Title: Property of B‘Elanna
Author: Julie Evans
Summary: Tom and B‘Elanna go sailing on an Italian Lake and celebrate an ancient Earth pagan holiday dedicated to a certain saint. Takes place approximately ten days after the end of the episode "Gravity".
Disclaimer: Star Trek and its characters are owned by Viacom/Paramount. I know that, I‘m just borrowing them and will return them uninjured when done.
Notes: This episode is not a direct coda to "Gravity", but it does contain spoilers for that episode. And since this a Valentine‘s Day story, there is a fair amount of sentiment involved. Rated PG13 for sexual situations and innuendo. Okay to archive to the ASC and PTC Archive. All others please contact the author for permission.
"Property of B‘Elanna" (PG13 version)
by Julie Evans (Juli17@aol.com)
A light breeze blew across the lake, ruffling the great expanse of water into gently undulating waves that bobbed the myriad of white canvassed sailboats dotting the cobalt surface. The breeze teased at the skirt of the yellow sundress B‘Elanna was wearing, causing the soft cotton folds to wrap closely around her shapely legs like a caress as she walked. Tom was not unaware of the effect, as B‘Elanna was not unaware that the breeze also ruffled the white cotton shirt he was wearing, causing it to conform to the firm muscles of his chest. Her appreciative glance went from that enticing sight back to the sun drenched vista of the lake.
"This isn‘t Lake Como," she observed, her gaze taking in the gentler slope of the green shrubbed hills surrounding the large lake, though the jagged snow topped mountains rising in the distance looked the same. And the town on the left of the lakeside promenade where they‘d entered the program was obviously Italian, with its whitewashed buildings surrounding a large piazza, and its small shops and trattorias with umbrella covered tables that spilled out onto the piazza.
"Lake Maggiore," Tom said. "One of the Italian lakes, the largest one in fact." They turned from the promenade to the dock. "We‘re moored over here."
Tom‘s sailboat was in one of the front slips of the small marina, a 36-foot white beauty detailed in gleaming mahogany. B‘Elanna knew it was a close replica of the one he‘d sailed on with his family on a summer vacation on Lake Como when he was seven. He‘d told her with fond remembrance of that trip. The sailboat had actually belonged to Captain Nechayev and her family, whom the Paris family had joined for the vacation. Tom‘s father—then a captain himself—and his mother, and Nechayev and her husband, a high level diplomat somewhere in the Starfleet echelon, had spent most of the trip in continual conversation about treaties and codes, while Tom and his sisters and Nechayev‘s son had swam and played. They‘d been distantly supervised by Tom‘s mother but mostly left to their own devices, becoming pirates and great sea explorers, mermaids and dolphins, and whatever else their capable childhood imaginations could dream up. That trip nor anything like it had ever been repeated, Tom‘s father having found sailing—in fact vacations in general—too frivolous and time consuming, but Tom had coveted that sailboat ever afterward. And though he‘d sailed on other boats later, it was a close version of that particular sailboat that he‘d placed in his Lake Como program, one of the first holoprograms he‘d designed on Voyager. The same program he‘d tried repeatedly to get her into when he‘d first started pursuing her.
Not long after they‘d become a couple she‘d taken him up on his offer, and they‘d sailed together dozens of times since, first on Lake Como and later on several other lakes like Tahoe and Tanganyika and Geneva, and also on several of Earth‘s seas and oceans, including the Mediterranean, and the Pacific off California and around Tahiti. In fact, after Tom had discovered B‘Elanna was a natural sailor herself, sailing had become their most frequently shared sport, since it seemed to hit the perfect combination of activity and relaxation, and a weather compromise between Tom‘s cold snow skiing programs and B‘Elanna‘s often stuffy cave bound martial arts programs. And they both loved being on the water. They‘d tinkered a bit with the sailboat‘s design, adding their own touches here and there, Tom when he‘d first designed the program, and B‘Elanna later. And though she still thought of it as Tom‘s sailboat, she felt a surge of satisfaction when he now always referred to the "Lady Fortune" as "ours".
B‘Elanna paused as they approached the sailboat, her gaze riveted for a moment on the stern, then she quickly followed Tom on board. He didn‘t reach down to offer her assistance, knowing that she didn‘t appreciate that kind of oversolicitious gesture. She appreciated much more the fine view of the muscles rippling under his snug khaki shorts as he ascended in front of her. Which reminded her that sailing wasn‘t the only activity they‘d enthusiastically participated in on this boat. She smiled just before he stepped onto the deck and turned, surreptitiously slipping a hand under her elbow as she hopped onto the deck next to him. That gesture she let pass.
"Have you been here before?" She asked as she turned to survey again the small town laid out along the shore, its old but impeccably maintained buildings glowing warmly in the bright afternoon sunlight.
"Stresa?" Tom glanced at the town and nodded. "Once when I was at the Academy I came here on a weekend trip with several classmates. We rented a sailboat, quite a bit smaller than this one, and brought a case of wine—cheap wine—with us, and basically acted like adolescent fools for a couple of days. We were probably lucky we didn‘t drown ourselves, in more ways than one." He grinned a little sheepishly and shook his head. "I had the worst headache in Astrophysics class Monday morning."
"No doubt well deserved," B‘Elanna commented dryly. She‘d heard plenty about Tom‘s academy days by now, about his planned and unplanned moments of escape from the constant demands of his father and his family name. He‘d chafed against the rigid conventions of Starfleet and the Academy much as she had, even though he‘d played the role outwardly with relative ease. In her two tumultuous years there she‘d been unable to manage even that, but then she‘d never been good at playing roles.
Tom shrugged and gave her a small smile. "My rebellious side poking out again. The town is charming, though. And there‘s a little trattoria on the far side of the piazza that makes the best homemade pasta you‘ve ever tasted."
B‘Elanna smiled. "I‘m looking forward to it."
He hadn‘t gotten her to love pizza with the same fervor he did—yet—but she was a sucker for good pasta. "Shall we cast off? I‘ll get the anchor…" he said, pausing intentionally for just a moment, "and you can take her out this time."
"Thanks for trusting me, Tom," B‘Elanna drawled. He knew she could do the job as well as he. "I‘ll try not to capsize her," she added, throwing him an innocent look as she moved across the deck.
A few minutes later, under B‘Elanna‘s expert guidance, they were plying the blue waters of the lake, sails at full mast. Since this excursion was for relaxation, unlike Tom‘s occasional ocean forays where he sometimes enjoyed programming in rough seas and pitting his—and her—skills against the elements, they let the sailboat go with the light wind, leaving the computer to plot the course of the other boats out of their way.
"It‘s pretty warm here for February, isn‘t it, Tom?" B‘Elanna asked as he walked out onto the aft deck, where she had already stretched herself out on the narrow padded locker along the aft railing. Her arms were thrown out, her wrists hooked over the railing. And her legs were stretched out in front of her, in a narrow "v" position, not the most feminine of positions, but on B‘Elanna it looked less awkward than sensual, with the folds of her dress falling provocatively between her legs and outlining the smooth contours of her thighs. Her head was thrown back, her eyes were closed, and a contented half smile graced her face as she soaked up the warmth of the sun he knew she loved.
"Even though it‘s technically February on Earth, I thought you‘d prefer the weather here in August," Tom said.
B‘Elanna smiled wider, eyes still closed. "You were so right. Mmmmm," she murmured appreciatively as she stretched sinuously and lifted her hips slightly upward, almost as if she was offering herself to that warmth that was suffusing her body. "It feels good."
Tom watched the subtle play of her breasts and her hips thrusting upward, and found himself, not surprisingly, aroused. He rarely found himself unaffected by B‘Elanna, but lately he‘d been almost unable to control his reaction, seeing in her every movement something that turned him on, made him want to bury himself inside her immediately. Perhaps it was partly reaction to so much forced separation between them lately, first for the seemingly endless month he‘d been in the brig, and then just eight weeks later for another full two months—at least in his own unhappy experience. Those two months when he hadn‘t been able to see the end of his exile—unlike the time in the brig when he‘d known he‘d be with her again—when he‘d really found out what "endless" felt like, and he had thought he might never see her or hold her again. That had ended a mere ten days ago, and he still woke from dreams where he was on that accursed planet and she was gone forever.
Tom dropped to his haunches right in front of B‘Elanna. He looked up from that vantage point at the gentle curve of her abdomen and the soft swell of her breasts outlined by her yellow dress, and at the long line of her throat, exposed to the sun and to him. His hands crept to the spot where the skirt of her dress hung just over her knees. He touched the material of her dress first, pushing it up just a bit, then his hands rested on the smooth skin of her inner legs just above her knees. His hands skimmed lightly up the warm silky skin of her inner thighs, and the folds her dress were carried along by the movement of his fingers as they caressed her flesh with feathery motions. Though she hadn‘t opened her eyes or moved otherwise she suddenly crooked one knee and she lifted a small bare foot, resting it just briefly square against his sternum before she gave a small but firm push, toppling him backward.
"Looking for something, Tom?" she asked sweetly as he landed on his butt on the deck.
He hadn‘t had far to go and her outstretched foot was now resting on his inner thigh. He looked at her face, her eyes still closed but the smile on her face subtly changed to one he knew well. Provocative, playful. Promising.
"You didn‘t like?" he asked her, knowing the answer. He closed one hand over her foot as he righted himself with his other hand, and he pressed his lips lightly against her instep. Then he pulled himself into a crouch again, letting her foot go. He rested his forearms along her thighs, his hands circled her hips, and his thumbs pressed into the shadowy recesses just above her hipbones. Then he pressed a soft kiss into the warm hollow of her throat.
She opened her eyes then and brought her head forward to look at him. He leaned back slightly, snared comfortably between her legs, and returned her look. He saw desire in her dark eyes, barely banked, and something more. Something intently searching, questioning. "When did you rename your boat?"
Tom hadn‘t noticed if she‘d seen it when they‘d come on board. "A couple of days ago, when I modified the program parameters for Lake Maggiore."
"It‘s kind of a strange name for a boat, isn‘t it?"
Tom shrugged. "Boats have all kinds of names."
"It‘s your boat, Tom," B‘Elanna pointed out.
"And I‘m yours," Tom replied. "And what‘s mine is yours." He gave her a teasing smile. "Now she just says so."
B‘Elanna gave him a contemplative look. "I thought the name "Lady Fortune" was important to you. Didn‘t you tell me it was her whims that influenced your life, so it was good luck to name your boat after her?"
He‘d told her that very thing once, the first time they‘d sailed together. That he‘d named his sailboat "Lady Fortune" because it seemed as if the simple whims of fortune had influenced his life more than anything else. Adversely at times, but also for good. After all, it was simple fortune that had dumped him on Voyager and into the Delta quadrant, that had given him this chance at a new life. "I used to think so," he agreed finally. His hands slid up to her waist. "But that was when I didn‘t have anything else to rely on or believe in. Or anyone else. Now I know what‘s really important." He gave her a lopsided smile that didn‘t quite reach his eyes and his fingers tightened reflexively around her. "B‘Elanna, when I thought you were gone—when I thought I‘d never see you again—I was completely lost."
B‘Elanna‘s thighs clenched around his waist, trapping him closer, and she dropped her arms from the railing and closed her hands over his, gripping his fingers that were pressing strongly into her skin. "Tom, you know I would never have left without you."
He knew. She‘d told him so that first night, his first night back on Voyager after two months of living on that wasteland of a planet, a barely tolerable existence by day, and at night an almost unbearable descent into a sleepless private hell. For her a mere two days had passed, a length of separation that occurred between them not infrequently with away missions, opposing shift schedules, and periodic double shifts when one or another mini disaster befell Voyager‘s systems. It had been hell for him, but nothing particularly unusual for her. When they‘d met up in Sickbay on his return she‘d given him the once over, smiled and patted his shoulder and whispered that she‘d see him later. Then she‘d been off to look at doctor‘s holoemitter, without a backward glance, while it had taken every bit of his self control not chase after her and refuse to let her go. He‘d almost unreasonably expected her to feel the same sense of loss he‘d felt, and the incredible surge of emotion at seeing him that he‘d experienced seeing her again.
But she‘d known where he was, and that he was alive and well. And though she‘d been worried, she‘d also been resolute—confident that Voyager would be able to rescue him and Tuvok and the doctor—sure that she would have him back after he‘d barely been away. While he‘d come to believe that she and Voyager were months gone, that he‘d been left to find some way to survive without her, to get by from day to day on that godforsaken planet…
Tom turned his hands, threading his fingers into hers, enfolding her hands in his. "I know you would never have left without me," he said softly. That night she‘d crawled on top of him, waking him from a restless sleep. He‘d been waiting impatiently for her to finish the late repairs on the propulsion systems that the gravity field had affected, waiting to hold her again after so long. But he‘d dozed off, and he‘d been dreaming that he was huddled alone in the abandoned ship on that desolate planet, and that Voyager had never come. He‘d jerked awake at her touch, at the feel of her warm mouth on his. The dream—the memory—had left him shaken and disoriented for a moment. She‘d wrapped her arms around and kissed his damp brow, and she‘d told him then that she would never have left him behind—would never leave him behind—no matter the circumstances. That if Voyager gave up and went on without her, if she had to steal a shuttle and search alone, she‘d look for him until she found him or died trying, and she knew he‘d do the same for her. He‘d seen the fierce emotion in her eyes, and knew she meant it. It was more than enough. He‘d kissed her then—hard—and he‘d lost himself immediately, gloriously, in her embrace.
Tom stared blankly at his hands linked with B‘Elanna‘s, then up at her face, suddenly aware that she was watching him closely, silently. He rubbed his thumbs over the delicate skin of the inside of her wrists and gave her a nonchalant smile, determined to push her concern away, to push the past away. "I‘m glad you agreed to this. I know you‘re a little skeptical about Valentine‘s Day."
B‘Elanna willingly went along with the change of subject. "I still think it‘s a silly notion for a holiday. I mean, babies flying around shooting arrows at people, all this "romance" stuff…"
Tom saw the smile lurking on her lips. "You can‘t fool me, B‘Elanna. You love this stuff."
B‘Elanna rolled her eyes. Then she gave him her best long suffering look. "I guess I can put up with sailing, and dinner."
Tom smiled. "A romantic dinner and wine is on order. But in the meantime I thought you also might appreciate what I‘m…wearing."
B‘Elanna looked at his snug cotton shirt, which nicely defined the lines of his shoulders and chest, and at the khaki shorts, at the moment pulled taut against his well muscled thighs as he crouched in front of her. Not that he didn‘t wear anything and everything well, but she wasn‘t sure what he meant—
"Underneath," Tom whispered.
B‘Elanna‘s eyes met his, and he raised his eyebrows and gave her a meaningful look. Oh. Her eyes widened.
"Oh. That thing you call a…"
B‘Elanna‘s lips curved into an anticipative smile.
"Show you?" Tom grinned. "Okay."
Tom rose quickly to his feet and pulled his shirt over his head. Then he shimmied quickly out of his shorts and straightened, giving B‘Elanna a full view. In fact the item in question was in her direct line of sight, and she stared, openmouthed. Not because it fit him so…well, but because the speedo itself was…pink. A bright, blinding, hot pink. And written across the minimal expanse of material in small black letters were the words "Property of B‘Elanna".
"Have I rendered you speechless, B‘Elanna?" Tom asked after several silent moments.
B‘Elanna met Tom‘s eyes again, seeing the laughter there. "This is not the beginning of a whole new product line, is it, Tom?" she asked warningly.
"Sure," Tom said blithely. "T-shirts, towels, hats…do you think the captain would object if I put it on my uniform…"
"You‘re impossible," she said, though there was no censure in her voice, and his insufferable grin stayed in place. She pursed her lips to keep from smiling, and shook her head, then looked at the item in question again. "Not that I don‘t appreciate the…gesture, but…" she wrinkled her nose a little in distaste, "…pink?"
"It‘s the color of romance," Tom informed her. "So it‘s the color appropriate for this holiday, don‘t you think?"
"It is?" B‘Elanna asked. "If you say so. I guess I was misinformed. Maybe I‘d better just skip my…gift."
Tom looked at her, eyebrows raised. "You got me something?"
"In a manner of speaking. But it‘s not…pink." She stood up and trailed a hand up his chest. She shrugged and patted his chest once. "So…never mind. I‘ll go change into something else."
"Change?" Tom‘s hand shot out and gripped her wrist as she moved to slip past him. He pulled her arm just enough so that she collided lightly against him, the length of her body pressed up to his. She gave him a smug knowing smile. "Want to see it anyway, Tom?"
She didn‘t wait for an answer; she simply pulled her wrist from his loose grip and stepped back, then crossed her arms above her and gripped her sundress at her shoulders. With one swift movement she pulled it over her head and tossed it aside. And this time it was Tom who stared, openmouthed.
Tom looked at the bikini B‘Elanna was wearing. It was white, what there was of it. And it was dotted with little red…hearts. B‘Elanna was actually wearing something with hearts on it. Hearts. Little red hearts…
B‘Elanna might have been offended by Tom‘s soft rush of laughter if she hadn‘t heard the genuine delight in it. And if that laughter hadn‘t immediately trailed off and the wide smile on his face hadn‘t faded to something more…predatory.
Tom‘s second look focused less on the material than the design of the bikini. It beautifully displayed B‘Elanna‘s slender figure, and the stark white edges of the bikini were in glaring contrast to the smooth golden bronze glow of her skin. His eyes took in the soft
upward swell of her breasts, the enticing curve of her hips, where a white string draped above her hips held the material in place…
"Tom, if you keep looking at me like that, I‘m going to have to do something about it."
"You are?" His lips quirked as she took a step toward him. "Weren‘t we going swimming?"
"You want to go swimming?" B‘Elanna whispered, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing herself against him.
"No. Not any more…."
He wasn‘t sure how it happened—she pushed him backward, the clothes he‘d discarded tangled around his feet and tripped him—but they both went down in a heap. In a matter of moments he was prone on the deck—aware that her arm around his shoulders had kept him from actually banging his head—and she was on top of him, her lips were pressed against his. As often happened, his mind went numb as soon as her lips moved on his, as she kissed him deeply, and stoked her hands over his chest. He kissed her back with equal fervor, and there on the deck they began to make slow, passionate love, the caresses of their hands and lips joined by the warm caress of the sun on their bodies as they lost all sense of everything around them except each other.
A few minutes later they lay, contented, in each other‘s arms. Tom‘s face was almost buried in B‘Elanna‘s hair, and his breath ruffled the soft strands. He shifted a bit and pressed a soft kiss on her forehead. "You asleep?" he whispered to the nearly motionless woman in his arms.
B‘Elanna moved enough to snuggle deeper against him, her eyes still closed, in the midst of surrendering to the delicious lassitude that was pervading her body from their passion and from the warmth of the sun beating down on them. "Just amazingly well satisfied. As always."
Tom smiled at the soft murmur of her voice, and raised his head enough to see the contented smile on her face. He knew it was true for them. Not that he hadn‘t always enjoyed sex, been good at it, and possessed an ability and willingness to make the pleasure reciprocal. And it had never been a power thing to him, never a way to exert control, though in the past he knew he‘d used it as a balm to his battered ego, as a source of self-esteem. But in all his experience he‘d never fit so well with anyone. B‘Elanna satisfied him in ways he hadn‘t imagined, and didn‘t completely understand. Maybe in part because of how it felt to know that he so completely satisfied her. Or perhaps it was all as uncomplicated as the simple fact that he loved her.
He let his head drop back down, feeling the tickle of her hair on his face. Maybe it also explained why since he‘d been with her, through all their ups and downs, he‘d never felt a smidgen of serious interest in another woman. Not that way. Even on that hellhole planet for two months, when he‘d given up at least outward hope that Voyager would return for them, and even after he‘d told Tuvok that their life now was on the planet and they should make the best of it, he‘d been unable in his heart to do so. If there‘d been fifty women there with them he wouldn‘t have been able to work up any interest. If years had truly passed, maybe he would have been able to forget the feel of her, the scent of her, eventually...
But he didn‘t have to. He slipped his hand from B‘Elanna‘s shoulder and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her closer. "B‘Elanna?" he whispered, nuzzling her neck. "You still here?"
"Mmm hmm…" B‘Elanna‘s murmured answer was barely audible, but she closed a hand over his, stroking his wrist with her thumb. "I‘m liking this Valentine‘s Day celebration so far."
"I was going to "woo" you before we got to this part," Tom said, a bit of regret in his voice. "But I guess we got ahead of ourselves."
"You don‘t have to woo me, Tom. You’ve already got me."
Tom liked the simple, sure way she said that. "Oh, yeah." He kissed her shoulder. "But I still have some romantic gestures to ply you with. Like…music for instance..."
"Yeah. I found this song that I thought was…interesting…"
B‘Elanna stirred a little. She threaded her fingers into his. "Not one of those twentieth century "rock" ones, like that margarita song…"
Tom smiled. "No. I was searching the database and I just happened to come across this song that seemed appropriate…"
"A Valentine‘s Day song?" B‘Elanna guessed, amusement in her voice.
"Sort of. Computer, play selection Tom Paris 385, Valentine."
The computer complied with Tom‘s order and the soft strains of music filled the air.
"If there were no words, no way to speak, I would still hear you If there were no tears, no way to feel inside, I would still feel for you.
And even if the sun refused to shine Even if romance ran out of rhyme You would still have my heart until the end of time You‘re all I need, my love, my valentine."
Tom‘s lips were pressed against B‘Elanna‘s hair and he could feel her complete stillness against his shoulder. The kind of stillness that was expectant, waiting.
"All of my life I have been waiting for
All you give to me
You‘ve opened my eyes
And taught me how to love unselfishly. I‘ve dreamed of this a thousand times before And in my dreams I couldn‘t love you more I will give you my heart until the end of time You‘re all I need, my love, my valentine."
B‘Elanna shifted in his arms. Her fingers curled tight around his, and her eyes met his.
"And even if the sun refused to shine Even if romance ran out of rhyme You would still have my heart until the end of time ‚Cause all I need is you, my valentine."
B‘Elanna‘s gaze dropped from his and she touched his cheek with her free hand.
"You‘re all I need, my love, my valentine."
Tom flushed a little under her intense gaze on his mouth as she ran a fingertip along his jaw. "It‘s a little sappy. I guess they believed in excessive sentiment in the twentieth century…" He felt a need to back away a little, to make light of the meaning, though that hadn‘t been his original intent. She lifted her gaze to his, and he gave her a lopsided smile, one less jaunty than he‘d intended. "I figured it was in the spirit of the holiday—"
"It‘s a beautiful song, Tom," B‘Elanna said quietly.
"Though I‘m not sure anyone could ever be that deserving, especially me…"
She‘d said it lightly, with a small smile, but he knew a part of her meant it. "B‘Elanna." This time he held her gaze intently, and frowned. "You are."
"I‘m not exactly sweet or thoughtful," she said. "I‘m hard to get along with, I have a bad temper, sometimes I just want to be alone, or I get so wrapped up in my work that I forget to notice what‘s going on around me—what‘s going on with you…"
"What‘s going on with me is that I‘m having the best moments of my life when I‘m with you, B‘Elanna," Tom said softly. "Even when we fight. And I‘m hard to get along with too, and selfish, and I forget to notice how you‘re feeling, or I hide out in silly holodeck programs when I don‘t want to face things…" He puased, then smiled. "I guess it‘s a good thing we‘re willing to put up with each other," he said slyly. "Who else would?" he added, though he knew that, despite her sometimes low self-opinion, there were plenty of men who would happily take B‘Elanna exactly the way she was. Thank god he was the one she wanted.
B‘Elanna was pretty sure she could find a whole hoard of women who would clearly see the real, caring man who lurked beneath the sometimes brash façade, and who would take Tom in a hot minute, faults and all. Of course, she‘d have to kill them… "I suppose you‘re right," she agreed instead. "Who else would put up with us?"
"I guess we‘ll just have to stick with each other," Tom said.
"I guess," B‘Elanna echoed softly. Her hand slid into his hair and her gaze dropped to his mouth.
"Hmmm?" she murmured as she moved her face closer to his.
"I picked out that song on purpose."
Her mouth curved into a small smile as he moved with her gentle tug. Then their lips met in a slow, languid kiss, a soft, sweet exploration.
Finally, he pulled away from her reluctantly. "Before we get all hot and heavy again, maybe we should go for a swim."
"Need to cool off, Tom?"
"It won‘t last long," he said, winking at her as they disentangled themselves. He rose, helping her to her feet.
"What about our suits?" B‘Elanna asked, nodding at the discarded items.
"Don‘t you want to be able to say you‘ve gone skinny dipping in Lake Maggiore?" Tom asked with a smirk. "Not everyone can say that you know."
B‘Elanna snorted. "I‘m sure not.." She stepped over the railing, gave him a long discerning look as he watched her appreciatively, then she dove cleanly into the water.
Tom grinned, and dove in after her.
"I‘m full." B‘Elanna rubbed a hand over her stomach as she spoke. "You‘re right, Tom. That was the best pasta I‘ve ever eaten."
"And the atmosphere was pretty nice, too," Tom said. His arm was draped over her shoulders as they walked along the promenade in front of the lake. Twilight had descended quickly, on Tom‘s order, shortly after they‘d finished their swim. By the time they‘d sailed back to the marina and walked into the piazza, and found an open table in front of the trattoria, it had been completely dark. They‘d eaten by the illumination of the small lights strung around the piazza and the glow of the full moon that had risen over the lake. "A perfect dinner."
"Yes," B‘Elanna agreed. She looked at the single rose she was twirling in her hand, and brought it up to her face, inhaling the heady scent. "And the rest wasn‘t too bad either." She brushed the rose petals over Tom‘s hand where it rested on her shoulder. "Except for the part where we almost drowned."
Tom chuckled. "But it was worth it. And if you hadn‘t let go of the ladder at the exact culminative moment, we wouldn‘t have had water over our heads."
"Culminative?" B‘Elanna asked skeptically. "Is that a word? Besides, I thought you were holding on to the boat too—"
"B‘Elanna, you know my hands were around you…" He grinned as her eyes narrowed, and added, "Besides, that‘s what the holodeck safeties are for."
B‘Elanna smirked. "Really, Tom. You think that‘s the reason for their design?"
Tom smirked back. "Where you and I are concerned."
B‘Elanna slapped the rose lightly against his cheek, then they moved quickly out of the way of several small dark haired boys who were racing down the promenade, laughing and tossing a ball between them. As they resumed walking B‘Elanna glanced at the lake, its shimmering surface reflecting the twinkling of the myriad of tiny lights strung in the trees along the shore and on the railings of the marina, even along the masts of some of the boats. And further reflecting the light of the full moon that spilled in a long arc across its surface. "I do like this place."
Tom followed her gaze to the lake, and smiled at her rapt expression. "I‘m glad we didn‘t miss out on this…"
Tom let his words trail off and B‘Elanna glanced at him, knowing what he‘d meant. She‘d certainly never paid attention to the passage of this particular Earth holiday, but when Tom had brought it up several weeks ago, mentioning that they‘d missed celebrating it last year—the Hirogen had been busy messing with their minds and memories at the time—she‘d agreed they could celebrate it this year. Then after he and Tuvok and the doctor had crashed on that planet and over two months had passed for them, he‘d assumed the holiday and his plans for a romantic evening had passed also. "I‘m glad we didn‘t miss out, too," she said softly, slipping her arm around his waist.
Tom smiled. "Good. But remember, next year it will be your turn to pick out the setting."
B‘Elanna grimaced a little. She didn‘t remember agreeing to that. She looked at Tom, who raised his eyebrows challengingly. "Valentine‘s Day isn‘t exactly a Klingon sort of celebration, but…" She paused and gave him a sly look. "Have you ever been to a Targ mud wrestling competition?"
Tom stopped in his tracks and stared at her. "Targ mud wrestling?" He said, with exaggerated dismay. "B‘Elanna, is that your idea of a romantic evening?"
B‘Elanna shrugged. "You always say you want to explore my Klingon side," she reminded him with a small smirk she couldn‘t quite conceal.
"And the Klingon idea of romance is mud wrestling…" Tom‘s voice trailed off and his eyes glittered with sudden realization, and she could see that he was about to turn her suggestion to his advantage. Not that she hadn‘t set him up for it, she did know the man after all.
"I think I could like the idea," Tom murmured, trying hard to keep the enthusiasm out of his voice. "If we forget about the Targ and just stick to you and me…and the mud."
B‘Elanna gave him a doubtful look. "Tom, you want to wrestle with me…in mud?" she asked. No, who would have ever imagined?
Tom‘s eyes were alight at the thought. "Oh, yeah."
"I‘d beat you."
"I‘d beat you."
B‘Elanna gave him a tongue in cheek smile. "Uh huh."
Tom ignored her dismissal of his ability to wrestle her into submission, though if she wrestled him into submission, that wouldn‘t be bad either… "One question. Do we have to wait until next Valentine‘s Day?"
B‘Elanna gave him an arch look and shrugged noncommittally. Back to her advantage. "We‘ll see."
Tom wasn‘t quite ready to give up the subject, but before he could speak again the computer uttered a loud beep and warned them that their holodeck time was up in ten minutes. He grimaced at the interruption, and squeezed B‘Elanna‘s shoulder. "You know, Valentine‘s Day isn‘t quite over yet."
"Our holodeck time is up, and it‘s almost 2300 hours," B‘Elanna reminded him.
"That means we still have a little time. We can go back to my quarters…and I do have one last romantic gesture in my repertoire."
B‘Elanna slid her arms around Tom‘s neck and shook her head. "Sailing, a romantic dinner, a rose…" she looked at the rose she was still holding that Tom had bought from one of the strolling flower vendors. "And…a song." She smiled. "What more could there be?"
"Something I replicated in my quarters," Tom told her as
he draped his arms over her shoulders. "Or, I should
say, some things…"
"What "things" did you replicate?" B‘Elanna asked cautiously.
"Candles?" B‘Elanna echoed.
Tom‘s fingers brushed her hair aside and caressed her neck. "One last romantic gesture, making love by candlelight."
B‘Elanna shuddered involuntarily, loving the feel of Tom‘s hands stroking the nape of her neck. "I suppose that would be okay," she agreed slowly, with mock reluctance. "But, Tom, do you remember the last time we made love by candlelight?"
Tom caught the gleam in her eyes. He nodded, remembering. "I seem to recall we got wax…all over. We‘ll just have to be more careful this time."
B‘Elanna slipped her hands from around his neck and insinuated them under the collar of his shirt, pressing her palms against the warm skin over his collarbone. "Or not."
They grinned at each other for several moments, before Tom spoke. "Computer, arch."
He didn‘t want to disturb the atmosphere around them, or be rudely faced with the stark black and yellow design of the hologrid. He‘d rather walk out and let the program close itself, and from B‘Elanna‘s nod he could see that she agreed.
The arch appeared over the sidewalk promenade, two meters in front of them. They silently walked toward it, hands clasped. Then B‘Elanna stopped in front of the arch and turned. Tom followed her gaze to the sailboat—once his, now theirs. She looked at it for a moment, then back at him, her expression unreadable.
"Tom, that song you played…"
She nodded. "When we get back to your quarters…"
"You want me to play it for you?" he asked when she hesitated.
She shook her head, her fingers twining with his. "No, I want to play it for you."
Tom met her unwavering gaze, and a slow genuine smile spread across his face. He squeezed her hand, and they turned to walk through the arch. "Just give me time to light the candles…"
They stepped through the arch, and B‘Elanna looked at him curiously as the arch began to close behind them. "Just how many candles are we talking about, Tom?"
"Oh, um…" Tom hesitated. "A hundred," he said finally at the moment the arch fused closed.
Inside the holodeck the program was still running, and in its soundproof environment nothing outside could be heard. If any of the holographic characters inside could have heard into the corridor, they would have heard B‘Elanna exclaim rather loudly in a voice shaded with disbelief and perhaps delight, "A hundred?!". But in the program—holofile Tom Paris 127B364, also accessible by its shortcut name "Lake Maggiore"—the breeze blew lightly, the lake shimmered under the lights of Stresa and the glow of the full moon, and the only sound was the soft strains of Italian music floating in the air. And in the marina the boats bobbed lightly on the water, the dim light reflecting on their polished surfaces. And in the brief moment before the program closed itself a keen eye might have been able to make out the name stenciled across the stern of one of those sailboats in one of the front slips, an unusual name but a particularly meaningful one to its original owner, who considered himself in the same happy circumstance…"Property of B‘Elanna".
Song credit- "Valentine" written by Jim Brickman/Jack Kugell, performed by Martina McBride. Copyright 1996 by Brickman Arrangement/Swimmer Music/EMI April Music Inc/Doxie Music