A Case of Need, part V
"Computer, lights," Neelix said, once he had punched in the security code authorizing them entry. B'Elanna took a look around. Again, nothing looked familiar. One thing was for sure: these quarters were more inviting, more comfortable than the apartment she had occupied on Quarra.
"I don't live alone," B'Elanna said. She nodded towards a pair of shoes lying by the bed. "I - those aren't mine."
"No, those belong to your husband."
"Husband?" B'Elanna asked. She remembered what the Doctor had told her earlier, but she still didn't quite believe it. "I- I don't think so. I- he left, there isn't anyone."
"No, there is, B'Elanna," Neelix said. "Look." He picked up a framed picture and showed it too B'Elanna.
She took the picture in her hands carefully and stared hard at it. It was an image of her - sitting on the lap of... the waiter. They were showing off simple gold bands to the camera. His face against her cheek, and she was leaning into him, her eyes closed and a smile across her lips.
"The waiter... from the tavern?" B'Elanna asked in disbelief. She touched the picture carefully, obscuring Tom's face with her finger.
"Lieutenant Tom Paris, our pilot, and B'Elanna Torres, our Chief Engineer. That picture was taken on your honeymoon."
B'Elanna shook her head. The smooth-talking waiter who flirted with almost every woman who came into the restaurant?
"It's not possible," she told Neelix.
"How else would we have it?" Neelix argued back. B'Elanna barely heard him as her attention was drawn to a box with a viewscreen in the corner. She looked back at Neelix questioningly.
"It's antique television. You gave it to Tom as a present," Neelix told her.
... beep beep. A cliff, a coyote, a roadrunner, the letters 'ACME.'
"He watches... cartoons," B'Elanna said. She looked at Neelix in surprise. "How do I know that?"
"Because you're starting to remember," Neelix answered proudly. B'Elanna shrugged and glanced back down at the picture. This time, she didn't try to obscure Tom's face.
"I wondered why he was so protective of me," she said quietly. She clenched the picture tightly and then looked around. There were objects here, so many clues to her life with this man. And despite her misgivings, she was starting to believe - beginning to realize that maybe she did indeed belong here. Here in these quarters, here on Voyager.
She moved through the room, looking at everything in curious fascination. She noted the bat'leth on the wall and paused briefly to run her fingers over its edge.
When she passed the table, she noticed a metallic object with two slots on the top and finally, the baby's crib with a little mobile hanging above it. She touched the wood finish of the crib gently and then looked down at the little blankets folded across the small mattress.
She felt her breath catch.
... you know, this is one special kid we're having.
... you're just figuring that out?
She glanced back at Neelix, who offered her a supportive smile. She turned back to the crib and leaned down to stroke the soft material.
... they were getting ready for the baby. Both of them, together. His hand on the small of her back. Smiling at her. Happy - they were... happy.
B'Elanna blinked as the crib suddenly blurred in front of her. She gripped the railing tightly.
"I'll be outside if you need me," Neelix said softly. B'Elanna didn't acknowledge his departure.
B'Elanna remained standing by the crib for a long time, not really seeing anything at all. After a while, she blinked and took another look around. The quarters looked lived in with the occasional clutter on end tables.
She walked over to the closet and opened it. Several uniforms - some with red jackets, others with yellow - hung side by side. She touched the material and then pushed the uniforms aside. There were some civilian clothes here too, including a brown sleeveless dress.
... flowers and an afternoon at the movies.
B'Elanna thumbed through the rest of the clothes, but nothing else triggered a memory. She closed the closet and then opened the dresser drawers. The top drawer held a collection of night clothes, all in different fabrics, colors and styles. Hers, all of them.
... his voice, soft and seductive, whispering: "Surprise me. You always do."
Abruptly, B'Elanna slammed the drawer shut and turned to lean back against the dresser. She could see everything from here and she realized that even if she couldn't remember this life - even if she was being manipulated - she wanted this life. Desperately.
She thought of apartment 3C down on Quarra with its utter lack of personality. She recalled lying awake at night, staring up at the ceiling, wondering how she was going to cope once the baby arrived.
And she realized that she hated feeling helpless, hated not knowing...
B'Elanna sat on the bed, feeling the material of the comforter beneath her palms. She looked around and finally noticed the stack of PADDs on the night table. She reached over and picked up the top one, turning it one.
"'Warrior Women at the River of Blood'," she said. The PADD clattered from her hands to the floor, but she made no move to pick it up.
Her eyes focused on the small terminal on the desk. B'Elanna got up and stood in front of it. She took a seat, inhaled deeply and tapped a button. A second later a password field flashed onto the screen. B'Elanna stared for a second and then she typed a few numbers. The machine paused and then brought up another screen.
"The personal logs of B'Elanna Torres," she read out-loud. She saw that the entries spanned almost seven complete years. The last one had been recorded three weeks previously. "Computer, play last log entry."
A second passed before B'Elanna heard her own voice.
"I don't know how long I can keep this ship together. Every day, it's something new. Today, all of the relays in grid nineteen A blew out. I bypassed the grid and rerouted everything over to twenty and twenty-one, plus wired in the B relay, but it's a temporary measure. I had Icheb run diagnostics at least a thousand times. He tells me all systems are running well within specified parameters, but I told him to go ahead and plan on running the tests every morning for the next seven days, just to be sure. He doesn't like the idea, but I insisted. Icheb doesn't know Voyager the way I do and you can never be too careful. The ship has a tendency to overload when you least expect it, especially since we constantly divert power and plasma flow through conduits and wiring that can't possibly support the high resistive and voltage levels. Tom tells me that I'm too stressed and that I need to calm down. He says it isn't good for the baby, and I know he's right, but I can't help worrying. If something goes wrong on this ship, I have to fix it. Damn. I hate red alert. If it isn't one thing, it's another. End log."
B'Elanna sat very still for a moment and then said, "Computer, replay last ten seconds of the log."
She listened to the red alert klaxons again. She had a vague recollection of running down a corridor, of smoke, and increasing radiation levels.
... evacuate, we must evacuate. Radiation levels are approaching lethal levels.
... understood, Lieutenant. Evacuate your area and set the escape pods on course for the closest M-class planet.
B'Elanna took a deep breath and then requested, "Computer, play first log in database."
"Starfleet. Thought I'd finally gotten away from the claustrophobia of their rules, their regulations, and even their stupid uniforms. But here I am. I'm wearing yellow. I don't even know what that means. Well, I do. It means that Chakotay has given in. We've fought for so long against this... and now, we're accepting it. Chakotay tells me that this is the best decision, that we all need to work together to get home. Even if it means accepting Starfleet again. They didn't want me the first time, why would they want me now? End log."
It was eerie to listen to her own voice recording events that she did not remember. But B'Elanna was desperately glad that she had found the logs; at least, it had given some validity to the claim that she did indeed belong here and that she wasn't usurping someone else's life.
She listened to her logs for almost two hours and then got up from her chair. She walked around, again taking in all of the little objects. She paused in front of the television and picked up the remote control. She pressed "Power" and the television blinked on.
... jingles. Confusing, I know, but I left them in for authenticity.
B'Elanna gripped the remote tighter. She remembered Tom lying on the floor and waking up with a nightmare. He had turned off the television and pulled her into his arms. Told her that he had had enough for one night.
B'Elanna dropped the remote and went back to the terminal. The television continued to play in the background, but she didn't pay any attention.
"Computer, download personal logs of Thomas Eugene Paris, security authorization Torres Beta Nine."
The computer beeped back an acknowledgement and B'Elanna picked up the PADD containing Tom's logs. She stared at the PADD for a long time, knowing that she was about to violate a confidence.
"But we're married," she reasoned out-loud. "No secrets, right?"
And B'Elanna began to read.
She started at the beginning, fast-forwarding through some of the more dull logs - the ones that described in excruciating details the things Tom had had for breakfast. A few of the logs recounted his pursuit of the Delaney sisters and there were some brief mentions of Kes.
... they were on the holodeck, with the Doctor, eating dinner.
... they're kind of perfect, Kes said.
... they're ridiculously perfect, B'Elanna had countered.
B'Elanna rubbed her eyes. She felt increasingly weary and a bit guilty about this intrusion into Tom Paris' life.
"Doctor to Torres."
B'Elanna blinked and then said, "Torres here."
"How are you feeling... Lieutenant?"
"I'm- I'm doing well," B'Elanna answered. "Tired, but I'm okay."
"Are you remembering?"
"A little bit. Bits and pieces. Nothing coherent."
"Don't worry. It will come back to you."
"I hope so," B'Elanna answered. She stared back down at the PADD and the mustard colored letters blurred in front of her eyes. She got up from her chair and paced the length of the quarters. Back and forth, back and forth and then pausing in front of the sofa.
... I can't concentrate on sensor readings right now!
... I can't! Stop pushing me! I don't want your help!
Remembering Tom lying on the sofa, remembering the anger directed towards her, convincing herself that he really didn't mean it, that it was all a result of that... Memorial.
Suddenly, she was very afraid of the random thoughts that kept intruding on her mind. She grabbed the PADD off the desk and left the quarters.
She found the Mess Hall with no problem and she was amazingly proud of herself for this achievement. As she settled herself on the sofa, she recalled Neelix's words to her earlier.
"See? You do know this ship," he had said.
And she was starting to admit that he was right, however disconcerting this feeling was.
Now comfortable on the couch, she continued reading Tom's logs. His logs amused her on occasion, especially the ones detailing various pranks he had played on others. Some of his logs were more serious musings on everything from the Viidians to the state of his relationship with his father.
... you can assume that he said he was proud of you and that he loves you.
And then there was her, B'Elanna. Her own logs had been curiously distant on the subject of Tom Paris; he figured in her narration only as part of a day's activities, and how she felt about Tom, well, apparently she had never committed that to her logs. But Tom... he was more forthcoming than she would have expected, especially given what she knew of him as a waiter.
B'Elanna inhaled deeply as she continued reading.
"You don't realize how much you appreciate someone until she's not around. Damn. I miss her. Tuvok is unsympathetic. Hell, he doesn't even notice Noss and how she hangs on every word of his. It surprises me, yes, that she could be so attracted to him and it bothers me that Tuvok doesn't seem to care a bit for her. I've been counting days and each day is longer than the one before. I've been playing a game, trying to remember different things about B'Elanna. Everything from the way she parts her hair right down the center to how she reads in bed before we go to sleep. Every day, I add a new thing to the list. I'm afraid, if we're here much longer, I won't remember her anymore. So I've been replaying our last moments together in my mind - the way she smiled at me when I left. A sneaky smile, one that promised me unspeakable things on my return. Damn. I- I didn't want to need her."
B'Elanna paused in her reading when she smelled something. Something familiar. She looked up to see Neelix approaching her, carrying a tray.
"Smells good," B'Elanna told him as he put a plate down in front of her.
"Pancakes with maple syrup are your favorite breakfast," Neelix said. B'Elanna nodded; she knew, somehow, that this was true. B'Elanna indicated the seat next to her and Neelix sat down.
"You know, sometimes food is like 'time travel.' You inhale an aroma, take a bite of something and suddenly - BAM! - you're back at the moment you firrst tasted it."
B'Elanna carefully cut a piece of pancake, spearing it with her fork. She chewed slowly, savoring the taste. She nodded.
"They're good," she said wryly. "But I'm not experiencing time travel."
Neelix sighed and then pointed at the PADD.
"What are you reading?"
"Do you remember recording any of them?"
B'Elanna shook her head. "They're not mine. They're Tom's."
"Those are supposed to be private."
B'Elanna shrugged her shoulders, feeling that immediate tinge of guilt again. She had thought she would only read a few of the logs, but she'd gotten so caught up in Tom's thoughts, that she had kept going.
"Well, he's my husband," she said uncertainly.
Neelix smiled. "What do they say?"
B'Elanna grinned back at him.
"They're private," she said. She noticed that Neelix was looking anxiously at her and she felt the sudden need to share a little of what she had read with him. "But the way he describes me...." Her voice drifted off as a lump formed in her throat.
"He loves you."
B'Elanna glanced back down at the PADD, trying not to react too strongly to Neelix's words. Back on Quarra, she hadn't even thought of love, had mildly contemplated a flirtation with Tom, but for the most part, had some vague impression of a man who had left her. A man who had not loved her. She had reconciled herself to that idea for the most part, but here Neelix was sitting next to her, telling her that those minor truths, the ones she had created, were, in fact, lies.
Tom loved her. She knew it, and had only needed Neelix to validate verbally those things she had read on the PADD.
"I guess so," she said hoarsely.
"How do you feel?" Neelix asked with concern.
"It's still a little foggy."
"The 'fog' should lift as soon as the Doctor finishes your treatments."
"Yeah," B'Elanna said. She was not looking forward to going back to the Doctor, especially after what Neelix had told her about the vocalization treatments. Then she realized that even if she got her own memories back...
"But what about the guy who recorded these logs?" B'Elanna asked abruptly.
"We'll get him back. The rest of the crew, too," Neelix responded confidently.
B'Elanna nodded. She certainly hoped so. After everything she had read and seen...
"You should finish," Neelix said, indicating the plate of pancakes. "Keep your strength up."
She glared at him but then softened when she saw the kindness in his expression.
"You- you have been very nice to me," she said softly. Neelix patted her hand gently.
"We're glad to have you back, B'Elanna. The ship, it isn't the same without you or the others."
B'Elanna laughed. "I can see that," she said. "Are there a lot of people on the ship?"
"One hundred and forty."
"That is a lot."
"It feels empty without everyone, but don't worry. Chakotay is still down on Quarra. We'll get everyone back."
"I hope so." She glanced back down at the PADD. "Neelix, there was a subspace mine, wasn't there? That's why we had to abandon ship?"
"That's what the Doctor says, yes."
B'Elanna frowned. "Sensors never picked up the mine. I don't know how we possibly missed it and I remember thinking as we escaped in the pods that I needed to double-check that system when the radiation finally cleared up and we could return. I don't remember anything else after that. Only getting into the pods and making sure that Tom and the others were all right."
"I think you were captured shortly after that," Neelix said. "Anything else?"
B'Elanna nodded. She could almost smell the smoke in Engineering, could almost hear the klaxons and see the readings on the console spitting out radiation level recordings. Then the cramped voyage in the escape pods, sitting with Carey, Ayala and Tom; reaching over to touch Celes' burned arm while Tom pulled out the medkit.
B'Elanna nodded. "Many of the crew had radiation burns, including the Captain. Some of them were quite severe. The Quarrans must have treated those. Nice of them, I suppose."
"A minor point in their favor?" Neelix asked.
"No, just something I think I remember."
"You seem to be doing a lot of remembering. That's good."
"It's not enough. There's still a lot that doesn't make sense to me."
"Eat," Neelix said as he got up from his seat. "That will help. And be patient. It will come to you soon."
"Neelix?" B'Elanna asked.
"What is it?"
She smiled at him, almost shyly.
"Thank you," she said. "For everything."
"Doctor to Torres."
B'Elanna sighed. "What is it?"
"You're late. You were supposed to be here thirty minutes ago to resume your treatments."
"Sorry. I got so caught up in what I was doing, I forgot. I'm on my way. Torres out."
B'Elanna regretfully turned off the PADD; she would finish reading later.
Go to part VI
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