Tom didn't see Janeway that night and he didn't see her the night after either. It wasn't as if he didn't see her at all – they had overlapping bridge shifts and he ate breakfast with her, Chakotay, and Tuvok once. They shared a turbolift for three decks and she held his hand for two and a half of them without saying a word.
When the ship was back on course toward Earth and back into workable shape, she called him to her quarters.
"Hi," he said, sliding into her quarters, glancing back at the empty corridor behind him.
"Hi," she said. "Chakotay knows."
"Chakotay knows what?" he asked.
"About me and you. About us," she said. Tom stared at her. She was sitting on the sofa holding a cup of tea. She was still in uniform except for her boots.
"Really," Tom said. "That's surprising."
"Not so surprising," she said. "I told him."
"Did you?" he asked, unable to hide his shock. She patted the cushion next to her and he sat down.
"I did," she said.
"Why?" he asked.
"Well, it wasn't on purpose!" she said, defensively.
"What, you stumbled over a bump in the rug and the truth bubbled out of you as if you were a spring?" he asked, his voice rising with each word.
"Yes, Thomas, I'm a spring of truth," she snapped. She rubbed her brow.
"I didn't mean…"
"I know what you meant," she said. "It's just… Chakotay has this open face and he asks these leading questions and suddenly telling him felt like a good idea, and then I did and so, now he knows."
"Clear as day," he said. She pulled a face.
"Sorry," she said.
"Don't be sorry," he said. "It can only improve my reputation."
"Thanks," she said, dryly.
"Harry knows," he said. She let her jaw fall open and then smacked him in the chest.
"You let me do that whole… song and dance!" she said.
"I did," he grinned. "It was cute."
"Why did you tell Harry?" she asked.
"He asked me," Tom said. "Straight out. He asked me if I was sleeping with you."
"Wow," Janeway said. "Welcome aboard Mr. Kim."
"I know!" Tom said. "I had to reward his gung-ho attitude with the truth."
"I should say," she said. "But, I tell you this because I worry that it won't be a secret for very long."
"Harry's poker face does leave one wanting," Tom said.
"And if B'Elanna asks Chakotay, he won't lie to her," Janeway said.
"And if B'Elanna knows…."
"Then so knows my nation," Janeway said. "I wanted to make sure you were going to be all right with that."
"Will you be all right with it?" he pressed. She sighed.
"I don't know," she said. "It isn't you, I'm reluctant to display that part of my life with anyone to the crew."
"Why?" he asked.
"Because I'm the Captain," she said, simply. He waited for something more than that, but she didn't offer it. He'd heard the line before – more often than not from Owen Paris. I'm your father, I'm the Captain, I'm the Admiral – frankly, Tom didn't care.
"Not a lot we can do about it now," Tom said. "This seems to be the sort of thing that resolves itself naturally."
"That's sweet," she said. "Naïve, but sweet." She stood up and offered him her hand. He took it and stood up too. "Stay with me tonight?"
He thought of a million witty ways to respond, but settled for nodding his head and following her into the bedroom.
Later, sweaty and sated and warm in her bed, they spoke in low, secret tones. Tom knew a lot about Janeway now, a lot about how her mind worked and the things she thought about on a daily basis, but there were things even she pushed down deep inside, things that she refused to think about. That's the Janeway Tom wanted to know next.
"I knew I was settling with Mark," she said, her voice even more raspy and low than usual. "It's awful to say it, but I was 42 when he asked me to marry him and going from an empty cabin on a starship to an empty house on Earth was just… no longer attractive."
He didn't say anything; he just let her talk.
"Which isn't to say that I didn't love him," she said. "I'd known him my whole life, practically. He was… is a good man. He would have been very loyal to me. He would have made being a good husband to me the most important thing in his life."
"He sounds good," Tom said.
"My sister suspected, though. I kept pushing back the date of the wedding and she asked me once if I was really sure but I blew her off."
"When was the date of your wedding?" Tom asked.
"Two weeks into Voyager's mission to find Chakotay," she said. "I pushed back the wedding again and left and never came home."
"We all never came home," Tom pointed out. "How did you get me on this ship anyway?"
"What?" she asked.
"I mean, I know you came and made that deal to get me out of Auckland, but I was never really sure how," he said.
"You won't like it," she said. He groaned and pushed his face into her pillow and hair.
"My father?" he asked.
"Do you want to know what he said?" she asked. "He said, aren't you getting married?"
"Did he?" Tom asked.
"He asked me why I took this command," Janeway said, shaking her head. "I could've declined it, got married, and have taken another ship in a few months."
"Why didn't you?" he asked.
"I wanted this ship," she said, reaching up and patting the bulkhead above the bed. "Anyway, I got Voyager, I got you to fly her and while it's not an ideal situation, right now I'm pretty happy."
He was pretty happy too.
Harry and B'Elanna were eating lunch together. Harry was getting used to spending time with B'Elanna alone. At first, it had always been Tom and B'Elanna and sometimes Harry was with them. Now, Tom was always off with the Captain and Harry and B'Elanna were the collateral damage. B'Elanna had been tight-lipped about the situation for the most part. B'Elanna tended not to express any emotion apart from anger but today she seemed listless at best.
"Susan is hosting a poker game tonight," Harry said, trying to keep his voice light. "We need a fifth. Interested?"
"I think I might just get some sleep," she said, looking down into her empty mug.
"Come on," Harry said. "One night."
"I hate poker," she said.
"Have you ever played?"
"It's an archaic game," she said. "Why would I want to?"
"Because it's fun and because actual other living people will be there," Harry said.
"I'm not hiding!" she said.
"Prove it to me by coming out tonight!" he said. "Two hours."
"I don't have anything to prove," she muttered.
"I'll even pick you up," he said. "We'll argue later."
"Yes," she said. "We will."
B'Elanna had agreed to go with him but he knew better than to tease her. They were walking toward Susan Nicoletti's quarters at the pace of off-duty officers when they went around the bend. Harry knew they were going to pass Tom's quarters but thought of nothing more than walking by them and pretending like he didn't notice. But as they rounded the bend, this hiss of opening doors made them pause and he felt his mouth fall open when Captain Janeway stepped out of Tom's quarters. Beside him, B'Elanna looked shocked as well.
Janeway, to her credit, held herself very well for coming out of a Lieutenant's quarters in civilian clothes. She tilted her chin up and gave a stiff nod.
"Lieutenant Torres. Ensign Kim," she said. And then she walked past them and made her way briskly down the hall and out of sight. Harry closed his mouth and braced himself.
"Did you know?" B'Elanna asked finally, her voice smaller than he'd ever heard it.
"It's probably not what it looks like," Harry said, trying to dodge the question.
"She was wearing Tom's shirt!" B'Elanna pointed out. Suddenly, she found her feet and started walking again. She shot past Tom's quarters and Harry had to hurry to catch up. "You knew!" B'Elanna accused. "Tom is a liar! I'm going to kill him!" She stopped and spun on her heel intent on going back to his quarters to do just that.
"Wait!" Harry said. "Just wait." She looked at him, her arms crossed and held painfully close to herself.
"What?" she said.
"Yes, I knew, but I really don't think Tom lied to you," Harry said.
"He promised me it wasn't her," B'Elanna said. "How is that not a lie?"
"Things change," Harry said. But B'Elanna didn't want to hear it, didn't want Harry to explain away her anger.
"You know what? I really don't feel like playing poker," B'Elanna said. "Tell Susan I'm sorry."
Harry stood alone in the corridor.
"I need your help," Janeway said, standing in Chakotay's office. Chakotay was surprised to see her – she'd gone off duty over two hours ago and he'd left the bridge to Tuvok not long after that. Now, here she was in his office, looking agitated and peculiarly underdressed.
"I'm afraid to ask," he said.
"Remember when you told me that the crew would be happy for Tom and I? That I should live my life? That it would all work itself out?" she asked.
"What did you do?" he asked, rubbing his forehead.
"It's not so much what I did as where I did and in front of whom," she said, flopping into a chair.
"I was walking out of Tom's quarters and I ran into Harry and B'Elanna," she said. "You haven't, by chance, informed her of my relationship with Tom already, have you?"
"No," he said, indignantly.
"Yeah," she said. "That's what I thought. The look on her face was most enlightening."
"What did you do?" Chakotay asked.
"Got the hell out of there, what would you have done?" she asked.
"Probably the same thing," he said, sounding slightly amused. "But you'll have to face her eventually."
"I know," she said. "I need to talk to her woman to woman but I don't know what to say."
"And you think I do?" he asked, moving to the replicator. He got her a cup of coffee and himself some tea. She took it.
"I know you're not the ideal person to share this… specific problem with but you know B'Elanna better than anyone," she said. "I'd appreciate any advice."
"I'd stay out of her way," Chakotay said. She stared at him.
"Not exactly the solution I was looking for," she said.
"Just for a few days," he said. "Let her cool down."
"Then what?" she said.
"Oh no," he said. "This is your mess. You had your chance with me and you threw it away. I can't help you now."
"Fine," she said. "Fine! Abandon me in my time of need. Some first officer you are."
He grinned at her.
"And what did Lieutenant Paris say?" he asked. She winced. "You haven't told him?"
"It just happened!" she said.
"It isn't yourself you should be worrying about, it's your helmsman," he said. "B'Elanna is smart enough not to take her anger out on the Captain."
"You think?" she asked, sitting up worriedly.
"She'll find someway to make his life miserable, mark my words," Chakotay said. Janeway shot out of her chair and set her coffee mug on his desk so hard that the liquid sloshed over the edge of the lip.
"Gotta go," she said, and rushed out. Chakotay's smile faded from his face. He had told her that things would work themselves out naturally and at the time he had wanted to believe it. Now, he was not so sure. Kathryn Janeway was a fine Captain and a stellar officer but her personal and social skills left something to be desired.
"Chakotay to Torres," Chakotay said, tapping his badge.
"Torres here," she responded.
"Everything all right?" he asked.
"I don't feel like talking just now," she said.
"Mind if I stop by?" he asked.
"You outrank me," she said. It wasn't exactly an invitation.
When he rang her chime, she let him in. She was sitting in her desk chair, staring at the blank screen of her computer.
"B'Elanna," he said.
"She reminds me of my mother," B'Elanna said, glancing at her. "Janeway."
"How so?" Chakotay asked.
"Stubborn. Single-minded. Tyrannical."
"I think that's a little harsh," he said. "She isn't trying to hurt you."
"Are you her messenger now?" B'Elanna asked.
"No," he said. "I'm here at my own risk."
"Brave of you," she said. Chakotay perched on the desk next to her.
"You and I are going to figure out a way to make all of this work, all right?" he said.
"I'll still take her orders," B'Elanna said. "Follow protocol. You can't ask me for anything more."
"It's going to make it a long trip," Chakotay said.
"It's already a long trip," she said.
"Just go to sleep," Tom groaned, rolling over. She was sitting up in bed, fretting. She'd come bursting into his quarters babbling about B'Elanna and retribution and he'd finally calmed her down but now she was tossing and turning.
"I'm not tired," she said.
"Yes, you are," he said. "That's why you left in the first place. I wanted you to spend the night, but you wanted to get some sleep and so you left! Now I want to sleep but I can't because I can literally hear you grinding your teeth!"
"Why are you yelling at me?" she asked.
"Because you're acting irrationally. B'Elanna isn't going to come in here with a compression phaser rifle, Kathryn, and if she does come here, you honestly don't think I can handle myself?"
"I don't know," she said, realizing this was a fight. Now her ire was up and she puffed up, steeling herself. "She beat you up the last time, why would this time be different?"
"I don't need you to protect me," he said, throwing back the covers and getting out of bed.
"Don't walk away from me," she yelled after him before rushing after him. He stood in the living room, his arms crossed. "I came here because I was concerned!"
"For your self," he yelled. "For your reputation. That's what this is all about isn't it?"
"No!" she said.
"No?" he said. "Then why are we hiding? Let's go right now, let's go tell everyone."
"My personal life isn't for public consumption," she said.
"Your life or our life?" he said. "You were scared not because you thought B'Elanna would be angry, but because you think she's going to tell everyone."
"Tell me the truth."
"I'm the Captain, Tom. I don't get to keep a lot of things to myself."
"That's bullshit," he said. "Do you think I would ever know you as well as I do if I hadn't been able to hear your thoughts? Do you think you would have ever opened up to me? Do you think you'll ever open up to me again?"
"I told you all about Mark," she said. "I don't hear you telling your secrets!"
"It's been a month!" he said. "Things take time."
"So you get time but I don't?" she accused. He sighed, threw up his hands, and turned away. "I get it," she said and pulled off his shirt that she'd been wearing. She was wearing a tank top underneath, something she wouldn't ordinarily wear out in public but she'd make an exception now. She balled up the shirt and threw it on the floor. "I think I will sleep in my own quarters tonight."
"Fine!" he said.
"Fine," she yelled and stormed out.
Kathryn was still in bed when she heard her door chime. She ignored it – she'd rearranged her schedule with Chakotay and had refused to answer any questions. It was Captain's prerogative and if she wanted to use the whole morning and most of the afternoon to mope in bed feeling sorry for her self, then she would. The door chimed again.
She closed her eyes tight and waited for it to go away.
Her door chimed.
"Come in," she whispered, sitting up. It was either Chakotay or Tom. There was a slight possibility that it was Tuvok but she doubted it. No one else would be brave or stupid enough to disturb her at home. She managed to sit up, but she couldn't bother to stand or make herself presentable for whoever it was that would walk through the door.
It was B'Elanna and Janeway could admit she did not expect that. She wiped at her face, trying to eliminate any trace of moisture before B'Elanna could notice it but it was too late. The anger drained quickly from B'Elanna's features and turned quickly to concern.
"Are you all right?" she asked.
"I'm fine, Lieutenant," she said, standing. "Did you need something?"
"I just wanted to… are you sure? Do you want to… talk about it?" B'Elanna asked.
"I'm sure you really want to talk about my problems with me," Janeway said, sinking back down to the mattress. "Why don't you just say what you came to say? I deserve it."
"May I?" B'Elanna said, motioning to the bed. She didn't say no, so B'Elanna sat next to her. "Captain, I want to be mad at you. I mean I really want to. But the truth is, it's Tom I'm mad at, not you."
"I understand that," Janeway said. "I'm pretty mad at him too."
"I can see that," B'Elanna said. "The truth is, Tom and I were never going to work. We fought all the time. We weren't honest with each other. I think, though it pains me to say it, that you are a much better match for him."
"I'm not so sure," Janeway said, her voice low.
"We had a fight," she said, feeling the burn of tears behind her eyes once more. She forced the feeling away – she would not cry now. "I'm not sure I have what it takes to…"
She sighed and shook her head.
"B'Elanna, I'm so sorry about what happened. I never meant to hurt you."
"Apology accepted," B'Elanna said. "I know how he can be. He worms his way into your heart. Like a parasite."
Janeway let out a dry chuckle. "Something like that," she confirmed.
"Tom is used to fighting," B'Elanna said. "A learned behavior from me no doubt."
"No doubt," Janeway agreed. B'Elanna frowned but there was no real venom behind the expression.
"I find fighting fun," B'Elanna sniffed. "But if you don't, you might want to say something."
"Maybe I should," Janeway sighed. "Is there anything I can do for you, B'Elanna?"
"No," she said. "Just… don't take this the wrong way, okay?"
"Okay," Janeway said, warily.
"Don't be nice to me," B'Elanna said. "Be my Captain. Be supportive, be direct. Order me around and expect the impossible but don't be nice because you feel guilty."
"Now that, I can do," Janeway promised. "Business as usual?"
"Yes Ma'am," she said.
"In that case, you're dismissed," Janeway said. "I'm not quite done feeling sorry for myself."
"You're not going to talk to him?" B'Elanna asked.
"I will, just not... today," Janeway said.
The bridge shift was awkward. Tom faced forward, his head bowed to his console. She wanted to slink away to her ready room but she refused to do so. She would not be chased off of her own bridge by a lover's quarrel.
At the end of the shift, she dismissed the crew but stayed in her seat. Tom glanced at her as he walked to the turbolift but didn't say anything and neither did she. It was her prerogative to follow him but it was also her choice to stay in her chair and make the next round of officers nervous by staring over their shoulders. Chakotay raised his eyebrow at her but knew better than to say anything.
But he couldn't hold his tongue forever.
"Is this going to be one of those 24-hour shifts that you're so good at?" he asked.
"Why do you feel the need to comment on my every action?" she snapped, tapping at the panel between their seats slightly harder than necessary.
"Would you prefer I just come out and say that I think you should go home?" he asked.
"I'd prefer if you said nothing at all," she said, tersely.
"That would make me a pretty poor first officer," Chakotay said, not letting her foul mood bring him down. "Personnel is my job and that, unfortunately, includes you."
"I'm fine," she said.
"I can tell," he said, turning back to the view screen and the stars streaking past.
"I do have a lot of work," she said, defensively.
"You and I both," he said, amiably. "You know where I like to work?"
"My quarters, after a warm meal," he said. She glared at him.
"Are you going to keep this up until I leave?" she asked.
"Seems likely," he said.
"You're a mean person, you know that?" she said, standing.
"So they tell me," he chuckled.
She left the bridge, throwing dirty looks at him until they were separated by the turbolift doors. She decided to go to the mess hall and eat something. The place wasn't busy – it was an off hour so she ate from her tray alone and decided that she would work from her quarters.
When she stepped inside, she saw they were empty. Of course they were empty, she scolded herself, but a small part of her had hoped that Tom would be waiting for her, willing to talk things out. But, she was the one who had stormed out. Perhaps she should be the one to make-up?
"Computer, locate Tom Paris," she said.
"Tom Paris is in his quarters," the computer responded dutifully.
"Janeway to Paris," she said.
"Paris here, Captain," he said. She winced at the formality of her title.
"I deserved that," she said. "Can we talk?"
"Sure," he said, his voice softening only slightly. "I'm on my way."
It seemed to take forever for him to actually arrive. Maybe he was punishing her, making her wait. She paced a groove into her carpet, too agitated to order anything from the replicator or to sit down. She felt sick to her stomach knowing that things were not right between Tom and herself and she wished, momentarily, that the implants were back. That their floodgate of communication was open and that they both simply understood like the had at the start.
When the door finally chimed, she was too nervous to do anything but open the door and let him in. He stared at her and she at him for a few seconds.
"Kathryn, if you…"
"I'm sorry," she blurted, cutting him off. "And I don't really say that very often, so will you please, please just take it at face value and forgive me for being stubborn and selfish?"
"Yes," he said.
"I worked it out with B'Elanna," she promised. "Well, actually, B'Elanna worked it out with me."
"I said I forgive you," he said.
"And I really don't think she's mad at you despite what she said…"
"Kathryn," he said, loudly.
"What?" she said.
"You're rambling," he said.
"Sorry," she said.
"Look," he said. He grabbed her shoulders and steered them both into a seat. "We're going to fight."
"Right now?" she asked.
"I mean, in general. Part of living with a partner is fighting. It's human nature," he explained. "And I expect seeing you storming out is going to be a normal part of my life."
"I see," she said.
"But we're going to make up after," he promised.
"You seem confident about that."
"I am," he said. "I don't want to be with someone who agrees with me all the time. That's boring, you know?"
She did understand what he meant. She smiled, relieved and stuck out her hand for a handshake.
"Friends?" she said. He took her hand and pulled her to him. His arms came around her and she relaxed into the embrace. "I'm not ashamed of you, Tom."
"I know," he said. "Besides, I sort of think everyone knows already."
She pulled back and searched his face.
"Why?" she said. "No wait… let me guess. Harry Kim?"
"Harry 'read me like a book' Kim," Tom said, with a smile. "Those Delaney twins can be very persuasive and catching you off-guard threw him off his game."
"Megan and Jenny," Janeway said, shaking her head ruefully. "I almost split them up, you know."
"What?" he gasped.
"Twins who work in the same department? Who've never had an assignment apart? I thought it was high time they learned to live separate lives," she said.
"What changed your mind?" he asked.
"Commander Cavit, actually," Janeway said, softly. It was taboo to talk about those who'd died on the bumpy ride to the Delta Quadrant; it just wasn't done. The wound would always be fresh to Janeway. "He had twin boys." She looked out the window. "Oliver and Caleb."
"I can't imagine Jenny or Megan without the other," Tom said, trying to bring her back to the present.
"They sure do help your gambling ring," she said, smirking.
"Don't call it a gambling ring, you make me sound seedy!" he complained.
"You are seedy," she accused. "And what would you have me call it?"
"My extracurricular rations activities?" he offered.
"I don't think so," she said. "Just make sure you never run anything from these quarters, Mister."
"Nothing that you know about," he promised, grabbing her by the waist and pulling her into his lap.
Later, after they had truly made up, they were sprawled across her bed. She was dozing, pretending like she wasn't really tired enough to fall asleep but he knew better. He pulled the blankets over her and reached across her to turn the lights down.
"I'm awake," she murmured, batting his arm away from the panel.
"You could've fooled me," he said. She rolled over, nuzzling herself into his side. He never expected her to be so affectionate. He should have, he realized. She'd never been stingy with physical touch. She always reached out a hand in a time of need, but this version of Kathryn was almost clingy. She liked the weight of an arm or a leg over her.
"I am," she said, her eyes closed and brow relaxed.
"Hey," he said. "You know that we don't have anything to prove, right?"
This snagged her attention and he saw her claw her way back to full consciousness. She sat up a little and looked at him.
"What in the world do you mean by that statement?" she asked.
"I just mean… what I had with B'Elanna wasn't the kind of relationship I want."
"I'm not B'Elanna," she said, peevishly.
"Not what I meant," he said, holding up a hand in surrender. "With her, it was always fights in the hallways, in the mess hall. We were always bickering, always needling each other. I can't tell you how many fights we picked just for the sake of it. Everything always had to be this enormous gesture to mean anything. It was, frankly, exhausting."
"Sounds like," she said. She sensed the danger was over and put her head back onto his shoulder.
"My mother told me that falling in love was supposed to be exhilarating, like going on an adventure," he said. "But exhilarating and exhausting aren't the same thing."
"Nope," she said. "Though you're kind of making me feel like a bore."
"You aren't boring," he assured her. "I don't think anyone on this ship would dare call you boring."
"Well, I do try."
"I think we're better, though. Our romance is like… two shuttles on the same flight path. Instead of waiting to pass, we just found a way to fly a parallel course," Tom explained. She kissed his neck.
"That's a sweet way to put it," she said. "I think so too."
"Where are you going?" Tom mumbled, trying to pull her back into bed.
"I have a date in the holodeck," Janeway said, batting his hand away.
"With who?" he demanded. She pushed her hair out of her face and put her hands on her hips.
"Wouldn't you like to know," she teased.
"It'd better not be Chakotay," Tom huffed. "Sure he's supportive on the surface, but I'm almost certain he's plotting to steal you away."
"I'm positive he is," she agreed. Tom blanched. "Oh, give me some credit."
"You know, my people have ancient legends too," he said.
"You're French and Irish," she said. "I already know your ancient legends. Most of them take place at a pub."
"You're Irish, too," he said.
"That's how I know," she laughed, walking into the bathroom. He heard the sonic shower activate. He grumbled and crawled out of the bed. He walked into the bathroom. "Sure, come on in," she said, dryly but made no move to actually cover herself.
"You are really going to the holodeck?" he asked.
"I really am," she said. "For your information, I have a Velocity date with Seven of Nine."
"We could play doubles," Tom said. "I bet Harry would volunteer to be on Seven's team."
"That's a good idea," Janeway said, pulling a red exercise tunic over hear head. "But not today. The last thing Seven needs is me springing even more social interaction on her."
"A fair point," Tom conceded. "But you'd be willing to do stuff with other people?"
"Yes," she said, sternly. "Of course, Tom."
"Good," he said.
She was worried about his tone, slightly, but didn't have time to wait around and see what it meant. Seven was already in the holodeck, waiting for her. Not one for small talk, they got right into the first set. Janeway felt slightly distracted and the game got away from her.
"Winner, Seven of Nine," the Computer declared.
"Good game," Janeway said, amiably.
"You allowed me to win," Seven accused. "You were distracted."
"Seven, do you see anyone else, socially?" Janeway asked.
"I see the Doctor for my maintenance and social lessons," Seven said. Janeway tossed her a towel and took one for her self.
"Neelix serves me in the mess hall when I require solid nutrients," she said.
"So, no," Janeway answered for her. "I think it would be good for you to spend more social time with more members of the crew."
"I am not yet comfortable interacting with people I do not know well," Seven said.
"What about the people you do know well? The senior staff?" Janeway prodded.
"Perhaps," Seven said though she didn't sound convinced.
"Tomorrow, same time, we'll play doubles," Janeway declared. "Computer, start play."
She didn't give Seven time to refuse.
After word got out that Tom and Janeway were making social appearances together, the invitations started coming in. Chakotay was in charge of organizing the opening ceremony for Astrometrics and Janeway was certain it wasn't a mistake that the invitation that appeared in her in-box was addressed to herself as well as one Lieutenant Tom Paris. The Prixin invitation came next, also addressed to the both of them. A few days later, an invite to a holo-slideshow from the Doctor.
"And you were worried the crew wouldn't accept us," Tom teased her, leaning over her shoulder and staring at the screen.
"Guess that's over," Janeway said.
Harry was the first one to extend an actual, oral invitation. Janeway was in Tom's quarters when Harry stopped by. She was in his bed, plowing through a stack of reports. He was at the desk, working on a report for her that was due in the morning. They had long ago deducted that working in the same room was not at all efficient.
When the door chimed, she ignored it. It wasn't her quarters and therefore not her responsibility to answer the door. She heard Tom call for entrance and then Harry's voice.
"Come on, let's go get dinner," Harry said.
"I can't, I have to finish this," Tom said.
"You can spare an hour to eat," Harry argued. "Come on!"
"I really can't, it's for the Captain," Tom said. Janeway smirked. The Captain was always the best excuse – she'd used it herself as a lower ranking officer.
"Oh, I'm sure you'd really take the brunt of her wrath if your report was late," Harry said, sarcastically. "If anyone can afford to slack off, it's you."
"Harry, I really wouldn't…" Tom tried to say.
"What? You're the ultimate Captain's pet. What could you possibly say to refute that?" Harry said. Janeway knew a cue when she heard one.
"Ensign Kim?" she called through her smile. "Could you step in here please?"
There was a very silent, very long pause before Harry walked into the bedroom, his head already hung in shame.
"Captain, I really…"
"Didn't know I was here, I gathered," she said, sitting up, tossing the PADD aside. "Do you really think I cut Lieutenant Paris more slack than anyone else?"
"No, Ma'am," Harry said.
"What do you have to say for yourself then?" Janeway asked, her voice stern even though her posture was not. Harry looked around, stalling for time while he thought of what might offend the Captain the least.
"You want to get something to eat?" Harry said, finally. Janeway smiled, and then it turned into laugh.
"Yeah," she said, standing up. "I think we can spare an hour."
"Really?" Tom said, appearing.
"Unless you don't think you can finish your report in the next eight hours," Janeway said, challengingly.
"Bring it on, woman," Tom said, slipping on his uniform jacket. Janeway smiled and winked at Harry as she passed. Harry finally caught up to them in the corridor.
"I don't know what you did," Harry said to Tom. "But I like it."
"Me too," Tom said.
"Me three," Janeway said, stepping onto the turbolift. "Computer, Deck Two."
Prixin was always a lively event. Neelix had spent weeks preparing aging the nectar and designing the decorations for the mess hall – and talking everyone's ear off about his excitement over the holiday. Janeway and Tom had arrived together and that fact alone had kept the conversation buzzing for at least an hour even though they'd parted ways as soon as they'd spotted their friends. Tom was over by the kitchen with Harry and the twins plotting the best way to spike the nectar even more and Janeway was holding court with Chakotay and Seven, listening to the Doctor tell a story. From her glazed expression, Tom could see he wasn't missing much.
Janeway noticed him watching her and smiled softly at him. He smiled back and nodded his greeting. She tilted her head, a gesture he understood as her way of asking if he was doing all right. He nodded and then glanced over at the food table. She nodded once and glanced at the Doctor, letting Tom know that she needed a minute to extricate herself from the group she was with.
"And then I decided, you know what? Joining a Kazon sect is probably a pretty wise career choice so I requisitioned a shuttle and I'm heading out tomorrow," Jenny said, sipping her drink.
"That sounds fun," Tom said. "If you'll excuse me…"
"Just go," Megan said, laughing. "He's not exactly a captive audience, is he Jen?"
"Not exactly," Jenny said, watching Tom cross the room to meet the Captain.
"Hi," he said.
"Hello," she replied. They stood by the food table but neither made a move to fix a plate.
"Having fun?" he asked.
"Of course," she said. "Yourself?"
"I'm having a great time," Tom said. "The nectar is good this year."
"Yes," Janeway said. "Tastes like you helped improve it."
"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," Tom said.
"I'm sure you don't," she said. They looked at each other for a moment, listening to the sounds of the party around them – conversation, music, and laughter.
"You want to get out of here?" he asked, dropping his voice.
"I thought you'd never ask," she said.
"Come on," Tom said, grabbing her elbow.
Harry watched them walk out the door. As soon as they were gone, the room erupted in conversation on their departure. Harry stepped up onto a chair and cleared his throat, pulling a PADD out of his pocket.
"All right, everyone," he said. "Who had two hours and fifteen minutes?"
"Harry!" Ayala said, sounding shocked. "What happened to taking the high road?"
"That was then," Harry said, grinning. "This is now and rations are rations. Now! Who had two hours and fifteen minutes?"
"That would be me," Chakotay said, stepping out from the crowd. Harry looked confused.
"You entered?" Harry asked.
"And won," Chakotay said, reaching out his hand. Harry reluctantly handed the PADD over. "Listen up everyone, because I'm only going to say this once. I don't want you betting on the Captain anymore. It's conduct unbecoming to any officer, let alone all of them."
There was a murmur of apology.
"Are you going to tell the Captain?" Harry asked, stepping down from the chair.
"And give up my rations? I don't think so," Chakotay said with a grin.
"What would have happened if you didn't win?" Harry asked.
"Luckily, I know the Captain pretty well," Chakotay said. "I was always going to win, Harry."
Almost always, Chakotay thought but kept it to himself.
"Do you think our exit was too conspicuous?" Janeway asked, her head on Tom's chest. They were in bed and she was fighting to stay awake. He stroked her hair and held her close, drowsy himself.
"I'm sure nobody noticed a thing," he said, dropping a kiss on her head. She sighed, snuggling closer into his embrace. Together, they drifted off to sleep.