A Case of Need, part III
The nights were the hardest. B'Elanna would lie in bed, usually with her hand on her swollen belly, trying to find a comfortable spot on the hard mattress. She was very aware of all of the sounds surrounding her, from the gentle whir of the replicator recharging to the loud utility transports just outside the apartment complex. She would hear voices at all times of day and night. Loud voices, laughing, usually, people coming home from work, going home to warm, safe places.
Sometimes, B'Elanna would get out of bed and sit on the balcony. There were plants, plenty of them, overflowing window boxes on the balcony. She didn't really know how to take care of plants so she would touch the soil, make sure it was moist, and if not, get some water. She only hoped the plants would survive for another month.
She imagined sitting out on the balcony in a rocking chair, cradling her baby in the soft glow of moonlight. She thought of pleasant summer nights and warm breezes.
And she thought of Tom and his smooth voice telling her, "I can't imagine anyone wanting to leave you. I just can't."
But she knew better. She couldn't name the occurrences, of course, but she knew better.
She woke one night in a panic, sweating, and rushing into the bathroom to splash water on her face. And when she looked up, she saw the gentle ridges across her forehead. She knew why he - whoever he was - left.
She didn't understand why Tom couldn't see it too.
When she arrived at the restaurant, Tom greeted her at the door.
"You're right on time," he said enthusiastically.
"What are you talking about?" B'Elanna asked. It had been a long night at the facility and she really wasn't in the mood for small talk. She wanted to settle down, eat something, and finish off her book.
"Joelly and Marchin are here," Tom said.
"Come here." Tom put his hand on B'Elanna's arm and she allowed him to pull her to a table where a couple sat. "Joelly, Marchin, this is B'Elanna."
Joelly, an attractive woman approximately B'Elanna's age, smiled a welcome while Marchin rose and pulled out a chair.
"Tom told us about you," Joelly said. "We've been looking forward to meeting you."
B'Elanna looked at Tom. He smiled at her encouragingly.
"Joelly and Marchin met here," he said. "Apparently Umali introduced them to each other several years ago. They come here regularly."
"The place brings back good memories," Marchin said. "Plus, the service is decent. Speaking of which, Tom, can you get B'Elanna something to eat?"
"The usual?" Tom asked.
"Yes," B'Elanna said.
Tom disappeared and Joelly looked at B'Elanna in askance.
"The usual?" she asked. "What is it?"
"Whatever he feels like," B'Elanna said. "I let him pick. He manages to pick out things I like, so I let him do it."
"Sounds like an interesting way of ordering," Joelly said. "Tom said this was your first baby."
"Yes," B'Elanna said. "I think."
She didn't bother explaining the last remark and Joelly didn't push it.
"Our baby is due in ten weeks. Tom said yours was due at approximately the same time. Have you picked a hospital?"
"There are four in the city. We plan to go to Memorial. It's the biggest one, plus it's near by. If you want, I can take you there so you can look around. Of course, it helps to go to the same hospital where your doctor is."
"Doctor?" B'Elanna blinked. She had had one check-up since arriving as part of the routine physical given to all employees at the Power Distribution Facility, but she hadn't even thought of finding her own doctor. Suddenly, she was terribly, horribly afraid. What if something was wrong with the baby? She put her hand on her stomach, willing the baby to kick. Nothing. B'Elanna bit her lip.
"We'll help you," Joelly said quickly. "Don't worry, B'Elanna. You don't have to do this alone. Do you have time tomorrow? I can introduce you to my doctor."
"That would be nice, thank you," B'Elanna said gratefully. "I'm still trying to get my feet on the ground."
"Understandable. We have those moments too," Joelly said. Marchin nodded.
"Having a baby, it's overwhelming, we know," Marchin said. "The responsibility, wow. I'm not sure, even now, whether we're ready."
"I don't want to hear that," B'Elanna said, but she smiled as she spoke.
Tom came back with a plate of food.
"Here you go," he said grandly. "Chicken and vegetables."
B'Elanna looked at the plate curiously.
"You'll like it," Tom said. "I promise."
B'Elanna cut a small piece of chicken and tasted it. It tasted, well, bland, but at least she didn't feel nauseated. She smiled at Tom and he looked relieved.
"I'd stay and talk, but..." Tom gestured at two newcomers who had just come in. Once was of medium height with mottled skin and yellow tufted hair. The other was taller with black hair, his eyes set deep beneath a heavy forehead ridge.
"Maybe later, okay?"
"Thanks, Tom," B'Elanna said gratefully.
"You must live in Employees' Housing, right?" Joelly asked.
"Yes, building 3C."
"We're in 22D. Maybe you can move closer to us."
"I'm thinking of moving. I'm on the second floor right now, but I'd like something on the ground floor. Or, at the very least, a building with a lift."
Joelly laughed. "I know the feeling. We're on the ground floor. It's nice. We even have a little yard. We're thinking of adding a swing later on."
"That sounds nice," B'Elanna said wistfully. She imagined warm summer nights, pushing her baby in a little swing, and then in a few years, she could see her child with the others, kicking a ball through a pair of goal posts.
"Look," Marchin said. "Anytime you need anything, just ask. We- we want to help.
Tom told us a little about your situation and we know it's hard for you. So don't hesitate. This isn't the time to be proud."
"Thank you. I appreciate your kindness."
"I just know that if I were in a similar situation..." Joelly's voice drifted off.
"You don't have to say anything," B'Elanna said quietly. "And please, don't feel sorry for me. Believe me, I spend enough time pitying myself. I figure it's time to stop doing that."
"Good for you," Marchin said approvingly. B'Elanna finished off her vegetables and glanced up just in time to see Kathryn pass by with an attractive man. The two seemed deeply engrossed in conversation and didn't notice B'Elanna. B'Elanna smiled to herself. She would take Kathryn up on her dinner invitation the next time she had the chance.
"Do you enjoy your work?" Joelly asked.
B'Elanna laughed. "Well, it's much better than my last job. I know that."
"But?" Joelly prodded.
"I'm considering switching. I think I might like engineering more."
"Sounds like a good possibility to consider," Marchin said. "And it might be more interesting too. While we have good employers, I have to say, the work can occasionally be dull."
"So far so good," B'Elanna said. She smiled at the couple, enjoying the way her facial muscles relaxed as her lips turned upward. She would have to thank Tom later; meeting Joelly and Marchin was the best thing that had happened to her since coming to Quarra.
"We should go," Joelly said. "Marchin has a late shift and we need to pick up some things from the store before he goes to work."
"It was nice meeting you." B'Elanna rose. "Really. I would like to see you again."
"How about tomorrow morning? Tom said you worked the night shift. Does ten o'clock sound all right?"
"Sounds perfect. Thank you."
B'Elanna picked up her coat and was about to follow Joelly and Marchin out the door when Tom called out to her.
B'Elanna turned as Tom approached her.
"I'm due for a break. I'll walk you to the transport," he said. As much as she appreciated the offer, B'Elanna really wanted time to think. Talking with Joelly and Marchin had made her realize how little she had done in way of preparing for the baby's arrival. In fact, despite the support they offered, their togetherness and confidence in their relationship overwhelmed B'Elanna. She simply could not think of how she would manage alone and she really wanted some time to gather her thoughts.
"Stop worrying. I'll be fine."
"It's not you I'm worried about."
"The baby will be fine too," B'Elanna said. She flashed a smile at Tom, one that she hoped was warm and showed the gratitude she felt for his concern. With that, she turned and walked out the door.
It was a cool evening, perfect for a walk. B'Elanna jammed her hands in her pockets. There weren't a lot of people around, but that didn't bother B'Elanna; she was too involved in her own thoughts.
She walked briskly for about five minutes before she started to feel uncomfortable. She turned around and didn't see anyone, but still, she felt suspicious. She quickened her pace. She rounded the corner and bumped into the man with the dark hair and heavy brow ridges she'd seen earlier in the restaurant.
"Excuse me," the man said genially.
B'Elanna glared at him and then realized by his expression that this man seemed friendly, not dangerous. She relaxed.
"It was my fault. I should watch where I'm going."
She attempted to move to the side, but the man sidestepped her.
B'Elanna shivered, suddenly feeling the chill of the evening. She regretted, at that moment, rejecting Tom's offer to walk her to the transport.
"How do you know my name?" she asked warily.
The man paused and then said in a low voice, "What if I told you we were old friends?"
"That's a ridiculous story."
"I know it sounds strange, but I can prove it to you. Just give me a chance."
B'Elanna took a step backward. The man made her nervous and all she wanted right now was to get to the safety of the Power Facility.
"Look, I'm sorry but I'm late for work," B'Elanna said. She brushed by him, but the man grabbed her arm. B'Elanna tried to pull away but his grip was tight. He dragged her into a side alley.
"Let go of me!" she screamed.
"I'm not going to hurt you," the stranger said.
B'Elanna scoffed at this last comment. Likely story. She should have known - all of these men with their ridiculous stories. She swung at him and hit him in the jaw. The man released her arm as he staggered back. B'Elanna took the opportunity to turn and run, but the strange man with the yellow hair blocked her way. He grabbed her by the forearms, making it impossible for B'Elanna to struggle.
"Security! Help!" B'Elanna screamed. In the background, B'Elanna heard the man say, "Chakotay to Voyager. We've got B'Elanna. Lock onto Neelix and transport them to Sickbay."
B'Elanna was afraid now. She pushed against her captor, trying to break free, but his grip was too strong.
"Help me!" she yelled.
At that moment, two security officers appeared and one of them yelled, "Let her go!"
But B'Elanna felt the slight tingle of the transporter beam and knew it was too late.
They materialized in a large room filled with medical equipment. For a moment, B'Elanna could only think of Joelly and Marchin and their kind offer to take her to visit the city hospitals. And then she realized that she was still with that strange yellow-haired alien.
"Where am I?" she asked, looking around in fear.
"Voyager. I'm Neelix. You remember me, right?"
B'Elanna shook her head.
"I'm - I'm your friend."
"I've never seen you before," B'Elanna said. She tried to punch Neelix, but he was too quick for her and he pushed her against the biobed.
"Leave me alone!" she screamed.
"We're not going to hurt you, B'Elanna. We're trying to help you," Neelix said reassuringly. Out of the corner of her eye, B'Elanna could see someone advancing towards her. She made out the glint of silver in his hand, knew it was a hypospray.
"Don't touch me!" B'Elanna yelled. She thrashed even as the hypospray discharged into her neck. She felt her limbs grow heavy as drowsiness overtook her. "Please," she whispered. "My baby... don't... my..."
Go to part IV
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