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.
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.