Love's Labor Multiplied
Disclaimer: Paramount, Viacom...etc.etc.etc.(You know the drill)
Rated PG-13 for some language and other stuff :)
It was simulated night on Voyager and, having just completed a grueling-long trek through a particularly hostile sector, all crewmembers not on shift were recuperating in their quarters...or at least almost all. The Chief Engineer stormed through her department looking for a project and blowing off steam from a recent spat with her lover. Meanwhile, said lover, Ensign Tom Paris, sulked in Sandrine's.
Tom brooded at the bar alone, being one of the only three occupants left in the bistro and being in such a surly mood that even Sandrine's holographically projected patrons decided to avoid him. At a table on the other side of the cantina two crewmen, Barelli and Markwell, sat nursing a couple of synthehols and discussing the Ensign's current mood.
"It's a damn shame, that's what it is," said Barelli.
"Yeah, when those two go at it the whole ship pays the price. Makes me glad I'm not a bridge officer."
"Or an engineer! They get the worst of it. Paris pisses the Lt. off and Engineering are the ones who have to fear for their lives,...but that's not what I meant."
"No, I meant it's a damn shame to see the great Tom Paris reduced to this - moping around a bar at least once every couple of weeks, alone. I mean, he's Tom Paris! You know the reputation he's got! But suddenly he falls for B'Elanna Torres and he's practically a kept man!"
Markwell laughed. "He doesn't seem to think that's so bad...at least most of the time."
"Most of the time he's happy as a clam catering to the whimsical moods of a hot-tempered woman. That's what I'm talking about! He doesn't even realize he sold his freedom for a pretty Klingon engineer..."
"A very pretty Klingon engineer, mind you," Markwell joked. "Pretty or not," continued Barelli, "Paris was my one last hope at getting some vicarious thrills on this mission. He's the only one around here who knows how to have any fun! And he doesn't have any trouble talking some lovely lady into joining him. Now he's gone and ruined it all by tying himself down to the one woman on board whose idea of fun is recalibrating the fuel modulators!"
" 'Vicarious thrills', huh Barelli? What's wrong with having some of your own?"
"Oh, that'd be good...if Lt. Erikson would give me the time of day, but she still refuses to go out with me."
"Not for lack of your trying..."
"Persistence, my good friend. Therein lies the key."
"Or a complaint to your supervisor."
"Hey, Bonnie wouldn't do that to me! She'd like me, I know she would. She just needs to give me a chance to prove myself likeable."
"Anyhow, we weren't talking about me...what were we talking about?" Then Markwell laughed again.
"Nothing we need to be discussing at this hour," he said. "I don't know about you, but I'm drained. And I've got a shift tomorrow. See you at breakfast?"
"Yeah." "Barelli?" "Huh?" "Are you leaving?" "Oh...oh, yeah. Where was I going?" Barelli rubbed a hand over his face and Markwell shook his head with a grin. "Man, I've never seen anyone who could get drunk off of a couple of glasses of synthehol."
"I must've been more tired than I thought," Barelli said, a deep yawn punctuating his words. Markwell helped him to his feet and towards the exit of the simulated French establishment. Before they left, he threw one last glance in the Ensign's direction. Maybe I should say something to him. We don't know each other too well, but hey...who doesn't know Tom Paris? Nah, if there's one thing I do know, it's not to get too close to either Paris or Torres after they've had a fight! With another shake of his head, Markwell helped his exhausted and slightly inebriated friend to his quarters, leaving the brooding young pilot to his synthehol and his frustration.
At the table next to the one Barelli and Markwell had just left, Q, reduced to 1/25th his size, sat where he had been undetectably eavesdropping on the conversation. He harummphed loudly in indignation. "A kept man! 'Catering to the whimsical moods of a hot-tempered woman'?! I cannot believe that's how Paris is letting his reputation get around these days! I've always considered him to have quite a way with the ladies, a lad after my own heart, and for him to be defamed this way...oh, oh no!..."
A truly horrifying thought suddenly occurred to Q. "Is this how people see me now that I'm a married man? Oh, this won't do at all!"
And with that, Q left as he'd come - in a blinding flash of light, this time full of omnipotent dread and indignation.
Q disappeared and reappeared on the countertop before Tom, forgetting to readjust his size in his fury. Tom sputtered on his synthehol.
"Tom Paris, you have got to do something about this!"
Q shook his tiny fist at the disbelieving man seated before him. "Just what do you plan to do to get us out of this mess?" Once Tom regained himself from the shock of being confronted by a mini-Q, as was his nature, he immediately honed in on the humor of the situation. Controlling his laughter, he threw Q a grin. "Well, I don't know, Q. I don't have much experience with this sort of thing. Of course, when it happened to the doctor we just realigned his emitter array, but I doubt that'll work with you." For a minute Q didn't know what he was talking about, then he looked down at himself with a yelp. In a flash he appeared on the seat next to Paris, actual size.
"What are you doing here, Q?"
"The question, my young friend, is what are you doing here? Tommy boy, I am extremely disappointed in you!"
"Oh, really," Tom drolled, returning to his drink. This sounded like the usual Q-babble - annoying, yet ultimately harmless...most of the time. "And just what are you so disappointed about?"
"Well, your reputation, that's what. You're letting it go down the proverbial tube!" Tom raised an eyebrow at that. "I am, huh?" "Yes! Look at you - the infamous Tom Paris - sitting here pining over a woman." Tom's amused expression abruptly disappeared. "I'm not pining, Q, I'm sulking. There's a difference."
Q took a moment to look around at their surroundings. "Well, if you're going to sulk I suppose this just would be the place you'd chose to do it. You're a true Frenchman at heart, Paris. There's a certain Captain I know who you'd get along just spectacularly with." Then Q shook his head woefully. "Your relationship is over." Tom sputtered on his drink again and laughed incredulously at Q - he knew what the so-called-omnipotent being was referring to. "Over? We just had a little fight, Q!" "You're always having some little fight. I'm telling you - this relationship is a bad thing for your image!"
Tom laughed again, the sound more of a snort than a laugh - Q should know that he, of all people, wasn't the type to worry about his image. "You're making a fool of yourself in front of the whole crew!" "And why do you say that,Q?" "Because I've heard them talking, that's why. Do you know what they're saying about you, Paris? Do you? They're calling you a 'kept man'!" Tom shook his head at Q's melodrama and said, "I don't particularly care what people are saying. Besides...maybe I like being a 'kept man'...[Q's expression was one of abject horror]...I love B'Elanna. We have our problems, but we always work them out. I'm through judging myself by absurd standards like how many women I can pick up in one day. That's no way to live; I know, I tried it. And you know what? I was lonelier then than ever. There was a time when noone would keep a man like me. I consider myself lucky that B'Elanna wanted the job." "But does she, still?"
Tom threw Q the dirtiest of looks and turned to him on his stool. "Look, Q, I don't know why you're here or why you're so interested in my lovelife..." "Because you're giving all us dashing young lady killers a bad name, that's why!" Tom's lips quirked at that.
" 'Dashing young lady killers', huh? Since when did I become the representative for that group?" "For lack of anyone a little less spineless [another dirty look came his way from Paris] you'll just have to do. Listen, how can I uphold my image as a married, yet still undeniably attractive omnipotent being [this caused Paris to roll his eyes] if you're going around the Delta Quadrant giving men-in-love such a bad name?"
Tom sighed loudly. "Q, I'm certain that whatever choices one man, lost in the Delta, makes in his love life is no threat to the image of a 'dashing young lady killer' like yourself, so you can just stop worrying about me."
Supremely annoyed at this point, Tom said, "I don't even know why I've been talking to you! I should have reported you to the Captain the second you showed up here."
"Oh, I don't hink we need to involve sweet Kathy in this. After all, this is about you and y..." Suddenly, Q was struck by a stroke of brilliance and he started to smile. "Oh...oh, that's just perfect!" he mumbled to himself, clapping his hands with glee. Seeing that an idea was forming in Q's devious mind, Tom became seriously concerned. "Q..," he began, in a warning tone of voice, but Q was too excited to listen.
"Tom, my boy, I have just the answer to your problem! And it will involve the Captain...just not in the way you think."
"You just wait! 'Kept man', indeed! Why, when I get through here noone will question the charms of Thomas Paris!"
"Q! I don't know what you've come up with, but if you cause me or B'Elanna any trouble, whatsoever..." Q waved away Paris' concerns like a fly, sounding bored as he said, "Oh, don't worry. I won't do a thing to get between you and your precious little Klingon. Although, I must say, I'll never know what anyone sees in that species...even in a member such as B'Elanna, with such a cute little..."
"Q..." Tom's tone of voice was definitely menacing now.
"O.k., o.k. don't worry, this'll be fun, and it will work absolute wonders for your image!"
"Oh calm down already! I've just had the most genius of an idea on how to fix this little mess."
"I don't want you to fix anything!"
"Well I can't just let a man after my own heart such as you..."
"That was an insult, Q."
"...continue like this, ruining his fine reputation. You know, the Tom Parises of the multiverse often make this mistake - settling down so soon, trading in their individuality for trifles like 'commitment'. But as a whole you have had quite the way with the women in the multiverse, Tom. And if those crewmen could just see that, you're problems would be over. And I think I know just the way to show them!"
"The 'Tom Parises of the multiverse'? What are you talking about?"
"Your salvation, Tom, that's what I'm talking about. Just wait and see."
Q turned as if to leave, and Tom began to stop him when Q thought of something else. "Oh, and by the way, don't have too much fun, o.k.? After all, they can only stay for a little while." And with that and a wink, he disappeared in the usual flash of light.
Tom sat very still, very disturbed by what had just happened.
Oh no, I have a Q who is determined to 'help' me. What am I going to do?
He pushed his glass away.
One thing's for sure, I need to tell the Captain about this. Whenever Q decides to help it's a matter of ship's security. I have a shift in an hour, but if I change now I can probably get up to the bridge in time enough to talk to her.
With that thought, he rose to leave, but then stopped as a sudden thought stilled him.
"What did he mean by 'they' ?"
As Tom neared the exit to the holodeck, the doors slid open and Seven walked in. Tom was a bit surprised to see Seven at Sandrine's at this hour. She often visited the establishment, as a part of her attempts to become more social with the crew, but she was usually in her alcove regenerating at this time of night - or so he assumed. And after their last mission, Tom figured everyone could use a little extra regeneration time.
"Seven, what a nice surprise. What brings you to Sandrine's tonight?"
"I thought recreation would be a beneficial activity following the stress of our previous mission."
Tom laughed. "Yes, I suppose it would. Well...I hope you have a good time." Tom nodded a goodbye, almost wishing he could stay and explore this odd behavior by Seven. Was that a...smile she had given him? This was interesting, indeed, but he needed to talk to the Captain before whatever mischief Q was alluding to began. However, when he began again to leave Seven stepped before him.
"You are leaving now?" she asked.
"Uh...yes. Why? Would you...uh, like for me to stay?"
"I came to Sandrine's to find you," was Seven's simple answer.
Tom didn't know what to say at first. He certainly wasn't expecting Seven to be looking for him at the moment - and he still needed to leave - but it was hard to tell Seven no. She was still so awkward and unused to her humanity. Whenever she made that little extra effort to explore it, it was just too endearing to resist helping her. Tom figured she must be looking for him for that very purpose.
"Oh, you did," he said, "Well,...I guess I can stay just a moment longer."
Tom motioned back to Sandrine's, but rather than going in, Seven seated herself on the curb outside so Tom sat down beside her.
"Is there something wrong, Tom?" she asked.
This was yet another shock for Tom - Seven rarely referred to him if not as Ensign Paris or Mr. Paris. Something must really be up, he thought.
"Actually, I just got paid a little visit by Q," Tom said, not knowing exactly why he said it. He didn't particularly feel like telling everyone why Q was here - to meddle with his lovelife - but, then again, this was Seven. She was hardly one to gossip.
"Q? Are you going to put the ship on alert?" Seven asked.
Am I going to put the ship on alert? What does she mean by that?
Tom laughed a little nervously and said, "I'm working on it. But what was it you wanted to talk to me about?" Seven looked around but didn't answer; instead she got up and walked into Sandrine's. Tom wondered at her actions, but shrugged his shoulders and finally rose to follow her. Obviously tonight's little get-together with the former Borg wasn't going to get any less odd. Tom walked through Sandrine's doors...and was immediately grabbed from behind and pushed while a strategically placed foot in front of him tripped him. He landed flat on his back on the bar floor.
Before Tom realized what was happening, Seven had straddled his hips, her hands placed firmly on his chest. Then she leaned over...and kissed him.
What the hell!" Tom exclaimed, pushing himself up on his elbows. But Seven just pushed him back down again and laughed. She laughed!
"There are no other crewmembers currently present in this holodeck, Tom. There is no need to continue this charade."
"Charade?" Tom asked, thinking to himself, Oh man, what's going on?
Seven's answer was to imitate his earlier greeting. " 'Seven, what a nice surprise. What brings you to Sandrine's tonight?' Who do you believe you were, as you say, 'kidding' ?"
Tom just stared up at her, frozen in confusion until she leaned over to kiss him again. This time he felt her tongue dart out to caress his lower lip. With a yelp he tried to surge up, but since Seven was still clinging firmly to him he only managed to turn the two of them over. He landed on top of her in a decidedly inappropriate position. Seven laughed again. "Now that is more like it, Captain." she quipped. Captain? Captain! She just called me Captain!
Tom's earlier conversation with Q raced through his mind. Has he done something to Seven? The thought threatened to incite Tom's anger, but then he remembered more of what Q said.
He talked about the multiverse...is this a Seven from another universe? As Seven began to enjoy her position beneath him, reaching to touch him in areas he just remembered to try to swat her hands away from, he decided that this must indeed be a Seven from another universe. Either that or she's been taking one hell of a crash course in recovering her humanity!
Seven took advantage of his musings to work on uncovering a little bit more of his humanity - she'd already gotten his jeans unbuttoned and his T-shirt had been completely torn off. Tom snapped out of his reverie when he realized he had to do something quick if he didn't want to end up entirely naked on the floor with the ex-Borg - then he dropped that train of thought when it provoked some disturbing visuals. Thoughts like that aren't gonna help you get out of this, Tom , he thought, finally capturing Seven's wrists in his hands and pulling them away to a safe distance. Why couldn't Q have sent me an alternative Seven that doesn't have the strength of 3 men?
Seven seemed to be enjoying what she believed to be a creative bout of foreplay, but Tom's efforts to escape this little fiasco were more serious than she could have known. The situation they were in looked horribly incriminating - his torn shirt lay about a foot away, and they had knocked over chairs and a table in their little wrestling match. They both looked mussed and he knew both their lips must be swollen after the barrage of rough kisses Seven managed to sneak by his defenses. She'd apparently been wearing lipstick, because his chest was covered with the rose-colored imprints of Seven's small mouth.
Oh, this is bad. This is real bad. How am I going to control her long enough to get out of here and talk this through before someone sees us?
At least noone was there at the moment, he thought. And apparently Seven had ordered the program to clear the bar when she'd entered because there were no holographic patrons present to witness their...activities. Apparently, her command codes were the same as his Seven's. At that moment, Tom wondered if she'd used those codes to put a privacy lock on the holodeck doors as well. And at that moment, Tom heard the most terrifying sound he'd ever heard in his young life and realized she hadn't. It was the sound of two crewmen entering the holodeck - and heading for Sandrine's and the sight of him and Seven in their very compromising position.
"Oh_my_God," he said slowly, too shocked to move, even if he'd had time to do something before the crewmen got to them. Visions of B'Ellanna and a bloody bat'leth danced through his head. "Tom?" asked Seven, seeing him pale. "Tom, what is wrong?"
Then the sound of voices reached them and she knew...
For their part, Markwell and Barelli were totally oblivious to what awaited them as they approached Sandrine's entrance.
"Are you absolutely sure you left it here. You didn't drop it or something in the turbolift?"
"Yeah, I'm sure," said Barelli, "Besides, you want to check every turbolift on this ship? I must have left my comm in Sandrine's. Where else were we tonight?"
"I don't know. The way you left the holodeck tonight I'm surprised you even remember you were here."
"Hey! I was just a little tired, that's all."
"Well, you certainly seem alert now."
"This is the second communicator I've misplaced this month. You know how that makes me look? I've got to find this one or it'll be tough to explain..."
At that moment the two men entered Sandrine's and became utterly and absolutely silent. At the same moment - Tom Paris felt as though he were going to faint. Barelli and Markwell took in the scene before them: Tom pining Seven down, their clothes and hair all amuss, the torn shirt, the lipstick, and their eyes became the size of saucers. Then Seven looked up and saw the two crewmen and shouted in surprise. She jumped up, trying to extricate herself from her "Captain" before the disbelieving eyes of their junior officers, at a total loss as to what to say.
For his part, Tom was still frozen in shock, and Seven's movement knocked him back into a kneeling position. Seven's top had apparently been torn in a very exposing manner and so, realizing this, she jumped behind Tom. When Tom realized the men were still standing there, their eyes transfixed on the spot where Seven had just been sitting, undoubtedly having witnessed this new incriminating evidence, Tom found his voice.
"Uh, guys, this...this isn't..." Isn't what, Paris? he thought with a silent curse Isn't what it looks like? You think they'll believe that! Oh shit! "I mean...I know how this looks, but you see, it's not...Oh God!" Tom's words tapered off to a small groan as his head sank into his hands, resignedly, and he gave up the effort to explain.
Meanwhile - once Markwell and Barelli had recovered from their own shock - the two officers weren't wasting time waiting for explanations. The situation seemed clear to them - they had just walked in on a senior officer - who was officially involved with another senior officer other than the one with which said senior officer was currently, apparently, 'debriefing', sort-to-speak. This was not a wise position for a junior officer to be in. Suddenly, both men began stumbling over one another towards the door, sputtering unintelligible apologies as they went.
Tom's head flew up, frantic, and he was compelled to call after them. "No, really! It isn't what it looks like!"
Despite his hurry to get out of the cantina, Barelli couldn't contain a wide grin as he looked back over his shoulder, gaining him a panicked look from Paris and a stern one from Markwell, who began to push him through the door. "It's no problem, Ensign," he said, nervously, "We didn't see anything, really. Don't worry."
"But you don't understand..," Tom pleaded.
"Sure we don't," said Barelli, who could not resist poking his head back in and shaking it, "And to think, I didn't believe you had it in you!"
Tom groaned again, but then Markwell was dragging Barelli away and the two of them were gone.
Tom continued to shake his head, staring at Sandrine's exit with remorse as he contemplated the amount of explaining he'd have to do after this little episode. He snapped back into action, however, when he felt Seven's hand on his shoulder and remembered her presence. Tom remembered her torn top (It was hard to forget, as she was kneeling their nearly half naked - a fact he quite determinedly avoided) and picked up what was left of his shirt, using it first to remove the traces of lipstick from his body then to give Seven a little bit more to cover herself with.. He tried to be particularly gentle and gave her a comforting smile - after all, she had no idea what was going on and this had obviously been rather embarrassing for her as well. Still, the shock of having had her "attack" him only moments before made him wary to getting too close, though he decided he had rather not try to explain everything about Q and his scheming just yet. He had to get to the Captain, and quickly, before another one of Q's little guests dropped in to accost him! He'd just have to try and find some way to keep this one from causing any more trouble until he'd had a chance to talk things over with her.
"Tom...," Seven began, looking as though she were about to apologize, but Tom stopped her. After all, this hadn't been her fault, and he told her so. It wasn't as if something tragic had just happened, he reassured, but couldn't help thinking to himself 'Yet' as he thought of B'Elanna. Actually, the sight of Seven looking so...un-Borg and sheepish, wrapped up in their shirts, her hair down might have been endearing; in fact, this whole situation might have seemed quite amusing, if it hadn't been for his and B'Elanna's relationship being on rather tense terms already. As it were, Tom had no time to be amused or otherwise.
Carefully, Tom placed his hands on Seven's shoulders in a comforting, but non-provocative sort of way.
"Look, I've got to go take care of that situation with Q I mentioned, remember? Why don't you wait here for a little while, then have the computer help you locate me when I'm in my quarters, ok?" Then, to keep the mood light, he glanced down at her with a raised brow and smiled. "Just make sure nobody sees you - it might be difficult to explain your...interesting choice in attire for the night."
That earned him another one of Seven's rare smiles and an even rarer - to him, anyhow - laugh. He planted a friendly kiss goodbye on her check and left for his quarters with a feeling of dread. After all, when Q spoke of his plans for Tom he hadn't said "Seven" would be coming, he had said "they". And Tom decided that "they" was suddenly a very intimidating word.
Tom made it to his quarters in record time, anxious to see the Captain. He was also anxious to avoid running into any fellow crewmembers. After the shock he'd just had he wasn't sure how he'd hold up. Tom breathed a sigh of relief as he keyed in the access code to his door and ducked in - so far so good. He headed for the bedroom, beginning to shed clothing as he went. He stopped dead in his tracks as he heard a sound coming from the bathroom.
Either Harry or B'Elanna's let themselves in or I'm about to see something else I'd really rather not, Tom thought.
He steeled himself, rebuttoning the jeans he was just about to remove when suddenly a beautiful, young blonde woman came out of the bathroom looking as though she felt she had every right to be there. Tom felt his breath catch painfully in his throat.
"Tom!" Kes exclaimed, a familiarly brilliant smile from long ago lighting up her fair face. "What a pleasant surprise! What are you doing home now?" Tom tried to answer her, but his lips were frozen. Kes...it's Kes! How..
Kes walked toward him, oblivious to the fact that Tom had paled visibly and stood, as if frozen, in his place. "Did you switch shifts with Samantha again? It's very nice of you to give her a little extra time to train in Sickbay, but I wish you'd let me know so we could have done something together today." Kes walked up and hugged the man she believed to be her husband, giggling slightly. "However you got to be here, I'm glad. You're certainly not dressed appropriately for anywhere else."
Tom stood there a moment, motionless with shock at the contact, before he brought his arms stiffly around the tiny Ocampan, returning her embrace. For a moment, all thoughts of Q and his predicament had fled his brain as he was overwhelmed with seeing his long, lost friend - a woman he'd once believed himself to be in love, who he hadn't seen in so many years. Until just recently, and the way things had been then...
Tom's hold on Kes tightened involuntarily as he remembered the angry older Kes that had briefly visited his ship. Yet this Kes was exactly as he liked to remember her. She was wearing her blond hair long and free, as she did that last year she was on Voyager. She had a form-fitting, dark blue jumpsuit on. By looking at her it was as if not a day had passed since she'd left, and Tom was embarrassed to realize his eyes were becoming slightly wet with unshed tears. It took him a moment to forcefully tear himself out of his reverie and remember this was another one of Q's tricks - this wasn't his Kes, but another Kes - just like the other Seven. Then Kes pulled away and was dashing about the quarters, speaking as she went. This gave Tom a little time to regain his composure in the meantime.
"I have to meet with the Captain about that new harvest of Barkovian grain we've been trying to cultivate. I have some intriguing ideas about hybridizing some of the shoots with a sample of leola root," she was saying as she gathered datapadds (which must have appeared in his reality along with her) obviously for the upcoming meeting of which she spoke. Tom smiled, but said nothing until she returned to his side. "I know Neelix won't like the idea of my tampering with his leola root very much, but imagine how much less painful mealtime could be for you and the other humans if I could find a way to improve on its taste."
"You certainly couldn't make it any worse," Tom said nervously, winning another small laugh from Kes.
"Now, now, Tom. Be nice..." Kes giggled, and Tom smiled back, but then found it difficult to maintain the smile when Kes' laughter suddenly dwindled off and she stepped closer to him. She hugged Tom with one arm, lying her free hand on his chest. And the look she gave him made him swallow. Hard.
"You know, Tom..." she said, lazily making circles on his bare chest with her fingers. "I really wish you would have told me you'd be home early." Her voice was soft and throaty and Tom swallowed again. 'Oh shit.' Kes began to lean against him, closing in for a kiss, and Tom's mind worked frantically on a way to get out of this.
"Uh, Kes...I..." Tom stuttered as Kes' lips grew closer to his. Her eyes closed and then...the door chime rang.
Tom caught Kes' shoulders, holding her at bay and restraining a little sigh of relief. "Well, what do you know? Someone's at the door. Sorry, honey."
Kes' eyes opened and when Tom stepped around her she looked at him in confusion, frowning.
"Tom, what..." Kes started from behind him, but Tom was on his way out of the bedroom, hoping to head off whoever it was who'd just decided to drop in. He frowned when he heard the entrance whoosh open.
'Why is it that when everything's just fine, noone's around, but get yourself set upon by some sex-starved, trans-dimensional versions of your female friends and suddenly everyone wants to walk in on you?'
Then Tom heard a voice form the other room and stopped in his tracks.
"Tom? Tom, are you in there?"
It was B'Elanna. 'It's B'Elanna! Oh shit!' Tom blanched. Now how was he going to get out of this. He turned back to Kes...but she was gone. He rushed over to the bathroom - not in there either. 'I couldn't be that lucky. She couldn't have just disappeared, could she?' A hand on his shoulder caused him to turn around.
"Hi," she said back, a small, puzzled smile on her face. "I wasn't interrupting anything was I?" she teased.
Tom nearly jumped out of his skin. "What? Oh...oh, no, of course not. What would you be interrupting?"
B'Elanna smiled, sheepishly, thinking she knew the reason for Tom's odd behavior. "Look, I know we didn't part on very good terms this evening, but I...I've cooled down a little, and I guess I just wanted to...apologize."
Her words surprised him.
B'Elanna laughed at the look of incredulity on Tom's face and slapped his shoulder in mock indignation.
"Yeah, helmboy, I am capable of the odd apology now and again." Then she became a little more serious. "You know how I get when things get a little rough around here. I know I'm a bit more...touchy than usual..."
"I'll say," Tom interjected, earning a fierce Klingon scowl. Then he smiled and pulled his lover into his arms. "But, then again, I don't exactly make things any easier pushing all your buttons like that."
B'Elanna's scowl lightened, and she gave a half-grunt of agreement, then admitted, "Of course, when I'm angry everything pushes my buttons." Tom just smiled. "Listen," she said, "Why don't we forget about this past evening and start over tonight? We can run that new holo-program you suggested..."
"The one you said you'd rather wrestle with a Targh than participate in with me?" Tom asked with a wry grin, and B'Elanna laughed a bit sheepishly.
"The same." But then she had a look in her eyes and a smile that had Tom swallowing hard again. She got as close to him as possible and said, "But I promise you, fly-boy, if I do any wrestling tonight, it'll be a lot more fun than any holo-program. And you are definitely encouraged to participate..."
And with that, for the moment, Tom postponed all his worries about Q and got busy pushing some entirely different buttons than the ones that got him into this whole mess...