This chapter is dedicated to Sarah, who kept on begging to make two certain people kiss...
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: THE HARDEST THING
B’Elanna quickly walked down the gravel path, the moonlight bathing the yard in a pale light. She fretted over the many different ways she could tell Tom that she still loved him after all this is time. *Why the hell am I doing this?* she screamed at herself, *I’ll ruin my friendship with Tom, I’ll embarrass him, I’ll never be able to face him again!* she thought. Her pace quickened, then slowed as she neared the gazebo that bordered the beach and spotted Tom’s figure silhouetted in the soft light. The helmsman wore khaki shorts and a dark blue button-down shirt, and was gazing up at the stars. She took a deep breath and was about to call out his name when her confidence shattered. *What am I doing?* He loves Lisa, not me. I’ll only ruin things if I tell him the truth now,* she told herself. She wondered if she should just turn around and head back to the house, not telling Tom at all how she felt, when a small voice inside her yelled, ‘Coward!’ She grimaced slightly.
Tom stared up at the sky. His life was so complicated. In less than twenty-four hours he would be married. Like he had told Seven, he still found the situation unbelievable. If five years ago he had been told he would get married to the most beautiful, smartest, and most wonderful woman in the universe, he would have laughed at the messenger’s face. He wasn’t proud about his past. Heck, at one point he had been a traitor to both Starfleet and the Maquis. When he had first joined Voyager’s crew, he had been known as a womanizing “egotistical pig”, as B’Elanna had told him on her Day of Honor, when they had been stranded in space. That had been when she had confessed to him that she loved him.
*And all you could do was say, ‘You picked a great time to tell me.’* a snide voice commented. Paris involuntarily winced. He would always regret how he had been such a jerk at that moment.
Hearing footsteps - specifically the dulled click-clacking sound of high heels - he turned around to find B’Elanna, wearing a short maroon dress, standing at the bottom of the steps. “B’Elanna!” he called softly.
She walked quietly over to him. “It’s gorgeous,” she whispered, standing next to him. She leaned against the railing and cocked her head to look over at Tom.
Tom nodded. “I always took it for granted. Then when I left home, and later found myself onboard Voyager, I realized how beautiful it is here,” he mused.
She nodded. “You must have a lot of memories here,” she commented.
He turned back to gazing at the waves as they lapped the beach, a soft smile tugging at his mouth. “Yeah, I do. When I was little, I used to hide here when I knew I was going to get in trouble. When I was a teenager, I took refuge here whenever my dad was mad at me, or vice versa. I even got caught one time by Alyssa making out with my girlfriend here.”
B’Elanna raised her eyebrows at that last statement. “O. . .kay,” she said slowly. There was a split second of silence, then both started laughing.
A few moments later, when they had stopped, Tom turned to her and commented mildly, “I never realized how short you were.”
Torres shot him a look. “I’m wearing four-inch heels!” she informed him, then added. “You’re the one who’s tall.”
They laughed again. Then he turned to her and scrutinized her. “How come you’re out here? Shouldn’t you be helping clean up?”
She looked at him in amusement. “I could say the same for you. Just because you used to live here and you’re getting married tomorrow doesn’t been you don’t have to contribute to the chores, you know,” she teased, tactfully trying to avoid the question, but deep in her heart she knew it was no use. he would win. He always had. And thinking that just made her more confused. *Is this what you really wanted, Tom? To be ‘just friends’?*
“I came here to think,” he answered. “How about you?”
“Actually, that’s the thing. I came to talk with you,” B’Elanna said hurriedly.
He waited, and she felt like the silence was going to kill her. “Well?” he asked softly.
“Tom, I-” Her voice broke off. “Tom, I haven’t been very truthful with you about some things,” she said, flustered. She wrung her hands in slight distress and avoided his gaze. She hated it when he looked at her like that. It always felt as if he could read her thoughts.
Tom’s brow furrowed. “What exactly do you mean?” he asked, slightly puzzled at her reaction to his previous question.
B’Elanna still didn’t meet his gaze. “Its nothing,” she said hurriedly. “Absolutely nothing.” She turned to leave, but Tom grasped her hands and pulled her back. He searched her brown eyes for an answer, but found none. “What is it?” he whispered to her.
“I- I-” B’Elanna stopped and looked down at their intertwined hands. “I love you.”
Tom’s blue eyes widened. She didn’t meet his gaze, so he put two fingers under her chin and raised her face. A solitary tear rolled down her cheek as she met his gaze. “You don’t know how long I’ve waited for you to tell me that again,” he told her huskily.
That did it. Within seconds, her lips were on his, kissing him. His hands ran along her back, and she gently clasped her arms around his waist. She brought her hands up to instinctively massage his face, then all of a sudden realization hit her. She was kissing Tom. Her best friend. Lisa’s fiancé. She was kissing her best friend who was getting *married* to another woman the next day. *Oh, my gosh!* she thought frantically, pulling away from the embrace. “I’m so sorry! Oh, my God. What have I done? I’m so sorry!” she whispered, then broke away from him and dashed down the steps.
Tom stared after her, a hand running along his lips where she had kissed him. All he could think about was what had just happened between them. It seemed so *right*. So damn right. His life had suddenly gotten a *lot* more complicated.
Shines down interstellar beams
And the groove tonight
Is something more than you’ve ever seen
The stars and planets taking shape
A stolen kiss has come too late
In the moonlight
Carry on, keep romancing
Carry on, carry on dancing
In the moonlight
“I forgot I left my sunglasses outside on the porch ledge. I’ll be right back!” called Seven to everyone else in the living room, standing up and subtly stretching her arms behind her back. It was getting late, and she had just now remembered that she had left her sunglasses out on the porch.
“Want me to help you look for them?” Whitney offered, looking up at Seven.
“Thanks,” replied Seven with a grin, and Heather got up. Together, the two walked out onto the porch.
“Its amazing, isn’t it?” Heather asked softly as she walked over to the far side of the porch.
Over on the other side, Seven shot her a confused look. “What exactly do you mean?”
“I can’t believe that Tom’s getting married tomorrow,” the half Betazoid replied quietly.
“Funny, that’s exactly what *he* said.”
“What do you mean?”
Seven relayed the conversation she had had with the pilot, and Whitney smiled softly. “It *is* hard to believe that Tom’s getting married. I just can’t help but think back to the time when we were all at the Academy. We all had so much fun...” her voice trailed off.
Seven looked up from searching under a table. “Having ‘fun’ as you put it is important to you, isn’t it?” she queried. Whitney had always had a flamboyant nature, pulling pranks, laughing, and hanging out with her friends.
To her surprise, Heather merely smiled sadly and shook her head. “Actually, Seven, having ‘fun’ used to be important to me. I mean, being bored with your life isn’t exactly interesting - I always took risks and did the dares but always made the right decisions. But its not exactly on top of my priorities list right now. I love my life, and I don’t want it to change.”
Seven nodded. “I think I understand what you mean,” she said.
Heather grinned impishly. “That makes one person who understands me. Well, you and Harry. And most of the time Tom. B’Elanna, sometimes. Everybody else, no clue.”
Laughing at her comment, the two continued to talk as they searched the porch. Seven was about to call out that she had found them when she heard the sound of running footsteps. Straightening her back, she viewed B’Elanna running up to the porch like her life depended on it. Tears were streaming down her face, and her maroon shoes were all dirty from running in the grass. Running up the few stairs leading to the porch, she tripped and caught herself before she actually fell flat on her face. “What’s wrong, B’Elanna?” she asked, concerned, as she helped B’Elanna up.
B’Elanna bit her lip. “Everything,” she cried, tears running down her cheeks.
“B’Elanna-” Heather started to say, worried sick over her friend’s condition. “What happened?”
Torres only shook her head. “I’ve got to go; I can’t stay here anymore. I’ll book a room in a hotel for the night, then head back to Voyager at Headquarters. I’ll see you then,” she said in one breath, then jogged into the house, heading for the stairs.
“What on earth was that all about?” Seven asked, looking over at Heather.
Whitney’s face paled. “Oh. My. God.”
To Be Continued . . .Copyright April 1999 by Jane Griffen; e-mail me at JaneG100@rocketmail.com