DISCLAIMER: I do not own these characters. They are the property of Paramount.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Ecce! A Posse Ad Esse
By Tina LaMarch
B'Elanna brushed her hands over the top of tall wild grasses as she made her way to the tree. It was short and gnarled and nothing grew at its base. B'Elanna was not sure if it was because of something that it put in the soil if it was because of her good self. For years now, she had come here, paced the base, run her hands endlessly over rough bark and sat among the exposed roots. Maybe somewhere along the way the grasses gave up fighting her eternal presence. Maybe she simply lost awareness of them in losing her own battles.
She'd lost a lot of fights, lost, or maybe stopped caring enough to engage. Returning to the Alpha Quadrant meant holes in her life that couldn't be darned or patched. She should've run. She should have. She should have. B'Elanna sighed putting her head in her hands.
When they returned, there was a heroes welcome but it was short. The Maquis officers became sacrificial lambs to placate a minority who had long ago ceased to have any true cause to punish anyone. It was a token, but by the time she had gotten out, Tom had become a stranger, Miral dancing in his shadow. Most of those that she had counted on as friends had faded quietly into lives as removed from hers as if a plate of transparent aluminum had been dropped between them. Seven was dead.
B'Elanna bit back a sob. She looked at stars cold and distant. B'Elanna ached for the Borg. She had lived her whole life in the few short years on Voyager. Those years were lived in a quiet desperation that no one knew enough to get past. The beautiful young woman lived her whole life at arm's length.
Captain Janeway should have been there. She declared herself a friend and mentor but shielded herself in duty. Tuvok saw her as a daughter, but let logic teach him how to love a human child. Chakotay was her lover, but failed to breach the ramparts through his own expectations. B'Elanna, she was the worst of all. She pushed away the one person who could see her for all and still love her. She pushed, no she battered away a brilliant, troubled half-caste like herself for fear.
When B'Elanna learned of the former Borg's death, she was reading a news PADD. She tried to convince herself that the dates meant something else, that the short quotation below her picture was not the work of a woman who years after losing the voices in her head, lost the voices in her heart that were supposed to tell her to hang on. There was dim awareness of the passage of time before B'Elanna stopped trying to convince herself. The tears came and somehow they never really went away.
She bargained for days afterward. Kahless and a dozen other gods formed an endless litany, an endless begging for a single soul. A woman B'Elanna knew she could have had as a friend, a woman that B'Elanna, secure in the dark of night, knew she could have had as lover.
She pictured it endlessly at night, when there was no shame or all-consuming grip on reality to drive the pictures away. "I see you. I love you Seven. Don't ever go away." Then she would step forward taking that beautiful face in her hands. Her lips would brush the blonde's. She would kiss her, her tongue gently touching the full lower lip until entrance was granted. B'Elanna could almost feel Seven's hand go to her waist, touching hesitantly as if to assure herself it was all really happening.
It wasn't. Seven was gone like everything else that had mattered to her in her life. B'Elanna gathered her knees to her chest and sobbed quietly. She looked up to see a hankerchief being extended. "Who the hell are you?"
"Just call me your Fairy GodQ."
"You are kidding, right?"
The rather annoying dark haired gentleman sitting across from her simply shrugged and waved. Suddenly, she was sitting on the wrong side of the hull of Voyager. 'Don't panic. Don't panic,' she told herself. Her eyes didn't pop. Her blood didn't boil away. B'Elanna grabbed the hankerchief and buried her face in it. She looked up. He was still there and she was still here.
"Is it so terrible to think that a Q might want to be a little altruistic in his old age? Help out one of the friendly folk of Voyager?"
B'Elanna stared at the Q in disbelief.
"Fine. I'm bored and I thought the deal I have to offer you would be entertaining. You people are all Starfleet optimism and principles of trust, until there is a Q involved aren't you?"
B'Elanna's eyebrow went up.
"Got no love for me B'Elanna? I am here to hand you everything on a silver platter and I get the eyebrow, typical. Maybe I should just " The Q lifted his hand.
"Wait! What do you mean everything?" B'Elanna began mentally slapping herself for even considering listening to the Q.
"Why, you play your cards right, dearest B'Elanna, you get the girl and the second chances that you have been whining for."
"I don't whine," she snapped.
It was Q's turn to hoist the eyebrows. "Of course not, my sweet girl. Now, now, wipe away those nasty bits in the corners of your eyes and let your Fairy GodQ tell you what he has in mind."
An hour later, B'Elanna stared open mouthed at the satisfied smirk of the Q. "If you were Borg, I would say you'd blown every one of your cortical processors. I don't have a clue what you use for a brain."
"Now, now. Play nice. It is not everyday that you are offered a chance to make things right. Now is it? Is the plan really that bad?"
"No. I just have to convince myself that it is ok to love Seven, without this B'Elanna seeing me. I have to convince Seven that I care for her, without letting on that I am not me. I have to cause me to break up with Tom, without getting caught out. Oh, and let's not forget I have to do this all without anyone else on the ship being the wiser 'cause the Captain will sling my ass in the Brig just for bringing on another Temporal Prime Directive headache. Cake. What the hell do you get out of this?"
"Think of it my dearest B'Elanna. How many Q do you think have their very own French farce playing out? The ultimate status item. Perfect for the Q who has everything." Q sighed. "Interested, or do I put you back to 'oh me oh my land' where I found you? Tick tock my dear girl."
B'Elanna stared at the Q for another beat or two. If she did this, Seven would not die feeling so utterly alone. That alone could make this right. Not any easier, but right. "I will need you to make me look like myself in this time frame and get me a bio-dampener. I can 'requisition' the other items I need but I need those to pull this off."
"An excellent idea, my dear. I did not want to say anything, but frankly you are looking a bit worn around the eyes, and the mouth, your hair is ."
"Yeah, got the point. Make me pretty and give me the gear. You can drop me in a Jeffries tube. Then grab your popcorn and let the fun begin.."
B'Elanna sincerely hoped that she wasn't about to do something completely stupid.
Sitting in the Jefferies, she was pretty sure she just did something completely stupid. It had been many years since she had been crawling through the ship. "Feeling the burn now," she whispered to herself as she moved from storage space to storage space grabbing the components she needed.
Moving to the vertical shaft, she began working herself down to Main Engineering. B'Elanna curled up behind a slightly open Jefferies tube entrance. She finished throwing together the trackers and was listening to a very familiar argument erupt. She cringed to hear herself. "No wonder she thought I hated her." B'Elanna shook her head. She closed the tube door.
Taking a deep breath she examined her equipment one last time. Before she could start the fun and games she was going to put trackers on the players. Q wanted a French farce, but B'Elanna wanted not to be spaced. She would attach the tiny devices to boots. It would not be a perfect system.. To keep them from showing up on scans and/or keep them from interfering with any delicate systems that might cause questions, she had to keep them passive. She would be using a tiny active station to 'ping' for them.
The only player who didn't tend to wear the same boots all the time was Captain Proton himself, Tom Paris. He was going to be the easiest one to take out of the equation by B'Elanna's estimation so he would be going down first. She figured that while there would be an advantage to knowing where everyone was, but the only one who could really mess things up was herself. 'Always comes back to that doesn't it,' she thought sardonically.
"Hi, yeah, I _was_ just there but I wanted to see if I could use the tubes to beat you here." B'Elanna shook her head and prayed she wouldn't need to use that excuse often on the good folk of this time or this could just suck.
B'Elanna moved to the Jefferies tube closest to her old quarters.. She had a couple hours to kill before her old self (who she took to calling Bel) would come in for the night and Tom to come in, probably to say he wouldn't be there. She got comfortable. Or mostly comfortable. 'Hope Q wasn't hoping for the funny bits right off,' she thought.
She set an alarm to wake her around Bel's normal bedtime and a lookout device to let her know if anyone entered adjoining tubes and fell into a troubled sleep. She screwed this up, she would never forgive herself.
The alarm went off with a tiny buzz. B'Elanna woke up with a groan. Wiping the stain of tears from her dreams off her face, she cracked the door. She was just about to ask the computer about Bel's status when she heard the fight. It was muffled by the door, but she could tell that it was probably Standard Paris-Torres fight #2 easily recognizable by the cries of "You love the holodeck more." and the old favorite "You are always too tired."
B'Elanna puffed out her sigh. Her counterpart got angry at work, brought it home. Her counterpart's spouse threw a wobbly when she protested his play. They fight. They have sex to pretend that it is all ok. Then sometime before morning Tom sneaks out to play with his fast ships and holodeck muscle cars and adventures. "I can't believe I let this be my life." B'Elanna groaned.
She sat listening to her life passing before her. After a time the fight moved to other things, and finally to silence. Less than an hour passed before Tom passed dressed as Captain Proton. B'Elanna counted her lucky stars. She could get two boots at one go.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door. The quarters were dark. She looked at Bel, just visible. She was sleeping deeply, Toby under her arm. B'Elanna shook her head. Tom ragged on her often for having a stuffed targ but wasn't above sliding it under her arm as he slid out. 'Jackass,' she thought. She quietly moved closer to the bed, freezing when Bel rolled to her side.
Reaching out she snagged one of Tom's boots first. She took out one of the tiny devices and attached it to the point where the welt met the quarter. 'One down,' she thought. Reaching out she grabbed one of Bel's boots. She heard a groan. Looking up she saw her counterpart begin to lever herself up off the bed. B'Elanna skittered around the corner and into the living room. She threw herself into the corner, listening for herself grumping to the bathroom and back to the bed.
B'Elanna breathed a sigh of relief and finished her task. Rubbing her forehead ridges, she slid the boot back into place. Moving quickly to the door, she let herself out. She leaned against the bulkhead just breathing. That is when Tom came around the corner.
It was too late to run for the access or to even enter the quarters to hide in the dark again. 'What a wonderful start, I really need to kill Q.' "Tom ."
"B'Elanna, I know what you are going to say."
"You so do not."
Tom put up his hands and tried to look charming and contrite all at the same time. 'Marital Reconciliation Face #4,' thought B'Elanna. She decided that now would be a great time for some groundwork. Throwing her arm across his chest, she pushed him against the wall opposite.
"Tom," she started quietly, "I don't want to hear it. You think you got this whole thing worked out. Easy set-up. Play when you want to. Come home to a warm bed. You are on warning. Find someplace else to be right now. I am going back to bed .alone." With that, she walked back into the quarters and found herself a nice dark spot to hang out in until Tom had time to leave.
B'Elanna thought briefly about ripping her hair out by the roots, but then realized that it was more comforting to contemplate Q related mayhem. 'Laughing now bright boy?' she thought.
After the night from hell, B'Elanna went into the tubes and thought of how much fun it would be to tie Q to railroad tracks, like in one of Tom's old movies. She made her way toward the Mess Hall. Peeking around to look through the window in the door, B'Elanna spotted her target.
Casually, she made her way into the quiet mess. It was gamma and there were few crewmen around. B'Elanna grabbed some fruit to munch on and made her way to one of the tables near the windows. She sat across from a crewman in Science blue. "Hey Mariah."
The crewman looked up and smiled. "Hey B'Elanna, long time no see. What are you doing up at this ungodly hour?"
"Working on plans to upend time, space and everything in between," B'Elanna grinned. Mariah chuckled. "Listen, you still need a fix on that holocamera of yours?"
"Yeah. Was beginning to think you would never have time, Torres. You sure you have it now?"
"Either now or you can wait for the Alpha Quadrant. You still willing to pay in rats?"
"Ahhhhhh I get it. You lost a bet with Tom and now you are scrambling to avoid leftovers tomorrow."
"You know it."
"Ok, come on. I have a data analysis compiling right now, so I have a few. Let's go take care of this."
A half hour later, B'Elanna was scuttling through the tubes to get to Deck 8. She knew that her odds of tagging Seven in the alcove without notice were next to nil. Seven had learned early on the benefit of at least basic security monitoring of her 'private' space. She was going to have to get ballsy to tag Seven and figured that she might as well get some work done on that front as well.
B'Elanna walked into Astrometrics with her bundle in hand and stood quietly for a moment to take in the image of the tall blonde in a blue biosuit standing before her. Seven did not turn around. "Lieutenant, may I be of assistance?"
"I came to invite you to eat with me, Seven."
Seven turned to face B'Elanna doing an almost perfect job of covering the fact that she was feeling poleaxed.
"I do not "
"I do not require blah, blah, blah. Yeah I know, but please just join me."
Seven looked at the half-Klingon with her head tilted. Finally, she nodded. "I will comply."
B'Elanna stepped up to the panel in front of her and input a command. "This is Einstein's Cross." An image appeared on the big screen. "A gravity lens, quasar image split four times by a galaxy. I always thought it was beautiful." She lay a small blanket on the dais.
"I didn't think my quarters would be a good idea, and Seven, Cargo Bay 2 does not even qualify as quarters. No good for dining."
"The Mess Hall?"
"I have some things to say to you. I want you to hear them and I don't want them broadcast by Tom, Dick and Harry."
"Never mind. Sit Seven. This will be painless I promise." Seven stepped up to sit cross-legged at the edge of the blanket. B'Elanna sat close and unwrapped sandwiches. After looking at her sandwich with suspicion, Seven began to eat.
After a few minutes, B'Elanna spoke up. "I don't hate you."
Seven's head shot up and asked, "You don't?" with such a note of honest inquiry that B'Elanna was tempted to go kick her former self's ass.
"No, I don't. I am an asshole when I get angry. When you undermine me the way you do, you make me feel hurt and angry and I strike out. But, I don't hate you."
She waited as Seven digested this information. B'Elanna kept going. "It's important to me that you understand this Seven. I have lost it in the past, and I can almost guarantee it for the near future, but I want to change it. I hope you will help." She paused.
"You ever eat salty French fries and ice cream?" She laughed at Seven's expression. "Yeah, a few years of it will give you an exploding heart, but it is good. See the thing is, most people see it as about a fifteen on the one to ten What the Fuck scale when they hear about. Just won't work, they think. It does work. I am thinking we can too. Time, effort, I think we can."
Seven looks at her silently. B'Elanna reached over and put her hand on Seven's shoulder, placing her other hand briefly on her boot.. B'Elanna leaned back and shugged. "Enough with the soul baring bullshit, my fine Borgish companion. Tell me about the latest sector scan."
B'Elanna sat back and smiled, eating as Seven described a nebula they would be passing in the next few days. Tracker in place, check. Door opened, check. Stomach grumblings shut off for at least a couple more hours, check, check. Cake.
B'Elanna left the Astrometrics department feeling positively light. She would have to work her ass off to get the seed she planted to flourish, but it was a hell of a good start. She just had to get lil Miss Stubborn to dump Tom and see the light in the form of one Miss Seven. B'Elanna felt like maybe she was going to be able to pull this off.
B'Elanna turned to find the captain behind her. "Captain.."
"I just wanted to know how those reports are coming?"
"They are coming," hedged B'Elanna. 'Please don't ask for details, please don't ask for details, please don't .'
"Are you alright, B'Elanna? You look a little pale."
"Lunch, I guess, maybe breakfast. Not sitting right. I will be fine."
Captain Janeway's eyebrow rose. "You're buzzing."
B'Elanna forced a laugh. "So I am. I set a timer on some data and wow, guess it must have popped out. Can I catch up with you later, Captain?"
"Sure, I am just going to check on Seven's latest sector scan."
"Gripping read. You'll love it." B'Elanna started edging away, trying for subtle. The captain looked at her a little concerned before nodding at the engineer and entering Astrometrics.
The door was not even fully closed when B'Elanna dove for the Jefferies tube. She slammed the proximity alert off and started to close the door after her. The tube door was not even fully closed when she saw Bel stalking toward the cargo bay, muttering about the difficulty that some engineers have with keeping vital components handy.
'Never leaving the tube again, never, ever, ever, ever, ever leaving this tube again, no way, no how. Oh Kahless what the hell was I thinking?' She drew a long shuddering breath. 'Think positive B'Elanna. Q on a stick. Q on a stick. Q in a blender. Q in a blender..'
B'Elanna took a deep, cleansing breath. "Whew. That's better. Now, what was that next stop?' B'Elanna began crawling along the tube plotting all the way.
B'Elanna spent the next several hours dodging Engineers in the Jefferies tubes. 'Stupid Baby Me. Always with the diagnostics and the inspections. Put your feet up. Eat a damned donut.' B'Elanna finally got into the tubes on Deck 6.
Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres had cared very deeply for one another, but they should never have tried to make a marriage of it. Their difficulties emerged early on. B'Elanna kept trying to make it work. Tom kept trying to assume it would work. It didn't work. In the end, after B'Elanna's imprisonment, there wasn't even friendship left as an option. B'Elanna believed that if the straw landed on that camel's back this early on, a lot of bitterness and acrimonious behavior could be averted. If that happened, they might be able to save the friendship.
Always assuming that Bel did not break Tom Paris's fool neck. B'Elanna wanted to avoid that, but the fastest way to sink that love boat was to go for the whole infidelity thing. Bel was playing oblivious to a lot to keep the marriage afloat, but direct evidence of Tom's indiscretions would be hard to ignore, hopefully impossible.
B'Elanna felt about fifty types of fool, thinking about all of this. When the marriage hit fan, Tom had laid out a lot. The part that hurt B'Elanna the most, she was not surprised. She couldn't even kill Tom. She wouldn't have because Miral idolized him for some weird reason, but more than that was the fact that she had no cause. On some level, she knew it was happening and did nothing.
B'Elanna edged out of the Jefferies tubes and checked the computer for Holodeck reservations. As she had hoped, the fight the other night was big enough and she was scary enough in the hall where Tom had planned one of his big 'Love ya babe' production numbers. It was scheduled for the end of Tom's shift and to go for several hours. 'Wonder what pool ya won this time, Tom?' thought the half-Klingon engineer.
B'Elanna corrupted Tom's holodeck files and a few around them. She took pains to make it appear as organic as possible. 'No sense getting caught now,' she thought. She slipped into the tubes and began to work her way to what used to be her least favorite place. The most vulnerable spot in the EPS grid.
'Little tweak here, little tweak there. You getting all this Q? You old voyeur you.' B'Elanna preferred to do the work in this section herself. The amalgam of technologies and spit and paper paste that held this section together most days was too finely balanced to allow for exploratory surgery by most of the engineering staff. Bel would take this repair herself, keeping herself busy until the holodeck fun and games was well underway. At least, that was the plan.
B'Elanna tripped a sensor alarm to bring Bel's attention to the problem right away and scooted her butt back to the Holodeck level. Tapping into the comm system, she listened for it. It took surprisingly little time. 'Did you even check the problem out first?' she thought.
"Torres to Paris."
"Tom, I know I am supposed to meet you in the Holodeck, but I got a blowout here to take care of. Probably take forever. I'll try to meet you there later but you know how it goes."
"Sure thing B'Elanna. See you for dinner even if you can't make it here?"
"2100 hours in the Mess if I can't get free sooner."
"Perfect. Love you."
"You too. Torres out."
B'Elanna rolled her eyes and set up her observation post. With luck, Paris would just assume that the repair would be an all-nighter and he wouldn't even blink when all his programs ended up bleeding into the one. B'Elanna shrugged. He probably would just go straight to it anyway.
B'Elanna shook her head as she checked the holodeck program running. 'I swear there are developmentally disabled targ with more sense,' she thought. 'Course I fell for it.'
She moved back to the tube. She checked the status board she built to watch the players. Seven was regenerating. Bel was still in the rats nest. Tom seemed perfectly happy to stay on the holodeck with his little harem girls. She turned to the view afforded by the tiny camera she installed just across from the Holodeck.
She groaned as she saw Harry Kim enter the picture. 'Starfleet better not go all Eagle Scout on me tonight. I so don't need to go find a Plan B right now. Hope you're watching Sunshine. Here's your money's worth,' she thought as she left the tube.
"Harry." B'Elanna greeted her old friend enthusiastically.
"B'Elanna. I thought Tom said you were all tied up."
"I was but you know, I just finally decided to take a break and spend some quality time with the hubby."
"Starfleet, did he invite you to play? Would you do me a huge favor, friend to friend?"
"Sure, Maquis," Harry grinned at the old nicknames. "What do you need?"
"Tell him you have a date and you can't come. I have to go grab some wine and a certain flimsy piece of ."
"Too much information, let me stop you right there." Harry blushed and held up his hand. "All right Maquis, but you owe me."
"Great." B'Elanna smiled while Harry bailed on Tom. She kissed his cheek. "I'll put in a word with the cutie from Bio-Sci for you, Harry."
"You'd better. Good night B'Elanna." Harry turned and started walking away. B'Elanna watched him leave. She checked that the program was still running. Feeling a buzz on her belt, she ducked into her hideout. One of her players was on the move, headed right for her. She grinned. Seven oblivious, Tom playing, only left one.
"Right on cue Bel."
B'Elanna watched her counterpart walk to the Holodeck door. She stopped. Heaving a sigh, she ran her hand through her dark hair and turned as if to leave. "Don't be an idiot. He's waiting," B'Elanna whispered as she watched.
Bel took two or three steps back toward the turbo lift and stopped. "Sense of honor time Bel. You want to make this work Bel. Don't be a pussy now. Come on baby. That's it." Bel turned back and sighed. She stepped up to the Holodeck door.
"Kahless, I am too tired for his shit tonight," Bel said as she hesitated.
B'Elanna smacked herself in the head. 'Q on fire, Q under water, Q eating gagh with anti-freeze on top. Come on you stupid bint! More guts, more glory! Go for it!'
Bel sighed as if coming to a decision and walked into the Holodeck.
B'Elanna's heart beat again. She felt bad for Baby Me, but she was dying to see a certain someone receive his long overdue education.
B'Elanna was not at all terribly surprised when took all of fifteen minutes for Tom to come flying out the Holodeck, still trying to pull up his pants. She grimaced as she imagined what Bel might be feeling, but really it was better to pull that band-aid off fast. She checked the tracking board. Bel was not moving. Paris was headed away, oops, stopped on Deck 4. Seven still not moving. B'Elanna risked a quick dodge into the hall to grab the camera, activated the program to clear the bleed-through, which had been unnecessary, and moved back toward Deck 9.
B'Elanna let herself into her old quarters and set the camera. If this wasn't going to be enough of a push to break them up, the sooner she knew, the better her odds were. Paris could be charming, but he had no patience. If he was going to try to fix this, it would happen right away. B'Elanna ran her fingers over the edge of the Bat'leth. She hoped he was not so stupid as to try anything for at least an hour or two. Give Bel a chance to come down from full on rage. Hate for there to be unnecessary blood.
She went back out to the Jefferies tube and let herself in. Bel's tracker was stationary. Paris was in crew quarters, B'Elanna didn't know right off hand whose, and Seven was still regenerating. She had time. 'Time for one more project,' she thought as she pulled out a PADD. She began putting down some thoughts and munching on the fruit she pulled out of her pocket.
It was about 45 minutes later when Bel entered her quarters. She looked spent. 'Little Bel must have 'killed' all the harem girls, probably twice, if it took this long.' Bel put her face in her hands and started sobbing. B'Elanna rubbed her forehead ridges. She remembered how awful it felt. The marriage never should have been, but it didn't make the loss easier. Her hearts aching as she watched, B'Elanna picked up the tracking board.
Tom was on the move again, Seven had gone to Astrometrics.
'Don't be a moron, Tom. Back off while you can.'
Tom Paris got off the turbo lift on Deck 9. He stayed back from the door of the Torres-Paris quarters for several minutes. B'Elanna could only see the blip from his tracker, not his face. She could only imagine what was going through his head. B'Elanna prayed that Tom would, true to form, look for the easy way.
B'Elanna had to bite her lip as she saw Bel grab Tom's tv and throw it out the door narrowly missing the pilot. She shook uncontrollably to keep from laughing. 'You go girl!' She watched as Tom followed Bel back into the quarters they had shared.
"B'Elanna, listen to ."
"I am through listening. I am done pretending that you are going to grow up if I give you time and space. You leave now while you can."
"You don't live here anymore flyboy. Get out!" shouted Bel, poking him hard in the chest.
Paris, for once in his life, saw the danger right in front of him. He backed up slowly toward the door. Bel's arms crossed over her chest.
"Come for your shit while I am on shift. I won't be responsible if I see you here again anytime soon, Tom."
Tom scampered out. Bel went toward the bed. B'Elanna heard her crying just out of range of the visual. She sighed. 'At least his cowardice will be good for one thing. End this shit fast so she can get on with it.'
B'Elanna resolved to come back for the camera when B'Elanna went to sleep . Maybe when she went on shift the next day. In the meantime, she had to figure out how to get an in pain half-Klingon with an attitude problem talking with the Queen of Avoidance. She pulled out her special project PADD and started turning the rusty cogs while she worked.
B'Elanna sat working for about two hours before the lights went out in the quarters. She was tempted to wait another hour or two and go to retrieve the camera. She decided against it. She knew her counterpart was not going to be taking the destruction of her marriage well. Tossing and turning, she might still be aware of someone coming in and B'Elanna could not afford that kind of complication. 'Although Q would be rolling,' she allowed.
She made her way to Astrometrics. Upon entering, Seven turned toward her.. "Lieutenant. May I be of some assistance?"
B'Elanna walked over to the arc of consoles that lined the dais. She sat down against them. She looked up to see Seven regarding her with her silver implant high on her forehead. "You busy Seven?"
"I am waiting for the sector scan updates to run, Lieutenant."
B'Elanna patted the deck plate next to her. "I know you are all into the standing constantly thing, but could you sit with me again? I need a friend."
"You regard me as a friend, Lieutenant?" Seven's head tilted as she waited for her answer.
B'Elanna had to be careful. She couldn't write any checks her counterpart wouldn't cash. "I think I might be starting to."
Seven hesitated and then sat next to the half-Klingon. "May I ask why you need a friend, Lieutenant?"
B'Elanna thought carefully. She would bet money that the story would be all over with Paris's unique ego-saving spin on it by morning, but she still felt caution was a good idea. "Something happened tonight. With me and Tom. I don't feel ready to talk about it, but I didn't want to be alone just now. Can we just sit for a while?"
Seven regarded her with curious blue eyes. "Of course, Lieutenant."
"Thank you Seven," whispered B'Elanna. After a few moments, she leaned her head on the taller Borg's shoulder. She felt the blonde tense slightly at the unexpected contact, then relax. Seven tentatively placed her fingertips on B'Elanna's other shoulder, as if trying to mimic the touch B'Elanna gave her the other day, but not quite knowing if it was the right thing to do. B'Elanna sighed quietly. "Thank you Seven."
They sat quietly in that way for about a quarter hour. B'Elanna felt better than she had in many years. 'This is what I lost, I was such an idiot.' Seven moved her arm to hold the half-Klingon with more confidence. The console above began to beep. B'Elanna lifted her head from Seven's shoulder. "It's alright Seven, I should go try to get some sleep anyway."
B'Elanna stood looking down at the former Borg who looked almost disappointed. B'Elanna offered her hand. Seven allowed her to help her up. B'Elanna touched Seven's cheek, "Thank you Seven."
"You are welcome, Lieutenant."
B'Elanna walked out with a "Good night." She didn't see the blonde staring after her long after she left.
As B'Elanna sat in the Jefferies tube, she drew several shaking breaths. When she had taken several minutes to think of ways to dismember Q, she began tube hopping to Engineering. The one camera was not going to be enough. She needed access to a good deal more.
She started by rigging a patch through the security mainframe. 'Looks like all those upgrades I did are finally paying off.' She would only be able to hook her monitoring board up at this junction. It would be tricky, being this close to Engineering and Bel, but any other junction point was heavily monitored. Remoting the board was not going to be an option, too much sensor noise. She twitched as she heard engineering staff moving through a nearby Jeffries tube.
She placed the access panel back and moved off. She needed to eat and get some rest and that wasn't going to happen here. She checked the trackers. Paris had apparently found a bed for the night on Deck 4, Bel was still in quarters, and Seven was in Astrometrics. She had a clear path to grab some grub. She moved up tube to the Galley. Hopefully, it would be as quiet this night as it was the last night.
She looked through the window in the door. 'All quiet.' She moved into the Mess Hall.
'Can't catch a break. Q, you are so dead in so many ways..' B'Elanna turned toward the Vulcan Security Chief who had been sitting in the corner closest the door.
"Tuvok, didn't expect to see you here this time of night.."
"Nor I you."
"Long, long night. Just wanted to grab something to eat before going back to bed." B'Elanna nodded.
"Perhaps you might take the time to clear the rather large piece of outdated hardware currently residing across the hall from your quarters when you return there, Lieutenant."
"Yeah, I will get right on that."
"It is not my place to say, Lieutenant, but perhaps there are better ways to approach your issues with Lt. Paris."
"That's been taken care of, I hope. Thanks though."
"In that case, I will return to my report and allow you to return to your snack."
B'Elanna smiled, waved and turned back toward the food. 'Well, it's official I have run into every member of the Senior Staff except the Doctor and ' "Neelix," she squeaked.
"Sorry to have startled you B'Elanna. Couldn't sleep and was just experimenting with a new vegetable. Have a bowl." The Talaxian's broad face split in a wide grin as he handed her a bowl and large spoon.
B'Elanna blew on a spoonful and tried it. She fought to contain a cringe. "It tastes nutritious, Neelix," she said as she blinked back tears.
"Chock full of vitamins."
"Actually Neelix, I would love to sit and taste your creations properly but I am just exhausted tonight. I just really had a taste for some fresh fruit."
"Of course, of course B'Elanna. Here you go." Neelix handed her some apple like fruit. "Rest well, B'Elanna.."
B'Elanna smiled at the gentle Talaxian and left the Mess. She made for the tubes cursing Q all the way.
'So can't afford Tuvok sniffing around this,' she thought. She wasn't about to get caught out now, when she was so close, so she went to deal with the tv before anyone else could remark on it. It was a lot of mass to get rid of without access to her quarters. It would be at least a few more hours before Bel dragged her ass out of there so it was a matter of finding temporary quarters for the oversized piece of trash. 'It had to be a big one didn't it, you couldn't have built him a teeny tiny portable.' B'Elanna mentally kicked herself yet again for past mistakes.
She manhandled the tv to the entrance of the Jefferies tube. By removing the legs, she was able to make it fit. She squeezed it back and wedged her self against it setting the alarms.
She woke to the quiet buzz a few hours later. Her neck felt like it had been knotted overnight. She checked the monitor. She saw Bel standing in the middle of her living room dumping arm loads of Tom's shit. 'Guessing that I don't need to worry about her forgiveness,' thought B'Elanna grinning. A few minutes later, Bel left her quarters and B'Elanna tracked her blip to the turbo lift. After checking that the Paris blip was also headed up to the conference room, she slid the tv out of the tube.
B'Elanna entered the Torres quarters. She broke up the tv in short order and got rid of the chunks. She reached for the camera. She hesitated. With the security patch set up she could afford to leave this camera in place a little longer. She couldn't use the patch to monitor these quarters the way she would like. B'Elanna took down the camera and simply moved to a place where it was even less easily seen.
Her belt buzzed. B'Elanna threw herself between the table and the wall. She took out the tracking board and saw Tom's blip moving toward the quarters from the turbo lift. She thought a moment and ran to hide on the far side of the bed, pulling the covers slightly to one side to cover her more completely. 'Here is hoping that Bel got all his crap in that pile.'
'Hi. Thought I would get here first and pile your shit. The covers? I didn't want to look at you so I just pulled them over my head..' B'Elanna screwed her eyes shut. 'Yeah, that is believable to a three year old amoeba. Happy yet Q?'
Paris walked in and B'Elanna froze.
"God damn it B'Elanna! Fine. Hope you enjoy being a miserable bitter old hag all on your own." He stomped over to the replicator and ordered several bags. It took him about 10 minutes to shove everything in. He walked around the quarters, apparently looking for things he might have missed. Paris walked over to the shelves in the bedroom. B'Elanna cursed under her breath as he stood not three feet from where she had hidden herself.
Paris reached up. He knocked a bud vase with a glass rose off the middle shelf. "Oops. Sorry B'Elanna. You don't mind cleaning that up do you?" He spun on his heel and walked out, throwing his bags out the door and following them.
B'Elanna peeked out. She shook her head. 'What the hell was I thinking marrying him?' She pulled out the board and watched his slow progress to the turbo lift. As his turbo lift headed up, B'Elanna hopped into the tube and started heading down to Main Engineering and the Security junction.
B'Elanna patched into the Security junction. She had access to the monitors in all the public areas of the ship. Engineering, labs like Astrometrics, the mess, the bridge, and even Bel's office were accessible. 'Hey beautiful,' she thought to the patch, 'where have you been all my life.' She grinned and checked tracking tags.
Seven in Astrometrics, Bel in Engineering, Tom working hard at pretending the autopilot is not on. Check, check, and check. B'Elanna focused on watching Bel. B'Elanna had no illusions. Bel was going to be the deal breaker here. The woman was angry as hell which meant she was going to push away everyone and everything. B'Elanna gave a half grin. Her counterpart was all resistance right now, but she was going to learn that resistance was futile.
B'Elanna watched Bel for several hours. Her entire staff was avoiding being in the same area with her. She was alternating yelling and throwing things with temperature dropping expressions. B'Elanna shook her head at the open anger. Something had to give. B'Elanna watched for her opening.
Eventually, Bel went to her office and started pounding out reports. After verbally handing Vorik his head on a stick, she closed the door. Twenty minutes later it opened again much to the surprise of not one but two B'Elanna's.
Seven walked into the office like she owned the place. Bel snarled. "What the hell are you doing here Borg?"
"You have not eaten today, Lieutenant. I am here to correct that oversight." Seven spread a cloth over Bel's desk. She unwrapped several sandwiches and placed half of them in front of Bel. She sat in one of the chairs and began eating a sandwich herself.
"Get out. You come in here acting like you own the place!" Bel stood and leaned toward the former Borg. "Queen of everything. This is MY office. You are not my mother and you are not my friend!"
B'Elanna stared at the monitor. 'Come on Seven. Don't let her run you off. She is a wuss. Stand up to her.'
Seven looked calmly at the aggravated half-Klingon. She delicately wiped the corner of her mouth. "Perhaps we are not friends, Lieutenant. But perhaps we could start to be." She took another bite. After she swallowed, she continued. "You should eat. The sandwiches are quite good."
B'Elanna barked both set of knuckles when her hands shot straight up and smashed into the low ceiling of the tube. She hugged herself grinning.
Bel's mouth opened and closed several times before she sat back down. She took as sandwich and stared suspiciously at the Borg as she sniffed it. She began to eat. The Borg nodded almost imperceptibly.
B'Elanna was thrilled. Seven did it, she opened the door. Seven broke through in a way B'Elanna wasn't sure she could have. She faced down the wrath of Bel and did it with aplomb. "Seven, my sweet," she whispered, "you just became my hero."
B'Elanna heard the sound of a tool kit being dragged in the next tube. She disconnected the monitor, put back the plate and dropped herself down the first vertical shaft.
B'Elanna was thrilled. It was one hell of a good sign that not only did Seven stand up to her younger self, but also that Bel did not immediately try to grab Seven by the scruff and throw her out an airlock. B'Elanna was proud of the Borg. She had done real good.
It was in all likelihood just a matter of time before the two of them started talking. B'Elanna was going to have to get more invisible. She was saddened by that. The two times she sat with Seven, she felt happy, really happy in her company. For the first time, she started really thinking about what would happen to her when Bel finally woke up and saw Seven. If it got there, if Bel really saw the woman behind the implants, B'Elanna knew that the rest of it would work itself out. Both women involved were too smart to screw up once they both were on the same page. Where B'Elanna would be when they were was anyone's guess.
B'Elanna smiled to herself. Q really had come through bringing her here. Seven was still on the receiving end of Bel's bad ass attitude, but she wasn't letting it stop her from trying to connect. Her remoteness killed her in B'Elanna's timeline. B'Elanna was halfway home.
'Now,' thought B'Elanna, 'if Bel could just wake up and smell the raktajino I can quit folding myself up like origami to get around.' B'Elanna stretched herself as well as she could in the small space and scooted for the first tube headed in the direction of the Mess Hall.
On reaching the right deck, she checked the board. The three trackers were not on the deck and none appeared to be going anywhere. Her stomach was going to get her caught one of these days, but the little bit of fruit and the sandwiches she snagged on the run were not enough to keep up her energy levels bouncing through the tubes, much less with all the Senior Staff run-ins she had been having.
'Speaking of which,' she thought as she rounded the corner. "Harry."
"B'Elanna, I heard what happened. Are you ok?"
B'Elanna crossed her arms over her chest and tried to look angry.. "What did you hear?"
"Tom dumping you? I know, sounds like a fuzzy version of truth. What did happen?"
"I am not really up for gossip, Starfleet. It's been a rough couple of days and we are through, but what happened happened and I will live."
"Good. You know you're my friend too, B'Elanna. Anything you need, you just say it."
B'Elanna looked at her old friend. She forgot how sweet he was. She gave him a hug. "Thank you. I just need a whole lot of food to go, a little time, and a big pinata shaped like Tom Paris."
Harry hooked his arm through B'Elanna's. "Let's get you fed then Maquis. Gonna need your energy when that pinata shows up on your doorstep."
B'Elanna smiled and let Harry lead her through the line. She grabbed her to-go and after thanking him, she left for the Jefferies tubes and for the Security junction.
B'Elanna checked the board. To her surprise, Bel and Seven were still in the office. 'Shift's over ladies. Did you find something better to do?' She hooked in the security feed to the board. Bel and Seven were passing PADDs back and forth and each talking about the different ways they would approach the problems of plasma injectors. B'Elanna got a half-smile on her face. "Maybe they don't need me anymore," she whispered.
They argued their points, dissected theories, compared technologies for almost three hours and not once did B'Elanna see the Bel that her team had feared all day. They did not agree, and sometimes Bel did not agree at volume, but the note of rage that had been the tone of their discussions in the past was not there. 'I knew it. You refused to let her run you off with her hurt and she is impressed.'
They were still debating practical application of Borg technologies to Federation warp drives when they left. B'Elanna followed them with the board. They got off the turbo lift at Deck 9. Bel pulled up short when they came to her door. Seven looked at her, and then looked at Tom.
Tom looked worse for wear. "Can I talk to you?"
"B'Elanna, baby "
"Fuck off Paris," she growled.
Seven touched Bel's shoulder. Bel turned toward her surprised at the contact. "Would you like me to leave Lieutenant?"
"Yes!" interjected Tom.
"B'Elanna, Seven, call me B'Elanna. No, I want you to stay. I think I owe you dinner." Bel patted Seven's hand on her shoulder and turned to Tom again.
"Paris? If you got your shit, there is nothing left to do but fill out the divorce request. Go away. I am done." Bel went to her door and opened it. "Come on in Seven."
"The Borg? You would rather spend time with the Ice Princess?"
Tom never even registered the fist that knocked him on his butt. B'Elanna did. She couldn't stop smiling.
"She turned out to be a better friend than you have been lately Paris, and we were married. You treat her with respect and you might live." Bel turned and escorted a bewildered Seven into her quarters.
"I am your friend B'Elanna?"
"You said we could maybe start being friends Seven. Hope that you are ok with hanging out with the original angry Klingon."
"I will adapt." Seven smiled.
Over the course of the next several days, B'Elanna was gratified to see her hopes were being realized. Seven gave Bel support and stability through an emotionally challenging period. Bel often went off out of hurt, but still found Seven as calm and patient as she was the day she brought lunch. Seven still hid behind a mask of indifference but Bel seemed to find delight in cracking that mask. They discussed work endlessly, but soon segued into the personal. Seven was still not a physically demonstrative individual, but found herself touching Bel often in reassurance.
B'Elanna found a little bit of peace in the developments. In her heart, she knew that these two were well on the road she once dreamed possible and that it was time to go. She made one quick stop and then found a quiet corner of a cargo bay.
"Q!" B'Elanna whistled. "Q!"
"You are aware that I am not a dog?"
"You could be."
Q shrugged and nodded.
"So, it's done. Baby Me is gonna get the girl. So how does this work? Do you slip me back into my time? Do I cease to exist?"
Q waved his arm. They stood on the hull. He looked strangely uncomfortable. "You are something of a loose end. Your reality has changed completely. It makes things a bit of a kerfuffle but there might be an option for you to think about."
B'Elanna looked sideways at the Q. "What kind of option?"
"I have to admit, for a little while there, it was not all that boring to be around you. I am curious what you would do with all of time and space to play around in."
B'Elanna stared at the Q. "Are you saying what I think you are saying?"
"Um, if I shoot you, you don't die right?"
"And if I" B'Elanna performed a Psycho stabbing gesture. Q's eyebrows both shot up.
"Stabbed you, dork."
"Not a scratch."
B'Elanna smiled. She threw her arm around Q's shoulders as Voyager surged through a nebula. "This could be the start of a beautiful friendship."
"It is almost certainly the end of a perfectly good Starfleet Admiral's coat."
They walked off into the setting of a dozen proto-suns.
Captain Janeway walked into her Ready Room. She got her first cup of coffee out of the replicator. As she sat down, she spotted a PADD in the middle of her desk. She lifted it and read the title .Catch and Release: A Guide to Keeping Non-Starfleet Personnel Live, Sane, and Free in the Alpha Quadrant. The Captain looked for an author, but found none. She leaned back in her chair, took a sip of coffee, and began to read.
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