Summary:A Juggernaut episode addition and JC busted story. B’Elanna deals with the aftermath of her time on the Malon freighter with help from Tuvok, the Captain and Chakotay.
Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.
The computer chimed her early morning alarm and without opening her eyes B’Elanna frowned. Her bones ached and every muscle was sore. With a groan, she rolled over and stretched her arms above her head, but as the last remnants of sleep fled, memories of yesterday’s mission came surging back.
It had been a horrifying experience and along with the haunting memories, a tidal wave of emotions assaulted her. For a few heart stopping moments she lay there and panted in terror, then flipped onto her front, and pulling her pillow around her head, she screamed into her mattress.
Still hidden in her dark cocoon and after taking some deep calming breaths, she tried to put some distance between herself and her memories. She failed.
With a shudder she recalled the skin crawling oppressiveness and dank squalor of the Malon freighter, and then the panic she’d felt as they’d dashed through the fifteen decks of grime and filth to get to the control room. Breaking out in a cold sweat she remembered the race to try and re-establish containment of the damaged theta tanks before they ruptured and decimated thousands of parsecs of space.
Pulling the pillow tighter around her head she tried to stop the next memory, but to no avail. The face of the Vihaar and her final confrontation with the creature stormed the crumbling battlements of her mind. She screwed her eyes tight shut as she was assaulted by visions of her final battle with the grotesque alien. The echo of crushing bones and rending flesh left her sick to her stomach, and the horror of seeing herself wielding that murderous metal bar sent a wave of self loathing scorching through her.
Her hands had held the weapon and her anger had fuelled the blows that had pounded into the head and back of the demented core worker. She hadn’t wanted to kill him, but he’d left her no choice. She’d tried so hard to reason with him, desperately she’d tried, but he’d been so consumed by hate that he was beyond reason. Frighteningly, she knew exactly how he’d felt. The same seething anger that drove him to exact revenge on his co-workers, had been her constant companion for more years than she cared to remember. That burning resentment and antagonism was something she battled with everyday of her life.
She thought of Tom and tried to calm her thoughts. The past year had dealt her some harsh blows. The deaths of her Maquis comrades, her anger over her treatment by the evil Dr Moset, Tom’s demotion, and another close encounter with the Borg had battered her defences. She was struggling and those around her were beginning to notice.
She’d been unsettled over the last few months, and try as she might, she was unable to find a balance in her life. She was juggling, unsuccessfully, her working life, her inner demons and her relationship with Tom and it just wasn’t working. Each day she was finding it harder and harder to control her outbursts.
She knew the captain was becoming concerned and Chakotay, well, he was much less diplomatic and was just plain pissed with her attitude. She was trying, really she was, but it was uphill battle and she was losing. Badly.
Deep down she knew she should be happy, but she couldn’t see past the anger, even though she knew she had to. Chakotay, having failed with her animal guide, had suggested she take some meditation lessons from Tuvok. His argument had been that, if an entire race of Vulcans could control their violent behaviour then surely one Klingon/Human hybrid shouldn’t be too much of the challenge. She’d seen the logic in the idea and had been visiting Tuvok for a week or so now.
Chakotay had told her in sickbay, after she’d returned from the freighter, that he thought that the meditations seemed to be working, but little did he realise that the mind exercises were only helping to hide her anger and discontent more effectively. They were a mere bandaid and the wound beneath was deep, and festering. One day, she feared, the thin veneer of civility and decorum would rip away, explosively, and she was afraid for those around her. They would be caught in the cataclysm and that thought weighed heavily on her soul.
She really had tried to best her emotions and contain her impulsive nature, but perhaps control was something that was out of her reach. She rolled over and flung the pillow onto the floor. That thought made her angrier still. Kahless, she was so tired of fighting. Just plain exhausted from struggling everyday as she tried to overcome this seething knot of anger that lived within her. Taking a deep breath, she stared at the ceiling and with a resigned sigh she began going through the Vulcan techniques to calm her inner turmoil.
After several minutes she’d gained some control and climbed out of bed to get ready for work. Her session with Tuvok was first thing this morning, so grabbing a quick cup of raktajino, she marched out the doors.
A short time later she was seated on the floor of Tuvok’s quarters, with the Vulcan lamp on the table before her. Her eyes were fixed on the flickering flame, and Tuvok’s clipped but resonant voice was telling her to close her eyes and focus on the flame burning within her – to envision it as it grew hotter and to follow its bright white light back through the years, towards her childhood. She tried, but all she could see and hear were the crushing blows she’d inflicted on the core worker and his grunts and death shudders as he dropped to the deck.
His hideous face glared at her from her subconscious and her eyes shot open and she jolted to her feet. “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this.” Trembling, she stood at the viewport with her arms wrapped around middle. It was a vain attempt to console herself, or perhaps she was just trying to hold herself together. She wasn’t sure which. Her grip on her sanity was tenuous at this moment. A frightening thought shot through her. If she was insane then maybe she wouldn’t have to endure this pain. There would at least be a modicum of peace in the oblivion of madness.
Tuvok stood slowly and followed her to the viewport. “You appear to be troubled today, Lieutenant.”
She gave a harsh laugh. “Vulcan perception, Tuvok? Don’t give up your day job.” Her shaking hands rubbed up and down her upper arms. A fire burned within her, but she was chilled to the bone. She whispered to their reflections. “I tried so hard. I didn’t want to do it, but I had no choice. It was him or me, and I chose me.”
“You are speaking of the Vihaar?”
B’Elanna gave a sharp nod.
“It was a logical and gratifying choice.”
Her head shot around to stare at the Vulcan. Was he being sarcastic? One look at him revealed that he wasn’t. Turning back to the viewport, she heaved a sigh and let her chin drop to her chest. “How could you understand? I know that it was the only thing to do, but I can’t get the pictures out of my head. I hate that I’m capable of such violence.”
“We are all capable of violence if the necessity arises, Lieutenant. You are not unique.”
She gave a harsh laugh. “You know, Tuvok. As a counsellor, you suck, but in a strange way that makes me feel better, because that’s entirely the opposite of what I am. I am unique in so many ways, and none of them give me any peace.” She took another deep breath and made her way back to the low set table. “Shall we try this again?”
Tuvok studied the angry woman in front of him. “You should take pride in what you accomplished aboard the Malon vessel. You were under extreme pressure and working in appalling conditions. I did not think you were capable of succeeding and in fact told the Captain so. She refused however, to allow me to take over as leader of the mission.”
“What? You didn’t think I could do it? Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“My concerns were justified considering your volatility, but the Captain chose to trust you with the lives of the crew and the other ships in this sector. I would hope that you can see the significance of this? The Captain was adamant that you would succeed.”
B’Elanna’s curiosity was piqued. “She was? What did she say?”
Tuvok took a moment to recall the conversation on the bridge. “After Commander Chakotay was injured and beamed to sickbay, I suggested that I transport over to the freighter and take command of the away team. The Captain said she had spoken to you and that you had everything under control. My response was that there was no room for emotional error. I felt that you were unpredictable and that your volatile nature could compromise the mission.”
“As I said, the Captain chose to ignore my concerns. She said that if she was to beam me to the freighter that she would be sending the wrong message. It would imply that she did not have faith in you. Which she did. I attempted to impress upon her that logically I was more capable, but she refused my suggestion and told me that it wasn’t about logic, it was about trust and she knew that you would, in her words, ‘come through for us’.”
B’Elanna sat in stunned silence. She had no idea that the captain had such faith in her. A strange swell began in her chest. It felt something like pride. The Captain trusted her, truly trusted her and not only with Voyager’s engines, but with the lives of the crew. The swell spread throughout her whole body taking with it a warmth and an unfamiliar but welcome sense of peace and contentment. She shook her head in disbelief. No one had ever had such faith in her before. Not on such a scale. It made her feel wonderful, but it also made her a little afraid. It was a lot to live up to. Would she be equal to the task? A small smile twitched at the corner of her mouth. Of course she would. Hadn’t she up until now?
But then her brow furrowed. It puzzled her as to why the Captain’s opinion should matter so much? In the past she’d never been concerned with what people thought of her. She’d just done her job as best she could and figured that the rest would take care of itself. That was until she’d found herself on Voyager.
She’d been given more responsibility on Voyager than on any other ship she’d ever served, and with that mantel of responsibility had come a keen sense of accomplishment, but she’d never really thought about it outside of engineering. Captain Janeway was an exacting and demanding leader but she engendered a loyalty and respect that B’Elanna hadn’t felt for any other commander except for maybe, Chakotay, but that was different somehow. He was her friend and comrade before he was her commanding officer. With Chakotay the lines were blurred. But with the Captain…. from that first time on the bridge when B’Elanna had demanded why this woman had the right to make decisions for all of them and Chakotay had gripped her arm and said, “She’s the Captain.” Kathryn Janeway had taken on a larger than life persona.
She’d resented Janeway at first. With the destruction of the Caretaker array this puny woman captain had destroyed their only means of returning to the Alpha Quadrant. B’Elanna had been filled with resentment towards the Starfleet captain’s high handed attitude but as the months had worn on, and she’d worked with Captain Janeway, she’d learned to respect and in many ways admire her. In some ways they were very similar. They were both passionate about their work and wholly devoted to the ship. They’d had their moments but this was the first time that B’Elanna realised just how much Captain Janeway’s opinion meant to her. Especially now, when she was feeling so vulnerable and insecure. With Tuvok’s albeit, cold and acerbic recount of the captain’s words, she’d felt this extraordinary sense of acceptance. Her Captain’s faith buoyed her and brought a sense of calm self acceptance that she’d felt only at rare times during her life and which a thousand hours of meditation would never achieve.
“Thank you for telling me, Tuvok. It means a lot to me that the Captain allowed me to do that.”
The Vulcan nodded and their session came to an end.
She left Tuvok’s quarters and hurried to Engineering. Her demeanour was much improved and she decided that tonight after shift she would visit the Captain and thank her for what she’d done.
The day in Engineering was quiet with only routine maintenance scheduled. It gave B’Elanna time to think over what Tuvok had told her this morning and by end of shift that seed of self acceptance and calm had grown and spread. There was a new sense of self awareness growing inside of B’Elanna Torres. She was going to be alright.
B’Elanna rang the chime on the Captain’s quarters and to her surprise the doors swished open immediately. The Captain’s voice came from the bedroom. “Grab a glass of wine for both of us will you, I’ll be there in a moment.” There were a few seconds of silence and then some muttered swearing. “Shit, I can never get this damn thing together. Arrgh! Ha, that’s it. That’ll teach you, you little…. “ The voice faded as the Captain moved further into the bedroom or bathroom.
B’Elanna frowned. There was something not quite right about this, but she wasn’t sure what it was. The muttering from the bedroom became clearer again as the Captain moved closer to the door. “I can never decide whether to wear the brown or the black with this. What do you think, sweetheart?”
Sweetheart? B’Elanna wasn’t sure what to do. She knew now that the Captain definitely wasn’t speaking to her.
“Damn, I can’t reach the buttons. Could you come and do me up, please honey?”
Kahless! Honey? B’Elanna didn’t know what to do. She took a step toward the bedroom and then a step back towards the door, then a step forward again. Her instinct was to run, but she knew she’d be caught whatever she decided to do. She darted one last look at the exit then with a deep breath, moved towards the Captain’s bedroom. “Captain?”
Kathryn Janeway turned slowly and took a few tentative steps towards her Chief Engineer. “B’Elanna! I thought you were…. I didn’t realise it was you.”
B’Elanna stood and tried not to cower under the icy blue glare. “Captain, I was hoping to speak with you briefly.” Maybe if she pretended that nothing was unusual the Captain would play the game as well, although she should have known better.
“Well, you may as well do me up now that you’re here, and then I think I have some explaining to do. Maybe you’d best get those glasses of wine when you’ve finished.”
B’Elanna nodded her head and moved behind the Captain. She buttoned up the back of the dark blue dress and stepped away. Captain Janeway bent over and picked up two pairs of shoes. “Well, what do you think? The brown or the black?” She was holding the shoes in front of her.
B’Elanna couldn’t get over the woman’s poise and audacity, and her mouth twisted as she tried to repress a smile. “I, um, think the brown, but I’m no expert.”
Kathryn harrumphed. “Neither am I. Hence the dilemma.”
Just then they heard the doors swish open and they gave each other a wide eyed look. A very familiar voice spoke with an air of exasperated affection. “Aren’t you ready yet Kathryn? My god, woman, what the hell are you doing in there?” There was a thud that sounded like something dropping on the floor and then the voice came closer to the door. “I hope you’re wearing that little blue number. You know what that does to me. I’ll look forward to biting off all those little but…..tons.”
B’Elanna noticed the Captain screw up her face as if in pain as Chakotay appeared at the bedroom door. His jaw went slack as he stared at the two women before him. B’Elanna looked back and forth between her two commanding officers. Ooops.
“Ah, B’Elanna. Hello.”
Kathryn had recovered at this point and dropped the brown shoes to the floor with a thud. Both B’Elanna and Chakotay jumped, but Kathryn just slid her feet into them as she spoke. “B’Elanna came for a visit.”
“I can see that.”
A more awkward moment B’Elanna had never experienced in her life, and she’d had a few. There had to be something she could do. “How about that glass of wine?” She pushed past Chakotay and moved to the replicator and ordered three glasses of wine. By the time she’d turned around with two glasses in her hand, her commanding officers were both standing in the doorway of the Captain’s bedroom staring at her.
With more bravado than she felt, she moved towards them and handed them each a glass. She moved back to the replicator and picked up her glass. They were still staring at her and feeling like she was on a roll she raised her glass. “To life.”
They all sipped their wine then went back to their previous stances. The silence roared loud for a long moment and then they all spoke simultaneously.
Kathryn nudged Chakotay and he stepped forward. “B’Elanna, it’s not quite what it looks like.”
B’Elanna grinned as she watched the Captain roll her eyes in the background, but she tried to tamp down her amusement as the Captain stepped forward and put her hand on Chakotay’s arm. “Actually, it’s exactly what it looks like, but I’m going to ask you to please not say anything to anybody.” Kathryn looked at Chakotay, and B’Elanna could detect something that looked like fear in her eyes. She wasn’t sure what the Captain was afraid of. Maybe it was what the crew would think, or what Starfleet would do. But as she watched the Captain’s fingers curl into the fabric of Chakotay’s sleeve she understood. She was afraid of losing Chakotay. She loved him and if the crew became aware, their command would be under scrutiny and she might have to end their relationship. B’Elanna’s heart ached for them both.
B’Elanna nodded her head. “I promise I won’t say a thing, Captain. Your secret is safe with me.”
Kathryn nodded her head and Chakotay laid his hand over the Captain’s where it gripped his arm. “It’s alright Kathryn. You can trust B’Elanna.”
For the first time Kathryn smiled. “Yes, I know that.”
B’Elanna grinned at them. “Actually, that was why I came to see you, Captain. I wanted to thank you for leaving me in charge of the away team on the Malon vessel and for allowing me to complete the mission. Tuvok told me what you said.”
Kathryn frowned and tried to recall her conversation with Tuvok. Her eyebrows shot up as the memory fell into place. “Oh. Yes, well Tuvok has been known to be a little pernickety at times.” Chakotay looked towards her with a wry look and she continued. “I was trying to keep busy.” She stroked her hand down Chakotay’s arm. “You’d just been beamed back, from the Malon vessel, and I had to stop myself from tearing down to sickbay to see how you were. Instead I stayed on the bridge and tried to remodulate the tractor beam.” She looked across at B’Elanna and gave an embarrassed shrug. “Some times are more difficult than others.”
B’Elanna gave a sympathetic nod and felt a surge of pride that her captain was allowing her to see this vulnerable side of her.
Chakotay lifted Kathryn’s hand to his mouth and gently kissed her fingers before moving to the replicator to refill their wine glasses. He talked over his shoulder as he collected the drinks. “This all happened while I was still unconscious. I haven’t read the report yet. What happened next?”
Kathryn looked at B’Elanna and smiled. “B’Elanna contacted me to see how you were and to give me a report. I’d sent Tuvok down to sickbay to speak to the Doctor and he arrived back on the bridge just after I’d spoken to B’Elanna. He told me that you were unconscious but would survive. I was… ah… relieved.” She looked at Chakotay and gave him a sad smile.
“Then Tuvok, in his endearingly pedantic way requested that he be beamed over to the Malon vessel to take command of the away team, but I said no.” Kathryn turned to B’Elanna. “I knew you would come through for us B’Elanna. It was an instinct thing and sometimes you just have to go with it and besides, I know how I would have felt if, in a similar situation, my commanding officer had sent someone to take over my mission. I never thought for a moment that you wouldn’t succeed. You’re a fine officer, B’Elanna.” Kathryn cocked her head to the side and contemplated her chief Engineer. “I’ve always had faith in you B’Elanna, I hope you know that.”
The captain’s look was so intense that B’Elanna felt the rare burn of tears in her eyes. “Thank you, Captain. You don’t know how much that means to me.”
Kathryn looked at B’Elanna again. There was more going on here than met the eye. “I’d like to think that I do. You’re an intrinsic member of this crew, B’Elanna and someone we… I care about very much. You’ve saved us all on so many occasions I can’t even begin to count them. I had absolutely no doubt that you would find a way to deal with the situation on the Malon ship. You did what you had to do. Sometimes that’s all you can do. So often out here we are left with too few options and too little time to weigh up the merits of each. You did exactly the right thing yesterday, B’Elanna. There isn’t a soul in this universe who would find fault with what you did. Especially under the circumstances.” There was something in B’Elanna’s eyes that worried Kathryn. It had been there for some time now, but it was hard to put her finger on exactly what it was. There was a vulnerability and an insecurity there that needed to be addressed. She walked towards her and laid her hand on her arm. “B’Elanna, I’d like you to understand that I value your work and your expertise. But I also value you as a colleague and, I hope, as a friend. Voyager wouldn’t have come so far without you and making you my chief Engineer was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
There was the sound of a throat being cleared in the background. Kathryn kept her eyes on B’Elanna’s and answered without turning. “Yes, Commander, I know it was your idea in the first place, but I’m the boss remember. Both bucks stop here. The good and the bad.”
She rolled her eyes and grinned. B’Elanna smiled back. “I know we haven’t seen eye to eye on some matters, but that’s where the difficulty comes for me. I’m your captain and sometimes friends and captains are mutually exclusive things. Chakotay could tell you a story or two about that, couldn’t you?”
Chakotay pursed his lips and gave B’Elanna a knowing look. “Hmmm. Yes, there have been moments.”
The Captain locked eyes with her for a long moment and B’Elanna could see the depth of feeling and the sincerity shining through. That wonderful sense of belonging and self acceptance washed over her again and before she could stop herself she wrapped her arms around her Captain and gave her a hug. Kathryn hugged her back, then pulled back and patted her arms. “Well done on your mission, B’Elanna. I’ve put a commendation in your file outlining your ingenuity and bravery.”
B’Elanna stepped away. “Thank you, Captain.” The awkward silence descended again so she put down her glass of wine. “I um…. I see you’re going somewhere. I’ll leave you in peace and thank you for seeing me.” She’d almost made it to the door when she turned. “And I won’t breathe a word of this to anyone. I’m so happy for you both.” She grinned broadly and moved towards the door.
The Captain stepped forward “B’Elanna… would you like to join us. We were just going to have dinner at a little restaurant on the holodeck. You’d be most welcome.”
B’Elanna blinked and looked to Chakotay for a moment. He was smiling. “Umm, Captain. Thank you, but wouldn’t you prefer to eat alone. I imagine you don’t get many opportunities to have time to yourselves. Thank you anyway.” She smiled. “I thought I might go and find that troublesome helmsman of mine and see what he’s been up to.”
“Why don’t you ask Tom to join us?”
Both the Captain and Chakotay were still smiling. They wanted the biggest gossip on the ship to have dinner as a foursome. “Surely you don’t want Tom there. He’ll ….” She waved her arm back and forth in front of them indicating their obvious attachment.
Chakotay huffed out a laugh. “He already knows, B’E.”
Kathryn swayed closer to Chakotay. “He’s known right from the beginning. He’s far too perceptive for his own good, not to mention a consummate eavesdropper.”
“He never breathed a word.” B’Elanna was astounded.
“I’m pleased to hear that. He promised.”
“That’s it? He promised. I thought you must have threatened him with some sort of gruesome consequences.” She stopped and thought about it for a minute and her face softened. Way to go, Tom. He was a different man these days to the facetious and spurious young upstart who had boarded Voyager all those years ago. Today had certainly been a day of revelations. B’Elanna turned towards the door again and then back towards her Captain and Commander. “You know, I’d love to join you for dinner. Have I got time to contact Tom and change out of my uniform?”
They both nodded and Kathryn smiled. “Holodeck two in say, twenty minutes? Will that give you enough time?”
B’Elanna nodded. “Plenty.” She smiled at the Captain. “I only have black shoes so there’s no dilemma.”
Kathryn barked out a laugh.
Still smiling B’Elanna stepped through the door with a wave. “I’ll see you there.” She turned just in time to see a grinning Chakotay twirl a laughing Captain under his arm as he looked at her dress. B’Elanna shook her head and smiled as she took off down the corridor almost at a skip. If they could do it, so could she. The difficulties the Captain and Chakotay faced every single day were extraordinary and complex. Yet they were still able to maintain their relationship in complete secrecy, and deal with the constant pressures and stress of command. They seemed to have a successful relationship even under those extreme circumstances. Obviously they’d managed to find some sort of balance and perhaps knowing that they had each other is what allowed them to survive. It would be a lonely and soul destroying existence if you had to do it on your own.
And for Kahless sake, if they could do it, it should be a piece of cake for her and Tom.
Seeing the captain so relaxed and at home with Chakotay leant yet another dimension to this enigmatic woman leader. Just being able to glimpse under the steely façade was a revelation and for the first time B’Elanna could see herself on something of an equal footing as her captain. She was a woman after all and if nothing else, that was something rather significant that they had in common.
Shaking her head she thought of Tom and how that lovable lug had kept the ‘secret of secrets’ for all this time. There had never been even a hint. He was a petaQ, but an endearing petaQ. She tapped her combadge. “Torres to Paris.”
“Hey, B’Elanna. How are you feeling? I dropped by Engineering earlier but you’d left already.”
“Yeah, I was just visiting the Captain.”
“The Captain, huh? Visiting?”
“It’s a long story. Perhaps I’ll tell you over dinner.”
“Are you asking me on a date, Lieutenant?”
“No. The Captain is. We’re meeting her and Chakotay on holodeck two in a little over fifteen minutes. Do you think you’ll make it on time?”
“Absolutely. I’ll swing by your quarters and pick you up.”
“See you soon.”
B’Elanna smiled to herself. Life wasn’t so bad after all, and filled with hope for their futures, she stepped in the turbo lift.
Turning, she looked up the corridor and grinned. The lift doors closed with a soft hiss, and the promise of better tomorrows.