Face Forward, a Star Trek : Voyager adventure, following the episode "Faces". Copyright 1995 by Brenda Antrim, copyright on characters by Paramount.font>
It had been a long ten days since they had been rescued from that hell hole of a prison. The nightmares were lessening, the odd and frightening mixture of New Zealand blue skies and Vidion gray rock, tangled together in his mind's eye. Strange how prisons so unalike could feel so much the same. Pete's face came to him now and again, first as he had last seen the man, then in horrific detail, grafted to the Phage-ridden scientist's face. The last always sent Tom screaming awake, sweat running down his chest and behind his knees, soaking the twisted sheets.
He'd been by to see B'Elanna a few times, but it felt so awkward. She was gradually regaining her mixed Klingon/Human appearance as the Doc's treatments took effect, and her strength was returning as well. But she seemed uncomfortable around him. Whenever she looked at him it was almost as though she had to steel herself to do it, as if he brought back painful memories that she didn't want to face. Hell, he could understand that. The sight of a fragile, Human B'Elanna holding her fiercely beautiful Klingon self, watching her die in her own arms, still played havoc with his mind. It must be so much harder to take when she was the one who had lived through it.
He sat very still in the darkness, willing away the night terrors as he had for so many months in prison. Gradually his limbs stopped trembling, and his muscles relaxed. As he settled back into the bunk, he tried to empty his mind and allow himself some much-needed rest. His hands unclenched, unconsciously curling around her shadow arms, as they had in the bunkroom. The final hazy thought flitted through his mind that she had been surprisingly attractive as a full blooded Klingon, then he drifted into sleep.
She stared into the small mirror hanging over the sink in her commode, feeling the bumps on her forehead with a slight grimace. She certainly looked normal, at least, normal for her. Dark eyes stared pensively back at her, and she suddenly shook her head. She had seen herself as a full Klingon, thanks to that bastard and his little hand mirror. But she had never seen herself with a smooth forehead, what she'd wanted for so long as a child. She had been too weak at first to even think about asking for a mirror, and then the treatments had begun and the transformation had started. The only person still alive who had seen her as a Human, besides Chakotay, was Tom Paris. And she didn't want to talk about it with Chakotay. He'd look at her with those liquid, understanding dark eyes and she would lose her train of thought. Besides, it was really Tom that had been with her, seen all of her reactions, lived through hell with her.
At the thought of him, she closed her eyes and turned away from her image. She had figured him out, she had thought, all bluster and testosterone like any other hotshot pilot. But he hadn't been, not there. He'd tried to deflect the guard's attention from Pete, had protected her in the tunnels, had tried to make her feel better about her appalling cowardice. And he had been so gentle with her, holding her hands and talking softly with her when she needed that kindness. Since they'd been back on Voyager, he had visited her in sickbay a few times, but he seemed so uncomfortable. He'd shift from one foot to the other, and he didn't seem to know what to do with his hands. She supposed he felt embarrassed at not being able to help her, and she knew he felt guilty about Pete's death. But she had a deep-down feeling that it was she who was making him feel so strange. He must have been so repulsed by her Klingon self, and the whole situation had been so bizarre. No wonder he didn't even want to talk to her. She dropped onto the bed and stared at the ceiling, aware of the familiar conflict inside her. Part of her understood his discomfort and sympathized completely. The rest of her wanted to slap him until his ears rang for being such an idiot. She sighed and shifted restlessly. B'Elanna versus Torres. So what else was new.
"It is *not* a stupid idea, Torres!" Tom heard the frustration edging his voice into a near-whine, and winced. He hated it when he got that little-boy sound in his tone. Added to his bright gold hair and big blue eyes, it always made other people react to him as if he was a five year old throwing a tantrum. B'Elanna certainly looked at him that way. He growled a little at her and she shook her head in disbelief.
"Why don't you stick to steering the damned thing and let me do the thinking? It's not your strong suit." She ignored the effect her nasty comments had on Paris, preferring not to dwell on exactly *why* she was being such a bitch. It had been a relatively useful suggestion, after all. But Tom wasn't one to leave with his wounded dignity intact. Instead, he lost his always tenuous grip on his temper.
"I don't claim to be a genius, damnit, but if you would simply listen to what I'm *trying* to tell you, I think we can squeeze another eight percent out of the-"
B'Elanna looked at her stinging knuckles, then down at Paris' prone figure lying sprawled on the deck at her feet. Engineering was eerily quiet, every crewmwmber staring at the frozen tableau, no one even breathing for an instant. Then her curly-headed second in command stepped a pace back from the enraged woman, and tapped his commbadge. "One to beam to sickbay," he said, his voice shaking a little. Torres silently turned and began to implement Paris' suggested conversion configuration in the warp core operating system, then, still without a word, left to report to the Captain.
Janeway was having a hard time believing any of this. Torres had been so good for so long - she cut off that train of thought. B'Elanna had undergone an extremely strenuous several days of, essentially, torture, and her mental state was apparently more unstable than she'd thought. And Paris was not, to the Captain's knowledge, one of B'Elanna's favorite people. Although one would think after the ordeal they had suffered together they would have drawn a little closer...
"Well, at least she didn't actually *break* his jaw, Captain." Chakotay's soft voice was carefully devoid of amusement.
"No. The Doctor was well able to treat him. And she came immediately to me to take responsibility for her actions." She paused for a moment. While her first officer was hiding it well, traces of anxiety were showing in his dark eyes. "I relieved her of her duties for three days, Chakotay. After all, Mr. Paris is physically all right, and he refused to press any charges against her. Which he would have been quite justified in doing."
"Maybe he felt like he deserved it?" The lilt of laughter was there again, and she felt herself responding to it unwillingly.
"He may be irritating, but in this case he was right. And he *didn't* deserve to be knocked unconscious, Chakotay."
He acknowledged the gentle reprimand, and straightened his own face. "Will this be the end of it, do you think?"
"I don't know," she returned slowly. "I think, perhaps, they will have to make their own peace." She settled against her desk, looking at him seriously. "We don't know exactly what passed between them down there, and we probably never will. But it affected both of them. At times like these I really wish we had an effective ship's counselor."
He nodded agreement, and they both fell silent, each wrapped in their own thoughts.
He was lying on his side, the tension lines in his face wiped away in the relaxation of sleep. His hair tumbled slightly over his high forehead and his lips were barely parted, showing a glimpse of teeth. One hand lay curled beside his cheek, and he presented a picture of deceptive innocence. Her eyes followed the long, smooth line of his legs under the cover, and she drew a silent breath of appreciation. She had noticed in a detached sort of way that Tom was startlingly attractive, but had dismissed him as being "pretty" and conceited. Looking past the facade, she saw the strength in his features, remembered the way he had hovered over her, and his quick reactions in the Vidion prison. Her gaze traced the curve of his shoulder, along his slender throat, to the sharp jaw and full lower lip. Slipping past his aristocratic nose, she was startled to meet crystal blue eyes staring back at her. He hadn't moved a muscle, and she blushed suddenly, painfully, wondering how long he had been awake. At least it was dark and he couldn't make out her reaction to being caught looking.
"B'Elanna." It was barely a whisper. "What are you doing in my quarters?"
She didn't move from her seat beside the bed. "I came," this was harder than she had expected it to be! "I needed to apologize." Her voice sounded odd, sort of choked.
"For what?" He hadn't moved either, almost as if he was afraid she would bolt.
"For hitting you earlier today. It was ... uncalled for."
"Hurt, too." The grin in his voice didn't match the intent look in his eyes, and she squirmed a little under his steady regard.
"I could say you provoked me." She felt a little defiant, but wasn't quite sure why. At her changed tone, he sat up in the bed and leaned against the wall. The cover fell to his waist, and she found herself distracted by the fine, thick curls covering his chest. He didn't notice her sudden fascination, caught up in indignation at her remark.
"That's not true, and you know it, Torres! If you had been listening instead of spoiling for a fight, you wouldn't have taken everything that came out of my mouth as a personal insult and we could have-oof!"
She cut off his stream of words by the simple expedient of pinning him to the bunk and covering his open mouth with her own. Shock kept him immobile just long enough for her to shift both of his hands in hers, clasping them above his head. Lifting her face from his, she observed his cloudy expression with some satisfaction.
"You talk too much, Paris."
It certainly wasn't a problem at the moment. His brain was frozen with shock, although he couldn't say the same for other portions of his anatomy. With a start, he realized that she had him completely pinned. He wriggled, trying instinctively to escape. Since that unfortunate incident shortly after arriving at the penal colony, he had a horror of being helpless. The sheet slipped even further, and she saw that he slept nude. The unexpected sight caused her muscles to tense in reaction, and he yelped softly at the strength of her hands around his wrists. The small sound brought her glance to his face, and she was surprised to see fear in his wide eyes. They had darkened to sapphire with a combination of fear and arousal, and she found herself fascinated by their depth and clarity. His teeth were clenched, and she finally realized that she was hurting him. Her grip instantly softened, but not enough to allow him to escape. All of her hunting instincts were up, and he was the unwitting prey.
The light in her nearly black eyes was almost feral, and he could feel the heat of it on his face. He felt lightheaded. It was all happening so quickly, and the feelings were so intense that he felt his control slipping like water through his fingers. He clenched his fists, tightened the muscles along his frame until he nearly bucked her off, but she rode him easily. The brush of her hair along his chest as she lowered her face to his throat nearly undid him, but he concentrated on each sensation, trying to break the experience into manageable bits, trying not to be overcome by the reality of her actions. She smelled sweet, faintly spicy, and he expected her to kiss him. Instead, she ran her teeth lightly up the side of his throat, nibbling and licking the sensitive skin until she coaxed a moan from deep within his chest. At the sound, she chuckled lightly, then suddenly flashed upward to bite him along the jaw, under the ear. The sudden pain shocked him from his sensual stupor, and he cried out in protest.
Her lips covered his again, swallowing the cry, and her tongue invaded his mouth, mimicking the stronger actions sure to follow. One of her hands clasped his wrists firmly, although he was no longer fighting her, and the other ran the length of his chest, tangling in the damp curls, before slipping along his side to curl around his flank, urging him closer. He arched into her embrace, lost in her heat, ravaging her mouth as she had ravaged his. Their bodies, seeking one another, were frustrated by her uniform, and she finally let go of his arms. He drew her tunic off swiftly, tossing it carelessly aside, before nearly tearing the jumpsuit off as well. She fumbled with her boots, toeing them off frantically, and he slipped her camisole and panties off one-handed, anxious to maintain his hold on her waist, almost as if he feared she would disappear. They were operating on instinct now, desperate to be next to one another. It had been nearly two years for him, since his fiancee had decided she didn't want to wait for a convict to get out of prison, and not counting the nightmare he had lived through there. It hadn't been quite as long for her, but with Chakotay it was more like coming together with a friend, without this mind numbing need.
Finally they faced each other on the soft linen of his sheets, and a little of the frantic urgency subsided. He framed her face with his long, slender fingers, lightly carressing the hollows under her cheekbones, the delicate ridges of her forehead. She tried to shy away then, but he wouldn't let her, looking into her eyes and smiling sweetly. He followed the trail of his fingertips with his lips, and she relaxed under his ministrations. Gradually, the relaxation was replaced with an echo of the earlier tension, and her own hands began to move, restlessly following the corded muscles of his arms, along the sweat-slicked shoulders, following the line of his back to the curve at the top of his buttocks. His legs entertwined with hers, and she moved gracefully atop him. The urgency grew with each new touch, his hands at her breasts, her fingers burrowing along his chest, their hips moving together with controlled force, legs braced against the onslaught. The ending, when it came, took them by surprise with its force, and her cries mingled with his.
She lay bonelessly sprawled along his larger frame, and he inhaled deeply, enjoying the peace of satiation. She lifted a hand to lightly trace the welt along his jaw where she had marked him as hers.
"You smell good." For a moment he thought he'd spoken aloud, then realized that the words had come from the sleepy woman nestling her face into the curve of his neck. He couldn't help the sigh that escaped.
"Well, you *feel* good." He was nearly asleep himself. "Bella."
Her head rose slowly. She was trying to glare at him, but the effort wasn't exactly intimidating. "What did you call me?"
He focused with difficulty on her frowning face. "Bella. Means 'Beautiful' in Italian." She was looking at him like he'd lost his mind. "My Grandma was Italian. And it fits." Not giving her a chance to argue, he slipped his arm around her and drew her down into a comfortable position beside him on the bunk. Snuggling against her back, pillowing her head on his arm, he moved her hair away from the nape of her neck and gently kissed her. "Suits you."
She was silent for a moment in shock. Beautiful? *He* was the beautiful one. She was, well, too *bumpy* to be beautiful, especially to a full Human. Sexy, maybe, she had a strong body and men had wanted her for that, but beautiful? "Tom?"
Soft chuffing sounds were the only reply she got. His body was completely relaxed in sleep. She lay there for a long time, thinking about what had just happened. What she had just initiated, and how he had made her feel. The one thing she didn't think about was *why*. She wasn't quite ready for that yet.
He tried to make it to sickbay without anyone noticing. Of course, it never worked that way when you wanted it to.
"Hi, Tom! What's the hurry? You aren't on duty for another ... wow. What happened to your face?"
Harry's innocent questions were slowing him down. If he didn't answer him the young Ensign might ask someone who *knew* what a Klingon lovebite signified, then B'Elanna would really work him over. But if he didn't get to sickbay before some of the more seasoned space travellers saw him, he'd be equally fried. Taking the easy way out, he grabbed Kim's arm and hustled him along with him down the corridor.
"It's nothing, Harry. Just a bruise the Doc didn't get to after Torres, um, decked me yesterday. But I haven't had breakfast yet, so I'm in a hurry to get to sickbay." All the talking was making his jaw hurt.
"If you're in such a hurry, why are you walking so funny? Not exactly *fast*, I'd say-"
"Harry! I'm in a hurry, okay? Just go get breakfast and I'll ... explain it all later."
Kim looked a little hurt by his friend's brusque tone, but shrugged it off. Tom got into snits every once in a while, and it couldn't have been very good for his ego for B'Elanna to coldcock him without even straining. He waved good naturedly as Tom moved painfully toward the infirmary.
Entering the galley, he saw B'Elanna taking breakfast alone at a far table. Quickly gathering some hot cereal and juice, he made his way across the room and stood by her chair.
"Mind if I join you?"
She swung around at the soft voice, then relaxed when she saw it was just Harry, no Tom in sight. For an instant an ancient ditty about Tom, Dick and Harry played through her mind, but she forcefully shut it out. She couldn't quite conceal the smile, though, and Harry remarked on it.
"At least you look like *you're* in a good mood today. Not like Tom." Pausing to swallow a bit of the strange cereal, one of Neelix's concoctions that seemed like a cross between grits and wheat flakes, he continued, oblivious to her suddenly intent gaze. "Guess the Doctor missed something after you, er, hit him yesterday." He risked a glance at her, but she seemed to be listening with attention, not getting angry. Heartened, he finished another bite and smiled at her. "He had a pretty big bruise covering the side of his jaw, must have hurt to talk, and he was in a big hurry to get to the Doc-" To his intense surprise, B'Elanna suddenly pushed her chair away from the table and left without a word. "but, he said it was okay..." Harry's voice trailed off, and he looked sadly down at his rapidly cooling breakfast. Some days he just didn't understand his friends.
"I trust you are completely recovered from your little contretemps yesterday, Mr. Paris?" The Captain's dry tone didn't help the blush that swept over Tom's fair skin. One of the curses of being a blonde.
"Yes, Captain," he managed, trying hard not to shift in his seat. Too many muscles were stretched from unaccustomed exercise, and he really didn't want to broadcast to the whole bridge crew that he had gotten laid the night before. There was no telling what B'Elanna might do if she thought that he was in any way crowing about last night. Not that he was completely sure about what *had* happened. She hadn't been there when he had woken up in the early hours of the morning, and if it hadn't been for the tangled sheets and the lingering scent of her on his pillow, and on his body, he would have suspected it of being a particularly satisfying erotic dream.
Chakotay's voice sounded somewhat incredulous. Paris half turned in his chair to see the cause for the Commander's concern, when a fist wrapped itself in his collar and yanked him to his feet. He barely registered his assailant's identity in time to check his instinctive swing.
"Anxious to get to sickbay this morning, Tommy?" She practically spat the words in his face. "Why in such a hurry? Was it so damned bad that you couldn't wait to erase all the evidence?"
Captain Janeway was watching both of them with her jaw slightly agape. Chakotay had a stunned expression on his face, and Tuvok was coming from the Security station, ready to intervene if she attacked him again. For his part, Tom could only stare at the enraged woman holding him by the throat. Finally, he managed to croak, "I didn't want to embarrass you!"
Her grip relaxed fractionally, and he was relieved to feel the heels of his feet touch the deck again. Closing his eyes for an instant, he missed the swing of her head as she pulled his face to her level again. The pain seemed sharper this time, not masked by the passion as it had been the previous night. He reared back with a stifled curse, one hand raising to cover the new welt on the tender, recently regenerated skin of his jaw.
"You don't." Her growl made the fine hair on the back of his neck tingle, then she released her hold on his uniform, patting his chest lightly to settle the fabric, lingering for a bare moment. He caught his breath, and she smiled in satisfaction.
Turning to the Captain, who was regarding her quizzically but making no move to intervene, she drew herself up to attention.
"I beg your pardon, Captain. Mr. Paris and I had something to straighten out."
"Perhaps you should use the ready room." It was almost a command, but more a query. One of Janeway's fine brows arched, and her firm lips quirked up at the corner.
"No, Captain. I think we have it all settled." Janeway looked from the determined woman, looking more Klingon than Human at the moment, to the tall, fair man behind her, who appeared rather dazed. A bright red weal in a perfect bite pattern blazed at the side of his face, and he looked oddly happy. The Captain inclined her head once, and addressed B'Elanna.
"Since you have settled this ... disagreement satisfactorily, I see no need to maintain your banishment from Engineering." Her tone became even more noticeably brisk. "I'll expect a report on those reconfiguration models in two hours."
"Yes, Captain." B'Elanna strode smartly from the bridge, leaving Tom to stare after her. Chakotay cleared his throat meaningfully, and Tom blinked, recalled to his surroundings. Abruptly, he sank into his seat and stared at the viewscreen.
"Do you need to go back to the infirmary, Mr. Paris?" Tuvok's calm voice interupted his thoughts, and he raised a hand to touch his jaw lightly.
"Probably better not, Tuvok. She'll just -- bite me again." His voice sounded faint even to himself.
"And it looked like she enjoyed it." Paris swivelled to glare at Chakotay, but the big man just stared impassively back at him. Giving up, he swung back to face forward, wondering what would happen next. Behind him, Janeway and Chakotay very carefully controlled their expressions and did not catch one another's glance.
Harry looked at each of the bridge crew in turn, and shook his head. It might take awhile, and who knows how long it would be before they got home. He should have long enough to figure it out. But one of these days, he *would* find out what the heck was going on.