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Summary: It's early season 4. Tom helps B'Elanna pack for an away mission.
A/N: This one's for Delwin. It was going to be all nice, polite and wholesome, but then it ended up going in a direction I wasn't intending… I'm blaming the search results I got when I went to check on the correct definition for what was then only a working title. And fanfic in general for corrupting me. Oh, and the fact that it went from vague idea to (provisionally) finished ficlet in less than twenty-four hours (definitely a record for me). Delwin was then kind enough to beta-read it. (Thanks, my friend. I'll try to keep the next one beverage-safe.)
"Just how long is this away mission supposed to last?" Tom asked, as he neatly folded a second gold uniform jacket and laid it on top of the first in B'Elanna's suitcase. "I thought it was only supposed to be a quick survey."
It was nice of him to offer to help her pack, really it was. But with all the questions he was raising, and the excessive interest he was showing in her wardrobe, the process was taking twice as long as if she'd been going it alone. "Three days," she said sharply. "But it could take longer. I want to be prepared." It was certainly going to seem longer with Vorik along for the ride.
Tom nodded thoughtfully as he picked a small object off the pile of belongings she'd prepared on the bed, tossing it from one hand to the other. "And what's this?"
B'Elanna peered more closely to identify the object: a shiny metal canister. Oh shit. "Be careful with that!" she snapped, rushing around the bed to take it from him. "It's a stun grenade."
Tom's eyes widened. "A stun grenade? It doesn't look like Starfleet issue."
"No. It's a design that we used in the Maquis. I programmed the specs into Voyager's replicator files." She challenged his incredulous look with a stare of her own before setting the grenade down in the case and arranging some socks around it for padding. "You never know when one of these might come in handy. The Starfleet variety are pathetic." And she knew from experience that these custom-made ones packed a hell of a punch, having been on the receiving end when Chell had accidentally let one off in the Val Jean's cargo bay.
Noting that Tom's eyes had widened even further, she followed his gaze back to the bed where removal of the socks had exposed the vicious-looking blade now on top of the pile.
"Is that a … d'k tahg?" Tom asked, mangling the pronunciation.
She let that pass given that it wasn't even the right name for the weapon. "A qhonDoq," she corrected.
"So, you're taking a grenade, –"
"Grenades, actually," she cut in, gesturing to the other small canister partially obscured inside one of her spare boots.
"Grenades and an assassin's blade. I sure hope Vorik doesn't piss you off too much."
She rolled her eyes. "Dalby's coming too, remember? I'm hoping he'll run interference."
As well as act as a chaperone. In fact, she'd have point blank refused to go with Vorik alone after his 'emotional disturbance' the previous year, whatever the Doctor said about the young Vulcan being unlikely to suffer a recurrence any time soon.
And a chaperone wouldn't go amiss right now. B'Elanna batted Tom away as he stepped in closer to block her access to the task at hand. "I have to finish packing, Tom."
"And I'm helping you," he re-joined, feigning insult before persisting with his distraction efforts.
"That isn't what I call helping. Save it for when I get back."
With a sigh, Tom retreated, letting her place the rest of her necessities into the case unimpeded. But then his eyes wandered to the table and caught sight of the incense she'd been burning last night. "What's this?" he asked, moving to take a closer look, his nose wrinkling as the odour of the residue reached him.
"Klingon incense. A mental relaxant," B'Elanna said, growing ever more impatient. She hadn't yet got used to sharing her personal space with Tom. This was the first time in three years that anyone other than herself had spent a significant amount of time in her quarters: the only place on the ship she could really consider her own. (In this regard, engineering didn't count.) Tom noticed everything, wanted to know the significance behind every furnishing she'd accumulated and the origin of every piece of memorabilia she'd collected from the numerous planets Voyager had visited. Not that she was a hoarder – her quarters really were quite Spartan compared to the few others she'd had cause to visit. But, just like the rest of the crew, she'd made the effort to add some personal touches. It wasn't as if she'd be moving out anytime soon.
"Mental relaxant?" Tom said, with a puzzled frown.
"I thought I'd give it a try. I was feeling a little stressed last night. Apprehensive, I guess. About leaving Voyager again, after … you know."
He nodded his understanding. The Mari incident. "You should have called me."
"You were on duty in sickbay."
"I might have been able to sneak out. Or get off early."
"We agreed we were going to behave ourselves, remember?"
"A fellow officer experiencing stress is a medical problem. I could have justified a house call."
B'Elanna arched an eyebrow. "I doubt the Captain would see it that way."
Tom sighed his agreement. "So, did it work? The mental relaxant?"
"In a way." She snorted, explaining, "At least the smell took my mind off things."
The remainder of her clothes and toiletries neatly stowed, B'Elanna pulled back the bedcover and reached for the final thing that she needed to take with her. Tom, of course, didn't fail to notice, a silly grin appearing on his face as he wandered back over to her position.
"Why have you got a Toby the Targ toy? I really think it's about time you told me the story, especially given that he shares our bed."
"OK, your bed, but you know what I mean. Plush toys aren't really… your style."
She flashed him a warning look at that, but her gaze soon softened. He was right. "Well," she started, "it was just after Naomi was born. I was looking through the replicator files for something to give Samantha for the baby, and I came across the file for Toby. I'd had one when I was little. My grandmother gave it to me. You remember the book series?"
"Of course. Those books were really popular." Tom scratched his head thoughtfully. "Which was strange considering how frosty relations were between the Federation and the Klingon Empire at the time."
B'Elanna nodded. Didn't she know it. "Anyway, when I got to about eight my mother decided I was too old for soft toys and she made me give it away to the neighbour's kid." In fact, her mother had never been sold on the idea of plush toys or dolls even before then, regardless of the fact that this particular one was a targ. Klingons weren't big on playthings that didn't train their little warriors for battle. B'Elanna hesitated, swallowing, before admitting. "I was pretty heartbroken actually."
And there was worse to the tale. Which made the reasoning behind her possession of the toy now a little hard to interpret. When the toddler next door's bigger brother and sister had caught sight of the toy and heard of its origin, they'd found it highly amusing, calling jibes over the fence between the back yard of their house and B'Elanna's. Settling herself before Tom could press further, she continued, "So, I guess I was feeling a little sentimental. I replicated the toy, but then I heard Neelix telling Harry how Samantha had been given seventeen plush toys in two days from various crewmembers and I wondered if I should give her something more practical instead. I was going to keep the targ and give it to Naomi when she was a little older – when she'd got tired of playing with all the others."
Tom raised a sceptical eyebrow.
B'Elanna made a face at him. "OK, so I wanted to keep the damn toy for myself," she confessed, crossing her arms defensively.
"And take it sight-seeing?" he quipped.
"That came about by accident."
"I left him on the bed while I was packing for that mission I went on with Chakotay, you know the one last year where Voyager had to come get us after the Cochrane's aft shields failed in the middle of a micrometeoroid cloud?"
Tom nodded. "How can I forget? I was worried sick when we got your distress call."
"Well, when I got back here and unpacked my things, I realised I'd packed Toby by accident. And seeing as I'd been lucky enough not to get pulverised in that shuttle, I decided he was a good luck charm. So I've taken him on most every away mission since. Crazy, I know."
Tom neglected to offer his opinion on that last part (which was probably for the best given her volatile mood) instead recapping with a smirk, "Non-regulation weapons and a Klingon beast that's renowned for its ferocious and destructive temperament."
B'Elanna couldn't help but smile back at him.
She closed up the case and grabbed her boots, supporting her weight with one hand on Tom's arm as she used the other to pull the boots on. Then Tom bent down for a goodbye kiss. Which rapidly escalated to conduct unbecoming two officers who were due on duty in less than three minutes…
"We really should get going," B'Elanna said, reluctantly breaking contact. "You know how Vorik will get if I'm late."
Tom straightened out his uniform and unmussed his hair, reminding B'Elanna to do likewise. "The Doc will be the same with me," he said, grimacing.
"And I don't think we can afford for any comments on our poor punctuality to find their way to the Captain's ears right now."
"No. You're right."
Grabbing her case and a PADD she needed from the table, B'Elanna followed Tom to the door. "But you might want to wait a minute," she said, edging past him.
"Because I'm not the only one packing heat."