Necessary Information
by Jenn

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Paramount, the story is mine. Move on now.

Credits: Ann, Sorcha, and Queco--thanks for the help and encouragement.


"Buy a lady a drink?"

She looked up, blinking a little to see him standing beside her bar stool, a small surprised smile turning his mouth as he waited. And he *was* waiting, she realized, watching him shift his weight from one foot to the other. She hadn't given her answer.

"Sure." He sat down, flagging down the waiter with one hand without taking his eyes off her.

"What'll you have?"

She glanced down at her glass for a moment, trying to remember what she'd ordered, and gave up.

"Whatever you're having."

The waiter proffered a menu, which he glanced at idly before pointing at something that looked magenta and frothy. The waiter disappeared. She glanced around the dark, smoky bar.

"Nice place for a shore leave," she said finally, picking up her glass to finish off the small amount that was left.

"I kind of wondered at your choice myself," he responded, and she twisted her head to give him a grin. "Not your usual kind of place, B'Elanna."

"But it is yours," she countered, putting her glass down. "Sometimes, I wonder about you, Tom. I thought this might answer some of my questions."

"I would answer them." She watched him turn as the waiter reappeared, giving them the tall glasses. He lifted the glass, touching the tip of his tongue to the froth. A satisfied smile turned the corners of his mouth. "I thought so. A variation of brandy."

"You know these things instinctively?" she queried, taking the flute between her fingers and twirling it idly. The magenta was deceiving--it had several different graduations of red that twisted together, and if she looked hard--which she tried to do, briefly--she could see the each twist separately.

"Practice." He took a sip, shaking his head a little at the tickle of the topping, then a longer swallow. "Try it. Kind of like cherry brandy."

She took an experimental sip. A lot like cherry brandy, actually, and took a longer drink, enjoying the tart flavor.

"Not bad. You come here often?" She gave her head a playful tilt at her own words, an almost flirtatious gesture.

He grinned a little, shaking his head.

"Harry was going to come with me, but suddenly decided he needed run some diagnostics of Ops. Very suddenly, come to think of it." One eyebrow arched in suspicion. "Any reason for that, Lieutenant?"

B'Elanna tried and failed to hide a smirk behind her next sip.

"I could have said that there seemed to be some variances in power distribution in the ship's systems--or that I wanted some time alone with you."

"You could have asked me yourself," he answered, elbows on the bar now, giving her another little smile, before taking a drink.

"Yeah, but where's the fun in that? Besides, then you would have wanted to go to dinner or maybe to one of the entertainment complexes--you know, date stuff."

Tom drew back, and she saw the smile fade a little into thoughtfulness, eyes narrowing.

"I thought you liked that."

"I do. But you wouldn't have brought me here." She tapped her fingers on the worn wood for emphasis. "The places you go with Harry and the places you go with me are different," she explained. "And before--well, before we got together, you'd spend a lot of your time in places like this. But not after--at least, not with me. I just wanted to see what it was like."

"You've been to bars. There were enough at the Maquis bases. On shoreleave, you and Harry and I--"

She shook her head hard, hair brushing her face in the vehemence of the movement.

"That's not what I meant. I didn't go to them--you know, for entertainment. For fun."

"I don't come to these for fun all the time, either."

She blinked at that, tilting her head to look up into the blue eyes that were suddenly unreadable.

"Then why do you come?"

Tom set both elbows on the bar, staring into space just beyond it. She could tell he was thinking about the question carefully, which surprised her a little.

"Familiar? I don't know. I don't really think about it. At first, because Harry wanted to--and trust me, ensigns straight out of the Academy may as well have a sign attached to them saying 'get me drunk and take my credits, please', so I'd go with him to keep him out of trouble."

"Then you'd get him into trouble." She smirked a little at the mock-hurt expression on Tom's face.

"Hey, the last time wasn't *my* fault. Remember that incident on Deliaran III, where you came to bail us out of jail--" he began, and B'Elanna waved off the rest with a laugh.

"Yeah, I remember. Harry hit on the daughter of the bar owner, right?"

"The baby daughter of the owner," Tom corrected. "She'd only hatched a few days before. How was Harry supposed to know considering her *very* well developed--"

"Don't say it, Tom."

"I was going to say physiology, thank you very much."

"Sure you were, helmboy." She gave him a wise look and he ducked his head a little, then took another drink. "So you were telling me why you come to bars on shoreleave."

The smile faded again, replaced by that thoughtful look.

"Familiarity." He stared into the empty space behind the bar, and B'Elanna watched the blue eyes grow distant. "I know these places."

She imagined he did. But didn't say anything more, waiting for him to continue--if he wanted to.

"I never really thought about it. Ever since high school, I suppose--you know, the rebellious stage, not proper for an Admiral's son to go around slumming through low-class bars. Even on earth, you can still find places like that, the ones that run smugglers through them, though the crime statistics certainly don't show it. And I found every one of them in France and San Francisco, over the course of six years. Sandrine's was the one I liked best, but there were a lot of others."

"And you still go looking for them here, in the Delta Quadrant." Her voice was gentle.

He took another drink, a larger one.

"When I'm here, it reminds me of home sometimes. I don't suppose that makes much sense--but it comes down to familiarity. Not particularly happy, not really sad, but familiar." He glanced at her--maybe a little nervous about her response. She laid a hand over his, laying motionless on the bar. His fingers were warm.

"It makes sense. Which comes back to my original thought--why you don't bring me here. Or places like this. You wouldn't even take me to Sandrine's on a date."

"Somehow, it just doesn't seem appropriate."

"I'm not that kind of girl?"

He gave her a long look, blue eyes narrowing a little again. A kind of challenge.

"Are you?"

"What would you do if I was?" She turned on the stool so she could lean back against the bar, glass in hand, giving him a look from beneath her lashes. Tom glanced down, and she heard him catch his breath sharply.

She usually wasn't one for short skirts, after all.

"Where did you get that?" he asked in a low voice.

"Is that your usual pick-up line?" she drawled, twirling her glass in one hand, watching him from beneath half-closed eyes. Uncrossed and re-crossed her legs once, letting him get a good long look.

She watched his gaze flicker up to her face, seeing the smirk, back down, then up again. Sudden understanding lit up the blue eyes for a moment, before he took another long, and very obvious, look at her bare legs.

"I can do better."

His voice had dropped a little, and it sent shivers down her spine.

"I hope so." She let her voice drop to a purr that never failed to make him shudder. She felt his hand brush her shoulder, moving her hair out of the way, a finger gently touching her neck.

"So let's get a table, shall we?" Before she could answer, he stood up, finishing his glass and ordering something of the waiter in a low voice before catching hold of her elbow. Somehow, they dodged the other patrons, and found an empty circular booth, where she sat down before Tom slid in beside her. The waiter appeared, almost on cue, with more drinks. These were a different color, a pale, sandy yellow, almost opaque. She picked up a glass to study the contents with a little frown.

"Lighter," he said softly. "Just wine." As if to prove it, he took a sip, smiling at her over the top of the glass.

"So you're not trying to get me drunk, huh?" She tried not to laugh.

"I kind of like a challenge. So what's a girl like you doing in a place like this?" He leaned a little closer, and his breath caressed her cheek. She raised her head, looking down her nose at him.

"*That's* the best you can do?" she purred, tossing her head a little before raising her glass to her lips.

Suddenly, there was a hand on her upper thigh, slipping just inside, lightly kneading. B'Elanna almost spit out the wine she'd been sipping, shocked by the touch, knowing she shouldn't be, but--this was different, and she couldn't quite explain why.

"No. It's not." His fingers trailed against the skin just below the edge of her skirt, then slid down to her knee. His voice was low in her ear, breath stirring her hair. "I've been watching you all night. Are you waiting for someone?"

{How long has he been here?}

She leaned back against the padded seat, taking a breath to cool her suddenly heated nerves.

"I was, but he's late."

"He? Boyfriend?" Two fingers gently stroked her inner thigh, pushing her legs slightly apart.

"Yeah, a pilot." Her voice was breathy even to her own ears.

"Worst kind. You could do better." The slide of his palm against her leg, pushing the skirt up. Instinctively, she shifted her hips.

"So I've heard." She took a too-quick drink of the yellow liquid. The flavor was faintly mint, though certainly very dry, with an aftertaste that was citrus-like. Cool, too, against her lips.

"You should listen then." As if he had no idea of what he was doing under the table, he picked up his drink, taking an absent swallow. Though he was looking into the distance, she knew he was watching her from the corner of his eye. Assessing her reactions.

It made her wonder again, but he didn't let her think very long.

"Do you want to go somewhere a little more private?" he asked, giving her a long look that made the blood pound in her ears. The tips of his nails dug into her leg and she bit back the gasp, covering with a swallow of the wine. She knew that look--but it was oddly unfamiliar now.

"That's moving a little quickly, isn't it?" She felt him nudge her legs a little farther apart, unable to believe he was really doing this, in here, in *public*--and she was allowing it.

Hell, she was enjoying it.

"It's hard to remember that when I look at you. You're very beautiful."

B'Elanna had heard lines like that all of her life. But she couldn't remember actually hearing anyone say them like that, so sincerely. With utter conviction. To her shock, she felt herself begin to tremble. Her face flushed, and she couldn't blame it on the wine..

"N-n-no," she stammered, then caught herself, desperately searching for her composure, which was deserting her more with every inch his fingers traveled upward. "I'm sure you've said that to a lot of women."

"Never before now and meant it." He turned to her, putting his glass down, and one finger gently traced her forehead, over each individual ridge. She closed her eyes, enjoying the touch. His breath was warm against her cheek, and the long fingers found her jaw, turning her head. The brush of his lips against hers, very gentle, very light. Almost chaste. Almost.

Then he pulled away, still holding her jaw, his voice close to her ear.

"Someplace quieter?"

She felt herself nod. He dropped some currency on the table (vaguely, she wondered where he had gotten it), and his hand on her back guided her out, into the street, but only briefly. One door down, he led her inside, then, after another exchange of currency, upstairs.

It was dark, and neither of them bothered with the lights.

"You're good at this," she said, standing just a few feet from the door as he locked it. And even as she said it, she wondered how she meant it--in the fantasy or in real life? The line had already blurred.

"Say I'm inspired." And his arms went around her, gently pulling the light jacket from her shoulders, and she let it slither off her arms to the floor before putting one arm around his neck, pulling him closer. He looked down at her, lips close to hers, and took her hips between his hands, pulling her flat against him, taking her mouth at the same time, swallowing her gasp at the feel of him against her.

His hands slid to her back, playing at her waist, before unzipping the short black skirt, fingers stroking the newly exposed skin, the line of her underwear. His tongue brushed hers, a light kiss that abruptly became aggressive, opening her mouth further, tracing her teeth. She nipped lightly, hearing his low growl before his hands slid down to her buttocks, squeezing once, before taking her shirt and pulling it over her head. The kiss was broken for a breathless instant, before he returned, even more forcefully, holding her head in one hand, exploring her, tasting her.

She unbuttoned his loose red shirt, caressing the newly bared skin. His hands were unfastening her bra, easing the straps from her shoulders, before cupping one of her breasts, taking in her second gasp before freeing her mouth to run down her neck to her shoulder and settling there, playing with her skin with teeth and tongue.

Suddenly, he pulled up her skirt to her waist, pulling her underwear down, and she stepped out of them, eyes closed.

Different. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but it was different. Then both hands lifted her, and she automatically put her legs around his waist, letting him support her weight completely, staring up into the impossibly blue eyes. Her nails dug into his shoulders as her back came in rough contact with the wall.

"Is this what you did with Janeway?" The words came out of nowhere, and she caught her breath as they the air without the benefit of running through her brain first for censoring.

Time stopped, and she met the blue eyes for a moment, watching the expression that didn't change at all. Nor did he let her slide down the wall, out of his grasp; instead, he held her there, taking a short breath.

"So you do want to talk about it."

She had to give him credit for control--no emotion was visible. Nothing was visible.

"Not until now."

"I didn't give you credit for this kind of deviousness, B'Elanna." Unenthusiastic admiration.

"I learned from a master."

Their eyes met for a moment, and she felt his hands loosen on her hips. She brought both hers down, covering them, stopping him.

"You leave, it ends now."

She saw him pause, felt his conflict--and she knew even he had no idea what he would choose, until the moment came, and he nodded, almost to himself.

"How do you want it, B'Elanna?" Quiet. Maybe even resigned.

"Same way we always do it--fast and hard."

"What do you want to know?"


Again, the pause that she wasn't accustomed to from him, and she watched in fascination as he searched for words, brow a little creased with thought.

"Because she was there."

"That's not an answer, that's an evasion. Would it have happened if it had been Seven, or Sue, or Megan--anyone would have done?"

"Someone who understood."

B'Elanna didn't move for a minute, her thoughts spinning away--a hot Jefferies Tube, Chakotay's hands on her waist, his mouth against her neck--the beam-out to her quarters half-dressed, breathing so hard, so fast, wanting the feel of him.


"Understood what?"

"Being alone."

B'Elanna shook her head.

"That's not good enough."

"Too damned bad. I don't get much more introspective than this. What do you want to hear? That I've wanted her since I first saw her in Auckland? That it was a fantasy I never expected to actually live out? That it was really damned good? Take your pick, whichever answer makes you most comfortable, take it, they're all true."

Of their own accord, her legs loosened their hold, and suddenly, he had her pushed flat against the wall again, hands beneath her thighs. She caught her breath at the sudden contact, staring up into the dark blue eyes. His mouth was so close to hers she could feel his breath against her lips.

"You leave now, its over."

She shuddered at the look on his face, at the viciously leashed anger, hurt--things he was letting her see, making her feel. She hated it.

"What do you want to hear, Tom?" A whisper.

"Nothing." As simple as that.


"I can go to staff meetings right now and look at Chakotay and at you and not think about it. Like a good little officer, I can even take my orders from him, have cordial conversation with him, and smile politely at him. I can't do any of that if you confirm it-- what happened between the two of you. I can't."

"You know what happened."

"Yeah, but I can pretend not to. I want to pretend not to."

"That's not healthy."

"I think it's pretty damned unhealthy to have this conversation when I'm about to fuck you, but each to his own."

She couldn't argue with that, any more than she could explain whatever had suddenly taken control of her tongue, made her ask when she hadn't wanted to know the answer.

{I didn't want to know, and I made him tell.}

"I want to tell you about what happened." She could barely hear her own voice, even in the utter silence of the room.

"That's pretty damned selfish, then."

She stared up at him, mouth gaping open.


"All that would do is soothe your conscience, and you'd feel better. It wouldn't do a damned thing for me."

"For us."

"There is no 'us'." He didn't let go, even as the words dropped like stone between them. B'Elanna felt the breath freeze in her throat, her stomachs dropping. She tried to collect her thoughts, scattered by the finality of that statement. "There's a Tom and B'Elanna who are together, but not an us. There hasn't ever been." The bitterness was unmistakable.

"What the hell do you mean by that?"

{He can't mean that.}


"This isn't some stupid game, Tom!"

{You can't mean that.}

He smiled, just a little, shaking his head.

"No, it's not." She'd never heard that tone in his voice and met the blue eyes, trying to find something--anything--

"I don't understand."

"To have a relationship, two people have to be willing to commit to it. And we haven't, not really. We've committed to each other, but not to a relationship, and there's a difference between those two things."

And a pause, while they stared at each other. Taking it in.

"You've committed to seeing me, to sleeping with me, to seeing me socially. You've never committed to a relationship with me."

She couldn't even deny he was right.

"Why do you want to know, B'Elanna? Why now, why tonight?" She shook her head, but didn't look away. Not now.

"I want to know why I did it, too." She heard her voice shake a little, and closed her eyes, leaning her head against the wall.

"You don't know?" Quiet.

"No. I don't. And I don't like it, Tom. I don't like what I did, I don't like what you did, and I hate the fact that I don't know why. That something happened, between us, when we weren't even together. There's something wrong here, and I don't know what it is."

An engineer right down to the soles of her feet. She couldn't fix it because she didn't understand the problem, where it came from, why it was there. Probably better than anyone else on the ship, he understood that. She lowered her head, closing her eyes, searching for something, anything, that would fix what she felt, what he felt. What they had done.

{What if this isn't fixable?}

Then a hand touched her jaw, so lightly she almost didn't feel it.

"I needed you. That night. I hated that."

B'Elanna opened her eyes, startled. Searched his face, not even sure what she was looking for. The steady blue gaze unnerved her.

{Kahless. Honesty. He's really going to tell me.}

"I needed you to talk to me. To trust me. Just to be there."

Her breath stopped.

"I don't like that, needing someone. Sitting in Sandrine's, the bar I created, surrounded by friends, and feeling so damned alone. It's been a long time since I've felt like that." His hands moved up to her waist, pushing her higher against the wall, until their eyes were level. She watched in fascination as he sorted out his thoughts, the tangle of emotions he was trying to define.

"I didn't like that, feeling alone. I'm not used to it anymore. And you--I wanted you to talk to me, and you didn't, you went straight to him. Like you always do." His hand cupped her face, making her eyes meet his. "I want--I want you to come to me, talk to me. I want to be your first choice when you need someone, not your second, or third, or fourth." A struggle again, and she couldn't have looked away even if she wanted to. "The Captain was alone, and--we talked a little. We were both alone, but at least we were alone together--" He stopped.

{Alone. Before we got together, I talked to Tom about everything. I remember that. So does he.}

"There's a lot of things I want to know about you, B'Elanna." Gently, almost hesitantly, he traced her face with the tips of his fingers. "And a lot I need to know. But I don't need to know what happened that night between you and Chakotay. Because you didn't--you didn't stay there. You came back to me, and that's all I care about. Because that has to mean something, that you came to me."

Slowly, she nodded. He drew another breath, letting it out slowly, holding her gaze. He was making the effort first. Just like he always did.

"But if *you* need to talk about it--about Chakotay--if you need to tell me, I'll listen."

The brush of Chakotay's fingers. The Jefferies Tube, where he listened to her rage about Burke, about her own bad judgement. His own frustration with the Captain. The metal against her back when he kissed her, the feel of his mouth on her shoulder. The frantic speed in her room when they had sex, his breath harsh in her ear--and afterward, laying in his arms, going to sleep so quickly, maybe in self-defense.

Because they couldn't trust their partners-- his Captain, her lover.

{Does he need to hear this?}

Because she didn't trust Tom. Even now. Take that leap of faith, that leap of imagination, that could tear her apart again if she was wrong. She fought it even now, that desire to just *try*.

{Will I let Max Burke, my past, control my future?}

Blue eyes that didn't look away. He hadn't walked away yet. Just waited. For the first time, she realized how much time he did that in their relationship. Waited for her.

{Will he understand? Does he already?}

Because her judgement was fatally flawed, and she couldn't see straight--that a man who had been her friend, her lover, had betrayed her, had betrayed Starfleet, too--but betrayed her. Burke. Because if it happened once, it could happen again.

{Does he know?}

She looked into the blue eyes, not breathing. Searching. And finding.

{He knows.}

"No." She gently brushed his shoulder with her fingers, sliding one hand around his neck. Making a decision. "I don't need to talk about it."

The most subtle relaxation of the muscles under her hand, the gratitude quickly masked in his eyes. She leaned forward, laying her forehead against his shoulder, closing her eyes, as he drew her closer, holding her so tightly she could barely breathe. It didn't matter.

{A leap of faith.}

It wasn't a relationship, according to the Paris definition, but it was a start.

The End