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 Five
Stardate 48613.4


"Starfleet."

"Maquis." Harry Kim fell into step beside her. "End of shift?"

"Yup, only four hours late." Torres looked tired, shoulders hunched. "Remind me why I agreed to be Chief Engineer."

"To put Carey's nose out of joint?"

B'Elanna snorted back a laugh. "I broke it in three places. How much more out of joint could it get?"

Harry grinned. Six months ago she'd have snarled at him for even alluding to the subject. "Where you headed?"

"Mess hall. I could eat a Ktarian prairie dog. But I guess I'll have to make do with Neelix's house specialty. You hungry?"

"Not that hungry, but I'd kill for a milkshake. Mind if I join you?"

"A milkshake?" Torres repeated derisively. "How old are you, Harry?"

"Hey." He flushed. "Healthy teeth, healthy bones."

"Whatever. Aren't you scared Neelix'll serve you Talaxian yak's milk?"

"I have replicator rations saved," Kim returned a touch pompously.

"You always do. I don't know how you manage it. Not doing special favours for our Captain, are you?" Her tone made it clear what kind of favours she meant.

"B'Elanna ...!"

"Oh, loosen your stays, Starfleet," she smirked. "You're too easy to shock. Anyway, the Captain's as straight-laced as you. I'll bet the thought of fraternisation never enters his head."

"Of course not! Captain Chakotay would never abuse his position by becoming personally involved with a member of his crew. It would be a contravention of accepted onboard interpersonal protocols."

Incredulous, the half-Klingon turned to deliver another choicely phrased taunt, when she saw the compressed lips, the laughter in his eyes. "Okay. Got me," she admitted grudgingly.

Harry replicated his milkshake and followed B'Elanna to a table. She poked at her meal in distaste. "I don't even want to know what this used to be."

"When are you scheduled to go planetside?"

"Tomorrow, if I can get away from Engineering. I get one system fixed and the next one goes down. Not to mention the problems I'm having with the Doctor's holomatrix. How 'bout you?"

"Tomorrow. You know, we're all supposed to take shore leave. Captain's orders." Kim felt suddenly shy. "Tom told me the Ruatans are throwing a party at the leisure centre tomorrow night. Want to come with me?"

"Hell, no." She shuddered. "Those Ruatans give me the creeps. They're so - cheerful."

"Oh."

B'Elanna caught the disappointment. "I was thinking of taking a hike. The dilithium we detected is in some caves in the northern hemisphere. I could take a good look, maybe get started on mining it, if the Ruatans give us permission."

Harry brightened. "I heard those caves are filled with a species of firefly. They're supposed to be spectacular at night. Thousands of tiny lights moving in the dark, like stars at warp."

She raised an eyebrow. "Sounds like you wouldn't mind tagging along." Her tone was abrupt, as always, but he grasped the implicit invitation and smiled.

"I'd like that."

 

=/\=


"You've scheduled my shore leave for the next two days."

"That's right," she answered. She nodded to Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Kim as Chakotay escorted her into the mess hall.

"And you're not on leave till the day I come back to duty."

"As First Officer, I am aware of the potential consequences of both top-ranking officers being absent from the vessel for an extended period. I am following standard procedures to ensure the safety of ship and crew."

"The ship's not scheduled to leave orbit for six days."

She looked at him evenly. "It would be against Starfleet regulations for the captain and executive officer to be on leave from the ship simultaneously outside Federation space."

Oh, clever Kate. "Regulation 9B, sub-section 12, paragraph A." Chakotay injected amused approval into his voice. "Did you have to look it up?"

Janeway gave him a sour look for form's sake.

She hadn't rubbed his nose in it. Nicely done, Commander. Chakotay nodded to Neelix to fill up his plate. "So, what will you do on your vacation?"

"Endeavour to smile, sir."

He recoiled a little at the blank malice in her reply. So it was going to be like that. Push me, pull me. Push me away. He spoke without thinking. "When did you get to be so cold?"

"Fuck you." So did she.

He met her eyes, saw the flash of chagrin quickly masked by defiance. They parted ways. Chakotay sat with B'Elanna and Harry. Janeway sat alone.

Well, until Tom Paris came in.

He came in alert, kept his back near the wall, scanned the room with one quick glance. The ex-prisoner's habitual wariness. She knew it well; she walked into rooms the same way. Always know your enemy. Always keep him in your sight.

She was in his sight. That trademark white grin split his face and she caught her breath suddenly. She hadn't realised.

He's luminous.

She ducked her head instantly. From the corner of her eye she saw Harry beckon him, saw Tom's wave of apology. "Hello, Lieutenant," she said neutrally. "Please, do sit down. I'm sure you were going to anyway."

"I don't want to disturb you ..." he began. He held out a PADD. "I'm supposed to give you my flight plan."

Flight plan? Oh - the away mission to the neighbouring Banean system; Zigan had arranged for them to acquire badly-needed plasma injector coils on the Banean homeworld. The shuttle was scheduled to leave in four days' time. Get with it, Kathryn. She studied the PADD. "Looks fine, Lieutenant. Who's leading the team?"

"You are, Commander. The captain'll be meeting with one of the Ruatan traders to try to get us some tripolymer composite to reinforce the secondary plasma conduits."

"Okay." She pressed her thumb down. "Well, are you going to sit down, or keep blocking my light?"

She could swear there was something in his eyes. Triumph? Satisfaction? Attraction? "I'll just go get a plate."

Janeway saw Torres watching her. Looking at Paris. Back to Janeway. She arched an eyebrow at the engineer. Now, what were those Klingon senses detecting? Torres met her gaze with an arching brow of her own.

If this were the Liberty, they might share a grin, an acknowledgment of their mutual interest in the man in question -

Kathryn Janeway flushed. Oh, no. Not now. Not Tom Paris -

" - looked like the most edible choice ... Commander?"

"What?" She jumped. "Sorry, Lieutenant, I was thinking about the away mission. What do we know about the Baneans?" There, well recovered.

"Apparently friendly," he said, and she knew she hadn't fooled him a bit, "but they're at conflict with their neighbours, the Numiri. We're to avoid Numiri ships if at all possible." He chewed. "Hey, this isn't that bad."

Stuck on a shuttle with Tom Paris. Two days on a shuttle watching everything she said. Two days with a man who could see through her like a cheap holonovel. Janeway could hardly wait.

 

=/\=


"Thrusters are online," Tom announced. "Initiating flight sequence now."

"All systems nominal," reported Janeway.

"Cochrane to Voyager, we're clear. See you in a couple of days." That's it, flyboy, keep it cool. You're a professional.

~Acknowledged, Cochrane, good luck. Voyager out.~

Paris kept his eyes on the helm controls. Janeway programmed a diagnostic sweep of the sensor array for activation once they'd jumped to warp, brought out a PADD and started studying the Banean trade laws.

Paris cleared his throat. "So, Commander. Know how to fly one of these things?"

She gave him a dark look.

"Hey, I was only asking."

"Did you know the answer?"

"I guess so."

"Then why ask." She returned to the PADD.

Okay then. Paris shut up.

Not for long.

"So ... did you enjoy your shore leave?"

"It was fine." Impatiently.

Tom's fingers danced over the console. Janeway flicked her gaze away. "What did you do?"

Janeway sighed. "Are you really interested, Mr Paris, or are you simply unable to be quiet?"

Ouch. He stole a glance at her. Ice hard. Untouchable. Hair pulled up into one of those complicated coils whose mechanics baffled him. Just enough makeup to provide a mask. "You don't talk much, do you?"

She could tell he was unnerved. The Paris charm had probably never failed to work before.

"Evidently, you talk enough for both of us."

Damn, she could twist that knife. "Sorry," he muttered stiffly, and clamped his mouth shut. They endured the remainder of the flight in uneasy silence, bar the occasional status report.

"We're about to enter orbit," Paris said finally. Janeway tucked the PADD away. "Hail them." The viewscreen showed a imposing humanoid, his forehead scored with whorls and curving ridges.

~This is Science Minister Kray. Your shuttle is cleared for landing at the following coordinates.~

The screen went blank and the computer chirped as the landing coordinates were fed through. "Talkative bunch," observed Paris, his tone deceptively mild. "You and the Baneans should get along just fine, Commander."

She bared her teeth at him. "Just land the shuttle, Lieutenant."

"Aye, sir." There was a certain satisfaction in getting in the last word, Tom thought as he guided the shuttle smoothly onto the landing pad. Knowing that he'd rattled her composure as she'd rattled his.

The shuttle hatch opened onto blinding sunlight and Paris couldn't help raising his face to the warmth as he stepped out. Minister Kray inclined his head. "Commander Janeway, I hope you didn't have any trouble with the Numiri."

"Uh, no, sir, we didn't. Actually, I'm Lieutenant Paris. This is Commander Janeway." He stepped back respectfully, curious to see how these aliens reacted to Janeway's abruptness. Wondered if she'd ruffle their feathers as she did his own.

She walked elegantly down the ramp and offered the minister her hand. Her lips curved in a smile and her tone was relaxed. "Minister, it's so kind of you to meet with us. We've heard a little about your planet from the Ruatans, but they didn't mention quite how striking it is." She turned her head regally, scanning the surrounds. As far as Paris could see, it was just a collection of squat white buildings in a sterile compound. The surrounding mountains were dark-grey and forbidding. He tried to keep his expression neutral. She'd surprised him yet again.

Minister Kray's formal posture unbent a little and he even allowed himself a small smile. "I understand you've arranged to trade a quantity of energy converters for several plasma coils. We have arranged for you to meet with Professor Ren, our leading engineering physicist. If you'll follow me, please."

Well, of course she could play the diplomat when she chose to, Paris chided himself as he followed the now-chatting pair across the square. She had been a high-ranking Starfleet officer till a couple of years ago, and you didn't make it to the command ranks without developing some negotiating tactics along the way. It probably came as naturally to her as the rather ... heavy-handed style she'd employed in the Maquis. He grinned involuntarily, remembering Janeway's don't-fuck-with-me attitude during the brief time he'd piloted the Liberty. A certain Ferengi DaiMon would never again make the mistake of offering to trade weapons with a human female in exchange for oo-max.

He played the part of respectful junior officer while Janeway, Kray and the physicist, Ren, began the bargaining process. It was like a dance, he thought, and she knew the steps well. Subtly, weaving a web of light flattery and wit, interspersed with the occasional display of her prodigious technical understanding, she shifted the balance so that by the time the arrangement was defined, they'd moved from outsiders to valued trading partners. Ren was almost begging her to take the injector coils off his hands by the end. "Commander Janeway, I must say, it's been a pleasure meeting you, and your crewman of course," Ren added somewhat hastily. "My wife and I would be honoured if the two of you would join us for a meal before you return to your shuttle."

She graciously accepted, pressed her thumb onto the PADD containing the trade agreement and held it out to Ren to do the same. "How kind, Professor. We'd be delighted."

"Then it's settled." Ren turned to Kray for a quick word and Janeway glanced at Paris, faintly amused. "Don't look so shocked, Lieutenant," she said coolly. "I can talk when talking is required."

Paris could have sworn the Commander shot him a wink as she linked her arm through Ren's.