You bound strong sandals on my feet,

Title: To Have and To Hold

Series: VOY

Date: 12-16-00

Contact: MEGDENTON@prodigy.net

Disclaimer: Not mine. They'd take one look at my messy house and run screaming back to the DQ.

Summary: I was writing something else when the P/T muse appeared, hands on hips, ala Janeway, and demanded I write something from B'Elanna's POV. Well, okay then. Disaster, anyone? Would you like some angst with that?

To Have and To Hold

By Starbaby

Did someone say that there would be an end, an end,

Oh, an end, to love and mourning?----May Sarton

"We can't get a lock on him, Lieutenant, and we're not reading lifesigns."

"Beam me down there."

"B'Elanna----"

"Now, damnit!"

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The wreckage was still smoking.

Her eyes traveled over the twisted remains. The Delta Flyer lay in pieces, as if shattered by a Parises mallet. A gaping hole in the belly section gave grim testimony to the terror of those last moments, when nothing could keep that shuttle in the sky; not youth, or pluck, enthusiasm, or innovation, not a talented pilot or the prayer of his panicked wife. The grass beneath the Flyer was charred, but where she stood, at the edge of the clearing, it was obscenely green, littered with curling pieces of metal.

She should have seen this coming in the floodlit moments of their time together. She should have heard the funereal knell in the cadence of his step, felt it in the contours of his body, recognized it in the thump of his heart beneath her ear. She had all there was of Tom Paris, knew him better than the Gods that made him. He was her territory, the promised land she'd traveled years to find, claimed, and settled after many a bloody skirmish. In all her life, she'd never done anything as worthy and satisfying, or nearly as important. How, then, could this possibly be? Two days ago he was still hers, striding toward shuttle bay with a casual purpose that was the essence of the man. B'Elanna fixed her eyes on a shorn piece of wing, trying to squelch the terrifying thought that, somehow, he'd known.

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"Harry's down with the Ankaran Flu."

B'Elanna groaned. "Again? He's probably faking, afraid you'll do barrel rolls or donuts. I'll go with you."

Tom laughed. "I'm supposed to observe a course, not observe you." He kissed her ridged forehead. "I'll take Icheb. We can make out a schedule in our spare time: I get B'Elanna on weekends, he has holidays and every other Tuesday…"

She whacked him good-naturedly, long accustomed to his brand of knee-slapping humor. As he stuffed an extra uniform in his bag, B'Elanna picked up a plush, furry ball and tossed it toward where Tom knelt.

"Hey, hotshot!"

Tom caught Toby the Targ with ease. This was their ritual, a talisman against fate. Whoever went away had to bring themselves, and Toby, back in one piece.

Tom crammed the animal into the over-stuffed pack. One Targ ear poked up through the closed zipper. "He looks a little like Neelix, you know."

B'Elanna laughed. "Neelix looks like a warthog, not a Targ."

She hooked her arm through his and they set off, closing the door on the darkened room.

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Being Tom, he hadn't taken Icheb or anyone else. Janeway fumed when the discovery was made, but didn't order him back. Standing on this verdant planet, amid her broken dream, B'Elanna felt numb and angry at the same time. Tom Paris wasn't gone; surely he'd just slipped into the next room to tinker with his toys. He was sitting atop a fence rail in Fair Haven, not smoldering in these ruins.

Such thoughts were keeping her together until this dream ended and she awoke to the mercy of morning. At the same time, she longed to lean into the grief; it was all she had left of him. Tom had smoothed her sharp contours, taught her too be vulnerable, and showed her, in those floodlit moments, that to grow one must remain open to love, and, with it, the hideous possibility of suffering. When it was done, he was the gift that came after the struggle.

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B'Elanna woke in the morning hush, just before dawn. In the faint light, Tom slept peacefully, his face open in sleep, more boyish than usual. His looks were deceptive; beneath the pretty exterior was a man of strength, bred with more courage than he realized, born with a kind heart. He was a mass of contradictions, a puzzle she longed to solve. Tom was a wanderer, yet a nester, a charismatic pied piper content to follow. He was the cool kid on the block, burdened with some distinctly uncool issues, an imperfect person that she saw perfectly.

This, then, was love.

Love was having rights to someone else, permission to tread where others couldn't go. Love was calling Tom brig-boy, knowing he wouldn't take offense. Love was allowing him to ruffle her hair when anyone else would have found themselves shoved out an airlock at the first attempt. Who'd have thought she'd end up here, with Tom Paris in her bed, and in her heart, rooted in her life like tenacious sea-grass that clings to the ocean bottom, adhering through storms and squalls. She hadn't known, not at the start of this journey, when he'd entered her sights on that winding staircase, ascending at warp speed and bellowing for Harry.

A jarring jolt suddenly rocked Voyager, knocking the television over. A second impact, much harder than the first, loosened plaster from the ceiling. The third sent them tumbling onto the floor in a tangle of blankets. Torpedoes were rocking the Starship to its foundations. Chakotay's voice blared out of Tom's comm badge.

"All hands, stay where you are for the moment--" His words were punctuated by another round of blasts. The chest of drawers skittered across the room like it had casters, doing an odd little jitterbug into the corner.

They lay in a heap amidst the wreckage, and Tom laughed, to her disbelief. He was enjoying this, the silly fool. A Petrokian sausage had more sense.

"If you insist, Chakotay!"

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She was vaguely aware of people behind her, of soft voices drifting over her head. Everything was gone, burned to the ground. All her essentials were no more, and B'Elanna was lost in the wilderness, floundering in undiscovered country. Was she really living through this? She remembered that the human bible said something like, Blessed are those that mourn, for they will be comforted. Where was her comfort?

An awful rumble was starting deep in her gut, fired by the need to search and find, to take a phaser and seek out the scum that had knocked Tom Paris from the sky. Harry was speaking to her, and she latched onto that familiar voice, although his words escaped her. She had to remain whole for a little longer, for Harry, who was Tom's spiritual brother.

This place was too quiet. This clearing needed to echo with his wisecracks. Tom was loud, like her. Neither was a whisperer. His noise echoed in her head, even when she was alone. It was still there, like she was Krazy-Glued to all things Tom.

It's not like I caught you dancing the rumba with a naked Bolian!

Aye, Captain!

Thanks for being my alarm clock.

B'Elanna clapped her hands to the sides of her head, overcome with a desperate need to see the face that went with those words. The Klingon had little use for the mortal shell, but what Sto-Vo-Kor didn't want she would keep in memory, to have and to hold. Suddenly on the move, she crossed the burnt grass in three strides. B'Elanna felt full, bloated with grief, and the terror gave her strength. Tearing at the wreckage, she plowed her way deeper, toward the cockpit. A few crewmen looked on in awe, stepping out of the way as tremendous chunks of metal flew dangerously close.

Before anyone could offer to help, the job was done. One more piece of metal and she would see him. She reached for it.

It moved by itself.

Swearing, not allowing herself to hope, B'Elanna flung it into the trees.

Finally, she looked down. He was unconscious, covered in blood, and twisted at a funny angle, but alive. She could hear his breathing. She knew it as well as her own. Better, probably.

Pillowed beneath one bloodied cheek lay the faithful Toby.

B'Elanna decided she would break down later. "Torres to Voyager…Beam us to Sickbay!" she barked.

Kahless the Unforgettable…God…whoever you are…you can't have him yet

Much later, B'Elanna squashed herself onto Tom's biobed, ignoring the doctor's long-suffering look. Someday, he would fall in love and understand the need to be near, to breathe in the other's life. Tom cracked an eye open, and she wanted to swim in its blue depths.

"You went all Sheera on me." He was grinning.

Oh, she was a lost woman. "Who the hell is Sheera? I suppose you dated her."

The conversation was interrupted by Seven. B'Elanna assumed she was there to get her nodes fiddled with, or to have a sense of humor surgically implanted.

The former Borg picked up the ripped, bloody Toby from where he lay on an instrument table. Dangling him from two fingers, she smirked.

"Toby the Targ?" she asked innocently.

B'Elanna glared at Tom, who tried to look meek and injured. "You told her about that! Who else knows? Did you sky-write it over B'Ommar space?"

The Doctor quickly deactivated himself.

Tom blanched whiter than the sheet. "Uh, just Seven and Harry…and, um…Chakotay. Maybe the Captain."

By god, he was going back in that shuttle. Thoroughly enjoying this floodlit moment, she contemplated murder. This was who they were.

Tom continued, oblivious. "Naomi Wildman too. Ayala and Baytart, I think. The Borg Brady Bunch. Definitely crewman Jor…"

FINIS

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