The Shadow of the Wolf
She was running, always running, and still there had never been a time in her life she felt she could escape ...
B'Elanna Torres sat silent and surly in the dimly-lit bar, the hunched line of her posture a warning to any who might otherwise consider approach. He came anyway, walking up to her as if he thought himself immune.
"Mind if I join you?"
She looked up, fixed him with her most derogatory glare. "Do I look like I mind?"
The flash of his grin was white teeth against deep toned flesh. "Great." He settled into a chair across the table and gestured at her drink. "What's your poison?"
"Whatever you're selling, I'm not interested," she said coldly.
"How do you know you're not interested, if you don't know what I'm selling?" he countered.
"It doesn't matter."
"How could it not matter?"
"Because I'm not buying."
"Not buying what?"
"Whatever it is you're selling."
He chuckled. "And how do you know that I'm selling something?"
"Because you're here."
"Maybe I'm here for another reason."
"There is no other reason."
"No reason other than selling?"
She shrugged. "Selling. Begging. Borrowing. Stealing. It doesn't really matter; I'm still not interested."
He signaled the waiter, ordered a drink she'd never heard of. It arrived rich and hot and aromatic, throwing off waves of scent that churned her belly to a robust roil.
"My name is Chakotay," he said.
"Good for you." Sipping of rocktegeno too bland to lay rightful claim to any form of true Klingon heritage, she tried to ignore him in hopes he would go away.
It didn't work.
"I noticed you in here the other day," he said conversationally. "And the day before that."
"So I thought I'd speak to you today. Thought I'd sit down and offer to buy you a drink."
He smiled at her again, an expression she only now noticed didn't reach the calculating blackness of his eyes. "Maybe get to know you a little," he went on. "See why it is that a Starfleet cadet would chose this particular bar for her drinking where there are so many others more suited to novitiates of the corps."
A flush of surprise twisted through B'Elanna's gut. She glared at him in an ineffectual effort to hide it. "What makes you think I'm a Starfleet cadet?" she demanded.
He didn't answer. Leaning back in his chair, he watched her as he drank of the drink in his hand.
"What?" she demanded when he didn't speak.
"Your name is B'Elanna Torres," he said.
A chill skipped up her spine.
"You show a great deal of promise in theoretical engineering and problem solving," he went on. "You scored in the lower third of your class on your psych battery, and you're two demerits short of getting kicked out of the academy -- one of which you scored three days ago by calling Tiberian Cornelius a pompous ass in his own classroom and the other of which you may or may not have scored today by decking a fellow classmate during exercise rotation."
Her eyes had narrowed down to slits as he talked. "How do you know all that?" she asked.
"I know a lot of things about you, B'Elanna Torres," he said.
"Because a good salesman always knows his customer."
"You are selling something then."
"Yes." He smiled again. It was an unnervingly mirthless expression. "I suppose I am."
"Freedom?" Her tone was a challenge. "Whose freedom?"
He leaned into the table, his calculating eyes suddenly alive with black fire and ice. "Your freedom," he whispered. "I'm selling you your freedom, B'Elanna Torres; and the only price I'm asking is your life."
Her world was darkness and cold, and she ran through it blindly and afraid, always without comfort, without companionship, never knowing the succor of another's voice in the silence ...
"The warp core just imploded," he told her calmly. "Congratulations, you killed us all."
B'Elanna slammed her fist against a console, drawing blood to knuckles that abraded themselves on the cool, slick surface of molded plasticine. "The simulation's off!" she raged. "The warp core won't implode for another three seconds, and by then, I'll have the cascade under control."
"It's an old ship," he said. "The clearances aren't the same as they are for state-of-the-art equipment. You have to compensate accordingly."
"Compensate my ass! The computer's wrong. You can't tell me --"
He moved with a quickness she didn't expect, grabbing her by the shirtfront and hauling her out of her chair. Before she could react, she was pinned against the simulator's command module, her body twisted in such a way that any appreciable resistance would mean breaking her own bones. His superior bulk was an advantage, and he used it tactically to keep her exactly where he wanted her to be. She realized then that he could have kill her without so much as breaking a sweat.
"I can tell you anything I like," he said quietly.
"Let me go."
He tightened his hands in their grips. She felt herself begin to bruise. He leaned in until his face was close to hers -- so close she could feel his breath against her skin.
"If I bite you," he asked, his voice little more than a whisper, "does that mean we're engaged?"
"If you bite me, I'll rip your heart out," she said.
He smiled, shifting slightly against her. "Sounds like fun."
"Let me go." Her voice was hard, angry.
"Let me go, please," he corrected.
She turned her face, looked away. "I mean it, Chakotay. Let me go."
"Please let me go," he insisted. "Sir." She tried to jerk out of his hands, but he was ready for the move and countered easily. "I'm your commanding officer, B'Elanna," he murmured near her ear. "You will address me as 'sir'. Am I making myself clear?"
"And if I don't?" she demanded.
"Oh, you will."
"If I don't?" She turned back to face him, to meet his eyes. Every line of her expression was a challenge.
"If you don't," he told her, his lips so close they brushed her skin with every word, "I'll never bite you, no matter how hard you beg."
Her world was still darkness, but no longer cold. She moved through it blindly, but no longer afraid. His comfort, his companionship made all the difference in the way she saw herself. That he would speak to her in the silence was more than she'd dared hope. That he would choose to lie with her was something she hadn't ever considered.
"Bite harder," she whispered, moaning, twisting beneath his weight. Her body was slicked with perspiration and desire. He drew blood, and she began to tremble with the intimacy of his teeth against her bones.
Later, as she lay against him in the silence, his fingers traced the scars of their lovemaking , a silent apology he knew enough not to put to voice. She wanted to explain to him how much his structured brutality meant to her, but she kept her silence as he kept his, listening instead to the strong, slow, rhythmic beat of his heart.
He stood suddenly, began to dress. When he was finished, he sat on her bed to tug his boots into place. "See the medics before mission call," he said. And then he rose and strode to the door.
He stopped in the doorway, looked back. Though she was still naked, his eyes went directly to hers, waiting for her words as if her skin did not bear the mark of his teeth, as if his did not bear the mark of hers.
"Because you asked. Mission call is in fifteen. Don't be late." And then he left her, and she was once again alone.
She sat on the rim of her world, watching the sun rise cold and red and distant. Her eyes, familiar only with darkness, stung with the smallness of light that was the coming of day, and yet, the color of it amazed her.
"The wave is continuing to accelerate and will intercept us in eight seconds," Tuvok said.
B'Elanna looked up from her frantic manipulations of the Maquis raider's helm. A distortion in the fabric of space itself was bearing down on them. She looked to Chakotay instinctively. He felt the weight of her gaze and spared her a small glance and an even smaller smile.
"Oyka hey," he murmured, his voice so low that only Klingon, and perhaps Vulcan, ears could possibly hear it.
She nodded. Lifting her chin in defiance, she turned back to face the coming apocalypse. The distortion wave was everything now, a mass of garbled perversion that consumed the forward view as it would momentarily consume the entire ship.
"It's a good day to die," she whispered, repeating her mentor in Federation Standard rather than Lakota, as a compatriot rather than a disciple.
He smiled as the interior of the Maquis vessel flared to a burgeoning of white fire. She smiled too, listening to her bones come apart in her body.
Her world was a place of wonders. Green and lush and rich with a bounty of unknown possibilities and uncharted dangers, she moved through it, at once reverent and terrified.
"What do you want from me?" she demanded.
"The same thing I've always wanted from you," he said. "Your best."
"My best isn't good enough for Janeway."
"If it's good enough for me, it's good enough for Janeway."
She moved closer to him. "But it wasn't good enough for you," she reminded him.
He ignored her proximity, kept his focus on her eyes. "You're the best engineer on the ship."
"Bite me," she said.
"Because I said no. Now stop fighting Carey and do your job."
"Carey's an idiot."
"He may be an idiot, but he's your CO for the time being. Live with it."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Because I know you."
"You don't know me any more, Chakotay."
He grabbed her arm, dragged her close. "Don't I?" he asked, his teeth less than the distance of his lips from her neck. "Don't I know you, B'Elanna?"
She didn't answer.
"Do what I tell you to do," he told after a long moment of silence.
"Or what? You won't bite me?"
He turned her face with three fingers on her chin. He spoke to her, his lips brushing hers as he spoke, "Do what I tell you, or you'll be Carey's lackey for the next seventy years." He let go of her chin and stepped away.
"Stay here tonight," she ordered.
"Think about what I said." He started for the door.
"Is it Seska?" Her voice was hard, vulnerable.
"Janeway then?" More hard, less vulnerable.
He hesitated for a moment, saying nothing. Then finally, coldly, he said, "It's you."
"Yes." He held her gaze, didn't look away.
"So I'm not good enough any more?" she asked finally.
"Think about it," he repeated. He triggered the door sensor. It hissed open. He stepped through the doorway and into the corridor.
He stared down the hallway, his eyes in a distant focus. "Because you don't need me any more," he said finally.
"I do need you, Chakotay."
"No." He shook his head once. "You don't. You've passed through the shadows. They're behind you now. It's time to chose who you want to be for the rest of your life."
"I'm not ready."
"You are ready," he corrected. "You're just afraid." Standing in the corridor, his body at a right angle to hers, he turned only his head to meet her eyes again and said, "And that's why the answer is no."
The door closed between them, and once again, she was alone.
Her world stretched before her as an endless vista of tall, golden grass. The undulation of a breeze moved through it, inviting her to run free in the warmth of the sun that shown down from above. Somewhere, very far away, she heard the cry of a lonely wolf. Confident, graceful, B'Elanna Torres stepped forward and began to run.
"I accept the position of Chief Engineer," she said, standing at full attention, every muscle in her body an individual knot of terse anxiety. "I will do my best to serve both you and this ship to the full extent of my abilities."
Captain Janeway nodded. She stepped forward and ceremoniously attached two pips to B'Elanna's collar. "Congratulations, Lieutenant. I have every confidence that Voyager is in the best possible hands."
To Janeway's left, Chakotay stood in silence, his shadow once again nothing more than a stain of darkness on the cold, duranium floor.