"There must be an easier way for you to explore your spirituality. Go to church, or something?"
"It wouldn't be enough."
"Look, I'll read the scrolls, I'll learn Klingon. We'll figure this out together."
"Next time."
"I just hope there is a next time."
"There will be."
-Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres, "Barge of the Dead"

Next Time

...immediately following "Barge of the Dead", early Season 6

This was not what Tom had been expecting. Not that he was complaining.

Though, to be honest, when the Doc had finally agreed to let B'Elanna leave sickbay and she had asked if they could go back to his quarters, he had been able to judge neither her mood nor her motives and had mentally prepared himself for just about anything.

Being immediately tackled to the floor by a half-Klingon whose eyes were blazing with passion was, to say the least, a very welcome surprise.

At some point, they has migrated to the bed, leaving, he was pretty sure, a trail of fairly intense destruction behind them (trust B'Elanna to have chosen his quarters for a reason). Both had long ago shed any and all clothing, and, when they finally collapsed together in temporary satiety, Tom pulled a blanket up over them, earning a purr of thanks from the woman in his arm.

Almost absently, Tom ran his fingers along the supple curve of B'Elanna's spine as she rested half on top of him, one leg still lazily twined around him, resting her head on his chest. "Not to sound at all ungrateful," which he emphasized by tipping up her chin and indulging in a lingering kiss, "but where did that come from?"

"Mmmm," she nipped lightly at his lips before propping herself up a bit on an elbow, holding his gaze. "Call it a thank you. For believing in me."

The pilot frowned, puzzling that out. "I'm probably the biggest idiot on this side of the galaxy for pointing this out, but I tried every argument I could think of to stop you, B'Elanna."

She simply smiled and kissed him again. "I know. And it's a thank you for that too."

He gave up. "Is it okay that I'm completely confused?"

B'Elanna flashed him a grin that was edged with wickedness. "I thought that was pretty much your natural state anyway."

Paris's eyebrows shot up, and he found a grin to match hers. "You do realize that you are lying on my chest, naked and defenseless at the moment?"

"Oh, I'm never defenseless, flyboy."

A few minutes of tussling, shrieks and giggles (Tom wondered occasionally if the giggles made their way through the notoriously thin starship walls and, if so, whether his neighbors had actually come to believe that the chief engineer could make such a sound or simply assumed the worst about his own fidelity) brought the matter to at least a truce, and Tom found himself on top, playfully pinning B'Elanna's hands above her head with his own. The strands of their conversation flitted back to him. "You know, you promised to teach me Klingon."

"Did I?" She made an obvious effort to pull her thoughts back together and shifted out of his hold so that they were lying side by side, facing each other. "I thought you were just trying to stop me from going through with...my plan."

"Maybe I was," Tom admitted, "but I'm still asking."

B'Elanna cocked her head to one side. "You don't have to."

He nodded. "I want to."


"Because it's important to you."

She considered that. "Have you ever believed in something, Tom? Something spiritual?"

"No, not really," he answered simply, honestly.

She looked down, biting her lower lip. "If you asked me two days ago, I would have answered the same way." She looked back up at him and smiled a little ruefully. "Honestly, in my head, I'm not sure that the answer has changed. But at another level," her voice softened to a near whisper, "it's there – deep, basic – like an unconscious habit. And I think it always has been." Then she laughed at herself and looked down again, fiddling with the sheets. "I'm probably making no sense at all."

Tom reached out and gently tilted her chin up so he could meet her eyes. "Hey, we're going to figure it out together this time, remember?" Next time, she had promised, and that promise had been his lifeline as he watched her vital signs weaken. He hadn't understood what she was doing or why; but B'Elanna was right – he had believed in her and in that promise. And he wanted to understand the rest. He hoped that she could read the sincerity in his gaze. Then he smiled gently. "Let's start with something easier today though, okay?" And when she nodded, his smile curved into a grin. "Don't you have some choice Klingon curse words for me?" And then, "Hey!" as a pillow descended on his head. "Come on – you know there are at least a couple of insults that you've been wanting to use on me. How, for example, do you say 'pig' in Klingon?" he suggested helpfully and quickly ducked the pillow again.

"Suy'," she conceded, laughing, "though, in your case, perhaps Suy'wI'."


"My pig."

He chuckled and pulled her to him. "Oh, this pig is definitely, absolutely and completely yours." Another long, well-used moment later, "Suy'. Got it. What else have you been longing to call me?"

B'Elanna seemed to consider while running her fingers lightly across his chest. "ParmaqqaywI'," she said at last with an odd mixture of salaciousness and hesitancy as her gaze continued to follow the lines she was tracing.

"ParmaqqaywI'," Tom rolled it around on his tongue. "It doesn't sound quite like an insult."

"It's not," she admitted. "Loosely, it would translate to something like 'my lover' or 'my mate'." She looked up as if to check his reaction and seemed to relax at his appreciative grin. The pressure of her fingers changed subtly as she continued in a near purr. "It's hard to explain using Standard vocabulary. It has some very," her smile turned feral and her eyes sparked, "vigorous undertones."

Oh gods, he loved this woman. "Well... I've always been a very tactile sort of learner. Perhaps a demonstration could be arranged?"

Her chuckle vibrated against him. "Suy'wI'," she murmured and then words were lost to a deeper language.

A/N: Many thanks to Marc Okrand's Klingon for the Galactic Traveler for a wonderful introduction to the Klingon language.