"GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT"
STARDATE 54610.03 - Six years later
B'Elanna sat on the sofa inside the Mess Hall, staring the stars beyond the viewport. She allowed herself a heartfelt sigh and rested her hand upon her slightly protruding belly.
"Is everything fine, B'Elanna?" an anxious voice behind her, asked.
The Chief Engineer glanced up and found herself looking into the
concerned eyes of Voyager's cook and morale officer. She smiled. "I'm fine, Neelix. The baby is just a little active, this evening." B'Elanna gave her stomach a pat. "Actually, I was remembering."
"Oh?" Neelix joined B'Elanna on the sofa. "Remembering what?"
B'Elanna's gaze returned to the viewport. "Do you know what today is, Neelix?" When the Talaxian shook his head, she continued, "Six years ago today, Tuvok had exonerated Tom for murder."
Bushy eyebrows flew upward. "Murder? When was Tom . . .?" Realization dawned in his orange-yellow eyes. "Oh! The Baneans!"
A wry smile touched B'Elanna's lips. "I wondered if you would remember."
"Well, you did mention Tom and murder in the same breath. It didn't take me long to figure out that you meant that Banean scientist and his wife. I'm only surprised that you remembered."
B'Elanna replied in an arch tone, "Believe me, Neelix. That is one memory I will never forget. I learned an important lesson that day, thanks to Harry."
Neelix gave B'Elanna a shrewd look. "I think a lot of us learned the same lesson. Only it took me nearly six months later to finally learn it." He paused. "Did you really believe that Tom was guilty of murder?"
"I had believed that Tom was guilty of a lot of things, back then," B'Elanna said softly. "Murder was just one of them. I wasn't exactly a big fan of his. It's amazing how quick we were to judge him without any real evidence."
"You have to admit that Tom didn't make it easy for us back in those days."
B'Elanna's smile faded. "Maybe not. But that was no excuse. Whatever bad attitude Tom had in those days, it didn't stop him from making friends with Harry or Kes. Or the Captain from trusting him. They gave him a chance. We didn't."
Silence fell between the two friends. They were so deep in their memories that they failed to hear the Mess Hall's doors slide open. The next thing B'Elanna knew, a large pair of warm hands had covered her eyes. "Guess who," a familiar voice whispered.
B'Elanna inhaled. Every nerve in her body tingled with delight. She would recognized those pheromones anywhere. "Hmmmm," she murmured in a playful manner. "Freddie Barstow?"
"Hey!" Tom removed his hands, as B'Elanna began to giggle. A wide grin spread across Neelix's face. "Excuse me, Neelix." Tom frowned, although B'Elanna could see that it had failed to reach his eyes. "I need to discuss something with my wife. Namely, her misplaced sense of humor."
Still grinning, Neelix stood up and returned to the galley. Tom immediately occupied the empty seat. "Freddie Barstow, huh?" he growled with mock menace. Then his frown disappeared and Tom planted a warm kiss at the edge of B'Elanna's mouth. "You're lucky I'm in a good mood tonight, or I would have made you pay for that little remark."
Again, B'Elanna giggled. "Oh? Exactly how would you make me pay?" she purred, leaning toward her husband.
"Like this." Tom lowered his mouth upon B'Elanna's. The playful mood vanished and the air between them was soon filled with desire. The kiss became a passionate exploration of each other's mouth. B'Elanna would have happily continued, but sounds of rattling pots and pans reminded her of a third presence inside the Mess Hall.
"Uh Tom?" B'Elanna said in a husky voice. It was hard to ignore the warm tongue that flickered back and forth behind her ear. With great reluctance, she broke away from her husband's embrace. "Sorry to do this, but . . ." B'Elanna nodded toward the direction of the galley. "Neelix."
A sigh left Tom's mouth. "Oh yeah. Neelix." He gave his wife one last nip on the chin, before leaning back on the sofa. "So what were you two talking about?" he asked.
B'Elanna replied, "Nothing." She paused. "I just remembered an anniversary, that's all."
After a brief hesitation, B'Elanna continued, "Well, today is the sixth anniversary of the date Tuvok had cleared you of the murder of that Banean scientist. Remember Dr. Ren?"
"How could I forget him?" Tom said with a groan. "And his lovely wife, Lidell Ren. God, what had I been thinking?"
Another giggle escaped B'Elanna's mouth. "That's a good question, Flyboy. I thought you were a better judge of character than that." A small part of her felt amazed that she could tease Tom about his past interest in another woman. Something she could have never done, three years ago. Or maybe even last year.
Tom shook his head. "What can I say? I was young, stupid and horny. Don't forget, I had only been out of prison for almost four months. My libido was a little out of control, at the time. I could see that Lidell's marriage was already dead and she was no longer interested in her husband. Besides, I never thought she was an angel. Just bored and horny. I never realized she wanted me as a scapegoat for her little scheme."
"You call murder and espionage, a little scheme? Hmmph!" B'Elanna held out her hand. "Help me up, Hotshot."
Tom rose from the sofa and helped his wife to her feet. Then husband and wife started toward the exit. "You can close up now, Neelix," Tom said to the Talaxian. "We're leaving."
"Oh?" Neelix's head popped up from behind the counter. "You two are leaving already?"
"It's getting late." Tom's lips formed a slight smirk. "And the missus over here, needs her beauty sleep." His joke produced a playful punch from 'the missus'.
Disappointment creased Neelix's countenance, as he stood up. "That's too bad. I was in the mood for a little talk. I wanted to ask you something."
The Talaxian continued, "All this talk about the Baneans reminded me of that little spat you had with Seska in the Mess Hall." Mention of Voyager's former adversary drew groans from both B'Elanna and Tom. "Do you remember that day? You made some questionable remark about Seska's time in the Maquis."
A sly grin appeared on Tom's face. "Oh yeah. I remember."
"I'm curious. How did you know she was a Cardassian?"
B'Elanna replied, "He didn't."
Confusion whirled in Neelix's eyes. "I don't understand."
"I had never suspected that Seska was a Cardassian," Tom added. "I thought she was one of those Bajorans who had collaborated with the Cardies during their occupation. During the few weeks I was with the Maquis, there were too many close calls that made me wonder if there was a spy in Chakotay's cell."
Neelix turned to B'Elanna. "Did you feel the same?"
"I never met Tom, while he was in the Maquis," B'Elanna replied. "I did join before he did, but I was involved in the construction of a new starship around the same time."
Tom continued, "And there was always something about Seska's eyes that I didn't like."
"Too Cardassian?" Neelix asked.
"No. Her being Cardassian had nothing to do with it. She simply had the eyes of someone you couldn't trust. Like B'Elanna's old buddy, Max Burke," he added.
The mention of her former Academy boyfriend and his betrayal drew a slight wince from B'Elanna. Thanks a lot, Tom, she thought. But she quickly shot back with her own reminder. "You may also want to include your old buddy, Lidell Ren," she added sweetly.
"Ouch!" This time, it was Tom's turn to wince. "Thanks for reminding me."
Neelix sighed. "You know, with us remembering the old days like this, I might want to write my memoirs. Something like 'A Talaxian's Journey Through the Delta Quadrant'. I'll be sure to add both of you."
The idea did not exactly sit well with B'Elanna. She could only guess what Neelix might write about her. The Chief Engineer could barely stand the idea of Starfleet Academy possessing a complete file on her life. "That's nice, Neelix," she said with little enthusiasm. One glance at her husband told Tom that he shared her feelings. "Well, it's time to go." She tugged at Tom's arm. "See you later, Neelix."
Tom added, "Good night."
"Good night you two," the Talaxian responded.
Once the couple stood outside the Mess Hall, B'Elanna turned to Tom. "We're going to be mentioned in his memoirs?"
"It's just an idea," Tom said in a placating voice.
B'Elanna growled, "It had better be. For his sake." She and Tom continued toward the turbolift, while she contemplated on ways to sabotage the Talaxian's computer logs without anyone finding out.