Summary: "And that’s what crept into my mind as I stood there that night, staring unabashedly at the red-haired beauty with the shadowed eyes, and suddenly deathly afraid that in inviting her into my house, I’d unwittingly handed her possession of my soul."
Characters: Owen Paris, Janeway
Codes: Janeway/Owen Paris
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the dollhouse, we just play with the dolls.
This is kind of a complementary story to my Janeway/Paris tale, Reclamation. It’s not necessary to read that one first, but it, like this story, assumes two things: that Owen Paris’ and Janeway’s capture by Cardassians as described in Mosaic was a sanitised version of events, and that their relationship was never as simple as commander/officer or mentor/protégée. So there’s kind of a warning on this one for adult content and references to disturbing events, although nothing particularly graphic. Fluff-lovers may choose not to venture herein, however.
We took shore leave on the third planet of the Tohvun system, a well-earned break between long hours of survey missions and sensor analyses. I’d ordered my first officer to schedule two days and nights off-ship for every crewman. And if I was scheduled for the same leave days as Kathryn, surely it was merely a happy coincidence.
She fell into step with me on my way to the transporter room, an overnight bag slung over her shoulder and her hair unbound and spilling down her back. “Going down to the planet, sir?” she asked me, her eyes just a little too bright for polite conversation.
“That’s the general idea, Ensign.”
“Lieutenant Fraser said there’s a group planning to hike on the east side of the mountain.” Her sidelong glance was equal measures hesitation, deference and hope. “If you haven’t already made plans …”
“The stationmaster has given me the key to his personal cottage,” I answered her, wondering why she’d offered. A captain is judicious about socialising with his senior staff, let alone the junior members of his crew, and family friend or not, surely she couldn’t really think I … My steps slowed, and eventually halted. “Are you planning to join them, Ensign?”
She looked up at me, all fresh skin and clear wide eyes. “I was considering it, Captain. But I think I’d rather avoid the usual tourist haunts. I’ve heard there are some beautiful hiking trails on the southern slope.”
I weighed appearances and propriety, and discarded both. “Well, if you decide to break out in that direction, stop in for a meal at the stationmaster’s cabin. It’s in the southern valley. I’ll give you the coordinates.”
Her smile was bright, precipitous as she held out her PADD for me to enter the data. “Thank you, sir. I’d like that very much.”
We walked on to the transporter room and parted ways politely when we reached the planet. I took the hovercar the stationmaster had provided to a quaint and pretty cabin nestled into lake-edged woods, and I opened the book my wife had packed for me when we’d left Earth several months earlier, poured myself a large scotch, and thought no more of that exchange between us for the remainder of the evening.
The morning saw me restless – I’ve never been particularly clever at inventing solitary amusements – so I decided to set out on one of the trails. The route I followed was indeed beautiful, winding through a valley dusted with ice crystals along the shore of the lake. I’d been to Tohvun III once before the war – a diplomatic mission, to meet the Cardassian envoy on relatively neutral territory – but that had been at the height of summer when it was too warm for humans to enjoy much venturing outside. This time we had landed in early winter. Remnants of the first few snowfalls blanketed the less-beaten paths and weighed down the trees, but the sun blazed brightly at my back, and by mid-morning I had stripped off my outer layers.
I stopped at midday for a light meal of flatbread, dried fruits and water, hunkering down on a rock at the edge of the tree line that afforded me a pleasant panorama of the lake, sparkling silver in the sunlight. Local birdlife called merrily across the water and tiny waves lapped the shore, but otherwise all was quiet, until a slowly-rising sound distracted me from my contemplation of the scenery.
Somebody was singing. Badly.
I packed away the odd-ends of my lunch and directed my attention to the noise. As its source drew closer I could pick out words among the off-key melody – something about green hills and whiskey and long journeys across the sea – and I suspected that a talented singer could have turned it into quite a lilting tune. In the roughened-honey voice of Ensign Kathryn Janeway, it induced in me a case of unmitigated and uncaptainly mirth.
I was still trying to stifle my snickers behind my hand when she finally came into view, but what she did next smothered the amusement in my throat.
She came to a halt just past the thinning of the trees, dropped a pack from her shoulder and stood staring at the dazzling plain of water before her. “Wow,” I heard her say, almost under her breath. I realised she hadn’t seen me, but before I could call out to her she had stripped off her padded jacket, boots and leggings and, wearing only her decidedly non-Starfleet-issue underwear, leapt into the lake with a whoop.
Her gasp as she broke the surface told me the water was far colder than she’d anticipated, but it was followed immediately by a throaty, delighted laugh. She headed straight for shore, however, and by the time she’d pulled herself onto the bank with the help of a low-hanging, snow-powdered branch I could see that she was shivering, her pale, pure skin tinged blue. Despite that, she stood for a moment gazing out at the lake, her bare feet curling in snow-covered grass. And then she opened her arms, pointed her toes and launched into a perfect flurry of balletic moves.
She was a far more talented dancer than she was a singer, and I found myself transfixed. As she completed her impromptu performance with a flying leap, she laughed, and there was such delighted exuberance in the sound, such unconscious, seductive allure in her spontaneity, that I found myself wanting with a sudden and visceral intensity to touch her.
My own desire shocked me into remaining silent, long past the moment when I should have made her aware of my presence. Shame galloped hard on its heels. This was Katie Janeway, the young officer I’d taken under my wing, whose scientific talents I had carefully nurtured and encouraged. It was her career I was interested in, not the girl herself.
All right, so it wasn’t the first time I’d had less than appropriate thoughts about her. She was clever, lively and beautiful, and I’m only human. But she was of an age with my daughters, and she was my subordinate, and her father outranked me, and I loved my wife. If I’d indulged in the odd fantasy about her, it was never with any intent.
And yet at the sight of her - back arched and limbs outstretched, lithe figure barely clothed in near-transparent wet cotton - I predicted that those somewhat nebulous fantasies I’d written off as the natural inclinations of a healthy male still in his prime were now destined to sharpen into the kind of visions that would cause me many sweaty, discomfited nights.
She performed one final pirouette before her shivering got the better of her and she turned away from the lake, but it wasn’t until she was opening her backpack, clearly in search of something with which to dry herself, that she sensed she wasn’t alone.
Her head came up and she scanned the tree line, sighting me after a moment, and I watched her start, crossing her arms over her chest. “Captain,” she said, and I wasn’t sure if her slight stammer was brought on by cold or embarrassment. Either way, it was now up to me to steer this situation into less murky territory, and I intuited that the only way to do so was to behave as if seeing a nearly-naked nymph dancing in the snow was something that happened to me every other day.
Unfolding myself from my perch on the rock, I snagged my jacket from beside me and strode over to place it around her shoulders. And if, as her arms fell from her chest to clutch at the jacket, I took note of the hard knots of her nipples outlined against her cotton bra, I managed not to give her any sign of it.
“Enjoying the trails, Ensign?” I asked her as I casually turned my back.
I could hear her scrambling to tug on her clothing as she answered somewhat breathlessly. “Uh, yes, sir. Thank you.” Then, tentatively, “I’m sorry about, uh…”
I spoke over the top of her. “I imagine you’re hungry if you’ve been walking all morning, and you should warm up before you catch a chill. I was just heading back to my cabin. Care to join me? I’ll put on a pot of coffee.”
“Coffee?” I heard the hopeful smile in her voice. “Thank you, sir. That would be wonderful.”
On the way back, I took pains to test her knowledge of the local flora, prompted her to describe the wildlife she’d encountered on her hike, offered her a lecture on the geological history of the inactive volcano whose slopes we were traversing, and by the time we stepped into the hazy warmth of the cabin there remained barely a trace of awkwardness between us. I directed Kathryn to the small refresher while I made the coffee. By the time I’d poured two cups, built a fire and settled into the easy chair conveniently placed before the hearth, she had emerged wearing a clean pair of leggings and a softly-draped tunic in a creamy colour that matched her skin. Her hair was piled up, a few shower-dampened wisps curling prettily around her face. She accepted a cup of coffee with thanks and eschewed the other chair in favour of curling up on the hearthrug.
I was fine, back in control, until she brought the coffee up before her in both reverent hands, and her expression of almost carnal bliss as she inhaled the aroma – it ignited my pulse, set fire racing along my skin and blood pooling to the part of my anatomy I’d been steadfastly ignoring. It was all I could do to wipe clean the gaping lust I’m sure was on my face when she opened her eyes and smiled up at me.
In that instant, shaken by my unprecedentedly powerful reaction to her, it suddenly became a matter of pride that I demonstrate an utter lack of discomposure. And so when the fingers of the winter sun closed gradually into a loose fist around the cottage and she began, with evident reluctance, to gather her things and murmur about needing to reach her lodging before nightfall, I insisted she stay in the spare bedroom, waving off her token protests.
She offered to prepare dinner as an expression of gratitude, but having suffered through a meal she’d once cooked at her father’s house, I declined. As evening painted violet shadows across the hardwood floor I chopped vegetables for soup and watched as she stretched out, catlike, on the hearthrug, a glass of scotch held in one surprisingly elegant hand. The soft cream tunic embraced the slight curves of her body and her golden-red hair gleamed in the firelight, and for a few, brief moments I indulged myself in gazing at her.
Perhaps it was a trick of the light, perhaps the scotch, but as she put down her glass and arched her torso upright, raising her arms to loosen her hair from its pins, I imagined for a moment that she reclined not on a rug but on a rumpled bed, her naked limbs languid as she waited for her lover. Her hair spilled down her back, the colour of the firelight, and she turned her darkened eyes toward me with a bewitching half-smile no mortal could resist.
When I was a child, my Irish grandmother used to tell me tales of the sídhe, the fairy people. Her favourite was the story of Niamh of the Golden Hair and her mortal lover Oisín, and she liked to finish her retelling of it with a warning that I never fall under the spell of the leannán sídhe – the fairy temptress – who would bewitch me, make me love her, and then drain the life out of me. I grew too old for such stories more quickly than my grandmother would have liked. Somehow, though, they have always stayed with me. And that’s what crept into my mind as I stood there that night, the knife half-raised above the tuber I was supposed to be slicing, staring unabashedly at the red-haired beauty with the shadowed eyes, and suddenly deathly afraid that in inviting her into my house, I’d unwittingly handed her possession of my soul.
It only lasted a moment. She tilted her head and the prosaic lamplight fell across her features, transforming her from something otherworldly into an ordinarily pretty girl, and a twig snapped in the hearth, and my knife fell cleanly onto the chopping board. But for the rest of that evening – all through the stilted conversation at dinner and the polite sharing of the last two fingers of scotch, until we retired behind our separate closed doors – I found myself twitching at shadows, as though an unseen feminine hand was winding around the back of my neck, lightly scraping cool fingernails over my skin.
In the morning she rose early, helped herself to a flask of coffee and left a grateful note on the counter, and the next time I saw her was back on the ship, scrubbed fresh in uniform, her titian hair bound in its usual braid, and she was as blandly deferential to me as any junior officer to her captain. To this day I can’t say for certain whether Kathryn was even faintly aware of the subtext in the room that night. All I have is my instinct, and it clamours - as loudly today as it did back then – that she was never the ingénue she appeared to be.
I told myself I’d simply had too much of that rather fine scotch that night, that I was tired, that it had been a long mission and I missed my wife. I resolved to treat Kathryn no differently than I had before that shore leave. And so, several weeks later, when I required a science officer with a keen eye and a knowledge of massive compact halo objects to accompany me, for appearances, on a survey mission to Urtea II, I assigned Ensign Janeway to my away team.
Her medical and psychiatric records in the aftermath of that event, like mine, are sealed. The mission itself – the true mission, not the flimsy cover story of tinkering with the Urtea sensor array – remains classified. I am uncertain, sometimes, whether this is a good thing. I suspect the secrecy around our capture by Gul Camet has suited Kathryn: when faced with something she feels casts her in a less than flawless light, she has always preferred stonewalling to healing.
It’s a preference I understand, and had I not, months after the event, found myself in the middle of an unexpected nervous breakdown and shunted off to a padded ward at Starfleet Medical, I might have lived the rest of my life in stoic denial.
I still wonder whether I could have helped her. Not while it was happening, of course – beaten down and shaking from their torture devices, my mind barely clinging to the last shreds of sanity, her desperate screams echoing in my ears – but afterwards. If I hadn’t been so weak, if I’d shown a fraction of the strength of character I demanded from my officers, perhaps I could have been there for her. But she slipped away, cradled in the arms of the man who’d rescued us both, enveloped in the warmth of her family. When I thought about her, I concluded that she didn’t need me.
And I thought about her. She appeared in my nightmares: sometimes a helpless waif in a torn and dirty uniform, begging me with huge eyes and wordless pleas to save her from the grasping hands of Camet and his soldiers; sometimes a being of supernatural beauty, red lips smiling, eyes beckoning me with promises of untold and unearthly pleasures. I’d wake, shouting and sweating, my legs bound in tangled sheets, my wife hovering over me with a brow creased in fruitless worry. I could never tell my wife about the dreams, but she grew to understand I was hiding more from her than the after-effects of my brief Cardassian internment, and when she left me, I fell apart.
I see now that I became obsessed with Kathryn Janeway. I was obsessed with my failure to save her and my failure to possess her, and in my damaged mind the two desires could not be reconciled. That she – the wide-eyed, tender ensign – appeared to emerge relatively unscathed from the brutal violation of her person, while I – an experienced Starfleet captain – disintegrated, seemed evidence to me of both her ungodly power and my very human frailty. Months of counselling and medication helped me to recover, somewhat, from those dark days in the Cardassian cell, and when I finally emerged from my cocoon of self-indulgent madness, I intended to seek her out to purge myself of the last of it.
But by then she was a figure of tragedy herself, having taken to her bed after the dramatic loss of both father and fiancé in an accident that almost cost her own life as well. I wondered if they came to her in her nightmares, accusing her of failing to save them, as her image had tortured me in mine.
And there was a small, malevolent part of me that hoped she was suffering for it, as I had suffered for her. That part of me, much as I wanted desperately to expunge it, watched as she struggled to surface from the frozen waste her life had become, as she dug into reserves of strength and carved herself a new life in the red uniform I’d always told her she should wear, and envied her. I admired her; I wanted to protect her and encourage her. I hated her; I wanted to possess her and destroy her.
I concluded, after much Starfleet-mandated self-examination, that I am not a good man.
"And what is it that you feel guilty about? That you were unable to spare Kathryn what the Cardassians did to her, or that you were sexually attracted to her?"
Betazoids. How I distrust them, with their soft hands and their melodious voices and their eyes as black and unknowable as space. The counsellor waited with practiced calm as I struggled with the question she had delivered in her typical manner – iron fist, velvet glove – and finally spat, “Both.”
Years after the Cardassian incident, after my quiet upward demotion and my even quieter nervous breakdown, I continued to attend monthly counselling sessions. Counsellor Terla was the fifth therapist I had been assigned since my sojourn at Starfleet Medical, and the first Betazoid. Her tenacity, I was discovering after a mere three sessions, far surpassed that of the one Ktarian and three human counsellors I had terrorised into requesting they be excused from treating me. She delved with artless persistence into topics the others had feared to broach, and she appeared immune to my most fearsome deflection tactics.
I was beginning, grudgingly, to respect her.
“Well, Admiral, I doubt my advice to you will come as any kind of surprise,” Terla said, folding her pretty hands on her desk. “Over the years you’ve made significant progress in analysing and understanding your personality and the experiences that have shaped it. Your feelings for Kathryn, however, remain comparatively unexplored.”
“Your advice, Counsellor?” I gritted out.
“Explore them,” she replied simply.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I’d like to invite Kathryn to attend our next session. It will give you the opportunity to discuss the experiences you’ve shared with her and understand her reactions to them. You can explain to her, in a safe environment, the impact of those experiences on you, and you may find that her perspective on the Urtea incident will help you to develop a more healthy perspective of your own.”
“She’ll never agree to that,” I said flatly.
“Oh, I think you’ll find I can be quite persuasive.” Terla smiled placidly. “I’ll need your permission to approach her, unless you’d prefer to ask her yourself.”
To this day I have no idea what she said to Kathryn, what form of cajolery or blackmail she employed, but a week later I received a comm call from Terla informing me that Kathryn would be present at our next appointment, and that she had agreed to discuss whichever subjects I chose.
It was a mistake, of course.
She was a lieutenant commander now, straight and slender in her command-red uniform, russet hair wound into a rather prim chignon. There was something dignified about her, perhaps befitting her swift ascension through the command ranks; she carried her chin angled high and inclined her head rather regally at Counsellor Terla’s greeting. Then she turned to me and the colour shifted in her eyes, and for a terrifying moment I felt myself falling into them, falling under a spell I was helpless to resist.
I was off-balance and on the defensive from that first moment. Terla prompted me to begin, to explain to Kathryn why I’d been nurturing my burden of guilt since I failed to protect her from Camet. But when I opened my mouth, what came out was, “I warned you not to be unnecessarily heroic. Why didn’t you tell him what he wanted to know? He might have left you alone.”
A small jerk of her chin was her only tell, the only evidence my accusation had wounded her. Terla raised her eyebrows at me, but kept silent.
Kathryn’s lack of response goaded me further.
“You assumed you were untouchable,” I fired at her. “You thought he’d feel sorry for you, all big blue eyes and virginal innocence, and leave you alone. Didn’t you? Or – or maybe” – I could feel my breath rasping harshly in my chest, could barely believe the words spilling obscenely from my mouth – “maybe you planned to seduce him so they wouldn’t use that device on you. Maybe you wanted them to fu-”
“Admiral.” Terla’s voice was a whipcrack. “Stand. Down.”
I choked on the ugly words trying to spew forth. Kathryn was looking directly at me and her eyes were flinty grey. In a voice devoid of expression, she said, “No. Please continue.”
“It’s all right, Counsellor.” Her gaze never wavered. “The admiral has clearly waited a long time for this.” Her spine straightened fractionally; she folded her hands in her lap. “Go on, sir. Say what you want to say to me.”
“You’re in denial,” I blurted. “They made me watch while they violated you, and you sit there looking so perfect, so untouched. What’s really inside you, Kathryn? What are you hiding?”
A flicker passed through the depths of her eyes, and I pounced on it.
“You’re a seething mass of doubt and self-hatred under that perfect shell, aren’t you? You never told Justin what really happened. Because you were ashamed? Because you thought he wouldn’t love you if he knew what they’d really done to you?”
I paused. Tried to restrain myself from dealing the killing blow. Failed.
“Are you glad he’s dead – he and your father – so they’ll never find out what you really are?”
Her petal-pale skin drained of blood, leaving her the colour of watered-down milk. She blinked, twice, and tears welled from her smoky-blue eyes, spilling over her lower lashes.
“Admiral.” Terla leaned forward, her hand on my wrist, eyes like black holes. “I think that’s quite enough.”
As though she’d lanced a boil, all the poison drained away, and I sagged back in my comfortable chair.
I watched as Kathryn pressed her lips together, her tears drying up through sheer force of will. Her hands were twisted in her lap, the knuckles white, and her gaze dropped from mine to fix on them. She drew in a shaky breath.
The words that came out of her mouth were not what I expected.
“I’m sorry,” she said, her voice a rasp. “I’m sorry for what you went through on Urtea. I know you tried to keep me safe, Admiral.” She raised her eyes again, blue as a summer sky. “What happened to me was not your fault.”
“Yes, it was.” I felt dull, enervated. “It was my job to protect you.”
“Sometimes you can’t protect the people you’re supposed to save,” she answered, and I was no longer sure she was talking to me. “Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do or how hard you try, people get hurt anyway. Or die.”
She rose from her chair, nodding briefly to Terla, and left without another word.
Terla warned me, after Kathryn had gone, to leave it be. To stay away from her until I, in her words, had my shit together. As usual, I ignored her advice.
It was drizzling when I left Terla’s office. By the time I pressed the chime on Kathryn’s apartment door, the shoulders of my uniform were damp and I had to shake the rain from my hair. She opened the door, and at the sight of her the apology I’d been intending to make dissipated into the frigid air.
She wore a filmy, creamy tunic-like garment, the colour of her pale, pale skin, that barely grazed the tops of her thighs and dipped low between her breasts. Her feet were bare and her burnished hair was loose, cascading over one shoulder. Her eyes glittered like snow crystals, like sunlight on a winter’s lake. And I wondered, with a surge of fury that reached a fiery hand into my gut, if she’d been waiting for me.
Those grey-blue eyes locked onto me, and I couldn’t read them at all. She must have found what she was looking for in mine, however, because after a moment she stepped back without a word and moved along the hallway, glancing back once to check I was following.
As if there was any doubt that I’d follow her.
When we reached the sitting room, she turned to face me in the middle of the floor. “Why are you here, Admiral?”
I stepped up close to her, gaining insidious satisfaction from the way I towered over her, the way she had to tilt her head back to look at me.
Her eyes flickered momentarily. “Are you here to hurt me?” she asked evenly. “Or do you just want to fuck me?”
Her fragrance was clouding my head. I stood there, breathing hard, my fists clenched at my sides, so hard it hurt.
“Why don’t you just do it?” she goaded, and she slipped closer, so close I felt the heat from her body. “Do what you’ve been wanting to do ever since Urtea. Since Tohvun. Or maybe even earlier.”
She stood on tiptoe, her unpainted mouth bare inches from my own.
“How long have you wanted me, Owen?” she breathed. “How long have you wanted to fuck me?”
And she pressed those last few inches closer and slipped her tongue into my mouth, and I broke.
I grabbed her by the upper arms, so tight my fingers ached, and shoved her back against the wall. Her gasp as she slammed hard against it exhilarated me, and I crushed my lips onto hers, bruising, biting. I fisted the fabric of her tunic in one hand and ripped it until her upper body was bared to me, and I kicked her ankles apart, pushing my hips into hers as my mouth clamped over her breast.
She offered no resistance. Her hands stayed at her sides, her body pliant in my grasping hands. I could snap her in half without breaking a sweat, I realised. She was so tiny, her bones so fragile. I could break her neck -
“Do it,” she urged me in a breathless, pain-coloured hiss. “Take me like you’ve always wanted to. Take me like a Cardassian…”
Like a Cardassian.
My grip loosened on her upper arm and I looked down at the red, finger-shaped smudges marring her white skin. There was a perfect set of bite marks on the delicate swell of her breast. Her lips were swollen and split. Her tunic hung in pieces from her slender shoulders, and I could see the darkening shapes of bruises colouring parts of her I didn’t even remember putting my hands on – her wrists, her throat, her hip.
A noise so strangled I didn’t even recognise it erupted from my throat, and my vision blurred, and then I was sobbing. Howling, bawling, taking her down with me as my knees hit the floor, my head clutched to her breast. Her fingers stroked gently through my hair as she murmured soothing nonsense words to me, like “it’s okay”, and “everything will be all right”.
How could she say that? It wasn’t okay, and nothing would ever be all right again.
My tears eventually stopped flowing, as tears do, and still she held me, her narrow body cradling mine as if she could keep me safe. When, finally, I raised my head, I found her watching me with eyes so tender and yet so sad that I couldn’t help myself. I reached up and took her beautiful face in my hands and kissed her – softly, imploringly. Reverently.
I could have left it at that – I should have left it. But my hands left her face and skimmed over her body, and she made a sound so vulnerable, so helplessly wanton that it charged along my spine and turned every nerve molten, and she pressed herself into my hands, and I knew she had me. However hard I fought it, however strongly I resisted, she was always going to own me in the end.
They say her ship is lost without a trace. For six months Starfleet searched the Badlands, questioned the Maquis, made cautious enquiries with the Cardassian government. But there wasn’t a single clue as to Voyager’s disappearance, and as time wore on, my insistence on having the search continue began to be met with polite impatience, and finally, blunt refusal.
Two years after she vanished, Voyager was declared officially lost. I came home that night and fell into the arms of my wife, my tears drowning her shoulder as she held me. I let her believe I was devastated by the loss of our son. My only son, now forever estranged, another piece of my heart I will never get back. And I was. I was.
But I could never tell my wife that I was also grieving the loss of the woman I loved.