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.
7. The Lieutenant
June, 2372 - Kazon Space, Delta Quadrant
After he’s been released from Sickbay and finished Neelix’s PR piece, when I’m confident we’ve put enough distance between Voyager and Seska’s comrades-in-arms, I go to his quarters.
“Come,” he responds to my chime at his door. I enter to find him methodically unpacking the small bag he took with him on the Talaxian convoy.
“Captain,” he says with a mild surprise I suppose I deserve, straightening and waiting for me to speak.
“How are you, Tom?”
At my use of his given name, his shoulders loosen a little and he waves me to the couch. “Fighting fit, ma’am. Can I get you anything?”
“No, thank you.”
He clasps his hands behind his back and looks at me politely, waiting.
“How are you settling back in?”
He shrugs. “I was only gone a few days. There isn’t much to unpack.”
I shift in my seat. “That’s not what I meant.”
He ambles over to sit beside me. “If you’re concerned about how the crew is treating me, there’s no need, Captain. I’m a big boy.”
So all is not quite forgiven, despite the puff piece Neelix broadcasted. I wonder who’s giving him a hard time. My guess would be Torres.
And Tom isn’t the only one who hasn’t yet been absolved.
In other words, you didn’t trust me, Chakotay said when I explained the plan. Tuvok tried to take the blame for leaving him in the cold, but Chakotay knew – and I knew – that ultimately, excluding him was my call.
“So,” Tom says, watching me staring at my hands, “should I make myself scarce around a certain first officer for a while?”
“No scarcer than I should.”
I didn’t mean to let that slip.
“Ah.” He nods, then quotes, “Destructive, damnable, deceitful woman.”
My chin jerks up. It seems Chakotay isn’t alone in finding it difficult to forgive me.
Coming from Tom, it hurts. More than it should.
“If there had been any other way, you know I’d have taken it,” I tell him quietly. “I never wanted to put you in danger.”
He leans back in his seat. “It’s not about the danger, Captain.”
I know it’s not – of course it’s not. It’s about the lies and deception. It’s about the systematic destruction of everything he’s built so determinedly since the day he came on board.
I didn’t request this of him lightly; I know how hard he’s worked to earn the trust and easy respect he engenders on this ship. Yes, Tuvok proposed the plan, yes, I agreed, but I made sure Tom knew that his participation was voluntary. I made it clear that it wasn’t an order.
Or did I?
Did he feel obliged to do this because of who he is, and who I am?
I’m aware that I’m viewed in Starfleet circles as a by-the-book officer: squeaky-clean, buttoned-up and straight down the line. I’ve worked hard to cultivate that image. And I’m quite aware that it’s the veil and shield that obscures the manipulations I’m not above indulging in.
After all, Kathryn Janeway always gets what she wants.
Tom feels indebted to me for his second chance; he’s said as much, more than once. And I knew that when I called him to my ready room to tell him about the spy. I took him into my inner circle and asked him if he’d risk his life, both mortal and emotional, for the good of the ship. For me.
One true thing I’ve always known about Tom Paris is that he is innately heroic, and, ludicrous as it sounds given his history, pure of heart. So I knew when I outlined my plan that he’d agree. No, I knew he’d leap at the chance, whatever the personal cost.
The choice I gave him was no choice at all.
Destructive, damnable, deceitful woman.
Perhaps the worst thing is that I deliberately obscured this knowledge from myself; it’s only now that I can admit it. Oh, my hand-wringing reluctance to use him to flush out the spy wasn’t faked, and if he’d died, I’d have lived with that devastation for a long, long time.
But he has every right to feel used, and every right to call me on it.
Swallowing, I lay my hand over his. “I know what you’ve given up to make this work, Tom, but I also know that you’ve already proven yourself to everyone on this ship. Once they get over the hurt feelings, everything will go back to the way it was.”
He looks at our joined hands for a moment, then smiles, turning his hand palm-up so he can curl his fingers over mine. “I’m sure you’re right, Captain,” he says.
And, just like that, I’m forgiven.
Heroic, and pure of heart.
“I’m glad you didn’t die, Tom.”
I’m not sure who moves first, but without thought or hesitation I’m in his arms and we’re kissing. No, not kissing – devouring. It’s harsh and ravenous, frantic with a need that’s unrestrained and overwhelming. There’s a moment when I’m aware that this is not the course I should be setting, but his hands tighten on my arms, yanking me close as his mouth takes mine, and without even a token murmur of protest I abandon my better conscience.
We don’t make it to the bed. Clothes are torn away or shoved aside only as far as is necessary to get at each other’s skin. His fingers tangle in my hair, pulling my head back so he can latch onto my throat with his teeth. He tries to roll me under him but I resist, pushing him backward and climbing on top of him, my thighs straddling his hips. My gasp is triumphant as I sink down onto him. I ride him, my back arched as he clutches at me.
The yell I let out as I reach my peak is a catharsis of fury and pain and sorrow. There’s nothing of the finer emotions in our sexual chase and release. But for a few moments, I feel pure and clean and free.
Sprawled on the couch in a tangled heap of limbs, my head is pillowed on his chest and he’s combing his fingers through my sex-tossed hair, his touch gentle the way it wasn’t when we came together so fiercely just an hour before.
“You know we can’t do this anymore,” I tell him quietly. “I can’t let this – us – continue.”
I feel his fingers still. “I know.”
“And besides,” I try to smile, “it’s not fair to you. You need the chance to find someone who’ll be with you the way you deserve.”
“But what about you?” he asks softly. “Who’s going to be there for you?”
I close my eyes against the stinging. How typical of Tom Paris, and how much more difficult he makes it to give this up.
“I’ll be fine,” I answer. “I’m the captain.”
He tugs gently on my hair until I raise my face to him. His eyes are serious. “You’re the captain to everybody, but to me you’re Kate as well. Don’t forget that, okay?”
“And if you get the chance to be Kate with somebody else, you should take it. Promise me.”
“You know I can’t promise that, Tom.”
“Then will you at least think about it? You can’t shut yourself off from everyone for the next seventy-five years.”
It seems terribly important to him, so I answer, “I’ll try.”
He shifts me under him, his hands cradling my face as he kisses me sweetly. He begins to touch me, stroking my arms, my hips, as though he’s memorising me. I curl my legs around his body and he enters me, slow, controlling the pace until I arch into him, shaking and catching my breath. When he comes, he kisses the skin over my heart, and I know that this time, it’s truly goodbye.
I slip back to my quarters, stand under a sonic shower and pull on my nightclothes. I’m exhausted to my bones, emotionally empty, my body aching and well-used. And yet, I can’t sleep.
At 0400, I give up, pull on a uniform and trudge to the mess hall, intending to wheedle some coffee out of Neelix and finish my report on the Jonas debacle.
The galley is dark and deserted, so I rummage in the storage cupboard for my secret stash of beans and brew myself a pot of coffee. I take my customary table in the corner, facing the viewport, and pick up the PADD.
Only a few sentences in, the words are blurring. It’s not just fatigue. My mind skitters sideways into thoughts of Tom and Owen and trust and deception and Chakotay.
It was Owen Paris who ordered me on the mission to find the Maquis ship and bring Chakotay to justice. Owen knew I was a Maquis sympathiser, but he also knew I’d do anything to rescue Tuvok. He knew all too well that I am capable of defying my own principles to save a friend.
He knew this because he watched me do it, once, long ago.
In that cold Cardassian prison, when they pushed me against the wall and tore away my uniform, when they fondled my body and laughed at me, when they raped and beat me, I never gave in. Oh, I screamed for help, cried out for him, my captain; even begged a deity I never believed in to save me. But the questions they asked me – What is your true mission? What intelligence has Starfleet gathered against us? Is the Federation planning to attack Cardassia? – those questions, I refused to answer.
It was only when they threatened to kill Captain Paris that I broke. I told them everything they wanted to know – not that I knew much – just so they’d leave him alone. They’d found my weakness and they exploited it.
And so, years later, did he.
A clever man, Owen Paris.
Chakotay’s intelligence file paints him as a man I do not know. It depicts him as weak, unstable, violent without cause, a man easily swayed. I have had great difficulty reconciling that file with the man I’ve deputised. From almost the moment he beamed aboard my ship, Chakotay has been unexpected.
I realise now that the file was Admiral Paris’ invention: Starfleet’s surety and my incentive to complete my mission. Chakotay is not that man, that malleable, unprincipled man. In my bones I knew it from the start, but my training and my loyalty to Owen Paris prevented me from trusting my instincts.
I should have known better. If nothing else, his treatment of his own son should have given me pause. Owen defined Tom as a wastrel and Chakotay as a thug, and on both counts he was wrong.
I should have known. But I suppose, as an impressionable ensign, I was half in love with him. It sickens me that I’ve let that legacy inform my judgement for all these years.
I won’t do it anymore. If Tom can step out from Owen’s shadow and reclaim his self-respect, then surely I can reclaim my self-belief. And Chakotay has more than earned my trust. It’s past time I let him have it.
I’m just not sure how to begin.
I pour my third cup from the coffeepot as the mess hall doors swish open behind me. Footsteps pad toward me, stopping beside my chair.
“Good morning, Commander,” I murmur without turning around.
Chakotay moves into my field of vision. “Captain. You’re up early.”
“Very early.” I smile up at him, a little tentatively.
It seems to be the right thing to do; he smiles back and indicates the chair opposite me. “Mind if I join you?”
“I’d like that very much.”
He slides gracefully into the seat. “Is there enough of that coffee left to spare me a cup?”
“Oh, I don’t know, Commander.” I flick him a glance to let him know I’m teasing. “This is the captain’s private blend, and it’s in limited supply. I can’t go sharing it with just anybody.”
“Consider it a special request.” His smile widens.
I laugh. “All right. But we’re going to need a fresh pot. You’ll find out where I keep the beans.”
I push myself up from the table and extend a hand to help him up as well. His grasp is warm and firm. Solid. Comforting.
Maybe Tom is right. Maybe I can’t cut myself off from simple human contact for the next seventy-five years.
“Don’t worry, Captain. Your secret is safe with me.”
“Then, Chakotay,” I answer, “it’s a good thing I trust you.”
Note: For Owen Paris' take on Janeway, read Leannán Sídhe.