This is a Janeway and Paris story, with J/Ka, and shades of J/C and P/T. Be warned, this story is NC-17, and there is a scene of what could be termed non-consensual sex. If you're under 18, turn back now.

Janeway and Paris are trying to escape from Devore Space; Inspector Kashyk wants them for another purpose.

Genuine Lies

"We can't take much more of this!" Tom shouted over the roar of the alien weapons as he worked desperately to steer the Delta Flyer out of the path of fire. His blue eyes were hard, and his hands were strained and tense upon the console.

Janeway, sagging in her chair, her hair a mess around an ash-stained face, concentrated on firing the weapons, fighting off the fatigue she'd been holding in check for the last six hours of the on-and-off battle. Her gray eyes were tired, but her voice was still sharp.

"Hold on," she told him. "If I can just hit their weapons array, I may force a retreat!"

And suddenly the vessel jolted from something that did not feel like weapon's fire. Janeway and Paris watched in confusion as space distorted around them. In the distance, the alien vessel turned and retreated. Ahead of them, a colorful vortex whirled to life, seemingly from out of nowhere.

They stared at it, riveted. Paris glanced down at his console. "I'm reading neutrino emissions—that's a wormhole!"

A shot of hope sprang up in Janeway, the same excitement that accompanied every announcement of a newfound wormhole. Then, she reminded herself, We have no idea where it leads. Taking a cue from their attackers, Janeway eyed the spatial distortion warily and ordered, "Back us off, Tom."

After a moment, Tom let out a frustrated grunt and flung his hands into the air. "That last shot took out our emergency thrusters. We can't steer."

With thrusters down and communications offline, Kathryn Janeway and Tom Paris were only able to watch in dismay as the Delta Flyer slowly drifted into the entrance to the wormhole. Plumes of red and purple enveloped the shuttle, floating past the window, parting around the Flyer. Slowly, they faded away, leaving only the open space on the other side of the wormhole.

"Tom, where are we?" Janeway demanded, bolting upright in her chair and shooting an alarmed glance at the lieutenant.

Tom looked at the readings, and then did a double take. "We've been pulled almost 15,000 light years backwards."

She shot a glance at her own console, her scientist's mind running over the data. "That wormhole's not stable," she murmured. Then louder, "We've got to find a way to get back before--" The words were not out of her mouth before the vortex suddenly shrunk in upon itself, sending a shock wave through space. As the shaking subsided, Janeway was struck with the sickening realization that the wormhole had just jumped to another location. Possibly sectors away. Possibly galaxies away.

Neither spoke. They stared in dismay at the empty space where the wormhole had just been.

"Well, we're fucked," Tom announced, and leaned back into his seat with a labored sigh.

Janeway, usually the optimist, found herself speechless. She let her head thump back against the headrest, her mind whirling with the implications of this event.

"It will take fifteen years at sustained warp nine to reach the ship," she murmured, wondering if this was some horrible dream. "My God, we'll probably never get back to the ship again, much less Earth!"

Tom glanced over at his downtrodden comrade. It took a great deal of effort for him to pull himself up and run a scan. After a few moments, the results came back. "And of all places to end up… we're back in Devore space," Tom complained, shaking his head as he checked the sensor readings.

"Devore space?" Janeway's head shot up.

"Yeah, the paranoid space Nazis, of all people."

Her mind whirled. The Devore were a powerful race bent on destroying all telepaths. There was no love lost between Voyager and the Devore, especially after Janeway assisted a group of telepaths in their escape from the Devore Inspector, Kashyk. "We've got to get out of here," she told Paris, sitting up and promptly snapping back into command mode.

"Yeah, you're telling me."

"We'll worry about getting back to the ship later." Her sharp words roused him. "If the Devore find us here, they'll kill us. We won't have a chance to get back to Voyager. We need to get out of Devore space."

"I don't know how we're going to do it," Paris said as he looked over the readings. "Warp drive is offline, thrusters are down… we have no way of getting out of here or even beginning repairs to the damaged systems without spare parts."

Janeway silently cursed the aliens whose attack had damaged the Flyer so. Her mind raced over options.

"What about the escape pods?"

Paris checked his console, and then shook his head. "They're all damaged—their hulls are breached."

Janeway let out a breath. She couldn't think of anything.

A console beeped. Paris checked the sensors and fell silent.

"What is it?" Janeway demanded. Surely nothing could make this day more dreadful than it already was. At least she hoped.

Tom looked at her, lips twisted down in a grim line. "Two Devore patrol ships are headed this way. I don't know how they could have detected us so quickly, unless there's a sensor array nearby." He paused. "Orders, Captain?"

Janeway couldn't find anything to say. She looked down at the floor, wishing she had some idea floating around her mind. She hated disappointing a crewmember. She hated feeling so powerless.

Her eyes found Tom's blue ones, and she read the same helplessness. Poor Tom, ripped away from B'Elanna… On impulse, Kathryn reached out and grasped his hand in hers, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

"Don't worry. Whatever happens, we'll get through this. Alive. And we'll find a way back home to Voyager."

"I appreciate the sentiment, Captain, but you really can't promise that," Tom replied lightly, giving her a sheepish smile to cover his own fears.

"I can. And I am." There was steel in her voice.

As she turned to prepare for the arrival of the Devore ships, she felt it, too.

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"Gaharay vessel, you are not authorized to traverse this sector of space. Prepare to be boarded."

Janeway took a breath to steel herself. She stood, tense, behind her chair, staring expectantly at the transporter pad. Paris stood next to her, fists clenched at his sides. She could hear his breathing in the quiet atmosphere of the Delta Flyer.

The transporters came to life, and a quiet hum filled the air as six figures appeared, two by two. Dressed head to foot in black, large rifles in their gloved hands, they looked to Kathryn like the perfect representation of all that was evil in the Delta Quadrant.

Well, except maybe the Borg…

The Devore soldiers leveled their weapons on Janeway and Paris, but it wasn't until the seventh man, obviously the leader, appeared, that anyone spoke.

"I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway of the—" Kathryn began, but the leader gestured for silence.

"I know your vessel. And your people were warned never to return to our space," the leader said gruffly.

"Yes, and we didn't intend to." She paused. "You see, we were under attack, and our engines were disabled. We were drawn into a wormhole which took us back here, and we had no way of returning before—"

"Wormhole?"

Kathryn didn't understand the sudden urgency in his voice at first, and then she suddenly recalled why Kashyk had infiltrated her ship—he'd been looking for the wormhole, the escape route of the telepaths.

"It's gone now," she said quickly. "It collapsed behind us."

His expression hardened. "I see."

Sensing that she was losing his attention, she put in quickly, "We'll get out of your space as soon as our engines are online. I promise you. We never intended—"

"You have violated Codicil Six, subsection 3: No Gaharay will traverse Devore territory without permission. Your vessel will be seized, and you will be relocated to a detention center." He pointed his weapon at Janeway. "Come with us. Now."

Janeway and Paris exchanged glances. Then, reluctantly, they followed the Devore onto the transporter pad. As the transporter beam enveloped her, Janeway knew that the worst of it was yet to come.

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"Damn, I'm as sore as a mother—" Paris trailed off, shooting her a glance.

Janeway looked over at him with a tired smile, somewhat touched he still had a concern about propriety. "Go ahead and swear. Whatever you can say, I've heard worse. Hell, I've been called worse."

They sat side-by-side on the dusty, yellow ground, clad in ragged blue work shirts and pants. Janeway's shirt was at least three sizes too big, and the pants had to be held up by a rope. In the last month, the shirt's excess material had been tangled numerous times in the machinery she was working with, or on the corner of some crate. The time from work she took to untangle it usually earned her a slap from the overseer. Paris's work clothes were in no better shape. His tunic was stained with red blood right across the torso. He'd joked grimly that someone had probably been killed in his shirt. Then they fell silent, realizing that somebody probably had.

Now they sat together, chewing at their rations in silence. Paris, who was eating less than usual, was looking thinner every day, with dark smudges under his eyes and a beard that failed to hide his hollow cheeks. Janeway, who was eating more than usual, looked pretty much the same, albeit dirtier with messier hair. She knew, though, that the two of them looked like a sorry lot, and not just due to the physical and psychological stresses of the work camp. They were both being worn down by hopelessness. Every night that passed, every sun that rose, spelled another day that they would not get back to the ship. And escape seemed impossible. The guards held the perimeter tightly, and any whispers of escape resulted in immediate execution. Prisoners would monitor one another and report to the Devore in exchange for more food, lighter work shifts, or better living quarters. Some would even go so far as to lie about another prisoner, merely for an extra scrap of bread.

The more Janeway got to know of this camp, the more satisfied she felt in her decision, all those years ago, to help those Brenari refugees. All those little children, all those gentle people, would be in a detention center just like this one, awaiting death. Both she and Paris were made of a tough fiber—they could withstand hardship, to a certain extent. She'd rather face the music herself than send fourteen innocent people to do it in her stead.

But Paris…

She glanced over at the lieutenant, hunched over his bread. He looked too thin, and his hair was growing long and wild. She realized that it might reach his chin by the end of the next month. The beard and moustache made him look much older than his thirty-five years. And what had happened to that lively sparkle in his eyes?

She blinked slowly, and wondered why it had taken her so long to notice its absence. Had she been so wrapped up in her own misery that she failed to notice it in her comrade? They'd been making jokes with each other the whole time, digging to find the humor in the situation. They hadn't had a real conversation in ages. The only times of the day she saw him were at mid-afternoon break, the only meal they had, and late at night, when they were usually too exhausted to pay attention to one another.

She reached out a hand to touch his shoulder, and he stiffened beneath her touch. She withdrew her hand quickly.

"Tom, are you all right?" she asked him quietly.

He smiled, his beard crinkling up. "I'm doing fine, captain. Just lost in thought."

He turned away from her, but she continued to watch him worriedly.

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Paris thought his chest was going to explode.

He shot an angry look at the Devore guards, wondering why they always demanded the prisoners dig these giant trenches around the camp. With their weapons, they could carve out a ditch around the camp in mere seconds. Instead, they insisted on week after week of prisoner labor, digging the trenches out with crude shovels.

They're just trying to keep us occupied. Or kill us.

Each day, a Devore soldier would mark off a certain length and width, and specify a certain depth. The prisoners were not allowed to sleep at night until a trench that size had been carved out of the ground. With no wheelbarrows, and mere shovels at their disposal, it was a harder task than Tom ever could have imagined.

The trenches were there for the Devore to install specialized equipment, equipment designed to impair the abilities of telepaths. There was supposedly a perimeter even farther out, but the Commandant had insisted on one closer to the camp.

As Paris dug, he felt a pair of eyes on him; he shuddered and concentrated on his work. His hands tightened around the shovel until they were white.

A month ago, around the time they first arrived, Morusk, a burly Devore imprisoned for actual crimes rather than a genetic predisposition for telepathy, had started following him, calling him "pretty boy," taking any chance to shove up against Paris, to injure Paris, to insult Paris. Paris would have challenged him, but the gang of men around Morusk put that idea out of his head.

One night, he was roughly shaken awake. Morusk towered above him, his gang off behind him, and tried to force himself upon Tom. Tom fought the other man off, delivering a swift kick to the ribs that doubled the bigger man over. A few of Morusk's men started forward, but Morusk gestured them back. Paris steeled himself for another attack, but Morusk instead shot a savage glance at Janeway, dropped dead off asleep not far from them.

"She has the same work shift as Krendel," Morusk snarled, gesturing to one of his men. Paris shot a glance at Krendel, and the leer on his face told him everything. He looked back at Morusk.

His voice shook with anger. "You won't touch her."

Morusk looked at Paris steadily. Paris felt sick.

He looked over Krendel. He had to weigh 250 pounds. She wouldn't have a chance.

There was no way he'd let that happen to her.

He knew what he had to do.

He was sick for days afterwards. At Janeway's queries, he replied briefly that it was something he ate. She accepted that; she didn't notice his hands trembling.

Morusk demanded him a few times after that, but it grew less frequent as time passed.

Paris was relieved when he felt the eyes slip away from him.

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"What do you miss the most?" she asked blearily. Her voice was slurred with exhaustion. He glanced over. He could only see her prone silhouette, black against the ground. He must have woken her when he lay down next to her.

"B'Elanna. Harry. The helm. The holodeck. Needling Tuvok. My TV." He paused, and then added with a chuckle, "Even Neelix's cooking." He paused thoughtfully. "I guess hell has frozen over."

He heard her quiet, husky laughter. He stared up at the night sky, at the swirls of alien stars. "And you?"

There was silence a few moments, then she said, "Coffee."

"Of course," Paris said, feeling himself grin.

She added more quietly, "Voyager. Standing on the bridge. My chair. The crew. Harry, B'Elanna, Neelix, even the Doctor… Seven and Tuvok." She paused, then added softly, "Chakotay."

He didn't realize he'd reached out to grasp her hand until he felt its warmth in his own.

"We'll get back there," he said quietly.

Her voice sounded muffled. "Is that a promise?"

He smiled. "It's your promise."

She was quiet a moment. "Of course."

"And I still believe you."

She paused. Then, in a strained voice, "I just wish I did."

They both felt cold as they waited for sleep to claim them.

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Her eyes snapped open as the foot slammed into her ribs. It can't be dawn yet…I just fell asleep. She looked up to see the dark shape of a Devore soldier against the purple sky of early morning.

"Get up," he commanded simply.

With a low moan, Janeway disentangled herself from Paris, against whom she must have snuggled for warmth, and rose to her feet. The Devore reached out and grasped her arm, then yanked her with him across the desert floor.

He maneuvered her past the sleeping bodies of her fellow prisoners, and shoved her into one of the guard centers.

After he led her to a room with a tub of water, he commanded, "Clean up."

She stared at him. "What? Why?"

He leveled the gun at her. "Sanitation. You smell of shit. Do it now."

She hesitated only a second before turning her back on him and reluctantly removing her clothes. The prospect of a bath, even with him watching, was somewhat appealing after a long month. Then she put her foot in the tub and felt ice-cold water. She glanced back at the Devore, and the jerk of his weapon towards her head forced her to plop down into the tub.

She worked quickly, scrubbing herself, wincing when she encountered a cut or a bruise previously hidden beneath the caked dirt. She also dunked her head in, and worked the dirt out of her hair. When she told him she was finished, he grasped her by the arm and pulled her to her feet. She felt slightly embarrassed as he pointedly inspected her, and then sniffed at her.

"Satisfactory," he said. He handed her a clean work shirt and pants, and she put them on quickly. When she was finished, he gestured with his weapon and escorted her to another room. "Wait here."

She stood there for a few minutes, still shivering from the cold water of the bath. There was nowhere to sit. The room was very Spartan, except for a low, shiny table that seemed to have a console of some kind imbedded into it. The floor was cold against her feet, so she alternated first her weight on one foot, then the other. She began to wonder just what she was waiting for when a familiar voice said from the doorway, "Good morning, Captain. So good to see you again."

She felt herself go cold. She'd recognize that voice if she lived a thousand years.

Kathryn turned around slowly to come face-to-face with Inspector Kashyk. He closed the door behind him and turned to her. His eyes were midnight black, and a faint smile shadowed his lips. His black hair was still in the same crisp, military cut, and the familiar black uniform seemed somehow tailored to him.

"I wish I could say the same," she said quietly, over the heart thumping in her chest. "What do you want from me, Inspector?"

He smiled, and she wasn't sure whether it made her stomach flutter from nausea or from… something else. "I assure you, my purposes here are not sinister."

She crossed her arms. "Fine then. Petty. Did you come here to gloat?"

He shot her a mock look of horror. "Captain, you have such a low opinion of me! On the contrary, my intentions are quite good. You can't imagine the sheer delight I felt when I heard of your return." His voice dropped. "It must be fate."

Kathryn's smile radiated contempt. "Yes. Some higher power must be intent on punishing me. How else could I have the misfortune to encounter you twice?"

After a pause, Kashyk let out an unpleasant laugh. "Indeed, how could you?" He closed in on her, eyes narrowing, his whole body language growing predatory. "You don't realize the regret I felt the first time I let you slip away." She could feel his breath on her skin. "But I won't make the same mistake twice." His finger snaked up, and lightly brushed her cheek. "You look different. Perhaps the hair?" A pause. "Look at me."

She raised her eyes to meet his dark ones, and immediately knew it had been a mistake. His black eyes burned with intense… what? A shudder ran through her, and only her pride kept her from retreating a step under his gaze. He'd only stood this close to her one time…

Her eyes involuntarily fell to his lips, her thoughts returning to those last few moments in the cargo bay, before he left to betray her, when he pressed those lips to hers. He'd stolen her breath away.

His lips curled into a slight smile, and she realized he knew exactly what she was thinking. Her cheeks burned—not in modesty, but in anger. She was angry he'd assume she'd fall into his arms after what he had done. She was angry he'd think she might harbor some lingering feelings for him now that she knew him for the true monster he was.

He'd nearly imprisoned her crew in a relocation center. He'd nearly taken her ship from her. He'd killed and imprisoned thousands of innocents and felt absolutely no remorse. And now? What did he want now?

Ah, but she knew. What did any man with that look in his eyes want? He thought he could intimidate her with it, but he was wrong. She knew what he wanted, and she knew how to use it against him.

Her eyes narrowed, her emotions cooling. The field shifted. The eye contact was now working to her advantage, not his. The game was now in her hands. His emotions would be a detriment to him, she would make sure of it. He would find every one of his blows, every one of his attacks, twisted to draw his own blood, not hers. He would not win. Not this time. Not ever. She had defeated him once at his game of deception. Now, she would defeat him again.

She looked down a moment, then let her eyes drift back up to meet his. They gleamed with a strange light that momentarily disconcerted him. "What do you want, Inspector?" She drawled, her voice low.

Her implication was clear. Kashyk's eyes fell down to her lips, then to her body, and his face was shadowed with a slight smile. "Purely your respect and friendship, of course."

She stepped infinitely closer to him, her eyes boring into his. "I don't have the patience for your games, Inspector. I have a lot of work to do, and if you just called me here for your puerile amusement—"

Without warning, he stepped forward and grasped her, pulling her to him, and mashed his lips against hers. His kiss was hard and bruising, and his fingers hurt where they dug into her arms. She jerked instinctively against his grip, all the while aware that this had been her plan, though at the moment, she couldn't understand the sense in that plan.

His tongue snaked into her mouth, an intruder, and found hers, forcing it into battle. She opened her eyes to see his face pressed up to hers, and felt an urge to clamp her teeth down upon his tongue, just to see the look of pain across his cocky face. She fought back the urge.

She felt his kisses move to her neck, and his hands slip down to pull off her work shirt. When he pulled it up over her head, and the cool air met her skin, she suddenly began to second-guess herself. This is wrong. This has gone too far. I should stop this.

When the shirt hit the floor, she realized that she was not alarmed, not fearful. Her logical mind told her she should feel doubt; she should feel the wrongness of this. Yet, when it came down to it, it was just sex, and it would help her later; she'd see to it.

"Lie down," he whispered in her ear when the last of her clothes were discarded on the floor. He was still fully dressed.

She stepped back away from him, remarkably poised, strangely disaffected, considering her vulnerability. He took a step towards her, but she coolly raised her hand to give him pause. He stopped, and she came forward. Without a word, she methodically began to take off his clothes. He watched her expressionless face, trying to figure out her game. She got his shirt off, but he grabbed her wrists to stop her as soon as her hands came to the fasteners of his pants. He wouldn't surrender control of the situation. He was determined to keep her off balance.

"No," he told her with a smile, and then propelled her backwards with a hard shove.

Kathryn slammed to the floor, breaking through the nearby table. The breath was forced out of her, and sheer shock and pain blinded her for a moment. And suddenly, his hands were on her hips, pulling her away from the remains of the table and jerking her onto her stomach. Before she had time to recover, he was pressing at her. She clawed at the ground, wriggling her torso, trying to restore some semblance of control over the situation. With a jerk, he entered her, and the pain momentarily halted her struggle. She let out a jagged cry, unable to help herself.

He seemed to take sudden sympathy, and held still long enough for her to adjust to his entry. Then, slowly, he began to draw in and out. Kathryn, accepting that the situation had momentarily slipped out of her control, folded her arms beneath her to support her weight. This would happen… she had initiated it herself. Now, she had to go along with it and try to get back on top.

He moaned above her, as his hands slipped up from their firm grip on her hips to roughly fondle her breasts, then up to her shoulders. He pressed down on her shoulders, causing her arms to buckle beneath the weight, and forcing her face to the ground. She tried to readjust, but her arms were pinned beneath their combined weight. Helpless now, she could only wait beneath him until his final moan.

He sagged on top of her when he was done, still inside her. Impatient, she tried to move.

He pulled out of her slowly, but it still hurt. When he was out, he grasped her by the arms and rolled her over. He held her arms to the ground beside her and studied her body. His eyes raked first over her face, then down, lingering at her breasts. Kathryn grew uncomfortable under his scrutiny and started to wriggle from his grasp. A knowing smile came over his face.

"Ah, Kathryn, I know what you want."

He crawled backwards, and grasped her legs, parting them.

"Oh, no—" Kathryn protested, grasping a handful of his hair to stop him, but stopped when she felt the shock of his mouth descending upon her sex.

This was too much. She stared thoughtfully at her hands, entwined in his hair. She was tempted to dig her fingers into his eyes, but hesitated, uncertain what would happen at this point if she angered him. So she left her hands in his hair as he licked at her, and grew embarrassed when her body began to respond. Heat built up between her legs, a delightful tingling. No, this was definitely too much.

"Okay, that's enough--" she didn't get the words out before she came, her hips jerking against him, pulling up into the air. The pleasure lasted a few moments, then faded, leaving only humiliation.

He stood up and wiped his lips. She tried to stand, but was taken aback by the pain, and stumbled to the floor. He must have broken something when he threw her through the table. She clutched at her ribs, her features twisted into a grimace. He looked over at her, and for a moment, his expression softened, as though he regretted injuring her. Then, feeling her gaze, it went blank. He turned away and dressed, ignoring her, then looked back to find her still lying on the floor.

"I came here with some business to discuss with you," he said, his tone very professional. "Obviously, I'll have to send someone to help you with your injuries first. But rest assured, I will be back," he told her, and began to leave. Then, on second thought, he turned and picked up her work clothes. Kathryn silently thanked him, thinking that he would bring them over to her. Instead, he dumped them on the far side of the room as he approached the door.

He looked at her one last time, and then said, "Have a nice day, Captain."

He was out the door before she could scream at him.

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After all he'd already done, who could she expect him to send but her own crewman?

As Paris was led into the door, he was saying, "Captain, I heard you were—" He faded off in shock when he saw the state she was in. "Captain!"

The Devore disappeared out the door, and she held up a hand to ward off his concern. "Don't worry. I'm fine. It was consensual," she looked at the broken table, and added beneath her breath, "Somewhat."

Still horrified, he gingerly grasped her by the arms and helped her into a sitting position. His eyes met hers, concerned, then he looked down at the med kit he was given. "The Devore have crude medical technology, but what can you really expect? I asked them to let me use the med kit from the Flyer, but…" he shrugged as he pulled out what appeared to be a dermal regenerator and began working on her. He looked up at her again, and she read something other than concern in his eyes, and felt herself turn red.

"Tom, you know I'd never just arbitrarily—" she sputtered.

"I know," he cut her off, not meeting her eyes. "You had a reason. I know. I understand perfectly." There was something in his voice that made her reach out and take him by the chin, lifting his head up to meet her eyes.

"Tom?" she asked softly, suddenly concerned.

"I'm fine." He suddenly became aware of himself, and lightly shook her hand off. "Uh, I'll just get your clothes, okay?"

Kathryn nodded, suddenly embarrassed again, and folded her arms across her breasts. "Thank you."

When he brought them back, he helped her pull them on, then pressed her onto the ground and raised her shirt again to work on her ribs. Kathryn looked up at the ceiling, and felt her eyes suddenly sting with tears. She raised her hand to wipe at them, wondering why she suddenly felt like weeping. She felt fine… it wasn't like she was raped… and she hadn't felt the need to cry since their imprisonment…

Tom's fingers pressed against her broken ribs. She winced sharply.

"Sorry," he murmured, and slowly continued to probe. Her eyes welled up again, with gratitude. He had such gentle hands. So caring. B'Elanna must have—she checked that line of thought. That was not speculation for a captain.

A captain without a ship.

"He said he has business," she said to Tom.

"Who?"

"Inspector Kashyk."

"He's here?" Tom exclaimed. She nodded. In an angry voice, he demanded, "And is he the one who did this to you?"

"It was a game, Tom."

"A game?"

"I can't explain it." She rolled her head away from him. "Please don't ask me to."

After a few moments of reluctance, he conceded with a slow nod. "I don't understand it… but I guess we all have our demons."

She looked at him, considering his words thoughtfully.

"And you?" she asked quietly.

"I have my share."

"Is there anything I can do, Tom?" she asked him intently.

His eyes met hers, and with a faint smile, he shook his head.

She looked back up at the ceiling, letting him knit her ribs in silence.

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