Author's Note: Written for Cara_Mia, for the 2013 VAMB Secret Drabble exchange. She provided the first sentence, and a request for a J/C pairing OR a friendship piece with one of the main protagonists. I can't quite decide what this is - one, or both? Feel free to let me know …

Other than the ideas, I own nothing herein, not even the bar. As always, a warm hug and some Thirty Bench futures go to Runawaymetaphor, eternal mistress of the "does this suck?" test.

Truth or Dare

By Alpha Flyer

"Stories don't always end the way you want them to. Chakotay knows this. Has known it for a long time."

Tom Paris trained his slightly glassy eyes into a look somewhere on the spectrum between sympathy and ironic distance, and was rewarded with a puzzled frown. Even in his own inebriated state, it was obvious to him that after three rounds of Romulan ale, his former Captain had a hard time focusing. Kathryn Janeway was as tough as they came - something he'd learned during a few prior such sessions. But she was also a foot shorter than him, with about sixty percent of his body mass, and thathad to count for something.

"What do you mean?"

Tom was impressed that the words came out of her mouth as separate and distinct things, rather then as a blurry whaddyamean. He endeavored to reply with equal articulation and succeeded (mostly); he even managed to sound slightly supercilious.

"You know ex-actly what I mean, Kathryn."

Her eyebrows shot up a little at the familiarity, but hell, he was Commander Paris now, wasn't he? She wasn't his commanding officer anymore, and it had been her who'd asked him to join her for a drink (or three, or five) in the bowels of Deep Space Nine. Kathryn it was, dammit.

"Spell it out for me anyway. That's the rules. Truth, not … platitudes. So let's have it, Thomas Eugene Paris. The whole truth."

She accentuated every syllable of his name carefully, endowing the 't' and 'p' with a spray of spittle, and smirking over the middle part she knew he detested. (What by the rings of Saturn had his parents been thinking?)

Tom sighed heavily and drained his drink, trying to find some intestinal fortitude. The Ferengi bar owner materialized in an instant – the man must have a transmitter of some sort fused into the glass, something calling for a refill as soon you got to a certain level. The guy – named after some obscure dairy product, Kefir? - replenished the blue liquid without so much as a by-your-leave, his pointed teeth flashing an obsequious grin. (Why'd he look so familiar?)

Tom waited until the bald head (did all Ferengi skulls look like a pink version of Chell's butt?) disappeared behind the bar, before he tried to focus on Janeway again.

"Right. Truth. So Chakotay told you this … this fable of the Angry Warrior, how many years ago now? Seven? Eight?"

He suppressed an eye roll. The idea of the fearless leader of a major Maquis cell being reduced to greeting card clichés in his effort to breach the Captain's steely defenses was … kind of sad, wasn't it? How on Earth … New Earth … could anyone expect that to lead to a happy ending? Now, Tom wasn't the most sophisticated of suitors himself - hell, it had taken him three years to get through to B'Elanna - but he'd done it eventually, and it sure wasn't by deploying metaphor as a weapon of war.

Kathryn nodded, and waved him on impatiently. She was still waiting for her answer.

Truth or Dare: Do you think Chakotay could still be in love with me?

Innocent enough at the beginning, the little game had turned into a version of the Spanish Inquisition, with Tom on the rack.

Shit. Might as well get it over with.

"Fine. I'll tell you what I mean. But don't kill me, okay? Chakotay knows that little story he told you didn't – couldn't – have ended the way he may have wanted it to, soon as we came back for you. But even if he meant it to mean what you think it meant then, doesn't mean he'd still mean it now. Or that he's still pining."

Kathryn frowned at him again, more deeply this time, but it didn't seem to be about his unimaginative vocabulary. No such luck.

"Why wouldn't he be?"

"Be what?"

Kathryn grimaced at the patent disingenuousness of the question. She would have the truth out of him yet.

"Still pining."

"You want him to?"

"Pine? Of course not. But why wouldn't he?"

"That's a new question. You're out of turn." Tom's voice carried a note of triumph.

Kathryn gave him her highest-carat glare, slightly unfocused.

"Subset of the original question: Do you think Chakotay could still be in love with me?"

Tom held onto his glass with both hands, and inhaled deeply before looking his former Captain in the eye. He could of course argue … He could. But then she'd just come back. She always did … And when had he ever been able to say no to Kathryn Janeway?

What he was about to say might mean he'd never see B'Elanna and Miral again. But - he'd agreed to the terms of the game (somewhat rashly) and he had picked 'Truth'. Really, he should have known better …

Kathryn was starting to strum her fingers on the table impatiently, and Tom swallowed hard. One more draught of ale, and he determinedly fixed her eyes with his (to the extent possible).

"Fine. Here's why I think Chakotay is over you. In spite of that sappy story he told you on New Earth. And why he's not pining now. One."

He held up his index finger for emphasis. It wavered only a little bit.

"For seven years you ignored virtually every bit of advice he ever gave you, and did whatever you wanted."

"That's a bloody exag… ex-ag-er-ation. It couldn't have been more than…"

Tom held up his hand to ward her off. To his surprise, Kathryn stopped her protest. She'd asked him to give her the truth and, being her, she'd hear him out; she could always ignore it later. Probably would.

"Even if you count only the Borg sh… stuff and the Equinox, he should be terminally pissed off at you. And if he wasn't, I'd be worried. You need a partner, not a dishrag. Two. You relieved him of command, how many times? I forget. Bet he knows, though. Like I won't forget that demotion."

Tom pre-emptively waved off another potential protest. He was on a roll now.

"Three. He married Seven, ferfuckssake. Who, last time I looked, is not you."

This time, Kathryn actually snorted.

"Yeah, and we all saw how well that turned out."

Tom shrugged.

"So they lasted only three years. Not the point. He married her. You don't do that if you're pining for someone else. Besides, she left him, not the other way around. For all we know, he's pining for her."

His voice acquired a conspiratorial tone, and he leaned forward a little, needing to put his elbow on the table to avoid swaying too much. Now here was a perfect opportunity to deflect attention from what he'd just told her, and Tom Paris was nothing if not creative when it came to self-preservation.

"You know what Seven told me? I have assimilated all the knowledge I require about the institution of marriage and human sexuality. Accordingly, continuing my relationship with Chakotay would be inefficient. Direct quote. How's that for sentimental?"

Kathryn shook her head in fond exasperation and they were silent for a while, Tom nursing his relief at having survived the interrogation. Whatever had made her ask that particular question (and of him, of all people), he hoped he'd never find out.

The Ferengi barkeep hovered hopefully in the background – the promenade was dead this night - but neither of his guests was in a hurry to finish the current round. Kathryn was the first to break the silence.

"Your turn. Truth."

Tom smirked. Two could play at that game.

"Did you think me and B'Elanna would work out as well as we did?"

Kathryn picked up her glass, lifted it in Tom's direction and leaned back in her chair.

"Absolutely. When she didn't kill you after that cave thing. That's when I knew. I only wondered what took you so long to pop the question."

Tom wasn't sure whether to be pleased or disappointed at the warp speed answer. (A little embarrassed squirming would have been nice.) But before he could decide, Kathryn set her glass down with a determined clunk.

"I want another turn, Commander. Truth or Dare?"

Tom swallowed. Shit. Another round? Well, this time he'd be smarter. No more truth games for this puppy. He drained his glass and held it up for the Ferengi to refill. What the hell.

"Dare. Definitely Dare."

Kathryn acknowledged his response something close to a feline purr. Tom felt a sudden dread - he could practically see yellow feathers sticking out of his former Captain's mouth.

"I dare you to repeat all that to my latest … emm …. suitor."

She tapped her communicator.

"Janeway to Chakotay. Oh, Chakotay? Tom wants a word."