Shifting Out of Neutral
By Deede

’Defining moments'; that was a term an old friend of mine back
from my academy days would label the little glitches in time
that would take you to unimaginable highs or knock you down flat
on your butt - his words, not mine. But in retrospect I think
I finally realize the full extent of what he was trying to articulate
in his crass, less than subtle way. These were the moments that
shaped you: that changed your life for the better or for the
worse, that jolted you back to reality or sent you spinning out
of it, that make you realize with clear and certain profound
delegation that you could profit from these little introspective
moments, or you could forever be damned. 

These moments came more frequently for me these past six years
in the Delta Quadrant than any other time throughout my life,
and I believe firmly that it’s not a coincidence that the majority
of them were centered around B’Elanna in some way, shape or form.
She is the force that molds me, whose presence can grant a gentle
peace like none other I’ve ever experienced one minute and turn
on a raging hormonal fire within my spirit the next. The woman
whose dark eyes hold the light to a lifetime of desire and intrigue,
and whose passionate spirit grasps my own like a moth to a flame.
The fortitude who, with one glance of her beautiful, dark eyes,
forces me on a spiritual journey towards a whirling mass of emotion
that explodes within my soul like an atomic bomb and sends me
reeling… yet ever so sweetly. 

To say that I merely loved her would be an understatement to
what I truly feel. ‘Love’ just doesn’t seem enough to describe
all that it feels like to be with her, every tangible emotion,
either positive or negative, that she inspires. When I’m with
her I go from feeling like I can take on the world, to wanting
to take her in my arms and find a solitary location some place
where it would just be the two of us holding on to each other
for dear life, to wanting to jump out of my skin. 

Which ties into my deepest fear and a recurring nightmare I’ve
had since she finally announced that she loved me back… the thought
of losing her. The thought of existing without being able to
reach out and touch her at any given time ‘just because’ or the
thought of living without her there to match me whit for whit,
idea for idea, passion for passion. Such a life would be unacceptable;
a dark, stark desert wasteland compared to a brilliant, shining
oasis. To face such an option was almost unimaginable to me,
which is why it became such a shock when I was faced with it.
I spent so much time trying to bury my own fears that I was blinded
to the problem that was unfurling between us. And as if a weapon
was being fired point blank right before me and my very life
hang in the balance - I don’t think I could have been more afraid
if I tried.

Her words had been subtle, vague in intent or purpose, but they
sent a thousand warning signs off in my head, jolting me from
one mind frame to another with the speed of a warp drive. 

“Some people just fit together without having to work at it...and
other people, no matter how much they try...” she had said, seemingly
innocently, yet no less alarming than if she had hit me over
the head with a large, heavy object. I got the message, however
subtle, and I could have sworn my heart jumped into my throat
as a result. Panic overcame me, the kind that has your heart
racing and the blood pumping so fast through your veins you feel
like you could simultaneously pass out or break. She said it
as if it were small, but this wasn’t small - this was huge. The
kind of thing nightmares were made out of, threatening the very
fabric of the one thing I held most sacred… my relationship with

At first I didn’t know how to react, I was numb by the suddenness
of it all. I mean, here we were in the middle of a multi species
space race that she had cajoled Harry out of his co-pilot position
to join me on and the next thing I know our whole relationship
is being called into question. Was she more upset over the fact
that the race had interfered with our previously scheduled weekend
vacation than she had let on prior to the race occurring? Was
it too late to fix the damage done between us? What does one
say when all of the sudden their deepest fear has become a reality
and they are faced with a shattering dilemma? Furthermore, what
does one say when the one woman in the universe who held eternity
within her hands is suddenly implying that eternity is not all
it’s cracked up to be?

I once took a psychology course in school, not anything in-depth
or earth shattering, just the basic required course that Starfleet
felt helped in diplomacy and negotiations. But I remember going
over the stages of reactions to a traumatic incident, starting
with denial. I think that is what I went through first after
B’Elanna dropped her bombshell. I didn’t want to believe there
was a problem, and I most certainly did not want to face my fear.
To do so would hurt; it would be painful… perhaps more than I
could bear, and pain was something I had come to believe I had
left behind in the Alpha Quadrant.

Our argument continued, yet I hadn’t gotten over the shock that
there was a problem. As if I were a specter watching the lives
of some other couple unfurl before me and the fact that this
was MY problem didn’t seem real.

"I thought if we could do this one thing together - something
you cared about - it would help our relationship," She had said:
angry, hurt, frightened - which, on B’Elanna, is truly a sight
to behold. She is never scared, hardly ever afraid; of the two
of us she is the rock, the unending vastness of courage. Her
reaction served to send me further into panic.

"I didn’t know it needed help," I exclaimed without thinking,
going on some sort of primitive psychological instinct to protect
my bruising heart. After all, what was thought in a time like
this? I didn’t want to think… I wanted to grab her, pull her
to me as tightly as I possibly could and shout “No! You are mine.
I am yours. End of discussion!” at the top of my lungs.

“Well, that’s part of the problem,” she retorted, defiant, her
gorgeous eyes - eyes I would willingly drown in if given half
the chance, whirling like a thousand turbulent seas during hurricane
season. It was then a new emotion pierced the darkness forming
around my soul… anger. I was not letting her go, I didn’t care
what I had to do to hold on, but I knew without a single doubt
that whatever her mind set was for our future I was going to
firmly insert myself in it, kicking and screaming if I had to.
After all, she is not the only stubborn one, and I was and am
stubbornly in love with her.

So I turned off the engines, halting our shuttle, destroying
any chances of winning this race I had entered. For some reason
it didn’t surprise me that loosing the race hardly mattered to
me at that moment… what mattered sat behind me in full technicolor
splendor: with the grace of a hunter, the exotic beauty of a
flower, the strength of a warrior and the vulnerability of a
kitten. The race, my job, our friends back on Voyager - all of
it took the background, because when it came down to it, none
of it would mean much of anything without her. What good was
winning a race if I couldn’t share my victory with her? What
good was becoming a better officer if she wasn’t there to be
proud of me for it? What good was striving to be the man that
B’Elanna Torres could love if she didn’t? When it came down to
it she was the catalyst for all that I wanted, and all that I
held dear and close to my heart.

My actions confused her, threw her off guard, and a part of me
gloried in that small victory. Now we were both shaken … it put
us on the same level: alone, frightened, fighting with everything
within our previously solitary souls to understand where one
another was coming from - the way it should be, the way that
gave me hope for our survival.

I watched as her confusion turned to anger, knowing exactly what
she was going through as I had gone through it myself. I even
recognized it when her legendary defenses went up as if I could
see them before my very eyes. I’ve been there too… a lot actually.
And it was because I’ve been there that I could understand them
in B’Elanna. If ever there were two people meant for one another,
who couldn’t fool each other with tactics that would scare off
lesser, psychologically defensive, inept individuals, it was
the two of us. 

"If we’ve got a problem, we’re going to resolve it - right here,
right now," I said in as firm a tone as I could muster, standing
from my chair to stand in front of her, blocking any means of
physical escape that she had while delighting in the natural
electricity that sparked between us whenever we were close. I
was playing for keeps and I had to make that clear to her. I
had to have her know that she was what I wanted more than anything
and that I’d be damned if I let the best thing that ever happened
to me slip away.

"Hey, I never asked you to give up this race! Or anything else
that you care about. I never asked you to stop being yourself!"
she stated, clearly agitated, like she believed that I would
hold her responsible for not winning, like she thought that winning
the race was more important to me than she was. If my heart wasn’t
broken before it was definitely broken now. I was torn between
being hurt that she would think that of me, feeling sorrow over
the pain she must be enduring, and chastising myself for not
seeing the signs of her obvious distress earlier than I had.
I was starting to feel helpless again, experiencing the full
weight of the damage already done. As a result I did something
I’ve only ever been able to do with B’Elanna… follow my heart
and go where it led me.

“The only self I want to be is the guy that you’re in love with,”
I replied in earnest, as honest with her as I could possibly
be while wearing my heart on my sleeve. But I didn’t care about
the open vulnerability I had just exposed of myself because I
trusted her - trusted her to know how I truly felt. She had earned
that much… she deserved to know just how much she meant to me.
I should have told her three years ago.

If I had my way I’d have her by my side for eternity. I’d find
the strength to face a future, but only with her in it. I love
her. Love her spirit, her fire, her intelligence, her quirky
obsession with all things engineering, her whit - god, even her
temper. I love that she is strong and can hold her own; that
she always seems undaunted, except with me. I love what we are
together: our humor, our teasing, our sometimes playful, sometimes
serious demeanor. I love that she can go from being my best friend
and confidant, to the woman I would do anything to touch and
be inside of, to my soulmate within the space of one moment.
I could spend a lifetime studying her, learning every curve of
her body, every crevice of her personality… I could spend a lifetime
with her, period. And I would, if she would have me. 

“Wow,” she said softly, stunned. “I didn’t know you felt that
way,” she followed, in soft, inquisitive tone, letting me know
without saying as much that she wanted to know more.

And I couldn’t fault her for that. It hurt like hell to know
that my feelings for her weren’t already clear, that the three
years we had been together, every high and every low, hadn’t
shown her the depth of my feeling. I had never even spent one
year with anybody prior to her, let alone three. Yet three years
with B’Elanna wasn’t enough. I doubt there could ever BE enough.
As Einstein once said time really was a relevant term, and I
couldn’t agree more. For me time meant that my feelings for her
only grew stronger with the passage of it. So how could she not
know? But then again, how could I not have shown her more clearly?

“How can you say that?” I found myself saying, my own hurt winning
out for the moment.

The look she gave me was indescribable. So vulnerable, so hurt
- god I could die painfully if she continued to look at me in
that way: tentative, uncertain… the lost little girl in the body
of a full-grown woman. This was my B’Elanna, my strong, independent
warrior - the one whose many, softer layers always took me off
guard. When she exposed herself like that it always made me want
to fight to the death to protect her, even if the thing I had
to protect her from was myself.

"You always seem to have other priorities…” she replied in a
sorrowful tone of voice that gives my heart a repentant jolt.

I knew then that I had to take back the moment, that I had to
pull her out of her distress enough to make her see inside my
heart. I wasn’t going to lose this… I couldn’t. Too much was
at stake.

"I’m showing you those priorities. Right now."

I knew that I had stunned her yet again for she was surely shaken
- her eyes wide and nearly on the verge of tears. I gave her
space, for a moment. Gave her the time she needed to process
all that I had placed before her - although it pained me to do
it. I wanted nothing more at that time than to cling to her,
to shower her face with kisses and recite a mantra of ‘I love
you’s’, but I know B’Elanna, I know her… so I waited. 

Seconds passed like decades, and finally, I had waited enough.
I went to face her head on and she granted me a small, sheepish
grin, genuinely curious.

“How come you never talked to me about this before?"

Ouch, good question. How come I hadn’t told her before? Was I
really that shallow of a man that my own girlfriend, the one
woman who means the most out of everything to me, didn’t know
that the sun rose and set on her as far as I was concerned. Was
there even an excuse for that? Yet at the same time, what about
the countless nights we spent in each other’s arms? What about
the tender kisses, the loving caresses, the footsie under the
table at briefings? Didn’t we show our love in a thousand different
ways? Wasn’t that enough? But I knew the answer to that even
before I asked it of myself. Like time, there could never be

Yet she wasn’t faultless in this, and I think she knew that.

"Look, you've got that tough Klingon exterior, and I didn't think
you liked... the mushy stuff," I followed, which was also a truth
I knew to be fact, as long as we were being entirely honest.
It wasn’t an excuse and I didn’t mean it as one. I guess I just
hoped that she would catch the double meaning to my words; her
preferences as I saw them mixed in with a subtle, hidden apology
for drawing conclusions the way I had when there should have
been so much more. 

"Do I look that tough right now?" she questioned in a whisper,
one that gave me hope and sent my spirit soaring. She had thrown
in her gauntlet… was inviting me to make things right the way
I had prayed she would. There was no way in hell I was going
to screw this up.

"Well, does that mean you're in the mood for some mushy stuff?"
I couldn’t help but reply: eager, excited, so in love with her
I was blinded by it.

“Maybe,” she responded, teasing me, challenging me, making me
want her all the more. My god she is sexy: her voice, the way
she swayed her head; she was mine and I had to have her. There
would be no turning back; it was time she knew that I meant business.

"Exactly what kind of mush are we talking about?" I said, playing
along with our game… for now.

"You tell me,” she replied, and it was everything that I need
to hear.

"Well," I sighed, leaning closer to her, relishing in sweet surrender
to the depth of my feelings for her. 

"There's…," contact, my words were cut off as I took her lips
with mine. Kissing B’Elanna was like an art form, there were
layers to it, just as there were layers to the feelings it evoked
within me. It was like taking a journey to a safe place - a happy
place: a wild, exotic, weak-knees, heart-throbbing, god-I-need-more-and-can’t-get-enough
place. Matter of fact I could die quite happily with her lips
on mine, knowing that this was the only way I wanted to go. But
it ended, all too soon, and I pulled back, teasing her softly
as I whispered… “the kissy stuff.”

"That was nice," she admited, sending my spirit soaring all the
more. I had her firmly in my clutches yet I knew I had to pull
tighter. If open honesty got me this far, open honesty would
work to further my cause.

"And there's the...'you're the most important person in the world
to me’,” I stated, which didn’t even do justice to what I felt
for her, but it was a start.

"I like that one, too," she said, in her softest tone, granting
me the look I would never, ever tire of: a mixture of adoration,
love, teasing tolerance, companionship, desire, and a thousand
more feelings I didn’t have the words to describe. Do I look
at her like that? I certainly hope so, because I feel all those
things just as strongly. I take back my earlier statement, I
would die quite happily with B’Elanna’s lips on mine… after she
had looked at me like she was doing now.

My heart raced uncontrollably as I gazed into her eyes, more
certain of what it was that I wanted than I had ever been, yet
frightened nonetheless. This was the big moment, a culmination
of three years of laughter, tears, sorrow, intrigue, and happiness
and hopefully the start of something deeper, more profound. This
is what she meant to me…

"And there's the 'happily ever after,'" I hinted, drawing this
moment out with delicious anticipation. I was dizzy and I couldn't
breathe, yet both were experiences I wouldn't trade for anything.
It just went hand in hand with what it was to be with B'Elanna,
the woman who could knock the wind right out of my lungs in more
ways than one.

Her eyes were glowing, shining brightly as if reflecting all
the feeling in my world.

"How does that one work?" she asked with gentle laughter, as
if happily ever after had been nothing more than a pipe dream
before there was the two of us, and in a way, it was. Now though
- now was our moment. This was symbolic to what I wanted: out
of her, out of me, out of the two of us… together. 

I wanted this step. I NEEDED this step. And if I was entirely
truthful with myself and with her, I had been thinking about
it for a very long time. Since the first time she said 'I love
you' actually.

"Well, traditionally, it requires a proposal…" I answered with
unwavering intent, lost to the moment before being cruelly yanked
out of it by the warning buzz of the intercom.

Naturally the ship was leaking fuel into the warp core, which
would naturally result in a breach, choosing that exact time
to come to our attention… I sometimes feel like I'm the butt
of some sort of cosmic joke. I mean, really, how many near death
experiences could one go through in a single lifetime? And the
timing of our newest ill-fated disaster couldn't have been more,
well, in a word - wrong. Here I was ready and willing to commit
to the woman who held my heart and soul in the palm of her little
hand, and the sadistic concept of fate had decided to spice up
our life in true Tom and B'Elanna style. For a brief moment my
mind went to the old fashioned, 20th century television shows
that B'Elanna would download for me. I could hear this announcer
in my head…"Death is in the air, darkness falls all around, will
our two heroes save the day - tune in next week to find out."

Needless to say I didn't get B'Elanna's answer. I didn't get
her answer because we were in danger of having the ship blow
up… again. I don't know why I even bothered being shocked by
this. A day in the Delta Quadrant just wasn't complete without
imminent death on the horizon. 

Yet this crises was different than the others, this time it was
more surreal than anything, because while I was struggling to
come up with ways to save us, my mind was still on my proposal,
on what her reaction would have been, and what her reaction would
be when I asked her again. Somehow I knew deep down that we would
overcome this most recent disaster. Perhaps because we had always
prevailed in the past or perhaps because I had such a determined
mind set to marry B'Elanna, that nothing, especially not this
kind of nothing, would stand in my way. 

This is why I repeated my question again, just before we got
our out, wanting to hear her say yes just in case we did die.
I should have known better than to ask her then. B'Elanna always
did say that romance was the last thing she thought of during
times of duress… I wish I could say the same. At that moment
I couldn't decide what was worse: blowing up or dying without
knowing what might have been between B'Elanna and I. 

Miraculously we lived through it, the way we always seemed to
do and still, despite getting knocked out by hurling Delta Flyer,
the first thing on my mind when I woke up was B'Elanna. I would
not be rested until I dragged a yes out of her: races, exploding
warp cores and our own in-depth insecurities could all go to
hell in a hand basket for all I cared. I wouldn’t run the risk
of losing her again; I couldn't live through it.

"B’Elanna," I said softly, pretty sure that my heart was in my

"I guess we lost," she said woefully, gingerly sitting up.

For a minute I couldn't decipher what she was trying to accomplish
with that comment. Did she still think the race mattered to me?
Was she trying to steer the subject away from my proposal? Was
she just saying the first thing that popped into her head to
fill the silence and lighten the tension from events that had
just occurred? Either way, it didn't matter. They always said
that the third time was a charm.

"Well, that depends," I answered succinctly, not letting her
get away with whatever it was she was trying to do. Our moment
had come again, and I was still pretty damned determined. 

"On what?" she asked, baffled… so baffled I wanted to simultaneously
choke her and kiss her. I can't help it, even when she is avoiding
the larger issues she is adorable. 

"On how you answer my question… " 

And they say Klingons are the stubborn ones. I would rank humanity
right up there with them because I certainly wasn't leaving the
Delta Flyer until her fate was tied irrevocably to mine. And
neither was she. 

"I thought you only asked it because you thought we were about
to explode!" she responded as if she were still unsure of my
intentions. But I would have none of it. I would wake up every
morning with B'Elanna by my side. I would laugh with her, cry
with her, fight with her and make love with her. I would never
again know the fear of possibly losing her, of having her doubt
my love. We were past our walls, past our protective instinct
towards solitude. We were passed all of that because we had worked
extremely hard to get where we were - in love with each other,
the way I truly believe it was destined to be. There was no room
for doubts, not anymore.

"We’re still alive. And I’m still asking," I retorted as if it
were the most obvious thing in the world. 

"How come you never asked me before?" she replied, although I
couldn't quite tell if she was earnest in her question or not.
Something in her tone, which carried a light air to it, led me
to believe that she might have already come to a decision, and
was now just toying with me. I couldn't help but smile as I stared
her down. I wasn't above pulling out all stops. I would seduce
consent out of her if I had to. 

"How come you’re still avoiding the question?" I breathed, leaning
in close to her, inhaling her intoxicating scent, while I struggled
not to kiss her just yet… to hold back for the promise of more.

"I’m thinking," she announced, but I could tell she was mine.
I don't think I've ever felt as light-headed as I did at that
moment. I felt giddy, as if I could feel the happiness wash through
me. B'Elanna was going to be mine… officially. I almost couldn't
wrap my mind around that concept. Like it was unreal. This woman:
this smart, fiery, sexy woman was going to be my wife. That wasn't
just wonderful, that was nothing short of miraculous.

"Think faster," I replied, leaning in for the kill. I was driven
towards her, being led by this force that continually gravitated
our spirits to each other - fire and brimstone couldn't come
between us at that point, not even if they tried. 

"Why? You going to withdraw the question?" she purred, eyes twinkling
as she dared me to take the final plunge. I was never one to
back away from a challenge, especially since this was MY idea.

"No, but I might start to beg. Could get embarrassing," I managed
to put out before I was overcome by the spellbound force of the
one… the only, B'Elanna Torres; our lips meeting in a way that
conveyed all that we both desired, and every degree of longing
that we both felt.

My B'Elanna, forever more.

The End!