Summary: "In a way, Paris has been your personal reclamation project."
Characters: Janeway, Paris
Disclaimer: So much untapped potential with these two, Paramount. What were you thinking?
Notes: This story is an exploration of what could have, and may have, happened. I've kept it canon-compliant (and assumed that Mosaic and Pathways are accepted as canon) except where otherwise noted.
Warning: Some chapters contain references to violence and sexual assault. One contains elements of dubious consent, public lewdness and really filthy sex.
Note: Clearly, I’m accepting Mosaic as mostly-canon, but I’ve played a little fast and loose with both the timeline of events in that book and the Arias incident – in my head-canon, Janeway didn’t get out of that so lightly. That said, there’s a warning on this one for descriptions of violence and non-consensual sex.
3. The Admiral’s Son
December, 2359 – Stowe Gallery, Hartford, Connecticut
The champagne has gone warm in my hand, and my face aches from the fake smile I’ve kept plastered on it for the past two hours. My mother darts regularly to my side, probably to make sure I’m not going to scream or faint or otherwise terrify her and embarrass my sister. I’ve told her to stop fretting; I’m fine, and perfectly capable of playing the part that’s expected of me. It’s Phoebe’s night, after all.
My little sister is in her element, and so she should be – it’s rare that a student of the Andorian Academy of Art is invited to hold her own exhibition across three Federation worlds. Tonight is the final showing of her work before the Stowe Gallery closes for Christmas.
It will be our first Christmas without my father.
I shove that thought away along with my half-empty glass, snagging a fresh one from a passing tray. Mom catches sight from across the room and I watch that pinched expression bracket her mouth. I’ve been the catalyst for that expression too many times this past year. I drain my glass, turning away.
“Katie.” My mother’s at my elbow. “Are you all right, sweetheart?”
“God, Mom, stop worrying about me. I’m fine.” It comes out more harshly than I’d intended, and I’m instantly sorry as she draws back. “I think I just need some air,” I mumble.
“Get your coat,” she calls after me as I head for the terrace. “It’s freezing out there.”
Wrapped in the Andorian wool coat Phoebe brought back for me, I lean on the terrace railing, watching my breath puff into candy-floss clouds. The constellations gleam like ice particles in a blackened sea. I tip my head back, fixing my gaze on Sirius, the brightest point in the sky. Vertigo warps my perspective and I’m falling upwards, plummeting into an icy ocean, sinking like a crippled shuttle beneath the surface.
Nausea rises in my throat and I gasp, gripping the railing to orient myself. God. It’s bad enough that I can’t snatch a few hours’ sleep without watching that shuttle sink in my dreams; now it’s a waking nightmare as well. I’m shivering from more than the cold as I hurry back inside.
My mother is there, a tall blond boy in tow. “Katie,” she says, her public smile not concealing the ever-present anxiety for me in her eyes. “Do you remember Tom Paris, Owen’s son?”
He’s taller than I remember, features still boyish but his shoulders broad, his frame filled out a little. I guess he must be about sixteen now, and I can see the brush-strokes of the man he’ll soon become. Lanky, lean-muscled, with the grace of someone easy in his skin, he reminds me, just a little, of his father.
Well, of how his father used to be, before the Cardassians.
“Ensign Kate,” he grins, shaking the hand I’ve held out to him.
“Lieutenant, actually.” I smile back. “How’ve you been, Tom?”
“Oh, you know. Biting the hand that feeds me.”
I glance around. “Speaking of which, are your parents here tonight?”
“No. I’m spending Christmas with relatives. My aunt’s a patron of the gallery, and when I found out there was a Janeway exhibiting tonight, I asked to come.”
“I hope you didn’t think I had anything to do with this. There’s not an artistic bone in my body – Phoebe scooped all the talent in the family.”
He shrugs. “I know nothing about art, but I’ll be sure to tell your sister that her work holds its own against the masters of the Takash period, paying homage to the greats without being hobbled by derivation.”
I raise my eyebrows, and his grin widens. “I read it in the booklet they handed out at the front door.”
I tilt my head to one side, assessing him. He’s grown up a lot in two years, and I don’t just mean physically. When last I saw him he was a sullen teenager, barely hiding the deep-seated, cataclysmic ache of his father’s unmet expectations behind a don’t-care attitude. It’s as if he’s transcended that now. I can’t tell if his ease is born of a new confidence, or if he really has stopped caring what his father thinks of him.
I’m not sure when my mother melted back into the crowd, leaving the two of us alone. Tom has captured my full attention in a way nothing and nobody has since I lost two of the most important people in my universe, and I’ve stopped noticing anybody else in the room. The sheer disloyalty of the thought strikes me dumb, and I grab another glass of champagne as a waiter passes by, gulping at it to mask the emotions I’m afraid are playing out across my face.
“Are you okay?” he asks with quiet intensity, watching me.
It frightens me. Have I been stripped of all my defences, or is he just uncannily perceptive? Either way, I have to escape.
“I’m fine,” I tell him tightly as I start to back away. “I just –” I gesture vaguely, unable to form a complete sentence.
A hand clamps around my upper arm. “There you are,” Phoebe says dramatically. “Come on, Katie, I’m about to unveil the masterpiece.”
“Phoebe, I can’t – I need a minute -”
She ignores me, tugging me over to a huge silk-draped frame. “I need you with me. Stand right there.” She manoeuvres me beside the painting and claps her hands, calling for attention. Faces turn toward us and I scrape together the tattered fragments of my equilibrium.
I barely hear her as she warbles on about this final piece of her work, the piece she only finished a week ago but talked her director into letting her include in this collection. I hear her voice rise as she reaches the end of her speech and snap back to attention. She puts one hand on my arm and the other reaches for the sheet covering the painting. “May I present my final work, ‘Kathryn’,” she announces. A sharp tug, and the silk sheet floats to the floor.
I turn my gaze to the painting, and I can actually feel the blood draining from my face.
I’ve been educated, over the years, in Phoebe’s artistic style. She claims to have been primarily influenced by Earth’s Expressionist period, although her work is less representational. Abstracted or not, I have no trouble identifying myself in the portrait she’s just unveiled. The girl in the painting is all sharp angles and long sad lines, her eyes a dark smudge among the shades of white and eggshell-blue. She’s desolate, lost, broken; a wraith trapped and wandering in a frozen world.
I can’t believe she’s done this to me. Exposed me to the world, bared all my hollowed-out hopes, my raw and bleeding soul.
I place my empty champagne glass carefully on the floor and walk as calmly as I can manage, blinded by tears, through the gallery doors and into the cold and deserted street.
“Kate. Kate, wait up!”
It’s too late; my tenuous control has already slipped and the night air is hurling my sobs back into my throat. I quicken my step but his long legs outpace me with ease.
“Your coat.” Tom grasps my hand, tugging me to face him. “You’ll freeze out here.”
He drapes the coat around my shoulders and pulls it closed across my chest, and it’s only now that I realise I’m trembling. I thrust my arms through the sleeves, fasten the coat, shove my hands into the pockets.
“Thanks.” My voice is thick.
He looks carefully at my ruined face. “Want to go for a walk?”
“My mom will be worried –”
“I told her I’d look after you. C’mon, let’s go down to the river.”
Wordlessly, I let him nudge my frozen feet into motion. There’s something safe and uncomplicated about his silence as he ambles beside me, his footfalls almost noiseless, mine a staccato tick-tock against the pavement. The cirrus-clouds of my breath hide the salt-water sliding down my cheeks.
Tom takes my elbow as the ground slants toward the pier. By mutual, silent consent we walk to the end and rest our forearms on the railing. Dark water moves sluggishly, choked with ice. A single loon calls mournfully from across the river, and I wonder why it remained behind when all the others migrated south.
“I was supposed to be getting married tomorrow.”
It’s expelled unbidden from somewhere shrivelled and twisted inside and I instantly want to rip out my own tongue. Tom turns widened blue eyes to me.
“Shit,” he says, “I’m sorry. What happened?”
“He died. Three months ago. Shuttle accident.” Terse, clipped, just the facts. It doesn’t hurt any less, but it makes the telling bearable.
“I thought it was your dad…?” He tails off, probably wondering how he’s managed to blunder into this social minefield.
“Yes. The same crash.”
“I’m really sorry,” he says, softly, and then he does something completely unexpected: he reaches a gloved hand into my pocket and links his fingers with mine. I glance up at his profile. He’s staring out at the black river, giving me the privacy that grief has stripped from me.
“I was injured in the accident.” The sound of my own voice surprises me; I’ve been mute for so long, it seems. “Three weeks at Starfleet Medical. Then I came home to Indiana and spent another two months in bed. My mother called it a convalescence.” My mouth twists. “Phoebe called it self-indulgence.”
“You’re mad at her, huh?”
“Yes.” My voice is shaking. “I’m fully aware that I’m a mess. It’s not her place to share that with the world.”
“I don’t think that’s what she meant to do,” he says carefully. “It’s a beautiful portrait. Maybe it was her way of showing you how much she cares.”
That stops me short. “She could’ve just told me,” I mutter, but it sounds lame even to me and he huffs a gentle laugh, squeezing my fingers in his own.
For a long while the only sound is the slap of small waves against the pier.
“Can I ask you something?” he says tentatively.
“Can you tell me…” He stops, shakes his head. “Never mind.”
Curious, I angle toward him. “What?”
He’s chewing on his lip. “It’s just – I know you were with my father, on that mission…”
He doesn’t need to specify. I know exactly which mission he’s referring to.
“He was always such an asshole,” Tom bursts out. “Always giving me hell about everything from my grades to who my friends were. My mom said it was because he cared about my future.” He gives a laugh, abbreviated and harsh. “Since he came back, it’s like he doesn’t care about anything. He doesn’t give me shit about schoolwork or coming home late or all the stuff I do that he used to think was a waste of time. He got promoted to Admiral – everything he always wanted – and I could see in his eyes that it didn’t mean anything to him.”
He pulls his hand from mine and grips the railing. “My mom couldn’t take it anymore. She left. I heard her screaming at him – it woke me up, and I went downstairs to see what was going on. She was yelling and he just sat there on the couch, not even looking at her. Then she picked up an overnight bag and walked out.”
“Oh Tom, I’m so sorry.” I lay my hand on his arm. “Is that why you’re here?”
“Yeah. They packed me off for Christmas.” His mouth twists. “I called home earlier today. My sister said they took my dad to Starfleet Medical. To the psych ward.”
I squeeze his arm with frozen fingers. “I’m sorry,” I say again, knowing it’s inadequate. Knowing what he’s going to ask me. Knowing I’ll never be able to tell him what he really wants to know.
“So can you tell me?” he pleads, as I knew he would. “What happened to my dad on that mission?”
I draw in a breath. “How much do you know?”
“Not a lot.” He shakes his head. “Just that you and he were on an away mission and the Cardies captured you.”
I nod, choosing my words carefully. “Most of it is classified, Tom. I wouldn’t be able to tell you even if – even if I wanted to.”
“I understand,” he says, resigned.
“But I’ll tell you this.” I pull my hand back into my pocket, curling my fingers into a fist. My nails dig into my palm, the pain an anchor.
He waits, watching me.
“They tortured him,” I say, my voice soft, even. “I heard them – I could hear him. I was in the next cell.”
Cell. A euphemism for the cramped cage they held me in while they flayed the dignity from my commanding officer. I can still feel the bone-deep chill of lying on packed earth that leached the warmth from my bones, the dull ache of muscles not permitted to flex. The bright agony behind my right eye, legacy of a blow from a Cardassian fist.
I can still feel the hot grip of alien hands as they dragged me from my cage, the rough scrape of the prison wall on my naked back. Camet’s voice, hot and low in my ear, thick fingers crawling over my skin. The jeering laughter of the guards. Closing my eyes, not trying to prevent the thudding of my head against the wall, because the pain of it was my only escape from the other things they were doing to my body.
I just knew I wasn’t going to let them hurt you, Justin said when I thanked him for rescuing me. And I knew I couldn’t tell him, could never tell him, that they already had.
Starfleet sealed my medical and psychiatric records. If I never wish to speak of it, I’m not obliged, and since my release from mandatory counselling I never have. But I know Owen Paris blames himself for it, and if he’s under psychiatric care, it’s at least partly my fault.
They raped me in the corridor outside his cell, the door wide open so he couldn’t fail to see and hear it through the haze of vicious insult they’d inflicted on him. I cried out to him at first, needing a connection with someone who knew who I was and cared whether I lived or died. I knew he’d held out as long as he could while they carved him up and spat out the masticated pieces of him, playing for time in the hope I’d be spared. But when they came for me, when they violated me in front of him, he curled into a ball and faced away from the door, and that’s when I knew I was alone.
He hasn’t been able to look me in the eye since that day.
“They train us, before we go on potentially dangerous missions, to withstand capture and physical abuse, and to a certain degree they prepare us for mental and emotional torture,” I tell his son. “But nothing can prepare you for being completely broken.”
I can see in Tom’s eyes that he doesn’t really understand. I hope he never will.
“That’s what they did to your father,” I explain. “They broke him down. They tore his defences apart and reshaped him into something less than human. He may never get over it.”
“What about you?” he asks in a near-whisper. “What did they do to you?”
“They used me to break him.”
Of all the things they did to me, that’s the one that still wakes me in the night, speechless and sick with impotent rage.
Oh, I’m not deluded enough to profess that I’ve completely compartmentalised the bodily violence they subjected me to; the very fact that I was intending to marry a man from whom I hid that truth is evidence that I haven’t.
But they robbed me of a man I’d held in esteem almost as high as I did my own father. It’s complicated, the way I feel about Owen Paris. I’m not blind to his flaws. I never have been. It’s not idolisation or gratitude or lust, although I suppose it’s an alchemy of all of those things; where my father filled the role of hero in my life, Captain Paris became something altogether more human, more approachable than that. Admiral Paris, though, is lost to me.
I can’t tell any of this to his sixteen year old son, of course. I couldn’t even if it wasn’t classified.
He’s quiet, perhaps understanding that I can’t say any more, perhaps afraid to ask.
“How did you cope with it?” he asks eventually.
“I talked to a counsellor. And my fiancé helped me a lot. He knew what it was like to be a prisoner in a Cardassian camp.”
He bows his head. “My dad wouldn’t talk to my mom about it. It’s why she left.”
I hesitate, then reach for his hand again. “You need to understand something, Tom. He probably couldn’t talk about it. Not just because it’s classified, but when you love someone, it’s difficult to burden them with knowledge they can’t do anything about.”
“But you told your fiancé.”
I stare down into the river. “Not all of it.”
“Oh,” he says, softly, and I realise from the gentle curling of his fingers over mine that he hears what I’m not saying.
A foghorn calls from downriver and I straighten up, my knees locked from the cold. “We should be heading back.”
I turn on the uneven planks of the pier and he puts an arm around my waist, steadying me as I waver a little on my stilettoes.
He keeps his arm around me as we make our way back uphill to the gallery. I’ve started shivering in earnest and I’m glad of the body heat. At the gallery doors I stop and put my arms around him, pulling him close. “I’m glad you’re here tonight, Tom.”
He hugs me back a little awkwardly. “Yeah. Me too.”
On impulse I lean up to kiss his cheek, and it’s at that precise moment that he turns his head and our lips meet instead. I see the surprise in his eyes, feel his arms go slack around me. His lips are warm, pressed lightly against mine. I pull back more slowly than I should, blinking.
He steps back from me, looks down at his feet. “That was, uh – I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” I can’t help touching my fingertips to my lips. I should be confused. I should feel guilty.
Tom clears his throat and steps around me, pushing open the door, and I duck under his arm into the foyer.
My sister hovers in the archway between the foyer and the main gallery. She hurries over to me and Tom slips past us, glancing back at me once before he moves behind a group of people and I lose sight of him.
“I’m so sorry, Katie.” Phoebe’s grey eyes are bright with tears. “I never meant to hurt you.”
I clasp her hand and tug her with me across the room. We stand before the painting and I look at it, really taking it in. She’s made me stark and pure and tragic. She’s made me noble. It’s not a violation at all; it’s a tribute.
Tom was right. It’s beautiful.
I put my arm around my sister’s shoulders and hug her tightly against me. My mother comes up on my other side, her thin arm winding around my waist, and I rest my head on her shoulder.
Inside my cracked and frozen heart, a delicate tendril of warmth takes root.