I promised a sequel to "Choices"; this is not it. (Look for it in about a week though …) This little diversion is for Mariposa, who suggested I try my hand at an "alternate ending" story, and for Runawaymetaphor, a brilliant talent whose beautiful and moody Janeway-Paris pieces inspired me to travel down that particular road a ways. I have always admitted to the plausibility of this relationship – after all, the show's writers contemplated it for a while, too. But as a dyed-in-the-wool "P/Ter", I can't quite bring myself to play the hundred-ways-to-ditch-B'Elanna game. So whatever happened between Kathryn and Tom, for me, had to have occurred before the 3rd season. And what better episode to build on than the unjustly maligned "Threshold"? Despite that certain hokeyness factor, it contains more raw emotional truths (from Tom's side at least) than any dozen episodes of Trek; clearly something to build on. But that ending in sickbay was a tad pat, especially on Janeway's part, and required follow-up.
One more note: This is an attempt to do something entirely out of my comfort zone (if I can claim to have one, given that this is only my second posted story), and I would more than welcome constructive comments.
By Alpha Flyer
"I've thought about having children, but I never thought I'd be having them with you."
Of course she had thought about it – maybe not the part about having children, exactly, but everything else leading up to that point. She was a woman, after all, and Tom Paris was one of the most attractive men she had ever met, both inside and out.
From the moment she had first seen him, in the glow of that New Zealand afternoon, sun-gilded hair framing his head like a halo fit for a fallen angel, she had thought about it.
Seared by those blazing sapphire eyes - so haunted and cynical, a shocking sight in such an absurdly young face - she had thought about it.
Getting to know him over the last two years, his selfless nature, his creative spirit, his ridiculous sense of humor, and his very personal, very firm code of honour had only made her think about it more.
Every woman on Voyager had thought about it, she mused, and many of the men. Many had voiced those thoughts, in unguarded moments, in the mess hall, on the holodeck. She had heard them, whisper confessions: Megan Delaney. Nicoletti, playing hard to get and fooling no one. Henley. Lang. Torres, protesting too much.
So yes, Kathryn Janeway had thought about it. She was still a woman, after all.
For the longest time, she had believed that Tom Paris encouraged such thoughts, thrived on them, flashing his smile and using his body to momentarily defeat the loneliness of space. Not with her though; she was the Captain.
But those thoughts had come before That Flight. Before he had poured out his fears and his doubts to her; before the transformation deprived him of even the last of his defenses and laid him bare to her view.
Before she had touched the wounded soul that hid, not so deep at all, beneath the cockiness, the bravado, the flirting. Before he told her, in an agonizing cry, of his belief that she, like all the others, must hold him in contempt for what he was, for what he thought he had failed to become. How little he knew of himself.
Kathryn Janeway looked at herself in the mirror over her sink. It had been a week since their release from sickbay. Six weeks since Tom – or whatever Tom had temporarily become after the Warp 10 flight - had abducted her.
And in between lay … five weeks of what? For the hundredth, the thousandth time she asked herself that question. Failed, for the hundredth or thousandth time, to come up with an answer.
The Captain remembered nothing. Kathryn wanted to remember everything.
Kathryn splashed cold water in her face and tried to rub out the thoughts that might otherwise force their way unbidden into her head. Thoughts and questions inappropriate for the Captain of a starship stranded tens of thousands of light years from home. Questions for Kathryn, though.
If she was still Kathryn. Or had she been Captain Janeway too long? Another question to which she did not know the answer.
But there were other problems to be addressed now, other questions to be asked. And the Captain would have to be the one to speak with him; she owed him – and her ship - that much.
Even Chakotay was admitting freely now that Tom Paris was the best pilot he had ever seen, a natural, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. But the last few days had seen a change, something they could not put their finger on. He still flew the ship with unparalleled technical finesse; during the most recent skirmish with the Kazon, he hadn't missed a single opportunity to maneuver Voyager into a position where Tuvok could deploy the ship's limited store of photon torpedoes to maximum advantage.
And yet. What was lacking was the spark, the inspiration. Where to others flying a starship was merely an exercise in applied physics, to Tom Paris, it had always been poetry, his heat and soul taking silvery wing among the stars. Now, his flying was prosaic at best.
Gone also was his sardonic running commentary on Voyager's many and various predicaments, the free-flowing wisecracks that so often had her rolling her eyes at him, but which she had found, in their absence, to have been vital to morale on the bridge.
What was missing, in Janeway's estimation, was – the quintessential Tom Paris, that lightness of being which he had managed, against all odds, to shelter against the many black moments in his life. The spirit that made Voyager soar from the moment she allowed him to take the helm.
The ship needed him back.
She needed him back.
She filed that last thought under "do not examine too closely" – an ever-expanding category, as far as Tom Paris was concerned. She dried her face, arranged her features in their best Captain Janeway mode, took a deep breath and headed for Deck Four.
It was not lost on her, as she touched the comm panel, that the last time she had entered Tom's quarters had been the day before the Warp 10 flight. He had been relaxing in his blue bathrobe, going over flight specs one last time, when she came in to shatter his world. The Doctor had identified a medical risk factor that suggested someone else should take the flight.
Tom's plea still rang in her ears. Please let me make this flight, Captain. Please.
Where would they be had she said no?
She touched the comm panel. Twice. There was no answer, and she asked the computer to confirm his whereabouts.
"Lieutenant Paris is in his quarters," came the ubiquitous voice.
She hesitated briefly, then did what she very well knew even a Captain should not: she overrode the privacy lock with her command codes, and entered.
His quarters were as she remembered them from her previous visit – Starfleet-tidy, but with personal touches that were uniquely Tom: replicated twentieth-century paintings, vying for space on the walls with holo-images of space craft both famous and obscure; a stack of paper books beside a comfortable-looking easy chair; more books on a credenza, which also held a model of an old clipper ship. No wonder he was in the mess hall so often, despite his vociferous dislike for Neelix' exotic concoctions; those things that made his quarters a home – more than her own, she had to admit - must have cost him a fortune in replicator rations. Else, he was far better at shooting pool than he had ever let on to her.
But where was he? A cold panic started to grip her throat.
Just as she was about to call out his name, Tom emerged from his bathroom, blue bathrobe tied loosely – very loosely, she realized, as her throat suddenly turned dry - around his waist, long legs and feet bare, toweling off his still wet hair. He gasped a startled "jeesh…" at the unexpected presence in his room, eyes instinctively looking for a weapon. Then he realized who the intruder was.
"Captain? May I ask…?"
Janeway felt her face tighten in a sudden flush of heat. Clearly, he had not heard the door chime because he had been in the shower; her trespass into his private quarters was unforgiveable.
"I am so sorry, Tom - Lieutenant …" she managed. " I … I was worried about you. And when you didn't answer the door … given what you have just gone through …"
He smiled, a crooked smile, more ironic than warm. "So you came to check up on me." It was a statement, not a question. His shields were up, and functioning at a hundred percent. "Should I be flattered or upset?"
He had not invited her to sit, or even to come in, and so she continued standing by the door, feeling oddly discomfited by her faux pas and by the situation she had put herself in.
"Neither. No - look, Tom, I'm sorry for barging into your quarters like this, violating your privacy. But truth be told, I am – we are worried about you."
Tom cocked an eyebrow at the 'we', but let it pass. Normally he might have enjoyed seeing a superior officer so clearly flustered before him, but this was Kathryn Janeway. He waited to see what she would do, what she would say next.
She continued, a little too hurriedly, her eyes desperately focusing on his face. "You haven't been yourself this past week, Tom. Chakotay's noticed, I've noticed. Even Tuvok commented on the 'remarkable absence of Mr. Paris' attempts at humour' yesterday. And so …" she hesitated a little.
"And so you came to check up on me." Again, that same statement, that same ironic distance.
"Yes. I was wondering … whether you might want to talk about what's wrong, tell me how I … we can help."
"You mean, you think I need a counseling session? Have I not performed to Starfleet standards? Have I flown Voyager into a star?" He was challenging her now.
She found herself getting irritated with his tone, that slightly husky drawl, although she supposed he had earned the right to taunt her a little after she had barged into his quarters like that.
"No, that's not it, Tom. It's just … we miss you. I miss you. Something has happened to you and you've changed somehow…"
He gave a short, bitter laugh that dissolved the mask. "Yeah, that's right. I changed. The understatement of the month. Of course, I bloody changed, Captain. I turned into some grotesque, scaly, slavering thing too disgusting even for a B-grade horror vid; I spat out all sorts of inane nonsense, along with my tongue; I talked to you as if you were the source of all my problems and unloaded all of my goddamn personal shit on you …"
Tom stopped briefly, his internal sensors realizing he was going down a road he would come to regret. But being inherently a courageous man and sufficiently angry now to let her have what she had come for, he continued, more evenly, looking his Captain straight in the eye with a pained expression.
"So forgive me, if I feel a bit … self-conscious these days. People stare at me in the mess hall, wondering whether or when I'm going to go over the edge again, or whether my hair is going to fall out in clumps and into their food."
Of course. It mattered to Tom what people thought of him; he had told her that much, even as he had realized that it was his own opinion of himself that needed the more extensive work. Even if in her view he had proven himself, his worth, to the ship and to her a hundred times over, the Captain in her knew that she would have to give him what he so clearly required – a public redemption. She filed that thought away for later consideration.
But there was obviously something else bothering Tom; the sudden flash of anguish in his eyes told her that much. She waited, gave him the space to continue.
When he did, his voice shook a little. "And then I abducted you, Captain, and … and … Lord knows what happened down there on that planet, between us."
She started to speak, but he waved her off. "I know what you told me in sickbay, that you may have … started whatever we may have done down there." He snorted, a little derisively, the self-loathing evident in his voice.
"Maybe you're right. But I'll never know for sure, and to tell you the truth, it's been pretty damn hard getting up in the morning and looking at myself in the mirror without wanting to spit."
He added, looking her straight in the eyes now, "And then having to look at you … on the bridge. Knowing what I … probably … did to you."
Kathryn took a few steps towards Tom, if only to prove to him that the disgust he felt was not shared. "Tom, I don't know what happened down there either. But I can tell you that I do not hold this … any of this against you, in any way. You were not yourself. And neither was I. There is no need to agonize over it, because we will never know."
She held his gaze, found herself suddenly drowning in what she saw in his eyes - even as her stomach fluttered unaccountably at the renewed and rather inconvenient realization just how impossibly blue those eyes were.
Seeking to break the connection, Kathryn lowered her eyes, only to find her attention caught by the open, far too open collar of his bathrobe. She held her breath when she became aware of his clean, shower-fresh scent, overlaid with a unique masculine overtone that she recognized from the many times she had placed her hand on his shoulder on the bridge.
She found herself losing concentration on what Tom was telling her, the sudden overwhelming awareness of his physical presence snapping her resolve at playing Captain-counselor like a twig. Desperately, Janeway tried to recall all the reasons why any of the thoughts she had just been having were so utterly inappropriate. And failed to come up with a single one.
"The truth is …" Unaware of the tenuous hold the woman before him had on her self-control, Tom was clearly struggling with his own desire to tell her something, but unable to let it out.
She managed to recover, a little, remembered why she was there. "The truth is what, Tom?"
He needed to be encouraged to shed his burden, at least that was what she told herself as she stepped even closer to him and laid her hand on his lower arm. An arm that was partly bare, in the three-quarter-length sleeve of his robe.
She almost jumped at the jolt of electricity that seemed to run through her fingers as she touched his skin, felt the warmth and the softness of its covering of golden hair. He must have felt it too; she felt him twitch a little, heard him expel a hissing breath.
Then she felt his long fingers cover hers, pinning her hand to his own arm, his finger nails digging in a little. She stilled at the touch, looked up into his suddenly darkening eyes. He had made a decision, she could see that, and she waited for him to speak.
"The truth is, I have been trying to remember … what it was like down there, trying to remember … you. I've tried so hard. But I can't. Whether we … you … really had a choice. Whether you wanted a choice, but didn't get one, or not the right one. Whether you could ever have wanted to be with … me. Someone like me. Even just the way we were then."
The self-doubt in his voice nearly broke her heart. But there was something else, a longing. Desire. For her.
"And that, the not knowing, is driving me crazy."
She felt his thumb absently stroking her hand as he spoke. Looking him straight in the eyes, she said the words she could not take back. Would not take back.
"I may not remember, but I do believe I had a choice then. As much as I have a choice now."
And with that, she reached out with her other hand to touch his neck, to make him bend down a little. He was so tall. Her mouth opened in invitation as she tilted up her head and he finally understood. His eyes widened in disbelief and a smile crossed his face like sunlight rising over a glacier.
Slowly, deliberately, she felt him lean into her, his free hand threading into her hair, tilting her head even further back. Heard him whisper, "Kathryn", in a mixture of surprise and awe. Shivered at the sound of her name from his mouth. Gasped when the tip of his tongue lightly, almost reverently, traced her lips, before he took her mouth in a searing kiss that left both of them breathless.
Oh, but he was good at this. She never knew how she got out of her clothes, how their bodies were suddenly freed from all constraints, whether she opened his robe, or whether it parted on its own.
What she would remember though, always, was the feeling of his warm, soft skin, the hammering of his pulse under her hands, and her shiver in response. She would not forget, ever, the touch of those long, talented fingers, his lips, his tongue, in places left unexplored far too long, if indeed they ever had been.
She would forever recall how quickly and thoroughly his body responded to her every touch, how he felt in her searching hands, the soft gasps he gave as she asserted her own desire deftly and with sure strokes.
And she would be able to relive the moment he lifted her up and braced her against the wall until, her legs wrapped tightly around his waist, he was moving within her with such urgency, such sweetness that she shattered into a million starlit pieces.
Afterwards, there was nothing they could do but to lie together on his bed in silence, his long body spooned around her much smaller one, enjoying the closeness and the beating of each other's hearts. Slowly, deliciously he ran his fingers over the length of her body. As his lips nuzzled the crook of her neck, she felt the vibrations of his low chuckle, a sound she had not heard in a long time, and never like this.
She turned in his arms, looked at him questioningly, prepared to glare. "What's so funny?" He ran his fingertips down her arms, her belly, her breasts again, sensuous individual touches, as if he were playing a slow tune on a piano.
"No scales," he said, as his shoulders started to shake with barely suppressed laughter.
It took her a second to realize what he had said, and she swatted him likely on his behind. But her sense of the ridiculous won out quickly, and together they laughed until tears streamed down her face and he had to slow her breathing with a long, deep, languid kiss.
She decided then that it was time for some truths of her own. Tracing the outline of his face and removing a bit of errant blonde hair that had fallen into his forehead, she spoke.
"I lied to you, Tom."
He moved a little, turning so he could look into her eyes.
The words came slowly, haltingly, but clear and true.
"Back in sickbay, when I told you that I had never thought … about you in that way. I told the truth about the children part of it, but … you know … the rest … I did think about it. About you. Far too often for … for someone in my position. And I wondered. You know, what it would be like to … to be with you." She traced a line across his chest with her fingernail.
"I have wanted this for a long time. But I didn't think I could ever … would ever be able to …" Her voice trailed off.
He held his breath. Whether it was at her confession, or at the unwanted reminder of why she had to keep those thoughts a secret, she couldn't tell. She hoped it was the former.
She moved, a half-hearted attempt to rise. He held her down and kissed her again, slowly, delicately this time, his fingers threading through her hair, occasionally rubbing a few strands together as if to feel its softness, commit it to tactile memory. His right hand was caressing her breast, teasing her nipple to attention.
"Stay," he whispered, a bare breath in her ear.
"I know. I don't mean stay the night, or stay forever. Just for a little while longer. I think we both know …"
"… that this can't happen again?" She could feel his lips and the tip of his tongue brushing her neck, touching that sensitive skin behind her ears, as he nodded yes.
She sought out his eyes, pupils large and dilated in the semi-darkness of his quarters, but still that impossible sapphire blue that had first struck her like a bolt of lightning in Auckland. Not so cynical anymore, still a little sad, although with the touch of a smile now. How could he say so much with a single look, how could she read him so well?
She put her weight on her elbow, cupped his left cheek with her other hand and used her thumb to trace his high cheekbones, his eyebrows, those fair lashes.
Wordlessly she lifted herself up to straddle him, her breasts grazing the soft hairs on his chest. She sighed her pleasure at the sensation even as she leaned forward for a deep, lingering kiss that left both of them gasping.
Silently, she leaned in again, devouring his mouth with hers, running her tongue down his neck as if desperate to commit his taste to what would soon be a memory. He, in turn, cupped her breasts with his hands, savouring the fragile closeness.
Slowly, deliberately, she changed the angle of her hips and guided him inside her, held still, enjoying the feeling as for just one more moment they completed one another. Then any rational thought or future regret was swept away until,
finally spent, catching ragged breaths, they lay in each other's arms again, hands gliding over skin that would soon be lost to their touch, memorizing the planes and valleys of the other's body.
Knowing one of them would have to be the first to let go and used to being the one doing the leaving – usually to spare pain, his own more often than not – Tom gently rolled her off his body and slid out from underneath her embracing warmth.
Kathryn nearly let out a sob at the loss of his closeness but she understood, and the part of her that had remained Captain Janeway was grateful. Slowly, hesitantly she got up to retrieve her clothes, strewn on the floor where they had fallen in a haphazard pile.
"Would you like to take a shower before you leave? I still have some water rations left." Tom Paris. Practical to the last. She almost laughed.
It was a most generous offer, but when she turned it down it was not to save him the expense. Her heart clenched at the thought of losing his scent on her skin too soon – if she could carry it into her cabin, hold on to it there for a while, if only to the start of her shift, she would.
In silence they looked at each other, Captain and Lieutenant, commanding officer and pilot – lovers now.
Former lovers already, but never less than that – never, ever less.
The knowledge of who they were, what they had been together, would remain, in darkness and in doubt. The memory would come, bidden or not, at the touch of a shoulder, dripping through her fingers as he flew Voyager through empty space at her command.
He bent down for one last, gentle closed-mouth kiss, on her lips first, then her cheeks, then her eyelids. She breathed in the moment deeply, feeling its loss already, burrowing deep into those places inside her where Captain Janeway held no sway, where there was only Kathryn.
But her voice held no regret.
"At least now we know."
She was rewarded with a blinding smile, the kind she had not seen for far too long and which she had come to this place to find.
"Yes, now we both know."