It was about two in the afternoon and I was almost running through the corridors when I bumped into her. Literally. She had her head down, reading a padd.

"Hey, you," she laughed. "Busy?"

I groaned. "You would not believe the day I have had." We hovered in the corridor, both having to go separate ways.

"Anything I can help with?" she asks. I shake my head.

"Not unless you want to let Parsons move in with us. The poor guy can't seem to keep a room-mate."

She wiggles her eyebrows and I laugh out loud. She scoots a look both ways down the corridor and moves a little closer to me. Her tone is serious. "Chakotay, I just had my meeting with B'Elanna and Seven. Your story last night ... thank you for that." She sighed and ran her hand through her hair. "I didn't see anger in her today, I saw resiliance. You gave that to me."

"Then there's another one you should hear."

My Best Day

B'Elanna crossed her arms and slumped against the rough exterior of the building, digging her right toe into the dirt. Looking at her dusty shoe, she rolled her eyes. Just one more thing for her mother Prabsa to chastise her for. No, chastise was too mild a word. Prabsa was going to *explode* over the dishonor B'Elanna had brought to them once again.

She hadn't meant to do it. It was just that the assignment had been an impossible task for her. Write a short essay about her best day. What best day? In her eleven years, she'd never had a day that stood out as being her best. They'd all been a string of major and minor disappointments. Now, if the task had been to describe her *worst* day, she would have excelled.

Without a doubt, it had been the day her father left. Promising to contact them, assuring the weeping B'Elanna that his leaving wasn't her fault. But they hadn't heard from him since. That was five years ago.

The assignment had been the means her teacher, Mr. Quasley, had chosen to familiarize himself with his new students. Noticing B'Elanna staring at her computer terminal with an angry look, he assumed it was because she didn't know where to begin. Crouching down next to her, the Andorian had gently touched her arm, causing her to jump. When he offered to help, she'd shrugged off his hand, insisting she didn't need any assistance.

In the back of the classroom, she'd heard Jerat Petroski snicker.

"Don't mind her, Teacher. B'Elanna's always mad."

B'Elanna's face had grown hot at the unwanted attention Jerat's comment had generated; she continued to stare at her blank screen, ignoring the whispering of her classmates.

"As soon as your essays are finished you may leave," Quasley had announced, causing a renewed interest among the students to finish their assignments. Several of her classmates left, even as B'Elanna remained locked in her defiant position. Finally, it was down to her and Mr. Quasley, staring at each other.

"I'm not going to let you go until I have your essay," the teacher threatened.

"Fine," B'Elanna said, sliding further down into her seat. Her mother was going to kill her for being late, but what could she do? Her mind had been a complete blank. It wasn't that she didn't *want* to do the work, she just *couldn't*.

It was a half an hour later when Mr. Quasley relented, letting her go. Her release was probably due to his commitments elsewhere, she figured. Certainly not due to any compassion for her plight. He excused her with the stipulation the assignment would be on his computer in the morning.

That had been fifteen minutes ago; now she was too scared to go home. She knew she was only making things worse, but she just couldn't get her feet to move in the direction of her house.

Just then she heard a metallic clank, followed by a string of profanity. Moving around the corner of the school, B'Elanna saw an older man struggling with a cover to an access tube. Curiosity getting the best of her, she moved slowly towards him.

"Son of a bitch!" The man yelled again, still fighting with the cover. "Hand me that plasma wrench!"

Assuming he was speaking to her, B'Elanna bent to pick up the tool, suddenly locking gazes with Jerat Petroski, reaching for the same implement. Both froze, speechless with surprise.

"Well?" the man demanded, hand outstretched. "Can't one of you hand it to me?"

"Sorry, Grandpa. Here you go," Jerat said, dropping the wrench into his hand, eyes never leaving B'Elanna.

Mr. Petroski watched the children stare at each other, neither comfortable in the other's presence.

"So, Jerat, who's your friend?"

"She's *not* my. . ." Jerat started, but was cut off.

"I'm B'Elanna. But he's not my friend."

"Oh, I see," Mr. Petroski commented, looking up momentarily from his work. "Well, you're in the same class, right?"

B'Elanna and Jerat exchanged looks. "Yes," she begrudging admitted.

"That's a start," Petroski said, turning his attention back to the newly-revealed access tube.

"What's wrong?" B'Elanna asked, nodding towards the area the man was working.

"Not that it's any of your business, but *we're* fixing a problem with the ventilation system," Jerat sneered.

"Jerat!" his grandfather admonished. "Where the hell are your manners? All she did was ask a question! How would you like it if I said that to you?"

Jerat's face flushed and B'Elanna grew uncomfortable as well; Mr. Petroski's anger reminding her she of her impending confrontation with her mother.

"I should be going," B'Elanna said quietly, turning to leave.

"Wait a second. Jerat has something to say to you, don't you?"

The boy looked down at the ground, mumbling something that resembled an apology. Not giving her time to leave, Mr. Petroski instructed B'Elanna to hand him several more tools from the kit laid out to his left. It wasn't long before B'Elanna became so engrossed in their project, she forgot she was supposed to be heading home.

"Hand me the hyper-spanner," Petroski said, not looking up from his work, simply holding out his hand waiting for the instrument. B'Elanna looked up at Jerat, unsure what his grandfather was requesting.

"There it is," Jerat said, pointing to a burnished metallic tool. "It kind of looks like a hypo-spray."

"I never noticed that," B'Elanna said. "That so many of your Grandpa's tools look like medical instruments."

"It's kind of like he performs surgery when he fixes something," Jerat agreed.

"I guess I never thought about it," B'Elanna said. "Have you been working with him a long time?"

"I guess I've always tagged along, but this year he's let me do some work myself," Jerat told her, puffing up with pride.

"Wow," she said, clearly impressed. "I wish I could do something like that."

Hearing B'Elanna's comment, Mr. Petroski pulled his head out of the access tube and offered her the chance to try.

"Go ahead, take a look. See if you can tell me what's wrong."

"I. . . ." B'Elanna stammered, suddenly shy.

"It's okay," Petroski said. Just tell me what you see."

B'Elanna stuck her head into the tube, looking at the circuits and connections. "There's a lot of stuff in here," she commented. After she looked for a few minutes, she began to sense a pattern, see how one system fed into the next.

"It *is* kind of like a body," she said, pulling her head back out of the tube and looking at Petroski. "It sort of reminded me of the Terrelian schrell we dissected in biology last week."

"Yeah, it is kind of like a body, isn't it?" Petroski agreed. "And as an engineer, it's your job to fix it. Kind of like a doctor. So, there's your patient."

"Me?" B'Elanna asked, incredulously.

"Grandpa!" Jerat protested, but the older man just waved him quiet.

"You've helped me before, Jerat. Let her try it."

"I don't know," B'Elanna said, "I don't even know what I'm looking for."

"So have another look and see if you can find the problem."

B'Elanna stuck her head back in the access tube and began to look around. What wasn't connected? Was there a burned out chip? There was so many circuits! Then she saw it: a scorched area with several gray isolinear chips.

"I think I found something, but I need that thingy to remove the chips."

"It's called a chip retractor," he told her. "You'll have to learn your terms if your going to be an engineer."

B'Elanna smiled at the notion. Of course he was only teasing her, but it was fun to pretend anyway. After several sharp tugs, she had the burned out chips in her hand. Crawling back out, she handed the chips to Mr. Petroski, moving out of the way so he could finish the work.

"Hey! Where do you think you're going?" he asked. "You're only halfway through here, missy!" Dropping three different colored chips into her hand he told her to replace the ones she'd removed.

"But I don't know which way they go! I couldn't tell what color they were when I took them out because they were burned!"

"So look at the ones around it. You'll see a pattern, then you'll know how they go."

B'Elanna looked over at Jerat who was actually giving her an encouraging smile. "Okay," she shrugged, returning to her work. It didn't take her long to recognize the sequence of the other colored chips; she plugged in the new circuits.

Scooting out of the tube she smiled triumphantly. "I think I did it!"

Mr. Petroski looked inside, confirming her work. "Looks like you did! Lets give it a try, shall we?"

B'Elanna held her breath as he reinitialized the system. There was a slow hum that quickly leveled off. Looking expectantly at the maintenance engineer, she waited for his pronouncement.

"Looks like everything is in working order. Congratulations!" he said, laying his hand on her shoulder. B'Elanna practically glowed with his praise.

"Good job, B'Elanna," Jerat added, genuinely pleased at her success.

Mr. Petroski nodded as he put the tools back in his case. "You're a natural, B'Elanna. There's not many I can say that about. Ever thought about becoming an engineer?"

"Me? I couldn't be an engineer," she said.

"Why not?" Petroski asked

"Well, because. I. . . .I just can't!"

"That's not an answer. And don't give me any of that it's because you're a girl crap. I know Nessik's not the most enlightened world, but you can be anything you want to be."

"I haven't really thought about it," B'Elanna confessed.

"Then think about it," Petroski ordered her. "In the meantime, why don't you come by tomorrow and we'll see what else you can do."

"Really? That would be so great! If my mother says it's okay," she added. At the mention of Prabsa, B'Elanna's eyes grew wide.

"Oh, my gosh! I forgot! I have to get home before my mother sends the Sentinels after me!" B'Elanna was half-way across the school yard before she turned and waved, calling out,

"Bye! See you in school tomorrow, Jerat!" Without waiting for a response, B'Elanna ran the rest of the way home, so excited she didn't give her mother's wrath a second thought.

* * *

Prabsa looked up from fixing dinner, greeted by the sight of her disheveled daughter rushing in the door.

"And just *where* in the name of Kahless have you been?" she demanded.

"I got held after," B'Elanna answered, breathless. "But then I met the nicest man! He's Jerat's Grandpa and he let me help fix the ventilation system at the school! It was so cool! And then he said I could be an engineer! Isn't that the neatest thought? That I could do something like that?"

Catching some of B'Elanna's enthusiasm, Prabsa's anger began to wan. "And just why were you held after school? If you've brought dishonor to our house. . . ."

"I didn't finish an assignment," B'Elanna told her, some of her earlier exuberance vanishing. Suddenly a light lit B'Elanna's eyes. She had the topic for her essay.

"I have to go finish it now!" she cried, excitement returning. Racing for her room, ignoring her mother's calls for an explanation, she sat down to her computer and began to write:

"My Best Day"
by B'Elanna Torres.

* * *

I must have been talking for a long time because my throat was quite dry when I finished. She had this distant look in her eyes, and we were kind of leaning against each other but not really touching.

After a few moments she said, "They're going to be wondering where we are."

"Yeah," I agreed, pulling back a little. "I'm late. I should go."

"I'll see you tonight." She squeezed my hand.

This time I ran down the corridor, hoping to at least beat Tom Paris to the meeting.

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