Originally written Sept 1999

Title: Holodeck Date: Chez Sandrine
Rating: M
Summary: Tom and B'Elanna go on a date at Chez Sandrine. Part of my "Holodeck Date" series. P/T.

A/N: "Tango: the vertical expression of horizontal desire."

Historian's note: Takes place while Voyager is traveling through Krenim space after "Scientific Method" (since "Year of Hell" didn't actually happen for them). Scenes alternate between the present and flashbacks from "Twisted." This is the sequel to my story "Holodeck Date: Paxau Resort." The first one was Tom's fantasy, and this one is B'Elanna's.


1857 hours. B'Elanna sat down at a nearby table, smoothing out the folds of her black dress. Feeling a little nervous, she absentmindedly twisted the clasp of the silver bracelet on her right wrist, the delicate chain cool against her warm skin.

She stared at it for a moment, the exquisite silver gleaming in the low light of the restaurant, and smiled softly. The bracelet was a present from Tom in honor of their one week anniversary. Most likely it had cost him a few weeks' worth replicator rations, she mused. Although her practical nature was dismayed by his extravagance, her sentimental side thought it incredibly romantic and loved it.

Looked around her surroundings, she hoped he would like what she had planned for tonight...

Chez Sandrine at Marseilles was completely deserted except for her. She'd almost forgotten how much she liked this place, as she hadn't been here in a long time. After Neelix had introduced his ever-popular Paxau resort program, the crew had mostly abandoned Sandrine's in favor of the resort.

The last time she had been in Sandrine's for any extended period of time was when Voyager had encountered the spatial distortion ring two years ago. They hadn't been able to leave the place then, since every path led back to Deck 6 – more specifically, Holodeck One where the Sandrine's program was running. Everyone had gathered there for Kes' 2nd birthday party...


"Surprise!!" everyone shouted.

"Happy birthday, Kes!"

"Imagine – 2 years old today. If you ask me, you don't look a day over one!" Neelix exclaimed. Everyone laughed.

"Why was everyone hiding?" Kes wanted to know.

"It's an old Earth custom called a surprise party," Tom told her.

"Sorry if we startled you," said Captain Janeway.

"No, I liked it. It was very exhilarating," Kes assured her.

B'Elanna watched with a smile as Neelix brought Kes over to the bar, insisting that she try some of his special birthday punch. The bartender was... the Doctor, and Kes was delighted to see him.

Neelix soon brought out the birthday cake.

"Seven layers of Jimballian fudge," he told them proudly. Two candles adorned the confection, and Captain Janeway explained to Kes that she was to make a birthday wish that would come true if she blew out the candles.

She contemplated the candles and took a deep breath. "I wish..."

"Don't tell us!" B'Elanna exclaimed. "The wish has to be a secret to come true."

Kes nodded, then closed her eyes and blew out the candles as everyone cheered and applauded.

Smiling, B'Elanna headed over to get some punch and rescue the Doctor, who was trying his best to avoid Sandrine's advances.

"Playing hard to get," Sandrine was saying, shaking her head. "Just like Jerome."

B'Elanna was hard-pressed not to laugh, considering that "Jerome" was what Sandrine called Harry. He was still on duty on the bridge, but hopefully he'd come down for the party soon.

She was about to make a teasing remark to the Doctor when she overheard Tom say to Kes, "Birthday presents are also an Earth tradition." Curious, she wandered over in that direction.

"Thank you, Tom. You didn't have to," said Kes.

"Hey, who am I to fly in the face of tradition?"

Kes carefully unwrapped the box and pulled out a locket.

"Tom, it's beautiful. It must have cost you a week's worth of replicator rations!"

Tom grinned. "Two weeks, actually, but who's counting. I'm just glad you like it."

As Captain Janeway explained that lockets were designed to hold photographs so that you could keep the ones you love close to your heart, Kes listened intently, nodding in earnest.

B'Elanna smiled. She was genuinely fond of Kes, and it warmed her heart to see her young friend so happy.

Still, she couldn't help feeling the slightest twinge of envy. Not because of the actual gift, but by the obvious sentiment behind it.

No one would ever care that much about me, she thought wistfully. It was a beautiful, thoughtful, expensive gift, and B'Elanna certainly couldn't imagine anyone spending two weeks' worth of replicator rations on a present for her. She'd never been the type to inspire such romanticism in men.

Not like Kes.

Of course, B'Elanna wasn't anything like Kes. They were polar opposites.

Kes was sweet, gentle and kind to everyone. She was easy to talk to, easy to be friends with. Everyone adored her... especially everyone male.

Out of the corner of her eye, B'Elanna noticed Neelix looking rather disgruntled as he headed over to talk to Chakotay. He was trying to hide it, but he was definitely feeling jealous.

B'Elanna shook her head, wondering what was going on with that. Was there something between Paris and Kes?

Not that it was any of her business. She was merely curious, that was all...


"Hey." Tom's arrival interrupted her thoughts...

B'Elanna smiled warmly at him. "Hey yourself."

"Sorry I'm a little late."

"That's okay."

"I brought you something."

She gasped as he presented her with a dozen long-stemmed red roses. "Oh... they're gorgeous."

"So are you," he murmured, leaning over to kiss her.

"Thank you."

She studied him appraisingly. He looked dashing as usual, dressed in all black.

They grinned at each other, both looking forward to a peaceful evening together. Voyager was still traveling through Krenim space, but there was still quite a lot to do. Routine maintenance, diagnostics, minor crises that kept them on their toes...

"Engineering to Torres."

Now what? she thought exasperatedly. This had better be good.

"Torres here."

"Sorry to bother you, Lieutenant, but we're having a little problem here... same as before."

"Did you check the plasma conduits?"

"Yeah... and we re-calibrated the relay circuits like you said, but it only made it worse."

"Okay, try re-aligning the anodyne relays."

"Acknowledged."

She held her breath.

"It's not working, Lieutenant. I think you'd better come down here..."

B'Elanna sighed in resigned defeat. "I'll be right there. Torres out."

Tom kept his expression neutral, disappointed but knowing that there was nothing he could do about it. And he certainly didn't want to make her feel worse.

"I'm sorry, Tom. I'll be right back, I promise."

"It's okay; I'll come with you."

She wasn't really listening, as she was too busy muttering curses under her breath about how inept they were.

The real problem was that Carey and Vorik were out sick, suffering from some sort of bizarre aftereffects of the recent alien scientific experiments, and that left Nicoletti in charge for the moment. She wasn't handling it all that well. The slightest thing set her off into a panic, and she was making the rest of Engineering nervous as well.

In the turbolift, B'Elanna was clearly growing more irritated and increasingly tense.

"I don't believe this... I specifically told them not to contact me unless it was an emergency," she fumed. "Do I have to do everything myself?"

Tom took hold of her hand. "B'Elanna.."

"What?"

He didn't say anything more, merely gave her hand a little squeeze. Seeing his easygoing, reassuring smile, she felt the anger diffusing out of her somewhat.

They soon arrived at Main Engineering. Ensign Mulcahy was the first to see them, and he stared in surprise at the sight of his commanding officer decked out in that slinky, low-cut black dress and high heels, and Tom right behind her also dressed for an evening out. Uh-oh. B'Elanna didn't look too happy to be there, he noted anxiously.

Crewman Robertson and Ensign Tabor were the next to look up. They exchanged nervous glances, bracing for the worst. Though they did have to admit they were relieved to see her, knowing that she would prevent a crisis in Engineering.

"Nicoletti!" she barked.

"Over here." Lieutenant Nicoletti looked more than a little flustered as she hurriedly tapped in commands at her console. Lieutenant Chapman was standing next to her, frowning and shaking his head.

"What happened here?! What are you doing to my engines?" B'Elanna wanted to know.

Tom stepped back to get out of her way, suppressing a smile as Nicoletti stammered out an explanation. After examining the readings on the console monitor, B'Elanna waved off her comments impatiently and began issuing orders.

"Chapman, you monitor the dilithium levels. Dell, you take care of the plasma manifolds. Nicoletti, you handle the anodyne relays..."

Her subordinates immediately started scurrying around to carry out her instructions.

"This can't be right," he heard Chapman report. "These readings don't make any sense."

"Okay, let's try something else, then," she said crisply.

Tom smiled in amusement. He loved watching B'Elanna work in Main Engineering. She was completely in her element there, and her staff clearly respected and admired her. It never ceased to amaze him how she could work miracles there.

Their eyes met briefly, and she gave him a small smile.

Fifteen minutes later, order was restored.

"There," said B'Elanna with satisfaction. "It's fixed."

Nicoletti and the rest of the staff stared at her in awe.

"Wow... How did you do that, Chief? We've been working on this for hours without any success," said Ensign Mulcahy.

B'Elanna dismissed it with an impatient wave of her hand. "It was just a minor malfunction."

Dell and Chapman exchanged glances. "Right..."

"Unless there's a warp core breach, I don't want to be interrupted again tonight. Is that understood?"

Nicoletti nodded hurriedly. "Of course, Lieutenant."

She watched as Tom gallantly offered B'Elanna his arm. As B'Elanna took it and the two of them strolled towards the exit, Nicoletti tapped her commbadge. "Nicoletti to Kim."

"Kim here. What's up, Sue?"

"Harry, I know you're off duty... but do you think you could come down to Engineering and help me out for a while?"

"Sure. On my way. Kim out."

Sue breathed a sigh of relief. If nothing else, he would provide her with much-needed moral support.

On her way out, B'Elanna suppressed a smile. She had overheard Nicoletti contacting Harry and wasn't surprised, as Sue and Harry were good friends and Harry would be a reassuring presence.

Just as Tom was a reassuring presence for her, she told herself. She looked up and smiled at him, silently thanking him for being there to support her and calm her down. He grinned back and leaned over to drop a light kiss on her forehead.

He was there for her. Always. She could count on him.


"Are you sure this is how you got there before?" The anxiety was getting to her.

"Relax. We'll be there in no time," he reassured her. The doors opened, and sure enough... Main Engineering.

"Finally." She stepped out of the turbolift and briskly began issuing commands to her staff.

"We've got an emergency situation on board ship..."

Behind her, Tom smiled. When she spoke, everyone listened. She commanded authority, and they obviously respected her very much. They depended on her, looked up to her.

He wasn't in Engineering very often, but he liked coming down here -- especially when she was around.

"Ensign, prepare to configure transporter settings for a site-to-site transport," B'Elanna ordered before turning back to Tom. "I've got to re-set the pattern buffer controls. In the meantime, why don't you check the targeting scanners."

Tom nodded agreeably, wondering if she had even realized that she was gripping his arm. Probably not.

She headed over and opened a door.... only to find Crewman Nozawa standing there in nothing but his boxers. What the hell? For a moment, she could only stare at him in astonishment and embarrassment.

More changes in the ship's layout.

"Crewman... there's... an emergency situation aboard ship..." she stammered. "Stay right where you are. That's an order."

Nozawa merely nodded, looking relatively unperturbed.

The door closed, B'Elanna slumped against the adjacent wall, closing her eyes and shaking her head.

Placing his hand on her shoulder, Tom couldn't resist teasing her a little. "I think you handled that very well, Lieutenant."

She gave him a dirty look but didn't give him the satisfaction of a reply.

They continued working on getting the transporters configured for the site-to-site transport. Throughout the process, he was constantly cracking jokes, trying to get her to smile, to laugh. It worked – she felt her tension easing a little. He had that effect on her.

And she couldn't help wondering what he would look like dressed only in his boxers...


Back at Chez Sandrine, Tom and B'Elanna finally sat down to have dinner. It seemed strange not to have a lot of people milling about, holographic or otherwise, but it was cozier that way. Romantic.

Besides, privacy was in short supply on a ship the size of Voyager, so they were grateful that it was just the two of them. There wasn't even a holographic French waiter around. B'Elanna preferred it that way, as she wasn't all that fond of any of the holograms in this program.

However, she did like the place. It had ambiance, charm. And it was important to Tom, so she wanted to be able to understand and share it with him.

She had often fantasized about coming here with him. He loved this program so much – it was obviously a part of him, special to him... and she had longed to be special to him for a long time. Wanted to be loved, treasured, connected. Wanted to be part of his life.

She had wanted him, loved him for so long but had convinced herself that she would never have him. Seeing him in Sandrine's, chatting easily with other women – beautiful women who loved to flirt with him – holographic and real alike, had only strengthened that belief. Why would he want her when he could have practically any woman on the ship?

This program had become such a popular hangout partly because of his charisma, his magnetism. People naturally gravitated to him, accepted him, wanted to be around him.

Including her.

Perhaps it also had something to do with the fact that she had never been easily accepted like that by others. He fit in, effortlessly, and she was a little envious of that.

She had never thought it possible that he would want to be with her the way she wanted to be with him.

But now... it was all coming true.

"B'Elanna?"

"Hmm?" She looked up only to see Tom gazing at her tenderly. He reached out to lightly caress her cheek.

Smiling, she leaned in closer so that she could rest her head on his shoulder.

"Want to play a game of pool after dinner?" he whispered in her ear.

B'Elanna couldn't help but laugh. So he had guessed her intent. That wasn't too surprising.

After all, it was either the bar or...

The pool table.


Finally, the coordinates were set for a site to site transport to the Bridge.

"Energize."

The ensign nodded and did as she ordered. The next instant, Tom and B'Elanna disappeared in a glimmering of the transporter beam...

...and ended up on the pool table in Sandrine's.

Gaunt Gary, resident pool shark and ladies' man extraordinaire, had been about to take aim. "Would you mind moving your foot, Tommy boy? It's blockin' my shot," he said, completely unfazed that Tom and B'Elanna had materialized out of nowhere on the pool table, as though their sudden mysterious appearance didn't seem to bother him in the slightest.

Tom easily jumped off, then held out his hand to her. She accepted it, and he helped her down off the pool table.

"Tell me you already made it to the Bridge and you've come back here to give us a status report," said Chakotay.

"We tried, but we ended up here," B'Elanna told him. Looking around, she realized that everyone was there: herself, Tom, Chakotay, Tuvok, Harry, the Doctor, Kes, and Captain Janeway, though she was lying on the couch, seemingly unconscious. Everyone except Neelix.

"The captain came into contact with the distortion ring," Chakotay was explaining. "We also lost Neelix."

"Kes must be worried sick," B'Elanna said softly, looking across the room to where Kes was standing by the Doctor.

Kes clearly loved Neelix very much.

B'Elanna wondered, What would it be like to love someone that much? So much that practically your entire world revolved around him, that you would be absolutely devastated if anything ever happened to him.

She didn't know. But she did know that that kind of love was rare. To have someone who loved you, supported you no matter what, the way Kes and Neelix had each other.

Even as they all gathered around the pool table, brainstorming ideas, she kept thinking about that.


They kissed again and again...

"Are you sure you don't want to play pool?" he asked teasingly. "I might even let you win this time."

Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "What do you mean, you'll *let me* win?"

"Well, that's the only way you'll ever beat me – mmph!"

Her response had been to push him down onto the pool table, then pounce on him, guaranteeing that there would be no losers tonight. Not in this particular game.

Pinning him down, she tore at his shirt. Her fingertips caressed his heated skin, further fueling the fire within them both.

The pool table wasn't exactly the most comfortable surface for this kind of activity, but Tom didn't mind. It was sturdy beneath them, supporting all their weight and movement.

He gazed up at her, eyes heavy-lidded with desire, roaming over the contours of her lissome form barely illuminated by the dim lights. Running his hands along her sides, he finally allowed them to rest on her hips. Her breath quickened as he watched her, fascinated by the rapid rise and fall of her chest.

"B'Elanna..."

She bent down to kiss him, softly at first, then with increasing passion. Moments later, she was tugging at the waistband of his pants.

Meanwhile, he deftly lifted her dress off over her head with her help.

Straddling him, she sank down on his steely erection with a satisfied growl, electrifying them both.

He held on to her tightly as they began moving together. Their mouths collided in a fierce kiss, passion raging between them.

"I love you," she gasped between kisses. Her vision was beginning to blur as they continued to rock back and forth steadily, so she closed her eyes.

"Love you..." he managed to say before he became incoherent.

They maintained a frantic, vigorous pace until they could take no more, the friction between them building to incredible heights.

"Tom..." Her low moan melted into a high-pitched wail as she surrendered to the fiery blaze consuming her.

Seconds later, he followed, letting out a harsh cry as he found his release.


"What are you saying -- we're out of options?" It wasn't in her nature to give up without a fight.

Chakotay looked conflicted, struggling to convince himself as well as her. "Maybe this is one bear we can't wrestle to the ground. ... Maybe all we can do this time is... hope for the best."

B'Elanna couldn't believe what she was hearing. She looked to Tom, who looked like he wanted to say something to comfort her but no words came out.

"Fine, Chakotay. Have it your way." Resigned, she sat down.

Chakotay shrugged helplessly but patted her shoulder in an attempt to console her.

Nothing to do but wait.

As the minutes dragged by, they all sought peace in their own way.

Kes was still terribly worried about Neelix. The Doctor hugged her, offering comfort.

Seeing this, B'Elanna suddenly felt the need to be consoled. To not be alone.

Tom... She wanted to reach out to him but couldn't. He confused her, and she was afraid of her own growing feelings for him.

Chakotay. She went to him instead. He was safe. He had always been there for her, to reassure her and give her strength.

He was sitting at a table by himself, eyes closed, and she approached him cautiously.

"Hi."

He opened his eyes. "Hi."

"What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to contact my spirit guide."

"Why?"

"Who knows what's going to happen when that ring hits us. We might be in for another long journey."

"I guess I could use a little spiritual guidance myself right now. Mind if I join you?"

"I thought you'd never ask."

She sat down beside him, closing her eyes as well. Taking a deep breath, she slid her hand across the table to touch his, and he took it.

Chakotay. He was a calming influence, bringing her peace...

Tom watched the two of them a bit enviously, knowing how strong the bond between them was.


Laughing softly, she asked him, "So, was that your idea of letting me win?"

"Oh, I think we both won that time," he replied, grinning. He loved how she wasn't afraid to initiate intimacy with him, that she trusted him enough to share her fantasies with him.

They were content to lie there on the pool table, limbs entangled, for a while.

"So how did this particular fantasy of yours originate, anyway?" Tom finally asked.

B'Elanna shrugged. "I'm not exactly sure. But the pool table... I was thinking about it when... "

"When... ?"

"Remember that time we passed through that spatial distortion ring that turned Voyager into a maze?"

Chuckling, he said, "How could I forget? The look on your face when you accidentally opened the door on Nozawa when he was half-dressed in his quarters was priceless!"

She made a face at him. "Very funny. Especially considering that all I could think about after that was how much more interesting it would have been if I'd walked in on you like that..."

He stared at her, stunned.

"Of course, what I remember most is when we were trying to get to the Bridge and ended up on the pool table here instead," she continued.

The realization finally dawned upon him. "Wait a minute, B'Elanna. That was over two years ago!"

"Yeah, so?"

"You mean to tell me that you were lusting after me even then?"

"I was not lusting after you!" she said indignantly.

He raised an eyebrow.

"Okay, maybe just a little."

"Just a little," he repeated, smirking.

She shrugged, still blushing. Even now, she still had a difficult time admitting how attracted to him she had always been. She didn't want him to get conceited about it, after all. So she kissed him again to shut him up.

As they snuggled together, she sighed contentedly. This was what she had always wanted. Tom. Here.

Tom was comfortable as well, but he couldn't help thinking about what she had said. Thinking and remembering.

At the end, when they had thought it was all over, that they would be crushed by the compression wave, he had stood there watching B'Elanna and Chakotay sitting there at that table in Sandrine's, hand in hand, eyes closed, meditating.

He had been envious, thinking that no one could ever take Chakotay's place in her life.

He still thought that sometimes, actually.

Although he and B'Elanna had become seriously involved, Tom sensed that Chakotay still had a special place in her heart. And as much as he wanted to convince himself that it didn't bother him, he couldn't help but resent it. Thinking that he would never measure up, never compare to Chakotay.

She placed him on a pedestal, after all. He was her mentor and best friend. Tom supposed that it was only natural that she feel that strongly about Chakotay, that she was that devoted to him...

But it still bothered him, knowing that she would never adore him that way, the way she adored Chakotay.

"I had no idea you felt that way about me then," he said lightly. "You were always with Chakotay, if I remember correctly..."

B'Elanna stiffened. She didn't like the sound of that and was immediately on the defensive. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. I was just making an observation." He knew he was treading on dangerous territory, but he couldn't help it. "I mean, the two of you used to be inseparable."

"What are you talking about?" She didn't want to admit that there was some truth in Tom's words.

"You can't deny that he means a lot to you."

"So what if he does?" she snapped irritably.

More than I do? he wanted to ask her, but he couldn't bring himself to do that. Perhaps he was too afraid of the answer.

B'Elanna was still scowling at him. She didn't like his possessive attitude. She had never taken well to being controlled by others... especially by men who often thought they could. Her independence rebelled. But most of all, she hated feeling objectified, like she was a prize to be fought over. "What, am I only allowed to care about one person at a time?"

"No, of course not, but... But it was more than that with Chakotay, wasn't it. You were in love with him."

"Maybe I was. Maybe I wasn't. Does it really matter now?"

They glared at each other, both refusing to back down.

"Besides, you've had your share of romantic pursuits," she reminded him.

He frowned. "What are you talking about? Is this about the Delaney sisters again? Because I thought we already went over that..."

"No... I'm talking about Kes."

Silence followed, as he was too surprised to say anything.

When he didn't deny it, she took that to mean that it was true.

"Neelix was jealous of you. He must have had a reason. You must have done something to make him feel threatened..."

"Other than being her friend?" He shook his head. "I wasn't in love with her. I might have thought I was at one point, but... I never went after her, and I got over it soon enough. Neelix had no reason to be jealous."

"Then why was he?"

Tom fumbled for an answer. "I don't know... jealousy is an irrational emotion."

She nodded. "Exactly. Neelix was jealous of you even though he didn't have any basis for his suspicions..."

It finally dawned upon him. "Are you trying to tell me that I'm jealous of Chakotay without good reason to be?"

"Yes."

Frowning, he considered this. He wasn't entirely convinced.

B'Elanna was struggling with a little jealousy of her own.

"I'm not anything like Kes, you know," she said quietly.

Perplexed, he shook his head. "So?"

"Don't expect me to be like her, because I never will."

"I don't want you to be. What gave you that idea?"

"I... Never mind." She turned away.

"B'Elanna..."

"Kes is the kind of woman that men feel compelled to take care of, to protect. The kind of woman they want for a lifetime companion," she said at last.

"And you're not?"

"No, I'm not. No one has ever wanted to take care of me..." She blinked back tears. "I mean... I can take care of myself – I've always been perfectly capable of taking care of myself. But I hated feeling like no one cared about me."

"Oh, B'Elanna..."

"At least I knew that Chakotay cared about me. I've never doubted that. And he doesn't ask for anything in return. Chakotay and I have always been completely platonic. There was a time when I might have wanted it otherwise, but... Anyway, it's better that way. I never had to worry about him using me... the way other men did. At least I knew that Chakotay wasn't interested in my 'Klingon prowess' or 'insatiable appetites,'" she said bitterly. "He liked me for who I was, which was more than I could say for most of the men in my life."

It was difficult for her to trust anyone completely, to rely on anyone, since she'd been on her own for so long. She'd had a difficult life and learned at an early age not to trust men... men who only wanted to use her for their own purposes. She had learned to watch out for herself, to be tough and independent.

"When I first met him... he saved my life. He didn't have to do that. Not only that, he took me under his wing when I had nowhere left to go. He didn't have to do that either. He's always been there for me, provided for me, looked out for me... I owe him a lot."

"I'm sorry," he whispered helplessly. He felt unbelievably petty. He couldn't believe that he had allowed his jealousy to consume him like that. "I love you, B'Elanna. And I want to take care of you... if you'll let me."

She smiled slightly at that and allowed him to draw her back into his embrace. Allowing him to comfort her.

"I'm sorry too," she whispered. "I guess... it's not supposed to be easy."

"Nothing worth having is ever easy."

A little while later, they finally got off the pool table and sat down at a nearby table, B'Elanna sitting in Tom's lap.

"So... is there anything else you wanted to do in this fantasy of yours while we're here?"

She nodded a little hesitantly.

"What?"

"I... I want to dance with you," she said almost shyly. "And not just any dance. I want to tango," she added in a rush.

Surprised, he stared at her. It was an unexpected request since she had never expressed much interest in dancing. He had never seen her dance before, didn't even know that she could tango.

"I've seen you dance... with holograms..." she explained, looking a little embarrassed still. "And I... I've always wanted to dance with you."

Tom nodded, offering his hand to her, then leading her onto the dance floor.

"Computer, play musical selection 'Le Grand Tango.'" The music began at once, the intro seductive and free, full of so much promise.

Silently, they stood to face each other, hands clasped, perfectly still in closed dance position.

Then they began to move. Tentatively at first, then moving closer together, his right arm circling her back, her left arm on his arm and shoulder, her cheek pressed to his.

"So where did you learn to tango, anyway?" B'Elanna whispered in his ear.

He smiled. "Gaunt Gary taught me. He may be a pig, but he sure can dance."

"I could say the same about you."

"So you still think I'm a pig, huh?"

"Yeah, but you're *my* pig," she said with a possessive gleam in her eye.

Tom chuckled. "Glad to hear it."

As they continued to dance, he savored the feel of her in his embrace. She had an incredible sense of rhythm, a feel for the music, and followed his lead impeccably...

He held her close, making her feel safe, loved and appreciated as he guided her through intricate dance patterns.

They glided smoothly across the floor, grounded but floating, feet caressing the floor, moving smoothly but cleanly, perfectly attuned to each other's weight shifting.

Dancing in harmony, balanced, they were completely in the moment, in the present. Nothing else mattered.

Before they knew it, the song was over and the next song began.

"Someone once told me, 'Tango is the vertical expression of horizontal desire,'" he said huskily in her ear.

Her eyes darkened with arousal as he pulled her even closer, and her breathing grew shallow.

He couldn't resist touching his lips to hers as he dipped her low.

They were made to move together. Sharing the space, blending together, moving as one with elegance and sensuality... as though they were making love on the dance floor, through their dancing...

And suddenly, it wasn't only through their dancing anymore...

He lifted her onto a nearby table, and her arms wound around him as they fell together, kissing passionately.

"Dance with me," she whispered, intoxicated by the exhilaration of it all.

He nipped at her slender neck, coaxing a moan from deep within her. Caressing her in a way that never failed to rouse her.

Maneuvering himself between her thighs, he thrust hard into her, then began to move inside her. She wrapped her legs around his waist, drawing him in deeper.

With sweet, tender caresses, fiery kisses, bodies pressed tightly together, they merged into one.

Though their pace was slower this time, it was no less intense. Their tempo and mood matched that of the music. Soulful. Sultry. Passionate. It was ecstasy, the harmony resonating in their ears, the beating of their hearts in time with the driving rhythm...

Finally, they gave in to the intensity, riding the crest of the crescendo. The song ended with a dramatic flourish, and they sagged against each other, both panting heavily.

It took them the length of another song to recover. As the notes began to fade...

"One more dance?" he whispered in her ear.

She nodded, a hint of a smile on her lips.

He started to lower her back onto the table, but then the music changed. A haunting melody, reminiscent of 1930s Paris, echoed throughout Chez Sandrine.

The lyrics were in French. A woman's lilting soprano, heavy with feeling...

Captivated, B'Elanna stilled. "What's she saying?"

Tom wrinkled his brow in concentration, listening carefully to the lyrics and trying to translate. Fortunately, the tempo was fairly slow and the words easy to understand.

C'est presqu'au bout du monde

"It is almost to the edge of the world," he began translating.

They smiled at each other, gazing into each other's eyes, content for the moment to merely listen to the music and absorb the beautiful lyrics.

ma barque vagabonde

errant au gré de l'onde

m'y conduisit un jour

l'île est toute petite

mais la fée qui l'habite

gentiment nous invite à en faire le tour

"My little vagabond boat, drifting with the waves, takes me there. The island is so small, but the fairy who lives there kindly invites us to take a tour."

B'Elanna smiled at the fanciful image that those lyrics conjured.

He lifted her into his arms once more, hugging her close, and they slowly resumed dancing, swaying slightly and losing themselves in the music, the lyrics.

Youkali, c'est le pays de nos désirs

Youkali, c'est le bonheur, c'est le plaisir

Youkali, c'est la terre où l'on quitte tous les soucis

"Youkali, it is the land of our desires. Youkali, it is happiness, it is pleasure. Youkali, it is the land where we leave all our worries..."

"Sounds wonderful," she murmured.

c'est, dans notre nuit, comme une éclaircie, l'étoile qu'on suit

c'est Youkali

"It is, in our night, like a flash of light, the star that we follow. It is Youkali."

He twirled her around, making her laugh. There was something magical about this evening, dancing together, just the two of them in Sandrine's.

Youkali, c'est le respect de tous les voeux échangés

Youkali, c'est le pays des beaux amours partagés

c'est l'espérance qui est au coeur de tous les humains

la déliverance que nous attendons tous pour demain

"Youkali, it is the land of beautiful requited love. It is the hope that is at the heart of all humans, the freedom that we all wait for in the future," he whispered as he dipped her low again.

Beautiful images. Peace, contentment... absolutely perfect.

Youkali, c'est le pays de nos désirs

Youkali, c'est le bonheur, c'est le plaisir

mais c'est un rêve, un folie

il n'y a pas de Youkali!

"Youkali, it is the land of our desires. Youkali, it is happiness, it is pleasure..." he trailed off as the next line registered and stopped dancing.

"What?"

He shook his head slowly. "But it is a dream, a madness. There is no Youkali..."

They stared at each other, the last phrase echoing in their heads.

et la vie nous entraîne, lassante, quotidienne,

mais la pauvre âme humaine, cherchant partout l'oubli

a pour quitter la terre, se trouver le mystère

où nos rêves se terrent en quelque Youkali

Tom frowned a little. "And life drags us along, tired, mundane. But the poor human soul, looking everywhere for the forgotten, has to leave the earth to find the mystery within, where our dreams are buried in some Youkali," he said quietly.

Youkali, c'est le pays de nos désirs

Youkali, c'est le bonheur, c'est le plaisir

Youkali, c'est la terre où l'on quitte tous les soucis

c'est, dans notre nuit, comme une éclaircie, l'étoile qu'on suit

c'est Youkali

c'est le respect de tous les voeux échangés

c'est le pays des beaux amours partagés

c'est l'espérance qui est au coeur de tous les humains

la déliverance que nous attendons tous pour demain

Youkali, c'est le pays de nos désirs

Youkali, c'est le bonheur, c'est le plaisir

mais c'est un rêve, un folie

il n'y a pas de Youkali!

mais c'est un rêve, un folie

il n'y a pas de Youkali!

Youkali, it is the land of our desires

Youkali, it is happiness, it is pleasure

Youkali, it is the land where we leave all our worries

it is, in our night, like a flash of light, the star that we follow

it is Youkali

it is the land of beautiful requited love

it is the hope that is at the heart of all humans

the freedom that we all wait for in the future

Youkali, it is the land of our desires

Youkali, it is happiness, it is pleasure

but it is a dream, a madness

there is no Youkali!

but it is a dream, a madness

there is no Youkali!

"... it is a dream, a madness. There is no Youkali..." he repeated softly.

Youkali... a fantasy world, like their idealized version of love. Like the fantasies they'd been trying to fulfill.

In their fantasies, they had each envisioned everything working out perfectly, exactly as they had planned. They could see it all so clearly in their minds how everything was supposed to be.

Fantasy came from unfulfilled desires. Something that they had really wanted but couldn't have. So the fantasies were created to fill that void. Fantasies that had been imagined a million times, so much so that they became idealized, perfected.

But somehow, it never turned out quite like they had fantasized. The fantasies, the dreams... they weren't real. They were nothing more than illusions created by their imaginations. Just as their imaginations could create terrible things... like reasons to be jealous.

They had both sought to make their greatest fantasies come true, but it was dangerous to become lost in fantasy. Forsaking the reality in front of them. After all, reality was not like fantasy.

In reality, there was pain, loss, conflict, jealousy, countless issues to deal with. Nothing was perfect. Reality was unpredictable. Uncontrollable circumstances and disappointments were all a part of reality.

In fantasy, one could be in control of everything and never have to be disappointed. But reality could never live up to the unrealistic expectations that fantasy created.

Reality didn't fulfill what one expected or needed from the fantasy. There was always an unavoidable disparity between reality and fantasy.

But the way to deal with reality was not to retreat into fantasy or trying to turn fantasy into reality.

Because reality wasn't all bad. The good that they had together was also equally real. The love, the trust, friendship, loyalty, commitment... definitely real. They had to accept the good and the bad. Because it was real. Lasting. And that was what they needed to live in and live with, not some idealized fantasy world.

Their love would never be like their fantasies, but it didn't have to be. Shouldn't be. This was the time to leave the fantasies behind... and live in reality together.

It was all right to indulge in fantasy as long as they didn't get carried away. One could still learn a lot from fantasy, as long as they still remembered to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Reality was never to be replaced with fantasy.

Besides, they no longer had any need for such fantasies. What they had together in reality was much better.

"B'Elanna... why don't we go back to my quarters," Tom said at last.

She nodded in agreement and understanding.

This place was magical... but it was still only an illusion. It wasn't real. And they didn't need it to have a good time together.

All they really needed was each other.

The End :)

Author's Endnote: The song they're dancing to is "Youkali." From the liner notes: "This passionate tango, written by Kurt Weill in the '30s, evokes Parisian clubs, low lights, close dancing and longing looks."

I immediately thought of Chez Sandrine... and Tom and B'Elanna dancing the tango. (and Gaunt Gary is a great dancer, as we saw in "Lifesigns")