Disclaimer: Viacom/Paramount owns Star Trek and its characters. I am just borrowing them briefly, simply for fun, not profit.
by Julie Evans (comments to Juli17@aol.com)
B‘Elanna Torres dropped into the chair at her desk, curled her legs under her, and ran a hand through her damp hair. She felt better after her shower. She‘d been hot, dirty and tired after another long day in Engineering. Actually she was still tired. But she knew she couldn‘t sleep with thoughts of everything that was wrong on Voyager right now weighing on her mind. She might as well use the down time to work on some of the new adjustment figures the computer had spewed out today. She picked up the padd laying on her desk and activated it. Although she tried to concentrate on the equations that appeared on the small screen, the numbers swam before her eyes. She steeled herself to focus her attention.
The chime of her door announcer a few moments later startled B‘Elanna. She frowned at the interruption just as she was managing to make sense of the data on the padd and didn‘t even spare a thought about who might be at her door. "Enter."
Tom Paris walked through the door, perhaps the last person B‘Elanna would have expected to see. They had barely talked to each other in the past few days, mostly because their paths had rarely crossed lately. With all the repairs and modifications to Voyager‘s systems in the past week, there‘d been little free time available to the crew. Everyone‘s mind had been on one thing, how to get through one more treacherous area of the Delta quadrant with the ship and her crew intact. Voyager had crossed some pretty inhospitable space lately, but that paled compared to entering the territory of the Borg.
"Tom, what are you doing here?" B‘Elanna asked distractedly, glancing back at her padd.
"You sound a little irritable, B‘Elanna," Tom said, walking into her quarters. "Not enough rest lately?"
"I‘m trying to rest right now," B‘Elanna said, looking up from her padd to glare at Tom. "You‘re interrupting me."
Tom walked up to her and pulled the padd out of her hands. "Warp matrix equations," he said, looking at the screen. "That doesn‘t look very restful. In fact it‘s giving me a headache already."
"Tom, this is the second time you‘ve snatched a padd right out of my hands. The very next time you do it, I swear you won‘t be able to walk straight for a week."
Tom could tell she meant it. He shrugged and handed the padd back to her. "Aren‘t you getting enough of this stuff all day and half the evening in Engineering?"
B‘Elanna stood up and dropped the padd on the desk with a clatter. "In case you haven‘t noticed the ship is in a rather precarious position right now. I‘m just trying to do my part."
"When isn‘t this ship in a precarious position?" Tom asked rhetorically. "We‘re all doing our part, but that doesn‘t mean we have to work ourselves to exhaustion. I hear you were practically thrown out of Engineering and ordered to rest. And what are you doing?" Tom gestured at the padd laying on her desk. "Working."
"Tom, I‘m touched by your concern," B‘Elanna said curtly, "but you shouldn‘t listen to gossip. I‘m fine."
"You don‘t look fine," Tom said, "in fact you look terrible." That was something of an exaggeration. Even with exhaustion etching her features, B‘Elanna standing in front of him freshly scrubbed in a simple curve-hugging shift that nicely displayed her bare legs was an attractive sight. Still, the comment hit its mark.
"Thanks," B‘Elanna snapped. She‘d like to tell Tom he looked terrible, too. But in a lightweight cerulean cotton sweatsuit that emphasize the blue of his eyes he looked pretty...good. And completely relaxed. "And I do appreciate the lecture. If that‘s why you came, then you can leave now."
"No...," Tom drawled, as if he‘d just remembered he had come with a purpose in mind. "Do you remember that hoverball game you lost to me a couple of weeks ago?"
B‘Elanna stared at him. "Don‘t tell me you‘re here to collect now?"
"Well, yes, I am."
B‘Elanna shook her head. "Tom, obviously this is not the best time, as you‘ve so kindly pointed out."
Tom shrugged. "Sorry, B‘Elanna, but when it‘s time to pay up, it‘s time to pay up."
B‘Elanna gave Tom an aggravated look. So much for his deep concern about her welfare. She definitely had to reconsider this war of competitions she and Tom and gotten into recently. Especially since she was more often the one paying up. She sighed. "What do you want me to do, Tom? Teach you more Klingon fighting techniques?"
Tom smiled and shook his head. "I don‘t want you to do anything for me, B‘Elanna. I want to do something for you."
B‘Elanna looked at Tom, disconcerted. "You want to do something for me when I lost the bet?"
"I figure the only way you will let me do something for you, B‘Elanna, is if your coerced. Say, by the fact that you owe me on a bet."
B‘Elanna frowned. This was making no sense. "What exactly do you want to do for me?"
"I want to put you to sleep."
B‘Elanna stared at Tom, completely nonplussed. "Come again?"
"I want a half hour of your time," Tom said patiently. "By the end of that half hour you‘ll be asleep, which you sorely need. That‘s how you can pay up on our bet."
Not only was she going to have to reconsider these competitive wagers with Tom, they definitely needed to set some guidelines about the payback in advance, B‘Elanna decided. "Tom, that is hardly necessary. I can sleep without assistance. I‘m sure you can think of another way for me to pay off our bet. At another time maybe?"
"Sorry, B‘Elanna, but it‘s my choice and this is it. A half hour of your time. You‘re alseep, and the debt‘s paid."
B‘Elanna had found Tom to be many things in the past, irritating certainly, amusing sometimes, and often just a challenge to be with. But she had never had the urge to doze off in his presence. "What do you plan to do, Tom? Bore me to sleep? Don‘t let this go to your head, but I don‘t think you have it in you."
Tom grinned. "Just leave it to me. I have my methods."
B‘Elanna narrowed her gaze. "Why don‘t I trust you?"
"Why don‘t you?" Tom responded, the grin fading from his face. "No advances, B‘Elanna. You have my solemn word."
If there was one thing that was harder on B‘Elanna‘s peace of mind than Tom being deliberately charming, it was Tom being openly sincere. Looking into his direct blue gaze she didn‘t doubt his sincerity. Maybe that was the problem. She was more comfortable with the Tom who‘s motives were willfully questionable. Then she didn‘t have to take the game quite so seriously. But she couldn‘t come up with a good reason to refuse him. Or maybe part of her didn‘t want to. Still, she mumbled one more half-hearted protest.
"Tom, you really don‘t need to do this-"
"Never question an easy payback, B‘Elanna," Tom said. He reached over and deactivated the padd laying on the desk. "We don‘t need that." Then he nodded toward the bed, which was made to military precision. "Lie down and get comfortable."
B‘Elanna looked at Tom doubtfully. Tom just raised his eyebrows, and B‘Elanna shrugged in acquiescence.
"Computer, locate file "Tom‘s Lullaby" and initiate sequence 1," Tom said as he walked around the corner into the sitting area of B‘Elanna‘s quarters to the replicator unit. A few moments later he returned to the bed where B‘Elanna had stretched out and was watching him. He handed her the glass he was carrying.
B‘Elanna took it and discovered it was warm to the touch. She stared at the white liquid and made a face. "Is this milk?"
"It is," Tom said as he sat down on the edge of the bed. "Warm milk. It‘s very relaxing and it will make you sleepy. Don‘t worry, it‘s not drugged."
"I didn‘t think it was," B‘Elanna said quickly. "I just don‘t like milk." She took a sip of it anyway, and grimaced. "Yuck. Especially warm milk."
"Drink it, B‘Elanna," Tom cajoled.
"Fine." B‘Elanna downed the rest of it in one drink and pressed the glass hard into Tom‘s hand. "There."
Tom sat the glass on the bedside table. "Computer dim lights to 25% illumination and initiate "Tom‘s Lullaby" sequence 2."
Tom kicked his legs up on the bed and leaned back against the wall as the lights dimmed. B‘Elanna eyed him warily and reluctantly edged over to give him more room. At that moment soft, musical strains filled the room.
"What is this?" B‘Elanna asked, listening to the music.
"A lullaby...isn‘t that like a cradle song?"
"A lullaby is simply music that lulls someone to sleep," Tom said, "though my mother did used to play Brahm‘s to me when I was a little boy. It‘s a pretty well known piece actually."
"I‘ve never heard it," B‘Elanna replied. She smiled wanly at Tom. "But then, lullabies are hardly common in Klingon culture. I think my mother used to sing battle songs to me occasionally when I wouldn‘t go to sleep."
"Battle songs?" Tom asked incredulously. "No wonder you‘re such an insomniac."
"Whereas you always sleep like a baby."
"Most of the time," Tom agreed. "I just push aside whatever outside pressures the day has brought and figure I‘ll deal with them tomorrow. It usually works." He didn‘t mention the inner demons that had sabotaged his sleep in the past, his time on Voyager had vanquished them for the most part. "You, on the other hand, can‘t stop feeling that you have to be responsible for every little thing that happens in Engineering, day or night."
"Hmmm," B‘Elanna murmured, only partly listening to Tom. The soft strains of the lullaby were having a mesmerizing effect on her. Then she felt Tom‘s hand rest lightly on her shoulder.
"Turn over, B‘Elanna."
That brought B‘Elanna‘s senses back to the present. "What?"
"Turn over," Tom repeated patiently. "There‘s nothing like a little massage to relax you and make you sleepy."
Listening to the lullaby was one thing, but the idea of letting Tom give her a massage set off warning signals in her brain. For once she decided to ignore them and she turned over on her stomach. A moment later she felt Tom‘s hands rest firmly on her shoulders. He began to press his hands slowly along and between her shoulder blades, massaging the taut muscles there. It was scary how good Tom‘s hands felt, even through the soft material of her shift. She felt the tension slowly seeping out of her as the Tom worked his magic and a dreamy haze began to enfold her thoughts. Then Tom ran his hand along her slightly protuding spine in a slow, stroking caress. B‘Elanna jerked up.
"You were doing so well, B‘Elanna," Tom said softly, not taking his hand off her neck where it rested lightly after the caress. He brought his other hand up and gently pressed her back down onto the bed. He knew B‘Elanna was sensitive about certain physical traits she had inherited from her Klingon ancestry. He just wanted to make it clear where he stood on the issue. "Relax."
B‘Elanna briefly considered ending this. But Tom‘s hands were already at work again, kneading her neck and putting gentle pressure at the base of her skull. She felt a pleasant sense of lassitude take over her body and felt her thoughts starting to drift again.
"Vulcan Moonrise Evensong," Tom murmured a few moments later, gently pressing his fingers against B‘Elanna‘s skull and circling his thumbs at the base of her neck. "A Vulcan lullaby of sorts."
B‘Elanna sleepily realized Tom was talking about the music that was now playing. The tempo had changed. She thought she could hear Tom softly humming as he slowly worked the tension out of her. She wasn‘t even sure when his hands stopped moving on her skin. It took her a moment to realize what that sudden bereft feeling meant. She rolled over on her back and looked up at Tom, not even aware of the soft yearning visible in her slumberous brown eyes.
Tom caught his breath, feeling a momentary rush of desire that he immediately suppressed. He could see by the dazed expression in B‘Elanna‘s eyes that she was half asleep. She had no idea what a tempting picture she made. Now wasn‘t the right time, but that would come eventually. No matter what B‘Elanna thought, there was no stopping it. But that wasn‘t why he was here tonight. He slouched farther down on the bed, then reached out and pulled B‘Elanna against him.
It was not what B‘Elanna expected. Even in her half conscious state, to find herself flush against Tom‘s body, her head resting on his shoulder, aroused a reaction within her. She felt a stirring inside and her drowsiness receded for a moment. She started to pull away from Tom, but his arm tightened around her and pressed her back against him. "Tom..." B‘Elanna murmured in protest.
"B‘Elanna, you‘re supposed to be falling asleep," Tom said softly, keeping the pressure of his arm on her, though he knew she could break his hold if she wanted to. He brought his other hand up in a slow stroking movement along her arm and lightly grasped her hand where it was tensed against his chest. "Relax, I‘m not going to try anything. I gave you my word as an officer and a gentleman, remember?"
B‘Elanna felt a moment‘s hesitation. Laying in Tom‘s arms felt somehow...right, and that could be a dangerous precedent. Being moved by Tom‘s unspoken restraint, even as a small unanswered part of her protested against that restraint, was...not good. Or good. B‘Elanna was finding it difficult to think clearly. For once she just wanted to not think at all. Just relax and let whatever happened....
But nothing would happen, because she trusted Tom...
Tom felt B‘Elanna‘s hand ease its pressure and the tension completely leave her body as she relaxed against him. He smiled as his hand kept stroking her arm in a rhythmic gesture. "Lullaby of Berenices Four," Tom whispered as the music changed again. He started to sing the words of the lullaby softly in his clear tenor voice.
B‘Elanna could feel the steady rhythm of Tom‘s heartbeat where her hand rested lightly on his chest. The warmth that radiated from his skin and through the thin layers of clothing that separated their bodies spread through B‘Elanna, intensifying her sense of lassitude. Her mind forgot the demands of warp engine upgrades and conduit refits as she drifted toward the ethereal dreamstate of semiconsciousness, accompanied by the soothing murmur of Tom‘s voice, and the soft caress of his breath whispering across her forehead. She only distantly felt Tom‘s fingers stroking her hair and grazing her temple as she sank slowly into a deep and restful sleep.
B‘Elanna woke with a start, looked at the chronometer on her bedside table, and jumped out of bed to retrieve her uniform. She wasn‘t running late, but she was usually up very early and not used to oversleeping. She stopped in mid-act of pulling her shift over her head when she suddenly remembered what had happened last night. She had fallen asleep in Tom‘s arms.
She turned and stared at her bed. The bedsheets were pushed down and rumpled. She could see the imprint where she had slept deeply. And she thought in the wrinkles and folds of the sheets she could see where Tom had lain next to her. In fact it was difficult to separate the two, they merged as one. B‘Elanna felt a slight flush creep over her skin as she remembered why.
She pulled the shift off and slowly resumed putting on her uniform, still having difficulty taking her eyes off the bed. She wondered just when Tom had left her quarters and returned to his. Maybe what she was remembering was simply the vestiges of a dream that lingered in her mind. A dream of waking in the night to find Tom asleep next to her, his hair tousled and peaceful expression on his face. Of snuggling up against him, wrapping her body closely around his and listening contentedly to his soft, sighing breath as he lightly stirred and moved his arms to pull her closer. Yes, probably a dream. One that she found disturbingly alluring.
B‘Elanna finished donning her uniform and went into her bathroom to splash water over her face and brush her teeth. The cold water first, because she suddenly needed it. She had always slept best in her own space, with no one else there to invade her privacy and make her uncomfortable. Or so she‘d thought. But she‘d fallen alseep last night, and slept better than she had in weeks, with someone right next to her. Well, not just someone. Tom.
B‘Elanna rinsed her mouth, tossed the hand towel on the sink and walked into her room. She should simply try and forget last night, but it was getting harder and harder to forget anything Tom said or did. He was starting to invade her thoughts on a regular basis, not to mention her dreams. B‘Elanna stopped at her desk and picked up the padd she had abandoned last night, forcing her thoughts to the work she had to do today. She activated the padd as she walked toward the door, deciding she was better off focusing on warp equations right now. Then she stopped in midstride. Instead of warp matrix equations flowing across the screen, there was a message. Tom had invaded her padd, too.
I won‘t coerce you again, but the next time you‘re sleepless and you need a lullaby, you know where to find me.
BTW, you‘re beautiful when you sleep.
B‘Elanna stared at the words on the screen for a moment. She touched a button on the padd to delete the message, then filed it instead without giving herself time to think about it. A second later the warp matrix equations appeared on the screen. B‘Elanna left her quarters still trying to focus her attention on the numbers in front of her and away from the image of a certain blue eyed lieutenant and whether she might take him up on his offer. She didn‘t even realize that for the first time since she‘d arrived on Voyager, she had forgotten to make her bed.