Moonlight and Shuttlecraft

by J.A. Toner, aka jamelia


Three interrelated vignettes depicting early days of the Paris/Torres relationship (along with an explanation of where all those shuttles came from): "Crescent Moon" takes place during Voyager's third year in the Delta Quadrant, a few days after the episode "Unity." "Shuttlecraft" and "Moonlight, Star-Bright" take place shortly after the episode "Rise." This was the first fiction story I'd written in 25 years (way back in 1997!). Thanks, B'Elanna and Tom (and the actors who portray them, Roxann Dawson and Robert Duncan McNeill), for the inspiration. Paramount owns Star Trek characters and is responsible for the backstory. This particular story and the shuttle bay crewmen are my own invention. I thank Paramount for allowing me to mentally wander around their back lot for a while.

CRESCENT MOON

"Please, Chakotay..."

::::I'm sorry B'Elanna. I have some reports to complete for the 0600 meeting tomorrow. Another time. Chakotay out.::::

Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres bit back the rest of what she was going to say after hearing the soft click of his comm badge as it was switched off. His voice seemed even more formal and distant through the badge than it had when they had spoken face to face during the last few days. Bag of hoverball gear in hand, B'Elanna leaned on the wall of the corridor in front of Holodeck 2, stood up for the third time in as many days from the game the commander had promised her in the shuttlecraft when they were returning to Voyager.

Surprised at hearing the call of a Federation distress beacon in the Delta Quadrant, Chakotay had landed on an isolated planet. He had helped a Cooperative of former Borg repair some equipment in repayment for healing him of serious injuries and had developed personal attachments to some of them. Sensing the mood he had been in since their departure from those he had been helping, B'Elanna had offered to thrash him on the hoverball court to distract Chakotay from his restiveness.

He had accepted her offer. Before he had stunned her. Before he had gone to the Borg ship, turning it on long enough for the Cooperative to seize control of the minds of all the former Borg living in exile on the planet. Clearly, he had not yet forgiven himself for his actions, even if everyone else on Voyager had accepted that he had been coerced.

B'Elanna found herself feeling so frustrated by her inability to help her friend and mentor that she required some physical activity herself. She needed to thrash someone, on the hoverball court or anywhere else - even be thrashed herself, if anyone on Voyager was capable of it. Thinking of a likely victim, she tapped her badge. "Computer, location of Harry Kim?"

"Ensign Kim is on the Bridge," the cool voice replied.

B'Elanna remembered that he was pulling an extra shift because of the poor reaction of Ensign Hamilton's stomach to Neelix's luncheon special. She tried again, "Computer, location of Tom Paris?"

"Lt. Paris is on Holodeck 2."

This was more promising. B'Elanna turned to the door in front of her, taking notice that the privacy lock was not engaged. "Computer, is anyone on Holodeck 2 with Tom Paris?" The last thing she needed to do was to burst in on Paris when he was in the middle of a tryst with some female companion.

"Lt. Paris is alone."

'Now that is unusual,' thought B'Elanna, pleased nonetheless. 'Wonder if I can convince him to play...play hoverball.' She squirmed mentally as she amended her thought. There were lots of games Mr. Paris liked, games she had always made a habit of refusing to play when he'd offered to play them with her. Thanks to Ensign Vorik and his transmitting to B'Elanna his 7-year-itch of a Vulcan sex drive, however, she had shamelessly thrown herself at Paris only a few weeks ago. His behavior towards her in the mines of the Sakari had been completely honorable, even though it obviously had just about killed him not to succumb to her requests for his attentions. Demands for sex, she admitted to herself. Tom had been a considerate and good friend in a difficult time, then and since they had come back on board Voyager. She hesitated only a moment before entering the portal.

As she first walked onto the dimly lit holodeck, B'Elanna thought Paris was using the beach resort program. Although the computer had said no one was with him, she had not thought to ask if that included hologram people. The idea that she would encounter him with a group of scantily-clad holo-beach bunnies almost made her turn back. Stopping and listening for a moment, though, B'Elanna realized she could not hear any voices, as would be expected if he had been immersed in a wild holodeck party. The only noise she was aware of was a hushed, rhythmic murmur. After a salty tang registered in her consciousness, she identified the sound as pounding surf. Looking around her more carefully, she realized that while the setting did resemble the beach resort somewhat, it was much smaller in scale. It was furnished more like a Terran beach house she had visited, during her Starfleet Academy days, than a public building.

Curiosity aroused, B'Elanna moved through the shadowy rooms to a covered verandah. Beyond the verandah was a wooden deck slicked by a fine rain that was falling outside. Glancing from side to side, B'Elanna could see she was in a beach house perched upon a rocky cliff, about 10 meters above the sands. She saw Tom, his long frame stretched out on some kind of chaise lounge, face illuminated by the flame of a single candle which was protected from the breeze by a glass hurricane chimney. Although he was gazing out over a wide beach to the waves crashing below, she doubted he actually saw anything before him. He was as far away mentally from the recreated scene of an Alpha Quadrant beach as he was from it in reality, stranded on a ship at the other end of the galaxy, 67 years from home.

She could not remember ever seeing him before with the contemplative expression that she now saw on his face. B'Elanna decided to leave him to his privacy and tried to creep out of the holodeck without being seen by him. When she turned to leave, however, the bag with her hoverball gear caught on a small table, knocking over a hurricane lamp that was the mate to the one lighting Paris' face. As it thunked solidly on the table, Paris turned and brought his clear blue eyes to bear on B'Elanna.

"B'Elanna," he said, standing up, "I'm sorry, have I gone over my time on the holodeck? I know you're next. Computer..."

Before he could turn off the program, however, B'Elanna stopped him. "No, actually I was early. Don't leave. When I realized you were alone here on the holodeck I wanted to ask you if you would be interested in playing hoverball with me, since the opponent I thought I was going to torture decided not to come."

"Ah. Chakotay's still not himself, is he?" asked Paris.

"No, he isn't," she admitted, righting the tipped over lamp before it could roll off the table and onto the floor.

"The Borg seem to have that effect on people."

Nodding agreement, B'Elanna asked, "Mind if I join you?"

A small gleam sparked in his eyes. "Not at all, ma'am. Sit down right here next to me." He patted the edge of the chaise lounge invitingly.

"Don't be a pig, Paris. I was getting to like the noble you."

He laughed and pushed a cushioned chair around for her so that it too faced the ocean setting, then stretched himself out again on the chaise.

Taking the proffered seat next to him, B'Elanna said mildly, "I don't remember seeing this program before, Tom. Is this the one you run when you feel like sitting in the rain?"

A faint smile appeared. "When I want to think about my pathetic love life, I come here. I spent several summers in this house at the beach when I was a kid, while my father was teaching at the Academy - one of the few perks of being the son of an admiral that I was able to appreciate. I had some great times here as a kid. Even lost my...um... my first girlfriend when I was staying here. She dumped me for a cadet."

"Oh really? It's surprising you have such great memories of this place then, Tom." At the sight of his crooked grin and averted eyes, she silently added, 'but I'll bet she's not the only thing you lost here.' At least he had the good grace to blush.

"And since when is your love life pathetic, Paris? I seem to recall you pursuing most of the women on this ship at one time or another."

He sighed. "Oh, yes, the famous Paris reputation. Well, pursuing doesn't mean catching, you should know that B'Elanna."

B'Elanna felt her own face become flushed. Thinking that he was making a crack about her heated pursuit of him in the galacite mines, she started to make a sharp comment and leave. Then the engineer saw his face. He was looking over the water again with the same melancholy look she had seen when she first came onto the holodeck. This was not the smart-mouthed Paris before her now, but the vulnerable one she had encountered several times. She felt a kinship with this Tom Paris: the man who knew how hard it could be to live up to a parent's expectations, who had protected and comforted her when they were prisoners of the Vidiians, who had proven over and over that he could be her friend.

Her curiosity was again aroused. What had he been thinking of just now? And how could she ask him about it without resuscitating that mask of nonchalance he assumed when asked serious or personal questions?

Paris turned to her again and must have read something in her face, for he asked, after a short pause, "Don't you like the rain, B'Elanna? We can change the weather. Computer, cease rainfall. Dry the deck and clear the sky. What kind of sky do you want, B'Elanna, a full moon? No, a full moon might scare you away, and I've been trying to get you on the holodeck with me for a long time. How about a moonless, starry night? Or... I know - computer, add a crescent moon low on the western horizon. What do you think?" A bright, narrow sliver of moon appeared low in the sky, the lunar full disc faintly visible above the crescent, as it would when the light of the sun reflected back upon it from the day side of a full Earth. "That's the moon the goddess Diana used for her bow - with moonbeams for arrows, if I recall properly. Appropriate for a half-Klingon woman, I should think."

With a half-smile, she shook her head from his chatter, but B'Elanna could not help but appreciate the sight. She had always thought the terrestrial moon prettiest in this phase. B'Elanna glanced back at him. Did he know somehow, or had it been a lucky guess? She didn't recall ever having discussed it with anyone on Voyager, or even her former Maquis mates, for that matter. She almost told him it was beautiful. Instead, she eyed him speculatively.

"Actually, I'd still like to mop up the floor with someone on the hoverball court."

"You never give up, do you Torres? Well, I'm not actually dressed for hoverball." She noticed then that he was wearing the blue jeans, tank top, and shirt that he had worn when Voyager had gone back in time to twentieth century Earth. She hadn't even realized he'd kept those clothes.

"Would you consider Captain Janeway's game, tennis? I might even be able to take a few points off you in that."

"You're on, Paris," B'Elanna replied.

An hour later, victorious despite losing several points to her dogged but outclassed opponent, B'Elanna handed Paris a towel to wipe the sweat out of his eyes as they deposited the tennis balls and racquets back into the recycler. "Sure you don't want another game?" she asked.

"Thanks, but I've been humiliated enough for one night. Would you like to stop at the mess hall and get something to eat?"

"No, I don't think so, Tom. I really should read over some reports tonight."

"Good night, then, B'Elanna. See you in the morning." As he returned her towel to her, she retrieved his top shirt from her bag and handed it back to him. Calling out, "Display arch," he leisurely strolled off the black and yellow lined cube of the holodeck. His usual playful attitude was still nowhere in evidence.

B'Elanna stayed in the holodeck a few extra minutes, folding and refolding the towel he had used before putting it back in her bag. Even though B'Elanna herself had been the one eager for athletic competition, she found that she had been disappointed when the beach and moon and verandah all disappeared at his command, replaced by a tennis court in a park at midday. For a few moments, she tried to conjure up memories of how the beach scene had looked, but finally she decided not to try to call it up again. Who knew which program of his she might wander into if she snooped? Better to ask him about it first. B'Elanna suspected he'd be flattered by the request.

As she walked to her quarters, B'Elanna wondered about this curious mood of his that she'd sensed when she had arrived on the holodeck. He couldn't possibly have been thinking about his 'pathetic love life,' yet she thought she had heard the ring of truth in his quiet voice as he'd said it. And she wondered about herself.

Beating Paris at tennis hadn't been nearly as satisfying as sitting and talking with him had been.

=/\=