Disclaimer: I understand that Paramount/Viacom own Star Trek and its characters. I am just borrowing them for awhile and promise not to abuse them (too much). This is for fun only, not profit.

"Advantage: B‘Elanna" by Julie Evans (comments to Juli17@aol.com)

B‘Elanna Torres looked at the fuzzy yellow ball in her hand dubiously and glanced across the court at Tom Paris. "THIS is your idea of a good workout?"

"Absolutely," Tom said, swinging his tennis racquet in a warm up arc. "You can work up quite a sweat playing this game." He held the racquet over his head and stretched his triceps. "And since you didn‘t like working out with the bat‘telh, I thought we might want to try something a little more civilized. And a little less dangerous. I don‘t think anyone can get killed playing tennis."

B‘Elanna swung her racquet in an arc, getting the feel of it and unconsciously mimicking Tom‘s moves. "This is a little beyond civilized, Tom. It‘s..." she glanced down at the white tennis skirt that barely reached the top of her thighs, "...prissy. People actually wear these outfits?"

Tom grinned at her slyly. "Yes they do, B‘Elanna. These outfits allow for a lot of range of movement. You have to cover the whole court in singles games."

B‘Elanna could see how much range of movement Tom‘s white shorts and knit shirt allowed him as he stretched his hamstrings in a short series of lunges. She could admit to herself that it was a nice view, but she was still going to do a little research after the game. If she found out Tom had talked her into this cheerleader outfit under false pretenses, he would definitely pay.

"Ok, let‘s start. You can serve first, B‘Elanna. And remember, you have to get the ball into the right service court here," Tom gestured with his racquet. "This is a game of finesse, not strength, so do it nice and easy and I‘ll return."

B‘Elanna threw the ball up once experimentally like Tom had shown her. Then she caught her opponent‘s wandering eye. "Tom, aren‘t you supposed to be watching the ball instead of staring at my legs?"

Tom grinned at B‘Elanna‘s annoyed tone. "Don‘t worry, I‘ll keep my eye on the ball, once you serve it."

B‘Elanna threw the ball up again and smacked it with the racquet. Tom started to bring his racquet in position to return, but instead he jumped backwards in a couple of awkward steps and ducked as the ball whizzed past his head. He found himself offbalance, and a moment later he was sitting on his butt.

"Well, I DIDN‘T think anyone could get killed at this game," Tom muttered as he picked himself up off the simulated clay court. "B‘Elanna! You‘re supposed to aim for the service court, not your opponent!"

B‘Elanna gave Tom an apologetic shrug. "Sorry. Guess I don‘t know my own strength."

Somehow Tom doubted the sincerity of her apology. He walked to the net and picked up the ball that had thwacked off the back wall and rolled all the way back across the court. "Oh, I think you know your own strength, B‘Elanna." He tossed the ball to her. "Let‘s try it again, only this time, tone it down."

"Okay, I‘ll try." B‘Elanna waited for Tom to get back in position.

Darned if he didn‘t look a little leery waiting for her to serve. It was hard to keep a smile off her face. She tossed the ball up and hit it, this time with a little less force and a little more downward curve.

Tom reached for the ball as it caught the outside corner of the service court and returned it neatly with his backhand. The ball headed right toward B‘Elanna in the backcourt and she swung at it with her forehand.

Tom dropped his racquet to his side and watched as the ball sailed a good three meters over his head and bounced off the wall well above the fenceline. "It‘s a good thing we‘re in the holodeck, B‘Elanna, or I‘d make you go find that ball."

B‘Elanna ignored Tom comment and picked up another ball out of the basket on the side of the court. She returned to the service line and tossed the ball in the air.

"Don‘t forget the score. My favor, Love-15."

B‘Elanna caught the ball as it came down and glared at Tom. He had already explained the method of scoring to her earlier. She could only consider it ludicrous. Fifteen, thirty, forty? Why not just one, two, three? And what did "love" have to do with it anyway? "Whatever." B‘Elanna tossed the ball up and served.

Five serve efforts later Tom decided B‘Elanna was looking a little frustrated. She hadn‘t gotten near beaning him in the head again, but she hadn‘t gotten the ball into the service court either. She‘d overshot it every time. "Last chance, B‘Elanna."

B‘Elanna didn‘t appear to appreciate Tom‘s reminder. "Love-40," she growled, as she tossed the ball in the air and connected with her racquet.

The ball headed toward the outside of the service court. Tom moved his racquet into position and the ball drop onto the court. It landed just outside the line. Tom let his racquet drop and caught the ball with his other hand. "Close, but no cigar. My game."

B‘Elanna didn‘t find Tom funny at that moment. She stalked toward the net, glaring at him all the way. Tom raised his eyebrows inquiringly. "Aren‘t we supposed to switch sides now?" B‘Elanna snapped.

"Right." Tom gave B‘Elanna a placating smile. "Don‘t worry B‘Elanna, you‘ll get the hang of it."

B‘Elanna grunted. "It‘s just a matter of mechanics," she grumbled, walking around the net. "Trajectories, spin. It shouldn‘t be this difficult."

"Shooting pool is largely a matter of mechanics, too, B‘Elanna," Tom commented, "but that doesn‘t make you good at pool either."

Tom rather regretted that remark the second after it came out of his mouth but B‘Elanna was walking right past him and it was too late. She swung her racquet and hit him -hard -on the shin. Tom groaned and clutched his leg. "B‘Elanna!"

"Oops, sorry, Tom." B‘Elanna patted his shoulder in mock sympathy and nearly knocked him over. "I was just practicing my return swing. I forgot you were there."

Tom grimaced and hobbled over to his side of the court. "I didn‘t

mean YOU couldn‘t play pool. I just meant that mechanics isn‘t

everything. There are other skills involved, like eye-hand

coordination, patience, style, intuition-"

"Shut up and serve, Tom."

Tom shook his leg a little to make sure he could still run on it and served the ball.

B‘Elanna wasn‘t surprised to see that Tom‘s serve was flawless. The ball landed right inside the service court line. His serve was hard, but nothing B‘Elanna couldn‘t handle as long as she kept her eye on the ball. She connected with her forehand and the ball sped over the net toward the left corner of the back court, opposite from where Tom had served. He had to run to get it, but returned it sharply. They volleyed over the net several times. After a particularly short return from Tom, B‘Elanna saw her chance and ran toward the forecourt and slammed the ball down just over the net. Tom didn‘t have a chance, but he gamely dove for the ball and missed, landing on his hands and knees.

"I think I am getting the hang of this!" B‘Elanna said excitedly.

Tom stood up and brushed the dusty clay off his knees. "That‘s exactly how you do it, B‘Elanna. That was a great volley. You could be good at this."

Tom‘s sincere compliment made B‘Elanna smile. He was nothing if not a good sport. She watched him limp slightly back to the service line. "Thank you, Tom."

"I meant it. Now serving is the hardest part," Tom said, bouncing the ball in front of him in preparation. "But you‘ll get it. It just takes practice. Remember," he added, as he threw the ball in the air, "I‘ve been playing for awhile. Love-15."

Trust Tom to move directly from sincerity to patronization and not even realize it, B‘Elanna thought wryly. She didn‘t reply, she just returned his serve hard right back at him. Tom had to use his racquet simply to stop the ball from hitting him in the face. His return landed right in the net.

The rest of the game didn‘t go much better for Tom. B‘Elanna seemed to have a supernatural ability to sense where the ball would come next, while she kept Tom hopping from one end of the court to the other. Tom managed to score only one point before losing the game.

"Your serve," Tom said as B‘Elanna reached for the ball basket and carried it to her side of the court for the third game.

B‘Elanna looked at Tom, who had a smirk on his face. "What‘s the matter, flyboy, am I wearing you out already?" she asked archly. She took her place at the service line. "And don‘t think you get to relax just because I‘m serving," she added as she tossed the ball in the air. "I could surprise you."

Tom watched her serve land wide and long of the service court. "You didn‘t."

B‘Elanna‘s next serve was aimed right at Tom‘s head, but this time he was half expecting it and moved adroitly out of the way. "Double fault. My point. Keep that up, B‘Elanna, and you‘ll make it too easy on me."

B‘Elanna took a deep breath, determined to ignore Tom‘s deliberate provocation, and served again. She double faulted the next two serves, but did manage to get one serve in before Tom won the game.

The rest of the set proceeded much the same. B‘Elanna had difficulty taming her serve, but she didn‘t have much difficulty returning Tom‘s serves. And Tom discovered that once a volley got going, B‘Elanna was a natural and aggressive player, more often than not outlasting him until she could get a good shot in. He landed on his knees more than once trying to catch up with one of her forecourt slams. He still managed to take the set 6-4.

"One set is probably enough for today," Tom said as they picked up their water canisters from the side bench.

"What‘s the matter, Tom, are you tired?" B‘Elanna asked innocently, eyeing the sheen of sweat on Tom‘s skin.

"Not at all," Tom said, taking a long drink of water. But his knees were getting a little sore from connecting too much with the court surface, and his shin ached a little. Still he wasn‘t about to back down from the challenge in B‘Elanna‘s voice. "I‘m game for the whole match if you are."

"You bet I am."

"Good. And you might even have a chance of winning, B‘Elanna, if you could quit acting like your sandblasting the court when you serve and just hit the ball a little nicer."

B‘Elanna snorted. "Nicer? What kind of advice is that?"

"A power serve won‘t win you many games if you can‘t control it."

Tom gave her a speculative look. "You know, Jenny Delaney has a

pretty nice serve. Maybe I could ask her to show you-"

B‘Elanna poured the rest of her water right over Tom‘s head. He looked momentarily surprised with rivulets of water dripping down his face, then he shook his head to disperse the excess and grinned at her. "Thanks, B‘Elanna, that actually feels pretty good."

"Pig," B‘Elanna muttered without much rancor as she strode back onto the court.

"Hmmm, and here I thought we were past that stage in our relationship," Tom mused aloud as he followed her.

By the time the second set was over- the one B‘Elanna won 7-6 - Tom was truly ready to quit. B‘Elanna‘s serve had only improved marginally, but she kept him off balance during the volleys. He had to admit, despite his greater experience, she was his equal. If she learned to control her serve, she‘d wipe up the court with him.

But that wasn‘t what was bothering him as he took a swig of his water between sets. Tennis had never been Tom‘s best game, but he considered himself reasonably competent at it. Competent enough to at least finish a match in the same shape as he started. He thought maybe his right knee was swelling up a little. And his left elbow was still smarting from yet another spectacularly unsuccessful dive in front of the net. He was starting to feel a little winded, and B‘Elanna was barely breaking a sweat. Tom sighed, and poured the rest of his water over his head, without B‘Elanna‘s help this time.

B‘Elanna grinned into Tom‘s wet face. "Ready for the last set, hotshot?"

The final set was as close as the previous two. Both Tom and B‘Elanna, feeling a competitive surge, intensified their play as the set wore on. Even B‘Elanna was breathing hard by the time they had reached a 6-6 tie and moved into the tiebreaker game. B‘Elanna was managing to get about half of her serves into the service court, and after they had traded points back and forth and achieved Deuce, she got Tom to chase a ball to the line and lobbed it back to the opposite side of the court, out of his reach.

B‘Elanna bounced the ball in front of her. "Advantage in."

"Match point," Tom corrected.

B‘Elanna tossed the ball in the air. "Whatever."

"B‘Elanna, ‚whatever‘ is not a tennis score, as I‘ve mentioned before."

B‘Elanna caught the ball in her hand as it came down. "Tom, quit trying to delay the inevitable and just keep your eye on the ball." She tossed it in the air again. "Match point."

The ball landed in the outside corner of the service court, and Tom returned it diagonally across the court, making B‘Elanna run to catch up with it. They volleyed from the backcourts for a minute or so. Then Tom saw his chance after B‘Elanna had to hustle to return a shot from the left alley. He lobbed the ball back into the right forecourt. B‘Elanna had to completely change direction to get to the ball. She stumbled doing so and almost went down, but she recovered and dove for the ball. Her racquet connected right at the ground and the ball sailed over the net.

Tom, who had relaxed his racquet and taken several steps toward the forecourt, sure B‘Elanna could never get to the ball in time, had to backpedal, stretch and reach behind for the ball. He managed to just barely get his racquet on the ball, but he lost his balance in the process and went down. He landed on the court with a thud and with his momentum ended up flat on his back. The ball, which had lost its momentum connecting with the racquet, fell to ground and bounced next to Tom‘s head. Tom lay there for several seconds with the breath knocked out of him, staring at the simulated blue sky above, and wondering why he‘d ever liked tennis in the first place. Maybe this game actually could kill someone.

"Tom, are you alright?"

Tom stared up at B‘Elanna, who was looking down at him with genuine concern. Tom noticed that the fine sheen of sweat that covered B‘Elanna‘s skin actually gave her a healthy, vibrant glow. In fact, the woman looked downright sexy.

"Tom, should I call for an emergency beam out to Sickbay?"

"No!" Sure, that‘s just what he wanted, to become known on Voyager as the guy who was beamed to Sickbay with a critical tennis injury. "I‘m fine. And congratulations."

"Thanks," B‘Elanna said, suddenly remembering that she‘d won the match and feeling a little pleased about it. Then she looked down at Tom, wondering again if she should be concerned. His legs were splayed out and he had one arm draped across his forehead, and the other resting on his stomach. He looked sweaty and tired, and he was sporting a few new bruises and scrapes. And damned if he didn‘t still look good. B‘Elanna consigned that thought to the recesses of her mind. "Can I do something for you, Tom?"

"Carry me off the court?"

B‘Elanna saw the slight smile playing across Tom‘s lips and the twinkle in his blue eyes as he spoke in that beseeching tone. He was fine. "I don‘t think so." She prodded him lightly in the side with her foot. "Come on, Tom, you can get up."

"That‘s what I love about you, B‘Elanna," Tom said as he pulled himself up into a sitting position. "Your boundless compassion."

B‘Elanna reached down and grabbed Tom‘s hand as he started to stand up and helped him to his feet. "Call me Florence Nightengale. Computer, end program."

"I think maybe we should go back to the bat‘telh," Tom said as they walked toward the exit. "I‘ve decided it‘s less dangerous than tennis."

"Oh, no. I like tennis. This was a great workout, Tom! I feel sort of invigorated."

"And I feel like I was attacked by a Capellan tiger. Or at least hit in the shin by one."

"Tom-" B‘Elanna‘s protest went unfinished as the holodeck door opened and she and Tom almost collided with Harry Kim and Ethan Simms. "Harry, did we go over the allotted time?"

"Uh..." Harry was staring at B‘Elanna and Tom. Particularly Tom. "No, we, uh..." Harry looked at the scrapes on Tom‘s knees, one which looked a little swelled, the several bruises accentuated by his fair skin, especially the large one on his shin, and the generally sweaty, mussed image he presented. "We just got here." Harry suddenly noticed what they were both wearing. "Were you playing...tennis?"

Tom sighed at the note of disbelief in Harry‘s voice. "Yes, Harry, we were." He looked down at his disheveled appearance. "Let‘s just say we went all out."

"Well, someone did anyway," Harry said. He couldn‘t keep the grin off his face. "Do you need to go to Sickbay, Tom?"

"Don‘t start, Harry," Tom warned.

"B‘Elanna, what did you really do to Tom?" Ethan asked, looking at Tom with an even bigger smile on his face than Harry‘s. Tom just gave him the coldest look he could muster. Ethan was unfazed.

"Okay, ensigns, enough gawking. Go have your holodeck adventure now."

"Yes, ma‘am." Harry and Ethan slid past Tom and B‘Elanna to the holodeck entrance.

"Nice skirt, lieutinant," Ethan said as they walked past.

B‘Elanna gave him a look that would freeze boiling water. The ensign hurried into the holodeck.

"Hey, when you two play your next match, sell tickets. You can rake up a ton of replicator credits, believe me."

"Shut up, Harry!" Tom and B‘Elanna said in unison as the holodeck door closed on Harry‘s grinning face.

B‘Elanna looked at Tom, a small smile playing around her lips. "Are you sure you don‘t want to try tennis again, Tom?"

"Yes. You don‘t like the bat‘telh. I‘m giving up tennis."

"Okay, we‘ll just have to come up with something we both like," B‘Elanna said as they walked down the corridor. "Something a little less... strenuous for you," she added slyly. "I know! What‘s that other game with little balls? Golf!"

Tom stopped in his tracks and stared at B‘Elanna. "Are you kidding?! I‘m not about to put a golf club in your hands!"

B‘Elanna put her hands on her hips and glared at Tom. "And why not, Tom Paris?"

"Why not?" Tom repeated, walking again. "Because I barely survived putting a tennis racquet in your hands. And I won‘t even mention how you swung that bat‘telh around, now that I think about it."

B‘Elanna snorted. "Baby."

Tom gritted his teeth. "B‘Elaaanna..."

Tom Paris and B‘Elanna Torres argued all the way back to the crew quarters and if anyone who passed them had any thought of running interference...well, they knew better.

The end.