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She Doesn't Know

by Chata Saladbar

This is not a story in the sense that there is a concrete beginning and end. This tale has no plot, no moral to learn from. In the place of all this I offer you my confession. I haven't even told any of my plans to my sister, my closest confidant, my twin. Though she may suspect something. You see I have this wish, an evil longstanding secret: I long for a bad outcome for the relationship of two friends of mine, two friends I care about and respect. I am the *good* twin, I am not suppose have these thoughts. Each day I sit at my station, in the messhall, or in the holodeck with this calmly arranged face just good as good as can be. I tell myself I can't feel the unjust green sensation, that I am just lonely, or homesick. But the cold hard incontrovertible truth of it is that I don't want Tom and B'Elanna together. Sometimes guilt will shove its hard fist into my stomach when I acknowledge this thought, but most of the time I feel no culpability, just resentment and deep longing pain.

They don't know, no one knows.

Once upon a time it was my body that knew Tom's touch, not hers. The curve of my back once felt the stroke of his palm, my shoulders once felt the pressure of his arms around me. I often try to remember the feeling, but it is lost, like an elusive word or a childhood friend's face I just can't recall. I only have snapshots of the brief moments that I shared with him. I have tried to keep them like a scrapbook in my mind, but it is never clear, as our time together was too short. I do remember loving his attention, loving how his clear eyes focused on me, how he invaded my personal space. But even that long ago I realized he was constantly looking past me and was watching her, B'Elanna. His eyes would cut through the darkness of Sandrines to search her silhouette against the bar lights, or across Engineering to see her figure haloed by the blue of the warp core. I knew he wanted her before he did. However she gave off an aura of untouchability that long delayed any serious courtship with him or any real threat to my plans..

She doesn't know he wanted her since the beginning. She doesn't know a lot of things.

Soon came the time when we all noticed the electricity that circuited the air when they were near each other. There was something about the heated fights between them, the reverence of his stare upon her, -- and the way she licked her lips the moment before she spoke to him. And we all watched because of wondrous things around us, they were the most fascinating: B'Elanna was beautiful; dark, vulnerable and with a wounded quality about her that made you want to watch over her. But her looks were deceiving, as I've learned over the years, this girl would always want to be the one to take care of herself. And Tom was her physical opposite, tall, jovial and blonde handsome --long limbed, fair and incandescent; he was the strong noncommittal hero that you wanted to be saved by.

So then the Tom Paris I knew began to change in front of my eyes, from light to golden, from randy to committed. I could almost see the warmth glow spreading over his skin as he gained the respect he deserved, as he had found his place, as he fell in love with her and as she returned the emotion.

It was all like a romance novel, almost.

I have to mash a familiar ugly feeling down into the pit of my stomach. Somewhere along the line, he was suppose to realize that she was just another girl to have fun with. Didn't he have a string of bright-eyed, gullible young females left on this ship to conquer? The span of years, the span of separation between us hasn't deadened the regret, the regret that perhaps I should have tried harder to keep him, that perhaps I should be the one experiencing 'happily ever after' with him.

He doesn't know.

No, only B'Elanna would be the one that went into his heart, settle down, and then expose herself to the most treacherous dangers and suffer the most heartbreaking losses. There were times we were sure they would not make it, and so many times I hoped they wouldn't. All of Tom's promises, his passion, his whispers in a darkened bedroom, kisses to her upturned face in the turbolifts, failed to fully banish the traps that caged her soul like a wild animal. You see, she never was completely sane.

I felt sure the end would come after she learned of the Maquis' death. Her infamous mood that was always mercurial-- quicksilver, and volatile had turned into nihility. We could feel her slipping away. I'd catch rare glimpses of her in the hallways, leaving engineering late at night, mostly alone. She looked so lifeless and quiet, that once brilliant light within her was growing faint. If that wasn't some kind of cry for help I don't what know is. Tom didn't know, or was too scared to know. Watching his love slowly sink, unable to find a way to pull her back to safety, perhaps was more unnerving than he could admit to himself.

That was the time they would go through hell together as she tried to deal with the darkness of her past, and they would not emerge unscathed. It only deepened the trenches they had individually build around themselves. I used to wonder what kept them together when she was so hell bent on hurting herself and Tom's heart in the process. It was if they were linked together by a gravity more stubborn and stronger than the powers trying to tear their orbit apart.

For all Tom knew she appeared to overcome her personal demons only to grow only more precious and lovely from the ordeal. She doesn't know how goddamn lovely she is. She doesn't know how she has some of the crewmen writing bad poetry about her. For all she knows only Vorik and Tom had any interest in her. She doesn't know how badly she crushed Ensign Bristo (who is likely recording a similar manifesto to mine). A few times I did want to tell her all this but my jealousy didn't allow me. What did Tom tell her? Did he think she just knew he thought that she was the most gorgeous woman he had ever known? Damn her...just GOD D--, delete that, I did not mean that last part.

No, she didn't know. I could tell. And her self-hatred demons were not gone, I could tell. Her appearance was recovered, as everyone said, but there seemed to be an unearthly beauty in the change. The flash in her eyes would sometimes still give way to the impression of someone gazing far beyond, like someone only playing nice. I knew because I watched her all the time, and I still watch and wait.

She is doomed to repeat her decay. And I lie waiting, like a wolf in grandmother's clothing.


Then came the perilous missions.

Always alive. They would somehow manage to get into the most dangerous circumstances and survive. And in Tom was the constant fear that one day he would open his eyes and she would be gone. Poor guy, she's given him a lifetime of worry. I imagined that he watched her breathing as she slept, each intake and release, solemnly reassuring himself of her existence.

Tom's anxiety and distress when she was gone was visible even to the most thickheaded. Although he would keep his head up with eyes pouring over PADDS and with legs racing to console after console, his face would appear frightened and pained. He would allow himself to sleep only when his body gave him no choice.

One particular night after she had been missing for almost two weeks I found him sitting in the darkness of the messhall at 300. Alone. The blackness consuming the room barely hid his subdued figure: his arms were wrapped around the visible acid pain in his heart, his fingers gripping biceps. I could sense the desolation and despair flowing through his thoughts, the burden of not knowing what happened to her making it difficult for him breathe. Each inhalation seemed to ache in his chest, pressing against a heart that was withering and dying in her absence.

I walked up beside him stopping only a short distance from his chair. His appearance, though rumpled, was clean and strong like a freshly sundried but unironed shirt. It still startled me how I always found him exceedingly attractive, no matter what the situation.

"Tom," I whispered to him. "Are you OK?"

Then I saw the deep crevices that lined his once smooth forehead, the gray and lifeless pallor of his once golden skin. "I won't survive this," he finally muttered to me. "I won't survive this life if she is gone."

His voice was so low that I would have discounted it if I hadn't seen his mouth moving. It took me a moment to absorb the magnitude of emotion he was revealing, and another moment more to resist the urge to put my arms around him. I remember wanting to wipe away the sweet blonde curls that had broken from their short confinement, those loose small strands curling about his crumpled brow. I knew he had profoundly meant what he said, and I was at a loss of what to say, on how to comfort someone in such pain. It broke my heart. I wanted to collapse and just sob into his shirt for his suffering and mine.

"She is the s-strongest woman I know, Tom." I told him instead, my voice cracking a little. Instantly I became the friend he needed once again. "She can turn a rock into a communication device."

"She could...if she's a-" but he couldn't finish.

I sat across from him. "She would not want you to give up." I told him sternly, "You know that."

He turned his face towards the window, a face tight and clenched with a combination of fear and sadness and hope. Red-rimmed, exhausted eyes stared out at the multi-hued canvas of space with such intense longing. She was out there, somewhere. The reflection of a distant nebula made his blue eyes glow the color of her warp core. Even that temporary cast reminded me bitterly that he belonged to her whether she was with him or not.

I mustered up the courage to take his hands from his arms and hold them together. And before I could say anything else he lowered his head and kissed my hand lightly. I thought my skin would ignite. I could feel every atom of his lips as they made contact. I knew I would remember this feeling. I concentrated all my energy in memorizing his texture against my knuckles.

No one has ever hurt me so deeply. It was then the feeling of jealousy I had been swallowing for so long began to corrode and burn inside me, leaving me with the sensation that I was being poisoned.

Without a word he rose and grabbed the PADDS thrown around him, then turned and walked away. The doors glided open and in their burst of illumination he disappeared into the corridor. The room was silent, silent, now devoid of his misery but laced thick with mine. It was my turn to sit alone in the dark, thinking, wondering. Wondering how could any love possibly rival this? The depth of his agony only paralleled with the depth of his love for her, its depth marking the realization of what I might never have, of what she may never know she had.

When she was found the gold returned to his skin, the gray in his eyes reverted to their sapphire brilliance. She doesn't know they were any different. Whatever happens in the privacy of their quarters, whatever he murmured to her in their rejoiced coupling, I know he does not reveal his dependence on her life.

She just goes on not knowing.


But today I continue to torture myself with the possibility.

Nearly three years between shuttle crashes, suicide missions, long painful absences and passionate stolen kisses they remain two people who can not say to each other 'you are the one for me'. There is a complexness between these two that fascinates all of us. Their unbreakable twisted skein maintains my secret sliver of hope.

We women can read each other well, it makes us the best of friends and the worst of enemies. I watch her constantly and know she is not happy, but Tom doesn't know. B'Elanna reveals herself to him like a dancer removes her veils. Tom is so bedazzled by the color and pattern of the one she is showing that he doesn't realized the last dark solid cloth she is still hiding. He doesn't see her eyebrows furrowing into those tiny webs of hurt-lines, well-defined and familiar over their years together. He doesn't know how she contains her disappointment inside her skin with the discipline of a Vulcan.

She is slowly wasting away from him, because she doesn't know.

Too often he lets her simmer alone mistaking her insularness as indifference. What goes through the minds of men? B'Elanna, I don't know either. I would tell him that it is safe to reveal all that love he feels for you, but what secret pain is stopping you from demanding this? The fear that he would not comply? reject you? What happened to you in your past that makes you so stubborn? Haven't you seen his eyes when you walk in a room, how his vision passes over you like a slow caressing stroke? I envy the way he smiles at you even before you see him, the way his hands reach out for you, how his arms wrap around you possessively like a belt. I have never seen anyone silently express pure devotion like that. You would think it would be enough to dampen my ardor, but all I think of is how it must be heaven. B'Elanna you must not see what I do. As a friend I should tell you, confide in you. But I don't. You are ruining it all by yourself. I don't have to do anything, yet.

So like a vulture all I can do is sit and wait, and when frustration and temptation crosses his path I promised myself a long time ago that I would be there.

Tom, haven't I been good to you? Haven't I been the most sanest of friends? Haven't I slipped into ridiculous Captain Proton costumes when she refused to? There are no evils in my past, I had a happy childhood and loving parents. I am fully human. I can hold you down with hard kisses and a passion that would rival any Klingon. Why do you continue with her? One so damaged by her wretched life? You can't go on like this much longer. Let her go to Chakotay, he is the one that always pierces the wall around her. If you just let me try, I could make you happy.

I have left the hope of peace forever. I am a responsible woman but have gone too far in my dreams of fulfillment to ever go back. I just need an opportunity. Selfish and unjust I may be to let the sun go down on you for a while, to let her loss crumple her into oblivion, but in the end perhaps you will not remember how much she beheld you.



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