|Primary Characters:||B’Elanna Torres, Harry Kim, Tom Paris|
|Description:||Voyager is getting closer to Federation space. That isn’t good news for all the members of the crew. The former Maquis members and a few others know they have to do something to avoid what’s waiting for them on Earth.|
“I’m going to tell Tom. No matter what he’s done, he’s still little Lanna’s dad. He deserves a chance to save himself before it’s too late.”
Harry looked doubtful.
“After all he’s done to you. Besides, what if he tells the Captain?”
“I don’t care. I’ll tell Chakotay too. It’s not as if we’ll be abandoning ship in the middle of the Delta Quadrant. They’ll be able to take on new crew members soon enough. They both deserve a chance.”
“Well, if you’re sure. Want me to come too?”
“No. I’d like to talk to Tom alone and Chakotay too. If the Queen Bee will let me near her males.”
Harry smothered a giggle. That was a good image.
“Ok. If not, maybe she’ll let me in or Gerron.”
“You know what? Go and tell Seven and Corey. Icheb too. The Borg won’t be popular back on Earth.”
“Are you sure? They might feel it’s their duty to inform the Captain?”
“No. I’m not sure. What do you think?”
“I think you’re right. Maybe we’ll have to risk it. Ok, I’ll talk to them. Naomi will be glad. Another kid to play with.”
It was another three days before B’Elanna had a chance to see Chakotay. Tom was still notably absent. It seemed Janeway kept him locked up, after his shifts ended. So she kept him on a tight leash.
I should have done that, B’Elanna thought, regretfully. If I hadn’t let him run my life the way he did, maybe we’d still be together.
By now, she was getting restles. It wouldn’t be long now until they were too close to Federation Space for comfort. They had to avoid any of the danger zones, so they were taking a little longer than they would have in the past, before the war.
Chakotay looked distracted and B’Elanna was afraid she’d picked a bad moment to approach him, but when she walked in, he looked up, seemingly pleased to see her. Janeway wasn’t there, so apparently, he was in charge at the moment.
“B’Elanna. I hope everything’s ok with your family and Engineering?”
“Yes, we’re fine. What about you?”
“I’m fine too. Anything bothering you?”
“Well – nothing immediate. Nothing to do with the running of the ship. This is more – have you heard anything about what’s waiting for us – the Maquis – when we get back?”
Chakotay’s face tensed up. So far, Kathryn hadn’t been able to get any guarantees for their amnesty.
“No. I think – maybe there isn’t anything to do about that. We’ll have to take our medicine. Or -“
“Exactly. Have you made any plans?”
“For myself? No, but I was thinking about the rest of you. So far, I haven’t come up with anything specific, but I knew you’d be planning something.”
“I give you my word that this isn’t going to affect Voyager or the rest of the crew, so could you – promise me to keep this to yourself?”
A pained look came over Chakotay’s face. Strictly speaking, he couldn’t make that kind of promise, but if that had been all, he would have promised anyway. Unfortunately, his relationship with Kathryn went beyond the duties of a Starfleet officer. He owed her total loyalty and obedience.
“B’Elanna – if you have a specific plan, keep it to yourself. I’m not at liberty to hold anything back.”
B’Elanna bit off the plaintive reply. Of course. It was that kind of relationship. She could tell Chakotay could follow her reasoning and his face seemed to darken. Was he blushing? Or just dismayed that she’d found out the truth?
“Of course. Never mind. It’s nothing. I just wanted to know that you were aware of the problem and hopefully going to do something about it.”
He made a noncommittal noise, leading B’Elanna to think her guess had been correct. He was going to stay, for Janeway’s sake, even if it landed him in jail.
“Just one thing – do you think it would be possible for me to speak to Tom about something?”
“I think so. Hasn’t he been in touch? I thought you were sharing custody of little Lanna?”
“No. Not since he came back from that planet. I suppose he’s had other things on his mind. Is he – ok? Physically, I mean.”
“I assume so. We don’t really meet in private.”
“Oh. I thought -“
She could have kicked herself. There she went again, blundering in. How insensitive of her. It had to be her Klingon half.
“Then I’ll just call him and see if we can meet. Would that be ok, do you think?”
Chakotay winced. She knew. She was discreetly trying to find out if the rules of Tom’s relationship with Janeway allowed meetings in private with ex-girlfriends. The trouble was, he didn’t know what Tom had agreed on with Kathryn.
“I think so, but – I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him. If he says it’s ok, it is. If not -“
“Could you hint to him that he might need to – consider his future?”
“Of course. But I think you’ll be able to talk to him in person.”
“Thanks. Good luck.”
When she talked to Tom over the comm systen, he sounded strained, leading B’Elanna to wonder if maybe he wasn’t alone. But after some hesitation, Tom replied that he could see her after his shift ended.
“In the arboretum?”
“If you like.”
“Then I’ll see you there. Want me to bring little Lanna?”
Again, Tom hesitated for so long, B’Elanna was really beginning to wonder at his reaction.
“Yes, if – I’d love to see her.”
“Ok. Harry Jr too?”
“Ok. Oh, would you like to see Harry as well?”
“You decide. I have to go now.”
That was a new one. Usually Tom always had opinions about everything.
B’Elanna decided to make the meeting a picnic. She was hoping Tom wouldn’t feel as obliged to inform Janeway as Chakotay had seemed to be. If so, she was hoping he’d at least warn her first. Again, it might be best if she asked him.
They were sitting on a blanket on the grass, when Tom walked in. B’Elanna almost gasped when she saw the changes he’d undergone. He was thinner and his face drawn. The eyes had a haunted look. She was wondering if it was Janeway’s doing or just what he’d gone through on the surface of that planet. It struck her that in a way, here was justice in a rather twisted form, but she pushed the thought away. What she’d done with Tuvok had been all too pleasant while it lasted. Tom’s ordeal on the other hand –
“Over here. Are you hungry? There’s plenty of stuff. Some of your favorites too.”
With some effort, Tom lowered himself onto the grass. He looked broken, like he’d never done in the time she had known him.
She tried to smile, but Tom didn’t even seem to notice. Little Lanna recognized her father and made gurgling, happy noises and held our her arms towards him.
“You want to go to daddy? Ok. Go on. Tom?”
Tom looked up and to B’Elanna’s relief, he finally smiled. He reached for his daughter and placed her on his lap.
“You’ve grown a lot. I suppose mommy and Harry are taking good care of you.”
Harry placed his son on the blanket at Tom’s feet. The little boy grabbed Tom’s knees, again causing a faint smile to spread across Tom’s pale face.
“Hello, Junior. You’ve grown too.”
B’Elanna let Tom play with the children for a while. Harry handed Tom a plate filled with his 20th Century favorites, but Tom didn’t even glance at any of it.
By the time the children were getting tired, she and Tom made them comfortable in their carriers, making sure they weren’t hiding anything they might choke on. Once the children were fast asleep, B’Elanna felt she could move on to the reason for their meeting.
“Tom – I was wondering if you’ve thought a bit about what will happen once you get back?”
“I mean, has your dad been able to work something out?”
“I’m sure he hasn’t even tried. Or if he has, it’s just so it will look good. He’ll make sure I ‘take my medicine’ as he used to put it. I already have, a couple of times, but he’ll see it as no more than I deserve. Maybe he’s right. I don’t really care.”
B’Elanna and Harry were exchanging glances. Tom’s lethargy was alarming.
“But you have to care. Isn’t Janeway trying to fix something up?”
“I don’t know. If she has, she hasn’t told me.”
“Aren’t the two of you -“
Tom looked up and faced her, his eyes so filled with pain, she hardly recognized him. B’Elanna forgot all the pain and cruel words that had passed between them and she wanted to reach out and hold him, but she knew she wasn’t allowed to anymore.
“Yes. Since everyone already knows, yes. The Captain and I are involved.”
“Ok. So she hasn’t told you anything about what will happen when you’re back on Earth?”
B’Elanna was aware of what pronoun she was using, but she was going to tell Tom anyway, so she saw no harm in it.
“No. She wouldn’t.”
“Ok. I hope I’m not breaking any secret rules here, but are you allowed to talk to me like this?”
“Probably not. Like she’s going to do anything to me that someone hasn’t already done at one time or another? No, I can’t talk to other women or men. No, I can’t keep any secrets from her, but if you tell me something that will affect little Lanna, I will anyway. Ok? Is that what you wanted to know?”
“Yes, and something else. Are you happy with her?”
Tom stared at her as if he didn’t understand. Then he startled her by laughing so loudly Harry Junior woke up and began to cry. His dad picked him up and began to rock him and whisper soothing words to him.
B’Elanna was again struck by concern for her ex. No matter what Tom had done to her, she hadn’t wished this on him.
“Happy? Is that a joke? For a while, I thought this was the coolest thing. Then she sold me to that creep down there. I realized this – type of relationship – isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So I guess you’ll be happy now.”
“No, Tom. I just wanted to warn you that – if you don’t do something soon, you’ll be back in that prison in New Zealand or wherever it will be.”
“I guess so. Thanks. It doesn’t really matter. Just promise me one thing, Lanna. Tell little Lanna her dad is dead, or that – Harry is her real dad. I don’t want her to grow up knowing what sort of dad she had.”
“Stop it. I’ll never do that. We don’t have any ship, but whatever we think of, you’re welcome to come along. Little Lanna needs you. Why don’t you – break up with Janeway? If it isn’t making you happy, why stay in the relationship?”
Tom didn’t feel up to explaining the realities of his situation. Sure, in theory he was free to walk out any time. In theory. In reality, he just didn’t feel up to it. Kathryn made him feel safe, if not happy. If he did everything she told him to, he would be safe. Unless of course someone else took a fancy to him and she had a chance to trade him for some commodity Voyager needed.
“I don’t know. Thanks for the warning. And the offer. Now I’d better go. Before I end up in the brig.”
“I have to go.”
“Think about what I told you. We all want you to come along, don’t we Harry?”
“Sure, man. Get out while you can.”
Tom shrugged and walked away, sort of aimlessly, as if he couldn’t fully focus on what he was doing.
Harry stared horrifiedly after his friend.
“We have to convince him to come along. That kind of thing sounds really scary.”
“Sick is more like it. Yes. I’ll do what I can to convince him, but you heard him.”
B’Elanna and Harry were both chilled by the changes Tom had undergone.
“At least the Borgs are with us, right?”
“Yes, Seven said it didn’t make sense to run away, but that she could see no purpose in staying on one planet. Corey and Icheb agreed.”
“So they were all there?”
“I think – they’re both involved with her. There was something about the way they were acting together. Of course, I could be mistaken. Maybe that’s the way all former Borgs behave when they’re together.”
“Good for them.”
“You miss Tom, don’t you?”
“In a way. As a friend. I didn’t mind sharing you with him, but it’s nicer this way. Of course, if he comes back, it would be ok too.”
“Yes. Let’s hope he gets his act together.”
To B’Elanna’s and Harry’s astonishment, Tom did more than that. One day, he showed up at their quarters, looking wild-eyed and so tired it seemed he hadn’t slept for days. He also walked in a funny way, leading B’Elanna to believe he was in pain. She barely had time to speculate on the reasons for that, before Tom began to speak quickly.
“Listen, I don’t have much time, but – you take the Delta Flier. Use that to get away. Voyager would never be able to catch up. Now is a perfect time. As you know we’ll be passing through a nebula with all kinds of difficult navigation problems. We’ll have to take it slowly. Once we’re through, Federation space will only be a week or so away, at warp two.”
“But you designed the ship. You’re the only one who knows how to fiy it.”
“Harry can do it. Besides, you’re taking the Borgs, right? Seven can fly anything. The guys too, I suspect.”
“How did you know about the Borgs?”
“I told you, you don’t have much time. Word got out. It’s only a matter of time before Janeway knows. She might do something to stop you. If Samantha and Gerron change shifts with some of the Starfleet people, you’ll be able to go now. Within four hours. That’s when we’ll enter the Nebula.”
“Don’t return to her. Come with us.”
“If I go with you, she might come after you. It’s better if I -“
“I don’t care. Just come with us. Now. We’ll manage. You just told me Voyager doesn’t stand a chance if they try to pursue us. Especially with you piloting her.”
B’Elanna thought she had detected a glint in Tom’s eyes, reminding her of the old Tom. Before their relationship became stale. He was tempted to come along. That ship – his own design – had always been her main rival, at least she’d thought so until Janeway took him away from her.
Without waiting for a reply, she began talking to Harry.
“Go and get the children. Try to get a hold of Samantha and Gerron. Naomi had better be ready to leave now. The Borgs too. I’ll arrange for someone to take over in Engineering. Not Vorik. I’ll send him into the Jeffries tubes to run diagnostics on the Jell-Pacs. Someone has to do that anyway, before that Nebula. He’d be running to Janeway in a second if he knew. Hurry. Those obnoxious Delaney twins might already have put him up to it.”
Breathlessly, Harry ran to get the children and to inform their friends. To his relief, the Borgs were way ahead of him. Icheb ran to hurry Samantha and Gerron along. He found that Naomi was in the Captain’s ready room. When he told Seven, she volunteered to go and get the girl.
“Just get into the Delta Flier. I have an idea.”
When Seven entered the Captain’s ready room, nothing on her face gave away her feelings. It might have interested other Terrans to know that she was now fully in touch with her emotions. Though it still amused her to keep up an impassive front, before others, she had come to experience most human emotions first hand over the past year or so.
At the moment, she was excited and agitated. Naomi was her friend. They couldn’t leave her behind. She’d come to realize that the Captain was very clever and if she didn’t do this exactly the right way, she would suspect something, and would try to put a stop to their escape.
Janeway looked up from the desk, where she was apparently instructing Naomi in something related to the running of the ship.
“Captain. Our scanners have detected more debris inside the Nebula. I have plotted a course that will keep the ship’s hull integrity fully functioning. Here.”
“Thank you, Seven. Have you had any luck hailing the closest Federation outpost?”
“No, not yet Captain. We are sending on all subspace frequencies. I was wondering, if I could have Naomi’s help with some of the analysis of the data from the Nebula scans.”
“Of course. We’re about done here. Go on, Naomi. The next time we’ll go over this again. Be sure to review those texts.”
“Thank you, Captain. I know it already.”
“That’s good. Dismissed.”
Naomi almost saluted the Captain, but reminded herself not to overdo it. The Captain wasn’t stupid. She might suspect they were about to make their escape. Her mother and that boring Gerron thought she didn’t know what was going on, but she’d found out from the start. The grownups probably thought she was such a baby, she’d accidentally let something slip, while she was with the Captain.
In the turbolift, Naomi allowed herself to wink conspiratorially at Seven. Seven blinked in surprise. She had intended to leave the child with her mother and let Samantha Wildman tell her child what she wished to tell her.
“Right. We’ll just go and see your mother first.”
“I know. I already packed. I’m not stupid. Does Corey have the baby?”
“Yes. Ok. Go and get your things and meet us in Shuttle Bay 4. Don’t say anything to anyone.”
“I won’t. I’m not a child.”
“Yes, you are.”
“Not a baby, I mean.”
“No, you’re not. Hurry.”
They all met in Shuttle Bay 4, feeling on edge, but exciited to be about to regain their freedom after all those years of having to imitate Starfleet officers. Some of them were, but – the point was that everyone was happy, if a little nostalgic to see the last of Voyager. B’Elanna felt a little guilty about the rest of the Maquis, but she knew they had planned to take a few of the Shuttles. This close to Federation space, they wouldn’t be in such desperate need of emergency transports.
All of them made it back, without having raised the alert. B’Elanna was busy disabling the alarm that would alert the computer and the Captain that one of the Shuttles – or in this case – the Delta Flier – was gone. That would delay the discovery of their departure by at least – six hours, she was hoping. Maybe longer thanks to the difficult passage through the Nebula. As long as no one was injured, though, there was no risk of compromising Voyager’s performance.
B’Elanna finally relaxed as she saw Tom get into the pilot’s seat, looking a little more like himself. Harry got into the co-pilot’s seat, looking just as pleased as B’Elanna was feeling. She ran back to rear section of the ship which could be considered Engineering, but didn’t have a specific name on such a comparatively small ship. At least it was more spacious than a Shuttle.
The takeoff went well and as soon as they were clear of the ship – cloaked, naturally – they went to warp six, leaving Voyager and the Nebula ahead, far behind. At last.
B’Elanna felt jubilant. She’d get rid of the uniform when she went to bed that evening. From now on, she decided, there would be no more titles for her. She had nothing to complain of, careerwise, since she was already a Lieutenant, while her lover and her ex were still Ensigns, but titles were stupid. Just like Tom’s pompous old father.
She grinned happily at the others. Naomi made a gesture that hinted at her delight to be on her way to more deep space adventures. Samantha, too, looked pleased, but it was hard to read the Borgs and Gerron, as usual, was a closed book to B’Elanna.
Something about Samantha struck B’Elanna as a little odd. She looked pleased, but at the same time, it was as if she was about to say something. At the moment, filled up with exultation over their escape, B’Elanna wasn’t exactly dying of curiosity, so for a while, she just allowed herself to enjoy their flight.
As it happened, she was correct in her assumption about Samantha. About half an hour into their journey, Samantha walked up to B’Elanna and asked if they could talk.
“Sure. What’s the problem?”
“Not a problem, exactly. I just – I hope you won’t mind, but I asked Arianna Doyle to pass on a message to my husband, as soon as she was within hailing distance of Ktarea.”
“Oh. Any specifics?”
“That’s just it. I couldn’t, since I didn’t know exactly where we were going, so I just told him that I’d jumped ship and was hoping we could find a way to meet. So he’d be prepared to leave, if I manage to get in touch again, without placing us all in jeopardy.”
“Well, I don’t see how that can be a problem for us. It might be difficult to get in touch with him, but – sure – it’s up to you and Gerron. Just out of curiosity, how is Gerron taking that? You wanting to have Greskrendtrek join you?”
“He’s fine with it. At least he’s told me so. I don’t know. You know how he is. As far as my husband – my first husband – Gerron and I plan on getting married as soon as Greskrendtrek can join us – naturally, he won’t mind.”
“I’m a little rusty on Ktarean culture, so remind me, ok? Naomi said men marry very young, that’s about all I can recall.”
“Apparently, it’s a sign of a woman’s high value, if she’s able to attract more men. That’s why I felt I could dare to have a relationship, even under the circumstances.”
“I see. That’s really cool. There’s something about polygamy and polyandry in Klingon history, but that’s not something I’m over familiar with. Besides, it’s just out of the history books. At some point, it was more or less abandoned. I can’t see why. Personally, I could easily live with two guys. As you know, I’ve been doing that for the past couple of years. And – though I don’t see how any woman could like being one of a set, those Delaney twins obviously have to have the same guy, so I guess it’s right for some.”
“Ugh. I never would have married a Ktarean if they’d practiced polygamy. Even polyandry seemed a little weird, until I met Gerron and realized I could love two men.”
“That’s what I keep saying – and you know what – I think that’s one reason Seven’s involved with Corey and Icheb. Oh, you hadn’t noticed? Harry asked Seven and it turns out they feel a little more – Borg that way. A collective without assimilation. It doesn’t make much sense to me, but hey – who can understand the way a Borg’s mind is working?”
B’Elanna looked up and her wide grin vanished as she looked into Seven’s eyes. She could have sworn the blonde Borg was laughing at her discomfort. Clearly, Seven had been listening in on their private conversation. Terran and Klingon struggled inside B’Elanna, making her want to lash out in anger, while wincing over the embarrassment. In the end, she decided to try and keep a cool head.
“Heard anything interesting?”
“Yes. As it happens Harry was right. We have been missing the sense of unity in a Borg collective. This way, we can be individuals and a collective at the same time. I imagine that’s why you individuals like to team up and work together.”
“Not too much and not too – regulated. I’m glad to be free of the uniform.”
“So I see. I’m glad we got that cleared up.”
Seven was definitely having a laugh at her expense. B’Elanna felt her hackles rising at the thought of that tiresome Borg. She got up and looked challengingly into Seven’s eyes.
“Are you laughing at me?”
“I am a little amused, yes. If I offended you, I apologize.”
B’Elanna stared suspiciously at Seven. She was still joking. Or was she?
“Yeah, like you mean it. Whatever. In any case, if I offended you, I apologize. I didn’t mean any harm.”
“I know. Now that I am an individual, I can tell just how odd a Borg collective might seem to you. It’s beginning to seem odd to me as well. Another thing – I think – you’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong – but I think I am beginning to understand the concept of humor. So, unless you have some personal reason for antipathy against me, I would like you to include me in your jokes. Even if you make a joke about Borgs. I might be able to tell you something you will find amusing.”
“Ok. I’ll try.”
B’Elanna could hardly believe what she’d just heard. It seemed a lot as if Seven was trying to make friends with her and probably Samantha too. Amazing. At least that would make their journey together less prone to friction.