Who comforts the comforter?
Veronica Jane Williams
My idea for this story (B'Elanna suffering a miscarriage) came from a chance reference in another story I wrote, THORNS AND THISTLES, then referred to again in REFLECTIONS. I wrote those stories first.
The characters are the property of Paramount. I merely borrowed them for an afternoon on the Waterfront (Cape Town's that is). They will be returned as soon as they have graced the pages of V.J.W's fantasy. The story, needless to say, is mine.
What can I say about the rating? Anybody can read it, for heaven's sake. If you want to bring out the hankies, by all means do. Rating: G
I played during the writing of this story, Beethoven's Symphony No.1 in C-Major.
WHO COMFORTS THE COMFORTER?
Tom Paris was busy at the replicator when his wife, B'Elanna came from shift. Seeing her enter, he rather guiltily tucked his hands behind his back. And blushed a little, with a sheepish grin on his face.
"Tom, What are you doing?"
"Oh=85 er=85 I was justË " He stopped, as she approached, and stood right in front of him."
"What's that you're hiding, Helm Boy. Something I shouldn't see?"
"It's nothing, really. Not so important."
"Oh," she said, a little sceptically, " my husband is hiding something behind his back that he doesn't want his wife to see, and says it's not important. Very funny, Tom Paris."
"Come on, B'Elanna. Be a sport." Then trying to divert her attention, he leaned forward and said: "Don't you even kiss your husband?"
"Oh no. I'm not falling for your low-down dirty tricks. C'mon, give." She closed in, and lunged for it, but he jumped out of the way. Not quick enough, it seemed. She caught him, and started tickling him.
"B'Elanna, no! You know I'm ticklish. Watch it, woman. I might hurt you!"
She had a wicked grin on her face as she grabbed his armpits, her curiosity aroused. He was writhing and squirming until he dropped the item he was trying to hold on to. She bent down to pick it up and came up slowly, holding the fluffiest pink teddy bear in her hand. She looked at him. Then hooted.
"Tom, I do believe you're sentimental. A little premature and a little presumptuous. Don't you think?" She looked at him with shiny eyes, and a little indulgently, a smile playing on her lips now.
"Let me have it back, B'Elanna."
"Sure, Helm Boy. Kiss me first."
"Yes, ma'am. Anytime ma'am." Taking her into his arms, he kissed her long and lingeringly, her arms encircling his waist.
Fingering the teddy bear, she looked at it, then at Tom. "It's beautiful, Tom. You really want a little girl, don't you? We're only two months pregnant, you know."
"Hey, I've a weakness for women."
"As long as it's only me, and this baby which you hope will be a girl."
"Why do you think I replicated Gracie? I have hopes for us, woman."
"Yeah, the little bear. I figured as long as I have her, our little girl growing there," and he caressed her stomach when he said that, " becomes almost tangible to me. Very real. Oh, I know very soon I'll even feel her kicking. Thank you, B'Elanna, for our little baby."
"Well, I'll tell it's way too early to stË " B'Elanna broke off, clamped her hand over her mouth, and started for the bathroom. Tom felt the nausea rising in complete sympathy, rushed after her to the bathroom, where he held her all the while she retched. He held her heaving body, then led her to the bed, where he made her lie down, tucking her in tenderly. She looked tired to him, and had been plagued by morning sickness at all hours. So much for thinking it attacks one only in the morning. Stroking her hair, he comforted her. Saying it will be over soon. He felt a sudden inclination to get back into bed with her and just hold her.
Leaving the teddy bear in her hands, he prepared to go on his duty shift. "Here," he said. "Look after Gracie for me," he said tenderly.
B'Elanna clutched the pink teddy bear, and wondered sometimes how Tom could be so certain that they would have a little girl.
She didn't want to show him yet the pair of baby mitts she made, or the blanket she replicated. A beautiful woven one with pink and white motiffs. He'd laugh his head off, if he knew, paying her back for laughing at him just now. She still felt the occasional pang of surprise that he could love her so much, and the depth of her love for him, almost scared her. She felt intuitively that this baby was to seal that love, the expression of everything they mean to each other.
They had both wanted to start a family immediately and were both looking forward to their first child. She noticed how Tom was sometimes irresistably drawn to Naomi Wildman, the first child born on Voyager. He would think of any excuse just to play with her or to babysit her. If truth be told, his enthusiasm was so infectious, it made her excited too. Pending motherhood was to her strange territory, and wonderful. She hoped Tom wouldn't be disappointed if their baby was a boy. But she knew it didn't matter to him. He was to her as ready for fatherhood, as she was for assuming her part as a first time mother.
Tom walked to the bridge as if on air. He was ecstatic about their coming baby, and couldn't resist replicating that teddy this morning. B'Elanna had almost laughed her head off, but he wasn't fazed. It was some early reminder of what was to come. He didn't care. There were probably any number of people around who were as excited when they were expecting their first babies.
A father, he mused. Tom Paris, whom nobody thought would settle down, did just that. And with a wonderful woman. One whom he thought would never accept him, given his reputation. Whose fiery nature was what attracted him to her in the first place. He could never imagine her changing. He often revelled in their outbursts of anger, or temper, or just plain hot-headedness, always of course anticipating the passionate making up afterwards. It was so much part of her. He had learned early on in their relationship, just how to cope with his wife's Klingon temper. She was a person of extremes, he reflected. Her gentleness and her Klingon fierceness and courage often baffling to some crew members. She was intense in everything she did. From her work in engineering, to the way she displayed her feelings to him. He had a feeling that she would take to motherhood with the same hundred percent commitment she gave to everything in her life.
They came in for some good-natured ribbing from their friends too. Harry promising - very tongue-in-cheek, he was inclined to believe - to compose a clarinet sonata for the baby. He even gave B'Elanna some classical recordings to play for the unborn child, claiming it was therapeutic. He said his mother played classical music for him while he was in her womb. No doubt their unborn child could benefit from a little bit of culture.
Chakotay, who always looked upon B'Elanna much as he would a recalcitrant younger sister, encouraged her to seek her animal guide again, as she would probably need him/her in the coming months. Hoping of course that she wouldn't kill it.
Everyone it seemed, wanted to give the prospective parents some well meaning advice. Strangely enough, B'Elanna had no particular craving during this time, even odder was the fact that Tom was queasy all the time. They felt it best to consult the Doctor, who was a fount of information on childbirth, and who, ironically was the one who cautioned them on being overhasty.
Tom did not know that prospective mothers, pregnant with their first babies, could become so cranky at times. His forebearance was tested to the limit whenever B'Elanna would go into a fit of weeping, becoming completely hysterical and blame him for her condition. She would rant and cry; he would hold her in his arms and reassure her over and over that he was there for her, that everything would be allright. He even allowed her to lash out physically at him - it seemed to make her feel better. Rather him than some unsuspecting and hapless ensign in engineering. When she had these fits of weeping, he would just take her to the couch, recline there with her in his arms, and stay till she fell asleep. Another of her malaises at the moment. Her constant tiredness, it seemed. She slept a lot. Far more than she used to. Still, he took these things in their stride. She claimed it was so un-Klingon like.
About one month later, they were orbitting an M-Class planet. They were to replenish their food reserves, and take some well earned shore leave. Tom had been looking forward to shore leave, wanting to get B'Elanna to take a break.
He woke around 0700, his hand as usual against her stomach, his lips nudging her neck. "C'mon, sleepyhead. If we don't move soon, we'll have to queue for the transporter."
B'Elanna moved slowly, almost lethargically. "Don't want to get up. Let me sleep," she mumbled, feeling another bout of nausea overtake her. She tried to sit up, but felt a twinge in her lower back. Afterwards Tom helped her back to bed. "Tom," she said, "I think I'd rather stay. I'm not feeling too well right now." She went right back into the curling position she had assumed earlier. Tom felt the unease as he looked at her. She really didn't looked well to him.
"Fine," came his reply. "Then I'll stay with you. I don't mind. I want to be with you, anyway."
"No=85 no, you go and enjoy yourself," she said, a little half-heartedly.
Tom was by no means convinced. "B'Elanna," he said as he brushed the hair from her face, noticing the feverish flush. "I think you'd better see the Doctor." She gave him a withering look, saying she was in no mood for Doctor's surliness. Before he could reply, however, B'Elanna was caught by a sudden sharp pain which left her clutching her stomach. At the same time she became aware of a sickly stickiness between her legs. She was haemorrhaging, she realised with dread.
"Tom? What's happening to me? I don't feel too good." She looked suddenly on the verge of tears.
Tom wasted no time and requested a sight to sight transport to sickbay. With minutes the doctor was ready with his diagnosis.
B'Elanna was lying on the biobed, Tom was holding her hand, an anxious look on his face. Not only that, he felt terrible foreboding. He looked at her, saw his fear mirrored there. Then they both looked at the Doctor.
"You're going to miscarry, I'm afraid. A spontaneous abortion. The placenta has already separated itself from the wall of the uterus. There is nothing I can do. It happens."
B'Elanna had raised herself up on her elbows, looking at him. If the doctor could pass a death sentence on their hopes and dreams, this was it. Her face drained of all colour, her hands trembled, her eyes misted over. A sob rose from deep within her as she hurled herself into her husband's arms. He held her against him, soothing her. But she was beside herself as she buried herself in his arms. He lay her gently back in the bed. The doctor continued:
"The fetus will abort in the next few hours. I'm sorry. There is no reason to believe that you will not conceive again, Lieutenant Torres." As if that was any consolation now.
Tom stayed with his wife all through her ordeal, the pain becoming at times unbearable. But she refused any sedative. He soothed, sonsoled, comforted, but her earlier hysteria had turned into deep sorrow. She turned away from her husband, flinching a little at his touch on her cheek. When it was over, B'Elanna lay exhausted, her eyes dry - and empty.
He held her close to him, as much in shock as she was. The doctor allowed him to take her back to their quarters, where Tom carried her to bed, tucked her in and lay next to her, holding her comfortingly.
There followed for Tom and B'Elanna a period of mourning. She plunged into deep despair one moment, then intense rage the next.
At times she would cry for hours, and all Tom could do was hold her. It was at these times that he felt the anguish so acute, he never thought that he, as a man, could experience such despair. He imagined that as he did not carry the fetus, he would not be affected in the way that B'Elanna was. She after all, was the one who was pregnant. It shouldn't shatter him as much as it did her. But it did. It surprised him, but when he thought about it, was not such a surprise at all. Considering how excited he had been. How he was looking forward to be a father to a beautiful little girl who would resemble her mother.
Yes, it broke his heart. He wondered abstractedly, as he stroked his wife's hair, kissed her fevered brow, if the pain would ever go away. His wife's reactions had been understandable, the crew as disappointed as they were.
"B'Elanna," he told her one evening, "let's go to the holodeck and enjoy some game there. Or anything you want to do." He was trying his best to encourage her to do some recreational activities. Thinking it would be good for her if she could concentrate on other things, be involved again with the rest of the crew. But it was more difficult than he anticipated.
She would just look at him, shake her head and lie on the bed, curling herself in the fetal position. "I don't feel like doing anything right now, Tom." That would be her response, everytime.
He felt it most, when they retired for bed. She would reject his advances, even if only to curl his body against her, with his arm thrown around her to cup her breast, like he always does.
"I'm tired. I have a headache," became her stock response when he all he wanted to do was just hold her close. Heaven knows, he needed her closeness too. Then he would sigh resignedly, and lie awake most of the night. It was little comfort to him that sometime during the night she would crawl back into the reassuring safety of his arms. She would snuggle against him, her face in his neck, her arm round his waist and not see the single tear rolling down his cheek.
She sank into a state of melancholy, and, he thought privately, a certain amount of selfishness, that she did not recognise his pain too. It was she who was pregnant, not the 'they' of the beginning. It was she who lost the baby, not 'they'. It was she who suffered, not 'they'. For sure, he tried to understand, giving her as much of his attention and comfort she needed in this time. But where the human part of B'Elanna had wanted to accept what happened, and come to terms with it, the Klingon half of her took it as a personal affront. For weren't they warriors, who were strong and therefore incapable of suffering such mishaps as a miscarriage? She was constantly looking for reasons why she miscarried, sometimes blaming him, or her work. The answer eluded her, and as long as it eluded her, she would refuse to accept the truth. Or perhaps, she reasoned, she was just plain weak, so un-Klingon like. Then she would berate herself, sinking into despair again. Thinking it was her fault. Tom was never far away from her during these weeks. Always popping into engineering to see if she was okay, sitting with her in the mess hall, holding her hand. Encouraging her to eat.
At times when she would burst into fits of rage, she would vent it on him. Trash their quarters, fight him, beating with her fists against his chest, until she would be spent, and collapse against him, Then he would embrace her fiercely, soothe her, kiss her cheek, her eyes, her hair. And cry silently.
The turning point came when he, perhaps providentially walked into engineering one day. He had seen her anger building the morning already, when she left to her shift and he had been concerned. So he thought he would pop in. She was on the verge of breaking Joe Carey's nose. Prowling around poor Joe like an enraged animal. When he called her, she turned on him. And for a full five minutes, five minutes which seemed like an eternity, he let her beat him. She scratched, clawed, used her fists, but Tom remained passive, allowing her to use him as a punching bag. When it was over, he apologised to Joe, carried his wife to sickbay, where the doctor sedated her, and treated his wounds.
B'Elanna did not notice how Tom was affected, his blue-blue eyes, red with unshed tears. But he believed, the worst for B'Elanna was over. The doctor seemed put out by her behaviour and said to him:
"Lieutenant Paris, I'd like you to leave now, and let me see to your wife." Tom was hesitant, unwilling to leave her. "Look, do you want me to inform the Captain? Go back to duty, Lieutenant. Let me deal with your wife." Tom looked one last time at B'Elanna, and sighed. So he left, to the bridge, where he continued his duty as helmsman. But he was preoccupied, the Captain noticed. However, Tom was a gifted pilot. He would perform his task as if he were born to it.
"Lieutenant Torres," the doctor said, a trifle angrily, and ready to go into lecture mode. "I asked your husband to leave so that I could have a word with you."
She looked resentfully at him, for sending Tom away, but more because she had a feeling he would tell her where to get off. Which is exactly what the Doctor did.
"I thought it would be a good idea if an outsider, such as myself could put things in perspective for you. You may think you are alone in your grief. Believe me, for centuries women have miscarried with their first pregnancies. Even in our own enlightened 24th century. For the most part there is really no reason why it happens. The normal reasons apply in most cases: a deformed fetus, for instance, aborts naturally. And there's nothing you can do about it."
"Doctor, you don't understand. I'm half Klingon. It shouldn't be happening to me," she interjected. "I'm supposed to be strong, to be able to carry a baby to term." Her eyes were flashing now, as if daring the Doctor to prove her differently. She was ready to do battle with now.
"Especially you. I don't know where you get this idea from. Sometimes, if I have to quote some philosophy, it was not meant to be. You have to accept that. No one is really exempt. If you were standing at a window watching a thousand women walk by, the chances are that half of them would have had a miscarriage. I don't know why you science types don=92t understand this. You want to rationalise something which was for the most part in your case unpreventable."
B'Elanna had the grace for once to look slightly ashamed. She knew in her heart of hearts that losing a baby was something she would have to live with, and accept, and let life go on.
But the good doctor was rolling now. "You have to learn to accept that it happened to you. It could happen to your friend, to other people close to you. I gave you the assurance that there is nothing physiologically wrong with you, and that there is no reason why you can't fall pregnant again. But if you continue to beat yourself up over something that happened naturally, you might just not fall pregnant soon, as you are retarding your own progress. By sulking and being selfish and becoming insulated with your own grief."
At the last words of the doctor, B'Elanna blanched, was on the point of getting angry again.
"Selfish? How was I selfish? I lost a baby, Doctor. How can you suggest that?"
"When last have you looked properly at your husband, Lieutenant Torres? Or is it just an interface - your own words - like me who notices these things? Did you see his eyes? Has he ever spoken to you about how he felt, or is feeling? Never? Or have you just sucked him dry, taking and not giving, demanding he be there for you all the time, not allowing him to express his grief? Or do you think just because he is a man, he doesn't have anything to say, or feel? That because he wasn't pregnant and he didn't miscarry, you imagine he doesn't feel any loss? Believe me, Lieutenant, I've watched your husband, and I can see he feels the loss as acutely as you do. This has been as traumatic for him as for you. I seem to recall treating him too for bouts of nausea. Now that's unusual, don't you think? That your husband could also be suffering, heaven forbid."
It struck B'Elanna Torres-Paris like a bolt of lightning.
"Oh, my God." It came out as a groan as the full impact of the doctor's words sank in.
She looked at the Doctor, who could see the light dawning on this woman, and who thought at last that he had struck home. It had bothered him to see this woman, half Klingon half human, who revelled in her celebrated Klingon strength, use her husband so.
Who became querulous and petulant if he didn't run fast enough to console her the moment she became despondent.
B'Elanna, her eyes clouded with pain, not for herself now, but for her husband, looked at the Doctor.
"What have I done to him?" she croaked, then graciously excused herself and went back to engineering.
She would speak to Tom,tonight, she thought, as she entered her small office, nodding a little self-consciously to Carey. Yes, tonight she would speak to Tom. She felt such a heel. For the doctor was right. She accepted now what happened, is even coming to terms with it, but at what cost? She relied on his strength so much, she failed to see that he needed comfort too. She had selfishly demanded Tom's support, his love, caring , not for one moment thinking that he might be in pain. She even accused him at times that he was unfeeling. She thought of the times he wanted to be close to her, and she had rebuffed his advances. She closed her eyes, feeling the shame wash over her. She had failed to see the signs. While she had cried her heart out, was allowed to express her grief openly and even with physical force, he remained calm, for her sake, she realised now. For her sake. She should have known that he would hide his pain behind that infernal mask of his. So she thought he did not empathise with her. What a prize fool she had been.
She continued her work that day, being preoccupied with these thoughts, and looking forward to the moment she could see him that evening.
B'Elanna entered the quarters she and Tom shared, expecting to find him there. However, there was no sign of him, and it surprised her that he left his commbadge on his desk. Taking the badge, she headed for the holodecks anyway, the one place she knew she would find him. The computer informed her that holodeck two was currently running program Paris Alpha 7. Not surprisingly. It was the greatroom of his family home, their retreat, if they wanted to get away a little.
Tom, who was usually so attuned to his wife's presence, did not hear the soft footfall behind him. He thought after leaving B'Elanna with the doctor, that he needed to get away a little. He didn't know anymore what to do with her. How to get her to come to terms with losing her baby. He tried everything, been the best husband he could be, but it didn't seem to be enough. It just wasn't enough.
He was sitting on the couch, hunched, and holding the pink teddy bear he named Gracie, fingering the softness of the fur. Hell, he even thought of the baby they lost as "Gracie" now. In front of him, sitting up and waiting for his commands, were Nemo and Bligh, the golden labradors. Their tongues were hanging out in anticipation of their walk in the woods. Both dogs had their leashes on. Now they were panting, looking at their master who was looking intently at that pink thing in his hands. But Tom seemed to have forgotten the dogs were there. Heaven knows, he was as devastated as B'Elanna, had looked so forward to the birth of the child. He had visions of her - he always thought of the baby as 'her'- lying on his chest, sleeping, or clapping her hands, planting wet kisses on his cheek- looking exactly like her mother with her dark hair and eyes and the familiar ridged brow. He closed his eyes in sudden pain at that thought, and wondered absently whether B'Elanna would ever understand that he shared her pain, or whether she could share his pain. He was not one to dwell on the trauma, and felt it was time to move on. But as long as B'Elanna was unhappy, it made him unhappy. They needed to go forward now, but he found it difficult himself to let go. He had bottled up his own anger, anguish, pain, disappointment, for her sake. But it was eating away at him.
He needed her. To comfort him, too. He sighed, and before he knew what he was doing, raised his hand to throw the teddy bear into the fire.
"Please don't, Tom. Don't throw it away."
There was a pleading sound in her voice. She came round to face him, and sat down next to him. He didn't look up at her, staring intently at Gracie, then with thumb and forefinger rubbed his eyes. He remained that way, not really knowing what to say to her.
Taking his hand in hers, both now holding on to the little bear, she said: "Forgive me, Tom. For not recognising sooner that you were in pain too. Please." Her voice sounded strong, no longer so petulant. He looked at her then, the blue eyes dark with pain. She drew him close and held his head against her breast. In a gently rocking motion she soothed him, and comforted him. A great sob escaped him. B'Elanna Torres-Paris stroked his hair, his face, all the time her husband cried. His body heaved with great racking sobs. And she cried with him, for being such a fool, and for the release they were both experiencing.
They sat there a long time. She kissed the tears from his face, his eyes, his lips, the touch not of passion, but of solace.
At length she took Gracie from him, and said thoughtfully: "It was going to be a girl you know. Your instinct was right, as always, Tom. I got that from the Doctor today. He gave me the lecture I needed. Really let me see things in perspective. He made me see how selfish I was in my grief."
She cupped his face with her hands, her eyes never wavering from his. "I came to rely on your support, drew on your strength so much, I didn't realise you needed me too." At this her eyes filled with tears again. "I am sorry, Tom. So sorry. That you were there for me, but I wasn't there for you. Forgive me, please." He just smiled a little sadly and hugged her.
She pinned his commbadge on, gently reminding him of Starfleet regulations. She looked at him, a sad smile playing across her features, but it was a smile of acceptance. "I love you, B'Elanna," he whispered.
"I love you Tom, very much." He gave her a convulsive hug and held her a long time like that.
"Come, the dogs want to walk," she said softly to him, taking their leashes and handing him one. Changing the setting of the program to the exterior of the house, brought them on the porch. His one arm was around her waist, holding her very close to him, while Nemo tugged impatiently at the leash in the other. Bligh kept jumping up to her to get to the teddy bear. They let the dogs run free into the woods, with their unbounded energy. They walked down the steps of the porch, and started towards the woods. A companionable silence rested between them. He would look at her from time to time, smile, and then plant a kiss on her cheek, her lips, her hair.
They were quiet for a long time, words unnecessary. But it was a comforting, good silence, one in which they were in tune with one another. Both thinking that they can move on now. Both thinking that they will remember Gracie with tenderness. Both thinking that there will be another baby for them. One day.
Ronnie would like some feedback. Constructive criticism, say.