Title: Number Sixteen
Author: Dusk (dusk@goldserve.net)
Pairing: Tu/P
Rating: PG, humour
Disclaimer: These boys and the ship are all unlawfully borrowed from their true masters, TPTB at Paramount. I make no profit off of this minor infraction.
Summary: Missing scenes from the third-season episode 'Worst Case Scenario' - Seska messes with Tuvok's head.
Comments: Don't you just love reruns? It helps if you've seen the ep - if you haven't, http://www.treknews.com/deltablues/ has a good overview. Feedback always appreciated. Naturally, spoilers for 'WCS'. Anything you recognise was lifted (almost) word for word from that ep.
Posted: VSPS, Infinite Diversity, March 2000
***

"Maybe we can go to the Mess Hall now and let the holographic Neelix burn my arm with a frying pan." Tom replied half-heartedly, cradling his now extremely painful arm in his uninjured hand.

Tuvok gestured for them to move on.

"Your feeble attempts at wit not withstanding, it does appear that Seska has reprogrammed the holographic crew to torture us. I suggest we avoid meeting any more of them."

A comm channel opened. "Seska to Tuvok. I know you can hear me."

"Oh, terrific." Tom muttered.

"I just wanted to remind you that wherever you go, I'll find you."

"I say we try the Jeffries tubes."

"I concur."

He headed off down the corridor. Tom followed a step behind.

"That woman is clearly even more insane than we thought."

Tuvok said nothing. He knew well what lengths 'that woman' would go to. She wouldn't settle for a mere painful death. No doubt she would do everything in her power to make his last hours as unpleasant as possible.

***

A minute later, Tuvok nodded towards a door and glanced cautiously behind them as Tom pressed a key on the panel. The door slid open. Tom stared in no little surprise at the sight that lay behind it. A holographic representation of Tuvok, dressed in Maquis clothing, engaged in a decidedly unVulcan liplock with none other than... one Tom Paris.

The real Tuvok slammed a hand into the panel, closing the door, and proceeded without comment down the corridor. After a second to recover, Tom followed.

"Uh. What....?"

"Needless to say, Mr. Paris, that was not part of my original program."

"Oh, naturally." He grinned. Tuvok ignored him and ducked into a side room. Undoing the hatch, they crawled into the Jeffries tube.

Tom tried to say nothing as each adjoining tube or open hatch provided another bizarrely voyeuristic scene. Tuvok was determined to ignore them. Tom, however, was unable to maintain silence for long.

"Oh, that's a good one." He nodded back down the corridor. "Did you see that one?"

"No."

"You had your hand down my pants."

Tom bit his lip as the muscles in the Vulcan's jaw tightened. They continued crawling through the endless tubes.

"In *that* one, I didn't even *have* any pants."

Tuvok fought the desire to grit his teeth.

"Boy, I had no idea you were so flexible, Tuvok."

No reply.

A few minutes later:

"Inventive, too."

Silence.

"So the rumours about Vulcan anatomy *are* true, then? I always wondered."

A withering glance was Tuvok's only answer.

Tom refused to stay withered.

"Oh, we *definitely* should have gotten *that* one on tape."

They reached a junction, and Tuvok started to climb the ladder.

"No way. No way is that anatomically possible!"

Tuvok hauled himself into another horizontal tube.

"Mr Paris. Will you *please* cease this running commentary? These images are only designed to distract us."

"Oh, come on! You don't find this even slightly weird? Seeing yourself doing... oh my god, something like *that*?" He pointed at the latest image. Tuvok looked at it and raised an eyebrow in spite of himself. He couldn't even *identify* several of the objects. He quickly fastened his gaze back on the tube and moved on.

"Yes, I find it mildly disturbing that Seska spent any time considering my appearance... out of uniform." Tom smirked. "However, that was her plan, and I suggest we treat it as just another facet of her obvious psychosis."

"You know, she got the details wrong," Tom offered with a sideways glance. "But then, it's not like she had any frame of reference, whatever she used to claim. Well, except for the time she broke into my cabin when... but you probably don't want to hear about that."

"You're right; I do not."

"I'm just trying to lighten the mood a bit! Besides, it wasn't *me* she got an eye-full of that time. I think she used that incident as a model for one of the images we just passed, though. The... the sixteenth, I think."

Tuvok's perfect recall brought the scene in question to mind and he paused.

"The sixteenth? Are you sure?"

"Oh, yeah." Tom grinned.

"The one where...." Unable to complete the sentence due to lack of proper vocabulary, he made a few remarkably succinct hand gestures.

Tom nodded.

Tuvok continued down the tube. "I do not believe you."

"Why the hell not?"

"Basic knowledge of humanoid skeletal structure is enough to tell me that it is not physically possible. The one..." he made a one-handed gesture, "... would have broken several bones by the point we witnessed."

"Actually, you're wrong. You just have to be really, really careful."

Tuvok sniffed. "You are embellishing the facts of the encounter, I believe."

"Okay, two ribs and a finger bone. And my back hurt for *weeks*. But it was *really* worth it."

"I am sure it was."

"You still don't believe me, do you?"

"No."

They crawled along in silence for a while and rounded a corner.

"So, Tuvok, anything in the 'Dictates of Poetics' about how to escape from a ship full of insane holograms?"

"Your attempts at humour are hardly constructive, Mr. Paris."

They reached a hatch, and Tuvok keyed in an access code. It slid open, but instead of the explicit images they'd come to expect, they were greeted by a ball of flaming plasma. Evidently the stakes had been upped from simply distracting to actually harmful.

Tuvok braced himself against the sudden heat.

"The controls are jammed. I cannot close the hatch."

"Tuvok!" Tom gestured at an extinguisher hanging nearby and aimed it at the plasma fire. It faded, and he leaned against the side of the tube, slightly breathless.

"Where do you suppose *this* came from?"

Tuvok looked it over. It was certainly not standard issue.

"That is an intriguing question."

"You think she's toying with us? Taking us to the brink of death again, and letting us live, so she can keep torturing us?" Not the brightest of questions. They'd already established that toying with them was *exactly* what she was doing. She could have simply killed them both at the start. But this was a definite change in style.

"I prefer a more optimistic interpretation," Tuvok replied. "It is possible that our shipmates outside the holodeck have learned of out predicament and have found a way to help us by making additions to the program. Such as that plasma extinguisher."

Tom looked at the gun in his hand. "Well, if you want to look on the bright side, I'm certainly not going to argue with you." He put the gun down and moved on.

"If they *do* know what's going on, why just hand us a plasma extinguisher? Why not shut down the hologrid, or change the scenario?" He reached the bottom of the ladder onto the main deck and waited for Tuvok to catch up.

"I would imagine Seska has made it very difficult for anyone to make more than minor changes."

Tom noticed something anomalous. "Take a look at this." They walked over to the screen, which was displaying a message to go to the weapons locker, and agreed to follow the instructions.

The door opened. Holo-Chakotay looked grim.

"Hello, boys. What do you say we go for a little walk?"

***

In the end, of course, they narrowly escaped, thanks to Tuvok sabotaging Seska's weapon at the last moment. It backfired, killing her, and with her death the program ended.

***

Tuvok gave the Talaxian his typical sceptical/disapproving look.

"Mr. Neelix, *if* Mr. Paris and I do create another work of holofiction, I assure you, we will choose a subject much less close to home."

Those present shared a laugh, the relieved humour of a group who came close to losing two of their members. It had been Captain Janeway's idea to retreat to the Mess Hall for a meal break after all necessary repairs to ship systems had been made. It wasn't often they all ate together, but it was unspoken that they all needed to reassure each other nothing disastrous had prevailed.

Janeway looked down as her commbadge chirped.

"Looks like we'd better get back to work, people. Everyone, back to their stations. Except you, Tuvok, Tom. Take the rest of the day off. That's an order," she added as Tuvok began to insist it wasn't necessary. He subsided at a meaningful glare from Tom. Chuckling, she got to her feet, followed by Chakotay and B'Elanna.

Neelix watched them depart. "Well, if you'll excuse me...?" He began clearing away the remnants of the meal and retreated to his kitchen to plan the next one.

Tom looked over at Tuvok and sipped his cooling coffee.

"When it's just yourself, Tuvok, feel free to turn down all the time off you're offered. Some of us less diligent types, however, actually prefer time to recover after traumatic experiences, such as narrowly escaping death at the hands of someone who's been dead for over a year...."

"Noted."

"See, you're not feeling like yourself. You didn't even scowl disapprovingly at me."

"I do not 'scowl'."

"Yeah, you do. I've seen you. Pretty much every time I do something stupid, in fact."

Tuvok considered this. "Perhaps, occasionally," he allowed. "However, saying I do it *every* time is an exaggeration. As is your statement concerning number sixteen."

"Tuvok, was that *humour*? We'll have you laughing out loud, next."

"Merely an observation."

"And on that topic, I've gotta ask you. What was it with those holograms?"

"What was 'it'? Elaborate." There wasn't any need to ask *which* holograms were occupying the Human's thoughts.

"I mean, it didn't occur to me at the time, but those images were programmed in... Seska had no way of knowing you wouldn't be alone when you reopened the file. So, it was done to get to *you*, not both of us. Which bring us to the big question. Why me? Why not any other Maquis or even Starfleet?"

Tuvok picked up his cup, stalling.

"Probably, it was a random choice."

Tom shook his head, and shifted up a seat so he was facing the Vulcan head-on.

"Tuvok, you don't get enough practice at lying to be any good at it. There's a story here, and given that as a result I ended up seeing erotic holograms of myself at every turn, I think I have a right to hear it."

He sighed. "Very well. Do you recall the day you came aboard Chakotay's Maquis ship?"

Tom nodded, pushing his now cold coffee to one side.

"Do you recall what you were wearing?"

"Of course I do." He grinned. "I was dressed to go out drinking and find some poor soul to spend the night with."

"Precisely. It was an outfit designed specifically to attract attention. Seska happened to notice that I was watching you and came to the conclusion that it was for... inappropriate reasons."

Tom looked pleased. "You were watching me?" At Tuvok's raised eyebrow he cleared his throat. "Sorry. Please, go on."

"She confronted me on the matter later, and then persistently insisted I was harbouring secret desires for you from that point on. These holograms were, it would seem, a parting shot."

"Oh. Well, that certainly makes sense, at least for *her*." He considered it for a moment. "So were you?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Were you harbouring secret desires for me?" Tom spelled out.

"That is not the kind of question I am willing to answer, Mr. Paris."

"And *that* is not an answer!" he replied triumphantly. "You were, weren't you? Why didn't you say anything? With all due modesty, a *lot* of people liked that outfit, *and* told me about it."

"It was an official undercover mission. Even *if* I had been... interested... I could not have embarked on any personal relationships. I was effectively on-duty every waking hour."

"You're not on duty right now." Tom said reflectively. "So, we've established that you *did* have secret desires for me. Now we have to ask, do you still?"

Tuvok debated with himself for a moment. "Perhaps," he concluded.

"And are you going to say anything about them this time?"

"Negative."

"Why not?"

Confusion warred with surprise on Tuvok's inexpressive face. "Because the idea is...." He trailed off.

"Is? Is inappropriate? Ludicrous? Insane? Illogical?"

"Yes."

"No, I think it's because you *saying* something might actually lead to something *happening*."

"It might?"

Tom nodded. "It might."

Tuvok leaned back and crossed his arms, apparently considering this. Tom sighed and, standing, walked the few steps to Tuvok's chair.

"You know, Tuvok, you never get anything unless you *ask* for it." He leaned down and kissed him gently. After a moment of surprise, he felt Tuvok respond with uncharacteristic intensity. Allowing himself just a few seconds to enjoy the taste of the other man's mouth, he withdrew a little and waited expectantly.

"An excellent point, Tom. Consider this a request." He drew the Human back down and kissed him again.

"What now?" he whispered against Tom's lips.

"We've known each other for a while, Tuvok. We don't need any of the dancing around. You'd probably find it all illogical, anyway. Now, I for one vote we retire to your quarters and make the most of our time off."

"My quarters?"

"We're in the middle of the mess hall. It really wouldn't do to make a spectacle of ourselves, would it? Come on." Tuvok nodded and got to his feet, and Tom guided him out the door with a hand on his back. They didn't speak until the door to Tuvok's quarters closed behind them.

"You know, that's the first time you've ever called me by name."

"I know." Tuvok slid his arms around Tom's hips and kissed his neck.

"Mmmm. Do it again."

"Tom, I believe we should remove these rather restrictive uniforms."

"No arguments here." He untangled himself just long enough to unzip his jacket and removed it in one smooth motion. The shirt followed suit. As soon as Tuvok was in a similar state of undress, Tom took his hand and guided him into the bedroom, pulling him close and kissing him deeply.

"What now?" Tuvok asked, reluctantly breaking lip contact in favour of eye contact.

Tom smiled widely and ran a hand down to rest on Tuvok's rear. "Now, I am going to prove to you that number sixteen is possible."

"You told me that in your previous attempt you broke three bones. I have no desire to explain to the Doctor how that occurred."

Tom leaned in further and whispered in the pointed ear. "I'm sure all it takes is practice for both of us to emerge more or less intact."

Nearly two hours later, Tuvok allowed a sweaty and thoroughly exhausted Tom Paris to sleep spooned up behind him. He was convinced. Not only was it possible, but with practice it produced no injuries worth mentioning. To make sure, they had practised several times. Maybe they'd test it a few times tomorrow, too. Just to make sure.

[end]



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