Disclaimer: Star Trek and its characters belong to Viacom/Paramount. I am borrowing them for fun only, not profit.
Synopsis: Neelix needs a small contribution to his weekly gazette. P/T. Rated PG13 for sexual situations and innuendo.
Note: This short story is dedicated to PJs, and to all the other Collectives/Feverites who share her particular...obsession. You know who you are ;-)
"One Little Question"
by Julie Evans (Juli17@aol.com)
"You want to know WHAT?"
"Specifically, what part of Tom do you find most sexy?"
B‘Elanna stared at Neelix, who had simply repeated his question in the same animated tone, unfazed by the incredulous, forbidding tone in her voice. She glanced around the Mess Hall, glad that the handful of others present were seated several tables away. None were looking their way. Then she leaned closer to Neelix. "That‘s not really anyone‘s business..."
"But as I explained, I‘m starting the new Relationship Corner in my Between Decks Gazette and I need contributions-"
"I don‘t really want to contribute, Neelix." B‘Elanna‘s tone was firm. "And I think you should keep the Gazette confined to the stories and columns you‘ve been doing."
"Oh, I‘m not getting rid of those," Neelix said.
"After all, everyone loves the stories, especially Michael Ayala‘s detective serial and Sam Wildman‘s poetry, and the Dear Confidante and How To columns, though I can‘t say that the Doctor‘s last How To contribution on identifying parts of the humanoid
brain from preserved brain slices was very popular, -though he did include some nice sketches-"
"Neelix." B‘Elanna gave the Talaxian an impatient look. He‘d appealed to her before to make a contribution, and maybe she should participate. But she certainly wasn‘t about to write a letter to Dear Confidante, and this new column Neelix had now come up with.... "Fine. I‘ll contribute to the Gazette. I know I‘m past due. I‘m sure I can come up with something for the How To column."
"Of course," Neelix agreed brightly. "I‘m sure there are many things you can share. Perhaps from Klingon culture," Neelix mused, looking down at the PADD in his hand, and not noticing the dark look B‘Elanna shot him. "But this month‘s How To column has already been written by Susan Nicoletti."
"Okay, maybe next month then," B‘Elanna said, pressing her hands against the table in preparation for making her escape.
"But you haven‘t answered my question!"
"Neelix, I‘m not sure this new column of yours is such a good idea-"
"Commander Chakotay thought it was a great idea."
B‘Elanna stared at Neelix, nonplused for the second time in as many minutes. She dropped back into her seat. "Chakotay thinks there should be a "relationship corner" in your Gazette?"
Neelix nodded at her skeptical question. "He thought it was a fine idea. After all, everyone loves gossip, and we all know how it runs rampant through the ship. As the Commander said, we are pretty confined here, and the love life of others is by nature an endless source of fascination among virtually all humanoid races. Well, perhaps not the Vulcans," Neelix amended. Then he gave B‘Elanna a conspiratorial look. "Though I suspect Mr. Tuvok and young Mr. Vorik will read it anyway."
"Did Chakotay contribute something to your new column?"
Neelix nodded again. "Of course, the Commander‘s not exactly involved in an ongoing romantic relationship right now-"
B‘Elanna raised an eyebrow at that, and uttered a small "hmmph".
"So I asked him something of a more general nature, about romantic compatibility. Kind of the inaugural question for the new column."
"What was the question?"
Neelix shook his head and responded cheerfully, "Now if I tell you everything that‘s in the upcoming issue, what will you have left to read? You‘ll just have to wait for that, and for the everyone else‘s answer to the question I just asked you."
B‘Elanna gave Neelix an astonished look. "You asked other people what they find sexy about Tom?""
Neelix chortled, then stopped when B‘Elanna speared him with a sharp glare. "Oh, B‘Elanna," He couldn‘t contain one more chuckle, though he tried to make it sound like he was clearing his throat. "Uh hum. I asked the each of the participants about the person they‘re currently involved with. In your case that would be Tom."
"I see." B‘Elanna‘s glare only fractionally subsided as she held Neelix‘s mirthful gaze.
Neelix barely noticed. "Actually I had to go with my second choice, since my first question was "what is your favorite sexual position and why-"
"And that was exactly the response I got!" Neelix shook his head, as if he still found that reaction perplexing. "I forget that most Federation species are more reserved about sex than we Talaxians. We would see sharing such information as a simple offer of knowledge that might be helpful to others."
"I‘m sure that‘s very enlightened, Neelix," B‘Elanna muttered. And maybe it was, but she wasn‘t fond of envisioning a bunch of Talaxians conversing about the merits of various sexual positions with the same animated enthusiasm with which Neelix compared leola root recipes.
"Commander Chakotay also reminded me that Starfleet Terms of Service does place certain restrictions on extremely explicit material being disseminated electronically on starships, unless it is under a personal privacy code not for general public access.
So I used this follow up question and it has gone quite well. Tom was the last person I asked-"
"You‘ve asked Tom this question?"
"Yes, I caught him during his lunch break earlier." Neelix leaned forward and lowered his voice. "He actually said there were so many things about you he found sexy that he would have to get back to me in a few hours to narrow it down to one answer."
"Really?" B‘Elanna was pretty sure Neelix was delivering this piece of information to convince her to participate, but she couldn‘t help feeling flattered by Tom‘s remark. She still wasn‘t crazy about this though. Maybe the question was innocuous enough, and meant in good humor, but sometimes the circumstances on Voyager precluded taking anything too lightly... "Does the captain know about this?"
"Of course, but truthfully she didn‘t express much opinion on it, and she declined my offer to be the inaugural contributor, which is why I went to Commander Chakotay." Neelix shrugged. "But since the Gazette isn‘t an official ship newsletter and is designated to be read by the crew in their personal time, the captain‘s position is that the content is dictated by the interest of the readers. And I think the captain understands that the crew has been put in the position of living out a significant portion of their lives on Voyager. At least until Starfleet really does find a way to get us back to the Alpha Quadrant, or we find one ourselves."
That was something B‘Elanna had no intention of giving up on, but Neelix continued before she could speak, "The captain knows the crew can‘t be expected to be Starfleet officers twenty four hours a day, every day, for years on end. The crew needs the opportunity to pursue their personal lives also, and that‘s part of my job as morale officer." Neelix‘s chest puffed slightly. "And we need some lightheartedness, some fun, to keep our lives from being so Starfleet serious all the time."
"I see your point, Neelix," B‘Elanna admitted. She did, even if he expressed it in his usual long, annoyingly cheerful fashion. She doubted the captain could come up with much argument against it either. She sighed. "So, everyone else has answered your question?"
Neelix nodded enthusiastically, sensing B‘Elanna‘s pending capitulation. "Everyone I‘ve asked, that is everyone who‘s involved in an ongoing relationship.
Gerron, Megan, Susan, Roberto, Ethan, Janine-"
"All right." If everyone else was willing to answer—if Tom was willing to answer—then maybe she was just being too rigid again, too Klingon. She shuddered at the thought. She sighed, decision made. She could be just as easygoing as the next person. "Fine. I‘ll answer it."
"It is just one little question after all, and all in fun," Neelix said, smiling widely. Then he happily repeated it for her. "What part of Tom do you find the most sexy?"
That wasn‘t a little question. What part of Tom didn‘t she find sexy, B‘Elanna thought. She told herself to focus, to think lighthearted, and to pick out one thing, the sexiest part of Tom...
Neelix leaned forward as B‘Elanna pondered, PADD in hand, prepared to record every bit of her answer with full and complete accuracy.
"She actually answered that question?"
Neelix nodded, looking perplexed. "Why wouldn‘t she?"
Tom shrugged. If he felt an occasional need to guard his privacy, it was small compared to B‘Elanna‘s general reserve in that area.
"B‘Elanna has become much more congenial with the crew than when she first boarded Voyager, Tom," Neelix said approvingly. "She‘s not as prickly as she used to be. In fact, since you two have been together, she has become much more at ease in social situations. I think your natural conviviality has rubbed off on her. Some."
Tom smiled at Neelix‘s qualification, knowing the Talaxian was fond of the Chief Engineer as much for the challenge of breaking through her prickly nature as anything else. And it was true. B‘Elanna had become more comfortable socializing with the crew, whether through his influence or not, he didn‘t know. In any case she‘d hardly lost her sharp edge entirely, which he could easily attest to. And he had no interest in changing B‘Elanna, since he liked her just the way she was. "So B‘Elanna answered your question," he mused. "What exactly did she say?"
"Oh, no, Tom." Neelix waggled a finger at him. "You have to read the Gazette to find out the answer. That‘s part of the fun of a blind survey. And no cheating and asking her."
Tom shrugged. "Fine. I guess I can wait a day."
"Now it‘s your turn to answer, Tom." Neelix leaned forward eagerly. "What part of B‘Elanna do you find the most sexy?"
That was a loaded question. Tom couldn‘t think of a single part of B‘Elanna that he didn‘t find incredibly sexy, from her softly defined brow ridges all the way down to her shapely feet. There were a hundred—a thousand—answers to that question.
Tom Paris decided to play it safe.
Less than twenty four hours later Tom sat in the Mess Hall eating an early dinner and reading the latest edition of the Between Decks Gazette. More accurately, he had skimmed most of it, passing the fiction and poetry sections for the moment, glancing only briefly at the other sections like the How To and Dear Confidante columns, finally skipping forward to the Relationship Corner. It was hard to miss since the silhouette of two bodies wrapped close together, lips just touching, filled the screen of his dataPADD.
He quickly bypassed Neelix‘s wordy intro, then read Chakotay‘s short essay on romantic compatibility and spirit guides. He was amazed Chakotay had been talked into it, but Neelix definitely had a talent for persuasion. Chakotay‘s answer to the question was typically ambiguous, but Tom could imagine how many couples would be rushing to the Commander‘s office wanting to know if their spirit guides were compatible. He chuckled at the thought.
He moved on to the survey question, headed by the promise "And now a lighthearted question for the romantic couples on board Voyager..." He read through the various answers, amused by some, and surprised by the revealing, even risqué, nature of others.
"The soft skin in the hollow behind her ear just drives me wild."
"The look of promise in his eyes when he first spots me in a room."
"The way she looks in her backless black silk dress that hugs every curve, especially the delectable curves I can see when she‘s walking away."
"His lips. His lower lips is so pouty, so kissable."
"Her gorgeous, endless legs."
"The way he looks when he first gets out of the shower, with his hair all damp and curly, and beads of water glistening on his skin."
He was beginning to wonder if he‘d approached this survey a little too cautiously as he quickly read through the rest of the answers. There were twenty two couples on Voyager, and his and B‘Elanna‘s answers were listed last.
"Tom, what do you find most sexy about B‘Elanna?"
"Her amazing brain. That‘s the sexiest part of any woman, after all."
Well, it had seemed like a clever and safe answer at the time. And it wasn‘t likely that B‘Elanna was going to give an outrageous or revealing answer to the question either...
"B‘Elanna, what do you find most sexy about Tom?"
"I suppose, his chest hair. It‘s soft and springy against the solid muscles of his chest and I love to run my fingers through it. When my cheek is resting on his chest it tickles a little, but it also feels... cuddly."
Tom stared openmouthed at those words displayed on his PADD for nerly two full minutes, his brain temporarily frozen. The most coherent thought he could finally come up with, notwithstanding that he‘d never realized how fond B‘Elanna was of his chest hair, was to wonder if she‘d read this yet. Not likely, or she would have already found him.
Tom rose abruptly and strode out of the Mess Hall, passing several other crew members on the way. He was pretty sure he saw some quickly repressed grins, though everyone quickly looked away when he caught their gazes. He knew it was a sign that he was probably in some serious trouble when B‘Elanna did read the latest issue of the Gazette. But he also couldn‘t help the small smile that played on his lips. It might just be worth it for this small new revelation he‘d just read.
"My brain? The part of me you find the most sexy is MY BRAIN?!"
"B‘Elanna." Tom backed away slightly as B‘Elanna was pressed up right against him, and not looking too happy. She‘d stormed into his quarters mere seconds ago, sooner than he‘d expected her. She must have read the Gazette the second she got off shift.
"I read things like "her gorgeous legs", "the delectable way she looks in her slinky black dress", "the throaty sound of her voice when she whispers sweet nothings in my ear", and then "HER AMAZING BRAIN"!?"
B‘Elanna‘s voice rose again at the end and Tom backed up further, only to be stopped by the arm of the couch. "B‘Elanna, I meant that in the nicest way. I thought you preferred to be respected rather than ogled. Not that I don‘t do that, too..." his voice lowered suggestively, but trailed off when B‘Elanna didn‘t respond. "And I didn‘t want to embarrass you with flowery compliments or sexual innuendo..."
B‘Elanna met Tom‘s earnest gaze. It was hard to argue with that. He respected her and her amazing brain.
Great. And he hadn‘t wanted to embarrass her. Which, of course, she done very well to herself. She cut off that thought. "I know you respect me, Tom," B‘Elanna said, her voice softening. "And I know I‘m not a very sentimental person. But it would have been nice to read that you find something besides my brain sexy-"
"B‘Elanna." Tom heard the slight edge of hurt in her voice, and he gave her an admonishing look. "Are you serious?" He closed a hand around her wrist and raised it when she didn‘t pull away. "There‘s not anything about you that I don‘t find stunningly sexy. For instance, the silky way your skin feels right here..." He ran his thumb lightly along the smooth warm underside of her wrist.
"And the way your pulse jumps just a bit when I do this..." He pressed his lips gently against the pulse point there. "And the way your tongue darts out and moistens your upper lip when you start to get aroused..." Tom‘s mouth curved into a small smile when B‘Elanna unconsciously did just that. "I find that incredibly sexy," he said, his voice a husky drawl.
"Then there‘s the way your jaw clenches just a little when I do this..." He brushed his fingers along the line of her jaw in a feathery caress.
"Okay, I forgive you," B‘Elanna said, her breath catching as Tom‘s lips touched the spot on her jaw that his fingers had just sensitized. "Stop." Her breath hitched again as his fingers trailed lightly down her throat. "No, don‘t stop."
Tom smiled at her flustered reply, his bright blue eyes meeting her dark smoky gaze. "I‘m just getting started, B‘Elanna. I plan to kiss every part of you that I find sexy, starting here..." He kissed the top of her head. "And moving down..." He kissed the top edge of her gently sloping brow ridges. "Until I work my way all the way down."
Her eyes closed and her voice was a throaty whisper as Tom‘s lips trailed down her face. "Tom..."
"This could take quite a while..."
Tom was good to his promise. It took quite a while. And when he was done he found himself sprawled on his couch with B‘Elanna settled comfortably in his arms, her cheek against his chest, and her fingers brushing against him....
"B‘Elanna," Tom said softly.
"Hmmm..." B‘Elanna‘s response was a low, drowsy murmur.
"How come you never told me you were obsessed with my chest hair?"
B‘Elanna‘s hand, that had been absently stroking Tom‘s chest, stilled, and she groaned softly. "I can‘t believe I answered Neelix‘s stupid question. I should have followed my first instincts-"
"B‘Elanna." Tom pressed a hand against B‘Elanna‘s jaw and gently pressured her to look up at him. "I don‘t care if-" He paused in mid sentence and his eyes widened. "B‘Elanna, are you blushing? Just because you‘re obsessed with my chest hair?"
"I‘m not blushing!" She frowned at the amused glint in Tom‘s eyes, and the smile he couldn‘t quite keep off his face. "And I am not obsessed..." She glared at his widening smile. "I just didn‘t appreciate the looks I got in Engineering this afternoon. I couldn‘t figure out why everyone was staring at me with these....absurd grins on their faces." She growled out the last part. "It was that stupid question." She groaned again. "I‘ll never live it down."
Tom‘s chest vibrated with laughter as B‘Elanna dropped her head and buried her face against his chest. He stroked her hair. "Don‘t worry, B‘Elanna. It‘ll only last a few days, until the next bit of gossip starts making the rounds, or until the new issue of the Gazette comes out with Neelix‘s next relationship question."
"One which I will not be answering," B‘Elanna growled. "This one has me in enough trouble..."
"Hey, I thought it was kind of revealing. For instance, I never knew you found my chest hair so irresistible..."
B‘Elanna raised her head again and her eyes narrowed at the grin on his face. He was finding this whole thing entirely too amusing. Her fingers curled against his chest. "Do you know the real reason I‘m so fond of your chest hair, Tom?" She yanked gently, pulling the red gold hairs caught between her fingers taut, and was rewarded by his exaggerated wince.
"You enjoy torturing me?"
"Well, there are moments when you deserve it." She unclenched her fist and patted his chest lightly.
"I know, but I thought I...apologized adequately earlier. Uh, more than adequately." Tom gave her a smug smile.
B‘Elanna squirmed a little at that. "Yes, I suppose you did," she admitted, with a small smile in return.
"And, B‘Elanna, I really am flattered that you find my chest hair sexy," Tom said softly. "In fact," he added slyly, "from now on you can consider my chest hair your chest hair. Figuratively speaking."
B‘Elanna‘s eyebrows rose. "Really?"
Tom gave her a mischievous grin. "Feel free do whatever you want with it, stroke it, kiss it, yank it, braid it-"
"Shave it off?"
Tom‘s eyes widened in alarm. "What?!"
B‘Elanna smiled wickedly, then she patted his chest again. "Just kidding, Tom."
"Oh." Tom sighed with exaggerated relief. "That‘s right, you find my chest hair to sexy to shave it off." He frowned, though there was a teasing glint in his eyes. "I feel a little...used that you love me for my chest hair. Not for my charming personality, or my stunning good looks, or my own amazing brain. For my chest hair. Ouch!"
B‘Elanna had yanked a bit harder this time. Then she smiled at him provocatively. "You know, there are a few other things I find sexy about you, Tom."
"Only a few?" he asked.
"Quite a few."
Tom gave her a hopeful look. "Care to show me?"
B‘Elanna nodded. "Uh huh." She slithered up him and dropped a light kiss the blond hair brushing across his forehead. "From top to bottom." She kissed his brow, his closed eyes, then trailed her lips down his cheek. "And it could take a while." Her lips touched the corner of his mouth. "Quite a while..."
It was indeed again quite a while later when they curled up together in Tom‘s bed, with Tom‘s arms holding B‘Elanna closely to him and B‘Elanna‘s cheek cuddled against the soft red gold hairs on Tom chest. as they both fell into a deep and contented sleep.