Everyone knew that the odd dynamics between the Captain and Tom Paris started long before either stepped foot on the USS Voyager. It had been strange that Captain Janeway had been so adamant about wanting Tom Paris to pilot her ship – that she'd been so sure of his abilities that she plucked him out of prison to take the brand new, top of the line ship for a spin. So when it all changed, when the future of Voyager shifted so dramatically, the future of Tom Paris was altered significantly as well.
Most of the crew – especially the lower ranks - probably didn't know that the Captain and her pilot had met often before, but it was obvious that Top Paris had a category all his own in the eyes of the Captain. She had a clear soft spot for him and it hung in the air. He got away with so much and the Captain had never been one to look the other way. She laughed at his snide comments and glossed over the reports of his gambling rings. Occasionally she even snuck into the competitions though she'd always deny both knowledge and participation. He'd never give her away.
He was a part of her inner circle without having earned it and maybe that was what made him stand out. There were two factions – the pro-Tom and the anti-Tom. Some were immune to his charms but the Captain was not one of them. Chakotay was and he did not trust the helmsman.
"It's because Tom can get what Chakotay can't," Harry explained to B'Elanna. They were in the mess hall watching Chakotay have a working breakfast with the Captain. She kept getting distracted by an elaborate story Tom was telling the Delaney twins at the next table. It was making Chakotay visibly upset but the captain didn't even notice.
"You and your theories," B'Elanna muttered, sipping her coffee. It was intriguing, Tom's willingness to adhere to Janeway. The Captain had interrupted several dinners between B'Elanna and Tom and he always, always was willing to drop everything and go on her errand without hardly a goodbye. "How… I mean, the captain and Tom…" she asked, feeling uneasy on behalf of Chakotay who had given up and was eating his scrambled eggs sullenly.
"She knew his father, I think," Harry said, answering her unasked question.
"Kind of May-December isn't it?" she said. Harry looked at her, both eyebrows raised.
"You took that to a weird place, B'Elanna," He shook his head and stood. "See you."
B'Elanna needed to head to Engineering herself, but she sat and finished her coffee, watching the conclusion of Tom's story, watching the Captain try to suppress her smile – her teeth were white and straight and clean.
She made it harder for herself, the Captain. That much was clear to everyone. Long hours, too few meals, the aloofness. She spent the rare hour off alone in her ready room or her quarters. She confided in only the Doctor when ordered. Chakotay tried, heaven knew he did. Ancient stories of his people to excess but she never responded in kind. The only person who seemed to be able to locate the chink in her armor was, of course, Tom Paris. Only he could get her to the holodeck with a pool cue in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. Sometimes she even let him win, but he didn't like that.
"How will I learn?" he whined and she put a graceful hand on his shoulder.
"I like to dangle the carrot," she said. Sandrine's was an open program, meant to promote socializing but the crew knew to leave them alone – Tom and the Captain. Harry too worshiped at the altar of Kathryn Janeway and wanted an in, a chance to shine but it was the one and only thing Tom never gossiped about.
"We knew each other before, a little," Tom would say and then change the subject.
Soon, as time spent in the Delta quadrant grew, it became normal, a part of the ship's folklore. Tom and the Captain, an anomaly accepted.
There was rarely a slow day on Voyager, let alone a slow week but they were in the midst of one and Janeway, impatient for a distraction, was making everyone do put off routine maintenance. Chakotay called it Spring Cleaning but even he participated begrudgingly. His task was to totally redo all of the scheduling of shifts so no one got too bored or set in their ways. It was busy work and everyone crawling through a Jeffries tube with a recalibration tool knew it. B'Elanna counted gel packs in her sleep. The only three people on the ship happy with the project were Tuvok (it was right up his alley) and the Captain and Tom Paris. Tom had won the Spring Cleaning lottery.
Janeway had said, "Mr. Paris, you're with me," and they had disappeared into her ready room for the rest of the shift. At dinner, he looked perfectly content.
"What are you doing in there?" Harry asked, desperately curious. Tom only shrugged.
"Aiding the captain," he said. Harry knew it was useless to push Tom on this issue – never with Janeway.
"Fine," Harry said. "Cataloging weapons with Tuvok is fun too."
"Sure it is," Tom said. "Breathtaking."
"I hate you," Harry said. "Captain's pet." And suddenly Harry understood. Tom, out of the whole of this ship, the whole quadrant, renegade Tom Paris was the captain's favorite.
Inside the ready room wasn't exactly as exciting as Tom's silence made it out to be. He was helping her wade through backlogged reports and catalogue personal research data which was tedious and time consuming. They worked mostly in silence. Tom thought he was chosen because sitting in silence next to him didn't stress her out. It was a comfortable silence, interrupted mostly by outside communication and tea.
"One doesn't work during tea, Mr. Paris," Janeway said, prying the PADD gently from his hand.
"Conversation? Us?" he asked. "And break our record?"
"Ha," she said dryly, adding a lump of sugar to his cup. She liked the ritual of tea. She knew how he preferred his tea without asking and he appreciated that.
"What should we talk about?" he asked.
"Not work," she said. "Not Voyager."
"All that's left is the past or the future," he pointed out. "And I know how you hate the future."
"I hate paradoxes," she corrected. "I'm sorry, Tom, I roped you into this project without asking and now I'm boring you with small talk."
"No," he said. "Well, the project isn't quite the same as, say, piloting a starship but it's a nice reprieve. I should invest in a ready room of my own."
"A luxury," she admitted. "I have two or three."
"Luxuries," she corrected.
"A competent first officer, a bathtub," she said, and he smiled. "A charming pilot to take me wherever I ask."
"Why Captain Janeway," he said. "I never knew." She rolled her eyes.
"Besides Tuvok, you are the only one who has ever really known me before I was Captain," she admitted, lowering her voice as if sharing a secret.
"We weren't exactly friends back then," he said. "I did promise to loathe you for all eternity."
"Understandably," she said. "I monopolized your father's time rather extensively."
"It was better that you did, in the end," Tom said. "I got away with much more. Should have sent you a thank you note."
"You were a fine young man and now are a respectable officer and a friend," she said. He didn't know how to respond to that without crossing any hierarchical boundaries.
"I'm out of tea. Better get back to work," he said.
"Indeed," she said. "One more day, maybe two, and we'll be through."
"Back to the ball and chain," he said. She looked up, startled.
"My helm," he said. She smiled, relaxed.
"Of course." They resumed their work and Tom felt strangely happy to be just where he was in that moment.
B'Elanna grumbled about routine maintenance but she knew it was a good idea. The next time some alien threat was shooting at the warp drive, she'd appreciate the extra efficiency. On the third day, she was several meters deep in Jefferies tubes recalibrating the main environmental conduit.
"Torres to Janeway." The comm system made Tom look up from his stack of PADDs with interest.
"Go ahead," Janeway answered, not ceasing her own tedious work. She was on the couch, her feet propped on the coffee table and he was at her desk, already used to sitting in her chair.
"This next set of calibrations is environmental," B'Elanna said. "It's going to get hot."
"Hot?" Janeway asked, looking up at Tom who just shrugged. He was no engineer.
"Without temperature control, the warp drive is going to heat this ship up fast."
"For how long?" asked Janeway.
"About an hour, I'd estimate," B'Elanna replied.
"Inform the Doctor," Janeway said. "Keep me updated."
"Of course, Torres out."
"How hot is hot?" Tom asked.
"We'll see," Janeway said and went back to work. Tom didn't feel very confident about her answer. Fifteen minutes later, they were both sweating. "I don't know about you, Mr. Paris, but I think it's time to shed some layers."
"I thought you'd never ask," he said, tugging off his jacket and pulling at his turtleneck. "I've read the same sentence three times and my data just isn't imputing."
"We deserve a break," she said. "And maybe some water."
Tom peeled himself out of his chair and went to the replicator.
"Water yes, cold, no," he said. "Still want it?"
"Not really," she said. He glanced over at her – her sweaty tank top was stark against her flushed, red skin. She looked glazed over.
"Captain?" he said.
"I'm fine. Perhaps we should go check on the bridge." She stood up and little unsteadily.
"Not very good with the heat?" he asked, extending his arm to steady her. She took his elbow and looked to the floor. "Captain?" he asked again.
"I think…." She closed her eyes and he felt her begin to droop and go limp. He made she the bulk of her weight fell against him before he tapped his comm badge.
"Paris to the Doctor."
"Please tell me you are on your way to help me," came the nasal voice through the line.
"The Captain just passed out," he said.
"Her and sixteen others. Bring her down."
"Can't we transport?" Tom asked, beginning to feel a little woozy himself.
"Off-line due to maintenance," the Doctor replied. "Hurry."
Paris looked down at the Captain's bright face and shook his head. "At least there is a back door," he told her and picked her up. She was limp in his arms and he maneuvered her out of the door without hitting her head. Halfway through the journey he was already exhausted and apologized to her before throwing her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
In sickbay, he set her on the biobed the Doctor had saved for her and sat down on the floor next to it with his head between his knees. He felt the Doctor push a hypospray to his neck and felt his energy level double as his head cleared. People lay asleep all over sickbay. Tom got up and quickly began to help.
"Torres to the Doctor."
"Go ahead," the Doctor said crossly, obviously annoyed with this unnecessary medical emergency.
"We're done, the temperature is going back to acceptable parameters," she said.
"Finally," the Doctor grumbled. "Start reviving the others while I take a look at the Captain." By the time Paris came back to the Doctor's side, Janeway was still unconscious.
"Something wrong?" Tom asked.
"The Captain was severely dehydrated not to mention being underfed and overtired," the Doctor said. "I've replenished her fluids but I think I'll let her sleep for a while."
"Just make sure she knows this was your idea," Tom said. "I'll go inform the commander." Tom left sickbay, taking one last look at the Captain over his shoulder as he went.
That night, after a shower and a change, Tom was in his quarters. He wasn't much of a homebody. During his off hours he tended to be in the mess hall or in the holodeck, but he was tired on this night and sat at the small desk in his quarters reading at the computer. It took him a moment to realize his door had chimed and he stood, calling for the visitor to enter.
"Captain," he greeted.
"At ease," she said, raising her hand. It was rare to see her out of uniform but she was in civilian clothes, probably on order from the Doctor. She looked different.
"Can I help you with something?" he asked, motioning for her to take a seat. He sat down across from her.
"I just came to thank my knight in shining armor," she said.
"Hardly," he laughed.
"How embarrassing," she said, "needing to be carted off to sickbay. One minute I was talking to you and the next being scolded by the Doctor. At least I was with you at the time of my... so, thank you."
"You're more than welcome," he said.
"Now, as for abandoning me in sickbay..."
"Not my idea," he interrupted.
"I got chewed out anyhow. Something about not enough water and too much coffee."
"Shocking," Tom said, mockingly.
"Well," she smiled. "I'll leave you to your evening."
"You don't have to go, Captain," he said. "Stay for a while." Tom shrugged, running his hand through his hair.
"Stay?" she asked.
"I mean, how much time do we really spend together?" he asked.
"You mean, besides the last several days?" she asked with a small smile.
"Okay, I meant socially," he corrected.
"We used to play pool," she pointed out.
"What do you want to do, then, Tom?" she asked.
"Normally, I'd say let's go to the holodeck…"
"I know. It isn't your thing. So what if we just… watched a movie?" he suggested.
"A movie?" she asked.
"I set up a holo-emitter to project a scaled down version of old films and recordings against a flat surface. So we just move the couch to face the wall, and voila, instant entertainment."
"All right," she said, but she didn't sound convinced. "I'll just go get my work and we can…"
"Captain, no work in the theater!" he scolded. "Two hours, it's all I ask."
"Fine," she said, standing so he could shift the loveseat around. He was grinning like a little boy on Christmas morning. "Tom?"
"Hmm," he asked, already over to the computer terminal to boot up the system.
"Why… why do you like me?" It was a question she ever thought she'd hear herself asking and she hadn't wanted to but it had sort of slipped out. She immediately regretted asking it and felt her face flush. "Never mind."
"Captain, how could I not like you?" he said, laughing, making light of the question for her benefit.
"I shouldn't have even asked," she said.
"Look, I know you're the Captain. I know you're the prodigal Starfleet daughter my father never had and I know that it's lonely at the top. I know all of the Starfleet jargon but I also know what it's like to be all alone in the universe. It's a horrible feeling and you saved me from it. The least I could do is return the favor," he said. "Now, sit down, put your feet on the table, and relax."
"Yes, sir," she said, sitting down. He handed her a warm cup of coffee and she chuckled. "All right, all right, before the charm kills me."
Tom sat next to her and smiled.
"Computer, begin playback."
Janeway didn't know when the movie was made, who the actors were, or anything about the story but it was nice to sit and watch something so distracting while doing nothing else. Tom didn't talk during the movie and so she followed suit, sliding down on the cushions slowly until she was comfortable. When the credits began to roll, Tom turned to look at her. The light flickered across her face in the almost darkness.
"Yes?" she asked.
"Do you ever think about your life if you were home right now?" he asked.
"Almost every day," she said.
"Where would you be?" he asked.
"I'm not even sure anymore. I worked so hard to get Voyager, to get this assignment. I didn't want anything else," she admitted. "I left my fiancé. I left my dogs. I left my sister and my mother without a glance back because I was so sure this was right for me."
"Just because it went awry doesn't make it wrong," he said.
"No," she said. "You're right."
She looked at him and put her hand on his shoulder.
"What?" he asked.
"I appreciate all of this Tom. Thank you."
After she had gone, he started the movie again and eventually fell asleep, stretched out across the space they had shared.
"Where were you last night?" B'Elanna asked, sitting down at Tom's table at lunch the next day.
"Stayed in," he said, taking a bite of his sandwich. He made a face and peeled back the bread to try to decipher what was inside.
"Stayed in doing what?" she asked. "I went to Sandrine's. I thought you wanted me to play you in pool."
"I'm sorry," he said. "Must've slipped my mind." She couldn't even get mad at him. He wasn't making excuses, changing the subject, or trying to charm his way out of trouble.
"All right, maybe another day?" she asked.
"Sure," he said, pushing his tray away.
"Hey, before you go. Did the captain okay your speed modifications for the shuttle?" she asked, trying to keep him seating, talking to her. She felt like she hadn't seem him in days.
"Yeah," he said. "I've already started. I've been thinking…" He leaned in.
"I think I can break the speed barrier," he said, keeping his voice low.
"Warp ten?" she exclaimed and he shushed her.
"Nothing is certain, but I'm working on it. I've been running simulations on the holodeck and I'm getting closer," he admitted.
"Tom, that would be groundbreaking!" she said.
"Bridge to Paris." His comm badge stopped him mid-sentence. Janeway's voice sounded tinny through the badge and he tapped it, already out of his seat.
"Yes ma'am?" he asked.
"Report to the bridge immediately," Janeway said.
"On my way," he said, leaving the mess hall without even a goodbye to B'Elanna. She stared after him, wondering where his head had been lately.
"I'll bus your tray, don't worry," she growled to herself.
For those close to Tom Paris, the fact that he had abducted the Captain over anyone else on the ship was not exactly surprising. It had been a rocky few days. Tom had been euphoric when he'd broken warp ten. Each simulation came out exactly the same – successful. The real thing had been amazing, mind-altering; it had been his life's epiphany.
Janeway had cried when the doctor pronounced Paris dead, and she and cried again when he came back to life. Then he had taken her.
"Why didn't he grab me? Or you?" Harry asked B'Elanna later, when both had been recovered.
"Because there was Janeway. First and foremost, always Janeway," B'Elanna said, and it sounded slightly bitter.
"Lizards?" Harry asked.
"That's what Chakotay said. No one is allowed into Sickbay for the rest of the night, unless there is a medical emergency. Not even Kes," B'Elanna said.
"I really want to see him," Harry said.
"Well, I could always punch you," B'Elanna offered. Harry looked like he was considering it for a moment before shaking his head.
"I'll wait," he said.
By the time everything was back to normal, normal had been replaced indefinitely for extremely awkward. B'Elanna had never seen Tom that way. He couldn't even look at the Captain and when the Captain was forced to address him, she called him only 'Lieutenant Paris' and looked at the ceiling while she spoke. This went on for three days until it was Chakotay who approached the subject, cornering the Captain in her ready room.
"This isn't the first time I've wished there was a counselor on board," he said.
"I don't want to talk about it anyway," she said, rubbing her forehead. "I just want things to get back to normal."
"With all due respect, normal isn't this, Captain," he said.
"I don't want to talk about it," she reiterated.
"With me," he added. "You don't want to talk about it with me, and that's fine. But please talk to Paris."
She looked up, her eyes gray like steel and she put a heavy weight behind her words.
He took the hint.
She knew, though, that Chakotay was right. She already missed her easy rapport with Tom and so after the shift, she went to his quarters, smoothing her uniform and tucking flyaway hairs into her barrette until she was called to enter. He looked up at her and stood, hastily, even though he wasn't in uniform and his feet were bare.
"At ease," she said.
"I don't know how to apologize any more sincerely," he said. "You have to know that I wasn't myself."
"I didn't come for anymore apologies, Tom," she said. "I came to right things."
"It's my fault," he said. "I need to right things."
"Let's agree that things need righting and stop assigning blame," she said. He nodded and motioned for her to take a seat but she shook her head. "Let's go for a walk, hmm?"
A walk with Janeway meant going to the most neglected cargo bay and walking in circles. She liked to be in motion and so he agreed, putting on shoes and they walked slowly across the ship to the cargo bay. They navigated storage bins and spare parts in silence until she finally broke it.
"You made history, Tom."
"No, you did. We learned a lesson or two in the process but you had a goal and you achieved it and I'm proud of you."
"I abducted you," he said.
"You… chose me," she corrected.
"I hardly remember it anymore. It's all a blur," he admitted. "But I think I thought that you'd understand."
"I didn't at the time but I did know you wouldn't hurt me," she said. "I trust you, Tom."
They both knew they were skirting the issue and he searched for courage.
"Captain, about what happened on the planet… after the evolution…"
"That was my mistake. I should have never made that flippant comment about the female initiating – well, I made things uncomfortable for you anyhow and I'm sorry," she said.
"I've been flirted with before, Ma'am," he said.
"Flirting?" she asked. "I don't know about that!" They stopped walking near the door, but not close enough to activate the sensors.
"I'm sorry," he said for the last time.
"You didn't disappoint me, Tom," she said. "So how do we get past this?"
He reached out and tentatively touched her face with his hand, cupping her cheek – barely touching her. She didn't shy away from his touch but she purposefully didn't move into it either.
"Tom," she said. He put his hand down.
"I chose you," he repeated, echoing her theory. She smiled.
"I'm glad that you did," she told him.
B'Elanna tried not to feel threatened by the Captain, but when her relationship with Tom became concrete and important, it was hard not to worry about Janeway's influence on Tom. When Seven of Nine came aboard, B'Elanna was flooded with relief.
"Janeway needs a new project," B'Elanna had said, and Tom had frowned.
"What is that supposed to mean?" he snapped.
"Nothing, it's just that Janeway likes to play the Good Shepard," B'Elanna said, slipping into a defensive tone.
"You judge her too harshly," Tom said, shaking his head as if disappointed. But the coming of Seven was a hard transition for everyone, especially those close to the Captain. Forming one's individuality from scrap was time consuming and free time became an alien concept to Janeway. Tom watched her work herself into the ground.
When the turbo lift opened to reveal Janeway, Tom seized the opportunity.
"Mr. Paris," she greeted.
"Captain, may I speak freely?" he asked.
"Does my permission have anything to do with that?" she asked.
"You need a break," he said.
"Tom, I'm not in the mood," she said. The turbolift stopped and she stepped off, but he held the door.
"B'Elanna thinks I've been replaced," he called out. She stopped, pausing as if only by force and turned back around to face him.
"Walk with me," she said. He'd been on the way to sickbay to start his shift, but he was more than willing to be late. The Captain was always a great alibi. "What do you mean, replaced?"
"I think her exact words were, out with the old, in with the new," he said.
"While deciphering this is a fun game, why don't you cut to the chase, Tom?" she said, stopping in front of the science lab.
"You have a new favorite, Captain," he said.
"What, you mean Seven?" she asked. "She needs help. It isn't about favoritism, it's about giving life."
"Of course," he said, but she could tell he didn't buy it. "I'm due in sickbay, ma'am, if you'll excuse me."
She walked him walk away and called after him, "I don't play favorites!"
He didn't grace her with a response and she walked into the science lab frowning to meet Chakotay.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Do you think I have a favorite?" she asked.
"Favorite what? Food? Outfit? Deck? What are you talking about?" he asked.
"Crewmember, I meant," she said, lowering her voice though they were the only ones in the room.
"Don't ask questions you don't want the answer to," he said, smiling. It was meant to be a good-natured barb but she bristled.
"Well, if there were a list, you'd be off it," she grumbled, logging in to the console in front of her. Chakotay let out a theatrical sigh.
"I don't think you do so intentionally, but yes, sometimes it's clear who you prefer," he said.
"Prefer?" she said.
"Favor," he said.
"I don't think that's right," she said. "If you get along with your best friend over a perfect stranger, is that favoring?"
"That's hardly the same thing," he said. "Besides, you've told me yourself. You're the Captain, you shouldn't have friends." She glared at him.
"Suddenly honesty is in," she said, shaking her head. "Did you finish running the analysis on the nebula collection?"
"It's all in the report," he said. "Are we done with our previous conversation?"
"Obviously this perception of favoritism is something I need to work on," she said, "What else is there to say?"
"Who started this?" he asked, chuckling. "Who flustered you?"
"Tom Paris," she growled.
"Oh!" Chakotay said, full-out laughing. "That makes sense."
"What? Why?" she asked.
"I can imagine he feels a little crowded these days, what with our new arrival," Chakotay said.
"Crowded?" she asked, setting the PADD down and putting her hands on her hips. He stepped back slightly.
"At the top of your list," Chakotay said. She threw up her hands and walked out.
She headed to sickbay as the next stop on her long list and was surprised to see Seven sitting on a bio-bed. Tom was running a medical tricorder across her outstretched had.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"I cannot feel my hand," Seven said.
"Her Borg implants are trying to reassert themselves and have begun to pinch nerves. It's just a matter of deactivating them and removing some more components," Tom said.
"A simple surgery," the Doctor said. "Hello, Captain."
"Surgery, is that really necessary?" she asked, snatching the tricorder from Tom who looked a little hurt but stepped back. She started scanning the hand herself.
"Only if she wants to keep her hand," Tom said, sarcastically. Janeway could tell she'd hurt his feelings and handed the tricorder back, chastised.
"I would like to keep it," Seven said. "I am not afraid, Captain."
"Why don't you and Mr. Paris come back in an hour," the Doctor said. "I'll be done by then." Tom was happy to get out of sickbay early and nodded.
"Come on, Captain, Neelix probably has a fresh pot on for you," he said, putting his hand on the small of her back. The light pressure of his hand steered her out of the doors and she glanced over her shoulder.
"Coffee sounds good," she admitted. "I've had a strange day."
"I'm sorry about what I said before," he said. "I was being…"
"Immature? Ornery? Presumptuous?" she asked.
"Forward," he said, warily. They stepped on to the turbo lift. "Deck Ten."
"I want so much for her to fit in here," Janeway said, looking up at him. "Is that bad?"
"Computer halt turbolift," he said, and faced her, putting his hands on her shoulders. "Captain, helping people is never bad."
"The crew seems to think that she's going to kill us all," Janeway said, chuckling. "I hear the gossip too."
"The crew fears the Borg, but they trust you more. As someone who you once wanted to fit in also, Seven has an invaluable resource in you," he said and she could tell he felt strongly about this. She smiled at him, a genuine smile that made him feel like he'd just taken a deep breath of fresh air.
"Tom, I'm going to say this once and it's going to stay between you and me, is that understood?" He nodded. "Good. Thomas Eugene Paris, you are my favorite and you won't ever be replaced."
"Thomas Eugene Paris, I hereby reduce you to the rank of Ensign."
It was maybe the worst thing anyone had ever said to be him before. Not the demotion, he didn't care about rank or Starfleet. And people had called him names, and cursed at him… he'd dated B'Elanna! But it was because it was the Captain and she reached out and plucked that pip off his collar like it was the last thing she had to do before dinner. Quick and painful, like ripping off a bandage. Like they both wanted it to be over.
She didn't come visit him until day 28 of his solitary confinement.
"If you've come to spring me early, I want to finish out my sentence," he said. He'd been sleeping. There were four hours every 24 cycle that he was actually alone. It was those few hours between late night and early morning where there wasn't a guard posted. There ought to have been, of course, but even if he broke free, where would he have gone? He'd been sleeping fitfully, knowing the end was near and when he woke up to turn over, she was there, standing before the force field with her hands on her hips. He thought she was a dream.
"Mr. Paris," she'd greeted. It was an odd hour for even her to be awake and he'd sat up. "I'm not here to spring you, you will finish your sentence."
"Thanks," he said dryly.
"I'm breaking my own rule, coming down here," she said, lowering the force field and stepping in. He made space for her on the bench and she sat next to him.
"Punishment, not a vacation, got it," he said, trying not to sound bitter. He'd earned the punishment though he thought both the solitary confinement and the demotion was a little much.
"You look like hell," she said, looking like she was going to put her hand on his arm, but she wavered and didn't touch him.
"You look good," he said.
"I'm not," she said, very softly. "I have to admit something, Tom. You broke my heart."
"I did what I had to do, Captain, and I've accepted my punishment and I don't know what else you want from me but just ask and you'll have it," he said, his voice bouncing around in the small room. "Anything you want, you'll have it."
"I would have killed you," she said.
"I know," he said. "I went anyway."
"I can't sleep." She shook her head and put her hands to her face for a brief moment before lowering them back down to her lap. Her uniform was rumpled – she was rumpled.
"Maybe it was time for all of this to end anyway," he said. She didn't have to ask what he meant. His statement only reinforced her belief that a Captain could not be friends - or anything more - with a lower ranking officer.
"A sorry ending," she said, leaning her head back against the hard wall and closing her eyes.
"I think I'll ask B'Elanna to marry me," he said. Her eyes snapped open and she looked at him.
"I thought you two had called it quits," Janeway said, her voice strangely even.
"We have, a couple of times," he said. "But I'll ask anyway."
"Will she say yes?" she asked.
"I think so," he said.
"Then what?" Janeway asked. "What happens after that?"
"What do you think, Captain?" he asked. "Go to sleep. I'll see you on the bridge in two days."
Janeway stood and put up the force field before she left.
They didn't offer him his Starfleet commission back, after all of the fanfare died down. He wasn't sure if he would have taken it, but it would have been nice to have been asked. His father had offered to fight for him but he'd declined. Billions of people on Earth made a good living outside of the Fleet and it wasn't long before he got a job at a private holo company as a program designer for holodecks. Their main income came from Starfleet and so it was almost like staying, but without any of the perks.
The crew was very predictable in the end. Most people took their promotions and got right back on a ship. The former Maquis were tied up in trial for a while but everyone got a full pardon and some got to keep their rank and they all got back on ships too. A few even took deep space missions, including B'Elanna. She'd taken the mission, the divorce, and their daughter all in stride. Before Tom got his job – before anyone's future had been decided – Tom liked to ride around on the turbo shuttle underground in San Francisco. It went all over the Bay and for the first week he got to ride around and watch people, watch Earth but as soon as he started to be recognized, he had to stop.
He had to stand trial, also, for missing his parole dates, which was utterly ridiculous but rules were rules and so he went in his best clothes with his hair brushed and it lasted all of a day. He thought the Captain might be there, but she wasn't. She'd sent a letter on his behalf and he was out before the sun went down. Full pardon – no rank. Please turn in your uniform, Tom, and kiss the good life goodbye. It was hard not to be bitter.
The news was addictive. It was like watching them all on a holodeck, all of the crew of Voyager. It didn't seem real. He watched the footage of Voyager pulling into the station – he'd been piloting her, of course, and he could still hear Chakotay's voice behind him.
"Nice and slow, Paris," he'd said. He'd been happy and sad, and he still couldn't tell which one was winning.
Janeway had soon been made a junior Admiral; that had made the news. Voyager was at Jupiter Station indefinitely, being taken apart for the sake of history, science, and exploration. She wouldn't go out again. It was all too much and part of him felt like returning to the old ways, spending his days drunk in France but even that life seemed old and trivial now.
So he floated and when he'd gotten his job, he moved to the desert of New Mexico where the plant was and tried his best to fade into obscurity. He worked there a year before the request for a Voyager holonovel came onto his desk. Someone wanted to live out his life as a story, for entertainment and the idea of it made him physically nauseous.
"I'm not doing this," he'd told his boss, tossing the PADD down on her desk with a clatter.
"Like hell, this is half our profit for the year. The client asked for you specifically and you'll do it," she'd said. Tom liked her, on most days. She was feisty and small, and let him do whatever he wanted most of the time as long as his assignments were high quality and on time. But he couldn't concede to this.
"Not only will I not make this, but I'm going to fight for it to never get made," he said.
"You make it, or you no longer have a job here," she'd said.
Needless to say, he didn't make it. So he left New Mexico and the only thing he would miss would be how vast the sky was at night, and how many stars still shone though the atmosphere.
He went home to his father, just until he figured out his next move. There had been a point in his life where going home would be worse than death, but things with his father were stable and he could tell his father liked it when he stopped by, liked what being stranded had done to his son. It was raining in San Francisco when he got in and he hadn't messaged ahead. It was late and the house was quiet but the doors opened for him and he dropped his bag in his room and fell asleep on his old bed. He slept soundly.
In the morning, his father shook his hand and handed him a cup of coffee and they didn't say much.
"I don't work there, anymore," Tom had explained. "They asked me to do something I was morally against."
This seemed to satisfy his father and so there was no judgment that morning. Finally, Owen stood and straightened his uniform and sighed.
"Kathryn will be in my office today, first thing, for a meeting," Owen said.
"Janeway?" Tom said, a little surprised. The strained silence between them had started long before they'd made it home – just after the wedding, in fact, and so he'd grown used to not talking to her.
"Yes," Owen said. "Would you like to come pay your regards?" Tom thought about this, it had been several months since he'd seen her in person and he felt that maybe it was time.
"Okay," Tom had said. And so he went to work with his father for the first time since he was thirteen.
People out of uniform at Starfleet headquarters were rare but Tom had taught him self to walk with a fluidic confidence and he didn't mind the people staring. Owen walked like he had a pole up his back, but then Tom had always moved like his mother.
His father still had the same secretary who smiled at him and called him Tommy and looked like she wanted to ruffle his hair but she couldn't reach anymore. In his father's office, he sat in the stiff chair and waited. He didn't know what he was supposed to do. Say hello and then leave, letting them get back down to business? He was excited, a little, and when the door opened to reveal her, she smiled and opened her arms like she intended a figurative hug instead of a real one.
"Tom," she said. "What a surprise."
"Hello, Admiral," he greeted.
"You didn't tell me he would be coming," Janeway chastised, good-naturedly.
"Surprise," Tom said.
"I told him you were coming, and he thought he'd pay his respects," Owen said, and Tom felt like he was at her funeral, saying goodbye for the last time or something. Maybe he was.
The meeting was hardly a meeting at all and it was over so fast Tom barely had time to get bored.
"Walk me out, Mr. Paris," Janeway said, looking squarely at Tom.
"Aye, aye," he said. "See you, dad."
"Yes," Owen said gruffly, already lost in his work. Janeway looked like the same trim woman who'd been on Voyager. She had a few gray hairs that started at her temples but they were few and Tom only saw them because he was looking. She seemed smaller, more angled and he realized she wasn't wearing heels.
"Office job?" he asked, a little surprised.
"How could you tell?" she said, nodding at the cadet who opened the door for them to the outside.
"Your shoes," he said. She laughed, just as the sunshine hit her.
"Let's have lunch," she said. "I didn't know how much I'd missed you until I saw you and my heart fell into my stomach." Tom thought it was a nice thing for her to say.
"I don't go out, really," he said. "Just got back into town."
"No, no, we can go to my place," she said. "I don't care much for the stares either."
They transported and it wasn't quite as warm when they materialized.
"Where?" he asked.
"Connecticut," she said. "I bought a house. I wanted some seasons. I like the snow in the winter, the leaves in the fall."
"Seasons," he said.
"Come to think of it, why did you come back from Arizona?"
"New Mexico," he said. "I quit my job."
"Well, I want to hear all about it," she demanded. They got on a transport and got off after two stops. The people on board seemed to recognize her and smiled blandly but they weren't Starfleet and probably didn't like the big time celebrity Admiral moving into their small town when all was said and done. Tom tried not to meet anyone's eye and was glad when they walked down a brick road into a neighborhood of big houses with porches and shutters and trees with limp leaves.
"This is nice," he said. "A nice place to live."
"I've only been here a few months," she said. "I had an apartment in San Francisco but I couldn't sleep at night." They turned a corner and she started up a path. "This one is mine."
"It's enormous," he exclaimed.
"It's old," she said. "It's old and built to look like it's older. I've had a replicator put in as well as environmental systems but the plumbing needs a lot of work and the landlord said something about a crack in the foundation. I bought it cheap, regardless," she said, keying in her code. Tom heard a lock spring back and she opened the door into the narrow entry way. "Hang up your coat."
"Yes, ma'am," he said, pulling off the light jacket and placing it on the coat rack of sweaters and uniform pieces. She pulled of her jacket and tossed it on a chair and he shook his head and followed her.
"Do you want a tour?" she asked.
"Maybe later," he said and it was what she'd wanted to hear. The kitchen was a bright room with an old wooden table and four chairs, tiled counters, and a window over the sink. "This room looks like it's from a program," he said, already calculating it into holocode in his mind.
"The holodeck?" she asked.
"That's what I was doing in New Mexico, writing holocode for novels," he said.
"That sounds like a good job for you," she said, motioning for him to take a seat at the table. He did.
"It was," he said. "There were parts of it I liked a lot."
"So why did you leave?" she asked, handing him glass of ice water and moving to the replicator.
"They asked me to," he shrugged.
"So you didn't quit?"
"It was mutual," he said. She looked at him, her eyes narrowed in the bright room and she waited for him to finish. "They wanted me to write a Voyager program."
"Oh," she said. "I don't suppose you mean ship schematics."
"No," he said. "Us."
"Like Mr. Barclay," she said, shaking her head.
"I wouldn't do it," he said, drinking his water.
"Good," she said. "So that means your looking for a new job?"
"Oh," he shook his head. "I just came home, I haven't even thought about it." She set a bowl of tomato soup in front of him, and a grilled cheese sandwich and it flooded him with a sense of happiness that she knew what it was that made him feel that way.
"Well," she said, setting her own food down and sitting across from him. "What do you know about plumbing?"
After lunch, she showed him the guest house which was a kitchenette, a bedroom, a bathroom, and an all purpose living room. He was reluctant.
"Starfleet trained pilot, felon, renegade, holoprogrammer, handy man?" he told her. "One of these things is not like the other."
"I choose felon," Janeway said.
"From anyone else I might be offended," he said, frowning.
"Lucky for me," she said, pushing open the door to the guest house. They stood in the small living room and she pushed the drapes back to let some light in. "Think about it Tom, you'll be getting a Starfleet paycheck without having to play by any of the rules."
"I feel over-qualified," he admitted. "Vastly."
"I can't argue that," she said. "I don't know how to keep you around legitimately any other way."
"I see," Tom said, smiling. "I thought I broke your heart."
"Oh, you did, but hearts heal, Tom, and mine did and then I had a perfectly functioning heart but nothing to fill it with," she said. "You told me once that you'd give me anything I wanted."
"I might have said that," he said.
"I'm cashing in," she said.
"A trial basis," he said. "And if I don't like being your man-servant?"
"Free as a bird," she said. "It won't even be like you're working for me, but for the house."
"I can fix anything," he said, crossing his arm. "That is an attribute I'm proud of."
She patted his chest.
"We have to go. I'll put in your access codes tonight and you can move in tomorrow."
"I don't have access codes anymore," he reminded her.
"I'll just use your Voyager ones," she said, walking out. He shook his head and walked a few paces behind her.
"This is morbid," he said, shaking his head. It would probably never work.
He moved in slowly as if he expected to leave at any moment. A change of clothes here, a few books there. A picture of his daughter, his television. The guest house was mildly furnished but he didn't worry about being cooped up in the small space. The yard was large with high walls and there was plenty to do. Owen knew how to school his features and rarely let reactions show physically and so when Tom had told him he'd be moving to work for Janeway, he'd tilted his head slightly.
"Be careful," Owen had finally settled on.
"I will be," he'd said, though the comment had struck an odd chord. "Why?"
"She's a whirlwind. You might know her better than I do, now, but I do know Kathryn Janeway and it's easy to be swept up by her."
"You forget, I was married to a Klingon," he said. "I'll be fine."
"Well," he said, stiffly. "Don't be a stranger."
"Yes, Sir," Tom said.
At the end of the first week, Janeway came home to see that most of her floorboards had been torn up and Tom was deep within the house, repairing the foundation.
"Tom?" she said, calling his attention.
"Thought I'd start big," he said. "Careful where you step."
"Those floors were real wood," she said.
"The floors will be fine, Admiral," he said.
"Oh Tom," she said. "I'm not your commanding officer any longer."
"Boss," he corrected and she laughed, low in her throat.
"Or Kathryn," she said. "Whatever you prefer. I'll be upstairs in the office if you need me."
"Sure," he said and watched her climb the stairs, already unfastening the collar of her uniform. It was good for him to work with his hands. He'd sent a subspace message to B'Elanna and Miral, letting his ex-wife know about the change of address. B'Elanna was good about letting Tom see Miral when they were in the system. It could have been worse, the deterioration of their marriage and Tom knew that. The message he'd received back was terse, though, and a little passive aggressive for B'Elanna.
Job of your dreams.
That was it, text, no visual and he'd rolled his eyes and hadn't dignified it with an answer. Maybe he was a fool to take the job, maybe he was a fool to fall back under her command whether it be military or otherwise. But he had been hers, once, and part of him wanted to chase that feeling.
She came back down a few hours later to find him cleaning up for the night.
"All done?" she asked. He laughed.
"For now. Repairs like this are slow going. It's an old house and some things have to be done the old fashioned way."
"Well, help yourself to the replicator, or if you're feeling particularly brave, the fresh food. I'm leaving in the morning with the Sierra and I'll be gone for three days."
"Hopefully you'll have a floor by then," he said. "Have a safe trip."
"Goodnight, Tom," she said.
The house was quiet while she was gone, and in the early morning of the first day she was away, he walked into town. The house was less than a mile outside of it and it was an easy walk. He passed a school, several shops and a few buildings he couldn't identify. At the market, he bought some food and at another shop a tool he needed for repairs. He worked during the day and at night made a small meal in his smaller kitchen. He did miss the holodeck. He missed having full access any time he wanted and he never realized how much time was spent in a fantasy world. Oh, there were holorooms in every city; companies that would rent out rooms by the hour or even by the day if one was willing to part with enough latinum. He didn't need an escape that badly though.
He worked hard all day and at night could feel his muscles aching, getting stronger.
Tom was putting back the last of the floor boards when Janeway came home a few days later carrying a gray, standard duffel bag with her hair up in a bun that jolted Tom back several years in time.
"Looks good, Mr. Paris," she said.
"How was the trip?" he asked, standing up and wiping his dusty hands on his pants. Under the house had been many things, but not clean.
"Productive," she said. "Good to be home, though."
"It's been quiet here," he said.
"Just how I like it," she said. "I'll be down in a bit. What do you say we get cleaned up and see what we can do about dinner?"
"Yes, ma'am," he said and she shook her head. "Sorry, yes, boss," he corrected.
"Not sure that's better." He could hear her voice trailing down to him as she moved up the stairs.
The guest house had the piping for a water shower but had a sonic shower fitted over the fixtures. It was faster and more efficient but when he stepped back into the house to see Janeway with wet hair, he wasn't surprised. Her bathtub on Voyager was the stuff of legends to the lower-ranked crew. She was out of uniform and her wet hair left a spot of water on the back of her shirt. She was stirring something on the stove that was beginning to smell pretty good.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Even I can't mess up soup," she said. "Vegetables from the garden."
"I never thought of you as a green thumb," he said.
"There is more to me than diplomacy and science," she said.
"Of course," he said. "So I'm learning."
"Are you liking it here, Tom?" she asked.
"So far…" he said. "Of course, you have been gone."
"I deserved that," she said, turning the flame below the stock pot down and sitting next to him at the table.
"I was joking," he said.
"I know, but you're right. I made a mess of things in the end, between us."
"Maybe we both deserved what we got," he said.
"Not that it matters much now, but I did petition for you to keep your rank," she said. "I'm afraid Starfleet doesn't forgive and forget very easily."
"My father did the same thing, but it doesn't matter now. I don't even know if I would have stayed," he said. "Being on a ship – working for you was one thing…"
"I don't… I'm not sure how much longer," she shrugged. "Most admirals are on active duty until they die."
"There are things, places, worlds outside of Starfleet," he told her. "But they won't let you go easily."
"No," she said. "They won't."
"I bought some bread in town that would go well with that soup," he said. "I'll get it."
He navigated the path between their houses in the dark carefully. He thought about what she said, and imagined them both being outside the fleet, outside of the press but still, could ever be the way it was before their falling out?
The bread was easily retrieved and he carried it back into the warm kitchen and she used a long knife to cut pieces.
"What is it like, outside Starfleet?" she asked.
"Slower," he said. "More generic."
"Do you like it?" she asked, leaning forward, her chin in her hand.
"It's my life," he said. "But, as it turns out, I work for a beautiful patroness in a nice neighborhood so things are going pretty well."
"Are you charming me?" she asked.
"Just being myself," he laughing. They ate their soup and their bread and it was hearty and good.
Tom stained the floors and waxed them and they gleamed like new.
"Where did you learn to do all this?" she asked, admiring the new floors; reluctant to roll the are rug over them.
"Osmosis, I guess." She gave him a look. "I always studied, just not for the right things."
"Well, it's beautiful and it's a cause for celebration," she said.
"I thought I might get started on the plumbing," he said, scratching his head. "Every time you drain your tub, I can hear the water leak."
"Oh," she said. "I understand if you don't…"
"Kathryn," he said. "It isn't that I don't want to celebrate with you."
She smiled knowingly. He'd used her name and it was a step in the right direction, a minor success. Her image was changing in his eyes not as the ultimate, unyielding authority figure but as a person; a friend.
"Come with me to the banquet tonight," she said. "See your father and some of the crew. Tuvok will be there, Chakotay perhaps."
"My biggest fans," he exclaimed. "How could I pass that by?"
"You'd sent me off into the night alone?" she asked, feigning surprise. "Be my arm candy."
"I don't have anything to wear," he said. "I don't…"
"I'll replicate you something," she said, waving her hand in the air like the decision had long since been made.
"All right," he said. He knew it would be awkward and that he wouldn't belong but he would do it for her. There wasn't a question of it.
She wore a dress uniform and he wore what she handed him without complaint. They transported to headquarters and walked toward the venue in the cool night air.
"You look nice," he said, glancing at her from the corner of her eye. "I like your hair long like that."
"Thank you," she said, patting his arm. "I only cut it because it would get tangled, or caught, or lit on fire…"
"Fire?" he exclaimed.
"Conduit exploded and, frankly, I hacked it off myself," she admitted.
"Hmm," he said, and reached out to tuck and errant piece back behind her shoulder. "No fires here, lucky for me."
She blushed a little, and he was proud of himself.
Inside was dull. He spoke to his father and to Tuvok and tried to stay close to Janeway. Most people knew who he was and made small talk and she introduced him when it was appropriate. It was long and boring and he thought he might make her pay for dragging him.
In the morning, their picture was on the news feed and the implication was an affair.
"Damn," she said, sipping her coffee. "Honestly did not see that coming."
"Doesn't affair mean that there is some sort of adultery happening?" Tom asked, looking at the picture. She was laughing and hand her hand on his chest and he was smirking, looking down at her. It was suggestive and completely out of context.
"Your father is going to…" She threw up her hands. "I really don't know what he is going to say."
"He warned me and he was right, you sucked me right in. Hurricane Kathryn."
"I resent that!" she said, putting her hands on her hips. He shook his head sadly.
"I used to be frightened of that." She lowered her hands slowly.
"I didn't mean to do this to you, Tom," she said. "I'm sorry."
"No, it's not your fault," he said, tossing the PADD down. "Besides, they're right."
"Excuse me?" she asked.
"We have all the makings of an affair, just without the good stuff." He stood up. "You can deal with my father. I'm sure B'Elanna will be worse."
"The good stuff?"
"Well, I guess I am cleaning out your plumbing, just not in the way that everyone thinks," he said, smirking.
"I would throw this cup at you if the beverage inside were not so delicious," she growled and stalked past him, already late for work. He laughed and climbed the stairs to get started on his latest project.
She came home late, tired and irritable. Tom wasn't in the main house and not in his guest house either. She put on a sweater and a scarf from the rack and stalked the property until she spotted him just outside the tomatoes looking up at the sky.
"It's freezing and you're in short sleeves," she scolded softly. "I couldn't find you."
"Sorry," he said. "I was just thinking."
"About what?" she asked, rubbing her arms. Summer was long over. All the leaves had already turned and fallen and she would have to be careful not to let her vines freeze when the snow came.
"How was work?" he asked.
"No one said a damn thing," she said. "I avoided your father and hid out in my office. So, you know, strangely productive."
"The perks of a high rank," he said, and put his arm around her shoulder, tugging him close to her. "I can't believe you're shivering."
"It's freezing!" she exclaimed, "When you get sick, I won't pity you, I'll only laugh and maybe point."
"Sassy," he said and she laughed, resting her head against him.
"Come on, let's go in," she pleaded.
"Just a few more minutes," he said. "Watch the skies." They could see faint stars and ships and stations in orbit. She missed it and she knew he missed it too. There were ways to fly outside of Starfleet, even for someone with a record and maybe she was holding him at the house unfairly.
"Maybe you should find a piloting job," she offered.
"I like it here," he said. She put her arms around his waist, not for warmth, but because she wanted to.
She took two weeks of leave when the first snow began to fall.
"You wouldn't believe the amount of leave I have," she said, coming down the stairs in her robe with coffee.
"I think I could do the math," he said.
"My sister is coming tomorrow. She's been watching the headlines and freaked out," she said, sitting down on the sofa. He had gotten up early to recalibrate some tools before he started on the crack in the wall, but she was an early riser and he wasn't surprised to see her.
"Should I make myself scarce?" he asked.
"Up to you," she said. "She isn't staying for long. We don't actually like each other." Tom laughed.
"What is on the schedule for today?" he asked.
"I thought I'd sit by the window and watch the snow fall," she said. "Don't fix anything today, Tom, just keep me company."
"You're the boss," he said, setting the tool down and walking to the window and standing next to her. It was warm in the house, with the controlled environment and it wouldn't snow too hard, but it frost still gathered on the glass and she ran her finger along the edge of the tiny crystals.
Later, they sat on the couch reading – him for pleasure and her reports, but she was propped on some pillows and he was sitting on her feet to keep them warm. He let one hand rest on her blanket covered knee and every so often she glanced up to look at him.
"Phoebe is…" He lowered his book.
"Your sister?" he asked.
"Yes, she is not… tactful," Janeway said. "She's an artist and a free spirit."
"Meaning…" he prompted.
"She's the kind of woman who believes everything she reads," Janeway said.
"She isn't coming to see you, she's coming to see me," Tom said. "I see."
"She hasn't said anything about it, but I'm afraid that might be the case," she said.
"Let her think what she wants," Tom said.
"Kathryn, if she walked in right now and saw us, what would you expect her to think?" he asked.
"Cold feet?" she asked.
He took the PADD from her hand and set it down on the coffee table. It was easy to take her hand, pull her until she was sitting up, facing him.
"I'm pretty used to doing what you say, but I'm going to have to assert some authority here," he whispered and leaned in to put his lips on her cheekbone, her neck, her mouth. She pulled away and looked him and it made him smile, her gob smacked expression.
"Do you want to go for a walk?" she asked.
"Now? It's snowing," he said.
"I know. Let's bundle up and go for a walk, Tom," she pleaded.
"Okay," he said, after a long pause. He'd kissed her and she'd said nothing except for to leave the house but at least she wanted him to come along instead of running away. She went upstairs and put on warm clothes, boots, a scarf, a hat, and gloves and he was ready by the time she came down.
The wind outside was brisk and every step Tom took he feared was another step toward a painful fall. She walked with a purpose like she was walking the hall of a starship and when she slipped she always righted herself before she fell and kept going like it had never happened. They left the confines of the yard but walked away from the town into the fields, going west. If they walked far enough they would hit the ocean, he thought.
"I'm sorry I kissed you," he said, finally. His nose was runny and red but she looked flushed, together, complete.
"I'm not," she said. "I've been almost kissing your for weeks."
"Oh?" he asked. "Is that so?"
"Years, maybe," she said. They had slowed and she stopped to lean against a fence that during some parts of the year guarded a field of some vegetable.
"I have to ask this and it might make you angry, but I'm going to ask anyway," Tom said. "You and my father, you never…"
"No," she said. "No, no, no."
"Good," he said. They were close, her back against the fence and he was in front of her. She reached for him and his lips were cold and chapped but she licked them until they were warm.
Tom slept in his own bed that night which was fine. He was worried about going too quickly and he liked the soft bed in the tiny bedroom. He liked having all his things around him and that the curtains were dark and masculine as if the small guest house was built to keep an illicit man.
In the morning, it was too cold to do much of anything except for drink coffee and wait for Janeway to call him over to the main house to meet the mysterious sister. He scrambled some eggs and ate them plain from a white bowl which he left in the sink. He checked his messages and saw that B'Elanna would be in town with their daughter after the new year and that his final payment had been credited to his account by his old job. The Voyager program would be made eventually but it wouldn't be as good as if Tom himself had made it and he hoped that would put it off for a while longer. As he was reading the news, Janeway's name flashed across the bottom of the screen. She was calling.
"Good morning," he greeted.
"She's here," Janeway snapped and ended the communication. Tom groaned and knew that it would be a long day. In the main house, everyone was all smiles. Phoebe, at first glance, didn't look anything like Kathryn. She had dark, curly hair that fell all the way down her back. Her clothes were colorful and eccentric and her face much rounder than Kathryn's. Phoebe didn't have the high cheek bones or the clear gray eyes. Still, they were the same, small build and there was something similar around the mouth. Kathryn's smile was fake and unwavering and Phoebe looked at Tom like he might be there to rob them.
"I'm Tom Paris," he said, extending his hand. She shook it once and dropped it.
"Phoebe Janeway," she said. "I know who you are, I saw you at the homecoming celebration and on the news."
"Well," Tom said, laughing uncomfortably. "Then you have a leg up on me."
"Hmm," Phoebe said, low in the back of her throat. That sounded eerily like Kathryn as well.
"Are you hungry, Pheebs?" Janeway asked, hopefully. She knew that if her sister's mouth was full of food she wouldn't be able to talk.
"Just coffee, thanks," she murmured, wandering away to examine the house. "Nice floors, Katie."
"Thanks," Tom said, glancing sideways at Janeway and mouthing "Katie?" She shook her head threateningly. Phoebe looked up at Tom and narrowed her eyes.
"Hmm," she said again and wandered off down the hall.
"She's lovely," Tom said, whispering.
"She only hates me," Kathryn whispered back. "And you by association, apparently."
"Apparently," he muttered, going into the kitchen to make some coffee. By the time Phoebe came back, he'd poured them all a cup and was sitting at the wooden table drinking his slowly, watching the snow outside.
"Tom's been doing a great job around here." He heard Kathryn say as they walked into the kitchen.
"I thought you were a pilot," Phoebe said.
"I am a trained pilot, but now I work for your sister," he explained.
"Kind of a demotion," Phoebe said.
"I've flown her starship. We've played pool, she's demoted me, she officiated at my wedding. I've kidnapped her, even," he said.
"Let's not talk about that," Janeway said.
"What I'm saying is, I've gone through so much with Kathryn that refitting her pipes is kind of like a vacation," Tom said.
"And now?" Phoebe said.
"Now we sit down," Janeway said, taking the seat next to Tom. Phoebe sat across from her and stirred cream into her coffee. "Mom says you haven't seen her in almost a month."
"I've been busy," Phoebe said. "She has no trouble reminding me that you go once a week."
"She's lonely," Janeway said. "She misses you."
"She's glad you're home. Seven years and every conversation started with when Kathryn comes home."
"I'm sorry I got flung to the other side of the galaxy and had to fight tooth and nail to get home," Janeway snapped.
"That isn't what I meant," Phoebe said.
"You've been punishing me for too long, Phoebe," Janeway said.
"I shouldn't have come," Phoebe said, standing. "I'll go."
"You can't transport in this weather," Tom said.
"He's right," Janeway said. "I'm sorry. Let's talk about something else."
"I saw you both in the news," Phoebe said, but her voice had lost that antagonistic edge.
"Gossip," Janeway said. "If I read everything published about Voyager, I'd never get any work done and a great deal of what is published is highly inaccurate."
"This wasn't about Voyager, Katie, this was about you," Phoebe said. "Is it true?"
"Is Mr. Paris my…"
"Love slave?" Tom suggested.
"No," Janeway said, "I pay him a fair wage. Furthermore, what goes on in my personal life is for me to know."
"I'm your sister," Phoebe said. "I feel like I have to read those stories to know what's going on because you don't tell me anything."
"There isn't anything to tell," Janeway said. Phoebe looked at Tom, her eyebrows raised, arms crossed against her chest.
"I serve at the pleasure of the Admiral," Tom said and both sisters rolled their eyes.
Phoebe left in the morning. Janeway had offered to let her stay but it was clear no one wanted that. They left with hugs and then Janeway abandoned Tom to go soak in the tub. Tom wasn't much of a cleaner, but the snow kept him inside and so he gave the kitchen a good scrubbing and then, unable to stand it any longer, put on his coat and went to check that the force fields around the garden were keeping the temperature stable. Inside the guest house was freezing – the environmental controls had been malfunctioning all week.
By the time Janeway wandered out to find him, he had already taken the system apart and was surrounded by components.
"How can you stand it in here?" she asked, the wind slamming the door closed behind her. He looked over his shoulder to see her bundled up.
"You shouldn't come out in wet hair," he said. "You'll catch cold."
"I didn't expect this. What's wrong?" she asked, coming closer and looking down into the disassembled panel.
"The relays are fried," he said. "I'll have to special order the parts."
"Come to the house," she said, softly. "You can't stay out here."
"Dry your hair with the sonic shower before we go," he said, standing up and leaving the mess. There was no point in putting everything back, only to take it out again for repairs. She moved into the bathroom and he heard the shower activate. When she came out again, her hair was dry and wavy.
"Let's go before I strain something shivering," she said. She walked quickly and he kept up, going in through the kitchen door. "I'm sorry if Phoebe was somewhat… pushy."
"Pushy? A Janeway? Why I couldn't possibly imagine," he said.
"You're very brave this morning," she said. "Here I am trying to be nice and you're all sass." He pulled her close to him and wrapped his arm around her tightly, trying to warm her up. Sometimes he found that with Kathryn Janeway it was best to say nothing at all.
He removed her scarf and her coat and let them fall to the floor. She looked up to him with an unwavering gaze, wholly willing to accept whatever his next actions were. He put his hands in her hair and she pushed up onto her toes to meet his kiss. She removed his coat as well and put her hands under his shirt, so she could feel the skin of his belly and chest.
"Cold hands!" he exclaimed, breaking the kiss.
"You seem warm enough to do," she said, kissing him again.
"Now who's sassy?" he said, talking into her mouth. He felt her low chuckle vibrate against him.
"Well, you do serve at my pleasure," she said.
"And what are my orders?" he asked, making sure she was flush against him. Her fingers lingered at the waist of his pants just barely dipping below. He felt the scrape of her nail lightly against his hip bone. He smiled.
Once he got into bed with Kathryn Janeway, it was hard to get out. She was like a completely different person, somehow. And yet, it was still Kathryn – barking orders and taking charge. She wasn't shy and it was something he appreciated. She undressed without killing the lights or shying away from him. She wasn't as skinny as when he saw her in his father's office. Then she had been too skinny – smaller than when she fetched him from Auckland. But with better meals regulated by Tom, she had regained her curves. Tom couldn't get enough of her curves.
"Were you hiding these under that uniform the whole time?" he asked. "There should be a law."
"Bring back the uniforms that force women to wear dresses?" she asked, her words slurred and sleepy against his neck.
"The shorter the better. You were hiding those legs, too."
"You had a ship to fly, I had to be considerate of the welfare of the rest of the crew," she said. He was already rolling back on top of her and she hooked her heels behind him.
"They should specially design a bikini for you," he gasped. "Red on top, black bottoms. Keep the heels."
Kathryn couldn't speak any longer, but the feeling of her heels digging into his back told him that the conversation was over.
Tom knew he was probably never going to leave when they got the puppy.
Spring came all at once with bright green leaves and sunshine and Kathryn came home with a puppy in April. It was tiny and mixed breed and young enough to have bright blue eyes and a soft coat.
"When I came back, I saw Mark – my dog Molly growled at me, I'd been away so long. I couldn't take her back," Kathryn said. Tom rubbed the puppy's head with his thumb.
"What's her name?" Tom asked.
"I haven't decided. I thought we should decide together."
"This is a good place for a dog," he said and she smiled.
"I thought so to. I remember you told me once that you liked dogs."
"We always had a dog growing up," he said.
The dog slept at the foot of their bed and whimpered every two hours or so. In the bathroom, Kathryn put a mat down that absorbed anything the puppy left on it – it was just a matter of teaching her to do her business in the appropriate place. Tom had intentionally stayed out of Kathryn's room before he started sleeping there himself. Now that he'd officially gained entrance, he liked to wait until she left for work and then walk slowly the perimeter of the room, looking at everything carefully. The only pictures on the wall were art prints, and one of her father.
He liked to stand at her dresser and touch carefully and lightly the things there. Her hairbrush, her bottles of perfume, her canister of sun protection, the silver tubes of beige lipstick and the one gold tube that had the deep crimson color inside. It was her work color and she wore it with her uniform. She'd told him once that the only person who'd told her she was beautiful while she was on Voyager was Neelix, and so now Tom told her every day.
In her closet she had uniforms and civilian clothes and silky nightgowns that Tom liked to take off her slowly. In the bathroom he smelled her shampoo and ran his fingers through her jar of bath salts.
They called the dog Lizzy and Tom put a leash on her and in the mornings they took her running if the weather was right. When she got too big, she slept on a pillow on the floor on Tom's side of the bed. At night, when it was time to push Lizzy off the bed so they could turn off the lights, she whined and licked desperately at Tom's face.
"Don't worry, Liz, you're still my best girl," Tom would tell her.
"Ahem," Kathryn would say and shove the dog off the bed. Lizzy would pout for a few minutes and then circle and finally lay down. Kathryn liked to sleep with her back pressed against Tom's chest and she slept hard and didn't move the whole night through.