If I Knew You Then: Part 3
Disclaimer: I still don't anything even remotely related to Star Trek. If I did, the new ST movie wouldn't be a prequel to the original series. Sorry, I just think it's a weird idea. But that really doesn't have anything to do with anything...
Summary: This is Part 3 in the series that began with (not unexpectedly) If I Knew You Then: Part 1. It's AU, based on the question of, what would have happened if Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres met while Academy cadets? If you haven't done so already, I recommend you read the first two parts before attempting this one. I don't know how much sense it would make without doing so.
Anyway, this installment is a little bit different than the first two. For one, it takes place over a couple of years, instead of the one part per year I had set up in Part 1. Also, it's quite a bit more edgy and angsty than the previous stories, and may not seem like much of a P/T story. I hope you still enjoy it, though. It was actually my favorite of the three to write, and I hope you see why as the story develops.
And without further ado...
Starfleet Academy Cadet Second Class B'Elanna Torres tugged slightly at the bottom of her uniform jacket to straighten it as she scanned the crowd in the small park, acutely aware of the heavy duffle bag she had slung over her right shoulder. Where is she? she wondered in no small amount of displeasure. It didn't help that she was scanning for one Klingon face amidst a sea of Klingon faces. Perhaps because she had never spent much time around groups of Klingons, she had a hard time picking one out of crowd; after awhile, all of the tall, solidly-built, dark-haired people with stern expressions on their ridged faces began to look alike.
She was still scanning the crowd when she noticed a little girl point at her, and distinctly heard a small voice address her mother and ask, "Mother, what happened to her ridges?"
She cringed, but gave no other indication of having heard the girl's words as her eyes continued to slowly move through the sea of people waiting to pick up somebody from the transport from Earth. Damned universal translator, she silently swore, wishing that the Klingon girl's words could have gone by without her knowing what was said. She briefly toyed with the idea of turning it off to avoid hearing such comments, but knew that with her limited vocabulary of Klingon words, that would probably be a bad idea, in case anybody decided to say anything to her. Besides, she knew most of the Klingon words for "mongrel", "half-breed", and similar insults given to those whose blood was colored slightly differently than the rest of them.
Finally, she saw who she was looking for and took a few, slightly tentative steps in her direction, stopping about a meter away. "Mother," she said softly.
Miral hadn't seen her daughter approach, and turned swiftly at the sound of her voice. For a second, both women studied the other without saying anything. Although they had written to each regularly over the last year, this was the first time in almost two years that they had stood face-to-face, and neither had pleasant memories of that last time.
B'Elanna didn't know how to explain the new light she saw her mother in. It wasn't that Miral seemed older, necessarily, or otherwise physically different. The look in her eyes had very little more understanding than the look she carried with her two years before, but something was different. Finally, she just chalked it up to changes in herself—in the two years since she had last seen her mother, she had changed from an angry seventeen-year-old just trying to get away from home to a slightly wary and exhausted Starfleet cadet just trying to get away from the Academy.
"'Lanna," her mother finally said, nodding slightly at her daughter. B'Elanna caught the look of disapproval in her mother's eyes as she scanned the crisp lines of the cadet's Starfleet uniform, and had to fight to keep the sarcastic comment that rose in her throat from coming out. Whatever her mother may think of her daughter's attire, she wasn't the one who had to go through inspection upon arrival at Qo'noS, and if there was one thing to make the process move more smoothly, it was a uniform and an official letter of educational agreement between the superintendents of two of the best known universities around.
"Well," Miral finally said, rolling back her shoulders and straightening to her full height, nearly a head taller than her half-human daughter. "I will take you to the Institute and show you to the dormitories and give you a tour, and then you should change into something…more appropriate before dinner," she said, glancing again at the uniform her daughter wore. You mean something less Starfleet, B'Elanna filled in, her internal tone slightly mocking. "Your grandfather and uncles have traveled down from Qa'gaH province to feast with us tonight."
B'Elanna managed to avoid an audible groan, but just barely. She had met her grandfather T'Krol, the head of the house that carried his name, only once before, when her mother brought her to Qo'noS for lessons in discipline and honor after her father had left. She remembered her grandfather as a stiff, unyielding, and incredibly fierce man who had no small amount of disapproval for his human former son-in-law, a disdain which he had spread to his young granddaughter.
Great, B'Elanna thought as she readjusted the bag on her shoulder and followed her mother away from the crowd. I've been on the planet for less than half an hour, and I already regret it.
B'Elanna pinned her Starfleet combadge to the inside of the long sleeve of the simple dress her mother had brought for her to wear, knowing that she would need the Universal Translator function in order to keep up with the conversation over dinner with her mother's family. One of these days, I'm just going to have to buckle down and learn Klingon, she thought with an ironic smile as she smoothed the lines of the coarse fabric. After consciously blocking out every Klingon word her mother had said to her while she was growing up, she never imagined the desire to actually learn the language would cross her mind.
She sighed heavily as she released her long hair from its tight braid and shook it out gently. For a brief moment, a small smile played across her lips as she contemplated rebraiding it, just to see how her very Klingon mother and her very Klingon family would react to seeing such a human hairstyle. Go for broke and put the uniform back on, too, a voice silently egged her on. She rolled her eyes as she dropped the hair, feeling the heavy curls fall over her back. Even though the bare room didn't have a mirror, she could just imagine how she must look in that dark green dress and her hair loose behind her: Klingon. It would take her awhile to get used to that not being a bad thing around here.
Except they won't look at you and think "Klingon". Damn that internal nagging voice. They'll look at you and think "that part-human girl who thinks she can become Klingon." Just like at the Academy, where it's "that part-Klingon girl who thinks she can become human."
"Enough of that," B'Elanna muttered quietly to herself as she closed the lid on the trunk containing everything she had to her name. One trunk, one mat on the floor. That was all she had anymore, all she could claim was her own. There wasn't even any space that she could call her own; her mat was just one of eight in the almost-empty room. In a few days, there would be eight female Klingon engineering students in one room. And to think, she had a hard time living with one human in a much more comfortable setting at the Academy.
Forcibly shoving any thoughts of the Academy out of her head, she latched the trunk, smoothed back her hair one last time, and left the room to find her mother waiting outside in the courtyard, for lack of a better term. Miral looked her daughter up and down, then nodded brusquely. "Good," she declared. "The dress fits. I wasn't sure it would."
B'Elanna flushed slightly in anger, knowing what her mother was saying: she wasn't built like a Klingon. Not only was she shorter than any grown Klingon she had ever met—which wasn't many, but that was beside the point—her proportions were slightly different, her build more human than it was Klingon. "Yes," she snapped. "It's fine. Let's go." She was aware she was being short with her mother, but didn't really care. It had been a long, difficult day already, and with the approaching dinner with the relatives she had met once—and hadn't liked then—she was sure it wasn't going to get any better.
B'Elanna didn't remember much from her time on Qo'noS when she was a child, other than the fact that she didn't like it and just wanted to go home to Kessik IV, but the restaurant that her mother led her into surprised her. It wasn't the atmosphere of the restaurant that got her attention—it seemed very in character for the Klingon homeworld, poorly lit and filled with loud Klingons occupying dark wood tables and benches—somehow, it was the restaurant itself. It's not all caves and monasteries, she scolded herself. For someone who grew up having Klingon culture forced down her throat, she knew surprisingly little about it.
In contrast to how different her mother seemed to her when she first arrived, T'Krol was exactly as she remembered. He was tall, even for a Klingon, with a powerful build that alone seemed to be enough to remove any doubt as to his position at the head of his House. He wasn't as dark as most Terrans think of Klingons—natives of the northern province of Qa'gaH were fairer than most, although not nearly as fair as Terran northerners. He had a strong forehead marked by ridges that formed a deep V that pointed down toward his nose, thick hair that was more gray than black, and sharp light brown eyes that didn't seem to miss anything around him. All in all, a very intimidating man.
Those light brown eyes were now fixed on the young woman standing in front of him, trying not to flinch under that gaze. He circled her slowly, almost as if inspecting some sort of animal before declaring it fit to be slaughtered and eaten. Finally, he snorted, that sound of disgust that B'Elanna had gotten used to after four days on the transport from Earth. "So, this is B'Elanna, daughter of Miral?" She almost raised her eyebrows in surprise at his pronunciation of her name; it had been a long time since she heard it pronounced properly in the Klingon fashion, the emphasis on the first syllable. When speaking in Standard, it was always said in a slight rush, the sounds mixing together. She should have known T'Krol wouldn't let his tongue slip like that.
He suddenly gave a short, barking laugh as he looked at his daughter. "She is so small and fragile!" he exclaimed in disgust. "There's no meat on her bones! How could she even raise a bat'leth, much less use one to defend herself in battle?"
She felt her face flush in anger, which just made her flush even more—even fairer skinned Klingons don't blush; they didn't have the blood vessels in the face for it. Yet another demonstration of how embarrassing it is to have a mongrel child in the House of T'Krol, she mocked to herself. Still, she kept her mouth shut, her eyes fixed angrily on the old man.
He gave another snort of disgust as he turned toward his sons and their wives, still seated at the long table. "She does not speak, not even to defend her own honor! What kind of daughter do you have, Miral?"
B'Elanna turned slightly to see her mother's expression, green eyes flashing, almost in embarrassment. "I do speak," she finally said coldly, "when something has been said that's worth responding to."
The expression on T'Krol's face was a mixture of surprise and amusement before he burst out in the wild, uncontrolled laughter that B'Elanna always disliked about Klingons. He slapped her on the back, almost hard enough to send her tumbling to the floor. "You have a good wit about you," he said, finally speaking to her. "You are like your mother. Come, sit! We will have a glorious feast in honor of the House of T'Krol!" The others around the table cheered loudly, thumping their mugs of bloodwine against the dark wood. For what could have been the hundredth time since she boarded the transport in San Francisco, B'Elanna Torres found herself wondering just what she had gotten herself into.