Author’s Note (11/01): This story could have occurred anytime after Season Five’s “Thirty Days.” Tom offers B’Elanna the role of a lifetime. A P/T Collective Challenge, as I recall. Short and sweet. Written a few months after the episode aired. Rated PG-13.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns it all. Always has, always will. I accept this.
by Diane Bellomo
B’Elanna stepped into the running holodeck program, hearing at once the buzzing and whirring of Tom’s ridiculous rocketship, her coloring snapping into monochrome as she did so.
“Tom?” No answer. She glanced down at herself. She looked really strange and wondered how Tom could stand to be in the program for as many hours as he did without becoming nauseous. She revised her thought. How could he stand to be in the program period.
Nevertheless, now that she was here and Tom apparently was not, she took a second to wander around the scenario, her natural curiosity aroused. Touching a panel here, a knob there, she finally allowed the corners of her mouth to turn up. If you could get past the lack of color, it was actually kind of interesting, in a weird, ancient-history sort of way. She ducked her head beneath a console that was flickering and buzzing with wild abandon and was surprised to see a massive tangle of wires stuffed up under it. There didn’t look to be any sort of order or design to it, and it bristled her engineer’s soul to see it like that.
Reaching out tentatively, she touched her fingertips to the mass, pushing against it lightly, and was rewarded for her effort with a cascade of white-hot sparks.
“Whoa!” She yanked her hand back, even though holodeck safeties had already cooled the sparks into harmlessness. Still, it was a bit unsettling and might have even been dangerous, considering all the damage Voyager had sustained so far during her years in the Delta Quadrant. Some repairs just didn’t stick too well anymore.
“Jesus, Tom,” she muttered to herself, “what are you trying to do, set the place on fire?” She tsk-ed, shook her head, and resigned herself to the inevitable, unplanned though it might have been. Plunking her rear end down on the floor, she scooted under the console, calling for one of her tools as she did so.
She gingerly pulled loose a couple of wires, relieved when she was spared another spark shower, and began to study in earnest the wiry mess. Once she had loosened a few more wires, she began to see what was wrong and to figure out exactly what she needed to do, not only make the whole thing more presentable to her eye, but to make the console operate with greater effectiveness, as well. She called for a few more tools and went to work.
An hour passed before B’Elanna’s rumbling stomachs reminded her that she had originally only intended to pass by here to pick up Tom and go get some dinner. She was sweating a little, but the wires were all organized, and the console hummed brightly with newfound efficiency. She pulled herself to her feet, wiped off holographic bits of dust from her pants, looked at the console, and exhaled in triumph.
“Nice job, Chief.”
B’Elanna jumped about a mile at the unexpected sound of his voice. She spun around to face him, not sure whether to laugh or snarl. She chose something in between. “Thomas Eugene! How long have you been standing there?”
“Me? Oh, I dunno, maybe a couple of minutes. I didn’t check the time when I came in.” All innocence and flowers, like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. He was such an awful liar when it came to her that this time she did laugh out loud.
“Yeah, and I can drive this ship through an asteroid field with my eyes closed.”
Tom, for his part, resolutely kept up the ruse, allowing the twinkle in his colorless eyes to kick up a notch as his only concession. She decided two could play the game and twisted to point at the console behind her. “What’s the idea with this thing? Did you know what shape it was in?”
He dropped his head, crossed his arms behind his back, sashayed one step closer to her, and looked straight up into her inky, monochromatic eyes, blinking a couple of times for effect.
Startled by his one-word admission, she missed every bit of his body language, including the blinks. “What?! Are you crazy?” She began to rant. “How could you stand it with that console dancing around like that? And what about the wires? I know the safeties are on, but, jeez, Tom, anything could have gone wrong. The gel-packs are aging, you know, and they aren’t always smart enough to remember every little…uh…huh?”
Thomas Eugene Paris, no longer a lieutenant, but nevertheless still a very-much-in-love ensign, had stepped up to the blustering object of his affection, took her hands in his and brought them to his lips, startling her out of her ranting about his apparent lack of gray matter. Finished with the kiss, he lowered her hands, but kept his eyes on them, and did not release them.
“You…have marvelous hands, did you know that?” He began to caress her marvelous hands, and heard her begin to voice what he liked to call a purr, a most direct indication that she was very much enjoying the attention he was paying to her.
Through the feline sound, she agreed wholeheartedly with him. “Yes, I did know that.”
Keeping his eyes carefully upon her hands, he spoke. “I had hoped you would be able to use them to fix this console. It’s been giving me problems, you know.”
Realization dawned, but did not bring anger with it, only a touch of mischief—a rare commodity in B’Elanna Torres—and she decided to go with it. Smiling, she shifted her hips to insinuate one of her thighs between his legs, removing one hand from his to place it on his shoulder. She felt his arms go around her waist as he lifted his head to her.
“Been giving you problems, has it?” She purred deeply, knowing full well what the sound was doing to him. When she was certain of his undivided attention, she raised her free hand, tensed up a bit, and smacked him smartly across his cheek, very near the faint scar he refused to have erased.
“You are such a pig, Tom! You set me up!” He gave her a big, “busted-and-loving-it” grin and she smacked him again, just because she could, dropping her hand to his other shoulder, but staying within the circle of his arms. “Okay, all right, okay. I give UP! On the word “up,” she lifted both hands from his shoulders and dropped them back again, emphasizing her point. “You have been after me for weeks to join you in here, so here I am. Tell me, Captain Proton, just what role am I supposed to play in this goofy program of yours?”
Now he looked deeply into her black eyes, holding her gaze firmly until he felt her relent with a huffing sigh and relax completely against him. He moved in closer to her face, cocking his head to one side in preparation to kiss her. Just before his lips touched hers, he whispered, “Why, ‘Chief Engineer,’ what else?”