TITLE: The Infatuation
AUTHOR: Alice Max
DATE POSTED: 5/29/02
DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns these characters but the story is mine.
SUMMARY: This is the missing part to Season Seven’s “Nightingale.” B’Elanna tells Tom about Icheb’s crush on her. Will the “green-eyed pusshog” (to quote Neelix) rear its ugly head?
‘Thank God this day is over. Another day cleaning conduits and replacing relays and I’ll go right out of my mind,’ Paris mumbled as he turned the corridor corner, anxious to be in the confines of home. ‘I wonder if B’Elanna would mind joining me in the racecar holoprogram tonight. It might be the exhilaration I need until I return to Bridge duty again.’
Tom Paris entered their quarters, still thinking about his plans for tonight, and encountered a change of atmosphere that suddenly broke his concentration. Adjusting to the cozy surroundings, a smile appeared on his face when he heard the soft music playing and saw a table set for two in the candle-lit room. He searched the room with his eyes until he located his wife standing next to the replicator. B’Elanna was dressed an in outfit he never tired of seeing her wear: a short form-fitting sleeveless black dress, sheer black tights that caressed every curve of her shapely legs, accessorized by an ankle bracelet and high heels. His eyes fixated on the sexy way she looked as she bent forward (her elbows resting on the replicator counter) to issue her replicator order. That greeting was enough to get his heart pumping and seriously consider canceling his plans for tonight.
“Hey, this is nice. . .and romantic,” he remarked in a low husky voice. As he approached her, a red alert immediately erupted in his brain. “Wait a minute, is it my birthday? Oh no, your birthday? The anniversary of our first date or the first month anniversary of our marriage. .”
“Birthday? Anniversary? No it’s nothing like that, Tom. I just thought it would be nice to surprise you for a change. You know, ‘keep the romance alive,’” she said batting her eyes in his direction. “Isn’t that what you told me weeks ago?”
“You WERE listening, weren’t you?”
“I always listen to whatever you have to say to me,” she announced.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Have a seat. Oh and Tom could you open the wine while I get the pizza?”
“Yes ma’am! This is perfect. Ktarian Merlot, pepperoni pizza with Kaferian olives - I’m definitely in love,” he nodded as he popped the cork and poured the wine. “Speaking of love, I think good ol’ Harry’s in love again.”
“I spoke with him today before he left to pilot the Kraylor vessel. He’s in love alright. OK, so he didn’t actually admit that to me but I know he’s got a girl on that ship and he’s trying to keep her a secret.”
“Well it’s about time. I was beginning to worry about him,” she purred as she sipped her wine.
“It’s got to be love. I’ve never known him to become this secretive about anything else.”
“He might just be excited about commanding the ship, Tom.”
“As a matter of fact, he did mention something about his turn to be Captain Proton. OK maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he isn’t in love with a girl over there. You know he turned down my offer to help him pilot the ship.”
“And I was so looking forward to doing something worthwhile for a change rather than spending my time on this dustbowl ‘housecleaning’.”
“Sounds to me like our Starfleet is growing up and ready for more responsibility.”
“Captain Harry Kim. Hey, you never know - he might have his own starship to command one day. Who would have thought that the little upstart had it in him to take on that kind of responsibility!”
“There seems to be a lot of “growing up” happening on board recently,” she commented, recalling her encounter with Icheb hours earlier.
“Meaning. . .,” coaxed Tom as he bit into another piece of pizza.
“Meaning other crewmembers are showing signs of maturity. . .like Icheb for instance,” she inflected.
“Oh, that reminds me, I ran into Icheb this morning and invited him to spend some time with me in my race car holoprogram tomorrow. I hope that doesn’t interfere with your rock climbing expedition.”
“It won’t. It’s off,” she retorted.
“What do you mean ‘it’s off’? I thought both of you were looking forward to it?”
“We were. . .at least I was,” she confessed. “Something happened today to change that.”
“What’s this all about?”
“Huh, that entire situation must have been awkward for him. . . but in retrospect it was rather sweet. . . awkward but sweet,” she reminisced.
“Out with it, B’Elanna,” he ordered.
“It’s nothing, Tom. Nothing I couldn’t handle.”
“B’Elanna,” he shouted, glaring at her.
“Icheb thought. . . I was in love with him.”
“What gave him that idea?”
“He scanned me and noticed my blood pressure and neurotransmitter levels were elevated.”
Tom stopped eating and looked at B’Elanna with a blank stare.
“He thought I was aroused!”
“Were you,” he teased.
“I had a busy day and it was hot inside that Jeffreys tube,” she protested.
“Ohhhh, I get the picture. Just the two of you in that hot steamy Jeffreys tube, scanning each other,” he joked as he stood up, grabbed for her and pulled her close to him. “If I knew that’s all it took to get you aroused, I would have brought a tricorder with me on our first date.”
“Tom! I’m serious,” she yelled pushing his body away from her. “Icheb has. . .had a crush on me. After you talked to him, he came into Engineering and told me that you challenged him to a contest to win my affections.”
“Poor mixed-up kid,” Tom remarked shaking his head. “All alone in the Delta quadrant without any guidance on how to approach the opposite sex. That’s something you just can’t learn from reading manuals, you know.”
“He told me that our relationship was inappropriate and he didn’t want to make you jealous.”
“Make ME jealous,” Tom smirked.
“Well, if you knew what this was all about, you probably would have been jealous,” she asserted.
“ME? JEALOUS? Why should I be jealous? Icheb obviously has excellent taste in women. He was just a little confused about your intentions.”
“I wasn’t trying to lead him on! The only thing I was trying to do was be his friend.”
“Look, all he needs to get back on track is to have someone explain to him the subtleties of a male-female relationship.”
“Oh and you’re going to coach him,” she smirked.
“Can you think of anyone onboard who would be better equipped to do so?”
“Just like you coached the Doctor, Starfleet and Freddy Bristow, to name a few.”
“I think I did a pretty good job helping the Doctor romance the Vidian doctor,” he gloated as B’Elanna rolled her eyes at his response.
“What about Starfleet?”
“Well, Harry is hopeless. As for Ensign Bristow, I never coached him. Who told you that?”
“Starfleet. He said that you were jealous of Ensign Bristow spending too much time with me. So, you decided to give Freddy some of your expert advise on how to ‘romance’ Klingon females.”
“That little snitch,” Tom muttered.
“Remember that night at Sandrines when I punched Freddy for his off-the-wall comments and actions? It was YOU that should have taken that punch!”
“That, B’Elanna, was a long time ago - before we started dating. But it turned out OK, didn’t it? Freddy Bristow is now happily engaged so some good came out of that.”
“YOUR advice almost got him killed!”
“OK, so I may have ruffled a few feathers from the male ‘roosters’ you were dating.”
“Ruffled a few feathers? It was more like skinned them alive and left them for dead,” she argued, putting her hands on her hips.
“You’ve got it all wrong, B’Elanna. I was just having a little fun. Bristow, of all people, should have known better than to take my advice. Besides, he didn’t fair too badly after you slugged him. Freddy had every young available female on the ship flocking to comfort him. I had no idea I created a monster.”
“Make all the excuses you want – your intentions were far from being honorable. Freddy wasn’t the first one to fall for your “let-me-be-your-mentor” routine. That routine of yours quickly circulated among the crew and, after that, quite a few people were on to your little ploy.”
“You didn’t think I noticed all the times you would stare at me when you thought I wasn’t looking and get jealous when I was with someone else? You were trying to eliminate your competition at all costs.”
“From what you just said to me, I see that I got YOUR attention before we started dating as well,” Tom smirked.
“Tom, you were jealous even after we were dating.”
“B’Elanna I’ve changed a lot since we first met on Voyager. You admitted that to me when we were adrift in space after the Caatati destroyed our shuttlecraft.”
“You’re right you did change – but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re still jealous!”
“I wasn’t jealous after we were dating!”
“Oh no? What about Max Burke?”
“Your old flame that miraculously arrived on Voyager and tried to resume a relationship with you? What made you think I was jealous. . .BLT?”
“Uh Huh! And what about Vorik?”
“Vorik? Oh yea. I was just trying to save you from a boring evening at the Luau with him. That’s all. You know, I could interrogate you about being jealous too!”
“I know and I admit it. You married a jealous female.”
“HA! You were even jealous of my ship!”
“It’s not something I’m real proud of but yes, I was jealous. You spent a lot of time with that ship and I distinctly remember asking you if I should be jealous of Alice. AND I think my suspicions about that ship were correct. Alice didn’t care about you – it was just using you to get home. Look, that’s besides the point I’m trying to make. I admitted I’m jealous – why can’t you?”
“Because I trust you to do the right thing, B’Elanna.”
“I trust you too Tom. It’s the other females out there I don’t trust,” she smirked.
“Then why are we having this conversation? It shouldn’t matter who was jealous of whom as long as we trust each other, right? Now let’s sit down and finish our dinner.”
“You know, you just can’t admit it, can you? All of this talk about trusting each other – you want me to believe your attitude toward relationships are very twenty-forth century but they’re not. You can’t fool me, Tom. You’re still stuck in the twentieth century with your beliefs,” she grumbled as she sat down and reached for her glass of wine.
“B’Elanna you’re overreacting to all of this. I have NO hidden agenda as far as stopping your friendships on board Voyager,” he said sternly.
“Fine but all of this joking about what happened today makes me realize that you’re not being honest with me about how you truly feel. It’s like, most of the time, I can’t really tell when you’re joking and when you’re serious.”
“B’Elanna I’m serious when I tell you that I’m OK with what happened today. I’m simply offering my help if you want me to straighten out the situation. You’ve really got to train your Klingon side to lighten up a little.”
“You leave my Klingon side out of this,” she exclaimed.
“B’Elanna, that was a joke! This whole conversation has just gotten way out of hand. Can we please talk about something else?”
“How convenient for you if we change the subject away from something that obviously is still bothering you. Why won’t you tell me what’s bothering you, Tom?”
“You’re bothering me!”
“Tom, please listen to me. I used to keep a lot of things to myself. Not long ago, someone told me that by not sharing those thoughts and feelings that I knew were important to me I was hurting my relationship with the people I love.”
“One therapy session and you’re the ship’s counselor now?”
“Alright, I’ll just come right out and say it, Tom. It was you that sabotaged all of my relationships on Voyager because you’re possessive of me and quite frankly you don’t trust me to handle anything that threatens our marriage. Why can’t you admit that?”
“That’s it,” exclaimed Tom as he stormed to the door.
“Where are you going?”
“Out. Don’t wait up for me.”
* * *
Neelix just finished serving the last of the dinner crowd and noticed Tom sitting at a corner table in the Mess Hall staring out the window. He walked over to Tom’s table and said cheerfully, “Good evening, Tom. I thought you would be having dinner with B’Elanna not sitting here by yourself.”
“Neelix. Do you have anything stronger than this coffee behind that counter?”
“I think I might have some Talaxian brandy.”
“Can I have some?”
“Sure,” he replied as he scurried behind the counter to retrieve the brandy. “It’s been a long day. Mind if I join you?”
“Not as long as you bring the brandy. Pull up a chair.”
“So, why the long face, Tom?”
“B’Elanna and I had a fight.”
“If I had a replicator ration for every time I heard one of you say that to me, I’d be a rich man,” he laughed.
“She thinks I’m jealous.”
“And are you?”
“No, not really. Well, maybe a little.”
“Icheb has. . . had a crush on her and I guess I joked about that more than she wanted me to.”
“B’Elanna is a beautiful woman. She probably was flattered that someone found her attractive, other than you of course.”
“You’re right, she IS beautiful and it must be flattering to have someone, other than me, say that to her. But jealous? ME?”
“Well, since were confiding in each other, I feel compelled to tell you that I’ve had a crush on your wife for quite some time now. Of course, I’ve done nothing about this infatuation because I respect your marriage. But if you weren’t around, I’d be knocking on her door.” Neelix gulped the brandy then began to giggle, “It’s funny but I remember you saying those same words to me years ago when you told me you were in love with Kes.”
“You’re not just saying this to get even with me are you?”
“Oh no, Tom. I really meant what I said. Ever since Kes left, B’Elanna and I would spend hours sitting together in the Mess Hall - just talking. You know, sometimes she likes to come here for a late night snack or to work on her projects without being disturbed.”
“Yes, I know, Neelix,” Tom retorted.
“Well, during those late night visits, I got to know her quite well. She’s a very beautiful, interesting and passionate female,” he snorted as he nudged Paris in the arm. “She even gave me one of her Klingon stories to read – I believe it was called “Women Warriors at the River of Blood.”
“She gave you THAT Klingon romance novel to read,” glared Paris.
“Yes, I believe that was the title. Oh my, that novel gave me some insight into how passionate Klingons can be. So, after reading the novel,” he muttered to Paris, “I had a few questions about, you know, Klingon mating rituals and B’Elanna took the time to explain the rituals to me in great detail. . .”
“You were talking about Klingon sex with my wife,” Tom interrupted, annoyed that B’Elanna would volunteer such personal information so freely.
“Well, she wasn’t your wife at the time, Tom.”
“Just how far did this go?”
“Well,. . . she was very thorough. . .”
“Were there any demonstrations,” Tom shouted furiously.
“She’s right, you ARE jealous when it comes to other men vying for her attention.”
Tom’s anger turned to relief, “Oh I get it. Well now you know Neelix. Yea, I’m jealous but I’m not going to admit that to her,” he protested.
“Why not, Tom? That’s the kind of thing she wants to hear.”
Paris sat quietly drinking his drink while Neelix continued his speech.
“You know, you two are a lot alike. More than you realize. Let me tell you a little story: a few days before you two were married, B’Elanna talked to me about ending her relationship with you.”
Tom turned to stare at Neelix without saying a word.
“That’s right. She thought that breaking up with you would be best for both of you.”
“Did she tell you why?”
“She used the word MachtoH, which means ‘bad match,’ to describe her relationship with you. It’s a word her mother taught her. I asked her why she felt that way and she said because you never included her in your plans.”
“How could she have thought that? Oh, it was because of the race, wasn’t it?”
“She told me she thought you should do whatever makes you happy and she didn’t think you were ready for a commitment. I asked her why she didn’t talk to you about this and she told me that she planned to. So you see, both of you are suppressing your feelings and thoughts when you should be saying them to each other,” Neelix counseled. “Don’t worry Tom, your marriage is strong enough to handle it.”
“I had no idea she felt that way or I would have proposed to her a lot sooner. She’s got that tough Klingon exterior and I wasn’t sure she would like all the mushy stuff. It’s funny,” Tom smiled, “when B’Elanna first arrived on Voyager, I would have punched any man that came within ‘first contact’ distance of her. She’s the smartest, most beautiful, sexiest woman I’ve ever known Neelix and I don’t want to loose her. Maybe that’s why I’m so possessive of her.”
“Then you should be saying that to her. She needs to hear that from you. Go home Tom and admit to her that you’re a jealous man. You won’t regret it.”
“Well, here goes nothing,” Tom sighed as he rose from his chair. “Thanks Neelix. By the way, did anyone ever tell you that you would have made a great bartender?”
* * *
Dirty, tired and a little hungry, Tom entered their quarters armed with apologies only to find B’Elanna fast asleep in bed. He quietly removed his uniform and stepped into the sonic shower to cleanse his tired body and rehearse what he would tell her in the morning. Putting his blue robe on, he exited the bathroom with a towel in his hand and proceeded to rub his hair dry.
“Computer, lights on,” said a muffled voice from the bedroom. “There’s some pizza on the table if you’re hungry,”
“Thanks, I may have a piece later.”
Laying the towel on the chair, Tom walked into the bedroom and sat down on the bed facing her. “Look, I’m sorry for joking around about the whole thing tonight. That was just my way of dealing with the situation. The fact is, if I didn’t joke about it, I would probably be quite scary overreacting to some guy’s infatuation for you.”
“So you were jealous, weren’t you?”
“Yea, I guess so,” he smiled as he hugged her tightly.
“You see, it’s not so hard to admit that to me, is it?”
“I guess not.”
B’Elanna smiled at his indirect admission and then transferred the hug to her pillow. “By the way, where did you go tonight?”
“I paid a visit to Icheb. Apparently my fist had a tendency to come in contact with his face several times during our little chat,” he replied as he massaged his knuckles.
B’Elanna sprang up from the bed, throwing the pillow aside and remarked, “You’re joking, right?”
“I’m joking but I saw that look in your eyes. You almost believed me, didn’t you?”
“Not me,” she grinned.
Tom removed his robe and crawled into bed. He burrowed his body under the covers and sighed as he spooned next to his wife.
“Computer, lights off,” she ordered.
“B’Elanna, do you remember giving Neelix a novel to read?”
“It wasn’t ‘Women Warriors at the River of Blood’ was it?”
“It might have been, why?”
“Do you remember discussing that book with him?”
“I might have or it might have been the Doctor.”
“You discussed Klingon sex with the Doctor too?”
“Tom, what are you talking about?”
“Never mind,” he replied with a nervous laugh. “Let’s catch some z’s. We both have early duty tomorrow.”
B’Elanna responded to his suggestion, yawning into a good night kiss.
“Do me a favor. If Icheb or anyone ever asks you for any Klingon reading material. . . just say no.”
* * *