The Bridge's turbolift doors slid open. Tom Paris emerged from the lift and strode toward the Conn Station to relieve Mariah Henley.
From the Engineering Station, B'Elanna watched the entire exchange from the corners of her eyes. She noticed that Mariah's shoulders stiffened under contact from Paris's hand. And the smirk that appeared on the Chief Helmsman's lips. A red flush tinged Mariah's face, as she walked toward the turbolift.
B'Elanna's console beeped. She glanced down and found a message flashed across her screen. "Keep your eyes on the job, Maquis. Tuvok is watching." B'Elanna's eyes widened at Harry's message. Then she looked up and found a pair of dark eyes that belonged to the Vulcan Tactical Chief. Observing her. The engineer coughed slightly and returned her attention to her work. However, not before she returned Harry's message. "Thanks Starfleet."
Since the day Harry had convinced her not to report Tom's indiscretions to Chakotay, B'Elanna has found herself growing increasingly obsessed with the pilot. She tried to curb this obsession and convince herself that she was wasting her time. After all, she has failed to come across any signs of sexual activity in Cabin Nine-I since that second time. Unfortunately, B'Elanna also continued to be plagued with dreams of her and Paris. Much to her mortification.
There seemed to be one bright light in the horizon. Ever since Paris's troubles on Banea, his circle of female admirers seem to have shrunken to almost non-existent. Like B'Elanna and other crewmen, they had heard about his affair with the wife of a murdered Banean scientist. And his conviction for murder by the Banean government. Paris ended up reliving the entire killing from the victim's viewpoint, thanks to some implanted memory engrams. However, his punishment ended up short-lived. Lieutenant Tuvok managed to exonerate Paris after discovering a murder-and-espionage conspiracy that had allegedly framed the pilot.
Many believed that Tuvok had conjured up evidence to exonerate Paris at Captain Janeway's behest. B'Elanna found that particular theory ludicrous. Tuvok may have been a traitorous spy, but not even he would go that far. She had to admit - most reluctantly - that Paris was innocent.
There still remained another matter regarding the blond helmsman. The identity of his secret lover from Cabin Nine-I. It was a mystery that B'Elanna felt determined to uncover. Who else, besides Paris, had kept her awake with sounds of passion on two separate occasions, during the past several weeks?
While B'Elanna contemplated the question, Paris's combadge chirped, breaking the silence on the Bridge. "Janeway to Paris," the Captain's voice announced. "Have you forgotten about our appointment in my Ready Room?"
This time, B'Elanna openly stared at the pilot. Like everyone else on the Bridge. A crewman in Command Red relieved Paris at the Helm. And the latter made his way to the Captain's Ready Room. The moment he disappeared inside, B'Elanna sent a second message to Harry's station. "What was that about?"
Seconds later, Harry's response flashed across her console. "Have no idea, Maquis. Will ask Tom later."
B'Elanna eventually found herself forced to contemplate upon the meeting inside the Ready Room, between the pilot and the starship captain. She admitted to herself that the meeting could be innocent. But when Paris failed to reappear on the Bridge after ten minutes, B'Elanna became suspicious. Another five minutes passed and yet, Janeway and Paris remained inside the Ready Room. B'Elanna glanced at Harry, who shrugged. Then her eyes rested upon the First Officer. Who casted uneasy glances at the Ready Room's door.
After twenty more minutes passed, those doors finally opened. Tom Paris strode onto the Bridge, wearing a satisfied smile. He tugged at his jacket and relieved the pilot at the Helm. The Captain emerged two minutes later, looking quite happy and unusually bright. One look at the pair and B'Elanna immediately rejected any idea of an innocent meeting. Something had just occurred between Paris and Janeway. Something that had nothing to do with the ship's business or Starfleet protocols.
* * * *
"What?" Harry stared at B'Elanna with disbelief. So did Seska, Henley and Ensign Lang. The five crewman had gathered at a table inside the Mess Hall for dinner, that evening.
The Chief Engineer repeated her speculations about Janeway and Paris. That the two might be involved in an affair. "C'mon Harry! You saw what happened on the Bridge, today! Why would Paris remain in the Captain's Ready Room together for over a half hour? Thirty-five minutes, Harry! And don't tell me that it had something to do with what happened on Banea. That was nearly two weeks ago!"
"The real question should be," Seska added, "why would you care?"
B'Elanna stared at the Bajoran. "What?"
Seska continued, "I can understand why Henley would be upset." The pilot responded with a glare. "But why are you upset, B'Elanna? You don't like Paris. You've barely given him a thought since we arrived in the Delta Quadrant. Why do you care whether or not he's having an affair with Janeway?"
All eyes focused on the half-Klingon. B'Elanna squirmed under their scrutiny. What could she say? That the lovemaking in Cabin Nine-I was keeping her awake? Or that she was having erotic dreams about her and the chief pilot? "I don't like the idea of us suffering, due to some illicit affair between those two," she finally answered.
A brittle laugh escaped the Bajoran's mouth. "Oh B'Elanna! You are so naïve!" The Chief Engineer winced under the latter's derision. "I doubt that 150 crewmen are going to suffer over some tawdry affair Janeway might be having with Paris! Unless she becomes pregnant or something. I may not like the woman very much, but I can't blame her for wanting a little comfort to ease her loneliness."
"Seska's right," Henley added. "After all, Chakotay's romance with her didn't hurt us." She remained stoic under the Bajoran's dark glare. "Of course in the Captain's case, I cannot see why she would even have . . ." Her voice dimmed to a whisper. B'Elanna noticed the slight jealousy in her voice. Obviously, Mariah also became aware of it.
Seska smiled. "What were you about to say, Mariah?"
Fortunately for the ex-Maquis pilot, Harry and Deborah Lang seemed more interested in defending Janeway's honor than in any jealousy on Henley's part. Lang stoutly declared that Captain Janeway would never break Starfleet protocols by fraternizing with someone under her command. "It's against regulations," she added.
"Actually, it's not," Harry corrected. "But it's not encouraged. An intimate relationship between a starship commander and a subordinate might lead to . . . well, certain problems. Problems that might have a bearing on the conduct of any starship."
Seska snorted. "And knowing Janeway, she'd rather die with her ideals intact than enjoy a little pleasure. So much for your theory, B'Elanna."
"Oh yeah?" the Chief Engineer shot back. "Then can someone explain why the Captain and Paris were in the Ready Room for at least a half hour? And why they were smiling, when they left?"
* * * *
"We had tea," Tom explained to his lover, the following afternoon. They laid stretched on the bed, inside Cabin Nine-I, with their naked bodies pressed against each other's. "The Captain had invited me for tea." He leaned toward her and nipped the side of her long neck.
She managed to scoff and moan at the same time, while Tom continued to nuzzle her neck. "You've got to be kidding! Why would . . . ah!" He bit into that sensitive junction where the shoulder and neck met.
"I think the Captain considers me her little reclamation project. We were suppose to have tea after the shift, but the Captain had another matter to deal with. So," Tom's hot tongue flickered across the hollow of her neck, "she rescheduled it for a little earlier." He sat up and lavisciously eyed the stunning body beside him. "If you think something is going on between us, you're mistaken. Captain Janeway is not the type to make out with a subordinate, just several feet away from the Bridge. That's just plain idiocy."
Slender hands trailed up Tom's chest. Her fingers slide through the chest hair. "You seem very defensive about her."
A malicious smile touched Tom's lips. "What's the matter? Jealous?"
Her hands grabbed a handful of chest hair and pulled, causing Tom to wince. "Don't insult me, Paris. I don't take kindly to any disrespect."
Tom jerked her hand away and gave it a hard squeeze. This time, it was her turn to wince. "Let's get something straight," he murmured. "Unless I'm on duty, I am not in the habit of jumping through hoops for anyone. At least of all, for you. I've had enough of that in my life."
"Then why are you here?"
"For a good, fuck. What did you think? Because I'm madly in love with you?" Tom retorted.
She threw back her head and laughed. Out loud. Her laugh immediately died as Tom covered the mound between her legs. He inserted two fingers into her hot flesh. She let out a gasp, as her body jerked automatically. "Gods! I hope you're not in love," she said breathlessly. "What would be the fun in that?"
Smiling, Tom removed his fingers and gently forced her legs apart. Then he took her by surprise by ramming his member into her. She let out a cry and her body arched upward. Tom's thrusts became deeper. Harder. He leaned forward and covered one tantalizing breast with his mouth and began to suckle. And her cries grew louder.
* * * *
Unbeknownst to the occupants inside Cabin Nine-I, a certain chief engineer had slowly made her way to her quarters, two hours earlier than usual. She would have remained in Engineering a bit longer, but a shortage in one of the EPS relay circuits led to a slight electrocution and minor burns.
One of B'Elanna's engineers had beamed her into Sick Bay. There, the Doctor treated her injuries and gave her an anaglesiac for the pain. He also ordered her to return to her quarters for a long rest. B'Elanna's first instinct was to ignore the EMH's order. Unfortunately, he threatened to inform both the Captain and Chakotay if she did not obey.
Feeling slightly dazed from the medication in her bloodstream, B'Elanna eventually stumbled into her quarters. She peeled off her uniform and headed for the bedroom. Just as she was about to sink onto her bed, voices drifted from next door.
"Oh! Oh yes! Oh spirits! Don't . . . don't stop! Don't . . . oooh! Oh yes! Aaa . . . aaah! Yes! Don't . . . oh! Oh To-ooo-omm!" The orgasmic cry snapped B'Elanna out of her fog. She had not heard such a cry in over two weeks. Before Paris's murder conviction on the Banean homeworld. Her eyes closed and she sighed.
Muted laughter reached B'Elanna's ears. Apparently, Paris and his . . . "mate" had finished. She had hoped that news of Paris's affair with that Banean woman would end the illicit trysts in Cabin Nine-I. Harry must have informed Paris about her knowledge of the affair, leading the pilot to use the cabin a few hours earlier. No matter. B'Elanna had finally figured out a way to kill two birds with one stone - learn the identity of Paris's lover and get even with both for keeping her up at nights. Just before Paris and Harry's mission to Banea, she had installed a holovideo monitor in Cabin 9-I.
B'Elanna had forgotten about the monitor - until now. She planned to upload a recording of this afternoon's activity into the ship's computer. Or better yet, transform it into a holoprogram. And finally allow the crew an intimate look of Lover Boy Paris in action. It should be the talk of the ship for months to come.
* * * *
Like many of her plans in life, the one to expose Tom Paris and his lover did not proceed as B'Elanna had expected. The following morning saw more problems in Engineering. More malfunctions with the EPS conduits led to repairs that lasted nearly an entire day. By the time B'Elanna and her staff finished the repairs, she was too exhausted to even think about the video recording.
The following day, Voyager came across an M-class planet that provided the crew an opportunity to stock up on foodstuffs and other supplies. Also, both Chakotay and Seska had a near-fatal encounter with a group of Kazons. The latter continued to weigh on the crew's mind, when Voyager responded to a distress signal from one of their ships. B'Elanna made up part of the Away team that discovered not only a ship filled with dead Kazons, but also Federation technology that was not properly integrated into their system. Someone aboard Voyager had given Federation technology to the Kazon without Janeway's knowledge.
No one had been more surprised than B'Elanna when Tuvok and Chakotay revealed the culprit, the following day. Like many of the other former Maquis, B'Elanna assumed Joe Carey to be guilty. They believed he wanted revenge for being passed over for the position of Chief Engineer. Instead, Seska - one of her closest friends - turned out to be guilty. Even worse, the latter was revealed to be a Cardassian, surgically altered as a Bajoran, in order to infiltrate Chakotay's Maquis cell.
B'Elanna felt humiliated and betrayed. Chakotay might feel even worse, but that knowledge did not lessen her feelings. She tried to alleviate her mood with an evening trip to Sandrine's. But the idea of listening to smug 'Fleeters berate the Maquis for allowing a Cardassian spy in their midst did not appeal to her. She needed something else to relieve her anger.
Then she remembered. Tom and Cabin 9-I. At first, B'Elanna wondered if she wanted to watch a vid of Paris having sex with a crewmember. Witnessing his little bout with Mallory Aiwa had been bad enough. But, dammit! She had to do something! Brooding over Seska's betrayal did not help her mood. So, B'Elanna switched on her computer console, entered a few codes and uploaded the recorded images from the monitor next door. Satisfied that she had completed her task, she played back the images. What she saw nearly sent her into a state of shock. How could Tom Paris end up in an affair with her?
The plans to reveal the recording to the crew became null and void. B'Elanna did not kill her plans out of any feelings toward the lovers on the screen. She simply did not want to embarrass or hurt a friend. And revealing this to the crew would do just that.
* * * *
Tom bent over the pool table and sunk his last ball into a pocket with ease. His opponent groaned. "Your game is really improving, Tommy," Gaunt Gary commented with a sigh. "Maybe just a little too much. When did you learn that maneuver?"
"From watching you," Tom replied. "I only learn from the best." The hologram grimaced.
With the exception of a handful, only holographic characters like Gaunt Gary and Sandrine filled the Marsaille tavern that evening. Although Tom had left the program opened to the entire crew, three crewmen other than himself, had bothered to show up. Ensigns Lang and Ashmore only hung around for an hour, before leaving. Crewman Henley sat in a corner table with a few of the program's characters. It seemed the ex-Maquis preferred their company to his.
Henley and the other Maquis must still be in a state of shock over the revelations about Seska. Tom did not blame them. He felt the same. That she would hand over Federation technology behind Janeway's back did not really surprise him. The shock came from news that Seska had been a Cardassian in disguise. A Cardassian with the Obsidian Order. That meant . . .
The tavern doors opened. B'Elanna Torres strode inside, causing Tom to groan inwardly. She waved at Henley, glanced at Tom and headed toward the pool table. Much to the pilot's dismay.
"We-ell!" Gary proclaimed. "Look who's here! Wanna game with me, honey?" He oogled at the Chief Engineer, who fixed him with a deadly stare. If looks could kill, B'Elanna's glare would have destabilized Gary's matrix by now. "On second thought," the pool player added in a shaky voice, "maybe I had enough for this evening. See you, Tommy." He gave a quick wave and headed for Henley's table.
Torres stared coolly at Tom. "Up for another game, Paris?"
Tom frowned. "You want to play? Against me?" he asked.
"Why not? It's not like you've been beaten before."
A tart smile curled Tom's lips. "Yeah, but I don't see the Captain around, anywhere. And you're not exactly in her league."
"Rack 'em, Flyboy!" Torres snapped back. "And be prepared to have your ass kicked!"
Again, Tom smiled as he set up the balls for another game. Granted, he was not particularly fond of the half-Klingon. However, he had to admit that he found her to be a fascinating personality. And a very beautiful woman. His eyes roamed appreciatively over her slim body. But even better, she was, at best, a mediocre pool player.
Sure enough, the pilot proved to be more than a match for the engineer. The latter managed to sink in a ball or two during the game. But in the end, Tom emerged victorious. "Another game," Torres imperiously demanded.
"Look Torres, why don't we end this evening on a good note? If we play another game, it will only end embarrassingly for you. Trust me."
Dark eyes challenged Tom. "Don't count on it, Paris. I plan to make this next game unpleasant for you. C'mon, rack 'em up!"
Tom gave the engineer a long, cool look. "What's going on, Torres? You usually try to avoid my company. And now you want to shoot pool with me?" He paused, as an idea came to him. An unpleasant one, at that. "Has this something to do with Cabin 9-I?" he asked.
Anger replaced the challenging look in Torres's eyes. "Cabin 9-I?"
"Come off it, Torres! You know what I'm talking about!" Tom retorted. "Harry told me everything. Look, I had no idea that your cabin was next door. Nor did I realize you would hear everything . . ." Neither Tom nor Torres heard the tavern doors creak open. Or see the tall figure that entered, since they were facing the opposite direction.
"Believe me, Paris," Torres shot back, "I heard everything. Just tell me this. When you fucked Seska, did you ever realize that she was a Cardassian?"
A gust of breath left Tom's mouth. He stared at the half-Klingon in total shock. "Gods! How did . . .?" Tom finally recovered his voice. "How did you find out about Seska and me?" He tried his best to sound calm. "What did I do? Scream her name out loud?"
"No, she screamed your name," Torres responded. Tom almost blushed. "However, I didn't find out about Seska until I saw this." She removed a data chip from her pocket. "I had placed a video monitor in the cabin, nearly two weeks ago. And captured both of you in action."
Tom stared at the data chip. He wondered if the Chief Engineer planned to use it for some blackmail scheme. "By the way, I'm not in the business of blackmail," she added, as if reading his mind. "I don't stoop that low."
"Really? And what do you call placing that monitor in the cabin?" Tom shot back. "Why did you do it?"
Torres's stare became accusing. "Why did you sleep with Seska? Why her, Paris? It's bad enough she turned out to be a Cardassian. But you fucked her, even though she was suppose . . ."
"Suppose to what? Be Chakotay's lady love? As I recall, they broke up not long after he became First Officer. Something tells me that Seska didn't take the change in their relationship very well."
Disgust tinged Torres's voice. "And you just decided to screw her, so you could add one more notch on your belt. Is that it? Or was this your way of getting back at Chakotay?"
Tom smiled. He might as tell her everything. It would be interesting to see how she would react. "Actually, Seska caught me off guard, one night. When I was on Deck Nine. After that, she wanted to meet there, because it was convenient and she didn't have to worry about someone spotting me enter her quarters. Can't have a former Maquis be seen with Tom Paris. Granted, both of us could barely stand each other, but . . . I must say, she was great in bed. Something I had recalled from our time together in the Maquis."
A gasp left Torres's mouth, much to Tom's amusement. Bullseye. Her dark eyes grew wide with disbelief. "You mean to say that you and Seska were . . .?"
"That's right, Lieutenant. Lovers. Only, I wasn't the only one. Both here on Voyager and back in the Maquis," Tom added softly. "Seska had her little circle of lovers available, whenever she and Chakotay . . ." Suddenly aware of a third figure standing nearby, Tom glanced to his left and the words died on his lips. Trembling in rage, stood Voyager's First Officer. Torres's eyes followed Tom's and she gasped for the second time.
Chakotay stepped forward, rage reflecting his his black eyes. For a few seconds, Tom experienced genuine fear. Would he find himself in Sick Bay, covered in bruises and blood? He hoped not. Then again, he had endured beatings before.
"What others?" the older man demanded softly. "Who were the others, Paris?"
Torres stepped forward. "Chakotay . . ."
Tom took a deep breath. Squelched the fear within him. "I don't know," he curtly replied. "Why do you care anyway, Chakotay? You were never in love with Seska. Hell, you proved that when you dumped . . ." A bronze fist cut him off and sank into his gut. Another clipped him on the jaw and Tom fell back onto the floor.
Blood trickled from the corner of the pilot's mouth, as he remained sprawled on the floor. He could see the other figures, including Henley, drifting toward the pool table. Tom struggled to his feet and wiped the blood from his mouth.
"Thomas, are you hurt?" a concerned Sandrine asked.
Laughter, soft and bitter, rose from Tom's throat. "I'm fine, Sandrine. Just caught off guard, that's all." He faced the First Officer. "Good punch, Chakotay. I see that you haven't lost your touch."
"That was nothing, Paris," Chakotay growled. "I'm not through with you, yet."
Tom smirked, despite the pain from his bruised jaw. "If I were you, Commander, I'd drop the whole matter. Or else the Captain is going to start wondering why I have extra duty assignments. Or why I have to show up at Sick Bay for unexplained bruises. I am curious as to how you're going to explain this."
Chakotay retorted, "Explain all you want, Paris. It will be your word against mine. And I don't think B'Elanna or Mariah will be willing to testify on your behalf."
"Oh, I don't I'll need them. Don't forget the video monitors inside the holodeck. I'm sure they've recorded the whole thing. Unless you plan to tamper with them. Then again," another painful smirk touched Tom's lips, "knowing your penchant for truth and justice, you just might march up to the Captain's quarters and tell her everything." Tom paused. "Do you really want to do that?"
A long silence followed. Tom met Chakotay's stare with his own cool one. Finally, the First Officer let out something like a cross between a grunt and a snort. "You're not worth the effort," he said with disgust. Then he turned on his heels and stalked out of the holodeck.
* * * *
B'Elanna cried after the older man. "Chakotay!" But he did not hear. She whirled upon Paris and found him staring at her, coldly. "What? What is it?"
"Congratulations, Torres," he said softly. "Looks like you got what you wanted, after all. My humiliation. Only you got a friend humiliated as well. Tell me, why did you put that monitor in that cabin? Because we interrupted your sleep for a few nights? Why in the hell didn't you just let it go?" He walked out of Sandrine's, rubbing his jaw.
Henley walked up to B'Elanna. Her gray-blue eyes expressed concern. Curiosity. B'Elanna, are you okay?"
"Yeah," the other woman murmured.
"What was that about?"
Revenge gone wrong, B'Elanna silently replied. She kept the response to herself. Along with the memory of Chakotay's humiliation . . . and Paris's contempt. Then she took a deep breath. "Nothing. Nothing at all."