by Catherine Collingwood Hardee
Last Chance Note: This story is rated R for a depiction of consensual m/f sex between two adults. It's not meant for children. If you are under the age of 18, please go back now. Parents, please monitor your children's Internet activities.
Disclaimer: All things Voyager belong to Paramount. This is just for fun; I'm not making any money from it. If you don't believe me, just check my bank account.
Setting: About ten days after "Threshold." Contains spoilers for Jeri Taylor's book Mosaic.
Author's Note: While this story stands alone, it was written as a direct sequel to my story Vulnerability and monkee's story Lizard Babies and Other Hazards of Transwarp Sex. The reader may wish to view these stories first for reference. Link to monkee's story is by permission.
He had to admit this was a new situation, even for him. What did you do when your commanding officer asked you to come to her quarters after the end of the shift, probably to talk about...
To talk about...
Tom grimaced. Talk? Maybe if he was lucky. More likely he'd receive a stinging lecture. Or a demotion. Or worse. She certainly had every right.
He supposed he could have refused -- it hadn't exactly been an order -- but knowing Kathryn Janeway, she'd come find him in his quarters, irritated at his refusal. Better to keep her in the best mood possible, under the circumstances.
Taking a deep breath, Tom touched the doorchime. The door slid open and he stepped in, coming to full attention a step inside the opening, giving the door room to close but not wanting to intrude any further into her personal space than absolutely necessary.
It's a little late for that, taunted a part of his mind. He ignored it.
Kathryn stood up at his entrance and looked him up and down. She had taken off her uniform jacket, turtleneck and boots, and her hair was in a simple ponytail instead of its usual bun. Despite the casual effect of the tank, pants and socks, her face was unreadable. He forced himself to briefly meet her gaze, not wanting to be rude but also not wishing to appear confrontational.
After a long moment, she sighed. "Sit down, Tom. I'm not going to keelhaul you."
Had his apprehension really been that obvious? He sat down on the couch and accepted a glass of water. "Captain, I've been way out of line. I owe you a big apology--"
"No, you don't."
A look of discomfort crossed her face. "Given the circumstances, I'm not sure any apologies are necessary. I was quite willing..."
Tom shook his head. Maybe she'd been willing in the heat of the moment, but he should have known better, should have known that she'd never recklessly ignore protocol. He had let the situation get out of control, not just once, but twice. And there had nearly been a third time. Would have been, but for the fact that she had pulled away. Not him. Her.
"You don't seriously think I wasn't responsible for my own actions," said Kathryn is response to his negative gesture.
"Actually, I do," he answered softly. "The first two times, you were under duress. You weren't yourself. I should have known better than to take advantage of the situation. And the third time, in sickbay..."
He met her eyes again.
"It isn't your fault."
"Well, it certainly isn't yours." The words were out before he realized how they sounded. "I'm sorry."
She waved the apology away. "I'm not so sure about that."
Tom didn't know how to respond. He didn't agree, but he didn't want to argue, so he simply kept quiet and sipped the water. The silence stretched between them, seeming to take on a physical quality.
Swallowing the last of her coffee, Kathryn pushed to her feet. He began to follow, but she indicated he should stay where he was. "I want to show you something."
She took a picture from a nearby table and handed it to him. There were three smiling people raising glasses of champagne: an older man, a younger man, and a woman.
She sat down next to him on the couch. "Turn it over."
There was a handwritten inscription on the back. Launch of the Terra Nova, October 2, 2359. The picture was just over thirteen years old. He turned it back over and looked at the woman again. It seemed strange to see Kathryn wearing a science-blue uniform and lieutenant's pips. "That's you."
She nodded and pointed to the older man. "That's my father. He was the senior designer on the Terra Nova project. He was proud to have me working on it too."
"Who is the other man?"
Kathryn took a deep breath and blinked several times before answering. "Lieutenant Justin Tighe. He was the pilot."
Suddenly Tom remembered their conversation in the shuttlecraft. "He's the other pilot you told me about. The one who was an engineering liaison when you first met him."
Wordlessly, she nodded, and he remembered something else she'd said. He died flying.
His voice was soft as he asked, "What happened?"
"Two days after this picture was taken, we were on a test flight in the Tau Ceti system. Something happened; the investigation team was never able to determine the specifics. The Terra Nova broke apart and went down in an ocean." She paused, seeming to steel herself. "I was thrown clear. It saved my life. Justin and Daddy...weren't so lucky."
"I'm sorry." He wondered why she was telling him this.
"Look at the date again, and convert today's date to the standard calendar."
He did, and realization dawned. "The anniversary of the accident...it was a couple of months ago. Right around the time we were trapped between the Nesenoib and the Cepellians."
"Yes." She took the picture back and stared down at it. "It had been on my mind before we left to negotiate with the Nesenoib. And that's why I'm not sure...things...aren't my fault."
"I'm sorry, Captain. I don't follow you."
She stood up and walked to the viewport. The half-light of the stars revealed a faint blush on her face. "It's not easy to tell from the picture, but Justin...he was tall. Thin, but strong, with blue eyes. And he was probably one of the most flippant people I've ever met, but there were deep feelings there, just beneath the surface...not that he'd ever admit it." She paused. "He was a lot like you."
And he had obviously been more than just a co-worker. Tom stood to join her at the viewport. "How serious was it?"
"We were going to be married." She sighed, still facing away from him. "I still miss him, especially around certain times of the year, or when I notice certain things that remind me of...I think you can see where this is leading."
"Wouldn't be the first time."
At that, Kathryn finally turned toward him. "Oh, Tom, I'm sorry--"
"Don't be. It could have been worse; at least you have some taste."
Startled into silence, she stared for a long moment. Then, incredibly, a smile crossed her face. "I'd like to think he did too."
He chuckled at her deliberate misunderstanding and momentarily allowed his eyes to trace her figure, silhouetted in the starlight. She was beautiful when she laughed.
The flippant retort died on his lips as suddenly, unbidden and unwanted, his own words from just a few days ago sprang back to mind. I want you to know...that I meant what I said. You are incredible. And you're very beautiful.
He couldn't completely keep the huskiness from his voice. "He did. Excellent taste."
Kathryn's eyes flicked up to meet his and she stopped laughing. "Tom?"
"Would it surprise you," he asked slowly, holding her gaze, "if I said I was flattered?"
"I..." she paused and took a breath. "I try not to let anything surprise me anymore."
"That's not an answer." He wasn't imagining it. That weird, startling desire from a few days ago had returned. It stretched between them, causing the air to become charged.
"Surprise me? Not exactly." Her voice had dropped to a whisper. "Make me feel better about...things, perhaps...Tom, you're not Justin."
He realized he had stepped closer to her. "No. And you...me...we're not lizards anymore."
"No, we're not." When had her hands twisted into the fabric of his jacket? "But I am the captain. Protocols aside, I'd cramp your style." He could feel the heat rising from her now, mirroring his own reaction. "Besides, I'm engaged."
"Those are things even I take seriously." His voice was hoarse. It was happening again. "Tell me to leave. Please. Tell me and I'll go right now." As if they belonged to someone else, his hands moved to her hair, tangling into the ponytail, tugging the strands free to cascade down her back.
"We can't do this," she murmured, eyes never leaving his. "It's not--"
He wasn't sure which of them made the first move, only that their mouths were suddenly touching, tasting, exploring, and her lips had parted underneath his. She slid her hands around his neck and he was dimly aware that they had backed against the bulkhead and his hands were underneath her legs, lifting her from the floor. She arched her back, straining against him, inflaming the explosive desire that had suddenly consumed them both.
He fumbled at the fastenings on her clothing. It couldn't come off quickly enough, soon enough to relieve this burning need to touch her everywhere at once. They didn't make it to the bed. It was too far. He was barely aware that his own uniform had joined hers on the floor before they stumbled over the back of the couch, landing in a breathless heap on the cushions, hands roaming against bare skin.
Neither of them said a word. There was only the sound of her sharply indrawn breath when he entered her, only the taste of her mouth under his, only the smell and feel of her desire as it rose to a peak to match his own. He buried his face in her hair and felt her body rise to meet his, greedy, desperately seeking to relieve the overwhelming sensations that had sprung to life between them.
They lay there, arms and legs tangled together, for a long time after their breathing returned to normal.
Finally, Kathryn shifted underneath him, burrowing deeper into the couch. "That wasn't quite what I had in mind when I asked you here tonight."
"It's certainly better than I was expecting."
"Oh? And what did you think would happen?"
Shifting his weight slightly, Tom pushed himself up on an elbow and looked down at her. "I wasn't sure. Something...unpleasant. At best, a lecture about protocol and proper behavior."
Her eyes traced their naked, entwined forms, then returned to his face. A troubled look crossed her features. "I'm hardly in any position to do that."
"Hey." He touched her cheek. "Don't."
"You're pulling away again, about to tell me it was a mistake. Don't."
"Tom, this was a mistake."
He ignored the sudden, unexpected twist of pain in his middle, with the underlying implications it carried. "So you make mistakes. It's nice to know I'm not the only one."
That brought a small smile to her face. "Far from it. But you know we have to make sure it doesn't happen again."
"Why not?" It was out before he realized it.
The startled look on her face spoke volumes.
He hadn't meant to ask that question, but now that he had, Tom supposed he might as well finish the thought. Fumbling for words, he continued. "Voyager is in an unusual situation. Everyone on board is...at loose ends. It stands to reason that some...unique...relationships would spring up. The kind that never would have happened if we were back home."
"You're not seriously suggesting that we--"
"Of course not!" His face flamed. "I...I'm suggesting that perhaps...you're feeling the effects too. And that sometimes...you need to...oh, I don't know, ignore protocol every once in a while. Do something totally against your usual nature, just to prove you still can." He took a breath. "I'm saying that...if you need to...and if you want to...I don't mind. And I know how to be discreet."
Sometime during his speech, he had averted his eyes. Kathryn touched her fingers to his face and turned it back to hers. "That's extraordinarily sweet of you. But I can't take you up on that offer. It wouldn't be fair."
"I don't mind. In fact, it might help me, too."
"Even if I thought it could be kept quiet, which I don't, not on a ship this small, I wouldn't do that to you. It'd never be more than a substitute." Her voice took on a slight edge. "Don't sell yourself short by accepting that."
He looked closer and saw genuine caring in her face. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay." She looked down again. "We'd both better get dressed. It's getting late."
There didn't seem to be any more to say. It only took a few minutes for him to get dressed. Just before he stepped into the door's sensors, though, Tom turned around. One last look couldn't hurt.
She had also dressed and was sitting on the couch, watching him. And the look on her face definitely wasn't captain-like.
"Tom," she said softly, "I want you to know...that even though I can't take you up on it...I really appreciate your offer."
He smiled. "It still stands. Whenever you want."
Now exasperation crept into her voice, and her lips quirked. "Get out of here. And consider yourself chastised."
"If that's the kind of punishment I get for--" he broke off, laughing, as she raised a pillow at him. "Okay, I can take a hint." And he left.
Three meters down the corridor, he stopped suddenly, realizing something. There had been a name. She'd said a name, once in the shuttlecraft, once in sickbay. A name he recognized and remembered, even if she didn't.
It hadn't been Justin Tighe's name.
Tom let another smile cross his face, a self-satisfied one this time. Whistling softly, he continued walking toward the turbolift shaft and his own quarters.