Title: For Her Eyes Only
Author: Julie Evans (Juli17@aol.com)
Summary: Why doesn‘t Tom Paris ever take off his shirt in public places? Some ponder the question, and some know the answer. Set near the end of the 5th season.
Notes: This is a response to a recent challenge to explain why we never see Tom with his shirt off. Consider this all humorous conjecture.
"For Her Eyes Only"
by Julie Evans
"That‘s not what I heard."
"Well, what did you hear?"
The blond with a lieutenant‘s pips on his lapel leaned a little closer over the table, getting the complete attention of the gathered crewmembers who had lately been eating dinner, and were now indulged Voyager‘s number one pastime, gossip. And there was no more intriguing subject of gossip among the crew than the couple they were discussing right now. "I heard that it‘s a ‚B‘." When several of those gathered looked briefly baffled, he added, "You know, for ‚B‘Elanna‘s‘."
"Hmmm, it makes sense," the sandy-haired ensign sitting across from him nodded. "She does act a little…possessive sometimes."
"That‘s an understatement," the raven-haired ensign sitting next to him said, sounding regretful.
"I was thinking it might be ‚H‘ for ‚hunk‘," a redhead with lieutenant‘s pips suggested. She and the raven-haired ensign traded concurring looks. "Or maybe ‚S‘ for ‚stud‘." They grinned at each other, obviously in total agreement about the subject in question.
"What‘s the attraction?" the sandy-haired ensign asked petulantly, looking at the two smirking women. "What‘s so great about Tom Paris anyway?"
"You mean what does he have that you don‘t?" the blond lieutenant asked dryly.
"And that you don‘t," the sandy-haired ensign pointed out to his colleague across the table. "What does he have period that so many women seem to swoon over him?" He glanced around the table imploringly. "I‘m cute."
The redhead rolled her eyes. "Cute is…just cute. No offense," she added quickly at the ensign‘s crestfallen look. "As for Tom Paris, if you don‘t get it, I can‘t explain it. You‘ll just have to believe me when I say he has it." The raven-haired ensign nodded vigorously at that statement, again in complete agreement.
"I think it‘s a ‚P‘ for ‚pig‘," the brunette ensign in an engineering coverall threw in. All eyes turned toward her. "On his chest," she clarified. "I‘ve heard B‘Elanna call him that more than once."
"Yeah, I wish someone would call me ‚pig‘ in exactly the same throaty, sexy way she says it," the sandy-haired ensign said mournfully.
"Someone?" the redheaded lieutenant asked dryly. "You mean you wish she would call you that."
The sandy-haired ensign nodded, admitting that he wasn‘t at all adverse to the idea.
"I still think it‘s a ‚B‘," the blond lieutenant said, returning to the original subject.
"Do you think she carved it in, maybe with a dagger?" the raven-haired ensign asked, eyes innocently wide, though with perhaps just a hint of mischief lurking in them.
The blond lieutenant snorted. "Don‘t be ridiculous. I‘m sure she used a razor."
"Man, would I love to play with a razor on that chest," the redheaded lieutenant said, her expression lascivious.
"Are you kidding?" the brunette ensign shook her head, looking almost distressed at the thought. "Who would want to mess with that glorious nest of golden-red hair?"
"Oh, please," the sandy-haired ensign moaned, shaking his head. "Do we have to hear this again?"
"How would you know about any ‚glorious nest of golden-red hair‘?" the blond lieutenant mimicked snidely. "You’ve never seen it."
"Yeah, I think your imaginations have been working overtime and have blown a perfectly ordinary chest into mythic proportions," the sandy-haired ensign said. "It can‘t be a great as you seem to think it is."
"Oh, yes, it can," the redheaded lieutenant replied with complete assurance. The other two women nodded with equal conviction.
"Besides, what about you two?" the brunette ensign asked the two men. "Don‘t tell me you wouldn‘t have been more than happy if B‘Elanna had chosen to brand her mark on either of you, whether it was with a dagger, or a razor, or a tube of red lipstick. I think you‘re just jealous."
The blond lieutenant shrugged with apparent indifference. "Maybe. That still doesn‘t change the fact that you‘re never going to see exactly what‘s under his shirt. It could be an impenetrable jungle under there, or a couple of stray hairs."
"It‘s not a couple of stray hairs," the redheaded lieutenant said hotly. "We may not have had the good fortune to see Tom Paris in his full bare-chested glory, but he‘s worn some pretty skimpy tank tops at the beach resort. Besides a finely proportioned chest, he‘s got a full sprinkling of hair there."
"And a pretty damn nice butt, too."
Several eyes turned to look at the brunette ensign.
"Can we stick to one part of his anatomy at a time?" the blond lieutenant muttered darkly. "The way you react to that is enough to give the rest of us guys a complex."
"You know, if his chest is so great, how come no one noticed it in the early years?" the sandy-haired ensign asked. "Someone must have gotten a good look at it B.B."
"B.B.?" the raven-haired ensign asked.
"Before B‘Elanna," the blond lieutenant translated. "Good point. Maybe Tom does have something to hide."
"There are unconfirmed chest sightings from the early days," the redheaded lieutenant said. "Rumor has it that Tom took off his shirt sometimes in the gym when he got all hot and sweaty—"
"Damn, I wish I‘d seen that," the brunette ensign said plaintively.
"—and that he took off his shirt to swim in the resort program."
"I only saw him there playing volleyball or frisbee." The raven-haired ensign frowned. "But always with his shirt on."
"Didn‘t he date one of the Delaney sisters?" the blond lieutenant asked.
"Didn‘t he date half the women on this ship?" the sandy-haired ensign put in.
"Despite his reputation it was all very casual, mostly flirting in fact, until B‘Elanna," the redheaded lieutenant said. "He invited me to shoot pool with him once." Her eyes became dreamy and unfocused for a moment, then she shrugged. "Anyway, if anyone got a good look, they aren‘t saying. And no one can produce pictures or a saved holoprogram image, or any actual reproduction of Tom‘s bared chest."
"And now that B‘Elanna‘s bagged him and tagged him, we‘re never going to get a look at what‘s under his shirt," the raven-haired ensign moaned.
"If I‘d have known his chest would become a hidden shrine for her eyes only, I would have followed him around in those days, every time he went to the gym or the holodeck," the brunette ensign said glumly. "Or maybe even mounted a hidden holocamera in his quarters."
"None of us knew it might be a limited time only opportunity," the redheaded lieutenant commiserated.
"I still think B‘Elanna marked him somehow, and that‘s why he won‘t take off his shirt," the blond lieutenant insisted, as he picked his cup of coffee.
"I had the computer turn up the temperature during the last volleyball tournament in the resort program," the raven-haired ensign said. "Tom was the only guy who didn‘t eventually take off his shirt."
"Well, that was a nice try," the brunette ensign said supportively. "But I guess we‘ll just never know what‘s under there…"
The blond lieutenant, who had just taken a sip of his coffee, choked. Four heads swiveled to stare openmouthed at the Bolian lieutenant sitting at the end of the table, who had been listening to the conversation, but up until that moment hadn‘t contributed a word.
"What?!" The raven-haired ensign finally squeaked after several moments of stunned near silence. Someone else slapped the blond lieutenant smartly on the back as he continued to cough.
"Nipple rings," the Bolian repeated. "Maybe that‘s what Tom‘s hiding. It‘s a Klingon custom."
"Klingons wear nipple rings?" the sandy-haired ensign echoed, shaking his head in disbelief.
"It‘s apparently a custom among some mated couples to pierce corresponding parts of their bodies to cement their bond," the Bolian replied. "At least that‘s what I‘ve read. And since Tom won‘t take off his shirt…"
"They both have them?" the brunette ensign asked incredulously. That inspired another several moments of silent contemplation.
"It would explain why Tom always keeps his shirt on," the sandy-haired ensign finally agreed.
"They must be really small not to leave a…bulge through their uniforms," the brunette ensign commented. More silence ensued as they all tried to remember any minute telltale protrusions that might have been evident through the heavy uniform material. And as each decided that they would be taking a much closer look the next time they passed Tom or B‘Elanna in the corridors.
"What if the rings get caught while they are…uh…I mean…" the raven-haired ensign‘s voice trailed off as she realized that everyone was staring at her. Her cheeks suffused with red. "Never mind," she said hastily.
"B‘Elanna‘s not really into Klingon culture, is she?" the sandy-haired ensign asked. "Why would she want to perform a Klingon mating ritual?"
"Tom likes her Klingon side," the brunette ensign pointed out. "He convinced her to take up the bat‘leth, didn‘t he? Maybe he convinced her to try some of those Klingon mating rituals too. Like body piercing."
The redheaded lieutenant frowned. "I don‘t know. I‘ve heard of about a thousand different mating rituals among Klingons, and I bet that probably ninety percent of them aren‘t true. Either that or Klingons have more mating rituals than Starfleet has ensigns."
That earned the lieutenant several glares, and the Bolian just shrugged. "It‘s just one theory."
"I‘m still partial to the ‚B‘ theory," the blond lieutenant said resolutely.
"Or maybe B‘Elanna just tattooed ‚he‘s mine‘ across Tom‘s chest, given her possessive nature," the brunette ensign countered.
"Then why wouldn‘t she let him take his shirt off so everyone would know?" the raven-haired ensign asked.
The blond lieutenant snorted, not noticing the quick hand signal from the sandy-haired ensign "Tom Paris needs a sign written on his body for you to know that?"
The raven-haired ensign didn‘t see the signal to desist either. "Then at least we could look, even if we couldn‘t touch," she said morosely.
"Uh, hi, Harry."
Everyone came to complete attention at that, finally noticing Harry Kim standing at the corner of the table, tray in hand.
The sandy-haired ensign continued, stuttering a bit. "We were just…uh…talking about—"
"I heard." Harry shook his head. "Does this discussion have to be revisited every single month?"
"Well, there has to be some reason why we never see Tom Paris with his shirt off!" the raven-haired ensign said, her voice dejected.
"We‘re being deprived, and we want to know why," the brunette ensign added mutinously.
"All the other men on the ship hang out in the resort program, and in the gym, with their shirts off," the raven-haired ensign pointed out. "Even you, Harry." She gave him a bright, fawning smile. "And by the way, you have quite a handsome chest yourself."
Harry smiled. "Gee, thanks, but flattery won‘t get you anywhere."
"Oh, come on, Harry," the redheaded lieutenant cajoled. "B‘Elanna must be behind the fact that Tom won‘t bare his chest in public."
Harry shrugged. "Why do you think I would know anything about that?"
"You are their best friend, aren‘t you?" the raven-haired ensign asked.
"And I‘d like to keep it that way," Harry said. "I try not to speculate on their personal relationship, and you might want to do the same. Or at least pray for anonymity if B‘Elanna should hear anything about this conversation." He gave them a bright smile. "Goodnight." Harry walked away, hearing the murmuring of conversation start up again behind him, though in much lower tones. He shook his head again, though he was unable to keep the small grin off his face as he turned the corner from the semi-private alcove the gossiping group was occupying, and headed toward the kitchen. Then he almost dropped his tray. B‘Elanna was standing on the other side the wall, arms crossed, obviously within earshot of the previously quite audible conversation. She looked at Harry and a slow smile spread across her face. It was a smile that was both devious and self-satisfied, and just a bit scary.
Harry started to speak, but B‘Elanna held a finger to her lips. He expected her to stomp over to the table in question and smack some heads together but she only smiled wider, shook her head, and backed out of the Mess hall, obviously neither surprised nor particularly angry at the gossip she‘d just heard. He watched her leave, only momentarily perplexed by her reaction. But he‘d long ago realized that B‘Elanna‘s reactions were quite often unpredictable. He gave it only enough thought to surmise that she had probably found her own method of revenge in the frustration level that induced this particular and frequent subject of gossip among the crew, especially the female crew. He headed toward the kitchen to drop off his dirty dishes, smiling as he thought that Tom probably had no objection at all.
Tom Paris pulled off his uniform jacket as he entered his quarters and tossed it over the back of his couch with a long-suffering sigh. He was a little tired from the "shift and a half" schedule he‘d been working this week: first his regular shift on the bridge, followed by four hours in Sickbay pursuing the latest lesson plan in the doctor‘s unending quest to make his reluctant assistant medic into a full-fledged nurse. And although he was aware that he was one of the more popular targets of gossip on Voyager—always had been, and was even more so since his involvement with B‘Elanna—he was unaware of exactly which of the threads of gossip involving him was being pursued tonight. He was thinking at the moment that he needed a relaxing hot water shower. His second thought was that he would then track down B‘Elanna and see if she was done in Engineering and wanted company tonight, in his quarters or hers.
He had just turned toward the bathroom when the subject of his second thought burst unceremoniously into his quarters. He stopped in mid-motion as B‘Elanna strode purposefully across the room, with a very smug smile on her face, and her eyes alight with…amusement. She practically ran bodily into him before she stopped. His eyebrows rose but he held his ground as she fisted her hands in his regulation t-shirt. She jerked the shirt out of his pants and he immediately raised his arms, the better not to be strangled by his own shirt when she tore it off him. She tossed it on the couch, and then pressed her hands over his chest, her fingers curling in his chest hair as she gave him a proprietary smile.
And then he knew. A small smile curved his own lips and he shook his head. "Again?"
B‘Elanna nodded. "In the Mess hall."
"Were you listening?" he chided her teasingly.
She grinned wider. "I might have accidentally heard the entire conversation."
Tom chuckled. "So what now?" he asked, curious.
"I shaved a ‚B‘ in your chest hair," she said, her voice throaty with laughter.
"Really?" Tom looked down at his intact chest hairs. "That is kind of an interesting thought." He looked at her again and grinned. "I take it the ‚B‘ is for ‚B‘Elanna‘s‘."
"As if there‘s any doubt," B‘Elanna purred. "Though the possibility of ‚H‘ for ‚hunk‘ and ‚S‘ for ‚stud‘ were mentioned also."
Tom‘s eyebrows rose, and then he leered at her. "Can‘t argue with that, can you, B‘Elanna?"
B‘Elanna snorted at his deliberately narcissistic self-appraisal. Her fingers caressed the springy hairs on his chest. "It was also suggested that I might have used a dagger to carve one of those letters, Tom."
"Oooh," Tom said. He shuddered for effect. "You‘re one dangerous woman, B‘Elanna." He sounded thoroughly unintimidated.
"I am, Tom," B‘Elanna said, her voice completely serious. She scraped her nails lightly over his pecs. "After all, there is also the possibility that I simply tattooed ‚he‘s mine‘ across your chest."
Tom winced and grinned at the same time. "Well, there‘s no denying the truth of that, though if I have a choice I prefer the dagger scenario. It would be faster and less painful."
B‘Elanna gave him a considering look. "It‘s a thought, Tom. But don‘t worry…" she smiled as she ran her fingers through his chest hair again. "I like your chest exactly the way it is." She trailed her hands down his sternum, then along the flat plane of his stomach, to the point where the fine arrow of hair disappeared into the waist of his pants. "Besides, you haven‘t heard the best part yet."
Tom‘s eyebrows rose. "It gets better?"
Tom‘s eyes widened and he stared at her, momentarily speechless. Then he burst out laughing. B‘Elanna skimmed her hands back up his chest, pressing her fingers over his unadorned pebble-hard nipples. "Nipple rings?" he finally repeated, almost breathless with laughter.
"Apparently it‘s a Klingon mating ritual," B‘Elanna informed him, her eyes dancing with mirth. "Culled from the ‚endless annals of Klingon mating rituals.‘ Both the man and the woman wear them."
"Really?" Tom‘s hands had remained at his sides, but now he raised them and pushed B‘Elanna‘s open uniform jacket aside and cupped her breasts. He kneaded lightly, feeling only the soft swell of her through her regulation tank and bra. Nothing else. He grinned. "So they think we sat here one night and pierced each other‘s bodies in accordance with some obscure Klingon mating ritual?" he asked slyly.
B‘Elanna‘s smile was equally sly. "And assumed that you had to use every last bit of your legendary charm to persuade me."
"Really?" Tom asked dryly. His hands were still kneading her breasts. "I had to convince you?"
"Of course." B‘Elanna was brushing patterns on his chest with her fingers. She gave him an artless smile. "The crew apparently knows that I would do anything you ask."
Tom snorted at that unlikely turn of events.
"And they‘re concerned for our welfare too. They were worried that nipple rings could be a dangerous thing for us since during certain…activities we might get…entangled with each other. And…" B‘Elanna choked off a laugh. "And how would that feel?"
"I guess that would be one of the pitfalls of mutual body piercing," Tom said drolly. "We could end up…locked together and unable to get untangled for who knows how many minutes. And you‘d probably be laughing, thinking it was funny that my poor fair skin was turning red."
"Hey," B‘Elanna protested at Tom‘s mock accusing tone.
"Okay, I might be just a little amused," she admitted. She smiled, unapologetic, and kissed his chin lightly. She followed that up by trailing her lips along his jaw.
Tom slipped his hands down to her waist, pulling her a little closer. "So, is this going to continue?" he asked.
"What?" B‘Elanna asked, momentarily distracted as her lips found the sensitive spot below his ear.
"Uh…me never taking off my shirt." His fingers continued massage her waist as she pulled back slightly and looked at him. "My chest is pretty ordinary, yet it‘s the hot topic of conversation. The crew‘s convinced you‘ve hijacked it and turned it into your personal billboard." Then he grinned and couldn‘t help adding, "Or pincushion."
"Let them think that." B‘Elanna patted his chest and gave him a calculating smile. "If we have to be the primary subject of gossip on this ship, we might as well get some enjoyment out of it ourselves."
Tom smiled and shrugged. "Whatever you say. I have no problem with my chest, or any part of me, being for your eyes only."
"I like the sound of that," B‘Elanna murmured. Then she pressed a kiss against the warm flesh of his collarbone and scraped her teeth lightly over his taut skin.
Tom dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "It is strange that they hit so close to the truth though," he said, his voice thoughtful.
"Close?" B‘Elanna asked. Her fingers skimmed the top edge of his pants, then tugged at the fastening. "They‘d have to think beyond their fascination with your chest. And your butt."
"True." Tom‘s hands slid into the waistband of her pants, and he gripped the bottom edge of her tank top and pulled it free.
B‘Elanna pushed the waistband of his pants down, far enough so that she could hook her little finger in the small ring that pierced his belly button. He squirmed just a bit as she gave it a sharp tug. His own fingers slipped beneath her waistband and touched the matching gold ring that pierced her navel. His hands were much larger than hers were, so he couldn‘t hook even his little finger into the tiny ring, though he had used his teeth once or twice…
"They‘ll just have to keep guessing," B‘Elanna said, smiling smugly as her other hand yanked down his zipper.
They moved in unison toward the bed, divesting each other of clothing along the way. She pushed him down on the bed, the same bed where a few weeks earlier he had talked her into trying one of the more intriguing Klingon mating rituals he‘d come across in his never-ending research of the same. And even though she‘d become more willing to indulge her Klingon side as time passed, and as they became more secure in their relationship, it had still taken considerable charm on his part to elicit her participation.
As B‘Elanna landed on top of him and began kissing him, Tom was wondering just how much charm he still had in reserve. And he found himself unable to resist. "You know, those annals of Klingon mating rituals really take up a lot of volumes," he murmured as her lips brushed across his cheek.
"And now that I think of it, I believe I did see one involving nipple rings…"