Desperate Measures

Summary: They’re home… but it’s not what they hoped for. Estranged by circumstance and misunderstanding and kept apart by devious design, Voyager’s former command team are drawn into a world of danger, deception and political intrigue that could end up costing their lives.

 

Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Seven, Kim, Tuvok, Torres, Paris, Sekaya, Original Female Characters, Original Male Characters

Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/Other, Chakotay/Seven, Kim/Seven

 

Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.

Warning: Non-consensual sex depicted.

Rated E

Call me a rebel, rebel
I walk the plank, not a tear in my eye
I won't go down, your blushing bride
Under the water, I'll be sharpening my knife
MILCK, Devil Devil

===0===


Chapter Fourteen: Judas Kiss
June, 2379



“Take us down, Ensign. Nice and easy.”

Chakotay clasped his helmsman’s shoulder in reassurance; she was barely a month out of the Academy and had clearly never expected to be landing a Surak-class starship on her very first mission. Truth be told, Chakotay would have preferred not to land the ship either, but with the damage to her port nacelle he had little choice.

His operations officer had been unable to confirm what, exactly, had caused the explosion, but Chakotay wasn’t taking any chances. In the two months since Kash’s attempt to make peace with the Syndicate over the rights to the Yaraka pergium mine, the Orions had progressed from politely warning Federation and Entera ships to vacate the region, to less subtle forms of intimidation.

As a result, Starfleet had increased its presence in the Yaraka sector to a fleet of sixteen, led by the vessel Chakotay was now commanding – Tuvok’s former ship, the USS Zapata.

The Zapata was nothing like Voyager, he thought ruefully as Ensign Trabin fought to keep the cumbersome ship level. But not even Tom Paris would have been able to pull off a graceful landing in this craft, navigating Yaraka’s ionised atmosphere with one faulty nacelle.

Still, he couldn’t deny how right it felt to be commanding the bridge of a Starfleet ship. Maybe he wasn’t as done with this life as he’d thought.

The Zapata touched down with only a mild thump, and Chakotay leaned in to murmur a quiet well done in Trabin’s ear. Straightening up, he ordered his ops officer to work with Engineering on the cause of the nacelle explosion, left his first officer in charge and excused himself to his ready room, chased by a flurry of aye, Captains, thinking ruefully that Harry and B'Elanna would have had answers for him already.

“Coffee, black,” he ordered the replicator absentmindedly. Drink in hand, he stood at the viewport – nothing like the panoramic windows Kathryn had enjoyed in her ready room on Voyager, but it served its purpose – contemplating the dismal grey skies of Yaraka and wondering which of his brand-new crew he could trust.

The Zapata had been his for six weeks now, by order of the Commander-in-Chief, Taela Shanthi. He wasn’t quite sure how Owen Paris had pulled it off, but the admiral had come through for him in a big way.

Chakotay had asked him for verifiable Starfleet intel he could feed to Entera to encourage their trust in him, something he could also use to discredit Tuvok just so he could get the Vulcan safely away. Paris had offered up Shanthi’s plan to launch some of the new Hawking-class fleet to explore the far reaches of the Beta quadrant. That part of the intelligence was true. The bait Chakotay was to offer Entera was that the Federation’s dilithium supplies were drying up, and the Hawking-class vessels had been commissioned specifically to seek out new mineral sources using the astrometric sensors designed by none other than Harry Kim and Seven of Nine.

He’d given the information to Kash, implying heavily that Tuvok had known of the dwindling dilithium sources and kept that tidbit from Entera. Within a week, Tuvok had been recalled to Starfleet HQ and Chakotay was ordered to take command of the Zapata.

~Engineering to Captain Chakotay.~ The voice of his chief engineer broke into his reverie.

“Go ahead,” he responded.

~Sir, we’ve scanned the nacelle and the surrounding hull, but we’ve found no evidence of an attack. I think the damage was caused by a microfracture in the hull plating.~

“Don’t think, Lieutenant Sklaar. Be certain.” Chakotay shook his head, although the Tellarite couldn’t see him. “I want every millimetre of this ship’s hull inspected for additional microfractures. Do it twice, or as many times as you have to until you’re sure. I’ll expect your report on my desk by 2200 hours.”

~Aye sir,~ mumbled the engineer, cowed, and signed off.

Moving to sit behind his desk, Chakotay activated his console and called up a map of the sector. Eight Orion vessels lurked in orbit of Yaraka, he noted. Sabotage would seem to be a more likely cause of the Zapata’s damaged nacelle than microfractures, considering he’d instituted weekly overall inspections of the ship. According to the records, Tuvok had done the same.

He wondered what Tuvok was doing now. They’d had the briefest of opportunities to talk when Tuvok had relinquished his command, and if he hadn’t known the Vulcan as well as he did, Chakotay might not have picked up on Tuvok’s sense of relief at the change. He had asked what made Tuvok agree to work for Section 31 in the first place, worried that Miles and his cohorts had somehow threatened or blackmailed him into it, but Tuvok had responded that he’d seen the decision as logical. As soon as the fal-tor-voh had healed him of his neurological disorder, his keen tactical mind had assessed the post-Dominion War uncertainty and predicted the rise of a new, hostile superpower. Section 31’s approach may have been unexpected, but he’d immediately embraced the chance to serve the Federation’s interests, even if covertly.

Like Chakotay, though, he’d begun to feel the strain of living a double life.

Sighing, Chakotay drained his coffee. The secrets he was keeping had grown so heavy they threatened to drown him, but until he’d found the key to bringing down Entera without triggering an interstellar conflict, he was trapped.

Perhaps the part that tore him up the most was that he couldn’t even contact anyone he cared about. He walked a tightrope every day in his efforts to convince Entera he held no loyalty to anyone he’d left behind.

Including Kathryn.

He felt the same pang he always did when he thought of her, and had to grit his teeth to refrain from tapping into the Federation news reports. He knew what he’d see. Whether it was a political story or a gossip piece, Kathryn Janeway would be smiling at him through the screen, and beside her – always beside her – would be Ryan Austin.

She broke her promise, Chakotay couldn’t help but think, for the fifteenth or fiftieth time.

Agonising as the thought was, he hoped she’d gone back to her husband voluntarily; that she’d decided – for whatever reason – to try to repair her marriage. He couldn’t imagine her forgiving Austin for what he’d done. But if she had, Chakotay could only hope she’d made that decision of her own free will.

It was better than the alternative.

 

===0===


“Well well, Lieutenant Commander Kim. You keep this up and pretty soon you’ll outrank me.” Tom Paris slapped his friend on the back and nodded at Harry’s shiny new pips.

“Just making up for lost time,” Harry grinned back at him, standing to shake Tom’s hand. “Anyway, I’d have already held this rank if we hadn’t ended up in the Delta quadrant. You, on the other hand, would’ve been peddling cheap holonovels to Ferengi traders, if you were lucky.”

“Ouch,” Tom mocked.

“Speaking of Voyager,” Kim went on, “have you heard from any of our former commanders? Admiral Janeway sent me a congratulatory note on my promotion, but Seven says she hasn’t heard from Chakotay for months now.”

“My dad says he’s commanding a ship, out on patrol in the Borderlands,” Tom eased into the seat opposite Harry’s at the café table, “but I have no idea why Chakotay hasn’t been in contact with anyone. Tuvok’s back though; I saw him at HQ yesterday. Red uniform, four pips on his collar.”

A crease appeared between Harry’s eyebrows. “Is it just me, or is there something weird going on? I know Janeway and Chakotay shielded us from the worst of it out in the Delta and Tuvok has always been close-mouthed, but it’s not like any of them to just disappear without a word. Surely they know we’d worry about them?”

A server appeared, and Tom waited until they’d ordered their meals before leaning in and lowering his voice. “You’re right, Harry,” he murmured, “something is going on, and I think it has something to do with the Orion Syndicate. I overheard my father’s aide talking about the Syndicate when I went to pick Dad up for lunch yesterday. That’s where I saw Tuvok – in the Turner Building. Said he’d switched jobs with Chakotay.”

“Tuvok’s working for Starfleet Intelligence?” Harry’s frown deepened. “You can’t tell me Admiral Janeway doesn’t know anything about that.”

“From what I can make out, Janeway’s too busy posing for photos and giving interviews to know much of anything important.”

“And doesn’t that seem odd to you as well?” demanded Harry. “She never cared about public adulation before. It’s like she’s completely switched personality since we got home.”

“My point exactly,” Tom said. “You know, she came to dinner at my parents’ place a couple of months ago. Looked like hell, barely ate a thing, jumped out of her skin when B'Elanna accidentally smashed a glass. It was like we were back in the Delta, she was that on edge.”

“So what’s going on?”

“No idea,” shrugged Tom, “but I intend to find out.”

 

===0===


From the night she’d returned from Ajilon, the night she’d met Ryan for a drink in the bar at the Fairmont Hotel, Kathryn had embarked on the falsest, riskiest game of kiss-chase she’d ever played in her life.

She’d asked him to move out of her apartment – just while he earned back her trust, she’d pleaded – and realising she wouldn’t negotiate on that point, he had agreed.

He had asked that she help him to keep up their public appearance of a dynamic, well-matched power couple. Kathryn had, grudgingly, conceded.

She had requested that they spend time apart; Ryan accepted that, on the condition that she also give him the chance to woo her back.

If she wanted him to believe she would forgive his transgressions, she realised, she could hardly refuse.  And so for almost two months she had stood at his side and smiled on his arm in public, while whenever they met in private she managed to avoid letting him touch her.

Until tonight.

He had turned up on her doorstep unannounced, and stupidly, she’d ordered the door open without checking who was visiting. She had been just about to get into the tub; her hair was pinned up, a silk robe wrapped hastily around her, a glass of wine in one hand. Ryan had wandered through the vestibule and into the lounge, and at the sight of her his eyes had turned smoky.

“You have no idea how much I want you right now,” he told her, his gaze fixed on hers as he sidled toward her. “Please, Kathryn. Please just let me kiss you.”

He took her hand, his thumb stroking lightly over her wrist; her heartbeat thumped an uneasy cadence, and she shivered in mingled lust and revulsion.

She cursed her own stupidity. Why had she let him in?

“Ryan,” she protested, trying not to let fear creep into her voice, “I’m not ready…”

“For a kiss?” He turned hot blue eyes on her as he lifted her hand, nuzzling his lips over the back of it.

Her breath caught. Arousal fizzed over her skin, brash and potent and raising the tiny hairs all along her arm. She thought she might be sick.

“Please,” she croaked, no longer sure whether she was begging him to back off, or to press forward.

For the briefest of moments she was certain, reading his eyes, that he intended to push past any protests her lips might make and take what he wanted. But sense appeared to prevail and he smiled and released her hand, stepping back deliberately.

“Good night, Kathryn,” he said, and retreated, letting himself out of the apartment.

The tables turned from that night on.

Where before Ryan had restrained himself to a brush of the fingertips, a brief slide of his hand over the small of her back, now his touch lingered. He would catch her hand in his when they walked, twining their fingers together even when she tried, half-heartedly, to pull away; he would put his hands around her waist, stroke his thumb along the line of her shoulder, when she accompanied him to dinner or cocktails. He began to lean in closer when they were out in public, let his lips brush her cheek or the corner of her mouth.

And Kathryn shuddered and quaked and craved, and knew she was losing the game.

In between the times she forced herself to endure his presence without crawling out of her skin – or her clothes – she suffered.

The worst of it was there were days when she felt it was all for nothing. She’d broken her promise to Chakotay, placed herself back in the hands of her abuser, in order to investigate Ryan’s part in the Entera Coalition. But she had found out nothing, and until she let Ryan back into her home – and consequently her bed – she doubted she ever would.

And so at the end of June, when Ryan asked her to accompany him on a brief diplomatic tour to meet with representatives of a potential new Federation member world near the Yaris Nebula, she gathered her courage and agreed.

She wasn’t sure if he was the one who sweet-talked Admiral Kjogo into approving Kathryn’s presence on the trip, or if President Zife had ordered it. She did know Lieutenant Jens was dismayed when Kathryn asked her to book them into adjoining suites on the Proxima starbase. But she cut off Jens’ subtle attempt at questioning with a flat declaration that this was to be a kind of second honeymoon, and when Jens asked to accompany her, Kathryn refused.

Pretending she was back in the flush of love with Ryan was going to be difficult enough without Tora’s knowing eyes following her every move.

She knew she’d have to sleep with him. She knew what he could do to her body, and that it would make her crave more. And she knew it was the only thing she could do to convince him that he’d won her back so that she could put her plan in motion.

But she didn’t have to like it.

 

===0===


Chakotay’s crew had repaired the Zapata’s damaged nacelle and they’d lifted off the surface of Yaraka to rejoin the fleet, only to discover an imbalance in the warp coil intermix ratio that could have been devastating. It was another two days before Chakotay was satisfied his ship was in order, and at his earliest opportunity he contacted Jonah Miles to voice his suspicions.

“The Zapata underwent a complete overhaul less than six months ago, and these anomalies should have been detected then,” he told Miles. “It can’t be a coincidence that we’ve almost lost the ship twice while the Orions are in close proximity.”

~Agreed,~ Miles responded. ~The Syndicate could have a plant on your ship, Captain. I’ll see what I can find out.~

“Make it quick,” Chakotay ordered. “I’ve made arrangements to meet with an Orion called Tered, who’s heading up the mining operation on Yaraka. I need to know if I’ll be walking into an ambush.”

~I’m aware of Mr Tered. He represented some of the Syndicate’s interests at the recent conference on Ajilon. I recommend arming yourself before meeting him, Captain. And take backup.~

“Great,” Chakotay muttered. “Who the hell can I trust out here to back me up?”

~Your chief of engineering is one of us,~ Miles told him somewhat grudgingly.

“Sklaar is a Section agent?”

Miles inclined his head. ~We hide in plain sight, Captain Chakotay. Give Sklaar the code I’m sending you now and he’ll give his life for you, if necessary.~

Chakotay memorised the alphanumeric code displayed on the holo-communicator. “I hope it won’t come to that, Miles.”

~Needs must,~ Jonah replied carelessly. ~Report back after your meeting with Tered. Miles out.~

Striding onto his bridge, Chakotay ordered the helm to full stop twenty kilometres to port of a large Orion vessel. The Zapata was seriously outclassed, he noted with trepidation.

He handed the bridge to his first officer and ordered Lieutenant Sklaar to meet him in the transporter room. When the Tellarite arrived, Chakotay handed him a scrap of paper without a word. Sklaar read the code Chakotay had copied onto it, met Chakotay’s eyes and nodded.

“You can count on me, sir.”

The pair of them materialised on the Orion ship, where two burly green men stripped them of their evident weapons and escorted them to a conference room.

“Captain Chakotay.” A tall, heavyset Orion rose from a throne-like chair at the head of the conference table. “I am Tered. Please, sit down. I’m sure you’ll enjoy a glass of Rigellian brandy – and perhaps a bucket of slops for your porcine little companion?”

Chakotay bared his teeth, and Tered laughed richly.

“I see the pig is accompanied by a wolf. Very well, I won’t tease you any longer. Sit.”

Reluctantly Chakotay obeyed, and nodded at Sklaar to do the same.

Tered leaned forward with a disingenuous smile. “Chakotay,” he rolled the name around his mouth. “Past and present officer of Starfleet, former Maquis insurgent, and native of the fifth planet in the Dorvan system, commonly known as Trebus. Terrible, what the Cardassians did to your planet. It has recovered well though, has it not?”

Chakotay met his gaze steadily and did not reply.

“In fact,” Tered leaned back, pausing for a casual sip from his brandy glass, “I understand Trebus has recently come into a rather impressive windfall, not that your people will be able to profit from it.  Tell me – how does your sister Sekaya feel about losing the rights to that dilithium mine to a Federation-sanctioned group of rogue traders?”

Chakotay froze.

“Don’t look so shocked, Captain. I’ve done my research.”

“So it seems,” Chakotay managed finally. He felt Sklaar shift slightly beside him and sent the Tellarite a quelling glance, reminding himself that though both of them carried concealed weapons, they were no match for the seven Orion men in the room.

And besides, he needed to find out what else Tered knew.

“I wonder why you’ve expended so much effort on investigating my background, Mr Tered?” Chakotay kept his voice as calm and indifferent as he could. “I’m really not that interesting.”

“I beg to differ,” Tered said, smooth as satin. “We’ve been watching you for some time, Captain. I wonder what your lieutenant here would think if he knew you had yourself profited from the mine on Trebus, or that you’re so closely associated with the Entera Coalition?”

For the second time in a minute, Chakotay went still.

“More to the point,” Tered was clearly relishing this, “what would your sister think?”

“Don’t ever talk about my sister again,” Chakotay growled, fixing Tered with a flat stare.

Tered laughed. “Very well. Let’s talk about your former commanding officer instead.”

Chakotay’s spine tightened. “What?”

“The lovely Admiral Janeway.” Tered held his glass up to the light, twisting it to enjoy the play of colour from the amber liquor. “I met her on Ajilon Prime. A very interesting woman.”

It was clear he had more to say, so Chakotay waited.

“But perhaps an uninformed one,” Tered went on. “She seemed unaware of her husband’s interest in Trebus when I mentioned it to her.”

Chakotay’s breath stuck in his throat. “You told her?”

He felt the blood leaving his face. Kathryn knew about the dilithium mine. She knew about Ryan’s investment in it.

If he knew her at all – and he did – her curiosity wouldn’t let her ignore that discovery. She’d start digging, and she wouldn’t let up until she found out the truth.

Kathryn was in danger.

“Interesting,” Tered murmured, apparently to himself, as he watched Chakotay’s reaction. “I wonder, does Admiral Janeway’s husband know how you feel about her?”

Chakotay stood abruptly, jolting Sklaar to his feet as well. “I think this conversation is at an end, Mr Tered.”

“Very well,” Tered smirked. “My men will escort you back to your ship. And, Captain?”

Chakotay turned.

“Your friends in Entera aren’t taking the Syndicate seriously,” Tered said, low with menace. “Have them withdraw from our established trade routes immediately, or there will be war. And in war there are always casualties.” He smiled. “Sometimes, even celebrated Starfleet admirals get caught in the crossfire.”

“You’ve made your point, Mr Tered.” Chakotay’s voice was rough. “I’ll pass on the message.”

 

===0===


Kathryn and Ryan returned from their diplomatic mission to the Yaris Nebula in the early days of July, and Ryan immediately moved back into her apartment.

She had given into him on Proxima Station. Over dinner in her suite he’d woven her a pretty tale of contrition and promises, had taken her hand, had knelt by her chair and all but begged her to take him back.

And although everything in her screamed at her to run, she made herself smile and offer her forgiveness, made herself accept Ryan’s kiss and return it threefold.

Let him unpin her hair so that it fell over her shoulders; let him run his fingers through it. Let him lead her into the bedroom, when he stripped the uniform slowly from her body. Let him kiss and stroke each expanse of skin as he revealed it, as he unwrapped her like a gift he had every right to.

Let him into her body, let him bring her to a climax that made her cry, let him believe her tears sprang from relief and joy, not fear and shame.

Readying herself for the party Owen and Julia Paris were throwing for their wedding anniversary, Kathryn tried not to think about Proxima as she stood before the mirror, wearing a dress Ryan had picked out for her. She tried not to think about the weeks since they’d returned; about Ryan sharing her bed every night, about his keen interest in the negotiations Kjogo had assigned her, about his newfound penchant for directing where she went, what she ate, what she wore. He seemed to want to know every detail of her life now that she’d accepted him back as her husband.

She couldn’t remember him being this controlling, this possessive, the first time around. Maybe he was uncertain she’d really forgiven him, she mused. Or maybe he didn’t trust her.

Her throat tightened at the thought. What if, somehow, he’d found out about the night she’d spent with Chakotay on Ajilon Prime?

Kathryn shook her head. It wasn’t possible; the only other person who knew was Tora Jens. And considering how strongly Jens disliked Ryan, she couldn’t imagine the secret slipping out between them.

But Ryan’s possessiveness made her feel utterly trapped. She couldn’t steal a moment to herself these days – he had even started accompanying her to her personal training sessions, and dropping in at her office unannounced – and she was growing anxious that she’d never have the chance to find out what he was up to.

Worst of all, her headaches had returned, and had grown so agonising that some days she could barely function. The only respite she ever got from them was when Jens used her Betazoid technique to ease the pain, or when Ryan made love to her.

Ryan strode into the bedroom, straightening his tie, and stopped short at the sight of her.

“Fuck,” he said succinctly, and immediately moved to crowd her up against the mirror, sliding his hands over her corseted bodice and onto her breasts. “Do we have to go out? I want to rip that thing off you with my teeth.”

She tried to control her breathing as his fingers and thumbs pinched her hardening nipples, as one hand slid downward and curled between her thighs, gathering the satin of her skirt in his grip. “Ryan, don’t,” she murmured weakly as he pulled her back hard against his chest and bent to lick at the corner of her mouth. “You’ll mess up my makeup. And Lieutenant Jens is waiting for us downstairs.”

“Damn.” Reluctantly, he eased up on his grasp and she stepped quickly away. “But fair warning, Kathryn – when we get home tonight, I’m going to fuck you so hard you won’t be able to walk tomorrow.”

Kathryn swallowed and tried a flirtatious smile. “Promise?” she asked, forcing lightness into her voice.

“Count on it.” Ryan made another grab for her, catching her around the waist and dipping his head to bite at her nipple through the satin before releasing her again. “Let’s go – the sooner we make an appearance, the sooner we can leave.”

Lieutenant Jens, in a svelte black dress, was waiting in the lobby of their apartment building when they rode the turbolift down. “You look beautiful, Admiral,” she murmured as she fell into step with them.

Kathryn tried to smile at her through the sore haze behind her eyes. “You too, Tora.”

“Headache?” her aide murmured sympathetically as the two women moved ahead of Ryan to the waiting hovercar.

“I’m fine.”

Inside the car, Tora brushed her fingers lightly against Kathryn’s nape while Ryan was looking in the other direction, and the headache eased.

“Thanks,” Kathryn whispered, and then Ryan slid his hand along her inner thigh under cover of the darkened car, and she forced herself to relax and allow it, biting her lip until she tasted blood.

They arrived at the Paris house and were ushered out onto the terrace by Tom, dressed in a dinner suit and eyeing Ryan with polite distaste.

“So you’re Councillor Austin,” he said, shaking Ryan’s hand after he’d kissed Kathryn briefly on the cheek. “It’s good to meet you at last, sir.”

His tone made it patently clear the sentiment was false, and Kathryn noticed Jens cocking her head and staring at Tom with sharp, sudden interest. Tom’s blue gaze panned Tora’s without a flicker, but Kathryn knew him too well to believe he hadn’t picked up on her scrutiny.

She could hear Ryan mouthing platitudes as Tom waved over a server, who supplied them all with flutes of champagne. And suddenly she had to get away. Just for a minute, she begged the universe.

The universe responded in the shape of B'Elanna Torres, Harry Kim and Seven of Nine, who appeared to flank her like bodyguards. Kathryn let them shuffle her away from Ryan, who was being monopolised by Tom; the manoeuvre was so smoothly executed that she couldn’t help wondering if the four of them had planned it.

Tora Jens drifted to the edge of their group as Harry was detailing the construction progress of the Hawking-class ships and explaining he’d been offered the post of chief engineer on the Mehit for the fleet’s expedition to the Beta quadrant. “And Seven is signing on as chief science consultant,” he finished, arm proudly around her waist. “We leave in a few months, when the last of the fleet is ready to launch.”

“For how long?” Kathryn asked.

“Two years, initially,” replied Seven. “We hope to explore the outer reaches of the quadrant, past the Darsaean Alliance.”

“Your parents must be dreading it, Harry,” Kathryn sighed. “And Seven, what about your aunt? Won’t she miss you?”

“Of course, and I’ll miss her,” Seven answered. “But my Aunt Irene is moving to the Vega Colony, where we have other relatives. She won’t be alone.”

Vega Colony. The memory sliced through Kathryn like a knife. “Maja,” she blurted before she’d thought twice.

Someone in the circle gave a short intake of breath, but Kathryn was too focused on Seven’s frown to pay it any notice.

“Admiral?” Seven queried.

Kathryn shook her head. “Just something somebody mentioned,” she mumbled.

“About my cousin, Maja Hansen?” Seven’s head tilted as she regarded Kathryn.

“Yes.”

“You aren’t the first to ask about her in recent times,” Seven offered carefully. “What would you like to know?”

Kathryn glanced around at the avid faces: Harry, B'Elanna, Tora … “Maybe we’d better talk about this privately,” she backed off. “I’ll comm you next week to arrange lunch.”

“I look forward to it,” Seven replied.

“Kathryn, there you are,” Ryan descended upon the group, his hands immediately finding Kathryn’s waist. “Are these your former crew?” he asked, smile wide and gleaming.

She felt his thumb stroking the side of her breast and shifted her arm to trap it, wondering if he was doing it on purpose. “You’ve met Harry and Seven before,” she reminded him. “And this is B'Elanna Torres, Voyager’s former chief engineer.”

“Of course,” Ryan said smoothly. The offending hand slid down to curl possessively around her hipbone, and he extricated the other to shake B'Elanna’s hand, then Harry’s and Seven’s. “I guess I owe you all my thanks.”

“Oh?” B'Elanna’s tone was polite, but the curl of her lip was not. Tom, appearing at her side, pressed his hand warningly on hers.

“Without you, Kathryn might never have found her way home from the Delta quadrant. Thanks for keeping her alive out there so I could eventually find the love of my life.”

Even Tom couldn’t hide his affront at that comment. “Actually, it was the admiral who kept us alive,” he said coolly. “Why don’t I take you to meet my parents, Councillor?”

“Of course,” Ryan responded, but as he detached himself from the group to follow Tom, he curled his hand around Kathryn’s elbow, grip tight, and tugged her along with him.

“Is he always like that?” she heard B'Elanna ask Jens, a little too loudly.

Ryan’s hip bumped hers as he leaned in close, his hand shifting to spread across her lower back. The tips of his fingers traced the upper swell of her ass as she walked.

“I like your friends, Kathryn,” he murmured in her ear, his thumb dipping lower. “They’re very loyal to you.”

Kathryn shuddered as a pulse curled and beat between her thighs at his touch, and nausea rose in her throat at the threat she wasn’t sure he even knew he was implying.

© 2021 by Mia Cooper