The Proposal

Paris looked up at Chakotay's shouted warning, the rumbling of a rockslide registering with him at the same moment as Chakotay's shout. He moved quickly, trying to get out of the way of the incoming rocks, some boulder-sized, but it was too late. The rockslide hit, taking Tom Paris with it, tumbling him, battering him, and finally burying him.

Before the dust even had time to settle, Chakotay was atop the rockslide, looking for the other two members of his away team. He had seen Paris go down and headed in that general direction, hoping he would find geologist Ensign Baxter somewhere in the rubble along the way.

Moments later, Chakotay glimpsed a spot of gold and black. Baxter. The man was completely buried under rubble from the rockslide. Chakotay carefully uncovered his head, but upon seeing the empty staring eyes, he knew it was too late for the geologist. He checked for a pulse to confirm his suspicions. From the way Baxter's head was angled, Chakotay surmised that his neck was broken. Standing, Chakotay scanned the rubble once more. This time he was successful in spotting the familiar flash of red and black. He quickly headed in that direction, praying that Paris hadn't met the same fate as Baxter.

Reaching the pilot's prone figure, Chakotay crouched beside him. Paris was facedown, the lower half of his body buried under rocks. His upper half, miraculously, was clear of rubble from the rockslide. Bloodied scrapes, however, covered his hands and face, where deep bruising was already becoming evident.

Touching a hand to Paris' neck, Chakotay was relieved to find a pulse. His relief was short-lived, however. The pulse was weak and thready. Paris was in need of immediate medical attention. Chakotay's move to activate his commbadge was aborted when Paris let out a low moan. Leaning in close to the pilot, Chakotay softly said, "Lieutenant?"

Paris moaned again, louder this time. Whether he heard Chakotay or not was difficult to say.

"Paris? Tom, can you hear me?"

Without opening his eyes, Paris murmured, "Chakotay?"

"Hold on, Tom," replied Chakotay with an assurance he was far from feeling. "You're going to be just fine." Chakotay tapped his commbadge. "Chakotay to Voyager."

On the Bridge of the starship, Janeway indicated to Kim that she would take the incoming call. "Janeway here, Commander. How goes your search?"

"Captain, there's been a rockslide. I need an emergency beam-in to Sickbay for myself and Lieutenant Paris."

"Acknowledged." Janeway knew better than to quiz him on Baxter at the moment. A knot in her gut told her that it was probably already too late for the young man.

Turning to her Operations officer, she instructed, "Mr. Kim, get them to Sickbay. Then alert B'Elanna that Tom's been beamed in. Tuvok, you have the Bridge. I'll be in Sickbay."

Harry Kim, heart thudding in his chest at the thought of Tom Paris being seriously hurt, performed the beam-up from his station. Then, after a deep steadying breath, he hailed B'Elanna. Harry couldn't help thinking how unfair this added complication to his friends' lives was. Tom and B'Elanna had finally admitted their feelings for each other and had been sharing quarters for the past several months. Harry had never seen either of them as happy and settled as they had been since finding each other. He hoped that happiness wasn't about to be marred by tragedy.

B'Elanna Torres, in the midst of a dicey repair job in Engineering, was not amused when her commbadge chirped, breaking her concentration. Angrily slapping at it, she snarled, "What is it?!"

Harry Kim's subdued voice came over the link. B'Elanna supposed she should be grateful it hadn't been the Captain she had snapped at. Something in his voice alerted her to trouble though.

"What is it, Harry?" she asked in a gentler tone of voice.

"There's been an accident on the away team, B'Elanna. I've just beamed Tom and the Commander to Sickbay. I don't know how bad it is."

B'Elanna was out of Engineering and headed for Sickbay before Harry completed his message.

Chakotay and Janeway stood off to one side, watching worriedly while the Doctor and Kes worked over Paris. He lay unconscious on the biobed. He had not been fully alert since the accident and the Doctor now seemed to be alarmed by his unconscious condition.

The door to Sickbay opened and B'Elanna Torres flew in. She went immediately to Tom's side. Chakotay expected to hear the Doctor brusquely tell her to get out of the way. Instead, the Doctor took B'Elanna's hand, placed it on the side of Tom's face and told her, "Talk to him, B'Elanna. We're losing him. Perhaps a familiar voice will bring him back."

Chakotay held his breath. This was serious. From the Doctor's tone of voice, it was clear they stood a very good chance of losing Tom. He felt Janeway's body tense beside him. B'Elanna's distress reverberated through Sickbay. Powerless to help her, Chakotay could only stand there helplessly and hope for the best. Despite his initial reservations, he had to admit that Paris had been good for her. They both deserved better than this.

B'Elanna leaned down so that her mouth was near Tom's ear. "Tom? Tom, it's B'Elanna. You need to wake up. Can you open your eyes and look at me? Come on. I know you can do it." She glanced up at the Doctor. He shook his head, indicating there was no change in the readings.

"Talk to him, B'Elanna," encouraged Kes softly. "Talk to him as if you were alone in your quarters. Just the two of you."

B'Elanna nearly blushed. They wanted her to talk intimately to him, in front of everybody? She frowned. Kes did have a point. It was the one thing that just might get through to Tom, and she wanted him back, no matter what it took.

Bending in so close her lips were nearly touching him, she softly said, "Tom Paris, don't you dare leave me now. I love you. You know that. We're happy together. Don't you go and ruin that. We've still got too much to do. Too much to see. Too much to discover about each other." B'Elanna closed her eyes, her fingertip caressing the side of Tom's face from temple to jawline. "Please, don't leave me," she whispered. "Not you too."

Tom stirred slightly then stilled again.

"Keep talking to him, B'Elanna," encouraged Kes. "It's making a difference."

"We're losing him," stated the Doctor tersely. "Blood pressure is dropping. Kes--" The Ocampan medical assistant was already there with the necessary items, having anticipated the Doctor's request.

Trying to ignore what was going on around her and the Doctor's increasingly frantic efforts to save Tom's life, B'Elanna leaned in close once more. She touched Tom, letting him know she was there; she whispered to him; she tried cajoling him into some sort of reaction; she begged him to wake up; and finally--

Janeway and Chakotay nearly jumped out of their skins when B'Elanna suddenly straightened up, her raised voice twanging uncomfortably against the already tight thread of tension that permeated the room. Her eyes fierce, voice angry, she was practically yelling at Paris.

"Damn you, Tom Paris! I do not give you permission to die on me! We've got too much to do. We have a future! Together! We-we have to get married--"

The others in the room would never know if B'Elanna suddenly cut herself off because she was shocked at what she had just said or because Tom Paris chose that moment to return to them. Everyone held their breath as his eyes opened.

He struggled to speak but ended up gasping in pain instead. The Doctor pressed a hypospray to his neck. The relief the medication afforded took effect almost immediately. Tom's eyes closed once more while he took several shallow breaths. Finally, he spoke. "B'Elanna?" His voice was weak but clearly heard in the tense silence.

"I'm here, Tom. Right here."

Another long pause followed as Tom tried to get his bearings. The pain was manageable now but he felt as if he could sleep for a hundred years. He finally forced his eyes open to gaze at the woman at his side. "Did you just propose to me?"

B'Elanna bit at her lower lip before replying. "I suppose I did," she admitted.

"Okay." He let out a soft sigh, his eyes closing once more as he drifted off to sleep.

"Wait a minute! What do you mean okay?"

B'Elanna watched as Tom fought to open his eyes once more. He was bone-weary; she could see that, but there was still a faint glimmer of the playfulness that frequently resided in those eyes. "Okay," he repeated, then added, "I'll marry you." No longer able to fight the weariness that overwhelmed him, he fell into a deep sleep.

"No! Tom!"

"It's all right, Lieutenant," the Doctor assured her. "He's merely asleep now. While his injuries are quite extensive, we do have him stabilized for the moment. Barring any unexpected complications in the next few hours, I believe he will make a full recovery."

Breathing a sigh of relief, B'Elanna looked down at the hand she hadn't been aware she had been gripping until now. Tom's hand in hers. He had squeezed it slightly before falling asleep, as if to reassure her.

Janeway motioned for Chakotay to join her outside Sickbay as the Doctor began repairing the damage the rockslide had done to Paris' body. Once the door had closed behind them, she asked, "Baxter?"

Chakotay shook his head. "He didn't make it. We'll need to retrieve his body."

They both fell into silence as they made their way down the corridor. Finally, Chakotay broke it by saying, "Sounds like you'll have a wedding to perform in the near future."

Janeway smiled. "Assuming Mr. Paris doesn't change his mind once he's got his wits about him."

"I don't know," replied Chakotay doubtfully. "He sounded very sincere. For that matter, so did B'Elanna."

"I'm pleased for them," Janeway said with a maternal smile.

"I never thought I'd hear myself saying this," said Chakotay, "but so am I. They've been good for each other."

"I must say," admitted Janeway, "it surprised me when they decided to move in together. Especially so soon after that incident. It did draw them closer . . . " She trailed off, remembering the tense couple of months following Vorik's pon farr. Everyone had been aware of the tension between the ship's pilot and chief engineer. They had not been hostile toward one another. Just the opposite in fact. They had gone overboard in being cordial to one another. Then the "incident" as she and Chakotay had come to call it happened.

It had been a stressful time for all involved but the end result had been that it had forced Tom and B'Elanna to admit they had feelings for one another. Feelings that involved more than a simple flirtation. Janeway had been pleased at that, but it had caught her by surprise when Chakotay had arrived in her ready room one morning and tossed a PADD on her desk. Curious, she had looked at it and discovered that Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres had put in a request for single quarters for the two of them. Chakotay's voice brought her back to the present.

"You just didn't expect either of them to make that kind of commitment so quickly," Chakotay finished for her.

"Exactly," agreed Janeway. "They're both rather loose cannons in their own unique ways."

"Maybe that's what drew them to each other," suggested Chakotay.

Reaching the turbolift, Janeway turned to face her first officer, saying, "Why don't you go change into a fresh uniform, then meet me in my ready room? You can give me an official report of what happened down there."

Chakotay hesitated. "Captain, I'd like to be the one who goes down to retrieve Baxter."

"Chakotay, his death wasn't your fault."

"I know that. I just need to see this through."

"All right. Take Tuvok with you. We'll go over the details later."

Tom snuggled down in bed, wanting nothing more than to sleep for a good while longer. He reached out beside him, feeling for B'Elanna. When he didn't encounter her presence, he opened his eyes, squinting in the bright light. This wasn't his bed. It wasn't even his quarters. Where was he? Then he remembered. The away mission. The rockslide. Sickbay. B'Elanna.

He tried to move and numerous aches and pains made themselves known. Groaning softly, he shifted onto his back.

"Take it easy," cautioned a voice. His eyes found the owner of the voice. B'Elanna. His B'Elanna.

"Hi there," he said softly.

She took his hand in hers, bringing it to her face. "Don't ever do that to me again."

Tom was confused. "What?"

"Scare me like that. We nearly lost you, Tom."

"Hey, I tried to outrun the rocks. They were a tad too fast for me."

"That isn't what I meant."

Now he really was confused.

"You gave up, Tom. You almost didn't come back to me." Her voice was accusatory and Tom could hear the underlying anger, but looking into her eyes all he saw was fear.

He removed his hand from hers and tenderly stroked her face, pulling her down for a kiss. "I'm sorry. It wasn't intentional; I assure you."

"Just don't do it again," she murmured against his mouth.

"I'll try my best."

They kissed again, savoring the taste of each other, both knowing how close they had come to losing that.

"I see our patient is awake." The Doctor rudely inserted himself in their private space, ignoring their exasperated looks. B'Elanna moved back, but Tom grabbed her hand in his, making sure she didn't go far.

"Well, Lieutenant," said the Doctor conversationally, "you were very lucky. Severely fractured skull. Broken ribs. Your spinal cord was fractured in two places and pressed forward into your rib cage. None of which should have been life- threatening. However, the combined effects of your injuries were nearly more than your body could handle."

Tom didn't like the sound of that. He wiggled his toes experimentally, just to be sure everything was working. They moved, much to his relief. B'Elanna squeezed his hand reassuringly.

"Thanks to my medical expertise," the Doctor continued, "you will be fine. Lieutenant Torres was also a great deal of help."

"Me?" asked B'Elanna, surprised the Doctor's ego would recognize anybody else as possibly having been of assistance.

Looking up from his examination of the patient, the Doctor said, "It's well documented that individuals near death have managed to fight their way back from potentially mortal wounds by the power of loved ones alone. Mr. Paris obviously heard you speaking to him. You are what brought Mr. Paris back to us, Lieutenant. I merely provided the medical expertise to keep him here. No small feat, I assure you."

There was a long silence. B'Elanna, not a publicly demonstrative person, still harbored discomfort over having been so open with her feelings for this man she loved in the presence of others. But it had been worth it, she decided. In the end, it had brought Tom back to her and that was what counted most.

Tom's thoughts meandered back to what his fuzzy mind recalled. He had heard B'Elanna's voice. Heard the need in her voice. The fear. He hadn't had a choice. He had to come back -- for her.

"Is the Doctor right?" B'Elanna finally asked Tom. "Did you hear me?"

Smiling, Tom pulled her in closer to him. "When's the wedding?" he asked mischievously.

B'Elanna started to pull away. She had been deadly serious and here he was making jokes about it. As much as she loved him, he still was able to anger her greatly at times. Tom, however, wouldn't allow her to pull away. His expression sobered. "I'm serious, B'Elanna," he told her, his voice soft. "I love you. I want to marry you."

To her dismay, B'Elanna felt her eyes fill with tears. She never cried, and she certainly didn't get weepy over sentimental things. Tom, seeing the tears, pulled her down to him. "Hey, hey," he crooned. "Where's that big bad Klingon who's always giving me hell?" She let out a snort and Tom knew then that everything would be fine. The past several hours were just catching up with her was all.

The Doctor, not sure how to handle this emotional scene, fell back on his usual long-suffering tone of voice. "If there's to be a wedding, you'd better let me see to my patient. The sooner he's out of Sickbay the sooner you can get married."

Pulling away, B'Elanna said, "He's right. You get some rest. I need to go check on Engineering and--"

"I'm wounded, Torres," Paris proclaimed. "Once again your precious engines come before me."

She smiled at the old joke. He grinned back at her. "Go on," Paris shooed her from Sickbay. "Go take care of things. I'll be fine here. I can harass the Doc for awhile."

The EMH's snort indicated what he thought of that, but he said nothing and B'Elanna didn't miss the smile that crossed the Doctor's face. Despite his brusque facade, the Doctor really was quite fond of Tom and she knew he was relieved that his patient was going to recover.

As B'Elanna made her way to the door, Tom's protesting voice caught up to her. "Hey! No goodbye kiss?" She marched back to his bed, firmly grasped him by the shoulders and thoroughly kissed him. Leaving a breathless Paris behind, she exited Sickbay.

Inside Sickbay, Tom grinned at the Doctor. "I think she likes me," he said smugly.

"Doubtlessly so, Mr. Paris," replied the Doctor. "Now, if you'll be still, I'd like to complete my examination of you."

Harry watched B'Elanna enter Engineering. He kept a close eye on her as she headed straight for her office. Something in her demeanor clued him in to the fact that she probably wanted to be alone, but he was her friend and since Tom wasn't here right now, he thought he should make sure she was okay. He followed her into her office.

After the door slid shut and she was in the privacy of her office, it quickly became apparent to Harry that B'Elanna thought she was alone. Her shoulders sagged as she leaned forward over her desk, bracing herself with her hands. Harry felt like a voyeur. He loudly cleared his throat. "B'Elanna?"

She whirled around, clearly taken off guard by the fact that she wasn't the only occupant in the small office. "Get out, Harry," she uttered, her voice tight with tension.

Harry shook his head. "No." He moved forward until he was only a couple of meters from her. He couldn't understand the tension that was emanating from her, unless--

"B'Elanna, Tom's okay, isn't he?"

"Tom's just fine," she practically snarled. "The Doctor assures me he'll be fine. Tom assures me he'll be fine."

"Then what--" Harry shrugged helplessly. He was at a loss at to what the problem was. If Tom was okay, he would have thought B'Elanna would be ecstatic. Instead, she looked as if she wanted to strangle someone. Suddenly all the tension dissipated from her body and she fell limply into the chair behind her desk. Perching on the corner of her desk, Harry softly asked, "What's going on, B'Elanna?"

Her eyes closed and she released a shuddering breath. "I almost lost him, Harry."

He nodded sympathetically. "He's going to be all right, B'Elanna. You have to focus on that, not the what ifs."

"I know. I just--" She stopped, unable to finish.

"You love him," said Harry. "And he scared you. It wasn't his fault, B'Elanna."

"I know that." She frowned.

"How is he?" asked Harry.

"Awake and kicking." She gave Harry a tired smile. "You should stop in and see him. I'm sure he'd appreciate the company." She stared at Harry expectantly, clearly anticipating something from him.

"What?" asked a perplexed Harry.

"I'm just waiting for you to get around to asking me about the proposal."

"Proposal? What proposal?"

At his look of confusion, B'Elanna leaned forward, amazed disbelief on her face. "You mean you haven't heard? I figured it would be all over the ship by now."

"B'Elanna, what are you talking about?"

"I proposed to Tom in Sickbay yesterday."

"You--" Kim stuttered to a stop. He stared at her with wide eyes. As what she said slowly sank in, a huge grin spread over his face. "And what was Tom's reply?"

Slouching back in her chair, B'Elanna shrugged. "Okay."

"Just 'okay'? No romance? No I love yous? No--"

"Harry, we were kind of crunched for time. He was dying and I had to get right to the point."

Harry crossed his arms. "So, now that he's not going to die, are you going to renege on it?"

"Me? What about Tom? Aren't you worried he'll have second thoughts as well?" B'Elanna's tone suggested that was exactly what was worrying her.

"Tom? No. He's crazy about you, B'Elanna. I think the only reason he hasn't asked you to marry him is that he was afraid you'd say no."

She remained silent, apparently lost in thought.

"So, can I go offer my congratulations to him?" nudged Harry.

Standing, she smiled. "Yes. I'm not letting him go now that I've got him back. He's mine, Harry."

"A fact he no doubt rejoices in every night," jabbed Harry wickedly.

"Go see Tom," she laughed, ushering him out of her office, "while I go check on what a mess you've probably made of my warp core."

Kathryn Janeway was extremely pleased to see an alert-looking Tom sitting up in bed when she entered Sickbay. He'd given them all a bad scare yesterday. He still looked very pale, but the light was back in his eyes.

"Well, Mr. Paris," she greeted, coming to a standstill beside his biobed, "you're certainly looking much better than the last time I saw you."

"I'm feeling much better, Captain."

"Don't let him mislead you, Captain," spoke up the Doctor from across the room. "He's still going to require some recuperating time. I won't be declaring him fit for duty for at least another two days, but if he behaves himself, I may release him from Sickbay today."

"Don't let him kid you, Captain," Paris told her, eyes twinkling. "He's throwing me out of Sickbay so he doesn't have to listen to me."

Smiling, Janeway placed a hand on his shoulder. "How are you feeling, really, Tom?"

"I'm fine, Captain," he reassured her. "Little stiff and sore from getting tumbled around by those rocks but otherwise I feel pretty good."

"Maybe you can spend your time the next two days planning a wedding," she suggested, testing the waters to determine if there really was to be a wedding or not.

"That's a good idea," he admitted. "B'Elanna's gonna be buried in her engines trying to make up for neglecting them while she was here with me. Someone's gonna have to do it and we both know that parties aren't exactly B'Elanna's forte."

"I'm very pleased for both of you, Tom," Janeway said. "I hope you know that."

"I do, Captain. We both do." Tom hesitated, his expression sobering. "Captain, I heard about Baxter. I'm sorry."

She nodded, acknowledging what it meant to her to lose another crewmember. Much as she hated to play favorites, Janeway was forced to admit privately that she held a special place in her heart for Tom Paris, and she was thankful that he had survived yesterday's accident. She would have missed him greatly.

The door to Sickbay whooshed open at that moment and Ensign Harry Kim strode in. His face lit up when he saw Tom. Janeway quietly excused herself to let the two friends have some time together. Pausing in the doorway, she looked back, smiling at the two men who had become such close friends. Tom Paris had indeed come a long way since the Alpha Quadrant. She had never once regretted giving him a second chance, and she was damned proud of him. She released the door, letting it slide shut and headed for the Bridge.

Harry, grin still in place, pulled up a seat next to Tom's biobed.

"You're certainly in a chipper mood," observed Tom.

"I just came from talking with B'Elanna."

Tom's gaze darkened. He knew B'Elanna too well. Better than she knew herself sometimes, and he knew this close call had shaken her. "How is she?"

"She's fine," Harry told him. "Don't worry so much." They both smiled, remembering a time when it would have been Tom uttering those words to Harry. "So what's this I hear about a wedding?"

Tom grinned. "She told you about that, did she?" His smile dimmed somewhat. "B'Elanna's not having second thoughts, is she?"

"Do you have any idea how much the two of you sound alike?" said an exasperated Kim. "No, she's not having second thoughts. She's worried that you may have second thoughts, and here you sit worrying about her for the same reasons. You two definitely belong together."

Tom laughed. "I have to agree with you there."

"So, when's the wedding?"

"I'm not sure. The Doc's supposed to release me from Sickbay today. I thought I might start in on some of the preliminary planning until he releases me for duty."

"Let me know if there's anything I can do to help," offered Harry.

"There is one thing." Tom's expression had once more turned serious. "I seem to find myself in need of a best man. Interested?"

"I'd be honored, Tom."

Harry's gaze warmed Tom. A guy couldn't ask for a better friend. He wondered what he had ever done to deserve all this happiness.

"I hate to intrude, gentlemen," said the Doctor, not sounding at all apologetic, "but if Mr. Paris wishes to be released from Sickbay later today, I must insist he get some rest."

Tom shrugged at Harry. "Doctor's orders. Talk to you later?"

Standing, Harry placed a hand on Tom's shoulder and squeezed it gently. "I'm glad you're okay, Tom." A lot of emotion carried over in that simple statement. The two men shared a quiet moment before Harry turned to leave. Harry smiled as he heard the Doctor and Tom going at it behind his back. Some things never changed, he thought as the door to Sickbay slid shut behind him.

Tom stood on unsteady legs. "You'd think I'd been bedridden for a week," he complained, hating this weakness.

B'Elanna slipped a shoulder beneath his. "Lean on me," she instructed. Tom had learned long ago not to underestimate her strength. It equaled his and even exceeded his in some areas. He leaned on her, enjoying the feel of her body next to his.

"No strenuous activity for the next twenty-four hours," the Doctor instructed.

"Could you define strenuous, Doc?" asked Paris mischievously.

The EMH paused a moment to study them closely. Finally, he said, "I believe you will know when you have exceeded your limits, Lieutenant."

Paris grinned. "You're learning, Doc."

The Doctor watched as they slowly made their way out of his Sickbay. Never had he met a more stubborn pair of individuals. However, in retrospect, he had to quickly amend that statement. Voyager seemed to be full of stubborn individuals. It did not make his job easy.

Tom heaved a sigh of relief when B'Elanna lowered him to the couch in their quarters. "You okay?" she asked in concern. He was looking rather pale again.

"Fine. That just took a little more out of me than I thought it would," he admitted. Watching her disappear into their sleeping quarters, he asked, "What are you doing?"

Her voice floated back to him. "Just sit back and let me pamper you tonight, Paris. I don't often pamper you."

"You never pamper me, Torres." Her laughter drifted back to him from their sleeping quarters. Tom loved to hear her laugh. She didn't do it nearly enough to satisfy him.

A few minutes later she came back to where he reclined on the couch. Tom's eyes widened. She was in the white silk negligee he had given her when they had first moved in together. He remembered wondering at the time if she would even agree to wear it. She had surprised him by slipping into it immediately. Problem was, it hadn't stayed on her very long. Tom smiled, remembering that night.

Seeing the smile on Tom's face sent thrills of anticipation through B'Elanna. She set some items on the table next to the couch before kneeling at his feet to remove his boots and socks. Then she slid up to sit on the couch next to him and, undoing the fastener at the front of his uniform, she pulled his tunic off over his head.

"You know," Tom complained, his voice muffled by the top, "it took me forever to get dressed today and now you want it all off?"

"Stop complaining. I'm doing all the work, aren't I?"

As his head popped free of the uniform top, he said, "You've got a point. I'm all yours, Torres."

"Yes, you are," she grinned. Leaning in, she nibbled at his jawline where she had bitten him not once, but twice before. He tensed slightly, partly in anticipation, partly in apprehension. Nuzzling his ear, she softly said, "Don't worry. No bites tonight. I know you're not quite up to that yet."

Eyes closed, he sighed contentedly when her hand found the fastening of his uniform pants and loosened them. He lifted his hips slightly to accommodate her as she pulled the pants down and removed them.

B'Elanna climbed to her feet and stood before him with his uniform pants swinging from one arm as she contemplated his relaxed posture. He rested on the couch clad only in his turtleneck and underwear. A suspicious-looking bulge in the underwear, however, belied his nonchalant attitude.

His eyes lazily slid open to watch her. Tossing the uniform pants aside, B'Elanna moved in. She leaned over him, a hand on either side of his shoulders and kissed him. Tom lay there, seemingly submissive, only his lips matching her movements, but she could feel the life in him. B'Elanna reveled in it, knowing how close it had come to being snuffed out yesterday. His tongue darted into her mouth, dancing with hers.

Breathing heavily, B'Elanna pulled back. "For a sick man, Lieutenant, you perform admirably well."

He grinned wickedly as his eyes drifted shut once again. "You haven't finished undressing me yet."

Smiling, she undid the turtleneck then pulled it up over his head. She then straddled him, playing with the hair on his chest as she planted a trail of kisses from his chest to his forehead. She could tell he was trying very hard to maintain his aloofness but wasn't having much success. He finally growled, grabbed her around the waist and pulled her down on the couch with him atop her.

Then nothing.

"Tom?" His breathing was a bit irregular. Damn, the Doctor had warned her. "Tom, maybe we should--"

"No. Just give me a minute." He rested against her, waiting for the spinning room to calm down. "We may have to do things a little differently tonight," he finally offered.

"Are you sure you're up to this?" She stroked his face, concerned at his pallor.

He bent his head to brush her lips with his. "I'm fine. Really. I just may not be as active a participant tonight as I usually am. Care to ravish me while you have me at your mercy?" he teased.

B'Elanna carefully slid from beneath him. He started to turn over onto his back, but she stopped him. "Stay there," she told him.

Shortly thereafter he felt her hands on his back, covered in a warm massage oil. "This is a once in a lifetime deal, right?" he said drowsily.

Leaning down, she kissed his temple. "You never know."

He sighed in contentment as her hands moved over his back. He didn't protest minutes later when she removed his briefs. Her hands roved over his bare buttocks and down his legs, planting teasing feather-light kisses the whole length of his body.

Her voice in his ear startled him back to wakefulness. "Don't fall asleep on me yet, flyboy. Turn over." Obligingly he turned over onto his back. She smiled at the evidence of his arousal despite his sleepy demeanor. Straddling his legs, she leaned forward to run her hands over his chest, teasing his nipples. Tom reached up and slid the straps of the white negligee off her shoulders, running his hands over her shoulders and down her arms. Eyes closed, B'Elanna shuddered with sensual anticipation as her hands moved down his chest to his hips. Her caress moved in toward his erection but stopped short of touching him.

Sitting up part way to reach her, Tom pulled the top of her negligee down to her waist, revealing her breasts. Smiling, she moved up over him, her body sliding sensuously over his erection and eliciting a gasp from him. Leaning over him, she offered her breasts to him. He cupped them preciously in his hands, letting his thumbs rove over the nipples. Mere inches apart, dark smoky gaze met heated blue gaze. Smiling, she gave him a lingering kiss on the lips before moving off him. Tom started to protest, until her mouth closed over his erection and warmly engulfed him.

Not anticipating that sudden movement, Tom bucked, groaning loudly. She reached up a hand and he grasped it, clenching it tightly in his, their fingers an interwoven reflection of their love. He let out several loud moans as she continued to take him in, her warm moistness enveloping him as she slid her mouth and tongue up and down his length.


He was close. So close. B'Elanna released him before he came. Tugging the negligee completely off, she snuggled in next to him. Kissing and caressing him, she patiently waited for his breathing to even out.

"You're trying to kill me with kindness, right?" he finally gasped.

"No, ecstasy."

"You didn't let me--"

"I'm not done with you yet. Be patient."

"Oh God, you are trying to kill me."

She smirked, but the smirk quickly disappeared when his hand reached down to cup the nest between her legs. She pressed herself against his hand, and his fingers moved inward, teasing her clitoris and slipping in between the already wet lips. In retaliation, B'Elanna's hand moved down to his erection. She stroked him, her movements in time with his until they were both gasping.

Finally, B'Elanna said, "Are you sure you can handle this tonight?"

"B'Elanna, will you quit asking me that?"

"Just checking, Lieutenant." She moved atop of him and took him inside her in one stroke. They immediately fell into their by now well-known rhythm, both ready for this, both of them needing this release.

B'Elanna watched Tom's face. A sheen of sweat beaded his forehead. His eyes were closed and his head thrown back. There was an almost rapturous expression on his face. Then his hands tightened on her hips just before his breath exploded out of him in a loud exclamation as his seed shot into her. B'Elanna was only seconds behind him as she followed him into that sweet abyss of togetherness.

When they both emerged, she was laying atop him, her head pillowed on his chest. Deciding the timing was right for doing this the correct way, B'Elanna spoke softly but clearly.

"Thomas Eugene Paris."

"Yes?" His tone was careful. She didn't call him by his full given name often and then usually only when he was in some sort of trouble.

"Will you marry me?"

There was a long silence. So long that she feared she had made a mistake in asking a second time. Tom's hand caressed her back, moving up to her nape beneath her hair. "B'Elanna, I'm honored you want me. Nothing would please me more than to marry you."

She let out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding until that moment.

"I love you, B'Elanna."

She lifted her head to gaze at him. He cupped her face between his hands, bringing her up to meet his lips. They kissed. A soft gentle kiss, full of promise.

"I love you too, Tom." 

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