State of Flux
Disclaimer: If you haven't already gathered this from the previous stories I've posted, I don't own anything having to do with Star Trek. My roommate was clearing out her bookshelves and asked if I wanted any Voyager novels, but I declined, so I don't even own those.
Timeline: Set at some point between Blood Fever and Day of Honor. (Yes, I do define time by landmark P/T episodes)
Summary: Lt. B'Elanna Torres wakes up one morning to find that nothing is making sense. In the course of the next several days, she gets many views of what her life could have been like, if one small decision at any point had been made differently. It's kinda AU, in that it has AU elements, but there's really nothing in the total story that wouldn't fit in canon (I know that didn't make any sense, but hopefully by the end you'll pick up on why I explained it that way). Oh, and of course, it's P/T.
A/N: I tried to make the lengths of the chapters in this story somewhat consistent, but based on the content of the chapters (you'll find out what I'm talking about as I go), that's not really possible. So, some chapters will be long (this one is about 1500 words longer than my average "If I Knew You Then" chapter), and some will be really short (I think the shortest is 122 words...). That may seem confusing how, but I hope it makes sense as the story unfolds.
I had to change the title of the story (it was recently "State of Flux") when I realized there was an episode with that name. Oops.
Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres groaned and buried her head in her pillow, trying to block out the sounds of the computer's alarm trying to coax her out of bed. She had had a restless night's sleep, due in no small part to Lt. Tom Paris and the argument they had gotten into the night before. It seemed like that was all they did anymore, argue. There were only bitter words where before there had been flirting, teasing—some sort of secret game the two of them had, a game in which they were the only two to know the rules or objective of the game. All of that was before Sakari, before that Vulcan-induced mating urge that caused her to literally throw herself at him. After that botched away mission, everything had changed between the two of them—the flirting was taken to an entirely new level, one that Torres had yet to figure out. It was if they were still playing with the same deck of cards, but the game had changed, and no one bothered to tell her the new rules. All of a sudden, things became almost serious between the two of them, and serious was one thing that B'Elanna was not ready for—especially with Tom Paris.
She shoved that thought out of her mind as she tried to remember what the fight the night before had been about. Had it been about anything, or were they just frustrated at everything around them and taking it out on each other? She had no idea, and found that she didn't really care. The rules of the game might have been changed on her, but she was starting to figure them out on her own—they would fight, go about half of the next duty shift not speaking to each other, and then one would offer a silent apology, and things would go back to normal. Well, normal for them. Now, if only she could remember whose turn it was to apologize…
She groaned again as the computer's voice got louder, informing her of the time and her duty schedule for that day. Why, if she wasn't on until Beta shift, did she even bother setting it? "Computer, stop alarm," she muttered into the room. Instantly, the reminders ceased, and she gave a slightly contented sigh as she rolled over in bed.
She literally jumped out of bed in surprise at what she faced there. Still sleeping, unperturbed by the computer's alarm, was a certain ship's pilot, his blond hair tousled, light eyelashes on his cheek, his face slightly scruffy and unshaven. For a second, B'Elanna was mesmerized by the sight of him sleeping. He looked peaceful, vulnerable, and almost innocent, a complete contradiction from the man who strutted around the ship, a mask carefully in place over his features, giving away no hint as to the emotion underneath.
With a shake of her head, she brought herself back to the issue at hand. Okay, she told herself, taking a deep breath. Tom Paris is in your bed, sleeping, and looking damn good while doing so… Wrong train of thought. Her eyes widened slightly as the logical part of her brain began to wake up. If Tom was in her bed, then they must have… She glanced down at herself, and breathed a slight sigh of relief when she discovered that she was, in fact, clothed. The tee-shirt she was wearing was much too large for her and must have been Tom's, but clothes were better than no clothes. She didn't know if that meant that they had sex the night before or not, but that thought didn't bring her any consolation. No matter what else they might have done in that bed, sleeping there together implied a certain intimacy that, last she checked, they didn't share. She didn't even know if she wanted to share that kind of intimacy with Tom Paris. She didn't know if she could trust him enough for that.
"Okay, enough." This time, she spoke the words to herself out loud. Standing by her bed while Paris was sleeping in it was not the time to be trying to figure out if she was ready for a relationship with him or not. Obviously, that decision had already been made, and when she began to realize that she had no recollection of making that decision, she began to get angry.
With a forceful tug, she pulled the covers off from Tom's sleeping form. "Wake up!" she demanded.
"Hmm?" he murmured, his blue eyes fluttering open slightly. He groaned slightly. "Come back to bed," he pleaded, his eyes again closed as he held out his arms for her. "We're not on duty until Beta shift today."
As tempting as that offer was, she was still too angry to even consider it. "Tom Paris, get out of my bed now," she insisted.
This time, his eyes opened and stayed open, fixing her with a confused expression. "What did I do?" he asked, slightly annoyed.
She raised her arms in exasperation. "I have no idea," she snapped at him. "Which is the problem. Last night, we got in an argument at Sandrine's, and I stormed out and came back to my quarters. Alone."
He sat up in bed, now looking fully awake but also fully confused. "What are you taking about?" he asked slowly. "Last night, we had dinner here in your quarters, and then we worked on our respective department reports, and went to bed. We haven't been to Sandrine's in months." A thoughtful expression took up residence on his face. "B'E," he said slowly, "what's today's stardate?"
She looked at him for a moment, trying to decide if he was serious and trying to decide what to make of the truncation of her name. "50892.4," she replied.
His look of confusion deepened. "Huh," he said slowly. "That's today's date, but we obviously remember two different yesterdays." In one fluid motion, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and crossed to the closet. Torres felt herself flush as she realized that she was admiring his graceful movements and smooth lines of his body, clad only in a pair of black boxer shorts. He pressed the closet's control panel, and the doors slid apart to reveal the closet essentially as she remembered, except for the addition of one red-shouldered uniform and some shirts and slacks that were far too large for her. Staring at the offending garments in her closet, she didn't notice Tom remove one of her uniforms from the closet and toss it at her.
"What the hell?" she asked angrily after she regained her composure.
"Get dressed," he replied, glancing only briefly in her direction. "We're going to Sickbay. One of us obviously needs some sort of medical attention."
"And you think it's me?" she stated, still angry.
He turned to look at her and didn't say anything for a moment. "Judging from your reaction at the sight of your own closet, yes," he said flatly before his expression softened. "Listen, B'E, whatever's going on, we'll get to the bottom of it and get it through it. Everything's going to be fine." He gave her his best disarming grin as he headed for the bathroom. B'Elanna could only stare at him in wonder; no matter what happened in Sickbay, it was going to be an interesting day.
"Hmm," the Doctor murmured as he ran the tricorder wand over B'Elanna Torres. "Hmm," he repeated, studying the readings for a moment before tapping the instrument slightly.
"What is it?" Torres snapped at him. "And tapping the damned thing isn't going to change anything. It's a tricorder."
He looked at her disapprovingly over his tricorder. "In efforts to improve the bedside manner that you so often claim is lacking, I have done some research in how humans perceive the accuracy of the readings during a medical exam. For example, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a temperature was not believed to be accurate by the patient unless they witnessed the physician shake the thermometer slightly."
"Doc, that was in the days of mercury thermometers," Tom Paris objected with a roll of his eyes. "Now tell us, what's going on?"
The Emergency Medical Hologram sighed deeply, clearly feeling put out. "Well, for probably the first time since I have been activated, a medical scan of Mr. Paris reveals nothing unexpected. As for Lt. Torres, however," he turned his attention to the half-Klingon engineer sitting in the biobed, "you appear to be in a state of quantum flux."
"A state of what?" Torres asked.
The EMH gave another exaggerated sigh. "I was programmed with several case studies from Starfleet Medical, including one of a Lt. Worf of the USS Enterprise-D. When exposed to a quantum fissure, the lieutenant was sent into a state of quantum flux, resulting in his shifting between quantum realities."
"So, what you're saying is that this isn't our B'Elanna?" Paris asked dubiously.
The Doctor nodded. "Yes, Mr. Paris, that is what I believe is going on. I will inform the captain." Without another word, he turned and headed for his office, leaving the two lieutenants alone in the main Sickbay.
B'Elanna found herself unable to look in Tom's direction, despite the intense feeling she had that he was staring at her. She was still trying to comprehend the Doctor's words, that she was some other reality—a reality in which she was obviously much closer to Lt. Thomas Eugene Paris.
"Hey," Tom said softly, sliding off his biobed to stand directly in front of her. She turned her head slightly downward, still not able to meet his gaze. For some reason, just the knowledge that there was a B'Elanna Torres out there who had gotten over her insecurities about Tom Paris was enough to leave her unhinged. "Hey," Tom repeated, placing two fingers under her chin and pushing it up, forcing her to look at him. "We'll figure this out," he said softly, giving her a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Between the captain, Doc, the best engineer in the Fleet, Harry, and me, we'll get you back to where you should be."
She nodded slightly, forcing back the sudden urge to break down into tears. "I know, Tom," she said softly. She gave him a weak smile. "And, for what it's worth, I'm sorry I yelled at you this morning."
This time his grin was sincere, causing his blue eyes to shine mischievously. "Believe me, it's not the first time that's happened," he joked. His expression turned into one of tenderness and almost protectiveness, and he leaned down slightly. For a second, Torres thought he might kiss her, and stiffened slightly. It wasn't that she was opposed to that thought; of all the things that happened to her on Sakari, most were a bit hazy, almost more of a dream than a memory, but she could remember those kisses very well, from the light ones that sent shivers from her lips to the ends of her toes, to the deeper ones that pretty much stopped her head from working at all. She was just worried that if he kissed her now, she would lose what remaining composure she had left, and she didn't want to do that.
At the last second, he seemed to remember that she wasn't his B'Elanna, a redirected his lips from millimeters in front of hers to her forehead, dropping a light kiss over her ridges. She was slightly surprised to find herself disappointed at that.
A cleared throat from the doors of Sickbay caused both to look up toward the sound. Tom blushed slightly and took a step back from Torres' biobed when he saw the captain standing there. "Captain," he greeted with a nod.
"Tom," she replied. "The Doctor summoned me, but he wouldn't discuss why over an open comm line. Would you care to enlighten me?"
Torres opened her mouth to respond, but the EMH beat her to it. "Captain," he said, stepping out of his office. "Thank you for coming down here so quickly. Lieutenants Paris and Torres came in this morning, and I found this when I was scanning Lt. Torres," he said, indicating the biomonitor on the Sickbay wall.
Captain Janeway studied the readings for a few seconds before shaking her head slightly. "I'm sorry, Doctor, but I'm not quite sure what I'm looking at."
"Perhaps it would be clearer if I explained," the Doctor replied. He tapped a few controls. "This is the quantum state of Mr. Paris, and everything else on this ship. This is the readings from Ms. Torres."
"They don't match," Janeway said flatly.
"Exactly," the EMH replied proudly. "It appears that this Lt. Torres is not the Lt. Torres we had yesterday."
Captain Janeway turned to Lt. Torres in surprise. "Not the same Lt. Torres?" she repeated before turning back to the Doctor. "I know a similar thing happened to Lt. Worf on the Enterprise as a result of exposure to a quantum fissure and a subspace differential pulse."
"Yes, I have reviewed that incident before you came in. I was about to question Lt. Torres about any potential exposures to such phenomenon, but I remembered that as an astrophysicist, you would have a better handle on such things than I, and decided to hold off such questions for when you arrived."
The holographic physician and captain both turned expectantly to the chief engineer, who cleared her throat slightly, uncomfortable with the attention. "Nothing like that happened, Captain," she said, sounding as confused as she felt. "Everything had been, well, routine lately. As routine as it ever is, that is."
Janeway smiled slightly at that. "Well, why don't you explain what did happen?"
Torres shook her head slightly, trying to organize her thoughts. "Last night, I was in my quarters working on my reports when Tom asked if I would meet him and Harry in Sandrine's for a game of pool. When I arrived, Tom was there, and Harry wasn't, and I told Tom—," she stopped when she realized that her voice was getting louder and faster as she explained, and flushed slightly. "To make a long story short, we started arguing, and I left the holodeck and went back to my quarters, finished my reports, and went to bed. Alone. But then when I woke up this morning, I was still in my quarters, but I, um, wasn't alone anymore." She risked a glance over at Paris to find him blushing bright red. Looking back at the captain, she saw that she was wearing a very amused expression her face, her eyes going between her chief engineer and her helmsman. "We realized something was wrong and came here."
"I see," Janeway replied, trying to maintain her composure, but looking as if she was going to start laughing at any moment. Straightening, she asked, "So, there's nothing you've done for the past few days that could explain how the quantum realities could have been shifted?"
Torres shook her head emphatically. "Nothing, Captain. Like I said, things have been routine. We haven't even had a major battle or anything in a while. We've actually been focusing primarily on running diagnostics of the EPS manifolds, just to make sure everything is in top condition. I've spent most of my duty shifts for the past week either at the upper workstation or in my office. I haven't been exposed to warp plasma, much less quantum fissures or subspace differential pulses." She thought for a second, then asked, "What about your Lt. Torres? Maybe that's where the problem came from."
Nobody said anything for a moment as they thought about it, but then Paris shook his head. "No, that's not it," he said slowly, his face reddening as everyone turned to him. "B'Elanna hadn't been doing anything out of the ordinary on this ship, either. She would have told me if she had."
Janeway nodded slowly. "I see," she said, still looking amused. "Well, I believe our first order of business should be to get all B'Elanna Torres' back to their proper realities. I'm going to call a staff meeting for half an hour from now, we can explain the situation then and hopefully between all of us, we'll figure out a way to make that happen. Oh, and B'Elanna?" She looked amused as she turned to the duplicate of her chief engineer, "when you explain in the meeting how exactly you discovered that you weren't in the right place, maybe you should remain a little vague on the details. There are certain aspects to your story that the senior staff is not entirely privy to." With a slight chuckle, she left Sickbay.
Once the captain's words sunk in, Torres turned to Paris, her face red and her expression mortified. "Did I just say more than I should have?"
"Well, yeah," he admitted. "I think Chakotay suspects, and so do a few other people, but the only ones who know for sure are Harry, the Doctor, and Kes. But don't worry about it," he said quickly, taking in her embarrassed expression. "It's a small ship, and I don't know if it's the same where you come from, but one thing that works very efficiently around here is the rumor mill. People are bound to find out sooner or later."
"The Doctor and Kes?" Torres asked, feeling almost nauseated.
Now he just looked amused. "Let's just say, after the first visits to Sickbay, the Doc gave me my own dermal regenerator and osteo-regenerator. Your counterpart is actually getting quite proficient at using them on me."
Realizing what he was saying, she closed her eyes in embarrassment. "Oh, Kahless," she muttered.
"Hey," he said softly, again rising from his biobed to stand in front of her. "I told my B'Elanna that I didn't mind the Klingon stuff, and I don't."
She looked up at him and smiled weakly. "The Tom on my Voyager said the same thing," she said softly. She rolled her eyes. "I didn't believe him at first, but then he really started in on it. He even made a bet on repairs, and when he won, he made me agree to some bat'leth training program on the holodeck. The petaQ," she muttered.
Paris grinned. "Just make sure the safeties are on," he said. "Come on, I believe we have a staff meeting to attend."