by Suz suzvoy@tesco.net

Disclaimer - Paramount own 'em.

A sequel of sorts to 'The Hardest Thing'. Set after the events of 'Extreme Risk'.

Okay girls...I'm waiting for my clone. Kat and Julie asked for this. I'm not sure it's what they were expecting...or maybe it is.


There was a chip in the edge of his glass.

Frowning, Tom raised the glass to eye level and studied it intently. Had he really been that specific with the programme? That detailed? He'd created the Sandrines programme nearly five years ago and he couldn't remember.

He didn't want to remember. Anything.

Carefully, he took the contents of the glass down in a single gulp and the moment he rested it back down on the bar, the faceless bartender filled it up immediately.

He remembered programming *that*.

Holding the glass between his hands but still resting it on the bar, he lifted a index finger. And rubbed it over the chip.



The skin hadn't broken.

He didn't need to do this. Didn't need the extra pain to feel alive. Not like her.

He wasn't like her.

If anything, he felt more alive than he ever had. The gaping...whatever...that seemed to consume him, forced upon him more emotion that he'd had to deal with in a long time.

He didn't need to do this.

Three times.

The skin hadn't broken; it hurt, though. He noted that absently, detached, clinically, deciding that maybe this once he shouldn't view anything with emotion. Trying to see as she would. Trying to see as others would.

How the hell did Tuvok do it?

Four times.

Pushing harder.

Tom hissed. He wasn't bleeding, but he'd pierced the very first layer of epidermis and now a small section - maybe a millimetre across, maybe less - stuck out from his finger. Turning his hand, he stared at the evidence.

Well, then. It was a...creamy?...white...? colour. It was practically opaque.

It hurt.

Examining further, he scrutinised what he could see of the layer that had been revealed underneath. Raw. Tender. That much easier to break if he so chose, and that much more painful if he did.


He turned his hand palm down and placed it on the bar.

The brain that had served him so *very* well in the Captains ready room now repeated its performance. "Uh,"

B'Elanna sat next to him, carefully. She was in her uniform. She wasn't emotionless. In fact, she was almost smiling.


Almost. It was something.

Why wasn't he? He wanted to smile back, he wanted to wrap his arms around her and welcome her back, but he couldn't help but remember...

...she would pull away. She would cross her arms defensively. She would murmur his name without emotion and concoct an excuse to leave.


(Nice to have a reversal of roles for once, isn't it?)

He had worked with her to rescue the probe, had watched her work to save them...but he hadn't dared to hope. He couldn't. That had run out a while ago, replaced only by desperation. Another kind of hope? Probably.

Yet here it was; confirmation. It would still take time. It would still take a long time. But she was better.

He would still need time. A long time. But he would be better. She was B'Elanna. For that, he would be better.

She tried to understand his silence. Tried to decipher the goings-on of his brain; never a smart idea in his or anyone else's book.

Cautiously, she reached out and placed her hand on top of his.

Gentleness. From her. She must have meant whatever she was trying to say.

The faceless bartender reappeared, deposited a drink in front of her, and tried to fill up his glass.

"No," Tom said, pushing it away from him. "Get me a new glass."

It could have been his imagination, but he thought her hand tightened over his.



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Suz's Voyager Fanfic