Title: I'll Be There
Author: LoTuS
Feedback:  lotus79@startrekmail.com; lotus@primus.com.au
Synopsis:  Set after a P/T marriage, while Voyager is still in the Delta Quadrant.  An answer to a PTF challenge to write a story based on a song.
Archiving:  PTF, PTC, BLTS, anyone else, please ask me.
Disclaimer1:  Paramount owns the characters in this story.  I own the story.
Disclaimer2:  The song 'I'll Be There' is performed by The Escape Club, and is copyright to WEA
International Inc.  I don't own that, either.

And just for Tracy, this one has a hanky alert;-)

Dedicated to everybody who has ever taken a moment to send me a bit of feedback, no matter how small.  I can't express my gratitude.

I'll Be There

B'Elanna Torres burst into sickbay, knocking somebody out of the way in her haste to see the figure on the biobed.  So desperate was she, that she didn't even see it was the captain.
"Tom!"  Her husband's face was badly burned and barely recognisable.  The Doctor spared her a momentary glance as he feverishly worked to keep death at bay, but he was fighting a losing battle, and they all knew it.  B'Elanna stepped forward and took the patient's hand, and for once, the Doctor didn't complain.
His eyes were open and staring, no longer blue, but blackened like the rest of his face.  A single tear rolled
down her cheek as she said again, more softly this time, "Tom."
There was a definite reaction, his lips moved, trying to form a word, and a sickening gurgling sound issued from his throat.
"It's alright, Tom, I'm here.  Don't try to talk, save your strength," she soothed.  She felt his hand squeeze
hers, so lightly, she wasn't sure she hadn't imagined it.  A few seconds later, an indicator started to chirp,
and B'Elanna looked up in alarm.
"He's going into cardiac arrest!  Ensign!"  The Doctor called.  This was directed towards Samantha
Wildman, who was assisting the Doctor in the absence of his usual nurse.  She obediently handed him a
hypospray full of Cordrazine, which the Doctor injected into his patient's neck.  All to no avail, as the
monitor's erratic beeping faded into one long, steady, heartbreaking note.
B'Elanna threw back her head and howled.
*     *     *

The funeral was held a day later, in the mess hall.  Neelix outdid himself, cooking all of Tom's favourite
foods,  including the pizza he'd perfected after four long years of the helmsman's patient tutelage.  Almost
the whole crew gathered to farewell a respected crewmate and friend, although one or two whispered in
dark corners about the apparent coldness of his widow.
B'Elanna stood between Joe Carey and Harry Kim, the latter's left hand gently squeezing her shoulder, his
right in the firm grasp of one Seven of Nine.  Tears coursed unashamedly down his face as he watched the exodus of the torpedo casing containing the remains of his best friend.  Carey, too, was overcome, and even Seven looked completely miserable.  B'Elanna however, was expressionless, showing no sign that she even felt Harry's hand on her shoulder, and her eyes were completely dry.  She dared not cry; she knew if she started, she'd never be able to stop.
B'Elanna floated in this near catatonic state, managing a half smile and a soft muttered, "Thankyou" to the various people who approached her to offer condolences, and assuring the captain that she didn't want an extended leave of absence from her duties as Chief Engineer.  Only her closest friends saw past her own version of the 'Paris mask' that she had erected around herself.
Finally, the gathering began to disperse, everyone slowly making their way back to their duty shifts or their quarters.  Joe returned to supervise the repairs in engineering, and Seven to her regeneration alcove, stating that her emotional equilibrium had been "damaged" by Lieutenant Paris's death.
"Would you like to stay on my couch tonight?" Harry offered.
B'Elanna shook her head, "I've got to go home sometime, Starfleet," she answered, with a half smile that
worried him.
"B'Elanna, you can't keep it in forever."
"I know, Harry," she told him, "But I have to, for just a little while longer."
He understood.  The two friends embraced before leaving in opposite directions.
*     *     *

When B'Elanna entered her quarters, she half expected him to be there, lolling on the bed, waiting for her.  He wasn't, of course.  Wearily, she pulled off her dress uniform and crawled under the covers in one of the shifts he'd given her.  She hadn't slept since it happened, having insisted on staying with him until they'd closed the torpedo casing.
"Computer, lights off."
B'Elanna lay in the dark for what seemed like hours, but sleep eluded her.  Every time she closed her eyes she saw his face; his handsome, beloved face; burned beyond recognition.  When she finally managed to snatch a few hours sleep, she woke in a cold sweat, reaching for her husband, hoping to prove to herself that it was all just a nightmare.  It was a nightmare.  A waking one.
And, of course, he wasn't there.
B'Elanna pulled back the covers and gave up on sleep for the moment.
"Lights, thirty percent," she called tiredly.  As the computer obeyed, she dragged herself upright and headed toward the living room.  At this point, the couch looked more inviting than the bed, so she sat down, heavily.  A piece of clothing was draped over the arm, and she picked it up, identifying it as one of Tom's nightshirts, carelessly discarded during a game of 'catch-me-if-you-can'.  It still smelled of him.
"Computer, access Lieutenant Paris's musical database," she commanded, on the spur of the moment.
"Specify time period."
"Late twentieth century"
"Specify song and artist."
"Play a random selection."
The computer chirped in response, and a few seconds later a slow drum beat began, followed by a haunting melody played on some sort of wind instrument.  The rhythm was slow, and the music was bittersweet; the lyrics not so much sung as gently spoken.

Over mountains, over trees
Over oceans, over seas
Across the desert
I'll be there

B'Elanna found herself gently swaying to the music, clutching the nightshirt to her chest like a lifeline,
breathing in the last of his scent; remembering.

In the whisper on the wind
In the smile of a new friend
Just think of me
And I'll be there

The day she'd first met him, when he joined the Maquis.  He'd smiled at her, a lecherous, calculating smile.  She hadn't liked him at all, then, but Voyager changed them both for the better.

Don't be afraid, oh my love
I'll be watching you from above
And I'd give all the world tonight, to be with you
'Cause I'm on your side, and I still care
I may have died but I've gone nowhere
Just think of me, and I'll be there

She wondered at the computer's strangely morbid choice of song, but it suit her mood perfectly.  If
she closed her eyes, she could imagine that it was Tom's voice singing this song to her, from beyond the
grave.  She smiled sadly; it was just the sort of thing he would say to her, now.

On the edge of a waking dream
Over rivers, over streams
Through wind and rain
I'll be there

After all, he'd already proven his devotion to her, several times over.  He'd persisted in wooing her, when
she'd given him no encouragement, regardless of how much she'd wanted to.  It was as if he'd sensed,
somehow, that she'd only needed to get over her fear.  Now, she was sorry they'd wasted so much time in finding each other.

Across the wide open sky
Thousands of miles I'd fly
To be with you
I'll be there

B'Elanna supposed that in the twentieth century, thousands of miles must have seemed a very long way to the human race.  They could probably barely even imagine what it was like to be more than 70,000 light years away from home.  She sighed.  Even that was a bare millimetre, compared to the distance between her and her mate.

Don't be afraid, oh my love
I'll be watching you from above
And I'd give all the world tonight, to be with you
'Cause I'm on your side, and I still care
I may have died but I've gone nowhere
Just think of me, I'll be there
Just think of me, I'll be there

Their first real date, on the holodeck.  He'd taken her to see a primitive, non-interactive type of visual
entertainment that he called a 'movie'.  She couldn't remember the title, but he'd told her that it was
considered a classic love story, even decades after its original release.  Afterwards, huddled together in the
backseat of a thing he called a 'car', they'd made love for the first time, and he'd told her, "You'll always
have Paris, B'Elanna."  She'd laughed, then, thinking he was joking, but the look in his eyes proved he was in earnest.

In the breath of a wind that sighs
Oh, there's no need to cry
Just think of me
And I'll be there

A broken sob escaped her throat, and finally, the wall she'd so carefully built up around her feelings came
tumbling down.  B'Elanna lay curled up in the wreckage, weeping like a child, and strangely, she began to
feel better.

Don't be afraid, oh my love
I'll be watching you from above
And I'd give all the world tonight, to be with you
'Cause I'm on your side, and I still care
I may have died but I've gone nowhere
Just think of me, and I'll be there
Just think of me, I'll be there
Think of me

Although tears were still dripping from her face, through her tears, she was smiling.
"Tom, can you hear me?"  she called to the empty air, "Are you there?  I love you."

I'll be there.

He heard her.

And B'Elanna finally slept peacefully.

~ c'est finis

Please let me know what you think, especially if you like it.  Positive feedback will motivate me to write more and faster.  Constructive criticism will help me to improve my technique.  The address to write to is lotus79@startrekmail.com or, if you prefer, lotus@primus.com.au  It doesn't really matter, it all ends up in the same place!

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