Title: Interlude IV Author: Jemima Contact: email@example.com Series: VOY Part: 9/19 Rating: PG Codes: crew Summary: This is an interlude in "The Museum", a series of AU stories within one larger story. In this Interlude, Paris catches his wife and plots with Neelix. Janeway and Tuvok meet in her ready room. Disclaimer: I took these characters from an alternate universe without copyright laws. Mwhahahaha!
Tom dropped the medical tricorder to catch B'Elanna as she swayed on her feet. She bit him for his efforts, but he was fairly sure it was an affectionate bite. When a growl followed, he began to worry.
"B'Elanna, honey, the security detail," he said quietly to dampen her enthusiasm.
It did that. She twisted swiftly out of his arms and hissed, "You told them!" Her glance flickered across the white walls and over the two armed ensigns as though she had just noticed that she wasn't in whatever private scene she'd thought she was.
"Told them what?" he wondered aloud. "Tuvok insisted on the precaution, in case people were disoriented by the experience." Occasionally, Tom had to admit to himself, the Vulcan spotted trouble before it took over the ship.
"How do you feel?"
"I'm fine," B'Elanna answered brusquely, and would give no more details.
Tom recovered his tricorder, proclaimed her fit and suggested heading to the museum cafeteria for a snack.
The cafeteria was on the upper level, under a huge, hexagonal skylight. Night was falling quickly outside on the desert planet. Inside, the white-walled room was illuminated by the same unseen lighting that pervaded the museum.
The cafeteria was, in fact, not a normal hexagonal room. Instead, it was formed out of several smaller rooms trailing out from the central replicator. Several walls were missing entirely, making larger pockets of space, but still leaving private corners and cul-de-sacs.
Once Neelix had coaxed their requests out of the replicator, Tom and B'Elanna brought their trays of food to a table in one of the quieter corners. After a bit of gagh, B'Elanna seemed to come to herself. Tom risked asking her what she'd seen.
"No dice, flyboy. I wouldn't want to pollute the timestream."
"Fine. Did you find the warpcore at the end of the rainbow, at least?"
"No, actually, most of my staff were assimilated by the Borg. That slowed down our research program significantly."
"It was the least of my problems." B'Elanna looked away.
"What about us?" Tom asked. "I hope I wasn't too much of a problem."
"We got together eventually. I guess we were meant to be."
"I guess so."
When he was finished serving the lunch crowd the next day, Neelix ambled over to the same table, where Tom Paris was now dining alone.
"Why so glum, Tom?" the morale officer asked as he joined him at the table.
Tom looked up from his mushroom omelette. "I'm glum because our lives here are so good. Does that make any sense?"
Neelix nodded. "I believe humans call it 'survivor's guilt'. You saw a universe torn by violence--" Tom shook his head at that, and Neelix regrouped: "--a universe marred by mistakes, your own and your friends'. Now that you're back, you feel like you don't deserve to be here."
"Do I?" Tom asked.
"This is your life. It's made out of your decisions and your dumb luck and your mistakes. You don't deserve it, particularly, but you *are* it."
"I was," Tom said, "but now, I'm half me, and half that other me."
"So what's the other you like?" Neelix asked.
Tom told him. The Talaxian hung on every word - he loved a good story. Tom, for his part, was relieved to get the secrets and sins of his other life off his chest.
"You know, Neelix," he said when he was through, "B'Elanna won't tell me what she saw, but maybe she'll tell you. She's still upset about it, though she'd never admit it."
"I'll see what I can do, Tom, but you're the expert at collecting information. I'm surprised you haven't wormed it out of her."
A gleam lit Tom's eye. "Neelix," he said slyly, "I have an idea, but I'll need your help."
"Will it be good for morale?" the reluctant Talaxian asked.
"Of course it will. Now here's my plan..."
"Tuvok, how can I help you?" Janeway put her PADD down on the ready-room desk.
"Captain, I have been contemplating the rather sparse reports submitted by Lieutenants Paris and Torres, and yourself."
"I take it Seven of Nine was more forthcoming?"
"Indeed. It is unfortunate that Seven of Nine deleted the transwarp schematics from her cortical array. She was an ideal candidate for the Mobius band."
"How so?" Janeway asked, letting Tuvok guide her toward whatever it was he wanted to discuss, at his own pace.
"Her mind is extraordinarily logical and disciplined, for a human. While Torres and Paris seem to have recalled mainly personal details, Seven of Nine observed the universe with which she was presented with an unbiased and scientific eye."
"She was a Borg there, Tuvok - or so the Doctor's report indicates. She would hardly have recalled 'personal details'."
Tuvok shrugged this fact off. "I believe that a more disciplined mind will provide us with more answers."
"You want to try the Mobius band."
"Very well. Do so at your convenience. Have the Doctor monitor you."
"Thank you, Captain."
Janeway watched him carefully as he left, trying to shake off the suspicions of her security officer that had haunted her since her own encounter with the Mobius band. She wondered what the alien exhibit would show him...