Chapter Five - Breaking the Surface
Creatures from the Jurassic Period would not have looked out of place here. In fact, she was surprised Tom hadn't thought to include some. Pterodactyls flying overhead. Or perhaps some plesiosaurs gliding through the water.
B'Elanna floated on her back, a good thirty metres out from where the surf met the clean, crisp sand of the beach. Tom had wisely chosen Hawaii for this afternoon of relaxation. Unfortunately, Samoa might be yet another holodeck program that she was destined to never revisit, tainted now as it was. Sand was sand, but the dramatic backdrop of Kauai was unmistakable, and she could never confuse the two programs. If she hadn't taken a shuttle trip over the real island one weekend during her short-lived stint at the Academy, she'd have thought Tom had taken liberties with the holoprogram's parameters – again. It had a primeval aura about it. Swimming off the real Honopu beach back on Earth was inadvisable due to the perilous currents, but of course on the holodeck the safeties had compensated, and the water flowed gently. Anyhow, the holographic water would dematerialise if the life signs detectors picked up any problem.
Even before entering the water, she'd felt buoyant. Despite the failure of the latest scheme to get Voyager home fast and, prior to that, nearly losing Tom on an away mission, everything seemed brighter. Clearer. The scattered pieces of a broken whole were slotting back together.
After allowing the wash of the tide to move her closer inshore, she lowered a foot to gauge the depth. Contact. The water was still up to her shoulders, but she could stand. She took in the scene: sunshine that wouldn't burn her; water that couldn't drown her; and a man that wasn't going to give up on her, no matter how much she screwed things up.
Harry, the Delaney sisters and Mariah Henley had joined the two of them for a couple of hours of swimming, surfing and sunbathing. At the moment, only B'Elanna and Tom were in the water, the others taking refreshments on the shore. Harry seemed to be enjoying the attention of two of the three women, and B'Elanna was pleased to see him looking so at ease. He'd been deeply shaken by the prospect that his miscalculations with the quantum slipstream's phase variance could have caused Voyager to be destroyed and all on board to be killed. Over a game of durotta, B'Elanna had offered reassurance and taken the opportunity to confide in him the reality of her own recent problems. Harry had promised her that she had his full support - that anything he could do to help, she only had to ask.
Encouraged by Harry's acceptance, she'd spoken with Neelix. The Talaxian had fussed again and apologised profusely that he'd failed in his job as morale officer. Once more, B'Elanna had ended up doing far more consoling than being consoled, but that suited her just fine, and it felt as if a weight had been lifted from her.
She'd spent a cathartic evening with Chakotay reminiscing about their lost friends, sharing thoughts and memories that only another who had experienced the same events could truly understand. The Doctor's advice had been sound, not that she was going to make a point of telling him so - especially as she now only had to check in with him once a week.
Tom swam leisurely in her direction, having racked up a series of lengths between two marker buoys, whilst she'd been content to just float and unwind for a while. Making a quick estimate of his current distance, factoring in his speed and the drift of the tide, she inhaled deeply, dived under the water and powered on a convergent course. When she broke the surface, he was there, right beside her.
"So, you do remember how to swim," he gasped.
"I just didn't want to make you look slow," she countered, her own breathing rate barely elevated by the exertion. That third lung did come in handy at times. The water was a little deeper here, not so deep that Tom couldn't stand, but not shallow enough for her. She laid her hands on his shoulders to assist in keeping her head above the surface.
They rested there for a few moments, whilst he recovered, bobbing up and down with the steady rhythm of the incoming waves, in easy silence. They'd done a lot of talking lately. In one exhausting, emotional night, after an inadvisable but facilitative glass of wine, she'd recounted every last harrowing, previously unspoken detail of her holodeck misadventures to him. The groundwork already laid, he was better prepared to hear it than he'd been during her earlier attempt at full disclosure. They'd come to the mutual agreement that both had made mistakes, but that he shouldn't castigate himself for not realising what she'd been going through and that she'd not been fully culpable for the secrets and the lies.
But, there was one thing left unsaid. A sentiment she should have expressed long before now. "Thank you."
"Being there for me. Being so patient with me. Everything."
"You'd have done the same for me."
She smiled. "Yeah, but maybe with a little less patience."
"Maybe." He studied her intensely, and she held his gaze. "Just promise me one thing."
"No more secrets?"
This time the alarm bells stayed silent. She nodded. "No more secrets." Hopefully, it was a promise she could keep.
He tipped his head in the direction of the beach. "Race you to shore?"
A challenge she couldn't refuse. She grinned. "You're on."
Tom lounged on the sand, cool drink in hand, back resting on a well-placed rock. Surfing had been ditched in favour of volleyball, at Harry's insistence. Tom watched with amusement as B'Elanna and Henley won a second set, yet again defeating a dejected-looking Harry and his playing partner, Jenny Delaney. If Harry had stayed focused instead of looking off the court every few seconds, then maybe his team would have been able to win at least a point. Then again, B'Elanna was playing particularly aggressively today, and, even if Harry had brought his best game, there was a distinct possibility that he and Jenny would not have stood a chance.
Watching B'Elanna today, sociable and competitive, listening to the friendly banter she was throwing in Harry's direction, Tom realised he'd been wrong when he'd compared depression to a broken leg or the Tarkalean flu – or not wrong per se, but he'd made an extreme, though well-intended, oversimplification. Depression wasn't just another illness. It was an insidious blight that had, for a time, changed the very nature of who B'Elanna was. It had stolen her away from him, and, now that he had her back, he was determined to do everything in his power to keep her well.
Obviously noticing that the game wasn't holding much entertainment for the others, B'Elanna graciously tossed the ball to Megan, who sat sipping a cocktail on the sidelines, and indicated that the recipient of Harry's unrequited longing should take her place in the next game.
"Was that just for fun? Or were you playing for replicator rations?" Tom quipped as B'Elanna thumped down beside him. She seized the glass from his hand and thirstily drained the rest of his soda.
"I don't think we'll have to endure Neelix's cooking for the next week," she said, with a grin. "Harry never learns."
"You're right there," Tom agreed. His friend might be a whole lot worldlier than when he'd first set foot on Voyager, but there were some things that he had still to realise - that pining after the wrong twin was going to get him nowhere, for a start.
Tom considered. He should probably feel a little guilty that Harry and Jenny would have to feast on the fruits of the galley, whilst he and B'Elanna enjoyed their rations. But, if it meant that he and B'Elanna could eat alone, in the privacy of either his or her quarters, Tom wasn't going to feel too bad about it.
"So, my replicator or yours?" he asked, and, before B'Elanna could reply, he added, "And speaking of which, how do you like your new quarters?" The relocation had been agreed upon that morning, but it had slipped his mind to ask her about it until now.
She rolled her eyes. "They're really not all that different to the old ones," she grumbled, "Though at least I've got away from that chronically-malfunctioning sonic shower."
"And where exactly did you end up?"
"Deck nine, section twelve."
"Deck nine? That's five decks below me." Any further down and she'd have been billeted in engineering itself. Still, it was only a turbolift away.
"I had to swap with Mulcahey," she explained. "Nobody else was keen to transfer, and I wasn't going to pull rank and have Chakotay move someone who was unwilling."
Tom smirked. "Well, I sure hope I don't forget you've moved and pay Mulcahey a visit in the middle of the night." It had been quite a while since he'd risked making any such unannounced midnight appearances, but he decided it was time to give the idea some air.
B'Elanna smacked him on his bare shoulder, her hand lingering after the fact. "Actually, I was hoping you might stop by later and . . . help me unpack." The definite sparkle in her eyes was tempered slightly by the halting cadence of her words.
"Unpack?" he queried with another smirk, daring to believe that they were both transmitting on the same wavelength, knowing that she hadn't had many belongings to transfer. She nodded, fighting, it seemed, to suppress a smile.
She narrowed her eyes in a parody of concentration. "Or now."
He didn't miss a beat. "I hope you'll be providing dinner."
"Sure, if you're bringing dessert." The sparkle ignited, unmistakeably, to a mischievous gleam.
"Then, it would be my pleasure," he said, transfixed as the gleam became wildfire and she leaned in close to whisper a proposition in his ear that had him scrambling to his feet and pulling her up onto hers in a flash. He called for the exit, unsure which he found more alluring: the wild promise in her eyes, or the flirtatious lilt of her voice.
Thankfully, now, he could enjoy them both.