On a Pedestal

Pairing: Janeway/Paris (ST:VOY)
Summary: As the years went by and my loneliness increased I began to search elsewhere for comfort, though I admitted, if only to myself, that my heart would always belong to her.
Rating: PG-13, but just to be safe.
Disclaimer: Paramount is Chief. I'm not even an Indian.
Author's Notes: Not my best work, but a return to Voyager fic for me, and my first completed Janeway/not Chakotay. The title doesn't quite fit, but the ending was not meant to be happy.

I watched them enter the cafe, both laughing as they shook the rain of them. The storm had rolled in surprisingly fast, I'd been pleased I'd already been inside otherwise I would have surely been as soaked as the couple that I watched, and probably not as happy about it.
They took seats near the window, sitting opposite each other. There was a light in the corner that made her hair shine a golden red, highlighting the grey streaks that had not been there the last time I had seen her, almost four years ago now, at the last Voyager reunion.
A waitress came over to their table and he ordered for both of them and she watched him, smiling. Though it was not a happy smile, I noticed, it was almost sad, wistful. This realisation came with a strange feeling in my gut, and I thought that maybe she was longing for her days back on Voyager.
In the early days of our journey I had tried, albeit discreetly, to win her heart, flashing her my cheeky grin far too often. But as the years went by and my loneliness increased I began to search elsewhere for comfort, though I admitted, if only to myself, that my heart would always belong to her. By then I was no longer a young man, satisfied with flings and passing aliens, I longed for the comforts of a home and a wife. Kathryn's replacement came in the form of one B'Ellana Torres, she matched her in strength, temper and quick-wit, though she lacked Kathryn's compassion and kindness and it had been that, ultimately, which led to the end of our relationship. When we had been together I had forced myself to hate her father as she did, but in the end I came to empathise with him as I realised that relationships with Klingons were not easy.
Sitting in the corner of the cafe watching her I had not even realised that she was watching me as well. After a while she stood with her companion, hugged him tightly, and watched him walk out. Then she turned back to me and I swallowed, hard, as I realised she was walking over.
"Admiral Janeway," I greeted, forcing the dread out of my voice. What was she going to say about my staring at her?
"Kathryn," she corrected, "it's good to see you Tom," she said sitting down opposite me. "It's been too long."
"It has," I agreed, though I wasn't sure whether it had been long enough. I'd been comfortable these last four years, wallowing in my obsession of the woman before me. After Harry had died there'd be no one there to stop me. He would have just assumed I was heartbroken because of B'Ellana anyway, just like everybody else.
She took in my appearance and I squirmed, I knew I looked dishevelled. I'd lost weight, I hadn't shaved in a few days and I badly needed a haircut. On the other hand, she seemed to be flourishing on Earth, she had a certain glow that I found irresistible.
"The years have been kind," she lied, as I simply stared at her.
Eventually our awkwardness melted away and we were able to talk. Somehow Picard came up in conversation, and Kathryn grinned when I admitted that I too thought they were an item.
"We're good friends" she admitted, "but when the press see us out together they assume that there is more there than just that. But I haven't been involved with anyone since Chakotay, quite pathetic real..."
"You were involved with Chakotay?" I cut her off, stunned.
"Yes, but only on New Earth, it would have been too complicated on the ship, and when we got back to Earth I wanted to but he was already with Seven." I wasn't sure why she was admitting so much to me, perhaps she hadn't meant to, or perhaps she trusted me now I was no longer in charge of the rumour mill.
"He was a fool, if you don't mind me saying, no man in their right mind would turn you down." I wasn't sure why I said it; perhaps it was because I knew I could crawl back into the woodwork and ignore her for the rest of my life if I chose to.
"Thank you, Tom" she said, blushing. I grinned; it made her even more endearing to me.
Suddenly she glanced at the chronometer over my head, and she remarked, surprised, at how late it had got. "Walk me home?" she asked, almost shyly.
I was stunned, I had never expected it of her, but I wasn't about to turn her down.

Walking home she slipped her hand into mine, entwining our fingers, causing warmth to spread throughout my entire body. I'd only ever read about responses to simple touch like that, but somehow feeling it for her was unsurprising. Walking in silence she led me to her apartment. Hardly surprising it was Starfleet issue, but it was much bigger than many Starfleet apartments I have seen - rank had it's privileges.
She looked up to the sky and her face was ethereal in the moonlight, a fallen angel.
"Wanna come in?" she asked, her tone light, implying nothing.
I looked at her, studying her eyes, her cheeks, pink from the cold, her lips. The thought of how good it would be to kiss her fleetingly crossed my mind and before I could stop myself I found myself lowering my face to hers, caressing her lips with mine. Her lips were soft yet her kiss was surprisingly forceful, especially since I had expected her to push me away, something I found incredibly erotic.

Later, with Kathryn's petite form lying in my arms I studied her and wondered why. Why she had come to me, why she had led me to her home and then to her bed. For a moment I wondered if it was just out of loneliness that came with not having a relationship in almost a decade, a thank-you-kindly before she expected me to be on my way. But then I realised that even if a relationship had been lacking, no doubt she'd had company when she'd needed it - after four years she was still Starfleet's golden girl. Remembering the night we had shared, I knew what one-night stands were like and it wasn't that, our night had been filled with tenderness and something that I hesitated to call love. Perhaps she returned the feelings that I had for her. Even though it was only a small hope it kept me there, holding her small frame until she began to stir. When she awoke she looked at me, a smile on her face, and even if the love I had for her was reflected in her eyes, there was a definite affection there, an affection that seemed to warm me from the inside out.