Day 9: Evening
"Captain, I'm reading a sudden energy surge on deck nine," Ensign Harry Kim said with a frown. "Captain, it's coming from B'Elanna's quarters!"
"Energy surge?" Captain Kathryn Janeway asked with a frown. "What sort of energy surge?"
*Torres to Janeway.*
"Janeway here. B'Elanna, are you okay?"
There was a pause, and then: *I'm not quite sure yet, Captain. Is this a Klingon ship or Maquis fighter?*
Janeway frowned. "No…"
*Are we stuck in the Delta Quadrant?*
Realizing what Torres was asking, Janeway began to smile. "Yes," she confirmed.
*Am I the Chief Engineer of the USS Voyager?*
There was a pause, then: *I don't have a husband or a kid, do I?*
That time, Janeway did laugh, but it was at the expression on her helmsman's face more than anything. "No, you don't, Lieutenant."
*Thank Kahless. I might actually be in the right place. I'm going to report to Sickbay to confirm. Torres out.*
Janeway was still chuckling as she turned to her first officer, who was grinning widely. "That's one report I'm looking forward to reading," Commander Chakotay said.
"You and me both, Commander."
Lt. B'Elanna Torres was just leaving Engineering when she saw Lt. Tom Paris stepping out of the lift. He raised his eyebrows at her. "I thought the captain gave you the shift off," he said lightly.
She flushed slightly, realizing she was caught. "She did," she confirmed. "I just wanted to check with Carey, make sure he hadn't broken anything in my absence."
"Your engines are just fine," he said with a grin. "So, what was it like?"
She made a face. "I'm just on my way back to my quarters to get started on my report now," she said. "It was… well, it was quite a wild ride."
His grin widened. "'Wild ride'? I think I'm rubbing off on you, Lieutenant."
"Sounds like something I should be worried about," she replied. After a pause, she quickly asked, "Do you want to come over for dinner tonight? My quarters?"
He looked like he was about to agree, but then groaned. "I'm on Beta shift. I'm not getting off until midnight."
"That's fine," she said. "I'll probably still be working on this report."
He shrugged. "Okay, if you're sure." She nodded, and he grinned. "Zero hundred in your quarters it is, then. I'll bring the wine." She was about to protest, knowing how it would look if anyone saw the ship's top pilot outside the Chief Engineer's office at midnight with a bottle of wine, but he had already moved out of earshot. With a sigh, she stepped into the turbolift.
Lt. B'Elanna Torres was curled up on her couch, making her revisions on her report of her events of the past week; she had already recorded a much longer, much more detailed version into her personal logs. To the outside observer, she was calm and relaxed, wearing casual pants and a tunic and looking as if she had given little thought to anything other than finishing that onerous Starfleet task before turning to the work she had missed while she was gone. In reality, she was anything but—ironically, she had tried on several outfits before settling on one that she decided looked casual enough. She tried to tell herself that this was just dinner, one of many that she had shared with Lt. Tom Paris over the past years, including several in either of their quarters. However, having seen and experienced what she had while visiting the different realities, she could no longer deny the budding relationship between the two officers.
She was just about finished when the announcer chime to her quarters rang. Ignoring the sudden fluttering in her stomachs, she called out for her visitor to come in.
Tom Paris, still dressed in uniform, entered just far enough to let her doors slide shut behind him, looking around briefly before his eyes settled on hers. "I thought you were bringing the wine," she said dryly.
He grinned. "I realized I didn't know what you would be serving, and I didn't want to bring the wrong thing. Besides, the rumor mill has just started to die down again, and I figured the Chief Helmsman carrying a bottle of wine to the Chief Engineer's quarters would be just what it needed to get going at warp ten again." She winced slightly at the words "warp ten", but didn't say anything as she rose and headed for the replicator. "So, what are we having, Chief?" Paris asked, still rooted to the same spot on her floor.
"I was thinking pepperoni pizza, if that meets with the approval of your gourmet palate," she said, a touch of teasing sarcasm in her voice.
"A woman after my own heart!" he said, his grin widening at her eye roll. "I daresay, Lieutenant, I really do think I'm rubbing off on you."
"I'm sure that's just what your ego needed," she commented as she punching in the commands on her replicator.
She didn't even realize that he had moved from right in front of her door until she could smell him standing right behind her. She closed her eyes for a second, quietly inhaling the distinctive, musky scent and forcing herself not to launch herself at him. "It's a good thing I didn't bring wine, then," he said, his voice little over a murmur, his hands gently trailing down her arms. "Beer goes much better with pizza than wine does." She wondered how he could make an innocent comment about beverage choices sound like innuendo.
She realized that that was another thing she could add to the contradictions that seemed to make up Thomas Eugene Paris; despite his love of pepperoni pizza, tomato soup, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and the like, he was practically a connoisseur of beers and wines, knowing exactly which vintage and year would match a given meal. Without a response to his comment, she removed the pizza from the replicator and turned to carry it to the table, him intentionally standing too close, forcing her to brush against him. She tried to ignore the tingle that that simple contact had caused, but she still found herself unable to meet his gaze as he brought over two bottles of beer and silently handed one to her.
"So, how was your tour of the various quantum realities?" he asked, breaking the silence as he reached forward for a slice of pizza, ignoring the plate and silverware she had provided.
Her eyebrows shot up in surprise, but she had to swallow her food before she could respond. "How did you know about that?" she asked.
He chuckled slightly. "Well, your questions when you came in gave some clues, but four days ago, one of your alternates appeared and explained the situation. In fact, she thinks the whole thing was her fault. Apparently, she was doing experiments on a new slipstream drive, and she believes she somehow opened a quantum fissure in the process."
"Slipstream?" Torres asked, her ordeal temporarily forgotten. "Did she say anything about it? Or leave schematics?"
His grin was wide as he reached for his beer. "Are you forgetting the fact that just experimenting with it sent you on a tour of alternate universes?"
She shrugged away his question. "A working slipstream drive… That could send us thousands of light years in seconds…" Her voice trailed off, her mind already running through the calculations.
"Anyway…" Paris said with a chuckle. "What was it like?"
"It was, well, confusing at first," she said with a slight frown as she thought about his question. "Waking up in someone else's life is not exactly an experience I'd recommend to anybody."
"How did you figure out that things weren't quite right?"
She felt the heat of the blood rushing to her face, and knew she was blushing brightly. No good telling him that story. "Things were just slightly…off," she said evasively.
"Uh-huh," he replied, amused. "Were you able to figure out when some of these different realities branched off from ours?"
"The most recent was a few months ago," she said. "There were others that were much longer ago." She told him the stories of waking up on the Val Jean and the Klingon ship, purposely omitting Auckland, and her voice trailing off before mentioning her last stop. Apparently, she looked a bit distracted, because the next thing that she realized was that Tom was saying her name. "What?" she asked.
"You looked a million light years away just now," he said.
"No, not a million," she replied. "Just a little over sixty thousand."
His eyes widened slightly. "You were on Earth?"
"Twice, actually," she said. "The first time, I got to see everything Auckland had to offer," he winced slightly at the mention of the Federation penal colony, "and the second time in San Francisco."
"Learn anything interesting?"
She debated for a moment if she should tell him about her visit to his family, then decided that after everything Admiral Paris had done for her, she owed it to him to pass his message along. "I was just thinking about something your father—well, your counterpart's father—said."
At the mention of his father, the carefully crafted mask fell quickly over Tom's features. "And how is the admiral?" he asked, managing to sound caustic and casual at the same time.
"He's fine," she said slowly. After a pause, she added, "He misses his son."
Paris snorted in reply. "If that isn't proof enough of your travel through alternate realities, I don't know what is." Annoyed and frustrated, he rose from his chair and paced briefly before stopping close to the corner, facing the wall.
Not moving, B'Elanna watched him try to regain his composure for a few minutes before she got up, standing behind him, not sure if she should reach out or not. They stood there in silence for another few minutes before she decided she should just say it. "Tom," she began. "He said… He wanted me to tell you that he loves you, that nothing that either of you could have said in this reality would change that."
Tom took a deep breath, resting his head against the bulkhead and closing his eyes, trying to block out the sound's of the last words his father had said to him: You're a disappointment, Thomas. Not that he had disappointed his father, which after getting arrested for getting involved with the Maquis would be no surprise, but that he was a disappointment, as if that was as much a part of his identity as saying he was a pilot, or was human.
It was another minute or so before he gathered the strength to turn and face B'Elanna again. With a questioning look in her eyes, she gently placed her hand on his cheek. He just stood there for a few seconds, drinking in the comfort of that simple gesture, before he reached up and took her hand in his, squeezing it gently before dropping it. She continued to study him for a moment before he turned away, heading back for his seat. "Why were you visiting the admiral, anyway?" he asked, the mask again firmly in place.
She used the time it took her to return to her chair to decide how much to tell him. Figuring he would get the full story from her at some point, she took a deep breath and prepared herself to tell all of it. "Yesterday was his birthday," she began. Judging from the sudden look of guilt and surprise in his eyes, the date had slipped his memory. "And he wanted to see his granddaughter on his birthday." He had been taking a drink from his beer when she said that, and it took him a few seconds to process the words and the implications. Coughing, he barely managed to avoid spitting out the drink in surprise. "Yeah," Torres said wryly, "now you know how I felt when I found out."
"What…? How…?" That seemed to be as articulate as he could manage at the moment.
"Apparently, we're married in that reality," she said dryly.
For a minute, he didn't say anything, his eyes toward a far wall but not focused on anything. "You said he misses his son," he finally said.
She nodded slowly. "That Tom Paris was a test pilot," she said. "He was working at the Test Pilot Facility at Utopia Planitia, where that B'Elanna Torres was an engineer. There was no tour on the Exeter, no Caldik Prime, neither of us had been in the Maquis. Three years ago, Captain Janeway needed a pilot who could navigate the plasma storms of the Badlands, and, well, everyone knows that Tom Paris is the best damn pilot there is." She said the last part with no small amount of sarcasm, causing both to smile wryly. "After all, it was only supposed to be a three-week mission."
"So that Voyager disappeared, too."
"Disappeared or destroyed, yeah," she said softly. "Either way, they declared everyone on Voyager dead a year ago, just like they probably did us. I told them everything about how we got pulled into the Delta Quadrant. Hopefully, the same thing happened to that Voyager. Maybe they'll be able to make contact someday, now that they know there's a reason to look." They were both thinking the same thing: they had no reason to assume that anybody was out looking for them. Although on some level, they had assumed that everyone back home would think that they had died, it seemed a little bit more real hearing that in another reality, they had been declared dead.
They continued to sit quietly for a few minutes before Tom smirked. "So, those versions of us had a daughter?"
She rolled her eyes at him, but couldn't help smiling slightly. "Yeah," she said softly. "She's a few months older than Naomi. She's adorable."
"I don't doubt it," Paris said, now fully grinning. "After all, her mother is absolutely beautiful."
She looked down at her table, unable to meet his eyes, aware that her face was turning red at the compliment that had flowed smoothly over his tongue. "She's a real handful, though," she finally said, her tone dry. "Takes after her father."
He burst out laughing. Still chuckling, he didn't say anything for a few minutes, imagining what their daughter would look like, picturing a toddler with B'Elanna's dark coloring and faint ridges. "What's her name?" he finally asked.
She looked surprised at the question. "Izzy," she said after a pause. She rolled her eyes slightly. "I think it must have been your sister who started calling her that, because I doubt any version of me would. It's actually Isela. That was my grandmother's name."
"Isela," he said slowly, trying it out. "Isela Paris. I like that." She glowered briefly at him, but didn't respond to his teasing grin.
Sensing her discomfort, he smoothly changed the subject, and they spent an indeterminate amount of time getting her caught up on the ship's gossip of the last week, laughing about who was flirting with whom and what Neelix's most recent meal most closely resembled.
At the same time, they both realized how much time had passed, surprised. Idly, B'Elanna realized that just lounging around her quarters, talking and teasing and flirting, was probably the most fun she had had in a long time. "I should probably get going," Paris finally said, sounding reluctant at the thought.
"Yeah," Torres replied. Neither moved for a moment, watching the other from across the coffee table. "Tom—" she began, at the same moment that he said, "B'Elanna—"
Both stopped, laughing slightly. "You first," she said.
He grinned. "I just wanted to say that I'm glad you're back." His smile faded, replaced by a more serious expression. "I was worried about you."
She stared at him for a moment, her head empty of all thought at the intense expression on his face. Suddenly, she could hear Admiral Paris again: He may fight with you, but he'll always fight for you.
"I saw a sampling of quite a few lives, ways things could have gone different," she finally said, her voice quiet. "Some were better than others, obviously, but no matter the circumstances, the ones where you were there were always the easiest to handle. Thank you," she paused slightly. "Thank you for being there."
He leaned forward in his chair, placing his hand on her jaw and lightly tracing her lips with his thumb. For a second, she thought he was going to kiss her, and she knew that if he did, he wouldn't be leaving that night. Coming to the same conclusion and knowing that they weren't ready for that step, he lightly brushed his lips against her forehead. "I'm not going anywhere," he promised, his voice low. Smiling slightly, he amended, "Except to my quarters, while I'm still thinking straight." Removing his hand, he stood slowly, his eyes not leaving hers until he gave her another reassuring smile and turned toward the door. Before he was close enough for it to open, he turned back toward her. "Dinner tomorrow night?"
She was about to agree, but then realized that she hadn't been in Engineering for over a week, and shook her head ruefully. "I'm probably going to be pulling doubles for awhile to get caught up," she said, as if she needed the excuse to stay in Engineering past her designated shift. "Let me know when you take a break for 'lunch'," she added, referring to the meal in the middle of Beta shift, which was actually around 2000. "I might join you."
"Looking forward to it," he said, his smile wide. "Goodnight, Torres."
"Goodnight, Tom." As the doors slid closed behind him, she finally rose from the couch and headed toward the bathroom to get ready for bed. As she pulled the covers over her, she gave a contended sigh. It may not have been the perfect life, or even the best life she had recently experienced, but it was her life.
And for the first time in a long time, she knew where it was going.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed the ride; that was a fun one to write. As I mentioned a few chapters ago, I do have a companion piece to the last reality Torres visited, a 'how they got there' type of story, but I still haven't decided if I want to post it yet, just because there are parts and concepts that are very similar to "If I Knew You Then", and I don't want it to seem as if I'm copying my previous stories. I'll let you decide. Let me know if you want to see it, and I'll see about getting it posted.