Most people don't know. Tom believes this - maybe it's naive, but he really thinks that the majority of the 147 souls on Voyager don't know that he is sleeping with their captain. They're extremely careful, careful to the point where just breathing is stressing him out. Careful to the point where paranoia is a few star systems back. Of course, everyone knows that the captain and the helmsman are close. Their friendship is considered a good thing. Tom has a knack of making the captain appear human. Everyone knows that the Doctor finally ordered Captain Janeway at least one hour a week in the holodeck - mandatory relaxation. And everyone knows that the weekly Thursday night reservation from 2300 to 2400 is always under Tom's name and that they spend the time together. But no one knows what they do.
Occasionally, Tom will replicate costumes and they make it a point to walk to and from the holodeck in them - rock climbing jumpsuits, beachwear, cowboy boots and flannel shirts, cold weather gear and skis.
Tonight, Tom meets her at her quarters holding golf clubs.
"You replicated those for the walk?" she asks. He can see her trying to mentally calculate the amount of energy expended on replicating a 9 iron.
"No, these I had," he assures her. "I actually do have a nice golfing program."
"Can't wait to play," she says.
Outside the holodeck, people nod at them as they pass. It's just after the final shift change and tired crew are dragging home. Tom activates the panel.
"Computer," he says, loudly and clearly. "Activate program 'Paris Pebble Beach 1'."
They walk in.
"This is nice," she says, looking at the lush green grass, the Pacific Ocean, and the clear blue sky. But they both know what will happen in about five seconds.
The computer beeps and then the program fizzles into something else - the familiar cabin. Outside, the panel will still read as the golf program and should someone attempt to enter, the program would switch back before the doors opened. Tom's ingenious coding.
Tom leans the clubs against the wall by the door and looks at Kathryn. An hour isn't long and they don't waste any time. She starts pulling at her uniform and disappears down the dark hallway toward the bedroom. He wishes they could spend a day together, a weekend seems like it could be heaven, but still, he doesn't begrudge this time. He hurries down the hall. Sometimes she picks her own bedroom because of the larger bed, but Tom's room has better light and he finds her there, already shimmying out of her underwear, her narrow hips swaying as the cotton falls to the floor.
"Well?" she asks, looking over her shoulder.
He reaches for his boot.
In the shower, Kathryn doesn't look at the mirror. She lowers her eyes when she turns, letting the waves hit her back. She doesn't want to see her self - her tangled hair or flushed skin. The sonic shower will clean her of sweat or any other manner of fluid, but it cannot calm her heartbeat or heal the scratches in her back or the bites marks on her ribs, the bruises on her hips. They spend all week waiting for one hour and then get a little out of control. But this is not a relationship, what they have. And while Tom makes her happy, this arrangement cannot last.
The shower stops, the cycle complete. She feels sore and sad. She pulls her nightgown from the hook on the wall and slips it on, and then shuts the lights off in the bathroom. It's late now, and she needs to get some sleep. But when she gets into bed, that empty, gnawing feeling only intensifies. She rolls over, pushes her face into her pillow, and closes her eyes tightly. When she's lonely, she tries to think of Tom. Sometimes she imagines him standing in the tiny bathroom of that first duplex they'd rented, trying to fasten the small buttons on the cuffs of his white shirt he wore for that ridiculous serving job. He could never get the left one and she would always step in to help him. Or she'd think of him in the holodeck, his blond hair tousled and dark with sweat. Sometimes she thought of him during that first official meeting, when she'd transported to Australia and then taken the shuttle to New Zealand - no transporting to and from a penal colony. He'd been so angry, rebuffing her at every turn, but she'd pressed on until she'd gotten the answer she wanted. What if she had given up? What if she'd turned away, found another pilot and he'd stayed in prison?
She opens her eyes. These nights are always the hardest to sleep. Hard to spend all that time with him and then have it be over for another week.
She gets out of bed and dresses.
The mess hall is dark and deserted and she is glad. She doesn't bother to call for the lights - there isn't much of this ship that she couldn't navigate with her eyes shut. She moves noiselessly through the room to the kitchen. When they had realized, so many years ago now, that they wouldn't be able to rely solely on the replicators for their food, B'Elanna had rigged Neelix up something to keep the fresh produce cold. A refrigerator, Tom had called it. Kathryn understands the technology better now, of course, after living in California with one in her kitchen. It is inefficient - it only extends the shelf life of the food for a few days, a week at best, but it's better than nothing. She opens the door now and peers in, indecisive. Finally, she reaches in a takes a piece of fruit. It is kind of like a pear, in the way that a human was kind of like an ape, but she'd had one yesterday and it was okay.
She sits in the dark and nibbles at her fruit.
When the doors open, she thinks about ducking and hiding but the lights come on too fast.
"Chakotay," she says.
"Captain Janeway," he says. "It's late."
"Couldn't sleep," she shrugs.
"Why are you sitting in the dark?" he asks.
"What's there to see?"
Things have been strained. Every time they try to make up, to get back on track, they end up fighting. Now, it's better just to put all of their energy into their working relationship. He's a very good first officer and she still counts her self as lucky.
"I guess I'm not the only one looking for a midnight snack," he says. "May I join you?"
Internally, she hesitates but it would be worse to say no.
"Of course," she says. Chakotay goes for the left over casserole. He has an iron stomach, she thinks.
"It's not good," he says, as if he knows what she's thinking. "But a man low on replicator rations is a desperate man."
"Fair enough," she says.
"How was golfing?"
"Are you checking up on me?" she asks, her eyes narrowing.
"Walked by the holodeck," he says. "Is it against regulations to look at the screen?"
"No," she says. "You just don't usually seem like a snoop."
"I didn't know you golfed," he says.
"I don't," she says. "I was terrible. But it was a nice course."
"Did you play 9 holes or the whole 18?" he asks. She really doesn't know anything about golf.
"Could you play 18 holes in an hour, Commander?" she asks. His eyes drop.
"No," he smiles. "I certainly couldn't."
"If you're interested in golfing, I'm sure Tom would be more than happy to let you borrow the program," she says. "Better you than me."
"Maybe you just need a solid lesson," he says. "I'd be happy to give it a shot with you."
"It's a nice offer," she says, scooting her chair away from the table. "But I happen to know you've got a bridge shift Thursday nights." She stands up. "Good night, Commander."
"Captain," he says.
She hates the way things are, how every conversation turns to him digging for information, but he is suspicious and the truth is, he has every right to be.
The Doctor is like the Wizard of Oz, Tom thinks, though he keeps this comparison to himself. The Doctor seems to know everyone's business, seems to be able to control things from behind the scenes. Tom thinks the Doctor knows about the hours Tom and Kathryn log in Holodeck One on Thursday nights, knows simply from reading Kathryn's medical file that something is different.
It's not that the Doctor is nicer to Tom, because that is an actual impossibility, but he does seem resigned to the fact that the Captain's continued medical health has something to do with her pilot. And the Doctor will say things to Tom that on the surface seem perfectly reasonable, but Tom suspects is just him fishing for confirmation.
"The Captain was complaining of a stiff neck," the Doctor will say. "Perhaps she needs a good massage."
"I'll look to see what programs are on file for that," Tom will say.
"Women of the Captain's age need more calcium and vitamin B12," the Doctor will say to Tom pointedly. "Even milk in her coffee would help."
"Well, I don't think we're going to change her coffee order," Tom will say. "But I can ask Neelix to make sure she's eating the right foods."
The Doctor wants Tom to say, yes, I'll mention this when we're in bed together, but Tom, of course, won't break first.
The Doctor is not in sickbay right now, and Tom is grateful. Friday mornings can be precarious - his spirits are always slightly higher and the Doctor is the first to try to bring Tom's feet back down to the floor. He has brainless work to do, cataloging samples and sanitizing equipment. He starts with the latter, allowing himself to daydream while he does so. This is why he doesn't hear the door open.
"What are you thinking about, Lieutenant?"
He turns around.
"You," he says. Janeway smiles slightly. "You look tired."
"I am tired," she says. "I stayed up too late. Chakotay asked me how golfing was."
"Did you tell him we were golfing?" Tom asks.
"Nope. He said he was walking by the holodeck and saw what program was running," she says.
"So he was spying."
"I don't want to think that," she says, leaning against one of the beds. "The Doctor?"
"His suspicions are built into his programming," Tom says.
"He's down in the cargo bay giving Seven more of those etiquette lessons," she says.
"Am I the only one who finds that ironic?" Tom asks.
"You are not," she says. "Blind leading the blind, but what could it hurt, really?"
"You may eat those words," he says. "You just here to visit or did you need something?"
"Neelix was trying to get me to eating this horrifying looking piece of... honestly, I don't know what it was. Meat? Produce? Who could say. Something about..."
"B12?" Tom asks. "Yeah. I know all about that."
"I told him I'd just get a supplement," she says. "Please say you can do that."
"Sure," he says, moving to the replicator. "Computer, one B12 supplement." He reaches and takes the vial that appears and loads it into a hypospray.
"What is this even for?" she asks.
"Mostly, it's used to help blood production," he says. "But it will also help your brain and nervous system."
"Okay, well, why am I supposed to have more?" she asks.
"It's also what doctors prescribe to people who have been starving," Tom says. "Or people who don't eat much meat."
"I see," she says. "Does it matter that I have been eating more, so much so that I went up a uniform size? Which, by the way is, humiliating?"
"I like it," Tom says. "I think it's sexy."
"You think me being fat is sexy?"
"No, I think your curves are sexy," Tom says. "I think..."
The door opens and the Doctor comes in.
"That if you resist taking your calcium supplements, Captain Janeway, the risk of you breaking a bone will rise significantly," Tom says. Janeway rolls her eyes and then turns to face the Doctor.
"Calcium is important, isn't it Doctor?" she asks.
"Yes," he says, narrowing his eyes at the pair. "I suppose."
"Well, I've got to get back to the bridge," Janeway says. "Have a good morning, gentleman."
"Just talking about calcium with the Captain, were you?" the Doctor asks when she's gone.
"Yep," Tom says. "Just talking about calcium."
But the truth is, it's hard for Tom to go back and forth from being a member of her crew to being her equal partner. He's spent hours convincing her that it wouldn't be hard, that it would be natural, but there are times when he wants to say one thing, but instead must simply hold his tongue because he is a lieutenant. There are times where she is tired and short with him, times when he doesn't want to pick up another shift or endure the Doctor, but he knows he can't simply ask her to rearrange his duties because she would probably say yes and it just wouldn't be fair.
But all this, these little bumps in the road will seem, soon, like nothing at all compared to what's to come.
On his first day of sickbay training, Kes had patiently explained to him the Doctor's triage policy. He thinks of this now, as the ship begins to give. On a Wednesday, they lose three turbolifts. The lifts just grind to a stop between decks. Two had been empty, one had three people in it and B'Elanna had spent three hours getting them out. Two weeks or so later, one of the cargo bays depressurizes without warning. Luckily not Seven's cargo bay, but they do lose a lot of spare parts and Tom spends the rest of that day in a shuttle, flying around and beaming everything back he can find.
Something infects the gel packs and they lose replicators on three decks.
B'Elanna is about to snap. The Doctor heals her hand three times in one month.
"Stop punching bulkhead," he says. "Or, please, find something softer to punch."
But who can blame B'Elanna? Her ship is falling apart.
"We need to stop," B'Elanna says. "We need to power down so I can find the root of the problem. So we can clean the core, so we can refit and refurb... Captain, we need to stop."
This is not what Janeway wants to hear.
"How long?" asks Chakotay.
"Six months?" B'Elanna says and from her tone, everyone knows that is a frugal estimate.
"Not good enough," Janeway snaps.
"I don't know how to do better," B'Elanna says furiously.
"Work with Seven," Janeway orders. "I want a better solution than this. Dismissed."
Tom hangs around after everyone leaves.
"Not now," Janeway says.
"Captain," he says. One of their new rules - even if they're alone, on deck one they maintain formalities. "If stopping means surviving, we've got to do it."
"We already lost two years to getting stranded," she says. "Now you're asking me to lose more time?"
"I'm asking you to think about it rationally," he says. "It seems bad now, but it's the big picture that's going to get us home."
"Just go," she says, slumping down into her chair. "Go back to work."
This is where things get sticky. Chakotay orders him to start scanning for suitable places to set down for the long haul. Tom follows the order, but feels unsettled about doing so behind Janeway's back. Feels even worse when he makes it a point not to say anything to her. He wouldn't say anything if they weren't dating, so he shouldn't now. But he knows she'll be upset.
The ship failing also means shutting down nonessential programs and activities like providing life support to empty guest quarters and, of course, the holodeck.
They start losing toilets and then she finally gives in.
Chakotay, in what Tom considers to be a rather underhanded move, orders Tom to give the briefing on scouted locations.
Janeway listens to the information quietly but he can see her eyebrows shift. She doesn't look angry, she just looks sad.
"We're lucky," Tom concludes the briefing by saying. "We have a couple viable options and this planet..." He points to the screen. "This will give us ample mining opportunities as well."
"Thank you, Lieutenant," Janeway says. "That was very thorough."
With no holodeck, time spent alone together is sparse. Finally, tired of the potentially endless silence, Tom grabs the hardcopy of his report and goes to her quarters. She lets him in, but is frosty. He hasn't seen her in anything but her uniform in weeks.
"I was following orders," he says.
"It's all just... it's data, Kathryn, it's facts. We have to stop and Seven and I found a good place to do it."
"I'm not mad," she says.
"You're hurt," he replies. She doesn't deny it. "What are you going to do?"
"What can I do?" she says. "We stop." She turns away from him. "I'd like to be alone."
"Sure," Tom says. "Okay." He wonders, though, for how long.
Most of the crew moves off the ship. Seven and Harry design a town to sit in the shallow basin of the valley while Voyager sits on higher ground, closer to the deepest vein of ore. Chakotay leads the settlement - Janeway stays on the ship with the repair crew. Tom leads the shuttle squadrons.
Tom spends most of his time in orbit, making sure his people and his ship are safe. He feels like a foot solider most of the time. He trains other pilots, but it's lazy, slow work. They're in a deserted area of space surrounded by unfavorable spacial phenomena - it's why they'd picked the location.
The perk, however, is that he gets to dock on Voyager. The Doctor and his emitter went down to the colony with the majority of the crew, so Tom serves as medic to the skeleton crew on the ship when he's not patrolling. With so few people on the ship, it is easier to spend time with each other. There are generally around twenty people on board at any given time. The majority are in engineering or wherever repairs are taking place. Janeway stays on the bridge - Starfleet regs required two people to be on the bridge at all times. Usually, it's Janeway and Tuvok. Sometimes, it's Janeway and Tom. At night, it is a security officer and some lower ranked crewman from almost any department. It didn't matter - there is nothing to do but repairs.
But the ship crew goes down to the colony fairly often. They are still one crew and Janeway doesn't like them to be apart for too long. Paris spends time ferrying people back and forth whenever the transporters are down, which is often. Sometimes Harry just wants to shower in his own quarters.
Today, Tom is on the bridge. He finds Janeway pulling apart the helm control. He dismisses the ensign waiting for him. Janeway's uniform is looking a little grimy and her growing hair is pulled back with a simple elastic band into a ponytail.
"Not the helm," he groans.
"Sorry," she grunts, finally getting the panel free and tossing it aside. "It's time."
"What are you going to do to her?"
"What are we going to do to it," she corrects. "It needs to be rewired to accept the new rate of energy flow."
"That'll take some time," he says. She pats the carpet next to her. He sits down and opens the engineering kit. They work well together on projects like this. After working on the shuttle with her, he knew they would. She has small hands and can reach into small areas, but his technical and mechanical know-how can be impressive. He looks at her for a moment and then leans over and kisses her. She allows it for a few moments before pulling back.
"Feeling brave?" she asks.
"Just nice to see you," he says. She smiles.
"I saw you two hours ago at home."
"I know," he says. "Come on, hand me the spanner."
B'Elanna comes up to brief them around lunch. Janeway's ready room has one of the few functioning replicators on board, so they lunch together. Tom had rigged her door to stay open so they could move back and forth without "leaving" the bridge. B'Elanna seems tired but no longer stressed to the point of breaking. They are only a couple weeks behind schedule.
"Prixin is coming up," Janeway says. "I want to have the celebration on the colony."
"What about the ship?" B'Elanna asks.
"Tuvok and Vorik volunteered to stay aboard," Tom says. "Unsurprisingly."
"I think Tuvok likes Prixin," Janeway says. "Deep, deep inside."
"Then Tuvok is a black hole," B'Elanna says. Tom thinks B'Elanna is the opposite of Tuvok. All those emotions right there on the surface.
When B'Elanna's gone, they get back to work.
"Prixin, huh?" he asks.
"Neelix is already well into the fermentation process," she says.
"I see. Would you like to go to the Prixin celebration with me?"
She laughs. "We're all going."
"I know, but I thought we could arrive together."
She sobers a bit, buys some time by putting half her body into the console.
"I don't know if that's a good idea," she says, emerging with the last gel pack. It looks all right, but they'll have to test it like the others. He hands her the tricorder and she snatches it, opens it with a flick of her wrist.
"Did you know people have started living together on the colony?" Tom asks. She looks up at him only briefly, then back down at the tricorder. "Yep. Sam and Naomi combined their housing unit with Joe Carey's."
"Joe Carey spends seventy-five percent of his time on Voyager," she says.
"And the rest of his time overseeing the engineering needs of the colony."
"Joe Carey has a wife and two boys at home," she says.
"Who probably think he's dead," Tom says. "Baby, you wanted to build a community out of this crew and you've done it!"
"Don't you 'baby' me on this bridge!" she says, throwing the gel pack down, where it bounces and slides away from them. "You think the rules change because we're stationary, but they don't!"
"We sleep together every night," he says. "How is that not different?"
"Because we've stopped the internal sensors during repairs," she says.
"You think because Megan Delaney can't ask the computer our location that she doesn't know my quarters are empty every night?" he asks. Megan lives down the corridor from him. She's on the ship - Jenny and Harry are living together on the surface.
"I don't want to talk about this right now," she says.
"I do," he counters. "No one cares about our secret."
"I do! I care!"
"Why?" he shouts, throwing up his hands.
"Because it's mine," she says. "Because I don't have to share it with my senior staff or describe it to the Doctor or note it in my logs."
"I understand that," Tom says, maintaining his patience though how he isn't certain. "I just think, at this point, it's a poorly kept secret and that if you and I went down to the Prixin celebration in the same shuttle, it would be okay. It might even be fun."
She sighs, crosses her arms.
"And," he presses. "If we stood near each other during the celebration and if I occasionally refilled your beverage, no one is going to mutiny."
"Fine," she says. "Fine. But I'm not wearing a dress."
"You wear whatever you want, my dear," he says. She rolls her eyes.
The turbolift doors open and Seven comes onto the bridge to work from the engineering station. Conversation, for now, is over.
Janeway meets him in the shuttle bay. They won't be in the shuttle alone; they're taking three other people with them, but Tom doesn't mind. It's the shuttle he'd repaired and she smiles when she realizes it. She wears pants and a sweater - it's cool on the colony, but she allows Tom to help her step out of the shuttle onto solid ground. She doesn't come planet side often and everyone cheers when they see her. She disappears swiftly into the crowd. Harry comes up to Tom and hugs him.
"Have you told her that everyone knows yet?" Harry asks.
"I'm working up to it," Tom says. Harry shakes his head.
The celebration is actually fun. It's a relief to be outside surrounded by trees and under the stars. Someone had put up plasma lanterns and the transfers from the hydroponics bay to the soil had taken, so there is fresh food. Harry leads an impromptu band and Chakotay even played a guitar for a while. People dance, the Doctor sings. Tom feels relaxed and merry.
He finds Kathryn and leads her away from the lights and into a dark grove of trees. She isn't drunk, but she's a little tipsy, so when he puts his mouth to hers, she doesn't push him away or scold him, but simply melts against him.
When the party is over, Tom sends her back on Seven's shuttle and stays behind to help clean up.
"Did you hear Vanessa is pregnant?" Chakotay says, coming up to him holding a large trash receptacle. Tom dumps his armful into it.
"I didn't," Tom says. "That's good news."
"Kathryn doesn't know yet," Chakotay says. "Vanessa and Caleb want their baby born planet side."
"If we make our schedule, we won't be here for that long," Tom says.
"People are thinking about staying," Chakotay says. "Building more permanent homes." Tom is shocked to hear it. He thought his crew mates were doing what he's been doing - making the best of the situation at hand.
"Are you one of those people?" Tom asks.
"Everyone has thoughts," Chakotay says.
"Why are you telling me this?"
"You have the ear of the Captain," Chakotay says.
"Oh," says Tom. "Hey, look man, I'm sorry about..."
"Don't apologize," Chakotay says. "She made her choice and I respect that. Just ask her about it."
"I will," Tom says. "But she offered this choice once before, with the 37s. What changed?"
"I don't know," Chakotay says honestly. "Maybe we were scared of how it would be and now we know."
"I'll talk to her, but she isn't going to want to leave anyone behind," Tom warns him.
"Maybe no one has to leave anyone," Chakotay says.
For someone who claims to be one of Janeway's best friends, it continually surprises Tom how little Chakotay really knows her.
She is asleep when he comes in. He will only get a few hours before he is up flying patrol, but that is the trade off of a good party. He tries to slip into bed without waking her, but the years since Voyager was commissioned has turned her into a light sleeper.
"It's late," she murmurs, scooting over to make room for him. She is hot beneath the blanket and he moves close.
"Sorry," he says. "Go back to sleep."
"Did you have fun tonight?" she asks, yawning. He had up until the end.
"Did you?" he says, instead.
"I can't wait until we're all back together again," she says. He kisses her temple, strokes her hair, and says nothing.
Tom isn't a great secret keeper. He is chatty and social by nature. But, he understands what is important and it has been important to Janeway that the secret of their relationship be kept. But now, he has two secrets and two secrets he simply cannot keep.
He is ferrying Janeway to the surface, leaving Tuvok and Seven on the bridge. The Doctor demands to see her in person every few weeks and this time, he requested she come to the surface. But Tom is taking his time, doing one more sweep of the perimeter before he sets them down.
"He's going to wonder where I am," Janeway says.
"You're always late." Tom feels impatient today and indifferent toward her worry.
"He's already suspicious," she says. And somehow, this is just too much for him to stand.
"Everyone knows!" Tom says and then clamps his mouth closed, but it's too late. Can't unring the bell, can't get secrets back. All that's left is to try to control the damage. "Kathryn, everyone is happy for us. It's just... it was going to come out eventually."
"I tried to tell you," Tom says.
"Megan Delaney," she says.
"She certainly played her part."
"Even Chakotay knows?" she asks.
"Why hasn't he said anything about it?" she asks. Tom shrugs.
"What would you have him say? Congratulations?"
"Fair enough," she mutters. He starts to enter the atmosphere, playing it safe. No fancy flying with precious cargo on board. "How long?"
He'd hoped she wouldn't ask.
"Couple months," he says. She reaches over and smacks him in the arm. It's more surprising than anything.
"You just let me creep around anyway?" she says. "You brat."
"It seemed to make you happy."
"You're such a little shit," she says. "You have any other big news to share?"
"We're landing," he says. It is neither a yes or a no.
Chakotay greets them with a smile. He's out of uniform almost all the time now, back to the earth tones and vests that he favored as a Maquis. He seems happy enough, content with working off the land. He's lost that sharp, resentful edge. It's all he'd ever wanted out of their time on Ancient Earth - to find some out-of-the-way piece of land and settle down. Instead, they'd played by Tom's rules, trying to blend into society instead of staying out of things all together. Tom shakes Chakotay's hand, suddenly regretful of their strained relationship, of taking everything Chakotay had ever wanted for himself.
"Did you speak to her?" Chakotay asks Tom. But Janeway is right there.
"He did," Janeway says. "I wish you would have told me first, Chakotay, but if you're all right with the situation, then I'm glad."
Chakotay's face lights up with relief. Tom can see where this is headed and tries to step in.
"I don't think..."
"Kathryn, are you sure?" Chakotay asks. "I thought you'd be more upset."
"I'm just glad you aren't upset. It's a mature, rational choice. I can appreciate that."
"Wonderful!" Chakotay says.
"You guys, I really think..." Tom tries again.
"Have you considered joining me?" Chakotay asks. "I know it's a serious choice, but I implore you to take it seriously."
Janeway's forehead wrinkles.
"Joining you?" she asks. "I thought you said you were happy with my choice."
"Okay!" Tom says, startling them. "What we have here is a good, old-fashioned misunderstanding."
They both look at him, waiting for an explanation.
"Chakotay knows about our relationship," Tom says.
"Everyone knows about that," Chakotay says, only slightly mockingly. "I was talking about settling."
"Settling what?" she asks.
"Settling where," Tom says softly, touching her arm. "Chakotay wants to stay on the planet. And he's not the only one."
Janeway stands there for a moment, dumbfounded and blindsided. Chakotay waits, glancing at Tom, then Janeway, back and forth like a tennis match.
"Absolutely not," she says, finally finding her voice.
"Kathryn," Chakotay says.
"Captain," she snaps. "And what you're suggesting is mutiny, Commander." She turns, marches down the main path toward where the Doctor has set up shop.
"I thought you'd..."
"Hadn't had the chance," Tom says.
"Well," Chakotay says. "Maybe if you try again?"
"Look," Tom says. "As much as it would please me to never see you again, Sir, I actually agree with her."
Chakotay hands him a PADD.
"This is what we have, our proposal. Just... read it and then see what you think."
Tom nods. He will read it. He'll even give it to Kathryn. But he truly believes in Voyager, believes in their mission, the community they've built, their leader. Splitting up is not going to be a solution to any problem.
Tom walks into the sickbay unit to find the Doctor offline and Janeway crying on one of the triage cots used as a makeshift biobed.
"I didn't know what to tell you," Tom says. He thinks she's mad, but when he opens his arms, she buries her face into his chest.
"How many?" she manages. He glances at the PADD.
"33," he says. Out of the 125 people stationed on the planet, 33 isn't that bad. But for some reason, this low number seems only to infuriate her.
"33! That's not even enough to sustain a viable community! In a generation or two, they'll just die out, assuming they procreate at all!" she seethes. Had she not shut the Doctor down, he might have informed her of Vanessa's pregnancy. Tom is almost glad he hadn't.
"There are many flaws with what he's asking," Tom agrees. "But we need to convince him not that staying here is wrong, but that life is better on Voyager."
"You're right," she says, wiping her face. "But if it comes down to it, I will order everyone back on the ship come hell or high water."
He knows she will, too.
Janeway runs a bath and takes Chakotay's proposal into the tub with her. She also brings a glass of wine. Tom is at his quarters, packing. If everyone knows, then he might as well have his clothes in her closet. They can shut off power to his rooms and save a little more energy.
If the proposal is meant to convince her, then it has failed. If only, it angers her more. Chakotay wants to keep the town exactly as it is - all the shelter for over a hundred people left for 33. He wants supplies, medicines, food, weapons - enough to seriously deplete Voyager's reserves. He wants the mining supplies, things Voyager doesn't have two of. But perhaps most offensively of all, he wants to keep the Doctor.
Tom comes in, holding a box of poorly folded clothing and turns it over, dumping the lot onto the floor of her closet.
"Has Chakotay gone insane?" she yells. He jumps. "Has he sustained a severe head injury causing irreparable mental retardation?"
"So that's a no on that proposal, then?" Tom asks.
"He wants to keep the Doctor!" she says and holds up the PADD. "He says you are perfectly capable of tending to the medical needs on Voyager."
"So he's ballsy and a liar," Tom says.
"He has to know I'd never agree to this," she says, flinging the PADD away from her. It narrowly misses going into the toilet. He suspects she'd actually been aiming. "So what does he really want? To hurt me for being with you? To show me the crew is divided? To tell me he doesn't need me or respect me?"
"I don't think it's so diabolical as all that," Tom says, sitting on the edge of the tub. "I think he's just lost perspective. It's like going on vacation and deciding you want to sell your house and quit your job so you can stay forever. It's a fantasy, but you don't really do it. He's just... lost his way."
"Why are you defending him?"
"I'm not!" he says. "He's the worst kind of jerk - the kind that pretends he's a humanitarian. But I have a hard time believing he really wants to break the crew apart."
"What do we do?" she asks, kicking the button that will keep the water heated no matter how long she's in the tub. He knows that move. She's in for the long haul.
"I dunno," Tom says. "Kill him?"
"I see you are going to be of no help," she mutters.
"This is why they pay you the big bucks," he says. He doesn't know what to do, doesn't know how she plans to change Chakotay's mind and reunite her flock but he has faith that she will find a way.
"Fine. Leave me in the lurch," she says, sinking lower into the water.
"I'm going to get the rest of my stuff," he says, leaning over to kiss the top of her head.
"And then you will hang those clothes?" she says, pointedly.
"Yes, dear," he says.
At first, she seems wary about the things he brings into the quarters. The clothes don't take up much room - he doesn't have much in the way of a wardrobe, but he does have a fair amount of gear for various holodeck activities. Golf clubs, hockey stick and mask, a duffel full of a variety of balls, bats, and mallets.
"And yet, you are so terrible at Parrises Squares," she says. "Why is that?"
"I'm a great short stop," he says. "I'm a decent quarter back. I can play basketball, I can skate on both ice and in a rink. I can run cross-country, I can ski, and I can fly a spaceship, but I always, always get crap for Parrises Squares."
"How are you at hover ball?" she asks.
"So-so," he says. She sighs and looks at all of it.
"Some of this can go into a cargo bay, right?"
"Why can't your stuff go into a cargo bay?" he counters. She narrows her eyes.
"You are moving into my quarters," she reminds him.
"And in doing so, saving valuable energy and resources for the ship."
"Please," she says. "Well, just leave it for now and come to bed."
"Yes," she says, slipping her hand into his. He gives her fingers a squeeze.
"It's going to be okay," he says.
"It has to be," she replies. "What other choice is there?"
In bed, in the dark, she is quiet but he can tell she isn't asleep, that she's faking it for his benefit.
"You want to talk about something?" he asks.
"No," she says. "You should sleep."
"So should you," he points out. She just gives a dry, forced laugh. "Do you want me to get you some water? Tea?"
"I'm okay," she says. He waits for a moment.
"Do you want to have sex?" he asks. She's quiet and he thinks she's about to shove him off the bed.
"Okay," she says, sounding game.
"Really?" he asks, excited. She laughs for real this time and rolls onto her back, scooting toward him.
"Really," she says. He pulls at his shirt, yanking so hard it gets caught on his head and then bends his ear back painfully, but he ignores the burning sting and throws the garment behind him. He feels her hand on his belly - it moves up to the hair on his chest and then back down again.
She's wearing a simple, almost prudish high-necked cotton nightgown. Her hair has dried from her bath shapeless and her face is clean of any make-up. She has freckles on her nose from the small amount of sun she's gotten recently and he knows she carries freckles on her shoulders and arms too. She's not made up for him and she's not twenty-five anymore. Her skin is not dewy and fresh no matter what time of day or how much sleep she's gotten. She looks tired.
But he can't see any of this and if he could, he wouldn't care. He thinks about her almost constantly, counts down the time until they'll be together again. It's common for him to spend 12 to 18 hours flying patrols and then come sit on the bridge with her. Sure, he's tired, but he'd rather spend time with her than sleep alone or wait for her to come home. He loves the sound of her voice - so deep and throaty. He loves the little gasps he elicits, the way she squeezes her eyes closed tight as he pulls at the elastic waist of her underwear.
She takes his hand and places his fingers where she most wants them.
It's strange to walk through the ship, to see day light through the windows instead of streaked stars. To not need internal lighting during the day, the way the setting sun changes the way everything in the ship looks. Engineering is in the middle of the ship, however, and when Janeway comes in, she realizes B'Elanna looks like she could use a day in the sun.
"Why don't you take the weekend," Janeway says, surprising both of them. "I can oversee things while your gone."
"Captain, that isn't necessary," B'Elanna says.
"I think it is," Janeway says. "Don't thank me too fast. I need a favor."
They tuck themselves away into an empty corner of engineering and Janeway hands B'Elanna Chakotay's proposal. B'Elanna reads it silently, her mouth opening more and more as she approaches the end. Finally, she looks up at Janeway, her brown eyes wide.
"Is this a joke?" B'Elanna asks.
"Nope," Janeway says.
"As a rule, Captain, I don't like killing people but this will be an exception. I will take great honor in ending his life," she says.
"I'd prefer if you'd just talk to him," Janeway says, dryly. "I don't think he really wants to divide the crew. I need you to find out what he truly wants."
"Talk to him," B'Elanna says.
"You are close to him," Janeway says.
"We used to be," B'Elanna says. "Then he was close to you. Now, I'm not sure he's close to anyone."
Janeway bites her bottom lip.
"I'll go," B'Elanna says. "I'll see what I can find out."
"Thank you," Janeway says, touching her arm lightly. "B'Elanna, you've done extraordinary work here. I can't ever begin to thank you."
"Don't thank me yet," she says, holding up the proposal. "You sure you're okay to keep an eye on things?"
"Seven's here," Janeway says, looking at Seven across the room, who is working silently. "Between the two of us, we'll be okay. I'll leave the bridge to Tom and Tuvok."
"How is Tom these days?" B'Elanna asks casually. She says it like she's being polite, like she doesn't care but they both know she does.
"He's fine," Janeway says. "I just would like to get back into space so we can all get some rest."
"I'm trying as hard as I..."
"That wasn't a complaint or accusation," Janeway says, quickly. "I know you're doing your best."
"I'll try and get him back for you, Ma'am," B'Elanna says.
B'Elanna's words ring in her ears long after B'Elanna transports off the ship. Chakotay is only gone because Janeway has lost him, has pushed him aside for Tom. Though she doesn't regret what she has with Tom, though she is unwilling to give it up, she knows she needs to find a balance. This overhaul has made it seem like their lack of discretion is okay, but it isn't.
She says as much to Tom.
"You want me to move out?" he asks, confused.
"Not now," she says. "But when Voyager gets back in the air, I think it would be best."
"You're breaking up with me," he says. He looses his color so quickly, turning white and ashy at the thought.
"No!" she says. "No, no, I just think it would be best for the crew if we maintained our space," she says.
"What the hell does the crew have anything to do with it?" Tom asks. "The only people who care where I sleep are you and me!"
"I don't think that's true," Janeway says. "I think we're setting an example and I'd like to be more careful about what the message of it is."
"You're the Captain, not our mother," Tom says. "You tell us what the message is and we believe it."
"You hear someone bellyaching about your choices? Throw 'em in the brig. Chakotay and his little band of merry men want to stay on the planet? Brig."
"That is not how I run this ship, Tom Paris, this is not a prison," she says.
"No, it's the military. You made the choice not to abandon Starfleet even though we're so far away. So don't. What Chakotay is proposing, what you're carrying around on that little PADD with you, is mutiny. Are you going to stand for that? Are you going to let him piss on everything you hold dear like this?" Tom demands.
"You're out of line," she warns.
"We're all out of line! And you just let it happen!"
"It is enough," he says. "I've had enough too. I'm late for patrol, Captain. May I be excused?"
"Go," she says. She feels blindsided - Tom is on her side, he listens to her, helps her carefully work through things but just now, he was mean. She hasn't been coddling the crew, has she? Has she been letting the crew coddle her?
Well, it ends now.
"Captain?" B'Elanna says, standing up. Janeway has walked uninvited into Chakotay's shelter without even a knock to warn them. She feels a pang - it's the same sort of makeshift house they'd had on New Earth but she doesn't let this deter her.
"Kathryn," Chakotay says. "Would you like some tea?"
"No," she says. "Lieutenant Torres, thank you for your help, but I can take it from here. I need to speak to my first officer alone."
"Yes, Captain," she says, and leaves swiftly. It gives Janeway an extra shot of confidence to see B'Elanna follow her order so readily without so much a glance at Chakotay. The man doesn't even look like her XO anymore, sitting around drinking tea in his civvies. The people on the colony aren't supposed to sit around and wait for Voyager to be repaired - they have tasks and responsibilities too, but what has Chakotay been doing down here besides stirring up dissent?
"I take it you've read my proposal?" he says.
"Yep," she says. "And I'm willing to accept it with a few changes."
"You are?" he says. "Well let's hear them."
"No supplies," she says. "No medicine. No shelter. No rations, no weapons, certainly no mining supplies. No Doctor."
His face is hard now.
"You'd leave us with nothing?" he says.
"I don't want to leave you at all," she says. "But it's certainly your choice. If you do choose to leave the ship, though, you choose to leave my crew and I will not deny my crew supplies and resources that are needed on Voyager."
"You are being unreasonable," he says.
"Am I?" she says. "I guess that's the choice I'm making."
"All this talk of choices. You're not giving us a choice," he accuses.
"I am," she corrects. "Just not the ones you want. Another thing, Commander. I'm transferring you back to the ship for the rest of the time we're here. I feel Tuvok will keep order down here at a level to my liking. I expect to see you on the bridge in two hours."
Chakotay stares at her, his his gaze burning. What will he do, she wonders.
"Yes, Ma'am," he says.
"Don't be late," she says breezily and lets herself out. B'Elanna is waiting on the path.
"Well?" she asks. "Did you convince him?"
"Oh, he's coming back," Janeway says. B'Elanna falls into step with her. "Lieutenant, why don't you and Joe take 10 or 15 more people from the colony and have Seven lead a beta repair team. Even if they're not engineers, we'll make up some lost time, hmm? I'm going have Tom start organizing the collapse of this colony and we'll have people move back onto the ship over the next couple weeks."
"Aye, Captain," she says. "Can I ask you something?"
"The other people... were they mostly Starfleet or Maquis?" B'Elanna asks.
This is an interesting question. Janeway hasn't thought of her people as two separate crews in so long that it hadn't occurred to her to ask herself that.
"Both, I think," she says. "Maybe, perhaps, even more Starfleet. Maquis, I've found, are much more adaptable."
B'Elanna smiles a little, takes it as a compliment.
"Why do you ask?" Janeway says. B'Elanna shakes her head.
"I don't know," she says. "I guess... there was a time I would have followed Chakotay anywhere. Now it's like I don't even know him."
"I know what you mean," Janeway says. "I can't get him back. I've tried, but I can't. But you've known him a long time, B'Elanna. Now is a good time to be his friend."
"I'll try," she says. "But I'm not known for my relationship skills."
"Me either," Janeway says, surprising no one.
Tom divides the colony up into quadrants and moves them one week at a time. In a months time, everyone will be off the planet. The quadrant with the gardens will be the last off the planet to allow time for what they've got planted to finish growing - but Chakotay's quadrant, where most of the dissenters live, is the first to re-board. Tom has to let his shuttle team patrol with out him. Not only has he organized the move, but as medic, he has to clear everyone himself to come aboard because once they're on, they're not getting off again - Captain's orders.
Chakotay is first, sitting in sickbay in his uniform. He is days ahead, of course. He's tan, looks rugged and out of place in the red and black.
"Your hair isn't regulation," Tom says. It's gotten long and goes over the tops of his ears.
"You the barber now too, Paris?"
"I'm just saying. She's not real thrilled with you at the moment so why give her ammunition?" Tom says. Tom thinks what Chakotay tried to pull was selfish but he doesn't want to openly choose sides. He likes to play the fence if at all possible. Chakotay is still the XO, still outranks Tom so it's best to stay on his better side.
"I'm not happy either," Chakotay says.
"Come on, you didn't give her much of a choice."
"Just finish the physical, Lieutenant," Chakotay orders. Tom falls silent - makes sure Chakotay is up to date on his immunizations and that the transporter hadn't missed anything and then enters into the computer that he's fit to return to duty.
"It's a long trip," Tom says, just before Chakotay leaves. "Might want to try to find some common ground."
"Thanks for the tip," Chakotay says sarcastically and leaves. Tom thinks Chakotay is upset about his wounded pride more than anything else. The fact that Janeway didn't meet him halfway, didn't talk to him about it like equals. Instead, she'd slapped him down like a child and now he can still feel the sting.
Tom takes loads of materials back to Voyager in a shuttle to help take some of the strain off the transporters. Mostly it's the shelter units and the equipment while the people remain on the planet, wiping away any trace of their being there. Then, when they're ready, Tom is already in sickbay waiting to clear them. They beam up in pairs. When Tom gets back to their quarters to catch three or four hours of sleep, Janeway isn't there. By the time he starts moving up the second quadrant, he realizes he's only spent a handful of hours with her. He has no idea how she's feeling, how it is sharing the bridge with her angry XO, how repairs are progressing, nothing. It won't do. He gets 30 minutes in the early afternoon - he's scheduled himself time to eat lunch, but instead he replicates a pot of coffee and takes it up to the bridge. There are a few more people there than he's used to - some of the repair crew are there and Chakotay is in his chair. Janeway must be behind the closed doors of her ready room. Even better.
"Coffee anyone?" he asks. No one takes him up on the offer and Chakotay just nods toward the ready room, seeing right through Tom's facade. He chimes and she calls him in sounding impatient and hoarse, but when she looks up and sees him holding the coffee pot, she smiles.
"God bless you, you read my mind," she says, pushing her mug at him across her desk. He fills it for her and then stands in front of the desk. It takes her a few seconds to realize he's still waiting.
"Kathryn!" he exclaims. "I've hardly seen you all week!"
"It's busy," she says. "I'm sorry, I know."
"Are you coming home tonight?"
"Late, probably," she says.
"Do you even care that we haven't spent any time together?" he asks helplessly.
"Tom," she says. "We have to get through this. If I let myself think about that I wouldn't be able to... yes, I miss you. Yes, I love you. Yes, I want to see you but I have to get this ship in the air."
"Okay," he says. He knows he can't pry a captain from her ship. One would be stupid to even try.
"You're amazing," she says. "You're doing such good work, I know you are. I'd be lost without you."
"Yeah, yeah," he says. He sets the coffee pot on her desk - she'll drink the whole thing. She stands up half way in her chair and kisses his lips quickly. It's a chaste, but affectionate kiss.
"You're very handsome," she says.
"I know," he says. "Neelix is re-boarding day after tomorrow. We need him in the mess. I can see you're not eating so expect him to be on you like honor on a Klingon."
"Okay, you can go away now," she says. "I have no time for your veiled threats."
"I really don't think that was veiled," he says. He should be reprimanded for his insubordination, but instead she just lets him go.
There is no way to make up for the lost time. Tom keeps their speed at warp 7, careful to map a flight plan that requires as few alterations as possible, but between their long away mission and stopping for the major overhaul, they've lost a lot of time.
"Don't think about it that way," Tom tells her. They are in her tub together. It's a big tub, but they're still close, her back against his chest. "It was just part of the journey, nothing lost, just experience gained."
"That's one philosophy," she says. Every time she moves, she rubs delightfully against him - all slippery, soapy skin and warmth. His muscles feel like jelly.
"I'm serious," he says, his chin resting on the crown of her head. "Would you and I be here together right now, in this tub, if we hadn't been sent back to the 20th century? Would we be living together if we hadn't set down to make repairs?"
"Probably not," she says.
"So I can't begrudge that time," he says. "I won't."
"Speaking of, I'm almost certain I told you to move back to your own quarters three different times now," she says. "I sent you a memo, Tom. Did you not get the memo?"
"I got it," he says.
"And yet, your clothes are in my closet and I can see your toothbrush from here," she says.
"I'm not leaving."
"I said once we're back in space. We're back in space right now. See the starts through that port? That's space."
"You think you're being funny, but you're not," he says.
"Lieutenant Paris, I order you to move back to your own quarters," she says sternly.
"You'd better call security," he says, moving his hand down into the water and to her knee and then up, up her thigh. "Guess I'm going to the brig."
She gasps. "Not playing fair!" she manages.
"Just using the resources available to me," he says, kissing her neck.
Later, he must wrap her towel around her and carry her to the bed. She is exhausted and the bath mixed with his technique of convincing her to let him stay has put her to sleep. He doesn't mind. He covers her with the blanket and gets dressed silently.
Walking the ship's corridors cheers him up. Voyager had been silent while parked, but now she hums with life, traveling toward home once more. The mess hall is fairly busy for the hour, just as Tom knew it would be. Harry is there with Jenny and her sister.
"Tom!" Harry says. "Join us!"
"Actually," he says. "B'Elanna told me holodeck one is open for business. You guys want to fire up Sandrine's for old time's sake?"
"I haven't been there in ages," Megan says. "Let's do it!"
In fact, a great deal of people from the mess hall decide to go and by the time Janeway wanders in, looking for Tom, there's a full party happening in the French bar. Tom has deleted the holographic characters to make room for the flesh and blood and is tending bar himself.
"What are you doing up?" Tom asks, grinning.
"Came to find you," she says, over the noise.
"Come back here," he says, flipping up the wooden counter so she can go behind the bar with him.
"I can't believe this!" she says. "Did you organize this?"
"Just happened," he says. "I think people are just happy to be home!"
"Looks that way to me," she grins.
"Look over there," he says. He points to the table where Chakotay is sitting with some of the other crew. He is smiling, laughing alone with the others at Ensign Baxter's story.
"Good," she says, mostly to herself.
"Babe, you ever wait tables?" he asks, handing her a round tray.
"No," she says.
"Well you do now." He loads up the tray with drinks and points to a table. "That's table one - it goes clockwise up to 15. Table numbers are on the tickets." He pats her butt. "Go!"
People grin when they see her.
"Captain!" says Harry.
"Don't mind me, I just work here," she says, patting his shoulder. When the tray is empty, she goes back and Tom loads her up again. When she goes back a third time, he hands her a carafe of wine.
"This is what Chakotay's table is drinking," he says. "You up to it?"
"Yes," she says. He leans over the bar.
"Gimme some sugar," he says.
"No one is paying any attention to us," he says. He's probably right, so she does kiss him, but doesn't linger.
At Chakotay's table, everyone greets her, even those that requested to be left behind.
"More wine?" she asks.
"A little below your station," Chakotay says.
"Oh, I don't think so," she says, topping off his glass. "My job is to serve the crew, so here I am."
He can't help but smile.
People start to realize just how late it is and when everyone who has to work in the morning clears out, there's not many people left. Janeway and Tom stand talking softly to one another behind the bar. They're watching Neelix clean up unnecessarily.
"It's the holodeck," someone points out to him. But he can't help it, it's just in his nature.
"Come with me," Janeway says to Tom. "Come to bed."
The old Tom would have stayed in the bar all night and just pushed through the morning, but now he actually does want to go home with her.
"All right, everyone!" he says loudly. "We're going to grid in one minute!"
There are a few sounds of disappointment, but everyone rises and moves through the heavy wooden doors to where the arch will appear. Tom has a certain air of authority now. Technically, he is the ship's third officer, but he suspects it has more to do with having the Captain at his side. Neelix hesitates and comes up to the bar.
"Captain, if you ever feel like a change in career, I could always use a pair of hands in the mess hall," he says with a big smile.
"I'll call that Plan B," she says, smiling. "Neelix, I missed you very much." She reaches across the bar and touches his arm. "It's so good to have you back on board."
"Thank you, Captain!" he says, obviously touched. "Goodnight to you both." When he's gone, Tom nudges her.
"He loves you, you know."
"He was a lucky find," she agrees.
"No, I mean he loves you."
"What?" she says. "Are you jealous of Neelix?"
"I'm not jealous! I'm just letting you know," he says defensively. "Should I be jealous?"
"Of Neelix? I adore Neelix, but..."
"When you come into a room, he gets this far away expression," Tom says. "You've never noticed that?"
"Maybe you're just projecting," she says.
"Computer," Tom says. "End program." No reason to save the mess, after all. When he starts the program again, everything will be clean and the bar repopulated with holographic patrons.
"I'm tired," she says looking at the grid around them. It's as if when the program disappeared, what was left of her energy went with it. He puts his arm around her shoulders and leads them home.