Author: Annie M
Summary: Voyager comes to the aid of a ship in distress and as a consequence a few crewmembers are invited, as honoured guests, to the aliens' homeworld. All is not what it seems however, when Paris and Torres go missing.
Archiving: PTFArchive (I'll send the web link when I put it up on site) and ASC. Anyone else, please ask for permission first.
Disclaimer: Viacom/Paramount owns the ship and most of the characters. Jasten and the other Nomelian characters are all mine. This is all done for fun and not profit. That's why I'm poor.
I want to say a huge thank you to my beta readers--you have no idea what I put them through--D'Alaire, DangerMom, and PJ in NH. Ladies, your cheques are in the mail.
Dedication and thanks go to pjs for the inspiration. I hope it was worth the wait, Senior.
July/August 1999Balance by Annie M
Bronze - 1999 Golden Orgasm (ASCEM) Award for Best P/T Story
It's not every day that I get invited to a banquet dinner in honour of Voyager, and by a grateful Delta Quadrant race no less.
Harry had picked up a distress call on his board and the Captain had ordered Tom to take the ship to its location. Once we were there we found a small ship adrift and in the final stages of a warp core breach.
I had run a scan on the ship's engineering status and calculated that they had about ten minutes before the ship blew.
The Captain, generously, offered them my services and 60 seconds later I was beamed into their engine room.
Their antimatter containment field was on the verge of total collapse. I already knew we had to work fast to avoid a disaster, and fortunately so did the alien crew. Within a few minutes I had set up a power transfer from Voyager, to enable us to stabilise the field.
The power transfer worked and I reminded myself that it was time I updated my final message chips. At this rate, I probably wouldn't live to see my 30th birthday.
The Nomel, as they are called, were grateful for our help and allowed us to tractor them to their home planet for full repairs. Once we'd arrived, and the Nomel crew explained how we assisted them, their leaders welcomed us like long lost family.
They insisted Captain Janeway and I would be honoured guests at a formal dinner to express their thanks and gratitude.
Formal dinner translates to dress uniform; I can't wait.
Janeway is bringing Chakotay and Neelix--Ambassador Neelix, as he prefers to be called at social functions, at least, that's what he keeps telling all of us.
Tom Paris is coming as my escort, naturally, which means Tuvok has the comfy chair tonight and Harry gets to play at first officer.
I know Starfleet secretly lives for moments like these. I'm sure one day all of Harry's diligence to duty will finally bring him the promotion he more than deserves. Then again, on this ship, he could be busted down to crewman if he pisses Janeway off again.
I'm not sure what to expect down on the planet, but at least I'll get a free meal out of it.
Computer, end personal log.
A warm evening breeze blew around a large courtyard. Huge tables, weighed down by endless platters of food, were positioned in a maze-like fashion around the enclosure; designed to lead diners back and forth among the mouth-watering sights and smells of the hot buffet.
For the occasion, the menu consisted of an array of Nomelian exotic delicacies: baby cooplet, tame-rice leaves, punterwort, spiced loam, avalaris and klinka nuts all served with the speciality dessert of moonbeam truffles in a zinarian sauce.
Voyager's small party of celebrities didn't have a clue what they were eating. Fortunately, nothing appeared to be squirming around on the assorted platters and by some miracle, every morsel tasted delicious. This was real gourmet Delta Quadrant fare, and Janeway found herself wishing that she could smuggle one of the Nomelian chefs back to the ship with them. If only, she thought, Neelix's suspicion wouldn't be aroused.
The Nomelians were informal and charming hosts, explaining, in warm bass tones, the culture and history of their race. They had a predilection for looking for harmony in everything. All forms of their art, music and literature expressed the philosophy of balance in one form or another.
Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay were encouraged to talk, at length, about the fundamental principles of the Federation and the mechanics of Starfleet. Tom Paris meandered in between tables, conversing and joking with the natives in his usual engaging and gregarious public persona. Neelix, meanwhile, regaled the Nomelian leaders with exaggerated accounts of his adventures aboard Voyager.
B'Elanna found herself in conversation with a cleric named Jasten, who could care less about engineers, but wanted to know everything he could about her Klingon heritage. Jasten asked endless questions, most of which B'Elanna mumbled or simply bullshitted her way through.
"Tell me, B'Elanna," Jasten prompted. His continued solicitations were really wearing on her patience and her temper. "Are the Captain and Commander Chakotay bonded?"
"Bonded?" <What the hell is this guy on about now?>
B'Elanna's tone of voice had risen an octave and from the corner of her eye she could make out Neelix's whiskers turning in her direction.
"I think you call it..." Jasten lowered his head as he considered the appropriate words. "... Marriage?" B'Elanna gave a genuine laugh for the first time that evening and shook her head at the cleric.
"No," she explained, "They're just friends. They work pretty closely together, so, I guess it could look like..." B'Elanna trailed off and shrugged her shoulders. Jasten smiled and nodded in cognition.
"It was my understanding that you and the Captain, as honoured guests, would bring your bond mates--excuse me--husbands, as well as the ambassador," Jasten explained turning around to smile in the general direction of the portly Talaxian.
"I take it then, that you and Ensign Paris are not bonded?"
A blush crept up B'Elanna's face as she instinctively crossed her arms over her chest and peered down at her boots. Jasten interpreted her actions and surmised: "You are bonded to him!"
B'Elanna gave Jasten a dirty look and hissed, "We're not married!"
"Oh." Jasten was becoming confused. "You share each other only physically?"
"I don't think that's any of your business!" B'Elanna growled.
"I do not mean to offend you, B'Elanna," Jasten assured. "It is my job to bring hearts and souls together, so, I am curious."
Torres glanced at the cleric sceptically. Her anger was already dissipating and she considered it due to the way he could pronounce her name--beautifully and in a perfectly natural baritone purr.
"So, your people have to ... to bond before they can have sex?" B'Elanna asked in a disapproving tone.
"Oh no," Jasten chuckled. "We are a very sensual people. Our beliefs teach us that a physical expression of affection is a natural and much desired impulse. The young adults in our society are encouraged to attend schools, which instruct them on the many ways to pleasure those they may bond with."
"Sex schools?" B'Elanna couldn't help the smirk that was appearing at the corner of her mouth.
<Tom would kill and die to be having this conversation.>
"Please understand," Jasten continued sincerely. "We do not teach promiscuity. These centres of excellence exist so that at the time of bonding a couple may know, not only the heat of a bed, but the desires of their life partner's souls as well. It is a balance."
Tom Paris found B'Elanna Torres staring up at the darkened sky. She was standing alone at the edge of the courtyard, several metres distant from the sounds of music, laughter and conversation. It took him a while to get to her, as he navigated his way through the labyrinth of winding tables.
"I brought you something," he said, as he drew near. B'Elanna turned at the familiar voice and looked at the glass Tom offered warily. She'd already consumed quite a bit of the local alcohol this evening and the last thing she needed was a hangover.
"Not more wine?"
"Nah. Jasten, the local monk, whipped out a bottle of the stuff they brew in his monastery. It's not bad," Tom answered approvingly, taking another sip from his own glass as he handed B'Elanna her drink.
"He's not a monk, Tom." B'Elanna sniffed at the bouquet and tasted the milky white liquid. "It's a little dry."
"Tastes like cranberry juice and vodka."
"More alcohol. Just what I need when pulling a double shift tomorrow."
"B'Elanna, he's a monk! There's no alcohol in this."
"He's not a monk. Are you sure?" she asked, hesitating as she brought the glass to her lips again.
"Sure about what?"
"Yeah, I asked him about it. It's not booze, just some local refreshment." Tom looked about him, enjoying the cooling wind that was tickling his neck. He spotted a reclining chair under cover of a small group of trees and beckoned B'Elanna to follow him to it.
The seat was large enough for two and they reclined together, leaning back in comfortable silence, watching the stars, which appeared every now and then, between breaks in the cloudy stratosphere.
"Are you okay? Did you have a good time?" Tom asked, rubbing his chin gently against the top of B'Elanna's head. B'Elanna snuggled herself more comfortably against Tom's shoulder, resting her glass against his chest, which she clutched in her left hand.
"It's been ... different, I guess," she murmured.
"A good different?" Tom enquired, trying to stifle a yawn.
"Hmm," B'Elanna returned sleepily.
"Here," Tom said a few minutes later. He slid what remained of her drink from her loose grasp and placed it on the ground beside his own spent glass.
Tom was feeling tired and he found himself fighting to keep his eyes open. It was the kind of fatigue that crept up on you with little warning; an over-tired feeling that was more usual with double shifts. Half an hour ago he was the life of the party; now Tom's limbs felt weary, heavy and achy.
Tom considered all the rich food and wine they had consumed this evening. Perhaps it was acting in unforeseen ways on their metabolism. He and the Doctor had run numerous scans, from Voyager, on the properties of the Nomelian diet and found them compatible for humanoid consumption.
<That isn't saying much, considering what we've been eating over the past five years.>
Night sounds filtered in and out of his consciousness: Orb flies and things that sounded like crickets, the sound of the wind as it rustled through the branches overhead, snatches of the Captain's voice, Neelix's laughter. More than anything, Tom could hear--feel--the low-pitched reverberations of Nomelian voices, resonant and all pervading.
B'Elanna's breath heaved in a wild brief snore, as she shifted her head restlessly into the crook of Tom's arm and shoulder. A slow smile touched Tom's lips. B'Elanna hated to be told she snored in her sleep. With his lucidity dimming, Tom considered waking B'Elanna and dragging both their weary bodies back to the party, bidding good night to their hosts and beaming back to Voyager.
Forty winks sounded better.
B'Elanna woke with a start. She sat up and her eyes immediately tried to adjust to the dark.
"Tom?" she spoke, stretching her arms out in an attempt to find his body. Nothing but an inky blackness seemed to surround her. B'Elanna was aware she was sitting on some type of flooring. It was warm to the touch and had a malleable quality to it.
"Captain? Chakotay?" she tried, louder this time. Silence responded. B'Elanna reached for her comm badge and touched only the material of her dress uniform instead of metal.
"Damn it!" she cursed into the ether. "Tom?" B'Elanna started to crawl around, investigating the dimensions of her "cell." It seemed impossible to get her bearings. She would move in one direction for several metres and then another, never meeting anything more solid than the weird flooring, which would spring back against her weight as she moved.
<Doesn't this fucking place have walls?>
A dim green glow appeared to her right and as quickly disappeared. B'Elanna crawled eagerly towards its location, stopping only when her head smacked into something. Hard.
"Oww. Shit!" she muttered, stroking her fingers against her forehead. B'Elanna leaned back against her calves and tentatively reached out to the obstruction. It was both smooth and cool to the touch, a flat surface with no discernible flaws. B'Elanna stood up, following the elevation of the object. It rose above her height and was broader too. A wall.
B'Elanna pounded her fists against it and called out to her would be captors, "Hey, what's going on?"
Unfriendly silence echoed back.
"Why are you holding me here?"
Deafening silence persisted.
"Let me speak to somebody! Where's Tom Paris?"
<Somebody has to be out there!>
"I want to speak to Captain Janeway!"
Endless, ugly silence.
"Can't you at least turn a light on?"
"Who's there? Tom? Tom, is that you?"
"Yeah, B'Elanna. It's me."
"Where are you?"
"I don't know, it's pretty dark in here, Torres. Other side of this wall, I'd guess."
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Discounting the fact I have no comm badge and I can't see a damned thing, I'm peachy. How about you?"
"About the same."
"If I'd known we could get arrested for sleeping on private property, I would have dragged our tired butts back to Voyager."
"That's really helping, Paris," B'Elanna shot back sarcastically.
"If you've got any bright ideas, Torres, I'm listening."
Tom's voice was tense and B'Elanna turned away from the wall and slipped down the smooth partition, to sit and contemplate their options and avenues of escape.
After several minutes, having failed to come up with a plan for their liberation B'Elanna asked, "What do you think they want?"
Tom contemplated B'Elanna's question from his side of the wall, which was equally dark, the floor equally pliant. He rested the back of his head against the smooth wall, where he sat arms crossed against his chest with his legs extended.
"I have no idea." Tom was genuinely puzzled by the Nomelians actions. They shared similar technical capabilities, they weren't a destitute and nomadic race of beings like the Caatati or an ignorant bunch of thieves like the Kazon; and they certainly didn't appear to hunt for sport like the Hirogen.
The Nomelians presented themselves as a race that held cultural and sociological understanding above all else. They stressed the importance of harmony in all things and seemed eager to share and exchange ideas with the crew of Voyager.
<What could they want?>
Tom traced the series of events that had led them to this point over and over in his mind. First contact, the usual appreciation after answering a distress call. Dinner, damned good food and wine, almost vintage quality. Conversation was informal and inquisitive on both sides. There hadn't been any cultural misunderstandings that Tom could recall.
And then there was that concoction Jasten had offered him; the drink that had tasted like cranberry juice and vodka. Now that he thought about it, Tom realised Jasten had only poured two glasses of ... what had the monk called it? Agapémone? Something like that.
"B'Elanna?" Tom asked, sitting up straighter in his sudden inspiration. "Were you tired before I brought you that drink?"
"That milky stuff?"
B'Elanna ran a hand through her hair as she thought back. "No, not really." Her quick mind brought this new clue into play among the endless dead end scenarios she had been weaving on her own. She spun around to face the wall, wishing she could see Tom's face as they shared this insight.
"It was drugged," they said in unison, but with differing inflections, B'Elanna in disgust and Tom with calm acceptance.
"So, now what?" B'Elanna raged.
Even if they were right and their drinks had been spiked they were no better off. There was no way out of this place unless they were released or the Captain, Neelix and Chakotay mounted some kind of rescue--if they could. It was doubtful that Tuvok would be suspicious, they weren't due to report back to the ship until they were ready to leave the planet.
<How long have we been here anyway?>
The bottom line was, nothing about their situation had changed.
"I wish I could see you," Tom said unhappily.
"Me too," B'Elanna replied softly, although her voice carried easily through the barrier that separated them.
They sat in silence, the darkness enveloping them like a quilt without shape or form. In minutes they were both asleep.
Naked limbs entwined themselves around each other. Fingers brushed curves, kneaded rounded flesh. Moist lips touched, tasted. Sensation flooded every pore, coaxed every muscle and sinew. Fleeting moments of breathlessness followed prolonged moments of ecstasy. Cocooned in this warmth, this heat floating, flying, searching, searching. Constantly seeking out the source of the other; the one who would make the whole.
There was light, a dim sapphire hue. The hazy spectacle appeared only a few inches away. It was coming from somewhere in front of Tom's position, where he lay on his side. His sleepy eyes tried to adjust to the faint glow, attempting to distinguish its form.
"B'Elanna?" Tom spoke, his voice still thick with sleep. He reached out with one hand in an effort to touch the blurry after-image of an erotic dream. But his fingers felt only the familiar cool surface of the barrier.
He could see the image begin to clarify before him. It grew brighter and a familiar shape started to emerge.
B'Elanna was the image in blue and he could view her somehow through this wall.
She appeared to be asleep, facing the partition, her cheek resting on an arm. He could make out the rise and fall of her chest with each breath. She seemed at peace, her expression relaxed and bathed in this sapphire orb of light.
He could see her.
Tom rose to his knees and studied B'Elanna in repose. Wishing he could be holding her close to him curled up around her, kissing the nape of her neck, her shoulder, her hair. Touching the velvety softness of her skin, tweaking a nipple. Feeling her turn in his arms and place soft whispering kisses against the base of his throat. Her hands scratching lightly at his ribs and travelling up to pull gently at his chest hair. Her thigh pressing against his erection. His fingers now coated in her juices as she moved over him fully; tickling the tip of his nose with her tongue. To be in her as she was in him, rocking together where time had no meaning. To exist in that sweet vacuole of sensation that was all; that was everything.
Tom became aware of himself even as his heated imagination was running away with him. He gazed at his hands pressed up against the transparent barrier, the reflection of B'Elanna's blue image bathing them in its glow. He could not stop his amorous thoughts and lowered his head slightly, feeling his erection straining through the material of his pants.
As Tom looked down at his body, he realised he was now a vivid blue too.
"Very good Tuvok. We'll see you later." Kathryn Janeway terminated her transmission and turned back to face her hosts, giving them her most generous smile.
"I trust everything is as it should be aboard your vessel, Captain?" an elderly Nomelian woman asked.
"Yes, thank you." Janeway was having a good time and she was relieved that Tuvok and Kim had everything under control. Not that she had any doubt in their ability, she was just proprietary about her ship and like any good captain she missed it when she was away.
"Did I miss anything?" Janeway asked of Chakotay who was popping something that resembled nuts into his mouth.
"I was just explaining," Chakotay replied between running his tongue along his teeth; clearing the nutty debris, "my people's culture. Apparently the Nomel take spiritual journeys as well."
"Oh really?" Janeway turned an inquisitive eye to the three Nomelians standing around her. "You have spirit guides too?"
"Not exactly," Jasten, the young cleric spoke up. He had wandered into their group a few minutes before and had been casually listening to the conversation. "Our concept of spirituality is somewhat different to your Commander's."
The Captain, intrigued, moved closer to Jasten and invited him to explain. Chakotay popped another kernel into his mouth to hide the smile that was forming; he'd already heard this description from the other two Nomelians.
Darkness surrounded them once more. Tom had resumed his earlier position, sitting with his back against the partition. He was puzzling over the events he had witnessed several minutes before.
<Why were we glowing? What made it stop? How did it start?>
He heard movement behind him, the rustle of clothing and movement against the floor. B'Elanna.
"Tom?" she called out.
"I'm here," he answered. He did not know what to tell her of his earlier experience and was quiet after that.
Several minutes later B'Elanna said, "I don't understand this. They've drugged us, taken our comm badges and put us in some kind of cell, but they don't demand anything. What's the point of leaving us in the dark?"
"I don't know." Tom was starting to believe that he had been hallucinating, that maybe he'd dreamed up the whole scenario of he and B'Elanna, lit up in the dark. He angled his head in her direction, there was no sign of her now.
"There's got to be a way out of here," B'Elanna said, impatiently.
Tom shrugged his shoulders against the dark, the images he'd seen still on his mind.
"I did some crawling around before," B'Elanna went on. "This was the only wall I could find," she finished in disgust.
"Yeah, me too," Tom confirmed.
"Maybe this wall is the key somehow," B'Elanna said, pressing her hands against its surface and feeling again for imperfections. Her engineering skills eager to assert themselves.
"You gonna kick it down, Torres?" Tom couldn't help joking.
"You're so funny," she said, obviously not amused. "Come on, Tom. There's got to be a way!" she pleaded as she got up and started to pace around. "Why would this place have only one wall?"
Tom started to think about that, one wall was pretty odd.
"And how come we happen to find ourselves just a few feet apart somehow?" B'Elanna threw her thoughts blindly into the air. "It's got to be part of something, right?" she asked.
An impression was forming at the edge of Tom's consciousness but he could not quite grasp it. One wall, something about that concept was repeating it self in his mind. <Why one wall?>
"This is crazy." B'Elanna was in full "pissed off" mode as she marched back and forth along the barrier. She started muttering to herself and swearing, both in Klingon and Federation standard.
Tom remained where he was on the floor, shaking his head in an effort to force his thoughts into something cohesive and tangible. B'Elanna's descriptive epithets were distracting him though and whatever was trying to get out was failing miserably.
"... And do you know how I found this fucking wall?" B'Elanna was saying loudly, more to herself than Tom. "Some fucking green light pops out of nowhere and then vanishes, that's how!"
"You saw a light?" Tom asked, turning his head to where he had last heard her.
"What?" B'Elanna stated.
"You a saw a light before?" Tom asked again.
"I just said so didn't I?"
<Could we both be hallucinating?> Tom took a deep breath and confessed, "I think I saw you when you were sleeping."
"I'm not sure, maybe it's the drugs. Your body was surrounded by a blue light and I saw you."
"Tom, wait a minute. What? What are you talking about?" B'Elanna asked, now thoroughly confused.
"When I woke up this time you were glowing. I thought I was dreaming at first but it was you. I could see right through this wall. You were sleeping on the ground," he continued in an excited rush as he stood up.
"I was glowing?" B'Elanna asked, doubting it.
"Yes," Tom went on, "I was watching you and wishing I could touch you. I wanted to go back to sleep and cuddle up behind you. You looked so peaceful."
"You saw me?" she said, again.
"I know this sounds crazy, B'Elanna, but yeah I did. The craziest part though was what happened while I was watching you."
"What happened?" B'Elanna asked. Her curiosity was warring with her common sense, which was telling her that Tom must be far more susceptible to whatever drugs the Nomelians had used on them than she was.
Oblivious to this, Tom answered her question: "I started to light up and glow just like you."
"You were glowing?" B'Elanna could not hide the disbelief in her voice.
"I'm telling you, B'Elanna, it happened."
"So, why can't you see me now?" B'Elanna, the pragmatist asked.
"I don't know," Tom murmured.
"Maybe I've got to be unconscious," she jokingly suggested.
Tom let that comment slide, he knew there had to be more to it.
"Do you remember what you were dreaming about," Tom asked, "when you were asleep?"
B'Elanna tried to recall her dream, "Not really. Why?"
Tom sighed, "It's just that... I was... I don't know."
"What?" she asked, her voice encouraging.
"I was thinking about us making love."
"For fuck's sake, Paris!" B'Elanna said in exasperation, "you have such a one track mind!" B'Elanna started to pace again, knowing that Tom was probably giving her some kind of disgusted look from the beyond the wall. "And don't you even think about giving me that look, either," she said defensively.
"Which one," Tom asked, unmoved by her outburst, "the look that says you're just as guilty as me when it comes to thinking about sex or the other one?"
"What other one?" The words were out before she could stop herself.
"Oh, you know," he continued smugly, "the look that says you're just as guilty as me when it comes to thinking about sex."
"You know I hate smart asses, don't you?"
Tom laughed, "I know you're not too keen on Seven, or the Doc sometimes. Hey, are you telling me you don't like Harry?"
B'Elanna couldn't help chuckling at that and their laughter warmed them both, easing some of the tension in their bodies a little bit.
The concept that had been eluding Tom for some time was finally starting to crystallise.
"You were dreaming about me, weren't you, B'Elanna?" Tom needed to know, just to be sure.
"Yeah," she answered, "I'm sure your fat ass was in there somewhere."
"Thanks!" he returned, trying to sound insulted, but it was too hard so he settled for the easier option of laughter.
"Our spiritual journeys are taken for many reasons; at the time of a loved one passing, in thanks for new life, and also at the time of bonding. The bonding rituals serve several functions," Jasten was explaining.
"Bonding? Do you mean some sort of marital ceremony?" the Captain couldn't help interrupting.
"As I was about to illustrate," Jasten went on patiently, smiling at Janeway and captivating her once more with his mellifluous baritone. "Bonding takes place on many levels. We do have one you might describe as a marital ceremony. This is initiated when souls decide they want to join." Janeway nodded her head in understanding.
"Sometimes," Jasten continued, "partners decide that they would prefer to explore only the physical side of another."
Janeway cast Chakotay a quick look of bafflement.
"Fucking," he whispered into her ear. To her credit Kathryn Janeway recovered quickly, closing her gaping mouth before it had a chance to drop to her chest.
Jasten ignored their whispered aside, heartily continuing his narrative. "In most cases those who employ this manner of communication will eventually ask to be fully bonded."
"Married?" Janeway interjected again.
"In a way. We actually have no word for marriage on Nomel, Captain. The ceremony is called Agapémone; the act of revealing your desires to another with total candour. When this is achieved--and it's a very personal experience, with no right or wrong method--the intended souls will be united."
"Sounds fascinating," Janeway said politely. Although she actually thought it sounded like a pretentious load of old psychobabble she had read somewhere in one of her Earth history or sociological lessons at the Academy. And not half as compelling as Chakotay's medicine bundle. A-koo-chee-moya she could handle.
"You're saying we've got to..." B'Elanna was lost for words. Tom had explained his theory to her, telling her excitedly of what he believed was his discovery.
Now he was insisting she tell him of her sensuous thoughts, in the hope that they might see each other again.
B'Elanna had rolled her eyes in disbelief. Did she and Tom always have to end up in some bizarre sexual situation?
"Think very sexy thoughts, B'Elanna," Tom completed for her, mirth and smugness dripping through every syllable.
"Are you sure this is going to work?" B'Elanna still wasn't convinced.
"I told you," Tom groaned in impatience. "This is some sort of transparent barrier. We can only see each other if we're thinking about each other sexually. You already admitted you were dreaming about me."
B'Elanna gave an exasperated sigh. "All right hotshot. You start."
"Yes, ma'am," was Tom's enthusiastic reply. B'Elanna could feel his grin from the other side of the wall. He could be so infuriating at times. Infuriating and sexy, she had to concede.
Tom took a second to compose his thoughts. He didn't usually have to describe what he was going to do to B'Elanna, sure he'd cooked up lots of fantasies about her; at the helm of Voyager, in sickbay, on boring away missions. Normally, where B'Elanna was concerned, it was always "feel it, do it."
Neelix let out a loud roar of laughter and Janeway and the others turned to watch him gesticulating wildly and spinning around in circles. The Nomelians around him, watching in delight as he cackled on.
"Your ambassador is quite an entertaining fellow," said the elder female to Chakotay.
"Yes," agreed the commander. "He is something." Janeway turned an amused gaze towards him and Chakotay wiggled his eyebrows at her.
"Speaking of something," Janeway said as she looked around the courtyard. "Has anyone seen Paris or Torres?" Chakotay turned to survey the area and then looked beyond it to a cluster of trees that hung over a small reclining bench.
"I thought I saw them over there a little earlier," he informed his captain, pointing in that direction.
"They wanted to visit the temple," Jasten said simply, but a little too quickly for Janeway's liking.
"Where we conduct our ceremonies, Captain."
The other Nomelians were watching Jasten carefully but said nothing. Janeway however, noticed the subtle change in their demeanour.
"May we take a tour?" she asked, indicating herself and the commander.
"My apologies," Jasten stated in his incredible honeyed voice. "Only those of intent or involved in a physical relationship may enter our temples."
Janeway gave him her patented "look."
"It is my understanding, Captain, that you and Commander Chakotay are not involved in this way." It was not a question.
"I see," she said, clearly not happy with Jasten's explanation. She stood with her hands on her hips and feet apart. "How long is their "visit", she began, unable to suppress the sudden disdain in her voice, "going to be?"
"It is a large structure," Jasten replied calmly. "They should return in about 8 to 12 hours."
Tom licked his dry lips, ran his suddenly moist palms down his thighs. He stood up and started pacing the length of the wall, using his hands as a guide against its plane. <How to start? How to start?>
"Umm," he tentatively began. B'Elanna could hear his footfalls, which were followed soon after by nervous laughter.
"Is there a problem?" she asked in an amused tone.
"Ah." <Damn it! Why was this so hard now?>
"Tom," B'Elanna came to his rescue. "Why don't you tell me what you would do to me, if you could walk through this wall." That got his attention. Truth be told, her own words started to focus her thoughts as well.
Tom drew in a deep breath and stood close enough to the division to feel his breath reverberate off its surface.
"I'd hold you," he began slowly, in a whisper. Closing his eyes as he spoke, imagining her standing before him. "Kiss your hair, your eyes, your ridges."
B'Elanna closed her eyes against the dark and hugged herself.
"How would you kiss me?" she asked in a sultry tone.
Tom envisioned the scene. "Softly, at first. I'd lick around your mouth, then part your lips with my tongue--waiting for you to kiss me back--softly." He grew more emboldened with every word. "I'd reach for the clasp on your uniform and your fingers would join mine and pull away at the fabric." He reached up and felt for the closure of his own uniform, letting his fingers slide against the material.
"How would you touch me?" B'Elanna asked, starting to get into it. She could hear Tom draw in a shuddering breath beyond the barrier.
"I'd slide my right hand inside your uniform and caress your breasts. I'd stroke my thumb against your nipples, the way you like."
B'Elanna was heating up and she smiled, warm with memory. She did enjoy the way his thumbs caressed her nipples; bringing them to erection with just a few slow strokes. She touched herself there.
"I'd start to undress you, removing every piece of clothing while I stroked your skin. Kissing your neck, sucking your ear lobe." Tom paused and laughed a deep throaty chuckle.
"Only you'd be too impatient to get naked, and you'd pull my hands away from you."
"Tom!" B'Elanna responded, feeling a blush creep up her face at the truth of his declaration.
"Then you'd rip my clothes off so fast that I'd spin around. Only to come to my senses with you feeding on my chest," he continued on, thoroughly warming to the topic now, laughter evident in his voice.
"I thought you liked the way I 'fed' on your chest, Paris?" she returned haughtily.
"Oh, I do." Tom was quick to intercept B'Elanna's change in mood and took steps to maintain their erotic dialogue. "Tell me what you're doing to me, B'Elanna."
Still feeling self-conscious from Tom's comments she answered caustically, "Feeding."
"B'Elanna?" Tom said soberly, the roughness in his voice catching her attention, "I do love the way you feed on me."
Arousal rocketed through her at his confession. "Damn it, Tom. You make me so crazy sometimes!"
"I know," he said, his voice husky with longing.
B'Elanna bit at her bottom lip. Knowing very well that she'd do just about anything for him when he answered her like that.
"All right," she said at length. "I'm kissing your chest. Grazing my teeth against your skin, finding your nipples that are buried under the hairs there. I'm tracing your butt with my nails. Kneading them, squeezing. You're doing that thing you do with your voice."
"What thing?" Tom asked, his voice hoarse with desire. His tunic was open now, and he rubbed at his chest with the flat of his hand.
"You know, that silly growl you always try to do."
"You don't like it?"
"It's kinda cute, now. It used to irritate the hell out of me at first though."
Frowning, Tom pulled his hand away from his chest and felt for his erection, rubbing himself through the cloth of his pants.
"Okay. What else?" <No point ruining the mood again with an argument.>
"Where was I?" B'Elanna asked as she pulled at the fastener of her uniform. Her eyes catching sight of an outline before her, a vagueness was shimmering in blue.
It was working!
"My ass," Tom threw back.
B'Elanna giggled, amazed at the vision before her and by Tom's humour. Wishing she could really touch him, hold him to her and kiss that wonderful mouth of his, feel his muscled body against hers.
"You're teasing me with your cock. Letting me know how big you are by bucking it against my stomach. I pinch your ass and you moan against my neck. One of your hands is buried in my hair the other is stroking at my bottom."
"I move us to your bed and lay you down, so I can look at you," Tom continued. He was staring at her form now, a blue fuzz standing at just over a metre and a half in height. Standing close enough to reach out and touch.
"I'm gazing at your body, watching your breasts heave with each breath. You're panting a little and so am I. You call my name and your eyes are pleading with me to come closer. I put one knee on the bed and before I can get my other leg up you're tugging at my prick. Pulling it slowly, leading me to you."
"You're kneeling over me now," B'Elanna took up the narration. "Your face is so serious, staring at me so intently. You look like you might cry but you don't. Then you lean in and we kiss. It feels like you might devour my mouth whole but your tongue is warm and soft and it makes me ache to feel you everywhere."
B'Elanna opened her eyes to the blue shape, getting stronger now. She nodded and said, "Yes."
Both of them stepped towards the partition in complete synch. B'Elanna put her hands up against the surface and Tom mirrored her actions. Their palms against each other, separated only by the scant thickness of the wall. Tom slid to his knees on the floor, his palms still held up. B'Elanna did the same soon after and they stayed like that, staring at each other--wonder and longing reflected back at them--through a cloud of sapphire blue.
"What am I doing now, B'Elanna?" Tom whispered, his face so close to hers.
B'Elanna swallowed, licked at her lips. Unable to take her eyes away from Tom's face.
"You kiss slow sensuous patterns down from the top of my head. You lick at my throat, nip your teeth against my shoulder. You keep kissing your way down to my breasts. Then you stop. You look up at me, give me that lop-sided smile of yours." A warm smile escaped B'Elanna's lips before she resumed. "Then you'd gently use a nail to trace circles around my nipples; taunting them, teasing me. Making me sigh and writhe a little under your hands."
"Then I'd lean in and suck on those gorgeously erect nipples of yours."
"Uh huh," B'Elanna breathlessly responded. Her body answered the call of aural stimulation. She felt like moisture was flowing everywhere.
"Pulling at your nipple with my teeth, flicking my tongue at it, biting it," Tom paused, "feeding on it."
"Loving the way you moan at me, purr at me. Your hands buried in my hair, rubbing at my scalp. Your legs are drawn up and--"
B'Elanna laughed, showing Tom a wild grin. "My toes are playing with your penis."
"Yes," Tom agreed grinning back. "You've got your big toe doing something awful bad to the head of my prick."
"But you love it."
"You're moaning too and you've switched to the other breast."
"You're scratching my shoulders deeply and I wince a little."
"Did it hurt?" B'Elanna asked, concerned she might have.
"No. I like it."
That small doubt erased B'Elanna went on. "Your hands are moving all over me."
"I wet two fingers in your pussy and your hips roll towards me. I start to move my lips further down your body. You start calling my name."
"Tom," B'Elanna called, her body humming with need. The blue of his image glowing brighter now than her beloved warp core.
"Yes, like that. As I move down you part your legs for me, spreading them wide." Tom gulped in a breath and tried to control his breathing. He was speaking in laboured whispers, marvelling at the azure halo that surrounded his lover, his adored woman.
B'Elanna's voice now pressed on, sending Tom's blood pounding around his most sensitive areas like lava through his veins.
"You touch your lips to me there and it's like electric velvet shoots into me. I can't help it, I'm shaking, my thighs quivering with every dart of your tongue against me."
"I'm drinking you in and I feel you shudder against my mouth. I want to hold you there, keep you coming, for as long as I can."
"I want you in me but I need to see you too. I pull your face away from where I really want you and then you're over me. Rubbing your chest against mine."
"You're coming again, stroking my prick wildly and driving your breasts against me."
"You know how I get when you do that," B'Elanna smiled.
"That's why I do it," Tom smirked back.
"You wouldn't have me any other way, B'Elanna," Tom supplied knowingly, grinning at her through the partition.
"You do have your uses," she generously confirmed.
"And would one of those uses, by any chance, be the way I'm about to fuck you senseless?" Tom asked, his voice deep and rich with unfettered passion.
B'Elanna sucked in a breath as her whole body trembled with desire. There was a craven wantonness to her expression as she returned Tom's stare through the barrier. "Oh, yes," she hissed.
She could almost feel the weight of him, over her, in her mind, feel him stroking into her, over and over.
"We're kissing, deeply" Tom carried on, "and the taste of your pussy on my lips," he paused again, "is making you groan so loudly, I think they can hear you on the bridge."
B'Elanna grinned back at him, the blue tint surrounding her hiding her blush. "You've got a hand on my thigh and you're pulling it up at an angle."
Tom nodded, even as his erection throbbed angrily behind the confines of his pants. "You're guiding me in, but I know the way. I take my time and tease the outer edges of your pussy lips with the tip of my cock. You feel so wet, warm and inviting." Tom was speaking as if he was in a trance, lost in the moment of anticipated release. He could feel everything he was describing.
"You pull at my hips, scratch my ass and buck your body against me. I want to torture you with pleasure but I'm not strong enough, I have to be in you. Now, more than anything."
"Your first thrust leaves me breathless and I have to grab on to your arms tightly to stop myself from coming again. You're holding still, above me, and you have the strangest look on your face."
"I start to move in you again. God, B'Elanna, I love the way you feel around me," he cried out. Tom paused for breath: he felt like he was sweating all over, felt like his erection would burst free from his uniform and smash through the wall that was separating them.
"I love the weight of you, when you're in me and the feel of your muscles on mine. You're thrusting so hard and so deeply into me and I'm thinking this is the best feeling. The best."
Tom gulped audibly, all his blood was rushing to his balls and filling his glands. <God, what I'd give to be in her right now!>
All his strength was deserting him as he half leant half slumped against the barrier. "You're moaning and gasping with every thrust I make, pulling me into you and scratching at my back, my butt."
"I can't take much more of it and it feels like I'm losing my grip on reality. I can see you're close, your eyes are closed, your face is all scrunched up and you're biting at your bottom lip."
"I feel you start to come and your nails digging into my butt are driving me over the edge. I know I'm shouting out and screaming at the top of my lungs but I can never remember what I said afterwards."
"Please," B'Elanna said quietly.
"Huh?" he responded, barely able to get his mind off the image of them naked and gloriously entangled.
"That's what you always say, Tom," she answered. "You yell out, 'please, B'Elanna, please', over and over until you're totally spent."
Tom was quiet for minute, trying to remember the words he must have shouted out countless times before. "I guess it means," he said slowly, "please let me do it again, B'Elanna. You know I love... love to make love to you, don't you? You do know I'd do anything for you, don't you B'Elanna?"
"I know," she answered, pressing her face closer to the "glass," leaning her forehead against the outline of Tom's. She could feel her heart beating wildly inside her chest, where passionate arousal battled with a tenderness for him she couldn't control.
"I love you," she said simply, raising her head slightly to look into those eyes of blue, blue within blue.
Tom remained silent, his face solemn. Watching instead the flickering of emotions as they played across B'Elanna's face. So open, tender and nakedly vulnerable.
He shook his head at her, letting her know he felt the same. Then he smiled.
"Eight to twelve hours?!" Janeway was incredulous. Chakotay didn't look too impressed either.
"We break orbit at 0800 tomorrow morning. I can't believe that Paris and Torres were that foolish and agreed to go." Janeway's anger was simmering nicely. She turned to her first officer and clutched at his arm. "When we get back..." she started to spit out in disgust, but remembered the company she was in and halted what would have been a lethal tirade. Chakotay patted her hand briefly in comfort and turned back to Jasten.
"Were our officers aware of how long they'd be gone?"
"No," Jasten at last answered truthfully. Equivocating had been hard work, he thought. "I did not make them aware of that."
"Why not?" the captain barked.
"You, Captain, and B'Elanna Torres are honoured guests. It was our hope that we could offer you a lasting gift."
"Gift?" Janeway was becoming more annoyed and confused every time the cleric opened his mouth. "What do you mean?" she demanded.
"When we invited you to join us this evening we asked that you and B'Elanna be accompanied by companions--as you say--as well as your ambassador, Neelix." As Jasten tried to explain Janeway threw her weight onto a hip and ran her hand through her hair. She still didn't understand and she sighed in exasperation. "After I spoke with B'Elanna Torres, she informed me that you were not what I had assumed."
"Bonded mates?" Chakotay wanted to clarify.
"Yes," Jasten went on. "I correctly assumed that she shared a closer link to your Ensign Paris and decided to give the gift to only them," he concluded triumphantly, confident the misunderstanding had now been fully comprehended by Voyager's two commanding officers.
There was a long pause. Janeway shifted her stance to the other hip. Chakotay, beside her, puffed out a large breath. The captain started scratching at her temple in earnest.
"So, what's the gift?" she asked finally, still at a loss.
Jasten gave them both a considered look, frowning he turned to the elder Nomelians by his side. They nodded approvingly.
"As we speak," the cleric answered "they undergo the ritual of Agapémone."
Janeway stared blankly at Jasten. <What did that word mean again?>
"You're telling us," Chakotay had obviously remembered, "that Paris and Torres are going through some kind of bonding ceremony?"
<Oh, dear God!> Janeway shook her head again in disbelief.
"They asked for this?" Chakotay asked incredulously.
"I believe they wished it," Jasten answered defensively.
Chakotay laughed out loud at this, his dimples showing in all of their bronzed glory. He looked at his captain and shook with mirth. "First they deal with a Vulcan's Pon Farr and now this?" He was laughing hysterically now, bending at the waist and gasping as he tried to control himself. Kathryn Janeway found his paroxysms infectious and joined him in laughter.
The Nomelians looked thoroughly perplexed.
"So, if the Captain and I had been involved." Chakotay managed between guffaws, "we would have been going through this ritual too?"
"Yes," Jasten answered slowly. What strange people, he observed.
Chakotay howled even louder with laughter and Janeway all but fell against him in an effort to stay standing. She was shaking hard with laughter and tears of joy were running tracks down her face.
"We thought you'd like it," the cleric unhappily intoned. Only further screams of laughter assaulted his ears.
It happened slowly. First there was a tingling sensation followed by vague awareness. Sapphire and azure danced and faded, flickered and became gold, green, ivory, maroon, grey, red, orange. Pressure started to yield to flesh.
Tom and B'Elanna stared at each other in amazement. Their fingers, still splayed against the transparent barrier, were moving--millimetre by millimetre--through the wall. They could almost feel each other, almost touch. So close and yet tantalisingly out of reach. Their fingers and bodies started to vibrate with the ever-changing colours.
Time slowed to a crawl as their fingers reached out across the small expanse which separated them. The kaleidoscope of colours was bending and shifting, speeding up.
At last, large fingers felt the touch of smaller ones. Tom Paris sucked in a large breath as a bolt of electric current shot from the tips of his fingers to the thinning hairs on his head. The invisible charge made him clutch convulsively at B'Elanna's small hands.
B'Elanna gripped at Tom's fingers with an equal determination. Holding on to him as if her life depended on it. The sensation that flooded her body was almost indescribable. It was as if every centimetre of her body was exposed to a giant tongue--Tom's. She cried out and shook as wave after wave bucked through her.
Her thoughts were scattered; flying about in the cacophony of emotion that surrounded them. B'Elanna tried to concentrate on Tom's hands, holding so tightly onto hers. She pulled. Pulled harder than she'd ever pulled at anything. Straining and crying out as she felt Tom move slowly towards her.
It was an agony of the senses but at the same time it was incredibly erotic too. B'Elanna could feel his thoughts; feel his passion for her, his tenderness, his deep love for her. She could also feel his anger and obstinacy when she pulled away from him and his own resentments, at running away from her when he was hurt or confused. He was so gentle, so sensitive.
Tom's head felt like it was spinning out of control. Images assaulted his mind, as anger, rage and violence fought with sweet compassion, contentment and a feeling of aching vulnerability.
She was inside his mind, his heart and his soul. Laying bare everything that she was and more. So much more.
He could feel himself moving towards her, falling into her. Passion waited for him there and so did understanding.
Suddenly, he was all the way through, falling onto her, his heart thundering against her chest, crushing her with his weight.
Tom gasped in relief and amazement to feel B'Elanna again, all of her. The momentum of his fall through the glass had them rolling and tumbling over and over. When they came to rest B'Elanna was atop him, with their hands still joined, and neither made any attempt to separate.
The spiral of dizzying colours raged on unabated about their entwined bodies. Yet, all he could see were luminous brown eyes bright with passion, his own reflecting deep abiding love.
Jasten watched them, as they appeared, still holding on to each other. The transporter beam surreptitiously placed them back on the recliner, where they had been hours before.
The courtyard was cleared of all evidence of a gathering and early morning sunlight flickered through the cloudy sky.
He approached them cautiously, not willing to disturb the quiet.
They were whispering to each other, their faces covered by the falling curve of B'Elanna's dark hair, shading them against the bright morning light.
Jasten loudly cleared his throat. B'Elanna turned slowly to find the sound and Tom strained his neck to peek over her shoulder.
"Now that you have returned, perhaps I should give these devices back," he said in a gentle voice, holding their comm badges out in his hands. Tom and B'Elanna, moving as if they had all the time in the world, shifted to sit beside each other on the bench.
Jasten could see now that their uniform jackets were open, exposing the grey tank-tops beyond. B'Elanna sat forward her head slightly bowed, resting an arm against Tom's thigh. Tom in turn had an arm caressing her shoulder and neck. Jasten thought they looked tired but happy.
Tom took the comm badges with his free hand. B'Elanna, head still bowed, said, "Thank you." She looked up and gave Jasten a small smile.
Jasten stood staring at them, looking a little confused. "I should have explained that we would need to take your equipment and I am so--"
"No," B'Elanna interrupted "I meant, thank you for this," she said as she jerked her thumb in a backward motion. Her voice quiet but trembling with emotion.
"You still feel each other?" the cleric asked, surprised and relieved that they did not appear upset by the circumstances that had given rise to his own zeal.
B'Elanna nodded her head in agreement as did Tom. She stared up at Tom, just looking at him, her face serious. Tom put his fingers to her cheek and stroked softly along her jaw.
It was as if Jasten wasn't even there.
"It was our gift in thanks," Jasten said, just to say something. He felt like an intruder, and that did not happen very often in his experiences with others who had gone through the ritual.
"How long were we gone?" Tom asked, squinting up at the cleric as sunlight broke through the clouds.
"Chakotay?" they said in unison.
"I explained the ritual to them. They..." Jasten hesitated, "understood and are waiting for you aboard your vessel."
"Ritual?" That they had gone through some type of ritual was no surprise, but Tom wanted to know exactly what it meant.
"When people are involved as you were, physically, it is our custom to offer a more permanent arrangement."
"Permanent?" B'Elanna questioned this time.
"Relationships need balance," Jasten explained. "Only showing one side to your partner leads to tension, misunderstandings and ultimately chaos. Only those who care deeply and are willing to offer their own fears and insecurities to the their chosen one's can break the barriers between them. Understanding is given shelter. Love a place to grow. In this way harmony can be achieved."
"Harmony? Us?" B'Elanna said, pinching Tom's thigh.
"Oww," he yelped, grabbing her hand.
Jasten smiled at them both. "The balance is within," he said simply, taking a step towards them and offering them his hands.
They took a hand each and Jasten pulled them to their feet. "It is time for you to return to your ship."
Tom and B'Elanna reluctantly agreed and began adjusting their uniforms to Starfleet protocol standards. Soon after they were standing together, ready to go. Tom called for the beam out.
"Paris to Voyager."
"Yes, Mr Paris," came the crisp reply from Captain Janeway. "Are you two ready to return to the ship?"
"It's about time," they heard her murmur over the open channel.
"Two to beam up."
As the whine of the transporter beam enveloped them in a haze of sparkles Jasten heard one final heartfelt word from Tom Paris.
"Thanks." And then they were gone.
Jasten remained in the empty courtyard for some time and he gazed up into the sky, looking for evidence of Voyager's departure. To him the sky looked just the same as it had yesterday morning, a blue expanse broken up with milky white clouds. He smiled to himself, feeling at one with the dawn.
Jasten finally turned to head home, his wife and children were probably already up. He had promised to take his three eldest to Ba'Hayne, for the local festival of thanksgiving. He had also promised his wife, Irrisa, that he would bake bread today, his only culinary talent. Jasten pursed his lips as he made his way through the courtyard. Irrisa would not be happy if he did not bake and he was loath to disappoint his children.
Balance, he reminded himself, was within.
End.Note: Agapémone (look it up). Henry James Prince got this word a mention in the dictionary when he coined the phrase in the 19th Century. It's a word little used today, as far as I know. So, I hope he is not spinning in his grave because I've corrupted it for my own devices. Although frankly, I think he'd approve. :)
Feedback and constructive criticisms will be made most welcome. E-mail Annie M