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.
"They're firing again!"
"Forward phasers. Evasive maneuvers, Mr Paris! Give it all she's got." She grabbed for purchase as the ship rocked under another volley of torpedoes. Paris executed a textbook gamma sequence at full impulse. She heard Tuvok. "Their shields are down, Captain."
"Target their warp core," yelled Janeway.
"Belay that," Chakotay snapped. "Tuvok, target their weapons array and fire." He glared at her. "Forget who's Captain?"
She turned to snarl at him. Tuvok broke in. "Their weapons systems are disabled. They are retreating."
"Get us out of here, Lieutenant. Warp five. Mr Tuvok, damage report."
She huffed into her chair as Tuvok listed the damaged systems. "Minor damage to the port array. Transporters and holodeck systems are down. No casualties. Repair teams are responding."
Chakotay's eyes were furious, locked on hers. "Hardly cause to destroy their ship. Lieutenant Tuvok, you have the bridge. Commander Janeway, in my ready room. Now."
Gritting her teeth, she followed. The doors had barely closed behind her before he started in. "What the hell do you think you were doing?"
"Saving your ass. What did it look like?"
"It looked like overkill. They had no real chance against us!"
"They attacked us!"
They were nose to nose. A vein pulsed in his forehead.
"Their weapons were inferior. We could easily outrun them. There was no need to blow them out of the sky." His hands clenched into fists at his side.
She snarled back up at him. "I deemed it necessary force, Captain. In case you hadn't noticed, we're all alone out here. They'll call for backup and you know it!"
He wanted to shake her. "That's no excuse for destroying them! What's gotten into you?"
"What's gotten into me?" She wanted to scream. "We're thousands of light years from home, we're being battered from all sides by Lodian warships, our dilithium supply is dwindling fast, we're running low on food supplies with no immediate hope of restocking the larder and you want to know what's wrong with me?" Kathryn bared her teeth at him. "You want to take the risk that the Lodians will come back after us? What are you? A Captain or a cretin?"
He froze. Her words reverberated in the room. Her teeth clamped on her lower lip. Too far.
"I'm sor -"
"Sorry. Yes, of course." Chakotay's voice was dangerously quiet. "You're always sorry later, aren't you, Kathryn? Well, guess what. An apology wouldn't bring back that Lodian crew, had you fired on their warp core." She could see him struggling to control his fury. His mouth tightened and her gaze dropped involuntarily. Her lips parted. He thought she was about to speak and pressed his fingers to her mouth. "And you seem to have forgotten one more thing. I am the captain of this vessel and I will give the orders. Understood?"
She couldn't speak.
"Is that understood, Commander?"
She moved her lips beneath his fingers. "Yes ... Yes, sir." She breathed.
She saw it before he even felt it. Eyes darkening and changing. He snatched his hand away, stepped back from her, rubbing his fingers almost unconsciously. He cleared his throat. "Good. Dismissed."
She exited the room on unsteady legs. Chakotay braced his arms against the desk. Damn that woman. She always could get to him. She always had.
"Commander! And how are you this evening?"
"Fine," she said shortly.
"What can I get you? We have a wonderful baked Rezorian lamb, a sauteed broccoli and atiki tuber dish of which I'm particularly proud, and of course, leola root casserole -"
"But you have to eat, Commander! You're getting terribly thin, if you don't mind me saying -"
"I do mind," she barked, then relented. "I'm sorry, Neelix." Sorry. "That - broccoli thing will be fine."
"Coming right up!" The little Talaxian beamed as he ladled something truly offensive on her plate. "Bon appetit, as Mr Paris might say."
"Taking my name in vain, Neelix?" The boisterous helmsman appeared beside her. Kathryn tried not to sigh. "Excuse me," she muttered.
She was trying not to grimace at the odor of the forkful raised to her mouth when Paris bounded over to her table. "Hey, Commander, mind if I join you?"
"Yes, I mind -" She stopped. Breathed deeply. "Of course not, Mr Paris." She ground her teeth. "Please, have a seat."
His grin was annoyingly irrepressible. "Is that as bad as it smells?"
Janeway closed her mouth over the fork and chewed gingerly. "Worse."
"Great." Tom Paris rolled his eyes. "If the Lodians don't kill us, Neelix's cooking will." He spooned up some of his own meal and sniffed at it, making a face. "Leola root. I swear it's some kind of divine punishment for all our sins."
She quirked an eyebrow at him. "Considering the magnitude and frequency of your sins, Mr Paris, I'm surprised you're not drowning in it."
He flushed and she instantly regretted it. "Sorry. Shit." She closed her eyes for a moment, and when she opened them he saw weariness and regret.
"Hard day at the office, huh?" he said, and she was surprised by the sympathy in his voice.
"I guess you could say that."
Tom looked at her closely. "You know, Commander, you don't look so good. I mean," he said hastily as she gave him a sharp look, "you look tired and stressed. Do you ever -" he stopped, biting his lip.
"Do I ever what?"
"I don't know... relax, I guess. Get it out of your system. Do something fun."
Fun. Yeah, right. "What did you have in mind?"
That blinding grin was back. "Well, now that you mention it, I've designed this holoprogram ..."
"That bar in Marseilles? I've heard about it."
"... with a pool table -"
"Pool?" She looked up, interested despite herself.
"Used to. In another lifetime." Kathryn fiddled with her fork, looking away again.
"How about a game, then?"
He shrugged and stood, holding out a hand. "It's gotta be better than leola root."
"Used to play, huh." Tom looked disgusted. "What were you, Federation champion?"
She laughed for what felt like the first time in months. "Nowhere near it. Just spent a lot of time in a lot of bars like this one. Like I said, another lifetime."
"Well, you sure can beat the pants off me." His voice was silky.
Was he... flirting? Kathryn glanced up sharply. He was leaning against the table, very close to her. Cool blue eyes, but his gaze was warm. Too warm. She stepped back. "Lieutenant -"
"Tom." He was still looking. Smiling.
"Whatever. This is inappropriate."
"What, being thrashed at pool by my commanding officer? Sorry, I'll try to win next time."
Was he laughing at her? Her mouth hardened. "Forget it. Thanks for the game." She tossed her cue on the table and turned to leave.
"Commander!" There was apology in his voice. "I didn't mean any - disrespect. I just -"
Kathryn turned back. Waited.
"I just thought - you seemed lonely. I - know what it's like. I wanted to cheer you up. I'm sorry."
To her bottomless horror she felt tears clouding her eyes. She blinked furiously. Tom stepped tentatively closer. "Commander?"
She shook her head. She wanted to bolt for the door but she couldn't seem to move. And then she felt a gentle hand on her chin. Long fingers stroking her cheekbone, tracing the long-faded scar. When he spoke there was tenderness in his voice. "I guess it's been awhile since anyone was nice to you."
That did it. She let out a strangled sob and his fingers froze momentarily. Then he was pulling her gently into the curve of his arms. Her cheek collided with his collarbone and he was warm, so warm against her and she couldn't hold it anymore. She cried.
Hours or days later she quieted to the rhythm of his fingers stroking her back, tangling in her hair. Her mouth touching his throat. His breath tickling her ear. She wanted to run. She wanted to stay forever.
"Are you okay?" he whispered.
Tom Paris, for Christ's sake. Over-indulged Admiral's child. Ex-Starfleet. Ex-Maquis. Ex-con. Well, who was she to talk.
She nodded. She shook her head. "I don't know."
"It's alright." She closed her eyes; his voice was soothing. She felt the vibrations of speech in his chest. Felt his arms around her. Felt him trembling against her body. Pressing into her. She was pressing back.
Janeway jerked away. "What the hell do you think you're doing!"
He looked horrified. His cheeks burned, hands fluttering at his sides. "I'm sorry, I -"
Her hair had loosened from its pins and he reached out without thinking to brush a lock away from her face. She leapt back as if burned. What the hell ...
Tom took two steps backward and bumped into the pool table. "Oh Christ. Commander, I didn't mean ..." Didn't mean what? He tried not to look at her. Didn't mean to touch you. Couldn't help it.
She was pinning her hair up haphazardly, trying to breathe. She had no idea what to say. She raised her eyes to him again. "Lieutenant, I think I should leave."
His blue eyes cooled, his long body uncurled, his mouth twisted. She watched him regaining his composure and wondered what the hell had happened to her own.
"Aye, sir," he said with the faintest touch of insolence, and watched her unsteadily walking away.