French Roast Connection”
Author: Briar Rose
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek Voyager.
A Little Word From Me: If Tom and B’Elanna had any post ‘Lineage’ recrimination and angst to work out between them, they’ve done it without my help. I’ve dabbled in angst, but as a rule I’m not a fan of it. I know this would never happen, I’m just expounding on a thought. And I know the characters wouldn’t really do any of this. Just go with the flow – it’s comedy, folks!
Sorry for the pathetic fouls, Liz. I couldn’t help myself. But I did take most of your suggestions :D
Vague references to Captain Proton, ‘Prime Factors’ and ‘Someone to Watch Over Me.’ This is your last warning.
A special thank you to Jim Wright, the chronicler of all facts. You’re invaluable. When you’re not making up dialogue – then you’re just a laugh-riot. :D
Happy Birthday LA!
Well, close enough…
Something was pulling B’Elanna back to consciousness, but she didn’t want to go. She’d been dreaming that she was swimming and the water felt like warm silk. The sun was glinting golden off the waves, and she floated in blissful silence: she felt bathed in light.
She could feel it fragmenting, dissipating, and she tried to keep the feeling with her, but a noise was creeping into the dream—a low humming with a musical beeping accompaniment. B’Elanna groaned and buried her face into her pillow. She snaked a foot across the sheets, not really expecting to feel the hairy, well muscled leg she was seeking. Tom, as expected, was not in the bed.
With a groan she turned her head and opened one eye. “Tom,” she admonished, with a sleepy growl, “you said you’d stop.”
He palmed the medical scanner and snapped the tricorder shut. “No I didn’t. I said I’d try to stop. I haven’t scanned you in two days. I think I’m doing well.”
She sighed. “And how is the baby doing?”
“Great. She’s growing fingernails.”
“Ummm,” B’Elanna answered. She settled further into the blankets.
“Ah…B’Elanna? If you’d just turn over...”
This time her voice had an edge to it. “Do I have to call the doctor and have him confiscate that thing?”
“All right, I’ll put it away.” Tom opened the drawer on the night table and slipped the offensive tool inside.
He stood there a moment and contemplated his wife. His wife. He liked the sound of that. His wife, soon to be mother of his child. The marks of pregnancy were already beginning to show. Her breasts were fuller, and he’d noticed a roundness to her belly and hips that hadn’t been there even a week before. And her skin, which had always been soft and smooth, was like velvet now. B’Elanna didn’t just glow—she was luminous.
She rolled onto her side and raised an eyebrow at him. “What are you looking at?” she asked with a grin.
“What do you think I’m looking at?” He grinned back.
B’Elanna sat up and let the blankets fall about her waist. She reached out a hand and trailed a fingernail up his forearm. “Well, now that I’m up, what are you going to do with me?”
“I have a few ideas,” he answered. Actually, he’d had the one idea since she had started to stir from her sleep. Tom sat on the edge of the bed and lightly cupped her bare shoulder in his hand. He moved his palm in tiny circles, loving the warmth and silkiness of her skin. He leaned forward for a kiss, already imagining how he would press his lips to hers, then move downward to trail soft kisses along the long column of her throat. He could already ‘hear’ the soft, almost purring sound she sometimes made when they made love slowly, deliciously…
“Mmm...I do, too,” she agreed. “I’d kill for a ra’taj, but you just can’t replicate it. How about a warm raktajino and some paraka wings?”
Tom stilled, halted in mid tilt. His expression wavered for a moment, but then he smiled again and stood, bowing slightly. “As you wish,” he said, with all the mock gallantry he could muster at three in the morning.
He moved to the replicator, humming to himself. “Computer, one serving of paraka wings and one raktajino, hot, with whipped cream.” He rocked back on his heels and smiled at B’Elanna.
The wings materialized with a flourish, but the raktajino was noticeably absent.
“Computer, one raktajino, hot, with whipped cream, please,” he said.
“Unable to comply,” the computer answered.
Tom’s eyebrows shot up and he sent a questioning glance at B’Elanna.
“Pretty please?” Tom amended.
“Please restate request,” the computer answered.
“Do you think there’s something wrong with the replicator?” he asked B’Elanna.
She pushed back the covers and padded over to her husband. “No,” she said. “I suspect it’s working perfectly. Computer, one raktajino.”
“Unable to comply.”
“Please restate re—”
“That food item is no longer available to Lt. B’Elanna Torres,” came the clipped reply. Tom’s eyebrows dropped back toward his nose in a puzzled frown. He was about to comment, but B’Elanna was faster. She reached for her combadge on the dining table and spoke into it, “Torres to sickbay.”
“Sickbay here. Are you feeling all right Lieutenant?” He actually sounded concerned, the weasel.
“No, I’m not.” Her tone was decidedly clipped.
Tom could sense some ‘behavioral volatility’ coming and he took a few steps away from his wife. He wanted to get out of blast range.
“Do you need an emergency transp-”
B’Elanna cut him off. “What do you think you’re doing restricting my access to the replicator without telling me?”
“Ah, you’ve done all your assigned reading, I see.” His voice dripped sarcasm. “If you had looked over the padds I gave you yesterday, you would have seen the notes I made on your new dietary requirements.
“At this stage in the fetal development you need to increase your intake of calcium and phosphorous to ensure your daughter’s bones are properly formed. I also want you to increase the amount of fibre you consume – dried fruits are a delicious source of fibre, by the way. I’ve already mentioned your diet to Neelix, but you should get together with him soon and go over your options. You know how he likes to please.
“So,” continued the doctor, “what were you trying to convince the replicator to give you at...0312? Putillo perhaps? Delvin fluff pastries, Mikhal green salad? You know the chemical structure of the lettuce doesn’t agree with your Klingon physiology. Why the captain allowed Neelix to grow it, I don’t know. Or maybe you had a craving for something more Klingon; bahgol or raktajino, perhaps?” He listened to the silence for a moment.
“Of course,” he muttered. “I should have known you would want the thing that’s the worst of the lot. It’s full of caffeine, sugar, saturated fats; high in sodium, which you know plays havoc with your blood pressure. Not to mention the NaHlet oil which actually leaches the calcium from your bones.”
B’Elanna brought her hands up to ward off the assault. It didn’t matter that the doctor wasn’t even in the room. She looked pointedly at Tom who raised his eyebrows in a silent question. B’Elanna only glared in reply.
“Umm, b—but Doc,” he stammered, “I was the one who ordered the raktajino.”
“Are you saying you’ve suddenly developed cravings as well?” The doctor didn’t sound convinced.
“Ah...yeah. Nothing like a nice hot cup of Klingon coffee to send me right off to dreamland.” Tom’s eyes on B’Elanna were pleading. She made a little shoving motion with her hands to encourage him to continue.
“Mr. Paris, I know full well what you were planning to do with that ‘cup of coffee’,” he replied. “You’ll find that your replicator access has been restricted also, as well as those of your friends whom I thought B’Elanna might be able to...sway.”
“Hey, that’s not fair!” Tom protested. “She’s the one who’s pregnant, why should I suffer?”
B’Elanna’s mouth dropped open in mock resentment. She closed it with a glare, then grabbed her plate of paraka wings and headed back to the bed.
“Well, Mr. Paris, if you persist in these midnight snacks of yours, I may have to do more than restrict the type of food you can access. We wouldn’t want our chief helm officer to grow too big to squeeze into his chair, now would we?”
Tom rolled his eyes at the doctor’s remark. He caught B’Elanna’s snort of laughter. “Uh huh. So tell me—who exactly will want our heads tomorrow?” Tom asked.
“Oh, just the people you interact with on a regular basis; most of the engineering staff, Mr. Kim, an assorted ensign or two. I couldn’t restrict Neelix’s access, of course, but he has been given explicit instructions on what he is allowed to give to you and what he is not.”
“So you’re saying you don’t trust me, Doc? I’m wounded.”
“If there’s nothing else you two need from me, I have some reading to do. I suggest that in the morning you do the same. Goodnight, Lieutenants.”
Tom swung back to B’Elanna with trepidation. His eyes pleaded forgiveness.
He made his way cautiously back to her. She was halfway through the plate of spicy meat, and she’d left a small pile of bones like a simulated skeleton on the night table. He resisted the urge to find a saucer to put them on. His own mess was one thing, but living with B’Elanna’s trail of clutter was a lesson in the fine art of compromise. Tom decided it was worth the effort.
He climbed into the bed and settled himself across her legs, resting his weight on his heels. “Can you believe the nerve of some people?” he asked. “Now hand over some of those wings before you eat them all.”
“Hey!” She pulled the plate out of his reach. “I need all the nourishment I can get. I’m a growing girl.”
Tom ran a hand over the slight bulge of her stomach. “Oh,” he said with a tender smile, “I thought you were growing one.”
He was looking forward to the way her body would change. He knew from reading his medical texts that her abdomen would begin to get noticeably rounder soon; sooner than it would if she’d been fully human. In a few weeks anyone who saw her would know that they were going to have a baby. Well, provided they were familiar with the way most Alpha Quadrant species reproduced. And if they didn’t know, he would happily tell them.
Life was good, he decided. He had a job he loved—and another that he enjoyed, though he would never admit that to the doctor. He had the respect of his superiors, good friends, a baby on the way, and a wife he adored. A beautiful wife he adored.
He watched her bring another wing to her mouth. Her lips parted, and as she bit delicately into the tender meat, he felt a familiar warmth flow through him. His mouth went dry as she licked the spicy sauce from her fingers.
“Tom, I was just kidding. You should try them,” she said, motioning to the plate. “This sauce is delicious.” B’Elanna looked up to see Tom’s dark gaze locked on her fingers.
“Hmmm,” he replied. He sounded distracted.
Tom reached out to take the half-empty plate from her, then he curled his fingers around her sticky hand and raised it to his mouth. His eyes locked with hers as he closed his lips around one finger and swirled his tongue around the tip before slowly pulling it from his mouth. “Mmmm, delicious,” he agreed.
B’Elanna swallowed hard. She felt sparks shoot to her elbow. Tom smiled at her and leaned in to trail kisses up her throat to the hollow under her ear. As he grazed his teeth along her jaw, B’Elanna closed her eyes, reveling in the sensation of her husband’s warm lips on her skin, but when she opened them again, they were lit with a new resolve.
“Do you want me, Tom?” she asked, teasing him.
“Yes!” his voice was throaty. Even he was surprised by how much he wanted her at that moment.
“Well,” she said, drawing away from him slightly, “I want my raktajino.”
It took a moment for the implication to sink in. He stared at her, hoping she wasn’t serious. “It won’t be that long, you’ll see. And you’ll have lots of things to think about—lots of things to do to get ready for the baby. And as soon as she’s born,” he kissed her lingeringly on the lips, “I’ll make the doc give you that raktajino himself.” He grinned lazily, hoping that he’d convinced her.
“You know, Tom, you’re right.” B’Elanna was smiling back, but he didn’t like the look in her eyes. “It won’t be that long. Only a few months. And you’ll have lots of things to do to keep you busy. The doctor will see to that. And about a month after she’s born, provided she doesn’t keep waking up and interrupting us, I’d love to pick up where we just left off.” She placed a chaste kiss on his cheek and turned back to her plate of spicy wings.
He looked—well—stupefied. “B’Elanna?” He tried his best roguish grin. “You can’t be serious. I mean, we have another nineteen or twenty weeks to go.”
“Uh huh. We do, don’t we? Twenty weeks without coffee. Whipped cream, that hint of cinnamon…” She let her voice trail off wistfully before turning to look him in the eye. “But it really won’t be that bad, you’ll see,” she said, then slowly licked the paraka sauce from her thumb.
For once Tom was early to the bridge. He stepped off the turbolift and counted heads: Tuvok, who nodded hello. Captain Janeway already in the big chair—early as usual, or so he’d been told since he’d never made to the bridge before her in the six years they’d been stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Jurot at the science station, Nozawa and Nicoletti at engineering, Baytart at the helm, and Ayala at ops. Ayala. Now there was a possibility.
Ayala was an old friend of B’Elanna’s. He’d been in the Maquis when she joined; Chakotay’s strong, silent, right hand even then. He had looked out for B’Elanna, looked after her, somehow, without letting her know that he was doing it. And he was married, with two children of his own—though they were far from him in the Alpha Quadrant. If anyone would have sympathy for his cause, Ayala would. And he was a cause kinda guy, right?
Of course, it was just possible that B’Elanna hadn’t really meant it. That she was just toying with him—the image of a cat with a mouse came to mind—but he wasn’t willing to take the chance. And her platonic peck on the cheek as she left their quarters for engineering that morning didn’t bode too well for him; he’d seen her muster more enthusiasm for Harry after a few days of conflicting shifts.
Tom nodded a polite hello at Tuvok, then sauntered over to ops. “Ayala, “ he addressed the big, quiet man with a smile. “Are we still on for the game tonight?” There was a certain, well, security, in knowing that one of your best poker buddies was in security. It meant there was better than even odds that the game wouldn’t be shut down by the security chief.
Ayala nodded and added, “2100. My quarters.”
“Good, good.” Tom replied. “Looking forward to it.” And he was too, since chances were he’d have nothing more stimulating to do that evening. “Harry told me to tell you he’d be right up,” Tom continued. “He’s just finishing his last cup of coffee.” Tom tilted away and looked casually around the bridge to check to see if anyone was listening. They weren’t.
“Mmmm, coffee. Life’s blood. You know,” he rose onto his toes and drummed the console with his fingertips, “forget about the warp core, half the time I think Voyager runs on coffee.” He laughed good-naturedly. “I love coffee, and B’Elanna, well, she could live on the stuff. Especially raktajino.”
Ayala looked up at this and Tom faltered a moment, arrested by the quiet man’s steady gaze. Tom paused and waited for a comment, but none was forthcoming.
“But I bet you know that already. I mean, you two have been friends now for what, eight, nine years?”
“Yes,” Ayala confirmed.
Tom plowed ahead, undaunted. “Did she always love Klingon coffee, or did she pick it up in the Maquis?”
Ayala studied him for a moment before replying. “This wouldn’t be your roundabout way of trying to get me to supply you with a contraband substance, would it, Lieutenant?”
Caught. Tom puffed air, trying to come up with a reply. How did he know, he wondered. Surely Ayala wasn’t on the doctor’s hit list? “Con…contraband?” He forced another laugh. “Coffee is hardly—”
“Because I’m sure you remember that I’m Commander Tuvok’s second.”
And just what did he mean by that? Before Tom could ask him, they were interrupted.
“Don’t get too friendly with him if you value your replicator access.” Harry stepped off the lift and walked up behind Tom. He clapped him on the back with a little more force than was required.
Apparently Harry was still unhappy about being on the doc’s sucker list. Or maybe it was the fact that he could only get his coffee from Neelix—and drink it in front of him—for the next twenty weeks.
“Mr. Paris.” The captain’s voice startled Tom out of his musings. “Are you planning to relieve Ensign Baytart anytime this morning?”
“Uh, yes ma’am,” Tom responded. Harry raised an eyebrow, but Tom shook his head and walked to the helm. Harry should count himself lucky, Tom thought; his sentence was only twenty weeks. His own, apparently, was twenty-four.
Chakotay stopped outside the door. He sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Some things a man does to test his bravery. Some things a man does simply because he must. He wasn’t sure which category this fell under, but it was time to begin.
He stepped forward and the doors slid aside to reveal the hive of activity that was engineering on a typical day. But today was different. It was too quiet. So quiet that he felt the thrum of the warp core in his chest. The crew was definitely cowed. He scanned the room quickly, looking for the storm cloud and lightening strikes that would mark the presence of the chief engineer. Nothing. He turned at a touch on his elbow.
“Good morning, Commander,” Joe Carey said. “If you’re looking for the Chief, she’s over there.” He pointed to a workstation on the far side of the room.
“Didn’t your shift end an hour ago, Mr. Carey?” Chakotay looked amused. What was it about these engineers? None of them could stand to leave the warp core to anyone else.
“Yes, Sir. Just putting in a little OT. We’re almost ready to begin the isolinear conversion. Lt. Torres is running the final simulation now.”
“Good,” Chakotay replied. “When that’s done, I expect you to get some rest.”
“Yes, Sir,” Carey replied. “Actually, I’m looking forward to getting back to my quarters, if you know what I mean.”
And locking the door behind him, no doubt, Chakotay mused. On a good day B’Elanna could be described as short-tempered. He had no idea what to expect with the pregnancy and food restrictions. The fact that there hadn’t been any medical—or security—emergencies in engineering so far that morning was a good sign. Just maybe B’Elanna’s mood had swung up today, instead of down. He held on to that hope as he pulled in another breath and squared his shoulders. Time to face the Chief.
He found B’Elanna punching numbers and muttering under her breath. She looked calm enough, but years of experience told him that didn’t necessarily mean anything. Her mood could change in an instant. Actually, that was unfair, he thought. Lately, she would simmer for a long time before she finally blew. I wasn’t her fault that some people ignored the warning signs. “Good morning,” he said evenly. He felt like he was sending out a recon probe. Or standing at the rim of a volcano.
B’Elanna turned, startled. “Good morning. Didn’t your shift end an hour ago?” She arched an eyebrow at her old friend, grateful for the interruption.
“Yes, but I wanted to see how you were doing.” He used his most calming tone.
B’Elanna wasn’t willing to fall for it. She eyed him closely. “Did Tom send you down here to check on me?”
“No. This was my idea. I just wondered how you were handling the doctor’s little maneuver, that’s all.”
“I’m fine with it, Chakotay, really.” She shook her head at his dubious expression. “All right,” she admitted, “at first I was a little annoyed. But it’s not like I didn’t expect it. You know how he is; give him a little power and he goes overboard.”
“True. It was easier for him to do it this way, but to be honest I thought you’d be more bothered by it. Expectant motherhood must be good for you,” he added with a smile. Or maybe it’s the lack of caffeine, he thought.
“Tom helps me to see reason occasionally,” she deadpanned.
Chakotay looked at his old friend for a long moment. She was happy, he realized. And she’d grown enormously in the nine years he’d known her. She finally seemed comfortable in her own skin. It was silly of him to always assume that she’d overreact and become violent. Silly and unfair. “You two have been good for each other,” he said spontaneously. “I’m glad I’m here to share this time of your life with you.” He squeezed her arm, then turned and walked out of engineering leaving B’Elanna with a bemused expression.
B’Elanna scrunched up her face in a puzzled frown. “That was odd,” she said to the air around her.
Seven was watching her again. And she wasn’t being discreet about it either. This was getting to be too much. Not only was her staff sneaking little glances at her, now Seven was getting into the act, too. Three times she’d caught her staring. Three times! And she didn’t even have the good grace to look away when B’Elanna met her eyes.
B’Elanna dropped the padd she’d been reading onto her workstation and marched purposefully toward the irritating woman.
“Do you require my assistance, Lieutenant?” Seven glanced up from the display she’d been studying and fixed B’Elanna with a bland look.
B’Elanna’s eyes narrowed in return. “Actually, I thought maybe I could do something for you.” Her eyebrow rose in a challenge.
The former Borg blinked once and glanced at the display on her monitor. “Not at this time. Perhaps when I’ve completed the latest simulation you can assist me by helping to review the findings.” She looked intently at B’Elanna’s face for a moment. “The computer should be finished in twenty-three-point-six minutes. Perhaps you would like to sit down in your office while you’re waiting. You look…pale.”
“Sit down?” B’Elanna’s voice rose in outrage. So that’s what this was about. She hauled in a calming breath and tried again. “I’m fine, Seven. I’m not about to faint again, if that’s what’s bothering you.” B’Elanna waved a dismissive hand at the concerned look on the other woman’s face.
Seven’s eyes dropped to B’Elanna’s tiny belly then quickly returned to her face. “You are pregnant, Lieutenant,” she commented.
“Yes, pregnant, not sick.” B’Elanna couldn’t hide the irritation in her voice. “Women do it all the time.”
“Your abdomen has increased in size by approximately three-point-five centimetres during the last eight days.”
B’Elanna’s hand flew to her stomach—which to anyone else on the ship still looked as flat as ever. “You can tell?” she asked skeptically.
“Certainly, my ocular implant enables me to discern differences in circumference to point—”
B’Elanna cut her off, “I get it. Of course. I guess I forget sometimes,” she gestured in Seven’s direction, “about your Borg enhancements.”
It was Seven’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “I don’t understand. I have several visible implants, how is it possible for you to forget that I was Borg?”
“I guess I just see you as you, now. That’s just the way you are.” Seven’s eyebrows drew together in a puzzled frown. B’Elanna tried again. “You’re not,” she hesitated, feeling uncomfortable revealing something that they both knew, but had never voiced, “you’re not ‘the Borg’ anymore. In my mind. You’re just…you.”
“I see. As you are no longer the quick-tempered, irrational, traitorous Maquis rebel. Is that what you mean?”
B’Elanna’s eyes narrowed, searching for an insult in Seven’s words. “Something like that,” she finally said. “Twenty minutes, huh? I’ll be back.” B’Elanna turned and was about to leave when Seven’s voice stopped her.
“Does it hurt?”
“Does what hurt?” She swung back to Seven, puzzled.
“The growth of your uterus. And the expansion of the skin of your abdomen. Does it cause you pain?”
“No, of course not. Well, I’ve had a little cramping, but nothing that I would say actually hurt. Why?”
“The Borg reproduce through assimilation. They take embryos from assimilated females and use maturation chambers to grow the fetus to term. I have no experience with pregnancy. I find it interesting.”
“Well, it’s too bad you weren’t here when Sam Wildman was growing Naomi. She talked about it all the time. She even let everyone feel her belly.” Seven raised a requesting eyebrow, and B’Elanna backed away quickly. “I don’t think so,” she said.
Seven almost looked disappointed. “I have been researching reproduction in humanoid species. Are you aware that you are likely going to experience more dizziness, nausea, stretch marks, varicose veins, shortness of breath, dark pigmentation of your face and torso, hypertension, and edema? Also, it will become necessary for you to urinate more frequently as your enlarged uterus presses on your bladder. You may also experience a heightened sense of smell, particularly regarding odors humans find offensive.”
B’Elanna cut her off. “Thanks for the warning,” she said shortly.
“There is also a significant chance that you will notice a dramatic hair loss after the birth.” By reflex, B’Elanna’s hand flew to her hair. “These are all indications of a healthy pregnancy. Considering the serious nature of these common side effects, I must commend your decision to continue with the pregnancy after experiencing some of them.”
“Commend it, or question it?” B’Elanna mumbled.
“I also understand that your nutritional requirements will continue to evolve throughout the duration of the pregnancy, though it is difficult to say with accuracy due to your and your baby’s mixed genetic material. Have you experienced any food cravings or food aversions?” Seven’s eyes were huge and she looked earnestly at B’Elanna, waiting for her answer.
“You certainly have done your homework, Seven.”
The placid woman looked puzzled for a moment, then nodded slightly. “A colloquialism. Meaning that I have researched the topic. As I already told you, Lieutenant, I find I have an interest in human reproduction.”
“Yes, I seem to recall something about that,” B’Elanna muttered.
Seven continued, undaunted. “I was the person who diagnosed you after you fainted last week. I thought it prudent to read about human and Klingon reproduction so I could be aware of any additional risks associated with your condition.”
“I didn’t faint, I was just a little dizzy,” B’Elanna said defensively. “And I’m not about to do it again, Seven, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“You are not being very forthcoming, Lieutenant. Do you find discussing your body’s biochemistry embarrassing? I also have several questions regarding the conception—”
B’Elanna ground her teeth together and tried to keep from screaming at the eager woman before her. The term social misfit didn’t even begin to cover it, and B’Elanna had to remind herself that Seven still had a long way to go in her understanding of another term: privacy. “Maybe you should ask the doctor.”
“I thought it would be more efficient to ask you.”
“Well, no offense Seven, but I’m not going to answer your questions about the conception.” B’Elanna ground out the last word in a hushed tone, hoping that no one could overhear them.
“Are you aware that some species believe that they can change the sex of the fetus through diet? The Gravidians believe that if the female drinks a beverage made of guappa tree roots, this will cause the fetus to develop female organs. If, however, she eats the leaves of the same plant, the fetus will be male. There is no basis in fact for this belief, however it remains a common misconception.”
“Really?,” B’Elanna asked, trying to put some distance between herself and the over-eager woman. “Fascinating.”
Seven almost bubbled over with excitement on the topic—well, bubbled for her, anyway. It was disconcerting. And she was reminding B’Elanna of how much she wanted that damn raktajino. She started to wonder if there was some old folklore in Klingon history that revolved around ra’taj. Maybe the NaHlet oil would turn her little girl into a boy…
“Have you considered the birth? I possess a vast stored knowledge of birthing rituals for many Delta quadrant species. The Hanan of Latoss IV—”
“Maybe next week. Fun as this has been, I really do have a lot of work to do. Twenty minutes, right?”
Seven glanced at the workstation. “Eighteen minutes, forty-seven seconds until the—”
“Right! I’ll be back.” Great, B’Elanna thought, as if the doctor wasn’t bad enough.
B’Elanna scanned engineering, a frown creasing her brow. Her staff had been avoiding her all morning, none of them meeting her eyes when they spoke to her. It felt like they were tiptoeing around her, and it had left her feeling increasingly agitated as the day wore on. When she spied Icheb on the upper deck she smiled, in spite of herself. She hurried over to the lift, then gingerly walked toward him. She had to play this just right or she’d scare him away.
“Icheb!” She greeted him with a smile. She stopped and surveyed him for a moment, her eyes running up and down his lanky frame. “You look handsome today. Did you get a haircut?”
He brushed his palm across his short locks and eyed her warily. “No, Lieutenant,” he answered.
B’Elanna took a sideways step toward him—a tiny, unintentional sway in her hips. “And you look so tall all of a sudden. You must be almost as tall as Tom now.” She smiled sweetly.
“I think I am still at least three point five centimeters shorter than Lieutenant Paris,” the young man replied. “Y-your husband,” he added.
‘Damn,’ B’Elanna thought, ‘I’m coming on too strong.’
“However since the males of my species continue to grow until well into their young adulthood, it is quite probable that my height may yet surpass that of...your husband,” he finished.
“Hmm...” she agreed. “So, how are you doing with the isolinear conversion?”
“I believe I am ahead of schedule. Seven thinks we’ll be finished reconfiguring the power couplings by tomorrow morning.”
“There’s no rush, you know. I don’t want you to work too hard.” B’Elanna paused, here was the opening she needed. She glanced around engineering, trying to look nonchalant. Some of the crew was breaking for lunch.
“You know,” she said, “I don’t know about you but I could use something to eat. Maybe a warm drink.” She shivered slightly for effect. “Why don’t you come into my office and we can replicate something. We can talk about your future.” She hooked her arm through his. “I really think you have a natural ability for engineering, I’d hate to see it wasted in astrometrics.”
“Lieutenant Torres. I hope you’re not being nice to me in an attempt to get me to replicate a cup of raktajino for you. I did read the Doctor’s memo this morning and his instructions were explicit. I have no intention of disobeying his orders.”
B’Elanna paused. She slowly pivoted on one foot to face Icheb. One eyebrow climbed toward her hair. “Memo?”
“Yes. The doctor informed the crew that you were restricted from ingesting certain foods for the duration of your pregnancy. Raktajino was on the list, and since I am aware of your fondness for that beverage, I just assumed that you might be attempting to convince me to supply you with a cup.” He looked at her dour expression. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant. I didn’t mean to offend you. If your intentions were indeed to discuss my future, then we could share some Tarkalian tea or warm milk. I believe both are acceptable to the doctor.”
“That would be lovely, Icheb. Another time. I have someone to see.” B’Elanna gave his arm a pat and headed for the door. Damn, she thought, so that was the reason for Chakotay’s little visit. And no wonder everyone was avoiding her. They must have been waiting for the explosion all morning.
“How dare you treat me like an irresponsible child!” B’Elanna stormed into Sickbay. Her indignation rippled off her in waves.
“B’Elanna?” The doctor came out of his office and approached the enraged woman. He looked at her in confusion. “What’s wro—”
“You issued a memo to the crew detailing what I can and can’t eat! You didn’t even have the nerve to tell me about it, I had to find out from Icheb a few minutes ago!” She stopped a scant foot in front of him, and jabbed at his chest with an accusing finger.
The doctor felt the urge to flinch away from the angry woman. “B’Elanna, calm down—”
“Why?” she demanded. “Are you going to tell me it’s bad for the baby for me to get emotional?”
“No,” he replied. “I was just going to point out to you that we’re not alone.” He gestured toward his office where Naomi Wildman sat at his desk in front of the computer terminal. She looked up and smiled a greeting. B’Elanna put a tight smile on her face and nodded hello in return. Her angry gaze shifted back to the doctor.
“You had no right to broadcast my personal business to the whole ship,” she hissed through clenched teeth. “Don’t you have some sort of oath in your programming that covers things like this?”
The doctor put his hand beneath B’Elanna’s elbow and pulled her toward the surgical bay. “I’m sorry,” he said, “and you’re right. I may have been a little hasty in issuing that memo this morning. But Neelix requested a list of your dietary requirements, and then Captain Janeway asked me if you could still have coffee during staff meetings. Then Commander Chakotay wanted to know if he should increase your replicator rations—”
“There’s not much point in that,” B’Elanna grumbled, cutting him off. “I can’t eat what I want anyway. You took care of that last night.”
“So a ship-wide memo just seemed simpler.” The doctor sighed. “Of course I know that you want the best for your baby, and you would never do anything to harm her.” He looked at her imploringly. “Forgive me. The crew is very concerned for your well being, B’Elanna—”
“Yes, I’ve noticed,” she muttered. Thankfully, the advice had slowed to a trickle in the last week. “But, damn it, my relationship with Tom has been the main topic of gossip on this ship for long enough. I was hoping…I wanted this to just be ours. It’s nobody’s business but mine and Tom’s.”
“I realize that, Lieutenant. And I’m sorry if I embarrassed you. I did send a copy of the memo to your quarters,” he said. He was starting to look slightly defensive.
B’Elanna remembered the blinking light on her message terminal that morning; the message she had ignored in her haste to get away from her half-dressed husband. She had intended to check it later, from her office, but she’d gotten sidetracked. As usual.
She started to feel a glimmer of regret at her earlier outburst. He truly sounded contrite and his immediate apology had taken most of the wind out of her sails. Most, but not all.
B’Elanna chewed on her lower lip, not quite ready to forgive him. He seemed sincere enough, but his complete lack of discretion astonished her. Maybe she had overlooked something when she put his program to rights last week.
The doctor smiled warmly at her and turned her attention back to Naomi. “You know, Naomi in particular is very excited to have another child on Voyager again. You do realize she intends to be your chief baby-sitter. She’s asked to learn everything she can about caring for babies. Every member of the crew wants to help you and Tom adjust to your new roles. In fact, I think you may prove to be an inspiration.”
The doctor continued speaking, taking her silence for acquiescence. “Actually, I’m glad you’re here B’Elanna. This is the day for Naomi’s xenobiology lesson—and this should be of interest to you as well—we’ve decided to study inter-species reproduction. After all, she’s half Ktarian, you’re half Klingon. That little munchkin you’re carrying is three quarters human,” he poked at her stomach with an index finger. “You can be our project. Naomi can plot the baby’s growth and compare it to that of a human and a Klingon fetus. Provided you agree, of course.”
B’Elanna stared at him as if he’d gone insane. “What?”
“I still have the records of her own fetal development as well,” he continued. “And there’s quite a lot of information in the data banks on interspecies mating practices, though I think Naomi’s a little young to be studying that right now… But the real coincidence is that the leading expert in that field is a Dr. Mizan, and…he’s Ktarian!” The doctor beamed, obviously pleased by the coincidence of his discovery.
“Are you out of your mind?” B’Elanna whispered fiercely. The doctor’s cheerful, ever-present smile slipped slightly as her voice began to rise. “There is no way that I’m going to allow you to use my baby as some sort of…of science experiment!”
“B’Elanna, keep your voice down. I only meant—”
“Forget it! You have a duty to keep my medical records private and I expect you to respect that. And me. You’re as bad as Seven!”
“What are you talking about? What about Seven?” The doctor was genuinely confused by her sudden return to anger.
“When she was doing that ‘study’ on me and Tom.” B’Elanna dropped her voice when Naomi looked up. “I won’t have Naomi presenting her ‘findings’ to half the ship at some science fair.”
“B’Elanna, I really think you’re overreacting. Naomi only wanted to compare the stages of fetal development. It might even give us a better idea of when your baby is due.”
“Then let her compare her own records to Ktarian and human ones. I think you ought to run a self-diagnostic. I couldn’t have put all your ethical subroutines back where they belong.” B’Elanna turned on her heel and stormed out of Sickbay.
The doctor stared at her retreating figure, surprised by her insinuation. It crossed his mind that perhaps he should severely limit her sugar intake as well.
She was still angry, and judging by the expressions on the faces of the people she passed, it was obvious. Well, she didn’t care. Not today. Let the whole, damn ship know how she felt, she didn’t care. In fact, she thought about sending out a memo herself—stay out of my way if you value your life. She smiled a little at that. It just might work!
If she weren’t pregnant she would head to the gym for something strenuous; a game of parrises squares, or full-body-contact racquet ball. If she weren’t pregnant… If she weren’t pregnant she could have all the damn raktajino she wanted!
B’Elanna stepped into a lift and called for deck two. Beside the fact that it was lunchtime, her episodes of anger burned a lot of energy and she knew that she should eat something to keep her blood sugar up. Living with the ship’s de facto nurse had taught her more that she’d ever wanted to know about some body systems, like Chell’s liver, for instance.
Of course, he had also taught her a few things about ‘other’ body systems, too. She had to grin. She considered herself a quick study, and her thirst for knowledge, especially where her husband’s body was concerned was, frankly, bottomless.
Which, of course, led her to think of her husband’s bottom.
She was smiling when the lift doors opened across the hall from the mess, and she caught a whiff of a familiar scent before she even made it to the room. Overlying the aroma of leola root casserole—she’d know it in her nightmares—was the dark, richly acidic, nutty scent of coffee. Real, replicated coffee. She stopped short in the hallway. Was someone playing a cruel joke on her?
B’Elanna squared her shoulders and walked through the doors to the mess hall. It was almost full, and conversation rose and fell around her in waves. No one seemed to notice her entrance, which was good. Subtly, she sniffed the air currents flowing around her. It was there, somewhere in the room, with an underlying ‘woodsy’ sweetness that she hadn’t detected in the hall. She moved casually toward the observation windows, scanning the tables, and then she found it. Cradled by two slender, pale hands. Whipped cream, and was that…? No. Yes… Chocolate shavings.
Her eyes traveled up the black-clothed arms to encounter reddish-brown hair, then further up to a small pointed chin and two wide-open, staring blue eyes. Megan Delaney. And she knew she’d been caught. B’Elanna narrowed her eyes at the young, human woman, and saw a flicker of fear pass over her dainty features. ‘Good,’ B’Elanna thought. ‘Be afraid of me.’
B’Elanna hadn’t moved, but she didn’t need to. She’d never really liked either Delaney sister—an irrational jealousy, she knew. She also knew that although they had gone on a—as in one—date, Tom had never even thought of getting involved with Megan. In fact, the whole point of that long-ago double-date was to fix-up Harry with Megan’s twin, Jenny. B’Elanna knew this, but it didn’t stop the feelings of jealousy and dislike from washing over her, or from showing in the expression she trained on the young woman.
Megan looked like a startled Tika cat—her eyes were huge and round and she looked about to bolt. She shifted her gaze from B’Elanna to her dining companion, then stood quickly, knocking her chair against the table next to her. She reached for her steaming mug and, holding it protectively to her chest, beat a hasty retreat toward the opposite door.
Neelix choose that moment to light at B’Elanna’s elbow. “B’Elanna!” he said with exaggerated joy. “How are you feeling today? Hungry, I hope. I have a special treat that I whipped up just for you. Just for the two of you,” he amended. He offered her something hidden inside a pie shell, floating in a sea of pinkish gravy. On the tray beside it was a steaming cup of some dark, pungent liquid.
“What’s that supposed to be?” she asked petulantly, pointing at the mug.
“Coffee,” Neelix said with pride, “ala Neelix. Actually, it’s Paris Delite.” He obviously misread her hesitation since he quickly added, “Oh, it’s all right. The doctor has approved all of my blends as safe for fetal consumption.” He tittered at his little joke and led B’Elanna to an empty table where he deposited her lunch tray then pulled out her chair with a flourish.
More like ‘fatal’, B’Elanna thought with a sigh.
“B’Elanna, I was told I’d find you up here,” the gravely tones of Kathryn Janeway floated across the upper engineering deck. “I’ve been hoping to speak with you, if you have a minute.” The captain smiled and placed a pacifying hand on B’Elanna’s shoulder. Suddenly she felt like a cadet again and wondered what she’d done wrong this time. Oh yeah. The doctor.
B’Elanna smiled tightly—she’d been doing a lot of that today—and stepped away from the console. She knew that the captain’s request was really more of an order, and she did feel like taking a break. A coffee break to be exact. Inwardly, she sighed. Five more months to go. Less a day. Almost.
“What can I do for you, Captain?” she asked, mustering up a cheerful tone for her superior officer.
“Why don’t we take a walk?” Janeway suggested.
Lovely, B’Elanna thought. The dreaded walk. “Sure.” She motioned to the door that led to deck ten, and stepped into position beside the captain. After a moment she offered, “Seven and Icheb are right on schedule with the conversion. Even a little ahead of schedule, actually. They might finish by tomorrow afternoon if all goes well.”
“Good,” Janeway replied. “But I didn’t come here to talk shop. I just wanted to know how you’re feeling. Any nausea yet?”
“No, actually. The, um, doctor said I might not experience any. Redundant stomach, I guess,” she shot a hasty look at the captain, who was looking ahead of them, not at her engineer. “That’s one reason to be thankful for my Klingon genes, I guess.”
“Any more dizzy spells?”
“A few,” B’Elanna admitted. “The vitamin supplements have helped though.”
“Well, that’s good,” Janeway nodded. “What about your appetite? Are you hungry? Thirsty?” She pierced B’Elanna with a look. “Any cravings you’d care to share?”
“Maybe a couple,” B’Elanna confessed. She couldn’t quite assess the captain’s mood. Was she teasing her? Or trying to get her to confess her tirade of earlier that morning? B’Elanna pulled in a breath and launched in, “Look, Captain, I may have overreacted a lit—”
“It’s all right B’Elanna,” Janeway stopped walking and held up a hand to forestall her explanation. She turned to face the engineer. “I might have done the same thing myself in your position. But next time—not that I expect there to be a next time—choose your audience more carefully. Berating the doctor in front of the captain’s assistant isn’t the wisest course of action if you want to keep your conversation private.”
B’Elanna was confused for a moment. “He didn’t tell you himself?”
“No, he didn’t. Maybe he felt he deserved it a little, hmm?” Janeway asked casually. “I’ve already spoken to him about the memo. He didn’t seem to use his best judgment, himself, there.”
“Actually, that’s not his fault, it’s mine. I had Nicoletti run a diagnostic on his systems. I wasn’t very careful when I overrode his ethical subroutines last week. Maybe I should have had Tom put him back together, he’s better with holoprograms than I am.”
“Tom can find common ground with anyone. He gets along with everyone on the ship, breathing or not.” Janeway smiled.
B’Elanna nodded, acknowledging the remark.
She squared her shoulders. “Look,
“It’s all right, B’Elanna. I consider that matter closed. And I really don’t think that Starfleet has to hear about it, do you?”
B’Elanna’s head snapped up at the implication. “Captain…?”
“Water under the bridge, B’Elanna.” The captain watched her as they walked silently for a moment. “So, how are you holding up through your deprivation? What will you miss the most?” Janeway asked with a grin.
B’Elanna expelled a harsh breath. “Nothing, really. I just hate being told I can’t have something that I want. That I don’t have the good sense to decide for myself what’s best for me and the baby.”
“Yes, I’d feel the same way in your shoes. And I seem to recall that your single-mindedness was one of the things I liked best about you from the start.” Janeway paused and thought a moment, a wistful smile on her face. “I can’t imagine going without coffee for five months, though. Some days it’s the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning,” she confessed with laugh.
B’Elanna secretly thought that a male elbow usually did the trick, too, but she wasn’t about to suggest it to the captain. “Well, luckily not all of us are as addicted to the stuff as you are,” she said instead. She was enjoying this easy turn in the conversation. It reminded her of the friendly chats they used to have over coffee back when they’d first been lost in the Delta Quadrant. “What I’m really going to miss is raktajino,” B’Elanna sighed.
“Uhh!” The captain gave an exaggerated shudder. “Too sweet. I like mine strong and black. You get the full effect of the aroma that way.”
“You know, I’ve wondered if that’s not half the attraction. If you couldn’t smell the coffee, would it taste as good, or just bitter?” B’Elanna mused.
“Well, maybe if I had a Klingon sense of smell I’d agree with you,” Janeway laughed, “but I drink it for the flavor.”
“I love wrapping my hands around a mug of it, inhaling the steam, feeling the warmth in my fingers. It’s almost a ritual with me.” B’Elanna shook her head, a little embarrassed by the admission.
“I know, don’t think I haven’t seen you do it. And dip your finger into the whipped cream for a taste before you take a drink.” While it reminded Janeway of a little girl with a particularly tasty treat, she knew that the effect of that action on the males onboard—particularly Tom—was drastically different.
The first time she’d witnessed B’Elanna’s raktajino ritual had been just before the start of a senior staff meeting. They had been in the Delta Quadrant for a little over a year, and as she watched B’Elanna swirl her fingertip through the froth and bring it to her mouth, she’d seen Tom’s eyes go round at the sight. She’d thought for a moment that he might lunge at the chief engineer from across the table. B’Elanna, blissfully unaware of the effect she’d just had on him, had taken a lingering sip of her coffee, then gotten down to business.
Janeway had waited for the wedding announcement ever since. And she was happy with the way things had turned out, though it had taken a lot longer to resolve than she’d thought it would. Though not for lack of trying on Tom’s part.
“Well, your reaction to the doctor’s little stunt aside, I think you’re doing remarkably well. I’m proud of you, B’Elanna, I hope you know that.”
B’Elanna felt a wave of self-consciousness sweep her—Tom always did say she could never take a compliment. She stared at her boots as she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, then brought her chin up to look the captain in the eye. “Thank you, Captain. That means a lot to me. And I know that people like to joke about pregnant women and mood swings, but I can assure you that I’m not about to turn into a raving Klingon warrior.”
“Of course you’re not, I never worried about that. I’m quite fond of that temper of yours, you know.” Janeway slipped an arm around B’Elanna’s shoulders and hugged her briefly. “In fact, I’ve counted on it to get us out of a dozen sticky situations, at least.” She pursed her lips in thought, and tapped an index finger against them. “Have you thought of restarting the meditation sessions with Tuvok? They might help with the cravings.”
B’Elanna shook her head and laughed at the suggestion. “Oh no, not unless you make it an order.”
“No, no,” Janeway threw up her hands, “you’ve been doing just fine lately without them.”
“Hey, I can still have my moments, you know.” B’Elanna returned her smile. “Actually, Tom was more upset about this than I was.” She grinned at the thought of the look on his face that morning when he realized he wasn’t getting his usual goodbye kiss. “Don’t tell him, but we were so busy in engineering this morning I didn’t have time to miss it.” She sighed a little wistfully. “I could use a cup of raktajino right now, though.”
The captain smiled at B’Elanna and gave her arm a final squeeze, then turned to the lift and started toward it. “You’ll survive. Just use some of that Klingon stubbornness you have so much of. And no more tangling with the Doctor, or I’ll be forced to take his side next time, hmm?”
“Yes Captain,” B’Elanna said dryly as the lift doors closed. She thought of that elusive cup of raktajino and snorted softly, then turned around and headed back to engineering feeling only slightly less cranky than she had ten minutes ago.
Tom walked through the ship’s corridors alone, headed for the mess hall. He knew that B’Elanna was busy with the refit; she’d reminded him over their aborted breakfast that she wouldn’t be able to meet him for lunch. But he couldn’t help feeling that she was putting him off. Making excuses to avoid him. What did she think he would do, seduce her in the middle of the mess? Not that he wasn’t tempted. Not that he hadn’t spent the first three years of their journey picturing her, naked and glorious, lying on that long table near the viewport…
He had never met anyone as stubborn as his wife. She’d made it perfectly clear that all he was going to get was a kiss on the cheek until she held a cup of raktajino in her hands, and he believed her. When it came to a pissing contest, B’Elanna Torres won hands down. Every time.
And it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t as if she was the only one whose menu had been drastically cut by the doc. He wanted coffee too, as a matter of fact. He felt the pull of desire for a steaming cup of ‘life’s blood’ just as strongly as B’Elanna did. Especially since he could smell it from the captain’s ready room whenever she came back onto the bridge after a break. And, of course, he wanted it for another reason as well.
There was just something about being denied something—or someone—that you desired that made you want it all the more. Well, he had the someone—after an intensive two year battle—and if he played his cards right, he could get the something. He just hoped it wouldn’t take as long. Though it might seem like it.
Tom sighed. The next twenty-four weeks stretched out long, lonely and impossibly frustrating for him. And he didn’t doubt for one moment that she could hold out for that long, too, despite how passionate they were together, how good they were together. After all, she’d successfully avoided his dogged pursuit for almost two years before finally—after the threat of death—admitting to him that she loved him. Six months would be a piece of cake. Which was ironic, since the doctor probably wouldn’t let her eat that, either.
Was it his imagination, or were people avoiding looking him in the eye? He passed Lang and O’Donnel and nodded hello. They nodded back, then quickly cut left, headed back the way he had come. Which was odd because he was sure he’d heard Lang say something about pleeka stew.
He turned and walked into the mess hoping to catch Harry in the final stretch of his lunch break. And there he was, hiding in a corner huddled with Jenny Delaney. Well, who knew? Neelix was nowhere in sight, which meant that Tom was out of luck in his quest for java. He walked behind the counter and surveyed the offerings that constituted lunch. Not exactly appealing, even for Neelix. He helped himself to some soup and bread, but turned up his nose at the brown sludge in the coffee pot. It was best not to know.
There were a lot of empty tables, but he wanted to sit with someone. Aha, there was Sue Nicoletti. She was probably a lost cause since she worked in engineering, but he figured he should give it a try. Maybe she had a friend in waste disposal or someplace who could help him out. Fix him up.
Tom frowned. His cause was just, but he was starting to feel a little dirty.
“Sue. Hi, how’s it going?” He flashed her his best Paris smile. Funny, it hadn’t worked seven years ago when they’d first been pulled into the Delta Quadrant, and it didn’t seem to have gained any charm since then. She was unmoved.
“Lieutenant,” she answered, quickly gulping the last of her drink and standing. “I was just finishing up. Table’s all yours.” She smiled widely at him and escaped before he could even sit down.
Well now that was downright rude, he thought. Surely he wasn’t that dangerous to be around. And even if he were—replicator restriction by association—Sue had already been slapped by the doc. What more did she have to lose?
He ground the bread between his fingers, musing sulkily about the unfairness of life in general. Just when he thought things were finally going well, the DQ would rear it’s ugly head and body slam him into the mat. He had to grin at that analogy: he wouldn’t mind body slamming B’Elanna into the mattress. Well, not slamming exactly, not for a while at least, but lowering her gently, or maybe just a little forcefully, pushing, driving, pounding—
“Lieutenant Paris? May I join you?”
Tom started and looked up guiltily, a flush staining his cheeks. “Ah, Seven, hi. How’re you doing?” He gulped, trying to reign in his wandering thoughts. Christ, if it was this bad now, what would he be like in another couple of months?
“I have something for Lieutenant Torres.” She produced a padd and waited, arm extended for him to take it from her.
Tom took it and motioned to the empty chair opposite him. Seven sat stiffly and waited for him to speak. “What’s this?” he asked.
“The specifications for my nutritional supplement number three. Knowing the lieutenant’s preference for chocolate, I’ve taken the liberty of adding a small amount of cocoa to the recipe. The doctor has approved it.”
Tom eyed the padd cautiously. “It says number four,” he pointed out.
“Of course. With the addition of the cocoa the formula changed, so I was compelled to give it a new designation.”
Tom hid a grin behind his hand. “Of course,” he echoed. “Thanks, Seven.”
She stood and nodded at him. “Think nothing of it, Lieutenant.” She started for the door, then turned back to face him. “Have a good afternoon.”
Tom waved the padd at her and smiled until she was out of sight, then grimaced as he read the list of ingredients: metabolic enzymes, protein extract, polypeptides—yuck. He got the feeling B’Elanna wouldn’t go for it. He dropped the padd onto the table: it landed with a satisfying ‘thwack.’
“Hi, Buddy.” Harry plunked into the seat opposite him and fixed Tom with a steely-eyed stare. His voice was light, but Tom could tell he was pissed at him about something. He knew what it was, of course.
“Harry, pull up a chair,” he answered.
“I was supposed to have dinner with Megan tonight,” Harry informed him, cutting to the chase.
“And? What? Did she cancel on you?”
“No, but now I’ll have to come to Neelix for the food.”
Tom frowned, puzzled. “What were you planning on feeding her, ice cream and whisky?”
Harry sighed, obviously frustrated and not as amused as Tom was by the situation. “I was hoping to keep it private, but that’s impossible now. Everybody knows everybody else’s business on this ship,” he grumbled.
Tom’s eyebrows rose in mock surprise. “Really?”
Harry frowned. “Did you hear what B’Elanna did to Megan today?”
Tom was instantly on the alert. And on the defensive. Whatever it was, she no doubt deserved it, he decided.
“Jenny just told me. Meg was in here not even an hour ago when B’Elanna stormed in and looked like she was gonna kill her. For no reason. Meg didn’t even say anything to her. She was so upset, she had to leave and bring her coffee back to stellar cartography with her.”
“Coffee?” Tom asked.
“Well, raktajino, actually. I know she loves it. It was on the menu for after supper.” Harry frowned again and looked expectantly at Tom. “And now I can’t replicate it.”
Tom sighed and held up his hands in surrender. “I’ll talk to her, okay?” He got up and headed for the door, leaving his tray on the table for Harry to deal with. He was walking into the lion’s den, after all. It was the least Harry could do for him.
B’Elanna barely glanced up from her padd at the interruption. She was leaning against the desk in her office reading reports, trying to school her mind for the crew evaluations she’d been putting off. “Why does everyone feel they have to check up on me today?” she asked.
Tom frowned. He’d missed her at lunch, and he was hoping for a quick cuddle before he had to report to sickbay for his half-shift. Apparently the ‘green’ at St. Andrews was perfect on a Tuesday afternoon. “I was just on my way to sickbay,” he replied.
B’Elanna looked up at that. “Via deck eleven?” Her lips twisted into a smile despite herself.
Tom held up a padd and waved it in the air. “My con report,” he said in his best ‘Fleet voice.
Her face fell a little. “Well, put it on the pile. I’ll get to it.”
“Actually, I did have another reason for stopping by.” He moved closer to her.
“And what was that?” she asked warily. Her skin was starting to tingle, the way it did when he used to flirt with her before they started dating. The way it always did when he spoke to her with that tone of voice. To hell with ultimatums, she thought.
He stopped when he could slide his arms around her waist and she looked up into his face. His eyes were warm and dancing with some hidden amusement. “I heard you scared the hell out of Megan Delaney at lunch,” he said, his lips twitching.
It wasn’t quite what B’Elanna had been expecting. “Who told you that?”
“Harry, who heard it from Jenny.”
B’Elanna frowned. “Well, she was sitting there right in front of me. Flaunting it.” In a weak moment, she laid her cheek against Tom’s chest. “It had chocolate shavings on top,” she mumbled into his uniform.
Tom kissed her hair, biting back the urge to laugh. She reminded him of a little girl pining the loss of an ice cream cone. “I’m sure I can scrounge some chocolate for you, B’Elanna.”
“It’s not the same,” she replied, pushing away from him slightly. “I have five months, Tom. At least. I’m going to get huge, and awkward. My uniforms won’t fit. I’ll start to have ligament pain, and back pain.”
“So, then I’ll get to massage you every night.”
B’Elanna harumphed. “If you can get your hands around me.”
“I’m game to try if you are.” He grinned wickedly at her.
“I want some coffee. Real coffee, not Neelix’s latest…concoction.” She knew she sounded like a petulant child, but she didn’t care.
“I know,” Tom answered, sounding genuinely regretful. He brought a hand up her back, rubbing lightly along her spine. “I wouldn’t mind a little whipped cream, myself.” He leered at her and rested his forehead against hers. “If you know what I mean,” he whispered.
She did kiss him then, softly and slowly. Her mouth opened under his, and he drew her more firmly into his arms when the tip of her tongue brushed his lips. But instead of responding like she was being swept away by passion, B’Elanna seemed to be tasting him. Testing him.
Tom chuckled and spoke against her lips, “Find any coffee fumes there?”
B’Elanna grinned and tucked her nose into his shoulder. “No.”
“I figured as long as you’re on the wagon, then so am I.” He wiggled his hips against her belly and breathed in her ear. “It only seems fair. Since I’m being punished too, I thought we should just pay the same penalty. Makes it easier to keep track,” he drawled.
“Good try, but my decision stands.”
Brave words, but her voice sounded shaky. “That’s blackmail, you know,” he replied. Tom went in for the kill. He kissed her just below the ear, sucking her earlobe into his mouth for a moment, then ran his lips down to the collar of her turtleneck. He felt her shiver as he kissed his way to her jaw, before finally settling his mouth on hers.
She allowed one kiss before pulling away to whisper in his ear, “You get your whipped cream when I get mine, Tom. Not before.”
“And what was that?” he asked, nudging her cheek with his nose, trying to convince her to turn her head.
“Well,” B’Elanna pulled out of lip range and patted Tom’s uniform neatly into place, “I guess you could consider that your chocolate sprinkles. And if you want any coffee to put them on, you’ll have to find a way to scrounge some.”
Tom grumbled to himself as he made his way to sickbay. He’d been trying to solicit a cup of raktajino from various sources all morning, but so far he’d come up empty. His first few attempts of the day had fallen flat. Ayala had outright refused, and neither Harry nor Jenny Delaney was able or willing to help him. And along with the tale of intimidation he’d heard second-hand from Harry, he’d also received an earful about Harry’s new replicator restrictions.
By now he was used to people glancing away when he made eye contact. It stunned him that people were more afraid of the doctor than of B’Elanna. Maybe their domestication had ruined her reputation after all.
He made up his mind. He was going to appeal to the doctor. And if that failed, he had one final patsy, and if he played his cards right he’d have a cup of raktajino waiting for B’Elanna when she got off-shift. It might take a little convincing, a little creative storytelling, but he was sure he could bring him around.
“I’m telling you, Mr. Telfer, you do not have a growth in your pectoral region.”
“Are you sure? I can feel something.” He reached for his left breast and started rubbing his fingers across it in little circular motions. “It feels lumpy.”
The doctor sighed. “That’s just natural fatty deposits under the skin. I told you that breast cancer was cured two centuries ago. Everyone is inoculated against it in childhood, including you. And even if you weren’t, breast cancer in men is very rare.”
“But it hurts to raise my arm. And I feel weak.”
The doctor smiled tightly, “Look, William, I’ve scanned you and that scan shows that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you.” He raised a hand to forestall the coming protest. “Yes, the tricorder is working perfectly. Now, my prescription is to spend five hours in the gym each week working on some strength training. If Lieutenant Baxter can’t help you with a routine, then I’ll see about coming up with something for you.
“Now put on your shirt and go before I miss my holodeck time.” He turned back to his instrument tray and purposefully placed the medical tricorder in its spot.
Telfer shrugged carefully back into his uniform turtleneck and jacket. “But doctor, I—”
“I’ll see you next week, Mr. Telfer,” the doctor sang. Under his breath he muttered, “Same place, different illness.”
The young man looked ready to argue, but gave in and moved toward the doors. They opened to admit Tom Paris, who nodded a subdued, “Crewman,” as they passed. Though Tom rejoiced in his own good timing, part of him wondered what Billy thought was wrong with him this time. He knew better than to ask, though. He didn’t need an hour-long dissertation on psychosomatic illness and the effects of being stranded in the Delta Quadrant. He honestly didn’t care that Billy’s underlying problem was that he missed his mother.
Of course, if that theory really held any warp plasma, Harry would be coughing up a lung right about now.
He took a step toward the doctor, then stopped, rocking back on his heels. He scrubbed a hand through his hair, thinking. He’d had a speech all prepared, but somehow, now, confronted with the man himself, he doubted that the doc would fall for it. Maybe honesty would be the best approach after all. Well, limited honesty.
The doctor had moved into his office and was furiously inputting information into a padd, no doubt writing up the latest chapter in Telfer’s long tale of illness and suffering in the Delta quadrant. Tom stood in the doorway and tapped a finger on the doorframe. “Busy day?” he asked.
“Nothing out of the ordinary,” the doctor answered him.
“I see Telfer is two days early this week,” Tom joked feebly.
“We may still see him on Thursday, you never know. The week is young yet.”
“And it wouldn’t be a Thursday without him,” Tom replied. This was getting painful. Just spit it out, he thought.
But he couldn’t. Years of training couldn’t be washed away so quickly. He had to find the right angle, the right hook… A sneak attack? “So, I guess B’Elanna was a little peeved about that memo,” he ventured.
Did he just see the doctor cringe? So this might just be the one….
“Yes, well, I admit that was a little insensitive of me. I apologize, Lieutenant. I ran a self-diagnostic this afternoon, and apparently some of my ethical subroutines aren’t quite where they belong. I’m going to meet Susan Nicoletti in the holo-lab right now.
It was Tom’s turn to cringe. “B’Elanna—”
“I wasn’t myself,” the doctor continued, “and neither was B’Elanna. Well, not last week anyway,” he amended.
Tom wondered for a moment if B’Elanna hadn’t actually been herself, after all. If he hadn’t finally gotten a glimpse beneath the tough Klingon façade to the vulnerable woman underneath. She certainly wasn’t acting vulnerable now, of course. She was in full control of his situation, at least.
“She seemed very B’Elanna-ish this morning, though.” The doctor’s comment broke through Tom’s thoughts, bringing him back to the present. He had to smile, despite himself. The doc had given him the perfect opening, as usual.
“Well, maybe it’s the caffeine withdrawal,” he said innocently.
The doctor shot him a sharp look. “Mr. Paris, I may be missing a few ethical subroutines, but I assure you my logic is working perfectly. Caffeine is the least of the problems with coffee. If it had been the only issue then I would have told her to drink decaffeinated coffee. Would you like a list of all the noxious ingredients? I’m surprised it hasn’t been outlawed.” He finished with the padd and set it precisely on the desk, then strode past Tom toward the door. Tom reached out a hand and grabbed him as he passed.
“Whoa, Doc. I’m not saying you should let her bathe in the stuff, but one cup a day…what could it hurt?” He looked imploringly at the doctor. “It might just settle her a little bit, you know, calm her nerves, reduce her blood pressure?” Should he try for a smile? No, better to play it straight.
The doctor frowned. “I’ll have you know that coffee increases blood pressure, and actually tends to agitate, rather than calm the nerves. But, I suppose one cup a day won’t really hurt. She is in good physical condition, after all.” He looked pointedly at his arm, and at Tom’s restraining hand still clamped to that arm. Tom let go, and the doctor took another step toward the door.
“You said she needs to eat more dairy products, right? Load up on milk, cheese?” he raised his eyebrows innocently.
“Yes, well, if we were in the Alpha Quadrant, I’d prescribe gagh twice a week. It’s choc-full of calcium, vitamins, minerals. I know B’Elanna isn’t very fond of Klingon food, but her biochemistry is designed for it. A little raw meat every once in a while will do her some good. It’s a pity it doesn’t replicate well.”
“I don’t think you’re allowed to replicate anything that’s still moving,” Tom grimaced. “I think it’s a built-in safety feature.”
“I’ll ask Mr. Neelix what he can come up with as a suitable substitute,” the doctor said. This time Tom leapt in front of him before he could make a move.
“So, lots of milk, then?” he asked.
“Yes, I already told you—”
“What? For her coffee? I suppose so, if it’s a small amount. The fat content shouldn’t hurt her, she’s underweight as it is.” He made another lunge for the door.
“Nicoletti to the doctor.”
The doctor frowned at Tom and slapped his combadge. “Doctor here, Lieutenant.”
“You haven’t forgotten about our—”
“I’m on my way now, Lieutenant.” He pulled his arm out of Tom’s grasp and took a cautious step away.
“What about whipped cream?”
The doctor stopped short. “And cinnamon too, I suppose?”
Caught again. Was he really that transparent? “A little raktajino, every once in a while. What could it hurt?”
“Well, that depends, Mr. Paris. Maybe the baby’s fine motor functions? Or would you rather gamble with her language comprehension? There’s a reason why I made that list. If you’d bothered to read it, you’d understand that.”
“I’m sure Klingon women drink it all through their pregnancies on the homeworld,” Tom reasoned.
“And if B’Elanna were a full blooded Klingon—if the baby were a full blooded Klingon—I might prescribe it. But they’re not. The NaHlet oil is particularly bad for them both.” He looked Tom in the eye. “As my medical assistant—not to mention your relationship to B’Elanna and the baby—I would expect you to be looking out for her welfare, not to be posing as her partner in crime.”
“But if it’s safe for Klingons, and it’s safe for humans, how can it possibly hurt a human-Klingon hybrid? I’m just trying to understand your reasoning, Doc.”
“One cup of regular coffee per day, Mr. Paris, that’s all.” He waved a hand around the empty sickbay. “Now get to work before I change my mind.”
Tom glanced around the immaculate room. “Sure, Doc,” he said to his back, “I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of that diagnostic.”
B’Elanna was muttering over the console, punching numbers. It was a good thing Seven and Icheb were so efficient, she thought, because Dalby had lost all the ground the two had made, plus some, when the coupling in his workstation overloaded and the console blew. Luckily he wasn’t hurt. Much.
She’d replaced the faceplate on the workstation, and the whole power assembly, and now she was busy running a diagnostic on its innards. At least the ventilation system in engineering was working and they couldn’t smell the charred plasti-steel anymore. But it still meant that they had lost half a day with the time it took to repair the workstation and rerun the data, and now the damn conversion wouldn’t be done for two more days. She sighed and pounded a fist onto the console halfheartedly. She should have kept a closer eye on them.
“Aren’t you off-shift yet? I guess your day’s going as well as mine.” Harry dropped a padd in front of her nose and threw himself into a chair beside her.
B’Elanna bit back a growl of frustration, “Not you, too?”
“What?” Harry looked genuinely puzzled by her accusation.
“All day long, everyone has felt a pressing need to check up on me! Well, look around,” she lifted her arms in an elaborate gesture, encompassing all of engineering as she moved in a slow circle, “do you see any dead bodies? Any scorched workstations? Flaming debris?” She dared him to comment on Dalby’s workstation.
B’Elanna dropped her arms and crossed them mercilessly under her breasts, letting out a peevish ‘whoosh’ of breath. “I guess my ‘laser eyes of death’ aren’t working right now. But then why would they? The only known fuel source is raktajino and I’m not responsible enough to drink it, am I, ‘Buster’?”
Harry’s eyes grew round at her tirade, and he sat up a little straighter in his chair. “Ah, um, actually, I just wanted to know if Tom was going to the poker game tonight.”
That derailed her a bit. “As far as I know. Why? Don’t you have a date with ‘Demonica’?” B’Elanna thought the name was oddly fitting for the chocolate sprinkle-eating Megan Delaney.
Harry scowled and thrust out his lower lip petulantly. “I did. I guess she doesn’t want to take the risk of being seen with me.”
B’Elanna thought he might actually be better off, but she refrained from saying so. “I guess Tom and I are a bad influence, after all,” she said with smirk.
“Looks like it,” Harry agreed. “I figured if I was going to be condemned for the company I keep, I might as well do the crime. Where’s the game? Ayala’s?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Oh, great, “ Harry moaned, “that means Maquis rules again.”
B’Elanna grinned at his pained expression. “Don’t worry, I’m sure Tom can bring his medkit with him. What’s your toast going to be?”
Harry pulled himself to his feet with a grunt and folded his arms across his chest in a show of grumpiness he could only have learned from Tom Paris. “I haven’t decided yet, but it’ll be something about the doc, that’s for sure.”
“C’mon, Neelix, just half a cup.” Tom leaned over the counter to speak to the cook in a conspiratorial whisper. “No one will ever have to know where I got it. I’d never reveal a source.”
“I’m sorry Tom.” Neelix shook his head regretfully. “You know I would if I could, but the doctor would find out, and if he restricted my replicator privileges, well, think of the effect it would have on my cooking. Not to mention ship’s morale.”
Tom clutched at his elbow a little desperately. “You have to help me here, Neelix. You don’t know what she’s been like. It’s not even really about the...” Tom took a quick glance around the room, then mouthed the word raktajino. “...it’s the fact that she can’t have any. It’s become a battle between her and the Doc. She’s determined to win or kill someone trying. It’s become...personal.” He emphasized the last word, giving it the weight afforded a horrendous omen.
“I’m sorry Tom, I just can’t.” Neelix turned away to stir something greyish and lumpy. Tom sighed.
“Is there a problem, Mister Neelix? Should I call for a security team?” Tuvok had come up behind Tom and he stood patiently waiting for a reply. Tom wondered just how much of his conversation with Neelix Tuvok had overheard.
“Tuvok! No, no problem.” Tom looked at the security officer for a moment then a thought struck him. Had the Vulcan just made a joke? “Have you...heard anything?” he smiled. “No incident reports, I hope.”
“If you are referring to Lieutenant Torres and her volatile temper, no, there have been no official complaints.”
“Well, I’m relieved to hear that.” He tried another smile. Tuvok was unmoved. “So I guess you read the Doc’s memo about B’Elanna.”
“Indeed. I also heard of the Lieutenant’s reaction.”
Tom chuckled. “Yeah,” he grinned. “I think half of deck five heard her reaction. She just doesn’t like to be told she can’t have something that she wants.”
“What is it that she desires?”
“Pretty much everything on the list,” Tom replied ruefully.
“Indeed, I believe it is common for pregnant women of many species to crave certain foods. There are some physicians who believe it is their body’s way of demanding certain nutrients they may be lacking. There are many documented cases of pregnant women eating soil, for example.”
“That’s right,” Neelix chimed in. “Remember when Kes went through that false elogium? She ate dirt and beetles…and just about anything else she could get her hands on, including those disgusting mashed potatoes.” He shuddered elaborately, then glanced at Tom and gestured to the simmering contents of the cooking pot. “Sauce?”
Tom frowned a bit and shook his head. “Well, thankfully the only thing B’Elanna really wants right now is a hot raktajino with lots of whipped cream. Though I imagine the Doc would probably okay the dirt.” He sighed heavily.
“Here you go Tom,” Neelix lifted a heavily laden tray onto the counter. There were numerous covered dishes and a large pitcher of something with two mugs.
“I don’t suppose that’s...?” Tom asked, nodding at the thermos.
“Afraid not, Tom.” Now it was Neelix’s turn to glance around for eavesdroppers. “But I did sneak on a couple bowls of Laurelian pudding for dessert.” He beamed at Tom for a moment, then turned to the next person in line. “Now what can I get for you, Mr. Vul—where’d he go?”
Tom headed for the door; time to face the music, he thought. He noticed Tuvok at the replicator—he had obviously gotten a glimpse of the ‘sauce’. The doors opened before him, and he just stepped into the corridor when he was stopped by a hand on his arm.
“Mister Paris.” Tuvok stepped in front of him and placed a carafe on the tray beside the pitcher. Tom had an idea of what it might hold. “For Lieutenant Torres. It may help your evening go more smoothly.”
“Is that what I think it is?” he asked, surprise written on his face.
“It is,” he replied simply.
“Well, thank you, Tuvok.” Tom was stunned almost into silence. Almost. “B-but why? I mean, I would think you’d be the one person on board to follow orders.”
“As you know, my wife and I have four children.” Tom nodded. “While T’Pel enjoyed excellent health throughout all of her pregnancies, she also found some dietary restrictions...constricting.”
Tom eyed him skeptically. “Somehow I can’t quite picture a Vulcan in the throes of a craving-induced hissy-fit,” he said.
“I would not use quite those words to describe T’Pel’s experience. However, she could be quite…persistent in her desires for certain foods. I do understand what you are going through, Lieutenant.”
“So what did she want?” Tom asked, intrigued.
Tuvok hesitated a moment before replying. Tom could swear he saw his lip curl as he responded. “A traditional Terran dish. Linguini with clam sauce.”
“What’s so bad about that?” Tom asked. It wasn’t one of his personal favorites, but he’d eat it over pleeka rind casserole any day.
“Nothing per se, but I did find a steady diet of it,” he paused, searching for the right word, “tedious.”
“Now, Commander,” Tom answered, amused. “Surely you aren’t telling me you were bored. I didn’t think Vulcans got bored.”
“As you say, Mr. Paris. Unlike most humans, I can always find something with which to occupy my mind. I simply viewed mealtimes as a mental exercise.”
“I suppose to the trained mind linguini with clam sauce can taste like plomeek soup if you really give it a try.” Tom tried not to, but he grinned anyway.
Tuvok merely raised an eyebrow at that, then deposited one final item on the tray: a small covered bowl. “Give my regards to Lt. Torres,” he replied, then nodded, turned on his heal and walked back into the mess.
Tom just stood there, flummoxed. Maybe Tuvok’s time with the Maquis had rubbed off on him after all. First he ignored regulations and traded for that Sikarian spatial trajector, and now he was dealing in black market raktajino. Tom had to grin at that. Two infractions in seven years didn’t seem so bad, unless you were a laser-straight Vulcan security chief.
Tom whistled as he stepped onto the lift. His happy tune was cut short by the chirp of his combadge.
“Doctor to Lieutenant Paris.”
Tom immediately looked around for a hidden vid-feed. Damn.
Bright red? Pink, maybe? B’Elanna chewed on her lip and frowned. Dark red, definitely; the same colour as Tom’s favorite nightgown. She smiled with glee—it was an unfair tactic in the battle to drive him mad, but she had to use any advantage she had at her, well, fingertips. Or in this case, toe tips.
She was sitting sideways on the couch, her legs propped on the cushions, knees bent. Her bottles of nail polish were lined up like cadets-on-parade on top of the television—Tom had started leaving it in front of the couch instead of tucking it in it’s rightful corner at night. She knew she would have to speak to him about that eventually—their quarters were too small for them to get into the habit of leaving things just anywhere, and the situation would only get worse once the baby came. But for now the television made a convenient flat surface for her ‘war paint’.
She selected the proper bottle and turned the cap, plotting the seduction of her husband. She was sure Captain Proton could be turned to the dark side, especially since she was more than certain he was willing to go there to earn his reward.
That was one thing she had always been able to count on in their relationship—their sexual attraction. It was there long before either one of them had admitted it, and had shown no signs of abating since, despite her pregnancy. In fact, the pregnancy seemed to have only spurred Tom’s interest higher.
Women had used their feminine wiles for eons to get what they desired, and she couldn’t recall one documented account of a man complaining about it. At least not after it led to their own involvement, in any case. So B’Elanna felt no guilt at pulling out all the safeties in her effort to encourage her husband to acquire what she wanted.
And she wanted him to think about what he’d leave behind when he went to that card game tonight. With any luck, he’d lose a week’s worth of rations.
The door opened and Tom walked in, heading directly for what they euphemistically called their dining room. “Hi, how’s the refit going?” he asked, not looking up from his task of depositing covered dishes onto the table.
B’Elanna finished the last toe on her right foot and paused to watch him. “Actually, after that explosion and fire, we’re set back a whole week,” she exaggerated. She watched his reaction, but he still didn’t look up. He was fussing with the silverware and B’Elanna narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “How’s Dalby?” she asked. She knew exactly how Dalby was; as Chief she was kept informed of his condition, but she needed something to keep the conversation going since she was rapidly losing control of the situation.
Tom finally looked up and grinned at her, “He’s fine. The doc released him to quarters a couple hours ago. You can start cracking the whip over him at noon tomorrow.” His eyes widened slightly as he took in what she was doing, but he promptly dropped them back to the table. “Would you care for an apéritif?” he asked.
His voice sounded mocking and she frowned. She was definitely losing control of the situation. Then the aroma hit her. It was like this afternoon, only more immediate, more compelling. A dark, heady sweetness assailed her nostrils first, followed by the earthy, woodsy something that defied description. He’d done it. Somehow, he’d done it.
Tom squatted in front of her, offering the steaming mug with both hands. “Don’t ask how, just enjoy,” he said, a huge smile on his face.
B’Elanna looked at the swirl of froth, the perfect chocolate curls, and was compelled to ask anyway. “How did you get it?” she said, her voice a breathy whisper.
Tom didn’t answer, he just sat on his heels and grinned at her. He took the polish and brush, freeing her to cup the mug reverently in both hands. She inhaled deeply, then ran the tip of one finger through the creamy foam, scooping up a chocolate bit in her wake. She brought it to her lips and closed her eyes in anticipation.
They sprang open in surprise, “Vulcan chocolate?” she asked.
Tom just shrugged and moved to sit on the edge of the sofa. He lifted her left foot onto his lap and started painting her toenails in slow, steady strokes. “I can’t reveal a source, B’Elanna, you know that. Tuvok would find out and I’d spend the next thirty years in the brig.”
It couldn’t be Vorik. B’Elanna had already investigated her staff and every one of them was on the Doc’s hit list. And it certainly wasn’t Tuvok… Her benefactor probably just liked Vulcan chocolate. She sipped the warm liquid and suppressed a moan of pleasure. Oh yes, this was the good stuff, all right.
Tom recapped the polish and set it with others, then smiled at her, obviously enjoying her own enjoyment. He blew on her foot and B’Elanna shivered at the warm intimacy. “I had a talk with the Doc in the turbolift on the way here—after I got that for you,” he pointed out.
“Mmm?” B’Elanna swirled a sip of liquid on her tongue, beating back the impulse to gulp it down in case the doctor showed up and demanded she hand it over. And there she was, without her bat’leth.
“Yeah, it appears his ethical subroutines weren’t the only ones slightly off. His research parameters were out of alignment, too.”
B’Elanna raised her head, startled. What had she done to the doctor? She could have killed someone. She opened her mouth to speak, but Tom forestalled her comment with a finger to her lips.
“Don’t worry, it was only the subroutines that deal with pregnancy…and nutrition.” He laughed then, unable to contain himself. “It turns out that raktajino is as harmless to you and the baby as mother’s milk.”
B’Elanna stared at him, dumfounded. “What?! You mean I’ve spent all day in a bad mood, going out of my mind craving this stuff and I could have had it all along?”
“And you scared the hell out of Megan Delaney for nothing.” He laughed again, his humor infectious.
“Not for nothing; she canceled her date with Harry,” B’Elanna laughed back. “He’s going to the game tonight, instead.”
“Oh yeah, I almost forgot,” Tom said, jumping to his feet and heading toward the table. “We’d better hurry up and eat or I’ll be late.”
B’Elanna resisted the urge to pout. True, she wasn’t in full battle gear yet, but she’d thought the polish alone would have kept him home tonight. She set the mug of coffee on the television and headed toward the bathroom. “I’m going to finish changing, I’ll be right back.”
Tom’s absentminded “Okay” sounded like a challenge to her ears. She poked her head out of the bathroom and added, “Do me a favor and call the doctor. Tell him I’ll do the study after all.”
Tom looked up from his plate, clearly puzzled. “What study?”
B’Elanna just shrugged at him. “He’ll know.”
Three minutes later she stepped into their bedroom. Sitting at the table, Tom had a clear view of her and he literally dropped his fork onto his plate. His jaw quickly followed. She was wearing the dark red nightgown. The long one. With the slit. And the straps that kept falling off her shoulder…
But that wasn’t all she was wearing. His hat. THE hat.
His mouth went dry at the implication. He stood on shaky legs as she slinked toward him. There wasn’t any other word for it. He thanked god for Voyager. For the Caretaker. For the Maquis and even his father for leading him to this moment with his wife.
B’Elanna stopped in front of him and linked her arms behind his neck. “This is much more comfortable, don’t you think?” she breathed.
Oh yeah, comfort was top on his mind right now. Uh huh. He reached out and traced the grey-green brim of the hat with a forefinger, letting his fingertips span the warm skin of her cheekbone. He tucked a few strands of hair behind her ear, then dropped his hands to her waist, pulling her close.
“What’s for dinner?” she asked.
“Ahh, something grey. And pudding,” he mumbled, leaning down to kiss the hollow where her neck joined her shoulder.
“Don’t you think you should get to it? You’ll be late for the game.” Her teeth sank into her bottom lip as she tried and failed to suppress a smile.
“I think I’d rather play at home tonight,” Tom murmured into her throat.
B’Elanna chuckled and tapped his combadge. “Torres to Kim.”
“Kim here. Hi, B’Elanna, what’s up?” Harry responded immediately, and B’Elanna had to pull her lips off her husband’s to answer him.
“I don’t think Tom will make it to the game tonight, after all. Maybe you should bring your own analgesic.”
“Really!? How did he—”
“Goodnight, buddy,” Tom cut him off, then tapped the channel closed. He moved in for another kiss, but B’Elanna managed to evade him.
“Aren’t you hungry?” she asked with a wicked gleam in her eye.
“Yeah. I’ve had this strange craving all day.” He pulled her toward the bed, then stopped, sobering abruptly. “What about you? Did you eat yet? Do you want to feed the baby before…”
“No, I replicated something healthy in engineering. And speaking of the replicator, do you think the doctor lifted those restrictions yet?”
“Oh, I just thought a little whipped cream would be nice,” she waggled her eyebrows and Tom kissed her just for the expression on her face. He gave her a little shove toward the bed, then crossed to the replicator.
“Don’t forget the chocolate sprinkles,” B’Elanna called after him, laughing.
‘I certainly won’t forget,’ Tom thought. Life was good, indeed.
It was awkward, but by reaching up and a little to the side, Tom could just manage to dig it out of the drawer. He flipped the lid with practiced ease, then fumbled the scanner out of its compartment one-handed. He tried not to disturb her.
B’Elanna lay on her side, curled around him. Half on top of him, actually. She had wrapped an arm possessively around his chest, and their legs were entwined beneath the twisted sheets. Nothing like sleeping on wrinkles…
He thumbed on the tricorder and brought the scanner across his own abdomen to her hip, then angled it to get a clear shot at her belly. It sounded horribly loud for this stealth operation, even though he’d turned the volume down as low as it would go.
It was silly, really. Ridiculous. And the doctor had already confirmed it for them, but he had to check for himself. He had to make sure. Luckily, baby Paris-Torres was cooperating and lying with her legs pointed in the right direction. Now where’d she get that trait from, he wondered.
He moved the scanner slowly along the tiny curve of B’Elanna’s belly, inching away from her slightly so he could slip it between their bodies. There, he had the perfect angle.
He counted. Ten of each, whew.
He allowed himself a contented smile as he turned off the tricorder and hugged it to his chest. She was perfect. Really perfect, not just ‘daddy’s eyes’ perfect.
“Ten of each?” B’Elanna’s voice was slurred with sleep.
“Sorry,” Tom said. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
She pushed against his chest and rose up a bit in the bed, tucking her nose into his neck as she rested her head on his pillow. “Well?”
“Ten of each,” he confirmed.
“Good.” B’Elanna yawned hugely and gave him a little shove. “When you get up to put that away, can you get me something?”
Tom grinned. “What?”
“A banana. I have a sudden craving for a banana.”
Tom’s voice dropped to a husky whisper, “I thought you just had a banana.” He waggled his eyebrows for good measure.
B’Elanna snorted and withdrew her leg from his, taking the sheet with her. “Come on, Tom, I’m starving. I skipped dinner, remember?” She was propped on one elbow now, the nipple of her right breast just brushing his upper aim.
Tom swallowed a groan and swung his legs off the bed. He stashed the medical tricorder in the drawer of his bedside table, then reached onto the floor for his boxers. He grabbed his hat and, as an afterthought, stuck it on his head as he walked toward the replicator.
“A banana, that’s all?”
“Well, maybe some chocolate ice cream to go with it,” B’Elanna said.
“Let me guess,” Tom grinned, “with whipped cream and sprinkles.” He watched her pull on one of his t-shirts and stuff his pillow behind her back as she sat up in the bed.
“No, not this time. Whipped cream and chocolate sauce. And Tom, make that coffee ice cream,” B’Elanna added with a devilish grin.
Tom keyed his request into the replicator—one
banana split, heavy on the chocolate sauce—and reflected that sometimes
life was better than good. It was sublime.
Another Note From Me:
Loved it? Hated it? Thought it was a waste of cyber-space? Take all that righteous indignation and write your own Lineage coda. THEN email me and complain :D I didn’t hold a burrito to your head and force you to read it, did I?
Oh, the hat is from one of my stories,
“He Wore a Pair of Silver Wings” the first one I put to disk.
A Few Definitions in Case You Need Them:
qa’vIn - Klingon coffee
tam - (pronounced tom) be quiet.
(I threw this one in just for fun!)
All stories by Briar Rose
All characters, concepts, photos, images, & terminology belong to Paramount Pictures. No infringement is intended.