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Author's Note: This is what happens when a roomful of fen get together to cut together the "Good Parts Version" of "Blood Fever" (can you say, "Where's Vorik?" Thought so.... Best 15 minutes on tape, no need to rewind and fast forward). Beware. Needless to say this story takes place about two months after "Blood Fever." _Green Eggs and Ham_ by Dr. Suess, copyright 1960 by Random House, excerpted without permission.
Would You, Could You
B'Elanna took a deep breath and then reached out to press the doorchime. Clutched in her hands was a bright yellow paper gift bag with ribbons tied around the handles. The door to Tom's quarters slid open, and she poked her head inside, the bag crinkling between her fingers. "Tom?"
"Right here," he called out as she stepped the rest of the way in, the doors sliding shut behind her. He was seated on the couch, a padd in his hands.
"Are you ready?"
"Almost. Just trying to figure out what to replicate. It's been so long since I was a toddler."
"Oh, I don't know. I always thought you had childish and juvenile down." B'Elanna said with a smile, and set the bag on the glass coffee table. Inside was a first birthday present for Ensign Wildman's baby daughter. The entire crew had been extended an invitation to the party, although duty shifts meant that most likely only about a third of the crew would be able to attend. However, Naomi was the only child--yet--on Voyager, and even those men and women who seemed to have no facility with children whatsoever doted on her. The holodeck was now host to an old fashioned Terran amusement park, courtesy of Ensigns O'Meara and Fuji. They had spent two days working on the programme, and Wildman's crewmates in Ships Services had pooled enough replicator credits to make the party something everyone on the ship was looking forward to. B'Elanna had been treated to something referred to as candy-floss, consisting entirely of sucrose and pink food colouring as Aidan and Ryuunosuke explained the venue that morning in Engineering. She hadn't the heart to tell them that she hadn't much of a sweet tooth, and pure sugar just gave her headaches. So she had nibbled some of the woolly pink sticky candy and then gave the rest to Harry when he came down to meet her for lunch. "Very funny. So, what did you finally decide on?" He peered into the gift bag, and she upended it, a small plush pink pig spilling into her hand. "Do you think this is... appropriate?" She handed it to Tom, who raised a brow.
"Of course. Babies love soft toys."
"Harry helped me pick it out. He said he had one just like it when he was a little boy."
Tom's lips twitched into a smile, and his eyes danced. "Yeah, I can see that."
"It makes a noise."
Tom squeezed the plush pig's stomach, and it emitted a squeal. "Yes, it does," he remarked, and she snatched it back, stuffing it into the bag.
"It's stupid, isn't it." She scowled, and rose from the couch. Tom leaned forward, resting his forearms on his thighs, shaking his head with a chuckle.
"B'Elanna, Naomi Wildman is one year old. Anything she can chew on, drool over, and fling around will be greatly appreciated. Relax, Lieutenant. It's a perfect toy. Kind of like a targ, but without the bristles, tusks, and blood lust. What toddler wouldn't love it?"
"I know what a pig is."
"I remember," he said brightly, and she flushed. She hadn't meant to remind him of the number of times she had hurled that particular insult in his direction in the past. And from his half- smile, only slightly self-mocking, she knew that was exactly what had sprung to mind. She wished she could start over somehow, with a clean slate.
Ever since the galacite expedition, they had tread on egg shells around one another, and had only now finally returned to the semi-adversarial friendship they had reached before Vorik had entered his Pon Farr, and dragged her along into it. Dragged them both into it. Klingonaase, with all its richness of language, didn't seem to contain an insult vehement enough to label how she felt about the Ensign.
It wasn't fair. Dammit, it wasn't fair. She took a deep breath. "That seems like ages ago," she said, half to herself. "So, what are you going to bring?"
Tom noticed her deliberate change of subject, and followed her lead. He was just as happy not to get into a fight about things that did indeed seem like a lifetime ago.
"I'm not sure. I have three days' worth of replicator rations saved up. The mess hall was packed the past few days. Neelix was thrilled." The earnest Talaxian, in fact, had taken it as a great compliment, and no one had the heart to let him believe any different. It would be like kicking a puppy. "Actually, I was thinking of a Dr. Seuss book."
"You're giving Ensign Wildman a medical text?" B'Elanna gave him the strangest look.
"No, Dr. Seuss was the pen name of a late twentieth-century human children's author, Theodor S. Geisel. He wrote almost fifty books. I've got it narrowed down to three choices: The Cat In The Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and Green Eggs And Ham." He leaned over to show her the padd, and she scanned the list with growing confusion.
"I've never heard of him."
"They are great kids' books," he said, and she almost jumped as his breath tickled her ear. He walked around her and set the padd back on the coffee table, lost in memories and seemingly completely unaware of her reaction. "Sometimes I think my mother had them all. She used to read them to me when I was not much bigger than Naomi."
B'Elanna frowned slightly, her own memories of childhood coming to the fore. "My mother always said human children have their heads filled with foolishness about fairies and castles, and my mother would not let me listen to such . . . tripe. She used to recite the lays of Kahless to me when I was a child." She smiled wryly, caught unexpectedly by the warmth of her recollection. Tom shared her smile.
"Well, none of the Whos died gloriously in battle, wading through rivers of the blood of their enemies, but I think you might have liked them all the same."
"If you say so."
"Didn't your father ever read to you on Kessik IV?" he asked, and her head snapped up, her colour rising.
"I don't remember," she said softly, and he frowned.
"I'm sorry--" he began, but she shook her head, a rueful smile tugging at her lips.
"Don't. Don't be sorry. It has nothing to do with anything. Ancient history." She picked up the padd, running a finger down the list. "Green eggs? Sounds like something Neelix would whip up."
"I think those were chartreuse. They tasted like chartreuse."
"Don't remind me."
Tom walked over to the replicator. "Computer, please replicate a hardcopy volume of the 2015 Random House reprint of Green Eggs and Ham by Theodor S. Geisel."
"Unable to comply. Lt. Paris has exceeded his replicator rations for this period."
"Damn. Jenny Delaney actually cashed in the rations I traded her for Holodeck time last week. I thought she'd at least wait until after the party--"
"Computer, this is Lt. Torres. Command override Torres-Alpha- 7."
The replicator beeped, and a hard cover book shimmered into existence on the surface, light glancing off the slick dust jacket inscribed with the image of some kind of furred humanoid with what appeared to be one of Neelix' oven mitts perched precariously on its head, peering down at a plate of green food with something resembling trepidation.
"The Captain isn't exactly going to be happy about this." Tom's eyebrows crept towards his hairline as she handed him the book.
"I won't tell if you won't. But you are going to have to stomach Neelix' cooking for another week or so."
"That's punishment enough," he chuckled, and opened the book to a random page, flipping back and then forwards. "This sure brings back memories."
She peered over his shoulder and scanned the brief text, frowning. "It looks like--it looks like nonsense, gibberish."
"It is--children love nonsense. And it's very appealing, fun, nonsense," he looked up from the book and smiled at her face mere centimetres from his. She flashed him a quick, tight smile, but moved away. She picked up the gift bag, and removed the soft toy, stroking its synthetic fuzz absently.
"It's actually better read aloud," Tom said to fill the awkward silence.
"Really." She kept her eyes fastened on the pig's nose. He pursed his lips, and leaned against the wall, the book still open in his hands.
"'I am Sam. Sam I Am.'" he read aloud from the colourfully illustrated pages. "'That Sam-I-Am! That Sam-I-Am! I do not like that Sam-I-Am!'" he glanced up, and saw her staring at him in rapt attention. Clearing his throat, he turned the page, and continued. "'Do you like green eggs and ham?'"
He could hear her chuckle, and he felt a smile tugging at his own lips as he turned the page. "'I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. I do not like green eggs and ham.'"
"'Would you eat them here or there? I would not eat them here or there--'"
He glanced up, and saw B'Elanna staring at him, her dark eyes swallowing the light whole, her smile having vanished. He blinked, and then looked back to the page. "'I would not like them here or there. I would not like them, anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
"'Would you like them in a house? Would you like them with a mouse?
"'I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam--'"
There was a whoosh past his ear, followed by a squeal as the stuffed pig impacted with the wall behind him. Paris' head snapped up and he saw B'Elanna reaching for a cut crystal vase resting on the counter. She met his eyes, and his mouth went dry. "--Sam... Sam-I-am.'" he stammered.
His blue eyes wide, he fumbled with the book, turning the pages with a shaking hand.
"'Would you eat them in a box?'"
He ducked, and the vase shattered directly to his left, silk flowers dropping to the carpet with a muted swish. He could feel a sharp stinging where glass fragments bit into his ear, but he kept his eyes fastened on the words on the page, his heart beginning to thud in his ears.
"'Would you eat them with a fox?'"
A pillow from the couch was next, followed by a Risan fertility statue that left a mark on the grey wall coverings before it bounced to the floor.
"'Not in a box. Not with a fox.'" he continued, his heart rate jumping another notch as he tried to keep his attention on the words. "'Not in a house. Not with a mouse.'"
Blood ran in a slow, hot trickle from the cut on his ear, dampening the edge of his turtleneck, but he ignored it. "'I would not eat them here or there. I would not eat them anywhere. I would not eat green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.'"
His hands shook as he turned the page, and he ignored that too, his mouth going dry as B'Elanna growled low in her throat, and he glanced up to see her arm raised, poised in the act of winging a mug at his head.
"'Would you? Could... could you--'" He faltered then, the book slipping from his fingers as he ducked, the ceramic mug smashing against the bulkhead harmlessly. Even as the book hit the deck with a thud, the dust jacket slipping up to expose four inches of cloth binding, he tackled the chief engineer somewhat gracelessly--yet effectively--to the carpet.
"If I'd known Dr. Seuss had this kind of effect on you, I would have done this a hell of a lot sooner," Tom said softly, but there was a question beneath the jest.
He looked down into her face, flushed beneath the tousled mass of dark brown hair, black eyes bright as they bore into his. They stared at one another, hearts pounding in their throats, colour high.
"B'Elanna--" he began, and she reached up to trace his lips with her fingers.
"Shut up, Paris," B'Elanna growled, and licked the blood from his ear, tugging the lobe gently between her teeth, not hard enough to draw blood, though he drew in a breath with a hiss nonetheless. He swallowed, and then lowered his mouth to hers, brushing her lips tentatively at first, then moving down to trace the line of her jaw. His teeth grazed the tender skin below her ear, and she tilted her head back, exposing her throat, her eyes closed and lips parted. A growl purred from her throat, his lips thrumming with the vibration as his tongue explored the hollow of her throat.
Remembering her reaction on Sakari IV, he attempted to growl. It came out more like a strangled cough. B'Elanna opened her eyes.
"Tom, don't growl."
B'Elanna could feel Tom's chuckle, a low rumble in his chest against her cheek, rousing her from the light doze she had fallen into after they had snuggled under the sheets.
"What?" she asked, resting her chin on his chest.
"I'll tell you one thing--I never thought of the 'Grinch Whole Stole Christmas' as foreplay before," he said sleepily, and he brushed her hair from her forehead, pressing a light kiss to the ridges above her eyebrow. "Think we missed the party?"
"What time is it?"
"There might be some cake left."
"If we're leaving this room tonight, I think the only place we're headed is sickbay." He traced a crescent shaped bite on her shoulder, the mark of his teeth, with a smile.
"Oh." She winced, not at his touch, but at the mental picture the mention of sickbay brought to mind. "Can we skip that? I think the Doctor is juts a little too interested in Klingon Mating rituals."
Tom laughed, shifting slightly so he was leaning against the headboard, her head pillowed on his chest. She absently traced spirals on his bare shoulder with a fingernail.
"Well, if we don't, it's going to be more than a little obvious why we missed the party," he pointed out.
"Unless, you want the entire crew to burst into spontaneous applause the minute we enter the mess hall?"
"Hey, if you think this is awkward, imagine what life would have been like if we did this back on Sakari IV."
"What makes you think I haven't?" she said quietly, her voice husky and low. Her dark eyes bore into his, and she felt as much as saw a flush creep up his neck under her unremitting gaze. It gave her the courage to tease him, lips grazing his jaw as she spoke. "What makes you think I haven't lain awake at night, remembering the taste of your blood, the taste of your kisses. Remembered the salty tang of your sweat, the feel of your body against mine..."
She, wisely, left off the remainder of the thought, but it echoed through her anyway, as she lay curled in his arms.
So much time wasted lying in the dark, remembering, and spending fruitless hours trying to explain away the desires and memories, only to rise from dreamless sleep with regret her constant companion. No more, she vowed silently. No more foolish, human regrets. Klingons lived, they did not waste their lives on what ifs.
Tom sighed, and leaned his forehead against hers, caressing her cheek. "I'm not going to lie to you, B'Elanna. What we just had was incredible, and I won't say that I haven't wanted it--been dreaming--thinking about it for months. But that doesn't mean that's all there is. I mean, I don't think so."
She drew back, uncertain as to what exactly he was getting at. Then abruptly, she did. Her newfound resolve wavered slightly as she weighed his concerns, and found they raised all kinds of questions, questions that she wasn't sure she wanted to know the answers to.
Were either of them ready--emotionally--to commit to an actual relationship? They had only just recently adjusted to the fact that, barring some kind of miracle, they were going to be on this ship a very long time. If things didn't work out, the results could be more than disastrous. Knowing her temper, they could be downright catastrophic. That was, of course, assuming it didn't work out...
So far, the game had been his. Tom pursued her, she pushed him away, only half-seriously, and so it had continued. But Sakari IV had changed everything to the point where she had to be the one to make the first move, and that was exactly what she had done. She had made that choice the second she had initiated the ritual, although she doubted any Klingon mating had involved stuffed animals and children's books before this one...
Tom was looking at her, waiting for something, and she realised that the same thoughts must be running through his head as well. She chewed on her bottom lip, and gave his fingers a squeeze. "I don't think so either."
"So, where do we go from here?"
"I care about you, Tom. And I am incredibly sexually attracted to you--"
"Yeah, I noticed."
"But beyond that, I just don't know."
"You sure are giving me a warm and fuzzy feeling here, Torres."
She met his only half-teasing smile with a frown of concern. "Do you think we made a mistake?"
He gently touched her cheek with his outstretched fingers. "Maybe," he admitted carefully. "But it didn't feel like a mistake to me. You're my friend, my shipmate, and I care about you too. A lot. And the last thing I want to do is lose my friend as well as my lover, if that ever becomes the case. So, yeah, I want this to work. I don't know where it's headed either, so the way I see it, call we can do is just take each day as it comes, and see where that takes us."
"That sounds reasonable," she nodded, and then winced. "I can't believe I just said that. Tom, I know this is going to sound... But, really, I have no regrets. Questions, yes. But I wouldn't have... initiated something unless I was sure. That wouldn't have been fair to you--"
"Trust me, I understand." He chuckled, and suddenly she had bounded out of bed, taking the sheets with her. "Hey!"
She scooped up the fallen book, and then flipped it open to the end. Dark eyes dancing, she scanned the pages and then recited: "'Say! I like green eggs and ham! I do! I like them, Sam-I-Am!'"
Tom reached out and snagged the trailing edge of the sheet, and yanked. She fell to her knees in the middle of the bed in a mess of sheets and giggles. "'They are so good, so good, you see!'" she managed before he pulled the book from her fingers, and it landed on the floor with a small bump and thud.
ljc's fan fiction