Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim to own any of the following characters, places, or events.
Author's Note: Set immediately after the events of "Lineage." Excerpt at the beginning from my original poem, "excuses," © 2011
"…a winging flutter
hand to belly, wonder to lips
bespeaking life within…"
B'Elanna left Sickbay in a daze. As she stepped into their quarters, hand still pressed to her midsection, the only thought that registered was she didn't remember getting on the turbolift. Or walking through the halls. Or even opening the door.
She crossed to the viewport and stood looking out at the warping stars, the pressure of the couch cushions against her knees holding her upright more than back from the glass. Her vision turned fuzzy, and the streaking starfield became the only indication that time still passed normally.
When her combadge chirped, she made no move to answer it. Only gasped as another flutter played deep inside her.
She flattened the hand on her stomach until she felt the hardness of her wedding ring through the layers of uniform. And still, she tried to press closer. As if she could reach inside and touch this…thing she couldn't quite dare to name yet.
Swallowing, B'Elanna sank to the couch and ran her fingers across her belly. Wondering. Dreaming. Could she…? When would…? Oh. Oh! Another one.
B'Elanna closed her eyes and jumped as something hot dripped to her cheeks. She was crying. Crying. She'd done way too much of that lately. Enough to last her several years. But…these tears were different; they weren't angry and broken, or even frightened. They filled her with hope. They set off fireworks inside her chest, made her want to leap to her feet and dance in joyous abandon. There was nothing, nothing like this feeling. Not in all the galaxy.
. . . .
Tom fiddled with the helm controls, dying to send Voyager into a flat-out barrel roll. They were holding steady at warp seven, but he had noticed an unusual star cluster not far from their current position. Knowing Janeway, it wouldn't take much to pique her interest, and if he could just get permission to drop out of warp…
He was halfway through imagining each bridge officer's reaction when the comm system demanded everyone's attention. Drat. And he'd just gotten to Tuvok.
::Nicoletti to the Bridge.::
Tom's fingers stilled their tap dance, and he cocked an ear toward the exchange. "Janeway here. What is it, Lieutenant? Shouldn't B'Elanna be on duty right now?"
::That's why I'm calling, Captain. She said she was going to swing by Sickbay before coming on duty. That was three hours ago, and she hasn't checked in since.::
The Captain's eyes narrowed. "And you've tried contacting her?"
::Yes, ma'am. No answer. The computer says she's in her quarters, but…::
Tom's heart rate increased by about warp factor four, and he snapped back to the helm. After everything that had happened, surely she hadn't…she couldn't be…heck, he would kill her.
"Say no more, Lieutenant. I'll take care of it. I'm sure she's fine, just a little preoccupied."
::Yes, Captain. Sorry to bother you.::
"Nonsense. Concern is never a bother. Janeway out."
The silence on the bridge was almost too much for him, and he felt eyes boring holes in his back. A lot of them. He swung around. "Captain—"
"Permission granted, Tom. Keep us posted." Her look said more—a lot more—but Tom didn't take the time to listen. He just bounded from his seat and into the turbolift.
Two seconds after the doors closed, he commed Sickbay.
::What can I do for you this time, Lieutenant? While I do have a treatment for your wife's morning sickness, I can't help you with your anxious father syndrome. However—::
"Stow the gab, Doc. It's B'Elanna. Did she stop by Sickbay this morning?"
::As a matter of fact she did. Why do you ask?::
Tom paced the step and a half he could and fisted his hands. "Did she seem okay when she left?" Stupid question to ask a doctor, especially this one. Tom braced himself for the caustic reply.
::She seemed fine. Better than fine, actually. You might even say that—::
"Got it, Doc. Thanks for your help. I'll let you know when I find her." Tom cut the channel with a slap and plowed down the halls. He'd try their quarters first, since that was where the computer had said she'd be.
She could have taken her combadge off, though. That's certainly what Sue Nicoletti thought she'd done. But why? What reason would Bee have to do that unless…endless scenarios, not one of them comforting, wreaked havoc on Tom's mind. By the time he turned the last corner, he was emotional road kill. Punching the controls, he charged into the room, expecting something—he didn't know what. But what met him certainly wasn't it.
His faltered, then nearly face-planted in his haste to reach her. "Bee? Bee, are you all right?" He knelt at the couch, hand cupping her cheek. It was sticky, and when her eyes fluttered open, he saw their reddened edges. She moaned something unintelligible, and his heart tripped on its way up his throat.
"B'Elanna," he murmured, moving to pick her up. Before he could, though, she bolted upright and seized his hand, pressing it against her stomach. When he tried to pull back, she resisted.
"Wait? Wait for what, Bee? What is this all about? Why are you crying?"
She shook her head, eyes focused inward. "Just wait," she breathed.
Seconds stretched into minutes, until she tensed and snapped her gaze back to his. No, tensed wasn't the right word. She came alive.
"There—do you feel it?" She was breathless. Sparkling.
Tom frowned. "Feel what?"
She pressed his hand closer, and he winced as her nails bit into his knuckles. He shook his head. "I…don't get it, Bee. What am I supposed to be feeling?"
"The baby, Tom! Our baby! Our daughter!"
Tom's pulse drummed in his ear. Their daughter? Moving? So soon? Freeing his hand, he gripped her shoulders. "Are you sure it's the baby, B'Elanna? I can't feel anything."
Her eyes dimmed. "You can't?"
He shook his head. She stood and paced, fingers rubbing her temples. "But it's her, Tom; I know it is. It…how could it be anything else?"
Torn between wanting to shake her or kiss her, Tom swallowed the crumbs of his anger and said, "I don't know, B'Elanna. We're both new at this, remember?" He tried to smile, but his brush with panic kept it from being genuine. Not that it mattered; her gaze seemed tethered to the carpet.
She halted mid-pace, hand flying to her belly. Watching her transform again, Tom's lungs stopped working. "Try," she begged, reaching for his hand. "You've got to. It's…" the look on her face finished her words.
Heart begging to be included, Tom allowed her to pull his fingers back to her midsection. She stared at him, eyes so full of hope that it hurt. He gave it two minutes before he shook his head. "Nothing, Bee."
She was crushed. "But…the Doctor—he could."
Ah. That explained it. He smoothed his thumb along her cheek. "The Doc's a hologram. It makes sense that he has super-sensitive hands." This had to be big for his engineer wife not to realize that.
B'Elanna slumped into an Oh sort of posture, gaze trailing back to the floor. Tom regarded her with compassion, and decided to risk hugging her. The worst she could do was walk out the door and claim asylum in her office.
Instead of pulling away from him, though, B'Elanna stepped into his embrace, resting her head on his chest. He noticed she still had a hand on her stomach, and pulled her closer. Even now, with disappointment hovering over her, B'Elanna was different. Alive. He pressed his cheek into her hair, inhaling her scent. Why had he worried? Bee was fine. Better than fine. Tom smiled as he realized the Doctor had been right. Then he frowned, knowing the overgrown photon would expect an apology. Demand one, more likely.
His combadge chirped, shattering the moment. ::Bridge to Paris.::
At the sound of his captain's voice, heat flooded his cheeks. B'Elanna grinned and tapped his badge before moving to the couch.
"Paris here. Sorry Captain. I, uh…I guess I forgot." He winced. Way to sound professional. He could already feel the sting of Harry's jokes.
::Did you find her, Tom?::
That was Chakotay. "Yes, Commander. And she's fine." He stole a glance at B'Elanna. Found himself impaled on her glare. He swallowed. Of course she would choose now to snap out of her reverie.
::Don't rush back, Lieutenant.::
::Ayala offered to take the rest of your shift. You're off the hook.:: Somehow, Tom doubted that Mike Ayala had offered to do anything. Accepted, maybe. But not offered. That required words.
B'Elanna's glare bored into him, and he scrabbled. "Really, that's unnecessary. B'Elanna's fine. I'll be up in a few minutes." He cut the channel and eyed his wife. She seemed in full possession of her faculties now.
"So," she began, rising, "checking up on me, were you?" She advanced on him like a tigress stalking her prey. Hadn't the Doctor mentioned something about hormones and mood swings? This certainly qualified.
His tongue felt like sandpaper. "Actually, it was Nicoletti. She commed the Bridge ready to sic Tuvok on you." He sounded about as casual as a beached whale.
"Oh really?" she purred, only inches away now. "I'll have to remember that." Finally, he met her gaze. And nearly collapsed in relief at the mischief he saw glinting back at him.
The tigress pounced, capturing his lips with enough force to leave him breathless. He wasn't the only one. Too soon, B'Elanna pulled back, eyes sparkling. "You'd better hurry, flyboy. It's been a few minutes. The Captain might ask questions. And you know how Chakotay is…" She laughed at the face he pulled, then gave him a push.
"Besides…we'll be here when you get back."
. . . .
The door whisked into place, concealing Tom from view. She let out a breath and turned, hands on her hips. She hadn't felt the baby move since Tom hugged her, but the Doc had warned that the movements would be erratic. Sometimes days apart, at this early stage. So she wasn't worried. Just disappointed.
Her stomachs growled—an entirely different sensation—and she realized she hadn't eaten breakfast. The replicator was tempting. Too tempting. Crossing to the machine, she ordered enough banana pancakes to wipe out a week's rations. She justified it with eating for two.
As she ate, she reviewed her conversation with Tom. It felt good to be cared for, especially by her engineers. She'd have to remember—"Actually, it was Nicoletti." Nicoletti! B'Elanna choked on her bite of pancake and almost got maple syrup up her nose. Recovering, she smacked her combadge. "Torres to Nicoletti."
::Hey, Boss! Glad to hear you're okay. Both of you.::
"Sue, listen. I'm sorry for leaving you hanging like that. I'll be down as soon as I finish lunch, okay?"
::No need. Lieutenant Carey came in after I, uh…well, after I commed the Bridge about you. He said not to worry; he'll cover for you."
This from the guy whose nose she'd broken. "Tell him he doesn't have to do that. I'm fine, really. I can be down there in ten minutes."
A muffled comment followed by masculine laughter carried over the line. Then Sue's bright voice. ::Don't worry, Boss. He said he remembers how his wife was when she was pregnant. And that he owes you one.::
One what? One broken nose? B'Elanna's heart warmed. "Right back at him. Tell him…tell him thanks."
::Will do, Boss. Nic out.::
B'Elanna finished her pancakes with a smile.
. . . .
Tom stepped into their quarters and heaved a sigh. "Ahh," he breathed. "Home sweet home." Silence met the cliché. "B'Elanna?" He stepped farther into the room, blue-eyed gaze sweeping the cozy quarters. Passing over the table, couch, and darkened refresher, they came to rest on the bed. He smiled. Discarding his boots and jumpsuit, he padded over in his regulation undershirt and shorts.
B'Elanna lay on her back, eyes closed and arm thrown above her head. A padd lay on her stomach, its display in sleep mode. Ah, Bee, he thought, heart smiling. Not even dinnertime, and you've worn yourself out. He eased the padd from under her fingers and set it aside, then quelled his hunger with a childhood favorite—PB&J. After a quick shower, he slid into bed and allowed himself to relax for the first time that day.
Tom lingered over B'Elanna, wanting to memorize the moment. He smoothed the hair from her cheek, fingering it as he considered their future. What would their daughter look like? Would she have B'Elanna's coloring and his eyes, or blonde hair and B'Elanna's eyes? The Doc had told them he could advance the computer's holographic rendering of their daughter, but Tom didn't want to spoil the surprise. For some reason, the unknowns made it more exciting. The anticipation more...precious.
His eyes wandered back to his wife, pausing on the slight part of her lips. The urge to kiss her was overwhelming, but he hated the thought of waking her. Instead, he rolled her so her back fit flush with his chest. He tucked his arm around her waist and slipped his hand beneath hers, where it still rested on her belly.
As he lay there and imagined what it would be like to be B'Elanna, able to feel their child moving within her, it hit him. All afternoon, it had bothered him as he sat at the helm, fingers drumming out his boredom. He'd been so caught up in making sure B'Elanna wasn't doing something crazy that he hadn't pinpointed the change in her.
And there had been a change; it was the reason he'd felt comfortable leaving her alone all day, even after she'd gone AWOL that morning. Tears flooded his eyes as he realized it.
The joy in her voice, the shine to her eyes, the bounce in her step...they all told him one thing.
After thirty years, B'Elanna had found a home.