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| "You could talk about it, you know?" | trembling | mouths | tread |


He's in her space again. His breath is at her neck and she can hear the rustle of his clothing. She tenses and turns on him, shoving him back a good foot in the corridor. Paris looks shocked. He's probably lucky they're the only ones there. With almost all of the crew distrusting him, any one of them would jump in to back her. Chakotay's consequences be damned.

"No! I don't want to go to dinner with you! Or lunch! Or breakfast!" She growls. "I'm not interested, Paris." He looks genuinely hurt but she doesn't care. Sometimes using his last name makes him back down. He's been assaulting her with requests all week. She's going to throw him out an airlock the next time he asks! His shock recovers into a glower.

"Why not? Hmm?" They're having a lover's quarrel and they aren't even lovers. She pushes that thought out. They aren't lovers. This isn't a lover's quarrel. It's a loud argument. His voice rises. "Don't want to be seen with the Starfleet golden boy?" She puffs.

"Golden boy?" She raises her voice even louder. It might be drifting into the rooms of crew members at this point, but she can't bring herself to care. "Didn't they throw you out on your ass when you killed three people?" She sees him mentally stumble. His hand rises to the back of his head to go through his hair there. She recognizes the nervous habit and hates herself for it. She steps forward and jabs his chest with one finger. "Don't fucking ask me again, petaQ." She turns around, stomping to her quarters. She can feel her shoulders trembling with pent up anger. She needs to punch something. Using Paris as a punching bag crosses her mind. She dismisses it because he'd find a way to enjoy it. She growls at the corridor (Chell hurries past her with wide eyes, careful not to touch her).

=/\=

Pull it together. She didn't mean it. Tom doesn't believe himself any more than if he had someone actually say it. He still sees their faces sometimes. He takes a breath as they come back, unprompted as if to ask, 'why did you do it'. Tom watches B'Elanna turn around and stomp away. She can't know that he's not slept right since killing his three closest friends.

Well, that's not entirely true. He'd slept very well when he was holding B'Elanna. It brings a small smile to his face. He turns in the other direction for his quarters. When she said she was tired that night, he'd been a little disappointed. He'd thought for sure that wrestling was just Klingon foreplay. It hadn't done much for him other than that it'd been fun. But just holding her was better than he'd imagined. Not that cuddling was something he imagined often.... Lately it was on the forefront of his mind.

He'd be happy with her just calling him Tom again. But now he's been demoted all the way to petaQ. Clearly, his tactics aren't working. He contemplates that as he enters his code and steps inside his room. What can he do? He's tried asking for a friendly meal, even suggested that she could bring Seska or whoever so it didn't seem like a date. He'd like it to be a date and that's a little off-putting for him. He hadn't exactly been happy sleeping with any willing woman lately. It was just a distraction from his friends' deaths. He slept a little better after sex. But not nearly as well as he had when he'd cuddled B'Elanna all night. He'd never guess that.

=/\=

B'Elanna punches her code into the door and wishes she could slam it shut. It glides down perfectly calm which lights her already shortened fuse. She pick up the nearest object: a small vase. She flings it across the room with a snarl.

Just before it shatters, she regrets throwing it. The deep blue crystalline vase doesn't stand a chance against the gray bulkhead. B'Elanna slumps against the door, slides to the floor, and presses her palms to her eyes. The vase had been a gift from Boothby. He'd given her a yellow tulip her first week at the Academy saying that she looked like she could use a little sunshine. She had. That week was hard. The gesture made her smile, but she had to turn him down saying that she didn't have anywhere to put it. It'd die. He told her not to worry and pulled the faceted vase from his wheelbarrow. She had time to wonder if he kept vases around for lost cadets like her before he plinked the tulip inside and handed it to her.

And she'd just thrown it across the room. She hadn't added a new flower to it since joining Chakotay. On particularly harsh days she liked to look at it across the room from her bed and picture the happy, yellow tulip opening for her. It was a bittersweet reminder of what happened the last time she turned tail abruptly: she'd wound up in the Maquis. Not that she hates it here, but she wonders what life would have been for her if she'd stuck through the Academy. Now, she won't have the chance to put another flower in it. It's like she's saying she won't ever find peace on harsh days again.

=/\=

Tom steps into his bathroom and regards his reflection before picking up a toothbrush and toothpaste. He sorts through every romantic gesture he knows. There's flowers and chocolate. He doesn't know if she likes either. There's compliments. He doesn't think she hears a lot. They might be worth trying. He starts making a list about the things he likes about her. The first few he finds are shallow: pretty hair, bright eyes, sweet smile. Anyone can have them. He needs something stronger. Something she can't shy away from or deny. Her aptitude with Val Jean's engines comes to mind. Because of her, they're now on their way to their first mission since coming aboard. He's looking forward to it.

Decided, he finishes brushing his teeth and goes to the replicator for a rose and a small box of chocolates. When he has both in his hand he realizes that maybe he's overdoing it a little. But he really wants to hear her call him Tom again. It's killing him that she hasn't. He'd give anything to cuddle up with her again. She'd been very warm and fit so well against him. It makes his stomach flutter just thinking about it.

He knows he should tread more carefully now. Asking for meals together seems to be pushing B'Elanna too far. Rose and chocolate together is definitely too much. He should pick one for now and save the other for later. He hasn't any clue as to which one she'd like better. He sets the rose in a spare mug. It seems a little forward. The chocolates will have to do. He can always write them off as an apology if she's very hostile.

=/\=

Her door buzzes behind her. B'Elanna wipes roughly at the tears on her cheeks. Today has been so hard already. She doesn't want company. Chakotay had gotten on her about using too much energy for replicating engine parts earlier. He'd been angry and she believes now what Seska said about dodging a phaser volley. Then there was the cloud of anxiety or anger—she isn't sure what to expect anymore—that she feels bubble up when Paris comes into view. And the vase. It buzzes again. She pulls herself to her feet reluctantly and presses the key for entry.

"I heard glass shatter." She's relieved it's only a concerned Seska. She'd thought Paris might try again. "Are you crying?"

"No," she denies. But her sniffle gives her away. Neither of them move. B'Elanna knows she should probably invite Seska in or tell her to go away. She can't decide what to do. Her turbulent emotions are messing with her decision making.

"You could talk about it, you know?" Invite her in it is. B'Elanna steps aside to let Seska into her room. "So what happened?" She asks when she settles on her usual cushion. B'Elanna shrugs. It seems silly now. She walks to the corner where the vase had shattered and looks down at the mess. Small chunks crowd around a few large shards. There are slivers of shine in the carpet that she suspects are tiny pieces of glass.

"Nothing really. I broke Boothby's vase."

"Okay...I have two questions." B'Elanna scoops up the largest pieces. She wonders if she can reassemble them enough for the replicator to remake it. "First, who is Boothby? Second, what made you so angry?"

"Boothby's the groundskeeper at the Academy. He'd brightened my day once by giving it to me." She smiles at the memory. It actually had been sunny that afternoon. "And do you even have to ask?"

"Paris then?"

"Yes," she growls.

=/\=

Tom stand outside her door with the square box of chocolates held at an angle in one hand and upright. He shifts it so it's square over his chest, but doesn't like that either. He slides it behind his back instead. He presses her door chime.

"Enter," he hears after a pause. He pads the entry button and is a bit surprised to see Seska in the middle of the room. He shouldn't be surprised. They're friends and they live right next door.

"We were just talking about you," the tone of Seska's voice doesn't sound like it'd been anything good.

"I'll just come back later." His gift wouldn't really work with company either. It'd be a little weird to give B'Elanna some heart-felt compliments and a box of chocolates in front of Seska. She weirds him out some. B'Elanna sighs and his eyes are drawn to her. He takes note that she has two large shards of blue glass in her hands. If he isn't careful, she might just throw them at him.

"What do you want?"

"Oh, um." He's suddenly nervous. What was he planning on saying? Why was he here? What's in his hand again? He pulls the box from behind his back accidentally. "I brought you chocolates," Seska stiffens in the corner of his eye, "t-to apologize." He's hoping that's enough and that B'Elanna doesn't throw anything at him.

"I like chocolate." Good to know. He holds them out to her when she approaches. She takes them from his hand. The box is small enough that her hands brush his own when she takes the box.

"Sorry for being such a petaQ." She looks surprised.

"I, uh." She wavers between his eyes. "Okay. I'm sorry for being...."

"Impossible?" He smirks. She had warned him. She smiles back.

"Yeah that." They don't say anything. Neither does Seska.

"Thanks for the chocolates." Her eyes wander on his face and he wonders what she's thinking. Maybe she thinks he's handsome....or needs a shave. He's a little scruffy already. Her eyes rest on his mouth before shooting back up to his eyes. Oh? "You can go now."

"Sure, sure. Just one more thing." He brings his right hand up to her face and pushes his head down to kiss her. She melts into the kiss. He'd only meant to give her a quick peck but since she's willing, he darts his tongue across the cleft of her lips. She tastes like fresh air and it's made stronger by the fact that he'd just brushed his teeth. He breaks away and puts a finger to his lips. "I caught you staring." She blushes and looks down at her hands and the box of chocolates. Seska clears her throat behind them.

"Still here you know."

"Sorry, Seska," he calls over B'Elanna's shoulder. He looks back at B'Elanna. She's now looking at him with wide, happy eyes. "Good night, B'Elanna." He draws his hand back. B'Elanna smiles.

"You too, Tom."