by Suz email@example.com
Disclaimer - Paramount owns 'em.
I wrote this little ditty in ninety minutes. I don't know *where* it came from.
She was the first one to arrive. She'd hoped someone else would get their first, and the truth was she'd hung around outside the cafe for half an hour before she decided it was getting too cold for her pride to keep her outside and shivering.
Barging her way into the coffee shop, she tried not to make eye contact with anyone. It was probable that someone had seen her waiting outside for the last thirty minutes. This was stupid. Why did she always do this to herself?
Undoing her mock-leather jacket, B'Elanna shook it off and threw it down on the chair. Aware that she was probably drawing more attention to herself now, she gripped the back of the chair and tried to calm down. It wasn't the people who were drinking coffee who had done anything wrong. *They* weren't the people who had kept her up all night. No, it was that damn kid of hers.
She loved her child, she really did. It was only that some days she could throttle the little monster and only feel vaguely guilty about it. Deciding what she really needed at the moment was a full-caff energy booster, she instead ordered a decaf. Kahless only knew what the caffeine would do to her in this state. Besides, she was still breast feeding.
Sitting down in her chair, she relaxed her shoulder muscles as much as she could and took a grateful sip.
Finally allowing herself the luxury, she glanced around the room. She knew why this place had been chosen of course. It was one of the rare places that actually served real caffeine now. Most used replicators but this cafe had kept to its 'roots'. It also had a homey feel to it. Not so much to get cloying or intrusive, but a comfortable and intimate atmosphere. It was obvious why Janeway had picked it. And B'Elanna was sure that she herself would be having a terrific time...if only she wasn't sitting here by herself.
Sighing, she sipped at her coffee again.
She heard the door open and her lips froze on the rim of the mug. She hadn't seen the newcomer, but she knew without a doubt who it was. Mentally swearing in Klingon, she pulled the mug away from her mouth and placed it down on the table, being careful not to turn around just yet. Okay, she could do this. It was just he was the one person who she didn't want to be sitting alone with right now.
He was slightly out of breath and his voice was a little quiet and uncertain. A tone she'd heard for the first time when they'd started dating, a tone she'd heard for the last time when they'd split up.
Turning and forcing herself to smile happily, she tried not to look tired. "Hiya Tom! Take a seat. Can I get you a drink?"
Clearly not expecting to be greeted so enthusiastically, he rose his eyebrows. "No, that's okay. I'll grab one myself." Smiling tightly he headed over to the counter.
Facing towards the table again, B'Elanna's fake smile vanished as she desperately tried to think of 'safe' conversation topics. Unfortunately nothing that had happened to her lately would really fall under that category. She really should have planned this conversation before she left the house. After all, she'd had plenty of time to think about it.
A familiar black-clad arm appeared in front of her as he placed his drink on the table. Taking off his own jacket, he hung it over the back of the chair opposite hers and sat down. They studied each other, trying to smile.
Slouching back into his chair he entwined his fingers over his stomach. She had to admit that he looked good, if a little older than she remembered him being. "So, what have you been up to?" he asked.
B'Elanna shrugged. "Life. The usual. You?"
Nodding, he disentangled his fingers and picked up his drink. "The same."
Both nodding, they both took a sip of their drinks.
Their break up had certainly been amicable, but she still wasn't quite comfortable around him yet. She honestly didn't know if she ever would be. She *should* be, really. They'd been through a lot together.
Once his cup was moved from his lips, he spoke again. "How's Elise?"
Swallowing the warm liquid, she gave him an expression that was somewhere between a frown and a smile. "Tiring. But adorable. She's quite a handful."
He grinned. "Kids usually are."
B'Elanna's eyes widened. What would he know about that?
Tom laughed, the first genuine emotion he'd displayed since sitting down. "I've been about a bit B'Elanna."
Ashamed, she frowned. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to suggest that-"
He held up his hand. "Nah, it's okay."
Well, she was embarrassed now, but she told herself firmly it could be a lot worse. He hadn't mentioned Chris yet, and in her mind that was a bonus.
Tom opened his mouth and somehow she knew what was coming. "I was sorry to hear about you and-"
"Hello Tom, B'Elanna!"
"Mr Paris, Ms Torres."
Neelix and Tuvok had arrived together. B'Elanna didn't know if she should be surprised or not, but she was most definitely grateful.
As she and Tom welcomed them, Neelix rushed over to hug them both. Tuvok merely sat down to B'Elanna's left, his back towards the window.
Continuing to fuss over his friends, Neelix asked if anyone wanted a drink. Tuvok ordered a herbal tea, and Neelix decided to get a 'Janeway special' for himself - no sugar and lots and lots of caffeine. Pretty soon he was glassy eyed.
The usual pleasantries were exchanged, and the small talk started. Tuvok informed them that contrary to popular belief he and Neelix were *not* living together. He still lived with his wife and had happened to bump into the Talaxian on the way to meet everyone.
Neelix laughed at that. "'Bumped into' is right! I spotted him from across the street and apparently he didn't hear me calling him as I had to run over to him to get his attention. Unfortunately he stopped a little short and I knocked him over." Grinning, he quickly changed the subject as Tuvok didn't look very happy at having that story told. "So B'Elanna, tell me everything about Elise!"
She did, with a lot more exhuberance and detail than anything she had told Tom. It wasn't intentional, but the truth was she felt safe around Neelix. If he noticed he didn't say anything, so while B'Elanna and Neelix talked about Elise, Tom and Tuvok started talking about Tuvok's family.
"She is well, as are my children, my grandchildren, and the rest of my extended family."
The human blinked. "What was all that detail for?"
"You were about to enquire as to the health of the rest of my family, were you not?"
Tom shrugged. "Well, yeah. Why?"
Tuvok rose an eyebrow. "I thought it best to save ourselves that particular portion of 'small talk' so that perhaps you would like to discuss what is bothering you."
Tom frowned. "Sorry?"
"Since my arrival I have noticed that you have spent an inordinate amount of time staring at Ms Torres."
Thanking whatever Gods that existed that B'Elanna was too enthralled with her conversation to notice, he grinned uncomfortably and leant forward so he could speak quietly. "Subtlety was never your strong point, Tuvok."
The Vulcan didn't reply, waiting for his companion to continue.
Sighing, Tom rubbed his hands over his face. "It's just...she looks so good, if tired. And I can't help wondering exactly what happened between her and Chris. And...there are times you know, when I look at her and I wish-"
"-you were back on Voyager?" Tuvok interrupted.
"Yeah," Tom laughed quietly "silly, huh?"
Tuvok considered his words. "While it may be illogical to want something you cannot have, I believe I understand."
Tom looked at him, *really* looked at him. "Yes, you do, don't you?"
B'Elanna's voice butted in. "Hey, what are you two whispering about over there?"
"Oh, nothing of any importance," Tom reassured her.
B'Elanna looked at Neelix and gave him an expression that read 'Uh hu'. Neelix grinned.
Everyone turned to see Harry smiling at them.
Walking closer Harry patted Tuvok on the shoulder, leant down to hug Neelix and B'Elanna. Then he reached Tom. He held out his hand. "Tom,"
"Harry," he replied, and shook his hand briefly before letting go.
As Harry went to get himself a drink, Tom looked dejectedly back at the table. Neelix couldn't stand it.
"You should talk to him Tom. It's been nearly a year now."
Shaking his head with a smile, Tom spoke. "It's not that Neelix. Speaking's the easy part."
It was B'Elanna who spoke next, surprising everyone. "But forgiving isn't?"
Tom openly stared at her, and for once she allowed him to. "Something like that," he admitted.
Harry returned and sat the other side of Neelix. "How is everyone?"
A general concensus of 'fine' was declared and then everyone seemed to loose their voice.
Dammit. Swallowing his pride, Tom closed his eyes briefly as he spoke. He did his best to sound care free. "So Harry; how's Jenny?"
"She's...fine," Harry replied, shocked that Tom would be the one to bring the inevitable subject up. "She talks about you occasionally."
Tom nodded mostly to himself. "That's good."
Everyone took a sip of their drink.
A newcomer approached their table. "I apologise for being late, but an emergency arose that required my attention."
Seven of Nine had arrived.
Only she didn't look like Seven of Nine anymore. At the moment she was dressed in a functional green trouser suit, and her hair was half tied up, the rest flowing freely across her back.
Ordering herself a drink, she sat next to Tom. "Has the conversation reached a lull?" she asked bluntly.
Neelix piped up. "Of course not! How are you Seven? How's work?"
"I am fine. My work is fine. It is sufficiently challenging."
"It must be interesting to keep an ex-Borg challenged." B'Elanna suggested.
"I would concur," Tuvok agreed.
Tom and Harry avoided looking at each other.
Shaking her head slightly, B'Elanna contemplated ordering a new round of drinks just to break the mood. There were times when she really wished she was back on Voyager.
And then the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. Shivering, she reached up her right hand to rub the affected area.
They apparently noticed. "Are you alright B'Elanna?"
Her hand still rubbed over her neck. "I'm fine, just a little cold-"
Without knowing why, her eyes were drawn to the window behind Tuvok.
She blinked, double-checking that she was seeing what she thought she was seeing.
*They* were kissing. They *were* kissing. They were *kissing*!
Her hand froze. "Hey guys..."
They all looked where she was looking.
A collective dropping of shocked mouths occured. Except for Tuvok and Seven, who rose their eyebrows.
On the other side of the window, Janeway pulled away from Chakotay and started fiddling with the top of his coat. Smiling down at her gently, Chakotay placed his hand over hers which instantly stilled. He said something that made her look up at him and grin and...was she giggling?! That wasn't possible. Kathryn Janeway could *not* be giggling. She couldn't be blushing either, but her cheeks were growing noticably redder.
Apparently standing on tiptoe, she reached up and quickly kissed him on the mouth before squeezing his hand and moving towards the entrace of the cafe.
Before they walked in, Tom spoke. "You know, I think I'm glad that we're back home."
B'Elanna smiled at him, freely. "I think I am too."
And then they turned to greet their friends
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