Story: The Undertow
Author: Deede
Disclaimer: Paramount owns them, I just borrowed them for some nonprofit geared fun.
Rating: PG
Timeline: Post "Endgame"
Codes: T, P/T
Summary: Life changes.


"I remember the first. You were a child. Your mother took you to the Sea of Gatan. Your curiosity was as deep as the water."

"I fell in. I almost drowned."

Kotar and B'Elanna, "The Barge of the Dead"


The beach was blessedly vacant as B'Elanna walked listlessly along the shore, staring absently at the expanse of water, earth and sand that placidly surrounded her for countless meters. The eerie quiet of the early morning suited her, as if complying with her silent plea for solitude, and her need for some inarticulate semblance of order... a means for reflection, understanding - an end to the whirl of confusion that always ran so rampant in her thoughts.

Tom had brought her there, echoing her internal need to get away. Mirroring her need to escape the reporters, the well wishers, the countless faces who had been moved by the seven year adventure and turmoil of the Voyager crew and therefore sought out the recently returned explorers as if they were wayward heroes of the highest honor. And admittedly she had been about to break: too overwhelmed by the abrupt changes to her life to consider herself at home in the quadrant of her birth, too dazed by the reception they received to actually convince herself that the events of their return had been a reality, and too lost to figure out what she was supposed to be doing... how she should feel.

There had been something in Tom's gaze when he suggested they retreat; a deep seeded understanding, a hint of panic, and a controlled and sweltering need - for what, she couldn't say, that hinted noticeably in eyes that matched the color of the great vastness of sky over head.

And since their arrival at the isolated beach house two days prior she continually caught him seeking her out, watching her, observing her - always silent, yet asking, pleading, wanting... searching for something she couldn't place. And yet she was trying, exhausted even, with the efforts it took to stay out of the haze that threatened to consume her - to not lose herself to the rapid progression of fate, or the dizzying echoes of change. To hold Miral, so newly born to them: so small and dependent, and touch her downy soft head, or inhale the clean and fresh scent of a newly born infant and forget for a small, sacred amount of time that bewilderment ran undeniably rampant with existence.

Guilt was starting to weigh in on her, as if she felt chagrined for her turmoil, allowing it to intercede on her role of the adoring new mother, the loving wife, the returned wanderer happy to set foot on Federation soil after seven years of being 'lost'.

Sleep was but a distant dream, some abstract concept foreign to her psyche. Instead she'd watch as the shadows danced across her walls at night: billowing, menacing; dancing across her skin, her husband's, their daughters bassinet, as if to taunt her in her consciousness. And Tom, ever the strong presence by her side, would sleep on, oblivious. His face innocent, childlike - free of the echoes of time, and the intimidating future. He would murmur her name so softly, a faint whisper of breath barely audible in the stillness of the twilight, and turn his body toward her, instinctively seeking her warmth. Yet there was something missing. Some ideal just barely out of reach, causing her to slip quietly from bed and out into the great open expanse of untamed waves, water, and land.

She wanted to feel: to bask in the warmth of the sun, to feel the coolness of the damp, soft sand pressed against her flesh, to lay patiently in the wake of a wave - experience the water tickle her toes, her legs, her body, as it traveled over her, caressing her into pleasant wakefulness. The motion of the water awed her, as it always had, placing her in a trance. The sound of the surf playing continuously in her ears as she walked towards the source of grand void: large and potentially lethal.

A memory surfaced from a distant place: of childhood, innocence, and sunrise. The water had dazzled her then too, calling to her, beckoning her. And like a sailor captivated by the song of the siren she had followed, submerging her body in the cool celestial liquid only to get yanked forcefully into an undertow, her eyes opened as a whirlwind surrounded her. And yet, she hadn't been scared, didn't remember feeling any fear at all: just peace, reverence, and... sensation. It was her mother who had pulled her out, as she fought the continuing motion of water, and breathed life into her daughter's lungs, declaring her victory when B'Elanna gasped her way back into reality. Yet the memory remained imprinted, despite the ceaseless time that had passed and the turns that life had taken.

She barely flinched as the sea surrounded her now, her gait unhurried as she continued her journey forward, stopping only when the water reached her knees. A slight breeze caressed her skin, sending unnoticed goose bumps up her flesh and ruffling her hair in its wake. She welcomed the feeling: the gentle touch of the wind, the lull of the current, the sunlight as it glittered off the water like a thousand little particles of light... the beckon of the wild, unkempt wilderness as it silently seduced her.

For a brief minute B'Elanna pictured herself falling, pulled into the undertow, watching water thrash and rise above her as silence became predominant and the rest of the world all but fell away. Yet something pulled her back into conscious awareness: the reverberating echo of her daughter's cry, the beauty of her husband's eyes, brilliant and soft like the summer sky, what it felt like to think, to act, to feel - the exhilaration that went hand in hand with the uncertainty of the future. And hope.

She didn't hear Tom as he approached, the tread of his footsteps lost on the sparkling sand. Yet she turned just in time to catch him approaching her, hair tasseled by wind and sleep, communicator on so as to monitor his daughter's state of wakefulness and an endearingly sincere question on his face - unasked until that moment.

"B'Elanna, where are you?" He questioned semi pleadingly, needing to know - wanting to know.

She turned away from him then, her gaze resting on the sky above, silence perpetrating the uncertainty that surrounded them until she smiled, faintly. "Have you ever noticed that the sky during this time of morning is the same color as a warp core? It's this light shade of blue that just kind of glows..."

Confusion marred his handsome face, and the startled look he gave nearly caused a giggle to rise up within her... almost.


"I was just thinking about how much the ocean reminds me of space," she murmured softly in response, turning her gaze to the still moving water. "Vast, deep, teaming with life, civilizations and unexplored regions."

She felt rather than saw the dawning realizations take hold of him, as if she were able to feel the understanding as it emoted from him, just as he was able to comprehend the delicate complications of her thoughts, the way he had an uncanny knack of doing.

"You miss space. Or more specifically, Voyager. Now that we are land-side, you're worried about never working on an engine again. Not getting to explore the unknown, of life as you knew it changing so drastically, which you have no control over," he stated knowingly, eyeing her in contemplation.

"Yes," she admitted, her voice no more than a whisper as the laughter bubbled to the surface: hollow, ironic, joyless. "I miss home: the place where I found myself. The place where I found you. I miss having a job, a duty... a mission. I miss waking up knowing exactly where I was going to go that day, what I needed to do, what tasks I had to perform to get the ship running at peek efficiency. I miss the hum of those damn engines!" she finished, the volume of her voice rising with each point she stressed, angry, irritated... lost to an undertow of change.

He was silent for the longest time following her tirade, intent to watch her with wise, knowing eyes that betrayed the accumulated knowledge gained through their fast paced, often dangerous lifestyle.

His silence unnerved her as she continued to keep her face forward. Her gaze locked on the speed of the current, silently calculating the distance between waves, the density each one exhibited and how that played in the size and volume of the wave to follow... The wheels in her head turning, always moving, as if she were physically unable to slow her thoughts down: to stop thinking, stop calculating, stop looking for a problem that needed to be solved.

With the silent swell of the next wave, climbing, forceful, and intimidating - a brilliant combination of white, blue, and green, came her own understanding. She was restless. Lost to a tidal wave of change: unknowing what to do, where to go. Existing with no orders to follow and no ship to nurture for the first time in seven years, and suddenly at odds with knowing how to handle the drastic turns in her life that had happened so abruptly.

"I love you," Tom announced at last, a brief glance in his direction showing her that he was smiling at her widely, his face mirroring a combination of amusement, adoration, and acceptance.

She knew she must have looked stunned for his out of the blue, off-topic, though heart rendering proclamation, for he shook his head, chuckling slightly to himself as he moved towards her. His hands reaching out to gently caress her arms, sending shivers through her with the contact.

"I was worried about you. Afraid I was losing you as I had before... when the Maquis died. I thought that you were pulling away from me, and from Miral, but you just miss your ship," he stated, rubbing his hands up and down her arms as his blue eyes sparkled down at her.

"You say it like it's just a minor thing," she accused, a little bit hurt by his means of breaking down her turbulent emotions. "It's more than just missing the ship. It's just that we had thought we would be serving on Voyager a lot longer than we did. I had figured we would be there indefinitely. That we would raise our daughter on that ship, with those people, doing jobs that we both loved. And now we're not, and I never really thought of what else I could be doing."

His smile grew then, lighting his face as he grabbed her upper arms with his hands, as he forced her eyes to meet his through the weight of his stare, silently coaxing. "But B'Elanna, that is the fun of it. The excitement. The exhilaration. We can do anything we want now, go anywhere we want to go. As long as we're together it doesn't really matter. I mean, I miss Voyager too, but think of the opportunity. Fate is in our hands. If you still want to be an engineer we can find another ship to work on, or if you want to do something else we can do that too. We're explorers, you and I, and there is a whole universe out there with our names all over it. You, me and Miral."

She felt herself smile... slightly. Marginally pacified by his enthusiasm, by his words, her heart lifting as she began to see the future in a hopeful, less intimidating light. All the while trying desperately to capture his wonderment at the unknown, the excitement in chance... the trusting in fate.

"I guess," she stated at last, her smile growing... marginally. Subtly letting him know through her expression and body movement that she wanted him tell her more. That she wanted him to spin a tale of the adventures they could potentially go on, and the places they had yet to be. Have him appeal to her sense of adventure, and to her continuing desire for knowledge.

"Oh, it will be wonderful," he started enthusiastically, catching the undercurrents of her mood... hope. "We can design our own ship, a small one like the Delta Flyer, and use the credits we received for 'outstanding service rendered during the seven year exploration of the Delta Quadrant' and fly port to port, show Miral Vulcan, Qo'noS, Betazed ..."

She continued to listen to the sound of his voice, accentuated by the sound of the current, as both melodies washed through her in peace, reverence... sensation. An undertow in its own right: teaming with possibility and future.

She wasn't afraid.

The End!