~~~~They say,"Brandy, you're a fine girl
~~~~What a good wife you would be
~~~~You could steal a sailor From the sea.

Tom Paris walked back into Mroki's bar two days later. It was the middle of
the day, and he was thankful that the 'women of the evening' were probably
still in bed sleeping off their activities from the night before. Tom
scanned the room for a familiar figure, but only saw a few men scattered
through the barroom. A flash of movement then caught his eye. He saw a
small hand searching the top of the bar for something. Moving near the bar,
Tom noticed that a sonic resonator was lying on the floor.

He picked up the tool and placed it in the questing hand, at the same time
keeping a firm grip on it himself.

B'Elanna was surprised to find that the instrument she had been searching
for had been placed in her palm. Grasping it tightly she pulled it towards
her but whoever was holding the other end wasn't letting go. Someone was
going to wish they didn't play these silly games, she vowed. The
half-Klingon popped her head up above the bartop and encountered a familiar
sparkling pair of blue eyes. Eyes she had been dreaming about since she
last saw them. Her anger was forgotten

"Tom!" she shouted.

"Need some help?" he asked, his eyes lit with mischief.

"Not unless you know anything about refrigerant coils and resonators,"
B'Elanna grumbled.

"Sorry, not really. But I could pass you the tools you need. Consider me
your nurse and you can be the surgeon."

B'Elanna dropped back down out of sight. Gathering the various tools that
were strewn across the bar, Tom joined her on the other side, taking her
non-comment as a yes.

"Weren't you working on this last time I was here?" he asked seating himself
cross-legged beside her. She had her head halfway inside the unit she was
trying to repair.

"Yeah. Damn thing is so old, it's a wonder it's still operational." She
held out her hand. "Sonic wrench."

Tom sorted through the tools, selected the correct item, and placed it in
her waiting palm.

She took the wrench and began tightening a loose nut. "They don't even make
the tools to repair this particular cooling device anymore," she explained.
"I had to adapt current technology to work on this antique."

"Sounds like you are pretty resourceful. Not everyone could do that."

B'Elanna ignored the compliment. "Why did you come back, Tom?" she asked
not daring to look at the man lest she reveal that she might care too much.

"What do you mean?"

She tightened a connection inside the refrigerant unit before the turned to
face Tom Paris. "Did you come back because you felt sorry for me? Or
because you expected to see Alini and found me instead?" {Am I just a
diversion until she wakes up?}

"I came to see you, nothing more. I couldn't give a damn about Alini, and I
don't feel sorry for you, B'Elanna. When I was here the other night I
really enjoyed your company. I was hoping to have a chance to talk to you

"Hhrrump!" B'Elanna turned and stuck her head back into the refrigeration

"Really, B'Elanna. I went back to the ship after I left you that night, and
all I could think about was you." He placed his hand on her shoulder and
pulled her back.

{What was that old Earth expression about punching oneself? Or was it
pinching? Was it possible that what he's telling me is true?}

Alini chose that moment to stroll into the tavern, traces of sleep were
still evident on her heavily painted face. Padding over to the bar to
retrieve a warm cup of Palmatic tea, she overhead voices from the other side
below the countertop. Peering over, she was surprised to see the handsome
blonde stranger she had seen in the bar a few nights ago. She was even more
surprised to see that once again he was talking with B'Elanna.

"I'm telling you the truth, B'Elanna. I'd really like to speak with you
again. Do you think that we could go some place, just me and you, and


"Promise--just talk."

The quiet ones always want to 'just talk.' Then the talk leads to other
things, Alini mused.

"I found a nice little cafe--well as nice as it gets in Malac. Will you
come with me and join me for dinner? I hate to eat alone."

{I bet there are a lot of things you hate to do alone, stranger-- and I'd be
glad to keep you company.} Alini thought, trying to finger comb her hair to
look more presentable.

"They may not serve me."

"I've already spoken with the proprietor. They'll be no problem," Tom
assured her.

It had been a long time since she ate anywhere but Mroki's. Her stomachs
were already growling, and she knew that if she ate at the bar they were
serving volmo soup today, which she hated. With that as incentive, it didn't
take much for her to decide. "Thanks, Tom. I'd like that."

His face broke into a wide smile. B'Elanna couldn't help but smile back, his
happiness was contagious. "Then let's go."

Alini stepped back from her eavesdropping post when she heard the sound of
movement below.

Rising up to his full height, Tom reached down to help B'Elanna up.

"Give me a minute to take care of the tools and run upstairs, then I can

Tom nodded and watched her gather her tools together. She carefully placed
them in a square tool kit before she exited the bar through a side door.

B'Elanna ran up the stairs, and quickly unlocked her door. Opening the
trunk, she pulled out a scarlet red top with the short sleeves that exposed
her belly-button, a tight pair of black slacks, and a well-worn pair of
black shoes.

She hoped that Tom wouldn't notice how many times the pants had been
repaired since she had left the Academy. The right knee had been patched
twice and the side seam on her left hip had been sewn up so many times she
had lost count, but they would have to do. They were the best she had.

Running a comb through her hair she wished she had some of that scent Trini
wore. Trini was one of Mroki's girls whom B'Elanna liked the best.
Occasionally, the young prostitute would talk to her when no one else was
looking. None of the others bothered.

Though inside her stomachs were doing cartwheels, B'Elanna tried to appear
confident as she descended the stairs to the bar. Pushing open the door and
entering the bar she almost turned around and went back up the stairs, but
when she caught sight of Tom waiting for her she knew she was doing the
right thing. He was smiling at her as if she was the only one in the world.

"You look lovely," Paris said when he finally found his voice.

B'Elanna froze in place. The last person that told her that she looked
lovely had been her father. Perhaps that was why she still kept Tobey with

"Er...thanks." She had never learned how to return a compliment
gracefully--probably because she had never received many.

She's embarrassed, Tom realized. How odd and refreshing to see a Klingon,
or a half-Klingon, at a loss for words. "Are you ready?"

B'Elanna nodded.

"When will you return?" the bartender called out. "What shall I tell

The side door opened again and this time a tall, large woman with blue-gray
hair artistically piled on her head entered the bar. She was dressed in a
dramatic floor length, emerald green caftan that billowed around her.

"Tell me what?" the woman asked in a loud voice. If there was one thing
Maroki wasn't, it was subtle.

Alini, who had kept her eye on what was transpiring, settled back to enjoy
the fireworks.

"I was asking B'Elanna what time she'd be coming back to the bar," the
bartender explained politely. He didn't want to receive the brunt of his
employer's famous wrath.

"Coming back?" Mroki asked turning to face B'Elanna. "Coming back from
where exactly?" The fireworks smouldered.

Tom stepped forward between the two women. He smiled broadly and extended
his hand to the owner of the bar. Mroki placed her chubby hand in his.
Gallantly Paris brought her hand to his lips and brushed her knuckles with a

"You must be Mroki," he gushed. "B'Elanna has told me so much about you.
About how you came to her aid when no one else would."

"Why, y--yes," the bar owner stammered, flattered by the attention that the
handsome young man was paying her. Fireworks fizzled much to Alini's

"Do you realize how many extra hours B'Elanna works simply because she
appreciates what you've done for her?"

How did he know? B'Elanna thought.

"B'Elanna is a wonderful employee. She's a hard worker," Mroki admitted.
She'd admit anything if he would just stand here and talk to her.

Paris flashed her another winning smile. "I told B'Elanna that any employer
that was that kind wouldn't begrudge her the opportunity to go out for a
change of scenery and a bite to eat." {You exploiting, manipulating madame.}

"Oh, of...course!" Mroki looked beyond the man that had tied himself so
expertly and so quickly around her little finger. "B'Elanna dear, you take
all the time you want. You deserve it. And here..." Mroki reluctantly
reached into the robe and withdrew a small change purse. Opening it, she
removed several luma and passed them to the half-Klingon. " something
nice for yourself. For *yourself* mind you," she repeated,"and not for that
ship of yours I let take up space in my warehouse." Mroki focused her
attention back on Tom wagging a finger which was encircled with a large
golden ring in his face. "And you see that she minds."

"Yes, ma'am," Tom chirped.

"Now be off with you," Mroki admonished. "And have a good time."

B'Elanna marveled at the handful of luma Mroki had given her. With what she
had already saved, this would allow her to purchase some more items for her

"That's for you," Tom reminded her.


"No buts" he countered, and offered her his arm. "I promised Mroki"

B'Elanna clasped his arm with her hand, pleased with the muscles she felt
beneath Tom's sleeve.

Alini couldn't help but be amazed at what had just transpired. It wasn't
everyday a man could sweet talk Mroki. In fact, she couldn't ever remember
it happening. This blond god of a man was too good to be wasted on the
bar's fix-me-up girl, the prostitute decided. In fact, he was too good for
any one but herself. Leaving her vantage point, Alini moved closer to the
pair like a lioness stalking her prey.

B'Elanna, noticing the approaching whore, gripped Tom's arm tighter. She
wasn't about to let Alini sink her fangs into him-- that was her job she
decided {Where did that come from?} B'Elanna hurried him towards the outside
door before Alini could lay claim.

Exiting the tavern, the pair almost knocked over Ken Dalby, a member of the
Maquis crew, who was entering the bar.

"Paris, so this is where you've been hiding?" Dalby asked stepping back to
avoid being trampled. "I thought Chakotay was looking for a new pilot with
as much time you've been off the ship recently."

"He knows I still come back to the Liberty at night, Dalby," Tom spat.
"What I do during my waking hours is no one's business but my own."

"If you say so." Ken Dalby didn't look convinced. "But the Cap'n didn't
look too happy earlier when no one knew where to find you." Dalby didn't
care very much for the young hot shot pilot, and enjoyed ribbing the man.
Everyone else on board was serving because they had a personal stake in the
outcome of the Maquis rebellion. Ken knew that the only reason Tom Paris
was on board was because of some debt he owed Chakotay.

Tom hurried B'Elanna past his crewmate. "Let *me* worry about Chakotay,
Dalby," he spat just pulling B'Elanna outside, "and you mind your own

Alini noticed the exchange and slinked across the barroom. When she neared
Dalby she wantonly pressed herself up against the new guest. "Having
problems, Uliz? What can Alini do to make it better?" The words dripped
like honey from her ripe lips--honey laced with poison if you listened
carefully. Ken Dalby's hearing was never very good.

Ken felt the warmth of her very female body against him. The feel of the
beautiful woman's generous breasts pressed against his chest made him weak
in the knees. "U-Uliz?" he stammered. "My n-name isn't Uliz."

Alini ran her painted fingers through Ken's chestnut-colored hair.
"Consider it a compliment," she purred. "Why don't we get you a drink and
you can keep me company over there?" Alini gripped his arm possessively
pointing to a table at the back of the room.

"S-Sure." Who was he to turn down an invitation from a beautiful woman?

Stopping by the bar, Alini procured a tongue-loosening double Risan whiskey
and then led Ken to their table. Placing the drink in front of him, Alini
curled up beside the man, affording him an unobstructed view of her abundant

She waited for him to take several mouthfuls from the glass before she began
to interrogate him. "Who was that man?"

"What? Who?"

"The man that you spoke to when you came in," she reminded him. "The one
that upset you."

"You mean Paris?"

She nodded. "Yes, Paris."

Dalby swallowed a large mouthful of booze at the mere thought of the man.
"He's just some hot shot pilot our captain picked up."

Alini placed her hand on Dalby's meaty thigh and squeezed. "I thought he in a way," she lied trying to coax out more
information that she could use to her advantage.

"He's familiar all right. He has so much Starfleet brass in his family it's
a wonder they don't rename Starfleet "Paris-fleet," Ken snorted.

"Brass?" She pouted pretending not to understand the term. Over the years
plying her trade Alini had learned that acting dumb sometimes paid off very

"Yeah. His whole family's made up of admirals 'n commanders. His daddy's
one of 'em. 'Parently Admiral Paris had groomed his only son to follow in
his illustrious footsteps, but Tom Paris screwed up." Ken snorted and drank
from the glass again.

Alini urged him on. The story was starting to get better. "So what

"Our *top gun pilot* caused an accident that killed three other cadets
shortly before he left the Academy," there was no doubt by the way he
emphasized the words "top gun pilot" that Ken despised the man. "First
Paris blamed it on an equipment malfunction. Later they found out he had
lied. An investigation pointed to pilot error and Starfleet cashiered his
sorry ass out of the service. Damn, I would have loved to have seen the
look on his old man's face when he heard the news about his precious son."
Dalby laughed cruely.

"What happened after?"

"Not much I guess. Rumor has it that Paris just dug into the family fortune
and drank himself from bar to bar until the Cap'n found him on some little
planet. He bailed Paris' butt out of some prison."

"Fortune?" Alini was suddenly even more interested in the pilot.

"Along with all the Starfleet officers in the family--the Paris clan is
stinkin' rich," Dalby admitted throwing back the rest of his drink.

{Hmmm, handsome, powerful, gallant, and best of all RICH! Doesn't get any
better than that! This kind of information deserved a reward.}

"Tell me something about yourself, and then we'll see if Alini can do
something *special* for you," she purred.

Ken Dalby grinned.

B'Elanna, gripping Tom's hand, followed the tall man down street after
street, neither of them exchanging any words. She could tell the encounter
at the bar with his crewmate had upset Paris from the way his jaw was
clenched and she hoped his anger would soon pass

The encountered with did produce one thing. She now knew his last name and
it explained a lot. He was one of the Starfleet Parises--the one that had
gotten into trouble. She had always wondered what his version of events
from his past might be.

They were getting further and further away from Mroki's place and had turned
onto a wide avenue that was lined with shops, places to eat, and what passed
on Palmat as trees--stumps of petrified wood that stuck up out of the
ground. Testament of what had once been a thriving forest over a millennia
ago. This was the nicer side of Malac B'Elanna had only heard about. The
pair walked down the street for several minutes before Tom came to stop in
front of large colorful building. Flags flew in the dry breeze and several
different articles of clothing hung in the shop's window. Tom steered her
toward the building, but B'Elanna hung back. Turning, he faced her and
noted her look of concern.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

Tom sighed and looked past her trying to collect his thoughts before he
again focused on her upturned face. "Yeah, I'm all right. I'm sorry I
wasn't better company," he flashed her a half-smile of apology. "It's just
that Ken Dalby gets under my skin sometimes. The walk helped let off some

"Why didn't you tell me, Tom?" B'Elanna wasn't going to let this drop so

"Tell you?" He didn't understand the question.

She folded her arms across her chest and stood her ground. "Tell me you are
the pilot that I was talking about when we first met?"

"Oh, that." Tom shrugged and ran his long fingers through his hair to expel
some nervous energy. "I guess, I simply wanted you to like me for me, and
not because I was a pilot." And I didn't want you to find out anything more
about me, and make this more complicated that it has to be, he finished the
thought silently.

"I do like you, for you." Which was true--his past didn't really matter to

He smiled at hearing her say those words. Tom didn't realize just how much
it mattered to him that she liked him, until that moment. "I'm glad. You
don't know how much that means."

B'Elanna had a feeling she did, she felt the same.

His mouth curled upward and his blue eyes twinkled. "Ready to go in?"

"Do we have to do this?" B'Elanna asked.

"I promised Mroki. Haven't you heard the saying: Don't look a gift horse in
the mouth?"

B'Elanna's flashing eyes challenged him, but Tom simply ignored her. He
gripped her hand in his and pulled her along behind him and through the
store's front door.

"Tom, really, I could use that money better for my ship," B'Elanna argued
even after they were inside.

"This time we'll worry about you, next time we'll shop for your ship," Tom

{Next time? Was there going to be a next time? What do you know that I

B'Elanna stood beside him as Tom fingered his way through a rack of
lightweight dresses and stylish but practical pant suits. Every once in a
while, he'd stop and pull out one of the frocks for closer inspection. If
he was satisfied with it, he'd place the item in B'Elanna's unwilling hands.
It wasn't long before she had several articles of clothing piled in her

An observant clerk noticed the pair and approached them. Spying the ripples
on B'Elanna forehead, she made an instinctive circular motion with her left
hand. Quickly, before she could drop her hand, Tom smoothly clasped it with
his own.

"Madam," he remarked. "Your establishment is exquisite. My companion and I
are quite amazed with the quality and variety of your merchandise." Tom's
face broke into a wide, welcoming grin. "Can you be so kind to direct us to
a changing area where my friend can try on a few things?"

The clerk was captivated by the handsome stranger and soon forgot her
initial superstitions. She nodded once and cheerfully directed them to one
of the shop's changing rooms.

"But, Tom, I really don't need anything," B'Elanna argued. Paris ignored her
protests and pushed her toward the appointed room.

"When was the last time you bought anything for yourself?"

"Well--ah--" B'Elanna stammered. "It well maybe it was when..."

"I thought as much. It's not that what you're wearing isn't becoming. It
is. But it's time for something new and you deserve it. Now get in there
and starting trying these things on. And I want to see everything," he
instructed. "And I won't take no for an answer. Now shoo!"

B'Elanna growled and slipped into the changing area. Hearing the growl, Tom
replied with a chuckle--a growl was certainly worth a thousand
words...words, epithets, threats... He loved it!

One by one, B'Elanna tried on each of the dresses and in turn modeled them,
albeit unwillingly, for Tom. He rejected two of the collection immediately
noting that the yellow stripe and pink print, didn't compliment her

In the end, he selected two items which B'Elanna had to concur suited her
very well: a coral colored, gauzy pant suit and a solid cream colored sun

Back in the changing area for the last time, B'Elanna was going to put the
slacks and top on that she had worn in back on, but touching the soft fabric
of the sun dress, she changed her mind and opted for that instead. When she
stepped out and saw the way Tom's eyes lit up she knew she had made the
right choice. If only her worn sandals were in better condition, B'Elanna
mused, but shrugged the thought away and approached the pilot. Her old
shoes would have to do.

Placing the pant suit on the counter, B'Elanna waited for the clerk to tally
up the purchases, when Tom placed a box in her hands.

"What's this? B'Elanna asked.

"Open it up," he urged with a grin. "And find out. Consider it my little
present to you."

Quizzically, she pried off the lid, to reveal a pair of flesh colored heeled
sandals that would compliment either outfit. Trying them on, she was
pleased to find that they fit perfectly. The supple leather-like straps
formed to her feet like they had been made specifically for her. "Tom,
they're lovely, but you shouldn't."

"Humor me, B'Elanna. I'm not taking no for an answer."

B'Elanna flexed her foot, the sandals felt very comfortable. "It's a good
thing, that I like them, or you might have a fight on your hands," she
relented. Tom grinned and instructed the clerk to conclude the purchase.

Exiting the shop with packages in hand, the pair wove their way up the
street pausing at various kiosks until they stopped in front of a red and
white trimmed building.

Tom took a step forward toward the building's front door when he realized
that B'Elanna wasn't following him. He turned to her and saw the look of
uncertainty on her face.

B'Elanna felt uneasy. What seemed to be a good idea at Mroki's now didn't
seem so great. She had noticed the clerk make the sign to ward off evil--in
other words *her*, even though Tom did a good job covering it. Any time she
had entered any of the shops or cafes in the neighbor where the bar was
located she felt unwelcomed, particularly when the Palmat citizens made that
curious circular motion with their hands. It made the reception she had
received on Kessik IV and the Klingon home world seem almost cordial.

"I told you before I talked with the owner, B'Elanna. You don't have to
worry about not being welcomed."

"I don't know," she hedged and bit her lip nervously.

"He's a Telkian," Tom explained. "Have you ever seen a Telkian?

She shook her head.

"They have a ridge that begins at the tip of their nose, goes up their
forehead where it splits and forms a curly-Q on each side." Paris traced the
pattern on B'Elanna's face, his finger lightly touching her own ridges.

Standing there before him, she was mesmerized. The touch of his finger
against the raised crests sent a feeling through her body that she had never
felt before. It was scary and exciting at the same time.

Tom gratefully noticed the change or her attitude. She seemed more at ease.
"Can we go in now?"

She nodded numbly, not trusting herself to speak.

Entering the elegantly appointed restaurant, the Telkian that Tom told her
about greeted them warmly, escorted them personally to a table in the center
of the dining room, and handed them menus. Seeing the crisp white
tablecloths and sprigs of wildflowers that adorned the table, B'Elanna was
very glad that she had opted to change her clothes.

Tom noticed that B'Elanna was overcome with the reception they had received
and with the splendor of the furnishings inside. It had probably been a
long time since she had dined in such a nice place. He was very glad that
he could do this for her.

"I hope you didn't mind being seated next to the fountain?" Tom asked and
indicated a small geometric-shaped fountain that spouted streams of water at
random from various locations. It looked like it had been assembled by
fusing large clear crystals together. It was the central attraction of the
room, and it was stunning.

"It's wonderful, Tom. I had only heard about this section of town, but I've
never been here. I'm glad you brought me."

"Mroki's been keeping you too busy. You need to get out every once in a

B'Elanna nodded. "How'd you find it this place?"

"Just by chance." That was true. He found it when he was in search of a
job in which to earn a little bit of extra money while the Liberty was being
repaired. "Are you ready to order?" he asked, knowing that she had yet to
peruse the menu.

B'Elanna grinned guiltily and opened the large menu. Looking it over, she
was very glad that the description of the items also included translation
into Federation Standard. Even so, some of the dishes didn't seem to
translate very well. Just what was braised muscle of shingle anyway? Would
anyone really eat ripe flesh in anemic sauce? Some of the items though did
sound familiar to her. B'Elanna was tempted to order the Gidean specialty
Roscato which consisted of a wild rice, fresh vegetables, and fish served
with a spicy sauce, but when she noticed the price for the meal she chose
something far less costly. Closing her menu she waited for Tom to make his

Tom looked up at her. "All set?"

B'Elanna nodded.

"Good. Me too." Looking across the room, he waved his menu. The movement
caught the eye of a Telkian waiter who promptly returned to their table, his
fingers poised above his order PADD.

"I see you've decided. What'll you have, plutec?"

Plutec? She'd only heard a few of the women in the bar referred to by such
an esteemed name, like when the liquor merchant was trying to sweet talk
Mroki. It caught her off guard for a moment. " looks

The waiter began to enter the order into his PADD. "Is that all? he asked
looking up at the half-Klingon.

B'Elanna nodded.

"Wait right there!" The Teklian's fingers froze at Tom's outburst. "I
didn't bring you here for you to eat just a salad!"

"But that's what I want!"

"You can't be serious! Just a salad?"

"I said I wanted a salad," B'Elanna insisted in a loud voice.

"Your kidding?"

"What do you mean?"

Have the brine salad if you want to, but if you really are hungry, please
order something else. I can't tell you how many women I've ever known that
may not have eaten for a week and could cheerfully devour one of everything
on the menu. Because of their vanity though they order a bite of vegetation
and a swallow of water and proclaim that they are full."

"I'll *have* the brine salad!" she repeated, this time in a louder voice.
The other patrons in the restaurant stopped eating and looked over to their
table to see what was going on.

"Wouldn't you rather have the Roscato? It's suppose to be a house
specialty. Waiter, please bring us two servings of Roscato and a bottle
your best wine. Then, if you have room for the brine salad after you have
desert, you can order it." With flashing blue eyes, Tom dared her to

The waiter not wanting to be present a moment longer than necessary, made
note of the order in the preceding small moment of silence, collected the
menus, and quickly left the table.



"If you were a Klingon what you did could have been construed as a proposal
of marriage!"

Paris' eyes widened, he had no idea.

A small smile spread over B'Elanna's face when she noticed Tom's stunned
reaction. "Relax, Tom, I'm only half-Klingon."

The pilot swallowed down a lump in his throat. "So I'm only half-committed
to marriage?

B'Elanna's smile turned into a laugh. The diners returned their attentions
to their meals, satisfied that a fight wasn't going to break out.

"You didn't really want the salad, did you?"

"No. Not really," she admitted. Paris returned the smile.

"Just don't let that happen again, or you might find yourself engaged," she
warned. "My cousin, K'Karn, on my mother's side would defend my honor at
all costs."


"He's my clan's bat'leth champion."

{Bat'leths. Sharp, dangerous, and above all deadly.} "Well, I'll be more
careful what I say in the future," the pilot promised. "But it'll be
difficult. I've never been one to think before I speak."

"Sounds like something we both have in common."

"Guess so." Tom looked pensive. Just when he had almost convinced himself
that he could think of B'Elanna Torres as a momentary distraction, she'd say
something that would endear her all the more to him. Something that would
make it all that much harder to say goodbye when the Liberty left Palmat.

The Telkian waiter returned with a bottle of wine and two long stemmed
goblets on a tray. Pouring a little wine in one goblet he passed it to Tom,
who swirled the amber liquid in the glass and then brought it to his lips
and sipped at the liquid. The pilot nodded at the waiter signifying his
acceptance of the wine, and the Telkian filled the other goblet, passed it
to B'Elanna, and then replenished Tom's glass.

Seeing how quiet Tom had suddenly become, B'Elanna decided that a change the
topic would be a good idea. "I like this place. Particularly the
fountain," she commented bringing the goblet to her lips. Taking a sip, she
savored the fruity concoction. "I didn't even know there was a fountain in
Malac; it adds a lot of character to the room."

"It's refreshing. Almost makes your forget how dry it is outside," Tom

"With the abundant groundwater resources, it's surprising you don't see more
of them," B'Elanna replied. "Then again, the good citizens of Palmat aren't
really found of water."

"What do you mean?" he asked. Tom would have thought that with as dry as
the planet was, water from any source would have been almost revered.

B'Elanna took another taste of the wine before she replied. "Well, water
that they pump directly from the ground seems to be okay, but the few areas
of open water that exist they avoid like a plague."

"Why's that?"

"The only reason I can figure is that as far as I know, they can't swim--not
a stroke."

"not surprising, I guess."

"No, it's not. In fact, most suicides and murders on Palmat are a direct
result of drowning. If the authorities suspect that a suicide or a murder
has occurred, they go to these areas of open water and drag the bottom for
the body. Most times they're successful."

"What a waste, to live in a land so hot and dry and not to know the pleasure
of swimming," Tom commented. "Whatever do they do to keep themselves clean?
Not that all do." He remembered that some of the residents of Malac looked
unkempt and dirty.

"Well there are a number of sonic shower facilities scattered throughout the
city. Mroki even owns half interest in one of them. I'm sure she makes a
profit from it that a Ferengi would envy.

Tom chuckled.

"Some of the more wealthy citizens have their own. Other than that--your
guess is as good as mine."

"I don't think I'll hazard a guess. It's probably a good thing we have our
own sonic showers on the ship," Tom noted.

"How are the repairs coming along?" B'Elanna asked taking another sip from
her goblet.


B'Elanna was glad to hear the news. The longer the repairs took the more
time she'd have with Tom.

"The ship's engineer is having a problem with the port nacelle-- the
frequency won't stabilize."

"Has he tried recalibrating the injection ports?"

Tom shrugged. He had no idea.

"Or if that doesn't work, he should try flushing the warp lines," she

"I'll tell him. You really do know your stuff, don't you?"

B'Elanna smiled slightly and blushed. "That's what Professor Nakot told
me--too bad that the rest of the instructors didn't see it."

Tom slapped his hand on the table. "So that's why you look so familiar!
You were at the Academy!"

B'Elanna's bright smile fled. "Yeah, for a while, but it was a mistake for
me to even apply to Starfleet. During my whole time there, it was one
argument after another. I can't tell you how many professors I had run-ins

"Your last name is Torres," he stated when realization dawned.

B'Elanna nodded. "How'd you know?"

Tom laughed. "Actually, I've seen you before, even though it was
indirectly. I just didn't make the connection before."

"Where did you see me?"

"It was about four or five years ago, it was during my senior year at the
Academy. I had gone to deliver one of my assignments to my
instructor--Professor Zuta. Did you ever have Zuta?"

B'Elanna shook her head. "Nope, I was due to have him in my third year, but
I was gone by then."

"You weren't missing much. Very dry little man, it was a challenge to stay
awake during his lectures. He could make sex with a He was
dull and let's leave it at that."

B'Elanna noted the slip of his tongue but chose to ignore it. She was more
interesting in what he was going to tell her about Zuta. "Continue," she

", yes--Zuta. When I entered his office that day, he was
having a discussion with a friend of my father--Captain Konchak. Zuta asked
me to wait while he finished, knowing I was well acquainted with the
Captain, he kept on talking. They were talking about this upstart of a
cadet--a cadet named Torres..."

B'Elanna's eyes opened a little wider.

"This cadet had the nerve to challenge some of her engineering professors'
tried and proven theories," Paris continued.

"They were probably speculating how long it would be before I'd be booted
out of the Academy." B'Elanna drank deeply from her goblet trying to cover
her reaction to both Tom's tale and her suspicions.

"No," Tom replied. "Captain Konchak asked who this Cadet Torres was. Zuta
called up your holoimage on his computer. I'll never forget Konchak's

B'Elanna froze, expecting to hear the worst.

"He turned to the Professor and said 'so that's the one who should be
teaching the class'. The Captain then informed him that Picard had already
expressed interest in the cadet's talents."

"I--I don't believe it!" B'Elanna exclaimed.

"It's true," Tom insisted. "Of course the main reason I remember all this
was because of the holoimage that was displayed. Back then your hair was
shorter--about to here." He leaned across the cable and touched B'Elanna's
neck just below her ear. "You were dressed as a cadet then, but I remember

"Maybe you remember me because there weren't that many Klingons in
Starfleet," B'Elanna surmised, contemplating the wine that remained in the
glass. How could he possibly remember what she looked like back then if it
wasn't for that? Freaks were easy to pick out.

Again Tom extended his hand, this time placing his index finger against her
chin. Tilting her face up he looked into her velvety brown eyes.

"No, B'Elanna. The reason why I remember all this so well, was that I was
struck by your beauty."

B'Elanna tried to turn her head to avoid his scrutinizing gaze, but Tom
wouldn't drop his hand.

"I found you fascinating then, and even more so now that I've gotten to know
you. Perhaps it is fate that allowed me to find you in this corner of the
universe." Tom dropped his hand but continued to focus on the woman before

Shutting her eyes, B'Elanna tried to steady her emotions. No one could
consider her beautiful she thought, especially not someone so handsome as
Tom. Fun to be with maybe? But beautiful? Hardly.

"B'Elanna," he beckoned

She opened her eyes again and looked at the pilot.

"I mean it, B'Elanna. I think you're beautiful and someday I hope you'll
see it too."

At that tender moment, the waiter arrived with their meals interrupting
their intimate discussion.

In silence, the pair ate their Roscato looking up from time to time at the
other as if trying to gauge the other's thoughts.

{Was he telling the truth?}

{Does she believe me?}

{Dare I hope that I've found someone that can love me, and I him?}

{Can she overlook my past?}

{How long can this last?}

Unanswered questions that needed to be answered, if there were to be hope
for the future.

After the meals were finished, the pair quickly left the cafe hand in hand.
Tom steered them back the way they had come. Strolling along the street,
they stopped from time to time to examine different kiosks--there was a
small shop which sold scarves, one which sold jewelry, and another that
specialized in a variety of leather products. Neither wanted their time
together to come to and end, but both knew they had responsibilities they
couldn't ignore. As the twin suns began to set, they turned away from the
shops, entering the side road they had taken before.

Retracing their path, they ultimately reached the point in their journey
where Tom would have to turn to the right and go back to his ship, and
B'Elanna would take the left to return to the bar. It was at this point,
where a large stone wall followed the edge of the small lane before it
emptied onto another main street, that they stopped.

"It's getting dark," B'Elanna observed.

"Yeah, I need to be returning to the ship. They'll be expecting me."

"I should be returning to the bar as well. The refrigerant unit probably
has stopped working again, but I wish it didn't have to end," B'Elanna

Tom guided her away from the other people walking along the street and
towards the stonewall.

Tom nodded. "It doesn't have to, not now. The ship will still be in port
for another two weeks."

"Then you have to go," B'Elanna replied sadly. Two weeks seemed so short.

"Yeah, I know. I promised the Captain." Tom stepped closer to her.

B'Elanna stood her ground tilting her head up to meet his gaze. "Your
promises mean a lot to you."

"Yeah, I guess. It would have been dishonorable if I had left them," the
pilot explained. "Honor--that's something that Klingon's value."

"Above all else," B'Elanna added. She swallowed down a lump in her throat
as Paris encroached upon her personal space. She licked her lips nervously
as he got even closer. Noticing the trail of sweat that coursed down his
temple and over his fair cheek, she longed to lick that too.

Taking the initiative, Tom placed his hands on her upper arms and pulled
B'Elanna toward him. She didn't resist, but he could sense her anxiety in
the way she quivered beneath his touch.

Nostrils flared in an effort to capture his scent. It was an exhilarating,
heady experience. No other man she had known before had affected her this
way, especially in such a short period of time. B'Elanna had an overwhelming
urge to attack him, bite him, and taste every square centimeter of his
flesh. Her breath caught in her throat at the very thought. She wanted to
not just smell his scent but to engulf herself in it. To become one with...

Bending over her Tom pressed his mouth against hers. The pilot's mouth
explored new territory, searching, teasing, and savoring the red ripe lips.
Like a connoisseur of fine wine, he languished, taking the time to
appreciate every nuance. He reveled in the fullness of her lips and how
they trembled beneath his own. Tom's arms encircled B'Elanna's body and
pulled her into a clutching, desperate embrace--like a drowning man who
finally found the sweetest oxygen to breathe.

Parting her lips, she allowed him access and he didn't disappoint. His
probing tongue entered her mouth and she tasted him. Her human side forced
the Klingon half from knocking him to the ground and ripping his clothes
off. The Klingon half vowed that before this man left Palmat, he would be

B'Elanna purred with pleasure spurring Tom on. His hands explored her back
and he pushed against her in an effort to taste as much of her mouth as was
possible, oblivious to the world around him.

"Hey, Tom!" A voice called out. When no reply was forthcoming, the owner
of the voice tapped the pilot on the shoulder. "TOM PARIS!"

Pulling away from B'Elanna, Paris looked up, mouth lax, puzzled by the

Geron, a young Bajoran Maquis, was standing beside the pair; his arms
crossed in front of his chest. "The Captain's looking for you, Paris."

"For me?" Tom looked at Geron. B'Elanna, lips swollen, turned away to avoid
the young man's gaze.

"He sent me out looking for you over an hour ago. Apparently your commbadge
isn't working. He needs you back on the ship, something about them
reinitializing the helm controls."

"Ah...right. I'll be right along."

"He said *now*, Paris."

"I heard you. I'm right behind you."

Tom twisted around and gripped B'Elanna by the shoulder. "I'll be back.
It's a promise."

B'Elanna reached up and covered his hand with her own and squeezed. Then he
was gone.