Author's Note: Yes, friends, I've finally done it, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I've gone and written a P/T story around lyrics to a song. It's not a current Billboard hit (though there are certainly plenty of those that would work for P/T), but a song by a rather lesser-known artist named Holly Near, from her CD, Singer in the Storm. Written in February 2000, and revised a little in April 2002. Rated PG.
Thanks to DangerMom, whose story, "Inside Out," provided inspiration.
Disclaimer: Paramount, er, CBS owns it all. Always has, always will. I accept this.
You Found Her
B'Elanna glanced ruefully at the crimson roses, now drooping in the vase, their perfume filling the air of her quarters. The flowers were over three days old already, but she just couldn't bring herself to throw them out. They represented too much, but she wasn't sure how tossing them would change that.
No, it wouldn't change anything, nor would it change the fact that she was afraid. Afraid if she threw the roses away, she would also be throwing away a chance at happiness, but if she didn't throw them away, she would be forever bound, and that also scared her. Talk about raging illogic. Tuvok would have a Vulcan cow.
Happiness was a nebulous thing at best for B'Elanna Torres, and was not necessarily something she strived for. The few times she had been happy in her life had been looked upon with clear suspicion, as if bad times were waiting just around the corner.
For the most part, they had been.
The arrival of Tom Paris in her personal life had been her very first, fully-fledged, unadulterated, no-bad-times-around-the-corner chance at happiness, and here she was, stumped by it, unable, even after all this time and all they had been through, to make a decision regarding him.
It had started so innocently, only six days ago, just the way this sort of thing always did.
oOo oOo oOo
"Tom Paris, you devil! This is great!"
The aforementioned devil had created a unique holodeck program just for her. It was simply an engine, an old-fashioned internal combustion system, honkin' big at that. And in about twenty thousand pieces, strewn all over the holodeck floor.
They were to spend the afternoon rebuilding the thing. The delight on her face rivaled the sunrise, and it tickled Tom to death. He loved making her smile. In fact, he had decided, after a private talk the night before with Captain Janeway, he would set himself on a direct course to making B'Elanna smile every single day for the rest of her natural life.
They went at the engine. Rapture ensued, and in the end, they managed to produce a piece of machinery that purred like the proverbial kitten.
oOo oOo oOo
Next day, Tom Paris invited B'Elanna to dinner. Not pizza and synthale this time. Nope. This time it was breakfast food. Bacon, eggs, coffee – and fluffy, fragrant banana pancakes with warm maple syrup.
Her smile lit up his quarters.
oOo oOo oOo
Day after that, Tom asked B'Elanna to meet him in the hydroponics bay after her shift. Hydroponics, once the domain of Kes, was now being lovingly tended by a crewman with the musical name of Bonnie MacDhui and a wild mane of curly red hair that suggested Scottish heritage. In the beautiful plants, flowers, and fruit trees, she kept well the memory of the tiny Ocampan woman they all missed very much.
At Tom's request, MacDhui had arranged a chair in a corner of the room and surrounded it on three sides with planters filled with flowers in a riot of exotic colors and textures. On a small table to one side of the planters, also at Tom's request, Bonnie had placed a large bouquet of deep red rosebuds, wrapped in white silk.
MacDhui herself had disappeared. Tom knew she was bursting to tell someone about this arrangement (most likely Jenny Delaney), but given he was not the first to request it, he figured she was keeping quiet, though it was killing her to do so. That was what he liked most about Bonnie MacDhui.
Small ships could be a pain in the ass when it came to privacy, this he knew. Voyager was as small as they came, given the fact it was never meant to be out in Nowheresville, struggling like the ruby-slippered Dorothy to get back home. Even if Bonnie didn't say a word to a single soul, it'd be all over the ship by the next day.
No matter. He was ready for it. He hoped B'Elanna would be, too. If she wasn't, well, he was ready for that, too.
Tom settled one hip on the corner of one of the planters. In a short moment, the bay doors slid open to reveal B'Elanna, dressed in casual, off- duty clothes. It looked like the crimson top she was wearing exactly matched the roses on the table.
Tom shifted off the planter. "Well, hey there, B'Elanna. How was your day?" He walked as he talked and finished standing directly in front of her.
oOo oOo oOo
B'Elanna cast her black eyes around the bay until they settled on the chair in the corner. She was already a little suspect about being asked to hydroponics in the first place; now she began to grow decidedly jittery, a feeling she did not care for. The arrangement of chair and flowers was not unfamiliar to her, though she had never seen the tableau up close and personal before.
It was utilized when a person had important things-very important things-to say or to share with another person. This included, but was not limited to, birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, recognition of a job well done, or special religious days.
She met his eyes, recalling his question. "My day was good, actually. Managed to finally clean out the back storage room and in doing so found a few things we could use, including a whole box of brand new datapadds." She leaned around him to look at the chair again and then bravely returned her eyes to his face. "Um, what's up, Tommy?" She only called him Tommy when she was nervous or aroused, and she was definitely not aroused at this moment.
He raised one of her hands to his lips and tenderly kissed the back of it. "May I help you to your seat, madam?" he asked, cocking his head and an eyebrow at her and holding out his arm.
"Uh, sure." She took his arm and allowed him to lead her to the chair and gently lower her into it. Suspicion roused its ugly head.
He had claimed the day before while she was eating pancakes that he was going to make her smile at least once a day for the rest of her life. If this was what he was attempting now, he was doing a piss poor job of it.
"Thomas Eugene—" she began, but he shushed her with a finger to her lips. Both her eyebrows shot up in surprise, but she kept her lips together.
He twisted, retrieved the silk-wrapped bouquet from the table and placed it lightly in her arms. "For you."
The cool silk felt luscious and the bright whiteness of it contrasted vividly with her brown skin. She noticed the color of her shirt matched almost perfectly the roses in her arms and she suddenly felt more than just jittery – she felt overwhelmed.
If jittery was bad, overwhelmed was far worse, and she knew Tom knew it. She also knew he knew her response would be to cover it with a jump-start to Klingon hiss and spit. She was about to actually hiss when she chanced to raise her eyes from the silk and the roses. The sound died in her throat.
His ice blue gaze had not moved from her face. He had been waiting for her to return to him. Her heart began to thump double-time.
She didn't have a clue what he was up to, but she did know whatever it was, it was big. She hugged the flowers to her chest and noticed the silk, as fragile as it seemed, protected her from the thorns. She forced herself to speak, since he didn't appear to be interested in doing anything but stare mutely at her.
"So, Tom, this is nice. This is very nice. I was wondering why, though?" Her voice was raspy. She coughed and swallowed to add moisture to her dry throat. "Did I do something special? Did you do something special?"
"Nope. But I'm about to." With that, he lowered himself to one knee and she knew – knew – even without much knowledge of Human customs and rituals- what he was going to do. "Something special" was a distinct understatement. Her hand convulsed once around the rose stems, and this time she felt the prickle of thorns.
"Oh, Tom, oh no, Tom, Tom…" she stuttered, felt her face heat up, and was unable to form a decent sentence, unsure what she was trying to say anyway, but he wasn't really hearing her. She watched him dig into the pocket of his uniform pants and pull out a small, black velvet box. He raised his eyes to her and finally noticed her discomfort. He was so deeply focused on his intention, it momentarily confused him.
She rose from the chair, catching the roses as they descended from her lap, and nearly knocking him over. "Tom, what are you doing?" He went to speak, but she stopped him before he could get a word out. "No, don't say it, oh please, don't say it." She was so near tears her eyes burned, but fear had begun fire dances in her stomachs, and she wanted more than anything to be gone from this room.
Tom had come to his senses and had grabbed her wrist to keep her from going any further. He was on both knees in front of her now and as she looked at him, she could clearly see he had been prepared for her to react like this. He took her hand in both of his and kissed each fingertip, turning her hand and placing a kiss in the center of her palm. He met her eyes again and opened his mouth to say what he planned to say, as if she had not begged him not to.
"Marry me, B'Elanna."
He had somehow gotten the velvet box open, though she had no idea when he had done that, and was holding the ring out to her.
It was elegant in its simplicity. A thin gold band inset with a small multi-faceted clear stone she assumed was a diamond. It was the most beautiful piece of jewelry B'Elanna had ever seen. Her knees turned to jelly and she fell back into the chair, breathing hard.
"Hold out your hand," he whispered. She obeyed on autopilot, and from someplace far away noticed her hand was shaking. He slipped the ring on, kissed it, and leaned back to admire it.
"It was meant for your hand." He lowered his eyelids and lifted them again. It wasn't a blink, really, it was a change of subject.
"So whaddaya say?"
She careened back to the moment, as the fear in her belly claimed her again. She literally could not speak. He looked puzzled when a minute passed and she hadn't answered him, but he didn't say anything. He had by this time shifted his body and was sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of her, cradling the ring box in his hands.
It took that entire minute for her to find her voice, watery though it was. "I-I…I need more time, Tom, okay? Just a little more time, okay?" She began to rise from the chair again, taking the roses with her. He nodded and slid back to give her room to move, apparently ready for this response as well.
When she turned at the door to the bay and looked back at him, he was still sitting cross-legged in front of the chair, though now he had moved his hands to the seat cushion. It looked like he was trying to capture what little warmth she had left behind. She did not see the ring box anywhere. She turned and exited, feeling the doors close behind her with a slight puff of air…
oOo oOo oOo
B'Elanna had not seen Tom, aside from ship's business, in the three days since she left him in Hydroponics, and everyone knew it. She was trying very hard to ignore the ship's gossip mill, which was grinding loudly about an incident it barely had knowledge of, but she knew it was silly to try. She herself had been an active participant on many previous occasions, so why should she think it would be any different just because the gossip pertained to her?
The U.S.S. Voyager should really be called the U.S.S. Fishbowl, because that's what it was. The best she could hope to do was bare her teeth and take it like a Klingon until she could figure out what the hell she was going to do.
She wondered absently if Tom had been prepared for this, too.
oOo oOo oOo
Chakotay had paid a visit, to ask if she needed to talk. His paternal instincts could sometimes be nearly as strong as Janeway's maternal ones. He admitted, bless his heart, that he would gleefully beat Tom Paris to mush if that's what she wanted, but he was not blind. In his usual Maquis style, which had been subdued over the years, but never entirely vanquished, he came right to the point.
"What are you afraid of, B'Elanna?"
"Nothing," she answered a trifle too quickly.
"Right. You know, fear of commitment is nothing to be ashamed of. It's only something to work out with the person you love."
"Ha," she snorted, "you know Tom and I do plenty of committing. I have no fear of that."
"I'm not talking about sex, B'Elanna, and you know it."
And so she told him she was afraid on both fronts. "If I marry Tom, I run the risk of ending up just like my mother, hurt, angry and unhappy, possibly with a child I don't really want. Or I'd be unhappy because Tom won't be able to give me what I need, or I won't be able to give him what he needs and we won't be able to escape each other on this damned ship…" She took a breath and rushed on. "But if I don't marry him…if I don't…I-I run the risk of losing…" she choked, stalled on the thing that hurt the most and was impossible to express.
Chakotay wrapped his bear of a body around her. "Chakotay," she moaned into his uniformed chest, in clear Human agony, "what should I do?"
Not only was the big man not blind, he was also not stupid. He did not impart any ancient Indian legend, or invite her to commune with her spirit guide. He merely answered her question the only way he knew how. "You should do what your heart tells you, B'Elanna, do what your heart tells you."
oOo oOo oOo
Janeway also visited, in the role of Mama Janeway, to share the conversation Tom had had with her, which was really little more than him asking her for details about the ceremony she would perform if B'Elanna said yes.
Janeway didn't linger with B'Elanna, having business to attend to in her role as Captain Janeway. But before she left, she touched B'Elanna's arm and echoed Chakotay's words about hearing what her heart was saying.
It was eerie, the way they could do that. B'Elanna wondered if either of them knew.
oOo oOo oOo
B'Elanna looked again at the drooping roses, this time going so far as to stretch over and touch one flower with her fingertips. It promptly fell apart, sprinkling petals onto the table and the floor.
She swirled the ring on her finger. Around and around. She tried to pull it off, but it wouldn't come easily, so in predictable Klingon fashion, she tugged harder. The ring slid suddenly off her finger and went flying, disappearing into the darkness of her living room. She had not even heard it fall.
"Oh, no." She jumped off her chair and dropped to her hands and knees, sweeping the carpeting with the flat of her hand.
"Computer, lights, full illumination." Her quarters were immediately flooded with bright light, but it didn't help her search.
The ring was gone.
She had told Tom she needed more time. It had been three days. The loss of the ring suddenly meant considerably more than the loss of the flowers ever would. She had to find the ring; she was out of time.
Her lip curled instinctively and she began to mutter in Klingon, mismatched, half-remembered words from her youth. Finished with her search of the floor, she began to systematically tear her furniture apart, starting with her favorite armchair.
By the time the entire living room was littered with cushions and blankets, B'Elanna's muttering had turned distinctly to her father's side. The Spanish was even more broken than the Klingon had been. She was panicking and she fought it, and in fighting it, she became angry.
What a vicious mix was her duality. With great effort, she forced herself to take a deep breath and to stop allowing the panic to have its way with her. Sitting in the middle of the room, amid a jumble of cushions, she studied the outer edges of the room, brows furrowed, chewing furiously on her lower lip. The ring was here somewhere.
Her eyes fell on a potted plant on the table against the wall and her eyebrows rose. It couldn't possibly have… She crawled to the table and peered into the plant.
The ring was there, sitting placidly in the dirt, as if it had been placed there on purpose. She sighed so heavily, she felt it at the bottom of her second stomach. Gingerly, she reached in and picked up the ring, blew on it, and set it back on her finger. She whispered another few words of thanks, also in Spanish, to the God her father had prayed to.
She recalled her superiors' words. Listening to the dictates of her heart was something foreign to her, but there on her knees in her quarters, still quaking with relief, she figured it wouldn't hurt to try. She cocked her head and listened very carefully. To her surprise, her heart did not let her down. From it came what Tom liked to describe as a plan.
And she smiled.
oOo oOo oOo
For about half an hour, B'Elanna sat at her computer terminal, searching the database for a song her father used to sing for her mother. It was about the only song her mother ever liked to hear him sing, and he had always done so with great gusto, just the way his Klingon wife preferred it. She found a version that satisfied her and set about transferring the information to one of the new datapadds she had found in the back storage room.
oOo oOo oOo
Tom wandered morosely back to his quarters. He had just spent a hard hour having dinner in the mess with Harry, who was attempting to create a diversion for him. It hadn't worked, and he left Harry with Jenn and Megan Delaney, plotting a Proton adventure without him.
He knew he should not be this gloomy. Nothing unexpected had happened, right down to the moment B'Elanna left him in hydroponics. He had surprised her, that's all, and B'Elanna was not one for surprises. He was not so confident as to think he knew for certain what her answer would be, but her leaving with the ring and the roses was a positive sign.
It was just the waiting that was killing him, stealing most of his attention and sapping all of his energy. He knew it was never a simple 'yes' or 'no' with B'Elanna, never could be that simple for her, and he had to give her the time she needed. If she said no, well, she said no, and they would learn to move on. But if she said yes…oh, if she said yes…
He arrived at his door and noticed a sparkling new datapadd on the floor in front of it. He bent and retrieved the padd, thumbing it on. The words play me stared up at him. He touched the start button as he entered his quarters.
He could hear the strains of a song, being sung in a rich, feminine alto voice with strong piano accompaniment, but he couldn't understand the words. It came to him after a moment that it was being sung in Spanish.
B'Elanna. He chilled with adrenaline. Three days. It had only been three days. Not enough time, Bella, not nearly enough time. But he could no more turn off the datapadd than he could breathe in space.
He fell onto the couch, restarted the padd, and focused himself entirely on the music. When the song ended, he wondered about the translation. He considered for a moment asking the computer to translate for him, and then decided against it. He wanted to see if he could figure it out for himself. He didn't have much knowledge of the ancient Earth language, but he did have the computer's database.
Working steadily, it still took him about two hours. In the end, rough though it was, what he translated sounded so exactly like B'Elanna he nearly burst into tears, as the tension he'd been carrying for three days drained from him.
If you were looking for someone with whom to be your most innocent, animal self,
If you were hoping for a fire so hot,
If you were looking for a heart where you could go for refuge,
If you were dreaming to find liberty and freedom in another person—
Someone who could come and…liberate your doves,
If you were looking for someone who could be in the trenches with you and to bring you the spring,
Then you found her.
At that moment, his door chimed. He didn't know if she had rigged the computer, or had performed some other engineering magic trick to let her know when he had finished, but it didn't matter. He stood. "Come." The door slid open and there she was, a bright smile on her beautiful face.
He had found her, indeed. He had most certainly found her.