End of the Day PG

Rated PG

Summary: An Extreme Risk episode addition. Kathryn finds B’Elanna in the mess hall and they discuss life, the universe and everything.

Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.

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Alone in the mess hall, B’Elanna smiled to herself as she took another mouthful of banana pancake. Kahless, it tasted good! So much better than it had two days ago and it made her wonder how something as fundamental as her sense of taste could be so dramatically affected by her frame of mind. Granted, it had changed every other aspect of her perception, so she shouldn’t have been too surprised, but the thought made her frown.

Taking a deep breath, her face softened; for the first time in months she was happy. The feeling of relief, and the delight at her self-acceptance, filled her with a warm glow. She was at peace with herself at last and, smiling at the simple joy of that thought, she savoured another mouthful of pancake.

For Voyager and her crew, the past few months had been a living nightmare; the time passing in a blur of grinding misery, highlighted by moments of sheer terror, but as awful as it had been, it had barely made a dent in B’Elanna’s distorted sense of reality. She’d spent those months skimming over the surface of her existence like a dispassionate onlooker, removed from, and untouched by, the lives of everyone around her. Although aware of the sense of dissociation and isolation, she’d been unable, or more accurately, unwilling to do anything about it. This morning’s confrontation with Chakotay had been an unwelcome but crucial wake-up call. For the first time in months, she’d felt something other than the dragging bite self-loathing and suffocating effects of gnawing ennui.

She’d finally found vent for her long-held anger and guilt. Chakotay had forced her to confront her demons by literally dragging her onto the holodeck, into the midst of that god-awful scene on Tevlik. At that point, he’d become the target of her wrath, not because she held him accountable, but simply because he was there. Her rage had been blind and unfocussed; short lived but startling in its intensity; enough to wake her from her almost catatonic state. He’d insisted that she face up to her fears and he’d been right; the only way to battle them was to meet them head on. Kneeling inches from her, he’d spoken intensely of family and of the people on Voyager being here for her and supporting her.

After he’d left the holodeck, she’d sat alone in amongst the holographic corpses of her Maquis friends and comrades, and cried until there were no more tears. The catharsis had been long overdue and the remnants of her anger and remorse had melted away with her tears.

Contrary to what Tom, Chakotay and the Captain thought, self-injury hadn’t been her intent. It had merely an unavoidable consequence of her search for answers as to why her life had been such a parade of disasters. She’d been filled to the brim with bitter self-loathing and doubt, but suicide had never been her aim and certainly not under those circumstances. It was not the Klingon way and she was enough her mother’s daughter not to risk the dishonour.

Her physical wounds were now healed, she’d mended her relationships with those closest to her and she was now filled with fresh hope for her future. It felt good. After taking another mouthful of delicious pancake, she looked up as the mess hall doors hissed open. The familiar silhouette of the captain hovered in the doorway. B’Elanna placed her fork on her plate and waited to see what she would do.

After an uncharacteristic moment of hesitation, she walked through the doors and towards the table.

B’Elanna made a move to stand, but Janeway gestured for her to stay seated.

It was then that B’Elanna noticed that the Captain wasn’t wearing her uniform jacket and her hair was a little mussed. It was late and they were off duty, so it wasn’t as if she was breaking regulations, but it was certainly unusual.

”I apologise for interrupting, Lieutenant, but would you mind if I joined you?”

B’Elanna shook her head and moved to push her plate away. “No, not at all, Captain, please have a seat.”

Kathryn glanced at B’Elanna’s plate. “Don’t let me interrupt your meal. What are you having? I think I’ll have something too.”

B’Elanna stammered. “Umm….er… banana pancakes… with maple syrup.”

“Hmmm, dessert. Good idea.” Kathryn nodded and made her way to the replicator. She continued talking as she wove her way through the tables. “I’m not a big fan of bananas, however raspberries are another matter entirely. Would you like a coffee?”

“Yes… thank you.” B’Elanna assumed that this visit had something to do with what had happened today with the new flyer and her holodeck injuries, although, Janeway didn’t appear to be here in an official capacity. She seemed relaxed and calm, and it occurred to B’Elanna that it had been a long time since she’d seen the ‘sociable captain’. The hardnosed, Machiavellian Janeway had been the version they’d been dealing with mostly of late and it was nice to see the softer, more approachable side of her commanding officer.

Kathryn addressed the replicator. “One stack of raspberry pancakes with ice cream; two coffees…” She turned to B’Elanna with a questioning glance, “Black?”

B’E nodded.

A tray appeared with the ordered items and Kathryn carried it to the table. Smiling warmly, she handed B’Elanna her coffee, and then took a seat opposite. She ate in silence for a minute or two before putting down her fork and picking up her coffee. After taking a sip, she looked up and met B’Elanna’s gaze.

“I’m pleased to see you looking better. How are you feeling?” It was a gentle and kindly enquiry.

“I’m fine.”

Kathryn grunted good-naturedly. “That sounds familiar.”

Shrugging, B’Elanna gave her captain a wry look. “I learned from the best. But really, I’m all right. Better than I’ve been in a long time, in fact.”

Resting her mug on the table, Kathryn leaned forward and looked into B’Elanna’s eyes. After a long moment, she seemed to come to a similar conclusion. “I’m glad. We can’t afford to lose you. You’re far too important to all of us.”

“I… Thank you. That means a lot.”

“It’s true. Don’t ever doubt that.” Kathryn smiled again and picked up her coffee. They were quiet for a time and then Kathryn shifted in her chair.

“I’ve just come from Chakotay’s,” she shrugged. “our weekly dinner.” Picking up her spoon, she dabbed it in the puddle of raspberry juice and then popped it, in her mouth savouring the last mouthful. She placed her spoon on the plate, pushed it away, and then looked up again. “I love desserts but he never has them, you know. He always orders a selection of cheese and fruit for after dinner because he thinks that’s what I prefer.” Kathryn smiled warmly. “I haven’t the heart to tell him otherwise.”

B’Elanna returned her smile. That sounded like Chakotay but it was also an interesting insight into his and the captain’s relationship. He cared deeply for Janeway, everyone knew that and it was so typical of him to try to please her. It was also something of a revelation to know that the Captain would so carefully protect his feelings by not telling him the truth. It was very sweet. B’Elanna matched Kathryn’s smile. “That’s Chakotay for you.”

Kathryn nodded, her eyes filled with a look of warm affection. “Yes, it is.”

They ate and drank in silence for a time; B’Elanna surreptitiously eying her captain, as she tried to figure out why she was here. Janeway’s next words, revealed her reason but took B’Elanna completely by surprise.

“I owe you an apology, B’Elanna.” Kathryn took a deep breath. “I know exactly how you’ve been feeling and it was remiss of me not to recognise the symptoms and to see that you were struggling.”

“No, Captain. It’s okay.”

Kathryn gave B’Elanna a grim smile. “That particular state of mind and I are old friends. You remember the void?”

B’Elanna nodded, recalling Janeway’s weeks of isolation, the rumours of her depression and her bizarre bid to sacrifice herself for Voyager’s safety.

Kathryn reached forward and squeezed B’Elanna’s forearm. “In light of that, all I can say is that I’m very sorry for not being more aware and supportive.”

B’Elanna sputtered and coughed. “Captain, you have nothing to be sorry about. It was entirely my own doing.” Astonished by her captain’s openness she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the woman in front of her. Vulnerability wasn’t a trait that one associated with Janeway but before she could stop herself, the question blurted from B’Elanna’s lips. “Are you all right, Captain? Can I do anything to help you?”

She was rewarded with a weary but grateful smile and a sharp shake of the older woman’s head. “I actually came here to ask you that very question, but perhaps this is an opportunity for us to help each other… unless that makes you feel uncomfortable?”

“No, not at all.” B’Elanna answered vehemently. She wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable; she’d come to know Janeway well over the years and admired her greatly. They’d developed a strong rapport, although it was more professional in nature, but B’Elanna was proud of the fact that she and the Captain saw eye to eye on most things not to mention the fact that you couldn’t find a more competent engineer. However, this was a side of Kathryn Janeway that she’d rarely seen and it was intriguing. She reiterated.

Kathryn seemed relieved. “Good, because I have a proposition to put to you. Chakotay told me what happened in the holodeck today and of course you know that the Doctor filled me in on your injuries.”

B’Elanna felt a sudden and very recognisable surge of resentment but quashed it almost instantly. This wasn’t about betrayal; Chakotay and Janeway were her commanding officers and they had a duty of care, to her, and all the crew. However, she knew it was more than responsibility that prompted their concern. They cared about her and, as Chakotay had said, they were a family and this is what families did… they looked out for one another. There was no denying that Chakotay was like a brother to her and she knew that the Captain was fond of her too. She’d experienced her concern firsthand during the visit to sickbay earlier today. Her gentle touch and worried words had meant more to B’Elanna than she’d been willing to say.

B’Elanna opened her mouth to say something, but the Captain held up her hand and gestured kindly. “Don’t feel you have to talk if you don’t want to, but I was hoping that you might indulge me.” Giving B’Elanna an almost shy smile, Kathryn looked past her towards the view ports and the passing stars. Taking a deep breath, she continued. “I’m tired, B’Elanna; exhausted in fact, I think we all are. The years have been hard on us and after everything we’ve been through over the last few months, I’ve come to realise that I need to make some changes in my life. The isolation of command is taking its toll and I have to find some balance in my life if I’m going to survive. To begin with… I need a friend.” Her eyes flicked to B’Elanna to gauge her reaction.

B’Elanna frowned. “What about Chakotay, I thought he was your best friend?”

Kathryn spread her hands. “Oh, he is. Chakotay is dear to me, very dear, but it’s complicated and there are some things that I can’t discuss with him. If I did, it would make life even more complicated.” Her eyes darted to B’Elanna’s again, pleading for her unspoken understanding.

B’Elanna gave the slightest of nods to indicate that she understood and watched the captain’s shoulders sag in relief or perhaps it was resignation. Smiling, B’Elanna reached across and touched her Janeway’s hand. “I’m pleased for you, Captain. For both of you.”

She was rewarded with another sad smile. “Thank you, but it’s not quite what you think. We, or rather I, have put some rather strict guidelines in place so we will never be more than friends while I captain Voyager.”

Shrugging, B’Elanna looked unimpressed. “If you made the rules, surely you can change them? Nothing’s set in stone.”

Kathryn huffed and looked thoughtful. “Hmmm, that’s his argument too, but that’s not really what I wanted to talk to you about, well, not entirely.” She took a sip of her coffee, her eyes drifting back to the stars as she continued. “It occurred to me today, after I left sickbay, that if we had been closer and I had been more approachable, perhaps you might have come to me with your troubles or I would have at least noticed sooner that there was something wrong.

“I don’t need to tell you how difficult it is to maintain any kind of normality in one’s life out here, but I’ve finally had to accept that we’re not going to find a quick way home and we’re likely to be out here for a very long time. Anyway, to cut to the chase, as Tom would say,” Kathryn smiled. “In the past I’ve always had one or two close female friends and of course I my sister and mother – women with whom I could discuss the more personal aspects of my life away from my work and command.” She shrugged. “I miss that.”

B’Elanna was fascinated and had a feeling that she knew where this was going, but watched and waited as the captain picked up her coffee and took a hefty sip before she continued.

“I know, because I’m the captain, it won’t be easy and at times it will be downright difficult, but…” Her eyes met B’Elanna’s rather surprised gaze, “we have a lot of interests in common, we’re not all that dissimilar in nature and if you can see past the pips, I was hoping that we could drop some of the barriers and be here for each other in the capacity of friends.”

Their gazes held for a moment, then Kathryn gave B’Elanna a half smile and moved to stand. “Anyway, I know it’s a difficult decision… and please don’t feel any obligation, just think about it. I don’t want a repeat of what happened to both of us and, perhaps knowing that we have someone who can be a sounding board for our troubles, we might be able to avoid it happening again. I’ll leave it with you.”

She stood, ready to leave, but in a heartbeat, B’Elanna jolted into action, reaching across and grabbing her arm. “Captain… Kathryn, please stay. I’d love to talk. I think I need to. We both do.”

Kathryn turned back and smiled.

B’Elanna’s hand fell away. “I hope you don’t mind me calling you that?”

Shaking her head, Kathryn sat down again. “No, not at all, in fact I was going to ask you if you would.”

B’Elanna nodded and smiled. “That’s a relief, and as for being friends, I think it’s a great idea. I’ve never had a close friend like that… I mean, there was Seska,” B’Elanna rolled her eyes, “but that wasn’t much of a success and I’ve always been a bit too abrasive for most people’s tastes. I would really like to have someone to chat to, gossip with and ask advice – if that’s the sort of thing you mean?”

Kathryn grinned. “Yes, that’s exactly the sort of thing I mean. I so rarely get the opportunity these days to leave the pips behind and just be myself and, to be honest, I miss the Kathryn I used to be.” Leaning forward, she lowered her voice. “I don’t play pool anymore or visit the holodeck and I love a good bit of gossip. Chakotay is an excellent source, but he often tries to protect my ‘captainly’ sensibilities.” She gave B’Elanna a look. “I wish he wouldn’t.”

B’Elanna laughed. “Now that’s something I didn’t know about you. I’ll make sure to keep my ear to the ground and get all the juicy tidbits for you.”

“Sounds wonderful.” Kathryn sat back, contemplated the depths of her coffee mug for a moment and then took a final swig. “B’Elanna would you like a glass of wine? Are you on early shift tomorrow…. I’m not keeping you up, am I?”

“No, no Chakotay gave me the day off, but even if I was working, I wouldn’t miss this for anything…” Worried that she might have offended Kathryn, she amended quickly. “I’m having a great time and yes… I’d love a glass of wine. I’ll get the next round.”

“Next round? B’Elanna Torres, are you trying to lead me astray?”

B’Elanna gave her a disbelieving look, and snorted. “You? Astray…? I have a feeling that you’ve forgotten more than I’ll ever know about misbehaving. I’ve always known that there’s a streak of wickedness beneath those pips. It’s peeked through on occasion and I bow to the master.” Laughing, B’Elanna dipped her head in a mock salute.

Kathryn laughed along with her as she moved to the replicator and ordered the wine. “You think I’m wicked… you should meet my sister.”

They both sobered for a moment, then B’Elanna smiled. “I’d like that… and I will one day. We’ll get there.”

Kathryn returned to the table and handed B’Elanna her glass. “I know we will. Some days it just seems further than others, but until then, I’m going to start living my life again. I’m going to need your help though. I’ve paid lip service to the idea of the Voyager crew being a family and I’ve been somewhat remiss in playing my part.”

“I’ll be happy to help, but Kahless, please let’s not carry this family thing too far. Tell me that I don’t have to start calling you Mom because I’m sure as hell not going call Chakotay, Dad.”

A hearty rumble of laughter burst from Kathryn. “Can you imagine?” She guffawed loudly. “I can see the memo now. To the Voyager crew, from 0600 tomorrow and until further notice, Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay are to be addressed as Mom and Dad. Signed Mom.”

B’Elanna had a case of the giggles now. She wasn’t sure if it was the joke, the wine or her delight at seeing her captain so unguarded, but she’d always known that there was an irreverent sense of fun beneath the spick and span Starfleet officer. They’d seen flashes of it in the early years. Kathryn’s prowess at pool told of many a misspent hour in her youth. The ‘your stick, Commander’ jibe in Sandrine’s and her ‘mating behaviour’ comment on the bridge were two moments B’Elanna recalled that gave everyone pause and had just about blown poor Chakotay out of his boots. But the years had not been gentle with any of them, least of all the Captain and much of the joy had faded from their lives. She had a feeling that this was Kathryn’s attempt to bring some levity and a sense of normality back into their existence. As far as B’Elanna was concerned, it couldn’t be soon enough. It was something that had been sorely lacking in her life and this was a perfect opportunity for them all to address the imbalance.

B’Elanna grinned. “After you send that memo, I want to see the report you intend to dispatch to Starfleet. I’m sure they think we’re nuts already. With a third of the crew Maquis terrorists, a reclaimed Borg, a Talaxian cook, who poisons us every other meal, a holographic Doctor who moonlights as an opera singer and Kahless knows who else we’ll pick up along the way. Starfleet must be beside themselves.”

“We are a bit like a Gypsy caravan aren’t we? It’s part of our charm, I think. What a pity all the aliens who are so bent on destroying us can’t see it.”

B’Elanna nodded. “Hmm, yes, good point.”

Kathryn smiled again. “I’m going to have to tell Chakotay about the Mom and Dad idea. He’ll enjoy that, although… he’s getting a bit touchy about his age, so he might not see the funny side.” She shot a candid look at B’Elanna. “I’ll tell him anyway. I love to watch him squirm.”

Raising her eyebrows, B’Elanna looked at her friend. “Squirm, huh? Go on.”

Kathryn’s mouth twisted into a wry smile and she fiddled with the stem of her glass, avoiding B’Elanna’s gaze. “Hmmm, yes well…”

“Well…?”

Looking up Kathryn’s smile faded. “Do you really want to know the truth?”

B’Elanna nodded.

“I love him, which I’m sure isn’t news, but to pursue a relationship out here would be impossible.”

B’Elanna was stunned. Yes, she knew that there was something between them and had assumed that they felt strongly for one another, but to hear Kathryn Janeway admit so openly to being in love with Chakotay, well, it was something she never expected. It was wonderful though and she had this overwhelming urge to hug her captain, but refrained. Their new friendship wasn’t quite that close yet but she was so pleased for her. She was also pleased for Chakotay; it was no secret how he felt about her.

“Kathryn, you do know that he loves you too. He always has.”

She nodded. “Yes, I know and it’s something I cherish dearly. He’s a good man; the very best and it breaks my heart to say no to him but there are strict rules and guidelines. They’re there for a reason and even though our circumstances are different from most Starfleet vessels, it doesn’t mean we can break the rules.”

“Oh, you mean like the rule where non-Starfleet personnel are prohibited from working in key areas like Engineering or Astrometrics. Or the one where we shouldn’t use technology from the future, or interfere with the justice and legal systems of alien cultures or maybe the one where non flag-officers are forbidden knowledge of secret Starfleet directives or…”

“All right, all right, I get the picture. You don’t pull your punches do you?”

“No, you know that; especially when the happiness of my friends and family are at stake. Tell me, what would your sister say?”

“Phoebe? She’d tell me that I was being a fool and if I didn’t want him, she’d be happy to take him off my hands. My sister’s not renowned for being subtle.”

B’Elanna shrugged and grunted a laugh. She liked Phoebe Janeway already and it wasn’t bad advice. In fact… “One day someone will come along and do just that, you know. Take him off your hands. No one can live alone forever. Even I can’t it seems, and I’ve always been a loner.”

Kathryn paled and averted her gaze. “I know that and, in a way, it would be simpler if he did.”

“Targshit.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I said targshit. It would be awful. Admit it. It would break your heart. I know if Tom moved on to someone else, I’d be devastated. He would also be a limbless corpse because I would have ripped his arms and legs off and beaten him to death with them, but that’s beside the point.”

Kathryn chuckled quietly and drank that last of her wine. “Does Tom know how lucky he is to have you?”

“Yes, and you’re changing the subject.”

“I know.”

“We need some more wine.” B’Elanna jumped up, ordered another two glasses, and brought them back to the table. She lifted hers in a toast. “To keeping our men with all their limbs. Q’pla.”

They touched their wine glasses together with a gentle ‘ping’ and quieted for a moment.

Kathryn twirled her glass, staring through the pale liquid at nothing in particular. “You’re right. It would break my heart, but I don’t have the right to hold him to a promise that was made years ago when we thought we would be together forever.”

“Together forever? You mean on that planet with the bugs?”

“New Earth, we called it.”

“New Earth. That’s so romantic.”

“Yes, it was, but it came to an end.”

“You were lovers?”

Kathryn nodded. “For six weeks, six glorious weeks, but we made a pact that when we returned to Voyager, what we had on the planet had to be put behind us. We needed to be the Captain and the Commander again, friends only, and anything other than that was out of the question.”

“I imagine that was easier said than done. How sad.” No wonder they’d never spoken of their time there. The memories must have been excruciating.

All Kathryn could do was shrug. “It was, although I have wonderful memories and we’re still the very best of friends.”

“It’s hardly the same though. I don’t understand…”

Kathryn’s head snapped up and she frowned. “I try not to think about it too much, besides, shouldn’t we talk about you and your problems, B’Elanna.”

Leaning forward, B’Elanna looked at her Captain and friend. “The way I see it Kathryn, we both have similar problems. We both need to let go of the past and look to the future. Without a doubt, my future lies with Tom and, if you’re honest with yourself, yours lies with Chakotay.”

“It’s not as simple as that.”

“As what?”

“I’m the captain, B’Elanna.”

“Yes… so?”

“I have a responsibility to the ship and the crew.”

“I don’t see how being in a loving relationship with Chakotay could interfere with that.”

“I do.”

“Okay, well, you tell me what you think the issues are and I bet I can blow a hole the size of a Malon freighter through each one.”

Kathryn huffed a laugh. “You’re probably right.”

“Well then, what’s stopping you?”

“Fear. You know, that old chestnut.”

“Yes, we’re well acquainted.”

Taking a sip of her wine Kathryn smiled. “I think most people on Voyager are, but mine stems from the past. I was engaged before.”

“To Mark. The man in the picture with the dog.”

“The dog was mine, and yes that holoimage was of Mark but I was engaged to another man before that; when I was very young. He was a Starfleet Ranger.” Her eyes glazed over with a far away look and she blinked a couple of times before she continued. “We were very much in love, but he died… in the same accident that killed my father.”

B’Elanna frowned and leaned forward to offer comfort, but Kathryn took a deep breath and met her eyes squarely. “It was a long time ago; it affected me deeply and I’ve been wary of putting myself in that position ever since. I was engaged to Mark for ten years and never once set a date for a wedding. I thought I had it covered, but I lost him as well.”

“I’m sorry, Kathryn. I didn’t know, but I still don’t see what it has to do with Chakotay.”

“I couldn’t bear to lose him.” She huffed a breath. “The likelihood of surviving out here is tenuous at best. How many times has each of us nearly died?”

B’Elanna shrugged. “Lots.”

“Do you see now? If I was in a relationship with him and something happened to him I don’t think I would be able to function as captain. I can’t risk that.”

Shaking her head, B’Elanna leaned in close to Kathryn. “So you’re telling me, that if the bulkheads blew out on Deck three right this minute and he was killed, you wouldn’t be devastated. That makes no sense.”

“I…of course I’d be devastated. I’d be …”

“What?”

The mere thought of something like that happening sent Kathryn into a tailspin. Her fingers itched to tap her combadge and check on his whereabouts but she restrained herself. Her voice was subdued. “You’re right, it would be no different. Damn, how did I manage to get myself into this mess? This sort of thing shouldn’t happen.”

B’Elanna snorted a laugh. “Now you’re angry with yourself for falling in love? Just step back for a minute. If I was you, what would you say?”

Kathryn looked irritated but played the game, she couldn’t very well ‘go captain’ on B’Elanna at this point. If she was going to drop the barriers, she had to do it properly and take the hits as well as the high points of their friendship. “If I was you, I’d advise you to get over yourself, tell him how you feel and get on with your life.”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

“You have a very irritating streak of common sense, B’Elanna Torres.”

“Thank you.”

“That wasn’t a compliment.” Kathryn’s look belied her words as her mouth twisted into a smile and she shook her head. “It looks like I have some thinking to do.”

B’Elanna reached across the table and gripped Kathryn’s forearm. “Don’t you feel the time for ‘thinking’ is over? There’s a man one deck down who loves you with all his heart, and it’s a big one.”

Kathryn gave her a sideways glance and B’Elanna rolled her eyes. “His heart is big, I can’t vouch for anything else, but… we’re digressing… I think.” She grinned. “Come on, where’s that Janeway spirit.”

“Janeway spirit?”

“Yes, you know; the ‘boots ‘n all’ Janeway that we know and love.” B’Elanna sat back in her seat and crossed her arms. “You’re not turning yellow on us now are you?”

“You, my friend, have been spending far too much time with a certain helmsman.”

“Yes, I know. Isn’t it great?”

Kathryn’s demeanour softened. “It is and I’m very happy for you both.”

“Thank you. Which reminds me. I owe him an apology. I haven’t been the easiest person to live with over the last few months. I’ve tested his patience and his love to the limits. He’s stood by me though and I owe him so much.”

“He loves you dearly B’Elanna and you’re good for each other. You are one of the many success stories of Voyager.”

“Yes, and who would have guessed that to find the key to my happiness, all I had to do was be tossed to the other side of the galaxy and be thrown together with a motley crew of Starfleet vagabonds. Life takes some crazy twists and turns sometimes.”

Kathryn was contemplating her wine glass again and answered distractedly. “It certainly does.” B’Elanna was grinning madly and Kathryn felt her eyes on her. “What?”

“You’re thinking about that big… heart down below. Go to him, Kathryn. Tell him how you feel, before you live to regret it.”

Kathryn gave B’Elanna a narrow eyed glare, then after taking a deep breath, slugged down the last mouthful of her wine and stood up. She ran her fingers through her hair, tugged at her shirt and huffed another breath. “If this is a disaster, I’m blaming you.”

“Hey, what are friends for?”

“I’m still not convinced this is the right thing to do, but you present a compelling argument.”

“I think the look on Chakotay’s face when he sees you will be enough to convince you that you’ve done the right thing. It’s time. Now, go before you change your mind.”

B’Elanna was up out of her seat and almost pushing Kathryn out the door. Kathryn looked over her shoulder at the table strewn with plates and glasses. “We’ve left a mess for poor Neelix.”

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll fix it. Oh, and before you go, you might need this.” B’Elanna jogged to the replicator, mumbled something into the console and then turned, triumphantly holding a bottle of wine. “Dessert wine… to do with as you will.”

Kathryn took the bottle and tucked it under her arm, giving her chief engineer and friend a rueful look. “One last time. Are you sure I’m doing the right thing?”

“Positive and if we took a poll of the crew, which we can do, if you want proof, they would feel the same. Go for it, Kathryn. Go get your man and don’t look back. It’s time we lived our lives, both of us.”

With the precious bottle of wine clutched in one arm, Kathryn took a deep breath and turned towards the door, but then swung back. “B’Elanna, thank you.”

“No, thank you, Kathryn. Thank you for everything.”

Kathryn nodded and with a determined stride, marched through the mess hall doors towards her future.

As the doors hissed closed, B’Elanna grinned and hit her combadge. “Torres to Paris.”

“Tom here B’Elanna. Where are you?”

“I’m in the mess hall, tidying up. Want to give me a hand, Helmboy?”

“B’E… you’re back?”

“Uh huh.”

“I’m on the way.”

Gathering the plates and cups, she dumped them in the recycler and then headed back to the table for the glasses. Tom came barrelling through the door and skidded to a halt in front of her. His eyes flicked to the empty glasses in her hand and he smiled. “You had a party without me?”

Dumping the glasses in the recycler, she quickly stepped into his arms and cupping his face, kissed him soundly. “No, but I hear there’s one starting on Deck nine, section twelve any minute now.”

Tom wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. “It’s good to have you back. Are you okay?”

“I’m great, better than I’ve ever been. Shall we go home?”

“You bet.” He began to pull back, but hugged her close once again. “B’Elanna Torres, I love you and I’ve missed you.”

“I missed you too. Come on, I’ve got some things to tell you.”

“Good things, I hope.”

“The very best.”

With his arm draped around her shoulder and hers around his waist, they left the mess hall.

Tom kissed the top of her head as they walked along the corridor. “I saw the Captain on my way here. She had a bottle of wine and looked like she had something planned.”

“She has. Something big and I’ll tell you about it one day.”

fin

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