Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim to own any of the following characters, places, or events. Just the story.
Author's Note: A Kim/Torres friendship piece spun from the aftermath of "Extreme Risk." Follows the repercussions of Harry's feelings in "The Time Between," though it isn't essential that you read them before reading this.
Two weeks, and it's getting ridiculous.
True, she knows he'll need time. She needs time. They all need time. But how much time? How long until they see that she's the same B'Elanna Torres? She's still their spitfire chief engineer with a chip on her shoulder the size of the Horsehead Nebula. She hasn't changed.
She watches him from across the mess hall, watches the way his shoulders slump, the thin seal of his lips, the see-not-see glaze of his eyes, black and glassy like pain. She watches him, and she aches.
She hasn't changed, but that's not what Harry believes.
The food on her plate sends swirls of steam into the air, marking time's march with ever slower and less intricate patterns. The ribbons unfold into the recycled air until even they fade into nothing. Nothing, just like she's feltnotfelt for the past five months.
Harry. Oh Harry, what have I done to you?
Why did she come today? She isn't even hungry.
I came because Tom's watching me, and if I don't act normal, he'll want to know why. The Captain's watching me too. And Chakotay. And Neelix. And maybe even Seven and Tuvok. Definitely the Doctor.
But not Harry.
Of all the people she hurt with her secret addiction, Harry's wounds pain her the most. Everyone thinks that Tom and Chakotay are the victims of her almost-tragedy, but she knows the truth of her lies.
It was Harry, in all his baby-faced ways, who suffered the fatal bullet.
She looks at him and can't wipe the image of a falling sword from her mind. Or maybe that ancient French machine—the guillotine. Yes. Her desperation to feel led Harry up those steps, forced him to his knees, and bared his neck to the hungry thunking blade without allowing him his final words.
Oh, Kahless. Kahless, she's killed him. He'll never forgive her now.
Strangely, she doesn't care about the forgiveness so much as she cares about him. She will gladly live as an outcast on this ship for the rest of their 70-year voyage if she can just rinse the pain of betrayal from his eyes.
The pain of her betrayal.
Oh Harry. Harry…
The food is cold and limp and steamless on her plate, dried out and crusting like a triangle of bread left to shrivel in the dirt. But she doesn't care; all she can see is Harry, sitting there pretending to read. Alone and glassy-eyed. And betrayed.
I have to talk to him. But he won't want to see me. He won't even listen.
He never will.
But isn't that why I have to try?
He doesn't look up until she's almost on top of him, and when he does see her, the doors slam shut on his face. A single, sudden wham that echoes through the chasms of her regret. Everything closed, except for his eyes.
And they are daggers plunging into her body.
"Mind if I sit down?" she asks, and he just stares. She fidgets, crossing and uncrossing her arms, wanting him to say something. To let her off the hook. Tell her it's okay to sit down.
But he stays silent.
"Don't what?" she wheezes, as if she's been punched.
"Don't try to apologize B'Elanna. I'm not ready to forgive you."
Apologies are all she has.
"It would be better if you left me alone right now."
Her shoulders sag a little deeper. "When can I talk to you again?"
"I don't know."
"It's been two weeks."
"It took you five months."
"That's different, Harry. You can't—"
"Understand? No, I can't, B'Elanna. And I don't really want to. Because it scares me."
"I'm getting better, Harry. I'm not…" she swallows. "I'm not risking my life anymore."
"I can't believe that. Not right now. Not yet."
She wishes she hadn't come. That she'd just stayed in Engineering, that she'd scrubbed the plasma manifolds instead. But isn't this what she wanted? To be honest with him, and have him be honest with her? To lance this wound before it could fester any longer?
The pain is more than she bargained for.
"Our friendship is important to me, Harry. I don't want to lose it."
"Neither do I."
"But… it needs to flounder a bit, is that what you're saying?"
"It needs to be real."
"Yeah…" she sighs, nails digging into her ribcage. "I understand."
"Then you'll understand why I have to walk away."
But as he takes his plate and leaves, she still staves off the pain of the empty table. And the chair that she never occupied.