Author's note: Written for VAMB SS2013 exchange and for Cheshire who requested a "Janeway and Paris friendship story, they are forced to reconcile after Thirty Days" – a heart-stopping request given the several brilliant stories by amazing authors that touch on the subject. But, once the initial terror receded, the prompt was exactly the push I needed to revisit a theme that has continued to percolate in the back of my brain since it came up in my first Voyager piece and to explore just what might have propelled Tom Paris to become a "cause kind of guy".
All my stories come from the same mental universe, and this one makes reference back to "What Comes Before", though it should stand on its own as well. In my own head, it also bookends "Straight Road Lost and Trouble Found", but my head is a rather strange place with quirks of its own.
A thousand thanks to Photogirl1890 for everything from encouraging the initial idea to proof-reading at the end.
Voyager and her crew do not belong to me - my apologies, again, for injury done to them in the course of this story. I did try to put at least most of the pieces back together by the end.
"I went on this mission expecting to play out a childhood fantasy, but along the way when I realized that ocean would just be gone one day, it started to matter to me. It sounds pretty stupid, huh?"
"No. No, it sounds like you've found yourself a cause."
"I never thought of myself as a cause kind of guy."
-Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres, "Thirty Days"
"Well, then, I guess I'm yours."
It had been a throwaway line because what the hell are you supposed to say when a Starfleet captain comes to chat with you in prison? Kathryn Janeway. She hadn't introduced herself by rank. No need. The pips would do the work for her.
Kathryn Janeway and Thomas Eugene Paris. They must have made an interesting pair strolling across the grounds of the penal settlement. Visitors to Auckland were rare as a rule. Most of the inmates hailed from the outlying systems of the Federation, far from the virtual paradise that Earth had become. Those few who were natives of the planet had done their best to cut all ties with it years before – as had Tom himself.
"I served with your father on the Al-Batani."
As usual, his best wasn't quite good enough.
Two children of Starfleet admirals – yes, he knew the name Janeway; how could he not? – the fast-tracked captain and the disgraced inmate. Quite a pair indeed.
She probably thought the deal she offered was simple: lead us to your former shipmates. In return, an earlier chance at release. (Not freedom. He had given that up long ago if he had ever possessed it at all.) An easy choice for a mercenary.
Except Tom had never really been a mercenary until he accepted that deal.
"I guess I'm all yours. At least for the next couple of hours."
That earned him a death glare; apparently she hadn't missed his reference. Though more likely she was just pissed off at him for disobeying a direct order. Again.
Twice in a year. Actually three times if you counted that little incident in the Void. But the entire senior staff had been in on the mutiny that time. She couldn't possibly hold that against him, could she?
Yeah, well, probably she could.
He sighed and crouched down in front of her. At least the ground appeared to holding properly still for the moment. He had already tended to her head wound as best as he was able. Now for her other major injury.
"Captain, I need to try to set your leg. Harry and B'Elanna should have us out of here before too long," ...if they made it to the surface. His stomach lurched, and he buried that line of thought..."but it would be better to have it in a brace sooner rather than later."
She nodded, clenching her teeth in anticipation. He had already given her a general analgesic; he dared not give her anything stronger without knowing the full extent of her head injury. Pulling off his uniform jacket and pushing up his sleeves, he pulled out one of the expandable braces that the Doc had long ago added to the standard medkits. Ever so carefully, he positioned the brace beneath the Captain's thigh, wincing as even that slight jostling elicited a hiss of pain. With a long bandage that could be used as bindings nearby (another of the Doc's additions), he mumbled an apology as he gently but firmly grasped her leg above and below the break. Fortunately, the fracture to her femur appeared to be clean and straight-forward. Nonetheless, it took all his strength to forcefully straighten the limb against the natural contraction of her muscles, and sweat beaded on his brow as he slid the pieces of the bone back into alignment. Leg set, he snapped the brace into place and began to wrap the bindings for reinforcement. Only then did he allow himself to return conscious attention to his pale and sweat-drenched patient.
"You're not bad at that, Mr. Paris."
He grinned thinly as he continued to work on the bindings. "Had your leg set in the field many times before, Captain?"
"A couple," she admitted ruefully.
"The Doc is a good teacher," he deflected, finishing the knot.
Leg now braced, she shifted against the cave wall to sit up...more comfortably? No, she was Kathryn Janeway. Diminutive, down a limb and sprawled on a rocky floor covered with crystal debris, she had still adjusted her posture to command more authority.
"I ordered you to leave me behind, Mr. Paris."
Of course she wouldn't let it pass. And yet, he noted that, even in that moment, she avoided his rank.
"You disobeyed a direct order."
She sighed against the lack of any reaction in his tone. "Are you intending to make this a habit, Ensign?"
And there it was at last. He knew...something flashed across his expression at that, and he knew she wouldn't miss it, even in the dimly lit cavern.
"Permission to speak freely, Captain?"
"Tom..." she began in a tone which someone who didn't know her better might interpret as regret. But he kept his expression masked and neutral until she added, "Permission granted."
He relaxed a touch, letting her see his real concern. "There was no way in hell we were following that order and leaving you down here."
"Harry and B'Elanna did."
There he hesitated. His two friends had been convinced to continue only by the force of his quickly formulated but undeniable argument that their technical skills would be needed to rescue those remaining behind, whereas his medical skills could best immediately serve the captain. But, he was unwilling to implicate the two people closest to him in his crimes.
"We were not leaving you down here," he finally repeated. "And I'll be happy to serve another month in the brig if it gets you out of here alive."