Lines in the Sand, part III

By Seema

There was no time to create a special honeymoon program so it's the old fallback, the Virgin Islands beach program B'Elanna created for me over a year ago.

We enter the holodeck, hand in hand. The scene is already set; a melting sunset bleeds lavender and gold over a faded blue sky, a gentle breeze moves the heavy branches of palm trees surrounding the crescent-shaped beach.

"Does it feel different to you?" she asks. "Being married, that is?"

"No, but it's certainly not the way I expected," I say. I lead her over to one of the lounge chairs and push her down on it. We're definitely not the giddy lovers of four years ago; we're too domesticated, too settled for that kind of passion these days.

"I know it came out of nowhere," she says, lifting her foot so I can remove her shoe.

"We never even talked about getting married," I tell her. I sit at the edge of the chair and remove my own shoes.

B'Elanna is already removing her jacket.

"I hate these things," she says. "Itchy and hot."

She leans back against the chair, moving over to make room for me.

"I don't think the person who designed these uniforms actually has to wear them," I answer, removing my own jacket. B'Elanna rests her head against my shoulder. It feels so good to sit here, just the two of us, talking for the first time in what seems like weeks. "So why did you want to get married so quickly?"

"I was afraid with all the excitement in the Alpha Quadrant, we'd just forget about it."

"Forget about it? B'Elanna, are you crazy?"

"Maybe," she says. "I wanted to be sure that you wouldn't go anywhere."

"Where do you think I'm going to go?"

"I don't know," her brown eyes are wide and curious. She runs a finger up and down my pant leg.

"Don't say you have doubts about me."

"I don't. I doubt me," she says. "The other day, I was in the turbolift, and all of sudden, I couldn't breathe. My chest tightened and I really thought I was going to die. And that's when I realized that there was something left undone and that was you and me. After all we've been through, I wanted to make sure we had something to show for it."

She holds out her right hand and I take her fingers, carefully inspecting the gold ring.

"It does look nice there," I tell her softly, lifting her hand to my lips. "Mrs. Paris."

She smiles, "I think it should be Torres for now, don't you?"

"If you insist," I tell her. "And I suppose this means you can't go off and get yourself assimilated without asking me first?"

"I did not say I would obey you," she says, smiling. "But yes, I guess I can't. You're stuck with me, Tom."

I wrap my arms around her, "I can think of worse fates."

She leans her head back against my shoulder and I feel her muscles relax. We have not been this close in months. Emotionally, that is. There are times, in bed, when I feel like I'm clawing at her, trying to get underneath her skin just to get close to her. There are other times when we are the only two people in a room, meters away, yet sharing a connection we both feel but need no words or physical contact to experience.

I do not know how this paradox exists; it's unfathomable to me and merely taunts me into lust or utter disinterest - there is nothing in between.

B'Elanna gets up from the chair; I make no motion to stop her. She walks towards the edge of the water, a darkening silhouette against the early echoes of evening. She steps into the surf, wading ankle deep into the water. She turns only once and I wave at her.

After a few minutes, B'Elanna comes out, the hem of her pants soggy and clinging to her legs. She beckons to me, and fool I am, I get to my feet.

B'Elanna is dragging her toe in the sand.

"Stand there," she commands.

"What's going on?" I ask. A meter separates us, but once again I feel the distance between us lengthening, the earlier intimacy of the evening gone.

"This is the way it's going to be," she says. She points down at the sand. "When we get back, it's going to be Starfleet versus Maquis. Everyone's going to have to choose."

"That's not going to happen," I say, staring down at the line.

"It's already happening. Don't you feel it?"

"You're the only one who talks about it."

"You're not listening, Tom," she hisses. "Don't you ever listen?"

I turn away and head towards the holodeck doors.

"Where are you going?" she calls after me.

"I don't need this," I tell her. "For once, can't you let well enough alone?"

"I don't want there to be surprises."

"Surprises? Ha! You're paranoid, B'Elanna."

"No, I'm not," she catches up to me, her hand on my shoulder. "Tom, please, promise me, when it's time to take sides, you'll forgive me."

I shake off her hand, "That's not going to happen."

"Don't be so stubborn. It's only a matter of time."

I gaze into those brown eyes, wondering what she's hiding.

"Are you planning something, B'Elanna?"

"Promise me," she says. "Whatever happens, you'll forgive me."

I twist the gold wedding band on my finger nervously. She is serious and that scares me.

"Sure, yeah," I say, not really believing the words dripping from my lips. At this point, I'll say anything to get her to stop this crazy delusional talk.

And I look at her and realize that she knows I'm lying to her. B'Elanna bites her lip.

"It's all right, Tom," she brushes my cheek lightly with her fingers. "And I hope you're right and I'm wrong and that this is all in my head."

She exits the holodeck, leaving me alone.


He would hate me for this but I went to Chakotay. My feet somehow know what I want even before my brain does and I suppose this is why, on my wedding night, I am standing in front of Chakotay, trying to compose myself. He hands me a raktajino and indicates the chair opposite his.

"You fought already?" he asks, a hint of amusement in his voice. "B'Elanna, really."

"I told him what is going to happen," I say dully. "He doesn't believe me."

"Do you really need him to believe you?"

"I'd like to think he would," I put the mug down. My hands are cold, so very cold, and I shiver. Chakotay gets up and hands me a thin, black blanket. I wrap it around my shoulders, trying to get warm.

"It's a small thing, B'Elanna."

"Not to me, it's not," I answer. "He doesn't see me the way I want him to."

"As a Maquis?" his voice is sharp.

"In a few days everyone is going to see me as Maquis. He might as well too."

"You can't dictate terms like that, B'Elanna. It's not fair."

Chakotay straddles his chair, resting his arms on the back. The lights are dim, his hair is slightly tousled and he is wearing pajamas; I am only just now conscious of the fact that my late night arrival must have woken him.

"I'm sorry for bothering you," I tell him. I push the mug back and get to my feet. "You're not," he says. "But I don't think it's fair for you to impose on Tom a vision you have of yourself."

"Do you see yourself as Maquis?" I challenge.

Chakotay's face tightens; I can almost see the thoughts running through his brain; I imagine electrical impulses dashing along neural pathways, igniting another messenger neuron in turn.

"I haven't thought about it in a long time," he answers finally. "I guess the Alpha Quadrant seemed so far away, I never thought we would get home."

"What's going to happen to us, Chakotay?" my voice is very low.

"I'm not sure. I've told you everything I know already," he says. "But we're still Maquis to Starfleet. That much is clear."

"Has Janeway said anything?"

"No, only that she will do her best for us."

"I don't believe that."

"She's the only friend we've got, B'Elanna," Chakotay's voice is harsh and I wonder if there is something more, an unspoken sentiment, behind this last statement. Of course there has been gossip about the Captain and her first officer. There has been plenty of talk about the way they look at each other, how their fingers occasionally drift a little too close, and how much time they spend together… alone… in her quarters. Kahless only knows what they do together - I can't fathom what Chakotay could possibly see in Janeway.

I know what I see.

I see a cold woman, utterly hardened and single-mindedly determined. If she has regrets, she does not dwell on it; there is always the next best thing to move on to.

Chakotay, on the other hand, and here, I get into dangerous territory - a place no married woman should go on her wedding night. But it's true. Chakotay possesses a quality of serenity, utter calmness, and trustworthiness; his word is good.

Janeway, I don't trust. I never have and there have been times when I felt her actions mirrored those of my mother and so I disliked her even more.

"That's a sorry state of affairs then," I answer. Chakotay scratches his nose and then looks at me.

"She'll do her best for us," he says.

"It won't be enough," I say. "The whole Alpha Quadrant could speak for us and it wouldn't make a difference."

"You don't need the whole Alpha Quadrant, B'Elanna," Chakotay says softly. "You only think you do."

"What is that supposed to mean?" I demand.

"I guess I'm just telling you not to worry," he smiles. "And also, good night."

It is probably the coldest dismissal I've gotten from Chakotay, but I take it in stride.

Chakotay's just afraid to admit what the rest of Voyager's crew already knows.

He's Janeway's boy - always has been and always will be.

And I… well, I no longer know who I am.


The day after my wedding, I meet Harry for breakfast. He is sitting by the windows, stirring oatmeal listlessly.

"What's going on?" I ask him.

"Didn't think you were coming," he says. "It being your wedding night…"

"I wouldn't stand you up," I answer. "Give me a second."

What I don't tell Harry is that B'Elanna and I spent the night apart. At least that's one perk of keeping separate quarters; when the going gets tough, we can retreat to our separate corners to link our wounds and wallow in misery in private.

I replicate a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and orange juice, and bring the tray back to the table.

"Have a good night?" Harry asks without a trace of irony.

"It was all right," I answer.

"That good, huh?"

Harry puts his spoon down.

"Have you noticed it?" he asks.


"The divisions."

"What divisions?"

"Are you blind? Look around," Harry's voice is low. "Starfleet and Maquis."

I twist around to look. Harry is right. There are not many people in the messhall at this hour, but those who are, have chosen their tables strictly along party lines.

"Well," I struggle to find an explanation. "That's normal. They've been through so much together…"

"I don't think that's. It's more calculated," Harry says earnestly.

"You sound just like B'Elanna. She said the same thing last night."

"She's right, you know," Harry says. "Look around you. Friendships that have lasted seven years mean nothing now. Once again, we'll be two separate crews, hating and distrusting each other. It will be like we were never in the Delta Quadrant together, fighting for one common goal."

"Getting home, you mean?"


I take another look around; a group of three, Starfleet, rise from their table and leave with nary a glance at the table of four former Maquis members. The coldness of their departure leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I push my plate away.

"Just watch," Harry says in that low voice. "In a couple days, we'll be in the Alpha Quadrant and I bet you and B'Elanna won't even talk."

"Isn't that looking on the dark side of things? That's not like you, Harry."

He picks up his bowl without looking at the oatmeal now congealing on the sides, "I hope I'm wrong, Tom."
I hope he's wrong too, but a funny feeling in my gut makes me think that he might actually be right.

It's weird how you don't notice things until they are specifically pointed out and then this new awareness nags at you, driving you utterly out of your mind.

During my Academy days, there was this girl - I think her name was Fiona - and she irked me in ways I never thought possible. She was the type who always had the great ideas but always came across as a sledgehammer, bludgeoning you until you cried uncle. With Fiona, you never wanted her to be right even though instinctively you knew everything she said made sense.

She had this high-pitched laugh and one day, someone confessed, "I hate Fiona's laugh. I hear it and my blood curdles." After that, whenever I heard Fiona laugh, I cringed.

It's the same thing now that Harry pointed out the division between Starfleet and Maquis. I notice it as I walk through the corridors of Voyager. Maquis and Starfleet barely glance at each other as they pass. With each cold encounter between former friends, I cringe.

In Engineering, I notice the division even more. The Maquis are on the second level while the Starfleet blue bloods occupy the lower levels. I find Seven intent on a data PADD as she inputs information into her console.

"Seen B'Elanna?" I ask casually.

"She is in conduit thirteen."

Ah, my favorite conduit, a prime breeding ground for claustrophobia. I know it well, having spent time there before repairing down power relays, hating every second of it. It would figure that B'Elanna would hide out in the one place where it is ninety percent sure I would not follow.

Well, her luck just ran out.

"Thanks," I tell Seven. I cross Engineering to conduit thirteen; the wall panel has already been removed and I enter, crawling through the narrow space.

B'Elanna is lying on her back, about halfway down, fiddling with something directly above her.

"Damn!" she exclaims as something sparks.

"Something I can help you with?"

"Tom?" she sits up, banging her head on the ceiling. "Damn! Oh, that hurt! See what you made me do?"

"Want me to kiss and make it better?"

"No," she says, lying back down. "What are you doing here?"

I settle myself into a semi-awkward position of my back against the curved conduit walls and my feet propped up against the opposite wall.

"Looking for you," I tell her. "I miss you."

"We saw each other last night."

"You walked out on me last night, remember?"

B'Elanna sighs, "You really want to talk, Tom?"

"Yeah," I say. "Look, we need to. We got married and I'm not sure that it was the right thing to do."

"If you have doubts, tell Janeway; she can divorce us as quickly as she married us."

"That's not what I mean. I merely meant that maybe we rushed and maybe the Captain was right. We didn't exactly think things through."

"I've been thinking," she says.

"You want to share some of those thoughts with me? Don't you owe me at least that much?"

B'Elanna sits upright, this time a bit more carefully. She pulls her legs to her chest. She leans forward slightly, a pensive expression on her face, as she rests her chin on her knees.

"Does there need to be a reason?" she asks. "Can't you just do things because you want to?"

"Depends if there is someone else involved or not. And if there is, you damn well better have a reason."

"I love you," she says simply. I tilt my head towards her. Once again she takes the easy way out. In the past, all she has had to do it whisper those three words to me and I would melt into a puddle of goo at her feet. This time, I don't.

"That's it?" I ask.

"What more do you want?"

"An explanation, maybe," I say. "You never mentioned getting married before and then all of a sudden, you want to do this. Forgive me if I find it a bit confusing."

"Sometimes things feel right. This felt right."

I laugh sardonically; "right" is certainly not the word I would use. I'm more inclined to describe our shotgun nuptials as "uncomfortable."

"We didn't spend our wedding night together," I remind her. "Where were you last night?"

"Here," she says in a low voice.

"You married me, not Voyager's engines, B'Elanna," there is more bite in my voice than I intended. "Are you planning something I'm not aware of?"

"I don't have an ulterior motive," she shakes her head but her voice wavers making me suspect otherwise.

"Have you and Chakotay..." I let my voice drift off. "What has he said to you?"

"Nothing," she says defensively. "I told you everything."

"I don't think so. B'Elanna, are you even planning to come back to the Alpha Quadrant?"
B'Elanna blinks, her eyes shifting back and forth.

"You're not coming back with us," I whisper. "When were you going to say something?"

"I was going to... eventually."

"When? When you were on your way out of the airlock? Don't be crazy, B'Elanna. You can't survive in the Delta Quadrant by yourself."

"I won't be by myself," she says.

Our eyes lock and she is the first to break off the eye contact.

"I wouldn't agree to stay so..." I stare at her, completely bewildered. She looks apprehensive, licking her lips like she does when she is nervous.

"You have to understand, Tom," she says. "There isn't going to be a party when Voyager comes home. Janeway will be a hero and then when the formalities and debriefings are through, they will march Chakotay, me, and the others off to some penal colony."

I'm still in shock; in all of our years together, I had never imagined B'Elanna capable of such duplicity, not had I ever thought she would be afraid to face consequences.

"I don't want to be locked up," she whispers.

"That won't happen. Janeway won't allow it."

"Why would she care?" B'Elanna flares. "She only cares about herself."

"That's not true," I say, but silently, I agree; only a few months ago, I had confronted the Captain, demanding answers, and wondering why she put Voyager in unnecessary jeopardy.

"It's true. She will show off Seven and she will talk about all the discoveries she made, about how she survived the Borg a million times, and in the midst of all that pomp, she'll forget about the Maquis."

Where this stream of invective comes from baffles me; B'Elanna has been less than fiery since her return from the Borg. She is more low-key. There are times when I fear that if she gets much calmer, she will be comatose. In some ways, I'm glad the anger is back; dealing with her temper is something I can do. This other B'Elanna, the sedate B'Elanna, is not someone I know.

"B'Elanna, I won't let you stay here."

"Is that really your decision?" she asks.
She has a point but I think she also knows that I won't leave her behind and now that we are married, my

obligation to B'Elanna Torres has increased tenfold.

Damn, she's good.

"You're overreacting," I say firmly.

She looks at me doubtfully, "You say things you want to believe, Tom. What happens when none of what you think will happen happens? Then what?"

"I refuse to be pessimistic about our homecoming," I tell her. "I'll talk to Janeway myself, find out what she thinks of the situation."

B'Elanna extends one hand, curling her fingers in and out. I am transfixed on this simple movement, imagining those long fingers against my cheek, my neck and then those nails, scratching my skin, drawing blood.

"Or I'll talk to my father," I say suddenly.

B'Elanna's head whips again, banging against the ceiling.

"Ouch!" she exclaims.

This time, I lean forward and gently touch her head. She leans forward, allowing me to see the slight bump already forming on her scalp. The skin is bruised, already smarting from impact.

"I'll do whatever it takes," I tell her. "But you have to promise to trust me. Trust Starfleet."

She gives me a look, one that usually would reduce me to a quivering mass, but I shrug it off. I have faced that famous temper of hers so many times that now it rolls off of me like water on oil.

"I'd sooner trust a Cardassian," she says.

"Oh that's great. You compare Starfleet to Cardassians. That's not a fair, B'Elanna."

"If things were fair, we'd never have ended up in the Delta Quadrant," she swallows hard. "I would have finished what I had started and..."

"You can't be blamed for not being there for-"

"Easy for you to say. You've never seen anything through, have you?"

I glare at her, "Fine, stay here."

I get to my hands and knees and start crawling out. I'm almost a third of the way to the conduit opening when I turn. B'Elanna is still sitting there, her arms wrapped around her knees as she rocks back and forth.

"You're wrong," I tell her. "I'm going to see this through."


It's easy to blame the Alpha Quadrant for what ails me.

I don't care about penal colonies honestly. I hear the food is bad, the furniture is utilitarian and uncomfortable, and the clothes are itchy. Sounds a bit like Voyager, except that you can actually go outside.

Putting my finger on the exact source of my discontent is more difficult. I might as well throw a dart at a wall or spin a wheel or something.

Chakotay says when it comes to me, the list of possible suspects is endless.

"I think you just like being difficult," he tells me as we hike through the Cascades. After my altercation with Tom in conduit thirteen, I took a few minutes to compose myself, and then commed Chakotay. He had suggested the holodeck and twenty minutes later, I am surrounded by towering pines beneath a deep blue sky.

"That's not it," I object.

"I think it is," Chakotay pauses at a fork in the trail. "You are afraid of going home but I don't think that's the only thing you're afraid of."

"Are you a counselor now?"

"I'm your friend."

We turn right and for a few minutes, we don't speak.

"You do realize that the Captain will never allow you to stay here," Chakotay says.

"I wasn't planning on asking her."

"Hmmm... now that sounds like the B'Elanna I know," Chakotay points out a rock ledge. He removes his pack and sits down; I follow suit. Our feet dangle off the edge; below us is a cover of lush green pine. Somewhere in the distance, I can hear the roar of a waterfall.

"Whose program is this?" I ask. "I've never seen it before."

"I think it's a default," Chakotay answers as he hands me a water bottle. "I discovered it, um, when you were on the Borg cube."

I pause in mid-drink, "Tom says no one used the holodeck while we were gone."

"That is almost exactly the truth," Chakotay says. "I came in here just the one time to relax. I guess there are some things you want to do with a good friend and hiking is one of them; I left almost immediately."

I lean forward, mentally trying to calculate the distance between the ground and me.

"The holodeck safeties are on," Chakotay says. "Jump if you'd like. The most harm you can possibly do to yourself is a few scratches from the tree branches."

I give him a sideways glance.

"I'm not trying to kill myself," I tell him.

"Sometimes it's hard to tell with you. One moment you're hurling yourself through space at a hundred kilometers an hour and then the next, you're volunteering for an insane mission on the Borg cube."

I look at him in surprise; most of the time, he kowtows to Janeway, agreeing with everything she says as if she is never wrong. It makes me furious when Chakotay acts like a Starfleet officer, with his strict adherence to rules and regulations; it's almost as if he forgets he was - is - Maquis.

"You didn't agree with the mission?" I ask.

"No," he shakes his head. "It made me feel better that you and Tuvok were with her, but I still didn't feel good about it. I played out a thousand different scenarios in my head about what could possibly go wrong and it terrified me that we might not be able to get you back."

"You sound like Tom."

Chakotay offers me a cryptic smile. He reaches to the side and plucks pine needles off of a tree. He hands them to me.

"He's a good man, B'Elanna," Chakotay says. "He doesn't deserve what you do to him."

My fingers are sticky with sap and I turn my gaze downward in attempt to avoid Chakotay's eyes.

"When did you and Tom, um, become so close?" I ask.

"Close?" Chakotay snorts. "I doubt that that would ever be possible with Mr. Paris. You two are a lot alike, B'Elanna. I think that's the problem."

"Excuse me?"

"You're both hard to reach. You both coat yourselves with a shiny veneer, a personality that you want everyone else to see, but you never let anyone see below the surface. Sometimes, I wonder how I can reach out to either of you and with Tom, I think I had a breakthrough while you were gone," Chakotay says. He breaks a stick into little pieces and hurls them off into the distance. "For a few moments, I felt like he actually trusted me. That, B'Elanna, was a good feeling."

"I can imagine," I tell Chakotay. "But I don't know what that has to do with me."

"Yes, you do, because you're doing it again. You're putting up barriers the way you always do, but there is a difference this time. You know exactly what you are doing," he says. "I never thought of you as manipulative, but that's exactly what you're doing to Tom and I'm telling you, it has to stop."

"That's between Tom and me."

Chakotay heaves a sigh, "None of this has been easy for us, B'Elanna. I suppose it was more straightforward when we, Maquis and Starfleet, were united in a common goal - getting home. Now that we are so close, it's easy to lose sight of what binds us together and I want to believe something more holds us together than our original mission."

I fling the needles over the edge of the rock, but some stick stubbornly to the palm of my hand. I pick the survivors off and then rub my hand against the rock in an attempt to remove the sap.

"Here," Chakotay hands me the water bottle. "This might help."

I pour the water over my hand, some of it splashing on my clothes. A breeze ruffles my hair and Chakotay glances upward.

"It's getting cooler," he says. "Want to keep going? We should reach the summit before nightfall."

"It's a holodeck program, Chakotay," I say. "We can always set back the chronometer."

"That's cheating," Chakotay is already on his feet, shouldering his pack. "Are you coming?"
We make our way up the trail, pausing at junctions in the trail to catch our breath or drink water.

"I see from holodeck logs you've been running your Klingon battle simulations," Chakotay says casually during one such break.

"Are you monitoring my activities now?"

"I review all holodeck logs."

"Since when?"

Chakotay shrugs, "I like to know what the crew is up to."

"Even the, um, private programs?"

"It's not my intention to pry into the crew's privacy," he says sharply.

"I should hope not," I answer. I brush past him to continue up on the path.

"So when did you start re-enacting famous Klingon battles?" he calls after me.

"You ought to know. You're the one who is reviewing holodeck logs."

"I imagine meditation doesn't work for you like it does for Tuvok."

I whirl around, nearly breathless.

"What does that mean?"

Chakotay leans his shoulder against a tree, crossing his arms against his chest.

"Tuvok meditates to control his emotions," Chakotay says. "We all have our own ways of escaping what bothers us, what haunts us and keeps us awake at night."

"I'm certainly not escaping anything."

"I believe that you believe that you are not escaping," Chakotay's face is grim. He takes a step towards me. "Kathryn and I have talked, B'Elanna. I know what happened on the Borg cube. I know about the assimilations."
My eyes widen and I take a step backwards. I miss my footing and stumble over a root, landing painfully on my rear.

"Are you okay?" Chakotay asks solicitously.

"Fine," I hiss back.

"The Captain has said that she has difficulty accepting her role in those assimilations," Chakotay goes on.

"I'm not listening."

Chakotay leans down and lifts my chin so that I'm staring directly into his liquid brown eyes. It surprises me now to recall that eight years ago, I would have done anything to find myself in such a position. Instead of his love, I had to settle for friendship.

"You need help," Chakotay says. "You're not like Seven who was programmed from an early age to assimilate. She didn't know anything else really, barely could remember a life where she was not Borg. You are different."

"I knew the risks when I went in," I answer. "I knew what might happen."

"Just because you knew what might happen doesn't mean you were prepared for it," Chakotay says. He releases my chin and stands upright again. "Do you remember the first one?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Of course not," Chakotay says. "That's why you want to stay out here in the Delta Quadrant where no one will ask you the questions you don't want to answer."

I cover my eyes with my hand, "Chakotay, I'm tired."

"I know," he says; his voice, low and gentle, sends shivers down on my spine. Damn me and my stupid reactions. I'm a married woman now, hell, I was practically married before Tom and I exchanged vows. "B'Elanna, the transition isn't easy. One day you're B'Elanna Torres, the next you're Borg, and then it's back to B'Elanna again. Those kind of changes don't occur without some kind of trauma."

He holds out a hand and I take it.

"You don't want to stay here, B'Elanna," he says. "You just want to be comfortable and you're comfortable here, even though you hate everything about the Delta Quadrant. You know it too, B'Elanna, so stop saying that you aren't coming back with us, because you're lying to everyone and to yourself."

I open my mouth to speak, but there is really nothing left to say; Chakotay has said everything that is inside of me and it amazes me how he can pull the exact words from inside of me and put them together into sentences, complete with nouns and verbs.

"Let's go," he says. "We've been standing still too long."

He pulls me to my feet in one smooth gesture.

"There's another thing, B'Elanna. I see the divisions," Chakotay says over his shoulder as he continues on. "It worries me to see people separating into Maquis and Starfleet contingents. And it's not the Starfleet officers who are doing it, B'Elanna; it's the Maquis. Somehow, we Maquis manage to put distance between us and the people who care about us the most; it's an unnatural talent, B'Elanna, and not one that I'm particularly fond of. I expect that you, as a senior officer, will not contribute to the segregation. We've gone through a lot to become the crew we are today; I intend for it to stay that way."

"You're asking for a lot."

"I'm asking you to do your part," Chakotay says. "The rest is none of your concern. I'm asking that you don't perpetuate the division."

"Are you afraid of going home?"

"Afraid? No. Apprehensive? That's more like it."

"Do you think they really will put us on trial?" I ask.

Chakotay stops in his tracks, waits a second, and then turns.

"Sounds like you plan on coming back to the Alpha Quadrant," he says.

"Tom won't stay here," I say petulantly.

"No," Chakotay says. "This time, he won't be the one running away."

This last comment really hurts; I have always thought of myself as fairly strong, able to get through the toughest times. But I have to see now that I'm the one who is falling apart inside. It's almost like my insides have been shredded and my body is held together by the thinnest of skins.

"Well?" I ask, choosing to ignore this last comment.

"I wouldn't be surprised if questions are asked," Chakotay says. "I don't know what the consequences, if there are any, will be."

We are now just a meter apart from each other.

"For what it's worth," I tell him. "I don't regret my time with the Maquis."

Chakotay quirks a smile, "I never thought you did. In fact, I think the Maquis made you the person you are today."

"Don't forget the Borg."

Chakotay's smile broadens.

"What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Isn't that right?" I continue.

"Only if you let it out," Chakotay answers. "Otherwise it eats you up inside until there is nothing left."

He reaches out and lightly touches my shoulder, "Come back, B'Elanna."

Then Chakotay turns and heads down the trail.

I stare after his retreating figure in wonderment. It startles me how Chakotay can get to me. It's absolutely amazing the way he gets beneath my skin and manages to find all of the right emotional buttons to press. Once again, that wistful dream of mine, that little girl's fantasy of Chakotay whisking me away into the sunset, tugs at my memory. I smile to myself and then follow him down the path.

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