Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim to own any of the following characters, places, or events.

Author's Note: Set during the season 3 finale/season 4 opener, "Scorpion," where Harry's fighting for his life after an encounter with Species 8472.

Crossing the Threshold
by Dax's10thHost

At 1900 hours, B'Elanna knew she could avoid it no longer. Keying out of the console before her, she straightened and moved to an empty corner. When she spoke, her voice was quiet, her words carrying none of their usual authority.

"Torres to Lieutenant Carey," she said, tapping her combadge.

::Carey here. What is it, Chief?::

B'Elanna hugged her waist. "Any chance you could come in for an hour, cover for me?" Had a stranger been eavesdropping, perhaps they would have classified the request as one made between close friends.

::Sure thing. Give me ten minutes?::

"Acknowledged. And Carey…thanks."

Joe Carey's voice softened noticeably, even over the comm line. ::No problem, B'Elanna. I've got your back.::

Voyager's chief engineer drew a shuddering breath and severed the line, then busied herself with reworking her to do list. As she worked down the line, clearing, replacing, and prioritizing, her eyes avoided the first item marked personal.

Ten minutes later, the weathered but pleasant visage of Lieutenant Joe Carey breezed into view, and B'Elanna left Engineering with a nod, the click of her boots on the deck plates her only departing sound. But the warp core's thrum covered that up.

The corridors passed in a blur, much too fast for B'Elanna's taste, but she knew that walking slowly would bring more attention than it would time, so she continued at her trademark clip.

Upon reaching the turbolift, she shared it with two crewmen headed to their assignments, resigned to the fact that they'd been unlucky enough to pull the gamma shift as overtime. B'Elanna found herself grateful that fatigue put a collar on tongues. She held herself upright, as was proper for the chief engineer, until they exited on deck seven. Then she took full advantage of the 'lift's sturdy walls.

The doors slid open at deck five, and she lurched through them before she could order the machine to take her to deck two and the mess hall. Raktajino sounded nice right now. Really nice. Dealing with the Borg would do that to you.

And Species 8472.

B'Elanna shook off the sudden chill and lifted her chin. Her boots crossed the carpet, the halls snaking soundlessly by until she reached her destination. Only then did she give pause. It was quiet, this time of night. Even with all the overtime the crew was pulling, this deck remained still. Hushed, almost hallowed.

As if everyone on the ship knew what lay behind these doors before her, and avoided it.

Was it pity, she wondered, or fear, that kept them from this room? She squinted at the black letters painted neatly on the doors. Sickbay. B'Elanna shuddered. This room wasn't full of sick people. It was full of death.

The doors hissed open, and she jumped back a step.

"Sorry, didn't mean to—oh."

B'Elanna's brown eyes slid up to meet Tom Paris' blue ones. Her heart gave a little flutter. "Hi." The Cochrane. Warp ten. Breaking the threshold. Only Neelix's coffee…! The cave. Not this way. Arms catching her. She blinked.

A pause. Then—"He needs you, B'Elanna." His hand rose to frame her cheek, hovered there, then fell away. But his eyes stayed locked with hers. And she understood. "I'll be in the mess if you feel like talking." Then he left.

She wished he hadn't. But he had, and she hadn't, and she still needed to do what she'd come to do.

Inhaling, B'Elanna crossed the threshold.


B'Elanna shook her head at the Doctor's advancing form. "It's fine, Doc. I'm just here for a visit."

The EMH's urgency faded, replaced by a subroutine remarkably akin to empathy. "Ah. I see. He's over here."

As if she hadn't seen that the moment she walked in. Why had Starfleet designed these ships so the best-equipped biobed always faced the entrance? No privacy, no warning, no respite.

No release.

"You'll have to stand over here; I still have the force field erected."

She nodded and walked numbly to the perimeter, staring at the bed's occupant. The Doctor retreated to the corner and resumed his work, squinting and inputting while leaving her to her…what?

A white sheet, from toes to torso. Tanned arms, once muscled and plying the console, now limp against his sides. The tortured rise and fall of his chest, wreaking havoc with her emotions. But his face…his face was the worst.

Roped with yellow and molded green, interspersed with flecks of red and glistening all over with the sweat of death. Not young and friendly like it always was, like she could count on it being, but corded and grotesque, eaten away one skin cell at a time. And those eyes…

She bit her lip and swallowed the taste of blood.

But she didn't look away.

Oh, Harry. Harry, what have they done to you? How could they do this, someone so young and loveable as you?

It was wrong. So wrong.

But what could she do about it?

"What's your name, Maquis?" Arms pulling her out of the hole, onto the arid surface, coughing and dirty, but alive, and on their way back to the stars…where they belonged. They had worked together.

Those black eyes dancing. Smile bending his lips, laugh blending with hers. Voice soft as they worked, talking about family and home. His sympathy, but not pity. Never pity.

Jokes, fun, easy camaraderie. Late nights and aching backs, ribbing and banter, and teasing over Jessen or the wrong twin. His knack for getting her to stop, eat, sleep, smile. Crack a joke when she most needed one, or knock some sense through her ridges.

A friendship.

An unlikely one.

B'Elanna smiled. A small smile, a tremulous one. But still a smile. She lifted her hand, fingers splayed, and held it before her, where Harry could see it. She was as close to the barrier as she could get without setting off its sensors.

Had she been watching, B'Elanna would have seen the Doctor open his mouth and step forward, then wilt back to normal once her fingers stayed put. Somehow, he knew that the kind of crossing B'Elanna was doing could never aggravate a computerized force-field.

Twenty minutes later, B'Elanna Torres whispered her farewell and left sickbay, heading once again to the turbolift. But this time, she requested it take her to deck two.