Lines in the Sand, part IV

By Seema

Janeway has called what she terms "an emergency brainstorming session." In other words, it's a senior staff meeting, called at the last minute, because she is panicking in the way only Janeway panics: calmly and utterly unruffled.

She is leaning back in her chair, her fingers stroking her chin; she is turned away from most of us, though she faces Chakotay at an angle.

B'Elanna sits across from me, doing her studious best to avoid my gaze. I have spent the last two hours trying to track her down, only to find out she was in the holodeck with Commander Chakotay.

I personally do not know what anyone can say or do with Chakotay for more than ten minutes so it baffles me that B'Elanna spent so much time with him.

I'm sitting in between Harry and Seven and then across the table, between Chakotay and B'Elanna, sits the good Doctor. Tuvok remains standing, which makes me think that this will be a relatively short meeting; for that small concession, I would be exceedingly happy because I want to talk to B'Elanna desperately.

"I have noticed," Janeway begins, her voice scratchy with emotion, "a certain tension between some members of our crew."

B'Elanna shifts uncomfortably in her chair. Chakotay looks down at his fingers. For myself, I love Janeway's euphemism for the growing dislike between Starfleet and Maquis.

"I want you all to be clear on this," Janeway rotates her chair so she is now facing us, both elbows on the table as she surveys each of us in turn. "We are one crew and we will remain so. Going home changes nothing."

"If you are referring to the coldness between Starfleet and Maquis," the Doctor began. "The divisions have always been there, only they are more prominent now."

"I'm aware of that, Doctor, which is why I admonish you all to do your best to avoid these types of… divisions," Janeway says. "I expect you all to remain supportive of each other. Dismissed."

Chakotay is immediately out of his side and by his captain's chair. She turns her chair towards the window, so Chakotay has to turn his back to us so he can speak to her.

"Hey, Tom, if you aren't busy, want to meet in the holodeck?" Harry asks me in a low voice.

My eyes are fixed on B'Elanna, "Maybe another time. I've got something to fix."

"The car? The Flyer?"

"No," I nod towards B'Elanna. "Something infinitely more important."

Out in the corridor, I catch up to B'Elanna. She looks at me and her gaze is slightly cannibalistic; this is a good sign - I feel the need to devour her myself.

"We need to talk," I tell her, clutching her forearm in case my Klingon darling takes it into her head to hide in another EPS conduit. B'Elanna's face softens just a bit.

"I know," she says. "Uh, my quarters?"

At least I know I'm not in the doghouse anymore. I don't know what she did in the holodeck for two hours, but it seems to have a positive effect on her; B'Elanna no longer looks as if she is going to rip my larynx out if I try to speak.

Once in her quarters, B'Elanna strips off her uniform jacket, tossing it carelessly across the back of the sofa.

"One thing I'm not going to miss when we get back are these uniforms," she says casually.

"So you've changed your mind," I say. "About staying here in the Delta Quadrant."

B'Elanna curls up on the sofa and pats the seat next to her. I accept the invitation and lean back against the sofa, not quite touching her.

"I suppose that was a foolish idea," she says.

"No, it wasn't. I think you just have some things you need to work out and it's easier here where you don't have the baggage that you have in the Alpha Quadrant."

"Tom," B'Elanna knits her fingers together. "I was wrong, I'm sorry."

"There's no need to apologize," I say. "What were you doing in the holodeck?"

"Hiking," she answers. "Chakotay found this old program of a hiking trail back on Earth. It was invigorating."

"Ah," I look at her; damn if she doesn't look serene. I feel a slight tinge of jealousy because I have never put that look on B'Elanna's face. Chakotay, on the other hand, yields this enormous influence over her and he manages to bring her a sense of inner peace that I cannot. It's hard to compete with that kind of power. He makes her happy and I, well, I just make her mad. Ying and yang, Chakotay and I are. Between us, we keep B'Elanna in a constant state of flux. More than anything, I want that to change. I want to be the calming influence in her life just as I am the irritant.

"We talked," B'Elanna says.

I lean my head back, focusing on the ceiling. Of course she talked to Chakotay, she always does. The two of us, B'Elanna and I, banter back and forth, but never do we truly talk to each other. I have Harry and she has Chakotay.

B'Elanna gets on her knees as she turns to face me. She leans forward, her hand cold against my cheek.

"I should have been talking to you, Tom," she says very softly. My eyes fly open.

"What?" I croak. If I weren't already sitting, I would have fallen over.

"There are things I haven't told you," she says. "About my time with the Borg…"

"I'm listening."

B'Elanna looks down at her hands, "This isn't easy for me, Tom, and I don't know where to begin. I just know that I don't want to run away. Not this time."

I fumble for her hand, "Take your time, okay?"

"You might hate me when I tell you."

"I don't think that could happen."

"It's worse than you think."

"It could be, but then again, it might not be."

We exchange a smile and then she gets up off the couch, still holding my hand. She leads me into the bedroom, that enigmatic smile crossing her lips as she glances over her shoulder back at me.
She pulls back the covers and then pushes me down.

"B'Elanna," I say. For once, physical intimacy isn't the answer; I want to talk.

"Shhh," she puts her finger to her lips. I lay back against the cushions as she curls up next to me, pulling the blankets over us. "I want to tell you something."

I wrap my arm around her and she rests her head on my chest.

"When I was Borg, I assimilated people," she says very slowly. My grip on her body tightens a bit and she presses herself closer to me. "Shhh, Tom. Don't say anything, okay?"

"All right."

"I remember," B'Elanna says. "I wake up in the middle of night because I think I'm in mid-assimilation. Either I'm getting assimilating or I'm assimilating someone else."

"Oh B'Elanna."

"There are one hundred and eighty-seven steps in the assimilation process," B'Elanna whispers. "The first step is the sedation of the victim. The second step involves the injection of nanoprobes into the blood stream, and in the third step, you begin the process of networking the new drone's brain into the neuromatrix."

She pauses, breathing deeply, "It goes on like that, Tom, and sometimes, I get on stuck on a step, say step ninety-two, which is, um, the enhancement of vision - you know, the ocular implant? I messed that up, I think, a few times. I was never, um, um, good at that step."

"B'Elanna, it's all right."

Her fingers rub the fabric of my jacket; she raises herself up on an elbow and looks down at me.

"Are you warm? Do you want to take off your jacket?"

I sit up and shrug out of the jacket. B'Elanna doesn't look at me as she lies back down, her eyes focused on the ceiling. I lay back down next to her, careful not to touch her.

"I think I assimilated a thousand people," she says. "I asked Tuvok once. I said to him 'how many?' and he couldn't answer. He told me it was illogical to try and guess since the number would be inaccurate. But I have to know, Tom, I have to."

"Is that why you're angry with Janeway?" I ask softly. "Is this why you don't trust her?"


"Because she volunteered herself for this mission and you went with her, thinking it was the loyal thing to do and then you found yourself in a position that compromised your principles."

B'Elanna inhales deeply, "I became the thing I hate the most, Tom. Sometimes I look in the mirror and I see that Borg face of mine staring back or I look at Seven and I remember something awful and I'm cold. So cold, Tom."

"It's all right," I tell her as she rolls back into my arms.

"There's more, Tom," she swallows hard. "When I walk the halls of Voyager, I feel like there just might be a drone around every corner. Sometimes I hear their voices in my head or I hear screams of the victims. I can't get away from it."

I squeeze her hand, "I'm glad you're finally telling me."

"I don't feel better. I thought I would but I don't."

"It's going to take a while, B'Elanna, but I'm glad you decided to tell me. We'll work it out, okay?"

She cuddles closer and I revel in the softness of her, relishing that I can hold her in my arms, and feel her warm breath against my cheek. During the time she was gone, I felt as my right arm had been ripped off. With B'Elanna, I am complete.

What she doesn't know is that I would not have left her behind. If she had truly decided to stay in the Delta Quadrant, running from the demons in the Alpha Quadrant, my choice was clear: I would have stayed also.


Janeway and Chakotay's admonishments aside, the segregation between Maquis and Starfleet continues.

Somehow, it just happens.

The duty assignments are given out arbitrarily, yet I notice the Maquis take to the second level of engineering while the Starfleet engineers stay on the first level. In one thing, the lines blur and they are united: uniformly, they all stay out of my way.

I stand in front of the warp core, hands on hips, surveying the situation. The right thing to do - what the captain and Chakotay would want me to do - is to break up the teams and shift people around.

But I can't lie - my loyalties lie with the Maquis. Once a Maquis, always a Maquis, and we know that whatever trials are ahead of us in the Alpha Quadrant, we Maquis will stick together while pompous Starfleet asses rack us for crimes committed seven years ago.

I imagine claiming "principle of the matter" is not an acceptable defense strategy, so we might as well leave our principles en masse in the Delta Quadrant.

It's not that we Maquis are afraid of the consequences, it's just we need to solidify our ties with those who will stand by us, no matter what. Why try to work on a relationship when you know that the other person won't give you the time of day once D-Day (as I've started to think of our return to the Alpha Quadrant) arrives.

"Vorick," I approach the Vulcan. "How are things going?"

"I have finished realigning the plasma manifolds," he says. "They should be operating at peak efficiency now."

"Good job," I look over his work. As usual, Vorik's penchant for perfectionism shows clearly. "Do you mind helping Janus-"

I pause as trepidation crosses Vorik's face. I grab his shoulder and propel him into a quiet section of Engineering, well away from the others.

"Is there a problem?" I ask sharply.

"I had intended to work with Lieutenant Carey on the-"

"Scratch that," I tell him fiercely. "Joe can handle the job himself. He doesn't need you to help run a diagnostic on isolinear chips. A first year could do it alone. I want you to help Janus realign the relays. Is that clear?"
Vorik nods and I release his shoulders. I let my breath out slowly, my eyes still on Vorik's face.

"I know what's going on," I tell him softly. "Don't think I don't see it and I know what everyone's thinking. We're going home and eventually, we're going to go our own ways, but that's in a few days. Right now, we're still on Voyager and we're still one crew. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Lieutenant."

I turn to look back at Engineering; action has all but stopped and most eyes are turned to me. I can see the challenge unspoken in their expressions and I know they are daring me to say something, but I find that I cannot. Everyone might as well know that I too want to run in the opposite direction and get as far away from Starfleet as I possibly can.

"Back to work, everyone!" I call out. I look back at Vorik. At least I won't have to lie to Janeway; I did try, only my heart wasn't in the effort - but she does not need to know that.

"Do not let me down, Vorik."

He nods and heads to the second level to work with Janus. I lean back against the wall and watch his progress. Janus looks visibly disturbed at Vorik's arrival and voices rise in dismay as Vorik begins to work. After a few minutes, Janus joins in.

The problem is, I can't walk the talk. I understand instinctively what Janeway is saying and I know that we need to remain one crew and not promote separate factions; it's just that my heart belongs firmly with the Maquis. I never wanted to wear a Starfleet uniform and even now, sometimes I look at myself in the mirror, staring at that mustard yellow and black fashion faux pas and cringe.

It was much better on the Borg cube.

You didn't form alliances nor did you have thoughts. You just were. The Queen dictated, you listened, and not for a moment, did you feel remorse or pity for your actions.

There are advantages to being a drone.

No wonder Seven kept trying to form her own little collectives when she first came on Voyager.
I brush my hair away from my face, tucking it behind my ear, before joining Nicoletti.

Janeway lives in some kind of Utopia, a Borg kind of world, I think. She can spout philosophy about staying together, but guess what? I don't buy it. Not for a single minute. It's not worth expending the energy on something I don't believe in and never have I believed in Starfleet or anything remotely associated with that stuffy establishment.

I am Maquis.

Don't try to tell me that Starfleet sees anything about me other than that one fact.

And don't try to convince me Starfleet cares because it doesn't. When it comes to the Maquis, Starfleet ranks us somewhere below the common terrorist but slightly above the Genoran firefly.

I guess it's always good to know where you stand.


We slip into the Alpha Quadrant when most onboard Voyager are still sleeping. I only notice because I'm at the helm and the senior staff is on the Bridge.

"We're being hailed," Harry tells the Captain.

Janeway is on her feet, "On screen."

The enormous face of one Admiral Rodney McArthur fills the screen. If he sits any closer to his viewscreen, we might be able to see his pores.

"Welcome home, Captain," the Admiral says.

"It's good to be back," she answers.

"Preparations have been made for your arrival at Starbase 87," the Admiral says.

"Good," Janeway says. "We should be there in about eight hours."

"It's good to see you again, Kathryn," the Admiral continues. He looks around the Bridge, his gaze sweeping over each one of us. "We have a lot to discuss when you get to the Starbase."

"I look forward to it."

"Until then," the Admiral bestows a smile upon the Captain; I'll bet he was a real heartbreaker, say, fifty years ago.

The viewscreen goes blank and is immediately replaced by the blue and white Federation/Starfleet logo.

"Now that's a sight for sore eyes," Harry declares. "Real proof that we are finally home."

"It doesn't feel any different than the Delta Quadrant," B'Elanna says. I can extrapolate, from the tone of her voice, exactly the way she is standing, shoulders back and stiff, arms crossed stubbornly across her chest.

"Except that the star maps in our database actually match up with a known sector?" Harry offers.

"It's like a birthday," B'Elanna argues back. "You officially get a year older on a specific day but it doesn't feel any different than the previous day or even the day before that."

"Your comparison is flawed. The Alpha Quadrant and birthdays have nothing in common," Seven interjects.

"I'm just saying, I don't feel any more at home in the Alpha Quadrant than I did in the Delta Quadrant. Is that all right with you?" B'Elanna is spitting fire now.

"Seven, Lieutenant," Janeway gets up from her chair, but there is a smile in her voice.

My wife bristles.

My wife.

It's odd. We have been married for three days now yet this is the first time I have actually referred - even if only in my thoughts - to B'Elanna as my wife. And like so many other things, the transition from girlfriend to wife was so subtle, I never even noticed.

B'Elanna's right; it should have felt different when we crossed from Delta to Alpha. There should have been fireworks or, I don't know, but there should have been something. Instead there is nothing.

Janeway however looks like a cat that just swallowed the last bit of catnip left in the galaxy. If her smile gets any wider, her ears are going to have to move back to make room.

Chakotay looks tense, unbelievably tense. In some ways, he looks like the man I remember from five months ago, the one who couldn't make up his mind about what to do about the Borg.

I have to cut him slack though; I wouldn't have known what to do in that situation.

If ever I was face to face with the Borg Queen, I think my first instinct would be to hop into the Delta Flyer and hope against hopes that I could outrun the cube. And then, when they did finally catch up to me, I would hope that assimilation would be relatively painless.

I know now, after talking to B'Elanna, that assimilation is not painless and that even after de-assimilation, the pain lingers, carried on the backs of nanoprobes still stubbornly flowing through her blood.

"Do you think they have a welcome party for us?" Harry asks.

Harry would be the one to ask. Sometimes, I want to smack my friend to try to get some of that naivete out of his head.

"I wouldn't expect so," Chakotay responds even before Janeway's lips part. Janeway's head whirls around and she looks at Chakotay sternly; to his credit, he does not wilt.

"I would think there would be some kind of fanfare," the Doctor says. I have no doubt that the Doctor has already prepared some kind of slide show for the Alpha Quadrant; left to his own devices, he would certainly tour the galaxy, showing off indigenous species of flora and fauna from the Delta Quadrant. Every presentation, of course, would feature a long-winded speech filled with more adjectives and adverbs than necessary. "After all, we have been gone for seven years. Surely there would be some interest in our return."

"Too much interest, if you ask me," Chakotay mutters.

B'Elanna catches that; she is quick, my wife is.

"What do you mean?" B'Elanna demands.

"Now, Lieutenant," Tuvok says.

"No, I want answers," B'Elanna says. "Is there something we should know? Captain?"

Janeway's eyes are hard; diamonds couldn't cut the glassy surface of her expression.

"Captain?" B'Elanna says again.

There is utter silence on the Bridge; we are all waiting with bated breath.

"If you're concerned about what Starfleet intends to do with us," B'Elanna says, "you don't need to be. We already know so it's no use saying nothing at all."

Janeway clears her throat. Seven tilts her head questioningly; unfortunately, the Doctor has yet to cover body language with her and so, she remains in the dark, unversed in the subtleties of silent communication.

"That's enough, Lieutenant," Janeway says sharply.

Janeway's tone suffocates all conversation on the Bridge. B'Elanna bends her dark head over her console and Chakotay moves uncomfortably in his seat. Even the Doctor seems perturbed though I doubt it's because of anything B'Elanna might have said.

So we enter the Alpha Quadrant just as we left it: at odds with each other.


Starbase 87 hangs in space, tilting at an awkward sixty-degree angle, some of its decks held together by force fields. Some of its communication array towers are bent or broken off completely. Construction crews in EVA suits are tethered to various spots on the station, bouncing off of the panels as they conduct repairs.

It is not the most inviting place I've ever seen. Even the Borg cube looks like the lap of luxury in comparison.
The minute Tom pilots the ship smoothly into the docking bay, I flee from the Bridge, not waiting for Janeway's dismissal. At this particular point, I am beyond reprimands.

Instead, I retreat to the holodeck, the quietest place on Voyager and it isn't long before Tom joins me.

"I thought you might be here," he says.

Once again, I'm running the beach program. Today, there is a light wind blowing through the palm trees. In the distance, we can make out the faint shimmers of a sailboat gliding across the seemingly smooth surface of the water. I have picked late evening so I can watch what I believe is my last sunset as a free woman.

I am still in my uniform, but have stripped off my shoes and socks, letting my toes dig into the sand.

"Are you all right?" Tom asks, sitting on the lawn chair directly behind me. "I was worried when you stormed off the Bridge like that."

"She was lying," I answer, my gaze focused straight ahead. "I despise that."

"What do you want her to say? That yes, there will be a special committee working on an extra special homecoming for the Maquis?"

"If that's the truth, then yes, that's what I want her to say."

"Is this another pity party, B'Elanna? Because I'm getting tired of this."

"I'm not feeling sorry for myself," I tell him. "I just want whatever is going to happen. I'm here now even though I don't want to be and if I'm going to prison, I want them to just tell me. I want Janeway to tell me. I think she owes me that much."

I don't turn around, but I can imagine Tom leaning forward, his forearms on his knees, and his fingers knit together in nervousness.

"Have you talked to the Doctor lately?" he asks softly.

"I am not suffering from post-traumatic stress or whatever that is," I shoot back.

"I think you are," Tom says. "You need medical help."

"I don't think so," I get to my feet, rubbing the sand off of my pants as I rise.

Tom catches my arm and pulls me down on to the chair next to him. "Chakotay said as much, Tom. Said that Starfleet hasn't forgotten; that they are just waiting at the airlock for us."

Tom rubs my shoulders, easing the tension out of them, "And if it's true?"

"I don't know," I say. "I guess it doesn't matter, does it? It was only a matter of time. This could have happened anytime, ten years ago or today. Except it's much worse today, much worse."

"You don't know for sure what's going to happen."

I turn to smile at him, putting my fingers to his lips, and then tracing the strong curve of his jaw.

"I'll miss you," I whisper. His hand tightens on my shoulder.

"I suppose I can give you tips about New Zealand," he says. "You know, give you the ins and outs of the place."

"That would be nice," I answer.

"It's not so bad," he says. "Food's terrible."

"That's what I hear."

The sun is now a thin sliver in the distance, lavender blending into a periwinkle sky tinged with gold.

"You can have the house ready when I get back," I tell him. "Ten, twenty years, you should have it perfect."

Tom holds my hand in his; his sweaty palms are clammy against mine.

"It better not be that long," his voice is very low. "I know we haven't quite seen eye to eye for the last few weeks, but I want you to know that I will do everything I can if, and I say if, you do end up in prison."
I touch his cheek with my palm and somehow, he gathers me into his arms and we lay back down, my cheek against his chest.

I love moments like this when all is silent with the exception of our breathing and our hearts. Sometimes, I try to match my breath with his, thinking that this simple act of living can be another way of binding us closer together.

His fingers run through my hair, his nose just above my head.

I tighten my hold on his shoulder, thinking that the might be the last time we're together and then I'm suddenly and inexplicably furious - if we had stayed in the Delta Quadrant, we would not be in this situation, facing the very real possibility of saying good-bye.

We fall asleep like this, our bodies curled together.

When I wake, the holodeck is pitch dark.

"Tom?" I whisper.

"What is it?" his voice is groggy, still heavy with sleep.

"It's…," I look around. "Dark. Very dark."

"It's nothing, B'Elanna," he says. "It's just before dawn."

"How do you know?"

"They say that the darkest hour is just before the sun rises again," he mumbles.

I shift my weight so I'm lying almost completely on top of him. Our lips meet hungrily and his hands are suddenly everywhere as are mine.

We don't speak as our bodies mesh together, as he sinks deeply into me, his mouth nipping at my cheek. My hands rest on the small of his back as I inhale, memorizing his scent, the way his body fits mine so perfectly, and of course, the way his breath blows warm against my skin.

The sun comes up and we lie there, our hands intertwined, still not speaking.

At some point, Tom sits up, gets dressed and then holds his hand out to me. I understand instinctively and again, he grabs me by the waist.

"Whatever happens," he says. "It doesn't matter. I'll wait for you."

I touch his cheek gently, "I know."

We are still sticky with each other and I can smell myself on his skin. When we part ways at the holodeck door, I return to my quarters but I am reluctant to wash his scent off of me.

I shed my Starfleet uniform on the floor, kicking it out of the way as I slip out of bra and panties on my way into the bathroom. I activate the sonic shower, leaning against the wall, barely feeling the gentle pulses against my skin.

When I emerge, I don't look at my discarded clothes, but rather head to the closet and pull out the brown-red tunic and brown pants I discarded seven years ago.

I look in the mirror, hoping to see some of Starfleet left in me, but I have rejected that persona as easily as my now despised uniform.

I am ready when Chakotay appears at my door. Like me, he is no longer wearing his Starfleet uniform.

"Ready?" he asks in a low voice.

"Yes," I answer. And with those whom we had formerly called friends, still in their Starfleet uniforms, watching, Chakotay and I leave Voyager.

~ continued in "Lines in the Sand: Night" ~

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