Birthday Bash - a coda to "Latent Image"
By Jane Griffen (
Copyright April 1999

Author's Note: Like a fellow Ite pointed out (I think it was Lauren - sorry, whoever you are! I forgot! <hangs her head sheepishly>), if it *had* been 18 months since the time when Latent Image took place, this story should fall somewhere around Displaced or Worst Case Scenario. I screwed up and made it about a month and a half after Blood Fever. But since the story's already written, you'll just have to use your imagination, then :-)

Disclaimers: Paramount owns Voyager and her crew, and I own the story, Heather Whitney, and any other characters I created..

Tom Paris scrutenized the decorations, then nodded. "It looks great, Meg!" he commented with a smile.

Meghan Delany smiled shyly. "Thanks, Tom," she replied, tossing her curly brown hair over her shoulders offhandedly as she followed the pilot's gaze. They had both volunteered to help decorate the Mess Hall for Ensign Jetal's birthday. Meg had volunteered because she loved the arts and was a talanted artist, but Tom had volunteered to take his mind off of other things. It had been six weeks since he and B'Elanna had been trapped down in the caves on Sakarri IV, and they were pretty conformtable around each other, but when they were alonen together he often found himself at a loss for words or stuttering. B'Elanna was just complex. He had never felt this way for anyone before, and it scared him a little...

"Tom?" Meg questioned, halfway down from her perch on the ladder he was holding.

"Hmm?" Paris asked, drawn out of his reverie.

Meghan merely shook her head, smiling. "When's Neelix bringing Anni?"

Tom glanced at the chronometer. "In..." He nearly gasped. "We'd better hurry; they'll be here in ten minutes."

Meg nodded, finished fixing the streamers, and climbed down the ladder. "I'll go se what Jenny and Freddie are arguing about," she said, jerking her head in the direction of her identical twin and Freddie Bristow. Jenny was throwing her hands up with exaggeration while Freddie looked cross.

Tom nodded offhandedly as she flounced off. The doors opened, and he turned around to see B'Elanna and Heather Whitney walk into the Mess Hall, deep in discussion about something. Heather was wearing civvies (as usual - she never wore her uniform offduty); khakis and a light blue top. Her wavy brown hair was pulled back in a high ponytail, which fell to her shoulders. She was busy talking to  B'Elanna about something, an excited look on her face. Torres, however, wore her black and gold Starfleet uniform and had a serious look on her face. Catching his glance, she flashed him a smile before handing Heather a datapadd. He heard her mutter, "Don't you dare lose this one," and smiled. Heather Whitney was notorious for being late and losing things.

"Aren't I lucky having two of the most gorgeous women on Voyager in my presense," he teased lightly as he went over to them.

"Oh, do you mean the Delany sisters?" B'Elanna asked blindly, feeling her stomach do somersaults.

Heather, depositing the padd on a table, rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Do you need any help for decorations?"

Tom nodded. "Sam-" Samantha Wildman, "was saying something about fixing the banner up underneath the kitchen counter," he told the half Betazoid.

Heather grinned. "Okay! I'll go help with that!" she volunteered, and walked hurriedly off to help Ensign Wildman.

B'Elanna turned to Tom. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

Tom shrugged, but he was at a loss for words. Instead he found himself looking into her brown eyes...

She gazed back skeptically. "Tom?"

Before he could comment, Ensign Marlett dashed into the large room, hazel eyes flashing. "Joe said they just left Enginering!" she called. Heather shrieked when the doors opened again, but a calm Harry Kim, donned in 24th century-style civvies, appeared. He glanced quizzically at the science officer, who swooned in relief. "Sorry, I thought you were them." she apologized.

Harry laughed. "Heather, Heather, Heather," he joked.

"Come on everyone! Find a hiding spot!" Kathryn Janeway called, emerging from the kitchen.

Heather grabbed Harry and motioned for Tom and B'Elanna to follow. The two lieutenants looked at each other, then shrugged.

"We might as well," B'Elanna pointed out softly.

Tom nodded, and they followed Heather gamely into the kitchen. He spotted Tuvok leaning against the lower cupboards, and Chakotay sat on the other side. Kathryn Janeway and a few other ensigns quickly sat themselves down as well. Many other junior officers were hiding under chairs and on the
far side of the Mess Hall. Heather plopped down underneath the sink. She beckoned for Harry to join her. Kim, looking skeptical, did. It was a tight squeeze, but it worked. Tom glanced around; there was no more room for them to hide. Seeing Heather's blue eyes light up with an idea, he paled. "Hey! I've got the perfect hiding space!" Whitney cried, jumping to her feet. She banged her head against the edge of the counter. "Oww!" she cried out, rubbing her head. Harry helped her up, obviously thankful to have an excuse to get out from under the sink.

"Where are we supposed to hide?" B'Elanna asked curiously.

"In the closet!"

Janeway, who had been listening to the four, turned away, and Tom could have sworn he heard a strangled noise coming from Commander Chakotay's direction. Tuvok merely raised an eyebrow. Meanwhile, Heather looked expectant and Harry looked like he was about to burst into tears of laughter.

"Really," B'Elanna remarked, obviously thinking that Heather was kidding; Tom, who had known Heather since high school and the Acadamy, knew better. The half Betazoid was dead serious.

"Yeah!" Whitney cried enthusiastically, and within seconds had gotten them both in the large storage closet which branched off of the kitchen.

"I thought she was joking," B'Elanna muttered, squirming a little in the tight compartment. Tom had to try extra hard not to let his chin rest on her head. He took a deep breath, and couldn't help but notice how sweet she smelled. *Oh, no, Thomas. Do *not* go down that road again,* a little voice
inside him chimed. He looked down, and was surprised to find her gazing up at him. "How come we always get confined in closed dark spaces together?" he couldn't resist saying. He regretted it as soon as the words left his mouth. *How come I always have to screw up?*

To his surprise, she merely looked up at him. "Yeah," she said slowly.

He cocked his head to one side as she gazed up at him so he could see her more clearly. His heart started to race when he realized that her face was literally centimeters from his. He involuntarily wrapped his arms around her, but she didn't pull away. Instead their lips met and...

They tumbled out of the closet and landed on the floor. Tom quickly shifted his weight so he wasn't squashing her. Heather took one look, then started shaking hysterically. Harry was trying hard not to laugh, and everyone else was just stunned. B'Elanna's eyes were wide with shock, then her face turn bright red. He could feel the blood rushing to his head as well. *Talk about a compromising situation.*

At Heather's esctatic giggling, Tuvok commented blandly. "Just because the two lieutenants are on top of each other, Lieutenant Whitney, does not mean that they are initiating Klingon mating rituals."

Heather's eyes widened, then she clamped both hands over her mouth and turned away from the pilot and chief engineer. Harry gaped at the Vulcan, then turned away as well to avoid the half Klingon's murderous glance. Seeing that B'Elanna was about to kill Tuvok, Tom clamped a hand around her wrist. Catching her attention, he shook his head slightly. Her brown eyes burned with anger, but he felt her relax.

"Tom?" she whispered, her voice filled with intensity.

"Yeah?" he whispered back.

"Get *off* of me," B'Elanna growled, eyes flashing as she stared up at him.

That comment sent Heather off into another fit of giggles; everyone else in Neelix's kitchen was trying not to laugh. Tom quickly rolled off of her, but the Doctor nearly tripped over him. "Ow! That's my foot!" Tom cried out.

B'Elanna, sitting up, started giggling. The Doctor shot back a retort, and Heather was about to say something when Sue Nicoletti, from across the room, hissed, "She's coming!"

Everyone became quiet, and a few seconds later the doors opened. Ensign Anni Jetal and Neelix walked in deep in discussion about something. Jetal noted that the lights were off, and immediately contacted B'Elanna, who was now leaning against the nearest wall. She paused for a minute before
speaking. "Uhh...Go ahead ensign," she stuttered. "Or should I say-" She nodded to everyone else and jumped to her feet, turning around. "Surprise!" she yelled in sync with everyone else. Tuvok picked up the neon blue cake, which Neelix had decorated. Tom only hoped it didn't contain leola root. As he stood in the kitchen while Ensign Jetal stood in shock, his gaze fell on B'Elanna, who was smiling at the fellow engineer. It certainly was going to be an interesting birthday party.

Copyright April 1999 by Jane Griffen; original disclaimers apply. Feedback welcome at (flames are thrown out the nearest airlock, by the way)