Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim to own any of the following characters, places, or events.
Author's Note: Set at the end of season 3's "Displaced," with references to "Faces," "Threshold," and "Blood Fever." Also a brief allusion to my fic "The Gift" (however, it is not necessary to have read it to enjoy this piece).
South Pole Sunrise
From March to September, the South Pole sees no sunshine. Moonlight is its only illumination. During its summer, the sun is continuously above the horizon.
It was the burn around her wrists that haunted her.
When she closed her eyes, she could still smell the blood, catch the throb of her shoulder—even swallow a cough against the dust invading her lungs.
But always, it circled back to her wrists and his hands. Human manacles, they'd shackled her, pinning her arms between them with a force both of them knew couldn't last. It had been the only barrier between him and something much more harmful.
To both of them.
Her boots clicked against the stone, carrying her out of the shadows chin first, eyes shifting. Her fist tapped against her leg like an off-beat pendulum. She tried to loosen it.
She saw him long seconds later, soaking in the holographic sunshine. He'd just taken a sip of something when she rounded the corner. There was an empty chair beside him, and she realized belatedly she'd probably better sit in it. She did. Her back didn't touch the cushions.
She hugged her legs, then slid them down. Crossed her ankles. "Nice day."
"Beautiful." They both faced forward.
She sighed and wished it back. "Things were…pretty chilly there for a while."
"I guess they were." She felt him looking at her, and knew she was strangling her fingers.
"Feels good to be warm again."
A long pause. Fists tapping. Ankles twitching. "Yeah. It sure does."
He finally looked away. She looked back.
I should say something.
The thought skittered through her nerves like a spider. She smashed it.
A zipper pricked white-hot in her elbow. Moisture crept along her palms. You'd think that after all the cold she'd endured, she'd never sweat again.
Say something already. Whether she meant her or her companion, B'Elanna didn't know.
She darted a glance at him. Kahless, Torres, this is ridiculous. Just open your mouth and say something. But what could she possibly say that wouldn't sound forced in light of…everything? It wasn't just today that had stuffed this elephant between them.
"On your feet, Lieutenant. That's an order." He'd locked his hands around her shoulders this time, as if he remembered the caves and the way he'd had to touch her to stop her. B'Elanna blinked. Of course he remembered. What kind of petaQ forgot a day like that?
But did it bother him as much as her?
She snuck another glance at him, feeling the blood rise to her cheeks. B'Elanna Torres never blushed. She swallowed. Since when could Tom Paris do this to her?
Since last year.
Oh crap. Not that again.
But it was too late. Already, the embarrassment rose like bile in her throat. She'd been such a fool that day, not even trying to hide her terror at his condition. It was a wonder the Doctor hadn't noticed and made her life miserable every chance he got. And Tom…well, he'd been a little preoccupied turning into a lizard.
A lizard. Who'd ever heard of such a thing? It was stupid.
She only hated it because of what it made her realize.
And when he'd collapsed to the floor…Kahless, the memory still made her stomachs plunge.
That was the day she'd fallen in love with him. Or…at least the day she'd realized it. If she wanted to be completely honest, she'd probably fallen in love with him two years ago. As a human, violently ill. With a smooth forehead. In a prison camp. Which really didn't count.
She thought of the padd hidden in her engineer's kit and knew better.
He was watching her again. She waited, then darted a look of her own. The sight of him leaning back on the cushions, sun-burnished and handsome, was enough to turn all three of her lungs into a vacuum.
Sun-burnished? Handsome? She was worse than Harry when he started talking about Libby.
He was watching again. And she was still gawping at him. She'd done it now. How long had she been sitting here? Three minutes, maybe? No. More like one. Odd how memories could do that to you.
She was still looking at him. And him at her. She would never live this down.
B'Elanna opened her mouth to say something, blinked, and closed it with a snap. He'd looked away. And now his eyes were shut, face tilted to catch the sun. Just…there. Being.
"Yeah, I know. You're afraid that your big, scary Klingon side might have been showing. Well, I saw it up close. And you know, it wasn't so terrible. In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing it again someday."
Her hands were quiet now. So were her legs.
B'Elanna smiled. Closed her eyes. Let her back touch the cushions.
It was enough to be.