Title:  Holding to Illusions
Author:  CatHeights
Contact:  CatHeights@yahoo.com
Series:  VOY
Codes: J/P
Parts:  1/1
Rating:  PG-13
Archive:  ASC, ATPS, Paris Nights, TPD
Spoiler Warning: Fair Haven; Spirit Folk; Thirty Days
Summary:  While she enjoys some time in Fair Haven, Kathryn clings to the illusion that she is not attracted to her chief pilot.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns all rights to Star Trek Voyager, its characters, and the Voyager episodes referred to in this story.  The story idea is mine, but I am doing this just for fun, no money to be made.

Kathryn Janeway smoothed the front of her skirt, took a deep breath and stepped into the holodeck.  She smiled as the residents of Fair Haven cheerily greeted her.  There was something about this program that was both comforting and refreshing.   Old Irish sayings flitted through her mind, and she thought that Tom, much like the Irish, had brought a bit of heaven here to earth--or more accurately to Voyager.

Her feet moved her easily toward Sullivanís, and as she approached the bar, her smile twisted slightly.  She gazed at the harp on the sign and gave a low chuckle.  The harp was still backwards.  She had told Tom the first time she had entered the program that it was an authentic recreation of a small Irish town, except for the backwards harp on this sign.  She was surprised that he hadnít changed it; he was a perfectionist when it came to holoprogramming.  Maybe he had forgotten about it.  Kathryn shook her head.  Not a chance; she had an inkling that he had left it that way on purpose.

Kathrynís smile faded as she paused outside of the bar.  Recently, she had been refraining from entering the program.  A holodeck malfunction had given the Fair Haven inhabitants an awareness that the Voyager crewmembers were not from a neighboring town, and matters had grown awkward, at least for her.  Kathryn had decided that instead of resetting the program, they should allow the holograms to keep their memories of what had happened.  It had seemed like the right thing to do at the time, but with that decision Katie OíClare had ceased to exist and so had her romance with Michael Sullivan.

Oh at first things had seemed fine, but soon she began to feel a growing distance.  Michael wanted to know more about her ship; after all, she had previously altered his programming to make him more curious about the world. The more questions he asked, though, the more she remembered she was Captain Kathryn Janeway, and the less she was able to pretend to be Katie OíClare.  Kathryn started to realize that she really hadnít been fascinated with Michael, but rather with Katie OíClare being in love with Michael Sullivan.  She had fallen in love with the fiction--with a world where she could be a woman in love, without the responsibilities of being Captain.

In some ways the realization was a relief.   She had been uncomfortable with the idea of having fallen in love with a hologram.  Still, she had grown close to Michael, and she really didnít want to hurt him.  However, it hadnít been hard at all to tell him.  It had turned out that he had felt much the same way.  Kathryn Janeway was very different from the Katie from OíClare who liked to read.  So, they had parted as friends, but at times, she felt a bit awkward whenever she saw him, as it brought to mind her past fascination.

Now that she was more removed from it all, she could see that it had been a bit like fantasizing about a character in a book.   It was just like finishing a good novel, and wanting to stop it from ending so badly that you made up adventures for the characters-- sometimes even putting yourself into those stories.   You could do what you wanted and be what you wanted because it was just fantasy, and safe.  Thatís what Michael Sullivan had been--safe.  Much safer than his creator.

She remembered the look in Tomís eyes when he had told her that Fair Haven had been badly damaged by the neutronic storm that had hit Voyager.  He could only save ten percent of the program, and he had wanted to know if she had any suggestions.  Kathryn had known exactly what he meant.  Did she want to save Michael, and she had been touched by his thoughtfulness.  When she met his eyes, though, for a quick moment, she had forgotten all about Fair Haven and Michael Sullivan.  She had seen more than concern there, a lot more, and knew that it was reflected back to him in her own eyes.

She had pulled her gaze steadily away from his, repeating to herself that Tom was in love with BíElanna and that they were meant to be together, and as Captain, she was happy for them.  When she looked up, Tomís eyes were veiled, although his face still showed innocent concern.  After she had thanked him, he had left, and she had decided that yes she would save Michaelís program.

Well, she wasnít here to see Michael now. So why was she here?  Because she missed the program.  It was as if Tom had designed a program meant to appeal to her.  She figured she was partially right, as she guessed Tom had tried to design something that would appeal to most of the crew.  As usual, he had done an excellent job.  She felt like she was part of this world.  She smiled wryly as she glanced down at her dress.  Tom had taken so much effort in creating the program that even though the holograms knew she wasnít from their "time," she couldnít resist dressing for the period.  She wanted to look authentic.  It was part of the fun.

Smiling, she stepped into Sullivanís.  The place was packed, alive with music and dancing.  Michael noticed her arrival and waved her over to the bar.  She made her way to him through the dancing throngs.

"Katie, I havenít seen you here for quite awhile.  Has that ship of yours been keeping you busy?" he asked over the noise.

"That it has, but I decided it was time to take a break."

"Well you couldnít have chosen a better spot.  You know you are welcome a thousand times over," Michael said with a grin.

Kathryn laughed; this wasnít as hard as she had thought it would be. She was glad she came.  "You're busy tonight."

"Aye, but not many of your crew are here, besides yourself and Tommy."

She turned around and sure enough saw Tom Paris in the far end of the bar, laughing and chatting with Seamus and a few others.

"Heís been here quite a lot recently and not with young Harry.  He comes mostly alone."

She turned back to Michael to find that he had also been watching Tom.   With one last curious glance, he turned his gaze to Kathryn.  "May I ask you a question, Katie?"

"Of course.  I wonít guarantee Iíll answer though," Kathryn said teasingly.

A twinkle in his eye, he said, "Fair enough.   Does Tommy have a girl?"

Surprised, Kathryn said, "Yes he does, why?"

"Just wondering.  He never mentions her, and he looks like a man who is having woman trouble.  I see a lot of that here."

"I bet you do," she said, as the lads in the corner where Tom was standing broke into a song that she swore she knew.

"Iíve never seen her in here, have I?"

"No, she works a lot, and somehow I donít think this would be the place she would go to and relax," Kathryn said while the lads started to sing the chorus.  She recognized the song as "Will Ye Go Lassie Go?"   She truly couldnít see BíElanna in this program, which was a shame.  Tom had put a lot of hard work into it, and it was truly wonderful.

"I see," Michael said, and Kathryn raised an inquiring eyebrow.  "They donít share the same interests."  He paused and added, "Maybe their worlds are too far apart."

She met his eyes.  "Perhaps."

The music continued and a solo voice picked up after the chorus, "If my true love she were gone, I would surely find another.  Where wild mountain thyme grows around the blooming heather.  Will ye go, Lassie go?"   That voice sounded familiar and she turned, her eyes widening as she realized it was Tomís.

"Katie you look surprised.  Did you not know Tommy could sing?"

"No I havenít heard him sing before.  Does he do it often?"

"Just on occasion and only a verse here and there.  When I think about it, Iíve only heard him belt out a tune when no one from Voyager is visiting.  He has a fine voice."

She nodded, and they both grew silent as they listened to the final round of the chorus.  When it was done, Kathryn turned to Michael and said, "Iím going to go over and say hi to Tom.   Itís been good chatting with you."

"And you. Donít be such a stranger, Katie," Michael said.

She smiled.  "I wonít."

As she walked in Tom's direction, he turned and saw her coming toward him.  He grinned and hurried over to her. Kathryn told herself that she felt hot because it was a bit warm in the room.  It had nothing to do with how those beautiful lips curved when they saw her.  Nothing at all.

"Captain, glad to see you're visiting Sullivan's again," Tom said as he came up to her.

"How could I stay away?  Fair Haven is a wonderful program," she said, returning his grin.

"Not everyone thinks so," he said, his face darkening for a moment.   Before Kathryn could ask him what was wrong, though, the smile returned and he gestured to a table.  "Would you like to sit down, or were you just saying hi before you left?"

"I have the time to stay for awhile.  I'd much rather be here then going through the reports on my desk."

His smile widened, the corners of his blues eyes crinkling as he looked at her and pulled out a chair.  She sat down, chuckling at the old fashioned gesture, and wondered why she liked it so much.   There was something charming about it.

When he had seated himself, she said, "You have a wonderful voice.  I didn't know you sang so well.  You've been a holding out on us."

He leaned back in his chair, his legs stretched out in front of him.  Her eyes traveled down the length of his body and then back up again to find his gaze on her.  She found herself unwilling to look away.  She had so few chances just to look at him. Kathryn could see his eyes darkening with desire and knew her own probably looked the same.  Sometimes it wasn't possible to ignore the attraction, but she could continue to deny it.  B'Elanna, she said to herself.  He loves B'Elanna.   She pulled her eyes away.

"Thanks for the compliment," Tom said, as if nothing had passed between them.  Yet, she knew if she glanced up at him again, she would see that his eyes told a different story.

"I wasn't holding out.  I just don't have any interest in performing for the crew.  I don't want to be shanghaied into performing in one of the Doctor's operas or singing with Harry's band.  I like to sing for me, not for anyone else. So, can I trust you, Captain, to keep my secret?"  He sat up, placed his elbows on the table, and rested his chin in his hands.

She looked at him appraisingly.  "Well, that depends on whether or not you'll do something for me."

Enjoying the game, he said, "Why Captain, you know I'd do anything for you.   You don't need to resort to blackmail."

"Blackmail, never. You know me better.   It's just a suggestion."

"Suggestion, gotcha," Tom said, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms on his chest.  "Let me hear it."

"The harp on the door.  Fix it."

Tom's blue eyes widened innocently.  "The harp. Whatís wrong with it?"

"You know that it's backwards. I told you," she said wondering where he was going with his innocent act. Tom Paris was many things, but innocent was not one of them.

"Ah, but I think it adds a bit of charm that way."  He laughed, as her nose wrinkled in distaste.  Leaning closer, he said, "It drives you nuts, doesn't it?"

She took in his gloating air and said, "You left it like that on purpose."  He had done it to annoy her, she thought, amused and a bit flattered.  Tom hadn't changed the sign because he knew it would mean she'd bring it up with him again.

He smirked.  "Of course I did.  I told you I think it adds charm and it serves a purpose."

"What purpose?"

His smile faded and he said, "Why it reminds me that this is all an illusion.  Sometimes we need that reminder."

Her back stiffened, as for a moment, she thought he was referring to her experience with Michael.  How dare he tell her she had gotten carried away?  Then she looked at his face and quickly realized that the remark had nothing to do with her.  His eyes were gazing off into the distance, and his face had a bitter, resigned look to it.

Silence fell between them, and she tried to come up with something to say--a way to let him know that he could confide in her again.   Once this would have been easy.  She would have hidden behind her role of mentor, called him into her office, and they would have sat on the couch and talked.  At first he would have tossed her off with a few smart remarks, but she would have given him that piercing look and said, "Talk Mister," and he would have opened up.   It had always been as simply as that because he trusted her, but that all changed when she demoted him and then sentenced him to the brig for thirty days.

Even now, she still got angry when she thought of him taking the Flyer and trying to destroy the Monean refineries.  He had left her with no choice but to fire on him, and that was the worst part.   She could have killed him.  What the hell had he been thinking?  She agreed that the Moneans were destroying their world, not respecting its uniqueness, but it wasn't Voyagerís place to step in.  It was their place to tell them what would happen and to suggest changes, but not to force those changes.  She might have admired his dedication if it hadn't led to a terrorist act that put his own life at risk.

At some points while he was in the brig, she thought her sentence of thirty days might have been excessive.  Yet, just when she was tempted to remit the remainder of his sentence to his quarters, she thought about how she could have killed him and her anger flamed anew. It was a long thirty days on the bridge while he was in the brig. The lack of jokes, chatter and his smiles kept reminding her that her order to fire on him could have made this silence permanent.  Those thoughts made her want to shake him and say how could you do this to me, damn it.  I trusted you.

That shattered trust contributed to the current awkwardness between them.  She knew, as much as she felt betrayed, he also felt betrayed by what he saw as her refusal to understand.  Kathryn was sure that all it would have taken was one no holds-barred conversation to clear the air, but that wasnít an option-- for a breach in trust wasnít the only wall standing between them.

As he had stood there before her, showing no regret over what he had done and denying none of her charges, he had tossed aside her safety net of being his mentor.  Tom Paris didnít need a mentor, hadnít for a long time, but he had let her cling to that role.  Let them both use it to keep that professional distance, while at the same time enjoying the closeness of two people who came from similar backgrounds.  That is he did until it conflicted with something he strongly believed.  She admired his principles, but there were protocols on a starship for a reason, and he knew everyone of them, probably as well as she did.

Yes, talking to him these days was difficult.  Not only did her frustration over his past actions still surface, but she also couldnít touch or comfort him under the guise of being his mentor. Denied that outlet, it was becoming harder to convince herself that she wasnít attracted to him.  Upon his release from the brig, Tom had gone back on duty without a single complaint, but his manner toward her had been different.  Every inch the professional, and every inch the equal.  He didnít want her as his mentor, but at times his eyes did tell her that he wanted her.

Kathryn pushed these thoughts from her mind.  Now was not the time to be thinking through all this.  She needed to say something to Tom.   Maybe she could take that look from his eyes.  She hated that sardonic look that seemed to say he expected the worst. She had hoped BíElanna would banish that look, but she hadnít.  Instead, Kathryn thought, she had put other painful looks into those blue eyes.  She took a small breath; she shouldnít be thinking these things about her chief engineer.  Their relationship was none of her business.

With that small lie in her mind, she looked at him and said, "Tom, whatís wrong?"

He gazed back at her, his eyes seeming to sort through her soul, trying to find out if she really cared.  Kathryn didnít blink; she wondered what he saw.   He turned away, and for a moment, she thought he wasnít going to answer her, but after a second, he did.

"I broke up with BíElanna," he said, no emotion in his tone as he kept his face turned from her.

"Iím sorry.  Are you positive, itís not something that can be worked out?" she asked awkwardly, for some reason her heartbeat had picked up.

He did look at her then.  "It canít be worked out.  Itís been over for a long time.  Itís just that sometimes even fighting can grow comfortable. Eventually though, you realize that this isnít what you want.  Hasnít been for a while.  Sheíll never understand me."  He gestured to the bar. "Sheís never stepped foot in this place, and probably never plans to.  She doesnít care."

He leaned closer to Kathryn, his eyes never leaving hers.  "I finally admitted to myself what I wanted, and you know once I did that, the flaws in our relationship seemed insurmountable.  I was tired of the fighting, and even though I knew that the one I truly wanted would most likely remain out of my reach, it wasnít fair to either myself or BíElanna to just keep holding on.  Trying to patch up something that wasnít there.  No matter what the consequences, Iíve always found that owning up to the truth is liberating.  Do you know what I mean, Captain?"

She nodded, afraid to speak and wanting desperately to leave the room.  He wasnít going to say it out loud, was he?  He wouldnít call her on that look in her eyes, would he?  Please no.  What would she say?  She couldnít admit to it. She was the Captain--the Captain.

"So itís over.  The only thing I regret is that I broke up with her in the middle of a screaming match.  I should have done it long before things got to that point.  Hopefully, sheíll calm down in a few days.  Donít worry, Captain, BíElanna and I will both behave like professionals while on duty," Tom said, his lips twisting.

"I never doubted you would," Kathryn said, her voice sounding odd to her own ears--a bit shaky.

Tom nodded, staring at her in silence for a few moments.  His face changed, softening, and he started to say,

She shivered as she heard her name slip from his lips; she had to leave.  "Tom, Iím truly sorry things didnít work out for you and BíElanna," she interrupted, acting as if he had never started speaking.  "Take it easy and donít spend too much time alone."  She stood as she continued to talk quickly.  "I should get back to the work on my desk. Sorry I canít stay longer.  You know how I love it here.   Goodnight."

The soft look left Tomís face, wiping it free of expression.  " íNight then.  Thanks for keeping me company."

She gave him a brittle smile, and headed out of the bar, her skirt sashaying from her quick steps.

"Kathryn," he called and she froze, but didnít turn around.  "Iíll fix the harp, if you want me to."

"Do you what you want.  Itís your program," she said, still facing the door.

"No, itís as much yours as mine.  I deÖ"

She started walking and was out the door before he could finish.  She didnít want to hear him say it.  Couldnít listen to him tell her that he had designed it for her.   She called for an arch and quickly exited the program.

There were protocols for a reason.  He was her helmsman, an ensign on her ship.  She was the Captain.  BíElanna and he would most likely make up.  They were prone to fights, she told herself.  It was a natural part of their relationship.  Ignoring the ache in her chest and the desire to turn and go back into the holodeck, she walked steadily down Voyagerís corridors.  Mentally, she pulled her Captainís mantle around herself, holding to
illusions frailer than the protection of her rank.

The End