by jenn

Author Notes: God, its been awhile since I wrote pure P/T (more or less). I have no clue where exactly Caldik Prime is in the Federation, nor did I find any references, so I took some liberties. I don't accept Pathways as canon, semi-canon, or a jump-start to canon, so don't expect a match-up here.

To Ann, for being herself.

* * * * *

"Why here?"

He gave her an enigmatic smile and didn't answer, blue eyes hooded as he tapped out a vaguely familiar rhythm on the leather-coated steering wheel. B'Elanna cradled her standard Starfleet carry-all in her arms and squinted out the windshield, watching the passing of eternal lengths of sand.


{"Busy tonight?"}


{"Good. Meet me at the holodeck at 2200."}

He'd disappeared while she blinked, a forgotten engineering report dangling from one hand. She should probably have been offended, but after a few years of intimacy, she supposed he'd earned the right to be a little complacent.

Sand had ground between her teeth when she'd first stepped foot into the holodeck, Tom leaning lazily against the camaro, face turned to the late afternoon sun. A white sun--not earth. The sand color varied between dirty beige and rotting bone.



She swiveled to look at him, biting her tongue against the cut of the seatbelt he'd buckled onto her when she'd first gotten in. Her stomach growled. She hadn't eaten since a hurried breakfast in his quarters that morning.

"Why here?"

He shrugged, which she interpreted as Tom's disinterest in answering, not making the mistake of assuming that this was some spur of the moment decision. The camaro program importation smacked of planning. She leaned into the seat, turning her eyes back to the road ahead.

Watched the endless and seemingly unvaried stretch of sand, with the single long line of grey that denoted the asphalt of the road, as far as the holodeck could project. Which was a lot.

"It seemed like a good idea." His free hand brushed across her thigh gently, nails nipping at the exposed skin. She let herself enjoy the feeling, lips turning up unconsciously.

She wished she could call him on that answer, but didn't have an opening. Dropping the bag on the floor, she crossed her arms over her breasts. Tom whistled something absently, and she wondered if he was even fully aware he wasn't alone.

She suspected he'd taken this drive before.

"Have you ever been to Caldik Prime?"

B'Elanna started, mouth opening briefly, unable to find any words. There were several topics of casual chat that she could have named, but this one hadn't made the top ten list by a long shot.


"Hmm." Noncommittal.

The skin on the back of her neck prickled, hair rising softly--letting her eyes study the landscape, trying to interpret the meaning behind his choice of conversation.

"It's a beautiful planet--well, was, before the Cardassian incursions." He was relaxed in his seat and B'Elanna noted the way the black leather of his pants molded to his thighs. She'd expected jeans and wondered why she hadn't noticed before. White t-shirt. Boots. She twisted her head away, feeling the flush that stole up her skin, heating her face.

She wondered if he saw it.

There was an uncomfortable silence--uncomfortable for her. She doubted he noticed or cared. The hand lingered on her thigh

"Where are we?"

"The holodeck." There was an edge of amused indulgence in his voice.

The flare of temper was quenched before it could force out hot words that would have all the effect of throwing cold water on the warp core. She knew him better than that.

"Don't be a smartass." She kept her voice light, trying to hide the nervousness that was creeping in on her with all the subtlety of a small bomb.

The corner of his mouth twitched, and she couldn't be sure it wasn't humor.

"Caldik Prime, eastern continent. Five thousand kilometers from the nearest city."

B'Elanna looked away, studying the landscape, more for something safe to put her eyes on than any real interest. The sun was dyeing the sand pale orange, darkening in the distance to dark-streaked red. The color of old blood and old memories.

"Is it always like this?" Even to her own ears, her voice sounded faint.

"The whole planet? No. Though this is the only part I can remember--here."

Tom slowed the car so gradually that B'Elanna barely felt the change in velocity as they came to a stop. He got out first, picking up something from behind the seat that he tossed over the hood, before the door shut with a ring to it that would have done justice to a good melodrama--or a Captain Proton scenario. She fumbled with the seatbelt, fingers clumsily trying to find the catch, then growled as she leaned down to look at it.

Her door swung wide and he leaned in, a hand pushing hers aside like cobwebs, and with a flicker of his fingers, the clasp came undone and wound itself back into the car. B'Elanna watched him move, fascinated.

"If we ever upgrade to restraints, I'll know what kind to use," he breathed against her lips as he looked into her eyes. Then he pulled back, extending a hand to help her out.

She imagined him installing these in her bedroom and the flush burned into her cheeks again. She knew he saw it this time.

"When did you become so chivalrous?" B'Elanna asked lightly. She'd never felt so off-balance in her life.

"There's something about being a gentleman in the Starfleet oath. I'm fulfilling the terms of my contract." Before she could seriously consider disembarking under her own power, he got her fingers in a tight grip and pulled her out with a quick jerk that brought her into full contact with him. She breathed him in, staring up into his eyes.

The dark blue eyes were unreadable in the dim light, and it worried her. But hell, she was already worried.

He let her go with only a smile and dipped one hand briefly into the car, pulling out her bag and then closing the door. B'Elanna took the opportunity to view her surroundings, taking in the scenery.

Remarkably and uninspiringly similar to the rest of the program thus far. What a surprise.

"It's--very large," she offered, knowing it was inane, unsure of what he wanted to hear. He shrugged, picking up his own knapsack. She smirked at her bag, clutched in the same hand. "I'm a big girl, I can carry my own--oh, chivalry, right?"

"You got it." With one of those quick graceful movements that never ceased to fascinate her, he tossed her the keys. "Or you could grab the gear in the trunk."


He shrugged, watching her as she walked slowly to the back of the car. Once open, she had to lean up onto her toes and she felt his eyes on her, on the shorts he'd left on her bed {he's way too confident these days}. Denim, a hair too short for modesty and fitting as closely as her own skin. She let him look, taking her time with the knapsack (hopefully containing blankets--B'Elanna knew how cold a desert night could be, thanks to the Academy second semester survival training in Nevada) and the tent. Both were light, and she fixed them on her back, closing the trunk quickly and turning to see Tom still watching her, a faint smile lingering. He reached out, catching her hand, squeezing her fingers impersonally before turning toward the west, toward the descending sun.

And they began their hike.

* * * * *

It was nearing nightfall before they stopped, coming to rest at an area that had something in the way of features--a smooth bowl of sun-warmed rock, dusted irregularly with sand, leading to a straight drop. She left Tom to set up their gear and stepped cautiously to the edge, taking in a sight that never failed to move her, ship-bound on a holodeck or not. The fading light made it impossible to see how far down it went, Her head swam briefly and she stepped back, coming in hard contact with Tom's body before she had retreated more than an inch. His arms circled her waist lightly at the touch and she turned her head, eyes still on the sheer drop. Her breath was fast even to her own ears.

"You do orbital skydiving and get queasy looking at this. I should have known." The amusement was rich in his voice.

"Adrenaline junkie," she breathed, still staring down.

"No surprise." He didn't move and she allowed herself to lean against him, dismissing the disturbing implications of Tom's choice of recreational scenarios. She'd learned long ago it was easier to ignore.

The desert was already cooling and she felt goosebumps pop up on her bare arms. Absently, she rubbed her skin and felt Tom's hands slip just below hers, running smoothly up and down, following the track of her palms. The long fingers casually brushed the sides of her breasts with every movement, warming her more than she cared to admit.

"If you look sixteen meters left, twenty meters down--" obediently, her eyes tracked the space--"that's where the shuttle hit."

Abruptly, the night didn't seem as cold as the feel of his hands on her skin, and she wanted to pull away.

"Midday, I think--I woke after dark." He could have been relating a fairy tale to her, the words almost rhythmic, as if they had been spoken more times than could be counted. "The door was sealed shut--entry without shields superheated the metal and we landed, prodigiously enough, on the only viable escape route. There wasn't any power, even for lights." His hands stopped moving, coming to rest lightly on her upper arms. She shivered again. "They came to find us twenty-four hours later, when it was noted we hadn't appeared on planet and the ship figured out we weren't hiding in the hangar for the hell of it."

Twenty-four hours. She knew the stats on this crash as well as she knew the settings on the warp drive. Invading his privacy had been the least of her concerns those long nights.

Twenty-four hours before rescue. Cutting through the doors to get inside. A concussed Lieutenant Paris unconscious on the floor, dried blood streaking the door in fine lines from ruined fingertips and broken nails.

Twenty-four hours with three dead bodies in a shattered ship. She couldn't control her shudder and his hands began to move again.

"Do you remember it?" She kept her voice impersonal.

"Yes." So cool, as if it had happened in another life, another world--and she had to admit, Voyager was both. "Everything."

She wasn't sure she wanted elaboration.

"Are you hungry?" His voice was light.

She almost turned around and resisted the urge but couldn't stop the stiffening of her body, knew he felt it.


It gave him the excuse, she thought, to let her go and walk away. Her eyes were drawn back to that particular cliff.

"It's gone now."

She turned abruptly, but he was merely unpacking.

"What is?"

"This." His hand casually circled the general area. "Destroyed by Cardassian phasers in pure atmosphere. It's large, black, and very circular." His head was down. "Some sort of retribution, I guess. There was a memorial there, and it dissolved just like the rest."

"How do you know--"

"How it looks?" He put the blanket down, pressing one foot onto the edge before weighing it down with one of the packs. As he moved to the next corner, performing the same procedure, B'Elanna watched him, the smooth, graceful movements that years in artificial gravity had never diminished. "I was there to watch it burn." He dropped the next bag and stepped across the blanket, sprinkling sand across the surface.

"Why were you there?"

His head came up--a flash of teeth.

"Smuggling." He dropped the third weight and coiled himself on the blanket, a cat at rest. "I got your favorite--gagh." The grin widened as he opened the pack on the closest corner, removing containers.

She forced a smile and started toward him, her steps small. She had a sudden, blinding desire to just keep walking, right back to the car, get in, and drive back to the doors, get the hell out of his surreal fantasy. Or better yet, just yell for the doors and disappear into her room and wait for morning.

But he might come after her, and she had no idea what she'd say to him.

Worse, he might not come at all.

So she sat down before him, taking the sandwich he offered and picking up the tumbler. One drink and she almost spat it out.

"Trying to get me drunk?" she managed after a space of time in which her stomach tried to decide whether to take the invasion. As her eyes cleared, she noted he had no sandwich, just the plain issue cup, filled with dark liquid. A plain glass flask rested at his hip. Whiskey.

"Your tolerance is as good as mine," he answered easily, lowering himself onto his side, one elbow supporting his head. He took a casual drink and smiled again, into his cup, eyes drawn down to the blanket. "What are you thinking?"

She placed the sandwich on the plate and held the cup cradled between her hands.

"I'm wondering why we're here." There was caution in her voice.

Eyes narrowed slightly and he took another drink.

"It's an anniversary that, this year, I just didn't feel like celebrating alone," he answered, almost reflectively. "I get the fun of learning Klingon---I figured you owed me."

She tilted her head, taking a drink because she couldn't think of anything to say to that. Anniversary--she could calculate it easily. A decade had passed and he'd felt inspired to bring her in on the festivities. She almost wished he hadn't.

"The moons will rise in less than an hour," he said softly. Eyes coming up, finding hers effortlessly.

B'Elanna nodded, not sure what response he wanted.

"After my--dismissal--from Starfleet, I came back here. Camped for a week, just looking at bare burned rock, the memorial, reading the names." He paused, and the blue eyes slid back to the spot that couldn't be visible from his position. He finished the cup, pouring another, and B'Elanna swallowed the remainder of hers hurriedly, extending the cup mutely for him to fill.

The silence stretched, and Tom drank, watching the darkening sky with an expression she couldn't quite interpret, well though she knew him.

"Why did you come back?" She kept her voice soft, eyes on her drink.

"Guilt. Anger. That sort of thing." He paused, considering. "To see where I could have died." B'Elanna looked up, seeing his gaze fixed still on that spot that could have been the crash site. "I was a Starfleet officer, and that's the closest I'd ever been to death. Then. I thought about that." He took a sip, almost reflectively, before continuing. "It was never as good afterward."

B'Elanna placed her cup unsteadily on the blanket.

"What wasn't?"

"Chasing it." He filled his cup again, and B'Elanna made the vague connection between the alcohol and the loosening of Mr. Paris' tongue. There was nothing accidental about what he was doing. "Running the DMZ in a tiny trade ship with barely enough shields to stop interstellar dust--flying for Chakotay through a space fight that turned into a Maquis massacre--" B'Elanna winced in memory, but he didn't see it--she thought. "Sometimes making my way between planets in less--umm, savory ways." He paused again, taking a drink, before the blue eyes came up to hers. "You ever wondered what happened that day? What I did after, for those years before the Maquis?"

If Starfleet knew, it wasn't in his file. If Harry knew, he'd never breathed a hint. B'Elanna had tried both and failed. Slowly, she nodded, taking her cup and throwing back the last drink before handing it to him to fill.

"It's one of the things they don't train into you." He was thoughtful now. "They do everything else, prepare you to live and die for your ship with your Starfleet honor intact." Another pause. "I never wanted to die. But it was interesting to find out how close I could get. How fine I could cut it. But that first time, coming down through pure atmosphere, watching the clouds then the ground come up toward me--there's nothing like it. Never has been."

She remembered, all unwittingly, who had written her orbital diving program.

"Smuggling runs were the least dangerous of my many professions, Ms Torres." There was definite humor in his voice. "Sex doesn't cut it either, though I think you'd be surprised how close it can be with a Romulan you cheated at poker, and they figure it out before you can get out of the bed." He chuckled softly, and she heard him finish his tumbler, refilling it with an exquisitely steady hand.

There was a lot here she didn't understand, and she wondered if he'd done that deliberately. Carefully, she took another sip.

She'd never needed her courage to come out of a bottle before.


Blue eyes came up, guileless as a five year old child's, more innocent than any man's could ever be.

"Why now?"

He grinned.

"Need to know information. My personnel files just aren't as extensive as Starfleet wishes they could be and I figured by now you've found everything in them." He took a swallow, still grinning.

He'd known. She wondered for how long.

"Most of it is public record--the original investigation, then later, my court-martial and confession and how they didn't quite finish the trial, let me go out as a Paris and resign in disgrace. Save my father some dignity, I guess." His head tilted thoughtfully, regarding his cup as he regarded a particularly annoying problem in navigation.

She couldn't think of a way to answer that.

"He doesn't know what I did for those years either, because no one really cared. Except you. Which I'm still debating the merits of." Easily, he lifted himself into a sitting position, throwing back the rest of the whiskey. "

"Debating the merits of?" She was down to echoing, because a truly original thought just couldn't penetrate ethanol-induced fuzziness and that was probably the reason why what they were drinking tonight wasn't synthehol.

"What you want to know."

What she wanted to know. That was a good question, and five hours ago she would have answered everything.

That was then.

She lowered herself onto her side, taking another drink because she couldn't decide what else to do. She got the feeling he was bracing himself for something, even if they lithe body held no hint of tension, the handsome face relaxed and thoughtful.

"I come here every year," he said softly. "Before resigning, after, and on Voyager. This program goes wherever I go--the only thing I kept when I sold everything else." A pause, where he looked into his glass. "Even myself. I always found a way. And I'd sit here for hours, watching it, watching the place that I should have died, along with everyone I killed."

"It was an accident."

He grinned, sliding up to his hands and knees and pacing toward her, and she rolled onto her back, looking up into the dark eyes. He leaned forward, face centimeters from hers, lips so close she could feel him breathe, warm against her cooling skin.

"No, it wasn't."

There was something about that moment, even with her blood chilling in her veins, even with those blue eyes regarding her so coolly, that allowed her to lean forward those few centimeters, brush her lips against his, feel his response in the slide of his body over hers.

"You meant to turn your ship into a spare-parts depository?" Her voice was rough.

"It would have worked, pure velocity with minimal shields." He lowered his head, brushing her cheek with the tip of his tongue. "It should have worked, and it would have been a hell of a ride. No miscalculation, no mistake--my only mistake was to take a Class Two shuttle to do it, that couldn't keep up with me. It would have been fast, B'Elanna. The braking would have been smooth and it would have been the fastest entry into atmosphere that anyone had ever seen." His lips were near her ear. "They knew what I was doing and enjoyed every minute."

She arched her neck, felt his mouth slowly move downward, found her hands sliding through his hair, brushing his scalp with the tips of her fingers.

"But on entry, the ship couldn't stand the stress. The shields failed and we lost engines. When we braced for impact, we were all staring at the ground coming up in the fastest entry in recorded Starfleet history." His teeth were unbuttoning her shirt and he brushed each exposed inch of skin with the tip of his tongue. "When you're twenty-two, you're immortal. We saw it coming and knew we couldn't die."

He slid a leg on either side of her thighs, pulling her up to sit, and she let him push away her shirt, drifting into the sand behind her. She fingered the soft leather covering his thighs, pressing her nails in, feeling the tension of the muscles beneath.

"I woke up still believing it, even with the blood of my crew smeared into my uniform." He lowered her back down, bracing himself on his hands above her. Watching her with that same cool regard, studying her like an engine schematic. "One a superior officer, one my best friend, and one my lover."


"Don't." His lips brushed hers to silence. "Not if you want to hear it all." His lips brushed her collarbone, gently, grazing it lightly with his teeth. "As you can imagine, they weren't dead yet. Ten hours later, I was alone, and the floor was so slick that my boots kept sticking to it. That's about the time I realized that there wasn't a way out, and even immortality didn't save you from the sheer stupidity of not leaving a forwarding address on where you're going to crash."

B'Elanna slid her hands beneath his shirt, working it upward, running her nails across his stomach, then up his chest. He shifted, lifting her legs, settling between them, drawing her thighs over his. Slowly, she sat up, pushing the shirt higher, brushing her teeth along his chest, feeling his fingers in her hair. When her mouth settled on a nipple, he let out a slow breath.

"I couldn't get the door open," he said softly. She pressed the shirt up and he let her strip it off him. "Six hours, and I couldn't even breathe. When I woke up in Sickbay, they asked me what happened and then had to sedate me. Sickbay was too small." His hands traced the line of her vertebrae, roughly, fingernails leaving lines in her skin.

"You lied."

"Creative truth," he answered. "A little less than everything, a little more than actually happened. No big thing, and I could have kept it that way. They released me to my quarters to recuperate and I wrote this program. Ran it until someone started asking questions and a few too many psychologists got too close to the bone. In all the holodeck runs, it worked perfectly and we landed clean every time. I'll never know what went wrong in flight."

She shuddered as he lowered them both back into the blanket and his mouth slid between her breasts.

"Until then, I never knew I had a conscience. Never wanted one. When you're twenty-two, you really believe you're above all the laws of God and man and you don't give a fuck about anything. At twenty-three, you know you aren't. That's the only difference between who I was and who I became--that single moment of clarity, that I wasn't and I'd pay for it the rest of my life. And I hated it. Everything I did after that was just icing."

She reached down, rubbing lightly at his erection through the soft leather, felt the hiss and the catch of his teeth on her skin. Her hands shook, not just from arousal.

"I destroyed so much--my commission, my pride, my self-respect." He lifted his head, finding her eyes and holding them. "My father, my family, my life. But I couldn't get rid of that one thing, that single moment, even with all the rest as burned as my shuttle. Not the memories of Caldik Prime or that crash into the surface or the lie I can't really ever regret. They're nothing, compared to living with that voice in the back of your mind, that tells you every damned thing you did wrong. Every day. It's the one thing I couldn't get rid of and couldn't escape, that alcohol and sex couldn't dull, that sleep couldn't mute, that I was more faithful to than any woman or any man or any ideal."


"Quiet." Suddenly, he raised himself up, hands at her waist, unfastening her shorts, removing them with such practiced ease she wondered how many times he'd done this, with her, with anyone else. Her shoes were discarded by the abandoned sandwich with a flick of his wrist, and he ran expert fingers across her stomach, finding each rib by touch. "That's everything anyone ever needed to know about me, the one piece of leverage. That before, I could do anything and never care, and after, I felt every mistake." She felt his breath on her stomach. "And I always cared."

She wanted to say something, but it ended in an indrawn breath when he parted her with his tongue, finding her clit easily, sending a quiver through her thighs. She slipped her fingers through his hair, nails digging in, lifting one leg to brace her foot against his back. She rocked into the thrust of his tongue, the hard teeth bruising the thin skin, the feel of his hands on her hips that directed her body as if she had no will of her own. He knew her too well.

Sweat beaded on her forehead and her grip increased--she knew what he was doing to her, knew it was deliberate, knew this was all going according to some mystical plan of Tom Paris, that he'd accounted for everything she'd do, everything she'd ask, knowing what she wouldn't say.

"Have you always used sex as a weapon?" she whispered, a sharp sensation emanating from between her legs making her body quiver, her legs tremble. And she couldn't stop her response to him, to what he could do to her, even now. The blue eyes lifted, and she almost thought they mocked her.

"It can be a lot of things, B'Elanna, but I've never used it for that."

Kahless, she wanted him.

"Even now?"

He slid up her body, taking her mouth hard, suddenly pressing his full weight down on her and she dug her nails into his back, his teeth catching her tongue. She could taste herself on him, wanted to get all of that taste, all of him, everything she could get, because this was as vulnerable as he would ever be. She slid a hand between them, somehow fumbling his pants loose, pushing them down as far as she could, using her foot to press them further, concentration on the simple task interrupted with every movement of his tongue.

"Even now," he breathed, catching the skin behind her ear and closing his teeth over it sharply. Her back arched and she forgot what she was trying to accomplish, but he hadn't--before she had gotten her breath back, he was hard against her stomach. He whispered something against her ear and she lifted a leg around his waist, forcing him into intimate contact, rubbing herself against him, feeling the catch of his breath in her ear, his mouth fixed on her shoulder.

"Why are you telling me now?" she said softly, digging her nails into his back, sliding them down to his ass. She felt his shudder as she rocked against him again, and he lifted himself on his elbows, tongue running lightly around his lips, a movement she followed with fascinated eyes. With care, she felt him move into position, looking down at her with unreadable eyes, then covering her mouth with his and entering her with one thrust. He swallowed her moan, one hand lifting her thigh a little higher. He was still for a second, shuddering, blue eyes closed, and she felt the sweat drying cold on the heat of his back.

When they opened, he traced her face with a single finger, caressing.

"With you, it's always quiet."

Then he thrust again, arms going beneath her, lifting her up onto his lap, letting her set the pace, mouth moving intricately over her skin. She breathed out, shuddering with every movement, his hand in her hair, giving her control as easily as he'd assumed it, and she moved with care at first, then found the rhythm she wanted. The arm around her waist tightened and she buried her head against his shoulder, dragging breath after breath, every muscle strung tight. He pushed up against her, whispering against her skin something she couldn't hear, could only feel, more aware of him than she'd ever been before, every muscle, every sound, every breath.

"Harder, 'Lanna."

She braced one arm on his sweat-slicked shoulder, drew in a panted breath, and did.

The moons rose overhead, she knew, but didn't see them, not until he looked up at her and she saw the reflection of them in clear blue, when he kissed her and her body tightened another notch and his fingers drifted to her hips, caressing gently, between her legs to stroke her, pulling her so close, as if he wanted to crawl all the way inside her with every thrust. She felt something give way finally, a tear squeezed from her eyes at the force of her release that was almost pain, hearing her voice but not knowing what she said, feeling his release in every muscle of her body. He let her down, the pulses inside her still shaking her, as slowly, he lowered them back to the blanket, sand scratching exquisitely on her bare back.

It was quiet.

She felt him move briefly, then slide back beside her, covering her with a blanket before the chill could touch her, and she turned into his arms, his forehead against her shoulder. The relaxation of his body against hers, the weight, the warmth, made her close her eyes briefly, but she forced them open to look down at him. Saw the slight smile and wound herself closer to him, closing her eyes.

Aware that the warmth in her stomach that had nothing to do with sex or his hand just under her breast.

She made it quiet.

The End