He's at work when a call comes through.

"Tom Paris?" the unfamiliar face says.

"Yes?" he says.

"We're here to deliver and install your new table," the man says, looking down at the information tablet in his hand.

"My what?" he says.

"You are Lieutenant Commander Thomas Paris?" he repeats.

"Yes," Tom says. "But I didn't order anything."

"Well, someone did and we're here to install it," the man says impatiently. Tom sighs and glances at the chronometer.

"All right, give me fifteen minutes. I'll be right there."

The good thing about being second in command at work is when he steps out, no one says anything. There are two men waiting outside his house with a large crate.

"Finally," the man mutters.

"Can I see the invoice please?" Tom says.

"I need your authorization anyhow," the man says, handing the tablet over. Tom studies the document and sees that the table has been shipped from Indiana.

"Janeway," he mutters. But what can he do? He authorizes the shipment and lets the men into his house. He directs them to the kitchen and watches them open the crate. The table they put together is beautiful, he has to admit. It's a blonde wood, and slightly larger than the last table. Its legs are carved into intricate patterns that somehow manage not to look fussy and while the old table had years of character, this table smells of freshly cut wood and the promise of a long and fruitful life.

"There you go," the man says.

"Thanks," Tom says, running his hand over the smooth surface. The table needs to be sealed, but that will be easy to do. He should call her, but the time difference makes that impossible so he goes back to work to finish out the day. To finish out the week, actually. It dawns on him that he could thank her in person, if he wanted.

When he gets home, he contacts her.

"Did you get your present?" she asks.

"You didn't have to do that, you know," he says. She sitting in her apartment, he can see the windows behind her. She's also in her bathrobe, holding a mug of coffee.

"I was visiting my mother, and we were shopping and I saw it and… well, it really wouldn't go in my apartment," she says.

"It's beautiful, thank you," he says. "My chairs clash now, though."

"I know," she says. "The shop had a couple of variations and I couldn't decide, but I told them I'd let them know. Want to come out and see what they have to offer?"

"Sure," he says. He doesn't even have to fish for the invitation, she just hands it to him.

"I have to get ready for work," she says, glancing away from the screen. "Someday, we should try living a little closer."

"We're on the same planet," he points out. "Not so bad."

"Well, I'd like to be in the same time zone," she says. "Every time I think about calling you, I realize you're asleep or at work or it's not a good time."

"That's true," he says.

"All right, I'll have my aide forward you the appropriate travel information," she says. "Janeway out."

A few hours later, his console beeps. She wants him to meet her in San Francisco. It makes sense to travel together, but her schedule hasn't left him much time for sleep so he forgoes it all together and spends the rest of his time packing and drinking caffeine.

When he sees her, they don't embrace but her smile is big. He starts to step off the transporter pad but instead she climbs up and stands next to him.

"Energize," she calls out and he doesn't even get a chance to brace himself before he's put through the transporter cycle once more.

"Tom," she says, stepping off the pad without missing a beat. "The trees have started to bloom! I really thought you needed to see my hometown when it wasn't the dead of winter and this is the perfect excuse. Now, we can walk or hop one of the transports, it's really up to you but… Are you coming?"

Tom rushes to follow her. She's in rare form, energized and happy and while they always get along, she's not usually so full of pep. He wishes he'd bothered with a few hours of sleep when he jogs up beside her.

"I think we should walk," Janeway says. "That way you can see more of the town!"

"Sure," he says.

"Hey," she says, touching his arm and stopping them. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah," he says. "I'm just playing catch up. You know, transporter lag."

This seems to bring her back to a normal speed and as they walk through the town, she points out her favorite landmarks. The old, stone houses with small porches and blooming gardens behind wooden fences. They walk through the center of what used to be the University campus. She points out where she played tennis as a child, the front of the school she attended, her favorite coffee shop, and the tree she fell out of when she was seven and broke her arm in three places.

It's a beautiful town, but somehow Tom always imagined her coming from someplace… bigger.

The showroom she brings him into smells of fresh wood and paint.

"At first, I thought about sending you these," Janeway says, not wasting any time. The chairs she points out are nice, but boring. "But..."

"Yeah," he agrees. "I guess I kind of like those." But does he like them enough to purchase them? The upholstery seems fussy and the wood isn't quite the same shade as he has in his memory.

Janeway shrugs, to show she's not particularly drawn to them either.

"How about these?" she says, pointing to a set. The chairs are much more ornate than his table.

"They're just chairs," Tom says, suddenly disheartened. "Who sees them but me anyway?"

"I do," Janeway says. "And Harry. And Miral."

"I could just stain the table to match the chairs I already have," he says.

"Don't stain my table!" she exclaims, pained.

"Your table?" he asks.

"Our table," she corrects but it isn't much of a concession. "Anyway, do you want to go look the workshop? It's in a beautiful old building behind this one."

Tom has already resigned himself to following her for the rest of his natural life within and outside of Starfleet, so he has no problem doing so now. They move through the back door and cross an alley.

"Is this a church?" Tom asks, looking up as they enter the workshop building.

"I think it was, a long time ago," Janeway says. Inside, they're greeted by the sound of someone sawing wood. On the far wall is an enormous stained glass window filled with religious imagery, but the space itself has been gutted. Instead of seating, the room is filled with lumber and equipment; with furniture in various states.

"Wow," says Tom.

"I know," she says. "I bet if you talked to Peter, he'd design something more suited for your table."

"Peter?" Tom asks.

"This is his workshop," she says. "Family friend."

"Kathryn!"

As if on cue, the sawing stops and Peter calls her name across the wide-open space.

"I told you I'd be back!" she calls, and leaves Tom behind, walking toward the man who has summoned her. They embrace, and she wipes sawdust off her front, smiling.

"How did the table work out?" Peter asks. Janeway glances at Tom and he steps closer.

"It's great," he says. "Extraordinary."

"Kathryn has great taste," Peter says. "I made her this cherry wood bed frame, once, and I still think it's my favorite piece."

"Really?" Tom asks.

"Unfortunately, I couldn't bring it on Voyager with me," she says. Tom understands what she is implying. The bed must have been left on Earth, with Mark. "But, Tom needs chairs!"

"Tom Paris," Tom says, extending his hand. Peter shakes it. When he smiles, his brown eyes crinkle. He sports a thick, red beard and seems friendly. Tom feels at ease, but perhaps it is because Janeway is at ease.

"Peter Hadley," he says. "And how do you know Ms. Janeway?"

"I'm her…" Tom pauses. What should he say? Helmsman? First officer? Both of those things are true and inaccurate. "Friend," he settles on.

"Nice to meet you," Peter says.

"The chairs in the showroom are lovely, but not quite what I had in mind for that particular table," Janeway says, touching Peter's arm and leading him toward the design table that sits in the corner. "I was hoping perhaps you could design something else?"

Tom lets them go. While they chat, he wanders around, looking at the furniture being built, the machinery, and the architecture of the old building. There are stone arches, dark wooden paneled walls, and smaller, thicker windows. He runs his hand along a pattern carved into the stone wall.

"Tom?"

Janeway's voice is suddenly right behind him and he spins around to face her.

"I was calling for you," she says. "Didn't you hear?"

"No," he says. "Sorry. What did you need?"

"Do you want to look at what he sketched up?" she says.

"You know?" Tom says. "I trust you. I think I'll just leave it in your capable hands."

"Are you sure?" she asks. He nods. "Okay."

"But I want to authorize the purchase under my account," he says.

"Don't be silly," she says. "It's already taken care of."

oooo

Tom is wilting as they leave the showroom behind. He's exhausted and can't seem to walk and keep up idle conversation at the same time.

"Are you hungry?" Janeway asks, glancing at him. She is concerned, perhaps.

"No," he says. "I'm tired, I think. I could use a rest."

"I was thinking we could have dinner with my mother since we're in town," Janeway says. "Want to head over there now? You could sleep in the guest room."

"I don't want to impose on her," Tom says.

"Don't be silly," Janeway chides again, taking his arm in her own in a companionable gesture. At the corner, there's a transport stop and she directs him aboard and into a seat. He lets out a weary sigh. "When is the last time you slept?"

"What's today?" he jokes.

"You didn't have to come right away, you know. We could have done this in the afternoon!"

"I was excited," he admits. It's warm on the transport and not very crowded and Janeway's knees rest against the side of his leg as they travel, shooting just above the city. He rests his head against the window.

"Silly man," she says, but mostly she speaks to her self. She has to tap him when their stop comes up and he follows her off the transport. They are silent on the short walk, and when her house comes into view, he knows he'll have to use the last of his energy to meet the famous Gretchen. He thinks, perhaps, he has met her before as a child but he can't quite remember.

Janeway doesn't knock on the door, just opens it and pushes him across the threshold.

"Mother?" she calls. Gretchen appears, wiping her hand on a faded dishtowel.

"Kathryn?" she says. "Goodness, you're early."

"I have a soldier down," she says, grinning and hugging her mother.

"Tom Paris," Gretchen says and surprises him by enveloping him into a hug as well. He hugs her back, to startled to do anything else. He is not from a tactile family – he can't remember the last his father had hugged him without a sense of duty attached and his mother has been dead for years now. "Welcome."

"Thank you," he says.

"Mom, Tom needs a rest from me," Janeway says. "Is it all right if I put him in the guest?"

"Of course," she says. "It'll give us a chance to chat."

"Thank you, Mrs. Janeway," Tom says. He knows where the guest room is but allows Janeway to lead him there anyhow. She opens the door for him and makes sure there are linens on the mattress. He sits on the end of the bed and lets himself fall backwards. She stands by the bed and frets.

"I'll make sure you don't sleep through dinner," she says in a soft voice. She seems to hesitate for a moment, before reaching out and touching the back of her hand to his forehead.

"I'm fine, Kath," he murmurs. "Just not as young and resilient as I once was."

"All right," she says, withdrawing her hand. He reaches up; snatches it with his own and gives it a squeeze. She smiles at him, squeezes the hand back and closes the door behind her when she leaves.

oooo

He can smell dinner cooking. It reminds him of being a young boy and waking up to the sound of his mom and his sisters in the kitchen. This time, however, he can hear Janeway's mother humming down the hall. Beside him, the mattress dips. Janeway touches his forehead again and pushes his hair back away from his face. Her fingers feel cool against his warm skin.

"Tom?" she says.

He doesn't say anything, just luxuriates in the warm, soft bed and her attentions.

"Open your eyes, you big faker," she says. He laughs and turns his head to face her.

"I could've been really sleeping," he murmurs, tiredly, his voice low and rough. "You don't know."

"I do know," she says. "I did know."

"Yeah, well, nobody likes a know-it-all," he says. She smacks him before withdrawing her hand.

"You going to sleep all night or do you want to get up for dinner?" she asks.

"Just a few minutes more," he says, pressing his face back into the pillow.

"All right, but don't be too long," she says. When she starts to stand, he grabs her wrist.

"Stay," he says.

"Tom…"

"Come on, all that alone time with your mother. You probably need a rest, too," he says. He scoots over a little. "Plenty of room."

"You're going to get us all in trouble," she mutters but lays down next to him, leaving several inches of space between them.

"Are you planning on broadcasting the fact that we cuddled to some wider audience?" he asks.

"No, and we're not cuddling," she points out.

"Not yet," he says.

"Ha."

"I'm a fine cuddler," he says. "You're missing out."

"Am I?" she asks.

"Sure, ask anyone," he says.

"You and Harry clock a lot of time cuddling?" she asks.

"You'd like that, wouldn't you," he smiles and scoots closer to her.

"Maybe," she says, settling into him, her back against his chest. It is kind of nice, having another person flush against her. It's comfortable – the smell of Tom is familiar and the way he tucks her head into the crook of his arm is pleasant.

"See?" he says after a moment.

"I think," she says, "I think we need to have a talk, Tom."

"Wait," he says. "Not yet, okay?"

"Then when?" she asks.

"Soon," he promises. "But right now let's just lay here and then go eat dinner with your mother and have a nice evening."

"She's waiting for us, you know," Janeway says, shifting slightly. She doesn't shift away from him though so he drapes his free arm across her hip.

"We have time," he promises. Janeway closes her eyes but can't rest. Her heart is fluttering in her chest. A few minutes pass and Tom sighs.

"She made a roast," Janeway says, suddenly. "She wants to impress you."

Tom kisses her shoulder before he sits up.

"She raised you," he says. "I'm already impressed."

oooo

Tom had planned, when he left Ireland, to stay for the weekend. Janeway's apartment is spacious and there is room for him but now, walking her to her door, he's not sure that's still the plan. Perhaps he should just go home and let some time pass. She seems nervous as she enters the code to unlock her door. When she walks through, he hesitates.

"Are you waiting for an engraved invitation or what?" she asks.

"You're upset."

"No," she sighs. "I just don't know what that was back there."

"It was…"

Tom shrugs. It was whatever she wanted it to be, but that isn't something he's going to say to her.

"Exactly," she says. He still hasn't entered the apartment and she stares at him, waiting for him to make some sort of move. "You're staying, aren't you?"

"If you want me to," he says.

"I want you to do what you want," she says. "See? Now things are different between us already."

"Kathryn, calm down," he orders. "Nothing is different. The only different thing is your attitude."

"My attitude?" she says, putting her hands on her hips. He winces – he's pretty fluent in Janeway body language and that one is never good. "What the hell does that mean?"

"Did we or did we not have a good day together?" he asks.

"We did."

"Then why are we fighting?" he asks.

"We're not fighting," she says, crossing her arms. Tom takes this as a good omen for the rest of the evening. "We're just having a discussion. Do you remember when we went to the pub?"

"Vaguely," he mutters. "I remember the next morning pretty clearly."

"You kept trying to tell me something and Harry wouldn't let you," she says. "I keep thinking about that."

"I'm not really the classiest drunk," he warns immediately. "Take it with a grain of salt, okay?"

"I also keep thinking about what Nancy Schmidt said to you."

"What?"

"That she was suspicious because I talked about you all the time," Janeway says. "You know what I realized? I do talk about you all the time!"

"We spend a lot of time together," he says. "We're friends."

"I have other friends," she says. "But this really isn't the same."

"What do you want from me?" he asks, throwing up his arms. "Just say what you want and I'll give it to you."

"I want you to be honest with me," she says.

"I don't have some elaborate master plan, you know," he says. "I didn't plan to divorce my wife and get promoted and change jobs twice within six months. I'm flying just as blind as you are."

Her face softens.

"I know," she says. "I don't have a plan either."

"Maybe we should just sleep on it," he says. "In the morning, things will seem different."

"No they won't," she laughs. "But I am tired."

Tom actually isn't tired. His nap has refreshed him enough but he doesn't stop her from saying goodnight and disappearing into her room. He retires to the guest room and brings some work with him. He never has a shortage of work and he sits up in bed for several hours working on a PADD.

That's why he's awake when she knocks on his door. She doesn't wait for him to answer before pushing it open and sticking her head in.

"I saw the light on," she says.

"I was working," he says. "Can't you sleep?"

"No," she says, crossing her arms. "I hate going to sleep upset."

"Don't be upset," he says, setting his PADD on the nightstand.

"I can't help it," she says. He waves her into the room and she steps in.

"I think you're too worried about what might happen," Tom says.

"Aren't you?" she asks.

"Nah," he says. "I just live life one day at a time."

"You've always been like that," she says.

"You used to be that way too, you know," he points out. "I don't think you've changed."

"Then why is this so difficult?" she asks.

"It's not," he promises. "Either you get into bed with me now which is, I suspect, the reason you came in here or you go back to your room. Either way, I'll still be here in the morning."

He has called her out. She looks upset at first, but then reaches out and flips the switch by the door so the lights are off. Maybe this gives her courage. Tom has never thought of Janeway as a woman who particularly lacked bravery, but matters of the heart are always strange and different. He pulls back the covers and makes a space for her. She does not disappoint him.

Beds, Tom knows, are almost always better with two people in them. They are warmer and cozier – be it lover, child, or friend. Janeway's body is cool from her midnight wanderings. She's not dressed in much – a soft blue tank top with thick straps and a pair of old shorts meant for exercise. The rumors aboard Voyager had always put her in girlish nightwear – pink lacy things, things one would not expect from a steely captain, but Tom has yet to see any of this. Around him, she wears comfortable things, but she is not shy. He has seen his fair share of knees and bare shoulders, of long hair hanging free.

Now her skin is cool against his arm and he rubs a hand up and down her, from shoulder to wrist.

"It's cold in here," she offers, trying to get comfortable. He's noticed she's a cool sleeper – she always has the temperature set one or two degrees above what he finds comfortable.

"I'll keep you warm," he promises. She chuckles into her pillow.

"I feel like a teenager," she admits. "Like I sneaked out of my parents house instead of my own bedroom."

"It pays off to be naughty sometimes," he says and then leans his head in and nuzzles against her neck. She automatically tilts her head to give him better access before she freezes, tense and unsure. This is what she wanted, of course, but now that it's here, Tom can tell that she's unsure of herself.

The thing of it is, they've done it all backwards. The friendship was cemented long before the idea of a romantic relationship came around and they should have never shopped for furniture or spent the night before the tension was resolved, he sees this now. Still, he think she wants what he wants and the only way to get on the other side of this wall is just to power through.

She doesn't stop him from kissing her neck and when he lays a tentative hand on her hip, her breath hitches. This is what she's come for. Not just human contact, but contact. Warm and slippery skin, saliva and coarse hair, fingernails and curling toes, this is what she has yearned for. This is what has caused the dull ache low in her stomach whenever she looked at Tom for weeks and weeks now. She wants this, she does, and yet the enthusiasm with which she wants it is frightening.

Tom's hand spans comfortably across her rib cage. His thumb and forefinger curve easily around her breast and he uses his thumb to rub the slight swell he can reach. She can't stand it – she lifts her head and kisses him.

It's startling when he rolls her so she's beneath him, but she can go with the flow and it doesn't break her stride. She bends her knees on either side of his narrow hips and groans into his mouth when she feels him press against her. He puts his hands into her hair and squeezes. She likes the slight pain as he yanks at her scalp. Most men think powerful women just want to be coddled and cared for in the bedroom, to have there what they don't get at work, but Kathryn isn't like that. She wants a man just as powerful as she is and Tom isn't treating her like she's made of glass.

When she starts squirming beneath him, he holds her still. She sucks his bottom lip between her teeth, he bites back just as hard. She'll leave marks on his back and in the morning, she'll find bite marks on her pale skin.

It is not the most earth-shattering, toe-curling sex she's ever had, but in a certain sense, it's the best. There's no awkwardness that usually accompanies a first time coupling. Their rhythm is spot on. They can seem to communicate without words. When he ebbs, she flows and his touch is exciting, yet familiar, searing yet cool.

She digs her heels into his back like he's a horse, clucks her tongue to make him move faster and he does. She can feel it building, that pressure she's been enduring for so long now. Tom pants and moans like he's in pain, like how wet she is and how much she wants him is hurting him. She can't be worried about his pain or intense pleasure because she's entirely focused on her own. It's right there, just within her grasp and each time his hips push into her, it gets a little closer. She tries to hold on, but his back is slippery and her hands keep sliding as his muscles flex.

She realizes, suddenly, that she's begging.

"Please," she whimpers. "Tom, please."

As if he's keeping it from her on purpose.

He moves between them and he presses the heel of his hand into her and it's enough. The heat rips through her and she clenches, bears down as her body blindly reacts. She hears herself cry out and she can't breathe, is afraid to take a breath in because she wants to live in this exact moment forever.

oooo

Tom is crushing her, slightly. His forehead is wet with sweat and he slips and slides across her collarbone as he drifts in and out of sleep. Her body is still twitching sporadically as it comes down from the high. When she moves her leg, her hip twinges painfully. Her body hasn't taken this sort of abuse in sometime. She still feels slightly dizzy, dehydrated perhaps. She's tired too, it's late and when she looks out the window above them, she can see already that the moon is high in the sky.

Tom snores. She tries to push him but he is too heavy; she'll have to wake him.

"Tom," she says into his ear, slapping his behind slightly. She adores the man, his gentle nature and fun loving spirit but at the same time, he's just like any other male in the universe. Sex and sleep is all it takes to take him out. "Tom."

He mutters something that isn't any language into her skin and she squirms.

"Get off me," she orders, bringing a note of command into her voice. It's a dirty trick and he opens his eyes to glare at her, to let her know that he does not approve. "I can't breathe."

He rolls off her and out of her and she takes a deep breath, her lungs unrestricted once more. She sits up slightly and carefully.

"Stay here," he murmurs, trying to drag her back down by her waist.

"I'll be right back," she promises. She's a mess and she knows the moment she stands that the mess is going to start dripping down her thighs. It's a short walk to the bathroom. She takes the hand towel from the rack and gets it wet before using it to wipe herself off. When she glances up at the mirror, she gasps. Her hair is wild and tangled; her cheeks still a deep and dusky red. His stubble, his teeth, his grasp have all left marks on her body. They have really done a number on one another and she thinks maybe that's what happens when foreplay runs too long.

In the dark of the bedroom, she hunts around for her clothes. Slides her shorts over her hips and puts on her tank top inside out.

"Come on," she says, touching his hand. "I don't want to sleep in here."

He groans. He's tired now and just wants to sleep.

"Why?" he mumbles.

"I like my bed better, it's my living space, and because I said so, so get up or sleep alone," she says, her patience wearing thin. This gets his attention and he gets right up, follows her down the hall completely naked without a word.

Her bed is bigger, warmer, and now, drier. She climbs in first and he gets in on the side she leaves vacant. He's warm and pliable and curls around her with a hot and heavy sigh. His hand slides beneath her shirt and cups her breast and almost immediately he is asleep. She thinks it's too strange, this sudden shift, and that she won't be able to sleep all night with Tom so close, but in fact, she sleeps more heavily than she has in a great while.

oooo

Things are more complicated now, to say otherwise would be a lie, but it isn't a bad complication, Tom believes. While Janeway is in the shower, Tom snoops around her room. He hasn't been in here before and while the apartment lacks personality, at least her bedroom has a personal touch. Her dresser is littered with things he thought she'd long given up – a hairbrush, several barrettes, and a small pile of long pins to hold a heavy bun in place. There are several tubes of lip color and he pulls off the lid to inspect them all. In her closet, there are uniforms, but there's also a row of boots and shoes. Every pair has at least a little heel; he can't find a flat in the bunch.

He thinks about pulling open the drawers and looking for the lacy nightgowns he's heard about, but decides to be surprised instead.

On the deep windowsill, there is a framed blueprint of what looks like a rudimentary bathtub and this stumps Tom.

He hears the water shut off and he gets back into bed. Janeway comes out wrapped in a thick, fluffy towel, her hair wet.

"You're awake," she says.

"How can you tell?" he asks, opening his eyes.

"I can always tell when you're lying," she says, pulling open a drawer.

"How?" he demands.

"Well, for starters, you're pretty bad at it," she says. She holds the towel tightly under her arms and pulls out a bra and a pair of Starfleet issue underwear.

"Not the lacy underwear under the uniform kind of woman?" Tom asks, slightly disappointed.

"Oh, I used to be," she says, looking at him. "We all start out that way and then you go on the away mission where you get hit with a weapon that burns through your clothes or you fall in a river, or you have to change into an EV suit with only seconds to spare and well…"

"I never get the good away missions," Tom mutters.

"You already know what I look like naked," she says, offering consolation. "You can look any time."

"I can?" he asks, hopefully.

"Barring any unforeseen complications," she says.

"Such as my foot in my mouth?"

"Exactly," she grins. She disappears into the bathroom again, and when she returns, her hair is dry and she's wearing the bra and underwear. Her body is small and lithe, still. She never talks about visiting the gym, but she must to keep toned like that. Without the stress of Voyager, she has dropped back down to the size she was when the mission started. He can't help but react to the bare skin of her back, her legs and bare feet. He's content to watch her, though, without saying anything. He watches her smooth lotion into her arms and stand in her closet.

"Are you staying today?" she asks, suddenly.

"At some point I need to go home," he says. "Go to work in the morning." He glances at the chronometer on the wall. "Whenever that is."

"Okay," she says, pulling a sweater out of the closet and over her head. It hangs low, covers her butt and keeps her warm while she decides what to wear on her bottom half. "Will you come back next weekend?" she asks, after a beat.

"I don't know," he says, honestly. "Do you want me to?"

"I always want to see you," she says. She turns her back to him and roots around in her closet.

"I think I'm going to take a shower," he says. "Then we can talk about it, all right?"

She is putting her leg into a pair of black pants.

"Sure," she says.

He takes a sonic shower. Water showers make him feel relaxed and sleepy and he wants to be alert. He already feels relaxed and rubbery in the knees and a little sore. All his clothes are in the guest room and he has to walk down the hall naked get there. Janeway is in the kitchen and he knows she sees him even though she pretends not to.

Dressed and clean, she has set out breakfast for them.

"This is nice," he says. They sit at the table. She has the news in front of her, scanning it like it's a report and she's on a ship again. But even though he doesn't feel particularly tense, there's an odd sort of tension in the room. "Kath?"

"Hmm?" she asks, glancing up at him.

"Are you happy?" he asks. He meant to ask, is she happy with what happened? Does she regret having sex with him, does she want him to leave and never return, but instead he asks this vague question. She seems to take a moment to consider it; she tilts her head as if in deep thought.

"Yes," she says. "For the most part, I am happy."

"For the most part?" he asks. He's not fishing for compliments, but he wants to know what's holding her back.

"No one is perfectly happy," she says. "I have a dangerous job and I feel sometimes that the Federation will never return to peacetime. I also wish we lived on the same side of the planet, but I do love my job and I love Earth. I love to be with you."

"Kathryn," he says. "I made a commitment when I returned to my job, I can't leave it. And it's not just my house, it's Miral's too. I can't move right now."

"I'm not asking you to," she says. "But I have to stay at headquarters. I'm doing good work there and I'm not ready to leave. I think I can make full Admiral just like my father, and that's something I want."

"I wouldn't ask you to give that up," he says. "So where does that leave us?"

"Right where we are," she says, with a soft smile. "We've been good about seeing one another."

"I agree."

"We'll be good still," she says and returns to her news feed. She says it with a sort of finality that makes Tom feel better. It's why she is a good leader, why he wants to follow her in any and every capacity: she is confident and her confidence bleeds into everything she does. Tom can count the times on one hand he's seen obvious fear on her face, has seen her make a decision that she didn't think would work.

When it's time for him to leave, he kisses her at the door. He means to just give her a peck but she tilts her head and sort of melts into him. He can't explain it – she goes boneless in his arms and so he rotates them so she can lean against the wall. He slides a knee between her legs and when they break apart to catch their breath, she rests her forehead against her chest.

"Sorry," she says.

"Why?"

"You were trying to leave and I…"

"Kath?"

"It's been a long time since a man has wanted me," she says, snaking her arms around him.

"That is not true," he says. "Kathryn. That's not true."

She doesn't say anything. She just pulls his face back down to hers and kisses him again. He keeps opening his eyes to make sure it's really her and not his imagination. It tastes like her, smells like her. He can see her brow furrow in concentration, feel her nose bump against his, feel her hands bunch his sweater.

The thing is, he really does have to leave. He needs time to get home and adjust back to his time before going to work. And at this rate, he'll never escape. It takes a lot of will power, but he pulls back.

"I have to go," he says. She nods, always the pillar of strength and he can see the way she smooths away her expression of lust and pain and desire. Soon, it's just Admiral Janeway, standing tall and wishing him a safe journey.

He walks to the transport station by himself. He has to wait a little while before his turn comes up and then, he has to walk home. His house feels empty and cold. He checks his messages and makes a sandwich and stokes a fire and tries to fall asleep on the couch. Facing an empty bed seems terrible, going upstairs and seeing that framed picture of them is something he just can't bring himself to do.

At work the next day, he gets an unexpected call from Chakotay. He wants to talk shop – talk shuttles and innovation but as soon as that is out of the way, Tom asks after Seven.

"She's fine," Chakotay says. "She's going to have lunch with Kathryn today, actually."

Tom's eye twitches slightly at the mention of Janeway. The thing is, Tom isn't that great at keeping secrets whether they are good or bad. He's a pretty terrible poker player. Hearing Janeway's name makes him feel amazing and awful at the same time.

"Great," Tom says but Chakotay is already shaking his head and laughing.

"Boy, do I know that expression," Chakotay says.

"I don't know what you mean," Tom says.

"Yes you do," Chakotay says. "You've got it bad for her, don't you?"

"Chakotay, I really don't…"

"Stow it, Paris," he says. "It's written all over your face."

"Just don't tell anyone, okay?" Paris says.

"Sure, sure," Chakotay says. "You're a crazy man, you know that?"

"That's sort of the pot calling the kettle black, isn't it?" Tom accuses.

"I got off that ride, my friend," Chakotay says. "I wasn't made of the right stuff."

"Why does everyone talk about her like she's a huge disaster?" Tom demands. "My father called her a hurricane, you act like I'm going off to war."

"She's a force all right," Chakotay says.

"She's a woman," Tom says. "Flesh and blood like the rest of us."

"Talk to me in six months," Chakotay says. "Tell me if you're not totally exhausted."

Tom frowns.

"We'll have you for dinner," Chakotay says. "I haven't seen you or Kathryn in forever, it seems. Seven has been wanting to have a dinner party."

"You're not…?" He feels like squirming slightly in his seat. "I know you and B'Elanna are close."

"I am sorry to hear about that, Paris," Chakotay says. "But, things happen and usually for the best."

"Thanks," Tom says. "I'll send you those schematics by the end of the day."

"Thank you. Chakotay out."

Tom thinks about this conversation for the rest of the day. He agrees with Chakotay to a certain extent – Chakotay wasn't made of the right stuff to withstand Kathryn Janeway but she and Tom are cut from the same cloth. He knows Kathryn's usual type – older men who are calm and gentle and Tom doesn't fit the profile, but he does fit better. Or so he hopes.

oooo

Kathryn decides it's her turn to visit. Tom isn't going to stop her and generally can't when she puts her mind to something anyhow. Tom had picked up Miral the day before and it's early morning when Kathryn arrives and lets herself in with the key Tom had made for her. Tom and Miral are both in bed but Tom hears the door downstairs.

Soon, Kathryn opens the door quietly. He hears the muffled thump of her setting her weekend bag on the floor and then the sounds of her taking off her uniform and dropping it on the chair by the window. When she slides into bed next to him, her skin is cool. She has stripped to her under things and she carefully lifts his arm so she can snuggle up to him.

After a beat, she speaks.

"You're awake!" she says.

"How do you always know?" he mumbles, opening his eyes. He's awake, but not very alert still. He thought if he let her think he was sleeping, they'd get another hour at least.

"I just do," she says.

"How was work?" he asks. She makes a non-committal noise which means either it was average or she can't talk about it.

"I'm tired," she says, pressing her face into chest.

"Sleep now," he says. "Miral will be up before too long."

She hums slightly – he can feel the vibrations against him and he pets her long hair slightly. He closes his eyes too and before long, drifts off.

"Daddy?"

He hears the voice but think maybe it's a dream.

"Daddy?"

He's not dreaming the tiny hand pushing his cheek.

"I'm awake," he says. Kathryn groans in her sleep and rolls over, burrowing deeper into the covers. She'll be out for a few more hours yet. "What?"

"I is awake too," Miral says.

"I can see that," he chuckles. The grammar of a toddler never ceases to be entertaining. "Let's let Kath sleep. You want breakfast?"

"Yes," Miral says solemnly. Food is never to be taken lightly with her. Her life revolves around meal times. Tom gets out of bed and pulls on a sweater before picking up Miral and tossing her over his shoulder. She giggles loudly. He glances at the bed, but the lump that is Kathryn doesn't stir.

By the time she wakes up again, Tom and Miral are outside in the garden. The sun has come out and dried the soil enough. It's time to start the planting. Miral is fascinated by the bucket of bulbs Tom has. She keeps pulling them all out and lining them along the windy path that leads to the porch. When Kathryn comes out, she stands on the porch in Tom's coat and holding a mug of coffee. She squints in the sun and holds a hand over her eyes, though the sleeve is too long on her and covers her fingers.

"Look who woke up," Tom says, poking Miral in the tummy with his spade. Miral looks over and sees Kathryn and smiles. "Go give her a hug."

Miral bolts up the steps and throws her little body into Kathryn's knees. Kathryn grunts and holds the coffee out so that when it sloshes, it doesn't burn anyone.

"Up," Miral demands, holding out her arms.

Kathryn hugs her back, picks her up and shifts her to one hip.

"You are too big for this goddaughter," she says, sternly.

"No," Miral laughs. "I little."

Tom has noticed this as Miral starts speaking more. Every time she gets into some mischief, this is her excuse. Spilled milk, toys that haven't been cleaned up, a soiled mattress after a nap. "But I little!" Miral will say, as if she wasn't possibly capable of getting into any trouble while being so minuscule.

"Not that little," Kathryn grunts, setting her mug on the railing. "What do we have here?"

"Bulbs," Mirals. "There's flowers inside."

"There are," Kathryn agrees. "Little late for bulbs, isn't it?" she calls to Tom.

"It's been too wet to plant them before now," Tom says.

"Still," Kathryn says, letting Miral down so she can go chase a butterfly hovering near the vegetable patch.

"Did you come just to nag me, woman?" Tom asks, standing up. The seat of his pants are muddy and she smiles and tries to wipe it off.

"No," Kathryn says. "I came to see my goddaughter."

"And?" Tom asks, swatting her hand away.

"Because your pillows are softer than mine?" she offers.

"And?"

"And because you have a cute butt," Kathryn says, laughing. "Come here, you're dirty."

"You're dirty," he says, and pulls her in for a kiss.

"Daddy?"

Suddenly Miral is standing right by them. Tom looks down at his daughter.

"Why you kissing her?" Miral asks.

"Because she's pretty," Tom says. Miral seems to consider this deeply for a moment.

"Okay," she says, finally. "Am I pretty?"

"You," Tom says, scooping her into his arms. "Are the prettiest girl in the universe."

"Really?" she shrieks as Kathryn reaches out to tickle her belly.

"I think so," Paris says. "Do you want to go to the beach?"

"Yeah," Miral says. He looks at Kathryn.

"Sure," she says. Kathryn takes Miral in to change her clothes while Tom puts away his gardening things. It is finally warm enough to walk along the water without hats and gloves. They will spend the day by the water, playing in the sand and surf and letting the sun warm the last of winter from their bones. Miral doesn't get a lot of time off the starship so Tom likes to spent as much time with her outdoors as possible.

It's funny, after years of training and life surrounded by the most advanced of technology, all he wants now is a simple life. When the girls return, Miral is on Kathryn's back though he's not sure it's such a good idea. Even a child as small as Miral is a load for a slight woman.

"I'll take her," Tom offers but Kathryn bends her knees and lets the girl slide down.

"She can walk," Janeway says. Miral stays a couple steps ahead of them, exploring flowers, a teenager girl walking her dog, birds singing from trees. Tom loves spring, loves the abundance of life and the way the winter just melts away. As they walk, Kathryn slides her hand into his.

In the first six weeks of their relationship, Tom found himself walking of eggshells most the time. He was always waiting for a big fight, a blowout that would end in slamming doors and tears. It took him a while to realize it wasn't going to come.

Not every relationship is doomed from the start. Kathryn is not B'Elanna. B'Elanna's moods are unpredictable and the smallest thing spikes her temper. Kathryn is, from what Tom can see, a fairly stable person. If she wakes up in a good mood, that mood tends to hold throughout the day. When they disagree, she manages to diffuse the situation before a fight can even begin to brew.

Right now, she's in a quiet mood. She walks with her face toward the water, taking in the scenery. The wind blows back her hair and the sun is already starting to bring the freckles out across the bridge of her nose.

"What are you thinking about?" he asks, unable to contain himself. She's hard to read, sometimes.

"I was thinking about enchiladas for dinner," she says, turning to fix her steady gaze on him.

"Really?" he asks, delighted. He always expects her to be contemplating some heavy Starfleet secret but she has slipped into this easy life with no resistance.

"You don't like enchiladas?" she asks.

"I love enchiladas," he says. At the place where the sidewalk turns into sand, Miral waits for them.

"Stay out of the water, sweetheart," Kathryn calls as Miral shoots down the beach.

"Yeah right," Tom says.

"So," she says, not taking her eyes off Miral. "I was thinking of turning the guest room into a room for Miral."

Tom stares at her, his mouth hanging open slightly. She frowns.

"Too soon?" she asks.

"No!" he says. "I just… you continually surprise me."

"I'm very unpredictable," she brags. "Unless you're Tuvok for some reason."

"I don't have Miral that often, you know. She may hardly ever use the room," Tom says.

"I know, but I want her to know that she's welcome. That she's wanted," she says.

"I didn't know you wanted to stay in San Francisco," Tom says.

"For now," she says. "Eventually, I'll inherit the farm house but I'm either at work or with you, so what's the point of uprooting right now?"

"You want to live full time in Indiana?"

"Tom, I love your little house, but Miral is getting older. Soon we're going to outgrow it."

He hadn't thought about that.

"And my job?" he asks.

"How did me thinking about enchiladas turn into planning our entire future together?" she laughs.

"I don't know," he smiles.

"Go play with her," Kathryn instructs, motioning to Miral who is sitting in the sand, letting the waves wash over her. She is already soaked. "She's making me nervous out there alone."

"Aye, Captain," he says. This is their little joke – started one night in bed when they'd been in the thick of it and in the haze of his passion, Tom had moaned 'Captain' instead of 'Kathryn.' Instead of being upset, Kathryn had burst out laughing. Now, hearing her formal title from him gives her a little thrill.

"Tease!" she calls out after him. He just grins.

Tom has to carry Miral back to the house. It isn't far, but she's tuckered out. Her head lolls against his shoulder and she's covered with sand. When they get home, Janeway goes to the kitchen to start cooking dinner and Tom puts Miral in the tub. When she is clean, he makes sure she's happy in the living room with toys and books before going to check on his other girl in the kitchen.

"Smells good," he says, from the doorway.

"Thanks," she says. "I hope it isn't too spicy for her."

"She's Klingon," he says. "She could eat tar and be fine."

Janeway laughs and the sound of it pleases him. She turns back to the sink and he comes up behind her, lifts her hair away, and kisses the back of her neck. The cooking dinner has steamed up the windows in the kitchen and outside is growing dark as the sun sinks into the horizon. She lets him kiss her, lets him dart his tongue out to taste the salt air still on her skin.

"Tom," she whispers. He pulls back and she turns around to face him, lets her hands sit on his narrow hips.

"What?" he murmurs, letting his arms drape over her shoulder.

"Thank you," she says.

"For what?" he asks with a smile. She shrugs. She doesn't know what for, she's just grateful to be a part of it. "You're welcome."

Behind them, the oven dings. Janeway smiles.

"Dinner," she says.

Tom hopes it's always like this. He hopes every day can be spent in the fresh air, that every night ends with a hot meal in a cozy well-lit house. In a perfect world, Kathryn would spend every night in his bed and every day by his side. In a perfect world, Miral would live with him full time and he'd pick her up from school and they'd walk home holding hands. He knows the world is not perfect, but this day has been.

In bed, long after Miral has fallen asleep, Tom lays in the darkness. Janeway is hovering between sleep and being awake. She's trying to stay awake for his sake, but she keeps jerking as she drifts off.

"It's fine," he tells her.

"No," she murmurs. "I don't get to see you enough. I shouldn't spend our time sleeping."

But Tom doesn't mind her sleeping as long as they are together and anyway, she always loses this fight. She almost always goes to sleep before he does. When she drifts off, he pulls the blanket up over them and settles in, tucking his knees into the bend of her legs.

"Goodnight," he whispers into the bare skin of her shoulder. She hums a little in her sleep, a happy mewling sound of contentment.

He knows just how she feels.