Author’s Note (11/00): This was written in October, 2000, for no more reason than to outline what might have happened in Engineering the day the Doctor was there to get photos for his essay, “A Day in the Life of the Warp Core.” According to the teaser for “Juggernaut,” whatever he was doing in Engineering, besides taking photos, was enough to cause B’Elanna to haul off and destroy his holocamera. My bet is it didn’t take much. Rated PG-13 for a bit of strong language.
Thanks to Blue Champagne for thinking up the “Torres pool” and for her permission to use it in this story. As always, thanks to DangerMom for her grammatical attentions.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns it all. Always has, always will. I accept this.
by Diane Bellomo
B’Elanna woke up snarling, which would not bode well for her staff in Engineering that day, nor more immediately for Tom, who woke up next to her.
From past experience, however, Tom knew what came next, and moved his head the instant before her fist slammed into his pillow. Sitting up, Tom twisted to look at her. Her expression was blank and there was no leftover curl to her lip. He raised his eyebrows and she blew out a lungful of air.
“S’okay. What’s up?”
She sat up and slid over next to him. “Nothing, really.” She pounded the bed, not looking at him. “Shit.”
Tom was not about to risk a fight by trying to get her to open up. He had learned long ago that if she didn’t answer on the first try, he should not try again. So instead he just sat there, toying with the edge of the blanket.
After a few moments, she shifted off the bed and padded towards the bathroom.
“The Doctor’s coming to Engineering today with his damnedable camera.” She disappeared through the bathroom door and after a second her nightgown came sailing out, followed by her brown head. “I swear, Tom, if he gets in my way, I’ll rip that emitter off him and toss it straight into the warp core. We work in Engineering, you know. We don’t go around smiling for the camera.” She vanished again and this time he heard water pounding against the shower wall. Over the sound of the water, he heard alto muttering, some Klingon/Standard mix that he did not understand and didn’t ever care to.
Still on the bed, Tom stripped and began counting towards fifty, watching steam begin to rise in the bathroom. At fifty he would either get dressed or… At forty-seven he heard the distinct and familiar growl that was his personal cue. B’Elanna was past her annoyance, at least for the time being. He could not speak for the fate of Engineering – or the Holodoctor, for that matter – but for now she was good to go. Hot water often did that for B’Elanna, and he had just been invited to come soak his head.
Smiling, he slipped off the bed and disappeared into the billowing steam.
* * *
The Doctor arrived almost an hour ahead of the 0700 duty shift, armed with his holographic camera and enough joie de vivre to choke a horse. Sue Nicoletti stopped him at the door and started in without preamble, clearly guarding her chances for an enjoyable day.
“Now listen, Doc, Lieutenant Torres is not going to have as much patience as I will for your little hobby here, so I suggest you take your pictures and get out.”
He bounced on his heels, ignoring her dark tone. “And good morning to you, too, Susan. Lieutenant Torres knows I’m going to be here today. As you know, I will need photos of everyone in Engineering in order to complete my photo essay, ‘A Day in the Life of the Warp Core.’” He finished with a bright smile, anxious to begin.
She resorted to honesty. “Doc, I wouldn’t push it if I were you, okay? You know how the lieutenant can get.”
He waved away her concern. “Don’t worry, Susan, it’s all arranged. Now, how about if you stand right over…there…and smile?” He pointed to a spot left of the roiling blue core in the center of the room and proceeded to walk toward it, pointing to where he wanted her. Susan rolled her eyes and followed him.
* * *
B’Elanna stepped into Engineering, spied the Doc’s holocamera almost right away, and tried to arrange her features into some semblance of pleasantry. It wasn’t easy for her on a good day, and this day had started out pretty darned good. Unfortunately, seeing the camera made her stomachs clench and faded the recent memory of a hot, steamy shower.
Joe Carey looked up sharply from his console. “Uh, morning, boss…uh…” He realized he’d left his sentence dangling and quickly scrambled to get the words out before she got any further into the room. “The Doc just went into your office.”
Her response almost made him wish he was part of the “Torres pool.”
“Right. Thanks.” She made no move toward her office. “Let’s get to work.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He picked up his toolbox and trailed after her, grateful to have diverted trouble first thing in the morning. He absently wondered if Sue had been watching their conversation. If so, she would have seen that she had won the pool for the day. B’Elanna had parted her lips, revealing a line of straight, white teeth. Sue’s standing bet was “first hour.” Half of Sue’s winnings would go, as half of all winnings did, into B’Elanna’s personal replicator account, noted as “general ship surplus.”
The pool itself was pretty simple. If B’Elanna bared her teeth in Engineering, for whatever reason, whoever bet the hour won. Some people bet only a specific hour, like Sue, but most switched every couple of weeks or so, just to keep it fresh.
No one was quite sure if B’Elanna knew about the pool, but they had never heard her question the replicator accounts. On the other hand, neither did her facial expressions ever seem forced nor faked. So it kept them all on their toes, and they wondered if that might be reason enough to suspect B’Elanna knew about the pool.
Truth be told, her crew didn’t care one way or the other whether she knew. She was their half-Klingon surly boss, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Temper aside, she was always fair and many times compassionate, and she worked just as hard (sometimes harder) as any of the rest of them. They loved her for it, and the pool was simply a way of showing it without having to really show it. They knew, of course, that B’Elanna wouldn’t take too kindly to any sort of open display of affection by her crew.
* * *
B’Elanna tried resolutely to ignore the Doctor’s happy buzzing, but it was impossible because he insisted on chatting as he worked, even though he promised he would not. As a result, he was like a locator beacon, and that fact alone was beginning to irritate the hell out of her.
She and Joe had been on their backs beneath a console for maybe half an hour before the Doctor interrupted them with a question about what they were doing. She told him succinctly that they were making a delicate repair and should not be disturbed.
“Very well, Lieutenant,” he agreed brightly, and then went on as if she hadn’t said a word. “Would it be all right if I just took a picture of your legs here?” His question came just as she was shifting to relieve a cramp, and without waiting for permission, the Doctor stepped right between her legs and Carey’s and lifted his camera to his eye. Holographic or not, he still felt pretty real, as he stumbled and fell on her, making it even worse by using her body as a cushion for his camera.
That was it.
She snarled and kicked with both feet, sending him and the camera flying. Scrambling out from beneath the console, she sat up and glared darkly at him, speaking through teeth as clenched as her stomachs. “What did I just say to you? Do. Not. Disturb. Me.” Behind her, she heard something clatter to the floor and Carey sigh in frustration.
She climbed to her feet and stalked around the Doctor to her office, calling back to Carey. “Christ, Joe, just leave it for now. Doctor, get out of here.” The sound of the door hissing softly closed behind her only fueled her ire. She briefly considered stopping right then to design a nice, old-fashioned door that she could slam hard enough to make the walls rattle. Instead, she flopped into her chair, fuming, and glanced at the chronometer on her wall. It was only 0900.
Out in the main engine room, she heard the muffled sounds of the Doctor helping Carey to his feet, but wisely no one approached her office. In an effort to get her mind off what was going on outside her office, she started in on some backlogged paperwork. Knowing the Doctor would ignore her “suggestion” to leave did nothing improve her mood, so her attempts to play catch-up were frustrated by her inability to concentrate on the work before her. Nevertheless, despite her lack of attention, she was finished inside an hour.
With no other option, she stood and walked back into Engineering.
The Doctor was on the floor at the very base of the warp core, gleefully snapping pictures from this angle and that, nattering on about how this was going to be his best photo essay ever and wasn’t the warp core an incredible shade of blue?
He failed to notice Carey’s toolbox, balanced rather precariously on the railing that circled the core. On any other day, this balancing act would not have been a problem. With the Doctor in attendance, it became another matter entirely. As the Doctor shifted his body to try for yet another angle, his elbow hit the corner of the metal support and sent the toolbox plummeting to the floor.
This time the clattering was loud enough to wake the dead and included the various and sundry sounds of sensitive and expensive-to-replicate equipment failing on impact. B’Elanna exploded across the room, stopping just short of the mess on the floor, nostrils flaring, jaw clenched so tight she could feel it behind her eyes.
“Jesus H. Christ on a raft! Get the hell OUT of my engine room! Get out, get out, get out!” She was screaming at him and could not stop herself. In her peripheral, she saw her crew turn almost as one to their stations, becoming very interested in what was going on on their respective screens. This was good enough to remind her of where she was and to gain enough control to cease yelling, but she was far, far from calm. The Klingon in her just could not set aside rage that easily. It never could, and she had yet to figure out a way to get a handle on it, aside from being split in two, which was decidedly not any better. So she stood there, seething, rocking on her heels, hands balled into fists at her side just to keep from physically dragging him out of the place. Except for the usual throb of normal operation, Engineering was quiet.
The Doctor, for his part, never flickered. He simply levered himself off the floor, dusted himself off smartly and raised his chin in her direction. “Lieutenant, I’ll thank you not to speak to me in that fashion. After all, I arranged this a number of weeks ago and you agreed.” He huffed and dusted himself again, then stood glaring at her in a fair imitation of herself.
She forced herself – hard – to speak in a normal tone of voice. “Right. Just get out of my sight, would you?” She spun on her heels and made for the corner furthest from him.
* * *
The final and most assuredly worst altercation came after lunch.
B’Elanna was in a much-improved mood after her meal, as she had shared it with Tom, alone in his quarters. In fact, she felt so good that she had nearly convinced herself she could make it through the rest of the day without actually dismantling the Doctor. That is, until she walked back into Engineering, whereupon her nice mood shattered into roughly a million pieces at the scene before her. Little, tiny shards of nice mood, all over the entrance to her precious engine room.
Not a soul was at their workstations. That was because the Doctor had gathered them all into a big group around the warp core and was waving his arms like he was directing a Broadway musical. Consoles around the outside edge of the room were blinking and buzzing with wild abandon, and it looked like the entire contents of someone’s toolbox was either attached to or being held by one of her crewmembers. Several more of her tools were scattered in what was clearly a specific pattern across the floor in front of everyone.
“No, no, Patrick, not like that, like this,” the Doctor exclaimed, feigning the stance he wanted from the poor man. Patrick Mulcahey tried valiantly to accommodate him and was apparently successful. “Perfect, perfect! Now,” he turned to Vorik and began trying to egg him into a smile, something he had obviously been working on for a while. “Ensign, isn’t there anything you can think of that would allow even a hint of a smile?”
Vorik’s face was blank. “Smiling is for children still unable to control their emotions.” His Vulcan discipline nearly rivaled Tuvok’s.
The Doctor abruptly dismissed him, turning towards another hapless crewmember, handing her a tool and then taking her upper arm and directing her to the location he desired. He stepped back, made a frame with his fingers and sighed dramatically. “All right now, everyone” – and here he looked pointedly at Vorik – “smile!” He reached for his holocamera, but it was not on the railing where he had left it. After a minute’s vain searching, he heard the sound of a throat clearing. All eyes looked up to see B’Elanna, standing against the railing on the upper level with the Doctor’s holocamera raised high above her head.
If Engineering had been quiet before, now it went positively deadly. Even the warp core’s steady thrumming seemed to ratchet back a notch. Before the entire Engineering alpha shift and the Doctor’s horror-filled countenance, B’Elanna opened her hands and released the holocamera to a splintering demise on the floor directly beside him.
She said only one word, in a frighteningly pleasant, even musical, tone, before dusting off her hands and disappearing into the small workroom behind her.