TITLE: It’s All In The Game
AUTHOR: Alice Max
DATE POSTED: 7/31/02
DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns these characters but the story is mine.
“Well if you ever have a free evening, I have a holodeck program you might enjoy...sailing on Lake Como.”
“I'd rather take my chance with Freddy Bristow.”
Paris threw open the door to Sandrine's just in time to observe Lt. Torres standing with her back to him, leaning forward and brushing her body up against the pool table. It was one of those female ‘greetings’ he never refused to admire, especially when the owner of this beautiful backside was the Chief Engineer herself. Susan Nicoletti and some the Engineering crew had gathered around B’Elanna as she prepared to sink the eight ball into the corner pocket and win the game. Mingling with the crowd, Tom watched B’Elanna take aim and expertly make the shot, followed by a round of applause from the onlookers. His response was to smile at her effort, although it wasn’t her skill that impressed him the most - it was her provocative stance that caught his eye as well as the leers from several males in the pub. Paris sighed and then turned his attention to survey the crowd. He raised his eyebrows in acknowledgement as he eyed Ensign Kim sitting alone at one of the tables, nursing a beer.
As Tom reached Harry’s table, he slapped him on the back and said, “Hey, Harry, how’s it goin’?”
“Tom? I thought you had a date tonight?”
“I did. She cancelled. Had to work a double shift,” Paris groaned as he came in for a landing and straddled the chair next to Harry. “So, want to play some pool?”
“Maybe later,” Harry shrugged apathetically and transferred his attention toward the pool table. “You know, B’Elanna is really getting pretty good at the game, don’t you think?”
Tom nonchalantly looked around the room then remarked to Harry, “Really? I haven’t noticed.” Paris momentarily discontinued their conversation and waved his hand hoping to catch Sandrine’s attention. When she finally looked in his direction, he motioned for her to bring him a beer. Tom then winked a ‘thank-you’ to her as he commented to Harry, “Quite frankly I don’t really see her in here that often to offer an opinion.”
“She’s won two games in a row tonight,” announced Harry.
“Is that so,” Paris inflected, getting ready to gulp his beer. “Sounds like beginner’s luck to me.”
“Maybe so but I’m going to wait until she’s finished to play.”
“And hustle me? You’d stand a better chance winning if you challanged B’Elanna to a game,” he smirked.
“Look Tom, for your information, I don’t want to challenge ANYONE to a game of pool tonight. I just came in here to relax, have a drink, then go to my quarters and get some sleep.”
“Harry, Harry, that sounds sooo boring! You’ve really got to loosen up a little - have some fun - take some chances,” Tom urged signaling for two more beers.
“I take plenty of chances. I’m your friend, aren’t I?”
“OK, Harry. You win,” Paris conceded. “It’s just that you won’t get what you want if you don’t take a chance once in a while and go for it.”
“Talk about not taking a chance. . . look at Freddy Bristow over there,” Harry gossiped as he nodded in the direction of the pool table. “He’s been standing next to B’Elanna for nearly an hour now, just staring at her, and he hasn’t uttered a word to her.”
“Looks like he’s got it bad. It’s a shame that B’Elanna doesn’t like him.”
“How do you know that? Did she tell you?”
“We talked about it briefly when we were on that away mission last week. She told me she whipped him at Parisses’ Squares and she thinks he’s a child.”
“I always thought Freddy was a little young for her.”
“Maybe he just needs some encouragement,” Paris nodded then took one more swig of beer to fuel up for the take off.
“Tom, take my advice and don’t get involved,” Harry warned. “He isn’t the only guy to strike out with B’Elanna, you know.”
“What’s WRONG with ‘young’ Freddy is that he doesn’t know how to approach someone like B’Elanna.”
Harry rolled his eyes and shook his head as he watched Tom saunter over to the pool table. Letting his thoughts escape his lips, Harry muttered his disgust at his friend’s behavior, “I’m confident that YOU’RE going to get Bristow KILLED.”
“Looks like you need another player,” announced Paris as he picked up a pool cue.
“Actually, Lieutenant, we’re almost finished,” retorted Torres with a sarcastic smile.
“Mind if I just stand and watch then,” Paris asked as he looked for permission from the rest of the group that surrounded the pool table.
“Not at all Lieutenant,” Torres replied authoritatively.
Paris smiled briefly then inched his way over to where Ensign Bristow was standing. “Now there’s a lady who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to tell you.”
Ensign Bristow continued to stare at B’Elanna and sighed, “Yes, sir.”
Paris started to chalk his pool cue then leaned to one side and whispered to Bristow, “You know Ensign, it’s pretty obvious that you’re attracted to Lt. Torres.”
Shock appeared on Freddy’s face - the intensity of it was very similar to being stunned by a phaser at close range.
After that initial jolt of truth, Bristow’s face blushed a ‘red alert’ at Paris’ keen observation. “I guess it is sir,” he muttered sheepishly.
“Listen, I work closely with Lt. Torres from time to time,” Paris murmured as he looked directly at B’Elanna, “Let me give you some advice: she likes a ‘take-charge’ kind of guy. Someone who isn’t afraid to tell her what he wants.”
“She outranks me sir. I can’t just blurt my feelings to her. She’ll have me on report,” Bristow protested loud enough for two of the Engineering crew to turn around and glare at him. Paris smiled an apology to them, elbowing Bristow to mimic him. Both of them stood there smiling and remained silent until Paris felt it was safe to continue their conversation.
“I’m not suggesting you ‘blurt’ your feelings to her,” Paris whispered. “All I’m saying is that you need to be a little more assertive, sure of yourself when you talk to her. And stop following her around like a trained targ. She likes independent guys.”
“Yes sir,” whispered Bristow deep in thought. “Excuse me sir, since you work with her occasionally, can you give me some advice on how to approach her?. . . I mean, I’d like to ask her for another date but I’m not sure she’ll go out with me.”
Paris tried to hold back a snicker at Freddy’s awkward request for his help on how to woo Torres. At this rate, young, naive Bristow had no chance in hell of advancing beyond ‘first contact’ procedures when it involved romancing the Chief. Torres was a challenge, even for someone with his expertise! Internally, Paris thought Bristow would have better luck catching a comet before he caught B’Elanna’s attention (for that matter – so would he!). Externally, he displayed his big-brother concern and continued his ‘serious’ discussion with the Ensign, who was, at this point, hanging on his every word.
“Well, the first thing you should do after the game ends is to offer to buy her a drink and celebrate her victory. Ask her to join you at a table that’s rather out in the open. If the atmosphere is too secluded, she’ll get the idea that you’re hitting on her.”
“Hitting on her, sir?”
“Too eager, Ensign.”
Knowing he had Bristow’s undivided attention, Tom resumed his sage advice that would have won him accolades in deception from the Ferengi.
“Lt. Torres will be in a good mood by now so she’ll probably accept your offer. Don’t ask her what she wants to drink. Take charge and order two drinks without her consent. Then, before she has a chance to complain about her drink, dedicate a toast to her victory. Say something in Klingon like: Qapla' Balth je', which means ‘honor and success.’ Speaking in her native tongue - that will definitely make her speechless,” Paris lectured, gaining Bristow’s confidence with each nod he gave him. “Next, play hard-to-get and flirt with some of the women at the pub. Once Lt. Torres discovers that she’s loosing you to the other females in the pub, she’ll try to win you back.”
“I see,” nodded Bristow, trying to digest all of Paris’ speech. “Order the drinks, make a toast, and then flirt.”
“That’s right,” smiled Paris. “Then, and ONLY then, when you know you have her undivided attention - do something physical. . .like arm wrestle.”
“Arm wrestle, sir,” Bristow questioned, doubting whether he had heard Paris correctly.
At this point, Tom was trying to keep from laughing out loud at his ludicrous suggestion but he kept his cool and replied in all seriousness, “Yes, it’s part of their mating ritual, you know. She’ll have a couple of drinks in her by then and will be receptive to your challenge. Win or lose, she’ll realize that you’re serious about pursuing a relationship with her.”
“But arm wrestle, sir?”
“Do you want to date her or don’t you?”
“YES SIR! But are you sure this is going to work?”
Paris leaned closer to Bristow and whispered, “I wasn’t going to tell you this Ensign but the last time I talked to Lt. Torres she mentioned to me that she would like to, and I quote, ‘take a chance with you’.”
“She said that?” Bristow grinned at this ‘late-breaking’ news from his informant. “Thank you sir, I’ll give it a try.”
Paris noticed that the game was about to end and snaked his way out of the crowd before another look at Bristow’s lovesick expression might cause him to double over in laughter.
He walked back to Harry’s table, quietly snickering all the way. Harry greeted Tom, glaring at him and shaking his head.
“Tom Paris. You didn’t!”
“It’s not as if he had a chance with her, Harry,” Tom rebutted and rewarded himself by sipping some of his beer.
“Thanks to you, now he’s a dead man,” scolded Harry.
“The most that will probably happen is B’Elanna will punch him out. He’ll get over it, eventually, and move on. AND he’ll have ME to thank for the ‘wake-up call,” Paris gloated.
“Of all the conceited. . .I’m not going to stick around for the bloodshed. I’m going to bed,” Harry exclaimed as he stood up. “Good night Tom. Try not to wrestle with your conscious about what you’ve done tonight,” he said sarcastically.
Paris was in the process of spying on Bristow and rather oblivious to what Kim just said to him. He mumbled a ‘good night’ in Harry’s direction and prepared to enjoy his ‘ring-side’ seat to what he hoped would be an entertaining ‘fight of the week.’
Sipping his warm beer (and not realizing it was warm beer he was ingesting), Tom began to mutter to himself a play-by-play of tonight’s main event:
‘There he goes to congratulate her. C’mon Freddy, don’t be afraid to sit next to her! B’Elanna’s bark is worse than her bite. I think?!? Good, he’s ordering the drinks for both of them. She doesn’t suspect a thing. . . yet. Uh oh, temper, temper! That annoyed look on her face when she looked at her drink is enough to award her that round. Here comes round two. He’s encouraging her to raise her glass in a toast. Nicely done Ensign. You managed to catch her off guard with that little ploy. A complement here, a smile there and she’ll never know what hit her. I guess I’ve got to give this round to you. OK, now on to round three. Nice flirting! You know, with a little encouragement from me and his good looks, he could very well become ‘Tom Paris: The Next Generation’ on board Voyager. HA! That expression on her face is priceless. Looks like the ‘ol Paris charm’ is working – she’s trying to get his attention and he’s still flirting with every female he can lay his eyes on. Way to go Bristow. No wait – looks like she’s getting ready to punch his lights out. Nice try Freddy but you’re inches away from a TKO. You know Harry might be right. I don’t think I’ll stick around for the bloodshed – MY bloodshed if B’Elanna finds out that I’ve been coaching him.’
Paris finished his beer then quickly retreated to the door without looking back, even though it was tempting to stay and cheer Torres on to another victory. He walked slowly to the turbolift thinking, in a twist of fate, it could very well have been him in Freddy’s place tonight sparing with B’Elanna. Just as the Turbolift doors swished opened, a whoosh of musky aroma filled his nostrils.
“Are you going to stand there all night or get in,” challenged the irate voice of one B’Elanna Torres.
“And a good evening to you too, Torres,” Paris quipped as he hesitantly stepped into the Turbolift. “Are you going to your quarters?”
“What? Oh, yea.”
“Computer, Deck 9,” he ordered as the doors swished closed.
He couldn’t help but notice that Torres was fuming with rage to the extent that he could have sworn steam was coming out of her ears.
“That was quite a game,” he commented trying to make conversation and avoid being B’Elanna’s next victim.
“You don’t know the half of it,” she angrily responded. “That impudent little. . . PutaQ. . . Bristow!”
“Do you mean Freddy Bristow,” he innocently inquired.
“I had him pegged all wrong,” she confessed. “I told you that he was a child. Well, he’s a pig. ALL MEN ARE PIGS!”
“Gee, thanks for lumping all of us in the same category, Torres,” he said sarcastically.
Torres ignored his remark as she crossed her arms, trying to hold in her fury. “He had the gull to pick a fight with me!”
“We’re still talking about Ensign Bristow?”
“One minute he’s treating me like I was a Dabo girl and the next minute we’re locked in combat – arm wrestling! ARM WRESTLING! Can you believe it?”
“You’re not going to put him on report, are you?”
“I really should. That would teach him a lesson,” she threatened.
“B’Elanna calm down. Ensign Bristow was probably trying to impress you with his. . . charming personality,” Paris reassured her. “He obviously has a crush on you and carried his feelings a little to far tonight.”
“HA! That’s an understatement,” exclaimed Torres as she tried to heed Tom’s advice to calm down.
As the door swished open to Deck 9, B’Elanna started to march toward the exit. Reaching the door, she spun around to confront Paris. “Maybe you’re right. Freddy might have done all of that to simply ask me out again.”
He smiled an acknowledgement to her as she continued on her way down the corridor. While she was still in earshot of the Turbolift she shouted, “It probably wasn’t his fault. I’ll bet he was coached.” Paris knew, at that moment, B’Elanna was onto him and winced as the door swished closed.
* * * *
Despite all that happened last night at Sandrine’s, Paris was in a relatively good mood this morning and whistled on his way to Mess Hall for a light breakfast. Entering the Mess Hall, he spotted Harry Kim talking to Nelix. Running interference, he slapped Harry on the shoulder and said, “Hey, Harry, just the guy I wanted to see.”
“There he is,” confirmed Kim. “So how does it feel to shatter someone’s dream?” Before Paris could reply, Harry interrupted, “Remind me to never tell YOU about my love life.”
“What’s to tell, Harry. You don’t have one that’s worth mentioning,” quipped Paris.
As they stood in line for breakfast, Harry noticed Ensign Bristow sitting alone at a table taking care of a whale of a black eye.
“Maybe you should go over to Freddy’s table, make peace with your conscience and console him,” scolded Kim.
“My, my, that’s some shiner,” remarked Paris, as he stared at Bristow holding a piece of meat to his face. “We should go over and get the lowdown of all the gory details.”
Bristow began to sense discomfort as Paris and Kim approached his table. He looked up at them and exclaimed, “Lieutenant, Ensign, what can I do for you?”
“The question is what can we do for you, Ensign? That’s some black eye,” said Paris.
“I don’t think I’ll ever understand Klingon females,” Bristow brooded, shaking his head.
“The operative word here is ‘females’, Ensign.” Paris commented. “I don’t think even a Betazoid could figure them out, so don’t even try.”
“Last night, I came right out and told her that I wanted to continue to date her. And that’s when she hit me,” Freddy sulked massaging his face with the raw meat.
“She sucker-punched you, huh,” smirked Paris, shaking his head.
Looking sternly at Tom, Harry cleared his throat and said, “Lt. Paris and I feel we should tell you something about Lt. Torres. It’s not that she doesn’t like you. . . it’s. . .well,. . .”
“Yes, Harry, we’re listening,” interrupted Paris.
“. . . she had some reservations about you because she feels. . . you’re a bit younger than her,” Kim babbled.
“That’s right. Lt. Torres has a tendency to date much older men, like Commander Chakotay, for instance.”
Harry’s stern look turned to disgust. “Well, Lt. Paris and I have some bridge business to discuss, so if you will excuse us. . .”
“It’s not as if you didn’t give it your best shot, Ensign,” Paris reassured him. “There’s a twentieth century song that sort of describes this situation – ah, let me see now, ‘Many a tear has to fall but it’s all in the game. All in the wonderful game we call love’. . .or something like that.”
“What are you talking about Tom?” questioned Harry, smiling through clinched teeth.
“What I’m saying is, Freddy, at least you had a chance to tell her how you feel and spend some time with her. Some guys don’t even get that chance.” Tom thought about what he had just said and realized he struck a nerve recapping his current relationship with B’Elanna.
“I suppose you’re right, sir,” moaned Bristow.
Paris commiserated with Bristow, nodding their heads in agreement of their situation just as two beautiful young female ensigns rushed Bristow’s table.
“Freddy, we heard about what happened,” said one of the female ensigns.
“Are you OK,” asked the other female ensign. “Is there anything we can do?”
“Would both of you care to join me,” Freddy asked in a ‘Tom Paris-kind-of-way’.
As they both sat down next to him, Ensign Bristow winked in the direction of Paris and Kim. It was a subtle cue for them to leave, but a clue nevertheless, that Bristow was on the road to recovery from a broken heart.
“And I thought I knew every beautiful female on the ship,” pouted Paris.
“Tom, remind me to never feel sorry for Bristow again,” exclaimed Harry.
“Don’t blame Freddy. He just learned to play the game at warp speed,” admitted Paris. “AND he turned out to be one of my more promising students.”
“Wait a minute Tom, I thought we were both helping him!”
“I guess you’re right Harry. Considering we both don’t have dates in the near future, there’s an old saying that fits this occasion: Those Who Can’t Do TEACH!”
* * *