I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.
- John Masefield
"Can I ask you something?"
Janeway looked up from the PADD in her hand. Tom's voice sounded slightly hesitant, a behavior he didn't usually adopt with her. They'd been in the shuttle less than an hour but had already fallen into a comfortable silence of her working and him flying.
"Yes," she said. He didn't usually ask permission.
"Why are you on this away mission?" he asked. She smiled. "And for that matter, why am I?"
"I know it's a bit of a hum drum assignment," she said, leaning back. They were on a scouting mission, one of three shuttles launched. The other two shuttles were manned by low ranking science officers. When Janeway had announced that she would go herself, both Tuvok and Chakotay had protested. She'd rolled her eyes, ignored them, and winked at Tom. "Feel like flying?" she'd asked.
"The assignment isn't bad," he said now.
"I do have better things to do, if that's what you're asking," she said. "But don't you ever just want to get away?"
"Is that what this is?" Tom asked. "Why didn't you just say so? Computer, increase speed to warp eight."
The Delta Flyer shot forward - Tom had doubled their speed.
"What are you doing?"
"We get to survey a seemingly unpopulated M-class planet, right?" he said. "If we get done early, we could find a beach, take a hike..."
"What if the Captain finds out?" she asked, always slightly in awe of his brazen behavior with her.
"If you wanted efficiency, Captain, you would have brought Seven. But you brought me."
"You're my pilot," she said.
"I'm your fun pilot," he corrected.
He was right. She'd brought him so she could relax a little, so she didn't have to feel so pressured to be 'Captain Janeway.' She tossed the PADD onto the dash in front of her and leaned back.
"You're the boss," she said. He chuckled but then his face sobered.
"Do you really mean it? Can I be in charge of your fun for the next 24 hours?" he asked.
Her instinct was to say no, but her instincts also generally told her to trust Tom.
"Let's get through the mission first," she said. "Then we'll see."
The little planet was unremarkable in terms of mining supplies or great amounts of food, but there was plenty spectacular about the ocean front property.
"There," Tom said, pointing at the geographical display. The Flyer was in orbit and they were in the aft compartment, scanning what the planet had to offer. "Let's set down there." He pointed to the shore. "We can hike to that little cove."
Sure, they lacked proper hiking supplies or any real beach gear, but there was a blanket in the survival kit and they could bring food and water. Janeway made herself say yes. She really did trust him. He moved forward to land them while she readied the gear. What was a few hours of harmless fun in the scheme of things? After a slight hesitation, she threw in a few extra ration bars and decided to bring both of the medkits instead of just the one. It would mean more to carry, but the peace of mind made it worth it. She felt the shuttle start to shake through the descent and sat down. Tom could land a shuttle competently by himself. She closed her eyes through the jolt of the shuttle touching the ground and the noise of the systems powering down.
Tom reappeared, looking rather pleased with him self.
"It's a beautiful day!" he said cheerfully.
It was a short hike, not more than two kilometers, but the sun was relentless enough that they shed their jackets and turtlenecks and shoved them into their packs. She made them stop to put on sun protector. Tom bounded on happily, breathing deeply the salty air and when the gravelly ground turned to sand, he was the first to kick off his boots.
When they saw the cove they both stopped, awed by its beauty. The water was an emerald green and it lapped in lazy waves at fine, white sand. There were a few tall trees offering areas of shade and it was quiet and peaceful and totally theirs.
"I have a proposal," he said.
"We're not telling anyone else about this place, ever," she said. He tore his eyes away to look at her.
"Has anyone ever told you that you're the perfect woman?" He had a strangely serious expression so she tried to match it.
"Almost every day," she said. He laughed and she felt the bubbling of laughter rise up inside her too, until they were giddy and breathless, running down toward the water, shoes and gear abandoned. Tom rolled up his pant legs and approached the water.
"Did you scan it?" she called, suddenly fearful and suspicious of their good fortune.
"The Flyer would have alerted us if it wasn't safe," he said. Still, she flipped open her tricorder just to be safe and he dutifully waited for her to nod before he let the water wash over his ankles and feet.
"Well?" she asked and he threw a look over his shoulder that conveyed pure bliss.
"Perfect," he said. She rolled up her pant legs to her knees and followed his lead. The water was perfect. It was cool, but not cold, clear and refreshing and salty enough to remind her of the trips she and her friends used to take during her academy days - when they rented hover bikes and rode up to Bodega Bay or Jenner. "Let's go swimming."
"We didn't pack any suits," she said wistfully, thinking an ocean swim would be just the thing to heal what ailed her. Then she realized Tom was looking at her. "What?"
"I won't tell if you don't," he said.
"There's nothing that good old fashioned Starfleet issue underwear will show that a bathing suit won't," he argued, already untucking his tank top. Janeway blushed.
"I don't wear standard issues," she said. Her entire life was Starfleed issued. She liked to have one thing that made her feel like a woman. Tom was still staring at her, but his eyes looked a little far away. She cleared her throat and he seemed to snap out of it.
"I had no idea you had a wild streak, Captain," he said but it sounded more like a challenge than a compliment. She felt like stomping her foot - did she really have to prove herself to Tom Paris, a Lieutenant and only because she allowed it? But he seemed to know already that he'd gotten to her and got the most irritating little smile on his face. He was teasing her! "Okay, I'll turn around and you get in. I promise not to look," he said.
She rolled her eyes. They were not teenagers and this was not summer camp. Besides, Tom worked in Sickbay and had seen more than his fair share of her body. At least this time she wouldn't have Borg implants or be broken or bleeding.
"If you ever tell anyone about this, Naomi Wildman will outrank you, you hear me?" she said.
This was a bad idea, she knew it already, but Tom did know how to have fun and relax and she'd promised to let him help her to do the same. Sometimes having fun meant being a little bit bad. He pulled his shirt off and she tried not to look, instead working at unfastening her pants. They were both pale - life in space did that to a person, but Tom was lean and well-muscled from what she could see from the corner of her eye.
Tom, on the other hand, was rather blatantly staring. Janeway was wearing what appeared to be black lace - black lace! - and when she pulled off her tank, her bra matched the little briefs. She didn't give him time to stare, to fully appreciate the flat tummy or slight swell of hips because she started running into the water and when it hit her waist, she dove in.
It occurred to Tom that maybe he didn't know the Captain very well after all. Not wanting to be outdone, he flailed in after her, spending a few moments under the water, swimming out before surfacing and rubbing his eyes. He scanned for her and saw her several meters away. He fell into an easy breast stroke to reach her.
"The holodeck never compares to the real thing," she said. She looked different with her hair plastered back, younger somehow. Her mascara was running a little. Holodeck oceans were always clear and predictable. The waves moved in a steady rhythm and there was never any fish biting at ankles or pointy shells to step on. But the real thing was better, always better.
"Agreed," he said, floating up on his back. The water went above his ears so he couldn't hear well, but it was peaceful and he was content to let the waves carry him back to land. A few moments later he felt her hand on his stomach. He opened his eyes, surprised she was so close. He leaned forward, and started to tread water.
"You were right," she said. "You should be in charge of the next few hours and change."
"You're having fun?" he asked. She nodded, tucking her hair behind her ears. It was long enough now that the ends floated in the water around her.
"My father worked all the time," she said. "My mother came from farmers. We didn't have a lot of beach trips as kids."
"Farmers don't believe in the holodeck or the transporter?" Tom asked. They'd moved close enough to the shore to be able to stand on the sandy floor. He could see the black straps of her bra over her shoulders, but nothing else without being obvious about staring.
"My mother barely believed in the replicator," she said.
"We used to go to Bodega Bay," Tom said. "You couldn't swim there, really, because of the undertow, but my mom used to fix these really elaborate picnics for me and my sisters. During the academy, I would go back, but it was never the same as when I was a kid."
"I used to go there too!" she said. "As a cadet. We'd get the hover bikes."
"I cannot imagine you on a hover bike," he said.
"Why not?" she asked.
The bikes were a little hard to navigate without experience and that far north of San Francisco could be cold, even in the summer. It was hard imagining the Captain in a leather jacket, a helmet, straddling the bike, kicking off from the ground and into the air, using her young, strong muscles to fight the wind... actually, he was imagining it fairy well.
"Captain Janeway in leather," he shrugged. "It's just something I hadn't considered until now.
"There's a whole person under that uniform," she said.
"So I see," he replied. She realized then that they were flirting. They were in a foreign, exotic ocean, practically naked, standing barely a foot apart, flirting with each other. "I wish I knew that Kathryn Janeway."
"You do," she said softly. "Better than anyone else on Voyager, I'd wager."
"The list of people I'd go skinny dipping with is not a long one, Mr. Paris," she said dryly.
"This is our secret cove," he said, gesturing largely to the beach. "And I hate to disappoint you, Captain, but this is not quite skinny dipping."
"Are you hungry?" she asked. "I'm hungry."
He watched her wade to shore and then stop, sitting back down so the water covered her once more.
She'd realized that the only blanket they'd brought was the survival one. It'd be fine to sit on, but it wouldn't dry her off and they had no towels or changes of clothes. She could either put on her stifling uniform while wet and sandy, or stay in her underwear. It wasn't that she was ashamed of her body. She'd kept her figure pretty well. She wasn't quite the same as when she'd set foot on Voyager, of course, but she'd retained her silhouette, at least, and with the right bra, her breasts could appear as perky as ever, but all of that aside, it was already inappropriate what they were doing and she didn't need to add to that by frolicking around in her underwear.
Tom walked past her, the water falling off his slim body - his gray boxer briefs clinging to his backside. It was an awfully cute butt. He turned to face her and caught her staring but didn't smirk or make her feel bad.
"I'm going to find the restrooms," he said, pointing to an area of dense foliage. "Feel free to wear any part of my uniform. It should be longer on you."
It was sweet of him, offering that to her. It acknowledged her discomfort but didn't make it any worse. When he was gone, she got out of the water and brushed the water from her skin to help along the drying process. She also had to squeeze the water out of what little padding was in the cups of her bra and her hair, before finding his tank top and putting it on. It hung down fairly low, covering maybe half of her backside, but it would have to do. It was too hot for anything else. She busied herself with spreading out the blanket and pulling out the food she had packed.
It was easy food, mostly, a couple apples, two sandwiches, and they both had brought a container of water. Plus the medkits, the blankets, and the rations; it had been enough to carry. When Tom came back, he didn't bother to put on anything, but it looked like he had wrung out his shorts because they were wrinkled and seemed to be more dry. He flopped down on the blanket next to her, picked up one of the apples, and sunk his teeth into it.
"Does it really never occur to you to worry about what I might think?" she asked.
"You've never been afraid to tell me what you think," Tom said. "Should I start guessing?"
"No, I mean, I never feel like the Captain with you. When it's just the two of us," she said, squinting into the sun to look out over the water. To not look at him.
"I thought that's what you wanted," he said sincerely. "You have a whole crew to make you feel like the Captain. I thought you wanted to relax?"
"I do, but..."
"Then relax!" he said. "I respect you. You're the best Captain I've ever served under. But this has nothing to do with you being Captain right now. Look around! This is paradise."
"It is beautiful," she said.
"This doesn't have to be about Voyager or the crew or what anyone might think because no one is going to know," he said. "Eat your sandwich. You'll feel better."
"Aye, aye," she said, and unwrapped the sandwich while he chuckled, stretching out with his legs crossed and one arm under his head for support.
"Relaxing should be the easiest thing in the world," he said. "Why am I the only one who can do it?"
When they were finished eating, she stretched out on the blanket too, on her stomach, and let her eyes drift closed.
She woke up some time later to an odd sensation on the back of her legs. She poked her head up to see Tom smoothing more sun protector on the back of her thighs.
"You were starting to burn," he said softly. She bit her lip, feeling a stab of desire make its way up her spine. Was it Tom or was it simply the feeling of a man's hands on her skin? Was this the way things were going to go from the moment she pulled her clothes off and jumped in the water? The moment she agreed to sneak away to the beach with him? The moment she chose Tom as her companion for this mission in a veiled attempt at escape?
She rolled over.
"Would you do the front, too?" she asked. Her voice sounded low, extra husky. Something she'd always hated about herself and something no man had ever once complained about. The good thing about Tom was he didn't hesitate or look frightened. Tom could always just roll with the situation and he did so now, putting more of the cream on his hands and starting at the ankles, moving up her shins to her knees, and then the soft, smooth skin of her thighs. She had skinny legs, no real curve to her hips, but he didn't seem to mind. He was methodical, coaxing one knee to bend and then the other so he could get every bit of pale skin.
And then, when her knees were bent, it was easy for him to nudge them apart and let his fingers change pace. No longer could she anticipate where they would go. Instead, he drew patterns on her skin with their tips - little circles and curlicues and that would have tickled her if it weren't so damn arousing. She let her head fall back a bit and closed her eyes. She felt the fingers hook into the sides of her underwear and she lifted her hips up and off the blanket so he could ease them down.
She opened her eyes. He was watching her carefully, his eyes so blue with the water behind him.
"Did you know this was going to happen?" she asked.
"I'd hoped," he replied. He reached for the tank top but she pulled it off herself. If they were going to do this, which it looked like they were, she wasn't going to be shy about it. It had been a very long time and would probably never happen again, so she intended to make the most of it. When the shirt was off, she reached for him and he met her kiss eagerly.
It was surprising how comfortable it all felt, how easily they seemed to fit. The smell of him, even through the salt and sweat, made her feel almost nostalgic, it was so familiar. He leaned her back and rolled over her, cushioning himself between her legs, holding himself up on his elbows. He ground their hips together lightly and they both started to breath a little harder.
"Too much?" he asked. She shook her head. If anything, she was soaking the front of his underwear.
"No," she said. They could still stop, but the damage had been done, so why bother? Encouraged by her answer, he moved his hands between her legs. She was wet and warm and he smoothed the wetness around before dipping one finger inside of her. "Slowly," she pleaded.
He nodded and moved easily and after the initial shock of penetration faded, it all started to feel good, really good.
"Kiss me," she ordered. He obliged, matching the movement of his tongue with that of his fingers, and she began to forget about lying on a scratchy blanket, forget about the beach, the Delta Flyer parked a ways away, the other shuttles out scouting, Voyager waiting for them, being Captain, all off it.
When she came, grinding down onto his hand, crying out as loudly as she wanted to because they were alone, she forgot about the Delta Quadrant all together.
While she recovered, Tom kicked off his shorts, burying them halfway in the sand. He would regret his haste later when he had to put them back on, but right now just being free was all he wanted.
He loved that Janeway wasn't shy, that she reached right out and took what she wanted into her hand. That she tilted her hips, stroked him a few times, and looked him straight in the eye.
"Do it," she ordered.
He would never be able to hear that phrase in the same way again.
She woke up sore and sated, but her body wasn't what woke her. There was a drop, then another, of water on her bare skin. She looked up to see that the blue sky had disappeared.
"Tom," she said, shaking him and looking for her underwear. "Tom, wake up."
"What?" he asked, opening his eyes.
"We have to move," she said, stumbling on the uneven sand as she tried to step into the twisted lace briefs.
Tom looked up and saw how dark and gray everything had become in the last hour. Falling asleep had been a mistake and now they'd have to hike back in the storm. Janeway had dashed closer to the water to retrieve their uniforms and ran back toward him with her arms full of jumbled pieces of clothing but it was already too late. The rain was here, pelting them both with freezing drops. Tom put all of their stuff onto the blanket and gathered the four corners and hefted up the whole thing.
"Head for the trees," he yelled and she nodded, holding the clothes to her bare chest and darted over wet sand toward the foliage. Tom wished he was wearing anything, anything at all. Under cover of the thick trees, they took a moment to regroup and dress. Janeway's hair was stringy and dripping as she tried to fasten her bra with cold fingers. She pulled on her pants and then her shirts. Tom tried for several moments to put on his jacket before he realized it was hers and they swapped. The clothes were wet and uncomfortable. They had to shake sand and water out of their boots before shoving them on over wet socks.
"That storm came fast," she fretted. "Where's the tricorder?"
Several moments were spent searching for it in their pile of things. When he found it, she snatched it from it and scanned around while he sorted through the pile and packed everything away properly.
"It's big," she said.
"Too big to attempt to get back to the shuttle?" he asked.
"I think we should try," she said. "We can keep to the trees for shelter. It's a longer route, but safer, I think."
"You've lost a pip," he said, as he helped her put her pack on. "Commander."
She shrugged, tossing up her hands. It was somewhere back in the sand. They had their communicators still, not that they were in range of contacting anyone. At the very least, between the tricorder and the communicators, they could set up a fairly strong distress beacon. She didn't want to think about that.
"This way," she said, and he followed her dutifully, wiping the water from his eyes every few steps.
After about twenty minutes, however, it became clear that they were going to have to find a place to wait it out. Tom could see Janeway shivering with every step and he could hear his own teeth chattering.
"Captain," he said finally and she knew he was waving his white flag. She looked around, hoping to find a convenient cave or abandoned hunting cabin or something, but of course, there was nothing. The best they could hope to do was put their backs against the trunk of a wide tree and cover themselves with their blanket, happy now that the water rolled off. They huddled together, her back against his chest and she was immediately warmer, if not dry. Their breath under the blanket made the space humid and she was again glad she was with Tom and not some crew member she didn't know well. She tried to imagine herself in this predicament with Tuvok but realized it was impossible - Tuvok would have never abandoned protocol for some R and R.
"Do you think we'll make it back to Voyager by rendezvous?" she asked.
"Maybe," he said, his voice full of false cheer. His arms moved more tightly around her, partly to offer comfort and partly because he was cold. "I could always hike ahead and then beam you back on board once I got there."
"We're not splitting up," she said. "But it's a nice offer."
"I think it's already letting up," he said, but the pounding rain drops and water pooling by the toes of her boots seemed just as steady as ever.
"Tom," she said. "Today was... a mistake."
"Do you think what we did was a mistake or is it a mistake because we're probably going to get caught?" he asked.
"Is there a difference?"
"It makes a difference to me," he said.
"I made a promise to myself that I would put the crew before my personal issues always," she said. "But what we did today was selfish."
"Maybe," he said. "But you're no good to us as a Captain if you take away everything that makes you a human."
"Sex with my pilot on the beach makes me human?" she asked quietly, her bottom lip stuck out just a bit. She was pouting, ever so slightly, feeling wet and miserable and sorry for herself.
"Didn't you feel more alive?" he asked. She nodded but still look sad, so he leaned in and kissed the protruding lip until she kissed him back.
When the rain slowed, as it eventually did, they repacked their things and walked the rest of the way back to the shuttle, eating the ration bars she'd had the foresight to pack. When they saw the ship, she seemed to regain her composure a little and he was glad.
Inside, he powered up the systems before easing them up through the atmosphere and into space. Once they were headed back to the coordinates, he turned to her.
"We're not going to make it on time," he said. "I mean, we could try. I could push it, but even then..."
"We're going to be late and have nothing to show for it," she said. "No ore, no food, no supplies."
"My ass is pretty sunburned, if it's any consolation," he offered. She couldn't help but laugh. "My suggestion is that we shower and fly back at a reasonable speed with our heads held high."
"All right," she said. "When I first saw the plans for this ship, I thought the shower was a luxury item."
"And now," she said slowly. "I'm wondering if it will fit two."
He quickly set the ship to autopilot and followed her back into the aft compartment.
The shower didn't really fit two, but it didn't matter. He let her go first while he recycled their filthy uniforms and replicated new ones. It seemed a shame to send away her black lingerie but then he scrolled through the clothing database and replicated the raciest set he could find - red this time.
When she was done, he stepped in, letting the waves take the sand and salt from his skin, before shutting the shower off and pulling her close to him, kissing her, and backing her against the bulkhead. She allowed him to lift her enough that she could wrap her legs around his waist and when he entered her, she hissed slightly, both with pleasure and pain. She was sore from the last time, but he endeavored to be more gentle, moving slowly and deeply until she was speaking gibberish, moaning, begging him to move faster and harder.
When they were finished, he let her slide to the ground onto wobbly legs and she took a moment to rest her sweaty forehead against his chest.
"One more shower?" he asked.
"One more," she agreed and walked unsteadily back toward the lavatory. He dressed and went back up to navigation to check on their status and to give her some space.
"We were starting to worry," Chakotay said, greeting them in the shuttle bay. He offered the Captain a hand as she disembarked and she took it. Tom stepped off after her.
"We're fine, Commander," Janeway said. "We just took a little detour, lost track of the time."
"Everything okay?" Chakotay asked, glancing at Tom.
"Of course," she said breezily. "Tell me, what did the other shuttles find?"
Tom watched them disappear out of the shuttle bay, the Captain sounding surprisingly normal. They would head to the bridge. He should have had a few hours off to sleep or eat, but because they were late, he was already due in sickbay and that's where he headed.
The Doctor looked up as he entered.
"You're late, Mr. Paris," he said.
"We just got back," Tom said.
"Well," the Doctor said, sniffing slightly. "Your work is waiting for you in the lab."
Tom went to work, alone in the lab, just him and his secret.
She came to his quarters late that night. Ever since he and B'Elanna had called it quits, he hadn't bothered to keep his quarters clean. One of B'Elanna's complaints in this latest break up had been how he'd lived like a slob and without her nagging, he'd allowed the mess to completely take over.
Janeway looked around with obvious horror.
"To say this is not up to regulation is a bit of an understatement," she said.
"Sorry," he said. "I could lie and say I would have cleaned it up had I known you'd be coming over, but that would just degrade us both."
"Well," she said. "Do you want to walk with me?"
They went to the hydroponics bay, a place that was good for walking but not a high traffic area, especially at night. There was a bench by a unit of flowers and they sat together.
"I just wanted to thank you for helping me to relax," she said.
"It was my pleasure," he said. She nudged him with her elbow but smirked.
"I adore you, you know that right?"
"I'd hoped," he said.
"But the ship is the ship, Tom, and we can't be so cavalier about behavior while on board."
"I understand, Captain," he said.
"Good," she said, standing up.
"What about when we're not on Voyager?" he asked.
"Perhaps, every now and again, I will require a skilled pilot on an away mission," she said. "If the conditions and timing are right."
"That's all I ask, Ma'am," he said. "A tall ship and a star to steer her by."
"Walk me home?" she asked.
He offered his arm and she looped hers through his and they started back toward the turbolift.
"These are the most intrusive, uncomfortable, impractical pair of underwear I have ever had on in my life," she said.
He burst into laughter.
"But how do they look?" he managed.
"Pretty good," she said.
When the turbolift opened, Harry Kim saw Tom and Janeway collapsed against each other in laughter, gasping and stumbling in that way that only drunk or giddy people can.
"I'll catch the next one," he said. They had looked up, seen him, and dissolved into their inside joke all over again.
Harry walked around the length of the deck, heading for the lift on the other side of the ship, shaking his head.
Tom Paris was such a Captain's Pet.