little girl, into my father's arms. I dream that he will lift me and swing me around, my legs flying out behind me. His head will tip up towards mine and we will both laugh laughs that come both from the belly and the heart.

Tom sometimes asks what I'm thinking but this is one thing I cannot share with him. I'm afraid that if I say my dreams out loud, I am automatically setting myself up for disappointment. If I keep it to myself, it's mine, this crazy little dream.

It's amazing how fast time flies when you are dreading a certain event; it's almost like knowing the day you're going to die.

Heart pounding, hands shaking, blood racing - and the only place I can spend this extra energy is in the holodeck, fighting famous Klingon battle after battle.

I return to my quarters, bruised and utterly exhausted; there is no time to think of the Alpha Quadrant because sleep takes me to a place where, thankfully, there are no dreams.

We are close, so damned close, I can almost taste fresh pizza on my tongue. It's silly the things you long for and I'm sure, as soon as we cross into the Alpha Quadrant, my wish list will grow exponentially.

But right now, I'd settle for a slice of cheese pizza, a beer and a hot shower. I guess when you've been away for so long, you get used to doing without the things you would ordinarily consider as essential to your well-being as oxygen.

What we wanted most during our sojourn was contact with anyone who was not intent on killing us or stealing our technology or kidnapping our people; this wish has been fulfilled.

According to Seven's countdown, we are only five days away and the messages from the Alpha Quadrant are coming fast and furious, almost more than we can possibly read or respond to.

My father has written several times, each time reiterating his pride in me and how eager he is to see me again.
B'Elanna, however, has received nothing.

If it bothers her, she does not say and I do not ask.

We lie in bed, her body turned away from mine, her head resting on her clasped hands. Her body is absolutely tense but I make no attempt to touch her.

There are, in my mind, two periods in our relationship. There is "BC" - or "Before Cube" and then there is, "AD" - "After Deassimilation."

To the casual observer, there is little or no difference between the two B'Elannas, but I know better. Her temper is more controlled these days and she often is deep in thought, thinking thoughts I'm not allowed to know. There are times when I want to ask her what happened on that cube. I want to know why she feels the need to withdraw into herself at the times when we should be most intimate.

The B'Elanna lying next to me tonight is "AD" - utterly cold, stiff and scarily unemotional. Her arms are at her side, her hands balled up into tight fists and her teeth grind against each other as she lies there, silent except for the rasp of her breath.

Because I want to stay alive, I say nothing. I do not ask her what is wrong because she doesn't know the answer herself.

But I know. At least, I think I know. I think it has everything to do with the Borg, with what happened there and I know she hasn't told me everything.

I put my hands beneath my head and stare up at the ceiling panels. I have counted them in the past and know that there are exactly seventy tiles making up B'Elanna's ceiling. There are little dots on the tiles too, but my eyes aren't strong enough to count those. One day though, I'm going to find out exactly how many little dots there are per tile; it's amazing how little it takes to amuse me.

"Tell me about the house," her voice is muffled. I glance at her. It has been days, weeks even, since I had last discussed my plans for a house with her. At that time, she had seemed less than interested and suggested that maybe I should focus on reconstructing the Delta Flyer than dreaming up house blueprints.

"Where did that come from?" I ask.

"I want to know."

"Well, it's on the cliffs in San Francisco," I tell her.

"I thought the house was going to be outside of the city."

"Okay, outside of the city then. Maybe four or five kilometers out."

"That's better," B'Elanna rolls over so that she is now facing me.

"It will be perfectly square," I say. "And it will be built up around a swimming pool."

"A swimming pool? You never said anything about a pool before."

"Harry's idea. He and Megan were talking about pool parties they went to back at the Academy. I thought it sounded good."

The look B'Elanna gives me is positively crippling; I don't believe that she believes a single good idea can spring from Megan Delaney's head. But then again, that's the little jealous streak that pops up every now and then in my selfish darling. She'd never admit it, but she does get fiercely protective, clutching at my arm whenever either Delaney sister is around. Her grip, during those chance encounters, is so tight, circulation ceases, but I get the point and so does everyone else; I might as well have "property of B'Elanna" stamped on my forehead.

"Go on," B'Elanna says, an edge creeping into her voice.

"Uh, all of the rooms will open onto the pool patio," I tell her. "There will be an office for you, an office for me, kitchen, living room, maybe three or four bedrooms…"

"That's a lot of bedrooms," she says.

"I figure we might need them. Don't you?"

She raises both eyebrows at me; now I'm in trouble.

"I'm just anticipating possibilities," I tell her. "And there will be flowers, lots of them, and maybe even a fountain."

"It sounds beautiful, Tom," B'Elanna rolls over on top of me, the tips of her hair brushing my cheeks. She leans down and brushes her lips against mine. I tighten my hold on her, sliding my hands down her back, reveling in the feel of the silky material against my palms.

"Is there a reason you're asking?" my hands are pushing her nightgown up past her thighs.

B'Elanna lifts her head and meets my eyes. For the first time in days, I see that she is ready to be honest with me.

"I don't see myself living there, Tom," she says. "It's not that I don't want to be there, but I just don't believe it will happen."

"It's going to happen, B'Elanna," I tell her. "I'll make it happen."

"I don't doubt that for a second."

She rolls off of me and sits up in bed. She removes the magenta nightgown in one fluid motion. I prop myself up on my elbow, admiring the curve of her back, the delicate arch of her neck and the slope of her shoulders. B'Elanna glances back at me, her chin nearly resting on her shoulders.

"Everything is going to change, Tom," her voice is soft but confident.

"I know."

"Are you afraid of what will happen?"

"It's nothing we can't handle."

"They'll separate us."

"You don't know that."

"Chakotay is positive it will happen," B'Elanna shivers.

"Why does he say that?"

"Because of some of the communiqués the Captain has shown him."

"The Captain will take care of you, of us."

"And if she can't?"

"That won't happen."

"I'm already pretending in my head, Tom. Already trying to imagine what it would be like without you. Does that make me a bad person?"

"I think you're overreacting," I respond carefully. "But no, you're not a bad person. You shouldn't say that."

She seems satisfied and falls back onto the bed, landing on my outstretched arm. I roll on top of her, my fingers brushing her hair away from her face with my thumbs.

B'Elanna presses her hands onto my shoulders, keeping me from kissing her.

"Marry me, Tom," she whispers.

"I thought you'd never ask," I reply in an equally low voice. "When we get back, we can have a big wedding in San Francisco."

"No, now," she says. "Before we get back."

She is serious, I realize. This isn't a casual proposal, but apparently something she has been thinking about for quite a while. I don't want to flatter myself and say that her urgency is driven by her unconditional and overwhelming love for yours truly; rather, I sense something more, a fear of what awaits us in the Alpha Quadrant.
And there is also a difference between me saying that I will be there for her and being legally obliged to stand by her. I have run out on some many people and commitments in the past, I understand her doubts and a small part of me even wants us to get married so that I don't have an escape route this time.

"Tom," her eyes look back at me, panic-stricken. I haven't seen her look this distressed since the first few days after her de-assimilation process. "Please."

"We'll do it," I promise her.

"Before we get back."

She is genuinely serious and I wrap a strand of her hair around my finger. What the hell, I plan to marry her anyway. Now is as good as a time as any.

"Tomorrow?" I suggest.

"Yes," her arms snake around my neck. I lean down to kiss her, my lips moving down from her cheek to her jawbone and down into the curve of her neck. Her hands ruffle my hair as her right leg bends up against my hip. I lift my head to look at her.

"Thank you," she whispers.

"You're welcome," I answer, wondering why I feel so cheap and used.

When I was a little girl, I used to dream of the day I would walk down the aisle. I would wear white, not Klingon red and gold, and my father would be there to give me away, his eyes misting with emotion. Everyone would stand as I made my way to the altar, some of the women would dab at their eyes with their dainty handkerchiefs. They would even mutter, "Isn't she beautiful?"

I never really put a face on the man who would be waiting for me; I only knew he would not be a Klingon.
I wanted someone smooth-faced like my father, with silky hair instead of rough Klingon tresses.

As Tom would say, one out of five ain't bad. My father isn't here and I'm not wearing white, just my usual dress uniform. There are no crowds of sobbing women here, just the senior staff. And there is no walk down the aisle; Tom and I merely join hands and look up at Janeway.

She looks slightly flustered, mostly because she did not expect our request and she certainly did not think she would have to perform a wedding ceremony during her last four days in the Delta Quadrant.
We went this morning to ask Janeway if she would marry us. We sat in front of her like two little kids in detention, hands folded neatly in laps, legs crossed at the ankles.

"You are sure?" Janeway asked about thirty times. "You sure you want to get married? This is sudden, isn't it?"

Irritation bubbled up in the back of my throat; I always felt that Janeway had feelings that were less than maternal for Tom. Sometimes, I would see her looking at Tom with a strange look on her face and it was more than pride in her protégé; her expression tended to be a little more lascivious than appropriate for a commanding officer.

"We have known each other for seven years," I told Janeway flatly. "This isn't like we just met yesterday."

"We planned to get married anyway once we got home," Tom said. I looked over at my husband-to-be; such a smooth liar he is. We had never once discussed getting married. We had talked about a house, but never about the two of us actually living there together. I guess we figured it was either implied or it would just happen with little resistance from either of us.

"We just want to do it now," I said.

"Today?" Janeway looked at both of us. "You don't have time to plan a proper ceremony."

"We want to get married today," I laid stress on the last word. "There will be time to do a so-called 'proper' wedding at another time."

"I don't know about you, but I plan on getting married only once," Tom joked. Both Janeway and I glared at him and he immediately wilted, his lips pursing shut.

"I just find your haste surprising," Janeway said. "Is there… something I should know about?"

I winced at the tone in her voice; did she suspect pregnancy?

"No," Tom said. "We want to get married today."

There was something in his tone that made Janeway sit up straighter.

"You owe me this," Tom said in a very low voice. I turned to him in surprise; Janeway's cheeks flushed red.

"Very well," she said. "This evening then. At 2100 hours, I will perform the ceremony."

We skulked out of the ready room and I took a moment to stop Tom, placing my hand on his shoulder.

"What did you mean by that last comment?" I asked.

"B'Elanna, don't get involved," he said. "This is between the Captain and me."

"Fine," I snapped. "Be that way."

"Hey!" he grabbed my arm. "This is our wedding day. Let's not fight, okay? Just one day, promise me that much."

And so I promised that much to Tom and as I stand here before him, my hearts are beating madly and nervously at the thought of having to pledge my entire life to this man.

My eyes shift back and forth, focusing on anything but Tom. I see Seven standing next to the Doctor. Tuvok, Chakotay and Harry are opposite them. Neelix stands just behind the Captain.

Amazingly, we managed to keep the wedding a secret from the entire ship, no small feat when you consider how fast the Voyager grapevine is. Part of it had to do with the fact that we did not inform our guests until about one hour prior to the ceremony. And when we did tell them, Neelix nearly choked as he begged for more time to bake a cake and Harry was upset because he had not practiced an appropriate tune for a wedding ceremony.

"Do you have something to say?" Janeway asks. I look at Tom, hoping he has not prepared vows, because I certainly have not; I was busy down in Engineering until two hours prior to the ceremony.

Tom swallows hard; his lips part slightly and then close again.

He has, I realize with a mixture of fury and dismay. He has something to say and I… I have nothing.

"What's there to say?" Tom asks shakily. "Except that I will stand by you, B'Elanna, through thick and thin, through Hirogen and Borg, and… you don't have to worry about me. I will be there as long as you will have me."
Damn him. Even unrehearsed, he still finds the words that stop my hearts and leave my breath in my throat.

He reaches for my hands, caressing them between his.

"B'Elanna, do you have something to share with Tom?" Janeway looks at me. At this moment, if looks could kill, I would be dead on the floor.

"Um," I hesitate. Words and people are not my specialty; I prefer engines and other things mechanical for the pure reasoning that something inanimate, such as a machine, cannot hurt me.

I can choose the trite and obvious path: my undying confession of eternal love and endless devotion. I can pledge to respect him, to stand by him and to adore him, no matter how often he gets that engine grease in his hair. I can offer to cook dinner every night, to leave my bat'leth in a place he won't trip over it and to put away my clothes instead of leaving them on the floor.

"B'Elanna?" Janeway says as Tom starts to look a bit panicked. I squeeze his hands.

"Thank you," I tell him. "Thank you for taking a chance on me. I… I can't even express how much that, um, means to me. Knowing that you, um, will stand by me forever… that's a big promise, Paris, and I, I mean to hold you to it."

Over Janeway's shoulder, I see Neelix brush away a tear. At least someone is touched.

As for the Captain herself, she looks unimpressed, even bored.

"Do you, Tom Paris, take B'Elanna Torres to love, honor and cherish as long as you both shall live?"

Tom's jaw works nervously and for a moment, I fear he might back out.

"I do," he says as he places a slender gold band around my finger.

"And do you, B'Elanna Torres, take Tom Paris to love, honor and cherish as long as you both shall live?"

There is no hesitation on my part, "I do."

Janeway swallows and then she offers up a broad, generous smile. I figure, maybe I've been wrong about her feelings about Tom; after all, I've seen her making eyes at Chakotay also.

"I now pronounce you man and wife," she says. "Tom, you may kiss the bride."

Tom's lips barely brush against mine; he has never been this tentative before and I wonder if we are making a big mistake.

There is applause as we turn to face our friends.

"Congratulations," Chakotay says, shaking Tom's hand.

"May you have live happy and fruitful lives," the Doctor says enthusiastically. Seven merely glances at us with an expression slightly less than disgust. Harry is beaming and Neelix is positively bursting.

"Congratulations to both of you," Tuvok says in his usual stilted manner.

"This is indeed a surprise," Seven finally comments. "Though not an unpleasant one."

"Thank you," I tell her. I can afford to be generous; today is my wedding day.

Tom is all the way across the room, talking to Harry.

My stomach twists, somersaults, and then after a few minutes, Tom is back at my side, a wide smile spreading across his face.

"Want to get out of here?" he whispers. "Harry just gave me his holodeck time."

I grin, more from relief than pleasure, "I thought you'd never ask."


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