Chapter 1: Prologue
“Do you ever think we should just stop doing this?”
She’s stretched out beside him, arms laid above her head and her wrists crossed, just as he’d positioned them. Her breathing is still erratic and her bright hair tossed across the pillow like a banner.
As his words echo in the quiet room, she pulls the sheet up to cover her breasts, rolling onto her side to face him.
“I hope you’re not about to tell me it wasn’t good for you.”
Her acid tone makes his newly emptied balls shrivel, but he supposes he deserves it. It’s not very good form to blurt out the first overtures to a break-up while his come is still dripping out of her.
“I mean, we need to talk,” he ventures, fidgeting.
She studies him for a moment. Then she tosses back the sheet and manoeuvres upright. He tries not to ogle her as she moves around his bedroom collecting the pieces of her uniform. Her movements are lithe, fluid, economical, and she’s naked – fine-boned, narrow-hipped, surprisingly full breasts. His cock twitches – a Pavlovian response, even as drained as he is.
She’s fully dressed before she turns to look down at him, still fixing her hair as she speaks.
“We don’t need to talk,” she says around a mouthful of hairpins. “Either of us can call it off anytime, no questions asked. That was always the deal.”
“I know, but –”
She cuts him off with a raised hand. “Computer, are there any crew in the vicinity of Lieutenant Paris’ quarters?”
She turns to leave without another word.
“Wait,” he calls, “Cap- … Kathryn,” but it’s too late. She’s gone.
Groaning, Tom flops back onto the crumpled sheets, surrounded by the heady aroma of sex and her.
He probably could have handled that better.
Chapter 2: Panic stations
Warning: discussion of post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks.
April, 2371 – Fourteen months earlier
Tom’s been avoiding small spaces since he was a kid, and prison has done nothing to cure him of his claustrophobic tendencies. Problem is, now that he’s out, there’s something terrifying about not having a wall at his back. As for leaving Earth’s atmosphere … Well, he has no intention of ever returning to home soil. As soon as he’s bullshitted his way through Janeway’s good graces he plans to disappear into open space.
It’s just that space is so big.
They’re approaching Deep Space Nine and he’s sweating, running a finger inside the suddenly-too-tight collar of the rankless Starfleet uniform that was tailored to his exact specifications this morning. He’s flirting with the shuttle pilot to take his mind off how nervous he is, but twenty-two months in Club Fed has left his delivery inept and his timing way off.
She can tell, of course, this Lieutenant Stadi. She’s Betazoid; she can see right into his soul. He knows this because she’s giving him exactly the response he needs, reflecting amused disinterest, as if he’s just some ham-fisted guy she met in a bar. A guy with no history and nothing to live down.
Tom wishes he could tell her how grateful he is, but of course, she already knows.
“That’s our ship,” she says, smoothly ending his lame chat-up attempts. “That’s Voyager.”
She starts rattling off the ship’s specs, but Tom is only half-listening. Too busy picturing himself at the helm, fingers confident on the controls, pips on his collar.
Too bad he’s screwed up any chance of that ever happening again. Still, at least his father will have the satisfaction of knowing he was right all along: Tom Paris will never amount to anything.
They dock, and Stadi escorts him to his assigned quarters on the far side of the habitat ring. He tosses the kit bag containing his meagre belongings on the bed and pretends to be unimpressed. “So this is where they stash all the paroled convicts, huh?”
Her smile tells him he hasn’t fooled her one bit. “We’re scheduled to depart for the Badlands on stardate 48305.1.”
“Three days from now?” Tom frowns. “What’s the hold-up?”
“Some of the crew is still en route from other postings,” Stadi explains. “And Voyager just returned from her shakedown cruise. The engineering team needs to make some repairs.”
“What happened?” he asks.
“You can access the replicator for food and personal effects,” Stadi continues instead of answering his question. “And you’re free to move about the station until we leave –”
“What, no ankle monitor?” Tom raises a sarcastic eyebrow. “No babysitter? What if I steal a shuttle and take off through the wormhole?”
“I think you’d find station security more than adequate to stop you before you got anywhere near an airlock,” Stadi says placidly. “If you’d like to access the holosuites or restaurants, most of the amenities are in the central core. Just ask the computer to direct you –”
“No need.” Tom leans back on the bed, hands under his head. “This isn’t my first time on DS9.”
“Captain Janeway would like you to assist us in preparing a flight plan and to go over some of the mission details.” Stadi holds out a padd. “Report to upper pylon two at 1900 hours. I’ll escort you to Voyager.”
“Yes ma’am,” Tom says smartly, taking the padd and tossing it on the bed without looking at it. He grins up at her. “What are you doing for the next few hours? Want to grab a drink at Quark’s, maybe try out a couple of holoprograms? Or,” he leans back on his elbows, “we could just stay right here.”
“See you at 1900,” the lieutenant replies with the faintest of smiles, and turns to stride out of the room.
Tom mooches around his guest quarters for a bit, ordering from the replicator at whim and playing music at top volume and, feeling silly but determined, kicking off his boots to jump on the bed like a child. The combined sleeping and living space measures three times the size of his cell in New Zealand, but even so, after an hour he finds himself prowling the perimeter.
It still takes him a further fifteen minutes to steel himself to walk out into the corridor.
The habitat ring is relatively quiet, and the few people he passes glance at his uniform and nod politely. Tom, used to slyly whispered threats and the sharp, vicious dig of elbows when traversing common areas, can’t stop himself from pulling in tight, shuffling flat against bulkheads, but when he reaches the central core that becomes impossible. The promenade is alive, a cacophony of laughter and conversation spilling out of open doorways, the musical trill of gambling machines and the roar of Dabo! as he passes Quark’s. He edges toward the relative quiet of the replimat, navigating clusters of alien visitors, slinking past uniformed Starfleet officers and Bajoran militia with his head ducked low.
It’s overwhelming. His heart is trying to pound its way out of his chest, hands clammy and shaking. Why didn’t he realise this was going to happen to him? Has prison screwed him up forever? How is he going to survive this moment, the next hour, the rest of his life?
He’s no stranger to panic attacks and he knows he has to get out of here, right now, before he passes out or curls up in a ball right here on the promenade. Tom ducks into the next doorway he sees, eyes closed, hugging the wall as he tries to swallow down the nausea.
“Breathe,” he hears someone say, “just breathe,” and then there’s a hand against his shoulder blade and he shudders, eyes screwed shut, waiting for the hand to press his body flat to the bulkhead, every muscle tensing in fear of what always happens next.
But there’s no pressure, no hard weight against him. The hand is removed and a moment later he hears the soft chirp of a medical tricorder, and all the while there’s the voice, calmly reminding him to breathe, telling him everything is all right, telling him he’s safe here.
Gradually Tom stops shaking, his breathing slows, and he leans his exhausted forehead against the wall and opens his eyes.
“Sorry,” he mutters, rough and almost unrecognisable.
“There’s nothing to be sorry for,” says the voice, which Tom now recognises as human, male, with an accent that reminds him of his sister Moira’s teenage obsession with period holoprograms, all drawing rooms and corsets and stately dances.
He can’t help a small smile at the memory.
“Feeling better?” the voice asks.
Tom considers it. “Yeah,” he decides, straightening up. “Thanks.”
The voice, Tom sees, belongs to a slender man about his own age and height in a blue-shouldered uniform and lieutenant j.g. pips.
“Julian Bashir, CMO,” the man says. “Would you mind taking a seat? I’d like to take some further readings.”
Tom nods, following him over to the biobed and hoisting himself up. The doctor’s head is bent over his tricorder, which is chirruping quietly.
“Will I live?” Tom jokes, but it comes out sounding flat, almost desperate.
Bashir closes the tricorder and gives him an encouraging smile. “Undoubtedly. Have you experienced panic attacks before?”
“Yeah,” then Tom corrects himself, “I mean, yes, sir.”
“Do you usually take medication for them? I can give you a small dose of improvoline.”
Tom shakes his head. “I’m okay.”
The doctor leans a hip against the biobed. “What’s your name, crewman?”
Crewman, Tom thinks. I suppose it beats inmate.
He looks down at himself in his red-shouldered uniform. Last time he’d worn it, he’d equalled this doctor’s rank.
He has a sudden urge to blurt out everything – prison, the Maquis, Caldik Prime, his father, everything – and bites down so hard on his tongue that he tastes blood.
“Excuse me, sir.”
Tom slides off the biobed and walks out of the medical bay without looking back.
Chapter 3: No strings, no questions
No strings, no questions
Tom spends thirty minutes in the shower, just because he can, orders a fresh uniform from the replicator, gels his hair into submission and reports to the docking pylon.
Stadi is waiting, studying a padd; as Tom approaches she looks up and a slight frown mars her smooth forehead. “Are you all right, Mr Paris?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” he asks, flippant. “C’mon, Lieutenant, show me this ship you’re so proud of.”
Her dark eyes regard him for a moment longer before she turns to enter an alphanumeric code into the access panel. The door rolls open with a solid clang and Stadi waves him through the airlock and onto Voyager.
“This way,” she gestures.
Tom glances around as they move through the corridor toward the turbolift. “I see Starfleet’s still using the same interior designers,” he remarks.
Stadi ignores him. “Deck one,” she orders the lift.
Tom can’t help the way his heart beats a little faster as they rise through the decks. He’s about to step onto the bridge of a Federation starship for the first time in three years. Something he never believed he’d do again.
The lift doors open and Tom steps out, eyes roving around the bridge to take it all in. It’s staffed with a skeleton crew; there’s a lieutenant at ops and a curly-haired ensign at auxiliary engineering, but the other stations are empty, including the helm. He looks at it wistfully, fingers itching to touch those controls, feel the power of the now-dormant engines purring like a tiger only he can tame.
“Yeah,” he says. “Coming.”
He follows Stadi down the curving ramp and across the command level. She presses the panel beside a door, which slides open to reveal a large, comfortable ready room.
Captain Janeway is perched on the edge of her desk, slender and lithe in the uniform that somehow looks svelte on her. The heels on her boots are punishingly high; bare-footed, he suspects, she’d only come up to his chin, although that hairstyle might add a couple of centimetres.
Not for the first time, he feels a vague sense of recognition when he looks at her, but it’s nothing he can pin down. Maybe he met her at some Starfleet function once. Or maybe it’s just that she’s the kind of woman he’d look twice at.
The captain has a padd in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, desktop monitor turned so she can carry on a subspace conversation with a dark-haired woman who resembles her. She looks up as Stadi and Tom enter, then turns to address the woman on the monitor.
“Phoebe, I have to go. I’ll comm you before we leave for the Badlands, okay? Janeway out.”
The screen displays the LCARS interface for a few seconds, then begins to rotate through a series of images, most of them picturing a rugged-looking, grey-haired man with an Irish setter. One or two feature Janeway as well.
Tom only realises he’s staring at the pictures when Stadi clears her throat to get his attention.
Janeway is still leaning against her desk. She sips from her mug, concealing her upturned lips. “Are you with us, Mr Paris?”
“Yes, sir.” He assumes the at ease posture.
“Captain will do,” she corrects him, leaving the empty mug on her desk and ushering them up to the seating area by the viewport. “Have you studied Lieutenant Stadi’s proposed flight plan?”
“And?” She sits, crossing her legs, eyebrows arched.
He lowers himself to the bench beside her. “It’s a sound plan, Captain, but when it comes to the Badlands you might as well throw the rulebook away. The plasma storms are highly volatile. One good burst and you’ve lost navigation, deflectors, the works.”
“What do you recommend?”
“Aside from assigning a pilot with experience in the region?” One glance at the steel in her eyes and he abandons that tactic. “I recommend employing a spiral search pattern as you approach the asteroid belt. That should give you time to map the gravitational eddies and hopefully avoid the worst of the plasma storms while you scan for warp particles.”
“Lieutenant?” Janeway doesn’t take her eyes from Tom as she addresses her helmsman.
Stadi is tapping calculations into her padd. “Mr Paris’ suggestion would seem to give us the highest safety margin.”
“Work with Mr Paris to adjust your flight plan,” Janeway orders decisively. “I want the revisions filed by 1400 tomorrow.”
“Right away, Captain.” Stadi rises. “Mr Paris?”
“Tomorrow, Lieutenant,” Janeway interrupts her firmly, smiling. “I’m well aware I cut your leave short for this mission. Go get some rest. You two can start working together in the morning.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
Tom stands, nods at Janeway and trots after the Betazoid lieutenant.
“I didn’t dismiss you, Mr Paris.”
Something about that curling, husky voice sends a prickle down his spine. He turns to face her again as the door slides silently shut behind Stadi.
Janeway uncrosses her legs and rises, moving leisurely toward him. She stops at the edge of the upper level – right up close, eye to eye with him where he stands two steps below her – and puts her hands on her hips. Her full attention is on him. He’d call it a clinical appraisal if it weren’t for the way she drops her gaze to his mouth, then drags it back up to his eyes.
This close he can smell her perfume, jasmine and a hint of spice, and her lipstick and whatever she uses to keep her hair coiled up in that bun. She smells exotic, feminine, and he thinks about how long it’s been since he was last with a woman and how much he’s missed it, missed the smooth skin and pliable curves and softness of it. He hasn’t failed to notice Janeway; he’d been overwhelmed by her, in fact, when she showed up in Auckland, to the point where he flirted with her outrageously, almost satirically, to hide just how strongly she affected him. But since then, he’s managed to categorise her not as woman but as captain, placing her firmly out of bounds.
Or so he’d assumed.
Whatever she reads in his eyes as these thoughts tumble through his mind seems to please her. Some of the command starch goes out of her stance and her features soften in a smile. She lays one hand in the middle of his chest and asks warmly, “Have you eaten yet, Tom?”
Tom? he thinks, and although he’s been snacking since he discovered he had unrestricted replicator access and is not at all hungry, he finds himself shaking his head no.
“Join me for dinner, then,” she says – not quite a question, not quite an order – and with a hand looped through his elbow, she guides him out of the ready room, across the quiet bridge and into the turbolift.
The captain’s private dining room is sparse and neutral – typical Starfleet – but Janeway leads him to sit by a viewport that looks directly out onto the wormhole, swirling blue and orange each time it opens. The table is laid with flowers and candles, and it brings Tom up short.
Everything he’s been telling himself about this dinner since she issued her invitation – it’s just a gracious captain taking pity on the son of her mentor; I served with your father on the Al Batani – is turned upside down and inside out by the undeniable intimacy of this setting. But then, Janeway has kept him off balance since she appeared at the penal colony and threw him a lifeline. Maybe, Tom decides, he just needs to roll with the punches.
“I don’t suppose they fed you terribly well in Auckland,” she says as they settle into their chairs and a silent crewman appears to whisk napkins over their laps. “You’re not vegetarian, are you?”
“No, Captain. I’m a big fan of red meat.”
“Good,” she murmurs, watching him over the rim of her wine glass as their server places dishes before them. “I hope you like your steak rare.”
She dismisses the crewman and Tom, despite his lack of hunger, eats with gusto until he realises she’s still watching him.
“Sorry,” he mumbles, swallowing. “Prison did nothing for my table manners.”
“Oh, I don’t mind a man with a few rough edges.”
The seductive timbre in her voice makes him lay down his knife and fork. She’s half-smiling, fingers playing lightly over the stem of her glass. He notices she’s barely touched her own food.
She’s still buttoned up in uniform, but something about her languid pose in the half-light makes him picture her wearing a lot less. He watches her lick her lips as she holds his gaze.
Fuck it, Tom thinks, fortune favours the bold.
“Best thing for rough edges is friction against a smooth surface,” he says, and grins at her.
To his relief she bursts into laughter, then pushes her plate away and rests her elbow on the edge of the table, chin in hand.
“I have a proposal for you.”
Her body language makes it pretty clear that she means proposition. Tom wipes his mouth with his napkin. “I’m listening.”
“One night, no strings, no questions asked. And no obligation. If you decline that will be the end of the matter.”
He’d already figured she was the forthright type, but this is downright blunt. Arousing as hell, too, and right now Tom doesn’t particularly care about anything beyond getting her naked. So it must be some perverse impulse that prompts him to ask, “What about the guy with the dog?”
Her face goes hard. “Are you interested or not?”
No questions. Got it. “Yes ma’am. Very interested.”
“Don’t call me ma’am.”
“Yes … Captain.” He uses his best low drawl while holding her eyes, watches her expression change.
“Maybe you should call me Kathryn,” she murmurs. “Just for tonight.”
“Okay, Kathryn.” Tom reaches for her hand, lacing his fingers through hers, bringing her wrist close to trace his lips across it. Her shaky exhale is the first real sign she’s given that she’s not as coolly composed as she appears.
“My quarters.” She rises, tugging him to his feet as well. “Now.”
The captain’s quarters are one deck down. During the brief turbolift ride and the short walk through the corridor, Janeway doesn’t speak and doesn’t look at him. Tom automatically assumes a deferential posture, slightly behind her with his head lowered, in case they encounter any beta shift crew, but Voyager seems to be running on a skeleton staff while they’re docked with the station.
Nimble fingers enter her security code and she tilts her head to usher him into her quarters, where starlight is the only illumination. She doesn’t call for lights. Doesn’t offer him a drink either, or make conversation. The instant the door is closed, cutting them off from the corridor, she pushes him up against the bulkhead and drags his head down to hers.
He can’t help shuddering as her lips capture his and her tongue slides into his mouth, and it seems to turn her on. Her fingers latch into his freshly-cut hair and she grinds up against him and Tom, breath short and knees watery, is grateful for the wall at his back.
She unfastens his jacket with practised fingers, strips off her own, guides him to pull off his turtleneck and tank. When she cups him through his pants, though, he has to break the kiss, head falling back, grabbing her wrist to still her exploring fingers. “Wait,” he gasps, “Kathryn …”
There’s a mixture of gentle amusement and dawning sympathy in her voice as she asks, “When was the last time you were with a woman?”
That crazy Bajoran bitch in the Maquis, he thinks. And she only screwed me to piss Chakotay off.
“It’s been a while,” he says aloud.
“In that case, let me do this for you first,” and she tugs open his pants as she slides to her knees.
He’s burning hot before she even gets her mouth on him, grinding his teeth and tipping his head hard against the wall in an effort to not humiliate himself. He tries to wind his hands in her hair but is thwarted by pins and complicated coils; he settles instead for stroking her face, half in gratitude, half in apology for the way his hips thrust helplessly as she arches her neck. It’s the rhythmic motion of her throat that does him in.
“Jesus,” he whines, “fuck,” and for a moment he loses both vision and hearing, head swimming as though he’s about to pass out.
When the breath rushes back into his lungs, Tom looks down to see her sitting on her heels, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. She smirks at him. “Feel better?”
He nods, struggling to speak.
Janeway rises, pulling the turtleneck over her head in one smooth motion and tossing it aside. In the standard-issue tank he can see the sharp lines of her collarbones, her long neck, her slim, muscled arms; her skin looks soft, and suddenly he aches to touch it. Hands resting on her hips, she gives him a slow, thorough once-over, and Tom feels himself stir. Her one-sided smile tells him she’s noticed.
“So, Mr Paris,” she says throatily, “what now?”
Chapter 4: What now?
It’s both a challenge and an invitation, and Tom has never been one to refuse either. He reaches for her, wraps his hands around her waist, pulls her soft weight flush against him. Her lips part in anticipation, and although he’d fully intended to kiss her mouth, he detours at the last minute to suck at the skin just under her ear, hard, leaving a mark.
She gasps and melts into him, tilting her head to allow him greater access. Encouraged, Tom bites her gently and feels her shiver. Her fingers are digging into the bare flesh of his back. He curves his hands over her ass, squeezing firmly, then hoists her up to straddle his hips.
“Bedroom?” He nips at her earlobe.
“To your left,” she husks.
Tom makes out the shape of an open doorway by the dim light of the stars. With each step towards it, Janeway clutches him closer with arms and thighs, rubbing her body against his. By the time he reaches the bed, the friction has brought him back to full erection and his hindbrain is begging him to strip her bare and thrust right inside her, but he’s not completely stupid. And besides, he owes her.
He lowers her to her feet and takes her mouth with his, letting his hands roam over her tank, then under it, feeling her velvety skin, tracing the narrow length of her spine. He unhooks her bra and covers her breasts, firm and fuller than her frame suggests; he rubs his palms across her tightening nipples, enjoying the low sounds it pulls from her throat. Eventually her impatience gets the better of her, and Janeway pushes him away to yank off her undershirt and bra.
She’s breathing quickly, nipples hard and mouth reddened. A lock of hair has worked loose from her bun and fallen across her eyes. Tom reaches for her, but she flattens her hand on his abdomen to hold him off, working open her pants with the other and wriggling to shove them over her hips. Tom drops to his knees before she can bend to take off her boots.
She lifts an eyebrow at his authoritative tone but obeys, leaning back on her hands. He pulls the boots and socks off quickly, takes his time easing her pants off, glancing up to make sure she’s watching him. Then he parts her knees and moves between them, brushing his mouth along her inner thigh. By the time he reaches the edge of her panties she’s biting her lip. He breathes on her, hot and moist, licks experimentally on the outside of the satin, and her head drops back on a long exhale.
Smirking, Tom presses her legs closed and tugs at her panties until they’re all the way off. She spreads her thighs again without being prompted. He ignores the implicit invitation in favour of dragging his parted lips upward from one ankle bone, slowing as he reaches her knee and lightening the pressure along her inner thigh. He can feel her tensing as he gets closer to her cunt, can smell her now and his mouth starts watering, God, he can’t wait to taste her, but he forces himself to pull back and press his lips to her other ankle, her calf, the inside of her knee.
He lingers there, and suddenly strong fingers wind into his hair and pull, and he’s staring into smoky blue eyes. “Stop teasing,” she orders, “and do it.”
Tom tries not to smile. “I thought the captain was off-duty tonight.”
She growls at him, but her fingers loosen in his hair and she lets her upper body fall back on the bed. Tom doesn’t waste any time in rewarding her: he leans in and swipes his tongue lavishly from bottom to top.
Kathryn shudders, her breath catching on a moan, and Tom wraps his hands around her hips and dives in.
He flicks lightly at her clit, sucks on her inner lips, pushes his tongue inside her and curls it upward to rub against her clenching inner walls. She’s salty-sweet and soft and drowning-wet, and she’s rocking her hips and making husky little helpless noises, and he wants to make her come, wants to hear how she sounds when she comes, so he moves one hand to press his fingers inside her and licks her quickly, firmly with a flattened tongue.
Her body arches like a bow. She has her hand in his hair, twisting, and he ignores the pain to hold her steady. She whimpers once, then falls completely silent, quaking against his lips as he keeps on licking, slowing his pace as her shudders calm and die away and she floats back down to the bed, her thighs relaxing outward.
“God,” she says finally, roughly, and he nuzzles at her, enjoying the way she twitches and gasps.
He still has two fingers inside her and he’s tempted to work her up again, make her lose control, but he’s so hard he’s rubbing his dick against her bedcovers just to try to ease the pressure, and anyway she’s releasing the death-grip on his hair now and her cool hands are framing his face, drawing his mouth away from her to meet her eyes.
“Come up here,” she says softly.
He kicks off his boots, yanks off the rest of his clothing at warp speed, and moves up between her legs and bends to kiss her; she holds his face in her hands and sucks on his lips, licks thoroughly into his mouth, collecting her own taste on her tongue. It almost shatters his control; he groans and pulls away to wrestle himself back in check.
She doesn’t give him the chance. She pushes at his shoulder to encourage him onto his back and climbs on, straddling him. Her wet cunt is rubbing along the underside of his penis, and he grabs her hips, trying to hold her still. Instead she gives a sinuous twist of her pelvis and he’s inside her, buried to the root.
“Fuck,” Tom yelps, trying not to dig his fingers into the soft skin of her hips. She’s so slick and tight, pulsing so sweetly around him … Focus, he scolds himself, don’t fuck this up –
He’s out of practice, but as it turns out some skills never leave you, and it doesn’t take him long to muster the restraint that used to come so naturally. He holds her steady, guiding the curl and push of her hips until she stops trying to take command and starts trusting him to stroke in and out of her in a rhythm that makes her eyes close and her mouth drop open. He presses a thumb to her clit and she arches her spine and gives a lush, throaty moan, and it’s a sound that stirs the ashes of a long-extinguished memory, or maybe it’s just déjà vu.
Whatever it is, he skips a beat. They lurch out of their rolling cadence; his upward thrust tips her forward, her hands landing on his chest. “What’s wrong?” she gasps.
Tom shakes his head to clear it. “It’s nothing.”
Kathryn sits up and circles her hips, a move as luscious and full of challenge as her drawled, “Prove it.”
And she’s called the shots enough for the moment, he decides. In a move his high school wrestling coach would applaud, he sits upright, wraps his arms around her torso and rolls her under him. She blinks up at him and parts her lips, but whatever she’d intended to say is cut off when he takes hold of her wrists, pulls her arms above her head, and drives his cock into her as deep as he can go.
Her cry is half shock, half rapture. Gratified, Tom rolls his hips and plunges in with enough force to shift her body a few centimetres upward on the sheets. She gasps, struggles a little against his grip on her wrists, but she’s not the first commander to have propositioned him and it hasn’t been so long that he’s forgotten what these controlling types go wild for in bed.
Taking a gamble, Tom leans his weight into his hands and bends to bite lightly at her jaw. When she stops resisting and wraps her thighs around him he knows he’s wagered correctly.
She looks up at him, panting, wide-eyed, anticipatory, and it makes him swell so hard he grinds his pelvis into her. He thrusts again, and again, angling it so that his cock strokes along her front wall and his pubic bone rubs her clit. Eyes glazed, she arches her back, drawing his focus to those creamy, upturned breasts. He drops his head to take a nipple between his teeth and she moans, long and low.
“Fuck me.” The breathy hitch in her voice stiffens him even more. “God, yes, fuck me like you mean it …”
She’s exquisite. He wants to make her scream this time, wants to stamp an impression so vivid and raw that it invades her mind at inopportune moments, makes her shiver with remembered sensation. He wants her to look at him like an undiscovered element or a stellar phenomenon. Something rare; something worthy of her.
But, of course, he’s not worthy to spit-shine her boots. And she doesn’t want him to leave slivers of himself behind, to etch indelible memories under her skin. She just wants him to fuck her, and so he does.
Chapter 5: I served with your father
I served with your father
Her wild, throaty cry is still echoing in his ears as he softens inside her. Tom releases her wrists and rolls to the side, his mind a pleasantly buzzing blank, one hand spread across Kathryn’s taut abdomen.
Their breathing slows in synchronicity.
As the blissful cloud of sexual satisfaction lifts and his strength returns, Tom glides the tips of his fingers over her belly. She quivers a little, and his hand moves down over the sharp rise of her hipbone and into the space between her thighs. His fingers curl to stroke her, liquid-soft and melting, and Kathryn inhales sharply.
Tom hasn’t recovered this quickly for a third go-around since he was seventeen, but then, he’s never before gone so long without sex of the consensual variety. He turns his face toward her, seeking her lips.
“Wait.” She pushes his hand away and sits up. Her hair is falling messily out of her bun and she starts pulling the pins from it, tossing them onto her nightstand, combing her fingers through the tangles. He strokes the long line of her back and around to the curve of her breast, fingering the taut nipple, his other hand lazily pulling at his stiffening cock, and she turns to look at him over her shoulder. Her smile is coquettish and her titian hair flows around her pale shoulders, and that nagging sense of familiarity swells up in him again, so strong he can no longer ignore it.
“I’ve seen you before.” He frowns, trying to tease out the memory.
“I told you.” She twists around to press her body to his, tracing distracting patterns on his chest. “I served with your father on the Al Batani.”
He shakes his head. “No, that’s not it. I remember you from somewhere else – I –”
It hits him, and Tom’s stomach tightens.
“That day in his office at HQ,” he says slowly. “That was you.”
He’s sixteen: old enough for rebellion, still young enough to wrap most of his self-worth in his father’s opinion. Straight from conquering the campus flight simulator, he bursts through the anteroom, ignores the aide’s attempt to waylay him in his excitement, charges into the admiral’s office.
Too late, he remembers the cardinal rule: don’t ever come into my office without permission.
The admiral has her bent over his heavy wooden desk, one hand tangled in her long auburn hair and apparently holding her steady, the other roaming across her hip and waist and curling around her pink-tipped breast. His hips lunge into her, thrusting her forward so roughly that she’s forced to brace her hands on its surface. She’s naked but for the pants tangled around her booted feet; the rest of her uniform – science blue; it’s amazing the irrelevant details he notices in that moment – is scattered across the rug. And she’s young, maybe of an age with his sister Moira.
Tom can hear the scrape and thump of the desk legs on the floorboards, the obscene slap of flesh on flesh, the admiral’s grunts, her sobbing, breathy moans that could be expressing pleasure or pain. They are so engrossed in what they’re doing that they don’t even register Tom’s presence.
Walking out and pretending this never happened doesn’t even occur to him.
“Jesus, Dad,” he shouts. “What the fuck.”
They swing around to stare at him, both rigid with shock; the young woman gasps, bringing one arm up to cover her breasts. She has wide grey-blue eyes, Tom notices, and a smattering of freckles across her chest. He looks from her to his father, who has pulled out of her and is zipping his pants in haste.
The woman clutches for her own pants, the movement exposing her breasts until she turns away. She glances over her shoulder briefly, meeting Tom’s eyes. Coppery hair wafts over her narrow white back.
“What have I told you about barging in here without knocking?” the admiral barks, and Tom’s attention snaps back to him.
“You are such a cliché,” he bites. “Does Mom know –”
Before he can finish, the admiral roars, “Commander Klenman,” and his aide appears at Tom’s shoulder.
“Come on, Tom,” she says gently, steering him away. And Tom lets her, with a last backward glance at the auburn-haired woman, whose head is still turned in his direction and whose arms are wrapped around her thin, naked torso.
He looks at her now, still naked, her hair falling around her shoulders in glorious disarray, faint freckles showing through her makeup. She’s been watching him during the heartbeats it took for his memories to click into place. Now, silently, she slides out of the bed, takes a satin slip from a drawer and pulls it on. Then she stands at the doorway between her bedroom and living quarters and folds her arms, looking at him, waiting.
Her message is as clear as if she’d spoken it aloud: Get out.
And suddenly he’s furious.
In direct opposition to her silent demand, Tom makes himself comfortable, sprawled across the bed as insolently as he can, hands under his head. He lets his gaze rake over her, lingering on the outline of her nipples through the satin.
“What, no third round?”
Her hands move to her hips and her glare intensifies.
Tom takes his time getting off the bed, finding his pants, pulling on his boots. He fastens the pants slowly as he ambles over to where Janeway is standing, gets right up close, enjoying the way her eyes snap fury as he towers over her. She draws herself up so straight he can almost hear her spine snap.
Pity the soft hair and the satin ruin the effect.
“Just tell me one thing,” he drawls. “Did you fuck me because you were nostalgic for the good old days when you were fucking my father?”
The impact shows in her eyes, and in her sharp, indrawn breath.
“This was obviously a mistake,” she rasps. “You can see yourself out.”
“Aye, Captain,” Tom clips back, and strides for the exit, collecting the rest of his uniform on the way.
Chapter 6: Talk to me
Talk to me
Sleep was a luxury Tom couldn’t afford in prison, and he learned to get by with the bare minimum. Lying wakeful long after Janeway kicked him out of her quarters, he wonders if he’ll ever sleep soundly again.
Of course, his heavy conscience could have something to do with this bout of insomnia; he’s feeling pretty damn despicable about the way he’d called out her affair with his father.
The look on her face still haunts him.
“Computer, what’s the time?”
~The time is 0453 hours.~
Tom sighs, scrubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands. No point trying to catch any sleep now; Stadi will be here to pick him up in an hour.
He rolls out of bed and makes his way to the ‘fresher, staring blearily at his reflection.
That day he walked in on Janeway and the admiral had been after the Al Batani returned almost six months early, after his father had been hospitalised and counselled, and after his promotion to admiral. Tom has never been told what happened on that mission or why it was cut short. But he knows his father’s ship went to the Cardassian border, and he knows Kathryn Janeway was on the crew, and even his brief stint with the Maquis showed him what the Cardassians are capable of.
Tom runs a sonic razor over his stubble and steps into a hot-water shower.
Maybe Janeway knows what happened to his father out there. He can extrapolate, and he can speculate, but the only way he’ll ever know for certain is if he asks her … and that’s not likely to happen. Not after he screwed up last night. He’ll be lucky if she doesn’t order him into Odo’s custody and take off for the Badlands without him.
As he’s rinsing shampoo from his hair, it occurs to Tom to wonder why she really brought him along on this mission. His intelligence is nearly two years out of date, and it was sketchy to begin with. The only answer he can come up with is that she’s doing it to curry favour with the admiral.
He snorts. Maybe he should tell her not to waste her time. The admiral hadn't bothered to show up at Tom’s trial and sentencing, and he hasn’t visited the rehab centre once.
~The time is 0532 hours.~
Tom replicates a new uniform and sips at a mug of strong coffee as he picks up Stadi’s padd, studying the most recent scans of the Terikof Belt to decide on the best angle of approach. He runs a few calculations, then wanders over to the viewport. He can’t see the wormhole from these quarters, or Bajor – just the stars – but anything is better than the view from his cell. And he has Kathryn Janeway to thank for this.
It doesn’t matter what her motives are. What matters is that she threw him a lifeline.
He owes her an apology.
“Computer, open a channel to the USS Voyager and direct the signal to Captain Ja-“
The chime at his door interrupts him.
~Please restate your command.~
“Computer, disregard. Open the door.”
Lieutenant Stadi stands on the other side of the open doorway, hands folded neatly behind her back. “Good morning, Mr Paris. Did you sleep well?”
“No worse than usual,” he answers. “Come on in. Coffee?”
“Tea, please. Elderflower.”
He waves her to an armchair, feeling her eyes on him as he brings over her tea. Betazoids make him itchy when they focus on him like that, but luckily, he’s had some practice at disassociating from the kind of thoughts he’d prefer telepaths didn’t read.
Slotting those mental barriers into place, Tom slides onto the couch opposite Stadi and launches immediately into explaining the new course he’s plotted through the Badlands. She lets him lead the conversation, interrupting only to question this or clarify that. By 0700, they’ve devised three distinct routes, each with a relatively high safety margin, and Stadi has double-checked the program Tom has devised to predict plasma eddies based on gravitational flux readings.
“Not bad for a morning’s work,” Tom decides when Stadi has placed her thumbprint on the padd. “Hey, are you hungry?”
“Sure.” Stadi gets to her feet. “Shall we go to the replimat?”
Tom can’t hide a surge of anxiety at the thought of braving the promenade again. “I have a perfectly good replicator right here,” he says, too glibly.
Stadi’s dark eyes fix on him, and she smiles, retaking her seat. “You do,” she agrees. “Here is just fine.”
“What can I get you?”
“Cavat muffins with uttaberry jam, please.”
“Sweet tooth, huh?” Tom punches her request into the replicator, orders himself a ham omelette and another beaker of coffee and brings the tray over to the lounge area.
“Thanks.” Stadi nibbles at her muffin, watching him gulp strong black coffee. “So, you and the captain, hmm?”
Tom chokes and splutters. “What are you talking about?” he wheezes when he’s got his breath back.
Stadi remains composed, gesturing at his mug. “Coffee,” she says mildly. “Seems you’re both big fans of it.”
“Oh.” Tom grabs his padd again. “Maybe we should go over those calculations one last time.”
He glances up just in time to see her hide a smile behind her teacup. “All right, Mr Paris. I admire your thoroughness.”
“Call me Tom,” he says absently.
“Huh?” He looks up.
“My name is Veronica.” Stadi isn’t hiding her smile now. “And before you ask, no, it’s not a Betazoid name. I’m named after a good friend of my mother’s – human, obviously – from their academy days.”
“So you’re another Starfleet brat, huh?” Tom gives up his pretence with the padd, switching it off and laying it on the coffee table. “Come to think of it, we must’ve been at the academy around the same time.”
“I graduated two years behind you.” She glances away, then back to him. “And yes, I remember you. I was in one of the squadrons they sent to Caldik Prime.”
Tom’s mood plummets instantly. The forkful of omelette he’d raised halfway to his mouth sinks back to his plate.
“I guess your shift must be starting soon,” he says into the awkward silence.
“Not until 0800.” Veronica presses her forefinger to a muffin crumb, bringing it to her lips. “Listen, Tom, I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories, and if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay. But I don’t expect you’ve had the chance to tell your side of the story a whole lot, and if you want to … well, I know the bare facts, and I’m a pretty good listener.”
There’s a hard lump in Tom’s throat by the time she finishes speaking; he swallows twice, trying to clear it.
“Thanks,” he mumbles. “That’s very kind of you, but I don’t deserve it.”
Veronica gives him a look that’s full of compassion: another thing he doesn’t deserve.
“Do you have any plans for today?” she asks him.
He shakes his head. “I figured I’d do whatever you or, uh, Captain Janeway assign me to.”
She doesn’t miss his stumble over the captain’s name, Tom notes, but he’s already figured out that Veronica Stadi doesn’t miss much.
“Why don’t you shadow me?” she suggests. “I’ll be fine-tuning the relays in navigational control for most of this morning. I’m sure you’d love to get a look at Voyager’s specs.”
“Really?” Tom tries to hide how excited he is at the prospect, then remembers hiding his emotions from Stadi is pointless. He lets his grin widen. “Count me in.”
“Done.” Veronica rises to collect their dirty dishes and carries them over to the replicator. “And if you’re not busy this evening, I’ll be running some flight sims on holodeck two. Deck six, section nine.”
“What are we waiting for?” Tom scoops up the padd and heads for the door.
“And Tom, what I said about listening if you want it?” Veronica adds as they leave his quarters for the corridor. “The offer stands.”
Chapter 7: Points of failure
Warning: very vague references to torture.
Points of failure
They begin on the bridge.
Stadi nods politely to the ensign at tactical, murmuring “As you were,” when he straightens to attention, and leads Tom directly to the helm.
She ducks to her knees under the conn station, tapping into a panel on its underside and taking out an optronic coupler. Tom crouches beside her, avid eyes assessing the helm layout, taking note of the controls. On the navigation console there’s a gravitational resonance scan of the region surrounding the Badlands. The image flickers and fuzzes.
“Can you monitor the nav console?” Stadi glances at him. “The sensors have been misaligned since Voyager’s test flight.”
“Sure.” Tom detaches a tricorder from under the conn and rises, bracing a hand on the hood of the console.
Stadi activates the optronic coupler and Tom watches the readouts as she painstakingly adjusts optronic relays one by one. “Any better?” she asks.
Tom checks the screen, then his tricorder. “I’m detecting a power variance in the navigational computer pathways. Seems to be interfering with sensor resolution.”
Stadi gives a faint huff and scrambles out from under the console. “Can you localise the problem?”
He shakes his head. “The readings are inconsistent.”
“It’s interrupting the optronic interface,” she notes, angling her neck to look at his tricorder screen. “We’ll have to go over every part of the navigational array to find the fail point.”
“Could be a problem with those bio-neural gel packs you were bragging about yesterday,” Tom suggests.
“If that’s so, we’ll still have to – Captain!” Stadi cuts herself off, eyes switching over Tom’s shoulder as the ready room door opens.
“Good morning, Lieutenant.”
The now-familiar, husky voice curls desire along Tom’s spine and he feels his heart double-thump. Schooling his face, he turns, adopting the at ease position.
“Captain,” he nods.
“Mr Paris.” Janeway’s tone cools noticeably and he flushes hot in contrast.
Veronica Stadi’s attention switches silently between Tom and the captain.
Janeway tilts her head a little. “Did I hear you suggesting there’s an issue with the gel packs?”
“It’s just a theory, ma’am – uh, Captain,” he corrects himself quickly.
“On what basis?”
“Lieutenant Stadi tells me the gel packs are interconnected throughout all ship’s systems, and since we haven’t been able to pinpoint where the optronic failures originate, it seems like a logical step to check them out.”
Janeway lifts an eyebrow. “Mr Paris, the last time I checked, your speciality was flight control, not cutting-edge computer technology. Starfleet’s best engineers designed and tested the bio-neural systems. Are you suggesting they overlooked something?”
Tom meets her gaze evenly. “I’m suggesting Veronica and I get down to navigational control so we can rule out my theory. That is, if you’re still planning to leave for the Badlands on schedule. Ma’am.”
Beside him, Stadi draws an audible breath.
Janeway’s eyes are steely. “Permission granted,” she grinds out, and stalks past them toward the turbolift.
Tom’s shoulders sag as the ‘lift doors close, and he finally meets Veronica’s raised eyebrows. He waits for her to say something – maybe ask him why the captain is so keen to bust his balls, or why even prison didn’t beat the smart mouth out of him – but evidently she doesn’t feel the need.
Must be nice to be able to read people’s minds.
“Lead the way, Lieutenant,” he says with a sweeping gesture.
As he follows Stadi into the turbolift he catches the faintest gleam of a smile on her lips.“Deck twelve,” she orders, and Tom faces front as the ‘lift glides downward.
It only takes about a deck and a half for Tom to regret skating on the edge of disrespect with the captain.
By the time Stadi leads him onto deck twelve, hands him a coil spanner and puts him to work isolating sections of the nav computer for testing, he’s cursing his lack of impulse control and debating whether he should front up and offer Janeway a formal apology, or do his best to stay the hell out of her sight until the mission is over.
“She likes roses.”
Tom nearly drops the spanner. “What?”
Veronica smirks at him over the gel pack she’s testing. “If you’re looking to get back in Captain Janeway’s good graces, you can’t go wrong with flowers.”
He doesn’t know where to look. “I’m not sure that’s the most appropriate way to redeem myself to my commanding officer,” he says finally. “Or to say thanks to the woman who busted me out of jail.”
“Is that all she is to you?” Stadi asks mildly, extracting a neural fibre from the gel pack.
Tom puts down his tools. “Veronica, I don’t know what you’re –”
“Tom,” she interrupts him, “let me tell you something about Betazoids. We don’t just casually read minds; in fact, we understand that non-telepathic species value their privacy, so we try to block out other people’s thoughts. But certain impulses, certain strong emotions – those are harder to ignore.”
“Don’t look so scared,” she smirks. “We’re also really good at keeping secrets. Which is something Captain Janeway knows.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because,” Veronica replaces the gel pack and moves around the console to face him, “I want you to know that you can trust me. You don’t need to keep your guard up around me.”
Tom looks down at the computer panel. “It’s kind of a habit now,” he mutters.
“Survival protocol. I understand.” Stadi’s voice is kind. “You might be surprised to know that you’re not the only person on this ship who’s spent some time incarcerated.”
“What?” Tom stares. “You?”
“What happened? If you don’t mind me asking …”
“I don’t mind.” Stadi motions him over to a seat. “About a year ago, hostilities broke out again on Proxcinia, and a Starfleet convoy was sent to provide medical aid. I was piloting a shuttle out of the USS Florence, carrying three doctors, two field medics and a cargo crate of medical supplies. As we approached the planet we took heavy fire from the surface. I transported the crew and cargo to the triage centre but couldn’t make it out before the shuttle crash-landed in the Merah Desert. When I regained consciousness I discovered that I’d been taken hostage by insurgents.”
“The Florence couldn’t beam you out?”
Veronica shakes her head briefly. “The Raicin – that’s what the insurgents called themselves – they held me in a shielded internment camp. It took the Florence two days to find me and another twenty-four hours to mount a rescue. In those three days, Tom, I saw things … experienced things … that will never leave me.”
Her eyes meet his, and Tom’s chest hurts at the look in them.
“Why did they take you?” he asks. “What did they want?”
“They were so angry, so full of hatred at the injustices they believed they’d suffered at the government’s hands. My best guess is they wanted someone to punish.” She links her fingers deliberately, focusing on the movement. “I guess you can imagine what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that kind of punishment.”
Tom thinks about his first weeks in prison, when they’d housed him in the same wing as two Maquis captives who’d been told he’d traded information for leniency; and then a few months back, when he’d shared a work detail with a sociopathic Verillian, who held a grudge against Starfleet and had enjoyed taking it out on a certain admiral’s son. He thinks about sly elbows stabbing and shoulders shoving him in the corridors, and of how quickly he’d learned to always keep a wall at his back in the common rooms, and the way they always seemed to be able to get to him after lights out.
“Yeah,” he says, reaching for her hand and squeezing it lightly, “I guess I can.”
Chapter 8: Repairs
Tom turns at Stadi’s muffled exclamation. She’s halfway into a Jeffries tube on her hands and knees; she backs out and holds up a gel pack, her grin triumphant. He takes it from her, nose crinkling at the sickly brownish streaks bisecting the luminous blue gel, and places it gingerly on the console.
“Some kind of biological infection?” he queries, scanning it. “Don’t tell me Starfleet’s finest engineering minds overlooked this possibility.”
Veronica levels a look at him. “Get started on bypassing the bio-neural circuits in series epsilon four while I take this thing down to sickbay. If it’s not a tech failure, maybe Dr Fitzgerald can figure out what’s wrong with it.” She picks up the gel pack and moves toward the corridor.
“You’re leaving me here alone?”
She stops, turning back to him. “Is that a problem?”
“Not for me,” Tom shrugs. “I just figured, you know … you’ve been stuck to me like glue today, so I assume you’re babysitting me. Or guarding me in case I try to escape or sabotage the ship or something.”
“Do you intend to try to escape or sabotage the ship?”
He ducks his head to hide a smile. “No.”
“Good,” Stadi says simply, then hesitates, adding: “The babysitting guess isn’t far off, though.”
“She ordered you to watch me?” Tom yelps.
“If by ordered you mean asked, and by watch you mean look out for, then yes.”
Tom isn’t sure how to feel about that.
“I’ll be back soon,” Veronica says. “Don’t throw your toys out of the crib while I’m gone, okay?”
She has the grace not to chuckle until she reaches the corridor.
By the time they’ve finished bypassing the gel pack series where the faulty one was housed, rerouting command protocols through two backup nodes and tuning the navigational sensors to Stadi’s satisfaction, Tom’s stomach is starting to complain that breakfast was far too many hours ago.
“So, where do you go for a bite to eat around here?” he asks.
“The officer’s mess is on deck two.” Veronica checks the chrono. “Why don’t you go on ahead and I’ll meet you there after I’ve delivered the new flight plan to the captain?”
“Actually …” Tom picks up the padd, “would you mind if I did it? I need to … I should tell her ...”
“Okay.” Stadi smiles at him. “Computer, locate Captain Janeway.”
~Captain Janeway is in her ready room.~
She closes the channel. “A word of advice, Tom …”
“Don’t give up too easily,” Veronica says, and, patting him on the shoulder, strides out of navigational control.
Give up what? Tom wonders as he rouses himself a few moments later, trailing toward the turbolift. Then he rolls his eyes. Gives up too easily is pretty much his modus operandi.
“Enter,” comes the distracted response to his chime at the ready room door.
The captain doesn’t look up from her desk as he approaches. Tom hovers, unsure whether to greet her, hand her the padd or kneel before her. He clears his throat instead.
“You can leave it on the desk, Mr Paris.”
“The flight plan.” She still hasn’t glanced up. “That is why you’re here, isn’t it?”
That gets her attention. “Oh?”
“I’m sorry,” he says sincerely, meeting her eyes. “I had no right to say what I did last night.”
“No, you didn’t.” Janeway’s tone is dismissive, and she returns her attention to her desktop monitor.
“And I wanted to thank you for getting me out of that hellhole.”
Her forehead creases slightly. “I’d hardly describe a well-administered rehabilitation facility on Earth as a hellhole, Mr Paris.”
“With all due respect, Captain, you weren’t there,” he says quietly. “I owe you … well, a lot. And I’m very grateful.”
Her eyes meet his, softening, and she nods. “You’re welcome.”
“As for what else happened last night –”
“Stop right there,” she orders, palm out.
He shuts up. She glares at him for a moment, then sighs, rising and moving to the replicator behind her desk.
“Last night was … a moment out of time,” she tells him, cradling a coffee cup in her hands. “It wasn’t supposed to be … complicated, and if I’ve caused you any distress as a result, then I apologise.”
He turns her words over in his mind for a moment; she deserves that much, having selected them with such care.
“Do you still think it was a mistake?” he can’t stop himself from asking.
“No,” she concedes, “but I have no intention of repeating it. Let’s just get through the mission, wish each other well and go our separate ways. Agreed?”
Do I have a choice? Tom thinks, unable to suppress a swell of resentment. Hard on its heels is bitter disappointment. He’ll never be able to ask her about his father now. And, maybe worse, he’ll probably never see her again.
Tom thinks about her pale shoulders and the freckles scattered across her chest, and how responsive she’d been, how ardent and willing, and about the low, husky moans he’d fucked out of her.
But he’ll get over it. He barely knows the woman, after all, and freedom is so close he can taste it. In a couple of weeks Chakotay will be warming Tom’s old cell in New Zealand, and Janeway will cut him loose, and he’ll head for Risa or Casperia Prime or, hell, Betazed. He’ll be able to fuck all the pale-skinned, throaty-voiced women he can handle.
“Agreed,” he says.
Tom lays the padd detailing his carefully plotted flight plan on her desk and walks out of the ready room.
Chapter 9: Turbulence
I would like to take this moment to reiterate that I hate the version Pathways gives us of the Caldik Prime events, so herein lies my take.
“All right then,” Stadi mutters, chin stuck out in determination as she punches yet another sequence into the holodeck control panel, “try this one. Computer, load program Sulu tango five, variant omega one. Activate.”
Tom tries to tone down his ear-to-ear grin. Tonight is his first time flying in two years and he’s having the time of his life, even if it is just a simulation. Veronica’s been throwing him into sims with ever-increasing levels of difficulty and he’s aced every one so far. That it’s the first time he’s seen the serene Betazoid rattled is just the cherry on top.
The silver hologrid shimmers away, morphing into the interior of a Zola-class attack fighter. It’s identical to the one-man craft Chakotay assigned him to on that first solo mission in the Maquis; the mission that had been cut short when Tom was captured by Starfleet.
His grin fades.
“Run program,” says Stadi, and Tom clears his mind of everything but flying.
A few hours of dodging simulated Romulan warbirds and Breen destroyers have left him exhilarated and buzzing with adrenaline, and Tom figures sleep is a long way in his future. The last thing he wants is to be alone and restless. He knows his own mind well enough to know that’s when the demons come.
Stadi escorts him along Voyager’s corridors and through the airlock, but before she has the chance to bid him goodnight, Tom gives her his best winsome smile and asks, “Aren’t you going to see me to my door?”
She rolls her eyes, but when he offers his elbow she loops a hand through it and they walk slowly through the habitat ring. He keeps the banter light and inconsequential and she laughs softly at all the right moments. But then they’re at his quarters, and Tom can’t quite suppress a surge of anxiety.
“Come on, V,” he cajoles, “it’s not even 2200. Come have a drink with me.”
“I shouldn’t –”
“You’re off duty,” he interrupts, and quickly keys in his entry code, catching her hand to tug her over the threshold. “One drink.”
“I’ll have synthehol.”
Tom gives her a dark look. “Two tumblers of your finest Connemara,” he says to the replicator.
~That beverage is not on file.~
“Then just give me something that resembles whiskey.”
Two glasses of amber liquid shimmer into existence. Tom picks them up, sniffs one and nods.
“I’m not drinking that,” Veronica says firmly, waving her glass away.
“More for me,” Tom shrugs, and tips the contents into his tumbler.
“Is that really a good idea?”
It doesn’t matter how mild her tone; Tom can’t stop himself from firing up.
“Don’t worry, Stadi, your life isn’t in my hands,” he drawls with heavy sarcasm. “Nobody’s ever going to let me near the helm again for real.”
He tosses the contents of the glass down his throat and turns his back on her.
After a moment during which Tom’s neck tenses so tight he has to deliberately roll his head and shake out his arms, he feels Stadi’s gentle hand on his shoulder.
“That isn’t what I meant,” she says, “but for what it’s worth, Tom, I wouldn’t hesitate to trust my safety to your piloting.”
He goes still, eyes blurring, biting down on his lip in an effort to stave off the ache in his throat.
“Thanks,” he manages eventually.
She squeezes his arm, then lets go, moving briskly to the couch and crossing her legs. “Now,” she says, holding his eyes, “why don’t you put that glass down, come over here and we can have a proper conversation without any fighting or flirting?”
“How long had you been stationed at Caldik Prime before the event?”
Tom shifts in his seat. “Couple of weeks. The Exeter was on patrol along the Neutral Zone. We stopped in the Caldik system for shore leave.”
“The Exeter … you were the chief helmsman, right?”
“So you were on leave when it happened?”
“No,” he clips out. “I was on duty.”
There’s a silence, during which Tom fidgets with his hands and glares at nothing.
“I can see you don’t want to talk about it,” says Veronica. “But I think you need to.”
Tom huffs out a laugh. “And shatter any illusions you still have of me?”
“What makes you think I have any illusions about you at all?”
He looks up in time to register the subtle quirk at the corners of her mouth, and manages a grin in response. “You really want to hear this, huh?”
Veronica toes off her boots and curls her legs beneath her, settling into the couch cushions. “Enough stalling, Tom. I’m listening.”
“Okay,” he mutters, standing abruptly to pace the room. “You know what happened, right? I mean, how the star destabilised.”
“A Romulan destroyer with a damaged singularity drive accidentally strayed across the border and into the Caldik system. No life signs were detected aboard and gravitational fluctuations in the ship’s core repulsed all attempts to tractor it. The vessel drifted into the star’s corona where it exploded, generating a quantum radiation burst that threatened all life on the only populated planet in the system.”
“Yeah,” Tom says. “That about covers it.”
“And then …”
“And then,” he sighs, “all Starfleet personnel in the area and any civilians with medical, engineering or piloting skills were mobilised to help evacuate the inhabitants. There were three other Starfleet ships within range as well as a couple of civilian cargo vessels. Our chief science officer estimated the solar radiation would reach toxic levels in the planet’s atmosphere within nine hours, and we had to evacuate three hundred thousand people across six settlements.”
“Timing was tight. I remember.”
Tom stops pacing to look at her. “How come you were there, anyway?”
“I was a fourth-year cadet,” she replies. “We were on a training exercise nearby, in Sector 002.”
“Navigating the electromagnetic distortions in the Bassen Rift? I remember that one.”
“Right, and given the scale of potential disaster, my squadron was diverted to Caldik to assist with the evacuation.” Veronica pauses, then prompts, “So, you had all hands mobilised, and reinforcements coming in from all directions, civilians too … must’ve been a coordination nightmare.”
“I guess so. I was a little busy scrambling to find something to fly … All the Exeter’s shuttles were in play and I had a crateful of radiation suits and hyronalin to fly down to the surface for the evacuees who were still waiting.” He pauses to let out a slow breath. “And then the USS Bonchune arrived, carrying six of the brand new Starfleet runabouts and only five active pilots. I was on that spare runabout so fast I practically left scorch marks.”
Stadi leans forward to catch his eyes.
“Had you been drinking when you took the helm?”
“Yeah.” Tom rubs a hand over his face. “The night before the quantum implosion was a crewmate’s birthday. We went to this little dive bar on the planet. I stayed out too late … drank more than I remembered. When the call for pilots went out a couple hours later, it didn’t even occur to me to stop at sickbay for a detox. I thought I was fine …”
He stares unseeingly at the carpet, recalling how he’d been looking forward to cashing in his bragging rights over flying the Danube-class runabouts, fresh out of the fleet yards at Utopia Planitia. But he hadn’t just wanted to fly the runabout. He’d wanted to make it do things the designers didn’t believe it could.
“On my second run down to the planet,” he continues in a voice so quiet Veronica leans in to hear him, “I told myself I was testing the runabout’s capabilities in case of an emergency. I threw that ship around like I was flying a strike fighter. There was so much traffic going back and forth from the surface and I was dodging and weaving through it, telling myself I could handle it. That I was the best pilot to come out of Starfleet Academy in a generation, and that this was what I was born for.”
Tom glances up fearfully, but there’s only empathy in Veronica’s dark eyes.
“I was just approaching the stratosphere when a shuttle coming from Caldik’s orbital station veered slightly off course. I was screwing around with the plasma intake, trying to boost thruster power … I was far too close, going much too fast, and I clipped the shuttle …” he pauses to scrub at his forehead. “The runabout was okay – the impact hit my forward deflector; I barely felt it – but the shuttle … it went into a flat spin. The pilot couldn’t pull up. They skidded off the atmosphere and broke up. Three people died.”
He looks directly at her and speaks the names that had haunted him for three months before he finally broke down and confessed; the names that still haunt him.
“Lieutenant Ek’Lar V’Chaan, chief pilot assigned to Caldik Station. Dr T’Prya, medical officer on the USS Shelton. And Crewman Kate Clark, assistant engineer on the Exeter.”
“You knew her?” Stadi’s eyes are big and full of pity.
“Yeah, I knew her.” Tom drops onto the couch beside Stadi. “It was her first mission; she’d never been out of the solar system before. She wanted to work her way into the academy and eventually become chief engineer on a starship. She was twenty-two years old.”
“Thing is,” he tips his head back, “I could’ve gotten away with it. Everything was so crazy that day that nobody was monitoring flight controls or coordinating personnel shifts. To be honest, it’s a miracle that was the only accident.”
“Nobody questioned you?”
“Not until the formal inquiry a week or so later. By then I felt as though it was too late to come clean … I hadn’t slept, was still in shock, and we were being hailed as heroes for saving all those colonists … So I told the board of inquiry that my thrusters stalled because of a freak plasma surge in the exhaust manifolds and I lost control. I suggested there was a flaw in the runabout’s engine design. They pulled the Danube-class off the production line and took them apart.”
He shakes his head briefly.
“They didn’t find any flaws, of course. I figured they’d be coming for me with more questions, so I decided to beat them to the punch. I confessed.”
Veronica folds her fingers into Tom’s.
“It was too late to charge me with anything – no evidence – so they wrote it up as pilot error and gave me Starfleet’s quickest and quietest discharge. I guess they kept it on the down low out of respect for my father, or maybe so they didn’t tarnish the whole heroic evacuation thing.”
“Maybe they did it because they could see you were suffering.”
Tom huffs a humourless laugh. “You have a much higher opinion of Starfleet than I do, V.”
“Maybe I’ve had better role models.”
“Can’t argue with that,” he says wryly. “My dad sure wasn’t interested in my side of the story. Not that I deserved his support. I left San Francisco before he could disown me, and two days later I was in Paris wondering how quickly I could drink myself to death.”
“And then …”
“And then I kept on living, despite my best efforts. About a year later Chakotay found me and recruited me into his cell.”
“Did he know what you’d – what had happened?”
“You mean, did he know I’d killed three innocent people? I don’t know. He was ‘fleet, but he resigned before the story came out. Maybe he just saw how desperate I was and figured I had no place else to go.”
“But he must have trusted you. He brought you home and gave you a ship to fly.”
He did more than trust me. Tom’s face twists involuntarily and he turns to hide his expression from Stadi. “A lot of good it did him,” he chokes out.
He senses the catch in her breath, realises she’s picking up the conflict, the turmoil inside him, and tries to shore up his emotional shields. Eyes closed, breathing slow and evenly, he channels his agitation into something he can direct and control. When he turns back to Veronica a few moments later, there’s a silky undertone to his voice.
“You’re good at that, V,” he drawls. He turns his hand over, sliding his fingers between hers and playing with them lightly. “I guess I have to revise my first impression of you.”
There’s a tiny crinkle between her brows as she studies him. “What impression?”
“That you’re not like other Betazoids.”
“You mean that other Betazoids are warm and sensual?”
Tom slides his other hand along the back of the couch. Veronica leans toward him fractionally and he mirrors the movement, letting his gaze drift to her lips.
“But I’m not?” There’s the slightest clip at the end of her speech, as if she’s reaching for an extra breath.
“You tell me.” Tom’s voice dips as his fingers toy with the collar of her uniform. “Better yet, show me.”
He leans in unhurriedly, giving her time to pull away, but she doesn’t move. Their lips brush softly. She tilts her head, lets him slide the tip of his tongue along her lower lip, opens to him and chases him as he retreats. Tom’s hand cradles her head, holding her lightly in place as he kisses her, slow and lush, with lips and teeth and tongue.
Then Veronica giggles.
Tom pulls back, wide-eyed and not a little insulted. “What?”
“I’m sorry.” She covers her mouth with her hand, but it doesn’t stop the grin. “I don’t mean to laugh at you … It’s just,” she shakes her head helplessly, “you’re lovely, Tom. And under different circumstances, maybe …”
“I get it. You don’t need an ex-con hanging around, messing with your bright future.” Despite his words, he’s not really upset.
“No, that’s not it.” Veronica sobers. “It’s just that I make it a rule not to fall for people who are emotionally unavailable.”
Tom frowns at her. “I’m not involved with anyone.”
“If you say so,” she says wryly. “But that isn’t what I meant. Your life is about to change in ways you have no way to predict, and it’s up to you to decide what you make of it.”
“That’s deep, V.”
“I’m a very profound person.” Smirking, she extricates herself and stands, hopping on each foot as she pulls on her boots.
“Where are you going?”
“To bed. Alone,” Stadi adds, grinning pointedly, then bends to press a kiss to his cheek. “Goodnight, Tom.”
“See you in the morning, Lieutenant.”
Alone, but no longer lonely, Tom shifts to lie on the couch, head pillowed on his folded hands, and drifts into sleep.
Chapter 10: In dark and wounded places
Warning: references to prison violence.
In dark and wounded places
That feeling of contentment lingers until Tom catapults awake, grabbing immediately at his kinked and aching neck with an involuntary groan. He eases himself off the too-short couch, shedding yesterday’s rumpled uniform on his way to the ‘fresher, and leans on the sink to stare at his reflection. Twenty-seven years old, and he feels about ninety.
“Shower on, forty degrees Celsius,” he mumbles, and steps under the spray with his head bowed. Steam rises around him and the pounding water eases his knotted muscles, and after a while he straightens up and reaches for the soap.
Working the lather over his body, he finds himself replaying memories of his night with Kathryn Janeway. He thinks about the fresh scent of her shampoo clinging to her hair as she let it down, and the way her breasts fit perfectly in his palms, and how she’d tasted, all slick and smooth, as she wound her fingers into his hair. Then he thinks about the flush on her cheeks and her rapid breathing as she knelt at his feet, about her sure hands and the wet warmth of her mouth, and his hand circles his hardening cock and pumps it slowly.
It doesn’t take long to bring himself off, and afterward Tom lets that drained, mellow feeling settle into his limbs until the water has washed him clean again. By the time he’s finished towelling off and is reaching for a fresh uniform, his cramped night on the couch is just a memory.
He’s feeling so good he decides to brave the promenade.
Breakfast at the replimat passes with no sign of yesterday’s panic. As Tom lingers over his second cup of coffee, thumbing through news reports on a padd, a shadow falls over his table and a cultured masculine voice says, “Hello there, Crewman.”
Tom looks up into the face of the doctor who’d talked him through his panic attack. Shit, he thinks in dismay, and covers it quickly by half-rising with a snapped-out, “Sir.”
“At ease,” the doctor says, amused, and holds out a hand. “Julian Bashir.”
“Yes, sir. I remember.” Tom shakes the man’s hand awkwardly and hopes he’s not the persistent type.
He’s out of luck. “Mind if I join you?” Bashir asks, sliding into the seat opposite without waiting for Tom’s assent.
Tom can feel the doctor assessing him as he lowers himself reluctantly to his seat.
“You’re looking a lot better than the last time I saw you,” Bashir comments, sipping from the mug in his left hand. “Have you had your medication adjusted?”
“I’m not on medication, sir.”
“Oh?” Bashir’s eyebrows lift. “I assume your CMO has assessed you … What ship do you serve on?”
“Voyager,” he mumbles, every muscle tensed and ready to run.
“Voyager,” the doctor repeats. “The Intrepid-class docked at upper pylon two, yes? Perhaps I should speak with … Dr Fitzgerald, isn’t it?”
“There’s really no need, Doctor. I’m fine.”
“I’m not so sure, Crewman –” Bashir pauses, “what did you say your name was?”
Tom squirms. He really, really doesn’t want to give this doctor his name.
The combadge Stadi issued him yesterday chirps. “Stadi to Paris.”
He closes his eyes momentarily, then taps it. “Paris here.”
“Morning, Tom.” Her voice warms. “Sleep well?”
“Yes, thank you, Lieutenant,” he answers briskly, avoiding the doctor’s eyes. “Shall I report to the airlock?”
After an infinitesimal pause, Stadi responds, her tone impersonal now. “At your leisure, Mr Paris. Captain Janeway wants to meet with us at 0900 to run through tactical scenarios.”
“Aye, sir. Paris out.” He closes the channel and rises with a polite nod. “If you’ll excuse me, Doctor.”
“Dismissed, Mr Paris,” Bashir says calmly.
Tom can feel the doctor’s shrewd eyes on his back as he hurries out of the replimat.
The first time they came for him, his first week in Auckland, Tom had dragged himself bruised, bleeding and shaken to the medical bay and blurted out every detail of the attack, including the offenders’ identities.
The duty medic had patched him up haphazardly, offered a few platitudes Tom guessed were meant to placate him, and sent him back to his cell. Tom had spent a sleepless night trying to ignore the catcalls and whispered threats from his neighbours. The following morning he’d asked to file a protection request with the warden.
His medical record showed no evidence that he’d ever been given treatment.
Tom figured he’d just got unlucky – ended up with a medic who’d been bribed or blackmailed – but the next time he was assaulted, it happened again. Then again. By the fourth time, he’d stopped asking to report it.
Sometimes he limped into the medical bay and found a sympathetic doctor, one who was shocked at Tom’s injuries and promised they’d protect him, bring the culprits to justice, but Tom had learned his lesson. There was no justice if the victim insisted there’d been no crime.
Sometimes he figured it was easier to suffer the pain than fend off the well-meaning types, so he didn’t bother seeking treatment at all.
Eventually, over the course of several sickbay visits, he’d managed to steal a regenerator and a couple of hyposprays. From that point on he treated his own injuries whenever he could, huddled silent and shaking under a blanket, biting his lip bloody to stifle his groans of pain.
It doesn’t matter whether Julian Bashir is the type of doctor who’d turn a blind eye to violence and violation, or the kind who won’t rest until he’s examined all the dark and wounded places Tom would rather not let anyone see. Tom intends to spend the next twenty-four hours avoiding the man until Voyager is safely away from the station.
Stadi waves off his apology for shutting her down over the comm, guiding him straight into the briefing room to one side of the bridge. The ensign he’d noticed yesterday at tactical is there already, along with a gold-shouldered lieutenant. Tom takes a seat next to Stadi just as the captain strides in and places herself behind the chair at the head of the table.
“Good morning,” Janeway announces. “Mr Paris, I’d like to introduce you to Lieutenant Andrews, my acting security chief, and Ensign Rollins, my tactical officer. Both gentlemen are fully briefed on Maquis ship classes and weaponry. However, I’d like you to offer your insights on the tactics Captain Chakotay is likely to employ should we engage his vessel.”
Tom raises his eyebrows. “Captain, the most important thing to know about Chakotay is that he won’t do what you expect him to. He maps out every possible option and outcome and he’s always thinking several steps ahead. The missions he planned while I was with him went like clockwork.”
“Except for the one you led,” mutters Rollins.
“Ensign,” Janeway warns, and the man subsides.
“As for their battle capabilities, Chakotay’s engineer is a genius and a miracle-worker. Whatever you think his ship can do, she’s rigged it to do better. That is, if she’s still alive,” Tom finishes.
Janeway picks up a padd and glances at it. “According to Lieutenant Tuvok’s last intelligence report, your miracle-worker was alive and kicking.”
Tom laughs, then quickly stifles it.
“Something to add, Mr Paris?” Janeway’s tone is dry, but not forbidding.
“Sorry. It’s just … if B’Elanna’s alive, I guarantee you she’s kicking something.”
The captain lets it pass. “In any case, I am aware of Chakotay’s success rate, and of his tactical background. What we’ll need from you is your presence on the bridge if we engage the Maquis. If you recognise any patterns or manoeuvres, you’re to speak up immediately. Understood?”
“Questions, gentlemen?” Janeway looks from Andrews to Rollins.
“No, Captain,” they chorus.
As Tom joins the three officers filing out of the briefing room, Rollins’ elbow digs painfully into his kidney. Tom grits his teeth and concentrates on keeping his stride even and his face impassive.
It’s not as though Rollins’ silent malice is unexpected or undeserved, but it makes his heart shrivel a little anyway.
Chapter 11: A strong mind ...
A strong mind …
Drained from a full day’s crawling through Jeffries tubes, painstakingly recalibrating relays while Stadi confirms their adherence to Starfleet specs, Tom stands under his second shower of the day and lets his mind drift.
He thinks about Rollins at first, but there’s nothing to be gained from that, so he turns his thoughts to the ship. Voyager. God, how he’d love to fly her; spending two days studying the helm and navigation systems has him itching to put her through her paces. Maybe Stadi is free tonight; maybe she’d let him run flight manoeuvres on the holodeck again, behind Voyager‘s conn this time.
Thinking about the ship shifts seamlessly to thinking about her captain, and before long Tom’s hard again. He allows a moment to feel shamefaced and juvenile over his apparently unquenchable desire for the first woman to show an interest in him in years, then takes hold of himself, intending to stroke to a quick release. But before the nebulous images behind his eyes can crystallise into something he can hold onto, he’s interrupted by the chirp of his combadge.
Swearing under his breath, Tom shuts off the shower, wraps a towel around his hips and grabs the communicator from the vanity ledge. “Paris.”
“Hey, V. What’s up?”
“We’re on track for departure tomorrow morning, and I have orders for you to report to sickbay by 0900 for medical clearance.”
Tom’s pulse skips. “Is there a problem?”
“No, it’s standard mission procedure.”
“Acknowledged,” he mumbles. “Are you busy tonight?”
“I have work to do. Why?”
“I was hoping we could grab some dinner.”
“I’m sorry, Tom, I can’t. Another time, okay? Stadi out.”
Tom sighs, closing the channel and wandering into the bedroom. He’s hungry, but the thought of dining alone on replicator fare thrills him about as much as staring at the four silent walls of his quarters.
He pulls on his uniform and heads for the central core.
The promenade is busier than it was in the morning, but Tom squashes the involuntary surge of anxiety and forces himself to look around, stay relaxed, act natural. He attaches himself to a group of Bajoran civilians heading for the Celestial Café, figuring it’ll be a whole lot quieter than Quark’s.
He can’t help scanning his surroundings, alert to possible danger. When it comes, though, there’s nothing he can do.
He ignores the call, hoping against hope that it’s not directed at him.
So much for hope.
Tom stops, breathes deep, and turns to face the furious human in Starfleet blue. “Do I know you?”
“No,” snarls the man. “But I sure as hell know who you are,” and without warning his fist hauls back and smashes into Tom’s jaw.
The punch snaps his head back and sends him staggering. Someone catches him and drags him upright, and Tom shakes his ringing head briefly, then groans as the lower half of his face throbs. When he touches his split lip his fingers come away bloody, and he can already tell his jaw is fractured.
“Steady,” warns a gruff voice.
Tom grunts assent, and the voice’s owner moves out from behind him and grasps his attacker’s shoulder. Even through the haze of pain, Odo is easy to recognise.
“Station security. Don’t move.”
“He killed her,” the man in blue shouts, wrestling with Odo’s immovable grip. “He killed my friend –”
Janeway’s voice, low and authoritative, slices through the tense tableau with ease as she pushes through the gathering crowd.
“What have you done?” she growls, moving immediately to Tom’s side.
For a moment he thinks she’s addressing him and he tries to answer her, but the knife-sharp agony in his jaw dissolves his speech into a groan. He feels her fingers, cool and gentle against his cheek, her other hand on his back.
“I take it these two are yours, Captain?” comes Odo’s rasping voice.
“Ensign Ivers is one of my crew, yes.” Janeway fixes her glare on the still-struggling ensign. “Why have you attacked Mr Paris?”
Ivers stops fighting Odo’s grip, visibly calming himself. “It’s because of him that she’s dead,” he says, venom in his tone. He looks Tom in the eye. “Kate Clark. Remember her? She was my friend.”
Even if Tom could speak, he’d have nothing to say. He drops his gaze.
“Well, Captain,” Odo rumbles, “what should I do with Mr Ivers here?”
Janeway straightens up and taps her combadge. “Janeway to Cavit.”
“Cavit here, Captain.”
“Please come to the security office on the promenade. We have a crewman in custody and I’d like you to arrange his transport to Voyager’s brig.”
“Captain?” The man on the other end of the comm sounds startled.
“Janeway out.” She presses her badge, then nods to Odo. “If you wouldn’t mind holding Ensign Ivers until my first officer collects him, I need to get Mr Paris to the infirmary.”
“Understood,” Odo rasps. “Let’s go, Ensign.”
They move off, and Janeway’s hand presses gently between Tom’s shoulder blades. “Come on, Tom,” she murmurs, guiding him in the other direction toward the medical bay. “It’s only a few steps.”
“Let’s get you to a biobed,” suggests the now-familiar voice of Dr Bashir as Tom stumbles through the infirmary entrance.
Janeway and Bashir help him onto the bed, and Tom stares straight ahead as Bashir waves a tricorder wand over his bruised and swelling jaw.
“Can you tell me what happened, Captain?”
Tom can’t help catching the captain’s eyes, his own silently pleading.
“I’d have thought that would be obvious, Doctor.” Janeway’s voice is dry. “What’s the damage?”
“Mr Paris has a moderate fracture of the temporomandibular joint. I can repair the damage without surgery.”
Janeway’s sharp gaze switches to Bashir the moment he speaks Tom’s name. “You didn’t mention you knew each other.”
Bashir’s eyes are big and guileless. “Oh, we met in the replimat this morning. And yesterday –” he breaks off, then smiles. “Never mind.”
And Tom has had about enough. “Hey,” he grunts, and when both of them turn to look at him, he gestures pointedly at his jaw.
“Please lie down, Mr Paris,” Bashir says smoothly. “I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
Janeway helps Tom ease onto his back as the doctor disappears into the rear of his sickbay. She still looks mad, and Tom’s stomach clenches. He’s already been more trouble than he’s worth to her; at what point will she be so fed up with him that she tosses him back where he came from?
“S-sry,” he mumbles, his fingers pressing the hand she’s laid on his chest.
At once, her lips relax and her eyes soften. “This wasn’t your fault, Tom,” she says gently. “Do you understand?”
He really doesn’t, but it’s too late to try questioning her because Dr Bashir is back with a hypospray.
“Five ccs triptacederine for the pain,” the doctor explains as he empties the analgesic into Tom’s neck. He glances up at Janeway. “There’s no need for you to wait, Captain. I’ll be able to release Mr Paris on his own recognisance as soon as I’m finished.”
Janeway gives him a sharp look, apparently picking up on Bashir’s choice of phrase as easily as Tom has.
“Thank you, Doctor,” she replies, ice in her voice. “I’ll stay.”
She curls her fingers around Tom’s and rests her other hand on his shoulder, and inside him something loosens; something that’s been strung tight and knotted for so long he hadn’t remembered it could be any different.
“Why didn’t you defend yourself?”
They’re walking back through the habitat ring, slowly, Janeway’s hand on his elbow as though he needs steadying. He doesn’t, but it’s been a long time since someone took care of him and Tom isn’t about to knock it back.
“Tom? You saw it coming and you didn’t even try to block his punch.”
“Wasn’t much point,” he shrugs. “He was going to hit me one way or another. I figured I’d make it easy for him.”
Janeway’s steps drag to a halt. “Why?”
The tug of her hand stops him, and Tom turns to look down at her. She’s waiting for an answer, and he realises she’s not going to be deflected.
“Because if you fight them, they’ll hurt you worse,” he says. “Better to let them get it over with.”
Her eyes widen a fraction, comprehension in the tightening grip of her fingers on his arm.
“You said the rehab colony was a hellhole,” she remembers, then adds softly, “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.”
“It’s okay, Captain.”
Her eyes hold his for the space of several heartbeats, then slide away. “How far are your quarters?”
Something in her voice makes him pay attention. “Right over there.”
They turn as one, and when they’ve reached his door she says, “Well, I suppose I should leave you to get some rest.”
“Actually, I’m kind of hungry,” he replies quickly. “Have you eaten yet?”
She draws out the word as though she’s contemplating fleeing, but there’s a subtle invitation in the downward sweep of her lashes. Encouraged, he taps in his entry code and tilts his head toward the open door.
“Buy you dinner?”
After a moment, she steps inside.
Chapter 12: ... and a fragile heart
… and a fragile heart
She decides they’ll have soup to spare his recently healed jaw. Tom makes no objection to that, nor when she insists on ushering him to the table and letting her serve him. He’ll draw the line at spoon-feeding, he decides with an inward grin; the last thing he wants is for her to see him as helpless, or childlike.
But there seems to be no danger of that. She watches him throughout dinner, subtly, and with the same assessing gleam she wore that first night. When they’ve finished their soup, the captain rests her elbows on the table and lets her gaze linger on his mouth.
“How does it feel?”
Reflexively, Tom fingers his lip where Ivers had split it, then grins. “I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me how it feels?”
She laughs, and it emboldens him to order a bottle of wine from the replicator and guide her over to the couch, where he sprawls out next to her and watches her watching him.
“You’re not what I expected,” she says at last.
“Oh yeah? What were you expecting?”
Janeway sips her wine and crosses one leg over the other. “I’m not sure,” she shrugs. “I guess I was wondering what kind of man would start out as a privileged admiral’s son with the brightest of futures and end up …”
“… a lying, murdering drunk serving time for treason?”
“I’d have put it more tactfully, but essentially, yes.”
“Why mince words?” Tom asks bitterly. “And if that’s your opinion of me, Captain, why did you recruit me? Because I know it wasn’t for my uniquely valuable insights into Maquis tactics.”
He’s intrigued by the shadow that flickers across her expression. “Let’s just say that I’m not entirely unacquainted with the concept of falling from grace.”
Tom’s eyes narrow. “That why you slept with me?”
“You like playing in the dirt as long as you can wash your hands of it afterward,” he accuses. “And I’m a safe bet all around. You do me a favour, I scratch your itch, and even if I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, who’d believe me?”
Janeway’s lips are parted in shock. “That’s not – Oh God, Tom, that’s not what I –” She scrambles to her feet. “I should go.”
Tom leaps up too, blocking her path to the door. “Tell me about the Al Batani,” he finds himself blurting, the words tumbling over each other. “Tell me what happened to my father.”
She stops trying to dodge him and bows her head, sighing. “I can’t do that.”
“Then tell me why you fu- why you slept with him.” He tries to catch her eye. “Why you had a love affair –”
“It wasn’t a love affair,” she says abruptly.
She turns away to stand at his viewport, arms wrapped around her body, and Tom moves closer, cautious, watching her reflection in the glass.
“Then what was it?” he asks, calmer now.
“I don’t know.” Janeway faces him. “Your father and I … we experienced something we’ll never have in common with anyone else. I can’t talk about it.”
“Because it’s too hard?”
“Because it’s classified,” she answers. “And yes, it’s hard. In some ways I don’t think I’ll ever recover from it, and I know your father won’t. Something like that tends to create a connection.” Her hand is on his chest, her eyes serious. “But it had nothing to do with love.”
Tom looks down at her and tries to imagine what she went through. What they went through. Then he stops trying to picture it.
“At least you weren’t alone,” he says, and takes her hand.
“He loves you, you know,” she says when he’s coaxed her to stay with apologies and offers of more wine, both of which he’s surprised she accepts.
This, though – this can’t pass unchallenged.
“Forgive me, Captain, but that’s bullshit.”
“It’s true,” she insists. “The way he talks about you … it’s clear he’s very proud. He thinks the world of you.”
“He has a strange way of showing it. And even if that was true once, it sure as hell isn’t true now.”
“Well,” she smiles faintly, “he’s a complicated man.”
Tom snorts. “I always thought he was pretty simple.”
And he’s officially done with talking about his father to this woman. This woman who’s become more to him than his father’s protégée, or his ticket to freedom.
“Do you dance?” he blurts.
He ignores the amused lift of her eyebrow and jumps to his feet. “Computer, play music. Something fast. And loud.”
Some kind of racket he’s never heard before pounds through the room – something Bajoran, he guesses – and Tom plucks the wine glass from Janeway’s hand, shoving it onto a side table.
“Come on,” he shouts above the music. He lets the beat move through his body, lets his body move with it. “Dance with me.”
He catches her hand and tugs her to her feet.
“I don’t know how to dance to this,” she protests, half-laughing, but he wraps a hand around her waist and encourages her to half-shuffle, half-bounce with him.
He dances her through the room, dodging tables and chairs, spinning and dipping her until she’s laughing helplessly, cheeks flushed and hair tumbling out of its prim chignon. He stumbles into an armchair and rights them with a breathless apology; she bumps her elbow against the wall and squeaks in protest.
“Stop,” she calls at last, “Computer, mute the music!”
She tugs him to a halt in the archway that leads to his sleeping space. She has one hand still clasped in his, the other clutching at his uniform jacket. In the sudden silence, the only sound is their accelerated breathing.
He looks down at her, takes in her parted lips and the colour on her cheekbones, and dips his head to kiss her.
“Wait,” she says quickly, holding him off with a hand on his chest. “If we do this, there are rules –”
“I know,” he interrupts. “No strings, no questions.”
“Yes. But most of all, no misunderstandings,” she answers. “You implied earlier that I’d propositioned you to exact my pound of flesh for getting you out of that rehab colony. That was wrong, and frankly, it was insulting.”
Tom looks away, shame-faced. “I didn’t mean it.”
“Good. Because that’s not why I fucked you.”
His eyes widen.
“Got your attention, didn’t I?” Janeway smirks. “Then listen. I didn’t fuck you for nostalgia or for payback or because I thought you owed me something. You owe me nothing but your honest best on this mission, and when the mission is over –”
“– we go our separate ways,” Tom finishes. “I understand.”
He raises her hand to his lips, and she tenses, holding her breath.
“This is a bad idea,” she mutters. “I should go …”
“Kathryn.” He presses his lips to her fingers, then to her palm, then the inside of her wrist, and her diffidence begins to melt into a different kind of tension. Tom’s other hand alights on her hip, the faintest of pressure guiding her closer. “Stay.”
Chapter 13: Relish
This time when he kisses her, she lets him lead. He can sense that she’s still hesitating, that one wrong move and she’ll slip away, so he keeps his touch light and his mouth persuasive. His palm skims upward from the small of her back and around to cup her face, and he brushes feathery kisses over her lips, nudging her to part them for him. Only when he draws back to read her expression and she presses close, chasing his mouth, does Tom start to believe it’s going to happen.
If it does, he doesn’t want her hesitant.
Tom eases out of her kiss and traces a thumb across her lower lip. “Do you want this?”
She arches an eyebrow, but when he just looks at her, waiting for a clear signal, she puts some space between them, holding his gaze. She strips her jacket off efficiently, unfastens the back of her turtleneck and yanks it over her head, bends to pull off her boots. Straightening, she takes her time unbuckling her trousers and pushing them to a heap at her feet.
She’s still wearing her undershirt and panties; Starfleet-issue grey this time. Tom likes it just as much as he’d liked the lace-edged satin she’d worn the other night.
Then she steps back into his space, takes his hand and pulls it between her thighs. Heat radiates from her, and when he curls his fingers he discovers her panties are damp.
“What do you think?” she purrs.
“Just making sure,” he manages, and starts manoeuvring her toward the bed as a slow, crooked smile curls her lips. As the edge of the bed bumps the backs of her knees she starts to unseal his jacket, but he takes hold of her hands, shaking his head. “Hold still.”
“All right,” she says. “But don’t keep me waiting too long, Mr Paris.”
“You have somewhere better to be?” he teases, tossing his jacket aside. The turtleneck follows immediately and he moves close again, bringing his hands to her waist.
He spreads his fingers around her ribs, hooks them into the low-cut sides of her tank. She’s not wearing a bra under it, and the realisation makes his breath catch.
“Improperly dressed, Captain,” he drawls. “I’ll have to put you on report.”
From the way she pushes herself into his hands as his thumbs rub her nipples into knots, he can tell she’s enjoying his teasing. He slides to his knees, pushing her tank up to bare her stomach, grazing his lips over her skin to make her shudder. She tugs the tank over her head and he hooks his thumbs into the sides of her panties to ease them down over pale, narrow thighs. She widens her stance. Her fingers thread into his hair, trying to pull him in.
He resists, grinning when she gives an impatient growl.
“Tom,” she warns, and he pulls back to give her a stern look.
“I thought we’d been through this.”
“I don’t like waiting –”
“And I don’t like to be rushed.” Tom pinches her nipple sharply, making her jump. “So if you want me to make you come, Kathryn, you’ll have to let me do it my way.”
She draws a breath, but he leans in quickly to nip at her inner thigh and whatever she’d planned to say dissolves in a gasp. Tom rises, hands on her waist, and looks at her speculatively. Her chest is rising and falling quickly, her cheeks flushed and her eyes dark. She licks her lips.
At his questioning eyebrow, she gives a short nod, and takes in a deep, steadying breath.
All right then, Tom thinks, and kisses her: slow, lingering and luscious, his fingers spread across her cheekbone and jaw. She all but crumples, her body melting into his so that when he eases back she moves with him. Her breath puffs softly on his throat. Tom gives up on his plan to stand her on her own feet, holding her against him with one hand as the other begins to pluck the pins from her unravelling hair.
She hums approval of his gentleness as he unwinds the silky coils and works his fingers through the length of it. When he’s finished, she gives her head a little shake and he shivers at the sensation of her cool hair brushing his skin.
Then she presses her lips to his chest, begins nibbling at the ridge of his collarbone as one hand sneaks down to curl around the erection he’s been ignoring, and he grasps her wrist before she can deter him from the mission he intends to carry out tonight.
He says, “Get on the bed.”
Kathryn’s eyes narrow.
“Do I have to make it an order?” He lets his smirk spread slowly, crossing his fingers she’ll play along.
She unwinds her arms from around his neck and sinks onto the bed, arranging herself with her arms laid above her head and one knee raised. Her eyes are full of challenge.
“Spread your legs.”
He watches her swallow before she obeys, easing her thighs apart deliberately. Leaning over the bed, Tom settles on his elbows and stares blatantly at the wet flesh between her legs.
He brings one finger up to trace the seam of her pussy. She squirms as the pad of his finger circles her clit and he groans softly in response.
“You smell so good,” Tom murmurs, then leans in to lick at her, enjoying her shudder, pulling back before she can press herself onto his lips. “Taste good too.”
“Tom …” He feels her fingers twining into his hair, tugging him gently toward her. “Please.”
“Ah-ah,” he grins, resisting her. “Trust me, Kathryn, I’ll get you there. Remember? Just trust me.”
He thinks he hears her mutter “You’d better,” but then with a slow intake of breath, she releases her grip and lies back, closing her eyes and bringing her hands to her breasts.
“Good,” he murmurs, admiring the picture she makes, spread open and trembling, fingers teasing her nipples into hard peaks. “That’s so good.”
He belly-crawls toward her and sucks lightly at her inner thigh, following up with a long, languid swipe of his tongue all around her swollen lips. She arches and moans, and he strokes the soft skin of her pelvis and thighs to ease her down a little while he decides what to do with her next.
Fingers, he decides, and slips two of them slowly into her drenched channel, curling them upward. She cries out and starts working her hips in a slow, shuddering circle, whimpering as his fingers penetrate her deeper. When he bends his mouth to her again, drawing lazy patterns around her clitoris, she almost whines.
He flicks his eyes up to her and sees that she’s propped herself on one elbow, the fingers of her free hand cupping her breast, her gaze hot and heavy and fixed on the busy movements of his fingers and tongue between her thighs. Her lips are parted, breath gusting through them, and he can tell from the way she’s fluttering around his fingers that she’s right on the edge. It’s going to be good, too.
Tom rubs the pads of his fingers against the rippled patch of flesh inside her and licks her quickly, firmly, and she shrieks, twisting half off the bed; he has to bring his other hand under her lower back to hold her steady and ease her back down.
He backs off a little as her spasms slow, and she whimpers, her hands falling away from her breasts, one resting limply on the sheet, the other fumbling for him, fingers grazing slackly against his forehead.
“Oh,” she groans, “oh, God … so good …”
Tom presses light kisses to the inside of her thigh, smiling. Good is … good.
But he doesn’t just want good. He wants to give her spectacular. So before she can catch her breath, he bends to press his tongue to her again.
“Oh, no,” she moans, but when he crooks his fingers and thrusts them firmly deeper inside her, her hips jerk up to his waiting mouth and her protest tapers into a “yesss … please!”
So he stiffens his fingers and plunges them into her and out and in and again and puckers his lips around her swollen clit and sucks it harshly into his mouth and in less than three seconds she wails, her entire body shaking as sharp liquid bursts on his tongue. It seems to last forever, her fingers gripping the sheets as she sobs and gasps for air, her body writhing and jerking, until finally she slumps limply back to the bed.
Tom sits back on his heels and licks the taste of her from his lips.
“Hey,” he murmurs, and when she doesn’t respond, “Kathryn. You still alive?”
She groans faintly, blinking blurred eyes at him.
“Fuck,” she says in a voice like gravel, and Tom decides he’s earned the right to one broad, cocksure grin.
Chapter 14: Appetite
Warning: not even sure if this one needs a warning, but... vague allusions to nasty things that have happened to both Paris and Janeway. From now on, let's just assume that these topics will be referenced from time to time, okay?
Tom shucks the rest of his clothing and crawls up beside her on the bed, chuckling silently at the way she lies there as if boneless. One hand firm on her hip, he rolls her to the side and fits himself in behind her, smoothing her tangled hair aside, kissing her shoulder and the back of her neck.
When she speaks her voice is dreamy and muted. “I’d tell you how good I feel right now, but your ego might never fit through a door again.”
He nips at her ear in retaliation, and she gasps, then giggles and squirms as his fingers graze her ribs, leaving gooseflesh in their wake.
“You’re ticklish,” Tom crows, fingertips skating over the delicate parts of her skin as she writhes helplessly, laughing until she’s breathless.
“Stop,” she squeaks, pushing at his chest until he relents, wrapping her up in his arms instead.
“I can’t believe it,” he says, still grinning. “I figured out how to bring Captain Janeway to her knees.”
“Oh, I think you already worked that one out,” she drawls, craning up to bite at his chin.
Tom thinks about the way she knelt to suck at him so expertly the other night and groans aloud. He dips his head, parting her lips with his tongue, kissing her softly until she sighs and falls back on the pillow with a smile. He indulges himself in staring at her unabashedly while her eyes are closed, until she opens them and he averts his gaze.
“See something you like?” she purrs.
Trying not to flush, he retorts, “Just counting your freckles,” and rolls away from her, onto his back.
Kathryn props herself on one elbow and turns that assessing gaze on him again, and he studiously keeps his expression blank and his own eyes on the ceiling.
Eventually she eases back on her scrutiny and starts to draw aimless patterns on his chest with her forefinger. Her tone is conversational as she asks him, “Have you decided what you’ll do once the mission is over?”
“Nope.” He glances at her quickly. “I assume that means you intend to petition the rehab commission for my release?”
“That was always my intention, Tom. I thought I’d been quite clear about that.”
He shrugs. “Forgive me if I find it a little difficult to trust people in uniform.”
“I’m not wearing a uniform,” she volleys, straight-faced.
Tom gives her an even look despite the twitch at the corners of his mouth. “You know what I mean.”
“I’m starting to,” she says softly, serious again. “Tom, I won’t let you end up back in that place, no matter what happens at your parole review.”
“Thank you,” he says, overwhelmed.
“And afterwards I’ll help you find a job, if I can.”
“Sure,” he answers. “Disgraced ex-con seeks position as elite test pilot. Will work for food.”
Kathryn frowns at him. “There must be something else you’d be interested in doing.”
He shrugs. “I’m okay at holoprogramming, and I hear the Ferengi aren’t too picky about criminal records.”
“There you are, then.”
“And I know a lot of useless trivia. Earth history, mainly.”
“You and Mark both –” Kathryn cuts herself off abruptly, looking away.
“Mark?” Tom props himself up to study her. “The guy with the dog?”
“Yes.” She clips the word out, slumping back to the pillow with the back of one hand against her forehead, fist clenched.
“So what is he – boyfriend? Husband?”
Tom dips his head to lick her nipple and she sucks in a breath, her eyes narrowing at him.
“And what does your fiancé think about you fucking other men?”
“Which part of no questions was unclear?” Kathryn growls, but when he simply stares at her, waiting, she sighs. “We have an … arrangement.”
“Does he get to ask questions?”
Amusement flickers briefly across her face. “Yes. Quite a lot, actually.”
“I like sex,” Kathryn explains, her tone exaggerated. “I’m away a lot, and I don’t like to go without. Mark likes me to tell him all about my … adventures.”
“He has a cuckolding kink?” Tom’s eyebrows rise. “Are you going to tell him about us?”
“Probably. If you ever shut up long enough to do something worth telling.”
“Oh,” he clasps a hand to his heart in mock agony. “Tell him I made you come so hard you almost passed out.”
Kathryn laughs, and pulls him down to kiss her, and Tom presses her thighs apart and covers her with his body, determined to give her a story to tell.
“Can I ask you something else?” he asks, much later, when she’s sprawled out across his chest, drowsy and sated.
Her breath gusts across his chest as she sighs. “Would it stop you if I said no?”
“What’s going to happen to Chakotay’s people if we catch them?”
“When we catch them.” Kathryn props herself up on his chest and looks down at him. “They’ll be tried for treason and imprisoned. In Chakotay’s case, that may be for life.”
“Life?” Tom stiffens. “That long?”
“You got two years,” Kathryn points out. “And you’d only been in the Maquis for a couple of months.”
“I got two years because I fired on the Bradbury when they tried to tractor me,” Tom replies. “Chakotay never attacked a Federation or Starfleet target. Only Cardassians.”
“If that’s true,” Kathryn says, “it will come out at his trial. The judge will take it into account when sentencing him.”
“The judge would take more notice if you vouched for him.”
“And why would I do that?”
“Because of your history,” Tom answers. “I’d have thought you’d have some sympathy toward the Maquis.”
Her tone is dangerous, but it doesn’t deter him. “Yeah. With the Cardassians.”
Kathryn pushes upright, pulling the sheet around her naked torso. “What exactly do you think you know, Mr Paris?”
“Come on, Kathryn. I’m not stupid.” Tom sits up too, meeting her eyes. “Just … think about it, okay? Think about who the Maquis are fighting, and what they’re fighting for. Consider that when you hand Chakotay and his crew over to Starfleet justice.”
She looks at him steadily. “A lot will depend on the actions Chakotay takes when we find him,” she replies. “But I’ll consider it.”
“That’s all I ask.”
He looks away, thinking about Chakotay, trapped in that rehab colony that almost broke his soul in half, and can’t help shuddering.
Maybe Chakotay will be stronger, better able to fight them off.
Then again, maybe they’ll put him in with the other Maquis. Maybe he’ll never have to suffer through the things Tom suffered.
“Hey,” Kathryn says softly, watching the expressions play out across his face. “What are you thinking about?”
“Nothing,” Tom forces himself to smile, cupping her face in his hands and leaning in.
Kathryn resists his kiss at first, but he persists until her lips soften and part under his, until he feels her responding. She loosens her hold on the sheet and pulls him close, pulls him down onto the pillow with her and wraps her arms around him.
He presses his face into the curve where her neck meets her shoulder, concentrating on the scent and softness of her skin to shake off the grim clouds of memory.
“It’s over, Tom,” she whispers, stroking his hair. “You’re safe now.”
For the moment, he believes her.
Chapter 15: Beneath the uniform
Since we're getting back to canon events in this chapter, you'll start seeing snippets of familiar dialogue from here on in. No infringement intended, etc.
Beneath the uniform
He wakes to the sound of someone moving stealthily through the dark room, and bolts upright shouting “Computer, lights!”
“Damn it, Tom!” Kathryn squints, one hand up to shield her eyes. She’s wearing her undershirt and pants and her arms are full of the other pieces of her uniform.
“Shit,” he mutters, flopping back to the bed as he tries to control the thundering of his terrified heart. “Sorry.”
“No.” Her voice is gentle, clearly understanding his sudden panic. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think.”
She sits on the edge of the bed beside him, one hand hovering over his chest, waiting until his breathing slows.
“What time is it?” Tom asks gruffly.
He sits up and scrubs his face, looking at her properly for the first time. “You’re leaving?”
“I shouldn’t have stayed this long,” she admits. “We break moorings at 0930, and I have a lot to do before then. As for you,” her hand alights on his shoulder, “I believe you have a date with Dr Fitzgerald.”
“Great,” he mutters, and tosses the covers aside.
“You don’t have to get up just yet,” she says, surprised, watching him pull on his shorts and run a hand through his hair.
“Won’t get any more sleep now anyway,” he shrugs.
He sits on the edge of the bed and watches as she pulls on her uniform and boots, her movements efficient. She walks over to the replicator and orders a hair brush, mascara, lipstick.
“Mind if I use your bathroom?” she asks, gathering up her hairpins from the nightstand.
“Be my guest.”
When she returns a few minutes later, she’s impeccably coiffed and made-up. Standing, Tom holds a hand out to her and she walks into his arms. He presses his lips to her pinned-up hair.
“Why did you recruit me, Kathryn?”
“I thought we’d been over this.”
“You said something about a fall from grace.” He laughs. “I can’t imagine you –”
She silences him with a finger on his lips, her eyes holding his.
“I know what it’s like to make a mistake that derails your entire life,” she tells him. “I remember not caring if I lived or died, believing nothing I could ever do would make up for that one mistake.”
He stares at her.
“But I had people who loved me, who wouldn’t give up on me. I don’t know where I might be now if my sister hadn’t –” She swallows. “I was given a second chance. I thought you deserved the same.”
“Most people would say I’ve had more than my share of chances.” Tom tries to keep his voice light to hide the catch in his throat.
“I’m not most people.”
No, he thinks. I’ve never met anyone like you before.
“Can I see you again?” he asks aloud, keeping his voice casual in the hope she won’t know how much her answer matters to him.
“You’ll see me on the bridge.” Kathryn studies him. “But I assume that isn’t what you meant.”
He shakes his head slowly.
“You know this can’t last,” she reminds him, voice gentle.
“I know.” Tom rubs his thumb across her lower lip. “Just until the mission’s over.”
She hesitates, and he bends to press his lips to the side of her neck, feeling her sigh.
“No one can know,” she emphasises.
“I hate to tell you this, but Stadi already does.”
“Except her,” Kathryn concedes. “Can you keep it completely professional outside of …”
“… the bedroom?” he finishes, smirking at her. “Yeah, I can do that.”
She raises an eyebrow, and Tom pulls back, moving fluidly into the at ease position, his face expressionless.
“Captain,” he nods deferentially.
She grins crookedly. “Convincing,” she admits, “although you seem to be missing your uniform.”
He smiles back at her and takes her hand. “So, is that a yes?”
With her free hand, Kathryn reaches up to touch his face. “I must be mad,” she sighs, “but yes.”
Hoping to avoid another encounter with Dr Bashir, Tom eschews the replimat in favour of breakfast at Quark’s. At 0800 hours, the bar is a damn sight less crowded than Tom has ever seen it.
Maybe that’s why the exchange between the Ferengi barkeep and the newly-minted Starfleet ensign catches his attention so completely.
At first, Tom has no intention of getting involved. Thanks to his conversation with Janeway about what he’s going to do with his life after the Badlands mission, he’s been considering asking Quark for a job. Stepping in to scuttle the Ferengi’s grift will put paid to that idea.
But he can’t take the mounting dismay on the young ensign’s face as Quark, without even trying, almost relieves the kid of every credit he owns.
“Dazzling, aren’t they?” Tom swoops in, smoothly cutting off Quark’s tirade, plucking one of the cheap crystals the Ferengi is talking up as though they’re the crown jewels. “As bright as a Koladan diamond …”
Moments later, Tom Paris has made his third friend in three days, which is perhaps why he finds the confidence to challenge Dr Fitzgerald’s obvious disdain when he and Ensign Kim report to sickbay. A few short sentences from the doctor crash Tom’s mood like a Danube-class runabout.
“I was a surgeon at the hospital on Caldik Prime at the same time you were stationed there,” Fitzgerald tells him flatly, adding, “Your medical records have arrived from your last posting, Mr Paris. Everything seems to be in order.”
So you’re one of those.
Tom decides then and there that he won’t be visiting Fitzgerald’s sickbay for treatment even if his leg gets torn off. Better to sew it back on himself, with just a bottle of whiskey for anaesthetic.
“Bet you’d be interested to know what my medical file from my ‘last posting’ should say,” he mutters darkly, his speech obscured by Harry Kim’s valiant attempt to take the heat off him.
“What was that all about?” the ensign hisses as they hurry out of the medical bay.
“It’s a long story, Harry, and I’m tired of telling it,” Tom says, quickening his stride to the turbolift. “I’m sure someone around here will tell you before long.”
So much for friend number three, he thinks as the turbolift rises toward deck one.
Then he banishes surly doctors and soon to be failed friendships to the back of his mind, and straightens his posture as Harry presses the chime at the ready room door.
“Gentlemen,” the captain says briskly when they’ve entered, “welcome aboard Voyager.”
Tom pays barely any heed to Harry’s starched exchange with Janeway. He’s too busy doing exactly what he promised her he wouldn’t do: vividly picturing what’s beneath her uniform, comparing her pristine appearance to the flushed and tousle-headed woman he’d seen naked only a few short hours ago.
So he can’t quite hide the silken drawl in his voice when they’re following her onto the bridge and she asks him if he’d had any trouble getting to Voyager. Then again, he’s gotten to know her well enough that he can picture her crooked smirk, even though her back is to him.
He wonders if he’s supposed to pretend he hasn’t visited Voyager at all until this moment, hasn’t spoken with the captain or interacted with any of her crew. That might be difficult, he thinks as he glances around the bridge stations, spotting Stadi at the helm and the dread Ensign Rollins at tactical.
“My first officer, Lieutenant Commander Cavit,” Janeway introduces, leading Tom and Harry up to the command level.
Tom watches as Cavit welcomes Harry with a warm handshake. The change in the first officer’s demeanour when he turns to Tom is so evident that Tom almost laughs.
What was Janeway thinking, dressing me in this uniform? he wonders as Cavit looks him up and down. It’s no surprise Cavit and Fitzgerald are offended by the mere sight of him: he, who has betrayed everything this uniform stands for.
He stands in the centre of the bridge, feeling as conspicuous as a horga’hn in a Tabern monastery, until the ship is underway, and then he catches Janeway’s eye, silently asking for permission to escape to his newly assigned quarters.
It takes Cavit and Fitzgerald less than ten hours to warn Harry Kim away from him. Standing at the replicator bank in the officer’s mess, Tom watches the young ensign’s shoulders hunching as the two older men tell him the sordid tale of Tom’s misdeeds.
“There, see?” he says with sarcasm as he slides into the seat opposite Kim. “Told you it wouldn’t take long.”
Harry won’t want anything to do with him now, Tom figures. Not that it matters; he’s not here to make friends –
Who am I kidding? he scolds himself silently. He’s just begun to hope that maybe he’s not a complete waste of a human being. After all, Stadi and Janeway both see something good in him –
“I don’t need anyone to choose my friends for me,” Harry Kim tells him, and Tom finds himself speechless.
Then the captain pages him to the bridge, and he’s forced to put his gratitude aside for later.
Stadi is dead, but Tom has no time to mourn.
He finds himself slipping seamlessly into the role of attentive junior officer, responding with alacrity to every order Janeway snaps out, taking it upon himself to check pulses and secure stations and put out fires.
The bridge is a mess, a third of the crew are dead, and they’re over seventy thousand light years away from everything they know.
Tom’s always been good at compartmentalising, but this is testing even his skills. He takes his cues from his captain, whose mind is working so quickly it’s almost visible as she deals decisively with each fresh crisis.
She’d spared hardly a moment to indulge in shock at being flung across the galaxy; he recalls looking to her immediately the minute Harry broke the news, watching the flicker of sheer terror across her face before she steeled her jaw and issued a series of commands: confirm their position, move closer to the array, scan the surrounding space.
Then they find the Val Jean.
“No life signs on the Maquis ship,” Harry reports, and there’s no answer to hails. Tom finds himself squinting at the slightly fuzzy image on the viewscreen. The sturdy Peregrine-class raider looks to have fared a little better on its unexpected journey than Voyager has.
“Secure all engineering systems,” Janeway is ordering urgently when Tom tunes back in. “Ensign Kim, get down to sickbay and see what’s going on. Mr Rollins, the bridge is yours.”
As Harry dutifully makes his way to the turbolift, Tom leaps after him. The dead and wounded have been removed from the bridge, he’s locked Voyager into synchronous orbit with the alien array, and no way in hell is he staying here while Rollins is in charge.
Later, after the bewildering trip to the American gothic farmhouse with its murderous holographic inhabitants, after being skewered by alien instruments, his DNA sampled and found wanting, after waking up in sickbay to find Harry missing, Tom reflects briefly that perhaps he should have stayed in prison after all.
At least there he knew which way the danger would be coming from.
When he steps onto the bridge and Chakotay materialises just metres away, phaser cocked and loaded, it’s all Tom can do to stop his knees from buckling.
He stands silent, on the balls of his feet, watching tensely as Janeway blithely reveals a tall Vulcan Tom has never met before as an undercover operative and the reason for her mission. Chakotay’s jaw is set, his voice soft and almost amused as he absorbs the blow. But then he turns on Tom, black eyes hard with fury, and there’s nothing kind or mild about the words he throws like daggers, each one a direct hit.
“You,” Chakotay spits, “you betrayed us for what? Freedom from prison? Latinum? What was your price this time?”
And Tom finds himself moving as if caught in a gravitational pull, not knowing whether he intends to defend himself against Chakotay’s damnably accurate indictment, or throw himself at the other man’s feet and beg for mercy, or forgiveness, or the other kind of favour Chakotay once saw fit to bestow on him.
He’s coming off a three-day rum bender, and he smells like it. Slumped in a corner of the bar, shaky and sick, scared of what he’ll be forced to do to earn enough credits for his next drink, Tom doesn’t notice the man approaching until he slides into the seat across his table.
“I’m told you’re a pilot.”
Bleary-eyed, Tom barely spares the stranger a glance. “Seems like you’ve been misled.”
There’s a soft laugh. “Oh, I don’t think so. My sources are usually pretty accurate.”
Tom’s finding it hard to concentrate and even harder to care. “What the fuck do you want?”
The man leans forward, into Tom’s space, and Tom uncrosses his eyes to study him: human, well-built, tawny-skinned with black eyes and hair. And a tattoo on one temple. Tom frowns. Don’t see that every day.
“Who are you?”
“My name’s Chakotay.”
“Yeah? You don’t look Gallamite.”
“What?” The human frowns, then shakes his head briefly, clearly deciding to ignore Tom’s comment. “As I said, I’m in the market for a good pilot. I need someone who can take the helm of just about any spaceworthy vessel built in the past eighty-odd years. Someone who’s a quick study and can think on his feet. And, as a bonus, someone who’s familiar with Starfleet flight manoeuvres.”
Chakotay lays his hands palm down on the table’s surface and lowers his voice, and Tom finds himself bending closer to listen.
“You heard of the Maquis?”
Tom screws up his face. “Like, the French Resistance?”
“Not many people know that’s who we’re named after.” Chakotay looks surprised. “But no, I mean the group of us taking on the Cardassians in the DMZ.”
“Oh, yeah,” Tom says. “The Federation News calls you terrorists. That’s on a good day.”
“Terrorist … freedom fighter …” Chakotay spreads his fingers on the table. “Depends on where you’re standing.”
“Where do you stand?” Despite himself, Tom really wants to know.
“I resigned my Starfleet commission to defend the border colonies after my homeworld was decimated by a Cardassian attack,” he answers. “So the way I see it, I stand on the side that lets me sleep at night.”
Tom has nothing to say to that. He wonders if Chakotay really does sleep easy. He knows from experience that doing the right thing doesn’t do a whole lot for your conscience when it’s too little, too late.
“So tell me, Tom Paris. Will you work for us?”
His response is automatic. “What’s in it for me?”
“What do you want?” Chakotay almost looks amused.
Tom sits back, mind working sluggishly. “You can start by buying me a drink,” he drawls. “I’ll have Risian whiskey. Better yet, make it a bottle.”
“That’s not on offer. I’d want you sober.”
“Fuck off then,” Tom says, feigning disinterest.
Chakotay leans forward. “Why don’t I tell you what I am offering?” he suggests, voice mild.
“I’m offering you a job,” he says. “A reason to get up in the morning. The chance to fight for something important. And,” he leans in further, “a clean slate.”
“What makes you think I care about any of that?”
“What other options do you have?” Chakotay’s voice stays even, but there’s a hard note in it that makes Tom straighten up a little. “Although I guess it’s a toss-up which option is going to kill you quickest: the drinking, the fighting or the whoring.”
Tom wants to leap to his feet, shout at this stranger to fuck off, storm out of the bar – but then what? Where would he go?
“Your future looks pretty grim from where I’m standing,” Chakotay continues. “But I’m offering you a chance to change all that. You’d have a home, a purpose, people who care whether you live or die. And,” he lowers his voice still further and Tom bends toward him involuntarily, hanging on every word, “you’d stop wasting that talent I’m told you have in abundance. You’d be able to fly again.”
An ache thickens Tom’s throat. He stares at the pitted wooden surface of the table, blinking, pretending it isn’t blurring before his eyes.
“All I need to know,” and now Chakotay reaches over and lays a hand on Tom’s wrist, “is if you want it enough.”
Tom looks at the broad, dark hand on his own pale and bony wrist, and a tangled surge of need and gratitude and, yes, lust, swells in his chest. He doesn’t know if he wants this man so badly because he’s offering salvation, but at the moment he doesn’t much care. He just knows he’ll do anything to stay with him.
He clears his throat of tears and desperation, says gruffly, “I want it,” and looks up into Chakotay’s gentle, knowing smile.
The strength of his own longing terrifies him into yanking his hand away.
“I owe that asshole money,” he says, trying to sound cocky and careless, and jerks a thumb in the direction of the bartender. “You’re gonna have to pay my tab if you,” he pauses to drag his hot gaze over the big Maquis, “want me.”
Chakotay’s smile hardens. “Everybody has their price.”
“You are speaking to a member of my crew.” Janeway’s voice is low and as deadly as a striking viper, her small body crowded up against Chakotay’s much larger frame. “I expect you to treat him with the same respect as you would have me treat a member of yours.”
And to Tom’s astonishment, Chakotay falls silent, his eyes meeting Janeway’s for a long, charged moment, after which he backs down.
Janeway takes it in stride, chin lifted as she returns to issuing orders. Tom retreats, dropping his gaze, though whether to avoid Chakotay’s eyes or to hide the tangled mix of emotions he knows must be visible in his own, he isn’t sure.
You are speaking to a member of my crew.
Back on the station when Ensign Ivers broke Tom’s jaw and Odo had asked if they were members of Janeway’s crew, she’d only acknowledged that Ivers was one of hers. Not Tom.
And here she is: protecting him, from the very man who once gave Tom his own protection.
An untidy mélange of fear, excitement and shame prickles the back of Tom’s neck.
But, when Janeway announces her intention to transport to the array and Chakotay indicates that he’ll join her team, staying behind is the last thing Tom would ever think to do.
I've caught up to the bits of the story I've already written, so updates will slow down from here on in. Sorry. 🚀
Chapter 17: What was your price?
What was your price?
Long range sensors, like approximately half the ship’s systems, are working at reduced capacity, so Tom attaches himself to a repair crew on deck ten. One of the engineers gives him a suspicious once-over and discreetly contacts the bridge, but the captain’s impatient response – “we need all the help we can get, don’t we, Mr Carey?” – seems to settle any misgivings about the observer having free-ranging access to the ship.
It takes him hours, but by 0200 Tom has realigned, bypassed or replaced half the relays between the navigational deflector and the main sensor array. He taps his combadge. “Paris to bridge.”
“Go ahead, Mr Paris.” Janeway sounds as brisk and energetic as though she hasn’t been awake for twenty-four hours straight – not counting their three days unconscious on the Caretaker’s array – and Tom wonders if she’s as insomniac as he is.
“Long range sensors should be online now, Captain.”
“Good work, Tom,” she says, sounding both warmer and more fatigued. “Now get some rest. Janeway out.”
It doesn’t occur to him to ignore her order. Still, as exhausted as he is, when Tom drags himself back to the quarters he’s barely set foot in, he discovers that sleep is out of his reach.
He’s known since he agreed to Janeway’s offer that he’d likely come face to face with Chakotay at some point. But now, with the Val Jean locked into a shadow orbit with Voyager while they try to find their missing crewmen, Tom can’t seem to stop thinking about him.
He can’t tell if it’s gratitude, curiosity, hero-worship or desire – or, most likely, a gut-churning mixture of all of them – but Tom spends most of his waking hours, and a good chunk of the time he’s supposed to be sleeping, thinking about his new captain.
Even his name is intriguing: it rolls off his tongue in strangely smooth staccato, vigorous and enigmatic, like the man himself.
On their way to the demilitarised zone, Chakotay had shepherded Tom and two other recruits on a motley series of freighters, shuttles and cargo vessels, treating the three of them in a manner that reminded Tom of a big brother, or maybe a camp counsellor. But since the first time Tom slid behind the helm on Chakotay’s ship, the divide between them has been subtle but unmistakable. At first it doesn’t bother him – he’s Starfleet trained; he’s used to distance between captain and crew – but then, unexpectedly, it does.
Because there’s a clear disparity between the way Chakotay laughs and tussles and banters with the longer-standing crew, and the detached courtesy with which he treats Tom. He’s politely indifferent to the other, newer recruits as well, with the exception of B’Elanna Torres, but Tom doesn’t care about the other rookies. He just wants Chakotay to joke with him as he does with Jor or Henley, punch his arm like Dalby’s, speak in the familiar shorthand he uses with Ayala and Bendera.
He wants Chakotay to notice him.
A month or so into his employ with the Maquis, Tom comes off shift late and particularly edgy. He’s spent the past six hours playing hide and seek through the plasma streamers with a particularly talented Cardassian pilot helming a Hideki-class fighter, and the longing for whiskey is sharper than it’s been in weeks. He strides aimlessly through the cramped corridors of the ship, trying to take his mind off it. Passing the armoury, he notices the door is ajar, hears a feminine chuckle and glances inside.
Chakotay has Seska crowded up against the bulkhead. His lips are on her throat and his big hands clutching her ass while hers make swift work of his trouser fastenings. As Tom stares, Seska shoves her hands inside Chakotay’s pants and he hisses and bucks into her touch.
She laughs again, something triumphant in it this time, and turns to wink at Tom through the half-open door.
He flings himself back out of her sight, hoping like hell Chakotay hasn’t seen him, and hurries to his cramped bunk. He’s fortunate – his bunkmates are all on shift – but he can’t swear that he would have cared if he’d had an audience. He can’t remember the last time he burned so hot or needed release so desperately.
Maybe it’s because it’s been a long time since he wanted something more than his next drink.
As Tom is cleaning himself up, feeling drained and off-balance, Seska saunters into his quarters and drapes herself across the doorway of the tiny ‘fresher.
“What do you want?” Tom mumbles. There’s something about her that raises his hackles.
“I want to make sure you know he’s mine.”
He doesn’t bother playing dumb. “I know that.”
“And he’ll never be interested in you, or anyone else, as long as I’m around.”
He snorts before he can think better of it. “Sure about that?”
“I’ll make sure of it.” Seska smiles, and there’s no warmth in it. “Stay away, Paris. This is your only warning.”
After a long moment, Tom nods, and Seska, satisfied, sashays out of his quarters.
But staying out of Chakotay’s way has no effect whatsoever on Tom’s desire to get close to him.
He kicks off the covers and glances morosely down at the erection that just won’t go away.
“Computer, locate Captain Janeway?” he asks plaintively.
~Captain Janeway is on the bridge.~
It was a long shot that Kathryn would be available anyway, let alone willing. Tom sighs, ashamed of his intent, brief as it was, to find the release he needs in her warm body.
Taking hold of himself, he lets his eyes close and drifts back into memory, stroking with practised and efficient ease.
Tom’s been needling the captain for days now – snide remarks made under his breath, his tone combative and his body language insolent – and the growl in Chakotay’s voice is just this side of deadly.
“Yeah?” he drawls, swivelling in his chair.
“Dalby, take the helm.” Chakotay rises from the tactical station, eyes hot on Tom’s, jerking his head toward the corridor. “With me.”
Tom puts an extra swagger in his step to hide the way his gut clenches as he follows the captain off the bridge.
Chakotay remains silent as he strides through the ship, climbing down past engineering until they reach the little cargo bay, where he checks there’s nobody around to overhear. Then he turns on Tom, hands low on his hips.
“What the hell did you think you were doing up there, Paris?”
Tom gives him wide blue eyes. “Flying?”
Chakotay moves so fast that Tom’s back slams into the bulkhead before he can blink, and when he tries to draw breath to protest he discovers that his air supply is cut off by the hard arm across his throat.
“Enough.” Chakotay’s eyes are black and his voice low. “Next time I give you an order, you follow it without question, do you understand? You could’ve killed us with that stunt.”
“I had it under control,” Tom ekes out.
Chakotay leans in harder, making him wheeze.
“If I want your opinion,” Chakotay bites out, “I’ll fucking give it to you.”
He eases up a little on the pressure, and Tom, sucking air, groans: “I wish you would.”
About to ream him again, Chakotay seems to clock the tone in his voice and the words die on his tongue. He focuses on Tom’s eyes as the anger fades in his own.
Marshalling the last of his breath, and his courage, Tom leans in and kisses him.
It’s tentative at first, just a light press of lips, but Chakotay’s breath stutters in shock and his lips part and Tom can’t hold back the exploratory brush of his tongue, licking into the other man’s mouth until those full lips soften and Chakotay’s hands find his upper arms. And now that solid weight is back, pressing him into the bulkhead, only this time the anger is tempered with a different kind of heat.
The kiss turns rough. Tom grabs the back of Chakotay’s shirt, fingers taut and needy, twisting the fabric; he’s not entirely sure if he’s trying to pull Chakotay closer or restrain him. They break apart briefly. One of them – Tom isn’t sure which – groans, the sound choked off as their mouths meet again. Hands grasp and stroke; bodies shift and press.
The sound of conversation and laughter drifts in from the corridor, piercing the hot blanketing cloud of arousal and rending them apart. Tom’s chest heaves. Chakotay begins to swear, softly, under his breath.
“Shut up,” hisses Chakotay, fists tightening in Tom’s shirt, half clutching him close, half shoving him away. “Just shut the fuck up.”
Tom nods, licks his lips.
The voices fade, and Chakotay lets him go, striding away without another word.
Tom passes a restless, sleepless night, certain he’ll be kicked off the ship as soon as Chakotay can get rid of him.
In the morning, the ship’s mess is buzzing with the news that it’s over between Chakotay and Seska. Nobody knows why, or if they do nobody’s talking, but Tom can’t help but wonder if it has anything to do with him.
Around 0600, restless, exhausted and heartsick, Tom gives up on the vain hope of slumber. He showers, shaves and pulls on a fresh uniform, and for lack of anything else to do, makes his way to the bridge.
The captain is not in her chair. Occupying it instead is Tuvok, who rises as Tom exits the turbolift.
“Mr Paris,” he acknowledges. “A word, if you would.”
Tom follows him into the conference room. “Where’s the captain?”
“Captain Janeway is in her ready room.”
“Still?” Tom frowns. “She should be sleeping.”
“That is not your concern,” Tuvok rebukes.
“Whatever you say, sir.” Tom folds his hands behind his back. “Was there something you wanted to talk to me about?”
“Captain Janeway requested you be assigned to the bridge until further notice. She noted that since the death of Lieutenant Stadi, you are the crew member with the most knowledge of Voyager’s navigational systems.”
“That’s probably true.” Tom rests a hip against the table’s edge. “The nav array was misaligned and it was causing havoc with the optronic interface. Stadi and I tracked it down to a gel pack with some kind of biological flaw. She was going to have Dr Fitzgerald take a look at it, but I never found out if he did.”
“I will inquire with the holographic doctor. For now, Mr Paris, perhaps you would monitor helm performance from the bridge. It would not be desirable if the navigational systems were to fail while we are travelling at warp speed.”
“You don’t want me to fly?”
“That will not be necessary.”
“Worth a shot,” Tom mutters. “Where are we headed, anyway?”
“The fifth planet of the system two light years away,” Tuvok replies. “Our working theory is that Ensign Kim and Ms Torres may have been transported there by the pulses the Caretaker’s array is sending in that direction.”
“Huh,” Tom says mildly. “Lucky someone fixed the long range sensors so you could work that out.”
“Indeed,” Tuvok says dryly, and indicates that Tom should precede him back to the bridge.