Summary: J/P and P/T, AU, Angst. Rated PG. [In response to Jupiter Station Narrative Challenge #250: B'Elanna leaves Tom and their daughter because she is afraid she's going to be a bad mother, and Tom turns to Kathryn for comfort.] In this story, ‘Endgame’ never happened, and they’re still trying to get back home. Part 1/?
Disclaimer: Star Trek is owned by Paramount, not me.
Archiving: Sure, just ask me first.
By Daffnie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It all happened so fast. One day B’Elanna would have easily given her life to keep our daughter safe, and the next, she seemed detached from not only the baby, but herself and me, as well. Naturally, I asked what was wrong; I asked why she was acting like this. She said that she couldn’t handle such a stressful life anymore. I blamed this on myself, saying that I was the guilty party for not helping out as much as I should have with the baby. B’Elanna said I had nothing to do with it and that she was the problem here. In a voice so uncharacteristically fragile, she admitted to me that she was scared of raising a child. Then she continued by saying, “Tom, I don’t know if I can take this much longer. I’ve been a terrible mother and an even worse wife. I don’t deserve you, and you need someone who can always be there when you need them. I’ve been so caught up in my work that I feel like I’m neglecting my personal life altogether, and I don’t know any better solution than to leave.”
I’ll confess that at that time, I actually thought she was kidding. I’ve always believed that our relationship was stable, and to have this come up so suddenly...well, it just didn’t seem real.
“Leave? You mean you want to be separated?”
“No, Tom. I want a divorce.”
That’s the moment my heart was torn from my chest. I instantly felt empty.
“You’re not actually serious, are you?”
B’El looked at me with an expression I’ve never seen on her face before. I saw tears well up in her eyes.
“I’m so sorry, but this has to be done. I don’t want to keep pretending that my life’s okay when it’s far from it. It’s like I’m stuck with my feet in the mud while everything around me is going by so fast. I can’t keep up, and I don’t want to drag you and Miral down with me. It just wouldn’t be fair for you guys when it’s solely my fault.”
“Tom, don’t. I know you don’t want to accept this, and neither did I at first. I wanted to think that I could just put my thoughts aside so my family would come first, but eventually the reality of the situation hit. I’m too selfish, Tom. It’s everybody’s sin, and it’s the hardest one to get over. That’s why it’d better for me to go.”
Then she got up and left. I don’t know why I didn’t do anything to stop her. Maybe it’s because I still refused to believe this was real. However, that night I somehow put my disbelief aside and let the truth sink in. I went to our...*my* bed, curled up, and wept. I must have cried myself to sleep because the next thing I knew, my alarm was going off. I suppose I was thankful for having an early-morning duty shift that day, thinking that it would take my mind off my misery.
Unfortunately, when I got to the helm, I felt just as bad as I had the night before, and I continued to feel that way for the entire day. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. All I wanted to do was roll back the clock to a time when we were the happiest...our wedding day.
The past left, and it took me with it. I went to the mess hall after duty was over, and Neelix, as usual, did the best he could to cheer me up. I never told him exactly what was going on, but I think he knew. You can’t keep a secret on a small ship with lots of people who love to talk.
After dinner (or at least what little I had eaten), I went to Sickbay to pick up Miral. The doc had been extremely kind to keep an eye out on her while B’Elanna and I were working, and I knew that I needed to go get her even though it was a Tuesday evening...that’s usually B’El’s night to watch her.
I suppose I should have been happy, though. At least I wouldn’t be lonely.
I spent the remainder of that day sitting in a rocking chair with Miral in my arms. She had her mother’s chocolate brown eyes and hints of Klingon ridges. She was so beautiful...which only reminded me more of B’Elanna. I began to cry again, and a tear landed on Miral’s face. When I wiped it off, she smiled at me (ah, the innocence of childhood) and reached for my finger. I let her hold on to it, and I in turn hugged her tighter to my chest. I kissed her forehead as she began falling asleep, and I doubted if I would ever hold B’Elanna this close again.
A few days later, I wasn’t as heart-broken as I had been before because I saw little of B’Elanna. We purposely avoided situations where we might see each other. This meant that every day I went to get Miral after work and then headed straight for my quarters, not coming out until the next morning to be on duty. Once, however, Harry invited me to the mess hall for lunch so I could talk, and we did, but it was so difficult that I only stayed a few minutes. I retreated back to my quarters, and that’s when I discovered a message on my computer. Seeing that it was from B’Elanna, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to open it or not. I was becoming more angry every minute at her for leaving us, but on the other hand, it might be a plea to take her back. I guess I was aspiring towards the latter, but it wasn’t worth the effort to get my hopes when I saw that it was nothing of the sort.
It was a letter that said:
I realize that this must be difficult for you, but there is nothing I could have ever done to make it any easier. Although I never let you see it, my life was turning upside-down. I suppose I’m just not ready to take on the responsibilities of a child.
I’ve been thinking about this, and I think I’ve figured out why.
When we came aboard Voyager and were offered a chance to become officers in place of our run-about lives as Maquis, I wasn’t ready. But after a while, I realized that it was the best thing that ever happened to be.
...Then I got to know you better, and I thought that took its place. I believed I had it all, but the truth was that dating someone only complicated everything I had become. It was a struggle for me to be accepted by the Starfleet crew, but you were never judgmental in the first place. Why I’m so uncomfortable with that, I’m not positive, but I guess it’s because everything in my life has been an on-going struggle. Maybe I just can’t handle things when they’re spoon fed to me. This must sound strange to you, an Admiral’s son who got pretty much anything he wanted, but that’s simply the way I am.
When Miral was born, I knew it would be yet another entanglement. That’s what I saw her as...a complication. I wanted to convince myself that I would be the best mother possible, but it didn’t work out as I hoped. Perhaps I never wanted to be close to our daughter because she looks too much like me, and I’m afraid that I would be a bad influence on her. I want her to feel accepted, but if I were to raise her (with all of my problems from my past that shadow me), I think she would adopt my views. ...And that’s the scariest thing that could happen. I want her to grow up happy and be proud of herself, but that can only happen if she is raised by a human who won’t discriminate against anyone. I’ll admit that I can’t let go of my old prejudices towards all those ‘pure-blooded’ people around...even if they never did anything bad against me. Being a hybrid has made my life miserable, and it didn’t help any when my father left.
Yes, I know that what I’m doing is almost the same thing. It’s part of the reason why I get so angry sometimes at myself, but I want Miral to grow up with a happy family. If she never knows me, things will be better for her. She must never know I’m her mother, Tom. I don’t want her being ashamed of me, even if I have earned that shame, and I don’t want her looking like a freak. She doesn’t deserve to be confused with her mixed heritage when one half is missing.
...And that’s why I’ve begun her DNA resequencing. She will start looking more human within a day or two, and the process will be complete after about a week. It cannot be reversed.
I regret leaving you, Tom, but I feel it’s better to leave Miral in your care. Find someone good to you and someone who will raise our daughter properly. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me for what I’ve done.
The next day, I brought Miral to the doctor. What B’Elanna said was true; the process was irreversible, and our daughter would soon be fully human. Chakotay later asked if I wanted to press charges; I said no. Although I knew what she did was wrong, it didn’t seem to be my job to punish her for something she believed in so strongly.
I was sitting in Fair Haven’s bar, trying to forget my troubles over some sour-tasting synthohol, when I heard the door open. I looked up from my glass and saw Harry coming in. It must have been raining outside (since when was that in the program?) because he shook off an umbrella and set it aside. He looked around the bar until he spotted me and came over. I nodded towards a seat, and he took the hint.
“Hi, Harry,” I said weakly as he sat down. “What brings you here? You deleted Maggie months ago.”
He looked at me with mild annoyance and said, “You know that’s not why I came here, Tom.”
My gaze focused on the scratched-up tabletop.
“I don’t understand why you will let B’Elanna get away with what she did. How can you just let that go?”
I shrugged, unable to come up with an answer that would make any sense to him. I knew that she shouldn’t have done the resequencing, but at the same time, I can see where she’s coming from. And I didn’t want it to seem like I wanted to press charges just to get back at her for leaving Miral and I.
“It’s not something I can really explain.”
I knew that wasn’t the kind of response he was anticipating, but it was the best I had to offer.
“Well, do you want to talk about it? Get it off your chest?”
“Not particularly,” I muttered.
“Not even about the divorce?”
I was beginning to get annoyed.
“There has to be something you want to say...how you feel; if you’ve seen B’Elanna recently; how you’re handling all this.”
I shook my head. Why was he badgering me like that? Couldn’t he just take ‘no’ as an answer, and leave it at that?
“Come on, Tom. Throw me a bone, here.”
“I’d rather not talk about it, Harry. Okay?” I snapped.
He winced and retorted, “Fine. If you won’t let anyone help because you’re too stubborn, then I’ll just go. You can be alone with your misery.”
And that’s exactly what happened. I was alone with my misery once again.
Just as it took me a while to accept that B’Elanna was gone, it took me a while to realize that I really did need someone to talk to. I kicked myself for not doing so with Harry, but at the time, it seemed too soon. Plus I think I needed someone else...like the captain. I needed a female’s insight.
I went to her quarters one time, several nights after that day at the bar. It was way past dinner time, and I hoped she was still awake. Thankfully when I rang the bell, the door was open.
“Lieutenant? Can I help you with something?” Kathryn asked me from her dining table. She was playing some card game I didn’t recognize.
I nodded and stepped inside. The door shut behind me.
“Yes, Captain. If I could have a minute of your time, please?”
“Certainly, Tom. Would you like to sit down?”
I took up her offer and sat at the other end of the rectangular table. She took her focus off her game and put a few cards down that she’d been holding.
“What are you playing?”
“This? Oh, Neelix was just rummaging around in our files of ancient Earth entertainment stumbled upon in. He showed me how to play, and I was hooked. It’s called solitaire.”
How ironic. I couldn’t help but think it should have been me playing a game with a name such as that.
When I didn’t talk for a while, she cleared her throat intentionally. I was lost in my own thoughts, and it took another cough to bring me back to reality.
“So, Tom. Did you have something on your mind you would like to talk about, or are we just going to sit here staring at one another?”
“Sorry, Captain. I was just thinking.”
I took a deep breath, simply replied, “B’Elanna”, and let out the rest of the air.
“Care to elaborate?”
For a while, I couldn’t think of the right words to say. If I couldn’t explain it to Harry -heck, I didn’t even bother with what I really wanted to say when he asked- how could I possibly make Kathryn understand?
“I don’t even miss her any more, Captain. I’m angry at her, though. For what she did.”
“You have a right to be. She was out of line when she did that to your daughter.”
“But that’s really not the problem. I have forgiven her for doing that. What I can’t seem to forgive her for is leaving. She has a responsibility, and it just seems immature for her to lay the weight entirely on my shoulders. She doesn’t even come to my quarters to visit me. I can understand why she won’t see Miral, but why not me? What did I ever do to her?”
“Tom, sometimes people do things for reasons we just can’t understand.”
“But I thought her relationship between me and between Miral were going great. She always seemed happy. I had no idea she felt the way she did.”
“And how did she feel?”
“Like the world was passing her by, and she was stuck in one place as everything else kept going. She said she got too caught up in her job, and her family wasn’t her top priority,” I said angrily. “I was so mad at her for that.”
She merely nodded in understanding.
“What am I supposed to do, Captain? I don’t know how to raise a child.”
“Maybe you should ask the doctor for some pointers.”
“I suppose that’ll work. He’s already been looking after her while I’m on duty. And I’m sure he knows more about babies than I do.”
I stood up, thanked the captain sincerely, and left her to play her game.
“What do you mean you don’t have her?!” I demanded. “You were supposed to be watching her!”
“Calm down, Mr. Paris. Miral is in very capable hands,” the doctor said confidently.
“B’Elanna doesn’t have her, does she?” I asked in confusion. What would B’Elanna suddenly want with Miral?
“No. In fact, Captain Janeway came over and picked her up about an hour ago. I figured she had consulted you about this first for permission, so I let her take your daughter. I’m surprised she would do something like this without telling you about it.”
The surprise was mutual. I was in her quarters less than five minutes ago, and she never gave any hint that she had Miral. Was this some sort of joke?
“Thanks, Doc,” I said as I walked out the door.
I was at her doors once again, and this time, I didn’t know what I was going to say. Without realizing, my finger rang the door bell, and I was admitted into her quarters. Kathryn was once again sitting at her table, smiling as she placed the king of diamonds on a small pile of cards.
“I won,” she said proudly, not looking at me. With her hand, she made a single sweep to collect the cards together. Then she straightened them into a uniform deck and slipped it into a box. She finally looked at me as she got up.
“Come back so soon, Tom? Should I feel flattered, or did you forget something?” she teased.
Words failed me. What was I supposed to say to her? She didn’t even give any indication that she took my baby, and it didn’t appear as though she was going to fess up anytime soon. I was so confused, and I wanted to demand why she had Miral, but my lips wouldn’t form anything coherent. I must have mumbled something absently because she cocked her head.
“What’d you say? Speak up, Tom.”
After regaining my composure, I finally felt words spill out of my mouth.
“Why do you have Miral?” I demanded, but the query sounded weaker than I had hoped.
Kathryn stood there and fidgeted nervously. Her hand darted to her hair as she pushed a stray lock behind her ear. She cleared her throat to remove some of her tension, but it didn’t work. Her fingers tugged at the hem of her shirt.
“I...uh...” she stammered. “...I just thought that...she needed more attention.”
Why was she acting like that? I had never seen her behave so nervously before.
“Why? Was the doctor neglecting her? Or didn’t you think that I’m a good enough parent?”
“No...it’s just that...uh...I...geez, Tom. I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “When I went in Sickbay, she was crying, and the doctor was at wit’s end trying to make her be quiet. I picked her up, and she stopped right away. I instantly felt connected to her then...like she was my own child. I apologize, Tom, if I scared you. I shouldn’t have taken her without asking you first.”
“No kidding,” I retorted unsympathetically. “Where is she?”
Kathryn slowly pointed towards her bedroom. “In there.”
I shot to my feet and practically ran to the room. I let out a sigh of relief to see Miral sleeping soundly on the bed, wrapped in a small blanket. I carefully brought her into my arms and held her protectively to my chest. Then, I simply left the captain’s quarters. At first, I heard her footsteps following me, but they stopped when I turned the corner of the corridor.
That night as I tried desperately to find sleep, I couldn’t help but think of that incident. If Kathryn so obviously cared for Miral, why had I ignored that? It seemed out of character for me to behave so passively towards someone’s feelings. I’ve never been that inconsiderate or insensitive before. What happened to me? Was it because I was afraid of losing Miral, too? Or was it something deeper?
Was I afraid of someone getting attached to me and my daughter...only to leave? Like B’Elanna did... I suppose I couldn’t let that happen again. It’s selfish, but I knew that one more powerful blow would take me down for good.
“...It’s everybody’s sin, and it’s the hardest one to get over.”
Damn her for being right.
I tossed in bed, trying to get into a comfortable position, but my struggles did nothing. I knew I couldn’t rest until this was over with. A war waged within myself never ends until I fight the final battle...and come out as conqueror.
I’m selfish, but that’s the ways it’s going to have to be, and I needed victory. Or atleast an ending so I could fend of lapses of insomnia I knew would come if I didn’t resolve it.
I crept out from under the warm comfort of the blankets, slipped on some civvies, and for the third time that day, I headed to the captain’s quarters.
To be continued...