"What the -?!"
Angered to a feverish pulse, B'Elanna Torres felt a clamp on her ankles.
"Who's the hell ... who's out there?!" she shouted, making her anger clear to whomever was pulling the prank.
Suddenly, the clamp became a hoist.
The half-Klingon yelped as she found herself pulled clumsily down the Jefferies tube. Contorting, so she'd land on her feet, she slid through the opening and fell toward the deckplates. Flailing, she fumbled with her inversion stabilizer, but it spun loosely in the air and hit the ground. Two hands firmly clasped under her armpits, steadying her so that she wouldn't follow suit with the Engineering tool.
Infuriated, releasing all of her ire in one fuming sigh, she stared up into the smiling face of ...
... Tom Paris.
Demanding, she barked, "What the hell are you doing?!"
"Getting your attention," came his coy answer.
"I was working in there!" she protested.
Persistant, he kept on smiling.
'You just keep on smiling that same, damn, smug, condescending Paris smile that I'd give anything to slap off your damn, smug, condescending boyish face,' B'Elanna thought. In that moment, she couldn't tell whether his perennial expression enraged or enraptured her.
B'Elanna shook her head violently.
'What am I thinking?'
"What's the matter?" he asked.
Pointing, driving her finger into his chest, she replied passionately, "None of your damn business! Now ..."
She unexpectedly realized she was struggling for words.
"Now answer my question!" she concluded. "What the hell are you doing? And you'd better have one good answer," she warned, narrowing her eyes at him.
Still smiling, he let her go, easing her back into the wall.
"Relax, B'Elanna," he tried.
"Relax?" she asked, incredulous. "You yank me out of a Jefferies tube while I'm in the middle of -"
"B'Elanna," he interrupted, leaning forward slightly. "Relax! This is supposed to be shore leave."
Suddenly, she recognized how close he was standing to her, and she smelled his sweet breath in the air. His breathing, near to her, warm and moist on her face, sent a shudder up her spine ... but, thanks to Klingon DNA, B'Elanna wasn't sure whether or not she was ultimately agitated or ...
"We're not on shore leave, Paris," she challenged, struggling to muster an even sterner sense of irritation in her voice, but why was it, as of late, increasingly so hard for her to be angry with Tom Paris? She pointed toward the floor. "Those crewmembers you shuttled down to the planet's surface are on shore leave, you headcase! In case you hadn't noticed, you and I are still aboard Voyager, serving our tour of duty!"
To his credit, Tom Paris kept on smiling.
With forced anger, she spat, "Must you always have THAT expression on your face?!"
His eyes locked on hers, Paris leaned yet closer. Instinctively, B'Elanna inhaled, for reasons unknown, anticipating that he was going to kiss her, that the ship's lieutenant was going to brush his thin, soft mouth against her full, red lips ...
... but he stopped just short of contact.
Again, she felt his breath on her face.
B'Elanna's heart skipped a beat.
"Okay," he said, discarding the smile, straightening his brow, and focusing intently on her deep eyes. "Okay, B'Elanna, you win. My mistake. Here I was coming down to be the nice guy, to ask you to join me, when our time to head down to Rintella comes."
Fighting a sense of ... attraction ... she shot back, "For what? To become nothing more than one of those famous Paris conquests?"
"Well," he flirted openly, "at least they're famous."
"No thanks," she declined. "I've had lower efficiency ratings I'd rather have my name attached to."
Surrendering, he backed away from her, granted her all of the space she could've wanted ...
... or did she?
"You're right, B'Elanna," he agreed, clearly irritated with her at this point. "You and I are not on shore leave. We're on duty. I should be on the bridge. I don't need to be down here, reaping your insults, even though down here is where I'd rather be."
Challenging, she pushed off the wall, stepping up to her colleague. "And what's that supposed to mean?"
"You're an engineer," he spat, whirling around. He marched in the direction of the main Engineering entryway. "With your efficiency ratings, I'm sure you can figure it out. Isn't that what you're good at?"
The doors hissed open, and he disappeared.
Battling her own emotions, B'Elanna stared at the closed doors. Was it her imagination, or was her heart racing? Reaching up, she touched a hand to the ridges of her forehead and found them laced with the slightest trace of sweat. 'It's Engineering,' she told herself. 'It's always hot in here.'
Focusing on the nothingness of the door panes, she sought out a mental sense of peace, a sense of calm. She tried to wipe all thoughts of the argumentative, skirt-chasing, hotshot pilot from her mind.
Instead, all she found were simple recollections on the sweet scent of Tom Paris's breath.
"Now that I think of it," she said aloud to an empty Engineering Bay, "he does look better WITH the smile."