Thirty Minutes by splv
Summary:

SS exchange 2010. Story for Shayenne.


Categories: Characters: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 2 Completed: Yes Word count: 4013 Read: 6514 Published: 11/01/11 Updated: 11/01/11

1. Chapter 1 by splv

2. Chapter 2 by splv

Chapter 1 by splv
Author's Notes:

Thanks as always to elem, my super beta who took on this story at the very last minute. Thanks a million

To Audabee for this wonderful site

And Shayenne for the awesome request.

 

 

It was still thirty minutes to midnight in San Francisco but in Greece the New Year had already dawned.

At half past nine in the morning, the day after the revelry, the streets that Lieutenant Miguel Ayala walked, were deserted. He wanted it that way; he needed to be alone with his thoughts. On Voyager when they were off the ship on shore leave, they were never alone. For safety reasons, protocol dictated that they travel with a companion; consequently, shore leave frequently meant a party with large groups of boisterous crew.

So once back on earth, he had taken to walking for kilometers by himself, just because he could.

They’d been back an entire year and he was all alone. He still hadn’t found any trace of Mina and his nephews.  The last he had heard, they were on Tevlik's moon with the Maquis but had managed to leave a couple of weeks before the massacre.

He wondered about the timing but was not ready to question the fates too much. He was just glad that they had survived and were possibly still alive somewhere in the quadrant. 

As soon as he was able to leave Voyager, he had searched the throngs of family and friends that were waiting to greet them, hoping they were amongst the many, but there had been no sign of them then or in the ensuing days. It was only later that he’d heard that after leaving the hideout on Tevlik, they had effectively vanished.

Most of the Voyagers had been able to reunite with their families, even those in the Maquis. All had lost friends or family during the war, but there were others: uncles, cousins and siblings who came to welcome them back. He was one of the few who had no one left.

The Voyager crew had become his family and he supposed he could have spent the evening with any of them. He never had a problem making friends and he was widely known on Voyager as being the life of the party, but he wasn’t in the mood for revelry, he would have rather spent time with his closest companions. 

He sighed; that was not to be either. Chakotay was in Panama with his sister and B’Elanna on the Klingon homeworld with Tom and Miral. Chell was wrapped up with his restaurant and New Year’s Eve was an especially busy time for him. Dalby was there helping. Freddy Bristow, his roommate on Voyager, was partying with his cousins somewhere in England and Marla; well he didn’t know where she was.

Marla.  Now she was someone he hadn’t expected to become friends with.

He’d been just as angry as the rest of the crew about what the Equinox captain had done and the danger in which he had embroiled Voyager.

But he had never been one to leap to conclusions about a group based on the actions of an individual. So when Chakotay had approached him to take her off his hands, he had agreed.

She had been following Chakotay around the ship possibly because he had been one of the few people who had been remotely civil to her. But as his old captain had explained, he was concerned she was starting to develop feelings for him and that was a complication that he did not need.

So, as always, when Chakotay asked him, he stepped in.

He had crawled with her through endless Jeffries tubes to avoid the turbo lifts, seen more the inner workings of the ship that he would have known possible, he had drawn her into his circle of friends, and found she was genuine and very funny. Little by little, she opened up and then slowly started to let go off her fear that the alien creatures would come after them.

They celebrated with a bottle of synthehol bubbly when she first stepped back onto a turbolift and with a mug of Chell’s secret stash after her first away mission.

He told her about his nephews back in the Alpha Quadrant and she told him about hers on earth. Being part of Starfleet was always her father’s dream for her and she had wondered what he went through when she vanished on her very first mission.

“He was happy to hear from me. He asked me what happened to Captain Ransom, and I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it”

He’d reached over and squeezed her hand.  They were sitting in the quiet mess hall at the end of gamma shift talking about their first real-time communication with Earth. The alpha shift was just getting going and the mess was deserted. She had looked up gratefully at his show of support.

“What did you say?”

“I was vague, just said something about the Equinox being destroyed and Max and Rudy going down with the ship. I think it scared him, he wanted to talk to Janeway, wanted to know what she was doing to bring us back”

He threw his head back and laughed “I would have loved to have seen that. So did you?”

Marla grinned “No, of course not. I almost died when he said that, you should have seen the look on Seven’s face when he started on his rant.”

“I can imagine her saying something about the frivolous nature of the request. Well, at least your father cares enough to be concerned. I don’t think mine noticed me the entire time we were growing up. Occasionally, on the good days and when he was flush with credits, he would come home with an armful of toys, but he would mostly be wrapped up in a drug induced haze.”

“I’m sorry, Miguel”

He shrugged “It’s all in the past and I swore that I would never do that to my kids. I’ve tried to be a stand-in parent to my nephews, although, it would help if I knew where they were”

“Starfleet hasn’t had any luck tracking them down?”

“No, but they’re trying. I asked Chakotay get a message to Sveta, his contact in the Maquis, hopefully she’ll have better luck, but I’m not holding my breath. I don’t think she can do much from New Zealand.”

“New Zealand? She’s in prison”

“Yes, which is probably where I would have ended up, if I was lucky enough to have dodged Cardassian justice.” He smiled ruefully.

This time she reached over and held his hand. “For what it’s worth, I’m glad that you ended up here.”

They’d had that conversation towards the end of the voyage and it was less than a year after that, that they were shown a way home by Admiral Janeway.

He didn’t see much of Marla once they arrived on Earth. As soon as the crew finished the debriefings the Equinox five were tried for their crimes. Captain Janeway, however, convinced Starfleet to keep it under wraps. She rightly suspected that a public trial would have been disastrous.

The Admiralty had agreed because even though the war was over, diplomats were still hard at work attempting to entice the planets that had withdrawn from the Federation during the heat of the conflict back into the fold, and they didn’t need the added complication of negative publicity.  

Although, Marla and her fellow Equinox crewmembers were acquitted after the closed trial, it was difficult in an organization the size of Starfleet to keep things quiet. Secrets had a way of leaking out, and once they did, all hell broke loose.

The five were constantly derided on the news as being, at best - cowards, and at worst - murderers. They were harangued and harassed, and told that they should have done something to stop Ransom. They were described as too self-centered to try and their inaction enabled him to carry out his genocidal spree.

None of the five could risk stepping out of their homes without a Starfleet escort for fear of attack.

Marla had come by his place soon after, upset and bitterly disappointed at the way things had played out.

“I don’t know Miguel, maybe I deserve it. Noah and I were talking the other night about what we could have done to stop Rudy. We could have overpowered him - he couldn’t kill us all, but maybe it would have been better if he had.”

He’d drawn her close. “Your ship was not nearly as well equipped as Voyager and the crew was much smaller. I don’t agree with what Ransom did, but honestly, I’m not sure what you could have done to stop him and besides Marla, you have paid you dues time and time again. It’s not fair for others to judge you without having any concept of what it was like to be in your place. The isolation from everything that’s familiar and the dangers of the quadrant; it could drive any one insane. Ransom and Max were both mad men and you were trapped on the ship with them.”

She looked at him, her eyes and nose red and tear stained. They were almost the same height and he liked that she could look him in the eye.

“We should have, we should have done something and when Janeway looked around our ship, we could have been honest with her.”

“You were, remember you helped Seven get into the Equinox’s files.”

“I don’t know. I just wish…”

“What are you planning, Marla?” He pulled back to look at her closely, worried that she was considering something drastic.

She’d laughed harshly, “Nothing as dramatic as that. I turned in my resignation to Starfleet and I am going away to think. Maybe someday I’ll find a way to live with myself.”

“Don’t go. Let me talk to Janeway and Chakotay and see if they can do something to smooth this over.” He knew that both of his former Captains would be willing to help. They would have already if they had not been so absorbed battling their own demons.

She’d stepped away from him and turned to leave. “No. They have enough on their plate right now, to worry about us. They’ve done their bit and it’s time for me to find a way to deal with this on my own.”

“Marla!” She stopped at the door. “Let me know if there’s something I can do for you, okay?”

She turned back, her smile genuine and heartfelt. “You have already done more than I could have hoped for. You were my friend in some of the darkest moments that I have been through and for that I am grateful. Miguel you mean the world to me.”

And that was the last time he had seen her.

Chapter 2 by splv

 

He reached the spot along the cliffs where he loved to sit and watch the wave’s crash along the rocks. This was another wonderful feeling of life, planet side. The things that people took for granted; the rising and setting of the sun, the moon, the change of seasons and the waves of an ocean.

There was no amount of Tom Paris’s holodeck artistry that could ever properly capture the sound of the waves, the spray in the air and the scent of the briny water on the breeze. It was sheer bliss and he would never tire of it.

Finding a relatively dry spot, he shucked off his shirt and pants.  The chilly air raised goose bumps on his skin. Dressed just in a swimsuit, he stepped closer to the edge. The ocean looked turbulent, but it was nothing that he couldn’t handle. He had been there a few times before, almost since the day Voyager reached earth.

Dalby, with the help of Tom had created the program, using this very scene. And ever since he’d been dragged to the Holodeck on a dare to jump off the high cliffs into the churning ocean below, he was hooked. Of course, on the holodeck, the safeties were usually on and the times that he did turn them off, the challenge was not the same. The holographic ocean was predictable, the tides and the waves easy to anticipate and he had learned them all.

But this, this was a challenge. No matter how frequently he came by here, there was no way he could predict with absolute certainty the moods of the swirling, crashing water meters below from where he stood.

He took a deep breath and looked out over the water. And then he heard them, soft footfalls in the dirt. Except for his security training, he would have missed it over the sound of the ocean, and he whipped around, his hand reaching for a phaser that he wasn’t carrying.

“Marla?”

She was wearing a jeans and a sweater and looked more relaxed than he had ever seen her.

“What are you doing here?”

“I came to find you. Can I sit?” she gestured with the two bottles she was holding.

He pointed to a spot and then sank down next to her.

“When did you get back?”

“This evening, well it was evening when I got to San Francisco”

“It’s good to see you” he smiled at her.

“You too and I was beginning to think I would have to wait, you are a hard man to track down.” She grinned back at him.

“So how did you..?”

“Dalby. I went by Chell’s and he told me that you weren’t there, but you had been talking about coming here when you were on break and he thought it might be where you were hiding out. He also told me that you still hadn’t found any trace of the boys, I’m sorry, Miguel.”

Ayala shook his head “I didn’t think I was hiding out – well, maybe a little. I didn’t really feel up to sitting in the bar and watching Ken or Chell work. And celebrating out in the crowds really held no appeal for me.”

She smirked, “The crowds were pretty hard to take. I must have seen three people throw up on the way to the transporter station. Haven’t they ever heard off detox hypos?”

He laughed. “Maybe they should visit with our Doc.”

“Yeah, and that would convince them to only drink synthehol.”

He gestured to the bottles she had set down on the ground in between them.

She winked at him. “No synthehol here. A bottle of good bubbly, and Chell’s finest.”

He smiled at the shared memories.

“..But I think we should wait until you’re done.” she continued.

“You’re probably right. So tell me, how have you been?” He picked up his shirt and slipped it back on, the air was chilly and he was getting cold.

“I walked the streets this evening and nobody shouted things at me and Noah tells me that since the Captain got on the news and explained what we had been through, it seems to have defused some of the anger. Did you have something to do with it?”

He turned to face her. “I did talk with the Captain about that, but the anger, I think was fleeting anyway. When you left, the news cycle focused on the upcoming Federation elections and the massacre at the Romulan senate. You could have waited it out.”

She looked across the water. “I could have. But I needed some time to reflect and I had to go and see dad.”

He was confused. “Your father? Haven’t you been in contact with him since we got back?”

She shook her head. “I wanted the issue with the Equinox to be cleared up and I made excuse after excuse why he shouldn’t come and see me.”

He had been so caught up in the search for his family he hadn’t noticed that her family wasn’t at any of the Voyager functions either.

“Did you?”

“Not at first, no.” She traced circles in the dirt with a finger.

“I went to Vulcan. I think that’s pretty much the only the place in the galaxy, where your privacy is respected. I rented a place in one of the smaller towns and stayed there for a few months. I saw Vorik a few times.”

He knew that she liked Vorik, in the early days she wanted to work only during gamma shift so that she could be in engineering with the Vulcan. She had explained that she liked the fact that Vorik never judged her and appreciated her engineering skills.

“What did he have to say?” He was curious, because on Voyager, Vorik was not one he would see as handing out sage advice. Vorik was young as far as Vulcan’s went and was more prone to making trouble, than diffusing it, like Tuvok.

“He’s having a hard time adjusting to being back. He finds Vulcan too restrictive, and his father found a mate for him but he doesn’t feel ready for that. Personally, I think he’s holding out for Susan, but that’s for him to discover. But he did say that the Delta Quadrant changed him, Voyager changed him and things can never go back to being the way they were.” She paused

“And..?”

“And it made me realize how much I have changed too. We went through hell out there and it killed a part of me. I did things that I am not proud off and when I look back, I can’t fathom how I could have gone along with... Then no matter what I feel about it, I can’t change what happened. I can move on and try to find who I was before Equinox and Delta Quadrant. Anyway, I came back to earth and went to see my dad.”

She looked up at him. “He was devastated by what he’d heard on the news, and I regret not going to see him sooner and trying to explain my side of things. I was too afraid and I left it to him to try to piece together what happened and make excuses for my shameful behavior. You know some of his neighbors no longer talk to him. I think he understood, maybe not what we did, but at least what we went through there.”

“I’m glad you went to see him.”

“He’s agreed to move closer to San Francisco so I can see him more often. He’s getting old and my sister is so busy with her life that she rarely gets out to visit as well.

“San Francisco?” He was delighted. “Does that mean you are rejoining Starfleet?”

She nodded “Yes, but not in my position as an engineer, I signed back up at the Academy in the ethics department.  That’s what is going to be the grounding principle in what I do moving forward. Maybe someday I could teach.”

He tried to look encouraging but he was dismayed at her choice.  She was a brilliant engineer, B’Elanna had often said so, and for her to take this path, seemed to smack of self-flagellation, but if that’s what made her happy.

He stood and pulled off his shirt, from the corner of his eye he could see her watching him.

“Are you going in?” She was surprised at the abrupt end to the conversation.

“Join me?” He reached out to help her up.

She stood but stayed back from the sheer drop.

She watched him as he carefully scouted the water, judging the best position for his dive. He looked like he had been working out and his skin, now that he was back in the sun after years under the artificial lighting of the ship, was a deep shade of brown. He was beautiful, she wondered why she had never noticed that before.  She felt something stir that she thought was long buried, but pushed it away resolutely. She was of no mind to destroy a long standing friendship.

“I don’t think so, the water looks cold.”

“Not any colder than the water on the holodeck.”

“I don’t know about the program you used, but I set the temperature to be just a smidge cooler than my bath water.”

He chuckled and then balancing carefully on the edge took a clean dive into the water below. The chilled temperature was a shock to his system, and he came up gasping. He had forgotten how good it felt, the thrill off soaring through the air and then finding the perfect place to slice through the ocean.

 He laughed - he had done it.

He started to swim back to the shore when he saw her. She reappeared just a meter shy of where he was. He waited until she swam towards him.

“You could have warned me just how cold the water was.” She pretended to be annoyed, but it was hard to keep the grin off her face. In truth, diving in the holodeck did not prepare her for this experience. The slight gusts of wind buffeting her. She felt real fear, but then there was the sheer exhilaration of achieving the perfect dive. She looked up at the cliff face. The spot she had been standing on, only a few seconds ago was cast in shadow.

He followed her gaze “It’s a long way up.”

She had started to shiver, the chill of the water combined with wearing off the rush of adrenaline. “I need to get out of the water now.”

He swam out with her. “Let’s go, if we pick up the pace, we’ll warm up a bit. If I was thinking this through some more, I’d have left some clothes down here.”

They reached the shore and she clambered out. He waggled his eyebrows at her “Nice underwear”

She smacked him on the arm. “If I had known you were going to have me jump off a cliff, I might have come better prepared. No better yet, I would have stayed away.”

He laughed and then guided her to a narrow track along the side of the cliff.

“Phew! I was worried you were going to make me climb up the cliff next. This seems positively civilized compared to the way I came down.”

They jogged up and her underwear had started to dry before she was half way up.

They reached the spot where they had discarded their clothes and he was relieved, he wouldn’t admit it but he was getting very cold as well. Cliff diving in January was something he might consider saving for the holodeck the next time around.

She walked to the edge of the cliff and looked out at the vastness of the ocean.

“It looks so large but it’s not even a fraction of what we covered to get back.”

He put his arms on her shoulders and turned her around to face him.

“Don’t do it.”

“Do what? Jump? I wasn’t planning on it.” She smiled at him.

He shook his head “Change to ethics. You have phenomenal engineering skills; don’t throw that away on some unnecessary quest for redemption. We all have our flaws Marla and our strengths. Your strength was the ability to keep going in desperate situation, you refused to give in. It could have been much worse and you know it.”

Her eyes welled up with tears. “I can’t Miguel, I can’t work around an engine room again without thinking about that chamber on the Equinox.”

He sighed and pulled her close. Sometimes whatever he did, it just wasn’t enough.

He rubbed her back comfortingly. After a while he spoke. “Hell of a way to begin the New Year.”

“I almost forgot.” Moving away, she rubbed her face and then picked up the bottle of champagne that she had left on the dirt. She popped the cork and passed him the bottle “Happy New Year!”

He took a swig, somehow it felt right drinking champagne straight from the bottle and standing on the edge of a cliff celebrating the New Year.

 He passed it back to her “Happy New Year, Marla”

She took the bottle and took a gulp. “I’d like to think so Miguel, I’d really like to think so.”

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