The Fantasy Of Tom by Cassatt

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Disclaimer: Paramount owns them, and too bad they neglected these two.
Rating: NC-17 Contains graphic scenes of consensual adult M/M sex

Summary: C/P, J/C, P/T Chapter Nine: More decisions and help is given. End.
Copyright July 2001 Cassatt

The Fantasy of Tom

Chakotay's heart was racing as he entered the bridge heading directly to the ready room. He looked to the helm, but Tom wasn't there.

"Chakotay, you need to come to the ready room. It's about Tom."

"On my way. Chakotay out."

That's when his heart started doing it's own thing, and hadn't quit no matter how many deep breaths he took in the 'lift, no matter how many prayers he sent up to his ancestors. He didn't know what he'd do if he found out she'd had a hand in whatever was happening. He hit the doorpad hard and was through the opening, almost pushing the doors aside. One look at Kathryn and the racing organ came to a dead stop. She was visibly upset, the depth of sadness in her eyes was too much to take in. Oh Gods, he's hurt, or dead... He sat heavily.

"What happened to him, Kathryn? Just tell me," he said woodenly.

Her eyes widened. "Oh, no, Chakotay, he's not physically hurt, oh God, I'm sorry, no it's not that..."

He knew she was still talking but he couldn't hear anything for the intense wave of emotion that swept over him. Spirits of my grandfathers, thank you... He sank back in the chair, exhaling loudly with hands covering his face and willed composure. Her voice began to make its way to his ears so he forced himself to sit up and rejoin her.

"I'm sorry, I didn't hear that," he said. He cleared his throat after hearing how rattled he sounded.

"I was just asking if you were all right, but now I can see that you are," she said softly. Her eyes were still sad. "Chakotay, I think something happened, I think Tom needs you. He gave me these." She showed him the two pips that she'd been clutching.

Anger swelled in his chest. "What happened, Kathryn? Did you say something to him?"

He saw hurt flit across her face momentarily, replaced by compassion. "No, I didn't say anything. He was upset after the lunch break. I mean, he tried to hide it, but I think he'd been crying. After an hour or so, I could see that he was getting more upset, then he asked to talk to me. We came in here and he requested to be relieved of duty, said he was unfit and couldn't guarantee the safety of the ship in his hands." She stopped and took a deep breath.

Chakotay's mind was trying to piece things together. He sent his message about 1400 hours. He kicked himself, hard.

"You know, I can't remember feeling that proud of him in a long time, Chakotay."

"Then what happened?" Just tell me, Kathryn.

"I asked him if it had anything to do with yesterday, he'd had a lapse in concentration before he got upset, but I wasn't angry about it, and I thought perhaps this was residual and that if we talked he'd be okay. He told me it wasn't. Then, I admit, I made what in hindsight could be considered a tactical error." She looked at him, waiting for some response he wasn't clear on.


She took another deep breath. "I asked him if it had anything to do with you. I wasn't thinking, not really, I mean he just looked so upset and I was feeling protective of him, I just wanted to give him a chance to talk if he needed it..."

Damn it. "And that's when he resigned his commission?"

"Not exactly. He told me it was none of my business," she said with a small smile, "and I agreed with him. I'm not entirely sure why he did this. I told him I was just concerned and that's when he, well, lost it."

"Kathryn, just tell me. I don't know what to do unless you tell me exactly what he said."

"He started talking about how I was wanting him to confess that he was a screw-up, that I was wanting him to beg me not to make his life a living hell, and that I could do anything I wanted to him, he didn't care - put him in the brig, demote him.... He was crying, Chakotay, and it broke my heart. I tried to say something else, and then he just ripped off his pips and stormed out of here..." She began to fiddle with the silver disks on her palm.

His mind was racing. His heart hurt. Tom was having a melt-down, and it sounded like guilt to him. Something had happened. And something didn't make sense to him. "Why did he say that thing about making his life a living hell? And about the brig and all that?"

She wouldn't meet his eyes. "I think it might be because over a week ago, I told him that if he ever did anything to hurt you I would make him wish we'd throw him out an airlock." She raised her eyes. "What? I just wanted him to understand where I stood, that I'd be protecting you and not him."

"Damn it, Kathryn, you didn't need to add more to his baggage. Fuck."

"Chakotay, since when do you say that..."

He stared at her. His emotions were beginning to overwhelm him. Oh, Tom...

"There's one more thing I should tell you," she said, her voice dropping. He looked at her and the sadness and compassion had returned to her eyes. "He loves you, too."

His throat was closing. His eyes were burning. He forced himself to breathe.

She held out the pips. "Go find him, Chakotay."

He stood, took them from her, grasping her hand as he did. "Thank you." Their eyes locked. "I love you, Kathryn." After a moment, she nodded, and he turned and left.


On his way to the 'lift, he was stopped by Harry's imploring look. He came up to his side. "What, Harry?" he said quietly.

"Did the captain call you about Tom?" He nodded. "I think he left his commbadge in his quarters, but he's not there. There's someone using holodeck one, and I checked the program - it's Sandrine's."

"Damn. Would he start drinking again?"

Harry shook his head. "Not like that..."

"Okay, thanks." He made to move, but was stopped by Harry's hand on his arm.

"Commander, please take care of him? He's not as tough as he pretends to be, he really cares..."

"It's okay, Harry, I know." He hesitated. "I care, too."

The younger man nodded. He squeezed his shoulder and continued to the turbolift.


Tom was at the pool table. Holographic characters were milling around but stayed far away from the man with the cue. He wondered if Tom had programmed them to do that, or if had just ordered them to leave him alone. He lined up his shot then nailed it perfectly, although the force with which he struck the cue ball was probably more than necessary. Their eyes met. Chakotay was somewhat taken aback. For the first time in more than a week, he couldn't read what was there. Tom returned to playing solo pool, so Chakotay went and stood a few feet away, leaning back against the bumper, folding his arms, watching.

After one more shot, Tom stood and put the end of the stick on the floor, keeping the cue in front of him, and met Chakotay's eyes again. "Let me guess, did she send you?"

"She told me that you were upset and left these." He pulled the pips out of his pocket. "I'm here because I'm worried about you."

"No need to be. I'm fine. Wanna shoot some pool? Oh, and you can put those back in your pocket."

Chakotay's heart ached. Now that he was closer, he could clearly see the haunted look in Tom's eyes, belying his flippant attitude. He was going to have to break down the defenses that Tom had spent a good portion of the last hour carefully constructing. Whether he'd done that with the help of alcohol or not, he wasn't sure.

"Don't feel like pool, Tom, but I'd love a drink. Can I get you something? A refill?"

"Nope, one beer is enough for me. Just be careful, safety protocols are off - she'll serve you straight alcohol," Tom answered, returning to his pool game without a second glance.

As Chakotay went to the bar, however, he could feel Tom's eyes following him. Sandrine gave him a bottle of syntheholic beer, by special request. He contemplated his options as he watched Tom sinking balls with relish.

"Commander," her sultry, familiar voice said from behind him. He turned reluctantly, the last thing he needed was Sandrine flirting with him. She beckoned him closer. He sighed and bent to her. "Tommy's in trouble," she whispered.

"So everyone keeps telling me," he said with a touch of frustration.

"Oui." She looked past him. "Ah, mon cheri..." Meeting Chakotay's eyes again, she continued to talk in a low voice. "He has peur ... fear in his heart, Commander. You understand, oui? My Tommy, he needs you. Essayez un peu d'amour, de tendresse, " she said gently.

He understood the amour, but the rest... "I'm afraid my French is a little rusty..."

"Try a little love, a little tenderness. I've always found it to work perfectment."

He looked at her with some surprise.

"Quoi? You don't think I comprend how he feels about you? He was sitting here for... beaucoup de minutes tout en pleurs... pour tu."

Not only was his French rusty, but she tended to speed up when speaking in her own language. "English?" he implored.

She touched his arm tenderly. "He had tears, for you. Now, allez... go, go..." She fairly pushed him off her bar, waving her hands in Tom's direction.

He considered her words, thinking to himself that he really didn't need too much encouragement to give Tom some loving attention, but knew he was still going to hurt the man in the very near future. As he approached the pool table, he could see that her idea had merit. He didn't think words alone would break down Tom's defenses at this point. Tom's eyes kept darting to him as he set up his next shot, watching as Chakotay got closer and closer.

He walked right up to him, taking the cue gently from his grasp and placing it on the table. Tom didn't move, but as Chakotay got even closer, then cupped Tom's cheek, the man trembled. The blue eyes in front of him waivered, and it was true, he could see the fear there, deep down inside.

"Please, don't..." Tom whispered, his voice cracking.

But he ignored the plea, caressing Tom's face, then his neck, moving himself closer and closer still, hearing the soft intake of breath, smelling the aftershave, the faint whiff of beer, watching the eyes close the very moment before he kissed him. Tom's mouth was pliant beneath his as he gently put everything he had into it, feeling his own desire infuse every cell in his body, instantly, completely, his knees getting weak, his arms wrapping around Tom, being taken into the embrace as well, the kiss getting deeper, and deeper, until they had to stop just to breathe. Their mouths remained mere inches apart and Chakotay brought his hand back to stroking Tom's face softly. They slowly focused on each other.

"Don't hide from me, Tom, please... talk to me..." he said quietly.

His throat closed as he watched Tom's eyes fill with tears. Then Tom put his head down on Chakotay's shoulder, his face against his neck, pulling himself tightly to him and taking some very shaky breaths. He felt his heart open, like a flower to the sun, and he returned the tight embrace, rubbing Tom's back, murmuring words of comfort, giving this proud and brave young man every ounce of strength he could.

"Do you love me..." The soft plea vibrated against his neck. He couldn't deny it.


He felt Tom stop breathing, then hot tears fell on the skin at the base of his neck. His breath caught in his throat and he clutched him more tightly. "I love you," Tom choked out.

"I know, Tom. I know, it's okay, it's gonna be okay..." He did what he could while Tom cried silently.

Eventually, Tom pulled away enough to wipe his eyes with a hand that had been digging into Chakotay's back. "Chakotay, it's not gonna be okay, and we both know it ...." he said quietly. "not that I deserve something good anyhow..."

He reached up and took Tom's head gently, moving it so that they could make eye contact. The pain he saw was raw, clear, and unhidden. "Why do you say that?" He rubbed Tom's tears away with his thumbs.

"I screwed up big this time. This wasn't supposed to happen. We were just supposed to have great sex, and instead I end up hurting people. Again. As usual..."

He gave him a smile. "And are you the only participant here?"

"No, but..."

He interrupted him. "But what? It's all on your shoulders? Is that why you resigned? To punish yourself?"

A spark of something undefinable appeared in the sky blue. "I just thought I'd save the captain the trouble."

"Tom," Chakotay, still holding his head, brought his closer, staring intently, "you earned those pips by being the best damned fucking pilot I've ever seen. Please....," he took a breath, "please.... don't sell yourself so short. Take the pips back."

Tom smiled slightly. "I'm not going to be able to stay resigned, am I?"

"I can be very pursuasive."

Tom's eyes darkened. "Yes, you can," he said huskily.

Chakotay couldn't help himself. He wanted to take the pain away, Tom's, his, wanted to believe that this all really would be okay. He kissed him, another soft kiss that turned into a searing one as their emotions and needs took hold. Their mouths moved together as their bodies had, giving, taking, tongues teasing, devouring. He was lost in it.

He felt hands pulling the tee shirt out of his pants, then beginning to roam up his back. He had a very dim thought that he should stop it the moment before Tom's mouth left his.

"Make love with me, Chakotay. Please... one last time..."

He focused. Tom's eyes were misty, but hungry, and sure. The pain his words caused was lessened by that look. He'd know that look, would remember it for the rest of his life. He nodded and Tom exhaled, then embraced him tightly. He tapped his chest and called for a site-to-site to the younger man's quarters, willingly wrapped up in him.


Tom stood under the hot water, letting the stream pound his face until it stung. He turned and felt the soothing pressure of it on his back.

"I'll drop your clothes off tomorrow, Tom," Chakotay said as he slowly got dressed again.

He was still lying in bed, watching the man's every move, memorizing them. "Your basketball stuff will be ready for you."

Chakotay came and sat on the edge of the bed. He picked up his hand and Tom felt a clutch in his heart. Looking into those deep dark eyes, he saw what he needed to see right then. Love. Satiation.

"Maybe we could still play ball occasionally, Chakotay?"

He hesitated, taking a deep breath before answering. "I don't think so, I don't think I could handle that. Wouldn't be a good idea, Tom."

The unspoken assumption was there, between them. They would lose their self-control.

"I suppose you're right. Well, if you ever want to shoot hoops by yourself, or with anyone else, just tell me and I'll give you the access codes to the program. If you want."

He then received perhaps his greatest gift of the afternoon. One of Chakotay's full blown smiles, heart stopping dimples and all. "Thanks, Tom. And remember what you promised me."

"Don't worry, I'll do it."

And he would, too. He'd let his friends help him, remind him that he was a good man, a worthy man, as Chakotay had said. He liked that. A worthy man.

The hot water continued to pummel him. He closed his eyes. Chakotay's face, smiling, looking down on him appeared behind his eyelids. His heart stopped, contorted and was squeezed until he couldn't breathe. His legs gave way and he slid down the shower stall. For the second time that day, he let his pain overtake him, the tears flowing freely, hoping in the back of his mind that the water would wash them down the drain. Cleansing, and purifying him.


Chakotay woke up as he had nearly every morning for weeks. Completely entwined in Kathryn. A warm, soft, lightly snoring Kathryn. A woman who was still with him after everything they had gone through. He sighed with peace and satisfaction as she snuggled just a little bit closer in her sleep.

He heard her breathing change the moment before he felt a stinging pain in his neck. "Ow!" he muttered.

"Sorry..." she said sleepily.

"You bit me."

"I know, it's just that you are so yummy, and I'm hungry...." she teased.

He felt a laugh snaking up from his belly and gave in to it. Rolling her, he buried his face in her neck and began to nibble, causing her to squirm and laugh with him. He continued his ministrations until he had her begging for completion, which he gladly, willingly, and delightedly gave her. And him.

"I love you, Kathryn," he said softly as he held her in the afterglow.

She reached up and stroked his tattoo. "I hope you know how much I love you, too."

"Sh-h-h, I know you do. That's in the past."

"Is it? I mean really?"

He looked into her eyes and saw only a simple question, no undertones, no hidden agendas. He was so relieved that they had gotten back here, where he could see her when he looked at her, and them when he looked in the mirror.

"Yes, I think it is. You did the best you could given the circumstances. I didn't."

"Oh, Chakotay, love has a way of screwing things up..."

He held her tighter. "And of making things right, too."

She looked deeply into him, then smiled the smile that only he got to see and kissed him soundly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the quiet of the hour following, as he took his shower and shaved, it crept back into his consciousness. That small spot of pain, that sat right above his stomach. He was getting so used to it that he hardly noticed it anymore. It was just a part of him. It didn't seem to affect how he felt about Kathryn, or how intensely happy he was that they were truly solid again. But it was there and at the moment, it hurt.

He was surprised that after almost a month, it hadn't really lessened. The first week had been excruciating, especially being on the bridge with him. Having to look at him all day, knowing that Tom was fully aware of how much he looked at him, helpless to do anything else. They could barely meet each other's eyes, and being forced to address him in an official capacity was awful. Lieutenant this, commander that. His heart constricted each time. But they did it. They had to.

Still, after this long, he thought the pain should have gone away. It just shrank to a certain point and stayed. And stayed. It was now part of who he was. A man who loved a woman intensely, who filled up his life, who had loved another man and lost him, who's loss was also part of that life.

"Chakotay, honey," Kathryn's voice traveled through the quarters from the living area.

He pulled himself together and followed it.

"Breakfast," she said with a smile.

"Thanks, I'm hungry," he said, pulling out a chair and sitting, reaching for a muffin. He looked up to find her studying him. "What?"

She didn't answer that, instead taking a sip of coffee, followed by a bite of melon.

"What?" He stopped what he was doing and waited.

Her eyes locked with his. She reached across the table and took one of his hands in both of hers, stroking it softly. "You miss him, don't you?"

His heart lurched and he instictively tried to pull his hand back but she wouldn't let it happen.

"It's okay, I can see it in your eyes," she said soothingly, "and I know it has nothing to do with us, honestly, I know that. In my heart I know that. But, love, I can see that it still hurts..."

He sighed deeply, giving in to her. "I thought it wouldn't by now. But it's still there. Sometimes I notice it more than other times. For some reason, while I was shaving I did. I'm sorry, Kathryn."

"No, no, don't apologize, Chakotay. That's not necessary." She looked at him intently again, and he could almost hear the wheels turning. "What would make it go away?"

What would make it go away... to hold him again? love him again? fill up that empty spot? "I don't know. Maybe I just need more time..."

She drank more of her coffee, now studying the liquid as she swirled the cup gently. "You know, honey, you did everything I asked of you. You put your needs aside for me, for us, you gave everything you ever had to our relationship. We forgave each other..."

He interrupted her. "You don't have to keep beating yourself up, Kathryn, for your behavior."

"I'm not. I'm only realizing that I didn't sacrifice much to make things right again. And maybe what I asked of you really wasn't fair. Or right. I'm just wondering, that's all. I want you to be happy, you need to be happy or it'll just turn into something else. And I know you love me. I know now that what you had with Tom had nothing to do with me, or us. So maybe something could be worked out..."

His heart skidded somewhere in his chest as her words were finally sinking in. He suddenly realized his mouth was hanging open and he closed it. "What the hell are you saying, Kathryn?"

"I don't know, just thinking off the cuff here, but would it make you happy to be able to spend, say, one night every two weeks with him? Doing whatever the two of you want? No guilt, no recriminations?"

He wasn't sure, but he thought maybe they had just entered another space-time continuum.


"Oomph!" The noise came out of Tom involuntarily as he felt B'Elanna lunge him from behind. He began to laugh, seeing her grinning face peering at him in the mirror. "Hi to you, too, 'Lanna," he teased.

"Need some help?"

"Shaving? No thanks, I've been doing it myself for, let's see.... about twenty years now?"

She slapped him on the ass. "Damn. You never let me do it..."

"Call me crazy, but a Klingon woman with an instrument designed for cutting approaching my face is not something that's guaranteed to put a smile there." He resumed his shaving.

She came around and wedged herself between him and the counter. "I know something that will put a smile there," she said seductively.

Looking down at her, he grinned broadly. "Me, too, but later would be better, besides we just made love about five hours ago..." Nonetheless, he was responding to her hips rotating into him. "B'Elanna, I have to keep moving. You have to keep moving. Shift starts in forty minutes."

"Kah'les, you are a spoil sport," she said, pushing against his chest and walking away. She threw a saucy grin over her shoulder as she left the room, however.

Tom watched her go and shook his head in amazement. That they were even here, together, was amazing to him. That she had been willing to hear the entire saga of him and her oldest friend, had begged it out of him, after finding him sitting in his shower, crying, falling apart at the seams. That she had been pissed, yes, even furious at times, but had let him talk and talk and talk until he could say no more.

They had alot of talking to do, and alot of yelling, and crying and more talking. But she hadn't left. She hadn't run. She had hid for awhile, but allowed him to coax her back. And the very biggest thing that he had been afraid of, that because it was Chakotay she'd really be hurt, turned out to be a non-issue. He smiled to himself. Not entirely a non-issue. She expressed some sincere jealousy of him, and even one night, after a number of beers in Sandrine's had said she wanted a three-way. Just for the fun of it. He went a little nuts at that suggestion and they had another of their 'talks'. The memory of that night brought out a deep chuckle. He didn't know who to feel more jealous about. The thought of Chakotay with her or the other way around.

He turned back to the mirror and sighed. Chakotay. Memories came to him at the oddest times, always unwanted, always guaranteed to bring back the pain. Right then was no different. He looked down at the counter, not able to look at himself, and closed his eyes tightly. Tried to breathe deeply. He was still undecided if he wanted the pain to leave entirely. If it was gone, then he wouldn't think about him any longer. He figured he must be pretty sick, to be willing to feel awful, just for the luxury of feeling anything at all about the man.

He didn't see B'Elanna watching him quietly from the doorway.


"I'd still like to know when I get to see this Captain Proton thing, you two," B'Elanna said, taking another bite of something Neelix was serving for lunch that day. She grimaced.

Harry laughed. "You have to finish that B'Elanna, you lost the bet. And talk to your boyfriend about the world of Proton and Kincaid. He's the boss there."

"Well, I think this is one bet I'm going to gladly renege on. This is crap. Oh, sorry, this is inedible." She looked at Tom's plate and saw virtually nothing had been touched. "At least I'm in good company, right Tom?" She raised her glance and saw Tom's concentration was far away. She let her eyes follow his line of sight. Chakotay had just walked into the messhall.

"Hey Tom," Harry said, "can B'Elanna be Kincaid's new personal assistant? I'd like to see her in the outfit..."

B'Elanna kicked him under the table, bringing his attention to her sharply, with a grunt. She mouthed Chakotay to him and nodded her head in the direction of the counter. Harry turned around, then turned back to his best friend, who's eyes were glued to the man.

She tapped Tom on the shoulder and he finally looked at her. "Tom. Go talk to him. Just say 'hi'. It's okay. I know you miss him."

Something changed in Tom's eyes, both she and Harry saw it. "Excuse me, 'Lanna, for saying this, but talking to him isn't going to make me feel any better." He stood up, pushing his chair back harshly.

She grabbed his arm. "Tom, sit down." He didn't move. "Sit." He sat. "Why don't you at least start by saying 'hi'. Then see what happens?"

Tom stared at her in disbelief, then his eyes narrowed. "B'Elanna, this is not a topic to tease me about."

She said softly, "And who says I'm teasing?"

"Let's just talk about something else," he said sharply. "No matter what, he's never going to do anything that goes against what the captain wants. And I don't plan on living through that hell again." He stood up quickly again. "Drop it. I'm fine." Grabbing his tray, he walked rapidly out of the messhall by way of the counter.

Chakotay's eyes followed him until he was long gone.


The following day the bridge was quiet. Tom was feeling antsy, he'd cut off any further conversation with either B'Elanna or Harry about the big guy sitting directly behind him, but they'd done enough damage already. His heart hurt and having to walk to his post that morning was one of the most difficult things he'd done in a long time. Seeing the dark head sitting there as he exited the 'lift, he'd forced himself to keep moving. He heard the ready room doors open, but didn't pay much attention to the sound.

"Mr. Paris," Captain Janeway said.

He sighed and turned around, deliberately avoiding the first officer's gaze, though he could feel it. "Yes, ma'am?"

"The Doctor has requested your assistance. I realize this isn't your normal shift for sick bay, but he needs your help. It shouldn't take longer than an hour."

Great. At least I'll be off the bridge. "Yes, Captain." He stood, and she ordered a replacement conn officer.

"Thank you, Tom," she said with a smile.

Surprised, he stumbled over a reply and walked to the 'lift as quickly as he could. Smooth, Paris, very smooth. He practically jumped past the opening doors.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chakotay watched Tom taking his orders, his heart beginning to hammer in his chest. He could see that Tom looked nervous and wondered what had happened. He'd seemed fairly calm over the past few weeks, aside from the awkwardness between them. This was different. He just crossed his fingers and prayed that he wasn't about to get his heart and his pride trampled on.

Tom began to walk off the bridge and Chakotay met Kathryn's eyes. She nodded. He got up quickly and followed him, feeling lightheaded and all of eighteen. His palms were even damp. He got to the lift just as the doors were opening and Tom was stepping quickly through them. He entered right behind him.

It looked as though Tom almost physically leapt backwards to see him standing there. His eyes widened, and he actually blushed. Chakotay was well aware that this was the first time they were in any enclosed space, alone, since he left Tom's bedroom a month earlier.

"Hi, Tom," he said.

"Hi. You going to sick bay, too?" He ordered the computer to deck five.

Chakotay knew it was now or never. "Actually I just wanted a minute to ask you something." He met Tom's eyes directly, finally, and his heart raced. That blue...

"Okay," Tom answered quietly, not moving his eyes away.

"I'd like to play some basketball..."

Tom interrupted him as a look of something crossed his face. "Sure, well, I haven't run the program in awhile, but I'll get you the access code when I'm done with the Doc, would that be..."

He stopped the words with a hand on the younger man's arm. The contact was electric. Tom's eyes darted to it. "Tom. I was wondering if you wanted to play some ... one-on-one .... with me."

The lift doors opened. "Deck Five."

Neither of them moved. Tom's eyes went from Chakotay's hand to his face, then repeated it. The temperature in the 'lift had just risen at least twenty degrees.


"But... the captain..."

"Yes or no first, then we talk."

Tom smiled a slow smile. "Are you being pursuasive again?" His voice had dropped significantly.

Chakotay smiled back. "I'm trying," he said, equally low.

"Like I've ever been able to say 'no'...."


Kathryn tapped her chest. "Janeway to Lieutenant Torres."

"Torres here, Captain."

"Are you alone?"

"One moment, ma'am."

Kathryn took a big swallow of coffee, trying to keep her grin toned down.

"I'm in my office. Well?"

"B'Elanna, it worked. They have a date for tonight."

"Thank Kah'les, Captain. And thank you."

"Believe it or not, it was my pleasure. He's been, well, you know. So. What's on tap for us?"

"Well, I got the code for the movie theater. I made a list of what Tom calls 'girl movies' - I think you're gonna like this first one. It's called 'Doctor Zhivago' -- very romantic, very Russian, lots of snow and ice..."

"Great! I'll bring the popcorn."

"Wonderful! I'll bring the beer."

The End.