B’Elanna Torres stood in front of the warp core, her hands lightly resting on the railing separating her from the now silent and dark tower. Forty-five minutes had passed since she, Vorik and Susan Nicoletti had initiated the final shutdown of Voyager’s engines, and when the pulsing blue light had dimmed, B’Elanna had dismissed the two lieutenants. Both –- uncharacteristically -- hesitated at the command, and she swallowed hard, knowing how much she’d relied on them over the years and especially during the difficult months since Joe Carey’s death.
“What about you?” Nicoletti had asked.
“There are a couple of things I need to check on. It will only take a few minutes,” B’Elanna had reassured her.
“If you believe there is still work to complete, we can help you,” Vorik had offered.
“You should go; your families are expecting you,” B’Elanna had answered, keeping her voice deliberately light. “Don’t keep them waiting.”
Now, all alone, she circled the warp core, and then took the lift to the second level where her private workstation was. How many hours had she spent here, running multiple calculations and testing different scenarios? The numerous fixes she’d rigged out of ingenuity and desperation to keep the ship operational? The careful attention she had to pay to the bio-neural gel packs to keep them healthy?
She tapped in her authorization code, and the console came to life, the yellow and purple LCARS buttons brightly illuminated. Idly she authorized a level five diagnostic and watched as the computer spit out readings signifying that all was well with Voyager’s systems until one little beep sounded, signifying that there was a misalignment in the injector valves in grid 13. She paused, considered, and then set about correcting it.
She was still deep into the repair when she heard footsteps approaching. She lifted her head and saw Tom standing there. He’d changed out of his uniform, into civilian clothes.
“Everything all right?” he asked, leaning casually against wall.
“Just this one thing—it’s small, but—”
“You can’t let it go.”
She allowed a small smile to play across her lips. “No.” A moment passed and then B’Elanna said, “Is Miral still asleep?”
“Yes, the Doctor is keeping an eye on her,” Tom said. “He said to take our time; he doesn’t anticipate any patients today.” He stepped closer. “I got a message from my father.”
At this, B’Elanna straightened. “And?”
“He and my mother are on their way.”
B’Elanna considered. “That’s good news. Isn’t it?”
Tom shrugged. “I don’t know.” He sighed, ran a hand through his hair. “It will take them a week to reach Deep Space Nine, so I guess I have time to get used to the idea. Figure out what I’m going to say.”
B’Elanna laughed shakily. “I haven’t heard from my father.” She bit her lip. “Nothing to adjust to there.” The console beeped at her; the diagnostic was complete, and the re-alignment verified. She could feel the weight of Tom’s stare as she started the power down sequence. The silence wrapped around them as the lights on the panel flickered out, one by one, until it was finally dark. B’Elanna wondered who would be lucky enough to serve as Voyager’s next chief engineer.
Next to her, Tom cleared his throat. “Down there,” he said, pointing to the station just off to the side of the warp core, “do you remember? That’s where I knew for the first time people on this ship cared about me, that moment when you asked me what was going on with me…”
“I do remember. When you were trying to ferret out the mole.”
Tom’s gaze was steady, blue. “Yes. And I told you how envious I was about how you were able to fit into this life—”
“I was so, so angry when Janeway destroyed the Caretaker’s array,” B’Elanna said with a slight laugh. “I didn’t think I could ever adjust to the Starfleet way of life.” She looked down at her uniform. She’d hated putting it on seven years ago, but now she couldn’t imagine removing it. But I have to. She pushed the thought aside, put her focus back on Tom. “We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?”
“Seventy thousand light years to be precise,” Tom said lightly. He pulled her close. “Come on, it’s time to go.” Still, she remained rooted to the spot. Tom’s brow furrowed in concern. “What is it?”
“Where are we going?” she asked in a low voice, but pleased she was managing to maintain her composure. Logistically, they had quarters on Deep Space Nine for at least the next week, while Starfleet arranged for debriefings, which Janeway thought likely be held on Deep Space Nine.
“It would be the most convenient option since the entire crew is here and Starfleet Headquarters is well aware of many families are traveling here to meet us,” Janeway had said as she’d addressed her senior staff one last time. The image of the diminutive captain, standing at the head of the table, her palms flat on the table, would be forever impressed in B’Elanna’s memory. She knew it wouldn’t be long before Janeway was offered another command, and Harry had already mentioned he was looking forward to returning to space. But she and Tom, enthralled with their newborn, hadn’t quite managed to digest the enormity of their unexpected homecoming.
Would she be allowed to stay in Starfleet? But more importantly, did she even want to? And looking at Tom, in his blue shirt, the brown vest, and without words she knew what he was telling her. But that left other questions too. Would they return to Earth, and more specifically to San Francisco, where Tom grew up? She knew she didn’t want to go to Kessik IV or Qo’noS; everywhere else she’d been was just somewhere to rest her head, a place to pass through. Where –- what -– would she call home next?
“I guess it’s a new adventure,” Tom said softly. His hands were on her face, his thumb running the outline of her lips. He bent down, pressing his lips to hers, catching her lower lip in his in the second before pulling away. “Come on.” He curled his hand around hers, tugged gently. “There isn’t anything more to do here.” He cast a look towards the warp core. “I’m going to miss this ship.”
“Yeah,” she said, the word riding on her breath, as he let her enter the lift before him. She wrapped her arm around him, resting her head against his shoulder as the lift jolted to a stop on the first level. “Me too.” She didn’t look at the heart of the ship as they made their way to the main doors. As the doors slid open with a familiar whoosh, B’Elanna turned back for one last look, and then in a clear voice said, “Computer, turn off the lights.”