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Ropes Untied

On the heels of Favors and Visions, part 3. Ropes Untied, part 1
D'Alaire — 17 Sep 1998, 12:14 PM

Qwai-chang stepped softly up into the wagon, returning Madame D'Alaireux's polite but respectful bow.

"So," she said, "we meet again. I thought we would." She gestured behind her. "Please, sit, and let me introduce you to Miss B'Elanna."

Qwai-chang bowed. "Miss B'Elanna."

The young lady gave him a nod, her eyes wide and curious. This lady was nice, all right, but getting stranger by the minute with the inclusion of the odd but obviously wise Chinaman. What a strange life she must lead!

"You have news for me," Madame D'Alaireux prompted, offering him a glass of water.

Qwai-chang nodded. "You have seen, Madame D'Alaireux. I knew that when your man came for me. I am, happy you are here." Taking a sip of the water, a little smile formed on his lips. "I have found my brother."

The lady clapped her hands once together. "That's wonderful, Qwai-chang! But where is he?"

"At the Provencal, under Doctor Holliday's care. He was injured while we escaped the Nistrum camp, and I now work for Max and Maxine, to pay for his treatment and our lodging. The Nistrum men were...difficult."

B'Elanna blew a sharp breath through her teeth. "Those men are animals! What I wouldn't give to see them wiped off the face of the range!"

But Qwai-chang shook his head. "All creatures must live. It is the balance of the universe. There must be good with bad, else there would be no balance."

"When it comes to the Nistrum, I'd rather be tipped," B'Elanna returned.

Madame D'Alaireux eyed him. "Qwai-chang, what troubles you? I feel a great disturbance in your soul."

"My brother is no longer my brother. He has forgotten so much. He barely remembers me, calls himself by his adopted name....I have accepted this, but it saddens me."

"But he remembers you a little," the lady offered. "That leave some room for you to have a relationship with him.. And perhaps you may teach him to remember." The man nodded slowly. "What?"

"His people are from this place." He looked over to B'Elanna. "Will you help me? May I humbly ask we find the family that loves him, that he can be reunited with them, after so much time."

"I'd be glad to help," she said. "Seein' as he's from around these parts. What's his adpoted name? Maybe I'll remember it."

Qwai-chang took another sip of water.

Ropes Untied, part 2
D'Alaire — 17 Sep 1998, 12:28 PM

Not a minute later, B'Elanna Torres was sprinting down the mainway, running as fast as her boots could carry her. Tears streaked from her eyes and she was gasping painfully, darting around horses, sending them to reel.

She didn't care.

"TOM!!!" she screamed as she neared the stable.

Suddenly a hand grabbed her, yanking her back. She spun around to see her father, and froze -- but only for a second. "Pa let go! I have to find Tom!"

Chakotay Torres' face was still red with rage. "You're not going anywhere," he snapped. "I don't want you having anything to do with that good-for-nothin' louse, and that's it!"

"The hell I will!" she retorted, ripping her arm away. "You don't care about Tom! You never gave him a chance! Always suspectin' he's up to no good when he's done nothin' against you -- all he's tried to do was make things right! But you won't have it!"

"You're just to young to see--"

"You're just too d@mned happy being angry!"

"B'Elanna Torres! You--"

"Don't you treat me like a little girl!" she raged. "I haven't been a little girl for a long time, and you know it! I've cooked and tended for you, kept your house and been respectful, even more now that I've grown and Annie's let me take over more--She knows!" She glared at him, eyes hard and wide. She knew people were watching, but she was too mad to stop.

"But I've got my own way, now. I've got my horses and a man that wants me for who I am and what I am. And you don't like that, do you? Especially that I've grown up enough to see Tom's not the monster you've made him into!"

"Yeah," Chakotay returned, "I'm sure he's been real sweet to you. I just can't believe you believed it. I should've taken of him when I had the chance!"

But B'Elanna stood her ground, standing proud and straight. "I love him, Pa."

Chakotay's face turned scarlet red. "What?!"

"That right! I do! You can't ask me to stand idly by while he's hurtin' -- not anymore!" She watched his face contort, and felt an ache in her heart for doing it, knew she was tearing his. She'd do anything for her father, she always had. But she could not back down. Not with how she knew Tom really was. Not with what she knew.

"Now I'm going to him -- and you won't stop me -- And you can kick me out, disown me if you want -- I love you, too, Pa, and I've tried to be a good daughter to you. But I'm not lettin' Tom take the blame anymore for something he's innocent of! No longer, Pa. It ain't right! And if you'd look at him for what he was, instead of being so angry all the time, you'd know it too...I'm sorry, Pa, but I'm going!"

With that, B'Elanna spun around and took off for the stable, leaving Chakotay standing in the center of the mainway to sigh hard after her. Turning a glower around at all the standers by, he growled. "Seen enough?!" he yelled.

As the crowd dispersed, he stomped off back towards his horse. "He hurts my little girl," he muttered to himself, "I'll kill him. I swear, I'll kill him." And the further he walked, the harder his black mood tore at him.

The scenarios, what he knew, what he'd heard already flying like wildfire all around town, all of it spun like a sawblade in his angry soul. Tom'd gotten his little girl, his B'Elanna, whose heart had already known enough turmoil....He'd pay, he'd pay big. Tom Janeway was a dead man.

Ropes Untied, part 3
D'Alaire — 17 Sep 1998, 3:13 PM

B'Elanna ran into the stable, still hot with her nerve and her news. But Tom wasn't there. Intrepid and Liberty were tied at their posts, drinking, some sparrows chirped up in the rafters. Still breathing hard, B'Elanna walked through, looking around each stall. "Tom? Are you in here?...Tom?"

Her heart started pounding. Lord, I hope Pa wasn't in here, she thought, speeding her pace to the back door and pushing it open.

"Tom? You out here?"

"Over here," Tom called back, and not too enthusiastic, either. Then a splash of water.

B'Elanna looked around and saw Tom leaning over the troth, splashing water on his face. She hurried up to him. "Tom, you've got to come with me, I just--Gracious sakes! What happened to you?"

Tom tried to turn his face away, but B'Elanna took his chin in her hand and pulled him to face her. His eye was beet red and starting to bruise. "I've had worse," he said lightly.

B'Elanna drew a slow breath. "Pa did this to you, didn't he?"

Tom barely nodded. "He saw you coming out the front earlier, heard some of the girls talking...He knows, B'Elanna."

Though her heart stopped for a beat, she swallowed it, seeing how he looked. "That gives him no right to--"

"It gives him every right to hate me even more, the way he sees me. As far as he's concerned, I'm better off dead, or soon to be, now that I've defiled his daughter."

B'Elanna sighed quickly. "There was no defiling going on and we both know that. But that doesn't matter now. There's a chance to right some things again."

"Right things?" Tom puffed a breath and turned away from her, kicking a puff a dirt into the air. "How's it ever gonna be made right, B'Elanna? I'll never bring Daddy back -- or Harry. And your daddy's always gonna hate me for killin' them, think I'm some kinda thief, a criminal!"

B'Elanna almost argued that, but Tom, shaking his head, continued first.

"I don't know why I even bothered to try in the first place to make things right! It's only got you in trouble and you daddy after my hide, and the whole town thinkin...I've only made things worse when I shoulda left well enough alone."

B'Elanna grit her teeth. "Tom Janeway, I've got enough trouble keepin' up with you stupid men! I've already got my pa wanting to kill you without you wishin' you were dead!"

"I never wished I was dead!" Tom snapped. "I just wish I could put it behind me. But I never will, will I? Everything I do's gonna be taken the wrong way!"

"Don't get up on your lofty plain of mercy with me! I know you like that you've bettered yourself. I've never seen you walk finer or stronger as long as I can remember. And I couldn't give a rat's @ss what the whole town says, even if you've made a better impression than you think."

"But your daddy--"

"I hate that Pa and anyone else that goes against you can't see what I do," she told him, "and I wish you could see what I do, too. But maybe you're just too much a fool, and as stuck in the mud as Pa's been.

He snorted. "Maybe so."

"If I didn't get to say what I'm gonna say," B'Elanna returned, "I'd give you a reason to be sorry for that smart mouth of yours. Your past is over now, and sure, it'll always be there to haunt you a little. But you don't have to let it drag you down anymore. You can stop feeling so dang guilty all the time."

Tom looked back at her, unbelieving but patient. She was, after all, paying him some compliments he'd never have given himself. "And how do you reckon I do that?"

She stepped up to him and took his arm, looked straight into his bruised eye. Suddenly, she couldn't help the grin that came to her face despite her frustration with that angry, hurt, fool of a man. Touching his cheek, she finally said, "Harry's alive, Tom."

Ropes Untied, part 4
D'Alaire — 17 Sep 1998, 6:51 PM

Tom grabbed B'Elanna's hand as they jumped up the front steps of the Provencal, ignoring the stares and gasps all around them. Practically bursting into the lush, scarlet interior, they were immediately met by Maxine, who popped open her fan.

"Sorry, but I do have a bath code here," she told them, reeling. The cat on her arm, a sleek, fine creature, also turned its head away. "Look, you've even disgusted Biji."

Tom rolled his eyes. "Jeez, Maxine!" he groaned, then let out his breath. "You have an injured man here, I heard. Where is he?"

Maxine shrugged, pointed with her head. "In the back room with the Doc. Why? He owes you money?"

"No, but I think I need to check him out. They say he's my brother. Mind if I go back?"

Maxine raised a wise brow to the man. He did look as anxious as the girl on his arm looked shocked as she stared around the place. But Tom Janeway had after all, supplied her with the connection to the Merlot dealer in Federation City. "All right -- since you're an old friend....and maybe you'll stay a while? Have some wine?"

"'Fraid we can't," B'Elanna said quickly, eyeing the women in the room as she clutched Tom's hand a little tighter, pulling it nearer to her. "But much obliged, Ma'am."

The Madame gave her a grin and a wink.

"Where is he?" Tom asked.

Maxine stroked Biji with a light hand, making the cat stretch deliciously, eyeing his growing agitation. "Last room on the left," she sighed.

"Thank, Maxine, you're the greatest."

She smiled. "I've never had any complaints."

With a nod to her, Tom led B'Elanna through the room, dipping into his pocket for a coin to drop in the tip bottle on the piano and giving a nod to Miss Racine. She grinned back and tapped her accompanist. As Tom and B'Elanna hopped up the wide, curved staircase to the top floor, behind them the singing began...

"I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls
with vassal and serf by by side;
And of all who assembled in those walls,
That I was the hope and the pride."

B'Elanna skipped a couple times to keep up with Tom as the music echoed behind them. "You didn't actually patronize here, did you?"

Tom grinned. "No, I never had enough money to come here. Only Quarks. But Max and I are friends." He looked down at B'Elanna. "They're not bad people, B'Elanna. Max and Maxine got me out of a scrape once, never asked anything in return. I felt obliged, though, so I gave them the name of a Merlot merchant I'd run into once. We've been friends since"

The singing started to fade behind them as they neared the door...

"But I also dreamt, which pleased me most,
That you loved me still the same. That you loved me,
That you loved me still the same..."

Ropes Untied, part 5
D'Alaire — 17 Sep 1998, 6:57 PM

They rounded the last corner of the plushly carpeted hallway and stopped. Tom took a breath and grabbed the handle. Entering the room together, he stared at the bed. But B'Elanna curled her lip in disgust.

Doc was out cold with his "medicinal" hanging, somehow, in his fingers, snoring. Yet beside him, they saw, was a form under many quilts, breathing but otherwise unmoving. With a look to B'Elanna, Tom slowly stepped forward. He could first see the young man's straight, dark hair, and a thick bandage wrapped around his head. His face was pretty beaten, all right, but Tom knew that mouth anywhere. He'd heard it enough.

"Is it him?" B'Elanna whispered, coming closer. But when she saw, she knew too.

Tom couldn't move at first, and he drew two deep breaths again the flood of tears that suddenly cropped up in his eyes. "Harry..." he breathed, moved closer, sat on the bedside. Hesitantly, trying to retain his control despite his suden trembling, he touched his brother's shoulder. "Harry?"

A small moan, and the younger man's lips moved, trying to moisten them. Slowly, his eyes opened, straight into Tom's. With a squint, they focused. "T...Tom?" he rasped.

"Yeah," Tom grinned, at a loss for anymore words or motion. His chest all but heaved, and he shook his head. "'re alive."

"And you've got another black eye," Harry quipped in a breath.

"What? You think I'd ever stay outta trouble?" he returned, then paused, staring at the younger man laying there. Realizing exactly what was happening, Tom grinned again. "Dang...I...I don't know what to say, Harry." Awkwardly, he instead took his ailing brother's hand, giving it a warm squeeze.

Ropes Untied, part 6
D'Alaire — 17 Sep 1998, 6:59 PM

With all his strength, Harry managed to pull his older brother down to hug him, and hold him there. After a moment, Tom hugged him back, sighing hard and trying to control himself. But Tom backed off that moment later.

"D@mn, I glad you're alive!" Tom finally said, and turned to B'Elanna, his eyes shining with joy. "Look who it is, B'Elanna. It's Harry!"

B'Elanna smiled back.. "Dang right it is. Good to see you again, Sourdough."

"You too, Magpie."

Tom laughed. "Will you two ever give that up?"

"Probably not, SaddleBoy," she returned.

Tom laughed at that, but his brother's eyes turned down sadly. "Tom...It's my fault," he whispered.

"No Harry," Tom said, turning back to him with a shake of his head, "if I'd have been there for you and Daddy--"

"If I hadn't been so dumb and started whoopin'," Harry cut in in a hard whisper, "that whole stampede would never've happened."

"What are you talking about?" Tom said.

"Will you two cut it out?" B'Elanna finally intervened. "It don't matter, none of it does. You're alive, and that's all that matters now."

Tom nodded. "Alive -- though Mama's gonna be right sore you were late for dinner. She's gonna have your hide."

Harry smiled, almost laughed, but it faded just as quickly. "The Nistrum took Mama's brooch and locket, Tom, they took everything, and all the money...."

B'Elanna ears snapped up at that. Tom hadn't taken the jewelry?

"It was all my fault," Harry repeated.

"No it wasn't. Stop talking foolish."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Jabberjaw."

"And it ain't changed a bit."

They were quiet then, just staring in surprise and happiness at each other. After a minute, though, B'Elanna reached out and touched Tom's shoudler. "Tom, hate to ruin anything and all, but don't you think it's high time your Mama knew?"

"Mama?" Harry said, feeling his eyes grow heavy again, but fighting it hard. "She okay?"

"Yeah, Harry," Tom said, seeing his brother fading off again. "Mama's fine, and we'll get her over here pronto. Don't you worry about a thing."

B'Elanna moved forward and patted Harry's arm. "We'll go fetch her, okay?"

Harry nodded, then quicked a tiny grin when Tom mussed his hair a little before standing. They quickly left, though Tom turned a familiar grin back to his brother before closing the door after him.

Harry felt sleep coming back fast. He so wanted to move, to help, to see his mama, to eat her food. But he just couldn't. Sighing heavily, he decided to wait just a little longer.

Just then, Doc Holliday's head snapped up and he burped. "Standard course of treatment is four leeches three times a day."

Harry's eyes rolled back in his head again.

Tom and B'Elanna practically jumped down the staircase and through the main room. Turning a dashing smile to Maxine, he hopped over a cat, and helped B'Elanna skip over it in turn, then reached out to take the Madame's hand and kiss it. "You're the best, Maxine," he said and layed a whole dollar piece in her palm. "Be a lady and get Harry some vittles? Much obliged!"

Maxine's eyes followed the couple as that raced out of the front doors, hand in hand. Slipping the coin into her satin pocket, she gave a shrug and a toast of her glass to Max, who grinned widely from the back of the bar.

"They did it," Max said surely.

Maxine smiled. "And they liked it."

Max laughed and got himself a fresh toothpick. "Should I send out to the inn?"

"No, send out to Miss Jenny," Maxine replied, smiling evilly. "She'll fix little Harry up just fine."

Ropes Untied, part 7
D'Alaire — 17 Sep 1998, 7:01 PM

Tom's heart felt like it was leaping out of his chest by the time they got to the mainway, and they hopped to a stop so he could look around for somebody -- anybody -- from the Delta Q Ranch. In the bustle of the crowd and for their mutual excitement, anyone was hard to find.

B'Elanna turned around in a circle and finally raced across to one of the ranchhands. "Mister Ayala! You gotta get Miss Kathryn! You seen her?" Alyala shook his head. "Well, go and find her! Tell her to come back here -- Tom and I'll be waiting -- tell her it's a matter of life and death!"

As Ayala nodded and hurried away, Tom caught up with her and gave her a smile. "I just got Nozawa after Mama, too. I know she's around here someplace. Maybe I should -- "

"Janeway!" Came a shout from across the way, and the couple turned to see Chakotay Torres rolling up his sleeves and approaching fast. "I thought I told you to stay away from my daughter!" he hollered as the crowd started to clear a circle between them.

"Pa, stop!" B'Elanna screamed. "This ain't the time or place--"

"I'll say when's the time and place!" Chakotay yelled. "Here and now!"

"Pa, don't do this! It ain't right and you know it!"

"What do you know about right? You've got yourself roped in by this snake! I turn my back on you for ten minutes and you let him cozy up to you and tell you more lies! Well I'm gonna stop it -- NOW!"

"Pa, you're acting crazy!" She then felt Tom's arm guiding her out of her father's path. "Tom, you can't be thinking--"

"B'Elanna, nothing either of us can say's gonna stop him now," he told her, then turned his eyes to the Foreman. "I don't want to fight you, Mister Torres!" he said loudly. "But I ain't gonna let this go on no more. I'd never hurt your daughter, and if you don't believe that, fine. But you leave B'Elanna out of this. You want a fight, you fight me."

B'Elanna shook her head in disbelief as she watch Tom and her father approach eacher other. This is insane! Ridiculous! D@mn foolish men and their pride! Feeling her blood begin to boil, too, she took a step forward, intending to get between the two men.

But a soft hand reached out and pulled her back. B'Elanna swung around only to look up to Madame D'Alaireux's wise smile. "Let them fight, B'Elanna. The path of the current has changed. You father has changed it. This must happen."

"D'A, they'll rip each other apart! It ain't right!

But the strange woman merely turned her eyes out to the fight all but begun. "You do want Tom to be in the race, no? For him to fly free and wild on Intrpeid, his heart to soar, free of the ropes that have bound him?"

B'Elanna said nothing, but turned a wide stare to the men in the mainway.

"Let them fight, and be freed."

She didn't want to, but hearing the calm and certain words of that odd woman somehow planted B'Elanna's boots in the dirt while the only two men she'd ever loved were readying to go at each others' throats. Somehow, amazingly, B'Elanna set herself to wait.

Continue at will, chest-thumpers! -- But don't injure them too much!
They have a race to ride soon and they need to look at least somewhat decent for the dance that night. Otherwise, have at it! : P

Ropes Untied, part 8 (thousand)
D'Alaire — 18 Sep 1998, 11:16 PM

Continuing where Ropes Untied, part 7 left off

The two men approached each other, one more slowly than the other, and then they circled. Neither said a word, though one seethed, the other was quickly gaining his adrenalin at the threat before him.

Fast as lightning, Chakotay swung, and Tom ducked back, but just as quick, the Forman's other fist flew into Tom's ribs. Tom's fist came up just as quickly and caught Chakotay's chin, popping the man's head back for an instant.

Tom stepped back. He could feel the burn in his side and hadn't want to fight this man -- not like that. But he wasn't about to let him keep prowling on him, reopening the wounds he'd tried so hard to heal and trying to rob him of the happiness he'd found with his daughter because of his bitterness. It'd gone too far, it wouldn't go further.

"Don't you back off from me boy," Chakotay growled. "I'm not through with you yet."

"Then maybe you'd better come after me again," Tom said evenly.

"Yellow belly!" Chakotay snapped and charged upon Tom, knocking him to the ground with a thud. He socked Tom again in the ribs, but Tom threw him off, struggled to get to his feet, hauling his lost breath.

When Chakotay crawled up, too, Tom took the opening and barreled his fist around and into Chakotay's jaw in a smooth right hook, sending the man to spin on his boot. The foreman spun back and shot his fist at Tom again -- Tom hopped back, making him miss, but Chakotay leapt up and grabbed him, reeling back for another punch--

BANG! roared a shot in the midway, and both men stopped and swung around.

Ropes Untied, part 9 (thousand)
D'Alaire — 18 Sep 1998, 11:18 PM

Miss Kathryn lowered Betsy, her eyes burning clear across the square and straight through the two men. "Gentlemen," she said, loud enough only to be heard, low enough to be deadly, "I'd hoped this wasn't the emergency I'd been called here for."

Chakotay grit his teeth, wiping the trickle of blood from his lip. "As B'Elanna's father I have the right to--"

"You have the right to bring your foolish quarrels back to the ranch," Miss Kathryn told him, "not put them on display for the whole town to see. As for you Tom, you're just as much a fool for taking the fight."

"Mama," Tom gasped. "it was an emergency."

"That's right," B'Elanna joined in, moving quickly to Miss Kathryn's side. "Listen to him, Miss Kathryn."

Tom felt his mother's glare turn back to him, but he gulped and stepped nearer, anyway. "It's Harry, Mama. Harry's alive -- and right here in town, at the Provencal. He was found and injured and Doc's taking care of him there."

Miss Kathryn's eyes shot wide, her glare melted into shock. "Harry?" she nearly rasped. My baby, my baby boy... "But the stampede--"

"He wasn't killed after all," Tom said. "The Nistrim were holding him. Harry was being held by one of the small gangs that'd survived. They'd taken him to the Big Coffee, and that's where he was rescued."

Miss Kate was shaking her head in disbelief. "By who?"

"I believe," Madame D'Alaireux said, stepping forward, "I might show you the way, Madame. His rescuer's name is Qwai-chang, a--"


Tom and B'Elanna looked at each other. "Maybe I should drop," he said.

But B'Elanna shook her head. "No, Tom -- you have to race today. We both do."

"You both should not be late," Madame D'Alaireux said and smiled at them. "Go now, go to your race. Be swift and proud. I will take Miss Kathryn to your brother."

They looked at Miss Kathryn, whose shock had finally dissolved into a stunned smile. "It's what Harry would've wanted," she croaked, fighting back her tears and she cradled her rifle in an arm, gestured to the stable with the butt of it. "Go on, you two, and I'll take care of Harry just fine....You heard me. Go."

Tom let his breath out in relief, and B'Elanna gave Miss Kathryn's arm a thankful pat. "Thanks, Mama," Tom said, "We'll make you--and Harry--proud."

"Dang right we will," B'Elanna joined with a sharp, ready stare Miss Kathryn's way. She stepped back a pace, and, looking back to Tom, shared a knowing, satisfied grin.

But a beat later, they were running back to the stable together.

Chakotay was left to stare in shock at Miss Kathryn. The crowd had dispersed for the race, and people passing between them couldn't break the stare they held. A sad but sorry stare, one of deep thought, the other of reborn hope.

Finally, Chakotay gave a grudging nod. Kathryn sighed, her mouth twisted to the side, but grinning slightly nonetheless. Finally she nodded back, her eyes not leaving him until she turned to go by Madame D'Alaireux's lead.


Now, on to the race, Jules!