Chocolate or Vanilla
~ Amy ~

Short explanation- I've taken our beloved Voyager characters and put them in twentieth century lives. Don't be offended by my definition of Vanilla. I like it and it's just to fit the story.(Read, you'll understand) I also was born and come from Kansas, no offense to any anyone from Kansas. Any thing to send to me? I will love you always!

My address-

Disclaimer- Guess what? I don't own these people!!!!! They all belong to Paramount. I just like to spend my free time writing about them.

Rating PG

Chocolate or Vanilla? Elanna Torres analyzed the two cakes in her hand. After many moments of mock-serious thought she placed the chocolate cake back on the rack and walked toward the counter of the old gas station. The attendant on duty gave her a lopsided grin. She attempted to return his smile but failed as she placed the vanilla cake on the counter and pulled the correct amount of change from her back pocket of her old denim jeans. The attendant, still grinning, entered the money into his register and turned towards her.

" Wanna Bag?" he thrust a plastic sack in the direction of her face.

She pushed it away, "Um, no thanks." She grabbed her cake and quickly left, leaving the attendant to admire her retreating figure.

As she stepped out into the hot Kansas sun she pulled her dark glasses over her chocolate eyes and brought her long, dark curls into a ponytail off her slim shoulders. Kicking up rocks and dirt she made her way towards her old red Volkswagen. As she unlocked her door she opened her cake and plopped down in her seat.

The radio came on as she started pulling out of the dusty lot onto an even dustier back road. She was lucky to have even found this little shop, probably the last she'd see all day.

A familiar tune came onto her radio and she began to sing along, her floating soprano taking away some of the lonely aspects of the long road before her. But as the long miles drug on with little to do but stare at the passing cow lots, farms, and numerous fields, she was forced to think-to remember- something 19 year old Elanna hated to do.

It had all begun after her spring break of her sophomore year of college. She had stayed on campus, she had no family to visit and somehow the yearly trip to one of California's numerous beaches had seemed uninviting. College, for many, was a last chance to party; enjoying the freedom of childhood while using new found privileges of adulthood. For her, however, it was never like that. It was closed doors, containing walls, a trap, which was to catch her for life if she didn't escape. The professors had told her of her extraordinary talent, her mind for numbers, and grew frustrated with her when she didn't share their dreams and drive. When she decided to leave no one had protested. She simply cancelled her mother's payments, her mother had never cared anyway. 

Her father? 

Well he hadn't been there since she was five. Now she was her own person, nowhere to go and no one to answer to. She wasn't your average dropout. A carefree teenager with visions of partying and "living life to the fullest" in Vegas filling her head. She had her share of dreams and thoughts, worth that of any other man, just not the tolerance for pompous talk and rules dictating her life and actions. Waking up at six every morning, having a cup of coffee, reading the newspaper, working in a office all day with the chit chat of daily happenings, and coming home to repeat the process was just not her plan. She was so immersed in her thoughts she didn't recognize the passing of time until the wide sky before her changed into a vast vista of oranges and reds. 

She was entranced for a moment, staring at the pure beauty of the setting sun. As the colors died she realized that she would soon need to find a place to stop. She cursed inwardly, she hadn't thought to worry about where'd she'd stay that night, all the other places she had been had had hotels marking every 20 or so miles. She scanned the upcoming roads for signs of life. In the distance a small light glowed against the dimming sky. She could of sworn she was hallucinating but as she drew nearer the outlines of a small house could be seen. The night sky dimmed until it was pitch black, the stars and moon the only light to be seen. And, of course, the light from the farm house growing ever closer. 

Finally, she pulled into the driveway of the little house. Up to that point she hadn't even thought about whom might live here. She sat back in her seat, unsure of what to do. *What the heck, she thought inwardly, if they kill you then its been fun.* Unlocking her door she assessed the cozy looking house before her. It was humble in many ways, charming though. It's red shutters parted on white siding to reveal checkered curtains behind. A flowered walk led her to a porch, complete with rocking chairs and potted flowers. She smiled, it all seemed so storybook perfect. Quietly she knocked on the wooden door. 

Barking greeted her from inside as well as the shouts of a deep, feministic voice. The door parted revealing a woman clad similar to Elanna with blue jeans and a T-shirt coated with fine dust.

The woman looked surprised, not a unusual reaction considering how few visitors this house must get. A tall, darkly handsome man appeared behind the shorter woman.

"Who is it Kathryn?" The deep voice stopped as he spotted Elanna past his wife.

"Why who do we have here?" He softened the question with a smile. Elanna attempted to return the smile but feared it came out more a worried grimace than a smile.

" My name's Elanna Torres, I'm rather new to this part of Kansas. In fact I've never been here before. I seem to be a far ways from anywhere." She paused, realizing her rambling wouldn't get her anywhere. It seemed that she didn't need anymore explanation as the woman smiled.

"And you're looking for a place to stay," she pretended to scrutinize Elanna with mock gravity," You seem safe enough. Come in my dear you look like you could use some good food."

Before Elanna knew it she found herself in a cozy kitchen, surrounded in warm scents and memorabilia.

The woman, now know to her as Kathryn, placed a bowl of warm soup in front of her. The man, Charles, had retreated to their room, fixing a broken wheel on a nephew's wagon. She thanked her hostess and began to enjoy the thick taste of the vegetable soup.

" Tell me my dear, Elanna is it? How did you manage to get this far out here in the middle of nowhere?"

Elanna set down her spoon and smiled. She told the woman how she had left college and was going some where, nowhere really, just trying to find where she was supposed to be. It probably sounded a little crazy, Elanna realized, as she heard it in words for the first time. Blushing she noticed the woman's thoughtful gaze.

" I taught at an academy once, enjoyed it a lot. But then I met Charles over there and he somehow managed to talk me into this little place. 70 miles from the nearest neighbor on any side. Gets rather lonely but somehow we manage to make it fun." The older woman smiled." To some extent we did just as your trying to do, but we had a late start." The thoughtful look was replaced by a grin as she noticed Elanna's empty bowl.

"Enjoy the soup?"

"Very much, thank you." Elanna stood. "Can I help you clean up?"

"No, dear. It just one bowl. Its fun to be entertaining again, its been awhile since we had company."

She began to run water over the bowl and turned her back to Elanna. "Go back down the hallway. Charles should have your room ready."

" Thank you again, goodnight." Elanna made her way down the hallway, looking for the man. She heard a deep humming coming from the back room. Her brow dipped in a amused frown and she followed the tune to a little room. It was similar to the rest of the house, just the color scheme was yellow instead of red. Charles looked up from where he was watering plants when she entered.

" Kathryn told me to find you." she felt embarrassed about walking in on him. That seemed to be no problem to him as he motioned to the room with a wide sweep of his hand.

" Humble, but it should suit your needs." he smiled." I'm almost done watering the plants. Then you can get settled in." He resumed his watering. " By the way, where are you headed, not many find this part of Kansas the ideal vacation spot."

Elanna chuckled." No I guess not," she amended," I really don't know where I'm going, just trying to find something."

The man turned around and grinned broadly." You sound remarkably like me when I was about your age." He shook his head, " Time wears you down. Somehow Kathryn and I managed to escape much of the wear and tear of life in this old farmhouse. Simply enjoying each other and nature around us." He smiled." May fate grant you the same, but for now you need sleep." They exchanged goodnights and Charles left. Elanna took inventory of the room and spotted a old T-shirt and shorts, left for her to sleep in. She changed and snuggled down into the warm embrace of the covers and for a few blessed hours forgot where she was and slept peacefully.

When morning arrived she woke up to a warm sunlight streaming through the window and a warm tongue on her cheek. The couple's dog wagged his tail at his newfound friend as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. She grinned groggily and rubbed the dog's head. Her clothes lied on the corner of the bed, neatly folded and pressed. Next to them sat a pair of shorts and a shirt with a note attached.


These are for you, I hope they fit. We have gone out to do the daily chores of the farm life. We won't be back for awhile so breakfast is prepared for you in the kitchen. Good luck and may God grant you a safe journey.

Kathryn and Charles.

Elanna smiled, truly touched and pulled on the new clothes. The shorts were a bit small but they fit well. She made her way to the kitchen, leaving the pajamas folded on the corner of the stripped bed. Breakfast consisted of a bagel, cheese, some coffee and juice. She finished off the meal quickly and searched for a piece of paper and pen. After long moments of search she returned triumphantly to the table. She had little money and no valuable possessions but wanted to thank them somehow.

Dear Charles and Kathryn,

I have nothing to offer you but my eternal gratitude. Thank you for the clothes, food, and bed. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Eternally Grateful,

Elanna Torres

It sounded a little corny, even to her. Not usually being too sensitive she couldn't think of anything else and soon stopped trying to think of a more sophisticated thank-you. She set her note on the table and put the pen on top. With a deep sigh she took one last look around the small, comforting house and with deep regret stepped out into the Kansas heat. As she pulled out once more onto the lonely highway she couldn't help but wonder how her life would be different if she lived in such a wonderful, loving environment. She sure wouldn't be out here in the middle of nowhere. Miles and many long hours later she passed the leaving Kansas sign. She waved over her shoulder and blew a kiss, a ritual started after she had left California's border. Around dinnertime she pulled into East St. Louis. It had been a long day since she had pulled out of the couple's drive at six that morning but she had made quite a distance, she was proud. She drove around awhile until she found a reasonably well kept gas station. <

" I guess I'm not in Kansas anymore." She muttered, utterly furious and defeated she ran back toward the gas station. When she got there she turned toward the woman,

" Can I use your phone" She hurried towards the counter. The woman gave her a strange look,

" Why" The woman was blunt she'd give her that. " This phone is not for personal use." The woman indicated the yellow tinted phone next to her ashtray. Elanna rolled her eyes. Her palms planted on the table she thrust her face toward the woman.

" This is not personal." She ground out through clenched teeth," My cars been stolen and I'd like to call the police." Elanna had never reacted well to stress, especially when she was stuck in a big city without a mode of transportation. The woman's reaction was just what she wanted. The yellow phone was in her hand in a matter of moments. The officer on the other end was stoic, unemotional, Elanna could hardly believe he was human.

" St. Louis Police department, Officer Tuckov speaking. What is your problem." The voice droned like a machine. Elanna, completely frustrated and annoyed, nearly shouted back at the officer.

" My car is the problem, someone stole it. I'm at the gas station, Gas and food, on highway 62." Shelet out a fustrated sigh audibly into the receiver, her temper getting the better of her.

" I'll send a police car over to bring you to the station. Please stay on the line." She could hear the voice call for a car to come pick her up. She sat with the phone to her ear, waiting to hear any sign of help. The woman offered her a cigarette, which she promptly refused but she accepted a sandwich when it was offered. As she sat there nibbling on cold turkey dark thoughts ran through her mind. Was it really only the night before she had slept comfortably in the warm bed? She longed to feel that safe again. The sandwich disappeared and she buried her head in her hands, feeling utterly helpless and alone. Right when she was about to hang up the phone and find her own way to the station a black and white car pulled up. A young, obviously eager, man jumped out and towards the door. He was Asian in descent, with dark eyes and hair. All together not bad looking at all, it was just Elanna's mood that kept her from noticing. She must have made quite a sight, worn, her lips pulled tight, her dark features p<

" Excuse me officer, what was that?" She was in no mood for games.

" I said I always get the fun ones." His voice held no remorse for his comment though the pinking of his cheeks revealed his embarrassment. Had Elanna been anymore benevolent at the moment she might have cared. As it was she shook her head and closed her eyes.

" Just take me to the station please, I really need that car." The officer talked to the owner if the station for a moment longer and motioned for Elanna to follow him outside. The sun was setting though Elanna didn't have much respect and awe for it tonight. Once she had gotten into the car the officer introduced himself.

" My name's Harry Kim." He smiled the best smile he could at her. " If you don't mind my asking how did you get stuck here in the middle of East St. Louis. I thought everyone knew this wasn't a safe place to stop." He couldn't believe this girl had even thought to stop in the middle of this town, it was a wonder she hadn't gotten herself hurt. He watched as she buried her hands in her dark curls framing her face.

" I didn't. I'm not from around here. I was just stopped to grab something to drink and before I knew three teenagers pulled away with my car." She sounded tired. Her palmed raised and she hit her forehead, "How could I have been that stupid??" He found himself pitying this girl and was willing to try anything to get her back on her feet.

" What's your name?" he couldn't do much without some background.

She looked up, " Elanna Torres, I'm 19." He looked at her. She was sure young. Ok, she was only a year younger than himself but he wasn't crossing the states in a Volkswagen.

" Where are you from, anywhere around here?" It was a blind shot and he knew it, this girl wasn't from anywhere near here by the looks of things. His guess hit its mark as she shook her head,

" No, I'm from California." He grimaced, he wasn't expecting quite that far.

" Why are you in Missouri? Family?" Another wild hope, another miss.

" Wouldn't know if they were here anyway. Have no idea what happened to Dad, left when I was little. Mom? Well, let's just say I wouldn't care to know." She pulled back, not understanding why she felt safe enough to share that with him, she hardly knew him. That thought departed with the sad look on his face. He sighed and made a sharp right.

" Lets go see what we can do about that car."

The police station was crowded to say the least but she was seen quickly, thanks to Harry. After a long interview with the infamous Mr. Tuckov she looked hopefully at the dark-skinned man wanting to hear some encouraging news. What she heard instead made her want to scream.

" Sorry Ms. Torres the recovery of your car seems unlikely, very illogical. But, we will keep an eye out for it."

Elanna's shoulders dropped, unlikely, illogical? This was a nightmare. She looked up as the door to the office opened and Harry walked in.

" I'm leaving now, the reports you wanted are on the file cabinet." He noticed Elanna. "Any luck?" Elanna's look said it all. Exhaustion and disappointment showing vividly on her tan face. Tuckov answered anyway,

" No, there is little we can do," he turned his attention to Elanna," I suggest you go home, or to a hotel and find another mode of transportation."

Elanna mouth must have dropped before she answered, was this man inhuman?

" Sir, with all due respect, I have no home, no money and no way to reach a hotel. What are you suggesting, I go sleep on the street?" She rose to face him at the desk.

" We can arrange a cell for you Ms. Torres if that would be more acceptable"

Elanna fumed, looking like she was about to throw a set of well aimed punches.

" I can take her home." He smiled at the amazed look on her face. " My roommate and I don't have much but we do have a spare room" He turned to Elanna. " Sound ok to you?" Pacified, she looked up with a new respect for hin,

" Really? I mean, that'd be incredibly kind of you."

" 'Course, it's all part of the service." He smiled; this Elanna would make a fine roommate.

They drove for a good half-hour and were in the far suburbs of St. Louis before they reached a small complex of apartments. They had spent the time learning more about the other and enjoying the company greatly. Harry Kim, Elanna had gathered, was twenty. Had attended a police academy and passed with high honors and now served as an officer in East St. Louis. Elanna has shared equal amounts and was pleased about his open mindedness on a college dropout. As she looked at the apartments before her she remembered him mentioning a roommate. She turned to him,

" You mentioned a roommate, who?"

Harry grinned. " His name is Tom Paris, he'll take some getting used to but I think you'll hit it off." Harry didn't add how excited Paris would no doubt be about sharing the apartment with her. Elanna simply shrugged. They pulled up into the driveway, this one made of tar, the first she'd seen in a while that hadn't been dust. Harry came around and let her out. She grinned and accepted his outstretched hand. Pulling herself up she pointed to the apartments,

" Which ones yours?"

Harry motioned to one on the corner," That one, on the left."

Even from the outside it was pretty nice looking, impressive even. It looked about the size of a small house, just connected to a lot of others. She followed him up the stairs and down the outside hallway. At the entrance Harry turned to her,

" Hold on a moment, I want to make sure Tom's ready for company." Harry didn't even bother thinking about how messy the apartment was, compared to a car it had to be decent. He just didn't want to let Tom see Elanna before giving him a little warning.

"TOM!!!" Harry placed his briefcase on the table in the center room, he motioned for Elanna to come in a step. " Wait just a moment." He ran up the stairs and found Tom watching an old sailing movie in the upstairs room.

" Hi Harry. Little late, what happened?" Tom didn't even look up at him as he welcomed his friend home.

" Oh, nothing much. We only have a new roommate. Ya know, the normal." Sarcasm dripped from his voice.

" Ok, what's for dinner" Tom replied, not even acknowledging the news. Harry raised his eyebrow and smiled. Leave it to Tom to totally become engrossed in a movie.

" We'll have to ask Elanna what she likes." Harry tried again to get a response. It worked.

Tom sat up, " Elanna, who's Elanna? New girlfriend?" Tom smiled, " Out getting girls without feeding me first, how could you?"

Harry rolled his eyes exasperatedly, " No, Tom she's our new roommate. Her name is Elanna, she's from California. She's traveling the states. She has no home. But today her car was stolen, and Tuckov was going to make her sleep in a cell. She's staying here till we find her car." Harry paused for breath.

Tom blinked, " Ok, um good. I was getting lonely around here. Waiting for a new test plane to be made isn't easy ya know." He smiled, " Where is she? I'd like to meet my new friend." He got up and made towards the door. Harry caught up and grabbed his arm,

" She's rather shook up, and feeling quite lost. Play nice, ok?" Tom rolled his eyes.

" Harry, my friend, you make me sound like a convict."

Elanna began to tap her foot. It was a nice place, not as cozy as the farmhouse but something she could get quite used to. She made her way to the stairs beyond the kitchen and looked for signs of life. The kitchen was small and simple, tasteful though. She heard a door open upstairs and she quickly made her way back to the table where she was supposed to stand. A pair of black shoes led down the stairs, Harry's she recognized, followed by a pair of tennis shoes.

" Elanna may I present Tom Paris, your other roommate." Harry bowed playfully, "Tom this is Elanna, your new 'friend'." Elanna eyes widened, she hoped not noticeably, as she viewed her new roommate. Oh, this was definitely something she could get used to. He was tall, about a head over her, blond hair, and the lightest blue eyes. He smiled gently at her, she almost felt faint. Until she realized what she was doing, swooning over some guy like a love sick teenager. She mentally kicked herself and stuck out a thin hand.

" Nice to meet you."

The melodious voice cut through Tom Paris's haze. When Harry had mentioned the new roommate he failed to mention she was drop dead gorgeous! He felt like slapping him. He hoped he wasn't too obvious and that his smile wasn't too corny. Her long dark curls fell down behind a small frame. He became lost in his musings until her slim, tan hand was directed towards him. He shook off the remainder of his thoughts. He attempted a normal smile and extended his own hand, drowning in the feel of her warm hand covering his.

" Likewise"

Tom Paris found himself wishing a new test plane would never be built.

"-Captain the BPS relays are offline, we're stuck.-"

"-We need those relays, you have an half an hour-" Harry looked up at the screen from his paper.

" Tom what are you watching?" the commercials came on and Tom directed his attention towards Harry.

" Its Star Trek Harry. Where have you been?" Tom laughed

" Sadly out living a life Tom, not everyone can be a test pilot." Harry's voiced was filled with sarcasm. " But since when have you been a trekkie?"

" Started when I was a kid Harry. Though Dad never really liked it. You know the General never really liked TV. It spoils youth, did you know that?" The show resumed and Tom brought his attention back to the exploding conduits and alien images, Harry simply shook his head. About when the ship seemed doomed Elanna walked in, dressed in a pair of boxers and an old T-shirt.

" Star Trek? I haven't watched that in a while." She took up a seat in a comfortable cushioned chair on the opposite side of the room from Harry." Mind if I join you?"

" Not at all" Harry replied. " Do you mind Tom?"

" Mind what?"

Harry snorted, " You'll have to ignore him, he's rather impossible when he's watching a show he's interested in"

Elanna chuckled, " No problem" They watched as the Enterprise made its way out of yet another impossible situation before shutting off the television.

" Good show, you don't find many any more." Tom rolled over on his stomach," So what do you want to do now?" Elanna stood and made towards the doorway,

" I think I'm worn out, sorry, but it's been a long day." She yawned as to prove her point.

" Night Elanna. I won't be here in the morning but Tom will" Harry looked up from his paper and smiled. Tom grinned from the floor,

" See in the morning Elanna." He rose to his knees.

" Can't wait" she responded jokingly. With that she retired to the back room. It wasn't really decorated just contained a bed and a dresser. Not that she had anything to put in the drawers. She collapsed into the embrace of the sheets and snuggled into the pillows. The day had taken an unexpected turn, her life was constantly doing that it seemed. She turned over to the ceiling, wondering about how she ended up there. Who would have thought having her car stolen might have been a good thing?

When the sunlight began to stream through the high window the friendly dog that had woken her the morning before was replaced by the grinning face of Tom Paris. Clad in sweatpants and a T-shirt he waved a bowl of cereal under her nose spilling a little milk on her face. Her heavy hand reached up to wipe the offending milk off as she roused from her deep sleep. Tom smiled and wiped it off himself. Comforted, Elanna once again began to slip into a deep sleep. Tom grimaced and lowered himself to her hearing level. He hesitated, noticing how absolutely peaceful she was when she slept, but began to speak into her ear.

" Elanna.... Sleeping beauty, wake up." He moved her hand from her ear. " Sorry to wake you but we need to get going. We're going shopping today" Her chocolate eyes fluttered open to look into his clear, blue ones. She shot straight up.

" Tom!" she stopped to catch her breath."Don't do that!" She placed her palms on the bed behind her. Tom chuckled.

" Sorry but you are the hardest person to wake up!" He grabbed her hand closest to him. " We, my dear, are going shopping. Not my favorite chore but I'll make due." He kissed her hand and helped her out of the bed. She frowned and stuck out her tongue at him. Once she was on her feet she brought up a slim leg and kicked his behind.

"Ow, Elanna what was that for?!" She threw back her head in laughter.

" That, my dear, is for waking me up, spilling milk on me, and scaring me. Any questions?" She smiled. " Now, get out while I change." She frowned and looked around, " Do you have anything I can wear?"

" You, Ms. Torres, don't deserve this but here." He threw a shirt at her. " You can wear the same shorts" He grinned," Unless that is if you don't want to wear Harry's jeans."

She rolled her eyes," Oh, you are impossible!"

Dressed and cleaned she stepped into the kitchen. Tom was waiting with a bowl of cereal in his left hand. "Hungry?" he spooned another bite into his mouth. She shook her head," No, I never eat breakfast." She stepped towards the table and sat down. He quickly finished his meal and grabbed his keys.

" Ready?" he ran water over his bowl.

" Ready? To go where?" her brow dipped. He turned back to her.

" Shopping. Short memory huh?" he chuckled

" Oh yeah, sure, I'm ready." He walked to the door and bowed,

" Then, my lady, shall we depart?"

She stood and daintily walked over to the doorway. When she got there she punched him lightly in the arm.

" Lady? Yeah right."

"Oh these are nice." Tom held up a pair of shorts, though there wasn't enough fabric there to warrant a price of more than a quarter. She shot him a look.

" What? I like them!" He put them back, a distinct look of disappointment on his face.

" Tom these clothes are a little expensive for my budget." She looked worriedly at the high price tag on a rose colored shirt.

" I'm paying." He went back to scanning for her right size of shorts. Amazed she stopped and looked at him. She hardly knew him and he was offering to pay for her clothes.

" No way Tom, I'm already living in your house. I am not going to make you pay for my clothes!" she put down the shirt.

Tom looked up, " You're not making me. I want to. This is fun." He seemed to be oblivious to her stare," I've never enjoyed shopping but this is actually kind of enjoyable." He looked at her. " Must be the company."

She smiled. " Ok, you win." She knew she was giving in too easily but she didn't argue.

" Found some!" he held up a pair of shorts. " You have too small a waist Ms. Torres, it's rather impossible to find a right size. However, I have triumphed. Here are your new shorts." Elanna walked over with two shirts. Taking the shorts from him she inspected them.

" Good job. These will be great. Thanks again." She gave him the shirts and other items she was holding and he put them in the cart.

" To the toiletries then?"

" Lead the way."

Once they had made all of her purchases they made their way back to Tom's jeep.

" Tell me Elanna, how did you get to be all the way in Missouri when you should be in California? I mean, I know you were travelling and your car was stolen but thatís all."

She grimaced, this trip had caused her to tell way too many people way to many things. "Oh, college wasn't working out. I was in all the advanced classes, top honors, top of the class, co-captain of the cheerleading squad." She paused, "Though cheerleading was not my idea, all my friends were on the team. I made the team by some act of God. I got tired of the teachers telling me I was so talented and getting so mad when I didn't care, all the pompous talk and traditions. The classes turned into torture, the rooms into prisons. I picked up and left. My mom wouldn't care, she never did. Dad hasn't been around in nearly 15 years. Sounds pretty crazy doesn't it?" She stopped talking and adverted her gaze. Tom's eyes grew thoughtful.

" No, not at all. I did that too, sort of. My dad's a general, real big on college and an education. I went. Did well in all my classes and even joined the Air Force for Dad. The only problem came when I signed up for work as a test pilot. He hated it. Piloting is my passion, I adore it. Dad, however, didn't share my dreams and has all but disowned me. We havenít spoken in years. I guess not what you did but in the same manner." He looked at her.

" I guess we have something in common." She smiled," Who'd guess?" Tom just grinned and started the jeep.

" Want some ice cream?"

" Sure, why not?" She settled back, feeling more comfortable than she had in days.

"Welcome to McDonalds may I take your order?"

" One second please," Tom turned to Elanna, " Chocolate or Vanilla?" She looked up from the glove department she was pawing through.

" Vanilla please." She went back to her exploration.

" How boring," Tom snorted and turned back to the disembodied voice. " One chocolate cone, one vanilla cone please."

" That'll be two dollars. Please pull up to the second window."

Tom pulled to car around to the line at the other side. He noticed Elanna had stopped her scavenger hunt and was staring at him.

" What?" His face was the picture of innocence.

" How boring?" her indignation showing, " What's so boring?"

He chuckled, " Why vanilla ice cream. It has no flavor. Well I guess it might have some flavor, but it's still so traditional, so dull, so plain." He seemed lost in his own musing, having forgotten he was talking to Elanna in the first place. " I guess to me someone who likes vanilla would be someone like the flavor, with all the qualities I named." He snapped back as the car ahead pulled forward. " But anyway no big deal." She rolled her eyes.

" What about chocolate, what's so rebellious about that?" She cocked an eyebrow and waited for a response.

" Chocolate is sweeter, a little harder to get used to but more rewarding in the end. Itís a chance, the non-traditional way of doing things." Tom paused and pulled the car up again.

" Ya know Mr. Paris, you are crazy. I've never met anyone who analyzes ice cream before." Elanna chuckled," Sorry but I think I'll stick with the vanilla." The car finally reached the window and Tom accepted the outstretched cones.

They returned to the highway and made the way home with little conversation, shopping was quite tiring.

Harry Kim walked into his apartment much earlier that night, and with no new roommates. He could hear the television upstairs and neither of his roommates was visible.

" Tom, Elanna, I'm home" He placed his case on the table and went to the stairs.

When he reached the door he wanted to die of laughter. There on the floor, looking quite like twins, the two were barefoot and lying on their stomachs watching yet again Star Trek. They looked pretty cute.

" Oh no I have two Toms now." He groaned mockingly. Tom looked up and noticed him,

" Oh, Hi Harry." He looked affectionately at Elanna, " What can I say? She trains well."

It was her turn to look up, " Hi Harry, how are you?" She turned over and sat up. Harry grinned,

" Someone who actually cares what happened in my day, I'm touched." He smiled," It was great."

Elanna smiled and turned to Tom. Her smile fading into a mock glare,

" Trains well? Am I an animal now as well as boring?" she stared defiantly at him.

" Of course not." He grinned at her. Harry cut in,

" Oh Elanna, sorry but no news of your car."

Elanna looked confused, " My car?" recognition came, " Oh! Thatís too bad." She didn't seem too forlorn. Harry shook his head and made his way towards the door. " I'm going to start dinner considering we'd never eat otherwise." Harry left the pair to watch the Enterprise again save the universe.

  " My worst professor?" Elanna grimaced," Most likely Ms. Anni O'Hansen. Most uptight, unhappy lady I have ever met. We fought on everything. She was probably the happiest to see me go." Tom and Elanna sat at a small table against the wall of a sidewalk café.

" Sounds like fun." Tom paused as a bubbly man made his way towards the pairs' table.

" Tom!" The chef shuffled up to the table and shook Tom's hand warmly, "It's been awhile since you've been here! Who's your friend?" Not waiting for his response, he turned towards Elanna. "Hello my dear, welcome to my humble restaurant." He kissed her hand and grinned.

Tom smiled and extended his hand towards the cook,

" Elanna meet Neal, one of the most interesting chefs I know. Neal, this is Elanna, let's just say a friend from out of town." Elanna shook his hand and smiled warmly," Pleasure." Neal grinned back and gave her hand a squeeze. " Where you from my dear." Neal let go of her hand and looked expectantly at her.

" Um, California." Elanna set her spoon down by her coffee.

" California?! Heaven sakes girl! How'd ya get out here?" Neal's eyes were wide.

" I do a lot of traveling. I just happened to roll in." Elanna didn't feel like going into to detail of her car and college. The explanation seemed to satisfy Neal as he nodded his head.

" I've done my share of traveling. In fact I used to be a traveling restaurant. I went all over the Midwest. Selling hot dogs and buying recipes. Quite a life." As Neal was just getting caught up in his memories a tall, bald man entered the building. He had a pinched sort of face and the hair still there was dark and thick. On his chest was a badge, at first glance a police badge but as one looked closer it was a clear FDA badge. Neal grimaced,

" That's the health inspector, he comes by every month around this time. I suppose there's not many other places around here for him to check. I call him Doc, he won't tell me his real name. I wonder if he has one," Neal snapped back and waved at the man, Doc, and then turned back to Tom and Elanna. " I have to go now. Enjoy your time in St. Louis Ms. Elanna." With that the bubbly chef shuffled over to the inspector and waved for him to find a seat. As he faded from view into the kitchen Tom turned back to Elanna,
" I told you he was an interesting character. But back to this Anni O'Hansen, What do you mean you fought with her at everything?" Tom watched as Elanna's eyes rolled skyward.

" Just like I said, we always fought. She was my freshman physics professor. Tall, blonde, blue eyed. Basically your normal model in a college classroom. The boys loved her. She didn't like me for some reason. She didn't like many people. The grudge against me, however, was bigger than all her other's combined. I was insolent, confrontational, and, heaven forbid, disrespectful at times. I suppose she had reasons to hate me as much as she did but I didn't like the way she treated us. To her we were test creatures, insignificant as bugs. Things that took up her time and intellect with foolish questions and silly mind games." Elanna stopped as she noticed the growing fury in her voice and the almost imperceptible widening of Tom's eyes. " But that's gone and past and I'll never see her again." She let out in a rush of breath, Elanna sat back in her chair. " How about you? Who was your worst professor?"

" I never really had a professor I hated like that. My father, however, did a pretty good job at being my worst teacher. I never really lived up to his standards I guess, no matter how hard I would try to please him it never worked. When I was little I would spend hours building toy planes and boats, I always dreamed of sailing or flying. Dad wasn't so enthusiastic. I was his only son. My sisters received very little of my father pushing his dreams on them. Except when Kessie decided to marry. If I remember her new husband worked for the Red Cross. Mom found that respectable and thought he was a great match for my sister. Dad didn't, he found him lazy and a dead end. That didn't bother Kessie though, she took off and we never heard from her again." Tom's eyes took on a sad, far away look as he set down his cup. " Ready Elanna? We should probably be heading back." Elanna lifted her hand from the table and squeezed his,

" Sure. Let's go."

" That was a good one Elanna." Tom whispered at his "date". The pair sat in the back row of a darkened movie theater, a tub of popcorn between them. Tom grabbed a piece and aimed at the back of a kissing couple. The projectile hit the back of the guy's head. Elanna let out a hushed chuckle.

" Your not so bad yourself." She grabbed another piece and aimed for the woman of the couple. " We're pretty mean, ya know Tom."

" That's the fun of it." He laughed as the kernel hit her cheek. The woman looked up but didn't notice the offenders innocently watching the movie, suppressing fits of laughter. She soon gave up her hunt and went back to 'watching the movie'. Tom and Elanna let out twin sighs of relief.

" This is a good movie. What's it about again." Elanna looked at the main actress as she pulled a screaming child through a grocery store.

" I really don't remember, I picked the first name on the board." Tom stared at the screen. "I honestly don't know." A popcorn kernel bounced off his head,

" Elanna, those are for throwing at other people, not me! " Elanna's face formed into a perfect pout.

" Sorry Tommy, I was bored." She suppressed a laugh as she lost her puppy face. " Is this movie almost over? People seem to be getting ready to go." She looked as people began to grab their purses and belonging and then sat and waited for the final scene.

" I guess, it was pretty short." Tom looked at his watch; " It was only an hour and a half." He shook his head; " Time flies when you're throwing popcorn." The movie had turned to credits on the screen and people began to file out. Tom and Elanna waited till the movie theater was empty before standing, hoping to catch the name of the movie before leaving. Harry would ask, and Tom didn't want a lecture on how you shouldn't throw popcorn.

" Ah!" Tom watched as the name finally appeared, " The People's choice. What kind of a name is that?"

Elanna shrugged, " Whatever, we didn't watch it anyway." A piece of popcorn hit the side of her head. She got on the balls of her feet and looked him square in the eyes. " What was that mister?"

Tom was about to send back a smart answer when he noticed how close she was. Mere centimeters separated them. He leaned forwards and kissed her tenderly. She froze for a second and then responded slowly. Tom couldn't tell how long it was until she pulled back but he immediately went forwards; he never wanted it to end. She went back to her flat feet and looked up at him.

Tom sighed and looked down and away, " Um, sorry. I don't know..." Fustrated, he turned towards the isle. "Letís just go home now." Tom, thoroughly embarrassed, led the way back to the entrance. Nothing was said as they returned home.

  Harry looked up from his paper as the door to the apartment opened. A sullen Tom walked in followed by Elanna.

" Hello Harry, we were at the movies." Elanna greeted him warmly but the smile she gave him never reached her eyes. " But I'm worn. If you'd excuse me I think I'll turn in. " She left up the stairs before Harry could respond. Instead Harry looked towards Tom who had taken up a chair and was sitting rather dejectedly.

* Oh boy.* "What happened Tom?" Harry set down his paper and turned towards him.

" We went to The People's Choice Harry." Harry laughed,

" The People's Choice? The documentary on child raising? Did you have popcorn Tom?"

" Not now Harry." Tom's voice held a warning note to it. Harry sighed,

" Again Tom, what happened?" Tom dropped his head,

" Well, I kissed her Harry. She responded.... Then pulled away. I'm confused Harry, over a woman, that doesn't happen too often." Bitterness and disappointment filled his words. Harry grimaced. Kissed her, Harry had known it was going to happen but this wasn't the way it was supposed to end. He could see the way Tom looked at her; he was head over heels in love with her. He just hadn't realized it yet. Elanna had fallen for him too; it was only too obvious. Too bad neither of them noticed. Harry gave the top of Tom's head a grim smile,

" Don't worry Tom. I'm sure everything will turn out in the end." Harry only hoped he wasn't lying through his teeth.

" Sorry??!" Elanna threw her shirt on her bed. " That's how he felt? Sorry!??!" She plopped down and slipped the shirt she had picked out on. She had been too tired and shocked the night before to really react to the change of relations between her and Tom. Relations? Was that the word she was looking for? She was confused, that much she knew, anything else was indiscernible. She had liked the kiss and she liked Tom. Ok, she more than liked Tom but she didn't want to admit it. Men! She didn't know what to do. She was scared, an emotion she wasn't used to. The last time she had trusted a man, her father, he had left her. Left her, all alone, she had never heard from him again. Tom seemed different, but how could she be sure? *He kissed you Elanna and you're upset? * She shook her head at the little voice. She knew she wasn't. It was just old insecurities haunting her like they always would. The clock beside her bed beeped to inform her of the noon hour. She had hidden in her room the whole morning<

Elanna stepped out into the hallway and heard the TV going. She slipped by the room, hoping not to disturb Tom. She tiptoed down the stairs and entered the kitchen, letting out a sigh of relief.

" Elanna?" Tom's voice. *Damn* She looked up.

" Morning Tom. How are you?" She put on a forced casual air and pulled some meat and bread from the fridge.

" Good afternoon, I'm fine. Sleep well?" He knew he hadn't.

" Not really." She took a bite of her sandwich. " How about you?"

" Not great." Tom looked around and tapped his fingers. " I was going to make some cookies. Care to help?"

" Bake cookies? I thought you didn't cook. " Elanna finished her sandwich.

" Not usually. My Mom taught me how to make cookies before she died. I was only nine but I remember pretty well." He reached into a cabinet for flour.

She swallowed, partially because of her food, partially from what he had shared. " Sure, sounds fun." The tense conversation halted as Tom retrieved all the ingredients. He handed her a cup and some flour.

" Measure out two cups please and put it in that bowl over there." He pointed to a large, orange bowl on a far counter. Elanna began to measure and pour and Tom cracked eggs into another bowl next to her.

" What's next?" She rolled the flour bag shut. He motioned towards a bag of sugar,

" Two cups." Elanna nodded to herself and walked towards the sink where the sugar was. She noticed the spray nozzle. Her mind mischievously whirling she turned on the water and grabbed the nozzle and pointed it towards his back. *Aim, press, spray!* The water hit its mark and stopped when a wet Tom Paris turned around, shock written across his face. As soon as he saw her standing there, nozzle still pointed towards him, his own blue eyes took on a mischievous gleam.

" Missy, you're asking for it." He held the flour bag up.

" Go ahead Mr. Paris, do your worst." She let loose another jet of water. Tom crossed the kitchen and grabbed her arm. She tried to wriggle loose but Tom dumped the flour over her head before she could move. She reached behind her as he laughed and grabbed the sugar. In seconds the sugar was clinging to Tom. They wrestled for the water as the phone began to ring. They both let go and Elanna shut off the water, wiping flour from her eyes.

" Are you going to answer it?" She pointed towards the phone.

" Yea, just sec." Tom made his way through the flour-covered floor to the ringing phone.

" Hello?" He leaned against the counter. " Oh, Hi Harry." He nodded, " Sure she's right here." He handed the phone to Elanna.

She took it and leaned against the counter as Tom began to wipe up their mess.

" Hi Harry, what's up?" An excited Harry Kim greeted her on the phone,

*Elanna, we've found you're car!*

" My car?" Elanna swallowed hard, " How? Didn't Tuckov say it was illogical?"

* Tuckov says a lot of things are illogical. Nevertheless, we found your car in an abandoned lot behind an old gas station. Heaven knows how it ended up there. *

 " Great Harry, I'll pack up." She pinched her arm; she wanted to wake up. This was a nightmare! She didn't want to leave, doomed to wander aimlessly. " Thanks again Harry, I'll see you this evening. Bye."

She hung the phone up and turned around. Tom had stopped sweeping and stared back at her,

" You're leaving?" His voice was held an audible note of sadness mixed with unbelief.

" I guess, my cars been found. I don't have a reason to stay." She looked hopefully at Tom.

* Prove me wrong Tom. Please.* She prayed silently.

He moved forwards and took her hands in his,

" Elanna..." He was cut off as she lifted herself and kissed him gently. As they parted he smiled lovingly,

" Somewhere along the way Ms. Torres I think I fell in love with you."

"You picked a great time to tell me." She smiled sweetly. " Are you going to kiss me again?"

Tom laughed, " I only have one more question for you."

" What?" she looked exasperatedly at him,

" Chocolate or vanilla?"

" Huh? What kind of a question is that?"

" Can we change things or are we going back to the same?"

" You know what? I think I might just want to try chocolate for once..." she breathed quietly against his ear.

" Thatís all I wanted to know."


Well, there you have it.. I was thinking of writing a sequel.. Yes, no??

Any ideas? Rants?? Comments??? Suggestions???? I love feedback. Please!!

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