"Follow My Lead"
Author: Briar Rose
Rating: PG-13 for a few bad words and a little cuddling.
Disclaimer: Viacom/Paramount owns all the players, I’m just making them dance to my tune.
Synopsis: A follow up, of sorts, to my story, "He Wore a Pair of Silver Wings." At the end, Tom had invited B’Elanna to share a friendly game of pool with him and this is how it turns out. Spoilers for ‘Displaced’, ‘Real Life’ and others too, most likely. Why should Seven and the doctor have all the fun?
Warning: You are about to encounter a whole lotta P/T clichés ahead. Though I’m trying desperately to make it funny, this story may end up mushy instead. Aaaah, romance!
Thanks: To the unlauded heroes of ‘Roll Call: The Minor Crew Members of Voyager’ (Steven McKinnen and Jamie McQuinn) without whose nifty site, I would have had to go with Freddy Bristow again simply because he has a first name. Thanks also to LA Koehler, the reigning Queen ‘o Grammar, and Stace for pointing out the obvious. And as always, to Liz who puts up with it all.
Date: March 2001.
Eight year old Tom Paris had grabbed the padd from his sister, Moira, and taken off running. She had shrieked and followed—the desired effect—finally pinning him behind the couch and liberating her padd with a few hard blows to his head, not to mention a few choice descriptive phrases. But not before Tom had been able to read a few lines of the text to everyone in the room. The words were burned into his memory, perhaps because of the minor, yet permanent brain damage from the punches. "George held her tightly by her narrow waist. He gazed into her eyes, murmuring, ‘Bellissima’ before crushing her slight body to his and kissing her into submission."
Brain-damaged or not, Tom had learned two lessons from that experience. The first: despite having a vulky name like George, you could still get the girl (should you want to), and the second: never underestimate the strength of an embarrassed female. The latter was the reason why he stood leaning against the pool table, not making a sound while B’Elanna regained her composure. He watched as her expression went from high embarrassment to swift anger to a slow burn.
Finally, resentment settled on her features as she lifted her chin to glare at him. This was better. A pissed off B’Elanna Torres he knew how to handle.
"B’Elanna," he said, "I thought you knew better than to accept a bet when you don’t know the stakes."
"I am not," she paused, giving emphasis to the word, "going ballroom dancing with you, Paris."
"Two hours on the holodeck doing whatever I want to do, provided it’s in good taste. Those were the stakes we agreed on, so that’s what you have to do." He shrugged nonchalantly. "I was willing to spend two hours changing relays in the forward emitter," he reminded her. "Don’t try to back out now, we have a room full of witnesses."
Which, of course, was the problem.
He hadn’t intended to publicly embarrass her, but word of the cutthroat tournament had gotten around and Sandrine’s was full to overflowing with off-duty personnel, most from Engineering. All of whom had watched her miss her last shot— spectacularly, in Tom’s opinion. It hadn’t helped that Vorik had yelped and dove out of the way of the flying cue ball. Vulcan stoicism, my ass, Tom thought.
It had started as a friendly game, but the larger the crowd got, the bigger B’Elanna’s sense of rivalry grew, until someone suggested they make the stakes more interesting. Tom had obliged and now the crowd was reveling in the post-game show.
"Ballroom dancing was an Olympic sport until 2172," Tom said. "It’s respectable, a good workout, and," he risked leaning close enough to her to almost whisper, "you get to wear a dress. Something long and…flowing."
"In that case, this is definitely off. Pick something else. I don’t own any dresses." B’Elanna sounded almost smug.
How typically female, Tom thought; I haven’t anything to wear. "Then you’ll just have to replicate one, won’t you?" he countered, with a tight smile.
He knew she was lying. He’d seen her on her way to have dinner with the doctor’s holographic family the week before, and while the short black shift she had worn that evening wasn’t appropriate for what he had planned, he hadn’t thought she would outright lie to get out of their bet.
"I can’t," B’Elanna retorted. "I’m pretty much flat after replicating that hat for your birthday." She’d noticed that he wasn’t wearing it, either.
"Somebody must have something you can squeeze into, Cinderella," Harry added.
B’Elanna whirled on him, her eyes flashing betrayal. "What did you call me?" she demanded.
"Cinderella." For once Harry took her temper in stride. "You know, from the fairy tale? Cinderella can’t go to the Royal Ball because she has nothing to wear, until her fairy godmother shows up."
"I suppose you consider yourself my ‘Harry’ godfather, then," B’Elanna remarked. A chorus of muffled groans was heard from the surrounding crew.
"You could borrow the dress I wear when Harry and I give our recitals, Lieutenant." Sue Nicoletti spoke up. "I think it would fit."
"Is that the blue one?" Tom asked. He flashed a triumphant smile at B’Elanna when Nicoletti nodded. "I think that will do just fine."
"No!" It was B’Elanna’s turn to yelp. "Sue, it would never fit." She grasped at the excuse with both hands. "You’re almost 10 centimeters taller than me, I’d be tripping over the skirt." She sent Nicoletti her best Janeway glare, but it didn’t have any effect.
"Well, it’s not floor length on Sue," Harry chimed in, "so with the right heels, you should be fine."
B’Elanna frowned, suspicion in her eyes. Since when was Harry such a fashion maven? She was getting the distinct impression that she was being set up. "Then that’s that—I don’t have any shoes either, and I’m pretty sure I can’t dance in my old boots, so I guess you’ll have to forget it after all, Paris."
‘Paris’ again. Tom was tempted to back down before he lost what ground he’d made with her, but the vision of B’Elanna in that blue dress danced at the back of his mind. He found himself wondering how many kisses she would need before she would ever submit. Or break his nose.
"Come on," Harry said, getting up to leave. "There must be someone around here who can lend you a pair of glass slippers."
B’Elanna frowned at Harry as he moved toward the swinging wooden doors. "Glass on a starship? Transparent aluminum, maybe. It doesn’t sound very comfortable," she grumbled. She started to follow him out of Sandrine’s—she was embarrassed and wanted to get away from Tom before he got any more brilliant ideas. "Why the hell did she want to go to this Ball so badly, anyway?"
Harry looked over his shoulder at Tom, who was still leaning against the pool table dreaming of blue, swirly dresses. "Why, so she could dance with the handsome prince, of course," Harry said with a wink at Tom.
"Frog prince more like it," B’Elanna shot back. Tom’s whoop of laughter followed them out of the bar.
Figuring the show was over, at least for the time being, some of the crowd began filing out of the room after them. A few trailed after B’Elanna and Harry as they walked toward the nearest turbolift.
"Come on, B’Elanna," Harry said, "you’re not really mad at him, are you?"
"Did he have to do that in front of everybody?" she muttered.
Harry looked at her for a moment, and shook his head. He was starting to wonder if she just might want to go dancing with Tom after all. She had certainly relented quickly enough, for her at any rate. "Maybe he thought it was the only way to get you to go with him," he suggested.
B’Elanna shot a bemused look at him. "He could have just asked."
"And would you have said yes?"
"No, of course not." She shook her head vehemently. "The whole idea is…ridiculous. Besides, I don’t like being tricked into doing things I don’t want to do."
Harry risked another glance at her, "B’Elanna," he said. "Do you even know what Ballroom dancing is?"
She frowned a little more, but refused to look at him. Harry just laughed and shook his head in response. Just as the turbolift doors opened, her combadge came to life.
"Paris to Torres."
"Torres here. Did you miss me already, Lieutenant?" Harry’s snort of amusement was picked up over her open com signal.
"Tomorrow night, 2130. I’ll pick you up," Tom said.
"Why don’t I just meet you there?" she suggested.
"No, I think I’d rather make sure you show up," he replied.
"Fine, but if you’re late, I’ll go with Harry," B’Elanna shot back as she closed the link. "Torres out."
In the almost empty Sandrine’s, Tom shook his head. No way, he thought. Harry can’t save you this time, B’Elanna. I’d lock him in a Jefferies tube first.
Tom paced nervously outside B’Elanna’s door. He was 10 minutes early and the more he tried to convince himself otherwise, the more certain he became that B’Elanna would refuse to go dancing with him. In fact, he had pretty much talked himself into giving up the whole idea when her door slid open and Sue Nicoletti walked into his chest.
"Oh! Sorry, Lieutenant," she said as he steadied her on her feet. "Wow," she ran an appreciative eye up and down his suited figure. "My, you clean up well, Tom. Is that Harry’s jacket?"
"Yeah." He smoothed his hands down the lapels of the white suit coat, and fingered his black bow tie. "Not too Rick Blaine, is it?"
Sue gave him a blank look and shook her head in a question.
"Casablanca," Tom supplied. "1943? One of the greatest romantic films of Earth’s twentieth century cinema." Nicoletti rolled her eyes and started on her way down the corridor. She didn’t want to know.
"She’s not quite ready yet, but she’s worth the wait. I think that dress looks better on her then it does on me."
"Sue," Tom stopped her. "Thanks. For the dress," he clarified. "If it weren’t for you and Harry, B’Elanna and I would be naked right now." His eyes twinkled at her; sometimes he just couldn’t resist.
Nicoletti wagged a finger at him. "I hope she didn’t hear you say that," she sang back to him.
"Life is risk!" Tom countered.
He stepped gingerly through the doorway and glanced around. There was no sign of her. "B’Elanna?" he called.
"Umm, in…just give me a minute," she answered from the bathroom.
She sounded nervous, too. Well, good, Tom thought. Maybe she was finally starting to take him seriously.
He glanced around her quarters. Everything was clean and tidy, probably for Nicoletti’s benefit, he mused. The first time he’d been there, he’d been surprised by how messy she was. For some reason he’d assumed that an engineer would be as nitpicky about her personal space as she was about her engine efficiency, but B’Elanna’s trail of clutter had surprised and delighted him.
He peered into her sleeping area. The bed was neatly made, no uniforms lying around, not even a stray padd in sight. His lips twitched as he thought of the padd she’d been reading in the mess hall a few weeks ago. It was a far cry from the engine schematics she usually read around him, and it put him in mind of that long ago romance novel he’d stolen from his sister. Moira had her George, B’Elanna had her Rorg. Best to put that particular thought right out of your head, he thought sternly.
"Don’t laugh," B’Elanna said.
Tom turned toward her and caught his breath at the sight. The word ‘bellissima’ hovered on his lips. He had to admit, the gown looked a whole lot better on B’Elanna than it did on Nicoletti. It was sleeveless, with a fitted bodice that flared below the hips into a very full skirt. A dark midnight blue in colour, it shimmered as it caught the light. It reminded him of a starfield. He smiled.
B’Elanna raised an eyebrow at his expression. "I said, don’t laugh," she reminded him with a mock growl. She hesitated in the doorway a moment before coming toward him. He noted her little smile, and the slight sway of her hips that caused the dress to ripple around her ankles.
Tom felt his stomach tighten, and put it down to nerves. He remembered to exhale. "You look…" stunning, gorgeous, breathtaking? "…lovely," he said finally.
B’Elanna quirked an eyebrow, "Thanks," she said. She turned away from him and did a slow twirl. The skirt flared out around her, rustling slightly. She—or more likely Sue, he thought—had put her hair up in neat twist, leaving a few loose strands to curl at her ears and neck.
"I was right," she said, "the dress was too long. We had to shorten the straps by almost five centimeters." B’Elanna put an unconscious hand to her chest. Tom couldn’t help but notice that the bodice certainly looked low enough to him. Well, maybe not quite low enough.
"And since Sue will need the dress back," she continued, "we couldn’t permanently alter it. You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to find a needle and thread on a starship. I ended up having to replicate one. I think I’ll keep it; the needle might come in handy in Sickbay the next time you bash your head open on an away mission. That was a joke," she finished lamely.
"Yeah," Tom nodded. "A good one too. Now, if you’re finished stalling, your dinner awaits."
"Dinner too?" B’Elanna raised an eyebrow. She was impressed.
"Don’t get too excited," he said, "you know the chef." He had slipped a hand onto her lower back—it seemed the gentlemanly thing to do—and started toward the door, but B’Elanna dug in her heels. She wasn’t moving.
"B’Elanna?" His eyebrow rose in a question.
"Look," B’Elanna examined the shine on the toes of her black shoes for a moment, "you’ve seen me in the dress, which I assume was the whole point, so let’s just forget the rest. Go play Captain Proton or something."
Tom crossed his arms and eyed her as he took in her ‘fighting stance’. He snorted softly as it finally occurred to him: B’Elanna didn’t know how to dance.
"I don’t want to ‘play’ Captain Proton with Harry," he said—he wasn’t going to mention that Harry had bridge duty with Chakotay that evening. "I want to go dancing with you. Unless you don’t know how and you’re too embarrassed to tell me."
B’Elanna recognized the challenge in his voice. It was a tone she knew well. "You may have spent your youth going to fancy Starfleet parties, and dancing with admirals’ daughters, but I spent mine…doing other things. So no, I don’t know how to dance." She spat out the last word and fell onto the couch in a rustle of silk, arms crossed tightly over her breasts.
Tom had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. She looked like a six-year-old in a snit. "For your information," he said, "the only admiral’s daughters I danced with were my sisters. By the time I was fifteen I was almost six feet tall, so it was the admiral’s wives who wanted to dance with me.
Most of them were drunk and all of them thought it was funny to make me blush by flirting with me."
"Maybe they should have waited a year," B’Elanna mumbled.
Tom frowned at the comment. He noted the set of her jaw and made his decision. He took two quick steps toward her and hauled her unceremoniously to her feet. "The bet was for two hours in the holodeck doing whatever I want, and I want to dance. With you. Move it, Lieutenant!" In fact, he had fully expected to have to teach her, just as he had expected her resistance.
B’Elanna hesitated. "What if someone’s…" she nodded toward the door and the corridor beyond.
"Then they’ll get one look at you and be overcome with jealously."
B’Elanna snorted. "Right," she said. Tom felt a sadness in his chest. She looked good; how could she not know it?
"Would you rather request a beam out? Chakotay might just oblige you." He, himself, certainly could deny her nothing in that dress. Almost nothing, Tom amended.
B’Elanna thought he was making fun of her, and she didn’t like it. "Let’s just go."
She led the way with her chin held at a defiant angle, reminding Tom of nothing so much as a ship in full sail. Tom reached for the picnic basket he had stowed by the door, and had to trot to catch up with her. Was it his imagination, or were more people littering the corridors than usual between B’Elanna’s quarters and holodeck one? He couldn’t really blame them. He and B’Elanna had put on quite a show the night before, and entertainment on Voyager came at a premium.
When they arrived at the holodeck it was occupied, though the display showed that the privacy lock wasn’t engaged. Tom shrugged at B’Elanna’s inquiring eyebrow.
"I have it reserved," he said. "I guess whoever is in there just lost track of the time." He could tell she didn’t buy it.
"They’re probably just as nosy as everyone else around here," she answered. She keyed open the door and walked into a racquetball court. A ball whizzed past her head and B’Elanna had to duck a flying racket.
"Hey, look out!" Ensign Doug Bronowski did a flying two-step and spun slightly to avoid slamming into B’Elanna. His opponent Walter Baxter, shouted "Point!" and raised his arms in the air in victory.
"No way." Bronowski shook his head. He scrubbed the sweat from his eyes and motioned to Tom and B’Elanna. "If those two hadn’t just walked in I’d have made that shot."
"Well, pardon us," B’Elanna growled. "You’re five minutes over time. Didn’t you have the computer warn you when your time was up?" she accused.
"Sorry, Lieutenant," Baxter said. "I guess we got carried away. Come on," he gestured to Bronowski, "we can finish this in the gym, it must be free by now."
Bronowski ran an appreciative eye over B’Elanna, who had turned away from them with her arms crossed. Tom felt the overwhelming desire to punch him right in his approving grin. "Have fun, Lieutenants," he said. He stopped beside Tom and clapped him on the shoulder. "Nice tie," he added.
"Come on, Doug," Baxter said. He sent a silent apology to Tom as he headed out the door.
"Sorry about that," Tom said.
B’Elanna turned to face him and shrugged slightly. "They’re just curious, like everyone else." She looked around the simulated racquetball court and grinned at him. "Nice place," she teased. "Great ambiance. And the dance floor..."
Tom smiled and relaxed for the first time since he got off-shift. He reached out a hand for hers and called, "Computer, run program Oasis-Paris one. Engage privacy lock." He noted B’Elanna’s raised eyebrow. "Unless you’d rather have half the crew watching us on the monitors?"
She shook her head.
The scene had changed to a richly appointed nightclub, and B’Elanna found herself standing at the head of a gracefully curving staircase. Below her the room opened into a large, oval dance floor ringed on three sides by dining tables. Potted palms hid the patrons from view, giving the impression of intimacy. To her left, a low wave-shaped stage held an orchestra arranged on either side of a giant crescent moon, which hung suspended from the ceiling like a swing. A woman sat on it, singing to an upbeat tune which B’Elanna didn’t recognize. Several couples were dancing animatedly, twirling and spinning around the floor. B’Elanna grudgingly admitted that it looked like fun, and she tried to keep the smile from her face. It wouldn’t do to let Tom know that she was enjoying herself already.
Tall marble pillars supported a second floor balcony which overlooked the dance floor, and several people stood at the railing watching the couples dancing below. As the song ended, everyone broke out in polite, but spontaneous applause. The band began a new song, and Tom took her elbow and guided her to a private table, set several meters away from the dance floor. It was covered with a deep red cloth, and pink, peach and orange rose blossoms were arranged among a group of lit candles clustered in the center of the table. Tall, delicate wine glasses waited beside fine, white plates. B’Elanna noticed that hers had a single red rose lying across it.
Tom pulled out her chair and motioned for her to sit. A little smile curled her lips. "You don’t have to, you know," she said. "I’m impressed already."
"All part of the service, ma’am," Tom answered. He watched her face as she looked around the nightclub at the other couples moving gracefully in time to the music. The soft light from the candles on their table seemed to make her glow. She caught him watching her and grinned nervously.
"What?" she asked.
Tom shook his head. "Nothing," he said. She wouldn’t believe him anyway. "I can’t take any credit for the program," he told her. "It was in the ship’s database. Probably part of the standard library." He reached for the wine bottle in the stand at his elbow. "Wine?" he offered.
"What? No waiter?" she asked him.
"I didn’t want to deal with anyone else tonight. Do you mind?"
She shook her head no. B’Elanna may not have been more than a passable holo-programmer, but she knew not to believe Tom when he said the program was standard to all Federation ships. He had obviously added—and deleted—some components. There was no way that she would believe that the table setting was original to the program, or the wine either, which was obviously replicated for the evening. The profusion of flowers explained why his replicator rations didn’t expand far enough to cover dinner.
"Are you hungry?" he asked. "Would you like something to eat?"
"No, thanks." She gripped the edge of the table hard enough to turn her knuckles white. "We might as well just get this over with," she said, fighting down a nervous fluttering in her stomachs.
Tom shook his head and raised a hand to hide a grin. "B’Elanna, this is supposed to be fun," he reminded her.
"And it is," she assured him. "Really."
"Is there someplace else you have to be?" he asked. He noted the tension in her arms and shoulders, and the stiff way she held her head. She was far more nervous about this evening than he had imagined she would be. He watched as she played with the rose in front of her. Her fingers ran along the stem and out across the leaves, but never strayed to touch the blossom.
He almost gave in right there. But, damn it, he thought, he wanted this. He had waited patiently for it. They had healed the rift that had stood between them from the incident on Sakari IV, and moved forward with their friendship. She had even made the first move to make up after their fight when the Nyrians transported them all off Voyager. Keeping her safe in the Argala habitat had been instinctive, but Tom wanted to feel her in his arms again. If he had to trick her into it, then so be it.
He stood and extended a hand to her. She ignored it, but rose in turn and walked toward the dance floor. She looked like she was marching to her doom.
The other couples parted slightly, giving them room to claim a place near the center of the floor. Tom looked toward the band and the tempo of the music slowed to a waltz. B’Elanna raised an eyebrow, and he shrugged in response.
She took a deep breath and turned toward him. "So what do I do?" she asked.
"Let’s start with a waltz. First, give me your hands." Tom faced her and stood palms up, waiting. She gingerly clasped his hands, and he guided one to his right shoulder, and held the other away from them. When he placed his right hand at her hip, she let go of him and took a hasty step backward.
"Close," he said. "But you’re supposed to hang on to me when you do that." He took a step toward her and she hesitated momentarily, then put her hands back into position. He sent her a roguish grin as his right hand once again found her waist.
She had unintentionally taken the perfect ‘box step’ starting position and Tom paused for a moment to weigh his options. It had taken a fair amount of contriving to get her there, and he decided that he didn’t want to waste the opportunity. He suddenly remembered dancing between his grandparents when he was very little, his feet perched atop his grandfather’s. They had done a slow tour of the room, and he had laughed and held onto his grandfather’s legs as they dipped his grandmother.
"Move in a little closer," he said, "we could slip Harry in between us." He drew her against him, his hand sliding from her hip to the small of her back. He felt her stiffen in response, then slowly relax against him.
"Now," he said, "when I press with the heel of my hand, you take a step back, and when I press with my fingers, take a step forward. Okay?" Tom demonstrated by curling his fingertips into the flesh by her lower spine. B’Elanna gave a muffled squeak and squirmed away from his fingers.
He hung on and stared at her. "B’Elanna, are you ticklish?" He sounded stunned.
"What’s so strange about that?" she demanded.
"Nothing," Tom answered. "I guess I just never thought of you as the ticklish type." He tried to imagine her as a little girl, engulfed in fits of laughter as one of her parents tickled her. He failed.
"For your information, Klingon spines are very…sensitive," she said.
I’ll have to remember that, Tom thought. He was tempted to say it, but B’Elanna was cooperating and he didn’t want to spoil the mood. "How’s this?" he asked, pulling her toward himself slightly.
"Fine," she answered. She was even closer to him than before and she had to bend her neck to look into his face. He smiled encouragingly at her. "Do people always waltz this close together?" she asked, glancing at another couple dancing beside them. He thought he heard a slight accusation in her voice.
"Not always," he admitted. "There are several styles, I just picked the one I know best." He waggled his eyebrows at her, trying to lighten the mood.
"What’s next?" she asked. She had had enough small talk.
"I walk forward with my left foot, and you take a step back with your right."
"Obviously," she replied.
"Then we change our weight to the other foot with a little step to the side," he continued.
"Which side?" she asked.
"For you, the left."
"My left or yours?"
Tom paused and grinned at her. Was she doing this on purpose? She looked deadly serious, but he couldn’t be sure. It wouldn’t have surprised him if he learned that she was a grand champion dancer. She had the best poker face he’d ever seen.
"Yours," he said. "Bring your other foot next to the one you just moved, and we do it again, only opposite. Got it?" He looked hopeful.
B’Elanna just stared at him blankly.
"Why don’t we just try it and see how it goes," he suggested. He pressed against her lower back with the heel of his hand and took a tentative step forward. She responded with a matching step backward.
"Good, B’Elanna," he said. "Now shift your weight to the other foot."
She did, and Tom gasped as 50-odd kilos of pressure was focused through her spiked heel onto his toe. "Your foot, B’Elanna," he whispered.
"Sorry!" she said hastily and pushed away from him.
"No harm done," Tom said tightly, "that’s the good thing about ‘fleet issues. They hold up to any punishment."
B’Elanna frowned at him, trying to decipher an insult in the comment. His eyes were creased in pain, but she didn’t comment. It was his own fault, she decided—she’d tried to talk him out of dancing.
As she stepped back into his arms, he paused, enjoying the way her body felt against him. She arched an eyebrow at the delay, and he answered, "I’m just waiting for the music to catch up to us." Truthfully, he was waiting for sensation to return to his foot, but he wasn’t about to give her the satisfaction of knowing that.
She nodded in agreement, and as the melody swelled, he said, "My left," and stepped forward again. B’Elanna followed through with the responding steps, back with right, half step to her left, bringing her right foot beside her left. "Your left, going forward," Tom said as he curled his fingertips into her back and pulled her slightly toward him. She followed, and they ended up back in the spot where they’d started.
"Again?" he asked, and she nodded eagerly. I was right, Tom thought. He’d long ago noticed the gracefully measured way B’Elanna walked. She had a natural elegance that reminded him of a dancer—or a panther. He knew that she would be good at this type of dancing and he regretted that it had taken so long for him to maneuver her into it. "Do you want to try a turn?"
B’Elanna smiled and nodded. She was starting to relax and enjoy herself. It really wasn’t as daunting to learn the steps as she had first thought when she had combed the ships data base last night looking for information on ballroom dancing. Tom was a good dancer; natural and confident, and she followed his steps easily. She realized it felt good to be held by him.
Her hand slid unconsciously from his shoulder to his chest and Tom glanced at her fingers. "I don’t really think you’re the bow tie type, Tom," she said softly. She pulled on the end of the tie and it came undone to lie loosely on his shirt. His arm tightened around her waist, and she moved a little closer to him. B’Elanna could feel the heat of his body along the length of her own. He was warm, and he smelled good and she fit well in his arms—and it was time to put an end to that line of thought, immediately!
Tom watched the play of emotions across her face. He admired her for a moment; her high cheekbones and the fine ridges of her forehead. She was relaxing against him, and for an instant he thought she might rest her head on his shoulder. Then she seemed to remember herself.
She stiffened again, and pulled away from him slightly. "What?" she asked.
"Nothing," Tom replied, shaking his head. "I think it’s time to try a dip."
"Okay, what’s a di—oooooh!" Suddenly B’Elanna found herself prone in Tom’s arms. She was bent backwards over his leg, and he held her firmly around her waist. She had dug her fingers into his shoulder with bruising force to keep herself from falling, and she saw him wince slightly in pain.
"Serves you right," she said. "Next time give me some warning." She glared at him, but he just laughed.
"The surprise is half the fun," he said as he straightened her back up. She felt the air rush past her face, and she laughed with delight.
"I told you this was fun," he said with a grin.
Tom and B’Elanna shared a laugh as they stepped off the turbolift on deck nine. Harry’s jacket hung on B’Elanna’s shoulders, and the empty sleeves slapped gently against her thighs as she walked. She was holding Tom loosely as they made their way toward her quarters, her fingers curled around the muscle of his upper arm.
B’Elanna chuckled again and buried her face against Tom’s shoulder, "Are you sure you don’t want to stop by sickbay? The doctor would love to check out your foot. And fix your arm." She gave it a pat.
"I think I’ll recover without his help, but thanks for your concern." He smiled down at her as they stopped outside her door. B’Elanna keyed in her code, then turned back to face him.
"So, did you have a good time?" Tom asked. He took in her flushed cheeks and her eyes, sparkling with amusement.
"Yes, I had fun," she admitted.
"So I guess third time’s a charm, then?" he asked. She arched an eyebrow at him, so he explained. "Well, on our first date—"
"Date?" She sounded incredulous.
"Yes, date," he said with a grin. "On our first date, Vorik monopolized you all night," he saw her begin to frown mightily, and hastily added, "at the luau."
Her lips twisted back into a half smile. "I wasn’t aware that was a date."
"Oh absolutely," he replied. "Our second date ended a little abruptly when you stomped out of the holodeck in a snit waving a bat’leth under my nose. Then that Nyrian showed up—"
"That was definitely not a date, Tom." She jabbed a finger into his chest to underscore her point. "You tricked me into that bet, and I now know for a fact that you knew the anodyne relays needed replacing all along."
He ignored her protest. "So that makes this our third date, which means," he finished with a grin, "I’m entitled to a goodnight kiss."
"Oh really?" B’Elanna pulled away from him. "And just where is that written?" she asked. A couple of crewmen chose that moment to turn the corner, and B’Elanna grabbed hold of Tom’s arm again and pulled him into her quarters.
As the door slid shut behind him, he decided not to push his luck. "Nowhere," he said. "I’m making it up as I go along."
"Yes, I thought you were," she replied.
"So what do you want to learn next time? How about a tango?"
"Next time?" B’Elanna’s eyebrow sailed upwards again. "What makes you think there’ll be a next time?" She ran a finger along his undone bow tie, tracing the silky fabric as it lay against his chest. She was in the mood to tease him, she decided. "And just what is a tango?"
"Well," Tom slid his hands around her waist and pulled her hips to his, "you start out very close together…"
B’Elanna spread her fingers against the fine white cloth of his shirt. "And what moves do you make then?" she asked softly.
"I’m not sure," Tom replied, equally breathless, "but I think dipping is involved."
"Oh good," she breathed, "I like dipping." She realized that she did indeed want that goodnight kiss, after all. Wanted it. Craved it. Needed it. But she also wasn’t sure she’d be able to stop at just one. She remembered the way her blood sang in her veins when he finally kissed her on Sakari, and It was enough to make her blush furiously—she’d been doing a lot of that lately, damn him. She pushed away from him and turned to drape Harry’s jacket over a chair.
Tom just smiled at her as he let her go. "Meet you for breakfast?" he asked. He knew she was on the second shift, so he didn’t expect her to say yes.
"All right. I have to stop by Harry’s place to bring this back to him anyway." She motioned to the coat.
"I can do that," Tom offered. "I can override his code and leave it in his quarters." He grinned at her.
"I’m sure you can," she replied with a laugh. "But I want to talk to him about that simulation from the other day before I go on duty."
"All right," he gave in with another smile. As she walked him back to her door, he turned to face her. "What about my good night kiss?" he asked, only half joking.
She considered for a moment before stretching up to kiss his cheek. His whiskers were beginning to grow in again and she liked the feel of his stubble against her cheek and chin. "I’ll see you in eight hours," she whispered into his ear.
Tom drew back with a sigh. "Eight hours," he agreed. Eight very long, very sleepless hours, he thought.
As the doors slid shut on Tom’s retreating figure, B’Elanna let out the breath she’d been holding. She reached for the jacket again, and brought it to her face, inhaling the mingled scents of Tom’s cologne and that scent that was simply him.
The evening hadn’t just been fun, she admitted; it had been wonderful. And once she’d finally relaxed and caught on to the steps, she’d felt free and happy.
Just maybe, she thought, a fourth date wouldn’t be completely out of the question.
What a relief. I know it would never happen, and I realize I’ve taken liberties, but what can ya do? When you’re knee deep in a coda to ‘Night’ and ‘Extreme Risk’, you need a little fluff to get you through. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Nick Felix and his wedding dance instruction site. And the fact that my pal LA wrote the last line! No, I’ve never waltzed in my life—could you tell? Comments? Anyone? My email addy is at the top.