Author: Julie Evans
Codes: K, P/T
Date posted: 5/4/00
Summary: Reactions to Harry and B'Elanna's return to Voyager. Mostly Tom's ;- ) Set right after the episode "Muse."
Archive: Okay to archive to the ASC, BLTS, PTCollective Archive, and PTF Archive. All others please ask author for permission.
Disclaimer: Star Trek and its characters are the property of
Viacom/Paramount. I am borrowing them for fun only, not profit.
by Julie Evans
Harry Kim was reclining on one of the biobeds in sickbay when Tom Paris walked in. He'd been beamed directly to sickbay from...well, whatever planet. If it had a name, he didn't know it, and didn't much care. The doctor had fussed over him for several minutes, verifying his reasonably good health and lack of pathogens, until B'Elanna had beamed in and the doctor had moved on to her.
"Harry! I'm glad you're okay." Tom's voice was plainly relieved, and his face lit up in one of those rare wide open smiles the pilot bestowed spontaneously when he was truly happy. "We missed you around here."
"Thanks, Tom," Harry said, smiling back. "Believe me, I missed being here."
Tom nodded, and his smile hadn't slipped, but his gaze was elsewhere. Harry had already seen his friend's eyes dart to the biobed several meters away, where the doctor was still scanning B'Elanna, who was insisting to the doctor in that endearingly brusque tone of hers that she was fine. Tom's eyes were glued to that scene, though the doctor's position was blocking him from making eye contact with B'Elanna.
Tom looked at Harry, and Harry jerked his head once in that direction. "Go be your usual pushy self."
Tom grinned at Harry's whispered suggestion, then squeezed Harry's shoulder quickly. "I'm glad you're back, buddy."
Harry took comfort from the warm sincerity in Tom's voice, even as Tom skirted quickly around the bed and moved to where he really wanted to be right now. Not that Harry could blame him.
"Excuse me, Doc." Tom could have gone around to the other side of the bed, but he purposely invaded the doctor's space instead, practically pushing the doctor aside. Harry knew Tom had recognized the growing frustration in B'Elanna's voice.
"Ensign Paris, if you don't mind--"
"B'Elanna said she's fine, and you just said she hasn't sustained any serious effects."
"That does not mean I was finished with my evaluation--"
Tom's "sorry" wasn't the least bit sincere, and Harry wondered that Tom could carry on a casual conversation with the doctor, with his gaze locked so completely on B'Elanna. Then Harry noticed the pulse jumping in Tom's jaw, and realized the dialogue was Tom's way of composing himself.
It was Tom's first word to B'Elanna in two weeks, face to face, and he managed to convey a wealth of meaning and feeling in that single, soft- spoken utterance.
B'Elanna's equally soft-spoken return contained almost as much
pregnant meaning as Tom's, and a slow half-smile curved her lips.
"I missed you."
Harry was starting to feel like a voyeur, even though the contact between Tom and B'Elanna hadn't moved beyond intently concentrated eye
contact and a handful of emotion-laden words. The doctor chose that moment to clear his throat, loudly, and Tom and B'Elanna both gave him an annoyed look.
"Mister Kim. I'm glad to see that you look no worse for wear."
Harry's attention had been focused elsewhere, and he hadn't even heard the captain come into sickbay. She was standing next to his bed smiling down at him, with a smile as genuinely happy as Tom's had just been. Harry smiled back. "I'm feeling pretty good, Captain, now that I'm back on Voyager."
Janeway's smile faded a little, and she squeezed his shoulder in almost the same spot Tom had squeezed a couple of minutes earlier. "I'm grateful to have you back." Her voice had the smallest quaver in it, and she pursed her lips together for a moment before she looked at B'Elanna. "Both of you. We were all very worried."
Harry didn't miss the quick look that flashed between the captain and Tom. Then the captain's smile was back as she returned her gaze to B'Elanna. "Tom wanted to take a shuttle and do a planet by planet search for you two. I had a hard time convincing him that the area was unstable, and that Voyager's sensors are far more powerful. We were hoping they would be enough to find you."
Harry hadn't thought too much about what everyone on Voyager must be have been going through over the past two weeks. While B'Elanna and he had only pondered on how long it would take Voyager to find them, secure that it would eventually happen, no one on Voyager had known if they were safe, or even still alive. He could see the etched lines in both the captain and Tom's faces, testament to their worry and lack of sleep. He met B'Elanna's gaze and saw that same knowledge flash in her eyes. Her hand crept to where Tom's rested on the edge of her biobed.
"While everyone was so worried about you that sickbay visits rose by thirty-four percent this past week, it appears the two of you were surviving quite well." The doctor's voice was dry. He'd moved to the other side of B'Elanna's bed, away from Tom's potential interference, and he began scanning B'Elanna again. "Quite well, despite the primitive state of medical care on that planet." The doctor shook his head with disgust. "Bloodletting."
"Bloodletting?" Tom echoed. His eyes widened and he stared at B'Elanna, appalled.
B'Elanna shrugged it off. "I was feverish for awhile, and this man-- playwright--Kelis, he cut my arm to let the poisons out of my blood." Her lips twisted as much with humor as distaste. "That's what he apparently thought it would do anyway."
"It constantly amazes me how humanoid societies manage to survive such periods of total ignorance," the doctor groused.
"Well, I survived fine," B'Elanna pointed out.
"No thanks to that Kelis person," the doctor said. "You survived eight days of fever thanks to your own very hardy constitution, Lieutenant."
"Eight days?" Tom looked even more dismayed, and B'Elanna squeezed his hand.
"We're incredibly grateful for your strength, B'Elanna," Janeway said. Then she included Harry in her gaze. "And for both of your survival skills."
"We weren't about to give up until we got back here," Harry said fervently.
"Indeed." The doctor looked at B'Elanna. "Though in your case, Lieutenant, considering your delayed arrival, you must not have been anticipating your return to Voyager too zealously."
Harry knew that B'Elanna had been as anxious as he had for Voyager to find them, and he saw a shadow pass briefly over her eyes. Tom obviously saw it too because he gave the doctor an irritated look.
"I had to finish something I started before I came back," B'Elanna said quietly, but firmly. The doctor shrugged, and Tom looked perplexed.
"The play?" Janeway asked.
B'Elanna looked at her in surprise.
"I gave your mission logs a quick perusal," Janeway said. "I read your mention of the play you were helping Kelis write."
"I was giving him stories about Voyager in return for his help getting supplies and food," B'Elanna said. "He'd already listened to some of the logs, so I made it all sound like we came from distant island, and our ship was on an ocean."
"She didn't give away any trade secrets, Captain," Harry put in, feeling he should defend B'Elanna. He didn't actually know what she'd told Kelis, but he did know her.
"I doubt they could have understood them if you had," Janeway said, smiling a little. "They're in a stage of development where technology appears to be magic." Her thoughtful gaze rested on B'Elanna. "Though that doesn't mean we should go out of our way to show them too much."
"I appreciate you trusting me, captain," B'Elanna said.
"It was against my better judgment to beam you up under those circumstances," Janeway replied. "But their society is primitive enough that they'll believe what they saw was a supernatural manifestation."
"They did believe B'Elanna was a supernatural being," Harry said. "An eternal."
Janeway nodded. "You'll have to tell me more about this play you helped write, B'Elanna."
"Me too," Tom murmured.
"I didn't help write it," B'Elanna corrected. "I just provided..."
"His inspiration," Harry finished. He recalled B'Elanna's words to him on the planet about inspiring someone.
"That's got to be flattering," Janeway said.
"Well, Voyager was part of the inspiration too," B'Elanna said. "That's why I had to stay," she added, her gaze taking in both Janeway and Tom. "To make sure he got it right. He did try and help me, and he deserved that much."
"The Rescue of B'Elanna Torres," Harry said. He caught Tom's questioning look. "That was the name of the play."
"In that case, B'Elanna returning to her people was the right ending," Janeway said, smiling. "And I have to admit it is also flattering to think of all of us living on in the literature of another culture. If this Kelis is talented, his plays might still be popular centuries from now. They might transcend their own culture, as Earth's great literature has. Or Vulcan's. Or that of any number of Federation planets."
"One day you'll be famous throughout the galaxy, B'Elanna," Harry teased.
"Sounds like we all might be," Tom said. He gave B'Elanna a curious look. "I take it I was in this play?"
B'Elanna arched a brow. "Of course. As I recall your character was listed as the 'The intrepid helmsman, Tom Paris.'"
"What about me?" The doctor asked.
"Oh, you were in it," B'Elanna said. "You were in the ship's sickbay bloodletting the crew whenever they fell ill."
Tom managed a grin at B'Elanna's ribbing, albeit a weak one, and Janeway laughed. The doctor just rolled his eyes. "Very funny."
"I really do want to hear more about this play, but I have to get back to the bridge." Janeway looked at the doctor, her expression suddenly sober. "But before I go, my chief engineer and chief ops officer are in excellent health, correct, doctor?"
"They are now," the doctor replied. "They were both mildly malnourished from surviving on rations and whatever inadequate edibles they were able to consume over the past two weeks." He looked at B'Elanna. "When they bothered to eat at all. However I gave them both a nutritional supplement and vitamin booster to compensate. After a few hearty meals in the mess hall they will be no doubt gain back the kilo or two they each lost. In the meantime I am releasing them both to full duty status, after twenty-four hours of rest."
"I don't need--"
"Those are my orders, Lieutenant," the doctor said sharply, interrupting B'Elanna's incipient protest.
"I accept your judgment, doctor," Janeway said. She looked steadily at B'Elanna, and then at Harry, who wasn't about to protest.
"Don't worry, Doc. If B'Elanna doesn't rest, I'll break both her legs."
Harry's mouth fell open a little, and then he realized that Tom was grinning rather than moving out of B'Elanna's range of motion, and B'Elanna's exasperated look at him was tinged with definite amusement.
"I'll leave you to Mister Paris's tender mercies then," the doctor said dryly to B'Elanna. Tom and B'Elanna both looked amused, as if the doctor's comment had some private meaning to them.
"And I'll just be leaving now," Janeway said wryly. She shook her head, smiling a little, obviously no more clued into the private connotations of that exchange than Harry. "B'Elanna, Harry, I'll arrange for a debriefing meeting sometime tomorrow. Tom, I'll expect you on the bridge again tomorrow morning. Ten hundred hours will be fine. I'm sure you can use some time off after all the hours you've put in lately."
Tom nodded quickly, obviously more than happy to follow that order. "Thank you, Captain."
Janeway stopped abruptly as she reached the door and turned around. "Oh, I almost forgot." She looked at Harry, then B'Elanna. "It seems that Neelix is creatively inspired by both of you, in his own way. He is planning a gala celebration breakfast at eight thirty hours tomorrow. I'm sure you'll both want to be there."
B'Elanna frowned as Janeway offered them a final smile and slipped out the door, though to Harry's eyes it was more reflexive than irritated. "That's sweet of Neelix," he said.
"He missed you both," Tom said. He looked at B'Elanna. "We'll be there." B'Elanna nodded almost imperceptibly at his mildly spoken affirmation. Then she sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed.
"What are you doing?" The doctor asked as she stood. Tom had backed up to give B'Elanna room, and his hand moved like a close shadow behind her elbow, though she didn't need it.
"I didn't say you could get up," the doctor grumbled.
"You said I was released," B'Elanna reminded him. Then she glared at him. "I'm fit for duty, but since you *insist* that I rest, I'm certainly not doing it here."
Harry suspected B'Elanna's protest was more on principle than anything. He was sure that she was more than happy to have the opportunity to take a shower and eat real food again, and enjoy the near luxury of her quarters on Voyager compared to the deprivations of the past couple of weeks. The thought of a real shower had him immediately abandoning his biobed.
"That's it, Harry," Tom said, as he and B'Elanna approached, her hand caught securely in the crook of his arm. "Hurry and make your escape."
"Very amusing, Ensign," the doctor said sarcastically. "I just might need you in sickbay for a few hours this evening after all."
"You wouldn't do that to me, Doc," Tom said, his expression one of supreme confidence.
The doctor's eyebrow rose. "Don't count on that, Mister Paris," he said dryly. "However, I won't do it to B'Elanna."
Tom shrugged and grinned, and Harry could see that he was more than fine with the doctor's qualification. And the doctor's "Mister Paris"--not "Ensign Paris"--had been almost affectionate. Tom looked at Harry. "Coming, buddy?"
Harry was sure Tom and B'Elanna had plenty of catching up to do, and he didn't want to intrude, even just by walking to quarters with them. "I'll be along in a minute."
Tom nodded slowly. "All right." He squeezed Harry's shoulder again. "You don't know how good it is to have you back, Harry."
"I know how good I feel to be back," Harry said.
B'Elanna slipped briefly from Tom's grip and hugged Harry quickly. "Thanks, Harry. I don't know what I would have done without you."
"Get out of here you two," Harry said as B'Elanna released him. "I'll see you at breakfast."
He watched them go, staring after them pensively until the doctor finally spoke.
"Are you waiting for me to assign you to sickbay duty, Mister Kim?"
Harry looked back at the doctor, and managed a small smile. "No. I was just..."
Harry stared nonplussed at the doctor. Then he shook his head. "Of course not! I love B'Elanna." The doctor's eyebrow rose. "*And* Tom. But not that way. They are my two dearest friends."
The doctor nodded slowly. "I see. So?"
"So..." Harry repeated, irritated. "I am *not* jealous." Then he paused, and gave the doctor wry look. "But maybe I am a little envious."
The doctor nodded again, in that way that might make one think he was sage. "I don't pretend to understand all the complexities of the relationship between Ensign Paris and Lieutenant Torres. The
unfathomable intricacies of quantum mechanics are easier to
comprehend. But I do know that the intimate nature of their relationship affords a physical familiarity and closeness that they clearly value, and that cannot exist in any other kind of relationship. It is human nature--in fact the nature of virtually every sentient species--to crave such contact, Mister Kim." His smile was faintly wistful. "Perhaps it is in the nature of holograms also, since I have often wished..."
The doctor's voice trailed off, and Harry realized that he'd never really considered how lonely the doctor might be. He was after all as sentient as anyone on Voyager, even if he was a hologram.
The doctor cleared his throat. "Well, never mind that. My point is, from a psychological standpoint, your envy is natural and nothing to be ashamed of."
"Right," Harry said quickly. "Sorry I brought the subject up, Doctor. I'm probably just a little tired." Better to admit that than to the particular
brand of loneliness that had dogged him again since Lindsay.
"Of course," the doctor agreed readily. "Perhaps the past two weeks have been more stressful than you realized, Mister Kim."
Harry was happy to change the subject. "You know, it really wasn't all bad." And, oddly enough, he'd enjoyed the opportunity to work with B'Elanna, once he'd gotten back to the Delta Flyer and they'd both been reassured by each other's presence. He'd been eager to get back to Voyager, but the experience hadn't been completely horrible in
retrospect. "It sounded as if things were far more stressful here on Voyager."
"The crew was certainly in a quite a state of melancholy," the doctor informed him. "You and Lieutenant Torres have inspired a great deal of affection among the crew. Mister Paris alone was ten times more irritating than usual. When he was on sickbay duty he called the bridge every ten minutes to see if there was anything new in the scan data. I finally told him to go up there and stay."
"He was worried," Harry murmured.
The doctor nodded. "Yes, he was."
Harry shook his head. "Sometimes I'm not sure he realizes it, but I don't know what he'd do if something happened to B'Elanna."
"Survive," the doctor said, not without sympathy. "And he'd still have a best friend." He pursed his lips and his eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "In fact, now that I consider it, it was very thoughtless of you both to risk your lives at the same time."
Harry chuckled a little. "I suppose it was."
"Well, you both returned safely, and Mister Paris is hardly the only one delighted about that. Commander Tuvok actually retired to his quarters to sleep. And Mister Neelix is no doubt hip deep in menu preparations for tomorrow's celebratory breakfast. The crew is happy again, which hopefully means they will stay out of my sickbay for a few days."
The sickbay intercomm beeped before Harry could respond.
The doctor sighed dramatically. "Yes..."
*Ensign Jenkins here, doctor. Is Ensign Kim there?*
"I'm here," Harry answered.
*Hi, Harry. Welcome back. I'm just calling to invite you to the holodeck. A few of us are going to run the resort program and we thought you might want to join us for a poolside barbecue. Interested?*
"I don't know--"
"Of course he is, Ensign. What time?"
Harry stared at the doctor.
*I think Jenny and Megan and Michael Ayala are already there. Several others will be showing up periodically. So anytime will be fine.*
"I need to stop by my quarters to shower and change."
*Okay. I was going to invite B'Elanna and Tom too, but they are probably...busy.*
Harry smiled at the drollness in Carrie's voice. "Probably. Give me half an hour. Maybe forty-five minutes. I haven't had a shower in a while."
There was a small chuckle over the comm. *No problem. See you when you get here. Holodeck two.*
"See you." Harry turned to the doctor when the comm channel closed.
"I didn't confine you to quarters," the doctor said before Harry could speak. "And I believe this resort get together was a last minute plan, no doubt in honor of your return." He waved his hand and turned toward his office. "So go. Relax and socialize. Your many fans await."
Harry smiled. "I wouldn't go that far."
The doctor turned at the door to his office. "Your many friends then. Welcome back, Mister Kim."
The doctor looked contemplative for a moment. "I do believe it was an Earth playwright who wrote 'All's well that ends well.' I'd say that sentiment fits nicely in this case, wouldn't you?" With that thought imparted, the doctor smiled broadly and disappeared into his office, leaving Harry standing alone.
The doctor actually was pretty sage when he wanted to be, Harry decided. After all, here he was back on Voyager, among his friends. And an evening at the resort did sound like fun. Especially after two weeks on that chilly, almost barren planet.
But first there was that long anticipated shower. Harry grinned widely as he walked out of sickbay, arms swinging freely at his sides. Old Shakespeare had been right too. B'Elanna and he were both back where they belonged. All was most definitely well again.
B'Elanna walked out of her bathroom, feeling rejuvenated. After making due with the limited water reserves in the Delta Flyer to wash up as much as she could, her sonic shower had felt like sheer heaven. Nearly thirty minutes of warm, soothing, and briskly invigorating heaven. Every centimeter of her skin tingled with cleanliness.
She spotted Tom through the far doorway as she walked into the
bedroom. He was settled in one corner of her couch, with one leg curled under him, absorbed in the datapadd in his hand. She paused halfway across her bedroom, noticing that her duffel was no longer sitting on the floor near her bed. And she took a second look at the bed itself before resuming her stride.
Tom looked up as she entered the living area, sensing her presence. The tiny furrow of concentration in his brow from whatever he'd been reading so intently faded as he looked at her. He dropped the datapadd on the coffee table and smiled slowly. "You look refreshed. And pleased with yourself."
B'Elanna sighed. "You don't know how good that sonic shower felt after two weeks on the Delta Flyer with virtually no facilities."
Tom moved to afford her more room as she sat down on the couch next to him. "What's this?" she asked, looking at the small spread on the coffee table.
"I thought you might be a little hungry," Tom said. "I know rations aren't very satisfying."
B'Elanna picked up a strawberry. Besides the several kinds of bite-sized fruits arranged artfully, there were also cheese and crackers on the tray. "Kelis did bring me some food a few times, but the local cuisine was pretty dull." She bit into the strawberry, and smiled. "Thanks."
Tom nodded. "You'll have to thank Neelix too. He fixed it up for you himself."
"I thought I recognized his touch." She nabbed a piece of cheese, and then looked at Tom. "Did you unpack for me?"
Tom nodded. "In a manner of speaking."
B'Elanna's nose wrinkled. "I was getting by without any laundry facilities too. Sorry."
Tom grinned. "No problem. I just threw everything in the recycler. Except Toby."
B'Elanna smiled. "Thanks for doing that for me." She leaned back on the couch and pulled her up her legs, wrapping her robe around her until only her toes were peeking out.
"Cold?" Tom asked.
"Not now," B'Elanna replied. She settled against him, and he draped his arm behind her. "But that was *another* thing that wasn't working on the Delta Flyer. The heat." Though most of the time she'd kept warm by working up a sweat with her constant and frustrating efforts to get the systems repaired.
Tom's fingers kneaded her shoulder gently. "It must have gotten pretty uncomfortable."
"It's definitely good to be back home," B'Elanna said earnestly. She sighed again, and let her head rest against Tom's shoulder. For the moment she was completely content to just savor the feeling of being back. Tom clearly appreciated the silent pleasure of the moment also, since his body was relaxed and loose next to hers, and he made no movement other than twirling a strand of her hair lightly in his fingers. Earlier in their relationship they would have frantically made love as quickly as possible, but these reunions after one of them had been faced with some sort of danger, or the real possibility of loss had loomed, had become unfortunately too common. Now they were content to slip more slowly back together, and revel first in the gratification of simple physical closeness.
It was B'Elanna who broke the comfortable silence. "Thanks for remaking my bed."
Tom shifted a little so he could look at her. Despite the fact that she often left her clothes strewn around her quarters, she made her bed every morning, and in a precise way. Tom's corners were never quite as precise as hers. His gaze held hers for several moments before he finally spoke. "I missed you," he said simply.
"I know." She touched his hand where it rested against her neck, and entwined her fingers loosely with his. She didn't ask how often he'd done it, but she kind of liked the idea that he'd slept in her bed while she was gone. "I'm sorry you had to go through that--not knowing."
"Well, I wasn't the only one who had a tough time," Tom said. "The whole ship was gloomy without you and Harry. Neelix couldn't cheer anyone up. And Tuvok refused to sleep the whole time you were gone."
"Really?" B'Elanna asked skeptically.
"Really,'' Tom confirmed. "Though he did start snoring once on the bridge."
B'Elanna's eyes narrowed. "Now you're kidding."
"No, I'm not," Tom said. His lips quirked a little, but she could see that he was serious. "I had to say his name twice to wake him up. It was the only time while you were gone that I smiled. I just couldn't help it."
Tom had a half-smile on his face now, and B'Elanna tried to
countenance what he was saying. Though her mediation sessions with Tuvok had become mutually beneficial, and usually noncombative, still it was hard to imagine Tuvok going to such lengths to try and find her and Harry. "I guess I'm flattered."
"You should be," Tom said lightly. "Tuvok analyzed and reanalyzed every scan ten times over trying to locate the Delta Flyer." His expression sobered. "We all felt pretty helpless not being able to find you."
She knew Tom must have felt doubly helpless. His nature was to react, to do *something* no matter what the chance of success. She
understood that impulse too well herself. And she remembered what the captain had said in sickbay. "You would never have found the Delta Flyer in a class two shuttle, Tom. I'm glad you didn't try. But thank you for the thought."
"I kept it in mind as my back up plan anyway," Tom told her. "If the captain had ever decided to give up."
B'Elanna looked at him closely. She'd rather not know just how far he'd planned that out. It was enough to know that he would have done it, if that's what it took to find her and Harry. And as much as she and the captain didn't always see eye to eye, she knew Tom would never have needed to exercise that option. "Do you really think she would have considered leaving, Tom?"
"No," Tom admitted with no hesitation. "None of us would have left until we found you, one way--" He stopped abruptly. "Until we found you."
"I never doubted that," B'Elanna said. She hadn't, not for a minute. "It made the discomforts easier to bear. Though the frustration of trying to fix the Delta Flyer with nothing but scrap metal and spit was another matter. It was probably better for my temper that I was unconscious for eight days."
Tom frowned at her effort to make light of that, and she felt his body tense. "Don't say that, B'Elanna. Eight days is a hell of a long time to be feverish. You were lucky. And thank god that idiot didn't kill you!"
"He didn't know any better," B'Elanna said mildly.
Tom was barely listening. "Your fever could have been cured in a few minutes with the emergency medikit if I'd been there. Or the doctor. Or anyone else but him."
"No one else *was* there, Tom," B'Elanna reminded him. She could understand that it was hard for Tom to be generous under the
circumstances, but she didn't want him placing blame where it didn't belong. "Kelis was actually trying to help me."
"By tying you up for eight days and bleeding you?!" Tom's voice had risen slightly, and his mouth closed in a tight line. His hand had slipped away from her shoulder and his fingers were digging into the top of the couch.
B'Elanna stared at him, and then looked at the datapadd he'd discarded on the table. "Were you reading my logs, Tom?"
"Yes." He held her gaze for a minute. "They're mission logs. The same ones the captain looked over. Did you want me *not* to read them?"
She hadn't meant that as an accusation. Her mission logs were freely available materials. "I don't mind at all if you read them. You're welcome to read my personal logs too. Just don't use them against me."
"I wasn't--" Tom paused. He took a deep breath, and then made an effort to smile, though it came out a little stiff. "I'm sorry. I was just so
worried about you and reading what that--" He stopped himself again, and sighed. "I don't want to fight, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna dropped a hand to his thigh and rubbed gently. "We're not fighting. And I'm not angry. But I didn't choose to get stranded on that planet, Tom." He nodded in rueful acknowledgement and her lips curved. "Believe me, I wish you'd been there to take care of my fever...in more ways than one." Her voice was deliberately suggestive, and his body relaxed as he returned her smile slowly. His arm dropped around her shoulder again, and his fingers brushed her neck. She willingly let him pull her closer.
"I wish I'd been there too," Tom said softly. "Or that we'd found you sooner."
"Luckily for you, I'm a resourceful engineer," B'Elanna said. "And Harry saved the day salvaging that transmitter."
"Yes, he did," Tom agreed. "I'll have to find some way to thank him for that."
"You will," B'Elanna said confidently. She was silent for a moment. "Tom...about Kelis..."
Tom tensed just slightly again, but he spoke calmly enough. "What about him?"
"He really wasn't trying to hurt me. He just didn't want me to...wander away while I was delirious." Or escape. But B'Elanna had left that part out of the logs, and she decided it was better left unmentioned. "He untied me as soon as I was conscious. And he brought me food and supplies. He helped me as much as he was able." She looked at Tom. "I think you actually would have liked him if you'd met him."
"I hope you'll forgive me if I'm not as confident about that as you are," Tom said quietly.
"I will," B'Elanna said easily. She might feel the exactly the same if their positions were reversed. In fact, she was sure she would. "But don't forget he did label your character in his play as the intrepid helmsman."
Tom smiled just a bit at her teasing tone. "He did, didn't he? 'The Rescue of B'Elanna Torres'..."
B'Elanna grinned at the way he rolled it slowly off his tongue. "Catchy title, don't you think?"
Tom chuckled. "I definitely like the title. And given the inspiration he had to work with, I'm sure it turned out to be a good play."
"Well, he did have a few things wrong at first," B'Elanna said. "For instance, he seemed to think all that happened on Voyager was
Tom's eyebrows rose. "Really?"
"Yes. There was too little action in his play, and far too much kissing for my taste. But I set him straight."
"Too much kissing. And how did I ever get the idea that you *like* kissing, B'Elanna?" Tom's voice was dry.
B'Elanna shrugged. "I don't exactly mind it," she said carelessly. She managed to force down a smile at Tom's deliberately affronted look. "But I think certain things are more appropriate in private, don't you? Kelis had everyone on the crew involved in some steamy romance, and kissing each other everywhere, no matter what crisis was going on. He even had Janeway and Chakotay making out like teenagers."
Tom looked at her in dismay. "No! Say it isn't so. Thank god you fixed that, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna smirked at Tom's sarcastic tone. "Harry was kissing the Delaney sisters."
"Both of them?" Tom asked, grinning. "Harry probably wouldn't object to that."
"And the intrepid helmsman was kissing Seven of Nine..."
Tom's mouth dropped open slightly. "I was kissing Seven of Nine?" He frowned. "Why did Kelis think that I was involved with Seven?"
B'Elanna shook her head. "He didn't. He..." she paused. "Well, he had a good idea you and I are involved with each other. But no one else he paired up is really involved either. It had no basis in reality. That was another reason I told him all the romance in his play was silly."
Tom had a thoughtful expression on his face. "So who did he pair you up with?"
B'Elanna looked at him. "Uh huh, what?"
"He wanted you for himself."
B'Elanna laughed. "That's ridiculous. He was just...a friend to me under the circumstances. And he had a girlfriend." She assumed Lanya was his girlfriend anyway, though Kelis hadn't paid all that much attention to her. "I wasn't the least bit interested."
"I didn't say *you* were."
B'Elanna gave him a smug smile. "Are you jealous, Tom?"
Tom sounded completely serious, and B'Elanna didn't know what to say for a minute. "You are?" she finally asked, baffled.
"In your mission log, when you mentioned that the play was coming together well for Kelis--that must have been after you set him straight about the kissing..." Tom's lips quirked a little, though his eyes remained serious. "You said he'd called you his inspiration, and that he obviously didn't know you, since you weren't the type to be anybody's inspiration. Then you said 'Imagine being someone's inspiration.' I was reading the written transcript, not listening to the actual logs you recorded, B'Elanna, but I still think I got the gist of what you meant."
B'Elanna remembered recording that log entry. She'd just had no idea how that might have sounded. "I certainly can't remember any other time in my life when someone was inspired to write about me. I'm not exactly the kind of woman who inspires poetry. Or a play, in this case."
"Are we just talking about writing here?" Tom asked quietly.
"I..." she paused reflectively, though she very well what he meant. "Yes. The idea that I helped create something lasting, that I inspired it was...I don't know. It made me feel kind of proud. Special, in a way I've never felt before."
"I'm glad for you then."
B'Elanna could hear the effort he put into sounding sincere and nonchalant at the same time. She rested her head on his shoulder again. "Of course there are other ways of making someone feel special," she murmured. "And some of those you're very good at Tom."
"Am I?" Tom asked lightly.
"Very good." She let her fingers rest above the collar of his uniform shirt, on the small pulse in his throat.
His fingers were playing with her hair again, lightly brushing her cheek. "B'Elanna, I hope you don't think that you haven't been an inspiration to me."
"Have I?" she asked.
"Yes." He kissed the central ridge of her brow. "I know I don't always act like it, but you've changed my life. In ways I probably still don't comprehend. I can't say that doesn't scare me a bit, but I realized while you were gone, when I wasn't sure..." He kissed the tip of her nose. "I like where I am now. And it's mostly thanks to you."
She did know that he'd changed parts of his life to accommodate her, as she'd done for him. And she definitely liked where she was right now too. His mouth was hovering over hers, and she pulled back deliberately as he moved to kiss her, so that their lips were barely touching. Her tongue came out and lightly brushed his lower lip, then slowly outlined his upper lip. He remained perfectly still until she started to deepen the kiss, then he met her stroke for stroke. It was long, slow and thoroughly satisfying, and B'Elanna sighed as they separated.
"See, I knew you liked kissing," Tom teased.
"Like I said, it's okay," B'Elanna returned glibly. "With the right inspiration."
"Are you calling me your inspiration?" Tom asked lightly.
"Could be." She looked at him. "Did you know that Kelis asked if I was in love with you?" she asked conversationally. Of course she knew he didn't, because she hadn't mentioned it in her mission logs. And he hadn't read her personal logs yet.
"He did?" Tom smirked a little. "Just what did you say about me in your logs, B'Elanna? I didn't get to that part yet."
"You think I'd talk about you in a mission log, Tom?"
Tom shrugged. Then he frowned. "You mean he listened to your personal logs?"
"He didn't have authorization," B'Elanna said.
"Right. Then..." Tom's voice trailed off, and he looked perplexed.
"When I was feverish all that time, I guess I was delirious too. I vaguely remember thinking you were there, and that I was talking to you." And until Kelis had asked his question, she hadn't realized that she must have spoken some her restless thoughts aloud. "I guess I said some things out loud."
"Suggestive things?" Tom asked, smiling a little.
"Maybe," she said enigmatically. The only part she actually recalled was asking Tom to hold her when she was shivering with chills, and to stroke her and cool her heated skin when she was burning up. It seemed at times that he'd been there doing just that. It was all mixed up in her head, and even now she didn't know what she had spoken aloud, and what had just raged silently through her mind. But she'd been annoyed at the thought that Kelis, a man she barely knew at the time, had listened to her fevered musings, so she'd cut him off immediately when he'd brought it up. And there was no reason now to remind Tom again of how ill she'd been, when there was nothing he could have done about it. She shrugged casually instead. "Whatever I was rambling about, it was enough."
"So even when you're delirious, you can't get your mind off me."
B'Elanna returned his mischievous grin. "What can I say, Tom? No matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to get you out of my mind."
"Good. I have the same problem."
"You can't get yourself out of your mind?"
Tom laughed. "No, you. Especially during the last couple of weeks."
"I'm sure you were worried about Harry too."
"I was. He's a good friend. It would hurt a lot to lose him."
"I know." She'd been worried about Harry too. She had almost never been so happy to see anyone in her life as she'd been to see him appear on the Delta Flyer. "Tom..."
"Hmmm." His voice murmured against her hair.
"You haven't mentioned the Delta Flyer yet."
"Why would I?"
"She didn't fare as well as Harry and I. In fact, she's a little mangled."
Tom shrugged. "She can be fixed."
Though B'Elanna knew Tom had still been on the bridge when she was beamed to sickbay, and it wasn't likely that he would have detoured to the shuttlebay, the question still popped out of her mouth. Along with that stupid feminine pronoun ingrained into Starfleet officers when talking about ships. "Have you seen her yet?"
B'Elanna smiled inwardly at his perfunctory answer. She leaned back and looked at him. "Well, she's going to need some work."
Tom shrugged again. "That's fine." His gaze on B'Elanna was intent. "I'm not upset about the Delta Flyer, B'Elanna." His lips curved wryly. "Like I told you before, we're just friends. All I really care about it that she stayed in one piece while you were aboard."
B'Elanna appreciated that fact herself, and Tom's obvious relief. "We can fix her up, better than new."
"We?" Tom asked.
"Sure. I figure I can get us assigned to the project for a few days. You've been saying that you want to update the helm configuration. And with a little tweaking I can increase the power supply to the engines." Her lips quirked. "So they're louder."
Tom's eyes lit up at the thought, and B'Elanna grinned. "I'll talk to Chakotay tomorrow."
"Tomorrow's good," Tom agreed. "Let's think about it then."
"What does that leave us to think about tonight?" B'Elanna asked archly.
"How glad we are that these past couple of weeks are over," Tom said with feeling.
B'Elanna nodded. "I am glad. I can't say I completely regret the experience." She hoped Tom would understand that, at least a little. "I've never been part of that kind of creative process, and I think I learned a thing or two about myself. I have some good memories because of that."
"I know." Tom's tone was more accepting now. "But there is one thing that is still bothering me..."
"What you said in your log. You were wrong. You *are* the kind of woman who inspires poetry." Tom's mock severe look dared her to refute him. "Epic sagas even." B'Elanna rolled her eyes quickly as he smiled. "Really. I never doubted that from the first time I saw you. I'm not surprised Kelis wanted to write about you. That's partly why I feel a little jealous."
B'Elanna wasn't sure what he meant. "Why?"
"Because I'm not the man who can do that. Write a play, or poetry." Tom smiled crookedly. "Slick adventure holoprograms I can do, but something meaningful and lasting...that kind of writing is way beyond my limited artistic abilities."
"Oh, I don't know, Tom," B'Elanna said softly. "Maybe you'll never be a great writer. But you certainly have your poetic moments, with the spoken word, for instance."
"Do I?" Tom asked.
"Yes." She draped her leg over his, and rubbed her bare heel against his ankle, using her leverage to slide his pant leg up until her foot touched his bare warm skin. "And there are other things you do that are sheer poetry." She nipped at his jaw gently. "I can attest to the fact that you have more than your share of...artistic abilities."
Tom nuzzled her neck. "Want me to show you how you inspire those artistic abilities, B'Elanna?"
She shivered slightly as his breath gently teased her earlobe. "That's the best offer I've had in two weeks."
"What about dinner?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Later."
"Later," he murmured in agreement as he slipped her robe from her shoulders. It fell in soft satiny folds around her wrists and waist. He skimmed his hands in long, slow, feathery strokes over her bared skin from her shoulders to her belly, in no hurry at all.
B'Elanna's breath hitched into a small, soft moan. Much as she enjoyed the hard, stormy unions between them that she often initiated herself, it was this slow, sensual slide into mindlessly blissful oblivion that she'd discovered--that she and Tom had discovered together--was her real undoing. She gave herself up willingly to the sweet torture of his leisurely lovemaking, letting him welcome her home in his own eloquent way.
And during the course of the evening, and into the night, he showed her--time and again, and with great artistic flair--exactly how much she inspired him.