"Après Vis à Vis"
By Diana Cabana
Tom pulled his lips away from B'Elanna's after a few moments. "You look so beautiful," he said.
"Tom," B'Elanna said sounding a bit miffed, obviously wanting his lips back on hers.
"Did Steth, or who ever he was, do anything to you?" he asked suddenly.
"He scared the hell out of me. For a little while I thought we were finished," B'Elanna said. "Why?"
"Well, I was just thinking about him and some of the things he said to me, before and after I found out who he really was," Tom replied.
"You were thinking of that alien while kissing me?" B'Elanna asked a little annoyed.
"I was thinking of us, and well, he made me realize something about us,"Tom said trying to avoid her anger.
"And what's that?" she asked shifting her position in the leather bucket seat of the Camaro.
"He made me realize just how important you are to me, and how important my life on Voyager is. We talked on his ship and he told me about his life as a test pilot. I don't know if what he said was true but he talked about piloting many types of high-tech ships and meeting lots of beautiful women, and always jumping from one thing to another, I guess he really meant that part, and he talked about not wanting to settle down but also not having any roots. He said he envied me because I had stability. Maybe that's why he chose me to switch bodies with.
"Anyway, he reminded me a lot of me when I was back in the Alpha quadrant. Always jumping from one thing to another and never settling down. I never wanted to settle down, I enjoyed the freedom."
"And how did this lead to the revelation that your life on Voyager with me was better than that other life," she asked sarcastically.
"I was getting there," he said with a smile. "When he asked me if I wanted to go on a mission to test the most high-tech ship in the Delta quadrant I said I couldn't. I had responsibilities on Voyager and that you would be furious, that's when I remembered our lunch date."
"Where are you going with this, Tom," B'Elanna asked, not trying to mask the impatience in her voice.
"It wasn't that I couldn't go with him, B'Elanna. I didn't want to. What I've got here with you is so much better than what I had in that other life," he finished looking at the spotless dashboard of the 69' Chevy Camaro.
B'Elanna smiled. "Well I'm glad you think so."
"You were right, B'Elanna, about me shutting myself away in the holodeck," he said abruptly changing the subject. "I've been doing a lot of thinking these past few weeks, especially after finding out my father had written me a letter. You know, when I was four my dad bought me a toy replica of this exact car," he said motioning around him. "It was the only toy I remember him buying and giving to me. After that all he got for me were academy prep books and ship protocol manuals and other things that prepared me for my life as an admiral. He never knew how much more that one little car meant to me than all those books or my future as an admiral.
"One day when I was about sixteen we were arguing about my studies. I was taking six classes at my high school already and getting good grades. But I wanted to do something fun so I decided to take an extracurricular activity. I wanted to join the school's soccer team, but he said, 'You don't have time for sports, you've got to concentrate on your studies. I'll sign you up for the after school Academic Decathlon program if you're so bored with your classes.' I was so furious that he wouldn't let me join the team that I blew up at him. I told him I was sick of him running my life and I didn't want to join the stupid Academic Decathlon program. Afterwards I stormed out of the room and went down to the lake by our house. I had taken the toy replica with me and I threw it in the lake. Of course things blew over, neither of us apologized, and life went on. I ended up joining that stupid Ac Dec program because my mother wanted me to.
"But I forgive him. I forgive him for pushing me into a life I didn't want and for practically disowning me. If he hadn't maybe I wouldn't have ended up here, in this car with you.
"I wouldn't have spent the last two weeks sitting here in grease and oil, with all my tools and the been thinking about my father and of course you too," he paused and stared out the open garage across the street in front of them.
"More than once I found myself wondering what you see in me, and how you can tolerate me."
"Tom," B'Elanna started, finally beginning to realize what Tom had been doing in this holoprogram. "I see the first man who has wanted me, for me as a whole, not just for my Klingon side or my human side. A man who makes me feel not just wanted but needed too. As to the question of how I can tolerate you, I don't know, it's just a labor of love I guess," she shrugged.
Tom smiled. "You're too good for me, B'Elanna. How can you say those things after I practically set up a blockade around me stronger than the Klingon fort at Dornen II. I don't deserve someone as wonderful as you."
"It's okay, Tom. I understand that you've had a lot on your mind lately. I really don't mind now that I know what's been going on," B'Elanna consoled.
"It is not okay. I've been shutting out the most important thing in my life. And then I completely overreacted at lunch today when you questioned me about it. Do you forgive me?" he asked.
"Yes, of course," she said. She finally understood why Tom had been hiding in this holo program. It was his way of forgiving his father and resolving a problem he had been faced in the past but never again had a chance to confront.
He gazed out the window for a few more moments, then looked down at the wheel and ran his hand over the leather covered steering wheel.
"You know B'Elanna, this car reminds me a lot about you," he said smiling.
"Is that so?" she asked raising her brows in a very Tuvok-like fashion. "Should I take that as a compliment?"
"Yeah, I think you should. The characteristics that make me love this car so much are some of the characteristics I find in you. For example, this car is a classic, one of a kind, just like you," he said checking her face for a reaction, pleased to find her slightly blushing and looking a little uncomfortable.
"It's a powerful car, with a strong engine. It commands the road and if her appearance doesn't obtain respect, the strength she has inside demands it. She's comfortable, like she's belonged to me for years, but at the same time exciting and new and brimming with adventures that are yet to come. She has graceful curves and contours, and a wonderful soft feel to it, and her beauty makes her stand alone and above all others," he finished, now looking into B'Elanna's eyes.
B'Elanna wondered if he had noticed that he'd switched pronouns when talking about the car, and if he noticed that the car was getting a little warm. "I can see why you love this car so much," she said softly.
"I love--," *you*, he wanted to say but this wasn't the place he wanted to say it. Tom had realized a few weeks ago just how much he loved B'Elanna. He always new he loved her but was afraid to tell her. The one other time he had opened himself to love someone she had left him and shattered his heart and belief that true love really existed. But he once again had found love and this time it was real, and now he was ready to admit it to himself and to B'Elanna. But this wasn't the right moment. He'd pictured the setting of the first time he told B'Elanna he loved her, to be more romantic. She deserved that much from him.
"--this car more than I should. It's just an old steel death trap."
"Why won't you say it, Tom?" B'Elanna asked. She wanted to hear the words that she herself had uttered to Tom months ago when they were floating in space, merely seconds away from death. She was almost positive that he did love her but why was he taking so long to tell her so.
"Say what?" he asked cautiously. He didn't want to profess his love to her in a car, in this atmosphere.
"You don't know?" she asked softly, looking towards her lap.
Tom heard the quiver in her voice. "I know, I just didn't want to say it here," he said.
"Why not?" she asked returning her gaze to his eyes.
"Because I wanted the setting to be different, to be more romantic. I always pictured the day I told you I love you to be different. Maybe we'd be in my quarters and there would be candles and nice romantic music in the background. And after dancing with you I'd put my hand on your cheek, like this," he brought his left hand up to her cheek.
"Then I'd caress your jaw like this," he said and traced her jaw line with his index finger. "And caress your lips with my thumb, then tip your chin up so I could look deep into your eyes, and then I'd say," he said in a hushed whisper.
Tom looked into B'Elanna's eyes and he saw his future. He saw a happiness he'd never had, and he saw a love in her that he'd never been given by anyone else. "Oh God, B'Elanna, I love you so much. I can't imagine my life without you," Tom said with such emotion and conviction that it brought tears to B'Elanna's eyes. "I'm sorry I've been such a jerk."
"I forgive you Tom," she whispered.
Tom brushed away the tears that had crept away furtively from the corners of B'Elanna's eyes, then moved his lips to hers and kissed her. It was a kiss full of passion and promise, and more importantly, love.
E-mail is a writers best friend! Posted: April 14, 1998