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
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.
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.