Kinetic Friction

Summary: Two bodies in relative motion excite resistance when they come together. Two wills clashing create another kind of friction. Somewhere between animosity and arousal is the place where they meet.

 

Characters: Paris, Janeway, Chakotay, Kim, Stadi

Codes: Janeway/Paris

 

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

Warning: This story contains mentions of rape, prison trauma, post-traumatic stress syndrome and panic disorder.

Rated E

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 His intelligence is nearly two years out of date, and it was sketchy to begin with.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.

“Computer, time?”

~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.

“Veronica.”

“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.”

© 2021 by Mia Cooper