Pressure

Summary: Captain Chakotay's Starfleet crew and Kathryn Janeway's Maquis have merged into one crew aboard the Federation starship Voyager, stranded 70,000 light years from their homes. The command team must find a way to reconcile their past relationship. Old betrayals, new attractions and the dangers of an unknown quadrant are brought into play when the one crewmember who belongs nowhere is caught up in an interstellar conspiracy.

 

Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, Kim, Torres, Kes, Tuvok, EMH, VOY crew

Codes: Janeway/Paris, Janeway/Chakotay, Kim/Torres

 

Disclaimer: A company named Paramount would likely be disturbed about my borrowing its characters. But it's not fattening my purse.

 

Related episodes: Caretaker and Ex Post Facto.

Rated T

Chapter Ten
Stardate 48621.0



His chest felt sledgehammered, his limbs dead weights, and his throat dryer than Vulcan. But the pain in his head was gone.

Tom Paris opened his eyes.

"Welcome back."

He turned toward the throaty voice. "Kat? Uh - I mean -"

Surprise flickered briefly across her face and was gone. "You're on Banea, Lieutenant. Do you remember anything?"

Paris thought about it. "Not much," he admitted, and gave her the ghost of his smile. "Care to fill me in, Commander?"

"Later," she answered. "How do you feel? Can you sit up?"

He mentally tested limbs and muscles. "Sure, in theory." Gingerly he raised himself, wincing at what he surmised had been broken ribs, swinging his legs carefully over the edge of the bed and waiting to see if his balance had been restored before lowering himself to the floor. "Can't keep a good pilot down," he quipped.

"Nor his ego, evidently," she retorted, but there was none of the usual sting in her words. "Come on. Voyager's waiting for us."

The door to the surgery bay opened as Janeway helped him toward it. Two Baneans in medical garb entered, followed by Lieutenant Tuvok. "Mr Paris," Tuvok acknowledged him. "You appear much improved."

"Really," he muttered. "I'd hate to have seen what I looked like before, then."

Tuvok ignored him, turning to Janeway. "Voyager is standing by to beam us aboard, Commander."

"Then by all means advise them to proceed, Lieutenant."

As the transporter beam dematerialised him, Tom Paris took some pleasure from knowing that Commander Janeway did not reserve her sarcasm solely for him.

He rematerialised in front of the captain. "Good to see you up and about, Lieutenant," Chakotay told him, but he wasn't looking at Paris. His gaze was locked with Janeway's. There was a charge in the air, like burning ozone.

"Mr Tuvok," Chakotay continued, "please report to your station as soon as you're ready. Ensign Ayala will brief you."

"Aye, sir." Tuvok turned to leave, then hesitated. "Lieutenant Paris, perhaps I should escort you to Sickbay. I'm sure the Doctor will wish to examine you."

"Right," Paris answered automatically. He didn't move.

Nor did Janeway, her eyes fixed on the captain's.

"Now, Mr Paris," Tuvok said quietly.

Paris tore himself reluctantly away, and his movement broke whatever spell had been cast. Chakotay stepped back from the transporter pad to let Janeway down. As he followed her from the room, they didn't look at each other once.

Paris couldn't stop looking at them not looking at each other.

 

=/\=


Paris listened in fascination as Kim told him the whole story, from the communications device Lidell Ren's lover had stuck in his head, to his own delirium and near death, to the conspiracy Tuvok had uncovered. He sat back, reeling. "Damn," he said softly. "It's like hearing about the latest craze holonovel and not being able to get my hands on a copy of my own."

"And I'm just getting to the good part," Kim said gleefully.

"There's a good part?" Paris quirked an eyebrow at him.

"Well, you know what I mean," he said hastily. "The rescue mission!"

"Excuse me," the EMH broke in with heavy sarcasm, "but the tales of the fearless Voyager crew can wait for another time. Lieutenant, I want to conduct a full neurological examination. Please lie down on the bio-bed and close your eyes. Mr Kim, I'm afraid you'll have to leave now."

"Oh come on, Doc," Tom protested. "I can listen with my eyes closed, all right? Besides," his eyes narrowed, "I thought you were offline for most of the last few days. You must be curious about what happened - admit it."

"Very well." The Doctor rolled his eyes, the image of long-suffering patience. "If you must. But keep it brief, Ensign. Mr Paris needs his rest."

"Right," Harry said, leaning forward. "Well, first we had to figure out a battle plan. We knew the Numiri would be blockading Banea, and we knew they'd want to get ahold of you and extract the information about the Banean weapons from your brain. So Commander Janeway came up with the idea of taking the Numiri by surprise. She took you to Banea in the Cochrane so the Numiri would think you'd be an easy target. And then she blew out some plasma relays and made it look like the shuttle was in serious trouble so they'd get even more over-confident. And just as they were about to tractor in the shuttle, Voyager came racing up like an avenging army to save the day."

"And did you? Save the day?" Tom was enjoying Harry's melodramatic tale as much as Harry was enjoying telling it.

"Actually," Kim grinned, "I think Commander Janeway saved the day. It was Voyager and our three shuttles against five Numiri ships, two of them warships armed to the teeth. We'd managed to disable their scout ships, but then the warships came about and headed straight for your shuttle. We had one of them in a torpedo lock and the other had a clear shot on the Cochrane. Just as we fired, the Cochrane disappeared."

"Disappeared?"

"Right, no trace of her, nothing on sensors. We thought you'd been destroyed. And then Commander Janeway hailed us."

"Where was she?" Paris was rapt.

Kim grinned. "She'd pulled off the Picard maneuver and taken the shuttle behind a moon. We couldn't detect her because she'd generated a thoron field to -"

~Red alert. Senior officers to the bridge.~ Chakotay's voice cut clearly through the sudden wailing of klaxons.

"What now?" huffed the Doctor. Paris was already climbing down from the bio-bed. The EMH stopped him with an implacable holographic hand on his arm. "Lieutenant, I haven't discharged you from Sickbay."

"Doc -" he protested. "I feel perfectly fine. And you heard the captain. I am still a senior officer on this ship and I should be on the bridge."

The Doctor hesitated. Paris' scans had shown nothing to be concerned about. "All right, you can go. But report back to Sickbay as soon as possible."

"Thanks, Doc." Paris shot him a grin as he caught up to Kim at the turbolift door. "So, what now?" he asked companionably. "The Numiri just couldn't bear the thought of never seeing me again?"

Harry snorted. "Maybe Lidell Ren was so overcome by your charms that she decided to kidnap you and keep you for a love slave."

His grin faded quickly at the look on Paris' face.

"Uh, sorry. I guess that wasn't really very funny," Kim said lamely.

Tom was staring at the floor. "It's okay. It’s just ..." he chewed his lip. "What you said hit a little close to home. I'd kind of hoped I'd never hear myself referred to as a 'love slave' again in this lifetime." He met Harry's gaze with a half-smile.

Harry looked shocked to his core.

"Oh fuck," Tom muttered, half under his breath. "You mean you didn't know?"

Kim opened his mouth, said "When ...?", thought better of it, and closed it again. He shook his head.

Paris groaned. "Then do me a favour and forget I mentioned it."

"It's already forgotten," Kim assured him as the turbolift opened onto the bridge.

 

=/\=


~Alien vessel.~ This time the Numiri captain sounded not angry, but smug. ~You are surrounded. Surrender immediately and we may allow you to live.~

"They've really got to work on their public relations strategy," muttered Ensign Ashmore as she surrendered the Ops station to Kim.

He spared her a brief smile, busy working the console to assess the situation. Four Numiri warships and - he double-checked - three Lodian attack cruisers. "Since when have the Lodians been Numiri allies?" he asked Ashmore.

"Since now, I guess," she replied. "Lucky for us."

Chakotay rose from his chair and stood behind Paris at the helm, stalling for time. "As you can see, Lieutenant Paris has had your communications implant removed. Attacking us serves no purpose."

Now there was definitely anger. ~It serves the purpose of vengeance! You destroyed our vessel and killed ninety-six of our people. You will be punished.~

The screen went dark, and almost immediately a phaser burst impacted against Voyager's forward shields. "Shields at 90 per cent," Tuvok reported.

Chakotay exchanged glances with Janeway. "We can't outgun them," she said quietly.

"Then we'll have to outrun them. Mr Paris, are you up for some fancy flying?"

"Always, sir," Paris grinned.

"Then take evasive maneuvres at your discretion. Tuvok, fire at will. Tom, as soon as we're clear, set a course for Ruata and engage at maximum -"

Voyager lurched under another barrage.

"They are targeting our warp engines," Tuvok said calmly.

~Engineering to bridge.~

"Go ahead, Lieutenant."

Torres was shouting to be heard over the noise in Engineering. ~Captain, we've taken damage to the warp field coils. I can't create a stable warp field. I need five minutes to reroute power. How long can you hold them off?~

"I guess we'll have to try for five minutes. Keep me informed. Chakotay out." He turned to the helmsman. "Do your best, Mr Paris."

"Aye, sir." Paris' fingers were a blur on the console; Voyager twisted and feinted and spun on a dime, but it wasn't enough. Kim rerouted all available power to the shields, Tuvok set the phasers to full power and fired continuously, but it wasn't enough. Phaser pulses from two Lodian ships converged on Voyager's weapons array. "Phasers are offline," Tuvok said gravely.

"Chakotay to Torres. Have you got those field coils stabilised yet?"

~Almost, Captain - I need another thirty sec-~

Torres' reply was cut off by the impact of a photon torpedo. Over the open commline the bridge crew could hear mayhem unfolding in the engine room. Carey was shouting instructions over the crackle of exploding consoles. "Lieutenant Torres, report!" Chakotay shouted.

~This is Lieutenant Carey, sir. Lieutenant Torres has been injured. She's being taken to Sickbay. I'm completing the power transfer now. You should be able to go to warp six.~

"Do it, Mr Paris," Chakotay ordered, and Voyager leapt out of the thick of the battle. "Report, Tuvok."

"Warp engines are stable, and two of the Numiri ships have been hit by their own fire and are not pursuing. However, our phaser relays are fused, torpedo launchers are offline, and Lodian cruisers have a top speed of warp seven. They will be in range in less than two minutes."

"Mr Carey, can you give us warp eight?"

~Not for another four minutes at best, Captain. We're in pretty bad shape down here.~

"Do the best you can, Lieutenant." Chakotay closed the channel. "Options?"

He looked at Tuvok, who shook his head minimally. Kim looked blank. Janeway said quietly, "There are none."

"Captain," Kim said suddenly. "I'm detecting vessels de-cloaking off the port beam ... It's the Ruatans, sir."

"Hail them."

~Hello, Captain,~ Zigan grinned at him. ~You seem to be in a situation. How can we help?~

"Mr Zigan, I appreciate your offer, but are you sure you want to risk armed conflict with the Numiri and the Lodians?"

~Don't worry about that, Captain. My ship can extend its cloak to protect you. As far as they're concerned, you'll have disappeared off sensors. May we proceed?~

"Of course -"

~Sickbay to bridge!~

"Yes, Doctor?" Chakotay said impatiently.

~Captain, I've been monitoring the situation from here. Am I to understand you are about to place Voyager within the Ruatan cloak?~

"That's right, and we have to do it quickly -"

~Lieutenant Torres has been seriously injured. Several of her vertebrae have been fractured, and there are complications. If I don't operate now, the nerve tissue around the fractures will necrotise and she could be permanently paralysed. But if we cloak, my program will go offline.~

"Understood, Doctor," Chakotay said quietly. He swiveled back to the viewscreen. "Zigan, I'm afraid we're going to have to decline your offer. I suggest you re-cloak and get your vessels to a safe distance. We'll have to fight this one out."

Zigan covered his eyes with long six-fingered hands. ~Captain, I respect your courage, but we cannot stand by and allow you to be destroyed. We will join your fight.~

"Enemy vessels in range in thirty seconds," Kim interjected.

Chakotay nodded. "Doctor, how long do you need?"

~I've almost completed the procedure. I need another three minutes.~

"Keep me informed," Chakotay said through clenched teeth. He looked at his new ally. "Good luck, Mr Zigan. And in case I don't get a chance to say it later - thank you."

Zigan nodded and the channel closed. And Voyager bucked under a Lodian assault.

Janeway turned to Chakotay. "Permission to go to Engineering and help Lieutenant Carey."

Chakotay nodded. Counting down the minutes, he listened grimly to the litany of damage and injury Tuvok and Kim were dutifully reporting. The Ruatans were valiant fighters, but their vessels hadn't been designed for combat. Two Ruatan ships circled, taking pot shots at the heavy Numiri ships; the others held the agile Lodian cruisers at bay, but several punishing volleys got through the Ruatan defenses. And then, in tumbling succession -

~Janeway to the bridge. We can give you warp eight.~

~Sickbay to bridge. Lieutenant Torres' condition is stable.~

- and a torpedo exploded, knocking Paris from his chair. Culhane scrambled into his place.

"Chakotay to Zigan, retreat! Culhane, increase to warp eight."

And in an instant Zigan's ship extended its cloak around Voyager, and the cloaked fleet leapt forward, leaving their attackers behind.

 

=/\=


Crippled but unbowed, a Starfleet ship hung in cloaked orbit above the Ruatan homeworld. Her captain sank into his ready room chair and dropped his head into his hands.

The chirp of the doorpad was about the only part of the ship which seemed to be in working order. "Come in," Chakotay sighed.

Janeway entered, hair knocked from its pins, dirt smudging her cheek. "Here's Carey's engineering report." She handed him a PADD.

He placed it on the stack already towering on his desk. "Want to give me the abridged version?"

She sat opposite him. "Surprisingly, it's not too bad. We overtaxed the engines and there was some structural damage to the engine room, but Carey thinks we'll be back in top form within a week. Barring further attacks, of course."

"Which might be an issue," he sighed. "The Ruatans have invited us to stay in orbit as long as we need to, and considering the damage to the ship, I'd like to be in fighting form next time we encounter the Lodians or the Numiri or anyone else who wants a piece of us. I've decided to accept their offer. We'll stay another week."

She nodded. "I'll inform the crew."

Chakotay pinched the bridge of his nose. "Anything else I should know?"

"About the only good thing to come out of this mess was the injury report. Apart from B'Elanna's injuries, some of the engineering staff were knocked around, Lieutenant Paris broke his leg, and Crewman Harren spent half an hour trapped in a Jeffries tube with a mild concussion, but there were no casualties."

He leaned back. "How is B'Elanna?"

"I was just on my way to see her."

Chakotay pushed away from his desk. "Mind some company?"

She shrugged assent, and they made their way to Sickbay in silence.

Seska was busy tending to the handful of minor injuries; Kes stood by Lieutenant Torres' bed, making small adjustments on the surgical arch. "How is she?" Janeway asked, moving over to her. Torres, sedated, was for once in her life perfectly still.

"She'll be fine, Commander," Kes assured her. "The Doctor did a wonderful job. There's no sign of any permanent damage. I would like to keep her in here for a couple of days, though."

"Good luck," Chakotay grinned.

Janeway glanced around. Harren perched stoically on the edge of a bio-bed while Seska ran a regenerator over the purple bruise on his forehead. Kyoto cradled her arm, waiting for her turn. Paris lay grumpily immobile, glaring at the ceiling, as Ensign Wildman waved an osteo-regenerator over his broken leg.

Wildman looked pale and exhausted. "I'll take over now, Ensign." Janeway patted her shoulder. "Go get some rest." The blond woman nodded her thanks. Kathryn turned to her patient.

"I seem to be spending a lot of time by your bed these days, Lieutenant." She regretted the words the instant they left her mouth.

He turned pain-shadowed blue eyes on her, trying to smirk. "Do you think maybe you could start spending some of it in my bed, Commander?"

She tried to glare but found she couldn't help grinning at the pure cheek of him. "I guess I asked for that," she muttered.

Against the quiet hum of Sickbay their soft voices carried. Kes watched from under her lashes as Chakotay's face froze. As though she'd sensed it, Commander Janeway's back stiffened and she turned, her blue gaze clashing with his. Without a word, the Captain stalked away.

 

=/\=


"Computer, activate program Chakotay Beta."

~That program is currently active.~

Chakotay stopped short. "Who's in Holodeck One?"

~Commander Janeway is in Holodeck One.~

His eyebrows shot up. "Open."

The doors parted and he was walking into the gymnasium at Starfleet Academy, complete with the stench of mouldy socks, the thud of fists pounding on flesh, and Boothby's irascible yelling.

"Guard up, Katie, for pete's sake! How many times do I have to tell you? Watch the right hook!"

"I'm watching it," she yelled at the hologram.

"Computer, freeze program," said Chakotay. The holographic Cardassian stilled instantly, Janeway's fist passed through him, and, off-balance, she fell heavily to the floor.

"Dammit!" she yelled, and glared around. "Who the hell did that?"

"I did."

Kathryn scrambled to her feet, blowing hair out of her eyes. "Captain," she said shortly.

"Enjoying yourself?"

"Shouldn't I be?"

"You're covered in bruises."

Kathryn shrugged, sucking blood from her lip. "I fell down a ladder in Engineering."

He regarded her mildly. "Since when have you been a boxer?"

She wiped her arm across her brow. "I'm not a boxer. I just like to fight."

Truer words were never spoken, thought Chakotay. "All right. Show me how you fight."

She watched him, wary. "Why?"

"I might be able to give you a few pointers. Computer, resume program."

~Warning. Safety protocols are offline.~

Chakotay looked outraged. "Fell down a ladder, huh?"

She said nothing.

"Computer, restore safety protocols and resume program." The computer chirped and the holographic Cardassian swung his right arm at Janeway's face, catching her cheekbone. She swore. "I told you to watch the right hook," crowed Boothby. Catching sight of Chakotay, he chortled, "Ah, the Cherokee Champion returns. Come to show Katie how it's done?"

"Computer, deactivate Boothby hologram," she seethed. The Cardassian feinted toward her. "And deactivate opponent," and the Cardassian flickered into oblivion.

Janeway put gloved hands on hips and skewered the captain with a death's-head stare. "Well?"

"Well what?"

"Put your latinum where your mouth is."

He grinned at her. "Computer, boxing gloves." A pair of gloves materialised on the bench in front of him. Chakotay shrugged out of his uniform jacket, toed off his shoes and laced up the gloves. He swung under the ropes. "Ready?"

In answer she punched him. Hard. In the mouth.

"I guess so," he said wryly, and raised his gloves.

He jabbed. She blocked. He faked right. She uppercut. He stumbled back. She followed, fists close to her chest. He went for a body blow, and she spun round and kicked him.

"Jesus, Kate," he snapped. "You're a dirty fighter."

"In the Maquis," she jabbed left, "you learn," she led right, "to fight dirty." She smacked him in the solar plexus, one-two. Chakotay gasped for air. "Come on," she taunted. "You're not even trying."

In a fury of motion he launched himself at her. Gentle tap to the right of her head, quick jab to her ribs, and he swept his leg under, catching her behind the knees and sending them both crashing to the floor. Janeway wheezed. Chakotay threw back his head and laughed.

She tried to get up, but he trapped her legs between strong thighs, her gloves between his own. "Face it, Kate," he grinned. "You lose."

"Lose?" she growled. "I never lose."

"In that case," he smiled, and he buffed her chin gently with his glove, raising her face to his, "would you consider a truce?"

Kathryn hesitated. This wasn't just about the fight anymore. She made a decision.

"Truce," she agreed, and she smiled back at him. And it felt good.

© 2021 by Mia Cooper