Chakotay wasn't in the best of moods when he entered Tom Paris's
office. He'd been comming his exec for fifteen minutes, wondering
why he hadn't showed up for their meeting. The computer informed him that Lt. Commander Paris was not to be disturbed.
Well, Chakotay was disturbed, and soon Mr. Paris would be, too.
The Maquis Captain's mood disintegrated when he saw Kate Janeway
hovering over Tom's shoulder at the desk. Tom looked up, a finger to his lips.
"I'm sorry, Captain, I forgot our meeting." His blue eyes were
deadly serious as he motioned the older man closer with a
padd. "Kate downloaded all the crew rations into my account and
we've been trying to get it all sorted out.
The dark jaw set at the mention of Kate's name. The two didn't miss
the flare in the dark eyes. He accepted the padd from his first
"Seska is Cardassian, surgically altered to resemble a Bajoran." He
read and his head shot up. Tom's finger was in front of his lips
"What's the status of the rations, Paris?"
"It's gonna take a while. Kate has the return paths twisting all
through the system." Tom was shaking his head to negate his
words. "You want to take a look?"
Chakotay spent a few minutes running down the salient points of the
coming insurrection, including the fact that every room, corridor,
alcove and head was at least aurally bugged. Spirits be damned, he
thought. 'Can we trust her?' he thumbed into the padd he handed to
Tom. "Did you try this?" he said aloud.
The younger man's eyes narrowed as he read. Janeway curled her lip,
but stayed silent; it did no good to get pissed off at Chakotay. If
he was too stupid not to accept her help, it was his problem. "Yes.
It's where we started."
"Alright," Chakotay said, pulling up a chair. "What do I do to get
this done faster?"
Visibly relieved, Tom cast a quick glance at the tightlipped
Kate, "You want to show him what we've already done?"
For the next fifteen minutes the three unlikely compatriots, using
little or no verbal communication, worked feverishly to devise a plan
"Okay," Chakotay said at last, "B'Elanna has to know about the
temporary rerouting. How long will you need to restore the
rations?" And place a tracker on Jonas's engineering activity.
"Ten minutes," Kate said. A smug smile settled on her face.
His eyes narrowed. "Paris, you dog her every step of the way."
Chakotay knew his Mata Hari would understand his meaning, even if
Seska was hearing a different message.
Chakotay stared at Janeway and wondered why she had just placed
herself in more danger than he was himself. He looked at Paris to
make sure the younger man understood that in addition to his ship's
duties, he was also saddled with this irritating woman.
Absently, he stood and rubbed his brush head, remembering that Kate had called him 'porcupine head' more than once. Oh, never to his
face, but it had gotten back to him through Seska.
Seska. A name that now made his blood boil. "Give me twenty
minutes to brief B'Elanna. And calm her down." He paused at the
door. "Steer clear of engineering until I comm you."
Chakotay took a measuring look at the room's two occupants and headed out, padd gripped in his blunt fingers, to the unenviable task of briefing B'Elanna.
After Tom was asleep, Kate slipped from the bed and dressed, watching for movement from the bed. She slipped the communicator from her sweater before heading out the door. If she didn't meet Seska, she might as well just forfeit her life. The plans would fold for awhile and that pig would become even more pernicious.
She moved through the quiet corridor to the lift only to find herself
hurled against the wall, her head bouncing on the hard surface.
"Where the hell do you think you're going?" Tom hissed.
"I have an appointment." She pawed her bruised head, lip curling.
"What the hell kind of game is this? Screw and run?" Who are you
meeting? hung unsaid.
Kate's chin came up. "I'm meeting my other lover." The challenge
was in her eyes. What would he make out of this?
The younger man studied her, holding her head between his hands. She couldn't divert her face from the intense scrutiny as he tried to
sort through what she was saying, and not saying. "Seska?" he
This kid was good. Janeway sighed, relief plain on her face. Tom
grabbed her shoulders, and shook her once, gently but firmly. "Tell
her you're through. I'm not gonna share."
Kate shut her eyes on a sigh. What an actor. "Tom--," she began.
She was a pretty good actor, too. "I mean it, I'm not sharing. You
have twenty minutes before I come to get you."
Smooth. Whoever was listening knew there wouldn't be much time for
their clandestine meeting. Tom pressed her comm badge onto her
"You're moving up in the world," Seska turned from the view port, a
smirk quirking her face.
"That's a matter of opinion." Kate took a few steps into the room.
"You got cozy pretty fast." Seska moved away from the star vista to
sprawl on one of the lounges the room offered. "You reject my offer
and a few hours later, you're screwing the enemy."
"Listen, Seska," Janeway's ire was not manufactured, it was all she
could do not to crush the bitch's wind pipe with her thumbs, but it
would take a duranium spike to crush a Cardassian wind pipe. "The
kid was getting too close. He had to be distracted. At that age,
there's one sure-fire way to distract a human male."
"You were awful cozy with him all day."
Janeway sighed. "My plan backfired." She sprawled on the other
lounge. "I just wanted to distract the little twit. Now Chakotay
has him stuck to my butt like glue."
"Glue?" Seska's mouth twisted.
Janeway ignored the remark. "I don't know what I can do to help you
now with this shadow following me everywhere." She rubbed her brow,
trying to sound concerned.
"Doesn't matter," Seska said. "We're close enough, we can move on
The human nodded, and Seska stood to end the meeting. "How about a kiss good-bye. We **are** supposed to be breaking up," she purred in confirmation of the audio surveillance.
Kate stood toe-to-toe with Seska, shaking her head. "I hardly think
Whisking by her, Seska said, "Too bad. I'll keep you posted."
Of course, Seska lied: Kate was out of the loop.
Tom and Kate were inseparable for the next few rotations; it was
safer that way. Chakotay never had such an unlikely shadow, but it
was safer for all three to travel in a clump.
Harry and B'Elanna immediately installed an interference scramble
into the aud-vid links to Tom's quarters and Chakotay's ready room.
It didn't take long for Michael Jonas to come along and try to
reinstate the link. From engineering. B'Elanna was so angry she
nearly confronted him then. With her fists. Then her human self-
restraint exerted itself and she reported the incident to Chakotay.
As long as the command boys tolerated her on the bridge, Kate was
there to stay. But after the third day, she was ready to take a turn
at the helm. Something Tom wouldn't give up without a fight.
"Tom, you need someone with combat flight experience to relieve
you." She stood on the deck, hands on hips, feet braced apart, the
glare of fight in her eyes.
"You haven't had a Delta Cert in over ten years. Fleet vessels have
changed a lot in that time."
"Warp drive's the same,' she argued. "They've just moved the key pad around."
"That's a little simplistic." Tom folded his arms in front of him.
Christ, she hated when he got condescending about flying. Hot shot
son-of-a-bitch. "Flying is flying. You learn the controls, maintain
awareness of quantum physics and vector geometry, and you engage the engines."
"There's a little more to it than that."
Even though this little pissing contest had gone some ways to reduce
the oppressive tension on the bridge, Chakotay was compelled to
intervene. He flicked an eye to Ayala at tactical and Harry at ops,
aware of their avid expressions. "Let her fly the ship, Tom," he
broke softly into the battle of wills. He shrugged into the narrowed
eyes of his exec, "I'll take responsibility."
Knowing that morale would not be served by a smirk of triumph, Kate
eased into the helm, a bland mask carefully in place.
Chakotay felt Tom's hard stare for a long moment before the younger
man eased into the seat beside him. The Captain knew they would be discussing it later. Tom always wanted to discuss things. Later.
He rubbed a knuckle over an eyebrow.
The older man knew this was do or die time. Three rotations, Kate
had said--they were well into the third. Everything she had
indicated would happen, happened.
The thought was barely done , when Janeway called out, "Warp engines are off-line."
Chakotay and Tom were on their feet and on the way to the helm, when the lift doors opened to expel Suder, Seska and Dalby wielding
disruptors the size of compression rifles.
Pulling a phaser from the back of his waist band, Tom raised it to
Seska. But Suder already had his weapon trained on the first
officer. Kate saw the feral look in the Betazoid's eye and moved
between the disruptor and Tom a moment before the obscene surging of energy sliced through her shoulder.
Ayala cut down Suder from behind, as Harry nailed Dalby with a phaser on heavy stun. Two down and one to go.
But Seska had her disruptor under Chakotay's chin. Kate shook her
head to dispel the haze of pain. The three had discussed exactly
this situation at length in the last three days. Kate coughed to
clear the rising bile. "Seska, this isn't going to work."
"Of course, it is. Give me the ship, or I'll kill Chakotay."
Tom knelt by Kate, blood from the wound rolling between his
fingers. "You're going to kill him anyway," he said as his eyes
flicked over Harry and Ayala. He was aware of everything in the room
at once, but the loudest sound in his head came from Kate's labored
breath. He looked back at Seska and shrugged. "Go ahead and drop
him, then we'll drop you."
In that instant, Chakotay felt the faltering of determination that
Tom saw in Seska's eyes and he went limp. The surprised mutineer
lost her grip on the Captain as he hit the deck and rolled. Three
phasers fired, converging on her position with stunning energy.
"Torres to Chakotay."
"That son-of-a-bitch, Jonas is down here bleeding--the damn warp
drive is off-line. Impulse is jumping in and out. What happened up
there? Weren't we supposed to have the upper hand here?"
"We've been a little busy, B'Elanna," Chakotay rolled to his feet and
moved over to Tom's side. Harry was already beside Kate with a med-
kit. The first officer was administering a clotting agent and a pain
killer. "Ayala, get anyone up here you can to get this garbage to
the brig." He put a hand on Kate's shoulder and she turned toward
the Captain, blue eyes glazed with pain and pain killers. "Thanks,
"You're welcome," she whispered. She moved her head heavily to rest her pale cheek on Chakotay's hand. It felt warm, and Kate felt cold,
cold and in pain. Her shirt was starting to feel sticky. And she
was tired, she thought as she closed her eyes for just a minute.
Chakotay sighed when she lost consciousness. The lift doors opened
bringing security to haul the insurgents away. He disengaged
himself from Kate and stood. "Attention, all hands. This is Captain
Chakotay speaking. Seska has not, repeat, has NOT succeeded in
seizing **our** ship. She and three of her cohorts have been
subdued. I will deal with them swiftly and severely. If any crew
member wants to join Seska and her mates in the brig, they may report there now. Captain out."
A stunned and groggy Seska tapped her own comm badge. "Initiate
Seska Omega 6-4-8 Psi." She, Suder and Dalby disappeared in a
Kim grabbed his console. "Captain, shuttlecraft Cochrane is powering
up. There are four life signs on board. Shuttle bay force field is
off-line. Command protocols cannot be overridden." Chakotay stared at the young, frantic ensign who finally let out a sigh of
frustration as he rammed the heel of his hand into his
console. "They're gone, sir."
Chakotay stood for a few moments with his palm on his forehead, as if the hand was holding him upright. Blinking back to awareness, he
turned to look down at Kate, unconscious in Tom's arms. "Harry, can
we get a transport to sick bay?"
"Negative, Captain. Transporters have been compromised."
With a look that frightened Harry for a minute, Chakotay slapped his
comm badge. "Captain to EMH."
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency."
"We have a disruptor wound on its way to you."
"A disruptor wound? From what source?"
"Mutiny. Captain out."
"Can't you carry me, Tom," came a mewling sound. Chakotay turned to the uncharacteristic tone and shook his head.
"You're too heavy, Kate." That wasn't true, but he sure wasn't going
to tell her it might do damage to her already ragged shoulder.
"Maybe Chakotay can turn me into a bird."
"You **are** too heavy," Chakotay agreed and went to the command seat throwing himself into it. Unsteady fingers began to rub his temples.
Kate spent two days in sick bay having her shoulder and collar bone
regenerated. The ball and socket had to be totally reformed, new
muscle knit, nerves and blood vessels reconstructed. She was
unconscious through most of it.
When she was released from sick bay, she slept in Tom's quarters at
his suggestion. She was too out of it to wonder why. The first day,
she slept around the clock. Less after that. Neelix brought her
meals and Harry made sure she got to sick bay for continuing therapy
Tom stayed away, sleeping in his office. At first he wanted to stay
close to the bridge, wanted to make sure the helm was well manned at all times. But he was beginning to run down and needed a full
night's sleep, even if it was on his own couch. What he really
wanted to do was crawl into bed behind Kate, pull her body against
his and fall asleep with his nose buried in her soft hair.
With a tired smile tipping his lips, he keyed the code to his
quarters and quietly called for lights to 20%. The smile turned into
weary surprise when he saw Kate asleep sitting on the couch. She
wasn't wearing much, undershorts and a tee-shirt. Tom's undershorts
and tee-shirt. It was amazing--she **could** irritate him in her
Tom was curious and gingerly sat on the couch to pull off his boots.
The gentle rolling of the effort had the desired effect on
Kate. "That you, Tom?" came the sleep filled voice.
"Uh-huh." The first boot hit the floor followed by a sock.
"I was waiting for you."
"Uh-huh." He wanted to say **no kidding**, but that seemed too harsh.
"Doc will kill me if I slept sitting up again."
The second boot was off. "Again?" Tom turned to Kate, but she
wouldn't look at him.
"Yah. I wanted to talk to you."
"Why haven't you been sleeping here?"
Let's get to the point, shall we? Tom was getting good at holding
his tongue. "Necessity. There's a great big mess to clean up."
Kate smiled at that , but shook her head to dismiss the reason. At
last, she raised her eyes to Tom. The brightness surprised the
younger man until he realized that lurking tears caused the
"I've had a lot of time to think while I've been laid up. Harry's
been so good. And Neelix has been treating me like a sick child.
But, I've had a lot of my own company. Too much."
Well, that would be enough to drive anyone to tears. Tom scolded
himself to be more charitable. Shut up and listen, his princely self
said to his rude self.
"I thought a lot about the night that started the whole nightmare.
And it seems like a damn dream." She looked at the floor, unsure of
what to say next. "I have to admit to some digital stimulation."
There it was. Tom didn't pretend to misunderstand, leaning back on
the couch with a sigh. Kate stayed forward and continued, "I also
know I can't stay here, in your quarters, without you in bed with me."
A small laugh hiccoughed out of Tom.
"What?" Kate turned an irritated face on the younger man.
"I was just thinking the same thing."
Tom laughed out loud and held his right hand up to swear, "Honest."
She was not convinced. "I have to use the head," she grumbled and
hoisted herself from the couch. Tom followed her into the bedroom,
staying there to get undressed.
When Kate came out of the bathroom, she looked anywhere but at the naked man.
"Which side," Tom asked from the foot of the bed.
"Which side of the bed do you want me on. I want to hold you, but I
don't want to aggravate your shoulder."
That got her attention, blue eyes snapped at bluer, looking for
mockery, finding none. Hers showed open yearning, hoping Tom's words meant more than their face value. Tom was stunned by the depth of feeling he found there.
"Take the side by the door," she finally answered.
He did so, placing his pillow and tossing Kate's extra to her. She
caught it with a grimace, the quick motion bringing a
twinge. "Sorry," Tom said, chagrin plain.
Kate just shrugged and pulled back the sheet. She lay on her side,
the extra pillow against her stomach, effective in hyperextending her
shoulder and easing her need for anything more than an analgesic at
night. She stiffened as Tom slid in behind her, his arm easing
between the pillow and her abdomen. "Do you mind?" came a murmur close to his ear.
"Hell, no," Kate's answer was a whisper. After a few tense minutes,
she asked, "Why?"
Tom heard the raw vulnerability, and he knew the answer to the
question. "Trust." He paused. "I can be an arrogant SOB when it
comes to fairness and trust. I trusted Seska because Chakotay
trusted Seska. And I never trusted anyone less than I trusted you."
Kate tried to pull away from his revelation, but Tom hauled her
back. "But, you stood by me, even after all the shit I threw at
you. I didn't, and don't, deserve your trust and loyalty."
"So, you're here on an errand of mercy." Kate's voice was frosty.
"No, purely selfish reasons." He placed his lips gently on the
"Uh-huh?" she prompted.
"I wanted to go to sleep with your butt on my lap, and wake up the
"You say the sweetest things."
"Smart ass," he said, pushing his nose into the soft, sweet
hair. "Shut up and go to sleep."