Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager and all characters therein are the property of Americans who are not me. No infringement of copyright is intended.

NB: This story is set approximately around Season 5-7, but not particular spoilers other than this happens after Thirty Days (but after Tom re-makes it to Lieutenant again) and before Drive. Rating T/PG14

OF RYALS & RELATIONSHIPS

Chapter 9 – Resolutions & Revelations

Breathe in…breathe out…I am calm…I am calm…Tom repeated this mantra to himself as he approached his private quarters – their private quarters. Trouble was, he didn't believe himself. He entered to find the lights dimmed and didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed that B'Elanna wasn't here. Almost unwillingly, he felt his eyes drawn to the innocuous bloom on the dresser. Tom hesitated and went over to it, already making up excuses in his head – I found a worm in it; I picked it up and accidentally squished it, no choice but to throw it away…it seemed to sparkle slightly and his fingers brushed the petals almost of their own volition.

"What are you doing!"

Tom jumped and spun round as B'Elanna appeared suddenly from the bathroom, wearing of all things that burgundy confection, which had had half the males present at that soiree nearly walking into walls. He missed the way the petals glowed a deep orange as they absorbed the chemical signature of the male just as B'Elanna had been unaware of the colour-change on the underside of the petals as they rested on her palm when she'd picked it up.

"I was just looking –"

"Hah! You damage a single petal of my flower –"

"And you'll do what?" Abruptly Tom had had enough; suddenly he felt incredibly edgy, a coiling tension he could not define. One thing he did know – B'Elanna was his, and he was going to make that fact very plain. He strode forward raising his hands swiftly but, instead of gripping her upper arms, he placed his hands on her bare shoulders, feeling the ball-joints through his hands, the warmth of her skin against his flexing fingers. "Who have you put this dress on again for?"

B'Elanna blinked rapidly, acutely aware of the extreme proximity of Tom's body to her own, and of how Tom seemed to have backed them both against the far wall of their quarters, hemming her in. For some reason she was suddenly extremely on edge, but in a nervous not angry way; it was disconcerting. But still, "Me," she snapped, "I like it. But I might wear it and pay my respects to Jeren before we leave." She goaded.

"Like. Hell." Tom enunciated the words, his eyes dropping to her mouth. "You're my mate, B'Elanna, you wear this dress only for me."

It was very hot in this room. B'Elanna's eyes snapped an equally heated challenge to the man trying to dominate her. "You think so?"

"I know so." Tom moved his hands to rest one each either side her head and leaned in further, "Only me." He kissed her deeply, fiercely.

B'Elanna wasn't objecting; she had been ready for a fight, but they didn't have to...she gasped sharply as Tom's teeth suddenly pierced her bottom lip and drew blood. He pulled back but brought his thumb up to caress the tiny pinprick, before raising his thumb to his mouth and with a flick of his tongue licking off the tiny smear; B'Elanna felt the action resonate down to her toes.

"What do you want from me, Paris?" she taunted, feeling the excitement bubbling inside her, restless; the need had never seemed so urgent or compelling.

"Everything." Tom moved swiftly, and once again they kissed passionately, hands roaming and stroking ardently. It was a moment to pull at the bodice of the burgundy dress and B'Elanna shuddered as Tom pushed her back against the wall, arching her neck as he feasted on her throat and fondled her breasts roughly. Her Klingon nature made her the aggressor, the dominator, and Tom had never had any difficulty with that, but…this…was…very…ex-hiiiiil-er-erating. She jerked as without warning Tom bit her throat – not nipped, not nibbled, not sucked. It was a proper, Klingon style bite with a full-on 'I'm in charge' challenge. She couldn't resist it anymore than she could have walked through a warp core.

She pushed him violently back with all her strength and he overbalanced slightly, which was all she needed to jump forward and knock them onto the bed. Straddling him she grabbed his arms and held them down. "Everything…think you can handle all of me, flyboy?"

"I'm the only man who can," he snarled, jerking with unexpected strength and dislodging her to roll and pin her underneath him. "I love you, B'Elanna, and no smarmy alien is going to put the moves on my woman."

"I love you too, you dunderhead, you should know I'm only interested in you." She didn't have the strength to throw him off again, so she took option B and nipped, though only gently, his left nipple; he hissed and jumped with the pleasure-pain and she was able to reverse their positions again.

Her snapping teeth missed his right nipple by millimetres and she laughed tauntingly – a mistake for his hands grabbed her hips and bodily boosted her up so he could twist them over and be once again on top, but this time he held her down with the weight of his body pressed hard against hers. "No games, B'Elanna," he growled the warning.

"No…" she agreed breathlessly, the glow that turned his eyes almost a cobalt blue igniting an answering fire deep within her.

Their mouths fused again and suddenly he was thrusting powerfully into her body, fast, deep, with almost palpable hunger; she arched up to match him, supporting him with her hips and strong thighs, revelling in every delicious second. They climaxed wildly together and lay in a gasping tangle of sweaty limbs in the middle of the wrecked bed. B'Elanna used a hand to softly comb Tom's hair at his nape as he buried his face in her neck, his ragged breathing finally slowing. She knew the feeling, even having a Klingon's three lungs didn't prevent her needing a little extra air. She could feel faint prickles from various nipped and nibbled body parts, and didn't give a damn. She had marked her mate similarly.

Tom lifted his head, moving one hand to stroke the breast not pressed against his chest. He was still sheathed within his love and he flexed his hips slightly, nearly growling with pleasure at the way her eyelids fluttered closed at the tiny sensations he was giving to her. "I love you, B'Elanna."

She saw the seriousness of his words in his sombre face; he needed to hear the words returned, not in the euphoria of passion but clear and considered, now. "I love you too, Tom. You know I do. I swear; there's nobody else for me. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't flattering but I would never deliberately hurt you. I know I may have flirted a little, and I'm sorry."

He gazed down at her with an adoration that made her heart twist. "I do know…and I know I shouldn't let my insecurities get the better of me…and I was taking you for granted. You're the most important person in my world, B'Elanna. Occasionally you just have to hit me over the head with that fact."

"That I cando."

"I was thinking more metaphorically," he tried to amend.

She gave a little growl and pushed upwards with her hips in an age-old enticement. "I'm not thinking metaphorically now, Paris."

"Me neither." His desire and his body were as rampant as if they'd not just coupled.

They moved together again, just as eagerly and passionately as before, encapsulated in mutual world of renewal and rediscovery. On the dresser, the bloom continued undertake its natural function: when the petals were touched in close turn by a male and female of the same species, to give off a pheromone-laden scent that acted as a powerful aphrodisiac on the male and female of that species, so that their repeated, passionate copulation in the convenient bower of lush blooms served to release and disseminate the flower's seeds over a wide area.

"Captain Janeway," Jeren greeted cheerfully as she entered his store. "I had been told all your purchases were now aboard Voyager. Is there anything else you require?"

"Yes, an explanation." Her tone was grim, and behind her Tuvok and Chakotay never let their hands stray far from their phasers.

"Of what, Captain?"

Janeway opened her hand and in her palm rested a small, faintly oscillating holographic image of a flower head in full bloom. "Internal sensors detected an alien biochemical signature early this morning when the concentration became sufficient. It was traced to the quarters of Lieutenants Paris and Torres. When we started asking around, we found that this flower is widely used in this sector as an aphrodisiac by virtue of its method of propagation."

"I see; this is why B'Elanna has not contacted me to say farewell?"

"Neither Tom nor B'Elanna are aware of the bloom's unusual properties," Janeway said, her demeanour clearly implying 'fortunately for you', "and I have no intention of informing them unless it becomes necessary. What I want is an explanation and an assurance that absolutely no harm –"

"I would never harm B'Elanna or her mate in anyway," interposed Jeren somewhat sharply. "As for an explanation, it was the only way I could think of to thank her for her help; she wouldn't accept a monetary reward."

"I'm afraid I don't see the connection?" Captain Janeway admitted in a more mollified tone.

"I am what you would call…I don't know – asexual? Bisexual? My physiology includes what you would term both 'male' and 'female' sex organs and I procreate thusly. I have only one progenitor. However, I have always found bi-gender species a most interesting form of cultural study."

"You were studying Lieutenants Torres and Paris?" Tuvok enquired.

"Not as such." Jeren smiled. "My species also has some slight telepathic and empathic abilities and I can occasionally pick up certain emotions that an individual may not even be aware of. Admittedly there are exceptions, but my observations have shown me that a lot of bi-gender species function in a similar way, and regrettably sometimes that way includes the decline of a bond between a mated pair until permanent separation is initiated. It is very difficult for a mated pair – all the pressures and concerns of protecting your mate, raising young, providing shelter and food and security. Sometimes sadly an individual gets so wrapped up in dealing with the next crisis that instead of their mate being a valued counsellor and stanchion of support they are classed as just one more problem that requires time you don't have to deal with."

"Is that how B'Elanna and Tom were?" Her animosity forgotten, Janeway asked the question with genuine concern.

"Not by any means," Jeren hastily reassured, "but I did pick up a certain amount of tension. You have a fine crew, Captain, but both B'Elanna and her mate operate under great pressure. He is your pilot, she is your engineer. Between those two roles they bear the greatest burden of hope and responsibility in getting you home, and they feel it deeply."

"I have never attempted to make either of them feel that the weight of Voyager rests entirely on their shoulders," Janeway fretted.

"You don't have to, Captain; a strong sense of personal responsibility is one of those things that, as the saying amongst my people goes, 'separates the hagosh from the fradal'. It is difficult enough to be at harmony with your mate when the pressures of daily life intrude, never mind when you are the only representatives of your species, lost a lifetime away from home, simply trying to stay alive and endure interminably in a…'giant tin can'."

"That phrase is going to haunt me all the way to the Alpha Quadrant," muttered Chakotay sotto voce.

Jeren explained. "B'Elanna and her mate were tired, they were weary, they took solace in becoming excessively irritated over the little things because raging at the big things wouldn't do any good."

"So you decided to…?"

"Provide a little distraction." Jeren made a semblance of shrug. "I have found that there is nothing like an interloper on the scene to focus an individual's mind on his or her mate."

"So you used the bloom to help things out a little?" Janeway found herself having to suppress a smile.

"Eventually, yes, once I had, how do you say? prepared the groundwork as it were. I have often found that the female of a bi-gender is species is, generally speaking, harder to provoke to direct battle. The female bears the young and is their primary caregiver, and so tends to be far more alert to threats to her union with her mate far sooner. Often she can neutralise these threats before they can develop and even if not, sometimes the war is so subtle that the male has no idea it has even been fought."

"I think that's the nicest way anyone has ever said, men are stupid," Chakotay murmured.

Laughter flared in her eyes at Jeren's hasty rebuttal of this statement, but Janeway managed to retain her attitude of faint sternness. "Go on, Jeren?"

He extended his palms outwards in a universal gesture, "Likewise I have found that males tend to be far more direct in their approach; if another male appears on the scene they are liable to take direct and aggressive action. Since time was of the essence, I simply decided to remind Lt Paris of his mate's…er, physical attractiveness…by demonstrating that other males certainly noticed it."

"It worked," Chakotay admitted with a certain level of glee in his tone.

Jeren made a small bow. "B'Elanna felt appreciated and flattered by my compliments, Tom Paris was provoked to jealousy. I knew there would be a confrontation over the issue and utilised the Idarii bloom to ensure their tension was channelled away from violence into a more pleasurable outlet. B'Elanna now feels valued and attractive; Tom Paris will not be so likely in future to take his mate for granted. All is well."

"Well, you may be the most unorthodox relationship counsellor I've ever met, but you're certainly the best." Janeway complimented. "I'll say thank you on their behalf, since I think it best if they don't find out about this."

"B'Elanna does come across as a volatile personality," Jeren commented, causing Tuvok and Chakotay to exchange knowing glances. "But it was an interesting insight into another species' dynamics. I know that your Security Officer Tuvok did wonder how I could afford to charge so little, so I'll let you in on my own secret. I am what you humans would call a dilettante?"

"You do this for fun?" Janeway was surprised.

"In a way; my needs are simple, my wants few. I can still clear my overheads at those prices, but I have always found my customers to be far more fascinating than my wares and the knowledge that they will not be cheated keeps them coming back." Jeren explained.

"You are very wise, Jeren," Janeway admitted wryly.

Satisfied that her crew were in no danger either physically or psychologically, Captain Janeway and her seconds took their leave, back to the ship waiting to once more continue its long journey hopefully home.

Jeren watched the human 'Captain' as she went back, the two males flanking her. She strode with confidence, yet even she was unaware of the strength she projected. It was that strength that surrounded her crew, and made those aboard believe that it was really possible they would get home. She was greatly admired and respected, but also genuinely loved by them.

In more ways than one; Jeren pursed his mouth thoughtfully. He had been truthful, mostly, except that his species' telepathic and empathic powers were far, far stronger than he had admitted. Janeway had no idea she was about the only non-Hahsar to even know they existed. Now he wondered if he should not have made an attempt to bring forth the love between the Captain and the male on her right, the one without the apex-shaped ears. There was such emotion there, on both sides, so deep and tumultuous, yet on both sides so rigorously controlled and ruthlessly suppressed.

After a moment, however, he shook his head. Often those of a bi-gender species did not know their own minds, but in this case, Jeren considered that her attitude towards her beloved was, at least in this place and time, the right one, the only one that was viable. Unfortunately far too few beings these days tended to grasp that sometimes one had to yield to a moral obligation to others rather than personal gratification, that sometimes one's own wants had to be subsumed or postponed for the greater good.

That did not mean it was not a great pity, though. Jeren had been able to examine and grasp a great deal of the history of this species through the thoughts of the Voyager crew and that had enabled him to explore the fascinating Captain's mind to a deep extent. Consciously she had made a decision to protect an innocent species, those 'Ocampa', but on a level so deeply buried within her mind she did not know it and never would, Kathryn Janeway had stranded herself in the Delta Quadrant to protect the male, Chakotay.

Jeren had easily determined that while she had liked her betrothed, the man 'Mark', she had never loved him. Not in the way that B'Elanna human and Tom human loved each other. Nor had the lack been on her side alone. Jeren had gained the impression of a bit of flotsam floating down a quiet stream. They had drifted along with each other because it was convenient and comfortable.

From his mind-scan, Jeren knew that when the Chakotay male had first transmitted himself to her bridge, her reaction to him had been instant and visceral, and to her, deeply disturbing. But she was there to take those humans back to their home, where the hierarchy of their species would imprison them; it was an outcome her primordial self, having already accepted the male as her mate long before her conscious mind acknowledged the attraction, would not tolerate.

Thus, guilt she did not even understand herself had become her constant companion, driving her always to get back home, to restore the people she had brought with her to their families. By the time they returned to their kind, the old divisions amongst her crew would be long forgotten – by most aboard they already were – and the chances of those who had faithfully served her being imprisoned were remote. But she could not allow her heart free reign as long as she and her crew remained here. She needed to command with decisiveness and strategise with clarity; to take Chakotay human as her mate would compromise her ability to lead and also his. She would constantly be second-guessing every decision she made for fear of realising she was putting the life of her mate above that of everyone else.

"ishaq maher fa," he murmured the traditional blessing dedicated towards distant travellers, wanderers and the lost amongst his own species. He had helped in his own small way, now he could only hope that the Voyager made it safely home.

© 2005, C D Stewart