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It's Dangerous Alone

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| "Secrets? I love secrets." | muffled scream | lingerie | misfit |

"What's distracting you now?"

"What?" B'Elanna looks up at Seska. They're with Val Jean's engine. Seska had offered to help install the new parts she and Tom had gotten from the asteroid mining colony. B'Elanna's holding an injector upside down like she'd meant to install it. She rights it with a grumble.

"Maybe it's a who?" She suggests slyly. B'Elanna glares at Seska briefly before she returns to replacing the injector she needs to replace. They'd gotten two from the chief constructor. As it turns out, they'd only need one for now. The first in the series had been most of the trouble. That obnoxious humming had dispersed when she'd removed the first and ran a few tests on the second.

"It's nothing." Seska doesn't seem convinced. For a friend, she's awfully rude. B'Elanna sighs. She's still a good friend to have though. Life on the Val Jean would be horribly boring if she didn't have Seska to rile things up for her once in a while. Sure, B'Elanna likes to rile, but it's different when you're the one doing the riling, predictable. Seska keeps her on her toes constantly. They work in companionable silence for a while. The clink of metal is comforting as they replace and test parts. B'Elanna sighs and sits back on her heels. Seska looks at her when she moves. "Fine. I'll tell you. But this stays between us."

"Ooo. Secrets? I love secrets." Her friend is smiling widely.

"I know. But seriously, don't tell anyone."

"I swear not to say a word." B'Elanna levels her gaze with her friend's mischievous look.

"No writing or singing it either. Or miming." That's probably safe enough. Seska nods.

"Alright fine." B'Elanna looks away shyly.

"Tom's not so bad," she says quieter than she'd anticipated. Seska raises an eyebrow.

"You slept with him?"

"No," B'Elanna recalls how she'd woken up that morning. It was what had her distracted earlier and all day today. She was remembering how his warm arms held her close the whole night. She slept better than she had in years. But she refused to let it mean anything more than that she's been lonely for a while. "Well sorta, yeah." B'Elanna shakes her head. This isn't going at all how she'd pictured.

"Which is it?" Seska's tone darkens. "Do Ayala and I need to lay it in on Tom?" B'Elanna puffs out a little surprised breath.

"No, nothing like that. The opposite actually. We were hosted by their chief constructor, but he only had the one guest room. At first one of us was going to sleep on the couch and we disagreed who that would be." B'Elanna resumes working while she tells the story. It's better to keep her hands occupied. "We actually wrestled for it. I won by making him land on the bed first. But he didn't want to let me up." Her face feels warm just thinking it. She's skipping some parts, true. She's telling Seska the important bits: those that kept wandering into her mind unbidden but not unwelcome. She smiles to herself. "He asked me to stay. We cuddled and fell asleep there. I think he'd have been happy to do more but...."

"You're still trying to prove something?" Seska offers. She hadn't actually planned on finishing the sentence. The point of the matter had been that he'd have been happy for more, respected her decision not to do anything else, and seemed content to curl up with her. She wonders what he's doing right now.

"No, I just didn't want to. And he wasn't Paris about it." Seska will know what she means by that. "He was Tom." Seska looks triumphant. She doesn't start grinning fiercely or throwing her hands into the air. She's quietly triumphant like someone who wants to say, 'I told you so' and knows better not to.

"I think you owe me one. You're welcome."

"Not unless you were the one that mucked up the engines." She doubts it. The problems with the engines are mechanical and are being fixed this very moment.

"If I hadn't pointed out how well you'd work, do you think you'd be getting distracted now?" She counters.

"No," she admits tersely.

"Then you're welcome." B'Elanna rolls her eyes. Seska's starting to get righteous about it. She's horrible when she's righteous.

"Thanks," she gestures to the engines, "for your help. I got the rest." Seska frowns but replies cordially.

"Not a problem. Breakfast tomorrow?" B'Elanna nods.

"Sure." B'Elanna doesn't look up to watch Seska leave. She hears the door swish and continues working silently for another hour before being satisfied with the engine's performance. She'd finished her maintenance on the helm earlier that day Tom hadn't been around though: supply run to the planet's surface. She hadn't known that going in and was disappointed to find out. Now that the engine is performing well again, they should be out of orbit this time tomorrow. B'Elanna stows her tools and returns to her room in need of something to relax her.

B'Elanna steps into the warm jet of water. An involuntary sigh escapes her lips as the water massages her shoulders. She rolls them under the spray, shifting so that each got a few minutes of full pressure. She leans forward so the water can work out the kinks in her back from her full day of kneeling and bending. Only when her back is relaxed does she start to wash her hair and body. She's out of the shower before the timer automatically cuts it off. She dislikes being caught off-guard by its sudden cessation. When she leaves the shower on her own terms, it's easier to adjust to the temperature difference.

She contemplates what to put on. Her usual pajamas aren't the cleanest. She could clean them. A cycle in the recycler would take all but five minutes if she had it run right away. Truthfully, she doesn't really feel in the mood for cotton. She decides she's in the mood for silk or lace and draws out the slinky tummy-length tank. Both hems are triangles with downward points and generously laced. She pulls out the matching light blue underwear. The fabrics are cool against her fingertips and it gives her goosebumps to think how soft they'll feel against her skin. She slips into the underwear first, keeping her towel around her body until they're in place. She pulls the top over her torso next and is pleased to be right about how soft the material is. She wanders to the bathroom to stand in front of the full length mirror there.

She looks good. B'Elanna turns to the side and poses with her front foot bent so only her toes touched the ground. She turns another thirty degrees to get a look at her back angle. Sometimes it's nice just to feel pretty. Satisfied, she ambles over to the bed and picks up a novel PADD as she settles on top of the covers. She sighs for the comfort.

It isn't five minutes later that her door buzzes.

"A second!" Even if it is just Seska, she'll give her righteous superiority for the next week if she saw her in lingerie. She scrambles to her bathroom for a cloth robe and slips it over her arms. She's just finished the knot at her stomach when she bids the door open.

"Hey, you free?"

"Tom it's—" she glances at the clock on the dresser to her left. "twenty-two hundred hours. What do you want?" She has a feeling and doesn't like it. He raises one sunrise eyebrow.

"What do you think?" She wants to groan out loud, but he'd surprised her before. Maybe he'd just come to cuddle. When he saw what she was wearing, however.... Her stomach floods with butterflies.

"Not interested." He doesn't walk away.

"How can you be so sure? You've never even tried." He leans against the door frame, looking seductive and tempting, oh so tempting. But this is Paris, not Tom. B'Elanna wants nothing to do with Paris.

"Not interested, Paris." He sobers, pulling away from the door frame. "Good night." She sounds final. He steps back and runs a hand through his hair. B'Elanna thinks it's a nervous habit and not an attempt to tame Chell's bad haircut, which had flopped awkwardly on his forehead when he'd leaned against the door frame.

"Yeah," he sounds less confident. "Good night, B'Elanna." He'd taken the care to say it properly. She wonders if it's another trick, but he looks genuine. He might even be Tom again. It's too soon, but it's tempting. She wouldn't mind cuddling all night again. If they got up to something more, she probably wouldn't mind either. She lets the door close between them and stares at the blank metal a moment before retreating to her bed, shedding her robe angrily in the process. She snatches a pillow as she lays stomach down and yells into it. What is wrong with her? She can't go five minutes without thinking of Tom now. It's dangerous. She yells onto the pillow again for the catharsis.

As soon as Tom gets the chance he'll ship off somewhere else. He's made his opinion of the Val Jean abundantly clear. On top of that, he's a misfit among their band of rebels. Former Starfleet officer on the same ship as rebels and dropouts? Already the crew despises him. Some even mistrust him after hearing what got him kicked out. That he'd been kicked out of Starfleet, an establishment most of the crew openly rejects, doesn't help since he'd been the reason for it. He'd made a grave mistake, not began revolting within the system.

Yet, for all she's seen, it's like his personality somehow doesn't match him. His kindness doesn't fit his persona and his persona doesn't fit his kindness. He's puzzling and frustrating and endearing all in one person. It's impossible not to be curious.