Disclaimer: I think it's pretty obvious that I don't any part of Star Trek.
Summary: One-shot, episode addition to "Faces". Tom Paris is in jail (again), B'Elanna Torres is having a REALLY bad day, and together they try to make some sense of it all. Or escape it all. Either works. P/T, of course.
A/N: This is NOT part of my "If I Knew You Then" series. If you think it is, you'll probably get really confused by some of the dialogue, as at this point in the show, Paris and Torres barely knew each other, and certainly didn't trust each other, and are acting as such here. And just to give you fair warning, this is pretty long, about twice as long as my average chapter posted in "If I Knew You Then". I tried to find a good place to cut it to post it as two chapters, but couldn't really find a place, so you get it all at once. Enjoy.
The dark, dungeon-like room was quiet, save for the slight chirping of the machines, the almost-inaudible sizzling of the forcefield, and the tossing and turning of prisoners too exhausted and too overworked to find a position comfortable enough to fall asleep. To Lt. Tom Paris, the sounds were deafening.
Since the guards had come earlier that day and taken Pete Durst to some place that Paris didn't even want to consider, Paris, like many of his fellow prisoners, couldn't find sleep. Unlike his compatriots, he hid it well.
When it became obvious that Durst wasn't coming back, Paris took over his bunk—a cruel-hearted move, perhaps, but one of necessity. Durst had probably the most envious bunk in the dark cavern, a lower bunk along the back wall, far away from the guard and not surrounded by other prisoners. With an internal snort of derision, Paris realized that he had called upon his extensive prison experience when he made that move. In Auckland, staying safe as he slept was the least of his worries. Although the prisoners worked in the open during the day, often surrounded by fellow inmates, the cells were reminiscent of a starship brig—one bunk per cell, separated from a guard by a forcefield, with no worries about any of the other colorful characters coming after you at night. Some of the other prisons he briefly called "home" during his time between Starfleet and getting caught in the Maquis were not so safe, and he quickly learned that you never put your back to anyone. If there were prisoners on either side of you, you slept on your back. If you were against a wall, your back was to the wall. Even while sleeping, you have to the watch the people you're surrounded by.
He had been lying on his side, his back to the cold metal wall, his eyes closed, but his mind very much awake. He opened his eyes slightly, allowing them to adjust to the darkness of the space. He saw the slight form on the bunk next to him and immediately swallowed the pang of guilt. Had he been more gentlemanly, he would have offered Durst's prime bunk to Torres, especially after she had fallen apart earlier that day. He had never seen her so, well, weak. He knew that assessment wasn't fair, wasn't quite right, but he couldn't think of a better word. From the moment she had woken him up and throughout the day, he couldn't help but notice how different she was than usual—and he wasn't talking about her forehead. She had always been so driven, so determined, so unyielding, and so…unapproachable. But ever since she appeared from wherever they had taken her to remove her Klingon DNA or whatever they did to her, she was always seconds away from having a nervous breakdown, or bursting into tears. He didn't know if this was her first time in a prison of any sort—probably, given her youth, her relatively protected position in the engine room during her Maquis days, and the fact that Cardassian prisons didn't just let their captives go—but she was showing almost too much fear, too much nervous anticipation, and, most strange of all, too much dependence on him. Being depended on was not something Paris was accustomed to. Maybe that was why he had taken Durst's bunk without a second thought.
The thought of Durst sent him rolling onto his back with a quiet sigh of frustration. He suspected—no, he knew—what they had done to his shipmate, but he still couldn't help but feel guilty, feel like as the mission's leader, it was his duty to go instead of Durst. Feeling guilty isn't going to make him any less dead, he scolded himself. Nor would it have kept you alive if you had gone instead.
"Tom?" The soft voice made Paris roll back over to his side, finding himself centimeters from Torres' face. "I thought you were asleep."
He was seconds away from giving his usual sarcastic retort, but that wasn't what either of them needed. "No," he said instead. "I couldn't sleep."
"Neither could I," Torres said softly. She turned her head slightly away, and even in the dim light, he could see the glisten of fresh tears in her eyes. "I kept thinking about what they did, when they…" Paris' finger on her lips stopped her train of thought.
"Shh," he murmured quietly. "Come here." He shifted slightly on the hard bunk, making room for her, but she didn't move, studying him with a quizzical expression on her face. "Come here," he repeated. "Sometimes, all you need is to be held." Or to hold somebody. He couldn't say that to her, though—he had already lost one crewmember, and he had to be strong for the one he had left. Or, at the very least, to make her think he was being strong. "Don't worry, I'm too tired to try anything." He said that more snidely than anticipated, which was met with an eyeroll from Torres, but she finally did crawl up onto the bunk.
After switching positions to allow her the side facing the wall—he did remember how to be gentlemanly, after all—he carefully readjusted himself and the soft body in his arms. They were both on their sides, facing each other, their feet intertwined, her head resting on his bicep, on hand resting on his chest and the other loosely draped over his waist. It would have been an incredibly intimate embrace if they had been anywhere but the dank Vidiian prison.
They were lying there silently, stiffly, for several minutes before Paris registered the shaking of Torres' body and the wetness of the sleeve of his uniform and put those two pieces together to realize that she was quietly sobbing. "Shh," he murmured again. "Torres—B'Elanna—." He stopped when he realized he didn't know what to say, that he never really knew what to say. Comforting crying girls—really comforting them, not just trying to get them into bed—wasn't something he had much experience in, despite growing up with sisters. They did their own thing and comforted each other. He flew shuttles and did his homework and tried to live up to The Admiral's expectations.
Shoving all thoughts of The Admiral and the childhood that resulted from growing up as his only son aside, Paris returned his attention to the small woman in his arms. Small? he asked himself. He wondered if she had always been so slight, so petite. She had always seemed so much larger than life before, as if she was so in control of her surroundings that she couldn't have possibly been as short and slender as she now appeared. "B'Elanna," he began again. "It's not your fault."
He knew that those words weren't adequate, weren't enough to cover what she was feeling. Hell, if they were, he wouldn't currently be lying awake in the darkness of the Vidiian caves. And just as she suspected, she raised her red-rimmed eyes to his clear ones, and shook her head slightly. "If I hadn't been so weak…"
"No," he said, firmly but quietly, using his free hand to raise her chin to look her in the eyes. "No," he repeated. "It's not your fault, and you're not weak. You're sick, B'Elanna. You can't help that, it's not your fault you got sick. You're too sick to do anything, much less what they're forcing us to do down here. If we were back on Voyager, the EMH would have you locked up in Sickbay, and he would be keeping himself activated twenty-four hours a day until he could figure out what's wrong with you and how to get you back to that vibrant, volatile half-Klingon we all know and love."
She stiffened at his words and jerked her head away from his grasp, burying her head again in his chest. "No," she said, her words muffled.
"It's not your fault, B'Elanna," Paris repeated emphatically, directing his words toward her buried face. "I was the commanding officer, and it was my job to keep you and Durst safe." He gave a bitter laugh. "And look what happens. You become part of some twisted medical experiment, and Durst becomes…" He didn't finish that thought. He couldn't finish that thought. "It should have been me, not him. Not you."
"Don't say that!" Torres exclaimed quietly, her face bolting up toward his. "Don't say it. You know what they did to Durst, and don't you dare say that you wish they took you instead."
He was surprised by her vehemence, and didn't quite know what to say. "Torres…" he began.
She shook her head again. "I don't want to talk about this anymore," she said quietly, her dark eyes wide and shining with tears. "Can we talk about something else?"
Her voice was small, reminding Paris once again that, despite her rebel background and her usual tough persona, she was still young and very new at the whole prison thing. He remembered his first night in prison, three years ago. Although at that point he was slightly older than Torres was now, he had been much, much more sheltered throughout his life, and not even the buzz from the excessive amounts of alcohol he drank earlier that night could take the edge off his fear, could blunt the intense desire to be anywhere but there.
He gently smoothed back her hair, then ran his hand down and up her back, feeling her begin to relax. "On Voyager, it would be a few hours before the end of Beta shift." He actually had no idea if that was true, but it seemed like it could be around 2200. "Alpha shift was pretty relaxed, nothing exciting happened. We passed near a system, three planets around a yellow star, two gas giants and one frozen lump of ice. Nothing interesting for us to see, no chance for resupply, so we kept going." He didn't know if it was his words or just the quiet tone of his voice, but she stopped crying, lying still and relaxed in his arms. "At 1600, when the shift ended, Harry and I went to the gym to unwind. We invited you, but of course, the chief engineer's job is never complete. You gave some excuse about running a diagnostic on the EPS relays, I believe." He heard a slight chuckle at his make-believe day, knowing that it was an excuse she was likely to give.
"After getting cleaned up from the gym, we headed for the mess hall for dinner. I've been taking Harry's rations at the pool table, so I have enough for some real food, but I feel bad just abandoning him like that, so in the mean time, I'm saving those rations for something special. I don't know what it was that Neelix was serving, I don't want to think about what it was, but it was this strange purplish color, and had this really indescribable taste, not terrible, but you know how it is." She chuckled again at the description of the meal they wouldn't have had any chance to experience.
"I didn't really have anything to do after dinner," Paris continued, his free hand again running up and down Torres' back, from the bottom of her neck to the small of her back. "Somehow, I managed to stay up to date on my helm reports. Harry, on the other hand, still had reports to write, and tried to beg off and spend the evening in his quarters. I managed to convince him to take the reports to the holodeck and work on them in Sandrine's. He finally agreed, saying he had to discuss something with you anyway. Unfortunately, those EPS relays were still acting up, and when Harry tried to reach you, you sounded rather frustrated. He offered to go to Engineering and help, but you told him you didn't want to ruin his evening, too."
"You're making me out to be much nicer than I am," Torres interjected with a slight laugh in her voice. "There's no way I'd turn down free help."
"Hey, am I telling this story, or you?" he argued playfully. She gave a short laugh and shrugged, so he continued. "So Harry and I are in Sandrine's, along with a dozen or so other crewmates. For a few minutes, I sat patiently while Harry worked on reports, but then I got impatient."
"You?" Torres asked sarcastically. He chuckled slightly and pressed her closer to him.
"It took a few minutes, but through begging and pleading, I convinced him to put down the reports for a bit and play a game of pool. The first game was close, close enough that Harry, poor innocent Harry, got overconfident, and wanted to play again for rations."
"And you went along with it," Torres said dryly, but with a smile. Listening to him talk about the day that didn't happen, she could imagine it, could pretend that she was there and not lying on a hard bunk in a Vidiian work camp.
"I told you, I'm saving my rations for something special. The more I have, the more special it can be. About halfway through the second game, you and Chakotay walk in—and you don't look too happy about being pulled away from Engineering, so I figure he must have ordered you to take a break. He leads you to a table near the pool table, and leaves you sitting there, scowling as he goes up to the bar to get the drinks."
"Chakotay doesn't drink," Torres pointed out, raising her head slightly.
"Oh, I know," Paris said lightly, smiling down at her. "He gets some herbal tea for himself and a synthehol Scotch for you. You two sit at the table and talk about something quietly, I can't hear what he's saying, but you keep scowling at him, so I figure it's something you don't want to hear—probably about how you're working too much and need to take more time for yourself."
"I like what I do," Torres argued quietly. "Sometimes, working through a complicated Engineering problem can be relaxing."
"I bet," Paris said with another chuckle. "The closer it gets to the end of Beta shift, the more people come into Sandrine's," he continued. "I see a few people from Gamma wanting to socialize a bit before going to work, and a few more from Alpha who are getting an early start on spending time with their friends from Beta when they get off work. There are probably thirty people there now. You're still at the table with Chakotay, but Ayala and Gerron have joined your table, and you're finally starting to relax. The Delaney twins are laughing and gossiping with their usual group of girls a few tables away, probably waiting for Nicoletti to get in from Engineering. Harry and I are still at the pool table, now almost through with our third game, and Harry's almost out of rations, and he's starting to whine about getting those reports finished. Since I know my opponent is about to walk away, I start scanning the room for someone else to play, and my eyes fall on you."
"Me?" Torres asked with a snort. "You sure you don't want to play against one of the Delaneys?"
"No, definitely not," Paris said quickly, not even needing time to think about it. "Neither of them is any good, and try as I might, I can't manage to play badly enough to keep from wiping the floor with them. I like to win as much as the next guy, but only if I have to put a little bit of effort into it." He realized, almost with a start, that he wasn't talking about just pool anymore. Where had that come from? He had always been intrigued with Torres, sure, but knew that she was too loyal to Chakotay, too independent, to want anything with him, and he thought he had accepted that, and accepted that she would never be anything more than a friend to him. "You, on the other hand," he continued, trying to move away from that thought, "you play pool like you do everything else. Decisive, calculated, aggressive, all the things I've always admired about you. I know that it would be a good game, if only I could convince you to play."
She was silent for a moment as she thought about his words, the low tone he spoke them in, and she knew, just as he did, that he wasn't talking about pool anymore. "You sure you don't want to play with one of the Delaney sisters, someone who's going to fall to their feet in awe of your abilities?" She was glad the room was dark enough that he couldn't see the sudden blush on her cheeks as she realized her double entendre.
"I'm sure," he replied, in that same low tone that was sending shivers down her spine. Almost involuntarily, she drew herself even closer to him, their bodies almost flush against each other. "Besides," he said, now whispering in her ear, "there's only one dark-haired beauty on the ship I'm interested in impressing."
She was still for a moment as she registered those words and tried to think of a response to them. "You're a pig, Paris." She had told him that before, several times, in fact, but this time, she kept her tone almost playful, lacking the anger she had used before, and she felt his chest shake slightly in his silent laughter.
"I don't know if it was the synthehol you've been drinking or my natural charm," he continued with his story, "but you agree to play a game, not for rations, of course—especially with Chakotay watching with interest from the table. Harry hands you his pool cue, but you frown slightly at return it to the rack, taking another one instead. You have this look of concentration on your face as you're chalking the cue, and when you ask who is going to break, it takes me a minute to catch up to the conversation.
"You break, and immediately sink the fourteen ball, so you're stripes. You give me a very triumphant grin as the ball goes in, and for a second, I forget about Chakotay, Ayala, and Gerron, forget about the giggling group of girls, forget about Harry now watching the game with interest, almost forget my own name. All I can do is watch you play, and hope my mouth isn't hanging open."
She stiffened slightly at the sudden change in the story, and then forced herself to relax. Paris was a flirt; she knew that. She also knew from the supposed reactions of several of the women on the ship that he was a good one. If he believed that his flirtations could make her feel better, she'd give him a try.
"You miss the next shot, and scowl at the ball, as if trying to make it so afraid of you that it finds its way into the hole, but it doesn't budge. I want to laugh, but I'm pretty sure that would make you turn your glare toward me, so I stop myself. I sink one ball, than another, and then you are glaring at me. I would stop, but then you'd know that I was throwing the game for you, and that would make you even more angry, so I keep going. And then, just as I'm lining up my last shot, you lean over, and whisper in my ear, 'You're not going to make it.' I jump probably fifteen centimeters, and sure enough, the cue ball rolls harmlessly away from the eight ball. I look over at you in disbelief, and you just have that triumphant smile on your face as you easily move around the table, sinking every single ball, and all I can do is watch. By the time you're done, Chakotay, Ayala, and Gerron are laughing, and even Harry is chuckling at my expense. You calmly return the cue to the rack on the wall, and then you brush by me on your way out, and give me that grin I'd give anything to see as you say, 'Thanks for the game, Paris.' You wish Harry a good night and tell him that you'll see him in the mess hall in the morning for breakfast, and then you walk out without another glance back."
They were silent for a few minutes, just holding each other and thinking about the story he just told. "That's it?" Torres finally asked.
"Of course not," Paris replied smoothly, a smile in his voice.
"Well, what happens next?" she demands.
"Ah," he murmurs knowingly, pressing her tight to him. "We're just going to have to wait and see." He tilted his head down, planting a kiss to the top of her head. "Get some sleep, Torres. Tomorrow is going to be another long day."
Torres stopped just inside the darkened mess hall, far enough into the room to allow the doors to slide closed behind her. After allowing her eyes to adjust after the brightness of the corridors, she gave a small nod of relief when she noticed that the room was empty.
If she had forced herself to be honest, she would ask herself why, if she wanted to be alone, did she go to the mess hall, and not her quarters? Or maybe the better question was, why did she want to be alone in the first place? After seven days locked up in Sickbay, with only the Doctor as her companion, wouldn't it be normal to want to be around some of the flesh and blood members of the crew?
Deep down inside, she knew the answers to all of those questions. She chose the mess hall instead of her quarters because this room offered a wide view of the stars streaking by at warp, a constant reminder that they were quickly moving away from the planet of horrors she had been rescued from the week before. Her quarters didn't have a viewport, and with the internal dampers functioning as they were designed to, sitting alone in her living space gave no impression of movement.
As to why she wanted to be alone, well, she just wanted to escape the questions that she knew her crewmates would be asking—after all, one doesn't spend a week in the private surgical bay in Sickbay without the crew noticing. Everyone would want to know if she was okay, and, by extension, what it was that got her stuck in Sickbay in the first place, and that was not a story she was willing to share. As far as she knew, the only ones who knew exactly what happened down there were Paris, Chakotay, the Captain, and the Doctor.
She stood by the viewport, trying to enjoy the sensation of standing after the week of strict bed rest, and finding herself incapable of enjoying anything. Everything she spent her whole life wanting—to be human, to be at peace with herself—she finally got, and it was over as quickly as it had arrived. When the Doctor began his "DNA reintegration treatment" or whatever it was he was calling it, she had hoped that the sensation of peace with herself would be more of a lesson than a fluke, that since she had achieved it once, she would be able to hold onto it. It wasn't even an hour after that first injection that she began to feel that familiar fight inside of her, as her more primal Klingon emotions struggled to gain control.
As much as she despised having only the Doctor—and on rare occasion, Kes—as company for those seven days of treatment, she was grateful for the private room, although she would never admit that to anyone. The room was soundproof, allowing her to scream out in pain as her bones began to remodel themselves into their previous half-Klingon form, the ridges growing out of a smooth forehead, her heart returning to its unusual shape, an extra lung and extra stomach growing out of nothing. If it weren't for the isolation, she wouldn't have been able to cry out about what she was losing, or yell at herself for being so weak, or sob about the loss of Durst and the loss of her Klingon self, two people who had given their lives to protect hers.
She was so immersed in watching the stars streak by that she didn't register the hissing sound of the doors sliding open, didn't hear the soft footsteps of two concerned friends make their way toward the back of the room where she stood. "Hey, Maquis," Ensign Harry Kim said quietly, standing a safe distance away in case she chose to swing in surprise.
She did spin quickly toward the source of the voice, but the fire died when she saw who was standing there. "Hey, Starfleet," she replied. She glanced at Tom Paris, but then quickly returned her eyes to the young Ops officer, giving him a weak smile. "I hope you're not counting on me being good company right now."
Kim raised his eyebrows. "After a week isolated in Sickbay, only the Doc as company? I'd be celebrating right now if I were in your shoes."
Out of the corner of her eye, Torres could see Paris wince at his friend's words, but neither him nor Torres made any move to point out just how wrong Harry was. "I guess I'm still a little shell-shocked by the whole experience," Torres finally replied.
"Are you back on duty, then?" Kim continued. If he noticed how quiet his usually talkative best friend was being, he hid it well.
"Light duty, for another week. Then I should be back to full shifts," Torres said. She still hadn't made any moves away from the viewport.
"So your treatment is all over?" Those were the first words Paris had spoken since entering the mess hall. Torres would have spat something back at him, if only she had the energy, but his voice was low and concerned, not mocking at all.
Torres shook her head. "One more injection, tomorrow morning before going on duty. The Doctor said I was stable enough to sleep in my own quarters tonight, though." She wasn't going to tell them that by "stable enough", she meant she wasn't yelling and screaming at the top of her lungs.
Kim grinned. "You must have been threatening him with decompiling his program or something," he commented.
"Something like that," Torres said, giving him a thin smile.
The three friends lapsed into silence that stretched for a few long minutes before Paris spoke again. "I'm glad you're back to your old self."
Once again, Torres was tempted to give him a biting retort, but stopped herself at the sincerity of his voice. "I don't think I'll ever be my old self again," she said instead.
"No, I guess not," he said softly. "I don't think any of us will." She could tell by the look on his face that he was thinking something, probably something about Durst. He would never be the same, that was for sure. She felt a pang of guilt at the thought and at how sorry she had been feeling for herself the past hour - the past week, really. For all she went through, at least she was still alive. That had to count for something. "But for what it's worth, we've missed you. I've missed you. You owe me a game of pool." The sudden change of mood as he grinned at that last statement gave Torres pause, but she quickly found herself smiling at his words, and then laughing out loud, the first real laugh since before the whole thing started.
Once she started laughing, she immediately felt better. Maybe things weren't as bad as she made them out to be. She'll never be the same, but that doesn't mean that the person she becomes won't be as good, if not better. "I don't know," she replied, finding herself teasing, almost flirting. "You've told me everything I need to know to beat you."
The grin Paris gave her in return was so real that it caused that newly-rebuilt heart to skip a beat or two, and for a second, it was as if it was just the two of them, as if Harry was nowhere near the mess hall, as if the rest of Voyager didn't exist. "I think, Torres, if that's how you beat me, I won't mind losing one bit."