A Case of Need
Characters and places belong to Paramount. Original story written by Kenneth Biller and Bryan Fuller. No profit or infringement intended.
Many thanks to Stacy for the script, betas and much needed encouragement. My gratitude to Kim for once again sharing his technobabble expertise and Andrew, for taping this episode and all of the others for me.
Author's note: I started at the end and wrote my way backwards to the beginning. Somewhere along the way, I realized that I violated copyright in more ways than I care to think about. I expect Paramount to show up at my door any minute now.
In memory of Leyla Harrison.
She thought if she could remember his name, it would be all right.
A name, not much to ask for.
She had already given up on trying to remember anything else about him.
A name. That was all she wanted.
B'Elanna sighed as she glanced down at her PADD. Around her, people moved briskly, with a sense of purpose, as if they knew where they were going and more importantly, where they had come from.
She couldn't even remember how she came to Quarra.
Kessik was a distant gray memory. She knew she had lived there, knew she had been unhappy, and probably unemployed. At some point, she had made the decision to book passage on a transport and come here.
The journey from Kessik was a blur just like everything else. She imagined the trip had been like any other transport: cramped quarters and short tempers. It was just as well that she had blocked out the memory.
B'Elanna had disembarked from the transport with only the one shoulder bag containing basic necessities she had brought. She had noted the others around her with disinterest and seen, with dismay that they looked nothing like her.
They came in varied colors, sizes, shapes - and it bothered B'Elanna that she could not name their races.
After leaving the transport station, B'Elanna had asked around and discovered that the Power Facility was desperately in need of workers. She found her way there and met with the supervisor, who had asked her a few perfunctory questions and then handed her a smock.
At least the job kept her busy. They had given her mindless work - monitoring power distribution levels across the city to prevent burnouts - but B'Elanna didn't mind. She didn't really have an idea of what she would like to do instead.
Her shift began at six o'clock at in the evening and she usually arrived a few minutes before she actually had to punch in. B'Elanna would say goodnight to Amina who worked the day shift and then take over the console to focus on the various blips and bleeps that showed the power levels across the city. Most of the times, she didn't look up from her work at all, studying those power grids intensely and only taking her allocated break every two hours.
And for her first week on the job, B'Elanna worked mostly in silence, barely aware of anyone or anything around her. And for the most part, no one noticed her, until one night when B'Elanna, hunched over her work as usual, was startled out of her quietness by a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Excuse me. Are you new here?"
B'Elanna looked up. The speaker was female of medium height with shoulder-length brown hair and a pleasant smile. Like everyone else here in the Power Facility, she wore a uniform of muted colors - gray, brown and black.
"Are you talking to me?" B'Elanna asked. She looked around just to make sure that the woman couldn't possibly be speaking to anyone else.
"Yes," the woman answered. "I'm on break and I saw you. Realized we hadn't met before and thought I'd say hello."
"Hi," B'Elanna said awkwardly.
The woman sat in the chair next to B'Elanna's.
"I hope I'm not taking anyone's seat," she said pleasantly.
"No," B'Elanna responded. "Amina works the dayshift. She's already left."
"Ah. I'm Kathryn. Kathryn Janeway."
"Nice to meet you."
"Same," B'Elanna said. She realized that her mouth felt rusty, realized she hadn't talked to anyone in days. In fact, like everything else, she didn't even know who the last person she'd talked to was.
"Have you been here for very long?" Kathryn asked.
"I think so," B'Elanna said cautiously. "I - maybe two or three weeks?"
"I know the feeling. Time seems to fly here, doesn't it?"
"It seems to," B'Elanna said, not willing to admit that she found the days tedious and long.
"How is the work?"
"It's-" B'Elanna hesitated. What should she say? She found it terribly dull, but it was easy enough and didn't put a strain on her. She supposed she should be grateful; the wages, after all, were good. "It's interesting."
"It's a lot better than where I used to be. A whole new experience and I'm enjoying it immensely. You'll like it too. I can't think of a better place to work."
"I'm sure you're right."
"You don't sound convinced, but give it time," Kathryn grinned and got up from her seat. "Do you want to get a bite to eat?"
"No, but thanks for asking. I have work to do."
"It's all right to take a break every now and then. It's all right."
"I- I really can't. I don't want to take the risk."
"The risk?" Kathryn frowned.
"Losing my job. I can't risk it. I- I'm pregnant," B'Elanna said. Kathryn smiled.
"I can understand that, but I'm sure it's all right to take your scheduled breaks."
"I'm not due for a break for another two hours," B'Elanna answered. "The new efficiency monitor, I've heard that she's very strict. I came a long way to make a better life for my baby; I don't want to take any chances."
"When is the baby due?" she asked.
"Uh," B'Elanna considered. She had been wondering the same thing herself, but "nine" seemed to come immediately to mind and that number felt right. Felt right like so many other things had felt wrong. "Nine weeks."
"You and your husband must be very excited," Kathryn said. "Well, I'm going to meet some friends for a late dinner. There's a restaurant down the street where a bunch of us like to meet. Feel free to join us anytime."
"Maybe next time. Thank you for the invitation."
B'Elanna watched Kathryn join a group of people by the exit. They all seemed happy to see each other - most of them were smiling. More importantly, they acted like they belonged. Belonged to each other. B'Elanna bit her lip hard enough that she drew blood.
Kathryn had said "husband."
B'Elanna bent over her PADD, trying to concentrate on the fluctuating lines.
After a moment, she brushed the back of her hand over her eyes.
If she could remember his name. If only.
B'Elanna lived in Employees' Housing like all of the other employees at the Power Distribution Facility. The complex was only three blocks away and B'Elanna welcomed the opportunity to walk in the fresh air instead of boarding the crowded transport like she usually did.
Once inside the gate, B'Elanna turned to the left and walked past the gardens, the playground and the clubhouse. The facilities were certainly well equipped but B'Elanna still hadn't taken the time to check out everything the complex offered.
Her apartment was on the second floor of the third building and as she stared up at the two flights of stairs, B'Elanna made the decision that she would need to move once the baby came. It would be easier, she thought, than having to struggle alone carrying a baby and all of the necessary supplies up and down the stairs. And lately, B'Elanna appreciated anything that would make life just a little more convenient and easier.
She hated feeling so alone. She wondered if she had felt this lonely on Kessik.
The apartment was small, utilitarian, and without decoration. There were two rooms - a main room furnished with a table with four chairs, a sofa, and a lamp.
The second room was just big enough for a double bed and a dresser.
Apparently, she hadn't brought any personal effects with her from Kessik, but then, B'Elanna knew with certainty, she had never been particularly interested in collecting or decorating. Still, she wished she had brought some clothes - something she could wear other than the bland gray of the Facility-issued uniforms.
Something to remind her...
I must have left in a hurry, B'Elanna thought as she looked around her meager surroundings. A great hurry. Was I afraid? Was something wrong?
B'Elanna dropped her bag on the floor as she headed towards the sofa. Every muscle in her body ached and she settled herself gratefully on the couch. She closed her eyes, inhaling and exhaling deeply.
... hands, warm, tender, running the length of her legs, massaging weary limbs.
B'Elanna opened her eyes.
... lying on her side as those same hands kneaded her back. Soft, gentle fingers
touching her cheek, caressing her stomach...
She sat up, trying desperately to remember. If only she could follow those hands up through arms, shoulders, neck and finally to the face... to finally recall the curvature of jaw, the sweep of cheek bone, the shape of the eyes and the color of hair.
It occurred to her then that she would have to start shopping for the baby soon. Mentally she compiled a list of items, thought about the costs, and grimaced. It would take a couple more pay periods before she could save up enough money to even buy the necessities like a crib.
B'Elanna got up from the sofa and looked out the window. Below, children played with a round ball. Apparently the goal of the game was to kick the ball between two posts. She watched them for a few minutes before turning her thoughts to the issue of dinner.
She stood in front of the replicator, not sure of what she wanted to eat. She pondered this question before finally bringing up the list of available recipes. She selected one without thinking and a few seconds later, a grilled-cheese sandwich and tomato soup combination materialized. She stared at the food, wrinkling her nose.
"Well," she said out-loud. "I can always try something else if I don't like this."
B'Elanna ate at the table, glad that her chair faced the windows so that she could see the city lights. It was better than sitting alone...
The baby kicked and B'Elanna moved her hand to feel the movement. In spite of herself, B'Elanna smiled; in a few weeks, she wouldn't be alone.
B'Elanna passed the restaurant Kathryn had mentioned every night on her way to work. It was always crowded, filled with laughing, smiling people, all of them talking in loud, boisterous voices. Once, B'Elanna had stopped in to take a look, thinking that maybe it would be nice to eat surrounded by people.
But when she entered, B'Elanna felt overwhelmed by the crowd. She couldn't summon up the courage to walk in and so she left, swallowing hard. She didn't want to be alone in a room of people.
But B'Elanna noticed that only a few people frequented the restaurant during the day and she figured she could muster up the courage to eat then.
B'Elanna made the decision easily as she stood in her apartment, staring at the replicator in an effort to come up with a dish - any dish - that she would enjoy.
She was tired of being disappointed.
And she was prepared to sit by herself; she had brought a PADD of the latest Klingon romance, a bestseller according to the owner of the store who had specifically recommended it to her. The story retold an ancient Klingon epic about warrior women preparing to go into battle by a river flowing with the blood of their slain husbands.
The book was rather bloody and gruesome in some sections, but the story appealed to B'Elanna on a primal level.
Armed with her novel, B'Elanna settled into the satisfying routine of eating at the restaurant directly before and after work. Despite the fact that she didn't talk to anyone while she was at there, B'Elanna had to admit that eating at the restaurant was preferable to her cold apartment.
One afternoon, B'Elanna settled herself at her usual table and immediately turned on the PADD, eager to begin where she had left off.
"Can I bring you something else?"
B'Elanna did not look up from her PADD at the sound of the male voice. She was only dimly aware of someone clad in gray and brown standing next to her table.
"No, thank you," she responded.
"I haven't seen you in here before."
"You probably just didn't notice."
"Oh, I'd have noticed," the speaker continued in a flirtatious tone.
B'Elanna looked up in exasperation.
"Apparently, you're not as observant as you think you are," she said, hoping he would take the coldness of her tone as a hint to leave her alone. She had seen this waiter before and once, had heard the owner of the restaurant yelling at him for serving drinks on the house to a trio of very attractive young women.
"Oh really?" the young man responded arrogantly. B'Elanna didn't like the tone of his voice at all; in fact, his self-assurance and cockiness made her slightly uncomfortable.
"I've been coming here the same time every day for the past two weeks," she answered flatly.
"Well, that explains it. I usually work nights."
"Me too," B'Elanna replied curtly.
"At the Power Distribution Facility," the waiter said. "See? I'm observant."
B'Elanna couldn't help but smile. His voice was soothing, even mildly seductive. But she couldn't think of that right not. The waiter appeared charming and smooth, but for all she knew, her husband - if she had even been married - had been the same.
She couldn't fall for someone. Not now.
From the back, a voice called, "Tom! I need you for a moment."
B'Elanna looked at the waiter, who seemed noticeably annoyed by the summons.
"I'll be right there," he called back and then turned to B'Elanna. "Listen, you should come in when you get a night off. It's a lot more fun when it's a crowd."
"I don't really like crowds."
"Well then, maybe we could get together during the day sometime. Take a walk by the river-"
"I don't think so," B'Elanna cut him off.
Tom looked startled at her reaction and B'Elanna felt a small bit of satisfaction.
"Why not?" he asked in surprise.
B'Elanna sighed. She rose from the table.
"I'm really a very engaging conversationalist," Tom continued. B'Elanna looked down at her stomach and put her hand on it. She smiled slightly as she felt a kick.
Active, she thought. You're an active baby today. But she didn't verbalize those thoughts since she was almost embarrassed by her own pride in the baby. Besides, she didn't think Tom would appreciate it.
"Oh," Tom said awkwardly. He shifted slightly from foot to foot.
B'Elanna nodded, relieved that she wouldn't have to worry about Tom bothering her anymore. He would leave her alone, leave her...
Just like he did.
"Yeah," she said softly. She noted with satisfaction the shock on Tom's face and then asked snidely, "Still want to get together?"
"Well, you're married..." Tom said.
B'Elanna considered this statement and Tom both. She decided on the spot that she hadn't been married, decided that maybe it had been a short relationship, one so quick that nothing about the man who fathered her child remained in her memory.
"No," she said flatly.
"Enjoy your day," B'Elanna said. She brushed past Tom and walked out into the gray morning.
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